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    With the Home Run Derby in the rear-view mirror and the MLB All-Star game set to follow suit , we will soon be able to look ahead to the rest of the season.Well, after we take care of the July 31 trade deadline, that is.Aside from the World Series, the trade deadline is arguably the most exciting portion of the baseball season.Other professional sports also have similar deadlines, but none see as much movement as baseball can, with a myriad of players taking on new looks after the day.Here, we look at the rumors surrounding three players as we approach the end of July.Let’s get started with a pitcher from the Charm City. Cubs Interested in Zach BrittonAfter dealing with a ruptured Achilles at the beginning of the season, Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton has since played in 15 games, accumulating four saves and an ERA just under 3.70 in that time.In the final year of his contract, the 30-year-old could be on the move from an Orioles squad that has been nothing short of abysmal this year, with a 28-69 record heading into the All-Star break and 39.5 games back of the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox.Now is the time for the Orioles to cut bait with some top talent and overhaul the roster, and they may have a buyer for Britton.According to Bruce Levine of670 The Score,that team could be the 55-38 Chicago Cubs, though the article noted there are eight other contending teams vying for his services.As Levine reported Babe Ruth Jersey , the Cubs have had a solid bullpen through this point in the season, though adding Britton would make it even more formidable for another NL Central title.If the Cubs can pull it off, they’ll have Britton along with Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek and Pedro Strop.That would make for an incredibly daunting quartet and that doesn’t even include Carl Edwards Jr. Nationals ‘Eyeing’ Nathan EovaldiThis nugget was a little surprising.According to Marc Topkin of theTampa Bay Times,the Washington Nationals are reportedly “eyeing” Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi.In nearly 125 innings of work, the 28-year-old has mustered up a 9-8 record with an ERA of 4.76.While those numbers aren’t appealing, what is even more head-scratching is that the Nationals rotation is a bit full, especially with Stephen Strasburg returning from the disabled list.However, it is possible he could replace Jeremy Hellickson or spot start here and there for Tanner Roark who has struggled as of late.Nick Cafardo of theBoston Globealso reported the Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves “among others” have also been interested in Eovaldi.The Rays are floating above .500, but being nine games out of a wild-card spot headed by the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners could be tough to compete with.If they get a solid enough offer, Eovaldi could be on the move from Florida.Manny Machado on the Verge of Being DealtThis is what makes the MLB trade deadline the best in all of the professional sports: One of the top players is expected to be on the move and soon.According to Roch Kubatko ofMid-Atlantic Sports Network,the Orioles don’t have a deal done with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers and Brewers are still involved:Roch Kubatko masnRochMultiple sources say #orioles don鈥檛 have deal done with #phillies for Machado.#dodgers and #brewers also still involved. Told 鈥渧ery close鈥?but nothing has been agreed upon yetWherever Machado ends up, he’s going to make that club much better.All three teams鈥擯hillies, Brewers and Dodgers鈥攁re either leading their respective divisions or are 2.5 games out.Machado is hitting.315 this season with 24 home runs and is just 26 years old.The Phillies have more than enough assets to swing a trade for the phenom , with guys such asEnyel De Los Santos, Cole Irvin, Ranger Suarez, Franklyn Kilome and JoJo Romero lurking in their farm system.Of course, the Orioles will likely try to get Sixto Sanchez in return, but the Phillies probably will try all they can to not trade one of the best prospects in all of baseball.If they can swing a deal for Machado without giving up Sanchez, that is a huge win. Granted, the Baltimore star is in the final year of his deal, so they could use that as leverage.Adding Machado will really put the Phillies over the top after the Midsummer Classic break as they seek their first NL East title since 2011. All statistics and contract information courtesy of Baseball-Reference. BOSTON (AP) — J.D. Martinez wants to thank the Houston Astros — not get back at them — for releasing him when he was struggling to make himself into a star.The Red Sox slugger credits his growing pains in Houston for teaching him “how to fail,” a lesson he credits with transforming him into an MVP candidate who helped Boston win a franchise-record 108 games and reach the AL Championship Series against his former team.“My failures in Houston is what made me who I am,” Martinez said Friday, a day before the Astros and Red Sox open the best-of-seven series. “There’s really no animosity there. In a sense they did me a favor by allowing me to leave and play on another team.”It will be the second straight year the Red Sox and Astros meet in the postseason — last year it was the ALDS — and the second straight year that aces Chris Sale will go against Justin Verlander in the opener.The biggest difference this time: Boston has Martinez on its side.And the Astros could have.Martinez made his big-league debut for Houston in 2011, driving in 28 runs in his first full month in the majors. After playing part time the next two years — hitting 18 homers with 91 RBIs in 199 games — he was 26 years old and batting .167 in the spring of 2014 when the Astros released him, preferring to give the at-bats to top prospect George Springer.Martinez landed with Detroit that season and by 2015 he was an All-Star Bobby Doerr Jersey , hitting 38 homers with 102 RBIs. He hit 45 homers last year, when he was traded from the Tigers to Diamondbacks and was 14th in MVP voting despite playing just 62 games in the NL.“I always believed he’s going to be the player he is right now,” said Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, the reigning AL MVP, who came up through the minors with Martinez. “He got a couple of tough years with us in the big leagues. But I think the best thing that happened to him was going to the Tigers and becoming the player that he is.Verlander was Martinez’s teammate in Detroit and said he was “there from the moment he turned his career around.”“He went and completely revamped his swing that offseason, and saw immediate dividends,” Verlander said. “(He) never stopped hitting. Seeing somebody like that who works so hard and turned their career around to where he’s at now, as a fellow player, and you respect it and I’m happy for him. I really am.’Now Martinez is one of the keys — with Mookie Betts, who is expected to edge him for the AL MVP award — on a Red Sox team that won a third straight AL East title but advanced in the playoffs for the first time since 2013, eliminating the rival New York Yankees in the ALDS.The Central Division champion Astros did OK, too, winning their first World Series last year; Springer was Series MVP.So, no hard feelings.“God gave me another opportunity and put me in a good situation with Detroit. And that’s kind of where I continued to grow until where I am today , really,” Martinez said. “And if it wasn’t for that I probably wouldn’t be here right now. Who knows where I would have been?”Saturday night’s opener will be a rematch of Game 1 of the ALDS last year, when the Astros jumped on Sale for seven runs in five innings, including back-to-back homers by Alex Bregman and Altuve in the first. Altuve added another homer in the fifth.Sale and Verlander each came out of the bullpen in Game 4, with the Red Sox lefty outpitching the Astros ace before tiring in his fifth inning of relief and taking the loss as the Red Sox were eliminated. With the teams meeting one round further along this year, the stakes are even higher.“Obviously, the winner of this one goes to the World Series,” Sale said. “We know who we’re up against. He’s obviously one of the best around, and really good in the postseason.”

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