With the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline fewer than two weeks away, dozens of established major leaguers and intriguing prospects across all of baseball will be changing teams. Teams in contention will struggle with the challenge of winning now without mortgaging their future, while those in rebuilding mode will look to stock up for 2012 and beyond.
Last year's deadline saw current major leaguers such as Dan Hudson, Wilson Ramos and Brett Wallace switch uniforms, as well as Top 100 prospects such as Tyler Skaggs and Pat Corbin. The 2011 deadline is sure to feature some major names from the prospect world as well.
The players on this list aren't ranked by their ability, but rather by the likelihood with which they will be dealt in the coming days. All trades imagined below are purely speculative, but consist of names that are frequently mentioned as trade candidates.
10. Dayan Viciedo, first base/designated hitter, Chicago White Sox
Viciedo’s name isn't one that's mentioned frequently in rumors, but it makes sense for him to be dealt from a logistical standpoint. Viciedo is hitting at a .322/.371/.525 (BA/OBP/SLG) clip in Triple-A, but while he is clearly MLB-ready, he has nowhere to play in Chicago. Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn represent long-term commitments at first base and designated hitter, respectively, and Viciedo would be a defensive liability at third base or in the outfield. Still just 21 years old, Viciedo would draw a ton of interest on the trade market, and could be used to land a quality reliever –- think Leo Nunez — or a more offensively potent third baseman than Brent Morel.
9. Robbie Erlin, starting pitcher, Texas Rangers
Erlin is probably the fourth or fifth best prospect on this list, and as such could be used as the centerpiece of a deal for a top-of-the-rotation starter or a closer. Still just 19 years old, Erlin has already reached Double-A, and is largely dominating there through 54 2/3 innings. The Rangers are unlikely to deal their two best prospects -– Jurickson Profar or Martin Perez — but may decide Erlin is expendable for a Heath Bell, Mike Adams or Jon Danks. He could be a mid-rotation starter by as soon as this time next season.
8. Desmond Jennings, outfielder, Tampa Bay Rays
It makes little sense for the Rays to trade Jennings, but then again it makes no sense for Jennings to still be in Triple-A. The 24-year-old center fielder is hitting .280 with 12 homers, 17 stolen bases and a .375 on-base percentage. He's battled injuries throughout his career, but he'd be an immediate upgrade over Sam Fuld or Justin Ruggiano and could assume leadoff duties from Johnny Damon. The Rays are more likely to trade B.J. Upton, but if they don't, Jennings could be dealt for a middle-of-the-order bat or an elite bullpen arm if they decide to shoot for the playoffs this season.
7. Josh Reddick, outfielder, Boston Red Sox
Reddick has fast become a fan favorite in Boston. But while he's capable of being an everyday big league right fielder, his value will never be higher than it is now. Reddick has hit .367 with four homers and 18 RBI in his impressive 2011 campaign, but he's done so in a very small sample size, and he can't sustain that type of success. Plus, many still view Ryan Kalish as the Red Sox' right fielder of the future. Reddick wouldn't be nearly enough if the Red Sox shoot for a big name like Jose Reyes or Ubaldo Jimenez, but if they set their sights on Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Cuddyer or Carlos Beltran, his name could come into play.
6. Charlie Furbush, pitcher, Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are rumored to be seeking a mid-rotation starter in the Derek Lowe or Jeremy Guthrie mold, and Furbush is the type of solid, yet non-elite prospect who could be involved in such a deal. Furbush has pitched well at Triple-A this season, with a 3.17 ERA and 10.17 K/9 rate, but allowed five home runs in just 29 innings with a 4.03 ERA in the majors. His ceiling is as a mid-rotation starter, but he may end up in the bullpen. Don't expect the Tigers to trade Andy Oliver or Nick Castellanos and consider Jacob Turner all but untouchable.
5. Trevor May, starting pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies have been heavily linked to seemingly every name out there — from right fielders like Beltran and Josh Willingham to relievers like Bell and Nunez — and seem certain to make at least one move before the calendar turns to August. Enter May, who despite showcasing a 3.64 ERA, 11.39 K/9 and improved control at High-A, is largely viewed as the Phillies' third-best pitching prospect behind Jarred Cosart and Brody Colvin. The Mets might ask for Domonic Brown, Jonathan Singleton or Cosart if the Phillies target Beltran, but May is a more realistic target, and he could be a No. 2 or 3 starter by mid-2013.
4. Zack Wheeler, starting pitcher, San Francisco Giants
Wheeler is the best pitching prospect on this list, but if the Giants are determined to seriously upgrade their offense, they may have to give him up. A potential ace in the making, Wheeler has phenomenal stuff and an impressive 10.34 K/9 rate in High-A, and he should progress quickly once he harnesses his command. The Giants' farm system is bereft of impact prospects save for Wheeler and Brandon Belt, and dealing the latter would be counterproductive toward improving their offense. That leaves Wheeler as the likely centerpiece of any deal for Reyes or Colby Rasmus, although Beltran and other rental players could possibly be had for a lesser price.
3. Mike Minor, starting pitcher, Atlanta Braves
Perhaps more so than any other organization in baseball, the Braves are absolutely loaded when it comes to starting pitching. They have the fourth lowest ERA in baseball, boast a staff of five well above-average starters, and have talented youngsters like Minor, Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado waiting in the wings. But while the Braves have an excellent pitching staff, they're just an average offensive team, and should look to acquire a corner outfielder with pop. An MLB-ready No. 3 starter like Minor is an excellent starting point to any deal, and he would likely be enough to fetch Beltran in a straight-up trade. The Braves could, however, opt to deal No. 5 starter Brandon Beachy instead, and he'd fetch a similar return.
2. Jesus Montero, catcher/designated hitter, New York Yankees
A catcher in name only, Montero will be a first baseman or DH for the duration of his career, but his bat is good enough to play anywhere. He's having an off year at Triple-A, hitting just .283 with seven home runs and a .353 OBP, but is still just 21 and projects to have plus-power in the future. The Yankees are in dire need of pitching — they actually tried to include Montero in a deal for Cliff Lee last season — and want flexibility from their DH spot, meaning Montero is quite likely to be moved in the coming days. He's the best prospect on this list, and can be the centerpiece of a deal for a star such as Jimenez.
1. Yonder Alonso, first baseman/outfielder, Cincinnati Reds
Alonso currently sports a .377 OBP at Triple-A and has had an MLB-ready bat for about a full season now, but he is blocked at his natural position of first base by reigning NL MVP Joey Votto. His experiments in left field have not gone favorably, and the Reds have one of the youngest, most talented outfields in the game anyway. In short, about 25 teams could use Alonso's bat, but his current team isn't one of them. He's more likely than any other prospect to be traded in the coming days, and the Reds can either trade him straight up for a decent reliever or back-end starter, or could package him with Travis Wood as part of a blockbuster. Either way, look for Alonso to embark on his big league career elsewhere.