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Trade Talk: Padres, deGrom, Britton, Beltre

The latest news and rumors leading up to July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline
MLB.com

As the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, we'll keep you up to date with the latest news, buzz, rumors and more.

Hand deal could spark flurry of moves for Padres
July 19: By now, you're aware the Padres made a big move by trading closer Brad Hand and righty reliever Adam Cimber to the Indians for top catching prospect Francisco Mejia on Thursday morning. It looks like that could set off a flurry of deals for San Diego, who has a number of available arms, as MLB.com's Mark Feinsand points out.

As the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, we'll keep you up to date with the latest news, buzz, rumors and more.

Hand deal could spark flurry of moves for Padres
July 19: By now, you're aware the Padres made a big move by trading closer Brad Hand and righty reliever Adam Cimber to the Indians for top catching prospect Francisco Mejia on Thursday morning. It looks like that could set off a flurry of deals for San Diego, who has a number of available arms, as MLB.com's Mark Feinsand points out.

Tweet from @Feinsand: The Hand deal could be just the first of many for the Padres. A source says San Diego has drawn significant interest in RHP Kirby Yates, and to a lesser degree, RHP Tyson Ross.

After years of injuries, the 31-year-old Kirby Yates started to emerge after arriving in San Diego last season, and he has come into his own this season with a 1.43 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP and a 11.5 K/9 rate. His lack of track record (just 192 MLB innings in his career) raises some questions, but Yates' stuff and years of club control (through 2020) are appealing.

Similarly, Tyson Ross is 31 and has a laundry list of injuries in his nine-year career, so suitors rightly could be somewhat skeptical. While his ERA is 4.32 this year, Ross has shown flashes of his former All-Star self with 10 starts (of 19 total) in which he's allowed two or fewer runs, plus he's struck out 97 batters over 108 1/3 frames.

Beyond those two, fellow righty Craig Stammen -- who has a 2.91 ERA and a 9.9 K/9 mark and is due just $2.25 million in 2019 -- has been mentioned as another reliever the Padres could dangle.

Mets not budging on trade demands for deGrom, Syndergaard
July 19: As they continue to receive calls regarding Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, the Mets aren't backing off from their lofty asking price for either hurler, James Wagner of the New York Times reports via Twitter.

Tweet from @ByJamesWagner: Hearing more of the same re: Mets at the trade deadline. Teams have called on Jacob deGrom & Noah Syndergaard, but Mets most interested in elite prospects (close to the majors) and/or MLB players.

Per Wagner, the Mets want elite prospects and/or MLB players for each of their two aces, but contenders either lack high-level prospects (D-backs, Giants), are unwilling to move them (Yankees, Braves) or don't have a pressing need for a starting pitcher (Astros).

deGrom (controllable through 2020) and Syndergaard (controllable through 2021) aren't close to free agency, and the Mets haven't shown any sense of urgency in shopping them.

The club could revisit trade discussions for deGrom and Syndergaard in the offseason, when a new general manager is expected to be in place in the Mets front office and more teams (such as the Padres) are likely to be interested, according to Wagner.

At this point, impending free agents Jeurys Familia and Asdrubal Cabrera are the most likely Mets to be dealt before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, and Wagner notes that Zack Wheeler (controllable through 2019) is drawing "strong outside interest" as well.

Video: deGrom on his future with the Mets, trade rumors

Cubs could be a "main player" for Britton
July 19: Manny Machado was their biggest chip -- and the biggest one on the trade market -- but the Orioles have another key piece in Zach Britton, who is likely to be moved soon after Machado. Interest in the lefty reliever has increased, according to MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli. The Cubs reportedly are at the front of the line as a "main player," Bruce Levine of 670 The Score notes.

Britton has made 15 appearances this season after returning from offseason surgery to repair a ruptured right Achilles. Though he got off to a rough start, the 30-year-old has not given up a run over his past seven outings (seven innings) while showing a dramatic increase in velocity.

As many as eight teams have been connected to Britton, including the Phillies and Red Sox, an industry source recently told Levine.

Daniels: Rangers won't consider Beltre trade unless it benefits 'all parties involved'
July 19: Adrian Beltre can become a free agent after this season, but that doesn't mean the Rangers are actively shopping him.

In a Q&A session with Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Rangers president of baseball operations and general manager Jon Daniels said the club will need to be "motivated to even have the conversation" about dealing the veteran.

"If someone has real interest and wants us to consider it and talk to ownership and talk to Adrian, we will based on their level of interest," Daniels said. "But if it's more of tire kick, that doesn't appeal to us. For us to consider anything, it's got to be beneficial for all parties involved."

Although Beltre is one of the best remaining players available for clubs looking to boost the left side of their infield after the Dodgers acquired Manny Machado on Wednesday, contenders may not be lining up to trade for him.

For one, Beltre can veto any trade due to his 10-and-5 rights, and he reportedly wants to play with the Rangers next season. Furthermore, he has been spending more time at designated hitter due to injury concerns, and he's produced just four homers with a .739 OPS over 261 plate appearances in 2018.

Indians put other AL contenders on notice
July 19: Having missed out on landing Manny Machado, the Indians reacted quickly by pulling off their own blockbuster to acquire Padres relievers Adam Cimber and Brad Hand, arguably the best bullpen piece on the trade market. The deal cost them their top prospect -- and MLB Pipeline's No. 1 overall catching prospect -- in Francisco Mejia, but it also put other American League contenders on notice, as MLB Network Radio host Jim Duquette discusses.

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: The #Indians addition of Brad Hand puts the onus on other AL contenders to answer according to @Jim_Duquette #RallyTogether pic.twitter.com/U5IxPBFXW0

The Astros and Red Sox, specifically, were in play for Hand because of their need for an elite lefty reliever. With that no longer an option, perhaps those clubs will turn their attention to the next-best candidate in O's southpaw Zach Britton, whose market is gaining momentum now that Machado has been moved.

While the Yankees weren't linked closely to Hand, they are still very much looking to upgrade their rotation. Plus, the Indians' bullpen -- with Hand and Cimber joining Cody Allen and Andrew Miller (once healthy) -- could rival the Yankees' collection of relievers, which might give New York something else to think about as it battles Boston for the AL East down the stretch.

Could Brewers land Dozier?
July 18: After falling short in the Manny Machado sweepstakes, the Brewers could turn their pre-Deadline attention to Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: Among the players the #Brewers are expected to target now that they have lost Machado: #Twins 2B Brian Dozier. Team also will explore pitching upgrades as well.

With Machado no longer available after the Orioles traded him to the Dodgers on Wednesday night, Dozier would be a quality consolation prize for the contending Crew. The 31-year-old Dozier has struggled in 2018 -- batting just .230 -- but he's still notched 16 homers, 60 runs and five steals in 93 games. Dozier ranked among the baseball's top keystone men over the previous two seasons, batting .269/.349/.522 with 76 homers, 210 runs and 34 steals in 307 contests.

If acquired, Dozier would be a significant upgrade over Hernan Perez, who has reached base at just a .282 clip in 2018, and Jonathan Villar, who has struggled when healthy (.315 OBP) and is currently on the DL with a sprained right thumb. Dozier would likely only serve as a half-season rental for Milwaukee, though, as he is set to be a free agent after this year.

The Brewers could also look to bolster their pitching staff, which currently ranks fourth in the National League with a combined 3.65 ERA. Despite the strong numbers, Milwaukee could use an ace to shore up a rotation that currently consists of Chase Anderson, Jhoulys Chacin, Wade Miley and Brent Suter.

Ramos may not return by Trade Deadline
July 18: A strained left hamstring already cost Wilson Ramos a chance to start the All-Star Game. Now it could impact the Rays' chances to trade the backstop.

Ramos, who was voted in at catcher but missed the Midsummer Classic due to the injury, is having a strong season with a .297/.346/.488 line to go with 14 home runs. The 30-year-old, however, was placed on the 10-day DL Wednesday and appears likely to be out beyond the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Tweet from @TBTimes_Rays: #Rays officially put Ramos on DL with left hamstring strain, as expected. He is likely to miss extended time, past July 31 trade deadline. Also reinstated LHP Jose Alvarado from family medical emergency list.

While Ramos' trade value already had taken a hit, it's now even lower, which is a tough outcome for the Rays. Not only could Ramos have brought back a nice return in a depleted catching market, but he also is a free agent at season's end, thus limiting the Rays' opportunity to get anything of real value for him. Perhaps they'll revisit shopping him in August, before the waiver Trade Deadline at the end of next month.

Phillies turn attention elsewhere after missing out on Machado
July 18: After heavy pursuit, the Phillies missed out on Manny Machado -- who is heading to the Dodgers -- but that doesn't mean they're going to sit still. As they exit the All-Star break with a half-game lead over the Braves in the National League East, the Phils are aiming to add ahead of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Among their top targets now? Mike Moustakas of the Royals and Eduardo Escobar of the Twins, MLB.com's Todd Zolecki writes. The Phillies are looking for an upgrade on the left side of their infield, where youngsters Maikel Franco, Scott Kingery and J.P. Crawford have struggled with injuries and inconsistency. Although both Moustakas and Escobar primarily play third base, Escobar has experience at shortstop.

Both Moustakas, who has 19 homers and a .772 OPS, and Escobar, who owns an .834 OPS and an MLB-high 35 doubles, can be free agents at season's end. As rental players, they could help the Phillies' quest to make it back to the postseason for the first time since 2011 -- and may not require a huge return that would dent their promising future. More >

Video: Slugger Moustakas delivering at the plate, in field

Cardinals among clubs on buy-or-sell bubble
July 18: The second half is about to start and the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline is less than two weeks away, but there still are a handful of teams who can't clearly be labeled as buyers or sellers … yet.

The Cardinals -- sitting four games out of a National League Wild Card spot at 48-46 and coming off the dismissal of longtime skipper Mike Matheny just before the break -- are one such club. St. Louis has a few intriguing trade chips, as MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi points to versatile infielder Jedd Gyorko (signed through next season with a club option for 2020) and 2017 breakout outfielder Tommy Pham (under club control through 2021).

The 29-year-old Gyorko's power is down this season -- he's slugging .411 after posting .495 and .472 marks in 2016 and '17, respectively -- but his ability to play all four infield positions could prove useful to a contender.

Pham is an especially interesting name to float, given that he came from nowhere to slash .306/.411/.520 while compiling 23 homers and 25 steals last year. He is, however, already 30 years old and has slumped to a .243/.326/.396 line so far in a streaky 2018 campaign. Morosi notes that the Cardinals' outfield depth, including rookie Harrison Bader's emergence, could make Pham worth dangling for a sizable return. More >

Dodgers complete deal for Machado
July 18: While the expectation since late Tuesday night has been that the Dodgers will be the winners of the Manny Machado sweepstakes, nothing had been finalized as of Wednesday afternoon. However, the blockbuster deal is now complete.

In exchange for Machado, Baltimore will receive outfielder Yusniel Diaz, third baseman Rylan Bannon, right-hander Dean Kremer, righty Zach Pop and second baseman Breyvic Valera. Ranked as Los Angeles' No. 4 prospect and the No. 84 prospect in the game by MLB Pipeline, Diaz is the most talented player in the group, with Bannon (No. 27) and Kremer (No. 28) also ranked among the club's Top 30.

The 21-year-old Diaz is slashing .314/.428/.477 at Double-A this season, and he showed off his power by homering twice in Sunday's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, joining Alfonso Soriano (in 1999) as the only players to pull off that feat in the showcase's 20-year history.

Video: WLD@USA: Diaz clobbers 2-run jack, game-tying HR

Though there was a reported snag involving an issue with the physical of one (or more) of the prospects headed to Baltimore, according to MLB Network Radio host and former Mets GM Steve Phillips, the Orioles and Dodgers have worked past any medical issues.

Will teams wheel and deal well before Trade Deadline?
July 18: Conventional wisdom says front offices tend to wait until the last week -- or even the last day -- before making massive moves at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. But that no longer appears to be the case, as activity has picked up sooner over the past several years, including during the All-Star break on occasion.

With Manny Machado on his way to the Dodgers, this could be the latest in a recent run of blockbuster-caliber trades to happen well ahead of the Deadline. In fact, we could see a big-name player change teams before the second half resumes for the third straight season, after Jose Quintana (to the Cubs) and Drew Pomeranz (to the Red Sox) did so in 2017 and '16, respectively. More >

Happ picks up save in Midsummer Classic
July 18: J.A. Happ had never made an appearance in the All-Star Game or a notched a save in his 12-year MLB career, but both of those changed Tuesday night.

The Blue Jays lefty, who hadn't pitched in relief since one outing in 2015 with the Mariners, came into the game in the bottom of the 10th with the American League ahead of the National League, 8-5. After giving up a home run to Joey Votto on his first pitch, the first-time All-Star settled down to register his first career save by striking out Christian Yelich, then getting Charlie Blackmon to ground out and Lorenzo Cain to fly out.

Although Happ has hit a bit of a rough patch with a 9.75 ERA in his past three starts, the 35-year-old free-agent-to-be remains one of the bigger trade targets for teams seeking mid-rotation help, including the Phillies, who have "definite interest" in Happ, according to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Phillies have also been connected to the Rangers' Cole Hamels, another lefty who began his career with Philadelphia, but Salisbury notes "there has been no evidence to date that the Phils are pursuing Hamels." The 34-year-old has a $20 million team option with a $6 million buyout for 2019.

O's also listening on Gausman, Bundy, Schoop?
July 17: While Manny Machado has been the biggest story in Baltimore of late, the Orioles have plenty of other assets that could be moved ahead of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Lefty reliever Zach Britton and outfielder Adam Jones -- both free agents at the end of the 2018 season -- are chief among those names, but the club isn't limiting itself as it faces a rebuilding process. In fact, the O's reportedly are listening to offers on right-handed starters Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, along with second baseman Jonathan Schoop, MLB Network insider Joel Sherman notes in a New York Post story.

"I think their goal is to trade their walk-year guys, Machado, Britton, [Brad] Brach and Adam Jones, but they are not hanging up the phone if you ask on Gausman, Bundy or Schoop," a baseball executive told Sherman.

Given the O's desire to address their pitching, it would be surprising to see them deal either Gausman, who is 27 and under club control through 2020, or Bundy, a 25-year-old who won't reach free agency until after the 2021 season. Schoop, on the other hand, is due to hit the open market following the 2019 campaign, although his disappointing season so far (.229/.263/.389) means the club would be selling low on a 26-year-old who was an All-Star a year ago.

Rosenthal: 'Almost no doubt' Dodgers will add reliever
July 16: The Dodgers are expected to be a major player in the relief pitching market before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, as MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal noted in a Twitter Q&A session for FOX Sports.

The Dodgers are seeking a bullpen arm who can pitch the eighth inning and also spell closer Kenley Jansen from time to time, according to Rosenthal, who said "there's almost no doubt" the club will trade for a reliever.

Tweet from @MLBONFOX: .@kryptonic05 #AskKen pic.twitter.com/y7foYiKfyU

Los Angeles leaned heavily on Brandon Morrow during the 2017 postseason as a setup man for Jansen, but Morrow signed with the Cubs in the offseason.

Though Josh Fields, Tony Cingrani and Pedro Baez have had solid campaigns, all three are on the disabled list with arm injuries, and none is on the level of someone such as Zach Britton, Raisel Iglesias, Jeurys Familia or Kyle Barraclough.

Will Archer be traded?
July 16: The Rays face an interesting decision with Chris Archer, whose name has been floated among trade rumors for years. On one hand, they have a young core that has them above .500 and looks promising going forward, especially if Archer is a part of it. On the other, Tampa Bay could take advantage of a weak market for starters and put Archer in play.

"Given the state of the starting pitching market, the incentive for [the Rays] to move him might never be higher," MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal suggested in a Twitter question-and-answer session on @MLBONFOX.

Tweet from @MLBONFOX: .@jboy819 #AskKen pic.twitter.com/Gm4QrCgP7Y

That said, Archer just came off the DL a week ago for a left abdominal strain that cost him more than a month of action and his performance so far this season has been somewhat inconsistent (4.29 ERA, 1.38 WHIP). In other words, making Archer available now might be undercutting his full value.

As a 29-year-old making $6.25 million this year and under contract for $7.5 million next year with club options for 2020 ($9M) and 2021 ($11M), Archer would be appealing to just about any club looking for rotation help -- not just 2018 contenders. His team-friendly contract also allows the cost-conscious Rays to be patient with their prized right-hander.

Amid trade rumors, deGrom addresses his future
July 16: As Jacob deGrom continues to be at the center of trade speculation, the All-Star right-hander made it clear he's open to staying with the Mets long term.

deGrom's agent Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Sports initially suggested Monday that the Mets might consider trading their ace sooner than later if they don't plan to offer him a contract extension, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: More from Van Wagenen: ���If the Mets don���t share same interest, we believe their best course of action is to seriously consider trade opportunities now.The inertia of current situation could complicate Jacob���s relationship with the club and creates an atmosphere of indecision.���

The 30-year-old deGrom, who leads MLB with a 1.68 ERA and is under club control through 2020, responded to questions at All-Star media day in Washington, D.C., by stating: "We've said multiple times that we're open to talking [about an] extension. It's kind of up to [the Mets] what they want to do." More >

Video: deGrom on his future with the Mets, trade rumors

Astros might stand pat at Trade Deadline
July 16: The Astros have reportedly discussed dealing for a catcher and a reliever, but there's a chance they won't make any major moves before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in a Twitter Q&A session for FOX Sports.

Tweet from @MLBONFOX: .@nnickk22 #AskKen pic.twitter.com/4gWhpCLIMM

With backstop Brian McCann (right knee surgery) expected to return by September and Max Stassi providing solid production (.792 OPS), Rosenthal notes the Astros are more likely to get a reliever than a catcher.

Per Rosenthal, Houston is seeking someone who can be a "true difference-maker" in the bullpen, such as Zach Britton or Raisel Iglesias.

But with the ability to shift either Lance McCullers Jr. or Charlie Morton to the 'pen during the postseason, as they did last year when they won the World Series, the Astros may not feel a sense of urgency to add a big-name reliever.

Braves not expected to pursue big-name rentals
July 16: The Braves have been one of the biggest surprises of the 2018 season, unexpectedly putting the team in the "buyer" category as executive vice president and general manager Alex Anthopoulos prepares for his first Trade Deadline at the helm. But judging by Anthopoulos' comments in a two-part Q&A with Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Braves aren't planning to mortgage their bright future for a short-term boost.

"We would prefer not to go after rentals unless the acquisition cost just makes so much sense for us," Anthopoulos said. "There's a lot of pain that has gone into putting together this young talent. We're not ready to throw that all away just because of one season."

MLB Pipeline: Braves Top 30 prospects

Earlier this month, the Braves were mentioned among the contenders for Manny Machado, but that ship has sailed, as the Dodgers acquired the All-Star shortstop Wednesday night. Atlanta has also been connected to Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas. Like Machado, Moustakas can become a free agent after this season.

One area Anthopoulos could look to address is the bullpen, especially with closer Arodys Vizcaino going back on the DL on Saturday with right shoulder inflammation. The Braves entered the All-Star break with the 19th-best bullpen ERA in the Majors (4.24), and many of their key relievers are inexperienced. However, Atlanta could have limited options if free-agents-to-be such as the Orioles' Zach Britton and the Mets' Jeurys Familia are off the table. More >

Angels unlikely to deal Skaggs or Heaney
July 16: With a 49-48 record at the end of the first half, the Angels remain on the fringe of postseason contention, but they are nine games out of an AL Wild Card spot. That has sparked speculation that the club might consider selling by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, with southpaw starters Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney mentioned as potential pieces.

That no longer appears to be the case, however, as MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reports via Twitter.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: #Angels have no interest in trading Heaney or Skaggs, per source - team needs them to compete in ���19. As I said Saturday, LAA drawing interest in controllable relievers - Parker, Alvarez, Bedrosian, Anderson. Open on any of them, but will want good returns to give up control.

With superstar Mike Trout smack in the middle of his prime and under contract through 2020, the Angels want to win in this window while they can. Both Skaggs (through '20) and Heaney (through '21) are under club control beyond this season, meaning they can be a part of that direction.

It had previously been reported by MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi that the Yankees have recently been scouting Angels games with eyes on Skaggs and Heaney, in particular.

Padres land prized prospect Mejia for Hand

San Diego also sends reliever Cimber to Cleveland as part of trade
MLB.com

The Padres' most coveted trade chip in recent memory is no longer a trade chip. Brad Hand is headed to Cleveland. So is Adam Cimber. The return: one of baseball's top-ranked prospects.

On Thursday morning, the Padres finalized a trade sending relievers Hand and Cimber to the Indians for MLB Pipeline's No. 15 prospect Francisco Mejia. Add Mejia to the treasure trove of youngsters in San Diego's top-ranked farm system. He gives the club 10 prospects in MLB Pipeline's Top 100.

The Padres' most coveted trade chip in recent memory is no longer a trade chip. Brad Hand is headed to Cleveland. So is Adam Cimber. The return: one of baseball's top-ranked prospects.

On Thursday morning, the Padres finalized a trade sending relievers Hand and Cimber to the Indians for MLB Pipeline's No. 15 prospect Francisco Mejia. Add Mejia to the treasure trove of youngsters in San Diego's top-ranked farm system. He gives the club 10 prospects in MLB Pipeline's Top 100.

A 22-year-old catcher, Meija has posted a .279/.328/.426 slash line with Triple-A Columbus this season. He will report to Triple-A El Paso, but Padres general manager A.J. Preller noted that he's "on the doorstep of the big leagues."

"You're losing two quality relievers, but ultimately getting a 22-year-old switch-hitting catcher who … has a huge arm, has got some hitting accolades, can swing the bat," Preller said. "We continue to build -- getting that type of asset vs. a couple of 'pen pieces on a team that's struggled in the standings in the first half of the season. We just felt like that was quality value to go ahead and unlock one of the better prospects in the game."

Meija, whose receiving skills have been questioned, is viewed by some as an outfielder in the long term. But he's expressed a reluctance to switch positions, and the Padres plan to continue to develop him behind the plate.

That, of course, leaves questions regarding Austin Hedges' standing. Hedges has been the club's presumed catcher of the future for the past half-decade, and he's been outstanding defensively. But his bat has lagged well behind, with a .232/.289/.376 slash line this season.

It's easy to envision both having an impact in the long term. The Padres certainly do. Mejia could still ultimately move to the outfield. For now, he brings serious high-level catching depth.

"To have two of the most talented and best catchers 25-and-under in your organization, it's a really good position to be in," Preller said. "[Catcher] is also a position where the traditional 130-, 140-game guy, you don't see as much anymore. We've talked about what this means for us down the road. At least in the short-term, we have two of the top catching talents in the game in the organization."

Video: Preller on acquiring Mejia for Hand, Cimber

It's quite the trade haul considering the way Hand and Cimber blossomed from out of nowhere into top-tier relief pitchers with San Diego. Hand was a waiver claim from Miami at the start of the 2016 season. The left-hander became one of the best relievers in baseball, largely due to the implementation of a slider that ranks among the nastiest pitches in the sport. In 41 appearances this season, Hand owns a 3.05 ERA and 13.2 strikeouts per nine innings.

"Probably the best part of the job the last few years has been watching Brad come in and work in all different roles, different situations, growing from a guy that was a talent as a waiver claim that we took a shot with, to a two-time All-Star," Preller said.

Hand has been rumored as a trade piece for the better part of the past two seasons. But the Padres held firm that they wouldn't move him unless they were blown away by the return. During the offseason, Hand signed a team-friendly three-year extension through 2021. That seemingly made him even more attractive as trade bait.

Still, the Padres wouldn't have landed Mejia unless they included Cimber in the package. A surprise addition to the roster out of Spring Training, Cimber has been one of the Majors' top rookie relievers this season.

The sidearming right-hander owns a 3.17 ERA and a 2.32 FIP in 48 1/3 innings.

"Francisco's going to be a really good player," said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti. "But in order to be able to get back what we view are really high-leverage, high-impact relievers, we knew we were going to have to give up a lot of value."

In the absence of Hand, it's likeliest that Kirby Yates will slot into the Padres' closer role. San Diego has yet to announce any corresponding roster moves, but it's expected to add bullpen help before opening the second half on Friday in Philadelphia.

"Where we're at in the standings, the second part of the year will be [about] looking at improvement from our club, looking at improvement from individuals and giving opportunities to guys that have some talent," Preller said. "We'll see if we can find the next Brad Hand or the next Adam Cimber."

The Padres might not be done dealing either. MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported that Yates and, to a lesser extent, starter Tyson Ross have drawn serious trade interest.

For now, Hand and Cimber are difficult pieces to replace. But the Indians saw both as useful long-term additions to their bullpen. As a result, they were willing to part with their best prospect.

San Diego isn't going to rush Mejia. In two separate Major League stints, he's notched two hits in 15 at-bats, but he's going to get further seasoning in the Minors before he dons a Padres uniform.

"We'll take the next few weeks at the Triple-A level to evaluate, see where things are with him, see where things are with our big league club," Preller said. "We'll make a call from there. … He's a guy that's right there on the doorstep of the big leagues.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Brad Hand, Francisco Mejia

What's next for 3B/SS market after Machado trade?

Contenders seeking help on left side of infield still have options
MLB.com

While the Manny Machado saga may be over for now -- it will resume in the offseason, when Machado is set to become a free agent -- the search for a difference-making player on the left side of the infield is ongoing for a number of clubs, including the Phillies and Brewers.

Though there aren't any Machado-level bats left on the trade market, contenders still have several viable options who can handle the hot corner. But for teams specifically seeking a shortstop, the choices are less inspiring.

While the Manny Machado saga may be over for now -- it will resume in the offseason, when Machado is set to become a free agent -- the search for a difference-making player on the left side of the infield is ongoing for a number of clubs, including the Phillies and Brewers.

Though there aren't any Machado-level bats left on the trade market, contenders still have several viable options who can handle the hot corner. But for teams specifically seeking a shortstop, the choices are less inspiring.

Catch up on the latest Trade Talk

Here's how the third base/shortstop market breaks down after the Dodgers' blockbuster trade for Machado on Wednesday.

Next-biggest names
Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals
Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Blue Jays

This group would have been far more alluring prior to this season, but Beltre has battled injuries and displayed diminished power this year and Donaldson hasn't played since late May due to a left calf ailment. With Beltre owning veto power over any trade due to his 10-and-5 rights and Donaldson potentially having just a handful of games to show he's healthy before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, Moustakas may be the only one of these impending free agents who is actually dealt. The Phillies reportedly are honing in on the Royals third baseman after missing out on Machado, and the Cardinals, Braves, Red Sox and Yankees have also been linked to him. Meanwhile, Rangers president of baseball operations and general manager Jon Daniels told Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the club won't consider a Beltre deal unless it is "beneficial for all parties involved."

Video: KC@MIN: Moustakas crushes two solo homers

Versatile vets
Eduardo Escobar, 3B/SS, Twins
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B/3B, Mets
Derek Dietrich, 3B/OF, Marlins
Yangervis Solarte, 3B/2B, Blue Jays
Josh Harrison, 2B/3B, Pirates

There could be some good value here, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Escobar, Cabrera and Dietrich have each posted a wRC+ of at least 120 this season, and Solarte has solid contact skills (14.4 percent strikeout rate in 2018) and power (16 homers). Harrison has struggled (71 wRC+ in '18), but he was an All-Star as recently as last year.

Video: BAL@MIN: Escobar drives a 2-run homer to right field

All five of these players can handle multiple positions, so they could be targets for teams in need of a second baseman, third baseman or even an outfielder (in the case of Dietrich). However, Escobar is the only one who is likely to draw any interest as a shortstop, and even he isn't a great option there due to his defensive limitations. The Phillies, Brewers and Indians are the teams that are most likely to pursue one of the players in this group, and the Red Sox could also jump into the mix with second baseman Dustin Pedroia (left knee) possibly out for the year. That said, teams looking for a second baseman may prefer to trade for someone such as Brian Dozier, DJ LeMahieu or Whit Merrifield instead.

Best-available shortstops
Freddy Galvis, SS, Padres
Jose Iglesias, SS, Tigers
Jordy Mercer, SS, Pirates
Adeiny Hechavarria, SS, Rays
Alcides Escobar, SS, Royals

Video: LAD@SD: Galvis flashes brilliant defense at shortstop

Among the teams that were reportedly involved in Machado trade discussions, the Phillies, Brewers and D-backs each still has a glaring hole to address at shortstop. The problem is, the remaining crop at the position is filled with light-hitting players, and none represents a significant upgrade over what those three clubs have there now. Among the five, Mercer has the best wRC+ with 86. As a result, the trade interest in these players may be minimal.

Thomas Harrigan is an editor for MLB.com.

What now for teams that missed on Machado?

Phils, Brewers, D-backs, Yanks turn attention to other options
MLB.com

After weeks of speculation, the Manny Machado sweepstakes are over. He's officially a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. That leaves a batch of teams who were in on the former Baltimore Orioles star to wonder: "Now what?"

Waving goodbye to the biggest name on the trade market stings, but the contenders who missed out on Machado still have ways to improve. And just because they were honed in on Machado to play either shortstop or third base, it doesn't mean their options are limited solely to those positions.

After weeks of speculation, the Manny Machado sweepstakes are over. He's officially a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. That leaves a batch of teams who were in on the former Baltimore Orioles star to wonder: "Now what?"

Waving goodbye to the biggest name on the trade market stings, but the contenders who missed out on Machado still have ways to improve. And just because they were honed in on Machado to play either shortstop or third base, it doesn't mean their options are limited solely to those positions.

In some cases -- like with the Indians, who responded quickly by acquiring Padres relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber for top catching prospect Francisco Mejia on Thursday morning -- these four Machado-less clubs may be better off shifting gears entirely and targeting other areas of need.

Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies were in on Machado until the end because the left side of their infield has been in flux all season, as third baseman Maikel Franco has failed to develop while rookies J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery have battled injury and inconsistency, respectively. For a team that enters the second half surprisingly atop the National League East, Philly still needs some sort of stabilizing veteran presence at either short or the hot corner.

MLB.com's Todd Zolecki puts it succinctly: "The Phillies need a bat, particularly on the left side of the infield. Mike Moustakas and Eduardo Escobar are possibilities." Both are 29 years old and can be free agents at the end of this season, meaning either Moustakas or Escobar would bring help in 2018 and not stand in the way of the Phils' expected pursuit of Machado in free agency this offseason.

Video: Slugger Moustakas delivering at the plate, in field

The alternative would be to address the bullpen, where the Phillies have plenty of live arms, like rookie closer Seranthony Dominguez, but lack a left-hander and -- you guessed it -- experience. They have been connected to lefty Zach Britton, and having discussed Machado with the O's already might help general manager Matt Klentak in that regard.

Milwaukee Brewers
Perhaps no contender needed Machado more than the Brewers, whose shortstops have combined for a measly .567 OPS -- second worst in baseball this season -- as youngster Orlando Arcia has failed to follow up his 2017 breakout campaign.

Problem is, there's not much left on the shortstop market now, with the likes of Freddy Galvis (Padres), Jose Iglesias (Tigers) and Adeiny Hechavarria (Rays) among the most available names. None of those fit all that well, considering the Crew needs a boost from an infield bat.

So here's suggesting Milwaukee pivots and goes after another need, say, at second base. MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal points out Brian Dozier becomes an expected target.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: Among the players the #Brewers are expected to target now that they have lost Machado: #Twins 2B Brian Dozier. Team also will explore pitching upgrades as well.

Dozier, the longtime Twins second-sacker, is having a subpar season by his standards, but the free-agent-to-be has turned it on in July (.298/.369/.632) and has been one of the premier power-and-patience keystoners, averaging a .349 OBP and 38 homers from 2016-17.

That kind of production would be big for the Brewers, whose second basemen have registered a .658 OPS so far -- 10th worst in MLB -- which is better than their collection of shortstops, but not by much. Jonathan Villar has regressed since his monster 2016 and is on the DL with a sprained right thumb.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Machado made sense for Arizona because his offense would have brought an upgrade over Nick Ahmed. That said, Ahmed already has hit career highs in doubles (20), homers (12) and RBIs (38). And it's not like the D-backs would gain much from going after someone like Galvis or Iglesias when Ahmed already is an elite defensive shortstop.

The best approach might be adding an arm or two, as MLB.com's Steve Gilbert writes, especially to a rotation that has lost Taijuan Walker for the year and Shelby Miller for at least the immediate future. Expect the D-backs to check in on rental arms like J.A. Happ (Blue Jays) and Nathan Eovaldi (Rays), but they also might aim for a controllable starter -- perhaps the Mets' Zack Wheeler or the O's Kevin Gausman? -- since All-Star Patrick Corbin will be a free agent in a few months.

Video: Lefty J.A. Happ brings veteran presence in rotation

New York Yankees
The Yankees were in on Machado, but it seemed like they were only willing to acquire him on their terms. After all, with veteran Didi Gregorius at short and rookie Miguel Andujar at third and an offense that leads MLB in homers by a wide margin, well, the need just wasn't as acute.

There's a chance GM Brian Cashman could make a play for Moustakas to provide another option at either third or first base, as MLB.com's Richard Justice suggests. But really, this team's focus is on a starting pitcher to beef up a rotation that has questions after ace Luis Severino.

"The Yanks have been connected to Michael Fulmer of the Tigers, Cole Hamels of the Rangers, Happ of the Blue Jays and Wheeler of the Mets, among others," MLB.com's Bryan Hoch writes in covering the club's quest for an arm. With a deep roster and an even deeper farm system, Cashman has plenty of pieces to offer to get what he wants.

Jason Catania is a reporter for MLB.com.

Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Manny Machado

Indians deal for ace reliever Brad Hand

Fellow reliever Cimber also goes to Cleveland; Friars get top prospect Mejia
MLB.com

ARLINGTON -- Brad Hand struck out Indians catcher Yan Gomes in the All-Star Game on Tuesday in Washington. The left-handed reliever followed that by inducing a groundout off the bat of Cleveland's Michael Brantley to end the eighth inning. Now, those three are teammates.

On Thursday, the Indians pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Padres to acquire Hand and right-hander Adam Cimber in exchange for highly touted catching prospect Francisco Mejia. Hand and Cimber immediately boost a bullpen that has been a trouble area for the Tribe this season, while San Diego nets Cleveland's top prospect in return.

ARLINGTON -- Brad Hand struck out Indians catcher Yan Gomes in the All-Star Game on Tuesday in Washington. The left-handed reliever followed that by inducing a groundout off the bat of Cleveland's Michael Brantley to end the eighth inning. Now, those three are teammates.

On Thursday, the Indians pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Padres to acquire Hand and right-hander Adam Cimber in exchange for highly touted catching prospect Francisco Mejia. Hand and Cimber immediately boost a bullpen that has been a trouble area for the Tribe this season, while San Diego nets Cleveland's top prospect in return.

"Trades like this are always difficult to make," said Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations. "We parted with a guy that we think has a chance to be a really good Major League player in Francisco. But we feel we're adding players to our bullpen that will not only impact our team for 2018, but for years to come."

Video: 2018 ASG: Hand strikes out Gomes swinging in the 8th

The Indians optioned Mejia to Triple-A after Sunday's game against the Yankees and will option righty Adam Plutko to the same affiliate, vacating two spots on the 25-man roster for Hand and Cimber. Antonetti noted that there will likely be a "series of moves" prior to Friday's game against the Rangers.

There are two main motivating factors behind the Tribe's willingness to part with Mejia, who ranked No. 1 among the Indians' prospects and No. 15 overall, according to MLB Pipeline. First and foremost, Cleveland's bullpen ranked 29th in the Majors in ERA (5.28) heading into the All-Star break as manager Terry Francona has cycled through 19 relief arms. Beyond that, the Indians might lose a wave of players in free agency this offseason.

Hand -- one of the game's elite back-end arms -- is under contract for 2019 ($6.5 million) and '20 ($7 million) with a club option worth $10 million (or $1 million buyout) for '21. Cimber is a rookie this season, so he is under control through at least '23. After this season, Indians relief ace Andrew Miller and closer Cody Allen are among the team's impending free agents.

"That was really an important element of it," Antonetti said. "We were seeking to not only impact this year's team, but to help better position us moving forward. We know we have some guys in our bullpen who are approaching the end of their contracts and we are going to have to remake our bullpen in some fashion for 2019. And this trade gives us two really good options."

The Hand deal could be just the first of many for the Padres. A source tells MLB.com's Mark Feinsand that San Diego has drawn significant interest in right-hander Kirby Yates and, to a lesser degree, righty Tyson Ross.

The Indians, who could benefit from upgrading in center or right field, may not be done dealing, either.

"One of the things this trade allows us to do," Antonetti said, "is continue to have the flexibility to improve other areas of the team. We remain engaged with teams right now on other trade concepts that we'll continue to weigh as we approach the [July 31 non-waiver Trade] Deadline."

This season, the 28-year-old Hand has turned in a 3.05 ERA with 24 saves and 65 strikeouts against 15 walks in 41 outings (44 1/3 innings). His 35-percent strikeout rate ranks 11th overall among MLB relievers. Over the past three seasons for San Diego, which claimed the lefty off waivers from the Marlins in April 2016, Hand has posted a 2.66 ERA with 280 strikeouts vs. 71 walks in 213 innings.

Cimber, 27, has a 3.17 ERA with 51 strikeouts and 10 walks in 42 appearances (48 1/3 innings) this season for the Padres. A side-arming righty, he has limited right-handed hitters to a measly .482 OPS. If the Indians take on the Yankees or Astros in the playoffs, Cimber could come in handy against some of their right-handed sluggers.

"It's a guy with a little bit of a unique look," Antonetti said of Cimber. "He's a very low-slot right-handed reliever that's dominated right-handed hitters and has improved against left-handed hitters. We think he's a guy we can leverage in key situations in games to get some of the best right-handed hitters out."

Francona uses Allen as his primary closer, but the manager is also flexible with how he utilizes his late-inning arms.

Hand is most likely headed for a setup role with Cleveland, but he could just as easily share save chances with Allen depending on matchups. Miller, who works as a high-leverage weapon for the Tribe, is still working his way back from the 10-day disabled list (right knee). The veteran lefty logged a rehab outing for Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday, striking out two in one clean inning.

"[Miller's] outing the other night was really encouraging," Antonetti said. "His fastball velocity and shape to his pitches is starting to creep back to where he is when he's at his best. We'll continue to allow him to work through things in the Minor Leagues, and at some point here in the next few weeks, he can be an option for us."

The American League Central-leading Indians did not want to part with Mejia unless the incoming package came with multiple seasons of control. That goal was achieved by netting Cimber as the secondary piece to the trade, which greatly enhances the look of Cleveland's bullpen with October in mind.

The acquisition is similar to when the Indians got Miller from the Yankees before the 2016 non-waiver Trade Deadline while he still had 2 1/2 years remaining on his contract. As with Hand, they traded outfielder Clint Frazier, then their No. 1 prospect, for an elite left-handed reliever in Miller with multiple years of team control.

Mejia, 22, was splitting his time between catching and the outfield this season due to him being blocked at the MLB level by Gomes (signed through 2019 with team options for '20 and '21) and Roberto Perez (signed through '20 with team options for '21 and '22). Francona emphasized over the past few weeks that the switch-hitting prospect preferred to focus on catching.

"We asked a lot of Francisco this year, no doubt about about it," Antonetti said. "We asked him to try to develop defensively at a couple different positions while trying to perform at a young age in Triple-A against some really good pitching. So there were a lot of challenges on Francisco's plate, and to his credit, he handled them really well."

The Padres plan to keep Mejia at catcher, but will send him to Triple-A El Paso for the time being.

In 2016, Mejia put himself on the national radar with a 50-game hitting streak. He made the World roster in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in each of the past three seasons, and he's hitting .279 with 30 extra-base hits and a .755 OPS through 79 games at Triple-A Columbus this year. Mejia, who had two brief stints with Cleveland this season, hit .455 with a 1.193 OPS in 24 games in June, ending that month with eight multihit games in a row.

"We all feel that Francisco's going to be a really good player," Antonetti said. "But in order to be able to get back what we view are really high-leverage, high-impact relievers, we knew we were going to have to give up a lot of value. We were fortunate that we do have some catching depth within the organization, and that depth allowed us to consider a trade like this."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres, Adam Cimber, Brad Hand

What could happen in NL Central at Deadline

MLB.com

The All-Star Game has come and gone, and the non-waiver Trade Deadline is less than two weeks away. Until July 31, much of the talk in baseball will be focused around buyers and sellers, blockbuster moves and small deals and an endless buzz of trade rumors.

The National League Central might be one of the most intriguing divisions over the next 12 days. The Cubs have climbed back into first place, and they have by far the NL's best run differential. After an aggressive offseason, the Brewers' recent skid has given them more reason to make another big splash. The Cardinals ousted manager Mike Matheny, but will they shake up their roster?

The All-Star Game has come and gone, and the non-waiver Trade Deadline is less than two weeks away. Until July 31, much of the talk in baseball will be focused around buyers and sellers, blockbuster moves and small deals and an endless buzz of trade rumors.

The National League Central might be one of the most intriguing divisions over the next 12 days. The Cubs have climbed back into first place, and they have by far the NL's best run differential. After an aggressive offseason, the Brewers' recent skid has given them more reason to make another big splash. The Cardinals ousted manager Mike Matheny, but will they shake up their roster?

The Pirates are in a different place than they were two weeks ago, now standing within one game of .500 and 5 1/2 games back in the race for the second NL Wild Card spot. The Reds are 40-38 under interim manager Jim Riggleman, so perhaps they'll be more inclined to hang on to players previously presumed to be trade candidates.

This week, MLB.com spoke with scouts and executives to see what they think will happen in the NL Central.

CUBS
What they need to do: The Cubs will look for rotation depth, an NL executive suggested, especially if they don't think Yu Darvish is close to helping them. An NL scout noted the Cubs need more consistency from their rotation, so they should pursue a starter. That lines up with what Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer recently said about the Cubs' search for pitching. With no other glaring needs, an NL executive said, they'll likely be in the market for another back-end bullpen arm.

What they can get: The Cubs don't have a particularly strong system, one NL official pointed out, so they may not be in position to make a big move. An NL scout said their Major League depth theoretically frees them up to move someone like Ian Happ or Mike Montgomery, who might start for another club, if they wanted to pursue a bigger acquisition. They don't have a representative on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, and they moved their best trade chips to get Aroldis Chapman (2016) and Jose Quintana ('17).

Video: The MLB Tonight crew discuss the Brewers' needs

BREWERS
What they need to do: One NL executive said the Brewers need pitching, both in their rotation and bullpen, along with help in the middle infield. The executive expected Milwaukee to pursue a contractually controllable starting pitcher and at least one infield upgrade. The Brewers have been relying on Tyler Saladino, Jonathan Villar, Brad Miller and Hernan Perez up the middle. An NL scout took it a step further, saying the Brewers "must" get a starter and prioritize that over a shortstop.

What they can get: An NL official said the Brewers had the necessary pieces to acquire All-Star shortstop Manny Machado, who was dealt to the Dodgers on Wednesday, even if they didn't complete the trade. The fact that they pursued Machado, the consensus top player available before the Trade Deadline, puts them in play for just about anyone. One NL scout said the Crew has the prospects and depth in their farm system to get a "high-end starter." They've also been linked to infielders Whit Merrifield, Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar, among others, and a number of starters, including rental lefty J.A. Happ.

CARDINALS
What they need to do: Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak recently said the club's next move was "TBD," so their direction is unclear. The Cards have underperformed, leading one NL scout to say they simply need their roster to play better. The scout said their hitters and starters are good enough to win, but they lack depth in the bullpen. Their biggest concern, the scout said, remains in the dugout following Matheny's dismissal.

Video: Cards dismiss manager Matheny, hitting coach Mabry

What they can get: Bullpen help is never in short supply this time of year, so one scout suggested they look to "the usual suspect teams" to shore up their relief corps. The Mets, Orioles, White Sox, Marlins, Blue Jays and Padres, among others, should have veteran relief help available. Lefty relievers like Zach Duke (a former Cardinal), Luis Avilan and Jake Diekman may be of some appeal.

PIRATES
What they need to do: Some in the industry believe the Pirates might be better off taking part in a multi-year rebuild, but the Bucs have said they intend to be competitive this year, and next. In that case, an NL executive said, they can't trade core players like Starling Marte and Jameson Taillon. One NL scout figured that predicament, along with their recent surge, will lead them to wait until closer to July 31 to take any action. If they're still toward the back of the Wild Card race, the scout said, they won't be "big-time buyers." If they've fallen completely out of the mix, they can move veterans, then use the rest of the season to evaluate their young talent -- including prospects like Austin Meadows, Kevin Newman, Kevin Kramer and Clay Holmes -- and determine who they can build around going forward.

What they can get: One NL scout figured closer Felipe Vazquez would bring in a haul of young talent, given the demand for young, controllable relievers, but Vazquez is the kind of core player the Pirates won't move if they want to contend next season. Their most likely trade candidates are left fielder Corey Dickerson, catcher Francisco Cervelli (if healthy), starter Ivan Nova and infielders Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer and David Freese. One scout figured Dickerson could bring in at least one organizational top-10-caliber prospect, and thought there would be interest in Harrison, Mercer and Freese as utility/role/bench players. Cervelli's concussions complicate his future, and while Nova is a reliable veteran, he isn't the kind of front-line arm most contenders are looking for this time of year.

REDS
What they need to do: The Reds' recent run has inspired some confidence in Cincinnati, and one NL executive pointed out that they have a lineup that could contend, as long as it's led by Joey Votto, Scooter Gennett and Eugenio Suarez. However, one NL scout said the Reds need to capitalize on their short-term assets and sell. The scout said Cincinnati could flip Matt Harvey to a contender and get back as much talent as possible, then market Billy Hamilton as a fourth outfielder who could change games with his speed and defense.

What they can get: One NL scout noted that this deadline will shed light on their overall plan. If they think they can contend as soon as next year, it might make sense to keep Gennett, closer Raisel Iglesias and reliever Jared Hughes. The scout credited Cincinnati as having a strong core of position players and "a chance to have a good 'pen if they stay where they are." One scout thought they could swap Hamilton, at least, to land some young pitching prospects to eventually bolster their unproven rotation.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals

These deals hit a snag before reaching fruition

Almost-trades that would have been among MLB's biggest blockbusters
MLB.com

The problem with almost-trades, those would-be, baseball-altering deals that almost happen, is that you can never be sure how close they really came. Baseball circles are filled with idle trade talk.

Someone in a baseball front office might say in passing, "You know we really should trade for Mike Trout."

The problem with almost-trades, those would-be, baseball-altering deals that almost happen, is that you can never be sure how close they really came. Baseball circles are filled with idle trade talk.

Someone in a baseball front office might say in passing, "You know we really should trade for Mike Trout."

That's sensible. Everybody should trade for Trout. Someone will overhear it. That someone is talking over dinner with someone else and says, again, in total passing: "I hear we're at least talking about dealing for Trout."

The next somebody mentions it to somebody else who puts it on a message board, "I hear Trout trade talks might be happening,"

Everybody on the board goes crazy, and one of them calls talk radio: "We're getting Trout!"

Then somebody else comes on the show to wonder where Trout will hit in the lineup. Then someone else calls in to ask if Trout will go into the Hall of Fame as an Angel or as a representative of the local team. A fourth person calls in to say Trout is overrated, and has never won.

And at some point it becomes too big to ignore, and analysts begin talking about Trout getting traded, and maybe the Angels deny the rumors, which only adds fuel, and Trout is asked how he would feel about being dealt and, well, it's an exaggeration, but probably not by much.

And that seems like an almost trade, but it isn't. For an almost-trade to qualify, it has to go pretty far. Here are the five biggest almost-trades.

No. 1: Joe DiMaggio to Red Sox for Ted Williams, 1947 or 1948
It is by far the most famous and most intriguing almost-trade, and not just because it would have been the greatest player-for-player deal in baseball history. It would have made sense on so many levels. That's why it almost happened.

Both players were and are local icons, and both players were greatly hampered by their ballpark. DiMaggio was a power-hitting righty playing in the worst power-hitting-righty ballpark of that time, or perhaps any other. DiMaggio hit much better on the road than he did at home throughout his career because of it.

On road: .334/.406/.611, 203 doubles, 213 homers, 2,113 total bases.

At home: .315/.391/.547, 187 doubles, 148 homers, 1,837 total bases.

Even now, it's thrilling to imagine what DiMaggio might have hit had he spent any number of years at Fenway Park with the Green Monster so close. As a guide, in 120 games he hit at Fenway roughly what he hit on the road -- .334/.410/.605.

The same is less true of Williams; he destroyed Fenway Park, hit .361 there for his career. But he did say the park wasn't great for him. He loved to pull the ball, something Fenway discouraged. He undoubtedly would have loved that left field at Yankee Stadium that was so good to Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and others. Nobody knew in 1947 that Williams would go to fly in Korea and lose a couple more years to service. At the time, it would have been a legitimate thought that at Yankee Stadium, Williams might have challenged Ruth's career home-run record.

The almost-trade details are also famous. The story goes like this: The team's owners, New York's Dan Topping and Boston's Tom Yawkey, went out to Toots Shor to drink and talk, and let's face it: How could a drinking session not end up with the two talking about trading DiMaggio for Williams? By the end of the night, as the legend goes, the deal was struck. Both sides were happy about it, delirious even. They were going to shake up the baseball universe. It was Yawkey who chickened out in the morning, though there are rumors that he offered to still make the deal if the Yankees threw in a young, short and slow outfielder and part-time catcher.

Topping, it turned out, was not willing to include Yogi Berra.

No. 2: Cincinnati's Tony Perez for Kansas City's George Brett, 1974-75
Before the 1975 season, Reds manager Sparky Anderson was panicking because he did not know who would be the Reds' third baseman. Future Hall of Famer Tony Perez had played third earlier in the decade, but Anderson had no faith in his third-base defense and moved him to first. The Reds shopped Perez around all offseason. They tried to deal him to Boston for Butch Hobson. They dangled him to Oakland for Sal Bando. Those fell through.

But the deal that seemed to gain the most traction was trading him to Kansas City for the Royals' young third baseman, Brett. At the time, Brett was a talented, but still raw, young player, while Perez was an established superstar.

Video: KC@LAA: Brett collects his 3,000th career hit

This is one of those deals that isn't entirely clear regarding how close the two teams got; but it was close enough that papers in both cities reported it heavily and, in the end, we know it was Kansas City that dropped out late. Things worked out OK for the Reds; they ended up finding their third baseman in May when Anderson asked Pete Rose if he would be willing to do it. Without even answering, Rose ran into the dugout to get something and went out to third base to take some ground balls.

"What did you get there, Peter Edward?" Anderson asked him.

"A cup," Rose said. "I'll help the club, but I'm not going to risk my family's future for you."

The 1975-76 Reds ended up being one of the great teams in baseball history.

But imagine if that was Brett at third base for the Big Red Machine. And imagine how baseball history in Kansas City would have been different.

No. 3: Pittsburgh's Barry Bonds for Atlanta's Alejandro Pena, Keith Mitchell and a player to be named, 1992
You probably know: This deal was done. As far as John Schuerholz is concerned to this day, it was done. The Pirates knew that they would not be able to sign Bonds after the season, and so it was sensible to get as much as they could for him. And the Braves were building what would become one of the game's most consistent dynasties; could you even imagine the 1990s Braves if they'd had Barry Bonds?

The deal was nixed the next morning by Pirates GM Ted Simmons. This was not like an erratic owner, a Tom Yawkey, backing out of Williams-DiMaggio. The accepted etiquette is that once GMs agree to a deal, it is done. There are no takebacks. But, as Schuerholz's remembered, Simmons explained that his manager Jim Leyland had freaked out, gone over his head, and gotten the deal kiboshed. Schuerholz ranted and raved. But he did not get Bonds, who stayed in Pittsburgh for one more year, won the NL MVP Award, then went on to a pretty memorable career in San Francisco.

No. 4: Pedro Martinez to Cleveland for Bartolo Colon, Jaret Wright and prospects, 1997
The promise of Wright prevented the late 1990s Cleveland Indians from having an in-his-prime Martinez. For Cleveland fans, still waiting for the Tribe's first World Series victory since 1948, this is too cruel to be true.

To be fair, Wright and Colon were possibly the two best pitching prospects in baseball at the time. But Pedro ... he was already Pedro. He had just won his first Cy Young Award for Montreal. He was well into the process of becoming, perhaps, the most dominant pitcher ever. With Cleveland's incredible lineup back then, well, you can put together what might have happened.

Cleveland's John Hart blinked. The holdup was Wright. He was young, limitless and had just pitched wonderfully in Game 7 of the World Series. He seemed a certain star.

It's a good lesson for you kids out there: Don't fall in love with your prospects.

No. 5: St. Louis' Albert Pujols to Montreal for Steve Kline and Dustin Hermanson, 2000
On the other hand … consider the Cardinals not trading a prospect. This deal was made, but it was altered by Tony La Russa, who decided to deal Fernando Tatis in Pujols' place. This was kind of extraordinary, really. Tatis was a good player, who one year earlier had bashed 34 homers, scored 104 runs and drove in 107 runs. Pujols had just finished his first year in the Minors, and there's no doubt he showed some promise, but had also been a 13th-round Draft pick and scouts had counted numerous talent deficiencies.

La Russa decided to trade the veteran; he wasn't crazy about Tatis' defense, anyway. And the first time he saw Pujols in Major League camp, the very first time, La Russa knew that he had been right. He began raving about Pujols and, almost immediately, predicted stardom. Sometimes, you do want to fall in love with your prospects.

Honorable mentions

Yankees almost trade Mariano Rivera to Seattle, 1996
As the story goes, it was George Steinbrenner himself who wanted to make a deal with Seattle for shortstop Felix Fermin, when it looked like a kid shortstop named Derek Jeter would not be ready. Rivera was then a kid himself with a terrific arm, but he had bombed as a starter in 1995. The Yankees decided to hold off on Fermin and, shortly after, decided to put Rivera in the bullpen. It worked out for them.

Red Sox almost trade for Alex Rodriguez, 2004
The Red Sox made the deal -- Manny Ramirez and Jon Lester to Texas for Rodriguez. But you might recall that for the deal to work, A-Rod had to take a ginormous pay cut, something he willingly accepted, but the Players Association blatantly rejected. Shortly after, A-Rod went to the Yankees. It's not in the top-five list because it isn't clear that this was a loss for Boston. Keeping Manny and Lester ended up being a winning combination; the Red Sox won two World Series by the end of the decade, the Yankees one.

Royals almost trade Zack Greinke to Washington, 2011
This is one I do think about quite a bit. The Royals would have dealt Greinke to the Nationals, no doubt, except Greinke did not think Washington could win. And he didn't want to get stuck playing for another loser after years of awfulness in Kansas City. He turned down the deal.

He was wrong, though; the Nationals were just about to start winning, and winning big. The Nationals were close to .500 in 2011, and they rolled and won 98 games and reached the postseason in 2012. How much of a difference does Greinke make for the 2012 Nationals, who had to go into the playoffs without Stephen Strasburg? I suspect, he could have made all the difference.

Joe Posnanski is a columnist for MLB.com.

Complete guide to trade market for pitchers

MLB.com

At this time last year, Justin Verlander, Yu Darvish and Sonny Gray were the biggest names on the starting-pitching market.

The industry expected all three to be dealt. And they were -- even if Verlander didn't become an Astro until seconds before the Sept. 1 deadline to set postseason rosters.

At this time last year, Justin Verlander, Yu Darvish and Sonny Gray were the biggest names on the starting-pitching market.

The industry expected all three to be dealt. And they were -- even if Verlander didn't become an Astro until seconds before the Sept. 1 deadline to set postseason rosters.

In 2018, there's little consensus about which high-end pitchers are truly available -- especially among starters -- let alone where they might be heading. So perhaps the conditions are ripe for a blockbuster, the sort of landscape-changing deal no one sees coming.

Here's an overview of the names and teams to watch in the days ahead.

All-Star-caliber starters

Top names: Jacob deGrom, Blake Snell, J.A. Happ, Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Cole Hamels, Michael Fulmer, Chris Archer, Nathan Eovaldi, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, Noah Syndergaard

The possibility of a deGrom or Syndergaard trade has been discussed at length in media circles, but it's unclear if the Mets have made actual progress on either front. For now, it is likely that both right-handers will remain in Flushing because of high price tags and a general reluctance to deal with the Yankees, Phillies and Braves for geographic/competitive reasons.

The Rays, Twins and Angels are poised to exert the most influence on the market for high-end pitching, because the circumstances favor sellers. Tampa Bay isn't shopping Snell. Minnesota isn't in a hurry to move Berrios -- or Gibson, for that matter. But the conditions are ripe for a motivated contender (like Milwaukee) to assemble an overwhelming offer.

Gibson, 30, is one of this year's sleeper trade candidates, with a career-best WHIP (1.23) and K/BB (2.48) rate. He can become a free agent following the 2019 season, so there's value in the Twins moving him now.

The less-talked-about possibilities, such as Gibson, have become more appealing with the struggles of Happ and Fulmer late in the first half.

Teams shopping: Yankees, Mariners, Rockies, Braves, Brewers, D-backs

Gray's struggles over the past calendar year have thrust the Yankees right back into the market for a No. 2 starter. The Brewers' need for a top starter became even more acute when Junior Guerra landed on the disabled list just prior to the All-Star break.

Similarly, the Braves need a veteran arm to help fuse together a rotation beset by injures over the past month. The D-backs and Rockies are in a similar position: They have depth among their starting pitchers, so they'd need to land a No. 2 starter (or better) to make a rotation move worth their while at this year's July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Depth starters

Top names: Tyson Ross, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Clayton Richard, Matthew Boyd, Mike Fiers, Francisco Liriano, Jake Odorizzi, Lance Lynn, Ivan Nova, Danny Duffy, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, James Shields

As one baseball scout observed recently, the Reds bought Harvey's stock when it cratered, and now they are positioned to sell at a decent profit. Harvey's WHIP since moving to Cincinnati is 1.17; he hasn't done that over a full season since helping the Mets reach the 2015 World Series.

Video: MIL@CIN: Harvey tosses 5 2/3 scoreless innings, K's 6

Wheeler and Fiers are among the Major League leaders in innings pitched over the past 30 days, which is more important than it sounds: Scouts are canvassing ballparks across the Majors this month because contenders need pitchers who are healthy and effective right now.

Teams shopping: Athletics, Phillies, Nationals

The Nationals face a deficit in the National League East and need arms to fill out the back of their rotation, with Erick Fedde on the disabled list and Stephen Strasburg set to return from the DL on Friday. The Phillies, like the Nats, have ace-level pitching but could add a veteran for the stretch run.

The A's are an unpredictable presence in this sector of the market. For Oakland, adding a rental starter (like Happ or Lynn) at a reasonable cost is the safest strategy.

Setup relievers

Top names: Drew Steckenrider, Adam Conley, Brad Ziegler, Amir Garrett, Jared Hughes, David Hernandez, Jose Leclerc, Mychal Givens, Trevor Hildenberger, Alex Wilson, Seunghwan Oh, Xavier Cedeno, Luis Avilan, Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Edgar Santana, Richard Rodriguez, Kyle Crick, Alex Claudio, Jake Diekman, Ryan Pressly, Matt Andriese, John Axford

Raisel Iglesias is hardly the only Reds reliever in demand, as Garrett, Hernandez and Hughes are in demand across the business. The Pirates' right-handed setup group -- Santana, Rodriguez and Crick -- has been among the best in baseball this year, but it's unclear how available any of them will be.

The Angels, Blue Jays and White Sox project to be among the most active sellers in the middle-relief market. In Avilan and Cedeno, the White Sox have two left-handers to move.

Teams shopping: Indians, Red Sox, Mariners, Phillies, Dodgers, D-backs, Giants, Rockies

With four NL West teams listed above, the division title could be determined by which team does the most to improve its bullpen at the Deadline. With Manny Machado on his way to Los Angeles, the Dodgers' greatest need is probably fortifying the bridge to closer Kenley Jansen.

Meanwhile, the Indians, Red Sox and Mariners -- possible playoff foes of the Yankees -- must fortify their bullpens in order to go pitch for pitch against the top bullpen in the American League.

Closers

Top names: Raisel Iglesias, Felipe Vazquez, Kyle Barraclough, Zach Britton, Blake Parker, Keone Kela, Jeurys Familia, Bud Norris, Fernando Rodney, Joakim Soria, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard, Shane Greene, Brad Brach

Brad Hand was the top name on this list, but with him having been traded to the Indians on Thursday, that distinction is shared by Britton, Iglesias and Barraclough.

Video: CIN@CHC: Iglesias retires Heyward to notch 5-out save

Parker's presence on the list is the result of the Angels' recent struggles and his steady performance for a second straight season. Meanwhile, a trade involving Vazquez is unlikely, since he is signed through the 2021 season with club options for '22 and '23.

Romo isn't the most sought-after name among this group, but he's intriguing. As one of the Rays' "openers," he's the lone pitcher in the Majors this year with at least five starts and 10 or more saves.

All-Star closer Blake Treinen would've headlined this list as recently as one month ago, but the A's are playing too well to move him now.

Teams shopping: Astros, Braves, Cardinals

Yes, the Indians got Hand, but don't be shocked if they add another reliever, as their bullpen ERA currently stands at 5.28, which ranks 29th in MLB, ahead of only the Royals. Hand --- who is under contract through 2020 is with a team option for 2021 -- as a perfect fit for Cleveland, as Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are entering free agency after this season.

The Cardinals will be fascinating to follow at the Deadline; depending on how their playoff chances evolve after the dismissal of manager Mike Matheny, St. Louis could trade current closer Norris or add another reliever. The Astros seem destined to add a closer given Ken Giles' recent demotion to Triple-A, but don't be surprised if they wait until July 31 to see if prices drop on guys like Familia or Britton.

Jon Paul Morosi is a columnist for MLB.com.

What could happen in NL East at Deadline

MLB.com

As the Nationals enter the second half attempting to live up to expectations and defend their National League East crown, they are looking up at the Phillies, who want to make a significant acquisition, and the Braves, who have the prospect currency necessary to make a big deal before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

The Phillies own a half-game lead over the Braves and a 5 1/2-game advantage over the Nats. So, what happens over the next two weeks might significantly impact the NL East race. This will also be a potentially impactful stretch for the Mets and Marlins, a pair of teams that have the significant pieces necessary to impact their respective futures with what would be among the year's biggest trades.

As the Nationals enter the second half attempting to live up to expectations and defend their National League East crown, they are looking up at the Phillies, who want to make a significant acquisition, and the Braves, who have the prospect currency necessary to make a big deal before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

The Phillies own a half-game lead over the Braves and a 5 1/2-game advantage over the Nats. So, what happens over the next two weeks might significantly impact the NL East race. This will also be a potentially impactful stretch for the Mets and Marlins, a pair of teams that have the significant pieces necessary to impact their respective futures with what would be among the year's biggest trades.

Here is a look at what each NL East club needs and wants approaching the Trade Deadline.

PHILLIES
What they need: Now that Manny Machado has gone to the Dodgers, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak must look elsewhere to satisfy his wish to improve offensively. Scouts have identified acquiring a bat as the team's biggest need. But the addition of a front-line starter could also enhance the team's bid to gain a postseason berth and progress through October.

"Machado would have been a huge get, but they will still be active players because it does not seem like money is an issue," an American League scout said. "The rotation lacks a true No. 1, but they have pitched better lately. So expect them to continue kicking the tires on some starting pitchers."

What they can get: As soon as it appeared Machado might head to the Dodgers, Mike Moustakas was mentioned as a candidate to land in Philadelphia. If Klentak does not land a middle-of-the-lineup bat, he may at least attempt to upgrade the team's offensive capability off the bench. Potential starter targets include J.A. Happ, Cole Hamels and Michael Fulmer, who is drawing interest from multiple NL East contenders.

"They will be willing to give up premium prospects, but they will not completely wreck what they have been doing," an AL scout said. "My expectation is they will target veteran-type starting pitchers. Without Machado, I just don't see a significant bat available that would be an upgrade."

BRAVES
What they need: There is a need to add veteran presence and depth in the bullpen. Some of the concerns about their 'pen could be lessened by adding a starter to the front of their rotation. Such an acquisition could lead to using one of their young pitchers to enhance their bullpen depth. The addition of a bat could also improve what is an offensively-thin bench.

"Fulmer makes a lot of sense here," an AL scout said. "Everybody is looking for a reliever. Getting a top starter would allow the Braves to take advantage of their depth by moving one of their young pitchers to the bullpen. Fulmer is 25 years old and has four years of control remaining. Those guys don't come cheap, but they aren't supposed to be cheap."

What they can get: Shortly after becoming the Braves' general manager this past winter, Alex Anthopoulos inquired about Fulmer. So it certainly makes sense for him to keep tabs on the former AL Rookie of the Year. Getting Jeurys Familia from the division-rival Mets seems like a long shot, but the Braves have the prospect pool necessary to pursue veteran relievers like Zach Britton or Joakim Soria. The club will also keep tabs on Kyle Barraclough and Craig Stammen, who have the ability to add depth to a young 'pen.

"The Braves are loaded with prospects and have the pieces necessary to get any deal done," an NL scout said. "They just have to determine which pitchers are a part of their future. They can't wait too long though, because once they start to struggle, they don't have value. But they all have value right now."

NATIONALS
What they need:
There's no doubt the Nationals want to acquire a catcher. They have inquired about a reunion with currently injured Wilson Ramos, but their top target is J.T. Realmuto. To get the All-Star catcher from the Marlins, Washington would almost certainly have to part with top prospect Victor Robles, who may at least be more expendable now that Juan Soto has been successful at the Major League level. There may also be a desire to add a starter.

"Much of the prospect talent is at the lower levels right now," an AL scout said. "That's not a knock against the club. It's just how it goes with the process. So unless they are willing to move Robles, I can't see them making a significant trade."

What they can get: An AL scout who recently inquired about the possibility of Matt Harvey landing with the Nationals was told it would likely not happen. Still, Harvey, Happ and Nathan Eovaldi are among the starters who may draw interest from the reigning division champs. But it's no secret that the top target from both an immediate and long-range point of view is Realmuto.

"I talked to a scout whose team asked about Realmuto, and I can't believe how much teams are asking in return for some of these top players," an NL scout said. "I get it from the Marlins' perspective. But it makes it harder to believe a deal will get done."

Video: deGrom on his future with the Mets, trade rumors

METS
What they need: While rumors surrounding Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard will continue to create a buzz, the most likely significant piece the Mets could end up dealing is Familia, who is arguably the best in what should be an active bullpen market. deGrom would net a significant return that would upgrade a thin farm system. But it seems unlikely teams will be willing to acquiesce a justifiably significant ask. So, Zack Wheeler may be used to at least get a decent piece for the pipeline.

"The whole deGrom buzz is overblown, because it's going to have to be a significant overpay for it to make sense to move him," an NL scout said. "It's a hard read with the new front-office guys. It's going to come down to what kind of returns they can get."

What they can get: The direction of the Mets might be determined this winter, when they may have a better opportunity to get a feel for the potential trade values of deGrom, Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes. But with Familia and Wheeler, the club at least has a chance to start enhancing its prospect pool.

"They would love to get a premium offensive prospect," an AL scout said. "Though Wheeler has pitched better lately, he's not going to get you that kind of player. But they could get a mid-level Double-A guy, or a young kid who is still in the early stages of his development."

MARLINS
What they need:
As the Marlins progress through the early stages of their rebuild, they will focus on potential returns for Realmuto, Barraclough and reliever Brad Ziegler.

What they can get: Realmuto is the one big piece the Marlins still have to use to significantly strenghten their farm system. But it remains to be seen whether they will eventually get what they want in return for the All-Star, who arguably stands as the game's best catcher.

"Moving Realmuto before the end of this month seems like a long shot to me, unless somebody really steps up," an NL scout said. "They want a huge return, and that's exactly what they should be seeking. But I think it's more likely we'll see him moved this winter."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

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