The 2014 MLB trade deadline is looming, the rumors keep coming and it is becoming clear which teams are truly interested in bolstering the roster with some astute acquisitions rather than relying on the talent already at hand.
July 31 is the cutoff date. Beyond that, it's pretty much the (often very minor) waiver-wire deals and possible free agents/call-ups to help out the team. July is where the truly excellent moves are made.
Let's take a gander at the latest buzz surrounding some of the top players on the block and predict which teams will be making use of their talents by the time the trade deadline ends.
Jon Lester, LHP, Boston Red Sox
Jon Lester has professed his love for Beantown, but that doesn't stop his name from popping up in the MLB rumor mill.
According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi, the Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners are both in on acquiring Lester from the Boston Red Sox:
This is a dicey proposition for any team, as Lester's contract is up in 2014 and he hasn't ruled out going right back to Boston if traded.
"Why not? This is what I know, this is what I love and like I’ve said plenty of times, this is where I want to be," he said, via the Boston Herald's Joey Knight.
The Mariners won't mind bringing in another star with an AL East pedigree. As Rosenthal noted, they have been in on David Price, which shows they are very serious about bolstering the rotation.
Should the Red Sox trade Jon Lester?
The Baltimore Orioles could make a compelling offer, but the Red Sox might not want to trade Lester to a division rival.
Seattle could offer their promising 21-year-old starter, Taijuan Walker, in a trade. However, they would likely want some sort of assurance that Lester wouldn't go right back to the Red Sox when his contract finished up.
Prediction: Seattle Mariners
Cole Hamels, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
According to Morosi, the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals have the best chance of landing Philadelphia Phillies starter Cole Hamels:
Cardinals and Dodgers are teams with best chance to acquire Cole Hamels from Phillies, sources say, but price is very high. @FOXSports1— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 28, 2014
Hamels is currently 5-5 on the season with a 2.72 ERA, 125 strikeouts and a 1.153 WHIP.
He's no rental, either, as his contract runs through at least 2018, per Spotrac. This gives the Phillies plenty of leverage when negotiating trades with other teams, but it also takes away some of the urgency.
The Dodgers' most prized asset in the minors is center fielder Joc Pederson, who currently boasts a .322/.455/.592 slash line in Triple-A ball this year. They shouldn't be too desperate, as they already have four great starters in the rotation in Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu and Josh Beckett.
Which team has the best chance of landing Hamels?
It's unlikely the Phillies will want to take on one of the Dodgers' giant outfield contracts, so it could be tough for them to come to an agreement.
The St. Louis Cardinals have a chance, but Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro can be tough to negotiate with, and the team has needs in other areas, such as catcher.
The price is indeed going to be too steep for either of these teams, which keeps Hamels in Philly until winter at the very least.
Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies
Kurt Suzuki, C, Minnesota Twins
This is a saga that could very well find a resolution before July 31. According to sources for KSTP.com's Darren Wolfson, the Minnesota Twins are at an impasse in contract-extension talks with catcher Kurt Suzuki and won't be able to reach an agreement anytime soon:
No Suzuki extension talks over weekend. Easily can be posturing, but in the eyes of one, "Nothing's going to get done (by Thurs.)." #mntwins— Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) July 28, 2014
As CBS Sports' Jon Heyman noted on July 25, the Orioles and Cardinals have both shown interest in trading for Suzuki.
Suzuki is on a one-year deal with the team and enjoying one of the finest seasons of his career, sporting a .309/.367/.392 slash line and 41 RBI so far.
One team that hasn't been in the market for Suzuki but probably should be is the Dodgers. With so many injury-prone players in the lineup, they could definitely use another solid bat. Current Dodgers starting catcher A.J. Ellis is hitting just .199 on the season.
Where will Suzuki be playing baseball after the trade deadline?
But no noise from the Dodgers on this front, which makes the Baltimore Orioles the most likely candidate for Suzuki's services since Matt Wieters is out for the rest of the season while Yadier Molina is set to return for the Cardinals this year.
The Twins can use the Orioles' desperation and tight AL East battle against them in an effort to drive up the price for Suzuki.
Prediction: Baltimore Orioles
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and updated as of July 28 unless otherwise noted.