The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is now approximately 24 hours away and while the St. Louis Cardinals have yet to make a trade the rumor mill is rampant with talk of the team's pursuit for pitching help. The following is a breakdown of the most recent trade talk from the last 48 hours from credible sources including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com and the MLB Network, Fangraphs, Bob Nightengale of USA Today, and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
Goold of the Post-Dispatch reported yesterday via an interview on MLB.com that pitching is the number one priority for the Cardinals at the trade deadline. Goold says the team is attempting to solidify a rotation currently missing Michael Wacha and struggling to find consistency from pitchers like Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez. When the names David Price, Jon Lester, and A.J. Burnett were mentioned Goold stated that "any of those" could be the eventual acquisition. Goold said that Price fits the "sweet spot" that the Cardinals are looking for since he is under control for another year.
Yesterday Goold also reported a lot of trade talk via Twitter. In a pre-game press conference Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny said that Saturday's started is currently open and could come "externally," which Goold interpreted as meaning via a trade.
Today in an article via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Goold stated that the team "has had contact" with the Tampa Bay Rays over David Price and the "Cardinals have not shown any apprehension over the high cost of prospects it would take to land Price." Goold specifically mentioned Oscar Taveras as a chip that could be included in a Price trade.
As to Jon Lester, Goold tweeted that that "one thing" the Cardinals have in their favor is a competitive balance draft pick, which would replace the draft pick the Red Sox would lose by dealing Lester. However, Goold also noted that the Cardinals do not have interest in trading a "top-tier prospect" for a two-month rental like Lester.
Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote via an article that the "any impact transaction" the club makes would focus on starting pitching. Strauss reports that general manager John Mozeliak has assembled the analytics team and other support staff with him in San Diego as the trade deadline nears. As Strauss puts it, "There's serious smoke here." Strauss reports that the team is doing background work on Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, Jon Lester, Ian Kennedy, and Justin Masterson. Most of the rest of Strauss' article details how the club is stuck with the current offensive lineup and hoping that Matt Holliday and a resurgence of players like Allen Craig revive the offense.
Yesterday the Boston Red Sox scratched Jon Lester from his scheduled start today, which makes it more likely that Lester will be traded by the deadline.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweeted that Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers, and Mariners are considered the major contenders for Lester.
Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com tweeted there is still no deal in place for Lester and he could start Friday if he is not traded. Edes reports that six teams are "still in on Lester" according to a "source with direct knowledge." Those teams are the Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Athletics.
Ken Rosenthal tweeted that according to "sources" the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Pirates are "all in mex" for Lester. Rosenthal also stated that Cole Hamels is the "least likely" of all the deals the Phillies are considering and that the Phillies have had "no meaningful dialogue" over Hamels with other teams.
The top trade target, David Price, also took to Twitter today to fuel the rumor mill. Price tweeted this morning "Finally it's my turn!!!! #letsdothis" referencing his scheduled start at 12:10 pm ET today. Price then tweeted "This my last start for the Rays...IN JULY" apparently having some fun with the trade talk.
According to Fangraphs, the Rays currently have a 7.1 percent chance to win the American League East Division and just an 8.3 percent chance to win a wild card playoff spot. Still, Ken Rosenthal quotes one executive as saying "A win tomorrow makes it so hard....12 of 13" in reference to the Rays apparent reluctance to trade Price.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the Rays are contemplating an offer from the St. Louis Cardinals that includes Oscar Taveras, Shelby Miller, and a competitive balance draft pick from the Cardinals in exchange for David Price. Nightengale hints that the Rays would like to do the deal, but they are concerned about reaction from the team's players from such a move given the Rays recent surge up the standings.
Meanwhile, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the Rays are "talking and willing" to trade Price for the right package according to a source within the Rays organization. Heyman also quotes team rivals who state that Rays general manager Andrew Friedman may have the 'guts to deal Price" in the right trade even with the Rays only four games out of the division lead.
David Price still looks like a distant possibility, but a possibility all the same, given all the talk from both organizations about him. It is still hard to envision how the Rays could deal with the inevitable bad publicity that would come from trading Price while the team is surging and still in contention.
Jon Lester seems to be more of a possibility for the Cardinals, but there are still evidently multiple teams involved while the Red Sox essentially hold an auction. Every other team theoretically has the opportunity to outbid the Cardinals at the last moment for Lester, and some (see the Pirates) may have a great deal of motivation to do so.
The most likely move at this point is probably for a more mid-level trade for a pitcher like Justin Masterson or A.J. Burnett. Cliff Lee would also be a possibility, but it may not make sense to trade for a pitcher struggling to come back from injury when the Cardinals are looking for more of rock in the rotation.
Stay tuned for more updates as the trade deadline comes and goes tomorrow.