Paul Hagen | Bourn to shop: Speedy Phillie is ideal trade bait

Posted: July 20, 2007

JOSE CONTRERAS looks very much like a shot pitcher who is still owed a ton of money. Still, when the Rockies called to inquire about his availability, the White Sox asked for Colorado's two best prospects (third baseman Ian Stewart and lefthander Franklyn Morales) in return.

That says a lot about the going price for pitching and why the Phillies are unlikely to be able to land an impact starter before the non-waiver trading deadline, which arrives a week from Tuesday.

That doesn't mean general manager Pat Gillick and his aides are going to pull up some lawn chairs and sip lemonade between taking dips in the pool and games of badminton.

One alternative to bolstering the rotation, of course, is to shorten games by strengthening the bullpen.

As long as the Phillies still have a chance - and the Mets don't seem inclined to put them away - they can't even think about trading Aaron Rowand, even though he can be a free agent at the end of the season. Here are a couple of helpful hints, though, for what they could try instead:

Trade Michael Bourn. And why would they do that? Because, with lots of speed but not much big-league service time, he has value. And because, with Shane Victorino, it doesn't make a lot of sense to keep a pair of outfielders with little power.

So call the Pirates. See whether they will give up Shawn Chacon, who can be a free agent at the end of the season, plus either Damaso Marte or Salomon Torres (both signed through 2008) for an outfielder who could step into the Pirates' lineup tomorrow.

If that doesn't work, call the Royals about Octavio Dotel. The Dodgers are interested, but apparently won't give up infielder James Loney or outfielder Matt Kemp. Cleveland, Detroit, Boston and Atlanta have also made inquiries. But Bourn could well be Kansas City's next best alternative. And if they won't trade Dotel, ask about David Riske.

When that's done, call the Giants and find out what it would take to get veteran lefthander Steve Kline. Most likely, not that much.

And then, with the retooled bullpen in place, the Phillies can take their chances in the final 2 months.

The hot corner

--A scout told the Chicago Tribune that the White Sox are shopping, in order of their preference, Contreras, Javier Vazquez and Jon Garland. He also said that his preference, in order, was exactly the opposite, but that the price for any of the three is way too high at the moment.

--A scout told the that the White Sox are shopping, in order of their preference, Contreras, and . He also said that his preference, in order, was exactly the opposite, but that the price for any of the three is way too high at the moment.

-- According to the New York Post, the Yankees are willing to part with any reliever other than Mariano Rivera.

-- The Red Sox appear to be intrigued enough by the possibility that Alex Rodriguez will opt out of his Yankees contract that they're not willing to discuss an extension with incumbent third baseman Mike Lowell.

Around the bases

-- Well-upholstered Padres reliever Heath Bell has a T-shirt with "I'm in Shape: Round is a Shape" printed on it.

-- Well-upholstered Padres reliever has a T-shirt with "I'm in Shape: Round is a Shape" printed on it.

-- Reds righthander Aaron Harang is 11-2 with a 3.55 earned run average, but still manages to be overlooked. All through a recent broadcast earlier this year, Cardinals announcers referred to him as "Adam Harang."

-- Braves reliever Wil Ledezma got stuck in his native Venezuela after going home for the All-Star break. It seems he left his visa and passport in his pocket when he did the laundry. Really.

On deck

CHEERS: For the Milwaukee Brewers. Ace righthander Ben Sheets is out for 6 weeks with an injury to the middle finger of his pitching hand. Second baseman Rickie Weeks has been slumping so badly that he's been benched. And the Brewers are trying to hold on to first place in the NL Central after not making the playoffs since 1982.

CHEERS: For the Milwaukee Brewers. Ace righthander Ben Sheets is out for 6 weeks with an injury to the middle finger of his pitching hand. Second baseman Rickie Weeks has been slumping so badly that he's been benched. And the Brewers are trying to hold on to first place in the NL Central after not making the playoffs since 1982.

But the front office happily excused Tony Gwynn Jr. from two games at the end of this month, so he can go to Cooperstown to see his father inducted into the Hall of Fame, even though it will leave manager Ned Yost short on the bench against the division rival Cardinals.

It's called having your priorities straight, and it's nice to see.

JEERS: For nonsense quotes. Look, Jason Kendall seems like a good enough guy. But what are we supposed to make of his talking about how "fired up" he was to be traded to the Cubs ... after talking for a year about how much he wanted to stay in Oakland?

Or Marlins president David Samson talking about how the contract Seattle gave Ichiro is bad for the game. "I don't know what he's talking about, but obviously he doesn't know much about baseball," agent Tony Attanasio responded.

Or Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner talking about how the fans in Cleveland were "a big part" of his decision to sign an extension with the Tribe. The guess here is that the $57 million over 4 years had a little more to do with it.

Enough, already.

BY THE NUMBERS:

4: Votes of confidence for Astros manager Phil Garner from owner Drayton McLane this season; general manager Tim Pupura has gotten three.

8: Players who have batted third, generally reserved for the team's best hitter, for the Devil Rays this year.

.117: Combined batting average of the three Cubs catchers on the roster, along with one homer in 94 at-bats, before Jason Kendall was acquired from Oakland on Monday.

UP NEXT: There are only 11 shopping days remaining until the non-waiver trading deadline and there should be at least one blockbuster. At the moment, the most likely big name to be on the move is Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira, with the Dodgers, Angels, Red Sox, Braves, Yankees, Orioles and Giants all believed to have expressed interest.

Weeklies

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., on whether he'd like to go back to Seattle, where he began his career: "I can't answer that without getting myself in trouble."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., on whether he'd like to go back to Seattle, where he began his career: "I can't answer that without getting myself in trouble."

STAT OF THE WEEK: Even after pitching in the All-Star Game last week, Mariners closer J.J. Putz doesn't have a big national profile. But he's on his way to a pretty spectacular season. Putz earned his 28th save Wednesday. He's also allowed only 27 baserunners all year. Dennis Eckersley was the last reliever to have more saves (48) than baserunners allowed (45), for the 1990 Athletics.

CREATIVE SOLUTION OF THE WEEK: Cubs righthander Carlos Zambrano is 5-0 with an 0.40 earned run average in his last six starts against Houston. But Astros manager Phil Garner has a plan for next time they meet. "I'm going to try to find somebody. I'm going to voodoo Zambrano. I'm serious," he said. The teams next meet Aug. 6 to 8 in Houston.

PREDICTION OF THE WEEK: After signing their first-round draft pick, lefthander Ross Detwiler from Missouri State, the Nationals sent minor league field coordinator Tim Foli to watch him pitch a simulated game Monday. "I know you can't base it off a sim game. But from what I saw, he'll be the best pitcher you've ever been associated with," he said, according to general manager Jim Bowden.

Finally

Most people have heard by now that Curt Schilling has a blog (www.38pitches.com). Many fans may not realize, though, that more and more players are warming to the idea.

Most people have heard by now that has a blog (). Many fans may not realize, though, that more and more players are warming to the idea.

Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson blogs three times a week and does a Q & A every other week for ESPN.com. He also has a MySpace page. "It's amazing how many people want to get inside you and know just a little bit about you," he told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Twins reliever Pat Neshek (www.patneshek.com) started his site while still in the minors because he enjoys trading memorabilia. He said he had 150,000 hits when called up from the minors a year ago and now has more than 650,000.

"I think it's going to be a big part of the game, and I think a lot more athletes will do it just for the exposure to fan bases," he told the paper. "I think it will generate a lot of interest for that individual athlete and make a name for players. And some might use it to make money, too." *

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