Texas Rangers Rumors

Texas Rangers trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Rangers Acquire International Slot Money From Angels

4:34pm: Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports that the Rangers are receiving two international bonus slots from the Angels, which are worth a combined total of $879,500 (Twitter link).

3:15pm: The Rangers have acquired an international bonus slot from the Angels in exchange for minor league right-hander Jason Hoppe, executive VP of communications John Blake announced (on Twitter).

Toppe, 23, was the Rangers’ 27th-round pick in last year’s draft out of Minnesota State University. He debuted with the club’s short-season Class-A affiliate in 2014 and has returned to that level to begin the 2015 season. The Minnesota native has a 4.97 ERA with a 38-to-10 K/BB ratio in 38 professional innings to this point. He didn’t rank among Texas’ top prospects.

The Rangers have a $4,586,600 bonus pool this year, per Baseball America, and have already agreed to $2.6MM worth of bonuses with Leodys Taveras and Miguel Aparicio earlier today. The Halos blew past last year’s international spending cap in order to sign Cuban infielder Roberto Baldoquin, so the team won’t be able to sign an international free agent for more than $300K anyhow. As such, it’s logical that they’re exploring trades with their international slots.

Rangers To Sign Leodys Taveras

The Rangers have reached a deal with highly-regarded Dominican outfielder Leodys Taveras, Ben Badler of Baseball America reports. He is the cousin of former big leaguer Willy Taveras.

BA had the highest grade on Taveras among international prospect evaluators, ranking him third overall on the basis of his strong overall skillset. Indeed, Badler writes that the youngster could ultimately possess five average or better tools when all is said and done. He is a switch hitter with a nice stroke and good strength given his frame. While he’ll need to work to improve his instincts to stick in center, says Badler, he has the speed and arm strength to develop into a good defender.

Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs largely concurred with that assessment, placing Taveras seventh on his board. MLB.com took a somewhat dimmer view, rating him 18th, due to the fact that Taveras could use some polishing at the plate.

Taveras will earn a $2.1MM bonus, Badler tweets. That is a good deal less than the $3MM expected for Taveras, according to Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs, and could leave some additional space for the Rangers, who have just over $4.5MM in total pool allocation.

The club is also said to have signed Venezuelan outfielder Miguel Aparicio, also per a Badler report. He’ll receive a $500K bonus. Badler rates him the 13th-best player available, citing his all-around tools.

Jared Burton Granted Release By Rangers

Right-handed reliever Jared Burton asked for and was granted his release from the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate, reports Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (via Twitter).

Burton inked a minor league deal with New York this offseason but failed to make the club in Spring Training, so he re-signed a new minor league deal and went to the team’s Triple-A affiliate, where yielded three runs in four innings before being released. Burton latched on with the Rangers in late May and has pitched quite well for Triple-A Round Rock, surrendering just one run with an 11-to-3 K/BB ratio in 10 innings there.

Now 34 years old, Burton was a key member of the Twins’ bullpen from 2012-14. He signed a minor league deal prior to the 2012 season as he worked his way back from shoulder injuries and proved to be one of the better bargain pickups in all of baseball that winter. Burton worked to a 2.18 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 48.5 percent ground-ball rate in 62 innings for the Twins in 2012, prompting the team to re-up with the righty on a two-year, $5.4MM contract.

Burton was solid in the first season of the deal before taking a step back in 2014. Last year, his K/9 rate, BB/9 rate, ground-ball rate and velocity all went in the wrong direction. Burton, however, still displayed an effective split-finger changeup (which he’s previously termed a “splangeup”).

The veteran was plagued by a lat injury earlier in the season while with the Yankees, but he’s back to full strength now and could be a bullpen option for a club that is thin on experienced arms. Given the sheer volume of teams that are on the lookout for affordable bullpen help, I’d imagine that Burton and agent Dave Pepe of Pro Agents, Inc. will have interest from multiple clubs.

Which Rule 5 Picks Are Still With Their New Teams?

There were 13 players selected in the Major League phase of the 2014 Rule 5 Draft, and nearly halfway through the year, a surprising percentage remain with their new clubs. Here’s a look at each of the Rule 5 picks, where they’re currently playing and if they have a chance to remain with their team…

  • Oscar Hernandez, C, Diamondbacks: Selected out of the Rays organization despite never having appeared above Class-A, Hernandez broke his hamate bone in Spring Training and has been on the DL all season.  As MLBTR’s Jeff Todd noted at the time, that actually made it a bit easier to get some time to evaluate Hernandez, as the D-Backs can see him on a Minor League rehab assignment and don’t have to roster such an inexperienced bat all season. Hernandez is on his rehab assignment now, and the early returns at the plate aren’t good (.200/.259/.280 in nine games). Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s hit poorly, though, so perhaps the team will prefer Hernandez’s big arm for that spot.
  • Mark Canha, 1B/OF, Athletics: Selected by Rockies out of the Marlins organization, Canha was immediately traded to Oakland for right-hander Austin House and cash. Canha hasn’t been great for the A’s, but he’s provided league-average production at the plate to go along with passable corner defense. At this point, it would be a surprise if Canha didn’t finish the season with the team.
  • Delino DeShields, Jr., OF, Rangers: The Rangers plucked the former No. 8 overall pick out of the Astros organization, perhaps hoping that DeShields could be a speedy bench piece. DeShields, like the Rangers club as a whole, has been far better than most expected, hitting .269/.358/.386 and going 13-for-15 in stolen base attempts. A hamstring injury has had him on the DL for much of June, but he’s on a rehab assignment right now and should return to the team in short order. DeShields’ .368 BABIP will likely regress, but he’s been the game’s second most-valuable baserunner, per Fangraphs, despite his limited playing time. He certainly seems likely to remain with the Rangers.
  • Jason Garcia, RHP, Orioles: The Astros were the team to technically select Garcia out of the Red Sox organization, but Houston quickly traded him to Baltimore for cash. Garcia pitched poorly in 13 innings to open the season before landing on the disabled list with a shoulder injury that has since seen him transferred to the 60-day DL.
  • J.R. Graham, RHP, Twins: A former top prospect with the Braves, Graham was selected by the Twins on the heels of an injury-shortened 2014 season. He’s seen a lot of time in mop-up duty, but Graham has delivered a solid ERA, albeit with less encouraging peripherals. In 35 2/3 innings, hs has a 3.03 ERA with 6.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 39.1 percent ground-ball rate. The Twins have said they plan to retain Graham, who’s averaging better than 95 mph on his fastball.
  • Jandel Gustave, RHP: Gustave was selected by the Red Sox out of the Astros organization, then traded to the Royals. Kansas City tried to put him through waivers this spring but lost him to the Padres, who ultimately returned him to Houston. He has a 2.54 ERA but a 17-to-13 K/BB ratio in 28 1/3 innings with Houston’s Double-A affiliate.
  • Taylor Featherston, INF, Angels: The Angels acquired Featherston for cash considerations after the Cubs selected him from the Rockies. The Halos seem committed to keeping Featherston, as he’s still on their roster despite just 60 plate appearances this season. The 25-year-old hasn’t hit — .127/.169/.218 — but he’s provided sound defense at three positions late in games and in his rare starts.
  • Odubel Herrera, CF, Phillies: The Phillies nabbed Herrera out of the Rangers’ organization after a strong Double-A showing in 2014, and the infielder-turned-outfielder has seen the bulk of time in center for the Phils. He’s hitting just .251/.282/.359, but the Phillies are the exact kind of team that can afford to give a Rule 5 pick regular at-bats as opposed to costing him valuable reps via limited usage. He’ll remain with the team.
  • Andrew McKirahan, LHP, Braves: The Marlins were the team to select McKirahan, but the Braves claimed him off waivers in Spring Training. McKirahan cracked the Opening Day roster with the Braves, but he pitched just 4 1/3 innings before being suspended 80 games for a positive PED test. The Braves will get a second look at him on a rehab stint in the minors before they have to make a call. He’s eligible to be activated on July 20.
  • Sean Gilmartin, LHP, Mets: The Mets took Gilmartin out of the Twins organization and converted the former first-round pick (Braves, 2011) from a starter into a reliever. The result has been a 1.88 ERA with 6.8 K/9, 3.8 B/9 and a 50 percent ground-ball rate in 24 innings. Curiously, Gilmartin has significant reverse platoon splits in his first taste of big league action.
  • Daniel Winkler, RHP, Braves: Winkler was the Braves’ actual selection out of the Rule 5. Winkler is recovering from 2014 Tommy John surgery and has yet to pitch in 2015 at any level. He’s on Atlanta’s 60-day DL.
  • David Rollins, LHP, Mariners: Seattle took Rollins out of the Astros organization, and the lefty made a strong case in Spring Training to break camp with the team’s bullpen. However, he was suspended 80 games for PED usage and wound up on the restricted list. Rollins is on a rehab assignment now and could still pitch with the Mariners in 2015. Rollins has tossed 7 1/3 innings of scoreless ball in rehab and will have served his suspension after four more games.
  • Logan Verrett, RHP: The only other player to be returned to his team at this point, Verrett was selected by the Orioles out of the Mets organization. Baltimore lost him on waivers to the Rangers, who carried him on the roster briefly before eventually returning him to the Mets. Since being returned, Verrett has debuted with his original organization at the big league level.

AL West Notes: Hamilton, Kazmir, A’s, Ichiro

Josh Hamilton could return from the DL as early as Monday, and he could be coming back to the Rangers as a center fielder.  As Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes, Hamilton played center in each of his last two minor league rehab games and he could displace the struggling Leonys Martin from the starting CF job.  Hamilton has only played 13 games in center since the start of the 2013 season, and while his advanced defensive metrics have varied from year to year, Hamilton has below-average numbers (-8.4 UZR/150 and -16 defensive runs saved) over his career as a center fielder.  Here’s more from around the AL West…

  • Several clubs have been scouting Athletics pitcher Scott Kazmir recently but, for his part, the veteran doesn’t want to leave Oakland, as John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group writes.  “I would love to stay here. This is a group of guys I love being around. When you go up and down the team, the organizational staff, there’s a lot to like. I’d like to stay here,” Kazmir said.  Hickey notes that scouts from the Astros and Blue Jays were on hand Saturday as the 31-year-old pitched against the Royals.
  • Also from Hickey, he questions why the A’s have kept Max Muncy on the MLB roster when there’s no obvious route for him to find any playing time, a situation that doesn’t help the team or the player.  Muncy has only played in two of Oakland’s last 11 games, and Hickey wonders if this rustiness might’ve contributed to a key throwing error Muncy made during today’s 5-3 loss to the Royals.
  • Could the Mariners look to reunite with Ichiro SuzukiGeoff Baker of the Seattle Times opines that Ichiro could be a good fit for the team, as he would add some defensive help to the outfield and also add a contact bat with a bit of on-base ability to the struggling M’s lineup.  Baker doesn’t suggest the club should give up anything too valuable for Ichiro, as the Mariners are already on the fringes of the playoff race.

West Notes: Martin, Harrison, Bradley, Giants

Here’s the latest from the game’s western divisions:

  • Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin may be fighting for his roster spot over the next week, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. The speedy outfielder is sporting a .270 OBP on the year, and with Delino DeShields and Josh Hamilton set to return before long, the club may soon have viable replacements in center. Martin can still be optioned, so Texas can give him some time in the minors to work things out if it wishes.
  • The Rangers also have new options in the rotation with Matt Harrison seemingly nearing readiness for a big league start, Grant further writes. A six-man rotation is possible, says manager Jeff Banister, as is the potential of resting one of the current rotation members with a DL stint. Regardless of the team’s course of action, it’s remarkable that we’re at this point, as it once seemed that Harrison might never pitch again.
  • Diamondbacks hurler Archie Bradley is headed for a visit with Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on his balky right shoulder, Nick Piecoro reports (Twitter links). The club’s physician found only tendinitis, but Bradley continued to feel discomfort in his latest rehab outing. It’s far too soon to speculate, of course, but at a minimum it seems it’ll be a while longer until Arizona gets Bradley back into its rotation.
  • The Giants are working hard on the July 2 market, Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs tweets. San Francisco is “trying hard” to land Bahamian shortstop Lucius Fox and may be the single team most closely pursuing Eddy Julio Martinez, says McDaniel. But the sense in the industry is still that the Dodgers will get both players, he adds.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Desmond, Toussaint, D-Backs, Samardzija, Cotts

In his latest notes column for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal begins with an interesting note on the Nationals. Despite a substantial payroll and a heavy offseason investment in Max Scherzer, Nats ownership is reluctant to add payroll during the season. Rosenthal notes that, in hindsight, we saw an indication of this last July when Cleveland paid all of the $3.3MM remaining on Asdrubal Cabrera‘s salary after the Nats acquired him. (Of course, the Nats were also willing to take on all of Matt Thornton‘s salary via waiver claim.)

Because of this, Rosenthal wonders if the Nats will consider trading Ian Desmond this summer to clear room for a different acquisition. Given Desmond’s struggles, the team could be better off with Danny Espinosa, Yunel Escobar and Anthony Rendon seeing regular time in the infield. Earlier in the week, I speculated on a possible Desmond trade after it was reported that the Nats were interesred in the D-Backs’ middle infielders, but Rosenthal notes that it could also allow them more flexibility to pursue Aroldis Chapman, Ben Zobrist or even a reunion with Tyler Clippard. Of course, Desmond’s offensive and defensive woes diminish his trade value, as well.

A few more highlights from Rosenthal’s column…

  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart tells Rosenthal that he usually doesn’t pay attention to media criticism, but he’s aware of the near-universal criticism of the D-Backs for their trade of Touki Toussaint (in which the team essentially sold its 2014 first-round pick to Atlanta). Rosenthal quotes Stewart: “The truth is we did not know what Touki’s value would be if we shopped him. There is a lot of speculation on that. People are assuming it would have been better, but we don’t know. There was an opportunity to make a deal that gave us more flexibility today as well as next year. We took that opportunity. It’s tough to say we could have gotten more. He was drafted at No. 16, given ($2.7) million. In my opinion, that’s his value.” Stewart continues to say that Toussaint has not thrown 96 mph with the D-Backs, despite some scouting reports and that there’s “some inflation of what people think Touki is.” Stewart adds that the D-Backs think Toussaint will be a Major League pitcher but not for another five to six years.
  • A brief interjection from me to offer my take on those comments: It’s odd to hear a GM openly devalue a player in this fashion, even after trading him away. Beyond that, however, it’s puzzling to hear Stewart equate Toussaint’s value with the clearly arbitrary number assigned to last year’s draft slot value. Having shown a willingness to spend $16MM+ on a pitching prospect (Yoan Lopez) this offseason, Stewart is undoubtedly cognizant of the fact that Toussaint would have fetched far, far more than $2.7MM in a theoretical free agent setting. Additionally, if they truly do feel that Toussaint will pitch in the Major Leagues, that makes the trade all the more puzzling to me, as my best explanation to this point had been that they simply didn’t believe in his future all that strongly.
  • Back to Rosenthal’s piece, which has several more quotes from Stewart, including the GM’s own admission of surprise to his team’s current standing in the NL West. The D-Backs were built with an eye on the longer-term picture than 2015, says Stewart, and they’ll need to assess how to respond at the deadline. To this point, the D-Backs have received inquiries on their starting pitching, but not on their middle infield. Stewart flatly says “…we’re not moving [Nick] Ahmed,” and calls a trade of Chris Owings “very unlikely.” Interestingly, that does seem to indicate that the new GM values Ahmed over Owings.
  • The Astros remain interested in Jeff Samardzija, and as Rosenthal notes, a move away from what has been a brutal White Sox defense would likely help Samardzija quite a bit. Samardzija’s .338 BABIP has helped contribute to a significant discrepancy between his 4.53 ERA and 3.67 FIP. Of course, Chicago’s porous defense doesn’t necessarily explain Samardzija’s diminished strikeout rate and struggles to strand runners in 2015. The Astros, Rosenthal says, are eyeing Samardzija and other pitchers, but the White Sox are not yet ready to sell.
  • The Brewers aren’t receiving very strong interest in Francisco Rodriguez, likely in part due to his backloaded contract, Rosenthal hears. K-Rod is still owed $1.95MM in 2015, plus $9.5MM in 2016 between his salary and the buyout on a $6MM club option for the 2017 season. Lefty Neal Cotts, however, figures to be in demand and may even be of interest to his former club, the Rangers, Rosenthal writes. Cotts’s 4.30 ERA isn’t anything to write home about, but he’s held lefties to a .546 OPS.
  • The Cardinals might not be as urgent to add a starter as many had previously expected. The club feels that Michael Wacha can top 200 innings, and Carlos Martinez can deliver about 170. A bigger need might be a left-handed-hitting complement for Mark Reynolds at first base, and Rosenthal suggests Adam LaRoche as a speculative fit to improve the team on both sides of the ball.

NL East Notes: Freeman, Marlins, Hamels, Zobrist, Mets, Franco

A bone bruise in his right wrist has landed Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman on the DL, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. The team is hopeful that Freeman won’t miss too much time, but Bowman adds that it would be “optimistic” to expect that he will return on July 3 when he is first eligible to be activated.

A few more items pertaining to the NL East…

  • Though they’re 11 games under .500, the Marlins are not yet thinking of selling, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). The team could revisit that thinking if things don’t improve after facing the Cardinals, Dodgers and Giants on the upcoming homestand, he says. Still, the team could soon have a surplus of starting pitching on its hands, once Jose Fernandez, Jarred Cosart and Henderson Alvarez are all activated from the disabled list. Mat Latos could end up being the odd man out, Rosenthal speculates, adding that veteran righty Dan Haren isn’t likely to be moved.
  • While reports of scouts watching a certain team/player can sometimes be overblown, there are a pair of NL East clubs scouting possible trade pieces tonight. The Nationals have a high-level scout watching the Athletics tonight, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, noting that Washington has been linked to Ben Zobrist recently. Additionally, Jared Sandler of the Rangers Radio Network tweets that the Phillies have a scout in attendance for Chi Chi Gonzalez‘s start tonight. Gonzalez’s name has been floated in rumors connecting the Rangers to Cole Hamels.
  • Andy Martino of the New York Daily News joined SNY’s Mostly Mets podcast to discuss possible upgrades for the Mets‘ offense (audio link). “They’re moving cautiously, because my understanding is that they have payroll flexibility, but essentially, Alderson has one big bullet to fire that way,” Martino said. Alderson may have the ability to either add a few lower-cost pieces or pursue one more expensive player, but Martino points to Alderson’s history of not parting with significant prospect packages to outbid other clubs in speculating that the ultimate result of the Mets’ trade efforts will be adding a few lower-profile pieces.
  • The Mets announced today that Travis d’Arnaud has hit the DL with a sprain in his left elbow (Twitter link). At this time, there’s no immediate timetable for d’Arnaud’s return, though it’s at least positive that the injury is in his non-throwing elbow.
  • In the wake of Maikel Franco‘s scorching hot streak and his third homer in two games at Yankee Stadium, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweets that the Phillies beat the Yankees‘ offer to Franco by a mere $5,000 back in 2010. Philadelphia offered Franco a $100K signing bonus, whereas the Yankees’ top offer was $95K. That’s probably another $5-10K that the Yankees wish they’d spent, though there’s little certainty when dealing with players of that age. (Franco was 17 at the time he signed with the Phils.)

AL West Notes: Beltre, Hamels, Astros’ Draft, Skaggs

In a surprising decision, the Rangers have activated Adrian Beltre from the disabled list and reinserted him into the cleanup spot, the team announced. Beltre has been on the DL since June 2 with a thumb injury, and as recently as last Thursday, he told MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan that he was not even capable of swinging a bat. It would seem unreasonable to expect that Beltre is 100 percent, and Sullivan even tweeted that he’s in “total shock” to see Beltre come off the DL so soon. Asked by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link) about managing expectations for Beltre upon his return, GM Jon Daniels replied by saying, “He’s a freak. Freaky players do freaky things.” Righty Jon Edwards was optioned to Triple-A to clear a roster spot for Beltre, and top prospect Joey Gallo has shifted from third base to left field to accommodate Beltre’s return.

Here’s more from the AL West…

  • Earlier this morning, Grant examined some of the obstacles that stand between the Rangers and a potential Hamels trade. For one, he notes, both Chi Chi Gonzalez and Gallo have been so impressive in their big league debuts that they’re likely more untouchable than they were as prospects. (I’ll interject to point out that Gonzalez’s 10-to-12 K/BB ratio is worth at least some concern, though it’s an admittedly small sample.) Beyond that, Hamels’ salary would be difficult to take on without significantly bumping payroll, and candidates with notable salaries that could theoretically be moved to offset the $23.5MM annual sum are currently injured (e.g. Derek Holland, Matt Harrison). Grant also points to the need for a right-handed bat and bullpen reinforcements. The eventual return of Holland, Harrison and Martin Perez may give the Rangers’ rotation the boost it needs, Grant speculates, but there are no such looming upgrades for the ‘pen or lineup.
  • Daniels told Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he expects to be a buyer next month and spoke about the inconsistency he’s had in his bullpen. “Everyone in that bullpen has done it for periods in the big leagues, but we are inconsistent there,” Daniels told Engel. “There are good arms with plus-stuff, and when they are on, they are good. But that is an area we have been inconsistent.”
  • The Astros are getting closer to finalizing agreements with No. 2 overall pick Alex Bregman and No. 37 overall pick Daz Cameron, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Nothing will be announced in the next day or two, but GM Jeff Luhnow told Drellich he’s hopeful of having a pair of signings to announce during the upcoming homestand, which begins on Thursday. As Drellich notes, Cameron’s signing figures to be the final one, as he will sign well over slot.
  • Though the Angels said from the get-go that Tyler Skaggs wouldn’t pitch in 2015 following Tommy John surgery last August, the left-hander tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register that he thinks he can help the team this year. Skaggs said he’d be happy to pitch out of the bullpen if there’s no room in the rotation, though clearly whether or not he throws for the big league club in 2015 is not his decision to make. Fletcher writes that it might be more likely that Skaggs will pitch in the instructional league, if he pitches at all this year.

Latest On Hamels Talks Between Phillies, Rangers

5:20pm: A team source tells MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan that a trade for Hamels “is not on the board” at time time (Twitter link).

11:39am: The Rangers and Phillies are “having ongoing dialogue” regarding the possibility of a deal that would send lefty Cole Hamels to Texas, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Hamels cannot block a deal to the Rangers pursuant to the current list of teams covered by his limited no-trade clause, Morosi adds in a later tweet.

Texas has received surprisingly solid results from its rotation. And as Morosi notes (Twitter link) the club still expects to receive contributions from rehabbing starters Martin Perez, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland.

While those factors might indicate that the Rangers could sit back and rely on its internal options, there are other indicators favoring a move. The current staff has succeeded in spite of rather uninspiring peripherals. And the injured pitchers still have a ways to go to prove they will be durable and effective.

Per Morosi, the real motivating factor on the Texas side of the equation is the fact that the team “view[s] Hamels as [an] elite upgrade.” Given his contract, the Rangers presumably see Hamels as a current and future asset that could not only give the team a shot this year but pair with Yu Darvish atop the staff for seasons to come. It remains to be seen how much staying power this year’s Rangers club has, but adding Hamels certainly would not be solely a “win-now” move.

As of late April, at least, Philadelphia was reportedly asking for a package headlined by catcher Jorge Alfaro and outfielder Nomar Mazara. Both of those prospects were rated among the Rangers’ top five heading into the year by Baseball America. While they would look to be great fits for a Philly organization that is looking to add premium talent, it remains to be seen whether Texas has any appetite to pay that kind of price. (Note that Alfaro may not be a movable asset this point, as he is dealing with a significant ankle injury.)

Needless to say, the Phillies will hope that several other bidders enter the fray to drive up the return. Things are shaping up rather nicely for GM Ruben Amaro Jr., as many of the clubs that seem like a fit remain in contention and in need of an arm. Meanwhile, the other presumed top arm available, Johnny Cueto, is a pure rental who now faces at least some potential health questions.

Hamels has been as strong as ever this year, racking up 94 1/3 innings of 2.96 ERA pitching with 9.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. And the 31-year-old seems ready to move past a seemingly minor hamstring injury to make his next start.

The Hamels contract looks more and more appealing every time you check back: he’s owed the balance of a $22.5MM salary this season, and then has three guaranteed years plus an option for a total guarantee of just $73.5MM. (Hamels’ deal also included a $6MM signing bonus, with an unreported payout schedule, which could still factor into the equation.) Essentially, a team dealing for him now would not only have the benefit of adding a top arm for the rest of this year, but would be making a future commitment that is not much greater than the contract signed last year by James Shields (four years, $75MM). At the start of 2016, Hamels will be a full year younger than was Shields at the start of his deal.