Dodgers Looking, Not Finding

With a week before the trade deadline and the back end of the starting rotation taking on water, the Dodgers are not close on any transaction as they prepare for the weekend showdown series in San Francisco. The front office would move Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford to open a spot for top prospect Joc Peterson, but all three have huge contracts. Most trade partners want Pederson, Corey Seager and Julio Urias, but management has resisted all inquiries for the system’s few jewels so far. The stalemate could drag into August, when more clubs become sellers and supply balances with demand. — Ken Gurnick

Mariners reacquire Kendrys Morales from Twins

Looking to bolster their offense for a playoff push over the final nine weeks of the season, the Mariners added a familiar bat on Thursday as the club acquired first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales from the Twins in exchange for relief pitcher Stephen Pryor.

Morales led the Mariners with a .277 average and 80 RBIs and hit 23 home runs in 2013, but signed with the Twins on June 8 this season after turning down Seattle’s $14.1 million qualifying offer last winter when he became a free agent for the first time.

Morales is expected to join the Mariners on Friday. After sitting out the first three months of the season, he got off to a slow start with Minnesota, hitting .234 with 11 doubles, one home run and 18 RBIs in 39 games. But the 31-year-old has heated up of late and hit .292 during a 12-game hitting streak that was snapped Wednesday with an 0-for-4 outing against the Indians.

Morales signed a pro-rated $12 million deal with Minnesota that will pay him about $7.4 million for the season, based on his late start. He’s owed about $4.7 million now for the remaining 63 games of the season.

Morales offers options both at first base and DH for Seattle, which is currently a half-game ahead of the pack in the race for the second Wild Card spot in the American League.

Corey Hart is hitting .212 with five home runs and 19 RBIs in 51 games as the club’s primary DH, while Logan Morrison has batted .211 with five homers and 18 RBIs in 43 games while handling most of the first base duties.

The Mariners pitching has been outstanding this year with the lowest ERA in the Majors at 3.11 while posting a 53-48 record, but Seattle is 14th out of 15 American League teams in runs per game and batting average and last in on-base and slugging percentage.

The Twins signed Morales when they were 29-31 and 2 1/2 games back in the Wild Card standings, but they’ve since fallen to last in the AL Central at 46-54 and are 6 1/2 games behind Seattle in the Wild Card race.

Pryor, 25, made one appearance for Seattle this season after opening the year on the disabled list while recovering from surgery to repair a torn right latissimus dorsi muscle. He pitched in 34 games for Seattle from 2012-14 with a 2.81 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 32 innings and was regarded as one of the Mariners’ promising young relievers before injuring his lat muscle early last season after throwing 7 1/3 scoreless innings in his first seven appearances.

-Greg Johns

Report: Sox, Lester holding off talks until offseason

if Jon Lester is going to remain in Boston next year, we won’t know it until the season is over. 

According to a report from the Boston Herald on Thursday, the Red Sox and their ace southpaw have decided to stall any talks of a contract extension until the offseason. Lester, 10-7 with a 2.50 ERA this season, is expected to be highly sought-after on the free agent market this year. 

“I’m not going to discuss Jon’s situation out of respect for both Jon and (general manager) Ben (Cherington) other than to say that both sides have put further discussion off until after the season,” principal owner John Henry wrote in an e-mail to the Herald. “It’s clear that both Jon and our organization would like to see Jon back next year if possible.”

Lester had previously said he did not want extension talks to be a distraction to the team during the season. He was an All-Star this season for the third time in his career.

– Joey Nowak

Did Cole, Liriano cool Pirates’ interest in rotation help?

The Pirates are keeping one eye on the trade market and the other on their two pitchers who will dictate how zealous they will be as the end-of-July deadline approaches.

Before and during Wednesday night’s game, Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano both sent messages to GM Neal Huntington to “cool it.”

Huntington’s reads on Cole, on the DL with a sore lat, and on Liriano, whose pitching has been hurting, will greatly influence whether pitching help will be needed for the stretch.

Cole felt so good in a sim game that he wound up going 10 pitches over his target of 60.

Liriano one-upped him in his Wednesday night start, holding the Dodgers hitless for 4 1/3 innings and winding up allowing four hit4s and one run in seven innings. In his last 14 innings, covering three starts, Liriano has yielded one earned run and  seven hits, while fanning 15.

Feeling more secure in what they can expect from the duo — and saying so publicly — could also just be a negotiating tactic, obviously. Teams lower the price on available pieces if they know you are not desperate for them. That’s when it becomes a buyer’s market.

Either way, Cole and Liriano both had the Bucs feeling better about their rotation on Wednesday night than they felt over their morning coffee.

Tom Singer

Colon: “I don’t know anything about” trade rumors

Bartolo Colon did his best to avoid the subject of trade rumors after his win over the Mariners on Wednesday, calling them a “decision for upper management.”

“I can’t control that stuff,” Colon said.

What Colon can control is making himself attractive to contenders, should the Mets fall out of realistic contention and decide to deal him. After posting a 5.88 ERA over his previous four starts, Colon rebounded by taking a perfect game into the seventh against the Mariners. He finished with 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball.

ESPN Deportes reported earlier this week that the Giants have expressed interest in the 41-year-old right-hander.

–Anthony DiComo

Epstein: No rush to make moves

The Trade Deadline is approaching, but Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says he is not frantically trying to make changes to the roster.

“We’re not in a rush to make moves,” Epstein said Wednesday.

The Cubs made their splash on July 4 when they dealt Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s. Epstein said they are evaluating the current roster to determine who they’d like to keep, who can help the team going forward, and what they can do on the field with the next generation coming up.

“There’s value to keeping players who have roles here for the sake of continuity and leadership and performance on the field,” Epstein said. “We’re not in any rush to make trades for the sake of making trades.”

– Carrie Muskat

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

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