The trade deadline is a few weeks away, so the rumor mill is about to heat up. To prep you for the coming trade season, we're providing a primer on who the top available trade targets could be as get closer to July 31st.
There is no shortage of big name starting pitching on the trade market this month, but how many, if any will actually get moved? Who can the teams with lesser needs pursue without having to fork over half their farm system?
Probably not available, but it couldn't hurt to ask
Cole Hamels – All indications seem to be that the Phillies are willing to trade Hamels barring shocking leap back into contention. However, they are rumored to be asking for a huge package or prospects in return. If no team decides that they are willing to mortgage their entire farm system to rent Hamels for a few months, it is entirely possible that the Phillies will hold onto Cole, try to re-sign him in the off-season and settle for the draft picks if they fail to do so.
Zack Greinke – See everything about Hamels up above, only factor in that, depending on who you ask, the Brewers have a more realistic chance at re-signing Greinke.
Wandy Rodriguez – Just like last season, Wandy will generate interest, but, just like last season, the Astros might choose to hold onto him since he isn't a free agent until after 2013. However, teams not willing to pay big to get one Hamels or Greinke might view Wandy as a nice consolation prize since he is not a rental, though there are some reservations about how well his stuff might play int the AL. Those concerns aside, Houston will still need to be bowled over to let him go.
James Shields – Tampa is in the thick of the Wild Card race, but their financial situation always has folks thinking they can become sellers at the drop of a hat. With a $9 million club option in 2013 and $12 million club option in 2014, Shields could get too expensive for Tampa's tight budget. However, that probably makes him more of an off-season trade candidate than a deadline candidate.
Felix Hernandez – His name will no doubt appear in speculation. But will the Mariners really trade him? Just ask the definitive source: ShouldTheMarinersTradeFelixHernandez.com
Anibal Sanchez – By all right, the Marlins should be willing to trade Sanchez, who will be a free agent at the end of the year and one the Fish have shown little interest in re-signing. However, after their big off-season spending spree, the Marlins would take a big PR hit if they were to start selling off quality players even if they did fall well out of the playoff hunt.
Matt Garza – Honestly, he is probably the player on this list that is most likely to be dealt. There is no reason for the Cubs to keep him anymore, but that is what everyone thought during this last off-season and here we are with Garza still on the Cubs roster. In this flooded market, it would not be the least bit surprising if the Cubs once again pull him off the market and try again to shop him this off-season instead.
Edinson Volquez – Volquez has bounced back in a big way this season, which would normally make him prime trade bait on a team like the Padres but with a new ownership group coming in, San Diego's philosophy of constantly rebuilding might finally change, meaning the Friars could hold onto Volquez until the new owners take control and issue new marching orders.
Take my (overpaid and/or ineffective and/or injured) starting pitcher, please!
Ryan Dempster – When he has been healthy, Dempster has been one of the best pitchers in the National League in 2012. It is that pesky "healthy" part that makes him something of a gamble. He is presently on the disabled list for the second time this season, though he is slated to come off it soon. He'll have a short amount of time to rebuild his value.
Jeremy Guthrie – In Colorado, Guthrie has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball. Away from Colorado, he hasn't been too bad, but he still temporarily lost his rotation spot on the pitching-starved Rockies. At this point, he is damaged goods and the Rockies should be thankful if they can get a prospect with a pulse and some minor financial relief.
Francisco Liriano – A disaster to start the season, the wildly inconsistent Liriano seems to have gotten his season back on track in the last month. He is a free agent at the end of the season, so the Twins would be wise to cash out on him before he goes in tank again.
Brandon McCarthy – McCarthy has alternated between being fantastic and injured all season long. He's a free agent after the season, so the A's almost certain to trade him as soon as he is healthy enough. Some lucky team is going to get an injury-prone pitcher that could beef up their rotation and also their follower count on Twitter.
Joe Blanton – If you can stomach all the home runs he allows and the remainder of his $10.5 million salary, Blanton can come and eat some inning for a contender near you. Also
Joe Saunders – Saunders was having another nice season, but was still set up to be expendable to the D'Backs regardless of what their record was thanks to their treasure trove of young pitching talent. Alas, he had to go and land himself on the disabled list with a bum shoulder. He should return shortly after the All-Star break, so he has time to re-establish his value, not that anyone has ever gotten all hot and bothered about the idea of acquiring Joe Saunders.
Something is better than nothing
Jonathan Sanchez – Did you know he threw a no-hitter once? That is probably something Royals GM Dayton Moore will mention quite a bit while trying to distract other GMs from Sanchez's 6.75 ERA.
Bartolo Colon – Those stem cells are a wonderful thing since they have allowed Colon to somehow remain a steady if unspectacular starter. He won't dominate or routinely go deep into games, but he will throw a whole lot of strikes.
Kevin Millwood – Millwood has found the fountain of youth in Seattle and comes with the added bonus of a dirt cheap salary.
Randy Wolf – Wolf looks he might be nearing the end of the road, but with Milwaukee going nowhere and his contract set to expire, he could find his way into the very back, like the waaaaaaaaay back, of a contender's rotation.