The day before the July 31 trade deadline is usually pretty active, but it seems that most of the teams that can safely be labeled sellers have decided to hold their cards until the very end. That end is Thursday (today) at 4 p.m. ET.
The one major move completed Wednesday -- if it can even be called major -- was the Cardinals’ acquisition of right-handed starter Justin Masterson. In return, the Indians got outfield prospect James Ramsey.
Masterson had struggled to the tune of a 5.51 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 98 innings (19 starts) this season for Cleveland, largely due to the highest walk rate (5.14 BB/9) of his career. St. Louis -- an organization that has excelled at reclamation projects -- is hoping that a few mechanical tweaks can change all that. Masterson’s swing-and-miss rate has remained strong in 2014 and he’s moving to one of the more pitcher-friendly home parks in the major leagues, so there might be reason for optimism. It’s worth nothing that he just had over three weeks off with a knee injury. The impending free agent joins his new team well-rested and with a new contract on the line.
Masterson will make his Cardinals debut Saturday at Busch Stadium against the visiting first-place Brewers. He is again worth owning in mixed fantasy leagues on the off chance that he suddenly gets back in the groove that led him to register a superb 3.45 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 195 strikeouts across 193 innings in 2013.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $25,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Thursday night's MLB games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $5,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on Thursday. Here's the FanDuel link.
Instead of analyzing a few different hot topics, let’s break down the biggest deadline names …
Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox: There was a rumor on Wednesday afternoon that the Orioles were closing in on a deal for Lester, but a confirmation never came. The Pirates and Marlins are known to have interest, and the Cardinals might still be in the hunt despite landing Masterson. The Dodgers are still lurking. Lester has posted an outstanding 2.52 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 149/32 K/BB ratio in 143 innings this season for Boston. The 30-year-old left-hander will be a free agent in the fall. It’s a near-certainty that he will be traded before 4 p.m. ET.
David Price, SP, Rays: The ace left-hander allowed four runs -- three earned -- over seven innings Wednesday in a loss to the Brewers. That may or may not have been his final start with the Rays, who are in the hunt for a postseason spot and haven’t committed to selling off any pieces quite yet. Price is arbitration-eligible for the fourth and final time in 2015, so Tampa Bay doesn’t necessarily have to rush into anything. The Dodgers are thought to have the greatest amount of interest but have been clinging tight to their elite-level prospects. He’s already fantasy ace, but would be even more valuable in the National League -- especially Los Angeles.
Alex Rios, OF, Rangers: The 33-year-old outfielder has been linked to the Mariners, Royals, Giants, Yankees, Reds, and Blue Jays, and there is a strong belief that he will be moved before the deadline. Rios made an early exit Wednesday after being struck by a pitch in the left quad, but it’s not thought to be a major issue. He’ll bring speed and power to any team that acquires him, and should get a nice fantasy boost (on RBI and runs scored) in a move to a more potent lineup. Rios is making $12.5 million in 2014 and carries a $13.5 million club option for 2015.
Emilio Bonifacio, UTIL, Cubs: The 29-year-old speedster was held out of Chicago’s starting lineup on Wednesday night against the Rockies amid reports that a trade was imminent, but nothing came together. Talks will pick back up on Thursday, with the Royals looking like the leading candidate to win the sweepstakes. The Giants and Orioles have also been tied to Bonifacio, who is batting just .279/.318/.373 this season for the Cubs but has 14 stolen bases and can play all around the diamond.
Ian Kennedy, SP, Padres: The Royals, Pirates, and Marlins are among the teams that have been tied to Kennedy over the past week, but the feeling is that San Diego would have to be overwhelmed by an offer to move him. Kennedy is arbitration-eligible in 2015 and boasts a 3.66 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 143/42 K/BB ratio through 135 1/3 innings (22 starts) this season. The 29-year-old right-hander is currently out with an oblique injury but is due to return to the Padres’ starting rotation on Saturday.
Marlon Byrd, OF, Phillies: CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman heard late Wednesday that the Yankees are the latest team to join the hunt for Byrd, who is one of the few attractive bats on the block. But the Phillies are said to have sky-high asking prices on all of their potential trade chips, so maybe nothing gets done. Byrd, 36, has hit .270/.318/.477 with 20 home runs and 60 RBI in 106 games this season for Philadelphia. He is under contract for $8 million in 2015 and holds an $8 million vesting option for 2016.
John Lackey, SP, Red Sox: FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported Wednesday that there is a “very good chance” Lackey is traded at the deadline. The Marlins were then linked to the right-hander, but that rumor quickly died. Lackey has a $500,000 option for the 2015 season as a result of his 2012 Tommy John surgery, so he should be pretty popular. The 35-year-old right-hander owns a solid 3.60 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 116/32 K/BB ratio in 137 1/3 innings this season for the Red Sox.
Joaquin Benoit, RP, Padres: The Dodgers have expressed interest in acquiring Benoit to be a setup man, but the Padres might not want to trade him within their own division. The Yankees are also interested, and he’d serve as a setup man for them as well. The Padres -- for whom he’s currently serving as the closer -- aren’t certain to let him go. Benoit is under contractual control with San Diego through the 2016 campaign. It’s best for fantasy owners in non-holds leagues if he winds up staying put.
National League Quick Hits: Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez was held out Wednesday with ankle and knee soreness … Zack Greinke struck out a season-high 13 batters on Wednesday night against the Braves … Jason Heyward (back) is aiming to return to the Braves’ starting lineup on Friday … The Rockies don’t intend to trade left-handed starter Brett Anderson, who has a $12 million option for 2015 … Michael Wacha is scheduled to undergo another MRI on his right shoulder on Monday and could begin a throwing program soon after … Tanner Roark delivered seven innings of one-run ball Wednesday in the Nationals' defeat of the Marlins … The Mets don’t expect to trade right-handed starter Bartolo Colon, who is signed through 2015 … Cliff Lee is thought to be available, but the Phillies might wait until the August waiver deadline to move him as he rebuilds arm strength following a left elbow strain … Dodgers GM Ned Colletti strongly indicated Thursday that Matt Kemp won’t be dealt before Thursday's trade deadline … Angel Pagan (back) is on track to begin a minor league rehab assignment on Thursday … The Cubs acquired left-hander Felix Doubront from the Red Sox for a player to be named later … Matt Harvey (elbow) has been cleared to begin throwing off a mound next week … Wade Miley threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings Wednesday in the Diamondbacks' win over the Reds … Eric Chavez has retired from professional baseball … Rockies infielder Josh Rutledge (illness) is expected back Thursday … Pablo Sandoval went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored as the Giants topped the Pirates on Wednesday … The Marlins are reportedly interested in acquiring left-hander John Danks from the White Sox … The Giants are expected to release veteran second baseman Dan Uggla in the coming days.
American League Quick Hits: Astros starter (and potential trade candidate) Dallas Keuchel threw his fourth complete game of the season, allowing just one run, on Wednesday against the A’s … Wil Myers (wrist) is on track to begin a minor league rehab assignment next week … The Blue Jays are looking at Asdrubal Cabrera to fill their second base vacancy … Corey Kluber notched his first career shutout on Wednesday, limiting the Mariners to just three singles over nine innings … Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson (ankle, hip) is expected to return Saturday … Tigers ace Max Scherzer improved to 13-3 on Wednesday, holding the White Sox to one run over seven innings … Josh Willingham is expected to stay put with the Twins through Thursday’s trade deadline … The Astros are believed to be dangling slugger Chris Carter … Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle held the Red Sox to one run in 6 2/3 innings Wednesday to earn his 11th win … White Sox reliever Nate Jones underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery on Tuesday … James Paxton (lat) is on track to return to the Mariners’ starting rotation on Saturday … Nick Castellanos homered and drove in four total runs Wednesday as the Tigers beat the White Sox … A’s trainer Nick Paparesta said Tuesday that Coco Crisp has "some chronic degenerative changes" in his neck … Neftali Feliz picked up his third save Wednesday as the Rangers beat the Yankees … Ubaldo Jimenez (ankle) allowed just an unearned run over 4 2/3 innings Tuesday in his first rehab start with short-season Aberdeen … Astros shortstop Marwin Gonzalez is day-to-day with a sore right hamstring … Avisail Garcia (shoulder) has been cleared to begin a rehab assignment Friday at Triple-A Charlotte and could return to the White Sox in late August … Jason Hammel has a 9.53 ERA in four starts since joining the A’s … Eugenio Suarez (back) is expected to return to the Tigers’ lineup on Thursday … Orioles outfielder Adam Jones slugged his 21st home run of 2014 on Wednesday in a win over the Angels.