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Outfielder market full of imperfect options ahead of trade deadline

Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

After looking at the trade market for starting pitchers and relievers, respectively, we continue our examination of the top deadline targets by exploring the outfielders who are rumored to be the block. With just one week left until the July 31 non-waiver deadline, teams looking to add a bat that they can hide on the left side of the defensive spectrum may be out of luck unless they are willing to make a major splash and take on a huge contract such as that of Matt Kemp. That, in turn, could raise the price tag of the lesser players on the list below.

Matt Kemp, CF, Dodgers

Kemp isn’t the Dodgers’ centerfielder, but he wants to be somebody’s centerfielder. He has had a falling out with manager Don Mattingly over his position (Mattingly rightly believes Kemp is no longer viable in center), and the organization's top hitting prospect, Joc Pederson, is playing strong defense at that position in Triple A while raking at the plate (.325/.453/.585, plus 25 stolen bases).

Any potential suitors, however, are limited by Kemp's injury history and the $107 million he is owed over the next five years. Of course, that contract is one reason L.A. may want to trade Kemp. Getting that contract off the books would result in huge savings for the Dodgers, and that money could then be used to re-sign Hanley Ramirez this offseason, or to make a play for yet another dominant starter, such as Max Scherzer. 

Per Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Red Sox, Indians, Mariners and Rangers have all inquired about the 29-year-old Kemp. While none of those conversations seem to have gotten very far, you can be sure that other general managers will keep calling, and one of them may just offer the Dodgers what it takes to move Kemp out of Los Angeles.

Alex Rios, RF, Rangers

Rios, who was traded from the White Sox to the Rangers last August, could be on the move again. Texas' interest in Kemp suggests that it is viewing this season as an injury-riddled fluke, and the club may resist trading Rios given that it has a $14 million option on him for next year with a $2 million buyout. But if there is strong enough interest in Rios the Rangers might be convinced to sell.

According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the teams rumored to have an eye on the 33-year-old Rios include the Mariners, Royals and Blue Jays. It’s worth noting, however, that Kansas City is one of the six teams Rios has named in his partial no-trade clause. That doesn’t mean Rios won’t approve a trade to the Royals, but that they may have to give him an incentive to do so.

Josh Willingham, LF, Twins

Willingham is in the final year of his three-year contract with the Twins, one that seemed expressly designed for Minnesota to trade him for prospects from the day it was signed. Unfortunately for the Twins, Willingham has been mired in an awful slump since mid-June -- hitting .135/.274/.292 over 117 plate appearances -- that has likely gutted his trade value. It still seems likely that Willingham will be moved in what will amount to a change-of-scenery deal for the 35-year-old. The Mariners and Reds are both known to have inquired about him in recent weeks.

Chris Denorfia, OF, Padres

An all-around athlete who has a good defensive reputation, Denorfia's raw production at the plate has been masked by his home ballpark. He posted a 113 OPS+ from 2010-13 while playing all three outfield positions as part of Bud Black’s ever-changing Padres lineup. He was arguably one of the game’s more underrated players​ in recent years, but his bat went silent earlier this season. Denorfia has hit .161/.236/.196 in 124 plate appearances since May 18, numbers even a park adjustment can’t save. Nonetheless, he has drawn significant interest from teams hoping that, as with Willingham, a change of scenery can snap him out of his funk.

Denorfia’s road numbers are encouraging (his OPS away from San Diego this season is nearly 200 points higher than his home mark), as are his career rates against lefties (.299/.366/.443, and that’s with Petco included). That last has piqued the interest of the Blue Jays, who have struggled against southpaws this year and are currently without the big righthanded bat of Edwin Encarnacion. Teams likely won’t have to surrender much to land Denorfia, who is 34 and a pending free agent.

Dayan Viciedo, RF, White Sox

Viciedo is a replacement-level player: a poor defensive corner outfielder who has hit .253/.298/.426 as a full-time player over the last three seasons despite playing his home games in a hitter-friendly ballpark. Despite all of that, he has generated a fair amount of interest this month, with the Mariners and Giants among those said to have inquired about him. Per ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes, the Mariners floated a two-player deal including Brandon Maurer earlier this month, a possibility made all the more intriguing by the 24-year-old Maurer’s recent success working out of the Seattle bullpen.

What makes Viciedo compelling is less his immediate impact than his remaining potential. Still just 25, he has three team-controlled years remaining. Those factors, along with the pop he's shown at the plate, are his major selling points. And they help explain why despite showing no growth over the past three years, it is Viciedo, not impending free agent and Three True Outcomes hero Adam Dunn, who has been the White Sox hitter most often targeted by opposing general managers this month.

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