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2015 MLB trade deadline candidates: Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann and Cole Hamels

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These three pitchers have all been mentioned in trade speculation, and could be on the move depending on their team's standing.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

No matter what goes on in baseball, one of the few things that can be counted on is activity at the trade deadline. While May is still over a week away, it's never too early to check in on some potential trade targets and see how they've performed along with their team.

Johnny Cueto's fate is in his teammates' hands

After an incredible 2014 season in which he finished second in Cy Young voting, Cueto has gotten off to a magnificent start. His record of 1-2 does not reflect the fact that Cueto owns an ERA of 1.86, an FIP of 1.93, and a K/9 of 9.93. The Reds have started off nicely, going 8-7, however the projection systems are not as favorable. Fangraphs is projecting them to go 69-78 over the rest of the season, which would undoubtedly cause them to fall short of the playoffs.

If before the trade deadline in July, the Reds find themselves out of the playoff race, Cueto needs to be traded. They are not a big market team, and won't be able to compete in the free agent market against teams with deep pockets. Cueto is a must watch player every fifth day as he continues to dominate the league. Pitching is a hot commodity these days, and there are likely to be more than a few teams seeking help.

Depending on how Justin Verlander's injury rehab progresses, the Tigers may need a replacement. While an exact package is impossible to predict, the Reds may ask for outfield prospects Steven Moya and Derek Hill.

Will the Nationals trade Jordan Zimmermann in the middle of a playoff race?

Zimmermann will wind up being an interesting case study regarding this issue. As a favorite for the 2015 World Series, the Nationals are clearly expected to compete. They've won 86 games every season since 2012 and captured two NL East titles in that span. Missing the playoffs would undoubtedly be unacceptable to this team, and as such the club will most likely be a buyer at the deadline.

The problem with this is the fact that Zimmermann is a free agent at the end of 2015, and unless traded, the Nationals risk losing him without anything coming back their way (other than a compensation pick). While they've struggled early on in 2015, the Nationals are an exciting team to watch, and Zimmermann was one of the NL's best last year.

If dealt, he would likely be moved to an AL team to reduce any potential meetings before a World Series matchup. The White Sox are an intriguing team as their rotation could be upgraded, and send shortstop prospect Tim Anderson to help soften the potential loss of Ian Desmond.

When is Ruben Amaro going to play his Cole Hamels chip?

No article about trade talk would be complete without mentioning Hamels. It seemed as if every day during the offseason there was an update about ongoing negotiations between the Red Sox and Phillies, yet nothing ever materialized.

With the Sox unwilling to part with catching prospect Blake Swihart, Ruben Amaro refused to move his ace. While Hamels hasn't gotten off to a good start in 2015, he's been subpar in April throughout his career, which likely has had no effect on his trade stock.

There isn't much reason to watch the Phillies these days, as they're one of the worst teams in baseball, but Hamels is still one of the games premiere pitchers. Unlike Cueto and Zimmermann, Hamels isn't a free agent until 2018 at the earliest. Because he's not a rental player, the trade package will need to be significant. Both the Red Sox and and Dodgers have the farm systems to be able to pull something like that off, and should be considered the favorites until further notice.