The trading season may open early with multiple reports that non-contenders are ready to start the auction for their players.
But that doesn't mean the price for the best talent won't be cheap.
According to a CBS report, the Texas Rangers are telling other teams that their ready to sell and that no one is untouchable. However the report says that Texas would demand a premium for its two best players, ace Yu Darvish and slugging -- although oft-injured -- third baseman Adrian Beltre.
The Tampa Bay Rays are also open for business, according to multiple reports. ESPN reports the Rays would trade ace pitcher David Price "right now" if the right deal was on the table. But the report said no deal is imminent. Several teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals, had scouts at Price's most recent start, according to ESPN. News reports out of Tampa indicate that the Dodgers have been the most aggressive team in trying to acquire Price. But there are reports that indicate the Cardinals may be interested in infielder Ben Zobrist who could provide the power-starved Redbirds with some additional offense. Zobrist is a versatile fielder who could play any infield position. St. Louis might be interested in installing him at second base in place of Kolten Wong who is out indefinitely with a bruised shoulder. However, reserve second baseman Mark Ellis has been playing better lately.
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Ellis was essentially put on notice by St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak Sunday when Mozeliak said Ellis' "window is closing." But over the last week, in 19 plate appearances, the veteran is hitting .313 to raise his season batting average to .202.
The Philadelphia Phillies are also said to be ready to sell. I wrote a couple of weeks ago that Chase Utley might be an interesting target for the Cardinals not only to provide some much-needed offense. But the veteran second baseman might also provide some valuable veteran leadership to fill the vacuum left with the free agent departure of slugging outfielder Carlos Beltran.
Fox Sports reports that another potential target for the Redbirds could be starting pitcher Cliff Lee who is nearing a return from injury.
Lee has a no-trade clause in his contract that could block him from being dealt to 20 teams across MLB. But the Fox Sports report indicates the Cardinals are not on that list and that the Arkansas native would be intrigued by the possibility of pitching for St. Louis.
Fox Sports reports the Phillies would want young pitching in return for Lee, who is 34. Who that young pitcher might be could be dependent on whether Philadelphia is interested in picking up some of the remainder of the southpaw's contract. Lee makes $25 million this year (about half left in 2014) and next and has a $27.5-million vesting team option with a $12.5-million buyout.
That's such a prohibitive price, so much so if I was the St. Louis GM the Phillies would have to pick up half of it to get a decent prospect in trade.