There are only 68 days remaining until the July 31 trade deadline. So, it is time that we take our first glance at this year’s potential top "sellers" at the deadline and which veteran players could be dealt.
TOP 5 POTENTIAL SELLERS AT TRADE DEADLINE
The Mets are 22-24 and manager Terry Collins has done a superb job keeping the Mets within 6½ games of the Philadelphia Phillies. However, with the strong starting rotations of Philadelphia, Atlanta and Florida, the Mets should not expect to be in the race by late July. The club is expecting losses in the $70 million and the farm system is not loaded with major league-ready talent. GM and president Sandy Alderson has little choice but to become active in the trade market and try to wheel and deal to improve the Mets’ future. Here is a look at the top three players he could be dealing:
1. Jose Reyes
.362 OBP, 14-6-1-15-28R, 17sb-3cs.
I personally would not trade Reyes, preferring to build around him with David Wright and Ike Davis. However, the Mets haven’t signed him yet, and trading him at this point is a real possibility. Some of the contending teams that should have interest and have strong enough farms systems to make a deal include the Giants, Reds, Cardinals and Red Sox.
1-0, 0.76, ERA 15-16 SV-SVOPP.
K-Rod is back dominating at the end of games and could make a real impact in the last two months of the season for a team in a pennant race. Although the vesting option at $17.5 million for 2012 is a real problem with trade partners, it could be avoided if he’s traded to a team like the Red Sox and used in the seventh and eighth innings (i.e. setting up Jonathan Papelbon, like Billy Wagner did two years ago) because the vesting option is based on games finished. Besides the vesting option problem, the Mets have to deal with competition in trade talks with the Padres (Heath Bell) and the fact that most contending clubs don’t need a closer or can’t afford to trade for one (the Rays and Dodgers).
14-0-8-25, .280, .910 OPS.
Beltran is having a nice comeback from micro-fracture surgery and other injuries, and although he’s not close to the player he was in his prime, he still could have value at the deadline. The Mets will have to eat most of his contract, but teams looking for an additional bat, such as the Yankees, A’s, Mariners or Rays might give up a legitimate prospect if they don’t have to pay the contract.
The Houston Astros have the worst record in the National League. The one contract they’d like to trade is that of left fielder Carlos Lee. However, that is not going to happen. Lee has a full no-trade clause and has made it clear to GM Ed Wade in the past that he is not going to waive it. Lee has a significant cattle business in Texas and wants his contract honored.
The Astros don’t have a lot of valued players to trade at the deadline, unless they decide to trade parts of their nucleus:
1. Hunter Pence
He is their best player and face of the franchise. He is one of the most consistent players in baseball, hitting .288 with a .816 OPS while averaging 34 doubles, six triples, 25 home runs and 91 RBIs per season. His is an above-average defender and a gamer. He also is one of the best clutch hitters in close-and-late situations. The Phillies, Braves, Giants, Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Tigers could all find creative ways to make a blockbluster transaction. The Astros have so many needs that a 3-for-1 deal of top-quality prospects would have to be considered.
He is one of the most underrated left-handed starters in the National League, winning 28 games since 2009 with an ERA closer to 3.00 than 4.00. Plus, he has the ability to pitch deep into games. He is a solid No. 3-type starter. The Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Indians and Rangers should all have some type of interest.
3. Brett Myers
He is having a down year, but is still a horse. For a team in need of innings, he could be a solid pick-up for the stretch run at the back end of a good rotation.
The Minnesota Twins are the most disappointing team of 2011. Everything has gone wrong, and with the worst record in baseball and a major league payroll of more than $112 million, trades are inevitable. The Twins have three hitters that are eligible for free agency at the end of the season and all relatively affordable:
He has the most value because of his ability to play multiple positions. He can play first, third, right field or DH, and is a leader in the clubhouse. He is capable of driving in 80-90 runs with a lifetime OPS of .789. The Angels, Phillies or Rays would be logical destinations.
2. Jason Kubel
He is a proven 20-homer, 90-RBI, lefty-hitting DH who could help the Yankees upgrade over Jorge Posada as they wait for Jesus Montero.
3. Jim Thome
He is back from the disabled list and would also be a good fit with the Yankees because he could share time with Posada at DH and is one of the best clubhouse personalities in the league.
The Chicago Cubs are 20-25 and already seven games behind the first-place Cardinals. The most exciting parts of this team are the young double-play combination of Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro and righty Carlos Marmol, one of the best young closers in the game. The problem is they just don’t have enough good young players around them and need to continue to make trades to get younger, faster. More pop wouldn’t hurt, either. Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena are both free agents at the end of the season and should be moved. Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano could be dealt, too. However, Cubs ownership better be prepared to eat a significant amount of salary from all their bad contracts if they want to make trades.
1. Aramis Ramirez
He has one home run and 17 RBIs. Last year, he hit 25 home runs. He has been a huge disappointment for the Cubs. Teams such as the Rockies, Marlins or Angels could take a chance as a stop-gap if he starts hitting for power between now and the deadline.
2. Carlos Pena
His bat is not performing consistent with his $10 million contract. However, there could still be trade interest if the Cubs eat most of the salary and he can start driving runs in. The Rays might consider taking him back and the Angels might consider if Trumbo doesn’t hit enough.
3. Ryan Dempster
He is 2-4 with a 6.91 ERA. Dempster had a terrible start to the season, but he is pitching better of late, yielding just two runs or less in three of his past four starts. This is a high-character, great-makeup pitcher who can win 12-15 games and throw 200 innings when healthy. He is one of the few who could handle pitching in baseball’s toughest markets, such as New York or Boston. The Yankees, Red Sox and Tigers are possible matches if they need starting pitching come July.
4. Carlos Zambrano
He is staying. The Cubs won’t swallow enough salary, and a contender is not going to take the risk of trading mid-level prospects. This contract will have to expire on the North Side at the conclusion of the 2012 season.
The San Diego Padres have one major trade chip in closer Heath Bell. However, most contending teams have successful closers, and teams such as the Mets (K-Rod), Twins (Matt Capps or Joe Nathan) and Royals (Joakim Soria) could flood the market place with available ninth-inning arms if things don’t go well for them.
1. Heath Bell
He has saved nine of his 10 opportunities with a 1.12 WHIP and a 2.12 ERA. He will be a free agent at the end of the season. If the Padres weren’t going to pay Adrian Gonzalez, they are not going to pay a ninth-inning closer. Bell wants to stay in San Diego and is willing to take a discount, but it just doesn’t make sense for the long-term interest of the Padres. In my opinion, the Cardinals and Red Sox are the best two fits for Bell. The Cardinals could offer Jon Jay or Allen Craig, along with a young major league ready pitcher. The Red Sox could offer Daniel Bard and a lower-level prospect. Bell could be a difference-maker for both teams, and GM Jed Hoyer has good relationships with both Theo Epstein and John Mozeliak.
The list of sellers will grow between now and the July 31 deadline, but behind the walls of the GM’s offices, the trade discussions will never stop.
Thanks for reading, I appreciate your comments and feedback. You can also follow me on twitter @JimBowdenESPNxm.