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MLB Trade Deadline Primer: Which Teams Could, or Should, Be Sellers

Texas Rangers v New York Yankees

Tuesday afternoon the first huge domino of baseball trading deadline season fell when the Yankees acquired Chase Headley from the Padres, moving one step closer to Brian Cashman’s fever dream of a starting lineup comprised completely of switch hitters. At 51-48 and 1.5 games out of the wild card, the gritty, gutty Bronx Bombers are not going to go quietly into the summer night.

On the subject of dreams, Bud Selig’s Holy Grail of parity continues to permeate baseball. With the non-waiver deadline eight days away, more than two-thirds of the 30 clubs can realistically say they have a shot at the postseason, even if that postseason might entail a one-game Wild Card playoff.

So with that in mind, lets take a breezy stroll though what baseball Twitter insiders will be might be tweeting, retweeting and H/T-ing for scoops over the next week or so. In the words of Hank Kingsley, this is exciting.

Give Us Your Prospects:

Arizona Diamondbacks (44-57, 10.5 — record as of Wednesday morning/games out of wildcard): Injuries and discontent turned 2014 into a lost season at Chase Field. Now that Tony La Russa is in charge of the operation expect Arizona to try to be active. Submariner Brad Ziegler is a serviceable arm out of the pen and swingman Josh Collmenter might be useful to a contender looking for depth. Both won’t cost a lot. Don’t laugh, but Oliver Perez (194 ERA+ !!!) could net the D-backs something of value considering he’s under contract for a reasonable $2.5 million in 2015.

Colorado Rockies (40-60, 14): The Rockies — co-owners of the worst record in the Majors — posses the two big ticket items on the market in Troy Tulowitzki (now on the 15-day DL) and Carlos Gonzalez. Team owner Dick Monfort might face a fan revolt if he moves either player, especially homegrown superstar Tulowitzki. Trading away a homegrown star(s) for a bushel of prospects in the wake of the owner committing a PR disaster via an angry email telling a fan “If our product and experience is that bad don’t come!” earlier this month doesn’t seem like a smart move, even if Colorado needs to rebuild.

Chicago Cubs (41-57, 12): Theo Epstein operates in the comfortable world where it’s always “next year” for the Cubs. If only 100+ year World Series droughts were overcome by Baseball America prospect rankings, right? Starlin Castro will be traded at some point. Potential Castro buyers will have to ask is a 1.5-3 WAR per year shortstop worth $43 million over the next five years.

Houston Astros (42-58, 11): Maybe somebody out there wants Chad Qualls to bolster their pen. If he wasn’t under contract for $3 million next year, he’d certainly be on the way out of Minute Maid Park (hopefully via old timey steam engine).

Minnesota Twins (45-54, 7.5): A week from now a team’s front office will be assembled in its war room, discussing what to do. An assistant GM will blurt out, “How about Josh Willingham?” There will a long pause and some awkward staring until someone acknowledges the righty slugger is a free agent after the season, prompting somebody to finally say, “Suuuuuure, why not?”

Philadelphia Phillies (43-57, 11): Oh to be a fly in Ruben Amaro Jr.’s office. A year ago the Phillies could have traded, among others, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Jonathan Papelbon but stood pat. Utley even inked an extension. At least this year, Amaro is actively shopping Marlon Byrd and A.J. Burnett (c’mon #Buctober reunion!). Maybe we’ll see Cliff Lee moved after the waiver deadline.

A friendly reminder, Lee has been traded three times in recent years. These are the players the trading teams got back in return: Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, Tyson Gillies, Phillippe Aumont, J.C. Ramirez, Matt Lawson, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Justin Smoak. Let it serve as a gentle reminder prospects often do not pan out, despite the hype they often garner this time of year.

San Diego Padres (43-56, 10.5): Wonder what the Padres gave as parting gifts when they moved Huston Street and Headley? Gift baskets? San Diego Chicken plush toys? Some old expired McDonald’s coupons for the Arch Deluxe? Guess we can ask Joaquin Benoit when he leaves town before the end of the month.

Texas Rangers (40-60, 13): Alex Rios should fulfill his baseball destiny and only sign one-year contracts so he can be traded every July until he retires. (Rios won’t be immortalized in Cooperstown, but it would make for a fun hat controversy in 15 years down the road.) Joakim Soria ($500,000 2015 buyout) will be moved and net the Rangers something useful in return.

Tampa Bay Rays v Minnesota Twins

I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself:

Boston Red Sox (47-53, 6): A nice little 8-2 run by Boston means Koji Uehara will stay put in Fenway … for now. The American League East is so wide-open it doesn’t make sense for the Red Sox to fold up the tent this year, but at the same time Boston probably won’t be active trying to acquire any reinforcements.

Chicago White Sox (48-53, 5.5): Humble suggestion to Rick Hahn — make any potential trade of lefty John Danks ($14 million through 2016) include his brother Jordan, sort of like a Sedin brothers thing.

Kansas City Royals (49-50, 3.5): Earlier this week FanGraphs made a compelling case for the Royals to trade James Shields regardless of where the club sits in the standings, in the idea you try to make some attempt to offset the losses of the Wil Myers/Jake Odorizzi trade to Tampa (who could have foreseen that?). Theoretically, yes, this is the smart move but if you’re KC management, how do you sell that to fans? By this point the Royals have sold enough prospects on fans and nothing yet has ended a postseason drought dating back to 1985. Would pushing hard for a one-game Wild Card playoff be enough to erase the last three decades of futility? Would some blue-chippers for a two-month Shields rental be worth it? Honestly, I have enough trouble ordering dinner at a restaurant so this decision is over my pay grade. Perhaps the only way to calm KC fans’ frayed nerves is a run to at least the ALCS?

Tampa Bay Rays (48-53, 5.5): Unlike Kansas City, Tampa can operate in a relative bubble of doing what’s best for the franchise since its fan base remains small and a couple of deadline deals of David Price and Ben Zobrist can’t hurt attendance since the Rays are already last in baseball. If teams like the Cardinals are potentially willing to trade someone like Oscar Tavares for Price, it’s a no-brainer. A couple decent prospects for Zobrist (Seattle?) only makes sense. Perhaps #TWTW brainwashes the Sabremetrically-inclined Tampa front office and it notices that they could still make a push to win the East, leading the Rays to stand pat. However it shakes out, Tampa holds a lot of the cards before the deadline on July 31.

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