Since Major League Baseball adopted the second wild card to the postseason format, teams have been more cautious at the trade deadline because hanging around .500 for three months before ripping off a five-game winning streak can change a general manager's plans.
This deadline season has been one of the most fruitful for rumors because there are more bottom feeders than normal. Through Tuesday's games, there are seven teams at least 10 games under .500.
With so many clubs facing the reality of a lost season—or in some cases, understanding what a rebuilding phase does to the bottom line—big decisions have to be made before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
There's one week left for those decisions to be made, but until they are, we can talk about the rumors floating around.
David Price Still On The Market, Kind Of
One month ago, the Rays seemed like natural sellers at the deadline. They were 24-42 on June 10 but have gone 24-11 in 35 games since to climb within five games of .500 and 5.5 games back in the American League Wild Card race.
This has left David Price's trade status in limbo, though Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports Tampa Bay's ace could still be dealt under the right circumstances:
What I hear most from executives is Tampa is following the same two-track plan from the offseason when it built up by retaining James Loney and David DeJesus and buying Grant Balfour, yet stayed willing to deal Price if the right offer manifested. Thus, the Rays will be overwhelmed in a trade or simply wait until the offseason to deal Price.
As crazy as it sounds, especially in light of the Rays' hot streak, keeping Price on the market makes a lot of sense. One bad week and the team finds itself without any serious hopes of contending, especially since they are competing with seven teams for those two wild-card spots.
If Price were pulled off the market and a bad stretch hits, the Rays would be forced to re-engage teams in discussions and hope they hadn't made a move in the interim that would take them out of the running and hurt Tampa Bay's leverage in negotiations.
No one denies that Price is the best arm on the market, even with a hefty salary this year and another huge salary next year through arbitration. He's been terrific in 2014 with a 3.06 ERA, 173 strikeouts and 21 walks in 155.2 innings.
The Rays have to keep all their options open due to the limitations of their budget. They entered the year with a franchise-high $76.8 million payroll, hoping it would produce another playoff run.
While there's still a chance that may happen, it's hardly a sure thing, and the front office is smart enough to understand that the quickest way back to contention will be maximizing all of the assets they have. Price is the best of the bunch.
Bartolo Colon Still Available, But It'll Cost You...
Even though their 47-53 record doesn't show it, the New York Mets have played really good baseball this year. They have a plus-12 run differential, which is the fourth-best in the National League, and they are two games over .500 at home.
Despite that relative success, the Mets are building for the future and have a deep bench of pitchers to choose from going forward. That has left aging veterans, like Bartolo Colon, expendable.
According to Newsday's Marc Carig, the market for Colon has started to take shape with interested teams picking up the phone:
Told teams have started calling the Mets about Bartolo Colon, though nothing's close. Mets gauging market; don’t seem inclined to eat money.— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) July 22, 2014
That last bit about the Mets not eating money is important because it could change the package teams offer. If they were to kick in something, the prospect they ask for in return could be higher. With nothing going back, any potential deal will revolve around a lower-tier guy and basically amount to a salary dump.
Which pitcher has the best chance to be dealt before the July 31 trade deadline?
Colon, for all his flaws and being 41 years old, is still a solid innings eater. He's not going to change a pennant race, but a starter who throws a lot of strikes, doesn't walk anyone and can be counted on every fifth day has value.
However, since the right-hander is guaranteed $11 million next season, teams are likely to be cautious about how much they give up. He's not a young man, gives up a lot of fly balls and has to play with a good defense to keep his numbers down because hitters make so much contact against him.
That limits a lot of American League teams, unless Los Angeles or Seattle are in the market for starting pitching.
Of course, the Mets could also keep Colon through this year and try to deal him in the offseason when more teams can get in the bidding because they like their playoff chances next year and need another starter at a decent price.
John Danks Generating Heat From New York
It's no secret that the New York Yankees need starting pitching help, not even to make a playoff run, but just to get through the season with healthy arms.
One option the team has explored, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, is Chicago White Sox left-hander John Danks:
The Yankees, to no one's surprise, have checked in on White Sox lefty John Danks.
There is no evidence the sides are close to a deal and may be in only the early stages of talks. The White Sox are looking for young players and prospects as they continue their rebuild.
Heyman also notes that Danks has six teams on a no-trade list, but "it isn't known if the Yankees are on that list."
However, one area that could be problematic is money. Danks is owed $14.25 million in 2015 and 2016, in addition to his salary the rest of this season.
If we were talking about the Danks from 2008-10, who ranked 14th in Fangraphs' wins above replacement, this would be a no-brainer. Of course, he would probably be generating more interest.
The 29-year-old has lowered his ERA in each of the last two seasons after it ballooned up to 5.70 in an injury-plagued 2012, going from 4.75 in 2013 to 4.35 in 2014. He's giving up a lot of hits (9.4 per nine innings) and walks (3.3 per nine innings) with a below-average ERA+ (92), as per Baseball-Reference.
If the White Sox get serious about moving Danks, they will undoubtedly have to kick in some money to make it worthwhile for the Yankees or anyone else.
For the Yankees, acquiring Danks wouldn't be a bad move. It's a low-risk investment, at least in terms of the players they would have to give up, and he's still in the prime years of his career at 29.
The problem, aside from money, is Danks' fastball continues to lose velocity, down to a career-low 88.1 miles per hour this season, making him more reliant on the cutter and changeup to get outs, as per Fangraphs. Those pitches only work if hitters respect the heater.
Any potential move the Yankees make to acquire pitching will be about getting through the season, such as when Brian Cashman got Brandon McCarthy from Arizona.
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