The MLB trade deadline is nearing, and speculation is heating up across baseball. Here is what our writers are hearing today:
Stark's take: The Phillies are highly unlikely to trade Cole Hamels until after his start Saturday against the Cubs, sources say. And with the trade market for starting pitching suddenly glutted, they're now praying he pitches well enough to restore his value.
"Here's a guy who's pitched in the playoffs and the World Series," one AL executive said. "But for that front office, this may be the biggest start he's ever had."
Over Hamels' past two starts, he's allowed 14 runs and 20 hits and recorded only 19 outs. And since missing a start with a hamstring strain last month, he has a 7.46 ERA, and opponents are hitting .351 against him.
Stark's take: If a team is going to trade for Aroldis Chapman, the cost is going to be "exorbitant," according to an official of one club that checked in.
Although the Reds are openly listening on Chapman, other teams aren't convinced that owner Bob Castellini really wants to trade him. Execs of two different teams say they came away thinking that although the Reds are likely to do some aggressive selling in the next week, they view Chapman as an attraction who provides a reason to come to the park.
"In the end, I think the owner has to decide on that one," one NL exec said. "And if he keeps Chapman, he can say, 'My attendance may be dropping, but at least I still have attractions.'"
Stark's take: Teams that have spoken with the Royals say they're "open to anything" in their search for a starting pitcher, an outfield bat or both. One exec's take: "I think the Royals feel like this is their window," one NL exec said.
Asked whether the Royals prefer a pitcher to a bat, one AL exec replied: "Either." Asked whether they prefer a rental or a player they can control long term, the same exec replied again: "Either one."
Two restrictions they do have: The Royals have told clubs they're not open to moving their most advanced pitching prospects, such as Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb or Kyle Zimmer. And money is clearly an issue, because there is no indication they have even pursued some of the higher-priced pitchers on the market, such as Cole Hamels or James Shields.
Stark's take: The Padres "really want to move" both James Shields and Andrew Cashner, according to clubs that have spoken with them. Cashner can be a free agent after 2016, so they believe he'd have more trade value now than this winter.
And one exec says they'd like to trade Shields "really badly," because his backloaded contract will create a major payroll crunch after this season. Shields, Matt Kemp, Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton Jr. will be owed a combined $69.2 million next season. And Kemp and Upton are both viewed as "untradable," in the words of one NL exec.
Stark's take: Even after trading for Scott Kazmir, the Astros are looking for bullpen arms and a corner outfielder, according to teams they've contacted.
Although there have been rumblings that they've explored the closer market, even checking in on the likes of Aroldis Chapman, they appear more focused on adding depth with an arm such as Joaquin Benoit. But their deal for Kazmir is a template for the kind of prospect package they're willing to give up. Other clubs say they've balked at talking about any young player they view as part of their core for 2016 or 2017.