Who will be dealt before deadline?

Storylines to follow on MLB trade deadline day

Monday night was a nice warm-up: Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson to the Braves; Geovany Soto to the Rangers; Brandon League to the Dodgers; Travis Snider for Brad Lincoln in a swap of 2006 first-round picks; Steve Delabar for Eric Thames in the first mid-series trade between opposing teams since … well … last week, at the same ballpark (Safeco Field).

The moves could shape division races — and the postseason, too. (I’m a particular fan of the Maholm/Johnson acquisition for Atlanta, a team that needed a little more veteran savvy.) But let’s be honest: July 30 was nice. July 31 will be better.

Welcome to one of the most hopeful dawns in baseball: Trade Deadline Day, when contenders make moves with the World Series in mind, while last-place teams add prospects and ask their fans to dream a little on the 2015 rotation. There is something for everyone. And there will be plenty to discuss this year — even if the early trades for Hanley Ramirez and Zack Greinke removed a little star power from the final-day dealings.

Here are some of the storylines to follow, leading up to 4 p.m. ET.

The Phillies are on the clock.

How many players can Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. trade today? One? Two? Three? Four?

Whatever the final number, he can’t waste time today cleaning out his email account’s bulk mail folder. He has three prospective free agents — center fielder Shane Victorino, left fielder Juan Pierre and right-hander Joe Blanton — who, by all rights, should be traded. The Phillies reached the advanced stages of trade talks on Blanton with the Baltimore Orioles late Monday, with no resolution.

The Dodgers are favored to land Victorino. Pierre fits with the Reds. But it’s never that simple, is it?

Meanwhile, Amaro faces more difficult choices with right fielder Hunter Pence and the oft-traded Cliff Lee. The Giants, who need a right-handed outfield bat, have talked with the Phillies about Pence. Lee is difficult to move because (a) he has a huge contract and (b) he hasn’t been dominant this year, but Amaro may want to take advantage of a seller’s market. The Phillies’ payroll is about to burst, and Lee will be owed a minimum of $87.5 million after this season is over.

The Dodgers are ready to spend.

The Dodgers have new ownership. Can’t you tell?

Once upon a time, Frank McCourt forced GM Ned Colletti to surrender superior prospects (e.g., Carlos Santana) in exchange for cash to defray the salary of veteran players. Apparently, that won’t be a problem with Mark Walter in charge. Colletti swung a deal for Ramirez and reliever Randy Choate without fretting about prorated salaries for the first August paycheck run.

The Dodgers landed League on Monday night and aren’t done yet. Ryan Dempster remains likely to end up at Chavez Ravine, as long as Colletti and Cubs GM Jed Hoyer make nice about the prospect(s) involved. Dempster has full no-trade protection and has made it abundantly clear that he wants to be a Dodger; that hasn’t helped his current team’s leverage in the negotiations.

The Rangers need a starting pitcher. Badly.

The Rangers have one of the smartest front offices in the game. That is one reason they won the American League pennant in consecutive seasons. So, they must have concluded by now that Roy Oswalt won’t be an effective pitcher in the superior league. (Oswalt’s Monday line: 5-1/3 innings, 11 hits, eight earned runs. His ERA is 6.49.)

Colby Lewis is out for the year. Neftali Feliz just suffered an elbow injury of uncertain severity. This team intends to win the World Series. So it must upgrade its starting rotation, period.

Lee and Boston’s Josh Beckett were mentioned as possibilities in media reports Monday. Those scenarios seem unlikely. But given the injuries and depth of Oswalt’s struggles, even a No. 3 or 4 starter would help.

It’s time for GM Jon Daniels to get creative and expand his shopping list: Kyle Lohse? Yovani Gallardo? Justin Masterson?

Our mantra: Be surprised by nothing.

On this day, more than any other, unexpected and even nonsensical moves can happen.

Remember when the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were lousy, traded for the aging and expensive Matt Morris in 2007? Or when the Chicago White Sox knowingly acquired an injured Jake Peavy in 2009?

That’s what I’m talking about.

So, hey, maybe Matt Garza will be traded to Cincinnati or Toronto even though he has a triceps injury. Maybe there’s an infinitesimal chance that the Seattle Mariners trade Felix Hernandez. Maybe a desperate contender will take one look at Lee’s massive contract and say, “Eighty-seven million and change? No problem.”

Trade Deadline Day is for dreamers. Enjoy it.

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