The July 31st non-waiver trade deadline is rapidly approaching and teams need to decide whether they're buyers or sellers. Let's take a look at who might be up for sale and how this could affect the MLB odds.
Phillies Looking to Deal
The Phillies are dead last in the NL East and appear to be throwing in the towel on the 2014 season, hoping to pick up a building block or two for the future by dealing four-time All-Star Cliff Lee. It was not that long ago that Lee was part of one of the most star-studded starting rotations in baseball history as he joined Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt on the Philadelphia roster in 2011. Unfortunately, the bevy of talented gunslingers were getting a bit long in the tooth, with the notable exception of Hamels, by the time they were all assembled in the same uniform and produced only one semi-magical season which saw Philly rack up 102 wins and only a division title to show for it.
But now Lee is returning from injury, apparently feeling better after a strained left elbow kept him shelved since May 18th. The Phillies have only one game left for Lee to showcase his wares to prospective suitors after getting roughed up in his first start back Monday night as the Giants tagged him for 12 hits on six earned runs over five plus innings resulting in a 7-4 loss. He will need to improve markedly if the Phillies are to get anything in return.
Perhaps even a bucket of balls will be good enough for Philadelphia as Lee stands to make as much as $62 million over the next three years. If they can get a team to pick up even half that amount, they might consider themselves ahead of the game if they believe Lee's tank is empty at the age of nearly 36. But Lee's contract has a slew of teams on his no-trade list and that narrows down the field to less than a dozen unless Lee agrees to waive that clause. Right now Lee is garnering no interest due to his big money contract.
But the Phillies are looking for some financial relief and are also dangling Jonathan Papelbon but no takers yet on the mercurial closer who can block trades to 17 teams per his contract. However, Philadelphia has received word that Pittsburgh and Baltimore are interested in former Pirate A.J. Burnett and reliever Antonio Bastardo. Scouts from Detroit, Toronto, Baltimore, Milwaukee, LA Angels, Kansas City, San Francisco, Texas, Arizona, Seattle and of course Pittsburgh were all in attendance to watch Lee but it was Antonio Bastardo who relished all the attention and impressed by pitching a scoreless seventh inning and throwing all 13 pitches for strikes. Pennant and World Series MLB odds could shrink on any team willing to pull the trigger on a bona fide closer like Papelbon or a potential savior starter, à la Cliff Lee, in October.
Are the Red Sox Sellers?
I wouldn’t want to be Red Sox General manager Ben Cherington this morning. A few weeks ago the Sox were the biggest flops since the movie Ishtar but that has suddenly changed. Ever since the Sox cut ties with clubhouse malcontent AJ Pierzynski the team has won eight of its last nine games and the offense has awoken with a furious thunder from its season long slumber.
Pitching has been a strength for Boston this season therefore that is exactly what contending teams are look to pluck from the defending champs. As of this moment the Sox are 50-1 in MLB odds to win the World Series, 33-1 to win the AL Pennant and down to 10-1 to win the hapless AL East.
Cherington will no doubt put all offers on hold for the next week until he can determine if this streak continues or chalk it up to a pleasant distraction from an otherwise bitter season of disappointment. If the club does stumble, expect ace Jon Lester and All-World closer Koji Uehara to be available to the highest bidder. Starter Jake Peavy is also rumored to be dangled and would provide a veteran clubhouse presence as well as a nice addition to the back of any rotation.