As trade talks heat up ahead of baseball's July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the biggest name available will be a left-handed starting pitcher -- and another lefty ace could join him on the market.
With the Tampa Bay Rays tied for last place in the American League East, Rays general manager Andrew Friedman likely will burn through the anytime minutes on his phone this month, fielding calls from suitors hoping to land 28-year-old left-hander David Price.
Price, a former American League Cy Young Award winner, is still under team control through the 2015 season, but the Rays' history is clear: They prefer to deal potential free agents sooner rather than later, maximizing the return on their assets.
The team sharing the AL East cellar with the Rays, the Boston Red Sox, still hope to reach a long-term agreement with left-hander Jon Lester. The three-time All-Star will be a free agent after the season, and his asking price could approach that of Price.
The Sports Xchange polled its baseball correspondents and asked them if the team they cover would be a buyer or a seller at the end of the month. Here are the team-by-team answers:
It already is clear which way the Diamondbacks are going. The only question is who will go. Salary considerations will be a factor. The D-backs agreed to pay $2.05 million of the remaining $4.5 million owed RHP Brandon McCarthy in sending him to the New York Yankees for LHP Vidal Nuno, and the more money the are willing to eat, the more likely it is that 2B Aaron Hill, 3B Martin Prado or OF Gerardo Parra could be dealt. LF Mark Trumbo is probably better at first base or in the American League.
The return to health of some injured players will continue to give the Rockies a boost, as well as the illusion that they are adding pieces. However, given their woeful record, the Rockies will listen and be ready to sell off parts if deals make sense. RHP LaTroy Hawkins, RHP Matt Belisle and LHP Jorge De La Rosa could be on the block, though De La Rosa can be a free agent at the end of the season. The possibility of trading stars such as SS Troy Tulowitzki and RF Carlos Gonzalez looms as an offseason matter, not something likely to happen in the next few weeks.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
The Dodgers have a decision to make. Since taking over the team two years ago, team president and CEO Stan Kasten has said the stratospheric payrolls would not continue forever. Investment was made in rebuilding the farm system to produce future talent. If the Dodgers are truly committed to that, they won't part with blue-chip prospects like OF Joc Pederson, SS Corey Seager or LHP Julio Urias to make a big move at the trade deadline.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
The Padres are definitely sellers. They are more than one or two position players away from having any semblance of an offense. But how much pitching would they give up to add offensive prospects? Aside from maybe 3B Chase Headley, who is always stronger after the All-Star break, the Padres have few position players who would interest anyone. OF Seth Smith is having a solid season, but San Diego recently extended his contract and removed him from the immediate market.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Asked recently if he planned to make any moves before the trade deadline, Giants GM Brian Sabean said yes ... as soon as he figures out the team's chief need. Three positions are vying for the top spot on that list -- center field (presuming Angel Pagan is unable to shake his back injury), second base (unless Marco Scutaro defies his age and has a pain-free second half) and closer (if Sergio Romo cannot win his old job back). One problem: The Giants' farm system isn't stocked with the type of talent that is going to make prospective sellers come calling.
The Cubs' biggest bargaining chips -- RHPs Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel -- were traded to the Oakland A's in early July, and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said the club would pause after that deal. But that doesn't mean he is through. Perhaps a contending club might make a bid for a left-handed reliever such as James Russell (0-1, 2.54 ERA, one save) or Wesley Wright (0-1, 2.36 ERA). Both were the subject of trade speculation this month.
The Reds could be buyers at the trade deadline, possibly looking to acquire an outfielder to give them more flexibility while playing without 2B Brandon Phillips and 1B Joey Votto out for an indefinite period due to injuries. RF Jay Bruce is among those who filled in for Votto at first, which necessitated playing Skip Schumaker in right. With Phillips also out, Schumaker could be called upon to play second. Manager Bryan Price must decide where to weaken the team's defense the least.
It all depends. The Brewers could use some help in the bullpen, but they would like to see whether injured RHPs Jim Henderson and Tyler Thornburg can return and contribute down the stretch. A versatile bat off the bench would be beneficial, but unless the Brewers find a way to move 2B Rickie Weeks, there just isn't a lot of space on the roster. Milwaukee may have already made its signature move for the season, having summoned young RHP Jimmy Nelson from Triple-A Nashville. Don't expect too many major moves; the Brewers lack the young assets that sellers covet.
The Pirates will be buyers, though it seems unlikely they will make a major move. GM Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle are happy, for the most part, with their current roster, though the Pirates would consider adding bullpen depth and perhaps a bench bat. Pittsburgh made a move in late July, sending RHP Jason Grilli to the Los Angeles Angels for RHP Ernesto Frieri in a swap of closer. Frieri is off to a poor start with the Pirates (13.50 ERA through seven appearances).