With July more than half over and the All-Star break fully in the rearview mirror, a single topic dominates baseball these days: the approach of the non-waiver Trade Deadline. 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 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.
Headley on the market? Though the week's buzz has centered mostly on pitchers, there are plenty of contenders out there that need offense as well. One position where there seems to be a dearth of options is third base, which means that the Padres could be in a commanding position with Chase Headley.
The San Diego third baseman has quietly had an excellent season, playing strong defense, getting on base and even hitting for power when he gets out of Petco Park. He'd be an excellent addition to a team in need of hot-corner help (such as, say, the D-backs or Dodgers, to name a couple), and the Padres aren't averse to moving him.
They're not necessarily shopping him around, mind you. But they're open to offers, and if the market shakes down in such a way that a desperate contender makes an impressive offer, then the Padres would likely accept it, and Headley could end up in another uniform.
Adding to strength: No team in baseball has a better rotation than the Nationals, so of course they are looking to add a starting pitcher. Actually, it makes sense, and not only in the clichéd "you can never have enough pitching" sense. All indications continue to point toward the Nats shutting down Stephen Strasburg when he reaches a prescribed innings limit, believed to be somewhere in the vicinity of 160.
If that's the case, well, it will be quite a blow to the Nats' rotation, and it's not the kind of hole that John Lannan really steps into without missing a beat. So in a market laden with starters, MLB.com's Joey Nowak reports, Washington is shopping for starting help, and looking at pitchers who are more than "just a guy." Nowak mentions Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels and Francisco Liriano as pitchers to "keep an eye on," which is to say essentially every big-name starter generally believed to be on the market.
In order to add a starter, Washington could part with a middle infielder, perhaps Steve Lombardozzi or Danny Espinosa, but Ian Desmond will most likely stay put.
A potential surprise in KC: Despite an injury-marred season and a disappointing fourth-place standing, 11 1/2 games out in the American League Central, the Royals could be looking to buy. Buy is the keyword, however, not rent. The Royals' rotation is an injury-racked mess, not only this season but stretching into next thanks to a pair of Tommy John surgeries, so help is needed in the short and medium term.
CBSSports.com has reported that the Royals have inquired after Cubs right-hander Garza, perhaps the third-most desirable pitcher on this year's market, after Greinke and Hamels. And it actually wouldn't be that shocking, for one main reason: Garza is under team control for 2013. He wouldn't just be a rental. There's no cost certainty, since Garza is eligible for arbitration in 2013, but he won't be a free agent for another year. The Royals saw Garza's most recent start, but there was no indication that they were scouting him specifically for a trade.
So Kansas City could bring in a hurler to provide some desperately needed innings this season, but also to bolster the team's rotation in 2013. The hope is that next year, improved health and continued development by some of the Royals' bumper crop of youngsters will add up to a very real run at a playoff spot. And if any team has prospects to deal, it's the Royals.
Seeking relief in Flushing: The Mets could use a few things, including a starting pitcher and perhaps an everyday catcher, but general manager Sandy Alderson was emphatic with reporters on Tuesday that he has one primary goal: upgrade his team's bullpen.
It's easy to understand why. The Mets' 'pen has been one of the worst in the league, and it is one of the biggest reasons why the rotation and offense haven't added up to more than 46 wins so far. When a surprise team is trying to hang in the race, it cannot afford to give away close games, and one way you make sure that doesn't happen is by holding on to leads with a good bullpen.
Alderson said it's not just need, though -- that at this point the cost for starting pitching is prohibitive. So instead he'll look at relievers, and hope that some combination of internal options can paper over the loss of Dillon Gee and some regression from some of the other starters. Hotshot prospect Matt Harvey may be on the way soon.