The 2014 MLB nonwaiver trade deadline is Thursday, July 31, and the rumors surrounding the biggest names in baseball have fans trying to predict where the top players will land.
With stars like Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki, Boston’s Jon Lester and Minnesota’s Josh Willingham reportedly on the market, the landscape of the league could look very different by the time Aug. 1 arrives.
Here are the latest rumors and predictions as the trade deadline approaches.
One of the best shortstops in baseball is Colorado Rockies star Troy Tulowitzki, and he has been at the center of trade talks for weeks leading up to the deadline. The rumors were further fueled by Tulowitzki’s appearance at a Yankees game in New York on Sunday, per Nick Groke and Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.
According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Tulowitzki’s trip to Yankee Stadium was not related to business, but the shortstop is intrigued by the possibility of playing in New York City:
It is unrelated to his day trip, but those close to the shortstop say they believe that if Tulo is to be traded from the Rockies -- a team he loves in a city he loves -- the Yankees happened to be one of only a handful of teams he'd be happy to join.
Friends of Tulowitzki say that while he hasn't necessarily presented a list of pre-approved teams for trade, he does indeed love the history and winning tradition of the Yankees, that he'd love the idea of replacing his idol Derek Jeter, and that he'd happily look past the fact that his beloved No. 2 is taken (Jeter's number will be retired with him after this year) to accept a trade to the Bronx.
The media has run with this story, but there is little doubt that this was strictly Tulowitzki attending the game to see his favorite player one last time. While being in the stadium and seeing the atmosphere from the fan’s perspective could have intrigued the shortstop about a possible deal, nothing is imminent.
If New York were to land Tulowitzki, it would likely be after Jeter retires this offseason.
Despite Tulowitzki’s outstanding numbers in 2014—he's racked up a .340 batting average, 21 home runs, 52 RBI and a .432 on-base percentage thus far—he is currently on the disabled list with a thigh injury.
With Colorado not looking to deal the shortstop and few teams willing to overpay without seeing him perform on his injured leg first, any potential trade would likely have to wait until the offseason at the earliest.
Predicted Landing Spot: Colorado Rockies
The Boston Red Sox understand that starting pitcher Jon Lester has the right to become a free agent at the conclusion of the season. If the organization doesn’t want to pay Lester the money he has earned, trading him away will yield a hefty return.
The trade won’t bring back a player of Lester’s talent, but it’s better than allowing the team’s top pitcher hit the open market and get nothing in return.
In a series of tweets from Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com and Buster Olney of ESPN, it has become clear that Boston is doing whatever it can to move Lester before the trade deadline:
Source: #RedSox open to trading BOTH Lester and Lackey for right returns.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 29, 2014
Sources: #RedSox getting “hit hard” on both Lester and Lackey from most contenders, including AL East clubs.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 28, 2014
There's a growing expectation from rival execs that Jon Lester is going to be traded before Jdeadline; LAD viewed as likely landing spot.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 28, 2014
Why the Red Sox wouldn’t do whatever it took to re-sign the pitcher is beyond comprehension. Even at 30 years old, Lester is still one of the best pitchers in the league and has impressed with his 2.52 ERA, a 10-7 record and 149 strikeouts.
There are reportedly several teams interested, and that’s likely due to the fact that it isn’t often when a player of Lester’s caliber is put on the block. With little baggage attached to the player, any team in win-now mode will be kicking the tires over the coming days.
It is unclear if a team will be willing to pay what Boston is asking for what could be a rental player if he decides to test the open market this offseason, but his raw talent and consistency would make him a valuable piece to any starting rotation.
Predicted Landing Spot: Los Angeles Dodgers
The New York Yankees have serious issues with the pitching rotation, but the team is reportedly just as interested in adding another bat to the lineup as it is finding a starting pitcher on the trade block.
One of the players reportedly drawing the most interest from New York is Josh Willingham.
In a separate report from Heyman, he claims that the Yankees are interested in acquiring another offensive player, and Willingham fits the mold the team is looking for:
The Yankees, perhaps as concerned about their offensive issues as their rotation, are looking at outfielder Josh Willingham and some other bats.
The Yankees may actually prefer Willingham to Marlon Byrd or Alex Rios, perhaps partly because of Willingham's reasonable $7 million salary and status as a free agent after the season, though Byrd and Rios haven't been ruled out. Rios makes $12 million, with a $2 million buyout of a $14 million team option, and Byrd has an $8 million salary next year. Byrd's deal does not seem overly high considering his solid production the past two years, but there may be some concern about his fit in the Bronx.
While it is clear that New York needs a consistent bat in the lineup, it makes little sense to add a player like Willingham. During the 2014 season, he has hit for an abysmal .219 batting average, 10 home runs, 29 RBI and a .361 on-base percentage.
Where is the consistency there?
Willingham’s numbers indicate that he would find more success in the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, but there is a serious risk associated with a possible deal. New York would likely have to trade away a prospect to get the Twins outfielder, and if he doesn’t pan out, the team would be stuck with a 35-year-old player on the backside of his career.
Despite the holdups, the Yankees have the need and the willingness to trade for Willingham.
Predicted Landing Spot: New York Yankees
*Stats via MLB.com.