TOM VERDUCCI'S MAILBAG
All the trade talk is about Randy Johnson, but are there any sleeper trade targets who might make an impact?
Marvin Dorfler, Chicago
VERDUCCI: If you want long shots, how about Carlos Beltran getting traded again, this time if Houston continues to fade, and Oakland making a very bold move with either Barry Zito (below) or Mark Redman. More realistically, I like what Giants G.M. Brian Sabean had to say about this year's trade market: "I don't think there's any deals any one team in any division in baseball can do that will cement anything for anybody. Personally I think it's a lackluster group of players that could be available."
Why did everybody, including SI, underestimate the Cardinals? Their lineup is stacked.
David Lister, St. Louis
VERDUCCI: Everyone knew St. Louis could hit. The Cardinals looked like the third best team in the NL Central back in March because their starting pitching did not appear to match up with the glamour staffs of the Cubs and the Astros. The Cards' rotation seemed to seriously fall off after Matt Morris and Woody Williams. Jason Marquis, Chris Carpenter and Jeff Suppan won a combined 13 games last year (all by Suppan). Those pitchers, however, have turned out to be very dependable. St. Louis starters have missed only one start this year and have shown remarkable consistency. Credit the St. Louis defense and the magic of pitching coach Dave Duncan, who has made a career of squeezing better results from journeyman veterans.
TRUTH + RUMORS
Bill Lajoie, special assistant to Red Sox G.M. Theo Epstein, attended the Mets-Phillies series last weekend, fueling talk that Boston is looking to trade Derek Lowe to Philadelphia for Kevin Millwood.
The Marlins play 14 consecutive games against National League East opponents, and if they fall out of contention for the division title, they may trade free agents-to-be Armando Benitez and Carl Pavano. Brad Penny, a free agent after 2005, could be moved as well.
—Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel (7/19)
The Titans offered Eddie George [right] a new contract with a big pay cut, but he has been unwilling to accept the deal.
The Nuggets have $2.3 million remaining under the salary cap, and they plan to use the money on acquiring Timberwolves restricted free agent Trenton Hassell.