- The Tigers haven’t discussed a contract extension with manager Brad Ausmus, GM Al Avila revealed Saturday. Despite that, Avila said, “I think he’s done a good job this year” (Twitter links). Ausmus’ Tigers are 51-46, 2 1/2 games out of a Wild Card spot, and 215-205 since he took the reins in 2014. Detroit has a 2017 option for Ausmus, so the team’s not at risk of losing the 47-year-old this offseason if it wants to retain him.
- The Tigers, who are 51-46 and just 2.5 games out of a Wild Card spot, are likely to stand pat at the deadline, general manager Al Avila told reporters – including Evan Woodbery of MLive.com (via Twitter) – on Saturday. “It’s not sexy,” admitted Avila, who added that buying is difficult because teams are asking for the Tigers’ best young starters, standout rookie righty Michael Fulmer and southpaw Daniel Norris. “I have been in contact with several GMs in sell mode. The asking price is too high right now, even for fifth starters,” Avila stated (Twitter links via Jason Beck of MLB.com). Avila’s Tigers do have in-house reinforcements on the way in Norris, righty Jordan Zimmermann and right fielder J.D. Martinez, all of whom are on the disabled list. When those three come back, Avila expects Detroit to have enough talent to compete for a World Series (Twitter link via Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press).
- It’s not clear how the Tigers will be able to upgrade their starting staff, but the report suggests they’d like to. Detroit doesn’t want to deal any of its significant prospects and doesn’t have a lot of room to add salary, per Heyman. That doesn’t really leave much of a realistic path to improvement, though perhaps the team can find some supplemental assets with a little creativity.
Jeremy Hellickson was masterful tonight in what could potentially be his final start as a member of the Phillies, as he held the Marlins to a run on five hits and no walks with eight strikeouts in eight innings. Hellickson is widely expected to be traded prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver deadline, and ESPN’s Jayson Stark writes that the Phillies are looking for a return similar to the one they got last summer in trading closer Jonathan Papelbon to the Nationals (right-handed pitching prospect Nick Pivetta). That is to say: they’re looking for a pitcher with a big arm (or multiple pitchers) not necessarily a top-tier prospect.
The Marlins themselves have had long-standing interest in Hellickson, Stark notes, and they got a first-hand look at the best he has to offer tonight. He adds that the Phillies will use the remaining money on Hellickson’s contract ($2.83MM through season’s end) as somewhat of a bargaining chip in talks, suggesting that they’ll be willing to eat some of the salary in order to enhance the prospect return from interested parties (if necessary). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, meanwhile, tweets that Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill was present at tonight’s game in Philadelphia and saw Hellickson dominate his club first-hand.
CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury reports that the Orioles, too, were present to scout Hellickson’s outing. More importantly from Salisbury, he writes that the Orioles and Phillies have already had discussions pertaining to Hellickson. However, one pitching-hungry team that is not in the market for Hellickson, according to Stark (Twitter link), is the Tigers. And, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb adds that the Pirates and Giants had scouts present at the Hellickson outing, though they’ve been present at a good deal of Phillies games lately to monitor the team’s available relievers.
Hellickson, 29, lowered his earned run average to 3.84 with tonight’s gem, and he’s now sporting a strong 8.0 K/9 against an similarly strong 2.0 BB/9 with a 42.1 percent ground-ball rate in 119 2/3 innings of work this year. He’s slated to become a free agent at season’s end, so the trade will benefit him in the sense that it removes the possibility of a being saddled with a qualifying offer.
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.
Plenty of eyes will be on left-hander Rich Hill on Sunday as he makes what could be his final start with the Athletics, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Scouts from a handful of playoff-contending clubs – the Red Sox, Rangers, Orioles, Marlins and Tigers – will be in attendance to observe Hill’s home outing against the Blue Jays.
Hill, 36, has unexpectedly established himself as a hot commodity leading up to the Aug. 1 trade deadline since his torrid stretch as a member of the aforementioned BoSox last September. Dating back to that four-start run, the journeyman has performed like an ace over a 105-inning sample, having recorded a 2.06 ERA, 10.8 K/9, 2.83 BB/9, 49.6 percent ground-ball percentage and 17.9 percent infield fly rate. As a result, the A’s are hoping to land a haul similar to the one they received from Houston for southpaw Scott Kazmir last year (two prospects, right-hander Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham), according to Slusser, who notes that a Hill trade isn’t necessarily a sure bet.
If the A’s can’t find a deal to their liking for Hill, they could retain him through the season and then tender the free agent-to-be a qualifying offer, which will be worth in the $17MM neighborhood. Should Hill accept, that would give him roughly $23MM over two years with the A’s (including $6MM this season), which, considering his performance, wouldn’t be an unreasonable cost for his services. However, the A’s are much less likely to keep Hill and qualify him than they are right fielder Josh Reddick, per Slusser. Reddick – another pending free agent – is drawing pre-deadline interest around the league, as Slusser reported last weekend, and he and the A’s are far apart on contract extension talks.
In the event Oakland does shop one or both of Hill or Reddick, it won’t try to attach designated hitter Billy Butler and his contract to either, adds Slusser. The A’s are more worried about maximizing the return for their best trade assets than taking less just to throw Butler’s $15MM overboard. Since signing a three-year, $30MM deal with the A’s in November 2014, the ex-Royal has become an afterthought. In 163 plate appearances this season, the 30-year-old Butler has hit .253/.307/.380 with two home runs. His poor output could lead Oakland to eventually designate him for assignment, Slusser writes.
Interestingly, third baseman Danny Valencia is another designation candidate, reports Slusser, even though he has batted a fantastic .295/.348/.507 with 30 home runs in 659 PAs going back to last year. Despite that production and his cheap team control through next season, Valencia is not garnering interest, relays Slusser. With the out-of-contention A’s looking to evaluate their younger talent, the 31-year-old Valencia could end up designated – as he was with the Royals last season – if Oakland can’t find a taker for him. Whether Valencia is open to positions other than third and how he handles a decrease in playing time might keep the A’s from giving him his walking papers, however, according to Slusser.
- The Yankees will be willing to deal pending free agents Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran if they’re not in serious contention for a playoff spot by the August 1 deadline, Rosenthal says. They do not want to trade Andrew Miller right now, however. It’s also possible they could deal starting pitchers like CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda, but they are not in active discussions to sell right now and they could wait to deal members of that trio this offseason, since all are under control in 2017.
- The Marlins would deal Adeiny Hechavarria and replace him at shortstop with Miguel Rojas if they could get a top starter like Chris Archer of the Rays in return, Rosenthal says. From this vantage point, that sounds like a lot to ask for a shortstop who has hit .238/.274/.336 this season (although Hechavarria is a stellar defender), and one would think Hechavarria would have limited value in a deal for an ace, even as part of a package. Rosenthal unsurprisingly notes that the Rays aren’t interested in trading Archer for a package that has Hechavarria as its centerpiece. The Marlins are also very interested in Archer’s fellow Rays starters Jake Odorizzi and Matt Moore, although their weak minor league system poses difficulties in lining up a trade.
- The Rockies don’t seem overly motivated to trade Carlos Gonzalez and have passed on opportunities to do so, Rosenthal says. Gonzalez’s contract runs through 2017, coinciding with the end of GM Jeff Bridich’s deal, and Rosenthal implies it might be in Bridich’s best interest to keep Gonzalez around to increase the Rockies’ chances of being competitive until then.
- The Tigers aren’t likely to make big moves before the deadline, with a large payroll that will limit their flexibility and a number of tough-to-move contracts on the books. They could, however, become a seller if they do especially poorly in the next two weeks, potentially dealing Francisco Rodriguez and/or other relievers.
- Braves GM John Coppolella continues to insist his team will not deal Julio Teheran, Rosenthal says. Coppolella believes Teheran (who is under team control through 2020) can be a key player on the next contending Braves team, although he acknowledges that won’t happen this season.
- The Tigers announced today that outfielder Anthony Gose has served a three-game suspension for his scuffle with Triple-A skipper Lloyd McClendon. Additionally, Gose will be demoted from Triple-A to Double-A to begin the second half of the season. GM Al Avila did make clear that he expects Gose to begin moving back toward the majors with the organization.
Two members of the Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate in Toledo, outfielder Anthony Gose and manager Lloyd McClendon, were involved in a contentious argument in the dugout during the first game of a doubleheader Saturday, writes Katie Strang of ESPN.com. McClendon then removed Gose from Toledo’s lineup in the third inning and the 25-year-old didn’t play in the second game. Gose’s personal belongings were not in his locker afterward, per the Toledo Blade. When asked about it, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said, “Anytime a player reacts that way to a manager, it’s a concern, but it’s certainly not anything that can’t be dealt with or gotten past.” However, Gose failed to report to the ballpark Sunday, according to Tigers vice president of player development Dave Littlefield, who said their front office will discuss the matter during the All-Star break and decide how to proceed (Twitter link via George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press). The speedy Gose, whom the Tigers acquired from the Blue Jays for second baseman Devon Travis in November 2014, has appeared in 170 games with Detroit (30 this year) and hit .247/.315/.363 in 636 plate appearances.
Presley collected 129 plate appearances with the Brewers this season, hitting .198/.271/.293 before being designated for assignment late last month and electing free agency soon thereafter. Despite his struggles in the big leagues this year, the 30-year-old provides quality minor-league depth — he has a .306/.370/.441 line in 1,644 career plate appearances at the Triple-A level, and he can play all three outfield positions. He’s played parts of seven big-league seasons, suiting up with the Pirates, Twins and Astros in addition to the Brewers, batting .253/.296/.383.