With Major League Baseball's July 31 non-waiver trade deadline quickly approaching, trade talk has certainly heated up in recent days. There haven't been any big deals quite yet, but there is little doubt that some fairly high-profile players will be on the move in the coming weeks.
Three big names that have been discussed quite a bit lately are Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza, Chicago White Sox outfielder Alex Rios and New York Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes. All of them have their strengths and weaknesses, but it appears that they can each be had for the right price, so there will likely be plenty of interest.
Here is the latest trade chatter regarding that triumvirate of available players as teams look to improve ahead of the upcoming deadline.
If Garza wants to be traded, then he has certainly helped his cause in recent weeks, as he is among the hottest arms in baseball right now. Garza missed some time due to injury this season, but he has been excellent since returning, as he boasts a 6-1 record for the moribund Cubs along with a 3.17 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and 62 strikeouts in 71 innings. Garza is a top-of-the-rotation guy, so there isn't a team in baseball that wouldn't love to have him.
According to ESPN's Buster Olney, it is possible that Garza has already pitched his last game for the Cubbies, as at least two teams are heavily in on him and one of them could acquire him in the coming days:
This may well be Matt Garza's last start with CHC, who are said to be making progress with at least 2 teams. Deal over break appears likely.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 14, 2013
Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com is reporting that the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays are the two teams currently out front in the Garza sweepstakes, which makes sense, becuase Texas could use an arm heading into the playoffs and Toronto needs one in order to get back on track. Garza's contract expires after this season, so the Cubs either have to deal him or risk losing him for nothing.
Since it seems unlikely that Garza will re-sign, a trade appears to be a near certainty at this point. Perhaps Garza isn't a guy who can be an ace for a World Series team, but he hasn't had an ERA higher than 3.95 over the course of a season since 2006, so he will offer steady production to whichever team acquires him.
After a nightmarish 2011 campaign, Rios returned to All-Star form last season, as he hit .304 with 25 home runs, 91 RBI and 23 stolen bases. He proved to be one of the few five-tool players in baseball, and those types of players don't come cheaply.
The White Sox have had an awful season, though, and with Rios only under contract through next season, he could very well be on the move.
Rios figures to be the best bat on the market, as he is currently hitting better than .270 with 11 homers, 40 RBI and 19 steals. His numbers don't quite measure up to what he did last season, but they are excellent nonetheless. Offense isn't usually a problem for the Rangers, but they have an open spot in their outfield since Josh Hamilton signed with the Los Angeles Angels this past season, so Rios is a definite target, according to Olney.
One of the outfielders the Rangers are looking at is Alex Rios of the White Sox, who is under contract for 2014, at $12.5m, option for '15.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 11, 2013
Texas already has an extremely dangerous lineup due to the likes of Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz and others, but Rios would add another dimension. Also, there is some concern regarding Cruz's availability moving forward, as he is on a lengthy list of players with ties to the Biogenesis scandal, according to Jeff Seidel of ESPNDallas.com.
A suspension is possible, so Rios could either complement Cruz or replace some of what he brings to the table if need be.
Although this has been a very trying year for the Yankees, they still find themselves in the thick of the American League wild-card race, so they figure to be buyers at the trade deadline as usual.
That doesn't mean that the Yanks won't unload some players as well, though. With pitchers Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain set to hit free agency during the offseason, New York is shopping them around the league, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:
AL exec: “Yanks aggressively pushing Joba, Hughes. Joba could happen soon to NL team.” Source says #Yankees talking on both, nothing close.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 10, 2013
The case of Hughes is truly interesting, as he is a former All-Star who is just 27 years of age. He appears to have the tools necessary to be a great major league pitcher, but he has never been able to put it all together for more than a partial season. Hughes has been inconsistent as usual this year with a 4-9 record and a 4.57 ERA. It isn't as if he is helping the Yankees on a regular basis, and with Michael Pineda waiting for the call in Triple-A, dealing Hughes is the best move for the Bronx Bombers.
Which player is most likely to be traded this season?
Rosenthal is reporting that the pitching-starved Colorado Rockies have interest as they attempt to make a postseason push. If the Rockies acquire Hughes, though, Rosenthal believes that they will use him out of the bullpen. Hughes hasn't pitched out of the pen regularly since 2009, but that was his best MLB season, as he went 8-3 and struck out 96 batters in 86 innings.
Hughes was a big factor in the Yanks' winning the World Series that year as Mariano Rivera's setup man, and he could form a fantastic trio with Rafael Betancourt and Rex Brothers in Colorado.
It remains to be seen what will happen with Hughes, but pitching out of the bullpen could be best for his long-term viability.
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