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Everything you need to know about next week’s trade deadline

Jul 24, 2014, 12:09 PM EDT

David Price David Price

July 31 is the major league baseball trade deadline. Well, a deadline for certain kinds of trades anyway. Because as far as deadlines go, it’s a pretty soft one.

What it is a deadline for is straight-up trades between two teams into which no other team has a say and no other procedures must be followed. Players can still be traded after July 31, but it gets a bit more complicated. Let’s break it down:

  • July 31 is the “non-waiver” trade deadline, meaning teams don’t have to put players’ named through the waiver process before a deal can be done. Anyone can be traded for any reason whatsoever.
  • August 31 is the waiver trade deadline. Until then, players can be traded, but they first must be placed on waivers, giving other teams the chance to simply claim him — contract and all — if they want him. If a team claims a waived player that player’s current team can either let him go for free (something they may want to do with an expensive player they don’t with to pay anymore), work out a trade with the claiming team or simply pull him back since August waivers are so-called “revocable waivers.”  If the player is unclaimed by every team (i.e. he “clears waivers) he can be traded to anyone, just like it was before July 31st.
  • Players can still be traded via waivers after August 31, actually. The only thing is, if that happens, they are only eligible to play in their new team’s regular season games. They cannot play in the playoffs for their new team.
  • Got all that? Good. Even if you don’t, just know that just because a big name isn’t traded before the deadline on July 31 doesn’t mean he won’t be traded.

Now, let’s look at a few of those big names who might be traded– just a few, as dozens and dozens are at least shopped every year — and the teams who might be the most active:

David Price: Clearly the best starting pitcher available. Or at least perceived to be available. When he was first rumored to go the Rays were 15 games out of first place. Since then they’ve gone on a tear and are now only four and half games back in the wild card hunt. It may be hard for Tampa Bay to pull the trigger, but moving Price now, when he would still have a year of team control attached to him after this, would bring them the biggest haul.

Cliff Lee: A much harder deal to make for two reasons: (1) he has been injured this year and his first start back of the disabled list the other day did not go well; and (2) he is owned $25 million next season and has a $12 million+ buyout for 2015. Given his price tag he’d certainly clear waivers in August, thereby allowing teams a chance to see if is still the Cliff Lee we have all come to know and love before making the commitment.

Ben Zobrist: A good hitter who can play almost anywhere on the diamond, almost any team in contention might want him. However, the same considerations that attach to David Price regarding the Rays being contention apply here. Also: he’s not going to become super expensive like Price will over the next year or two, so the Rays may just decide to keep him.

Joaquin Benoit: He has closed and set up before so any team looking for any kind of bullpen help would love to have him (and there are ALWAYS) tons of teams looking for bullpen help. His old team, the Tigers, seemed like a great candidate until they traded for Joakim Soria last night, but the Padres are apparently open for business so it would not be at all surprising to see him moved.

Chad Qualls: A much cheaper option that Benoit for teams needing closers but, actually, a guy who is performing even better. Of course he is performing over his historical norms right now whereas Benoit has done what he’s doing now in he past. Benoit also strikes out a lot more guys, and that’s pretty important, especially in the playoffs.

Jonathan Papelbon: And here’s a much more expensive closer option. Like, really expensive. If you have the money to blow, however, Papelbon has finally figured out how to be effective despite his reduced velocity posting his best season since he was in Boston. He could greatly bolster a bullpen, even if he doesn’t do so in a cost-effective fashion.

Jake Peavy: The Sox are in last place and while they may be reloading as opposed to rebuilding, they probably got the best work out of Peavy they’ll ever see last year. He’s not having a great year and has been shopped openly for over a month now.

Marlon Byrd: Offense is hard to come by these days and Byrd does have 19 homers on the season. Some team will probably overpay for him.

Jorge De La Rosa: A good start on Wednesday night reminds us that, for all of his struggles this year, De La Rosa has probably done a better job of pitching at altitude in Coors Field than anyone. Taking Rockies starters down to sea level with the hopes that they’ll greatly improve has always been a dicey affair, but the Rockies should probably take advantage of that impulse.

Bartolo Colon: The venerable Colon keeps on keeping on, continuing to be an efficient and effective starter into his 40s. The Mets have grown to love him, but they probably realize that he is not a part of their long term plans, even if they signed him to a two-year deal before the season.

Josh Willingham: A perpetual trade deadline candidate, he has probably stuck in Minnesota a bit too long. But if Chase Headley can be moved after several years of rumors that he would be, so too could Willingham. His average and homers are down, but he’s still getting on base at a good clip. He probably has a good half-season in him pending a change of scenery.

Carlos Quentin: Same story here. He’s having a down year and he has a full no-trade clause. He’d also have to be a DH. But some team may see what he did the past few years and think that getting him away from the vortex of awful that is the offense in San Diego could do him good. Of course, he’s been a notable contributor to that vortex.

There are several others who could go — especially a lot of relievers whose names many people don’t know — but these are most of the name-brand candidates.

Now, which teams are on the market? Well, the short answer is “almost everyone,” as the second wild card and greater overall parity in baseball have made far more teams buyers than sellers. But let’s categorize them.

THE OBVIOUS SELLERS: The Red Sox, Twins, Astros, Rangers, MetsPhillies, Diamondbacks, Rockies and Padres.

THE NON-OBVIOUS SELLERS: The Cubs have already done most of their selling dealing two starters to the A’s. The Rays are that special case we talked about. The White Sox and Marlins aren’t playoff bound, but nor do they have a ton of guys they’re likely to shop.

THE OBVIOUS BUYERS: Everyone else to some extent, but the teams with clear needs who are likely to make moves are as follows: the Blue Jays, Yankees and Orioles in the AL East (starting pitching is a need for all three); the Angels (they filled a bullpen void but could probably still use a starter); the Mariners (they could use a bat and have been linked to Marlon Byrd and they have also been mentioned prominently in David Price rumors); the Braves (they’re always looking for bullpen help and have had starters drop like flies); the Cardinals (a starter) the Brewers (a first baseman or, at least some bat); the Reds (a bat); the Dodgers (a bullpen arm, though they’ve been rumored to want yet another starter despite starting pitching being a strength); the Giants (bullpen; second base if the Dan Uggla Experiment doesn’t pan out).

THE NON-OBVIOUS BUYERS: The Tigers already made a move to fill their biggest need in acquiring Joakim Soria. So too the Athletics in bolstering their rotation in that trade with the Cubs, but they do have the best offense and best pitching in the game, so the needs are limited. They could still use a second baseman and maybe an arm. The Indians and the Royals both need help, but don’t have the ability to add much payroll. Same with the Pirates, who could use a starter but don’t have the financial flexibility. The Nationals are likely to stand pat, as they’re finally getting their health back. Even with Ryan Zimmerman‘s hamstring injury, they have starters for every position. Maybe they look for a situational reliever.

So that’s where things stand today. Keep an eye on HardballTalk for whatever happens over the next week — and, as I noted above, the next month — as general managers start to wheel and deal.

  1. proudlycanadian - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    So in other words, do not expect much to happen.

    • realgone2 - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:12 PM

      I blame that stupid extra wild card. now just about ever team that isn’t in the cellar thinks they have a shot. So none of them do anything of note.

      • proudlycanadian - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:21 PM

        A lot of mistakes can be made at the trade deadline. Not doing anything is often the best policy.

  2. joroberts10 - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    How do the Mariners not get mentioned once? They have been in that second wild card spot for a lot of the season and probably need a right handed power hitter more than any team needs any position right now. At least get someone like Willingham, or maybe Byrd(kinda pricey for a 36 year old). And if they want to get very risky but exciting go after Kemp to play right field. Pipe dream is Stanton from the Marlins, I don’t think anyone would be dumb enough to trade him right now.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:07 PM

      Oversight. Meant to mention them as buyers. I’ll edit.

  3. philswfc08 - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    one thing we know will happen…Ruben Amaro will screw up.

    • gloccamorra - Jul 24, 2014 at 9:03 PM

      I’m not a Phils fan, nor do I play one on TV, but looking at the Phils from a distance, I can’t shake the feeling that Amaro takes a lot of blame for doing what the owners’ want. When one of the owners says they don’t want to tear down the team because it will impact attendance, it tells me Amaro doesn’t have a free hand. Now, the moves he DOES make are another story, but even there, you have to wonder about ownership interference.

  4. kelshannon19 - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:36 PM

    I don’t think the Astros are obvious sellers, unless something blows them away. With all the PR crap they have had of late, the last thing the Astros want to do is further piss off whatever fans are left. Last year when they traded Veras it was even more of a train wreck than possibly fathomed. I believe Chad Qualls and Tony Sipp remain Astros.

  5. bisonaudit - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:47 PM

    If Zimmerman is on the shelf for a month the Nats need an bat at 2nd or 3rd. LaRoche won’t be back next year and Zimmerman will play 1st going forward. Uggla might be an upgrade over Espinoza v. right handed pitching.

    • bisonaudit - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:17 PM

      That’s not to imply that I think the Nats should go get Uggla. It’s just to illustrate that their current option at 2nd is not much of an option against 75% of the pitching they’re likely to face.

    • natstowngreg - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:19 PM

      Maybe a utility guy who can pinch-hit, preferably from the left side. And, as Craig noted, another reliever. Maybe a lefty; Jerry Blevins hasn’t been that good in the role.

      Dan Uggla? The guy the Braves dumped for chronic lack of offense? Setting aside for a moment that he’s with the Giants now, the Nats don’t need another unproductive bench bat.

      • bisonaudit - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:25 PM

        Again. Uggla was terrible and the Nats shouldn’t go get him. The point was Espinoza can not hit right handed pitching and they’re going to need another 2nd or 3rd baseman next season anyway so they should be in the market for one now.

      • natstowngreg - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:36 PM

        Not necessarily disagreeing. Anthony Rendon will be the 3B next season. Espinosa hasn’t proven he can hit enough to keep his very good glove in the lineup. It’s questionable, though, whether they can get a new starting 2B at this point–someone who would be benched when Zimmerman returns from the DL. More likely, the 2B situation (like the issue of where to play Ryan) will be addressed in the off-season.

      • bisonaudit - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:51 PM

        You’re right. This is the same team that shut down Strasburg for the playoffs.

        They’re up 1 game in the division and 2 in the wild card. They’re a lock for the playoffs, and if not who cares. Surely they’ll get back there next year.

        I’m not saying you break the bank but they should be picking up the phone instead of waiting for a call.

    • SocraticGadfly - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:00 PM

      Would the Nats chase Zobrist?

      • bisonaudit - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:19 PM

        He’s got a team option for $7.5 million next season. That’s super cheap, so Tampa is in a position to demand a good return and they’re close enough to the playoffs that they may not be super interested in dealing him to begin with.

        Utley maybe? If he gets hurt again the last three years of his deal don’t vest, Philadelphia will be a motivated seller, but Utley gets a say on whether and where he wants to go.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:31 PM

        Yeah, I know Tampa’s whole position has changed so much in the last month. That said, I’ve seen one or two Rays fans say they’re not even sure the team will pick up the option!

      • indaburg - Jul 24, 2014 at 3:11 PM

        They may pick up the option and then trade him. For most teams, $7.5 million is cheap and Zobrist, even at his age, is worth it. For the penny pinching Rays, $7.5 million is expensive. Better to trade him and get a return than let him walk for nothing.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 24, 2014 at 3:42 PM

        @Inda, good point … in that case, he’s just as tradeable this year, because just about any other team, especially one with dinero to spend like the Nats, would pick up the option too.

  6. girardisbraces - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    I wouldn’t trade for Lee. It’s obvious that he’s having issues controlling his gas.

  7. irishlad19 - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    The Red Sox need some power hitting!

  8. gothapotamus90210 - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    The First Rule of Ruben: Ruben never sells.

    The Second Rule of Ruben: Ruben never sells.

  9. sisqsage - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    Somebody’s gotta pickup Denorfia. He’ll help out and for not much in prospects and/or a player on your 25-man roster that you would have to give up.

    • gloccamorra - Jul 24, 2014 at 9:14 PM

      He’s a hustling 5th outfielder who has hit lefties hard, righties less so, but he’s 34 and having an off-season. How much would he help a team? How much would that help cost?

      The Padres have a left fielder who only plays part time, and lost their center fielder for 25 games. Their right fielder is hitting even worse than Denorfia. They have utility guys who can replace Denorfia, but they’re covering for the first baseman, second baseman and shortstop on the DL, and they just traded their third baseman, so they might need Denorfia the most.

      How about that Francoeur guy they just called up?

  10. markfrednubble - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:03 PM

    Craig, the Red Sox are not obvious sellers. They are six games out of the second wild card spot with 61 games left, with a lot of head-to-head games in probably the worst division in baseball. You can look dispassionately at them and say they don’t have much of a shot but it appears Sox management isn’t thinking that way (at least not yet). Like Tampa, Boston thinks they can get back into the race, and on the business side it’s a lot harder in Boston to wave a white flag with all those expensive tickets sold and luxury suites filled up.

    Moving a Gomes or a Peavy (whose departure would probably upgrade the Sox’ rotation with Workman or another youngster) is not being a seller because neither would hamper their prospects this year’. It seems clear that, unless they get swept this weekend by Tampa and fall much further behind, they aren’t going to move anyone significant for prospects. Koji Uehara would be the ultimate test of that approach at age 39, but everything we read and hear suggests they aren’t moving him.

    • whotheheckisthat - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:19 PM

      Go Rays! Boston might be strong, but Tampa is Tougher!

    • SocraticGadfly - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:34 PM

      Uhh, that would be the same RedSox that got ESPN to bite on a phony rumor that the Cards might overpay for Peavy … Also, given that management has said offseason moves were a “failure,” I think the towel’s been tnrown in.

      • markfrednubble - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:48 PM

        I don’t agree, but let me ask you (or anyone) this: If you are the Sox and decided to become sellers, who is on the block? Another way of asking is, which players that a contender would want do you not expect to be important contributors next year?

        I can’t get much further than Koji or Drew in trying to make that list. They are probably the only guys they would realistically move if they decide 2014 is a lost cause — and I would still bet they won’t trade Koji even if they’re 9-10 games out of the wild card after the weekend. Because they want him back next year.

        Drew is still owed, what, 5 or 6 million? Too expensive, wouldn’t get much of a return. Lester — no chance. Lackey — Lucchino said this morning they are hoping to do a multi-year deal with him in the offseason. Victorino — not healthy enough to get any value in return. Other veterans contenders might want — Tazawa and Breslow and Mujica have low/no value, Miller is a potential future closer who’s still cheap, Ross is worth more to the Sox than to anyone else because of Lester. Nava? Middlebrooks? Seriously, they have no high-value players except the guys they want to keep for next year.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 24, 2014 at 3:39 PM

        Well, I’d buy on Lackey if the price is right, but, if you’re not trading him?

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jul 24, 2014 at 4:46 PM

      Craig, the Red Sox are not obvious sellers. They are six games out of the second wild card spot with 61 games left, with a lot of head-to-head games in probably the worst division in baseball. You can look dispassionately at them and say they don’t have much of a shot but it appears Sox management isn’t thinking that way (at least not yet). Like Tampa, Boston thinks they can get back into the race, and on the business side it’s a lot harder in Boston to wave a white flag with all those expensive tickets sold and luxury suites filled up.

      The problem right now isn’t the # of games behind, it’s the number of teams ahead of them. After this afternoon’s games, the WC standings look like this:

      LA
      Sea
      NYY
      Tor
      Cle – 2 GB
      KC – 2.5 GB
      TB – 4.5 GB
      Chi Sox – 5.5 GB
      Bos – 6.5 GB

      The Sox are in “8th” place for the WC spot. Assuming every team ahead of them plays .500 ball (Yanks finish at 83-79) for the rest of the year, the Sox (with 60 games to go), have to go 37-23 or win 62% of their remaining games. That’s roughly a 100 win pace over 162 games.

      It can happen, but if any of those teams ahead of them play better than .500 ball it makes it exponentially worse.

  11. dan12 - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:07 PM

    Jimmy Rollins?

    ANTI-PHILLIES BIAS!!!!

  12. ejheim62 - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    would be highly ironic if Burnett gets traded from the Phils and ends up back with the Pirates

    • mazblast - Jul 24, 2014 at 5:54 PM

      Not as ironic as today’s trade of Kendrys Morales back to Seattle.

  13. provguard - Jul 24, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    Giants need a starting pitcher more than bullpen help by a long shot. The bullpen is fine regardless of what you think…

  14. bairdmartin31 - Jul 24, 2014 at 6:45 PM

    Reports keep saying Hamels being dealt is a pipe dream but I can imagine a scenario where he and a couple of really bad contracts go to the Dodgers. Would be considered the price of doing business taking on a couple of inflated contracts attached to useless talent, and it would be right up the Dodgers’ alley.

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