By John Perrotto
Pirates left-hander Paul Maholm has suddenly, and somewhat surprisingly, become the hottest starting pitcher on the trade market with the deadline to deal players without securing waivers on them approaching at 4 p.m. Saturday.
The San Diego Padres have made multiple aggressive bids for Maholm in the past 24 hours, according to various baseball sources, and the Los Angeles Dodgers also remain very interested.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington is said to be remaining steadfast on his asking price, a young starting pitcher who is ready to step into the Pirates’ rotation now along with either a second young major-leaguer or a top-level prospect.
Left-hander Wade LeBlanc and shortstop Everth Cabrera are two players on the Padres’ roster that the Pirates have interest in. They also like Class AA San Antonio right-hander Simon Castro.
LeBlanc, 25, is 5-8 with a 3.35 ERA in 18 starts this season. He also spent parts of the previous two seasons with the Padres and has a 9-12 lifetime record with a 4.02 ERA in 33 games, 31 starts. Cabrera, 23, is hitting just .199 with one home run and 23 RBIs in 51 games after batting .255-2-31 in 103 games last season as a rookie.
Castro was the starting pitcher for the World team at the All-Star Futures Game in Anaheim earlier this month. He is 5-5 with a 3.13 ERA in 19 games, 18 starts.
The Pirates reportedly want rookie right-hander John Ely and Class AA Chattanooga shortstop Dee Gordon from the Dodgers.
Ely, 24, is 4-7 with a 4.63 ERA in 14 starts and Gordon is hitting .284 with two homers, 28 RBIs and 39 steals in 95 games. The Dodgers, though, would rather substitute Class AAA Albuquerque shortstop Chin-lung Hu for Gordon.
The Dodgers, though, are also working on a multi-player deal with the Cubs in which they would acquire left-hander Ted Lilly and second baseman Ryan Theriot. If the Dodgers make that deal then any potential trade for Maholm would be dead.
The Pirates have tried to get the Dodgers interested in Class AAA Indianapolis second baseman Aki Iwamura but to no avail.
-John Perrotto is editor-in-chief of BaseballProspectus.com and baseball columnist for the Beaver County Times.