July 2011

Injury-plagued Braves do not consider Pence a priority

The Braves have placed two centerfielders  — Jordan Schafer and Nate McLouth  — and All-Star catcher Brian McCann on the disabled list this week.  But with this year’s Trade Deadline just 48 hours away, Braves general manager Frank Wren said his focus has not changed.

After McLouth was disabled with a lower abdominal strain Friday afternoon, the Braves promoted Jose Constanza from Triple-A Gwinnett, put him on their 40-man roster and then put him in the leadoff spot for Friday night’s game against the Marlins.

“We’ve been looking for an outfielder and we’re still looking for an outfielder,” Wren said. “It really doesn’t change anything. We’re going to be thin for a while until some of these guys come back from injury.  We know that and it really doesn’t change anything.”

While there has been speculation the Braves and Phillies have been in a bidding war for Astros’ outfielder Hunter Pence, a Major League source said Friday that the Braves have not considered Pence to be a priority.

The Braves did inquire about Pence and also to see if the White Sox were interested in trading Carlos Quentin. But it seems they are more likely to acquire Rays’ outfielder B.J. Upton or Padres’ outfielder Ryan Ludwick before Sunday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline arrives.

Upton could serve as the club’s leadoff hitter and starting centerfielder.  But even with Schafer and McLouth sidelined, they may still target Ludwick, who would primarily play the corner outfield positions.  But he is athletic enough to play center field if necessary.    —  Mark Bowman

7/29 Hot Stove Roundup: Who’s next to go?

That hasn’t really been decided yet.

Since Carlos Beltran officially joined the Giants on Thursday, no big moves have been made — at least not as of late afternoon on Friday. So, with the non-waiver Trade Deadline now less than two days away, and lots of big names remaining, we’re almost bracing for an avalanche of deals to be carved out just in time.

Before then, here are Friday’s biggest rumors …

* Ubaldo Jimenez is still the big ace that’s apparently being dangled, but nobody seems to have stepped up. Jon Heyman of SI.com and MLB Network said the Red Sox are aggressively pursuing Jimenez, the Yankees are “lurking,” and the Indians, Reds and Blue Jays are also in the mix. Jayson Stark of ESPN.com then stated that the Yankees’ interest has waned, and the Indians are the ones emerging.

* The Astros remain in “intense” trade talks for Hunter Pence, according to MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Pence was removed from Thursday’s lineup because of a potential trade, McTaggart added, and said a direct two-team deal remains general manager Ed Wade‘s preference. The Phillies have made Pence their top target, but how much are they willing to give up?

* The Tigers are a contending team, and they need starting pitching. That’s no secret. The question is who they can get — or better yet, who can they get without giving up top prospect Jacob Turner? One way or another, MLB.com’s Jason Beck wrote, the Tigers’ search for a starter is nearing a resolution.

* The Reds may be 6 1/2 games out of first place after losing four straight, but GM Walt Jocketty said this much: “We are not selling.”

* If you need a third baseman, don’t look to the Cubs. Aramis Ramirez and his no-trade clause are not on the market.

* The Mariners traded Ryan Langerhans to the Diamondbacks for cash considerations, in order to clear room on the roster for former D-backs outfielder Wily Mo Pena.

* The Rangers are pushing hard to get closer Heath Bell, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan writes. Whether or not that materializes, the Padres have a lot of interesting pieces, and things should pick up between now and the Deadline.

* Jason Marquis, Jeremy Guthrie, Koji Uehara, Hiroki Kuroda, Erik Bedard (who pitches tonight), Doug Fister, Mike Adams, Wandy Rodriguez, Grand Balfour and Kevin Slowey are some of the arms that can be had before 4 p.m. ET on Sunday. B.J. Upton, Denard Span, Michael Bourn, Jamey Carroll, Carlos Quentin, Jason Kubel, Delmon Young and Josh Willingham are some of the position players to be had. But no movement yet.

So we wait.


Reds not selling

There will be a more detailed story coming … but Reds GM Walt Jocketty is not changing his Trade Deadline strategy in light of the rough week his club has had (swept four straight by the Mets to go 50-55).

“We are not selling,” Jocketty said Friday afternoon.

One of the players prominent in rumors of a sell has been catcher Ramon Hernandez, especially with top catching prospect Devin Mesoraco on the cusp at Triple-A Louisville. However, Jocketty said he has not listened to offers for Hernandez.

“I haven’t no, and I don’t know if I would,” Jocketty said. “I still think he’s a guy that can help us with this year. I think his value is greater to us now than if we were to move him. You’re not going to get the value in return for him that he gives our club. That’s why we would hold on to him.”
 — Mark Sheldon

Astros remain in Pence talks

The Astros remain in intense trade talks regarding All-Star right fielder Hunter Pence on Friday afternoon, specifically with the Philadelphia Phillies.

MLB.com has confirmed Pence was briefly removed from the lineup prior to Thursday’s game in St. Louis because of potential trade, but wound up staying in the order and going 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles in the Astros’ win. Pence was in the lineup on Friday night for Houston’s series opener against the Brewers, batting fourth.

Although there are reports the Astros and Phillies have discussed a three-team deal, a person close to the situation told MLB.com Friday that a two-team swap remains Houston’s focus. The Astros are coveting several prospects for Pence, who’s the top name on the trade market in the wake of the Carlos Beltran trade.

The Atlanta Braves are also reportedly in the mix for Pence’s services, along with the Reds and a handful of other teams.

Astros general manager Ed Wade had no comment.

The Astros are also getting heavy interest about Gold Glove center fielder Michael Bourn, left-hander Wandy Rodriguez and, to a lesser extent, right-hander Brett Myers. The non-waiver Trade Deadline is 3 p.m. CT on Sunday.

Brian McTaggart

Time for Tigers to whittle down starting options

One way or another, the Tigers’ month-long search for starting pitching is nearing a resolution. And with Sunday afternoon’s non-waiver Trade Deadline looming, they appear to be going through their many options to see where there’s a realistic shot at a deal, including the top option on the market.

The Tigers made contact with the Rockies on Thursday about Ubaldo Jimenez, according to Foxsports.com, to see if there’s a trade scenario that makes sense. But unless Detroit is willing to trade top prospect Jacob Turner, it’s difficult to envision one of those scenarios meeting what Colorado wants. Reports have mentioned Rick Porcello as someone the Rockies could accept instead, but Jimenez in Porcello’s spot doesn’t solve the void at the back end of Detroit’s rotation, where the Tigers haven’t picked up a win since mid-June. Thus, it doesn’t make the Tigers better this year, which is what team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski is looking for.

The Turner scenario has been brought up by plenty of other teams over the last year or so, and quickly rejected each time. But the Tigers are in a win-now mode, with Dombrowski, manager Jim Leyland, most of the front office and all of the coaching staff in contract years. If Detroit were to ever part with Turner before he reaches the big leagues, Jimenez — 27 years old, and under contract for three more years — is the type of player that could do it.

If it isn’t, then the Tigers will have find a workable deal out of their other options, which now include Washington’s Jason Marquis. Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda remains a possibility, while others mentioned as targets of interest include Baltimore’s Jeremy Guthrie, San Diego’s Aaron Harang and Seattle’s Doug Fister, Jason Vargas and Erik Bedard. The Tigers are expected to scout Bedard’s return from the disabled list for the M’s Friday night, but given how their trade for Jarrod Washburn two years ago backfired because of a knee injury they knew about before the deal, it’s difficult to envision the Tigers taking that risk again.

— Jason Beck

Moving day for the Padres?

Is there another organization in baseball with as many interesting and attractive pieces to move between now and Sunday’s trade deadline as the Padres?

Before now and Sunday’s 1 p.m. PT deadline, consider what might happen with the Padres.

Three-time closer Heath Bell figures to be on his way out of town, possibly to the Rangers, who to date have shown the most interest. Bell would love to stay in San Diego, but if the Padres truly aren’t interested in trading set-up guy Mike Adams, they almost certainly have to move Bell.

Reliever Chad Qualls also figures to be traded. A former closer, Qualls has been healthy this season and rediscovered his power sinker. Better still, he could be a low-cost option for a contender.

Outfielder Ryan Ludwick, who can play left or right field, has 62 RBIs this season and could help a team looking for a bat for the stretch run. Ludwick is also a great clubhouse guy who would have no trouble assimilating himself wherever he goes. The Braves and Indians have shown interest.

Pitcher Aaron Harang’s homecoming to his native San Diego has gone well. He’s 9-2 with a 3.45 ERA, granted that a lot of his success has come at pitcher-friendly PETCO Park. Still, for a team looking to add a starter, he could be a viable option.

The Padres are looking to add impact players with upside and I would imagine they want to add a catcher and possibly a shortstop in at least one of these deals.

— Corey Brock

Indians looking for more

The general thought with the Indians is that top prospects Drew Pomeranz, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis and Alex White are untouchable in trade talks. General manager Chris Antonetti would not go that far when asked about his top prospects earlier this week.

“People have asked me that question a lot,” Antonetti said. “Any GM, I think, would be hard-pressed to say that anybody is untouchable, because for the right combination of players in return, you have to be open minded to trade anybody.”

Cleveland’s Big Four are untouchable when it comes to two-month rental-type acquisitions. For players who are under contractual control for a few more seasons, though, the Tribe is keeping an open mind.

The Indians are reportedly one of a handful of teams talking to the Rockies about star pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, who is signed through 2012 with club options through 2014. According to FOX Sports, Colorado has asked for Pomeranz as a starting point for a potential deal. The Tribe is extremely reluctant to move the big lefty.

Beyond starting pitching, the Indians are still in the hunt for offensive help. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter), Cleveland is “making a strong push” for Padres outfielder Ryan Ludwick. The outfielder is hitting .238/.302/.373 with 11 homers and 62 RBIs this year for San Diego.

Ludwick suited up for the Tribe for parts of the 2003-2005 seasons and Cleveland was actually involved in the three-team deal that sent Ludwick from the Cardinals to the Padres on July 31 last year.

On Thursday, the Indians acquired outfielder Kosuke Fukudome from the Cubs in exchange for two Minor Leaguers (outfielder Abner Abreu and pitcher Carlton Smith). The Tribe is in need of outfield help with both Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore out due to injury.

–Jordan Bastian

7/29 Ramirez’s agent changes tune

The agent for Aramis Ramirez told FOXSports.com that the Cubs third baseman does not intend to waive his no-trade protection before Sunday’s Trade Deadline. Ramirez told reporters after Thursday’s game against the Brewers that no one from the Cubs front office has approached him about any possible deals. He has 10-and-5 rights, and would have to approve any deal. Would he change his mind? “We’ll see,” Ramirez said.

Agent Paul Kinzer, however, gave a different version.

“He doesn’t want to go anywhere,” Kinzer told FOXsports.com after talking to Ramirez. “It didn’t come out the way he meant it to.”

As a player with 10 years in the big leagues and five with the same team, the third baseman can block any trade. He maintained two weeks ago that he didn’t want to leave Chicago because of his family. His conversation with reporters after Thursday’s game had a different tone — but his agent said “nothing has changed.”

“He said if they go young, he would do it,” Kinzer told FOXsports.com. “But he doesn’t want to leave Chicago. He isn’t going anywhere. ‘Ramy’ has never wavered as far as wanting to stay in Chicago. If he had his way, he would sign an extension and stay right there.”

Ramirez’s contract with the Cubs ends this year, and the team has a $16 million option for 2012. That option would become guaranteed if he is traded. Kinzer said Ramirez would want the option dropped as a condition of any trade, enabling him to become a free agent at the end of the season.

— Carrie Muskat



July 28 roundup: Hunting for Hunter

After an intense day on the trading block Wednesday, Thursday was more tame. The Indians made noise early, landing Kosuke Fukudome from the Cubs and bolstering an outfield that’s been stung by injuries, giving way to rumors surrounding the usual suspects — and setting up a potentially frenzied final three days of the non-waiver trading period.

  • The Astros are inclined to part with Hunter Pence, and at least six teams are in the mix, but the Phillies appear to be leading the pack. With two arbitration years remaining for Pence, any deal involving him would likely qualify as a blockbuster, probably the largest that could come up this deadline, unless …
  • Ubaldo Jimenez is involved. The Yankees appear to be in the best position, The Denver Post’s Troy Renck reported, but the price seems high according to multiple reports.
  • The big game already bagged in Carlos Beltran, Giants general manager Brian Sabean wasn’t giving off the sense that more impact moves are coming down the pipe for his club.
  • The big game already shipped off, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson directly said that more impact moves aren’t coming down the pipe for his club.
  • With Rickie Weeks out for six weeks potentially, the Brewers, of all teams, need a second baseman, and on Friday, they landed Felipe Lopez from the Rays, but he was most recently at Triple-A. Clint Barmes, Adam Kennedy and Omar Infante could be in the mix.
  • The Tigers’ priority is starting pitching, and they’re looking into Jason Marquis, according to FOX Sports. MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports that middle relief could also be on the checklist for Detroit.
  • The Dodgers drawing the most interest are Rafael Furcal and Hiroki Kuroda, despite no-trade clauses for both. Jamey Carroll‘s still a circulated name (Brewers?).
— Evan Drellich

Don’t count out Tigers from relief market

The Tigers could allow themselves a sigh of relief on Thursday upon learning that Al Alburquerque’s elbow issues aren’t serious. The diagnosis was mild inflammation, not tendinitis, and nothing structurally wrong. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they could allow themselves to relax about their bullpen situation. Whether it prompts the Tigers to look closer at middle relief options is an intriguing question heading into Sunday’s nonwaiver Trade Deadline.

In a year when the Tigers gotten nothing from injured Joel Zumaya and next to nothing from Ryan Perry, Alburquerque and his nearly unhittable slider have been pretty much a godsend. But his elbow has been a cause for concern all summer, and a reason for conservation with his workload. Detroit lost him to the disabled list for two weeks early this month, and the void was big. The fact that Chance Ruffin, just called up from the minors in his first pro season, filled the middle-inning righty relief role without him Thursday demonstrates just how much the Tigers have relied on Alburquerque.

Whether they can stay that way for the final two months is a little bigger question now than it was a week ago. Detroit’s trade priority has always been starting pitching, and if the Tigers make one move this weekend, it’ll be for that. But it wouldn’t be a surprise if they at least look over options for righty middle relief. They were mentioned as a potential destination for Baltimore’s Koji Uehara, according to the Baltimore Sun, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they explored smaller possibilities. They don’t need a closer type, or even a setup man, but they could look for depth.

— Jason Beck