Tag:Astros
Posted on: July 26, 2011 10:46 am
Edited on: July 27, 2011 8:43 am
 

Forget it: Players not going anywhere at deadline



By Matt Snyder


Ah, late July. The perfect time of the year for people who love to talk trade rumors. What if Team X traded (insert huge name) to Team Y for (insert two or three middling prospects)? Man, Team X would win it all! While it's all in good fun, many of the rumors swirling aren't overly realistic. So, with that in mind, here's a handful of names that have come up that won't be on the move before next Monday.

1. James Sheilds, Rays. Last week, reports indicated the All-Star was being made available by the Rays, which instantly put Shields up there with Ubaldo Jimenez as the two most attractive starting pitching options on the market. In fact, you could argue Shields was more attractive, especially if he escaped the AL East and headed some place more pitcher-friendly. Monday, however, CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler reported that the Rays will not deal Shields. While he's arbitration eligible after this season, Shields doesn't hit free agency until 2013 and he's been the Rays' best pitcher this season. They are obviously planning on competing in 2012, so he's staying put.

MLB Trade Deadline
2. Aramis Ramirez, Cubs. If Ramirez was available, he'd snag a pretty penny in return, as third base has become a pretty anemic offensive position. And he likely would be available, if it wasn't for his refusal to be traded -- at least before the non-waiver deadline. Ramirez has repeatedly, almost emphatically, told the media both personally and through his agent, that he will not waive his no-trade clause for any reason until August. He's done so enough, I believe him. He's going to be in a Cubs uniform come August 1.

3. Hunter Pence, Astros. He doesn't hit free agency until 2014 and the Astros reportedly believe him to be the face of the franchise. Someone would really have to bowl them over to get him -- think the haul the Rangers got for Mark Teixeira from the Braves. While Pence is good, is he really good enough to pay such a high price? At age 28, he's already in his prime and we're seeing what he can. He's a really, really good player. He's All-Star caliber, but not a superstar. The feeling here is there's no match and Pence stays in Houston.

4. Wandy Rodriguez, Astros. Rodriguez is owed $10.5 million next season and $13.5 million in 2013, with a club option for 2014 meaning the Astros would be asking a potential trade partner to take over $30 million in future salary along with Rodriguez, while coughing up a prospect package in return. Is Rodriguez worth it? He has a 3.60 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 2010 and 2011 combined. He's also 32 years old. Several reports last week said the Astros wanted as much for Rodriguez as the Rockies did for Jimenez -- who is 27 and much cheaper. A major-league general manager recently told Jon Heyman of SI.com that "nobody's touching Wandy." I agree.

5. Keep Dreaming Tri-Entries: Matt Kemp, Dodgers; Jose Reyes, Mets and Felix Hernandez, Mariners. Apparently every season the Mariners aren't in contention, there will always be a group of people who can't let go of the Felix-to-Yankees talk. It ain't happening this year. Also, we've received a bevy of trade predictions and questions about Kemp on Twitter. While it's true the Dodgers are having financial troubles at this juncture, Kemp is an MVP candidate, part of the future nucleus and under team control through 2012. Dream on, people. He's staying in L.A. As for Reyes, it's been quite the whirlwind season. He went from being a sure thing to be traded to absolutely off the market to pretty likely to be retained. Having an MVP season will do that sort of thing. Hey, at least we were given the priceless "Carl Crawford money" line earlier this season by Mets owner Fred Wilpon.

It's funny, though, how fluid things can be around the deadline. Had we written this a week ago, Ubaldo Jimenez would have been on the list. Since then, however, it appears a few teams -- possibly the Reds and/or Yankees -- have chipped away at the Rockies, because reports now indicate it's a "50-50 chance" that Jimenez gets traded. So stay tuned. This post may have the shelf life of a Betamax -- at least in terms of Ramirez, Pence and Rodriguez. I don't not expect things to even come close to changing with Reyes, Kemp or Hernandez. Shields seems like a firm bet to stick as well.

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Posted on: July 26, 2011 9:29 am
Edited on: July 26, 2011 9:42 am
 

Pepper: Bedard's start in nick of time



By Matt Snyder


Good news is hard to come by when a team has lost 16 games in a row, but the Mariners at least received marginally good news Monday. Left-handed starting pitcher Erik Bedard will return to the mound Friday (MLB.com).

On the surface, it's kind of a "who cares?" type movement. The Mariners are 15 1/2 games out and obviously will not factor into the AL West race. It's just that there's something else rapidly approaching, and that is the non-waiver trade deadline. Bedard is 32, on a one-year contract and has been effective when healthy this season (3.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 85 strikeouts, 26 walks in 90 innings).

With the deadline Sunday at 4:00 p.m. ET, Bedard's start coming Friday, several contending teams looking for starting pitching, a lack of quality starting pitchers readily available and the Mariners obviously in selling mode, Bedard coming off the disabled list couldn't come at a much better time for all parties involved. As long as he gets through the start healthy, expect to hear his name in rumors this coming weekend.

HOW TRADES HAPPEN: Former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden now writes for ESPN, and he has an article up about how trades happen. It's nothing really Earth-shattering, in fact it might seem a bit obvious, but it's still a detailed look about the methodology of going through a major-league trade from someone who has made several in his time.

BUCHHOLZ PROGRESSING: The Red Sox have the best record in the American League, and they've been doing it of late with a patchwork pitching rotation. Jon Lester returned Monday night and now Clay Buchholz is making solid progress in his fight to return from a back injury. Monday, he estimated that he's "75 to 80 percent" healthy after throwing a bullpen session, including breaking pitches (Boston.com).

LACK OF SECURITY: Last week, a fan ran onto Citi Field during a Mets-Cardinals game. Usually when these clowns run on the field, they're stymied by security pretty quickly. Not this time, as the fan took security for quite a ride. Jon Bois over at SB Nation has the details along with video and a map.

WHITE HOUSE INVASION: The Giants won the World Series last year with a group of colorful personalities. That group was back together Monday as the champs visited President Obama in the White House. The Giants went through the usual song and dance, glad-handing with the President, giving him some gifts and posing for plenty of pictures. Perhaps the best part of the whole visit was the presentation. You wouldn't expect personalities like Tim Lincecum or Brian Wilson to dial anything down for the visit -- like a haircut or shave, perhaps -- and they didn't disappoint. Check out the photo at right here, courtesy of the Associated Press.

SEVEN DOWN, TWO TO GO: Michael Cuddyer went into Monday night's game having played six positions for the Twins: First base, second base, third base, left field, right field and center field. After manager Ron Gardenhire saw his pitching staff bludgeoned for 25 hits and 20 runs in seven innings against the Rangers, he turned to Cuddyer for the eighth. Cuddyer ended up throwing the only scoreless frame of the game for the Twins. Sure, he gave up two hits and a walk, but he got through it without allowing a run (3 Up, 3 Down). No other pitcher for the Twins Monday could say the same -- Phil Dumatrait had a line with zero earned runs, but did allow two inherited runners to score. So now the only two positions Cuddyer has never played in a game for the Twins are shortstop and catcher. He has appeared as a DH before, so if you want to count that, he's eight for 10.

A-ROD ON TARGET: Yankees injured third baseman Alex Rodriguez had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee on July 11 and was given a four to six weeks timetable for his return. As things presently stand, everything is in order and the Yankees expect him back by mid-August (MLB.com).

WALLACE'S TIME LIMITED: Brett Wallace got off to a hot start for the Astros this season. It wasn't just a few games. Through April 30, Wallace was hitting .388 with a .988 OPS. Since then, however, both figures have pretty progressively come down to the current marks of .279 and .749, respectively. Manager Brad Mills has reportedly tried to balance protecting Wallace against left-handers versus trying to develop the young first baseman. Mills is now leaning toward sitting Wallace more often against left-handers (Ultimate Astros).

BALL-HAWKIN': Highly-touted Angels rookie Mike Trout hit his first major-league home run Sunday, and it was caught by famous ball hawk Zack Hample -- who has caught over 5,000 balls at major-league games and written three books on the subject. The OC Register has the story about how Hample planned to catch Trout's first homer, how he made it happen and how he gave the ball back to Trout.

MORE DAY BASEBALL: When the Marlins move into their new home next season -- hopefully to a lot more fanfare than they get in their current football stadium -- they'll be playing a lot more day games (MLB.com).

BROOKS WAS HERE: The Orioles have begun building a statue to honor Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson at Camden Yards. The statue will be nine feet tall and weight 1,500 pounds. It's scheduled to be unveiled Oct. 21 of this year. Fittingly, the statue will depict the 16-time Gold Glover preparing to make a routine throw to first base (Baltimore Sun).

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Posted on: July 26, 2011 1:41 am
 

Astros latest team to fall victim to U2

U2By C. Trent Rosecrans

Count the Houston Astros among the growing number of teams none too thrilled with U2.

Following Monday's loss to the Cardinals, several Astros complained about the new grass surface at Busch Stadium. U2 held a concert at Busch Stadium on July 17 and the team stripped the outfield of grass and re-sodded it afterwards. With the high temperatures, it was difficult for the grass to take root in time for Monday's game, the first post-Bono game held at Busch Stadium, Derrek Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote.

The Edge and company helped the home team in the second inning, when Astros right fielder Hunter Pence slipped on the new sod, allowing St. Louis' Nick Punto to cruise to a triple and drive in a run. St. Louis added another with a one-out fielder's choice by starter Kyle McClellan.

"We knew there was a new sod and ground balls were going to be tougher," Pence told Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle. "We really didn't expect all the slipping to go down."

Center fielder Michael Bourn said he had trouble all game.

"If you try to plant good, you'll end up falling," Bourn told Levine.

He added, "You could tell it's very new out there. The cracks are still in the ground, which means the grass had just been planted. We just had to try to get used to it. It's real hard to keep your ground out there. It's real hard to keep your feet underneath you."

Manager Brad Mills said the team was "not thrilled" with the state of the field.

"You want the sure footing and so forth, but it wasn't there and it cost us a little bit," Mills said.

U2 has already given the Mariners an unfair advantage in its series with the Marlins, with three of Florida's "home games" being played at Safeco Field in Seattle. The Mariners won two of the three games.

A U2 concert at Angel Stadium in Anaheim forced the Angels to go on a 12-game road trip that covered more than 8,000 miles. The Angels went 8-4 on the trip and showed no ill-effects on their next homstand, winning 11 of 13 upon their return.

Oakland didn't have quite as long of a road trip as their AL West brethren, going on just a 10-game trip because of U2's concert in Oakland. However, they didn't handle it as well as the Angels, going 1-9 on the 10-game trip to facilitate the band, that like the A's peaked in the late 80s and early 90s.

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Posted on: July 26, 2011 1:02 am
Edited on: July 26, 2011 8:21 am
 

Monday's trade rumor roundup

By C. Trent Rosecrans

As the non-waiver trade deadline looms on Sunday, the rumors are coming fast and furious -- with some make sense and others not so much. Much of what you hear at this time of year is a smokescreen, but baseball fans love gossip more than junior high school girls, with less regard to the truth. So, to help satisfy that desire, we're rounding up the day's rumors in one place.

• The Rays won't deal James Shields, our own CBSSports.com senior writer Danny Knobler reports. Tampa Bay has told other teams that they won't discuss Shields, David Price or Jeremy Hellickson. That said, Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis are available, as is B.J. Upton.

MLB Trade Deadline

• The Rays are also offering closer Kyle Farnsworth to anyone interested, Buster Olney of ESPN.com tweets.

• CBSSports.com's Scott Miller says he's also heard that the Phillies have "way cooled" on acquiring Carlos Beltran, backing up Knobler's report from Sunday.

• Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com tweets the Rangers and Giants are ahead of the Phillies and Braves as of Monday.

• The chance of the Rockies dealing Ubaldo Jimenez is "around 50/50" FoxSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi writes, citing a "major-league source close to the talks." He adds the Reds are still involved and the Tigers are interested as well. Morosi reports one team has exchanged names with the Rockies.

• The Reds are drawing interest on right-hander Edinson Volquez, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com tweets.

• The Cardinals and Nationals have talked about sending Todd Coffey -- a former Red and Brewer -- to St. Louis. The team would like to keep Tyler Clippard, but if someone wows them, they're open, Morosi tweets.

• The Yankees won't move top prospects -- such as left-hander Manny Banuelos, right-hander Dellin Betances or catchers Jesus Montero or Austin Romine -- unless they get an ace-type pitcher in return, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets.

• The Phillies are "aggressive" on Heath Bell and Mike Adams of the Padres, but are surprised they aren't getting more interest fron the Yankees, Cardinals and Reds, Sherman tweets.

• Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez is available, but with $40 million left on his contract, another general manager tells Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman, "nobody's going to touch Wandy."

• Hiroki Kuroda would consider waiving his no-trade clause if he's sent to the Yankees or Red Sox, "a baseball official"  tells ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand. However, the teams "hottest" on Kuroda are reportedly the Indians, Tigers and Rangers, according to Rosenthal.

• It's not a trade, but a player acquisition -- the Brewers, Giants, Mariners and A's are interested in Wily Mo Pena, who was released by the Diamondbacks on Sunday, Heyman tweets. He makes the most sense in the American League where he doesn't need a glove. [Heyman]

• Aaron Harang had been mentioned in some trade talks, but there are reports that San Diego would like to keep him and re-sign him, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. Harang, a San Diego native, would love to stay there -- and keep pitching in Petco Park.

• The Phillies are interested in Colorado's Jason Giambi, Rosenthal tweets. Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post tweets the Pirates are interested in Giambi as well. He's hitting .263/.360/.632 with 10 homers in 111 plate appearances. Giambi had talked about possibly moving to an American League team to DH, but he could still be a valuable left-handed bat off the bench for a National League team. [FoxSports.com and Denver Post]

• The Braves are still interested in the Astros' Hunter Pence, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets.

• Angels manager Mike Scioscia told MLB.com's Lyle Spencer the team probably wouldn't make a big move at the trade deadline, instead hoping the team can improve from within -- especially with the addition of Fernando Rodney from the disabled list.

• Texas manager Ron Washington called the bullpen a "priority" at the trading deadline, according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan.

• One reliever who won't be available to the Rangers, or anyone, is Seattle closer Brandon League. Chuck Armstrong tells Morosi a trade involving League is not likely.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: July 24, 2011 12:57 pm
Edited on: July 24, 2011 1:11 pm
 

Could Hunter Pence be a fit with Mariners?

Pence

By Evan Brunell

Over the last two games, I had the pleasure -- if one could call it that -- of watching the Mariners battle the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

To no one's surprise, Seattle lost the first two games, running its losing streak to 14. It's gotten so desperate out in Seattle that manager Eric Wedge lopped off his enormous handlebar mustache to try to shake things up.

Unfortunately, the loss of Wedge's mustache won't mitigate the brutal offense of the team. In fact, there's only one player in Seattle's regular starting lineup that would have a prayer of cracking Boston's lineup. That's second baseman Dustin Ackley, who bats third for Seattle. The problem is, while he would certainly supplant shortstop Marco Scutaro in Boston's lineup, he can't play short and Dustin Pedroia isn't stepping aside for Ackley.

Seattle was a historically inept offensive club last season, and while its improved this year, it's not by much. Before this losing streak, Seattle was right in the thick of the division race, but it's hard to stay in the hunt when you just can't push runs across. Improving the team's offense is of the highest priority int he offseason, but why wait there?

Hunter Pence of the Astros would be a great fit for Seattle, and the Mariners can bring Pence in immediately to at least try to end the season on a high note.

There are three ways Pence fits with the Mariners. First is his offense, obviously. Second is his position of right field, and lastly is his age and contract.

If the Mariners acquired Pence, he would certainly start batting third or fourth in the order on the strength of his .309/.354/.474 mark. While it's not a career-best line, it is his best offensive performance relative to the league, as his .322/.360/.539 mark back in 2007 was in a healthier offensive climate. The ways that Pence would upgrade Seattle are clear -- it's the same way Pence would upgrade every other team. He's a strong hitter with the ability to steal 20 bases in a season and is also a strong fielder.

Speaking of fielding, Pence plays right field, a position occupied by Ichiro Suzuki. That's not a problem, though, because Pence could easily shift to left field and then become Ichiro's eventual replacement, should Pence remain with the Mariners at the time. Mike Carp is currently the (new) starting left fielder, so isn't exactly blocking anyone as a Quad-A player trying to make good in the bigs.

The negative -- if you can call it that -- on Pence is his contract. He's making $6.9 million on the season and has two more years of arbitration to go. Given Pence will likely crack $10 million in arbitration earnings next season, that means his price is rising, and rising fast. On the other hand, Pence offers two additional years of team control beyond 2011, which would be a must in Seattle's case.

It's not about 2011 anymore; it's about 2012 and beyond for Seattle. The pitching is rounding into shape, and now it's time for the offense to take hold. Prince Fielder has been linked to Seattle in the past, but free agency is never a sure bet. Besides, even with Pence on the team, it wouldn't preclude a run at Fielder, which would suddenly give Seattle something resembling a solid offense. People forget, but Seattle is a big-market team that hasn't played big market for a few years. Back in 2008, its $118 million payroll ranked ninth in all of baseball. In 2011, the Mariners are 16th with an $84 million payroll. Seattle has money to play with, so Pence's salary isn't as important as the fact Seattle would control him through 2013 at the earliest.

Of course, what the M's would have to give up in a trade has to be considered. It's safe to say that Michael Pineda won't go anywhere, but the M's have a deep enough farm system that they could get a deal done if they so desired.

Here's where we mention that there hasn't been anything linking Pence to the Mariners whatsoever. Either that's because there's nothing there or both teams are doing a stupendous job keeping quiet about it. But it's a move Seattle needs to consider to upgrade its offense. Dabbling in free agency won't be enough. Seattle has to strike soon to bolster the offense and give the team a chance to win.

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Posted on: July 24, 2011 1:56 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Bard helps Francona get 1,000th win

Daniel Bard

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Daniel Bard, Red Sox: The right-handed reliever notched his 24th straight scoreless inning and team-record 23rd consecutive scoreless outing. It may not have been pretty, but got the job done after loading the bases with no outs in the eighth inning of the team's 3-1 victory over Seattle. Bard got Mike Carp to fly out to left, Jack Cust looking at a backdoor slider and Franklin Guitierrez to ground out, ending the inning. Bard hasn't allowed a run since May 23 and just 11 all season (and just seven since an opening day meltdown in against Texas), lowering his ERA to 1.85 on the season. The victory was the 1,000th for Terry Francona as a manager and extended Seattle's losing streak to 14 games.

Randy Wells, Cubs: The right-hander picked up his first win since April, allowing just one run on five hits in six innings against the Astros. Wells won his first start of the season on April 4 against Arizona before going on the disabled list with a strained right forearm, missing nearly two months. In nine starts since coming off the DL, Wells was 0-3 with a 7.38 ERA and the Cubs had gone 2-7 in those starts.

Sick Reds: Neither Jay Bruce nor Edgar Renteria felt well enough on Saturday to start the Reds' game against the Braves, but both came in when needed and performed. Renteria, battling a stomach illness, was forced into action when Zack Cozart suffered a hyperextended left elbow in the fourth inning. Renteria went 2 for 4 with three RBI, the most runs he's batted in since his three-run homer in last year's World Series.  Retneria drove in the go-ahead run with a two-run double in the sixth, making it 3-2 Reds. Cincinnati would go on to score eight more, including another RBI single by Renteria in the seven-run seventh. Bruce, struggling an inner-ear problem,  was called on to pinch hit leading off the sixth and doubled off of Derek Lowe. He was immediately pulled for pinch-runner Mike Leake, who scored the team's second run of the day on Renteria's double. 


Houston Astros: How about this stat from Brian McTaggart of MLB.com? The Astros' last 27 hits have all been singles. That includes nine hits in Saturday's 5-1 loss to the Cubs and 10 hits in Friday's 4-2 loss in Chicago. Their last extra-base hit was Humberto Quintero's second-inning double on Wednesday. Houston has now lost 33 of its last 43 games.

Chad Qualls, Padres: Coming into Saturday's game in Philadelphia, Qualls had allowed just home run in 48 1/3 innings -- an intro like that tells you exactly what's coming: Qualls allowed three homers along with another hit and a walk in his 1/3 inning of work in the Phillies' five-run seventh inning. Michael Martinez's three-run shot broke a tie, and then Ryan Howard and Chase Utley also took him deep in the inning to give Philadelphia a nice cushion in an eventual 8-6 victory. Philadelphia has now beaten San Diego in nine straight contests.

Corey Patterson, Blue Jays: Patterson came into the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning, but misplayed Michael Young's drive to right, allowing the winning run to score with two outs in the ninth inning of Texas' 5-4 victory. Toronto reliever Marc Rzepczynski came into the game in the ninth with a 4-3 lead and walked Mike Napoli before committing a throwing error on Mitch Moreland's bunt attempt. Jon Rauch replaced Rzepczynski, but the Rangers had back-to-back sacrifice bunts to tie the game and set up Young's game-winner. On Young's liner, Patterson got turned around twice and let the ball bounce off the wall, allowing Craig Gentry to score easily from third.

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Posted on: July 22, 2011 12:43 pm
Edited on: July 22, 2011 1:08 pm
 

Trade Deadline Primer: NL Central

By Eye On Baseball Team

We're approaching the one-week mark in the countdown to the trade deadline, and on this Friday afternoon we'll take a look at the one division in baseball with six teams. In addition to having six teams, the NL Central also shows four teams that are 100 percent in contention, so things should be quite interesting here as we move closer to July 31. Let's dive in.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Status: Buyers (now that just looks weird, no?).
Needs: Big bat -- likely corner infielder or right fielder -- setup reliever, shortstop.
Notes: The best news for Pirates fans is the increased attendance will help the budget and that the Pirates are looking to buy -- and they'll even trade prospects to help the present cause. That's quite the change, but a good one. Hunter Pence is the hot name here, but there are conflicting reports about whether he's available (see Astros below). Josh Willingham and Conor Jackson have been connected to the Pirates. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN adds Ryan Ludwick to that list, and ESPN's Buster Olney throws in David DeJesus. Remember, the Pirates don't really need a right fielder, but acquiring one would allow them to move Garrett Jones to first base and take Lyle Overbay's spot. Could Carlos Beltran be a fit? It's been reported he's a possibility. At first, the Pirates are reportedly not interested in Carlos Pena (Fox Sports). They haven't really been rumored to be in on other first basemen, either, so it would appear they prefer to move Jones from right. Some relief pitching names in the mix: Koji Uehara, Rafael Betancourt, Grant Balfour, Jason Frasor and Jon Rauch (via John Perratto). Olney reports the bullpen is the main focus. Finally, as if to rain on the parade, Olney reports that the Pirates are actually being pretty careful and don't want to cough up "major assets." So if everything is true, it sounds as if we'll see the Pirates add a lesser bat and some middle relief, but not make a huge splash.

MLB Trade Deadline
Milwaukee Brewers
Status: All in.
Needs: Shortstop, third base and outfield depth.
Notes: The most likely outcome this coming offseason is Prince Fielder signing elsewhere, so the Brewers are pushing all their chips into the pot for a run at the 2011 World Series. The farm system has very few trading chips, but the Brewers will still do pretty much anything they can to get better for the short term. Yuniesky Betancourt and Casey McGehee definitely show as weaknesses for this season, so the Brewers are looking for upgrades. They were looking at Wilson Betemit, but the Tigers snatched him up. Jamey Carroll could be a fit, and the Brewers have asked about him (Olney via Twitter). The Brewers have had "internal discussions" about Clint Barmes (Crasnick via Twitter). Also, it appears the Brewers will seek outfield help now that Carlos Gomez is injured (Tom Haudricourt), but no names have surfaced -- and they most certainly don't have the resources to get Beltran.

St. Louis Cardinals
Status: Buyers.
Needs: Pitching, possibly middle infield.
Notes: Colby Rasmus' name won't go away in terms of trade speculation, but the Cardinals continue to insist the young center fielder isn't going anywhere (Olney via Twitter). If the Rays worked up some creative proposal sending B.J. Upton and James Shields to the Cardinals for a package that included Rasmus and some prospects, however, that tune could always change. For now, though, we'll set that aside and concentrate on more realistic scenarios. The Cardinals are reportedly aggressive in trying to get a starting pitcher, with names like Chris Capuano and Jeff Francis being in the mix. Those names aren't really sexy, and that's likely because the Cardinals' budget is tight (St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Some reports make it seem as if the Cards are desperate for a right-handed reliever (Olney). How about former closer Jason Isringhausen, who said he feels as if there's "unfinished business" for him in St. Louis (Post-Dispatch)? Also, the Cards have reportedly shown interest in Blue Jays relievers -- such as Jon Rauch and Jason Frasor.

Cincinnati Reds
Status: Buyers.
Needs: Starting pitching, middle relievers, possibly shortstop or left field.
Notes: The Reds have been connected to the Rockies in the Ubaldo Jimenez rumors, but Jeremy Guthrie is much more likely, per Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com. The interesting new name is James Shields, as the Rays are reportedly at least considering moving the All-Star starter who outdueled CC Sabathia last night. Hiroki Kuroda and Francisco Liriano could also surface, but those are long shots. Something to watch: Catcher Ramon Hernandez is having a good season and is a free agent after the season. Devin Mesoraco could be ready to step in, making Hernandez someone the Reds could part with, and several contending teams could use a rental catcher. The prospect-rich Reds could certainly make a huge splash if they wanted to -- and they're definitely buying (MLB.com) -- but the inability to add tons of salary might prevent a blockbuster.

Chicago Cubs
Status: Sellers, kind of.
Players available: Not nearly enough.
Notes: General manager Jim Hendry is insistent that the Cubs can be competitive next season, so he's holding on tightly to far too many players. You want left-handed reliever Sean Marshall or utilityman Jeff Baker? Nope. Can't have them. Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza are also reportedly unavailable, per Peter Gammons of MLB Network. Aramis Ramirez has publicly stated on several occasions he wants to remain with the Cubs and won't waive his no-trade clause for anyone. Meanwhile, Alfonso Soriano said he'd waive his, but he has an albatross of a contract. Still, the Cubs are reportedly willing to eat a large chunk of his remaining salary just to move him (ESPN Chicago) -- the only question is if he's attractive enough to anyone to add. An American League team could make him a DH and just hope he gets hot, as he's been known to do for stretches. Marlon Byrd and John Grabow do appear to be available, and the Indians have reportedly shown interest in Kosuke Fukudome. Still, the most interesting storyline with the Cubs appears to be Hendry holding on to so many players so tightly. Shouldn't Starlin Castro be the only truly untouchable player?

Houston Astros
Status: Sellers
Players available: Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers ... Hunter Pence?
Notes: There have been conflicting reports on Pence's availability for the past week or so. Every time someone says the Astros are shopping Pence, another reporter has a source say they really aren't. Jon Heyman of SI.com reported Friday that the Astros were asking for so much for Pence that opposing general managers weren't sure he was being seriously shopped. Heyman did note the Astros are working much harder to move Rodriguez and Myers, even willing to absorb salary in order to trade either. Gammons reported the Astros want as much for Rodriguez as the Rockies do for Ubaldo Jimenez, which doesn't seem realistic. As for Michael Bourn, he doesn't seem available. One reporter noted the only reason you hear his name is that reporters keep asking about him.

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Posted on: July 20, 2011 10:04 am
Edited on: July 20, 2011 11:05 am
 

Pepper: Harper struggles early in Double-A



By Matt Snyder


Bryce Harper is the top prospect in all of baseball. He has prodigious power and a huge outfield arm. Low-A ball proved no match for him this season, as he hit .318 with 14 home runs, 46 RBI, 19 steals and a .977 OPS in 72 games before being promoted to Double-A. But he's still only 18, and is having a rough transition to Double-A.

Through 10 games, Harper is hitting .171 with a .237 on-base percentage and has yet to record an extra-base hit (Nationals Journal). He also looked overmatched at the Future's Game. So what does this mean?

Not a damn thing.

He's 18. Making the transition from the lower levels of the minors (Rookie ball, Low-A, High-A) to the upper levels (Double-A, Triple-A) is the toughest transition for a player this side of when they hit the majors. He even skipped a level. Plus, 10 games is hardly a representative sample from which to draw conclusions and he started slow in Low-A. It's possible he tears up Double-A pitching starting next game.

If we can say anything definitively, maybe it's that this is good for the fans clamoring for a quick Harper promotion. He's going to be special in a Nationals uniform, just not in 2011 and probably not 2012 either.

NOT SATISFIED: After trading Tuesday night for infielder Jeff Keppinger, Giants general manager Brian Sabean said he was working on "something much bigger" before the move and that he's not done making an effort to improve the badly flawed offense (Extra Baggs).

GMs ON HOT SEAT: Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports breaks down some general managers who may be out of a job by the time we turn the page to next season. The ones he lists on the hot seat are Ed Wade of the Astros and Jim Hendry of the Cubs. I'd argue pretty vehemently both should be canned immediately, so no shock there. Also of intrigue, Rosenthal says Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Rays GM Andrew Friedman might step away from their current posts. It would be interesting to see how quickly each is snatched up by other teams.

TROUBLE ON THE HOMEFRONT? Before Tuesday night's loss to the Padres, the Marlins had won nine of their last 10 games, but not everyone was happy. Left-handed reliever Randy Choate was pulled from the game Monday after falling behind 2-0 to a hitter. Yes, in the middle of an at-bat. Considering Choate had struck out 23 lefties and walked just before the game, he felt his track record should at least allow him to finish the hitter. McKeon disagreed and yanked him, saying he was "out of sync." The two reportedly talked, but Choate was still upset. (Fish Tank blog)

IRRELEVANT NO-TRADE CLAUSE: Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano told reporters he didn't even know he had a no-trade clause. Then he said he'd be willing to waive it if it meant he could play for a contender. Of course, Soriano is owed about $61 million through 2014 and considering his age, how quickly he has regressed and his current level of production, there's pretty much no way anyone is giving much for him. The guess is he's stuck in Chicago -- and, for the record, Soriano did say he was happy in Chicago and wanted to win there. (Chicago Sun-Times)

BEDARD'S RETURN DELAYED: Erik Bedard's return from injury has hit a snag, and he'll be pushed back. He's likely going to need a simulated game before thinking about a rehab assignment. This is big news, because we're approaching the trade deadline and a healthy Bedard was likely to be a pretty solid trading chip for the Mariners. He still might go, but his injury history will be a sticking point for potential suitors. (Seattle Times)

BLYLEVEN ON Twins: Bert Blyleven will be enshrined in Cooperstown this weekend, as a new member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. MLB.com has a lengthy story in which Blyleven reflects on his time with the Twins. One thing that jumped out at me is how Blyleven was drafted out of high school and promoted to the majors after just 21 starts and at the age of 19. If that happened nowadays, how much would we have to hear about the Twins "rushing" him to the bigs? Just something to think about.

IKE'S SEASON STILL IN QUESTION: Earlier Tuesday, a story about Ike Davis saying he feared he was done for the 2011 season broke, but then later Tuesday he changed his tone a bit. There's still a question on if he'll be able to get his ankle healed and make it back on the field, but Davis wasn't ready to rule anything out: "I'm not throwing the towel in," he said (ESPN New York). "I'm going to do everything I can to get healthy. And if I don't, I can't really do anything. My body is just not right. I'm working hard and I want to get back on the field."

ANOTHER RIPKEN: Cal Ripken Jr.'s son, Ryan Ripken, is going to play in the Under Armour All America Baseball Game at Wrigley Field next month. The young Ripken hit .353 as a junior this season and the first baseman is fielding scholarship offers from several colleges. Fortunately, Cal is not pushing his son to baseball, saying he just wants Ryan to do whatever makes him happy (Associated Press).

HOMETOWN DISCOUNT: Padres closer Heath Bell is one of the biggest names being thrown around in trade talk, but he's actually willing to take a "hometown discount" to stay in San Diego. The problem is, he's not likely to have that choice. The Padres are in rebuilding mode, and he's their most attractive trading chip. (Sports Radio Interviews)

TEAM FOR SALE: The Dodgers aren't the only team in financial danger out west, as the Padres' Triple-A affiliate will be put up for sale if plans for a new stadium aren't finalized soon. There were plans for a 9,000-seat stadium in Escondido, but the funding for the stadium is now unavailable in the new state budget. Padres CEO Jeff Moorad said he is still holding out hope that things get worked out before the end of the year. (SignonSanDiego.com)

WANG BACK SOON: Nationals starting pitcher Chien-Ming Wang is scheduled to make one more Triple-A start before joining the majors (Adam Kilgore via Twitter). For more on Wang's return to the majors, check out my short article from this past weekend.

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