So far, the slowest-moving trade market in history has featured one big deal (the Mets' salary dump of Francisco Rodriguez), one small deal (the Tigers' pickup of Wilson Betemit), and one very serious logjam.
Several teams have been caught in limbo between buyer and seller (the Rockies, Rays, Twins and Nationals among them, though the Twins look like buyers and the Nats and Rockies possibly sellers now). A couple others aren't desperate, as they are extremely likely playoff entrants already (the Phillies and Red Sox, in particular, who are also on the cusp of the $170 million luxury tax threshold).
But of course, trades will be made, as they always are. It's just that almost all of them will take place this week. Here's a rundown of what the 30 teams, listed by their division standing, are trying to accomplish before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Red Sox: They were perusing the outfield market even before J.D. Drew was destined for the disabled list. They'd like the Mets' Carlos Beltran, but he appears ticketed for a National League team. They could also just go for a part-time outfielder, provided they find a righthanded-hitting one they like, so Oakland's Josh Willingham and Kansas City's Jeff Francoeur could be possibilities. They've checked in on the better starting pitchers who could be dealt, including the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez and the Dodgers' Hiroki Kuroda, as a couple thought-to-be minor injuries (to Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz) have created a bit of concern in their rotation. They could also use a lefthanded reliever, and the Marlins' Randy Choate and perhaps Oakland's Craig Breslow, a Yalie and Connecticut product, are two who could be had in an otherwise weak market.
Yankees: They would love a top-flight starting pitcher, but were turned off after hearing Colorado's asking price for Jimenez (Jesus Montero plus Manuel Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Ivan Nova), were told flat-out that the Rays' James Shields is unavailable, know Orioles owner Peter Angelos won't trade Jeremy Guthrie or anyone else to them and don't like the contract of Houston's Wandy Rodriguez, leaving them with the possibility they may have to do without one. Derek Lowe could be a possibility for them or the Red Sox if the finances can be worked out with Atlanta, but right now things don't look all that promising on the starting pitching front. They'd like a righthanded hitter who's a utlityman (the Rockies' Ty Wigginton would work), and a lefty reliever, with the return of ex-Yankee Choate a distinct possibility.
Rays: They have shown almost no inclination they'd trade Shields, as competitors hoped. A Rays source said they'd "have to be overwhelmed'' to consider it. But with promising young outfielders like Desmond Jennings coming up from the minors, the talented but frustrating B.J. Upton is on the block. The Braves, Brewers and Giants fit among the contenders, and the Nationals reportedly like him even though they are mostly a seller.
Orioles: Guthrie is likely to go somewhere, and so are a few relievers. Koji Uehara is the most attractive of those, but Mike Gonzalez and Kevin Gregg are also candidates for trade. They've gotten calls on outfielders Adam Jones and Nick Markakis but don't seem ready for that type of overhaul. It's possible Mark Reynolds could go, though (the Angels and Reds are among teams that might look at third base).
Blue Jays: They sometimes have surprises up their sleeves, but their most likely moves would be trades of their relievers, including Jason Frasor, Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel.
Tigers: GM Dave Dombrowski has in the past added one hitter and one pitcher (two years ago it was Aubrey Huff and Jarrod Washburn), and he could do the same this time. Their chances to land Shields are nil, so they appear focused on Guthrie, the Padres' Aaron Harang or one of the two available Mariners starters, Jason Vargas or Doug Fister. Dombrowski already acquired Betemit, who needs only to stay awake to keep out-hitting the man he replaced, third baseman Brandon Inge, who has a .178 average.
Indians: They need an outfielder, preferably a righthanded- hitting one, and have shown interest in two ex-Indians, Coco Crisp of the A's and Ryan Ludwick of the Padres. They also could use a starter and have checked in on Kuroda and Harang.
White Sox: GM Ken Williams is known for his major surprises, and as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported, they've talked to the Cardinals about young, multitalented outfielder Colby Rasmus. He's struggling right now, though not as badly as high-priced White Sox regulars Adam Dunn and Alex Rios. They are a rare team with an extra starter, so they have one to peddle, and that will surely be Edwin Jackson, who's been pitching well lately but is a free agent after the year. Power-hitting outfielder Carlos Quentin's name has come up in talks, though that would weaken their disappointing offense.
Twins: They told teams they were going to go for it recently. Reports link them to Uehara.
Royals: They don't seem anxious to trade either Melky Cabrera or Francoeur but should consider a trade for at least one of them. They've received calls from NL teams on former Rockie Jeff Francis, but aren't getting hits on the slow-throwing Bruce Chen yet, despite his decent stats (5-3, 3.30 ERA). Closer Joakim Soria is back on his game, with a 0.45 ERA in 18 outings since the start of June, but his contract, which has three years of club options from 2012-14, has long been perceived by them as too good to trade.
Rangers: They are trying for Beltran, who's unlikely to accept a trade to an A.L. club, even a very good one. Their stash of excellent prospects will help their overall cause, but the prospect-heavy team is said unlikely to part with their very best prospect, 18-year-old shortstop Jurickson Profar, advanced pitcher Martin Perez or just-bought outfielder Leonys Martin. They also have tried hard to land an established righthanded reliever for the bullpen and have talked quite a bit about Padres closer Heath Bell. Tyler Clippard is another they've discussed, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. They might shop lefty Arthur Rhodes (.206 batting average by lefthanded hitters) to help them get the righty. Their starting pitchers are on a roll lately, but it's hard to count them out of anything.
Angels: They want a hitter, preferably a lefthanded-hitting one. Third base is an area of interest, and they are reportedly high on the Cubs' Aramis Ramirez, though he's a righthanded hitter and is said to be unlikely to approve any trades. They've also looked at their bullpen and have shown interest in bringing Bell 75 miles up the road.
Mariners: They could try to deal starters Fister and Vargas, plus Erik Bedard if he shows he's healthy, and closer Brandon League. There have been reports they've showcased Chone Figgins. But good luck with that. There isn't much call for a .183-hitting leadoff man.
A's: Willingham, a victim of Oakland's pitcher-friendly park, is arguably the second best hitter after Beltran who'll be dealt. The Indians, Pirates and perhaps the Reds could be among the possibilities there. David DeJesus and Conor Jackson aren't helping matters with off years. Hideki Matsui hasn't gotten any hits from teams as of a few days ago, but he's starting to heat up. Among their relievers, they seem like they want to hang onto Grant Balfour, but Michael Wuertz, Brian Fuentes and Breslow could be had. The A's don't want to deal any of their excellent young starting pitchers.
Phillies: They need a righthanded-hitting outfielder, and Houston's Hunter Pence had been their first choice, but with it looking likely he'll stay in Houston, it's uncertain what direction the Phils will go in. B.J. Upton is a possibility, as is Beltran. They are believed to be one of Beltran's preferred destinations, but they have declined to part with top outfield prospect Domonic Brown or highly-regarded pitching prospect Jarred Cosart to get him. Francoeur and Willingham are others who might help.
The Phillies have talked about relievers, including Bell, but the urgency may not be all that great with Antonio Bastardo pitching brilliantly and Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge back from injury.
Braves: They are determined to add a bat and have talked about Beltran, Upton and many others. Pence and his teammate Michael Bourn also could make sense. They probably wouldn't mind one more dependable middle reliever, too. They'll listen if they get strong interest in Lowe, as top prospects Julio Teheran and Mike Minor are at Triple-A ("Minor is ready,'' one rival scout said). Their bevy of excellent pitching prospects, including also Randall Delgado and Arodys Vizcaino, puts them in better than average position to deal.
Mets: It appears to be all Beltran, all the time. They will surely deal him by the deadline, with the Giants, Braves and Phillies the likely favorites, and the Brewers in the mix. The Rangers and Red Sox are interested, but he'd have to be convinced to switch back to the AL, which seems extremely unlikely. They have all but decided they'll keep starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey, outfielder Angel Pagan and reliever Jason Isringhausen, who they want to mentor Bobby Parnell and Pedro Beato and also get his 300th save in a Met uniform. So they don't appear likely to trade anyone besides Beltran barring some surprising last-minute interest.
Nationals: Livan Hernandez and Jason Marquis are starters who could go. There's been word they are shopping hard-throwing reliever Tyler Clippard. Veteran bullpen man Paul Coffey could also bring back a prospect. They want a centerfielder, as they don't seem to have the faith in Roger Bernadina that others do, and they like Upton. The Nats are also reportedly taking inquiries on shortstop Ian Desmond who's having a disappointing season but might be able to help the Brewers or others.
Marlins: Florida seems to have decided not to trade starters Ricky Nolasco or Anibal Sanchez and are instead more likely to deal relievers Leo Nunez and Choate and capable utiltyman Omar Infante. They want stars entering their new stadium next year, so Nolasco and Sanchez would fit. All-time Marlins great Jeff Conine suggested they trade Hanley Ramirez on Dan LeBatard's radio show, but there's no indication yet they'd undertake such a major move.
Brewers: They signaled that they are going for it by getting K-Rod from the Mets. Beltran would help, especially after the loss of centerfielder Carlos Gomez (they could flip Corey Hart to center if they got Beltran). The left side of the infield is really the area of need. The Dodgers' Jamey Carroll is one who might steady things on the infield. They are light on prospects to trade after dealing for starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in the offseason.
Pirates: They are going for it after their 18-year drought, though it's highly unlikely Beltran would accept a trade there and they don't want to surrender any of their organizational jewels (pitchers Jameson Taillon and Luis Heredia and catcher Tony Sanchez among them). Pence would be a huge boost, and Willingham also makes sense. They are also considering relief help, as they are one of many to check with the Padres, who've talked about three of their relievers (Mike Adams and Chad Qualls in addition to Bell).
Cardinals: They seek a starting pitcher and a reliever and have been linked so far to Jeremy Guthrie, Edwin Jackson and Heath Bell. GM John Mozeliak said he'd have to be blown away to trade talented outfielder Rasmus, but he's at least listening.
Reds: They have been all over the map in their interests, looking at starters, relievers, leadoff men and middle-of-the-lineup guys. They may be best-equipped for a big deal with more major-league-ready talent in the minors than anyone (including starting pitchers Travis Wood and Edinson Volquez, catcher Devin Mesoraco and first baseman Yonder Alonso), so they get plenty of calls. Of all the teams, they may have the best match with Colorado for Jimenez, as the Rockies would seek a first baseman to replace Todd Helton (Alonso), pitching and possibly a catcher, all areas of strength for Cincinnati. People who've spoken to them could see them going in one of many directions but say they seem most interested in starting pitchers. Scott Rolen's shoulder injury could force them to look at third base, as well. Ty Wigginton or Mark Reynolds could make sense there, though they aren't believed to have much money to spend.
Cubs: Carlos Peña could interest someone as a quick power source with an expiring contract and high on-base outfielder Kosuke Fukudome might, too, if the Cubs paid down some of what remains on his $13.5 million salary. Kerry Wood is said to be unwilling to waive his no-trade clause, Aramis Ramirez is also unlikely to do so, the team wants to keep pitchers Sean Marshall and Ryan Dempster and several other players have contracts difficult to deal, including outfielder Alfonso Soriano, starter Carlos Zambrano and even reliever John Grabow.
Astros: The front office has been asked to cut the payroll to $60 million, which has them shopping starting pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers. They'd be more tradeable if they weren't signed to terrible contracts within the last year. Other teams say they see the high asking price for Pence -- late last week it was supposedly at least three good pieces, preferably young major-league-ready talent -- as a tipoff they'll keep him, and are likely to hold on to him since they view him as the face of the franchise. They have talked about Bourn with some teams but they're stuck with outfielder Carlos Lee.
Giants: They are looking for a big bat, just as they were last year. (In 2010 they settled for Cody Ross, who ended up becoming a postseason hero.) Beltran appears to be the main target, though they are said to be unwilling to part with their very top prospects (including pitcher Zack Wheeler) for a rental. Upton could make sense, but he isn't the consistent hitter they need. Beltran would be much better, at least for their 2011 chances.
Diamondbacks: They've talked to a few teams about relievers and may also look at the starters market. They talked to the Blue Jays about their relievers, according to Foxsports.com. But there isn't much evidence they have anything going with Wandy Rodriguez, and that contract, which has two more guaranteed years at $23 million, would likely be prohibitive for them. They may be in on Carlos Peña but his high strikeout total (he's whiffed 104 times already) could be unwanted reminder of his problems in that area in recent years. With Stephen Drew out, they could use a shortstop.
Rockies: They are a team willing to shake things up. But with the asking price high for Jimenez, most executives seem convinced he's staying. "I don't think they're serious,'' one rival exec opined. "You'd have to pay a dollar fifty and a dollar.'' If Jimenez and his spectacularly underpriced contract do go (he's making $2.8 million this year, $4.2 million next and there's a team option for $5.75 million the year after that), the Reds are the one that makes the most sense. Wigginton and relievers Huston Street and Rafael Betancourt could hit the block if they become full-fledged sellers, as might part-time power hitter Jason Giambi. Catcher Chris Ianetta and third baseman Ian Stewart have been mentioned in reports.
Dodgers: Hiroki Kuroda, who has a no-trade clause, has drawn interest from the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Indians and Rangers. He is characteristically quiet about his intentions, but the early word is he would consider trades on a case-by-case basis. Carroll is the other veteran who should draw significant interest. Shortstop Juan Uribe, who has two years and $16 million left on his contract, would require serious salary offset.
Padres: They are a virtual clearing house for solid players on the block, what with Bell, Adams, Qualls, Harang and Ludwick. The Cardinals, Rangers, Phillies and Angels are among those in on Bell, the Indians and Tigers on Harang and the Indians, Reds, Pirates, Phillies and others on Ludwick. Owner Jeff Moorad has started to tell folks Adams will stay, as it appears no one is biting on the asking price of multiple top prospects for arguably baseball's best setup man. Qualls is having a solid year but didn't help himself by surrendering three home runs for the first time in his career to the Phillies on Sunday.