We're down under 100 hours until baseball's non-waiver Trade Deadline, and trade talk remains the one topic that dominates the game these days. Every day, clubs gain more clarity as to whether they're buyers or sellers, and it's already been one of the most active run-ups to the Deadline in recent memory.
From now until the Deadline on Tuesday (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 well under way.
Greinke goes west: The first major pitching domino fell on Friday night. The Angels secured the top pitcher available, right-hander Zack Greinke, for a package highlighted by shortstop prospect Jean Segura.
The move is another coup for first-year general manager Jerry DiPoto, who has put as much of a mark on the past eight months as any executive in the game. The move provides an immediate boost for a starting five that has been somewhat disappointing of late. It could also provide a bullpen upgrade, if one of Los Angeles' starters is able to do effective work in relief.
As for the impact going forward, it should be significant. The Braves and Rangers, and perhaps other clubs, now know that their top target is unavailable, and they'll move on to other pitching possibilities. Texas apparently likes Josh Johnson and James Shields (see below), while it wouldn't be shocking if Atlanta tried once more to rekindle a deal for Ryan Dempster. Atlanta could also be in on Shields, or perhaps on Tampa Bay's Wade Davis, an under-the-radar interesting name for a few teams.
Lee off the market: The ever-intriguing Phillies took another step toward clarity on Friday, when general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. indicated that he will not be trading Cliff Lee before the Deadline. That doesn't mean Philadelphia won't deal other players away, though.
A loss in Atlanta slowed the Phils' momentum and dropped them 10 1/2 games out in the Wild Card race. And while they're certainly not eliminated yet, the Phillies needed a big showing against the Braves this weekend to have a realistic shot of chasing down a playoff spot.
MLB.com's Todd Zolecki reports that Amaro told reporters Friday that he plans to keep the Phillies' rotation together. That points specifically to keeping Lee, but perhaps also to keeping Joe Blanton, who can be a free agent after the season.
Amaro didn't make a similar declaration about other players. Shane Victorino, Juan Pierre and perhaps even Hunter Pence could be out the door before Tuesday's Deadline arrives. Pence would take more to acquire, given that he's not a free agent until after 2013, but he is in line for a big '13 payday as a third-year arbitration-eligible player.
Seeking a table-setter in Cincy: The surging Reds have caught Washington for the National League's best record, doing so while Joey Votto is on the shelf. So it may seem that the Redlegs don't need much help, but that's not the way general manager Walt Jocketty sees it.
Cincinnati could use some help in its offense, even when Votto returns. A bat for the middle of the order would be nice, but Jocketty is focused on somebody to hit at the top of the lineup. The question is who that might be.
Mark Sheldon of MLB.com writes that Jocketty is concentrating on acquiring a leadoff hitter to bat in front of Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips and Ryan Ludwick. The Redlegs are one of a relatively few contenders seeking help on the offensive side, so the competition could be less steep than it is for pitching help.
Among the possibilities are Victorino and Pierre from the Phillies and Denard Span from the Twins. Span and Pierre are putting up nearly identical OBPs this year, though Span has done so in a tougher ballpark and still can play center field. The problem in his case is that all indicators point to the Twins being extremely demanding in their trade talks. Minnesota isn't going to move players without significant return.
That brings up Victorino, who can be a free agent at the end of the year but is more of a middle-of-the-order hitter than a leadoff man. He does have the speed that Dusty Baker loves to put at the top of his lineup, but his .319 OBP wouldn't really address Cincinnati's need in that area.
Garza pushed back: Another of the biggest prizes on the market may in fact be off the market. Cubs right-hander Matt Garza, who would be one of the most compelling pitchers available if he were to be dealt, will not make his scheduled Monday start. Garza is dealing with right elbow/triceps discomfort and has not pitched since Saturday.
He was slated to start the day before the Deadline, but instead will be held back another few days. For pursuing teams, that Monday start would have been quite informative as to Garza's health and effectiveness for the remainder of the year. Without it, he becomes a much more uncertain proposition.
MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports that the Cubs aren't officially taking Garza off the market, but they may not have to. The injury is at least a yellow flag, if not a red one, for contending teams, and it's hard to envision the Cubs getting fair value for Garza at this point.
That's bad news for Chicago, since Garza has two points strongly in his favor. He's under team control through 2013 (though not under contract), and he's succeeded in the rugged American League East. But it appears that if he's going to be dealt, it won't happen until the offseason.
Rockies trade Scutaro within division: The Giants moved to address the subpar offensive production from their middle infield with a late-night move on Friday. They picked up veteran utility man Marco Scutaro from the Rockies, adding Scutaro to a mix that has included Ryan Theriot, Brandon Crawford, Emmanuel Burriss and Joaquin Arias.
On one hand, Scutaro is almost certainly an upgrade over what he'll replace, since the middle infield has really been a problem for San Francisco. But hopefully the Giants know what they're getting. Scutaro goes from one of baseball's best hitting environments to one of its worst, and it's fair to say his numbers might take a tumble. Now 36, Scutaro has hit .238 with a .278 on-base percentage and a .292 slugging percentage away from Coors Field this year.
As much as anything, the Scutaro deal may be an indicator that the smaller deals could be about to start flowing. While all the talk these days centers on studs and stars, the Deadline nearly always features a healthy number of relievers and bench players changing hands as contenders look to shore up weaknesses.
Odds on Johnson are '50-50': It remains a starting-pitching-dominated market, and Johnson of the Marlins may have the most uncertain status of any starter. It's been reported that Johnson is likely to be moved, it's been reported that he's almost certain not to be moved, and on Friday afternoon, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com staked out the middle ground.
According to Frisaro, the odds of a Johnson deal are "50-50," and it's entirely contingent on the return. If the Marlins get the kind of talent haul they're looking for, they'll deal Johnson. Think the package that fetched Mat Latos last winter. If no team steps forward with that kind of offer, Miami will go into 2013 with Johnson under contract.
Time seems to be on the Marlins' side. The number of top arms appears to be dwindling. And while some teams need depth in their rotations, it seems the more common refrain from contenders is they're looking for much more than just-a-guy types.
The Nationals, Rangers and Braves have all made it clear they want more than innings. If they're dealing for a starter, they want an impact pitcher. It's likely the Cardinals are in that same boat, since they have options to take the ball. The question is quality, and Johnson offers that. So it's reasonable to think that at some point before Tuesday, some club will meet Miami's demand and Johnson could be shipped out.
Shields pursuit heats up: There's a somewhat similar situation across the state in St. Petersburg. The Rays, very much in the mix for a Wild Card spot, have a pitcher who is in demand. Shields has a very club-friendly contract and has been extremely durable, though less effective this year than last year.
Like the Marlins with Johnson, the Rays aren't in any hurry to deal Shields, writes MLB.com's Bill Chastain. But like the Marlins, if the right offer came along, Tampa Bay would certainly listen. In both cases, the market could lead to some impressive offers, and Shields is actually under club control through 2014 thanks to a pair of quite reasonable team options ($9 million for 2013, $12 million for '14).
According to FOXSports.com, as many as five teams may be in on Shields. That now includes the Braves, plus the Rangers, Angels and Dodgers, whose interest was already known, and the Cardinals.
The Rays clearly don't need to deal the right-hander. But they have an abundance of starting pitching, they're always looking for young, cost-controlled talent and they could use some offensive upgrades. Thus, while it would be unwise to call Tampa Bay a "seller," the calls will come on Shields until either 4 p.m. Tuesday arrives or he's dealt.
Quiet in San Diego: Padres general manager Josh Byrnes is certainly fielding plenty of calls about various pieces of his fifth-place club. But he's sending out signs that the Friars on Wednesday could look a lot like the team that has been taking the field recently.
There's heavy interest in Chase Headley, who might be the best position player on the market for his combination of offense and defense, and Huston Street has drawn some attention. But MLB.com's Corey Brock writes that San Diego may lock up Street with a long-term deal, removing him from the trading block.
"I don't think we'll be quite as busy as everyone thinks," Byrnes said Thursday.
That's not to say the Padres don't have valuable pieces. Reliever Luke Gregerson and starter Edinson Volquez could well draw interest, and if an overwhelming offer arrived, Byrnes would be foolish to dismiss it. But the vibe from Petco Park is that there won't be a mass of trades by the Padres.
Angels are probably done: Of course, on Thursday it also looked like the Angels wouldn't do much of anything big, and look what happened. Still, DiPoto indicated to reporters on Friday that he's likely done dealing in the wake of the Greinke trade.
MLB.com's Joe McIntyre reports that "in all likelihood," the Angels are done dealing before the Deadline. They'll likely hold on to Peter Bourjos and Garrett Richards and go the rest of the way with what they have. The hope is that adding Greinke could allow the Angels to turn another starter into a reliever, shoring up what has been an area of concern.
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.