The Chicago Cubs got baseball’s annual trade season started in style, but the deal that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland earlier this month was just the beginning.
The next two weeks should include plenty of action now that a handful of teams are clearly out of contention. One look at the rosters of contending teams is enough to realize that even clubs such as the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants have serious needs as they prepare for the stretch run.
And while deals for complementary players will continue in August, the biggest deals tend to take place in July. Get ready — the next two weeks promise to be interesting.
Here, in alphabetical order, are 15 National League players worth watching between now and July 31.
Joaquin Benoit, RHP, San Diego Padres
Stats: 1.86 ERA, 38.2 IP, 45 strikeouts, 9 walks, 3 home runs allowed
Contract Status: $6 million salary in 2014, $8 million salary in 2015, $8 million team option in 2016
While he’ll be 37 by the trade deadline, Benoit continues to pitch tremendously in San Diego. The Los Angeles Angels could be among the teams interested in bolstering their bullpen with an arm like this.
Marlon Byrd, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Stats: 18 HR, 1.0 WAR, .263/.315/.479
Contract Status: $8 million salary in 2014-15, $8 million vesting option in 2016. No-trade protection.
With 18 home runs this year, Byrd is well on his way to proving that his bounce-back 2013 season was no fluke. Right-handed power is tough to find, so it won’t be surprising if the Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals are interested.
Bartolo Colon, RHP, New York Mets
Stats: 3.99 ERA, 121.2 IP, 89 strikeouts, 17 walks, 14 home runs allowed
Contract Status: $9 million salary in 2014, $11 million salary in 2015
He's old (41), he's big (285 Lbs.) and he's no longer a bargain, but Bartolo Colon can still pitch. He has excellent command of the zone and could eat innings for a team in need of depth (the Mets' cross-town rivals come to mind).
Jorge de la Rosa, LHP, Colorado Rockies
Stats: 4.56 ERA, 102.2 IP, 73 strikeouts, 43 walks, 12 home runs allowed
Contract Status: $11 million salary in 2014 before hitting free agency
While de la Rosa hasn't had a great year, he's left-handed and posted a 3.49 ERA a year ago. Plus, he's a free agent at the end of the year, which could make him appealing to teams such as the St. Louis Cardinals who could use help now, but not necessarily in the future.
Cole Hamels, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Stats: 2.93 ERA, 107.1 IP, 106 strikeouts, 38 walks, 8 home runs allowed
Contract Status: $22.5 million salary from 2014-2018, team/vesting option in 2019. No-trade protection.
It'd take an aggressive team to pry Hamels away from the Phillies, not only because ownership may prefer to keep the former World Series MVP, but because his contract would scare off some suitors. Still, we're talking about a durable frontline starter who'd help any contender.
Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres
Stats: 7 HR, 1.3 WAR, .226/.296/.350
Contract Status: $10.525 million salary in 2014 before hitting free agency
Headley has battled a herniated disc this year, and his unremarkable .646 OPS won't impress many GMs. The Padres' interim general managers can point to his .788 OPS in July as an indication that better things are ahead for the former Silver Slugger winner.
Aaron Hill, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Stats: 7 HR, -0.7 WAR, .241/.275/.363
Contract Status: $11 million salary in 2014, $12 million salary in 2015-16
Hill thrived from 2012-13, posting an .860 OPS with the Diamondbacks. Yet his hefty contract and poor offensive performance will deter some potential suitors unless he heats up. An August trade could be an option for Arizona.
Ian Kennedy, RHP, San Diego Padres
Stats: 3.47 ERA, 124.1 IP, 133 strikeouts, 34 walks, 10 home runs allowed
Contract Status: $6.1 million salary in 2014, arbitration eligible for final time in 2015
The numbers look great, but Kennedy's a fly ball pitcher in a pitchers' park, so there’s reason for interested teams to remain cautious. He's still just 29, and remains relatively affordable, so teams such as the Angels and Cardinals could inquire.
Cliff Lee, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Stats: 3.18 ERA, 68 IP, 61 strikeouts, 9 walks, 5 home runs allowed
Contract Status: $25 million salary from 2014-15, $27.5 million vesting option in 2016. No-trade protection.
Currently sidelined with a left elbow strain, Lee last pitched on May 18. When healthy he remains one of the best thanks to his near-flawless command. That said, he's expensive and he turns 36 in August, which could limit or delay serious interest.
Daniel Murphy, 2B, New York Mets
Stats: 7 HR, 2.6 WAR, .294/.342/.413
Contract Status: $5.7 million salary in 2014, arbitration eligible for final time in 2015
The 29-year-old All-Star offers versatility and consistently high batting averages. If the Mets are willing to part with the left-handed hitter he'd lengthen many lineups, but New York's asking price figures to be high.
Jonathan Papelbon, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Stats: 1.21 ERA, 37.1 IP, 33 strikeouts, 9 walks, 0 home runs allowed
Contract Status: $13 million salary from 2014-15, $13 million vesting option in 2016
It sure sounds like Papelbon would be open to a trade based on what he told reporters before the All-Star Game. “Some guys want to stay on a losing team? That’s mind-boggling to me. I think that’s a no-brainer,” he said. There should be interest in Papelbon, though his salary will be too rich for some buyers.
Martin Prado, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Stats: 4 HR, 1.0 WAR, .275/.321/.370
Contract Status: $11 million salary from 2014-16
The versatile 30-year-old could help numerous contenders, even during a season in which his offensive numbers have dropped off. Arizona might have to absorb money to facilitate a deal.
Justin Ruggiano, OF, Chicago Cubs
Stats: 4 HR, 0.6 WAR, .292/.360/.455
Contract status: $2 million salary in 2014, arbitration eligible for 2015-16
Ruggiano can play all three outfield positions and he's hitting well. The 32-year-old has a career .839 OPS against left-handed pitching, so he'll appeal to contenders seeking right-handed bats.
Huston Street, RHP, San Diego Padres
Stats: 1.09 ERA, 33 IP, 34 strikeouts, 7 walks, 3 home runs allowed
Contract Status: $7 million salary in 2014, $7 million team option in 2015
Street has great numbers this year and his experience as a closer will reassure teams looking to fortify their bullpens. He has saved 20 or more games in each of the last six seasons, including this one (24). The Tigers or Angels could benefit from adding a reliever of his calibre.
Brad Ziegler, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Stats: 2.42 ERA, 48.1 IP, 43 strikeouts, 17 walks, 3 home runs allowed
Contract Status: $4.5 million salary in 2014, $5 million salary in 2015, $5.5 million team option in 2016
The sidearming right-hander has led the National League in appearances in both of the last two seasons, so you know he's durable. The asking price on Ziegler would presumably be modest, but left-handers have a .785 OPS against him, so he's basically a righty specialist.
Sportsnet will preview the American League's trade candidates Thursday.