Now that the July 31st Trade Deadline is drawing closer, we look at the top player at each position available on the market. When determining the best available players at each position, we have considered the player’s talent, chance of being traded and talent he would yield in return.
Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs
Unless the Phillies change course and decide to trade Cliff Lee, Matt Garza is the most talented and consistent starting pitcher available. Despite his underwhelming 60-62 career record, Garza has compiled 6 straight seasons with a sub 4.00 ERA. The only concern surrounding Matt Garza is that he battled a triceps injury from late July last season until about May of this season. Although Garza is just a rental player, due to his impending free agency, many clubs will aggressively pursue him. Another strong starting pitcher, who is likely to be dealt is Ricky Nolasco, who appeals to many NL West clubs because of his success against the Giants and high chance of resigning, since he grew up on the West Coast.
Jesse Crain, Chicago White Sox
The White Sox know they have no chance of reaching the postseason, so they no longer need a shut down late inning reliever. Crain is in the midst of the best season of his career with a 0.74 ERA and 11.29 K/9. He also has the track record to suggest he can sustain such production. His impending free agency makes him look like a rental player, but the White Sox will still command a solid prospect in return, as he is easily the best relief pitcher on the market. Even though the White Sox recently placed Crain on the 15-day DL, he should be healthy by the deadline and still a highly sought after pitcher. The Marlins have two other relievers that could be dealt in Mike Dunn and Ryan Webb; however, neither is the same caliber as Jesse Crain.
Jonathon Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are on the border between buying and selling, but it seems more likely they will sell a few pieces in order to retool the farm system. In either case, the Phillies will likely attempt to deal Papelbon, who has fallen out of favor in Philadelphia after he called out his teammates. Papelbon’s 2.05 ERA and strong track record are appealing to many clubs in search of a reliable closer. The only hindrance in a deal is Ruben Amaro Jr.’s reluctance to eat any amount of Papelbon’s remaining contract. The only other closers on the market are pitchers with much lesser track records, such as Steve Cishek, Bobby Parnell, Kevin Gregg and Jose Veras. All but Cishek profile as relief pitchers on other teams.
Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies
Due to his impending free agency, Ruiz will likely be dealt if the Phillies choose to sell. After a breakout 2012 campaign, Ruiz has been unable to recapture that production thus far this season. After serving a 25-game suspension for a drug violation and spending time on the DL for a hamstring issue, Ruiz has accumulated just 102 PA’s while slashing just .264/.324/.297 with 0 HRs. Despite his poor offensive numbers, Ruiz is still well-regarded as a good leader for a pitching staff, and he is one of the few catchers on the market with a strong track record.
Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins
The Twins are not in the Postseason race this season, and will likely deal Morneau in an effort to strengthen their farm system. The Twins are even more likely to deal Morneau now that they lost one of their other trade chips to injury, when Josh Willingham needed knee surgery and will be out 4-6 weeks. The only concern for anyone acquiring Morneau is that his power has really diminished this season. He has just 4 HRs this season, but has still driven in 48 runs and slashed .284/.338/.401. Even if the White Sox choose to deal veteran Paul Konerko, Morneau is still the top first baseman available.
Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies may be reluctant to deal the long-time Phillie, but they may not be able to turn down a strong prospect. It seems possible that a team in need for a second baseman could give the Phillies a solid prospect in return because there are not many second baseman on the market, and none with as good of a track record. The most appealing thing for a team looking to acquire Utley is that he seems fully healthy and back to his old form, as he has slashed .278/.346/.510 with 11 HRs.
Michael Young, Philadelphia Phillies
Unlike Chase Utley, Young has only been with the Phillies for the 2013 season, therefore, he is almost a certainty to be dealt in the likely event that the Phillies sell. Young has exceeded expectations this season with a .290/.346/.410 slash line with 5 HRs and a 7.9 BB%. Similar to 2nd Basemen, there are few 3rd Basemen on the market, but there are multiple teams in search of a quality third baseman. The one area of weakness in Young’s game is his defense, where he has accumulated -6.4 runs above average based on UZR.
Brendan Ryan, Seattle Mariners
Even if the Mariners choose not to sell, Brendan Ryan will likely be available for trade because the Mariners continue to seek offensive upgrades at any position they can, and no longer value Ryan’s defense over more productive offense. They have moved Ryan to a utility role and place Brad Miller in his place as a starter. Even though Ryan has struggled to reach the Mendoza Line (.200 AVG.) each of the past two seasons, his defense will keep him on just about any MLB team. Since Ryan is widely regarded as one of the best defenders at any position, he should appeal to many teams looking for a defensive upgrade at Shortstop. Also, with few shortstops on the market, Ryan seems to be a likely target for many teams.
Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs
This spot goes to Soriano by default after Josh Willingham underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and will now miss the next 4-6 weeks. However, Soriano is still a player on the block and likely to draw more attention now that teams will not pursue Willingham. Despite what is a down year for Soriano, he has still slashed .257/.284/.436 with 10 HRs and 38 RBI. While Soriano is not a middle of the order bat, he is still capable of 25 HR power, and just last season he had 32 long balls with 108 RBI. If the Cubs choose to deal Soriano they will likely need to kick in some cash to cover his $18 Million salary for the 2014 season.
Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox
While Rios is primarily a RF, he has the most experience in CF of any Outfielder on the block. After experiencing a few tough seasons from 2009-2011, Rios seems to have recaptured the success of his early days with the Blue Jays. In 2012, Rios hit a career-high 25 HRs with 23 steals. Thus far this season, Rios remained on that pace with 11 HRs and 14 steals, while also increasing his BB%. Rios will appeal to many contenders because he is signed through 2014 with a club option for 2015. While the White Sox may kick in some cash to cover a portion of the remainder of his contract, the contract is relatively team-friendly if he continues to play at this rate.
Nori Aoki, Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers currently sit in the cellar of the NL Central and are willing to deal Norichika Aoki, especially since he will become a free agent after 2014, not 2017 like previously thought. Beyond Aoki’s strong play, clubs will be interested in acquiring the Right Fielder because of his modest salary. Aoki is making just $1.25 Million this season and a club option worth $1.5 Million for 2014. In his short 2 year MLB career, Aoki has slashed .287/.357/.409 with 14 HRs and profiles as a strong leadoff hitter on most clubs.
Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox
It seems unlikely that the White Sox will be able to find a taker for Dunn, especially since he seems to have fallen back to his awful 2011 numbers. On the bright side, Dunn has already doubled his HR total from 2011 when he hit 11. Dunn’s power is still outstanding, but his contact issues have grown worse the last few years. If the White Sox cover a portion of Dunn’s $15 Million salary for 2014, then there will likely be a few clubs interested in the veteran.