One thing we know for certain about the 2013 MLB trade deadline is that several notable players will be dealt. Perhaps some of the names we expect to be traded will end up staying with their current teams. But a few general managers may also surprise us by who they were willing to deal.
Some players look almost certain to be traded, however. Teams out of contention want to shed some payroll or get something in return for an impending free agent while they still can. Of course, playoff contenders with major needs for a batter, starting pitcher or reliever will be looking to fill those holes over the next few weeks and could become increasingly desperate to do so.
In no particular order, these 10 players are the most likely to go elsewhere before July 31. They can help both their current team by yielding some much needed prospects in a deal and aid a new club by bolstering their roster for a run at the postseason.
Matt Garza, Cubs: Any talk about the Cubs pursuing a contract extension with Garza was shot down quickly. Most likely, it was an attempt to create some urgency among the teams looking to trade for him. There will be plenty of interest between now and July 31. Garza is 5-1 with a 3.22 ERA in 10 starts, settling any questions about his health.
The Rangers, Orioles, Nationals, Indians, Pirates, Blue Jays and Padres all have been attached in rumors or reportedly had scouts watch Garza recently. With that many clubs in pursuit, and Garza set to be a free agent after the season, the Cubs have to see what sorts of prospects they can get in exchange, rather than risk losing him for nothing.
Francisco Rodriguez, Brewers: Milwaukee is dead last in the NL Central. With a 1.22 ERA and strikeout rate of 10.4 per nine innings, Rodriguez's value is at its peak. The Brewers have other relievers who can close out games, such as Jim Henderson and John Axford. (That is, if Axford isn't traded himself this month.) Both of whom are under team control for multiple years.
K-Rod is making approximately $2 million this year and will be a free agent once the season ends. He's an ideal two- to three-month rental for a team in need of bullpen help. Just about every playoff contender fits that description. But the Tigers, Red Sox, Cardinals, Orioles and Diamondbacks will probably show the most interest.
Kendrys Morales, Mariners: Seattle probably doesn't want to admit it's out of contention, but at 11 games under .500 and 13.5 games back in the AL West standings, it's time to look ahead to next year. While having Morales in their lineup makes the Mariners better right now, they could trade him and get another look at Jesus Montero as their designated hitter.
Would the Yankees relish an opportunity to replace their switch-hitting, slugging first baseman with another one? Morales could put up some big home run numbers hitting at Yankee Stadium. He could be a nice addition to the Rays, Pirates or Rangers as well.
Alex Rios, White Sox: As mentioned with Carter, several playoff hopefuls are looking for right-handed hitting. In terms of all-around skills, Rios could be the best available player. He's not on pace to match his 25 home runs and 91 RBI of last year, but Rios can provide a lineup with a batter that can hit for contact, hit for power, run well on the basepaths and provide strong outfield defense.
He's also under contract through 2014 with an option for the following season. While the remaining $20 million or so on his contract might scare off some teams, Rios' $12.5 million annual salary is no longer as outrageous in today's market. For what he could provide the Rangers, Yankees, Diamondbacks or Giants, that doesn't seem like too high a price to pay.
Steve Cishek, Marlins: Relievers are always in high demand leading up to the trade deadline. And if the Marlins can trade a player away to get some cheaper prospects in return, chances are they're going to do so. With a 2.75 ERA and strikeout rate of 8.7 batters per nine innings, the sidearmer could certainly be a very strong setup man, if not a closer for a playoff contender.
Either way, Cishek would be a strong addition to the Braves, Red Sox, Tigers or Orioles, among several other clubs. And since he becomes eligible for arbitration next season, a team would have him for at least three more years.
Chris Carter, Astros: Typically, Carter might be the sort of player a rebuilding team like Houston should hold on to. The 26-year-old outfielder and first baseman isn't eligible for arbitration until 2015, meaning that he's under team control for another five seasons at what should be a relatively inexpensive cost.
Yet with the need for right-handed hitters among playoff contenders and his potential 30-homer power, Carter should attract trade offers. He strikes out too much and could challenge the single-season record. But Carter could fill a need for a club like the Rangers or Yankees. If the Phillies decide to buy at the deadline, he could be a fit with them too.
Yovani Gallardo, Brewers: Trading a young starting pitcher that could be under team control for the next two seasons isn't necessarily the right move for a team like the Brewers. Though this is a last-place club, it doesn't have the look of a rebuilding project like the Cubs, Astros or Marlins. With the right additions, Milwaukee could compete again in the NL Central soon.
But with Gallardo's age (27) and contract situation, the Brewers might be able to get a nice haul of prospects in return for him. (That is, if teams aren't concerned about Gallardo's increased ERA and hits per nine innings, along with his declining strikeout rate.) Perhaps GM Doug Melvin can even get a developing arm that could replace Gallardo in the Brewers' starting rotation sooner rather than later.
Kevin Gregg, Cubs: Like Cishek, Gregg might not be closer material for a team chasing a division title or wild-card spot. However, maybe that's selling him short, since he's boosted his strikeout rate up to 9.8 batters per nine innings. If Gregg maintains that rate, it would be the highest of his career. He's also currently allowing the lowest hit and walk rates of his 11-year MLB career.
So maybe Gregg is a different pitcher nowadays. Sure, the Cubs could use him to close out some games for them. But Gregg could be of far better use by yielding some prospects for Theo Epstein's rebuilding project.
Michael Young, Phillies: Young has been a surprisingly good pick-up for the Phillies this year, providing a solid right-handed bat hitting .289 with a .762 OPS. However, he hasn't played very good defense at third base. (FanGraphs' Ultimate Zone Rating currently has him allowing eight runs more than an average player at that position defensively.) That could prevent a team like the Red Sox from making a play for Young.
But would a return to the Rangers be out of the question, since they're looking for right-handed hitting? We have to include the Yankees on that list too. Maybe Young could also be a DH possibility for the Rays.
Glen Perkins, Twins: Perkins is a player the Twins could keep around, since he's under contract through 2015 with a club option. He's also not terribly expensive, with a $3.75 million salary for each of the next two seasons. But those two factors also make him extremely appealing to any team looking to add a closer. Name the team, and Perkins — along with his 1.93 ERA and strikeout rate of 12.4 batter per nine innings — would fit well in with any playoff contender's bullpen and payroll.
The Twins don't have an ideal replacement ready at closer, so they may have to be blown away by a trade offer. But if one comes along, it's difficult to imagine Minnesota hanging on to Perkins when he could help the team load up for the future.