With the July 31 trade deadline quickly approaching, many Major League Baseball teams will be looking to make the right moves in order to make a run in 2013 or to build for the future.
Teams like the Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins and Houston Astros have already made moves to build for the future, and figure to be some of the biggest sellers at the end of July.
On the other side of the spectrum, teams like the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics and almost every team in the American League East are all in the midst of playoff races, and will be looking to add that extra piece to help propel them into October.
Besides all of those teams, who else will be the biggest movers and shakers come July 31? Let's look.
Though this may be a little late, expect the Orioles to be one of the most aggressive teams at the trade deadline this season.
As reported Tuesday by ESPN.com, the Orioles acquired starting pitcher Scott Feldman and backup catcher Steve Clevenger from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for reliever Pedro Strop, starter Jake Arrieta and the third and fourth international bonus slots.
Acquiring Feldman helps solidify a Baltimore starting rotation that had been bitten by the injury bug this season. Going into Tuesday, Orioles' starting pitchers owned a 4.79 ERA, ranking 27th in the majors. The big piece of this trade for Baltimore was Feldman who has been solid this season for the Cubs, going 7-6 with a 3.46 ERA in 15 starts.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see Baltimore make another move or two come the deadline, especially if ace Wei-Yin Chen struggles in his return from an oblique injury.
As previously mentioned, the Chicago Cubs have already made a move by sending Scott Feldman to the Baltimore Orioles.
Feldman, however, wasn't the only move the Cubs made on Tuesday though, as they also sent former closer Carlos Marmol to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for reliever Matt Gueerier.
These two trades are only precursors for the Cubs, however, as pitcher Matt Garza remains the biggest target for teams looking to add to their rotation.
ESPN.com Insider Jason Churchill points out that Garza has certainly helped build his stock (subscription required) for the Cubs as of late, allowing only two earned runs over his last 22.0 innings to go with 23 strikeouts.
Churchill adds that teams like the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees could all be fits for Garza.
Outfielder Alfonso Soriano could also be on the move (like we haven't heard this before) and expressed back in February that he would be more open to a trade if the Cubs were to fall out of contention in 2013.
With the Cubs in rebuilding mode already, Soriano could be a solid option for any team in need of an extra bat.
With the exception of Madison Bumgarner, just about every starter on the San Francisco Giants pitching staff this season has been a disappointment.
Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong (currently on the designated list) have all struggled mightly, which has led to the defending champions fighting to keep themselves out of the basement in the National League West.
Usually, a team fighting to stay out of the basement is not considered a buyer. But thanks to the inconsistencies of their division rivals, the Giants still remain three games in back of the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks as of Wednesday, July 3.
The Giants have been tied to trade talks involving pitchers Matt Garza of the Cubs, Yovani Gallardo of the Brewers and Miami Marlins' starter Ricky Nolasco, as reported by Insider Doug Mittler of ESPN.com (subscription required).
Expect the Giants to make some sort of splash at the trade deadline to improve their rotation. One more solid starter could go a long way in a wide-open NL West in 2013, and could serve as the replacement for Tim Lincecum, who is set to hit free agency at the end of the season.
After a 2012 offseason in which the Mariners tried to improve their offense via trades and free agency, things have all but fallen apart again for the boys from the Northwest.
The full-on youth movement is already underway for the Mariners, as the likes of Nick Franklin, Mike Zunino and, most recently, Brad Miller have already been brought up from the farm.
With that in mind, Mariners like Mike Morse, Kendrys Morales and Joe Saunders could very well be targets for contenders looking for that extra piece. All three players are currently on one-year deals, and would fit the mold of a rental player for another team down the stretch.
Of the three, expect Morse to be the most sought after. Morse has struggled through some injuries this season, but when healthy, is a solid power option for any team.
A team like the New York Yankees could be a candidate for Morse given their struggles on offense this season; especially in the designated hitter spot. Yankees' DH's are batting a collective .214/.303/.386 with 14 home runs and 41 RBI among 11 players.
Despite an injury-riddled season for the New York Yankees, they have managed to keep the ship relatively afloat, and sit only 2.5 games out of the last wild card spot as of Wednesday, July 3.
Outside of Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner, the entire Yankees' offense has been borderline terrible. They rank in the bottom third of the league in almost every offensive category, despite the advantage of playing half of their games in one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the majors.
In spite of all this, the Yankees will still be buyers at the deadline because, well, they're the Yankees. The previously mentioned Mike Morse could be a target, as well as just about any other bat available on the market.
The biggest story going into the deadline for the Yankees is how economically responsible general manager Brian Cashman continues to be with the Yankees' payroll. If Cashman truly does not want to take on salaries, the Yankees may have to get creative in order to improve their lineup.
The Cubs will not be the only team from Chicago at the deadline that will be active, nor will they be the only team selling.
The White Sox currently sit in the basement in the American League Central, and need a major make-over before they can get serious about contending anytime soon.
With only Chris Sale and Paul Konerko being listed as untouchable, every player on the White Sox roster is at risk of being moved, which could make the White Sox the most active team at the trade deadline.
At this point, cleaning house completely maybe the best decision for the White Sox moving forward. Reliever Jesse Crain maybe the most valued asset on the White Sox roster, and would be a fit for teams in desperate need of a set-up man or closer.
Break up the Buccos!
In what has become the feel-good story of the baseball season, the Pittsburgh Pirates, who haven't had a winning season since 1992, are the proud owners of the best record in Major League Baseball.
Pitching has helped carry the Pirates this season, as they lead the majors in team ERA and batting average against, and rank third in the league in WHIP. Despite that, the Pirates could still be looking for another pitcher to help solidify their rotation.
With A.J. Burnett being considered the staff ace, the Pirates could be major players in big-name pitchers like Ricky Nolasco, Yovani Gallardo and Matt Garza. The addition of any of those three could go a long way in helping the Pirates make some noise come October.
It wouldn't surprise anyone to see the Pirates in play for another bat either, as they rank in the bottom third of the NL in runs, batting average and on-base percentage. Don't expect the Pirates to empty the farm for a bat, however, unless someone like Giancarlo Stanton becomes available.
While Giancarlo Stanton will most likely not be available in a trade, just about everyone else on the Marlins' roster will be.
So without Stanton on the market, who else could owner Jeffrey Loria possibly try and trade away? For starters, the Marlins seem very adamant on trading pitcher Ricky Nolasco, and doing it as soon as possible.
Nolasco ranks as one of the best available mound starters on the market, but according to ESPN's Jayson Stark, the timeliness of the deal is contingent on the Marlins' demands for Nolasco:
Miami continues to ask for multiple prospects in exchange for the 30-year-old Nolasco. The approximately $5.7 million left on the right-hander's contract also is an issue in the discussions, because the eventual price in players will depend on how much of that money Nolasco's new team is willing to pick up.
No matter how long it takes, there is almost no chance Nolasco doesn't get dealt, especially with his current deal expiring at the end of the season.
Outside of Nolasco, relievers Ryan Webb, Chad Qualls, Mike Dunn and Steve Cishek are the Miami players who hold the most value on the trade market, but it would most likely take the right deal for the Marlins to deal away any of those relievers.
With the depth of competition in the American League East, the first-place Boston Red Sox will all but certainly have to make a move in order to stay in front of their division rivals.
Hitting has not been a problem for the Red Sox, who lead the majors in runs and on-base percentage, and rank second in batting average and slugging percentage. Their problem has been at the back of the bullpen, where they rank fifth in blown saves on the season with 13.
With Koji Uehara in the closer's role for now, the Red Sox could stand to add another arm or two in case Uehara fails to deliver. Boston could also be looking at starting pitching as well, especially with Scott Barboza of ESPN Boston reporting that ace Clay Buchholz still has no timetable for his return.
Buchholz's return, as well as the continued success of John Lackey, will be key for the Red Sox' playoff hopes, especially given the struggles of Jon Lester.
Expect the Red Sox to make moves to improve the bullpen while also adding another starter to provide depth as insurance if Buchholz is out for an extended period of time.
The Houston Astros rank in the bottom third of the league in just about every statistical category and are ranked dead-last in ERA, WHIP and errors on the season.
The crazy thing is that the Astros rank last in ERA and WHIP despite a career year from their top trading chip, starting pitcher Bud Norris.
Norris is 5-7 with a 3.35 ERA and 71 strikeouts, and has really done the Astros a favor by performing as well as he has. Besides Norris, closer Jose Veras has been solid for Houston, converting 16-of-19 save opportunities while compiling a 3.60 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP.
It may sound silly for the Astros to deal their top two pitchers, but given the state of the Astros' organization, it is likely that Veras and Norris will not even be around by the time the team is competitive again.
Knowing that, Houston will be able to shop both Veras and Norris to teams in contention that are in desperate need of pitching help.
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