- Chatter surrounding White Sox ace Chris Sale continues to suggest that he’s an unlikely trade candidate, but the mere possibility of a trade certainly warrants attention. The Rangers, Dodgers, and Red Sox are three clubs still working the phones to see if something can be worked out, per Heyman, who goes on to discuss some of the names being kicked around in possible deal frameworks.
Duke, 33, is pitching well in the second season of a three-year, $15MM contract signed with the White Sox prior to the 2015 campaign. He currently leads the American League with 53 relief appearances, though he’s clearly been deployed in a largely specialized role, as he’s totaled just 37 2/3 innings in those 53 contests. Duke has posted a 2.63 ERA with 10.0 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9 and a 58.8 percent ground-ball rate. While Duke has been used in left-on-left matchups with great frequency, he’s held right-handed opponents in check this season (albeit with the help of a .238 BABIP). He’ll give the Cardinals some needed bullpen depth and join Tyler Lyons and Kevin Siegrist as a third left-handed option for manager Mike Matheny.
Duke is earning $5MM this season — of which about $1.78MM remains — and is owed $5.5MM for the 2017 season as well. Cardinals fans may recall Duke from his days with the Pirates, but he reinvented himself as a reliever with the Brewers in 2014 and parlayed a brilliant season with Milwaukee into his current contract. Since that 2014 breakout, Duke has a 2.87 ERA with 10.4 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 and a 57.2 percent ground-ball rate.
Tilson, meanwhile, ranked 10th among Cardinals prospects on Baseball America’s midseason update of the organization’s top prospects and 12th on MLB.com’s version of the Cards’ top 30. BA writes that he has some of the best speed in the organization and strong contact skills but bottom-of-the-scale power. MLB.com agrees, noting that he’s selective at the plate, can bunt for hits and is capable of hitting to all fields but lacks pop. Tilson has the speed and range to play center field, and both reports indicate that he can be at least a fourth outfielder in the Majors, if not an everyday player whose game is geared toward speed, contact and defense.
9:00pm: Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com also characterizes a deal as “unlikely,” reporting that the Phillies were asking for at least two young hitters in the deal — requiring that one be ready to immediately step into the Majors. As Salisbury notes, that would likely mean players such as Nomar Mazara, Joey Gallo, Lewis Brinson and Jurickson Profar came up in talks.
JULY 30, 8:15am: Despite the action on Velasquez, a deal is still considered unlikely, a source tells ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link).
JULY 29: 9:35pm: Things may be heating up between the Phillies and Rangers, as the teams are said to be in “pretty deep” trade talks regarding Velasquez, per a report from Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. He adds that Jeremy Hellickson is also of interest to Texas, albeit as more of a secondary target.
7:56pm: The Rangers have scoured the market for starting pitching, ranging from controllable arms to rentals, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that the team has looked at Phillies righty Vince Velasquez — as MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported recently on Twitter. While a deal still seems rather unlikely for the young hurler, reports tonight suggest that Texas is dedicating some real resources into making Velasquez an option, with other rumblings suggesting that the team could have other big targets in its sights as well.
The Rangers are “all over” the talented 24-year-old, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). He says that the team has done extensive diligence, though it has done the same for a variety of other major potential investments. Texas has multiple scouts on hand to watch Velasquez pitch tonight, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki adds on Twitter, with Morosi tweeting that this suggests serious interest.
Velasquez has been enormously impressive this year, pitching to a 3.34 ERA with 10.1 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9. With just 86 days of MLB service entering the season, however, he’s got a ton of cheap control left. For the big-market Phillies, who’ll no doubt hope to ramp up their competitiveness in relatively short order, it’s impossible to imagine a deal coming together without a truly impressive array of talent coming in return.
Meanwhile, Texas has placed Jurickson Profar in left field for the first time tonight, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News notes (Twitter link). The Rays have eyes on that game, and Texas is among several organizations watching the Rays this evening with Jake Odorizzi on the hill, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.
Grant adds in another tweet that numerous other teams with pitching to sell also are scouting Texas. The Rangers’ top pitching targets remain Chris Sale of the White Sox and Chris Archer of the Rays, per MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, though that could be said of many other organizations, too. Sullivan adds that progress from injured Texas pitchers could impact the team’s deadline plans.
Of course, you’ll find those kinds of reports regarding who is sitting in the stands for many other teams. After all, it’s extremely common for a variety of scouts from multiple teams to show up at any given game, so it’s tough to read too much into those reports.
Nevertheless, Grant notes on Twitter that the Brewers have scouts on hand to see the Rangers, which he says is unusual for Milwaukee. Texas still prefers to add pitching above all else, Grant tweets, but there’s a “more detailed exploration” of Lucroy underway. Presumably, the teams could also discuss pitching.
Given the wide variety of scenarios that all of the above information could suggest, it’s obviously best to turn a critical eye towards all the scuttlebutt. But it certainly seems that the Rangers are seeking to line up a major addition, with other organizations perhaps taking that possibility seriously enough to turn their own resources toward exploring the possibilities with a club that holds some impressive trade candidates at or near the major league level.
- The Rangers have spoken with the White Sox about Jose Quintana as well as Chris Sale, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets, but there’s no more reason to believe the sides are closer on the former than there is to think they’ll line up on the latter. At this point, there’s a difference of opinion between the teams on those southpaws’ values, per Rosenthal.
- One source for a quality reliever could be the White Sox, who still have closer David Robertson under contract for two more years. There’s a “real possibility” he could be moved, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports on Twitter. The Nationals, Rangers, and division-rival Indians are among the rival organizations who have some interest. While Robertson is carrying an uncharacteristic 4.35 ERA on the year, driven in large part by a huge spike in his walk totals and a barrage of home runs, he’s still getting swings and misses on 11.9% of his pitches and working with his typical 92 to 93 mph fastball. Robertson is working in the zone as much as usual, and has tamed the control problems in the month of July. Plus, much of the damage has been limited to a few bad outings — Robertson has only allowed earned runs in eight of his forty outings on the season.
The Rangers are still pushing hardest for White Sox ace Chris Sale, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports (Twitter links). Chicago is holding out with a high asking price, per the report, demanding Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo as headliners. Presumably, the club is looking for more to go with that pair, though the full demands from the Sox remain unknown. Texas will obviously be hesitant to part with Mazara, in particular, since he’s not only an important future piece but has played a notable role on this year’s roster. On the other hand, he seems like a perfectly reasonable request; there simply aren’t very many pitchers out there that combine Sale’s track record and contract situation.
Even though the Yankees made a forward-looking move by trading Aroldis Chapman for Adam Warren and three young prospects (highlighted by high-ceiling shortstop Gleyber Torres), they’ve at least placed a call to the White Sox to inquire on Chris Sale, writes Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports in his latest Inside Baseball column. GM Brian Cashman wouldn’t comment on Sale when asked, telling Heyman only that the Yankees call on virtually every player that’s available as a matter of due diligence. Heyman writes that there’s speculation among other clubs that the Yanks could make a legitimate run at Sale, possibly including Torres in the package, but there’s no indication yet to support that talk.
The White Sox are willing to trade away righty James Shields, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com (via Twitter). Shields has split his season between the Padres and the South Siders, who acquired the 34-year-old earlier in the summer.
The swap that brought Shields to Chicago also re-allocated his salary. San Diego is still on the hook for $31MM of the sizable outlay, leaving the ChiSox responsible for around $27MM from the point of the trade (June 4th) forward. Point being: the heavy lifting of re-valuing his contract has already been accomplished. Shields does still have opt-out rights following the season, which is increasingly relevant, though that doesn’t appear to be a major factor in his potential market.
Of primary importance for teams looking to bolster their rotation is the fact that Shields has been quite effective of late. His overall numbers with Chicago aren’t pretty, but that’s heavily influenced by his first three outings in the new uniform — all of which were more or less disastrous.
Since turning in a decent start on June 23rd, Shields has taken the hill six times without allowing more than two earned runs. Though he isn’t generating many strikeouts, and hasn’t regained any of his lost velocity, the veteran has averaged a robust seven frames per outing in that span and has ably managed contact.
While it’s still difficult to imagine a particularly significant return for a pitcher who is no longer the top-of-the-rotation starter, or even the mid-rotation starter, that he once was, it’s not hard to imagine interest developing. Shields is bidding for a remarkable tenth-straight season with 200 innings, is a highly-respected veteran, and has some post-season experience, so there’s added value beyond his current, on-field ability.
It still seems like a fairly remote possibility that the White Sox will end up trading southpaw Chris Sale; indeed, rival executives who have spoken with the Chicago front office get the impression that the odds of a deal remain low, according to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. That doesn’t mean that clubs aren’t trying to see what it’d take to reach a deal, though, and ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden provides an entertaining effort at identifying what kinds of trade packages could be negotiated with some major contenders.
The Nationals were in the mix for Aroldis Chapman right up until the end of the Yankees’ negotiations with the Cubs, reports ESPN’s Jayson Stark, and general manager Mike Rizzo and his staff are still on the hunt for a relief ace that could anchor the back of the bullpen and provide an upgrade over Jonathan Papelbon. Citing rival clubs that have spoken with the Nationals, Stark reports that Andrew Miller, Wade Davis and David Robertson are all on the radar for the Nats.
The asking price on Miller and Davis is said to be otherworldly, of course, as evidenced by a recent report from Yahoo’s Jeff Passan which stated that the Royals kicked around Lucas Giolito’s name when internally discussing the notion of trading Davis. Beyond that, Stark reported yesterday that the package sent from the Cubs to the Yankees in exchange for Chapman — Gleyber Torres, Adam Warren, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford — wouldn’t have pried Davis away from Kansas City. The price on Miller, as has been the case since discussions about potentially trading him surfaced back in May, is exceptionally high. The Yankees were said to be fixated on Kyle Schwarber in talks pertaining to Miller, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports again emphasizes that the Yankees would want MLB-ready talent from the Nationals in exchange for Miller, suggesting that names like Giolito and Joe Ross could surface in talks.
According to Stark, the Nationals aren’t willing to part with Giolito, Trea Turner or Reynaldo Lopez in their quest to upgrade the bullpen, which makes the addition of either Miller or Davis seem decidedly unlikely. Robertson, on the other hand, would perhaps be another story given the facts that he’s owed roughly $29.15MM through the end of his contract and hasn’t seen his results with the White Sox match up with his otherwise pristine track record.
Robertson has managed an excellent strikeout rate both this year and last, and his 2016 ground-ball rate of 46.7 percent is the second-best of his career. However, he’s sporting a troublesome 4.46 ERA with the Sox this season and has a 3.82 mark since signing with the team. Robertson has struggled with location, leading to an increase in walks (4.7 BB/9) and home runs (1.3 HR/9, 14.3 percent homer-to-flyball ratio) in 40 1/3 innings this year. Optimists can point to the fact that 16 of the 20 runs yielded by Robertson since Opening Day have come across just four disastrous outings and he’s been otherwise excellent, but the bottom-line results haven’t been as consistent as the ChiSox would hope.
Beyond the prospects the Nationals would have to surrender, finances also have to factor into the equation. Washington reportedly struggled to attract free agents this offseason because the club had to factor deferred money into nearly all of its offers, in part due to the longstanding dispute with the Orioles over the shared MASN television network rights fees. (The Nats also convinced Papelbon to take a slightly lesser 2016 salary than his club option called for in exchange for exercising it immediately upon completion of last summer’s trade.) Robertson’s salary is the most prohibitive, but Davis is slated to earn $10MM next season via a club option, and Miller is owed $9MM in each of the next two seasons. None of the three is an insurmountable sum, but the finances involved with each reliever in question add another layer to the calculus of negotiating a trade.