During the off-season, trade talks that occur was given the moniker, “Hot Stove League”. That was because the story goes that, during the cold winter, men would gather around a wooden stove and talk about what teams needed to contend the upcoming year.

Perhaps, the trade talks that will be going on from now until July 31 can be dubbed “The A/C (air-conditioning!) League. Whatever it will be called, there will be wheeling and dealing by General Managers like they have never whelt and dealt before. Teams in contention will be trying to fortify themselves for the “stretch run” while those who are out of contention will be trying to divest themselves of high salaries and free-agents-to-be. It should make for interesting discussions and speculations.

A couple of different factors will be playing into this year’s trade talks. First, with the advent of the second wild-card playoff team, there are more post-season candidates than before. As of this date, there are only four teams in the National League that are considered to be legitimately out of any race…Miami, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Colorado. Same for the American League with Boston, Texas, Seattle and Oakland all long shots to make the playoffs. The largest deficit facing any of the 15 A.L. teams is 11-1/2 games by the Cleveland Indians in the A.L. Central Division; yet, the Tribe is only 6-1/2 games out of the final playoff spot.

If you have been following baseball for any lengthy period of time, deficits larger than these have been overcome, in a shorter period of time. Still, there will be teams that will be trying to add players while others will be “selling” players. During this period, teams will be known as either “buyers” or “sellers”.

Another big factor affecting this year’s trade talks are players in the final year of their contract. In the past few years, these are the players that have been moved the most before the trade deadline. This year, there are several high-priced starters and a large handful of hitters who may be “rented out” to another team.

Some of the starters who may be moved are: David Price (Detroit), Jordan Zimmerman (Washington), Yovani Gallardo (Texas) Scott Kazmir (Oakland), Johnny Cueto (Cincinnati), and Jeff Samardzija (Chicago White Sox). Salaries will play an important part in the discussions, with Price currently at $19.5 million, all the way down to Samardzija at $9.8 million. If Samardzija does get moved, he will be playing for his fourth team since the start of 2014.

As far as hitters go, the ones to watch are Justin Upton (San Diego), Austin Jackson (Seattle), Ben Zobrist (Oakland), Gerardo Parra (Milwaukee), Drew Stubbs (Colorado), and, perhaps, Ichiro Suzuki of Miami. Ichiro is 41 years old but he can still get on base (.359 OBP) and is still a pretty good fielder (0 errors in 46 games). Suzuki could probably be a pretty good number nine hitter.

Other teams may just wait until some of their stars return from injuries. Detroit will bide its time until Miguel Cabrera returns, in mid-August. His would be a most-welcome bat and he doesn’t have to clear waivers. The Kansas City Royals will try to beat back their pursuers until All Star outfielder Alex Gordon returns, in September. St. Louis, which stumbled right before the All Star break but still has the best record in baseball (57-33) waits for the return of infielder Matt Adams (late September) and starter Jaime Garcia (late July). The Cards already lost their ace, Adam Wainwright, for the season.

Cincinnati may be the biggest seller in the next couple of weeks. They trail the Cardinals by 15-1/2 games in the NL Central but are only 6-1/2 games out of a playoff spot. Still, the Reds have three key players who are gone for the entire season: starter Homer Bailey, catcher Devin Mesoraco, and shortstop Zack Cozart. Cincy may be dangling starters Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and to a lesser extent, outfielder Marlon Byrd and reliever Aroldis Chapman, both of whom are free agents at the end of the 2016 season.

All in all, there should be a lot of trades taking place in the next 20 days. One writer suggested pushing back the trade deadline until August 10. That sounds like a good idea, but the deadline already got moved, from June 15 to July 31, in 1986. Plus, trades can still be made after July 31…except all players involved would need to clear waivers. There probably would not be too many teams that would claim a David Price and his $19.5 million salary or a Justin Upton ($14.7 million) especially if the GMs know that the player may not return for the next season.

A lot of speculating will be made, but that is how the baseball season becomes even more fun. Let the wheeling and dealing begin!  May the richest…errrrrrr! best team win!

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