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MLB Rumors: Analyzing All the Latest Whispers, News and Speculation

Matthew SmithCorrespondent IIIJuly 17, 2014

MLB Rumors: Analyzing All the Latest Whispers, News and Speculation

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    Jon Lester's name is appearing more often in trade rumors.
    Jon Lester's name is appearing more often in trade rumors.Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Two weeks remain until MLB's July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and things are starting to pick up.

    After all, general managers across the league must now make the final determination as to whether or not their club is a contender or should prepare to play the rest of the season out in anticipation of the 2015 season. To be sure, it isn’t an easy decision to make.

    So what new bits of gossip made their way around MLB over the last seven days?

    Well, with the All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby behind us, let’s take a look at the latest whispers, news and speculation around the game.

    Of course, this won’t be an all-inclusive list. That would take a novel’s worth of reading to digest. Rather, some of the juicier bits will be examined.

Have the Philadelphia Phillies Reached the Point of No Return?

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    At the All-Star break, the Philadelphia Phillies sit 10 games behind the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves in the National League East with a 42-53 record. Things are bad in the City of Brotherly Love.

    And thanks to the club’s poor performance and an inflated payroll, the tide is rising so high that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. may not be able to hold it back for much longer.

    In the past week alone, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Marlon Byrd and Jonathan Papelbon have been the subject of fairly intense trade speculation. In fact, each of them was listed in the top third of CBS Sports' Jon Heyman’s recent break down of impact players who could be on the trade block.

    In other words, it is only a matter of time before the levee breaks and Amaro Jr. begins to unload several pieces in rapid succession. That is, at least, what he should do for the franchise’s long-term viability.

    Perhaps Amaro Jr. is waiting for the right deal to come along. Perhaps he is still searching for a way to keep as much of his core in place as possible. Even if neither of those things is attainable, however, the Phillies need some payroll flexibility and an infusion of talent in their minor leagues.

    That means a massive rebuilding effort must be launched immediately.

    True, Amaro Jr. may not be able to land enough prospects of sufficient ability to replace the traded veterans in the major leagues. With payroll flexibility, however, he could reshape his roster over the offseason and use some of the talent he acquires to make trades of his own moving forward.

Bartolo Colon Is Being Shopped by the New York Mets

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    The New York Mets went into the All-Star break with a 45-50 record and are seven games behind the division leaders in the NL East and the same number of games out of the second wild-card spot. They are on the verge of something special, however.

    Consider that they have six starting pitchers—Matt Harvey, Jon Niese, Jacob deGrom, Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard—in line to compete for a spot in the rotation next season. They also have Vic Black, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia and Carlos Torres in line to return to the bullpen in 2015.

    In other words, they are stacked with pitching and could be only an offensive player or two away from competing.

    As such, Adam Rubin from ESPNNewYork.com cited “industry sources” when he noted that the “Mets’ wish list in trades includes an upgrade at shortstop over Ruben Tejada and a power-hitting left fielder to join Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson as the primary outfielders.”

    To do that, general manager Sandy Alderson is shopping right-hander Bartolo Colon.

    On the season, Colon is 8-8 with a 3.99 ERA in 18 starts. More impressive, he has a 3.66 FIP and a fine 1.184 WHIP. He's been fantastic and shows no signs of slowing down.

    And considering that he is under contract through the 2015 season, there is a lot of value in his arm. If the Mets can leverage his consistency and postseason experience into an upgrade at a position of need, 2015 could turn out to be much more successful than the current campaign.

The Boston Red Sox Are Officially (Almost) Sellers

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    Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

    After a horrific start to the 2014 season, the Boston Red Sox appear to be ready to mail it in and get ready for next season.

    Not only did general manager Ben Cherington recently designate A.J. Pierzynski for assignment, but multiple names are now being floated around as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline draws nearer.

    Sporting News' Jesse Spector mentioned a few different names in a recent post, including closer Koji Uehara, Jon Lester and John Lackey. Spector went so far as to suggest a mega-deal involving Uehara and Lester that would net the Red Sox an immense amount of talent.

    That's not all, though.

    ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick sent out a tweet earlier this week intimating that the Kansas City Royals had an interest in acquiring outfielder Jonny Gomes. And, of course, there are the persistent rumblings about Jake Peavy landing in St. Louis to play with the Cardinals.

    Any way it’s sliced, the Red Sox will be unloading multiple assets in no time.

    That’s a good thing, though. They need an upgrade at shortstop, at each position in the outfield and could use some depth around the horn. All told, the offense has been inconsistent at best and is the reason the club has struggled this season.

    Regarding Boston's starting pitching, there are a couple of fine prospects in the minor leagues, including Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes, but the expected loss of Lester will hurt. It will be incumbent upon Cherington to add at least two more arms.

    Where there's smoke, there's usually fire. And there is a whole lot of smoke coming out of Fenway these days.

The Los Angeles Angels Are Looking to Add to the Pitching Staff

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    It is no secret that the Los Angeles Angels, who will open up the season’s second half with the second-most victories in baseball, are dynamic at the plate.

    Look no further for proof than the fact that they rank first in the American League in runs, hits, on-base percentage and total bases at the All-Star break. They also rank second in batting average and on-base plus slugging, according to splits over at ESPN.com.

    With all that offense, it makes sense that the Angels are aggressively looking to improve their pitching staff, according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Citing major league sources, Rosenthal noted that the club is “targeting both [San Diego] Padres All-Star closer Huston Street and right-hander Ian Kennedy” as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches.   

    They’ve already started the process of bolstering the bullpen, acquiring Jason Grilli from the Pittsburgh Pirates in late June. Sufficed to say, the Angels won’t stop until they find a way to improve both the starting rotation and the relief corps.

    The options aren’t limited to Street and Kennedy, of course, so expect more names to pop up in various trade rumors.

People Won't Stop Talking About Ben Zobrist

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    Brian Blanco/Getty Images

    Back in June, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported that the Tampa Bay Rays “might listen” to trade proposals for second baseman Ben Zobrist. Stark had his doubts, however, citing “one executive who has spoken with the Rays’ brass came away believing it would be ‘really, really difficult’ for them to come to grips with dealing him.”

    That sentiment makes sense, of course. Zobrist is a multidimensional player capable of driving an offense and playing several positions.

    How much longer can they afford to keep him on the 25-man roster, though?

    In the past week alone, the San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds and Seattle Mariners have been rumored to have interest in Zobrist, per Marc Topkin from the Tampa Bay Times.

    Of those three, the Giants seem to be the best fit. That is, at least, if you ask Chris Haft and Ryan Hood from MLB.com:

    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.

    It would be a mistake to count out the Mariners and Reds, however. They both have a need and could find a way to package minor league talent with players currently on their 25-man rosters to make a deal happen.

    Either way, the return the Rays could get for Zobrist may be too great for general manager Andrew Friedman to ignore. Expect for the conversations regarding the switch-hitter to intensify over the next two weeks.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference and are accurate through Sunday, July 13. Transaction, injury, scouting report, prospect ranking and game information are courtesy of MLB.com. Contract information was pulled from Cot’s Contracts.

    Follow @MatthewSmithBR

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