All around baseball right about now, general managers are beginning to look at trade possibilities as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline begins to peek over the horizon, barely more than a month away.
A year ago, and for years before that, it was the same thing. Teams have a good idea of what they have and what they need by this point of the season, so this is when the annual debate begins: To shop, or not to shop?
A year ago this coming Monday, in fact, the summer trade winds began to blow in earnest with longtime Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis changing into White Sox on June 24. So it's about that time for buyers, sellers and teams confident enough to stand pat to reveal themselves.
Looking back a year to the 2012 non-waiver Trade Deadline -- and the historic waiver deal that followed it -- there aren't any better examples of 2012 midseason deals working out than can be found in the clubhouse of the defending World Series champions.
On July 27, Marco Scutaro arrived from Colorado. On July 31, Hunter Pence arrived from Philadelphia. Within months, both would be key cogs in another orange October, Scutaro claiming National League Championship Series MVP honors and earning the nickname "Blockbuster," Pence rallying the troops and delivering a mystical broken-bat hit. Both remain in San Francisco as stalwarts in the Giants' lineup.
For Pence, a Trade Deadline move was nothing new. He had been traded by the Astros, his original organization, just the year before. Then he was dealt to the Giants, playing in his third uniform in a matter of 367 days.
Now, Pence has a World Series ring and is off to a strong 2013 campaign in San Francisco, two outcomes he couldn't have imagined a year ago.
"I don't think you can ever predict life," Pence said. "What's happened was a great journey and a great run, and I'm very blessed. That's how I look at it."
Having played in every single game for the Giants this season. Pence doesn't figure to go for the Trade Deadline trifecta, but he does know a thing or two now about what it's like to be involved in a midseason transition.
"It's exciting to go to a team that's in the race and to be wanted by a team that's winning," Pence said.
That happens every year with some very good players, and with some teams making some bold statements, and 2012 was no exception. The Giants weren't the only ones looking to improve. They weren't the only ones to try for a summertime boost.
• Nobody tried harder than the Dodgers, the Giants' NL West rivals, who put forth a lot of effort and a lot of cash to change things up midstream in 2012. First, they picked up infielder Hanley Ramirez (Marlins), outfielder Shane Victorino (Phillies) and reliever Brandon League (Mariners) before the Deadline. Then, they acquired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Carl Crawford, pitcher Josh Beckett and utility player Nick Punto from the Red Sox in a waiver deal to beat all August waiver deals. All remain with the team with the exception of Victorino, now in Boston, and the results obviously have not been what they'd hoped, thus far.
• Down the road and under the halo, the Angels hoped Zack Greinke would be the key to getting their sputtering season on track toward October. They knew there would be a risk acquiring him from Milwaukee with Greinke eligible for free agency at the end of the season as the most coveted pitcher out there, but they went for it in hopes they would sign him to a long-term deal. They didn't. The Dodgers did.
But, then, not everybody stays put once the season ends like those two Giants and all those Dodgers. Youkilis, who started the trade season a year ago, was one who went elsewhere, signing with the Yankees over the winter in a move more startling than a change of Sox.
The Rangers became only a temporary destination for Ryan Dempster, the hottest name on the 2012 market, eventually dealt by the Cubs at the last moment. He left for the Red Sox last winter.
• As usual, starting pitching was a big draw a year ago. The Braves, after striking out on Dempster, picked up Paul Maholm along with Reed Johnson from the Cubs -- Maholm remains a mainstay in Atlanta's rotation and Johnson a bench asset. Anibal Sanchez went to Detroit along with infielder Omar Infante, and then both went to the World Series, both remaining with the Tigers this year. And lefty J.A. Happ was a key acquisition for the Blue Jays, and though he has had misfortune and injury since, he is on his way back to the Major League mound.
Among a few others that involved pitching, lefty Wandy Rodriguez went to the Pirates and lefty Francisco Liriano went to the White Sox before joining Rodriguez in Pittsburgh this past offseason, while reliever Jonathan Broxton went to the Reds and stayed there.
• Another trend that emerged in 2012 was that waiver deals were as prevalent as ever, with the Dodgers' big haul joined by several other August deals, including the A's picking up Stephen Drew for the stretch run (before he went to Boston this winter) and sending catcher Kurt Suzuki to the Nationals (where he stayed).
• A more tried-and-true element of most summer trading seasons is the key veteran, and 2012 had its share of those types trading places. But what's valuable on that market one summer might fall off the radar as soon as the next winter, and into the spring and summer. Carlos Lee (Astros to Marlins) and Jim Thome (Phillies to Orioles) both changed teams for the stretch run, but neither has a home this year.
On the other hand, we also saw the Mariners trade an icon of their franchise for more than a decade, sending Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees. He's still in the Bronx, closing in on 2,700 hits, arriving in Seattle earlier this month as a visitor to the place that was his home from 2001 until last July 23.
"It just feels a little weird to be here," Ichiro said.
Weird happens this time of year, and changes are bound to occur soon as the Trade Deadline approaches and teams make the call: To shop, or not to shop?
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com.