The July trade market -- or, at the very least, Oakland's season -- has changed significantly: Athletics right-hander Ben Sheets has re-injured his troubled elbow, CBSSports.com has learned.
At the very least, Sheets will be placed on the 15-day disabled list. But a source close to Sheets says there is very real concern that the elbow has blown out again and that he is finished for the season.
The Athletics signed Sheets to a one-year, $10 million deal this season figuring that he either could help them contend in the AL West or, if not, he could become a valuable trade chip.
While the A's are in third place in the AL West at 48-48, currently 8 1/2 games behind first-place Texas, chatter around a Sheets trade has been increasing in recent starts.
Several scouts, notably from the Tigers and Phillies, have been in attendance at Sheets' recent outings. Though Sheets, who missed all of 2009 following elbow surgery, has not recaptured his one-time ace stuff from his Milwaukee days, he's been intriguing enough to allow contenders to imagine him helping them.
One scout who watched Sheets warm up in the bullpen before Monday's start said Sheets threw very few warm-up pitches. And scouts who have watched him recently say he has been very reluctant to throw his breaking pitches in games.
Over 20 starts in 2010, Sheets is 4-9 with a 4.53 ERA. He's worked 119 1/3 innings in 2010 and last started on Monday evening against Boston, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing the Red Sox two runs and seven hits, striking out two and walking two.
"He had no velocity but he adds and subtracts," one scout who was in attendance to see Sheets on Monday told CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler. "He threw only five pitches over 90 [m.p.h]. He was pitching at 86-88.
"He still competes, though. You know what he is? Right now, he's Freddy Garcia."
And, sadly, right now, he's not even that.