Knowing their chances remain slim for superstar pitcher Roy Halladay and even slimmer for star pitcher Cliff Lee, the Yankees called the pitching-strong Mariners on Saturday to inquire about their status as buyer or seller. The Yankees need a starting pitcher, and Jarrod Washburn is a pitcher they've liked for years.
Over the weekend GM Jack Zduriencik informed the Yankees, Dodgers and other teams interested in their players that they weren't yet ready to sell, but there's a sense around baseball Seattle still might make a deadline switch. Ownership historically hasn't been anxious to sell, but realistically, they don't have enough offense to compete with the Angels or Rangers.
Erik Bedard's latest arm ailment just might make their call for them. Though sadly, at the same time it will also diminish their sale.
While the Mariners are having a surprisingly impressive season thanks to several cost-efficient pickups by Zduriencik (Russell Branyan and David Aardsma have been the best of those), they are doing it without a bona fide lineup. And now they'd have to do it without one of their better pitchers. Also, they were just swept by the visiting Indians over the weekend, getting outscored 31-6 over the three-game series.
The Bedard trade of two years ago -- which was made by the previous regime and saw Adam Jones and George Sherrill go to Baltimore -- has turned out to be a disaster. But the decision of the same regime to hold onto Washburn when the Yankees and Twins were offering to take his entire $11 million salary last year seems prudent.
Now, Washburn's stock is as high as it's ever been, and the Yankees would have to give up a top prospect or two to have a chance at Washburn.
Washburn has pitched to an 8-6 record and 2.71 ERA and is said to be a favorite of pitching coach Rick Adair. Right now, he may become a favorite of many of the teams looking for pitching, such as the White Sox, Twins, Dodgers and Phillies.
Another fallback option for the Yankees is Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo. Cincinnati made him available near the end of a dreadful 0-6 road trip. But the guess is the Reds would have to eat a significant portion of the $17 million remaining on his deal. So far they aren't volunteering to do that.
The Yankees believe their chances are practically nil after hearing from Toronto that it would take both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes plus two more top prospects for Halladay. Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi wasn't kidding when he told the Yankees up front it would take more from them and Boston than it would from other teams.
To have any shot at all at Halladay, the Yankees have to hope things fall through with Phillies, then consider whether to dangle one or the other, Chamberlain or Hughes. For Halladay, they might part with one (though not both).
One AL scout said he'd offer Chamberlain, but not Hughes. "I think Hughes is going to be good, but Joba I wonder about. He hasn't learned his lesson from showboating yet. In fact, he's gotten worse. He's extremely talented, but I just wonder whether he'll break down."
While Chamberlain's antics annoy some folks, he has put together two straight excellent starts.
The Phillies have identified Lee as their first fallback option should their talks with the Blue Jays fail to land them Halladay, and they scouted Lee's last two starts as he continues to pitch beautifully. There's been a lot of jockeying and posturing between the Phils and Jays over Halladay, but Philly remains by far the most logical landing spot considering their keen interest and stash of worthy prospects.
While the Phillies blanched at one Jays' proposal of Kyle Drabek, J.A. Happ and Dominic Brown (as they should have), feathers have been ruffled and apparently Halladay himself is now getting anxious, the sides have continued to exchange ideas. Though there remains a difference of opinion, there are deals to be made by mixing and matching with one or two of the three players above, plus pitcher Carlos Carrasco, shortstop Jason Donald, catcher Lou Marson and outfielder Michael Taylor.
As has been suggested several times in this space, the inclusion of the top pitching prospect Drabek would limit the secondary pieces while the inclusion of Happ would necessitate bigger secondary pieces. Brown, the best-liked outfielder, would be more unlikely to go with Drabek, for instance.
"It's early," one official with one of the teams pointed out, suggesting there's still time for a deal.
The Jays' self-imposed Tuesday deadline isn't being taken very seriously at this point, and they themselves indicated it wasn't necessarily a strict deadline if something was afoot.
Meanwhile, there was no evidence of big progress with any other team. The Jays requested a package from the Angels of pitcher Joe Saunders, infielder Erick Aybar, infield prospect Brandon Wood and a fourth prospect, a request that was surely going to go nowhere. The Angels were the first team to view their prospects as ultra-valuable years ago, and others have followed their lead. They are not changing their approach now. Besides, that proposal seems over the top.
The Rangers also have exchanged names with the Jays but seemed to believe their rival Angels were having more discussions with Toronto (and those talks are going nowhere).
The Dodgers also are thought to have exchanged names with Toronto. But one thing the Dodgers and Angels have in common, beyond their locale, is they don't like to give up prospects, and the Dodgers' offer was said to be considered low by one source. It's very unlikely that they top the Phillies' offers, which everyone believes will be the best Toronto gets.
The Dodgers are more focused on Lee than Halladay, as they probably sense their chances are close to zero for Halladay. Lee provides a cheaper alternative in terms of both prospects and money. The Dodgers and Indians made a big deal last year when L.A. sent top catching prospect Carlos Santana to the Indians for third baseman Casey Blake, so they have it in them.
Los Angeles has youth and magic going for it but could use a top-of-the-rotation starter such as Lee.
Pitching prospects James McDonald, Scott Elbert and Chris Withrow would have to be in play. The Dodgers don't want to trade off their major league roster (can't blame 'em for that), but are their prospects enough?
Like their rival Yankees, the Red Sox also are believed to have talked to the Blue Jays in recent days about Halladay. Boston's surprising recent struggles are said to have club owner John Henry wanting to do something big, however.
But Boston is seen by competitors as being very reluctant to give up its top prospects.
Top pitching prospect Clay Buchholz is the Jays' first target, but that would just be the start. One source suggested their asking price would also include closing prospect Daniel Bard and shortstop Jed Lowrie.
In any case, since Toronto has made clear that the Red Sox have to have to pay a premium (like the Yankees), the chances do not look great here.
Victor Martinez remains the best hope for the Red Sox to significantly improve their offense (one executive said he believes Cleveland's more likely to trade V-Mart than Lee, and that the Indians and Red Sox talk "all the time"). Still, they are keeping an eye on Padres superstar Adrian Gonzalez.
It's time for the Padres to start a real sale, and it doesn't hurt that the GMs of these teams, Boston's Theo Epstein and San Diego's Kevin Towers, are long-time friends. As has been advocated here before, San Diego should shop Gonzalez, as he'd enable the franchise to jumpstart its rebuilding progress.
The Padres have been reluctant to go into sell mode, but perhaps the wall they've hit will convince them this is the proper course. For now though, Padres ownership has, in fact, been telling people that they don't believe they can trade their biggest star who happens to be a local kid of Mexican descent, a trifecta of riches for them. (That still doesn't explain why the Padres aren't shopping closer Heath Bell. That one makes no sense. He isn't a draw like Gonzalez. They need to sell high on Bell.)
Naturally, Boston has what it takes to make it tempting on Gonzalez, starting with Buchholz. Like I mentioned before, though, Boston's gun shy when it comes to its top prospects (Michael Bowden has slipped and could be had), particularly the pitchers.
"You can't blame them. They can't be sure about [John] Smoltz or [Brad] Penny," one competing executive pointed out.
One piece of good news for Texas: Commissioner Bud Selig has no plans to step in to prevent any big-money deal they may make, no matter what owner Tom Hicks' personal financial situation is.
Selig said in a phone interview that teams are free to do what they see fit. That includes Texas, which was bailed out in two straight pay periods by the commissioner's office, according to sources.
There's been incredible excitement around the young Rangers in the Arlington area, but frankly, it would seem odd to commit $23 million to a pitcher (Halladay) when you're having difficulty meeting current payroll demands.
"[Hicks] can't be involved in this. He just has too much pride to tell his front office," said an executive with another team interested in Halladay.
But somehow, he is. The Rangers have inquired about both Halladay and Lee -- though their chances do not look very good on either. Texas does not want to part with top prospects for Lee and it's thus deemed the price tag far too high on Halladay.
The Rangers are as well-stocked with prospects as anyone, but someone familiar with their thinking said, "They aren't going to give up their players for Lee."
Reports surfaced about the Angels' supposed interest in Scott Kazmir. But so far, no one with the Angels has copped to this.
The Rays probably would love the idea of trading Kazmir and the $22 million remaining on his contract to free up some cash and make a real play for catcher Victor Martinez, or perhaps even Lee or Halladay. But Kazmir has seen his velocity dip from 96 mph to about 91 mph as questions arise about his work ethic.
He's a very pleasant kid, and the Mets have rued the day they traded him, but his contract does not look particularly pretty at the moment.
The Cardinals intend to try hard to extend just-acquired outfielder Matt Holliday, according to sources.
One reason they want Holliday is to protect Albert Pujols. But the unspoken reason may be that they want to impress Pujols. Their negotiations with Pujols should be a doozy, as he can be expected to request an Alex Rodriguez-type salary of close to $30 million per year.
Holliday won't cost nearly that much -- though he won't necessarily be cheap, either. He rejected a deal with Colorado that was thought to be worth $72 million over four years.
With only months to go before free agency, the conventional wisdom is that extending Holliday is a tall order, especially considering that he is represented by Scott Boras. Indeed, it does seem like a long shot. But Holliday looks so thrilled to be in St. Louis that an extension can't be ruled out.
Upon hearing of the trade, Holliday happily boarded an Amtrak train from New York to Philly so as not to miss a game. The A's are in a malaise, and Holliday didn't want to be part of it anymore. People around that team said he could not have been more thrilled to be dealt. Holliday not only was having trouble adjusting to the new pitchers in the AL, he also wasn't loving Oakland's cavernous park.
But Holliday has a lifetime 1.350 OPS in new Busch Stadium, his best mark in any park, even better than at Coors Field. It's the right field, and the right league. And being an Oklahoman, St Louis might seem close to home.
• The Rockies are still looking for another reliever, even after acquiring Rafael Betancourt.
• Mets GM Omar Minaya called the Mets "buyers" this week. But if you're a big-market team not looking at Halladay because you're "more than one player away," as one club official said, how can you consider yourself a buyer? Minaya is merely trying to spin a tale of the Mets being in the race when they aren't. No one's buying that.
• A's GM Billy Beane did pretty well to get top hitting prospect Brett Wallace and two OK prospects for Holliday. Wallace will be perfect for the AL, whereas there was no spot for him in St. Louis. But Beane didn't quite recover what he originally gave up for Holliday (Huston Street, Carlos Gonzalez, Greg Smith). Plus, he spent $6.5 million for a half year of Holliday and sent $1.5 million to St. Louis (to cover most of Wallace's 2008 bonus or part of Holliday's salary, however you look at it).
• The Angels continue to be a fabulous story, going on an eight-game winning streak without Torii Hunter or Vladimir Guerrero. "Mike Scioscia is the best manager in baseball," a competing GM said. Hard to argue.
• The White Sox's non-trade fro Jake Peavy looks increasingly fortuitous. While Peavy is hurt, Clayton Richard is thriving.
• Doesn't appear there's anything to Steve Stone's report that the Tigers are interested in Milton Bradley. Had they been, I would have suggested that they have their head examined (along with his).
• Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice did a very nice job with their induction speeches. Henderson had a speech writer and worked hard on the delivery. And he delivered.
• I suggested they hold a Reverse World Series on Twitter. How about the Padres and Royals, loser wins? For more random thoughts, go to my Twitter at: SI_JonHeyman.