The Week Ahead: Last-minute trades

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You thought that was the deadline? Nope, THIS is the deadline.

The July 31 no-waiver trade deadline came and went, and yet trades could still be made as long as the key parts involved could make it through waivers, witness the Angels’ acquisition of Scott Kazmir.

But after Monday, even that door closes, at least as far as playoff rosters are concerned. For postseason contenders, it’s now or never as far as improving your team for the home stretch.

So who might go where before the final (and we really mean it) deadline? Here are a couple possible items to watch.

Rich Harden: The scoop is that the Twins made a claim when the Cubs’ flamethrower was put on waivers. The Twins haven’t confirmed that, nor have they denied it. But the addition of Harden to Minnesota, which is just 4 1/2 games behind the Tigers, would add some interest to the AL Central race.

While the teams don’t appear to be close to a deal, at least one source says the sides are talking.

Trevor Hoffman: The Giants reportedly put a claim in on the all-time saves leader, but is he really going anywhere? Aaron says San Francisco is just playing defense.

Brad Penny: The big righty was tossed aside by the Red Sox because he simply never panned out. So could he really end up in Oakland?

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH

Braves at Marlins, Aug. 31-Sept. 3: Atlanta and Florida both enter the week 3 1/2 games behind in the NL wild card race. And who knows, if one of these teams sweeps, maybe they can get back into the divisional race as well.

Giants at Phillies, Sept. 1-3: The Giants had a great weekend, sweeping the Rockies to move into a tie for the NL wild card lead. But now they up the ante with three games against Philly.

Red Sox at Rays, Sept. 1-3: The Rays are in danger of falling out of the wild card race, so this will be a big series. It should be a fun one, as well, with Josh Beckett and Matt Garza facing off on Wednesday.

Cubs at Mets, Sept. 4-6: The last couple of seasons this would’ve been a huge series with playoff implications. This time around, it’s more about heaping helpings of frustration, angst and misery. Good times.

Red Sox at White Sox, Sept. 4-6: Ozzie Guillen’s club is coming off a horrible week, going 1-7 in Boston and New York. If there is any hope for the pale hose, they better get to work this week against first the Twins, then one makeup game vs. the Cubs, before the Red Sox come to town.

ON THE TUBE

Wednesday, 7:08 p.m.: Red Sox at Rays (ESPN)
Wednesday, 10:10 p.m.: Diamondbacks at Dodgers (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Rangers at Orioles (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.:  Red Sox at White Sox (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.:  Giants at Brewers (FOX)
Sunday, 2 p.m.: Red Sox at White Sox (TBS)
Sunday, 8:10 p.m.: Padres at Dodgers (ESPN)

*Check local listings

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If you Twitter, you can find me there at @Bharks.

Martin Maldonado and Willson Contreras say they’re willing to pay fines rather than follow new mound visit rule

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On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.

Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.

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Update (4:43 PM ET): In response to this, Manfred said that if a catcher or coach made a seventh mound visit, there would have to be a pitching change (via Fletcher). However, chief baseball officer Joe Torre said (via SB Nation’s Eric Stephen) that the seventh visit cannot trigger a pitching change. The umpire would simply have to prevent the seventh mound visit.