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Baseball Notes

If teams go nowhere, these guys may travel

By Nick Cafardo
June 20, 2010

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With the draft over, general managers and scouts will turn their attention once again toward the July 31 trading deadline. Between now and then, you’re likely to see a smattering of deals, as some teams reach the realization that they’re hopelessly out of contention and need to sell, while others try to fill a need that will propel them into the postseason.

Reaching that fork in the road often comes with great pain. Both Chicago teams are still caught in between. While they would consider dealing some parts, neither is in full sell mode. With the Big Three slugging it out in the AL East, the Blue Jays must decide whether it’s more prudent to keep building up their arsenal of young players by trading off a few veterans.

The key players who may be headed for a different address:

Cliff Lee — With him becoming a free agent at season’s end, two things could happen. The Mariners could sell him off to the bidder that unloads the most prospects, or they will try to sign him, feeling he’s a player to build around. The Twins need a front-liner, so they would have interest. The Cardinals, Mets, Rangers, and Dodgers also have been linked.

Roy Oswalt — Rangers president Nolan Ryan confirmed the team’s interest in the veteran Astros rigthander. But some in the Houston organization are skeptical that Astros owner Drayton McLane would deal with the other Texas team.

Dan Haren — He would be much in demand, but Arizona general manager Josh Byrnes would need in reverse the kind of multi-player deal he made to acquire Haren. Haren, 31, makes $8.25 million this season, and that escalates to $12.75 million in 2011 and 2012 before an option year in 2013 at $15.5 million that contains a $3.5 million buyout. Haren’s bugaboo: He has allowed 18 homers. Same gang of teams needing a starter would be interested.

Ben Sheets — You figured the A’s got Sheets for this purpose — to flip him for more prospects at the deadline. Since giving up 17 runs in two starts in late April and early May, Sheets has become a quality-start type.

Paul Konerko — He has been heavily scouted, but there are questions about availability. Entering yesterday, Konerko had 17 homers, 48 RBIs, and a .974 OPS, but right now only he and Alex Rios have provided much offense for the White Sox. The Giants and Angels are possibilities.

David DeJesus — A solid offensive player who can play all three outfield positions, he is affordable at $4.7 million, with an option for next season at $6 million. The Red Sox, Yankees, and Padres are possible bidders, but the Royals are said to be asking for more return than is acceptable to the suitors.

David Aardsma — The Seattle closer is already drawing a lot of interest. The Twins have done well with Jon Rauch (17 for 19 in saves), so they are more apt to seek a set-up type.

Kerry Wood — He has started to pitch better for Cleveland and could be a set-up man/closer for a contender willing to pick up the prorated part of his $10.5 million salary (and $11 milion option). Starter Jake Westbrook also could be had in a deal.

Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Guthrie — Millwood got his first win last night in his 15th start and leads the league in homers allowed (19), but has 13 strikeouts in his last two starts, covering 13‚ innings. Guthrie is 3-8 with a 3.97 ERA and could be a good middle to back-end starter for a contending team.

Randy Wolf — The Brewers’ veteran lefty finally had a good start his last time out, and while he’s had problems with his location, he could really solidify a staff if he’s on.

Kelly Johnson — The D-Backs infielder has had a nice season, reviving his career with 13 home runs. He could be a third base option for a team like the Twins.

Ty Wigginton — His name is always mentioned at the deadline, but there’s a reason: He plays multiple positions and is a good clubhouse presence. He is playing mostly second base (some first) for the Orioles with Brian Roberts out, and his 13 homers and 39 RBIs entering last night have to be appealing. If the Red Sox didn’t have Mike Lowell, Wigginton would be a good pickup.

Miguel Tejada — He can’t really play shortstop anymore though he’d want to, but he would be a welcome addition to any team needing a burst of energy and optimism. He’s still a charismatic player that teammates flock to.

The Toronto gang — If they do fall out of contention, first baseman Lyle Overbay, slumping outfielder Jose Bautista, and shortstop Alex Gonzalez could all be candidates for dispersal. Gonzalez or even backup John McDonald would seem to fit the Angels with Erick Aybar out with a knee injury, but the Angels usually plug from within and will try Brandon Wood there.

Lowell — The Twins have discussed Lowell internally, given their unproductive third base situation.

STAR-CROSSED
Sox denied birthday gift for Fenway
Commissioner Bud Selig (left) had promised the Royals an All-Star Game before 2014 if they completed the renovations to Kauffman Stadium. Check.

The Royals, who haven’t hosted an All-Star Game since 1973, were officially awarded the 2012 game, but wouldn’t it have been more exciting to have it at Fenway, during the 100th anniversary season of the ballpark?

There aren’t many opportunities to take advantage of such nostalgia, but a promise is a promise, so the Sox, who had a very memorable All-Star Game at Fenway in 1999, won’t add that to the revelry surrounding the century-old ballpark.

They are keeping their lips sealed on this one, and their silence is deafening. They are obviously miffed.

Do the Royals deserve the 2012 All-Star Game over them?

Consider, the Royals franchise has been one of the worst-managed organizations in baseball. Globe intern Nate Taylor grew up in Kansas City but said he wasn’t a Royals fan because they were so bad. They have had only one winning season in the last 16 years.

Fans in every baseball city deserve to have an All-Star Game in their ballpark, and Kansas City, despite its horrible run, should get one. But when there’s a choice between that and such a significant milestone . . .

Selig said it was a tough decision and that Boston “had compelling reasons’’ for wanting the game. He also said that in the past, All-Star Games haven’t been popular, but now every team with a new venue wants to be rewarded with one. The Mets (CitiField), Twins (Target Field), Padres (Petco Park), Yankees (new Yankee Stadium), and Phillies (Citizens Bank Park) are all waiting for theirs.

ITCHING FOR PROMOTION
Feeling is back — and it’s one of frustration
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (left) tells all, and says not to give up on him yet.

A promising catcher for the Rangers with all the physical tools you’d ever want, and a switch hitter to boot, he has gone through quite an ordeal. He got the yips in his throwing arm, a malady that stemmed from an auto accident that caused numbness.

Saltalamacchia went through physical and psychological therapy, and seems to be over it. He’s hitting .255 at Oklahoma City with 9 homers and 21 RBIs, catching six times a week, and feels ready to get back to the big leagues.

But things aren’t moving quickly, and it’s frustrating for him.

“Nobody wants to stay in Triple A,’’ he said. “I’ve felt I’ve done everything they’ve asked me to. Every year they’ve asked me to improve on one aspect of my game, and I have. I’m better as a catcher, I’ve improved my hitting. I want to get back and I feel I’ve worked hard to get back.’’

Saltalamacchia said there hasn’t been a lot of communication with him directly, that the information has had to come from agent Jim Munsey calling the team.

The Rangers don’t want to upset the apple cart with veteran Matt Treanor and Max Ramirez (yes, the guy the Sox had acquired for Mike Lowell before the deal was nixed).

Saltalamacchia, 25, who was once traded for Mark Teixeira, said, “I’ve proven I can be a major league player. And now I have to prove I belong there.’’

Saltalamacchia was part of a promising catching tandem in Texas with Taylor Teagarden, but both find themselves in the minors (Teagarden in Double A).

At one time, there were rumors of Saltalamacchia coming to Boston, but that’s when Rangers president Nolan Ryan was insisting on Clay Buchholz in return, and there was no chance that was going to happen.

Would Saltalamacchia like to be traded?

“I’d love to play every day for the Texas Rangers,’’ he said. “But if I’m not in their plans, there’s no question I’d want to play in the major leagues. Right now, Matt Treanor is doing a good job and I’m happy for him.’’

ETC.
Apropos of nothing
1. Wonder if Marco Scutaro will have better stats than Alex Gonzalez before the year is out; 2. There are 18 pitchers with an ERA of 2.50 or better; that would be the most in the majors since 1972; 3. Dodgers bench coach Bobby Schaefer is one of the most knowledgeable baseball men you’ll ever find; 4. Mike Shalin, a former Herald baseball columnist and current official scorer at Fenway Park, makes a good point: Where have all the superstar outfielders gone?; 5. Still don’t get why Russell Martin never reached the elite level.

Updates on nine
1. Adam LaRoche, 1B, Arizona — He had 19 at-bats for Boston in 2009, with a .263 average and one homer, but his inside-out lefthanded swing was perfect for Fenway. “Wasn’t there long, but loved it,’’ LaRoche said. “The ballpark was perfectly suited for the way I swing, and it would have been nice to have stayed there and see what would have happened over a full year. But I appreciate the fact they sent me to Atlanta, where I got to play every day.’’ LaRoche played a half-season with the Braves, then signed with the Diamondbacks as a free agent. He may be on the move again during an upcoming Arizona purge.

2. Buck Showalter, ESPN analyst — If the Orioles want a manager who brings in an entire system, top to bottom — and it may be what they need — then Showalter is their man. He improved situations in New York (taking the Yankees from 76 wins to 88 in 1993), Arizona (65 to 100 wins in 1999), and Texas (71 to 89 wins in 2004). A two-time AL Manager of the Year, he is expected to be interviewed by Orioles president Andy MacPhail this week.

3. Rich Harden, RHP, Texas — It has been tough sledding for Texas’s top free agent pitching acquisition. Harden simply hasn’t been able to harness his control, with 43 walks and 14 homers allowed in 65 innings. Now he’s on the disabled list. The home run total is alarming. In 2008 with Oakland and Chicago, he allowed only 11 in 148 innings. In the last year and a half, he has given up 37 in 206 innings. The only solace for the Rangers is that they traded Kevin Millwood, who is 1-8 with Baltimore.

4. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates — The latest new hope has arrived in Pittsburgh. Alvarez, a lefthanded power hitter, was a 14th-round pick by the Red Sox in 2005 and a first-round pick (second overall) by the Pirates out of Vanderbilt in 2008. He was called up last week after hitting .277 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs at Indianapolis. He went 0 for 6 with an error in his first two games, not exactly a Daniel Nava start. The last-place Pirates had a rough week, first designating veteran infielder Akinori Iwamura, their highest-paid player, for assignment after he hit .182. Then president/CEO Frank Coonelly revealed that the team had secretly extended the contracts of manager John Russell and GM Neal Huntington through 2011 late last season — moves he didn’t want to announce amid a 99-loss campaign. Think I might have kept this one under my hat a while longer.

5. Jay Payton, OF, Colorado Springs — The former Red Sox continues to make a strong comeback, hitting .321 with 3 homers and 37 RBIs with a .368 OBP in Triple A. Payton, 37, can still run and would appear to be a good extra outfielder for a team looking for depth. Payton, a .278 career hitter, was not in baseball last season; he last played for the Orioles in 2008. He’s a former Georgia Tech teammate of Jason Varitek and Nomar Garciaparra.

6. Cameron Maybin, OF, Marlins — With phenom prospect Mike Stanton called up to the big leagues, Maybin was optioned to Triple A New Orleans. Stanton started out like gangbusters but went 0 for 12 with six strikeouts in a three-game sweep by the Rangers. While Marlins management remains optimistic about the 23-year-old Maybin’s future, he was hitting only .225 with 5 homers and 19 RBIs and had regressed in center field as well.

7. Pedro Feliz, 3B, Astros — The Astros will soon decide to go with Chris Johnson as their everyday third baseman, which would make Feliz a part-timer and certainly trade bait. Feliz, 35, has been a disappointment, hitting only .223 with 2 homers and 22 RBIs. Johnson, the son of Red Sox first base coach Ron Johnson, is hitting .321 with 8 homers and 32 RBIs for Triple A Round Rock.

8. Roger Clemens, RHP, retired — As he sat in the Monster Seats with friend Eddie Miller Friday night, Clemens looked fit enough to lace them up and go nine. A federal grand jury is still trying to determine whether Clemens lied to Congress about his steroid use. Clemens spends a lot of time watching his son in Corpus Christi (Astros Double A team). Koby Clemens, who led all of minor league baseball with 123 RBIs last season, has 16 homers and 50 RBIs this year as the Hooks’ first baseman.

9. Willie Bloomquist, utility, Kansas City — He likely will be small-scale trade bait before the year is up. One of his biggest fans over the years has been Terry Francona, who always mentioned Bloomquist as one of the top utilitymen in the game.

Short hops
From the Bill Chuck files: “Jamie Moyer now has 20 seasons of at least seven wins. Roger Clemens leads with 23. Moyer has had 17 seasons with at least eight wins. Don Sutton leads with 22.’’ Also, “Not only do Reds relievers have a 4.82 ERA, they have allowed 39 percent of inherited runners to score (43 of 111).’’ Also, Victor Martinez is hitting .219 from the left side of the plate, .470 from the right, while the other part of the Sox catching corps, Jason Varitek, is hitting .237 from the left side, .353 from the right. And yet they lead all catchers in runs (45), hits (83), doubles (tied, 23), homers (15), RBIs (47), extra-base hits (38), batting average (.307), slugging percentage (.559), OPS (.923), and total bases (151).’’ . . . A shout out to two of my favorites: Sox PR man Henry Mahegan is leaving the team to pursue his master’s and a teaching career. Also, Paul Jarvey, a longtime baseball writer and editor at the Worcester Telegram and Gazette and overall great journalist and person, covered his last game for the paper this weekend. We wish both a happy future . . . Get well, Lou Gorman, who spent last week in intensive care . . . A belated happy birthday (it was yesterday) to Dusty Brown (28), Bruce Chen (33), and Doug Mientkiewicz (36).

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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