Interest in Zobrist

While most of the trade rumors involving Rays players revolve around David Price, versatile Ben Zobrist has been another name drawing interest.

The latest rumor involving Zobrist comes from FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi (Twitter links), who reported that the Giants are one of “multiple teams” who are “ready to act” in the event that the Rays decide to trade Zobrist.

With Thursday’s trade deadline looming, the Rays are not tipping their hand regarding their intentions for the remainder of the season.  Though the Rays enter Monday’s action 7 1/2 games behind the Orioles in the AL East, they are very much in the hunt for a Wild Card slot.  Thus, the team is in an interesting position when considering any possible changes to the team.

–Bill Chastain

 

 

Pirates believed to be interested in Hawkins

The Rockies don’t appear to be willing to make a major trade at Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, but interest could pick up in a smaller deal for closer LaTroy Hawkins.

The Rockies won the first two games against the Pirates this weekend by big margins, so Hawkins was not forced into a save opportunity. However, the Pirates are believed to be interested in the 41-year-old right-hander. With the Rockies requiring players that can help them at the start of next season and always searching for young pitching under club control, a deal could be difficult but not impossible

It would be a case of the rich — in terms of power arms to protect a lead — getting richer. They have righties Jeanmar Gomez and Jared Hughes, lefties Justin Wilson and Tony Watson and righty closer Mark Melancon. And Melancon has proven adept in closing situations recently.

If the Pirates want to beef up their bullpen, it would be in middle relief or possible insurance in case Melancon struggles, is ailing or is unavailable on a given day. Hawkins, who can pitch in any situation and tends to become more effective as the season progresses, could be a fit.

Hawkins could be an upgrade over righty Ernesto Frieri, who has struggled since coming in a trade with the Angels for righty Jason Grilli.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is quite familiar with Hawkins’ ability and leadership skills. Hawkins was part of the bullpen when the Rockies went to the 2007 World Series under Hurdle.

A trade could be a boon for Hawkins. Although he has been effective this year, the struggles of the Rockies have reduced his opportunities to pitch. He has 37 appearances so far. In his career, he had 980 regular-season appearances going into Sunday. Getting t 1,000 is a goal for a solid pitcher who has never been to the All-Star Game. The opportunities can be more frequent with a contender.

But Hawkins enjoys Colorado, and the Rockies believe he has value even if the team doesn’t win this year. The Rockies’ young pitchers have struggled but some have bright futures, and the club believes Hawkins’ work ethic and willingness to lend experience are valuable even if it doesn’t show up in the younger pitchers immediately.

– Thomas Harding

Kemp trade rumors, but no Kemp trade

Matt Kemp rumors are coming fast and furious, although the teams supposedly interested must still think the Dodgers are willing to give away the outfielder. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti on Saturday indicated that wasn’t the case, implying that Triple-A prospect Joc Pederson isn’t yet ready for the Major Leagues, and a trade of any veteran Dodgers outfielder almost surely would be linked to the promotion of Pederson. Besides, the new outfield arrangement of Kemp in right, Yasiel Puig in center, Carl Crawford in left and Andre Ethier on the bench has produced two convincing wins over the Giants. It has never been Colletti’s history to replace a veteran with a rookie, anyway. The most recent exception was last year’s promotion of Puig, but that came during a rash of injuries. — Ken Gurnick

All eyes on Lester

A scenario that seemed unfathomable when the season started — the Red Sox contemplating a trade of ace Jon Lester — can no longer be ruled out. With the defending World Series champions close to fading out of contention and Lester a free agent at season’s end, Boston general manager Ben Cherington will at least listen to offers regarding the lefty, who has been red-hot over the last few weeks.

“I’m not going to comment on any particular player,” said Cherington. “We have to talk to teams. We have to listen to what teams are looking to do and figure out from those conversations what opportunities are out there. Anything we do between now and Thursday afternoon will be with a mind toward building as quickly as possible for April of 2015. And so that might mean doing very little, it might mean doing a bunch of stuff. It might be between that. I don’t know yet. But you guys know how we feel about Jon.”

Interestingly, Lester said he would harbor no hard feelings toward the Red Sox if they traded him and he would still be interested in trying to re-sign with Boston in November even if traded in July.

“We’re certainly happy that statement reflects how he feels about the relationship. We feel good about our relationship with him. Our position hasn’t changed: We’d certainly love for Jon to be here in 2015,” said Cherington.

Ian Browne

Evans remains a D-back — for now

Nick Evans remained a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday, but that could change in the coming days.

MLB Trade Rumors reported Saturday that Evans had signed with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan and would be removed from Arizona’s 40-man roster.

While that may happen sooner rather than later, Evans said Saturday that he was caught off guard by the report.

“I got a couple of texts this morning about it, but I didn’t know anything about that,” Evans said. “It’s definitely something that I’ve had my mind on that would be exciting in the future to do, but as of right now I’m still a Diamondback. There’s been some talks, but nothing official. As of right now I’m still a Diamondback.”

– Steve Gilbert

Marlins looking to buy, Stanton not for sale

HOUSTON — Five days before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and Giancarlo Stanton remains not available. This is no big revelation to those around the Marlins, but it remains the most asked question to those on the outside.

Occasionally, the Marlins will field a call from a club hoping to hear otherwise. The answer is always an emphatic — not available.

Five days before the deadline, the Marlins are hoping to become buyers. Winning four of five to open their road trip has raised optimism and hope they can make a playoff push.

A starting pitcher is on their shopping list, but the urgency could subside if Brad Hand and Jacob Turner reach their potential in a hurry. Hand is doing so, coming off an impressive two straight wins of throwing at least seven innings.

At Minute Maid Park on Friday night, Hand threw 7 1/3 scoreless innings in Miami’s 2-0 win over the Astros.

Turner will start on Sunday at Houston.

Adding an experienced arm to the rotation could benefit the entire staff, as well as energize the clubhouse. But the deal has to make sense in order to pull the trigger.

Brad Penny, currently at Triple-A New Orleans, is another option in his attempt to return to the big leagues for the first time since 2012.

Pitching aside, the Marlins also have made finding a regular second baseman a high priority. Ideally, they’d like a speedy middle infielder to hit at the top of the order, either first or second.

The candidate doesn’t necessarily have to be big league proven. Someone at Double-A or above and is considered big league ready would fit the profile.

The way the team has trended the past week has increased the club’s interest in buying.

Joe Frisaro

More Kemp Trade Speculation

CBSSports.com is the latest to speculate on an upcoming trade of Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, claiming five teams have “shown interest, or talked to” the Dodgers about Kemp, who has been unhappy since being moved out of center field. Dave Stewart, Kemp’s agent, was quoted as saying that “eight years is a long time to be in one place.” Stewart had predicted that Kemp would be traded at last year’s Winter Meetings. Trading Kemp, Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford would allow the Dodgers to promote top prospect Joc Pederson to play center field. Manager Don Mattingly has said he might play Yasiel Puig in center and Kemp in right. — Ken Gurnick

Cubs checking list of who to keep, deal

On Friday, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported on Twitter that the Cubs may hang onto Justin Ruggiano and Luis Valbuena at the Trade Deadline even though both have drawn interest and could help a contending club. On Wednesday, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told Chicago media that they are evaluating the current roster and trying to decide who to keep. What they want to determine is which players now will help the next generation make the transition.

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

– Carrie Muskat

Rockies Tulowitzki does not have no-trade clause; talks are intriguing if not imminent (Also, a look at many possible Rockies deals)

Tulo turn

Contrary to what has been repeated in many reports, Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki does not have a no-trade clause — at least not at this point — in his contract.

Going strictly by the contract language (and consulting with sources with direct knowledge of the contract), if traded, Tulowitzki would receive a $2 million bonus from the club he would land with, and only then would a no-trade provision go into effect. That is in addition to the five years and $104 million, plus incentives and escalators, left on his deal.

Now, from the standpoint that Tulowitzki is one of the game’s most-respected players and someone who has been through thick and a lot of thin with the Rockies, it stands to reason that if such a decision were made the club would at least listen to Tulowitzki’s preferences — especially if there were places he didn’t want to go. However, he does not have that right within his contract, and he is not a 10-and-5 player (10 years in the Majors with the last five with the team).

All that said, the chances are low that Tulowitzki would be dealt by next Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline. Tulowitzki has said all along he doesn’t expect a deadline deal, and the more likely scenario is he would meet with his family and club officials after the season and get an idea of the team’s direction before deciding whether to press for a trade. Sources around the Majors say Rockies owner Dick Monfort’s position with them is the same as it is publicly — he is not seeking a deadline deal, and there is no guarantee he wants to make a deal even after the season.

Tulowitzki’s being on the 15-day disabled list with a hip flexor strain also complicates the chance of a deal now.

By the way, Major League sources say the Rockies aren’t anywhere close to dealing outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, a sublime talent who has dealt with injuries the last two years.

Given that, current trade rumors are to be seen as laying the groundwork for talks after the season.

Those talks could become really interesting. Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote today that the Mets are interested in being players if the Rockies ever decided to deal Tulo or CarGo. Sherman names pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, plus outfielder Brandon Nimmo and infielder Dilson Herrera as players the Rockies like. Given the Rockies’ perpetual need and desire for young pitching, the names Syndergaard and Matz would make it hard for club officials to dismiss if talks were to become serious.

Of course, anything the Mets do is related to the Yankees. Sherman points out that Tulo’s love for Derek Jeter, the Yankees shortstop who must be replaced, and the fact the Rockies like the Yankees’ top pitching prospect, righty Luis Severino. And the Cardinals have been rumored as a possible trading partner since last winter.

In other developments:

–The same article by Sherman points out that the Rockies have had interest in Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and notes the Rockies have pieces the Yankees want – lefty starters Jorge De La Rosa and Brett Anderson, and catcher Wilin Rosario, who could preserve his bat and mitigate his defensive issues by being a designated hitter or playing another position. But we are told that the Rockies aren’t looking to deal Rosario before Thursday’s deadline.

But expect Rosario to be an offseason topic of conversation. The Rockies have been sticking with him, believing his power hitting can make up for defense that has been a work in progress ever since he was promoted from Double-A in 2011. However, the Rockies may be forced to re-think.

The pitching staff will continue to be young. Left-hander Tyler Matzek and right-handers such as Eddie Butler and Jon Gray (Matzek and Butler debuted this year, and Gray is on the radar) will be in the rotation sooner than later. Righties Jhoulys Chacin and Jordan Lyles have been around, but are in their 20s.

It might be time for a veteran catcher, or one with frontline all-around ability who is special at calling games, to trim the learning curve for the pitchers. Two examples come to mind: 1) Late in his career, Pudge Rodriguez went to the Marlins and later to the Tigers, teams that didn’t have recent histories of winning. He made a major difference to those young staffs, and the result was a World Series win wit the Marlins and a World Series appearance with the Tigers. 2) It’s hard to quantify but easy to appreciate the impact Russell Martin had last year with the Pirates, who ended a 20-year postseason drought with pitchers who needed help reaching their potential.

–The Rockies are in a quandary when it comes to dealing their own pitching. They want young pitching under club control, but what if the best bargaining chips are their own desirable pitchers.

The Rockies are listening to trade offers, but the price they’ve set with the Orioles shows that they’ll take only the cream of another team’s crop. But even if they receive pitchers with bright futures, is there any guarantee they’re going to have the present that De La Rosa has?

De La Rosa has been by far the Rockies’ best pitcher at Coors Field, and whether he qualifies as the best pitcher in club history is a growing debate. Dude is 42-14 at Coors Field. And he likes pitching there. After seeing top prospects — lefty Drew Pomeranz, now with the Athletics, is a clear example — flame out at Coors, who’s to say anyone else’s prospects are going to make it?

Maybe the Rockies take the plunge. Or maybe they are better off retaining De La Rosa, who is in the final year of his contract. The $11 million qualifying offer the Rockies would need to make to preserve the right to compensation in case3 he left is $3 million more than he is making. That could give them another year with De La Rosa, or it could be the basis for a longer-term deal for a pitcher who wants to be here.

–Everyone says the Rockies need starting pitching. Heck, the Rockies say it. That being the case, it’s puzzling to see lefty Brett Anderson’s name in possible trade reports, although teams would be sensible to check on his availability.

Anderson missed 16 starts with a broken left index finger, and injuries have been an issue throughout his career. But let’s look at his two starts since coming off the disabled list: 1) Clearly rusty and still with little experience at Coors Field, he gave up five runs in the first inning against the Twins at home in the final game before the All-Star break. But he got through six with just one additional run. 2) At Pittsburgh, lacking his best stuff, Anderson pitched with savvy and professionalism and held a lineup for a contending club to one run in seven innings.

Once again, do you trade this top-end ability for guys whose best may or may not arrive at all or may or may not arrive at Coors Field?

Of course, there is a money issue. Anderson has a $12 million club option for 2015, or a $1.5 million buyout. If the Rockies believe that they’re a good team that has been ruined by injuries, it stands to reason that they pay the money and hope to be healthy next season.

–Well, we’ve laid out how the Rockies are leaning against dealing Tulo and CarGo, are likely to wait until after the season to address the catching situation, and have plenty of reasons not to deal De La Rosa or Anderson. So where do they get the young pitching they crave?

They’ll listen when teams discuss outfielder Drew Stubbs. The Mariners are the hot rumor. They’ll also listen to offers for righty pitcher LaTroy Hawkins. But there will be debate about how much a team is willing to give up for Stubbs, whose home/road splits and low on-base percentage history are concerning, and Hawkins, who is fit and effective but also 41.

Still, being in a pennant race makes giving up valuable pitching prospects sound like a better idea. So we’ll see. If Stubbs or Hawkins don’t bring offers of top-level prospects, the Rockies still must listen. This year’s injuries exposed a startling lack of starting depth, and they have to get it from somewhere.

– Thomas Harding

Down to the Wire with Price

David Price starts tonight for the Rays when they open a three-game series against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field.  With the non-waiver trade deadline looming, everyone again is wondering if this will be Price’s last start wearing a Rays uniform.

For the Rays it’s a tough call. They are in the AL Wild Card race and even have a remote chance at winning the AL East.  Without Price, the odds of reaching the postseason would be diminished.  However, if they don’t trade Price — and wait until after the season — his value would be diminished  by 30 to 40 percent according to what one baseball executive that told ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark.  Another executive told Stark: “They’ve really built their team by making these kinds of deals. But if the return they can get now is something they think they can get this winter, they’ll hold him.”

Thus, speculation about Price’s fate — and other Rays such as Ben Zobrist, Jeremy Hellickson, Yunel Escobar and Matt Joyce — should ramp up a notch in the coming days. 

On the flip side, there is the possibility the Rays could become buyers instead of sellers if they really believe they have a chance to make a run.  They could use a bullpen piece or another bat.  Based on how the team has operated in the past, a bullpen piece would likely be added after the deadline.  And once Wil Myers heals, his return could be equal — and potentially much better — than a trade for another bat.

This weekend’s series with the Red Sox could go a long way toward shaping David Price’s future and that of the Rays.

–Bill Chastain

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