NEW YORK - The Phillies waited Wednesday for the pitching market to settle. Boston dangled Jon Lester while Tampa Bay wavered on David Price's availability. Two consolation prizes - Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett - shuffled through the visitors' clubhouse at Citi Field and accompanied the Phillies to Washington for Thursday's deadline day.
St. Louis, a team in desperate need of starting pitchers, acquired Cleveland's Justin Masterson. Before that, the Cardinals emerged as a suitor for Burnett - or even Lee. They could still add another starter, although the chances were slimmer.
The Phillies scouted triple-A Memphis on Tuesday night, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
An arms race in the tight National League Central could benefit the Phillies. Both Pittsburgh and Milwaukee were said to crave starting help. Pirates players have lobbied for Burnett's return, although the team's interest is said to have cooled.
Baltimore and Kansas City are two other possible destinations for Burnett. Neither appears on his no-trade clause.
Burnett, 37, will need hernia surgery after the season. The Mets crushed him Monday for seven runs in five innings. He tossed eight scoreless innings in the start before that. Burnett has a 4.15 ERA in 23 starts. He will likely fetch a midlevel prospect or two - the return could grow if Burnett provides assurances he will forgo a lucrative 2015 option and retire.
Masterson, a free agent at season's end, fetched St. Louis' No. 7 prospect, as rated by Baseball America. The righthander posted a 5.51 ERA with the Indians. Burnett has better numbers and is owed less money than Masterson for the remainder of 2014. But his option could be worth as much as $12.75 million if he makes 32 starts this season.
"I'm trying to go out and win ball games; that's all I'm worried about," Burnett said. "Next year will take care of itself after this year."
Lee, who is scheduled to pitch Thursday against the Nationals, has not completed six innings since his return from the disabled list. Manager Ryne Sandberg expects improvement.
"His bullpen [session] was better than the last, so I would anticipate that," Sandberg said. "The ball was just coming out of his hand a little bit better and had a little bit more zip at home plate, which has been lacking."