Could Pirates be a fit for Giancarlo Stanton?
There aren't more than a handful of teams who have the quality of prospects it would take to acquire outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, whom the Marlins might decide to trade before the trade deadline. ESPN.com's David Schoenfield thinks the Pirates are one of those teams (Insider subscription required).
With an OPS that is dead last in the National League amongst right fielders, Schoenfield believes that the Pirates have an obvious lineup hole and the 23 year-old Stanton is "the perfect fit" to fill it.
It would likely take two premium prospects and more to acquire Stanton, and the Bucs have three of those—center fielder Gregory Polanco and starting pitchers Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. They also have the secondary pieces to make the overall trade package strong, including catching depth at the major league level (Tony Sanchez) and several more good pitching prospects in the lower minors.
Attempting to "patch things up" again with minor deals, as Schoenfield argues, isn't going to get it done in 2013. With the second-best record in baseball at 46-30, the Pirates' time may be now. But adding one of the premier home run hitters in the game for the next three-and-a-half years wouldn't exactly hurt the team long term.
Here's a look at the projected Pirates lineup with Stanton:
1 Starling Marte, LF
2 Russell Martin, C
3 Andrew McCutchen, CF
4 Giancarlo Stanton, RF
5 Garrett Jones/Gaby Sanchez, 1B
6 Pedro Alvarez, 3B
7 Neil Walker, 2B
8 Jordy Mercer, SS
Utley being scouted by the Giants and Yankees?
Phillies second baseman Chase Utley returned to the lineup on Friday after a one-month stint on the disabled list with a strained oblique. Also showing up at the ballpark, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, were scouts from the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants.
While it's not known if they were there to see the 34-year-old Utley, Salisbury speculates that Utley could make sense for both teams because of injuries to several infielders on each team.
The Yankees don't have a need at second base, but they might view Utley as an option to replace first baseman Mark Teixeira if his wrist injury does not improve in the next few weeks. Kevin Youkilis is also out at least two months after back surgery. Utley has started at the position 22 times during his career but not at all since 2008.
Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro is playing with tendon damage in his finger and there is also concern about third baseman Pablo Sandoval's ability to stay healthy. The 26-year-old returns from the disabled list today from a strained foot.
Utley is just 1-for-13 with a double in three games since his return, but he's having a solid overall season (.782 OPS, 7 HR, 8 2B, 2 3B). He's a free agent after the season and has a partial no-trade clause that would allow him to block deals to 21 teams.
Rebuilding Cubs could starting selling now
With several trade candidates and being 12.5 games back of a playoff spot, rival evaluators say the Cubs are ready to start moving players now. Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) says the Cubs are "prepared to move" outfielder Nate Schierholtz (pictured) and are willing to listen on offers for David DeJesus and Alfonso Soriano.
Dave Cameron of FanGraphs thinks the 29-year-old Schierholtz, who is having a career season (.905 OPS, 10 HR, 18 2B), would be a great fit for several teams. While Schierholtz's price is going up because of his numbers and because he's under team control through 2014, the Cubs could be motivated to move him now while his value is likely at its peak.
In addition, Scott Feldman and Matt Garza are expected to be two of the top starting pitchers available on the trade market, while relievers Kevin Gregg and James Russell could also draw interest. They could also get a fringe prospect back for Carlos Marmol if they eat most of his remaining salary and if he could string together a couple of solid weeks.
If Jake Arrieta (pictured) and Daniel Bard are ever going to be productive big league pitchers, it's reaching the point where it's probably not going to happen with their current teams.
Arrieta, 27, has had his moments in the big leagues with the Orioles and has dominated at times in Triple-A, but he's far too inconsistent to keep in the major league rotation as long as Baltimore remains in the pennant race.
Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun thinks the O's will have to eventually make a decision on where he best fits but believes he'll end up being moved to the bullpen. It could also make sense to trade him to a team that would allow him to stick in the big league rotation for the rest of the season without the constant threat of a demotion if he doesn't pitch well.
The Padres could target Arrieta in a deal involving Anthony Bass or Edinson Volquez, according to Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Like the Orioles, the Padres are in the playoff hunt, but they could afford to give Arrieta a shot right away because of limited rotation depth. If the new ballpark and change of scenery don't help, Arrieta could then pitch in the minors with a chance to re-join the rotation if the team falls out of contention later in the season.
In the case of Bard, he had already established himself as one of the most dominant setup men in baseball with the Red Sox from 2009-2011 (2.88 ERA, 3.5 BB/9, 9.7 K/9). Things have gone downhill ever since they moved him to the rotation to begin the 2012 season. He ended up back in the minors after 10 shaky starts and never regained his previous form after being moved back to the bullpen.
Now on the minor league disabled list with an abdominal injury, the 28-year-old Bard continued his decline earlier in the season with nine earned runs allowed, 17 walks and six strikeouts in 12.2 innings for Double-A Portland.
Regardless, an NL general manager told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that there would be plenty of teams lined up to give Bard a new start if the Sox give up on him. The risk for an acquiring team is Bard's 2014 salary, which will likely be close to $2 million through arbitration. With the Sox unlikely to give Bard that amount barring a turnaround in the second half of the season, they could be motivated to trade him now for something instead of just non-tendering him in the offseason.
Starting pitcher market
Not only is he the most likely pitcher to be traded by the deadline, Ricky Nolasco (pictured) could be an ex-Marlin in the very near future. The Marlins are reportedly preparing for a possible Nolasco deal, according to Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel, with the Giants and Orioles two of several teams that could have interest. The 30-year-old right-hander has a 1.47 ERA in five career starts at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
The Nationals, who lacked starting pitching depth heading into the season, will likely call up Double-A pitcher Taylor Jordan to start this week. He'd be the ninth starting pitcher used this season by the Nats, who are placing struggling right-hander Dan Haren on the disabled list with shoulder stiffness. Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post thinks that Feldman, Garza and Nolasco are three clear trade targets to help fill the void.
With six viable starters and another, Michael Pineda, a possibility to return in the second half—he's currently on a rehab assignment—the Yankees could trade one of their starters to try and upgrade their offense. Joel Sherman of the New York Post thinks Phil Hughes could be traded, although it would be a "sell low" move for the free agent-to-be.