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Players potentially on the market abound as MLB trade deadline nears

Players potentially on the market abound as MLB trade deadline nears
Philadelphia Phillies starter Cole Hamels, who is coveted by contenders as the trade deadline approaches, delivers a pitch against the San Francisco Giants on July 10, 2015. (Jason O. Watson / Getty Images)

Last year at around this time, the American League's two best teams each made blockbuster deals. As the end-of-July Major League Baseball trade deadline loomed, Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane texted Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski a playful congratulations.

"And you only gave me a minute to try and get Chris Sale," Beane wrote, referencing the Chicago White Sox ace.

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At the time, the A's and Tigers seemed to be building toward a playoff clash.

Then, nothing. Neither won a playoff game.

The lesson is that making the right deadline trade can be tricky. How much do you give up for an uncertain future?

This year, two top-of-the-rotation pitchers could be traded, potentially swinging the balance of power in each league or both leagues.

Several closers may also be available for the right price. And, for teams desperate for hitting, there's some of that, too.

With two teams from each league advancing to a wild-card game, few clubs are willing to acknowledge they are already out of the postseason picture. That means there are plenty of teams chasing only a few players.

Among Dodger prospects, infielder Corey Seager is likely untouchable, but what about teenage left-hander Julio Urias? Or could they satisfy their need for a starting pitcher by dealing a lesser prospect?

The Angels could use an outfielder who will produce offensively. But do they have enough in their farm system to make a deal? Bill Stoneman, who recently took over as interim GM, will have to move quickly.

Here's a look at the top 10 players who may hit the market:

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Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies

Left-handed starting pitcher

Top suitors: Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Dodgers, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays.

Cost: The Phillies have lots of leverage because Hamels is still under contract. They'll be looking for a package of prospects.

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Comment: The pivotal question about Hamels is, do the Phillies try to rebuild around him or do they restock with a cache of prospects they might get in return? Including an option for 2019, Hamels, 31, is owed about $90 million over the next 3 1/2 seasons. He is pitching as well as ever, however, and any deal in which he is involved could alter the postseason landscape. Hamels is from San Diego, and he has pitched well in Dodger Stadium, but he has plenty of other suitors.

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Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds

Right-handed starting pitcher

Top suitors: Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Blue Jays, Cubs, Tigers, Dodgers, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Yankees.

Cost: Because of the long list of teams interested in Cueto, the Reds will be looking for a top prospect, most likely a hitter.

Comment: There is little reason for the Reds to hold onto Cueto, who will be a free agent in the off-season. And there are few reasons any contender wouldn't want him. Cueto, 29, hasn't had an earned-run average above 3.00 since 2010. Cueto is also a rather affordable rental; his base salary this season is $10 million. The one red flag is his health. Cueto has been on the disabled list three times since 2013 and has had some elbow issues this season. When healthy, he is a legitimate ace. Can the Reds get the haul the Tampa Bay Rays couldn't for David Price last season?

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Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati

Left-handed relief pitcher

Top suitors: Blue Jays, Cubs, Dodgers, Rangers, Tigers.

Cost: If the Reds trade Chapman, it means their timeline is long term. They'll pick the best long-term young talent available.

Comment: The Reds could decide they are far enough away from contention to shop Chapman along with Cueto. Chapman, who struck out in the side on 10 pitches, with a best velocity of 103 mph, in his one inning in the All-Star game, is eligible for arbitration next season and free agency the year after that. That's good news for the rest of the league. Chapman may be the best closer in baseball. Nobody throws harder. He has had more than 35 saves each season since 2012. A trustworthy bullpen is essential in October. Ask the Dodgers.

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Justin Upton, San Diego Padres

Right-handed-hitting outfielder

Top suitors: Angels, Seattle Mariners, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants.

Cost: Can the Padres pry a major league-ready young pitcher from the Mets? If not, they will look to restock an exhausted farm system.

Comment: The Padres may become sellers just as quickly as they became buyers last off-season. There are not as many top hitters available as there are pitchers, so dealing Upton, who is in the final year of his contract, could return a big haul. The Mets are, by far, the neediest among suitors. What are they willing to sacrifice?

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Jay Bruce, Cincinnati

Lef-handed-hitting outfielder

Top suitors: Angels, Giants, Mariners, Mets.

Cost: If the Mets can't get Upton, Bruce is a good alternative. The Reds are looking for young, big league-ready pitching talent in return.

Comment: Bruce had a miserable 2014 but has improved in 2015 and has a track record as a power hitter. If he recovers his production levels, he is relatively affordable: $12 million this season, $12.5 million next season and a $13-million team option in 2017. The Reds don't need to move him, but Bruce rejected the team's extension offers last season. He also can reject trades to eight teams.

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Jeff Samardzija, Chicago White Sox

Right-handed starting pitcher

Top suitors: Astros, Blue Jays, Cubs, Dodgers, Orioles, Pirates, Royals, Tigers

Cost: The White Sox don't require a full rebuild. They'll be seeking young hitters that aren't far off from the majors, or are already there.

Comment: This season has been something of a disappointment for Samardzija, who has a record of 6-4 with a 4.02 ERA. However, he has been better in his most recent outings and he might be the best second-tier starter available.

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Adam Lind, Milwaukee Brewers

Left-handed-hitting first baseman

Top suitors: Angels, Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Washington Nationals.

Cost: The Brewers' farm system is below average. They'll want a prospect or two.

Comment: Lind isn't well known, but has been quietly productive, with a .295 batting average, .867 on-base plus slugging percentage, 12 home runs and 46 runs batted in. The Angels could use a left-handed hitter, and Lind fits the bill.

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Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia

Right-handed relief pitcher

Top suitors: Blue Jays, Cubs, Dodgers, Rangers, Tigers.

Cost: With Papelbon's rich contract, the Phillies likely won't be able to trade him for top prospects.

Comment: How many ways can Papelbon say he wants out? At 34, he's still one of the game's better closers, but his contract is a sticking point. He's likely to vest a 2016 option for $13 million. The Phillies may have to offer some financial relief to move their restless reliever. Papelbon can also exercise a partial no-trade clause to make sure wherever he ends up he'll be the closer.

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Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee

Right-handed relief pitcher

Top suitors: Mariners, Nationals, Rangers, Twins.

Cost: As with Lind, the Brewers will be looking for young talent.

Comment: An All-Star for the second consecutive season, Rodriguez is a luxury the Brewers have little use for right now. And he comes with a reasonable multi-year deal: $3.5 million this season, $5.5 million in 2016 and a $6-million team option for 2017. He hasn't blown a save in 19 opportunities this season. Any team could use that kind of reliability.

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Scott Kazmir, Oakland

Left-handed starting pitcher

Top suitors: Astros, Blue Jays, Cubs, Dodgers, Orioles, Royals, Tigers, Yankees.

Cost: It's always a mystery with Beane, but don't rule out a trade that would include multiple big league players.

Comment: If healthy, Kazmir would be a very valuable trade chip for the Athletics. He has dealt with a number of arm issues this season, the latest being a triceps injury, but he wasn't expected to be sidelined coming out of the All Star break. Beane likes to make big trades, so it's hard to predict what he might try with a coveted pitcher like Kazmir.

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