Columnists: Garza, K-Rod most likely to be dealt
Here are MLB.com columnists' choices as to the players they see as most likely to be dealt before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Francisco Rodriguez, Brewers: He's pitching extraordinarily well for a Milwaukee club that ought to be looking to the future and getting whatever it can for competent veteran performers. Rodriguez has performed well as both a setup man and a closer this season, returning to the exceptional form of earlier in his career, even thought his velocity has diminished. The Tigers could use a bullpen upgrade, as it is the only thing keeping them from being a dominant team. The Dodgers have acknowledged that they would be happy to bolster their bullpen.
Matt Garza, Cubs: Healthy again, his stuff is good enough to make him one of the Cubs' most valuable commodities. Garza has higher upside than Ricky Nolasco, but also a more checkered health history. To continue to contend, Baltimore needs more front-line pitching, but the same could be said for several teams.
Garza: The Cubs most certainly will trade pitcher Garza, who can become a free agent at season's end. Chicago has made it clear it is not going to extend him. He is 6-1 with a 3.17 ERA and will be a valuable addition for a contending team down the stretch. My guess is he'll go to the Orioles.
Alex Rios, White Sox: The White Sox will be big sellers at the Trade Deadline. No. 1 on their list to go will be outfielder Alex Rios. He'll be very attractive because he's under contract through next season, with a 2015 option. With Ben Revere now out for up to eight weeks with a broken ankle, the Phillies will be desperate for a center fielder. I predict they'll go all out and land Rios, who started 136 games in center two seasons ago. He's on a pace to hit 25 homers and drive in 90 runs. The remaining $20 million on Rios' contract might also scare some teams off.
Garza: He's not long for Wrigley Field, because with Nolasco off the market, Garza is the most transparent trade commodity in the starting-pitching market. Garza has a lot riding on how he finishes this season now that he's healthy (he's a free agent at year's end), and teams will want to take advantage of Garza's's motivation. The Red Sox undoubtedly have the resources to pull this off and deepen what could be a World Series-caliber rotation. The Rangers could be in the mix, too.
Rios: In a market short on power outfield bats, this could be a good time for the White Sox to unload Rios, even though he has slumped in recent weeks. Chicago would have to eat some of the roughly $20 million remaining on Rios' contract, but it might be worth it if it injects some talent into a starved farm system. The Pirates are serious about making this season a special one, and Rios would fill a need. The Rangers, Giants and D-backs also make sense.
Garza: He's a true front-of-the-rotation starter, maybe the only one who is truly available. In Garza's past six starts, he's gone 5-1 with a 1.24 ERA. He would bring the Cubs prospects to deepen their farm system and might push a contender over the top. The Rangers make the most sense since they need starting pitching and they have the young talent to trade, most notably corner infielder Mike Olt. The Orioles are also shopping for starting pitching, but seem less inclined to make a go-for-it trade.
Jesse Crain, White Sox: The South Siders are also in a dealing mode, and a bunch of teams are desperate for bullpen help. Crain (38 appearances, 0.74 ERA) has been used primarily as a setup man for Addison Reed, but scouts believe Crain could pitch the ninth inning as well. The Tigers make the most sense in a deal for Crain. They have nearly big-league-ready Minor League talent to trade and probably can't get back to the World Series without some late-inning help. The Red Sox, D-backs and Rockies are among the other teams shopping for relief help, and all surely will be making offers for Crain.
Garza: If he's not going to re-sign -- and at this point that seems to be the case -- there's no reason to hold on. The Cubs should, and will, cash in on him for continued help in their rebuilding effort. As for possible destinations, who couldn't use a starting pitcher? Texas comes to mind, though, as a contender with a deep stock of prospects and a well-known interest in the player. He'd also presumably intrigue the Indians, who could also benefit from adding a starter. St. Louis and Pittsburgh could use him, but it's hard to see either team trading high-end prospects to a divisional foe.
Rodriguez: It's hard to see why in the world the Brewers wouldn't move Rodriguez. He's a free agent after the year, and a closer has much more value to a contender than a second-division team. Rodriguez is even signed at a low cost, so Milwaukee could bring in some talent for him rather than just moving the contract. The most obvious likely suitor is Detroit, where the bullpen has been in flux all year. The D-backs are another contender that could surely use late-inning help.
Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies: A deal to the Tigers makes sense. Philadelphia sort of has to get rid of folks, and Detroit definitely needs a closer.
Garza: Since the Cubs didn't trade Garza last year when they should have, they have to now. Otherwise, they'll lose him as a free agent. Plus, the starter-needy Rangers are one of the Cubs' favorite trading partners (Geovany Soto and Ryan Dempster).
Garza: Look for a deal to Texas. Garza is a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter and the Rangers have prospects the Cubs covet. After Texas' offseason revamping of power -- giving general manager Jon Daniels more autonomy -- there is a pressure for him to make a deal to jumpstart the Rangers' bid to overtake Oakland in the AL West.
Crain: The Rockies were close to a deal to ink Crain as a free agent before he signed with the White Sox, and they still covet the right-hander, who crew up in Boulder, Colo. Crain could fill the major void created by disappointments of Wilton Lopez.
Rodriguez: K-Rod is responding to a return to the closer's role (a low WHIP, 9-for-9 in save situations) and has experience in October with the Angels.
Kevin Gregg, Cubs: Gregg is another experienced right-hander who can close or set up, and back-end relievers are increasingly important down the stretch. The Tigers, D-backs, Rays, Dodgers, Giants are among contenders or potential contenders who could use late-inning help. K-Rod would seem to be especially appealing to Detroit given his history as a closer who has flourished under pressure.
Raul Ibanez, Mariners: At 41 years old and on pace to hit the most homers in a season by a player 40 or older, he's on a one-year deal with a non-contending team, so this is a no-brainer for the Mariners. Ibanez makes the chemistry better in any clubhouse and is a positive influence on young players. He would be a perfect fit for the Yankees and the Orioles, both of whom rank near the bottom of the AL in numerous DH categories. Ibanez, who can also play left field, proved in 2012 with the Yankees that he can perform on the postseason stage. .
Marlon Byrd, Mets: Byrd, 35, hit 15 homers and drove in 51 runs in the first half of the season. It's a perfect time to move a veteran who has played on six teams in 12 years. The Reds and Rangers are in need of production in left field. Byrd's RBI total dwarfs what Cincinnati (36) and Texas (37) have gotten from their left fielders.