With July more than half over, and the All-Star break fully in the rearview mirror, a single topic dominates baseball these days: the approach of the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Clubs are sorting out whether they're buyers or sellers and trying to assess how new Draft-pick compensation rules affect their valuation of players, all while also trying to, you know, win ballgames.
From now until the July 31 Deadline, we'll be checking in on the trade news around baseball, with help from MLB.com's reporters. The countdown is under way.
Dempster moving soon? The hottest name in Tuesday's rumor mill seems to be Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster, who has reportedly drawn interest from just about every team with a .500 or better record in the Major Leagues. MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports the Dodgers and Yankees are among the teams pursuing the veteran right-hander, who has complete no-trade protection as a "10-and-5" player (10 years' Major League service, the past five with his current team).
Elsehwere, there are reports the suitors include the Red Sox, Tigers, Braves and Nationals, depending on where you look. With Dempster eligible for free agency at the end of the year, and the Cubs looking to rebuild, few players seem more certain to move before the month ends than Dempster. ESPN.com's Jayson Stark even tweeted Tuesday that Chicago hopes to deal Dempster "by [the] end of the week."
Marlins in a tough spot: If the American League East is baseball's best division, the National League East may be the game's most interesting. Every team has some level of intrigue associated with it as the Deadline approaches, and the Marlins are surely no exception.
Miami is in a difficult position: not looking anything like a contender, but heavily committed not only to this year's roster but to a new ballpark and building a fan base in what has been a challenging market. The Marlins are nine games out in the division. They're six out in the Wild Card race, tied for sixth place in the chase for those two spots. And most damning, they're three games under .500 with a grisly minus-61 run differential -- fifth worst in the Major Leagues, behind even the Cubs.
That adds up to a team that cannot, in good conscience, buy. Yet how can the Marlins sell, either? This was to be the team that brought baseball passion to Miami, a team that won in the inaugural year of Marlins Park and took South Florida by storm. Moving pieces just a few months after the splashy opening would be a difficult stance to take.
Yet Joe Frisaro reports that the Fish will at least consider moving some players, such as free agents-to-be Anibal Sanchez and Randy Choate, or perhaps new acquisition Carlos Lee. Frisaro asks the biggest question of all -- would the Marlins move Giancarlo Stanton? -- and answers it in about the only reasonable way. Sure, but only if they were absolutely blown away, and that's hard to imagine.
Staying the course in Cincy: Mark Sheldon reports from Cincinnati that the Reds aren't changing a thing about their approach as the Deadline approaches, despite Joey Votto's injury. That's because losing Votto doesn't change what the Reds need -- just how badly they need it.
The Reds are one of the league's best teams at run prevention (third in the NL in team ERA), but a middle-of-the-pack offensive team (eighth in runs scored). They still need a leadoff man. They still need lineup depth, ideally in the form of a cleanup man. They still need help from the left side of the plate, as evidenced by their forgettable .245/.310/.405 composite line against right-handed pitching.
So while Votto is surely a huge loss, his absence only exacerbates the needs that general manager Walt Jocketty's crew already had. The Reds are committed to winning this year, and they'll likely move aggressively to increase their chances of doing just that, regardless of Votto's situation.
Castellanos not on the block: The Tigers need help at a couple of spots, including second base, and they're another team that you'd have to think would be willing to take on some money in the right deal. It appears that one thing they won't do is deal Nick Castellanos, ranked the organization's No. 2 prospect at the beginning of the year by MLB.com. Jason Beck reports that the Tigers "aren't likely to offer" the third baseman/outfielder in a deal this month.
With a huge year split between high Class A and Double-A, Castellanos has emerged from being one of the Tigers' best prospects to one of the elite prospects in all of baseball. The 20-year-old has raked at both levels, and he won the MVP at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game earlier this month.
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.