The MLB trade deadline is nearing and speculation is heating up across baseball. Here is what our writers are hearing today:
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Crasnick's take: While Scott Kazmir was going from Oakland to Houston, MLB sources confirmed that Jeff Samardzijahad also been on the Astros' radar, which led to the following question: Did the White Sox miss an opportunity to trade a short-term asset for some young talent by dithering at the deadline?
The White Sox privately dispute the notion they missed out on a trade with Houston because of indecisiveness. Chicago did, indeed, engage with the Astros on Samardzija. But one source said the Astros ultimately opted for the Kazmir deal because Oakland's asking price, minor leaguers Jacob Nottingham and Daniel Mengden, was more to their liking.
Crasnick's take: Although the White Sox have yet to plunge into full-scale "white-flag" mode, the realization is setting in that their postseason hopes are remote. They're last in the major leagues in runs scored and seven games out in the wild-card race. When they decide to sell -- not "if" -- they think they'll have enough of a market for Samardzija to land a significant return. The Dodgers, Blue Jays and possibly the Giants and Yankees are among several teams likely to be interested.
Stark's take: Other clubs have consistently reported that Reds owner Bob Castellini wants to shed dollars, as a franchise-record $117-million payroll still has them buried in the standings. So that creates more motivation than ever to tradeJay Bruce(signed for $12.5 million next year, plus a2017 option), Johnny Cueto (nearly $4 million left on his $10-million 2015 salary) Marlon Byrd (about $3 million left, plus a vesting option) and Mike Leake (about $3.5 million remaining this year).
"They're willing to move just about any of their guys," the same executive said. "Not just to dump money and get 25 cents on the dollar. But if they get any sort of fair return, they're willing to do it."
Stark's take: There have been conflicting reports about whether the Mets are willing to tradeJon Niesein their quest to find offense. But given theMets' financial constraints, this approach seems to clear up some of that confusion.
Niese has about $2.7 million owed of his $7 million salary for this year. He's signed for next season for $9 million, then has two team options worth $10 million each, or a $500,000 buyout. So trading him would free up about $12 million. If the Mets can't shed payroll, teams that have talked to them say they have very little financial wiggle room to add a bat or bats.
In the first major deal leading up to the trade deadline, the Houston Astros acquired pitcher Scott Kazmir from the Oakland Athleticsfor two prospectsjust before he was scheduled to start Thursday.
Crasnick's take:Kazmir becomes the latest in a series of Oakland players to make their way to Houston through trades or free agency.Jed Lowrie, Chris Carter, Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek and Dan Straily are among the current Astros who previously played in Oakland.
Stark's take:Teams that have spoken with them say the Padres also are "open" to potential deals involving Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross, but are less likely to move them unless the offers make it more than worth their while.
But will they actually be able to trade James Shields, who is three months into a four-year, $75 million contract that is heavily backloaded? He "hasn't been very good," said one rival executive. And the numbers bear that out -- a 5.01 ERA away from Petco Park, a .905 OPS against left-handed hitters and just three quality starts in his past nine starts.