The July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline is less than two weeks away. Clubs are sorting out whether they're buyers or sellers and trying to assess how new Draft-pick compensation rules affect their valuation of players, all while also trying to, you know, win ballgames.
From now until the Deadline, we'll be checking in on the trade news around baseball, with help from MLB.com's reporters. The countdown is under way.
Burnett to Baltimore? The Orioles have a little bit of a history with A.J. Burnett, even though he's never thrown a pitch for them.
They actually targeted Burnett nearly a decade ago -- at the 2005 Trade Deadline -- when Burnett was still with the Marlins, but he wound up staying put. And when Burnett opened his free-agent candidacy to teams other than the Pirates this past winter, the O's, who play just a short drive from Burnett's home in Monkton, Md., looked like a great fit, but he wound up in Philadelphia.
But now that the Phillies are doing the responsible thing and exploring trades involving some of their costly veterans, Burnett could be on the move to Maryland, pitching for an O's team trying to nail down its American League East pole position. FOXSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported Saturday that the two sides have had "very preliminary" discussions about Burnett, whose no-trade clause does not include veto power over a deal to Baltimore.
Just what the O's would be getting in the 37-year-old Burnett is an open question. After posting a 3.30 ERA in 30 starts with the Pirates last season, Burnett has a 4.08 mark in 21 starts this year. There would also be concern about him going back to the AL, where he has a career 4.39 ERA vs. a 3.68 mark in the Senior Circuit.
About those Phillies… Before we get carried away with Phillies rumors, let's heed the wisdom of MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, who makes it quite clear the Phils aren't looking to move guys strictly for the sake of moving guys. They are not exactly in a position of financial hardship that makes it necessary to start dumping contracts. But if some good young players can be brought back in trades for the likes of Burnett, Jonathan Papelbon, Cliff Lee, Marlon Byrd and Antonio Bastardo, the Phils are all ears.
Zolecki noted that the Phillies would have to get a "huge package of prospects" to trade Cole Hamels, and that their preference is to trade Lee. Also, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins have 10-and-5 trade veto rights and have repeatedly expressed their desire to remain in Philadelphia.
Rangers open for business: Texas lost again Saturday, driving down its MLB-worst winning percentage even further. While the injury-plagued season likely won't compel general manager Jon Daniels to start selling off his cornerstone pieces like Yu Darvish, Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus, it is pushing him toward deals involving other players.
Foremost among those available, per CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, are rejuvenated reliever Joakim Soria and outfielder Alex Rios. Several contenders -- chiefly, the Tigers, Dodgers and Giants -- are in need of relief help, and Soria is one of the most appealing options on the market. His adjusted ERA is the best it's been since his 2010 season with the Royals, when he saved 43 games and even garnered some AL Cy Young Award votes.
Rios is on the trade market for the second time in as many years. The 33-year-old, who is a pending free agent, is having another strong offensive showing (.330 on-base percentage and .435 slugging percentage, entering Saturday), and the market for right-handed bats is sparse enough to inflate his value. While Heyman noted that talks with the Mariners don't appear to be progressing, the Royals (who already made a deal with Texas for Jason Frasor this week) are a particularly good potential fit, given their need for better right-field production.
Rios left Saturday's game with a sprained ankle. X-rays were negative, and he's listed as day to day.
San Diego dealing: The Padres, who dismissed general manager Josh Byrnes last month, figured to be one of the busier sellers before the Deadline, and Friday's trade of closer Huston Street to the Angels is likely just the beginning.
Headley and Denorfia are the only pending free agents in that group, but the Padres could probably get nice returns on Kennedy, who contending teams view as a solid and economical option (the Angels had discussed him before eventually turning their attention to Street), and Benoit, whose veteran presence and consistency is a strength in any bullpen. Headley is owed another $4 million or so this season, so the Padres would have to eat some of that sum if they're going to move him in the midst of an underwhelming offensive year.
Stay tuned (and stay classy), San Diego. With few clearly defined sellers, the Padres' assets are being watched closely.