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Michael Bourn's market among rivals

The Phillies have some financial maneuvering to do, but Bourn could be in their plans. Daniel Shirey/US Presswire

One executive joked recently that there is not a more inevitable offseason connection than the Nationals and center fielder Michael Bourn, who is eligible for free agency in the fall. "Can we just put that one in the books now?" he said, noting all the factors in play. They are:

1. The Nationals need a center fielder, and Bourn is a former Gold Glove winner whose performance this year is charting very well. His UZR/150 rating is the best among those at his position, according to FanGraphs.

2. Bourn, 29, is at the peak of his career as a hitter, and his .756 OPS this season is his second-best. Bourn ranks sixth in the majors in runs scored, and of course, all of his damage has been done as a leadoff hitter. Washington's leadoff hitters ranks 19th in OPS this year.

3. And Bourn is represented by Scott Boras -- and there are a whole lot of Nationals represented by Boras, from Stephen Strasburg to Bryce Harper to Jayson Werth to others.

But another rival official noted all the money that the Phillies have freed from their payroll, with the trades of Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton. "You know who they want, right?" the official asked. "They love Michael Bourn."

He was drafted and developed by the Phillies, of course, as a fourth-round pick in 2003, and the Phillies know all about his gregarious personality, and that he has a grinder's mentality. For years, manager Charlie Manuel has tried to settle on a leadoff hitter; sometimes he has used Jimmy Rollins, sometimes Shane Victorino.

If the Phillies make a strong push for Bourn, it's unclear whether they would be willing to outbid the Nationals. Washington opened this season with a payroll of $92 million, and if its wealthy ownership is willing, it has a lot of room to grow under the luxury-tax cap. Bourn figures to get a multiyear deal for something in the range of $16 million to $22 million annually, and as has been well-documented over the last six weeks, the Phillies already have a lot of payroll obligations well into the future, with $20 million-plus commitments to Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard on the books. The Phillies also will have to find a third baseman, a starting pitcher and at least one outfielder, depending on their internal evaluations of Domonic Brown and John Mayberry Jr.

Josh Hamilton will be the most dynamic free agent outfielder this fall, albeit with a lot of questions about how much he can be counted on. But Bourn might be in the best leverage position of all the outfielders if, in fact, the Nationals and Phillies -- division rivals -- focus on luring him away from another division rival, the Braves.

Notables

• Bourn may be the target of the Phillies this offseason, writes Bob Brookover.

Barry Bonds says he belongs in the Hall of Fame, "without a doubt."

I agree. I will vote for him when his name appears on the ballot this winter, for all the reasons outlined here many times before. But I don't think he'll get in.

Roger Bernadina saved the day for the Nationals. As the ball sailed toward Bernadina, writes Amanda Comak, it carried the weight of all that came before it.

Here's video of Bernadina's catch.

Miguel Cabrera had another great day, and the Tigers won; Drew Sharp believes he is crushing others in the MVP race. Cabrera has 95 RBIs. From ESPN Stats & Information: Cabrera's home run came on an inside pitch, his league-leading 19th on a pitch in that area of the zone. Here is where he is ranked:

Miguel Cabrera: 19

Ryan Braun: 16

David Ortiz: 12

Mark Trumbo: 12

Chicago's lead over Detroit is down to a half-game.

• Wrote here the other day about how Ryan Dempster could regret landing in Texas, but he pitched terrifically against the Red Sox on Tuesday night.

• With Evan Longoria back in the lineup, the Rays won.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Carlos Pena is going to sit more against left-handers.

2. The Nationals are sticking with Tyler Clippard as their closer.

3. Fredi Gonzalez decided to keep Dan Uggla away from Cole Hamels, as Carroll Rogers writes.

4. Chris Getz is getting regular playing time with the Royals.

5. Jose Lopez was designated for assignment.

6. Bryan LaHair has been benched.

7. Zach Britton was sent down.

8. Roy Oswalt says he felt 200 pitches in a week was enough, in explaining why he declined to take another inning of relief. Oswalt met with Ron Washington.

Dings and dents

1. Joey Votto is very close to returning to the Cincinnati lineup.

2. Tommy Hanson is feeling better.

3. Jordan Schafer landed on the disabled list.

4. Kevin Youkilis is questionable for today's game.

5. Jose Bautista is still feeling discomfort, as Bob Elliott writes.

6. Pablo Sandoval is getting better.

7. A Padres reliever wants to have surgery after the season is over.

By The Numbers

From ESPN Stats & Information

5: Players in MLB history with a home run on their 21st birthday after Mike Trout did it Tuesday night.

10: Consecutive home wins by the Tigers (one shy of longest streak by franchise in live ball era).

11: Extra-inning games without a win for the Astros this season; according to Elias, they're only the second team ever to lose their first 11 extra-inning games in one season (1969 Expos).

53: Consecutive wins by Pirates this season when leading after seven innings before losing Tuesday to the Diamondbacks after leading 4-3 entering the eighth inning.

AL East

• The Yankees continue to struggle, and their lead is down to 4.5 games. From David Waldstein's story:

"There should be a high level of concern," [Eric Chavez] said. "Anybody who says there isn't is lying. We've just got to win ballgames and we're not finding a way to do that right now. There should be a concern. It's that time of year where, yeah, it's a concern. We have to start winning games."

Curtis Granderson has replaced A-Rod as the Yankees' lightning rod, writes Ken Davidoff.

J.A. Happ got his first start for the Blue Jays.

Adam Jones delivered, and the Orioles are now within 4.5 games of first place.

Jon Lester pitched OK, but not good enough to win. The Red Sox continue to have issues with umpires.

AL Central

• The Indians had their guts ripped out, again.

Billy Butler hoisted the Royals on his shoulders.

• The Twins have had a nice second-half surge.

AL West

Bartolo Colon shut down the Angels. The Angels have fallen back into third place. Mike Trout managed to steal the spotlight again: He hit a homer on his birthday, and he's swiped 26 straight bases.

• The Mariners were frustrated.

NL East

• The Marlins are a mess right now, but with Mike Stanton back in the lineup, they pulled out a win.

• Cole Hamels fired a shutout.

• An ex-Met was back in New York, and the Mets lost.

NL Central

It was not a good day for the NL Central contenders:

• For once, the Pirates' bullpen had a bad day, as Bill Brink writes.

• The Astros lost again.

• The Cardinals' winning streak was stopped at four.

• The Reds' losing streak has reached three.

Brooks Raley lost in his debut. Dale Sveum gave the Cubs a pep talk.

• A Milwaukee rookie flirted with perfection. From ESPN Stats & Information, more on Mike Fiers' strong outing:

A. Fiers threw his fastball 61 percent of the time, his highest percentage in a start this season. Fiers got 14 outs with the pitch, including four strikeouts.

B. Reds hitters were 0-for-4 with a strikeout in at-bats ending with a Fiers curveball. For the season, opponents are 6-for-50 (.120) with 24 strikeouts in at-bats ending with a curveball from Fiers.

C. Fiers started 13 hitters ahead 0-1, and all seven of his strikeouts came against those hitters. He got ahead of seven hitters 0-2 and struck out six of them.

From Elias: Fiers' perfect game was broken up by Reds' rookie Zack Cozart to lead off the seventh inning. It's the second time in the last five seasons that a rookie broke up a no-hitter of six-plus innings by a rookie pitcher. On Sept. 7 last season, Guillermo Moscoso of the A's had a no-hitter for 7 2/3 innings before it was broken up by Salvador Perez of the Royals.

NL West

Chris Johnson keeps mashing homers for the D-Backs, as Nick Piecoro writes.

From ESPN Stats & Information: Both of Johnson's home runs came off fastballs or sinkers. For the season, he's hitting .376 in at-bats ending with a fastball or a sinker, the fourth-highest average in the league among players who have seen at least 750 such pitches behind Andrew McCutchen (.424), Joey Votto (.415) and Joe Mauer (.382). By contrast, he's hitting just .210 in at-bats ending with an off-speed pitch.

• Colorado assured itself of its first series win in L.A. in two years.

Buster Posey clubbed another homer; he's hitting about .450 since the All-Star break.

Ross Ohlendorf rebounded, as Jeff Sanders writes.

Other stuff

Jean Segura played in his first game for the Brewers.

Ben Revere is almost qualified for the batting title, as Joe Christensen writes.

Derek Jeter is about to hit another benchmark. By the end of this season, he likely will rank sixth all-time in singles.

• The Padres' culture will be changed, as Jay Paris writes.

• The Phillies held fielding practice.

Josh Beckett talked a good game in a radio interview, writes Michael Silverman.

Dexter Fowler is proving he belongs.

Brad Ziegler is really, really good at inducing double plays.

• A laser-pointing situation led to a fan ejection.

• Billy Hamilton picked up his 128th stolen base. He needs 17 more to tie Vince Coleman's minor league mark of 145.

And today will be better than yesterday.