With a quarter of the MLB season in the books, Memorial Day on the horizon and All-Star ballot boxes stuffed with candidates for the spectacle at Citi Field, the 2013 campaign is far from young at this point.
Contenders are emerging, while pretenders are sorting through the reality of a lost summer, angry fanbases and disappointment.
June is primarily the month to decide how to approach the July and August trading season. In other words, teams have to figure out if they're in or out of the pennant race.
If ownership and baseball operations decide to sell, the landscape of a franchise can change for years.
For now, we speculate. Using a formula based on run differential, whispers around the league, current standings and overall organizational philosophy, a list of potential trade targets can easily be assembled.
Without further ado, here are 10 MLB stars who are going to be on the move sometime this summer. As the headline states, we'd be shocked if they weren't.
Stats: 1 GS, 5 IP, 5 K, 3 BB, 0.00 ERA, 2.83 FIP, 0.1 WAR*
*Garza made his first start of the season on Tuesday night.
Garza, the 29-year-old strikeout artist, is back in the Chicago rotation. Don't expect him to stay very long, though.
No, not because of another long-term injury. While that's always a concern with the oft-injured right-handed pitcher, it's more likely that Garza will serve as trade bait this summer for the rebuilding Cubs.
When right, few available assets can make the kind of difference that Garza can for a contender.
Since becoming a full-time starter for the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, Garza has posted a 3.74 ERA across 894 innings.
His 3.48 career postseason ERA, including a run to the World Series with Tampa, will make him attractive to any contender looking toward October. Furthermore, he's already thrived in the AL East, dispelling the notion that he would wilt coming from the NL to the AL in a potential deal.
Stats: .309/.348/.412, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 19 R, 0.9 WAR
Once upon a time, Justin Morneau was a star, profiling as a long-term building block for the mid-market Twins and bash brother, or, if you prefer, M&M boy alongside Joe Mauer.
The Morneau hype wasn't just fodder, either. While his 2006 MVP could have gone to Derek Jeter or other worthy candidates, there's no denying that the 88 HR and 132 OPS+ from 2006 to 2008 was star production.
Unfortunately, that player has disappeared. Injuries, specifically concussion issues, derailed what was shaping up as an outstanding career.
Yet the fact that Morneau is back on the field, playing every day and hitting at an above-average clip, will make him attractive to any team in need of pop from first base or the designated hitter position this summer.
Minnesota isn't going anywhere, but Morneau's expiring contract will be on the move sooner than later.
Stats: 9 GS, 63.2 IP, 50 K, 11 BB, 2.83 ERA, 3.00 FIP, 1.4 WAR
As Lee explained to Jon Heyman, via CBS Sports, he wants to win and is hoping the Phillies turn it around. Of course, those things aren't necessarily connected.
Phillies fans have danced this dance before. In fact, last August was nearly the end of Lee's second run in Philadelphia when he was placed on waivers by general manager Ruben Amaro.
Of course, he wasn't allowed to be taken off Philadelphia's hands for nothing, returned for this season and is still owed at least $62.5 million through the end of the 2015 season.
While that number is staggering, the true commitment to Lee is diminishing by the day, but his stuff and ability are not following suit.
In other words, he can change the entire landscape of a pennant race if a team is willing to give up dollars and/or prospects to acquire the 34-year-old ace.
Unless the Phillies are fooling us all, they'll eventually come to the realization that trading Lee is the quickest way to rebuild a team on the downswing.
Stats: 8 GS, 51.2 IP, 58 K, 13 BB, 3.31 ERA, 3.30 FIP, 1.3 WAR
From 2003 to 2008, Jake Peavy was one of the best pitchers in the game, striking out exactly one batter per inning, winning a Cy Young and leading the league in strikeouts in two different seasons.
Then, he became a forgotten man. Due to a myriad of injuries, Peavy went from a big fish in a small San Diego pond to a fish out of water in Chicago.
From 2009 through 2011, the former ace made just 51 starts, pitching to a 4.35 ERA and coming nowhere close to giving his team value for the $42 million he was paid for his right arm.
Of course, there's Act Three to the career of Peavy.
Over his last 40 starts, dating back to Opening Day 2012, Peavy has a 3.36 ERA. His 5.8 WAR over that period is 10th among all starting pitchers in the sport. While his 8.38 K/9 isn't as dominant as the numbers he posted in the early San Diego days, it's still better than what Mat Latos, Josh Johnson or Jon Lester have posted over the same period.
If Chicago continues to toil in mediocrity, Peavy may have a chance to display in on a national stage with a contender this summer and fall.
Stats: .272/.339/.475, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 21 R, 1.5 WAR
While Philadelphia fans fell in love with a mercenary named Cliff Lee, eventually adopting him as one of their own and a major piece to their puzzle of contention, moving on from the 34-year-old starter wouldn't be a shock to the system of a fanbase.
Utley would represent that.
Since his debut in 2003, the city has been enamored with his bat, grit and leadership. His production, of course, always spoke for itself. Without embellishing in the slightest, Utley has hit like a Hall of Fame second baseman for a long, long time.
Hip and knee injuries will probably rob him of the counting stats needed to enter Cooperstown, but if he can stay healthy, his impending free agency will be quite intriguing.
With the uncertainty of cost and health staring down Philadelphia's ownership this coming offseason, moving him in July would be tough to swallow—but ultimately the right move.
He's not the Utley of old, but he's still been the fifth-most-valuable second baseman in the sport.
Stats: 10 GS, 56 IP, 35 K, 20 BB, 3.86 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 0.8 WAR
Bud Norris? Who?
For now, he's the nominal ace of the Houston Astros. Within a few months, he could be a very valuable fourth starter on a contender. With some run support, a winning environment and the right pitching coach to refine his mechanics, Norris could eventually turn into even more in the coming years.
At the age of 28, Norris is still very young by baseball service standards. He won't be eligible for free agency until 2016. In fact, his arbitration years haven't even begun, with the clock set to tick at the end of the 2013 campaign.
From 2011 to present, or, in other words, since Norris' first 30-start season, he has the 24th-highest K/9 rate in the game, ahead of stars like Roy Halladay, R.A. Dickey and Jered Weaver.
Due to pitching for a team that loses 100-plus games per season, his personal W-L record is only 17-28 over that span.
Come July, a contender could identify him as a diamond in the rough.
Stats: 10 GS, 61.1 IP, 50 K, 14 BB, 3.96 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 0.9 WAR
After back-to-back seasons of allowing 200-plus hits, declining strikeout rates and rising walk rates, Nolasco is looking more and more like the valuable pitcher that he was from 2008 through 2010.
Considering that he's taking the mound every fifth day for one of the worst teams in the sport, few fans may have noticed.
Opposing general managers have, though.
Come July, there's little reason for Miami to hold on to a pitcher that is a free agent after the season, will command millions on the open market and is probably clamoring for a chance to show the sport that he can pitch at a high level on a larger stage.
While he may not net the package of a Lee or Garza, Nolasco could be a cheaper option for a contender in need of quality innings.
Stats: 9 GS, 50.1 IP, 29 K, 18 BB, 3.58 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 0.7 WAR
Unlike the other trade candidates on this list, De La Rosa plays on a winning club. At 25-21, the Colorado Rockies are playing .543 baseball, sitting only one game out of the NL West lead and sporting the best run differential in the division.
Don't expect it to last.
After a torrid April, the Rockies have come back down to earth. At 9-10 in May, they aren't profiling as a bad team, but it's unlikely they are good enough to stay in the NL West throughout the summer with the Giants, Diamondbacks and Dodgers.
If they decide to sell, De La Rosa would be a very attractive piece to contenders. After missing all but three late September 2012 starts in the aftermath of 2011 Tommy John surgery, the 32-year-old left-hander is back.
Ironically, he's pitched better at Coors Field than on the road this season, but contenders could imagine him filling a back-of-the-rotation hole.
Stats: 8 GS, 49.1 IP, 39 K, 18 BB, 2.19 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 0.6 WAR
While Matt Garza is the prize of the Cubs rotation during the upcoming trading season, landing Scott Feldman wouldn't be such a bad consolation prize for a contender in need of a pitching upgrade.
In fact, over the last month Feldman has profiled as one of the most dominant starting pitchers in the game.
Since his April 26 start against the Miami Marlins, Feldman has posted a 1.27 ERA, held his opponents to a .192 batting average and allowed only 15 percent of batted balls to be put into play as hard-hit line drives.
Over that span, only Jordan Zimmermann, Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw have better ERAs.
With FIPs constantly in the 3s, it's possible that a move out of Arlington was all that Feldman needed to revive a career that looked very promising when he won 17 games for the 2009 Rangers.
If Chicago chooses to cash in the Feldman chip for prospects, a contender will benefit.
Stats: 18 G, 17 IP, 24 K, 10 BB, 1.59 ERA, 3.50 FIP
No, this isn't a cruel joke to New York Mets fans. In reality, it feels like a big prank being played on all of baseball.
Oliver Perez, a starting pitcher from 2002 through 2010, was supposed to be star, even posting a league-leading 11 K/9 mark and 2.98 ERA in 2004. Of course, that star never materialized.
By the end of his tumultuous tenure in New York, Perez's career looked over. His ERA from 2008 to 2010 was 5.17.
After a year away from major league competition in 2011, Perez reemerged last season in Seattle.
Now, almost magically, he's been reinvented as a dominant left-handed reliever. Against opposing left-handed batters, he's literally been untouchable this season.
If Seattle puts him on the trade block this summer, they'll market a LOOGY that is holding opposing lefties to a .357 OPS.
As crazy at it seems, Perez's skill set is uniquely perfect for big pennant-chasing moments.
Which stars do you expect to see moved this summer?
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