The 2014 MLB trade deadline is quickly approaching, and with the All-Star Game in the rearview mirror, teams have some crucial decisions to make.
Whether certain teams on the fringe of the playoff picture ultimately opt to become buyers, sellers or holders can potentially change the entire landscape of the league, but either way, there will be plenty of deals in the next two weeks.
Let's take a look at the most recent trade gossip.
Starlin Castro Staying Put?
Combine the Chicago Cubs' 2014 struggles with their recent addition of elite shortstop prospect Addison Russell in the Jeff Samardzija trade, and Starlin Castro is a popular target among trade rumors.
According to a source cited by Newsday's David Lennon, however, the 24-year-old shortstop isn't going anywhere:
Talked to source familiar with Cubs thinking. Said don’t expect Starlin Castro to be traded this season. Also could be moved to 3B for ’15.— David Lennon (@DPLennon) July 14, 2014
The Cubs are currently owners of the league's fifth-worst record, but the future is blindingly bright. The only problem is there's a log-jam waiting to happen.
Javier Baez, a shortstop, is ranked as Baseball America's No. 5 prospect. Kris Bryant, a third baseman, is No. 8. Russell, another shortstop, is No. 14. Albert Almora, an outfielder, is No. 36. Jorge Soler, an outfielder, is No. 41. Arismendy Alcantara, yet another middle infielder, is No. 100.
While that seems like a potential mess to figure out, Rotoworld's D.J. Short wisely noted it's a nice mess to have:
When it comes to their cupboard full of elite young hitters, the Cubbies are going to be very flexible in the future. But prospects often don't pan out, and Castro, who is still relatively young, is already in his fifth season in the majors, hitting .276/.326/.440 with plenty of room to improve.
One or two of these young hitters will likely have to be moved for pitching help at some point, but for now, Castro seems to be very much a part of the team's future.
Los Angeles Angels Targeting Huston Street?
And Huston Street will be near the top of that list.
According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Los Angeles Angels, intent on keeping pace with the Oakland Athletics atop the AL West and MLB, are a suitor:
The Los Angeles Angels, trailing the A's by 1-1/2 games, are trying to counter their division rivals by targeting both Padres All-Star closer Huston Street and right-hander Ian Kennedy, according to major league sources.
The teams have discussed Street, but their talks have yet to include Kennedy, sources say. In addition, a package deal might be difficult to complete with the Padres controlling both Street and Kennedy through 2015.
Street, who was named to the All-Star team for the second time this year, has been nearly untouchable. The 30-year-old owns a 1.09 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 9.3 K/9 ratio.
The Angels, on the other hand, are 24th in the majors in bullpen ERA and could use a shutdown closer with experience, even though Joe Smith has filled the position admirably in July.
"I lean heavily toward the want-to-win side of the equation," Street told Yahoo Sports' Tim Brown. "When I signed in San Diego [after the 2011 season] I signed 100 percent because I believed we could win."
If he gets moved a couple hours north, he'll get just that, making this a potential win-win situation.
Mariners in the Mix for Ben Zobrist?
It's simple. The Seattle Mariners need hitting. They are 24th in the league in batting average (.245), 27th in on-base percentage (.300) and 22nd in slugging percentage (.377). More specifically, though, they need a right-handed bat, with Mike Zunino as the only one who isn't at risk of being replaced in the lineup.
Every right-handed hitter who can stand on his own two feet will be linked to the M's, who are looking to tread water in the difficult AL West or simply hold on to the second wild-card spot, and according to SB Nation's Chris Cotillo, Ben Zobrist is the newest on the list:
Zobrist would be a terrific addition for Seattle. He is hitting .266/.352/.401, which would provide a significant upgrade at shortstop, left field or right field, all of which he plays.
Of course, as ESPN's Jim Bowden noted, the Mariners won't be alone in seeing the value in Zobrist:
Ben Zobrist would be perfect for Reds because he could play 1B 2B and LF while they wait for Phillips & Votto to return & Ludwick to hit— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) July 14, 2014
Zobrist isn't going to set the world on fire, but he's a valuable role player with a team option for 2015, and in a weak hitter's market, it may take more than one would expect to acquire him in a trade.