Tag: 2014 MLB Trade Deadline

Why Hasn’t 2nd Wild Card Made MLB Waiver-Trade Window More Active?

Trading in Major League Baseball doesn’t end until Aug. 31, but it sure feels like just about all the wheeling and dealing wrapped up back on July 31, doesn’t it?

In part, that’s because the non-waiver trade deadline brought not just a flurry but a full-on storm of moves, as 12 trades were completed between 18 different teams involving 37 players (and two draft picks). That was the most transaction action on deadline day since 1998, as Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com points out.

No wonder August’s waiver-trading period has felt like a letdown by comparison.

It’s not that there haven’t been any swaps so since Aug. 1, because there have:

That’s eight moves, which actually isn’t far behind the 11 that happened last August.

What should be immediately discernible from the table, however, is that the trades just aren’t all that exciting or impactful. Certainly not when the biggest name to change jerseys is Josh Willingham.

At least last August, fairly well-known players like Alex Rios, Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd found new homes.

And of course, there’s still some residue remaining from that memorable, shocking August 2012 blockbuster when the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers essentially remade their rosters in one fell—and financially monstrous—swoop.

A waiver trade that big, both in names and dollars, is unlikely to happen again any time soon, if ever. But why has August been such a bummer this year?

It’s not that there isn’t a need or demand for pitchers and position players, especially with so many clubs still in the hunt because of the second wild card in each league. In fact, that’s the biggest reason for the inactivity this month.

Through Wednesday’s games, only 11 teams—five in the AL and six in the NL—could safely be considered completely out of the running for a playoff spot, depending on how one classifies the Tampa Bay Rays and Cincinnati Reds.

Because so many teams are still in it, there aren’t nearly as many options as there might have been in the past, when only four teams in each league made it to October.

What’s more, the few clubs that are out of it aren’t exactly swimming in available players who might make an impact for a contender. That’s why those teams aren’t any good in the first place, right?

The other thing to remember, and it’s related to the above, is that this remains a seller’s market. That means the teams who would consider trading players away have the ability to ask for a haul, whether their players have passed through waivers entirely or were claimed by a specific team.

The only case when that doesn’t apply is if a club views trading a particular player as a salary dump. That is more or less what happened when the Chicago White Sox sent second baseman Gordon Beckham—who hit just .221/.263/.336 for them despite a $4.175 million salary this year—to the Los Angeles Angels for the ubiquitous Player To Be Named Later.

Beyond that, a number of players were put on waivers already, only to be claimed and then pulled back by their team, which eliminates them from being traded for the rest of the season. This reportedly is what happened to, among others, Cole Hamels, Yunel Escobar and Chad Qualls.

Same goes for Byrd and Morneau, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports, otherwise those two players could have been involved in a waiver deal for a second consecutive year.

That’s a formula for an inactive waiver-trade period.

As Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the prospects of his club making any last-minute additions via a waiver swap, “I’m not totally encouraged by it.”

There isn’t an easy fix to make Augusts of the future more trade-filled, either. Not unless there just so happen to be fewer contenders in a given season.

One possibility, though, could involve moving the non-waiver trade deadline back from July 31 into August, say Aug. 15 or Aug. 31. It’s not like that hasn’t been done before: Back in 1986, the deadline was moved to its current July 31 date—after six decades of being set at June 15.

As for the final days of this year’s deadline, which remains Aug. 31, there still are some names to keep tabs on.

The following players already have cleared waivers, according to MLB Trade Rumors, meaning they can be traded:

Will any of them be traded between now and Sunday? Quite possibly, if an interested—or desperate—suitor is willing to pay the price.

Will others not on the above list get moved? Almost certainly.

Because even though this August hasn’t been quite as gloriously chaotic as July was—and clearly won’t be in the end—one thing should be clear: As long as teams can make trades, trades will be made.


Statistics are accurate as of Aug. 28 and come from MLB.comBaseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com, except where otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11

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Winners and Losers of the MLB Trade Deadline

The 2014 MLB trade deadline was one of the most exciting days for any baseball fan.  We saw teams in the hunt get stronger as the season starts to wind down.

Who were the real winners and losers of the trade deadline?

Brian Anderson and Ron Darling break down who really came out on top on a historic day.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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MLB Waiver Wire 2014: Teams That Will Use August Trade Deadline for Playoff Push

Although the July 31 trade deadline has passed, the activity across major league baseball is not yet finished.

The past week saw a number of blockbuster deals, including Jon Lester going to the Oakland Athletics and David Price being sent to the Detroit Tigers as part of a three-team deal. All of these trades were completed before the non-waiver deadline.

Fortunately, front offices are still able to make moves to improve their teams over the next month if they go through waivers. A player has to be made available to the 29 other organizations before he is able to be traded. If he is claimed, the team has a choice to either complete a deal with that team or pull him back off waivers.

As a result, this period mostly features veterans with large contracts being dealt, as no one will want to take on more money.

Despite these obstacles, there are a few teams that can use an upgrade before August 31.


Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have one of the best teams in the National League, but it will be hard to compete for a playoff spot without upgrading the rotation.

Pittsburgh ranks just 10th in the NL in starter ERA, and there is simply no ace capable of taking control when needed. Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted earlier in the week that Lester would have been an excellent addition:

Meanwhile, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported the Pirates were in the running for Price:

In the end, the squad was unable to bring in either of these players and are left with a rotation that will have to exceed expectations just to keep up with the rest of the league. Gerrit Cole should be returning soon, but the team could use a veteran capable of leading the group into the postseason.

Fortunately, there are players who fit this description and could be on the move in August. One of them is a familiar face in A.J. Burnett. The 37-year-old pitcher accumulated a 3.41 ERA over the past two years in Pittsburgh and could be had without giving up too much in the form of prospects.

Bob Pompeani of KDKA notes that Burnett is just one option from the NL East who could help:

Bartolo Colon has been inconsistent this season, but he is an experienced pitcher who can be a difference-maker in the final few months of the year. The added cost to the payroll would be worth it for a shot at contention.


San Francisco Giants

Second base has been a black hole for the Giants this season. From Brandon Hicks to Joe Panik to Dan Uggla, not much has worked at the position.

Heading into the trade deadline, the squad ranked dead last in the majors with a .176 batting average from second basemen.

Despite this obvious problem, general manager Brian Sabean did not feel the need to make a deal, via John Shea of SFGate.com:

I’ve done this a long time, and I feel as good about not getting something done as any year we’ve done something….We just couldn’t execute the deal based on what the ask was. A lot of that had to do with too many buyers in the market, and we’d do the same thing if we were on the other side of the fence. (Teams) held out to the very end to get what we weren’t willing to give up.

Although a deal was not completed this week, Sabean has not ruled out a potential move before the August deadline.

Daniel Murphy represents a potential option, especially if the New York Mets start to fall down the standings in the next few weeks. However, it might take a decent package for the team to part with its only All-Star in 2014.

Another potential target is Aaron Hill, but he also comes with a $24 million price tag over the next two seasons. The good news is this almost guarantees that he will not be claimed on waivers.

If the Giants are willing to take on this salary, though, the Arizona Diamondbacks would likely be ready to part with the second baseman.


Los Angeles Angels

The Angels have one of the best lineups, a solid rotation and an improved bullpen. However, this still might not be enough to keep up with the Oakland Athletics in the AL West.

Adding Lester to an already excellent rotation could make the A’s almost unbeatable in the postseason. If the Angels want to win this season, they will need to add weapons to the arsenal.

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times notes that the current pitching battle is not even close between the two:

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported a week before the non-waiver deadline that the squad did not want to make a move that would cost prospects:

The good news is this period could allow a team to acquire a player without giving up high-level prospects. The key factor is the willingness to take on an elevated contract, which the Angels apparently have the ability to do.

One possible option is Cole Hamels, who ESPN’s Buster Olney (subscription required) believes should dealt this month:

The Phillies should at least have a conversation with the claiming team about what they would offer in trade. By the time the Phillies are really good again — maybe in the last years of this decade — Hamels will either be overvalued in his salary or he will be retired. They might as well swap him for prospects to accelerate the franchise turnaround. 

While he is under contract through the 2018 season, it might not be the worst thing for the Angels to bring in a player who still has some great pitching left in him.


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Grading the Cleveland Indians’ Trade Deadline Performance

The Cleveland Indians were one of the more active teams at the July 31 trade deadline.

The club entered the deadline in a curious position, sitting 6.5 games back of the division-leading Detroit Tigers and five games back of the final AL wild-card spot. Without all the necessary pieces to make a serious run at the division, the Tribe chose to ship off two of their more high-profile players.

Justin Masterson was the first to go, and the club moved him to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for outfielder James Ramsey.

The second deal saw Asdrubal Cabrera move to the Washington Nationals in exchange for infielder Zach Walters.

Neither deal was groundbreaking in any way, but we’ll take an in-depth look at both trades and grade them, and we’ll also grade the team’s performance at the deadline as a whole. Let’s get started.


Indians Get: James Ramsey, Cardinals Get: Justin Masterson

It doesn’t seem like the Indians were ever actually going to extend Masterson. There were numerous reports throughout the season that the two sides had discussed an extension, but nothing major came out of those talks. Because of that, dealing Masterson was the best thing the team could do.

Unfortunately for the front office, the 29-year-old pitched the Indians right out of a much bigger return package by posting a 5.51 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP over his first 19 starts in 2014. Where teams like the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox were able to bring in big returns for some of their pitchers, the Indians had to settle for Ramsey and Ramsey only.

Ramsey earns high marks for his IQ and leadership qualities. The 24-year-old was captain of the Florida State University baseball team and was also a Rhodes Scholar nominee, per the Baseball America Prospect Handbook.

As far as his abilities on the field are concerned, he is average across the board and has the potential for a plus run tool.

At the plate, Ramsey and his future present a little more of a question mark. He sees the ball very well and draws walks at an above-average rate, with a 12.6 percent walk rate in the minors. He also strikes out quite a bit, though, averaging a 24 percent strikeout rate in 1,024 minor league plate appearances.

Because of this, Ramsey is an inconsistent hitter. He’s had a lot of success this season, slashing .300/.389/.527 through 281 plate appearances, but his 23.5 percent strikeout rate shows that things haven’t changed all that much.

Ramsey has shown some decent pop for a center fielder, logging 16 and 13 home runs in 2013 and 2014, respectively. At the big league level, the young outfielder doesn’t figure to hit for as much power, however, and should be more of a gap hitter.

His immediate big league future is that of a fourth outfielder. The Indians have a bevy of outfield prospects ahead of him in terms of natural ability, but Ramsey is the second-closest outfielder in relation to a big league call-up.

If he’s able to stick in center field and hit somewhere near 10 home runs a season, he could profile well as a starting center fielder and No. 2 hitter on an average team.

Grade: B


Indians Get: Zach Walters, Nationals Get: Asdrubal Cabrera

Realistically, the Indians should have traded Asdrubal Cabrera after his All-Star campaign in 2012. With free agency just two years away, Cabrera staked himself out to a .270/.338/.423 slash line with 16 home runs, 68 RBI, 70 runs scored and a 90/52 K/BB ratio.

Since then, the veteran shortstop has been trending downward, posting a .244/.301/.395 slash line over 978 plate appearances between the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

Cabrera’s abysmal performance in the last two seasons hurt his trade value significantly. The shortstop market ended up being much thinner than once projected, and with players like Alexei Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins and others staying put, he would have commanded a much higher return package.

Instead, from the Nationals, the Indians were able to get shortstop (and sometimes third base) Zach Walters.

Walters ranked as the Nationals’ No. 14 prospect, according to the Baseball America Prospect Handbook. He has great pop, racking up at least 12 home runs in each of the last three minor league seasons. The 24-year-old fails to recognize as much of that power as he should, however, striking out at a 23.5 percent clip over the course of his minor league career.

If he continues to swing so freely at the big league level, Walters will get eaten alive by more advanced pitchers.

Defensively, the University of San Diego product is more of a project and requires some additional work if he’s going to find a permanent home at either shortstop or third base. If he’s able to improve his route-taking and also his first step (unlikely), then he could work as a starting shortstop.

The more likely path for Walters is that of a utility man—think Martin Prado but with less speed and maybe a bit more power.

The move is somewhat puzzling, though, as the Indians already possess a wealth of players with similar career paths. Even so, it cleared a spot for Francisco Lindor to be promoted in the very near future, and that’s never a bad thing. 

Grade: C+



It wasn’t a great deadline by any means, but most of that wasn’t the Indians’ fault. They weren’t likely to re-sign both Masterson and Cabrera—especially not Cabrera—so both moves were warranted.

In addition to that, the poor performances put forth by both players hurt their trade value, leaving the Indians with little wiggle room to acquire better prospects in exchange for expiring contracts.

Perhaps the most important result of either trade was the fact that the Indians were able to open up the starting shortstop gig for top prospect Francisco Lindor. The 20-year-old has torn up minor league pitching and ranks as the best defensive shortstop in the minor leagues.

Getting him some experience in a non-pressure situation will be key to his development, so the team should be commended for that.

All in all, it wasn’t a great deadline, but it wasn’t horrible, either.

Overall Grade: B-


*All stats current through play on August 1, 2014, and are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Best Prospects Moved at the 2014 MLB Trade Deadline

With all the trades that were agreed upon by the MLB trade deadline, prospects were involved in many of the deals. While acquiring a young, unproven player may not exactly be the sexiest move a team can make, these assets can be the key to future success for an organization. Who do you think were the best prospects to be traded?

Watch as Bleacher Report’s MLB Prospects Lead Writer Mike Rosenbaum breaks down the best prospects moved at the deadline.


*All stats accurate as of July 31, 2014.

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MLB Trade Deadline 2014: Grading Biggest Deals from July 31

Well, that was an exciting trade deadline, wasn’t it?

This year’s July 31 non-waiver deadline had everything that baseball fans can ask for. We saw a former Cy Young winner, still very much in his peak, get dealt; a true ace for the defending World Series champions found a new home. 

Even the non-superstar players who were dealt generated buzz because they are still producing at strong levels. It’s the first time in years where all the rumors prior to the deadline actually led to movement, instead of just seeing a slew of relievers change hands. 

Making this year’s trading season even more unique were the types of deals being consummated. Prospects are all the rage in baseball because they aren’t going to cost much money when they eventually graduate, so teams are holding onto them for dear life. 

As a result, general managers had to get more creative, so we saw more deals involving already-established big leaguers and short-term control happen. It was all fascinating, but who came out ahead on the biggest deals from July 31?


Deal No. 1

Oakland Acquires Jon Lester & Jonny Gomes from Boston

Boston Acquires Yoenis Cespedes & Draft Pick from Oakland

The first deal of the day provided further evidence that Oakland general manager Billy Beane has no illusions about where his team is at this season and what they must do to compete for a championship. 

Nearly four weeks after acquiring Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs, Beane pulled off another shocker by dealing for Boston ace Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes, via MLB‘s official roster moves Twitter account:

Make no mistake, the Athletics acquired Lester to get them over the October hump that has tripped them up in the last two years. Casey Pratt of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area provided evidence of how dominant the left-hander has been in the Fall Classic:

The price for Lester, who is in the final year of his contract and is having his best season by ERA (2.52) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.66) standards, was high but not as grand as you might have thought. 

Jonny Gomes isn’t a non-entity in this deal, either. He will fit in nicely with Oakland’s platoon-based offense, given that he has crushed left-handed pitching in his career (.875 OPS) and in 2014 (.831 OPS). 

Yoenis Cespedes can put on a show in the Home Run Derby and should hit for even more power going from spacious O.co Coliseum to the short left field in Fenway Park. However, he’s limited offensively because his on-base skills are virtually non-existent. 

For Boston, though, the deal is practical because Cespedes is signed through 2015 and adds far more power to the outfield mix than the Red Sox currently have. His 17 homers are more than the entire Boston outfield in 2014 (14). 

They also get a draft pick in the second compensation round next year, likely in the 65-75 range, and this gives them more slot money to get creative. It’s not a great return for a pitcher of Lester’s caliber, but since he’s only under contract for two more months, the front office did well. 

Oakland’s grade: A-

Boston’s grade: B


Deal No. 2

Detroit Acquires David Price from Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay Acquires Drew Smyly and Willy Adames from Detroit and Nick Franklin from Seattle

Seattle Acquires Austin Jackson from Detroit

Sensing that Oakland was building a pitching staff that could rival theirs in a potential postseason series, the Detroit Tigers pulled off the surprise of the deadline by acquiring David Price from Tampa Bay, via the Tigers’ official Twitter account:

The deal also included Seattle, which acquired Austin Jackson from Detroit and sent Nick Franklin to Tampa Bay, via the Mariners’ official Twitter account:

Starting with the headliner, Price serves two purposes for Detroit. One, he makes an already-strong rotation that much better by slotting somewhere in the mix with Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez in the first three games of a potential playoff series. 

Sorry, Justin Verlander fans, but he’s not getting it done anymore and shouldn’t be starting before Game 4 of any postseason series. 

Price has had an interesting season, to say the least. He leads the American League with 189 strikeouts and 170.2 innings pitched, but has also been more homer-prone than ever before with a league-high 20 allowed. 

The good news is the 2012 American League Cy Young winner has been more effective at keeping the ball in the park lately, allowing just three homers in six July starts. 

Another reason Price benefits the Tigers is simply insurance for Scherzer. Price is under team control through 2015, so Detroit can afford to let the 2013 AL Cy Young winner leave via free agency this offseason and know that there won’t be a significant drop in production from the rotation. 

For a team with a championship window in danger of closing at any moment, given the age of key players, Detroit has to strike while the iron is hot. This move enhances the Tigers’ chances in 2014 and keeps the window open in 2015. 

For Seattle, the deal is a win because it upgraded in center field with Austin Jackson and didn’t have to give up anything of substantial value. Franklin was a solid prospect coming through the system, but never hit well in 119 games with the Mariners (.214/.291/.358). 

Jackson doesn’t address Seattle’s need for power, yet his ability to handle center field in a big park and get on base at a .330-.340 clip will help the Mariners score more runs. 

On the Tampa Bay side, not a lot of fans or analysts are high on the deal. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted notes from an informal poll he conducted around the league:

We tend to get caught up in the idea of a player having team control, but if the player in question is already making $14 million through arbitration and able to ask for $20-plus million in 2015, how much value does that really have?

There aren’t a lot of teams around baseball that can afford to give a single player $20 million, so whatever leverage Tampa Bay had was marginal, at best. 

Plus, Smyly is a solid pitcher. He was brilliant as a multi-inning reliever for Detroit last season, posting a 2.37 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 17 walks in 76 innings. This year, the 25-year-old hasn’t been as good in the rotation, allowing 111 hits with a 3.93 ERA in 105.1 innings. 

Given that he’s under control through 2018 and entering his first year of arbitration, Smyly makes a lot of sense for the Rays. 

Willy Adames, the third guy in the deal for Tampa Bay, immediately became the team’s No. 2 prospect, according to MLB.com, drawing raves for his polish and ability to perform well despite being the youngest player in the Midwest League:

We won’t know what kind of player Adames is for a few years, so it’s hard to give Tampa Bay a definitive grade. If he turns into a solid everyday shortstop, the deal will look better in retrospect. 

As it stands, it’s not bad for anyone. 

Detroit’s grade: A

Seattle’s grade: A-

Tampa Bay’s grade: B


Deal No. 3

St. Louis Acquires John Lackey from Boston

Boston Acquires Allen Craig and Joe Kelly from St. Louis

There was no trade chip more fascinating than John Lackey, due to the $500,000 salary he will make next season thanks to a clause in his contract that stated he would make around the league minimum by missing significant time for an elbow injury. 

One Tommy John surgery in 2012 later, and suddenly Lackey found himself in an awkward predicament as a quality starting pitcher making slightly more than a rookie in an era where back-end veteran starters get paid $10-12 million per season. 

The Red Sox were able to flip Lackey to St. Louis for two cost-controlled players in Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, via the Cardinals’ official Twitter:

Craig and Kelly present Cherington with options for the offseason. Craig will benefit by going to a place where he doesn’t have to be exclusively in the outfield, which he plays poorly, perhaps moonlighting with Mike Napoli at first base or giving David Ortiz a day off at DH. 

Kelly is a ground-ball pitcher going from a St. Louis team that ranked first in defensive runs saved to a Red Sox squad that is 14th in that category, via FanGraphs.com. He throws hard, averaging 94.7 mph with the fastball, but has never struck out more than 6.4 per nine innings. 

While Craig seems like a player who can bounce back from a bad three-month stretch in 2014 to become the .290/.340/.460 hitter he’s been throughout his career, Kelly is just a body giving the Red Sox innings to get through 2014. 

The Cardinals had to rebuild their rotation through trades because Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha are hurt and Shelby Miller has been inconsistent. Lackey doesn’t dramatically alter the National League Central race, but he’s still an above-average pitcher by ERA+ (108, per Baseball-Reference.com) standards. 

Plus, with Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn at the top of the rotation, St. Louis didn’t need an ace. It needed someone to provide quality innings who is capable of starting a playoff game. Lackey more than fits that bill, as the Cardinals saw last October. 

With Craig out of the mix in St. Louis, top prospect Oscar Taveras can step into the right field throne that will be his for the next decade. 

St. Louis’ grade: B+

Boston’s grade: B-


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Top Moves MLB Teams Should Have Made at the 2014 Trade Deadline

As the MLB trade deadline came and went, many players found themselves dealt to new teams. Big names like David Price, Jon Lester, Yoenis Cespedes and others headed out to different clubs.

However, after the dust settled and the deadline passed, it seemed as if some teams missed out on great trade opportunities. Which potential moves did teams whiff on? Which players should have been dealt?

Find out as MLB Lead Writer Zach Rymer breaks down some moves teams missed the boat on.

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MLB Trade Deadline 2014: Rumors and Predictions for Top Names on the Block

The 2014 MLB nonwaiver trade deadline is Thursday, July 31, and the rumors surrounding the biggest names in baseball have fans trying to predict where the top players will land.

With stars like Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki, Boston’s Jon Lester and Minnesota’s Josh Willingham reportedly on the market, the landscape of the league could look very different by the time Aug. 1 arrives.

Here are the latest rumors and predictions as the trade deadline approaches.


Troy Tulowitzki

One of the best shortstops in baseball is Colorado Rockies star Troy Tulowitzki, and he has been at the center of trade talks for weeks leading up to the deadline. The rumors were further fueled by Tulowitzki’s appearance at a Yankees game in New York on Sunday, per Nick Groke and Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Tulowitzki’s trip to Yankee Stadium was not related to business, but the shortstop is intrigued by the possibility of playing in New York City:

It is unrelated to his day trip, but those close to the shortstop say they believe that if Tulo is to be traded from the Rockies — a team he loves in a city he loves — the Yankees happened to be one of only a handful of teams he’d be happy to join.

Friends of Tulowitzki say that while he hasn’t necessarily presented a list of pre-approved teams for trade, he does indeed love the history and winning tradition of the Yankees, that he’d love the idea of replacing his idol Derek Jeter, and that he’d happily look past the fact that his beloved No. 2 is taken (Jeter’s number will be retired with him after this year) to accept a trade to the Bronx.

The media has run with this story, but there is little doubt that this was strictly Tulowitzki attending the game to see his favorite player one last time. While being in the stadium and seeing the atmosphere from the fan’s perspective could have intrigued the shortstop about a possible deal, nothing is imminent.

If New York were to land Tulowitzki, it would likely be after Jeter retires this offseason.

Despite Tulowitzki’s outstanding numbers in 2014—he’s racked up a .340 batting average, 21 home runs, 52 RBI and a .432 on-base percentage thus far—he is currently on the disabled list with a thigh injury.

With Colorado not looking to deal the shortstop and few teams willing to overpay without seeing him perform on his injured leg first, any potential trade would likely have to wait until the offseason at the earliest.

Predicted Landing Spot: Colorado Rockies


Jon Lester

The Boston Red Sox understand that starting pitcher Jon Lester has the right to become a free agent at the conclusion of the season. If the organization doesn’t want to pay Lester the money he has earned, trading him away will yield a hefty return.

The trade won’t bring back a player of Lester’s talent, but it’s better than allowing the team’s top pitcher hit the open market and get nothing in return.

In a series of tweets from Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com and Buster Olney of ESPN, it has become clear that Boston is doing whatever it can to move Lester before the trade deadline:

Why the Red Sox wouldn’t do whatever it took to re-sign the pitcher is beyond comprehension. Even at 30 years old, Lester is still one of the best pitchers in the league and has impressed with his 2.52 ERA, a 10-7 record and 149 strikeouts.

There are reportedly several teams interested, and that’s likely due to the fact that it isn’t often when a player of Lester’s caliber is put on the block. With little baggage attached to the player, any team in win-now mode will be kicking the tires over the coming days.

It is unclear if a team will be willing to pay what Boston is asking for what could be a rental player if he decides to test the open market this offseason, but his raw talent and consistency would make him a valuable piece to any starting rotation.

Predicted Landing Spot: Los Angeles Dodgers


Josh Willingham

The New York Yankees have serious issues with the pitching rotation, but the team is reportedly just as interested in adding another bat to the lineup as it is finding a starting pitcher on the trade block.

One of the players reportedly drawing the most interest from New York is Josh Willingham.

In a separate report from Heyman, he claims that the Yankees are interested in acquiring another offensive player, and Willingham fits the mold the team is looking for:

The Yankees, perhaps as concerned about their offensive issues as their rotation, are looking at outfielder Josh Willingham and some other bats.

The Yankees may actually prefer Willingham to Marlon Byrd or Alex Rios, perhaps partly because of Willingham’s reasonable $7 million salary and status as a free agent after the season, though Byrd and Rios haven’t been ruled out. Rios makes $12 million, with a $2 million buyout of a $14 million team option, and Byrd has an $8 million salary next year. Byrd’s deal does not seem overly high considering his solid production the past two years, but there may be some concern about his fit in the Bronx.

While it is clear that New York needs a consistent bat in the lineup, it makes little sense to add a player like Willingham. During the 2014 season, he has hit for an abysmal .219 batting average, 10 home runs, 29 RBI and a .361 on-base percentage.

Where is the consistency there?

Willingham’s numbers indicate that he would find more success in the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, but there is a serious risk associated with a possible deal. New York would likely have to trade away a prospect to get the Twins outfielder, and if he doesn’t pan out, the team would be stuck with a 35-year-old player on the backside of his career.

Despite the holdups, the Yankees have the need and the willingness to trade for Willingham.

Predicted Landing Spot: New York Yankees


*Stats via MLB.com.

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MLB Trade Rumors: A.J. Burnett, Jon Lester, Matt Kemp and Latest Deadline Buzz

The 2014 MLB trade deadline is scheduled for Thursday, July 31, and as it is every season, the rumors have started to come fast and furious from all corners of the sport.

With huge names like A.J. Burnett, Jon Lester, Matt Kemp and Jonathan Papelbon potentially on the move, the landscape of baseball could shift if the rumored trades come to fruition before the deadline.

Here are the latest reports from around Major League Baseball.


Phillies and Pirates Hammering Out Deal for A.J. Burnett?

The Philadelphia Phillies currently hold a 46-60 regular-season record, meaning the team will mostly likely become aggressive sellers at the trade deadline. The franchise must start thinking about the future, and that could mean dealing starting pitcher A.J. Burnett.

Burnett was brought in as a free agent to add another reliable arm to the rotation, but his services would be much better utilized on a team contending for a postseason berth like the Pittsburgh Pirates.

According to Jim Bowden of ESPN, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are working on a deal, but the details are still being hammered out:

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com also reported the Pirates’ interest in Burnett but revealed a snag that could hold up a potential trade:

The Phillies and A.J. Burnett wouldn’t mind working out a deal for him to go to Pittsburgh, but the Pirates’ interest, believed mild at best, might fall further if Burnett intends to pick up a player option for next year that’s likely to be worth $12.75 million.

The 2015 option is for $7.5 million at its minimum, but it will begin escalating if he reaches 24 starts this season (he has 21 so far). If he starts 32 games, the option would rise to $12.75 million, which would be a budget buster for Pittsburgh.

Giving up seven earned runs in his last start is not what a prospective team wants to see from a trade target, but Pittsburgh knows exactly what Burnett would bring to the team based the two seasons he spent there (2012-13).

Burnett’s 2014 hasn’t been his best, but he has served admirably on a struggling team. His positive attitude has helped anchor the rotation, and he has amassed a 4.15 ERA, a 6-10 record and 123 strikeouts thus far.

With the Pirates depending on Edinson Volquez and Vance Worley as the No. 4 and No. 5 starters, respectively, in their rotation, adding an insurance policy like Burnett would be a great deal if the two sides can come to an amicable agreement.


Jon Lester-for-Matt Kemp Deal on the Table?

One of the biggest names on the trade block this season has been Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester. According to reports, Lester could be the key piece in a trade for Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp.

In a report from Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com, Los Angeles and Boston may be laying the groundwork for a blockbuster trade before the deadline:

He has had debilitating ankle and shoulder injuries that have limited his play the last two seasons, is still owed roughly $118 million on a contract that runs through 2019, and has a mixed reputation as a clubhouse presence, but the Red Sox are considering making a move for Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, according to a club source.

With the Sox in need of more offensive production in the outfield, the right-handed-hitting Kemp could be the major piece in a trade for Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester, especially with the Dodgers reluctant to part with top outfield prospect Joc Pederson.

This would be one of the biggest trades of the year, and it would make a lot of sense for both parties involved. Boston would get a legitimate return in Kemp for Lester before he hits the open market as a free agent.

Los Angeles will have to take the educated risk regarding Lester re-signing with the Dodgers, but the team would be able to add another ace to the already-powerful starting rotation. Add in the fact that moving Kemp would alleviate some salary-cap stress and free up another outfield position for the young players in the farm system, and this is a win-win deal for both teams.

With Lester pitching well (2.52 ERA, 10-7 record and 149 strikeouts) and Kemp performing strong since returning from injury (a .277 batting average, eight home runs, 40 RBI and a .343 on-base percentage on the season), this would be a blockbuster trade that could actually come to fruition before the deadline.


Philadelphia Pushing Hard to Move Jonathan Papelbon?

As discussed in the Burnett section, Philadelphia is slipping out of contention and should be looking to sell many of the high-priced pieces that aren’t going to be part of the long-term plan.

One of the biggest names thrown around in rumors has been closer Jonathan Papelbon, but there just hasn‘t been the attention the Phillies thought they would get for a player of his caliber.

According to Heyman, Philadelphia is so desperate to move Papelbon that the team is willing to eat a substantial portion of his salary, but there is still not enough interest to make a deal worth a move:

The Phillies are telling teams they’d absorb a portion of the $18 million remaining on closer Jonathan Papelbon’s deal if they are interested in trading for the closer. Papelbon’s market seems light, if existent, after both the Angels and Tigers filled back-end bullpen needs with Huston Street and Joakim Soria, respectively.

Despite the team’s struggles, Papelbon has not lost the tenacity and toughness be has become known for, and the numbers back that up. With a 1.83 ERA, 25 saves and 40 strikeouts in 44.1 innings, there is no question that he would be a welcome addition to any bullpen.

For the teams potentially interested in Papelbon, the high-priced contract is a major issue. If the Phillies are willing to eat a huge chunk of the money, as the report claims, it will be easier to move him in a last-second deal.


Stats via MLB.com.

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Will Newfound MLB Parity Embolden GMs to Make Big Trade Deadline Splashes?

Major League Baseball is rife with parity right now, and that’s both a good and bad thing. On one hand, a lot more teams and fanbases have legitimate hopes and dreams of reaching October. On the other, this relatively new league-wide equality has neutered the trade deadline—formerly one of the most exciting times of the season—to an extent.

Think back to this time last year when the biggest names to change teams by July 31 were—no drum roll needed—Matt Garza, Jake Peavy, Ian Kennedy and Alfonso Soriano. Ho hum.

Sure, there was plenty of speculation and rumors galore about other, bigger-name players getting swapped (think: Giancarlo Stanton, Cliff Lee, Chase Utley, etc.). Not a whole heck of a lot actually happened, though, because so many teams were either buying or holding, and so few actually were willing to blow it up and sell when the playoffs remained a possibility, no matter how remote.

Parity giveth and taketh away.

Sandy Aldersongeneral manager of the New York Mets, who enter Tuesday games at 51-55 and six games out of a playoff spot—essentially summed up the state of mind for the majority of front offices with this quote via Anthony DiComo of MLB.com: “When I say it’s unlikely that we’ll do anything, we’re not anxious to be sellers. We’re cautious about being buyers. But we’ll see.” 

Why is that? Well, in the American League, 11 of 15 teams are either in a playoff position or within six games of one; and in the National League, 10 of 15 clubs can make the same claim, including Alderson‘s Mets.

Put another way: With August on the the doorstep, only nine of 30 teams are more than six games out of a position that would put them in the postseason. The difference these days between being a club on the fringe of irrelevance and one who potentially could punch a ticket to October is more or less a good week.

By comparison, here are the number of teams six or fewer games out of a playoff spot entering August each of the past five years:

Now, the biggest reason for this, obviously, is the addition of the second wild-card spot in each league, which came about in 2012. But even still, it’s hard to ignore the fact that there just doesn’t seem to be as many dominant teams in the majors right now—or even any.

There is no 1998 or 2009 New York Yankees or 2001 Seattle Mariners, no 2005 St. Louis Cardinals or 2008 Los Angeles Angels, or even a 2011 Philadelphia Phillies. All of those teams won at least 100 games and ran away with their division.

In fact, five of the six divisions are separated by just 2.5 games or fewer at the top, and no division leader is ahead by more than fives games, which is the disparity between the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers (57-45) and the second-place Kansas City Royals (53-51) entering games on Tuesday, July 29.

Such tight competition makes it difficult for decision-makers to, well, make decisions. Being aggressive as the trade deadline nears—Thursday at 4 p.m. ET is mere hours away at this point—is a legitimate risk when there are oh-so-many teams clustered together.

But maybe GMs should be seeing this not as a risk, but as an opportunity. An opportunity to make one or two big, bold moves to separate their club from what clearly has become a crowd.

Sure, a trade might seem like an all-in gamble that could backfire, but it also very well could push a team away from the pack and make it an immediate favorite to reach the postseason or even the World Series.

That’s just what the Oakland Athletics did at the beginning of July by trading for right-handers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs in one fell swoop. In so many ways, that was a shocking maneuver.

Because it happened so early (July 4). Because the A’s are the type of small-market team that often must rely on young, cost-controlled talent for sustained success, and yet they jettisoned Addison Russell, a consensus top-10 prospect. And because GM Billy Beane is well-known for calling MLB‘s postseason a crapshoot at the end of a 162-game marathon.

The A’s, after all, are always at the forefront of forward thinking in baseball, so seeing them push their chips to the center of the table in a win-now, worry-about-the-future-later deal was a bit jarring—but also telling.

Here’s what Beane, whose 65-40 A’s have had the best record in baseball for most of the season, told Bob Nightengale of USA Today after landing Samardzija and Hammel: “We have a team that can win right now. The end game isn’t to have the best prospects, it’s to have a good team. We have to take the opportunity and grasp it. We have a team that can win right now.”

So if the A’s, of all teams, can do it, why not any number of others? It’s not a stretch to say that half the clubs in MLB would become an October favorite tomorrow by pulling off a massive, all-in, go-for-broke blockbuster today.

Instead of being swallowed up by the negative outcomes of the what-ifs, maybe GMs need to recognize just how paralyzed their counterparts appear to be. The executive who goes big puts his team in position not to go home come October.

Why might this not happen? Well, that again goes back to the extra wild-card spot: It’s certainly possible that a club could wind up falling short of a division title, get stuck in a one-game playoff and have its “postseason” be over in just one game.

Heck, the A’s themselves provide an example of just this possibility. After winning the AL West the past two years but bowing out in the ALDS, they needed to make their trade to try to get past the first round for the first time since 2006.

On the other hand, as it stands now, they might have needed to make the deal simply to win the AL West againThe A’s have baseball’s best record, but they have the misfortune of playing in the same division as the Angels, who sport the second-best mark at 63-41. That puts Oakland but 1.5 games ahead of L.A. entering Tuesday games.

If the A’s do wind up coming up short in their quest for a third-straight division crown, well, then they run the risk of having traded away a major piece of their future—and a cost-controlled one at that—for nine innings of October. That can be devastating, especially for a budget-conscious team like Oakland.

Does that mean Beane should not have made the move? Heck no, because flags fly forever. But it does put the decision—and all the pressures and permutations that come with it—into perspective.


Statistics are accurate through July 28 and come from MLB.comBaseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com, except where otherwise noted.

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