After a four-day layoff interrupted by an exhibition contest—the 84th edition of the All-Star Game—MLB is back. There will also be less than two weeks to go before the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31.
Many teams not only have an urgency to get in the best position possible for the postseason, but they'll be thinking about upgrades as well. Other teams, like the Houston Astros, Miami Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers, are playing out the string and setting themselves up for the future.
Every trade rumor will be pounced upon over the next 12 days or so, and any news will be the order of the day for the next two weeks.
So, just what is the hottest trade talk associated with each MLB team?
Let's take a look.
Heath Bell and J.J. Putz haven't been the answer this year in the front end of the Diamondbacks bullpen.
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza was the hot topic of conversation on Thursday, with multiple reports, including this one from Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, linking Garza to the Texas Rangers.
On Thursday, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweeted that if Garza doesn't go to the Rangers, the Arizona Diamondbacks could be a possible landing spot.
But is starting pitching the biggest need for the Diamondbacks?
Not according to GM Kevin Towers.
Towers told Steve Gilbert of MLB.com on Monday that the bullpen was more of a need at the trade deadline.
"I'm not as concerned probably with our starting pitching and looking externally for starting pitching as much as trying to get a bullpen arm," Towers said.
He also cited the returns of Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill from the disabled list as lessening the need in the rotation.
In a smaller move, the D-backs signed Shawn Camp on Thursday, assigning him to Triple-A Reno. Camp was released by the Cubs last week after putting up an awful 7.04 ERA in 23 innings this season. While he likely won't be a bullpen savior, his signing underscores the Diamondbacks' overall need.
With both Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty lost for the season, the Atlanta Braves would love to find a left-handed arm to complement Luis Avilan in the bullpen.
According to Mark Bowman of MLB.com, Mike Gonzalez of the Milwaukee Brewers and James Russell of the Chicago Cubs are the two most likely relievers the Braves are targeting.
Gonzalez has been solid, with a 3.00 ERA in 48 appearances. Lefties are hitting .257 off him, and he's been better in holding right-handed hitters to a .233 average.
Russell has pitched in 47 games for the Cubs with a 2.74 ERA. He's given up just a .189 average to left-handed hitters, while right-handed hitters have teed off to the tune of a .316 mark.
Bowman said that Wesley Wright of the Houston Astros could also be in the mix.
Designated hitters for the Baltimore Orioles this season are hitting a woeful .197 with a .261 on-base percentage.
While there are a handful of players who could be made available at the trade deadline who could help the Orioles, they made a move on Thursday that could have considerable impact as well.
Per Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports, the O's promoted Henry Urrutia from Triple-A Norfolk—a move that, on its face, may not look like much. But considering Urrutia's numbers thus far, he could be just what the doctor ordered.
Urrutia comes to Baltimore with a .365 average in 67 minor league games, tearing it up at both Double-A Bowie and Norfolk in the process. He collected seven home runs and 20 doubles with a .957 OPS, and he showed better-than-expected plate discipline, striking out just 42 times in 288 plate appearances.
The Orioles have shown to be less inclined to enter into major deals, opting instead to invest heavily in the international market and develop homegrown talent. Urrutia is a prime example of that new directive.
On Friday, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe revealed that the Boston Red Sox have their scouts spread out across the country.
He wrote: "The Red Sox have scouted both Alex Rios and Michael Young in the past week. Will be watching Jake Peavy closely in his next couple of starts."
Not only are the Red Sox scouting that trio, but Cafardo further tweeted that the Red Sox will have scouts on hand when Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez returns from his DL stint.
He added: "When Aramis Ramirez returns from the disabled list Monday look for the Red Sox and Yankees to be scouting him. Both teams need a RH 3B."
That's a lot of legwork.
Wednesday and Thursday may have been off days in Major League Baseball, but the Chicago Cubs were certainly active nonetheless, with trade talks for Matt Garza heating up considerably.
On Wednesday, ESPN's Jim Bowden (subscription required) reported that there was an 80 percent chance that Garza would be dealt before his next start.
On Thursday, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of Fox Sports said that the Texas Rangers and Cubs were involved in negotiations for Garza's services.
Later on Thursday, ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted that the Cubs were looking for "last and best offers" for Garza.
And still later in the day, Rosenthal reported that prospects from several levels, including top hitting prospect Mike Olt, could be in play.
Garza's next start is scheduled on Monday, so no doubt that his status will continue to change in the coming days.
Earlier this month, the Boston Red Sox acquired left-handed reliever Matt Thornton from the Chicago White Sox. It led to speculation that the White Sox were indeed open for business.
Fellow reliever Jesse Crain has already been widely discussed in various rumors.
On Thursday, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Pittsburgh Pirates were interested in Sox right fielder Alex Rios. They also had interest in shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
The White Sox are starting the second half with the second-worst record in the American League and a farm system that's in complete disrepair. Baseball America has the Sox's minor league organization ranked 29th, while ESPN (subscription required) has it 28th.
Clearly, the White Sox need a complete rebuild, and several other names aside from the ones shown here could be in different uniforms on Aug. 1.
Chatter for the Cincinnati Reds has been quiet in recent days. However, that doesn't mean they're not looking for upgrades.
According to Jim Bowden of ESPN (subscription required), the Reds made an inquiry about the availability of Minnesota Twins reliever Glen Perkins, but they were told Perkins isn't going anywhere.
Cincinnati could use another left-handed arm to complement Manny Parra in the bullpen. Other than that, they're simply not tipping their hand right now.
The Cleveland Indians have two excellent prospects in shortstop Francisco Lindor and starting pitcher Danny Salazar. Salazar made a successful MLB debut last week, throwing six strong innings in a win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Indians would love to upgrade their rotation, but as Bud Shaw of The Plain Dealer writes, they're not about to give up top prospects for an elite arm for just half a season.
If they were a surer thing -- leading the Tigers by a half dozen games -- and they could compensate for the loss of Francisco Lindor or Danny Salazar in a deal -- the temptation would be much greater. No way Garza makes sense as a 10-start rental. Barring a starting pitcher the Indians can control for a year or two beyond 2013, the best move would be to bolster a bullpen that's sagging.
The Indians will look to avoid the second-half collapse that's plagued them the past two seasons, but they won't sacrifice the future to make that happen.
In the midst of his three-year, $31.5 million contract, Colorado Rockies right fielder Michael Cuddyer is having a career season.
Hitting .330 with 16 home runs and 55 RBI entering the second half, Cuddyer would no doubt be an attractive right-handed bat for contending teams at the trade deadline.
But Rockies owner Dick Monfort squelched any rumors of Cuddyer's availability, according to Troy Renck of The Denver Post: "Monfort when asked if would trade Cuddyer, Monfort said 'No Way. Not happening.'"
In addition, Monfort informed fans that the Rockies will not, under any circumstances, deal away any of their top prospects for a pitcher who may only be in town for half of a season.
As to whether or not that answers the question of the Rockies being buyers or sellers, that's anyone's guess.
It's no secret that the Detroit Tigers would love to find a closer, but the latest rumor was indeed a bit eye-opening.
On Monday, Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports reported that the Tigers were interested in acquiring San Francisco Giants starter Tim Lincecum—but only as a reliever.
It certainly wouldn't be a move unfamiliar to Lincecum. He shined in that role for the Giants during their successful run to the World Series last year.
However, Giants general manager Brian Sabean said on Thursday that Lincecum likely isn't going anywhere.
“I expect Timmy to be in a Giant uniform,” Sabean said, via John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. “I find it hard to believe he’ll pitch elsewhere this year. ... We need him to get back in this thing.”
And so the Tigers' search continues.
The question for the Houston Astros isn't whether or not they'll be selling at the trade deadline, it's how many players will actually be dealt.
In recent days, rumors regarding several players have been bandied about.
Starting pitcher Bud Norris has interested at least five teams thus far, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. He's being paid $3 million this season and is under team control though 2015, making him a very valuable commodity.
Reliever Wesley Wright has also drawn attention, specifically from the Atlanta Braves, who are in the market for a left-handed specialist. According to Mark Bowman of MLB.com, Braves general manager Frank Wren has Wright on his wish list.
And according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, closer Jose Veras will draw interest as well. Veras has 18 saves with a 9.6 K/9 rate and is signed for just $2 million this season.
The Kansas City Royals haven't identified themselves as buyers or sellers, but one thing is fairly certain: It's likely that starting pitcher Ervin Santana is staying put.
According to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, Royals general manager Dayton Moore plans to continue moving forward with the hope that his Royals can contend in the second half. He also indicated that Santana was a major part of that.
The belief is that the Royals will hang on to Santana and extend a qualifying offer. If he rejects the offer, the Royals pick up a compensation pick in next year's draft. It's certainly a big consideration just 11 days before the trade deadline.
The Los Angeles Angels have been quiet on the rumor front, mainly because general manager Jerry Dipoto has been largely non-committal about deadline plans.
One thing's for sure: If he's selling, potential trade targets Jason Vargas and Sean Burnett won't be of much help.
Both are on the disabled list, and neither will be back before July 31, according to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. So the Angels will have to look elsewhere on the roster for viable trade candidates.
Even after acquiring Ricky Nolasco from the Miami Marlins, the Los Angeles Dodgers are still looking for rotation upgrades.
According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, the Dodgers could be in play for Houston Astros starter Bud Norris.
And with talks between the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs stalling regarding the services of Matt Garza, the Dodgers could also sneak in with an offer for him as well.
The Miami Marlins made a splash already during the trade deadline window, shipping pitcher Ricky Nolasco to the Los Angeles Dodgers. But it had been almost a foregone conclusion that Nolasco would be dealt somewhere.
That could be the only major deal for the Marlins.
According to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, the Marlins believe that several tradable commodities, including Giancarlo Stanton, Steve Cishek, Logan Morrison and Mike Dunn, are all building blocks. All are under team control, so while the Marlins could get a solid package in return for any of the four, they seem to be leaning toward staying the course.
For the past several weeks, as the Milwaukee Brewers have slid farther down in the standings, much of the trade talk regarding the team has centered on its core of relievers.
For a team that has the 23rd-ranked farm system in the majors, according to Baseball America, it can work toward the goal of improving that number over the next few weeks.
The Minnesota Twins are now 13 games under .500 and aren't likely to contend with the roster currently constituted. Decisions will have to be made within the next several days regarding their future, and one of their stalwarts could become a casualty.
First baseman Justin Morneau has been with the Twins organization since 1999, the only team he has ever played for in his entire career. That run could be coming to an end.
In a recent talk with reporters, via Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com, Morneau discussed his future:
"I think it's more rewarding to win with the organization you've grown up with and the people that you almost become a family with," he said. "It's a place where I'm happy and we've won here, which is always the goal. But it's not up to me, so we'll see what happens."
Morneau's offensive numbers have declined significantly, and interest in Morneau from other teams has been tepid at best, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
The New York Mets are working toward the offseason, when they'll have money freed up to attack the free-agent market. In the meantime, the market for current players has been soft.
According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, two of the more marketable names—closer Bobby Parnell and outfielder Marlon Byrd—haven't drawn many inquiries as of yet.
Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reported largely the same: that the Mets haven't been active in contact with other teams and could elect to stay the course until they have the money to spend in the offseason.
Given the rather lackluster options for hitting on the trade market, the New York Yankees aren't likely to find saviors that can revive their struggling offense.
In fact, general manager Brian Cashman referred to the market in what can only be considered a sarcastic tone, per Andy McCullough of the New Jersey Star-Ledger: "Brian Cashman said the trade market for bats is 'an offensive offensive market.' Give it a second."
Needing help at both corner infield positions and the outfield, Cashman will continue to explore whatever options he can find to help support an offense that's been horrid for much of the season.
The Oakland A's have been one of the most silent teams on the rumor mill—probably for good reason.
Over the past calendar year, the A's have by far the best record in the majors, and they're at 56-40 already this season.
While the A's could do with a little tweaking, they're not going to spend lavishly to do so. General manager Billy Beane has done an outstanding job in constructing a roster with not one player making more than $10 million, unlike his rivals in the AL West aside from the Houston Astros.
Standing pat may not be a bad idea at all.
The Philadelphia Phillies crept above the .500 mark with their win on Friday night and are now just 6.5 games in back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.
With the team's recent run of success, the question of buying or selling has become less of a mystery. In fact, Danny Knobler of CBS Sports tweeted on Saturday that the Phillies are now much less inclined to sell.
For teams looking at acquiring the likes of Michael Young, Cliff Lee and others, that's certainly a disappointment. But for the Phillies, it could be that one last hurrah with an aging core group and a hefty payroll.
The Pittsburgh Pirates aren't just looking at ending a 20-year run of consecutive losing seasons, they're looking at a deep postseason run.
The second-best team in the National League is definitely looking for additional help, specifically in the outfield and in the rotation.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported on Thursday that the Pirates were actively discussing the acquisition of Chicago White Sox right fielder Alex Rios.
Rios is currently hitting .270 with 11 home runs, 42 RBI and 19 stolen bases. He would represent an upgrade in right field over Garrett Jones and Travis Snyder. But Rios is also owed roughly $18 million through next season, an obstacle the cash-strapped Pirates will have to contend with.
They've also been mentioned in recent rumors surrounding Houston Astros pitcher Bud Norris. Norris is under control though the 2015 season, making his acquisition much more palatable.
At 42-55, the San Diego Padres are in the cellar in the NL West and aren't likely to climb out of there any time soon.
Speaking with Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune recently, general manager Josh Byrnes didn't sound much like a man who was ready to start selling, but he did make a point of saying that going after half-season rentals wasn't an option.
"I think the one thing our recent play has done is it doesn’t make sense for us to go for a rental,” Byrnes said. “To say that we make a trade to bring in somebody who is on our team now and helping us but we also have beyond this year, we’re certainly knocking on those doors.”
Despite being 13 games under .500, the Padres are just 8.5 games out of the lead in the NL West, so Byrnes must think there's a glimmer of hope.
It isn't just a glimmer, it's a tiny sliver.
The San Francisco Giants are actually closer to last place than first in the NL West, but they've given no indication they're ready to start selling off parts quite yet.
In fact, in response to recent rumors surrounding starter Tim Lincecum, general manager Brian Sabean was adamant in saying the two-time Cy Young Award winner isn't going anywhere—yet.
"I expect Timmy to be in a Giant uniform," Sabean said, via John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. "I find it hard to believe he'll pitch elsewhere this year. ... We need him to get back in this thing."
After throwing a spectacular 148-pitch no-hitter last week, Lincecum will be back on the bump on Monday, and for his part, he wants no part of heading anywhere else at this point.
"I've had a great time here," Lincecum said, per Shea's report. "I hope to see that go further."
The Seattle Mariners are eight games below .500, but they are currently riding a four-game winning streak. While the postseason remains an elusive goal, they appear to be reluctant to make any wholesale changes.
According to Larry Scott of The Seattle Times, the Mariners are loathe to disrupt a team that finally seems to be in sync. General manager Jack Zduriencik put forth that vibe as well.
“In all fairness, I don’t think I’m going to be aggressive,’’ Zduriencik said. “I don’t think I’m going to go out there and start shopping our players. I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.’’
The Mariners are caught between a rock and a hard place—they're not going to the postseason, yet they also don't want to discourage a fanbase by again going into all-out sell mode.
While they may not be aggressive, it's hard to believe they won't shop the likes of Joe Saunders, Jason Bay and others as well.
The St. Louis Cardinals sit atop the standings in the NL Central, but they won't be resting on their laurels anytime soon.
In fact, their focus appears to be in improving their pitching, both in the rotation and the bullpen.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports listed the Cardinals as a possible landing spot for starter Matt Garza should a deal between the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers fall through.
In addition, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN (subscription required), the Cardinals enquired about the availability of Minnesota Twins closer Glen Perkins.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports also said that the Cardinals would be interested in an upgrade at shortstop, but they're not willing to give up top prospects for a solution that might not be much better than current shortstop Pete Kozma.
At 18-4 over their last 22 games, the Tampa Bay Rays are the hottest team in baseball. Only the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals total more wins thus far.
While the Rays would love to add another bat, they're not seeking an incremental upgrade. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, they've made inquires into the availability of Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez of the Seattle Mariners.
It's clearly the power they're going after, and that added bat could be enough for a team that's peaking at the right time.
The entire baseball world was captivated by the ongoing discussions on Friday between the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers involving starter Matt Garza.
At one point, Joe Davidson of The Sacramento Bee reported that the deal was "99 percent done," with the teams exchanging medical records for the six players involved.
Apparently, it was the medicals of at least one player that caused the trade to come grinding to a halt, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.
Still, the Rangers are pursuing Garza nonetheless, so the deal isn't necessarily dead.
If that deal fails to materialize, Passan also tweeted that the Rangers also have Houston Astros pitcher Bud Norris in their sights.
Despite a record of 45-50 and being 12.5 games out of the AL East lead, the Toronto Blue Jays are another team that has yet to commit to a stance.
One thing appears certain: Josh Johnson isn't going anywhere, per Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. And it's not because the Blue Jays see him as a vital piece for their future—his performance simply hasn't been anywhere good enough for the Jays to get a decent return at this point.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweeted that the Jays could be one of the teams interested in Houston Astros starter Bud Norris.
It simply seems like a far-fetched notion that the Jays would be buyers. While the team has been hurt by injuries at times, its sluggish play and lack of quality starting pitching has been the biggest culprit. Spending more money to plug huge holes simply doesn't make sense.
Despite a disappointing .500 record, it's clear that the Washington Nationals are nowhere near considering being sellers at the trade deadline.
In fact, manager Davey Johnson sounds like a man committed to making upgrades for the here and now.
In speaking with Bill Ladson of MLB.com last week, Johnson was keen on seeing what general manager Mike Rizzo would do to give his team a better chance for a postseason spot, despite having what he believes is enough talent to get the job done.
It's about the guys doing the things they are capable of. One of the areas that we have very little depth in is starting pitching. But after this year, going into next year, some of our young starters will be knocking on the door. So as far as making a move -- picking up somebody at least for the short term -- I don't think that's in our plans, because I think we have enough talent here and enough coming that we wouldn't do that.
But I'm sure [general manager] Mike [Rizzo] is looking into everything. I'm sure if anything becomes available that would help us, he will be on it.
With Dan Haren struggling mightily and Ross Detwiler still banged up, per James Wagner of The Washington Post, the focus would appear to be the rotation. While they may be peeking around in looking for an upgrade, the Nationals are also committed to a farm system they believe gives them plenty of depth, according to Dan Kolko of MASN Sports.
Rentals seem to be out of the equation, but not making a move could prove to be their undoing.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.
Feel free to talk baseball with Doug anytime on Twitter.