As the MLB trade deadline nears, teams are working tirelessly to build toward the future.
For some, that future is years down the road. For others, it means making a playoff push over the next several months.
Regardless of where franchises stand, nearly every one will be involved in rumors leading up to July 31. Teams like the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers have tough decisions to make about their superstars while others are willing to sell the farm for them.
Names such as David Price and Matt Kemp have been buzzing for months as their teams debate whether or not to move them. Meanwhile, young stars at the minor league level have been scouted by rival teams for their stock on the trade market.
As the rumor mill continues to spin, here's a look at the latest trade discussions for the top targets.
Rays Waiting On Decision to Trade or Keep David Price
Leading up to the trade deadline, there has to be a decision made on which side a team is on—playoff contender or outside of the picture.
For the Rays, that decision has gotten much more complicated lately. Tampa Bay is on a seven-game winning streak and currently seven games behind the Baltimore Orioles. Needless to say, they have a chance once again.
That leaves Price's status up in limbo, as the ace's name has been in trade rumors since the Winter Meetings. Jayson Stark of ESPN provides the latest on Price:
So that's what the Rays are doing, according to clubs that are talking to them. They're waiting until next week. Hoping their team, and the standings, will give them a clear signal between now and deadline day of exactly how they should play this.
... "The problem with that," said one exec whose team is in a similar boat, "is that those odds are based on if you played it out a million times. But we're not going to play it out a million times. We're going to play it out one time. So it's either going to happen or it's not."
Last season, the Rays went 51-35 from the beginning of July to the close of the season to make the playoffs. That record was started by a very similar stretch during the month of July in which they had an eight-game winning streak.
Tampa Bay now has an upcoming series with the struggling Boston Red Sox followed by the Milwaukee Brewers before the trade deadline. If the team continues to win series, this might be a team looking to stay intact.
Just four games away from .500, the tide is completely turning—much to the chagrin of every MLB team. With a rotation that includes Price, Chris Archer and Alex Cobb, this former pretender now looks like an AL East contender.
Dodgers Undecided on Moving Matt Kemp
The Dodgers are in a completely different position than the Rays but might be looking to deal a superstar.
Nine games above .500 and just two behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West, the Dodgers are comfortably in the playoff hunt. But they still have the problem of a loaded outfield with four guys looking to get playing time.
Two-time All-Star Matt Kemp has been seen as the odd man out, but the Dodgers have shown some hesitation in trading him, as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports explains:
Some rival executives say the Dodgers want to move Kemp. The team certainly is open to trade offers. But at least one club that asked about Kemp – the Red Sox – did not get the sense that the Dodgers were eager to make a deal, according to major-league sources.
Three other American League teams – the Indians, Mariners and Rangers – also have called on Kemp, but none made an actual proposal, sources say.
With the likes of Yasiel Puig, Andre Either and Carl Crawford, Kemp has been forced into a reduced role at times this season. But for a team looking to make the postseason, having depth in the outfield is a strength, especially when injuries are a concern for the players involved.
Then there's the money issue. Kemp is still under contract until 2019 and owed over $21 million each season, so the Dodgers would likely have to sweeten the deal by paying some of that contract.
This reverse type of deal—how often does a contender deal a player like Kemp?—could wind up helping the Dodgers in the long run. And with enough talent on the roster without Kemp on it, it's a deal that makes sense for the franchise.
Now the only remaining question is: Is it worth what the Dodgers get in return? That's the same question the Philadelphia Phillies are pondering about another outfielder.
Asking Price Too High for Marlon Byrd
After signing Marlon Byrd to a two-year contract prior to the 2014 season, the Phillies might be looking to trade him. The only problem for now is that they value him higher than other franchises.
Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com shares the latest on the Byrd discussions:
#Phillies are still listening on Marlon Byrd, but no one likes the asking price enough to take the plunge yet.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 23, 2014
Byrd has been consistent all season but has been on a tear as of late. The 36-year-old is hitting just .251 in the last two months but has 12 home runs and 27 RBI over that stretch.
Unfortunately, he also has 56 strikeouts during that span to tack on to his 119 so far this season, which is the second worst in the MLB behind only B.J. Upton. That's likely where the stigma comes from for most teams as they negotiate a deal for Byrd to add for the stretch run.
While Byrd has the potential to put a run on the board every time he steps into the box, he's also prone to striking out multiple times—something he's done in 14 games over the last 47 games.
The Phillies are well outside of the playoff chase, but they also have Byrd locked in for another year following this season. If they don't get the deal they're looking for, they have several other trade candidates they could look to move.
Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.