One All-Star has already been moved and more could be changing teams following the break. Jeff Samardzija took Matt Garza’s advice and pitched his way from a team in last place to first place. While Samardzija will still have the official MLB All-Star title bestowed on him, he will not participate in the event. However, a few players on the field may find themselves wearing their team’s cap for one of the last times.
David Price, Tampa Bay Rays
Why: For all of the rumblings about Price, he has basically been spinning around the MLB rumor mill for a year and a half. While that might signal the Rays would rather keep him, there seems to be no way he can be afforded by the team in their current situation. The Rays have the option to let him walk and collect draft compensation, but they could probably receive equivalent value who is much closer to the majors in a trade.
Where: The Athletics were apparently in the picture for Price up until they acquired Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs. A reduced market does not necessarily mean the Rays will be forced to take less. With injuries hitting a few teams, only one real ace left on the market, and the Rays apparently having no qualms about trading Price within the division, Price should draw offers from the Toronto Blue Jays, and perhaps the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Angels, or St. Louis Cardinals. If the Los Angeles Dodgers continue to operate on a seemingly unlimited budget, they could be another possibility. They have a lot of money tied up in starting pitching, but Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley, and Dan Haren all come off the books after this season, saving a combined $34 million off of the payroll right as Price would be due for an extension.
Daniel Murphy, New York Mets
Why: Murphy is not yet a pending free agent, and will in fact be a decent value in 2015 as an arbitration-three player. The Mets, though, may be hoping to fill one of their many other offensive holes with an even younger player, while also allowing Wilmer Flores to have a real shot at an everyday job playing second.
Where: All teams love cheap players, signed for another full year after 2014, and who will not command top-level prospect hauls. Murphy would have about half the teams in MLB come calling for him, but since the Mets are not in a position where they must trade him it is all about whether a price can be agreed upon. The Athletics biggest, and perhaps only, weakness has been second base. The San Francisco Giants just got Marco Scutaro back, but he’s not an everyday player anymore and now has a bad back. The Blue Jays and New York Yankees could both also use infield help, and Murphy has played other positions in the past.
Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
Why: The Phillies have been in need of a rebuild for years, but have been far too stubborn to undergo one. Sitting in last place, 10 games out of first, it is time for this baby to be put to bed.
Where: Like Murphy, Utley is signed through next year, with vesting options in 2016-2018 based on plate appearances and disabled list time. It could turn out to be a big commitment for a team, but when he’s playing there is no question that Utley can still hit, well enough in fact that he would even be a first base upgrade for a few teams. Look for any team inquiring about Murphy to also kick the tires on an Utley deal, and vice versa. If Oakland really wants to go all in, this should be a guy they go after. If Utley’s knees become a long-term problem his options will not vest, so Oakland would not have to worry about another Eric Chavez contract situation.
Huston Street, San Diego Padres
Why: The Padres are going nowhere in the next few years, so Street has no long term value to them. He might be able to be flipped for a youngster with some tools and upside, someone who might be on the team the next time the Padres are in contention.
Where: The MLB trade market for closers is not as crazy as it used to be, and no longer will someone be willing to trade a high level prospect for a reliever. That actually makes it more likely Street is moved, as more teams will be willing to offer what the Padres would potentially want in a deal. The Angels have the second best record in baseball, but are unfortunately in second place because of who else plays out west. The end of their bullpen could use reinforcements, and Street should not only come at a fair trade value, but also is signed for 2014 at a modest $7 million, with a matching 2015 team option.
Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox
Why: Re-signing Uehara would most likely pose no problem for the Red Sox monetarily, but Uehara will also be 40 around the time next season kicks off. He is cheap, only owed about $2 million for the rest of the season, and an incredibly effective reliever. Someone like Uehara is likely to be more valuable than anything gotten in return, but the idea would be setting sights on the future. The Red Sox are all but out of the race, so Uehara, on his current contract, has no future with the team.
Where: One idea may be pairing him with Jake Peavy to try and coax a better piece from a team like the Angels. The Blue Jays and Tigers will also be calling for bullpen help. The Cardinals and Dodgers could certainly use another relief arm, although it is not necessarily their most pressing need.
Commentary by Brian Moore