Bautista to remain in RF?

Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista has been spotted taking groundballs at third base for the past couple of weeks. That led to speculation that Toronto has at least contemplated moving him to third on a permanent basis in order to make room for another outfielder prior to the upcoming Non-Waiver Trade Deadline.

The rumors increased on Wednesday afternoon when Jon Heyman of CBS Sports indicated that the Blue Jays have expressed an interest in Rangers outfielder Alex Rios. If Toronto made that type of move then Bautista would have to move to third while Brett Lawrie would assume everyday duties at second base when he returns from a fractured right index finger.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons did his best to dismiss any notion that a move is on the horizon by stating the club hasn’t talked about Bautista switching positions for more than a game or two when required. When asked why he responded: “He’s a right fielder. He can go over there occasionally and play a couple of games but I don’t think you’ll see that.”

– Gregor Chisholm 

Pirates players deny lobbying for Burnett’s return

Several Pirates players laughed off a widely-circulated report that they have been lobbying for the club to reacquire right-hander A.J. Burnett from Philadelphia.

The report, by FOX-TV’s Ken Rosenthal, crawled across the clubhouse big-screen TV tuned to the MLB Network on Tuesday night, prompting double-takes from several players.

“I haven’t even heard anyone bring up A.J.’s name here,” said left-hander Jeff Locke, the closest of Burnett’s teammates during his two years in Pittsburgh. “To lobby would mean approaching management. I’m not sure how you’d do that.”

“We have enough to do just playing the game, taking care of our business,” said Andrew McCutchen. “If something like that happens, fine. But we can’t be concerned with it ahead of time.”

None of this is to firmly say sentiment for Burnett’s return has not been raised in the Bucs’ clubhouse; not all players were questioned. And if the reunion does occur, he would be welcomed.

“A.J. is such a hard worker and tough competitor. I think he’s leading the league in starts (Burnett was tied with several others with 21 starts before making his 22nd start Wednesday night),” Locke said. “He’s had some off days, but everyone has those.”

Speaking of not lobbying — Burnett himself has said he is not asking the Phillies for a trade, but would be good with it if it happened. And he did say his preferred destination would be a return to Pittsburgh — where two weeks ago he was saluted with a big-board “Thank You” video when he took the mound to face the Pirates.

Tom Singer

Reds after Marlon Byrd?

Former general manager and current Sirius/XM radio analyst Jim Bowden has sources that him reporting on Wednesday that the Reds and Phillies are continuing to have trade talks regarding outfielder Marlon Byrd.

The slumping Reds could certainly use Byrd’s bat, but probably not his contract.

Byrd is owed $8 million for 2015 and has a $8 million option for 2016 that vests with 600 plate appearances next season or 1,100 PA’s combined for 2014-15. He also only plays in the outfield and will turn 37 years old on Aug. 30.

A season ago when the Reds needed a bat and Byrd was passing through waivers, adding him would have made much more sense. This year, even with the offense in need of a jolt, not so much. That’s a lot of contract to be carrying for an aged player.

– Mark Sheldon

Phillies Take Peek at Tigers Prospect

Phillies scouts are pretty much everywhere these days, watching Minor League prospects from every team that might be a trade partner before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

Double-A Reading is playing Erie this afternoon in Erie, and the Phillies planned to have a scout there to watch Tigers right-hander Jake Thompson, who pitched last week in the All-Star Futures Game. The Tigers drafted him in the second round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. Thompson, 20, recently received a promotion to Erie after going 6-4 with a 3.14 ERA in 16 starts with Class A Lakewood.

The Tigers are looking for bullpen help and it is well known Jonathan Papelbon and Antonio Bastardo are available.

- Todd Zolecki

Cardinals remain zeroed in on pitching market

With the non-waiver Trade Deadline nine days away, the Cardinals continue to zero in on starting pitchers who could potentially help fortify the rotation for a postseason push. However, general manager John Mozeliak cautioned on Tuesday that no deal is imminent.

“As far as how you think about the next nine days, it’s still about opportunities that may come up,” Mozeliak said. “At this point, there is nothing that just jumps out that we can do. But we definitely feel we can continue to look at ways to improve.

“It’s different than other years. Some years we knew exactly what we needed to go do. In this particular case, it’s something where if we can find some pitching help, we’d consider it. But as you can imagine, it’s not the best market to be shopping for.”

Asked whether he is more focused on adding a top-of-the-rotation starter or someone who could add depth to the back end, Mozeliak pointed to the latter.

“I think we’re more looking at depth,” he said. “It’s understanding what we feel our biggest needs are.”

The Cardinals are somewhat unusual in that they are looking to add to an area that has been the team’s strength all season. Entering Tuesday, the rotation ranked third in the National League with a 3.34 ERA while pacing the NL in complete games (five) and shutouts (17).

However, there are also holes. Michael Wacha, out since June with a stress reaction in his pitching shoulder, is on track to return no earlier than September. Shelby Miller, temporarily relocated to the bullpen, has taken a step back after a 15-win rookie season, and Carlos Martinez has reminded that there will be growing pains as he develops into a Major League starter.

While keeping a pulse on the availability of starting pitching, the Cardinals have backed off on looking for offensive help. Asked if there was interest in potentially upgrading the bench, Mozeliak said: “I think at this point it’s probably not a necessity, but we won’t rule anything out.”

– Jenifer Langosch

Mariners’ Walker trying to ignore trade rumors

Taijuan Walker, the Mariners top pitching prospect, has been mentioned frequently in trade rumors the past few weeks as Seattle has been connected in pursuits of offensive help as well as Rays ace David Price.

The 21-year-old will be recalled by the Mariners on Wednesday to start against the Mets after making his past two starts with Triple-A Tacoma. He said he’s trying not to get caught up in the trade rumors.

“It’s kind of hard not to,” he said. “Especially when you’ve got family and friends always calling and asking, ‘Hey, where are you going?’ You going here? You going here?’ It’s tough, but you try to block it out as much as possible.”

Some of the information is coming from a close source.

“My mom’s the worst,” he said with a grin. “I have to calm her down. ‘Mom, calm down, I can’t do anything about it.’”

-Greg Johns

Brewers’ Roenicke: ‘I like what we have’

With fewer than 10 days remaining before the July 31 nonwaiver Trade Deadline, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke expressed confidence in his club Tuesday as it’s currently constructed. 

Asked how much he and general manager Doug Melvin were discussing the team’s trade options, Roenicke said, “I’m not talking much. We talked [Monday] a little bit. He’s the one that handles all of this. He runs stuff by me, but I have enough to handle here with what we are trying to do. I’m really concerned with what we are doing and not, ‘Can we get help?’ or whatever it is we are going to do get if we get help. I like we have, and we’ll try to do the best with what we have.” 

The Brewers made a move to bolster the bullpen Monday, promoting former first-round Draft pick Jeremy Jeffress. Former closer Jim Henderson is at Triple-A Nashville rehabbing a shoulder injury and could be an option if he rediscovers his consistent velocity. Other additions would probably have to come from outside the organization. 

If Melvin does not find any trade offers to his liking, does Roenicke believe the Brewers’ current crop if players is good enough to win the World Series? 

“I think if you look at what we did in the beginning of the season — I know we lost Henderson, I know we lost [Tyler] Thornburg and that makes a difference having that one power arm down there — but I like what we have down on the field,” Roenicke said. “You can always improve yourself somewhere. Every team can. Sometimes it works out in a trade, sometimes it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, we’ll work with what we have.”

– Adam McCalvy

 

7/22 Cubs GM expects more calls

The Cubs have already dealt two-fifths of their rotation, and on Tuesday, designated second baseman Darwin Barney for assignment. GM Jed Hoyer expects more movement before the Trade Deadline.

“We’ve gotten a lot of calls on guys,” Hoyer said Tuesday. “Call traffic, if you will, picks up over the next week or so. I expect we’ll be on the phone a lot. Not sure if we’ll make any moves but we’ll be active looking to better the team.”

The Cubs have gotten interest from teams in some of their relievers, including lefties James Russell and Wesley Wright and right-hander Carlos Villanueva.

They aren’t afraid to make moves. One year ago on July 22, the Cubs traded Matt Garza to the Rangers for Mike Olt, Justin Grimm, Neil Ramirez, and C.J. Edwards. Olt, Grimm and Ramirez are currently on the big league roster. Edwards is a top pitching prospect.

– Carrie Muskat

McGehee not on trade market

ATLANTA — Casey McGehee entered Tuesday night ranked third in the National League in batting average (.322) and tied for first in hits (121). For good measure, the Marlins third baseman is tied for ninth in RBIs (56).

With production across the board, McGehee has established himself once again in the Major Leagues after he spent 2013 in Japan.

The Marlins like McGehee so much that the 31-year-old is part of their longer-range plans.

McGehee’s name is starting to pop up in trade rumors. Jon Heyman of CBS.com and MLB Network reports teams have contacted the Marlins about McGehee. The Mariners, in the market for a right-handed hitting bat, are said to be interested.

However, the Marlins are not shopping McGehee.

McGehee, signed for $1.1 million, has one more season of arbitration eligibility. So the Marlins can retain him in 2015, at a sizeable raise. Miami also is open to offering the third baseman an extension for a few more seasons.

McGehee has offered protection behind Giancarlo Stanton, and he’s been a clubhouse leader.

Right now, Miami views McGehee as a core player, who is under club control. There are no plans to move him.

Joe Frisaro

Need a Reliever? Phils’ Bastardo Is Popular

Fifteen scouts had seats for Cliff Lee’s start Monday night at Citizens Bank Park, but not everybody came to see him.

Some came to see other Phillies players available before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, including left-hander Antonio Bastardo. If a team needs relief help it almost certainly has contacted the Phillies about him.

In fact, Bastardo seems to be one of the likeliest Phillies to be traded before the deadline. He is 4-3 with a 3.30 ERA in 43 appearances this season. Left-handers have hit just .148 against him, while right-handers have hit .168, which makes him much more than a situational lefty. He makes just $2 million this season, so his contract is not an issue. He also does not become a free agent until after the 2015 season, so he is not a two-month rental.

“I’m just staying focused on what I can do and how I can pitch,” Bastardo said of the trade speculation. “I’m just trying to get people out. If I can distract myself from that stuff, I won’t let it get into my mind. I don’t want to lose my focus.”

Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval hit a line drive off Bastardo’s left forearm Monday. Bastardo finished the scoreless inning and had the forearm wrapped Tuesday afternoon, but he said it felt much better. He said he wouldn’t know if he could pitch Tuesday until after he tried throwing later in the day.

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