As the July 31 MLB trade deadline rapidly approaches, teams of both leagues have to decide whether they will look to add talent to make a run for the postseason or pack it in and prepare for 2013.
With so many teams still in contention for a playoff bid, the deadline picture is still pretty hazy, and the addition of a second wild-card slot for each league will make this year a true seller's market.
There have already been plenty of rumors regarding the interest of some of the top players in MLB. Contenders are looking to improve for the playoff race, and those at the bottom are reluctantly planning for the future.
The coming weeks will help to clarify who will be buying and who will be selling in this year's market.
But until then, let's look at a few sure-fire sellers and the players they will be marketing, along with a couple of possible sellers and whom they could be looking to deal.
With Theo Epstein in charge on the north side, you can bet things are going to be changing around the friendly confines.
And with the Cubs sitting with the worst record in baseball—and 16.5 games off the NL Central lead through 66 games—that means it's time to sell.
It just so happens that Epstein has some of the most coveted pieces of trade bait on his hands.
Right-handed starters Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster are two capable pitchers who need to be pitching for playoff contenders.
Garza, a former Tampa Bay Ray, could end up back in the thick of the AL East playoff hunt or somewhere in the AL Central (even across town with the White Sox). The Cubs could receive some huge value in return for this proven stud hurler. However, there is still a chance Epstein could hold onto the 28-year-old and attempt to re-sign him for the future.
Dempster is more likely to be dealt before the deadline. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Detroit Tigers are among the many teams in search of a starting pitcher to bolster their rotations.
There are a number of players that could be moved from Chicago this year, but it appears as though Epstein is looking to hold onto shortstop Starlin Castro.
According to Doug Padilla and Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago, Epstein denied a USA Today report that said every Cub is on the trading block except pitcher Jeff Samardzija: "'Starlin Castro is the type of player we're looking to build around,' Epstein said Thursday. 'There has been no trade consideration with him, whatsoever.'"
The fact that he is looking to keep Castro is important, but from that quote, it appears that Epstein is looking for young talent to build around.
Look for the Cubs to shop a lot of their veteran players like Dempster and outfielder Alfonso Soriano (should there be any takers) in the coming weeks.
The struggling San Diego Padres are currently just 1.5 games better than the Cubs and still 19 games below .500 and 18 games back from the first-place Dodgers.
They also happen to have one of the most coveted bats in this year's trade market, outfielder Carlos Quentin.
Plenty of contenders are looking to add another bat to their lineup to help them through the second half, and among Quentin's potential suitors would be the Yankees, Rays, Indians, Tigers and Reds.
Plus, I'm sure Quentin would be happy to be playing in a more power-hitter-friendly ballpark than the Padres' notoriously pitcher-friendly Petco Park.
The Padres could also potentially move catcher Nick Hundley to make room for prospect Yasmani Grandal.
There is a definite possibility that the Rays could make a huge move to try to pick up both Hundley and Quentin.
Whichever team ends up making a move for one of San Diego's veterans will likely have to give up a serious prospect in exchange.
Much like the Padres and Cubs, the Minnesota Twins are out of contention and in great position to move some of their veterans and begin looking ahead.
First baseman Justin Morneau is one of the big names in this summer's trade market, and one good fit for him could be Toronto.
The Blue Jays are looking for a bat to keep up in the rigorous AL East and could be willing to send some pitching to Minnesota to bring in Morneau.
Also, the Dodgers, who should be a big buyer, along with the Indians and Marlins, are looking to add some power to their lineups and find an upgrade at first base.
The Twins also could be looking to move outfielder Josh Willingham. After picking him up through free agency, it would be a great move if Minnesota could turn that signing into a prospect for the future.
Possible destinations for Willingham include Pittsburgh (who could emerge as a buyer for literally the first time since I have been alive), San Francisco and again Cleveland, who are all looking to add a bat in the outfield.
Denard Span and Francisco Liriano could also be on the block for the struggling Twins franchise. But Minnesota fans should not fear, as their front office has been one of the best in recent years, taking the small-market Twins and turning them into a perennial contender.
Zack Greinke could be the most coveted player in this year's trade market if the Brewers decide to deal him.
Milwaukee is still in contention in the NL Central, but if it remains a second-tier team in the division looking up at Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, dealing Greinke could be the best move.
The right-hander will become a free agent at season's end, and there is a possibility that he could re-sign with the Brew Crew.
At the same time, there are so many teams that would currently love to add Greinke, that the benefits of a potential bidding war between them could prove to be too valuable for Milwaukee to pass up.
If Greinke is traded, it could be the biggest blockbuster deal of the summer, but it is still far from a sure thing.
Another player who could end up being moved out of Milwaukee is long-time closer Francisco Rodriguez.
Right now, he is stuck in the setup role behind John Axford, so a contender looking for a closer could come forward with some nice value for the Brewers.
Most teams sitting six games below .500 and nine games out of the division lead through 68 games would be considered out of contention and verging on being a clear-cut seller.
Not the Philadelphia Phillies, and rightfully so.
If it weren't for injuries to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, the Phillies would yet again be in contention for the NL East crown. And once those players come back, Philadelphia still might be.
Regardless, left-hander Cole Hamels, not unlike Greinke, has an expiring contract. So, the Phillies must either re-sign him or trade him by July 31.
The best decision may be to deal Hamels to try to replenish their thin farm system.
It's no secret that the Dodgers would love to add a pitcher like Hamels to their rotation, and the Phillies could make out with a nice prospect or two.
With the best record in baseball, the Dodgers are thinking World Series—the addition of Hamels would certainly help them realize that dream.
Neither Hamels nor Greinke is guaranteed to be dealt, but either of them could prove to be the biggest prize this summer.