- Some within the industry have told Rosenthal that Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale “could be in imminent danger” of losing his job, but D-backs sources denied the notion when asked, he continues. Rosenthal lists Bryan Price and Walt Weiss as skippers that are safe for now but may be seeking new employment come season’s end, and he notes that Robin Ventura, Brad Ausmus, John Farrell and Terry Collins could all be in the same boat if their clubs finish the season poorly.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports covers a lot of ground in his latest Inside Baseball column, beginning with a look at the Royals and the closing window of Kansas City’s core players (Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas). Hosmer is controllable through 2017, and while the Royals would love to keep him in K.C. forever, Heyman writes that Royals brass feels Hosmer and agent Scott Boras could seek $20MM+ on a 10-year deal. Those numbers may sound jarring for Hosmer, especially in light of Brandon Belt’s $79MM price tag this offseason, but a pair of GMs to whom Heyman spoke invoked contractual comparisons of Jason Heyward and Jacoby Ellsbury when looking ahead to Hosmer’s market. Hosmer will be entering his age-28 season when he hits the free-agent market, so he’ll certainly have youth on his side in addition to consistently improving performance.
More from the lengthy column…
- While the Diamondbacks have received trade interest in left-hander Patrick Corbin, GM Dave Stewart bluntly tells Heyman that he is “not moving Corbin.” Moving Corbin right now would be selling exceptionally low on a highly talented left-hander in the midst of a down season; Corbin looked like a budding star with the D-backs in 2013 and barely missed a beat in 2015 when returning from 2014 Tommy John surgery, but he’s currently sporting a 4.94 ERA on the season.
- The Orioles continue to hunt for starting pitching and have looked at Rich Hill and also checked in on Drew Pomeranz prior to his trade to the Red Sox. Baltimore, though, is pretty low on top-end prospects, which could make it difficult to submit the best offer for Hill, who’s been in high demand this summer.
- Astros right-hander Scott Feldman is available in trades, according to Heyman, and some rival executives believe that Houston would be open to moving Pat Neshek and Josh Fields despite their recent surge back into the division race. Feldman has handled a shift to the bullpen with aplomb and is currently sporting a 2.56 ERA with an improved 6.2 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 and a 47.6 percent ground-ball rate in 52 2/3 innings. He’s earning $8MM in the final season of a front-loaded three-year, $30MM contract. Neshek has a $7.8MM club option for the 2017 season ($500K buyout) and has a strong 2.54 ERA, though metrics like FIP, xFIP and SIERA all feel he’s been fortunate to post that mark this season. Fields is the opposite, with strong peripherals laying underneath an unsightly 6.89 ERA. He’s controllable through 2018.
- There “hasn’t been much buzz lately” when it comes to the potential trades of Brewers stars Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun, per Heyman, who notes that Lucroy again voiced at the All-Star festivities that he’d like to play for a contending club. Heyman adds that relievers Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress figure to draw plenty of interest, though there’s no firm indication that Milwaukee is open to dealing either of those controllable bullpen cogs.
- A club that spoke to the Rangers about trades came away with the impression that Joey Gallo isn’t very attainable. Gallo hasn’t been definitively mentioned as a trade candidate, but there’s been plenty of speculation about whether he could be included in a win-now move for the Rangers, especially in the wake of Adrian Beltre’s extension earlier this season. Heyman adds that the Rangers have investigated “basically all available starters,” which lines up with reports from recent weeks linking them to the likes of Ervin Santana, Pomeranz, Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore and others.
The Diamondbacks announced tonight that they have optioned struggling right-hander Shelby Miller to Triple-A Reno. Arizona did not announce a corresponding move at this time.
Just four months ago, this would’ve been an unthinkable outcome for Miller, who was coming off his finest season as a Major Leaguer. The 25-year-old posted a 3.02 ERA with 7.5 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 in 205 innings in his lone season with the Braves after coming to Atlanta in the December 2014 Jason Heyward swap. That performance led the D-backs to part with an king’s ransom — center fielder Ender Inciarte, 2014 first-round pick Aaron Blair and 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson — to acquire Miller in a trade this summer.
However, the 2016 has been a disaster for Miller, whose 7.14 ERA is the third-highest in all of baseball among pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched. He’s missed some time this season with a finger injury but struggled even in his return from the disabled list, posting a 7.23 ERA over his final four starts prior to the All-Star break. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets that Miller said he understands why he’s being sent down and candidly added that he was surprised it hadn’t happened sooner.
Miller’s trade was among the most talked-about swaps in recent history, as many considered the price paid by the D-backs to be exorbitant in nature. However, even the most adamant detractors of the deal have been surprised by the struggles of Miller, which have played a major role in what has been a disappointing season for the Diamondbacks overall. Arizona lost center fielder A.J. Pollock, one of the game’s top all-around players, for much (if not all) of the 2016 season before Opening Day, and it watched $206.5MM starter Zack Greinke falter out of the gates as well. The D-backs have also lost right-hander Rubby De La Rosa to the disabled list for most of the season to date, and the club’s projected No. 3 starter, Patrick Corbin, has had issues of his own. While Corbin’s woes haven’t been as pronounced as those of Miller, he’s currently toting a 4.94 ERA after pitching to a 3.47 mark between his two most recent healthy seasons (2015 and 2013).
The end result for the Diamondbacks has been a 38-52 record and a last-place standing in the NL West that few would have predicted following their flashy offseason. The D-backs have reluctantly begun to operate as sellers, having already traded Brad Ziegler to the Red Sox.
New Red Sox reliever Brad Ziegler is a throwback to former Royals submariner Dan Quisenberry, ESPN’s Keith Law writes (subscription only). Like Quisenberry, Ziegler has been an effective closer for years despite not having elite velocity or throwing overhand. He can be a good eighth-inning option for the team, or he can work multi-inning stretches. Law characterizes the Diamondbacks’ return in the deal as being good enough, given that Ziegler is 36 and will be a free agent at season’s end — second baseman Luis Alejandro Basabe runs well and has good plate discipline, and Jose Almonte’s fastball might not be good enough for him to start in the long run. Here’s more on the Red Sox.
- With negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement looming, MLB Players Association head Tony Clark recently offered his take on a few key labor-related issues, via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald. In the wake of the Red Sox being punished for circumventing rules governing international amateur prospect bonuses (resulting in several players’ deals with the team being voided), Clark describes both international and domestic baseball prospect development as “the wild, wild west.” He names domestic amateur travel baseball — which he describes as both costly and time-consuming — as one problem. As Drellich notes, amateurs and minor-leaguers are not part of the players union, but they are affected by collective bargaining. “With respect to these young players, to say we are concerned about how they were treated, is an understatement,” says Clark. “So suffice it to say from start to finish we have been and continued to be engaged on everything that’s going on.”
- The Sox did well to hang on to All-Stars Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley and Xander Bogaerts, Peter Gammons writes. The team held onto all three despite some fans’ insistence the team make a big trade for a pitcher, and they’ve been key to the team’s resurgence this season. Of course, the Red Sox still have a need for starting pitching, partially because not enough of their prospects have developed into good back-end options. This time, though, the trade market is heavy on pitchers who don’t qualify as aces, which means that there likely won’t be much question of whether the Red Sox hold onto top prospects like Andrew Benintendi.
- The Diamondbacks and closer Brad Ziegler might only be amid a separation, not a divorce, after they traded him to Boston on Saturday. While breaking the news of the trade to Ziegler, the D-backs informed the soon-to-be 37-year-old that they’d be interested in bringing him back during free agency, reports FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (on Twitter). General manager Dave Stewart expressed a desire last month to extend Ziegler’s contract, so it’s not surprising that Arizona might want to sign him in a few months. In the meantime, “With no real certainty of whether we’re going to be able to bring him back on a multi-year deal, we just decided we’d be able to get some pretty good prospects for him,” Stewart said regarding the trade (via Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic). Ziegler joined the Diamondbacks in 2011 and ultimately recorded an impressive ERA (2.49), sky-high ground-ball rate (69.3 percent), and 62 saves across 335 2/3 innings with the franchise.
The Red Sox acquired reliever Brad Ziegler from the Diamondbacks for minor leaguers Jose Almonte and Luis Alejandro Basabe, according to a team press release. Blake Swihart was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for Ziegler.
Ziegler, 36, has served as Arizona’s closer in recent years. This season, the sidearmer owns a 2.82 ERA, 6.3 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, and 63% groundball rate, with just one home run allowed in 38 1/3 innings. The veteran groundballer will slot in toward the back end of Boston’s bullpen.
Notably, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel was unavailable Friday due to knee soreness, leading to a save chance for Koji Uehara. Kimbrel’s injury popped up Friday during pregame warmups, with ESPN’s Scott Lauber reporting that MRI results are expected today. The injury will likely keep Kimbrel out of Tuesday night’s All-Star game in San Diego. Another key reliever, Junichi Tazawa, was unavailable Friday due to shoulder discomfort. Earlier this year, the Red Sox lost key acquisition Carson Smith to Tommy John surgery, so it’s no surprise president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski felt the need to act. The Ziegler deal marks Dombrowski’s third trade of the young month, after his pickups of Aaron Hill and Michael Martinez.
This is Ziegler’s ninth Major League season. He’ll be eligible for free agency at its conclusion, having signed an extension with the D’Backs in 2013. In June of this year, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports spoke to Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart, who said the team was considering extensions for relievers Ziegler and Daniel Hudson. Instead, Ziegler and the remaining $2.5MM+ on his contract were sent to Boston for a pair of prospects.
The Diamondbacks’ front office may be signaling a willingness to sell, given the team’s 38-50 record heading into the All-Star break. In an article Thursday, Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball said the team was “getting the most trade hits” on relievers Ziegler, Hudson, and Tyler Clippard. Like Ziegler, Hudson is eligible for free agency after the season. The 29-year-old Hudson has worked his way into a setup role, having overcome a pair of Tommy John surgeries. Clippard, 31, will join Hudson in trying to handle the ninth inning for Arizona following Ziegler’s departure. He’s signed through 2017.
In Almonte, the D’Backs added a Low A starting pitcher who was signed out of the Dominican Republic four years ago for $610K. Almonte’s pitching coach Walter Miranda gave his thoughts on the young pitcher to MiLB.com’s Chris Tripodi in late May. Arizona also picked up middle infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe, not to be confused with twin brother and teammate Luis Alexander Basabe. Luis Alejandro is generally regarded as the lesser prospect, but he is hitting .311/.414/.471 in 271 plate appearances this year at Low A and will participate in the South Atlantic League All-Star game.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Diamondbacks have a minor league deal in place with righty Alexi Ogando, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). Ogando had been looking for a new opportunity after he was designated and released by the Braves in late June.
The 32-year-old veteran was carrying a sub-4.00 ERA over 32 innings, but that covered over some issues. He was putting up 8.2 K/9 but also walking 6.5 batters per nine. Ogando’s velocity, swinging-strike rate, and percentage of pitches in the zone are all at typical levels. But his chase rate was sitting at a career-low 20.8%, suggesting that opposing hitters were picking up on his efforts to induce swings on pitches out of the zone.
All told, there’s reason to believe that some tweaks could get him back on track, though the recent track record hasn’t exactly been terribly inspiring. Since returning to the pen for the 2014 season, Ogando owns a 4.56 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 over 122 1/3 frames. There’s little risk for Arizona, however, as the Braves will remain obligated for his full $2MM salary — less a prorated portion of the league minimum.
Jon Heyman kicks off his latest Inside Baseball column for FanRag sports by making a few predictions on some popular trade candidates. While he forecasts Sonny Gray to be the best pitcher that is seriously discussed in trades, he ultimately believes Gray will stay put, and teammate Rich Hill will be the top arm moved at this year’s non-waiver deadline. On the bullpen side of the equation, Aroldis Chapman has a “pretty good” chance to be moved, whereas teammate Andrew Miller was given a “less than one percent chance” to be traded by one Yankees-connected official, per Heyman.
A few of the more notable items from his lengthy column…
- Brad Ziegler, Daniel Hudson and Tyler Clippard are generating the most trade interest among D-backs players, per Heyman. Arizona considers Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb and perhaps Brandon Drury to be among its untouchables in trade takes even if the club does elect to sell off some parts.
- The Marlins continue to hunt for starting pitching and have interest in Rays starters Jake Odorizzi and Matt Moore but also recognize that they don’t have much in the way of prospect capital to offer up for controllable arms of that nature. Miami could turn to Jarred Cosart if a rotation alternative is needed, though Cosart is sporting a pretty pedestrian 3.92 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 in eight starts (39 innings) since being demoted to the minors earlier this year.
- The Cardinals are considering a long-term deal for rising young right-hander Carlos Martinez, per Heyman, though there’s no indication of any serious talks between the two sides from his report. Martinez is a logical extension candidate as a 24-year-old former top prospect that has made good on that hype with a 2.97 ERA across his past 282 innings. However, he’s also on track to hit arbitration for the first time this offseason, which does eliminate some of the urgency to take a club-friendly deal from Martinez’s camp. That, of course, doesn’t mean that an agreement can’t be reached, but Martinez is already in line for a sizable payday this winter, and buying out free-agent seasons would be expensive considering the platform he’s in the midst of building.
- The Mariners could look to upgrade at closer in the coming weeks. Steve Cishek has been a nice pickup for the team (though he did blow a save tonight), but Joel Peralta didn’t pan out in Seattle and Joaquin Benoit has struggled. Heyman notes that GM Jerry Dipoto is a big fan of Angels setup man Joe Smith, which isn’t a big surprise considering Dipoto signed him to a three-year deal when he was the Halos’ GM. Smith, though, doesn’t really fit the description of the closer upgrade Heyman initially mentioned. That’s not meant to downplay Smith’s ability to help the Mariners, but I’d imagine a more powerful arm would be the type of target the club would pursue if looking to upgrade over Cishek.
- The Rays are getting quite a bit of interest in Moore, Odorizzi and Chris Archer, but there’s no sense that any of the three are available yet. Other teams do expect Tampa Bay to move at least one pitcher, though Heyman notes that it’s highly unlikely that Archer would be moved.
- The Rangers have exchanged numbers with Rougned Odor’s camp in extension talks, but the two sides aren’t believed to be close to a deal yet. Odor won’t be arbitration eligible until after the 2017 campaign, so he’s a ways off from his first significant salary. We’ve previously seen several second basemen in his service bracket — between two and three years of service once the season is up — sign extensions, so there are a fair number of comparables from which to draw. Brian Dozier signed away his arbitration year for a total of $20MM, while Matt Carpenter and Jason Kipnis each signed away their arb years and a pair of free-agent seasons for about $52MM in total, as can be seen in MLBTR’s Extension Tracker.
- The Blue Jays may try to add some left-handed pop and could be a landing spot for Jay Bruce, per Heyman. Toronto was known to be interested in Bruce back in Spring Training and even had a reported three-team trade with the Reds and Angels fall through after some medical reports on minor leaguers that were set to change hands derailed the deal. That, of course, looks quite fortuitous for the Blue Jays right now, as Michael Saunders would’ve gone to the Angels in that deal. The bullpen is also a likely area of focus for the Jays, he notes, which makes more sense than a run at Bruce, who doesn’t strike me as a great fit for their roster.
- The Diamondbacks have released righty Kyle Drabek. The former first-rounder, now 28, received a single appearance this year for Arizona. He owns a tough 6.68 ERA with 5.4 K/9 against 4.3 BB/9 in his 68 2/3 Triple-A innings thus far in 2016.