The 2015 MLB trade deadline is almost a week away, and several notable players from around the league are becoming available. Non-contending teams seeking to shed payroll have put some of their most talented players on the trade block.
The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers entered the season with baseball’s highest payrolls, and they seem willing to add more salary as they try to win a title. Both big-market teams are in first place and targeting pitching, with the intention of making a more serious push in the postseason.
Top pitchers Cole Hamels, David Price and Johnny Cueto have been the most prominent names featured in trade rumors, but other above-average players could also be dealt by July 31.
The San Diego Padres signed Shields to a four-year contract worth $75 million this offseason, hoping he’d be their No.1 starter and lead the team to their first playoff appearance since 2006. But the pitcher is having his worst year since 2010, and the Padres appear headed for another losing season.
Shields’ 3.92 ERA and 20 home runs allowed might be disappointing for his first 20 starts with the team, but he could still help out a contender, having gone 8-3 with 137 strikeouts in 121.2 innings. It’s no certainty that San Diego will try to trade him, but there are reports that Shields could be on the move less than one year after signing with the team. One source told ESPN's Buster Olney that the chances of Shields being traded are between 75 and 90 percent.
According to Phil Rogers of MLB.com, the Chicago Cubs will have interest in Shields if he’s made available. Chicago’s 50-42 start to the season has given them a real shot of making the playoffs for the first time in seven years, but they still trail the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.
Much of the talk surrounding the Cincinnati Reds has been their willingness to trade Cueto, but he’s not the team’s only starting pitcher that could be on the move. Leake will be a free agent in the offseason, as well, and Cincinnati is prepared to deal the right-hander.
The 27-year-old has never been a No.1 starter since joining the big leagues in 2010, but he’s been a consistent performer. Pitching to a sub-4.00 ERA for a third straight year, Leake’s 7-5 record with a 3.95 ERA and 1.23 WHIP will make him attractive to contenders that need help in their rotation.
The Yankees scouted Cueto’s last start, and the Dodgers are expected to make a play for the runner-up to the 2014 NL Cy Young award. The Yankees, who aren't looking to give up any elite prospects, could turn their attention to Leake. The Dodgers own top prospects Corey Seager and Julio Urias, and are reportedly unwilling to part with either player, but have depth in their farm system to make a deal. The Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays are also looking to upgrade their rotation, and could make an offer for Leake.
With the Oakland Athletics sitting in last place in the AL West and just a half-game behind the Boston Red Sox for the worst record in the league, they are likely to be sellers at the trade deadline. Zobrist’s versatility makes him a top candidate to be dealt, and he’s been involved in multiple trade rumors.
The New York Mets had previously spoken to the A’s about a possible deal, one that reportedly would send pitcher Rafael Montero to Oakland. But Montero has been recovering from an injury, and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that no talks are currently ongoing. According to reports, the Pirates and Washington Nationals have also inquired about the utility man, as well.
The Yankees might be interested in trying to make an upgrade at second base. Stephen Drew has not gotten the job done with a .181 batting average in 80 games, and the team decided to send Rob Refsnyder back to the minor leagues after just four games in the Majors.
Zobrist has mainly split his time between second base and left field this season in Oakland. He has not commited an error at second base this eason. With the bat, Zobrist has a .769 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS), but has not performed well on the basepaths. The 34-year-old has seen a major decline in stolen bases, having averaged nearly 16 a season from 2009-2014, to just one in 2015.