The All-Star Game is here for those of us not interested in watching Robinson Cano, David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzales take batting practice on primetime, we have idle minds that need stimulation.
Thus, I bring you yet another article about trade rumors. Because just like porn and chicken wings, we just can't seem to get enough of them.
For this slideshow, I have assembled a list of the American League teams that have emerged as the contenders. My apologies to the fans of the Twins and Blue Jays (among others), but you didn't make the cut.
Once real baseball returns on Wednesday, the march to July 31st will begin. As the day approaches, the rumor mill will be churning out madness at a break-neck pace, so hopefully these analytical dalliances on the following slides set the table nicely.
Let the games begin.
As always, you can follow me on twitter: @tdotsportwriter
Standing: First in AL East
Considering the injury issues that Boston has faced this year, it's a testament to just how deep this team truly is that they've managed to hold off the Yankees this long.
When John Lester, Carl Crawford, Clay Buchholz and Jed Lowrie all return from their various DL stays (Daisuke Matsuzaka is our for the year), the Red Sox could very well decide to stand pat.
However, we all know they won't.
It's a virtual guarantee that the Yankees will pull the trigger on a deal, so it follows that Boston will likely counter.
The only major statistical category that Boston trails New York is in stolen bases. The Red Sox rank ninth in the American League with 58, whereas the Yankees are third with 81. If this is a concern for Boston, then the only position that makes sense in right field where the brittle and inconsistent JD Drew is the current incumbent.
The Kansas City Royals have two guys who can play right and may offer the power/speed combo Boston seems to like—Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera. With 15 and 12 thefts respectively, both players could be up for grabs with Kansas City still rebuilding and a virtual horde of prospects knocking on the door.
Standing: First in Wild Card, 1.0 GB AL East
As pleased as the Yankees may be with reclamation projects Bartolo Colon and Freddie Garcia, I highly doubt they'll want this rotation to remain unchanged going in to the playoffs.
New York will trade for a starting pitcher. That's a 100 percent guarantee.
The teams that jump off the page as trade partners are the Twins and Padres. Both teams have three things in common—they're struggling, they have several attractive starters that won't be too costly to acquire and both teams have a need for an injection of young talent.
The Padres have Tim Stauffer and Aaron Harang. Stauffer is a former top pick and would be the more expensive of the two (think Austin Romine++), whereas Harang is the seasoned vet who could come on the cheap.
As for the Twins, Scott Baker and Fransisco Liriano are two names that come to mind. Baker, in spite of his numbers this season, would be the cheaper of the two. He would also be the safest. A career 4.16/1.27 pitcher with a 42-47 record, Scott Baker is about as reliable as they come and would be a real asset as a back-end starter.
Liriano, however, is a wild card. His performances are wildly inconsistent, but when he's dialed in, he is virtually unhittable. The Twins may be motivated to rid themselves of the unpredictable Liriano for the right price (Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova +)
Standing: 6.0 GB AL East, 5.0 GB Wild Card
Tampa Bay has remained within striking distance of the Wild Card in spite of scoring 22 runs fewer than Kansas City.
Blessed with a horde of young talent, the Rays have accomplished this feat with great performances from their pitchers.
Led by relative grey beard James Shields (29) and young ace David Price (25), Tampa has a rotation full of youthful arms that are either in their prime or nearing it.
Where the team has been lacking is on offense.
The departures of Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena have left the team thin, and as much as Johnny Damon, Casey Kotchman and Sam Fuld may try, they can’t come close to filling that hole.
The most glaring area that can be upgraded is in the outfield where new fan favorite Sam Fuld, who after a hot start, is simply not getting it done at the plate.
Tampa is in a tough spot when the trade deadline arrives. Unless they are within four games of the Wild Card, I can’t see them buying a rental. They may also be reticent to trade for a big name outfielder with Desmond Jennings nearly ready.
What they could do is move Ben Zobrist to the outfield and bring in a two bagger. Danny Espinoza, Ryan Roberts, Kelly Johnson and Aaron Hill are names that could become available and who offer a lot more offense than Fuld.
Standing: First AL Central
Detroit has literally slugged their way to the top of the AL Central. Positioned in the top five in most offensive categories, the Tigers are a top-heavy team with drastic drops in production as you move down the roster.
The best example of this is in their rotation. After ace Justin Verlander, no one has proven dependable. Neither Brad Penny, Max Scherzer or Rick Porcello have given the team the consistency it will need if they wish to do anything in the playoffs (if Cleveland doesn’t overtake them that is).
Aside from the pitchers I mentioned in the Yankee slide, the Marlins have a couple pitchers in Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco that might be available. I say “might” because I haven’t read anything to confirm this, but the Marlins are never shy of flipping a player or two for prospects.
Not to be outdone, the Houston Astros are the worst team in baseball and could unload several players, including Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers.
Standing: 0.5 GB AL Central, 6.5 GB Wild Card
Dropping three of four against Toronto just prior to All-Star break has caused the surprising Cleveland Indians to lose their grip on First in the AL Central.
Cleveland is a middle of the pack team in almost every major statistical category in both hitting and pitching. What the Indians have been able to accomplish is to maintain a level of consistency, never getting to hot nor prone to long slumps.
They also have an above-average rotation and a surprisingly good bullpen. However, if the Indians want to keep pace with the Tigers, they will need to add a big bat to their lineup.
The Kearns/Buck/LaPorta/Hannahan platoon on the right side is a black hole for the Indians. Right off the bat, Carlos Pena comes to mind as a possibility. The Cubs are pathetic and Pena’s 19 home runs and 49 runs batted in would place him first and second on the team in those categories.
Other names that make sense are Ty Wigginton (first base or outfield), Gabby Sanchez (first) and Michael Cuddyer (first and right).
Standing: First in AL West
Statistically speaking, the Texas Rangers might be the second only to Boston in terms of overall offensive output.
However, the team has allowed the second-most home runs and wallow in the bottom half for team ERA and WHIP. For this, you can blame the bullpen.
Outside of Neftali Feliz and Darren Oliver, the Rangers relievers have been at best mediocre. With a young staff that includes Rookie of the Year candidate Alexi Ogando and Derek Holland, this must an area of concern for them.
Although Toronto may consider themselves on the bubble at the moment, if they don’t improve their position in the coming weeks, GM Alex Anthopoulos may decide to move a few of his bullpen assets.
The Blue Jays have several arms that might be available including Casey Janssen, Shawn Camp, Carlos Villanueva, John Rauch, Jason Frasor and Octovio Dotel—all of whom would be an instant upgrade for the struggling Texas ‘pen.
Standing: 1.0 GB AL West, 5.0 GB Wild Card
The Angels are a pitching team, perhaps the best in the American League. What they can’t seem to do is hit.
Mark Trumbo, a rookie, is their offensive leader with a slash line of .260/17/41, and now, they’re hoping super prospect Mike Trout, at just 19 years old, can be a catalyst for them.
This is not good. Neither is their inflexibility for trades as outside of third base; there really isn’t anyone who can be easily moved aside.
So, third base it is.
The light-hitting Maicer Izturis and Alberto Callaspo are currently platooning the hot corner for the Angels. Although wouldn’t either Aramis Ramirez, Alex Gordon, or the aforementioned trio of Cuddyer, Wigginton and Roberts look so much better in that lineup?
Another option if Los Angeles felt like making a statement, would be making a play for David Wright.
Due to return July 22nd from the DL, the All-Star third baseman could become the hot corner thoroughbred they’ve been looking for ever since Troy Glaus left town.