Ten potentially shocking trade deadline candidates

Boston's Hanley Ramirez could be one of most surprising deadline deals.
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

By Joseph Coblitz

Ever since the advent of the second Wild Card, more and more teams have the belief that they are in the play-offs for later into the season than ever before. As of July 7, every single American League team is within 6.5 games of a Wild Card spot and all but four National League clubs are within 7.5 games of a playoff spot. Despite this, or possibly because of it, there looks to be a particularly interesting trade season in store for the next three weeks.

We’ve already looked into the TigersBravesWhite Sox and Indiansas possible sellers this July on the Outside Corner, so now we’ll look into some of the bigger names on some teams that may be more interested in the future than competing with the rest of the league for a limited number of play-off spots in 2015. In no particular order, here are ten of the more interesting names that could be up for grabs.

10. Fernando Rodney

Sitting 9.5 games out of the West, the Mariners are far from the World Series contenders they were portrayed as to begin the season. While they are unlikely to blow up the whole team, certainly Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez, Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz who are all signed through 2018 won’t be going anywhere, they do have a few trade candidates.

Fernando Rodney has struggled this year with a 5.18 ERA, but has miraculously saved 16 of 19 opportunities. While he may no longer be the top of his class, Rodney was once the most dominant closer in baseball and could still be a solid bullpen option for another team looking for a quick fix. He will be a free agent at the end of the year and what good is even a decent closer on a team that doesn’t regularly have save opportunities.

9. Jonathan Papelbon

In a similar situation, the Phillies closer, All-Star Jonathan Papelbon wants out. He has publicly stated as much, stating that he would prefer to close for a team in the race. Obviously a better option than Rodney, Papelbon has a $13M vesting option for 2016 that will be activated if he finishes 20 more games this year (the initial clause stated 55 games finished in 2015 or 100 between 2014 and 2015). If he were to stay in Philadelphia, the Phillies would have to be tempted to keep him from reaching that number to save the $13M from next year’s salary, but for a contending team without a closer, paying just $13M for an All-Star closer could seem a steal.

8. Cole Hamels

For a little more of a surprise, there isn’t a single veteran on the Phillies who should be considered non-tradeable with just Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz and Cole Hamels on the books beyond 2016. If the Phillies could find a taker for Howard’s unwieldy salary, they would likely jump at the opportunity, but the player of more interest to a contender would be Hamels. Signed at $23.5M per year through 2018 (with a 2019 option), the ace of the Phillies staff would be an excellent fit on one of the bigger spending contending teams, possibly the Tigers if they decide not to sell. There he would be an interesting fit for a long time assuming David Price will be leaving at the end of the season.

7. Hanley Ramirez

Moving on to more extreme options, when the Red Sox signed Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval this off-season, it seemed an odd move for a rebuilding franchise. After finishing 25 games out in 2014, it was hard to believe these two could save the team and they haven’t as the team is five games under .500 and somehow very luckily just five games out of the East.

Used almost exclusively out of the outfield this year for the first time in his career, Ramirez has been a total mess, worth 15.1 runs less than the average left fielder equating to a UZR/150 of -37.4. While he has been a solid hitter, leading the team in home runs, Boston has little room for him with (All-Star) Brock Holt, (All-Star final vote candidate) Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts. While it may make more sense to move David Ortiz, that probably will never happen so there is some possibility Ramirez could be moved to a team in need of a short stop so bad they can tolerate his -8.8 career UZR/150 at short. If that team doesn’t exist, Ramirez could be an interesting DH for a team without power, made more valuable by his ability to fill in at third, short or left field in a pinch.

6. Jonathan Lucroy

While Aramis Ramirez may be a more likely tradeable asset for the Brewers, their catcher may be of more interest to contending teams. Just one year removed from an All-Star appearance and fourth place MVP finish, it may seem like selling low, but most reasonable teams should be able to see how the injury that cost him all of May this year was likely the cause for his struggles. Since his return he has raised his batting average from .122 to .249 and already has two doubles and four walks in July with a .350/.458/.450 line.

Lucroy is under team control through 2017 on an extremely team friendly deal, but with the Brew Crew looking up at an extremely tough NL Central, already 19 games back and four games out of fourth, they may not be able to seriously contend during that stretch. With two catchers hitting well in AAA, Robinzon Diaz and Nevin Ashley, Milwaukee may be better served by jettisoning Lucroy for parts.

5. Dan Haren

The Marlins have a team full of extremely talented, young players who are under team control for a long time and that is why you will likely see none of these coveted players moved. Since the Marlins have to be looking to contend as early as 2016, even if it doesn’t look like they can now, the more likely players to be traded are those veterans with expiring deals. The best of these is Haren, who came over in the same deal that netted them Dee Gordon. A throw in whose entire salary is being paid by the Dodgers, with a 3.34 ERA and .237 BAA, Haren should be a much coveted player this summer who could net the Marlins a decent prospect load.

4. Mat Latos

The poor man’s Haren, Latos is also a free agent this off-season, but has the double draw back of being not as good of a pitcher as Haren and having to be paid his salary. Because of this, the Marlins won’t get as much for him, but it may be worth it to them just to free a rotation spot for a player who will actually be with the team in 2016.

3. Troy Tulowitzki

The second-worst team in the NL somehow has two infielders on the All-Star team and another in the final vote with one more than can be considered a legitimate snub. With all that offense, the Rockies should be a legitimate threat, especially in a West so weak as to make the Diamondbacks think they are legitimate contenders. The problem here is the pitching staff and the solution could be trading the star in the center of the diamond, Tulowitzki.

The definition of selling high, Tulo is currently batting .320/.357/.486 is 30 years old and under contract for six more years at a fairly high price tag ($20M per year through 2019, dropping to $14M in 2020). While this move would bother fans, it would be a smart one as he won’t be in his prime when the Rockies are ready to contend. In addition, without better pitching, that time might never come and Tulowitzki certainly is good enough to bring in some top shelf pitching prospects.

2. Josh Reddick

Reddick made his feelings known recently when he complained about his lack of playing time and while his .157/.224/.229 line against LHP may prove management right, he still could be a better fit on another team. A great defender who can play all outfield positions at above league average (+15.7 UZR/150 overall in the outfield), Reddick also provides some power, particularly against right handers. There are few teams he wouldn’t be a great fit on and if the A’s did decide to move him (they seemed reluctant when the Angels asked recently), he could net them a boon of prospects.

Of course, the A’s are no strangers to surprise deals and that leads us to the most surprising trade candidate…

1. Sonny Gray

While most teams wait until a player is on the downslide to attempt to move them, Oakland has always been ahead of the curve. Assuming they have given up on the year, we could see a landslide of moves from the A’s and this would be the biggest.

While it may seem crazy to suggest trading one of the top pitchers in baseball, a look into some stats other than wins losses and ERA makes Gray seem as lucky as he is good. To start, he has had an unsustainable .249 BABIP so far this year and as his 3.28 xFIP shows, without the Athletics great defense behind him, he hasn’t been that much better than he was last year (3.47 xFIP, 3.08 ERA). While even at his worst he has been incredible, it would be a very Oakland move to push him now, when he is at his most valuable. If nothing else, it could help make up for the haul they lost at last year’s deadline when they sold everything for Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester.

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