MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

10 players to watch as Trade Deadline nears

10 players to watch as Trade Deadline nears

It's seven weeks from the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline, which means chatter is heating up.

Playoff berths could be decided by the shrewd general manager who tweaks his roster. Players say such moves not only upgrade the talent but send a message that the organization believes in this team.

It happened as recently as last year.

The Rangers were 50-52 and seven games out of first on July 31 last season when general manager Jon Daniels acquired starter Cole Hamels and relievers Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson. Texas promptly went on a 38-22 tear to win the American League West.

On that same day, the Mets acquired outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers. They were 53-50 and averaging 3.5 runs per game. After the deal, New York went 37-22 and scored 5.4 runs per game.

So let's start the Trade Deadline countdown clock with a look at 10 players we could be hearing a lot about over the next few weeks.

1. Sonny Gray, Athletics, RHP
3-6, 5.34 ERA

The skinny: Gray may be the hottest name on the trade market, because he's 26 years old and 3 1/2 seasons from free agency. He's also pitching like an ace again in two starts since returning from the disabled list.

Athletics executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane is likely to be in a major dealing mood if his team doesn't have a dramatic turnaround. Unlike players on the threshold of free agency, Gray could fetch the A's a bundle of prospects.

Landing spots: The Rangers and Red Sox have deep farm systems. Boston has a definite need for pitching, and Texas could depending on Yu Darvish's health. The Orioles will also be shopping for pitching, but they may have fewer prospects that would close a deal.

2. Jake Odorizzi, Rays, RHP
3-3, 3.47 ERA

The skinny: Like Gray, Odorizzi is 26 years old and 3 1/2 seasons from free agency. His walks will worry some teams, but his stuff and track record are so good that he's likely to be a hot commodity.

Landing spots: In theory, any team interested in Gray would also be interested in Odorizzi given the amount of team control they have remaining.The Dodgers and Royals have the offensive prospects to get a deal done, and both teams are in a full win-now model. If you had Odorizzi penciled in as a member of the Cubs' rotation by now, that could still happen, because the two teams have had extensive discussions regarding an offense-for-pitching swap. Turns out, the Cubs may not need another starter, or anything else.

Odorizzi strikes out eight

3. Drew Pomeranz, Padres, LHP
5-6, 2.44 ERA

The skinny: Padres general manager A.J. Preller is aggressive and has a deep knowledge of Minor League talent. In 31 starts since leaving the Rockies, Pomeranz has a 2.88 ERA. He's also under control for two more seasons.

Landing spots: The Rangers, Red Sox, etc., will begin by assessing their chances of landing Gray, and if they decide the price is too high, they could move to Pomeranz. San Diego's roster could be significantly reshaped over the next few weeks.

4. Ryan Braun, Brewers, OF
.313 average, 11 homers, 36 RBIs

The skinny: There obviously are risks. Braun is 32, and he has had a thumb issue that threatened to derail his career at one point. He also has four years and $80 million remaining on his contract after this season. But for teams looking for an impact bat, there probably won't be a better one available. Braun may never match the production of earlier in his career, but he's a difference-maker.

Landing spots: Braun's destinations are limited by the amount of money remaining on his contract. The Giants may be interested. Would the Dodgers open their wallets -- and farm system -- for another big-ticket acquisition? Braun can block a trade to 10 teams, so that complicates any trade scenario involving him.

5. Chris Carter, Brewers, DH/1B
.225 average, 17 homers, 41 RBIs

The skinny: Carter brings game-changing power, but he also brings strikeouts and can be stifled for weeks. When he's hot, though, he has the one skill -- hitting home runs -- every team is trying to acquire.

Landing spots: The Royals appear to be a nearly perfect fit. Because Carter's salary is a relative bargain at $2.5 million and because he can play both first base and DH, a long list of contenders will check in. If it turns out Lucas Duda has to be out for an extended period, the Mets could make sense as well.

6. Jay Bruce, Reds, OF
.272 average, 14 homers, 46 RBIs

The skinny: After two difficult years, not only is Bruce hitting home runs, but he leads the National League with six triples, and he is a solid defensive outfielder. There's a $13 million team option for 2017 that will make him even more appealing.

Landing spots: The Angels appear to be a perfect fit if general manager Billy Eppler has enough talent in a thin farm system to interest the Reds. And while some might think the Angels should be rebuilding, they will remain in "win-now" mode as long as Mike Trout is around. The Royals could end up in the mix as well.

Bruce's RBI triple

7. Martin Prado, Marlins, 3B
.332 average, 2 home runs, 21 RBIs

The skinny: The perfect stretch-run addition, Prado can play a variety of positions coming off the bench. His salary is a reasonable $11 million, and he's unsigned after this season.

Landing spots: The Marlins will not move Prado unless they're out of the race or the offer is enough to tempt them. However, he is the kind of player the Giants have a history of adding, even though an infielder may not be a pressing need.

8. Doug Fister, Astros, RHP
6-3, 3.34 ERA

The skinny: Fister signed a one-year deal with the Astros for a chance to prove himself and make another run at free agency. He has done just that. Healthy again, Fister could be a hot commodity.

Landing spots: The Astros will only move Fister if they're out of the race. But the Dodgers and Angels both appear to be logical landing places.

9. Mark Melancon, Pirates, closer
19 saves, 1.71 ERA

The skinny: Melancon's impending free agency and Pittsburgh's deep bullpen could make him a valuable pickup. In his last 251 appearances, he has a dazzling 1.84 ERA and an 0.94 WHIP.

Landing spots: The Giants, Mariners and Dodgers top the list. If the Bucs decide to move Melancon, they'll get plenty of offers.

10. Wil Myers, Padres, 1B/OF
.287 average, 14 homers, 38 RBIs

The skinny: Myers can play the outfield or first base. He's 25 years old and under control for three more seasons, so he's not the type of player who normally gets dealt. But Preller is willing to listen.

Landing spots: The Angels, Giants and White Sox fit the profile for the kind of teams who might be interested.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.