General manager Neal Huntington has said repeatedly that the organization is past the point of trading for the sake of accumulating prospects. Therefore, it would seem that any trade involving Maholm would ideally include Major League-ready players in return.
Huntington declined commenting on any specific trade rumor, saying only: "We are working through various scenarios with various players and will make a move only if we believe the return is compelling."
Maholm, who is the highest-paid player on the team, is making $4.5 million this season. He is under contract to earn $5.75 million next year and has a $9.75 million club option with a $750,000 buyout for 2012.
This isn't the first time that teams have inquired about Maholm's availability, but the intensity of these recent rumors has never before been matched.
"I more or less follow it to see what other teams are doing and where other guys are going," Maholm said. "I think it's fun. I'm a fan. I enjoy doing it. Having my name in it doesn't bother me. Every fifth day I'm out there and expect to win. That doesn't change if my name is in any trade rumors or anything like that."
The lefty hasn't been particularly consistent this year, evidenced by his 6-9 record and 4.52 ERA. Still, his six wins and 125 1/3 innings pitched are both highs on the Pirates' pitching staff, and his absence would leave a considerable void in the rotation.
Pittsburgh lacks quality depth at the Triple-A level right now, as the organization's best pitching prospects are at Double-A and below. That could necessitate the Pirates needing to acquire a starting pitcher in any trade involving Maholm.
"You would hope that we would replace [a starter] in a trade," said manager John Russell. "That would be my thought."
Maholm has never played anywhere except Pittsburgh, which drafted the lefty in the first round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. Since then, he's gone 44-53 with a 4.36 ERA in 148 starts. Maholm has been a mainstay in the rotation since 2006, but he has never played on a club that's won more than 68 games.
But if he is dealt before Saturday's deadline, that would all change.
"I've always said I want to be on a winning team," Maholm said. "My first choice would be on the team that turns it around here. I've been in Pittsburgh my whole career and I love the fans, love the ballpark, and I think they deserve a winner. I want to be a part of that. But it's not up to me. If they come in and tell me to go somewhere, I'm going. I don't have a no-trade clause.
"I'm more of a guy who likes to plan stuff, so these next 24 hours will be difficult. We'll know tomorrow. If I'm still here, I'll still be happy. If I go to a contender, that's what you play for."