The trading season began rather bizarrely, with the Mets rushing to trade Francisco Rodriguez, their star high-priced closer with the scary vesting option, a new agent and a missing no-trade list. K-Rod's previous agent apparently neglected to submit his 10-team no-trade list, and Mets higher-ups became concerned that his just-hired agent, Scott Boras, might try to rectify this situation. Although there was seemingly no way to submit a list that was already two years late, Mets GM Sandy Alderson didn't think it was worth taking a chance a trade could be stalled by a debate over the missing list.
Shortly after Boras was hired, the Mets were telling interested teams K-Rod would be somewhere else "within 48 hours.'' And he was, sent to Milwaukee for two players to be named later.
Interestingly, the Brewers happened to be one of the 10 teams on the never-submitted list. Ultimately, that didn't matter since the Mets never saw the list, and Milwaukee made the best monetary offer to the Mets, taking K-Rod's contract plus about $5 million from New York in the deal that will send two prospects of the Mets' choosing to New York from a list of five.
It was an interesting start to what could be an unpredictable trading season. Here is the latest on a top 40 players (plus a few others) who could find themselves elsewhere by the July 31 trade deadline.
1. Carlos Beltran, Mets OF. K-Rod's friend and former teammate expects to go somewhere, though the Mets are expected to wait another week to 10 days to let things settle and see where they stand. Though there's been speculation Beltran would clear waivers with his $18.5-million salary, Alderson is said not to be so sure of that. And why should he be? Beltran is an All-Star and probably the best hitter who will go, and he can't forget that an underachieving, tainted Manny Ramirez was claimed by three teams last year. The Giants, Tigers, Reds, Indians, Braves, Phillies, Red Sox and Yankees all could be possibilities. Beltran has a full no-trade so he has a say, too.
2. Jose Reyes, Mets SS. The superstar who is expected back soon is very likely to remain a Met through the end of the year now. It's going to be tough for the Mets to absorb the kind of P.R. hit trading Reyes would bring. Plus, they also appear to be gearing up for a run at keeping Reyes this winter, though they might need the Einhorn agreement to be completed and a favorable ruling in the Madoff/Picard case, which many expect now.
3. Heath Bell, Padres RP. He clearly expects to go, as it's become plain that San Diego can't afford even a discounted price for a star free-agent closer. The Phillies, Rangers, Reds, Cardinals, Yankees, White Sox and Angels are possible.
4. Mike Adams, Padres RP. The heir apparent to Bell will stay unless San Diego can get one of about a dozen very top prospects they seek. The price tag is suitably high considering his 0.70 WHIP and $2.5 million salary.
5. Colby Rasmus, Cardinals OF. His name apparently has come up, with Jon Jay playing well and Rasmus never really meshing with iconic manager Tony La Russa. Rasmus has tremendous tools and will bring a haul, if they pull the trigger. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a Rasmus-for-Jeremy Hellickson trade with Tampa Bay was once discussed; but two GMs said they'd be shocked if the Rays would trade a cost-efficient big-time young starter like Hellickson.
6. Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies SP. Teams will be surprised if the Rockies wind up dealing the talented righthander despite a slip in velocity and performance. "If he is traded, that's a major red lag,'' one NL exec opined.
7. B.J. Upton, Rays OF. His name certainly has been thrown out there, which is no surprise considering his batting average continues to languish (he's at .239 after hitting .241 in '09 and .237 last year) and the Rays have two big outfield prospects. Upton may be an underachiever in terms of average, but he makes up for it in other ways. He could be one who is just perpetually on the trading block.
8. Hunter Pence, Astros OF. They seem unlikely to trade him since he's becoming the "face of the franchise,'' in the eyes of many. He's a great hustler and example for any young players they might have (they don't have many). But he beat them in arbitration for $6.9 million, and as one rival GM pointed out, "The franchise could us an overhaul.''
9. Michael Bourn, Astros OF. He's been discussed, but the Astros aren't exactly chance-takers. Would really help the Braves.
10. Josh Willingham, A's GM. He's the A's only real power hitter at this point and he'd help any team that needs an outfielder, including the Giants, Reds, Tigers, Phillies and Braves. David DeJesus, Coco Crisp and Hideki Matsui are three less valuable A's outfielders.
11. Edwin Jackson, White Sox SP. The White Sox are dealing from strength here. They'll have six starters when John Danks comes back, Jackson is a free agent after the year and the Sox need offense. Calls are coming in.
12. J.J. Hardy, Orioles SS. Baltimore wants to sign the free-agent-to-be to a three-year extension, but if he doesn't agree, he could go. The Giants, Reds and his old Brewers all could be in the market for a shortstop to enhance their pennant chances. Baltimore has also gotten calls on Mark Reynolds, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, though none of them seems especially likely to be dealt.
13. Carlos Peña, Cubs 1B. He could provide instant power for a pennant contender. Another free agent after the year.
14. Michael Cuddyer, Twins OF. He's one of the hottest hitters in baseball and an All-Star, so he could help all the teams that seek an outfielder. But for now in the tight AL Central the Twins are holding tight. Considering they spent to win this year, that's no shock. It might take a sudden downturn to change that stance, but if they do start to fall, this team has plenty to offer, also including Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Matt Capps and Jim Thome.
15. Kerry Wood, Cubs RP. This Cubs loyalist would have to approve any trade. The team would benefit by him saying "yes'' since he would bring a significant prospect and the Cubs could re-sign him after the year. They seem reluctant to trade excellent lefty Sean Marshall, and John Grabow's $4.8-million 2012 salary would be tough to move.
16. Wandy Rodriguez, Astros SP. Big contract -- he's signed through 2013 for $23 million and has an club option for 2014 -- blunts his value a bit, as do questions about how well he'd do in the American League. Still, one of the better starters who could be available (the Astros are unpredictable, so who knows if he really is).
17. Derek Lowe, Braves SP. Atlanta isn't shopping him, but they might consider dealing him to save money for offensive help. No organization has more starting pitching depth. Big salary ($15 million) but he'd help the Yankees, Rangers or Red Sox.
18. Hirkoki Kuroda, Dodgers SP. The Dodgers are holding out hope they could still make a run and are not doing anything soon, but get back to them in a couple weeks. It's hard to say how their nightmare ownership situation affects things. If available, Kuroda is a very solid starter. He has a no-trade clause, so he might require compensation to be moved. The Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Indians and Tigers are interested in Kuroda, according to American League sources. Ted Lilly is another solid starter, though his $33 million, three-year deal might discourage some.
19. Ryan Ludwick, Padres OF. All the teams that seek outfield help, including the Phillies and Reds make sense. Those two teams seem to match up especially well with San Diego since both would like a reliever, too. Reds GM Walt Jocketty had Ludwick in St. Louis.
20. Aramis Ramirez, Cubs 3B. He's never given any indication he'd consent to a trade, but as NL All-Star manager Bruce Bochy said shortly after Ramirez declined the All-Star offer, "he's one of the hottest hitters in baseball.'' The Angels could deal for Ramirez, who's hitting .364 with 10 home runs since June 19, only to have him decline, just like what happened with the Braves and then-Cub Derek Lee last year.
21. Jason Marquis, Nationals SP. The Nats haven't been mentioned as being in the seller mix with their very nice year to date. But realistically, in the NL East their chances look extremely remote. Marquis is having a nice bounce-back year (7-4, 4.05 ERA).
22. Leo Nuñez, Marlins RP. Yet another relief talent who could hit the market. The Marlins seem likely to hold onto rotation talents Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez since they want to give themselves a chance heading into a new ballpark next year.
23. Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles SP. Many believe he'd win a lot more games if he went elsewhere.
24. Livan Hernandez, Nationals SP. Veteran pitcher can still get outs if Nats make the decision to sell.
25. Jeff Francoeur, Royals OF. He's having a good enough year to be seen as a fall-back outfield candidate by some. Melky Cabrera has value but it's uncertain if the Royals would trade him.
26. Randy Choate, Marlins RP. Consummate lefty specialist wouldn't look too bad back with the Yankees.
27. Aaron Harang, Padres SP. Yet another Padre, showing why they might be the center of activity.
28. Jason Frasor, Blue Jays RP. Toronto is having a decent year but isn't a contender in the AL East. Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel further supply a strong relief market.
29. Ivan Rodriguez, Nationals C. Washington is well-stocked at catcher, so even if they don't become a full-fledged seller, he could be dealt. Would help the Giants.
30. Carlos Zambrano, Cubs SP. His $18 million salary means the Cubs would have to pay the bulk of it. Also has a no-trade clause, further complicating matters. Now that Ryan Dempster has patched things up with manager Mike Quade, he's almost sure to stay, too.
31. Brett Myers, Astros, SP. That $11 million salary for '12 should be a deterrent even if the Astros do the right thing and try to deal him. Carlos Lee's sagging stats and onerous contract make him a trade impossibility. Infielder Jeff Keppinger, a professional hitter, should go somewhere.
32. Chad Qualls, Padres RP. Yet another useful player the Padres have made available. Having decent year.
33. Todd Coffey, Nationals RP. If Washington decides to deal, he'd be quite popular.
34. Jamey Carroll, Dodgers INF. Consummate utilityman is a plus for any club. Juan Uribe's $20 million, three-year deal makes him tough to deal "unless the Giants really love him,'' one rival exec said. Casey Blake has an injury concern.
35. Grant Balfour, A's RP. Hard-thrower is one of many A's reliever who could go. There's also Michael Wuertz, Brian Fuentes and Craig Breslow.
36. Wilson Betemit, Royals. He doesn't really fit in K.C.'s nice youth movement.
37. Kevin Gregg, Orioles. Well, we know it won't be the Red Sox. Mike Gonzalez is another in the Orioles' bullpen who could help a couple teams, though they'd have to pay part of his contract.
38. Jeff Francis, Royals. He could help an NL club. Bruce Chen's stuff incited White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to say he'd like to pick up a bat, but his results (5-3, 3.56 ERA) have been solid.
39. Vladimir Guerrero, Orioles. The Cooperstown-bound Vladdy is still a threat with the bat (seven homers, .279). Luke Scott, a professional hitter with some quirky ideas, was on the block in previous years and stayed put, but he could go this time. Derrek Lee seems like a perennial summer pickup.
40. Kosuke Fukudome, Cubs OF. Someone would really have to love his high on-base percentage and defensive abilities to justify that $11 million salary. Alfonso Soriano's contract (he's due $18 million a year through 2014) is still too big to move, even after his decent start.
• While Reyes has said he won't talk about a contract to the Mets in-season, he hasn't completely ruled out considering other options for a contract extension should the Mets find a trade partner. A trade looks like a long shot now, but he'd consider a contract in a situation with a three-day window. The issue with the Mets, beyond the potential distraction, is that it's pretty clear they couldn't offer market value at this point, not until the Einhorn deal is done and the Picard situation is settled. Reyes isn't blowing smoke when he says he loves the Mets, so if they mount a real effort in the winter they might have a decent chance to keep him. The great likelihood is they give that a shot now and hold onto him through the season.
• A person with ties to the Mets said it was "unlikely'' they'd deal Mike Pelfrey, whose salary is starting to rise. They obviously need starting pitching going forward.
• The Indians are looking for an outfield bat. But Beltran doesn't look like a match for them because while they are having a surprising season, it might be hard to imagine a storybook finish. So they are one contender Beltran is unlikely to approve in trade. His salary could be an issue for both the Indians and Reds anyway.
• Rivals say they believe the Pirates will be buyers, not sellers, in a season that's been enthralling to Pittsburgh. They'd obviously like to break their 18-year streak of losing seasons, at the very least. A great baseball story.
• The Angels are looking for offense. Third base would seem to be one position they'd look at.
• Milwaukee would have to consider shortstops with Yuniesky Betancourt not providing consistent offense or defense. A reunion with J.J. Hardy would make sense.
• The Twins are telling folks they are going for it. Hard to blame them in that wide-open division.
• The Tigers are expecting Carlos Guillen to come back from injury and help them at second base, but they do have interest in a starting pitcher and a hitter, either an outfielder or third baseman.
• The Giants, who make excellent hires, have signed up Jim Riggleman as a special assignment scout.
• Roger Clemens is lucky.