Phillies have other options beside Halladay

The Phillies are not just after Roy Halladay.

Asked Monday if the team was still pursuing Indians left-hander Cliff Lee, one club official responded, “We have many balls in the air. And we are still looking for top-of-the-rotation help.”

Halladay, 32, has a better track record than Lee, who turns 31 on Aug. 30. But Lee represents an excellent alternative, and it’s in the Phillies’ interests to create the perception that they have other options.

The question is whether they actually do.

Early talks between the Phillies and Indians over Lee went nowhere. The availability — and durability — of Mariners lefty Erik Bedard remains in question. And the Phillies do not seem interested in second-tier starters such as Diamondbacks lefty Doug Davis.

In theory, the price in talent for Lee should not be as high as the price for Halladay. But Lee is owed about $11.5 million in salary through 2010, including a club option. Halladay is owed about twice that much, making him — in one important sense — less attractive.

The Indians, knowing they cannot compete next season if they move Lee, would consider moving him only for a knockout proposal. Such a proposal would need to start with a major-league ready starting pitcher such as the Red Sox’s Clay Buchholz or Braves’ Tommy Hanson.

The Phillies have such a pitcher — left-hander J.A. Happ, who is 7-0 with a 2.68 ERA. Adding Class AAA right-hander Carlos Carrasco and Class A outfielder Dominic Brown to the package surely would get the Indians’ attention. But if the Phillies were to trade Happ and Brown, they probably would prefer Halladay, right?

Halladay is 11-3 with a 2.73 ERA this season, while Lee is 5-9 with a 3.31 ERA — and the fifth-worst run support in the American League. Lee also leads the league with 136 innings pitched, though Halladay has thrown only four fewer innings in two fewer starts.

Teams use sliding scales when determining the values of potential trade acquisitions: What players are they giving up? How much salary are they taking on? Thus, Lee would be more appealing than Halladay, if the overall price was right.

In any case, the Phillies would be wise to explore every option. They are the front-runners for Halladay because they possess the right combination of desire, prospects and financial flexibility. Teams such as the Red Sox and Yankees seem to lack desire. Teams such as the Dodgers and Angels seem to lack the right players.

The Phillies should not be fooled by their commanding lead in the NL East: They rank 13th in the NL in rotation ERA. Halladay would fit them perfectly. But so could Cliff Lee.

Don’t believe the hype

The notion that the Jays cannot justify trading Halladay to the Phillies without acquiring Brown or the team’s other top prospect, Class AA right-hander Kyle Drabek, is absurd.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

One scout who covers the Phillies says he likes Class A right-hander Jason Knapp, who is currently on the disabled list, even better than Drabek.

The same scout says he would be comfortable taking Class A outfielder Anthony Gose or Class AAA outfielder Michael Taylor if he could not acquire Brown.

Another scout says, “Michael Taylor is a beast. 6-foot-6, 250 pounds of athleticism and strength. Smart. Competitive. Throwback. Teammates call him ‘The Renaissance Man.'”

Think back to the Rangers’ haul for first baseman Mark Teixeira two years ago.

Yes, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus and left-hander Matt Harrison were the Braves’ top three prospects according to Baseball America. But at the time, Andrus was in High A, right-hander Neftali Feliz was in Low A, Harrison was injured and Saltalamacchia was hardly considered a sure thing.

One GM says a team can look for three elements in its player package when completing such a blockbuster — quantity, quality and proximity to the majors. Rarely does a team get all three. The Rangers went for quantity and quality, and were willing to wait on prospects such as Andrus and Feliz to develop.

Reds: Pitching to give

The Reds, one of the few teams willing to move pitching, are not thinking of conceding. Their goal is to move some of their more expensive starters and/or relievers to create opportunities for younger prospects.

The problem is, right-handed starters Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo and right-handed closer Francisco Cordero are too high-priced for virtually every prospective suitor. Harang and Arroyo are signed through 2010 and Cordero through ’11 at salaries ranging from $9.5 million to $12 million.

Right-handed reliever David Weathers ($3.9 million) and lefty Arthur Rhodes ($2 million this season and $2 million in ’10) are more reasonably priced and pitching well. Then again, each turns 40 later this year.

Perhaps the Reds could engage another club in a salary exchange, but they are more likely to move a pitcher such as Arroyo in the offseason.

The good news is, their depth is starting to show.

The Reds just demoted right-handed reliever Josh Roenicke, who had a 2.92 ERA in 10 appearances, to make room for righty Jared Burton. Right-hander Homer Bailey and lefty Matt Maloney hold promise, and lefty Travis Wood is 9-3 with a 1.21 ERA at Class AA.

A Reds scout attended a game between the Angels’ and Dodgers’ low Class A affiliates Monday night — right-hander Ethan Martin, one of the Dodgers’ top prospects, was scheduled to pitch. Both the Angels and Dodgers are actively seeking bullpen help, and the Dodgers also could use a starter.

The second tier: Getting ignored

Diamondbacks left-hander Doug Davis and right-hander Jon Garland are

drawing little interest, according to a major-league source. Neither

is perceived to be a difference-maker, and their salaries are an issue.

Only a few scouts, including one from the Cardinals, were in Colorado

on Monday night to watch Davis last only 2-1/3 innings against the

Rockies — a performance that could not have helped his trade value.

You hear it over and over: Teams do not want to take on money.

Davis, 4-10 with a 3.95 ERA, is earning $8.75 million, making him

slightly less than a $3 million investment after July 31. Garland, 1-5

with a 3.20 ERA since June 1, is earning $6.25 million with a

potential $2.5 million buyout.

Yet, the lack of enthusiasm for second-tier starters extends even to

Indians right-hander Carl Pavano, who has a $1.5 million salary plus

$5.3 million in incentives, many of which will be difficult for him to


True, Pavano was largely a no-show with the Yankees, but take away

four poor starts with the Indians, and he has a 3.15 ERA in his other

14. He would be worth a shot for a team such as the Brewers — and,

ahem, maybe even Joe Torre’s Dodgers.

Reliever fever

The bullpen market continues to be hot: A’s right-hander Michael Wuertz and Indians right-hander Rafael Betancourt are among the relievers drawing heavy attention along with the Reds’ Weathers and Rhodes.

The A’s will keep Wuertz unless they are blown away by an offer, and the same likely is true for the Diamondbacks with Chad Qualls. Without Qualls next season, the Diamondbacks would need to remake their entire bullpen.

The Angels and Dodgers are among the teams interested in Orioles closer George Sherrill, and the Angels seemingly could satisfy the Orioles’ need for a third baseman.

Then again, Brandon Wood would be too high a price to pay for Sherrill alone, particularly when he could be the Angels’ starter at third next season if Chone Figgins leaves as a free agent.

Sean Rodriguez is more of a second baseman than a third baseman, and the Orioles are set at second with Brian Roberts.

Angels Class AAA third baseman Matt Brown has two strikes against him — he’s almost 27, and his OPS playing in a hitter’s park in a hitter’s league is only .716.

Red Sox’s Buchholz: A showcase?

One GM is convinced that the Red Sox were showcasing right-hander Clay Buchholz against the Blue Jays last Friday night.

Buchholz has held right-handed hitters to a .142 batting average at Class AAA, striking out 54 and walking only nine. The Jays, a predominantly right-handed hitting team, started three left-handed hitters against him — Adam Lind, Lyle Overbay and David Dellucci.

Buchholz allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings, but it still seems doubtful that the Red Sox would trade him for the Indians’ Victor Martinez or any other pricey veteran. If Buchholz is moved, it likely would be for a young hitter of comparable talent.

Around the Horn

  • A’s left fielder Matt Holliday makes perfect sense for the Giants, but don’t count on him getting shipped across the bay.

    Billy Beane has made nearly 100 trades since becoming A’s general manager after the 1997 season, but not one with the Giants.

    The lack of activity between the clubs is not due to any reluctance on Beane’s part; he is open to trading with any club …

  • Speaking of the A’s, shortstop Orlando Cabrera has batted .327-.351-.451 since June 4, establishing himself as a possible trade candidate.

    Cabrera, 34, will have only about $1.3 million on his contract left after July 31. He could make sense for the Mariners, Cardinals, Twins, Reds and — if there is any hope left — the Mets.

  • The Mariners are a classic example of a team that might wait until the August waiver period before truly deciding whether to buy or sell.

    One player in whom they have interest: Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham, who is a hot name for about a half-dozen clubs.

  • The Nationals were among the teams that scouted Giants left-hander

    Jonathan Sanchez against the Braves on Monday night. The Giants,

    looking for a bat, have had interest in Nationals first baseman Nick

    Johnson. Willingham could be another possibility.

  • One rival executive’s take on whether the Royals will trade the versatile Mark Teahen: “They won’t unless it’s a big overpay. They have to win games in the second half.”

    The Royals are 19-43 since their 18-11 start. Yes, they’ve been hit by injuries, but they’re 11 1/2 games out in the AL Central and Teahen could bring a good return.

  • The Phillies, who continue to pursue a right-handed hitter, surely noticed that outfielder Ryan Spilborghs did not start in any of the Rockies’ first four games after the break.

    The Phils offered two quality pitching prospects for Spilborghs, according to major-league sources. The Rockies, however, have been reluctant to trade Spilborghs, believing him to be a valuable extra outfielder and important part of their chemistry.

  • The Mets, by the way, are 12th in the NL in rotation ERA and 11th in overall — and their rankings would be even worse if not for left-hander Johan Santana and closer Francisco Rodriguez.

    Injuries to left-hander Oliver Perez, righty John Maine and setup man J.J. Putz obviously are a factor, but the bottom line is this: The Mets’ pitching would be an issue even if all of their position players were healthy.

  • Braves right-hander Tim Hudson, recovering from Tommy John surgery, threw 91 to 93 mph and topped out at 94 in his first rehabilitation start.

    Hudson says his last rehab appearance is scheduled for Aug. 15, meaning he could be back in the Braves’ rotation by Aug. 20.

    A strong finish by Hudson could leave the Braves with an interesting choice. They could exercise Hudson’s $12 million option and trade righty Javier Vazquez, who is set to earn $11.5 million in 2010.

  • The Cardinals’ Troy Glaus, in the middle of a rehabilitation assignment coming off shoulder surgery, could tell his swing was off early last week simply by looking at the back of his jersey.

    There were pine tar marks in three different places, and usually Glaus’ follow-through leaves a smudge in only one spot. By the end of the week, there was only one mark.

  • One scout says the Diamondbacks did well to land Class AAA outfielder Cole Gillespie, 25, and Class A reliever Roque Mercedes, 22, for infielder Felipe Lopez.

    “Gillespie can hit,” the scout says. “I’m not sure he has enough power. Mercedes has a good arm. He has really come fast the past two years.”

    Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes first saw Gillespie while scouting his Oregon State teammate, Jacoby Ellsbury, as the Red Sox’s assistant GM in 2005.