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Sources: Twins going after Bucs' Sanchez, Capps

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Jon Paul Morosi

Jon Paul Morosi is a National MLB Writer for FOXSports.com. He previously covered baseball for the Detroit Free Press and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He began his journalism career at the Bay City Times in his native Michigan. Follow him on Twitter.

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The Pirates, who are apparently not done dealing yet, have engaged in trade discussions with the Twins regarding a number of players, major league sources said Thursday. At present, Minnesota is most interested in second baseman Freddy Sanchez and relievers Matt Capps and John Grabow, the sources said. Twins general manager Bill Smith declined to discuss any specific trade targets during a Thursday telephone interview. His team has been on a run recently, winning six of nine games to pull within three of the American League Central-leading Tigers. The teams are set to meet at the Metrodome this weekend (Saturday, MLB on FOX, 4:10 p.m.). "We're playing a lot better now," Smith said. "We've won four series in a row on the road. Our starting pitching is taking us deeper into games. "We still need to make this club better, whether that comes from the minor leagues or outside the organization. We're still looking to do that." Pittsburgh has been perhaps the most aggressive seller on baseball's trade market this season, dealing Nate McLouth, Eric Hinske, Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett since Opening Day. Now that general manager Neal Huntington has gone this far in remaking the club, the makeover is expected to continue. "The Pirates," one source said, "are talking to everyone." Sanchez has hit .316 this year while batting second and third in the Pittsburgh lineup. He would be an ideal fit for the Twins in the No. 2 hole, where their production (by OPS) has ranked third from the bottom in the AL. Alexi Casilla, Minnesota's Opening Day second baseman, is currently in the minors. ("He's playing hard, and he understands why he's there," Smith said. "At the time he's ready, at the time we have a spot for him, that's when (the call-up) would happen.") Nick Punto, batting .212, and Matt Tolbert, .187, have been starting at second recently. By reputation, the Twins have been reluctant to add big contracts at the midseason deadline. If that continues to be the case this year, Sanchez might prove to be a tricky acquisition. His contract includes an $8 million option for next year that vests after 635 plate appearances or 600 plate appearances plus an All-Star appearance. (He is on pace to attain that easily.) If the club declines its option, he'll receive a $600,000 buyout. So, any deal involving Sanchez will be more complicated than the usual one-year rental. In 2006, when he won the National League batting title, Sanchez spent a lot of the season at third base. If he could play that position again, it would open up a new set of trade possibilities for Pittsburgh. A number of teams — Boston, Seattle, Cincinnati, San Francisco — may look to add a hitter at third.

Briefly

... The Yankees' bullpen performed well during their recent seven-game winning streak, which ended Thursday night, but they are keeping a close eye on Arizona reliever Chad Qualls. He has converted 13 of 17 save opportunities this year but blew his latest opportunity Thursday afternoon in Cincinnati. Brian Bruney has been inconsistent for New York since returning from the disabled list in mid-June; if that trend continues, the team's incentive to acquire Qualls would increase. ... The Tigers, who averaged 2.7 runs over the first six games of their current road trip, are still looking for an outfield bat, a source said Thursday. And the closely-watched Magglio Ordoñez hasn't done much since homering on June 25. He's hitting .100 (2-for-20) with no extra-base hits in his past five games.
Tagged: Twins, Yankees, Braves, Nationals, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Eric Hinske, Nick Punto, Freddy Sanchez, Sean Burnett, John Grabow, Chad Qualls, Nate McLouth, Matt Capps, Nyjer Morgan, Matt Tolbert

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