The Rumor Mill–June 20, 2005

The Rumor Mill

When a team has exceeded expectations for two and a half months, management begins to believe in the club’s staying power. That’s exactly the scenario in Baltimore, where the Orioles’ front office is convinced that the overachieving Birds can win the American League East. The belief is so strong that the Orioles are pursuing trades for several veterans, in an effort to firm up a roster that already matches up well against the likes of the aging Yankees and the injury-plagued Red Sox… Unlike past years, the Orioles’ primary need on the trade front is NOT starting pitching. The Orioles do have some interest in Pirates right-hander Kip Wells, but they seem much more concerned about beefing up their offensive production at first base and in the outfield… Preston Wilson will probably never lead the league in RBIs, as he did in 2003, but he continues to lead both leagues in trade rumors this spring. One of the interested suitors remains the Orioles, who wouldn’t mind placing Mookie Wilson’s stepson into their center field gap, sandwiched between Larry Bigbie in left and Sammy Sosa in right… The Orioles have also talked to the Royals about Mike Sweeney, who would increase Baltimore’s production at first base while possibly forcing Rafael Palmeiro into a bench role—or early retirement… Palmeiro could remain in the Orioles’ plans if they include Jay Gibbons in any of the aforementioned deals. Gibbons is only 28, making him one of the Orioles’ few trading chips who isn’t a minor league prospect…

Confident that Curt Schilling will be able to return circa the All-Star break, the Red Sox have targeted bullpen help as their No. 1 need for the second half. According to recent reports, the Sox have shown interest in Cincinnati’s David Weathers and Milwaukee’s Ricky Bottalico, but both are mediocre at best and not likely to give the Sox a quality bridge to Mike Timlin and Keith Foulke in the late innings. If the Red Sox are serious about upgrading their bullpen—which was the team’s standout strength in last year’s four-game comeback against the Yankees—they’ll take a harder look at the Pirates’ Jose Mesa or the Marlins’ Guillermo Mota. And while a veteran reliever might be preferred for the stretch run, the Red Sox believe that one of their recent No. 1 draft choices, Craig Hansen, can make the jump to the major leagues by August. The biggest obstacle may be Hansen’s agent, Scott Boras—enough said there… Jay Payton’s unhappiness over a platoon role in Boston will probably lead to his eventual trade—and possibly to the re-signing of former Red Sox backup Gabe Kapler. Unhappy with his first-year experiences in the Japanese Leagues, Kapler is seeking a buyout of his contract and a return to the major leagues. Kapler will then have to choose between a backup role with the Red Sox, or an everyday job with a team looking for veteran outfield help, like the Braves or the Yankees…

There’s a published report that the Yankees have approached the A’s about Mark Kotsay as the answer to their center field woes, but it’s hard to believe that Brian Cashman will give up his two best prospects, infielder Eric Duncan and pitcher Philip Hughes. In fact, it’s conceivable that Cashman will balk at giving up either of his prized minor leaguers for Kotsay, who’s a very good player but is already 30 and can’t be expected to raise his stature to that of an All-Star. The Yankees may try to entice the A’s with two lesser prospects—center fielder Melky Cabrera and infielder/outfielder Bronson Sardinha.

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