Trade deadline spotlight: position player roundup
The non-waiver trade deadline is now less than 48 hours away, and after examining the latest developments in the market for pitching, what’s striking about running through a similar exercise for the top position players is how few appear poised to move due to a combination of exorbitant asking prices and unrealistic expectations of teams who appear inclined to hold onto such players.
Even so, there are almost certainly more deals to come over the next two days. What follows is a quick rundown on a baker’s dozen position players who have been among the most discussed as trade targets in recent days. If there’s activity to be had, it will be centered around the players on this list, who are ordered alphabetically.
Jason Bay, Mariners LF
The Mariners have shown reluctance to move pending free agents such as Raul Ibañez, Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse, but with the activation of the latter from the disabled list on Monday, they designated Bay for assignment. The 34-year-old righty hasn’t been the same since signing with the Mets and battling concussion and rib injuries, and he’s only hitting .204/.298/.393 with 11 homers, but he’s making just $1 million. For a desperate team, he’s the equivalent of that worn out sofa sitting by the curb — haul him away and he’s yours.
Marlon Byrd, Mets RF
A year after being suspended for PED use, Byrd is hitting .281/.326/.513 with 17 homers and making just $700,000. The Rangers, for whom he played from 2007-2009, have expressed the most interest, with other teams monitoring him as well, but the Mets are reportedly highly unlikely to move him unless they get an offer that general manager Sandy Alderson can’t refuse. The GM told the Newark Star-Ledger‘s Jorge Castillo:
“A guy like Marlon, he’s not costing us a lot of money, there’s the question then of what kind of talent we might be able to get back… It’s still very important for us to try to be competitive because, regardless of what happens, this has been about changing perception and about what people can anticipate going into the future.”
Raul Ibañez, Mariners LF/DH
The 41-year-old Ibanez is enjoying quite the resurgence in the power department, hitting .252/.307/.535 with 24 homers, his most since 2009. He’s got plenty of postseason experience, playing in a World Series with the Phillies and producing some unlikely heroics with the Yankees last fall, but general manager Jack Zduriencik doesn’t want to break up the core of veterans — most of them pending free agents — who have helped the team inch back towards mediocrity; even after a recent eight-game winning streak, the Mariners are 50-55. Despite interest from teams like the Rays and Orioles, he’s unlikely to move.
Kendrys Morales, 1B/DH
With seven homers and a .573 slugging percentage this month, Morales is up to .278/.337/.465 with 16 dingers this year. The 30-year-old switch-hittter, who’s making just $5.25 million, interests the Rangers and Rays, and he makes sense as a fit for the Yankees, Pirates and Orioles as well, but as with Ibañez, he doesn’t appear likely to move.
Justin Morneau, 1B
Morneau is very much available, but hitting just .180/.270/.348 this month and .264/.324/.396 with eight homers overall, his value has taken a hit, and he’s got around $6 million still remaining on his deal this year. The Orioles and Pirates have checked in, but neither team sounds to be particularly charged up about the possibility of acquiring him. The Rangers would figure to be another team in play given the likelihood that Lance Berkman may not return.
Michael Morse, Mariners OF/1B
Activated from the DL on Monday after missing five weeks due to a right quad strain, the 31-year-old Morse is hitting a middling .251/.313/.454 with 11 homers. While he’s inexpensive (making $6.75 million this year), capable of filling a need at first base or either outfield corner, and of particular interest to the Orioles and Rangers, he’s yet another Mariner whom Zduriencik is disinclined to move.
Hunter Pence, Giants RF
Traded at or near the deadline in each of the past two years, Pence may be on the move again now that the Giants are 46-58, dead in the water and sinking fast. The 30-year-old Pence, who’s making $13.8 million and can be a free agent at the end of the year, is hitting .277/.320/.457 with 14 homers. The Giants plan to make him a qualifying offer that would net them a supplemental first-round pick in next year’s draft, so their asking price is high, and they’ve told teams they’d rather re-sign him than trade him. Interest from the Rangers Pirates and Reds may be too much for them to withstand, particularly given their depleted farm system.
Alexei Ramirez, White Sox SS
The Sox are said to be shopping the 31-year-old Ramirez, who’s hitting just .282/.308/.350 with one homer, down from nine last year and an average of 17 from 2008-2011. Despite his offensive decline, he has maintained value via his defense, which has been 47 runs above average since the beginning of the 2010 season. Owed $20.5 million for 2014-2015 plus a 2016 buyout, he’s been targeted by the Pirates and Cardinals. The Sox are said to have turned down an offer for St. Louis’ 21-year-old righty prospect Carlos Martinez (38th on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list), but names such as second baseman Kolten Wong (84th on BA’s list) and swingman Joe Kelly have also been mentioned, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the two teams find a satisfactory package.
Alex Rios, White Sox RF
In a market devoid of top-shelf bats, Rois (currently hitting .272/.325/.427 with 12 homers) has attracted considerable attention from teams such as the Pirates, Rangers and Yankees, but a few obstacles stand in the way. The 32-year-old righty is owed around $5 million for the remainder of this year plus $13.5 million for next year including the buyout of his 2015 option, he has a limited no-trade clause that’s said to include the Yankees (who acquired Alfonso Soriano instead), and now the White Sox are said to be asking for two top prospects plus a lesser player in return. For a player who’s been wildly inconsistent from year to year, that’s probably prohibitive.
Carlos Ruiz, Phillies C
For as much sense as it makes to move a 34-year-old free agent-to-be backstop amid a dreadful (.253/.301/.280 with zero homers in 165 PA) season, the Phillies haven’t been all that interested. The Yankees, who are said to have discussed him last month, are an obvious fit if he is moved.
Nate Schierholtz, Cubs RF
A potent lefty currently hitting .278/.339/.530, Schierholtz is being targeted by the Pirates, with the Yankees no longer an option after acquiring Soriano. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a team such as the Rangers get involved as well.
Chase Utley, Phillies 2B
Currently hitting .274/.337/.498 with 13 homers, the 34-year-old second baseman would easily rank as the top impact bat on the market… if he were actually available, and there’s no shortage of teams that could use his services. Apparently, Amaro has told at least two teams that Utley’s not available, as they try to work out an extension to keep him in Philadelphia beyond this season.
Michael Young, Phillies 3B-1B
Even as the Phillies waffle over whether or not to sell, Young (currently hitting .277/.342/.402 with seven homers) is being marketed aggressively. The Orioles are interested in him as a DH, and the Yankees (who have no idea whether to expect Alex Rodriguez back) and Red Sox could use him as a third baseman. While there have even been signs that the Rangers are interested in re-acquiring him, reports to that effect have been shot down.