Ranking the top five trade candidates during 2014 season

As we are inching closer to the beginning of the regular season, the anticipation is building and the optimism is high for everyone right now. However, some teams will go through some struggles in 2014 and thus may look to rebuild. Here are five key players who could be dealt by the July 31 trade deadline.

1. Cliff Lee, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies

Lee has been the subject of many trade rumors the past couple seasons near the trade deadline. He hasn’t been moved. But this year could be different. The Phillies want one more crack at being a contender, which explains the signings of Marlon Byrd and maintaining Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz long term. However, if they don’t contend this year, Lee, who is still on top of his game, could be sent to a contender willing to part with some high-end prospects.

It could be hard for contending teams to part with those high-end minor leaguers because Lee’s contract runs through the 2015 season. Any team willing to trade those assets would want a virtual or new written contract that keeps Lee with that team past 2015.

Lee could just be that good for teams to fore-go that mindset and trade for him anyhow.

2. Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Chicago Cubs

Jeff-Samardzija

The Chicago Cubs have listened to offers for the right-hander in the past, including last year’s deadline and during the winter. However, they want a lot for him. In fact, the Diamondbacks have shown recent interest this off-season and according to ESPN Chicago’s Bruce Levine, could be in on Samardzija with the recent loss of Patrick Corbin.

The Cubs have attempted multiple times to work on a long-term extension for Samardzija, who can become a free agent after the 2015 season. It’s clear that Samardzija wants the best deal. He hasn’t really shown that he should earn “ace money” dollars with an ERA over four the last couple years. With the Cubs not expected to compete this year, it may be the perfect time to unload Samardzija to a contender and gain some future assets.

3. Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres

chase-headley

The San Diego Padres know that Headley is scheduled for free-agency after the 2014 campaign. They want to re-sign him, but talks haven’t progressed to anything promising. San Diego is in a tough spot in a division that has the Los Angeles Dodgers and a pretty good looking Arizona Diamondbacks squad. It will be hard for them to contend.

The Padres could use some more power in their lineup. They would certainly seek a couple top-level prospects in return, mainly on the offensive side in order to get a deal done. If they become sellers at the deadline, it’s very plausible the third baseman could find himself in another uniform by the end of the season.

4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers

Aramis Ramirez

Injuries derailed the market for Ramirez at the trade deadline last season. He remains with the club entering 2014 ready to re-establish himself as a productive third baseman. He batted .283/.370/.461 with 12 homers and 49 RBI in 92 contests last year with the Brewers. Each season he’s been able to stay healthy he’s produced at least 25 home runs.

Considering that third baseman’s don’t hit the trade market as often during the season, any contending team looking for a right-handed corner infield power bat would be foolish to ignore Ramirez. The Brewers aren’t expected to be contenders and if they are sellers, expect Ramirez to be on the move.

5. Michael Cuddyer, OF, Colorado Rockies

The Rockies outfielder is coming off the best season of his career. He won his first batting title and produced a .331/.389/.530 slash line with 20 homers and 84 RBI in 130 contests.

The Rockies were not in the playoff picture last year and unless they can turn around a pitching staff that finished with the highest ERA (4.44) last season, they’re probably going to be in a similar spot. If the Rockies are unable to turn things around and Cuddyer sports similar numbers, expect him to be a prime trade candidate during the 2014 season.

Follow Outside Pitch Sports Network’s Andrew Vigliotti on Twitter for more MLB updates @Andrew_Vig

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