Rangers may focus on bullpen help at Deadline

Rangers may focus on bullpen help at Deadline

Rangers may focus on bullpen help at Deadline
We're down to one day away from baseball's non-waiver Trade Deadline, and trade talk remains the one topic that dominates the game these days. The time has come for clubs to decide whether they're in or they're out, and to make the appropriate moves as a result. It's already been one of the most active run-ups to the Deadline in recent memory.

From now until the Deadline on Tuesday (4 p.m. ET, to be exact), we'll be checking in on the trade news around baseball, with help from MLB.com's reporters. The countdown is well under way.

Feliz scratched; Rangers reassessing: No buying team is more intriguing as the Deadline approaches than the two-time defending American League champions. Just as it started to sound like the Rangers might stay in-house for an upgrade to their starting rotation, news came down that put a dent in those plans.

Right-hander Neftali Feliz, coming back from an elbow injury, was scratched from a Minor League rehabilitation start Sunday due to recurring discomfort in the joint. Feliz's return, along with a move of Alexi Ogando to the rotation, had looked like Texas' best way to improve its starting five without trading for someone like Josh Johnson.

Instead, Feliz's status is now unclear. However, that doesn't mean Texas' plans will change. T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports that the Rangers have "turned their search" to relief help. They had been concentrating on Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke, but the first two will not be dealt and the third went to the Angels.

Sullivan writes that a deal for one of the top remaining starters, James Shields or Josh Johnson, "isn't likely." That doesn't leave much else in the way of top-flight upgrades, and Texas has made it clear it's not especially interested in a space-filler for its rotation. So the Rangers have apparently changed course, and will look to improve their rotation by adding Ogando to it, while upgrading the bullpen via trade.

Josh Johnson update: Johnson was good but not great on Sunday, and that may have increased his chances of making more starts for the Marlins.

The Miami right-hander followed his best performance of the year with a much shakier game against the Padres. He allowed two runs on two hits in five innings, but walked six against four strikeouts. Johnson has been believed to be one of the most coveted pitchers on the market this month, but it now is starting to sound like his stock is dropping.

Joe Frisaro of MLB.com wrote Sunday that the Marlins are still "listening to teams interested" in Johnson, but that the asking price is exorbitant. According to Frisaro, the desired package is four players, including one or two elite prospects. That's hard to swallow for teams who see a player with a scary injury history and 2012 results that aren't at ace-level.

The combination of factors has other teams -- like the Rangers, as mentioned above -- "backing away" from Johnson and looking at what the other options may be.

Shields not going anywhere? The chatter from nearly all of the teams seeking top starters seems to be quieting down. It's not just Johnson who appears to be drawing less interest. The same seems to be true of Tampa Bay's Shields.

That's probably because, as noted here on Saturday, both Miami and Tampa Bay are apparently asking for the moon in return for their right-handers. The Rays have a pair of highly-reasonable club options on Shields, so their motivation to deal should be low.

And if Shields is on the way out, his manager doesn't know about it.

"My feeling normally is this -- and I've almost always been right -- is that we're not going to do anything," Joe Maddon said Sunday. "That's my normal thing. We talk a lot. It always takes two to dance and at the end of the day, it's difficult to match up all the time. So I would bet nothing really happens."

Correia requests a trade: One of the Pirates' problems may have solved itself. Upon trading for Wandy Rodriguez, the Bucs had too many starting pitchers. Now that Kevin Correia has acknowledged he wants out if he's not starting, that may no longer be the case.

Correia is having a decent year, with a 4.24 ERA and a low strikeout rate but lots of ground balls. He's the sort of second-tier starter that could help a number of teams seeking depth.

And if one of those teams wanted to part with an outfielder in order to acquire him, that might just be a perfect setup for the Buccos. Pittsburgh has yet to say that it will attempt to honor Correia's request, but the right fit could be a serious boon for the NL Central's second-place team.

Snakes aren't done: The D-backs hope they fixed their problematic third-base situation with a trade for Houston's Chris Johnson on Sunday, though Johnson is more a complementary player than an impact bat even at his best. However, they're not done dealing -- or at least, they're not done trying to deal.

General manager Kevin Towers said Sunday that he expects to stay busy all the way through Tuesday's Deadline. He's looking to improve his club's pitching staff, though he didn't divulge whether he's thinking more of a starter or a reliever.

Perhaps most interesting was his hint that the D-backs could again deal off of their Major League roster. Arizona already sent Ryan Roberts to Tampa Bay, and Towers indicated Sunday that he could again trade an infielder who is currently on the 25-man roster.

Street signs: For the second time this year, the Padres have re-signed a player who might otherwise have been a serious trade candidate. San Diego agreed to a two-year deal with reliever Huston Street, ensuring that Street will not be traded to a contender before the Deadline.

Other relievers, however, appear to be very much in play. Reports indicate that Colorado's Rafael Betancourt is drawing interest from various quarters. And Seattle's Brandon League sounded like he was on the way out the door as of Sunday afternoon, only to be still waiting on his final destination as of late in the evening.

Matthew Leach is a national reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.