Now that the four-day MLB All-Star break is in the rear-view mirror, we will have baseball every day through the end of September. And that's pretty awesome. It feels good to exhale every once in a while, but some real-live games on Friday will be a welcome sight after a very quiet two days in the sports world.
While there wasn't much to talk about in the way of actual news on Thursday, the trade winds are beginning to blow in advance of the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Looking for their first playoff appearance since 2001, FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi reports that the Mariners have been engaged in ongoing discussions with the Rays regarding left-hander David Price and infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist.
No deal is considered imminent, but the Mariners have apparently stepped up their efforts to land Price and Zobrist after trade talks with the Phillies for Marlon Byrd have stalled. It's unclear who the Rays would target in a deal with the Mariners, but one would assume that Taijuan Walker would be the centerpiece. Names like Brad Miller, Nick Franklin, Chris Taylor, and D.J. Peterson could also be in the mix. For what it's worth, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman hears that the Mariners are more focused on Zobrist than Price and that Franklin's name has come up frequently in talks.
Sure, there may be fewer sellers than in previous years due to the presence of the extra wild card, but the next 13 days could still be very interesting.
Progress for Victorino
Shane Victorino was placed on the disabled list seven weeks ago after aggravating a right hamstring strain and he suffered a setback in June due to a back injury, but he's finally on the verge of rejoining the Red Sox. For real this time.
Victorino went 2-for-4 with two singles and two runs scored in a rehab game with Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday night and played all nine innings in right field. Red Sox manager John Farrell said earlier in the day that he would like to see Victorino play back-to-back games before the team activates him, but the veteran outfielder told Joe McDonald of ESPN Boston after the game that he hopes to talk his way back to the big club as soon as tomorrow. Either way, he's getting close.
After enjoying a resurgent season for the eventual World Series champions in 2013, Victorino has been limited to only 21 games this season while batting just .242/.276/.352 over 99 plate appearances. The 33-year-old remains an injury risk, but he's available in over 50 percent of Yahoo leagues right now and could prove valuable during the second half. Give him a look if he's out there on the waiver wire.
Rangers Turn to J.P. at First Base
The revolving door that has been the Rangers' first base situation took another turn Thursday, as Carlos Pena was designated for assignment to make room for J.P. Arencibia's return from Triple-A Round Rock. That's like trading a kick in the kneecap for a chop to the larynx. Not literally, but from a baseball perspective.
Pena latched on with the Rangers a month ago and joined the big club a week later, but he simply failed to produce, batting just .136 (8-for-59) with one home run and a .428 OPS over 18 games. At this point, it's very possible that we have seen the last of him in MLB. Arencibia has played exclusively as a catcher in the majors, but he made 20 starts at first base during his time at Triple-A and is expected to see the majority of his playing time there in his return to the big club. While the 28-year-old has some pop in his bat, he's hitting just .187 with a .572 OPS over 563 plate appearances dating back to the start of last season. In short, he might not be much of an improvement over Pena.
The Rangers also activated Geovany Soto from the 60-day disabled list on Thursday, clearing the way for him to make his season debut. The 31-year-old missed the entire first half following March surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, and he should see the bulk of the playing time behind the plate over Robinson Chirinos now that he's back to full health. Keep him in mind in deeper two-catcher mixed formats and AL-only leagues.
AL Quick Hits: Alex Gordon (wrist) made it through a successful workout on Thursday, but he'll have to go through drills again Friday before being cleared to return to the lineup … Astros manager Bo Porter said that Dexter Fowler (intercostal) will not be activated from the disabled list Friday as originally hoped … Taijuan Walker's next start in Triple-A has been pushed back from Thursday to Friday and his return to the Mariners' rotation could still be a week or two away … FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that the Blue Jays have "checked on" free agent Alfonso Soriano … Justin Masterson (knee) will begin a minor league rehab assignment Sunday with Triple-A Columbus … The Blue Jays have moved prospect Aaron Sanchez to the bullpen with an eye on a call-up later this year.. Ryan Hanigan was placed on the 15-day disabled list with an oblique strain … Jarred Cosart (blister) threw a bullpen session Thursday with no issues and has been cleared to start Sunday against the White Sox …
NL Quick Hits: Jean Segura has rejoined the Brewers following the tragic passing of his nine-month-old son last week, but it's unclear whether he'll return to game action right away… The Cardinals will use Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, and Carlos Martinez this weekend against the Dodgers, so Adam Wainwright won't make his first start of the second half until next Tuesday at the earliest … Evan Gattis (back) went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts as the DH on Thursday in his first minor league rehab game with Triple-A Gwinnett … The Pirates activated outfielder Starling Marte from the bereavement list … Chris Owings (shoulder) could still be a couple of weeks away from returning … Tyler Chatwood will undergo Tommy John surgery … Scott Miller of Bleacher Report of MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM reports that Rangers assistant general manager A.J. Preller, Red Sox assistant general manager Mike Hazen, Yankees assistant general manager Billy Eppler, and MLB's senior VP for baseball operations Kim Ng are the finalists for the Padres' GM job …