With July more than half over and the All-Star break coming to a close, a single topic will dominate baseball conversation over the coming weeks: the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Clubs are sorting out whether they're buyers or sellers, and at what price in either case, 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.
The Rangers and Matt Garza: The Rangers were interested in Garza last summer, but an injury to the right-hander took him off the market. He's healthy again, and what do you know? Texas is once again in the mix.
MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reported Thursday that Texas and the Cubs "are having active trade discussions," and other outlets have put it even more strongly than that. FOXSports.com referred to the Rangers as the "most motivated" club pursuing Garza. As the top starter on the market, Garza has drawn interest from just about every contender, but it seems the Rangers are the favorites for now.
It helps that they have both the need and the means to acquire Garza. Texas has a rotation that has been wracked by injuries and a well of prospects from which to deal.
The Cubs are in the position of power here, and they don't need to hurry. An injury on another club could change the equation quickly. But if Texas is truly that motivated, it will be hard for another club to top the package of talent Texas could send to the Cubs.
Freak staying put: In case anyone was wondering, Tim Lincecum's no-hitter won't be his final appearance in a Giants uniform. Chris Haft of MLB.com passes along that Giants general manager Brian Sabean has no intention of moving the right-hander.
Sabean said on his weekly radio show that he "[finds] it hard to believe he'd pitch elsewhere this year."
It's been a strange year for Lincecum, who has struggled at times but also turned in some brilliant performances. Other teams might see him as a relief option, but with 44 strikeouts and nine walks in his past five starts, Lincecum is making the case to keep starting. Lincecum can be a free agent this winter.
Cuddyer a no-go: Also in the National League West, Michael Cuddyer apparently won't be going anywhere. The Rockies have flagged a bit after an early run in first place, but they're still within 4 1/2 games of the division lead and have no interest in selling.
Thus, reports MLB.com's Thomas Harding, they'll be holding on to Cuddyer, who is signed through 2014. Cuddyer is enjoying one of the best years of his career, hitting .330 with a .391 on-base percentage and a .568 slugging percentage for the Rockies.
In fact, Harding writes, Colorado is more likely to buy than sell. The Rockies are interested in adding a starting pitcher or a reliever.
Cards could be quiet: From St. Louis, the word is that it could be a slow next couple of weeks. General manager John Mozeliak told reporters, including Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com, that his club doesn't find the current market very inviting. He also noted that his first-place team doesn't have any really gaping holes that need to be filled.
The bullpen is an area where a small move might make sense, and of course, Mozeliak has tweaked his bullpen at the Deadline in each of the past two years. There does not appear to be any serious likelihood of a shortstop upgrade.
The intrigue comes in the starting rotation. The Cardinals' starting five has faded after a superb beginning to the season, and with some inexperienced pitchers, there's natural worry about second-half slides.
However, St. Louis has a slew of internal options, including top prospects Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha. So it might be hard to justify bringing in a starter from outside, unless the pitcher and the price were exactly right.
Chris Carpenter is an intriguing name to think about as he continues his Minor League rehabilitation, but any contribution from the veteran righty remains more of a hope than an expectation.
Braves seeking a southpaw: It's nice to be the Braves right now. They're overflowing with pitching options. They're six games clear of the rest of the National League East, despite an offense that has some key players scuffling.
Still, even first-place teams can use help. In the Braves' case, it's with left-handed relief. MLB.com's Mark Bowman reports that a lefty reliever is the Braves' top priority, and he notes the Cubs' James Russell, the Brewers' Michael Gonzalez and the Astros' Wesley Wright as leading candidates.
Gonzalez has pitched for Atlanta before, so the Braves know what they'd be getting. And they had a deal in place last year for Ryan Dempster, so Chicago would seem to know the Atlanta system. Russell and Wright are both arbitration-eligible this year, but cannot be free agents until after 2016. Gonzalez will be a free agent at the end of this season.
Atlanta has two lefty relievers: Alex Wood and Luis Avilan. But Wood, a youngster who has pitched quite well out of the 'pen, appears to have a shot at a rotation gig.
Vargas not available, at least for now: It's hard to envision the Angels as a seller, given their star-studded roster and high payroll. Now, as the Deadline gets closer, there's another reason: Arguably their most attractive trade chip isn't pitching.
If Los Angeles were to decide to part with any veterans, lefty Jason Vargas would seemingly be at the top of the list. He's an effective, durable, reasonably priced 30-year-old lefty who will be a free agent at the end of the year.
There's only one problem: He's on the disabled list, and he's not even throwing off a mound yet. MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez wrote Thursday that while Vargas is progressing well from a blood clot near his left armpit, he's still a good way away from game action.
Vargas has been out for four weeks, and he's still only playing long toss. Once he gets off a mound, he'd have to get into games before he could viably be traded.
Perhaps he'll hold some appeal in August, if he clears waivers, but for now, it appears Vargas will reach the end of this month as a member of the Angels.
Orioles make internal add: The Orioles' offense wasn't really much of a worry anyway, but it seems the Baltimore lineup may be about to get better.
Henry Urrutia, a left-handed-hitting Cuban outfielder, will be added to the roster for the Orioles' weekend series with the Rangers. Urrutia tore it up at Double-A Bowie and briefly at Triple-A Norfolk, and now he'll get a chance with the big club.
It's likely that Baltimore's top priority was pitching all along, but the designated hitter spot has been a problem for the club for most of the year. If Urrutia can provide production as a lefty DH and part-time outfielder, it could remove the Orioles from pursuit of an additional corner/DH bat.
Matthew Leach is a national reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach.