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.
The mystery of Greinke: There's no harder situation to figure right now than the one surrounding Zack Greinke, and by extension, the Brewers. A strong weekend against the Pirates got Milwaukee back to the edge of contention, though a disappointing defeat Monday night slowed the bandwagon a bit. It's not at all clear whether the reigning National League Central champs will be buyers or sellers or simply sit out the Deadline for the most part.
And that's where the curious case of Greinke comes in. After starting three straight games over a seven-day span, Greinke will miss his next turn in the rotation in order to "recharge his batteries." MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports that there's no injury reason given for Greinke's breather and that Greinke "declined to endorse" the decision. Additionally, manager Ron Roenicke was adamant that the decision is not related to Greinke's mental health.
And yet ... what a strange scenario. If the Brewers are making a run, as they'd like to do, they could sure use Greinke in their rotation. If they're not, then Greinke is the No. 1 piece they have to trade for prospects, and it's hard to trade a guy who's not playing. It's entirely possible that it's as simple as it looks, that Greinke was worn down from the unusual workload he shouldered around the break, but it's at least a situation worth watching.
Unrest in the desert: Another strange situation is brewing in Phoenix, where everybody seems to be talking except the player involved. Justin Upton, a 24-year-old with a lifetime .275/.356/.475 line and a pair of All-Star starts already on his resume, is on the block according to just about everybody. MLB.com's Tom Singer wrote Sunday that the Pirates are interested, "with Starling Marte having entered the discussion," but that's not what had heads shaking Monday.
No, the latest intrigue is the accusation by agent Larry Reynolds of a whisper campaign against Upton. Reynolds told USA Today that he was frustrated with "comments and innuendos made about Justin's work ethic and character," though he didn't point a finger as to who might be making those comments. Still, it's another strange turn in a strange saga.
Last month, D-backs managing general partner Ken Kendrick referred to Upton as "an enigma" and "not the same Justin Upton that he has been" in a radio interview. Yet the club is not that far removed from signing Upton to a six-year contract, a deal reached in March 2010 -- not the kind of deal you issue to a player in whom you don't have faith.
Showcase in L.A.? The Phillies look like sellers. The Dodgers certainly look like buyers. The two teams are meeting at Chavez Ravine this week. Hey, who needs scouts?
While most Phillies trade talk has centered on Cole Hamels (update: still a Phillie) and Shane Victorino, another interesting name surfaced Monday: Jimmy Rollins. As MLB.com's Todd Zolecki notes, it would be quite an undertaking to move Rollins, who has a hefty new contract and complete no-trade protection. But he's a California native who loves to win, and both the Dodgers and Giants could use upgrades at shortstop (for that matter, so could the A's).
Rollins refused to discuss the topic, though as Zolecki writes, that also means he didn't dismiss a move out of hand. To move Rollins would be a sure sign that the Phillies are blowing things up in a big way, which is difficult to envision. On the other hand, if Ruben Amaro receives an offer he can't refuse, and the Dodgers have been known to make offers like that in the past, he might just have to listen.
MLB.com's Ken Gurnick also cites Victorino and Placido Polanco as conceivable fits for the Dodgers, who don't have a lot to offer in the way of prospects but can take on all kinds of salary if need be.
Starters, starters everywhere: While Greinke and Hamels get the most attention, they're far from the only starting pitchers on the market. In fact, it seems that one area where quite a few teams could upgrade in the coming days is the starting rotation.
The Cubs would almost surely move Ryan Dempster and/or Matt Garza in the right deal. Minnesota's Francisco Liriano could interest a number of clubs. Wandy Rodriguez could likely be had from the Astros for the right payment in prospects. Joe Blanton and Kevin Millwood are veteran righties who might interest a club. There's no shortage of starting help out there.
Now it's a question of who moves for it, and when. MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reports that the Angels will likely know a lot more about their situation in a week or so, after two big starts for Ervin Santana and a potential return to the rotation from Dan Haren. Carrie Muskat of MLB.com writes that the Blue Jays were among the clubs checking out Garza's last start and that at least four other clubs may have interest.
Typically, it's relief help that's the easiest thing to add at the Deadline, but this year there may be as many viable starting deals as relief. That could be good news to lots of contenders.
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.