MLB teams have all of July to make deals with fellow organizations as the non-waiver trade deadline doesn't come until July 31, but with division titles and playoff spots on the line, clubs aren't wasting time courting their targets.
The fireworks started on July 4, when the Cubs sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics for a package surrounding top prospect Addison Russell in the trading season's first big-time swap, as reported by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal. That will be just the first of many sizable moves made over the month as teams jockey for positioning in their respective divisions.
Let's break down the latest trade rumors floating around the major leagues.
Joaquin Benoit Linked to Detroit Return
Detroit Tigers fans are no strangers to seeing Joaquin Benoit commanding the mound, as the relief pitcher played for the Tigers from 2011 to 2013 before the Padres signed him away last offseason.
Just months after he hit the road, though, he could be bound for a return.
Fox Sports' Jon Morosi has the news:
Right now, the Tigers (48-36) are sitting pretty with a four-game lead in the AL Central and looking destined for another run in the postseason. But with closer Joe Nathan struggling in recent outings, some insurance in the bullpen would be coveted.
Benoit has experience as the Tigers' main closer, but he can also make an impact coming out of the bullpen as a middle reliever or setup man. Any doubts Detroit had in failing to re-sign him over the offseason should be quelled with the monster numbers he's putting up in 2014 (1.23 ERA, 10.1 K/9, 0.682 WHIP, 1.80 FIP, 36.2 IP).
Contending ballclubs can't ever have too many formidable arms in the bullpen, and Benoit would immediately become one of the best Detroit has. For a team that looks sure to be in the postseason, trading for Benoit could pay dividends.
Josh Willingham, Kevin Correia Available for Twins
The Minnesota Twins are in last place in the AL Central. But at only 10 games out (8.5 back in the wild-card race), they aren't convinced yet that it's worth making moves to blow up the current roster.
But they know that failing to turn the tide soon will result in the inevitable—meaning no change in fortune will result in some changes to the roster.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is reporting that Josh Willingham and Kevin Correia will be the likely trade options for Minnesota after hosting the All-Star Game on July 15. And there's a good chance of the team getting a solid return for offering both on the market.
Willingham (.229/.377/.458, 8 HR, 24 RBI) plays the outfield but makes his biggest impact at the plate, and the 35-year-old has a few years left of decent hitting in him. With four seasons of 25-plus home runs, with the latest a 35-jack campaign in 2012, his value could be higher on a market that doesn't boast many top hitters.
The same can't be said for Correia in a loaded pitcher's market. But despite his 5-10 record and 4.95 ERA this season, he can be a low-end starter for teams looking to buy.
July is young, and there is still time left for the Twins to turn things around. In that case, Willingham and Correia will be needed in Minnesota. But barring the unlikely, look for the Twins to deal these two players before the deadline.
Trio of Teams in for Diamondbacks Infielders
Few teams are set up to be sellers like the Arizona Diamondbacks entering the deadline. With an MLB-worst 36-53 record and a heap of young infielders failing to produce, the trade rumors have churned.
Three teams have emerged as big players for the Diamondbacks' available names, per Morosi:
Those targeted infielders will likely be Aaron Hill (.245/.282/.364) and Martin Prado (.268/.315/.358), who have been underperforming in the D-Backs' lineup so far this season after carrying high expectations entering 2014. Didi Gregorius has played his way out of the lineup (.217/.329/.362 in 20 games) and could also be hitting the trade block.
With Tony La Russa taking over the baseball operations role in Arizona earlier this season, changes are on the horizon. He won't waste time before putting his stamp on this organization, especially with this season's woeful performance continuing to get worse.
Arizona has plenty of options in the infield, and few are producing, so expect changes to come over the coming days and weeks.