It can be hard to keep up with all the names being thrown around at the MLB trade deadline. Dozens, maybe even hundreds of players are available for the right price.
But in reality, only a few players can be had at the deadline every year. Is your team a contender looking to buy? Here are the 11 players it can acquire.
The right/left-handed bat/arm
If there's one thing your team needs for the stretch run, it's an additional player who can hit/pitch from the right/left side. No one really cares who this guy is or where he comes from. Heck, his face could be a blur of pixels. All that matters is that he does a specific baseball skill from a certain side. He's really nothing more than a body part. But if your team doesn't trade for Joe Leffhandibat, or whatever his name is, it's probably not going to make the playoffs. That's just a known fact.
The guy in the middle of a career year
After years of being a middling MLB player, this guy is having a breakout season. What's the best way to identify this player? He's the guy whose general manager is shopping him like crazy, trying to flip him before he inevitably crashes back to Earth. A desperate GM will give up a top prospect or two at the deadline for this guy, and in a few years, this trade will forever be part of those annual "Most Lopsided Deadline Trades Ever" list-icles.
The superstar you can get for your whole farm system
Want to really make a splash at the deadline and become the odds-on World Series favorite? Pull the trigger on a trade for a superstar. The one downside: If you don't win the World Series this year, you won't for the next 10 years, either, because you gave up every half-decent prospect in your system to get him.
The "superstar" you can get for your whole farm system
This player isn’t a true baseball star. He's just the best player on a bad team. Unfortunately, the GM and the fans of said bad team don't know any better and think this guy should bring a king's ransom in return. In fact, they feel the entire future of the organization hinges on this trade. And the GM of the bad team knows his job does. So he is going to ask your GM for every top prospect in your organization in return for "our lone All-Star representative this year"? As the saying goes: "One man's treasure is a another man's No. 4 starter or No. 7 hitter."
The player a rival could trade for
Does your team actually need this player? Not really. But its rival is rumored to be looking at him! What if they trade for him and then he's the reason they beat you? Then you'll wish you had traded for him to ... do whatever it is he does. Be your team's guy-not-on-another-team specialist. Hmm. What to do? What to do? Panic!
The just-to-make-a-trade guy
You know what GMs of contending teams are supposed to do in July? Make a trade(s)! Acquiring this guy allows your GM to cross off that job requirement. Did trading for this player actually improve your team? That's not the point. The point is that if your team fails to win the World Series, now no one can accuse your GM of not at least trying to improve the roster before the deadline.
The declining vet who just needs a change of scenery
This is a veteran player who three to five years ago was one of the top players on his team. Since then? Eh. He's mainly been aging rapidly and collecting a giant salary he signed when he was still productive. Hey, want to know what could make this player really good again? A change of clothing! Sure. It's a theory, at least.
The garbage player who is about to get released
Your team's GM is going to get a lot of calls about this guy. Because the team he currently plays for is trying to get something for him -- even a low-level Class A prospect -- because it plans to release him, and getting something is better than getting nothing. Is this the player with the .543 OPS or 6.27 ERA your team needs? Could be.
The depth guy
Bench depth. Rotation depth. Bullpen depth. This guy will provide one of them. Basically, he's a collection of tissue and bone that fills a baseball uniform -- tissue and bone that could be the key to your team's playoff chances if 10 to 15 players currently on the roster tragically spontaneously combust. Hey, it could happen.
The slight upgrade who will ruin team "chemistry"
This guy can come in right away and be a minor upgrade for you in the starting lineup or rotation. However, his acquisition could very well be the cause of your team's demise. How? Because he could mess with the delicate chemistry that has resulted in your team's success up until this point. So how to know if your team is about to acquire this guy, thereby ensuring its demise? Unfortunately, there is no way to know. You have to wait until the end of the season. If your team doesn't win the World Series, the local media will let you know how this guy ruined the team by not being the guy who used to start in his place. That old guy was a scrapper! With heart! And his teammates responded to that!
The Alfonso Soriano
This guy is Alfonso Soriano. Like all of the above players, he is available every July for the right price. It's one of the greatest traditions in this grand old game.