Days until the trade deadline: 24
Teams within 10 games of playoff spot: 23
Teams not within 10 games of playoff spot: Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins, New York Mets, Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox
Notable July Trades
Cubs trade starting pitcher Scott Feldman to the Baltimore Orioles (7/2/13)
Marlins trade starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco to Los Angeles Dodgers (7/7/13)
Cubs trade outfielder Scott Hairston to Washington Nationals (7/8/13)
Peavy on track to return before trade deadline
Contending teams looking for starting pitching help won't have a lot of time to assess White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy before the trade deadline. He is still on the road to recovery from a fractured rib that's sidelined him since June 4, and is likely to be available on the trade market once he does return.
The 32-year-old, who had a 2.97 ERA with 15 walks and 63 strikeouts in 60.2 innings before getting roughed up in his last two starts, threw a 53-pitch bullpen session on Friday and will toss a simulated game on Tuesday.
If all goes well, he has an outside shot of returning this weekend. At least one rehab start is more likely, though, according to manager Robin Ventura.
Despite the possibility of making just two or three July starts once he returns, a thin market—after Matt Garza is likely dealt or signed to a contract extension by the Chicago Cubs—in the near future would make Peavy one of, if not the, best starter available. There's a chance the Sox could wait and try to make an August waiver deal if teams aren't willing to make a trade so soon after his return from injury.
In his latest Full Count video, Ken Rosenthal mentions that possibility and believes that Peavy would clear waivers. If teams are willing to acquire Peavy and his contract (remaining portion of $14.5 million in 2013, $14.5 million in 2014, $15 million vesting player option in 2015), however, it's likely that they'd put a waiver claim on him, which could complicate a potential trade.
Teams who lose out on the Garza sweepstakes—Buster Olney of ESPN reported (Insider subscription required) that the Cubs were actively talking with the Blue Jays, Indians, Rangers and Red Sox—would likely have interest. Peavy's former general manager in San Diego and current Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers is reportedly interested in acquiring a starting pitcher who is under contract beyond this season.
Rangers could use starting pitcher and hitter
Designated hitter Lance Berkman (pictured), who has dealt with multiple ailments throughout the season, has finally landed on the disabled list with hip inflammation. The Rangers are unlikely to be relying on the 37-year-old to return to full health in the second half of the season and could look to the trade market to replace his bat.
In addition, the rotation has taken another hit with rookie Nicholas Tepesch landing on the disabled list with elbow inflammation. An already-thin rotation, due to injuries to Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando, had the Rangers looking for pitching help, including Garza and the recently traded Ricky Nolasco, but Tepesch's injury could intensify the hunt.
Trade deadline implications here: Nick Tepesch and Lance Berkman placed on DL, highlighting Rangers need for a starter and bat.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 7, 2013
Potential reinforcements could be on the way, however. Manny Ramirez debuted with Triple-A Round Rock on Sunday (1-for-3, BB, K) after signing a minor league deal last week. The 41-year-old could give the team a designated hitter option in a few weeks, but it's unlikely the Rangers will ignore the trade market since Ramirez hasn't been an impact hitter in the majors since 2010.
Not only does Berkman's injury make Ramirez's Triple-A audition that much more notable, it currently opens up more playing time for rookie Jurickson Profar, who has made starts at third base and left field in the last two games. Allowing the 20-year-old Profar to bounce around would give the team more opportunity to rest veterans like Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz by giving them starts as the designated hitter.
If the Rangers still think that adding a bat is a priority later in the month, some potential trade targets include outfielder Alex Rios of the White Sox, whom they have reportedly scouted, and the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano, who could split time between left field and designated hitter.
The 37-year-old, who hit 64 homers and stole 48 bases in his two seasons with Texas, would have to waive his no-trade clause to return to his former team. Raul Ibanez and Michael Morse of the Mariners would also be good fits, although the price could be higher to acquire a player from a division rival.
The rotation's need appears to be more immediate. While Lewis and Harrison aren't expected back until late in the second half, Ogando is on a rehab assignment and could return soon. Along with Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, Martin Perez (1.85 ERA in four starts) has done a solid job, but they appear to need a healthy Ogando and one other reliable starter moving forward.
With a strong farm system, it would appear that the Rangers could be front-runners for Garza, whom they were reportedly close to acquiring last July before settling on another Cubs starter, Ryan Dempster. Peavy, Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse of the Milwaukee Brewers and Bud Norris of the Houston Astros are also potential fits.
Trade market for Alfonso Soriano
Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano's recent hot streak (15-for-47, 5 HR, 14 RBI) has his trade value on the rise, according to Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago, and multiple contenders could have interest in the right-handed hitter.
The 37-year-old has just one walk and 36 strikeouts since June 1, a .684 OPS against right-handed pitching and is still due over $25 million on his contract (remaining portion of $18 million in 2013, $18 million in 2014).
Even if the Cubs agree to pick up the majority of his remaining contract—a major league source of Levine's says they would—there is still the obstacle of getting Soriano to waive his no-trade clause. He at least appears open to listening, but a potential trade with the San Francisco Giants fell through in 2012 when Soriano notified the Cubs that the Dodgers were the only West Coast team he'd waive the no-trade clause for.
Two of Soriano's former teams, the Rangers and Yankees, appear to be a fit with Lance Berkman currently on the disabled list for Texas and Mark Teixeira out for the season for the Yankees. Whether being familiar with an organization would make a trade more likely is unknown.
What we do know is that Soriano doesn't think he needs to move to a full-time designated hitter role, although he acknowledges that he has to at least think about it.
"It is very hard for me to think about being a DH," Soriano told Levine. "My whole career I have played in the field. I am 37, but I feel younger. I have proved to myself and everybody that my defense has gotten better. I have to start thinking about DH."
Along with the Rangers and Yankees, the Tigers could use Soriano in a platoon with Andy Dirks in left field and give him occasional at-bats at designated hitter. The Giants could also be in the mix, although it's unclear if Soriano's thoughts on the West Coast have changed.
Time for Blue Jays to look ahead?
After making things interesting for a few weeks with 15 wins in 18 games, capped off by an 11-game winning streak to run their record to 38-36 on June 23, the Blue Jays once again look like a team that just doesn't have what it takes to compete in 2013.
Nine losses in 14 games have dropped them back into a double-digit deficit in the AL East. And while they're only 5.5 games out in the wild-card race, Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports thinks it's time to start looking ahead to 2014.
The rotation has been decimated by injuries to Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ, the decline of Ricky Romero and the inconsistent performance of former Marlins ace Josh Johnson.
If they can get back to full strength, they have a shot. Happ and Morrow could return in August. Kyle Drabek, who is returning from Tommy John surgery, could also be a few weeks away. But they'll have to avoid falling any further back between now and the end of July or it could make sense for general manager Alex Anthopoulos to start looking at deals for a few of his veteran players.
Johnson, a free agent after the season, would've been expected to be a top trade chip had the Jays fallen out of the race. The 29-year-old returned from a stint on the disabled list in early June and pitched well in four consecutive starts, including 7.1 shutout innings with 10 strikeouts against the Rockies on June 17. However, he's struggled in his last two (8.1 IP, 6 ER, 15 H, 4 BB, 10 K), putting his trade value in question as we head into the All-Star break.
Another run of solid consecutive starts from Johnson, if somehow paired with the Jays falling further out of the playoff chase, could result in a best-case scenario where Johnson moves to the top of the trade market. Selling low on the former 15-game winner would be a huge disappointment.
Interim closer Casey Janssen (2.57 ERA, 17-for-18 in save opportunities) could also be shopped with Sergio Santos close to returning from the disabled list and reliever Steve Delabar (1.58 ERA, 40 IP, 28 H, 22 BB, 57 K) appearing more than capable of stepping into the ninth-inning role.
The biggest trade chips in Toronto—including Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes—are unlikely to be moved since all are signed beyond 2013 and the Jays expect to be contenders year in and year out. Teams looking for some power could have interest in center fielder Colby Rasmus (16 HR, 29 BB, 101 K) and catcher J.P. Arencibia (15 HR, 11 BB, 93 K) if they're not scared of those alarming walk-strikeout rates.