This is probably my favourite time of the year. The weather’s hot and sunny, the baseball season is starting to matter a bit more as the good teams separate themselves from the wannabes, and the trade deadline is bearing down on us like a freight train. I love the World Series, but that impending sense of doom that comes with the prospect of months without baseball looms in the back of my mind and takes away from my enjoyment of the Fall Classic.

But that time right after the All-Star break until the non-waiver trade deadline of July 31st is a ton of fun. I love the rumours, I love the speculation, I even love the often irreverent way that fans and the media play GM as they rosterbate feverishly.

I love watching the way trades turn out and I have a knack for remembering who was traded for who years down the line as I track their careers. Trade trees are like geek-out fuel for me.

Given the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement and the expanded playoff system, it’s kind of unknown what kind of a trade market this will be. Teams will no longer receive compensatory draft picks for players who leave via free agency if they’ve been traded at some point during the year. This may make bigger stars whose contracts are up at season’s end—such as Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels—more difficult to move; or at least diminish their return value. On the other hand, because of the expanded playoff system, more teams will be in contention for a playoff spot and less teams will be outright sellers, which could drive up the price for players like Greinke or the Astros Wandy Rodriguez who play for teams who appear to be far out of contention.

Just like with last month’s draft, it’s difficult to tell how things will shake out and what kinds of things teams will be willing to do in the new climate.

Having said all of that, today’s URL Weaver will focus on bourgeoning trade rumours for a few starting pitchers. Who might be moved? What are teams looking for? And so on.

Matt Garza
Garza has been rumoured out of the North Side of Chicago basically since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took the reins last fall. In the offseason, he was connected to the Tigers, Blue Jays and Red Sox and the market for him only seems to be increasing as time goes on. Back in June, the Yankees were rumoured to be interested [Jon Heyman, CBS Sports] and so was Boston [Danny Knobler, Twitter], but with Boston’s rather enviable problem of too many pitchers per number of roster spots, it’s unlikely they make a big push at this point.

Jon Paul Morosi says that the Blue Jays are eyeing pitchers that have more than just this season of control left—Garza has one more year of arbitration eligibility so he definitely falls into this category [Jon Paul Morosi, Twitter Machine]. The Tigers, like they were in the winter, are aggressively pursuing him as well [Jon Paul Morosi, Twitter].

I wouldn’t be surprised if a team like the White Sox become involved in the Garza rumours too—especially if Jon Danks and Phil Humber are out long term. The problem with the White Sox is that they don’t have the farm system depth of a team like Toronto or even Detroit. I don’t know what they could give up that would match what any other team could give the Cubs.

Zack Greinke
Greinke is probably the best pitcher on the market, especially considering it looks like Philadelphia would prefer to hang on to Hamels. Despite his All-Star snubbing, he’s been the best pitcher in the National League so far this year. Greinke, probably more than any other player, could have a huge impact on an acquiring team’s pennant race and post-season.

The two teams who seem to be most heavily connected to him are the Braves and Orioles. Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reported late last week that Baltimore was “going hard” after him, but yesterday Ken Rosenthal said that the O’s and Brewers have yet to talk about a trade. The Blue Jays have been rumoured to be connected to Greinke too, but the asking price will likely be too high for them, especially considering that they’re trying to grab a pitcher with control beyond this year.

If the Brewers are willing to trade within the division, you’d have to think the prospect-rich Cardinals would be in on him too now that Chris Carpenter has been shut down for the year. The Rangers would also be intriguing landing spot.

Wandy Rodriguez
Like Garza, Rodriguez is under team control until the end of 2013, but he will likely be much more expensive than Garza. Rodriguez is owed $13-million in 2013 and has a $13-million team option for 2014 that includes a $2.5-million buyout, which means he’ll cost his acquiring team more than $15-million in guaranteed money, plus whatever he’s owed for this season. Still, it will likely take less in the way of prospects to get him.

The Orioles and Blue Jays appear to be the two teams most heavily in on Wandy, but Rosenthal speculates that the Cardinals might be a nice fit with Astros GM Jeff Luhnow being the former scouting director in St. Louis.

Ryan Dempster
The other available Cubs pitcher, Ryan Dempster would be a great fit for just about any team looking for pitching. He’s a solid mid-rotation addition and doesn’t have the name value of Garza or Greinke. His status as a likely rental player means that the demanded return for him won’t be terribly high. Count all of the above mentioned teams in the running—Baltimore, the Yankees, Toronto, Atlanta, Texas, the White Sox and Detroit. St. Louis and the LA Dodgers might also be nice fits for the Canadian hurler.

The Cubs also appear willing to pay part of Dempster’s salary for the remainder of the year to up the amount of prospects they could get in return [Jon Heyman, CBS Sports].

For more trade rumour news, head on over to MLB Trade Rumours–seriously, how did we live before they existed? And watch Ken Rosenthal’s weekly Full Count video, because Kenny Ken Ken is the man:

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