East Notes: Price, Lester, Howard, Papelbon, Mets, Braves

All eyes were on Tampa, where David Price of the Rays and Jon Lester of the Red Sox are squared off in a match-up of top starting pitchers — and top potential trade pieces. And that includes many top scouts around the game, as several reports suggest. At least 17 clubs had eyes in the stands, tweets Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. That includes two each for the Royals, Giants, and Pirates. A scout from the Phillies was also on hand — according to a tweet from Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com, he is the club’s top evaluator — though presumably not for the two starters. Other teams with “top evaluators” watching, presumably with a variety of possible motives, included the Braves, Orioles, Mariners, Cubs, and Nationals, says Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Of course, it remains to be seen whether either of the two lefties is shopped, but the ramifications of the decisions of their respective clubs will obviously be widespread.

Here’s more from the game’s eastern divisions:

  • In comments after the game, Lester said that he is “aware of what’s coming next week,” referring to the possibility of deals, reports Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com (via Twitter). If he does end up being shipped out, Lester said that he would still be open to re-signing with the team as a free agent.
  • The Red Sox-Lester situation remains a complicated one, as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com explains. Boston’s decision-makers have clearly put out the word through the press that the club wanted to re-start extension negotiations, but were told that was not Lester’s preference. Meanwhile, sources tell Bradford that Lester’s camp would be willing to talk if the Sox came in with a realistic starting point. The underlying tension appears to be the basis for the notion that the fading club could consider dealing its best arm. If that does not happen, Bradford suggests that the team may intend to pursue a strategy it has employed in the past: make a larger offer after evaluating things in the offseason that falls shy of other open-market bids, banking on the player desiring to continue playing in Boston.
  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. expanded on his comments regarding first baseman Ryan Howard, as Todd Zolecki of MLBcom reports on Twitter“I fully expect him to be our first baseman next year,” said Amaro.
  • Meanwhile, the Phillies have told teams that they are willing to hold on to some of the $18MM still owed to closer Jonathan Papelbon, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. While there is still some market for Papelbon, Heyman says it does not look strong. His $13MM vesting clause for 2016, in particular, is a looming threat that would seem to complicate any deal.
  • The Mets are not engaged in any “substantive talks” at present, reports Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com (via Twitter). Of course, as Rubin notes, that does not mean that chatter won’t pick up in the coming days.
  • There were two injury updates today for the Braves, both via Joe Morgan of MLB.com. Southpaw Jonny Venters is making progress and is expected to begin throwing bullpen sessions soon. It still seems that he is a ways off, however, and manager Fredi Gonzalez made clear that the club is not yet counting on a return this season. Meanwhile, starter Gavin Floyd is also moving forward in his recovery from a fracture in his elbow, but Gonzalez says he will not even be evaluated again for a month. Needless to say, Atlanta does not seem destined to receive a surprise, late-season comeback from Floyd, who will be a free agent after the season.

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