Full Preview, Predictions for the 2014 MLB Trade Deadline
With Major League Baseball's trade deadline merely hours away, the countdown has begun. Teams have until 4 p.m. ET on July 31—also known as Thursday!—to make moves.
To be sure, contenders will be adding players who can help for the rest of 2014, while those clubs that are out of it this year will be looking to bring in talent for 2015 and beyond. But the specifics—like who is headed where and in exchange for whom—all remain to be seen.
With so much speculation ongoing, it's time to preview the possibilities, analyze the rumors and even take a shot at predicting some of the transaction action that's about to go down between now and Thursday afternoon.
David Price Is Staying Put...
A month ago—heck, two weeks ago—the Tampa Bay Rays looked like sure sellers. They were sitting in last place in the American League East and holding undoubtedly the biggest trade chip out there in former Cy Young Award winner David Price, as well as some other intriguing pieces like second baseman Ben Zobrist.
Well, after winning 22 of their past 28 games—MLB's best record since June 25—the Rays have climbed to within a game of .500, only seven games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the wide-open AL East and just 4.5 out of a playoff spot.
"It's always fun to go on runs like we have," Price said, via Bill Chastain of MLB.com. "We've been playing very good baseball. And we've had that feeling in the locker room like we're going to win every single baseball game. And it's just a lot more enjoyable."
While Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi report that a number of clubs are after Price, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Seattle Mariners, it would be tough to imagine a scenario where the team would part with the All-Star left-hander after playing so well—and working so hard—to get back into the race.
At this point, Tampa Bay would have to be absolutely overwhelmed by an offer to swap Price, who has another year of team control left and could be dealt in the offseason instead.
...But Jon Lester Might Not Be
In case you haven't been paying attention, the reigning world champion Boston Red Sox are stuck in last place in the AL East and have more or less hung the "For Sale" sign outside Fenway Park. While there are more than a few worthy options for contending clubs to consider, the key name is obviously Jon Lester.
A free agent at the end of 2014, Lester has indicated he would like to re-sign with Boston, but the two sides recently acknowledged that any more contract talks have been tabled. That makes it a very real possibility that Lester could be on the move, especially considering the lefty is having a career year. That, and the ever-increasing likelihood that Price will remain a Ray, has boosted Lester's trade value in recent weeks.
Here's what an MLB executive from a team that has checked in on Lester told Joel Sherman of the New York Post:
It makes way too much sense for them to trade Lester. They have tried to sign him, and they obviously are not going to do that in the short term here. So if they want to sign him in the offseason, the only risk they are running is that he goes somewhere else, gets comfortable and decides he wants to stay there rather than testing free agency.
It is not a negligible risk, but it is a risk worth taking. Because think of the win-win—they can get the prospects for Lester and still have him in 2015 and beyond.
The usual suspects, including the Dodgers, Cardinals, Mariners, Brewers, Orioles and Blue Jays, are in on Lester, and if they're willing to part with a quality young player who can help the Red Sox turn things back around next year, something could happen here.
Turns out, Lester has been scratched from his scheduled start Wednesday, per WEEI. That could be a sign that Boston is working hard to see any trade discussions all the way through without jeopardizing Lester's status over the next several hours.
The Philadelphia Phillies Won't Be as Busy as They Should Be—Again
This time last year, the Philadelphia Phillies were a franchise at a crossroads, stuck standing on the fence between buyer and seller. Ultimately, they chose to stand pat rather than unload salary and bring in young talent—and then promptly lost five straight from July 31 to Aug. 4, making that decision look even worse.
Well, at 47-60 through Tuesday, there's no doubt about which bin the Phillies fall into this time around. They need to be sellers all the way, and there's enough to peddle that could help Philadelphia rebuild: left-handers Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, second baseman Chase Utley, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, closer Jonathan Papelbon, outfielder Marlon Byrd, first baseman Ryan Howard, righty A.J. Burnett and setup man Antonio Bastardo.
Thing is, many of those same names could have been traded last July but weren't. Part of that is because some of the players have onerous contracts, many of which include restrictive no-trade clauses.
But general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.'s stuck-in-the-mud approach also hasn't helped. Nor has his apparently steeper-than-Everest asking prices for the likes of Hamels, who is available, according to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports.
Upon inquiring, the Dodgers were told that it would take their three top prospects—shortstop Corey Seager, outfielder Joc Pederson and 17-year-old left-hander Julio Urias—to get the former World Series MVP, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports.
No wonder, as Todd Zolecki of MLB.com writes, that "The Phillies front office has been frustrated lately with its lack of success on the trade market, but it is still trying to complete at least one deal before Thursday’s 4 p.m. non-waiver Trade Deadline."
For the sake of the Phillies' future, here's hoping the "at least" part of the above plays out and the club makes multiple deals to get a much-needed rebuilding process underway. Certainly, if Amaro doesn't find a taker for Byrd—a 36-year-old having a career year who is one of the few big bats available—he's either failing to capitalize on a no-brainer opportunity or plain asking for too much.
The Colorado Rockies Will Keep Their Two Stars—For Now
There has been all sorts of speculation that one or both of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez could be traded ever since they more or less made it known in early July, via Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post, that they would be OK with the idea of moving on from the Colorado Rockies if the club is looking to start fresh.
The most popular bit of news on this front in recent days? That Tulowitzki showed up at Yankee Stadium over the weekend on his way to have a procedure done in Philadelphia on his injured hip, according to Thomas Harding of MLB.com.
While the All-Star shortstop was only there to watch Derek Jeter, one of his idols, before the future Hall of Famer retires at season's end, the appearance did cause quite a stir, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports notes.
Is it possible that Tulowitzki could replace Jeter as the New York Yankees shortstop? Perhaps, but any movement involving either Tulowitzki or Gonzalez is more likely to happen in the offseason.
At the moment, the Rockies and owner Charlie Monfort, however, are hesitant to part with either star player because of what they mean to the franchise both on and off the field. That's why it would take "the offer of the century" to convince Colorado to move Tulowitzki, according to a source quoted by Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish.
Stay tuned over the winter.
Matt Kemp's Time with the Los Angeles Dodgers Is Coming to an End
It seems an inevitability that Matt Kemp and the Los Angeles Dodgers will part ways at some point. That point, though, might not be just yet.
Due to numerous injuries that have impacted his performance, the 29-year-old is no longer the player he was as an MVP candidate a few seasons ago. He is, however, getting paid like he's still the same, with roughly, oh, $107 million coming to him through 2019.
The Dodgers will have to eat a large portion of that to move on from Kemp. Good thing, then, this is one franchise that has the pockets to pay up to make his contract more palatable.
In Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford, as well as the underrated Scott Van Slyke and top prospect Joc Pederson, the Dodgers have plenty of other outfielders to cover for Kemp. So this separation appears only a matter of time, especially since Kemp recently indicated that he would like to get back to playing center field every day, even if that's not in Los Angeles, per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
That time is probably this winter. The NL West leaders have been playing well of late and may not want to shake things up too much right now, as Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston points out.
If Kemp is still around after the season, the Boston Red Sox could be one team interested in acquiring him, as long as he's healthy, according to Edes. As for those Lester-for-Kemp rumors that have been popping up? They don't make much sense, as Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe writes. Tend to agree here.
Contenders Could Put Second Base First
A bunch of teams in the playoff hunt are very much in need of help at the keystone. Among them? The Baltimore Orioles, Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals.
With that much demand, it seems silly to think that one of these potentially available second basemen won't be swapped soon: the Phillies' Utley, the Rays' Zobrist, Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets, Aaron Hill of the Arizona Diamondbacks or Gordon Beckham of the Chicago White Sox.
Utley has a full no-trade clause and probably means too much to his team, but boy would he be a good fit for one of the two Bay Area clubs, as Randy Miller of NJ.com discusses.
Zobrist and his Rays-friendly contract (options for $7 million next year and $7.5 million in 2016) look less likely to leave now that Tampa Bay is relevant again.
Murphy, Hill and Beckham, however, each presents a more plausible second base solution, with their costs of acquisition coming in that order.
The Mets need hitters, so dealing Murphy, who is one of their better ones, might not make much sense, even if he's heading into his final year of arbitration. But the rebuilding Diamondbacks more easily could part with Hill, who is owed $12 million each of the next two years, and Beckham is more of a shot-in-the-dark, change-of-scenery candidate given how much he's regressed.
Point being, there is both quality and quantity available at second base, so teams in need have options.
Lesser Names Will Be Traded and Just Might Have a Bigger-Than-Expected Impact
To an extent, MLB's trade deadline has lost some luster because there aren't as many sellers as there used to be. That's due in large part to each league now having a second Wild Card, as well as sport-wide parity.
Still, there's going to be activity by that 4 p.m. ET mark Thursday. The biggest names may not be changing jerseys, but there are plenty of players who will, either because they have expiring contracts or are on teams that are out of the playoff picture.
Here's a quick run-through of some to keep tabs on as the deadline nears: John Danks, Bartolo Colon, Josh Willingham, Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp, Nate Schierholtz, Joaquin Benoit, LaTroy Hawkins and Andrew Miller.
Those might not be the most exciting pieces, but they can be impactful nonetheless. Teams are becoming better at finding ways to best take advantage of players via platoons and specific matchups, and any of the above would fit well in the right role or in the right park or with the right team.
After all, Marco Scutaro went nuts down the stretch in 2012, hitting .362 after being traded from the Rockies to the Giants, with whom he won the World Series. And last year, the well-past-his-prime Alfonso Soriano helped keep the Yankees afloat into late September by hitting 17 home runs and driving in 50 in 58 games.
Some underrated or overlooked player is going to get traded and then make his presence felt for a contender. We just don't know who that might be. Yet.
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