MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 15: Josh Willingham #16 of the Minnesota Twins hits into a fielders choice during the first inning against the Oakland Athletics on July 15, 2012 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Normally I wouldn't classify this as news. "Things haven't changed" isn't particularly intriguing. But this time it's external circumstances which make this "non-news" interesting.
The market for power hitting, right-handed corner outfielders is a very specific market, but it's a common one. And with the addition of two Wild Card teams in each league the market isn't as large as we've seen in recent years. In the American League, 11 of 14 teams are in some form of contention as only the Royals, Mariners, and Twins are out of the race. Neither Kansas City nor Seattle have much worth trading on the position player side of things, much less a power hitting, right-handed outfielder.
In the National League things are a bit more loose with five teams at least 10.5 games off the Wild Card pace. The Astros have already dealt most of what they can deal from their position player pool; the Rockies wouldn't part with Carlos Gonzalez or Dexter Fowler, but Michael Cuddyer's .794 OPS isn't all that impressive; the Cubs would need to eat massive portions of the aging Alfonso Soriano's contract; the Phillies' Shane Victorino isn't having a very good year; the Padres extended Carlos Quentin.
Increasingly it's becoming clear that Willingham, who was already an ideal target, might be one of the only big bats available who has a reputation for hitting for power who doesn't have the following working against him:
- A prohibitive contract;
- A down year;
- Being at an age of decline;
- Playing for a contending team;