5 trade candidates who could be bargains
Since the creation of the second Wild Card in 2012, we've seen an increase in the number of teams with legitimate postseason aspirations. As a result, Major League Baseball has encountered strong sellers' markets around the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadlines in recent years.
This year, the price tags -- in terms of money and prospects -- will be steep for some of the available talent. And teams could have high-end options available for virtually every type of roster hole.
Need an ace-like rotation arm? Johnny Cueto and Cole Hamels could potentially be had. What about a shutdown stopper? Perhaps Aroldis Chapman -- arguably baseball's best closer -- could be yours for the right price. Looking for a hitter with defensive versatility? Oakland, which has Ben Zobrist, might be a worthwhile trading partner.
But those marquee names aside, several clubs might find a better fit with a more understated piece.
Let's consider five of them now:
1. Mike Leake, RHP, Reds
Leake is a quality starting pitcher, posting a 3.71 ERA since the outset of 2013 and averaging more than 200 innings from 2013-14. And though he has been a bit prone to the long ball of late -- a fact some have attributed to his hitter-friendly home venue -- Leake knows how to generate his fair share of grounders. Like Cueto, Leake is eligible for free agency this offseason, which could reduce the cost to acquire him since the team that acquires him won't be able to extend a qualifying offer.
Teams in need of pitching will call Reds general manager Walt Jocketty with interest in Cueto and Chapman, but Leake should receive equal attention given his lower acquisition cost.
Teams that could be interested: Dodgers, Yankees, Orioles, Astros, Blue Jays, Rangers and Tigers.
2. Tyler Clippard, RHP, A's
Clippard is a high-quality reliever, having pitched in key situations for years, and closing for the 2015 A's and the National League East-champion Nationals in 2012.
Similar to Andrew Miller -- who was dealt from Boston to Baltimore last summer -- Clippard has a chance to be a legitimate difference-maker out of a contending team's bullpen in 2015.
Clippard does not possess the dominant stuff to match Miller's elite strikeout rate, but he has the versatility and fastball-changeup combo to get big outs in the seventh, eighth and ninth frames.
Teams that could be interested: Blue Jays, Orioles, Dodgers, Tigers, Nationals and Rangers.
3. Martin Prado, INF, Marlins
Prado is on the disabled list with an injured right shoulder, but he could boost a contending club when healthy. Similarly to Zobrist, Prado has the talent to man multiple defensive positions.
Additionally, Prado would lengthen out many lineups with his ability to make consistent contact at an above-average rate of around 90 percent.
But Prado's strong suits are notwithstanding. He may not be fit for every contending club, given that his contract does not expire until the end of 2016. Prado is on the hook for $11 million next year, with $3 million of that salary being paid by the Yankees, his previous employer.
However, a postseason hopeful would have the option to hold on to the veteran for this year and next, or deal him after the season is over.
Teams that could be interested: Angels, Mets and Giants.
4. Marlon Byrd, OF, Reds
Byrd, at 37 years old, is no stranger to the trade market. He was shipped from the Mets to the Pirates in 2013, and from Philadelphia to Cincinnati this past offseason.
With the Reds struggling to contend in 2015, Byrd's name will come up in a handful of big league front offices.
True, Byrd owns a .234 batting average, but he is slugging above .440 for the third consecutive campaign. Given his skill set, Byrd fits perfectly in the middle-to-bottom portion of a lineup, perhaps in the sixth slot on a good team.
Teams that could be interested: Angels, Giants, Cardinals and, perhaps, Mets.
5. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Brewers
Following a quality career that has included stops in Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Chicago's North Side, the third baseman is in the midst of what he says is his final big league campaign.
Though Ramirez's overall offensive numbers are clearly on the decline at this point, he is the kind of guy who could get a change-of-scenery jolt if he were traded to a contender by July 31. The veteran still has plenty of power and bat speed to help an offensively challenged team, and he could make a legitimate contribution toward the lower end of a batting order. Ramirez's best situation could be with an American League franchise, for whom he could stay fresh by taking some days as a designated hitter.
Teams that could be interested: Angels, Rays, Indians and Mets, who could be a fit until David Wright returns.