With July more than half over and the All-Star break fully in the rearview mirror, a single topic dominates baseball these days: the approach of the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Clubs are sorting out whether they're buyers or sellers and trying to assess how new Draft-pick compensation rules affect their valuation of players, all while also trying to, you know, win ballgames.
From now until the July 31 Deadline, we'll be checking in on the trade news around baseball, with help from MLB.com's reporters. The countdown is under way.
Dempster doings: If you believe even a small fraction of what you read, you have to believe that Cubs starter Ryan Dempster will be heading headed somewhere by July 31. But as we learned from various sources on Thursday, the destination will not likely be Boston. Chicago seemed to be gearing up for a starting pitcher's departure by trading with Boston on Thursday for veteran right-hander Justin Germano.
As Dempster proclaimed that he's heard "nothing imminent" regarding his immediate future and prepared for his scheduled Friday start against St. Louis -- in which he'll try to extend a 33-inning scoreless streak and lower his Major League-lowest 1.86 ERA -- speculation continued to swirl. ESPN's Jayson Stark ruled out the Red Sox but said that Boston remains interested in another Cubs righty reportedly on the block, Matt Garza. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com had the Dodgers still in the mix for Dempster.
Stronger words came out of Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago, who wrote that the Dodgers are leading the pack in the pursuit of Dempster and that Dempster has listed Los Angeles as his preferred landing spot. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports added that the Cubs will have a Triple-A pitcher in St. Louis on Friday in the event that Dempster is dealt before then.
So for all the talk about Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels possibly being the top two available starters, which still might be the case, it appears that Dempster's recent run of brilliance and his lower price tag could make him the first major starter to be swapped.
Cole mining: Meanwhile, the likelihood of Philadelphia keeping Hamels and signing him to a mega-extension instead of trading him seems to be growing by the hour. We've read about the six years and upwards of $130 million for a few days now, and Stark, who is based in Philadelphia, wrote on Thursday that the Phillies have temporarily stopped discussing deals for Hamels while they attempt to get the extension hammered out.
Bottom line: Pitchers as good and experienced as Hamels don't come around very often, and he's still only 28 years old, so even if the Phillies don't make the postseason this year and decide to deal other pieces of their veteran core, they still have plenty of time to reshape a roster with a proven horse such as Hamels helping anchor a strong rotation.
Bums want bats: Speaking of the Phillies possibly dealing pieces of their core, Heyman wrote on Thursday that the Dodgers are looking for offense and might have Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins and outfielder Shane Victorino on their trade-ar. Then again, Heyman also floated out the names Josh Willingham, Aramis Ramirez, Chase Headley, Michael Cuddyer and Corey Hart, so Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti isn't only phoning up his buddy Ruben Amaro Jr. in Philadelphia.
Heyman is quick to point out that the Phillies haven't officially proclaimed themselves as sellers at this year's Deadline, however, and a $130 million-plus investment in Hamels would muddy those waters, too.
Friar 180? Everyone thought the Padres would be sellers, and everyone mentioned Headley, outfielder Carlos Quentin and closer Huston Street as some of the first ones to go. But on Thursday, MLB.com's Corey Brock said, "Not so fast."
Brock points out that GM Josh Byrnes might just be satisfied with keeping these players, whom the organization likes, and building around them, although if Byrnes were "blown away" with a proposal, particularly for Headley, who is under team control for two more years and has blossomed in 2012, he'd have to listen.
Heyman seems to agree with Brock, writing on Thursday that the Padres have contract extensions for Quentin and Street in the works, since ownership has "given the go-ahead" to Byrnes to do his best to get them to stay in San Diego.
Brox talk: It's funny how baseball works. At the beginning of the season, Jonathan Broxton was a former closer with command problems who wound up in Kansas City as Joakim Soria's setup guy. Now Soria's out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and Broxton is looking more and more like the closer everyone's talking about at the Trade Deadline.
Thursday's Broxton banter included San Francisco as a possible destination, with CSNBayArea.com's Andy Baggarly writing that the Giants have "heavily scouted" the Royals' Triple-A team. The Mets have been a reported suitor for Broxton for a few days, and the Angels have also been mentioned recently.
How 'bout them Bucs? Well, how 'bout 'em? It seems apparent that GM Neal Huntington is serious about adding pieces to fuel a playoff run that already seems to have steam. On Thursday the Bucs were mentioned as having interest in D-backs shortstop Stephen Drew (via Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports), although USA Today's Bob Nightengale wrote that the Mariners have talked about Drew as well.
Then, later in the evening, ESPN Chicago's Levine wrote that the Pirates might be interested, along with the Royals, in bringing back their former left-hander Paul Maholm, now with the Cubs. Within the last week, Pittsburgh also has been mentioned in the same sentence with Greinke, Hamels, Quentin and Justin Upton, so it would be a surprise to see Pittsburgh sit silent and watch the Deadline pass.