Cliff's notes: Cliff Lee, who has not pitched in a Major League game since May 18, rejoins the Phillies rotation on Monday against the Giants, and it's hard not to read his return as anything other than an audition, given the Phillies' place in the National League East standings and their openness to moving some pricey veterans.
Lee is signed through 2015, with vesting options through 2016, so the Phillies do have the option of keeping him through the season and seeing what he might fetch in the offseason. But if Lee comes back strong this week, he could certainly draw the interest of contenders in need of a front-of-the-rotation spark.
Lee's rehab assignment was not exactly dazzling, as three outings at Class A Clearwater produced a 5.06 ERA in 10 2/3 innings. Combine that with Lee's salary -- he's due to make at least $37.5 million over 2015-2016, plus the prorated portion of his $25 million contract this year -- and it's going to take a very strong return for Lee to establish a viable trade market before July 31. Keep in mind that an August waiver claim is another possibility in the Lee saga.
Price watch: According to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo, the Mariners are open to dealing for David Price without any commitment beyond 2015, his final season of contractual control. The Cardinals, Cafardo reports, are only interested in Price if the deal is accompanied by an extension. And while the Dodgers have often been linked to Price, Cafardo warns not to forget about the NL West's other heavyweight -- the Giants -- who have interest not only in Price, but also in Ben Zobrist for their second-base hole.
Regarding the M's, FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal reported over the weekend that the Mariners' ownership might not be willing to commit the roughly $20 million Price would command in his final year of arbitration and the prospects it would take to land him. Rival general managers told Rosenthal that M's GM Jack Zduriencik can be difficult to push across the finish line in trade talks, so that could be a barrier, as well.
Tribe targets: FOXSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported over the weekend that San Francisco has shown interest in both Asdrubal Cabrera and Mike Aviles, either of whom could fill their aforementioned second-base need. But the Indians do not appear to have immediate plans to move either player. Top shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor is not deemed ready for the big leagues yet, and the Indians like what Aviles offers in a utility role, backing up the everyday shortstop Cabrera.
For now, the Indians' interest remains acquiring a front-line starting pitcher. As MLB.com's Jordan Bastian noted, the Indians are targeting guys they would control beyond 2014. While they've scouted Price, an acquisition of the Rays' ace remains only a remote possibility, at best.
Burnett watch: On Saturday, we caught you up on the A.J. Burnett-to-Baltimore possibility. On Sunday, CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury noted that neither the Yankees nor Blue Jays -- two clubs in need of starting pitching -- are all that interested in Burnett. It would appear the two teams with the most interest at this juncture are the Orioles and Burnett's former club, the Pirates.
The hunt for Red October: The Joey Votto quadriceps injury and Brandon Phillips thumb injury only augment the Reds' already apparent need for a bat, but the market offers slim pickings.
"We just haven't found anything that attracts us yet," general manager Walt Jocketty told MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. "It may not happen before July 31st."
Jocketty said he finds the lack of movement "surprising," and the Reds still hope to find a versatile player who can help at multiple positions. One player the club is considering is recently released Braves second baseman Dan Uggla.
Toronto trade front: Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos told reporters, including MLB.com's Jamie Ross, on Sunday that he has the financial freedom to make the moves necessary to keep Toronto in the hunt for October.
"We can add players, so we have the ability to have that dialogue at any time," he said. "I don't see any reason why we won't be able to add players, and obviously players make money; no one plays for free."
While pitching has probably been the Blue Jays' primary target much of this summer, the recent downturn in production that accompanied the injuries to Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie and Adam Lind could have them on the hunt for a bat.