Let's make a deal: Ten big bats to watch
As Trade Deadline approaches, many star sluggers could be on market
The wheeling is already well in motion. The dealing has already started to go down.
We haven't reached the Fourth of July, but Major League swaps are going forth with just under a month remaining until the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, as upwards of 20 teams appear to be in the market to buy from the 10 or so clubs looking to sell.
In other words, if you thought the pennant races were difficult to predict these days, how will they look when the rosters could be significantly remodeled come Aug. 1?
While front-line starting pitchers might be getting most of the ink as they prepare to move on to various contenders for the final two months of the season, and hopefully beyond, there are a plethora of position players poised to change uniforms.
Here's a look at 10 of the more intriguing trade candidates of the hitting-and-fielding variety:
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Brewers: The slugging third baseman is 35 years old, has battled some knee issues and isn't having a huge offensive year, but he's been a lot better since coming back from a disabled-list stint that cost him 23 games.
Ramirez also will make $16 million next year in the final installment of a three-year, $36 million deal signed the winter prior to the 2012 season. If there's a leading trade candidate from this team, which is far back in the National League Central and could be gearing up for rebuild mode, it's this guy. Ramirez had a 27-homer, 105-RBI season last year and has been known to get hot at the right times.
Alex Rios, OF, White Sox: He's already been mentioned in several trade rumors, so moving on wouldn't be a surprise to Rios, who has 11 home runs and 14 stolen bases in what so far has been a down year offensively.
Rios is due roughly half of $12.5 million this year and all of $12.5 million next year, so it could be interesting to see how Chicago and a potential suitor handle that issue. In the meantime, the White Sox could dangle shortstop Alexei Ramirez and others, so stay tuned.
Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers: Ethier's future in Los Angeles looked reasonably sturdy until a guy named Yasiel Puig came along. Now Ethier, who is one year into a five-year, $85 million contract with Los Angeles, is probably a prime trade target -- that is, unless Carl Crawford can't come back healthy.
Either way, the Dodgers are still in contention in the NL West, and they might be looking for a fifth-starter-type and some relief help. Suitors might be willing to work out the financial details with the Dodgers to land Ethier, who has been potent in the past and might heat up again.
Nate Schierholtz, OF, Cubs: Schierholtz has been a consistent offensive performer for the Cubs, who have already signaled that business is open with the trade of starter Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger to the Orioles and reliever Carlos Marmol to the Dodgers on Tuesday. Schierholtz, at 29 years old, has 11 homers and 34 RBIs through Tuesday, and he is an everyday presence in a lineup for the first time in his career.
A contending team seeking a potent bat against right-handed pitching might be very interested here, and the Cubs can sell high and possibly get a decent prospect in return. Teammate Alfonso Soriano also could be available and is coming off a productive series in Seattle.
Kendrys Morales, 1B/DH, Mariners: The Mariners are once again embracing a youth movement, having called up Nick Franklin, Mike Zunino and Brad Miller from the Minors in recent weeks. Morales will be a free agent at the end of this year and has shown enough pop in his bat to entice a club to offer another young piece in return. Seattle also could fetch pieces for slugger Michael Morse and defensive-whiz shortstop Brendan Ryan.
Then again, general manager Jack Zduriencik very well might look at his roster, which once again has been struggling in the run-scoring department, decide that Morales should be retained, and work toward a contract extension. A lot will be determined in the next month.
Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: The trademark power might not be showing up for the veteran former American League MVP Award winner, but the production is still there. Through Tuesday, Morneau was hitting .284 with 48 RBIs. That's a nice addition to a contending team looking for a left-handed bat with experience, and what if the power shows up again?
Justin Ruggiano, OF, Marlins: Ruggiano would be a bigger target if he was having an offensive season like the one he put up last year (.313/.374/.535 with 13 homers and 36 RBIs in 288 at-bats), but he could be a value add this time around. Ruggiano can play all three outfield positions and has the type of approach at the plate that could lead to better things down the stretch than he's shown so far.
Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies: The availability of the still-dangerous-and-soon-to-be-free-agent Utley depends on a Philadelphia philosophy. If the Phillies decide over the course of the next four weeks that they're still in the mix for the NL East title or a Wild Card berth, there's no chance they would deal Utley.
But if they're willing to punt, they'll likely be willing to trade, and Utley remains a valuable commodity, even if teammate Michael Young might be moved first.
Rickie Weeks, 2B, Brewers: Milwaukee's second baseman has been hot at the plate recently, but overall it's been another disappointing offensive season for Weeks, who's 30 years old and is bound to the Brewers for another 1 1/2 seasons at about $16 million total while prospect Scooter Gennett continues to do his thing in the Minors.
It wouldn't be surprising, however, to see a contending team jump at Weeks if given the chance, hoping that the thunder in his right-handed bat that still produces home runs every now and then (nine this year in 245 at-bats through Tuesday) will resurface during the pennant drive.
Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins: Miami keeps saying it won't happen, but what if Marlins president Larry Beinfest gets an offer he simply can't refuse for a 23-year-old who already has more than 100 Major League homers?
It would be the blockbuster of the Trade Deadline season, that's what. And that season, as we know, has only just begun.