Major League Baseball's non-waiver trade deadline is July 31st, so interest in players on the block will really start to pick up after this year's All-Star break.
As it always is in MLB contender circles, finding an extra bat, defender, starting pitcher or reliever will carry a high premium for teams in need of one more piece to bolster their roster.
Conversely, making the choice to sell a starter on a bad team can reap significant rewards in the form of future prospects.
Our latest roundup of MLB trade rumors concerns two pitchers of note—Chicago Cubs starter Matt Garza and Chicago White Sox reliever Matt Thornton. Each could be in new uniforms by the time August begins, so take a look below at the rumors surrounding these two hurlers potentially leaving the Windy City.
Garza is the hottest starting pitching name on the open market. The Cubs are in fourth place in the National League Central (prior to Monday night's games), and are considered to be a seller yet again at the deadline.
However, a rumor on Monday put the Cubs in a position to keep Garza for the long haul.
According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, the Cubs are now considering a move to negotiate with Garza and his agent about a long-term extension to stay with the club:
Cubs officials recently have broached such a possibility, and while a trade still remains an option for Garza, for the first time in more than a year there are discussions about possibly signing Garza long-term. It had been presumed for weeks he would be traded for sure...The Cubs could also trade Garza, then try to re-engage him in the winter, another distinct possibility.
Heyman later added to his earlier report with a Twitter post:
update: w/ Garza healthy/hot, cubs now talking multiyear deal, via industry source, tho gap remains. http://t.co/bXIxbV1lvN— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) July 8, 2013
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal perpetuated rumors of a long-term extension with this tweet:
Signing Garza has always been option for #Cubs. Keeping him and making him one-year qualifying offer at end of season also an option.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 8, 2013
Heyman initially quoted a source with Cubs knowledge as saying that Garza was a "goner" in his pre-deadline roundup of potential trade moves, but Chicago is now reportedly having a change of heart with respect to their staff ace.
Percentage meter: How likely is it that Garza stays in Chicago past the trade deadline?
While Garza is clearly one of the best pitchers in the NL when healthy, his trade value will likely never be higher. At age 29, he's 4-1 in only nine starts this year, but has completed seven innings in each of his last four starts and is 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA in that span.
Heyman listed the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals as teams who might be interested in Garza's services if the Cubs decide to sell.
It's unclear if these reported talks are a smokescreen to keep high-caliber offers coming in or they will get to an advanced stage, but it would appear that Chicago is exploring all options when it comes to Garza's future in the Windy City.
Andrew Miller is on the disabled list in Boston, but help might be on the way in the form of Chicago White Sox lefty Matt Thornton.
According to Rosenthal, both the Red Sox and Atlanta Braves are two teams with interest in the 36-year-old reliever:
Thornton is in his eighth season with the White Sox and his 10th MLB season overall. The first two came with the Seattle Mariners; Thornton was traded from Seattle to Chicago in 2006 and has been with the franchise ever since.
Craig Breslow is the only lefty in the Boston bullpen right now, so it makes sense that the Red Sox would be targeting a veteran reliever to employ in late-inning matchups.
With an 0-2 record and a 3.04 ERA this year, Thornton has been solid for a club that is currently dead last in the American League Central. The White Sox are on the short list of sellers in the AL, and Thornton will likely pull a solid prospect in return for his services to a contender.
Rumors haven't started flying in MLB circles just yet, but with a few more weeks and the All-Star break to come, don't be fooled by the calm before the storm.
Follow Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.