The non-waiver trade deadline is rapidly approaching, which you've probably figured out by now even if you aren't a hardcore baseball fan, or a baseball fan at all. The 4pm EDT Saturday deadline is only two days away, and rumors are flying fast and furious as teams try to make improvements for the stretch run, and beat writers try to keep up with them.
But rumors aren't the only thing that can be tricky to keep up with. Also tricky can be figuring out where some of the teams stand themselves. A lot can change awful fast. The Rockies, for example, have lost eight games in a row, losing six games in the standings. The Phillies, meanwhile, have won seven games in a row, gaining 3.5 games on the Braves. At this point in the season, games for teams in the playoff hunt take on extra significance, and just a couple results can change the whole outlook.
What I will attempt to do here, then, is capture just where every team appears to stand as of this writing, shortly before the deadline. Who's a buyer? Who's a seller? Who's caught in between? We can assume that nothing major will change between now and Saturday afternoon, so consider this the most up-to-date...update...on the lay of the league. And if I'm wrong about somebody, well, I should be ashamed of myself.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM
The Angels, winners of the AL West in five of the last six seasons, are loath to concede a race as early as July, and just yesterday word spread of free-agent-to-be Derrek Lee invoking his rights to block a potential trade out west. However, at 8.5 out of the division and 12 back in the Wild Card, even the most stubborn Angels fan has to admit that things look grim. Not facing a rebuilding situation, the Angels will consider shedding some non-essential veterans while looking for players who could help in 2011 or 2012. Players like Dan Haren.
Obvious sellers, Roy Oswalt has been getting all the attention for weeks, now, and it appears he's at last on his way to Philadelphia. Oswalt, though, was the one big piece on the roster, as the front office has apparently taken Brett Myers and Matt Lindstrom off the table. With Oswalt gone, there won't be much to do, other than try to peddle role players like Brandon Lyon and Jeff Keppinger. Lance Berkman is another possibility to get moved, but given his performance decline, it's doubtful he would bring back much of a haul.
The second-place A's - second place! - had Ben Sheets as a potential trade target for a while, but then his elbow went and exploded, taking him off the table. And with the front office convinced the team can make a run in 2011, they're in no hurry to move otherwise tradable assets like Coco Crisp, Michael Wuertz, and Craig Breslow who are under contract beyond this season. The A's appear content to keep things as they are, and they're unlikely to do anything of significance unless someone blows them away.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
The Jays have a ton of pieces they could move, with Scott Downs and big league home run leader Jose Bautista foremost among them. Also included: Kevin Gregg, Edwin Encarnacion, Lyle Overbay, Jason Frasor, and who knows who else. However, Toronto has reportedly set a very high price on its most attractive assets, so unless something gives it's very possible they could do little, if anything. Downs is getting a ton of attention as a left-handed ace reliever.
It's possible that dealing Yunel Escobar for Alex Gonzalez could end up being the only move the Braves make, as the team's generally content with its makeup and chemistry. They aren't getting themselves into too many rumors, while the Phillies have been going after guys fast and furious. One name they have been linked to is Josh Willingham, as Nate McLouth's continuing struggles and recent demotion has left the lineup in some need for another bat. But overall, they're keeping quiet.
Owners of Prince Fielder and Corey Hart, the Brewers are sellers, but Hart's recent wrist injury has dropped his stock for understandable reasons. Fielder has been dangled and bandied about by a number of contenders, while other teams poke around the Brewer bullpen for potentially useful arms. The Brewers will either have a quiet deadline, or a very very loud one.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
The Cardinals want to add a starter but didn't feel like putting up with the Astros' demands for Roy Oswalt, so they've turned their attention to the Jake Westbrooks and Ted Lillys of the world. It seems likely that they'll land some sort of rotation depth arm. They've also considered some infield depth, but nothing there would be major.
The Cubs have one obvious movable piece in Ted Lilly, who probably becomes the most attractive starter on the market with Roy Oswalt off. Other than Lilly, the rest of the picture is composed of guys who're too expensive to move (Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, Kosuke Fukudome, etc), guys who don't want to move (Derrek Lee), guys who won't bring much back (Ryan Theriot), and Sean Marshall, a good reliever who's still under cheap team control through 2012. Lilly should command the bulk of everyone's attention.
The Diamondbacks already sold off their most valuable piece in Dan Haren, but tradable players remain in the persons of Edwin Jackson, Chad Qualls, Adam LaRoche, Aaron Heilman, and Chris Snyder. Jackson, naturally, could bring back the biggest return if he's moved, as the DBacks are looking for a young starter in exchange. Of course, given what they got for Haren, they might trade Jackson for a sandwich, or half of a sandwich cut diagonally.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Scott Podsednik answers some questions about outfield depth with Manny Ramirez proving unreliable. The Dodgers will now turn their full attention to trying to land a second- or third-tier starter like Ted Lilly or Paul Maholm. It looks like any improvement the Dodgers make in the coming days will be of the moderate and not blockbuster variety.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
The Giants were hot after Scott Podsednik, who went to LA, Corey Hart, who got injured, and David DeJesus, who got injured. They've also chased Jorge Cantu, who appears Texas-bound. In other words, things have not quite gone Brian Sabean's way. With that said, the NL's current Wild Card leader has talked about names like Scott Downs, David Aardsma, Brandon League, Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, and Jose Guillen, so the Giants are clearly still looking to bring someone in from outside. It would either be a bat-first slugger or a setup reliever.
Cleveland already moved Jhonny Peralta and is reportedly reluctant to trade Fausto Carmona. The pieces left they could sell off are Austin Kearns, Jake Westbrook, and Kerry Wood, with Westbrook generating the most interest as a groundball-heavy starting pitcher. They've taken calls about Rafael Perez but have little incentive to move him right now. Look for Westbrook to get traded, as he's a free agent come November.
Cliff Lee was the big prize and he moved on ages ago, leaving the team with little to deal. Jose Lopez has been terrible, killing his value. David Aardsma and Brandon League, meanwhile, have underachieved out of the bullpen. Russell Branyan is there, but the team presumably got him for a reason and may not be real willing to give him up. It's looking like a fairly quiet deadline for the league's biggest disappointment, unless Jack Zduriencik pulls off a heist with one of his relievers.
Too far out of it to contend but too close to sell everything, the Marlins have apparently decided to hang on to guys like Ricky Nolasco, Leo Nunez, Cody Ross, and Dan Uggla while selling Jorge Cantu to anyone who wants him. Wes Helms and Clay Hensley are other guys who could move, but then, Wes Helms and Clay Hensley. The Marlins are more seller than buyer, but they're definitely not a seller in the exciting sense of the word.
NEW YORK METS
The Phillies are contending, and the Mets are only four back of them, so it's safe to say they're still trying. However, they're far enough out of it that they're not willing to give up a whole lot in order to land a short-term improvement. They've been linked to future free agents like Scott Downs and Ted Lilly, but they don't seem to be in a position to commit big prospects or big money, so if they do anything, they may elect to add an underperformer on the cheap. It's funny how a 4-13 mid-July stretch can change so much about a team's presumed behavior.
Mired in last place with a bunch of veteran talent on the roster, the Nationals are an obvious seller. Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, and Matt Capps are each good players who could help a good team, and who would bring back a solid return. The issue is that GM Mike Rizzo has thusfar made a habit of asking entirely too much for his players, essentially blocking any and all trade possibilities. Negotiations here could extend all the way up to the deadline as Rizzo and other GMs play chicken with one another.
The worst team in baseball is sitting on a group of somewhat marketable veterans like Ty Wigginton, Miguel Tejada, Will Ohman, and Kevin Millwood, of whom Wigginton has drawn the most interest. What's certain is that, if they make a move, they won't get much back, as two of those are bench players, one is a relief specialist, and one is a struggling back-of-the-rotation starter. There'll be activity, but it won't be very interesting.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
The league's biggest surprise could use some improvements, but it doesn't have its eyes on anything major, preferring instead to sniff around a number of infield role players like Miguel Tejada and Ryan Theriot. They don't really have holes in many other places, nor do they have the means or desire to make an enormous splash. The rotation could use another arm, but that may end up waiting until August.
In Roy Oswalt, the Phillies have landed their white whale, and one wonders if they're even going to try swinging anything else with the budget stretched so thin. For what it's worth, Ruben Amaro is an aggressive general manager and the team has been linked to Jose Bautista and Miguel Tejada, among others. The likelihood, though, is that they're done pulling big moves. Oswalt's already a tremendous boost.
It's selling season once again in Pittsburgh, with Paul Maholm, Octavio Dotel, D.J. Carrasco, and Javier Lopez leading the list of available parts. None is a prize, but Maholm and Dotel could return useful pieces. Where things would get really interesting is in the event that the Pirates start seriously considering offers for younger relievers like Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan. As of now, though, there's no indication that will happen.
The Rangers already set themselves up by landing Cliff Lee, and have turned their eyes towards Florida's Jorge Cantu. They've also thought about Ty Wigginton. These platoon infielders, though, would serve as the final pieces to a puzzle that the front office clearly believes is nearly complete. It will probably be a slow deadline for the Rangers and their fans, but only because they already traded for arguably the league's best starting pitcher a few weeks ago. It's possible they could get involved in the second base market with Ian Kinsler back on the DL.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
The Rays, who could really use a bat, were hot after David DeJesus and Jayson Werth, neither of whom remain on the table. More recently they've been linked to Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham, the latter more strongly since Dunn has expressed that he doesn't want to DH and the Rays don't want to stir up any trouble. Odds are the Rays will sit pretty and maybe just add a reliever if they do anything at all, but given that they're loaded with prospects and have a need, they remain a big bat possibility.
BOSTON RED SOX
At 5.5 behind Tampa Bay for the Wild Card, the Red Sox aren't in position to do anything drastic, so they're not going to land any superstars. Instead, they've been linked rather aggressively to many of the relievers available on the market as Boston's bullpen has been something of a rollercoaster all season long. It wouldn't be the least bit surprising to see Theo Epstein end up with a 7th or 8th inning guy like Scott Downs, if not two of them, but outside of that, nothing else looks likely.
It's looking like a quiet deadline for Cincinnati, as the organization is content to run with what it's already got. You can think of Edinson Volquez as a deadline addition, if you like. They talked about Roy Oswalt for a bit, and they've considered various cheap relievers, but it doesn't look like anything significant will go down.
The league's greatest recent failure has gone from buyer to possible seller in the span of a week. Which isn't to say they're going to unload anything and everything from the back of the truck, but arms like Aaron Cook and Joe Beimel have become available, where just a little while ago they were helpful pieces to a team looking to contend. No one huge is either going to Coors, or leaving it.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
With Scott Podsednik and Alberto Callaspo already gone and David DeJesus out for the year, Dayton Moore's next two days will focus almost exclusively on Jose Guillen. Filler like Willie Bloomquist, Kyle Farnsworth, and Bruce Chen could also get moved, but there's no sense in haggling over price with any of those three, whereas Guillen could at least potentially bring something. Of course, given his cost and recent slump, even he is more of a giveaway than an asset. Podsednik was the last of Moore's "prizes" likely to get moved.
The Tigers have slipped to five games back, thanks in large part to a number of big injuries. They landed Jhonny Peralta on Wednesday to fill in for Brandon Inge, but they have their eyes set on much bigger prizes, namely Adam Dunn and Ted Lilly. It's unknown how high the Tigers are willing to bid given their current state, and Dunn probably isn't going to happen, but Lilly has a real chance, and he'd be a quality addition to a rotation that's been thin behind Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.
The Twins were involved in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, so they've been thinking about buying for a while. The aces are gone, but Ted Lilly remains as a second-tier option, of whom the Twins are in pursuit. They've also placed a number of calls regarding late-inning relievers like Scott Downs, Matt Capps, and David Aardsma as they look to solidify their bullpen behind Jon Rauch. Gone is the chance the Twins pull something huge, but they remain very much active in the market.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Trading season with Kenny Williams is one of my very favorite things. One source described them as being "all over the place" right now, as they've been heavy on Adam Dunn, Prince Fielder, and in the starting pitcher market. Given how little they've gotten from DH, a bat makes obvious sense, and the Jake Peavy injury opened up a hole in the rotation. The White Sox as an organization are unpredictable, but right now they appear to be perhaps the most serious buyer of all.
NEW YORK YANKEES
The Yankees tried for Cliff Lee, but it didn't happen. The Yankees tried for Dan Haren, but it didn't happen. The Yankees tried for Scott Downs, but Toronto asked for a ton. The Yankees have tried for Adam Dunn, but more recently they've lost interest. It could end up being a quiet deadline for baseball's best team, as there just isn't a whole lot they need now that the top-tier starting pitchers are gone. As always, they'll be involved in negotiations for a middle reliever or backup infielder, but that could be about it. The Yankees are already ready for the playoffs.