Inside Pitch: Whither Griffey and Dunn?
With solid core of youngsters, Reds may deal veteran sluggers
A few teams are having their scouts keep an eye on Cincinnati in case the Reds decide to shop Adam Dunn and/or Ken Griffey Jr. before the July 31 trade deadline.
The Reds aren't shopping either player at the moment, and new general manager Walt Jocketty is in the process of evaluating organizational talent. But it doesn't hurt to be ready in case the Reds, 12-17 and in fifth place in the National League Central Division, decide to build for the future by unloading some of the more attractive veterans on the roster.
"They've got a good nucleus of young talent in [Joey] Votto, [Edwin] Encarnacion, [Brandon] Phillips, [Edinson] Volquez and [Johnny] Cueto, and more on the way like [outfielder Jay) Bruce and [pitcher Homer] Bailey," a veteran scout said. "They could get very good very quickly with a few more players. If they don't get going soon they'd be crazy not to try to move [Dunn and Griffey] for guys that could help them down the road, especially if both are going to be gone anyway when the season's over."
Dunn is making $13 million for this season and could earn $16 million with award incentives. He can be a free agent after the season, and while the Reds haven't ruled out re-signing Dunn, insiders say it is unlikely he will re-sign with Cincinnati if he hits the free agent market.
Dunn has a full no-trade clause through June 15. After that he has a limited no-trade clause that allows Dunn to specify 10 clubs to which he would accept a trade.
Griffey is making $12.5 million this year and the Reds hold the option on his 2009 contract worth $16.5 million or a $4 million buyout. As a 10-and-five player, Griffey has full no-trade rights.
Griffey is within three homers of 600 for his career, a milestone the Reds would love to see him reach in Cincinnati. But Griffey, 38, has never appeared in a World Series and hasn't been on a playoff team since 1997. If that isn't happening in Cincinnati this year, there would be sentiment to give the future Hall of Famer a chance to get a ring with Seattle, the team that drafted Griffey with the first pick of the 1987 First-Year Player Draft. His left-handed bat would also fit well in either Chicago lineup or perhaps in the Mets' outfield if Moises Alou is unable to play.
Likewise, Dunn could potentially help a contending team, though his .210 batting average obviously doesn't help his chances of changing addresses this summer.
Unless the Reds and Jocketty decide otherwise, Dunn and Griffey will remain Reds, leaving other interested teams to watch and wait.
The Diamondbacks continue to strike gold at every turn. Rookie Max Scherzer made his Major League debut Tuesday night and retired all 13 Houston Astros he faced, recording seven strikeouts in the process. Scherzer, a 23-year-old right-hander taken 11th overall in last summer's First-Year Player Draft, showed a fastball that topped out at 98 miles per hour on the radar gun and was consistently in the mid 90s.
"That was quite a debut," Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said.
Scherzer, the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year in 2005 for Missouri, scared off at least one team that had been considering drafting him when he chose Scott Boras as his agent. But Arizona didn't back off, and now the Diamondbacks are ready to reap significant benefits from that decision.
The Rays have a difficult decision to make on Sunday, when ace Scott Kazmir comes off the disabled list to make his first start of the season against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
The Rays must make room for Kazmir, but which course makes the most sense for the Rays?
Do they move Andy Sonnanstine (eight innings, one run allowed in a win vs. the Orioles on Wednesday) to the bullpen and send one of the other relievers out? Or maybe Matt Garza goes to the 'pen. Or Jason Hammel could change jobs.
There's also plenty of interest from other teams right now in right-hander Edwin Jackson, who is 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA in five starts and finally looking like the pitcher the Dodgers thought they had five years ago.
The Rays could deal Jackson while he's going good, especially if they don't want to make him a reliever again (which they tried in 2006). Pitching depth is a precious thing these days, so it would be hard to part with the right-hander. But with Kazmir coming back, the Rays can't leave well enough alone, either.
Jackson and Hammel are also out of options, conditions that won't make this decision any easier.
Ryan Howard is hitting .172. Shane Victorino, just came off the disabled list and is batting .224. Reigning National League Most Valuable Player Jimmy Rollins is eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday.
Several regulars are slumping or sitting and yet the Phillies have outscored all but four NL teams (Chicago, Arizona, Los Angeles and St. Louis) and rank 10th among MLB's 30 teams in runs scored.
"They should be buried, but they're in better shape than they were this time last year," one NL scout said. "Atlanta's hurting; so is New York. They [the Phillies] get everybody back, and they could run away with that division."
The Phillies started 4-11 last year before finishing 89-73 to win the NL East by one game over the Mets.
One more thing about the Phillies. Closer Brad Lidge hasn't allowed a run and has converted all six save opportunities. He has struck out 12 and walked six in 11 innings. The right-hander had some rough times near the end of his Houston tenure, but it's clear "Lights Out" Lidge is back.
"That slider is as good as it ever was and his command of his fastball has been great," a scout said.
Fortunes turned the other way for another NL closer, Colorado's Manny Corpas. Rockies manager Clint Hurdle replaced Corpas with lefty Brian Fuentes after Corpas squandered four of eight save opportunities, including his last three in a row.
"It was apparent to me that it was time to shuffle the deck," Hurdle said.
Fuentes, a three-time All-Star, had lost the job last year after blowing four consecutive save opportunities.
Control, or rather the lack of it, led to Corpas' demotion. His slider has been missing the strike zone and often by wide margins. Opposing hitters noticed and started sitting on his fastball.
The Yankees refused to part with Phil Hughes when other teams were talking trade during the winter. Now New York would be hard-pressed to get anything close to what they were being offered a few months ago for Hughes after the right-hander's awful April.
Hughes is 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA and was booed loudly in his most recent start. To make things worse, the Yankees were forced to put the struggling 21-year-old on the DL on Wednesday, one day after being hit hard by the Tigers.
Hughes and Yankees manager Joe Girardi attributed Tuesday's struggles to location problems confounded by one small quirk. Hughes admitted after the game to night vision troubles -- something that's affected him throughout his time with the Yankees. Against Detroit on Tuesday night, Hughes missed several signs from catcher Chris Stewart.
Granted, the Cardinals' April schedule wasn't exactly the toughest (21 games against sub-.500 teams), but any time a team sets a franchise record for victories in the month, it isn't fair to casually dismiss it as a quirk of the schedule either.
While most of baseball believed the Cardinals would struggle until they get Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder back from the DL, manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan have gotten exceptional production from starters Adam Wainwright, Todd Wellemeyer, Braden Looper, Kyle Lohse and Joel Pineiro. With the exception of Wainwright and Looper, the others were question marks, at least in the minds of others, like those who passed on Lohse when he was looking for work in March, or had doubts about Pineiro's shoulder.
Pineiro is 2-2 with a 3.75 ERA in four starts. Lohse is 3-0 with a 2.36 ERA and Wellemeyer is 2-1 with a 4.14 ERA.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.