Since taking over the reins of the Seattle Mariners’ baseball operations, GM Jerry Dipoto has maintained a frenetic pace while he reshapes the team’s roster. To date, he’s added 17 new players and shipped one of them – reliever C.J. Riefenhauser – in the deal that sent slugger Mark Trumbo to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for catcher Steve Clevenger. Considering that major league baseball’s Winter Meetings kick-off next week, observers of the Mariners are curious to see if Dipoto will continue to aggressively add new assets to the major and minor league rosters while he’s in Nashville. A few good men So, how much has the Emerald City’s baseball team changed since the start of last season? Of the 25 players who were on the team’s 2015 Opening Day roster, only 12 remain on the their 40-man roster. That’s as of today, of course. Take a look to see who’s left. Starting pitchers – Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Taijuan WalkerRelief pitchers – Charlie Furbush, Tyler Olson, Carson SmithCatchers – Mike Zunino, Jesus SucreInfielders – Robinson Cano, Kyle SeagerOutfielders – Nelson Cruz, Seth Smith Considering that Dipoto has acquired two catchers and prefers to have Zunino start the season at Class-AAA Tacoma, it’s unlikely that the former number-three overall draft pick and Sucre will break camp with the team next year. That would bring the count down to 10 survivors. Dipoto’s predecessor – Jack Zduriencik – certainly had a hand in adding new faces. But, the Mariners’ new GM is the architect of the team’s new identity, which will rely upon getting on base, defense, depth, and athleticism. Since the 47-year-old has a track record that includes building a winner with his former organization – the Los Angeles Angels – I decided to look at “the Dipoto files” to see if there are any parallels between his acquisition history with Los Angeles and Seattle. Let’s start with the Mariners. New kid in town Dipoto has yet to pull of a blockbuster trade or sign a major free agent, but he’s found ways to quickly improve his club’s major league roster, while also improving minor league depth. Here’ a breakdown of his transactions and the players that he’s added since taking over on September 29. Trade Long-term FA Short-term FA Minor League FA Waivers 7 0 4 3 3 Nathan Karns Franklin Gutierrez Feliberto Bonilla Cody Martin Boog Powell Chris Iannetta Edinson Trinidad Daniel Robertson Joaquin Benoit Justin De Fratus Kyle Schepel Andy Wilkins Leonys Martin Nori Aoki Anthony Bass Steve Clevenger C.J. Riefenhauser (traded) The Mariners GM has been impressive as he’s transformed Seattle’s roster in such a short period. It’s not just the number of players that he’s added, but also the type of players and the pace that he’s maintained. Whether his moves lead to success will be determined at a much later date. But, his tenacity is extraordinary. LA confidential Dipoto became the GM of the Angels in October 2011 and held that post until he abruptly resigned on July 1 of this year. That gave him four off-seasons to help shape the club’s roster. The following table is a breakdown of his moves during that span. For the purposes of this discussion, any signing of a free agent to a major league contract for three years or longer is considered “long-term” and anything less was a “minor” signing. Trade Long-term FA Short-term FA Minor League FA Waivers Total 22 3 8 103 9 145 As you can see, the majority of transactions were via the trade market and minor league free agency. It’s important to note that team owner Arte Moreno reportedly spearheaded two of the three long-term free agent signings – Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. The third was southpaw C.J. Wilson, who is still with the Angels. The fact that Los Angeles only signed three big free agents in four off-seasons can be attributed to two things. First, Dipoto has repeatedly stated that he views free agent signings as “supplemental” in nature. He prefers a more balanced approach to roster building. The other factor is the fact that the Pujols and Hamilton contracts significantly reduced payroll flexibility, which made building a supporting cast more challenging for Dipoto. It’s no coincidence that increasing payroll flexibility has been a priority of his since arriving in Seattle. Let’s look at the Los Angeles 2015 Opening Day 25-man roster – including the four players who were on the disabled list at the time– to see how Dipoto built his last roster with the Angels. The players highlighted in yellow were acquired during his time in the City of Angels. Trade Homegrown Long-term FA Short-term FA Waivers 14 9 3 2 1 Matt Joyce Kole Calhoun Albert Pujols Joe Smith Taylor Featherston David Freese Mike Trout C.J. Wilson Drew Rucinski Chris Iannetta Erick Aybar Josh Hamilton Johnny Giavotella C.J. Cron Drew Butera Efren Navarro Collin Cowgill Jered Weaver Hector Santiago Matt Shoemaker Huston Street Mike Morin Fernando Salas Garrett Richards Vinnie Pestano Cesar Ramos Jose Alvarez Cory Rasmus Tyler Skaggs Inheriting Jered Weaver and having players like Mike Trout and Garrett Richards in the pipeline certainly helped Dipoto build his roster. But, the above table reinforces that he prefers to build rosters with homegrown players, trades, and tactical free agent signings – not high-profile free agents. Final thoughts I don’t share a brain with Dipoto like Prospect Insider founder Jason A. Churchill does, but I expect that the GM will continue to rely upon the trade market to improve his major and minor rosters. Signing high-profile free agents probably won’t occur very often, if ever. When it comes to free agency, Dipoto’s track record with the Angels suggests that his most frequent targets will be role players for his bench and bullpen. Occasionally, he’ll add a primary position player like Chris Iannetta. But, that won’t be the norm. With that said, he may need to turn to free agency to add one or two starting pitchers, especially if Hisashi Iwakuma doesn’t re-sign with the team. Even if Seattle doesn’t get every piece they seek by Opening Day, I’d advise fans to be patient and refer back to the “Dipoto files.” The GM isn’t averse to moving past mistakes and making in-season improvements, when needed. While with the Angels, Dipoto retooled his bullpen in 2014, which included adding closer Huston Street. That team went on to win 96 games. Mariners fans aren’t used to having a GM with so much energy who is also completely focused on achieving his strategy. Then again, fans aren’t accustomed to seeing a consistent winner at Safeco Field. Perhaps, Dipoto’s vigor and approach will be the perfect blend that changes that paradigm for Mariners faithful.
In recent years, the Seattle Mariners haven’t placed a high value on defense, especially in the outfield. This becomes particularly clear when you look back at their most recent corner outfield pickups, via the trade and free agent market. Since 2013, the team has used players with limited range like Nelson Cruz, Mark Trumbo, Corey Hart, Raul Ibanez, and Michael Morse to play left and right field. Further proof of the low importance placed on outfield run prevention by the Mariners was their trial and error attempts of putting infielders Rickie Weeks, Brad Miller, and Ketel Marte. These experiments went particularly well, which is understandable. It’s hard to learn the outfield – or any position – on the job during big league games. The organization’s disregard for outfield defense helped Seattle earn the distinction of having the worst outfield defense in the majors in 2015. Their -45 defensive runs saved (DRS) far exceeded the San Francisco Giants, who were the next worst team at -29 DRS. Conversely, the best DRS in the majors was the Tampa Bay Rays, who had 44 DRS. Discussing DRS For those not familiar with DRS, it quantifies a defensive player’s value by expressing how many runs they saved or lost their team compared to the average player at that position. For instance, a +10 DRS by a second baseman means that player is 10 runs better than the average second baseman. Here’s the FanGraphs breakdown of fielding ability categories for individual players, based on DRS. If you want to learn more about DRS, you read about it in this article found at fangraphs.com. Gold Glove Caliber Great Above-average Average Below-average Poor Awful 15 10 5 0 -5 -10 -15 Forsaking outfield run prevention certainly didn’t help a Mariners organization that was offensively challenged during the first half of the 2015 season and possessed a below-average bullpen throughout the year. To make matters worse, most of the defensively challenged didn’t consistently contribute at the plate either. The Mariners outfielders weren’t just bad defenders, they were the best at being bad defenders. But, that’s about to change. New sheriff in town When New GM Jerry Dipoto was introduced on September 29, he stated that “the Mariners need to pitch, they need to catch it, and they need to be athletic.” He intends to build a club that takes advantage of Safeco Field’s reputation of being a pitcher’s park by playing strong defense and getting on base. Yep, defense is no longer going to take a back seat in the Emerald City. Prospect Insider Executive Editor Jason A. Churchill also identified outfield defense as one of the top offseason priorities for the club’s offseason. Take a look at the Mariner outfielders who had at least 200 innings in 2015 and it becomes clear why Dipoto and Jason have mentioned outfield defense so prominently since the end of the season. I still think it’s possible that these two gents share a brain. Player Position Games Innings DRS Nelson Cruz RF 80 704 -8 Franklin Gutierrez ** LF 46 309 3 Mark Trumbo LF/RF 47 325 -4 Seth Smith LF/RF 120 798 1 Austin Jackson ** CF 107 899 -2 Dustin Ackley ** LF/CF 86 499 -8 Brad Miller ** LF/CF 41 253 -13 ** Former Mariners Change is needed Going into 2016, I expect that Cruz and Trumbo will see limited outfield playing time. Both graded out as poor last season. Last season wasn’t a statistical outlier for either player, but indicative of their below-average outfield defense. Since 2012, Cruz and Trumbo have respectively registered -21 and -12 DRS, while playing the outfield. Ironically, Trumbo has actually played more innings at first base during his career and has been an average fielder, while tallying 12 DRS since his big league debut in 2010. Assuming both sluggers are with Seattle on Opening Day, playing Cruz at designated hitter and Trumbo at first would equate to an addition by subtraction scenario. Austin Jackson, Dustin Ackley and Brad Miller have already been traded away, Franklin Gutierrez is a free agent, and Seth Smith is a likely trade chip. So, it’s possible that the Mariners will have a completely new starting outfield. That’s assuming that Cruz and Trumbo aren’t primary outfielders and are only worst case scenario contingency options. Wanted: defensive outfielders So, who will the Mariners target? In his series of initial of offseason pieces, Jason has discussed several outfield options outside of the organization. First, he discussed players from this year’s free agent class. Plus, he’s just published potential trade targets for the club that included options for the outfield. Perhaps, Dipoto will go after a high-profile free agent like Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, or Yoenis Cespedes, but he’s repeatedly stated since his days as Los Angeles Angels GM that he views free agency as an “accent move” rather than a foundation builder. Maybe he’ll trade for Carlos Gonzalez or Yasiel Puig. But, their teams aren’t going to give away their star outfielders. Trade demands would likely start with Taijuan Walker and then quickly escalate. Jason’s “Reeling it In” piece before the World Series suggested to set 2016 outfield expectations by thinking “moderate bat, above-average glove.” That makes sense, especially after seeing the first two position players acquired by the new GM. A hint of what’s to come? Dipoto first position player pick-up was outfielder Dan Robertson via the waiver wire from his former team. The 30-year-old bounced around the minors until debuting with the Angels in 2014. During limited playing time, he’s posted a .274/.324/.325 slash with no homers during 277 career plate appearances. He’s played all three outfield positions, although he’s provided the most value in left field with six DRS. The outfielder with the bigger upside was the recently required Boog Powell, who finished the season in Tampa Bay Rays’ system and currently ranks seventh among Mariners prospects. The 22-year-old provides speed, good bat-to-ball skill, with strong defense and is the prototypical player that Dipoto will likely target for his outfield and bench. With that in mind, I decided to identify several players who have defensive skills and may be able to help with their bat. Some are capable of helping more than others and none of these players are necessarily final solutions at any specific position. But, they could either serve as a place holder or a role player for the Mariners in 2016. Here are five examples of “moderate bat, above-average glove” outfielders who would be defensive upgrades over most 2015 Mariners and – in most cases – were better offensive players. Player Position Team Age Bats Free Agt After Innings DRS BA OBP SLG OPS Aaron Hicks LF/CF/RF MIN 26 B 2019 761 2 .256 .323 .398 .721 Scott Van Slyke LF/RF LAD 29 R 2019 303 11 .239 .317 .383 .700 Kirk Nieuwenhuis LF/CF/RF NYM 28 L 2019 278 6 .195 .270 .375 .645 Matt den Dekker LF/RF WSN 28 L 2019 216 2 .253 .315 .485 .800 Shane Robinson LF/CF/RF Free agt 31 R Now 458 5 .250 .299 .322 .621 None of these players are flashy, but they could help the Mariners and wouldn’t be costly. These are not the only choices on the market, just examples of who Dipoto could be looking at to increase depth and athleticism, plus improve outfield. Aaron Hicks Hicks was one of the outfielders that Jason recently mentioned as a possible trade target for Seattle. In that piece, he mentioned that Byron Buxton will eventually become Minnesota’s starting center fielder and Hicks could be dealt depending on other moves made by the club. Since Jason’s piece was released, the Twins won the right to exclusively negotiate with Korean star Byung-ho Park, which could have major implications for Minnesota’s roster. Signing Park could lead to the team trading third baseman Trevor Plouffe, so they can turn the position over to Miguel Sano, who has been asked by the team to spend time in left field during winter ball. Minnesota already has another youngster – Eddie Rosario – who played in left field. The club has the “problem” of having a roster teeming with young talent. Considering his age, remaining club-control, and the shortage of inexpensive center fielders, Hicks is certain to have trade value. The potential signing of Park combined with having first baseman Joe Mauer and Sano diminishes the trade of value of Trumbo or Seth Smith if the Mariners opted to use either as part of deal to get Hicks since the Twins wouldn’t necessarily have a clear vacancy at first base or designated hitter. Like Jason, Hicks is my favorite choice for the Mariners. He’s a player who could hold center field until Powell is ready or hold down the position if the youngster regressed. When Powell is ready, either he or Hicks could move to a corner outfield spot. How nice would it be to have an outfield comprised of three players capable of playing center field? Scott Van Slyke The son of former Mariners first base coach and five-time Gold Glove winner Andy Van Slyke certainly has the pedigree to be a good defensive outfielder. The younger Van Slyke’s career .253/.337/.442 suggests he can also be an asset at the plate. One factor that could influence the Dodgers’ willingness to deal the 29-year-old is Puig’s future in Los Angeles. Although Van Slyke’s better against southpaws, the right-handed hitter’s .242/.306/.402 slash against righties isn’t atrocious and suggests that he’d be a good platoon option who could occasionally play against right-handed pitching. Additional aspects to Van Slyke’s game is the fact that he has some pop – 11 home runs in 246 plate appearances during 2014 – and he’s played first base. This kind of versatility would fit in nicely on any team. Kirk Nieuwenhuis The 27-year-old hasn’t lived up to the expectations that come with being a third-round draft pick. Since debuting with the Mets in 2012, he’s bounced back and forth between Class-AAA Las Vegas and the big league club with mixed results. In May, his contract was purchased by the Angels. But, the right-handed hitter returned to New York via the waiver wire in June and was part of their postseason roster. Based on his career .149/.260/.184 slash against southpaws, the left-handed hitter is best suited to face right-handed pitching. Nieuwenhuis represents another potential platoon player. One drawback is the fact that he’s out of options. Thereby, he’d have to clear waivers before he could be sent to the minor leagues. Matt den Dekker The 28-year-old is another former New York Mets draftee. The 2010 fifth-rounder was was traded to Washington just prior to the season when the Mets were desperate for left-handed relievers. den Dekker split his time between Class-AAA Syracuse and the big league club in 2015. The third-year player’s career .243/.322/.366 slash qualifies him as one of those “moderate bat, above-average glove” outfielders. The left-handed hitter has been primarily used against righties and has been league-average during his small sample sized career. Unlike his former Mets teammate Nieuwenhuis, den Dekker isn’t out of options. Shane Robinson Hicks’ former teammate is the only free agent on my list. The versatile outfielder demonstrated that he could play all three outfield positions and even pitched a scoreless inning in 2015. Robinson’s numbers were relatively close to his modest .237/.302/.313 career slash. The right-handed hitter’s career platoon splits actually favor him against righties, although they’re still below league-average. Primarily a corner outfielder last season, Robinson has the ability to fill in as a center fielder. He isn’t a candidate to be the starting outfielder for the Mariners, but he could help serve as organizational depth. Going forward None of the players I’ve mentioned are going to make Mariner fans forget Ken Griffey Jr. or Mike Cameron as defenders. But, they represent relatively low-cost upgrades who can provide organizational depth at a relatively low cost. The Mariners can ill-afford to have another below-average outfield in pitcher-friendly Safeco. Doing so would be counterintuitive for a franchise with a stated goal of taking advantage of their spacious outfield dimensions. That’s why acquiring players similar to the ones I’ve discussed makes sense for the team in 2016. Discussing who Dipoto acquires and/or he should acquire is the best part of Hot Stove season. Perhaps, he’ll bring back fan-favorite Franklin Gutierrez as a role player. If the Mariners GM can snare a bigger name at a reasonable price, I’m sure he’d make the deal in a heartbeat. But, my expectation is that we’ll see more players like Robertson and Powell joining the Mariners between now and Spring Training. That’s not a bad thing. It’s actually a refreshing change from the past.
With the news breaking Friday morning that the Seattle Mariners parted ways with Jack Zduriencik we’ve already started to hear the names of possible replacements. It’s all speculation at this point, but retreads galore likely are littering your Twitter timeline, drawing eye rolls and even some ‘WTF’ replies. Understandably. Team president and COO Kevin Mather stated publicly via press conference and radio interviews the club wants to find a new baseball guy before the offseason truly gets under way. Part of that is to make sure they don’t get beat to the punch on candidates, part of it is about hitting the offseason ready to go. It’s the only way to go about this these days. Several other things Mather said Friday via the various outlets that struck me as interesting or somewhat important: Despite giving Lloyd McClendon a sort of vote of confidence, the new GM will have the power to bring in his own field staff, including the manager. Mather will encourage but not force McClendon on the new GM Mather believes the 25-man roster is fairly close to being good enough, though clearly there are holes to fill and admits his opinion may not be that of the baseball people he chooses in the end Club prefers a GM that sees the roster is close enough not to suggest a tear-down, at least not heading into 2016. Mather mentioned the GM’s front office staff more than once, strongly suggesting 1) that he, as the president and COO, understands the GM must have the right people in place around him and 2) perhaps Zduriencik did not. (He didn’t). Part of the draw of some candidates will be the people with which they are connected that can be brought in as part of the new regime. The GM can’t do everything. The change is being made not based on 2015 and all its disappointment, but why the club is where it is, seven years after Zduriencik was hired. Mather stated directly the failures in player development. Yes, ultimately it’s about wins at the big-league level, but Mather clearly has people in baseball he;’s been talking to — I mentioned his familiarity with the FO in Minnesota and how he’s talked to them in the past, and he noted said relationship in his interview with Mike Salk and Brock Huard Friday morning. Since Mather prefers not to rebuild, he expects a GM with experience, but if he’s open-minded enough about the process, he’ll interview several inexperienced candidates that won’t require allowance for a rebuild, nor see the immediate need for it, while demonstrating they are capable of adding to the current mix enough to project a winner. Here are some names with which to start, but a few caveats: I don’t know most of these people personally. I derive their candidacy by leaning on those I do know in the game for their qualifications, plus what reports have been out there up to and through today’s news in terms of candidacy. You will hear good and bad about most or all of the following, almost all of which will be complete trash. Pick and choose who you trust on these kinds of matters. Included below are candidates I wouldn’t necessarily hire myself and that I don’t believe are good candidates, but they’ll be mentioned, so they go here, anyway. I do know some of these candidates, some better than others. These are listed in no particular order. I am not sure each of the names below are so eager to get a shot at GM that they’re willing to work under an ownership with a terrible track record of interfering and downright bufoonery, but there are only 30 GM gigs in the world, so … It’s also worth noting that Mather does appear to be leading the search there is always a chance the ownership is willing to budge on some things to get the right candidate to take the job. In no way is the following a suggestion that these are the names Seattle will interview or consider. There will be names below that never are mentioned, never interviewed or considered or even some that may not have interest or are hired elsewhere. Jerry DiPoto: Former Angels GM Having resigned from his GM post in Anaheim, DiPoto brings mixed reviews when I ask around — like most. He’s a former player that believes in scouting and analytics — and a blend of both that cannot be written in stone for even two seconds — and reportedly was the Mariners’ No. 2 choice in 2008 when the club hired Zduriencik. He was an assistant in Arizona overseeing scouting and player development, scouted under Theo Epstein’s crew in Boston before that and now is serving as an extra set of eyes for the Red Sox, who just hired Dave Dombrowski to run the while kitchen. DiPoto could be a strong candidate for GM under Dombrowski. Knowing what I know — which isn’t enough to make the kind of call the Mariners have to make — I’d find it difficult to hate the move if DiPoto was ultimately tabbed the new baseball executive in Seattle. John Coppolella: Assistant GM, Atlanta Braves Coppolella may be my personal favorite for the job, not because I have had many conversations with him but because he seems value exactly what the Mariners need; Detailed in terms of covering all the bases before making decisions, valuing greatly the assessments and work of those around him, no use of the ego in evaluating players or situations, high-impact passion for the game of baseball and winning, and he’s as short on confidence in his abilities as I am on Twitter snark. Which is to say not at all, sir. Coppolella grew up in the New York Yankees organization, was a favorite of the late George Steinbrenner and in Atlanta has overseen the pro scouting department before essentially taking the helm of GM under president of baseball operations John Hart. He’s had the advantage of working with and under some of the most successful baseball executives in the game, including Brian Cashman, John Schuerholz and now Hart. In my dealings with Coppolella, he’s never taken credit for anything, it’s always “we” or he deflects credit entirely. He’s adept in the area of statistical analysis, but player development is extremely high on his list, especially having worked with execs with tremendous track records in growing from within. He was hired by Schuerholz, was a huge draw for Hart when he was contemplating taking the job and I have a feeling he sees eye-to-eye with Mather’s preference of not rebuilding right away, which I believe is the right approach. If Coppolella were to be hired, the Mariners would be getting a GM with a sound plan, capable of adjusting said plan to accommodate the myriad situations that indeed will come up 12 months out of the year. The group that ultimately would land in Seattle to accompany him would likely be quite impressive. Coppolella’s network is as large as anyone’s and he’s as respected on and off the field as much or more than anyone I’ve ever asked about. Jason McLeod: Director of Scouting & Player Development, Chicago Cubs Having worked so much under Theo Epstein, one would think plenty has rubbed off on McLeod, who worked under Epstein in Boston before moving on with Jed Hoyer to San Diego, and then Chicago. I hear only great things about McLeods abilities to evaluate not only players at all levels, but his track record with development strategies, the draft and trade and free agent markets. There are some who believe Epstein’s success is wildly over-the-top because of Epstein himself, but there’s a reason he keeps winning, first in Boston and already in Chicago. The presence of Hoyer and McLeod clearly are critical. Flatly put, McLeod is a winner, has an enormous network from which to choose his lieutenants and has witnessed absolute greatness from a winning standpoint for more than a decade. McLeod should be high on the club’s list of candidates. Erik Neander: V.P. of Baseball Operations, Tampa Bay Rays Neander is among the many that run the Rays baseball operations department and one of a few Rays execs that could be legitimate candidates in Seattle. Scott Sharp: Assistant GM, Kansas City Royals Sharp has been among Dayton Moore’s top assistants as the Royals have ascended to the top of the American League behind pitching, speed and defense. I don’t know tons about Sharp but in looking at the kind of players the Royals have shown they value most, it’s largely what Seattle doesn’t have an needs. Defense, speed, athleticism, multi-dimensional. And they’ve done it on a somewhat limited payroll. Mike Chernoff: Assistant GM, Cleveland Indians Ask one baseball exec about Chernoff and I get positive descriptions. Ask another and I get “meh” type replies. Ask yet another and I get “I don’t know, I’m not sure how much that front office really gets to do on their own.” But anytime I inquire about candidates, Chernoff’s name comes up in conversation. Thad Levine: Assistant GM, Texas Rangers Billy Eppler: Assistant GM, New York Yankees Dan O’Dowd: Former GM, Colorado Rockies Ben Cherington: Former GM, Boston Red SoxCharlie Kerfeld: Special assistant to the GM, Philadelphia PhilliesDan Jennings: Manager & former GM Miami Marlins Tony LaCava: V.P. Baseball Operations, Assistant GM, Toronto Blue Jays Matt Arnold: Assistant GM, Tampa Bay Rays Larry Beinfest: Former President Baseball Operations, Miami Marlins Matt Klentak: Assistant GM, Los Angeles Angels Kevin Towers: Former GM San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks & special assistant to GM, Cincinnati Reds Damon Oppenheimer: Director of Scouting, New York Yankees LaCava interviewed in 2008 and was my preference based on what I was told from those that know him. He’s a market analysis genius and has served the Jays well during his time, playing a large role in their current success. He’s probably as qualified for the job as any of the assistant types that will be mentioned and might have the ability to put together the best staff. Levine has worked under a highly successful executive base in Texas with Nolan Ryan and John Daniels. Is typically among the top 8-10 as I ask around baseball about candidates that have yet to serve as full-time GM. Jennings has a history in Seattle, having served as an area scout in the late 80s and eventually a crosschecker in 1995. He served as the Rays scouting director before moving onto the Marlins as a player personnel V.P. and assistant GM. He was named the Marlins’ GM in 2013 and took the field as the skipper earlier this season. Kerfeld would be an interesting choice in style as he’s old school in the way he scouts in his present role but understands the necessity for a blend, and not simply when it’s convenient to implement. He’s a former pitcher who’s worked for years under Pat Gillick. Arnold is thought to be as instinctive as it comes in baseball operations and with Neander served under Andrew Friedman, now of the Los Angeles Dodgers, during their run the past several years as a have-not beating the haves with consistency. Beinfest, like Jennings, has history in Seattle having served as an assistant in the scouting and player development departments in the late 80s and through the 1999 season. I don’t see how Beinfest fits at all, but we’ve already seen his name linked to the club, which means little to nothing in the end. Cherington is a puzzler for me. I don’t know him personally, but I don’t understand the attraction. Yes, he has a World Series title, and he did make some moves prior to the 2013 championship run that played a key role, but that roster was largely built by Epstein and sandwiched around the ring for Cherington is a last-place finish in 2012, another in 2014 and the roster he built for 2015 is headed for one more. I’m not suggesting he’d be a bad hire, but his track record suggests so and that speaks volumes in my book. Names that may be bandied about that probably make so little sense that the Mariners won’t truly consider in the end include Ned Colleti, Kenny Williams, Jerry Walker. Jeff Kingston, the interim GM in Seattle, is sharp, analytically inclined and always has come across to me as a no-nonsense type that’s all about getting it right and winning. The M’s will get a look at Kingston over the final month.
Every day through July 31, and even deep into August to a lesser extent, there will be multiple reports regarding clubs having trade discussions with other clubs, about certain players, and there always are contract details, payrolls and many roster scenarios to consider. We won’t be the rumor round-up hub, but we’re here to fill in some of the missing pieces, offer thoughts on the process and if we happen to run into some information that is useful, we’ll share in in this column. Royals Going For It The Kansas City Royals reportedly were close to acquiring right-hander Johnny Cueto Saturday night. The deal fell through due to an apparent lack of medical clearance for one of the players headed from Kansas City to Cincinnati in the deal. Even with the deal failing to go through, this news tell us the Royals are going for it. Cueto, a legitimate No. 1 starter, is a two-month rental and the Royals went for it. Certainly they will continue to attempt to land such a piece, perhaps even Cueto still. With such aggressiveness at the forefront, one has to wonder if the club also will look to grab an outfielder. Alex Gordon is out for a few months, and while Alex Rios has swung the bat better in July, he may not be a trustworthy bat. Gordon likely will return for October but if there are any setbacks with his rehab the Royals could be down a hitter in the postseason. Brewers’ Sale Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweets that right-hander Mike Fiers has drawn trade interest, but adds that the club is trying to move Kyle Lohse and/or Matt Garza, instead. Good luck. Lohse and Garza started the year with a chance to create nice value, but neither have pitched well. Garza has $25 million guaranteed still on the books, too, with a vesting option based on games started and the avoidance of the disabled list worth $13 million or a $5 million buyout. Lohse is movable, perhaps even without cash going with him. Garza is not, unless a bad contract is coming back. Garza has posted a 4.89 FIP while seeing his strikeout rates fall for the fourth straight season. He’s still throwing 91-94 mph with three offspeed pitches but his fastball is getting hit hard and his above-average slider and curveball have also dipped in effectiveness. He’s 32 in November and has not gone more than 163 1/3 innings since 2011. Milwaukee, however, is expected to strongly consider offers for Carlos Gomez, who may net the club a future impact piece. Fiers, by the way, is a solid No. 3 starter with four more years of club control remaining. He will not be arbitration eligible until after the 2016 season. Chapman, KimbrelAroldis Chapman may or may not be traded this summer, but if he or Craig Kimbrel lands in Washington the Nationals will have even fewer excuses for an October failure than they have had in the past. ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark tweeted Saturday that rival executives believe if Nats GM Mike Rizzo makes a move it will be a big one. Chapman or Craig Kimbrel would be pretty big. Either’s presence would push solid closer Drew Storen to the eighth inning. The Padres and Reds aren’t contending and could jump start a busy offseason by maxing out their value this month, rather than reducing their value by hanging onto them for two more months. Expect both to be dealt, as A.J. Preller and Walt Jocketty get busy on a reload job.
Every day through July 31, and even deep into August to a lesser extent, there will be multiple reports regarding clubs having trade discussions with other clubs, about certain players, and there always are contract details, payrolls and many roster scenarios to consider. We won’t be the rumor round-up hub, but we’re here to fill in some of the missing pieces, offer thoughts on the process and if we happen to run into some information that is useful, we’ll share in in this column. Cishek Deal Not A Market Setter While Oakland’s haul in return for Scott Kazmir may indeed help set the market price for starting pitcher rentals this summer, the Steve Cishek acquisition by the St. Louis Cardinals won’t come close to doing so. For one, Cishek, 29, has struggled this season. So much that at one point he was shipped back to Triple-A. His velocity is down a bit, he’s walking more batters and striking out fewer and simply allowing more hard hit baseballs. He’s also owed more than $2 million over the final two months of 2015. Not only does the trade cost for Cishek — 25-year-old Class-AA reliever Kyle Barraclough — not set the market for closers, it likely doesn’t do so for setup men, either. He may very well end up a solid pick-up for the Cardinals, but we’ve yet to see a legitimate high-leverage reliever change teams, so we’ll have to wait until one does to get a sense of what the price is going to be for such arms. Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Papelbon, Joakim Soria and Francisco Rodriguez are among the proven closer rumored to be somewhat available this month. Late-inning, setup or mid-level closer types that may be available include Brad Ziegler, Joaquin Benoit, Addison Reed, Jake McGee, Will Smith, Jim Johnson, Mark Lowe, Brad Boxberger, Jonathan Broxton and Shawn Kelley. The Red Sox, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, have received interest in Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara but there are no indications Boston will move either right-hander. Who Needs CF Help? Contenders that have not received much production from their centerfielders and could be on the lookout for some assistance there before the July 1 deadline: St. Louis Cardinals: 76 wRC+, .279 wOBAPeter Bourjos has taken away most of the playing time from Jon Jay and has been much more acceptable offensively with a .314 wOBA and 100 wRC+ supporting a solid .339 OBP. With so little available on the market, the Cardinals do not appear likely at all to try and trade for a Cameron Maybin, Austin Jackson, Ben Revere or Rajai Davis. Houston Astros: 76 wRC+, .280 wOBAJake Marisnick is a solid glove but at .229/.266/.367 and a .275 wOBA, the contending Astros could use a little more offense. But they also need corner-outfield help and it appears they’re more likely to get a decent player in that search. San Francisco Giants: 86 wRC+, .286 wOBAAngel Pagan has scuffled most of the season — .302 OBP, 277 wOBA, 79 wRC+ — and he’s not the glove he was three or four years back. The Giants may prefer to go after starting pitching — they have been linked to Mike Leake and might be a terrific fit for Hisashi Iwakuma if the Mariners end up selling — but center field is a weak spot without question. Pagan has hit left-handed pitching well in the small sample that is 102 plate appearances, suggesting perhaps a platoon partner might make more sense than attempting to land an everyday replacement. Revere is the ideal option in this case. Tampa Bay Rays: 91 wRC+, .294 wOBA Moving Kevin Kermeier to a corner or acquiring another centerfield-type defender and playing him left — even if the offensive output isn’t significant — may be the best way a surprise Rays club can get better without spending big in trade cost or salary. Of course, a healthy Desmond Jennings could change the approach and he’s on the comeback trail after knee surgery last month. Catchers Several clubs would like to add at least a No. 2 catcher, if not a split-advantage backstop or even a starting-quality option, but there’s not much available and the cost for those that are is quite steep. Seattle, since trading Welington Castillo in the deal to land Mark Trumbo, has been one of those clubs. One of the clubs they spoke to requested a high-end prospect in exchange for a veteran backup catcher who will be a free agent after the season. The talks, apparently, dies right there. Here are some catchers that may be discussed over the next week, and some of them perhaps beyond into the waiver deadline period in August: Rene Rivera, Tampa BayAlex Avila, DetroitA.J. Pierzynski, AtlantaStephen Vogt, OaklandNick Hundley, ColoradoGeovany Soto, White SoxCarlos Ruiz, PhiladelphiaBrayan Pena, CincinnatiMichael McKenry, Colorado There aren’t a lot of clubs contending right now that are having significant issues behind the plate. Minnesota is getting a down year from Kurt Suzuki at the plate, Baltimore’s Matt Wieters hasn’t hit much yet and the Rays, who may end up selling instead, are getting nothing offensively from their group. Chris Ianetta’s poor year is hurting the Halos but they aren’t going to move on from him at this stage of the season while they lead the division. Some have speculated the Padres may be willing to listen on Derek Norris, and if that is the case, like with Oakland and Vogt, clubs may come out of the woodwork to consider him.
If Hisashi Iwakuma goes out in five days and pitches well again, the Seattle Mariners absolutely will have the opportunity to trade the right-hander to a contender, and the package Oakland received in exchange for Scott Kazmir could serve as a baseline for any deal Seattle makes involving the 34-year-old. This should increase the chances the club makes such a trade. Iwakuma isn’t going to bring back the same level of package as Kazmir just did — he hasn;t been as good in 2015 and is even more of a concern to clubs in terms of his health, but Kazmir returned a potential future above-average everyday catcher in Jacob Nottingham plus a future back-end starter or reliever in Daniel Mengden. Such a haul suggests Seattle could net something useful in return for Iwakuma, provided he doesn’t blow up next time out. He’ thrown the ball well three straight times out and despite giving up for homersin his first start off the disabled list, he did show something in that one, too. He’s struck out 18 in his last 20 2/3 innings, walked just four over that span and has induced a lot of ground balls outs. His four starts since being activated have been versus Detroit twice, the Yankees and a red-hot Angels club, too. Iwakuma could be attractive to clubs that don’t like the asking price for Jeff Samardzija, David Price, Johnny Cueto and even Mike Leake. Those interested in Leake or other mid-rotation types could end up with a better deal and a better pitcher in Iwakuma, who has looked the part of a No. 2-3 type starter of late. Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted earlier Thursday that indications are the Mariners are “hesitant to sell.” Of course they are, because it tells the fan base that 2015 is a failed season, which doesn’t bode well for attendance, TV ratings or the job security of the general manager. It’s the right things to do, however, which is why the A’s went ahead and did so, even though starting play Thursday they were ahead of the Mariners in the standings. Reports surfaced last week that Detroit, who sits several games ahead of Seattle, is exploring trading their own pending free agents such as ace David Price and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. More evidence that a smart seller can take advantage of so clubs preferring to buy this summer. Clubs that may see Iwakuma as ideal may include the Baltimore Orioles, who want to add a bat and perhaps a starter, too, but don’t have a lot of ammo to land both and as a result could get left in the cold for the bigger names. The Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals (who need multiple starting pitchers) and even San Francisco Giants also could see a reasonably-priced Iwakuma as a solid option. Waiting to ‘make sure’ they’re out of the race before selling could cost the Mariners a chance to capitalize on the market. Doing so with Iwakuma and/or J.A. Happ is a ridiculous mistake, especially considering a perfectly capable Roenis Elias is awaiting a recall from Triple-A Tacoma. If the M’s get hot and somehow find themselves in the race in late September, it won’t be because of a negative value differential between Iwakuma (or Happ) and Elias. Not to mention there’s still a chance James Paxton makes it back at some point.
Every day through July 31, and even deep into August to a lesser extent, there will be multiple reports regarding clubs having trade discussions with other clubs, about certain players, and there always are contract details, payrolls and many roster scenarios to consider. We won’t be the rumor round-up hub, but we’re here to fill in some of the missing pieces, offer thoughts on the process and if we happen to run into some information that is useful, we’ll share in in this column. Advantage Sellers Since there aren’t as many sellers as there are buyers those clubs ready to sell have a chance to take advantage of the market. The wisest of those clubs will sell aggressively if they get the opportunity. The Seattle Mariners could be one of those. Even with David Price and Yoenis Cespedes added to the trade market, there still is a shortage. Some clubs that want to add to their rosters may not be able to do so because they either cannot afford or prefer not to part with the talent it takes to land Price, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija or Cole Hamels. Some clubs looking for starting pitching will prefer the mid-rotation, innings-eater type, or may even want an option to cover a spot in the rotation until an injured arm can return. J.A. Happ isn’t going to return much, but it doesn’t mean it won’t be advantageous to move him. This landscape may allow for the legit return necessary to bother pulling the trigger. Teams that ultimately balk at the price for Mike Leake could look to Happ or Rangers righty Colby Lewis. Teams looking for offense may run dry on options once Cespedes, Jay Bruce, Justin Upton and Ben Zobrist are moved. Mark Trumbo has some value. Like Happ, Trumbo isn’t bringing back anything earth shattering, but a piece that can help? No doubt. The Mariners, though, will have to be aggressive in shopping their available players because they aren’t alone. The Padres, Red Sox, White Sox and Rockies have a similar opportunity, and at some point the buyers could run out. Timing is of the essence. Happ’s last start in a Mariners uniform should already have been made. Trumbo’s days should be numbered. Austin Jackson‘s .271/.311/.376 triple-slash since May 26 is just reasonable enough to poach a useful piece from a contender needing help in center field, too. Jackson could be more than just useful in a time share, as he’s hitting .275/.315/.464 versus lefties this season. The St. Louis Cardinals and Minnesota Twins are two contenders that have not received much offense from their centerfielders. So little that Jackson would serve as an upgrade. Trading Nelson Cruz Trading Nelson Cruz might be a good idea for the Seattle Mariners. Maybe this summer, maybe over the winter. He’s had another fantastic season at the plate, his best in the big leagues. He’s owed $42 million over the next three years, which hardly is a burden — if he keeps hitting. Cruz is 34 and probably isn’t going to be much more than a league average DH soon. The Mariners, who have had significant issues building a competitive offense, seemingly should cling to Cruz and keep building, and maybe that’s the right move in the end. But if trading Cruz can answer another question or two for 2016, dealing the slugger pushes the reset button a bit. Cruz, though, is the James Shields of hitters. Teams were in no hurry to give him four years last offseason and their assessment of his value may not have changed enough to all of a sudden encourage them to take on the final three years of the contract plus trade talent to do so. In theory, Seattle should trade Cruz and start anew over the winter, attempting to build a roster with more speed, defense, pitching and a bat or two that plays well at Safeco Field. Giving him away to cut payroll doesn’t make sense. If an offer comes along that helps the club get where they need to go, they should pull the trigger. The market for Cruz, however, may to dictate the Mariners keep Cruz.
Every day through July 31, and even deep into August to a lesser extent, there will be multiple reports regarding clubs having trade discussions with other clubs, about certain players, and there always are contract details, payrolls and many roster scenarios to consider. We won’t be the rumor round-up hub, but we’re here to fill in some of the missing pieces, offer thoughts on the process and if we happen to run into some information that is useful, we’ll share in in this column. The Mets and Ben Zobrist? The New York Mets have been linked to Ben Zobrist, among other left-side infielders, but Tuesday Ken Rosenthal tweets that discussions have been set aside. The Mets are in the thick of the races in the National League and need offense in the worst way. David Wright may not be back in 2015, Michael Cuddyer now is hurt and the lineup was down a bat or two even with those two healthy. Zobrist could play some shortstop for the Mets, or he could slide into a corner outfield spot. He’s a rental that will likely interest a number of clubs. The Mets may need two acquisitions, however, perhaps a shortstop or third baseman plus an outfielder. Zobrist helps, but another addition to go along with him might put the Mets over the top. The problem is, the Mets, like a few other clubs in buy mode as the trade deadline nears — Orioles, Angels, for example — the Mets don’t have a ton of talents that make sense for them to part with for two-month answers. Their pitching is either hurt — Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler — or completely off limits — Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and there aren’t a ton of mid-level prospects in their system. Finding at least one match may be doable, however, it’s the second one that’s difficult to see happening. Where Zobrist lands is anyone’s guess, but it’s almost certain he gets moved. Several clubs could use him in a number of spots on the field and in the batting order, including the Yankees (2B, SS), Baltimore (OF), Angels (OF, 2B), Kansas City (OF, 2B), Mets (SS, OF), Pirates (SS), Dodgers (SS, OF). My List of Sellers Philadelphia Milwaukee Oakland Seattle Boston Texas Miami Cincinnati Arizona Colorado White Sox Boston San Diego Oakland, Seattle, Boston, Texas, Arizona, San Diego and the White Sox have an outside shot to get white hot for the next 8-9 days and play themselves into buying. It doesn’t appear Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Miami and Colorado have even that kin of shot. TMany of the former seven clubs may look to buy for the future, including Texas, who continues to be linked to Cole Hamels. Bubble Detroit Cleveland Atlanta The Tigers already have reportedly decided to field calls for Yoenis Cespedes and David Price, but at 46-47 and four games back in the American League Wild Card race, it’s tough to expect them have already decided to sell a few pending free agents and close up shop. Detroit may be the classic sell-buy combo club this month: Trade Cespedes and Price for players that can help them now as well as in the future. Cleveland is the quintessential bubble team at 44-48, 5.5 games out in the Wild Card. A poor next nine games they could find themselves in a position to plan more for 2016 than worrying about this season. If they were to lose three or more games in the standings and perhaps even get pass by the Rangers and/or White Soxm for example, aggressively buying no longer makes much sense. The Indians don’t have the group of pending free agents some other potential sellers have, however, and they’re actually a talented team with a chance to win immediately, so we’re not talking about the big names here, and perhaps not even many of the smallers ones. Atlanta is likely to sell, but if they were to find a way to close the Wild Card gap from six games to, say, 3-4 games, they may not be quite as aggressive in sell mode. Buying for this season appears to be the one thing the Braves won’t do, however, so they are as much sellers, really, as the top group. Buyers Kansas City L.A. Angels Houston Baltimore Toronto Minnesota Washington St. Louis L.A. Dodgers Pittsburgh Chicago Cubs San Francisco New York Mets The Mets may have a tough time landing what they need, but they have the ammo to get at least one helpful deal done. The Royals likely will be looking for starting pitching and the Halos are linked to Jay Bruce, among other bats. Baltimore apparently is after another bat, but can someone get Buck Showalter a frontline starter, please? Chris Tillman isn’t a No. 1 — or a No. 2. Neither is… anyone else in that rotation. The Blue Jays need pitching help, as do the Astros. The Twins may choose the dull route, but they aren’t selling off pieces as the current holder of the No. 2 Wild Card berth. The Nationals are loaded, but aren’t healthy, and shortstop Ian Desmond has been awful at shortstop. Maybe another bullpen arm is on Mike Rizzo’s radar. The Cardinals don’t have any glaring needs, per se. On the surface it would seem they could use a frontline starter to fill in for Adam Wainwright, but Lance Lynn (.278 FIP, 9.67 K/9) has done that job nicely and Michael Wacha (3.20 FIP), John Lackey (3.5 FIP) and Carlos Martinez (3.51 FIP, 9.3 K/9) have been strong solidifying the starting five. With Jaime Garcia also out, howver, St. Louis could set out to acquire a mid-rotation option, perhaps as solid as Scott Kazmir, Mike Leake or Tyson Ross or as ordinary as J.A. Happ. The impact move is Hamels, Johnny Cueto, David Price or Jeff Samardzija. A few potential under-the-radar targets include Hisashi Iwakuma, Andrew Cashner or John Danks. Yovani Gallardo, reportedly being shopped by the Rangers, could fit, too. The club to watch here is the Cubs. They have the inventory to get just about any player, perhaps any two. With bait that for the right return could include Starlin Castro, Javier Baez or Jorge Soler, plus prospects such as Billy McKinney and Albert Almora, the North Siders can bully their way into trade discussions for any available player. There’s probably zero chance two of Castro-Baez-Soler is moved, and it’s unlikely but not out of the question that one of them is moved. The Cubs could use a starting pitcher, a reliever and not a lot else. Dexter Fowler hasn’t been stellar in center field or at the plate, but unless it’s Carlos Gomez the center field market isn’t likely to help here, and Fowler is showing signs of life since the break. The Giants are tough to figure out for me. Anyone?
Every day through July 31, and even deep into August to a lesser extent, there will be multiple reports regarding clubs having trade discussions with other clubs, about certain players, and there always are contract details, payrolls and many roster scenarios to consider. We won’t be the rumor round-up hub, but we’re here to fill in some of the missing pieces, offer thoughts on the process and if we happen to run into some information that is useful, we’ll share in in this column. Another Ace on the Market With Bob Nightengale’s report that the Detroit Tigers are preparing to discuss trading ace left-hander David Price and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Price hitting the market could have an impact on the prices for other starters, especially Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels and Jeff Samardzija. I’m not sure if Price’s availability would increase or decrease the value of the others expected to be on the market, or perhaps do nothing. The first one to be moved could kinda-sorta set the market. Price could, however, take a team out of the market for one of the others, particularly the other rentals — Scott Kazmir, Cueto, Samardzija — and reduce the return their clubs ultimately receive. For example, maybe the best chance for Chicago White Sox to max out on Samardzija’s value is to pit, say, the Dodgers, Cubs and Rangers against one another — just for example, not assuming interest or fit here. If the Cubs land price, not only does it remove a club from the bidding, it removes specific talents from the equation. It becomes a two-team bidding war, not three, and the potential asking price from the Cubs is deleted. As for which clubs appears as fits for Price? Any contender this side of Washington could work. The Dodgers may prefer Hamels since he’s under club control beyond 2015 and Zack Greinke may opt out at season’s end. Clubs such as Tampa Bay may not have the inclination to add a little salary on top of the trade cost to reacquire their former ace and No. 1 pick. The Twins may be in the same boat. Some clubs may not be likely matches in terms of talent inventory, possibly including Baltimore and the Angels. As for Cespedes, he could fit what the Angels would like to do offensively, though a left-handed stick makes more sense. They have been linked to Jay Bruce. Gerardo Parra is a better fit — less trade cost, no future commitment. The Halos reportedly prefer a hitter they can use beyond 2015, however. If the Tigers are sellers, though, Price and Cespedes aren’t the lone potential pieces GM Dave Dombrowski could deal. Outfielder Rajai Davis, right-hander Joakim Soria and catcher Alex Avila could make sense to move, too. If they aren’t contending, there’s no point in holding tight to pending free agents. Avila’s father is one of Dombrowski’s assistants, so that situation may be handled differently than some others, but Avila could bring back a useful piece or two, especially considering the high cost of catching. Shortstop Thoughts Several clubs have been after help at shortstop since long before the season started. San Diego and the Mets are two examples. The Pirates, with the injuries to Jordy Mercer, Pedro Alvarez and Josh Harrison, now could use a third baseman or a shortstop. It’s a difficult position to fill in Major league Baseball, and always has been. The Yankees, Dodgers, Nationals, Rays, Cubs and Orioles have received very little offense from the position. The Dodgers could call on Corey Seager to help at the position and the Rays, Cubs and Orioles don’t appear to be in any hurry to go outside the organization. Baltimore just signed Everth Cabrera for some depth. The Padres are not currently being thought of as buyers so any acquisition at shortstop has to be about 2016 and beyond. The Rangers would love to get rid of Elvis Andrus‘ contract, but it’s difficult to imagine that occurs. Perhaps a club is willing to take a piece of it, however. Outside of Troy Tulowitzki, Jean Segura may be the best player on the shortstop market, all apologies to Alexei Ramirez, and tertiary names such as Jose Ramirez, Chris Taylor and Cliff Pennington have limited value, although Ramirez and Taylor bring club control and low salaries with them. The shortstop situation — many clubs with a need, pretty much no club with a surplus of a shortstop capable of providing everyday value — begs the question: Would it behoove a club with a solid, under-club-control option at shortstop be wise to take advantage and make theirs available, even without another answer of their own? For teams not close to contention, this is absolutely a good idea — at least see what clubs might pay. For others, those contending now and those with even a chance to contend in 2016, not having a viable option after the current starter.makes it difficult, but still worth casting a net. That includes clubs such as Miami with Adeiny Hechavarria, Seattle with Brad Miller and certainly the Cubs with Starlin Castro. You simply never know what a club may be willing to part with when a starting-quality shortstop with years of club control are on the hook.
Every day through July 31, and even deep into August to a lesser extent, there will be multiple reports regarding clubs having trade discussions with other clubs, about certain players, and there always are contract details, payrolls and many roster scenarios to consider. We won’t be the rumor round-up hub, but we’re here to fill in some of the missing pieces, offer thoughts on the process and if we happen to run into some information that is useful, we’ll share in in this column. Chances Yasiel Puig is Traded Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, who is well-connected around baseball, writes there is growing belief in Los Angeles that Yasiel Puig is “losing popularity” with his teammates, per a league source. Cafardo suggests one possibility if the Dodgers look to move their right fielder may be Philadelphia and their ace, Cole Hamels. A trade centered on Puig-for-Hamels makes a lot of sense on the surface, since the Dodgers may be planning for life without Zack Greinke who may opt out after this season and the Phillies clearly want to get younger, more athletic and to perhaps reel in their payroll a bit. But even though Puig isn’t having a great season — .274/.358/.435 in 45 games — the Dodgers don’t have a surplus in outfielders … at least not productive outfielders, anyway. Andre Ethier has rebounded and Joc Pederson has been very good but Carl Crawford has again struggled when he’s been available and neither Scott Van Slyke nor Alex Guerrero appear to be reliable everyday options; Van Slyke has trouble producing versus right-handed pitchers and Guerrero, also right-handed, is new to the outfield and has problems hitting right-handed pitching, too. If Puig were to be traded, the Dodgers would have a bit of a hole to fill, albeit one that could be closed by adding a left-handed hitting platoon bat. Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Gerardo Parra may fit, as might Cleveland’s David Murphy, among others. If I were the Phillies, however, I’m not sure I’d want Puig if he’s some kind of a clubhouse problem, and I’d focus on adding young arms before big-league players that may not be around when my club is again ready to compete. Dodgers GM Andrew Friedman may prefer to avoid selling low on Puig and making a drastic alteration to his regular lineup, one that has, at times, struggled to produce runs consistently. The rotation may need a boost after this season, if Greinke leaves, but the Dodgers have been one of the better run-prevention clubs in the National League this season with one of the more effective starting staffs. I’d bet Puig stays where he is this summer with the hopes from the Dodgers’ perspective that he has a big second half, helps the club win and improves his trade value for further consideration this coming offseason. Angels, Bruce; Orioles, Upton Jay Bruce is on the Angels’ radar, tweets Jon Morosi, and that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The Reds, according to John Fay, are expected to discuss any player this side of Todd Frazier, including Bruce and the Halos have a need in the outfield. Deadline deals are strange — sometimes a good trade doesn’t work out because all that has to occur to ruin it is the acquired player struggles for better part of two months. That also makes such trades risky. The question here, however, is more about what the Reds will require for Bruce, whether or not the Angels have it and whether or not they’re willing to part with it. Same goes for Baltimore’s interest in Justin Upton, per Morosi. Upton, a two-month rental, isn’t as valuable so presumably he will cost a lot less in trade. The Orioles’ system is thin and has some injuries balking up their depth, but there’s a few players in that organization I’d trade Upton to take a chance on if I were Padres GM A.J. Preller. Baltimore may not be the best offer Preller gets, however, but the O’s can certainly compete in the Upton sweepstakes — if they want to. For both Baltimore and Anaheim, there may be better options when cost is brought into the equation. Parra could be a fit for both, as might Ben Zobrist and Josh Reddick. Reddick likely will be more costly than any rental — since he’s not one — and may rival Bruce’s price tag, despite the differential in team control. Mariners Idea With each loss the Mariners get closer and closer to having no legitimate choice other to sell off their pending free agents, perhaps including Hisashi Iwakuma, who has had one bad start, one very good one and one OK outing since returning from the disabled list. Lefty J.A. Happ, centerfielder Austin Jackson, relievers Fernando Rodney, Mark Lowe and Joe Beimel also will be free agents after the season. Neither Rodney nor Beimel are going to net much in return, of course — Rodney because he’s had an awful season and Beimel simply because he’s not a high-leverage arm — but Lowe may be worth something useful in the future, as might Happ, Jackson and Iwakuma. I’m not suggesting any of the above are worth a return of a starting outfielder, top prospect at any position or anything like that, but there’s no reason one or more of them cannot help the Mariners rebuild their bullpen for 2016 and/or fill a bench hole or two. The Mariners can be buyers in one sense, however: Focusing on acquiring players that fit 2016 and perhaps beyond. This season may not matter much, but getting a jump start on fixing some issues is not a bad thing. The Mariners, in my opinion, should listen on Nelson Cruz (don’t believe for one second they will), Seth Smith, Mark Trumbo and Charlie Furbush, too. If not now, then over the winter. Exhausting all options is important when building an effective roster, even when it means discussing productive players to which you’d prefer to add. The Mariners need more team athleticism, and more specifically better outfield performance both offensively and defensively. Until that’s addressed successfully, they’ll be a team trying to win with one frontline starting pitcher in Felix Hernandez and the three-run homer.
Every day through July 31, and even deep into August to a lesser extent, there will be multiple reports regarding clubs having trade discussions with other clubs, about certain players, and there always are contract details, payrolls and many roster scenarios to consider. We won’t be the rumor round-up hub, but we’re here to fill in some of the missing pieces, offer thoughts on the process and if we happen to run into some information that is useful, we’ll share in in this column. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels? In his latest video post at FOXSports.com, Ken Rosenthal notes that the market for Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels includes the Los Angeles Dodgers. He also adds that the Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox have interest, too. My first reaction was to think about a series in October that started with Kershaw, Greinke and Hamels on the mound for the Dodgers. Hamels hasn’t been terrific this season but he has been good. I’d put money on him having a stronger final two months than the 3.40 FIP he’s posted thus far. But how do the Dodgers, or Cubs, Rangers and Red Sox get Hamels in their uniform for the next three-plus seasons? The Phillies feel no pressure to move their ace right now, so they will hold out for the right deal. Here’s what each club has to offer that Philadelphia may have request during negotiations. In no manner is the following a suggestion of a deal that either side would accept, nor does it imply Philly has interest in the specific player or the other club’s willingness to deal said player or players. Dodgers Corey Seager, SS/3B Julio Urias, LHP Hector Olivera, 2B Jose De Leon, RHP Grant Holmes, RHP Alex Verdugo, CF Zach Lee, RHP Seager and Urias may be as close to untouchable as it gets for the Dodgers, probably in that order. De Leon, Olivera, Holems, et al, may not be enough to land Hamels, especially considering there are other clubs with young talent to offer the Phillies. Mike Bolsinger, 27, may carry some value as a tertiary piece in a package for Hamels, but doing so would require the club to fill another spot in the rotation. Cubs Kyle Schwarber, C Carl Edwards, Jr., RHP Albert Almora, CF Billy McKInney, LF Gleyber Torres, SS Dylan Cease, RHP Duane Underwood, RHP Carson Sands, RHP Justin Steele, RHP Jorge Soler, OF Starlin Castro, SS Jorge Baez, RHP The Cubs appear to have so much depth that adding an arm like Hamels may never come back to hurt them even a little bit. The Phillies need everything, probably starting with pitching depth, suggesting at least one of Edwards, Jr., Cease, Underwood, and the like, may be necessary. I did not list Kris Bryant or Addison Russell because common sense says if the Cubs deal an infielder it will be Castro or perhaps Baez. If Castro were to be traded, the general idea is that Bryant would play everyday at third, Baez would move to second and Russell would slide over to shortstop, his natural position, full time. Castro may be involved if the Cubs and Padres get together on a deal for a quality starting pitcher with some club control left. Castro also could interest the Red Sox Mookie Betts, CF Yoan Moncada, 2B Javier Guerra, SS Henry Owens, LHP Blake Swihart, C Manuel Margot, CF Rafael Devers, 3B/OF The Red Sox aren’t as deep as the Cubs or Dodgers but if they are willing to part with any two of the above, they’ll likely be able to pry Hamels away. Boston does not have depth in the starting pitching department down on the farm, so trading both Owens and fellow lefty Brian Johnson in the same four-player package may be asking a but much. Betts and Swihart reportedly interest the Phillies greatly but whether or not the Red Sox will reconsider their availability remains doubtful, perhaps at best. Guerra hasn’t been the slick fielder he was expected to be just yet but despite contact issues he’s mashing in Class-A Greenville, showing more power — 31 extra-base hits in 73 games — than most anticipated. The Phillies don’t have a specific need for a shortstop with J.P. Crawford a top prospect and shoving his way toward a big-league debut, potentially next season, but adding high-end talent never is a bad idea. A package including Guerra, Owens and Devers might be a tough one to turn down in the end. Rangers Joey Gallo, 3B/RF Jorge Alfaro, C Nomar Mazara, OF Nick Williams, OF Jake Thompson, RHP Lewis Brinson, OF Josh Morgan,2B Elvis Andrus, SS The Rangers have holes beyond their starting rotation, including one of the league’s worst offensive outfield collections and bullpen units. Texas may need three arms — two starters and a releiver — plus an addition to their lineup to project well enough to be in the race beyond mid-August. The Rangers probably shouldn’t have much interest in Hamels right now, particularly considering the likely haul in young talent. If Philly insists on a premium four-player package that includes Mazara or Alfaro plus Thompson, GM Jon Daniels probably, and understandably, backs down quickly. Gallo and Alfaro should be off limits, in my opinion. Not 100 percent untouchable, but for the right to pay Hamels for three-plus seasons I would not include either player. Andrus is highly unlikely to be involved in a deal for Hamels unless a third club is involved. In the end, I’m just not sure now is the right time for Daniels and the Rangers to pay big on a big-money pitcher. Sure they get him for three more years, yet stay away from the long-term risks of future free agents, but that kind of talent cost is prohibitive for the return. Texas can go out and get better this month, but they don’t have to pay the hefty toll to do so. Not for a club 42-47 and fading fast with many more holes to fill for 2016. If the Rangers wants to add high-level starting pitching, they can do so on the free agent market after the season. Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and company will hit free agency, and the Rangers will get back Yu Darvish at some point in 2016, plus should have a healthy Derek Holland. Martin Perez is back, the Rangers should supplement the rotation on top of that rather than rebuild it with Hamels. Texas should be in the market for Tyson Ross, as are the Astros, per Dennis Lin. Ross won’t come at the cost — salary or trade talent — as Hamels and his ability to induce ground balls (62.9% in 2015), fits the home park. James Shields is another alternative and one Padres GM A.J. Preller may prefer to move over Ross. What About the White Sox and Indians as sellers? They’re each 42-47, seven games out in the American League Central and 6.5 out of the No. 2 Wild Card spot. The White Sox have won six of 10, the Indians have lost six of 10. There’s a chance one or both could end up benefiting from selling a key piece or two rather than trying to add for a run this season. The Sox have pending free agent Jeff Samardzija, a high-quality starting pitcher that may net them a nice return. Beyond that, catcher Geovany Soto, shortstop Alexei Ramirez and perhaps first baseman Adam LaRoche could be dangled before July 31. Soto is on a 1-year deal while Ramirez’s contract carries a club option for next season at $10 million or a $1 million buyout. LaRoche will earn $13 million in 2016. Most of Chicago’s offense has scuffled this season, including Ramirez who, entering Saturday’s game owed a paltry .237 wOBA and 43 wRC+. LaRoche, too, has struggled, particularly thus far in July — .132/.195/.184 with a nice thin wRC+ of 1. You read that correctly. Soto has been respectable at .318 wOBA and 98 wRC+. Worth noting that wOBA is park adjusted, wRC+ is not. The Tribe has a lot of interesting pieces that, if GM Chris Antonetti decided to attempt a quick retool, may get the job done all by themselves. Corey Kluber is going nowhere, and it’s difficult to see any of the other young, inexpensive starters — Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar — being sent out in deals this month. Jason Kipnis is a centerpiece, as is rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor. Outfielder Michael Brantley, however, does not scream ‘building block’ to me. He’s a very nice player without any major weakness in his game. But he’s 28, an average-at-best glove that all comes with a very reasonable price tag if $14 million over the next two seasons plus an option at $11 million or a $1 million buyout, suggesting he could be worth more in trade than if he remains on the roster, considering the lack of quality position players available. Platoon bat David Murphy could help a contender down the stretch, same for Brandon Moss. Ryan Raburn is a nice bench option with a $3 million club option for 2016. Right-handed reliever Zach McAllister is good, cheap and a late-inning option that could fill a need for clubs such as Texas, Seattle, the Dodgers, Cubs and Twins.
Every day through July 31, and even deep into August to a lesser extent, there will be multiple reports regarding clubs having trade discussions with other clubs, about certain players, and there always are contract details, payrolls and many roster scenarios to consider. We won’t be the rumor round-up hub, but we’re here to fill in some of the missing pieces, offer thoughts on the process and if we happen to run into some information that is useful, we’ll share in in this column. Atlanta Braves Sale The Braves started their rebuild over the offseason when they traded the likes of Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Evan Gattis and Justin Upton, among others. That trend likely will continue this month with names such as Juan Uribe, Cameron Maybin and Jim Johnson on the market. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski is being discussed, too. Maybin is interesting because he’s having a solid year at the plate and can pass as a centerfielder. He’s due about $2.5 million the rest of 2015 and is set to earn $8 million next season. His 2017 option comes with a $1 million buyout or a $9 million salary. Due to the lack of options in center these days, at least a dozen clubs should have some level of interest in Maybin, who shouldn’t cost much more than Austin Jackson did a year ago, a middle infielder with a chance to be a big-league regular, albeit with some risk attached (Nick Franklin). Houston’s Buying With zero chance they sell pieces, the Houston Astros are as firmly in the buyers line as any club in the American League right now. They need a starting pitcher or two, and if they were to land a Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija or cole Hamels, they may just grab the one and call up Mark Appel to shore things up on the back end. They have been linked to Mike Leake, too, however. Leake can get ground ball outs, which fits the Juice Box well, and he’s used to pitching in a hitter’s environment at the Great American Smallpark but has struggled at home in three of his last four seasons. It’s difficult to see Jeff Luhnow whiffing at the deadline. The Astros are going to add a starting pitcher, perhaps two, and if a veteran first baseman falls in their lap, they may jump on that, too. The Astros are three games under .500 this season if you remove their 10-game winning streak, to lend an alternate idea how well they have played. But they aren’t going to fade into oblivion, especially if the rotation gets help. I still like the idea of Scott Kazmir for them, if the lefty is healthy, and if they find a way to get more offense from either their catchers or at first, this remains a dangerous team, a year or two before we thought they might be. They have prospects to move, including Appel (who isn’t likely to be traded, but he certainly wouldn’t be on my untouchables list), outfielders Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips and Danry Vazquez, plus a crop of young arms that may be deep enough from which to trade to get the veteran they need. The Astros even have a couple of young shortstops they may not need to protect aggressively in Nolan Fontana, Joan Mauricio and Miguelangel Sierra. You Can Go Get Him Now Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com wrote Friday that the Brewers are “now showing a willingness to trade Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura. Gomez, perhaps the best all-around centerfielder in baseball, is under contract through 2016. Segura, a capable a shortstop in the mold of Erick Aybar at the plate, could interest about 20 teams, with the dearth of shortstops available in baseball. The Mets come to mind, as do the Padres, though Segura’s bat isn’t a significant upgrade for either club. His defense is sound, though, and he’s under club control for three more years. He will be arbitration eligible this coming winter, but his 2016 salary is unlikely to be anything but a bargain, still. Gomez could be the prize a contending team needs to get over the top. Imagine the right-handed hitting speedster roaming the pastures at Comerica Park or tipping the scales of the lineup for the Angels, who could move Mike Trout to left field, use Gomez at leadoff and keep their best hitter in the two or three spot rather than moving him around to attempt to spark things. The price for Gomez isn’t going to be easy to reconcile for some clubs, but the chance to add elite speed and defense plus a legitimate option at the top of the batting order that could impact not one but two chances at the postseason probably is worth the risk in most cases. What clubs like Seattle cannot afford to do is sell five years of Taijuan Walker for a year and two months of Gomez. I’m not convinced the Mariners can get Gomez any other way, however. Maybe over the winter such a deal can make more sense, but the M’s need Walker to be what he was for most of the final two months of the season’s first half if they want any shot to get back into the 2015 chase. The Mets, Heyman notes, have Gomez on their radar. In a scenario where Gomez and a healthy Juan Lagares are available, I’m not sure who plays center, but again, Gomez’s presence changes the game in three ways for New York. How they acquire Gomez also is beyond me. They aren’t moving Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz is hurt and dealing Noah Syndergaard cancels out a good portion of the “getting better” part of adding a player like Gomez in the first place. The Brewers have a chance to jump-start their retooling by trading Gomez, Segura and perhaps Jonathan Lucroy, but with so many buyers and so few sellers, I’d wager Gomez gets moved this summer and maybe the other two are dealt over the winter. Milwaukee needs a lot of things, but starting pitcher is atop that list for me. And not just mid-rotation arms. They need upside, near-ready types.
Every day through July 31, and even deep into August to a lesser extent, there will be multiple reports regarding clubs having trade discussions with other clubs, about certain players, and there always are contract details, payrolls and many roster scenarios to consider. We won’t be the rumor round-up hub, but we’re here to fill in some of the missing pieces, offer thoughts on the process and if we happen to run into some information that is useful, we’ll share in in this column. CarGo’s Trade Value An interesting nugget by Jeff Todd at MLBTradeRumors.com turned me to consider the same subject matter. Todd, citing Nick Groke’s report that Gonzalez is finding his timing, posed the question of whether or the recent resurgence will ultimately ignite the trade market for Gonzalez. The outfielder, 30 in October, has been a very good left-handed run producer for the better part of the last six years. I say ‘better part’ because the last couple of seasons have been riddled with injury and struggles. After a .302/.367/.591 campaign in 2013, Gonzalez played just 70 games a year ago, batting .239/.292/.431, and despite his recent hot streak remains well below his career levels at .259/.314/.452 in 82 games this season. The 82 games, however, is a good sign. He’s at .286/.305/.582 over the last 30 days, 26 games, with a .373 wOBA and 123 wRC+. Of course, beyond the health and overall performance concerns — which are legitimate, despite a strong track record prior to 2014 — some will wonder if Gonzalez can hit outside Coors Field. The trap here is to simply look at his road splits, which in both 2014 and this season take a dive — not to completely useless levels but down to part-time performer status. Attempting to determine a Rockies hitter’s ability to hit away from Coors has to go much deeper than simply checking the road statistics. Why? Because, wisely, Rockies batters do what they can to take advantage of their home park. Those are things that do not necessarily work away from Denver, and expecting hitters to make perfect adjustments every road series, several times a month, is ridiculous. Having said that, Gonzalez’s good years are accompanied by good years away from Coors Field. In 2013, his last strong, healthy season — just two years ago, by the way — produced a .332/.381/.606 triple-slash on the road. He was better away from Coors that season. He did struggle on the road in 2012, but was useful on the road in 2011 and solid in 2010. How does a club evaluate, then, what Gonzalez is? The analytical department will delve into how often Gonzalez hits line drives, how hard he hits them, how many of his long balls may not be homers, or even hits, in their home ballpark, or even most road parks. His line drive rates are just under 20 percent, per FanGraphs, much closer to his 20 percent career mark than 2014. He is hitting more ground balls and fewer fly balls, which could be a good sign. One front office executive suggested perhaps Gonzalez, the healthy version, can “trust his hands,” more now that he’s healthy. No, he did not have a significant hand or wrist injury — he had knee surgery — but hitting starts with the legs. If you don’t have full strength, agility and flexibility with your legs, you can put more pressure on everything above your hips in attempt to get to good velocity and hit with authority. But he’s hit 85 balls at 90 mph or more and 70 at 95 mph or more, and his BABIP is more than 50 points lower than his career mark, suggesting perhaps he’s been unlucky, too. It’s worth noting that sometimes when a hitter loses bat speed or some other ability for whatever reason, or is hurt in a manner that impacts those abilities, BABIP often sinks then, too. Batting average on balls in play is a very inexact measure in terms of using it as analysis to explain away struggles. A 50-plus point differential is quite large, however. Gonzalez is due about $5.5 million the rest of 2015 and $37 million guaranteed through 2017. If he’s still a .350 wOBA bat, his value is quite high. Clubs that believe that may be willing to give the Rockies exactly what they want, whatever that is. There are reasons for concern, however, and Gonzalez’s average defense (some metrics suggest below average, though the knee problems he’s apparently getting away from now could explain some of that) may or may not help his market grow. My instincts tell me Colorado will not get the offer they want for Gonzalez and are better off holding onto him to see if he hits the rest of 2015 and shows clubs that he still can hit enough to warrant regular time in the middle of a lineup. He’s started hitting, if it continues, his value goes up, both to the Rockies and to clubs that need outfield help. One thing is pretty clear: Rockies GM Jeff Bridlich made it known that he has doesn’t value Gonzalez based on the statistics, “so if a team is just doing that, I don’t know.” The price for Gonzalez will be higher than his present numbers suggest. Market for Justin Upton Justin Upton, who has played for three teams in four years, could be on the move again if GM A.J. Preller doesn’t see a reason to buy versus selling his pending free agents on the trade market. Upton, reports Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, says he wants to stay with the Padres and see this through, adding that he hopes he and his teammates can turn things around quickly. “In a perfect world, we play well over the next two or three weeks and A.J. pumps the brakes on dismantling the team,” Upton said. If that doesn’t happen, Upton is among the most likely players to be traded before the July 31 deadline. He’s a right-handed power-hitting outfielder without long-term salaries attached. He’ll earn around $5 million for the rest of this season before testing free agency for the first time in his career. Upton is having merely an OK season, batting .253/.331/.422 with a .328 wOBA and 114 wRC+. He’s a fringy defender in either corner outfield spot. He strikes out a lot, always has, but he’s still drawing walks at a 10.2 percent rate and in a better hitting environment his raw power may play better. Several contending clubs could use Upton, including the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros and with Alex Gordon’s injury and Alex Rios’ struggles, the Kansas City Royals. All of the above, however, have greater needs, such as starting pitching and bullpen help, but Upton is likely to land somewhere. Other possibilities include Seattle, Minnesota and San Francisco. If the Cleveland Indians find themselves buyers, they, too, could be a fit with the struggles of Nick Swisher and Brandon Moss (.220/.296/.427).
Every day through July 31, and even deep into August to a lesser extent, there will be multiple reports regarding clubs having trade discussions with other clubs, about certain players, and there always are contract details, payrolls and many roster scenarios to consider. We won’t be the rumor round-up hub, but we’re here to fill in some of the missing pieces, offer thoughts on the process and if we happen to run into some information that is useful, we’ll share in in this column. M’s Seek Catching The club already traded for and traded away Welington Castillo this season, but properly have identified catcher as a need spot and FOXSports.com’s Jon Morosi tweeted early Wednesday that Seattle was nearing a deal to acquire a catcher. Since that tweet, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times tweeted that no deal is “close.” The quotations around the word ‘close’ suggests the club may indeed be attempting to land a catcher but that nothing is imminent. The Mariners have two glove-first catcher in Tacoma in John Hicks and Steve Baron. Neither are full-scale upgrades over Jesus Sucre, however, although offensively either probably has a better chance. Shi David of Sportsnet.ca tweets that Dioner Navarro does not appear to be on Seattle’s radar. Morosi reports via Twitter that Braves backstop A.J. Pierzynski is not close to being acquired by Seattle. Keep your eye on Pierzynski, though. Until the M’s acquire another catcher or Pierzynski is dealt elsewhere, he’s as strong a candidate to end up in Seattle. The M’s are highly unlikely to option Mike Zunino to the minors, but clearly recognize the need for more production from the position and the value a 3-day per week option brings versus Sucre, who plays only when it’s time to give Zunino a breather. The extra time keeps Zunino fresh and could allot more legitimate development as he works with the staff, including Edgar Martinez. Other potential names the M’s may have shown interest in include Colorado’s Nick Hundley and Michael McKenry, Cincinnati’s Brayan Pena, Oakland’s Josh Phegley, Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies, Cleveland’s Robert Perez and the White Sox’s Geovany Soto. Alex Avila may be another possibility if the Tigers believe in Bryan Holiday enough to form an acceptable defensive tandem with James McCann. Avila has not been healthy this year, but he’s active now. He’s also the club’s best game caller and the Tigers certainly fancy themselves contenders this year. John Jaso, Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt are three more names to think about, though the former is a well below-average defender and has caught just one game in 2015 and the latter pair are undoubtedly going to be extremely pricey to acquire. If I had to wager I’d put money on Pierzynski, Ruiz or Soto. Signs The Astros Will Trade The simple fact they’re legit contenders is enough but in case you need more evidence to suggest Jeff Luhnow is likely to make a deal or two, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes, with starting pitching a priority. Drellich notes that there isn’t much to suggest Houston has their eyes on Cole Hamels, but rentals such as Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija “remain names of interest” to the second-place Astros. Drellich also mentions Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner as a reasonable target. Interestingly, Drellich also adds that Luhnow may be more willing to move right-hander and 2013 No. 1 pick Mark Appel than other prospects such as outfielder Brett Phillips. From what I have heard on Appel, capitalizing on his recent surge would be wise. Even though it’s within the division, I wonder if Scott Kazmir, provided he’s healthy, might be a better fit for Houston among the rental starters. He shouldn’t come at the cost of Cueto or Samardzija and it adds another lefty to an otherwise four-righty rotation. Handedness simply is a bonus to break ties. Luhnow choose to strike a bit early to beat others to the punch to ensure he doesn’t get cornered later this month and either end up overpaying or being left in the cold. Paying too much now, however — because not many clubs are willing to call it a season and sell — is the challenge. As pointed out by Steve Adams here, first base may be another spot Luhnow looks to upgrade. Chris Carter has struggled, Jonathan Singleton has yet to gain any traction at the plate and the most likely in-house answer beyond those two appears to be Luis Valbuena once Jed Lowrie returns from the disabled list. Perhaps Adam Lind is an option for Houston, and if the Astros add one of the above three starters plus address first base to the level of an Adam Lind, on paper that’s the best team in the division, and probably the second-best in the American League. The Twins, too Terry Ryan is unlikely to do nothing between now and July 31 and while nobody believes they’ll make the big-money splash, they could get a lot better by making a few improvements to the late-inning bullpen options and perhaps shortstop or catcher, as Mike Berardino of the St, Paul Pioneer-Press reports. Shortstop and catcher will be difficult to address, of course, but Eduardo Nunez may get more time if he keeps hitting. The market isn’t dry, but the top names, such as Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki, are more of the impact variety that the Twins may steer clear of to avoid the heavy cost and salary. Ben Zobrist can still hang at shortstop and might be an ideal fit. Not sure the two match up, especially if the Mariners, too, see themselves as buyers, but Chris Taylor may be a nice solidifying piece for the Twins. I don’t expect the cannonball, but I do expect Ryan to make waves this month.
Every day through July 31, and even deep into August to a lesser extent, there will be multiple reports regarding clubs having trade discussions with other clubs, about certain players, and there always are contract details, payrolls and many roster scenarios to consider. We won’t be the rumor round-up hub, but we’re here to fill in some of the missing pieces, offer thoughts on the process and if we happen to run into some information that is useful, we’ll share in in this column. July 13, 2015: Papelbon, Shields, Bruce Should the Mariners be sellers? Whether or not the Seattle Mariners should be buyers or sellers this month is as hot a topic as there is regarding baseball in the city. Prospect Insider’s Luke Arkins covered the subject last week. Tuesday, MLBTradeRumors posted a poll asking which teams should be sellers. There were 11 teams on the list to vote for. The Mariners received fewer votes than eight other clubs at 5.79 percent, more than only the Indians and Rangers. In my opinion, one big reason for the low “Sell” count is the Mariners don’t have a big name to sell. They don’t have a pending free agent with a flashy name like Justin Upton or Johnny Cueto. They aren’t presently in a position where it’s clear the club is seriously considering tearing down their current roster and starting over, like what could occur in Colorado if they were to move Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Once again, the M’s are stuck in the middle, the worst place to be. The first week out of the break is enormous for Seattle, Texas, Boston, Chicago and Cleveland in the American League, and if the Diamondbacks want to hang around they’ll need to make a move in the win-loss column, too. A lot can change between now and the deadline. If any of the clubs above lose six of their first eight post break, they could go from buyers to sellers or from somewhere in between to aggressive sellers. Winning six of eight puts any of them firmly in line to purchase help and probably steps up the aggressiveness on that side. Johnny Cueto Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports tweets that Cueto is drawing the most interest from Kansas City, Toronto and Houston. All three need the right-hander, but Cueto isn’t the only option. Cueto is due about $3.5 million the rest of the season and will hit the open market over the winter. He could put the Royals over the top in the American League, though now without Alex Gordon they may need a little outfield help, too. I continue to be disappointed that Baltimore isn’t being linked here or anywhere near a legitimate frontline starting pitcher. Why? Because they have none and their division rivals do. They haven’t a soul that can match up with Chris Archer, Michael Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka, or even Clay Buchholz when he’s on his game. Chris Tillman is not and never has been a No. 1, and Ubaldo Jimenez‘s days as such are gone. If the Jays end up with Cueto or another one of the top arms available, the Orioles will have a significant disadvantage versus every club in their division. If the O’s were to add one, they might end up the second-best team in the circuit. Interestingly, the Red Sox also are looking to acquire more pitching, per the Boston Herald. Cueto and Cole Hamels could be joined by White Sox righty Jeff Samardzija on the trade market. All three are difference-making talents and Hamels is under contract for three more years after 2015. Ideas I haven’t seen a lot of chatter about this, but the Yankees need a second baseman in the worst way, Rob Refsnyder, a rookie, was called up and if he gets hot the Yankees may focus on other needs, but acquiring Ben Zobrist instantly makes the Yankees, already enjoying a 3.5 game lead, the heavy favorites for me in the American League East (acquisitions by other clubs in the division notwithstanding)… The Twins at 49-40 may not be all that aggressive on the trade market beyond a reliever and a part-time player, but with so many rentals available, including Upton, Cueto, Samardzija and Zobrist, Terry Ryan could pull the trigger and surprise some people. How about re-acquiring Carlos Gomez? The chicago Cubs are fascinating, not just because the best front office in baseball is running them but because they are full of young talent that is performing and at 47-40 and a Wild Card leader at the break are in a position to add significant pieces that help them now and beyond. Hamels shouldn’t be out of the question, nor should Gomez or a rental such as Samardzija or Scott Kazmir. I’d bet on at least two moves for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, and a summer on the north side to remember… If I am the Angels I acknowledge that despite the presence of the game’s best player Mike Trout, who is all of 24 years old, that my window of opportunity with the current group is very short. The Halos need a starting pitcher and an outfielder. Their farm system isn’t very good, but if they’re willing to take on some salary there are fits that can help them stay out front in the American League West and perhaps be in a better position than they were a year ago when they won 98 games but were without Garrett Richards in October. While Hamels, Cueto and Samardzija would be terrific additions, the Angels may not need to go that far. Kazmir is an upgrade, too, and if they have a young player or two that the Padres really like, perhaps they can pry Tyson Ross from A.J. Preller and the Padres. Jay Bruce is a fit in the Angels outfield, but a less expensive option may work better, such as Milwaukee’s Gerardo Parra, Cleveland’s Ryan Raburn or Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies. Stephen Vogt Vogt is the most interesting player this summer for me. He’s a viable catcher, under club control pre-arbitration through next season and can really hit. The A’s could use him to make a run next season and still be in position to trade him if they again falter, but his value is at an all-time high and the return may be too good to pass up. So many clubs need catchers and Vogt is such a strong bat that on days he doesn’t catch he can play first base or serve as the DH. He changes the lineup dramatically in Texas, Seattle and Boston, It’s difficult to find a team that wouldn’t benefit greatly from acquiring him. If Billy Beane makes Vogt available, he may garner the biggest return this side of Hamels, and he may surpass what Ruben Amaro gets for his lefty ace. The question is whether or not many clubs have the inventory of young talent to send out in such a deal. Beane is as creative as it comes, though. Stay tuned.
Every day through July 31, and even deep into August to a lesser extent, there will be multiple reports regarding clubs having trade discussions with other clubs, about certain players, and there always are contract details, payrolls and many roster scenarios to consider. We won’t be the rumor round-up hub, but we’re here to fill in some of the missing pieces, offer thoughts on the process and if we happen to run into some information that is useful, we’ll share in in this column. Papelbon, Other Closers ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark tweeted last week that closer Jonathan Papelbon was close to being dealt but the Phillies “pulled back.” Stark mentioned Toronto, Texas, Chicago Cubs among those in said discussions. Papelbon’s vesting option and no-trade clause certainly play a large role here. He’s due a around $4.5 million the rest of 2015 and his $13 million club option automatically vests with 55 games finished this season or a combined 100 games finished the past two. He tallied 52 a year ago and has 29 before the All-Star break. Papelbon can block trades to 17 teams, but appears more than willing to sign off on a trade, Jake Kaplan of the Philly Inquirer reports. At 34, Papelbon has yet to show significant signs of decline. He enters the break with a 2.75 FIP and 9.36 K/9 rate, though his velocity has dipped a full tick since 2013 and nearly three since 2012. The closer market rarely is flooded, but there could be some other big-name stoppers available, potentially including Craig Kimbrel and Francisco Rodriguez. Several setup types likely will be available, too, but if you’re the Rangers and want a proven ninth-inning option, the aforementioned trio likely will be their best bet. Rodriguez, 33, may be especially attractive thanks to his contract, which calls for him to earn just over $1 million the rest of 2015, $7.5 million next year with a $6 million club option for 2017. Jay Bruce, Anyone? Four years ago Bruce looked like a star, but 4 1/2 years into a six-year contract with a club option, he’s being dangled on the trade market, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. He’s just 28 but his production fell to .217/.281/.373 in 2014 after knee surgery. He’s rebounded some in 2015, getting back to .251/.341/.465 in a healthy first half. Bruce is due about $5 million the rest of this season, plus $12.5 million in 2016. His $13 million club option comes with a $1 million buyout. When healthy, Bruce is an average defender with a plus arm and he may be a legitimate 3.0 fWAR player. While his home-road splits aren’t pretty this season he’s had numerous season where he hit better away from the Great American Smallpark, as some pitchers like to call it. Bruce’s contract allows for him to block trades to eight clubs — A’s Jays, Yankees, Twins, Marlins, Red Sox and Diamondbacks — but none appear to be fits for the right fielder, anyway. Who does? How about the Royals, who lost Alex Gordon to injury? The Angels also could be a fit if they have enough trade inventory to interest Reds GM Walt Jocketty. Seattle, Texas, the Dodgers and perhaps even the Giants also could have some level of interest. Bruce isn’t pricey, there’s no long-term commitment and it appears he’s put his struggles behind him after a terrible April. Other outfield bats that may hit the market include Justin Upton, Carlos Gomez, Ben Zobrist and Josh Reddick, all of which will draw heavy interest. Every team anywhere near contention outside Pittsburgh, Yankees, Kansas City, Baltimore, Angels and Dodgers could use Gomez. Who needs him the most? Probably Seattle, San Diego and St. Louis. Gomez puts the Cards’ offense over the top and offers the M’s and Padres an answer in center and leadoff through next season. As for Bruce, I’m curious if the Angels or Giants like Bruce enough to make a run at him. Shields When the recent report that the Padres were testing the waters for James Shields hit the Web, I wasn’t surprised, only reminded that it took a long time for a team to give Shields a deal he liked over the offseason. Shields signed for $75 million over four years, but not until days before pitcher and catchers reported for spring training. Now that he’s halfway through year one and due about $3.5 million the rest of 2015 plus $65 million more guaranteed through 2018. Shields can opt out after next season and in lieu of a $2 million buyout on his 2019 option, is due $16 million that season when he will be 38. He’s pitched OK this season for the Padres, posting a 4.16 FIP and 10.11 K/9 over 19 starts. But OK isn’t worth $21 million per season — unless you’re the Red Sox, who gave Rick Porcello nearly $100 million guaranteed for the same kind of performance. Perhaps that deal is why A.J. Preller wants to see what’s out there for Shields. Clubs that may have interest include Texas, Toronto, Yankees, Dodgers and Cardinals. All of those clubs had a shot at Shields six months ago, but a few things have changed due to injury. It’s too bad the Royals don’t have the available payroll for a reunion, but I’d love to see the Tigers grab Shields and make the American League Central that much more intriguing.