The Midsummer Classic is in the rearview mirror, meaning the MLB rumor mill will hit its peak.
Now that the meeting of the minds is complete, those in charge of the 30 franchises have to decide whether to buy, sell or stand pat at the deadline.
Brave contenders must weigh whether or not to surrender future assets for a shot at a title in the present. Hopeful pretenders with the future in mind have to make assets as attractive as possible to these contenders in the waning hours of the deadline to build a better future for the organization.
In short, it's an electrifying time to be a fan, no matter which category a team falls under in the market's spectrum.
In an attempt to keep up, let's take a look at the latest news surrounding some of the bigger names.
Cliff Lee the Favorite
Sometimes being the favorite is not all it is cracked up to be.
In this case, a season gone awry in Philadelphia (fifth place in the NL East) means that Cliff Lee may have to uproot himself and head for a new town. That may mean greener pastures in the process, but it's still a fruitful endeavor.
For the Phillies, there is a "strong belief" that the team would rather move Lee than Cole Hamels, per CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, who adds further detail:
Both Lee and Hamels have no-trades with at least 20 teams on them, but people around the team suggest Hamels is more likely to invoke his, as he wants to remain in Philly. Lee, like closer Jonathan Papelbon, would likely choosing winning over city, they say.
The Phillies are smart for wanting to hang on to 30-year-old Hamels, who has a 2.83 ERA and a 4-5 record this season. That's in stark contrast to Lee, who, at 35 years of age, is a bit of a liability with a 3.18 ERA as he returns from injury—not to mention he is due $25 million in each of the next two seasons before $27.5 in 2016, per Spotrac.
Those factors certainly make Lee a difficult sell, but all the more reason for Philadelphia to find a partner.
Who should Philadelphia keep?
So which team might just be in win-now mode and desperate enough to roll the dice?
Baltimore, of course.
The Orioles are probably not the first team most would have guessed, but Adam Jones and Co. are on a roll and in first place in the AL East. The staff on the mound could use a boost as the playoffs near—it lacks a true No. 1—and Lee certainly wants a shot at being a piece in a title chase.
Prediction: Lee waives no-trade clause and lands in Baltimore
Joakim Soria to Detroit?
Against tough odds, Joakim Soria has managed to stand out in what is a very deep staff in Texas.
With a 2.59 ERA and 42 strikeouts to four free passes at the age of 30, Soria has erupted as of late on the market as one of the hottest commodities around. It helps that his contract is more than affordable—it pays him $5 million this year, with a team option next year for $7 million, per Spotrac.
A few teams have hinted interest, but perhaps none have been as strongly linked as the Detroit Tigers, a notion put forth by Fox Sports 1's Jon Morosi:
Tigers are having ongoing discussions with the Rangers about reliever Joakim Soria, sources say. @FOXSports1— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 18, 2014
It's a strange position to be in for the Rangers, a franchise that has a solid track record over the past few seasons but has seen this year's campaign derailed by injuries and inconsistency.
That said, it makes all too much sense for the Tigers. Joe Nathan seems locked in as the closer despite five blown saves and an ERA over 6.00, but the team needs help in other areas that Soria can offer. Of course, as his more than 170 career saves suggest, he could also take over Nathan's role if struggles persist.
For his part, Soria does not seem to concern himself much with the prospects of relocating, per Evan Grant of the Dallas News: "I can’t control it. And if I can’t control it, I shouldn’t worry about it. If I don’t worry about it, it won’t be a distraction. It’s part of baseball. Rumors start and that’s it."
The cost for Soria is going to be steep, but for the first-place Tigers, the additional help down the stretch will be more than welcome. If the Rangers are willing to swallow some pride, a few quality young pieces for the future doesn't sound horrible.
Prediction: Soria gets shipped to Detroit
Mariners on the Hunt
It's no secret the Seattle Mariners want a new right-hander in the batter's box to give the lineup some added power and diversity.
If all else fails on the first few rungs of the free-agency ladder, the front office seems to have Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist in mind as a fallback option, per Morosi:
Mariners are having ongoing trade discussions with Rays regarding David Price and Ben Zobrist, sources say. No deal imminent. @FOXSports1— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 17, 2014
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman broke down the talks into even further detail:
The Rays are said to have talked to the Mariners about pitching prospect Taijuan Walker plus two or three other top young players in talks involving pitcher David Price, league sources said. Talks are ongoing and fluid, and deals being discussed could include just Price from Tampa Bay, Price plus Ben Zobrist or Zobrist alone.
David Price is a bit of an eyebrow-raising name, too, but let's focus on what appears to be the crown jewel of Seattle's eye, which is hitting.
Zobrist provides plenty of that, even if his .264/.353/.404 slash line is not all that attractive. Really, it's right along with his averages in recent years:
What really makes Zobrist an attractive piece for the Mariners at this stage is his affordability, both in terms of his contract—he's due just $7.5 million next year and is then a free agent, per Spotrac—and in terms of how much the franchise must sacrifice to bring him on board.
Compared to, say, a Marlon Byrd, Zobrist is a cost-effective option to provide a boost to the lineup. It's hard to not see the two sides at least agree to a deal that includes the 33-year-old slugger.
Prediction: Zobrist heads to Seattle