Jonathan Singleton Rumors

Astros Claim Raul Valdes, Decline Humber’s Option

The Astros have issued a press release announcing that they have claimed left-hander Raul Valdes off waivers from the Phillies and declined their 2014 club option for right-hander Philip Humber. Humber is one of four players that has been outrighted off the team's 40-man roster; the others are infielder Brandon Laird and catchers Cody Clark and Matt Pagnozzi. Perhaps more noteworthy is the fact that top prospect Jonathan Singleton has been added to the team's 40-man roster to fill one of the new vacancies.

Valdes, 35, posted an alarming 7.46 ERA in 35 innings for the Phillies this season, but his peripheral numbers suggest that he was far better than that unsightly number. Valdes averaged 9.5 strikeouts and 2.1 walks per nine innings, leading advanced metrics like FIP (4.39), xFIP (3.74) and SIERA (3.10) to project better days on the horizon. He also held opposing lefties to a .229/.275/.375 line.

Houston held a $3MM option on Humber, but declining it proved to be an easy decision. The former No. 3 overall pick turned in a 7.90 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 54 2/3 innings for the Astros this season after signing for just $800K last offseason. Humber was designated for assignment in May and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Oklahoma City, where posted a 4.68 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9.

Laird hit .169/.224/.423 with five homers in 76 plate appearances for the Astros in 2013. Pagnozzi, who was acquired from the Braves at the beginning of September, went 3-for-21 in 22 plate appearances for the Astros in the season's final month. The 32-year-old Clark, a career minor leaguer, reached the Majors at last in 2013 and recorded his first big league hit with the Astros. Clark went 4-for-38 with Houston and hit .212/.250/.265 in 46 minor league contests this season.


Prospect Rumor Roundup: Future Promotions

If you're a moderate to hardcore baseball fan, you've probably heard of the term "Super Two" when top prospects and their imminent big league promotions are being discussed. Basically, it's an important business aspect of baseball that can cause your favorite MLB-ready prospect to spend a little extra time in the minors. For a refresher on the subject, check out Tim Dierkes' article from April and Ben Nicholson-Smith's post from February.

Now that you're up to date and understand why some players have been recently called up to the Majors, it's time to identify the next big-named prospects who could be promoted in 2013, following in the footsteps of the Rays' Wil Myers, the Mets' Zack Wheeler, and the Mariners' Mike Zunino.

Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox: Bogaerts, 20, didn't let his age stop him from dominating Double-A ball. One of the youngest players in the Eastern League, the shortstop hit more than .300 with strong on-base skills and power. The Aruba native earned himself a trip to Triple-A after less than half a season. A strong start to 2013 earned fellow shortstop prospect (and potential roadblock) Jose Iglesias a 25-man roster spot as the backup to oft-injured veteran Stephen Drew, but Bogaerts has a much higher ceiling. Iglesias is much more likely to end up as trade bait thanks to his high-level play — should Boston need to shore up its roster for a run at the playoffs. Drew is a free agent at the end of the year, and the Red Sox may want to give Bogaerts a chance to get his feet wet in the Majors by the end of the year to gauge if he's truly ready to assume the full-time gig in 2014.

Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF, Tigers: Castellanos had a modest start to the 2013 season, but he's seen his offensive numbers improve each month with his OPS rising from .755 to .814 to 1.025. Also working in his favor for a call-up is the fact that he can offer competent defensive assistance at both third base and in the corner outfield. Miguel Cabrera isn't going to be bumped from his starting gig at the hot corner, but the emergence of Castellanos could allow the club to rest the veteran in the second half of the year in preparation for long playoff run. The prospect could also be a solid platoon complement to left fielder Andy Dirks, a left-handed hitter. It would also give Avisail Garcia — another rookie outfielder — a chance to spend more time in Triple-A. Lynn Henning of the Detroit News wrote that Castellanos could be a key player for the big league club as it tries to secure a playoff spot in 2013.

Sonny Gray, RHP, Athletics: Aside from Bartolo Colon, injuries have ensured that Oakland's starting rotation lacks pitchers with more than two years of service time. Due to the volatility of young pitchers, depth could become an issue for the first-place club in the second half of the year. Gray, a former first round draft pick, could offer some help after rebounding well from a disappointing 2012 season. The right-hander has averaged more than six innings per start in his 13 Triple-A appearances and struck out 83 batters in 82 1/3 innings of work.

Erik Johnson, RHP, White Sox: Chicago is currently deploying an inexperienced starting rotation with the likes of Hector Santiago, Jose Quintana, and Dylan Axelrod. Johnson, a former second round draft pick, has dominated pro ball and his time at Double-A in 2013 has been no different. He currently has a 2.24 ERA with 74 strikeouts and just 21 walks in 84 2/3 innings of work. Johnson, 23, has a frame that suggests he should develop into an innings-eater and his pitching acumen could eventually help him develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter for the Sox. The California native could offer some assistance to the big league club in the second half of the season, and he has the highest ceiling of any starter in the Sox system at either Double-A or Triple-A. Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune recently penned an article after speaking with Johnson, who said he's just taking it one day at a time and not worrying about a promotion to The Show.

Danny Salazar, RHP, Indians: After spending big in the offseason, Cleveland finds itself in a playoff hunt. With a big league starting rotation that features some rather large question marks with the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir, and Carlos Carrasco, Salazar could become a key player at some point during the second half of the season. While splitting the season between Double-A and Triple-A, the Dominican right-hander has struck out 80 batters in 58 innings of work. If he doesn't figure into the club's plans in the starting rotation, his power arsenal and ability to pitch multiple innings could allow him to offer some assistance in the bullpen in the latter half of the year and even the playoffs. In a piece for MLB.com, John Wagner spoke to Salazar's Triple-A manager, Chris Tremie, who talked about the things that the young pitcher does well.

Jonathan Singleton, 1B/OF, Astros: Singleton's season got off to an inauspicious start when he was suspended for 50 games after violating minor league baseball's drug policy. Since returning, the 21-year-old hitter has appeared in just 10 games, split between Single-A, Double-A and now Triple-A. Thirteen of his 20 hits have gone for extra bases, and he's walked 13 times. Singleton has experience playing both left field and first base but has exclusively played the infield in 2013. Despite that, his clearest opening for big league playing time could be in the outfield where Trevor Crowe, J.D. Martinez, and (recently demoted) Jimmy Paredes have produced less-than-impressive numbers. First basemen/designated hitters Chris Carter and Carlos Pena have also had underwhelming seasons to date (and could become trade bait) but offer much-needed power. The playoffs are out of the question for 2013, but once outfield prospect George Springer joins Singleton in Houston, the club will have a strong middle-of-the-order core to build around.

Yordano Ventura, RHP, Royals: Talented but undersized pitching prospects are slowly shedding the stigma that they're destined for future bullpen work at the big league level. Like Toronto's Marcus Stroman, the slender Ventura doesn't break the six-foot mark, but his upper-90s velocity — which tickles triple digits — has intrigued prospect watchers since he came over to North America from the Dominican Republic in 2010. After opening 2013 in Double-A, a recent promotion has brought Ventura one step away from the Majors. Should injuries strike — or should the Royals tire of the inconsistent performances from Luis Mendoza or Wade Davis — the 22-year-old Dominican could receive the call. Jeffrey Flanagan of Fox Sports Kansas City recently spoke to Royals Assistant General Manager J.J. Picollo who said the organization is looking to have Ventura become more efficient and keep his pitch counts down.


Transaction Retrospection: The First Hunter Pence Trade

The Astros entered 2013 with a shockingly low payroll by today's standards thanks to a number of offseason trades that were intended to boost their farm system. It's nothing new for Houston — a team that hasn't finished above .500 since the 2008 season. General manager Jeff Luhnow and his staff have done a terrific job of amassing young talent to build promise for the future, but the first step may have been taken by Luhnow's predecessor — Ed Wade.

In July 2011, the last-place Astros had a number of desireable pieces on their roster, but perhaps none more appealing than Hunter Pence. The 28-year-old right fielder was hitting .308/.356/.471 with 11 homers when the Astros traded him to the Phillies (along with $2MM) for a package of four prospects: first baseman Jonathan Singleton (19 years old at the time), right-hander Jarred Cosart (21), right-hander Josh Zeid (24) and right fielder Domingo Santana (18).

Let's look at all of the players involved…

The Major League Side

  • Hunter Pence: The Phillies acquired a year-and-a-half of Pence's service in the deal. He slid into the Phillies' lineup and immediately provided a boost. Pence had homered 11 times in 100 games for the Astros but matched that total in just 54 games for the Phils. He closed out the season on a torrid pace, hitting .324/.394/.560 in 236 trips to the plate as the Phillies marched to a 102-win season and a first-place finish. Pence's second season with the Phillies Pence didn't go as well; his Musial-esque 159 OPS+ dropped to 108, and he was eventually traded to the Giants for a package of players highlighted by catcher Tommy Joseph (that trade could be a whole new post). All told, the Phillies parted with four prospects and were rewarded with 676 plate appearances worth of .289/.357/.486 production and average right field defense. Fangraphs pegs Pence's value in Phildelphia at 3.6 wins above replacement.

The Minor League Side

  • Jonathan Singleton: Singleton has emerged as the best prospect in this deal (Cosart, at the time, was regarded slightly higher). Baseball America ranked him as the game's 39th-best prospect prior to 2011, and he now occupies the No. 27 spot on that list. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo agrees with that ranking and places him first among Astros prospects. BA calls Singleton "the best first base prospect in baseball," noting his plus raw power and ability to hit to all fields. Mayo agrees that he's the best first base prospect in the game, and both think that Singleton could be in the Majors as soon as this season. He hit .284/.396/.497 with 21 homers as a 20-year-old at Double-A last season. Houston fans will have to wait, however, as Singleton is serving a 50-game suspension after testing positive for marijuana.
  • Jarred Cosart: Cosart's stock has fallen after a 2012 season that was slowed by recurring blisters on his pitching hand. He still posted a solid 3.30 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 114 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. He's fallen out of BA's Top 100 and ranks as Houston's No. 7 prospect in their eyes, but Mayo is more of a believer; he ranks Cosart No. 89 in the game and No. 4 in the Astros' system. Both feel that Cosart's stock would soar if he could improve his command of a plus curveball with 11-to-5 break, as it would complement what BA refers to an "electric" fastball that sits 96-97 mph. Some feel that Cosart could end up as a closer, but control of his curveball could have him sitting atop Houston's rotation in the near future.
  • Domingo Santana: Santana, the youngest player in the trade, was included as a PTBNL and viewed a high-risk prospect. He's emerged as the team's No. 11 prospect per BA and No. 13 prospect per Mayo. BA writes that he has significant raw power and an advanced opposite-field approach to pair with enough athleticism to develop into a regular right fielder if things break right. Mayo concurs with that analysis and notes that he has "an outstanding arm that fits perfectly in right field, along with his offensive profile."
  • Josh Zeid: Zeid doesn't rank among the Top 30 prospects in Houston's system per BA or the Top 20 per Mayo, but he ranked as Philadelphia's 23rd prospect at the time of the trade. BA credited Zeid with the best slider in Philly's farm system following the 2010 season, noting that his fastball can reach 97 mph when he's serving in a relief role. That's exactly what he's done since coming to Houston, but he posted an ugly 5.59 ERA in 56 1/3 innings at Double-A last season. However, his 10.5 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and strong 3.52 FIP suggest that there are better times ahead for the 26-year-old. He's pitching at Triple-A Oklahoma City to open this season.

The Phillies gave up quite a bit of talent in order to land Pence, and the Astros are clearly better off for it. Twenty percent of the players in Houston's Top 15 prospects were acquired via this trade, and while there are question marks surrounding some of them, Singleton's future looks more certain. Philadelphia, meanwhile, received a boost to their lineup that helped cement a division championship. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was able to flip Pence one year later to recoup some of the prospect value that he gave up in order to land Pence.

The Phillies got precisely what they were hoping for in Pence, but the Astros appear to be better positioned for the long-haul as a result. Scenarios like this are often the case when dealing prospects for short-term help at the Major League level. Had the Phillies won a World Series title in 2011, there wouldn't be much second-guessing the trade. As it stands, Houston picked up enough future upside that they could eventually make Philadelphia fans regret the deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Hunter Pence Trade Reactions And Fallout

The Phillies love to make a big splash at the trade deadline and they continued the trend this year by acquiring Hunter Pence from the Astros for Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Josh Zeid, and a player to be named later.  Let's take a look at some reactions to the deal from around the baseball world:

  • Up until late yesterday, the Astros were looking to get even more out of the Phillies, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.com.  Houston insisted that the Phillies had to include two more of their top ten prospects, including 2010 first-round pick Jesse Biddle.
  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will continue to listen to other teams up until the trade deadline on Sunday, but he's likely done trading after landing Pence, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Astros GM Ed Wade was still talking to other teams until ten minutes before he made the deal with the Phillies, tweets Bob Brookover of Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Keith Law of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) believes that the Astros took a considerable risk in dealing Pence.  While they received a ton of potential long-term value, the major prospects coming over in the trade are high-risk, high-reward prospects.
  • Wade's decision to trade Pence certainly isn't a popular one but it is the right move for the organization, writes Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com.
  • Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle writes that it could take two years or longer to fairly judge the return that the Astros got for Pence.
  • Phillies officials have questioned Cosart's maturity in the past, according to John Manuel and Matt Eddy of Baseball America.  Furthermore, the right-hander's command issues led others in the organization to believe he was destined wind up in the bullpen.  However, Cosart had the best pure arm in the Phillies' system.

Phillies Acquire Hunter Pence

Last year it was Roy Oswalt, the year before Cliff Lee.  This year, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. continued his July 29th big-game hunting by landing All-Star right fielder Hunter Pence and $2MM from the Astros for prospects Jarred CosartJonathan Singleton, and Josh Zeid, as well as a player to be named later.  The Phillies confirmed the deal through a press release.

Pence

Pence, 28, was hitting .309/.356/.472 in 430 plate appearances entering tonight's game at Milwaukee.  He plays an average right field, based on UZR data since 2010.  Perhaps the face of the Astros franchise, Pence was not initially thought to be available this summer with the Astros in the middle of an ownership transfer.  He's much more than a rental, with $2.3MM remaining on his contract this year and team control through 2013.  Pence's agents at Beverly Hills Sports Council had a big arbitration win in January, bringing his 2011 salary to $6.9MM and raising the bar for '12 and '13.  The right-handed hitting Pence (pictured) fits perfectly into right field for the Phillies, who rank 14th in the NL with a .665 OPS against lefties after losing Jayson Werth during the offseason. The Braves, Indians, Reds, Red Sox, and Pirates were also in on Pence this month.

Cosart, 21, ranks as high as 17th by ESPN's Keith Law and as low as 43rd by Baseball America among the game's prospects.  He dealt with an elbow injury last year, but has the electric fastball and plus curveball of a future front-rotation starter.  Added bonus: he grew up just south of Houston, in League City, Texas.

Cosart's High-A teammate Jonathan Singleton, 19, was ranked #24 by Law and #41 by BA.  Law says Singleton has "one of the best swings in the minors."  Zeid, a 24-year-old Double-A righty, was ranked 23rd among Phillies prospects by BA prior to the season and has been exceptional out of the bullpen this year.  The player to be named later won't be a top prospect, tweets ESPN's Jayson Stark, and will come from a list of players currently in Low-A ball.  

In acquiring Cosart and Singleton, Astros GM Ed Wade added a couple of excellent prospects to a farm system generally regarded as one of the five worst in baseball prior to the season.  Whether or not the move is popular with fans, it's the right direction for the Astros.

Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi broke the story, with Jayson StarkJim Salisbury, and Jon Heyman adding detail.  Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.


Phillies To Acquire Hunter Pence

8:54pm: Pitching prospect Josh Zeid will also go to the Astros in the deal, tweets Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly.  SI's Jon Heyman adds that the Astros will pay $1MM to the Phillies in the trade.

8:42pm: The Astros are also sending cash to the Phillies in the deal, tweets ESPN's Jayson Stark.

8:16pm: Pence has been removed from tonight's game against the Brewers, tweets MLB.com's Brian McTaggart.  He's getting hugs in the dugout.

7:49pm: The Phillies are close to acquiring Pence, tweets Rosenthal.  He says a deal is expected to be completed tonight.  Jon Paul Morosi tweets that first baseman Jonathan Singleton and righty Jarred Cosart are in the deal.  Rosenthal says the Astros will also get two players to be named later in the deal – one of whom may be announced tonight – and they are not major prospects.

6:42pm: The Phillies and Astros are progressing toward a deal for right fielder Hunter Pence, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  He says talks "are to point where another team will need to trump the Phillies with a superior package," and agrees with ESPN's Buster Olney that the Braves are still trying.  Jerry Crasnick tweets that the Braves still think they're right in the race for Pence.


Hunter Pence Very Likely To Be Traded?

We learned yesterday that the Astros are deep into trade talks for Hunter Pence and that a deal could be completed today. The Phillies, who appear to be willing to include Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton and others in a deal, may have a Friday pre-deadline for reaching an agreement, so that the Astros have time to explore deals with other suitors, like the Braves, Reds and Red Sox. The Pirates, Rangers and Angels aren't seriously in the mix at this point. Here are today's rumors with the latest updates up top:

  • The Braves are looking to be creative and are still involved, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney.
  • Pence is very likely to be moved now, tweets SI's Jon Heyman.  He believes the Phillies are the favorite, with the Indians, Red Sox, and Reds also in.
  • A two-team swap remains the Astros' focus, reports MLB.com's Brian McTaggart.  Indeed, ESPN's Jayson Stark says there's no more talk of three-team deals.
  • The Braves have not considered Pence a priority, reports MLB.com's Mark Bowman.  However, Ken Rosenthal tweets that they seek an athletic corner bat who is controlled beyond this year, and Pence fits that description.  
  • The Phillies currently have no intention of putting Brown in a deal for Pence, tweets Buster Olney.
  • Jon Heyman of SI.com suggests the Phillies will continue negotiating with the Astros until Sunday if they need to, since Pence "is the guy" for them (Twitter link).
  • The Astros want pitching for Pence, according to Heyman (on Twitter).
  • The Phillies and Astros are exploring potential three-team deals involving Pence, according to ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark. Jon Heyman of SI.com and Joel Sherman of the New York Post agree (Twitter links). The Phillies may be willing to trade Brown to a third team to get the prospects the Astros want for Pence, Stark writes.
  • The Braves offered a package that included prospects they didn’t offer to the Mets for Carlos Beltran, but the Astros turned the offer down, according to Stark. The Braves may be moving on, which would leave the Phillies as Pence’s primary suitor.  The Red Sox, Reds, Pirates and Indians appear to have peeled off, according to Stark.
  • Jon Heyman of SI (via Twitter) hears that the Astros don't love the Phillies' prospects, and that may even include Domonic Brown.
  • Houston is still playing the Pence market and working to bring other teams into the mix besides the Phillies, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • The Astros would prefer to deal Pence to the Braves, but Atlanta continues to be very protective of their big-time pitching prospects, tweets Jon Heyman of SI.  The Phillies are still working to get something done.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears that the Astros prefer the Braves' prospects to the Phillies' prospects (Twitter link). Atlanta won't give up the "key guy," who is believed to be Mike Minor, Sherman writes.
  • ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports that the Braves, generally speaking, have zero enthusiasm about giving up Minor, Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino or Randall Delgado (Twitter link).
  • Pence was told during last night's game that he was being pulled because of a trade, then wasn't pulled, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter).
  • The Reds are in on Pence, but he's the Phillies' to lose, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).
  • There's a sense that the Phillies might be able to obtain Pence by offering Domonic Brown instead of Singleton and including Cosart in the deal, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter).
  • The Astros still have an "unreasonable" asking price for Pence, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter).
  • There's a "huge bidding war" going on for Pence, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (on Twitter links). The Braves don't value on-base percentage as much as other teams, one NL official told Olney (Pence has a .354 OBP).

Hunter Pence Rumors: Wednesday

Hunter Pence has the ability to shake up the trade market for bats; here's the latest…

  • It appears more and more that Pence is staying put, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter).
  • The Phillies have been aggressive in pursuing Pence and there are indications that they would include Domonic Brown in a trade for him, according to Jim Salisburyof CSNPhilly.com. The Astros are looking for multiple top prospects for Pence, the Phillies' top target.
  • It appears that nothing will happen with Pence now and the Astros will look to trade him in the offseason instead, reports Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.  Knobler says the Phillies "almost certainly won't get Pence."  By the way, Pence's absence from the Astros' lineup tonight is not the sign of a trade but rather just a day off.
  • The Braves are turning their attention to Pence, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  Another target, Carlos Beltran, is believed to be going to the Giants.
  • Two front office men, neither from the Astros or Phillies, told ESPN's Jayson Stark they believed the Phillies had a deal for Pence in the last 24 hours only to have the Astros back off.  The Phillies offered Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singelton, and a second-tier pitching prospect for Pence, believes Stark.  An Astros official told Stark they haven't said no to any specific proposal, however.
  • The Astros want a "very top pitching prospect" for Pence, tweets SI's Jon Heyman, and the Phillies are trying hard.  However, Heyman says most believe Pence will stay put.

Carlos Beltran Rumors: Tuesday

Yesterday right fielder Carlos Beltran shot down the notion that he's told the Mets he won't accept a trade to an American League team.  Writers agree that the Rangers are making a big push and that the Phillies have cooled, but the standing of the Braves, Red Sox, and Giants is unclear.  The latest up top:

  • Beltran says he never blocked a deal to the Indians, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post (on Twitter). He says the Mets haven't come to him with possible deals.
  • The Indians offered to pick up all of Beltran's remaining contract and give the Mets a good player in return according to MLB.com's Peter Gammons, but Cleveland was not a fit for the Scott Boras client. Heyman reports (on Twitter) that the deal was never presented to Beltran, so the Mets must know which teams he'll accept a trade to.
  • The Phillies won't give up Jonathan Singleton for Beltran, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com, who confirms that Cosart and Brown aren't available either (Twitter link). More Phillies prospects will soon be off the table as well, according to Heyman.
  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin declined to speak about Beltran in particular, but he told Adam McCalvy of MLB.com that he's always open to making the right deal, generally speaking.
  • Agent Scott Boras told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick that Beltran's decision to accept or block a trade will revolve around his chances of winning a title. Crasnick's take on the leading suitors for Beltran confirms what we've read for the past 24 hours or so: the Rangers have ramped up their pursuit of Beltran and the Braves and Giants remain interested, while the Red Sox and Phillies appear to have slipped to the back of the pack.
  • There's a strong belief the best offer may come from the Rangers, tweets SI's Jon Heyman.
  • The Mets' asking price has come down a bit from two weeks ago, an interested executive told Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter links).  Sherman says the Mets are talking two and three-prospect deals with the Rangers, Red Sox, Giants, Braves, Phillies, and Brewers.
  • The Mets have been turned down on requests for Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, or Arodys Vizcaino of the Braves, Zack Wheeler or Gary Brown of the Giants, and Domonic Brown or Jarred Cosart of the Phillies, reports ESPN's Jayson Stark.  Stark says the Mets are telling teams the Beltran deal isn't about money, and the team that offers the best players will get him.
  • A high-ranking source tells ESPN's Buster Olney there is no clear frontrunner for Beltran as of right now (Twitter link).  Meanwhile, a source close to the talks tells Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports he expects things to intensify within the next 48 hours (Twitter link).
  • The Giants "look like a possible favorite" for Beltran at the moment, reports SI's Jon Heyman.  The Braves are very interested as well, while the Phillies "don't seem all that involved."
  • The Reds are not currently involved in trade talks for Beltran, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney.
  • An executive from a team that has expressed interest in Beltran told Joel Sherman of the New York Post, "They are not getting a top-40-ranked prospect for Beltran even if they eat all the money [left on his contract]."  Sherman's article goes on to explain why the Mets will probably have to settle for less-than-elite prospects.  He reiterates that the Rangers are aggressively pursuing Beltran and the Braves and Red Sox are the other two most interested clubs.      

Stark On Shields, Melky, Soria, Marlins

Astros GM Ed Wade has been determining the market for his players, including Hunter Pence, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark reports. Incoming owner Jim Crane urged Wade to do so in case appealing offers emerge. Here are the rest of Stark’s rumors: 

  • Given Wade’s uncertain future in Houston, at least one executive suggests the GM needs to make a "job-saving deal" if he trades Pence.
  • The Rays are more likely to trade B.J. Upton than James Shields, though they realize Shields’ value has never been higher (the right-hander won't be going to the Bronx). 
  • The Phillies remain in contact with the Royals about Melky Cabrera, but the Royals have told teams they’re more likely to deal Jeff Francoeur. Kansas City is asking for a number three starter who’s nearly Major League ready in return for Cabrera.
  • Clubs that have inquired on Vance Worley have heard that he’s off of the market.
  • The Braves have shown some interest in Heath Bell, whose most aggressive suitors have been the Rangers, Cardinals, Phillies and Angels. The Padres are telling teams that they’ll need to “clearly surpass” the value of two compensatory draft picks in any deal for Bell, though they’re flexible in terms of the type of player they’d accept in return.
  • The Padres continue to field calls on Mike Adams, who will be tougher to obtain than Bell.
  • The Yankees, Phillies and Diamondbacks appear to have checked in on Joakim Soria.
  • The Red Sox are looking at everything, but aren’t approaching the deadline with much urgency, one AL executive told Stark.
  • Rival teams expect that the Dodgers will trade Jamey Carroll and there are indications that Rafael Furcal is drawing interest as well.
  • The Marlins, who hope to build momentum before opening their new stadium in 2012, are in a “holding pattern,” Stark reports. They’ve shown interest in third basemen.
  • Rival teams report that the Phillies say they won’t move Domonic Brown or top pitching prospect Jarred Cosart. Jonathan Singleton is available in the right deal, but the Phillies don’t expect to trade him for a rental player.
  • Stark reminds us that commissioner Bud Selig ruled out contraction at the All-Star Game.