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TSN.ca's 2014 Major League Baseball trade deadline primer

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Mike Beauvais, TSN.ca
7/30/2014 10:26:32 PM
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The Major League Baseball non-waiver deadline is at 4pm et and with 19 of the league's 30 teams either holding a playoff spot - or within five games of one - the list of potential buyers is considerably larger than the list of sellers.

That, however, certainly doesn't preclude business, even of the significant kind, from being done in the next day or in the coming weeks (the waiver deadline is August 31 at 11:59pm et).

We've already seen the likes of Jeff Samardzija (Oakland Athletics), Justin Masterson (St. Louis Cardinals) and Jake Peavy (San Francisco Giants) find new homes in the last days and weeks, but there could be more movement done in the coming hours and days.

Here are a few players and teams to watch out for as the deadline approaches.

Philadelphia Phillies: Ruben Amaro, Jr. appears to be open for business. Three-fifths of his rotation (Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett) are available, as are first baseman Ryan Howard, outfielder Marlon Byrd, reliever Antonio Bastardo and closer Jonathan Papelbon. Getting deals done might be easier said than done, though, with significant money owed to most of these players. Chances are, the Phillies will have to eat some cash to get anything done.

Amaro will be looking for the biggest return from Hamels, but few teams seem to be willing to pay a steep asking price. If anybody is interested, you can imagine the Los Angeles Dodgers will be among them. Lee, the 2008 Cy Young winner, has led the entire MLB in starting pitcher's WAR since then with an incredible mark of 38.3.

The rub on dealing Lee, though, is that history shows that the return probably won't pan out. In the three trades that have seen Lee switch jerseys since his Cy Young, 11 prospects have gone the other way. Only Carlos Carrasco and Justin Smoak are currently in the MLB among them. Howard is likely to draw the least amount of interest due to age, money and injury history. Burnett and Byrd are owed the least amount of money and should be on the move. Burnett lives in Maryland, making the Baltimore Orioles the most obvious destination for the veteran. Trading Byrd will be a little bit more complicated, as his four-team no trade clause includes the Seattle Mariners, a team with the most apparent interest.

The New York Yankees also appear interested in the 36-year-old. Not entirely outside the realm of possiblity? Amaro attempting to package several of his assets into a blockbuster deal akin to the one made between the Dodgers and Boston Red Sox in 2012 that saw Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford head to the west coast.

Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays are on a torrid streak right now, winning 11 of 12, and find themselves now just five games out of an AL Wild Card. The impetus for the team to move assets that existed when they were 18 games under .500 in June has greatly abated, but not entirely.

The team will reportedly still take calls on some of its veteran players, including former AL Cy Young Award winner David Price, the team's all-time leading lefty pitcher. While the likes of Price, Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce could be available, that doesn't mean that the anybody will meet general manager Andrew Freidman's asking price. Furthermore, with Price under contract for another season, it's not a stretch to suggest that the haul the Rays would receive for Price in the offseason or even during next year wouldn't be all that different than what they'd get now. And what kind of message would it send to the Rays' fans to pull the plug on the this team right when it's in the midst of the best baseball its played all season?

Obviously, the Rays' fan base or lack thereof has been a sore spot in recent years for a team that has made the playoffs four of the past six seasons, but if the team does intend to retain what support is does have and cultivate any new fandom, selling off assets now might not be the best play. If Price is dealt, he becomes the seventh Cy Young winner in the last 10 years to be traded after taking home the award.

Cleveland Indians: A playoff team a year ago, the Indians are in a similar position to the Rays in that their playoff hopes aren't entirely extinguished, but Wednesday's trade of Masterson could indicate that general manager Chris Antonetti's focus has turned to 2015. LOOGY Marc Rzepczynski could be an easy sell for any club looking to shore up its bullpen, while Asdrubal Cabrera's time appears to be coming to an end in Cleveland. With highly touted infield prospect Francisco Lindor appearing to be ready to go at a big league-level next season, Antonetti could look to recoup some assets for the impending free agent second baseman. Both the Jays and Giants have reportedly kicked the tires on the 28-year-old two-time All-Star.

Boston Red Sox: The defending World Series champions appear on course to be the first team since the 1997 Florida Marlins to go from first to worst in the following season.

The team has already parted with Peavy and Felix Doubront (Chicago Cubs), but their two biggest assets remain in starters Jon Lester and John Lackey. Lester was scratched from his Wednesday night start against the Toronto Blue Jays in anticipation of an impending deal, while Lackey, scheduled to pitch on Friday, has had his name has come up in talks in recent days with the Miami Marlins. General manager Ben Cherington has never been one to shy away from making bold moves, but right now, he appears to taking a wait-and-see approach. Lester and Lackey are free agent at season's end, so it's not inconceivable that the team could move them for prospects now and make plays for them in the offseason.

Lester, after a poor 2013, has bounced back considerably, on pace for career highs in ERA, innings per start and walk rate. The Blue Jays and Orioles were said to have interest in Lester earlier than the week, but that appears to have cooled on both ends. Even with the acquisition of Masterson, the Cardinals could still make a play for Lester. Reliever Andrew Miller could also be available, along with outfielder Jonny Gomes.

Texas Rangers: Few teams have had a more disappointing 2014 than the Rangers, a preseason favourite to compete for the AL West crown. With their playoff hopes crippled by injuries and underperforming stars, the Rangers find themselves in the rare position of being sellers at the deadline after playoff berths in three of the last four seasons. General manager Jon Daniels has already traded relievers Jason Frasor to the Kansas City Royals and Joakim Soria to the Detroit Tigers and lefty Neal Cotts could be next. A free agent at season's end, Cotts is effective against both lefty and righty opposition. Both the Orioles and Atlanta Braves have already expressed interest.

Outfielder Alex Rios could also be on the move. Rios is also an impending free agent and could be an option for a team looking for production in the outfield or at the designated hitter's spot. The Blue Jays were said to have held talks with the Rangers earlier this month. Though down and out now, the Rangers don't see themselves in a rebuild. Looking to contend in 2015, expect Adrian Beltre to be off of the table.

Other players to watch: SS Martin Prado and 2B Aaron Hill (Diamondbacks), 2B Chris Denorfia, RHP Ian Kennedy and RHP Joaquin Benoit (Padres), C Kurt Suzuki and OF Josh Willingham (Twins), OF Dayan Viciedo (White Sox) and RHP Chad Qualls (Astros).

Jon Lester (Photo: Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Canadian Press)
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