While the focus between now and August 1 will be on the trade possibilities of David Price, Jeff Samardzija, Justin Masterson, Jorge De La Rosa, et al, here are five under-the-radar names that could be interesting trade possibilities in the next six weeks:
—Ben Zobrist. He’s just 33, a switch-hitter who can play a half-dozen positions including both middle infield spots, he’s still got close to a .700 OPS for a battered team with a woeful offense, he is the perfect acquisition for a team like the Tigers, Giants or Dodgers. Gerry Hunsicker talked the Rays into acquiring him from Houston, he’s now with the Dodgers…it makes perfect sense.
Zobrist would give the Dodgers flexibility at both middle infield positions, as well as third base, and the value of players who can produce and play several different positions are invaluable to contenders. Tony Phillips was a classic example. Zobrist could and probably should have been in the top five in the 2009 MVP balloting. The Angels now are grooming Grant Green for such a role, and he could be a role player in the stretch, especially if the Angels continue to be one of the two best teams in the American League. The Red Sox are preparing Mookie Betts for such a role (if they get into the AL East race); while many in the organization feel he is a potential gold glove second baseman, Dustin Pedroia is the soul of the franchise and will be for years.
—Bartolo Colon. Contenders like the Orioles, Mariners, Blue Jays and Brewers can’t afford what it would take to get Price, Samardzija or Justin Masterson, but Colon makes sense. The Mets can use the money elsewhere, and because Noah Syndergaard has missed time, his innings limit won’t be a problem and they can get a good two month look preparing him for 2016. “What you worry about with Colon,” says one AL GM, “is when he breaks down.”
—Steve Cishek. Bambi is a huge part of the Marlins’ improvement, 15-for-16 in saves, a 2.36 earned run average, throws strikes, reliable person. But if Miami falls back in July, he could be a big chip for one of the many teams—like the Tigers—who have struggled at the end of games. He’s the Marlins third highest-paid player at $3.8M, and arbitration is going to drive that way up. The Marlins have been trying to assemble backend arms, and right now have closer possibilities in Bryan Morris and Anthony DeSclafani—if not Nathan Eovaldi—and could get some young infield offensive help in return.
—Jason Hammel. There’s a chance the Cubs will try to re-sign Samardzija and trade Hammel, who could be a major chip for the Jays—who have inquired—and most contenders. He’s only 31, he’s throwing 94, in 83 1/3 innings he’s allowed 64 hits with a 76-18 strikeout-walk ratio, a 2.81 earned run average and $6M price tag. Remember what the Cubs got for Matt Garza last summer.
—Chase Headley. For nearly a year, the Padres were waiting it out on Headley, figuring they could either sign him or get a draft choice with a qualifying offer this November. But since finishing 5th in the MVP balloting in 2012, Headley is a .237 hitter—albeit in Petco—and now it’s doubtful he’d get a qualifying offer. So with third base an industry-wide weak position, the Pads could see if a team like the Yankees would take a shot and see if they can resurrect his career. For now, it’s hard for anyone to know exactly what Headley is, especially the Padres.
It is, of course, very early. Have the Red Sox been a major disappointment? Of course. But they’re more likely to add between now and the All-Star Break than sell off; they do have a huge season ticket base and NESN audience. The Phillies are struggling with similar options. “I still think it will be a month before we really see serious talks heating up,” says an AL East GM.