We're under a week to go until the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and activity is picking up. More and more teams are getting clearer ideas of 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 under way.
Homecoming for Soriano: It appears the next phase of the Cubs' makeover is in full swing, while the Yankees are still very much playing for 2013. Those interests intersected in the person of Alfonso Soriano.
Once a top prospect and hot young star in the Yankees' organization, Soriano, now 37, is evidently on his way back to the Bronx. According to MLB.com's Carrie Muskat, the deal is "99 percent" done, but it still needs to be reviewed by Major League Baseball.
Soriano has agreed to waive his no-trade protection in order to return to New York, where he will provide an upgrade for a team starved for offense. He would most likely take at-bats from Vernon Wells, who has fallen into an abysmal slump since starting the year on a hot streak.
Mixed day for Sox pitchers: On the other side of Chicago, it was a good news/bad news sort of day. White Sox righty Jake Peavy, who has become one of the most coveted arms on the market, pitched seven solid innings in a win against the Tigers. But reliever Jesse Crain, who also has drawn a great deal of interest, experienced a setback in his recovery from a shoulder injury.
Manny Randhawa of MLB.com reported Thursday that Crain didn't feel good while playing catch, two days after his first mound session since suffering the injury. Crain would be arguably the top reliever on the market if healthy, but there will likely be little or no interest if not. It does not appear he will be able to pitch in a game before the Deadline.
As for Peavy, MLB.com's Scott Merkin reports that approximately 10 teams were in attendance as he pitched Thursday, though some could also have been looking at Alex Rios. The Red Sox, Rangers and Braves were among the teams represented at U.S. Cellular Field.
Long odds by the Bay: Giants general manager Brian Sabean does not sound like a man with any designs on buying before the deadline. Sabean spoke in candid, stark terms on Thursday when he discussed his team's situation.
According to MLB.com's Chris Haft, Sabean told KNBR radio that "the math is horrific against us, and we're almost ready to turn the page on this season." He made it clear that there's very little likelihood of the Giants adding players for the stretch run, considering their position in the standings.
In fact, it could be the opposite. Sabean sounded as though the Giants might even be a seller. Outfielder Hunter Pence and reliever Javier Lopez are among the Giants who could be free agents this winter and who might interest contenders.
Braves still sorting things out: The starting rotation was already a complicated situation for the Braves, even before Tim Hudson suffered a grisly ankle injury on Wednesday.
Alex Wood is in, but he wasn't especially sharp in his first start on Thursday against the Mets. Brandon Beachy is on the way back from injury, set to make his season debut within a week or so. Kris Medlen is still in after looking like he was on the way out, and Paul Maholm is injured but perhaps not out for long.
All of which is to say that even the Braves' brass may not know just yet whether they'll seek to add a starter. Relief help had been Atlanta's priority up until the Hudson injury. It will be interesting to watch in the coming days and see whether the focus shifts to starting pitching.
Utley not going anywhere: It's not as though the Phillies have given any indication of being sellers. But if they were, it's starting to look like one of their biggest potential chips isn't going anywhere.
According to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, an extension for five-time All-Star Chase Utley "seems more likely to happen than not." It's not entirely clear what the Phillies could have received had they decided to shop Utley, but it appears that is a moot point.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has talked more like a buyer than a seller in recent weeks, but that stance is getting harder to maintain. Thursday's loss to the Cardinals dropped Philadelphia to four games below .500, and kept the Phils eight full games behind the Braves in the National League East. They are tied for the third-worst run differential in the league, further arguing against any rentals.
Reds quiet, but not idle: MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reported Thursday that the Reds haven't had "much in the way of rumblings" as the Deadline approaches. General manager Walt Jocketty told Sheldon that "there have been a lot of conversations but nothing of substance."
That is to say, just because nothing is getting out to the public, it doesn't mean they're not trying. Even so, Cincinnati doesn't need much. The Reds could use a right-handed bat, but they may get just that when Ryan Ludwick returns from injury.
Matthew Leach is a national reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.