The Arms Race, Elsewhere . . .

Cole Hamels is still the number one subject when the talk turns (as if it isn’t going to turn) toward the non-waiver trade deadline. Even if the Phillies may—underline that—be ready to make him the proverbial offer he can’t refuse, Hamels remains number one on the arms race talk parade. Zack Greinkie (Brewers) remains a solid number two . . . or does he? The problem: the Phillies as of right now are believed to have that six-year package ready for Hamels, with the dollars thought to be hitting $130 million total. Amplifying the potential that, if they think their season is lost otherwise, the Phillies blow up a good portion of the roster.

Confirming an extension offer, sitting in the longing eyes of traders . . .

Jayson Stark, a pretty reliable barometer, thinks there’s a 60 percent chance Greinke changes addresses . . . despite a) his apparent lack of real desire to leave Milwaukee, though the Brewers may not be able to re-sign him; and, b) “makeup issues” including 1) his recent shaky outings, and 2) the point that there are a lot of places he doesn’t want to pitch, including New York and Boston, which would also eliminate the Blue Jays and the Orioles as possible trading partners because of how often they face the Yankees and the Red Sox.

Still, Stark says, Greinke is on the radars of the Angels and the Braves, the latter thought to be Greinke’s first choice if he has to leave Milwaukee. The possible spoiler there: money issues. Concurrently, the word is—in fact, Greinke confirmed it today— that the Brewers have offered him a five-year extension worth $100 million, even if they may still think Greinke’s tempted to test the free agent market at season’s end.

The rest of Stark’s potential-to-go pitching staff:

Matt Garza (Cubs)—Stark thinks that, if Hamels is pulled off the trading block, Garza’s the number two glitter candidate. The problem: Stark cites an anonymous official from an unidentified team as saying Garza has top of the line stuff but isn’t quite a top of the rotation pitcher. The upside: He doesn’t hit free agency until the end of 2013, and he can shut down lineups when he bears down.

Seeking a Shields . . .

James Shields (Rays)—Sure the Rays are in the thick of the American League East races, but Stark says that if Evan Longoria’s injury-marred season is shot for keeps and the Rays’ potential in the races dives, they’d think about moving Shields, whose ERA collapsed from 2.82 last year to the 4.44 he’s working on this year. Apparently, scouts are alarmed that he’s gone too much to his cutter and his impressive changeup to the neglect of his other good pitches, though teams watching him remain impressed that he’s thrived in big games . . . and with his being under contract through the end of 2014, which means if the Rays do move him their trading partner can count on a season and a half at least from him.

Ryan Dempster (Cubs)—The good news: He hasn’t surrendered a run since May. The bad news: Dempster’s really pitching over his own head right now, since he’s seen around the Show as little more than a number three starter, and he becomes a free agent at year’s end. And with the Cubs wanting equal current value in return right now, specifically two young arms—they may be talking trade with the Dodgers, and the Braves, the Tigers, and the Nationals are also casting eyes upon him (the Nats especially, with the Stephen Strasburg shut-down issue looming big)—it’s not exactly easy to see if a potential rental on Dempster is worth giving up top-of-the-line prospects if that gaudy 1.86 ERA really is a fluke. Which may be one reason why thinks the Braves aren’t exactly gunning their engines chasing Dempster.

Mystery man . . .

Anibal Sanchez (Marlins)—What obsevers love: His strikeouts. What they loathe: Trying to figure out why he doesn’t win more. What they seem to believe: If the Fish start unloading and throwing in the towel on their 2012 season, Sanchez might be the first on the block.

Francisco Liriano (Twins)—He seems to be Sanchez squared: can strike out the world, can’t be trusted on the mound as often as not. If he goes, Starks says, he’ll become a mildly amusing trivia question: Name the first player to get traded in the same year he had a fifteen-punchout game since Randy Johnson (who had three such games before the Mariners traded him to the Astros in 1998).

Edinson Volquez (Padres)—Stark says one National League wheel calls Volquez the best name out there that isn’t under a lot of discussion. The upside: He’s a year and a half from free agency and making only $2.4 million a year under his current deal. The downside: Away from Petco Park, Volquez has a brutal 1.65 WHIP. Thursday night, however, Volquez helped his own cause bigtime—only his own glove, unable to hold onto what turned into a fourth-inning single, kept him from throwing the first no-hitter in Padres history.

Jason Vargas (Mariners)—Essentially, according to Stark and a few other readings I’ve read, he’s Volquez with more upside: he’s brutal away from Safeco Field but he’s had three identical seasons including this year, he never shies from taking the ball, and he throws strikes no matter what. And he, too, wouldn’t be a mere rental.


Working 10-5 . . .

Philadelphia Freedom?—Scour around and the conclusion seems to come to this: if the Phillies decide 2012 is lost and their once-formidable team is likewise, they’ll start blowing up the club by trying to move, excluding Hamels, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Joe Blanton, Placido Polanco, and Kyle Kendrick. Several reports suggest these are the five men the Phillies have assured other teams would be available. The only possible obstruction: Rollins’s 10-5 status (ten years Show time and the last five with the same club), and the thought that he’s likely to approve a trade only to West Coast contenders. (This would mean a choice between the Angels, the Dodgers, and the Giants.) Not to mention he’s signed through 2015 at $11 million per including his option. Apparently, the six-game homestand the Phillies launch Friday could be the factor that decides whether to hang in there or blow it all up; if the latter, Hunter Pence could find himself higher on a lot of teams’ radar even if the Phillies might be reluctant to move him in the middle of the blowup.

Not So FastWith the Mets still lingering in the National League East races, and looking for veteran catching help as well as relievers who don’t have gasoline in their grips, they kicked the proverbial tires on Colorado’s Ramon Hernandez. The problem: the Rockies don’t want to lose Hernandez’s steadiness as their catcher of the future (Wilin Rosario) needs solid mentoring, and Hernandez is also signed through the end of 2012. And the Rockies are likely to want delicious prospects in return if they decide to move Hernandez, something the Mets probably don’t want to surrender just yet. On the other hand, the Mets did move Omar Quintanilla today: they traded him to the Orioles for future considerations, just days after Quintanilla was designated for assignment to make room for returning Jason Bay.

Start Your Engines—With Chris Carpenter ready to miss the rest of yet another season due to shoulder surgery, the defending world champion Cardinals are thought to be looking at every starter on the block other than Dempster. (The Redbirds aren’t interested in rentals, either.) The likely interest: They have only two starters (Kyle Lohse, Lance Lynn) with winning records in ’12 thus far, and only two (Lohse, newcomer Joe Kelly) with ERA under three, while two (Jaime Garcia, Adam Wainwright) have ERAs over four.

Ross SoxCody Ross was drawing trade interest already, but he sure helped that along with that three-run walkoff bomb Thursday night. Ross has an impressive .918 OPS through this writing, but the skinny is that the Red Sox won’t move him unless they get “a ton” (’s words) in return for the 31-year-old veteran.

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