Studio balks at Moneyball, but movie not dead yet

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Columbia Pictures was scheduled to begin production on the Moneyball movie today with three months of preparation and a $50 million budget, but Variety reports that the studio stepped away from the Brad Pitt-Steven Soderbergh project at the last minute.

Moneyball has been placed into
“limited turnaround,” which apparently means that other studios are now
free to acquire the film’s rights. Variety
speculates that Warner Brothers and Paramount could be interested, so
we may still see Pitt portraying Billy Beane on the big screen.

For whatever it’s worth, I’ve always been skeptical about the Michael Lewis bestseller having the potential to be a big-budget movie and Variety
notes that Columbia Pictures boss Amy Pascal “read a rewrite that
Soderbergh did to Steven Zaillian’s script and found it very different
from the earlier scripts she championed,” so it’s possible that
attempts to punch up the relatively action-less plot led to the studio
balking.

Or maybe everyone just finally realized the possible insanity behind Soderbergh’s idea to use an animated Bill James as “this sort of oracle character that appears throughout and declaims various issues.”

Report: Padres interested in Maikel Franco

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The Padres may have some interest in acquiring Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, according to a recent report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It seems unlikely that the team would deal their starting third baseman with J.P. Crawford (fractured left hand) sidelined through July; to that end, however, they signed infielder Danny Espinosa as minor league depth on Friday and have reportedly been eying the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, among other veteran options.

Franco, 25, entered Sunday batting .255/.297/.425 with nine home runs and a .721 OPS in 229 plate appearances this season. While he has yet to live up to the .280+ average, 1.9+ fWAR he posted during his rookie campaign, he’s been a solid 20+ home run producer over the last few years and shown some stability at the hot corner. He’s also under team control for the next three years and could provide some much-needed insurance behind the Padres’ current third base option, 27-year-old Christian Villanueva.

Rosenthal notes that the Phillies could strike a deal for one of San Diego’s relievers, though no one specific has been connected to the team yet — and the club probably wouldn’t be able to finesse a one-for-one deal given the quality of the Padres’ pitchers. The Phillies’ bullpen has looked downright abysmal over the last month, placing 11th-worst in the league with a collective 5.34 ERA and 0.3 fWAR. Their failure to procure a viable reliever beyond Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano and Edubray Ramos lends a certain urgency to any potential deal they make over the next few weeks, though the official trade deadline is still over a month away.