The trade market is heating up!
With less than a week to go before the July 31 trade deadline, trade talks are intensifying between buyers and sellers.
The Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals are both in the market for relief pitching. The San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies are in the market for offensive help.
The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox figure to be competing amongst each other for bullpen and rotation help.
The Diamondbacks could also jump into the market for a starting pitcher if the right guy became available to them.
The scouts have been out checking out potential targets, recommendations have been made and now the teams have narrowed down their lists of "have-to-have" players.
The Diamondbacks don't truly have a "have-to-have" player that they are pursuing.
They are most active in the market for a starting pitcher, though.
With Ubaldo Jimenez likely out of reach unless the Rockies decide they want to deal their ace within the division, Wandy Rodriguez is their most realistic option.
Rodriguez won't come cheap though, and the Diamondbacks may not be willing to part with the necessary talent and take on the payroll it would take to acquire the Astros lefty starter.
I had to put B.J. Upton somewhere, and the Atlanta Braves seem like the best and most logical fit for the Tampa Bay outfielder.
Oh yeah, trade rumors also have them linked to him.
The rumor mill has had the Braves in search of an outfield bat, capable of playing center field, since the beginning of June.
The only hold-up to this match made in heaven is the Braves reluctance to deal Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Mike Minor or Arodys Vizcaino to bring the slugger to Atlanta.
Given that Upton remains under club control for 2012, something that cannot be said of Carlos Beltran, perhaps they will budge as the deadline approaches or reach a compromise with the Rays.
With the injuries to Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Red Sox need to go after a starting pitcher to help solidify their rotation the remainder of the season and into the postseason.
Boston does not appear to be the front-runner for Hiroki Kuroda; however, he would represent the best available name for the Red Sox to acquire unless they choose to go all in for a pitcher such as Ubaldo Jimenez or Wandy Rodriguez.
The Red Sox have also been linked to the Oakland Athletics' Rich Harden, though he represents an injury risk as well.
The Cincinnati Reds have been linked to Carlos Beltran, Hunter Pence and B.J. Upton as potential offensive upgrades.
All would represent a much bigger upgrade than the player I see them most likely to acquire.
The Reds could surprise me, but I just don't see them parting with the talent it would take to land any of the above-mentioned stars.
They have also been linked to Coco Crisp from the Oakland Athletics, though.
Crisp is a switch-hitting center fielder that plays excellent defense and has good speed on the base paths. He is just the type of dynamic hitter that could become a catalyst and make a difference for the Reds down the stretch.
Reports are that the Indians' top two trade targets this season are Hiroki Kuroda of the Dodgers and Aaron Harang of the Padres.
Although there have not been any substantial talks between the Indians and Padres that have been reported recently, Harang would be a solid addition to their rotation as they look to make up the their two-game deficit and capture the AL Central Division Title.
Harang is 8-2 with a 3.29 ERA for the Padres so far. He represents a solid addition to the Indians rotation down the stretch and a potential impact arm for a playoff series.
Hiroki Kuroda becomes the first name that I am forced to use twice in this list.
The Detroit Tigers have been pursuing starting pitching to help solidify their rotation.
Although they have been connected to Ubaldo Jimenez, Aaron Harang, Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Marquis as well, Kuroda's name is the one that keeps repeating itself in connection with the Tigers.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports listed the Tigers as one of the three hottest teams pursuing Kuroda.
The New York Yankees are in the market for starting pitching.
Although ultimately they may get better results from another starting pitching option, the biggest name on the market is the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez.
The Yankees love to buy the top talent available, so naturally the rumors exist here. Jimenez to the Yankees would be the blockbuster headline of the summer.
Jimenez is having a down season, but his struggles seem limited to home starts at Coors Field in the mile-high altitude of Denver.
At home he has an ERA of 5.51 compared to a 2.83 ERA pitching on the road.
If a change of scenery is all Jimenez needs to put his dominating stuff on full display, on the biggest stage in sports, the Yankees definitely have the chips to make the deal.
The Phillies have reportedly cooled on Carlos Beltran and Hunter Pence, and Josh Willingham's Achilles injury has them skeptical of a deal for him.
Reports are that they have shifted their attention and made Heath Bell their top target before this Sunday's deadline.
I haven't quite gotten used to the fact that the Pittsburgh Pirates are buyers for the first time since 1992.
The Pirates have gotten themselves involved in trade speculation for Josh Willingham, Conor Jackson, Carlos Beltran, Hunter Pence, Jason Giambi, Ty Wiggington and just about every other bat that has been rumored to be available.
After 18 losing seasons, I can't see the Pirates front office passing on the opportunity to make a run at the postseason.
The Houston Astros are asking for a large package of prospects in return for Pence. Most experts can't see the Pirates parting with enough talent to land Pence in a trade.
I am no expert, so perhaps that is why I can see the Pirates striking a deal as we get closer to the deadline and landing Pence for the stretch drive and to anchor their lineup for the next two seasons as well (he's a free agent in 2014).
Remember, the Pirates could always trade him for more prospects in either of the next two seasons if they fall back out of contention.
The only name that continues to pop up repeatedly in trade rumors around San Francisco is Carlos Beltran.
Beltran appears to be the only target given serious consideration by Brian Sabean and the Giants front office.
The Giants need a boost in their offense if they hope to repeat as world champions this fall, and Beltran represents the best available bat on the market.
They would appear to be contenders for B.J. Upton as well, a trade that personally I think might make more sense given his contract status for 2012. However, they seem completely infatuated with the idea of Beltran in black and orange.
The only hold-up at this point for the Mets and Giants to complete a swap, though, is the Giants' unwillingness to part with any of their top prospects.
If ever there were a "have-to-have" this season, this would be it.
Heath Bell, thanks to the St. Louis Cardinals, has become the second player to force me to dedicate more than one slide to him in this list.
The Cardinals are currently involved in several different trade rumors, and it is a little hard to nail down which player they consider their "have-to-have."
Reports are that they have some level of interest in Hiroki Kuroda and also could become players for B.J. Upton if they trade Colby Rasmus.
They don't seem too interested in Mike Adams of the Padres, primarily because of the price in talent to acquire him from San Diego.
They are one of the front runners for Bell, though.
Bell would be a solid addition in the ninth inning for the Cardinals as they look to make a return to the World Series in perhaps the final year with both Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter in Cardinals uniforms.
Despite the fact that the Rangers have been linked to some high profile closers, their desire to keep Neftali Feliz in the ninth inning has them better paired for a setup man such as the Padres' Mike Adams.
Adams is having a great season, posting a 1.20 ERA in 45 innings pitched for San Diego so far this season.
He has a 9.0 K/9 and just a 1.8 BB/9 ratio.
Adams would be costly to acquire in a trade, but he still seemingly makes more sense than overpaying for Heath Bell or Andrew Bailey with Feliz maintaining the closer's role.