Baseball’s annual trade deadline is the busiest of all the four major sports—baseball, basketball, football, and hockey. Why? The vast minor league system, which allows a contending team to add a major piece without subtracting from the current roster.
Usually the most likely candidates to be dealt are star veterans whose contracts are set to expire within the next two seasons. Either the team feels that they won’t be able to re-sign them or they don’t fit within their youth movement. Here are the 10 biggest who are likely to be dealt before the July 31 trade deadline.
1. David Price, SP, Detroit Tigers—With former MVPs Miguel Cabrera on the DL and Justin Verlander looking like he should have never have been taken off it, the mediocre Tigers aren’t going anywhere. The former Cy Young winner Price is set to be a free agent this offseason and should give Detroit some prospects for the future.
2. Cole Hamels, SP, Philadelphia Phillies—It’s an annual question of when the woeful Phillies will finally deal Hamels—their biggest trading chip. The team hasn’t contended since 2011 and Hamels—who is owed 23.5 million per season through 2018—has no business being wasted on a team in desperate need of a rebuild.
3. Johnny Cueto, SP, Cincinnati Reds—Cueto finished runner-up in last year’s Cy Young race and with an ERA of 2.79 through 18 starts this season, he’s picked up right where he left off. Meanwhile, the Reds are 16 games back in the NL Central (through Monday) and the 29-year old Cueto is set to be a free agent at the end of the season.
4. Justin Upton, LF, San Diego Padres—The three-time All-Star Upton is an ideal corner outfielder with power and the struggling Padres have little emotional attachment to him, having just traded for him last December. He’s a free agent at the end of the season and dealing for some prospects would help restock a minor league system that was gutted last year.
5. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies—Tulowitzki may be the most intriguing candidate out there. The five-time All-Star plays a premium position on defense and can hit with the best of them, boasting a .300 career average. But the 30-year old is due $94 million from 2016 through 2020 and hasn’t played in more than 126 games in a season since 2011.
6. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers—Beltre is certainly a fan favorite in Texas, finishing in the top 15 of the MVP voting in all four of his seasons with the Rangers. But the 36-year-old will be a free agent after the 2016 season (where he’s due $18 million) and he’s hitting just .261 this season. Some team will surely take a flyer on a respected teammate like Beltre.
7. Carlos Gomez, CF, Milwaukee Brewers—Gomez is one of the better two-way center fielders in the game, winning a Gold Glove in 2013 while being named an All-Star in both 2013 and 2014. But he’s only signed through 2016 (at a very reasonable $9 million) and would certainly help the last-place Brewers restock their minor league system.
8. Craig Kimbrel,RP, San Diego Padres—Kimbrel, another piece the Padres emptied their minor leagues for, is going nowhere with San Diego. The Yankees have been a rumored destination for the best closer in the game.
9. James Shields, SP, San Diego Padres—Shields is a great No. 2 starter, though he didn’t exactly shine for Kansas City in last year’s postseason and the contract San Diego signed him to is somewhat back-loaded—$21 million for the next three years. He’s a good leader, though the Padres may have to eat some salary to move him.
10. Jonathan Papelbon, RP, Philadelphia Phillies—Although Papelbon is now 34, he’s still putting up great numbers—a 1.72 ERA and 16 saves. The longtime closer is close to having his $13 million vesting option for 2016 being picked up, but any contending team with a mediocre bullpen can surely use him.