- Among the players being “evaluated” by the Indians is Twins utilityman Eduardo Nunez, per Buster Olney of ESPN.com (via Twitter). The 29-year-old has mostly played on the left side of the infield this year, but he also has experience at second and the corner outfield. Nunez has turned his career around over the last two years in Minnesota, as he owns a .293/.326/.440 batting line with 16 home runs and 34 steals over his last 590 plate appearances. Presumably, the interest in Nunez relates primarily to the ongoing struggles of third baseman Juan Uribe, who is hitting just .209/.262/.336 on the year.
- It remains unclear whether the Yankees will really entertain the idea of trading Andrew Miller now that Chapman is gone, but ESPN.com’s Buster Olney argues (Insider link) that the Indians should force the issue. Cleveland, he suggests, needs to take advantage of its opportunity. While it would be painful to give up its best pre-MLB talent, the club might hope to deal away Miller’s remaining two years of contract control over the winter, hopefully recouping a decent portion of the value it would take to get him right now.
11:04pm: It seems that the O’s are next in line behind the Jays in the current pecking order, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter), with the Friars expected to make a final decision tomorrow.
8:57pm: The Blue Jays are considered the “front-runners” to acquire outfielder Melvin Upton from the Padres, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. The 31-year-old has been a healthy scratch in each of the last two days as the team looks to secure a trade, though skipper Andy Green noted earlier today that “nothing’s done yet,” as Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune was among those to tweet.
Both the Orioles and Indians remain in pursuit of Upton, according to Rosenthal, so indeed it seems that a deal isn’t quite complete. Prior reports had suggested that Baltimore was the likeliest landing spot, though, so it would appear that there has been some recent movement in the market as San Diego tries to find the best possible return for the resurgent veteran.
Toronto has been said to be seeking another outfielder to slot into the mix. As the Jays’ depth chart shows, the team currently features two left-handed-hitting options in Michael Saunders and Ezequiel Carrera, along with righties in center fielder Kevin Pillar and right fielder Jose Bautista. The versatile Upton, who has spent plenty of time in left this year and up the middle in the past, would make a solid fit with the rest of the unit. He offers value on the field and on the bases to go with a bat that has been above-average since the start of 2015, though his ongoing strikeout proclivity remains a concern.
While Saunders is in the midst of a breakout campaign and has hit southpaws with aplomb in 2016, he does carry typical (but not drastic) platoon splits over his career. Pillar has not been as dynamic at the plate as might have been hoped this season, as he carries a .260/.290/.382 batting line. And the superstar Bautista is only just returning from a toe injury, with that malady only adding to the pre-existing reasons (advancing age and declining defensive metrics) to limit his exposure in the outfield.
It is not clear exactly how a deal might be structured between San Diego and Toronto. Upton is earning $15.45MM this year, with $16.45MM promised to him for 2016. Rumors of a potential swap with the O’s centered around an exchange of similarly-expensive contracts — righty Ubaldo Jimenez would apparently head out west in that scenario — with Baltimore giving added value in a prospect package.
There doesn’t appear to be a player on Toronto’s books that is analogous to Jimenez, though just-designated reliever Drew Storen — who’s owed $8.375MM this year — could represent an offset, and the Pads could simply hold onto whatever salary is needed to facilitate both teams’ interests. While the Jays opened the year right near their team-record payroll, they might also conceivably take on more of Upton’s salary to reduce the minor league assets needed to make a deal. That could be easier to do for the 2016 portion of the obligations, as the substantial salaries of Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and R.A. Dickey will all leave the balance sheet after the present season.
As with the Orioles, the Blue Jays have also been said to have engaged the Padres on starter Andrew Cashner. It certainly still seems plausible that he and Upton could be packaged, or that they could be moved in separate deals. Regardless of how things turn out, the righty’s own availability would seem likely to factor into these teams’ decisionmaking process regarding Upton.
- Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer get much of the attention when discussing Indians prospects, though beyond those two top names, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer lists several intriguing minor leaguers in the Tribe’s system. Any of these youngsters could be of interest to the Brewers, as Pluto cites the recent reports of the Indians’ interest in Jonathan Lucroy and/or Milwaukee’s top relievers.
- One Indians prospect not mentioned by Pluto is shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang, who ESPN’s Buster Olney reports was discussed by the Yankees when the two sides discussed Aroldis Chapman. (The Tribe looked like the possible favorites for Chapman at one point today, though now it looks like the star closer will be going to the Cubs.) Chang, who hails from Taiwan and turns 21 in August, has put up solid hitting numbers at high-A ball this season and was ranked by Baseball America as Cleveland’s 16th-best prospect prior to 2016.
SUNDAY, 6:32pm: Shortstop Gleyber Torres, one of the Cubs’ top prospects, has been scratched from the lineup for Chicago’s High-A affiliate tonight, according to Sports Illustrated’s Kenny Ducey (Twitter link). Torres was known to be of interest to the Yankees, and Heyman tweets that the Cubs have an offer of Torres and more on the table for Chapman. Torres was a consensus top-50 prospect (#28 from MLB.com, #41 from Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus) in preseason minor league rankings, and the 19-year-old is hitting .275/.359/.433 in 409 plate appearances this season.
3:52pm: Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner still hasn’t given general manager Brian Cashman the green light to sell off top veterans, including Chapman, according to Heyman. As of now, the Indians, Cubs, Nationals, Rangers and a mystery team are pushing for Chapman. (Twitter link).
12:57pm: The Indians have the best names on the table for Chapman right now and a trade could be close, a source told Bruce Levine of 670TheScore (Twitter link). The Nationals are also aggressively going after Chapman, notes Levine, and Keith Law of ESPN hears (on Twitter) that Erick Fedde, Koda Glover and another prospect will head to the Yankees if the two sides strike a deal. Fedde, a right-hander, is Baseball America’s 61st-ranked prospect.
11:03am: The Yankees are dissatisfied with the Nationals’ offers, who are behind at least three other teams (including a mystery club) in the Chapman derby, writes Heyman. Further, the remaining $5MM on Chapman’s contract could make it difficult for a team like the Indians to acquire him, as the Yankees are currently unwilling to eat any of that money.
Meanwhile, the Giants sense that the momentum is elsewhere in regards to Chapman, tweets Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News. The Yankees are giving the Giants “radio silence” and don’t like San Francisco’s farm system as much as other suitors’, adds Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
8:46am: Chapman is the Nationals’ No. 1 target, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, who adds that the Yankees are interested in Nats right-handed starter Joe Ross. The Giants are also in the Chapman sweepstakes, but neither they nor the Indians are progressing toward a deal with the Yankees. The Cubs are higher on Miller than Chapman, though it doesn’t appear the former is going anywhere.
Although Ross has been out for several weeks with inflammation in his throwing shoulder, it’s fair to say he’d be a significant pickup for the Yankees in a Chapman trade. The 23-year-old has thrown 172 innings and put up a 3.56 ERA, 7.74 K/9, 2.46 BB/9 and 46.6 percent ground-ball rate since debuting in the majors last season. Unsurprisingly, there’s “no chance” of Washington moving Ross for a rental, a source told Heyman (Twitter link).
8:38am: The Yankees have asked the Nationals, Cubs, Indians and a mystery team to submit their best and final offers for Chapman, an industry source told Ken Davidoff of the New York Post.
SATURDAY, 10:18pm: A Chapman trade isn’t necessarily imminent, but the Yankees are ready to conclude the process, tweets Rosenthal.
9:32pm: The Yankees are telling teams that they’re nearing a trade involving closer Aroldis Chapman, but they plan on keeping fellow left-handed relief ace Andrew Miller, reports FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link). There’s no word yet on where the Yankees will send Chapman in advance of the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline.
As of earlier Saturday, the Nationals were pursuing Chapman – to whom they’ve been connected for months – but they haven’t shown an eagerness to part with top prospects for the 28-year-old free agent-to-be. Fellow contenders like the Cubs, Indians and Giants, among others, have also been linked to Chapman, whom the Yankees acquired from the Reds for an underwhelming prospect package during the offseason amid his domestic violence issues.
The flame-throwing Chapman served a month-plus suspension to begin the season because of his off-field misdeeds, but he has been his usual dominant self on the mound since. Over 31 1/3 innings this year, Chapman has pitched to a 2.01 ERA while notching 12.64 strikeouts and walking 2.3 batters per nine innings, and converting 20 of 21 save chances. Chapman’s strikeout rate represents a career low, though his walks are at a personal best and he hasn’t shown any signs of losing velocity, having exceeded 105 mph on Monday. The exact speed (105.1) is the fastest pitch ever on radar, tying Chapman’s record from 2010.
For the Yankees, dealing Chapman would be an admission that they’re not all in on contending this year. The Bombers dropped a 12-inning decision to the Giants on Saturday and fell to 49-48, which puts them 7.5 games behind the AL East-leading Orioles and 4.5 out of a Wild Card spot. On the other hand, judging by their decision to keep the 31-year-old Miller – who has outperformed Chapman this season – they haven’t abandoned all near-term hope. Miller is locked up through 2018 at $9MM per annum and would surely merit a significant return (even greater than what Chapman will bring back), but the Yanks look prepared to hold him and hope he’s part of playoff teams in the Bronx over the next couple years.
Even if the Yankees part with Chapman, he, like Miller, could conceivably be part of their plans beyond this season. Chapman would have to hit free agency and New York would have to be motivated to re-sign him, of course. He seems likely to exceed his 2016 salary ($11.325MM) on a long-term deal in the offseason, and it stands to reason that the Yankees could be the club to give him that contract on the open market. For now, it appears Chapman will head to a team in better position to compete for a World Series this season.
Sunday’s minor transactions from around baseball:
- The Orioles have signed veteran left-hander Tom Gorzelanny to a minor league contract, according to David Hall of the Virginian-Pilot (Twitter link). Gorzelanny became a free agent earlier this month after rejecting an outright assignment to Triple-A from the Indians, who designated him for assignment July 4. The 34-year-old has a career 4.40 ERA, 7.3 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in parts of 12 seasons (883 2/3 innings) with six different teams. Gorzelanny tossed 39 1/3 of those frames last year in Detroit, where opposing hitters battered him to the tune of a 5.95 ERA.
- The Blue Jays have signed right-hander Scott Copeland to a minor league deal, per a club announcement. Copeland, 28, was previously in the Toronto organization from 2012-15, mostly working in the minor leagues. He got his first taste of big league action last season and allowed 11 earned runs on 24 hits in 15 1/3 innings. Copeland only walked two hitters in that span, but struck out just six. The Blue Jays then sold Copeland to the LG Twins of the Korea Baseball Organization, where he struggled through 63 1/3 innings this year in the hitter-friendly league.
- The Indians have announced the release of 26-year-old outfielder Bryson Myles, whom the Tribe selected in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. Myles never made it to the majors with the Indians, but he did climb his way to Triple-A Columbus this year. He hit a meek .234/.305/.330 in 105 plate appearances with the Clippers, however, thus leading to his departure from the organization. All told, Myles batted a solid .277/.356/.414 in 2,058 PAs with the Indians’ minor league affiliates.
- Indians closer Cody Allen would be open to a role change if the team were to acquire another ninth-inning option by the deadline, he told Jordan Bastian of MLB.com (Twitter link). Cleveland is reportedly one of the clubs in on the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman, who would likely supplant Allen as the Tribe’s go-to arm in the ninth. Allen has been among the game’s best closers in his own right since taking the helm in 2014. The hard-throwing 27-year-old has converted 19 of 21 save chances this season while posting a 2.59 ERA, 11.02 K/9, 3.89 BB/9 and 46.3 ground-ball rate over 41 2/3 innings.
SUNDAY: The list of teams interested in Cashner is close to 10, writes Heyman. That includes the previously reported Marlins, who have discussed many of their top prospects – including first baseman Josh Naylor – with the Padres, Heyman hears. The surging Astros are also in the Cashner sweepstakes.
SATURDAY, 11:51am: The Marlins are also still discussing Cashner with the Padres, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets.
10:17am: The Giants have also checked in on Cashner, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman (Twitter link), though San Francisco is more focused on adding bullpen help before the deadline. The Dodgers don’t appear to be in the mix for Cashner as they “seem to be aiming even higher” for a rotation upgrade, which Heyman speculates could be Chris Sale or one of the Rays’ starting pitchers. In another Heyman tweet, he writes that the Orioles and Blue Jays are thought to be the leaders for Upton, though the two clubs are also exploring bigger deals that could involve Upton and other Padres changing teams.
8:48am: The Orioles are chasing two high-profile names from the Padres, as they are looking at Melvin Upton and Andrew Cashner in separate trade talks, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link). Reports surfaced yesterday that the O’s and Padres were discussing a swap that would’ve sent Ubaldo Jimenez and a prospect to San Diego for Upton. That deal would be something of a fit of large contracts, whereas for Cashner, Rosenthal notes that San Diego is asking for two prospects.
Interestingly, Baltimore isn’t the only AL East team linked to these two Padres stars, as the Blue Jays have also discussed Upton and Cashner with San Diego, Rosenthal reports (Twitter links). The Padres are trying to get the division rivals into a bidding war over Upton, though it isn’t certain if Toronto would have interest in the outfielder if Cashner wasn’t part of the deal. Even the Cashner talks with Toronto may not have much momentum, as Rosenthal notes that the Jays and Padres have differing opinions on Cashner’s value.
As of yesterday, the Padres were telling other teams that they were close to finalizing an Upton trade, which at the time was perceived as a possible negotiating tactic on the Friars’ part. A rival official for a team not interested in Upton observed to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune that the Padres were “trying to get someone else to bite before they are forced to send him to the one club ready to move on him.”
Given Rosenthal’s subsequent tweets, it would seem that Toronto could be the “someone else” in that description while the O’s could be the more eager suitor for Upton’s services. Then again, Upton makes sense as an outfield upgrade on a few different contenders. For instance, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that the Indians have also talked to the Padres about Upton over the last few weeks, though nothing is close on that front.
Of the three teams mentioned, the Orioles would seem to have the clearest need for Upton given their left field void (as both Joey Rickard and Hyun Soo Kim are on the DL), plus Upton could also provide cover in center behind Adam Jones. Jimenez’s contract also helps offset the large amount of money still owed on Upton’s contract, as the outfielder is set to earn $16.45MM in 2017 and roughly $5.31MM remaining this season; Cleveland and Toronto don’t have any Jimenez-esque large salaries that could be dealt to create payroll space.
The uncertainty surrounding Michael Brantley’s status could certainly put Cleveland in the market for outfield help, though the Tribe have been getting some very solid contributions from their current outfield mix of Tyler Naquin, Jose Ramirez, Rajai Davis and Lonnie Chisenhall. The Blue Jays are pretty set in the outfield with Michael Saunders, Kevin Pillar and Jose Bautista (who could return from the DL as early as Monday), so Upton doesn’t really have a regular spot. Toronto could use Edwin Encarnacion more regularly at first to get Upton into left field and Saunders at DH, depending on matchups.
Cashner, meanwhile, has been linked to several teams in need of rotation help. The O’s don’t have a terribly deep minor league system, and while Cashner wouldn’t necessarily command top-tier prospects in return, it’s still possible Baltimore could be outbid by another suitor (such as the Rangers) who simply have more quality minor leaguers to offer. Cashner fits as a big upgrade for the Orioles’ struggling pitching staff, and he also fits in Toronto given that Aaron Sanchez may yet be moved to the bullpen to control his innings.
- Some of the same teams pursuing Bruce are in on Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi notes on Twitter. That’s not surprising — both are left-handed-hitting corner outfielders, albeit rather different ones — and it’s certainly possible to imagine the interplay between their respective markets having an impact on how trade talks progress. The Cubs, Dodgers, and Indians all have some level of interest in both players, per the report.
The Indians have agreed to a minor league deal with lefty Joe Thatcher, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). He had been released by the Dodgers after opting out of his deal with the team.
Thatcher, 34, has seen action in each of the last nine major league seasons, but has yet to receive a big league opportunity thus far in 2016. He was working at the Triple-A level for the Dodgers, posting a 3.60 ERA in 15 frames but also running up an impressive 21:5 K/BB ratio.
Cleveland will presumably consider Thatcher as a LOOGY option down the stretch. He was useful in such a role last year for the Astros, who asked Thatcher for just 22 2/3 innings in 43 appearances but received 3.18 ERA ball from him in that limited capacity.