Talks between Cards and Westbrook already “taking place”

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Things are falling into place for a long-term marriage between the Cardinals and right-hander Jake Westbrook.  The free agent told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in September that he would “definitely” be interested in returning to St. Louis and GM John Mozeliak shared the same feeling last week.

Now Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com is reporting that discussions are “taking place” and that Mozeliak and Co. have expressed a “high level of interest” in retaining their No. 3 starter.

Westbrook, 33, posted a 3.48 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over 12 starts with the Cardinals this season after joining the club as part of a three-team deal in late July.  He had a 4.22 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 33 overall outings with a 128/68 K/BB ratio in 202.2 innings.

The Cards will sport a starting rotation of Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Kyle Lohse next season.  If Westbrook is brought back, he would probably slot in between Carpenter and Garcia.  And maybe right after the Rookie of the Year Award candidate.

Now let’s talk money.  Westbrook earned $11 million this past season and will likely be asking for a similar salary over the next 4-5 seasons.  The Cardinals have to pay slugger Albert Pujols soon and must decide if there will be enough money left over for that possibly historic contract extension.

The Astros’ pursuit of Sonny Gray is “heating up”

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Jon Morosi of MLB Networks reports that talks are “heating up” between the Astros and Athletics on a Sonny Gray trade. Gray, obviously, would represent a big upgrade for the Astros’ rotation. He has a 3.66 ERA and has struck out 85 batters while walking 28 in 91 innings.

Morosi adds that Gray is not the only option for the Astros, as they are also talking to the Tigers about a potential acquisition of Justin Verlander and Justin Wilson. That would obviously be a much tougher deal to negotiate given Verlander’s 10/5 rights giving him veto power over any trade, not to mention the massive amount of money he’s still owed on his contract.

Also: I’m pretty sure that it’s in the MLB rules that any trade between the Tigers and the Astros has to involve Brad Ausmus, C.J. Nitkowski and Jose Lima, and that’s not possible given their current occupations and/or their deaths in 2010.

Marlins trade David Phelps to the Mariners for four prospects

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The Miami Marlins have sent reliever David Phelps to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for four prospects. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand and Ken Rosenthal had rumors of the deal first, Jon Morosi, Jeff Passan and Jon Heyman (among others) all reported the trade at virtually the same time.

Phelps, 30, had a fantastic 2016 season, posting a 2.28 ERA in 64 games while striking out 11.8 batters per nine innings. He’s not been as strong this year, but he’s still been a solid setup man, posting a 3.45 ERA in 44 games while striking out 51 batters and walking 21 in 47 innings. He throws in the mid-90s and induces grounders. The Mariners could probably use rotation help more than bullpen help, but solid innings are solid innings at one point and improving your pen takes some of the pressure off of your rotation. Phelps will help Seattle with that. He’s under team control for next year too, so this is more than a rental.

The top prospect in the deal is Brayan Hernandez, a 19 year-old outfielder from Venezuela, currently playing in low-A ball. Also in the deal: righty Brandon Miller, righty Pablo Lopez and righty Lucas Schiraldi who, yes, is the son of ex-big leaguer Calvin Schiraldi. None of these guys are blue chippers, but you never know what’ll happen. It’s a volume return for the Fish.

We’ve already seen some big bullpen names move, including David Robertson, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Among others who could be moved:  A.J. Ramos (Marlins); Justin Wilson (Tigers); Addison Reed (Mets); Jerry Blevins (Mets); Brad Hand (Padres); Tony Watson (Pirates); Juan Nicasio (Pirates); Brad Brach (Orioles); Drew Storen (Reds); and Raisel Iglesias (Reds).