Contending teams are looking at potential upgrades at this point in July, making some of the valuable players on not-so-good teams attractive trade options.
Much of what's being talked about right now are just rumors, but oftentimes rumors hold truth. Potential trades may not go down when the rumors initially surface. That said, anything can happen between now and July 31.
There are plenty of second-tier players who would bring value to contending teams in the hunt for more depth. The following three players fit in that tier and have been surrounded by plenty of buzz recently.
The San Francisco Giants are in the thick of a playoff race in the National League West, and while the offense has been pretty good this year, they're reportedly looking to improve. Chris Haft and Ryan Hood of MLB.com wrote about how Ben Zobrist might be in their plans:
Zobrist, 33, also is viewed as a possible fit for the Giants. The two-time All-Star can play second base, where San Francisco likely will need depth even if Marco Scutaro overcomes his back injury. Zobrist also has extensive experience in the outfield, an area of some concern for the Giants due to the spotty offensive production from Gregor Blanco and Tyler Colvin.
Zobrist missed time earlier this year, but the Tampa Bay Rays star has done well when healthy. He's slashing .266/.352/.406 with six homers, 21 RBI and 82 hits.
He brings supreme value to the Rays because of his versatility. He can play second, short and the outfield, and he has even seen time at first and third in the past. This is most certainly why the Giants are interested in the veteran.
This versatility makes Zobrist's price tag go up, however. A strong hitter who can play multiple positions is worth a top prospect or big league-ready pitcher, and the Giants may not want to part with that type of talent.
Acquiring Zobrist might be enough to overtake the Los Angeles Dodgers in the division if Matt Cain and the rest of the rotation can stay consistent, but sacrificing the future by trading a quality prospect will be the big issue for the team's front office.
Jorge De La Rosa
Lefty starters who can go deep into ballgames are valuable, and the Colorado Rockies have one of those pitchers in Jorge De La Rosa. Naturally, other teams are scouting him, via Troy Renck of The Denver Post:
Multiple teams interested in De La Rosa, who will be free agent at season's end. Rox should listen but would be better off re-signing him— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) July 10, 2014
That said, ESPN's Jayson Stark tweets that a deal is unlikely:
Despite all the Jorge De La Rosa buzz, hearing #Rockies won't deal him without getting a young impact starter back, which is very unlikely— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 10, 2014
Expecting to get a young impact starter in return is a bit unreasonable. De La Rosa is a good pitcher but not a top arm worthy of that type of return. The 33-year-old has been just pedestrian this year, evidenced by his 4.75 ERA, 4.74 FIP and 1.314 WHIP.
His WHIP usually hovers around 1.350 or so because he pitches to contact, but a non-strikeout pitcher usually won't garner a top-notch pitching prospect in return.
Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun reports that the Baltimore Orioles are "closely monitoring and gathering background information" on De La Rosa. The Orioles could certainly use another starter to compete at the top of the American League East, but that price tag is far too high for them to consider.
The Orioles have no shortage of young impact arms—Kevin Gausman, Chris Tillman, Dylan Bundy and others—but De La Rosa is not worth one of them.
A.J. Pierzynski was designated for assignment by the Boston Red Sox after posting a line of .254/.286/.348 through 256 at-bats. A player with those numbers might be left to the scrap heap, but there is now a team with a glaring hole behind the plate.
The St. Louis Cardinals will be without All-Star starter Yadier Molina for at least two months after he suffered a thumb injury, reports Mike Axisa of CBS Sports. That leaves the Cards, a team in contention in the NL Central, without consistency behind the plate.
Pierzynski hasn't been great, but he at least offers a veteran presence who might catch lightning in a playoff race. That said, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweets that there isn't much interest:
My sense is that A.J. Pierzynski is not high on the #stlcards list of potential Molina replacements.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 10, 2014
With enough depth in other areas to make up for the loss of Molina on offense, the Cardinals likely won't slide too far in his absence. Defensively, however, there's no replacing him.
The 31-year-old has thrown out 49 percent of base stealers this season. That mark is tops in the NL and well above the league average of 26 percent, via Baseball-Reference.com.
Pierzynski has thrown out just 19 percent of runners, by comparison.
The Cards might not have interest in making a deal for Pierzynski, but it will be interesting to see if they target him once he hits free agency.
Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR