Rumor roundup: Shark could lure contenders
White Sox righty a prime trade target; Pirates may look for infield help
With next week's non-waiver Trade Deadline quickly approaching, it's the time of the season when trade talks and rumors begin to really heat up.
Here's a look at some of the top rumors circulating around the league on Monday:
• Although the White Sox have entered "listening mode" ahead of the Juy 31 Deadline, according to FOXSports.com, the only key name that appears to be in play is Jeff Samardzija. That report falls in line with the one from MLB.com's Scott Merkin, who suggests the White Sox could make a couple of moves over the next two weeks, but are not expected to undergo a serious overhaul despite the fact that the 2015 season hasn't exactly gone to plan thus far. Chicago also has no interest in moving ace Chris Sale.
That said, the 30-year-old Samardzija is considered a prime trade target given his upcoming free agency following the season. Samardzija has underwhelmed in his first season on Chicago's South Side, racking up a 4.08 ERA over 132 1/3 innings in 19 starts. He's also averaging just 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings, which is more than a full strikeout below his previous low since becoming a full-time starter in 2012. Despite having a down year, there figures to be plenty of interest from any contender looking to bolster its starting rotation.
• The Tigers could be one of the busier teams leading up to the Deadline, albeit in a fashion very different from recent years. Bob Nightengale of the USA Today reports that the Tigers -- sitting at an even .500 (46-46) following Monday's 5-4 win over the Mariners -- will ultimately become sellers and shop both ace David Price and slugger Yoenis Cespedes. Although president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said no decision has been finalized at this point, the report suggests that both players are expected to be available on the trade market.
Detroit, of course, is used to being on the other side of Trade Deadline dealings, even acquiring Price in a Deadline deal just last year. After entering play on Monday 10 1/2 games back in the AL Central, however, it appears as if the Tigers will now turn their attention to trying to reel in a similar package to what they sent away last year -- pitcher Drew Smyly, center fielder Austin Jackson and prospect Willy Adames -- to land Price from the Rays.
• The Pirates' infield took another significant blow on Monday when it was announced that shortstop Jordy Mercer would miss approximately six weeks due to a lower leg contusion and a sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee. This news comes with third baseman Josh Harrison already on the DL and expected to miss up to six more weeks himself, as a result of a torn ligament in his thumb.
With the left side of its starting field on the DL, the Pirates' main focus figures to shift from acquiring an outfielder -- their previous priority -- to adding infield help. Among the third basemen or utility infielders that are believed to be available are Aramis Ramirez, Chris Johnson and Kelly Johnson. Another option could be Clint Barmes, who spent time with the Pirates from 2012-14 and is currently coming off the bench for the Padres.
• The Yankees could be in the market for a second baseman, according to MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. The Yanks, of course, demoted prospect Rob Refsnyder on Sunday, leaving Stephen Drew as the club's starting second baseman. Drew is hitting just .181 in 280 plate appearances this year -- and .171 over 580 plate appearances, dating to the start of last season.
Hoch reports that the Yankees are hesitant to move any of their top prospects in potential trades, but could acquire someone along the lines of Martin Prado, Brandon Phillips or Ben Zobrist without including any of their top young talent. Speaking of Zobrist, Peter Gammons of Gammons Daily adds that the Royals, Nationals, Cubs, Mets and Pirates -- along with the Yanks -- could all be in the market for the A's second baseman.
• Gammons also notes that one general manager told him that as many as 16 teams are seeking to upgrade their bullpen. The key relievers believed to potentially be available are Jonathan Papelbon (Phillies), Aroldis Chapman (Reds), Craig Kimbrel (Padres), Tyler Clippard (A's) and Jim Johnson (Braves).
• The Cardinals are juggling a number of moving pieces that could affect their approach to this month's Trade Deadline. First off, MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch reports that St. Louis is not as interested in starting pitching help as in the past, thanks to the emergence of Tim Cooney, as well as the health status of Jaime Garcia and Marco Gonzales.
Secondly, the team is in the market for a first baseman, but that boost could come internally from top prospect Stephen Piscotty, who is set to be promoted on Tuesday. The organization has been making a concerted effort to transition Piscotty to first base and is on the verge of testing it out at the Major League level. Langosch adds that Matt Carpenter's ability to play either third or first base would give the Cardinals added flexibility if they do elect to pursue outside options. If they ultimately decide to stand pat with both the starting rotation and at first base, the Cards could still make a move or two to acquire another bullpen arm or a left-handed bat off the bench.