Trade talk: Roundup of Wednesday's rumors

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With Cliff Lee off to the Phillies, and Matt Holliday already making himself at home in St. Louis, the trade market has lost a bit of luster.

But there is still a lot going on out there as we march closer to Friday’s trade deadline. Let’s take a look at what’s going on:

ROY HALLADAY
The self-imposed deadline for the Blue Jays to trade ace Roy Halladay has passed, but that doesn’t mean someone might still pry him away. The Yankees, for their part, are watching with amusement, hoping Halladay won’t be waiting in Toronto next Tuesday when they travel north but certainly not wishing to see him in a Red Sox uniform, either. So what will happen with Halladay?

*The Yankees, reluctant to add to their bloated payroll, say they’re not an option.

*Halladay reportedly hasn’t ruled out waiving his no-trade clause to join the Rangers, but they seem to be a long shot, given their financial woes.

*The Dodgers have said they won’t deal anyone off their major league roster, but might be willing to part with Chad Billingsley.

*The Angels don’t want to break up their team for Halladay, despite the lobbying of John Lackey.

*With the Phillies most assuredly out of the running, that leaves the Red Sox as the likeliest option. They’ve been the most aggressive, and have reportedly made the best offer to date.

*… unless the Blue Jays keep him.

ELSEWHERE

*The Giants shored up their infield with the Pirates’ Freddy Sanchez.

*The Mariners dealt five players to the Pirates for Ian Snell and Jack Wilson.

*Staying busy, they also sent outfielder Wladimir Balentien to the Reds for pitcher Robert Manuel.

*Is Jarrod Washburn the next Mariner to go?

*The Red Sox might be after the Indians’ Victor Martinez and the Padres’ Adrian Gonzalez. Consider Martinez the more likely option. He’d be a nice upgrade over Jason Varitek.

*The Marlins are pushing hard for Padres closer Heath Bell.

*There is a lot of interest out there in Orioles closer George Sherrill.

*For the latest, check out our rumors page.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.