Nolasco among pitchers who could move this month
As usual, much of the Trade Deadline focus will be on several available hurlers
Before the July 31 Trade Deadline even peeked over the horizon, good chunks of a couple of rotations already were up for grabs and there were a few pitchers who seemed to be auditioning with each outing.
Yep, you can bet pitching will be at the center of the summer's rumor mill, as usual, with contenders hoping to get a boost every fifth day or in the late innings.
Already on Tuesday, the first significant deal of the trading season centered on pitching, as the Orioles picked up starter Scott Feldman while trading away Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. More arms figure to move in the coming weeks.
Here's a look at the top pitchers on the market, and the likelihood of their being moved before the Trade Deadline.
When you're already talking up possible landing spots in the middle of June, you're obviously reading the writing on the wall out loud. Miami's Ricky Nolasco has had a pretty good idea for some time now that he'll be moving this summer. Of course, nobody is a definite lock to be traded, but this guy is Exhibit A as the trading season warms up.
The 30-year-old right-hander, who is the Marlins' all-time leader in wins (80) and strikeouts (994), made it clear in a trip to San Francisco last month that he wouldn't mind joining the Giants, saying, "What's there not to like?" But the Giants, struggling to regain their mojo on the mound, are just one of several teams, along with the Dodgers, Rockies, Padres and Rangers. that have been keeping a close eye on Nolasco.
And with each start, the glare gets hotter for the hottest name on the rumor mill.
"You read about it, you see it on the Internet," Nolasco said after his last start. "But my job is to focus on what I have to do every fifth day."
When the trade breezes began to blow in the Windy City, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said there was a "50-50" chance the club would be making a move. Well, after Tuesday's pitching-based lid-lifter, there's pretty good reason to believe there will be more action coming from the North Side.
Matt Garza has been rumored to be available ever since he made his 2013 debut late due to injury, closer Kevin Gregg fits the mold for the type of veteran late-inning arm teams covet this time of year and even young ace Jeff Samardzija reportedly has drawn interest from other clubs.
Garza, a potential free agent at the end of the season, has been on a roll lately, allowing only two earned runs in his past three outings and striking out 10 in seven innings last time out. Scouts from the Nationals, Dodgers, Phillies, Orioles and Blue Jays all were on hand to watch that one.
But the trade winds involving pitchers aren't only blowing on the North Side. The White Sox, too, could become involved, with reliever Jesse Crain receiving a lot of attention and veteran starter Jake Peavy another possibility if he returns to full health around the All-Star break as expected.
And you can count Bud Norris of the Astros among those likely to get a lot of action, at least on the rumor mill. Norris, making $3 million and eligible for arbitration next year, seems like a prime candidate to move on if the Astros can find a suitor, and he fits the bill as a strong starter who can provide innings. The Pirates and Giants are among the teams that have been mentioned as possible suitors.
For some situations, it's worth staying on the lookout in case a deal emerges. And after the past few years, we shouldn't be surprised to hear the name Cliff Lee, traded in July deals twice and once in the winter over the past four years. There's just something about this guy that stirs up the rumor mill.
Finding a match that will absorb the $70 million remaining on his contract while providing the Phillies with everything they'd want out of a trade make a deal seemingly unlikely. But Lee's comments last month about wanting to play for a winner drew some attention, even after he clarified that he'd prefer that winner be the Phillies.
Another recent Phillies free-agent pickup -- closer Jonathan Papelbon -- could be on the market as well, and the Red Sox seem ripe to make a boomerang acquisition.
In Milwaukee, longtime ace Yovani Gallardo could be available, and some believe the Brewers not only would be willing to move him but could receive a lot of interest in him -- again, cue the NL West. But it might be more likely that one of the Brewers' relievers -- including closer Francisco Rodriguez and former closer John Axford -- winds up being moved.
There are a few names out there already that seem like long shots, but you never know what might happen. The Yankees' Joba Chamberlain is an interesting example, being that he's been through so much with the club and is struggling mightily. Maybe a change of scenery would be good for him.
And even the most coveted players must be available. Glen Perkins, the Twins' 30-year-old closer, has been performing well all year and reportedly has been drawing interest from a number of teams. But the Twins still have to decide where they stand.
The Twins aren't out of the American League Central race, and general manager Terry Ryan noted last weekend that he's not ready to talk deals just yet.
"One good week and all of sudden you're four back. You've got to wait," he said.
True, there's still nearly a month of waiting to go.