It's that time of year again, when rumors are aplenty and some players are left to deflect questions about their status until a trade comes to fruition.
The July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline is only days away, and as such the Mets and Phillies contest Monday night at Citi Field will draw an unusual degree of interest for a game between two teams not exactly in the playoff picture.
Both starters, Philadelphia right-hander A.J. Burnett and New York righty Bartolo Colon, are proven, veteran arms and therefore potential trade targets. This is their last start of the month.
If it were up to Burnett, though, he won't be going anywhere.
"I signed here to play here," Burnett, who has a limited no-trade clause, said earlier this month. "I'm not a guy who looks for an out or wants to get out because things aren't going the right way. If that happens, then it happens, but I'm not looking to move on.
"This is my team. I understand how things work, but I'm trying not to worry about it. I just try to go about my business and enjoy my teammates."
Burnett is nonetheless the subject of plenty of speculation. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder owns a 3.86 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in his first season with Philly, numbers that look even better (3.18 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) over his last nine starts.
Burnett is also fresh off eight scoreless innings against the Giants on Wednesday. He scattered four hits and four walks while striking out six. That came after a five-inning, six-run effort, one of his worst of the season.
Colon (4.03 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) is also coming off a very sharp outing. He took a perfect game into the seventh and wound up with a 7 1/3-inning, two-run win over Seattle.
"Probably the second hitter you said, 'He's on today,'" Mets manager Terry Collins said afterward. "We saw some funny swings from good hitters. That's when you say, 'Score some runs for him today, because he's going to dominate.'"
Colon stayed coy when it came to trade rumors.
"I don't know anything about that," Colon said through an interpreter. "Those are decisions for the upper management, and you can't control that stuff."
Phillies: Bastardo struggling as Trade Deadline nears
Any team looking at Antonio Bastardo as a potential Trade Deadline target might be a little more hesitant to deal for the Phillies' lefty reliever after this weekend.
He gave up a grand slam after entering with the bases loaded on Friday, then yielded four runs in the 10th inning of a 10-6 loss to the D-backs on Saturday.
Bastardo's ERA jumped to 4.17 from 3.27 as a result.
"The last couple of nights it's been his slider that he got beat on," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said Saturday. "The home run tonight was a slider. He's showing good fastballs and getting beat with his slider."
Still, though, Bastardo, 28, represents a quality, late-inning option who is under team control through next season. He is striking out 10.5 batters per nine innings and has been effective against righties and lefties in 2014.
Mets: .500 road trip a 'huge step' for Collins
A 2-0 win over the Brewers on Sunday gave the Mets a split of the four-game series, and, maybe more important, brought their record to .500 (5-5) to cap their three-city road trip.
"It would be a huge step for us. It'd be great coming out of the [All-Star] break," Collins said of the possibility before Sunday's win. "I know it's been two weeks since the last game we played in Citi Field, so it's been a long trip. To finish it on a high note would be great for us."
What this means for the Mets this season is less certain. At 50-55, they're still five games under .500 and would have to leap over five teams to snag even the second National League Wild Card bid.
• Speaking of trade candidates, Chris Young has started four of the last five games for the Mets after seeing a decline in playing time earlier this month as a result of his massive struggles this year. Young finished 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles on Sunday and is 4-for-7 with four doubles his last two games.
• The Phillies bullpen has a 6.57 ERA (28 earned runs in 36 1/3 innings) in its last 12 games.
• Jimmy Rollins (5-for-15, homer, double) and Reid Brignac (5-for-12) have found success against Colon in the past. Similarly, Bobby Abreu is a career .333/.437/.542 hitter in 87 plate appearances against Burnett. He has two homers and nine doubles.
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.