Rockies keep searching for lefty

Last week’s trade with the Indians for right-handed eighth-inning guy Rafael Betancourt brought the Rockies close to a bullpen that can be considered a strength. Despite his struggles in Monday night’s 7-3 loss to the Mets, Juan Rincon is more suited for a role other than primary setup guy. Rookie Matt Daley has more room for error.

But there’s still the case of the missing lefty.

Franklin Morales is all the Rockies have from the left side. He is electric, but he also has some growing to do. His pitch sequence before giving up a grand slam to the Mets’ Fernando Tatis was an example of a guy learning on the job. But that might have been a good spot for a more experienced pitcher. (Of course, it could’ve been just one of those things that happen: Tatis has a .219 average against lefty pitchers.)

It would be nice, though, to have one more guy with a history of matching up with key left-handed hitters who can also handle the righty pinch-hitter. Some of the relievers have problems with lefties.

Lefties hit .260 with nine walks agaisnt 10 strikeouts against Daley. They hit .250 but with six walks agianst five strikeouts against Rincon. From a batting average perspective, the best option is Josh Fogg, who has held them to a .185 average. But the Rockies have used him sparingly because he is a long reliever on a staff that has its starters going deep in games.

The Orioles’ George Sherrill has been floated as an option, but it’s unlikely the Rockies could give up the pacakage the Orioles want. The Denver Post citing other clubs executives, point to the Orioles’ Mark Hendrickson and the Nationals’ Joe Beimel as possibilities. The paper noted the Rockies have gone after both in the past.

The ultimate for the Rockies would be to land one of them or another useful lefty by parting with a prospect, rather than disturbing the roster. They have to think long and hard before giving up outfielder Ryan Spilborghs, who is a strong clubhouse presence and more importantly has a history of providing exactly what the club needs offensively and defensively. Third baseman Garrett Atkins has been speculated about since the end of last season and lost his job to Ian Stewart during an ealry slump. But the at-bats have cleaned up to the point that he is a stategic weapon for manager Jim Tracy.

 

Indians Want Pitching for Lee

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer suggests that the Dodgers are in better position to obtain starter Cliff Lee from the Indians than the Angels because of the Dodgers’ depth of pitching prospects, which the Indians covet. — Ken Gurnick

Tigers could add backup catcher, reliever

The Detroit Free Press reports that the Tigers have shown interest in adding a backup catcher and another reliever for the stretch run, adding to the shopping list for Detroit heading towards Friday’s nonwaiver trade deadlines. The goal of the backup catching list would reportedly be for offense to supplement starter Gerald Laird, whose average has fallen to .233 as his workload continues to pile up.

Previous reports this summer have linked the Tigers to catching help, most recently a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report that the Tigers were looking at Pirates farmhand Robinzon Diaz, who backed up in Pittsburgh while Ryan Doumit was on the disabled list but is now catching at Triple-A Indianapolis. Detroit called up catching prospect Dusty Ryan from Triple-A Toledo last month to provide more of an offensive punch than defensive-oriented Dane Sardinha, but amazingly, Ryan has started just six games since his arrival in mid-June.

The Tigers continued to scout potential relief help over the past week even with injured Joel Zumaya looking more and more likely to pitch again soon.

So, add up the various rumors and reports, and the Tigers have spent the last week or two looking with varied interest at starting pitching, relief, designated hitters, outfielders, middle infielders and catching. They have not looked for help at first and third base, but could acquire a hitter from those positions to DH if they wanted to add a bat. That’s quite a range for a team in first place.

— Jason Beck

Giants aquire 1B Garko from Tribe

First baseman Ryan Garko has been traded from the Indians to the Giants for Class A left-hander Scott Barnes

Garko had been in the Tribe’s lineup at designated hitter but was yanked about an hour before the first pitch against the Angels at Angel Stadium.

Entering his first round of arbitration this winter, Garko was considered trade bait. He has gotten increased playing time the past month and had hit safely in 20 of his last 23 games, batting .349 with five homers and 11 RBIs and improving his stock. For the season, Garko is batting .285 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs in 78 games.

The 21-year-old Barnes is 12-3 with a 2.85 ERA in 18 starts for Class A San Jose in the California League. He leads the league in wins, is second in ERA and his 99 strikeouts are tied for ninth overall.

Barnes was an eight-round Draft pick in 2008 out of St. John’s University. He is listed at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds. Baseball America named him the ninth-best prospect in the Giants’ system before this season.

— Anthony Castrovince

7/27 Cubs talk

The Cubs currently have one lefty in the bullpen in Sean Marshall and wouldn’t mind adding another. Two pitchers the Cubs’ radar are Washington’s Joe Beimel and Pittsburgh’s John Grabow. The Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald reported Monday that Beimel and Grabow have drawn interest from the team. Left-handed hitters are batting .233 against Beimel, while Grabow has fared better against right-handed hitters, holding them to a .243 average.

Several of the Cubs say the team doesn’t need to make a move. Lou Piniella deferred to GM Jim Hendry.

“That’s Jim’s department,” Piniella said Monday. “He always likes to do something if he can at the trading deadline. I know he’s been talking to quite a few teams but that’s his area. I get paid to manage.”

— Carrie Muskat

Yankees searching for arms

The Yankees are apparently not satisfied to go forward keeping Sergio Mitre as their fifth starter, not after the recent callup has surrendered 17 hits in 10 2/3 innings over his two starts for New York. While the Yankees have won both of Mitre’s starts, there may be better options available on the trade front, and general manager Brian Cashman is checking them out.

AOL Fanhouse reported Monday that the Yankees and Reds are in “serious discussions” about Bronson Arroyo, the former Red Sox right-hander, and that the Bombers have two scouts in Cincinnati who could be on hand for Arroyo’s scheduled start on Tuesday.

New York has also engaged the Mariners in discussions concerning Jarrod Washburn, a familiar target – the hurler was linked to the Yankees during the winter as well. The Yankees did scout Roy Halladay’s last start in Toronto but are still considered long shots to get involved in the bidding derby.

The Yankees have a void because Chien-Ming Wang is set to visit Dr. James Andrews on Tuesday and faces the prospect of season-ending shoulder surgery, and continue to monitor an innings limit on Joba Chamberlain. They have also been reluctant to extract starters Phil Hughes and Alfredo Aceves from the bullpen, where each has found success in helping the Yankees enter play Monday 22 games over .500 at 60-38.

Cashman said last week: “Offense is not an area right now at all that I’m focused on. We’ll continue to look at the pitching. The obvious injury to
Wang right now has hurt. Ian Kennedy’s aneurysm has hurt. The
transferring of Hughes and Aceves to the bullpen has taken away
immediate choices for the rotation. There is a depth issue that is
real.”

— Bryan Hoch

Reds selling?

A report from AOL Fanhouse says the Reds are looking to sell veterans and cite a source that the team is “close to doing something.”

Veteran pitchers Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang, David Weathers, Arthur Rhodes and Francisco Cordero were mentioned as possible chips to deal. Arroyo, according to SI.com, has interest from the Yankees if they can’t work something out for Roy Halladay.

The Dodgers would also be interested in Arroyo or Harang if they can’t land Cliff Lee, according to the AOL story.

Selling rumors about the Reds are not shocking, especially after they just concluded a 0-6 road trip through L.A. and Chicago. They are 44-53, a season-high nine games below .500 entering Monday’s game vs. the Padres.

— Mark Sheldon

Giants, Indians a fit?

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Cleveland Indians have extensively scouted the San Francisco Giants’ farm system. This heightens speculation that the Giants and Indians could be talking about a deal.

The Chronicle reminded that catcher-first baseman Victor Martinez and first baseman Ryan Garko of Cleveland might be targeted by the Giants.

Martinez’s $5.7 million salary rises to $6.2 million if he’s traded, and his club option of $7 million for 2010 would increase to $7.5 million. Regardless, he’s extremely affordable, and he’d give the Giants a presence behind the plate — assuming they don’t re-sign Bengie Molina — until Buster Posey’s ready. And if Posey proves he’s ready during the 2010 season, Martinez can play first base. 

Tigers look at familiar face

Could the Tigers’ solution to its offensive woes in a pennant come from a hitter who, once upon a time, provided a brief boost to the Tigers at their lowest point? If that hitter is Cody Ross, it’s possible, though not necessarily likely.

Yahoo Sports’ Gordon Edes reports that the Tigers have shown interest in Ross, currently manning center field for the Florida Marlins after finally getting a chance to be an everyday player last year. Now 28, he’s an experienced, right-handed bat with power and run production for a Florida club that has had an outfield in flux, including an up-and-down season for former Tigers top prospect Cameron Maybin. If the Marlins reverse course and decide to be sellers at Friday’s trade deadline, Ross is one player they could shop.

The Tigers have always had high regard personally for Ross, who broke into the Majors with the 2003 Tigers after coming up through Detroit’s farm system as a draft pick. He hit his first big league home run, a grand slam, in the same game in which he blew out his knee running out a sacrifice bunt. While Jair Jurrjens has become well-known as the Tigers prospect who got away in a bad deal, trading Ross to the Dodgers for lefty reliever Steve Colyer in Spring Training 2004 was a move the Tigers came to regret, though it took Ross two more organizations before he emerged.

While the Tigers might think a lot of Ross, so do several other teams that have faced him, making Ross a popular trading chip if the Marlins decided to move him. But if anything, the Marlins are looking to upgrade right now, since they’re within striking distance of the NL East lead and NL Wild Card.

— Jason Beck

All is quiet with Astros

Astros general manager Ed Wade said again Sunday he doesn’t expect his club to make any trades prior to Friday’s deadline, citing the inability to take on additional payroll and faith in the talent he sees at Triple-A Round Rock.

“We’re having conversations with clubs, but I don’t expect us to be doing much of anything,” he said. “The key components aren’t going to change, and that’s the economics and the talent in the system. Those things aren’t going to change overnight. If something makes snese we’ll pursue it, but there’s nothing going on now.”

— Brian McTaggart