Jul 24, 2010, 7:30 PM EDT
This is the fourth in a series of articles looking at players who might be available in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
Jose Bautista (Blue Jays) – Bautista has played twice as much right field as third base this year and it’s quite possible that he’d be a full-time outfielder if traded, but since he remains a solid defender at the hot corner — and certainly a better one than the Jays’ nominal third baseman, Edwin Encarnacion — I’m listing him here. It was Bautista’s ability to hit left-handers that seemed to be keeping him in the league prior to this year, but he’s come through with a 916 OPS against right-handers in 2010, and he is, of course, leading the majors with 26 homers. The Giants, White Sox, Tigers and Braves have asked about Bautista, according to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. The Jays have to decide whether it’s worth trading him at the probable peak of his value or risk paying him $7 million-$8 million next year in his final season before free agency. I think he’ll go, quite possibly to San Francisco.
Jorge Cantu (Marlins) – Cantu has been a full-time third baseman this year, but he fits best at first base. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t hit like a top-flight first baseman. While he’s on pace to drive in 90 runs for the third straight season, his OPS is just 723, down from 808 in 2008 and 788 last year. He could still be useful if he comes cheap, but the Marlins will want legitimate prospects in return and he’s not worth it. The Giants, Angels and Rockies have displayed limited interest, though the Angels may have lost theirs when they brought in Alberto Callaspo. He figures to stay in Florida for now.
Ty Wigginton (Orioles) - Wigginton has played more first base and second base this year, but no contender should want him as a regular at second and his bat plays better at third than at first. The 32-year-old free-agent-to-be followed up the best two-month run of his career with a pretty awful June and first half of July, but he’s bounced back with six extra-base hits in eight games since the All-Star break. The Orioles placed a pretty astronomical price tag on his head after his brilliant start, but they’ll likely be willing to accept quite a bit less as the deadline nears. The Phillies, Yankees, Rangers and Rockies are believed to have discussed him with the Orioles. Detroit is another obvious fit now with Brandon Inge absent.
Jose Lopez (Mariners) – Lopez’s transition from second base to third has gone better than anyone could have imagined, as he’s played some exceptional defense at his new position. His bat, though, hasn’t nearly caught up. He’s hitting just .235/.266/.336 through 387 at-bats, a huge decline from the respectable 760-770 OPSs he amassed over the previous two seasons. Lopez is still just 26, and his contract includes a reasonable $4.5 million option for next year. He might not make sense for a contender, but maybe a team like the Royals or Blue Jays could take a flier and let his August/September performance dictate whether he’s brought back. The Mariners are clearly ready to move on.
Edwin Encarnacion (Blue Jays) – Of course, Lopez would only work for Toronto if the team admitted that last year’s gamble has proven a failure. Encarnacion figures to have more 25-homer seasons in his future, but he’s not a third baseman and the Jays really should have tried him in the outfield back in spring training. Encarnacion has already cleared waivers once this season, and a trade seems pretty unlikely because of his lack of defensive value. One would think he’s athletic enough to make it in the outfield, but he’d need to get some work there before a major league team could plug him in.
Jhonny Peralta (Indians) – At .251/.313/.396, Peralta is having another underwhelming season. Still, he has a couple of advantages over several of the other third basemen here. For one, he’s spent most of his career at shortstop, and though he lacks range there, he could still fill in as a starter for a couple of weeks if needed. I also get the feeling that teams think he’d fare better as a bench player than most other regulars suddenly taken out of a starting role would. The Indians have no intention of picking up his $7 million option for 2011, so he’s a strong candidate to go, perhaps in August if not before the deadline. The Yankees, Tigers and Reds should be interested.
Andy LaRoche (Pirates) – With Pedro Alvarez up, LaRoche hasn’t made a start for the Pirates in three weeks. It’s not as though he didn’t deserve to be replaced — he’s hit just .232/.300/.310 in 203 at-bats — but he probably is worthy of one more opportunity. In 2009, he was pretty much an average regular while hitting .258/.330/.401 and playing very good defense at third. The Indians are one team that might be willing to give him a shot during the final two months, assuming that they can find a taker for Peralta first. The Pirates probably won’t require much in return.
Mike Lowell (Red Sox) – Lowell’s injury issues essentially took him out of Boston’s plans and have made him pretty much impossible to deal so far. He’s currently on a rehab assignment after going on the DL with his chronic hip problem, and he believes he’s ready to come back and contribute. His bat would help any number of contenders if only he could be counted on to remain in the lineup. The Red Sox, though, have extra incentive to move him with their luxury-tax issues and probably will get something done, even if it means eating every penny that he’s still owed. Detroit and Texas are the most obvious suitors.
Pedro Feliz (Astros) – Feliz has been a disaster for the Astros this year, hitting just .216/.240/.307 in 264 at-bats. He’s still a pretty good defensive third baseman at age 35, but he’s not what he used to be, and given his lack of versatility, it’s hard to imagine that any team would want him as a bench player.
Wes Helms (Marlins) – Strictly a bench player, the veteran Helms has hit .242/.305/.383 in 120 at-bats for the Marlins this season. Money is a non-factor here, as Helms is making $950,000 in the second year of a two-year deal. The Yankees and Rangers have been mentioned in connection with him, but his only real strength is pinch-hitting and there are several better backup first basemen/third basemen wasting away in Triple-A.