As the calendar flips towards July, most eyes in the sports world will be upon the NBA and its massive free agency class. However, leading up the July 31st trade deadline, the MLB is sure to grab headlines with a number of big names rumored to be on the move. Some rumored players will wind up staying put, like Roy Halladay last year, while surely others will find new homes, as we've seen with Matt Holliday, CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee in recent years.
Ahead is a look at some of the main players you'll hear in baseball trade rumors in July, as well as some possible landing spots.
Cliff Lee - Seattle Mariners: Lee was dealt from the Cleveland Indians to the Philadelphia Phillies last year, then from the Phillies to the Mariners in the off-season. Moves like that, plus the addition of Chone Figgins, made the Mariners seem like a team that could compete in the AL West. That clearly hasn't worked out, as the Mariners have gotten off to an abysmal start to the year. Couple that with the fact that Lee is a free agent after this year who seems to want to head to free agency, and Cliff Lee, who has gotten off to another terrific start to the year, is the biggest name on the trading block this season.
Leading candidates to acquire Lee's services look to be the Minnesota Twins and New York Mets. For the Twins, while they've historically not been interested in trading for big-time "rental" players, adding an ace like Lee would give them the top two AL starters by FanGraph's Wins Above Replacement stat thus far this year, throwing him in with Francisco Liriano. The Mariners are apparently seeking offense in return for Lee, and the Twins have blocked catching prospect Wilson Ramos that fits that bill. However, it's been the buzz around the Mets lately that is really taking the forefront. The Mets, surprising many, are right in the NL West hunt this year, and with Johan Santana not being quite as great as usual, Lee could be a huge ace for the team.
Other dark-horse teams to watch include the St. Louis Cardinals, who would put together a horrifying rotation with Cliff Lee apart of it, as would it be with the Cincinnati Reds, who have a blocked first-base prospect in Yonder Alonso to feature in a deal. The Tampa Bay Rays are also in an interesting position to strike, as with their payroll likely to drop a great deal next year, this could be a nice, relatively cheap (in money terms) risk to take.
More after the jump (which is after the poll!)
Roy Oswalt - Houston Astros: Oswalt is currently experiencing a nice bounce-back season, but with the Astros looking pretty terrible yet again, Oswalt requested a trade earlier in the year. The Astros are generally reluctant to sell-off big assets and start full rebuilds, but this is truly a case where they should.
While acquiring Cliff Lee would require some solid prospects but little financial commitment, Oswalt is under a big contract for this year and next. That leaves two options for trades. A team could try to blow away the Astros with prospects in hope that they'll eat a lot of salary, or take on the full salary for a lesser package. Since the Astros have been reportedly unwilling to eat some of the contract, that makes the latter option more likely, meaning a team will need to have financial flexibility to acquire Oswalt.
The Mets could fit that description if they fail to acquire Lee, or perhaps the Cardinals. If the Astros truly are prepared to trade Oswalt, the Los Angeles Angels would make a lot of sense as a trade partner. They don't have a ton of prospects to deal, but would probably be able to take on the money to make a deal work out.
Adam Dunn - Washington Nationals: The Nationals want to lock up Dunn to a contract past this year, when his deal would expire. However, the speculation is that if they can't do that soon, they would trade him away. With just half a year or so left on his deal, the Nationals could probably get back a solid prospect if they traded Dunn away.
Like above, the Los Angeles Angels make sense here after losing their star first basemen, Kendry Morales, for the season. The Chicago White Sox have also been rumored to be in the hunt too. While it would a scary scenario, the New York Yankees might make sense too. His lefty power would play well in the Yankees Stadium, but with Nick Johnson's health questionable, he could fit in as a short-term DH for the team.
While Dunn is probably the most valuable of the likely trade candidates, there are a slew of others you'll hear mentioned. The Cubs could potentially shop Derek Lee, who would be another player the Angels would have to look at. Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay is almost certainly available, but a slow start to the year for him likely hurt his value. The Brewers have the big ticket item in Prince Fielder, but there haven't been any serious reports lately that trading him at this trade deadline is a likely scenario.
David DeJesus - Kansas City Royals: Not surprisingly, the Royals don't seem to be going very far this year, and outfielder David DeJesus, who is having a career year, could be a pretty valuable trade piece. The Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds have been rumored to be interested or potential fits, though for a relatively cheap talent, it's likely a lot of teams would be knocking on the Royals door.
As of now, Lee, Oswalt, Dunn and DeJesus represent the most likely star-quality players we'll see shopped around in July, with Cliff Lee rumors swirling around the trade could come closer to the beginning of the month.
While I touched on the rest of the first base market earlier, here's a quick look at some of the other positions, and some players we may here rumored - ranging from the valuable but unlikely, to the likely but not quite as valuable.
Outfield: The Brewers' Corey Hart has been a rumored trade target for a little while know. The Nationals' Josh Willingham, Royals' Scott Podsednik and Cubs' Kosuke Fukodome could all see themselves shopped around for small value. The Blue Jays have an interesting piece in Jose Bautista, currently tied for the Major Leauge HR lead, but under control for next year too, they'd need to get a great deal to send him away. The Royals have also been reportedly interested in trying to move Jose Guillen.
Infield: The Baltimore Orioles hold a couple of attractive infield pieces, in Ty Wigginton and Miguel Tejada. The Indians are in a rebuilding phase too, and could trade away shortstop Jhonny Peralta, though reports have said that they aren't looking to do so. On the catching front, players like John Buck, Ryan Doumit, and Chris Snyder could all find themselves to be on the block.
Starting Pitchers: In addition to Cliff Lee, the Mariners could also look to trade Erik Bedard, and could bring back a bit of value if he proves to be healthy. Interestingly, a number of trade rumors on the pitching market relate to pitchers that aren't that close to free agency. Baltimore Orioles' pitcher Jeremy Guthrie and Cleveland Indians' pitcher Fausto Carmona have all been reportedly gaining interest. The Blue Jays have been said to be willing to deal a lot of their quality pitching for the right price, with Shaun Marcum and Brett Cecil recently popping up in rumors with the Milwaukee Brewers. The Cubs, if they're willing to sell assets, could look to trade Ted Lilly.
This list includes the players we've heard pop up in rumors to this date, but as we get closer to July 31st, who knows who else may appear on the block.
Which players do you think end up traded, and where do you think they'll end up?