Are the Cardinals done dealing?

In acquiring Justin Masterson from the Indians on Wednesday, the Cardinals succeeded in their search to add to their rotation depth. But does the addition actually mean the Cardinals are done dealing before the non-waiver Trade Deadline?

General manager John Mozeliak acknowledged that he is “not overly optimistic” that the Cardinals will make another deal before Thursday’s 3 p.m. CT deadline, but he has also not clipped the phone lines.

“I think we’ve always tried to position ourselves as opportunistic,” Mozeliak said. “If something comes our way, we want to be prepared. Clearly, us being connected to a lot of different things, that’s just by us showing some interest. Whether that means there is traction or not, I would probably lean toward the not. But a lot of things can change.”

The Cardinals have inquired about the availability of starters more accomplished than Masterson, but with a better return would come a heavier cost. If the Cardinals were to deal again, it would likely be to add one of those marquee starting pitchers.

“We’re open for business to see what would happen,” Mozeliak said. “I’m not overly optimistic that we’ll do anything. We’ll take our time, what little we have left, and see if we cannot improve.”

– Jenifer Langosch

 

Hands Off Dodgers Prospects

One day before the trade deadline, the Dodgers continue to tell clubs they won’t trade their top three prospects — Joc Pederson, Corey Seager or Julio Urias. That means they aren’t expecting to land elite starters David Price, Cole Hamels or Jon Lester. Several players suggested John Lackey would be nice fit, but the front office might settle for relief help, which was the original priority anyway. — Ken Gurnick

Os, Red Sox Lester talks fizzle

BALTIMORE — Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette had a decidedly different stance in trade discussions when speaking with reporters on Wednesday afternoon.

While rumors swirled about the club’s heavy involvement in trying to acquire Red Sox ace Jon Lester, Duquette, who said on Tuesday that he was focused on pitching depth, didn’t disagree that it was on his radar.

“We’d be interested in adding pitchers that could help us at the top of our rotation,” he said. “Who wouldn’t be?”

However, as of Wednesday evening, talks on that front seemed a long ways off with the New York Daily news reporting talks between the two sides had tailed off and become much more of a long shot.

Duquette, who maintained that he wants to hang on to his top pitching prospects, also confirmed that Hunter Harvey has a right flexor mass injury — as first reported by MLB.com — and will miss the rest of the season. Asked how much the news changed trade talks, Duquette wouldn’t elaborate nor would he comment on any specific negotiations.

Still, losing Harvey for the remainder of the season certainly weakens the Orioles’ farm system, particularly for a big deal, considerably. Even if the team had taken Harvey off the table in trade talks, it’s still a stark reminder of how thin the Orioles Minor League system can get.

“We have a couple of active discussions,” he said. “We have some discussions that are no longer active from yesterday, so we’ve been able to see where we can make a trade and help our ballclub. Some of the long-term prospects for our pitching, we think are very valuable for the long-term sustainability of the organization and I think that’s a real important component to have a good team year-in and year-out. I think with our young pitchers, we would be conservative and we would try and give them a prolonged trial in the big leagues before we would trade them.”

Hunter joins Dylan Bundy, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, leaving 23-year-old Kevin Gausman as the only healthy member of the club’s top three pitching prospects. Gausman is currently part of the Orioles’ rotation and it’s highly unlikely he would be dealt.

Os, Rangers have discussed Cotts

The Rangers are open to dealing left-handed reliever Neal Cotts and Baltimore is one of the teams interested. The Orioles are trying to add a reliever, preferably one who can get both lefties and righties out to upgrade their team in advance of Thursday’s Trade Deadline. Cotts has gone 2-5 with a 3.52 ERA in 50 games, pitching in 46 innings and allowing 18 earned runs on 46 hits and 18 walks, with 50 strikeouts.

Cotts, 34, has pretty even splits and has held right-handed hitters to a .252/.325/.342 line with lefties hitting .277/.347/.431. The Orioles would prefer to add a reliever who is versatile enough so that they don’t have to play match ups and they are trying to upgrade their sixth and seventh-inning spots to help bridge to Darren O’Day and closer Zach Britton.

 

Os in serious talks for Lester

The Orioles have stepped up in the Jon Lester sweepstakes, with the two teams in serious talks involving Boston’s starting pitcher as of Wednesday afternoon.

There is no deal done, nor is there a preliminary one in place, but multiple sources told MLB.com on Wednesday that the talks between the O’s and Boston have stepped up considerably in the past 24 hours. The news comes as a shock given that executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said Tuesday that he was concentrated on adding pitching depth and Lester –a frontline arm– certainly wouldn’t be that.

The Red Sox, like most clubs, covet the Orioles top young pitchers including Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Hunter Harvey and are rumored to also favor outfield help. Gausman is currently part of the team’s rotation and the Orioles are highly unlikely to deal the 23-year-old for a two-month rental in Lester. Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who the Orioles have dangled as trade bait to several National League clubs already this season, could potentially be involved with the Red Sox potentially getting a pitcher in part of a return for Lester. Obviously, it would take more than just that to get Lester –the Red Sox ace scratched from his Wednesday start– to Baltimore.

It’s important to note, the O’s aren’t the only team in on Lester with about a half-dozen rumors teams of interest. But they are certainly making a considerate run at the lefty, who is one of three aces considered “available” at this year’s Trade Deadline.

–Brittany Ghiroli

Reds still buying?

The Reds, losers of seven-straight out of the All-Star break and nine of 11 entering Wednesday’s play, went from definite buyers to speculation they could sell before the Trade Deadline since they hit the skids.

While general manager Walt Jocketty has not been seen lately, Price maintained Wednesday morning that the Reds were still looking to make additions.

“I think we’re looking to get better. I don’t think there is any question about that,” Price said. “I don’t see us as a team that’s looking to 2015. The way we’ve played and the way we’ve battled through the year and stayed competitive and stayed in this thing, knowing there’s a chance we’re going to get Brandon [Phillips] and Joey [Votto] back, that we’ve got a bunch of guys here that fight and are gamers, I don’t think there’s any reason to lose optimism that we can stay in this thing and start to get ourselves closer to the top – where we were right before the break.”

– Mark Sheldon

Marlins remain focused on controllable starter

MIAMI — The last call was made around 1 a.m. ET on Wednesday morning, shortly before Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill left the ballpark. The first message Hill received after he woke up was about 8:37 a.m.

Numerous calls are coming in, and the Marlins are weighing all options as Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.

The Marlins are working hard to make a trade or two before the 4 p.m. ET deadline. A controllable starting pitcher remains a priority, but a rental remains possible, but not at the cost of mortgaging the future.

“Not ideal for what we’re trying to do,” Hill said of a rental. “It’s something that we’ve entertained and have dipped our toe in the water. It all depends on the cost to acquire a rental and if it sidetracks what we’re trying to do in the long term.”

That may rule out Red Sox lefty Jon Lester, who would with the club for the rest of the season.

Miami made it back to .500 (53-53) by beating the Nationals on Tuesday night. Hill was working the phones all the way until he left Marlins Park, which was about 1 a.m.

“These guys in this room know we believe in them, and believe in the talent in this room,” Hill said Wednesday morning. “Whether we’re able to make a deal or not, I think they know we have their back. We’re supportive of what they’re trying to do. We’re going to do what’s best to try to upgrade. But we’re not going to be foolish. We’re not going to be short-sighted. I think we understand where we’re at as an organization, but we also understand where we’re trying to go.

“I think that’s the balance that you strike at this time of year. We’ll see what happens these next two days. But there’s been a lot going on. You try to work through it, and see if what you’re trying to do makes sense, not just in the near term, but in the long term.”

Starting pitching is the priority. Second base also could be addressed, but it is not as big an objective as a controllable starter.

Miami also is not planning on taking any core player off its big league roster.

If need be, the club will take on salary.

“I would say we’re looking at everything,” Hill said. “Money deals. Prospects deals. We’re looking at everything.”

Joe Frisaro

Don’t Expect Hamels to Go Anywhere

Do not expect Cole Hamels to be traded before Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline.

There has been plenty of speculation recently about his availability, but sources told MLB.com on Tuesday that the Phillies have had no substantive talks with any team about him. That includes the Dodgers. There are multiple reports that the Dodgers and Phillies have been in contact recently, and the Phillies have requested the Dodgers’ top three prospects to make a deal.

But one source said the Phillies have made no such requests because the two teams have not talked that in depth.

The Phillies have made teams aware they would need to be thoroughly impressed to trade Hamels, but talks have never gotten much further than that. Hamels allowed six hits and struck out eight in eight scoreless innings last night against the Mets to improve to 6-5 with a 2.55 ERA. He has a 1.58 ERA (15 earned runs in 85 2/3 innings) in his last 12 starts, entering the night sixth out of 95 qualifying pitchers in ERA since June 1.

A source said the Phillies haven’t gotten particularly close to the finish line in any trade discussions. They have numerous players available, including Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, Marlon Byrd, A.J. Burnett and Antonio Bastardo, but some teams believe Ruben Amaro Jr. is under pressure to deal and ultimately will sell low to make a trade. They seem to be waiting for Amaro to cave.

But ownership has not ordered Amaro to shed payroll, which does not force his hand. Players like Hamels, Lee, Papelbon, Byrd and other veterans are signed through at least next season, which means Amaro can try to clear them through waivers next month and trade them before the Aug. 31 waiver deadline.

The Phillies can also wait to try to trade them in the offseason.

It seems the Phillies are prepared for that possibility.

It looks like nobody is going anywhere right now, although everything can change with one phone call before Thursday’s Deadline.

- Todd Zolecki

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

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