With July more than half gone and the All-Star break over, a single topic will dominate baseball conversation over the coming weeks: the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Clubs are sorting out whether they're buyers or sellers and at what price in either case, all while also trying to, you know, win ballgames.
From now until the July 31 Deadline, we'll be checking in on the trade news around baseball, with help from MLB.com's reporters. The countdown is underway.
Garza still a Cub ... for now: Matt Garza is scheduled to make his next start on Monday. As of now, that start is expected to be in a Cubs uniform, opposite the D-backs. But don't be shocked if Garza's next start comes in another club's uniform.
It appeared on Friday as if that uniform would be that of the Rangers. The Rangers and Cubs could still complete a deal for the right-handed Garza, who is 5-0 with a 1.47 ERA in his last five starts. But according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, questions the Cubs had about one of the players they would have received in return from Texas held up a deal that appeared to be imminent. Major League sources told Sullivan the concerns the Cubs had weren't major but "fair," and that the two clubs were considering alternative ways to make the deal happen. Though it is not known what players were being discussed by the Cubs and Rangers, Sullivan noted that Mike Olt dealt with vision issues earlier this season and that pitcher Neil Ramirez has dealt with minor shoulder issues lately. Both Olt and Ramirez have been mentioned in trade rumors this season.
The Cubs could still find a trade match elsewhere. Interest in Garza is understandably high, particularly given his recent success and apparent return to full health. Though this particular deal was on hold as of Saturday afternoon, it would not be shocking at all to see a deal go down before Garza's next turn in the Cubs' rotation.
If Garza does go to the Rangers, he has the potential to fundamentally alter Texas' outlook in a difficult division battle with the A's. The Rangers entered Saturday with a 4.08 starters' ERA and had six starters on the disabled list at the All-Star break. They have depth, especially as Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison work their way back, but Garza would certainly aid their comfort level at the top end of the rotation.
Peavy trade showcase begins: Jake Peavy made his first Major League start since June 4 on Saturday, after recovering from a fractured rib -- and there is little question that other clubs are watching. Peavy, a one-time National League Cy Young Award winner, is owed roughly $20 million more through 2014 by the White Sox, who are certainly sellers at this Trade Deadline and are expected to explore the value of their veterans.
Though Peavy's injury history is extensive and the money owed to him is not chump change, he'll certainly attract interest in a market typically thin on upper-tier starters. In fact, because he is controlled through 2014, Peavy might be the most valuable arm out there.
The Red Sox are one team that might make sense for Peavy, given the resources they have to take on that contract and the continuing uncertainty surrounding Clay Buchholz's status. ESPN's Buster Olney reported on Twitter that the Red Sox were sending a scout to Saturday's White Sox game and that Boston has done some homework on Peavy in recent days.
Tigers on the prowl for relief help: Well, there's a headline that's no shock. The Tigers' bullpen has been a thorn in the club's collective side all season.
The twist, though, is that Joaquin Benoit has solidified the ninth inning considerably in recent weeks. MLB.com's Jason Beck is reporting that the club's search could be veering more toward the setup situation, which is presumably a cheaper fix.
CBSSports.com reported that the Tigers are watching the Marlins, Brewers, Padres, Mariners and Astros this weekend. That's a wide swath and no surprise, as the Tigers, under president and general manager Dave Dombrowski, are known to go aggressive on the scouting side when they identify an in-season need.
Beck reported that the Tigers were recently told the Marlins have no interest in trading closer Steve Cishek, who is attractive by virtue of being under team control for another four years. The Tigers still view Bruce Rondon as their long-term answer at closer.
Ramirez staying put until at least August: Aramis Ramirez is a name bound to attract a lot of interest this time of year, but only to the extent that he's healthy.
Right now, he's not. As MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reported on Friday, Ramirez is being cautious with his rehab from a left knee injury and doesn't want to rush the process. FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal took it a step further on Saturday, reporting that Ramirez won't be back for another 10-14 days, which would leave him on the shelf up to or through the Trade Deadline.
So a July trade by a Brewers team looking to reload seems highly unlikely at this point. That said, Ramirez is owed roughly another $20 million through 2014 (plus a mutual option for $14 million or a $4 million buyout for 2015), so it's not out of the realm of possibility that he might clear waivers and be dealt in August.
For now, clubs looking for an upgrade at the hot corner will have to look elsewhere.
Twins in trade talks: One way or another, the Justin Morneau era could be coming to a close in Minneapolis. Morneau, who told MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger that he wants to remain in Minnesota, has been rebuffed by the club in his attempts to talk about a contract extension. With the former MVP mere months away from free agency, the Twins might deal him before the Deadline.
Of course, any club acquiring Morneau at this juncture is not getting the player he once was. Though finally back on the field consistently after a litany of injuries (including concussion symptoms) drastically limited his playing time in 2010 and '11, Morneau had a pedestrian .737 OPS entering Saturday and an adjusted OPS ranking right around the league average.
Still, Morneau is a power bat in a market starved for such a tool, so it's little wonder teams like the Yankees, Orioles, Red Sox and Pirates have been linked to him in the rumor mill.
The Twins' greater trade commodity is closer Glen Perkins. But because he's on a team-friendly contract through 2015, Perkins also has plenty of value to the retooling Twins, too. Twins GM Terry Ryan told Bollinger he has no untouchables and that conversations are picking up around the league.