Breaking down the Zack Greinke trade.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Angels are in a tight enough spot in the wild-card race that it makes sense for them to add a significant acquisition like Zack Greinke, who could easily be worth two extra wins to the team from now through the end of the season over the disastrous Ervin Santana. Greinke also gives the team a better fourth starter in October than Jerome Williams, assuming the team reaches the playoffs.
Greinke has changed his approach since his 2009 Cy Young Award-winning season, when he was primarily working fastball/slider and had great success with both pitches. He's now using a broader pitch mix, adding a two-seamer with a little late tail and a cutter (new this year) with late break down and slightly in toward left-handed hitters, which helps the four-seamer play up a little because hitters can't time the pitch without considering which pitch type it is. His slider -- more like a hard curveball -- has very sharp downward break but not a lot of lateral movement, and lately he seems to prefer throwing his slower mid-70s curveball instead, although in any one game you're likely to see all five of these pitches plus a few changeups. He has outstanding control and above-average command as well as a very good idea of how to set hitters up and change speeds on them. He also has a history of success, including missing bats, in the American League, which I imagine gave the Angels some comfort over acquiring a pitcher who'd never worked in the superior circuit. He helps their club substantially, even though the cost was significant for someone who's just a rental.
The Brewers get three prospects who started the year in the Angels' top 10 in infielder Jean Segura (No. 2 in their system, No. 44 overall), right-handed starter John Hellweg (No. 4 in their system, No. 81 overall), and right-handed starter Ariel Pena (No. 10 in their system and my "sleeper" prospect for the Angels for 2012).
Segura and Hellweg have both seen their stock slip a little this year, although Segura deserves credit for what is, so far, only the second fully healthy season of his pro career. Segura has played shortstop since the start of 2011 and has a chance to stay there despite a thick lower half that limits his lateral quickness; he's an above-average runner and gets good enough reads on the ball for average range right now, with enough arm for the position. At the plate Segura has a short, direct swing that produces hard line drives, but no power, and he's been impatient this year at the plate, with just 20 unintentional walks in over 400 PA. The best-case scenario for Milwaukee is that Segura becomes a solid-average defender at short who can hit .300 because he makes so much contact; he could also add value through 20-30 net steals a year.
Hellweg has top-of-the-rotation stuff with bottom-of-the-rotation command; he seemed to have turned a corner in the second half of last year after returning to the rotation, but was very wild again for the first two and a half months of this year. He's walked 13 in his last 47 innings with 37 punchouts and continues to get groundballs, although as I said, we've seen this from him before in short stretches. Hellweg will pitch at 95-98 with good life and has a hard curveball at 83-84 with huge almost slider-like tilt, showing a moderate platoon split because his straight, hard changeup remains a below-average pitch. He's listed at 6-foot-9, 210 pounds, and like many taller pitchers has had trouble keeping his delivery together. He's a good prospect to acquire, but his ultimate role could be anywhere from No. 2 starter to closer to Brad Pennington Redux.
Pena had the worst outing by any pitcher in the history of the Futures Game this year, although that's probably not the ideal way to judge him. He'll pitch at 90-94 but has touched 97 and has a hard changeup, 82-86 when I saw him start, with a ton of tailing action. His slider is also in the mid-80s but has taken a step back this year. There's potential for a three-pitch mid-rotation starter here if he improves his fastball command and can tighten up the breaking ball. In total, it's only marginally less than the Brewers initially gave up for two years of Zack Greinke, but has a lot more risk, as all three of the prospects involved have fairly low floors.
Scouting Matt Harvey's debut.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
New York Mets right-hander Matt Harvey had top-of-the-rotation stuff on Thursday night in Arizona, with a plus fastball and slider combination that carved up Arizona Diamondbacks hitters. He was 94-98 mph for five innings with some arm-side run, hard enough to get it by hitters even though the pitch lacks any sink or downhill plane. The slider was toxic at 87-91 mph, a grade-70 pitch pretty much all outing, shorter like a cutter and breaking very late. He threw it down and in to left-handers in lieu of his changeup, which was solid at 87-89 mph with good arm speed but which he barely used.
He was casting his curveball early in the game but did throw several sharper ones, all 83-85 mph and when it was on, it was not only tough to hit but a pitch he could also throw for strikes. I've never seen Harvey throw this hard or with a slider this sharp, so he may have just been amped up for his first big league start, but if this is the 'new' Matt Harvey, Mets fans should be even more excited than they were before.
Harvey's delivery, a major weakness of his before his junior year in college, is even cleaner now than it was when he was drafted. He stays over the rubber longer than he did then, still gets out over his front side very well and gets his arm, always quick, into perfect position when his front foot lands. He did lose his arm slot in the sixth inning on Thursday and was no longer able to command the fastball, which the Mets' coaching staff picked up on pretty quickly, letting him face one more right-handed batter before pulling him.
• All-Star Wade Miley pitched for the Diamondbacks, working 90-92 mph and throwing a ton of strikes, concentrating on the lower half of the zone, especially down and away with the fastball. His slider at 81-83 mph was mostly short, but he varied the shape and tried to get it in to right-handed hitters with varying success. His delivery is cross-body, creating deception but generally not good for long-term durability. On Thursday, Mets hitters seemed to have a good plan of attack, diving in to get to the fastball away, and Miley wasn't able to establish himself on the inner half enough to keep them from making contact.
• Mets reliever Josh Edgin was pretty impressive in a short stint, mostly 94-95 mph with a sharp slider that should be a wipeout pitch against left-handed batters.
Arizona Rookie League
• Cincinnati's first-round pick this year, prep right-hander Nick Travieso, made his pro debut on Sunday, throwing one inning against the Cubs. He was 89-93 mph and threw a pair of changeups, not enough for a full evaluation of his stuff; given how other pitchers have fared out here in his debuts, I wouldn't be surprised if he's into the mid-90s in his next few outings. His delivery has some effort to it, and he pronates his pitching arm pretty late, which is probably why many (but not all) scouts thought he'd be a reliever in the end.
• A's right-hander Michael Ynoa, recipient of a $4.25 million signing bonus in 2008, is back and pitching regularly out here, looking more or less as he did before the surgery. Last Saturday, he was 89-93 mph with a slow curveball at 71-74 mph with good depth, showing a loose and very easy delivery and plenty of projection. It began raining during his outing, after which he seemed like he couldn't maintain his grip on the curveball. He's Rule 5 eligible this year, so the A's will have to add him to their 40-man roster to protect him.
• Shortstop Addison Russell has one of the best swings I've seen out here, short to the ball with good hip rotation and some loft in the swing for future power. I didn't see him challenged at shortstop, but his body is in excellent shape, trimmer than he was when I saw him last summer, athletic enough for him to stay at the position, for which he's always had the hands and the quickness.
• The Cubs' first-round pick this year, Albert Almora, made his pro debut this week, showing off a very easy, simple swing of his own, homering on Monday but struggling a little bit with his timing after almost two months away from facing live pitching.
• Chicago's third-rounder, Ryan McNeil, debuted on Tuesday night, working at 89-91 mph in one inning. Sandwich-rounder Paul Blackburn threw that night as well, showing better stuff across the board than he had in his first outing, and his arm looked looser as well.
• Cleveland's second-round pick from last year, Dillon Howard, pitched that night and was very disappointing, working at 87-90 mph, and his arm looked slow or tired. He was substantially better than that as an amateur.
• Finally, Jorge Soler has now homered twice in the AZL, both times with me in the ballpark, one a huge bomb out to left-center that traveled 420-430 feet, the other a hard line drive that landed halfway up the berm at HoHoKam between the left-field fence and the scoreboard. His hands just explode when he swings, but there is some cost, as I've seen him swing under a couple of high fastballs that he's going to have to learn to let pass.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Angels not done?
Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels acquired right-hander Zack Greinke Friday and did so without including right-hander Garrett Richards in the package, which could set up GM Jerry DiPoto's club to either make another significant move, or to simply reshape their rotation more effectively going forward.
Greinke has not agreed to a long-term extension with the Halos, but we have to presume that is a possibility. With Ervin Santana struggling, the Angels could let him walk after the season, re-sign Greinke and use Richards as a cheap, club-controlled No. 5 starter.
Richards could also be used to acquire more offense and/or bullpen help to polish off the roster for the stretch run. He could also be used as trade bait over the winter.
Even without using Richards as bait, the Angels should be able to add another piece or two, especially since they still have Peter Bourjos as a trade piece, too. Among the bullpen arms potentially available include Huston Street -- if the Padres do not re-sign him first -- Milwaukee's John Axford, Seattle's Brandon League, Toronto lefty Darren Oliver and right-hander Casey Janssen, Rafael Betancourt of the Colorado Rockies and Minnesota's Matt Capps.
- Jason A. Churchill
Los Angeles Angels, Garrett Richards, Zack Greinke
Options dwindling for Rangers
With the division rival Los Angeles Angels acquiring right-hander Zack Greinke Friday, the options for the two-time defending American League champs is down to a chosen few. With Colby Lewis out for the year, Derek Holland struggling to grab hold of the No. 2 spot in the rotation and Roy Oswalt battling back issues, the Rangers appear to be the contender with the greatest need.
Greinke joins Cole Hamels as two impact starting pitchers now off the market, leaving the likes of Josh Johnson and James Shields as the top two remaining -- if the Rays are even up for dealing Shields. Shields' struggles may put the club in a position where they would be selling low, and GM Andrew Friedman can always trade Shields this time next year.
The asking price for Johnson appears set much higher than Greinke, who fetched the Brewers shortstop prospect Jean Segura and two Double-A starting pitching prospects -- John Hellweg and Ariel Pena -- and rightfully so, as Johnson is not set to hit the free agent market until after 2013 whereas Greinke's contract expires after this season.
The Rangers could hold out hope that the Phillies are willing to trade Cliff Lee, but indications earlier this week suggested that the club had no intention of trading the lefty. Matt Garza, one of two Cubs right-hander on the block, is unlikely to be moved after injuring his triceps and having his next start pushed back until at least late next week -- after the trade deadline.
- Jason A. Churchill
Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, Matt Garza, Josh Johnson, James Shields, Zack Greinke, Cliff Lee
Griffin for Escobar?
A.J. Griffin | Athletics
The Oakland Athletics were linked to Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar earlier this month, and they could have interest in Stephen Drew of the Arizona Diamondbacks if he's made available. Escobar appears to be the better fit, and he might have more value since he's signed beyond 2012 and does not come with the injury risk of Drew.
The A's have young talent to trade and Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com tweets Friday that rival executives see right-hander A.J. Griffin as a "viable" piece that could be enough to land the A's a shortstop. The Jays, coincidentally, have a need for young big-league pitching, especially with the struggles of Henderson Alvarez and veteran Ricky Romero, and the injury bug that has bitten Brandon Morrow and impeded the development of Drew Hutchinson and Kyle Drabek.
Other clubs could see Escobar as a prime target, too, such as the San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds, or even the Detroit Tigers, who could then move Jhonny Peralta to third base and use Miguel Cabrera at first and DH, sharing time with Prince Fielder and greatly improving the club's infield defense.
- Jason A. Churchill
Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland Athletics, A.J. Griffin, Yunel Escobar
Dodgers now on Shields, Johnson?
Los Angeles Dodgers
With the trade talks between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs seemingly at an impasse, the Dodgers are shifting their focus toward other starting pitchers, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
Heyman says the Dodgers are now after James Shields and Josh Johnson since their endeavors with the Cubs for both Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster have not proven fruitful. We also have to wonder if Zack Greinke and Francisco Liriano are being considered.
Shields and Johnson are both under contract beyond 2012, as is Garza, but unlike Greinke and Liriano. That suggests the price will be higher on the former pair, which could make it difficult for the Dodgers.
- Jason A. Churchill
Josh Johnson, James Shields, Los Angeles Dodgers
Giants eye Pence
Hunter Pence | Phillies
If the Philadelphia Phillies are willing to trade Hunter Pence, the San Francisco Giants are interested, tweets Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com.
The Giants have been thought to be after a hitter or two, first suggested by common sense and then skipper Bruce Bochy told ESPN Insider's Jim Bowden the same thing on SiriusXM Radio earlier this month.
Other hitters that could be of interest to the Giants include Denard Span, Shane Victorino, Bryan LaHair, Alfonso Soriano, B.J. Upton, Justin Morneau and perhaps even Chase Headley, who comes with what appears to be the highest price of them all.
Pence is under club control through 2013, but is pricey in terms of salary after earning more than $10 million this season, a fact that could deter some clubs.
- Jason A. Churchill
Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants, Hunter Pence
Braves changing course?
The Atlanta Braves had a deal in place to acquire Ryan Dempster from the Chicago Cub, but the right-hander prefers Los Angeles. The Braves, who were linked to Zack Greinke early on, appear to have moved off the right-hander and are working from their contingency plan, as ESPN Insider's Doug Mittler wrote Wednesday.
ESPN.com's Jayson Stark wrote Friday in his Daily Rumble that the club has swapped its focus from starting pitching to "bullpen and bench pieces."
Other starters the Braves have been connected to this month include Rays right-hander James Shields, but Tampa may choose to keep him. Greinke is a free agent at season's end and Stark notes that the club's changed stance on him may be an indication that they are not keen on trading right-hander Julio Teheran for a two-month rental.
It doesn't appear the Braves need much bullpen help, if any at all, but there are several believed to be available.
- Jason A. Churchill
Atlanta Braves, Zack Greinke, Ryan Dempster, James Shields
Upton trade scenarios
B.J. Upton | Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays reportedly turned down an offer from the Los Angeles Angels for right-hander James Shields, but if the Halos sweeten their deal and the Rays end up with a package that includes outfielder Peter Bourjos, such a deal could open up the trade winds for GM Andrew Friedman.
Bourjos, a big-time defender and plus-plus runner, could fill a long-term need in center field for the Rays, which may allow them to try and trade B.J. Upton over the next several days, rather than receiving draft-pick compensation once he leaves via free agency over the winter.
The club's reluctance to move Upton in the past has been about defense more than anything. He's a decent bat, but runs the bases well and offers plus defense. Bourjos, and perhaps even Desmond Jennings, can fill those shoes, giving the club the leeway to trade Upton.
At last summer's deadline, Jennings wasn't necessarily ready to take over, and perhaps the club would prefer to keep him in left, which is where Bourjos would come into play in center.
If Upton is made available, clubs such as the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals would certainly kick those tires, if not make a an offer.
- Jason A. Churchill
B.J. Upton, Peter Bourjos, James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays, Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds
Reds looking at CF
The Cincinnati Reds could use some left-handed hitting, ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney wrote Thursday, citing the club's all-righty lineup earlier this week with Joey Votto out awhile.
The options may include Twins centerfielder Denard Span, as Rumor Central's Doug Mittler discussed Thursday morning, and Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino. If Cleveland decides to sell, Michael Brantley could be of interest to the Reds.
ESPN Insider's Jim Bowden tweets that the Red continue to pursue Victorino, Span and Phillies' outfielder Juan Pierre.
One outside-the-box idea could be Tampa centerfielder B.J. Upton, a free agent at season's end that does not appear likely to re-sign with the Rays.
Bench types such as Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets, John Jaso of the Seattle Mariners and Ryan Sweeney of the Boston Red Sox could surface as options, too.
- Jason A. Churchill
New twist to Dempster deal?
Ryan Dempster | Cubs
Ryan Dempster prefers to go to the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs are trying to make it happen. The Dodgers turned down an offers earlier this week, but now Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com tweets that there's a new twist to the deal.
Knobler reports that the two clubs are discussing a package deal where the Dodgers would acquire Dempster and outfielder Alfonso Soriano, and have also talked about Bryan LaHair.
The Dodgers reportedly rebuffed a proposal of Allen Webster straight up for Dempster, but if there is cash and Soriano included, perhaps they budge on their stance, or something else can be worked out between the two teams.
The Dodgers; backup plan was Matt Garza, who appears to be off the market due to a triceps injury that will keep him out until ater the deadline Tuesday.
ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney tweets Friday that the Dodgers and Cubs do not have any ongoing talks about Dempster, suggesting the two teams are simply deciding if the proposals from across the table are amenable.
- Jason A. Churchill
Ryan Dempster, Alfonso Soriano, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs
No Garza trade for Cubs?
Matt Garza | Cubs
There's been chatter all season about the Chicago Cubs trading Matt Garza, but the right-hander's triceps injury may keep him in a Cubs uniform. Carrie Muskat tweets that the MRI came back clean but that Garza will not start again until late next week -- well after the trade deadline.
If Garza is off the market, the value of James Shields, Ryan Dempster and Zack Greinke just went up, as did that of Francisco Liriano and even Jason Vargas.
Garza appeared to be the Dodgers' backup plan to Ryan Dempster and since the club doesn't seem to be in on Greinke much, perhaps they'll turn their focus to Shields.
The Cubs may continue to try and sign Garza long term or they could shop him over the winter.
- Jason A. Churchill
Chicago Cubs, Matt Garza
Liriano's final audition?
Francisco Liriano | Twins
Francisco Liriano struggled in his most recent start, but the left-hander appears the most likely player moved by the Minnesota Twins in the next week, reports ESPN.com's Jayson Stark.
Liriano will likely make his next start (likely Sunday, as it's scheduled) before a trade occurs, Stark adds, but clubs such as the St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers and perhaps the Washington Nationals -- who do not want to part with premium young talent for the rental price it may take to get Zack Greinke.
Liriano could serve as a backup plan for the Texas Rangers and may also fit in Cincinnati, where they may lack the top-end prospects to dole out to land Josh Johnson, Matt Garza or Greinke.
Liriano is slated to start again this weekend, after which time he's likely to be linked to trade rumors as often as he strikes out left-handed batters in Oakland Athletics uniforms.
The Baltimore Orioles have continually been linked to the left-hander and Stark reported earlier this week that the club was on the search for a No. 3 starter.
- Jason A. Churchill
Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota Twins, Francisco Liriano
Fits for Broxton
Jonathan Broxton | Royals
The Kansas City Royals are open to trading closer Jonathan Broxton and ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick puts the chances at 60-40.
Among the contenders believed to be in the market for relief help that could be fits for Broxton include the Los Angeles Angels. Clubs such as the Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, Pirates, Cardinals, Nationals and Reds could also have some interest in the relief market.
Broxton has 23 saves in 24 chances this season and boasts a 2.27 ERA. His peripherals aren't reflective of a relief ace, however, so some clubs may view him as a setup option.
- Jason A. Churchill
Jonathan Broxton, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals
Deal for Josh Johnson unlikely
The Miami Marlins are in full sell-off mode following the blockbuster deal that sends Hanley Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Fish have dumped four veterans in two days with Ramirez and Randy Choate heading to Hollywood and Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante already in Detroit.
Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports other deals are possible, but says it would take an "overwhelming offer" for the Fish to part with ace Josh Johnson. The Texas Rangers are among the teams linked to Johson in recent days.
Any team looking for a hitter could land Carlos Lee at a deep discount. The Pirates were previously mentioned as a suitor for Lee and could inquire again.
ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney has more on what has become a lost summer on South Beach:
Deal for Johnson unlikely
"The Marlins have made good baseball trades this week, and at the same time, they are fighting the perception that they are conducting a lawn sale, with price tags on everything. So even if they get really good offers for Josh Johnson, that doesn't necessarily mean they?ll trade the right-hander. The Marlins had told other teams that if they traded Hanley Ramirez, they wouldn't trade Josh Johnson; it was going to be one or the other."
Josh Johnson, Carlos Lee, Miami Marlins
Willingham not on block
Josh Willingham | Twins
The Minnesota Twins have pieces to move at the deadline, but it appears Josh Willingham will not be one of them. CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman was told by a source with the Twins that they had no plans to move their outfielder.
Willingham, who signed a 3-year, $21 million deal before the season, could still be moved over the winter if the Twins wish to cash in on the slugger's career year.
The Twins are expected to trade lefty Francisco Liriano and perhaps Denard Span. Justin Morneau's name has also been bandied about, though the club would be selling low on the former MVP.
ESPN Insider's Jim Bowden wrote Thursday that a blockbuster between the Twins and Giants makes a lot of sense for both clubs, helping the Twins long term and the Giants now:
- Jason A. Churchill
Twins-Giants deal makes sense
"Twins send Francisco Liriano, Jared Burton, Justin Morneau, Josh Willingham and cash to the Giants for Brandon Belt, Kyle Crick, Mike Kickham and Heath Hembree: The Giants make a blockbuster move to get back to the World Series but at a serious long-term price. In Liriano, the Giants get another quality starting pitcher to put behind Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum. In Burton, the Giants upgrade the back end of their bullpen to help struggling Santiago Casilla. The Giants also add two middle-of-the-order bats with Willingham in right field and Morneau at first base. The Giants of course are banking on Morneau to have a strong second half after recovering from a wrist injury and concussion, but they don't seem to have faith in Belt, and he should be playing somewhere. The Twins also would have to send enough cash to cover a good portion of the remainder of Morneau?s contract, which consists of what?s left on this year?s $14 million, as well as the $14 million due Morneau in 2013. But they're paying Morneau no matter what, so they might as well get some talent for him while they can. All of these moves help the Giants win (and in 2013). The Twins, on the other hand, get an inexpensive long-term solution at first base in Belt, a top young starting pitching prospect in Crick, a future closer in Hembree and another middle-of-the-rotation starter in southpaw Kickham. In this trade, the Twins obviously build for the future and lower payroll significantly."
Minnesota Twins, San Francisco Giants, Brandon Belt, Justin Morneau, Mike O'Connor, Francisco Liriano
The Twins at the deadline
Potential bait for MIN
Josh Willingham, OF
Justin Morneau, 1B/DH
Francisco Liriano, LHP
Denard Span, OF
Ryan Doumit, C/1B/DH
Matt Capps, RHP
The Minnesota Twins don't have to worry about that awkward gray area inhabited by some teams who are on the fringe of contention -- they may be the biggest seller in the American League, thanks to a second straight season in which the club is unlikely to approach the 70-win plateau.
There have been indications that the Twins front office would rather not part with some of their best trade pieces, particularly Willingham and Span, who are signed to team-friendly long-term deals. However, given the rules of the new CBA -- teams that acquire a free-agent-to-be during the season don't get draft pick compensation anymore -- it's players like those two (i.e. under contract beyond 2012) who have the most value in what is a big-time seller's market.
Minnesota has flirted with becoming a bigger player in the payroll hierarchy of Major League Baseball, but the huge contracts handed out to homegrown stars Joe Mauer and Morneau are already regrettable and must be considered albatrosses. It's likely the Twins will be looking to shed some salary going forward, and if they can find a taker for Morneau -- even if they have to pay a good chunk of the remaining $21 million he has coming through 2013 -- it would make sense for GM Terry Ryan to make it happen.
None of the players listed above are top tier talents, but each one could be a good get for a contender. Willingham's power -- not to mention his $7 million per year contract -- make him the most coveted asset, but Span's quality leadoff capabilities and strong centerfield defense would provide a boost to teams in need of either. Morneau is a health risk, but he can still swing the bat enough to be a useful DH, and Capps has his own injury issues that are knocking his value down. The real wild card is Liriano, who could be a possible Game 2 starter in the playoffs for some teams -- or a complete washout who can't even help in a relief role. He's a gamble worth taking, but determining the right price could be tricky because of the wide range of possibilities.
It's no secret that Ryan is after young pitching. The Twins rank 29th in the majors in ERA (5.00) and the rotation (5.77) is the biggest culprit. If Liriano is moved, Minnesota's five-man would be wide open heading into next season, so if Ryan can obtain an arm or two that could be slotted in going forward -- say, the Dodgers' Zach Lee or the Braves' Randall Delgado (perhaps for Willingham) or maybe Span or Willingham would be enough to bring back one of the Reds' young hurlers like Tony Cingrani or Daniel Corcino -- that would have to be considered a win. Otherwise, there's still a glaring need for infield help, especially at second and third base.
It's looking like a long, slow climb back to respectability for the Twins, but if they make the right move or two at the deadline -- even if it means moving a couple of players they would prefer to hang onto -- the rebuilding process could be sped up.
- Jason Catania
Denard Span, Josh Willingham, Francisco Liriano, Matt Capps, Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins
Texas' SP search
In case you haven't noticed, the Texas Rangers are dealing with some serious rotation problems.
Not only are there questions surrounding the reliability of Derek Holland and the role of Neftali Feliz when he returns from the disabled list, but Roy Oswalt is struggling and has an ailing back that required treatment, and Colby Lewis has been lost for the season.
The Rangers have been linked, mostly by common sense, to every potentially-available arm in baseball, including Matt Garza, James Shields and Zack Greinke. Until they pull off a deal for a pitcher, though, the club's top pitching prospect, Martin Perez, may be the best option for the time being.
Of course, Feliz's timetable -- and whether or not the team wants him to return as a starter -- could impact the club's overtures for another arm.
Ryan Dempster is mulling over a trade to the Atlanta Braves but could be an option for the Rangers, if he turns it down. Dempster had full no-trade rights and is slated for free agency following the season. The Rangers may be most keen on impact starters such as Greinke, but may have to part with third base prospect Mike Olt in a package to get either something like that done. ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney writes in Tuesday's blog that the Rangers are looking for "elite talent."
There was speculation last week that the Rangers also could be looking to bring back left-hander Cliff Lee.
As for possible trade bait, Rangers manager Ron Washington tells ESPN Insider's Jim Bowden that any deal will not include top shortstop prospect Jurickson Profar.
- Doug Mittler and Jason A. Churchill
AL West arms race for Greinke
"So let the "arms race" begin. The Rangers have one of the best systems in baseball and could easily swing a deal for Greinke, but the Angels have the necessary pieces as well, and neither wants to see their rival end up with him. The way the trade negotiations are going, both are probably rooting for the Atlanta Braves to overpay so neither one gets them. That way, the Rangers can settle for Matt Garza and the Angels for Wade Davis or James Shields. However, we all know that when the best get involved they don?t like settling for less than the best, and unless Seattle changes its mind and puts Felix Hernandez on the trade block, then both of these clubs will be going all out for Greinke. "
Zack Greinke, James Shields, Matt Garza, Texas Rangers, Colby Lewis
Red Sox GM: Beckett staying put
Josh Beckett | Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox are reportedly fielding calls on right-hander Josh Beckett, but Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that nothing is close and that it's just an exploratory phase.
Bradford also notes that the Texas Rangers are not interested in Beckett, 32, despite the fact that they need starting pitching and Beckett would possibly OK a deal to such a city since he's from Texas.
GM Ben Cherington had this to say about the idea of dealing Beckett: "Taking Josh Beckett off this team is not necessarily improving things. We need to add, we need to improve the rotation, if anything -- improve internally or add to the rotation. I think we're sort of stuck in neutral if we start taking guys out of the rotation that are good major league pitchers."
While unlikely, if the Red Sox were to deal Beckett, the club would also be clearing payroll space, as the right-hander is owed $31.5 million over the next two seasons. Moving such a contract could open the doors for an aggressive push to sign a starting pitcher or two over the winter.
The Sox aren't necessarily in sell mode, but it appears they are willing to discuss certain players, like Cody Ross, Ryan Sweeney and Kelly Shoppach, if it helps them add the right pieces for the stretch run -- and next season.
- Jason A. Churchill
Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, Josh Beckett
A's turning to Escobar
Yunel Escobar | Blue Jays
The Oakland Athletics had strong interest in Hanley Ramirez before the Miami Marlins decided late Tuesday night to ship the infielder to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a blockbuster deal. The A's have moved on and appear to have set their sights on Yunel Escobar.
Susan Slusser reports Escobar remains an option for the A's, adding the Jays are believed to have strong interest in pitcher Brett Anderson.
The Jays could be willing to deal Escobar given they have highly-touted Cuban prospect Adeiny Hechavarria waiting in the wings. Escobar is under contract through 2013 with club options for both 2014 and 2015 at affordable rates.
FanGraphs' Dave Cameron breaks down how Escobar would help the A's (or the other Bay Area club):
- Doug Mittler
Escobar would give A's a lift
"His career history suggests that he's got more offense in his bat than he's shown the last few months, as his career line of .285/.357/.393 is actually quite good for a shortstop, and ultimate zone rating (UZR) has rated him as an above-average defender at the position every year since 2008. A strong finish to the year is certainly possible, but even without a huge rebound, Escobar could still represent a vast improvement for both Bay Area teams. The Giants are currently leaning on Brandon Crawford and his .269 wOBA, while the A's have had to suffer through Cliff Pennington's .245 mark." - Dave Cameron
Yunel Escobar, Oakland Athletics, Toronto Blue Jays
Tulo back this season?
Troy Tulowitzki | Rockies
The last time we saw Troy Tulowitzki on the field, the Colorado Rockies weren't entirely irrelevant in the standings. (Or maybe it just seems like that.) With the Rockies' 2012 season now long over and done from a contention standpoint, what might we expect to see out of Tulo for the remainder of the year?
The latest is that Tulowitzki, who's missed almost two months while recovering from an injury to and the ensuing surgery on his left groin, is still hoping make it back before the season is over.
There has been some speculation that that Tulo might miss the rest of the year, but the Denver Post's Troy Renck reports that the shortstop has not been shut down. In fact, Tulo has been hitting off a tee and doing light running. The next step in his recovery would be lateral movement, followed by a rehab assignment.
The timetable for a return is obviously more speculative than definitive, but there's a chance Tulowitzki could return in late August, if not in early September.
- Jason Catania
Colorado Rockies, Troy Tulowitzki
Suitors for Headley
Chase Headley | Padres
Last week, ESPN Insider's Jim Bowden tweeted that six teams had expressed interest in San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley, and added that the switch hitter would be traded before the deadline "in all likelihood."
Clubs needing third base help -- for this season and the future, as Headley is under team control through 2014 -- include the Philadelphia Phillies, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves.
ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney, who reported the asking price for Headley is a significant package of prospects, also tweeted that the A's are among those interested in Headley, too.
Baseball Prospectus' Ben Lindbergh has more on why the A's could be big players for Headley, and ESPN Eric Karabell says Headley is a guy to grab for your fantasy team
- Jason A. Churchill
A's have a hole at hot corner
"The A's have been unable to find a fit at third since Scott Sizemore's season-ending injury -- their late-April pickup of Brandon Inge predictably bombed -- but the next few days might lead to a more lasting solution. Oakland was reportedly in on Ramirez, but with Hanley spoken for, the A's will have to look elsewhere.
Another name they've been linked to is Chase Headley, who would make a lot of sense for Billy Beane's team. Headley's offensive prowess has always been disguised by Petco Park; the 28-year-old has mustered an impressive .279/.378/.488 line away from San Diego this season, which would be a major improvement over the .185/.230/.332 showing by Inge, Josh Donaldson and the rest of Oakland's miserable hot-corner crew." - Ben Lindbergh
Headley's fantasy value
"Headley is the No. 11 third baseman on ESPN's Player Rater this season, yet remains available in more than 20 percent of ESPN standard leagues. One of only 19 players with double digits in home runs and stolen bases, Headley has long been hampered by San Diego's Petco Park, and if he's traded, that would no longer be an issue for a guy that is one home run away from tying a career best. Headley is a guy to get in fantasy now, before he's dealt."
Chase Headley, San Diego Padres
Dodgers after Garza
Matt Garza | Cubs
Rumor has it the Chicago Cubs are discussing trade scenarios with the Los Angeles Dodgers that involve Matt Garza and Dodgers' top prospect, pitcher Zach Lee, tweets ESPN Insider's Jim Bowden.
Lee, a right-hander, was the Dodgers' first-round pick in 2010 and was just promoted to Double-A Chattanooga four weeks ago. He won't be 21 until the offseason.
Other clubs that could consider Garza include the Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers. If Garza heads to the Dodgers, the market starts to get a little scarce for the rest of those looking to add a starting pitcher, especially since Hamels signed an extension in Philly. Zack Greinke and James Shields have also become red-hot commodities.
Jim Bowden of the GM's Office has a scenario that would send Garza not to the Dodgers but another NL contender:
- Jason A. Churchill
Braves can make up for losing out on Dempster
"Chicago Cubs send Matt Garza to the Atlanta Braves for Randall Delgado, J.R. Graham and Zeke Spruill
The Braves would control Garza beyond this year, and he would join Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson at the top of their rotation. The Chicago Cubs, who wanted to get Delgado in the Dempster transaction, would get Delgado in this deal instead, along with two other good arms in Graham and Spruill. Getting three young pitchers for their future staff is exactly what the Cubs want to do to carry out their long-term plan. The Garza acquisition puts the Braves in a much better position to contend with the Nationals or try to hold on to their thin wild-card lead. Spruill has a 92-94 mph sinker with an above-average changeup and developing slider. Graham has a power arm and could start or close. He has a 95 mph fastball and a hard slider that has a wipe-out break on occasion."
Matt Garza, James Shields, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers
Greinke on the move
Zack Greinke | Brewers
Not just yet, that is. But Zack Greinke will be dealt by the trade deadline, if the Milwaukee Brewers GM is to be believed.
Doug Melvin had this to say about his ace right-hander Thursday: "There are so many good things about him, it's going to be difficult when we trade him."
The operative word: when. In fact, Melvin confirmed Greinke's availability in comments to USA Today and Milwaukee's WTMJ radio.
With Cole Hamels deciding to remain in Philadelphia, the Brewers have the ultimate bargaining chip less than a week before the deadline.
A major source tells Tom Haudricourt in Thursday's Journal Sentinel that Greinke is "as good as gone."
Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com says the Rangers, Angels, Braves and White Sox have been the teams showing the most interest in Greinke. With a trade for Ryan Dempster off the board, the Braves could now focus their attention on Greinke, tweets Jon Heyman.
Daryl Van Schouwen of the Sun-Times says the White Sox are as active as any team in the Greinke chase. The White Sox may be the club that wants Greinke the most, but they lack young talent to trade in return. General manager Ken Williams may have to get creative to get something done, but he's done that kind of thing before.
ESPN Insider's Jim Bowden writes that the Texas Rangers appear to be the favorites to land Greinke, based on the bullets they have to spend in a trade and their need for such a player with the rash of injuries to their rotation.
- Doug Mittler and Jason A. Churchill
Greinke a nice fit in Texas
"The most likely landing place for Greinke remains the Texas Rangers, whose loaded farm system has more good trade chips than any other contending team in baseball. Although shortstop Jurickson Profar is off limits and third baseman Mike Olt isn't a great fit because the Brewers have Aramis Ramirez under contract for another couple of years, left-hander Martin Perez or righty Neftali Feliz could be involved in a swap for Greinke. There are some baseball executives involved in the process who told me that in an ideal world, the Brewers would trade Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers for top pitching prospect Zach Lee, and then turn around and send Greinke to the Rangers for Olt. However, the Dodgers part of the transaction does not look like it's going to work, as the Dodgers seem more likely to use Lee to get Matt Garza or Josh Johnson, both of whom they can control beyond this year."
Milwaukee Brewers, Zack Greinke, Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves
Upping the ante for Shields
James Shields | Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays may trade right-hander James Shields before the trade deadline, but Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the offer made by the Los Angeles Angels wasn't enough.
Nightengale says the Angels offered centerfielder Peter Bourjos and were rebuffed, though there may have been more to the offer, considering ESPN Insider Jim Bowden's tweet last weekend that suggested a much larger offer was being discussed.
Shields could also be of interest to the Los Angeles Dodgers if they can't get a deal done with the Cubs for Ryan Dempster or Matt Garza, and the Atlanta Braves are in the same boat. The Texas Rangers could also have strong interest in Shields. All three clubs are named by Jon Heyman as being in on Shields.
FoxSports.com reported Thursday that the Angels are also eyeing Rays right-hander Wade Davis, who has spent this season in the bullpen but is a starter by trade and could be transitioned back to the rotation.
The Rays can ask for a whole lot for Shields because he's signed to a reasonable contract going forward -- and Tampa is fighting for a playoff spot itself, so the club doesn't need to move him.
ESPN's own GM Jim Bowden mentions another possible fit for the Angels:
- Jason A. Churchill
Greinke to Angels?
"Milwaukee Brewers send Zack Greinke to Los Angeles Angels for Jean Segura and Garrett Richards
The Milwaukee Brewers get a long-term solution at shortstop in Segura, who adds speed to the top of the Brewers lineup. Segura has long been regarded as the Angels' top middle-infield prospect, and with Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick inked to long-term contracts, it only makes sense to use Segura to get a difference-making top-of-the-rotation starter such as Greinke. Richards has a power arm and projects to be a quality No. 2 or No. 3 starter when his command comes around. The deal allows the Halos to hold on to top power-hitting prospect C.J. Cron and right-handed starter John Hellweg, who could be a surprise contributor to the Angels come September.
Greinke has hinted to close friends that he would be willing to sign a long-term commitment with the Angels or the Braves if he were traded to one of those two teams. With Greinke joining Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Dan Haren in the rotation, the Angels quickly become a postseason favorite."
Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays, James Shields
Headley's price too steep for Yanks?
New York Yankees
New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is on the disabled list with a broken bone in his wrist after being struck by a pitch from Felix Hernandez Tuesday night in Seattle.
The injury will sideline Rodriguez for six to eight weeks, forcing manager Joe Girardi turn to Eric Chavez and Jayson Nix to fill in at third. But is there a replacement to be traded for?
ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney tweets Wednesday that the Yankees and Padres had not yet talked about Chase Headley, but that such a conversation will be taking place soon.
If the Yankees were to land Headley, he'd likely man third base through this season and next year, he'd either move to left field or stay at third base while the Yankees move Rodriguez to more a full-time DH role.
CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, though, writes that the price is too high for Headley, since the Yanks are looking more for a temporary fill-in who can platoon with Chavez and Nix. Heyman mentions Ty Wigginton as a possibility.
- Doug Mittler and Jason A. Churchill
Impact of A-Rod injury
"Look, if this happened three or four years ago, this would be an enormous loss. The 37-year-old Rodriguez is now more of a complementary player for the New York Yankees, but he still ranks among the top half of third basemen in the majors. Eric Chavez can absorb some of the at-bats at third base, but presumably, this will put the Yankees in the market for someone who can play third base. An interesting name to keep an eye on: Chase Headley, a player the Yankees could use in their 1B-3B-DH mix if they're willing to pay the Padres' asking price."