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Troy Tulowitzki struggles, Johnny Cueto thrives amid trade rumors

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A pair of star players engulfed in trade rumors leading up to the deadline went head to head on Saturday. One clearly came out on top.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Trade talks across Major League Baseball are finally starting to heat up with five days remaining until the deadline. Two of the more prominent names in rumors around the league -- Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Cincinnati Reds starter Johnny Cueto -- went head to head on Saturday in Denver.

There was a clear winner in the matchup.

Cueto silenced the Rockies' bats through eight scoreless innings of work, allowing just four hits and a walk while striking out five in the Reds' 5-2 victory. The dominant performance came after Cueto learned that the Reds nearly traded him hours before the start of the game.

In fact, Cincinnati was so close to dealing Cueto to the Kansas City Royals that Michael Lorenzen was asked not long before the 6:10 p.m. MT contest to serve as the emergency starter. It was reportedly through Lorenzen -- and not a coach, manager or member of the front office -- that Cueto learned of the circumstances. That gave him some added fire, the right-hander told USA Today:

"A lot of people talked about me after I had that game when I pitched only four innings. That's why I focused even more today, to shut a lot of mouths, to show who I am."

Meanwhile, Tulowitzki extended his slump to 0-for-15 by going hitless in three at-bats against Cueto and striking out in the ninth inning with Reds reliever Jumbo Diaz on the mound. Tulo's situation is different than that of Cueto; the Rockies don't appear to be anywhere close to dealing their star, although rumors of offered deals are starting to trickle in.

The New York Mets had scouts in attendance, presumably -- as part of their duties, at least -- to check in on Tulowitzki on Saturday night. The Mets have made a recent push to acquire Tulo but have come away with the impression that the Rockies have little interest in trading their homegrown star, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal. It's unclear what the Mets offered the Rockies in their proposal, but this could give us an idea:

Being that not all "good names" are created equal, it's tough to judge that offer. But the rumored headliner, Zack Wheeler, underwent Tommy John surgery in March and won't pitch until the middle of next season -- at the very earliest. Though he's just 25 years old and somewhat of a proven commodity, it would be understandable for the Rockies to balk at any deal in which he would be a key piece, if for no other reason than it would be hard to justify trading the face of the franchise for an injured player plus some prospects.

If that's the best offer the Rockies receive in trade talks for Tulowitzki, it's hard to blame them for not wanting any part of moving him. But if Colorado wants to have full control of what they can do with Tulo, they'll have to act soon; the veteran shortstop's 10-and-5 rights kick in next August. At that point, everything is up to him.