- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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It's easy to forget as the clock ticks down toward Deadline Day, but we'll remind you of it, anyway. You know what The Big Deal guarantees a team that trades its way into the headlines this time of year?
Absotively, posilutely nothing. That's what.
The team that won the World Series last year, those San Francisco Giants, didn't trade for Roy Oswalt or Cliff Lee or Dan Haren last July. They made a couple of deals for relief pitchers (Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez) we barely even noticed.
The team that won the World Series in 2009, those New York Yankees, didn't pull off any massively acclaimed July trades for Lee or Roy Halladay or Matt Holliday, either. You know which megastar they traded for on July 31? Jerry Hairston Jr.
But that's not just the kind of thing fans need to remember in the final weekend of July. It's the kind of thing a team such as the Braves is reminding itself of, in the wake of getting outbid for Hunter Pence and Carlos Beltran.
The Braves feel as if they need a bat -- preferably one who hits right-handed, plays center field and can lead off. But do they HAVE to trade for a bat to win the World Series? No -- because they still run out there a pitching staff that can shut down any team's offense, in October or any other month.
So teams that have spoken with Atlanta, even in the wake of the disappointment in losing out in the Pence bid-a-thon Friday, say the Braves have no plans to do something this weekend that they wouldn't have done last week or last month -- just because Rumor Central readers everywhere think they need to make a deal.
Are they frustrated over seeing Pence go to their division nemesis, the Phillies? Oh, yeah.
Are they aggravated that the price tag Houston asked them for -- reportedly four of their top pitching prospects, two from their "untouchable" tier and two from the next tier down -- seemed as if it was steeper than what the Phillies paid? You bet.
Would they love to find exactly the right fit at exactly the right, affordable price before this deadline? No doubt about it.
But as the deadline draws closer, teams that have spoken with the Braves don't have the feeling they're close to any deal for any of the bats on their list.
They took a run at Marlon Byrd of the Cubs. Not going to be traded.
They looked into Denard Span of the Twins. But the Twins are only trading Span for other major league players -- or, at the very least, big league-ready players. And the Twins are heavily targeting live bullpen arms. So they match up better with Washington than with Atlanta, which has no interest in subtracting from its big league mix at a time in which injuries have decimated that mix enough.
Michael Bourn is also on the Braves' radar, even though he hits left-handed. But if the Astros ask for the same package for Bourn that they asked for on Pence, he won't be with the Braves.
Tampa Bay Rays
B.J. Upton is another name that would fit. But clubs that have spoken with the Braves say their camp is mixed about whether to pay a hefty price for a year-plus of the Rays' enigmatic center fielder.
Other names the Braves could kick around? Coco Crisp is one, but he doesn't supply the type of offense they would prefer. Carlos Quentin is another, but the White Sox only appear interested in dealing him if they get a huge return. The names of Ryan Ludwick and Josh Willingham will get linked to Atlanta on the rumor circuit over the next 24 hours -- but there are no signs the Braves have pursued either of late.
So an official of one team who spoke with the Braves said he was told, "We've only got to weather the storm for 14 days, until [Brian] McCann gets back." By then, they hope Chipper Jones will be healthy; Peter Moylan will be back in their bullpen; and they will feel like the urgency to DO SOMETHING will have lessened. If not, there's always August.
After all, what month was it last year in which the team that won it all picked up its World Series cleanup hitter (Cody Ross)? It wasn't July. It was August -- on a waiver claim. And how'd that work out?
• Ubaldo Jimenez makes what could be his last start for the Rockies on Saturday. The Reds, Indians, Red Sox and Yankees have varying levels of interest. There was speculation among several clubs Saturday morning that the Rockies might be getting ready to lower the price, if only slightly. But an executive of one club who checked in late Friday says he was told the price was not about to plummet, because "we feel very good about having him come back next year." We've heard officials of two teams predict the Rockies will ultimately decide not to deal Jimenez this weekend. The theory is enough clubs are skeptical of their motives, or about how sound Jimenez is, that they can use the next two months to prove he's fine. There's "no risk," said one exec, "in taking him into the offseason and trade him then."
• One exec who has been speaking with the Rockies and Reds suggests that if that swap happens, it could be a larger deal than just Homer Bailey, Travis Wood and high-end prospects for Jimenez. He said he believes the teams have discussed an expanded version that could include someone the likes of Seth Smith, because the Reds also have been targeting controllable bats.
• It's going to be a fascinating 24 hours in the life of the Astros. By trading away Pence for no one who figures to play in the big leagues before 2014, they've made it clear they're now looking way down the road as Jim Crane prepares to finalize his purchase of the team next month. So they have Bourn, Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers and Jason Michaels out there on the market. And they'd love to convince Carlos Lee there's no point in refusing to waive his no-trade clause to play with a bunch of 24-year-olds, but good luck on that. Despite rumors linking the Yankees to Rodriguez, New York appears much more focused on Hiroki Kuroda at the moment.
• It isn't just the Red Sox and Yankees dueling on Kuroda. The Rangers continue to ask the Dodgers about him, as well. It still isn't clear exactly where Kuroda would agree to be traded. But the consensus is the Red Sox and Yankees haven't shown as much concern as other clubs that he would veto a trade to either of their teams. The Yankees still appear to be a more likely destination.
• Down the freeway, the Angels have been one of the teams asking about Heath Bell, but teams that have spoken with them say they're more focused on a right-handed sixth-or-seventh-inning kind of arm -- what one exec described as "a Chad Qualls-type" guy. While the Angels had some interest in Aramis Ramirez, if he'd been willing to waive his no-trade, there are no indications they've focused on third base as a position of need.
• Believe it or not, the Red Sox didn't completely scratch Erik Bedard's name off their chalk board after Bedard's messy start Friday (1 1/3 IP, 4 walks, 3 hits, 5 runs, and more balls than strikes). Bedard did hit 93 mph with his fastball and got a couple of swings and misses on his curveball. But the Red Sox still seem more likely to pursue other rotation options, a la Kuroda or even Rich Harden.
• The San Diego-Texas tug-of-war for Bell continues. Here's how one exec who spoke with both teams describes it: "They're still trying to grind down San Diego." But the Padres continue to threaten that they're fine with hanging onto Bell and either signing him this winter or taking the draft picks. So stay tuned.
• The Phillies took on so little (just $200,000) of Pence's salary that they have flexibility to deal for a low-budget bullpen arm or a home run threat off the bench. They continue to talk to Colorado about Jason Giambi. And they even asked the Twins about Jim Thome, but the Twins would like to hang onto Thome until he hits his 600th homer.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His latest book, "Worth The Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies," was published by Triumph Books and is now available in a new paperback edition, in bookstores and online. Click here to order a copy.
Follow Jayson Stark on Twitter: @jaysonst
The Giants got Carlos Beltran. The Phillies got Hunter Pence. So what are the Braves going to do? Maybe nothing.