Are the Tampa Bay Rays the only team that doesn’t need to do anything at the deadline?
It’s rare that you come across such a team, but the Rays may be it. Think about it. They have enough offense to sustain them the rest of the season unless an injury occurs to Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, James Loney, Wil Myers, or Desmond Jennings.
They’ll have starting pitching depth when Alex Cobb returns in about a week, and then they’ll have to send Roberto Hernandez to the bullpen, which is pretty rich to begin with. What many scouts feel may bring them down is closer Fernando Rodney, who was the best reliever in baseball last year and has saved 15 consecutive games. Yet the feeling is he isn’t quite the same.
The Rays have a built-in excuse for not making a deal — payroll. When you ask major league scouts, they are hard-pressed to tell you what the Rays need, but that, much like the Red Sox, they have many chips to deal for an impact player.
Which brings us to the next question. How many impact players are out there?
Talent people don’t think many. Could Cliff Lee, Jake Peavy, Ervin Santana, Jonathan Papelbon, Glen Perkins, or Alex Rios be among them? You can forget Perkins. The Phillies, who entering Saturday had lost six straight games, had been resistant to trading Lee or Papelbon, but now they say they’re listening.
This trade deadline will emphasize relief. Here’s a partial list of some who could go:
Scott Downs, Angels; Javier Lopez, Giants; Darren Oliver, Blue Jays; LaTroy Hawkins, Mets; Bobby Parnell, Mets; Steve Cishek, Marlins; Michael Dunn, Marlins; James Russell, Cubs; Kevin Gregg, Cubs, Pedro Strop, Cubs; Mike Gonzalez, Brewers; John Axford, Brewers; Jim Henderson, Brewers; Oliver Perez, Mariners; Jared Burton, Twins, Casey Fien, Twins, Brian Duensing, Twins; Huston Street, Padres, Luke Gregerson, Padres; MattBelisle, Rockies; Jose Veras, Astros.
Here’s a look at 13 other contenders and what they’re looking for:
1. St. Louis — The Cardinals would like to add a starting pitcher and perhaps a middle infielder, but they are set to go with what they have. They are watching Peavy, Bud Norris, and the usual suspects. It’s not known whether the Brewers would deal within the division and offer up Kyle Lohse or Yovani Gallardo (who hasn’t pitched well). The Cardinals may even look at a secondary guy like Mike Pelfrey or Mark Buehrle. They’re also kicking around the idea of acquiring a shortstop, with an eye on the White Sox’ Alexei Ramirez and the Red Sox’ Stephen Drew.
2. Boston — The pitcher who fits best is Peavy. A battle-tested veteran, controllable in 2014 at $14.5 million, Peavy would stabilize a rotation that will likely be without Clay Buchholz until September. Lee is the best available pitcher, but the fact he’s owed a prorated share of $25 million this year, and $25 million in both 2014 and ’15, limits where he can go, and the Red Sox are one of a few teams (Dodgers, Yankees, Tigers) who could swing it. The Sox would also like to add a righty reliever and a righthanded bat.
3. Texas — They got their big dog in starter Matt Garza, and gave up five players to do so. Have to admire that they go for it. Garza paid off immediately with a big win over the Yankees. The Rangers are concerned about Nelson Cruz’s future given his association with the Biogenesis scandal. They are looking to find a righthanded-hitting outfielder (Rios, HunterPence, Marlon Byrd). They’d love to add a bullpen piece.
4. Detroit — The Tigers need bullpen help. Don’t be shocked to see Downs or Lopez on their radar. They’ll also pursue righthanded relievers, perhaps Papelbon.
5. New York Yankees — They added perhaps the best pure hitter on the market in Alfonso Soriano. While Soriano is a liability in the field, what the Yankees need is offense, and Soriano, familiar with New York, seems to fit well.
6. Baltimore — The Orioles need to be in on Peavy, Norris, Santana, Seattle’s Joe Saunders — any starter of significance. They added Francisco Rodriguez, which filled a need. They also have interest in the Phillies’ Michael Young to DH.
7. Cleveland — A starting pitcher would be ideal. The Indians like Norris and Peavy.
8. Pittsburgh — With Jason Grilli injured, the Pirates are searching for a bullpen arm. They’ve also been looking for a right fielder. Rios and Pence remain of interest. It will be interesting to see whether David DeJesus, playing regularly for the Cubs after being out for more than a month, gets some play from the Pirates and other teams.
9. Atlanta — Tim Hudson is out for the season with a broken right ankle, so the Braves are looking for a starter. Some National League general managers feel Norris would be a good fit.
10. Oakland — Never know what the A’s are up to, but they have been linked with Peavy. They seem to have enough pitching, but they do have a Biogenesis candidate in Bartolo Colon.
11. Los Angeles Dodgers — Ned Colletti is looking for bullpen/starting pitching help. Thought he was close on Rodriguez, but the Orioles gave up more to get him.
12. Cincinnati — The Reds have three top pitchers sidelined in Johnny Cueto, Jonathan Broxton, and Sean Marshall, so they could use a starter, but may not have enough to obtain one.
13. Arizona — Bullpen, bullpen, bullpen. Yet, don’t rule the Diamondbacks out of the starter market, either.
Indians’ signings haven’t answered bell
The Indians are having a really good season, but no thanks to the $117 million worth of free agents they signed this offseason.
They gave Nick Swisher $56 million over four seasons because he was one of the most consistent hitters in baseball. He averaged 27 homers and 84 RBIs in the last seven seasons, but he entered Saturday with 11 homers and 33 RBIs.
The Indians signed Michael Bourn late in free agency and gave him four years at $40 million. After leading the National League in steals for three straight seasons, from 2009-11, he’s stolen only 13 bases, and leads the American League in getting caught stealing with eight.
Mark Reynolds always has been hit or miss. The Indians got him for one year at $6 million, at the time a bargain for a guy who carried the Orioles’ offense late last season. He might be waiting for the calendar to turn because in July he’s hitting .106 with no homers and one RBI.
Reynolds has 15 homers and 47 RBIs overall, but since May 31, he’s hitting .159 with two homers and six RBIs.
Drew Stubbs, who came in the Shin Soo-Choo deal, hasn’t put up any numbers to write home about, and free agent Brett Myers hasn’t pitched since late April because of a sore elbow.
That brings us to Jason Giambi, whose contributions have been more in the clubhouse than on the field. He does have 23 RBIs on 23 hits, but he’s hitting only .192.
But while the big-ticket acquisitions haven’t performed, lefthander Scott Kazmir has overachieved. In his last 11 starts, he’s 4-2 with a 2.97 ERA, holding opponents to a .206 average. He’s 6-4 with a 3.96 ERA overall in 18 starts.
The Indians have had streaks good and bad, but Terry Francona has been able to keep the team positive, and some believe he may be doing one of his best managing jobs. The Indians were 18-7 in one-run games through early July, best in the majors, but they’ve lost their last six one-run games.
Apropos of nothing
1. “It wasn’t about the money,” agent Seth Levinson said about Dustin Pedroia’s eight-year, $110 million contract extension. Hear that, Red Sox? Did Mr. Levinson relay those thoughts to you during negotiations?
2. Of course I would send Will Middlebrooks to Chicago in a package for Jake Peavy. By next year, Xander Bogaerts will be the third baseman, and the Red Sox don’t project Middlebrooks as a first baseman.
3. One of my personal favorites, Mariners manager Eric Wedge, suffered a mild stroke after having dizzy spells during batting practice on Wednesday. The former Red Sox catcher will miss the series in Boston this week.
4. Really like Rangers GM Jon Daniels’s aggressive approach to making deals and having to give up something of value to get something of value.
5. The Red Sox really wanted to play Thursday night vs. Tampa Bay, and asked the umpires to start the game in the drizzle at 7:10, but they declined, and the game was eventually postponed. Didn’t rain much the rest of the night.
6. Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Hamilton lead the majors with eight outfield errors.
7. Cliff Lee has allowed seven homers in his last two starts; Justin Verlander got bombed by the White Sox. Are we seeing wear and tear on these guys, as we saw with Roy Halladay?
8. As I went through my Japanese baseball stats, two great performances jump out — WladimirBalentien, a former Mariners outfielder, is hitting .312 with 33 homers and 74 RBIs with a 1.1775 OPS for the Yakult Swallows. And then there’s Tony Blanco. Name ring a bell? A former Red Sox farmhand, Blanco, a first baseman, is hitting .325 with 30 homers and 88 RBIs (1.082 OPS) for the Yokohama BayStars. On the pitching side, Mashairo Tanaka is 13-0 with a 1.22 ERA and 0.95 WHIP for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. And if you need a hitter and corner infielder — and who doesn’t? — former Brewers third baseman Casey McGehee is hitting .292 with 18 homers and 55 RBIs for the Golden Eagles.
Updates on nine
1.Mark Buehrle, LHP, Blue Jays — The Jays will likely stick with their core players through the trade deadline and hope it works out for them next season. You hear different things among the scouts and executives about whether the Jays could sell off Buehrle and/or Josh Johnson, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. Buehrle, 34, isn’t the Buehrle of old, but when he spins a beauty like he did against the Astros Thursday, throwing 74 of his 108 pitches for strikes in a 4-0 win at Rogers Centre that took two hours and 18 minutes, he shows he does have value for a contender. The Jays could get a decent return.
2. Jose Veras, RP, Astros — He has done well as the closer and he’s receiving a lot of attention from teams looking for a late-inning reliever. Of course, teams are wary of the fact that Veras has performed well with no pressure per se, and the Astros seem to be asking for the moon. “I don’t think you can make a blanket statement like he pitches for the Astros so there’s no pressure,” said an American League GM. “If you look at his performances, he comes in when there’s pressure and he handles it well.” Veras could be a good bullpen addition for a contender, which is why the Tigers, Red Sox, Dodgers, and Braves have shown interest. Veras told reporters in Houston, “I would like to be here all the days to the last day of my career.”
3. Mike Morse, 1B/OF, Mariners — The Mariners have been red-hot, giving GM Jack Zduriencik reason to hold back on deals for hitters such as Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales, whom many teams are trying to get. One player who could go is Morse, who has been on the DL for about a month with a quad strain. Morse could be back in time for the Red Sox series at Fenway this week. If he shows he’s OK, he could be a righthanded bat teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers might have interest in.
4. Marlon Byrd, OF, Mets — Byrd comes with the baggage of having served a 50-game PED suspension after his short stay with the Red Sox. But he’s had a good season and there are teams in such dire need of a righthanded bat that he’s in play as a possible pickup. A .281/17/58/.841 OPS line isn’t too shabby for the 35-year old.
5. Michael Young, 3B, Phillies — He remains a target of a few teams, including the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, and Reds, but the Phillies are holding on feeling they are still in the race. Young could be one of those last-minute deals on Wednesday.
6. Ervin Santana, RHP, Royals — The Royals are one of the teams straddling the fence between buyers and sellers, and one player they’re doing that with is Santana, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. Santana is very much in demand as the Braves, Red Sox, Dodgers, and Orioles are looking into him big time. Santana is 6-6 with a 3.06 ERA, 107 strikeouts, and 30 walks in 138⅓ innings.
7. Manny Ramirez, DH, Rangers — In his first week in Triple A, when he was hitting the ball hard, Ramirez was getting rave reviews. Now that he’s in a 5-for-26 slump, his bat speed is slow and he doesn’t look like the old Ramirez. Bottom line is Texas isn’t bringing him up any time soon, and the Rangers remain focused on acquiring a bat after they traded for Matt Garza.
8. Mike Pelfrey, RHP, Twins — An under-the-radar guy whose performance is peaking. Pelfrey seems to be completely back from Tommy John surgery. Since he’s a free agent at season’s end, the Twins would deal him. Pelfrey, 1-2 with a 2.28 ERA in four July starts, is throwing 94 m.p.h. again. Interesting to see which team steps up for him.
9. Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins — Contrary to some reports, the Twins have received “numerous calls” on Morneau, according to a major league source. Morneau will be a free agent after the season and it doesn’t appear as if the Twins will re-sign him. Being Canadian, the Blue Jays are one team that has expressed interest. This is not the old MVP Morneau. He’s hitting .264 with seven homers, 52 RBIs, and a .712 OPS.
From the Bill Chuck files: “Joe Girardi leads all active managers with a .569 winning percentage, followed by Davey Johnson at .561, and Charlie Manuel at .552. Sox manager John Farrell recently moved over the .500 mark as a manager. Through Thursday, he’s 214-212.” Also, “Inside story: Doug Fister leads the majors with 14 HBPs. Last season, Ian Kennedy and Gavin Floyd led the majors, also with 14 HBPs.” Happy birthday Ted Lepcio (84).