Though Orioles closer Zach Britton's reported availability has the potential to reshape this non-waiver trade period as we know it, starting pitching -- especially controllable starting pitching -- remains the straw that stirs the Trade Deadline drink.
The Wednesday docket just happens to be loaded with starting arms that have been tied to the trade rumor mill. So here, in order of appearance (all times are ET), is a list of today's starters who could conceivably be on tomorrow's transaction wire.
R.A. Dickey, Braves: vs. Cubs, 12:10 p.m.
The Braves have surprisingly pulled themselves into the National League Wild Card picture and could still wind up being buyers, sellers or some amalgamation of the two. Should they sell, they could have an interesting chip in Dickey, who has posted a 1.09 ERA while throwing 70 percent of his pitches for strikes in his past five starts. The 42-year-old knuckleballer's contract comes with an $8 million team option for 2018.
The main issue, of course, is that not every contender is equipped with a catcher who can actually handle a knuckleball pitcher, and the wild fluctuations in outcome that come with that particular pitch would make for a risky rental bet.
Dan Straily, Marlins: vs. Phillies, 12:10 p.m.
The Fish are open for business right now, but only to a point. They have contractual control over the 28-year-old Straily through 2020 and are not dangling him right now. But his good season (123 ERA+ and the third-lowest hard-hit percentage among starters in the season's first half) in a market light on controllable starting help could open up opportunities for them to get real value back after obtaining Straily from the Reds last offseason.
Hey, doesn't hurt to listen.
Sonny Gray, A's: vs. Rays, 3:35 p.m.
One industry source said earlier this week that he'd be surprised if Gray even makes his next start for the A's. But as of this writing, he's still in Oakland. Regardless of whether Gray takes the mound as scheduled against the Rays, the A's are going to trade him soon. His stock is high right now, both because of his recent performance (.413 OPS against, 1.33 ERA over past four starts) and the acquisition cost set by the Jose Quintana trade. Gray does come with one less year of contractual control than the Cubs got with Quintana -- and those are arbitration years, so the cost certainty is not locked in -- but he's still capable of potentially a multiplayer package fronted by two Top 100-prospect types (you can consult MLBPipeline.com's list here for an idea of what that might entail).
The Brewers, Astros, Yankees, Indians, Dodgers and Rockies are all contenders equipped with the prospect depth to land Gray. Heck, even the Braves, who definitely have the pieces, could view this as an opportunity to shore up their future fortunes as much as their present.
Gerrit Cole, Pirates: vs. Brewers, 7:05 p.m.
Cole scratched the surface of his potential in a 2015 season in which he crossed the 200-inning threshold, posted an adjusted ERA that was 49 percent better than league average and finished fourth in the NL Cy Young Award vote. But overall, he has struggled to add up to the sum of his parts, especially in a 2017 season in which he has been touched for 1.6 homers per nine innings. Despite this, Cole holds considerable trade value for the Pirates because of the market conditions and the allure of his pure stuff. In 12 of Cole's 19 starts, he has allowed two earned runs or less over six innings or more. But a handful of clunkers have inflated his ERA.
The Bucs, still hoping to get into the postseason picture now that Starling Marte is back, aren't expected to move Cole, but GM Neal Huntington is one of the game's more open-minded executives. The same list of clubs that make sense for Gray would apply here, though a deal to the Brew Crew would seem doubtful even by doubtful standards.
Kevin Gausman, Orioles: vs. Rangers, 7:05 p.m.
As reported by FOX Sports/MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal, the Orioles are officially open to dealing from their bullpen, which includes their elite closer Britton. They aren't known to be shopping young controllable starters like Gausman or Dylan Bundy, though a report from Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan said the Rockies have expressed interest in those two.
With Gausman nursing a 6.39 ERA, this obviously would be a sell-low situation, and we all know how that went for the O's when they dealt Jacob Arrieta. So don't hold your breath here. But Gausman is from Colorado, and the rumor mill loves mentally matching people up with their home turf this time of year.
Jacob deGrom, Mets: vs. Cardinals, 7:10 p.m.
From the "It's July, so let's throw some speculative spaghetti at the wall" department came MLB Network insider Joel Sherman's suggestion in the New York Post this week that the Mets be attentive to offers for deGrom, who would fetch a prime package given his talent (he has a 1.53 ERA and .167 opponents' average over his past six starts) and team control through 2020.
Listening to offers has basic economic justification in these market conditions, and with the Mets out of it … But nah, a trade involving deGrom is probably not actually crossing the finish line.
Justin Verlander, Tigers: at Royals, 8:15 p.m.
This is a really fun name to discuss at the bar or coffee shop or wherever you like to talk trades with other baseball fans, and we know the Tigers are open to talking about him, too. Even in a year in which his adjusted ERA+ (94) is a shadow of what it was just a year ago (137), there's something enticing about the idea of Verlander joining a World Series-caliber club.
But let's be real: Verlander, even with his stuff still intact, is highly unlikely to be moved. He's a potential Hall of Fame pitcher who grew up in the Tigers' organization, so they would have to get real prospect value back for him to sell the move to their fan base. And to get real prospect value back, they'd have to eat some insane amount of the roughly $65 million still guaranteed to Verlander through 2019. That's a hard deal to pull off.
The Brewers probably have the financial wiggle room, but the timetables don't exactly align. The Astros don't have much money on the books the next couple years, but they've got a young core that's about to get expensive in a hurry.