"Not that many teams had a really good shot at those two anyway, but now that they are officially [off the market] we can look harder at the other options," one team executive said. "Now there's two fewer teams."
The Brewers, with Sabathia, and the Cubs, with Harden and Chad Gaudin, are still looking to improve, but aren't looking for more starting pitching or expected to make any more major deals.
That leaves some of the other contenders still in the market for pitching, particularly Philadelphia, with less competition.
The Phillies are interested in Seattle's Erik Bedard, but have been reluctant to part with Carlos Carrasco in any deal and aren't believed to be close to pulling the trigger. The Phillies have also scouted Toronto's A.J. Burnett, but the Blue Jays aren't selling at present.
The Dodgers are another team to keep an eye on during the next three weeks.
Dodgers chairman Frank McCourt denied a report in the Los Angeles Daily News that he nixed a trade for Sabathia for financial reasons, but didn't deny that he nixed the trade. That seemed to be the reason for McCourt's unexpected flight up to San Francisco on Saturday to meet with general manager Ned Colletti and manager Joe Torre.
The Dodgers need a shortstop and another starter, but they are loathe to stray from their plan of building from within and staying within budget. But the deadline is approaching, and the team is only a game out of first place, so the pressure to make an exception and go for it now is on.
San Diego pitcher Randy Wolf is a starter on the radar of a few teams, but the left-hander wouldn't mind staying with the Padres.
"I would definitely consider it, for sure," Wolf said. "It has been a tough year and there have been a lot of changes. But other than that, I have had a great time."
Wolf, who will be a free agent after the season, is 6-8 with a 4.38 ERA this season and has 12 quality starts among his 19 outings. He signed a one-year deal for $4.75 million, but he has already earned an additional $1.575 million, as he receives $175,000 for each start beyond his first 10 starts (up to $3.5 million).
"I wanted to play here and I thought I would be a good fit here," Wolf said.
The Marlins continued their search for a catcher and have renewed their interest in Rockies center fielder Willy Taveras, a player the Marlins were interested in a few years ago when he was with the Astros. The Astros wound up dealing Taveras to the Rockies along with Jason Hirsh and Taylor Buchholz in the trade that brought Jason Jennings to Houston.
Taveras is making $1.975 this year -- his first year of arbitration.
The Rockies feel their best lineup is with the speedy Taveras getting on base and stealing bases at the top. Taveras started off slowly, which cost him playing time and made him a trade possibility, simply because he didn't fit on the bench. But Taveras turned hot and the Rockies played much better.
If the Rockies deal Taveras, they do have a bunch of outfielders who can step in. The immediate solutions are Ryan Spilborghs, who has some power, and Scott Podsednik, similar to Taveras in that speed is his main talent. Also, the main reason the Rockies didn't sign Taveras to a long-term contract is Dexter Fowler, a top prospect at Double-A Tulsa who will play in the XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game.
In considering trading Taveras, the Rockies must decide whether they can lose him and not injure their chances to compete during the second half.
Florida is also interested in Colorado catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who is working in tandem with Chris Iannetta.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less