ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Baseball's trade deadline is just days away, and two teams that are believed to be dealing will showcase starters on the market -- the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees -- open a three-game series Friday night.
The Yankees' Ivan Nova and the Rays' Jake Odorizzi have been widely mentioned as being available for contenders interested in upgrading their starting pitching, and both right-handers have pitched well in recent weeks to maximize the potential return for their teams.
Nova is 7-5 with a 4.65 ERA this season, but he's 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA in his last three starts. Much the same way, Odorizzi is just 4-5 with a 4.10 ERA overall, but he's 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA in his last three. The last time he faced the Yankees was his best outing of the season -- seven innings and just one hit allowed, though it was a two-run home run by Starlin Castro in a 2-1 Yankees victory.
Nova only faced the Rays this season in relief, but pitched 2 1/3 innings of hitless shutout baseball.
The Rays return home after a 4-5 road trip -- still a significant improvement from the disastrous stretch they finished before going on the road. Tampa Bay has scored three runs or less in five straight games, but that was enough to win in Wednesday's 3-1 win over the Dodgers, thanks to a strong outing by another pitcher on the trade market, Matt Moore.
"Matt Moore was outstanding," Rays manager Kevin Cash said after the win. "What he's done in the last eight, nine, 10 starts is really impressive. ... He had everything going. He did a tremendous job."
The Rays, at 39-61, are certainly sellers and could move any number of players, from starters like Moore and Odorizzi to key bats like the versatile Steve Pearce, who has been linked to the Giants and Indians.
The Yankees this week dealt closer Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for a package of four players, including top prospect Gleyber Torres and reliever Adam Warren, who rejoined the team. The Yankees have now won four of six and eight of their last 11, improving to 52-49 and getting within 6.5 games of first-place Baltimore. They missed a sweep with Wednesday's 4-1 loss to the Astros, and manager Joe Girardi said his team can't let opportunities like that get away.
"We're trying to make up ground. You're trying to win series, but when you have a chance to sweep, you can really help, and we weren't able to do it tonight," Girardi said after Wednesday's loss.
By the time the weekend series ends, both teams could have dealt away key players -- the Yankees are much more in contention, but must look to upgrade their team long-term. The Rays may avoid an outright fire sale, but even top starter Chris Archer, who has struggled to a major-league-high 14 losses this season, has been mentioned as being available, if at a high price.