- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
With 30 days now before the July 31 trade deadline, here's an early look at the AL landscape (for Thursday's look at the NL, click here):
Oakland Athletics: The Athletics traded Mark Ellis on Thursday, kicking in $2 million to complete a deal with the Colorado Rockies, and he figures to be just the first veteran to be moved. Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp, Grant Balfour and others could follow.
Minnesota Twins: A few weeks ago, rival executives were getting vibes from Minnesota that the team might be ready to talk trade -- but then the Twins went on a streak and cut their AL Central deficit in half in about three weeks. Since then, rival officials say, Minnesota seems to be taking a step back -- and hey, the Twins executives would have every reason to look at the Indians and Tigers and White Sox and believe that anything's possible.
There is a lot of theoretical interest in Michael Cuddyer, but the Twins would have to ask themselves whether trading the respected veteran would be worthwhile. Other clubs would probably want Minnesota to eat at least half of the $5.5 million owed to Cuddyer for the second half of the season, and even then nobody would part with a primary prospect for him.
Tampa Bay Rays: They will do what they've always done -- try to improve the team for now, while always keeping the big picture in mind. For example, it would make sense for them to move B.J. Upton this summer, before he could head to a huge arbitration award this winter -- but they may not trade Upton unless they feel they can replace his offense by adding a hitter in a separate deal. Kyle Farnsworth, who has pitched effectively this year, could draw some interest before the deadline.
Boston Red Sox: Sources say that as of today, the Red Sox don't have a lot of financial flexibility to make trades before the deadline, which means that someone like the Cubs' Jeff Baker is going to be a more likely target than a pricey big name.
Kansas City Royals: They've got some players who would be affordable and attractive to other teams, whether it be a Jeff Francoeur (who is making $2.5 million), Melky Cabrera ($1.25 million) or Wilson Betemit ($1 million). However, it's not as simple as it sounds: The Royals are bringing along a group of young players and they will at least want to keep a framework of veterans in place so the youngsters don't get pounded.
Cleveland Indians: They would be open to adding modestly priced help, without giving up any major prospects. Cleveland is not going to blow up its long-term plans in an effort to win the division this year; you will not see the Indians swap young players for pricey short-term rentals. Still, the Indians can do things like picking up Mike Cameron -- Cleveland has a major need for a right-handed-hitting outfielder -- for pennies, now that the Red Sox have designated him for assignment.
Chicago White Sox: Ken Williams faces a unique puzzle before the trade deadline, because so many of the problems that need to be fixed cannot really be addressed -- Alex Rios, whose contract is an anchor, and Adam Dunn, who is a half-season into a four-year, $56 million deal. Sergio Santos has effectively filled the closer's role.
New York Yankees: As they have gauged the market and seen the surprising performances of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia -- and have watched the physical comeback of Phil Hughes -- the Yankees are convinced their internal options are better than what they see externally. If Rafael Soriano has another setback and he needs elbow surgery, New York could look to add one of the many relievers that should be available over the next two months.
Los Angeles Angels: Reportedly, owner Arte Moreno has closed the checkbook for his front office -- and if Moreno sticks with that, the Angels would have to be creative before the trade deadline. The Cubs' Carlos Pena, a left-handed power hitter, would be a good fit in a lot of ways, but Moreno would probably have to expand payroll -- or the Angels would have to get major financial relief from the Cubs -- to make it happen.
Texas Rangers: Texas should be able to fill its greatest need, for right-handed relief, whether it's with a Heath Bell or Mike Adams or Farnsworth or somebody else. The Rangers' problems appear to be very fixable with the right deals.
Toronto Blue Jays: Toronto could turn into a one-stop shop for right-handed relief, depending on who is throwing the best -- whether it be Frank Francisco, Octavio Dotel, Jason Frasor or Jon Rauch. While the starting pitching market is incredibly thin, the number of experienced right-handed relievers that will be available should make this more of a buyers' market.
Detroit Tigers: Detroit has been asking around about left-handed pitching, and GM Dave Dombrowski is known as someone who finishes deals -- and the Tigers operate under a win-now mantra every year.
Baltimore Orioles: There has been an internal debate for Baltimore about when the best time to trade Jeremy Guthrie will be, and the expectation within the organization is that Baltimore will at least seriously consider any offers that come its way for the right-hander.
Seattle Mariners: The injury to Erik Bedard will have an impact on one of the Mariners' trade pieces -- if, in fact, they would have seriously considered trading Bedard, who fits with them and could be part of the 2012 solution. Seattle has been better than expected, but like Cleveland, you will not see the Mariners stray from their planned course for a Hail Mary shot at the playoffs this year. But, like the Indians, the Mariners intend to look around for some modestly priced means for improvement.
• What do Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, James Shields, Felix Hernandez, Cole Hamels and Matt Cain all have in common? If the schedules and rotations hold, they could all pitch on the final Sunday before the All-Star Game, which would make them ineligible to pitch in the All-Star Game.
And there's something wrong with that.
When Major League Baseball holds the World Baseball Classic, pitchers are pushed out of their normal routine to compete at a high level, and put themselves at increased risk for injury at a time of year when they haven't really prepared to pitch with 100 percent intensity. Yet pitchers can't be asked to throw an inning in the middle of the season for the sport's signature midsummer event?
I'm not sure how it can be an All-Star Game if five or six of the top 10 pitchers don't participate.
Sabathia and Verlander both picked up their 11th victories Thursday. From ESPN Stats & Info, how Sabathia won:
A. By generating lots of missed swings. Sabathia matched his career high with 13 strikeouts Thursday, and ALL of them were on a swinging strike three. That is the most swinging strikeouts in a game since Bud Norris had 13 on Aug. 14.
Most swinging strikeouts in a single start this season:
CC Sabathia -- 13*
Tim Lincecum -- 12
Tommy Hanson -- 12
Edwin Jackson -- 12
* = Thursday vs Brewers
B. Overpowering slider. Brewers hitters were 1-11 (.091) with seven strikeouts in at-bats ending on a CC slider. The 11 outs generated by the slider (DP grounder) are Sabathia's most in a game in the past two-plus seasons. Over his past four starts, Sabathia is holding the opposition to an .086 average (3-35) with 19 strikeouts against his slider.
How Verlander beat the Mets:
A. He was tough in tough spots. Verlander wasn't as dominant as he's been the rest of the month, but the Mets couldn't muster much in the clutch. The Mets were 2-10 with four strikeouts with men on base, including 0-5 with runners in scoring position.
B. He loved being outside. Of the 120 pitches Verlander threw, 73 were on the outside part of the plate or wider. That is the most outside pitches Verlander has thrown all season and his most since throwing 76 on June 16, 2010.
Per ELIAS, Justin Verlander became only the fifth pitcher to go 6-0 or better with an ERA below 1.00 in a calendar month since 1984. His stellar 0.92 ERA is only fourth on this list. Randy Johnson, Hideo Nomo and Rick Reuschel had better ERAs than Verlander in their undefeated month.
One of the reasons for Justin Verlander's dominant June? He kept the ball out of play. In-play percentage is the number of balls put into play divided by the total number of swings. Verlander's in-play percentage of 32.8 in June led the majors.
Lowest in-play percentage in June, 2011 season:
Justin Verlander -- 32.8
David Price -- 33.3
Brandon Morrow -- 33.6
Tommy Hanson -- 33.7
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Rockies view Mark Ellis as a winning player, as Dan O'Dowd says, in this Jim Armstrong piece.
Dings and dents
2. The Giants suffered an excruciating loss to the Cubs, who were twice faced with match point -- two outs, two strikes -- and won. This was among the most entertaining games of the season (although not for the Giants).
He's the sixth-fastest to reach the milestone among active players.
Fewest games to 300 HR, active players:
Alex Rodriguez -- 1,117
Albert Pujols -- 1,165
Adam Dunn -- 1,210
Vladimir Guerrero -- 1,276
Jim Thome -- 1,288
Mark Teixeira -- 1,296*
* = hit 300th HR on Thursday
Teixeira hit his 25th HR of the season. He is the fourth player to have at least 25 HRs in each of his first nine MLB seasons, joining Albert Pujols, Darryl Strawberry and Eddie Mathews.
Most HR in first nine MLB seasons:
Albert Pujols -- 366
Ralph Kiner -- 351
Eddie Mathews -- 338
Adam Dunn -- 316
Mark Teixeira -- 300
The Patience Index
• I've got an early-morning assignment today, so I couldn't get to all the links. We'll be back at it Saturday.
And today will be better than yesterday.