The GM's Office: Jim Bowden

Mike Rizzo and Frank WrenAP PhotoWashington GM Mike Rizzo and Atlanta GM Frank Wren don't need to pull off a blockbuster this season.
The National League East has become a two-team race between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves, with the second-place team still having a good chance to reel in one of the two wild-card berths. Neither team is expected to make a blockbuster deal by the trade deadline, but both are looking for the same thing: left-handed relief help and bench upgrades. Sometimes improving a team by inches rather than feet or yards can be the difference between making the postseason or going home.

The rest of the division should be sellers. The Marlins are hoping for enough wins between now and the deadline to become buyers, but realistically, they should be in sell mode. The Mets have Bartolo Colon and Daniel Murphy to offer in deals, while the Phillies should be open to trading every veteran on their roster.

In fact, the Phillies should be the center of attention between now and July 31 because there is not a "seller" in baseball with more talented difference-makers to trade. The difficult part for teams getting deals done with them will be dealing with all of the bad contracts, no-trade provisions and high return the Phillies are asking for in return.

With that in mind, let's take a look at where each team stands and who they should be looking to either acquire or trade away:


1. Washington Nationals: Buyers

Needs: Left-handed reliever and a bat off the bench.

Lefty reliever targets: Antonio Bastardo, Phillies; Neal Cotts, Rangers; Andrew Miller, Red Sox; James Russell, Cubs; Oliver Perez, Diamondbacks; Tony Sipp, Astros; Mike Dunn, Marlins.

Bench targets: Chris Carter, Astros; Chris Denorfia, Padres; Alejandro De Aza, White Sox; Jonny Gomes, Red Sox; Dayan Viciedo, White Sox; Jake Smolinski, Rangers; Mike Olt, Cubs; Drew Stubbs, Rockies.

What to expect: The Nationals don't need to make a move; they are the team to beat in the NL East and should be considered a legitimate World Series contender. They could stand to improve the two areas above, and I expect GM Mike Rizzo to upgrade one or the other by the trade deadline.

Trade I'd like to see happen: Right-handed pitching prospect Austin Voth to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for lefty reliever James Russell.
Chase HeadleyDenis Poroy/Getty ImagesChase Headley started off slowly, but has been hitting much better as the deadline approaches.
Throughout July, Jim Bowden will look at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire each player.

Player: Chase Headley | 3B/LF | San Diego Padres

Possible destinations: Toronto Blue Jays, Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees

The 30-year-old Headley will be a free agent after this season, and although he has a modest slash line for the season -- .229/.296/.355 -- he has batted .323 in the month of July, and his stock is soaring as the trade deadline approaches. Here's more on what it would take for these three contenders to land him:


Toronto Blue Jays

Why? The Blue Jays would like to keep Brett Lawrie at second base long-term, so third base remains their biggest positional need. The Jays also need better balance in their lineup, and with Headley being a switch-hitter, that would improve them in that area as well.

Who? Left-handed pitcher Sean Nolin and shortstop Dawel Lugo should get the deal done. Nolin finally reached the majors with the Blue Jays in May 2013 and struggled in his first start, getting knocked out in the second inning after giving up six runs in a loss to the Orioles. However, he pitched well at three different stops in the minor leagues this year, making 12 starts with a 3.52 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP and a strikeout rate of 8.7 per 9 innings. While 19-year-old Lugo shows 15-20 homer power in batting practice, he has yet to show it in games because he struggles to hit pitches on the outside part of the plate -- a weakness he'll be able to overcome in time. He has soft hands and, combined with a strong arm, can make plays in the hole. He has average speed at best, but he makes up for it with good jumps and angles off the bat. Those two make for a fair package for Headley.

Will it happen?

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Jake Peavy Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesJake Peavy could provide a boost on the back end of a contender's rotation.
Throughout July, Jim Bowden will look at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire each player.

Player: Jake Peavy | SP | Boston Red Sox

Possible destinations: Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals

Peavy was traded July 30, 2013, in a three-team trade that sent Avisail Garcia from the Tigers to the White Sox, Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox to the Tigers, and Peavy to the Red Sox. Peavy's value has since dipped, and not just because he’s another year older. His ERA is a full run higher than his career mark, and his WHIP is the highest it has been since his 2002 rookie campaign. His average fastball velocity has dropped from 90 to 89 mph, and the rest of his offerings have diminished as well.

His 1-8 record in 19 starts can be partly explained by a lack of run support and a defense that has been poor at times. But the bottom line is it has been a subpar year by Peavy's standards.

However, because of his competitiveness and winning attitude, Peavy could rebound in the second half and help a contending team at the back of their rotation. To acquire Peavy, the trade cost will be significantly less than it was this time last year, but the Red Sox should still be able to land a solid, albeit not top, prospect.


Milwaukee Brewers

Why? The Brewers are pleased with the top four in their starting rotation, Kyle Lohse, Yovani Gallardo, Wily Peralta and Matt Garza. However, their fifth starter has struggled mightily; Marco Estrada was demoted to the bullpen, and rookie Jimmy Nelson has not looked good after two starts. Peavy would provide an immediate upgrade there.

Who? The Red Sox will probably start by asking for one of their top outfield prospects in Mitch Haniger or Tyrone Taylor, an offer I expect GM Doug Melvin to politely decline. However, power-hitting outfielder Victor Roache, the Brewers' first-round pick in the 2012 draft, might be enough to get it done. Roache has hit 33 home runs and driven in 107 runs in his first two years of professional ball, but he has struggled to get on base consistently (.307 career OBP). He's a project, but he's worth taking a chance on, given his power potential.

Will it happen? There's a good chance this could happen, especially because the Braves seem to have lost interest and the Cardinals and Mariners appear to be chasing a higher-level starter.


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Cole HamelsRich Schultz/Getty ImagesCole Hamels has just a 3-5 record, but his peripheral numbers are solid.
Throughout July, Jim Bowden will look at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire each player.

Player: Cole Hamels | SP | Philadelphia Phillies

Possible destinations: Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays

Before we dive into potential fits for Hamels, let's look at his unique contract situation and some recent history of big-name starting pitcher trades.

Contract: $22.5 million per year through 2018, with team option for $20 million or $24 million vesting option for 2019. He also has a limited no-trade provision, which will make it difficult to trade him if the Phillies' best deal is a team on that list.

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Marlon ByrdJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesMarlon Byrd would bring solid outfield defense, decent pop and a veteran presence in the clubhouse.
Throughout July, Jim Bowden will look at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire each player.

Player: Marlon Byrd | OF | Philadelphia Phillies

Possible destinations: Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals


Seattle Mariners

Why? The Mariners are second in the American League in team ERA behind only the NL West-leading Oakland Athletics. However, they are last in on-base percentage and 11th in runs scored. GM Jack Zduriencik knows his team has a decent shot at reaching the postseason, but he must acquire a bat or two by the trade deadline to improve its chances. Byrd is moderately priced, with the length of his contract (two years plus a third-year option for 2016) being the only drawback. Last year the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Byrd down the stretch, and he helped them reach the postseason. He has a strong makeup and would fit in well in the Mariners' clubhouse.

Who? For Gabriel Guerrero in a straight-up one-for-one deal.

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Joaquin Benoit Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesJoaquin Benoit sports a sterling 1.86 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 38 2/3 innings this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Joaquin Benoit | RP | San Diego Padres

Possible destinations: Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants


Milwaukee Brewers

Why? Because Doug Melvin is their GM, and his track record when his team is in contention at the trade deadline suggests he'll make a move. No one expects him to pull off a blockbuster like he has in the past -- to get CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke, just to name a few -- but most expect him to make a move of some kind.

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David PriceAP Photo/Carlos OsorioThere are doubts David Price will be traded prior to the deadline, and the cost might be too high.

Many contending teams interested in David Price now aren't sure the Tampa Bay Rays will actually trade him before the trade deadline.

The impression teams are getting is that if the Rays manage to get back in the playoff chase, they will hang on to Price, and if they don't, they will trade him only if they get a better package than what the Chicago Cubs got for Jeff Samardzija, which eliminates a number of possible suitors.

The Rays would be looking for

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Jonathan PapelbonRick Yeatts/Getty ImagesJonathan Papelbon is holding opposing hitters to a .177 batting average this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Jonathan Papelbon | RP | Philadelphia Phillies

Possible destinations: Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers


Los Angeles Angels

Why? Angels GM Jerry Dipoto stopped by the GM's office recently and said he's not done making moves; he'd like to add another reliever. Since DiPoto became the team's GM in October 2011, he has needed a defibrillator for many of the ninth innings; only three AL teams have blown more saves since the start of 2012. It's time for the Angels to solve it once and for all, and although they're hoping newly acquired Jason Grilli is the answer, they know Papelbon would be. Papelbon has converted 22 saves with a 1.21 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in 37 1/3 innings pitched. This is a no-brainer move for the Angels if they can get it done.

Who? The Phillies will target all of the Angels' top prospects, focusing more on overall quality rather than positional needs, realizing they could always spin the acquired assets for needs down the road.

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ViciedoAP Photo/Mark DuncanWhite Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo is on pace for 19 homers and 57 RBIs this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Dayan Viciedo | OF | Chicago White Sox

Possible destinations: Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals


Seattle Mariners

Why? The Mariners are second in the American League in team ERA, behind only the Oakland Athletics, and the top of their starting rotation gives them the chance to run the table in October. So what can prevent them from even making the playoffs? Their offense, or rather the lack thereof; they are dead last in the American League in team OPS. M's GM Jack Zduriencik must make moves to improve this lineup, and without a lot of impact bats available, he might have to focus on Viciedo's 20-homer power (albeit with a low OBP).

Who? The White Sox could ask for any one of Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero or Michael Saunders to see how the Mariners truly value Viciedo.

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Martin PradoAP Photo/David GoldmanMartin Prado is a career .291 hitter and a versatile player defensively.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Martin Prado | 3B | Arizona Diamondbacks

Possible destinations: Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants


Toronto Blue Jays

Why? The Blue Jays are in dire need of good right-handed hitters, as they've struggled against left-handed pitchers all season.

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The Oakland Athletics and Chicago Cubs kicked off the baseball trade fireworks on the Fourth of July with a blockbuster deal that sent starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland for prospects Addison Russell and Billy McKinney, among others.

With three weeks left until the trade deadline, here are four more blockbuster trades I'd like to happen:



San Diego Padres-Los Angeles Angels

Padres receive: 2B Taylor Lindsey, 3B Kaleb Cowart, SS Jose Rondon, and RHPs R.J. Alvarez and Victor Alcantara

Angels receive: C Yasmani Grandal and reliever Huston Street

The Angels have the second best record in baseball behind only the Oakland Athletics, and if it weren't for 12 blown saves by their bullpen, they would have the best record in the majors. GM Jerry DiPoto has done a great job upgrading the bullpen the past couple weeks with the acquisitions of Jason Grilli (from the Pirates) and Joe Thatcher (from the Diamondbacks), but why stop there? A blockbuster to get one of the game's best closers, in Huston Street, would be huge.

Street, 30, is controllable though 2015 at an affordable $7 million per season. He's also having a career year, with 23 saves, a 1.13 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP. Add Street to the Angels' bullpen, and the team can start printing postseason tickets.

Grandal, who, at age 25, has yet to fully develop, would be the long-term catcher for the Angels and would benefit from playing under Mike Scioscia, a former All-Star catcher. Grandal has struggled the past two years at the plate, but his career numbers -- 16 homers, 64 RBIs and a slash line of .246/.349/.409 in 455 at-bats -- are still respectable. He would benefit from a change of scenery. He's a smart, good kid who I think would thrive in the Angels' environment, though he'd probably have to settle for a backup role this year.

In return, the Padres load up on prospects as their rebuilding program under the new GM gets under way.


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A.J. BurnettAP Photo/Charlie NeibergallWe may see A.J. Burnett suiting up for a former team again by the end of this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: A.J. Burnett | RHP | Philadelphia Phillies

Possible destinations: Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians


Pittsburgh Pirates

Why? The Pirates' rotation has been given a boost of late by Vance Worley and Jeff Locke, and the team is hoping Francisco Liriano not only returns from the disabled list soon but is more like the Liriano of 2013 than the one with a 4.60 ERA this season. However, the Pirates would feel better about their rotation if they could add one more veteran starter for the stretch drive, and Burnett could fill that void without a huge return. Burnett was well-respected in the Pirates' clubhouse, and viewed as a leader by their young pitchers. After a rough May, Burnett has thrown six consecutive quality starts, increasing his trade value.

Who? A package of 19-year outfielder Harold Ramirez and right-hander Clay Holmes should get the deal done from a player perspective, but the Pirates won’t even consider the deal unless the Phillies send back a significant amount of cash to help with the salary and buyout of the mutual option year on Burnett's contract.

Will it happen? Baseball-wise, this is a good fit for both teams.

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Huston StreetAndy Hayt/San Diego Padres/Getty ImagesThe Padres' Huston Street could fill either the closer or setup role for a number of teams.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Huston Street | RHP | San Diego Padres

Possible destinations: Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, Cincinnati Reds

Baltimore Orioles

Why? Orioles GM Dan Duquette told me that the bullpen and offense at second base were the two main areas that needed improvement.

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 Masahiro TanakaAP Photo/Kathy WillensIt's been all thumbs up for Masahiro Tanaka this season.
As we near the halfway point in the season, a dozen rookies are having impact upon their pennant-chasing teams thus far. Let's look at my latest rankings and assess the best of the 2014 rookie class.

1. Masahiro Tanaka | RHP | New York Yankees
If the season ended today, Tanaka would win both the AL Cy Young Award and the AL Rookie of the Year Award. I also expect him to start the All-Star Game for the American League if he continues to pitch at this level. Tanaka has been brilliant -- his split-fingered fastball already is the best in the sport, and his late life and command is special, especially when coupled with his vastly underrated secondary pitches.

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David PriceMike Carlson/Getty ImagesIt makes more sense for the Rays to trade David Price now than wait until this offseason.
The top-of-the-rotation pitcher most likely to be traded between now and the trade deadline is David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. Jeff Samardzija and Cliff Lee are also in the conversation, but the Cubs still could re-sign Samardzija, and a Lee trade would require a return to full health for him and a willingness to be traded to specific teams. The Rays don't have either obstacle with Price.

The Rays also know the best time to trade Price is now; the return won't be as high this offseason or next July as it will be over the next six weeks. So it's only matter of time before he's dealt to the highest bidder.

The most interesting aspect of a potential deal is that there aren't as many contending teams looking for a top-of-the-rotation starter as in the past. For example, in the National League, teams such as the Cardinals, Brewers, Reds, Giants, Dodgers and Nationals all have enough pitching at the top that they have no reason to empty their farm system to acquire Price. In fact, I would argue the Braves (who, by the way, have the best starting pitcher ERA in the league) are the only NL team likely to inquire about Price.

In the American League, two of the top teams -- Oakland and Detroit -- also probably won't be bidding, though I'd never put anything past A's GM Billy Beane, based on his track record.

The Rays could get a large package for Price -- as many as four or five prospects -- but it's more likely they'll shoot for quality over quantity and end up with a two-for-one or three-for-one deal, with the possibility of more players being thrown in by either side. For the purpose of this exercise, I'll try to find the best two-for-one or three-for-one deals that could be offered for Price.

Here are the five teams I view most likely to trade for Price, along with potential deals involving each club:

1. Los Angeles Angels

The Angels appear to be the favorite to win the American League's first wild-card berth, and they actually have a legitimate shot of overtaking the Oakland A's and winning the West. A deal for Price would certainly seal the deal, and the Angels have enough to make it work. They might not have the young starting pitching the Rays would ideally seek, but they do have the bats to get it done. C.J. Cron would have to be the central piece in the deal, and given his potential to develop into a 30-homer, middle-of-the-lineup hitter, he'd be a perfect fit for the Rays, who are trying to build the middle of their lineup to complement Evan Longoria and Wil Myers. Sure, the Rays have James Loney signed for two more years, but the Rays could have Cron and Loney share the first base and DH slots until Loney's deal is up, or they could trade Loney this offseason, given his affordable contract.

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