The weeks leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline can be a frenzied period in Major League Baseball, and this year was more chaotic than ever. According to MLB's central office, 43 trades took place in June and July -- the most in any year since at least 1997. A whopping 15 deals were consummated in the 16 hours preceding the 4 p.m. ET deadline Friday, despite a shocking surge of inactivity by San Diego general manager A.J. Preller.
In the big picture, trying to predict which players might get traded in August is the equivalent of sweeping up after the elephants once the circus has left town.
Recent history shows that lots of trades do transpire after the deadline. But because players must be exposed to waivers first, the big names generally stay put and the activity revolves more around complementary types. The typical August trade candidate is a bench guy, bullpen depth piece or innings-eating starter. And there's always a chance some afterthought team will be fortunate enough to unload an underperforming veteran with a bad contract.
Among the MLB players to switch teams in August 2014: Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, Gordon Beckham, Kelly Johnson, Jonathan Broxton, Alejandro De Aza, Geovany Soto and John Mayberry Jr. That list doesn't exactly make your pulse race, does it?
ESPN.com's Jayson Stark provided a public service years ago with a primer on the ins-and-outs of the waiver process. Keeping those guidelines in mind, here are some players with a chance to be traded sometime in the next month.
It has been a difficult season for Utley. He tried to play through a high ankle sprain, which led to some flaws in his swing, which produced an uncharacteristically sorry .179 batting average and .532 OPS before he shut it down in late June.
When Utley returns from the disabled list this month, it will be to a clubhouse sans Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and Ben Revere. All three players were traded before the deadline to hasten Philadelphia's youth movement. Utley's return also will come with no financial strings attached; his injury ensures he will fall short of the 500 plate appearances he needs to make a $15 million vesting option kick in for 2016.
Utley declined to say much in early July after Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made some ill-advised remarks endorsing young Cesar Hernandez as Philadelphia's starting second baseman, so it's hard to gauge his mindset at the moment. But it stands to reason he might be more receptive to leaving Philadelphia for a chance to play with a contender and more open-minded about waiving the blanket no-trade protection that he has accrued as a 10-and-5 service time player.
If Utley is healthy and has a second wind, he could have a positive impact on a contending club. The Yankees, Angels and even the Cubs are potential landing spots if the Phillies decide to move him.
Marlon Byrd, Cincinnati Reds
Byrd, 37, fits the profile of the worldly, veteran run producer with enough thump to help a contender. He has been mentioned here and there as a possible fit with the Baltimore Orioles, who were linked to a number of outfield bats before acquiring Gerardo Parra from Milwaukee at the deadline.
Byrd has played for the Cubs, Red Sox, Mets, Pirates, Phillies and Reds since 2012, so he won't have much trouble adapting to a late-season change of scenery. Pittsburgh acquired him by trade in late August 2013, and Byrd posted an .843 OPS in 30 games to help the Pirates make the playoffs. Then he continued to crush it with a .591 slugging percentage in two playoff series.
This year, Byrd has 18 homers and a .477 slugging percentage in 298 at-bats. He has an .838 OPS at Great American Ball Park compared to a .712 OPS on the road, so he has clearly benefited from Cincinnati's cozy environs at home.
With two months to go, Byrd needs to amass 227 more plate appearances to reach a threshold of 550 that would trigger an $8 million vesting option in 2016. Any team with thoughts of acquiring him would obviously prefer not to have to deal with that piece of contractual baggage.
Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel, the two marquee closers on the market, stayed put in July and aren't going anywhere in August. But contending teams are always looking for bullpen depth down the stretch, and K-Rod has enough left in the tank at age 33 to get the job done. He has a 0.83 WHIP, a 1.50 ERA and a 40-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio even though his average fastball checks in at 89.6 mph -- down from 94-95 mph at his gunslinging peak with the Angels a decade ago.
Rodriguez is signed for $7.5 million in 2016, with a club option of $6 million in 2017. Given his production, that's not a particularly onerous deal for another club to absorb. The Brewers traded Carlos Gomez and Gerardo Parra in July to replenish a farm system that was ranked 21st in the game by Baseball America entering the season. Rodriguez won't fetch much of a return, but his departure could clear the decks for the Brewers to give lefty Will Smith (240 strikeouts in 227 big league innings) an opportunity to show what he can do in the closing role in August and September.
The Braves got some nibbles on the two veterans at the deadline, but both players ultimately stayed put while Atlanta was finalizing the big Alex Wood-Hector Olivera three-way swap with the Dodgers and Marlins.
Pierzynski signed a $2 million deal to be a mentor and caddy for young catcher Christian Bethancourt this season, but Bethancourt's struggles quickly elevated his profile. At age 38, Pierzynski has looked quite spry while hitting .294 in 67 starts behind the plate. John Hart, Atlanta's president of baseball operations, recently joked that Pierzynski finally had to come to him and say, "Bench me or trade me.''
Gomes' reputation as a positive clubhouse influence is not just a myth perpetuated by ink-stained sportswriting relics. But his leadership skills are more beneficial to a contender when he's producing, and the results have been short of inspiring the past two years. Gomes posted a .570 OPS after going to Oakland in a July trade last season, and he's hitting .204 with a .321 slugging percentage in 162 at-bats with Atlanta this season.
Marlins officials privately say they're not likely to move Prado this month because he remains part of the 2016 organizational game plan. The Marlins like Prado's steadying presence on a young roster, and they don't have anyone poised to take over at third base. But Prado's $11 million salary next season and underwhelming numbers (a .678 OPS and a 0.7 WAR) make it likely he won't be claimed on waivers, and the Marlins will be free to assess the entire trade landscape in August.
Tyson Ross attracted the most attention of any San Diego starter at the deadline. But he still has two years left until free agency, so the price for potential suitors was extremely high. James Shields' name also made the rounds in speculation, but the three years and $62 million left on his contract from 2016-2018 are a deterrent to other clubs and ensure that he'll be staying in San Diego for a while unless the Padres plan on subsidizing a move elsewhere.
Kennedy is 6-9 with a 4.44 ERA this season, but he has been pitching better of late. After a horrific start, he recorded a 2.83 ERA in 10 outings in June and July. Although he's your basic No. 5 starter at this stage of his career, Kennedy could provide some useful innings to a team that suffers an injury in the rotation down the stretch.
Napoli's two-year, $32 million contract is nearing an end. The Red Sox have no interest in bringing him back in 2016, so it makes sense for them to shop him in August, chip in some cash and hope that a contending club will take the plunge.
In spring training, the Red Sox envisioned big things for Napoli after he underwent offseason surgery to cure his sleep apnea. Their optimism quickly faded, and Napoli's 2015 numbers (13 homers in 210 at-bats with a .311 on-base percentage) reflect his season-long difficulties to get on a roll.
On a positive note, Napoli remains a threat against left-handed pitching and could provide a boost to a contender with a need for right-handed power off the bench. He has seven homers and a .539 slugging percentage in 89 at-bats versus lefties this season.
Some other possibilities: Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and Alejandro De Aza, Red Sox; Joaquin Benoit, Padres; Oliver Perez and Cliff Pennington, Diamondbacks; Aaron Harang, Phillies; Michael Bourn and Ryan Raburn, Indians; James Loney, Rays.