Expect more supply than demand at baseball’s trade deadline
There is likely to be more supply than demand as the trade deadline approaches. Expect a lot of teams to be frustrated by the process as they try to move veteran players in exchange for prospects.
Don’t expect the Twins to add anyone of note and disrupt their long-term plan, despite having some success this season. If they’re significantly behind by the trade deadline, they could still move the much-coveted Ervin Santana.
The Brewers have a comfortable lead in the NL Central, but would they disrupt their long-term outlook by trading away prospects for an available starting pitcher? Don’t expect anything major, but the Brewers have a chance to bury the world champion Cubs and owner Mark Attanasio is known to be a very competitive person.
Right now, the American League’s playoff teams are Boston, New York, Houston, Cleveland, and Kansas City, with Tampa Bay and Minnesota within striking distance. In the National League, Washington, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles lead their divisions and Arizona and Colorado are the wild-card teams, with the Cubs, Braves, and Cardinals on the outskirts.
The small-market Rays have already made a significant move by adding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, a superb defender who fills a big need. Their offense is finally straightened out and they entered the weekend third in the majors in home runs. Their bullpen still needs reinforcement.
In Miami, an ownership change could occur by October. In the meantime, a debt-laden team — which could lose upward of $70 million this season — needs to shed money and retool. Everyone will be available, including the attractive outfield of Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Giancarlo Stanton, as well as second baseman Dee Gordon, power-hitting first baseman Justin Bour, third baseman Martin Prado, and starting pitchers Edinson Volquez and Dan Straily. The Marlins have received a lot of interest in relievers AJ Ramos and David Phelps.
The Blue Jays are looking old, though every so often they perk up. The Jays may go back and forth on whether to give up the ghost, but we know deep down they’d like to sell off and rebuild the way team president Mark Shapiro did with the Indians.
Jays fans have supported the team in a big way, which makes it harder for management to dissolve this group. The big name here is third baseman Josh Donaldson, who would bring the biggest haul. But would it happen before the trade deadline? All-Star first baseman Justin Smoak, second baseman Devon Travis (if healthy), DH Kendrys Morales, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, right fielder Jose Bautista, and starters Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ seem to be the most likely to be dealt. And if you’re rebuilding, why the need for young closer Roberto Osuna?
Everyone on the White Sox has been available for a while, but so far the veterans remain in place. One would think closer David Robertson would be an attractive piece for a contending team such as Washington. But Chicago also wants to move third baseman Todd Frazier, right fielder Avisail Garcia, first baseman Jose Abreu, left fielder Melky Cabrera, and starters Jose Quintana, Derek Holland, and James Shields. The White Sox, who traded Chris Sale and Adam Eaton last offseason, have not been able to get the package they’re seeking for Quintana, who has been pitching well after a poor start.
The Tigers would love for a team like the Dodgers to come along and take their veterans. The most desirable would be right fielder J.D. Martinez. But the Tigers would be open to making a creative deal for Justin Verlander and are willing to take on some of the salary. If anyone wants Jordan Zimmermann, he’s yours. Ian Kinsler, anyone? Shortstop Jose Iglesias, catcher Alex Avila, and lefty reliever Justin Wilson are attractive to other teams.
The Braves brought aboard veterans so they could sell them off at the deadline. Lefty Jaime Garcia will have a market, as will first baseman Matt Adams, left fielder Matt Kemp, and right fielder Nick Markakis. There’s lots of interest in Julio Teheran, too.
The Giants have come to the conclusion — as much as they resisted it — that the time has come to break it up and start from scratch on the next dynasty. Other than Buster Posey, the Giants are open to any deals that might include third baseman Eduardo Nunez, right fielder Hunter Pence, shortstop Brandon Crawford, first baseman Brandon Belt, second baseman Joe Panik, starters Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, and closer Mark Melancon. Belt and Panik will be hard to get.
Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole are the Pirates’ most attractive pieces, and they should be listening. It doesn’t appear they can sign Cole long term when he becomes a free agent after next season. Second baseman Josh Harrison, third baseman David Freese, and first baseman/outfielder John Jaso are useful and productive players.
Billy Beane isn’t afraid to deal anyone. With good, young position players and pitchers coming up, the A’s will be looking to get maximum return on pitcher Sonny Gray. The A’s have a few relievers — lefty Sean Doolittle, righty Ryan Madson — that have generated interest. Switch-hitter Jed Lowrie, capable of playing second and third, will have an audience. First baseman Yonder Alonso is drawing interest.
Just what are the Orioles up to? Since their owners won’t make a financial commitment to acquire the pitching they need, they might as well sell off. Adam Jones has 10/5 status so he may not want to move, but he’d be an excellent veteran leader for some team. It appears the Orioles will go the distance with Manny Machado (free agent in 2019).
The Mets are having a disastrous season and they’d like to get something for their pain. Reliever Addison Reed, infielder Jose Reyes, outfielders Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce, and first baseman Lucas Duda are among those the Mets would deal.
The Reds have to decide what to do with shortstop Zack Cozart, a fine player, but the market for shortstops isn’t good. Righty Scott Feldman will also be in demand. The Padres have a few players — infielder Yangervis Solarte (currently on DL), lefty reliever Brad Hand, and starter Trevor Cahill — who would be attractive to teams.
The Phillies are interesting in that they have a top-notch farm system, money to spend, and players to trade. That trifecta is rare. First baseman Tommy Joseph is likely available because prospect Rhys Hoskins will take over the position next season, if not this year. Third baseman Maikel Franco, starter Jeremy Hellickson, and reliever Joaquin Benoit will be available. They also have an eye on setting up for the future, which is why acquiring Stanton and Yelich from Miami isn’t out of the question.
What we can glean from all this is that there will be a market for top-of-the-rotation pitchers. The Astros, Yankees, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Cubs all have such a need.
Last week, the Nationals bullpen allowed 18 runs over 19⅓ innings. Robertson, Wilson, Reed, Doolittle, and Madson are on their radar.
The Yankees are weak at the infield corners and could target Abreu, Alonso, Bour, Adams, Frazier, or Prado.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has to weigh the benefits of trading away prospects to acquire a frontline starter. In a truthful moment Cashman would tell you he wouldn’t want to do it, but the Yankees are compelling and it’s hard to not go for it when you have young superstars Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.
The Royals were expected to be the biggest sellers but that has changed. They are back in the hunt for the AL Central and a wild card. Their top five free agents — Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Jason Vargas, and Alcides Escobar — won’t be sold off. Royals scouts have been told to find a starting pitcher, another back-end bullpen piece, and possibly a second baseman.
Apropos of nothing
1. Maybe there’s no proven correlation between taking part in the Home Run Derby and slumping in the second half, but if I were the Yankees and Dodgers I’d be very afraid of Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger taking part in Monday’s derby.
2. The Red Sox said the David Price/Dennis Eckersley situation was handled internally. How? Price didn’t even apologize to Eckersley for his dressing down of a Hall of Fame pitcher aboard the team charter. Apparently there were no repercussions. There seems to be better ways to be “a good teammate” other than going after Eckersley, who went through so much in his own life and in his career to be able to comment freely about the pros and cons of a player and a team.
3. The Pawtucket Red Sox let it be known that while they’re hoping for the best when the Rhode Island legislature reconvenes in the fall and there’s discussion about their Slater Mill stadium site in Pawtucket (which would require some financial outlay by taxpayers), they will pursue interest by other cities, some in Massachusetts.
4. Yes, I know there will be a 30-second pitch clock next season in MLB, but have you noticed times when the pitcher is ready to throw and the batter is still not in the box? Happens all the time. There has to be more reinforcement of the rule for the batter. Red Sox players have said they receive warning letters and fines, but they obviously have not been a deterrent.
5. MLB would love to see Derek Jeter be part of an ownership group to buy the Marlins. But to ask for complete control when you’ve invested only 10 percent of the $1 billion-$1.3 billion asking price? Where else does that happen?
6. Umpire Angel Hernandez filed a racial discrimination suit against MLB and now he’s working the All-Star Game at first base. The Cuban-born umpire alleges he hasn’t been selected to work big events such as the World Series and has never been assigned as a crew chief despite good performance ratings.
Updates on nine
1. Alex Cobb, RHP, Rays — There’s a feeling among baseball people that the Rays would seek to move Cobb at the deadline because he’ll be a free agent at the end of the season. Cobb was 6-6 with a 4.01 ERA entering his scheduled start Saturday. But one Rays official said, “If we’re in it, I don’t think Alex Cobb is going anywhere.”
2. Martin Prado, 3B, Marlins — The Yankees and Red Sox have inquired about him, but both teams have the same concern: he’s owed about $34 million. Both superpowers want to stay under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million, so they’re inquiring about how much the Marlins would be willing to eat of the contract. Both teams like Prado’s leadership, hustle, and devotion to the game.
3. Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, Cubs — Epstein declared last week that “Our biggest fixes are inside the clubhouse.” But we all know Epstein will act if the fixes don’t occur. The Cubs have the prospects to land any of big-name starter available. Both Sonny Gray and Jose Quintana fit the bill. Quintana makes sense for the Cubs and he has no desire to leave Chicago.
4. R.A. Dickey, RHP, Braves — In his last five starts, Dickey is 3-1 with 3.09 ERA, and eight of his 11 earned runs came June 13 against the Nationals. OK, it’s tough to trade for a knuckleballer at midseason, but this is precisely why the Braves obtained him. When you look for pitchers who are peaking, Dickey fits that criteria.
5. Ricky Nolasco, RHP, Angels — Nolasco has pitched the most innings (1,806⅓) of any active pitcher who hasn’t made an All-Star team, according to MLB Network researcher Elliott Kalb.
6. Scott Feldman, RHP, Reds — Three scouts who have watched him recently think Feldman can fortify the back end of a rotation. He’s started an NL-high 18 games this year. He’s pitched in both leagues. Some think he could be a good fit for the Royals and for the Rockies, who need a veteran presence to go along with their talented young starters.
7. Pat Neshek, RHP, Phillies — Neshek, an NL All-Star, has been scouted by a number of teams, including the Royals, Red Sox, and Yankees. The sidearming 36-year-old has been effective against both lefties (.188) and righties (.233) this season.
8. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Tigers — The Royals are searching for a second baseman and Kinsler’s name has come up. He has an option for 2018. In the past, Kinsler has demanded that the 2018 option be picked up if he’s to move. The Royals won’t do that, but Kinsler would be a nice addition if he’d be willing to waive that to play for a contending team.
9. Cole Hamels, LHP, Rangers — It doesn’t look as if Hamels will have his 2019 option vested since it’s unlikely he’ll meet contract requirements of “400 innings pitched in 2017-18, including 200 innings pitched in 2018 and staying off the disabled list with a shoulder or elbow injury at the end of the 2018 season.” Hamels has pitched only 43⅔ innings this season. The Rangers are on the hook for his $22.5 million salary next season and he does have a $6 million buyout of the 2019 option.
From the Bill Chuck files: “Definition of a stopper: Following a Dodgers loss this season, Clayton Kershaw is 8-1 with a 1.54 ERA in 10 starts. Since the start of 2013, Kershaw is now 36-10 (.782) in 60 post-loss starts.” Also, “Hector Velazquez, Kyle Kendrick, and Doug Fister have combined to make seven starts as fill-ins in the back of the Boston rotation. Combined, they are 1-5 with a 7.46 ERA and a .331 BAA.” . . . Happy birthday, Rusney Castillo (30), Robert Manuel (34), Tommy Hottovy (36), and Mike Andrews (74).