The trade deadline is finally upon us and the pitching-market rumor mill is beginning to overflow.
Some of the biggest names originally made available are off the table, with the Zack Greinke trade to the Angels and Cole Hamels' extension, in addition to the Francisco Liriano deal, but the potential is still there for a huge July 31st.
Ace-caliber pitchers such as Josh Johnson, Ryan Dempster and James Shields are all very much available, as well as lower-tier guys such as Jason Vargas and Kevin Correia. In addition, in spite of a weak reliever market that lost its top potential target with Huston Street's extension in San Diego, there are still a couple of All-Stars in Jonathan Broxton and Chris Perez who could be on the move.
Here are the hottest rumors for 10 of the top pitching arms available as we head into tomorrow's MLB Trade Deadline.
After an explosive spending spree heading into the 2012 season, the Marlins clubhouse' never came together as planned, and the front office has begun to sell off its parts.
Hanley Ramirez was dealt to the Dodgers to get rid of his contract, and Anibal Sanchez was traded with Omar Infante to the Tigers in two moves that essentially signaled the end of Miami's 2012 season.
In what has become the Marlins' third fire-sale in the last 15 years, Josh Johnson looks like the next big name to move, although the price appears to be exorbitantly high.
ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reported that the Marlins are asking for each team's top two or three prospects in return for their ace. In a similar report, CBSSports' Danny Knobler wrote they were looking for a package that exceeded the Brewers' return for Zack Greinke, which included three of the Angels' best prospects, including consensus top-50 player SS Jean Segura.
There are many potential suitors for Johnson, with the Blue Jays reportedly interested, and the Red Sox sent their top scout to watch his most recent outing, according to ESPN's Jim Bowden. However, it appears Miami has asked for too much from the Rangers, as their interest in Johnson has faded.
It should be an interesting next 36 hours for the Marlins organization and their fans, as history has shown that when they sell, they really sell.
Ryan Dempster did his best Dwight Howard impersonation by blocking a trade to the Braves because he "felt blindsided" that the Cubs did not tell him of a deal first and he preferred a trade to the Dodgers.
Since rejecting the Braves deal, the Cubs' negotiations with the Dodgers have reached a stalemate. Buster Olney followed up in a separate report that the two teams had "no current dialogue" as of July 27th, so a potential move to the West Coast is up in the air.
Whether he moves to Atlanta, Los Angeles or not at all, Dempster's name will assuredly be rampant throughout the rumor mill as tomorrow's deadline approaches.
Now that Zack Greinke is off the market, James Shields moves up the list of best pitchers available, and the top teams are doing their due diligence
The Tampa Bay Times reported that the Braves, Dodgers, Indians and Rangers were all interested, and CBSSports' Scott Miller added that the Rangers preferred the Rays' right-hander as opposed to Josh Johnson.
Rival executives believe Shields will be moved before the deadline, and Texas appears to be his most likely destination if he's moved. However, the Rays are just two games out of the AL Wild Card race, and with Evan Longoria on his way back, I would be surprised if they pulled the trigger.
However, after suffering a triceps injury in his most recent outing last weekend, Garza will not pitch for another week, which will make it harder for Theo Epstein and the Cubs to find a deal.
Jon Heyman reported that if he is not dealt this week, it is likely he will be dealt this winter, but there is still a chance he is moved as Ken Wiesenthal of FOX Sports wrote that teams are still calling about Garza.
Injured pitchers have been moved before, such as the Jake Peavy trade to the White Sox despite his injury, and with the Dodgers still expressing serious interest, the Cubs right-hander may finally find a new home
For a team with the second highest salary in all of baseball, there sure are a lot of issues in Philadelphia.
The Phillies came into 2012 with World Series aspirations but with a 45-57 record, they sit near the cellar of the MLB standings and face a nearly insurmountable 16.5 game deficit in the NL East.
As of Friday, Jon Heyman reported that the Phillies planned to hold onto Cliff Lee as they will "try to improve." However, after getting swept by the Braves this weekend, it will be interesting to see if Ruben Amaro Jr. changes his plan and puts Lee back on the market.
The Rangers were reportedly interested in Lee as a backup plan to Hamels and Greinke, so it would not surprise me to see the lanky left-hander back in a Texas uniform when the calendar turns to August.
When Huston Street signed his extension Sunday morning, Royals GM Dayton Moore probably cracked a big smile knowing his closer's price tag just inched a little bit higher.
Heading into Monday, both the Giants and Rangers remain interested in the hard throwing reliever, with the Royals looking for prospect Justin Grimm in a possible deal with Texas, according to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star.
When closer Brian Wilson succumbed to injury in the first month of the season, Giants manager Bruce Bochy chose Santiago Casilla as his replacement, and he filled in brilliantly.
However, after allowing just three earned runs in 23 innings during the first two months of the season, he has since given up 10 runs in just 14 innings as the Giants expand their search for late inning help.
While Cleveland is still within striking distance, they are still two games under .500. Vinnie Pestano is a dominant set-up man that has future closer written all over him, so trading Perez to the Giants looks like a deal that makes sense for both sides.
Despite losing his job as the Mariners closer, Brandon League still has garnered a lot of interest on the trade market.
CBS Sports' Danny Knobler reported the White Sox were interested, and Morosi added to the list saying both the Angels and the Giants were talking with Seattle, with San Francisco having discussions as recent as Sunday night.
League is still a hard-throwing reliever who pumps it up to 95 MPH with regularity. His ground-ball numbers are down this season. but with a 1.96 ERA over the past two months, he would certainly make a great addition to a contending team's bullpen.
Despite having baseball's second worst record, the Colorado Rockies have some valuable pieces on their roster.
Betancourt would be the main attraction, as his 3.17 ERA over the course of his 10-year career is nothing to scoff at. He has proven himself in the ninth inning this year, with 17 saves in his first full season as a closer, and it should not be a surprise that as many as nine teams have shown interest (multiple reports) in the hard-throwing RHP.
Reynolds is a young, underrated 6'5" LHP who strikes out a batter per inning with a 3.60 ERA. His average fastball hovers around 90 MPH, but since he cannot become a free agent until 2017, the team that acquires would have him under control for the next five seasons.
Now for the most underrated name that could move by July 31, I give you Jason Vargas.
The Mariners LHP is not a flashy name by any means, but over the past three seasons, he has piled up 30 wins with a 3.95 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. In addition, he has been stellar this month, going 4-0 with a 1.46 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 37 innings.
The one drawback I often see and read about with Vargas are his drastic home/road splits.
While they most certainly exist this season (2.63 ERA at home vs. 4.67 ERA on the road), last year they were the opposite, with a 3.79 ERA on the road vs. a 4.56 ERA at home. Here are three stats that are more important to me:
In 12 combined starts vs. OAK, DET, TEX, LAA, BOS (all playoff contenders), Vargas is 6-3 has a 3.44 ERA in 81 innings.