Nationals Nearing Deal To Acquire Jonathan Papelbon

4:54pm: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that if the trade is completed, part of the agreement is that Papelbon will close for the Nationals, and he will be signed for the 2016 season. Presumably, that means that the Nationals will guarantee his 2016 option up front.

4:17pm: The Phillies and Nationals are “at the finish line” and “jumping through [the] final hoop” on the trade, reports Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter links). The Nationals will send a Double-A pitcher to the Phillies in exchange for Papelbon. It’s unclear if any other pieces are involved or if the Phillies are including any cash in the deal.

3:42pm: Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweets that Papelbon does still have a locker in the Phillies’ clubhouse, though he has not arrived yet.

3:05pm: The Nationals are nearing a deal to acquire closer Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports on Twitter. Earlier today, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that there was a deal in the works, but both Jim Bowden and Jayson Stark of ESPN reported that there were hurdles to be cleared before a deal was struck. It would seem, based on Svrluga’s report, that those hurdles have been addressed or are nearly cleared.

Among the roadblocks that needed to be resolved were Papelbon’s no-trade clause, his $13MM vesting option for the 2016 season and his adamant desire to remain a closer upon a trade to a new team.

The Nationals, of course, have Drew Storen pitching exceptionally well in the ninth inning this season, but if and when a deal is finalized, he seems likely to slide back to the eighth inning, returning to a setup role which he has handled with aplomb in the past. This season, Storen has saved 29 games and worked to a 1.73 ERA, averaging 10.9 strikeouts and just 2.2 walks per nine innings pitched.

A need for a late-inning reliever, then, might not appear to be a strong one for the Nationals, but the rest of the bullpen has been suspect. When subtracting Storen’s 36 1/3 dominant innings, the Nationals’ other relievers have combined to post a considerably less dominant 3.68 ERA.

Papelbon will unquestionably deepen the team’s bullpen, though he may not necessarily be an improvement over Storen in the ninth inning. However, if he does inherit the ninth, he’ll allow Nationals manager Matt Williams more flexibility when using Storen. Williams has deployed Storen, his best reliever, in the eighth inning just once this season, and he’s never used him for more than three outs. Whether or not Storen will be available in multi-inning (or at least four- and five-out situations) remains to be seen, but the Nats will now have a pair of relievers with sub-2.00 ERAs to close out the final two innings of the game.

For all the talk about Papelbon’s diminished velocity, he remains an elite reliever. He’s pitched to a 1.87 ERA dating back to Opening Day 2014, averaging 8.7 K/9 against 2.0 BB/9 in 106 innings of relief. Though he’s now averaging just over 91 mph on his heater, Papelbon has improved his control and become a significantly more ground-ball-oriented pitcher. His 51.9 percent ground-ball rate is the highest of his career and comes in a full 13 percent above his career mark of 38.9 percent. The result of his new approach on the hill has been a 1.59 ERA that would represent the second-best mark of his career and his best since 2006, were the season to end today.

Papelbon is earning $13MM in 2015, and about $4.9MM of that sum remains through season’s end. He’s already finished 34 games in 2015, leaving him 21 games shy of reaching the 55 games finished that are required for his $13MM option for the 2016 season to automatically vest — a highly attainable goal. While the option has long been considered a detriment to his trade value and may very well still be, the value of that option is hardly unreasonable in light of his recent excellence. In fact, Papelbon would almost certainly be in position to receive a much more sizable commitment on the free agent market were he to hit the open market at season’s end.


Dodgers Prioritizing Cole Hamels In Search For Pitching

The Dodgers are prioritizing Cole Hamels in their search for rotation upgrades, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Los Angeles “wants to exhaust” the option of acquiring Hamels before moving onto a “Plan B” like Yovani Gallardo. Per Sherman, the Dodgers continue to insist that they will not part with top prospects Corey Seager and Julio Urias, however.

Refusal to move either Seager or Urias will certainly work against the Dodgers, who face steep competition in the market for Hamels. The Giants are said to be making a “strong push,” and the Astros are also pushing for the Philadelphia ace. The Rangers have been discussing prospects with the Phillies recently, and the Diamondbacks have emerged as somewhat of a surprise candidate in the Hamels sweepstakes as well. The Cubs are said to merely be “on the periphery” of the Hamels market.

The Phillies have asked that teams make their best offers for Hamels by tomorrow, per ESPN’s Jayson Stark, and his previously scheduled Thursday start has been pushed back to Friday — after the trade deadline — so as not to risk an injury and to potentially make him immediately available to start for an acquiring team. Over the weekend, Stark characterized the Dodgers as one of the favorites for Hamels.


Royals GM Dayton Moore Talks Zobrist Trade

Dayton Moore pulled off a major acquisition when he landed ace Johnny Cueto from the Reds on Sunday, but he didn’t rest on his laurels after that trade.  Today, he finalized another major deal when he acquired versatile veteran Ben Zobrist from the A’s.  Earlier today, I asked the Royals GM if he was under a mandate from ownership to go for broke this summer and make major moves.

We always have a mandate to put the best team on the field,” Moore told reporters on the conference call.  “Certainly the play of our team and how our players have responded gives us more motivation to make moves, but we’ve always tried to do whatever could at the deadline to make our team better for the second half, even when we weren’t competing.”

While Cueto came to K.C. before Zobrist, the GM explained that talks with Oakland actually started before the discussions with Cincinnati. There are still a few days to go until the trade deadline but Moore doesn’t expect to make another blockbuster deal between now and Friday.  Like a responsible Christmas shopper, it appears that Moore has avoided the rush to get the top shelf prizes.  Interestingly, however, he says the timing of it all was happenstance.

You’ll have to speak with [Reds GM] Walt [Jocketty] and [A’s GM] Billy [Beane], but for me, they were just satisfied with the package that was offered,” said Moore.  “I don’t think anybody is gonna execute a deal unless they’re as satisfied as they can be.  When we enter into these types of discussions for a player we want we are very aggressive.  We have a good idea of what we want and what we want to provide as far as the package goes and what they desire…No sense in stringing things out and creating unnecessary tension.  If you know at the end of the day that you’re going to get to a certain place, you might as well get there.”

Zobrist is expected to join his new teammates “in a day or two,” and when he gets in the mix, he’ll be slotted in left field rather than second base, where he’ll be filling in for the currently injured Alex Gordon.  There’s plenty of work ahead for Zobrist, Cueto, and the Royals, but it sounds like their GM is done with the heavy lifting for the week.



Phillies Asking Clubs For Best Offers On Hamels By Tomorrow

3:46pm: MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports (via Twitter) that Hamels will not start for the Phillies Thursday, as had been scheduled. Hamels’ start has been pushed back to Friday, though that game comes after the trade deadline. This prevents a disastrous scenario in which Hamels suffers an injury and also makes him available to start immediately for his team either Friday or Saturday if he’s traded on Thursday or Friday.

11:32am: The Phillies are notifying teams with interest in lefty Cole Hamels that they would like to receive their best offers tomorrow, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports. It’s unclear what the team’s decisionmaking process or timeline would be from that point, but there is at least some possibility of a deal occurring before Hamels makes his scheduled start on Thursday.

It makes sense, of course, that Philadelphia would look to strike a deal just ahead of Friday’s deadline. He is fresh off of a no-hitter, after two rough starts before it, so there’s only downside in putting him back on the hill in a Phillies uniform. And handing off another outing won’t hurt his trade value, either.

As for the suitors, we’ve heard of late movement from the Giants as well as from the Astros and Diamondbacks. Stark lists those clubs, along with the Dodgers, Rangers, Cubs, Yankees, and Red Sox, as organizations known to have had ongoing discussions with Philadelphia.

As he notes, however, “about half of that group” is participating because the Phillies have sought “to reopen discussion” of names that were previously deemed off limits. And one source says that there’s “nothing happening” with San Francisco, per the report.


Royals Designate Joe Blanton For Assignment

The Royals announced that they’ve designated right-hander Joe Blanton for assignment in order to clear a roster spot for the newly acquired Johnny Cueto.

Blanton made a nice comeback to the Majors this season after spending the 2014 season away from the game. He’s pitched quite well overall for the Royals, working to a 3.89 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 1.5 BB/9 and a 48.4 percent ground-ball rate in 41 2/3 innings split between the rotation and the bullpen. Blanton’s 90.8 mph average fastball is the fastest of his career, though one can imagine that’s partly attributable to the fact that 11 of his 15 appearances have come in a relief role.

Nonetheless, Blanton looks much improved over the form he showed in his first and only season with the Angels. After signing a two-year, $16MM contract with Anaheim, Blanton quickly declined, posting a 6.04 ERA in 132 2/3 innings, due largely to a colossal spike in his homer-to-flyball rate. Prior to that deal, Blanton had been a solid back-end starter with the Athletics and Phillies. From 2005-12, Blanton averaged 178 innings per season with a 4.37 ERA, 6.4 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9.


Rockies Prepared To Deal CarGo, May Wait Til Offseason

2:56pm: Colorado may be more inclined to deal CarGo after the season, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter links). With his recent turnaround, the Rockies’ asking price will likely be too high for contenders to meet. The club could, then, hope that continued production and health will lead an interested trade partner to line up over the winter.

12:58pm: Gonzalez hasn’t been a “point of emphasis” for the Angels, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times tweets, though he notes that the market continues to shift. Los Angeles is looking more for “incremental” improvements in left field.

The club’s addition of Shane Victorino yesterday seemingly put one half of a platoon in place. While the left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce theoretically could make up the other side of that equation, he’s struggled badly this year and it seems that the Halos are still interested in another option.

8:36am: After agreeing to deal franchise icon Troy Tulowitzki, the Rockies plan to shop fellow star Carlos Gonzalez, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports“They expect to move him,” a rival GM tells Heyman.

[RELATED: Trade Market For Corner Outfielders]

That isn’t exactly surprising to hear after last night’s Tulo agreement, but it’s nevertheless notable to see CarGo set to hit the block. While he had not looked himself since the start of last season, Gonzalez has steadily improved all year and has been on fire of late.

It remains somewhat unclear what kind of market he’ll have, particularly given his recent injury and performance concerns. Gonzalez is earning a $16MM salary this year and $37MM in total over the next two. That’s a bargain if he’s a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat, and hardly an unworkable sum for most teams, but there’s still plenty of risk. Heyman notes that clubs such as the Mets, Angels, and Orioles all line up as theoretical fits for Gonzalez.


Phillies Expect To Trade Papelbon; Nationals “Making Progress” On Deal

2:44pm: Talks between the Nationals and Phillies are “very complicated” and the sides still have plenty to work out, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com tweets. Papelbon is still likely to be sent to D.C., but there are “hurdles” to be dealt with, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com tweets.

11:53am: A source tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that Papelbon “will be traded” at the deadline.

10:31am: The Nationals are making progress on a deal that would bring closer Jonathan Papelbon to D.C. from the rival Phillies, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. It’s unclear how far off the teams are from reaching agreement, let alone what kind of return is under contemplation.

There had been indications that Papelbon’s market was cooling, but it seems that action has kicked back into gear in recent days. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweets that he’s been left with the impression that the team is confident in getting some kind of deal done involving the controversial closer.

With Philadelphia reportedly amenable to covering some of Papelbon’s costs — which include a $13MM salary this year and a $13MM option for 2016 that will soon vest — he’s a good fit for a Nationals team that is said to be disinclined to absorb salary in the middle of the year. But Philly’s willingness to pay down some obligations also makes Papelbon palatable to other clubs. MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki noted yesterday that the Blue Jays and Cubs have also expressed keen interest in the veteran righty.


Diamondbacks Discussing Aroldis Chapman With Reds

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.


Red Sox Claim Jean Machi From Giants

The Red Sox announced that they have claimed right-handed reliever Jean Machi off waivers from the Giants. In order to clear room on the 40-man roster, right-hander Clay Buchholz has been transferred from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL, meaning he can’t be activated until at least Sept. 9 (h/t: Tim Britton of the Providence Journal, on Twitter).

The 33-year-old Machi had a somewhat surprising breakout season in San Francisco’s bullpen in 2013, and over the ’13-’14 seasons he totaled a 2.49 ERA with 7.7 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9 in 119 1/3 innings of relief. However, he’s struggled a good deal in 2015, with an ERA of 5.14 in addition to K/9 and BB/9 rates that have taken significant steps backwards. He’s also missed about three weeks due to a groin strain.

On the plus side for Machi, his velocity (92.6 mph) is still about the same as it was in previous seasons. His ground-ball rate, while down a bit, is still an above-average 49.6 percent. The Red Sox will hope that the strong 119 1/3 innings he displayed from 2013-14 are more indicative of his talent level than the 35 poor innings he’s delivered in 2015. Machi figures to be a Super Two player this winter, as he’ll finish the year with two years, 154 days of big league service if he remains on Boston’s big league roster all year. The Sox will have the ability to control him through the 2019 season if he can rediscover the successful form he showed in recent seasons.


Royals Acquire Ben Zobrist

The Royals have officially acquired Athletics utilityman Ben Zobrist, as first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Young hurlers Aaron Brooks and Sean Manaea are the two pieces heading back to the A’s, as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter) and Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (Twitter link) were first to report. Kansas City will also pick up over $2MM, which covers a large piece of Zobrist’s remaining salary, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets.

Jul 26, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics left fielder Ben Zobrist (18) crosses home plate after an rbi single by third baseman Brett Lawrie (not pictured) during the fourth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY SportsThe deal delivers the second major rental piece heading to Kansas City this summer, as the club already picked up Johnny Cueto from the Reds. After dealing a trio of young arms to get Cueto, and now agreeing to send out two more to add Zobrist, Kansas City is firmly committed to winning this year. The club surprised the baseball world with its World Series run last year, narrowly missing out on a championship, and obviously decided that the time to win was the present after a strong first half in 2015.

[RELATED: Royals GM Dayton Moore Talks Ben Zobrist Trade]

In Zobrist, the Royals have added a uniquely valuable asset who can help the team in several ways. Star outfielder Alex Gordon is still working back from a significant groin strain, creating a need in left field. And the club has received less-than-sterling results from Omar Infante at second. Presumably, Zobrist will move between those positions — as he has for much of his career — depending upon needs and matchups.

Zobrist was perhaps the most hotly pursued player in the league this year, as he looked to be a strong fit for multiple contenders and is only owed the balance of a $7.5MM salary this season. At 34 years of age and set to hit the market after the season, he’s a pure win-now rental.

Despite playing half of his game’s in Oakland’s cavernous ballpark, Zobrist has increased his power output after a down 2014 in that department. He’s also rebounded nicely after getting out of the gate slowly and dealing with injuries. All told, Zobrist owns a .268/.354/.447 slash over 271 turns at bat on the year, with six home runs. Those figures land right at his career mark of .264/.354/.430, so Kansas City will feel comfortable that they are still likely to receive typically strong work at the plate.

There are some additional concerns on the defensive side of the ledger, however. Zobrist has shuttled between the corner outfield and infield this year, as usual, but has been rated as a negative contributor in both positions by advanced metrics. But the Royals will surely feel comfortable utilizing him in either role the rest of the way, based upon his past record as a highly-regarded fielder.

Kansas City has certainly paid a considerable price to add Zobrist, after doing the same to bring in Cueto. Manaea came into the year rated the club’s third overall prospect by Baseball America, just behind the since-dealt Brandon Finnegan, and landed on many top-100 lists. He’s generally shown well since his draft position fell owing to a hip injury, leading to surgery, which allowed K.C. to grab him with an above-slot deal. Manaea earned a promotion to Double-A this season, but has struggled in two outings at that level. All said, he’s missed some time and thrown 31 2/3 total minor league frames on the year, posting a 3.69 ERA with 11.1 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9. There’s plenty of upside to dream on, but he’ll have a lot to show in Oakland.

Brooks, meanwhile, is a 25-year-old righty who has seen brief MLB action in each of the last two seasons. He’s spent most of his time in those campaigns at Triple-A, however, posting a cumulative 3.81 ERA with 6.9 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9 over 245 2/3 innings. Brooks seems like more of a depth add than the more variable, headlining Manaea.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


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Athletics “Deep” In Talks On Ben Zobrist, Could Strike Deal Soon

The Athletics appear to be engaged in “deep” discussions on utilityman Ben Zobrist, Jane Lee of MLB.com reports on Twitter. A deal could come together soon for the veteran rental piece, per the report.

Recent sales of Scott Kazmir and Tyler Clippard have placed Zobrist squarely on the block for Oakland, and we heard yesterday that he was likely the next piece to be moved. That’s not a major surprise, but one interesting development on the A’s side is the team’s decision to pursue lower-level minor leaguers in its two prior deals. GM Billy Beane cited the Astros model of stockpiling young talent in discussing his recent trades.

Zobrist has drawn interest from a wide array of teams, which is not surprising given his long track record of production, exceptional versatility, and affordable salary ($7.5MM this year). The 34-year-old will become a free agent after the year and looks like an amply reasonable qualifying offer candidate, so the return will presumably need to beat whatever value the A’s place on the draft pick they’d stand to recoup (assuming an offer would be extended and rejected).

Since an injury-filled and less-than-impressive start to the year, Zobrist has turned things on of late. All told, he’s slashing .268/.354/.447, good for a 122 OPS+ with half of his games being played in the O.co Coliseum. Though he has drawn unusually negative defensive ratings from UZR and Defensive Runs Saved, teams will probably place more stock in his history and current scouting reports.

Among the teams named as possible suitors, per recent reports, are the Royals, Nationals, Pirates, Yankees, and Cubs. The Mets had been seen as a possible trade partner, but seemingly passed on that opportunity in dealing for other infield and outfield options before nabbing Clippard yesterday.


Tigers Still Not Selling, Looking At Pitching; Mike Leake “On Radar”

12:53pm: Reds starter Mike Leake is on Detroit’s radar if they choose to buy, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports on Twitter.

12:34pm: At least one club that is selling pitching believes the Tigers to be “actively shopping,” ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweets.

12:08pm: The Tigers have informed clubs over the last day that they are still not selling and could look to add arms, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. That matches up with statements yesterday from GM Dave Dombrowski, who told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that his club is “doing everything we can to try and qualify for the playoffs.”

There has been some back and forth on Detroit’s trade status over the last week or so. While an earlier report indicated that the team would be shifting into seller status, and Dombrowski has acknowledged the possibility, more recent indications (including the most recent reports, cited above) are that the decision has yet to be made.

The Tigers have not exactly done much on the field to improve their position. Since exiting the All-Star break, the club has put up four wins against seven losses. As things stand, Detroit is 12.5 games back of the Royals in the AL Central and 4.5 games out of a Wild Card spot.

Obviously, the two major trade pieces that could be had from the Tigers are ace David Price and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The addition (or exclusion) of either or both to the market will have significant ramifications for other starting pitching and corner outfield trade targets. Closer Joakim Soria could also be an important chip who could have implications for the bullpen market.


Market Notes: Guerrero, Iwakuma, Latos, Prado, Cardinals, Ross

The Dodgers are having active discussions on utilityman Alex Guerrero, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). Though Guerrero’s contract allows him to opt into free agency after the year if he’s dealt, Rosenthal notes that he’s expressed a willingness to work out a deal with a new team if he’s traded. Guerrero’s production has fallen back after a blistering early showing, and he’s lost playing time along the way, but he does offer relative youth and has shown good power. The 28-year-old has also dealt with a seemingly minor back issue of late. Los Angeles has several other similar utility options, as well as an overflowing stock of outfield pieces, so it’s certainly plausible to imagine that he’d have more value to another team.

Let’s take a look in at some other notable market developments as we continue to see significant activity in advance of Friday’s trade deadline:

  • It’s not yet clear whether the Mariners will move pending free agent righty Hisashi Iwakuma, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Seattle has, however, received interest from several clubs. Since a mediocre and injury-plagued start to the year, Iwakuma has turned in three consecutive solid outings and could be a nice mid-rotation piece for a contender.
  • The Marlins are increasingly “confident” they’ll find a taker for starter Mat Latos, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports on Twitter. Latos has pitched well of late and has appeal as a reasonably high-upside rental piece. According to the report, the market for his services is “coming into focus.”
  • Marlins infielder/outfielder Martin Prado increasingly seems available, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter links). An executive from another club says that the Fish appear to be “open to at least contemplate” a deal, which seemingly indicates slightly more availability than we heard yesterday (when Miami was said to be interested only for a sizable offer). Sherman notes that the Yankees and Mets could join the Royals with interest in Prado as a secondary option to Ben Zobrist (who is expected to be dealt in short order).
  • The Cardinals are looking at possible bullpen additions to slot alongside the just-acquired Steve Cishek, Heyman tweets. St. Louis will hope to bring back righty Jordan Walden in the relatively near future, as he’s progressing through a rehab assignment, but the club has been active in recent years in adding pitching depth.
  • Padres righty Tyson Ross remains a hotly-pursued name on the market, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported yesterday. He’s drawn interest from teams like the Blue JaysAstros, Dodgers, and Rangers, per the report. Expectations are that Ross would require a significant return, and Heyman notes that the team would likely prefer to move other pitching assets.

Marlins Fielding Interest In Marcell Ozuna; Indians Have Inquired

The Marlins have been getting calls on outfielder Marcell Ozuna, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports (Twitter links). According to his colleague, Barry Jackson (via Twitter), the Marlins front office is gathering today to decide how to proceed with Ozuna.

One club that’s placed a call is the Indians, says Spencer, who adds that Miami has sent scouts to watch Cleveland’s starters. While it may be too soon to tell whether there’s serious interest between the two clubs, it’s certainly an intriguing possibility.

Both the Marlins and the Indians have been expected to hold onto controllable talent, but obviously there’s a possibility that similar assets could be swapped to better meet each club’s needs. Miami pulled off just such a deal last summer when it acquired Jarred Cosart.

Ozuna, 24, rebuffed Miami’s efforts over the winter to make him the third young outfielder to reach a long-term extension. He’s since been demoted to Triple-A after a .249/.301/.337 start to the season. Of course, Ozuna showed much more last year, putting up a .772 OPS with 23 home runs and contributing strong defense in center. And he’s done nothing but rake since going back to the minors.

We’ve addressed the Indians’ rotation chips several times in recent days, as reports have emerged suggesting that the team will at least listen on its various interesting pieces. A young player with Ozuna’s upside and control would obviously hold significant appeal, and he’s probably the kind of piece that would need to be involved to get something done. It remains unclear which particular pitchers would prove most enticing to the Fish, but names like Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer could all conceivably hold significant appeal.