The 2014 MLB trade deadline is Thursday, July 31, and the rumors are swirling as teams make their final push to add difference-makers for a deep postseason run.
With legitimate stars like Jon Lester, Cole Hamels and Alex Rios reportedly on the trade block, the possibility of a wild deadline day full of deals has the baseball world buzzing.
Here are the latest rumors surrounding the top names in the sport.
Jon Lester Drawing Serious Deadline Interest?
The big news from Tuesday’s games was that Boston Red Sox ace Jon Lester would not make his scheduled start Wednesday, as his head coach, John Farrell, told Jeff Pini of Boston.com.
Lester has been at the center of trade talks for weeks. With the deadline now just a day away, the team made the decision to scratch him and avoid injury just in case it can work out a deal with a prospective buyer.
According to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, there are several teams that have expressed serious interest in Lester:
Even with Boston struggling this season, Lester has been one of the cornerstones of the franchise and has helped the Red Sox stay near contention despite the lack of consistency around him. So far in the 2014 season, he has racked up a 2.52 ERA, a 10-7 record and 149 strikeouts.
Those numbers would look even more impressive if he found himself on a team with an offensive unit that could contribute runs when needed. Whether it’s the Pittsburgh Pirates, the St. Louis Cardinals or even the Oakland A's, Lester would have a better chance to succeed elsewhere.
Any franchise looking to acquire him would have to give up a hefty package of prospects and picks, but the return of a star pitcher who could anchor a rotation should be worth it to any organization that believes it can contend for a World Series.
Asking Price for Cole Hamels Too High?
The Philadelphia Phillies are 47-60 this season and falling fast. The team must become trade-deadline sellers, but there are reports that Philadelphia may not be as willing to part with certain players as a team in a retooling mode should.
Per a report from John Heyman of CBSSports.com, several teams have expressed interest in Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels, but the franchise’s asking price is far too high:
While Phillies star left-hander Cole Hamels remains technically available on the trade market, a rival GM put it this way: "They want the world."
The Phillies have to at least listen on Hamels considering their issues in dealing other big-salaried players and the clear need to begin to retool. But they obviously aren't eager, based on asking prices being heard.
According to Heyman, Hamels has $105 million left on his current contract. If Philadelphia isn’t going for a full-blown rebuild, the franchise must begin moving some of the high-priced players in favor of more affordable temporary fixes.
The key has always been to build a strong farm system, but the Phillies depleted the strength of their minor league system with several moves that helped bring them the World Series in 2008. The problem now is that the championship window has closed and the organization is clinging to the remaining pieces.
Hamels is still one of the top pitchers in the league, amassing a 2.55 ERA, a 6-5 record and 133 strikeouts, but Philadelphia could get a huge return for the player from a team desperate for the extra arm in the rotation.
Whether it’s this year’s deadline, the offseason or even next summer’s trade deadline, the Phillies should replenish their farm system by dealing away one of the team’s most valuable pieces. The hope is that it would be a case of taking one step back in order to take two steps forward.
Alex Rios on the Move?
Just like the Red Sox and the Phillies, the Texas Rangers (42-65) are slipping out of contention and will likely become sellers at the trade deadline. One of the players drawing the most interest is veteran outfielder Alex Rios.
According to Rosenthal, Rios is a serious deadline target for several teams, and Texas will do whatever it takes to get a deal done:
The money is the major holdup in a possible deal. According to Rotoworld.com, Rios is due to make $12.5 million this season with a $13.5 million club option in 2015. The veteran will become a free agent in 2016, and a team looking to add depth to the lineup should be concerned about the hefty price tag.
That is unless the Rangers are willing to include cash in a deal, as Rosenthal is reporting.
Rios is still a solid outfielder with good numbers at the plate—he has a .305 batting average, four home runs, 43 RBI and a .334 on-base percentage—and his ability in the past to move from town to town via trade without missing a beat is what contenders are looking for.
While Rios won’t steal many headlines, he is a talented player who would add another body in the outfield and a reliable bat in the lineup.
*Stats via MLB.com.