MLB.com Columnist

Jon Paul Morosi

Red Sox eye starter as Deadline approaches

Red Sox eye starter as Deadline approaches

Thursday saw the Red Sox acquire veteran infielder Aaron Hill from the Brewers. Assuredly, that won't be Dave Dombrowski's last deal before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Dombrowski, approaching the first anniversary of his appointment as the Red Sox's president of baseball operations, remains focused on trading for a starting pitcher.

Few, if any, true aces are readily available via trade this summer. That's largely because no proven No. 1 starters are in the final years of their contracts -- as David Price was last year and Jon Lester in 2014.

Oakland's Sonny Gray has a 5.16 ERA and is barely over a month removed from a stint on the disabled list. The Braves' prospect demands for Julio Teheran are extraordinarily high, and the Rays would prefer not to trade Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi to an American League East rival.

Hellickson's solid outing

So to this point, the Red Sox have done plenty of legwork on starting pitchers who would fill the No. 3 or No. 4 slots in their rotation. Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson is among those they've scouted recently, sources say.

Hellickson has experience in the AL East -- he pitched with Tampa Bay from 2010-14 -- and is in the midst of his best season since 2012. He's thrown at least six innings in six consecutive starts, the sort of reliability the Red Sox need after so many abbreviated outings by Clay Buchholz, Eduardo Rodriguez and Joe Kelly.

The Phillies have fallen from contention after a fast start, meaning Hellickson, a free agent after this season, is very likely to be dealt over the coming weeks.

• Chicago Cubs prospect Dan Vogelbach is a former second-round pick with a .965 OPS and 15 home runs in 83 games at Triple-A Iowa, the sort of numbers that virtually guarantee a promotion to the big leagues.

There's only one problem: He plays first base, the same position as All-Star Anthony Rizzo.

Vogelbach, 23, will be of interest to AL clubs with long-term questions at first base or designated hitter. Of note, the Yankees have the worst first-base production of any team in the Majors this year. The Cubs, by the way, are known to have scouted the Yanks' bullpen pieces in recent weeks.

Davis slams the door on Cards

• When the Royals placed All-Star closer Wade Davis on the disabled list on Tuesday, some observers wondered what it would mean for Kansas City's renowned bullpen.

In reality, the status of the Royals' bullpen remains unchanged: It was overworked with Davis, and now it is overworked without him.

Kansas City's rotation has accounted for the fewest innings of any in the Majors this season. On the trade market, the Royals are looking for starters capable of giving them innings; they'd love quality, but quantity is the more pressing concern.

For now, sources say the Royals are evaluating a number of trade targets who will become free agents after this season; Hellickson is part of that pool, as are Rich Hill, Jorge De La Rosa and Andrew Cashner, who has made one start since returning from the disabled list.

Cashner's strong start

• Trade Deadline geeks (like me) love those moments in late July when industry machinations play out in real time; the Hunter Pence and Austin Jackson "trot-off trades" come to mind.

So let's mark our calendars for the Tampa Bay Rays' rare two-game trip to Dodger Stadium on July 26-27.

A synopsis: The Dodgers want to trade for a starting pitcher. The Rays are poised to be the industry's leading midsummer supplier of starting pitching. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman spent nearly a decade as general manager of the Rays and retains deep knowledge of the organization -- including players and front-office practices. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, is very familiar with Friedman's negotiating style on major deals. And Friedman continues to have strong relationships with members of the Rays' hierarchy.

Intrigued?

Perhaps we'll see the rare clubhouse-to-clubhouse trade, with Archer or Odorizzi starting against the Rays during that series.

Tampa Bay, it should be noted, hasn't ruled out the possibility of moving more than one starter at the Deadline, although the club believes even more teams will be in the market for rotation upgrades during the offseason. As for the possibility of dealing with Friedman, one senior Rays official said the Friedman link makes it "no more or less likely to line up on a trade" with the Dodgers.

But it would be way more interesting than an ordinary deal.

Jon Paul Morosi is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.