The first significant trade of last year's pre-deadline frenzy occurred on July 2, when the Cubs shipped Scott Feldman to the Orioles in exchange for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop, a move that has paid nice dividends so far for the Cubs. It is a pertinent move with regards to the Phillies. Arrieta was a former top prospect who never really got it together the way Baltimore had hoped, posting a 5.46 ERA in 69 outings, 63 of them starts. Well, in 20 starts for the Cubs since the deal, the 28-year-old righty has a 2.63 ERA and this season is averaging 10.3 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, and 0.3 HR/9. He has pitched at least seven innings with two or fewer runs and nine or more strikeouts in his last four outings. Feldman has been a solid middle-of-the-rotation type for the Orioles, with a 3.92 ERA, 5.4 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and 1.0 HR/9 in 14 starts this season.
Given the Phillies' front office's stated desire to rebuild without actually having to call it that, we can safely assume that they will have players like Arrieta on their mind as they prepare to see what the trade market will offer for their mixed bag of assets. Since today is July 2, and since the Phillies realize they are going nowhere this season, it is time for us to start breaking down the trade market. To do so, we should first identify the teams who will be looking to trade this month. So let's do that.
I've identified 16 teams who will likely be looking to add significant pieces over the next four weeks, and I've attempted to gauge each of their motivation levels.
A rough formula: MOTIVATION = URGENCY + CURRENT ODDS + PAYROLL
I broke each team's needs into three categories that should not be taken literally.
LCS Needs are pressing needs, ones that a team needs to make in order to consider itself a leading contender to advance to the LCS. World Series needs are ones that would make a team a leading World Series contender. And luxury needs are exactly that. For the most part, I considered premium positions as World Series needs, although there isn't a real science to it.
RP = Relief Pitcher
SP = Starting Pitcher
GB = Games out of a playoff spot
Let's break 'em down:
The good news for the Phillies is that several teams should be motivated to deal for a closer. The bad news is Jonathan Papelbon currently ranks fourth on my list of most attractive trade candidates, behind Joakim Soriah, Huston Street and Koji Uehara. I'll get into all of that later.
The easiest piece for the Phillies to move is probably Marlon Byrd, since he does not have a no-trade clause. Problem is, I don't see a lot of teams who will be highly motivated to land a right-handed corner outfielder. The Mariners and the Royals are the two most obvious teams, although the Tigers and Orioles are potential suitors.
More good news for the Phillies: Both the Orioles and the Pirates have a clear need for a starter in the mold of A.J. Burnett. Burnett has the ability to block a lot of deals, but the Orioles play in Maryland, where he lives, and the Pirates had him in their rotation the last couple of years.
There are a lot of teams who could use another lefty or two in the bullpen. Antonio Bastardo would fit that bill. But there are a lot of lefty relievers that figure to be available.
The Phillies' wisest course of action might be a package deal, with two or even three of their assets heading to the same place. Say, Byrd and Bastardo. Or Byrd and Papelbon.
Anyway, we're getting ahead of ourselves. We still have four weeks to kill.