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The next game that Aramis Ramirez plays will be the 2,000th of his Major League career, but the Brewers‘ third baseman doesn’t sound like he plans on calling it quits anytime soon. Ramirez told reporters today, including Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, that he plans to try to play another 500 games: “I’m going to go for 2,500 (games) so let’s see what happens. … I’m playing past this year, for sure. I don’t know how much longer but definitely more years.” Ramirez’s contract contains a $14MM mutual option with a $4MM buyout. Given the rarity with which mutual options are exercised, there seems to be a good chance that Ramirez could hit the open market as a free agent this winter.
Here’s more from the NL Central…
- The Pirates are scouting the Diamondbacks‘ bullpen of late, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, who speculates that old friend Oliver Perez could be a potential target for the Bucs.
- The Reds and Phillies remain in contact regarding a potential Marlon Byrd trade, sources tell Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio and ESPN (Twitter link). The Reds have Jay Bruce in right and Billy Hamilton in left, but their left fielders have combined to hit .242/.304/.358. Additionally, with Bruce’s slumping and Joey Votto on the disabled list, the team is short on power.
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer tells Carrie Muskat of MLB.com that Arismendy Alcantara will likely be in the lineup everyday, splitting time between second base and center field. The Cubs designated defensive specialist Darwin Barney for assignment yesterday, which should clear some playing time for the 22-year-old Alcantara.
- Alcantara isn’t the only Cubs prospect on the rise. Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald tweets that outfielders Jorge Soler and Albert Almora have each moved up a level, with Almora heading to Double-A Tennessee and Soler reaching Triple-A Iowa.
- David Price, who recently took in a game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, told Bob Nightengale of USA Today that the fans of St. Louis were great and treated him well in his time there. One high-ranking AL exec tells Nightengale that if the Rays decide to move their ace, the Cardinals stand out as the most likely team to acquire him.
- MLB.com’s Jen Langosch was among the reporters who spoke to Cardinals GM John Mozeliak yesterday. Langosch writes that the Redbirds are pursuing rotation help as the deadline approaches, but Mozeliak cautioned that no deal is imminent. Asked if the club was pursuing a top-of-the-rotation arm or some depth for the back end, Mozeliak replied that the latter was more likely.
With multiple teams on the lookout for bullpen help, left-hander Antonio Bastardo is drawing some significant trade interest, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Sources tell Salisbury that the Royals are very interested in Bastardo, while the Tigers, Pirates and Blue Jays are all in the mix as well. All four teams have scouted each of Philadelphia’s past two games (Salisbury notes that the Tigers are also believed to be keeping an eye on Jonathan Papelbon).
The 28-year-old Bastardo makes sense as a trade chip for the Phillies, whose large commitments to veterans and willingness to include no-trade clauses and vesting options in their contracts has left them with few pieces that are both movable and desirable. Bastardo is both of those, however, as he’s owed just $2MM in 2014 and is controlled through 2015 as an arbitration eligible player. He’s also had good results this season, having compiled a 3.27 ERA with 10.8 K/9, 4.9 BB/9 and a 33.7 percent ground-ball rate. Bastardo has been effective against both left-handed hitters (.616 OPS) and right-handed hitters (.634 OPS) throughout his career.
The Reds have also been connected to Bastardo this month, and the Braves have been known to be seeking a southpaw for their bullpen as well (though the usual intra-division caveat applies). Interested teams do have some alternatives, including James Russell and Wesley Wright of the Cubs, and possibly Andrew Miller of the Red Sox.
The Pirates are not on A.J. Burnett‘s 20-team no-trade clause (as outlined by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick earlier today), and they are his preferred destination if the Phillies choose to move him, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). As I speculated in this morning’s post on his no-trade clause, however, Rosenthal notes that Burnett’s complex mutual/player option may be a deterrent for the Bucs, as Burnett could potentially be a spendy acquisition if he makes a full season’s worth of starts. Nonetheless, Pirates players are lobbying with the front office in an attempt to persuade GM Neal Huntington and his staff to reacquire their former teammate, according to Rosenthal.
Here’s more out of the NL Central…
- Pirates president Frank Coonelly says that the team has financial flexibility to add payroll, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Whether or not that would extend to taking on Burnett’s future commitments, of course, remains to be seen.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said last night that he expects Michael Wacha to pitch in September, but Rosenthal tweets that St. Louis is still looking for rotation upgrades. The Cardinals are exploring everything from front-line starters to back-of-the-rotation types, he says.
- Peter Gammons reports that the Red Sox have been scouting Cardinals short-season Class-A outfielder Rowan Wick in case the Redbirds decide to make a run at Jake Peavy (Twitter link).
- The reason that a deal sending Peavy to the Cardinals has not yet taken place, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com, is that Boston wants a prospect of some kind in return. St. Louis, meanwhile, was more interested in doing the deal primarily in exchange for taking on Peavy’s salary. Peavy is earning $14.5MM this year. (A $15MM player option would vest for 2015 if he is able to log at least 137 2/3 more innings this year, though that would appear to be quite a tall order.)
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
Earlier today, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported the teams to which Cliff Lee can be traded without his consent, and he now reports the trades to which Lee’s teammate, A.J. Burnett, can be dealt without consent (Twitter link).
Burnett has the same 20-team no-trade clause that Lee has, according to Crasnick, and the nine teams to which he can be dealt without prior approval are the Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Pirates, Reds, Royals, Nationals and Cardinals. Unlike Lee, Burnett appears to have factored personal preference into his no-trade clause more than leverage. While Lee blocked potential deals to contending clubs outside of his division, Burnett blocked deals to markets that are further away from his Maryland home. All nine teams to which Burnett can be traded are in the midwest or on the east coast, which isn’t necessarily surprising, given the strong role that geography played in his free agency decision this offseason.
Of note is a second tweet from Crasnick, in which he says the perception that Burnett and the Pirates parted on bad terms is vastly overblown. It appears that Burnett would be open to a reunion with the Bucs, for whom he excelled in 2012-13. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Pirates are equipped to take on his remaining salary.
Per Cot’s Contracts, Burnett is owed $7.5MM in 2014 salary, with a $2.75MM deferred signing bonus payment due next January and a $3.75MM deferred signing bonus payment due next June. Additionally, Burnett will earn an extra $500K upon reaching 24 and 27 games started, and he will receive an additional $750K if he reaches 30 starts.
His complex contract also contains a $15MM mutual option ($1MM buyout) that becomes a $7.5MM player option if the team declines its half. That player option increases to $8.5MM with 24 starts, $10MM with 27 starts, $11.75MM with 30 starts and $12.75MM with 32 starts. Burnett is tied for the league lead with 21 starts, making him very likely to hit the salary and option escalators in his contract.
There was some action on the shortstop front for the Indians today, as starter Asdrubal Cabrera left the game with lower back spasms, per Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (via Twitter). That would appear to be a minor injury, but the news coincided with the club’s decision to promote top prospect (and fellow shortstop) Francisco Lindor to Triple-A, as Hoynes tweets. Cleveland has indicated, however, that the move was unrelated. Of course, Cabrera has often been mentioned as a trade candidate — at season’s end if not at this year’s deadline — due in large part to the continued rise of Lindor, his presumed successor.
Here’s more out of the AL and NL Central:
- With the Royals focusing on adding a corner bat, one possibility that the club has considered is Alex Rios of the Rangers, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Rios does have a six-team no-trade clause which, according to Cot’s on Contracts, includes Kansas City. His $13.5MM club option for next season is not cheap, but could potentially take the place of Billy Butler‘s own $12.5MM option if the latter is dealt or has his option declined.
- The Twins appear to be prepared to sell, according to a report from MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. “We’re in a tough spot right now and we’ve been in a tough spot for four years,” said GM Terry Ryan. “So you have to listen. And that’s what we do.”
- One prime trade candidate for the Twins is outfielder Josh Willingham, who is slashing .209/.357/.399 with eight home runs in 207 plate appearances as he prepares to hit the open market after the season. Two clubs to watch as possible suitors are the Reds and Pirates, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN.
- The Cardinals received some promising news on righty Michael Wacha, who could begin throwing again in two weeks after seeing improved MRI and CT scan results, reports Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. An early September return still appears the best case scenario, according to GM John Mozeliak. But Wacha’s health will not dictate the club’s trade deadline plans. “They’re independent of each other,” said Mozeliak. “That’s still something we can explore in the next eight to ten days.”
- One oft-discussed option for the Cardinals is veteran Red Sox starter Jake Peavy, who once seemed close to being moved but could now be held as Boston looks to make a late surge. St. Louis is still keeping Peavy on their “back burner,” a source tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (Twitter link), who notes that Peavy has put together three consecutive solid outings.
There were plenty of scouts on hand for the Phillies‘ matchup tonight, as ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (links to Twitter). Among the players presumably being eyed were starter Cliff Lee, fresh off a lengthy DL stint, and southpaw reliever Antonio Bastardo. Clubs with representatives on-hand included the Tigers, Blue Jays, Orioles, Brewers, Angels, Royals, Giants, Rangers, Diamondbacks, Pirates, and Mariners, though Crasnick adds that all were not necessarily looking at Lee in particular. The return start for Lee did not go well for the veteran lefty, as he surrendered 12 base hits (11 singles and one long ball) and six earned runs to go with three strikeouts and a walk over 5 2/3 innings.
Here’s more from the game’s eastern divisions:
- The Phillies are telling clubs that starter Cole Hamels is not available, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports on Twitter. Hamels looks to be the best trade piece on the club’s current MLB roster, but Philadelphia may well prefer to keep the 30-year-old as it attempts to avoid a total rebuild.
- The Yankees appear on Lee’s twenty-team no-trade list, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Lee also listed New York on last year’s version of his slate of clubs to which he can decline to be dealt.
- For the Braves, the trade deadline is likely to bring aid to the bullpen and bench, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. A left-handed reliever has long been on the club’s list, and Bowman says that the club might also look to add a bench bat that would improve the team’s anemic pinch-hitting results. As Bowman notes, Jordan Schafer and Ryan Doumit have both largely been ineffective in that role.
- The Rays now seem more likely than ever to take the decision whether to deal David Price right up until the trade deadline, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. “I think they take it down to the wire,” an executive told Sherman. “That allows them to make sure they know who they are while making a couple teams sweat to the end that one of their competitors are going to get him. … It wouldn’t surprise me if Price actually ends up a July 31 decision.”
- Meanwhile, the Orioles are looking at a broad array of options to bolster their club, reports MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli. In particular, the club is looking at both starting and relief arms, and has indicated to at least three clubs that righty Miguel Gonzalez could be moved. One of those teams is the Padres, who of course hold one of the better available starters in Ian Kennedy. A.J. Burnett of the Phillies is also on Baltimore’s radar, as is Jorge De La Rosa of the Rockies, though Ghiroli says that Colorado was asking for top prospect Kevin Gausman to be included. Manager Buck Showalter indicated that executive vice president Dan Duquette remains hesitant to part with the club’s best prospects, and could ultimately take things down to the wire to get the right deal. (That, of course, was the strategy that Baltimore employed in this year’s free agent market, though last year the club started buying somewhat early at the deadline.)
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As usual, the relief market promises to be active in the coming days. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports via Twitter, one executive with a reliever to shop cited the Tigers, Indians, Orioles, Blue Jays, Braves, Brewers, Giants, Dodgers, and Pirates as clubs that are in the market.
Here’s more on possible pen moves:
- While many teams have interest in shoring up their bullpens, many top relief targets might not ultimately be moved, Rosenthal also tweets. He names Koji Uehara (Red Sox), Joakim Soria (Rangers), and Joaquin Benoit (Padres) as quality late-inning hurlers who could stay put.
- The Red Sox have received plenty of interest in both Uehara and southpaw setup man Andrew Miller, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, but the pair is not going to be dealt at this point given the club’s recent winning streak, which reached five games tonight.
- Among the most active buyers are the Tigers, who have scouted virtually all the available arms, tweets ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick. Detroit is showing interest in Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets, though the team is indeed keeping its eye on a wide variety of possibilities. That includes fellow Philly Jonathan Papelbon, adds Morosi.
- After shipping out their top two targets, the Cubs are receiving the most hits on lefty James Russell, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Two other pen pieces — southpaw Wesley Wright and swingman Carlos Villanueva — are also “in play,” says Wittenmyer.
- Marlins closer Steve Cishek is a recent addition to the rumor mill, though MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro says that Miami has told opposing clubs that they do not intend to deal the righty. The 28-year-old comes with three more years of control through arbitration, though he’ll be well-paid after taking home $3.8MM as a Super Two. Meanwhile, with the Fish hoping to make a run at extending star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton after the season, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald cites a source who tells him that shipping out Cishek could have a negative impact on that effort.
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Here’s the latest on the Phillies and the numerous trade candidates on their roster…
- The Pirates had a scout watching A.J. Burnett‘s start on Friday, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The Bucs are known to be looking for starting pitching and Burnett is certainly a familiar quantity for them. The veteran righty has a partial no-trade clause, though it isn’t known if he can block a deal to Pittsburgh or if Burnett would welcome a deal to a contender that is still close to his Maryland home.
- Cole Hamels has received some trade interest from the Red Sox, though CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman wonders if this could be a tactic to restart extension talks with Jon Lester. Otherwise, Boston’s pursuit of Hamels doesn’t make a lot of sense to Heyman — the Sox could just re-sign Lester, rather than pay a similar price to Hamels through 2018 and have to give up prospects to the Phillies to get him.
- The Blue Jays and Yankees both scouted Cliff Lee‘s final rehab start, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury writes. Lee returns from the DL to start against the Giants tonight, and scouts from several teams are expected in attendance for Lee’s two scheduled starts prior to the July 31st deadline.
The Tigers, Pirates and Indians are interested in Padres reliever Joaquin Benoit, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. The Padres have already shipped out one reliever with closing experience, trading Huston Street to the Angels, but Heyman writes that Benoit will likely fetch a less attractive return, since teams generally view him as a setup man, not a closer.
Heyman notes that the Tigers or Pirates could use Benoit in the eighth inning, allowing Joe Nathan or Mark Melancon, respectively, to continue to close. (Those two teams are also interested in Joakim Soria of the Rangers, Heyman notes.) It isn’t yet clear whether the Indians will be buyers.
Benoit is owed $8MM next year plus $8MM or a $1.5MM buyout in 2016. His 2016 option will vest if he finishes at least 55 games in 2015. Benoit has a 2.04 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 39 2/3 innings with San Diego this year.
The National League Central saw a change atop its leaderboard as the Brewers fell out of first place for the first time since April 5 after a 5-4 walk-off loss to the Nationals. It could be temporary pending the outcome of the Cardinals’ game with the Dodgers tonight. Here’s the latest from the NL Central:
- Reds General Manager Walt Jocketty has several of his inner-circle baseball operations people on the road with him and is eyeing some additions, but that doesn’t mean anything will happen this month. “I’d like to add a bat,” Jocketty said, according to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. “We just haven’t found anything that attracts us yet. It may not happen before the 31st.” Jocketty went on to say if the Reds acquire a bat, the preference would be for the player to play multiple positions.
- With Brandon Phillips on the disabled list, the Reds GM was asked about pursuing the recently released Dan Uggla. “We haven’t discussed that yet,” Jocketty said (as quoted by John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer). “I haven’t talked to our scouts that saw him. I don’t know. We’re going to meet tomorrow and go over some stuff.“
- In a chat with Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (via Twitter), Jocketty made it clear he’d like to acquire a middle of the order bat he could put into the Reds‘ lineup right away, not an injury risk type player. When asked about Rays‘ second baseman Ben Zobrist (link), Jocketty said, “That’s a good name. That’s all I’ll say.”
- The Reds have interest in the Phillies‘ Marlon Byrd and Antonio Bastardo, reports CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury.
- The Cardinals‘ top Trade Deadline priority should be starting pitching and not a replacement for the injured Yadier Molina, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- The Cardinals‘ due diligence with David Price is reminiscent of their pursuit of Matt Holliday in 2009, tweets Strauss’ colleague at the P-D, Derrick Goold (Twitter links).
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin has downplayed the prospects of making a major deal before the Trade Deadline citing the lack of playing time for a bat and the limited impact a reliever can have because of the few innings they pitch, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington told reporters, including Karen Price of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the ask is still high on the trade market, but the club has the payroll flexibility to make a move. “It’s the basic law of supply and demand,” Huntington said. “There’s not a lot of teams that are looking to sell, and there are a lot of teams looking to buy. There’s not a ton of players out there who are significant upgrades. There are some guys you think can be, so as a result asking prices higher than you’d like. It’s a balance of what do you give up for projected current wins for projected future wins.“
Zach Links contributed to this post.