Days until the trade deadline: 20
Teams within 10 games of playoff spot: 24
Teams not within 10 games of playoff spot: Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Miami Marlins, Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners
Notable July Trades
Cubs trade starting pitcher Scott Feldman to the Baltimore Orioles (7/2/13)
Marlins trade starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco to Los Angeles Dodgers (7/7/13)
Cubs trade outfielder Scott Hairston to Washington Nationals (7/8/13)
Lincecum and Pence popular trade targets if Giants decide to sell
With 19 losses in their last 25 games, the Giants have fallen to 41-50 and 6.5 games behind the Diamondbacks in the NL West. While that's not a deficit that should cause the team to panic, their play on the field is a cause for concern.
If they become "sellers" at the deadline, general manager Brian Sabean would have a rare chance for his team to add some talent to the farm system by trading some free-agents-to-be. As Danny Knobler of CBS Sports notes, outfielder Hunter Pence and starting pitcher Tim Lincecum would be attractive pieces.
The duo, who also made my "7 MLB Names Who Could Be Trade Bait..." piece from earlier in the week, aren't near the players they've been in the past, but they're still recognizable names with postseason experience and success during a playoff run.
Lincecum's value is on the rise, simply because he hasn't had any terrible starts in a while. The 29-year-old (pictured), who had a season-high 11 strikeouts in his last start, has a 3.83 ERA with 13 walks and 44 strikeouts in 42.1 innings over his last seven starts. He had allowed at least four earned runs in seven of his first 11 starts of the season. Considering his age and the fact that he was one of the best pitchers in the game not too long ago, teams will be interested.
The 30-year-old Pence is mired in a 4-for-40 slump with no walks and seven strikeouts this month. He's still on pace for a 20 homer/20 stolen base season, but his value is much lower than when he was traded in July 2011 (from Houston to Philadelphia for 1B Jonathan Singleton, OF Domingo Santana, RHP Jarred Cosart and RHP Josh Zeid) and from the Phillies to the Giants last July (for C Tommy Joseph, OF Nate Schierholtz and RHP Seth Rosin).
If the Giants are to get anything close to what they're hoping to get for either free-agent-to-be, they'll likely have to eat some of the remaining salary. Lincecum's salary is $22 million. Pence is making $13.8 million.
Peavy-Towers reunion in Arizona?
Talks surrounding the Diamondbacks and a potential starting pitcher upgrade had died down over the past few days, with general manager Kevin Towers saying he felt comfortable enough with his current rotation and believed that injured pitchers Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy would return healthy in the near future, as noted in a tweet from Jack Magruder of Fox Sports Arizona.
It was also noted in the same tweet that the D'backs would not trade top prospects Archie Bradley or Tyler Skaggs. But what if neither of those pitchers is required to acquire a top starter?
My recent trade prediction for Cubs starter Matt Garza involved the Diamondbacks acquiring the right-hander for starter Randall Delgado and third base prospect Matt Davidson. Now Buster Olney of ESPN is reporting that White Sox scouts have watched Delgado and the two teams have discussed Jake Peavy (pictured).
The 31-year-old right-hander, who is currently on the disabled list with a fractured rib, could return to the rotation after the All-Star break and will likely have several interested teams keeping tabs. Peavy's under contract for at least one more season ($14.5 million in 2014; $15 million vesting player option in 2015), and he has been pitching very well since last season (3.59 ERA, 286 IP, 254 H, 64 BB, 260 K) so the price tag will be high.
Towers is very familiar with Peavy, who he drafted while general manager of the Padres in 1999. Peavy was the team's best starting pitcher during his time in San Diego from 2002 until Towers traded him to the White Sox in July 2009. Now, Towers could get him back for the stretch run.
Delgado (3.82 ERA, 33 IP, 44 H, 4 BB, 28 K) isn't a top-of-the-rotation starter, but the Sox might figure that a solid No. 3 or 4 starter paired with one of Arizona's better prospects not named Bradley or Skaggs would be enough to make a deal. The savings on Peavy could be re-invested back into the free-agent market in the offseason.
Red Sox focused on bullpen help
Several teams perceived as "sellers", including the Brewers and White Sox, have multiple relief pitchers receiving interest on the trade market. The Red Sox are said to be one contending team with strong interest in improving their bullpen and, according this tweet from Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, they have their top pitching scout, Eddie Bane, watching the White Sox closely.
White Sox closer Addison Reed was among those mentioned by Cafardo, but he's not even eligible for arbitration until after the 2014 season so the price will be extremely high if he was made available. Veteran lefty Matt Thornton (3.86 ERA, 18 holds), who has a $6 million club option in 2014, and right-hander Matt Lindstrom (pictured; 3.03 ERA, 10 holds), who has a $4 million club option, are more likely targets.
Cafardo adds that the Sox would love to acquire a healthy Jesse Crain. He's currently on the disabled list with a shoulder strain but could return shortly after the All-Star break and ease any concerns on his health by making 3-4 appearances before the trade deadline. If the 32-year-old, who has an 0.74 ERA with 11 walks and 46 strikeouts in 36.2 innings, comes back strong, he'd be a hot commodity over the last few days of July.
The Red Sox have also checked in with the Giants, another potential "seller" with bullpen arms that could be available, according to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports. Lefty Javier Lopez, who had a 3.30 ERA in 172 appearances with the Sox from 2006-2009, is the lone free-agent-to-be, although the Giants could look to sell high on closer Sergio Romo, who is under team control through the 2014 season.
Royals could have top starting pitcher on trade market
One free-agent-to-be starting pitcher who isn't expected to go anywhere is Royals right-hander Ervin Santana (pictured). That's because, as I pointed out in my recent "MLB Teams With the Most On The Line at the Trade Deadline" piece, the team went all out this offseason to upgrade its pitching staff and it's not giving up so easily, which would further alienate a very frustrated fanbase.
At 43-46, the Royals are only six games back in the AL Central. Behind a very strong pitching staff, they have the potential to go on a run if their young hitters can all get it going at the same time for once. But if that doesn't happen and they fall further back in the pennant race—to be more specific, I'd say 10-12 games back during the last week of July would be tough to rebound from—they'd have to consider putting Santana on the market.
Why? Because he has huge value, as noted by Danny Knobler of CBS Sports, who takes a look at what has led to the the 30-year-old right-hander's bounce-back season in 2013.
Santana is also a free agent at season's end and is putting himself into position to get a sizable contract in the offseason, one that the Royals probably can't afford. With an ERA that jumped to 3.37 after his worst start of the season on Thursday (5 IP, 8 ER, 10 H), Santana is still on pace to finish the season with the kind of numbers that would earn him at least a four-year, $52 million deal in the offseason.
The numbers that stand out the most, in terms of what kind of pitcher Santana is, are the 12 starts of at least seven innings pitched and three earned runs allowed or less in 13 of 18 starts. Not too many No. 1 starters are capable of doing that. He'll likely get paid like one in the offseason and the Royals could look to market him as an "ace" on the trade market.
A scout recently told Knobler that Santana could be better than Garza, who is currently considered the top available pitcher on the trade market. With that in mind, general manager Dayton Moore will have to think long and hard about how realistic his team's chances are to make the playoffs in 2013. If the answer is "slim to none", the best move for the good of the franchise, whether Moore is a part of the future or not, will be to trade Santana for prospects.