The trade deadline is a few weeks away, so the rumor mill is about to heat up. To prep you for the coming trade season, we're providing a primer on who the top available trade targets could be as get closer to July 31st.
Right fielders could be a popular commodity on the trade market this year. Several contenders are looking for some help at that position, especially for anyone with a strong right-handed bat. The Rangers signing Manny Ramirez to a minor league deal this week shows how desperate the need is for right-handed hitting. But that applies to a few other clubs in the playoff race as well.
There are a couple of potential game-changers among the right fielders that will likely be available. Competition for those players could be fierce over the next few weeks. But many other bargains are also on the shelf for teams looking for an outfield upgrade.
Probably not available but it couldn't hurt to ask
Michael Cuddyer – While the Rockies are in contention for the NL West lead, it's unlikely that the team will deal away one of its best hitters. Cuddyer leads the NL with a .996 OPS, ranks second with a .343 batting average and is among the top three in on-base percentage and slugging. But if Colorado slides out of the race, any team looking for a right-handed power bat could check to see if Cuddyer is available. He's also signed through next season for the relative affordable salary of $10.5 million. Cuddyer would be a great fit with the Rangers or Pirates, and the Yankees might be interested as well.
Norichika Aoki – Trading away one of the team's better hitters probably wouldn't be a popular move with Brewers fans. But how many players are untouchable on a last-place club that should begin looking ahead toward next year? Aoki is extremely affordable, owed what remains of his $1.25 million salary for this season, along with a $1.5 million team option (or $250,000 buyout) for 2014. Milwaukee should probably keep him for that reason. But a left-handed bat that hits for average, gets on base, has good speed and provides solid outfield defense could play a key role for a playoff contender.
Chris Denorfia – The Padres face a logjam in their outfield when Cameron Maybin returns from the disabled list. Denorfia and Will Venable need a place to play, and Kyle Blanks could be added to that mix as well. San Diego is contending in the NL West, however. So those players could stay in the lineup while Maybin ends up on the bench or in the minors. But if the Padres fall back, a right-handed hitting outfielder who plays good defense like Denorfia could be a strong bench player for a playoff contender.
Take my (overpaid and/or ineffective) right fielder, please!
Alex Rios – Here's the most likely right fielder to be traded this July. The White Sox are far out of contention and Rios has at least $20 million remaining on his contract through 2014. (Would any team pick up his $13.5 million salary for 2015 when it can buy him out for $1 million?) Rios isn't quite matching his production from last year, when he hit .307 with an .805 OPS, 25 homers and 91 RBI. But teams like the Rangers, Giants and Yankees that are looking for right-handed hitting will be in pursuit. As an added bonus, those clubs would get some speed and a nice glove.
Andre Ethier – The Dodgers were looking to unload Ethier and the $70 million he's owed over the next four years even before the emergence of Yasiel Puig. Now that Puig has given the Dodgers a needed jolt and become a sensation throughout MLB, Ethier could get squeezed out of the lineup when Carl Crawford is activated from the DL. Ethier isn't helping himself with his performance this season, batting .258 with a .714 OPS. But enough teams are looking for right fielders that the Dodgers could get a call about him — especially if they're willing to eat some of that contract.
Nate Schierholtz – The best bargain on the market could be Schierholtz, who signed a one-year deal with the Cubs. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer already flipped Scott Feldman for some pitching help, and are likely to do the same with Schierholtz. He's putting up the best numbers of his career, batting .277 with an .847 OPS, 19 doubles, 11 homers and 34 RBI. This is exactly the sort of player that the Pirates or Diamondbacks should pursue. The Yankees showed interest during the offseason, so they could be in the mix too.
Michael Morse – Morse is currently on the DL with a quad injury. But he's a free agent after the season and isn't very expensive compared to some of the other right fielders available. Staying healthy is a bit of a problem for Morse, but he's two seasons removed from hitting 31 homers with 95 RBI. With his right-handed power bat, Morse could help the Rangers, Giants and Yankees. He'd also be a nice fit for either the Pirates or D-Backs.
Well, at least they have a pulse
Delmon Young – Signing Young was a curious move for the Phillies to begin with. The team needed a right-handed bat for the outfield, but couldn't they have brought in someone better? Playoff contenders looking for right-handed hitting will probably be asking themselves the same question as they shop before the trade deadline. Young isn't being paid very much this season ($750,000 base salary) and does have a reputation of hitting well in the postseason (.859 OPS, eight home runs), so that could draw some interest.
Marlon Byrd – The Mets need someone to play in their outfield, so they probably won't trade Byrd. But after appearing to be done as a MLB player last year, the 35-year-old veteran has put up some good numbers this season. In 265 plate appearances, Byrd is hitting .263 with a .790 OPS, 14 doubles, 12 homers and 41 RBI. He's also playing good defense in right field. Those skills make him a potentially valuable reserve outfielder and pinch-hitter for any team in the playoff race.