2014 MLB Trade Deadline: Latest Rumors and Destinations for Every Top Target

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistJuly 7, 2014

2014 MLB Trade Deadline: Latest Rumors and Destinations for Every Top Target

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    For those who were too enamored with Fourth of July festivities, the MLB trade season has officially begun.

    Three of the more notable starting pitchers available—Arizona's Brandon McCarthy and Chicago's Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija—along with McCarthy's teammate, left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher, were traded over the long weekend.

    Yet the parity that has run through baseball this season largely remains, leaving more teams believing that they are contenders and only a few firmly entrenched as sellers as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline arrives.

    That's led to a startling lack of activity on the rumor mill, with more speculation than actual rumors as we wait for teams to drop out of the playoff picture.

    But the rumor mill hasn't come to a complete stop, and there are a number of top targets that are still very much in play. 

    Here's a look at the latest trade winds flowing around them and where they may end up. 

    Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are courtesy of Fangraphs and are current through the games of July 6.

Joaquin Benoit, RHP, San Diego Padres

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    While his teammate, Huston Street, is the premier talent and more established ninth-inning option, San Diego's Joaquin Benoit seems to be drawing more interest on the trade market at this point.

    The 36-year-old reliever is enjoying the best season of his career, pitching to a 1.23 ERA and a 0.68 WHIP over 36 outings while striking out just over 10 batters per nine innings of work. Perhaps even more amazing is that Benoit hasn't allowed a run to score in nearly two months, a streak that covers his last 19 appearances.

    His former club, the Detroit Tigers, have interest in a reunion, according to Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, which makes sense given the club's continued ninth-inning struggles. That Benoit has a track record of success as both a closer and a setup man makes him one of the more appealing options for contenders looking to bolster the back end of their bullpen.

    There are some salary issues to deal with, as Benoit is earning $6 million this year, $8 million in 2015 and has a team option for 2016, which figures to drive down San Diego's asking price. But the Padres are going nowhere fast and have little use for a veteran reliever making that kind of money.

Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres

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    Don Boomer/Associated Press

    Toronto was the latest team to be linked to San Diego third baseman Chase Headley, with ESPN's Jim Bowden tweeting that the Jays had been heavily scouting the 30-year-old.

    It appears as if those scouting trips left the Blue Jays satisfied, as they aren't concerned with a herniated disc in Headley's back. According to Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune, this will be an issue for the rest of the season. Regardless, Morosi tweets that talks between the two teams remain ongoing.

    The only other club that has been noted as having interest in Headley recently was the New York Yankees, though CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported earlier this month that the team wasn't actively pursuing him.

    Headley has struggled at the plate, hitting only .217 with a .628 OPS and little power (15 extra-base hits), but his bat has begun to heat up, as he's hitting .412 with an .883 OPS in five July games.

    Still one of the better defensive third basemen in the game, Headley's glove would be an upgrade over Toronto's current platoon of Juan Francisco and Steve Tolleson, while allowing the club to keep Brett Lawrie at second base once he returns from the disabled list.

Martin Prado, IF/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Perhaps the most versatile player available, Arizona's Martin Prado was expected to draw significant interest from contenders as the trade deadline drew near.

    Thus far, only one team—the Toronto Blue Jays—has been linked to the player that just last winter was the centerpiece of the four-player package that Arizona received from Atlanta in exchange for Justin Upton.

    Bowden tweeted that the Blue Jays had been heavily scouting Prado, his teammate (and former Blue Jay) Aaron Hill and San Diego's Chase Headley recently, but Morosi says that Prado has become the team's top target.

    Prado, a career .291 hitter, has struggled at the plate, hitting only .268 this season. He isn't getting on base nearly as often as in years past.

    That said, his versatility would be a valuable asset for any contender, including Toronto, which could plug him in at second base or third base, depending on where it plans on playing Lawrie once he's recovered from a fractured right index finger

David Price, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    While Tampa Bay would prefer to avoid facing David Price when taking on another team in the AL East, the Rays are not opposed to dealing their ace within the division, according to the latest report from Morosi.

    We've operated under the assumption that the Rays would be willing to deal Price to a division rival if said rival was willing to pay their asking price, which figured to be higher than it would be for say, the Atlanta Braves. But Morosi's report is the first real confirmation that we've gotten.

    It makes sense, as both Boston and Toronto have the prospects to satisfy the Rays and the finances to keep Price around for the long haul. Interestingly enough, the Red Sox were not one of the four teams Morosi discusses as a possible Price destination, while the Blue Jays were.

    That said, ESPN's Buster Olney (subscription required) says that the consensus aroud baseball is that shipping Price out of the American League entirely remains the team's preference:

    Rival officials believe that the Rays’ preference is to deal Price to a National League team, and the Cubs’ trade with Oakland did not interfere with that. In fact, Price now stands alone as an elite option in the pitching market; he's unencumbered by the injury questions tagged to Cliff Lee, or the whopper salary obligation that is attached to Cole Hamels. It was a seller’s market even before the Samardzija trade, and now (Tampa Bay GM Andrew) Friedman has a one-of-a-kind item to dangle. 

    Morosi named a pair of National League clubs—Los Angeles and St. Louis—that, along with Seattle and Toronto, stand as the teams best equipped to make Tampa Bay the most enticing offers. While Price would make sense for all four clubs—and all four have the prospects it would take to strike a deal—things aren't really that simple.

    Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal noted in his latest video report that nearly 70 percent of the Dodgers market cannot watch the team play due to a dispute between Time Warner Cable and Direct TV. Adding a player of Price's caliber could, perhaps, force the corporations to come to an agreement.

    But, as Heyman recently reported, they aren't interested in a deal that includes "most" of their top five prospects, which is reportedly what the Rays told the Dodgers it would take to land Price. 

    Seattle was considered the favorite to land Price over the winter, but the Mariners weren't interested in a package that began with young starters James Paxton or Taijuan Walker, as Heyman noted back in December. It's unlikely that a package without either of them would be enticing enough for the Rays.

    Trading away young, controllable talent has never been the Cardinals' way of doing things, but general manager John Mozeliak is a realist, as he recently told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

    The clock is ticking. It’s not June 1. There is an emphasis right now on the change internally that we need to see. We’ve been a little patient and we hope to see that happen as we consider whether we can or need to jump start it with a deal.

    Perhaps if the Rays were willing to expand a potential deal by including 2B/OF Ben Zobrist, who would fill a gaping void in the middle of the diamond for St. Louis, the Cardinals could be more apt to surrender some of their young talent.

    As for Toronto, Morosi says that a package including two of the team's three best prospects—LHP Sean Nolin, OF Dalton Pompey and RHP Aaron Sanchez—could be enough to land Price. But there's been no indication from the Blue Jays that they'd even consider such a proposal.

    At this point, it's impossible to handicap the field and label one team a clear favorite in the Price sweepstakes, though Los Angeles and St. Louis look like the most logical destinations.

Dayan Viciedo, LF, Chicago White Sox

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    Andrew Nelles/Associated Press

    One of the more intriguing names believed to be available is Chicago left fielder Dayan Viciedo.

    Only 25 years old and just entering the prime years of his career, Viciedo, hitting .252 with 10 home runs, 31 RBI and a .727 OPS, still has room to grow. While he's allergic to drawing walks and is a defensive liability, he's also a right-handed bat with power, something that is always in demand.

    ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes reports that San Francisco and Seattle have talked to the White Sox about him, with Seattle said to be considering a two-player package that would include 24-year-old right-handed pitcher Brandon Maurer.

    This is the second time in four months that the Mariners have actively sought Viciedo, as CBS Chicago's Bruce Levine reported in early March that the two teams had discussions about a potential deal.

    A team not yet officially linked to Viciedo that could get involved is Boston. As Edes notes, the team made a strong push to sign Viciedo when he defected from Cuba in 2009.