While the Major League Baseball trading deadline is still nearly three months off, it's never too early to start musing about which players might be moved, where they could be headed and which teams must look to improve their roster.
In other words, bring on the rumors!
Today, I've identified three rumors about big names that could potentially be on the move this summer. While the departure of each would come as a surprise, it wouldn't be a shocker if their teams struggle into July.
Let's get speculating.
David Price, Tampa Bay Rays
It's no secret the Rays have struggled to start the season, currently 14-18 and fourth in the AL East. While it's obviously way too soon to suggest the team should start trading off pieces left and right, one player that could be moved is starting pitcher David Price.
From Jayson Stark of ESPN:
"Let's say they're right about .500 at the All-Star break," said [a major league executive]. "If there's one team, and one front office, in one market where they just might say, `We're not good enough to win it this year,' and deal him, they're that team."
And what kind of market would there be for David Price in July, two-plus seasons from free agency? "Epic," the exec said. "Everyone can use a David Price. He starts Game 1 or Game 2 [of a postseason series] for every team in baseball."
Price has scuffled to start the season, with a 1-3 record, 6.25 ERA, 1.48 WHIP and 40 strikeouts. Last year's Cy Young winner hasn't hit his stride just yet, and perhaps not coincidentally, neither have the Rays.
Price is still young (27), but he won't be cheap for the Rays to hold onto into the future. For a team that seems to recycle elite pitchers faster than the Pittsburgh Steelers rotate All-Pro linebackers, moving him at the peak of his value could make sense.
But if the Rays think there is any chance of making the playoffs and winning a World Series, he won't be going anywhere.
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
For a moment, imagine the Miami Marlins actually moving Giancarlo Stanton. It seems crazy, right? After all, he's the team's only marketable player at this point, he's only 23 years old and he's still unbelievably affordable.
But according to Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly, that hasn't stopped the Philadelphia Phillies from inquiring. A lot:
According to a major-league executive with knowledge of the situation, the Phillies over the last several months have made “multiple” inquiries to the Marlins about Stanton’s availability in a trade. The Phils, like every other team salivating over the 23-year-old slugger, have been told he’s not available.
The feeling around baseball is that Stanton could become available at some point and the Phils have let it be known they want to speak with the Marlins when and if they decide to move the young, power-hitting rightfielder.
Stanton is currently out until June with a hamstring injury and struggled before hitting the disabled list, hitting .227 with three home runs and nine RBI in 20 games. But few young sluggers are more highly regarded in baseball, and he would certainly bring some much-needed pop to the Phillies lineup.
The odds of the Marlins trading Stanton at all this year—let alone to a division rival—are probably slim to none. The team would literally have no one worth getting excited about on the roster. But it's hard to envision Stanton remaining a Marlin in the future, even if he sticks around this season.
Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
Might the Phillies actually entertain the notion of trading Chase Utley if the playoffs seem out of the picture by the trade deadline? It seems unlikely, seeing as the Phillies should at least be sticking around in the wild card race.
But teams will certainly be inquiring this season about his services.
The biggest buzz from teams eyeing the Phillies revolves around whether a sell-off, if it happens, would include Chase Utley, who is in the last year of his contract. One exec who says he's done some reconnaissance on that topic says his impression is that the Phillies would approach Utley first and get a feel for whether he wants to go elsewhere. Utley's contract allows him to block trades to 21 teams. He'll be just short of 10-and-5 trade-veto rights at the deadline.
As a Philadelphian myself, I can tell you this—if the team traded Utley, there might be a riot. Few athletes in my lifetime have been more universally beloved by this city. Perhaps only Brian Dawkins has been loved more by the Philly faithful in the last 15 years.
Plus, if the team traded Utley, it would be a sure sign the season was over. Utley has been the team's best player this year, hitting .276 with seven home runs and 24 RBI. His departure would be the end of a very successful era in Phillies baseball.
And probably not a very safe time to be on the city's streets.