The Indians have had some talks with the Yankees about veteran right fielder Carlos Beltran, among other players, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). Though Cleveland president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti has previously stated that financial considerations won’t be a major factor in the team’s deadline moves, Heyman suggests that may not be the case. Beltran is earning $15MM this year, with about $5.5MM left to go the rest of the way.
We’ve already heard about the Mets’ interest in Angels righty Joe Smith, but they aren’t alone in looking at the veteran reliever. The Indians, Mariners, and perhaps also the Cardinals all have some level of interest, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets. These teams, of course, have also been tied to a variety of other pen pieces — as have most organizations looking for relief help. Remember to check out MLBTR’s list of the top relief candidates to run down some possibilities.
- 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.
10:54pm: The Rangers could view a strike for Lucroy as a way to improve their pitching, given his highly-regarded work behind the plate, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. With Texas finding high asking prices on the pitching market, the report suggests, the club could make a move for a group of Milwaukee pieces that might include Lucroy, a quality reliever, and possibly even a starter.
3:41pm: There’s a mystery team involved on Lucroy, tweets Jon Heyman of Fan Rag, and it isn’t the Red Sox or the Mariners. Those two clubs would certainly have been among the plausible suitors for the veteran.
2:49pm: The Braves have inquired on Lucroy, according to Rosenthal (via Twitter). At present, though, it doesn’t appear as if the sides are likely to strike a deal. Atlanta’s interest is limited, it seems, because it would need to extend the veteran receiver in order to justify trading him.
The teams is “wary of paying twice” — first in the swap, then in a hypothetical extension — though certainly that’s the price of poker when just a fact of life for a club that would competing with teams that have a much higher present need for a top-quality backstop. It’s no sure thing, either, that Lucroy himself would agree to a new contract.
12:29pm: Yesterday, Milwaukee asked teams with interest to make offers of a certain “minimum standard,” Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). It’s not entirely clear whether the request was for best and final offers, but Rosenthal adds that discussions are still taking place.
Among several teams to put their chips on the table are the Mets, per the report. With the Brewers still evaluating their options, multiple teams remain in the hunt.
11:27am: Jonathan Lucroy is one of the most talked-about names on the trade market right now, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick adds some context to the complications in working out a deal, reporting the eight teams to which Lucroy can block a trade (Twitter link). Lucroy can block trades to the Twins, Angels, Athletics, Padres, Mariners, Nationals and, most interestingly, the Indians and Tigers. Both of the two latter teams have been connected to Lucroy in trade rumors this week, though both Crasnick and his colleague Jayson Stark were told this morning that the Tigers are no longer in the picture (links to Twitter).
Cleveland’s presence on Lucroy’s no-trade list certainly doesn’t preclude a deal from happening — Lucroy has candidly stated to the media that he wants to play for a contending team on multiple occasions in the past six months — but it does further complicate matters for the Indians. While Lucroy’s postseason aspirations could make him willing, to some extent, to waive his no-trade rights, he could also wield that clause as leverage in an attempt to coerce the Indians into an extension or, at the very least, restructuring his contract to give him a raise on next year’s wildly affordable $5.25MM salary.
The Indians are said to be discussing Lucroy and left-hander Will Smith with the Brewers, but they face competition even if the Tigers and Astros are out of the market, as has been reported recently. The Rangers, Red Sox and Mets — none of whom are on his no-trade list — have all still been linked to Lucroy, and a premium player of his value figures to draw widespread interest. (Indeed, FanRag’s Jon Heyman last night again mentioned a mystery team in the mix.) The Mets were said to offer a package centered around Travis d’Arnaud, which was quickly dismissed, but FOX’s Ken Rosenthal reported last night that the two side “re-engaged” on trade talks. ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin adds a bit more detail to that story this morning, reporting that the Brewers circled back with the Mets and proposed a counter-offer that “was not out-of-hand rejected.” The Mets, he notes, have no intention of dealing either shortstop prospect Amed Rosario or first base prospect Dominic Smith, though.
1:15pm: A straight-up swap of Giolito wouldn’t be enough to get the Yankees to budge on Miller, Heyman tweets.
12:53pm: We’ve long heard about the Nationals’ interest in Yankees ace reliever Andrew Miller, but it has never quite been clear what the team would be willing to do to make that happen. Per MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, via Twitter, “sources who have spoken with the [Nationals] believe” they’d do a one-for-one swap of Miller for top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito.
That language certainly still leaves a bit of wiggle room, and it’s not clear that a firm offer has been proposed. There’s no question, though, that the towering righty would represent a tantalizing offer for New York — if he is in fact being placed on the table.
New York is looking for a massive return for its star lefty, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reports (Twitter links). The club is said to want three times the total value it achieved in its trade of Aroldis Chapman, who netted one very good prospect in Gleyber Torres along with three other pieces with real value. While Chapman is a pure rental piece, Miller comes with two added years of club control at a reasonable (though not cheap) price tag of $9MM annually. Heyman also notes that it still seems unlikely he’ll change hands, though perhaps New York is open to being blown away by an offer.
Joining the Nats with ongoing interest in Miller are the Cardinals, Indians, Rangers, and Giants, according to Heyman. Certainly, all of those clubs could put together appealing packages, though none has a rotation prospect that quite reaches Giolito’s standing — with the Cards’ Alex Reyes being the closest thing (though, to be clear, we’ve heard no indication to this point that he could be had). Texas also has some premium assets that it could dangle, though they land mostly on the position-player side. And it’s far from clear whether those teams’ best pieces are on offer for Miller.
If Giolito is, in fact, available, it would seem to make the Nats a favorite to acquire Miller. Giolito is widely regarded as one of the game’s truly premier starting pitching prospects, and he has already reached the majors for D.C. Truth be told, he would represent a rather stunning return, even for a reliever of Miller’s undeniable excellence.
The Nats were said not to be willing to give up Giolito, or even some lesser prospects, in a deal for Chapman. But there’s obviously good reason to cough up more assets for the controllable Miller, and the team has a deep stock of appealing young arms. Plus, Washington’s need for a premium late-inning pen piece only continues to grow, with incumbent closer Jonathan Papelbon struggling more than ever.
JULY 27, 7:35pm: The Indians have spoken to the Brewers about both Lucroy and left-handed reliever Will Smith, according to Crasnick (on Twitter). A left-handed reliever has long been said to be one of Cleveland’s top priorities, so the addition of Smith to talks is natural and one that we’ve speculated upon in the past. The 27-year-old Smith was in the mix to be Milwaukee’s closer but suffered a freak knee injury in Spring Training and missed upwards of two months due to a partially torn LCL. He somewhat improbably avoided surgery and is back in the Milwaukee ’pen, with a 3.72 ERA and an 18-to-8 K/BB ratio in 19 1/3 innings. Smith took his game from solid relief arm to lights-out lefty last season when he posted a 2.70 ERA with 12.9 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9 in 63 1/3 innings and is controllable through 2019.
6:10pm: The Brewers’ trade talks surrounding catcher Jonathan Lucroy are picking up, per ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (links to Twitter). The Indians, Rangers, Mets, Astros and Red Sox have all been mentioned in connection with Lucroy, Crasnick notes, and offers being made by other clubs have become more serious recently. Crasnick adds that the the ever-popular “mystery team” may have entered the mix as well.
The Indians are among the teams that have reached out to the Rays with interest in infielder/outfielder Steve Pearce, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (via Twitter). Cleveland is reportedly also considering Eduardo Nunez of the Twins, so it seems evident that the club has interest in a solid hitter with some defensive versatility.
From an outsider perspective, third base and the corner outfield appear to be two potential areas of concern for a high-performing Indians club. Either of these players could conceivably function in those spots, though they carry rather different profiles.
Pearce, 33, is a pending free agent and is owed just $4.75MM this year. He has had trouble staying healthy, but is putting up a ridiculous .313/.386/.530 batting line over his 223 plate appearances. Interestingly, Pearce has seen action at third this year, but only on two occasions — marking only the second season in his career in which he has spent any time at all on the hot corner. He moved into the eighth spot on MLBTR’s latest listing of the top trade candidates, based on his hot bat and expiring contract.
There’s no question whether Nunez can handle third, as he plays primarily there and at shortstop. He has been a solidly above-average hitter since the beginning of 2015, though certainly doesn’t possess the kind of upside that Pearce does at the plate. Nunez is also a threat to steal — he owns a career-high 26 swipes this year — though he doesn’t generate enormous value on the bases overall per Fangraphs’ BsR rating. Additionally, he’s cheaper and can be controlled for another season via arbitration.
The Indians, it would seem, are exploring a number of targets in advance of Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline. They’ve been linked to the likes of Jay Bruce in recent weeks and earlier tonight were once again connected to Jonathan Lucroy (and lefty reliever Will Smith) of the Brewers. It shouldn’t come as a great surprise to see Cleveland linked to a wide array of bats, as the team boasts one of the best rotations in all of baseball but has seen dismal production at both catcher and third base this season. The club’s outfield unit has been surprisingly productive despite the fact that Michael Brantley, arguably Cleveland’s best overall player, has appeared in just 11 games in 2016 as he battles a troublesome shoulder injury. However, acquiring a corner outfielder would allow Cleveland to shift the versatile Jose Ramirez to third base, giving president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff plenty of flexibility when attempting to bolster the offense.
- 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.