Make no mistake — Beane will not sit tight as trade deadline nears
Billy Beane is going to do something.
I don’t know how. I don’t know what. But Beane, the Athletics’ general manager, surely recognizes that his team needs one more high-quality starting pitcher. And, uh, it’s not his nature to throw up his hands at the trade deadline and say, “We’ll pass, thank you very much.”
Right-hander Sonny Gray is a legitimate ace, but this is his first full major league season; no one knows how he will endure if the A’s play into October. Lefty Scott Kazmir, too, is pitching brilliantly, but he hasn’t worked more than 158 innings in a season since 2007.
Righty Jesse Chavez? He had four career starts entering the season, and already has thrown a career-high 86 innings.
Lefty Tommy Milone? The A’s ideally would want better than a pitcher they demoted to Triple A last August.
Lefty Drew Pomeranz? He was a revelation before breaking his right (non-pitching) hand, but it’s difficult to imagine him, too, starting Game 3 of a playoff series.
OK, so the Athletics’ need is pretty clear. Finding the right fit, though, will be problematic. The A’s do not appear deep enough in minor league talent to land the Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija or Rays’ David Price. And if they can’t upgrade over what they have, then why bother?
Beane isn’t going to make his top prospect, Double-A shortstop Addison Russell, the centerpiece of a blockbuster. And while the GM could trade someone like Triple-A right-hander Dan Straily, he likely will be reluctant to move pieces off his major league roster, considering that those pieces fit together so well.
Again, I don’t know how Beane will pull this off, but surely he senses opportunity. While the Athletics’ lead over the Angels in the AL West is merely five games, their plus-132 run differential is the best in the majors by — gasp — 85 runs.
The playoffs, as Beane once said famously, are “a crapshoot.” Still, it’s a crapshoot that every GM wants to win. The A’s, in seven postseason appearances since 2000, have lost in the Division Series six times and the ALCS once.
Beane is going to do something, all right.
He will not sit still.
AND THE HALOS?
The Angels do not necessarily need help for their rotation. Righty Matt Shoemaker has a 3.41 ERA in six starts, and the return of lefty Tyler Skaggs from a strained right hamstring actually might create something of a surplus.
Regardless, the Angels would like to add a starter, with the idea of moving left-hander Hector Santiago to the bullpen. Santiago has pitched well in two starts since returning from Triple A, but his stuff would play well in the ‘pen and the Angels currently are without a lefty reliever.
The Angels, like the A’s, probably lack the pieces to get a Samardzija or Price, but a consistent six-inning type would fill their need. Speculation: Padres righty Ian Kennedy, whom the Angels targeted last July, could be a fit. So could Mets right-hander Dillon Gee, who is recovering from a strained right lat and expected back by early July.
UNLIKELY HERO OF NO-HITTER
Dodgers third baseman Miguel Rojas, who made a spectacular play on Troy Tulowitzki down the line to help preserve Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter Wednesday night, was appearing in only his 11th major league game — and only his 45th career game at third base at any professional level.
The Dodgers signed Rojas as a minor league free agent last Nov. 13. Rojas, 25, had been mainly a shortstop in the Reds’ organization. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti advised him to play second and third in winter ball, then report to spring training early.
Rojas followed Colletti’s instructions, grasping that if he increased his versatility, it would improve his chances of reaching the majors. He joined the Dodgers on June 6, replacing shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena.
Kershaw had one out in the seventh inning and a runner on second, due to an error by shortstop Hanley Ramirez, when Tulowitzki hit his bouncer down the line. Rojas made a backhand stop, his momentum carrying him into foul territory. He then completed the play with a strong throw that first baseman Adrian Gonzalez scooped out of the dirt. Kershaw struck out Wilin Rosario to end the inning.
THE QUALIFYING OFFER QUESTION
The qualifying offer not only is a drag on certain free agents, but it also reduces the desire of some teams to trade such players before they hit the open market.
Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus and Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa are examples of potential free agents who are unlikely to be moved. Their respective teams might want them for the rest of the season, and thus the option of making them qualifying offers.
Rasmus, who came off the disabled list Wednesday night after missing more than a month with right hamstring tightness, could help revive the Jays’ suddenly stagnant offense; he had nine home runs in 135 at-bats before his injury.
Could the Jays trade Rasmus for the right pitcher and re-install a platoon of Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar in center? Sure. But good luck finding a match; teams that acquire potential free agents cannot extend them qualifying offers, reducing their trade value.
If the Jays kept Rasmus, they could try to sign him to an extension. They could make him a qualifying offer and if he accepts, keep him on a one-year deal. Or, they could receive a high draft pick if he rejects the offer and signs with another club before the 2015 draft.
De La Rosa, meanwhile, might be more valuable to the Rockies than he is to other clubs. The Rockies never have enough pitching, and De La Rosa, 33, has a career 4.15 ERA in 392-1/3 innings at Coors Field.
The qualifying offer is likely to be worth $15 million to $16 million next season, but most teams rarely hesitate to pay big money on one-year contracts.
ON THE OTHER HAND . . .
The Indians are in difficult spots with two of their two potential free agents, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and right-hander Justin Masterson.
Cabrera, 28, probably is a longshot for a qualifying offer; his .760 OPS at short ranks ninth in the majors, but his defense, according to advanced metrics, was below-average.
One option for the Indians is to trade Cabrera and acquire another infielder to alternate with Mike Aviles (Double-A shortstop Francisco Lindor, 20, is not yet ready for the majors).
Again, the Indians would need to balance what they might receive for Cabrera, what he might contribute the rest of the season and whether they could absorb his salary if he accepted a qualifying offer.
The same thinking applies to Masterson, who after 15 starts has a 5.05 ERA. Masterson, 29, seemingly has little trade value, and would appear unlikely to merit a qualifying offer unless he got hot in the second half.
The Indians, in part due to Masterson’s struggles, could use another starter. However, they believe they might not acquire a pitcher better than righty Danny Salazar, who currently is trying to straighten out at Triple A.
AROUND THE HORN
• Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena, batting .350 with a .980 OPS in his last 115 plate appearances, could fit numerous contenders at second or third.
The Cubs, however, aren’t necessarily inclined to move him.
Valbuena, 28, gives the Cubs two things they lack — left-handed hitting and on-base skills. Since the start of 2013, his on-base percentage over 606 plate appearances is .352.
• Gregory Polanco, the Pirates’ 6-foot-4 rookie outfielder, stunned the Marlins with his speed going home to first last weekend in Miami.
Well, every Marlin but one.
“I wasn’t surprised — I had seen him in the Dominican,” second baseman Rafael Furcal said. “For a big man, he’s fast.”
Said infielder Jeff Baker, who played first base in two of the games, “You see him in the box, he’s such a big kid. But he was one of the quickest we’ve had down the line this year.
“That guy is the real deal. He’s sneaky fast.”
• The Marlins are talking up third baseman Casey McGehee for the All-Star team, and why not?
McGehee, who signed a one-year, $1.1 million free-agent contract after spending last season in Japan, is tied for the fifth in the NL with 44 RBIs despite having only one home run.
How is that possible?
McGehee is batting .397 with runners in scoring position, second in the league only to Troy Tulowitzki’s .400.
The difference in McGehee, Marlins GM Dan Jennings said, is that he ditched his “turn-and-burn” hitting approach to focus more on going up the middle while in Japan.
“Everything we heard about him was a positive,” Jennings said. “And he’s been even more than what we heard.”
• Positive Mets note of the week:
A scout says that outfielder Brandon Nimmo, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2011, “reminds me a little bit of Steve Finley.”
“He plays hard, he’s a good athlete, he has plate discipline,” the scout said. “He has a chance to be an above-average hitter. And while he’s not a burner in center field, he’s instinctive.”
The Mets selected Nimmo with the 13th overall pick in 2011 — one spot ahead of Marlins righty Jose Fernandez and five spots ahead of Athletics righty Sonny Gray.
• Clubs have until 1 p.m. ET Friday to claim outfielder Grady Sizemore off release waivers.
The Red Sox released Sizemore on Wednesday, but he is expected to quickly resume his career with another organization.