All it takes is an idea.
When it comes to trade rumors around baseball, all it takes is an idea to get people talking. While there's a difference between a rumor and speculation, most rumors start as just that—speculation.
Even with the trade deadline more than a month away, that doesn't mean that general managers around baseball aren't strategically deploying scouts and constantly working the phones as they try to improve their clubs, whether it be for the present or for the future.
Keep in mind that this isn't a list of the 10 biggest names who will be on the market—it's the 10 names that are most bandied about these days.
Could some of these players stay put, or are they all certain to have to forward their mail for the next few months?
Let's take a look.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe brings up Daniel Bard as a potential trade chip for the Boston Red Sox, perhaps as part of a package for Matt Garza.
Bard, 26, has always been a favorite of Cubs GM Theo Epstein's, and it's looking more and more as if he'll return to Boston as a relief pitcher. He struck out four over two scoreless innings this past Thursday, his third consecutive relief appearance for Triple-A Pawtucket.
It's no secret that the Red Sox need to shake things up, and while Bard is a valuable piece in the bullpen (where he belongs), his greatest value may lie in his trade value for Boston.
Verdict: Fact. Bard still has value around the league and could take the place of a highly-touted prospect in any potential deal.
Forget that he's currently on the disabled list—the tightness in his lat isn't thought to be a serious issue, and he'll still be one of the most sought-after pitchers on the market.
The New York Yankees is one team that has been linked to the 35-year-old righty, but between the fact that he's spent his entire career in the National League—and we all know what kind of success the Yankees generally have with pitchers from the senior circuit—coupled with the New York Post's Joel Sherman being told by an unnamed Yankees official that Dempster would only "muddy the water" in the Bronx, I think it's safe to say that the Yankees have little-to-no interest.
Buster Olney of ESPN reported that the Los Angeles Dodgers remain interested in Dempster, though they were not inclined to try and deal for the Cubs' 28-year-old rookie 1B Bryan LaHair at the same time.
Dempster makes sense for the Dodgers, though what they would send back to the Cubs as compensation remains to be seen.
Olney says that the Cubs are willing to pay a large chunk—if not the entire amount (approximately $8 million)—of his remaining 2012 salary in order to get quality prospects back in return. If true, that could open the door to other potential suitors.
It goes without saying that any number of contending teams could have interest in Dempster, though it's unlikely that anything will go down until he returns and proves the lat issue isn't an issue at all.
Verdict: Yankees fiction and Dodgers fact, with other teams potentially in the mix.
Two! It's going to take at least two of your top prospects to get me away from the Cubs!
While Yoenis Cespedes and Yu Darvish held people's interest as international free agents, it was the Chicago Cubs' 28-year-old right-handed starter, Matt Garza, who was igniting the hot stove. At one point or another this winter, the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers and Miami Marlins were all linked to him.
While he's really not an ace, Garza has succeeded in both the National and American Leagues, specifically the AL East, and he's signed through the 2013 season. So it would stand to reason that nearly everyone who considers themselves a contender has at least some level of interest in acquiring his services.
Comcast Sports' David Kaplan tweeted at the beginning of the year that the asking price for Garza was "tremendously high," and that interested parties were waiting to see how things would play out.
But at the same time, ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews revealed that the Cubs were asking the Yankees for two, if not all three, of their top prospects: Manny Banuelos, Delin Betances and Jesus Montero.
So with that in the past, what do we know today?
Just over a week ago, ESPN's Buster Olney said that the Cubs would deal Garza "for the right offer." Translation: to the highest bidder—but with a steep reserve price already set that needs to be met. For months, it's been opined that the Cubs would be perfectly happy to sign him to a long-term extension, something Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reminded us recently.
To Garza's credit, while he'd like to stay in Chicago, he doesn't care where he pitches, as he told Alex Spier of WEEI 850 AM in Boston:
I just want to keep playing. It doesn’t matter where. I’ll pitch on the freaking moon. I love the city. My kids love the city. It would be a great place for them to grow up. But like I said, it’s out of my control.
I'd love to stay here, but if that's not in [Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein's] plans, then so be it. I just want to keep playing. The AL East doesn't scare me a bit. Everywhere I go, it's a blast.
Verdict: Fact. Garza could be dealt, but someone's going to have to overpay to get him.
Talk about a deal that hasn't worked out quite as Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd expected it would.
While Jason Hammel and reliever Matt Lindstrom—the two pieces O'Dowd sent to Baltimore in exchange for Jeremy Guthrie—have excelled, Guthrie has been downright awful for the Rockies, posting a 7.02 ERA and 1.83 WHIP over 59 innings pitched.
Chalking his poor numbers up to pitching at Coors Field rather than Guthrie having lost his effectiveness, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports that as many as four teams have made inquiries on acquiring the 33-year-old righty.
Renck goes on to say that the Rockies want to move what remains of Guthrie's $8.2 million salary (approximately $5 million) out of Colorado and are asking for one prospect in return—and not a big-time prospect either, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.
Renck, along with others, have reported that the Toronto Blue Jays and Rockies discussed a deal involving Guthrie and switch-hitting Double-A first baseman Mike McDade, who has posted a .304/.385/.486 batting line with 11 home runs and 38 RBI over 65 games—though the Rockies are said to prefer someone else.
With Kyle Drabek set to undergo Tommy John surgery for the second time, and Drew Hutchison, Dustin McGowan and Brandon Morrow all on the disabled list, the Blue Jays desperately need to add a starting pitcher if they have any chance of staying above water in the AL East.
I've been saying that the Phillies should trade Cole Hamels (and Shane Victorino, for that matter) for more than a month.
While Phillies fans are understandably unhappy with that proposition, considering that Hamels and the team have made no progress on an extension, each passing day makes it that much more unlikely that he works out a deal before heading to free agency.
Once he hits the open market, the chances of the Phillies being able to match offers made by teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers are slim, considering that Hamels is going to get a deal somewhere between the $112.5 million that Matt Cain got from the San Francisco Giants and the $161 million the New York Yankees gave CC Sabathia in 2009.
ESPN's Jayson Stark spoke with Phillies GM Ruben Amaro earlier this month, and if you read between the lines, it becomes more evident that Amaro knows that getting something for Hamels while he can is probably his best course of action:
Our value [assessment] on Cole hasn't changed. We've always thought he's a valuable player. He's one of the better left-handers in the game. … And we still want to sign him. He's a priority, no question. But the biggest thing is all the other decisions we have to make, with the other potential free agents we have coming up -- at third base [Placido Polanco), in center field (Shane Victorino], and at right field [Hunter Pence] and catcher [Ruiz] in two years. And we haven't solved our left-field situation, either. We've got all those things to deal with. So we have to be deliberate. We have to make sure we take our time. It's not just one decision. … We have to think about all those decisions, and how all the pieces fit together.
Verdict: Fact. Hamels will be dealt at the deadline.
Just last week, Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports reported that the Detroit Tigers had interest in trading for San Diego Padres left fielder Carlos Quentin. And while such a move would make sense for the Tigers, there's no guarantee that San Diego will deal him, according to ESPN's Buster Olney.
While keeping Quentin makes sense for the Padres given their lack of power in the lineup, between their uncertain ownership situation and the fact that they are rebuilding, adding two pieces in exchange for Quentin may be the most prudent course of action they can take.
Aside from the Tigers, Olney says that the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays could all be in on Quentin as well.
While Quentin makes sense for all those mentioned, keep in mind that the Tigers will wait until the last possible second until making a move for a bat, hoping that Victor Martinez is able to return to action sooner rather than later—something the team won't know until sometime in July.
Verdict: Fact. Quentin will be moved before or at the non-waiver trade deadline.
I hesitated to include this because, to be perfectly honest, it's more speculation than rumor, but it merits discussion.
ESPN's Jason A. Churchill opines (insider subscription required) that the Orioles could be best served by dealing second baseman Brian Roberts, naming the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies as potential trading partners.
To his credit, Churchill lays out why the Orioles likely wouldn't pull a trigger on a deal, including the fact that Roberts, who has 10-and-5 rights, would simply say no to any deal.
Even if the Orioles fade from contention, I don't think they'd try and deal Roberts.
While he's played a total of 101 games since the end of the 2009 season, Robert Andino doesn't appear to be the answer at second base, and Roberts' bat, even as he works off the rust, is still a better option than Andino in the lineup.
Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic says that the Arizona Diamondbacks are willing to move 31-year-old left-handed starter Joe Saunders in the right deal, as it would free up a spot in the rotation for über-prospect Trevor Bauer.
Before you say it—you said it already, didn't you?—the Boston Red Sox were reportedly asking the D-Backs for outfielder Gerardo Parra in return for Kevin Youkilis.
Saunders, who garnered little in the way of interest this winter, has partially gotten back on track in June after a rough May. He's posting a 2.89 ERA for the month, but he's getting hit, as evidenced by a 1.66 WHIP and 26 hits allowed in just under 19 innings of work.
That being the case, Saunders is still relatively young, has had varying amounts of success in both leagues and isn't likely to cost anything remotely resembling a top prospect.
Verdict: Fact. It's only a matter of when, not if, the veteran southpaw is dealt out of the desert.
Both Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer and Buster Olney of ESPN talk about the Cleveland Indians possibly having some interest in the Chicago Cubs' Alfonso Soriano and his albatross of a contract.
Speaking of his contract, it may not be a factor after all: CBS Sports' Danny Knobler tweeted last month that the Cubs are willing to eat as much as $45 million of the $48 million remaining on the 36-year-old's contract through the 2014 season.
At that point, there's essentially no risk for the Indians, or anyone else. Why not take a chance on Soriano, who isn't having a terrible season at the plate, with a .269/.315/.491 batting line, 13 HR and 43 RBI?
The Indians did a good job gutting their farm system in last year's deal to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez, and Jason Kipnis is untouchable, so there's not much they could offer the Cubs. Then again, that might not matter, considering how badly Chicago wants to move Soriano out of Chicago.
Soriano's bat would be a big boost to the Indians lineup. While he might be a liability in the field, he's certainly a much better option than Johnny Damon.
Verdict: Fact, but the odds of any deal happening hinge on how much of the deal the Cubs will actually eat.
It's no secret that the Boston Red Sox would like to trade veteran first baseman/third baseman Kevin Youkilis, but according to Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Sox have intensified their efforts over the past few days.
An unnamed National League front office official told the duo: "He’s being shopped everywhere."
Obviously Boston is a team in flux, and with Will Middlebrooks ready to play the hot corner on a daily basis, there simply isn't room for the 33-year-old.
The problem, of course, is Youkilis.
He's owed about $8 million for the remainder of 2012 and an additional $1 million to buy out his $13 million team option in 2013. Add to that his ineptitude at the plate—he's 5-for-39 in June with a batting line on the season of .215/.301/.341—and it's hard to see any team giving Boston anything of value to acquire him.
That's why, according to Morosi and Rosenthal, Boston is "willing to include cash to facilitate a better player return." And supposedly, that has some teams rekindling their interest.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates have all been linked to him, and he'd make sense for all of those clubs.
Personally, I think the Pirates make the most sense. Pittsburgh is teetering on the fence again this year as they try and turn the corner toward respectability and potentially contend for a wild-card spot, and Youkilis' leadership and experience could prove to be invaluable.
Verdict: Fact. Youk's time in Boston is coming to an end.