07/12/12 3:38 PM ET
Breaking down potential sellers with Deadline nearing
Cubs, Astros, Padres, Royals headline clubs open for business this month
By Richard Justice / MLB.com
Still, this year is even more confusing, with eight National League teams separated by a half-game and 11 American League teams within 2 1/2 games of each other.
The AL has 11 teams at .500 or better at the All-Star break for the first time. The AL East is the first division with five teams all at .500 or better at the break.
There are still a few things we know. The Cubs, Astros, Padres and Royals definitely are open for business. The Rockies, Mariners and Twins will be in a listening mode, as well.
Let's check out a few of the names.
Cubs: Right-handers Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza could be hot commodities. They may be a notch below Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke, but in a tight pennant race, they will be cheaper to acquire and could push a team over the top. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein isn't shopping first baseman Bryan LaHair, but he has made it clear he's willing to discuss anyone. LaHair could make some sense for the Pirates.
Fits: The Rangers, Cardinals, Braves and other contenders are checking out the market for starting pitching. If they are uncomfortable with what the Phillies and Brewers could be asking for Hamels and Greinke, the Cubs could be a place they turn.
Astros: General manager Jeff Luhnow is in a listening mode, especially with closer Brett Myers and left-hander Wandy Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who has a 5.13 ERA in his last eight starts, may be tough to move unless Luhnow picks up a chunk of the $31 million remaining on his contract. Luhnow will be getting calls about shortstop Jed Lowrie, as well. The Astros have Lowrie under control for two more seasons, so it would take a big-time offer to land him.
Fits: Luhnow is the guy who put the Cardinals' farm system together, so he would come to the table prepared to do business for Rodriguez. Myers makes sense for the Mets.
Padres: Outfielder Carlos Quentin might be the best offensive player on the market, and he has just $3.5 million remaining on his contract. General manager Josh Byrnes will also be getting calls on third baseman Chase Headley.
Fits: The Indians and Pirates could be shopping for offense (Quentin). The Orioles could use help at third base (Headley).
Royals: Kansas City has taken huge steps forward the last year, but is probably another year away from being good enough to make the playoffs. That's why general manager Dayton Moore is in a very good position, with closer Jonathan Broxton, shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and outfielder Jeff Francoeur likely all available.
Fits: Broxton could be an upgrade for the back end of the Mets' bullpen. Francoeur would help almost any of the contenders as a guy who could swing between the outfield and bench.
Mariners: Left-hander Jason Vargas could be a middle-of-the rotation upgrade. He seems unlikely to be moved since he's still a year away from free agency. But general manager Jack Zduriencik will be listening.
Fits: Dodgers? Mets? Tigers? Vargas is one of those guys who could upgrade a long list of rotations.
Twins: Left-hander Francisco Liriano, who has a 2.84 ERA in his last four starts, is being heavily scouted as he approaches free agency.
Fits: Liriano would represent a leap of faith, given his injury history and erratic performance. He was once a top-of-the-rotation guy, but at 28, there's no way of knowing what he's capable of over the long haul.
Rockies: It has been an extremely disappointing season in Denver. Right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, who was traded for Jason Hammel, is 3-8 with a 6.05 ERA. General manager Dan O'Dowd's most marketable player is infielder Marco Scutaro.
Fits: Scutaro could upgrade the Tigers at second and the Pirates at short. He could end up being one of those under-the-radar moves that pays nice dividends.
These 19 days before the Trade Deadline are when general managers will earn their salaries in playing the market, both as buyers and sellers.
So many teams are still in contention that there's still uncertainty across the board. But in a season when so many teams are bunched together, there will be a flurry of discussions as teams attempt to position themselves for a stretch run.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.