A potentially great pitching market is threatening to become almost nonexistent.
Roy Halladay has been declared untouchable, Jake Peavy has a serious ankle injury that could keep him out past the July 31 trade deadline, Chris Young could be headed to the disabled list with shoulder inflammation and Erik Bedard was scratched from his last start with a stiff shoulder.
This whole market could turn up stiff.
If Bedard's shoulder doesn't loosen up, it's possible the best starting pitchers on the market could be Seattle's Jarrod Washburn and Boston's Brad Penny. Doesn't exactly get the juices flowing, does it?
Washburn (3-5, 3.30 ERA) has pitched well this season, but is far from a star and carries a hefty $9 million salary. Penny (5-2, 5.32) hit 95 mph on the radar gun in a recent start against the Yankees, but scouts say he has been less than stellar this year and has a reputation as a somewhat-difficult clubhouse presence.
The Red Sox have received offers for Penny, but none to their liking. The Phillies, Cardinals and Mets are believed to have checked in, but Penny's value spears less than spectacular.
Future Hall of Famer John Smoltz is going to make his Red Sox debut on Thursday, and manager Terry Francona hinted Tuesday that they might go with a six-man rotation, at least temporarily. They could also put Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-4, 7.55), whose shape is in question, back on the disabled list.
Noting GM Theo Epstein's rare mistake to trade away Bronson Arroyo (for Wily Mo Pena) when he thought he had an extra starter, one competing GM said he believes Epstein now understands it's better to have extra pitching than to give away Penny. That's definitely true in a market in which Penny is looking shinier by the day.
The Phillies, Dodgers and White Sox are searching for a starting pitcher, and the Twins, Rangers, Tigers and Mets may pursue one, as well. So the demand should easily exceed the supply.
Right now, the supply is exceedingly sparse. Halladay never was never likely to go anywhere -- though some GMs understandably dreamed of a repeat of last year's CC Sabathia acquisition by the Brewers. Meanwhile, the Padres are almost surely stuck with Peavy, a natural battler who tried pitching through a serious right ankle injury. He's now said to be out 1-3 months with a torn tendon, which even in the best case would push a return close to the July 31 deadline. Longtime agent Barry Axelrod said the great hope is that the cast and conservative treatment will heal Peavy, though surgery hasn't been ruled out. On the off chance he does need surgery, Peavy would miss the rest of the season
The Mariners are still on the fringes of the race to make the playoffs, but assuming they become a seller, they could actually control about half the supply of viable starters. Bedard threw on the side Tuesday after skipping last Saturday's start. He's penciled in to pitch either Friday or Saturday versus Arizona.
But while Bedard's talented, the shoulder question and personality issues could limit his value. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said he's looking for a front-of-the-rotation starter, but someone familiar with the Phillies' thinking said they are somewhat leery of Bedard, who behaved anti-socially when he got to Seattle last year. Bedard's doing OK in that regard this year, but one former boss said, "He's fine if he's in the background, but he's not good when he's the one in the limelight.''
The Indians are still awaiting the return of Grady Sizemore and Jake Westbrook before deciding what to do with Cliff Lee (4-6, 2.88), who has pitched extremely well lately and whose value is enhanced by the $8 million club option for 2010. For now, Cleveland seems reluctant to trade Lee, further diminishing the market. If Lee does become available, he'd go straight to the top of the class.
While Nats bosses like Manny Acta's patient personality, people familiar with the situation say they also feel Acta needs to show more fight in this disastrous start and that "someone needs to take the fall'' for a record (16-46) that has them on pace with the 1962 Mets, who finished 40-120.
Acta was said to have gotten a couple-days reprieve Monday, and while no one is talking publicly about the touchy situation, there's a great suspicion he still may get fired when the team returns home.
It's possible Nats management doesn't want the new manager -- foxsports.com reported that Nationals bench coach Jim Riggleman would be the man to replace Acta on an interim basis -- to start his tenure with a series against the Yankees at the new Yankee Stadium. That looked like three potentially ugly losses on the schedule, though the Nats lost only 5-3 in the series opener Tuesday. It's also possible Acta's bosses are being kind and allowing him to manage in New York, where he coached the Mets. But the better theory is that they'd rather not have these defeats on Riggleman's record.
Nationals president Stan Kasten declined to answer any questions about the current situation (but in characteristic fashion, still felt the need to critique my stories so far). He didn't say, but it's also possible Kasten didn't like me suggesting 1) that the bonus system would not be wrecked by a big bonus for No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg, and 2) that they might consider Bobby Valentine at a time when Acta's still in the job.
Kasten won't comment on anything. But one GM said of the idea of the Nationals hiring Valentine, "They should do it. But they won't do it. They're too cheap.''
• I still think the Braves should have given Tom Glavine a shot to pitch at a higher level before releasing him. But Glavine seems more likely to hang it up as the days go by, longtime agent Gregg Clifton acknowledged by e-mail.
• Teams are saying the asking price remains high on Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson, who's hit well this year but "lost range,'' according to one scout. There's an impression the Nats may be "trying to avoid 110 losses," according to one competing GM. They shouldn't concern themselves with their final record and should also try to deal Adam Dunn, who's in the first year of a two-year, $20 million deal, since they won't win this year or next. However, competing execs aren't sure Dunn will be dealt.
• Scouts are suggesting star Angels pitchers Ervin Santana and John Lackey don't look like themselves lately, raising the possibility they aren't quite 100 percent yet.
• CC Sabathia gives himself a C. That makes it three C's. Personally, I think CC's a tough grader.
• There's nothing wrong with Johan Santana's knee, despite former pitching coach Rick Peterson's speculation. Though Santana was down 2-3 mph in his atrocious start against the Yankees last Sunday.
• Fernando Martinez (0 HRs, 7 runs, .218 average) doesn't appear ready for the big leagues. Remember, though: He's only 20.
• Among those in the know, it seems the biggest reach in the draft was the Pirates' selection of Tony Sanchez with the No. 4 pick overall. He's considered a fine "catch-and-throw guy,'' according to one scouting director, but not a great hitter for such a high pick. Perhaps Pittsburgh didn't want to go through a drawn-out negotiation after enduring a post-deadline signing of Pedro Alvarez last year.
• Mets No. 1 draft choice Steven Matz is asking for $1.1 million, but he may have a hard time turning down the Mets. He is a big hero at Ward Melville High in East Setauket on Long Island, and on his first visit to Citi Field after his selection, he met fellow left-hander Sandy Koufax, a good friend of Mets owner Fred Wilpon. Matz throws 93 mph.
• Nobody is on Joe Mauer's level right now. Here are his stats: 13 HRs, 41 RBIs, .429 average.
• The Rockies are following the 2007 pattern. After 11 straight wins, they lost one. Now they just have to win 10 more to match.
• Seems symmetrical that Pudge (Rodriguez) would tie Pudge (Fisk) for most games caught.
• Best wishes to Dontrelle Willis (1-4, 7.49), who still didn't appear to be himself in his last start and will be skipped the next time through the rotation.
• Anyone notice that the Rays have the second-best run differential in baseball, right behind the Dodgers?
• Tampa may need to consider getting a catcher the way Dioner Navarro (.211 average) has played.
• Readers e-mailed to say Dice-K, Vladimir Guerrero (one home run), Milton Bradley (5 HRs, 16 RBIs, .227) and Fausto Carmona (2-6, 7.42, currently at Class A) deserved to make my recent list of the 25 most disappointing players so far. They are right. Meanwhile, Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman (16-for-16 in saves) should have made the good list.
• Sammy Sosa failed a steroid test? I am shocked, absolutely shocked. (Still, good by the New York Times to get the confirmation.) As far as the Hall of Fame goes, you can put a cork in him.
• I don't believe those who Twitter are necessarily twits. You can see my tweets at SI_JonHeyman.