The July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline is less than a week 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.
The latest on Price: Seven straight wins had the Rays sitting a suddenly manageable seven games back in the AL East, entering Friday, to say nothing of the meager 4 1/2-game deficit they held in the Wild Card. So it would surprise absolutely no one if all this David Price banter leads to bupkis in terms of actual trade activity before the Deadline. Even if the Rays do plan to trade Price before 2015, when he could command roughly 25 percent of their payroll, they have the option of doing so in the winter, though an executive told ESPN.com's Jayson Stark that this tact could cost them in the neighborhood of "30 to 40 percent" of Price's trade value.
The growing speculation is that the Rays will take this thing right up until the July 31 deadline to make sure they are making the absolute best decision and getting every contender's last, most desperate offer. But trading Price is looking like anything but a sure thing with the way this club is playing lately, and that's a pretty stunning turnaround from mid-June.
Phillies phinances: The Phillies benched Ryan Howard on Thursday against a right-hander (Tim Hudson) he has had plenty of success against in the past, lending some credence to the speculation that they might just cut ties with the struggling veteran first baseman despite the $60 million remaining on his contract after this year.
Obviously, Howard has not proven to be a hot commodity in the trade market, and the same can be said of some of the other Phillies veterans with big contracts - Cliff Lee ($37.5 million minimum for 2015-16), A.J. Burnett (somewhere between $7.5 million and $15 million for 2015, depending on vesting options), Jonathan Papelbon ($13 million in 2015, with a vesting option for another $13 million in 2016), Jimmy Rollins ($11 million in '15), Chase Utley ($10 million in '15, with vesting options through '18) and even Marlon Byrd ($8 million in '15, with a vesting $8 million in '16).
So as much as the Phillies are showing a willingness to rebuild, these colossal contracts severely hamper their ability to get anything substantial back from contending teams. That said, a Burnett reunion with the Pirates makes some sense, and Byrd's deal might be manageable enough to attract a team like the Reds, who need an outfield bat.
Bombers needed in Bronx: The early returns from guys like Shane Greene and Brandon McCarthy might have the Yankees targeting another bat instead of an arm, although ESPN's Jim Bowden reported the team is in talks with the Padres regarding right-hander Ian Kennedy. The Yankees also acquired lefty Chris Capuano from the Rockies on Thursday.
"It's weird," general manager Brian Cashman said in an interview with ESPN New York 98.7 FM. "Our pitching has been drastically altered because of the injuries, and despite losing four out of five starters and all that stuff, our pitching has survived -- surprisingly -- to this point. I think our offense should be better."
MLB.com's Bryan Hoch noted that the Twins' Josh Willingham and the Rangers' Alex Rios would both make sense for this Yankee squad, which upgraded its infield with the acquisition of Chase Headley earlier this week. The club is also believed to be monitoring Arizona second baseman Aaron Hill.
As for Kennedy, a first-round Draft pick by the Yankees in 2006, Bowden reports third-base prospect Eric Jagielo and 19-year-old left-hander Ian Clarkin could be sent to the Padres in a deal. Both were first-round selections by the Yankees last year. CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, however, reported that the Yankees are unwilling to give up both players for Kennedy.
Tigers still talking relief: Detroit's bold strike for Joakim Soria might not be Dave Dombrowski's last attempt to upgrade his battered bullpen before the Deadline.
As MLB.com's Jason Beck reported, the Soria trade could be the opener of a two-part plan, especially given news that Joel Hanrahan is not expected to pitch in the Majors this year.
"I'm not sure if we will [make another move] or not," Dombrowski said Thursday morning, "but we're still open-minded to it."
A Tigers scout has been spotted watching the Phillies, who are expected to move lefty Antonio Bastardo.
The Tigers do not, however, look likely to do anything at shortstop, where they are quite pleased with the quick adaptation of Eugenio Suarez, or in the outfield, where they expect Andy Dirks to be a difference-maker from the left-hand side once he returns from injury.
Redbird banter: The Cardinals are a team oft-cited as having the goods to land an elite arm like that of Price, and, despite concerns about an offense that has lagged all year, general manager John Mozeliak has indicated he's on the hunt for some rotation help.
But Mozeliak told reporters, including MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch, that no deal is imminent on the rotation front and that back-end depth is still more likely to be acquired than a front-end upgrade.