Santana in play, but emerging Hochevar may be more likely to go

While the Royals are willing to listen to overtures regarding starting pitcher Ervin Santana, rival executives have come away with the impression emerging reliever Luke Hochevar may be more likely to go in trade.

The Royals are inching their way toward the cusp of the race, so they are in a bit of quandary even whether to buy or sell, but they seem to be considering several options. They seek help at right field and second base.

Santana's possible availability enhances a light market for starting pitchers, but it's no surprise rivals say the Royals are suggesting they'd need to be "overwhelmed'' to trade him. While he's a free agent after the year, Kansas City has interest in finishing strong. Santana is also worth more to them since the Royals could receive a draft choice assuming they make him a qualifying offer (a no-brainer the way he's pitching).

"He isn't as good as Matt Garza, but he's not too far behind,'' one AL executive said.

Hochevar, meanwhile has emerged as an excellent set-up man and valuable trade chip after originally struggling to live up to his status as a former No. 1 overall draft pick. Some teams may still see him as a possible starter, which can't hurt his value. He is 3-1 with a 1.89 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in a breakout year.

"He's a hot item,'' one exec said.

The Braves and Dodgers are among teams expected to have interest in Hochevar. Santana would also fit Atlanta, which has many connections with Kansas City through the front office.

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