Eighteen teams went into the weekend within six games of a playoff spot. That doesn’t include the Cardinals and Reds, who very much feel like they can get back into contention.
“There are a lot more buyers than sellers, put it that way,” one executive said. “Everybody is looking, even if it’s just for a reliever.”
The trade deadline is at 4 p.m. on July 30 this season, not July 31. With three teams hosting day games on July 31, Major League Baseball didn’t want players coming off the field in the middle of games. All games on July 30 are at night.
It’s also an unusual trade deadline in that the amateur draft runs from July 11-13, having been moved back to coincide with the All-Star Game.
The draft won’t shut down trade talks. But many of the general managers will be hunkered down in their draft room for a few days. As much as struggling teams may want to make deals, getting the draft right is a higher priority.
MLB’s decision Friday to place Trevor Bauer on administrative leave following some particularly ugly accusations of domestic violence could lead to the Dodgers seeking a starter.
Even if Bauer’s actions are deemed consensual, the Dodgers will have to decide if they want a person capable of those acts representing their team. His teammates may want to have a say in that.
A primer on what’s to come:
Best player on the market: The Rockies have little choice but to trade shortstop Trevor Story, who will be a free agent after the season. Several GMs believe he could be dealt a day or two after representing Colorado at the All-Star Game in Denver.
Given the success Marcus Semien has had with Toronto, a creative team could play Story at second base.
Best reliever on the market: The Pirates have a hidden gem in 31-year-old Richard Rodríguez, who put only 21 hitters on base in his first 30⅓ innings and struck out 27.
The Pirates have had an excellent bullpen overall and Ben Cherington could take advantage of the market to trade relievers and stock up on prospects.
The wild NL East: Outside of the Marlins, every team in the division is a good series away from being in the mix.
The Nationals were six games out on June 19 and Scott Boras took questions about what Max Scherzer would require in return to permit a trade. Washington then won 9 of 11. GM Mike Rizzo is now much more likely to add than subtract.
Dave Dombrowski’s style isn’t to give up the Phillies’ season, as fractured as it has been. The Braves also have too much offensive talent not to take a shot.
Acting Mets GM Zack Scott lives in a world where owner Steve Cohen took to Twitter on Friday asking fans what they wanted the team to do. So, yeah, he’s going to make some moves.
Going for it: The White Sox have an 85-year-old owner in Jerry Reinsdorf and 76-year-old Tony La Russa as manager. They’re probably not too concerned about prospects who might be good in two or three years.
Chicago needs a second baseman to replace injured Nick Madrigal. Getting Eduardo Escobar from the Diamondbacks would make sense. If the Pirates make All-Star second baseman Adam Frazier available, that changes the equation. Frazier, who can also play the outfield, will be in demand.
Cherington executed an effective fire sale with the Red Sox in 2014. He has a long-term plan and won’t hesitate in tearing down his roster.
Time to shine: Kim Ng has been relatively quiet in her tenure as GM of the Marlins. But in Adam Duvall and Starling Marte, she has two outfielders who would plug in nicely for contenders and bring back some prospects.
Time to reset: It’s just not happening for the Twins, who have been plagued by injuries, underperformance, and bad luck. President of baseball operations Derek Falvey, GM Thad Levine, and manager Rocco Baldelli are practical people. Nelson Cruz would be a potentially season-changing addition for Oakland, Toronto, or Tampa Bay.
Cruz turned 41 on Thursday and is on a one-year deal. He’s still a productive hitter, brings a component of leadership, and has hit well (.288 with a 1.019 OPS) in 46 postseason games. He’s a huge catch.
Alex Colome, J.A. Happ, and Andrelton Simmons haven’t played well, but a contender could hope a change of scenery helps.
José Berríos, if he’s made available, will require a big return.
Chaim time: Chaim Bloom was an adept deadline seller last season. Now he has a chance to bolster the roster of a first-place team. The return of Chris Sale and availability of Tanner Houck are rotation insurance. But whether it’s an upgrade at first base or a multi-inning reliever, the Red Sox can use help to guard against injuries.
Bloom has said his goal is to add. He made some low-profile moves over the winter that proved savvy. That could be the blueprint again.
Tough call: The Rangers have Joey Gallo under control for 2022. He turns 29 after that season and re-signing him as a free agent will require a significant commitment.
Does Texas want to take that leap for Galllo or trade him now while his value is high? There aren’t a lot of power-hitting outfielders available. The Rangers also could deal righthander Kyle Gibson.
Up in the air: The Cubs aren’t in a position to be sellers and they’re not quite good enough to be buyers. They’re a team that will know a lot more in three weeks than it does now. Maybe that’s when Anthony Rizzo finally goes.
Bloom’s bargains make a difference
The Red Sox have nearly $33 million in dead money on their luxury-tax payroll: $13.75 million owed Dustin Pedroia, $16 million to pay half of David Price’s salary, and the $2.8 million included in the Andrew Benintendi deal to improve the prospects in return.
The reason that hasn’t been debilitating is the 7.2 WAR they have received from six players acquired by Chaim Bloom who will likely count for only $7.5 million against the tax this season
Hunter Renfroe ($3.1 million with a potential $600,000 in bonuses), Hirokazu Sawamura ($1.5 million), Alex Verdugo ($649,500), Nick Pivetta ($613,500), Christian Arroyo ($581,000), and Garrett Whitlock ($570,500) have been huge bargains.
Matt Andriese, Marwin Gonzalez, and Garrett Richards haven’t been bargains, although Gonzalez does have seven defensive runs saved at four positions.
Bloom was hired, in part, to make the Sox more efficient at building their roster. We’re seeing the results with this team. He used every avenue available to find players.
A few other observations about the Red Sox:
▪ Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers were elected to the All-Star team. Matt Barnes and Nate Eovaldi deserve to join them in Denver.
Barnes has struck out 61 of the 134 batters he has faced, walked only nine, and allowed 21 hits over 36 innings.
Barnes’s performance as the closer has been one of the biggest developments of the season. It allowed Adam Ottavino and Josh Taylor to slot in as the primary setup men with Darwinzon Hernandez, Sawamura, and Whitlock also available for high-leverage duty.
All six have at least 20 appearances with an earned run average below 3.00. It’s the deepest group in the American League and it starts — or more precisely ends — with Barnes,
Eovaldi is 5-2 with a 2.27 ERA in his last eight starts and 9-4, 3.41 overall. He also went into the weekend tied for fourth in the American League with 97⅔ innings.
The remainder of the All-Star teams will be announced at 5:30 p.m. Sunday. You could also make good cases for J.D. Martinez and Taylor.
▪ Renfroe went into the weekend with 11 outfield assists, the most in the majors and more than 19 teams.
▪ The inelegantly named Florida Complex League has 18 teams. The Orioles, Pirates, and Tigers each have two teams.
Director of player development Brian Abraham — no relation, by the way — said the Red Sox considered fielding two teams but decided against it. The Sox have 48 players on their roster and a nine-person coaching staff.
The Complex Leagues in Florida and Arizona replaced what used to be known as the Gulf Coast League and the Arizona League.
▪ Several sources have said Vanderbilt righthander Jack Leiter very much wants to play for the Red Sox.
A lot of factors go into evaluating a first-round pick, but a desire to play for a big-market team and take on all that comes with that experience counts for a lot. Or at least it should.
Leiter was 11-4 with a 2.13 ERA at the highest level of college ball and struck out 179 in 110 innings. So ability isn’t a question.
The Sox pick fourth. Their last first-round pick to succeed as a major league starter was Clay Buchholz, a supplemental first-rounder in 2005. Before that it was Aaron Sele in 1991.
Steinbrenner backs Cashman, Boone
Here’s how bad things are with the Yankees: After giving up seven runs in the ninth inning to blow an 8-4 lead against the Angels at home on Wednesday, they made managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner available to reporters the next morning so he could say he wasn’t firing GM Brian Cashman or manager Aaron Boone after the team lost five of six and fell into fourth place in the AL East, 8½ games back.
To his credit, Steinbrenner took questions for nearly 26 minutes and didn’t duck any of them. He described himself as “aggravated, frustrated, and angry” at how the Yankees have played.
These are troubled times in the Bronx. The Yankees haven’t been to the World Series since 2009 and have one AL East championship since 2013. They are 5-14 against the Red Sox and Rays this season, getting outscored by 46 runs.
George Steinbrenner would have fired at least a few coaches by now, if not Boone. But any Yankees fans pining for those days are forgetting that George Steinbrenner’s famed impetuousness more often hurt the franchise.
“I think what people forget is that often times it didn’t help, didn’t work. Quite frankly, he was criticized for it,” Hal Steinbrenner said of his father. “I’m just a believer in seeing an entire body of work from an employee, regardless of what department they’re in. We do that year to year. Doing a knee-jerk reaction to appease this person or that person in the middle of the year when I really don’t think there’s a problem, that’s certainly something I’m not going to do.”
Steinbrenner said the responsibility falls on the players, which is certainly true. But the Yankees also have a one-dimensional lineup that relies too heavily on power. They’re last in the majors in stolen bases and first in outs on the bases.
In person, it’s shocking how slow the Yankees are. Giancarlo Stanton is basically a contestant in Home Run Derby. Every so often he pops out of the dugout and swings for the fences. It has been 21 months since he played in the field.
They also put too much faith in two damaged pitchers — Corey Kluber and Luis Severino — being rotation mainstays.
The Yankees conceded in 2016, trading Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. Steinbrenner is not ready to push that button.
“Cash’s job is to consider everything, right? And look at everything. But that’s not a direction I’m contemplating right now or even thinking about,” he said.
“These players are in their prime. They’ve been incredible in recent years and there’s no reason they can’t be incredible again.”
“Remember Who You Are. What Pedro Gomez Showed Us About Baseball and Life” will be published on July 13. The book is a collection of 62 personal essays about ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez, who died in February. The list of authors includes seven major league managers, Pedro’s two sons, our own Dan Shaughnessy, and Peter Gammons. Pedro was a special person with a lot of wisdom, and you’ll come away having learned something. Go to www.thegomezrules.com for information . . . The White Sox are 8-1 against the Twins and have outscored them, 76-37. Twins starters are 0-6 with a 9.37 ERA in those games . . . Washington’s Kyle Schwarber hit 16 home runs in June. J.D. Martinez was the last player with 16 homers in a month. That was in September 2017. Schwarber’s 16 homers were the most in June since Sammy Sosa had 20 for the Cubs in 1998 . . . As part of his preparations for the Olympics, David Robertson started and pitched two innings for Wescott Properties in a Sunset League game against R&R Construction last Saturday at Cardines Field in Newport, R.I. According to the Providence Journal, Robertson allowed a run on three hits. But one was an infield hit and the other a misjudged fly ball. Robertson, whose wife Erin is from Lexington, has a home in Rhode Island . . . Jacob deGrom’s “worst” start this season was Thursday in Atlanta when he allowed three earned runs on five hits over seven innings. Oh, and he struck out 14 without a walk and threw 70 of 93 pitches for strikes. DeGrom has better statistics than Pedro Martinez circa 1999-2000. But it can’t be forgotten Martinez was facing hitters at the height of the Steroids Era. The average OPS in 2000 was .782. It’s .717 this season . . . The Yankees did one thing spectacularly well this past week. They made Gwen Goldman’s dream come true. In 1961, when she was 10, Goldman wrote a letter to the team saying she wanted to be a bat girl because of her love of baseball. Roy Hamey, the GM at the time, wrote back saying, “A young lady such as yourself would feel out of place in the dugout.” On Monday, Goldman was the bat girl complete with her own locker and uniform. She took the lineup card to the plate, threw out the first pitch, and was welcomed by all the players. “It took my breath away,” she said . . . Happy 50th birthday to Brendan Donnelly, the only Red Sox player born on the Fourth of July. The Sox acquired Donnelly from the Angels before the 2007 season. He was an effective setup man for Jonathan Papelbon before an elbow injury led to Tommy John surgery in July. Donnelly returned to pitch three more seasons before retiring after the 2010 season. Donnelly was the last of the “replacement players” from the 1994-95 work stoppage to appear in the majors and one of the most successful. He helped the Angels win the 2002 World Series and was an All-Star in 2003.