There's something different about Major League Baseball's trade deadline this season.
Maybe it's the eerie silence on the transaction front less than two weeks from the July 31, non-waiver trade deadline. It is a different game this season. There are a lot of teams in their respective races and the second Wild Card will keep postseason hopes alive until the very last moment.
But don't be fooled. This isn't going to be a quiet trade deadline. It's more like the calm before the storm.
As teams finally decide they're not in the playoff picture, we'll begin to see an intense trade period, and no team is in a better position to cash in than the Philadelphia Phillies, who are double-digit games out of first place in the NL East.
So who will they trade?
Believe it or not, that's up in the air. The Phillies will kick plenty of tires over the next couple of weeks, but there is no doubt that they have some of the game's top trade chips.
This slideshow will attempt to determine the value of each trade chip. We'll rank the trade chip on a scale from 1-10. A mark of 1 will signify that a player has no trade value while a mark of 10 will show that they are extremely valuable.
The simple version is this: Carlos Ruiz's trade value has never been higher.
Realistically, he's the Phillies' most valuable trade chip. He's not expensive and any club interested in acquiring him would have the option of declining the option on his contract for 2013.
Ruiz has already shown an ability to make a pitching staff better, but now he also has shown that he can add some thunder to the middle of an order.
How many teams wouldn't be interested?
Backup catchers are a dime a dozen.
Most teams are satisfied with a solid defensive catcher who can give their starter a breather, and those are developed through most farm systems and come up to MLB at league minimum.
So Brian Schneider doesn't have much trade value. And that has nothing to do with his ankle injury.
Teams looking to add to their bench depth for a postseason run could show interest in Mike Fontenot, though he won't be overly valuable.
He's been a solid left-handed bench bat since joining the Phillies and has played both second and third base. Fontenot could also play shortstop in a pinch.
Any team looking for an upgrade in that utility role could be linked to Fontenot.
Ryan Howard may have negative trade value.
Of course, many players recovering from serious injuries do, and Howard is definitely still recovering from a serious injury, even after being activated to the MLB roster.
Howard missed more than three months of the regular season recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and is clearly still trying to build himself up.
But the Phillies wouldn't be able to trade him even if he was healthy, not with that massive contract and declining production.
Placido Polanco may not have much trade value as a regular third baseman, but I could see plenty of teams asking the Phillies about him with the intention of converting him into more of a utility man.
Polanco's greatest selling point is stellar defense. He's won a Gold Glove at two positions in his career, second and third base.
He may not be the same hitter that he was in his prime, but you can still count on Polanco to have a solid at-bat and look at a lot of pitches, and that's something that a contending team will need over the second half of the season.
Jimmy Rollins is a unique case.
He definitely has trade value. The trade market is very thin on quality shortstops and the market isn't going to get much better over the winter. Several teams could conceivably upgrade at shortstop for both this season and the future, creating a market for Rollins.
His contract, which will have two guaranteed seasons remaining on it beyond this season with an easily attainable vesting option for 2015, is a nice chunk of money, but won't burden teams interested in a quality shortstop.
You have to question whether the Phillies would actually entertain the idea of moving Rollins, however. He's a man that's said to be the voice of their clubhouse and moving him may not go over well.
In addition, a market for Rollins would be small, as few teams could realistically take on his contract.
But the Phillies would certainly entertain the idea. The Phillies have always been happy with Rollins' stellar defense, even if his offense has been so-so. But now they have a much cheaper option in Freddy Galvis.
Trying to determine Chase Utley's trade value isn't easy.
First, we'll be clear on this: He's not going anywhere. That's not necessarily because he doesn't have much trade value, but more because Utley is more valuable to the Phillies than any other team.
Of course, Utley's health would be a concern for any interested party, though it does seem like the second baseman has a better grip on how to treat his chronic knee condition. His contract, which will pay him handsomely through 2013, would likely be a burden for mid-to-small market teams as well.
But any team that is looking for a proven leader and willing to take a chance on his offensive output would be interested. I'm willing to bet that this wouldn't be a large group.
In regard to trade value, Ty Wigginton has a lot of factors working in his favor.
First, he'll be inexpensive over the remainder of the season. The Colorado Rockies are already on the hook for half of his salary for this season, so any team that's looking to acquire him would likely be paying him less than $500,000.
That's a good deal for a quality bench bat like Wigginton, who has given the Phillies' bench a threat against left-handed pitching this season.
His defense likely makes him a pinch-hitter for a contending team, however.
It sure looks like the end could be near for John Mayberry Jr. as an everyday player, at least with the Phillies.
The return of Ryan Howard severely limits his playing time at first base, and while some playing time could conceivably open up in the outfield depending on the Phillies' stance at the trade deadline, the days of being a contender with Mayberry in the outfield are over.
It wouldn't surprise me if the Phillies made a few calls about Mayberry trying to swap him for another "out of options" player with another team.
Whether a deal like that could come to fruition is an entirely different story, but I'm sure plenty of mid-to-low market teams that can afford the opportunity to take a chance on Mayberry developing into a solid outfielder would do it.
In any other season, Laynce Nix may have been a name that intrigued a lot of contenders. With the way his season started, it certainly looked like that could be the case if the Phillies fell out of contention.
Nix could have been an interesting left-handed power option off the bench for contenders. But instead, he suffered a severe strain of his calf muscle and hasn't played in more than two months.
After a setback delayed his return, it doesn't look like Nix will have enough time to audition for teams. The Phillies probably wouldn't be interested in selling him anyway, given that he's under contract for next season and will be inexpensive.
Hunter Pence is a guy who could have a lot of trade value to contending teams.
His biggest selling point is that he still has a year of arbitration remaining before becoming a free agent following the 2013 season. Of course, that will be one expensive year of arbitration, which could scare away some mid-to-small market teams.
But those mid-to-big market teams would love a shot at Pence. If the Phillies decide to entertain officers, he'd be one of the best chips on the trade market. Right-handed, power-hitting outfielders are somewhat of a rarity.
Though he'll probably never be a superstar, Pence could be the difference between winning the World Series and watching from home—the final piece of the puzzle, if you will.
It hasn't been a great season for the Phillies, but one thing that has gone right this season is the play of Juan Pierre, who may have been the best minor league signing of the last offseason.
It was a great deal for the Phillies then and could wind up being a great deal for some contending team at the trade deadline.
Pierre has hit the ball consistently well throughout the season, and while his defense leaves something to be desired in left field, he still has the ability to make things happen at the top of a lineup.
Signed through the remainder of the season, he'll cost the acquiring team right around $500,000, making him a great trade chip.
Though he hasn't played up to his level this season, there's a strong argument that Shane Victorino is the most dynamic player truly available at the deadline.
Looking forward for the Phillies, you have to question whether he truly fits their plans. He'll cost a pretty penny when he reaches the free agent market this winter and the Phillies would have a much simpler time replacing him than replacing Cole Hamels.
Realistically, the Phillies don't have the cash to keep Victorino and Hamels long term. He's a want, not a need.
But contending teams would go crazy over a switch-hitting center fielder with speed to burn, and that's just what Victorino is. He's mashed left-handed pitching this season and is one of the game's better defensive center fielders.
The Phillies aren't in a position to go into a full-blown fire sale if they cash it in on the 2012 season. This is a team that was dealt a bad hand this year with injuries and they know it. Competing in 2013 is an entirely different story.
However, if they do entertain the idea of a more elaborate sale this summer, Antonio Bastardo is a guy that I imagine a lot of teams, not just contenders, would be interested in.
Dominant relief pitching isn't easy to come by. Bastardo hasn't pitched well this season, but he showed a glimpse of his potential in 2011 when he was absolutely dominant.
If the Phillies decided to take a chance and exploit a weak relief market, there's a good chance that Bastardo could turn up a nice prospect. He won't even be eligible for arbitration until after 2013, and being left-handed is always a positive.
It is conceivable that the Phillies could consider him expendable with relief help like Justin De Fratus and Phillippe Aumont on the way, but they probably assume that their best chance of capturing a World Series is with Bastardo in the bullpen.
Joe Blanton doesn't have much value to the Phillies, but that doesn't mean that he won't have value to other contending teams.
When you're a contending team with a strong starting rotation, Blanton is a guy that you'd like to have at the back end. He has the potential to eat up innings and keep your offense in the game, which is invaluable through a season that lasts for 162 games.
Blanton is the kind of guy who could appeal to teams that are on the bubble about whether they can contend for a postseason spot this year.
He won't kill them in terms of dollars or prospects, and while he wouldn't necessarily be the difference between making and missing the postseason, he would certainly improve a club's chances.
Jake Diekman isn't quite at that point in his development where a team would target him specifically, but his trade value should definitely climb over the next season or so (which is not saying that the Phillies will even consider trading him).
Diekman has all of the tools to become a great reliever. He's left-handed, which certainly doesn't hurt. He has an explosive fastball that comes out of an arm angle that leaves hitters, especially left-handed hitters, feeling helpless, and he has a couple of nasty secondary offerings—a slider and a changeup.
If he wants to be successful, he'll need to improve his command, but he has big strikeout potential and that alone should earn him a spot in the bullpen.
What team in its right mind wouldn't want to get its hands on Roy Halladay?
He'll make his first start in nearly two months on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but even after taking that into consideration, the man still has plenty of trade value.
Granted, there aren't many teams that would have the financial flexibility to take on Halladay's contract, but I guarantee you that if the Phillies put Halladay on the block, and they won't, every team in the game would at least call and ask about him.
With that being said, he also has no-trade protection, so finding the ideal partner may not be all that simple in any event.
As long as the Phillies' don't do something incredibly unpredictable this summer, and that isn't something that I would put past Ruben Amaro Jr., Cole Hamels will be the Phillies' best trade chip.
The reason is simple: Pitching wins championships. Hamels is a former World Series MVP. If you were brazen enough to do so, you could say that Hamels wins championships. It wouldn't be inaccurate.
Take, for example, a team like the Texas Rangers. Or the Detroit Tigers. Or maybe even the Los Angeles Dodgers. You're turning a playoff contender into a World Series contender by adding Hamels, and that is a risk that any team will take for a shot at the top.
Jeremy Horst is left-handed.
That's about all he has going for him. While the bullpen market is weak, guys like Horst are a dime a dozen and could probably be replaced through most farm systems.
With that being said, the man once traded for Wilson Valdez has pitched very well for the Phillies since his call-up and definitely has the repertoire to be an effective left-handed specialist.
Kyle Kendrick is the type of pitcher that I think teams would have more interest in over the winter, but I suppose it is conceivable that a team starved for pitching help could give the Phillies a call about their right-handed swing-man.
Kendrick is Joe Blanton-lite right now, and that isn't necessarily a good thing. He has some value as a starting pitcher who can realistically eat up innings at the back end of a rotation, but he's not going to help much in a postseason race.
There is some potential there. If Kendrick could keep his sinker in the lower half of the strike zone with any kind of consistency, he'd definitely be a serviceable starter. We saw that in his complete game against St. Louis earlier this season.
The problem is simple: He can't.
Cliff Lee is as interesting a trade possibility as the Phillies have to offer, but I can't bring myself to peg his value at any higher than five.
On one hand, he is one of the best pitchers in the game. Yes, I know he has one win this season. But I'm also aware that he hasn't been able to get on the right track this season.
But it happens. Pitchers of Lee's caliber can have a bad season.
That's why it would be unwise for the Phillies to sell on Lee at an all-time low. The return would be minimal. Besides, there are only a handful of teams, if that, that can afford to take on his contract.
It's just not happening.
Jonathan Papelbon is very good at what he does. While people will forever debate just how necessary the closer is, there is no doubt that having Papelbon pitching the ninth inning makes the Phillies a better team.
That's because they can afford to pay him handsomely. Not many teams can.
If you asked every team in baseball if they'd like to have Papelbon, I think they'd all answer with a resounding yes. If you ask them if they want to pay him $50 million, the Phillies may be on their own.
I feel like I'm saying this far more often than I should be, but like a few other guys on this list, Joe Savery's real trade value lies in the fact that he's left-handed.
He's very replaceable in a lot of bullpens, but he would work much better in the Phillies' if manager Charlie Manuel would use him in the right way. Lefties are hitting .237 against Savery. Right-handed hitters? Well, they're tagging him for a .309 batting average.
I've said it a couple of times already, but the market for bullpen help this summer is very thin. With so many teams still in contention, you will see a few general managers getting creative leading up to the trade deadline.
One name on the Phillies' roster that they could theoretically ask about is Michael Schwimer, though I doubt the Phillies would have any interest in depleting their already thin bullpen even further.
As a right-handed reliever with upside, Schwimer would be an interesting target.
Vance Worley has a ton of trade value, but given the future of their starting rotation, the Phillies won't even consider moving him.
With teams putting a premium on young, controllable starting pitching, teams could offer the Phillies a nice piece for a guy like Worley, and though they'd be tempted to make a move, I'm almost positive they would decline.
Worley has a lot of intangibles, but the ability to laugh in the face of adversity is the type of quality that could make him great.