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While You Were Sleeping: 7/30 A.M. Trade Roundup

  • With Thursday’s 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline looming, Jon Lester appears to be in the final hours of his Red Sox tenure after the left-hander was scratched from Wednesday night’s start against the Blue Jays at Fenway. On Wednesday, ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Edes Red Sox reported that Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates, Blue Jays, Orioles and A’s  were in the running for the 30-year-old Lester. Right-hander Brandon Workman will get the start in Lester’s place for Boston on Wednesday. Lester is 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA in 21 starts with 149 strikeouts this season.
  • With Jaime Garcia out for the season and Michael Wacha currently on the disabled list, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak has his sights set on bolstering St. Louis’ rotation.  Starting pitchers Lester, Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, Cole Hamels, Ian Kennedy, Justin Masterson and David Price are among the names that could be targeted in a deal by St. Louis. CBSSports and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman cited the Dodgers and Cardinals as the front-runners to land both Price and Lester
  • Speaking of Price, the Rays ace had some fun with fans on Twitter on Wednesday morning. 
  • Although Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp has been linked to trade rumors, ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Mark Saxon tweeted that the club wasn’t close to any blockbuster deals on Tuesday. According to Saxon, a deal sending Lester to L.A. is unlikely, especially if the asking price is Joc Pederson, who is ranked No. 19 on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospect list and who is the third ranked player on the Dodgers’ Top 20 Prospect list. The left-handed-hitting 22-year-old Pederson is hitting .319 with 23 homers, 56 RBIs and 25 stolen bases over 92 sames for Triple-A Albuquerque this season.
  • Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that Pederson was also sought after by Phillies and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. in a deal for left-hander Cole Hamels, however the asking price of Pederson along with SS prospect Corey Seager and LHP prospect Julio Urias was quickly shot down by Los Angeles and GM Ned Colletti.
  • Heyman reported on Tuesday night that the Rockies will not deal 41-year-old right-hander LaTroy Hawkins. Colorado had reportedly discussed a deals with Pittsburgh and other teams for Hawkins, who is 2-2 with a 2.92 ERA in 38 appearances with 17 saves in 18 tries this season over 37 IP.

– Matt Weber and Joey Nowak

Could Tigers swing a trade for starting pitching?

The Tigers headed into the final full day before Thursday afternoon’s non-waiver trade deadline in much the same position as they were over the weekend — still looking for relief help, notably left-handed, still seemingly finding the asking prices high. The same supply-and-demand issues that inflated the market coming into the heart of the traded still hold, at prices resembling the starting pitching market in a lot of years, and the late-inning relief market already.

Which begs the question: If the Tigers would have to pay prices for another reliever resembling that for a starter, could they simply trade for a starter instead, then move lefty Drew Smyly back to the bullpen?

It might not be that far-fetched. One AL talent evaluator raised the possibility earlier in the month. And while there’s nothing suggesting a deal is close, there are signs not to rule it out.

The Rays have had a scout watching the Tigers’ Double-A Erie team since early last week, including Jake Thompson’s start just before his trade to Texas in the package for Joakim Soria. The SeaWolves are currently in Altoona facing the Double-A affiliate of the Pirates, whose search for starting help and deep prospect ranks have made them a much-speculated suitor for starting pitching. The scout, however, is believed to be watching both clubs.

Six weeks ago, the Tigers and Rays seemed like a logical match for Ben Zobrist, but shortstop is no longer a trade target in Detroit. While the Rays have relievers who would carry some appeal on the trade market, there’s little urgency to make a deal. Their main remaining trade bait, even amidst their charge back into the AL East race, is David Price.

It’s shaky at best that the Rays would decide to buck their recent charge and trade Price. If they did, even with the Tigers enjoying some depth in prospects, they can’t match other clubs in what they can offer. If Pittsburgh to St. Louis were to make a serious run, their best push would beat anything the Tigers could come up with, especially after trading Thompson and Corey Knebel to Texas. Something crazy would have to happen. Still, it’s interesting to have the Rays scouting them.

Meanwhile, a Tigers senior scout spent the weekend in Houston, where the Astros were swept by the Marlins. Both clubs have lefty relievers rumored to be on the trade market — Mike Dunn for Miami, Tony Sipp for Houston. However, the Marlins aren’t expected to sell, according to reports, and the Astros aren’t inclined to deal relievers at this point. By contrast, the Astros are reportedly more willing to deal from a surplus of starters.

If the Tigers traded a starter and shuffled Smyly back to relief, it would certainly be an end-around to address their pitching needs. The problem is that it doesn’t actually add to their bullpen depth when it counts. Though Smyly has spent all season in Detroit’s rotation, he’s likely to shift to the bullpen in October anyway, since the Tigers need just four starters for the postseason. Essentially, then, all a trade would do is put Smyly in the bullpen sooner. So if the Tigers were to trade for a starter, he’d have to be good.

That said, trading for a starter who’s under control for next year could conceivably help fill the void if Max Scherzer leaves as a free agent at season’s end.

- Jason Beck

Lester scratched from start; trade talks continue

The Red Sox did nothing to diminish rumors that Jon Lester will be traded to a contender when they scratched him from Wednesday night’s start against the Blue Jays.

“Yeah, Brandon Workman will start tomorrow,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “In light of all the uncertainty surrounding Jon Lester, it’s probably in everyone’s best interests that he does not make that start, so Brandon will be recalled. There will be a corresponding move roster-wise at some point tomorrow.”

By scratching Lester from his Wednesday start, the Red Sox could increase the urgency of their suitors to sweeten their offer in advance of Thursday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline.

Also, Lester becomes more attractive to a potential suitor if he can pitch immediately after a trade, rather than having to wait until Monday.

Numerous teams have talked to the Red Sox about Lester, and there was a lot of buzz about the Pirates on Tuesday. The Dodgers are another possible destination, though they’ve thus far been unwilling to part with the type of top prospects (Corey Seager, Joc Pederson) the Red Sox seek. The Marlins have also expressed interest, according to Jim Bowden of MLB Network radio.

While Red Sox veterans were still hoping the lefty would stay, they were bracing for the possibility of his exit.

“Yeah, it’s tough,” said Dustin Pedroia, who came up with Lester through the farm system and has won a pair of World Series titles with him. “We’re not teammates – we’re family. It’s something you don’t like going through. It makes you feel worse. We don’t want to be in this position. I know a lot of guys feel that if you play up to your capability … we should be adding instead of subtracting. Hopefully he’s here.”

High asking price for Lester

MIAMI — The Marlins are seeking a game-changing starter, and Jon Lester would be the ideal candidate to make a playoff push. But at what price?

Boston, in the market for outfield help, would seek Christian Yelich in return for Lester, a two-time World Series champion. Miami has no interest in parting with a 22-year-old pure hitter with All-Star potential.

In fact, Miami is not willing to part with any core player on the big league roster.

It’s unclear if the Marlins are continuing to pursue Lester for a lesser package. But what is clear is the front office is scrambling to make a move or two by Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Lester, a free agent after the season, would be a rental in Miami. The Marlins ideally are seeking a starter they can control beyond 2014. A possibility in Boston could be John Lackey, who also has World Series experience. The price would be much less for Lackey than Lester.

Lackey is signed through 2015, and his salary will be tendered at the league minimum because he underwent a second Tommy John surgery. That language was written into his current contract.

If Tampa Bay were to make David Price available, the Marlins would have heavy interest.

Joe Frisaro

Rays’ Zobrist ‘can’t imagine anything being broke up’

ST. PETERSBURG — With David Price standing in the local and national spotlight prior to Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, Ben Zobrist has almost flown under the radar.

But he’s been the subject of many trade rumors, and he’s shown lately why he’s such an interesting target.

Zobrist hit a game-tying homer and a go-ahead double in the Rays’ 5-1 win over the Brewers on Tuesday, improving Tampa Bay’s record to 53-54. The Rays were 24-42 through June 10, and they’re a win Wednesday away from being the fourth team in Major League history to fall to 18 games below .500 and return to that mark.

Nobody’s ever overcome that deficit and reached the postseason. The Rays believe they can. While everyone’s been talking about how the Rays are playing to keep Price, manager Joe Maddon insists their goal is even loftier.

“Yeah, we’re playing for the World Series. That’s our objective. It’s been from Day 1. For me, it’s to get to the playoffs and to win the World Series,” Maddon said. “I’m telling you, we’re one of the best teams in the American League. Our record is not reflecting it yet, but if we keep playing like this, it soon shall. There’s a lot of time left.”

But is there a lot of time left for players like Price and Zobrist? Price is slated to start Wednesday’s 12:10 p.m. ET game, unsure where he’ll make the start after that but ready for an answer.

CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reported Tuesday that the Rays are “talking and willing” to deal Price despite the Rays winning 11 of their last 12 and 29 of 41 since June 11. It makes sense: If Tampa Bay was willing to consider trading Price this offseason — when they were zero games out of any race — why not do so now when the odds aren’t as favorable?

“This is the team we are. We knew that this was the team we could be in Spring Training. It just took a long time for it to show up,” Zobrist said. “I don’t think we’re ever going to return to the way we were playing prior to June 11.”

Back to Zobrist. He’s hitting .344/.440/.563 (33-for-96) with four homers and 15 RBIs since June 28. He’s drawn 15 walks and only struck out six times this month. He’s dealt with fewer questions from reporters about his future than Price has, but he’s also performing like someone who wants to talk Andrew Friedman’s front office out of a sell-off.

The Rays likely will continue to assess their chances right up to the Deadline. But Price, Zobrist and Co. have made a compelling argument to stay.

“We’ve been playing so well that I haven’t been worrying about it too much. I think right now, it’s just so much fun to play with this club that it’s like, I can’t imagine anything being broke up at this point,” Zobrist said. “We seem to be a very, very good team in August and September. If history dictates anything, we’re going to continue to play the way that we can play for the last two months of the season.”

-Adam Berry

Pirates have their own deadline for Lester deal

The Pirates continue to chat with the Red Sox about getting the pitcher they want without giving up what Boston wants.

Not only do the Bucs want to land left-hander Jon Lester, they want to bag him quickly. Forget Thursday’s 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline; the Pirates have their own deadline – 7 p.m. ET tomorrow, before Lester takes his scheduled turn in Fenway Park against Toronto.

Lester is a difference maker, and if things work out, the Pirates don’t want him using up any more bullets in Boston.

Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington’s refusal to part with top prospects for a two-month rental — Lester will be a free agent after the season, and the Bucs couldn’t even afford the deal he has already turned  down from the Red Sox — makes the players most coveted by the Red Sox off limits. Tyler Glasnow, Nick Kingham, Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell and Austin Meadows are not on the table.

Boston’s desperate move for Stephen Drew failed, and the Bucs are trying to drum up their interest in Alen Hanson. Hot Single-A outfielder Jacoby Jones (16 homers at West Virginia) is also in the conversation, and Major League vet Jose Tabata — still only 25 — is a wild card in the talks.

Lester could only be the starting point of any business with the Red Sox. During Spring Training, the Pirates had interest in Mike Carp, the left-handed hitting first baseman / outfielder who has burned his Boston bridges by recently requesting a trade. The Bucs also have interest in virtually the entire Red Sox bullpen.

The situation described here can also apply to another lefty, David Price. And the Rays have recently had scouts watching Double-A Altoona (Bell and Hanson are both with the Curve). However, if their current hot streak hasn’t changed the Rays’ minds about dealing Price, it has at the very least escalated his price out of what the Pirates would consider.

Tom Singer

Teams looking for dance partner

Cubs GM Jed Hoyer has had plenty of conversations with other teams prior to Thursday’s Trade Deadline but said they may not make another deal.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we made no moves,” Hoyer said Tuesday. “I expect to be active, we’re having a lot of conversations. It’s still early. [Wednesday] is sort of moving day. I expect things will get more serious as we move into tomorrow. People have some reluctance on the last day.

“[Wednesday] evening is when a lot of people hone in on the deals they want to make,” he said.

The Cubs made their blockbuster move on July 4, trading starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics for four players, including highly touted shortstop Addison Russell and outfielder Billy McKinney.

Other teams are still trying to find the right match.

“People try to find a dance partner on the 30th and 31st,” Hoyer said. “As you get to [Wednesday] evening, people want to make deals and they’re more willing to pair up, and I expect that to be the same thing.”

There has been some interest in the Cubs’ left-handed relievers, James Russell and Wesley Wright.

– Carrie Muskat

Os looking to add pitching depth, hesitant to trade top prospects

Last year, the Orioles successfully added to their pitching staff, upgrading the rotation with right-hander Bud Norris in a last-minute midseason deal with the Houston Astros. And while Baltimore is looking once again to add pitching, there’s a lot less certainty that it will be able to acquire an arm that’s significantly better than what the team already has.

“The starters, the way they’ve been pitching the last six weeks, that’s encouraging,” Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said of a rotation that has chopped a half-run off its collective ERA in pitching to a low 3 ERA since June 9. “So I guess I don’t know if we would acquire a top starter, but we would be looking for pitching depth.”

The O’s have been incredibly active in trade discussions in the weeks leading up to Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, and there’s been no shortage of names linked in Baltimore’s pursuit of pitching.Ian Kennedy, Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett and Jorge De La Rosa are among the names the club has kicked around. There’s also been a wealth of interest in the young arms Duquette and Co. have accumulated, a high cost that likely takes any kind of marquee trade for a starter off the table.

“We have some really talented young prospects, [like] Kevin Gausman, who is now pitching for the big leagues. Obviously other teams are interested in having a pitcher like Kevin Gausman on their team,” Duquette said of the 23-year-old righty, who is on several opposing teams’ radar, including Colorado. “[There's] a lot of interest in Hunter Harvey, Eduardo Rodgriguez is pitching pretty well, and of course Dylan Bundy. There’s a lot of interest in our young pitching from other teams.”

Duquette has been hesitant to part with the team’s top pitching prospects in the past, and by all indications, that continues to be the case, as the Orioles — who are in first place in the American League East — know the importance of building from within. They also know how fleeting success can be, and Duquette wants to get something done in the next few days. If the club can’t land a starter, there’s also the need for bullpen help in the sixth and seventh innings — preferably left-handed — and potential offensive upgrades at catcher and second base.

“The way I look at it is we have an opportunity to add to our team and continue our path to the postseason,” Duquette said. “So it’s a little bit more challenging to add to your team after the first [of August].”

Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is an interesting name that figures to command a nice haul, while Twins veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki has been linked to the club in recent days. The O’s had interest in Padres outfielder Seth Smith, but his recent contract extension makes the chances of acquiring the lefty pretty slim. There’s also the case of how to fit in another left-handed bat on the team’s roster with David Lough currently serving as Baltimore’s backup center fielder.

Duquette, like most GMs, is waiting for the asking prices to drop as Thursday’s Trade Deadline inches nearer. The Orioles have already made a minor move in adding outfielder Jimmy Paredes from the Padres last week — and sending him to Triple-A — but they could be poised to add someone to the big league roster in the next few days.

“We’ve had some active discussions with a lot of clubs, that have been ongoing for the last couple weeks,” Duquette said. “We’ve been maintaing dialogue for a number of things.”

Marlins listed among teams in on Lester

MIAMI — Winning eight of nine has the Marlins in complete “buy mode” as Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.

It appears the club is aiming high in its search for veteran help to make a playoff push.

According to Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio, Miami is one of seven teams who have reached out to the Red Sox regarding Jon Lester.

If the front office is looking to send a signal to the clubhouse and South Florida fan base, pulling off a deal for the two-time World Series champion would do the trick.

Lester, owed just over $4 million for the rest of the season, would be a rental, because he will be a free agent in the fall.

The asking price in terms of prospects would certainly be high. So the question would be how much Miami would be willing to give up for a shot at making a serious push in the final two months.

Bowden reported the Blue Jays, Brewers, Mariners, Cardinals, Dodgers and Orioles also have expressed interest in Lester.

The Marlins are suddenly rejuvenated after taking six of seven at Atlanta and Houston. On Monday night, the club pulled off its biggest comeback of the year — rallying to a 7-6 victory over the Nationals after trailing by six.

Ideally, the Marlins would like more than a rental. They’d prefer a starter with controllable years. None of the candidates would make the immediate impact of Lester.

The Marlins are in a tricky spot because they are a game under .500, and have plenty of ground to make up. They’re six games behind the Nationals and 5 1/2 games behind the Braves.

Miami has greatly exceeded expectations, and also are looking for a second baseman.

The rotation has been without Jose Fernandez since May, when the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery.

Miami is open to moving prospects, but is trying to avoid dealing Andrew Heaney.

The Marlins also are looking to avoid moving anyone off their active roster.

Joe Frisaro

Pirates in on Jon Lester?

The Pirates are slugging it out in a tough race in the National League Central, and they may be working on adding an All-Star to their rotation. Yahoo Sports reported Tuesday that the Pirates are emerging on the periphery of the talks to acquire Jon Lester from Boston.

Several teams have been linked to Lester in the last few weeks, and the southpaw is thriving with a 10-7 record and a 2.52 ERA for the Red Sox this season. Lester, who can be a free agent after the season, has said that he’d consider going back to Boston even if he’s traded.

The Pirates should have Gerritt Cole returning from the disabled list in August, so adding Lester could really give the team an additional boost. Lester could cost Pittsburgh heavy-hitting prospect Josh Bell, a former second-round draftee who was recently promoted to Double-A.

– Spencer Fordin

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