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Teams, names swirl at deadline
All Star Baseball Heal
Hunter Pence of the Houston Astros runs to third base on a passed ball during the MLB All-Star baseball game. Pence's name is being thrown around as various teams look to improve before Sunday's non-waiver trade deadline. - photo by Associated Press


AP Baseball Writer


The Major League Baseball trade deadline is fast approaching, and plenty of big names already are on the move.

Carlos Beltran is headed to San Francisco, bolstering the reigning world champions for another run at the title and Colby Rasmus is out of Tony La Russa's dog house in St. Louis and on his way to Toronto.

With the deadline looming Sunday, there are still a lot of big decisions to be made and big stars who could be getting changes of scenery.

The New York Yankees are in second place in the AL East, three games behind Boston, which almost assuredly means they will be active. The Yankees could be in the market for a quality starter with Phil Hughes struggling and a left-handed reliever to help them chase down the Red Sox.

"If we make moves, we feel that it's to better the club and I can't tell you that we're going to make any moves," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Our club has got to where we are with the pieces we have and we've done a good job."

Other teams in baseball's upper echelon like the Red Sox and Phillies will likely be active in the trade market.

Several other teams in limbo have difficult decisions to make. The Minnesota Twins are six games behind the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central. They have a history of late-season surges, but must make a decision soon if they are going to be buyers or sellers this time around.

The Cleveland Indians are in a similar boat. One of the biggest surprises in baseball this season, the Indians trail the Tigers by just two games. They were looking for current help in the outfield with Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo on the disabled list, but didn't want to give up any of their prized young prospects like infielders Jason Kipnis or Lonnie Chisenhall to do it.

Manager Manny Acta said recently that it would be "an understatement" to say the team needs some help down the stretch, and the Indians made a move on Thursday by adding Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome for a pair of minor league players.

And what about the Cincinnati Reds? They're five games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central — and St. Louis just picked up right-hander Edwin Jackson, too — but some help in the rotation or the outfield could put them right back in the picture.

"We're still buying. ... We've got a lot of things cooking, but nothing close," Reds GM Walt Jocketty said Wednesday.

The Texas Rangers saw what a big deal can do last year when they got Cliff Lee from Seattle and rode him to the World Series.

Here's a quick-hit look at some of the moves that could be made this year to try to accomplish the same goal.


—Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, Colorado Rockies: 27-year-old Dominican is 6-9 with a 4.20 ERA, a down year after last year's brilliant effort (19-8, 2.88). But his strikeout numbers are still overpowering and he has a very manageable contract, making him an attractive target. Good fits? Yankees, Reds.

—Heath Bell, RHP, San Diego Padres: Burly All-Star is one of the most proven closers available. His strikeout numbers (6.8 per nine innings) are down from the last two years, but he's still getting the job done with 29 saves. Good fits? Rangers, Angels, Cardinals.

—Hunter Pence, RF, Houston Astros: One of the few bright spots for the lowly Astros this year. Hitting .307 with 11 HRs, 62 RBIs and 24 2Bs. But Houston has been out of race almost since season started and could be looking to sell. Again. Good fits? Braves, Phillies.

—B.J. Upton, CF, Tampa Bay Rays: With Rays languishing in a distant third place in the AL East, could look to cut ties with the 2nd overall pick in the 2002 draft. Upton has 15 HRs and 53 RBIs, but is hitting just .227 and could benefit from a change of scenery. Good fits? Nationals, Tigers.

"I grew up through the minor leagues with a lot of these guys here, so I love being here, I love playing here," Upton said. "Let's hope for the best."


—Texas Rangers: New ownership has been ultra-aggressive in bringing in talent. Reportedly went hard after Beltran and getting a closer to help Neftali Feliz — his five blown saves are third-most in AL — is a big priority. "I just don't see urgency," manager Ron Washington said of Feliz. "I don't see it."

—Philadelphia Phillies: Those Four Aces could use some run support. Phillies have the best record in the majors, but are 18th in team batting average and 13th in runs scored this year. At corner OF spots, Raul Ibanez and Domonic Brown have struggled sometimes. Pence and White Sox OF Carlos Quentin are two hot names right now.

—Minnesota Twins: GM Bill Smith has been trying to wait as long as possible to decide if his team is a buyer or seller in the weak AL Central. If they buy, Twins need major help in bullpen and rotation. If they sell in an effort to restock a thin farm system, OFs Jason Kubel, Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer, DH Jim Thome and LHP Francisco Liriano all could come available for the right price to impact a pennant race near you.

—Seattle Mariners: GMs around the country are licking their chops and hoping they finally get word that LHP Felix Hernandez is on the market. M's steadfastly maintain they're holding on to King Felix and All-Star closer Brandon League, but you never know.