MLB Trade Rumors: How Will NL Central Contenders Approach the Deadline?

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistJuly 13, 2011

MLB Trade Rumors: How Will NL Central Contenders Approach the Deadline?

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    Every year, the trade deadline is a major event in the world of Major League Baseball.

    Teams out of contention sell, and contenders buy. The players changing hands will vary in talent levels and roles, but players will certainly be moved at some level.

    With just four games separating the top four teams in the NL Central, the race is sure to heat up as the deadline looms.

    Just more than two weeks remain before teams must get their deals approved by the commissioner's office. What are considered rumors now could come to fruition, or they may not.

    Here is a look at how each of the four NL Central contenders will approach the deadline.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    On Tuesday night, the Milwaukee Brewers added an arm to their bullpen when they acquired Francisco Rodriguez from the New York Mets for two players to be named later.

    While this is a step in the right direction for the current division leaders, expect the Brewers to make another move or two before August arrives.

    According to ESPN, the Brewers could also look to add infield depth at the deadline. Potential additions could be Rafael Furcal or Jason Bartlett at shortstop.

    In the hot corner, the Brewers could pursue Mark Reynolds or Jayson Nix.

    Milwaukee is already a step ahead of others in the NL Central with the addition of Rodriguez. The key now is to stay ahead.

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Colby Rasmus is the subject of a lot of speculation for the St. Louis Cardinals.

    Rasmus is a talented player with a high ceiling, but Jon Jay is a capable center fielder behind Rasmus. Rasmus' .264 batting average is not all that encouraging either.

    According to ESPN, Rasmus could be dealt by Cardinals' GM John Mozeliak. The Cardinals could be seeking another impact player in the field or could shore up the back end of their pitching rotation.

    In terms of Rasmus, the Rays are potential suitors. A deal involving Rays outfielder B.J. Upton fell through three years ago, but has the potential to come up again before the deadline.

    The Cardinals could also be interested in James Shields. According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Dispatch, the Cardinals covet Jeremy Hellickson over any other Rays player.

    Whether or not the Cardinals can land a player by way of moving Rasmus, it is obvious the Cardinals are looking to add talent to a banged up team.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    The Pittsburgh Pirates are finally in a position to buy at the trade deadline.

    Now the question becomes, how will the Pirates approach this unfamiliar territory?

    As of now, the options seem a bit cloudy. The Pirates could choose to deal veterans Paul Maholm or Evan Meek. However, they could add talent to this rising National League team.

    The Pirates desperately need help behind the plate. Chris Snyder is out for the year due to back surgery, and while Ryan Doumit is due back in the next few weeks, he is not always reliable.

    Reportedly, the Pirates had been working with the Los Angeles Angels to acquire Jeff Mathis in exchange for Garrett Jones. The deal fell through when the Pirates balked on parting with Jones' bat.

    Pittsburgh could also be interested in Carlos Pena because of Lyle Overbay's lack of production. Granted, Pena is struggling himself, but his home run potential would be a nice addition to a Pirates lineup lacking pop.

    Pirates GM Neil Huntingdon is in an interesting position. The Pittsburgh Pirates are buyers for the first time in a long time, and fans expect the front office to execute effectively and efficiently.

    Upgrading talent on the major league team without mortgaging their bright future will be the key, and also the difficult part for Huntingdon and company as the deadline nears.

Cincinnati Reds

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    According to ESPN, the Cincinnati Reds may be in the hunt for Colorado Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez.

    Despite Jimenez's struggles so far in 2011, the Reds would have to part with a big package to make this deal happen. A deal centering around either Homer Bailey, Travis Wood or Mike Leake, plus a few top prospects would be needed to pry Jimenez away from the still-contending Rockies.

    Whether or not the Reds can actually acquire Jimenez is yet to be seen. They currently sit four games back in the NL Central and need to add starting pitching help.

    Shortstop was an issue with Paul Janish struggling and Edgar Renteria aging, but the call-up of Zack Cozart should alleviate that need in the long term.

    The Reds could also use an upgrade in left field. Jonny Gomes, Fred Lewis and Chris Heisey have all struggled. Josh Willingham or Alfonso Soriano could help relieve this need as a short-term upgrade.