Friday, June 8, 2012

Trade Targets for Contenders

The new playoff format gives more teams hopes of making the postseason, which decreases the number of sellers at the trading deadline. If there is a silver lining for truly terrible teams, like the Cubs and Twins, it's that the laws of supply and demand are in their favor now more than in years past.

The supply of available trade targets goes down a lot, demand increases a bit, and voilà - this year's sellers will fetch more when trading veterans to contenders.

Taking a look at the standings, it appears that all ten teams in the Eastern divisions of both leagues will either be buyers, or at least stand pat. If the Phillies become sellers, Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino, in particular, will change everything.

While Detroit's playoff chances are dwindling, sitting 5 games under .500, it's a good bet that they will keep pushing until they're mathematically eliminated.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is two games over .500, but one can't expect them to continue to perform at a competent level much longer. They were in first place on July 19th last season and still finished 24 games behind the division champion Brewers. Speaking of the Brewers, they are very much like the Tigers and Phillies, in that they had high expectations for the season, are under delivering, but can't be expected to waiver the white flag before the tarding deadline, 53 days from now.

Some surprisingly competitive teams, like the Orioles and Mets, may stand pat - hoping the experience of a pennant race will be more valuable for their young players than bowing out of the race or mortgaging any part of the future.

The likely sellers this year appear to be the Astros, Athletics, Cubs, Mariners, Padres, Pirates, Rockies, Royals, and Twins. Let's see what the best they have to offer look like, broken down by position:

Starting Pitchers
Wandy Rodriguez, Astros
Due to make $13.5M next season, and again in 2014 - with a $2.5M buyout, WayRod is more than a rental player. Some around the game feel he's overpaid, while other teams have shown interest. Most whispers say he could be a good fit in the Bronx, as the Yankees need lefties who can help neutralize their short porch in right against opposing left-handed hitters.

Bartolo Colon, A's
Only makes $2M this year, on a 1-year deal, and he's pitching well in the American League. His last outing shut down the Rangers, so more teams are presumably moving him up on their trade board.

Matt Garza, Cubs
Ryan Dempster, Cubs
The two best trade chips the Cubs have are their top two starting pitchers. Garza has one more year of team control, with his final season of arbitration coming up, and a higher historical level of performance. So, he'll be more costly to acquire. Perhaps the Cubs could dangle Garza to engage interested parties in conversation, then pull the ol' bait and switch.

Kevin Millwood, Mariners
The veteran right-hander can pound the strike zone and eat innings, while keeping good teams in the game. Sometimes, that's all a contender is looking for. He certainly wouldn't cost much, in terms of prospects, to acquire.

Erik Bedard, Pirates
He still performs a bit better than league average, and is left-handed. Just like with every season since 2008, if he can stay healthy, he will be a trade target. While making $4.5M this year, free agency awaits after the season.

Jeremy Guthrie, Rockies
An opening day starter pitching like a DFA candidate shouldn't be on any contender's wish list, but there is still time to rebound. If he can string together a few good starts in a row, someone may look to pickup his expiring contract.

Francisco Liriano, Twins
Since returning to the rotation on May 30th, Liriano has thrown a couple of good outings. Sentimental Twins fans will likely to see Liriano go, but if he fetches something good before free agency takes him away, they oughta take what they can get. Few players in baseball have experienced the duality of strikes and gutters as much as Liriano.

Liriano looked good on June 5th. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Relief Pitchers
Brett Myers, Astros
He has an interesting vesting option based on games finished, that he negotiated when converted to closer this year. Funny thing is, he could be traded somewhere and made a set-up man.

Brandon Lyon, Astros
Free agent at the end of the year, surprisingly has performed well this season: 2.31 ERA, 3.83 K/BB. Buyer beware, last season's WHIP was double this seasons: 2.40 to 1.20.

Brian Fuentes, A's
Grant Balfour, A's
The back end of the A's bullpen will be looked at by scouts of all contending teams, as they have pretty good relievers, with 2013 club otions, who throw from each side.

Carlos Marmol, Cubs
A guy who misses bats is attractive, but lately he's been missing the strike zone much too regularly. Owed $9.8M for next season, he'll need to regain his value with improved performance before anyone calls Jed Hoyer about him.

Brandon League, Mariners
The season before free agency is not a good time to lose the ability to post high ground ball rates or throw strikes. He's been awful this year, and lost the closer's role to Tom Wilhemsen. Still, he may be able to rebound in lower leverage situations and some team would look to acquire him.

Huston Street, Padres
He's coming off an injury, but if he remains steady, someone will want to acquire the closer with a long track record of success.

Juan Cruz, Pirates
His WHIP is unsightly, at 1.594, but with a 2.11 ERA, 8.9 K/9, and team-friendly 1-yr deal, he could be an inexpensive trade target.

Jonathan Broxton, Royals
Unless Jonathan Sanchez comes back from biceps tendinitis to pitch effectively before the trading deadline (unlikely), the Royals probably won't have anyone to deal other than Broxton. The big man has rebounded from his lousy exit in Los Angeles, with 14 saves and a sparkling 1.59 ERA. Buyer beware, however, as he has stopped striking guys out, as his 5.6 K/9 reflects.

Matt Capps is overrated by the Save stat, but his 0.985 WHIP could draw interest. Savvy GM's will take note that he's not striking guys out, and gambling on a guy with a .232 BABiP could be a losing proposition.

If his arm remains intact, Huston Street can
be a difference maker down the stretch.
(Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

First Basemen/Corner OF/DH
Carlos Lee, Astros
El caballo fits best as a DH. When his injured hammy heals, and he returns from the DL, expect to see American League scouts checking him out.

Jonny Gomes, A's
He's always been good against lefties, and is on a team-friendly 1-yr/$1M deal.

Seth Smith, A's
Adjusting to the American League hasn't negatively affected his .354 OBP. Smith is an interesting non-tender candidate because he's been a productive player, but his arbitration salary may exceed his worth.

Alfonso Soriano, Cubs
He's owed $38M for the next two seasons, not to mention the rest of his 2012 $19M salary. Plus, aside from the occasional homerun, he stinks. He will likely be in Wrigley Feild for at least another calendar year.

Bryan LaHair, Cubs
He makes the league minimum, but is 29-years old, can't really play anywhere other than first base, and is blocking the Cubs' best prospect Anthony Rizzo. LaHair has certainly cooled off from his incredible April, but he's shown to be an above average hitter who could fetch a decent prospect.

Carlos Quentin, Padres
Buster Olney has been all over Quentin's hot start, speculating as to where he may land. He listed at least eight teams that could be aggressive in their pursuit of the power hitter, with Atlanta and Cincinnati likely leading the charge. Quentin could be the best available bat in the trade market.

Mark Kotsay, Padres
He's an inexpensive bench bat who can pinch hit, play the outfield, or first base. Notably, Kotsay's career slash line: .278/.335/.410 pales in comparison to his career line as a pinch hitter: .301/.346/.436.

Jason Giambi, Rockies
The most likely Rocky to get traded is the Giambino, who has transformed himself into a solid backup first baseman and pinch hitter. Granted it's a small sample size, but as a pinch hitter this season, he is 5 for 13, with a home run, and .500 OBP.

Ryan Doumit, Twins
He signed a one-year deal with Minnesota, gave up catching, but has not really hit with any authority. Maybe it's taking him a while to adjust to the new league, but regardless, he's just not getting it done for a player who can't contribute with his glove.

Finding a taker for Alfonso Soriano would
be a dream come true for Cubs fans.
(Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

Middle Infielders
Starlin Castro, Cubs
The 22-years old hit machine will likely be too expensive for any level-headed GM to acquire.

Brendan Ryan, Mariners
The defensive specialist has already been speculated to go to the Tigers, who have the worst defense in the league.

Clint Barmes, Pirates
Sporting a .213 OBP and owed $5.5M for next season makes Barmes undesirable.

Marco Scutaro, Rockies
Scutaro hasn't been able to match his production from Boston or Toronto in Colorado, but when you consider the other middle infielders on this list, a contender may give him a chance to be revitalized in a pennant race.

While extremely young and talented, Castro's flaws make him available.
(Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)

Third Basemen
Jeff Baker, Cubs
Another platoon player, who can hit lefties, Baker can be viewed as an alternative to Jonny Gomes. He probably does not hit as well as Gomes, but he offers more defensive versatility - especially if he can be adequate at second or third base.

Chase Headley, Padres
With a couple more years of arbitration ahead of him, this steady hitter and good defender may be too expensive to acquire.

Reed Johnson, Cubs
Unless someone thinks Mark Kotsay can play CF again, this is the only guys we found on our list of sellers. Make no mistake, although some teams think he's an adequate 4th Outfielder, Reed Johnson is terrible. As a batter, Ian Kennedy has as many walks as Reed Johnson this season, and one more walk than him over the past three seasons.

Miguel Olivo, Mariners
The well-traveled veteran make $3.75M this year, with a club otion or $750K buyout for next. He handles pitchers well and has some pop.

Rod Barajas, Pirates
At this point in his career, Barajas is not much better than a replacement player: -0.2 rWAR, 0.2 fWAR.

So, what have we learned? Did we leave anyone out? Which players would you like your team to acquire or hang on to? As a Cubs fan, it feels good to be out there with Dempster and Garza, as two of the most valuable players who could be moved.

If the Phillies become sellers, Cole Hamels would be the belle of the ball.
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

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