With the MLB trade deadline approaching in two days, speculation surrounding the biggest names on the market figures to reach a fever pitch shortly. With tight races in five of the six divisions, the plethora of teams in contention should create a seller's market for the organizations that have decided to build for the future.
Though the trade deadline has brought duds in recent years, this summer offers the promise of marquee All-Stars potentially on the move. Of course, not all the noise will result in tangible action. But as the Oakland Athletics showed when they acquired Jeff Samardzija, a team willing to pay for immediate dividends can drastically alter the complexion of the pennant race.
So which teams could follow Oakland's footsteps and forge a consequential move of their own? Digging through the noise, here are a few rumors surrounding former All-Stars that could come to fruition over the next 48 hours.
Tulo in Beantown?
Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has been the biggest name available for the past few weeks, but seemingly nothing imminent has emerged. However, The Boston Globe's Pete Abraham reported of a source indicating Tulowitzki's willingness to move north:
As splashy as that move sounds, Tulowitzki would be a bizarre acquisition for the Red Sox. Boston general manager Ben Cherington recently waved the white flag on his team's title defense after a five-game losing streak against AL East opponents. Moreover, with Xander Bogaerts openly pining to return to shortstop, acquiring Tulowitzki would likely alienate the Sox's brightest young star.
There's also the matter of Tulowitzki being currently on the disabled list with a hip flexor strain. For all his talents, the shortstop has a checkered injury history, and the Red Sox demonstrated a refusal to commit big money to a similar player when they allowed Jacoby Ellsbury to walk in the offseason.
Tulowitzki seems highly unlikely to move anywhere at all. It's unclear whether or not the Rockies will return to contender status while Tulo remains in his prime, but Colorado does not appear inclined to move the face of their franchise.
Price Staying or Going?
Even with a recent winning streak, the Tampa Bay Rays remain 7.5 games out of first place in the AL East and have five teams ahead of them in the race for the second wild-card berth. Thus, ace starter David Price remains firmly on the market.
The winning streak would seemingly have diminished the chances of Price moving, considering the day-to-day snap judgments front offices must make about buying or selling. However, The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo relayed an opinion from one anonymous scout who believed that Price would still move:
'I still think when push comes to shove, the Rays will deal him,' opined one National League special adviser. 'They’ve come a long way to get to this point and they’re still five or six games under .500. How much longer can they sustain that? So it’s a tough call and you don’t want to be perceived as waving the white flag, but there’s demand for him.'
It's unclear who would pay the exorbitant price (no pun intended) the Rays have demanded. The Los Angeles Dodgers have long been linked to Price, and Fox Sports' Jon Morosi piggybacked on the speculation of Price moving to the NL West:
Yes, when asked on @FOXSportsLive to offer my prediction on David Price trade, I said he would be traded by Thursday . . . to the Dodgers.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 28, 2014
But the Dodgers could find themselves pursuing Lester. Given the Red Sox's clearer intentions to sell, as well as Lester likely coming with a lower price tag, the Dodgers could very well abandon their pursuit of Price.
A darkhorse team like the Seattle Mariners or Chicago Cubs could still swipe Price away. However, given how difficult it is for the Rays to contend on their shoestring budget, retaining a modicum of postseason hope might be the wisest route.
The Philadelphia Phillies appear on the verge of removing themselves from delusions of contending and selling off their veteran roster. Veteran closer Jonathan Papelbon would seem like a prime candidate to go, but according to the New York Post's Joel Sherman, the 33-year-old is also ready to exercise his no-trade clause:
The Phillies’ hurdles in trading Jonathan Papelbon only grow higher and higher.
And then there is this: Papelbon has a no-trade clause and has let the Phillies know he will not accept a trade to a place where he will be a setup man or in a shared closer situation. It is closing or nothing.
The Los Angeles Angels and Detroit Tigers loomed as two contenders in need of bullpen relief, but both have ameliorated those issues with Huston Street and Joakim Soria, respectively. Moreover, with four earned runs allowed in his past five appearances, Papelbon is not making himself particularly enticing to scouts:
Its getting tougher for the @Phillies to make trades the way their players are imploding. RE: jonathan Papelbon.— Howard Eskin (@howardeskin) July 24, 2014
Which of these players is likeliest to move by the deadline?
The Dodgers (again) have been connected to Papelbon in the past according to Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles (h/t NJ.com's Randy Miller), and the desire for bullpen help remains in Los Angeles. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported that the Phillies would be willing to eat some of the $18 million remaining on Papelbon's contract to facilitate a deal. However, given the Dodgers' bottomless pockets, that is simply chump change that would do little to pique their interest.
If the Phillies are genuine about rebuilding, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Chase Utley would probably return enough to jumpstart their uninspiring farm system. Unfortunately, all three have no-trade clauses, making significant change an unlikely proposition for the last-place Phillies.