$135K DraftKings MLB Fantasy Contest

Take a quick break from all the trade deadline action and head to DraftKings.com right now to take part in this $135K MLB daily fantasy contest! That prize pool includes a $10K payout for the winner, and the best 11,025 entries are all guaranteed to win cash. It’s just three bucks to enter, and first-time users can join the action for free!

The contest goes live tonight — Friday, July 31st at 7:05pm EST — so go make your picks right now. It’s fun to play: choose two starting pitchers and eight position players, while staying within your $50K of cap space, to make the best lineup possible.

Here’s who I’m picking for tonight’s action:

07.31.2015 DK

Don’t wait: before the next trade rumors hit, head over to DraftKings right now for a chance to win a piece of that $135K pool!


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Astros, Padres Working On Significant Deal; Nothing Close At Present

12:44am: The sides are talking, but nothing is close, a source tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter).

12:38am: The Astros and Padres are “working on ‘something big,'” Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets. It’s unclear precisely what is involved, but he notes that Tyson Ross and Craig Kimbrel have both been discussed, with San Diego potentially looking for a center field acquisition.

Ross has been discussed quite heavily as a hotly-pursued trade piece. He’s controllable for two more seasons after this one, fairly young, and relatively inexpensive. And Ross has posted rather steady, rather high-quality results for some time now. Much the same could be said of Kimbrel, who is reportedly in play.

Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets that Houston center fielder Jake Marisnick is “believed to be in play” in talks. The Astros obviously have a theoretical glut in the outfield after adding Carlos Gomez earlier tonight. Marisnick, who came over in a deadline deal last summer, could conceivably be put to better use as a trade piece with players like Gomez, George Springer, Colby Rasmus, a


Giants Acquire Mike Leake

The Giants and Reds have announced a trade that will send right-hander Mike Leake to San Francisco in exchange for 21-year-old Class-A Advanced right-hander Keury Mella and corner infielder Adam Duvall.

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Leake, 27, is in the midst of his third straight season of solid run prevention in one of baseball’s most hitter-friendly atmospheres. The free-agent-to-be currently sports a 3.56 ERA with 5.9 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 51.5 percent ground-ball rate in 136 2/3 innings. Dating back to 2013, Leake has cemented himself as a durable source of quality innings. He made 64 starts from 2013-14, totaling 406 2/3 innings in that time, and he’s made 21 starts this year, averaging 6.5 innings per appearance.

The Giants have cycled through eight different starting pitchers this season and received an ERA south of 4.00 from only two of them, creating a good deal of uncertainty in the rotation, particularly in light of injury struggles for Matt Cain, Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson. The emergence of Chris Heston has been a boon to the San Francisco pitching staff, but the club has reportedly been on the hunt for arms to shore up the staff, and Leake will certainly help.

In Leake, the Giants have picked up an asset whose limitations — specifically a below-average strikeout/swinging-strike rate in Leake’s case — are minimized by their home park and provided the team some much-needed stability in the rotation. While Leake isn’t on the same level of other rumored Giants target such as David Price and Cole Hamels, he’s an upgrade to the team and, perhaps most importantly, could factor into a potential postseason rotation for the reigning champs. Leake will also improve the Giants’ chances of keeping up with the Dodgers in the division and thereby avoiding a one-game playoff. A half-game currently separates the two clubs.

The move to San Francisco will be advantageous for Leake in multiple ways. First and foremost, Leake will move into a much better pitching environment for the final push toward his first bout with free agency, which should lead to improvements in his overall run prevention numbers. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is that the trade makes him ineligible to receive a qualifying offer. As a 27-year-old free agent, Leake would’ve been a lock to receive a QO despite his status as more of a mid-rotation arm than a front-of-the-rotation piece. Now, however, he’ll hit the open market as one of the youngest players available and without the burden of draft pick compensation, which figures to work quite nicely in his favor.

The move to the rotation for Leake means that one of Hudson, Peavy or Cain will be demoted from their spot, and Giants GM Bobby Evans tells reporters, including Andrew Baggarly, that it will be Hudson who will be departing from the starting five (Twitter link). While Hudson has a 4.80 ERA in 101 innings this season and has not pitched near the level he did in a brilliant debut campaign with the Giants in 2014, it’s nevertheless unusual to see hum heading for a bullpen. Hudson has appeared in 475 games over the course of his Major League career, and 474 of those contests have been starts. The San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea tweets that (per Evans) Hudson “ultimately wants to see this club excel, have success and win and told me he’d do whatever it takes for that to happen.”

Turning to the Reds’ side of the deal, Mella ranks first on MLB.com’s midseason list of Giants top prospects and second on Baseball America’s version of the same list. ESPN’s Keith Law tweets that he considered Mella the best arm in San Francisco’s system as well. MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo write that Mella has the best combo of stuff and pitchability of any arm in San Francisco’s system, making him a candidate to rise quickly through the minors. He’s 93-95 mph with his fastball regularly, touching 97 when needed, per their report, and has the potential for three average-or-better pitches. BA notes that a scout has likened his sinking fastball to a bowling ball, and that movement helps him limit homers. Still, some see the bullpen in Mella’s future, BA adds.

The 26-year-old Duvall doesn’t rate as highly on San Francisco prospect lists, but MLB.com still pegged him 25th. Duvall made his big league debut with the Giants in 2014 and has already blasted 26 homers at the Triple-A level in 2015, albeit in the extremely hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Callis and Mayo feel that power is Duvall’s lone tool, making him best suited for a utility role or first base duty. Given his strong Triple-A numbers and the fact that he’s already appeared in the bigs, I’d think Duvall could emerge as a bench option for Cincinnati in short order. (For those that enjoy a good anecdote, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer points out that Duvall homered in his first career game … a solo shot off of Leake.)

The rebuilding Reds have now moved two of their most desirable assets — Leake and Johnny Cueto — and netted a quartet of promising arms in addition to a potential big league bench piece. Mella and Duvall are joined by lefties Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed in an improving Reds farm system.

FOX’s Jon Morosi first reported that the two sides were in discussions. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted that Leake would go to the Reds, adding that Cincinnati would net two minor leaguers. Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area reported Mella’s inclusion (on Twitter), and Morosi reported that Duvall was in the deal, too (on Twitter).



Diamondbacks Have Made Offer To Reds For Aroldis Chapman

11:17pm: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the D-Backs’ interest in Chapman stems from the fact that they would like to acquire him and extend him beyond the 2016 season, when he’s currently slated to hit free agency. The Diamondbacks, as Rosenthal points out, signed a new TV deal worth more than $1.5 billion in February, and the extra revenue once that deal takes effect next season would be highly beneficial in their efforts to sign Chapman.

JULY 30, 8:25pm: The Diamondbacks have made an offer to the Reds for Chapman and are awaiting word on their proposal, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

JULY 28, 6:26pm: General manager Dave Stewart candidly acknowledged that he has indeed contacted the Reds regarding Chapman, according to MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert (All Twitter links). Said Stewart: “I’m going to go down that path and see where it takes us.” The GM didn’t characterize a deal as likely or unlikely, saying he didn’t know how things would play out, but he was clear that he didn’t want to do anything to hurt his team in the future, Gilbert adds.

2:32pm: The Diamondbacks have engaged in discussions with the Reds regarding ace closer Aroldis Chapman, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports on Twitter. Cincinnati has a “huge” asking price and the chats could just be “due diligence,” per the report.

Regardless of how serious the interest is between the two sides, it’s notable that Arizona is looking into a deal. We heard yesterday that the team inquired on Cole Hamels of the Phillies, another notably available trade piece who comes with future control.

Arizona has control over current closer Brad Ziegler through a 2016 club option, but it would not be the only team that would love to add Chapman regardless of the team’s present 9th-inning situation. He’s arguably established himself as the best closer in baseball, and with another year of arbitration to go he’s a valuable commodity.

Considering Arizona’s interest in both Hamels and Chapman, it seems that the club is at least entertaining the idea of putting some impact pieces in place that would give it an outside shot at contention this year while also providing future value. We’ve heard of similar approaches being weighed by other clubs, and the D’Backs certainly do appear to have some future salary capacity to make that kind of move work.

That being said, investing in a relief piece is always a risky proposition, and Chapman will certainly not come cheap. Spending big on a closer (in both prospects and dollars) has already arguably cost the D’backs once in recent memory. Addison Reed, who was a major trade acquisition of the prior front office, has been playing at Triple-A as he tries to work out his struggles.


Giants, Reds Discussing Mike Leake

The Giants and Reds are in “active discussions” regarding right-hander Mike Leake, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Earlier tonight, Joel Sherman of the New York Post said that a Leake/Giants connection was one of the most commonly heard scenarios he heard speculated upon among rival executives (Twitter link).

The 27-year-old Leake has spent his entire career pitching in one of baseball’s best hitting environments but has rattled off two and a half seasons of solid run prevention in spite of that fact. Dating back to Opening Day 2013, Leake has a 3.54 ERA with 6.2 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9. Leake’s never been one to miss many bats, but he’s posted a ground-ball rate of 50.1 percent in his career and paired that ability with solid control to overcome his hitter-friendly home park. A free agent at season’s end, Leake is earning $9.75MM this year and is owed about $3.6MM over the final two months.

One would imagine that a move to the spacious AT&T Park would do wonders for Leake, who could see a nice boost to his ERA by making a drastic shift to one of the game’s more pitcher-friendly environments. Certainly, he’d provide the Giants with a regular does of quality innings; he made 64 starts in 2013-14 and totaled 406 2/3 innings in that time. He’s yet to miss a start in 2015 and is averaging 6.5 innings per game this year — an appealing benefit to a Giants rotation that has cycled through eight starting pitchers this season, only two of whom have an ERA south of 4.00. The Giants do have internal options for the rotation should injuries arise, as both Yusmeiro Petit and Ryan Vogelsong are currently in the bullpen.

From a financial standpoint, a trade to the Giants would hold extra benefit for Leake. Not only would his numbers tick upward — he’d also be ineligible to receive a qualifying offer at the end of the year, thereby increasing his appeal to interested parties in free agency.


Latest On Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel‘s name is still coming up on the trade market, as ESPN’s Buster Olney notes (Twitter links), adding that the Yankees remain positioned to make a run at the Padres’ closer. Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted tonight that many outside executives believe that the Yankees will ultimately end up with Kimbrel (though he also points out that industry consensus expected the Yankees to land a top-tier starting pitcher not that long ago as well). Earlier today, ESPN’s Jayson Stark linked the Yankees to Kimbrel as well.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports tonight that the Yankees are still in the mix for Kimbrel and have even expressed a willingness to assume the remaining $28MM or so on Kimbrel’s contract in order to help facilitate a trade. The Astros, too, could be interested in making a “stealth try” for Kimbrel, though their involvement to this point is unknown. Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune hears that the Astros are indeed still in on Kimbrel, though tonight’s Carlos Gomez acquisition makes it even less likely that they’ll meet the Padres’ asking price (Twitter link).

The Yankees have been more prominently linked to starting pitching than relief pitching this summer, and those rumors will probably escalate in the wake of today’s injury to Michael Pineda. However, adding an elite reliever to mix in with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances would effectively shorten the game for a potentially shaky rotation (in a similar manner to the Royals’ dominant trio of Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera).

Kimbrel got off to a rough start this season, surrendering three early homers that caused his ERA to balloon to a much higher number than observers are accustomed to see in association with his name. He’s returned to his old form over the past couple of months, surrendering just three earned runs over a span of 25 2/3 innings with a 36-to-10 K/BB ratio in that time. Many reports this evening have pegged the Padres as a team that looks to be on the verge of an exceptionally active finish to the non-waiver trade season, so Kimbrel figures to be one of many Padres that will see his name bounced around the league late tonight and into tomorrow.


Rangers To Acquire Cole Hamels In Eight-Player Deal

9:44pm: There won’t be an official announcement tonight, tweets Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest.

JULY 30, 9:35pm: Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that the league has officially approved the trade, meaning an official announcement shouldn’t be too far off.

JULY 29: After months of rumors, Phillies ace Cole Hamels has reportedly been traded to the Rangers in an eight-player deal.  The Rangers acquired Hamels, reliever Jake Diekman, and $9.5MM in cash for veteran lefty Matt Harrison, pitching prospects Jake Thompson, Alec Asher, and Jerad Eickhoff, catching prospect Jorge Alfaro, and outfield prospect Nick Williams.

Jul 10, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels (35) throws to the San Francisco Giants in the first inning of their MLB baseball game at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight’s win left the Rangers four games out in the AL Wild Card, but the Hamels deal was likely completed with future seasons in mind as well.  Hamels is signed through the 2018 season and is guaranteed $82.1MM through the end of his contract, plus a 2019 club/vesting option.  Hamels finished his illustrious Phillies career with a flourish, pitching a no-hitter against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Saturday.  The Phillies had drafted Hamels out of high school in the first round in 2002, and he won 114 games for them with a 3.30 ERA, three All-Star Game appearances, and four top-eight Cy Young finishes.  The 31-year-old also sports a 3.09 ERA across 13 postseason starts and was NLCS and World Series MVP when his Phillies won it all in 2008.

Hamels will pair with Yu Darvish, who is presently recovering from Tommy John surgery, atop the Rangers’ rotation, thereby giving Texas a formidable one-two punch to compete in the AL West next year. Joining that pair will be some combination of Martin Perez, Derek Holland, Chi Chi Gonzalez and Nick Martinez.

The Giants, Red Sox, Astros, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Cubs, and Yankees had also been linked to Hamels in recent days.  According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the lefty wielded his no-trade clause to reject a deal to the Astros.  The Phillies did not need Hamels’ consent to trade him to Texas.  With the Royals adding Johnny Cueto on Sunday, teams still seeking an ace in advance of Friday’s trade deadline may turn to the Tigers’ David Price.

Thompson and Alfaro, each top 50 prospects in the game depending on who you ask, are the best pieces coming back to the rebuilding Phillies.  Originally a second-round pick by the Tigers in 2012, Detroit traded Thompson to the Rangers a year ago in the Joakim Soria deal.  Thompson, currently pitching in Double-A, was labeled a “potential No. 2 or 3 starter” by Baseball America prior to the season.  Alfaro, also last seen at Double-A, was labeled “one of the minors’ best catching prospects” recently by ESPN’s Keith Law despite a significant ankle injury suffered in June.  Williams is known for an “explosive tool set,” per BA, and he’s currently hitting .300/.357/.480 at Double-A.  The Rangers got quantity in this deal too, as MLB.com says Eickhoff could become a No. 3 starter and BA says Asher profiles as a potential No. 4 starter.

Harrison’s inclusion has a financial element, since the 29-year-old southpaw is owed more than $32MM through 2017.  The Phillies will be on the hook for all of that, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  The Phillies taking him back may have improved their prospect return, as Harrison has made only nine starts since 2013 due to injuries.  Most recently, he had spinal fusion surgery in his lower back in June of last year and returned to a big league mound this month.

Diekman, a 28-year-old southpaw, has struggled out of the Phillies’ bullpen this year with a 5.15 ERA in 36 2/3 innings.  He has posted strong strikeout rates throughout his career, but this year his walks ballooned and his batting average on balls in play jumped to .381.

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News first noted that the Rangers and Phillies were moving closer to a Hamels agreement, and MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan said the two sides were getting close.  Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Grant, and Sullivan added further details.  Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the amount of money going to the Rangers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Pitching Market Notes: Ross, Gallardo, Iwakuma, Indians, Chapman, Pirates

The Padres are “progressing” on multiple deals, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, and Tyson Ross is a key piece among their trade chips. Rosenthal adds that trading him would be considered a concession on the 2015 season, and while that’s likely, it’s certainly possible that the Padres could acquire some MLB-ready talent to make it more even for 2015 purposes than if they went with an all-prospects package. The Padres could add some pieces as well, he notes.

Meanwhile Bob Nightengale of USA Today chimes in on Ross as well, tweeting that executives from other teams are “convinced” that Ross will be dealt. Nightengale says the Cubs continue to push for Ross. (Earlier today, ESPN’s Jayson Stark heard that Ross is Chicago’s top pitching target.)

Here’s more on the trade market for pitching help — starters and relievers alike:

  • The Cubs, Blue Jays and Dodgers are the most aggressive teams pursuing Yovani Gallardo of the Rangers at this time, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Yankees and Giants also have some level of interest, he adds. Gallardo started tonight, and things went poorly; the Yankees knocked him around for five runs in six innings, and he struck out just one hitter.
  • Despite a record that is well below the .500 mark, the Mariners aren’t planning to make right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma available, tweets Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. While other teams have apparently inquired, they’ve been informed that Mariners ownership prefers to keep him. Iwakuma’s value is down after a shaky, injury-filled season, though given his reasonable $7MM salary and track record, I’d imagine he’d draw no shortage of interest if put on the block.
  • Teams are still in touch with the Indians regarding their crop of young pitching talent, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. There’s nothing close at this time, but the Indians remain willing to engage in conversations. To this point, they’ve reportedly discussed Carlos Carrasco with other clubs, and one can imagine that Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer are of interest to other teams as well. Cleveland did bolster its impressive stockpile of young pitching today — albeit with a future-oriented move — acquiring Class-A lefty and former first-round pick Rob Kaminsky from the Cardinals for Brandon Moss.
  • The D-Backs reportedly have an offer on the table to the Reds for Aroldis Chapman, but Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic spoke to a pair of executives (Twitter link) about the asking price on Chapman, with one calling it “high” and the other using the term “ridiculous.”
  • Following today’s acquisition of Joakim Soria to strengthen his bullpen, Pirates GM Neal Huntington told reporters, including Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that he doesn’t plan to acquire an additional starting pitcher prior to tomorrow’s non-waiver trade deadline (Twitter link).

Mets Trying To Land Jay Bruce

The Mets are making an effort to acquire outfielder Jay Bruce from the rebuilding Reds, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link), though he adds that they’re also still exploring other options. The report comes on the heels of word from ESPN’s Buster Olney that the Reds would be open to a Bruce-for-Zack Wheeler swap. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets that the current feeling he gets is that New York could pick up Bruce in exchange for Wheeler and another piece. Rosenthal adds to his tweet above that Wheeler would likely be in a deal for Bruce.

Adding an outfield bat — preferably one that’s controllable beyond 2015, such as Bruce — is a known priority for the Mets. Last night, they agreed to terms on a Carlos Gomez swap with the Brewers, but the deal fell through due to reported concerns over Gomez’s medicals and possibly over financial components of the deal. Gomez has since been traded to the Astros.

Bruce has an eight-team no-trade clause, but the Mets aren’t one of the clubs to which he can block a deal. The 28-year-old slugger has rebounded nicely from a down season in 2014 — which was quite possibly derailed by in-season knee surgery from which he rushed back — to post a .257/.341/.486 batting line entering play Thursday. Bruce struggled into mid-May, but since the 16th of that month (an admittedly very arbitrary endpoint on this sample), he’s batted .306/.377/.563 with 12 homers in 62 games.

Should a deal for Bruce come together, the Mets would be acquiring a bat that they can control into the 2017 season. Bruce is earning $12MM this year (of which about $4.52MM remains) plus $12.5MM in 2016. His contract has a $13.5MM team option for the 2017 season that comes with a $1MM buyout. All told, he’d cost the Mets about $30.52MM for the next two and a half seasons.

The Mets’ preference in trades is to add an outfielder that can handle center field, and Bruce doesn’t fit that mold, but the team does still have Juan Lagares as an option in center. And, as Rosenthal tweeted earlier, Curtis Granderson could slide over to center field as well, thereby pushing Lagares into a reserve role. That would cost the team some defensive value, of course, though speculatively speaking, that might be a trade-off they’re willing to make given the team’s run-scoring woes for much of the season.


Orioles, Brewers Discussing Gerardo Parra

The Orioles and Brewers are in trade discussions regarding outfielder Gerardo Parra, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt tweeted recently that Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin said his trade of Carlos Gomez wouldn’t preclude a trade of Parra, adding that the Orioles have interest. MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli tweets that the Orioles “like Parra a lot.” Lookout Landing’s Nathan Bishop, who earlier pegged the Brewers’ return for Gomez and Mike Fiers, tweets that right-hander Zach Davies could be in play.

The Orioles aren’t alone in their pursuit of Parra as the Angels and Mets have also been linked to him recently.  Parra, 28, has hit .326/.367/.517 with nine homers in 347 plate appearances this season.  His .884 OPS so far this year beats his previous watermark – a .784 OPS with the D’Backs in 2011 – by a healthy margin.  For his career, Parra owns a .279/.330/.407 batting line across seven big league seasons.

While he’s doing well at the plate, his usually solid defense has taken a step back this season.  Parra owns a -20.5 UZR/150, which casts him as a pretty bad outfielder defensively.  In 2014 Parra graded out as roughly average and in other seasons he has been strong in the field, per the advanced metrics.


Astros Acquire Carlos Gomez, Mike Fiers For Four Prospects

The Astros and Brewers are announced a blockbuster trade on Thursday that will send center fielder Carlos Gomez, right-hander Mike Fiers and an international bonus slot (valued at $287,500) to Houston in exchange for outfield prospects Brett Phillips and Domingo Santana, right-hander Adrian Houser and lefty Josh Hader. The Astros did not have to make a 40-man move to add either player, as they had an open spot, and Santana was already on the 40-man.

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Gomez, of course, was believed to be headed back to the Mets last night in a swap that would’ve sent Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores to the Brewers, but the trade fell through after names were agreed upon due to a combination of medical concerns pertaining to his hip and perhaps financial elements as well.

Adding Gomez to the outfield mix should result in a significant improvement for the Astros over the remainder of the season. Despite hamstring issues that cost him three weeks earlier in the year, Gomez’s defense remains above average, and if he’s 100 percent healthy, he has a track record as one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball.

Plus defense has long been part of Gomez’s game due to his excellent range, but Gomez over the past three-plus seasons has turned himself into a genuine offensive weapon at the plate as well. Dating back to Opening Day 2012, Gomez is a .275/.335/.474 hitter that has averaged 24 homers and 38 stolen bases per 162 games played. Wins above replacement pegs Gomez at an average of five to five-and-a-half wins per year in that time, depending on your preferred version of the metric. Houston center fielders have been sound from a defensive standpoint this season, but they’ve combined to bat just .226/.285/.370, making Gomez an upgrade on both sides of the ball.

In addition to his strong all-around game, though, Gomez made for an appealing trade candidate due to his contractual situation. He’s the rare Scott Boras client that took an extension as opposed to waiting for free agency, and while he should still secure a $100MM+ contract with ease following the 2016 season, he’s currently in the midst of a three-year, $24MM pact that has worked out beautifully for the Brewers. Gomez is earning $8MM in 2015 — of which about $3.02MM remains — and he’ll earn $9MM in 2016. Provided he remains healthy, the Astros will pay about $12MM for as many as 221 games of Gomez’s career.

And of course, Gomez isn’t the only piece the Astros are receiving in this deal. By persuading the Brewers to include Fiers in the contract, they’ve landed a rotation piece that can potentially be controlled through the 2019 season. In fact, he won’t even be eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season, meaning that Houston can control him for roughly the league minimum.

Fiers, 30, is a soft-tossing righty and a pronounced fly-ball pitcher, but he’s performed well overall despite an average of just 88.8 mph on his fastball. He’s somewhat of a late bloomer but has a 3.89 ERA in 118 innings this season and a lifetime 3.66 mark in 341 2/3 innings as a Major Leaguer. Fiers has averaged 9.2 K/9 despite his pedestrian heater, and he’s paired that ability to rack up K’s with solid control (2.8 BB/9). He should step directly into the Houston rotation behind ace Dallas Keuchel, rental acquisition Scott Kazmir and right-handers Collin McHugh and Scott Feldman. Fiers drew quite a bit of interest from the Blue Jays earlier this month, though Toronto has obviously gone a different route and made a splash of their own with the acquisition of David Price.

From the Brewers’ perspective, Phillips is the clear prize of the deal. A sixth-round pick by the Astros out of high school in 2012, the 21-year-old has risen to the Double-A level and shown no signs of being overmatched by the pitching he’s faced. Phillips is hitting .320/.377/.548 with 16 homers and 16 stolen bases this season while appearing primarily in center field. He entered the season as one of the Astros’ top prospects, but his excellent first half propelled him to rank 21st on Baseball America’s midseason Top 50, 35th on the midseason Top 50 of ESPN’s Keith Law and 39th on the midseason edition of MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects. Law calls him a “true five-tool” player with the potential to remain in center field, and MLB.com gives him above-average tools across the board, with his speed and arm rating as the top tools in his profile. He should immediately become the club’s No. 2 prospect behind shortstop Orlando Arcia.

The 22-year-old Santana, originally acquired by the Astros in the 2011 Hunter Pence trade with the Phillies, went hitless in a 17-at-bat big league debut in 2014 but has fared better in another limited sample in 2015, hitting .256/.310/.462 with a couple of homers in 42 plate appearances. A corner outfielder by trade, he could potentially step right onto the Brewers’ big league roster. He’s slashed .305/.400/.515 in 195 Triple-A games — part of the reason for his No. 7 ranking on MLB.com’s midseason Top 30 for the Astros and No. 87 on their overall Top 100. Santana has everyday upside but there are plenty that worry about his penchant for strikeouts; he’s whiffed at a 29.9 percent rate throughout his minor league career.

Hader came to Houston alongside L.J. Hoes from the Orioles in the 2013 trade that sent Bud Norris to Baltimore. He ranked eighth among Astros farmhands at the time of the swap, per BA, and 14th on MLB.com’s list. BA notes that Hader’s delivery at times draws comparisons to Chris Sale, and MLB.com writes that his velocity gets up to 96 mph but is paired with inconsistent secondary pitches. Hader has a 3.17 ERA with 69 strikeouts and 24 walks in 65 1/3 innings at Double-A as a 21-year-old this season.

Houser has a 5.10 ERA split across two levels (Class-A Advanced and Double-A) this season, and he’s worked as both a starter and a reliever. He’s averaged 8.5 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 this year, and MLB.com rated him 21st among Houston prospects prior to the trade. Their scouting report praises his mid-90s fastball and ability to generate grounders but notes that the 22-year-old’s control has plenty of room for improvement.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported (via Twitter) that Gomez and Fiers were going to Houston. The Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich reported that there would be four to five prospects in the return (Twitter link). Lookout Landing’s Nathan Bishop nailed the return (on Twitter), and Heyman added that all of the medicals had been approved.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Reds Would Be Willing To Swap Bruce For Wheeler

The Reds would be amenable to a deal with the Mets for outfielder Jay Bruce if the return was fronted by righty Zack Wheeler, Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. We heard yesterday that Cincinnati has shown previous interest in the still-recovering recent Tommy John patient (via Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com).

Of course, it’s not clear whether other pieces would need to be involved from either team’s end to make a deal happen. And the Mets’ level of interest in Bruce is not known. The team is said to have preferred a slugging outfielder capable of playing center, where Bruce has not lined up since his rookie year.

But we do know that Wheeler had been ticketed to become the key piece of a deal to add Carlos Gomez, before that deal derailed, so it does stand to reason that New York would consider including him to grab Bruce. While he lacks Gomez’s five-tool superstar upside, and isn’t a stellar on-base threat, Bruce is actually a fairly well-rounded player himself. Since suffering through a rough 2014, he’s back on pace for a 4+ WAR season with big power numbers, decent speed, and sturdy defense.


Dodgers Designate Morse, Beachy, Heisey, Tsao For Assignment

The Dodgers announced that they’ve designated four players — Mike Morse, Brandon Beachy, Chris Heisey and Chin-hui Tsao — for assignment in order to clear 40-man roster spot for Alex Wood, Mat Latos, Luis Avilan, Jim Johnson and Jose Peraza. A fifth 40-man roster spot was freed up by placing Chris Hatcher on the 60-day DL. Peraza was optioned to Triple-A, and Bronson Arroyo, also acquired in today’s 13-player trade, was placed on the 60-day DL.

It’s rare — if not unprecedented — to see this large a roster departure in one fell swoop. But most of the pieces figure to have little problem clearing waivers. Morse’s sizable contract makes that an easy expectation, though Los Angeles could look to park him in the American League while saving some cash through a trade. Beachy, too, is owed enough ($2.75MM annual salary) that he’s likely to clear, though it’s unclear what Los Angeles will look to do with him. And the 34-year-old Tsao has struggled badly in his first action in the big leagues since 2007.

Heisey, though, could draw some interest. If nothing else, a team like the Brewers or Reds — both of whom could end up parting with multiple big league outfielders — might like the idea of plugging him into their outfield mix the rest of the way (and, possibly, for 2016). He is owed a fairly reasonable $2.16MM this year and can be controlled through arbitration next season — where he likely won’t command much of a raise after seeing scant time in the majors. The 30-year-old Heisey is capable of playing center and has a lifetime .246/.300/417 slash with a solid defensive reputation, making him a reasonably useful player.


Stark, Crasnick On Mariners, Cubs, Ross, Padres, Chapman

The Mariners and Cubs have had recent trade talks, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter), though he’s yet to ascertain which specific players were involved. The conversations didn’t center around Starlin Castro, Crasnick continues. Clearly, there could be a wide range of targets at play here, though the Cubs have been connected to pitching upgrades in both the rotation and the bullpen.

Some more trade notes from a couple of ESPN’s top reporters…

  • In today’s Rumor Roundup over at ESPN, Jayson Stark writes that other teams view Tyson Ross as the Cubs‘ top trade target. Chicago likes Andrew Cashner but considers him a fallback option, should the price for Ross become too steep. Both Castro and Javier Baez have previously been of interest to the Padres, although Castro’s stock is way down. Stark also reported today that the Cubs are now “aggressively” shopping Castro.
  • From that same piece, Stark adds that other clubs believe Justin Upton, Cashner and Joaquin Benoit are the most likely players to be traded by the Padres, and one particular executive to whom Stark spoke feels it’s “likely” that Craig Kimbrel will be traded as well. In a followup tweet, Stark adds that the number of people who feel Kimbrel will end up with the Yankees is “amazing.” New York already possesses a dominant late-inning duo in the form of Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances. Adding Kimbrel to the mix would give them a trio to rival the three-headed bullpen monster (Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera) that the Royals rode to the World Series in 2014. The Astros, too, like Kimbrel, according to Stark. However, Houston wouldn’t want to take on all of the money he’s owed.
  • Stark also tweets that the Reds are still discussing Aroldis Chapman with teams, but the price remains very high. At this time, the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Giants and Astros are all in the mix for Chapman, who is earning $8.05MM in 2015 and is controlled via the arbitration process for the 2016 season.

Pirates Acquire Joakim Soria

The Pirates announced on Thursday that they have acquired Tigers closer Joakim Soria in exchange for shortstop JaCoby Jones.

Joakim Soria

The Pirates have been known to be interested in bullpen help since last week and swung a minor deal to add Joe Blanton to the mix last night, but Soria would represent a much higher-profile addition to the Pittsburgh ‘pen. A free agent at season’s end, the 31-year-old Soria is earning $7MM this season. He began the year as the Tigers’ primary setup option, but Joe Nathan blew out his arm in the early stages of the season, and Soria has seamlessly returned to a ninth-inning role with which he is quite familiar.

Soria has worked to a strong 2.85 ERA in 41 innings this season, although he’s also been uncharacteristically homer-prone, yielding what is already a career-high eight long balls on the season (1.76 HR/9). Home run rate can have quite a bit of randomness to it, so perhaps the Pirates are unconcerned (they’ve done well with other previously homer-prone arms such as A.J. Burnett and Mark Melancon). Both Soria’s walk rate (2.4 BB/9) and strikeout rate (7.9 K/9) are also down from an excellent 2014 season, but his bottom-line results remain strong.

It seems unlikely that Soria would supplant Melancon as the team’s closer, so the more likely scenario is that Soria will share setup duties with left-hander Tony Watson, who is enjoying a strong season in his own right. The Pirates have received strong production from their relief corps as a whole, although it’s been somewhat of a top-heavy unit, and a rental of Soria would deepen the group and help take some pressure off the rotation in the season’s final months.

Jones, a third-round pick from the 2013 draft, ranked as Pittsburgh’s No. 12 prospect on MLB.com’s midseason Top 30. Baseball America placed Jones 10th on their midseason Top 10 list for the Pirates.

Both Baseball America and MLB.com praise Jones’ combination of power and speed but note that he’s raw and a bit inexperienced at shortstop after playing mostly second base and center field at LSU. BA notes that he has a propensity to swing and miss, while MLB.com praises his aggressive style on the basepaths and pure athleticism.

Jones recently reached Double-A but has just three games at that level. He’s batting a combined .260/.319/.398 across two levels in the minors this season and is a .277/.336/.445 career hitter overall in his pro career.

Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review first connected the two sides (via Twitter), and MLive.com’s James Schmehl said a deal was getting close (also via Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the deal was done (Twitter link), and Biertempfel tweeted that Jones was headed to Detroit.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.