July 2012

Angels interested in Brandon League

The Angels have been in talks with the Mariners for right-handed reliever Brandon League, sources said Sunday, though it’s unsure how deep those discussions are at this point.

An industry source told MLB.com on Sunday afternoon that the Mariners could be close to trading League to either the Giants or Angels. Nothing is definite just yet, but the Angels are an interested suitor. They’ve been looking for another late-inning bullpen option all month, but after giving up pitchers John Hellweg and Ariel Pena along with shortstop Jean Segura for Zack Greinke on Friday, they don’t have a lot left in their farm system to deal. The Mariners seek young offensive help.

League, 29, is a free agent at the end of the season and is making $5 million in 2012. He struggled through the first two months and lost his job as closer, but has rebounded ever since. In 44 1/3 innings, he has a 3.05 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP, with 26 strikeouts and 19 walks. As an All-Star last year, he posted a 2.79 ERA and 37 saves in 65 appearances.

— Alden Gonzalez

7/29 Cubs getting lots of looks

Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza aren’t the only players drawing interest from teams heading into Tuesday’s Trade Deadline. Players such as David DeJesus, Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker also are attractive options to potential playoff teams looking to add to their bench. The Pirates, for example, have been looking to add another bat, but if they can’t do that, they mght consider Johnson or DeJesus for the bench, depending on whether they prefer an extra right-handed bat or a left-handed one. Johnson’s execution of the bunt single on Saturday, which drove in the game-winning run against the Cardinals, certainly increased his value. The Pirates had a scout watching the Cubs this weekend and there also were reps from the Dodgers, Twins and Phillies.

— Carrie Muskat

Astros trade Johnson to the D-backs

The Astros traded third baseman Chris Johnson to the D-backs on Sunday in exchange for Minor League infielder Bobby Borchering and outfielder  Marc Krauss.

Borchering, 21, was the D-backs first pick in the 2009 MLB First Year Player Draft while Krauss, 24, was taken in the second round of the 2009 Draft.

Borchering has played in 102 games combined at Class A Visalia and Double-A Mobile  in 2012, tallying 23 doubles, 20 home runs and 68 RBI. In 2011, he had 29 doubles, 24 homers and 92 RBI for Visalia. He attended Bishop Verot High School, the same high school Johnson attended years earlier

Krauss hit .283 in 104 games at Mobile with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs with a .416 on-base pct. and a .509 slugging percentage. Krauss, who was invited to the D-backs Major League camp in Spring Training this year, was a California League All-Star in 2012 at Visalia after hitting .302 in 138 games with 27 doubles, 25 home runs, 87 RBIs and a .509 slugging percentage.

Johnson hit .279 in 92 games for the Astros this season with eight home runs and 41 RBIs.

— Brian McTaggart

Braves monitoring the pitching market

Concerns about the Braves’ rotation have lessened as Ben Sheets has found success during the early stages of his comeback and Mike Minor has turned his season around.  Still general manager Frank Wren and staff have continued to evaluate the trade market for both starting pitchers and relievers.

All seemed quiet on the trade front as the Braves prepared for Sunday afternoon’s game against the Phillies.  But things could certainly heat up as Tuesday afternoon’s Trade Deadline approaches.

While many industry sources seem to doubt the possibility of Ryan Dempster ending up in Atlanta, the next 24 hours could be telling.  Dempster, who blocked a trade to the Braves last week, is scheduled to make his next start for the Cubs on Tuesday night.

There is still a chance Dempster will get his wish to be traded to the Dodgers.  But the Cubs and Dodgers have struggled to reach an agreement while discussing this possibility over the past couple of weeks.

If this continues, there is a chance Dempster could end up in Atlanta.  But if he does, the Cubs might not be compensated with Randall Delgado, the highly-regarded pitching prospect who was included in the trade the veteran pitcher blocked last week.

The Braves are among the teams that have shown interest in James Shields.  But the Rays have not yet provided clear indication that they are willing to deal Shields without getting a significant return.     —  Mark Bowman

July 28 Late Night Roundup

  • The A’s will send right-handed reliever Fautino De Los Santos to the Brewers in exchange for catcher George Kottaras, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Kottaras was designated for assignment on Thursday, but no trade has officially be announced.
  • Zack Greinke is off the board, and the Braves might not be able to close a deal for Ryan Dempster either. That has led Atlanta to search elsewhere for starting pitching help while also taking a look at the market for relievers, reported our own Mark Bowman.
  • The Cardinals are looking to upgrade their starting pitching, according to Scott Miller of CBSSports.com. Francisco Liriano was one option, but the White Sox nabbed him on Saturday night. That could lead St. Louis to focus more heavily on the Rays’ James Shields, who is attracting interest from several clubs.
  • The race for Padres third baseman Chase Headley is hotly contested but apparently no longer includes the A’s, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
  • Should the struggling Phillies decide to sell, Shane Victorino could be at the front of the line heading out of Philadelphia. Talks regarding the veteran center fielder are “getting warm,” according to CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. Outfielders Juan Pierre and Hunter Pence and starting pitcher Joe Blanton also could be trade bait.

— Andrew Simon

White Sox upgrade starting pitching, add Liriano

The White Sox moved to solidify their starting rotation shortly after Saturday night’s win over the Rangers, acquiring lefty Francisco Liriano from the Twins in exchange for infielder Eduardo Escobar and lefty Pedro Hernandez.

Liriano, 28, is only 3-10 with a 5.31 ERA this season but has pitched much better since returning May 30 from a stint in the bullpen. In 10 starts since then, he owns a 3.68 ERA, 79 strikeouts and 29 walks in 66 innings, despite a rough outing on Monday. Coincidentally, that came courtesy of the White Sox, who also fell victim to a Liriano no-hitter last May 3.

Escobar, 23, has spent the entire season on Chicago’s 25-man roster, appearing in 36 games at second base, third base and shortstop. He is hitting .207 with four doubles and a triple.

Hernandez, also 23, has posted a 2.94 ERA over 15 appearances, including 14 starts, between Double-A and Triple-A this season. He also made one start with the White Sox, giving up eight runs on 12 hits July 18 at Boston.

— Andrew Simon

7/28 Looking for bench help? How about Reed Johnson

Reed Johnson has heard his name mentioned in rumors so many times, he simply ignores them.

“I’ve had rumors over my 10-year career and never been traded,” the Cubs outfielder said Saturday. “It’s a situation for me for when you’re packing your stuff, that’s when you believe you’re headed somewhere else. If I stay here, great; if not, I realize that’s part of the game, and I have to move on.”

Johnson drove in the game-winning run with a pinch-hit bunt single with two outs in the seventh Saturday to give the Cubs a 3-2 win over the Cardinals.

“That was on his own,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “He’s a good bunter, and I remember once in Boston, he did it against us with the bases loaded and it turned into a monster inning.”

Tuesday’s Trade Deadline can’t come soon enough for the players, who are weary of the rumors. It’s not really distracting, Johnson said.

“Once you’re in between the lines, you don’t think about it too much,” he said. “Maybe before the game when you’re in the clubhouse with the guys, everybody’s kind of chipping on each other about getting traded, and you think about it then, but once the game starts, you forget about that stuff. It’s a good release to get out there this time of year.”

He’s had family and friends keep him up to date.

“I feel like my mom could be my agent because she always has an idea of where I’m going to go but I never end up anywhere,” Johnson said. “I might have to fire her.”

Could Johnson, who was batting .448 as a pinch-hitter this year, help a team?

“He’s a valuable guy to a team vying for a championship or trying to get to the playoffs,” Sveum said.

— Carrie Muskat

July 28 afternoon roundup

With Zack Greinke dealt to the Angels, Cubs right-hander Matt Garza battling triceps cramping and teammate Ryan Dempster reportedly only interested in the Dodgers, it appears Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson is the biggest pitching name on the market.

According to our own T.R. Sullivan, the Rangers have talked about Johnson but are not high on the right-hander because of his past injuries.

Rays right-hander James Shields is another pitcher getting interest and ESPN’s Buster Olney reports rival executives believe the right-hander will be moved prior to Tuesday’s Trade Deadline. The Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Tompkin reports the Braves, Dodgers, Indians and Rangers are interested in the right-hander, who has club options for 2013 and 2014.

Elsewhere, the A’s are close to acquiring catcher George Kottaras from the Brewers on Saturday, as FoxSports.com’s Jon Morosi first reported. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin spoke told reporters, including our Adam McCalvy, that the deal is not yet finalized. Milwaukee designated Kottaras for assignment Thursday. He was hitting .209 this season.

– Cash Kruth

7/28 Cubs wait for deadline to pass

There were no changes in the Cubs’ roster on Saturday, just attempts to ask Dale Sveum the same question: Are you eager for the Trade Deadline to pass?

“I think everybody is ready to get it behind us with everything that’s happened and all the rumors,” Sveum said. “Whether they happen or not, I think everybody will be glad it’s all over with. It’s not over with a lot of times because of the waiver wires. I think the main things will be shutdown one way or another [after Tuesday].”

The Trade Deadline is 3 p.m. CT on Tuesday. Ryan Dempster is scheduled to start that night against the Pirates.

— Carrie Muskat

Preparing for Strasburg shutdown?

According to our own Jesse Sanchez, the Nationals expressed interest in Zack Greinke, who was traded to the Angels on Friday. The Braves also were in talks with the Brewers, but the two big players were the Angels and Rangers.

Greinke would have been been a great addition to the Nationals rotation, especially if they shut down young right-hander Stephen Strasburg later this year — which they have continued to say they will do. Strasburg, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010, has thrown 117 1/3 innings this season. The Nationals have said they are targeting a limit of about 160 innings for Strasburg in his first full season back from surgery.

– Cash Kruth