- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN Insider
Jayson Stark reported that the Philadelphia Phillies have let it be known to AL teams that they're willing to trade Jim Thome, but that Thome's preferred destinations -- the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox -- probably are not in play, because of Travis Hafner and Adam Dunn, respectively.
So what are some alternatives?
It's safe to say there are no perfect fits if Thome wants to play the rest of the season for a contender.
The Baltimore Orioles have some flexibility with their DH spot, and Nick Johnson, who has more starts at the position than any other Oriole, just got hurt. Baltimore manager Buck Showalter loves old-school players like Thome. Of all the AL teams, the Orioles might be the best fit.
The Tampa Bay Rays are starved for offense and could use anybody who can drive in a run; Hideki Matsui is hitting .160, with a .476 OPS. But if they were to add Thome, it would mean that Luke Scott would have to play in the field, something he hasn't done this season.
The Toronto Blue Jays just called up Adam Lind from the minors, and unless they returned him to Triple-A to facilitate a Thome deal, it's hard to see how the Jays could carry Edwin Encarnacion, Lind and Thome without a logjam.
Theoretically, the New York Yankees are an interesting possibility, and a marriage of Thome and Yankee Stadium would be perfect. But Yankees manager Joe Girardi uses the DH spot to rest regulars -- Alex Rodriguez has 19 games as a DH, for example -- and the team still expects that Brett Gardner will be back from elbow trouble in the last two months. Once Gardner returns, Raul Ibanez will become a full-time DH.
The Detroit Tigers could have Victor Martinez back in their lineup in September, but the Tigers already have a wealth of DH-types, so they wouldn't seem to be an option. The Kansas City Royals have Billy Butler serving as their full-time DH. The Oakland Athletics could use Thome's offense, but it's hard to imagine that he'd want to go to a sub-.500 team not expected to contend. The Los Angeles Angels don't really have roster space available for a DH-type like Thome.
Before the 2011 season, the Texas Rangers came close to signing Thome; their plan at the time was to use him as a DH to help balance out their predominantly left-handed lineup. Mitch Moreland recently landed on the disabled list and won't be back until sometime in mid-August, which means there is an opening for someone like Thome; Michael Young, who has had 37 games at DH, could get more playing time at first base to facilitate the addition of Thome.
The great thing about Thome is no matter where he lands and how much he plays, the team that acquires him can proceed with complete confidence that he will handle his situation with the utmost professionalism. If he went to Texas and his playing time was sparing -- a part-time part-timer, so to speak -- he would still come to the ballpark daily and be a positive presence.
• Evan Longoria is apparently not close to coming back. If the Rays continue to lose, they could become a very interesting player in the pre-deadline deals, because they could market James Shields, B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena, etc. If there's something we've learned about the Rays, it's this: They will be decisive, and they will be aggressive. If they decide they are not good enough, they will look to maximize the value of their organizational assets.
Keep in mind that the Rays don't have the same box-office pressure that teams like the Phillies do in deciding whether to buy or sell. Tampa Bay draws poorly, win or lose, so the Rays can make trades without worrying about a fan backlash. The Phillies, on the other hand, have to factor in fan reaction when deciding whether to trade the likes of Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino at the end of July.
• By the way: There hasn't been any progress in the Phillies' negotiations with Hamels, who now is likely fewer than 100 days from the end of his season -- and from the doorway to his free agency.
• Trevor Bauer made his debut, and the Diamondbacks won. His stuff is electric, he's fun to watch and he represents an upgrade for Arizona over Daniel Hudson, who had struggled before he went down with a torn ligament. "In a way," said one rival evaluator, "I think they were lucky that they had a clean resolution with Hudson, because he hadn't pitched well."
Pitch count could be a consistent challenge for Bauer, who tends to have a high number of strikeouts and walks. He needed 76 pitches to get through his first four innings in the big leagues, and the Braves were being patient against him.
From ESPN Stats and Info, some notes on Bauer's first start:
A. The Braves swung at 28 of Bauer's 74 pitches (37.8 percent), their second-lowest swing percentage against a starting pitcher this season.
B. Three of Bauer's five hits allowed came against his curveball, including two doubles.
C. Braves hitters missed on just four of those 28 swings (14.3 percent).
D. Two of his three strikeouts came on pitches out of the strike zone, while the third was on a pitch "on the black."
E. His three strikeouts came the first time through the order. His three walks were during his second time through the order.
• Somebody is going to look really smart -- and somebody is going to look much less than that -- in the case of outfielder Yasiel Puig. The Dodgers agreed to sign him for $42 million over seven years, and some rival evaluators say they had the outfielder rated much differently; one team had assessed him as a $500,000 player. Somebody is really, really wrong.
• Jeffrey Loria, the ultimate optimist: He loves the Marlins' chances.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The priorities of Arizona GM Kevin Towers haven't changed.
3. The Athletics and Mets would seem to be a good match for a possible trade for Grant Balfour. The Mets are actively looking for relief help and Balfour has been throwing well of late. Plus, he has a contractual option for 2013, and Oakland is open to making deals now.
4. The Twins will revamp their roster soon.
5. The White Sox are working on their rotation for the days ahead, Mark Gonzales writes.
8. Ruben Amaro needs to fix the bullpen now, Bob Brookover writes. Balfour would fit the Phils nicely as well.
10. The Yankees are patching their rotation from within.
Dings and dents
The Giants have four straight shutouts, and counting.
The Dodgers' free fall continues: They lost again and have dropped nine of their last 10.
Runs were very scarce for the Reds.
The Astros managed to avoid being no-hit.
The Pirates are 25-17 since May 11, and they won again.
The Nationals rallied, but lost.
The Phillies lost again. From ESPN Stats and Info, some numbers that put that into perspective: The Phillies lost their 42nd game Thursday. Last season, they didn't lose their 42nd game until August 16th.
For the Rays, the losing continues: This time, James Shields got hit around.
The Orioles lost again.
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Felix won:
A. Induced 22 misses on 57 swings (38.6 percent), his most swing-and-misses in a start in his career.
B. Red Sox hitters were 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts in at-bats ending with a pitch on the inner half.
C. Red Sox hitters were 1-for-19 in two-strike at-bats, including 0 for 8 against the fastball.
D. Recorded five strikeouts with his fastball, tied for his most in a start this season. His fastball velocity averaged 92.7 mph with a max of 94.9 mph, both season-highs.
Hernandez became the second Mariners pitcher to throw a shutout with 13 or more strikeouts, joining Randy Johnson, who did it five times from 1993-98. Hernandez is the first Mariners pitcher to throw such a game with one or fewer walks.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats and Info
3: Consecutive games by the Nationals scoring double-digit runs, their first time since 1995 (as Expos).
14: Home runs by Jose Bautista in June, tied for the most by any AL player in the past 20 seasons.
120: Consecutive losses for the Padres when trailing after eight innings entering Thursday before coming back to win against Houston.
3,184: Career hits for Derek Jeter, tied for 13th on the all-time list.
• Some of the profits from Clown Question Bro lager are going to a memorial fund for a slain Denver police officer's child.
• The O'Malleys' mystique will be worthless if they don't spend money, Kevin Acee writes.
• Josh Gibson's statue was unveiled.
• The Cubs are learning from the Fenway makeover.
• Bubba Starling has started his pro career.
• Tony La Russa is facing some All-Star dilemmas, Carl Steward writes in his notebook.
• A 91-year-old caught a foul ball at a game, as Daniel Brown writes.
• Daron Sutton has been replaced for a weekend Fox broadcast.
And today will be better than yesterday.