July 2012

Mariners still shopping after dealing League, Delabar

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik announced the trades of former All-Star closer Brandon League and right-handed reliever Steve Delabar moments after Seattle beat Toronto on Monday night and he might not be done dealing just yet.

League was sent to the Dodgers for a pair of prospects, while Delabar went to the Blue Jays for outfielder Eric Thames..

Thames is currently in Triple-A and having a big year, but has spent parts of the past two seasons with Toronto and will join the Mariners on Tuesday. Expect him to replace Carlos Peguero, who was packing his bags post-game and likely is headed back to Tacoma after struggling as Ichiro Suzuki’s fill-in following his trade to the Yankees.

Peguero has hit just .146 and struck out 22 times in 41 at-bats. Thames, 25, hit .257 with 15 home runs and 48 RBIs in 510 at-bats over the past two years with Toronto.

As for the two prospects in the League deal, outfielder Leon Landry is a 22-year-old putting up big numbers in Class-A ball. He’ll report to the Mariners’ High Desert team. And right-handed pitcher Logan Bawcom is a 23-year-old reliever who has 20 saves and a 2.03 ERA while splitting time between the Dodgers’ A and AA teams this season.

What might be left for the Mariners?  Starters Kevin Millwood and Jason Vargas could be available in the right scenarios and catcher Miguel Olivo presumably is being shopped as well as a veteran in the final months of his contract and having lost much of his playing time to Jesus Montero and John Jaso.

“We have conversations going on,” Zduriencik said. “You don’t know where it’ll lead from here. But we’ll see. We’ve been working on these other trades for a while and this is where we settled [on Monday night].”

— Greg Johns

July 30 Late Night Roundup

* According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Giants outfielder Nate Schierholtz has requested a trade. Unhappy with his reduced role in San Francisco, it is believed that Schierholtz would welcome a move to a team with more opportunity.

* The Marlins are trying to shop Carlos Lee, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

* The Reds appear to be zeroing in on Juan Pierre, writes ESPN’s Jayson Stark. He also says the Dodgers look like the frontrunner on Shane Victorino, while teams that have checked in on Hunter Pence believe the Phillies will wait until the offseason.

* According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the Reds are talking to the Cubs about acquiring Matt Garza.

Quinn Roberts


How close did Tigers get to Reed Johnson deal?

The Tigers were among the teams with interest in Cubs outfielder Reed Johnson, one of the many right-handed role hitting outfielders on the market heading into the Trade Deadline. He ended up going to Atlanta in the Paul Maholm trade Monday night. The question is how close the Tigers came.

Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago reported that four teams, including the Tigers, made their “best offer” on Monday. However, Tigers manager Jim Leyland told reporters Monday afternoon that he wasn’t expecting them to make any additional deals before Tuesday’s deadline. Then again, it was noted that Tigers minor league pitcher Thomas Collier left his start for Class A West Michigan after just three innings Monday night, as USA Today’s Bob Nightengale pointed out.

By trading both Johnson and Maholm to Atlanta, the Cubs were able to obtain two quality prospects, something the Tigers would’ve most likely been unwilling to do for the outfielder alone.

Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski deferred questions on trade matters to Tuesday afternoon once the non-waiver deadline passes. By then, the Tigers will most likely have given at least one more try at a right-handed hitting outfielder in hopes of bettering their lineup against left-handed pitching.

— Jason Beck

Braves acquire Johnson and Maholm from the Cubs

The Braves have acquired right-handed hitting outfielder Reed Johnson and left-handed pitcher Paul Maholm from the Cubs in exchange for two Minor League pitchers.

One of those Minor League players is Arodys Vizcaino, a heralded right-handed prospect who is sidelined this year while recovering from Tommy John surgery.  The other pitcher is Jaye Chapman, who has spent this season with Triple-A Gwinnett.

The Braves were able to satisfy their desires to add a starting pitcher and a right-handed hitter to strengthen their bench.

Maholm has gone 5-0 with a 1.00 ERA in the seven appearances he has made dating back to June 29.  The 30-year-old left-handed pitcher has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 12 of his 21 starts this season.

Johnson has batted .307 with three home runs and a .807 OPS in 166 at-bats with the Cubs this season.  The 35-year-old outfielder has been on the Braves’ radar in the past.  He has batted .280 with a .743 OPS in 161 career pinch-hit at-bats.

Cashman: Yanks aren’t players for Cliff Lee

Two years ago, the Yankees nearly wrestled Cliff Lee away from the Mariners before seeing him head to the Rangers instead. With rumors swirling that the left-hander could again be available for the right price, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman lightheartedly shot down any suggestion that his club would again be involved in the bidding.

It’s not that the Yankees don’t like Lee or couldn’t use him in their rotation, mind you. Cashman pointed out that if the Yankees are going to achieve their goal of reaching a $189 million payroll by 2014, they can’t be taking on contracts like Lee’s. He’s owed a guaranteed $75 million over the next three years.

“I’m not allowed to speak about another team’s player,” Cashman said, “but if there was a hypothetical mythical beast that makes like $25 million a year for the next X amount of years that became hitting the market, we certainly could not participate in that type of level financial talent.”

Cashman added that he is “not at all” optimistic that the Yankees will pull off a move before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET non-waivers Trade Deadline.

“It’s gotten really quiet,” he said. “Things have just gotten quiet all of a sudden. There have been a lot of moves before tomorrow so I’m not going to count anything out. A lot of buyers, not very many sellers.”

– Bryan Hoch

7/30 afternoon roundup: Morneau, Betancourt, Correia and the Phillies

  • Justin Morneau has been a cornerstone in Minnesota for almost a decade, but the Twins are willing to part ways. FOX’s Ken Rosenthal tweets that Minnesota wants a Major League-ready starting pitcher, and negotiations would require working out the remaining $19 million on Morneau’s salary. The Blue Jays, Dodgers and Giants are reportedly interested.
  • Cliff Lee is on the block, Shane Victorino’s name is floating around and Hunter Pence also seems to be a trade candidate. Hardly anyone in Philadelphia is untouchable these days, with the Giants inquiring about Pence, says CBS’ Jon Heyman.
  • As dismal as the Rockies have been this season, they’ve had a couple reliable bullpen pieces that teams have their eye on as the Deadline nears. Rafael Betancourt, a veteran with plenty of late-inning experience, is one of them. The Denver Post’s Troy Renck reports the A’s, Braves, Blue Jays, Rangers and Angels could all be potential suitors. Lefty Matt Reynolds is also in the mix.
  • The Indians have faded behind the White Sox and Tigers in the AL Central race, and that means they’ll be listening to calls about closer Chris Perez and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.
  • The Pirates are one of the most unlikely stories in baseball this year, over-exceeding even the wildest expectations. But Kevin Correia, relegated to the bullpen recently, tells the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review he wants out.

— Joey Nowak

7/30 Dempster tidbits

No change in Ryan Dempster’s status, just the rumors. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus reports Zach Lee, Allen Webster and Chris Reed are off the table in any talks between the Cubs and Dodgers for Dempster. CBS Sports’ Scott Miller said discussions are “gaining momentum.” However, a Major League source told MLB.com Monday afternoon that nothing has changed in discussions.

— Carrie Muskat

Mariners’ League still in mix as deadline nears

Mariners reliever Brandon League’s name continues to be mentioned prominently in trade rumors as we approach the last 24 hours before MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline — which is 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

League, 29, will be a free agent at season’s end and Seattle is in a seller’s position, sitting 10 games under .500 and 14 games out of first place in the AL West. The right-hander’s name has been linked to talks with the Dodgers, Giants, Angels and White Sox, but Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik plays things close to the vest and most of his previous trades — including last week’s deal of Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees — came with no advance warning.

The same was true last December when Michael Pineda went to the Yankees for Jesus Montero, as well as last year’s trade deadline deals that sent Doug Fister to the Tigers and Erik Bedard to the Red Sox.

All that is certain now is that Zduriencik is exploring the market for League, a durable veteran whose 181 appearances since the start of 2010 are the most of any American League reliever. League gave up three hits and three runs in Seattle’s 7-6 win over the Royals on Sunday, but has generally pitched well since losing his closer’s role to Tom Wilhelmsen in late May. Since then, he’s posted a 2.96 ERA with 27 hits, 8 runs, 7 walks and 14 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings.

Overall he’s 0-5 with a 3.63 ERA and nine saves this season after saving 37 games in 2011 when he earned his first All-Star berth. League has about $1.8 million remaining on this year’s $5 million deal.

The other two pitchers the Mariners might be tempted to move would be starters Jason Vargas and Kevin Millwood. Vargas, 29, has the most value since he’s under team control for another year as he heads into his final season of arbitration eligibility. He’s also having his best season as a starter (11-7, 3.76 ERA), so Zduriencik wouldn’t likely deal him unless he received a quality offensive prospect or two in return.

Millwood, 37,  is in the final two months of a one-year, $1 million deal he signed as a non-roster invitee. He’s pitched well this season, but lack of run support has left his record at 4-8 with a 3.90 ERA. The veteran knows he could be dealt to a contender, but isn’t spending a lot of time thinking about it.

“That’s just another thing I can’t control, so I try not to worry about things like that,” he said. “Whatever happens, happens.”

— Greg Johns

Teams may be backing away from JJ

MIAMI — If Sunday was an audition, Josh Johnson’s performance didn’t win over the critics.

After seeing six walks in five innings by Johnson, scouts and front office personnel are deciding whether to meet Miami’s high trade demands.

Representatives from roughly 15 teams were at Marlins Park on Sunday afternoon, watching the 28-year-old issue a season-high six walks while stiking out four in five innings.

Johnson minimized damage, allowing two runs on two hits. In terms of pure stuff, the 95-pitch outing was not overwhelming.

That could be good or bad news for Marlins fans hopeful Johnson remains with the club after Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline passes.

The good news for Miami fans hoping JJ will stay is, other teams may be backing away from trade talks.

Conversely, if JJ stays, more is expected from the two-time All-Star.

The Marlins are listening to teams interested in their ace. But Miami is seeking a large haul — at least four players, including a top prospect or two. If such a package isn’t presented, look for JJ to remain with the team that Drafted him in 2002.

The Rangers were lukewarm before Sunday, and they saw nothing to change their mind. The Blue Jays are in the mix, as are the Red Sox.

Now, the Braves are in the conversation, but would the Marlins deal with their division rival? It would depend on what’s offered in return.

Barring being blown out of the water, the Marlins probably won’t find a match with Atlanta.

Some will say, Miami traded Dan Uggla to the Braves two years ago. But circumstances were different, because Uggla turned down a four-year, $48 million offer from the Marlins then. He was entering his final season of arbitration, and the club wanted to get something, rather then watch Uggla test the market.

JJ is signed through 2013 as he will make $13.75 million next year.

Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez, obviously, knows Johnson well. He managed him with the Marlins.

While the right-hander had less-than-spectacular stuff on Sunday, on July 23, Johnson beat the Braves. On that night, his stuff was electric, nine strikeouts with one hit allowed in six scoreless innings.

Johnson left that game due to a small cut at the nail of his right middle finger.

Perhaps the finger was an issue on Sunday against the Padres.

Or it may be a case of Johnson still searching for consistency. In 2011, he missed a majority of the season because of right shoulder inflammation.

While he’s been healthy this year, he hasn’t dominated like in the past. Before being hurt in ’11, Johnson was 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA. And in 2010, he won the NL ERA crown with a 2.30, going 11-6 in 28 starts.

JJ is next scheduled to start on Friday at Washington.

Until the trade deadline passes on Tuesday, there will likely remain speculation that Johnson’s outing on Sunday was his last one with the Marlins.

– Joe Frisaro  

7/30 Cubs rumors

Ryan Dempster’s next scheduled start is Tuesday night, with the first pitch at Wrigley Field scheduled for four hours after the 3 p.m. CT Trade Deadline. Will he still be in a Cubs uniform by then? Yahoo’s Tim Brown tweets Monday that the Dodgers are still talking to the Cubs about Dempster, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal says Alfonso Soriano could be part of the trade. On Sunday, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer wrote the Cubs’ failed attempt to get pitching prospect Allen Webster from the Dodgers created a stalemate. The Dodgers have had an offer on the table for Dempster since mid July.

The Braves appeared to have completed a deal one week ago for Dempster, who said Sunday: “Who’s to say I was going to say no or yes to whatever team.  All I said was that I just, at that time, I needed to think about everything.”

MLB.com’s Mark Bowman says there’s no guarantee 22-year-old Randall Delgado is still available to deal to the Cubs for Dempster.

Rosenthal points out that under the new CBA, there is no longer a required 24-hour waiting period for 10-and-5 players to approve a trade. So, any deals can go right to the deadline as long as the player gives consent. That applies to Dempster.

— Carrie Muskat