Twelve Thoughts: Trade Talk, Rumblings for Padres, Orioles, Diamondbacks
• Don't be surprised if the pitching-rich Padres trade for a starting pitcher next month.
Despite leading the majors in ERA, the Padres are quietly sizing up the pitching market. They're extra interested in potential free agents. They think a pitcher who experiences their ballpark and support staff will want to stay in San Diego.
The Padres are stretching out pitcher Tim Stauffer in the minors and expect him back in July. But Chris Young, out since April because of a bum shoulder, is still a question mark.
Workload limits could cramp the team's rotation during a pennant race. Sophomore starters Mat Latos, Clayton Richard and Wade Leblanc have never pitched a full season in the majors. Padres general manager Jed Hoyer vows to protect his young arms, especially Latos. The 22-year-old has emerged as the team's best starter. Hoyer was with the Red Sox when they shut down young Clay Buchholz to protect his arm. He won't red-line Latos.
Yes, the Padres' offense is of concern, but there may not be a star hitter available who can boost the team's patchy offense by himself. The Padres believe that it's more important that several of their young hitters start to mature.
• The Padres or another National League club should try to strike a buy-low deal for Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie.
"Yes, I'd love to play in San Diego," Guthrie told West Coast Bias, even before I could ask him.
Guthrie, 31, would benefit from getting out of the American League East. Plus, he's a West Coast guy and, carrying marks of 3-9 and a 4.28 ERA, shouldn't be expensive.
With a straight face, Guthrie said he enjoys being an Oriole.
"I'm not going to ask for the Orioles to trade me," said the Stanford man, an Oregon native who lives in Utah. "Baltimore is a great city. I have great teammates, and my wife and I enjoy it here. It's not something where I'm sitting around and hoping something happens. The only thing I can control is to pitch well enough to be desired."
• Buck Showalter was such a micro-manager, he ordered staffers to change brands of toilet paper in both clubhouses -- but for the good of baseball, the Orioles should hire Showalter.
Last Saturday in San Diego, four of Baltimore's veteran players botched a rundown play so badly that Padres players were laughing in disbelief and gratitude. Showalter would bring structure and discipline to this fallen organization. Plus, we're hearing that ESPN might not be big enough for both Showalter and fellow studio analyst Bobby Valentine, who might be the next Marlins' manager.
"There's definitely not a lot of love between them," an ESPN grunt told West Coast Bias. "They're both strong personalities."
• Despite being under contract through 2015, Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes isn't assured of surviving the franchise's overhaul.
The rosy reports about Byrnes' future don't wholly reflect what the top brass is thinking.
• The best player that Arizona seems likely to trade this summer is shortstop Stephen Drew.
The Diamondbacks say Drew could command close to $6 million in arbitration next winter, which may be too rich for their blood. If they deal him, the job will go to another Scott Boras client, Tony Abreu. Scouts say Drew still leaves them wanting more, but at 27, he is in his prime years. He's a good defender whose left-handed swing impresses the experts. The Cardinals, Reds and Tigers should be among those interested.
• Bud Selig has made life harder for the Dodgers.
Aside from sticking the Dodgers with the McKooks as owners, Selig continues to tolerate the ridiculous disparities caused by interleague play. The Dodgers are finishing up a stretch of nine games against the Angels, Yankees and Red Sox before heading to San Francisco. The Padres, meantime, drew six games against the Mariners, plus three against the Orioles.
What's more, the Giants were gifted with six road games against the Astros.
Three games against the Yankees does give the Dodgers extra revenue. Great, more money for the McKooks to spend on Russian scientists or pseudo-consulting firms.
• The July trade deadline gives NL West clubs another reason to thank Selig for placing the McKooks in Los Angeles.
Two years ago the Dodgers dealt an elite prospect -- Carlos Santana -- for Indians third baseman Casey Blake after the McKooks refused to assume the $2 million due Blake. When a club uses young talent instead of money to make trades, it's asking for trouble, and the Dodgers have made a habit of it. General manager Ned Colletti usually has retained the better young prospects, but the loss of Santana could sting for years, and the reduction in overall inventory is starting to show. Long before the McKooks filed for divorce, the Dodgers were among the most conservative spenders in the amateur markets. At a time when the value of young talent was rising throughout the industry, the Dodgers didn't leverage two considerable strengths -- high revenues and excellent scouting. Their rivals are grateful for it.
• The Yankees may be paying a price for pressing so hard to win the World Series last year.
The Death Star leaned heavily on its best starting pitchers last October, and the push through the three-tiered postseason could be taking its toll. Not the most durable of pitchers, A.J. Burnett is struggling. C.C. Sabathia isn't the dominant force that he was.
The Yankees have the catching prospects to make an enticing offer for pitcher Cliff Lee, and the Mariners sorely need a young catcher of promise. For the Yankees, it's a classic now-or-later decision. They have a good shot of signing Lee as a free agent in the offseason. Do they give up prospects for three months of Lee?
• The Padres owe me a motivational fee for writing here that they would finish with 79 victories and fall to third place come summer.
Not one to back off preseason picks, I stuck with the 79-win forecast, and, a month ago, saw the Padres dropping to third by now. When summer arrived on Monday, they were still atop the NL West.
"We were all ticked off when we read what your wrote," closer Heath Bell told West Coast Bias.
Bell added: "I had us going to the World Series. I don't see us falling. I see us getting better and better. In fact, if some our young guys start hitting like they did last year, I think we'll pull away."
• Stephen Strasburg would be devastated if he goes to the All-Star Game over any teammates.
The San Diego Kid loves his teammates on the Potomac Swamp Gnats. A person close to the former San Diego State star says: "It'd kill him if he got the nod over Adam Dunn or Josh Willingham. He'd hate it."
• Strong pitching may not stop the BP oil leak, or get ESPN to broadcast a Rockies game started by Ubaldo Jimenez, but maybe it yields a better team ethic and increased energy.
Like the Padres, the Giants have stellar pitching and talk of having good chemistry and high energy. Is there a correlation?
Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who has a pot-luck rotation, often says that strong pitching makes it easier for teammates to stay within themselves.
"When we pitch [well]," he told FanHouse, "I think our hitters can think in terms of doing little things instead of trying to hit a home run. When we realize about getting guys over, and are thinking about scoring a run at a time, it makes it more efficient. It's like a trickle-down effect when you get good pitching. You realize how much in control you are."
• Giants outfielder Andres Torres is the team's stealth MVP.
Outsiders were clamoring for more of John Bowker and less of Torres in April, but manager Bruce Bochy put his big head to good use and stuck with Torres, a 32-year-old who hadn't done much in the majors.
Torres has been brilliant. He's given the Giants a .382 on-base percentage and good defense at all three spots. He's brought energy and footspeed to a slow offense. What's more, he's countered the decline of center fielder Aaron Rowand. If Rowand's remaining $30 million salary turns out to be a sunk coast, Torres' development would be that much more valuable. Opponents also are impressed by Giants infielder Juan Uribe. They say he's not chasing the bad slider like he used to.