With July 1 upon us, it's officially trading season around baseball. One team widely reported to be a seller is the Detroit Tigers. Let's say you are the GM of the New York Yankees, Houston Astros or Chicago Cubs, three teams with starting pitching needs and money to spend. Do you go after Detroit's Justin Verlander? He's a borderline future Hall of Famer but is showing signs of regression with a 5-4 record, 4.47 ERA and 1.45 WHIP this year at age 34 (35 next February). His walks are up and his strikeouts down. Verlander was excellent last year, though. The main sticking point with him is that Verlander is owed $28 million each of the next two seasons and has an option for $22 million in 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019 (unlikely but possible). Plus the guy has thrown an incredible amount of innings and could break down at any point. Would the Tigers essentially give him away just to shed that salary? Would ownership of one of those teams listed above approve taking on that huge salary? Verlander's name will be one of the more interesting ones to monitor ahead of the July 31 deadline. He does have a full no-trade veto but surely would waive it for a chance to win the World Series for the first time in his career.
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Red Sox at Blue Jays (+144, 8.5)
A 1:07 p.m. ET first pitch on the MLB Network. Chris Sale remains the BetOnline -165 betting favorite for the Cy Young, and I'd think he's the leader to start the All-Star Game for the American League. He could lock that up in what should be his penultimate start before the break. Sale (10-3, 2.77) has thrown five straight quality starts. His best of the season was April 20 in Toronto, throwing eight shutout innings while striking out 13. The Sox blew a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, costing Sale the victory. Josh Donaldson is 5-for-18 career off him with two homers. Toronto lefty Francisco Liriano (4-3, 5.46) beat the Royals on Sunday, throwing six innings and allowing two runs. His first win of the year was April 19 vs. Boston (5.1 IP, 0 ER). Mitch Moreland is 1-for-5 with a homer off Liriano.
Key trends: The Sox are 6-2 in Sale's past eight vs. teams with a losing record. The Jays are 2-9 in their past 11 vs. a lefty. The "over/under" has gone under in five of Liriano's past six following a quality start in his last appearance.
Early lean: Red Sox and under.
Rangers at White Sox (+124, 9)
Starts at 2:10 p.m. ET. The Pale Hose's best player by far this season has been outfielder Avisail Garcia, who will surely be the team's All-Star representative. He left Wednesday's game with a sore knee, but an MRI came up negative. Garcia, who tweaked the left knee sliding back into first base on a pickoff attempt in the seventh inning vs. the Yankees, will miss a couple of games, though. Garcia is in a bit of a slump so perhaps a few days off is a good thing. White Sox lefty Derek Holland (5-7, 4.26) spent 2009-16 with the Rangers and faces his former team for the first time. Holland had two very good starts in June and three terrible ones - he was 1-3 with a 9.55 ERA in the month. A handful of Rangers faced him with other teams. Carlos Gomez is 5-for-8 with two extra-base hits off him. Texas lefty Cole Hamels (2-0, 4.38) returned from two months on the DL Monday and was bombed for seven runs over 4.1 innings in Cleveland. Chicago's Melky Cabrera is 8-for-20 against Hamels with a homer. He is 1-0 with a 2.91 ERA in three career starts vs. the White Sox.
Key trends: The Rangers are 23-4 in Hamels' past 27 vs. teams with a losing record. The Sox are 1-5 in Holland's past six. The over is 9-3-1 in his past 13 overall.
Early lean: Rangers and over.
Giants at Pirates (-127, 9)
This one gets underway at 4:05 p.m. ET. If you are one of those bettors who likes to wager on the first five innings of a game, I would just about always bet against Pittsburgh when it starts Chad Kuhl (2-6, 5.58). He has not gotten an out in the sixth inning of a game in his past 12 starts. That's frankly almost hard to do when you are a full-time member of the rotation. Kuhl made it to the sixth last time out vs. St. Louis but gave up a homer and double and was yanked. It's his first career look at San Francisco. Giants lefty Matt Moore (3-8, 6.04) has been a major bust this season - I really liked him heading in after what he showed in the second half of 2016 when the Giants acquired him from Tampa Bay. Moore has an 8.85 ERA in his past four. Pittsburgh's Gregory Polanco is 2-for-3 career off him with a homer and four RBIs.
Key trends: The Giants are 2-8 in Moore's past 10 on the road. The Bucs are 1-4 in Kuhl's past five at home. The over is 8-1-1 in Moore's past 10 on the road.
Early lean: Giants and over.
Nationals at Cardinals (-107, 9)
Bad news for Washington as leadoff hitter, shortstop and MLB steals leader Trea Turner suffered a broken wrist Thursday and is out indefinitely -- which likely means about two months. I suppose if this was going to happen it's better now than in September, and the Nats are deep enough offensively (and have such a big lead) that they will still win the NL East. However, this could potentially cost Washington the top seed in the National League and surely will cost Turner the MLB steals title if you bet on such a thing. Wilmer Difo and Stephen Drew will man shortstop while Turner is out. The Nats start lefty Gio Gonzalez (7-2, 2.87) in this one, and he has been deserving of an All-Star spot despite ranking third in the National League in walks. Those got him in trouble Monday in a loss to the Cubs as Gonzalez walked five but allowed only two hits and one run. I watched that game and the Gonzalez was getting really frustrated with the plate umpire squeezing him. Gonzalez beat the Cards on April 11, allowing one earned over seven with no free passes. Yadier Molina is 6-for-18 with three doubles against him. St. Louis' Michael Wacha (4-3, 4.50) had lasted just four innings in two straight starts but turned it around Monday vs. the Reds, a team he has owned in his career, by giving up one run over six in the victory. Wacha hasn't faced the Nats this year. Daniel Murphy is 3-for-14 off him with a homer.
Key trends: The Cardinals are 4-0 in Wacha's past four vs. the NL East. The over is 6-1 in his past seven at home.
Early lean: Cardinals and under.
Yankees at Astros (-137, 9.5)
Want more proof that both New York and Houston badly need a starting pitcher? Look no further than this game as two rookies are starting who shouldn't be in a contending team's big-league rotation yet - although Houston's Francis Martes is a highly-touted prospect (and could go in any major trade). Martes (2-0, 5.51) has made three big-league starts and lasted a career-low two innings last time out in Seattle, allowing two runs and walking four. Luckily for the Astros, four relievers combined for seven scoreless innings, allowing only three hits, as Houston won 8-2. Martes has never faced New York. Yankees lefty Jordan Montgomery (6-4, 3.53) wasn't a touted guy but has been largely solid in his 14 big-league starts. Maybe his best was Monday at the White Sox, giving up one run over seven to finish 4-0 with a 2.59 ERA in June. Montgomery lost to Houston on May 12 (6 IP, 4 ER). Brian McCann was 2-for-3 that day with a homer and three RBIs.
Key trends: The Yankees are 1-4 in their past five in Game 2 of a series. The Astros have won five straight on Saturday. The over is 4-0 in New York's previous four against teams with a winning record.
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