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Who are the players to watch as the trade deadline nears?

Sonny Gray, Curtis Granderson, and Jose Bautista.Photos by Getty Images

It’s a fluid time of the year when a deal can happen any time before 4 p.m. on Monday, when the non-waiver trade deadline ends.

“It could go right down to the wire in some cases as teams assess where they need to be with their respective rosters,” said Giants general manager Bobby Evans. “You just never know when something is going to get brought up, revived, or whatever.”

Some would call this the Baseball Christmas season, when teams get new players for the pennant race. There have already been significant moves made, and they will continue up through Monday. Nobody wants to be left out as far as improving their chances.


And in this day and age of parity, more teams hang in longer feeling they can claim their division or one of the two wild-card spots.

As for starting pitchers, the most sought after will be the A’s Sonny Gray, the Rangers’ Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels, the Tigers’ Justin Verlander, and Lance Lynn of the Cardinals. There’s a secondary market for Blue Jays Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano (who appears close to being dealt to the Royals).

There’s a relief market for Zach Britton and Darren O’Day of the Orioles, Justin Wilson of the Tigers, the Cardinals’ Trevor Rosenthal, Addison Reed of the Mets, and Hunter Strickland of the Giants. Submariner Pat Neshek went from the Phillies to the Rockies on Wednesday, taking a valued reliever off the market.

“There’s been a lot of interest in our relievers,” Baltimore GM Dan Duquette said.

Zach Britton has six saves and a 3.50 ERA over 17 appearances.Patrick Semansky/AP

The Astros will likely land a top reliever, but they don’t seem to want to go all-in for Gray, at least not yet.

Among hitters there’s a market for the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista, the Braves’ trio of Matt Kemp, Nick Markakis, and Matt Adams, Mets Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson, Yonder Alonso of the A’s, the Giants’ Hunter Pence, Marlins Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton, and Jose Abreu and Melky Cabrera of the White Sox.


The hottest name in the pitching ranks is Gray, and several teams appear to be competing for him. The Yankees seem to be the most engaged, with an eye on expanding a deal to include first baseman Alonso. But other interested teams also have the level of prospects the A’s are seeking, including the Brewers, Dodgers, Nationals, Cubs, Astros, Mariners, Royals, and Phillies (even though they’re out of playoff contention).

The A’s could always wait until the offseason to see if they could get more for Gray, but when you have a pitcher with a bit of an injury history, you’re rolling the dice if you wait too long. Gray has also pitched well of late and his value may not get any higher.

The Rangers have been wishy-washy on dealing Darvish, who is entering free agency. They don’t appear to have a realistic chance of capturing a wild-card spot, and their decision on Darvish may come down to the deadline. There’s also some speculation Texas could make Hamels available. The lefthander has a no-trade provision. He can be traded to the Nationals, Rays, Braves, Phillies, Cubs, Mariners, Cardinals, or Mets without his approval.

Hamels, 33, is 5-1 with a 3.97 ERA this season, missing a good stretch of time with an oblique injury. He’s 27-7 in 55 starts as a Ranger, the second-best winning percentage (.794) in baseball in that span (25 or more decisions), second only to Clayton Kershaw (35-7, .833).


Cole Hamels is 5-1 with a 3.97 ERA and 5.2 Ks per nine innings through 11 starts.Rob Carr/Getty Images

Hamels is due $23.5 million in 2018 and he has a buy-out of $6 million for a $20 million team option in 2019.

Verlander is throwing very well, still able to ramp it up to 97-98 miles per hour when needed. The Tigers would have to subsidize the contract because he’s owed $28 million in both 2018 and 2019, with a $22 million vesting option in 2020. Verlander would appear limited to a big-market team such as the Astros, Yankees, Cubs, and Dodgers (who could be the leader).

The Giants would love to shed high-priced starters Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. Cueto is an attractive choice, but he has an opt-out in his contract after this season and that worries some teams. He’s currently on the disabled list with multiple blisters, so he may not go anywhere.

“We’ve got a lot of interest in our starters and relievers,” Evans said. “No idea how it’s going to go but trying to juggle a lot of balls in the air right now.”

The Royals acquired two relievers and a starter from the Padres, signifying that they are all-in in trying to make the playoffs. They would like another starter and have been scouting Liriano and Estrada.

The Rays put Jake Odorizzi on the DL, and that could mean pending free agent Alex Cobb stays put. Cobb could’ve been the trade piece used to upgrade the Rays’ bullpen. Cobb would certainly interest the Cubs, Dodgers, Brewers, and Indians.


Another interesting team is the Twins. As they’ve fallen back in the standings, the talk around Ervin Santana has increased. The teams that miss out on Gray could turn to Santana (11-7, 3.37 ERA).

Brandon Kintzler is 2-2 with a 2.78 ERA and 28 saves in 45 appearances this season.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

In this era of relief pitching, the Orioles have what contenders want. But Duquette has said he won’t deal any of his veterans. Britton can become a free agent after next season and it doesn’t appear the Orioles will re-sign him, so he is much sought after. The Astros appear to be hot for Britton.

One interesting name is Brandon Kintzler, a late bloomer who has had a terrific year as the Twins’ closer. His value may never be higher.

Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler said the team will likely hold on to lefty reliever Brad Hand because San Diego hasn’t been offered enough. Sure. The Padres already traded three pitchers to Kansas City. Hand, Wilson, and Britton are clearly the best lefty relievers on the market and should bring a lot in return.

J.D. Martinez was the best hitter on the market and Detroit traded him to the Diamondbacks on July 18.

If there wasn’t much of a demand for Martinez, according to Tigers GM Al Avila, then there likely won’t be a big demand for Pence, Abreu, Cabrera, Kemp, and others who hit for a living.

Teams are trying to solve their hitting needs from within, but sooner or later teams such as the Red Sox, Royals, Yankees, and Indians may try to beef up their lineup with a power bat.


Abreu certainly makes a lot of sense for the Yankees if they can’t acquire Alonso.

The lefthanded-hitting Adams would fit too with the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium. And first baseman Tommy Joseph could be had from the Phillies.

There isn’t much demand for middle infielders, so the Tigers’ Ian Kinsler and the Reds’ Zack Cozart are likely to stay put. The catcher market isn’t robust, either. The Rockies and Cubs have showed interest in Rangers backstop Jonathan Lucroy, and the Cubs have inquired about the Tigers’ Alex Avila.

Apropos of nothing

Max Scherzer has averaged 216 innings per 162 games over his 10-year career.Patrick Smith/Getty Images

1. Scott Boras believes teams should be able to add a player to the 25-man roster when a reliever reaches a certain number of appearances or a young starter reaches his innings cap. This additional roster spot would help prevent teams from overusing pitchers. Boras also pointed out how client Max Scherzer was allowed to gradually build up his innings as a young pitcher with the Tigers, which Boras cites as a reason why Scherzer has been able to stay relatively healthy in his career.

2. We incorrectly referred to the proposed site for a new Pawtucket ballpark as Slater Mill. The proposed site is the location of the old Apex department store off of Route 95.

3. Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale said the toughest place to coach third base is Fenway Park. Hale cited among reasons the obstructed angles down the line and how the ball plays off the Wall. Hale, who was with the Red Sox from 2006-11, said, “Coaching third base [at Fenway] kept me up nights.” Hale is in the final year of his contract with Toronto.

4. Manny Ramirez, 45, crushed it in the Japanese independent league in the first half of the season, hitting .460 for the Kochi Fighting Dogs. Ramirez has not received any offers from a professional team in Japan, however. Would the Red Sox consider him as a DH? I’d write LOL, but I might be serious.

5. The Giants lead the majors this season in games without a homer (53 games, with a 17-36 record). The Red Sox are second with 40 games (17-23). Last season Boston went 13-23 in 36 homerless games.

6. The Phillies and Braves could both add and subtract before the deadline. Both teams are trying to set themselves up for the future so don’t be shocked if they pursue Sonny Gray given that there likely won’t be a lot of starting pitching available in free agency.

Updates on nine

Eric Hosmer is slashing .320/.376/.501 with 16 homers and 54 RBIs through 101 games.Paul Sancya/AP

1. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals — You can bet Scott Boras has Boston high on his free agent destination list for Hosmer next season. Hosmer is a lefthanded batter but loves hitting to the opposite field. He’s an excellent defensive first baseman. Would the Red Sox be interested? Perhaps not if they’re sold on Sam Travis being the guy.

2. Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Marlins — With a change in Marlins ownership looming, it appears Suzuki’s days in the major leagues are numbered. Would the 43-year-old consider playing in Japan again if he can’t find another major league home? Those who know him feel that he doesn’t want to give up playing yet.

3. CC Sabathia, LHP, Yankees — How will the Yankees handle Sabathia’s pending free agency? Let him walk? Try to sign him to a one- or two-year deal? Sabathia has likely earned himself another three-year window. We’ll see how many teams are willing to go that far, but the lefty will definitely extend his career somewhere.

4. Jason Vargas, LHP, Royals — Vargas is going to cash in as a free agent thanks to his fine season. Think Rich Hill, who inked a three-year, $48 million deal with the Dodgers last offseason following a career revival with the Red Sox, A’s, and Dodgers. It appears Vargas, 34, is heading in that direction, likely to an NL team, perhaps the Rockies or Diamondbacks.

Travis Shaw has 50 extra-base hits and 74 RBIs so far this season.Justin Berl/Getty Images

5. Travis Shaw, 3B, Brewers — Shaw has hit seven three-run homers this season. “That’s a quick 21 RBIs,” he said. Shaw has impressed everyone with his temperament and how he’s dealt with his young daughter’s heart defect. She was born a month ago and remains hospitalized. Shaw spends every waking hour away from the ballpark at the hospital. Shaw’s goal at the start of the season was to drive in 100 runs, and he’s almost at 80. He’s also played a great third base.

6. Eduardo Nunez, INF, Red Sox — Something the Red Sox have to beware of is Nunez’s chronic hamstring issues. Sox scouts were impressed with Nunez’s versatility and his consistent bat. Nunez is also considered a big-time clubhouse presence, which is needed these days. By the way, the Indians were the Sox’ closest competition for Nunez.

7. Rod Carew, Hall of Famer — Carew’s story is amazing. The 71-year-old received a heart and kidney transplant a year ago and was at the Hall of Fame ceremonies this weekend. He found out the organs came from former NFL tight end Konrad Reuland, who died at age 29 from a brain aneurysm.

8. Dan Straily, RHP, Marlins — There’s real debate within the organization whether to deal Straily. About a half-dozen teams have expressed legitimate interest in the righthander.

9. Tom Glavine, Hall of Famer — Glavine remains entrenched in the Jeb Bush/Wayne Rothbaum group that wants to purchase the Marlins. Rothbaum, a hedge-fund billionaire, would be the primary investor. Glavine would have a role in baseball operations or in picking the executive team to run it on a daily basis.

Extra innings

From the Bill Chuck files — “The major league ERA in 2014 was 3.74; in 2015, 3.96; in 2016, 4.19; and this season, 4.36.” . . . Also, “While Astros ace Dallas Keuchel was on the DL from June 3 to July 27, Houston went 28-18 (.609) in his absence.” . . . Happy birthday, Steve Ellsworth (57) and Scott Fletcher (59).

Money ballplayers

Rusney Castillo has slashed .307/.344./480 through 74 games for Pawtucket.John Raoux/AP

Minor league players can earn less than $10,000 per year, but that doesn’t mean the guy sitting next to them isn’t making a whole lot more. Until Allen Craig was cut by the Red Sox on June 30, he and Pawtucket Red Sox teammate Rusney Castillo were making a combined $22.2 million. Below is a lineup of former major leaguers toiling in the minors while still earning at least a million dollars (players on rehab stints aren’t included; salary is for 2017 season).

Compiled by Richard McSweeney

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.