The Astros' asking price on Hunter Pence has been so prohibitive that competing teams believe he will stay in Houston. Supposedly Houston wants at least three good pieces, probably young, major-league-ready talent. Rivals are questioning whether they're serious about trading him based on the requests they've heard.
A lot of teams need outfielders and Pence is a player who could help the Phillies, Braves, Giants, Astros, Pirates and Indians. Current Astros management views him as the "favorite of the franchise," however, and just the right type of player to set an example for a young team.
The Phillies are said to be one team trying for Pence despite the asking price, and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro and Astros GM Ed Wade are former co-workers who've hooked up on deals before, such as last year's deal that sent Roy Oswalt from Houston to Philadelphia. The Astros aim to cut their payroll to $60 million, so there is work to be done.
• The Astros are shopping Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers harder than Pence. But one competing executive said, "They might have to pay half (of Rodriguez's contract) to trade him.'' He has $39 million to go through 2014 since the option for '14 becomes a player option if he is traded. AL teams seem to be shying away from him because they're skeptical he can make the switch to that league. Neither the Yankees or Red Sox in particular seem enamored. Myers isn't having an especially good year (3-10 with a 4.74 ERA) and has a problematic $11 million salary for 2012. This is a tough time for Houston, as it has been ordered by incoming owner Jim Crane to cut the payroll to $60 million from $76 million. Carlos Lee is untradeable. Michael Bourn is another whose name has come up in talks.
• Hiroki Kuroda hasn't yet told the Dodgers whether he'd waive his no-trade clause in some cases, though he may take trades on a case-by-case basis. AL sources indicate the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Indians and Rangers are among interested teams. So obviously, scouts believe he can make the switch effectively. But there is a feeling among some AL teams Kuroda is unlikely to accept a trade east even if he isn't saying one way or the other yet.
• The Giants, Phillies and Braves look like the front-runners for Carlos Beltran at the moment, with the Brewers another possibility. Milwaukee lost centerfielder Carlos Gomez, a former Met, to injury, and could consider Beltran for centerfield or rightfield, with Corey Hart moving to center. Some are suggesting the Giants already have plenty of outfielders and in early talks with the Mets they've been unwilling to include their top talent (they'd rather pay money; Beltran has about $7 million left on his Mets deal).
• The Yankees have some interest in Baltimore pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. But there is no evidence Orioles owner Peter Angelos will ever trade with the Yankees.
• Padres owner Jeff Moorad has told some people around baseball that top set-up man Mike Adams is staying in San Diego. Yahoo! reported that Moorad even informed Adams he was staying, but the pitcher later denied that to Marty Caswell of xx1090 in San Diego. San Diego has been looking for a package of top prospects for Adams. Padres GM Jed Hoyer told SI, "We'd have to be blown away ... no player is untouchable, but our strong preference is to hold Mike.''
• Two Tigers scouts were at Aaron Harang's last start in Florida. Harang gave up seven hits and three runs in 5 1/3 innings and got the win for San Diego.
• The Rangers are in talks for Heath Bell. The Cardinals, Angels and Reds are also interested. The Phillies have been connected to Bell, too, but Antonio Bastardo has been lights out, Ryan Madson is coming back and Brad Lidge may be, as well. So Philly's bullpen situation isn't bad as it is.
• The A's have gotten multiple hits on Coco Crisp, including the Indians and Reds. But they've yet to receive one call on Hideki Matsui, who recently hit his 500th home run in pro baseball. Among their relievers, they don't seem anxious to trade Grant Balfour but are taking calls on Michael Wuertz, Brian Fuentes and Craig Breslow, who'd fit both the Yankees and Red Sox.
• The Yankees seek a righthanded bat (someone like the Rockies' Ty Wigginton) and a lefthanded reliever in a addition to a starting pitcher. The Marlins' Randy Choate, an ex-Yankee, might be the best lefty reliever available.
• The Mets have decided to hold onto comeback reliever Jason Isringhausen because they'd like him to mentor Bobby Parnell.
• Mariners' first-year manager Eric Wedge is being tested with a 12-game losing streak. He has an image as a tough customer, so it'll be interesting to see how this plays out.
• It's been said Seattle was showcasing Chone Figgins in the outfield possibly for the Reds. But what's to showcase? One look at the stat sheet should be enough, as he's hitting just .182.
• Incoming Astros owner Jim Crane is expected to have an interest in Rays GM Andrew Friedman, a Houston native who's father, Kenny, was mentioned as a potential owner had Crane's deal fallen through. Friedman has done an excellent job in Tampa, so it's logical he'd be a candidate. But he seems to have a very strong relationship with Rays owner Stuart Sternberg.