- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
With the trade deadline now five days away, some executives spent part of Wednesday digesting the deals that took place late Tuesday night and continuing their assessments of their own teams and the market.
The number of shopping days is dwindling, and here are the biggest holes to be filled:
1. Los Angeles Angels: Starting pitcher
There is so much for the Angels to love about their team. Some rival GMs already are saying Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, and he's at the top of what is a really good lineup. Angels ace Jered Weaver has been throwing well, and Dan Haren looked OK in his return to the rotation on Sunday night. Ernesto Frieri might turn out to be the best pickup made by any team all season; since GM Jerry DiPoto made his deal for the right-hander, Frieri has 69 strikeouts in 41 innings with a 1.54 ERA.
But the Angels don't have a big margin for error in the AL West, given the presence of the Texas Rangers and the blistering hot Oakland Athletics, and they do have a real weakness at the back end of their rotation. Ervin Santana has an ERA of 6.00 and has been placed on a 15-out plan by manager Mike Scioscia in an effort to get him right, and Jerome Williams tends to be very Jekyll or Hyde.
They need an upgrade and they are looking for an upgrade, so as the conversations continue about some of the available starters the Angels will be right in the middle of it all.
If the Angels make a trade, one executive expects infielder Jean Segura to be in the middle of whatever they do, as the organization's most marketable young player.
2. Oakland: Left side of the infield
Look, if you're not buying that the Athletics are for real, you're not paying attention to the numbers. They have the best ERA in the majors; will soon be helped by pitching prospect Daniel Straily, who's having one of the best seasons of any prospect -- if you haven't seen his numbers, here they are -- and they have two really productive hitters in the middle of their lineup in Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick.
And they never seem to lose anymore. They have seven straight victories and 12 wins in their past 13 games since the All-Star break and have won 27 of their past 36 games. They have put themselves in a position to get help and they need help at shortstop or third base, and they were engaged with the Miami Marlins about Hanley Ramirez before he was dealt to the Dodgers.
The market for shortstops and third basemen is woefully thin. The Toronto Blue Jays are ready to trade Yunel Escobar, and the Colorado Rockies will entertain offers for Marco Scutaro. Oakland is one of the teams engaged with the San Diego Padres on Chase Headley. One thing to keep in mind: The Athletics do have a surplus of pitching from which to deal.
Escobar is next on the docket, writes Susan Slusser.
Oakland is on the hunt, writes Tim Kawakami.
The Athletics are on a big-time roll; they blew out Toronto Wednesday, and along the way Reddick made a crazy catch.
3. Texas: Starting pitcher
They're not looking for just any starter. They're looking for someone better than what they have, and their rotation has been thinned by injury. The underrated Colby Lewis is out for the year, and while Roy Oswalt is confident he can bounce back from his back trouble there is no guarantee that's going to happen.
If an elite starting pitcher is traded -- a Greinke, a Josh Johnson -- the Rangers figure to be right in the mix.
Neftali Feliz's exact role after he returns to the Rangers hasn't been decided, writes Jeff Wilson.
4. Atlanta Braves: Starting pitcher
There is a lot to really like about the Braves and how they're coming together this season, with the maturation of Jason Heyward. With Andrelton Simmons expected back in the next month and Craig Kimbrel totally dominating hitters, Atlanta has a chance to be a really good team by season's end.
But there have been cracks in Tommy Hanson's performance of late, and nobody knows if Ben Sheets can continue to throw so well, and help is needed in the rotation. This is why Atlanta tried to make a deal for Ryan Dempster and why the Braves will continue to talk about other available starters -- veteran pitchers who could provide stability.
Atlanta GM Frank Wren now says a Dempster deal is highly unlikely.
5. Chicago White Sox: Starting pitcher
Detroit made its big play, adding Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez, and now the White Sox would like to answer. They need a starting pitcher, but they are limited with the lack of depth in their farm system, rival evaluators say. In a bidding war for a pre-eminent starter like Greinke, they may have trouble topping other offers.
The White Sox would love Greinke, writes Daryl van Schouwen.
6. San Francisco Giants: Bullpen help
The Giants have been fine since the loss of Brian Wilson, but they could use another arm -- maybe someone such as Chris Perez, whom the Indians could make available if they decide to become sellers after Thursday's game with the Tigers. (And even if the Indians don't become full-blown sellers, they might get the best possible value for Perez by dealing him now and promoting Vinnie Pestano into the closer's role.)
7. Pittsburgh Pirates: Lineup help
They talked (briefly) about Justin Upton and are among the clubs in the Headley mix. But it's possible that in the end, they will view the costs as prohibitive, because in so many cases teams are asking for their best pitching prospects.
8. Cincinnati Reds: Left-handed hitting
They have talked about players such as Juan Pierre and Shane Victorino. With Joey Votto out, they recently started a lineup comprised entirely of right-handed hitters. Cincinnati needs to prepare for possible postseason matchups, when Dusty Baker will need to have some left-handed options for his bench.
9. Cleveland: Starting pitcher, outfield help
The Indians could be sellers and buyers. If they add lineup help, the Indians will undoubtedly focus on right-handed hitting.
10. Baltimore Orioles: Starting pitcher
Baltimore's need for pitching is obvious, but the question is how much the Orioles should be willing to surrender to make it happen. Other teams are asking about their top prospects, such as Manny Machado, but the Orioles have rejected those proposals -- rightly. It'd be better for the Orioles to consider options from the B-list such as Shaun Marcum.
More trade talk
• The Headley trade talks continue, fueled, perhaps, by his show of power Wednesday.
• Dempster was angry after being pulled from Wednesday's game. You wonder if there might be more tension for him in the hours ahead, because it's apparent there is some frustration in the Cubs' effort to deal the veteran right-hander.
Dempster can reject any proposed deal because of his 10-and-5 rights, and so the Chicago Cubs had been in consultation with him about what might be acceptable -- and they had operated under the impression that Dempster would approve a trade to the Braves. Club president Theo Epstein arranged a swap of Dempster for Randall Delgado.
But Dempster balked at the deal, and the Cubs haven't gotten suitable offers from the Dodgers, the team for which Dempster wants to pitch. The Cubs' hope remains that Dempster agrees to the Atlanta trade -- and quickly, because Braves GM Frank Wren is already beginning to move on to other discussions -- but they may ultimately decide to keep the right-hander through the trade deadline.
If that happens, the Cubs could keep Dempster and make him a qualifying offer of $12.5 million in the offseason and get a draft pick when he signs elsewhere. Sure, the Cubs could be at risk of having Dempster accept their one-year tender, but they could also make it clear that Dempster would not have a spot in the rotation.
Epstein isn't talking about Dempster's status, writes Mark Gonzales.
• The Marlins have made good baseball trades this week, and at the same time they are fighting the perception that they are conducting a lawn sale, with price tags on everything. So even if they get really good offers for Johnson that doesn't necessarily mean they'll trade the right-hander. The Marlins had told other teams that if they traded Ramirez, they wouldn't trade Johnson; it was going to be one or the other.
There was a lot of talk and anger in other front offices Wednesday over concern that the Marlins are doing irreparable damage to the South Florida market by tearing up the team so quickly after rebranding it in the offseason.
It was time for the Marlins to trade Hanley, writes Greg Cote.
• It's hard to describe how bad the Houston Astros have been, but the numbers speak for themselves: They have two wins in their past 24 games, with a minus-73 run differential. To put that in perspective, their average run differential per game is minus-3.04. The average run differential for the '62 Mets was minus-2.04.
The Astros have reason to hope, writes Randy Harvey.
Largest pitcher contracts in MLB history
CC Sabathia, NYY: Seven years, $161M
Cole Hamels, PHI: Six years, $144M
Johan Santana, NYM: Six years, $137.5M
Barry Zito, SF: Seven years, $126M
CC Sabathia, NYY: Five years, $122M
Mike Hampton, COL: Eight years, $121M
• Ramirez got off to a good start with the Dodgers, who are taking a big gamble, as Dylan Hernandez writes. He got a warm welcome from his new teammates, writes Jim Peltz. Bill Plaschke likes the deal.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Info
7: Straight wins (in seven straight starts) for Weaver; three behind Chuck Finley for Angels single-season record.
9: Starts allowing five earned runs or more for Tim Lincecum this season, most in MLB.
14: Wins for David Price, the first pitcher in MLB to hit that mark this season.
16: Run differential in A's win against the Blue Jays, largest run differential in a shutout this season.
Moves, deals and decisions
2. The New York Yankees turned to Eric Chavez. They'll monitor the trade market, and if they find a match, they'll make a move, but the Yankees are more likely to go with internal solutions.
This is not a crisis situation for the Yankees, writes Bob Klapisch. Totally agree with him.
4. The Indians made a roster move.
5. The Giants have some big roster decisions coming Friday.
Dings and dents
NL East notes
From ESPN Stats & Info: Strasburg struck out 11 and walked none in a 5-2 win against the Mets, his third career 10-K, zero-BB game. Since 2010 (Strasburg's debut season) only Lee and Felix Hernandez have more (four apiece).
Strasburg leads the majors in strikeouts despite ranking outside the top 50 in innings pitched. Among all qualified starters age 25 or younger in the past 100 years, Kerry Wood in 1998 is the only one to average more strikeouts per nine innings.
• The Braves hit a bunch of home runs.
NL Central notes
• You can't stop the Reds; you can only hope to contain them. Cincinnati is within one game of having the best record in the majors.
• The Cardinals got to celebrate.
• The Brewers' bullpen blew up again.
NL West notes
• Arizona's winning streak ended.
• Lincecum had a really rough outing.
AL East notes
With the trade deadline five days away, Buster Olney goes through the biggest holes to fill, beginning with the Los Angeles Angels and their starting rotation.