By Bob Hurst
Milwaukee became the first team to make a big splash before the July 31 trade deadline by acquiring closer Francisco Rodriguez last week from the New York Mets.
What other teams will dive in and make a major trade to bolster their lineups for the stretch run? Who are the players likely to be dealt?
American League contenders, such as Boston, the New York Yankees, Cleveland, Detroit, the Chicago White Sox, Texas and Los Angeles Angels could be in the market for that key piece that will put them over the top.
In the National League, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, San Francisco and Arizona also will keep the phone lines open.
Here are some of the names, and teams that might be interested in them:
CARLOS BELTRAN, OF, METS — Healthy again, Beltran came into Tuesday’s game batting .257 with 14 home runs and 59 RBIs. He has been one of the most talked about players who could be traded by July 31. The Giants, Tigers, Rangers, Red Sox, Phillies, Yankees, Indians and Pirates are all interested. The Mets might eat most of the $6 to $7 million owed to Beltran to get several good prospects. Beltran is in the last season of a seven-year deal and is eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season.
HEATH BELL, RP, PADRES — Another player frequently mentioned, and with a lot of interest from teams such as the Phillies, Reds, Cardinals, Angels, Rangers, White Sox and Yankees. Bell has 26 saves in 28 opportunities with a 2.54 ERA. The Padres would probably want a couple of draft picks and more. Bell says he would be open to a set-up role in a contenders’ bullpen.
B.J. UPTON, CF, RAYS — With Tampa Bay 6 1/2 games behind the AL wild-card leading Yankees, they might be willing to part with their center fielder. Upton, who has 15 home runs and 52 RBIs, can give a club some offensive punch and speed with his 22 stolen bases. The Giants, Phillies, Braves and Indians could have an interest.
DEREK LOWE, SP, BRAVES — The 38-year-old veteran starter might be expendable because of Atlanta’s deep rotation. Any team in need of starting pitching, like the Tigers and Yankees, might be in the market for him. Lowe is 6-7 with a 4.37 ERA.
UBALDO JIMENEZ, SP, ROCKIES — Colorado might be crazy to deal a pitcher with so much talent, but if they can get a boat load of prospects for him, they just might pull the trigger. The Yankees and Tigers have shown interest. The 27-year-old right-hander has won four of his last five decisions and is 5-8 with a 4.08 ERA. Jimenez started out of the gate fast last season, winning 15 games at the All-Star break before a disappointing finish with just four more victories. His velocity is down and he’s had thumb and blister problems this season, but there’s plenty of upside for a contender. The Rockies won’t deal him though without getting a windfall in talent.
Others who could be on the market:
MIKE ADAMS, RP, PADRES — Phillies, Pirates and others looking for bullpen help.
HIROKI KURODA, SP, DODGERS — The Indians, Tigers, Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees or Reds would love to have him, but Kuroda has a no-trade clause and might not want to be dealt to an East Coast team, which would put him farther from his native Japan.
JOSH WILLINGHAM, OF, A’s — Could get some interest from the Giants, Reds, Phillies, Braves, Pirates and Tigers.
WILSON BETEMIT, IF, ROYALS — The Brewers might want an upgrade at third base where Casey McGehee’s production has slipped. Betemit will be a free agent after this season.
ANDREW BAILEY, RP, A’S — He’s under contract through 2014, but Oakland might be willing to listen to offers. Bailey is getting back on track after a forearm injury caused him to miss most of the first half.
IVAN RODRIGUEZ, C, NATIONALS — His experience could help a club down the stretch.
BRAD HAWPE, 1B/OF, PADRES — He’s a free agent at the end of this season. Has been on the DL with finger, elbow injuries, but could help a team in the playoff race when he returns.
LEO NUNEZ, RP, MARLINS — Now out of it, Florida might deal him.
JAMEY CARROLL, SS, DODGERS — Milwaukee might make an offer for him.
ALFONSO SORIANO, LF, CUBS — He’s owed nearly $63 million through 2014, but if a team like the Yankees can take him off their hands, the Cubs would be happy, even if they have to pick up much of the contract.
HUSTON STREET, RAFAEL BETANCOURT, MATT BELISLE, RP’S, ROCKIES — The Pirates and Phillies might call.
ARAMIS RAMIREZ, 3B, CUBS — A 10-5 player, Ramirez says that he’ll veto any trade. But he’s in the last year of his contract and could be persuaded if it’s the right fit. The Angels have shown interest,.
HUNTER PENCE, RF, ASTROS — He’s hitting .318 with 11 home runs and 61 RBIs, and leads the team in most major offensive categories. Like the Rockies Jimenez, it might seem crazy to trade him, but Houston might be willing to at least listen to offers.
Copyright © 2011 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.