D'backs, Cards continue Bay watch
The Diamondbacks and Cardinals are among the most ardent pursuers of Pirates star outfielder Jason Bay, SI.com has learned.
The Mets and Rays, who also seek an outfielder, are among other teams thought to have checked in with the Pirates. Pittsburgh also has emerging star Xavier Nady, yet another fine outfielder, as a potential trade target.
"There's been a great amount of interest in a couple of our right-handed hitters,'' Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said on Thursday, apparently referring to Bay and Nady.
Without getting into specifics, Huntington asserted, "If we get the right match, we'll make a move.''
Word is, the price is high, especially on the two-time All-Star Bay, who is back to his old self this year, batting .291 with 17 home runs and 46 RBIs after hitting just .247 with 21 homers and 84 RBIs in 2007.
The value of both Bay and Nady, who is hitting .321 with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs, is enhanced by the fact both are contracted beyond this year and thus more than just "rental'' players. Bay, who is making $5.75 million this season, is signed through next year and is due to make a very reasonable $7.5 million in 2009. Nady, who makes $3.35 million this year, also isn't eligible for free agency until after '09.
One N.L. executive said he heard that Pittsburgh sought multiple upper-echelon prospects, exactly the sort teams don't like to trade. However, execs say it's understandable considering the recent performance of the pair.
The Pirates are believed to be seeking Arizona's top prospect Emilio Bonifacio, a second baseman, in a package. The Diamondbacks are reluctant to deal Bonifacio since Orlando Hudson may leave as a free agent after the year. From the Cardinals, who'd surely like to match the trades of Milwaukee (CC Sabathia) and the Cubs (Rich Harden), the likely target is top center field prospect Colby Rasmus, who's thought to be untouchable.
One executive with a National League team said he thought "it would go down to the wire'' whether Bay would be dealt.
"We're looking for what we deem appropriate value. We're not going to limit ourselves to guys who are close (to the big leagues),'' Huntington said. "Our goal is to maximize our return and find a good match.''
No Bonds market in desert
Some recent remarks by Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes suggesting Barry Bonds is one of many outfielders to consider in the wake of the loss of Eric Byrnes (no relation) to hamstring trouble created something of a stir Wednesday. But it turns out that all Josh Byrnes meant was that they considered Bonds. They talked internally about him, and they decided against it.
Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, put it bluntly in an email, "I have talked to the entire D'backs front office at one time or another since Barry has become a free agent and they uniformly are not interested.''
Diamondbacks executives agreed that that is indeed their stance.
Mets should target Angels' Rivera
What the Mets could really use after watching poor Ryan Church go on the disabled list for a second time with what may be post-concussive symptoms and crumbling Moises Alou suffer yet another leg injury that may keep him out all year is a magic wand. But barring that, they may seek a magic Juan, that being Juan Rivera, the underutilized outfielder with Los Angeles of Anaheim, who have plenty of Angels in the outfield.
While all the attention has gone to ex-Met Nady, no one should forget that Mets GM Omar Minaya once traded away Nady and once traded for Rivera (as Expos GM, Minaya got Rivera, Nick Johnson and Randy Choate from the Yankees for Javier Vazquez). Though he's hitting just .194, Rivera is a talented kid who's been caught in a numbers game in Los Angeles. Minaya isn't averse to recollecting players he's known and liked from the past, with varying results. Some of those include Julio Franco, Fernando Tatis and Orlando Hernandez (who is the pitching version of Alou).
Tatis and Endy Chavez have both played admirably in the outfield in recent days. But with both the left-handed-hitting Church out for a while and the right-handed hitting Alou hopelessly questionable, the Mets may have to expand their outfield search beyond right-handed swingers. That could put free agent Kenny Lofton and Seattle's Raul Ibanez into the picture, as well. But it will not bring Barry Bonds into focus, as speculated in one New York tabloid. Mets owner Fred Wilpon just wouldn't go there.
Rivera is the surprise target -- although, the Angels are said to be naming a steep price. With Gary Matthews Jr. struggling, it seems Rivera has hit his way into some platoon duties in addition to being the Angels' best bat off the bench. So if Minaya is hoping to reunite with Rivera, he will probably have to overpay to get him.
Around the majors
The Phillies may be the most likely landing spot for Blue Jays right-hander A.J. Burnett. The presence of top Jays exec Tony LaCava at the Phillies' Double-A Reading (Pa.) team may indicate talks are getting more serious. Burnett's complex contract could be a complicating factor. He can opt out of the deal, but if he becomes injured, he can decide to keep the final two years at $24 million.
Dodgers owner Frank McCourt rejected a deal that would have brought CC Sabathia, along with Casey Blake and Jason Carroll, to the Dodgers, according to a report in the Los Angeles Daily News. McCourt denied the report, but McCourt's over-protective stance toward anything resembling a prospect is well known. And so is his willingness to kill deals. He is also said to be upset by disappointing attendance at Dodger Stadium.
Some positive Dodger news. Good to see that Don Mattingly's personal situation (he's getting divorced from his longtime wife Kim) will now allow him to serve as hitting coach for the Dodgers, who hit abysmally in the first half, after it prevented him from taking the job before the season.
Strange as it may seem, ex-Astros pitcher Shawn Chacon should win his grievance to be paid the remainder of his contract. Chacon was released after knocking down GM Ed Wade in a clubhouse dispute. But precedent suggests that teams can't get out of contracts after one bad act.