Playing Fact or Fiction with MLB's Top Trade Rumors
With every passing hour, we draw closer to the non-waiver trade deadline, putting added pressure on general managers around baseball to figure out whether their teams are going to be buying or selling over the next few weeks.
That passing of time corresponds with the rumor mill speeding up as well, with speculation and tidbits coming faster and more furious than at any point thus far during the regular season, and it's likely it will reach ludicrous speed before long.
What are we to make of all the speculation and innuendo?
Let's see if we can't make some sense of it all by playing one of America's favorite games: Fact or Fiction.
The Cubs Will Finally Trade Matt Garza
Since the end of the 2011 season, no player in baseball has been the subject of more trade rumors than Matt Garza, who, at one point or another, has been linked to nearly every team in baseball.
A free agent after the season, Garza confirmed that his representatives and the club have discussed a contract extension in the past few weeks, telling Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times that the chances of him signing a new deal with the Cubs were "50-50."
That, along with the fact that Chicago's asking price remains very high, as noted by ESPN's Buster Olney, would make you think the Cubs are going to hold on to the 29-year-old right-hander, especially as teams are typically loathe of paying a high price for what is essentially a two-month rental.
With Ricky Nolasco already off of the market, though, Garza is now the best pitcher available on the trade front. Olney believes that Saturday night's start against St. Louis will be the last one that Garza makes in a Cubs uniform, predicting that the veteran will be traded during the All-Star Break.
His excellent performance this season coupled with his experience in a pennant race, which includes being part of two AL East-winning teams with Tampa Bay in 2008 and 2010, makes him a valuable commodity to contenders that are looking to bolster their rotations—one that the rebuilding Cubs can't afford not to trade.
Milwaukee Will Trade Yovani Gallardo
It was only a few months ago that Yovani Gallardo was the present-and-future ace of Milwaukee's starting rotation, but a down season for the 27-year-old right-hander (4.83 ERA and 1.43 WHIP), coupled with the Brewers' dismal performance overall has found his name on the rumor mill.
Multiple teams, including the Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers, have been linked to Gallardo, a player that Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin values highly, as he told Anthony Witrado of the Sporting News back in June:
That Yovani is not a free agent like guys like (Zack) Greinke or Anibal Sanchez last year, he has more value than just two months of a rental, so the package from another team has to be something that will wow me.
With Gallardo posting the worst numbers of his career this season, now isn't exactly an ideal time for the Brewers to move him, as teams are unlikely to offer the kind of package that a pitcher with Gallardo's track record would normally command.
That said, the Brewers have multiple holes on the roster that need to be filled, and moving someone of Gallardo's stature is one way to acquire multiple pieces to fill those holes in one fell swoop.
Still, it's difficult to see a scenario where another team really blows Melvin away by offering a package built around young pitching with high ceilings—the team's biggest need—especially when there are other arms on the market.
I believe it's far more likely we see Gallardo get dealt in the offseason rather than over the next few weeks.
The Yankees Will Trade Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes
No longer the untouchable prospects they were a few years back, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported recently that the New York Yankees were "aggressively" trying to move both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes.
Both are free agents after the season, and Chamberlain's numbers this year have been atrocious out of the bullpen (5.24 ERA, 1.70 WHIP), while Hughes has had an up-and-down season in the rotation (4.57 ERA, 1.29 WHIP).
While they are both nothing more than two-month rentals, Chamberlain would fetch far less in a deal than Hughes, who has been a far more effective pitcher away from Yankee Stadium than in the House That George Built:
With Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda both itching for a spot in the team's starting rotation, it's understandable why Hughes would be on the block. Yet GM Brian Cashman has always had an affinity for the right-hander, and he's unlikely to part with him for anything other than a substantial return.
The asking price for Chamberlain is sure to be far less, which makes the starter-turned-reliever far more likely to be dealt than his counterpart.
Verdict on Chamberlain: Fact
Verdict of Hughes: Fiction
Cleveland Will Trade for a Front-of-the-Rotation Arm
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports that Cleveland is interested in Chicago's Matt Garza and Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo, while ESPN's Jerry Crasnick says that Cleveland is not only looking for a starting pitcher, but one who is also under team control for more than the rest of the 2013 season.
Landing a starter that has at least a year left on his contract will require the Indians pick between two difficult options. Cleveland will either have to take back a terrible contract, or include one of its top prospects (SS Francisco Lindor, IF Dorssys Paulino or RHP Trevor Bauer) in the deal.
I just can't see the Indians going down either of those roads.
Sure, the team is in contention for a playoff spot, but mortgaging the future for a chance to make a run at a World Series title in 2013 seems foolish. Let's be real: Does anyone really believe that the Indians can beat Detroit in the playoffs?
With a 3-9 record against the Tigers this season, the honest answer is a resounding no.
Keep in mind the last starting pitcher the Indians sold the farm to acquire was Ubaldo Jimenez, and while none of the prospects Cleveland traded have lived up to expectations, Jimenez has been nothing short of a disaster in the American League.
Cleveland might land a starting pitcher before the trade deadline—just not one who is front-of-the-rotation caliber.
Philadelphia Will Not Trade Chase Utley
That's the stance that Philadelphia Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has taken, telling CBS Sports' Danny Knobler that he doesn't want to deal the five-time All-Star:
He's been an iconic player for us. My intention would be to keep him in our uniform for the rest of his career, if possible.
I kind of view Chase as a Phillie for life. That's my hope.
I've already written about how this is the wrong stance for Philadelphia to take, though I do understand where the team is coming from. It's incredibly hard to say goodbye to a player who has been so instrumental in your team's success over the years, especially when said player is still productive and a fan favorite.
But unless one of those teams is willing to grossly overpay for two months of Utley, the veteran infielder won't be going anywhere.
The White Sox Will Trade Alex Rios
The White Sox are selling everyone besides Chris Sale and Paul Konerko, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, and while Matt Thornton was the first member of the roster to be traded, he won't be the last.
Alex Rios is one of the biggest bats available on the market, with a combination of power, speed and solid defense that nearly every contending team would love to add into its outfield mix.
Both Texas and Arizona have already been linked to the 32-year-old, and more teams are sure to make their interest known as we draw closer to the trade deadline later this month. Chicago is a team that is clearly in the beginning stages of a rebuilding process, despite never having a high-ranking executive utter the phrase, and hanging on to Rios makes little sense.
Moving him would bring back a package of talent that Chicago can use to plug some holes and build around while freeing up more than $25 million in future payroll.
Philadelphia Will Not Trade Cliff Lee
Much like Chase Utley, the Phillies have given no indication that Cliff Lee is available in a trade.
Lee would be the most sought-after pitcher on the market were the Phillies to make him available. The package of players the team could bring back by trading him would be substantial, infusing an aging roster with the athleticism and youth that it desperately needs.
The former Cy Young winner is under contract through the 2015 season (with a $27.5 million vesting option for 2016), so moving Lee would not only bring back a significant of talent, but would also free up a big chunk of payroll for the team to allocate toward plugging the multiple holes that currently dot the roster.
While pitchers like Lee don't grow on trees, he's a 34-year-old starter who is closer to the down years of his career than he is to his prime. Translation: Lee isn't going to get more valuable as time goes on.
Should Philadelphia trade Lee this season? Absolutely.
Not a chance.
Detroit Will Trade for a Closer
For the majority of the season, the prevailing thought in baseball was that sooner or later, the Detroit Tigers were going to have to go shopping for an experienced ninth-inning option.
When Jose Valverde fell flat on his face in a limited encore with the team, that speculation ramped up, with the Tigers being linked to veteran relievers like Philadelphia's Jonathan Papelbon, per CBS Sports' Danny Knobler.
Joaquin Benoit has stepped into the ninth-inning role and thrived, converting all eight of his save opportunities while posting a sub-2.00 ERA and averaging more than 11 strikeouts per nine innings of work.
With Benoit able to seamlessly move from middle relief to the high-pressure closer's role, there's simply no reason for the team to look outside of the organization for another option.