Front offices around Major League Baseball are nearing decision day as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches at month's end. The high number of close playoff races around the league could make it a seller's market for teams out of the mix.
The biggest question general managers must answer is whether the available assets are good enough to make a major difference down the stretch. Teams will often move a package of prospects for a mediocre veteran who isn't enough to swing the race in their favor.
Based on the current buzz, it definitely seems like some truly impact players are available. The exact cost, and how much a potential bidding war will drive it up, is the unknown. Let's check out some of the big names who could be on the move if the asking prices are met.
Price is no stranger to the rumor mill. His name has been mentioned quite frequently in recent years as somebody the Tampa Bay Rays could sell high on instead of trying to lock up with a lucrative extension. The talk is intensifying this time around, though.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports a decision on Price will depend on how Tampa Bay, which is riding a six-game winning streak, plays leading up to the deadline.
He states that if the choice is made to make a move, one team is seemingly in the pole position: "Yet, one-high ranking American League club executive predicts that if the Rays trade Price, one team stands out from the rest. Yes, St. Louis."
One thing Price has done in recent seasons is help the Rays' cause by pitching extremely well in July as the trade talk has taken center stage. He's 4-0 with a 0.85 ERA this month. Over the last two seasons his July ERA was 1.68 and 1.78.
Perhaps the biggest reason for that success is his understanding the situation. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times passed along comments from the ace, who says he's thought about a potential trade for a while now: "To be honest, I've prepared myself for that day for a couple years now. I didn't want it to happen, but it's something I've definitely thought about. It's been in the back of my mind if not the front of my mind at times."
Price is right up there with Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez among the best pitchers in baseball. For the Cardinals, he's certainly a player capable of shifting the balance of power in the NL Central race with four teams currently within five games of the division lead.
Rios is on pace for his lowest homer total since his rookie season with just four through 96 games. All of his other offensive numbers are right in line with his career averages, though. That makes him a coveted commodity in a trade market that doesn't feature star hitting power.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports the Toronto Blue Jays have emerged as a surprising contender for the outfielder's services. Rios spent the first five-and-a-half seasons of his career in Toronto before moving to the Chicago White Sox and now the Texas Rangers: "Yet, it is a bit ironic since the Blue Jays were thrilled in 2009 when the White Sox shocked folks and claimed the outfielder off waivers, taking a $69.835-million contract many believed was untradeable at the time."
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The report mentions the Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners and possibly the San Francisco Giants as other potential landing spots for Rios. He recently missed a stretch of games due to an ankle injury, but it's not expected to hamper him moving forward.
Toronto is another one of those teams seeking a player to change the course of a division race. The Jays are four games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East and could desperately use an offensive infusion with Edwin Encarnacion among their banged-up hitters. Rios would provide it.
The Philadelphia Phillies are in a difficult position. They have the fifth-worst record in baseball but have a roster with a lot of veterans that would make a complete rebuild tough. Hamels is one player capable of bringing back a sizable haul of young talent.
Whether the Phillies would move him is a question mark. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports he could be moved if the price was right, but that price is very steep, and the team would also want no part in paying for the rest of his current deal: "One major league source said if the Phillies get a taker on the full contract and they get three top prospects, he's gone, and Hamels, according to another major league source, wouldn't mind."
His availability hasn't reached a consensus, though. He may not be a trade chip after all. Buster Olney of ESPN notes teams from around the league that have called Philadelphia to talk about the starter have been turned away, at least so far:
To date, Phillies telling other teams Cole Hamels is not available.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 22, 2014
If the Phillies do trade Hamels, it would likely mark the start of an extended retooling of the roster. So the decision may come down to whether the front office is ready to begin that process or instead wants to try to patch up the squad for a quicker turnaround next season.