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Boston’s Andrew Miller has been the most talked-about left-handed relief option on the trade market, and with good reason. The impending free agent has pitched to a 2.34 ERA with dazzling secondary stats: 14.7 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 52.5 percent ground-ball rate. ERA estimators such as FIP (1.69), xFIP (1.76) and SIERA (1.42) feel that Miller has been even better than that 2.34 mark, and he’s dominated both lefties (.420 OPS) and righties (.537 OPS) this season.
Here’s the latest …
- The Orioles are also in on Miller, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
- Boston expects to deal Miller by this afternoon, tweets Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com. Offers are rising with strong interest from many clubs, he adds.
- The Tigers have strong interest in acquiring Miller to bolster their bullpen for a potential postseason matchup with the A’s or Angels, tweets Bruce Levine of WSCR-AM/670 The Score.
- The Red Sox are being “swarmed” with offers for Miller, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Needless to say, the club has kept its asking price high in light of the demand. A rival executive tells Nightengale that Miller is holding up the rest of the market.
- Jon Lester helped the Red Sox out last week by publicly stating that he’d be willing to re-sign with Boston if traded, and it appears that Boston thinks the same scenario could play out with lefty reliever Andrew Miller. Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald spoke to a source (Twitter link) who told him that the Sox “believe they have built up enough good will that [Miller would] consider coming back as free agent.”
- Miller has drawn interest from the Braves, Royals, Dodgers and Pirates, but the asking price is said to be very high. The Sox are reportedly seeking a rival team’s top prospect and a lesser prospect in order to move their dominant setup man. Earning just $1.9MM in 2014, Miller is owed only $633K through season’s end.
Here are the latest trade deadline news and rumors:
- The Blue Jays appear unlikely to add a significant starter or position player, especially a rental, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, with the most likely acquisition being a relief pitcher that comes with some team control. It remains possible, says Davidi, that Toronto will make no further moves before tomorrow’s deadline.
- Likewise, the Braves remain focused on left-handed relief, and Andrew Miller of the Red Sox in particular, reports MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. But with other teams also interested, Boston’s current asking price appears to be out of the Braves’ comfort zone. With Atlanta unable to add any more salary, it may need to increase the prospect return to convince a trade partner to hold onto its monetary obligations. It is possible that the club will hold out until August to add a southpaw to the pen and/or a bench piece.
- The Yankees have discussed outfielder Marlon Byrd with the Phillies, but nothing is close, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. New York remains concerned with his $8MM salary next year, however, and appears to have some questions about how he would fit into the clubhouse.
- Despite adding Joakim Soria, the Tigers are still scouting possible reliever additions, tweets Scott Miller of Bleacher Report. Detroit has long been rumored to be looking at multiple arms for a pen that has not lived up to expectations.
- While the Padres seem more likely to deal reliever Joaquin Benoit than starter Ian Kennedy, it remains possible that neither will change hands, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.com.
It’s difficult to tell whether the Nationals could be very busy or stand pat before the trade deadine, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post writes. It seems like the Nats are at least exploring a number of options, as Kilgore reports…
- The Nationals have asked the Astros about available relievers, and Houston had scouts watching the Nats’ Triple-A and Class A affiliates over the weekend. Left-hander Tony Sipp best fits the Nationals’ needs, Kilgore surmises, since Washington is thin on southpaw relief options.
- The Nationals haven’t talked to the Diamondbacks about Aaron Hill or Martin Prado. Either player could fill the hole at second base created by Ryan Zimmerman‘s injury (Anthony Rendon moved to third), or Prado could simply play third and Rendon could return to second. Kilgore isn’t sure the Nats want to pay Hill the $26MM he’s owed through 2016, however, though Hill loved playing for manager Matt Williams when Williams was a D’Backs coach. Arizona is reportedly shopping Hill but “barely listening” to inquiries about Prado.
- With Jose Iglesias possibly on the trade block in Detroit, Kilgore thinks the Nats could be interested given the team’s desire to add a young shortstop as depth if Ian Desmond can’t be extended. The Tigers had a scout watching the Nationals’ Class A team recently, Kilgore notes, though that isn’t necessarily related to Iglesias.
- Speaking of scouting assignments, the Rangers had an evaluator watching a recent game between the Nationals’ and Braves’ Triple-A teams. The two NL East rivals are both known to be looking for relief pitching.
- Washington had scouts watching two recent Red Sox series, and Kilgore figures that they were checking out relievers Koji Uehara and Andrew Miller. Earlier today, Peter Gammons reported that the Nats were interested in Miller.
The Phillies have a number of major trade chips on their roster, but the perception around baseball is that they’re asking for too much in return, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes in his weekly notes column. Cafardo recently wrote that Philadelphia wanted three prospects in exchange for Cole Hamels, only to be told by a Phillies official that three was “too conservative” a number. The Phillies, for their part, say they’re simply looking for “a fair deal” for any of their veteran stars. Here’s some more from Cafardo’s latest piece…
- The Tigers are so impressed with Eugenio Suarez‘s play that they could look to trade Jose Iglesias, according to some scouts. It would definitely be a sell-low move on Iglesias, who seemed to be Detroit’s shortstop of the future before stress fractures in his shins cost him the entire 2014 season.
- The Red Sox were one of a few teams considering a move for Martin Prado, whose positional versatility and good clubhouse reputation would make a strong trade candidate, though the Diamondbacks have little desire to move him. The Blue Jays were another team known to be scouting Prado.
- The Red Sox are facing a 40-man roster crunch with several notable prospects in the offseason, and Cafardo wonders if the club could package some of these youngsters in a trade rather than risk losing them in the Rule 5 draft.
- One AL scout disagrees with the general belief that the Yankees lack the minor league depth to move any prospects at the deadline. “They have more in their farm system than people think. They have some arms, they have the Aaron Judge kid, [Luis] Severino, [Gary] Sanchez, [Peter] O’Brien, [Eric] Jagielo. If they wanted to make a deal, they have enough to give up,” the scout said.
Here’s the latest out of the American League:
- The Red Sox could be involved as both buyers and sellers, according to reports from ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark (Twitter links). After inquiring with the Phillies on lefty Cole Hamels, Philadelphia has sent scouts to watch Boston’s Double-A affiliate. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have sent their own “top scouts” to take a look at the Cardinals‘ New York-Penn League club over the last few days, suggesting that a deal sending Jake Peavy to St. Louis could still be in the offing.
- Though recent reports may (to some extent) suggest otherwise, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said earlier today that the team’s priority at this point is to add an “offensive piece,” as Bryan Hoch and Jake Kring-Schreifels of MLB.com report. “It still feels like the pitching needs more help, but honestly, the offense has been consistently poor throughout the entire year.” Cashman added that, while second base prospect Rob Refsnyder could be the team’s “second baseman of the future, maybe as early as next year,” he would potentially only see time in the outfield at the MLB level this year and would not represent an immediate upgrade over incumbent Brian Roberts at the keystone.
- Justin Masterson of the Indians may still be working through a rehab assignment, but that has not stopped teams from inquiring as to his availability, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. Hoynes writes that the interest in Masterson suggests both that the trade market for starters is wanting for quality and that teams value players differently, with some potentially willing to bet on a return to the righty’s results from 2013. Of course, as manager Terry Francona notes, a healthy and productive Masterson could also provide a significant boost to Cleveland’s own chances.
- As they peruse the market from the buy side, the Indians are looking for players with future control rather than rentals, tweets ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden. That is unsurprising, given the team’s careful resource management and somewhat long postseason odds.
- We learned earlier today that the Tigers are expected to pursue a left-handed reliever. The club does not appear to be in the market for a left-handed hitting outfielder or an infielder to play on the left side, as Chris Iott of MLive.com reports. “I don’t know that either one of them would be real high on our priority list at this point,” said GM Dave Dombrowski.
- The Angels are unlikely to deal for a starter in advance of the trade deadline, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Though the club has some payroll available to make an addition, it is hesitant to ship out more prospects after a series of recent moves.
The Tigers made a huge move to fortify their bullpen last night by acquiring Joakim Soria from the Rangers, but they’re not done looking for bullpen help, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Detroit is on the hunt for a left-handed relief upgrade, though they’re not ruling out another right-handed option either, he adds.
Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets that Phillies southpaw Antonio Bastardo is a target for GM Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers, which lines up with yesterday’s reports that Detroit was among the teams to scout Bastardo.
Ian Krol and Phil Coke have served as Detroit’s primary left-handed relievers this season, but each has an ERA north of 4.50, and sabermetric ERA estimators such as FIP and xFIP don’t paint a much more optimistic projection. Both have been serviceable, albeit unspectacular against lefties, as Coke has yielded a .254/.306/.388 batting line to same-handed hitters, while Krol has been a bit worse at .241/.313/.397. Both have been dreadful against right-handed hitters, however, with Coke surrendering a .927 OPS and Krol surrendering an even more unsightly 1.114 OPS.
In addition to Bastardo, the trade market features Wesley Wright and James Russell of the Cubs, Tony Sipp of the Astros, Neal Cotts of the Rangers and perhaps Brian Duensing of the Twins (though that last name is my own speculation, as he’s yet to surface in trade rumors).
Last night, the Tigers landed one of the top available relievers on the trade market in Rangers right-hander Joakim Soria. While Soria should go a long way towards shoring up Detroit’s bullpen, many have wondered if Detroit might continue to work the phones for an additional relief option, particularly given the struggles of left-handers Phil Coke and Ian Krol. I asked Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski earlier today if he might go after a southpaw in the next week.
“I don’t know I would get into what we’re specifically addressing, but we’re open-minded to different thought processes. Our bullpen has struggled at times and we want to have people that put up zeroes out there,” Dombrowski said. “We’ve tried a lot of guys at that and we remain open-minded if something makes sense to make us better before the trade deadline.”
The Tigers have been in need of bullpen reinforcements for some time and Dombrowski has been focused on Soria “for a while.” The GM said that he started chatting with Rangers GM Jon Daniels in June and things picked up more and more with time. And while Soria didn’t come cheap — he cost the Tigers promising pitching prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel — he believed that it was a price they could afford to pay thanks to their pitching depth. Soria’s affordable $7MM club option also helped Dombrowski to pull the trigger since he will likely be more than just a rental.
“I don’t think it made the deal, but it was a real plus for us,” the GM said.
Of course, if things went differently for the Tigers this season, they might not have had to make a trade like this at all. Dombrowski acknowledged that he’d be in a “different situation” if Bruce Rondon was with the club. They’re also “not counting” on a 2014 return for Joel Hanrahan and the odds were termed as being “highly unlikely.”
While Soria has a long history as a successful closer, Dombrowski is insistent that Joe Nathan will continue to pitch in the ninth-inning despite his struggles this season. When asked what it might take for Soria to possible leapfrog Nathan and close out games, the Tigers GM declined to speculate or set expectations for the 39-year-old. For now, Soria is there to help build a better bridge to Nathan and the veteran appears to be all for it. Before pulling the trigger on the deal, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and pitching coach Jeff Jones asked Nathan and Ian Kinsler about how they feel Soria might fit in with the team. One of the replies they got back was, “Why don’t we have him yet?’“
Last night, the Tigers landed right-hander Joakim Soria from the Rangers in exchange for two of their top prospects — right-handers Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel. Detroit has long been said to be in pursuit of relief help, and they’ve now added one of the top bullpen arms on the market. Here are some reactions to the deal as well as a few additional bits of info about the Tigers’ trade talks…
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that Soria was the Tigers’ primary bullpen target, and they didn’t pursue former Tiger Joaquin Benoit all that aggressively before landing Soria last night.
- Likewise, ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweets that the Tigers were never in on Philadelphia’s Jonathan Papelbon all that seriously.
- Soria himself is very excited to join the Tigers, agent Oscar Suarez old FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi (Twitter link), specifically mentioning excitement over a chance to win. That excitement isnt surprising for Soria, who didn’t have much of an opportunity at the postseason early in his career with the Royals (he wasn’t with the club for their recent improvements).
- The Tigers have the prospect depth to add another relief arm if they wish, but it will depend on the asking price, writes Jason Beck of MLB.com. Beck notes that Detroit probably wishes to avoid too much long-term depth to the farm system, but he mentions Chad Qualls as a possibly more affordable option to pursue. Beck also reports that the initial asking price on Soria was higher than the one the Tigers ultimately wound up paying.
- ESPN’s Keith Law understands the deal for both Detroit and Texas (Insider subscription required and recommended). While the Tigers paid a steep price, he notes that Soria will be worth about an extra win over the remainder of the season and will be featured in some very high-leverage postseason innings. From Texas’ standpoint, they get a raw but projectable 20-year-old in Thompson who needs to learn to get more plane on his fastball and develop a changeup to succeed as a starter, plus a controllable potential seventh- or eighth-inning reliever in Knebel.
- Jim Callis of MLB.com “loves” the Rangers’ end of the deal, calling Thompson a potential No. 2 or 3 starter and noting that Knebel has closer upside (Twitter link).
- Soria’s value in the postseason could be significant, writes Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron. Cameron examines the usage of teams’ best relievers in last year’s playoffs, noting that while a typical elite reliever throws about five percent of his team’s innings during the regular season, that number increases in the playoffs due to more off days and the increased importance of late innings. The Red Sox used Koji Uehara for 9.6 percent of their postseason innings, which translates to about 140 innings during the regular season (a value of 246 innings when accounting for the increased leverage index).
- R.J. Anderson and Jordan Gorosh break down the trade over at Baseball Prospectus (subscription required/recommended). Anderson notes the steep price Detroit paid as well and wonders if the Tigers are done adding relievers. If Dave Dombrowski is serious about truly upgrading the bullpen (which he clearly seems to be), the Tigers should look to add another arm, Anderson opines. Meanwhile, Gorosh feels that Thompson could make an appearance on the back end of B-Pro’s offseason Top 101 prospects list, writing that he has the potential to be a “very strong No. 4 starter” and could have been the best pitching prospect in Detroit’s system (thereby implying that he likes him better than Robbie Ray).
10:25pm: The Tigers have announced the deal, making it official.
9:23pm: The Tigers have agreed to acquire reliever Joakim Soria from the Rangers in exchange for right-handed pitching prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel, Kyle Bogenschutz of Scout.com was first to report on Twitter. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports confirmed that an agreement is in place (via Twitter).
With the acquisition of Soria, the Tigers now possess both of the Rangers’ most recent closers (having signed Joe Nathan as a free agent over the offseason). It appears that Nathan will retain the closer’s mantle for the time being, but regardless the team will now have an additional premium arm to throw into high-leverage situations. At the moment, the team owns the fifth-worst relief ERA in baseball.
Soria, a 30-year-old righty, owns a 2.70 ERA with a spectacular strikeout to walk ratio of 11.3 K/9 against only 1.1 BB/9. Indeed, his FIP stands at a miserly 1.07, which handily leads all pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings. Other ERA estimators (2.25 xFIP; 1.84 SIERA) concur in Soria’s excellence to date in 2014.
He is playing out the back end of the two-year, $8MM deal he signed to join the Rangers after Tommy John surgery led to the end of his tenure with the Royals. But Soria also comes with a seemingly reasonable $7MM club option. (That option would increase to $8MM if he finishes 55 games; he is sitting on 32 at present. The contract also includes performance bonuses.)
The return would appear to be substantial. Both Thompson and Knebel rated among Detroit’s ten best prospects coming into the year, per Baseball America, with the former landing at fourth and the latter at sixth on BA’s list. If anything, their stock has risen since that time.
Thompson, a 20-year-old starter, just earned a promotion to Double-A after posting a 3.14 ERA over 83 innings with 8.6 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 at the High-A level. Baseball America says he has mid-rotation upside. He has a low-to-mid 90s fastball and promising slider, but profiles as a mid-rotation arm if he can develop a consistent third pitch from amongst his other offerings (curve and circle change).
The 22-year-old Knebel, meanwhile, has already made his big league debut after being selected 39th overall in last year’s draft. Though he surrendered six earned runs in 8 2/3 MLB frames, he also notched 11 strikeouts against just three walks and has dominated minor league hitters. He profiles as a potential future closer, says BA, though Detroit had weighed the possibility of trying him as a starter.
With Soria and Huston Street now taken, the relief market now lacks somewhat for obviously available closers. Jonathan Papelbon is surely available, but of course comes with a still-sizable contract. The Padres will presumably listen on Joaquin Benoit, but may want a large return to part with him after dealing Street. And it remains to be seen whether names like Koji Uehara and Steve Cishek could be had.
Nick J. Faleris of Baseball Prospectus provides a thorough account of the Brady Aiken failed signing from both his perspective and that of the Astros. Anyone with interest will want to give it a full read; I’m still working through the lengthy (but entirely worthwhile) piece myself.
Here’s the latest from the game’s western divisions:
- The Astros are unlikely to deal away any of the club’s young starting pitching but are definitely listening on relievers Chad Qualls and Tony Sipp, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. In particular, the Tigers have asked about Qualls, who has served as the Houston closer of late, according to Heyman. Meanwhile, there has not been much discussion of other Astros veterans such as Scott Feldman, Dexter Fowler, and Jason Castro.
- Though some around the league believe the Dodgers are highly motivated to deal former star Matt Kemp, the Red Sox were not left with that impression after making an inquiry, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. At least three other American League teams have also asked about Kemp’s availability, including the Indians, Mariners, and Rangers, but Rosenthal says that none have made trade proposals. Cleveland and Texas both appear unlikely partners, while Seattle could have an outside chance of adding him. Though moving Kemp poses many difficult questions for the Dodgers, Rosenthal says that the veteran is “at odds” with manager Don Mattingly.
- Taking a look at a Padres club that has already dealt away several veterans, Rosenthal writes that the team should also move outfielder Chris Denorfia. But key pitchers Ian Kennedy and Joaquin Benoit are under control for 2015, and Rosenthal opines that the team’s new GM ought to make the call on them.
- A new GM is, of course, at or near the Padres‘ priority list, and the club is indeed nearing a conclusion of its search. Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that the club will finish up its second round of interviews on Thursday and hopes to have a new GM installed within two to three weeks.
- The Diamondbacks have exhibited a startling tendency, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic: former pitchers have succeeded elsewhere while newly-acquired arms have struggled. Piecoro lists Brandon McCarthy, Kennedy, Tyler Skaggs, and Trevor Bauer as examples of the former phenomenon, with Trevor Cahill, Randall Delgado, and Addison Reed representing the latter. For his part, GM Kevin Towers says it is not a result of anything the organization is doing differently: “It’s not anything that we’re doing in the minor leagues or development or up here that prevents guys from having success,” he said. “Especially young guys, they usually get better with time and experience in the big leagues. The reason why guys get better [elsewhere] isn’t because we don’t have good instructors here. I believe in our staff and in our farm system and the people we have down there.”