Players to watch as the MLB trading deadline approaches

Over the weekend, the Cleveland Indians traded Mark DeRosa to the St. Louis Cardinals for reliever Chris Perez and a player to be named later. As Porky Pig might say, this transaction represented the first shot of duck hunting season.

From now until July 31—MLB’s trading deadline—we can expect a lot of player movements. Or at least, rumors of player movement.

For anyone in deep leagues and shallow player pools, these trades can be especially significant.

In the Mark DeRosa deal, for example, the value of DeRosa didn’t much change.

But anybody hunting for saves had to consider whether Chris Perez was being lined up for save opportunities later this season, especially with current Indians closer Kerry Wood struggling.

Those in really deep leagues, who still own Jason Motte, may have let out a little smile, and anybody who participates in a league where middle relievers hold value should immediately track the progress of Cardinals prospect Jess Todd.

Finally, Luis Valbuena may not elicit tremendous excitement among the normal viewing public, but the Indians 2B has got to be a hot commodity among fantasy owners who are desperate for a middle infielder who will likely play every day now.

Often the biggest changes in value happen on the periphery. With that in mind, we’ve got our eye on five players whose value may spike, depending on what happens to their teammates.

First up is Ty Wigginton. The Orioles batter could get traded himself, or it could be Aubrey Huff. Still, a player who has hit 22 HRs in three consecutive seasons and one who has an OPS that’s almost 70 points higher throughout his career in the second half deserves close monitoring as to see if he gets a position to play every day.

Next, there’s Seth Smith, who has perhaps unfairly been regulated to a platoon role in the Colorado Rockies outfield. He’s hitting .300 on the year, has an OBP of .427, more walks than strikeouts, and is contributing both power and speed, yet he’s hardly rosterable with Ryan Spilborghs and Carlos Gonzalez stealing Mile High oxygen. But Spilborghs is a good trade candidate and Gonzalez hasn’t been doing much, so keep an eye on any moves the Rockies make.

Third, we’re monitoring Matt Thornton. White Sox general manager Ken Williams is one of the most aggressive executives on the trading front, and while closer Bobby Jenks still has some time of cheap service left to give, the Sox may dangle one of their best trading assets for the right price. If they do move Jenks, Thornton becomes a great candidate to become closer, sporting 37 strikeouts and a 1.15 WHIP in 29.7 innings.

Our final two guys are a pair of prospects who could earn promotion if the chips fall in the right spot.

Matt LaPorta tasted some big league action earlier this season, but the playing time was spotty and he’s now back in Triple-A. The Indians trade of DeRosa starts to clear some room for him, and one trade usually precedes another. The Indians are probably not done trading, and perhaps they’ll look to unload Ryan Garko. Pretty soon, LaPorta probably earns an every-day job.

Finally, a big sleeper—Jarrod Parker in Arizona.

This hasn’t been the greatest year for pitching prospects to make noise in the Bigs. Ask David Price. But Parker keeps impressing in the minors and now stands neck-and-neck with Madison Bumgarner as the most anticipated call-up among pitching prospects. Reportedly, the Diamondbacks have been shopping pitchers like Doug Davis and Jon Garland, which would clear room in their rotation. The Diamondbacks have not been shy about aggressively moving up prospects like Justin Upton and Max Scherzer before, so it wouldn’t be a shocker to see Parker in the majors soon.

For those who want the fantasy ramifications of breaking trades in July, check out the “Buy on the Rumor” column on the Hardball Times home page.

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