- 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.
JULY 21: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that Cleveland, above all else, is still seeking to upgrade its bullpen, downplaying the Lucroy matchup. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, meanwhile, tweets that “you can bet relievers are a part of talks” between Cleveland and Milwaukee, as the Indians are focused on upgrading their bullpen as well. Nothing is imminent between Cleveland and Milwaukee, Jon Morosi of MLB.com adds, tweeting that the Brewers are discussing Lucroy with multiple teams.
JULY 20: The Indians and Brewers are in trade talks pertaining to catcher Jonathan Lucroy, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney (via Twitter). Olney notes that it’s possible that yesterday’s setback for Michael Brantley (and, presumably, the injury to Yan Gomes) has urged Cleveland to add a hitter.
As I noted at the time of Gomes shoulder injury (which will sideline him for four to eight weeks), Cleveland has received less production from its catchers than any club in baseball this season. Cleveland backstops are hitting just .172/.219/.299, as Gomes has struggled even when healthy, and Chris Gimenez has provided little value with the bat despite receiving a good amount of praise for the work he’s done with the pitching staff (namely Trevor Bauer). Cleveland was reportedly content to deploy Gimenez and Roberto Perez behind the plate, though that seemed like a questionable claim at the time, and further injury to Brantley could certainly have contributed to the team’s desire to bolster the lineup.
Lucroy, 30, is having a tremendous bounce-back season, hitting .305/.362/.494 with 12 homers and excellent defense behind the plate. Last season’s concussion issues look to be in the rear-view mirror for Lucroy, who is earning a modest $4MM this season and has a no-brainer $5.25MM club option on his contract. While Olney’s report doesn’t indicate anything of the sort, Cleveland has also been linked to left-handed relief help, and Will Smith’s name has been bandied about the rumor mill for quite some time. A package of Lucroy and Smith makes plenty of sense for Cleveland’s front office, though that’s purely my own speculation at this juncture.
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.
The Yankees are “going full bore in shaping possible deals” with other clubs regarding Aroldis Chapman, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney (via Twitter). According to executives to whom Olney has spoken, the Nationals, Rangers and Indians are a few of the involved parties at this time.
Reports out of New York and recent quotes from president Randy Levine to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports have indicated that the Yankees have yet to determine whether they’ll sell off veteran pieces at the deadline, but there’s long been speculation that Chapman, a free agent at season’s end, could be moved even if the team hangs onto more controllable pieces like Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.
All three clubs listed by Olney have been linked relief help over the past couple of weeks, with left-handed relief help in particular said on many occasions recently to be Cleveland’s top priority of late. The Rangers are known to be seeking rotation help, but they also currently sport the second-worst bullpen ERA of any club in baseball, at 5.08. The Nationals, meanwhile, have been said to be in pursuit of a top-tier bullpen arm dating back to last summer’s trade deadline and have been linked to Chapman on more than one occasion in the past. Earlier today, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that Chapman was the Nationals’ “most likely” target on the trade market.
Yahoo’s Jeff Passan wrote earlier this week that the Yankees “are going to trade” Chapman prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, though a full roster tear-down is unlikely. There’s been some word that the Yankees are internally discussing the possibility of trying to extend Chapman, though the reports from Passan and now Olney would certainly seem to indicate that a long-term pact isn’t an overly likely possibility.
The 28-year-old Chapman, who is owed about $4.64MM of his $11.325MM salary through season’s end, has pitched to a 2.22 ERA with 12.7 K/9 and a much improved 2.5 BB/9 rate since returning from a 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy earlier this season.
Indians left fielder Michael Brantley has apparently suffered another setback in his recovery from shoulder surgery, as Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports (via Twitter) that Brantley is headed for an MRI tomorrow after his shoulder once again started barking. Arguably Cleveland’s best player when healthy, Brantley has instead totaled just 43 plate appearances over 11 games this year after following a recovery timeline that was a bit more aggressive than initially projected. In his absence, the Indians have received a breakout performance from rookie Tyler Naquin as well as a strong performance from veteran Rajai Davis, who inked a one-year pact in the offseason. Lonnie Chisenhall and Jose Ramirez have each contributed nicely in the absence of Brantley as well, leading to a considerably more productive outfield mix than most pundits expected this season. Nonetheless, the return of a healthy Brantley would be a massive boost the the Indians’ chances of not only reaching the postseason but thriving in the playoffs.
- Sticking with Cleveland, FOX’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the Indians “are not on” Reds right fielder Jay Bruce despite some other reports that have connected the two clubs. Rather, Cleveland is seeking left-handed relief pitchers and, when it comes to their preference between Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, Cleveland prefers the more controllable Miller to Chapman.
Twins upper management told Terry Ryan a month ago that he wouldn’t be retained beyond the present season, and allowed him to choose his own method of departure, Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN reports (links to Twitter). Ryan, obviously, asked to be let go rather than hanging on the rest of the way, as reflected in today’s announcement. Looking ahead, Minnesota intends to look outside the organization for a permanent replacement, but didn’t commit to that route. Notably, owner Jim Pohlad said that the new GM will not have a chance to replace skipper Paul Molitor.
Here’s more from Minnesota and the rest of the American League:
- The Twins have engaged in talks with the Red Sox, with Boston keeping an eye on righty Ervin Santana, according to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. But the teams do not appear to be lining up at the moment. Meanwhile, Minnesota still needs to decide if it wants to keep useful veterans around its talented but not fully realized core, and Berardino wonders whether it will end up making sense to part with the final two years of Santana’s deal now that he’s pitching fairly well.
- One factor in the Twins’ decisionmaking will obviously be related to the financial ramifications of any deals, but now-acting GM Rob Antony says that there isn’t a mandate to trim payroll. As Berardino tweets, Antony says that the organization doesn’t “have financial problems” in need of resolution at the deadline.
- Despite losing Yan Gomes for a lengthy stretch, the Indians aren’t prioritizing the addition of a backstop, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The club is relatively bullish on both Roberto Perez and Chris Gimenez, it seems. Presumably, that assessment is also informed by the club’s view on other needs.
- Outfield would certainly be one area where the Indians could stand to improve, but relief pitching is likely the most pressing. Per Rosenthal (Twitter links), Cleveland is focused on adding a lefty to the team’s right-handed-heavy pen mix. Andrew Miller of the Yankees is “probably” at the top of the club’s wish list, says Rosenthal, though you could certainly say the same of many other organizations that are looking for relief upgrades.
- Whether the Yankees shop Miller or fellow power lefty Aroldis Chapman remains to be seen, but it’s a fait accompli in the view of Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. He argues that the club shouldn’t stop at dealing away pending free agents, but should be willing to deal most any players who draw interest — with Miller among the possible exceptions. Feinsand also notes that New York is taking a close look at the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate.
- Even if he’s traded away, Chapman says that he’d remain interested in re-uniting with the Yankees as a free agent, Feinsand tweets. “I would love to come back and be part of the team again,” said the fireballing southpaw, who matched his own record tonight by launching a ridiculous 105.1 mph heater.
- The Angels announced that catcher Geovany Soto is headed to the 15-day DL with left knee inflammation. That seems to take him off the table for pre-deadline dealing, though Soto could certainly end up being dealt in the revocable waiver trade period. Los Angeles selected the contract of Juan Graterol to take his place on the active roster. The 27-year-old will receive his first major league opportunity after opening the year with a .292/.331/.357 slash in his first full year at the Triple-A level.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow says that he expects to be busy over the coming weeks, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes. But that doesn’t mean the club will be pushing the action; Luhnow says “there’s no real sense of urgency on our part necessarily.” Rather, he explained, “as teams pick up the pace, we’re certainly going to be involved in the conversations.” It’s possible to imagine Houston targeting a starter, as McTaggart notes, but Luhnow says that he’d only be interested in a certain kind of arm. The ’Stros would be looking at starters who are not only healthy and effective at present, but who are capable of slotting into the team’s hopeful post-season rotation.
3:06pm: The Indians announced that Gomes has been placed on the disabled list with a separated A/C joint and will miss the next four to eight weeks due to the injury. Perez has been activated in his place.
7:58am: Indians catcher Yan Gomes suffered a separated right shoulder in yesterday afternoon’s game against the Twins when he tumbled following a close play at first base and will be placed on the disabled list, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The injury could bring Gomes’ 2016 season to an end, he adds. Fellow backstop Roberto Perez is set to be reinstated from his own stint on the disabled list in Gomes’ place. Perez has been out since the first week of May after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured thumb.
According to Hoynes, the immediate response from the club was that even with the loss of its starting catcher for what could be the rest of the year, Cleveland doesn’t plan to pursue a more established catcher like Jonathan Lucroy via the trade market. The team’s belief is that Perez can hold down the fort as the primary catcher for the remainder of the season, with Chris Gimenez continuing to serve as the top backup option.
Of course, it’d be a surprise to see Cleveland brass plainly state that the plan was to pursue an upgrade on the trade market, and despite whatever the team wishes to publicly state, catcher is and has been an unequivocal weakness for the team all season long. Hoynes reported on Saturday that Cleveland valued Gomes’ defensive contributions to the point where it wouldn’t look for an upgrade in spite of his offensive woes, but the 28-year-old (29 tomorrow) has batted a woeful .165/.198/.313 at the plate this season. Gimenez’s .188/.231/.271 line isn’t any better, and Perez was hitless through 15 plate appearances prior to his injury (though he did have six walks).
All told, Cleveland catchers have been far and away the least productive collection of backstops in all of Major League Baseball this season, hitting a combined .169/.216/.299. That production more closely resembles the league-average pitcher (.134/.163/.171) than it does the league-average catcher (.240/.308/.384). The 27-year-old Perez offers some hope, to be sure, having posted very solid OBP and slugging marks in spite of a low average in 2015 when he batted .228/.348/.402 in 226 plate appearances. He hit well in 24 plate appearances on his rehab assignment as well, though the bulk of that work came at Rookie ball, and a sample of 24 PAs is hardly indicative of things to come anyhow. Moreover, Perez is returning from a thumb operation, and it’s not uncommon for players to struggle at the plate in the early stages of their returns from thumb, hand or wrist surgery.
The Indians may indeed wish to see how Perez handles his first few games back from the disabled list before pursuing any outside help, but it’s hard to imagine that the front office won’t be at least gauging the price on potentially available backstops. Even in the event that they don’t wish to pay a prohibitive price for a top-tier option such as Lucroy, the market features a number of rentals that are currently performing well (e.g. Nick Hundley, Kurt Suzuki) and several other options that won’t come at such a premium cost, as I wrote last week when examining the 2016 trade market for catchers.
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.
Sunday’s minor moves from around baseball:
- The Dodgers have released outfielder Donavan Tate, whom they signed in December, tweets Matt Eddy of Baseball America. Tate went third overall to San Diego in the 2009 draft, but the 25-year-old still hasn’t gotten past the Single-A level, having hit an ineffective .226/.331/.321 in 1,229 plate appearances. At his peak, Tate ranked as Baseball Prospectus’ 29th-best prospect and Baseball America’s 53rd overall prospect entering 2010.
- The Royals have released right-hander Matt Alvarez, according to Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com (Twitter link). Alvarez, 25, had been in the Kansas City system since 2013. He posted a 5.04 ERA, 8.4 K/9 and 6.6 BB/9 in 157 minor league innings with the Royals.
- The Indians have released infielder Grofi Cruz, per Tribeinsider (Twitter link). Cleveland signed Cruz, then 16, out of the Dominican Republic for $400K in July 2012. Cruz didn’t pan out, however, batting .222/.271/.259 across a combined 498 PAs in Rookie ball and Low-A.