The Cubs are showing some interest in Athletics right fielder Josh Reddick, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB.com. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein drafted Reddick while serving as GM of the Red Sox, and the two sides were loosely linked by Morosi earlier this season. Of course, outfield isn’t necessarily a primary need for the Cubs, who have been more tied to bullpen help of late. However, the Cubs did cross one item off their wishlist with yesterday’s pickup of Mike Montgomery, and the Chicago front office/field staff clearly place a high value on harboring a deep roster that is tailored to allowing manager Joe Maddon to play matchups. Chicago is currently deploying Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Willson Contreras in the outfield with regularity, although Dexter Fowler will soon return, which could push Contreras back behind the plate and Bryant back to the hot corner more frequently. Reddick has long handled righties better than lefties and would provide a solid defensive option in the outfield. It’s a similar skill-set to that of Jason Heyward, though Reddick’s been the more productive of the two this season, slashing .301/.380/.445 in a season that’s been shortened by a fractured thumb. Reddick initially slumped upon activation from the DL, but he’s hit well more recently.
The Cubs have long been tied to left-handed relief help, and they landed just such an asset today (although not one that many expected), announcing that the acquisition of Mike Montgomery and minor league right-hander Jordan Pries from the Mariners. In exchange, the Cubs are sending Triple-A first baseman Dan Vogelbach and Double-A right-hander Paul Blackburn to Seattle.
While Montgomery, 27, doesn’t bring the name recognition of Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller, he’s been quite good in 61 2/3 innings (30 relief appearances, two starts) for the Mariners in 2016, pitching to a 2.34 ERA with 7.9 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a stellar 58.8 percent ground-ball rate. Since shifting to the bullpen, Montgomery has seen a huge spike in his velocity, as his heater, which averaged 90.9 mph out of the rotation in 2015, is now sitting at an even 94 mph in 2016.
Long rated as a top prospect in the Royals’ farm system, Montgomery went to Tampa Bay in the Wade Davis/Wil Myers/Jake Odorizzi/James Shields blockbuster and was ultimately flipped to Seattle last year for right-hander Erasmo Ramirez. The Cubs will have control of Montgomery for another five seasons beyond the 2016 campaign, so this is far from a short-term pickup for president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer.
Of course, the same long-term caveats hold true for Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto, who will acquire a long highly touted minor league bat in the form of Vogelbach. The 23-year-old Vogelbach is a former second-round pick of the Cubs that has mashed at virtually every minor league stop he’s made. However, as a player that is strictly limited to first base or designated hitter — Vogelbach’s 6’0″, 250-pound frame wouldn’t play elsewhere — there was no hope for Vogelbach to get to the Majors with the Cubs other than as a bench bat thanks to the presence of Anthony Rizzo.
The left-handed-hitting Vogelbach is currently batting an excellent .318/.425/.548 with 16 homers and 18 doubles through 365 plate appearances with Chicago’s Triple-A affiliate. That type of production has been standard for the slugger throughout his career in the minors, as he is the owner of a career .290/.389/.486 batting line as a professional. Vogelbach just missed the cut for the Cubs’ midseason Top 10 prospect list over at Baseball America, though BA noted that his stock is rising with a strong season a Triple-A and a strong work ethic to improve his defense at first base.
Blackburn, 22, was selected by Chicago with the 56th overall pick of the 2012 draft and rose to the Double-A level for the first time this season, where he’s logged a 3.17 ERA with 6.3 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9 in 102 1/3 innings (18 starts). In addition to limiting walks effectively, Blackburn has registered an impressive 57.1 percent ground-ball rate in his time at the Double-A level this season. BA rated him 19th among Cubs farmhands this past offseason, calling him a potential back-of-the-rotation starter with some durability issues following a bout of forearm soreness late last season. BA’s report notes three average or better offerings (fastball, curve, changeup) and strong command.
As for Pries, the Cubs will be acquiring a former 30th-round pick that ranked outside of the Mariners’ Top 30 prospects per both BA and MLB.com this winter. The 26-year-old has split this season between Double-A and Triple-A, working to a 4.93 ERA with 8.9 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 in 20 games — 12 starts and eight relief appearances. Pries began the year in the ’pen but has since moved to the rotation and, excluding a disastrous nine-run meltdown in his first start of the year, he’s logged a 3.23 ERA with a 60-to-17 K/BB ratio in 64 innings dating back to May 21.
ESPN analyst Tim Kurkjian first reported, during a television broadcast, that the two clubs had a trade that was in advanced talks. Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune tweeted that a deal was in place, and Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reported (via Twitter) that Montgomery and Vogelbach were involved. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB.com tweeted that there were other players in the deal, and FOX’s Ken Rosenthal first reported Blackburn’s inclusion (links to Twitter). USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported Pries as the fourth player (on Twitter).
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Holding two game-changing trade chips puts the Yankees in an enviable position, and Tyler Kepner of the New York Times argues that the organization should exercise every bit of leverage it possesses. There’s plenty of demand for the southpaw relief duo of Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, and New York is perhaps uniquely well-suited to sit back and wait for someone to overwhelm with an offer. (After all, the club is within striking distance of contention, can utilize the qualifying offer or extend Chapman, and still controls Miller for two seasons.)
Here’s more on some major trade deadline storylines:
- We’ve seen rather clear indications that the Cubs won’t be parting with Kyle Schwarber, whether for Miller or anyone else, but that hasn’t stopped the idea from being batted around. Bob Nightengale of USA Today looks at the concept, noting that president of baseball operations Theo Epstein continues to be clear that he has no intentions of moving Schwarber — but also that he is letting teams know that the ballclub is looking for an impact addition. For those interested in all of the dimensions of the Cubs’ decisionmaking on their injured young slugger, this piece is worth a full read.
- With the Cubs looking at any number of possible means of upgrading at the deadline, GM Jed Hoyer says to “expect the unexpected,” as Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com writes. Hoyer noted that “you can’t have untouchables and you have to be willing to explore bold ideas,” but also suggested the organization will be hesitant to part with certain assets. “We really like our core and I think that’s something that we plan to build around,” he said.
- We’ve heard plenty of chatter surrounding the Rays, potentially involving just about any player on their roster. They’ve been tied, in particular, to the Rangers (see here and here). But the two clubs have “nothing brewing at the moment,” per Crasnick (via Twitter).
- One league executive tells ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link) that the Dodgers are “big-game hunting,” indicating that the organization is primarily interested in the kind of “elite-level players” that president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has cited previously. Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi says that the Dodgers and Rays have been in trade talks of late, though it’s not clear where the focus lies in those discussions. (Morosi seemingly suggests that Evan Longoria is of interest to Los Angeles, but says there’s no real chance of him changing hands this summer.)
- Though the Indians aren’t generally the type of organization to engineer major deadline swaps, that could change this year. As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports, president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti suggested that budget constraints won’t be a problem. “I don’t think economics will have an impact on which players we acquire,” he said. “I think we’ll have the flexibility that we need to acquire a player. I think our difficult decisions are going to come down to what level of talent are we willing to part with to acquire players, and whether or not there’s the right fit out there.” That’s certainly an interesting point to keep in mind as Cleveland works to bolster its roster, as the team might be inclined to take on a somewhat more expensive player than might normally be expected if it helps avoid the loss of significant prospect assets.
- Antonetti also suggested that the Indians aren’t necessarily particularly focused on their bullpen. Instead, he said, the club is open to improving everywhere but the rotation — where a stacked group is hardly in need of change. Though the relief corps still seems the biggest area of concern, the recent news on Michael Brantley could increase the need for a lineup boost, with Antonetti acknowledging that could be a factor in his approach over the next ten days.
Giants GM Bobby Evans suggested yesterday that his organization is looking hard at relievers, in an appearance on the podcast of ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (audio link). Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the organization is said to be “blanketing” the market for bullpen arms, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link).
The Phillies and Brewers are among the rival teams being eyed by San Francisco scouts, per Crasnick’s report. It appears that the Giants are paying particular attention to Philly’s Jeanmar Gomez and David Hernandez, as well as Milwaukee’s Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress. All of those players have featured on MLBTR’s breakdown of the top trade candidates, though only Jeffress has consistently cracked the ranking itself.
Notably, Crasnick adds that the Giants are mostly “lingering” in the market for Yankees’ relief aces Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. The expectation seems to be that other National League contenders — namely, the Cubs and Nationals — are likely to be bigger players for those two high-octane lefties.
Evans had hinted that there’s a lot of demand to contend with on the market. That was a significant factor in the team’s decision to rely on some younger arms this year, he suggested. “We didn’t realize that half of baseball would be also looking for the same relievers and that the market would be so limited,” he said of the winter’s free agent market, “but that’s where we are.”
The San Francisco GM went on to note that his organization will not just be looking to build out depth in its relief corps. “We have a pretty strong bullpen in the sense of guys that are pretty hard to replace,” he said, “so you’re really trying to replace one guy, and we’ve got to be sure it’s an upgrade. So we won’t be getting a reliever just to get a reliever.”
Evans also touched upon the idea of adding an outfielder, which has often been noted as a possible need. With Hunter Pence nearing a return, the veteran executive indicated that the position isn’t a high priority. It seems that a depth addition could be considered, but isn’t viewed as essential.
The latest 10 Degrees column from Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports is rife with trade talks as the non-waiver deadline now sits just two weeks away. Passan begins by dedicating further ink to the oft-discussed Kyle Schwarber, writing that no player in baseball is more appealing to Yankees GM Brian Cashman, but the Cubs remain steadfast in their desire to hold onto him. Passan writes that perhaps if the Yankees were willing to part with both Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, the Cubs could waver, but the commonly repeated refrain at this point seems to be that Chicago simply isn’t interested in moving Schwarber.
More highlights from Passan’s column, which is well worth a full look-through…
- The Yankees “are going to trade Chapman” within the next two weeks, Passan definitively notes on more than one occasion. While New York won’t fully tear down the roster, rental players like Chapman and Carlos Beltran figure to draw plenty of attention. Beltran’s poor defense makes him a tough sell to an NL club, but an AL club with a need at DH and some occasional outfield at-bats would significantly boost its lineup by adding Beltran to the mix.
- The Red Sox, Rangers, Orioles, Blue Jays and Dodgers are all expected to be in the bidding for Athletics ace Rich Hill, as are the Tigers, who have been calling around and asking about rotation upgrades, per Passan. The A’s, however, haven’t been willing to hold any meaningful talks about Sonny Gray, whose stock is at a low point right now in the wake of some highly uncharacteristic struggles. Passan also notes that Josh Reddick is “very unlikely” to reach an extension with Oakland at this juncture, though if the A’s were really only open to a three-year deal even as recently as July 9, I’d contend that it was never really a possibility in the first place.
- A match between the Rangers and Rays centering around controllable pitching is readily apparent, and some sources have expressed to Passan that they believe the Rangers are willing to part with prized slugger Joey Gallo in order to land a long-term rotation piece. Gallo, of course, is arguably the most powerful prospect in all of Minor League Baseball but doesn’t have a clear long-term fit on the Rangers’ roster now that Adrian Beltre has been extended. He could theoretically be shifted across the diamond to first base or transition to the outfield, though, if the Rangers do hold onto him, so it’s not as though he has nowhere to play on the club in the near future.
- Clubs that were pursuing Brad Ziegler were stunned by what the D-backs accepted in exchange for him, according to both Passan and Peter Gammons of the MLB Network (links to Twitter). Passan writes that the Indians, Blue Jays and Cubs all expressed interest in Ziegler and were all met with asking prices of Top 100-type or even Top 50-type prospects in return. Arizona, however, acquired a pair of prospects that weren’t nearly that well regarded in return. One NL GM who spoke to Gammons wondered if Dave Dombrowski’s close relationship with Tony La Russa impacted the negotiations.
- Scouts have raved about Matt Shoemaker since his return from the minors, with one telling Passan that his splitter is the best he’s seen this season. The Angels don’t want to go into a full rebuild and are loath to move controllable pitching, but Shoemaker would draw strong interest.
- The Reds don’t want to trade Anthony DeSclafani, but the dearth of quality arms on this summer’s trade market and on the upcoming free agent market gives Cincinnati a chance to cash in on what could potentially be a big chip. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd noted as much when examining the trade market for starting pitchers last week.
- The Indians, Rangers, Nationals, Orioles, Giants and Dodgers have all at least checked in on Reds outfielder Jay Bruce. Passan writes that Cleveland could be the favorite, which seems curious in light of Tyler Naquin’s recent breakout and reports that Michael Brantley is making better progress than expected. If such reports about Brantley are more of a smokescreen from the Cleveland front office than a genuine representation of the star outfielder’s progress, the interest in Bruce would make more sense. If not, it’s tough to see where Bruce would fit in with Naquin, Brantley, Rajai Davis and Jose Ramirez all representing outfield options (to say nothing of Lonnie Chisenhall, who is hitting well but not exactly replicating last season’s eye-popping defensive metrics). Cleveland has been more heavily tied to bullpen help of late, and, from my vantage point, had a greater need behind the plate than in the outfield even before the weekend injury to Yan Gomes.
- Also from King, Miller is the Cubs’ “No. 1 trade priority.” Chicago has been linked to Miller and the Yankees’ other star relievers for weeks now, as a bullpen reinforcement may be the Cubs’ only real deadline need. The Yankees haven’t been eager to move Miller but they’ll do so if someone meets their large asking price.
- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says the his club will be flexible in the build-up to the deadline, as Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reports. “I don’t think its productive to pigeonhole yourself into thinking you have needs in just one specific role as the key to improving this club,” Epstein said. “There are so many variables. Things change. The way you look now may not be the way you look in mid-September. We are going to be open-minded to adding talented players knowing that could happen.” Epstein did discuss the idea of adding a starter, though Chicago’s rotation has been quite solid. “We are always looking to add long-term starting pitching,” he noted. “Sometimes the trading deadline can be a better forum for that than the offseason. Sometimes it is not. It is important to stay focused this time of year on this year’s club. You still want to keep one eye on opportunities that can help you down the road as well.”
- Cubs outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez is getting trade attention but the Cubs aren’t eager to part with the talented 19-year-old, CSN Chicago’s David Kaplan tweets. Jimenez signed with the Cubs during their spending spree in the 2013-14 international signing market, inking a deal with a hefty $2.8MM bonus that reflected his status as the most well-regarded prospect of that 2013-14 class. Jimenez is enjoying a breakout year at A-level ball, hitting .332/.372/.527 with 10 homers over 336 plate appearances. He also was one of the stars of today’s MLB Futures Game, going 2-for-3 with a homer and a spectacular catch in the outfield. Despite Jimenez’s promise, the Cubs’ minor league depth meant that he ranked only ninth (Baseball America) and 10th (MLB.com) in preseason rankings of the top 10 prospects in Chicago’s system. The Cubs have such depth that they could explore moving Jimenez or other top prospects in midseason trades and still have one of the game’s best farm systems.
- The Cubs have been heavily connected to bullpen trade rumors, though they could potentially receive help from within if veteran Joe Nathan is able to regain any of his old form, CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney writes. Nathan signed a minor league deal with the Cubs in May as the 41-year-old looks to return from the second Tommy John surgery of his career. Mooney and Cubs skipper Joe Maddon both provide some detail on Nathan’s promising appearances over six games for Chicago’s Double-A affiliate. Nathan struggled in 2014 and missed virtually all of 2015, of course, so you would think the Cubs would look for a more solid relief option even if Nathan does look good.
The Athletics and right fielder Josh Reddick have not restarted contract talks, thereby increasing the likelihood of a trade by the Aug. 1 deadline, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The A’s offered Reddick a three-year, $36MM contract extension during the spring, but his camp countered with $56MM over four years and might have been amenable to $50MM to $52MM, according to Slusser. As of now, Oakland is unwilling to give a four-year commitment to Reddick, who will turn 30 next February.
In the event the out-of-contention A’s do shop Reddick prior to the deadline, there should be no shortage of interest in the left-handed hitter. The Bay Area-rival Giants, Cubs, Dodgers, Blue Jays and Nationals are among the potentially playoff-bound clubs that have scouted Reddick, but the defending World Series champion Royals are following him the closest, per Slusser.
The 45-42 Royals, who are seven games behind AL Central-leading Cleveland and 3.5 out of the Wild Card, entered Saturday ranked 26th in the majors in runs scored (342) and tied for 19th in wRC+ (92). They’ve primarily relied on Paulo Orlando and Brett Eibner in right field, and both have posted above-average batting lines this year across a combined 264 plate appearances. Their track records fall well short of Reddick’s, however, so replacing them with Reddick and getting standout center fielder Lorenzo Cain back from a hamstring injury to team with left fielder Alex Gordon would give Kansas City an enviable trio of starting outfielders on paper.
Dating back to his first year in Oakland, 2012, Reddick has hit a solid .255/.320/.437 with 81 home runs in 2,300 plate appearances. Reddick has also graded out well on the base paths and (for the most part) defensively throughout his time with the A’s, though Ultimate Zone Rating has assigned him negative marks in the field going back to last season. A broken thumb suffered in May kept Reddick out of a large chunk of games earlier this year, but he returned late last month. Overall, he owns a .296/.371/.429 line with five homers and nearly as many walks (23) as strikeouts (25) in 213 trips to the plate this season.
It’s important to note that the A’s don’t necessarily have to trade Reddick, to whom they could extend a qualifying offer after the season ends. The A’s would then receive a first-round pick as compensation if he declines the QO – which should be worth in the $16MM to $17MM neighborhood – though they seem likely to land more enticing assets via trade from an outfielder-needy contender. Reddick is on an affordable $6.575MM salary this year, which could help to drive up the A’s potential asking price for him as Aug. 1 approaches.