12 players who could make the Trading Deadline interesting and maybe decide some playoff berths

The Phillies could make this Trading Deadline a free-for-all if they switch to a sell mode. At the moment, that seems unlikely since they won nine of 12 leading into the All-Star Break and are back to .500. They’re 6 1/2 games behind the Braves in the NL East and 5 1/2 games out in the NL Wild Card race.

And they might be baseball’s most interesting team. There are a dozen reasons not to believe in them, but they’re getting younger and still have a chance. Also, their GM—and this is important—is not a white flag kind of guy.

If the Phillies do a quick collapse—and it would have to be quick—Ruben Amaro Jr. might change his mind about shopping Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley. If that happens, he almost certainly could land enough young talent to deepen his farm system. Again, though, that seems unlikely to happen.

I’ve got Bud Norris, Chris Carter and Jose Veras on this list, but I’m not convinced the Astros are going to be sellers. Yeah, they’ve got baseball’s worst record and appear to be on their way to be the first franchise to have the No. 1 pick three years in a row.

But they may not be far from respectability. They’ve got intriguing talent at the upper level of their farm system, and with the ballpark empty and the club still trying to pitch its TV package to carriers, owner Jim Crane could decide the time had come to put a better product on the field.

If Norris is still with the Astros on August 1, it will speak volumes about where the franchise sees itself. Still, there definitely are players available. Here now are 12 who seem the most likely to be traded. Note that the list is heavy with relievers and light on offensive firepower.

With at least 20 teams seeing themselves as being in contention, it’s impossible to know exactly who is and who isn’t a contender. Also, general managers value their young prospects as never before. They see the Cardinals as a model franchise. Rather than try to pry an impact player away, they may go for a lesser move—Cody Ross, Marco Scutaro—that could have a big impact.

We know for sure the Cubs, White Sox and Brewers are listening, and we know too that a bunch of teams believe a tweak to the roster could get them to the postseason.

Here are a dozen to consider:

1. Matt Garza—He’s a top-of-the-rotation starter and pitching at a high level. For teams like the Orioles or Rangers, he could be a huge difference-maker.

2. Jesse Crain—Forget that he’s on the Disabled List or that he has been an eighth inning guy. He’s the most coveted reliever on the market and seems a perfect fit for the Tigers, Diamondbacks and any other club looking to strengthen its late-inning relief.

3. Addison Reed—He’s just 24 years old and five years away from free agency. So why would the White Sox even consider moving him? They probably won’t, but they’ve sent signals that they’re willing to listen. Would the Tigers part with Nick Castellanos? GM Rick Hahn probably will be asking that question, too.

4. Francisco Rodriguez—He has pitched very well and still only 31 years old. He also might come at a cheaper price than Crain or Reed. A potentially shrewd acquisition.

5. Matt Lindstrom—He’s 33 and probably not the guy to pitch the ninth inning anymore. But he has beens solid and could make a bullpen better.

6. Kevin Gregg—He’s 35 years old. Otherwise, see above.

7. Jason Kubel—He’s got five home runs and a .684 OPS. But there aren’t going to be many offensive players shopped. His money is reasonable and could be signed through 2014.

8. Bud Norris—If the Astros do trade him, he might be the second-best starter on the market. Since he still has two more arbitration years, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow probably will ask a high price or hold onto him.

9. Jose Veras—He’s a veteran closer who has pitched well this season. He’s not one of the upper-tier guys, but the price could be right.

10. Adam Dunn—He has been very good in recent weeks. He hits with power, lots of it. He’s a terrific clubhouse guy.

11. Chris Carter—See above.

12. Steve Cishek—Another interesting reliever, not a star, but a very solid guy, a guy who could help a contender.

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