by Joe Giglio
As the Major League Baseball trade deadline approaches, we know the biggest names involved. Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke will dominate the conversation over the next few weeks. Their status as top tier starting pitchers will alter the trade market, direction of their current franchises, and postseason fate of their soon to be teams.
Of course, they aren’t the only tradable commodities in the game. In fact, an argument can be made -- especially in the Philadelphia market -- that their teams should look to trade away some of their teammates instead. Here are seven players who aren’t assumed to be available on the level of Hamels or Greinke, but can bring back valuable chips for the organization dealing with them.
Carlos Ruiz, C - Philadelphia Phillies: Chooch?! Yes, the Phillies MVP should be actively shopped by baseball’s most disappointing team. Let’s be honest here, folks: We’ll never see a better Ruiz than we saw in the first half. His current .350/.412/.584 slash line looks like something off the back of a Mike Piazza baseball card. He’ll be 34 before next season begins and is signed only through next year -- assuming a more than reasonable $5 option for 2013 is picked up. With all their age and big money tied up in older players, it’s doubtful Philadelphia will commit dollars and years to a catcher entering his age 35 season in 2014. Move him now while his value is at an all-time high.
Potential suitor: Tampa Bay Rays - The .551 OPS from the catcher position represents a black hole in a lineup in need of a boost.
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Picture courtesy of US Presswire
Felix Hernandez, SP - Seattle Mariners: As Tom Verducci of SI pointed out a few weeks ago, Seattle is unlikely to truly contend until Hernandez (pictured) is a free agent again after the 2014 season. While the management team out there has plenty of time to make a decision, throwing him into the fray now would instantly give them any pick of prospect available. If Texas is truly considering giving up Mike Olt or Jurickson Profar for two months of Hamels, imagine what they would do for 26 months of King Felix.
Potential suitor: Texas Rangers - Hernandez and Yu Darvish would be a dynamic 1-2 postseason punch.
Hunter Pence, RF - Philadelphia Phillies: Considering what the Phillies gave up to get him last July, this would require a haul. Floating his name out there couldn’t hurt, though. While Pence is a good to All-Star level player, he’s not an MVP caliber star. As the Phillies age and attempt to rebuild, using Pence to restock the farm system could right the wrong of an overpay last summer.
Potential suitor: Pittsburgh Pirates - According to some in the industry, the perennial losers are looking to buy and take a real shot in the NL Central. McCutchen needs help in the OF.
Corey Hart, 1B/RF - Milwaukee Brewers: Over the last three calendar years, Hart’s .504 slugging percentage ranks ahead of Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Jay Bruce, and Justin Upton. As he’s shown while filling in for the departed Prince Fielder and injured Mat Gamel, Hart can be a major part of a good lineup. While Milwaukee should be happy to have him on a great deal -- 3-year, $26 million through ‘13 -- he won’t be cheap for long. After going for it in 2008 and 2011, the farm system needs a boost. Greinke would provide a big one, but Hart could supplement it, as well.
Potential suitor: New York Mets - With the struggles of Ike Davis, Terry Collins’ willingness to use match-ups, and Hart’s ability to play first base or corner OF, Hart could help the Mets' playoff push.
Starlin Castro, SS - Chicago Cubs: This is far less about cost effectiveness and more about preference and value. Sure, the Cubs can center their rebuilding process around the 22-year-old, two-time All-Star. In fact, some would argue the idea of trading a perennial 200-hit shortstop that isn’t a free agent until 2017 is crazy. While that’s understandable, the value in return could be too much to pass up for the new Cubs regime. It’s also worth noting that Castro doesn’t seem like the Theo Epstein star -- free swinger, low walk rate -- but rather a talented athlete with much to learn. It’s a long shot, but we’re talking about the guy that traded Nomar out of Boston.
Potential suitor: Los Angeles Angels: A win now team with issues on the left side of the infield. Trout, Castro, and Pujols would sell tickets in L.A. for a long time.
Michael Cuddyer, 1B/RF - Colorado Rockies: Dan O’Dowd needs to right a wrong in Denver. While the team crumbles, Tulowitzki heals, and Jim Tracy attempts to bring back the four-man rotation, the long time Rockies GM can help build a winner in 2014 by moving his big signee from last winter. The three-year, $31.5 million deal handed to the veteran this off-season was questionable at best, ludicrous at worst. While he provided versatility and leadership to a team always on the cusp in Minnesota, his decline is at no value to a lost Rockies franchise.
Potential suitor: Los Angeles Dodgers - As a team, L.A. has a .659 OPS against left-handed pitching. In a division with Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Richard, Wade Miley, Joe Saunders, Christian Friedrich, and Drew Pomeranz, an upgrade is needed.
Josh Willingham, LF - Minnesota Twins: Of all the things that have gone wrong in Minnesota since the 2010 ALDS loss to the Yankees, Willingham isn’t one of them. His signing last winter represents a bright spot on the roster. While a case can be made that a healthy Mauer-Morneau-Willingham trio can help the Twins get back to contention soon, moving him can pay bigger dividends down the line. His .265/.381/.558 line would be attractive to any contender. Throw in the fact that he can slug no matter the venue -- RFK, Oakland-Alameda, Target Field -- and his bat looks even better.
Potential suitor: Baltimore Orioles - After missing out on the Matt Holliday chase years back, Baltimore is still looking to fill their LF void. While Nolan Reimold has shown ability, injuries are derailing his career. Steve Pearce and Xavier Avery won’t cut it. Chris Davis is playing out there for the first time in his big league career. If they have any shot in the AL postseason race, the .638 LF OPS needs to be fixed.
Joe Giglio is a sports talk host at WNST in Baltimore, co-host of the Just a Bit Outside podcast on iTUNES, former intramural coordinator at DeSales University, husband, and baseball fanatic willing to argue Jeff Bagwell's Hall of Fame candidacy at a moment's notice. Follow him on Twitter @JoeGiglioSports and check out his blog at joegiglio.blogspot.com.