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Pirates “continue to monitor” the Mets’ Ike Davis

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The Pirates got an underwhelming .768 OPS from the first base position in 2013 and lost Justin Morneau this winter to free agency. If the 2014 season started today, Gaby Sanchez and his .258/.337/.417 career batting line would be Pittsburgh’s primary option at baseball’s most premium offensive position. And that’s not ideal.

According to Jayson Stark at ESPN.com, the Pirates “continue to monitor” Mets first baseman Ike Davis, who is competing for a starting job this spring with Lucas Duda. The Bucs have been linked recently to free agent Kendrys Morales, but Stark says there “doesn’t seem to be much substance” to those rumors. Justin Smoak or Mitch Moreland could become trade targets for the Bucs depending on how the Nelson Cruz shoe drops.

Davis batted just .205/.326/.334 last season for New York, but he slugged 32 home runs in 2012 and registered .925 OPS in 149 plate appearances the season before that. The 26-year-old former first-round pick has much more upside than Sanchez, who will turn 31 years old at the end of this upcoming summer.

Report: Phillies want a top-five prospect for Jeremy Hellickson

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 20: Starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson #58 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch in the second inning during a game against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on July 20, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
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Starter Jeremy Hellickson has become the Phillies’ most enticing trade chip as he’s put together a solid month of July. After shutting out the Marlins on one hit and one walk over six innings on Monday, the right-hander lowered his July ERA to 1.97 and his overall ERA to 3.65. As a result, the Phillies are telling teams they want a top-five prospect to part with Hellickson, per ESPN’s Jayson Stark.

Obviously, a top-five prospect means something different if you’re the Marlins as opposed to the Rangers. And the Phillies’ price point for Hellickson isn’t likely to stay that high, but GM Matt Klentak is setting a lofty starting point so that the return might end up being higher than market value.

ESPN’s Buster Olney speculates that the Phillies could end up holding onto Hellickson and giving him a qualifying offer after the season. He notes that the Phillies have only $25 million tied up for the 2017 season, so they could afford to pay Hellickson in excess of $16 million if he were to accept.

Video: Matt Cain launches a three-run home run

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 26: Matt Cain #18 of the San Francisco Giants hits a three run home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the second inning at AT&T Park on July 26, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Madison Bumgarner isn’t the only Giants pitcher who can rake. Matt Cain crushed a three-run home run during Tuesday’s game against the Giants.

Cain stepped to the plate with runners on the corner and one out against Reds starter Cody Reed in the bottom of the second inning. Reed threw a 1-1 fastball down the middle and Cain hit it about 20 rows back in the left field seats.

It’s Cain’s first homer of the season, his first since 2012, and the seventh of his 12-year career. He still has some work to catch up to Bumgarner, who has two homers this year and 13 in his career.

On the pitching side of things, Cain got the win against the Reds on Tuesday night, giving up four runs on six hits and a walk with four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. He currently holds an ugly 5.95 ERA.