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old stove featureEvery year, I forget just how aggressively the rumor mill starts churning after the draft – and each year, it actually churns harder and harder (because Internet). I could probably do a Lukewarm Stove every day from now through July 31 …

  • The Braves’ focus this Summer still figures to be the bullpen, says David O’Brien, rather than the rotation, despite Gavin Floyd’s broken elbow. We keep hearing about the Braves and Jeff Samardzija, but O’Brien doesn’t think the Braves will get involved in a “high-stakes bidding war,” in part because they’re already over budget as it is. (Of course, to that part, I’d point out that Samardzija’s salary in the second half this year will be under $2.5 million.) Perhaps, if they’d like to add a lefty reliever, they can compete with …
  • The Angels, who are frequently mentioned among teams scouting the Cubs, are still pretty open about their need for a left-handed reliever this trade season. The Cubs will have two that are very available – James Russell and Wesley Wright – and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the teams match up at some point. The Angels don’t have much in the way of farm depth, but let’s be quite honest: neither Russell nor Wright is going to return a top prospect. An interesting, flawed, decent-upside piece? Sure. But that’s about it.
  • Russell’s got a 2.25 ERA after a rough start, though his advanced stats still suggest he hasn’t been as good as that ERA indicates. Then again, Russell has outpitched his peripherals for several years now, so maybe there’s something in there that isn’t just luck. Wright’s ERA is a touch higher at 2.57, but his peripherals are better. Interestingly, while each pitcher has been plenty effective against lefties when used as a situational reliever (LOOGY), each actually has better numbers against righties. Small samples do silly things.
  • Nick Cafardo wrote on a number of subjects this weekend, among them: (1) *If* the Cubs and Red Sox got together on a deal, Cafardo hears the Cubs would ask about catching prospect Christian Vazquez (he has great plate discipline and is a true catcher, so I’d say yeah, the Cubs would be interested); (2) if Edwin Jackson were more consistently pitching well this year, the Cubs could and would probably be dealing him; (3) the Cubs will “likely” deal Nate Schierholtz (would probably help if he got hot); and (4) the Cubs, Blue Jays, Rangers, Marlins, and Phillies have been the most aggressive so far in getting out there and scouting.
  • Joel Sherman writes that the Yankees really, really need a starting pitcher, but likely will have to go to the second tier of options, including someone like Jason Hammel.
  • You never know how one trade target could impact another. For now, it appears mostly irrelevant to the Cubs that Chase Utley says he’ll exercise his no trade rights, and doesn’t want to be dealt this Summer. But it’s not a huge stretch to see how it could quickly become relevant. Say the Blue Jays decide they can afford to add a bat at second base OR a starting pitcher, but not both. Say the Phillies decide they won’t deal Cliff Lee (assuming health) if they can’t also deal Utley and start a rebuild. It’s all worth keeping an eye on for now, given that the Phillies figure to be one of the bigger sellers out there.
  • Speaking of which, the Rangers have fallen flat on their face after holding up as well as possible for as long as possible, despite an avalanche of injuries that I can’t imagine befalling a finally-competitive Cubs team (perish the damn thought). Evan Grant reports, then, that the Rangers are finally coming around to the idea that they should explore the trade market to see what value they could get for guys like Elvis Andrus, Alex Rios, Joakim Soria, Adrian Beltre and Yu Darvish (the latter of which would only be if the return was franchise-altering). I know you want to dream on Darvish, but (1) I think there’s just no way he’s dealt right now, and (2) if he were dealt in-season, you still deal with the problem that the purchase price is dramatically inflated by the playoff-run value he provides to every other suitor in 2014 except the Cubs. If the Rangers actually shop Darvish in the Winter, however, hey, by all means, let’s get silly.
  • The Pirates have outrighted outfielder Jose Tabata off of the 40-man roster. He’ll head to the minors so that he can keep his guaranteed big league deal, which must have been too pricey for any team to claim him on waivers (which he would have had to clear before being outrighted). Tabata, 25, is a career 100 OPS+ hitter (dead average), is down to .289/.327/.331 in part-time duty this year, and is owed a little over $10 million from now through 2016 (his deal includes relatively modest team options in 2017, 2018, and 2019, with a $250,000 buyout). If there was hope at all for his future, it’s actually a really reasonable contract. If the Pirates were willing to eat some of the deal, you’d say what the hell, why not give him a shot? But that tends not to happen in these situations, because the Pirates would probably just rather roll the dice on Tabata fulfilling the promise of his youth rather than giving him up just to save a few million bucks. I could make an argument that there are some attractive signs in his peripherals, but probably not enough.

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