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.

Tigers prospect placed on DL

Drew VerHagen has drawn attention as a potential piece in any potential Tigers trade for relief help, having more than held his own as a sinkerballer at Triple-A Toledo before delivering a decent spot start in Detroit last Saturday with five innings of three-run ball. That could well end up being his final outing before the July 31 outing. The right-hander has been placed on the disabled list with what is being called a lower back strain.

The injury was reported after VerHagen returned to Toledo, having been called up and sent down last Saturday under the 26th man rule that allows for an extra player during a doubleheader. Thus, VerHagen was placed on the 7-day disabled list at the Triple-A level, rather than the 15-day DL in the big leagues. That means he’ll at least be eligible to return from the DL before the July 31 trade deadline. Whether he does depends on his back.

It isn’t expected to be a major injury. Tigers assistant general manager Al Avila said VerHagen reported concerns about his back after returning to Toledo. He’ll visit a doctor as a precaution, but it doesn’t appear to be a serious concern.

Though just a few teams had scouts on hand for VerHagen’s start Saturday, the Tigers are getting a good amount of interest on starting pitching in their farm system. Beyond VerHagen, multiple teams are expected to have scouts at Double-A Erie to watch Jake Thompson, Detroit’s top pick in 2012 and now arguably their top pitching prospect after Robbie Ray, start Wednesday afternoon.

Jason Beck

Yankees add Headley in three-player deal

The Yankees made a move to bolster their starting lineup Tuesday, when they dealt Yangervis Solarte and Rafael De Paula to San Diego for Chase Headley.

Headley, formerly the longest-tenured Padre, will give the Yankees an experienced switch-hitter who has won both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger in his big-league career. Headley won both of those awards in 2012, when he finished fifth in the National League’s MVP balloting.

Headley is batting just .229 with seven home runs for the Padres this season, and that follows a season that saw him hit .250 with 13 homers in 141 games. Headley is a .266 hitter with a .366 on-base percentage and 87 home runs and 401 RBIs in 908 games.

Solarte batted .254 with a .337 on-base percentage in 75 games for the Yankees, and he’ll give the Padres a younger option at the hot corner.

De Paula, a right-handed pitcher, was originally signed by the Yankees out of the Dominican Republic. De Paula, 23 years old, is 6-5 with a 4.15 ERA for Class A Tampa this year.

– Spencer Fordin

Lee’s Monday night wasn’t that disastrous

Cliff Lee didn’t help his cause last night, but Phillies fans shouldn’t panic about it.

He struggled in his return from the DL against the Giants at Citizens Bank Park, allowing 12 hits, six runs and failing to command his pitches in 5 2/3 innings. You’d think the guy forgot to pitch, but one scout afterward correctly pointed out that Lee maintained his velocity throughout the night, which indicates he is healthy. The struggles? Most likely the result of a two-month layoff.

If Lee is healthy there is no reason to think he will not return to form as one of the top starting pitchers in baseball. If the Phillies can’t trade him before the July 31 Trade Deadline, perhaps he clears waivers next month. If he does, the Phillies have until Aug. 31 to trade him. If he doesn’t clear waivers, there is nothing to prevent the Phillies from trading him in the offseason.

A couple more months isn’t going to hurt anybody, if Lee is healthy and pitching well. In fact, it would get more teams involved in the offseason because right now the only teams interested in Lee are contending teams.

* ESPN.com reported Lee can be traded to nine teams without his consent: the Braves, Indians, Astros, Marlins, Twins, Mets, Padres, Rays and Nationals.

ESPN.com also reported that A.J. Burnett, who shares the same agent as Lee, can be traded to nine teams without his permission: the Orioles, Red Sox, Reds, Royals, Mets, Yankees, Pirates, Cardinals and Nationals.

* I still think the three Phillies most likely to be traded before the deadline are Jonathan Papelbon, Marlon Byrd and Antonio Bastardo. The Phillies are listening, but not actively shopping Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. I would be incredibly surprised if any of those three are traded.

- Todd Zolecki

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