Trade deadline news and views

ByABC News
July 31, 2016, 1:10 AM

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Sunday's trade buzz

Jim Bowden's take: The Rangers quickly reacted to the news that Jonathan Lucroy had nixed the agreed trade to the Indians and are trying to be opportunistic by trading to land him. With the asking price so high for both starting and relief pitching, the Rangers feel that Lucroy would improve their entire pitching staff with his above-average game-calling abilities. Even if they do land him, it will not preclude them for trading for a significant starting pitcher -- which remains their top trade goal as the deadline nears.

Adam Rubin's take: The Mets still believe they can be the beneficiary of Jonathan Lucroy's vetoing a trade to the Indians. Lucroy does not have similar no-trade protection to the Mets, who reportedly offered Travis d'Arnaud, Brandon Nimmo and one other player before the Brewers settled on Cleveland's package. Mets people pledged to work until Monday's 4 p.m. ET deadline to try to swing a deal for Lucroy or Cincinnati's Jay Bruce. If Lucroy did end up in Queens, it would mark the second straight year the Mets have benefited from a trade falling through. Last year, the Mets pivoted to Yoenis Cespedes after a deal with Milwaukee for Carlos Gomez unraveled over concerns about Gomez's hip. Cespedes then led the Mets to the NL pennant.

Jerry Crasnick's take: The Mets and Rangers still look like the best fits for Jonathan Lucroy now that Cleveland is almost certainly out of the mix, but the Tigers continue to monitor the situation. That said, Detroit is desperate for a starter to eat innings and provide stability behind Justin Verlander and rookie Michael Fulmer. The Tigers don't have a strong farm system, but they might have enough to land one of the middle to back-end-of-the-rotation types still out there.

Interestingly enough, the Tigers, like the Indians, are one of eight teams on Lucroy's no-trade list. So he would have to give his approval before Milwaukee could trade him to Detroit.

Jayson Stark's take: After winning five games in a row against Boston and Houston, the Tigers have gone from a team on the buy/sell fence to a team that's one game out in the wild-card hunt -- and looking to add a veteran starter. But do they have enough to make a deal in the next 26 hours?

Last year this time, they acquired Matt Boyd, Daniel Norris and Fulmer in pre-deadline deals. Fulmer is now a rookie of the year favorite and clearly untouchable. But the Tigers have shown zero interest in moving Boyd, Norris and their best long-term pitching options for a shot to play in the wild-card game. Do they have enough prospect depth to make a trade for the likes of Wade Miley, Jeremy Hellickson, Hector Santiago, Edinson Volquez, etc.? They appear to be one of those clubs that's waiting this out, hoping a bargain presents itself in the final hours -- or in August.

Katie Strang's take: The Tigers are looking at adding starting pitching, but acquisition prices are high at the moment. The organization is reluctant to part with young pitchers like Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris, and the club doesn't feel it has the prospect depth to put together the premier package other teams are asking for in return for a starter. That could change as the deadline nears, of course, but several teams in sell mode seem content to wait until the offseason if they can't yield a return to their liking.

Jayson Stark's take: Now that the Yankees have traded away Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, all eyes are on Tampa Bay, where the Rays now control the deadline market on starting pitching. More than a week ago, one executive told us he thought the chances of the Dodgers trading for Chris Archer were "70 percent." And they've actively pursued him ever since, but remain unwilling to include top pitching prospect Julio Urias in any deal.

Teams that have spoken with the Rays say that their asking price for Matt Moore is lower than what they've asked on either Archer or Jake Odorizzi, making Moore the most likely starter in that group to get dealt. But the Dodgers are said by other clubs to be under pressure to do something big, and are a prime candidate to overpay for Archer, who leads the AL in strikeouts even in a down year and is under control for five years, at a total of $19 million, if all his options are picked up.

Meanwhile, a dozen teams had scouts in the park to watch Drew Smyly pitch against the Yankees on Saturday night, with both clubs on the verge of actively selling. Those teams: Indians, Cubs, Royals, Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Blue Jays, White Sox, Rangers, Marlins, Pirates and Orioles. One exec whose team has interest said he believes Smyly could be traded Monday to a team that "isn't a traditional buyer."

Jerry Crasnick's take: The Giants made a significant move to bolster their offense when they acquired infielder Eduardo Nunez from Minnesota. Then they made a serious run at Pittsburgh closer Mark Melancon, only to fall short. The Giants would still like to upgrade in the bullpen or the rotation, but their options are limited now. Erasmo Ramirez has some appeal to San Francisco and several other teams because he's under club control through 2019 and he's versatile enough to start or relieve. He's more readily attainable than Jake Odorizzi or Matt Moore, but the Rays might have to drop the price if they want to move him by Monday.

Saturday's trade buzz

David Schoenfield's take: Barring a Chris Sale trade or some other unexpected deal, out of all the trades we'll see, the Indians' getting Lucroy will probably have the biggest impact the final two months of the season. Indians catchers are last in the majors in offensive production -- last by a lot -- as they are hitting just .169/.215/.289. Lucroy is hitting .300/.360/.484, so we're looking at something like a two-win upgrade. Considering the suddenly hot Tigers, winners of five in a row, are just 4.5 games back, this will increase the odds that Terry Francona's club holds on to its AL Central lead.

Considering that reports indicated the Rangers and Mets backed off, the Brewers still did pretty well. The top two names they reportedly get are catcher Francisco Mejia, who is hitting .344 in Class A while riding a 42-game hit streak (yes, 42 games) and left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield, the 31st pick in the 2014 draft who is highly regarded in the industry. There's some risk here, as both players are only 20 and haven't been tested in the higher grounds of Double-A or Triple-A, but there's a good chance the Brewers get two future starters for the remaining one-plus seasons of Lucroy.

Jerry Crasnick's take: The Mets made no headway in their pursuit of Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers today, and signs are increasingly pointing to Cleveland as the destination for the veteran catcher. Lucroy has to sign off on a deal to the Indians because they're one of eight teams on his no-trade list. But Cleveland needs a catcher, and Lucroy would provide a major upgrade.

David Schoenfield's take: The Padres and Braves are reportedly close to a deal of bad contracts: Matt Kemp for Hector Olivera. Kemp is on pace for 36 home runs and 100-plus RBIs but has been barely above replacement-level value (0.2 WAR), thanks to bad defense and a poor OBP. But at least the Braves dump Olivera, who has been on the suspended list for domestic violence. The Padres might just cut him.

Jayson Stark's take: The Nationals had to find a closer. They found one in Pittsburgh, as they got Mark Melancon for LHP Felipe Rivero and LHP Taylor Hearn. The Nationals gave up two good arms but held on to Lucas Giolito, Trea Turner and Reynaldo Lopez.

Jayson Stark's take: The Orioles are having a tough time getting into the mix for the top starters on the market because their only player in Keith Law's top 50 prospects is a guy they can't afford to trade (catcher Chance Sisco, ranked No. 41) because they'll need him to replace Matt Wieters. As such, Dan Duquette, the O's executive vice president for baseball operations, looks as if he's doing what he has often done at the deadline: waiting for bargains as the clock counts down.

That hasn't always worked, of course. Two years ago at the deadline, the Orioles traded Eduardo Rodriguez to Boston for two months of Andrew Miller; it's safe to say Rodriguez would come in handy right now. In this case, Duquette is among a number of execs who expect the prices on some of the second-tier starters on this market to drop dramatically.

Among the pitchers the Orioles have been connected with are Jeremy Hellickson, Edinson Volquez, Rich Hill, Wade Miley and Hector Santiago. It would be a surprise if they don't find a way to deal for one of them in the final hours Monday.

Jayson Stark's take: The rumor mill has linked the Astros to the likes of Jonathan Lucroy and Jay Bruce in recent days, but their real focus has been adding a starter who could pitch Games 1, 2 or 3 of a postseason series. The Astros are one of many clubs in the mix for the available starters in Tampa Bay, but an even more intriguing option could be Kansas City and Edinson Volquez.

The Royals have been asking teams for controllable, big league-ready players -- particularly starters and corner outfielders -- who could give them a chance to win next year. Houston could offer them a commodity they might decide is just as attractive: young players who could be ready to succeed the likes of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain, if those players take the free-agent exit ramp out of town after next season.

Although the Astros have told clubs that Alex Bregman and Lance McCullers are off the table, they're open to talking about virtually all of their other young position players. It's hard to imagine them dealing first baseman A.J. Reed for a rental such as Volquez, but that would still leave players such as 1B/3B Tyler White, 3B Colin Moran, OF Derek Fisher and others as attractive pieces. The Royals were said by other clubs to be assessing their options on Saturday, but the Astros have to be very much on their radar screen.

Jerry Crasnick's take: Potential suitors keep drifting in and out of the Jay Bruce sweepstakes. The Rangers have checked in on Bruce, but their main focus is pitching.

The Mets are also keeping tabs on Bruce, but he isn't a great fit at Citi Field. Bruce is a corner outfielder who hits left-handed, and the Mets already have an abundance of that commodity.

Buster Olney's take: McCann is under contract for $17 million annually for 2017 and 2018. The Yankees have their catcher-in-waiting, Gary Sanchez, ready to go. McCann is a Georgia guy. With the Braves getting ready to move into a new park, he could be a gate attraction, like Freddie Freeman.

To be clear: More than a month ago, the Yankees indicated to teams that they were willing to talk about McCann (and others), as reported then.

Jerry Crasnick's take: Yes, Texas had a top scout on hand to watch Velasquez pitch six effective innings in a 2-1 loss to Atlanta. But one Rangers person described it as more "due diligence'' than a sign that a trade is imminent. With Yu Darvish eligible for free agency after the 2017 season, the Rangers are thinking long-term and looking at several young, controllable arms. As of Friday night, the Rangers and Phillies weren't into the process of exchanging names. If the Phillies ask for Jurickson Profar for Velasquez -- as is likely -- the teams will quickly discover that they don't have much common ground.

Jerry Crasnick's take: Closers Andrew Miller, Wade Davis and Mark Melancon are the biggest names in play. But the surplus of suitors is good news for teams such as the Braves (Jim Johnson), Brewers (Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress), Twins (Fernando Abad and Brandon Kintzler), Angels (Joe Smith) and Rays (Erasmo Ramirez) -- losing clubs that have bullpen pieces who could help contenders down the stretch. MLB executives envision a flurry of relievers changing teams between now and Monday's deadline.

Friday's trade buzz

Jayson Stark's take: The Dodgers and Reds have had trouble matching up directly in their talks about Jay Bruce. So they've gotten creative and are seeking a third team to help put the pieces together. The Dodgers also have been pursuing pitching, and the Reds have been reluctant to trade their best young arms, such as Rafael Iglesias and Anthony DeSclafani. So a third team could help fit those pieces together as well.

The Dodgers have been mostly chasing right-handed bats, but Bruce is the best controllable hitter on this market and has handled left-handers better than he has in past years. He was slugging .515, with an .815 OPS, against them going into Friday night, although with only four walks in 111 plate appearances. Nevertheless, his addition would make the Dodgers' lineup extremely left-handed. The Reds have been hunting for young position players they can build around. So a third team theoretically can help them fill that need, too.

What is unclear is what this trade would mean for Yasiel Puig, whose star has faded so much since his splashy debut in L.A. that the Dodgers have basically tried to attach him to more attractive pieces in trades this month in an attempt to ship him elsewhere. Puig's .376 slugging percentage ranks 187th in baseball this season among players with at least 225 plate appearances. And his .693 OPS ranks 183rd. As recently as 2014, he finished sixth in the National League in OPS, at .863. Sources say the Dodgers have had a difficult time finding a taker for him even though he is still only 25 and is under control through 2018, for just $17.4 million.

Doug Padilla's take: The Dodgers are looking for both outfield and pitching upgrades, but manager Dave Roberts isn't about to beg for changes, knowing he must support the 25 men on the current roster. The Dodgers have played well since the end of June when staff ace Clayton Kershaw went down, and Roberts was more interested in lauding the effort. "I don't think we're holding out hope for any particular player," Roberts said. "We're just trying to win baseball games. If something happens, great. Any team can get better. That's easy to say and to see. But I don't think our guys are too concerned about who we're going to get and if we don't it's not going to really impact us either way."

Jerry Crasnick's take: Reds president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty vented to the media on Thursday that the offers for Bruce haven't been nearly at the level of what the Reds think he's worth. So Bruce and Oakland's Josh Reddick enter the weekend as talented corner outfielders in a state of trade limbo. Bruce has a $13 million club option for next season, so he doesn't even fall under the category of "rental.'' But to this point, no team has been motivated to part with the kind of top-shelf prospect that Jocketty and the Reds are seeking.

Jayson Stark's take: When the Mariners put Marte on the disabled list with mononucleosis, there were reports he could be out as long as six weeks. So sources say the Mariners checked in with the Reds on Cozart, who is available and under control through next year. Now it appears Marte will be out considerably less time. But the Mariners and Reds are said to be still talking, about both Cozart and Jay Bruce.

The Mariners have been portrayed as "sellers." But in fact, other clubs describe them more as "shoppers" in this market. Haven't given up on this year. Looking to maximize their chances to win next year. So while Cozart wouldn't seem to have a defined spot once Marte returns, it's possible the Mariners view him as a "value" type buy. He's fifth among NL shortstops in OPS, is making just $2.93 million and is viewed as an above-average defender.

Meanwhile, Bruce's .895 OPS is 133 points higher than the OPS of Seattle right fielders. So he's an obvious fit for the Mariners. And by talking about both, they could help round out a potentially larger deal than originally thought.

Jayson Stark's take: On the one hand, one source Friday estimated that the chances of Sale getting traded were "less than 5 percent." On the other hand, the White Sox sure do keep listening. So it's always notable to pay attention to who's in attendance when a guy like this pitches. Of this group of teams, the Marlins are now out after trading for Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea . . . the Orioles wouldn't seem to have enough depth in their system . . . the Rangers' interest has been no secret . . . and the Nationals are a surprise, because they appear to be focusing more heavily on relief pitching.

Beyond those clubs, the Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees are all known to have some level of interest. But teams that have spoken with the White Sox continue to report that the price on Sale is so high, it's almost impossible to envision someone paying it.

An executive of one team's summation: "They want your five best prospects, and that might not be good enough, because they want major-league ready pitching."

An exec from another club described it this way: "They're asking for a huge haul. But if they get overwhelmed with major league pitching, and controllable guys, they'll strongly consider it."

So it's not impossible that Sale could change area codes in the next few days. But it's still a thousand miles away from likely.

Scott Lauber's take: As much as any team, the Red Sox have the assets -- at the big-league level and in the minors -- to pull off a Hershel Walker-style blockbuster for Sale. What's less clear is whether they actually have the appetite for it. Any deal almost certainly would start with top prospect Yoan Moncada, considered by most talent evaluators to be a future All-Star and recently compared by Double-A Portland manager Carlos Febles to a young Carlos Beltran. The Red Sox also likely would have to include players off the big-league roster (someone like catcher-left fielder Blake Swihart, for instance) and maybe top pitching prospect Michael Kopech.

Because of the hefty price, it still seems more likely than not that Sale stays in Chicago -- at least for now. But as Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said this week, teams' motivations tend to change as the deadline creeps closer. And just in case the Red Sox want to get serious, it appears the White Sox are doing their homework on Boston's farm system.

Jerry Crasnick's take: Cleveland is the most noteworthy team on that list. The provision in Lucroy's contract doesn't preclude a trade, but it's an additional obstacle the Indians would have to surmount.

Adam Rubin's take: I'm hearing there is nothing imminent with the Mets involving a trade. So if anything materializes, and there are no guarantee, it is a lot more likely to come closer to Monday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver trade deadline. Remember, the Mets acquired Addison Reed last year in August via a waiver deal. I have heard the Mets have no intention of trading Double-A prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith.

As for the Brewers and Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee officials came back to the Mets on Thursday with a proposal that was not out-of-hand rejected. The Mets previously had believed any chance of landing Lucroy was dead. Still, Mets personnel don't have a handle on whether Milwaukee's interest in a deal with them is genuine or being used to drive up bids elsewhere for Lucroy.

Katie Strang's take: The fact that the Tigers are now out of the Jonathan Lucroy sweepstakes is not entirely surprising, since the team was considered a long-short to pull off a trade for the Milwaukee Brewers catcher in the first place. Organizationally, there are more pressing needs for Detroit than at that position, anyway. Should the Tigers swing a deal for the deadline, it makes much more sense for them to add pitching depth instead -- either an upgrade to the back end of the rotation or adding an extra arm to the bullpen.

Jayson Stark's take: By giving up their two best remaining prospects (Josh Naylor and Luis Castillo) in their trade for Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea, the Marlins showed how hungry owner Jeffrey Loria is to make the playoffs this year. But the deals they didn't make shows there was a limit to that hunger. They talked with the Tampa Bay Rays about deals involving Matt Moore or Jake Odorizzi, but sources said the Rays weren't high on the Marlins' system. So presumably, any deal would have had to start with everyday players off their big league roster, such as outfielder Christian Yelich, catcher J.T. Realmuto or shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. It now sounds as though they never got far enough along to get that specific. The Marlins also targeted Jeremy Hellickson, but the Phillies reportedly told them they had better options, after scouting the Miami farm system from top to bottom.

Jerry Crasnick's take: Ramirez isn't the flashiest name out there. But the Orioles need a starter, and he's the one arm Tampa Bay is truly interested in moving now that the Rays have determined they'll probably hang on to Chris Archer, Matt Moore, Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly into the offseason. Ramirez has shown he can compete in the AL East, and he's under team control through 2019. It's not a sexy move for Baltimore, but it's a functional one.

David Schoenfield's take: The Marlins were desperate for rotation help, especially with Wei-Yin Chen on the DL, and they dealt probably the biggest chip in their weak system in first baseman Josh Naylor, last year's surprise first-round pick. Cashner and Rea aren't big upgrades, but both should move into the rotation. Naylor is a Canadian first baseman with power potential and a physique from the David Ortiz school. He's holding his own in Class A, hitting .269 with nine home runs, although most felt he was an overdraft last year because he's limited to first base. Good upside play by the Padres because Cashner will be a free agent at season's end.

Giants acquire All-Star infielder Nunez from Twins

David Schoenfield's take: This is exactly the kind of trade an organization like the Minnesota Twins has to make: Cash in on a veteran player having a career year and obtain a prospect who should help in the future.

The Giants pick up a versatile infielder who also can play the outfield, although it appears they're finally close to getting healthy again. Second baseman Joe Panik returned to the lineup Thursday after missing a month with a concussion, Hunter Pence is rehabbing in Triple-A and third baseman Matt Duffy is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment this weekend as he recovers from a strained Achilles tendon.

Thursday's trade buzz

Jerry Crasnick's take: Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is in serious win-now mode, and his baseball people are frantically scouring the landscape for a starting pitcher. Miami's need for an arm became even more acute when Wei-Yin Chen went on the disabled list with a strained elbow this week. Ultimately, the Marlins have to decide if a two-month Jeremy Hellickson rental is a significant enough upgrade over Tom Koehler, Jarred Cosart and Jose Urena to justify digging deeper into an already weak farm system.

Jerry Crasnick's take: Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy is out of the lineup Thursday against Arizona lefty Robbie Ray, but hold the hysteria. It's a day game after a night game and Lucroy is hitting .238 vs. left-handers this season, so it makes sense for Brewers manager Craig Counsell to rest him in favor of Martin Maldonado. There's a good chance Lucroy gets moved by Monday's deadline, but he's sitting Thursday because it was a scheduled day off -- not because a trade is imminent.

Jayson Stark's take: Beyond Jeremy Hellickson, whose situation we covered Wednesday in this space, the Phillies have next to no veteran trade chips of value -- in large part because they unloaded all those chips last July or over the winter. They were trying to trade Peter Bourjos this week to open a roster spot for Aaron Altherr, who comes off the disabled list Thursday. But Bourjos sprained his shoulder Tuesday, so they'll put him back on the market in August. They were looking for so little in return, his trade value won't be much different next month anyway.

The Phillies have also listened on closer Jeanmar Gomez and setup man David Hernandez. But Gomez is under control for next year and inexpensive. So the Phillies have been telling teams that unless someone values him as a late-inning weapon and is willing to give up a legitimate prospect, they're likely to keep him. And while Gomez has 26 saves in 29 opportunities and a 2.70 ERA, his low strikeout rate (5.6 per 9 innings) makes it unlikely any team would pay that price.

There is no indication the Phillies have heard much more than lukewarm interest in Hernandez, although he has pitched well lately, still averages 94 miles per hour on his fastball and has struck out 57 in 46.2 innings. And it appears the last holdovers from their glory days, Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard, will finish out their Phillies careers as backups, although it's still possible Ruiz could be dealt in August to serve as some contender's backup catcher.

Wednesday's trade buzz

Jerry Crasnick's take: It's looking increasingly likely that the Brewers will move Lucroy, one of the prized hitters of the trade deadline market. They're talking to several clubs, and it appears that someone will meet general manager David Stearns' asking price by the Aug. 1 deadline. The team that acquires Lucroy will have him for two months this season and the entire 2017 season, when he's signed for an affordable $5.25 million.

Jerry Crasnick's take: The Seattle Mariners are among the teams that have expressed interest in Cincinnati's Jay Bruce, who is likely to be on the move by Monday's trade deadline. Seattle has received middling production from Seth Smith, Nori Aoki and Franklin Gutierrez at the corner outfield spots this season, and Bruce would provide a major upgrade in 2017 -- he has a $13 million club option next season.

Jayson Stark's take: Now that they've dealt away another back-of-the-rotation starter ( Lucas Harrell), the Braves appear to be focusing on relatively small-scale moves. They would love to find a taker for underachieving shortstop Erick Aybar and second baseman Gordon Beckham, both of whom can be free agents. But it's hard to find any team that has admitted to having interest in those two. They've fielded calls on Jeff Francoeur, thanks to his .781 OPS against left-handed pitching, but seem inclined to keep a good clubhouse presence who is only making $1 million. And they would only move currently injured closer Arodys Vizcaino (oblique) as part of a much bigger deal.

So that leaves Johnson, who has thrown much better in recent weeks since returning from a groin injury that landed him on the disabled list in May. His average fastball velocity is up two miles per hour, to 94.2 mph, since his return. And while that's still a tick below where he was when he was power-sinkering his way to back-to-back 50-save seasons in Baltimore in 2012-13, as tweeted Wednesday, his strikeout rate is back up to 19.9 percent. That's actually higher than his 19.2 percent strikeout percentage for the Orioles in 2013. As many as two dozen relievers could get traded in the next five days -- it wouldn't be surprising now if Johnson turns out to be one of them.

Katie Strang's take: The Tigers managed to sweep the Boston Red Sox in a three-game series this week, completing a five-wins-in-seven-games road trip. Consequently, there is a growing feeling within the clubhouse that the team can secure a postseason spot and contend when healthy. That doesn't mean that Tigers brass will abandon its previously stated plans to stand pat, but it does give general manager Al Avila something to think about with the deadline approaching.

Jerry Crasnick's take: The Giants have been in an almost daily tug-of-war over whether they need to fortify the rotation or the bullpen first. They'd love to add a reliever, but the ongoing struggles of Jake Peavy and Matt Cain in the Nos. 4 and 5 spots have increased the possibility that they'll try to add a starter. Volquez is an interesting name, if only because he pitched with Johnny Cueto in Cincinnati and Kansas City. Could the Giants try to unite them a third time?

David Schoenfield's take: Cashner looks more like rotation depth at this point, considering he has struggled with walks and home runs this year while not compensating with a higher strikeout rate. He could be an intriguing arm out of the bullpen, however, if his fastball plays up in relief. He has averaged 93.9 mph as a starter in 2016, but back when he pitched out of the bullpen, he averaged 96-97, so he could be a sneaky relief alternative without the big price the Cubs paid to get Aroldis Chapman

Jerry Crasnick's take: Gallo has been mentioned as a prime trade chip in the Rangers' search for pitching. But some teams have enough reservations about his ability to make contact that they don't see him as the centerpiece of a deal and might be more inclined to focus on Nomar Mazara, Jurickson Profar or Lew Brinson in discussions with Texas. If Gallo develops into another Chris Davis or Adam Dunn, he'll be worth the risk. Until he cuts down on the strikeouts, he has a little too much boom-or-bust for some evaluators' tastes.

Jayson Stark's take: After trading for Aroldis Chapman and Mike Montgomery and activating Joe Nathan, the Cubs have addressed the bullpen, the one area of their team that they viewed as a defined weakness. Although they clearly aren't finished shopping, rival teams say the Cubs have been asking about controllable starting pitchers. Jake Odorizzi and Matt Moore in Tampa Bay fit the profile of a trade they could match up with.

The Cubs balked at including young players who have already reached the big leagues --  Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Kyle Schwarber, etc. -- in their pursuit of Chapman and other closers. Tampa Bay has been asking for big league-ready players in virtually any deal it would make for a starting pitcher, so that could be a deal-breaker for now, possibly to be resumed this winter. But a team with as many prospects to trade as the Cubs can't be counted out of the discussion about  almost any name currently bouncing around.

Jayson Stark's take: With five days left before the deadline, Hellickson has emerged as the Phillies' one trade chip with real value. He has gone at least six innings in 13 of his past 14 starts, with a 3.14 ERA and a respectable 70-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 89 innings in that span. Teams looking for back-of-the-rotation innings-eaters (Marlins, Orioles, Giants, Pirates, Rangers) have been watching him closely.

Those teams are reporting that the Phillies are looking for a young player who "isn't your best prospect but would fit somewhere in your top five prospects" in return. Their rationale is that, as a Scott Boras client approaching free agency, Hellickson is a player they would almost certainly tender a qualifying offer to this winter, with confidence that he'd be unlikely to take it. As such, they're telling clubs that they see no upside in trading him without getting a player better than the No. 35-40 pick in the draft, which is what they'd end up with.

Although it's probable that they find a taker this week, Hellickson is one of those players who seems to rank as no team's first choice but slots as a Plan B for a number of teams. His next start for the Phillies is Saturday in Atlanta. It's now a good bet that he'll make that start.

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