It’s that time of year again, so let’s get into it…

Friday, July 28, 9 p.m. ET: The Orange County Register is reporting that the Angels turned down a deal of Scot Shields, Ervin Santana and Howie Kendrick for Miguel Tejada. Well, of course they did. I was able to independently confirm this, though there’s some indication that I may have the same source as the Register. The O’s are doing their due diligence, seeing if the Astros offer is the best available. All indications are that they are ready and willing to move Tejada.

One offer for Alfonso Soriano was pulled today, further strengthening the position around baseball that Jim Bowden is bluffing on his assertions that he’s willing to keep Soriano absent the “right price.”

With the news that Yuliesky Gourriel has defected (though there’s no official confirmation), teams will begin the bidding war. Gourriel was a star in the World Baseball Classic. He’d need to get a lot of paperwork done in a hurry, but two baseball men I spoke to this evening think he’s ready now. “I’d take him over Soriano on everything but power,” one said. “I’m stunned. All we heard at the Classic is that he wouldn’t go with all the family connections,” said the other. “He’s the biggest Cuban ever.”

Several sources indicate that Dayton Moore has something big working. Big has to be relative, given what he’s working with.

Friday, July 28, 3 p.m. ET: It’s no secret that Julio Lugo is the object of desire by several teams. The Blue Jays and Mets have been most connected to him, but the Astros have him as Plan B if they can’t pry Miguel Tejada loose. Tim Purpura already showed he could work with the Rays by making the Aubrey Huff deal, plus the price would be significantly lower.

Early indications are that the Carlos Lee deal has re-set the offers for Alfonso Soriano. The Nats continue to want at least two “high quality” prospects, while the offers have all been along the lines of one good-not-great prospect and another guy or two, or of the Kevin Mench-style upside guy. Jim Bowden is saying publicly that he’ll hold Soriano for all but the right offer, but two senior officials I spoke with this afternoon expect he’s bluffing.

The Padres know that Greg Maddux would be willing to come to them, but the Dodgers involvement in talks with the Cubs might raise the price. As much as I like Maddux, he’s been awful since the calendar flipped to May. One exec with knowledge of the talks says that one factor is that he expects Maddux would be “turned on” by being in a pennant chase. Like chemistry and intangibles, excitement doesn’t come across the waiver wire. Talent does.

Could the Marlins be buyers? Several people over the last two weeks have indicated that the Marlins farm system is so stacked with prospects that they could trade for an impact arm or an outfield bat and not hurt themselves long-term. Larry Beinfest has his players lined up just in case the right guy comes along. It would have to be an impact player due to be a free agent.

Watch the Tigers over the next 24 hours. One source indicated that he’s heard around the league that the team is “making its best, final offers” on the players they like, but that they’d be perfectly willing to play the hand they have. The Tigers and their AL Central compadres are all eyeing the other closely; if one makes a move, the other won’t be far behind.

Friday, July 28, noon ET: The Carlos Lee trade immediately changes the market. No one caught on to Jon Daniels’ interest as the Rangers worked under the radar with their former GM, Doug Melvin, to make the deal come together quickly. Christina Kahrl will have more on this in TA, but it looks win-win on first glance.

The Lee deal puts more pressure on the Nationals to move Alfonso Soriano, though the price for Lee could make it easier for Jim Bowden to get the type of talent he wants. Three major-league players (rather than any of the young prospects the Nats need) is the going rate. The Twins remain interested, though this type of deal would be way outside the team’s comfort zone. That puts the Angels as the front runner. For now, most other teams expected to be interested (Mets, White Sox, Tigers) are all looking for pitching.

Greg Maddux is being quietly wooed by the Mets, but sources tell me that while Maddux would love to play more golf with Tom Glavine, he’s not going to accept a move to the East Coast to do it. The Braves inquired, but Maddux rebuffed that possibility. The Dodgers and Diamondbacks remain the strongest possibilities.

Wilson Betemit for Scott Linebrink or Scott Proctor? Not going to happen. Betemit is too valuable with the fragile Marcus Giles and Chipper Jones still in and out of the lineup. There’s nothing at Richmond to fill in if Betemit is moved.

Friday, July 28, 10 a.m. ET:It’s always good to open with a blockbuster. Multiple sources tell me that the Astros have decided to go after a big bat, making several calls around the league to gauge the market. GM Tim Purpura appears to be focused on adding Miguel Tejada, already their first choice in no small part due to the endorsement of Roger Clemens. Speculation is that the Orioles have to be blown away to move Tejada, and Purpura may have an offer to do that. One source said that a deal that would send Adam Everett, Morgan Ensberg, and Fernando Nieve to the Orioles is “one of
the offers that’s being discussed.”

The Pirates are stuck in neutral. GM Dave Littlefield is doing the same thing he did last year, asking for inflated returns on players like Sean Casey, Craig Wilson, and Jeromy Burnitz. He’s had more inquiries on Wilson and Chris Duffy in the last 48 hours than any of the others. Some observers think that Littlefield will mark down his asking prices at the last minute, when he’ll be looking to make sure that he did something, anything, at the deadline.

The Red Sox have been kicking the tires on a couple pitchers, notably Jon Lieber, but several executives think that Theo Epstein
and the Sox braintrust are cooking up a multi-team deal. “Three, four, I don’t know how many balls Theo can juggle,” I was told. Complex deals are harder to complete, but don’t be surprised to see the Sox in the middle of a series of exchanges.

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