The MLB non-waiver trade deadline is now only two weeks away, and it’s likely that rumors and speculation will continue at a feverish pace.
With the new playoff structure in place this season, more teams than ever before are vying for postseason contention. As of this writing, 22 teams were within eight games of the four wild-card slots available.
With just under two-and-a-half months remaining in the season, very few teams will be completely willing to throw in the towel on this season’s chances. With supply being much lower than demand, asking prices for available players will be unusually high—the selling teams clearly have the upper hand.
Nonetheless, teams in contention will be more than willing to meet the high demands in many cases, as they're desperate for a chance to compete for the ultimate prize.
From now until July 31, Bleacher Report will work diligently to update its faithful legion of followers on the happenings within MLB as it relates to the trade deadline.
With that in mind, here are updates on the top 25 players currently getting the most attention as the trade deadline nears.
With a record of 36-52 entering play on Monday night, the Minnesota Twins are expected to be one of the teams selling within the next two weeks.
Centerfielder Denard Span has drawn his share of rumors in recent weeks, the most recent of which involves the Cincinnati Reds.
John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported late last week that the Reds are in the market for a leadoff hitter. Considering that the Reds are hitting .200 with a .244 OBP from the leadoff position, it certainly makes sense.
Fay brought up Span’s name as a possibility. Span is currently hitting .283 with a .345 OBP, considerably higher than what Reds leadoff hitters are offering at this point.
Drew Stubbs has struggled all season long, so it also makes sense that the Reds may want to reduce his role. Span is signed through the 2014 season, but at $11.25 million overall, he won’t break the bank.
Oakland A’s reliever Grant Balfour is now pretty well settled in as the setup man behind young Ryan Cook in the bullpen, but he may not want to get too comfortable.
The A’s are surging, now three games above .500 entering play on Monday night, but you may not find many who believe the A’s will be buying anything at the trade deadline.
Balfour has been mentioned as a possible option for the New York Mets as they look to rebuild a bullpen that was already rebuilt during the offseason by GM Sandy Alderson. Rebuilding a rebuild is never a good thing, but the Mets are in need of help beyond what Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco were supposed to provide.
Balfour is under team control for the 2013 season with a $4.5 million team option, so he wouldn’t necessarily be considered a rental. The Mets could buy out the option at $350,000, however.
Boston Red Sox backup catcher Kelly Shoppach probably never dreamed his name would feature prominently in trade talks, and in a good way.
Peter Gammons tweeted on Saturday that the New York Mets are looking at Shoppach as an option. Mets catchers have put up a slash line of .244/.303/.298 thus far in 2012—Shoppach is hitting .263/.358/.516 in a limited role.
With Ryan Lavarnway hitting above .300 at Triple-A Pawtucket, he could easily fill the void left behind by Shoppach’s departure.
Second baseman/shortstop Marco Scutaro has only been with the Colorado Rockies for half a season, and he may not be there much longer.
According to MLB Network insider Tracy Ringolsby, the Detroit Tigers had a scout at Coors Field over the weekend, presumably to check out Scutaro.
The Tigers are looking for table-setters for the power-hitting tandem of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Tigers second basemen have combined for a .198/.274/.275 slash line thus far in 2012. Scutaro is hitting .273/.324/.367.
The Minnesota Twins are likely to be one of the teams who will be selling off players at the trade deadline. One of the players generating interest is closer Matt Capps.
On Saturday, Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com tweeted that the Los Angeles Angels are interested in Capps. The Angels already made a move to bolster their bullpen with their acquisition of Ernesto Frieri earlier this season, but they would love to add another quality veteran arm.
Capps has 14 saves this season with a 3.81 ERA and reported no ill effects after spending time on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.
Capps will continue to draw attention from other teams as well, including the New York Mets, who recently got some bad news concerning the health of closer Frank Francisco.
The Oakland Athletics have been surging of late, winning nine of their last 10 games entering play on Monday night. At 46-43, the A's are just eight games back of the Texas Rangers in the AL West and are right in the thick of the chase for one of the two wild-card slots.
However, it's still unclear whether or not the A's will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. Joe Stiglich of The Oakland Tribune discussed that very fact last Thursday.
If the A's decide to raise the white flag on this season, starting pitcher Bartolo Colon would likely be one of the first players to be swept up by a buying team.
The St. Louis Cardinals appear to be the latest team showing interest in the 39-year-old hard-throwing veteran.
Joe Strauss of stltoday.com reported on Thursday that Colon could be an excellent option at the back end of the Cards' rotation, especially given his smaller asking price in comparison to other pitchers on the market.
Throughout his six seasons with the San Francisco Giants, right fielder Nate Schierholtz has been a willing and dutiful servant. He's never been able to break into the starting lineup on an everyday basis, but he's been a valuable contributor nonetheless.
This season, Schierholtz once again finds himself in the same boat, sitting on the bench in favor of Gregor Blanco, Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera.
Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com is one who believes that Schierholtz could be an excellent trade candidate.
This from Rosenthal:
Remember Giants outfielder Nate Schierholtz? He’s the kind of player who figures to draw interest at the deadline.
Schierholtz (.248, 3 HR, 12 RBI) has lost playing time, he is out of options and other teams still view him as a valuable asset.
If the Giants look to improve in other areas, Schierholtz would be an attractive trade chip, both as a fourth outfielder option and as a valuable bat off the bench.
The Houston Astros will be looking to unload many of their veterans as the trade deadline approaches. They've already started with the deal that sent first baseman Carlos Lee to the Miami Marlins.
Reliever Brandon Lyon is widely expected to be on his way out of Houston as well.
Lyon's name has been mentioned several times as a possible option for the New York Mets. However, so have several others.
Lyon has a 3.15 ERA in 36 appearances thus far, and he is in the final season of a three-year, $15 million deal. He would likely be considered for a half-season rental by several buying teams.
Much like his teammate, Brandon Lyon, Houston Astros closer Brett Myers figures to be in high demand as the trade deadline approaches.
Myers transitioned to the closer's role this season and has posted 19 saves with a 3.52 ERA. He could be a bit more difficult to move, given his $11 million salary this season and a vesting option of $10 million for next year as well.
The New York Mets have been mentioned as a possible destination, although several pitchers have already been discussed in terms of who the Mets could possibly acquire. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow will have to be a bit more creative in dealing Myers than he would be with Brandon Lyon or others in the organization.
Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Jason Vargas may be the next in line to leave the Northwest in consecutive seasons following the departure of Doug Fister to the Detroit Tigers last July.
According to Jayson Stark of ESPN, the Baltimore Orioles have interest in the left-hander.
Clubs that have spoken with the #Orioles say they've shifted away from Matt Garza. Now poking around on Jason Vargas.
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 12, 2012
In addition, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported on Sunday that the Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers could all have interest in Vargas, who pitches on Monday night against the Kansas City Royals.
Vargas is currently 9-7 with a 4.09 ERA in 20 starts.
San Diego Padres closer Huston Street didn't get to pitch in this year's All-Star Game as the only representative for the team, but he is getting plenty of attention on the trade market.
The New York Mets reportedly have interest (surprise, surprise), and Street recently put to rest any suggestion that he might have difficulty getting along with current Mets coach Bob Geren, who managed Street in Oakland and with whom Street shared a rocky relationship.
Jake Dal Porto of BaySportsNet.com opined on Sunday that the San Francisco Giants should throw their hats in the ring in going after Street as well.
Street would absolutely be a rental option for the Giants. He'd serve as closer, with Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo working as seventh- and eighth-inning men.
Street has been lights-out for the Padres, posting a 1.08 ERA and 14 saves in 26 appearances.
There are no guarantees as of yet that the Kansas City Royals will be sellers at the trade deadline. However, if general manager Dayton Moore makes players available, closer Jonathan Broxton is sure to be at the top of the list.
Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com reported last Thursday that the Los Angeles Angels could be one team that has interest. While Gonzalez believes that the Halos could be quiet at the deadline as well, he looks for general manager Jerry DiPoto to add another bullpen piece.
Broxton has 22 saves with a 2.14 ERA while filling in all season for the injured Joakim Soria.
San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley was thought to be the long-term answer at the hot corner when he made his debut in 2007.
Now, however, Headley could be on his way out the door.
With top prospect Jedd Gyorko waiting in the wings, Headley's name continues to surface in various rumors.
Most recently, Headley has been mentioned as a possibility for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
If Brewers decide to sell, Dodgers have identified Aramis Ramirez as possible 3B upgrade. Prefer Chase Headley, however.
— Tim Brown (@TBrownYahoo) July 12, 2012
Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun believes that the Orioles could have interest as well.
Directly after my story posts about O's needing OBP, I got my first Chase Headley suggestion. Yes, if he's available, #Orioles would inquire
— Dan Connolly (@danconnollysun) July 12, 2012
Earlier in the month, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that the Orioles, Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks have all expressed interest in obtaining Headley.
Last offseason, former Chicago White Sox outfielder Juan Pierre was nearly frozen out of the free-agent pool, finally signing a one-year, $800,000 deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Pierre's 2012 salary represents less than one-tenth of what he made last season ($8.5 million).
However, Pierre has been an important part of the offense for the Phillies in the absence of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Pierre is hitting .316 in 75 games thus far with 21 stolen bases.
With the Phillies currently 12 games below .500 and 14 games in back of the NL East-leading Washington Nationals, Pierre has surfaced as one of the more popular names in recent weeks concerning trade talks.
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Baltimore Orioles have interest in acquiring Pierre. With Nolan Reimold out for the season, Pierre would certainly fill a void.
On Sunday, Buster Olney of ESPN put out this interesting tidbit.
Something the Reds will kick around: Juan Pierre hitting .345 vs. right-handed pitchers this year, .385 OBP. Pierre/Ludwick platoon?
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 16, 2012
With Joey Votto now sidelined for at least three to four weeks for surgery to repair his torn meniscus, that tidbit could be much more prevalent.
Gosh, another reliever that the New York Mets have interest in.
Shocking, I know.
But apparently, the Mets would be interested in bringing K-Rod back into the fold, according to reports in various New York publications.
Rodriguez has posted a 3.67 ERA in 44 appearances thus far for the Milwaukee Brewers. He would clearly be a rental player for the Mets at this point. K-Rod would be owed approximately $3.25 million at the deadline.
Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino has spent all but 36 games of his career in the City of Brotherly Love, but that time may be coming to an end.
Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com reported on Monday that, according to an MLB executive, Victorino could be one of the first big names dealt.
Morosi points to the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Miami Marlins and San Francisco Giants as teams who have most recently scouted Victorino.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com also reported that the New York Yankees have interest in Victorino as well, especially now with Brett Gardner suffering another setback in his rehab.
In addition, ESPN's Buster Olney counts three teams that will have interest in Victorino.
Shane Victorino would fit many teams --CLE, PIT, maybe NYY, etc -- but it's unclear whether anyone would give PHI value equal to draft pick.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 14, 2012
If you had asked two months ago about the value of Minnesota Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano's value as a trade chip, just about everyone on the planet would have snickered.
Now, not so much.
Over his last nine starts, Liriano has figured things out—a 2.82 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 57.1 innings.
The Boston Red Sox are one team reported to have interest, but they are just one of a handful of teams at this point.
CBSSports.com is reporting that the Los Angeles Angels, Red Sox, New York Yankees, New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves all have some level of interest.
Liriano was simply awful through his first six starts, posting a 9.45 ERA. After some time in the bullpen, Liriano returned to the rotation and has lowered his ERA to a more respectable 4.93.
When baseball resumed following the All-Star break on Friday, Chicago Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano had the game of his career, going 4-for-4 with two homers, two doubles and five RBI in an 8-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Soriano is now hitting .275 with 17 homers and 53 RBI on the season, and he is largely expected to be dealt by the trade deadline, provided the Cubs pony up just a bit of cash to go along with him.
ESPN's Buster Olney opined that the Tampa Bay Rays could be an attractive destination.
SPECULATION: Alfonso Soriano would be an interesting get for the Rays if the Cubs ate about 90 percent of the money owed to him.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 14, 2012
For his part, however, Soriano would rather stay right where he is, as he said on Friday night:
I am very happy with the (manager), GM and president. They show me respect and confidence and confidence in myself, and I have not had that in three or four years here. It seemed before they waited for me to do something wrong to talk about me.
Unfortunately, Soriano may not get his wish, as Sporting News reported that talks are heating up.
Houston Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez has certainly gotten used to hearing his name mentioned in various trade rumors. After all, it's been going on for over a year now.
It now seems almost a foregone conclusion that Rodriguez will finally be dealt.
The Baltimore Orioles have been in touch with the Astros, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.
Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com has the Toronto Blue Jays as a possible landing spot as well.
#BlueJays showing most interest in pitchers under control beyond this year. Matt Garza and Wandy Rodriguez high on their list, sources say.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 7, 2012
Rodriguez is owed approximately $17 million on a contract that runs through the 2013 season with an additional option of $13 million for 2014.
Wrigley Field was busy on Sunday, and not just because 36,659 fans in attendance watched Chicago Cubs starter Matt Garza throw seven scoreless innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
While the fans no doubt enjoyed Garza's gem, so did the six scouts who were observing his efforts.
The New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates all had representatives on hand watching Garza's every pitch.
The Cubs are presumably looking for young pitching and possibly a prospect third baseman in return for Garza, who is under contractual control through the 2013 season.
There are very few impact hitters available on the open market, so San Diego Padres left fielder Carlos Quentin is drawing plenty of interest.
Quentin was scratched from the lineup on Monday night due to knee soreness. It may just be a rest, but considering he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and missed the first several weeks of the season, it could cause a measure of concern.
Nonetheless, Quentin's name has been featured prominently as the trade deadline nears.
According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, at least four teams are interested in acquiring Quentin, who is currently hitting .266 with eight home runs and 21 RBI.
The Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians and Miami Marlins have all expressed interest, and Heyman also said that the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays have cooled in their interest for now.
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster is certainly a hot commodity right now. Based on his current performance, why wouldn't he be?
Dempster has now thrown 33 consecutive scoreless innings after his six-inning effort against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday. His ERA is a major league-low 1.86 as well.
Sporting News reported on Monday that a deal for Dempster may be imminent.
The Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees are all vying for Dempster's services.
Dempster himself may sense that the end is near after nine seasons in Chicago, although he was professional in his approach before his Saturday start.
"I really did not think of it that way, but there is that thought and that possibility (of a trade)," Dempster said. "At the same time, you kind of stay in the moment of pitching in the game."
ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted on Monday that the Red Sox may be the most aggressive team in pursuing Dempster.
Source: The Red Sox are aggressive in the pursuit of Ryan Dempster. Cubs going through their process on the right-hander.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 16, 2012
Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers has been in the baseball business for a long time—he spent 15 years plying his trade with the San Diego Padres before joining Arizona over 18 months ago.
However, even Towers is surprised at the number of calls he has received as the MLB non-waiver trade deadline fast approaches. Towers told Bob Nightengale of USA Today:
I'm getting more calls than I ever have at the deadline. I don't know if it's because of (Justin) Upton's name being out there or what. There are just so many people in the buy mode. I've had only one team telling me, "Here's a list of guys you can have." Everyone else is trying to improve their club."
Is there really any doubt that it's because of Upton that Towers is taking so many calls?
Towers also told Nightengale that if and when the situation presents itself, he will be talking to his right fielder about the teams who are interested in acquiring him.
"I told Justin that if we're at the 1-yard line, I'll tell you the teams that are interested," Towers said.
The Pirates, Braves and Rangers are all teams currently interested, and Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reported on Monday that sources have confirmed that the four teams on Upton's no-trade list are the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs.
Starting pitcher Zack Greinke continues plying his trade for the Milwaukee Brewers, but for how much longer?
The Brewers announced on Monday that Greinke—9-3 on the season with a 3.57 ERA in 20 starts—will be given a 10-day rest between starts and won't take the mound again until July 24.
Greinke's long rest led Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi to opine about his current trade status.
Zack Greinke is rated as a "hold" on trade market at this point. A 9.00 ERA this month + needing a breather = major questions.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 16, 2012
Morosi could be right in his assumption, but it likely won't stop teams from inquiring nonetheless.
The Chicago White Sox are the latest team expected to go hard after Greinke:
#WhiteSox are expected to make a big offer for Zack Greinke, source says.
— MLB Sports Report (@MLBSportsReport) July 16, 2012
The Los Angeles Angels have also expressed interest, but Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported last Thursday that the Brewers were prepared to offer Greinke a five-year, $100 million contract. Heyman also said that the Brewers weren't particularly hopeful that Greinke would accept the offer midseason.
"I can't get into what the offers are,'' Brewers GM Doug Melvin said, "but players at that level who get this close to free agency do tend to test the market.''
On Sunday afternoon, Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels threw a gem in Denver, limiting the Colorado Rockies to one run on six hits in eight stellar innings of work and giving the Phillies a 5-1 victory.
For the year, Hamels is now 11-4 with a 3.07 ERA.
What was more telling about Hamels' afternoon was that scouts from seven teams were in attendance. Presumably, they weren't there to take in the gorgeous surroundings at Coors Field.
The Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Detroit Tigers, Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Angels were all represented and were there specifically to see Hamels.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com lists 10 teams interested in Hamels, with many of those teams interested in Zack Greinke as well.
Also being reported is the fact that the Phillies are prepared to offer Hamels a five-year, $120 million contract, but they weren't particularly hopeful that Hamels would accept the deal.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.