Countdown to MLB Trade Deadline, Part 2: Players on the Market
In part 2 of our series leading-up to the MLB Trade Deadline, we take a look at a few of the players who may be changing their address on July 31. I’ve also been bold enough to include some of my predictions for these players.
The Canadian power pitcher is having a phenomenal season with the Cubs, posting a 2.25 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 7.2 K’s/9 in 16 starts. Dempster is 35 years old and a free agent at the end of the season, and with the Cubs being 16 games under .500 and well out of contention, Dempster will almost certainly be dealt at the deadline. Demptster’s is owed the balance of his $14 million salary this year, which will make him an unaffordable rental for all but the richest clubs. The Cubs will be looking to get a decent pitcher or position player to continue their endless rebuild, pieces which Boston can provide without severely altering their roster. Prediction: Dempster to the Red Sox for Mauro Gomez or Felix Doubront.
Josh Johnson, Miami
Once Jeffrey Loria dusted off the clear out signs, covered up the French wording from his time in Montreal and scratched out the old ‘Florida Marlins’ logo from his discount bin days at Joe Robbie Stadium, and traded Hanley Ramirez, the J.J. trade rumours began to spread. Johnson is posting a 4.04 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 21 starts, but has tremendous stuff and has a very recent history of success (2.65 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 8.6 K’s/9 from 2009-2011). He is also owed a tremendous amount of money next year ($13.75 million), and the struggling Fish would desperately love to unload his contract. Miami is reportedly asking for several blue chip prospects in return, and this price may be too high to get a deal done. Prediction: Johnson stays in Miami, only to be traded in the offseason or sometime next year.
Shane Victorino, Philadelphia
After a very productive 7 seasons, Victorino’s time in Philly appears to be nearing an end. Victorino will be a free agent at season’s end, and his .724 OPS, although decent for a center fielder, is the lowest mark ever in his Phillies career. Top prospect Domonic Brown now has 91 career games under his belt in the Show, and is ready to take over in center. Philly is last in the NL East and will be looking to acquire a minor asset for Victorino, who will be targeted by a contender looking for a defensive and offensive upgrade in center. The Nationals are a logical fit. Prediction: Victorino to Washington for a minor- leaguer.
Yunel Escobar, Toronto
Rumours have been swirling about Escobar heading to a contending team, possibly the Athletics. Escobar is having a down year (.255 Avg, .650 OPS), but the fact that he is a shortstop with a career OPS of .751 and is under contract (with team options) for the next three years at the very reasonable price of $5 million per year will make him attractive to low-budget contenders like Oakland or Pittsburgh. However, Escobar is known to be a streaky player who had attitude problems during his time in Atlanta. Oakland has a plethora of good young pitchers to offer in a deal, something that Toronto will insist upon in any trade for their shortstop. Prediction: Escobar to the A’s in exchange for a starting pitcher.
Chase Headley, San Diego
Headley’s name continues to be mentioned in various trade rumours, despite the fact that he is under team control until possibly 2015 and is making a modest $3.475 million this year. Headley is having a career year with 12 homeruns and a. 786 OPS this year. His 2.82 RF/9 is also second-best among NL third basemen. The 43-60 Padres desperately need to get an impact bat or pitcher to further their rebuild. With A-Rod out for up to eight weeks and with Eric Chavez’s wonky back preventing him from playing third on a regular basis, the Yankees could use Headley this year and into the future, as A-Rod’s declining defence means that he is destined for full-time DH duty soon. Prediction: Headley to the Yankees for minor-leaguer Corban Joseph and other pieces.
Josh Hamilton, Texas
At the beginning of the year, it seemed unthinkable that Hamilton could be traded. But despite smashing 28 homeruns this year to go with a .929 OPS, Rangers management felt the need to call out Hamilton after a very poor July (.141 Avg., 3 homeruns). Hamilton is also a free agent this year, and will be expecting a raise on his $13.75 million salary. Because the Rangers are in the thick of the playoff race and because Hamilton is such a huge star, the price tag for him will be too astronomical for a player who could walk as a free agent at season’s end. Prediction: Hamilton stays with the Rangers to help lead them to another division title, and possibly another appearance in the World Series.
B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay
Upton is suffering through yet another underwhelming season, posting a .689 OPS with just 18 steals in 86 games. Upton has all the talent in the world, but his attitude and effort have been problematic throughout his career. Upton is a free agent this year, and the cash-strapped Rays won’t be willing to pay anything close to his current $9 million salary for this kind of production. The Rays have Desmond Jennings waiting to take over in center, but they are in the middle of a playoff race and won’t trade Upton unless they get a very decent return. Prediction: Upton stays in Tampa, only to walk as a free agent at season’s end.
Some other, less significant names likely to be on the move tomorrow include Boston pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Phillies’ pitcher Joe Blanton, both free agents at the end of the year. I predict that Blanton will land with the Orioles to help bolster their anemic pitching staff for the stretch run.
…and that’s the Last Word.