1. Ryan Dempster, Cubs SP: Dempster, the hottest pitcher in baseball, could help any contender. His current MLB-best 33-inning scoreless inning streak makes him quite the coveted commodity.
|More on MLB|
|More MLB coverage|
The Dodgers have long been thought to be a favorite for Dempster, ever since ex-Cub Ted Lilly is said to have recommended him to Dodgers higher-ups. But 10 teams, including the Braves and Indians, are said to be in play for Dempster, who has been nothing short of dominating lately.
Dempster is also on the Red Sox's radar.
It isn't known how far along Boston is in talks for the Cubs righthander, who's thrown 33 scoreless innings in a row and leads the NL with a 1.87 ERA. "Who wouldn't be interested?" one NL scout said. Boston has said its seeks starting pitching. ESPN first tied Boston to Dempster.
2. Alfonso Soriano, Cubs OF: There is no good reason teams, especially some American League teams, shouldn't be lining up for Soriano, who may be the most productive power hitter traded this month. (Of course, he could be traded next month, too, since he'd surely clear waivers, with close to $45 million to go on his deal through 2014.)
Soriano's 17 home runs have all come since May 15, meaning he's been one of the more productive hitters in baseball over the past couple months. He's been even hotter since the All-Star break, and he is batting .500 with a couple home runs over his last three games.
The Cubs understand they'd have to offset a significant portion of that $45 million remaining, so they are being realistic. It's the other teams that need to adjust. While he isn't a particularly mobile defender in left field anymore on days his knees hurt, he'd represent a major offensive upgrade for a lot of teams. The Rays, who've gotten little from their DH slot, and the Indians, are just two of several he could help.
3. Josh Willingham, Twins OF: The Twins are very reluctant to trade Willingham, who is having a spectacular offensive season despite playing home games in Target Field. This guy is a lot better than most realize; he did the same in 2011 while playing home games in the Oakland Coliseum.
His current power numbers of 22 home runs and 64 RBI should have been enough to qualify for the All-Star Game, and will surely attract plenty of interest on the trade market, if the Twins do wind up entertaining offers. It doesn't hurt that Willingham has four home runs in his last six games. Or that he has a .386 batting average and .750 slugging percentage in situations that are "close and late."
The Twins are said to even prefer to consider a trade for the home-grown speedster Denard Span than to part with Willingham, who has a sterling .943 OPS for the year. It doesn't hurt he's signed to a reasonable contract ($21 million, three years). But then that fair contract is yet another reason the Twins want to hold onto him.
1. Zack Greinke, Brewers SP: Greinke became the first pitcher since Red Faber in 1917 to start three consecutive games, but that doesn't mean they were his best three games. To the contrary, Greinke failed to win any of them, and actually allowed nine earned runs in eight innings, as his ERA climbed to 3.57 from 3.08. Previously the NL leader in WAR among starting pitchers, he's dropped out of the top 10. However, eight less-than-optimal innings shouldn't affect his trade value too much. If he hits the market, he should still bring a strong return, as a top-of-the-rotation starter is always coveted. In the event the Phillies sign Cole Hamels and he doesn't hit the market, that might make Greinke even more popular.
At least the Braves, Angels, Rangers and Orioles are believed to be interested, as might any contender be intrigued with the exceptions of the Yankees and Red Sox, who have questions about whether their markets are right for Greinke. Whatever anyone thinks, it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to win more than Greinke, whose competitiveness should only make him more coveted.
2. Francisco Rodriguez, Brewers RP: K-Rod did earn his 18th hold in Sunday's 4-1 win that dropped the surprising Pirates out of first place and helped stave off any thoughts of selling, at least for several days, as Milwaukee gauges its chances to get back into the race. However, Rodriguez badly needed that positive outing following a rough past couple games in which he'd allowed five walks in two innings and pitched to a 3.50 WHIP.
Overall, K-Rod has an uncharacteristic 1.43 WHIP, and his $8 million salary to do set-up work is a tad on the high side, too. Last year by this time he had already been traded (to the Brewers). But this time, it's going to take a little more work to find a taker. His old team, the Mets, have been mentioned as a possibility, and the Dodgers could be another one.
3. B.J. Upton, Rays OF: His younger brother Justin has been the one mentioned more prominently on the trade market lately, but B.J. has seemed to be on and off it for more than a year now. The Rays have started to struggle lately, especially offensively, raising a question whether they could become sellers, and enhancing the older Upton's chances to be traded.
If so, he hasn't helped matters lately by going 1 for his last 16, with nine strikeouts. As is his way, the one hit was an absolute bomb of a home run at The Trop. But that's the thing with B.J. Upton, it's been a case of hot and cold, beyond what you'd think with his sort of talent. Overall, his .675 OPS would be a career low. He's still only 27, and he still has vast potential, but as a trade chip he isn't the best right now.