Teams that fall out of postseason race often look toward future
By Jim Duquette
The 2016 season is less than two weeks old, but guess what? It's never too soon to look toward the non-waiver Trade Deadline, which this year falls on Aug. 1. You can assume safely that all 30 general managers are already doing so, trying to anticipate which players might be available for late-season reinforcement. With that point out of the way, let's take an early look at 20 players who could be had if their teams fall out of contention.
Jonathan Lucroy, C: Lucroy could rebound from his down 2015 campaign. If he does, the Brewers would rightfully ask for an attractive package in return.
Potential suitors: Rangers, Angels, D-backs
Brandon Phillips, 2B: This veteran possesses no-trade protection, so Cincinnati's best shot at a deal is limited to a small number of teams: the Nationals, Cubs, D-backs and Phillips' hometown Braves. Of course, the 34-year-old could widen the net before the Aug. 1 Deadline.
Potential suitors: The aforementioned teams plus a club such as the Dodgers
Jay Bruce, OF: If this slugger continues to swing a hot bat and plays as he did in the first half of 2015, the Reds should be overwhelmed with interest from clubs in need of a corner outfielder.
Potential suitors: White Sox, Angels
Carlos Gonzalez, OF: CarGo increased his value by staying healthy (and hitting 40 homers) last year. If he remains injury-free, contending teams will come calling for one of the few available middle-of-the-order forces. Additionally, the Trevor Story story makes Gonzalez more expendable to a club like Colorado, which could be more inclined to focus on the future by July.
Potential suitors: White Sox, Angels, Indians
Nick Markakis, OF: For teams in need of a top-of-the-lineup bat who plays hard and posts a .360-plus on-base percentage, Markakis could be their guy.
Potential suitors: Royals, Orioles
Erick Aybar, SS: Given the development of shortstop prospects Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies -- Atlanta's top and third-ranked prospects, respectively -- Aybar may have the most value to the rebuilding Braves as a trade piece. Assuming, of course, the veteran holds on to his value with a solid first half.
Potential suitors: White Sox, Mariners, Cardinals
Jorge Soler, OF or Javier Baez, INF: The Cubs may not want to trade these youngsters after losing Kyle Schwarber for the season, but they could still end up packaging them for a top-notch starter such as Alex Cobb. Chicago's National League club and Tampa Bay reportedly held trade conversations over the offseason.
Potential suitors: Tampa Bay
Mark Trumbo, OF: The O's are arguably the hottest team in baseball. But if their starting pitching falters and they fall out of the race, Trumbo could become a hot target given his power bat and ability to play the outfield and first base.
Potential suitors: Rangers, Red Sox, White Sox, Indians
Trevor Plouffe, 3B: Minnesota has started slowly, with Miguel Sano struggling to acclimate to the outfield. If things continue to go downhill, the Twins could allow their young slugger to return to his more comfortable position at third base by trading the offensive-minded Plouffe, their current hot-corner man.
Potential suitors: Angels, Tigers
Note: As each team needs five starters, pitching tends to attract more widespread midseason interest than hitting.
James Shields, SP: The Padres tried to move Shields and his contract during the offseason. A strong first-half showing could generate an increased level of interest.
Potential suitors: Orioles, Red Sox
Andrew Cashner, SP: With an explosive fastball and good secondary stuff, Cashner should garner a great deal of intrigue from clubs in need of a middle-of-the-rotation arm.
Potential suitors: Many clubs, with the O's, Yankees and Red Sox at the front of the line
Tyson Ross, SP: The righty was shut down with inflammation in his pitching shoulder after his Opening Day start, but he should still be regarded as one of the more talented NL arms when healthy. After all, Ross owns a career 3.64 ERA and 8.5 K/9 rate (9.7 K/9 mark in 2015).
Potential suitors: Again, a slew of teams could throw their hats in the ring. But the Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees figure to be among the most interested
Alex Cobb, SP: As this righty works back from Tommy John surgery, teams will watch the standings -- hoping the Rays decide to sell.
Potential suitors: The "Cobb to the Cubs" rumors likely won't subside, nor will interest from prospect-rich franchises such as the Dodgers
Jake McGee, RP: Closers carry plenty of value near the Trade Deadline, meaning McGee could be flipped less than six months after Colorado acquired him from Tampa Bay for Corey Dickerson. As the reigning World Series champion Royals have shown, a dominant 'pen can shorten the game.
Potential suitors: Orioles, Red Sox, White Sox, Yankees
Glen Perkins, RP: This southpaw has been one of baseball's best closers when healthy, a disclaimer not to be ignored given his current seat on the disabled list. But if his shoulder strain subsides, Perkins could wind up being a popular player of interest. And given Minnesota's slow start, teams in need of a closer or setup man might be adding the Twins to their speed dial.
Potential suitors: Dodgers, Rangers, Nationals and D-backs. Like starters, relievers often find themselves in high demand come July.
Jason Grilli, RP: Few have been as good for as long as Grilli, whose trade value will likely land Atlanta a prospect this summer.
Potential suitors: With the above caveat about reliever value at the Deadline still in play, look for clubs like the Nationals, Angels or D-backs to make a call about Grilli
Steve Cishek, RP: Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto hopes his team and closer will be good enough to avoid a sell-off this summer. But if Seattle falls out of the race, this side-winding arm could go on the trade block.
Potential suitors: Cubs, Nationals
Joaquin Benoit, RP: If Cishek is dealt due to Seattle's struggles, so too could his teammate Benoit. Almost dealt by San Diego at the Deadline last year, the veteran setup man has closing experience and could fill multiple roles for a contending club.
Potential suitors: White Sox, Astros, Rangers, Orioles, D-backs
Stephen Strasburg, SP: Around this time last year, then-Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski had no intention of trading soon-to-be free-agent ace David Price. Well, Detroit dipped in the standings, and Price was shipped off to Toronto for a major prospect haul. If Washington is not in the race in July, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo could be faced with the same tough challenge. Strasburg, you see, is set to hit free agency after the 2016 World Series. If the Nats aren't playing for October, then it would make sense for them to make a play for their long-term future. A trade piece like Strasburg, of course, could alter an acquiring franchise's fate in the grandest sense.
Potential suitors: Strasburg's services would not be cheap. The Dodgers (No. 1) and Red Sox (No. 6) have top-10 farm systems, the most valuable resource for acquiring talent via the trade market.
Jim Duquette is an analyst for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.