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.
Crawford Central: Wednesday was all about Carl Crawford. The rejuvenated Red Sox outfielder, fresh off the disabled list, is freshly on the non-waiver Trade Deadline radar. An early report from USA Today stated that the Red Sox were talking to the Miami Marlins about a doozy of a deal that would allow Crawford to take his talents to South Beach in exchange for Hanley Ramirez and Heath Bell. With Crawford still owed more than $100 million on the seven-year deal he signed before last season and Ramirez and Bell also highly paid, it would qualify as a big-time blockbuster.
But the notion of that deal was summarily shot down by ESPN's Buster Olney, who said such a conversation did take place but was extinguished rather rapidly. Later, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wrote that Crawford is indeed being shopped and that Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes could be a player to watch. As MLB.com's Joe Frisaro writes, the Marlins are almost nearing the point of being sellers, however, with Anibal Sanchez, Josh Johnson and Omar Infante also being mentioned as possible trade chips. So keep an eye on the Marlins.
This seems to have less to do with Crawford's injury-laden Boston career thus far and more about contracts and opportunity. The Red Sox have a glut of outfielders and could bulk up in other areas.
Almost Hamels time: Questions were swirling about laid-back left-hander Cole Hamels on Wednesday. Will the Phillies trade him now, trade him after they try to complete a long-shot run into the postseason, or sign him to an enormous contract soon so he doesn't become a free agent at the end of the year? No decision has been made yet, but you better believe one will be coming soon.
CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman wrote in his Tuesday report that the Phillies are going to offer Hamels a six-year deal for $130 million within days, which led to Wednesday musings by the same outlet -- but a different writer, Danny Knobler -- that if the Phils decide they're not ready for an October push, they might not deal Hamels to the clubs that are interested (Texas among them), but might consider shipping back to Texas former Rangers lefty Cliff Lee.
Confused? Don't be. Knobler cited the report by CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury that a Rangers scout watched Lee in his outstanding Wednesday start against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
This comes down to a pivotal organizational decision predicated on how good the Phillies think they can be moving forward this year and beyond.
Desert doings: People keep talking to the D-backs, and outfielder Justin Upton, as we all know, is a frequent topic of conversation. USA Today's Bob Nightengale wrote strong words on Wednesday saying Upton "will be traded," either within the next 13 days or after the season is over. Nightengale wrote that the Mariners have expressed interest, but won't part with young infielders Dustin Ackley or Kyle Seager, or their trio of prized pitching prospects, Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker or James Paxton.
In other D-backs news, FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi tweeted that fans should not be surprised if Arizona decides to deal J.J. Putz, who has struggled at times this year in the closer role but has rebounded in his last 15 games.
A Ryan rental? Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster can become a free agent at the end of this season, and he brings the lowest starter's ERA in the Majors and a 33-inning scoreless streak into this week's action. That means he's prime trade bait, and on Wednesday, the New York Post reported that the Dodgers and Tigers are in the hunt for his services, with the Dodgers as the favorite. The Red Sox also were mentioned as lesser players for Dempster, and could also be in on Cubs righty Matt Garza.
The Chicago Tribune on Wednesday mentioned Los Angeles pitcher Stephen Fife as a possible piece in a Dempster deal to the Dodgers. Fife made his Major League debut on Tuesday night, filling in for the injured Chad Billingsley, and looked good, allowing one run in six innings.
And while we're on the subject of the Cubs, CBSSports.com also reported that Kansas City might be interested in Garza.
Arms for the Angels? We know the Angels want a top-flight starter, with Dan Haren banged up, Ervin Santana inconsistent and Jerome Williams a question mark in the No. 5 spot. But Knobler reported on Wednesday that Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto is making calls about relievers, too. Knobler wrote that the Angels have talked to the Nationals about bullpen help, and might be inquiring about Royals closer Jonathan Broxton.
Knobler wrote that the club would move center fielder Peter Bourjos for a reliever, but Dipoto seemed to dampen that by saying to MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez, "At no point have we offered Peter Bourjos for anyone, starter or reliever."
Dipoto added, "We have nothing significant or imminent at this time. We're just doing our due diligence."
That due diligence, according to Knobler, could include parting ways with Kendrys Morales or Garrett Richards.
Billy Beane a buyer? The Oakland A's are playing inspired ball these days, and it might be inspiring enough for their creative GM to bulk up for a possible postseason run. Knobler wrote on Wednesday that Oakland is one of the clubs interested in Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar, whom the Blue Jays are dangling because their prospect at the same position, Adeiny Hechavarria, is coming on strong in Triple-A. The A's could use an upgrade at shortstop, where they're not getting much production.
Enter Beane, who can always be counted on to shake things up, particularly when he feels that he has a good shot at surprising people in October.