The Mets are right to feel that Carlos Beltran is the best available hitter on the trade market, considering his experience, and so it's understandable why they're telling other teams that they'd like a top prospect in return for him; as reported here on Sunday, they have indicated to other teams a willingness to eat a lot of the money owed to Beltran to get the kind of prospect they'd like.
But the general managers of rival teams believe that Beltran's value is significantly less than what the Mets are indicating, because there is not a consolation prize attached to the outfielder after he becomes a free agent.
When Scott Boras, his agent, negotiated Beltran's contract with the Mets in the winter of 2004-05, he asked for and received a stipulation that there would be no draft picks tied to Beltran as he became a free agent at the end of his contract; this way, his attractiveness as a free agent wouldn't be diminished by his attachment to compensation, as it has for players like Juan Cruz and Jason Varitek in recent seasons.
But some teams interested in Beltran now note that there really won't be any draft-pick payoff as Beltran walks away -- so what they are paying for, if the Mets eat all or most of Beltran's deal, is about nine weeks of a very good veteran hitter. Nothing more. With draft picks attached, his value would be much more, rival executives believe.
As the Mets weigh possible deals for Beltran, it'll be interesting if their search for value shifts from the possible acquisition of a top prospect to money savings. In other words, if nobody offers anything more than a Grade B prospect for Beltran, would the Mets find more value in simply saving the money by dumping the contract -- to the Giants, or the Yankees, perhaps. The Yankees have had contact with the Mets about Beltran, but for reasons cited above, there really isn't a lot of pressure on the Steinbrenners' team to surrender a valued prospect.
On the other hand, if it were basically a cash transaction for the Yankees -- simply absorbing salary -- that could be more attractive.
• Consider the gap that the Phillies and Braves are building between themselves and the rest of the wild-card field, and, similarly, how the Red Sox and Yankees are distancing themselves from the Rays, who are the No. 2 wild-card contenders behind New York:
New York: 56-37
What these growing leads mean, as we get closer to the trade deadline, is that the aggressiveness of those four teams can be tempered. The Phillies could use a right-handed hitter and a relief pitcher like Heath Bell, but right now, those are not must-have items; the Phillies have the earned the right to like their chances for making the playoffs and having a chance to win in October. There is no need for the Braves to strip-mine their cache of young pitching for a rental bat like Beltran. In a perfect world, the Red Sox could use help in right field -- and they are still candidates to acquire a right-handed hitter to complement the thriving and left-handed hitting Josh Reddick -- but it appears they will survive without overpaying to plug that gap.
The Yankees haven't yet exchanged names with the Rockies over a possible Ubaldo Jimenez deal and the chances of a deal between the two sides are roughly akin to that of the Rocky Mountains being moved to the Bronx. There is no urgency for the Yankees; after Monday's victory over the Rays, New York is 6.5 games better than Tampa Bay. Their chances for making the playoffs are excellent without surrendering prospects.
This situation is another reason MLB needs to build greater incentives for teams to win their respective divisions -- and maybe that'll come in 2012, with the addition of another playoff team and a Russian Roulette style best-of-three to open the postseason for the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds in each league.
It would be an interesting gamble for the Braves to trade Derek Lowe now -- they could shed a lot of money and set themselves up with much greater payroll flexibility in 2012, but would have to count on Brandon Beachy to continue to throw well this year. The fact that the Braves have a solid lead in the wild-card race gives them the option of seriously considering working with this margin for error.
Charlie Manuel has a wish list, as Jim Salisbury writes.
The Yankees are keeping their eyes open for an arm, writes George King.
• In the midst of extra innings after midnight on Sunday Night Baseball, in a game that would end just before 2 a.m., one of the Red Sox players looked over to where I was sitting and said, "I'm going to get in a fight with [Kelly] Shoppach, and then they won't have any catchers left." He was kidding, and in the end, after Dustin Pedroia lashed the only run-scoring hit of the game, the Red Sox came out of that game with smiles, and relief.
For the Rays, however, it was a loss that hurt, early on Monday, and then late Monday, too. With Joe Maddon's bullpen taxed, the Rays were put in a position in which they had to use Alex Torres in the ninth inning of a tie game against the Yankees -- and it didn't work out so well.
The Rays had to make moves before the game.
From ESPN Stats and Info: Halladay left the game after four innings, and that breaks a 70-start streak of at least five innings pitched. Halladay had pitched at least six innings in each of his last 42 starts, the fifth-longest streak by a pitcher in the last 20 years.
Most consecutive starts of 6+ IP, last 20 years:
Mark Buehrle -- 49 (2004-05)
Jack McDowell -- 48 (1992-93)
Pat Hentgen -- 47 (1996-97)
Curt Schilling -- 43 (1997-98)
Roy Halladay -- 42* (2010-11)
* = streak ended Monday (4 IP)
FROM ELIAS: Halladay also snapped a streak of 63 starts of at least six innings on the road. That was the longest in the live-ball era (since 1920) and the longest since Walter Johnson made 82 straight in 1911-15.
With a game-time temperature of 91 degrees, Monday night was Halladay's 10th start since 2004 in 90 degree temperatures or higher. He's allowed home runs almost three times as frequently when the temperature is at least 90 degrees, and his ERA in those starts is over a run higher than his ERA in all other starts over that time (2.94 under 90 degrees, 4.02 90 degrees and higher).
• The Pirates moved into sole possession of first place in the NL Central, with a shutout of the Reds. Consider the staff ERAs for the NL Central teams:
1. Pittsburgh Pirates -- 3.40
2. St. Louis Cardinals -- 3.94
3. Milwaukee Brewers -- 4.10
4. Cincinnati Reds -- 4.12
5. Houston Astros -- 4.65
6. Chicago Cubs -- 4.65
So yes, the Pirates -- with their team ERA more than a half-run better than any other team in the division -- are for real.
• The Padres haven't been inspired by theoretical offers in their Heath Bell trade talks, and in a market saturated by right-handed relievers, it is increasingly unclear if they'll get what they want. Bell is eligible for free agency after the year is over and the Padres could get a couple of draft picks if he signs with another team during the offseason, and so internally, the Padres feel like they should get at least a little more than the value of two draft picks. And if they don't get that, they could keep Bell all year.
1. The Tigers' priority is pitching as the trade deadline approaches, writes Lynn Henning.
2. Aaron Harang is drawing interest from other teams.
3. There is no sane reason for the Rockies to trade Ubaldo Jimenez, writes Mark Kiszla.
4. Grady Sizemore's injury won't change the Indians' approach at the trade deadline, says GM Chris Antonetti, within this Paul Hoynes piece.
Moves, deals and decisions
4. There is no timetable for Edinson Volquez's return, as John Fay writes.
Dings and dents
2. Amid trade interest, Derek Lowe had a strong outing in Colorado.
3. The Giants beat a nemesis.
4. Russell Martin ignored a high changeup and drove in the winning run, as Ben Shpigel writes. From ESPN Stats and Info: Brett Gardner has been one of the most valuable Yankees this season. He does things that are measurable and things that are not seen in basic stats, such as the take-out slide at second base that led to the tying run scoring. From a basic stat standpoint, he's been at his best since May began, hitting .318 (up from .188) with a .398 OBP (up from .273) and stealing 23 bases on 30 attempts (including 13 straight successful attempts).
Also worth noting: Gardner entered the day ranked second among MLB left fielders in Wins Above Replacement (3.6), trailing only Ryan Braun.
A) Collmenter's changeup was effective Monday, and he threw it more often than in any of his previous starts. He threw a career-high 38 changeups Monday, and Brewers hitters were 0-for-9 with four strikeouts in at-bats ending with the pitch. It was the first start this season in which Collmenter threw his fastball less than 60 percent of the time.
B) Three of Collmenter's four changeup strikeouts came on outside pitches. Twenty-nine of his 38 changeups (76.3 percent) were outside, above his season average of 61.2 percent entering Monday.
C) He put hitters away: Brewers hitters were 0-for-15 against Collmenter with two strikes. Eight of the nine outs Collmenter got with his changeup came with two strikes.
6. Mark Buehrle got the job done.
7. Rodrigo Lopez got the best of Roy Halladay and the Phillies. Carlos Pena mashed his 20th homer on Monday. From ESPN Stats and Info: Two of Pena's hits Monday, including his home run, came on outside pitches. He has 47 home runs on outside pitches since the start of 2009, most of any player in baseball. This is Pena's fifth straight season with 20 or more HRs, and his 250th career HR.
Most home runs on outside pitches, since 2009:
Carlos Pena -- 47
Ryan Howard -- 44
Adam Dunn -- 41
Prince Fielder -- 36
7. That's five straight losses and counting for the Rockies, writes Troy Renck.
10. The Orioles got pounded, again.
12. The Reds were shut down.
13. The Twins had a really bad day, dropping both ends of a doubleheader.
14. The Brewers were handcuffed.
15. Jack McKeon didn't hesitate to make moves.
• Hospital tests revealed good news for Nolan Ryan.
• The next eight weeks belong to the Rangers and Angels, writes Jeff Wilson.
• The Mariners' big problems are in the outfield and at third base, writes Larry Stone.
• Mike Rizzo's hard road takes him home, writes Chris Jenkins.
• Oakland is just not getting it done on the road, writes Susan Slusser.
• Frank McCourt's lawyers are trying to make a case.
And today will be better than yesterday.