MLB trade rumors seem to arise at a steady pace from the hot stove days of winter meetings all the way through the summer heat and the playoff push down the homestretch. However, time is running out if the top clubs in the majors want to put together the final pieces to a championship puzzle.
With the July 31 deadline approaching faster than an Aroldis Chapman heater, let's take a look at some of the trade rumors surrounding some of the top players in the league.
Blue Jays and Giants Looking at Chase Utley
The Philadelphia Phillies are 43-54 and in the basement of the National League East division this season. This makes them potential sellers at the trade deadline for the first time in many years, and they have several veteran assets that could entice teams around the league.
According to The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo, All-Star second baseman Chase Utley is drawing interest from a pair of contenders:
Right now it doesn’t appear that Utley is going anywhere because he can invoke his 10-5 rights and it looks as if he wants to remain in Philadelphia. But there’s time. And it hasn’t stopped teams such as the Blue Jays and Giants from taking their best shot, and they likely will through the end of the month.
Utley is still a strong player at 35 years old, batting .289 with eight home runs and 46 RBI in 93 games this season.
As Cafardo noted, Utley can invoke his rights as a veteran member of the Phillies and deny a trade. However, both the Blue Jays and Giants are contenders in their respective leagues this season.
If Utley wants to play for a surefire winner over the next couple of seasons, he might not have a better chance than linking up with either one of these two clubs.
The Phillies would be wiser to negotiate with the Blue Jays lest they give up a star player to someone within their own league. The Blue Jays are hurting at second base with Maicer Izturis on the disabled list and Steve Tolleson hitting just .246. They could be very malleable trade partners, but it all depends on Utley's feelings about leaving the only major league franchise he's ever played for.
Phillies Not Liking Feedback on Hamels
The Phillies could still be looking to gain some major assets by trading a front-line pitcher. Cole Hamels has been excellent this season, going 4-5 with a 2.83 ERA and 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings (per Baseball-Reference.com).
However, as per Cafardo, the Phillies aren't liking the offers for Hamels' services.
"The Phillies have been discouraged by what they’re hearing from other teams on Hamels," Cafardo writes. "The Phillies consider him their biggest trade chip, but will hold on to him if they don’t get what they consider a fair deal."
The contract could be quite the hang-up for other teams, especially if they only see Hamels as a valuable starter over the next couple of seasons. Hamels is guaranteed $22.5 million a year through at least 2018 and has a conditional option for 2019, per Spotrac.
Few teams could cover the cost of this contract with relative ease. The Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox do come to mind, and Cafardo noted that the Red Sox sent scout Eddie Bane to watch Hamels pitch.
The Dodgers have been getting plenty of mileage out of the likes of Dan Harden and Josh Beckett, not to mention their unparalleled 1-2 combo of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. They likely don't have the prospects or desire to give up enough for Hamels.
As CBS Sports' Jon Heyman opines, there is already a better fit for the Red Sox than Hamels on the current roster:
He and Hamels are very comparable pitchers in terms of talent and resume. But if anyone's a better fit for Boston, that would have to be Lester, an extremely tough pitcher and person who's been almost infallible in his two World Series and often appears almost mood-less. (To be fair Hamels was also very good in the 2008 World Series, but Lester already has the proven perfect personality to deal with all that comes with the fishbowl in Boston.)
Should the Phillies trade Hamels?
The Red Sox should have prospects to offer, as Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks ranked their farm system fourth-best in the majors in February of 2014.
Hamels' will certainly continue to generate interest, but they can at least take comfort in the knowledge that they have a top-shelf starter locked up for years to come if they can't trade him. Hamels could still be quite the player to build around in Philadelphia.
Teams Interested in Chad Qualls
The Houston Astros should have no qualms about selling off a veteran like Chad Qualls, who is in demand according to Cafardo: "Qualls has resurrected his career and is now someone teams are asking about, according to a major league source."
The 35-year-old is in the midst of quite the late-stage revival.
It is not often relievers in their mid-30s make such a surprising turnaround; his age and experience make him an appealing option for a team looking for veteran stability in the bullpen. Qualls' contract is also somewhat trade-friendly at just $3 million for 2015, per Spotrac.
Qualls attributed his remarkable turnaround to an increased ability to focus on the few pitches he needs to make in order to have an effective appearance.
"The older I get, I'm able to focus a lot more on the mound and take a deep breath and concentrate and really focus on hitting the catcher's mitt, whereas before I would kind of just see a general area and just throw the ball there," he said, via The Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich (subscription required).
The Angels no longer need a closer after acquiring Huston Street, but the Tigers could be interested as Joe Nathan is 39 and has struggled mightily this year, posting a 6.23 ERA with just 19 saves. Qualls won't be in huge demand due to his age and shaky history, but his trade value might never be higher than it is right now.