07/31/12 2:40 AM ET
Final flurry of trades under way as Deadline looms
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
From now until the Deadline on Tuesday (4 p.m. ET, to be exact), we'll be checking in on the trade news around baseball, with help from MLB.com's reporters. The countdown is in its final hours.
Braves get a starter: It wasn't the guy they had in mind initially, but the Braves added a starting pitcher on Monday. And in this deal, they got someone who will be around next year, plus some nice outfield depth.
Atlanta sent Arodys Vizcaino, a top prospect rehabbing from elbow surgery, and Jaye Chapman to the Cubs for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson. Vizcaino is a fascinating risk-reward play for the Cubs, an extremely highly regarded prospect who hasn't pitched this season after having Tommy John surgery in the spring. He could turn out to be a great return, or he could end up on the long list of pitching prospects who didn't pan out.
Either way, it appears to mean that Atlanta is out of the running for Ryan Dempster, for whom they had a deal in place earlier this month. The Cubs may be down to one viable option for Dempster, which would be to trade him to the Dodgers -- where he's wanted to go all along.
Buccos get a bat: Atlanta wasn't the only National League contender that filled a need in an unexpected way on Monday night. The Pirates brought in lefty-swinging outfielder Travis Snider in exchange for reliever Brad Lincoln, selling high and perhaps buying low.
Snider brings big-time power but a checkered big league performance record from the American League. He's hit 31 homers in 833 Major League at-bats, all before his 25th birthday, and he's under team control for four more years. He doesn't address the Pirates' need for an on-base percentage upgrade, but he also didn't cost them a top prospect.
Pittsburgh holds on to Starling Marte, its top offensive prospect who might also offer an offensive jolt. And it deals from a position of strength, removing a quality reliever but maintaining a deep and effective bullpen. It's a savvy move for a team whose fortunes continue to look up.
That wasn't the only bat-for-reliever deal the Jays pulled off. They sent Eric Thames, another young, cost-controlled bat still seeking sustained success in the big leagues, to Seattle for reliever Steve Delabar.
Beckett more likely to stay: The Josh Beckett buzz lasted all of, oh, about eight hours. After rumors swirled early Monday that the Red Sox were shopping Beckett, by the evening it had become clear that the right-hander would likely stay in Boston.
MLB.com's Ian Browne wrote Monday night that things have "cooled considerably" regarding Beckett. The list of potential partners was always short, given Beckett's contract, his disappointing 2012 performance and his 10-and-5 no-trade protection, so it likely didn't take Boston long to do its due diligence.
Rangers make a move (not that): Attached with one big-name player after another, the Rangers made a small move on Monday. They acquired catcher Geovany Soto from the Cubs, and will use the veteran to back up Mike Napoli. Soto has started for much of his career, so it's possible he could be an option to replace Napoli if the Texas starter departs via free agency over the winter.
In a corresponding move, Texas designated current backup Yorvit Torrealba for assignment. MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reports that Torrealba is likely to be traded, rather than simply released.
The combination of moves from the Cubs, meanwhile, further clarifies Chicago's situation. The club's new regime is looking to bring in as much talent as possible in an attempt to contend in the future.
Garza still available? Speaking of the Cubs, Matt Garza may not be off the table just yet. Chicago never publicly announced that it was removing Garza from trade consideration due to his elbow discomfort, but it was widely assumed that he wouldn't be going anywhere. As the deadline approaches, it's starting to look like that might be a bad assumption.
MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports that scouts from other clubs were expected to watch Garza's bullpen session on Monday, and FOXSports.com and CBSSports.com were among the outlets reporting Monday night that the Cubs are working on a potential Garza trade. His health is a concern, but Garza has two major pluses: He has proved himself in the American League East, and he is under team control for 2013.
Relievers in play: The Dodgers made a move late Monday night to bolster their bullpen, acquiring Brandon League from the Mariners for a couple of prospects. League had been widely rumored to be on the move somewhere on Sunday, but whatever deal might have been in play didn't get done that night. League offers another quality arm to what has been an effective bullpen, and may increase the pressure on the rival Giants to make a move.
San Francisco has been rumored in association with a wide range of players, ranging from outfielders to reliever Jonathan Broxton, but as of late Monday night had yet to execute a deal. The Giants' bullpen issues were highlighted, however, in an extra-inning home defeat to the Mets.
Phillies change course: At the start of the weekend, it sounded very much like the Phillies would hold on to Cliff Lee -- at least until the winter, if not for the foreseeable future. Now that's much less certain.
It seems that the Phils are at least listening to offers on Lee, who is guaranteed at least $95 million over the remainder of the contract he signed less than two years ago. The question, and it's a big one, is who can and will take him?
As highly regarded as Lee is, that's a huge financial commitment. And it's all but certain that simply taking the contract wouldn't be enough to get Lee. The Phils would want to get some significant talent back as well. So while Lee is an enormous addition to the pool of tradable players, it's far from a guarantee he'll move.
In fact, it already appears that you can scratch out one of the presumed top destinations. The Rangers have a "less than 1 percent" chance of acquiring Lee, writes MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan. Additionally, MLB.com's Bryan Hoch writes that the Yankees are already out, as they will not be taking on a contract the size of Lee's.
Johnson probably staying: Speaking of big, hard-throwing right-handers drafted by the Marlins ...
It seems that Josh Johnson will not be changing addresses after all. The Marlins never seemed like a motivated seller on Johnson, and the truth is they would be selling low. For a pitcher with elite talent, Johnson isn't having a great year, and he's totaled 185 innings since the start of the 2011 season. So it would be hard for Miami to win a Johnson deal, and just as hard to maintain a contending club for 2013 if he were to be sent elsewhere.
And now it becomes clear that the club has come to just those conclusions. Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports that there is now "strong indication" that Johnson will not be traded before the non-waiver Deadline. As in Lee's case, that doesn't mean the Marlins couldn't reconsider over the winter, but for now Johnson looks set to remain a Marlin.
Blanton available: The Orioles are seeking starting pitching, and they may have found their man -- if they want him. MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli writes that Baltimore could get a Joe Blanton deal done as soon as it feels like pulling the trigger.
Blanton is having an odd season, with a tremendous strikeout-to-walk ratio but a distressing home run rate. The latter trait would likely be further exposed in the American League East. But even so, Baltimore's desire for some stability in its rotation could lead it to do the deal.
The right-hander, who can be a free agent at the end of the year, comes at a fairly low cost in terms of talent. According to Ghiroli, a utility player or middle reliever could make the deal happen.
Indians walking a line: Cleveland is a team in a curious situation. A recent slump has left the Tribe with fairly distant playoff hopes. On the other hand, the Indians feel they can compete in 2013, and they're working hard to make sure that the hometown fans maintain interest in the club.
So while the Indians would have a hard time justifying any aggressive buying, they'd find it just as difficult to part with any key pieces. MLB.com's Jordan Bastian examines that quandary, and reports that while the Indians are "fielding calls about a few" of their players, club president Mark Shapiro doesn't see a need to rebuild or to tear down the roster.
Two of the players who hold the most appeal to other clubs are outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and pitcher Justin Masterson, but Bastian reports that the Indians are "reluctant" to move either one. Both are under club control through at least next year. Choo, who has an impressive all-around offensive game, could be a difference-maker in a market short on big-time hitters. But as of now, it doesn't look like he'll be moved just yet.
Around the leagues: Muskat reports from Chicago that "nothing has changed" regarding Dempster's potential exit from the Cubs. ... Jonathan Broxton and Rafael Betancourt appear to be the top relief pitchers available on the market. ... A flurry of rumors about Hunter Pence flew late Sunday night, but it does not seem that a deal for Pence was as close to fruition as it may have appeared on Twitter.
Matthew Leach is a national reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.