Breaking Down the 5 Most Likely Impact MLB Trades Post-All-Star Break
It's an annual inevitability: The closer we get to the July 31 trade deadline, the more rumors will swirl.
Of course, not all rumors are created equal. Every team has needs; buyers want elite talent, and sellers want bushels of top-tier prospects. And for every need, someone will concoct a scenario—some reasonable, some far-fetched, some outright laughable.
As fun as it is to speculate, though, trades rarely get off the ground unless they make sense for both clubs involved. There are only so many buyers and only so many sellers—and only so many good matches between them.
So, as the 2014 deadline approaches, which potential impact players are most likely to change uniforms, and where are they liable to land?
With the usual caveat that rumors, even when confirmed by reliable sources, are fluid, fickle things, let's take a look.
Huston Street to the Los Angeles Angels
The San Diego Padres begin the second half 12 games out in the National League West and in unequivocal sell mode.
Closer Huston Street begins the second half with a desire to pitch for a contending team. "I want to win this year," Street told Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. "When you've got the Dodgers and Giants in your division—barring a 20-game winning streak—it would obviously be tough to win this year [with the Padres]."
Enter the Los Angeles Angels, who are hot on the heels of the Oakland A's in the American League West and seeking a late-inning arm. Street posted a 1.09 ERA and converted 24 of 25 saves in the first half. And the 30-year-old right-hander has another year left on his contract, a team option, at a relatively affordable $7 million.
The Angels don't have a deep farm system, but with Street openly expressing his desire to play for Mike Scioscia's club—"I'd love to," he told Shaikin when asked about the possibility—look for the Halos to do what it takes to get a deal done.
Jonathan Papelbon to the Los Angeles Dodgers
Jonathan Papelbon's first-half performance—1.21 ERA, 22 saves, zero home runs allowed—combined with the Philadelphia Phillies' first-half ineptitude should make him a prime trade target.
But he's owed $13 million next season with a $13 million vesting option for 2016 that's contingent on appearances. That's enough to scare away some budget-conscious clubs.
No surprise, then, that the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball's biggest spenders, are in pursuit of the 33-year-old closer, per Mark Saxson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
In addition to bolstering the Dodgers pen—where he could set up or even supplant closer Kenley Jansen—Papelbon likely wouldn't cost Los Angeles too much in the way of talent because of the hefty contract.
Ben Zobrist to the San Francisco Giants
After a hot start, the San Francisco Giants hit a prolonged skid. They're still just one game behind the first-place Dodgers in the NL West, though, and in position for an NL Wild Card spot.
That means general manager Brian Sabean is buying.
The most obvious position for an upgrade is second base. Marco Scutaro has played only a handful of innings due to a wonky back, and a collection of journeymen and middling call-ups have failed to produce in his place.
Ben Zobrist is on the Giants' radar, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. But the Tampa Bay Rays' versatile infielder has drawn interest from other clubs—including the Seattle Mariners, per Fox Sports' Jon Morosi—meaning the price might be higher than his good but not great .266/.352/.401 slash line suggests.
The Giants' system isn't loaded, though the team does have some intriguing young arms. And Sabean announced that no one is off-limits given the right deal, per the San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami.
Joakim Soria to the Detroit Tigers
Joakim Soria is the third closer on the list. No surprise—bullpen help is usually coveted at the deadline.
Add the Detroit Tigers to the list of contending clubs trying to strengthen a relief corps that ranks 27th in baseball with a 4.32 ERA.
With Street possibly ticketed for the Angels and Papelbon likely too rich for Detroit's blood, per ESPN.com's Jim Bowden, the Tigers may pry Soria away from the Texas Rangers.
In the midst of a nightmarish, injury-riddled season, the Rangers should be selling at the deadline. With a 2.76 ERA, 16 saves in 17 opportunities and 40 strikeouts in 29.3 innings, Soria is an enticing chip.
And the Tigers are enticed, according to Fox Sports' Jon Morosi. Detroit's farm system is pretty barren. With the talent they have on the big league roster, though, the Tigers are in win-now mode and will be aggressive in addressing their most glaring weakness.
Cliff Lee to the New York Yankees
The New York Yankees are 47-47, five games out in the AL East and 3.5 games out in the AL Wild Card race. And their otherworldly ace, Masahiro Tanaka, is out with an elbow injury.
Another team might fold up and focus on next year. The Yankees aren't another team; they're the Yankees.
That means they're going to make a move and likely take a gamble.
Which brings us to Cliff Lee. The Phillies left-hander is also on the DL with elbow issues, though he's on track to return July 21, according to Marc Narducci of Philly.com. That means he'll make a couple of starts before the deadline.
Assuming he shows something, the Bombers could come calling.
It'd carry plenty of risk; Lee is 35 and, again, nursing an injury. But as the New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand notes, New York might be willing to pick up all or most of the $50 million remaining on Lee's contract. If so, the Yankees likely wouldn't have to part with the blue-chip prospects it'd cost to get, say, the Rays' David Price.