Will the Phillies Make A Deal?

The Phillies front office has been frustrated lately with its lack of success on the trade market, but it is still trying to complete at least one deal before Thursday’s 4 p.m. non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Ruben Amaro Jr. traveled with the team to New York, where it opened a three-game series tonight against the Mets at Citi Field. But Amaro was nowhere to be found before the game as he continues to call teams to find a trade partner for a group of players that includes right fielder Marlon Byrd and left-hander Antonio Bastardo.

“Am I expecting any (trades)?” Ryne Sandberg said. “I don’t know one way or another. Just from what I hear, if there is (a trade) it’ll be very late in the process.”

Byrd and Bastardo remain the most likely Phillies to be moved, which is nothing new. Byrd is hitting .266 with 20 home runs and 60 RBIs. His 20 homers are tied for eighth among right-handed hitters in baseball, which makes him valuable. Byrd can block trades to four teams, including the Mariners and Royals. He makes $8 million next season and he has an $8 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests with 600 plate appearances in 2015 or 1,100 plate appearances in 2014-15, including 550 plate appearances in 2015, which is a sticking point to some teams.

Left-hander Cole Hamels remains available, but the asking price remains extraordinarily high. This also is nothing new. The Phillies want to keep Hamels because he is the rare Phillies player signed to a mega contract still in his prime, but they will consider trading him if they are absolutely blown away by an offer.

Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon are unlikely to be moved by Thursday, but they could be traded in August if they clear waivers. Lee is owed at least $37.5 million following this season, while Papelbon is owed at least $13 million. A.J. Burnett remains a possibility, but he seems to be a second choice for teams still hoping for a pitcher like David Price, Jon Lester or Hamels. Burnett’s player option could be worth more than $10 million next season. The money owed to Lee, Papelbon and Burnett has made trading them difficult.

- Todd Zolecki

Astros willing to trade starting pitching

The Astros would be willing to ship one of their starting pitchers in any possible deals to add some offense. The Astros have six healthy starting pitchers when you include right-hander Brad Peacock, who was recently sent to Triple-A Oklahoma City after a pair of shaky starts. That leaves right-handers Scott Feldman, Jarred Cosart and Collin McHugh and left-handers Dallas Keuchel Brett Oberholtzer, though Feldman’s three-year, $30-million deal makes him difficult to move.

Houston general Jeff Luhnow indicated Monday no deals were in the works. The non-waiver Trade Deadline is Thursday.

“Our offense has been struggling, so as we have conversations, we’ll explore options that might give us some help offensively,” Luhnow said.

The Astros, who have scored six runs in their previous four games, are especially thin in the outfield, where Dexter Fowler (intercostal strain), George Springer (quad strain) and Alex Presley (oblique strain) are all on the 15-day disabled and not expected to return until by Thursday.

“It’s absolutely a concern,” Luhnow said. “The best thing we can do for the Trade Deadline is to get Fowler, Springer and Presley back healthy. That could be an unbelievable coup for us. Hopefully, they’re not too far away.”

– Brian McTaggart

Tulo, like most trades, “unlikely” for Mets

Ever since the New York Post reported last weekend that the Mets “want in on” a potential Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez trade, the baseball world has become awash with rumors. Most have centered around the Rockies sending Tulowitzki to the Mets for a package of Noah Syndergaard, Kevin Plawecki and multiple other young players.

If it seemed improbable, that’s because it is. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson admitted as much Monday without referring to Tulowitzki by name, calling it “unlikely” that he acquires anyone — including a superstar shortstop — prior to Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline.

“If I had to make a guess, I would say nothing will happen,” Alderson said. “But you never know what’s going to transpire in the next three days or so. Clubs that may be having conversations elsewhere circle back based on what they think their options might be. I’d say we have an opportunity to do a thing or two, but we’re not inclined to at this point. It’s speculation, but I wouldn’t bet on something happening before the deadline.”

Tulowitzki created more tabloid drama Sunday when he showed up at Yankee Stadium, in advance of a doctor’s appointment in Philadelphia, to watch Derek Jeter play one last time in person. But returning to New York as a player remains unlikely.

In addition to the Mets’ hesitance, Rockies owner Dick Monfort has been adamantly against trading Tulowitzki for some time. Then there is the matter of money; Tulowitzki is owed $100 million over the next five years of a deal that runs through 2019, meaning the Mets would need to increase their payroll significantly to support the salaries of him, David Wright ($20 million in 2015) and Curtis Granderson ($16 million).

–Anthony DiComo

More Dodgers pitching speculation

Ever since the deep-pocketed Guggenheim Partners bought the Dodgers, they’ve been linked with trading for just about every marquee name imaginable. Now Fox Sports speculates that the Dodgers are interested in Phillies lefty Cole Hamels, who would come with nearly $100 million left on his contract.

The club, however, has given no indication it wants to pick up that kind of contract and trade away any of its top three prospects — Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Julio Urias — with a deal for an elite pitcher likely to cost at least two of them.

The Dodgers will continue to be linked with Hamels, David Price and Jon Lester as Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline approaches.

– Ken Gurnick

Giants’ interest in Zobrist could intensify

SAN FRANCISCO — With Thursday’s Trade Deadline approaching, the Giants’ interest in acquiring Ben Zobrist from the Tampa Bay Rays could be deepening.

The Giants’ no-risk investment in second baseman Dan Uggla has appeared to be a no-reward venture so far. Uggla has gone hitless in eight at-bats spanning three games and committed two errors, including one that generated an unearned run, in Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Dodgers.

With Marco Scutaro unable to play everyday due to his lingering back issues and Joe Panik experiencing a rookie’s growing pains, the Giants again may have to look elsewhere for help at second base. Landing Zobrist would end that search. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.com reported that the Giants had two scouts watching Zobrist this past weekend.

Zobrist also could help in the outfield if Angel Pagan’s recovery from a back ailment continues to stall.

– Chris Haft

Lester for Kemp not likely

Though Jon Lester could  certainly be traded by Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline, two sources told MLB.com that the Red Sox are not interested in acquiring Matt Kemp from the Dodgers in exchange for the lefty, contrary to a rumor that surfaced Sunday.

In fact, there has yet to be a lot of dialogue between the two teams, though the Dodgers, with World Series aspirations, could certainly become a player for lefty. If the Dodgers were successful in getting Lester, they would have the most impressive front three in the game, featuring Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Lester.

If the Red Sox are to trade Lester, they would need at least one top-level prospect. Would the Dodgers be willing to part with center field prospect Joc Pederson? If so, talks could heat up quickly. But there’s been no indication to this point Los Angeles would include Pederson.

Though Lester certainly warrants a top prospect or prospects in return, he amounts to a two-month rental. Lester is eligible for free agency at season’s end, and he indicated that even if he does get traded, his top desire would still be to return to Boston as a free agent.

Lester has been red-hot of late, pitching perhaps the best baseball of his career. He is scheduled to start for the Red Sox on Wednesday night at Fenway against the Blue Jays, the final game before the trade deadline.

Ian Browne

Interest in Zobrist

While most of the trade rumors involving Rays players revolve around David Price, versatile Ben Zobrist has been another name drawing interest.

The latest rumor involving Zobrist comes from FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi (Twitter links), who reported that the Giants are one of “multiple teams” who are “ready to act” in the event that the Rays decide to trade Zobrist.

With Thursday’s trade deadline looming, the Rays are not tipping their hand regarding their intentions for the remainder of the season.  Though the Rays enter Monday’s action 7 1/2 games behind the Orioles in the AL East, they are very much in the hunt for a Wild Card slot.  Thus, the team is in an interesting position when considering any possible changes to the team.

–Bill Chastain

 

 

Pirates believed to be interested in Hawkins

The Rockies don’t appear to be willing to make a major trade at Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, but interest could pick up in a smaller deal for closer LaTroy Hawkins.

The Rockies won the first two games against the Pirates this weekend by big margins, so Hawkins was not forced into a save opportunity. However, the Pirates are believed to be interested in the 41-year-old right-hander. With the Rockies requiring players that can help them at the start of next season and always searching for young pitching under club control, a deal could be difficult but not impossible

It would be a case of the rich — in terms of power arms to protect a lead — getting richer. They have righties Jeanmar Gomez and Jared Hughes, lefties Justin Wilson and Tony Watson and righty closer Mark Melancon. And Melancon has proven adept in closing situations recently.

If the Pirates want to beef up their bullpen, it would be in middle relief or possible insurance in case Melancon struggles, is ailing or is unavailable on a given day. Hawkins, who can pitch in any situation and tends to become more effective as the season progresses, could be a fit.

Hawkins could be an upgrade over righty Ernesto Frieri, who has struggled since coming in a trade with the Angels for righty Jason Grilli.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is quite familiar with Hawkins’ ability and leadership skills. Hawkins was part of the bullpen when the Rockies went to the 2007 World Series under Hurdle.

A trade could be a boon for Hawkins. Although he has been effective this year, the struggles of the Rockies have reduced his opportunities to pitch. He has 37 appearances so far. In his career, he had 980 regular-season appearances going into Sunday. Getting t 1,000 is a goal for a solid pitcher who has never been to the All-Star Game. The opportunities can be more frequent with a contender.

But Hawkins enjoys Colorado, and the Rockies believe he has value even if the team doesn’t win this year. The Rockies’ young pitchers have struggled but some have bright futures, and the club believes Hawkins’ work ethic and willingness to lend experience are valuable even if it doesn’t show up in the younger pitchers immediately.

– Thomas Harding

Kemp trade rumors, but no Kemp trade

Matt Kemp rumors are coming fast and furious, although the teams supposedly interested must still think the Dodgers are willing to give away the outfielder. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti on Saturday indicated that wasn’t the case, implying that Triple-A prospect Joc Pederson isn’t yet ready for the Major Leagues, and a trade of any veteran Dodgers outfielder almost surely would be linked to the promotion of Pederson. Besides, the new outfield arrangement of Kemp in right, Yasiel Puig in center, Carl Crawford in left and Andre Ethier on the bench has produced two convincing wins over the Giants. It has never been Colletti’s history to replace a veteran with a rookie, anyway. The most recent exception was last year’s promotion of Puig, but that came during a rash of injuries. — Ken Gurnick

All eyes on Lester

A scenario that seemed unfathomable when the season started — the Red Sox contemplating a trade of ace Jon Lester — can no longer be ruled out. With the defending World Series champions close to fading out of contention and Lester a free agent at season’s end, Boston general manager Ben Cherington will at least listen to offers regarding the lefty, who has been red-hot over the last few weeks.

“I’m not going to comment on any particular player,” said Cherington. “We have to talk to teams. We have to listen to what teams are looking to do and figure out from those conversations what opportunities are out there. Anything we do between now and Thursday afternoon will be with a mind toward building as quickly as possible for April of 2015. And so that might mean doing very little, it might mean doing a bunch of stuff. It might be between that. I don’t know yet. But you guys know how we feel about Jon.”

Interestingly, Lester said he would harbor no hard feelings toward the Red Sox if they traded him and he would still be interested in trying to re-sign with Boston in November even if traded in July.

“We’re certainly happy that statement reflects how he feels about the relationship. We feel good about our relationship with him. Our position hasn’t changed: We’d certainly love for Jon to be here in 2015,” said Cherington.

Ian Browne

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