Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Orioles selected Pat Connaughton in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, but he opted to pursue an NBA career instead.

If a fruitful NBA career isn't in the cards for Portland Trail Blazers guard Pat Connaughton, the former collegiate pitcher may take his talents back to the diamond.

According to Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore Orioles are still interested in their 2014 draft pick as the two-sport athlete mulls his future.

The Orioles drafted Connaughton in 2014, the summer before his senior year at Notre Dame. But following a successful season on the hardwood for the Fighting Irish, Connaughton declared for the 2015 NBA draft and was selected by Portland in the second round.

However, he has averaged just 1.8 PPG across 73 games during the first two years of his three-year contract with the Trail Blazers. The third year is not guaranteed.

"I'm not going to unrealistically chase a dream if it appears that dream is getting farther and farther away," Connaughton said Monday while on MLB Network Radio.

Connaughton also noted that his relationship with the Orioles remains good, which Baltimore's executive vice president Dan Duquette confirmed to Meoli.

“The Orioles believe he has a good future in baseball,” Duquette said. “He’s a terrific athlete, has a world of talent. A good competitor. So whenever he wants to apply his skills full time, I think he can come quick -- to the major leagues -- because he’s such a gifted athlete.”

Connaughton's agent is Sam Samardzija, whose brother Jeff Samardzija was also a two-sport athlete at Notre Dame before opting to pursue a professional baseball career rather than join the NFL. Samardzija, currently a fixture in the San Francisco Giants' starting rotation, is currently pitching on a five-year, $90 million deal.

“He decided to ply his trade in MLB, and he’s done pretty well financially,” Duquette said. “I would hope that Pat would look at him as a role model.”

-- Nick Ostiller

Christian YelichJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesOutfielder Christian Yelich would be a valuable trade chip if the Marlins become sellers as the July 31 deadline approaches.

Could another sell-off be on the horizon for the Miami Marlins?

Memorial Day is still around a week away, but the mood around South Beach says the 2017 season might already be a lost cause for the Marlins, who have lost 20 of their past 25 and own the second-worst record in the majors at 15-28.

"They’re in crash-and-burn mode," one scout told Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. "My recommendation to the next owner, whoever that is, would be to go in and blow it up."

There has been ample speculation that owner Jeffrey Loria is looking to sell the club, possibly to a group headed by Jeb Bush and Derek Jeter, but if and when that would take place remains unclear.

"It looks worse with each day to the point the new owners have clarity in what this sale really entails. [Loria] will walk off with an eight-figure payday. The new owners inherit a big pile of stink to clean up," writes Dave Hyde of the Sun-Sentinel.

Even if a dramatic sell-off takes place down the road, a more immediate issue is how the Marlins operate as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. Spencer reports that the players who would attract the most interest and bring back the biggest value in return include outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich and relievers AJ Ramos and David Phelps.

"The guy who could really bring you back something is Yelich," a scout tells Spencer. Yelich, who owns a .290/.365/.426 career slash line, is in the third year of an affordable seven-year, $49.6 million deal.

The Marlins would presumably like some financial relief from Giancarlo Stanton's 13-year, $325 million contract, but those inflated numbers make the star outfielder close to untradeable unless Miami absorbs plenty of salary.

- Doug Mittler

Officially deemed a free agent by Major League Baseball last month, 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Robert is free to sign with any club beginning Saturday.

As the day approaches, the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox are the favorites for Robert's services, sources tell Ben Badler of Baseball America.

The Cardinals are already over their international bonus pool, meaning they could be motivated to spend more this year due to the restrictions that will be placed on them during the next signing period for going over the limit. The White Sox, on the other hand, are not over their pool but will be if they sign Robert.

Robert, listed at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, has been on the radar of major league scouts since he was 15 years old, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.

Because he is subject to bonus pools, Robert can’t sign a major league contract and will instead receive a minor league deal with a signing bonus. The outfielder needs to sign by June 15 to avoid a more restrictive hard cap on bonuses under MLB's new international signing rules.

-- Kyle Brasseur

Rumor Central: Mariners close to recalling Mike Zunino?

May, 19, 2017
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Mike ZuninoOtto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesMike Zunino was hitting just .167 when the Mariners sent him to Triple-A Tacoma.

The Seattle Mariners are having all sorts of trouble behind the plate, and that could prompt the recall of catcher Mike Zunino sooner rather than later.

Bob Dutton of the News Tribune speculates that Zunino, who was demoted to Triple-A Tacoma with a .167 batting average, might be promoted since current backstops Carlos Ruiz (.119 BA) and Tuffy Gosewisch (.048) are faring even worse.

"I expect [Zunino] to be back in a short amount of time," manager Scott Servais told reporters Thursday. "But how long can we go? We’ll go as long as we have to. But I’m realistic, and the guys are, too.”

Dutton reports one reason for the May 5 demotion was because club officials felt Zunino’s slump was affecting his defense (16 wild pitches allowed this season). Zunino is hitting just .222 with a pair of homers in nine games at Tacoma, but the Mariners might have no other choice but to bring him back.

The owner of a career .193/.250/.236 slash line, Zunino has not come close to the potential expected when he was taken by the Mariners with the third overall pick in the 2012 draft.

-- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Nationals scouring market for closer?

May, 18, 2017
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David Robertson, Chicago White SoxHannah Foslien/Getty ImagesWashington has reportedly begun making calls around the league in search of a closer, and David Robertson of the Chicago White Sox could be a fit.

The Washington Nationals have used five different relievers to save games this season, but they appear determined to solidify the role with an external option.

According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the NL East-leading Nats have begun making calls around the league in search of a closer.

While Heyman notes that the Nationals "haven’t found anyone who’s immediately available," David Robertson of the Chicago White Sox might make the most sense for Washington. The White Sox are in rebuilding mode, and Robertson is due to earn $12 million this season and $13 million in 2018. He has converted five of six save opportunities and owns a 3.21 ERA this season.

Other names that have reportedly piqued the Nationals' interest include the Kansas City Royals' Kelvin Herrera, Tampa Bay Rays' Alex Colome, Miami Marlins' A.J. Ramos, Toronto Blue Jays' Roberto Osuna and San Francisco Giants' Mark Melancon, who left Washington in free agency this past winter.

Shawn Kelley and Blake Treinen each have three saves for the Nationals this season. Matt Albers and Koda Glover have two apiece, and Enny Romero has one. Free-agent signing Joe Blanton has not figured into the mix for the role considering he has surrendered 13 runs in 12 1/3 innings and just landed on the disabled list.

-- Nick Ostiller

Ian KennedyDuane Burleson/Getty ImagesIan Kennedy is expected to come off the Royals' disabled list this weekend.

Barring a late setback, Ian Kennedy appears poised to the return to the Kansas City Royals’ rotation Saturday against the Twins in Minnesota.

The Royals will need to make room on the roster for Kennedy, who landed on the disabled list with a strained hamstring, and the odd man out could be reliever Seth Maness, according to Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star.

Chris Young and Al Alburquerque are presumably on the bubble as well, but Dodd notes that both right-handers are out of options, making Maness a more likely candidate for a demotion.

Maness, who spent four seasons with the Cardinals before signing with the Royals, has a 6.00 ERA in three outings for Kansas City since being promoted from Triple-A Omaha.

Kennedy, who signed to a five-year, $70 million deal in the 2015-16 offseason, is 0-3 with a 3.03 ERA in six starts for the Royals.

- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Will the Astros pursue Gerrit Cole?

May, 18, 2017
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Gerrit ColeJon Durr/Getty ImagesGerrit Cole would be a prime bargaining chip for the Pirates if they decide to sell at the trade deadline.

The Houston Astros already own the best record in the major leagues at 29-12, but that may not stop them from pursuing some marquee pitching talent this summer.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports the Astros are interested in adding a starting pitcher and a left-handed reliever before the July 31 trade deadline and are “intrigued” by starter Gerrit Cole and closer Tony Watson of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Pirates (17-23) are in last place in the NL Central, and there is speculation they might look to rebuild sooner than later. A prime bargaining chip would be the 26-year-old Cole, who owns a 3.20 ERA over four-plus seasons.

If traded to the Astros, Cole, who is making $3.75 million in 2017 and is arbitration eligible for two more seasons, would join a Houston rotation that already includes Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr.

The Astros are also looking to add another left-hander to a bullpen that currently features just one southpaw in Tony Sipp. Watson, a lefty, has eight saves in nine chances with a 1.62 ERA this season.

Rosenthal cautions that no trade is expected soon, adding that the asking price for Cole would be “exorbitant.”

ESPN’s Keith Law ranked the Astros 12th in his preseason farm system rankings, so Houston would presumably have some attractive prospects to offer.

Cole has previously been mentioned as a possible fit for the New York Yankees.

-- Doug Mittler

Cole HamelsDrew Hallowell/Getty ImagesCole Hamels won 114 games for the Phillies over 10 seasons before being traded to the Rangers in July 2015.

Cole Hamels enjoyed his decade with the Philadelphia Phillies -- so much so that he would not rule out a return.

Hamels, currently on the disabled list of the Texas Rangers, met with the Philadelphia media Tuesday prior to the Rangers' game with the Phillies and was asked about a hypothetical reunion.

"I never leave the door closed," Hamels told reporters, including Matt Gelb of Philly.com. "It's a special place and will continue to be a special place. There's always those opportunities."

The now 33-year-old Hamels was a key member of a Phillies franchise that won five straight NL East titles, including a World Series in 2008. He was traded to the Rangers in a blockbuster deal in July 2015.

Hamels could be a free agent after the 2018 season if Texas declines a $20 million club option for 2019. The option would vest automatically if Hamels pitches 400 innings in 2017 and 2018, which is less likely if his stay on the disabled list this season is an extended one.

Hamels is expected to miss another six weeks with a strained oblique, according to MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki.

A lot can happen between now and the end of next season, but a return to Philadelphia would make some sense. The Phillies will presumably be nearing the end of their rebuilding process, and there is speculation they could make a big splash in the star-studded free-agent class that includes Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

Hamels, who according to Gelb owns a house in nearby Delaware County, would be a logical fit for a team that is expected to be a serious contender.

-- Doug Mittler

Shohei OtaniKyodo News/AP ImagesJapanese superstar Shohei Omani is currently on the disabled list of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.

Could the Texas Rangers have the inside track in the pursuit of Japanese sensation Shohei Otani?

Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported last week that Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and assistant GM Josh Boyd were recently in Japan to get a first-hand look at Otani, the 22-year-old who is expected to play in the major leagues next season.

Otani, dubbed the “Babe Ruth of Japan” because he is both an elite pitcher and hitter, is currently on the disabled list of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and is working out for the club’s minor league team.

Wilson notes Otani and Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish are friends and training partners, which could give the Rangers the “inside edge” if they are able to re-sign Darvish, who hits free agency after this season.

Darvish, a three-time All-Star, will make $11 million this season and is in line for a substantial raise.

Any team interested in acquiring Otani will have to pay a $20 million posting fee to the Ham Fighters.

- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Will the Cards shop Jhonny Peralta?

May, 16, 2017
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Jhonny PeraltaAP Photo/Jeff RobersonJohnny Peralta, the Cards' Opening Day third baseman, is currently on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Memphis.

Jhonny Peralta was the Opening Day third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, but that job will likely be off limits when he returns from the disabled list.

Jedd Gyorko stepped in for Peralta and has emerged as one of the Cards' best hitters with a .333/.390/.620 slash line and seven home runs.

With Gyorko entrenched at the hot corner, what do the Cardinals do with Peralta, who landed on the DL with an upper respiratory infection and is on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Memphis?

Derrick Gold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Peralta "is aware he will return to the team in a different role from whence he left," adding the Cardinals could try to work out a trade for the 34-year-old who is in the final season of a four-year contract that pays him $10 million in 2017.

A three-time All-Star, Peralta owns a .267/.329/.424 slash line over 15 major league seasons.

-- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Diamondbacks to pass on Doug Fister?

May, 16, 2017
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Doug FisterAP Photo/Mark J. TerrillDoug Fister had his best season in 2014, when he was 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA for the Nationals.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are “probably out” of the race to sign free-agent pitcher Doug Fister, Jack Magruder of FanRag Sports tweeted.

The D-backs have reportedly been in the market for starting pitching following a season-ending injury to Shelby Miller and were among the teams to check in on Fister in recent weeks.

Right-hander Zack Godley has pitched well in two starts since entering the rotation, including 6 2/3 strong innings against the Mets on Monday night, so the D-backs may now be less inclined to seek outside help.

The 33-year-old Fister compiled a 4.64 ERA and 5.7 K/9 while on a one-year deal with the Houston Astros in 2016. His best season was with the Washington Nationals in 2014, when he went 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA in 25 starts.

- Doug Mittler

Andrew HeaneyAP Photo/Kelvin KuoAndrew Heaney had a 3.49 ERA in 18 starts for the Angels in 2015.

The Los Angeles Angels have not ruled out a late-season return for left-hander Andrew Heaney, reports Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times.

During spring training, manager Mike Scioscia appeared to rule out any 2017 action for Heaney, who is recovering from elbow ligament replacement surgery. But general manager Billy Eppler hinted at some progress.

“The way that he has recovered and responded to each mile marker, so to speak, along the race, probably allows some growing optimism. But we’re still a long ways away,” Eppler tells Moura.

The 25-year-old Heaney was 6-4 with a 3.49 ERA in 18 starts for the Angels in 2015, striking out 10.5 batters per nine innings. He made just one appearance in 2016 before landing on the disabled list.

-- Doug Mittler

APA free agent after the season, Jeremy Hellickson could be a valuable trade chip for the Phillies.

The Philadelphia Phillies have “made it known” that they will listen to any teams interested in veteran right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.

The Phillies extended Hellickson a $17.2 million qualifying offer last winter, giving them the flexibility to deal him for prospects as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. A free agent after the season, Hellickson has enhanced his market value with a 4-1 record, a 3.71 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP in eight starts.

The Phillies might have an incentive to deal the 30-year-old Hellickson sooner rather than later. A crowded market for starting pitchers is emerging, and that could prompt teams to begin selling off assets as soon as mid-June, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

-- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Mets unwilling to trade top prospects?

May, 15, 2017
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Amed RosarioMike Janes/Four Seam Images/AP PhotosAmed Rosario is among the Mets' top prospects who is reportedly off-limits in any trade talks.

The New York Mets are a shorthanded team -- and are playing like one.

The Mets (16-20) squandered a six-run lead Sunday in a painful 11-9 loss to the Brewers that extended the Mets' losing streak to four games. The team's list of sidelined players includes ace right-hander Noah Syndergaard, star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and closer Jeurys Familia.

A season that began with high expectations is in crisis, calling into question whether the Mets will seriously pursue outside reinforcements.

John Harper of the New York Daily News, however, reported Sunday that Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has no plans to give up their top prospects -- shortstop Amed Rosario or first baseman Dominic Smith -- in any deal.

Harper adds it is unlikely the Mets would trade two other minor leaguers, outfielder Brandon Nimmo or shortstop Gavin Cecchini, “just to chase a title this season.”

That philosophy, of course, would limit the Mets' options and possibly require them to absorb substantial salary in any deal for a veteran player.

Meanwhile, speculation as to whether the Mets will soon promote the 21-year-old Rosario will heat up if shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera continues to be plagued by a thumb injury. Kristie Ackert of the Daily News reports that Cabrera is “trying to play through” a torn ligament in the thumb and will be unavailable for Monday’s game in Arizona.

Rosario is hitting .359/.401/.493 at Triple-A Las Vegas.

-- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Another DL stint for Hunter Pence?

May, 15, 2017
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Hunter PenceJamie Sabau/Getty ImagesHunter Pence is a three-time All-Star, but has made five career trips to the disabled list,

A strained left hamstring could mean yet another trip to the disabled list for San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence.

After Pence missed the final two games of a weekend series with the Reds, manager Bruce Bochy told reporters, including Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, that the 34-year-old might be headed to the DL for the sixth time in his career.

Pence, who is off to a slow start with a .243/.289/.338 slash line, was limited to 106 games last season because of hamstring issues.

Schulman reports the Giants would likely promote Mac Williamson or Orlando Calixte from Triple-A Sacramento to replace Pence.

Williamson, 26, who spent part of the past two seasons in San Francisco, suffered a quadriceps injury in spring training that forced him out of the competition for the open left field job. He is hitting just .266 at Sacramento, but had three straight multi-hit games this past weekend.

- Doug Mittler

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