Last week, it was the Cubs who were racing feverishly to trade Matt Garza before he headed for the mound to make his next start. This week, it's the White Sox and Jake Peavy's turn to re-enact that drama.
At last look, Peavy was still scheduled to start in Cleveland on Tuesday night. But judging by the five suitcases he brought to the ballpark with him on Sunday in Chicago, even he doesn't expect to get that far.
And clubs that have been speaking with the White Sox are right there with him on that hunch.
"They're definitely trying to move him before he makes that start," said an executive of one team monitoring the Peavy talks.
So we've reached the stage where the only question that matters is where, not if. And when you factor in all the dollars left on Peavy's contract -- about $5 million this year, $14.5 million next year and all $4 million of his back-loaded signing bonus (payable between 2016 and 2019) -- the field of realistic buyers is slimmer than you'd think.
BOSTON. The Red Sox can handle the financial load. And they have the chips in their system to make a major trade. So for a long time last week, other clubs have been forecasting they were Peavy's most logical landing point. But the stance the Red Sox have taken in the recent past was: They'll take the money, or they'll give up the prospects, but they won't do both. And that has a chance to be a deal-breaker in this case, because other teams say the White Sox haven't shown any interest in digesting money to get this deal done.
OAKLAND. Perhaps you're asking yourself: Why would a team that's leading the league in ERA, and has the fourth-lowest payroll in the big leagues, be stalking a guy like Jake Peavy? And the answer is: Are you familiar with Billy Beane's work? This sort of deal is right in Beane's wheelhouse. The A's have payroll money left in the old checking account. They just can't get free agents to take it. So they love trades for guys like this. And they should have all the young pitching depth and system depth it takes to get the White Sox to say yes, assuming -- as Buster Olney wrote Sunday -- the price doesn't include top-of-the-line prospects like Sonny Gray and Addison Russell. The A's also may have a need to cover themselves in case Bartolo Colon gets slapped with a Biogenesis suspension, although that's not as certain as some folks assume (since Colon already has served a 50-game sentence stemming from that connection). So more and more, unless someone else steps up, Oakland is beginning to loom as the favorite here.
ATLANTA. After the shock wore off of seeing Tim Hudson carted off the field, the Braves explored the potential price tags on Peavy and the rest of the starting-pitching market. But with Brandon Beachy returning Monday night and Paul Maholm not far behind, this team still seems more interested in dealing for relief help than for another starter. Peavy's money is also a huge stumbling block for the Braves.
ST. LOUIS. The Cardinals have so many prospects backed up from the Gateway Arch to Peoria, they could make just about any deal they want. But in case you hadn't noticed, they're second in the major leagues in starting-pitcher ERA, feel as if they have a better rotation now than the group they won a World Series with two years ago and aren't interested in overpaying for a fellow like Peavy just to say they did. Very little indication that St. Louis will be Peavy's final destination.
BALTIMORE. The Orioles are lurking here. But so far, they seem leery of the money, Peavy's injury history and what they're being asked to give up. So while you can't write them off, the view from afar is that the White Sox would have to come to them to try to make this deal happen. And that seems unlikely.
One last observation: If Peavy is dealt in the next 24 hours, there might not be a legit, difference-making player who gets traded on Deadline Day. It's that grim a market.
Sell-a-thon in Philly
Rarely in trading-deadline history has a team done more, in the week before the deadline, to help its front office decide whether to buy or sell than the 2013 Phillies.
A week ago, maybe even 72 hours ago, they were still hoping to make a deal or two and go for it. But one gruesome eight-game losing streak later, they're 11 games out of first, and the SALE sign is all lit up. So here's a look at what they could sell:
Michael Young. He should be the top draft pick in your Most Likely Phillie to Get Traded pool. But the Phillies might have had a more robust market on him two weeks ago than they have now. The Red Sox seem more focused on adding pitching depth. Juan Uribe has awoken from his two-year slumber to stabilize the Dodgers' third-base mess. And while those talks to send Young back to Texas were real, that's unlikely. The Orioles remain interested. But the Yankees loom as the best fit, unless Young were to balk at waiving his no-trade clause to go to New York. Indications are, though, that Young is open to a deal to just about any contender.
Carlos Ruiz. He's two months from free agency. The Phillies appear reluctant to make a long-term commitment to him at age 34. So you'd think they'd be floating his name in a thin catching market to see what happens. But other teams say they've shown very little inclination to move him. The Yankees could loom as an excellent match if the Phillies change their minds.
Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon all but pulled on a Get Me Outta Here T-shirt over the weekend, when he told MLB.com's Todd Zolecki: "I definitely didn't come here for this." Well, if it makes him feel better, other clubs report the Phillies have been gauging interest in him "for a while now," said one exec. But with the Tigers and Red Sox all but sprinting in the other direction, the odds of Papelbon moving this week appear slim and none. "They'd like to move him," said an executive of one team that spoke with the Phillies. "But I don't think they can, unless they pay down that contract significantly." Which they've shown no inclination to do, incidentally.
Jimmy Rollins. It's probably a moot point, since Rollins can veto any deal and announced Sunday that "I'm not going anywhere." But while most of us trade-deadline correspondents were mulling whether the Phillies would trade Chase Utley, it's actually his double-play partner that they've been quietly asking potentially interested teams about. Even if Rollins had been open to moving, though, a deal this week was a serious long shot. There are really only two contenders with potential needs for a veteran shortstop -- the Cardinals (because Pete Kozma has a .589 OPS) and Tigers (because Jhonny Peralta could face a Biogenesis suspension this week). But the Cardinals aren't looking to add a 34-year-old position player. And teams that have spoken with the Tigers say they haven't explored the shortstop market, despite the possibility they could lose Peralta for the rest of the season. So it doesn't look as if Rollins will have to play that veto card anytime soon.
Cliff Lee. As Jerry Crasnick reported Friday, the Phillies aren't hanging up if teams call about Lee. And the Red Sox and Dodgers are two teams that wouldn't pass out over having to send him paychecks for the next two-plus years. So the Phillies continue to listen, at least to teams they believe Lee would approve a deal to. But they have taken a stance that is consistent with every quote that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has uttered about Lee over the past few weeks: Unless they get overwhelmed, they have no motivation to trade Lee, even after agreeing to sign Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. And ohbytheway, they're not interested in eating any of the $70 million-plus left on Lee's contract, either. So "Ruben holds the keys on this one," said an exec of one team. "If you're a team thinking about doing this, you can probably justify giving up something good [in talent]. Or you can probably justify paying him that kind of money. But I don't know if anyone can justify giving up the crown jewels of the system AND taking on, essentially, a big free-agent contract, too. So this would be a very tough deal to make."
• THE DODGERS. We've seen a lot of speculation that the Dodgers could be open to trading Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford in a big deal. But some people wonder instead: Shouldn't they be more open to trading Matt Kemp? Since the Dodgers caught fire last month, Kemp has made it through an entire game only eight times. So they've essentially been winning without him. Ethier has actually played well in center in Kemp's absence. And the Dodgers have one of the bright lights of the Futures Game, center-field prospect Joc Pederson, just over the horizon. We keep waiting for a huge name to pop onto this market in the final two days before the deadline. So just asking a question others have pondered: Why not Matt Kemp?
• THE GIANTS. This is another team whose hopes have pretty much crumbled this month. So while the Giants are much more open to selling than they were two weeks ago, other clubs believe they're still not likely to move anyone more prominent than one of their left-handed relievers, Javier Lopez and Jose Mijares. What the Giants have told teams about Hunter Pence is this: They'd rather re-sign him than trade him. But they'll think about it if they get "blown away" with an offer. Not likely.
• THE RANGERS. They haven't scored a run since Friday. And they've had only two games since July 9 in which they've scored more than four runs. So the Rangers are as willing to get creative in their hunt for a bat as any team in the game. Over the weekend, they circulated a long list of players they'd be willing to talk about. And as has been reported in multiple outlets elsewhere, that list included Joe Nathan's name. But other clubs ask: Why would a team that's trying to win, but needs a closer, trade away an impact bat off its big league roster in such an offensively challenged age? Good question.
Chicago White Sox
• ALEX RIOS. Teams in touch with the White Sox report they've asked for two top prospects, plus a "lesser" player, for Rios, without much luck. So at this point, it wouldn't be a shock to see the White Sox pull Rios back and put him on the market again this winter.
• THE CARDINALS. Before the past two trade deadlines, the Cardinals prioritized adding bullpen depth. Now they have so much depth, there's a chance they could be a team that trades away a reliever before the deadline. They've had hits on their left-handers, with the just-recalled Marc Rzepczynski a candidate to move in the next 48 hours.
• THE ROCKIES. Finally, the Rockies are another team that could deal a left-handed reliever. As the New York Post reported, the Indians -- who are now concentrating almost exclusively on adding another left-hander in the bullpen -- have interest in Josh Outman. One name to file away among players Colorado could target is pitcher Carlos Carrasco, who looks like a classic change-of-scenery candidate.