Posted on: July 24, 2011 1:22 pm
Edited on: July 24, 2011 3:53 pm

Beltran derby into final days, Rangers interested

With the Carlos Beltran derby heading into the final days, there were suggestions Sunday that the Phillies' interest has cooled, that the Rangers' interest has picked up and that the Giants are still heavily involved.

Meanwhile, the Mets continue to hold out hope that one team or another will agree to surrender its top prospect in return for Beltran, who is the best hitter on the free-agent market but is also strictly a rental player.

Beltran must approve any trade, and as many others have reported, his preference is to stay in the National League. But one person close to him said Sunday that it's possible that Beltran would approve a deal to the Rangers.

Texas fits some of Beltran's stated criteria, since the Rangers are likely to be in the playoffs and have a real chance of getting to the World Series. Also, the Rangers could offer Beltran regular playing time in the outfield, either by playing Beltran in center field or (more likely) by moving Josh Hamilton back to center.

Earlier this month, the Rangers seemed most focused on adding pitching, either in the rotation or the bullpen. They talked to the Rockies about Ubaldo Jimenez, and discussed relievers with the Padres.

But the Rangers sent a scout in to see Beltran at the end of the Mets' homestand last week, and by Sunday one rival official was suggesting that the Rangers could even be the favorite, because they had more prospects available and also could take on more of Beltran's salary.

The Braves, Red Sox, Pirates and even the Reds have been mentioned in connection with Beltran.

Because Beltran is easily the biggest impact hitter on the market, the Mets can justify asking for the world. What works against them actually getting it is that both the Giants and the Rangers (and the Phillies, for that matter) will very likely make the playoffs with or without a Beltran trade.

For those teams, the question is how much better Beltran would make them in October, and how much that's worth in terms of giving up top prospects.

The Mets are said by sources to have asked for pitcher Zack Wheeler from the Giants. According to Jon Heyman of SI.com, they asked for first Domonic Brown and then Jarred Cosart from the Phillies. It's no surprise that the Phils said no on both. There were also reports that the Mets had asked for Mike Minor from the Braves, and again it's no surprise that the Braves said no.

Posted on: July 20, 2011 7:25 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 8:38 pm

Beltran is the big prize on trade market

The Mets aren't interested in trading Jose Reyes, who would have been the best player available on this July's trade market.

They will trade Carlos Beltran, the best hitter available on the market.

"He's the impact guy," said an official of one of the many teams hoping to acquire Beltran.

Beltran, who entered play Wednesday with 14 home runs and 59 RBI in 91 games, is good enough that even teams without a real need in the outfield have sent scouts to see him, just in case. The Rangers had a scout at Citi Field on Wednesday, even though their main focus this month has been on acquiring pitching.

The list of teams that could end up with Beltran remains a long one. The Phillies may be the most aggressive suitor, as Jon Heyman of SI.com has suggested, but the Red Sox, Giants and Braves are all still believed to be in the running. The Phillies and Giants both have had scouts in New York all week, and the Red Sox were in to see Beltran last weekend.

The Tigers and Pirates are also said to have shown interest, but the Tigers' focus continues to be on acquiring a starting pitcher, and it's not clear that Beltran would approve a deal to the Pirates. Beltran has a full no-trade clause in his contract, but it's believed he would agree to go to any of the other contenders.

The Mets are almost certain to deal Beltran, because he will be a free agent at the end of the season and won't be back in 2012, in any case. Also, they wouldn't get any draft picks as compensation when he signs elsewhere, because of a clause in his contract that doesn't allow him to be offered arbitration (and a high salary that probably would have kept them from offering it, anyway).

Because Beltran is the best hitter on the market, the Mets can try to hold out for a big price for Beltran, even though he's a true rental player. They have also suggested to teams that they would be willing to pay some or most of his contract, depending on the players they get in return.

For more trade deadline news, click here.
Posted on: July 19, 2011 4:15 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 5:01 pm

Do the Yankees need relief?

With the development of David Robertson, the probability that Rafael Soriano will return from the disabled list and the continued excellence of Mariano Rivera, the Yankees have been suggesting to teams that they're happy with their bullpen.

But eyes were raised in the scouting community when the Yankees had one high-level person in San Diego last week, then dispatched another to Kansas City this week.

The Yankees have long had interest in Royals closer Joakim Soria. They've also shown interest this summer in Padres relievers Mike Adams and Heath Bell.

The Royals haven't been very open to trading Soria. Teams that have spoken to them say the most available players on the roster are starting pitchers Jeff Francis, Bruce Chen and Kyle Davies, outfielder Jeff Francoeur and utility man Wilson Betemit. It's unlikely that the Yankees would see any of the Royals starters as a significant upgrade. Betemit could be a short-term fit, while Alex Rodriguez is out after knee surgery.

Many teams have shown interest in the Padres relievers, including the Rangers, Reds and Phillies, in addition to the Yankees.

For more trade deadline news, click here.
Posted on: July 19, 2011 3:48 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 4:47 pm

Red Sox in on Ubaldo, but watch for Texas

The Rockies still aren't sure they'll trade Ubaldo Jimenez. They're still asking a ton for Ubaldo Jimenez.

But they sure haven't scared teams away.

The Red Sox are the latest team to inquire, sources said Tuesday. It's not yet clear how serious that interest is, or how strong a match there would be. The Red Sox have also continued to monitor the Carlos Beltran market.

While the Yankees' interest in Jimenez has been widely reported, some people familiar with the Rockies plans believe that the Reds or the Rangers would have a better chance of landing the ace right-hander. Both Cincinnati and Texas are said to have enough young talent to motivate the Rockies to make a deal.

The Tigers have also been in touch on Jimenez, but it appears they don't have enough available talent to get him. The Tigers continue to prioritize starting pitching; they've asked about almost every starter on the market.

Jimenez is scheduled to make his next start for Colorado on Tuesday night. Some teams are still trying to convince themselves that he is totally healthy.

For more trade deadline news, click here.
Posted on: July 17, 2011 10:45 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2011 6:11 am

3 to Watch: The streaking Rangers edition

Since 1996, the Yankees have five World Series titles and no 11-game winning streaks.

The Rangers just won 11 in a row for the second straight year.

Since 2003, four teams have had a 12-game winning streak. Three of those four didn't make the playoffs, and the fourth didn't make the World Series.

Winning streaks make you look like you're the best team in baseball. All too often, the long season proves that you're not.

Winning streaks feel like they ought to be important. History shows that all too often, they're not.

So what does all this mean for the Rangers, who have swept the Orioles, A's and Mariners for their 11 straight wins?

Nothing, except that Texas has once again taken command of the American League West race, and has a chance to open up an even bigger gap with three games against the Angels this week in Anaheim.

With the Mariners' collapse -- they've lost nine straight, scoring just 11 runs total -- and with the A's continuing struggles, the Angels are the lone remaining challenger to Texas. And even the Angels have now fallen four games behind.

The Angels are supposed to be the Rangers' opposites. The Rangers are third in the league in runs, while the Angels are fourth from the bottom. The Angels are second in the league in pitching, while the Rangers are . . . moving up.

In fact, if there's anything to take from the 11 straight games they've won, it's that the Rangers' pitching has been outstanding. The team ERA through the 11-game streak is an impressive 2.09 (although maybe the three weak opponents had something to do with that).

Last year, the Rangers' 11-game winning streak came in June, and it was quickly followed by the Cliff Lee trade that turned Texas into a World Series team for the first time. It's hard to know whether this streak will be followed by any kind of impact trade -- or if the Rangers even need that kind of impact deal this year.

All we really know is this: If the Rangers win Tuesday, they'll be the first team since the 2006 Red Sox to win 12 in a row. If they win Tuesday and Wednesday, they'll be the first team since the 2002 A's to win more than 12 in a row (the A's won 20).

And whether the streak ends at 11, 12 or more, we also know that history tells us it's not as important as it seems.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. There's still no game-changer like Lee on the July trade market, but the market did get a lot more interesting with the news that the Rockies would listen on Ubaldo Jimenez. The asking price is admittedly huge -- according to the reliable Jon Heyman of SI.com, the Rockies wanted Manuel Banuelos, Delin Betances, Ivan Nova and Jesus Montero from the Yankees -- but at least there is an asking price. Most likely, Jimenez will make his next scheduled start, in Braves at Rockies, Tuesday night (8:40 ET) at Coors Field, but you never know. It's a safer bet that scouts will congregate in Denver, where Derek Lowe is scheduled to start for the Braves a night before Jimenez is scheduled for the Rockies.

2. Rangers manager Ron Washington chose Jered Weaver to start the All-Star Game, but he also agreed to Angels manager Mike Scioscia's request that Weaver pitch only one inning. That enabled Weaver to start Saturday in Oakland (where he won for the 12th time this year), and it also set up Weaver to start against fellow All-Star C.J. Wilson in Rangers at Angels, Thursday afternoon (3:35 ET) at Angel Stadium.

3. I'm still not sure who baseball's best pitcher is -- Verlander? Halladay? Felix? I do know that CC Sabathia is baseball's winningest pitcher (he's 14-4, with wins in each of his last seven starts), and that he's also baseball's hottest pitcher (5-0, 0.45 in his last five starts, with nine walks and 50 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings, with a .449 OPS against). I also know that Sabathia has an All-Star matchup coming up, in Yankees at Rays, Thursday night (7:10 ET) at Tropicana Field. And I know that this is the last game of what the Rays saw as a critical 10-game stretch against the Yankees and Red Sox. By Thursday, the Rays figure to have a better idea of whether a run at the playoffs is realistic.

Posted on: June 24, 2011 12:05 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2011 12:23 pm

A picture is worth . . .

I'm going to post a link here, even though it's to a page almost none of you can read.

And, I'll admit, I can't read it, either.

But I don't need to be able to read Japanese to tell you that the guy in the red shirt is Rangers general manager Jon Daniels. As our C. Trent Rosecrans pointed out in Pepper, Daniels made his slightly unusual trip to Japan in order to get an up-close look at Yu Darvish, who threw 131 pitches and struck out 13 in eight innings to earn his ninth win of the year for the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Darvish is expected to come to the big leagues next year, so plenty of teams have been following him this season.

How interested are the Rangers?

Well, a picture is worth more words than any I could write (in English or Japanese).

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 17, 2011 8:35 pm

Scioscia calls for 'schedule reform'

NEW YORK -- The Angels would like to think they'll be playing meaningful games in September.

Mike Scioscia wants meaningful games in the division.

Scioscia, who is on commissioner Bud Selig's advisory committee, said Friday that he favors some realignment. But more than realignment, Scioscia said baseball needs what he calls "schedule reform."

"The real beauty of the season is what happens in your division," the Angels manager said. "The head-to-head competition should be there at the beginning of the season, in the middle of the season, and definitely at the end of the season."

The Angels close the season with a six-game homestand against American League West rivals Oakland and Texas, but before that they go on a trip that takes them to Baltimore and Toronto. Earlier in September, they have home series against the Twins and Yankees.

"I think we're out of the division more than we're in the division," Scioscia said.

Scioscia has long been a proponent of tightening up the postseason schedule, to make it more like the regular season. He has no problem with adding a second wild-card team, but worries about a schedule that would force teams to sit around and wait before beginning the playoffs.

"A one-game playoff would be more exciting, more practical," he said.

If baseball realigns into two 15-team leagues, some teams would be playing interleague games down the stretch. But six five-team divisions would also make scheduling simpler, and could actually allow more late-season division matchups than in the current setup.

It could also create a more equitable schedule, because with each division the same size, it would be much easier to have every team in a division play the same interleague schedule.

That doesn't happen now. Scioscia's Angels played three games earlier this year against the Braves, and have series remaining against the Mets, Marlins and Nationals, plus two against the Dodgers.

The Rangers will also play the Braves, Mets and Marlins, but their other interleague series are against the Phillies, and two against the Astros.

Because of the uneven divisions, even the in-league schedules aren't the same. The Rangers will play three more games against the top three teams in the American League East -- the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays -- than the Angels will. The Angels make that up by playing three more games than the Rangers against the last-place Orioles.

"We need schedule reform," Scioscia said.

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 17, 2011 7:48 pm

Angels 'painfully' bad -- but not out of it

NEW YORK -- Mike Scioscia always says he doesn't look at the standings.

That's too bad, because right now the standings are the best thing the Angels have going for them.

They're not hitting. They're not scoring. They're not winning.

But they're also not falling out of the American League West race.

Over the last 11 days, heading into Friday night's series opener against the Mets, the Angels went 3-6 -- and gained 1 1/2 games on first-place Texas.

"How about that?" Torii Hunter said. "We've struggled so much, and we're still three [games] back. We're still in it.

"That's giving us faith, giving us that edge again. We're kind of shocked that we're only three games back, but now we can smell blood."

Hunter is hitting just .225. Vernon Wells is hitting .193. And they were batting third and fourth in the order Friday night.

The Angels have been shut out nine times, the most in the American League. They've been shut out only once in the last 14 games, but they've been held to three runs or less in 11 of those 14 games.

"I don't know if we've ever gone through a stretch like this," Scioscia said. "The last three weeks were really painful for us. We need to create more offense."

Scioscia mentioned Kendrys Morales, whose inability to come back from an ankle injury left a big hole in the Angels' batting order. Pitcher Jered Weaver said the team was "deflated" after finding out that Morales would need a second surgery and wouldn't return this season.

But all the Angels need is a look at the standings to re-inflate.

"It's amazing we are still in it," Weaver admitted. "We could have been 10 games out by now."

But they're not.

"We still know we're a playoff contender," Weaver said.

Some people have wondered whether the Angels could turn into sellers, and Ken Rosenthal of Foxsports.com speculated last week that they might even consider trading Weaver, a Cy Young contender with an 8-4 record and 2.06 ERA who will be a free agent at the end of next season.

Angels people suggest that's highly unlikely, and it's hard to imagine the ultra-competitive Scioscia and owner Arte Moreno giving up on a season that easily.

But there's no reason for them to give up on this season, not with the Rangers failing to take a stronger grip on first place.

If the Angels need encouragement, they need only look at the standings -- whether Scioscia wants to or not.
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