With just one trade deadline, baseball GMs are under the gun
There is one trade deadline now; it’s at 4 p.m. on July 31. There are 20 teams with at least some chance of making the postseason, which should make the next few weeks interesting ones.
Almost every contending team needs pitching help to some degree. But here’s a deeper look at what teams will be trying to accomplish before the clock runs out:
Angels — Los Angeles is on the periphery of the wild-card race and is dealing with the tragic death of Tyler Skaggs. The Angels need rotation help but could be hesitant to carve into prospect depth.
Astros — Better health is what Houston needed most and that has happened with Jose Altuve and George Springer returning. Now they are waiting for Carlos Correa to come back from a fractured rib. That he has started hitting again is a good sign. If the Astros add, the rotation is where they will look. Once you get past Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and — believe it or not — Wade Miley, it gets thin.
Athletics — Billy Beane once traded Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester, so anything is possible. But for now, Oakland needs relief help for certain and a starter to pick up the innings lost when Frankie Montas was suspended for PED use. Top pitching prospect Jesus Luzardo could be their biggest addition over the summer.
Braves — Signing free agent Dallas Keuchel on June 7 may have been their biggest move. But the Braves went into the weekend with a 5½-game lead in the National League East and could create even more distance by further improving a questionable rotation.
Brewers — They won’t go away, fashioning a winning record despite a negative run differential. The Brewers could use relief help and perhaps a first baseman, unless Travis Shaw can get his act together in the minors.
Cardinals — Like many teams, they could use a starter to improve a rotation that is just above league average.
Cubs — Chicago made its big move by signing Craig Kimbrel. But Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer also need a lefthanded reliever to upgrade the bullpen. The best they have now is Kyle Ryan and Mike Montgomery. The Cubs also haven’t found a bench hitter who can give them what Ben Zobrist was supposed to. It’s uncertain when — or if — he will return from personal leave.
Diamondbacks — Arizona is hanging around the playoff picture more than was expected. But GM Mike Hazen isn’t the type to ask in haste for a small chance at success. He’s playing a long game. The rotation needs help and if Hazen makes a move, it could be for a starter who’s more than a two-month patch.
Dodgers — The loss of Rich Hill moved Ross Stripling out of the bullpen and into the rotation. Joe Kelly, meanwhile, remains unreliable. Shocking, right? So look for Los Angeles to make a splash in finding bullpen help. The Dodgers don’t often make trades with the rival Giants, but new San Francisco boss Farhan Zaidi was general manager of the Dodgers last season and could work out an equitable deal for Will Smith.
Indians — Cleveland is not the kind of organization to give up top prospects to chase a wild-card spot. The Indians could stand pat or add to what has been a weak outfield. If the Indians were to collapse, they would find plenty of takers for reliever Brad Hand. The All-Star lefthander is having one of the best seasons of his career and is signed through 2020. But the schedule suggests the Indians will be in the mix at the deadline.
Nationals — Washington was 18-8 in June and climbed into the wild-card lead in the NL. The Nationals want to avoid going over the luxury-tax limit but need bullpen options to supplement Sean Doolittle. Ownership could be moved to go for it after losing Bryce Harper to free agency.
Phillies — For all its offseason additions, Philadelphia still has trouble scoring. Harper isn’t exactly a bust, but he has yet to be a difference-maker. The same is true of catcher J.T. Realmuto. The Phillies need an upgrade in center field and bullpen help given the rough seasons because of injuries for Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, and David Robertson.
Pirates — Pittsburgh, which has hovered around .500, is in the mix in an evenly matched NL Central. But don’t expect the Pirates to make major additions. And if they do sell, word is they have no intention of parting with closer Felipe Vazquez, who is signed through 2023.
Rangers — Texas was not expecting to contend this season but finds itself in the wild-card race. If the Rangers make moves, they won’t be quick fixes. A controllable starter would fit well — which is the case for many teams. They also could use catching help. A tough schedule could mean the Rangers flip to sellers at the deadline.
Rays — Tampa Bay was 29-27 over May and June and the Yankees raced past them. But the Rays are still the American League wild-card leaders and could make additions to their bullpen, which has to pick up a lot of innings with their use of openers. The Rays are always hesitant to add payroll, but their talent-rich farm system should allow them to make cost-controlled upgrades. The real question is whether they will be motivated to do anything given the lack of interest in their market.
Reds — New pitching coach Derek Johnson has turned around the rotation, so Cincinnati could feel a desire to add as the deadline gets closer. The Reds had an aggressive winter and that could carry over. Middle infield is a need.
Rockies — Colorado very badly needs rotation help. The bullpen is an area of need, too. The Rockies will be focused on a starter.
Red Sox — The decision to move Nathan Eovaldi into the bullpen doesn’t mean the Sox will stand by idly. They have added relievers at the deadline in previous years and likely will again.
Twins — Minnesota would like to control how many innings Michael Pineda throws in his first season after Tommy John surgery by moving him into the bullpen. So the Twins could be looking for a starter or another reliever if Pineda becomes an opener. The Twins are second in the AL in runs per game, so offense is not an issue.
Yankees — Brian Cashman could go after a starter with Luis Severino now questionable to return. But don’t count them out of something else, even after the acquisition of Edwin Encarnacion. Just when you think Cashman will follow a straight line, he will mask a weak point by making a strong point even better.
MLB can thrive internationally
On Tuesday, two days after the Red Sox and Yankees played their second game at London Stadium, Major League Baseball announced it had opened an office in New Delhi, India.
For now, the aim will be to promote interest in baseball and get schoolchildren playing the game.
But in 10, 15, or 20 years, you very well could see the Sox and Yankees or other teams playing a series in India. That’s how it started in England, opening an office years before games were even considered.
That the Sox and Yankees drew 118,718 fans for two games means that playing in Europe is no experiment. It’s here to stay. Eighty percent of those tickets were sold outside of the United States.
Merchandise sales broke records going back to the 2008 All-Star Game in New York. At one point Saturday, fans stood for an hour waiting to get into the main souvenir shop outside the stadium. MLB showed it could squeeze a ballpark into a soccer stadium and build the required clubhouses, batting cages, and bullpens that teams need from scratch.
Think about how many soccer stadiums there are in Europe. Over time there are sure to be games in the Netherlands, Italy, France, and other countries. MLB also should correct what is an oversight and host a series in the Dominican Republic. Nearly 14 percent of Opening Day rosters were composed of players from the DR. If MLB can play in London, it can play in Santo Domingo. The Cubs and Cardinals will play in London next season and there’s more to come.
HELP STILL NEEDED
Eovaldi alone is not the answer
Dave Dombrowski said that moving Nathan Eovaldi into the bullpen was conceived out of urgency, not desperation.
Urgent is a synonym for desperate. However the Sox package it up, the idea is a rash one.
Eovaldi has never had a save and has made only four relief appearances in the last eight seasons. He’s also a 29-year-old who has had two Tommy John surgeries and is now on the injured list recovering from elbow surgery and biceps tendinitis.
Having him change roles now may not necessarily be dangerous. But Eovaldi is on the record saying he feels a starter’s routine — preparing to pitch once every five days — suits him best physically. Eovaldi showed in Game 4 of the World Series that he was willing to risk his health for the good of the team by throwing 97 pitches in relief over six innings. Now he’s being asked to do it again.
The Sox have to have something in mind better than just that.
A few other thoughts on the Red Sox:
■ That Chris Sale has a 2.96 ERA in 76 innings with Sandy Leon and 6.68 ERA in 31 innings with Christian Vazquez can’t be a coincidence.
Sale is a pitcher who needs the catcher to craft the game plan and tell him what to do. If the Sox want to keep Vazquez’s bat in the lineup, play him at first base or DH.
■ The first game of the London Series lasted 4 hours and 42 minutes, the third-longest nine-inning game in history. The Sox have already played four nine-inning games that lasted four-plus hours this season.
■ The deadline to sign draft picks is Thursday at 5 p.m. The players to watch for the Sox are righthanders Sebastian Keane of North Andover High (11th round) and Blake Loubier of Oviedo, Fla. (13th round). They are the two highest unsigned high school players.
Keane is committed to Northeastern and Loubier to Wake Forest.
NU’s Civale has auspicious debut
The Red Sox played Northeastern on March 3, 2015, in Fort Myers, Fla. That was when Aaron Civale first caught the attention of scouts.
A sophomore righthander from East Windsor, Conn., Civale started for the Huskies and struck out Xander Bogaerts, Mike Napoli, David Ortiz, and Hanley Ramirez. He threw two scoreless innings.
“It was unbelievable,” Civale said after the game.
It also was the start of something big. Civale, who grew up a Red Sox fan, pitched so well for Northeastern that he was a third-round draft pick of the Indians in 2016 and made his major league debut on June 22 with six scoreless innings against the Tigers.
Civale allowed only two hits, walked three, and struck out six.
“He had a ton of poise and competed like crazy,” Terry Francona said.
Civale was optioned back to Triple A Columbus two days later but should get another chance later in the season. He is the first NU player to make the majors since Adam Ottavino in 2010.
Mets apologize for video tribute
When the Mets honored their 1969 World Series championship team last weekend, a video montage of players who had died included outfielder Jim Gosger and lefthander Jesse Hudson. But Gosger, 76, and Hudson, 70, are very much alive, and the team apologized the next day.
There were plenty of laughs at the Mets’ expense. But I sympathized with the person who made the mistake.
As a high school student, I worked part time for my hometown paper in New Bedford, The Standard-Times. I covered a basketball game at Fairhaven High one night and wrote that it was held at the Mel Entin Memorial Gymnasium.
The next day I received a call at the office. It was from Mel Entin, who informed me that while he was retired, he was not yet dead. He found it all very amusing and I met him about a week later.
An incredible streak ended Thursday when Yankees radio announcer John Sterling missed the team’s game against the Rays. Sterling, who also turned 81 on Thursday, had called 5,060 consecutive games going back to 1989. Sterling is taking four games off ahead of the All-Star break. He told the New York Post he was “a little under the weather” and needed some time off. Sterling, who is one of the most unique characters in baseball with his home run calls, broadcast NBA games earlier in his career and was behind the mic for the famed Larry Bird vs. Dominique Wilkins showdown in 1988 . . . Sterling is the not the only ailing Yankees announcer. Michael Kay, who has broadcast Yankees games for 29 seasons, is scheduled for surgery in Boston this coming week to repair vocal cord damage. Kay’s surgeon, Steven Zeitels, has helped save the voices of many celebrities, including Steven Tyler, Bono, Roger Daltrey, and James Taylor . . . Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Patrick Corbin, and Nathan Eovaldi received the four most lucrative contacts via free agency last winter. None made the All-Star Game. In fact, none of the first nine did . . . Players who test positive for PEDs can’t play in the postseason that season. How about making them permanently ineligible for the All-Star Game? Minnesota’s Jorge Polanco tested positive for the steroid Stanozolol in 2018. He had a career .739 OPS before the positive test, .827 since . . . The Diamondbacks held a 4-3 lead with two outs and nobody on in the ninth inning on Tuesday night in Los Angeles. The Dodgers at that point had almost zero percent chance of victory based on win expectancy calculations. Greg Holland got ahead of Chris Taylor, 0 and 2, and missed on four consecutive sliders. Holland then walked Russell Martin, Alex Verdugo, and Matt Beaty to force in the tying run. Of his final 18 pitches, four were strikes. T.J. McFarland came in and walked Cody Bellinger, after being ahead, 1 and 2, to give the Dodgers the win. It was the first game since at least 1920 that ended with five straight walks . . . Happy 61st birthday to Glenn Hoffman, who played for the Red Sox from 1980-87 then managed the Dodgers for part of the 1998 season. He is now the third base coach of the Padres. Newton native Bob Gallagher, who played seven games for the Sox in 1972, turns 72 on Sunday. Matt Mantei, who finished his career with 34 games for the Sox in 2005, is 46.