Action aplenty before the trade deadline

The trading deadline now looms, a week away. Gentlemen, recharge your BlackBerrys.

Matt Holliday(notes), come on down. From the moment last winter when Oakland snagged the high-priced outfielder from the Colorado Rockies, the question was not whether Athletics general manager Billy Beane would flip him, but to whom.

Holliday nearly spoiled that scenario by forgetting how to hit for the season’s first month (.228 average on May 6), and his decline in power (33 games without a homer, one multi-homer game, 11 homers overall) has kept him from becoming the hot commodity many anticipated. But Beane’s shingle still reads, “Open for Business,” and a crowd is beginning to form outside his door.

The St. Louis Cardinals, who wouldn’t be in this predicament if Rick Ankiel(notes) wasn’t hurt so much and Ryan Ludwick(notes) hadn’t waited until July (.388, five HRs, 23 RBIs) to resemble the 2008 model, still need a bat. Mark DeRosa(notes), with three home runs in two games this week after coming off the DL, has helped, but too much of the load has fallen on Phat Albert and talented rookie Colby Rasmus(notes). So they’re exploring a possible Holliday deal, one in which they have an impressive prospect chip, corner infielder Brett Wallace(notes), to dangle in return. Yahoo! Sports’ Tim Brown reports that a deal does not appear imminent, but talks between the Cards and Oakland Athletics are well beyond the small talk stage.

The Cardinals have company. A major league source tells Brown that the Chicago White Sox are quietly in the mix, a point reiterated here by another big league scout who says Chicago is worried about how well Carlos Quentin(notes) has recovered from the plantar fasciitis in his left foot that kept him on the DL for seven weeks.

The White Sox, on Mark Buehrle’s(notes) perfect game, are in a first-place tie with the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central, heading into their weekend showdown. And coincidentally, the Tigers have kicked the tires on Holliday, their offense depleted by Magglio Ordonez’s(notes) season-long no-show (outside the occasional grand slam), Carlos Guillen’s(notes) injuries, and now a new problem, All-Star Brandon Inge’s(notes) admission that he is playing with a ligament tear in his left knee that is causing excruciating pain. But so far, the Tigers have little interest in meeting Beane’s asking price.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Blue Jays continue to sift through offers for ace Roy Halladay(notes), with GM J.P. Ricciardi saying the club was spurred into action by Halladay’s desire to test free agency when his contract runs out after next season. We hear that the Blue Jays are sending assistant GM/player personnel Tony La Cava to scout Carlos Carrasco(notes), who is scheduled to pitch Thursday in Georgia against the Gwinnett Braves for the Phillies’ Triple-A team, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The right-handed Carrasco is the Philadelphia Phillies’ pitching prospect rated closest to the big leagues and was ranked as the team’s No. 1 pitching prospect the last two years before being supplanted by Kyle Drabek, the son of former big leaguer Doug Drabek, who is currently in Double-A. The Phillies would rather hold onto J.A. Happ(notes), who is already thriving in the big leagues, and Drabek, but it might take at least one of them to land Halladay.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox remain among Halladay’s most ardent suitors (nothing new there), but it’s a deal that is likely to take four players. The Brewers wouldn’t seem to have enough pitching to offer in return, and may turn instead to Cliff Lee(notes), the Dodgers have pitching, but not any that are major league ready, and the Red Sox aren’t going to give up the store, not when they may need a bat even more (Victor Martinez(notes), Adrian Gonzalez(notes), come on down).

The Phillies also have smaller targets in view, like Washington Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham(notes), whom they’d like to acquire as a right-handed hitter off the bench.

With the Red Sox passing on Nick Johnson(notes) because the price was too high and taking Adam LaRoche(notes) instead, the Giants may now have the best chance of adding him, with the Baltimore OriolesAubrey Huff(notes) remaining a possibility.

And as we like to keep reminding people, everybody is looking for relief help. The Dodgers, Brewers, White Sox and Los Angeles Angels are all in the mix for Baltimore’s George Sherrill(notes). The Rockies, with setup man Manny Corpas out with bone chips in his elbow, already have passed on Boston’s Takashi Saito(notes). The Chicago Cubs and Red Sox both would like to add a left-handed reliever. The New York Yankees would like to add another pitcher, either for the bullpen or as a back-end starter. Both Florida teams, the Rays and Marlins, need bullpen help.

Arthur Rhodes(notes), Chad Qualls(notes), Joe Beimel(notes), Matt Capps(notes), John Grabow(notes), Jason Frasor(notes), Scott Downs(notes), David Weathers(notes), Pedro Feliciano(notes) and Francisco Cordero(notes) are all in line for a potential change of address. It’s still unclear whether Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik intends to move either of his lefties, Jarrod Washburn(notes) or Erik Bedard(notes),with Washburn saying after his 2-1 win Thursday that he’d like to sign an extension. Washburn could wind up being a possibility for the Dodgers, depending on how the Halladay sweepstakes play out.

The deadline is next Friday. But remember, shoppers, the action doesn’t stop there. There will be action during August’s waiver period. There always is.

Gordon Edes is a national baseball writer for Yahoo! Sports. Send Gordon a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Friday, Jul 24, 2009