July 2012

Cliff Lee’s name floating around; Rangers the front-runner?

Cliff Lee may soon be involved in yet another significant summer trade. ESPN.com’s Buster Olney and the New York Post’s Joel Sherman have reported Monday that the Philadelphia southpaw is in play, and both writers agree that the Rangers are a logical fit.

Olney names third baseman Mike Olt — Texas’ No. 3 prospect — as a possible Rangers trade chip. 

The Phillies may be more inclined now to deal Lee than they previously were, since the club has locked up Cole Hamels with an extension, and also since Philadelphia is all but out of contention in the NL East after a most disappointing season. 

Texas, where Lee pitched for the latter stages of the 2010 season, is in desperate need of a starter. And, as Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal wrote last week, the Rangers are one of eight teams with whom Lee cannot block a trade.

The three-time All-Star and 2008 AL Cy Young winner is 1-6 with a 3.95 ERA, after having endured a bizarre season that did not see him win his first ballgame until his 14th start of the year, on July 4.

— Joey Nowak

Blanton there if Orioles want him

The Phillies have made it clear that Joe Blanton is available in a potential trade, and the Orioles –who have shown by far the most interest in the right-hander—are weighing whether the veteran Blanton is worth taking a flier on, multiple sources told MLB.com Monday.

“He’s there if they want him,” a source said of Blanton’s availability to the Orioles, who have actively pursued all available starting pitching options under executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette.

But, so far, that search has come up dry and Baltimore’s best option may be Blanton. The 31-year-old has been heavily scouted by the Orioles and has gone 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in his last three starts, pitching at least six innings in 10 consecutive games. Acquiring Blanton could help stabilize an Orioles rotation that has been woefully inconsistent. The Orioles are without their best starter, right-hander Jason Hammel, probably until September and Opening Day rotation arms Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz are currently in Triple-A after prolonged struggles at the Major League level.

The asking price for Blanton is less than other available arms and the Orioles –who are telling teams top prospects Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado are off the table – don’t have a lot of other trade chips in a market where numerous clubs are also seeking starting pitching.

The Phillies wouldn’t just give away Blanton, however, with one source saying the team would want a Major League-ready utility player or a prospect who could be a viable middle reliever. Duquette told MLB.com Friday that the club has received the most interest in its pitching depth, and the Orioles could certainly trade some of their bullpen arms, in the Major or Minor Leagues, if they decide on Blanton.

But how much of an upgrade would he be, and would Duquette be willing to trade for a pitcher who is only signed through this season?  Blanton, who will be a free agent next year, is 8-9 with a 4.59 ERA in 20 starts. He has allowed 141 hits, 74 runs, 68 of were earned, over 133 1/3 innings. He is susceptible to the long ball, having allowed 22 homers but has one of the best walk-to-strikeout ratios in the Majors, with 115 strikeouts against 18 walks.

Signed to a three-year extension January 21, 2010, Blanton is making $8.5 million this season and the Orioles would presumably be on the hook for two months of that figure. The Cardinals and Blue Jays have also expressed interest in Blanton, according to an industry source, but the Orioles are the most interested team.

–Brittany Ghiroli

Braves more interested in Lester than Beckett

The Red Sox called the Braves to gauge their interest in Josh Beckett. They would have likely received a different response had they asked about Jon Lester.  But it does not appear Lester will be made available before Tuesday’s Trade Deadline.

Even with the possibility that the Red Sox might be willing to eat more than half of the $37 million still owed to Beckett through the end of the 2014 season, the Braves do not seem to be a fit.  The veteran pitcher has experienced a decline in velocity while posting a 4.57 ERA in 17 starts last year.  With a 5.78 ERA in 2010 and 2.98 ERA in 2011, Beckett is trending toward being one of those every-other-year pitchers like Javier Vazquez was during his career.

The Braves would be more interested in Lester, who is in the midst of the most disappointing season of his young career.  Lester is four years younger and cheaper (owed $11.625M in 2013 and has a $13M club option with a $250,000 buyout for the 2014 season) than Beckett.

With a little more than 24 hours left before the Trade Deadline, the Braves will continue their search for a starting pitcher.  Many industry sources seem to agree that the Rays are not aggressively attempting to trade James Shields.  As for the Ryan Dempster situation, it remains cloudy.  If the Dodgers are not able to work out the trade Dempster has been hoping for, there is still a chance the Cubs could come back to the Braves.

If the Cubs come back to the Braves, they might not get the same package that was in place before Dempster blocked a trade to Atlanta last week.  In other words, there is no guarantee Randall Delgado would also be available in this package.

The Braves have also checked in on some relievers.  Wade Davis has been mentioned among their targets, but the Rays also seem reluctant to move him.  The Rockies have indicated former Braves top pitching prospect Matt Belisle is not available.  But there is a chance they could move right-handed reliever Rafael Betancourt.  — Mark Bowman

Report: Possible Beckett deals being discussed

Late last night, Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan tweeted that the Red Sox have been calling around trying to shop Josh Beckett, but that no deal was imminent. But it looks like the team is, indeed, actively talking about moving the three-time All-Star. 

A deal for Beckett could soon gain steam, according to ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes, who wrote Monday morning that the Red Sox are actively “trying to dump him.”

Beckett is a 10/5 player, so he would have the right to say no to any deal. Texas and Atlanta, two teams who have not been shy about their desire to add starting pitching, could be possibly landing places for the right-hander, who is 5-9 with a 4.57 ERA in 17 starts this season. Beckett is slated to pitch against Detroit’s Justin Verlander on Tuesday at Fenway Park.

Boston general manager Ben Cherington said on Boston sports radio station WEEI that the team’s goal is to improve the rotation, and shipping Beckett out may not be the right solution. Potential starting pitching additions for the Red Sox, though, could include Matt GarzaJosh Johnson or James Shields, according to Edes’ report.

 Joey Nowak

July 29 Late Night Roundup

* According to Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic, D-backs General Manager Kevin Towers could pursue additional pitching prior to Tuesday’s deadline. He also hinted that one of the club’s infielders could be changing zip codes.

* Sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that there is no guarantee Arizona will trade shortstop Stephen Drew. Right now, the D-backs are deciding whether to give the majority of playing time at shortstop to Drew or Willie Bloomquist.

* With a little more than a day left before the Trade Deadline, the Padres are continuing to weigh several offers for third baseman Chase Headley, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. However, San Diego is still unsure if they want to move him.

* According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the Red Sox have made calls to the Braves and Rangers in the past two days in an effort to get rid of Josh Beckett’s contract. The Red Sox began talks, believing Beckett would waive his 10-and-5 right to play for either team. 

* Falling two games below .500 after being swept by the Twins over the weekend, the Indians have told teams they would consider trading Justin Masterson, according to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.

— Quinn Roberts


Williams still working to strengthen White Sox

When Ken Williams was asked during Sunday’s conference call as to whether more White Sox trades were possible before Tuesday’s 3 p.m. CT non-waiver deadline, the team’s general manager answered with one word.

“Yes,” Williams said.

That reply was followed by silence, a sort of dramatic pause.

Williams already has done major work on a White Sox team that surprised people even without the new additions. But when third baseman Brent Morel developed back issues and veteran Orlando Hudson wasn’t a fit at a position where he previously never had played, Williams went out and acquired Kevin Youkilis from Boston on June 24.

When he needed a veteran reliever to help his youthful bullpen, Williams picked up Brett Myers from Houston. And when the White Sox needed another quality, frontline starter to also help lessen the workload on young rotation members such as Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, Williams added Francisco Liriano Saturday night from the Twins. Utility infielder Eduardo Escobar appeared to be the only player given up in these three deals combined who still figured prominently in the White Sox future.

So, what’s left for Williams and the White Sox?

He still could add to the bench, with Rey Olmedo taking Escobar’s place as utility infielder and rookie Jordan Danks serving as the extra outfielder. Williams also could pursue another left-handed reliever to complete a veteran southpaw tandem with Matt Thornton.

Then again, where Williams and pushing toward the ultimate prize of winning a World Series is concerned, no trade, big or small, becomes unexpected at this time of year.

“You plot out a course and go down that course and try to take action,” Williams said. “If you lose out on one, turn the page and move on to the next.”

Scott Merkin

Hairston trying to ignore trade rumors

If the Mets make any move prior to Tuesday’s deadline, it will likely involve outfielder Scott Hairston, the only player on their roster generating significant interest from other clubs. Hairston could bolster a contender’s bench with his power right-handed bat.

Of course, Hairston also knows this, which is why he has been trying his hardest to block out trade rumors. Until his agent contacts him, Hairston said, he will do his best to keep his focus on the field.

“It’s kind of hard to ignore them,” Hairston said. “I have friends that send me texts every day. Right now, once I get to the ballpark I just focus in on doing my job that given day. I know a lot can happen in the next few days, but I’m a Met now, I’m happy to be a Met and I’m enjoying my time here.”

General manager Sandy Alderson has said that he will not trade Hairston for a low-level prospect. But he did not rule out dealing Hairston for a piece that could legitimately help the Mets in 2013 and beyond. As a pending free agent, Hairston may be playing out his final months with the Mets, anyway, giving them added incentive to deal him.

–Anthony DiComo

Royals’ Broxton drawing interest

The San Francisco Giants have “serious interest” in Royals closer Jonathan Broxton, ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden said on Twitter on Sunday.

ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick added, also on Twitter on Sunday, that “chances are ’60-70′ percent he’ll move” before the Trade Deadline on Tuesday.

Broxton has been solid, for the most part, this season in Kansas City. He was signed in the offseason to be the team’s setup man, but closer Joakim Soria went down for the year before the season started. Broxton has stepped in as closer and picked up 23 saves. In 35 appearances, he’s 1-2 with a 2.27 ERA in 35 2/3 innings pitched.

The Royals have struggled in July, and there haven’t been many opportunities for Broxton to close out games. He’s appeared just five times this month, picking up three saves and blowing one.

— Vinnie Duber

July 29 afternoon roundup

Mariners right-handed reliever Brandon League appears to be staying out West. Where he will land, though, is yet to be determined.

Our own Alden Gonzalez reported earlier in this space the Angels are in talks with Seattle, while the San Francisco Chronicle’s Henry Schulman tweeted the Giants also are talking to the Mariners about League. League saved 37 games in 2011 but was removed from the closer role earlier this year. He has a 1.96 ERA (five earned runs in 23 innings) since June 1.

  • Jim Bowden, of ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio, tweeted the Giants also are interested in Kansas City’s Jonathan Broxton, while CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman tweeted San Francisco is looking for outfield help in the form of Philadelphia’s Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, as well. FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal tweeted Pence might be too expensive for the Giants.
  • The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Biertempfel reports the Pirates are interested in Shin-Soo Choo, while our Carrie Muskat wrote earlier Pittsburgh also could be interested in Chicago’s David DeJesus, Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker as bats off the bench.

– Cash Kruth

Dodgers Still Target Dempster, Victorino

The Dodgers are still focusing on starting pitcher Ryan Dempster and leadoff-hitting outfielder Shane Victorino as their top two trade targets by Tuesday’s deadline. The club has also been rumored in talks for starting pitchers James Shields and Matt Garza, slugger Corey Hart, reliever Brandon League and outfielder Hunter Pence. — Ken Gurnick