Astros, D-backs swap Minor League talent

The Astros announced today that Minor League third baseman Cesar Carrasco has been acquired from the D-backs in exchange for Double-A Corpus Christi lefty Alex Sogard. Carrasco has been assigned to Rookie Level Greeneville.

Brian McTaggart

Padres: Getting hits on Street, Benoit …

It’s no surprise at all that the Padres are getting plenty of early inquiries on relievers Huston Street and Joaquin Benoit.

It’s not just the ability to get outs more often than not late in games that makes these two so attractive, though.

Both are controllable next season. Don’t underestimate the importance of this.

Street has a $7 club option while Benoit is owed $8 million as part of the second year of a two-year deal he signed with the team last winter.

That could make these two looks even more attractive the closer we get to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline — and could potentially impact the type of player the Padres get in return.

Make no mistake, the Padres will almost certainly deal one or the other. They almost have to.

– Corey Brock

Reds need 1B help?

The Reds have been watching 1B Joey Votto play on a balky left quadriceps for several games of late, the same injury that had him on the disabled list from May 21-June 10. It’s possible that Votto could return to the DL, but they lack experienced backups at first base.

Jay Bruce started his first game professionally at first base on Monday vs. the Cubs.

Brayan Pena, who was on paternity leave Sunday and Monday, is the usual backup first baseman but is also the backup catcher.

Todd Frazier, the regular third baseman, is also a first base option for manager Bryan Price.

The organization has Donald Lutz at Triple-A Louisville but have been reluctant to use him. It appears that the Reds could use some help if Votto isn’t back in the lineup. But Price hoped getting outside help would not be needed.

“We’re going to kick the tires here on what we have in stock as opposed to going out there and looking around,” Price said on Monday. “I don’t know if there’s a different philosophy outside of this office. We’re going to see how it goes.”

– Mark Sheldon

If the Cardinals are shopping, what are they buying?

The Cardinals find themselves bunched in the middle of the National League Central and still waiting for an underachieving club to start playing up to potential. The defending NL champs have plenty of room for improvement, yet they don’t necessarily have clarity in how to identify those needs.

The club has thus far been anchored by its rotation, though recent injuries to Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha thinned that depth. Joe Kelly is poised to come off the disabled list later this week, and the Cardinals remain optimistic that Wacha will return next month. (Garcia is done for the year.) An MRI taken on Wacha’s shoulder on Monday revealed healing, but not enough for the righty to resume throwing. The Cardinals will reevaluate in two weeks.

Asked how Wacha’s status could affect the team’s Trade Deadline strategy, general manager John Mozeliak said: “It really doesn’t affect it one way or the other.”

He then elaborated.

“Well, we expect to get Kelly back at some point and feel pretty confident that those five can be successful,” Mozeliak said. “There are probably very few pitchers we could go out and acquire without having to give up one of those to begin with. I think that would just make it problematic, so for us we feel pretty good where we’re at from a pitching standpoint.”

Seeking to upgrade offensively would make a lot of sense for the Cardinals, who are at or near the bottom of the NL in runs scored, home runs and slugging percentage. But then the question becomes where to find the fit? Not only do the Cardinals have to find a seller who is not asking for a gaggle of prospects, but Mozeliak has to figure out where another bat would go.

The club is already struggling to find playing time for all its outfielders now that Oscar Taveras has been recalled. Across the infield, the only obvious opening would be to add someone at second or third and have Matt Carpenter play the other of those two positions. The Cardinals do not, though, want to block Kolten Wong for the long-term, so that, too could be troublesome.

“Certainly when you look at the sort of teams that are willing to trade players, there’s just not too many of them right now,” Mozeliak said. “Look, we’ll stay active on it, but as you guys know, that’s not something I report on, our day-to-day strategy, or who we’re talking to. If we’re able to do something to help the club we’re certainly going to try.

“I think you could say we could worry about a lot of things. The right strategy is if we think there’s an opportunity to improve, we’ll try. We’re not going to make a bad decision just in a panic situation.”

Perhaps a little more time will provide a bit more clarity.

– Jenifer Langosch

Mets, Cubs and the shortstop deal just waiting to be made

When the Cubs traded Jeff Samardzija last week in a deal that landed them shortstop prospect Addison Russell, they were left with a glut of high-ceiling shortstops in their organization. Russell and Javier Baez are both uber-prospects blocked by current starter Starlin Castro.

Enter the Mets, who spent most of the offseason fruitlessly searching for a shortstop to replace incumbent Ruben Tejada. General manager Sandy Alderson balked at signing Jhonny Peralta, passed on multiple chances to ink Stephen Drew, and never delved too deep in trade discussions for Arizona’s Didi Gregorius or Seattle’s Nick Franklin or Chris Owings.

The Mets, meanwhile, converted Wilmer Flores to shortstop, where he is currently raking at Triple-A Las Vegas, then watched Flores’ success spark some semblance of a renaissance in Tejada. So their need at the position is not as great as it once was.

Yet neither Tejada nor Flores is a guarantee, and acquiring a shortstop of Castro’s caliber would allow the Mets to deal second baseman Daniel Murphy before he becomes a free agent after next season. It makes sense on multiple levels for the Mets to pursue Castro, provided they can stomach giving up young pitching to do it.

The Daily News’ John Harper estimated that the Cubs would ask for a package of Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom, or something similar, which would almost assuredly make Alderson balk. Most likely, the Mets could center a deal around their own top prospect, Noah Syndergaard, who is struggling at Las Vegas but still boasts an immense ceiling.

What’s clear is that the Mets and Cubs are ideal trade partners on paper leading up to the deadline. Whether they can consummate a deal will go a long way toward understanding the mindsets of both.

–Anthony DiComo

July 5 roundup

Nothing quite lived up to the Fourth of July blockbuster that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s, but there was a minor trade Saturday.

The Angels acquired left-hander Joe Thatcher from the D-backs for outfielder Tony Campana. In addition, the Angles designated left-hander Rich Hill for assignment.

Thoughts on the Samardzija/Hammel deal:

  • Jon Heyman thinks the Cubs won the deal.
  • Mike Petriello of Fangraghs thinks it’s a win/win.
  • The Yankees were involved, obviously.
  • Addison Russell might’ve been able to net the A’s David Price.
  • This means the A’s might extend Jed Lowrie.
  • You’re not the only one excited about a left side of Kris Bryant and Addison Russell.

Crawford Could Make for a Crowd

Carl Crawford begins a rehab assignment Saturday night at Triple-A Albuquerque for a sprained ankle that put him on the shelf for six weeks. His estimated return around the All-Star break will again create an outfielder surplus and maybe this time management will finally move one of them. Prior to his injury, the clubhouse chemistry was sour when Crawford and Matt Kemp had to share playing time. The Red Sox, among others, have been following the Dodgers closely and have long had interest in Andre Ethier, whose bat finally showed signs of life in the last week. Whether it be Ethier, Crawford or Kemp, each has a huge contract. The Dodgers would either be forced to eat part, or pick up somebody else’s huge contract. GM Ned Colletti has said bolstering the bullpen is the immediate focus. — Ken Gurnick

Mariners’ McClendon not worried about A’s trade

While the A’s made a big move to improve a team already leading the American League West on Friday night with the acquisition of pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said his club needs to continue on its own path in what quickly has turned into one of the toughest divisions in baseball.

“Obviously those are two fine young pitchers and they did a nice job of pulling that one off,” McClendon said prior to Saturday’s game with the White Sox. “They’re a good team. Their record indicates that and they’ve gotten better. I don’t think that really changes anything as far as we’re concerned. We just have to continue going about our business and doing what we do.”

The Mariners have been one of baseball’s biggest surprises with their 47-39 start and they headed into Saturday’s game six games back of the A’s in third place in the AL West. The Angels (49-36) and Mariners currently are in position as the two Wild Card teams with nearly half a season to go.

“We’re playing good baseball and we’ve got a chance to do something and we’ll see how it works out,” said McClendon.

With the trade deadline looming on July 31, there will be plenty of speculation and some actual deals that take place in the coming weeks. The Mariners certainly would be interested in acquiring a right-handed bat to help their lineup, with White Sox left fielder Dayan Viciedo one possibility being mentioned already in the rumor mill.

McClendon said he and general manager Jack Zduriencik are always discussing possibilities, but he knows it’s not an easy process.

“Jack and I talk every day about ways to improve our club,” he said. “But you have to understand, it takes two to tango. It has to make sense. This organization has a bright future. We have a tremendous Minor League organization with a lot of good prospects. And I don’t think Jack or upper management is ready to sell the farm, so to speak, for rental players. And I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t do that either.

“It has to be the type of trades that make sense for this organization and continue to move us in the right direction. Do we have challenges? Yeah. Are we trying to fix them? Yeah. But we’ll just see.”

McClendon said the number of teams still feeling they’re in contention makes for a tight trade market.

“The problem we have now is the second Wild Card. There are so many teams still involved and nobody is willing to make those trades,” he said. “So it makes it very difficult because teams consider themselves still in it and probably rightfully so. We have to be very intelligent about what we do and how we go about our business.”

-Greg Johns

Liriano holds key to Pirates’ interest in adding to rotation

This is more trade static than trade buzz: Recurring reports that the Pirates are actively shopping for starting pitching.

General managers always scour the market, and Neal Huntington is no exception. However, adding a starter is a pretty low priority now.

All you have to remember is that the Bucs had to send Brandon Cumpton back to Triple-A off his undefeated (3-0) June to make rotation room when Gerrit Cole came off the disabled list, after missing 3 1/2 weeks with shoulder fatigue.

When Francisco Liriano — already on the verge of possibly a one-and-done rehab assignment — also returns, someone else will have to exit from a rotation that has posted a 3.10 ERA for nearly a month.

Does that sound like a team in desperate need of pitching?

This can change, and Liriano is key: His comeback shoud coincide with the strech drive to the Trade Deadline. If his prospects look dim, the Pirates could look to upgrade.

Manager Cint Hurdle and Huntington may also prioritize adding a veteran with pennant race experience — and to do so be willing to part with some of the youngsters who provide the currenr depth.

Tom Singer

Astros trade Minor League pitcher to Braves

The Astros have traded right-handed pitcher Andrew Robinson, who’s currently at Triple-A Oklahoma City, to the Braves, a source told MLB.com. It’s not know what the Astros are getting in return, but the deal is not a major one. Robinson, who played at Georgia Tech, is 4-4 with a 2.40 ERA in 26 combined games in relief this year at Double-A Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City.

Brian McTaggart

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