06/26/08 10:00 AM ET
Inside Pitch: Where might Sabathia go?
Angels, Cubs may be possiblities if Indians move left-hander
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
We asked a few industry types with no stake in Sabathia's fate for their predictions and two teams came up time after time.
The Angels and the Cubs.
The Indians haven't decided whether they will trade Sabathia or try to sign him to an extension before he becomes a free agent, but if they do decide to deal Sabathia, those two clubs could be the front-runners for his services.
"With Sabathia you've got to have a team that can afford to sign him," one official said. "Some of the teams that could, like the Mets, Yankees or Red Sox, I don't think they could come up with a package that [Cleveland GM Mark] Shapiro would take over what the Angels or Cubs could offer. Especially the Angels."
The Angels have a deep farm system and a number of near-ready prospects who might tempt the Indians. The Angels are also in first place in the American League West with the best record in the league.
"They don't have to make a deal," another official said. "I don't know how motivated they would be to make a major trade in their situation."
Sabathia would provide an immediate boost to the Cubs rotation and with right-hander Ryan Dempster, Chicago would have a formidable opponent in any series.
The Cubs are also in first place and have the best record in baseball.
The principals, however, may see things different than their colleagues.
"The situation could look a lot different a few weeks from now," one said. "A losing streak or an injury can change things in a hurry."
Even if the Braves fall out of contention, there are no guarantees that they'll be trading Mark Teixeira. While there's still no sense that they'll be able to re-sign the switch-hitting first baseman, there is some thought that they also won't get much in return for him before this year's trade deadline.
"I just don't know what teams are going to be willing to give up for a guy they'll have for two months without any certainty that they'll be able to sign him," one American League scout said.
Some believe the Braves might get more compensation via draft picks.
The Rays moved David Price up to Double-A Montgomery, fueling speculation that the prized lefty could be with the team by August. Price was lights-out at Single-A Vero Beach and is expected to do well at the next level.
If Price, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, does make the jump to the Rays by August, the Rays could have some interesting arms on the block. Perhaps one of a trio of right-handers: Jason Hammel, Edwin Jackson or Andy Sonnanstine.
Hammel and Jackson are out of options and would certainly draw offers in a market in which pitching is scarce.
The key is Price. If the Vanderbilt product demonstrates he is ready, the Rays could get a boost for their playoff hopes in more ways than one.
A scout on Seattle right-hander Felix Hernandez before Hernandez sprained his ankle on Monday night: "You can build around that guy. Throwing 97 [mph], throwing strikes. Hard slider, changeup. That's some pretty good stuff."
The Cubs have scouted San Francisco outfielder Freddy Lewis but their interest in the fleet-footed outfielder isn't believed to be serious at this point.
The 27-year-old Lewis has done a nice job in the leadoff spot for the Giants, and his speed and left-handed bat would fit nicely on the Cubs. But with Alfonso Soriano due to return soon and the re-emergence of Jim Edmonds, the Cubs believe they will be set in the outfield.
At least one team won't be beating a path to Seattle's door should the Mariners decide to deal left-hander Erik Bedard. A scout who has monitored Bedard said the pitcher is "not well-liked; if they could move them, they probably would."
The impressive debut of Cincinnati's Daryl Thompson against the Yankees on Saturday (five scoreless innings, four hits allowed) is another piece in the evolution of the Reds pitching staff and why it bodes well for the organization's future.
With Cincinnati's extremely hitter-friendly ballpark, the need for pitchers who produce ground-ball outs or a lot of strikeouts is a logical course to follow. As the Reds have seen all too often, fly balls have a way of leaving the ballpark.
With arms like Thompson, Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto, the Reds are piecing together a rotation that should be able to win at Great American Ball Park.
Now if they can only get Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo going.
One year after winning his first Gold Glove, Atlanta's Jeff Francoeur finds himself being criticized for both his offensive and defensive inconsistencies. Francoeur added 15 pounds during the offseason and according to one AL scout, "looks a lot slower."
Francoeur's .248 batting average has provided him plenty of frustration. He has hit remarkably better during day games and recently was fitted for a corrective contact lens to wear during night games. But his troubles seemingly extend beyond his vision issues.
"He just doesn't look right," the scout said. "Mechanically he's doing so many different things. I've never seen him move his hands so much from at-bat to at-bat."
The midway point of the season is Saturday and the three best records in the NL (through Wednesday) are in the NL Central: Chicago 49-29 (.628), St. Louis 45-34 (.570) and Milwaukee 43-35 (.551).
"I think the Wild Card is going to come from the Central," a veteran NL scout said. "The West is having a hard time getting two teams to .500. It's a four-team race in the East but I think they're going to beat up on each other a lot in the second half. In the Central, the Cubs may be the best team in the league and St. Louis and Milwaukee are already strong and figure to be stronger in the second half when they get some of their [injured] guys back."
Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez is better as a leadoff hitter than in the No. 3 spot, according to one scout.
"He doesn't seem as aggressive as earlier in the year," the scout said. "He started off hot as a firecracker. Cooled when they moved him to the three hole. Got hot again when they moved him back to leadoff. Lately, he doesn't seem to have that aggressiveness he had earlier."
The Marlins, after optioning Mike Rabelo to Triple-A on Tuesday, are looking for a veteran catcher. Matt Treanor is manning the position for the NL East contenders.
Not only will the Yankees and Mets have to come from behind if they are going to make the playoffs, they'll have to buck history to get there.
Both New York teams will move to new parks next season, and only four teams have brought their old houses down in the playoffs: the 1989 Blue Jays, 1996 Braves, 1999 Astros and 2005 Cardinals.
The Astros stole 62 bases in April and May, but just 15 in June with a Major League-high 11 caught stealings.
"The pitchers have adjusted to what we've been doing, now we have to adjust," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "Texas started that against us last month and now everybody's doing it."
The Astros, who lead the NL with 77 stolen bases, are still running but the success rate has come down as opposing pitchers are holding the ball, utilizing the slide step and changing their pitch rhythms. They're holding Houston stolen-base threats like Michael Bourn in check more often by continually changing things up.
"Michael's still learning," Cooper said. "This is the first time he's played every day, and there's a lot to learn."
Cooper wants Bourn to keep learning pitchers but avoiding falling into predictable patterns.
"It takes a while to learn what you need to learn," Cooper said. "In this game you're always making adjustments."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com reporters contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.