With the MLB trade deadline just a little more than a week away, the hot stove is starting to heat up as teams are looking to make deals for an October run or to unload bad contracts for a better future. There are several teams that are ready to trade away big names and start planning for 2016 and beyond.
Here is a list of the top sellers in the MLB stock market as the July 31 trade deadline rapidly approaches.
The Reds have handcuffed themselves by signing the oft-injured Joey Votto and Homer Bailey along with the marginal Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce to a combined $453 million in contracts, without giving ace Johnny Cueto, slugger Todd Frazier, and closer Aroldis Chapman their own long-term deal.
Cueto and Chapman are both due big paydays once their contracts expire at the end of the season, which makes them hot commodities to contending teams that need arms. Cueto maybe the most desired arm on the free agent market who would fill a void for teams such as the Astros, Angels, Giants, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Orioles, Royals and Yankees, while Chapman could end up solidifying the Dodgers', Yankees', or Nationals' bullpen.
The biggest question and trade dark horse is that of Frazier, who recently captivated the fanbase by winning the Home Run Derby during the All-Star Game festivities at Great American Ball Park. Frazier is the Reds' best player and is extremely underpaid, making $3.75 million in 2015, and is due $8 million next season before he is arbitration-eligible in '17. Frazier will no doubt be looking for a $100 million-plus contract, and rightfully so. The Reds are at a crossroads with Frazier if they can’t get rid of the contracts of say Bruce and Phillips, and depending on the return of other possible trade chips (pitcher Mike Leake, outfielder Marlon Byrd) in addition to Cueto and Chapman.
The Reds would be better off to sell sooner rather than later and set the market price high than have to sell too low closer to the trade deadline this year or next.
The World Series or bust Tigers are starting to realize their master plan is beginning to slowly backfire. The winners of the last four AL Central titles, the Tigers enter July 23 action at/below .500 (47-47/46-48) and are 9.5 games behind/staring at a double-digit deficit to the first-place Royals.
Reports have begun to trickle out that team president and general manager Dave Dombrowski is putting lefty ace David Price and slugger Yoenis Cespedes on the trade block — and why not? The Tigers are underperforming and aging, and the return for Price, one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, and Cespedes, who is on pace for a career season, could be immense. Both Price and Cespedes have expiring contracts at the end of this season and won't come cheap to re-sign this winter — especially Price.
With the vast amount of talent that is sweeping the baseball landscape and judging by recent deals involving top prospects, the Tigers could restock their farm system rather quickly, which would help keep them relevant in the AL for years to come.
The Fightin’ Phils should have begun their rebuilding process in 2012. Here in 2015, General manager Ruben Amaro Jr.’s job is running on fumes and the Phillies are the joke of the baseball realm, sitting in last place (…again) with immovable contracts of former All-Stars Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley continuing to weigh them down. Although it's probably to little too late for Amaro, he does have the opportunity to give Phillies fans a couple of parting gifts by trading ace Cole Hamels and closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Trade rumors surrounding Hamels have been swirling for the past couple of seasons, but right now has to be the time for the lefty ace to go. Simply put, there is no point in paying a pitcher $23.5 million a year for the next three and a half years to be on a 100-loss team — the same can be said for a $13 million a year closer.
Moving both pitchers before the trade deadline won’t bring any major league superstars to Philly or make the Phils better right away…or even in 2016. But moving Papelbon and Hamels should bring in at least a couple of top prospects from contending teams — which the Phillies’ marginal farm system desperately needs.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox were one of the more active teams this past offseason, making significant moves to improve the South Side ball club. The problem is, the Sox might have actually regressed from 2014.
The additions of Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche have fallen flat, as both are struggling at the plate this season. Cabrera is under club control until 2017 and is unlikely to move, but LaRoche’s contract could be a point of interest for some teams that may need a bat as the deadline nears.
The Sox not only attempted to add depth to their lineup, but also to their pitching staff by signing closer David Robertson and starter Jeff Samardzija. Robertson’s contract runs for the next three and a half years and may not be appealing to a team going in the wrong direction such as the Sox. Trading Samardzija makes a lot of sense. Too many contending teams will be willing to give away top, young talent for a top of the rotation arm even if Samardzija is set to become a free agent after the season.
San Diego Padres
No team in baseball has been as disappointing this season than the Padres. New general manager A.J. Preller made his mark early by completing a complete roster overhaul this past winter that brought in Derek Norris, Matt Kemp, Will Middlebrooks, Melvin and Justin Upton, Wil Myers, to go along with closer Craig Kimbrel and ace James Shields.
Kemp and Melvin Upton are essentially immovable at this point in their careers, while Norris, and former top prospects Middlebrooks, and Myers (injury) are sure to be stuck in San Diego as they all have vastly underperformed this season.
While the Padres’ 2015 season might be nearing the point of no return (44-51/45-50, 8.5 games back), there is still time to make moves for the future. Kemp and Upton’s careers are officially on the backslide, while the younger Middlebrooks and Myers are approaching bust territory, but Kimbrel, Shields, and Justin Upton have a ton of trade value that could turn things around for the Padres in the long term.
Throw away the 2015 season and start over in '16, San Diego. Too many contending teams will be willing to trade high-end youth for the likes of reliable, established innings-eater like Shields or a middle-of-the-lineup bat with pop such as Upton's. Shields is more likely to garner interest involving top prospects as his deal runs for four and a half more seasons, compared to Upton, who is a pending free agent. Shields will be chased after by the same clubs interested in Cueto, Price, Hamels and Samardzija,
Kimbrel’s situation is interesting as his game has slipped noticeably from the dominance he showed during his five-year tenure with the Braves. But make no mistake, Kimbrel will be an instant and significant upgrade to any bullpen that he joins — he just won’t garner the return that Shields and Upton would.
— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. An avid baseball fan, Rose also takes time to do some play-by-play work for the radio broadcasts of Middle Tennessee State Blue Raider baseball games. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.