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The Nationals have expressed interest in Dan Haren and inquired on Carlos Quentin, according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com. Quentin isn't available, but the Nats' interest in that pair of players, plus Edwin Jackson and David DeJesus shows that GM Mike Rizzo has an aggressive approach to the trade deadline. The 34-44 Nationals could be buyers or sellers, but Rizzo has identified the organization’s most pressing need.
"Our biggest need now and at the trade deadline is starting pitching," Rizzo said.
Like most GMs, Rizzo is reluctant to describe his team as sellers or buyers at this point. Perhaps the Nationals will be neither and continue making deals like the Nyjer Morgan trade, which was completed one year ago today. Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham are among the Nationals drawing interest on the trade market, so Rizzo will have chances to buy and sell over the course of the next month.
- The Yankees will soon add Dustin Moseley to their roster, probably at the expense of Chan Ho Park or Chad Gaudin, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (via Twitter). Moseley's opt-out clause kicks in tomorrow.
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty told MLB.com's Mark Sheldon that he's looking at pitching, though the team has a limited number of 'bullets' to fire this summer.
- A veteran scout told Tom Krasovic of AOL FanHouse that Mark Prior was "just all right" in his workout today (Twitter link). Prior, who last pitched in the majors in 2006, is attempting a comeback.
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that he would like the Nats to become “younger, better [and] more athletic” if they make trades this summer.
- Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times notes that the Phillies scouted last night's Yankees-Mariners game and wonders if the Phils are eyeing Jose Lopez, who could fill in for Chase Utley and Placido Polanco.
- The Nationals appear satisfied with hot-hitting Roger Bernadina in right field, but they did have interest in David DeJesus at one point, according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson (via Twitter).
- Two executives told MLB.com’s Peter Gammons that there's no way the Twins will give up pitcher Kyle Gibson this summer. Like Cardinals prospect Shelby Miller, Gibson is a 2009 draft pick who signed late, so he would have to be dealt as a ‘player to be named later’ in any July trade.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that the Padres had interest in Eric Patterson before the Red Sox acquired him over the weekend (Twitter link).
9:25pm: An AL GM told ESPN.com's Buster Olney that he believes the Twins could acquire Lee with a package built around prospect Wilson Ramos. Rival GMs believe the Rangers may be better off holding onto their prospects than acquiring Lee.
4:15pm: The Mariners have not started making counter offers for Lee, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney. Rival executives remind Olney that the Mariners may want to deal soon, since an injury would deflate Lee's trade value (all Twitter links)
3:37pm: The Mets, Yankees, Rangers and Phillies appeared to be the only teams scouting Lee last night, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Twins and Dodgers were among the interested teams that did not attend, but it is early and Lee is a known commodity, so the lack of scouts hardly means there's a lack of interest.
10:11am: The Mariners will require a blue-chip prospect in a Cliff Lee trade, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post, even though the last two Lee trades may not have included one. Sherman suggests the Mets want Lee badly, while the Yankees would just like the Ms to "keep them posted."
Sherman explains that the Mariners like, but don't love, Mets pitching prospect Jenrry Mejia. He feels that a Mets trade would have to be built around Mejia or Wilmer Flores. The Mets are willing to trade Flores in a Lee deal, reports Matthew Cerrone of MetsBlog. They're reluctant to part with other top prospects. The Mets would like to trade for a starting pitcher as soon as possible, but Cerrone says the Mariners prefer to wait until after the All-Star break to trade Lee.
From the Yankees side, Sherman recommends they make Jesus Montero available. They've done so before when Lee and Roy Halladay were on the trade market. Sherman also notes that the Mariners like Yankees Double A second baseman David Adams. Baseball America ranked Adams 22nd among Yankees prospects heading into the season, and he sports a .309/.393/.507 line at Trenton. Should the Yanks prefer to pursue Lee as a free agent, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News learned that old friend C.C. Sabathia would be happy to help recruit.
In a longer blog post, Sherman elaborates on what Lee would mean for the Mets, what the Mariners will require, and how prospects are overvalued these days.
The Angels have some interest in Hank Blalock, according to Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times. Blalock, available since the Rays designated him for assignment yesterday, is not one of the Angels’ preferred options this summer. Lance Berkman, Adam LaRoche and Ty Wigginton are having more productive seasons, but GM Tony Reagins is open-minded as he looks for production.
"We're not limiting our options," Reagins said, without referring to Blalock in particular. "There are opportunities to get better, and we're exploring all of them."
The Angels appear to be operating without financial limitations, but Blalock will cost just a pro-rated portion of the major league minimum if he clears waivers. He posted just a .254/.319/.349 line in the majors this year, though he did hit well in the minor leagues before his stint in Tampa. When the Rays cut Blalock yesterday, I speculated that the Twins could have interest as well as the Angels.
Kendry Morales is out with a season-ending leg operation and Brandon Wood has a .438 OPS, so the Angels could use a corner infielder. Blalock was mostly a DH for the Rays, though he did appear at third and first.
WEDNESDAY: Haeger cleared waivers and the Dodgers assigned him to Triple A, according to MLB.com's transactions page.
FRIDAY: The Dodgers have designated Charlie Haeger for assignment, tweets Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. As the Times' Steve Dilbeck speculated earlier today, Jon Link will take Haeger's place on the roster, likely only until Monday, when Chad Billingsley should be activated from the disabled list.
Since opening his 2010 season with an impressive 12-strikeout performance, Haeger has struggled mightily, compiling a 9.38 ERA between the rotation and the bullpen. In 24 IP over those eight appearances, the 26-year-old walked 22 batters and allowed hitters to post a 1.001 OPS.
If recent history is any indication, the Rays will go after impact players in July and role players in August. Jason Bay, Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez are among the stars the Rays have pursued leading up to the July 31st deadline and Chad Bradford, Gregg Zaun and Russ Springer are among the players they have acquired in August. As MLB.com’s Bill Chastain reports, Rays GM Andrew Friedman expects 2010 will be similar.
“I would imagine that that will be our approach again this year," Friedman said.
The Rays have a well-rounded team, as their 44-32 record suggests. But Friedman promises to “be aggressive” if they can improve. The Rays, who designated Hank Blalock for assignment yesterday, could look to add a DH or improve their ‘pen.
The Mets want to acquire starting pitching, but they’re interested in arms like Cliff Lee and Ted Lilly, not mid-rotation types. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports that the Mets are now content with R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi and are not interested in Kevin Millwood or Jake Westbrook.
The Mets have not yet had detailed discussions with the Mariners about a possible Lee deal, but GM Omar Minaya is willing to part with top prospects once he knows which ones the Mariners covet. ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reported today that the Mariners have not yet started telling teams which players interest them. The Mariners like Jenrry Mejia according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, so the injured pitcher could figure into talks if and when they begin.
If the Mets do not acquire Lee, they could try to pry Ted Lilly away from the Cubs. The Mets believe Oswalt is available, though they’re reluctant to take on tens of millions in salary and hand the Astros top prospects.
The Red Sox signed Boston native Rich Hill to a minor league deal and assigned the lefty to Triple A, according to Pawtucket Red Sox radio broadcaster Dan Hoard (via Twitter). Hill, who had been pitching at Triple A Memphis for the Cardinals, could have opted out of his deal with the Cards at the end of May, but agreed to push the opt-out date back a month.
Hill has only made eight relief appearances in his five-year MLB career, but he has been coming out of the 'pen for the Memphis Redbirds this year. He has allowed just 35 hits in 46 innings and has recorded more than one strikeout per frame. As usual, Hill is walking too many hitters (5.9 BB/9). If he lowers his walk rate or the Red Sox need a lefty out of the 'pen, Hill could find himself in a major league uniform again this season.
Players only have six months to establish their value on the free agent market, so every month counts. Let's take a look at some (not all, but some) of the upcoming free agents who have seen their stock rise or fall this June. First, a few players who have seen their free agent stock drop:
- Livan Hernandez – It wasn't an awful month for Hernandez, who posted a 5.12 ERA in June. But he had an improbably low 2.15 ERA entering the month and June showed that he won't be able to sustain that mark with peripherals like his (4.8 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 in June).
- David Eckstein – Eckstein didn't have a bad month, either. He batted .273/.308/.323 and the Padres stayed in the race, but it wasn't long ago that Eckstein appeared to be raising his free agent stock with a standout all-around season.
- Kevin Millwood – It was a rough month for Millwood, who had a sub-4.00 ERA at the end of May, even though he had yet to win at that point. In June, Millwood had an 8.78 ERA and opponents posted a 1.032 OPS against him.
- Ty Wigginton - There's no question that Wigginton, one of Baltimore's top trade chips, had a poor June. He didn't hit a home run and posted a .207/.298/.256 line. He broke out with two exceptional months in April and May, but his stock has since fallen considerably.
And some players who are in position to demand better deals thanks to a big month:
- Cliff Lee – Lee's strong play suggests his early-season abdominal injury is no longer an issue. He has a 1.76 ERA this month and has rattled off four complete game wins in his last five starts. Impressive. No one knows where Lee will be playing August 1st, but this much is certain: he helped his free agent stock this June.
- Ted Lilly – Lilly posted a 2.57 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 this month, solidifying his place among the top free agent starters this winter.
- Hiroki Kuroda – Back in May, Kuroda seemed poised to attract interest from many clubs after the season. He has posted 8.9 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and a 2.67 ERA this month against some stiff competition (the Braves, Cardinals, Reds, Yankees and Red Sox).
- Adrian Beltre - Beltre, who will presumably opt out of his contract and seek a multi-year deal this winter, has established himself as a legitimate MVP candidate. He has played strong defense and hit .378/.425/.684 in June.
- Manny Ramirez and Victor Martinez would have been candidates for this list were it not for their recent injuries.
All stats are as of the morning of June 30th. This list is not intended to include all 2011 free agents who have had noteworthy months. Feel free to add more players in the comments.
The Cardinals traded Dan Haren away in 2004, but they like the idea of bringing him back. Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are one of the teams that covet the D’Backs righty and it doesn’t sound like Haren would mind returning to St. Louis.
“I’ve always said I’d like to play here again,” Haren said, clarifying that he is not asking for a trade.
Haren has limited say in his future, since he doesn’t have a no trade clause. He does have $33.3MM remaining on his contract, and that figure will likely mean some would-be suitors shy away. He makes $750K less than Cliff Lee this year, but has nearly $30MM remaining on his contract after 2010, unlike Lee. That kind of commitment may mean the Cardinals pursue other pitchers.
The Cardinals don’t have Albert Pujols under control after 2011, and have made major commitments to Matt Holliday and Kyle Lohse. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright are getting paid handsomely, so the Cards may not have the money to add Haren and pay Pujols market value. Other teams, including the Yankees, Twins, Nationals and Tigers, scouted Haren last week according to Nick Cafardo, but the D’Backs aren’t necessarily going to deal him, even if they are open to making deals.