LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The Major League Baseball trade deadline is July 31, and there are plenty of candidates who could be traded to contending teams.
Here are the three most-likely candidates to be traded before the deadline on the 31st.
1. Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds aren’t going anywhere in the NL Central. The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates have dominated the competition thus far, and the Reds will most likely be selling assets to acquire younger talent come trade deadline.
One of those assets is their ace, starting pitcher Johnny Cueto. He is a free agent at the end of this season after the Reds exercised the $10 million option for the final year of his contract at the beginning of the year.
The Dodgers, Blue Jays and Tigers seem like the most likely destinations for the Reds’ ace, as all three teams are contending for their division titles but do face a shortage of pitchers toward the back-end of their rotations.
The Blue Jays have been the most persistent suitor for Cueto, as their explosive offense is the best in the majors in terms of runs scored, but their pitching staff is somewhat shaky. They need a closer as well, and with Aroldis Chapman’s contract expiring at the end of the 2016 season, we could see a package deal that would send the two Reds pitchers north to Toronto in exchange for prospects and offensive players. If the Blue Jays acquire one or both of these pitchers, they could be very dangerous in their first postseason since 1993.
Possible landing spots: Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Detroit Tigers, San Francisco Giants, Toronto Blue Jays
2. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
The Cole Hamels trade rumors have been circulating since last year’s trade deadline, and with the Philadelphia Phillies’ atrocious record this season, they could be coming to fruition.
Hamels will not be a free agent until after the 2019 season, which could be a potential roadblock for the Phillies if they want to trade him. Only the big-market teams like the Cubs, Yankees, Dodgers, Angels and Red Sox could take on Hamels’ steep salary.
Hamels is owed $22.5 million in 2016, 2017 and 2018, and also has a $20 million club option for the 2019 season. Hamels does have the ability to block trades to teams other than the Braves, Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers, Yankees, Padres, Cardinals, Rangers, and Nationals, as was stipulated in the contract he signed after the 2013 season.
Phillies General Manager Reuben Amaro Jr. has not waivered or lowered the asking price for the left-handed ace, so if one of these teams wants Hamels, they will likely have to pay in the form of multiple highly rated prospects.
Possible landing spots: Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
3. Jeff Samardzija, Chicago White Sox
Samardzija will be a free agent at the end of the 2015 season, so the White Sox, despite trading four players for him in December, could look to unload him to get back some prospects. The White Sox find themselves in last place in the AL Central, although because they are only 5.5 games back of the division-leading Royals, they could elect to keep him for a playoff run and also in an attempt to re-sign him in free agency.
If White Sox general manager Kenny Williams does decide to move Samardzija, he won’t have a problem finding a suitor. The Toronto Blue Jays have inquired multiple times about Samardzija and have a surplus of offense to trade the White Sox.
Samardzija was drafted by the Cubs in 2006 and choose baseball over a promising football career. The former Notre Dame wide receiver wants to pitch for a contender, so he says.
“I just want to sign with a team that is competing every September with a chance to be playing in October,” Samardzija said. “Look, I don’t hold bad blood or grudges against anybody. I understand how the business side works. Front offices have to do what they have to do. But I also need to protect myself and make sure I’m in a situation where I can win for a long time.”
Any team that trades for him should be wary, as it could just turn out to be a half-season rental, as Samardzija has yet to secure that big contract and will certainly be looking to this upcoming off-season.
Possible landing spots: Houston Astros, Blue Jays, Royals, Angels