Although the World Series is decided in October, the end of July is often one of the most important parts of the MLB season.
Teams use the days, hours and sometimes minutes leading up to the trade deadline to negotiate a move that can bring them a game-changing player and possibly help them win a title. At the very least, these deadline deals affect the final playoff push for many organizations.
Conversely, the franchises that are out of contention remain in the headlines as they look to improve their rosters going forward.
This makes the trade deadline an event that every fan should follow as much as possible.
Non-Waiver Trade Deadline Info
Date: Thursday, July 31
Time: 4 p.m. ET
Latest Rumors and Predictions
Dodgers Clearing Excess Outfielders
The Los Angeles Dodgers are in first place in the division and are looking to do whatever they can to improve for the playoff push. Interestingly, it might be bigger to remove a player than to add one.
Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp have been rotating time in the outfield, and it is hurting all of them to lose at-bats.
ESPN's Buster Olney reports this could lead to a trade of one of the veterans:
There is a lot of sentiment in LAD organization 1 or 2 of the veteran OFers need to be moved; situation like a cloud hanging over the team.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 28, 2014
He also adds that it might be difficult to part with Kemp:
Some rival officials feel that the Dodgers' best chance to move Kemp is to tie him to one of their elite prospects in a deal.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 28, 2014
On the other hand, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that Crawford is also on the table:
Sources: Dodgers floating Carl Crawford to teams. Still owed $69.25M thru 2017. Unclear how much $ Dodgers would eat. Will need to be a lot.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 28, 2014
The problem is that neither player has been especially impressive this season, and they are both owed a lot of money over the next few years. Getting any team to take on this responsibility appears to be a long shot.
Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston reports that the Boston Red Sox are considering a swap for Jon Lester, but it seems very unlikely this happens unless the Dodgers are also giving up a prospect. Even with Boston's large budget, the cost might not be worth it.
Los Angeles will have to eat a great deal of the contract in any move, losing the value of a potential trade.
Prediction: Dodgers remain aggressive at deadline but cannot move any of the outfielders.
Phillies Trying to Deal Marlon Byrd
A quality hitter on a losing team always seems to get dealt at the trade deadline. The fact that Marlon Byrd has been crushing the ball at the plate with 20 home runs on the season should make him even more appealing on the market.
Unfortunately, there have been some snags in the plan. According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, the Kansas City Royals and the Seattle Mariners were the two most interested teams, but each of them is on Byrd's four-team no-trade list. Byrd explained his reasoning for each:
With Seattle, I know they went and got [Robinson] Cano last year, but I don't think anybody in baseball saw them being where they are. And Kansas City, I didn't think they'd trade for me because they've always had outfield depth in their organization. So it's just one of those things where I kind of lucked out. So I can control my destiny just a little bit.
Just because Byrd put the squad on the no-trade list, it does not mean that a deal is impossible. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports explained what it will take for a move to Seattle to happen:
The outfielder is owed $8 million next season and could make another $8 million with the option in 2016. This alone is likely to keep any team out of the running.
ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reports that the other teams are unwilling to spend too much for a deal either:
#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
The good news for Philadelphia is that a team is likely to become desperate enough to make a move once the deadline creeps up. It might not be for a great prospect in return, but at least it will take away the unwanted contract.
Prediction: Mariners trade for Marlon Byrd and agree to pick up option.
Justin Masterson on the Block
Over the last few years, Justin Masterson has been one of the most inconsistent pitchers in the majors. His ERA has gone from 4.70 to 3.21 to 4.93 to 3.45 in consecutive seasons. This year is one of the bad ones, totaling a 5.51 in 19 starts.
As a result, the Cleveland Indians are open to trading the pitcher, according to Passan:
Sources: Indians very willing to move Justin Masterson. FA to be due back Friday from DL. Looking for young, controllable starting pitching.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 28, 2014
Masterson has been out since the beginning of July with a knee injury, but he is ready to return to the rotation after a mediocre rehab start. The good news is he was confident about getting back to the majors. Manager Terry Francona explained, "He was pretty strong in his opinion that he was ready and that another [minor league start] wouldn't help him," via Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com.
This will be after the trade deadline, which hurts the organization's ability to showcase what the starter can do when healthy. Still, it might be a decent option for a team looking for a buy-low candidate who obviously has plenty of talent.
Unfortunately, the asking price for Cleveland might end up being too high for any team to complete a deal.
Prediction: Justin Masterson remains with the Indians until the end of the year.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.