With just over two day remaining until the end of MLB non-waiver trade deadline, each team is looking to either make upgrades for a possible playoff berth or adding on players that fit their long-term objectives.
Because of the new playoff format that adds one more Wild Card team for each league, there are fewer selling teams than ever before. As of Saturday afternoon, 19 teams were within 5.5 games of a playoff spot, so the pool of available players for contending teams is thin.
We will identify the players that may be targeted by these 19 teams as they work feverishly to upgrade their rosters before 4 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.
As of Saturday afternoon, the Arizona Diamondbacks had a record of 50-50, just 5.5 games out of a possible Wild Card berth in the National League.
Despite the fact that they're still within reach, much of the talk surrounding the D-Backs has been about players who they might unload, rather than purchase.
Shortstop Stephen Drew has been mentioned in various rumors as being a possible target for other contending teams (per Buster Olney), as has outfielder Justin Upton. However, the hoopla surrounding Upton seems to have quieted considerably.
If in fact the D-Backs keep both Upton and Drew, then it could be assumed that they feel they could make a run this season. If that's the case, San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley would be an excellent suggestion.
There are only two problems—trading within the division is always difficult, and the Padres and Diamondbacks have strained relations dating back a while. Current Padres part-owner Jeff Moorad was once the D-Backs' owner, and current D-Backs general manager Kevin Towers manned the same position with the Padres for many years.
Still, Headley would be a great option, both short and long-term. With Ryan Roberts now with the Tampa Bay Rays, Headley would fill a need. For now, Willie Bloomquist and Ryan Wheeler will split time at the hot corner for Arizona, but neither are considered everyday players at this point.
Having lost out on both Ryan Dempster and Zack Greinke, the Atlanta Braves could well be setting their sights on a pitcher within their own division—Josh Johnson of the Miami Marlins.
Count third baseman Chipper Jones as one who is in favor of going after Johnson. According to MLB.com reporter Mark Bowman, Jones greeted general manager Frank Wren on the team bus on Wednesday afternoon by mentioning Johnson's several times—while fake coughing.
Again, the same problem as the previous slide—the Marlins would likely want a substantial package in return if Johnson were to stay in their own division.
Johnson would slide right into the top of the Braves' rotation, and a return package would likely include Randall Delgado—similar to a package proposed to the Chicago Cubs for Dempster before Dempster declined to approve the deal. But in the Marlins' case, they'll want a lot more than just Delgado.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times is also reporting that the Braves have interest in James Shields as well, but Rays manager Joe Maddon believes that Shields is staying:
All this conjecture does occur, and there's reasons why they're pointing at James. But I still believe in my heart of hearts that it's not going to happen, and it's going to move on and we're going to be normal and he's going to pitch like he can over the last two months of the season.
The Baltimore Orioles are hanging in there in the race for a Wild Card spot in the American League, just 2.5 games out entering play on Saturday afternoon.
The O's have staggered in recent weeks, with the culprit being their starting rotation. Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen have been the most consistent among the group, both sporting ERAs under 4.00, but even they have been inconsistent of late.
The Seattle Mariners have several young pitchers in their farm system who could be of use to the big club as early as next season, so Jason Vargas could be expendable.
With an 11-7 record and 3.76 ERA, Vargas has put up very good numbers for the last place Mariners. At $4.85 million he's certainly affordable and under team control until 2014.
Vargas may not be the stud pitcher that Orioles GM Dan Duquette would like, but he won't have to give up top prospects to acquire him, either.
The last time Chicago Cubs starter Matt Garza was on the mound, he was one of the hottest pitchers available on the trade market. However, after suffering a cramp in his throwing arm that pushed his next start until after the trade market, red flags were raised.
Garza threw off flat ground and Saturday and pronounced on his Twitter account that he felt "tons better" (per ESPN). Garza will throw a bullpen session on Monday and would likely make his next start next weekend against the Los Angeles Dodgers if all goes well.
Of course, that's only assuming he's still with the Cubs.
At 49-51 entering play on Saturday afternoon, the Boston Red Sox were 5.5 games out of a possible Wild Card spot in the American League. Their play against the Yankees for the rest of the weekend could well determine whether or not they are buyers or sellers.
If GM Ben Cherington is considering upgrading, Garza could be on their radar. Garza is certainly up to the task of pitching in the tough AL East through his years with the Tampa Bay Rays, and he is a guy that's never afraid to take the ball in a pressure situation.
Considering the state of the current Red Sox rotation, Garza would certainly be a nice get for Cherington. Whether or not they match up with the Cubs is another story entirely.
The Chicago White Sox would dearly love to add an impact starter before the MLB non-waiver trade deadline on Tuesday afternoon, but the question may be—do they have the pieces to attract an impact starter?
According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, that was part of the reason why the White Sox were unsuccessful in their efforts to acquire Zack Greinke.
That could very well hurt them in the pursuit of other pitchers on the market as well.
One guy that could certainly be of help is Tampa Bay Rays starter James Shields. Shields has had his struggles this season with an 8-7 record and 4.52 ERA. However, Shields represents a guy who can get it done, as evidenced by his terrific 2011 campaign.
The question is whether or not Williams can somehow put together an attractive package or involve another team to facilitate the transaction.
This from an article I wrote last week:
The Cincinnati Reds have already indicated their disappointment in the production of current center fielder Drew Stubbs. John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote that the Reds would look into reducing Stubbs' current role with the team.
The Twins are looking for pitching—GM Terry Ryan has already made that pretty clear. Span has been hitting better of late, raising his average to .280 and on-base percentage to .344.
That's a far sight better than what the Reds have produced from the leadoff position thus far in 2012 (.202/.248).
The Twins haven't indicated that they intend to keep Span, with Ryan already stating that no position player is off-limits.
The Cleveland Indians are desperately trying to hang on to hope in the American League, now 4.5 games behind in the AL Central Division and the same length back in the Wild Card standings as of late Saturday afternoon.
According to the buzz on the internet in recent days, the Indians seem more inclined to be sellers rather than going all in for a possible playoff berth this season. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN hinted at that in a tweet on Friday.
The #Indians are in a holding pattern right now. They'd like to upgrade their rotation, but they have no interest in a rental.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 27, 2012
This makes sense, given the fact that the Tribe is not dealing from a position of strength in terms of their farm system, having given up top prospects already with the acquisition of Ubaldo Jimenez last year.
The Detroit Tigers have already made a move to strengthen themselves for the postseason by adding second baseman Omar Infante and pitcher Anibal Sanchez. Now, they may be on the hunt for a solid outfield bat. According to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, the player that may intrigue them the most right now is New York Mets outfielder Scott Hairston.
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowksi already gave up a lot in acquiring both Infante and Sanchez, but Hairston won't cost nearly as much. Signed to just one year and $1.1 million, Hairston won't cost Dombrowksi an arm and a leg, certainly not someone like Nick Castellanos.
With 12 HR and 39 RBI in just 220 at-bats, Hairston would give Tigers manager Jim Leyland a powerful option.
Now that the Los Angeles Angels have added Zack Greinke to their rotation, many may think that the Angels and general manager Jerry DiPoto may be done dealing.
However, one more reliever might be in order.
The Angels would love to add another left-hander for the bullpen, and Colorado Rockies southpaw Matt Reynolds would fit the bill quite nicely.
Reynolds has posted a 3.61 ERA in 46 appearances thus far and would give the Halos an alternative to current left-hander Scott Downs, who has sputtered a bit of late.
With Chicago Cubs starter Matt Garza feeling no ill effects from his Saturday session of throwing off flat ground, it could be good news for teams thinking of adding the right-hander, including the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Shut out thus far in their quest to land an impact starter, the Dodgers will likely turn to either Garza or James Shields with the hope of bolstering their rotation in order to keep up with the San Francisco Giants in the NL West.
This from an article I wrote last week:
The New York Yankees just got through pulling off a blockbuster trade with their acquisition of outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.
Now, they may have to look for insurance at third base.
Alex Rodriguez was hit on the left hand by a pitch in the eighth inning of Tuesday night's against the Seattle Mariners. Rodriguez will be put on the disabled list with a non-displaced fracture (h/t Daily (N.Y.) News).
GM Brian Cashman does have Eric Chavez and Jayson Nix in house, but he will likely look for outside options. Mike Fontenot could fit the bill.
Hitting .298 in limited action with the Phillies, Fontenot won't cost Cashman much and can provide depth while Rodriguez is on the mend.
It's not known whether or not the Phillies will make Fontenot available, especially in the wake of Placido Polanco hitting the disabled list with back issues.
I suggested this in an article last week:
The Oakland A's have surged big time of late, winning 15 of 17 games in the month of July to pull ahead of the Los Angeles Angels into second place in the AL West, just five games behind the Texas Rangers.
It certainly appears that GM Billy Beane will be buying, and shortstop Stephen Drew could be a target. Drew has played in 18 games since his return from the disabled list, still finding his way with a .222 batting average.
However, it's still a whole lot better than the production provided by Cliff Pennington.
Drew is in the final year of his contract with a mutual option for next season, so Beane won't need to give up much in the way of top prospects at all.
Drew has drawn plenty of interest from other teams as well, but he would be a great fit in Oakland given Pennington's complete lack of offense.
The A's are now just 4.5 games in back of the Texas Rangers in the NL West, and given what the Angels have done to bolster their roster for the stretch run, it's almost inconceivable at this point that Beane won't consider adding key pieces himself.
It's hard to believe that outfielder Juan Pierre was a non-roster invitee when the Philadelphia Phillies signed him to a minor-league contract in late January, considering he made $8.5 million last year with the Chicago White Sox.
But that's where Pierre found himself. Pierre not only played himself onto the Phillies' roster, but has posted a .305 batting average with 23 stolen bases and now stands as a player who has generated considerable interest in the trade market.
Pierre could be a great get for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Leadoff hitters for the Pirates have hit just .218 for the entire season—Pierre would give them an entirely different look at the top of the lineup.
As mentioned in an earlier slide, the Cleveland Indians, based on recent buzz on the web, seem destined to be sellers rather than buyers despite being just 4.5 games out of a possible playoff berth.
If that's the case, the San Francisco Giants should absolutely make a play for closer Chris Perez.
Here is what I wrote about Perez last week:
With the recent problems of current Giants closer Santiago Casilla, the Giants are looking to bolster the back end of their bullpen.
While the Indians haven't yet given up on the 2012 season, they are 4-7 since the All-Star break and headed in the wrong direction in the AL Central.
It could be deja vu all over again.
Perez has been an All-Star for two consecutive seasons; has 27 saves with a 2.97 ERA; is affordable, with a $4.5 million contract; and under team control for two more seasons.
Since that writing, Perez has saved two more games and looks as good as he looked all season long. The Giants should absolutely pounce.
The St. Louis Cardinals are once again buckling down for a possible playoff berth, ready to defend last year's World Series championship.
They would do well to do what they did last year at the trade deadline—bolster their bullpen.
Last year's acquisitions of Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel were key to the Cardinals down the stretch, and they may well need that same magic this season.
Shawn Camp of the Chicago Cubs could serve to be that helping hand. Camp has been a bright spot in the Cubs' bullpen, posting a 2.68 ERA in 49 appearances. With a salary of just $550K, it wouldn't cost GM John Mozeliak much in the way of prospects to obtain his services.
Catchers for the Tampa Bay Rays are collective hitting below the Mendoza line—a .198 average with a paltry .561 OPS.
Boston Red Sox backup catcher Kelly Shoppach is hitting .270 with an .880 OPS.
Shoppach hit only .185 in his two seasons in Tampa Bay, but considering his turnaround this season, is it now time for the Rays to bring him back?
With the Texas Rangers swinging and missing on Zack Greinke, they will likely continue to pursue other top pitchers on the market.
With the asking price the Miami Marlins are likely to look for to part with Josh Johnson, Texas may be out of the running for his services as well, especially considering their unwillingness to part with prospect third baseman Mike Olt.
Dempster is only under contract for the rest of this season, so his asking price shouldn't be nearly as high as it would be for Johnson. The big question is whether or not Dempster would agree to the deal, considering his reticence to approve a proposed trade with the Atlanta Braves.
In an earlier slide, we identified the Atlanta Braves as suitors for Miami Marlins starting pitcher Josh Johnson. However, they're not the only game/team in town.
The Toronto Blue Jays have also been named as a team aggressively pursuing Johnson as well (via ESPN).
Johnson fits the type of player that GM Alex Anthopoulos prefers—under team control, albeit expensively. Johnson is owed roughly $5.5 million for the remainder of this season and $13.75 million next season before he hits free agency.
However, considering the struggles of ace Ricky Romero and injuries to Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison, the Blue Jays could very well up the stakes.
The Washington Nationals have every intention of shutting down ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg at some point, whenever he reaches the innings limit imposed by general manager Mike Rizzo.
If and when that happens, they're going to need some reinforcements.
Chicago Cubs pitcher Paul Maholm could act as the cavalry.
Here is what I wrote about Maholm last week:
Maholm is now 9-6 with a 3.88 ERA on the season and has become an attractive trade chip for the Cubs.
The Nationals may need some insurance in the rotation if GM Mike Rizzo follows through in shutting down star pitcher Stephen Strasburg sometime in early September.
Maholm just could be that insurance policy.
Maholm is slated to start Sunday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals. It very well could be his last in a Cubs uniform.
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.