T minus four days to the non-waiver trade deadline. The engines are rip-roaring ready, showtime is between now and Thursday at 4 p.m. There are a number of big things and small things that could happen. But each day brings a new direction for some teams.
“Too many teams are still in that in-between stage to alleviate that indecision before the deadline,” said one National League general manager.
“It could be pretty crazy active,” said an American League GM.
All eyes are on the Tampa Bay Rays, who must make a huge decision on whether to deal ace David Price or hang on to him until the offseason. Rays manager Joe Maddon has even hinted the Rays might be buyers at the deadline.
Confidence is flowing with Alex Cobb entrenched as the No. 2 starter to go along with Price and a comebacking Jeremy Hellickson (right elbow injury) that maybe the Rays can get back into the playoff race.
“I still think when push comes to shove, the Rays will deal him,” opined one National League special adviser. “They’ve come a long way to get to this point and they’re still five or six games under .500. How much longer can they sustain that? So it’s a tough call and you don’t want to be perceived as waving the white flag, but there’s demand for him.”
The Giants could use a second baseman and a starting pitcher. They acquired Jake Peavy from the Red Sox on Saturday for minor league prospects and scouted Philadelphia’s A.J. Burnett last week. The Giants had been exploring the Phillies’ Chase Utley and the Rays’ Ben Zobrist before they signed Braves free agent bust Dan Uggla to a minor league deal.
The Dodgers are looking for another starting pitcher and may also have some interest in Burnett, but could go real big and bid on Price, Jon Lester, or deal for someone such as Colorado lefthander Jorge De La Rosa.
The Royals continue to look for a bat. Hard to find. The Twins, who already sold off Kendrys Morales to Seattle, may have another one for sale in outfielder Josh Willingham.
The Phillies are trying to move outfielder Marlon Byrd. The Rangers may want to build up their already powerful arsenal by moving right fielder Alex Rios, and his former team, the Blue Jays, have shown interest.
The Phillies are the potential big player in this market.
They have a closer (Jonathan Papelbon), a lefthanded starter (Cliff Lee), a righthanded starter (Burnett), outfielders (Byrd, Ben Revere), a second baseman (Utley), a shortstop (Jimmy Rollins) and a catcher (Carlos Ruiz) they could dump.
Rollins and Utley have 10/5 rights and can veto any deal. Utley could be lured to San Francisco or Oakland, where the Utleys have family.
Rollins seems to be adamant about remaining in Philly and among contenders, it appears the Tigers will stick with rookie shortstop Eugenio Suarez.
The Phillies have been wishy-washy on whether they will make lefthander Cole Hamels available. Hamels could land the biggest haul if the Phillies are serious about rebuilding their farm system, then using the $90 million savings on signing mid-range free agents.
The Phillies want four or five prospects for Hamels (I wrote three last week and was told by a Phillies official I was too conservative) and it doesn’t appear anyone would pay that type of bounty. Around the industry, the Phillies are being perceived as asking too much for their players. The Phillies are saying “make us a fair deal.”
Papelbon is owed $13 million next year and has a vesting option for 2016 that kicks in if he finishes 55 games in 2015 or a combined 100 games in ’14 and ’15.
With the Angels trading for Huston Street of the Padres and the Tigers acquiring Joakim Soria from Texas, the market for Papelbon may be down to the Dodgers.
The anxious potential buyers include the Yankees, who have already added starter Brandon McCarthy and third baseman Chase Headley. But they need another dependable starter and Lee, and possibly San Diego’s Ian Kennedy, seem like fits.
The Cubs would love to keep trading off and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the struggling Edwin Jackson depart.
The Twins might listen on Phil Hughes even though they wouldn’t mind keeping him long term. There’s Houston’s Scott Feldman, who has two years remaining on a three-year deal. The Astros have relievers, lefthander Tony Sipp and righthander Chad Qualls, to offer.
The Padres still have the most sought-after reliever in Joaquin Benoit.
A number of teams are trying to chip away at Marlins GM Dan Jennings for Falmouth’s Steve Cishek, but it doesn’t appear Jennings wants to deal him.
The catcher market is also interesting. The Twins have been trying to sign Kurt Suzuki, an All-Star, to a multiyear deal, but the numbers appear far apart. Could he be available to a contender?
The Orioles need a starter and a reliever. The Blue Jays are looking for one more starter, some bullpen help, and perhaps a second baseman, but it doesn’t appear they would be willing to deal pitchers Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez, both of whom looked filthy against the Red Sox.
The White Sox are dangling lefthander John Danks and the Yankees, Orioles, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Indians might have interest. The White Sox also have outfielder Dayan Viciedo, a righthanded bat who could help some offenses (Kansas City?). The White Sox feel Viciedo, 25, hasn’t lived up to his promise.
The Brewers, who are in first place in the NL Central, have a bullpen piece (preferably lefthanded) high on their priority list. They would love Andrew Miller, but might settle for Craig Breslow. The Brewers would add a starting pitcher if the price was right.
The Red Sox are dangling Felix Doubront, who could be an immediate and long-range player for a team.
The Indians might be contemplating a move with free agent righthander Justin Masterson, currently on the DL, if they feel they’re not going to be a playoff team. The Royals will likely hang in with James Shields, who is in a similar situation.
Atlantic is putting its league on the clock
The Atlantic League’s Pace of Play Committee recently ratified a “pace of game” initiative. It’s a little radical, but the committee, headed by former Astros president Tal Smith and made up of former MLB executives Pat Gillick, Roland Hemond, and Joe Klein, former managers Cecil Cooper and Bud Harrelson, and former pitching coach Sparky Lyle, came up with the following ideas that will be implemented Aug. 1:
■ “Limited Time-Outs” Rule: The defensive team will be limited to three “timeouts” per game — mound visits or on-field conferences with the pitcher. Pitching changes will not be counted as timeouts, and in the case of extra innings, one additional “timeout” will be permitted at the start of the 10th inning and every three innings thereafter. Umpires will enforce a 45-second time limit on timeouts. If the umpire’s warning is not heeded by the defensive team, the umpire shall declare a “ball” for the batter at the plate. This will limit the number of times play is interrupted by on-the-field conferences.
■ The “Substitute-Runner for the Catcher” Rule: When a catcher reaches safely, the manager will immediately insert a substitute-runner who is not in the lineup to take the catcher’s place on base. This ensures that the start of an inning is not delayed while waiting for the catcher to suit up.
■ Reduced Number of Warm-Up Pitches: From eight to six, within 60 seconds.
■ Automatic Awarding of an Intentional Walk: The batter is automatically awarded first base without the need for the pitcher to deliver four balls.
■ Directing Umpires to Apply and Enforce Rule 6.02 and Rule 8.04: Rule 6.02 is restricting batters stepping out of the batter’s box; Rule 8.04 is requiring the pitcher to deliver the ball within 12 seconds when the bases are unoccupied.
■ Directing Umpires to Control the Pace of Play: ALPB umpires shall adhere to the entire strike zone as defined in Rule 2.00 and observe that definition when calling balls or strikes.
Apropos of nothing
1. Texas and Boston have the chips and the financial flexibility to make anything happen during the offseason. Both teams may be major players for Giancarlo Stanton if Miami can’t sign him long term and puts him up for sale. Texas has tremendous chips and also just added two more with their Joakim Soria deal with the Tigers.
2. Man, would I love to be Jon Lester. Man, would I hate to be Phillies GM Ruben Amaro.
3. One American League scout on the Yankees’ farm system: “They have more in their farm system than people think. They have some arms, they have the Aaron Judge kid, [Luis] Severino, [Gary] Sanchez, [Peter] O’Brien, [Eric] Jagielo. If they wanted to make a deal, they have enough to give up.”
4. If the Royals don’t make the playoffs, change could be coming. Manager Ned Yost is on the hot seat. The team’s lack of hitting has become a real issue and they’ll likely devote their offseason toward improving their offense and also trying to replace free agent James Shields — if they don’t re-sign him.
5. The Red Sox have some interesting 40-man roster questions in the offseason. They need to protect a bunch of players from the Rule 5 draft, such as Matt Barnes, Blake Swihart, Sean Coyle, Shannon Wilkerson, Keith Couch , Aaron Kurcz, Heiker Meneses , Keury De La Cruz, and Noe Ramirez. You could see some wheeling and dealing to thin out the pool. You could also see some 40-man guys lopped off.
6. David Ortiz said he has been tested for PEDs nine times this season.
7. I was told Cole Hamels would love to pitch for the Red Sox.
8. Comcast Philadelphia reported last week that Ryan Howard could be a candidate to be released. Just for fun, how about this deal: Howard to the Yankees (to DH) in exchange for Alex Rodriguez. Both have about $60 million remaining on their contracts.
Updates on nine
1. Jose Iglesias, SS, Tigers — Scouts hearing the Tigers are really impressed with rookie shortstop Eugenio Suarez and may trade Iglesias, who has missed this season with stress fractures in both shins.
2. Blake Swihart, C, Red Sox — There is some talk among Red Sox personnel on whether it’s prudent to introduce Swihart to a new position. Nothing permanent because Swihart is a plus arm (he has thrown out 54 percent of runners trying to steal), but more to take advantage of his athleticism. What if you could play Swihart at third base or left field for a game to keep his switch-hitting bat in the lineup?
3. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Milwaukee — Seems logical for the Brewers to pick up his $14 million (mutual) option given that he’s had a decent year and remains one of their middle-of-the-order hitters. We’ve often compared Ramirez’s underrated career with that of Adrian Beltre, who many believe is a Hall of Famer.
Their career numbers through Thursday:
Avg.: Beltre .284; Ramirez .285
HRs: Beltre 390; Ramirez 366
RBIs: Beltre 1,360; Ramirez 1,322
Hits: Beltre 2,535; Ramirez 2,124
OPS: Beltre .814; Ramirez .843
Beltre, however, has been a much better defensive player.
4. Jim Johnson, RHP, free agent — Just remember sitting in Orioles manager Buck Showalter’s office in spring training about a couple of months after Johnson was traded to Oakland in a salary dump (he was owed $10 million). Showalter said, “You never know if our paths will cross again.” Johnson was released by the Athletics Thursday and could return to Baltimore, maybe with a minor league stint with Mr. Fix It — Orioles minor league pitching coordinator Rick Peterson. Johnson saved 50 or more games in consecutive years for the Orioles.
5. LaTroy Hawkins, RHP, Rockies — Hawkins can still fill a bullpen role (1.2 WHIP, 17 saves) but more importantly he’s been in demand because of his leadership skills. One assistant GM told me every component of a team should have a leader, one who can mentor younger players and teach them how to be winners.
6. Jorge De La Rosa, LHP, Rockies — An intriguing pitcher in the trade market, because: A. he’s lefthanded; B. he’s a free agent this offseason; C. he’s pitched so well at Coors Field. De La Rosa is 11-6 with a 4.19 ERA, but his Coors numbers are 7-2 with a 3.23 ERA. It’s understandable why teams such as the Yankees have interest. De La Rosa, 33, was one of the players Boston dealt to the Diamondbacks for Curt Schilling in November of 2003.
7. Martin Prado, 3B, Diamondbacks — A few teams, including the Red Sox, were contemplating him because he has the reputation of making a big impact with his energy, spirit, and ability. He’s also versatile enough to play the corner outfield spots and second base. It doesn’t appear the Diamondbacks are eager to deal him, but his name could pick up steam as the deadline nears.
8. Mike Hazen, assistant GM, Red Sox — The Abington native is getting big-time play as a candidate for the Padres GM opening. Hazen, a Princeton graduate, seems to have the combined skill set of analytics and scouting/development acumen the Padres sorely need. Hazen also has been a farm director. The other top candidate for the Padres, Rangers assistant general manager A.J. Preller, made his mark as the Rangers’ international scouting guru. If Hazen gets the job, Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo would be a top choice as the Padres manager.
9. Tommy Milone, LHP, Sacramento — When the A’s acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, Milone, who was 6-3 with a 3.55 ERA in 16 starts, was demoted to Triple A and he asked to be traded. The A’s haven’t obliged, but teams are calling. The A’s aren’t eager to deal him.
From the Bill Chuck Files: “Despite Shin-Soo Choo’s underproduction in his first season with Texas, he still leads all leadoff batters in the majors with a .380 OBP.” . . . “Yankee pitchers lead the majors with 280 strikeouts from the eighth inning on.” . . . “Jean Segura leads the majors reaching on eight errors. Since 2009, Elvis Andrus leads the majors reaching on 52 errors . . . Sunday is the last day for the 3 Ring Raffle, which includes a trip for four to NASA. Visit www.redsox.com/ringraffle . . . Happy birthday Shea Hillenbrand (39) and Don Lock (78).
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.