The 2014 MLB trade deadline is scheduled for Thursday, July 31, and as it is every season, the rumors have started to come fast and furious from all corners of the sport.
With huge names like A.J. Burnett, Jon Lester, Matt Kemp and Jonathan Papelbon potentially on the move, the landscape of baseball could shift if the rumored trades come to fruition before the deadline.
Here are the latest reports from around Major League Baseball.
Phillies and Pirates Hammering Out Deal for A.J. Burnett?
The Philadelphia Phillies currently hold a 46-60 regular-season record, meaning the team will mostly likely become aggressive sellers at the trade deadline. The franchise must start thinking about the future, and that could mean dealing starting pitcher A.J. Burnett.
Burnett was brought in as a free agent to add another reliable arm to the rotation, but his services would be much better utilized on a team contending for a postseason berth like the Pittsburgh Pirates.
According to Jim Bowden of ESPN, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are working on a deal, but the details are still being hammered out:
Pirates-Phillies continue to work on A.J. Burnett deal…on player return as well as how much Phillies have to pay of Burnett’s salary#Alive— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) July 26, 2014
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com also reported the Pirates’ interest in Burnett but revealed a snag that could hold up a potential trade:
The Phillies and A.J. Burnett wouldn't mind working out a deal for him to go to Pittsburgh, but the Pirates' interest, believed mild at best, might fall further if Burnett intends to pick up a player option for next year that's likely to be worth $12.75 million.
The 2015 option is for $7.5 million at its minimum, but it will begin escalating if he reaches 24 starts this season (he has 21 so far). If he starts 32 games, the option would rise to $12.75 million, which would be a budget buster for Pittsburgh.
Giving up seven earned runs in his last start is not what a prospective team wants to see from a trade target, but Pittsburgh knows exactly what Burnett would bring to the team based the two seasons he spent there (2012-13).
Burnett’s 2014 hasn’t been his best, but he has served admirably on a struggling team. His positive attitude has helped anchor the rotation, and he has amassed a 4.15 ERA, a 6-10 record and 123 strikeouts thus far.
With the Pirates depending on Edinson Volquez and Vance Worley as the No. 4 and No. 5 starters, respectively, in their rotation, adding an insurance policy like Burnett would be a great deal if the two sides can come to an amicable agreement.
Jon Lester-for-Matt Kemp Deal on the Table?
One of the biggest names on the trade block this season has been Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester. According to reports, Lester could be the key piece in a trade for Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp.
In a report from Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com, Los Angeles and Boston may be laying the groundwork for a blockbuster trade before the deadline:
He has had debilitating ankle and shoulder injuries that have limited his play the last two seasons, is still owed roughly $118 million on a contract that runs through 2019, and has a mixed reputation as a clubhouse presence, but the Red Sox are considering making a move for Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, according to a club source.
With the Sox in need of more offensive production in the outfield, the right-handed-hitting Kemp could be the major piece in a trade for Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester, especially with the Dodgers reluctant to part with top outfield prospect Joc Pederson.
This would be one of the biggest trades of the year, and it would make a lot of sense for both parties involved. Boston would get a legitimate return in Kemp for Lester before he hits the open market as a free agent.
Los Angeles will have to take the educated risk regarding Lester re-signing with the Dodgers, but the team would be able to add another ace to the already-powerful starting rotation. Add in the fact that moving Kemp would alleviate some salary-cap stress and free up another outfield position for the young players in the farm system, and this is a win-win deal for both teams.
With Lester pitching well (2.52 ERA, 10-7 record and 149 strikeouts) and Kemp performing strong since returning from injury (a .277 batting average, eight home runs, 40 RBI and a .343 on-base percentage on the season), this would be a blockbuster trade that could actually come to fruition before the deadline.
Philadelphia Pushing Hard to Move Jonathan Papelbon?
As discussed in the Burnett section, Philadelphia is slipping out of contention and should be looking to sell many of the high-priced pieces that aren’t going to be part of the long-term plan.
One of the biggest names thrown around in rumors has been closer Jonathan Papelbon, but there just hasn't been the attention the Phillies thought they would get for a player of his caliber.
According to Heyman, Philadelphia is so desperate to move Papelbon that the team is willing to eat a substantial portion of his salary, but there is still not enough interest to make a deal worth a move:
The Phillies are telling teams they'd absorb a portion of the $18 million remaining on closer Jonathan Papelbon's deal if they are interested in trading for the closer. Papelbon's market seems light, if existent, after both the Angels and Tigers filled back-end bullpen needs with Huston Street and Joakim Soria, respectively.
Despite the team's struggles, Papelbon has not lost the tenacity and toughness be has become known for, and the numbers back that up. With a 1.83 ERA, 25 saves and 40 strikeouts in 44.1 innings, there is no question that he would be a welcome addition to any bullpen.
For the teams potentially interested in Papelbon, the high-priced contract is a major issue. If the Phillies are willing to eat a huge chunk of the money, as the report claims, it will be easier to move him in a last-second deal.
Stats via MLB.com.