Every July (or August as was the case in the weird 2020 season), contending MLB teams scour lesser team's rosters for players who could help in their playoff push. Some are legitimate difference-making stars, but often the moves are all about acquiring enough serviceable depth to get through the stretch run. Let's take a look at 20 veterans who could find themselves changing addresses in a few months.
Boston's DH has been the subject of various levels of trade rumors over the last 12 months, and while the Red Sox intend to return to relevancy again in '21, if they stumble you'd have to imagine they'd seriously consider it again. Martinez struggled in 2020 (who didn't), but in the three years prior he hit over .300 with 36+ homers and over 100 RBI in each season. The fact that his contract does include an opt-out after this season shouldn't dramatically impact the return the Red Sox would be able to bring back. If Martinez is raking the way he can and Boston is out of the race, teams will be lining up to try to acquire his offense.
The Royals are hoping to surprise in the AL Central, but with strong teams in Chicago and Minnesota, it's going to be an uphill battle. And if they fall out of the race, they won't have a better trade chip than their closer, Greg Holland. Last season the veteran righty nailed down all six of his save chances while finishing with a dominant 1.91 ERA. His 0.95 WHIP was his best since '14, he held opponents to just a .200 batting average, and struck out over a batter/inning for the 10th straight season. Holland would represent a significant boon for any bullpen he slid into.
Sticking with the Royals, while trading Holland would mean conceding on 2021 and trying to add for next year, if they wanted to go a more drastic rebuild route, versatile Whit Merrifield would net a haul. The University of South Carolina product owns a lifetime .295 batting average, hasn't missed a game since 2018, and can play virtually every position on the field. He's under team control for three more seasons and just about every team in baseball would be better with him in their uniform.
Over the last two years, the Indians have traded away Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, and Mike Clevinger. If that doesn't signal they're headed for a rebuild I don't know what would. Ace Shane Bieber is still young and under team control for a long time so he isn't going anywhere. But third baseman Jose Ramirez is a different story. The veteran switch-hitter just won his 3rd Silver Slugger award a year ago and he could be the type of addition that could put a team over the top.
Another Cleveland player who will be attractive at the deadline is reliever Nick Wittgren, who admittedly would not bring back as much as Ramirez could. Over the last three seasons, the righty has quietly been one of the most reliable set-up men in the game. In 25 contests last year he delivered a 3.42 ERA with a strong 1.01 WHIP, and experienced bullpen arms are always in demand in July.
Detroit's center fielder has long been one of the better defensive outfielders in the game, and in the pandemic shortened 2020 campaign he actually enjoyed his best offensive season. In 97 at-bats the LSU product slashed .268/.333/.515 with five homers and nine doubles. If he can build on that offensive success and continue to go get it in center field, he should be an attractive option for contending teams hoping to improve their bench.
Texas likely would've traded their closer last summer while they were on their way to an American League worst record, had he not been on the injured list with a torn teres muscle. Leclerc has a career 3.19 ERA and across 190 big league appearances opposing batters have hit just .170 against him. He's struck out an eye-opening 263 hitters in 189 innings and is under team control through 2024. Sign most teams up.
After the aforementioned Ramirez, if a contending team finds themselves in need of a third baseman midway through the 2021 season, Seattle's Kyle Seager is going to be a name they'll have to explore. The longtime Mariner is finally nearing the end of a long contract extension he signed prior to '15, and he remains a solid veteran left-handed bat. Appearing in all 60 of Seattle's contests a year ago Seager hit .241 with nine homers and 40 RBI, and while he isn't a star, he's certainly a reliable big-league regular.
The Astros are certainly not expecting to become sellers in July, but without George Springer and Justin Verlander, you have to expect them to regress a little. If things deteriorate to the point where they would consider moving some pieces, reliever Joe Smith is sure to be one of their most attractive players. Smith opted out of the 2020 season, but in '19 he pitched to a 1.80 ERA with a 0.96 WHIP and a .209 batting average against.
The Marlins surprised the baseball world by making the playoffs last fall, but that came in extenuating circumstances. This season Miami will be hard-pressed to compete seriously in a very competitive NL East, and if they find themselves out of the race in July their first baseman, Jesus Aguilar, could be an attractive bat for contenders. A year ago the big right-handed hitter slashed .277/.352/.457 with 18 extra-base hits.
The Phillies fully intend to be involved in the NL East race in 2021, and they certainly could be if things break their way. But Atlanta, New York, and Washington all possess an abundance of talent, and it's also quite possible Philadelphia finds themselves with a seller's mindset in July. If that's the case, reliever Archie Bradley, whom they just signed as a free agent, could become a classic rental relief pitcher. The veteran righty is coming off a strong '20 campaign that watched him put up a 2,95 ERA in 18.1 innings. His contract is only for one year, so if he was dealt and enjoyed his time in Philadelphia, the two sides could revisit a reunion next winter.
The Pirates are quite possibly going to be the worst team in the National League again this season, and any valuable veterans they employ will likely be wearing a different uniform in August. And one name that you can almost count on relocating is Todd Frazier. The Toms River, NJ native is no stranger to being moved midseason, and while his lifetime batting average of .242 isn't overly exciting, he does bring an experienced right-handed bat with some power. And he's also been an important clubhouse glue guy on every roster he's been on.
Like Archie Bradley mentioned earlier, Pittsburgh reliever Trevor Cahill profiles as a classic rental reliever for contending teams. The big righty has notably made 225 starts in his career, but he's always performed better as a reliever, and at 33 perhaps that's where teams will keep him moving forward. In San Francisco last season the veteran was terrific, finishing with a 3.24 ERA in 25 innings and holding the other team to a .184 batting average.
Here's someone who could potentially make more of an impact on this season's pennant race than any other name on this list. Milwaukee entertained the idea of trading their electric closer this winter, but in the end, decided against it. For now. Should the Brewers fall out of the NL Central race--which as of now looks wide open--they'll assuredly start getting calls on Hader. And with three years of team control remaining the price would be high.
The Reds are a tough team to figure at the moment. This time last year they were a trendy pick, but with Trevor Bauer and Raisel Iglesias now with other organizations, they could quite possibly take a step back. Left-hander Wade Miley signed a two-year deal with Cincinnati prior to last year, and while his first season with the club did not go well, it's hard to read too much into the pandemic shortened campaign. As an Astro in '19, Miley won 14 games with a 3.93 ERA in 33 starts, and throughout his career, he's been a steady middle to back of the rotation starter. Teams that need starting pitching help in the summer could find him attractive.
With expected juggernauts in Los Angeles and San Diego, the rest of the NL West is going to have a difficult time keeping up. When looking at the Giants, in particular, they stand out as a club that would have several moveable pieces should they fall out of the race. Starting with infielder Wilmer Flores, who has absolutely crushed left-handed pitching throughout his career and would be a valuable role player on a good team.
Another San Francisco player who could find himself on the move later this summer is longtime shortstop Brandon Crawford, who has been a staple on this team for a decade. The 34-year-old owns two World Series rings, has made two all-star teams, and won three Gold Glove awards, but with the Giants likely heading towards a rebuild, as someone with an expiring contract his days by the Bay appear numbered. Should a contending team find itself in need of an experienced, playoff-tested veteran shortstop, there won't be a better option available. It is worth noting, however, that Crawford does have a full no-trade clause and would be able to control his own fate.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are another NL West team that is going to have a hard time competing in 2021, and if they indeed are out of the race, they've got a guy who will certainly get some attention from rival clubs. Veteran infielder Asdrubal Cabrera is no longer the player that made multiple all-star teams, but at this point in his career, he's an extremely valuable bench piece. In Washington a year ago the switch-hitter slashed .242/.305/.447 with 20 extra-base hits in 190 at-bats, and his ability to play multiple infield positions is extremely helpful particularly for National League teams.
Here's yet another relief pitcher who could find himself inserted into the heat of a pennant race in a few months. Tyler Clippard is an experienced big-league reliever who's closing in on 800 appearances at the Major League level, and he's certainly been an asset for all of the teams he's been on. In Minnesota a year ago the Lexington, KY native was terrific, pitching to a 2.77 ERA with a fabulous 0.88 WHIP. He held opposing hitters to a .202 batting average and punched out exactly a hitter/inning. Contending teams could conceivably get into a bidding war for his services.
When the Rockies sent superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals a few weeks ago it essentially signaled their desire to launch into a full-fledged rebuild. Which makes it curious that they didn't aggressively pedal the idea of trading their other long-time core player, outfielder Charlie Blackmon. The veteran remains an all-star caliber hitter, as evidenced by his .303/.356/.448 slash line in the truncated 2020 campaign. Colorado is exceedingly unlikely to make noise in this division in '21, and it would almost be a disservice if they didn't seriously entertain offers for Blackmon.
Justin Mears is a freelance sports writer from Long Beach Island, NJ. Enjoys being frustrated by the Mets and Cowboys, reading Linwood Barclay novels, and being yelled at by his toddler son. Follow him on twitter @justinwmears.