Finley, Cabrera could help contenders
Steve Finley tops the list of lesser-known players who could get traded to contenders and play key roles.
It's not surprising, really, that a 6-foot-10 left-hander, two months removed from a perfect game, should dominate the trade talk as the countdown to the July 31 deadline reaches just over a week.
Quite simply, Randy Johnson towers over the rest of the players on the trade market just as he does when he's on the field.
"He's the one guy out there who could really change the races in either league, depending on where he goes,'' said one baseball executive. "There's no one else like him. Whichever team gets him becomes the favorite.''
That's why as many as a half-dozen teams are willing to take on about $23 million in outstanding salary, as well as risk investing in a 40-year-old with knee and back issues.
For other contenders, Johnson's future earnings and the heavy asking price from the Diamondbacks are both prohibitive. But there are others of merit being made available, including Pittsbrugh's Kris Benson -- arguably the best right-hander available.
We'll skip over the bigger names -- Carlos Beltran, Part II; Larry Walker -- and take a look at a half-dozen who could have an effect on the final two months of the regular season, and perhaps, October.
Steve Finley, OF
Johnson's teammate is also in demand, though admittedly, not to the degree of the Big Unit.
Though 39, Finley can still be productive. He hit 47 homers in 2002-03, still runs well and remains a good outfielder.
This season, Finley is hitting .278 with 22 homers and 46 RBI and is on pace to score nearly 100 runs.
Finley owns a home in San Diego, and a return to the Padres -- for whom he played for four seasons, including San Diego's 1998 pennant-winning team -- is a distinct possibility. Florida is another.
One caveat -- Finley has 10-5 rights (10 years in the majors, five with the same team), meaning he ultimately controls where he will go.
A few months ago, after the Expos signed fellow middle infielder Jose Vidro to a contract extension, it was believed that Cabrera would soon commit to staying, too. But talks broke down and Cabrera hasn't been shy in questioning the team's uncertain future.
The Cubs believe he would represent a significant upgrade at short even though he's going through what must be considered a disappointing season (.234-4-24, .310 slugging percentage).
Ugueth Urbina, RHP
For a pitcher who didn't draw much interest in the offseason when he was a free agent, Urbina's name is now the center of speculation. Though he had somewhat of a disappointing first half with the Tigers, he's arguably the best available closer as the deadline draws near.
Urbina's numbers don't dazzle -- he's got an ERA of 4.38 and he's walked almost two batters for every three innings he's thrown. On the plus side, he's converted all but two save of his 17 save chances and he's allowed just 29 hits in 37 innings while striking out 44.
Toss in his experience -- 221 career saves -- and Urbina has some value to teams looking for reinforcements in the back end of their bullpens. St. Louis and the Cubs are possibilities.
Buddy Groom, LHP
It wouldn't be the trade season without Groom's name being mentioned prominently. Groom has been with the Orioles for the last five seasons, and each summer, hears his name in a half-dozen potential deals.
The reason? As a lefty specialist, Groom's skills are always in demand, and for those contending teams looking to tweak their roster for the final two months, Groom is a reasonably inexpensive fit.
The Orioles are usually reluctant to move a lot of veterans -- owner Peter Angelos frets that it will send the wrong signal to the fan base -- but if Groom could fetch a prospect or two, they might be willing to deal.
Count division rivals the Red Sox and Yankees as two teams that could use some left-handed relief help.
Ramon Ortiz, RHP
Once thought to be someone who could follow in countryman Pedro Martinez's footsteps, Ortiz has instead been a big disappointment for the Angels, pitching himself out of their rotation this season after compiling a 5.20 ERA last year.
Ortiz has shown enough over his career, however, and at 31, still has some value. It's thought a fresh start elsewhere would be a benefit and Ortiz has asked to be traded. The Angels are frustrated by his inconsistency and might have to think twice about dealing off pitching of any sort given their rotation shortcomings.
That said, the Mets have shown some interest, and so have a handful of other teams.
Frank Catalanotto, OF
The Blue Jays would rather rid themselves of Carlos Delgado, who's taking up $18.5 million -- or about a third -- of their payroll. But now that Delgado has said he won't waive his no-trade clause, the Jays might look to swap Catalanotto.
A career .299 hitter, Catalanotto is a solid bat who could play the outfield or DH for a number of interested teams. He doesn't provide much in the way of power -- he has just one homer this year -- and a recent return from a stint on the DL (hamstring) could give teams pause.
But he's relatively affordable -- he has just over $1 million remaining on his contract this season -- and could be a nice boost for a team with offensive woes like the Marlins or Dodgers.
Sean McAdam of the Providence (R.I.) Journal covers baseball for ESPN.com.