- Justin Morneau hopes to play some first base if he plays in 2017, CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes writes. Morneau has only served as a DH since joining the White Sox, thanks to his rehab from elbow surgery and his lack of a Spring Training. With a proper spring under his belt next season, Morneau feels he can return to his old position at least a couple of times per week. It should also be noted that Morneau’s free agent value will obviously increase if he is able to play a position rather than be limited to a designated hitter role.
Over the weekend, Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reported that the Red Sox weren’t willing to include Jackie Bradley in a trade for either Chris Sale or Jose Quintana, and this morning, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports adds to that a bit. “If they didn’t get Jackie Bradley, there was no way they were doing the deal,” a person familiar with the talks told Heyman in reference to the White Sox. While there’s been plenty of speculation (and optimism from fans of other teams) that the Pale Hose could market one of their two ace-caliber lefties this winter, Heyman spoke to multiple people that indicated owner Jerry Reinsdorf still has little to no interest in parting with either Sale or Quintana, as his primary focus is putting a winner on the field right now. Sale, 28 next March, is controllable from 2017-2019 season for $38MM, while Quintana, who turns 28 in January, is owed $36.85MM from 2017-20.
The first three two and a half weeks of August yielded only a few minor trades, featuring pickups by the Mariners (Arquimedes Caminero and Pat Venditte), a swap of veteran infielders (Erick Aybar and Mike Aviles) and the Marlins adding some left-handed depth to their ’pen (Hunter Cervenka). Since that time, several names have changed hands, though, including Carlos Ruiz, A.J. Ellis, Dioner Navarro, Jeff Francoeur, Daniel Nava, Marc Rzepczynski and Erick Aybar. A trade sending veteran outfielder Coco Crisp to the Indians should be announced on Wednesday as well.
Before diving into the names, a few items bear repeating. The majority of Major League players will be placed on trade waivers this month, with most instances going unreported. There are undoubtedly players (quite a few of them, most likely) who have already cleared waivers but have not been reported to have done so. Players can be traded into September, as well, but only those traded on or before Aug. 31 will be eligible for the postseason with their new teams, so there’s some urgency for contending clubs to complete deals by month’s end. And, of course, for those who aren’t familiar with the inner-workings of waiver trades, MLBTR published a full explanation of how August trades work earlier this month. Onto the known names…
- Ryan Braun (link): Although Braun has slashed an excellent .315/.377/.551 with 24 homers and 14 steals through 454 plate appearances this season, his pricey contract enabled him to slip through waivers. Braun, 32, is owed $76MM through 2021, and any team acquiring him would likely need Milwaukee to pick up a sizable chunk of his contract, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. That doesn’t seem to bode well for the possibility of a trade this month.
- Ervin Santana (link): Santana, 33, is due $13.5MM per year through 2018, which makes him a fairly expensive investment, but he’s in the midst of another fine season. The righty has been among the few bright spots for the last-place Twins, having recorded a 3.54 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and 2.38 BB/9 in 147 1/3 innings. Given that he cleared waivers, the Twins might have to eat some of Santana’s contract if they wish to move him for a decent return. However, Minnesota reportedly needed to be “overwhelmed” to deal Santana in July, and it’s doubtful their bullish opinion of him has changed since then.
- Ryan Howard (link): It seems as if any possibility of a Howard trade has gone out the window with his time with the Phillies drawing to an increasingly pleasant end. But he does still deliver more pure power than most hitters — albeit almost exclusively against righties — with 19 long balls in less than half a season worth of plate appearances.
- Matt Wieters (link): Not only is Wieters expensive ($15.8MM salary this year), but he’s also underperforming both offensively and defensively. Thus, with fellow backstops Kurt Suzuki and Brian McCann having already cleared waivers, it’s no surprise that Wieters did, too. Regardless of his struggles, Wieters is the starting catcher for a playoff contender with no better in-house option in place, making a trade involving the impending free agent all the more unlikely.
- Scott Kazmir (link): Kazmir is owed $16MM in each of the next two seasons, but he has the ability to opt out of his deal after this year. Kazmir’s run prevention (4.41 ERA) has been a letdown in 132 2/3 innings this season, although he has recorded an outstanding K/9 (9.02) to go with a 3.32 BB/9 and a superb 15.2 percent infield fly rate. The positives weren’t enough for anyone to claim Kazmir, though, and it’s doubtful the injury-riddled Dodgers will move out a healthy starter in the middle of a playoff race.
- James Shields (link): The right-hander was previously a high-end option that every team would’ve loved to slot into its rotation. At 34, he’s now pitching like a DFA candidate. The White Sox, who acquired Shields from the Padres earlier this year, owe him $10MM per season through 2018. Thanks largely to a plummeting strikeout rate and a propensity for allowing HRs, Shields has run up a 7.62 ERA in 69 2/3 innings with Chicago. Overall, he has a 5.98 ERA in 137 frames this year. While Shields is on track for a 10th straight 30-start season, there’s no point in trading for someone who isn’t at least keeping his team in games every fifth day.
- Nick Markakis (link): The negatives seem to outweigh the positives with Markakis, who’s on a $10.5MM salary through 2018 and doesn’t bring the offensive value to the table that he used to. Since leaving Baltimore for Atlanta last year, the right fielder has hit .285/.360/.384 with a mere 12 HRs in 1,200-plus plate trips. The average and on-base percentage are clearly pluses. Fact is, though, a corner outfielder who has little power, doesn’t grade well defensively and isn’t all that cheap isn’t too appealing.
- Mitch Moreland (link): Moreland is amid his third straight 20-homer season and isn’t overly expensive ($5.7MM salary) in the last year of his contract, so it wouldn’t have been shocking had someone claimed him. Instead, the lifetime .251/.316/.481 hitter got through waivers and looks likely to remain with World Series-contending Texas for the rest of the season.
- Matt Kemp (link): Once an MVP-level player, the 31-year-old Kemp has fallen off thanks to defensive issues and a decline at the plate. As a roughly league-average hitter on a $21.5MM salary through 2019, he was fully expected to go unclaimed had the Braves placed him on waivers. They did, and that’s exactly what happened. Atlanta’s on the hook for $18MM per year of Kemp’s money for the duration of his contract. The Padres, his previous team, make up the difference. For any deal to happen, the Braves would likely have to eat a hefty portion of that cash.
- Joakim Soria (link): The 32-year-old Soria has become increasingly homer prone and displaying some concerning control issues in 2016, so it’s not surprising that no team risked claiming the remaining $19.72MM that he is owed through the completion of the 2018 season. Soria’s 92.8 mph average fastball is actually a career-high, and his strikeouts and ground-ball rate both remain sound, so perhaps he could be moved if Kansas City were to eat some of the remainder on that deal.
- Eric O’Flaherty (link): Once a powerhouse out of the Braves’ bullpen, O’Flaherty’s second stint with Atlanta hasn’t gone nearly as well. He’s never fully regained his form after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013, and his ERA in 2016 rested just shy of 7.00 when word of his clearing waivers broke. His $1.75MM salary wouldn’t be prohibitive were he pitching well, but even opposing lefties have roughed up O’Flaherty this season, and he’s been positively obliterated by right-handed opponents.
- Kurt Suzuki (link): The Twins’ catcher was reported to have cleared waivers just yesterday. Unlike a number of players that clear waivers in the month of August, Suzuki is relatively affordable, making it something of a surprise that no teams placed a claim on him. While he’s not regarded as a highly skilled defensive backstop, he’s hitting .281/.321/.431, which is quite a step up from the league-average catcher (.242/.311/.380). He doesn’t walk much, but he’s also very tough to strike out (12.9%), and he was owed just $1.54MM through season’s end when he reportedly cleared on Aug. 16.
- Brian McCann (link): It’s no surprise that McCann cleared waivers, as he’s owed a hefty $34MM beyond the 2016 campaign. McCann’s offensive production has wilted a bit in recent weeks, and while his .232/.333/.404 batting line and 15 homers are still solid marks for a catcher, it’s tough to imagine the Yankees moving him without absorbing a fair amount of the money that remains on his contract. Also standing in the way of a potential deal is the fact that teams looking for catching help beyond this year have a fair number of choices on the upcoming free agent market.
One final note: outfielder Jeff Francoeur (link) and catcher Carlos Ruiz (link) were both reported to have cleared waivers as well, but each has already been traded to a new team, with Francoeur going to the Marlins and Ruiz going to the Dodgers.
The White Sox discussed left-handed aces Chris Sale and Jose Quintana with the Red Sox prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, but Boston was unwilling to part with center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. for either, reports Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago.
It’s unclear if any other players were involved in the teams’ talks, but had the Red Sox given up Bradley for Sale or Quintana, they would have damaged one area of their roster to improve another. That’s something contending teams are especially loath to do during the season. However, the two clubs could resume negotiations in the offseason, writes Levine.
Bradley broke out offensively last summer and is now in the midst of his best full season at the major league level, having slashed .272/.349/.499 with 21 home runs in 510 plate appearances. He has also provided value on the base paths, with FanGraphs rating him as the 13th-best base runner in the league, as well as in the field. The 26-year-old ranks top five among center fielders in Defensive Runs Saved (nine), Ultimate Zone Rating (3.4) and UZR/150 (4.9). Bradley’s defensive work has earned plaudits since his major league career began in earnest two years ago, but it took some time for his output at the dish to catch up. Now, given his explosion with the bat, Bradley looks poised to land a significant raise in arbitration during the offseason as a likely Super Two player, which MLBTR’s Jeff Todd touched on earlier this week. That will be the first of four possible arbitration trips for Bradley, who has easily outperformed his $536,500 salary this season.
As is the case with Bradley, Chicago’s two 27-year-old front-line starters are bargains. Sale, who’s in his fifth straight year as an elite-level ace, is controllable from 2017-2019 for around $40MM. Like Sale, Quintana has turned in quality seasons for a half-decade, and his contract is even more appealing than his teammate’s. Quintana will make $14.35MM over the next two seasons and then up to $21MM more with a pair of $10.5MM club options that run through 2020.
While neither Sale nor Quintana is a lock to go anywhere during the winter, that could change if the White Sox decide to rebuild. Chicago is on track to miss the playoffs for an eighth straight year, and general manager Rick Hahn indicated Thursday that the franchise’s direction will become clear early in the offseason. If the White Sox choose to shop at least one of Sale or Quintana, the weak free agent market for pitchers would make the upcoming offseason an ideal time for it, as Levine notes. Any team in need of pitching – including Boston – would likely inquire on either or both, thereby enabling Chicago to spark a bidding war.
After dealing away Dioner Navarro on Friday, the White Sox may have further moves to make before the end of the month. As Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago tweets, GM Rick Hahn says that there are some other irons in the fire as contenders move to add players to their organization before the August 31 deadline to bring in postseason-eligible outsiders. “We were having dialogue with a lot of different clubs on a handful of different players,” says Hahn.
Navarro, 32, will return to Toronto, where he had played over 2014-15 before joining the South Siders this winter on a one-year, $4MM deal. He’ll presumably function as both a reserve catcher and bench bat for the Jays, who utilize Russell Martin as their starter behind the dish and also have Josh Thole on hand as a receiver.
It’s not yet clear how the playing time will shake out, but the switch-hitting Navarro could nudge the left-handed-hitting Thole out of his role as the primary backup — if not off of the roster entirely. Thole owns a meager .151/.246/.198 slash line over his 124 plate appearances on the season. But he is also the personal catcher for knuckler R.A. Dickey, and with the Jays also in need of another bat off of the bench, it’s possible to imagine both players co-existing on Toronto’s 25-man.
While Navarro has been a solid hitter at times in the past — he put up a composite 107 OPS+ over 2013-15 — this hasn’t been his finest season. He is carrying only a .210/.267/.339 batting line with six home runs in his 298 plate appearances on the year for the White Sox.
Still, Navarro brings a sturdy veteran presence to a familiar clubhouse, and won’t cost much in terms of cash to add to the mix. The remainder of his contract will only cost Toronto around $850K. Plus, with roster set to expand within the week, he won’t clog things up too badly and can add flexibility.
In Turner, the Sox will land a 25-year-old southpaw who has shown some promise at times this year. He was dominant at the High-A level, allowing just two earned runs on 19 hits over 31 2/3 innings while generating 13.4 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9. But he has stalled since moving up to Double-A for the first time, where he has been tagged for six earned in 10 1/3 frames with a less-than-stellar 10:8 K/BB ratio.
The remaining games in the 2016 season could very well determine Avisail Garcia’s future with the White Sox, writes Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago/670 The Score. The 25-year-old will be arbitration-eligible for the second time (as a Super Two player) but has once again delivered a sub-par performance at the plate, hitting just .243/.310/.380 in 332 plate appearances. Garcia disappointed in a full season last year (.257/.309/.365) but was tendered a contract due to the team’s hopes for improvement, ultimately settling on a $2.1MM salary. His lackluster play notwithstanding, Garcia will be due another raise on top of that sum. Garcia will probably never rate as a plus (or even average) defender, but a strong finish at the plate could seemingly hold a great deal of influence over Chicago’s thinking. White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson spoke to Levine about the work they’ve put in on trying to alter the contact point and launch angle in Garcia’s swing in an effort to generate more fly-balls and line drives.
The White Sox sit at five games under .500 as September nears, which is certainly not what the organization expected coming into the season. With a disappointing campaign all but assured at this point, GM Rick Hahn discussed several notable topics with the media today.
Hahn vehemently denied that there is any discord in the Chicago front office, as has been suggested, saying that the members of the organization’s upper management “are of a similar mindset as to how best to proceed.” Collen Kane of the Chicago Tribune provides the full quote on Twitter. “We’ve had a number of conversations, both [president Kenny Williams] and I, as well as Kenny, [owner Jerry Reinsdorf] and I, about the best way to approach the offseason and what we want to accomplish,” said Hahn. “And once the offseason rolls around, we will start executing that plan.”
The big question remains whether the South Siders will push to supplement their talented core, embark upon a rebuild, or perhaps take a middle course of some kind. Hahn wasn’t inclined to tip his hand, but did suggest it should be rather easy to divine the team’s direction after it begins making moves this winter, as Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com tweets. Reading between the lines a bit, that would seem at least to hint that the team will chart a generally aggressive buying or selling course.
Hahn did make clear that selling off veteran pieces has at least received serious consideration from the organization, as Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com reports (Twitter links). “There also comes a point where there is a level of frustration with the way things have played out over the last couple of years,” said Hahn. “I’m not saying [a rebuild] is the route we’re going to go, but I assure you there is absolute openness from Jerry, Kenny, myself.”
Meanwhile, the veteran executive passed along some notable injury news. Center fielder Austin Jackson is almost certainly done for the year after failing to show sufficient progress from his meniscus tear, as Hayes was among those to report. He had signed with Chicago in hopes of re-entering the free agent market this year with a better platform season, but a rough start and lengthy injury absence have only further harmed his standing.
The Sox also expect that third baseman Matt Davidson will be out the rest of the way given the seriousness of his foot fracture. He had finally earned a big league promotion right before getting hurt, but will need to wait until next year for a full chance at an audition. Infielder Brett Lawrie, meanwhile, is dealing with what is now being called a knee and calf problem; he doesn’t have a specific timeframe to return but is expected back this year.
Braves right fielder Nick Markakis, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, White Sox right-hander James Shields and Dodgers southpaw Scott Kazmir have each cleared trade waivers, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported Friday (Twitter link). The four players’ teams are now free to trade them to any other major league club.
The only member of the group who’s unsigned beyond this season is Wieters, who’s a starter on an Orioles team that entered Saturday in possession of an American League wild-card spot and only 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Blue Jays in the AL East. The soon-to-be 31-year-old is amid one of the worst offensive seasons of his career, having posted a .240/.294/.381 batting line with 10 home runs in 340 plate appearances. Wieters has been a roughly league-average hitter throughout his career, including last season (.267/.319/.422 in 282 PAs). Defensively, StatCorner has assigned Wieters negative pitch-framing marks five years running, while Baseball Prospectus hasn’t looked favorably on his work in that department since 2012.
The Orioles tendered a $15.8MM qualifying offer last November to Wieters, who accepted it and is once again scheduled for free agency at the conclusion of this season. Baltimore could give him another qualifying offer (if they’re still around should a new collective bargaining agreement be in place by then), but that doesn’t seem likely to happen. It’s also doubtful the contending Orioles will trade Wieters, who has upward of $3.7MM remaining on his contract, especially given fellow backstop Caleb Joseph’s ugly performance this year.
Like Wieters, Kazmir is also part of a team with championship aspirations. Kazmir, who signed with the Dodgers over the winter, is owed $16MM in each of the next two seasons, but he has the ability to opt out of his deal after this year. Kazmir’s run prevention (4.41 ERA) has been a letdown in 132 2/3 innings this season, although he has recorded an outstanding K/9 (9.02) to go with a 3.32 BB/9 and a superb 15.2 percent infield fly rate. And while Kazmir has regularly dealt with injuries throughout his career, he has been one of the few consistently healthy Dodgers starters this year. As a member of a first-place team that’s in no place to be moving pitching depth, a Kazmir trade probably isn’t in the cards.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports kicks off his weekly Inside Baseball column with a look at the job security of a number of managers, noting that Mets skipper Terry Collins, D-backs manager Chip Hale and White Sox manager Robin Ventura could all be on the hot seat, while Braves interim manager Brian Snitker doesn’t seem especially likely to shed the interim label and keep his post. Other names mentioned include Mike Scioscia (Angels), Brad Ausmus (Tigers), Kevin Cash (Rays), Paul Molitor (Twins), Bryan Price (Reds) and Walt Weiss (Rockies), but none from that group seems to be eminently in danger of losing his job even at season’s end, per Heyman.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn was far more in favor of a deadline sale than owner Jerry Reinsdorf, Heyman writes, but the Sox ultimately held onto nearly all of their tradeable assets, with the exception of left-hander Zach Duke, suggesting that Hahn ultimately wasn’t given the go-ahead to operate as he might’ve wished. The Sox haven’t put Chris Sale on trade waivers yet, Heyman notes, though that decision is a moot point. He’d be claimed by the first team available — the Twins, as things currently stand — and pulled back off waivers. Chicago had interest in Gary Sanchez when the Yankees were looking at Sale, he adds, though that’s not much of a surprise. Catcher has long been a weak spot in Chicago, and Sanchez is among the more highly regarded prospects in all of baseball.
- The Rangers weren’t able to swing a deal for any of the big-name starters they pursued, but that’s in part due to the asking prices they received. The Rays asked the Rangers for Jurickson Profar and other pieces in exchange for Matt Moore, while Rougned Odor’s name was suggested by the Rays in Chris Archer talks and by the White Sox in talks for Chris Sale.