MLB Trade Rumors: 'Fact or Fiction' on 25 Wildest Last-Minute Rumors

Doug MeadCorrespondent IJuly 30, 2012

MLB Trade Rumors: 'Fact or Fiction' on 25 Wildest Last-Minute Rumors

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    As of this writing, the MLB non-waiver trade deadline will be less than 36 hours away, and many contending teams will be scrambling to pick up the players they believe can help carry them into the postseason.

    As is part of the norm this time of year, rumors are flying across the web as to which players are going where.

    Some of the rumors make some of us just scratch our heads and say, "Huh?"

    We here at Bleacher Report always try to be helpful in deciphering all of the rumors and supposed proposed trades and giving you our best determination as to the veracity of each rumor.

    We will do that right now with 25 of the biggest last-minute rumors making their way through the headlines.

1. Shin-Soo Choo to Pittsburgh Pirates for Package That Includes Starling Marte

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    The Pittsburgh Pirates are looking for an outfield bat as they attempt to keep pace with the red-hot Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central.

    In a recent tweet by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Pirates have apparently checked in with the Cleveland Indians about the availability of right fielder Shin-Soo Choo.

    #Pirates still checking in on #Indians OFChoo. Price likely would include Marte.

    — Rob Biertempfel (@BiertempfelTrib) July 29, 2012

    Fact or Fiction?

    This is fiction. I don't see any way that the Pirates include Marte in any deal whatsoever. Marte is the second-highest-ranked position player in the Pirates organization and has developed into a solid hitter with the ability to hit for power and average.

    The Pirates will likely make a deal for an outfielder, but the package will not include Marte.

2. Bud Norris to St. Louis Cardinals

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    The St. Louis Cardinals, like the Pittsburgh Pirates, are also trying to keep up with the sizzling Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central. They are within striking distance of a wild-card slot as well, as they're just four games back as of Sunday afternoon.

    With Chris Carpenter undergoing season-ending surgery and Jaime Garcia likely not returning until mid-August, a starter could very well be in the cards, so to speak.

    In his column published on Sunday, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports listed Houston Astros starting pitcher Bud Norris as one of nine pitchers who GMs should consider going after at the trade deadline. Rosenthal went on to point out that Norris would be an excellent fit for the Cardinals, with a lifetime 7-3 record and 2.47 ERA against St. Louis.

    Fact or Fiction?

    This could very well be fact. Norris also has a 4-1 record with a 2.68 ERA in six starts at Busch Stadium. Considering the Astros have unloaded every single veteran, including third baseman Chris Johnson to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday, unloading Norris certainly doesn't sound far-fetched at all.

    Trading within the division hasn't deterred GM Jeff Luhnow either, as he had no issues in dealing Wandy Rodriguez to the rival Pittsburgh Pirates.

3. The Seattle Mariners Will Trade Felix Hernandez

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    Is it just me, or does anyone else think that Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is obsessed with the thought of the Seattle Mariners trading starting pitcher Felix Hernandez?

    To say that Rosenthal has brought up the subject once or twice would be a vast understatement.

    Rosenthal even brought that fact up in his latest column:

    Oh, I know I’ve been down this path before. Every time I write the Mariners should trade Felix, their fans respond, “Leave us alone,” general manager Jack Zduriencik says, “Never,” and the Mariners proceed to finish last again.

    Yet he goes on to discuss it one more time.

    Fact or Fiction?

    Absolutely fiction. Rosenthal is once again beating a dead horse. Zduriencik is in the process of building a potentially terrific rotation, with Hernandez as the anchor along with prospects Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.

    King Felix is staying put.

4. Yunel Escobar to Oakland A's

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    Very interesting tweet on Saturday by Buster Olney of ESPN, talking about how Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar would fit in nicely with the Oakland Athletics.

    2 reasons why Yunel Escobar could fit OAK. 1)Upgrade over what they have. 2) Incredible contract. $5m this year &'13, $5m options for '14/15

    — Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 28, 2012

    Fact or Fiction?

    This is fiction. This tweet is nothing but Olney speculating on possibilities.

    Sure, Escobar would be a huge upgrade over current A's shortstop Cliff Pennington, who is currently hitting just .197 with three home runs and 16 RBI. However, Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos loves guys under team control, and Escobar has a very friendly contract that potentially takes him through the 2015 season without costing the Jays and arm and a leg if they exercise the additional options.

    In addition, the Jays don't currently have great options as replacements for Escobar, including in their farm system.

5. Brandon League to San Francisco Giants

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    Seattle Mariners reliever Brandon League has suffered through an up-and-down season, losing his closer's role to Tom Wilhemsen in May after a series of blown saves.

    Now, several sources are saying that League is a likely trade candidate. Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports tweeted on Sunday that the San Francisco Giants definitely have interest.

    #SFGiants and #Mariners have discussed Brandon League, sources confirm. Still not clear where he is going. @MLBONFOX

    — Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 29, 2012

    Fact or Fiction?

    This could very well be fact.

    It's no secret the Giants are looking to bolster their bullpen, especially after recent subpar outings by current closer Santiago Casilla. Adding League would give manager Bruce Bochy options in the eighth and ninth innings.

6. Rafael Betancourt to New York Yankees

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    It's certainly no secret that the Colorado Rockies are selling players before the trade deadline, having already dealt infielder Marco Scutaro to the San Francisco Giants.

    The next Rockies player being highly discussed is closer Rafael Betancourt. Troy Renck of The Denver Post wrote on Sunday that the Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles have expressed interest. Renck also said the New York Yankees were players as well.

    Fact or Fiction?

    This could also be fact. The Yankees would have a formidable back end of the bullpen by adding Betancourt. A pair of Rafaels on the back end—Betancourt and current closer Rafael Soriano—would be a lethal combination in a short playoff series.

    Add David Robertson and a healthy Joba Chamberlain to that mix as well, and suddenly the Yankees have the best bullpen in the majors.

7. Ryan Dempster to Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster is still on the market, despite being one of the top pitching options available.

    Dempster declined to sign off on a trade with the Atlanta Braves in exchange for young pitcher Randall Delgado, with the hope that he would be traded to Los Angeles Dodgers, his preferred destination.

    However, the Dodgers and Cubs have yet to come to terms on a package of players in return for Dempster, and time is ticking away.

    Fact or Fiction?

    At this point, I would say fiction. It appears that Dodgers GM Ned Colletti is playing hardball in terms of who he's willing to give up in exchange for Dempster.

    ESPN reported on Sunday that a deal is expected, but not necessarily with the Dodgers. Other teams could come into play as the trade deadline approaches, including the Braves once again.

8. Alfonso Soriano to Los Angeles Dodgers or San Francisco Giants

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    Chicago Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano is certainly used to hearing his name in various rumors throughout the season, and the latest one could in fact have legs.

    Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago reported on Sunday that two teams in the NL West—the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers—have shown interest and discussed parameters of exactly how much cash the Cubs would pony up in a potential deal.

    Soriano has close to $44 million remaining on his contract, and the Cubs will have to pay for almost all of it to facilitate any kind of decent return.

    Fact or Fiction?

    I believe it to be fact. The Giants and Dodgers are locked in a dogfight in the NL West, with Clayton Kershaw's five-hit shutout on Sunday pulling the Dodgers into a virtual tie with the Giants at the top of the standings.

    If the Dodgers or Giants can somehow talk the Cubs into paying somewhere north of $40 million of Soriano's remaining contract, which is indeed possible, it could work.

9. Chase Headley to New York Yankees

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    When New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was hit on the hand by a wayward Felix Hernandez pitch in the eighth inning of Tuesday night's game with the Seattle Mariners, the conversation immediately shifted to who the Yankees might consider as a third base option. One of the first players discussed was San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley.

    In a tweet on Tuesday night,'s Jon Paul Morosi said that Headley would be among one of the Yankees' top options.

    If the #Yankees are going to get a 3B with A-Rod on disabled list, Chase Headley is the dream candidate. #Padres @MLBONFOX

    — Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 25, 2012

    Fact or Fiction?

    Right now, it's fiction. In more recent tweets, it's believed that the Padres are more likely to hang on to Headley until the end of the season. Jim Bowden of ESPN believes that Headley is staying put.

    Padres sign both Quentin & Street and vow to hold on to Chase Headley untill the off-season unless trade market for him shifts dramatically

    — JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) July 29, 2012

    Bowden's colleague at ESPN, Jerry Crasnick, agrees with him.

    The #Padres are sending signals they'll keep Chase Headley if they don't receive a better offer between now and the deadline.

    — Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 29, 2012

    The Padres are sitting in the catbird's seat right now. They know that several teams are looking to upgrade at third base, and they will sit back and wait for someone to overpay for Headley. If not, they can afford to wait until the offseason.

    Houston Astros GM Jeff Luhnow alluded to the high price of Headley as a reason he was able to deal Chris Johnson to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    Without naming names, Jeff Luhnow felt Chris Johnson market was aided by high price of Chase Headley: "This was an attractive alternative."

    — Zachary Levine (@zacharylevine) July 29, 2012

    The bottom line is that the Padres will only deal Headley when they're completely blown away by an attractive package of prospects in return.

10. James Shields to St. Louis Cardinals

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    Tampa Bay Rays pitcher James Shields has been rumored to be on the trade block for some time now, with the most recent teams showing interest being the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers.

    However, the St. Louis Cardinals have shown plenty of interest as well.

    Fact or Fiction?

    I believe this to be fiction.

    According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, GM John Mozeliak is considering his options and has kept in touch with the Rays.

    However, it's also been reported that the Rays are looking for a package of players similar to or even better than what the Milwaukee Brewers received from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Zack Greinke.

    #rays seek "north of greinke'' (new phrase) for big-game james. #rangers #dodgers #braves #indians

    — Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) July 28, 2012

    Um, sorry, but that's not happening.

11. Jason Vargas to the Boston Red Sox

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    The Boston Red Sox face the New York Yankees in a rubber match of their three-game weekend series at Yankee Stadium in a nationally-televised game on Sunday night.

    The outcome of that game could help determine what the Red Sox do in the coming days in terms of upgrading their roster or giving up on this season.

    One of the names recently mentioned in terms of helping a struggling Red Sox rotation is Seattle Mariners pitcher Jason Vargas.

    Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported on Saturday that the Red Sox have "mild interest" in the left-hander, who is 11-7 on the season with a 3.76 ERA.

    The Red Sox have mild interest in Seattle's Jason Vargas. The results of the the next two games will determine what they do.

    — Nick Cafardo (@nickcafardo) July 29, 2012

    Fact or Fiction?

    This should be fiction. As a matter of fact, the Red Sox shouldn't be showing any interest at all in Vargas, just based on his home/road splits alone.

    Away from Safeco Field, Vargas sports an ERA over two runs higher (4.67 to 2.63) than his home ERA. Sure, he's 8-4 on the road, but his WHIP is decisively higher on the road, and his K/BB considerably lower as well.

    How well do you think that plays out at hitter-friendly Fenway Park, especially considering that Vargas has given up the most home runs (25) in the majors?

12. Hunter Pence to Los Angeles Dodgers

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    It certainly seems like the Los Angeles Dodgers are in on just about every top player on the trade market, doesn't it?

    You can apparently add Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Hunter Pence to that growing list as well.

    On Sunday, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted that Pence might be too pricey for the San Francisco Giants, but not so for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    #Phillies' Pence, at $10.4M with one more year of arbitration, likely too pricey for #SFGiants. Not sure anyone too pricey for #Dodgers.

    — Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 29, 2012

    Fact or Fiction?

    This, to me, is fiction.

    It seems like nothing more than Rosenthal simply intimating that anyone could be in play for the suddenly cash-rich Dodgers. Adding on salary isn't what the Dodgers are looking to do.

    While money is certainly now available, I expect that GM Ned Colletti and the organization have a plan that plays well into the future as well as with the present. Pence is likely to get at least $13 million in arbitration next season, and an annual salary possibly larger than that as he qualifies for free agency for the first time in 2014.

13. Juan Pierre to Cincinnati Reds

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    In his column on Saturday, Buster Olney of ESPN (Insider subscription required) noted that the Cincinnati Reds are desperate to find a solid leadoff hitter. Two players from the Philadelphia Phillies could fit the bill: Shane Victorino and Juan Pierre.

    Fact or Fiction?

    This could absolutely be fact.

    Pierre would be a better option, currently hitting .306, including a lofty .335 batting average against right-handers. Not to mention the fact that Pierre is a much less expensive option with an $800,000 salary for the season.

14. Josh Johnson to Texas Rangers

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    On Friday, CBS Sports reported that the Texas Rangers were engaged in "heavy" trade talks with the Miami Marlins regarding the acquisition of starting pitcher Josh Johnson.

    Fact or Fiction?

    This is fiction.

    Johnson struggled on Sunday in his outing against the San Diego Padres, giving up a career-high six walks. But that's not what will determine his trade status.

    What the Marlins are asking in return will likely be the stumbling block. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN relayed what Marlins broadcaster Rich Waltz said about Johnson.

    #Marlins broadcaster Rich Waltz just said it will take "flotilla'' of prospects for team to trade Josh Johnson. Great word choice.

    — Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 29, 2012

    MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons agrees.

    With the Rangers not interested and the Red Sox "not engaged," the Josh Johnson market isn't likely to bring a big package to pry him away

    — Peter Gammons (@pgammo) July 29, 2012

    It certainly seems apparent that Johnson will likely be more of an option during the offseason at this point.

15. Brandon Belt to Seattle Mariners

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    San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt was not thought to be available on the trade market—at least not until now, that is.

    On Sunday, Dave Cameron of tweeted that the Seattle Mariners would love to add Belt to their roster.

    Was just told Mariners are trying hard for Brandon Belt.Not sure if they have what SF wants, though.

    — David Cameron (@DCameronFG) July 29, 2012

    Fact or Fiction?

    Have to believe this is fiction at this point.

    The Giants could certainly use a reliever, and if Belt doesn't fit into their future plans, they could certainly use him as a trade chip. But Mariners closer Brandon League, who's believed to be available, may not be what the Giants are looking for, as discussed in an earlier slide in our presentation.

16. Jonathan Broxton to Texas Rangers

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    On Sunday, Jon Heyman of reported that the Texas Rangers might have interest in acquiring Kansas City Royals closer Jonathan Broxton.

    Fact or Fiction?

    This could be fact.

    As Heyman pointed out, acquiring Broxton would allow the Rangers to move Alexi Ogando back to the rotation. Considering that the Rangers have found the asking price for current impact starters to be way too high for their liking, this is a move that makes sense.

    The Rangers went after relief help last season in acquiring both Mike Adams and Koji Uehara. That turned out pretty well for them.

    Broxton has rebounded this season after a disastrous 2011 campaign, posting 23 saves with a 2.27 ERA.

17. Joe Blanton to Baltimore Orioles

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    With the Philadelphia Phillies getting swept in their weekend series with the Atlanta Braves, it certainly appears as if several Phillies could be on the move by Tuesday afternoon.'s Jim Salisbury reported on Sunday that the Baltimore Orioles have expressed interest in acquiring starter Joe Blanton.

    Fact or Fiction?

    This could be fact.

    Blanton was the hard-luck loser on Saturday, giving up just two runs on four hits in seven innings. Blanton is 8-9 with a 4.59 ERA in 20 starts and in the final season of a three-year, $24 million contract.

    Orioles GM Dan Duquette won't have to give up top prospects in return for Blanton, so it's a deal that could definitely happen.

18. Denard Span to Cincinnati Reds

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    As discussed in an earlier slide, the Cincinnati Reds would love to add a productive leadoff hitter to their lineup.

    The top spot in the Reds lineup has produced just a .200 batting average for the entire season, and heading into the playoffs against stiffer competition and better pitching, they would certainly like an upgrade.

    Earlier last week, Ken Rosenthal of reported that the Reds had made inquiries about the availability of Minnesota Twins center fielder Denard Span.

    Fact or Fiction?

    This is fiction.

    According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Twins are looking for a major league starter in return.

    The Minnesota #Twins are listening to offers for CF Denard Span, but won't move him unless they get a major-league starter back in return.

    — Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 29, 2012

    Don't see that happening with the Reds in the playoff mix.

19. Josh Willingham to the Seattle Mariners

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    The Seattle Mariners have scored the fewest runs in the American League this year. They would love to find some additional power.

    According to Jon Paul Morosi of, the Mariners are looking for a player that they can plug into their lineup for the next two or three years. One of the players the Mariners are considering is Minnesota Twins left fielder Josh Willingham.

    Fact or Fiction?

    I actually like the thought of this happening, so I will call it fact.

    Willingham is enjoying the best season of his career despite hitting half of the time at pitcher-friendly Target Field (27 HR, 78 RBI). Signed through the 2014 season, Willingham should have no problems at all shifting his game to Safeco Field.

20. Scott Hairston to the Texas Rangers or Atlanta Braves

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    New York Mets utility player Scott Hairston has generated a lot of interest in recent weeks, especially from contending teams.

    Jon Paul Morosi of tweeted that the Detroit Tigers had interest in Hairston.

    #Tigers interested in #Mets outfielder Scott Hairston, sources say.

    — Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 27, 2012

    In addition, the Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers have expressed interest as well.

    Fact or Fiction?

    I see this as fiction.

    Mets GM Sandy Alderson won't get what he's looking for in return for Hairston. Alderson wants relief help badly, and Hairston's current value likely won't get Alderson what he wants.

    Hairston has been terrific, already with 12 home runs and 41 RBI in just 226 at-bats. But other teams likely view Hairston as bench depth, and he's therefore likely not worth giving up a solid reliever in return.

21. Kelly Shoppach to Texas Rangers

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    Okay, someone tell me if this came out of left field.

    Rangers need backup catching. Kelly Shoppach starting for Red Sox and Rangers scouts are here.

    — Nick Cafardo (@nickcafardo) July 28, 2012

    Fact or Fiction?

    Um, I'm guessing fiction?

    The Rangers already have Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba; why would they deal for Shoppach? I understand that neither Napoli or Torrealba are having stellar seasons at the plate, but adding a third catcher to the mix doesn't exactly seem like a priority for the Rangers at this point.

22. Shane Victorino to Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino has been rumored to be headed out the door, with the Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants all expressing interest.

    The Pittsburgh Pirates appear to have interest as well.

    Fact or Fiction?

    Have to call this fact.

    Victorino would likely be a rental player for the Pirates, but he would give them another offensive weapon down the stretch.

    The Pirates appear to be all in, and they will be looking to avoid the stunning late-season collapse that they suffered last year.

    GM Neal Huntington wouldn't have to give up nearly as much for Victorino as he would for Hunter Pence or any other available outfielder under team control.

23. Ryan Dempster to the Atlanta Braves

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    Earlier in our presentation, we discussed the possibility of Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster heading to the Los Angeles Dodgers and our doubts that a transaction between the two teams will become reality.

    But are the Atlanta Braves still in play?

    Fact or Fiction?

    I say fact. It's clear that Dempster wants to play for a contending team, and he would likely welcome a revisit of talks with the Braves.

    David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution believes the same as well.


    Not dead yet "@davwms: @ajcbraves @jlouisr75 Dave, still any chance Dempster changes his mind and comes to Braves or his that totally dead."

    — David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) July 30, 2012

24. Chase Headley to the Baltimore Orioles

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    Earlier in our presentation, we expressed our doubts in the New York Yankees acquiring San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley.

    However, what about the Yankees' AL East rivals, the Baltimore Orioles?

    Fact or Fiction?

    This well could be fact.

    It's no secret the Orioles would love to find a long-term option at third. Wilson Betemit has performed admirably at the position, but he is not the answer for the future. Mark Reynolds clearly isn't the answer, either.

    According to Jon Heyman of, the O's are indeed one of the three teams most interested in Headley.

    #orioles, #athletics and #indians among teams vying for chase headley. interest believed huge in 3B who's 28 yrs old

    — Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) July 28, 2012

    However, Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports tweeted that the Padres are undecided about dealing Headley.

    #Padres undecided on whether they will trade Chase Headley, source says. They are weighing a number of offers. @MLBONFOX

    — Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 29, 2012

    The Orioles are a team that could put together an attractive package for the Padres, without including either Manny Machado or Dylan Bundy.

25. Geovany Soto to the New York Mets

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    According to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs have had discussions regarding catcher Geovany Soto.

    Fact or Fiction?

    Fiction at this point. With the Mets' play since the All-Star break putting them now four games under .500, it's unlikely they would make this deal.

    In addition, Soto is certainly not much of an offensive upgrade at this point (.195, six HR, 14 RBI). He appears nowhere near the catcher he was in 2008 when he captured the Rookie of the Year award with 23 home runs and 86 RBI.

    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.