L.A. has eyes for a pair of aces

Tim Brown
Yahoo! Sports

On the final Sunday before the trading deadline, here's why Roy Halladay(notes) and Cliff Lee(notes) remain popular conversation topics in Los Angeles:

Jason Schmidt(notes) vs. the Marlins, Dodger Stadium: 3 innings, 5 hits, 5 runs, 4 earned, 1 walk, 51 pitches.

Ervin Santana(notes) vs. the Twins, Angel Stadium: 3 2/3 innings, 6 hits, 6 runs, 6 earned, 2 walks, 85 pitches.

That's two outings spent on the bat barrels for Schmidt, who in those starts has thrown 142 pitches and gotten exactly seven swings and misses. Los Angeles Dodgers GM Ned Colletti never expected Schmidt to return as a top-end starter, but he dreamed about him being a reasonably effective No. 5. That seems hazy at best.

Santana remains the Los Angeles Angels' enigma. He still is throwing hard and can look a lot like the guy who twice has been a 16-game winner, including last season. His command isn't what it was before recent issues around his elbow, however, and now he has been barely competitive in five of his last six starts.

So the Dodgers, who have baseball's best record, are in on Halladay and Lee but instead might have to settle for a guy who could fill out the rotation rather than lead it, because Colletti has no stomach for including Chad Billingsley(notes) or Clayton Kershaw(notes) in a trade. They've not yet engaged the Seattle Mariners on Jarrod Washburn(notes) but could sniff around on Zach Duke(notes), Doug Davis(notes), Jon Garland(notes) and Brian Bannister(notes). They also are thinking that if the rotation is unable to handle more innings and the only way to get a decent starter is to give up one of their current starters, they might have to make do with bullpen reinforcements.

In spite of a report the Dodgers were in "serious" negotiations to acquire Lee and Victor Martinez(notes) for James Loney(notes), either Billingsley or Kershaw, and at least one other, the fact is the Dodgers remain engaged in talks with the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians but aren't yet close with either and never actually discussed Lee and Martinez in the same trade.

And the Angels, who are challenging the New York Yankees for the American League's best record, are in on Halladay and Lee, but they are discouraged by what the Blue Jays are demanding in exchange for Halladay. They are encouraged by John Lackey's(notes) last three starts – he has gone at least seven innings in them and beaten the Yankees, A's and Twins – and Jered Weaver's(notes) consistency, but there's not much to rely on past the two of them, particularly if Joe Saunders(notes) is unable to right himself.

If they were at all inclined to move Saunders, shortstop Erick Aybar(notes), third baseman Brandon Wood(notes) and another prospect for Halladay (which so far they are absolutely not), Santana's continued struggles would be the reason. The Angels are regulars now in the postseason, but they also are regularly dismissed by the Red Sox. They have to start thinking about whether they can pitch with Josh Beckett(notes), Jon Lester(notes) and whatever shakes out for Terry Francona in the next two months. That could be John Smoltz(notes), Clay Buchholz(notes), Brad Penny(notes), Tim Wakefield(notes) or Daisuke Matsuzaka(notes). It also could be Halladay or Lee.

The point is, despite their reasonable division leads, the Dodgers and Angels consider themselves vulnerable on the pitching end. It didn't get any better Sunday, and the alternatives won't come cheap. Joe Torre would love a veteran power arm, but those guys have jobs already. Mike Scioscia has the same kind of guy in mind, and his owner – Arte Moreno – has said he would raise payroll to get it, unlike Torre's boss, Frank McCourt, who appears reticent.

"If it happens, it happens," Scioscia said recently. "If it doesn't, we're going to play baseball and I like our team."

More information comes Monday, when Saunders starts against the Indians.

• As of Sunday night, J.P. Ricciardi had not asked Halladay to approve a trade. … If the Texas Rangers aren't able to add pitching (Kevin Millwood(notes) blew a glute in K.C. on Sunday) it'll be because Tom Hicks is running out of money, not because they lack tradeable parts. Too bad for GM Jon Daniels, who has run some nice moves into contention.

• For the moment, the Arizona Diamondbacks believe they'll finish the week with Chad Qualls(notes), Garland and Davis still on their pitching staff. The organization has a lot of work ahead to climb back from a significant talent deficit in the NL West, but Josh Byrnes apparently doesn't intend to give pitchers away because of it. Davis and Garland can be free agents at the end of the season. The Diamondbacks and Garland have a mutual option for next season.

• Presumably the Mariners' course going into the trading deadline became clearer when they were swept at home by the Indians this weekend. It seems almost irresponsible now not to move Washburn, who is scheduled to pitch Tuesday against the Blue Jays.

• Theo Epstein could view John Smoltz's start against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday (five innings, six runs, ERA breaches 7) either as reason to include Buchholz in a trade for one of the available aces (Halladay or Lee) or reason not to part with Buchholz under any circumstances.

• The San Francisco Giants had two scouts in Boston on Sunday to see Aubrey Huff(notes), but the Orioles first baseman and cleanup hitter was given the day off by manager Dave Tremblay. Huff has been in a horrific slump, batting just .155 in July, and he has just three home runs since May 26.

• The Tigers have considerable interest in another slumping Orioles hitter, Luke Scott(notes), who also did not play Sunday. Scott, a notoriously streaky hitter, did not play the last two games of Baltimore's series in Boston; the left-handed hitting outfielder/DH has 18 home runs and 53 RBIs, but he has just two hits in 23 at-bats (.087) since the All-Star break.

• Scouts from the Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers and Dodgers were among the teams looking at Orioles closer George Sherrill(notes), though the Phillies probably can't make a major move for a reliever until the Halladay matter is resolved. Sherrill worked a scoreless ninth inning in a nonsave situation Sunday.

Yahoo! Sports national baseball writer Gordon Edes contributed to this story.