July 29, 2014 at 10:52 pm

Hours leading up to MLB's trade deadline should be action-packed

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester likely will be on the move before Thursday's trade deadline. (Will Vragovic / Tampa Bay Times)

Jon Lester a Dodger? Adrian Beltre a National? Antonio Bastardo a Tiger? David Price still a Ray?

Just about anything’s possible before 4 p.m. Thursday, baseball’s trade deadline.

So, over the next 36 hours or so, you can expect the rumors to fly like Dee Gordon — fast and furious — and team executives to put those unlimited texting plans to the ultimate test.

Just keep in mind, while often riveting, not everything you read will be true. With the rise of social media, the flimsy use of the term “sources” never has been greater.

Odds are, there will be a shocker or two over the next two days.

Here’s a look at the possibilities:

The biggest seller: Red Sox

With the additional wild card, and a little push earlier this month, the Red Sox thought they might have at least a shot at getting their act together in time for a surprise World Series defense. But they’ve lost six of their last seven and are in full-on sell mode. Jake Peavy is gone (Giants). Now, who’s next? Word is, it’ll be Lester.

He’s been scratched from Wednesday’s start, which could signal a trade is imminent.

The Red Sox failed to re-sign the left-hander this spring and don’t have high hopes for keeping him beyond this season because they don’t like the idea of super-long-term contracts for starting pitchers. That’s smart as long as you are prepared to live with the consequences because somebody’s going to go long-term with players like Lester.

There are many possible landing spots for Lester.

The always all-in Dodgers have to be a favorite. The Orioles and Blue Jays should be interested, too. The Pirates, Cardinals, Brewers and Giants also could be possible fits. The Angels would be interested if they hadn’t already wiped out their minor-league depth by parting with four prime prospects for closer Huston Street from the Padres.

The Red Sox also have other possible trade candidates, including starter John Lackey and closer Koji Uehara. Both are likely to stay put unless a team makes a blow-away offer. Lackey, because of an elbow-injury clause in his contract, actually must play for the major-league minimum ($500,000) next year, and Uehara is wanted back when his contract expires this fall.

The should-be biggest seller: Phillies

This is an organization that is in big trouble because of its aging roster. They won five consecutive division titles from 2007-11. But they finished third in 2012, fourth in 2013, and are on track to finish last in the National League East.

The reason for the fade is obvious: This team is still playing with many of the same stars from that 2007-11 run. Like so many great teams, the Phillies hung on to their glory days too long.

The Phillies have more pieces to move than anyone. Parting with all of them, or most of them, would reverse this franchise’s fortune almost overnight. Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd are desirable offensive pieces that could have an impact. Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee or A.J. Burnett could fit nicely into just about any contender’s rotation. And, Jonathan Papelbon could be a World Series closer again.

Yet, there’s no indication general manager Ruben Amaro is willing to trade any of them, reportedly, because he’s not wowed by the price teams are offering.

In the end, the one moved might be lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo, a serious target of the Tigers.

Tigers targets

The Tigers, presumably, already have made their big move by acquiring late-inning reliever Joakim Soria from the Rangers.

But that doesn’t mean they’re done. Everyone knows they still are seeking some more relief help. They still could use an additional arm in the bullpen, particularly from the left side, when the only options now are Phil Coke, Ian Krol and Blaine Hardy.

That’s why the Tigers are said to be high on Bastardo. There are other names to watch, including Andrew Miller of the Red Sox, Tony Sipp of the Astros and Oliver Perez of the Diamondbacks.

Perez has been a Tigers target before. Sipp is having a fantastic bouneback season, but the Astros are said to not be interested in moving him.

The Tigers could stand to get a left-handed bat into the lineup, but GM Dave Dombrowski has said it’s not a huge priority — that’s because there aren’t many left-handed bats available. They could always go the starter route, and move Drew Smyly into the bullpen.

Whatever Dombrowski decides, he has the pieces to accomplish just about anything — scouts, in recent days, have flocked to Single A West Michigan in droves.

AL Central rumblings

The team to watch is the Royals.

It’s assumed they would make a significant move, likely for a notable bat. They have such promising pitching, but the offense hasn’t clicked. Keep an eye here on the likes of Byrd, Alex Rios of the Rangers or Matt Kemp of the Dodgers.

GM Dayton Moore is in his eighth year, and the Royals haven’t sniffed a playoff berth during his tenure. He also shipped the game’s best prospect, Wil Myers, to the Rays two winters ago for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis, with an eye on winning now. It hasn’t happened, and if it doesn’t happen this year, the Royals will have given up Myers — and likely lose Shields to free agency — and have absolutely nothing to show for it.

The Indians, meanwhile, are caught in trade-deadline purgatory — they’re not far enough out of the race to sell, but they’re not close enough to justify going all-in.

The White Sox are in much the same boat, plus it’s debatable they have the prospects to land the two solid-to-plus starting pitchers they need to be a legit threat.

The Twins are sellers, and should be shopping catcher Kurt Suzuki.

Hard choices

Rays: Not long ago, Price was a goner. Now, Rays brass isn’t so sure with the AL East wide open. The problem is, Price’s stock never will be higher than it is now, and he’s more desirable than Lester because Price is under contract for next year. There’s an outside shot the Rays could trade Price but not label themselves as “sellers.” There’s a chance in return, there might be a piece or two that could help them this season.

Marlins: They’ve won five in a row to claw within six games of the NL East lead, behind the Nationals and Braves. That’s why CBS Sports has reported they’re buyers — with a caveat, given their financial issues: They’re looking for cheap help with plenty of years of club control.

Rangers: The injury-filled season has opened the Rangers eyes to their lack of organizational depth, particularly in the pitching department. So they might decide to part with third baseman Adrian Beltre. If so, he’d instantly be the best hitter available, plus he’s signed for another year. The haul GM Jon Daniels might receive might be too much to pass up.


Padres: Sharing a division with the Dodgers and Giants, the Padres aren’t going to be contenders anytime soon. So why do they insist on keeping closer Joaquin Benoit? He is a middle-aged reliever who’s expensive. Given everything the Padres received for Street, Benoit would figure to be an easy sell.

Astros: There’s a lot to like about the future, but certainly not their immediate future. Yet, relievers Sipp and Chad Qualls still remain in Houston, even though there has been significant interest in both. This comes as word has spread that the Astros are more interested in trading some of their starting pitching.

Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks need lots of help for the future, yet appear content on keeping Perez around, as well as right-hander Brad Ziegler and closer Addison Reed. Part of this might be because of the new front-office structure — Tony La Russa might be taking a thorough approach at player evaluation.

He gone: Lester

It seems too obvious. With the Phillies playing hardball with their starters and the Rays back in it, it might make the market so high for Lester that the Red Sox would have no realistic way to say “no.” Somebody will pay big for the rental.

He not gone: Troy Tulowitzki

The injured Rockies shortstop showed up at a Yankees game. And the team misspelled his name on a recent T-shirt giveaway. But moving the face of the franchise makes no sense. The offseason is more likely.

Market watch

A look at where each of baseball’s 30 teams stands heading into Thursday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline:

Should-be buyers: Blue Jays, Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Nationals, Orioles, Pirates, Royals, Tigers, Yankees

Should-be sellers: Astros, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Padres, Phillies, Rangers, Red Sox, Twins

Standing pat: Indians, Mariners, Marlins, Mets, Reds, White Sox

All set: A’s

Nothing left in minors to make a big splash: Angels