As we cross the halfway point of the baseball season and move into July, teams must now begin labeling themselves as buyers or sellers. With a second wild card berth in play, there will be more demand and consequently less supply at the deadline in 2012.
This should result in less moves being made but a much bigger bidding war on players given the weaker market. Here are five of the top players rumored to be on the market this month and where they're likely headed.
Zack Greinke will be one of the most prized trade targets as the July 31 deadline approaches. The Brewers being in fourth place in the NL Central, eight games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates, means that Milwaukee will be a seller this month. Considering this is the last year on Greinke's contract and extension talks haven't progressed, the team wants to get something for him.
Among the teams interested in the former Cy Young winner are the Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves. The Rangers are looking to return to the World Series and want to bolster their rotation by adding either Greinke or Cole Hamels. In fact, the Brewers sent a scout earlier this week to watch the Frisco RoughRiders, the AA affiliate of the Rangers, meaning Texas could be the front-runner.
The Braves are also reportedly interested, though a contract extension may have to be worked out in advance. More teams will surface as we get closer to the deadline, and Greinke will be on a contending team come August.
Prediction: Traded to Atlanta Braves
Unless the Phillies can put together some wins in the next couple weeks, they too will be sellers at the deadline. Among those who are likely available is center fielder Shane Victorino. The 31-year-old has struggled at the plate this season, but does have 19 stolen bases and provides a great arm in center. Victorino is slated to become a free agent after this year.
The Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers are two teams that have shown interest in the switch-hitter. The Reds have seen Drew Stubbs struggle mightily so far this season and lost grasp on the NL Central lead, while the Dodgers' woeful offense isn't helped by the fact that Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are on the DL.
Prediction: Traded to Cincinnati Reds
Matt Garza may be the most valuable pitcher on the block as August nears, not because of his talent level, but because he is under contract through 2013. Both Greinke and Hamels become free agents when their contracts expire after this season, and they will likely test the market and expect huge contracts, while Garza will play an extra year at a much more modest price.
It seems as if Garza is one of the top pitching priorities for the Yankees. Another AL East foe has also expressed interest, as the Orioles try to hang on in the playoff race. Being a former Tampa Bay Ray, Garza is familiar with the tough division and performed well before his move to the Cubs in the NL Central. He looks to be heading back east, where the playoff picture is a lot more enticing.
Prediction: Traded to New York Yankees
In a market where hitting is weak, Chase Headley stands out as a prized commodity. There are currently a handful of teams looking to acquire the 28-year-old and his two years of team control after 2012. The Padres aren't going anywhere and Headley could bring a big return if a bidding war begins.
Assuming they don't trade within their division, the two teams that pop out are the Indians and Orioles. Both are in second place in their respective divisions and have seen unimpressive play from the third base position. Headley would provide a big offensive boost that could launch either team into a postseason run.
Prediction: Traded to Cleveland Indians
Hamels is the most talented player on this list, but the Phillies haven't decided what to do with him just yet. They are just getting Ryan Howard back after he missed the entire first half of the season and Roy Halladay is still on the DL, so the team isn't sure if they will be buyers or sellers when the trade deadline hits.
If he is on the block, the Rangers look to be the favorites to obtain him. Texas may have their pick of Greinke or Hamels and leave the other to be fought over by the lesser teams. Hamels won't be shopped for at least a couple of weeks though, so if the market for Greinke gets hot, the Rangers may have to pull the trigger and open the door for other teams to take Hamels.
Prediction: Traded to Texas Rangers