- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
At a time when the Mets want a star prospect for Carlos Beltran and the Astros are looking for an enormous package of young players for Hunter Pence, someone like Reed Johnson is the Chevy amid the luxury lot. He's pounded left-handed pitchers this year, posting an on-base percentage of .407 and an OPS of nearly 1.000. On top of that, Johnson is making just $900,000 in salary.
But while that sounds nice, and many teams have called the Cubs about Johnson's availability, nobody would probably give up anything decent for a 34-year-old outfielder who will be eligible for free agency this fall. "You might get an organizational guy," said one highly ranked executive, mentioning the kind of minor leaguer who is needed by every team to help stabilize a team of young players. "Or maybe you'd get a guy who would be in the big leagues very briefly. Does that really help you?"
The Dodgers may well keep Jamey Carroll for the same reason -- they wouldn't get much in return, given his RBI production -- and the Royals are well aware that while other teams like Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur, neither is going to generate a solid Grade B prospect in return. Oakland has a bunch of relievers who could be had in trades, including Michael Wuertz. "But they're just not going to give them away," said one high-ranking executive.
• The Mets continue to talk with the Giants and Phillies about Beltran, and they want a top pitching prospect from the Braves. Atlanta certainly has them, including Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino and Randall Delgado, who are all considered high-end prospects by other teams.
I asked a rival evaluator -- whose team is not involved in the Beltran trade talks, and isn't in the same division as the Braves -- to rank the four prospects in his eyes. His feeling:
"To me," the evaluator said, "you could flip-flop the top two" -- Teheran and Vizcaino -- "or the bottom two." Minor and Delgado, the evaluator said, are "third-starter type of guys."
I asked the evaluator if he thought that the price tag of one of those four pitchers was too high for a two-month rental, and he paused. "Yes, probably," he said. "I don't know what [the Braves'] other options are, but I can't see Frank [Wren] trading one of them."
The Braves could try to offer the Mets a package of less-touted prospects. But that's not the Mets' intention: They believe that they'll get a good prospect, eventually, as they walk down the line in trade talks with all the interested teams.
• The Indians are among the teams which have talked with the Rays about B.J. Upton, sources say, and Upton is trying to not let the trade rumors affect him, Marc Topkin writes. The guess here is that he will be dealt.
Other trade buzz
1. Hiroki Kuroda has not ruled any team out in his discussions with the Dodgers related to his no-trade clause, and so the Dodgers will take the offers to him on a case-by-case basis, if they have something serious arranged. The Red Sox are one of those teams for which Kuroda would be a nice fit, especially considering the reality that Boston doesn't know when Clay Buchholz will be coming back. To back up what old friend Peter Gammons has reported, the Red Sox and Oakland have talked about Rich Harden; in fact, the recent round of talk was the second time the two sides have discussed Harden, with the first time coming in early July.
To be clear, Oakland and the Red Sox are not close to a deal for the right-hander, but he would make sense in this regard: He's capable of four weeks or six weeks of high-ceiling performance, between his injuries. Sources say that Boston's current priority in the trade market is pitching, and that the notion of trading for Beltran is a long shot.
2. The Yankees have Rafael Soriano coming back and Ivan Nova on layaway in the minors, so they don't
feel an urgency to make a deal. They have had conversations with teams about relievers, including the Padres' Mike Adams, but the gap between what the Padres asked for and what the Yankees were willing to give up was enormous; a Yankees deal for Adams is highly unlikely.
But don't be surprised if the Yankees do what they did in the last days before last year's deadline: As teams change course with the deadline looming and try to dump money, don't be surprised to see the Yankees jump in and gobble up depth, as they did with the acquisitions of Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns. But the Yankees will wait for the market to come to them.
For example (and this is total speculation): I wonder if they would take the salary of Carlos Pena if they felt he would be an upgrade over Jorge Posada at DH. Pena's on-base percentage is 30 points higher, he's hit more homers than anyone other than Jose Bautista since the end of April and he and Mark Teixeira could split time at first base; both are excellent defensively.
4. If the Cardinals don't make a move, Tony La Russa will be OK with that. The full expectation within the industry is that they will add a reliever, at least. And the Colby Rasmus situation festers: La Russa started Jon Jay in center field, again.
5. There are indications that the Twins and Orioles may have something brewing, writes Jeff Zrebiec.
It will be extremely difficult for the Orioles to get equal value for Koji Uehara in this market glutted by right-handed relievers, and given his contract option for $4 million and Baltimore's need for pitching, it makes a lot of sense for them to keep him. It would be almost impossible for the Orioles to sign a reliever on a one-year deal this winter coming off a performance like the one Uehara is generating this summer.
7. The Mets will be looking for top prospects, writes Andy Martino.
8. The Phillies have a great trade deadline track record, writes Joel Sherman.
9. It seems more and more likely that the Rays are going to trade Upton, and the Nationals are interested, Adam Kilgore writes.
10. The Angels don't appear to be in position to get much done before the deadline, writes Kevin Baxter.
11. Sources say the Marlins are currently in a holding pattern -- not really looking to move players, despite the many calls they've gotten on relievers like Leo Nunez and Randy Choate, and not really looking to add. Florida's situation is complicated by the fact that the team wants to win as many games as possible -- even if the team is not in serious contention for a playoff spot -- before moving into its new ballpark next spring.
12. The Diamondbacks will be discriminating shoppers, Scott Bordow writes.
13. Going for it could be too expensive for the Reds, writes Paul Daugherty.
14. If the Cubs hung on to Carlos Pena, it would say a lot about their plans, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.
15. The Twins' concern over Kyle Gibson could impact trades.
16. The Indians' success at the deadline has been mixed, writes Dennis Manoloff.
Moves, deals and decisions
5. Pat Gillick confirmed his interest in working with the Cubs, writes Chris De Luca.
Dings and dents
4. Interestingly, Alex Rodriguez -- who had a surgery similar to that of Jones -- is probably three weeks away from coming back to the Yankees.
2. The Giants' bullpen shined again. San Francisco is now 38-21 in games decided by one or two runs.
3. From ESPN Stats and Info, how Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia beat the Pirates:
• Garcia was able to use his slider to get strikeouts when he needed them. Garcia threw his slider just 11 times, but recorded a strikeout on four of those 11 pitches. Garcia has thrown the pitch only 16 percent of the time in 2011, less than his fastball and changeup, but it has been a dominant pitch. Over 55 percent of all 2011 at-bats against Garcia ending with his slider have resulted in strikeouts.
• Garcia was dominant with his non-fastball pitches, throwing 54 of his 93 pitches as non-fastballs and recording 16 outs (including all five of his strikeouts). He did not allow a baserunner on a non-fastball. Garcia (38.9 percent) is one of 11 National League starters who throw their fastball under 40 percent of the time.
• Batters have hit .323 against Garcia in 2011 on balls in the upper third, but Garcia didn't give the Pirates many opportunities to take advantage. Garcia threw just 21 pitches that were up on Saturday, his fewest since June 19. The Pirates did not record a hit on a pitch in the upper third, only the fourth time this year that Garcia has not given up a hit on a pitch that was up (he had given up 10 in his previous four starts).
5. The Rays are in the midst of what is an enormous test for them, and in the first two games, they have failed, losing to K.C..
6. Chase Utley mashed a couple of homers in the Phillies' win over San Diego, as Ray Parillo writes. Both of Utley's home runs Saturday came on outside pitches. He has four home runs on outside pitches this season, matching his total from last season. It was the 19th multi-HR game of his career, moving him into impressive company.
Most Multi-HR Games as 2B in the Live Ball Era:
Ryne Sandberg 24
Joe Gordon 21
Jeff Kent 20
Bret Boone 20
Chase Utley 19<>2 HR on Saturday
10. The Rockies got hit hard.
11. The Braves couldn't take advantage of early chances, and then got blown out.
12. With their loss Saturday, the Astros fell back to 34 games below .500. It's the second time the Astros have hit such a low point this week (Monday), but it's not someplace the franchise is used to going. The last time the Astros were 34 games under .500 at any point before this week? You'd have to go back to Sept. 27, 1975. The 1975 Astros were so bad, they played three road games in front of crowds of fewer than 2,000 people -- but at least they won all three.
13. Oakland beat the Yankees to break a streak.
17. The Angels lost again, and may be hitting themselves out of a playoff race, writes Kevin Baxter.
18. In the end, the Jays collapsed.
19. The Astros struggled for offense, again.
20. The D-backs broke out in a big way.
23. The Tigers lost Saturday, and the stakes are high in their season finale today against Minnesota, as John Lowe writes.
25. The Brewers lost on the road, again.
• Bob Ryan has a solution to the Hall of Fame dilemma: color-coded plaques.
• Today will be Roberto Alomar's time to shine, Bob Elliott writes.
• Bill Conlin made a memorable speech, writes John Finger.
• Roland Hemond was honored, Phil Rogers writes.
• Dave van Horne recalls his 32 years in Montreal, for Richard Griffin.
• Matt Kemp has been struggling of late. Kemp had a torrid start to the season, but he has cooled off considerably since the end of June.
Of course, there is no reason for any team to pitch to Kemp, given the lack of depth in the Dodgers' current lineup.
• Giants fans had fun with Tony Plush.
And today will be better than yesterday.