It's now less than a week until baseball's non-waiver Trade Deadline, and trade talk is the one topic that dominates the game these days. Clubs are finally gaining some clarity as to whether they're buyers or sellers, and some significant moves have already taken place.
From now until the July 31 Deadline (4 p.m. ET, to be exact), we'll be checking in on the trade news around baseball, with help from MLB.com's reporters. The countdown is under way.
All eyes on Miami: What seemed a bit hard to fathom earlier this month is now very much a reality: the Marlins have begun selling. They already moved Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to the Tigers, but by the time the Deadline rolls around, those two could look like small potatoes next to the names Miami could still ship out.
Joe Frisaro, MLB.com's correspondent in Miami, wrote today that the Fish "may consider moving [Josh] Johnson and [Hanley] Ramirez." He adds that aside from Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, nearly anyone else on the roster could be in play.
If Ramirez and Johnson actually hit the market, it could change the dynamics on any number of situations. For example, the Padres are apparently open to moving Chase Headley, but only at the right price. If Ramirez -- a third baseman with power -- is available, that could well dilute the demand for Headley. Some teams might even be interested in Ramirez as a shortstop. Ramirez must show that he's healthy, but he's got a week to do that.
And while Johnson doesn't have quite the same stature as Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels, he certainly holds some appeal as someone who pitched at an elite level as recently as 2010. He'd have to hold interest for the Angels, the Braves (if they miss out on Ryan Dempster) and any other team seeking starting pitching.
There may not be another team in baseball with the potential to affect the entire trade market as much as the Marlins could. We'll be watching them closely.
Angels of interest: Speaking of Southern California's American League team, the Angels might be more open to dealing a couple of their key young players than had been believed. It seems that Los Angeles may be open to dealing either center-field dynamo Peter Bourjos or young right-hander Garrett Richards, if it yielded the right return.
The Angels prefer not to give up one of their top chips in return for a rental, which means that Johnson becomes one of the pitchers of significant interest, along with the Cubs' Matt Garza and the Rays' James Shields. All three are either under contract or club control for at least the 2013 season, which would make the Angels much more willing to part with a building block in order to acquire them.
Dempster-go-round: How things change. Not so long ago it appeared that Ryan Dempster could be one of the first big names to move. Now it's looking like his situation may go down to the wire.
The Braves and Cubs have the framework of a deal in place for Dempster, but have not completed a trade. That's because Dempster, who has full no-trade protection due to his "10-and-5" status (10 years' Major League service time, the past five with his current club), is weighing his options. He could approve a deal to Atlanta, or he could hold out for a move to the Dodgers, believed to be his first choice.
"I haven't made any decisions on anything," he said Tuesday. "I'm looking at everything and trying to explore every option and do what's best for me."
If the Cubs felt their best return for Dempster came in a deal with the Dodgers, that deal would likely already be done. Instead, they agreed to terms with Atlanta, making for a complicated situation. This one may not be settled imminently.
Gaining clarity: As recently as a week or two ago, the buyers-to-sellers ratio was woefully out of whack, with only five or six clubs clearly in the latter camp. Fortunately for buying teams, it seems that balance is shifting.
It started with the Brewers, whose rough weekend against the Reds capped a disappointing road trip that likely relegated them to selling mode. Then Mets general manager Sandy Alderson acknowledged to reporters on Monday that his team is likely no longer in the buying camp. As a week filled with big series gets rolling, more clubs could join those two in excusing themselves from the shopping frenzy.
It's a huge week for the Red Sox, who face the Rangers followed by the Yankees as they attempt to stay in contention for the Wild Card. MLB.com's Ian Browne reported Tuesday that Boston actually could tilt all the way to the selling side if things go the wrong way over remainder of the week. The Sox have some intriguing youngsters on the way, and one viable tack would be to ship out some veterans and start letting the kids play.
Matters are at a similarly critical stage for the Indians, who have three huge games against the Tigers starting Tuesday night. A sweep would drop Cleveland seven games back in the division. On the other hand, a series win would put them in position for a little run, with upcoming series against the Twins and Royals. The Tribe's future could be an awful lot clearer in just three days.
One in, one out: Greinke takes the mound tonight for those same Brewers after skipping a turn to "recharge his batteries." Greinke has been shaky in July, so this will surely be a big start in the eyes of potential suitors. He pitches against Cliff Lee and the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, which can be a daunting task.
Meanwhile Garza will likely miss a start due to some discomfort in his pitching elbow. That complicates things a bit for the Cubs, though Garza's value is increased by the fact that he's not a rental. The right-hander is under club control (though not under contract) through 2013.
Matthew Leach is a national reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.