- Cuban third baseman Yanio Perez has drawn interest from the Astros, Padres, Rangers, Reds and Rockies, as per a report from MLB Pipeline (Twitter link). The 20-year-old was ranked by Pipeline as the 10th-best player available in this year’s July 2 international market, and he is known to have impressive raw power, makeup and above-average speed. Perez is subject to international bonus pool guidelines.
While most deadline buzz surrounding the Padres has involved Andrew Cashner and Melvin Upton, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) reports that San Diego is also “pushing hard” to trade catcher Derek Norris.
Norris has been rumored as a trade candidate for months, thanks to the Padres’ rebuilding plans and the club’s desire to permanently promote top prospect Austin Hedges (who has crushed Triple-A pitching over the last two seasons). In his examination of the catching trade market, MLBTR’s Steve Adams described Norris as no less than “the likeliest player in all of baseball to get traded.”
The issue, however, is that Norris is on pace for the worst hitting season of his five-year MLB career. Norris is hitting just .204/.263/.379 with 12 homers over 312 plate appearances. His .247 BABIP indicates a bit of bad luck, though he also has a career-high with a career-high 28.8% strikeout rate. It seemed as if Norris had turned the corner by delivering an .824 OPS in June, though he has struggled again this month. On the plus side, Norris had traditionally been considered a poor defensive catcher but as per both Baseball Prospectus (FRAA) and Fangraphs (Defensive Runs Saved) metrics, Norris has been one of baseball’s better defenders behind the plate in 2016. He has also thrown out 16 of 55 baserunners trying to steal on him this season.
Despite the rough hitting numbers and now two straight years of a subpar on-base percentage, Norris should still garner some interest. He is only 27 and is controllable through the 2018 season, as he is earning $2.925MM this season in his first time through arbitration eligibility. It was only two years ago, of course, that Norris reached the All-Star Game as a member of the Athletics.
Jonathan Lucroy is unquestionably the top name among catchers available in trade talks, so it’s possible the Padres may not get any momentum towards a Norris deal until Lucroy is off the board. On the flip side, the Brewers are obviously asking for a lot in return for their star backstop, so teams unwilling or unable to meet Milwaukee’s price for Lucroy could turn to Norris as a cheaper alternative.
The Rangers and Indians have both been linked to Lucroy, though they’ve also been connected to other big-time targets — the Rangers for top starters like Chris Sale or several arms from the Rays’ rotation and the Tribe to Aroldis Chapman. If either club has to surrender a big prospect package to land one of those targets, they might not have the young talent necessary to get Lucroy, so Norris could be next up. Texas, notably, had interest in Norris in the offseason and even in April when Robinson Chirinos hit the DL. The Astros like Norris, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports, though it isn’t clear whether Houston and San Diego are actively discussing a deal.
The Astros have announced the promotion of highly touted infield/outfield prospect Alex Bregman and the designation for assignment of infielder Danny Worth. Bregman will join the surging Astros on Monday for the start of their home series against the Yankees.
[RELATED: Updated Astros Depth Chart]
Bregman, whom Keith Law of ESPN (Insider required and recommended) ranks as the best prospect in baseball, has torn through minor league pitching since the Astros selected him second overall in last year’s draft. The 22-year-old ex-LSU standout has been especially impressive this season, having posted a .297/.415/.559 batting line with 14 home runs in 285 plate appearances in Double-A. The Astros’ decision to promote Bregman to Triple-A in late June didn’t slow down the right-handed hitter, who slashed an astounding .356/.397/.685 with six homers in 78 trips to the plate with Fresno. Between the two levels this season, Bregman has recorded more unintentional walks (47) than strikeouts (37), further demonstrating his offensive prowess. Law likens Bregman’s upside at the dish to that of Red Sox star second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
Baseball America rates Bregman as the game’s eighth-best prospect, meanwhile, and praised his “simple, level swing,” bat speed and patience after last season (subscription required and recommended). Moreover, BA lauded his base-running and defensive skills, though there are questions as to where he’ll line up with the Astros. Over the long haul, BA, Law and MLB.com (which has Bregman as the No. 18 overall prospect in the game) see him faring well at short. That would require Houston to move Carlos Correa elsewhere, however (likely third base); notably, MVP candidate Jose Altuve mans second base.
In the near term, the Astros could send Bregman to left field, where they’ve had him spend time in the minors, or third. However, big-money free agent signing Yulieski Gurriel’s forthcoming debut will only complicate things further. That isn’t a negative for the red-hot Astros, though, who have climbed to a season-best 10 games over .500 since a dismal start and are within 2 1/2 games of AL West-leading Texas and a half-game of the second Wild Card spot.
Wherever the Astros play Bregman, it’s fair to assume he’s in the majors for good. With that being the case, he’ll come up short of Super Two status in the likely event he remains with the Astros through the end of the season. Bregman can accrue up to 70 days of service time in the majors this year, meaning he won’t be eligible for arbitration until after 2019 and will stay under club control through the 2022 campaign.
Worth, 30, joined the Astros on a minor league deal over the winter and went on to collect 40 plate appearances with them this year, hitting a meager .179/.200/.231. The longtime member of the Tigers organization owns a .224/.282/.288 line in 332 career PAs.
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.
The Rangers have claimed infielder Matt Duffy off waivers from the Astros, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports (Twitter link). Houston designated the infielder (who isn’t to be confused with the better-known Giants third baseman of the same name) for assignment last week. Texas has optioned Duffy to Triple-A.
[Related: updated Rangers depth chart at Roster Resource]
Duffy’s MLB career consists of 11 games for the Astros over the last two seasons and 12 career plate appearances. A 20th-round pick in the 2011 draft, Duffy has a very solid .286/.360/.458 slash line over 2794 career PA in the minors. Duffy has played mostly third base over his career with significant time across the diamond at first, though this season he also saw action at short and left for Houston’s Triple-A affiliate.
- The Astros are close to finalizing a deal with 22-year-old Cuban shortstop Anibal Sierra for a $1.5MM bonus, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports. Houston has been linked to Sierra for months, though past reports suggested that Sierra would get a much larger bonus of $3.5MM. Since the Astros are already in excess of their $2.197MM international pool limit, Sierra’s deal essentially costs Houston $3MM (the actual bonus and a 100% tax on the overage). The Astros were widely expected to blow past its bonus limit in the 2016-17 international market anyway in order to stock up on young talent, though this splurge will limit them to signings of $300K or less in the next two international signing periods. Sanchez describes Sierra as possessing “an aggressive line-drive approach at the plate and good hands on defense,” and “scouts like his bat and his raw power.” Sierra is capable of playing second and third base as well as shortstop.
The Rangers aren’t optimistic that they’ll land one of the Rays’ controllable starting pitchers, writes FOX’s Ken Rosenthal in his latest notes column. The Rays continue to focus on Jurickson Profar, who could fill a void at shortstop, but the Rangers like the idea of Profar playing all four infield positions and seeing time for them in the outfield next year as well. The Rangers may be willing to budge on Profar if it meant Chris Archer, but Jake Odorizzi and Matt Moore are seemingly held in lesser regard.
A few more highlights from the piece…
- The Rays are also receiving interest in their starters from non-contending clubs that are aiming to contend within the next couple of seasons. That gives Tampa Bay further leverage in talks, as they’re not limited to restocking their farms with only prospects from clubs that are currently in contention. The Astros, too, are eyeing the limited number of controllable arms that are available, and the division rivalry aspect could play into Tampa Bay’s favor if both Texas and Houston set their sights on the same Rays arm. Alternatively, each of their starters has so much club control remaining that the Rays could just wait until the offseason and market their starters as teams miss out on the few quality free agents that are available.
- The Cubs are still seeking a top-tier left-handed reliever even after landing Mike Montgomery, but they’re also eyeing Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick, as previously reported by Jon Morosi. Rosenthal writes that some teams may eventually concede that the pitching help they covet isn’t going to be available at a price they like and could simply upgrade the offense, thinking that adding value is adding value regardless of position. Reddick, he notes, would be an upgrade for the Cubs over Chris Coghlan, and deepening a roster in any fashion bodes well for the playoffs.
- The Astros are looking for left-handed relief help and asked the Braves about Hunter Cervenka as a fallback option if their primary, more established targets don’t pan out. Fellow left-hander Ian Krol has gotten some looks for the Braves as well, Rosenthal notes, though I’d personally imagine that Krol would have a higher price tag, as Cervenka has walked nearly six batters per nine innings this season and has limited big league experience.
- The Rays are in a powerful position on the trade market, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. With so few options on the market for starting pitching, they’re poised to ask for lofty demands for any of Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore or even Chris Archer, though the common refrain on Archer is that he won’t be moved. The Dodgers and Rangers are both following the Rays’ starters closely, and Topkin lists the Pirates, Astros, Marlins, Nationals and Red Sox as teams with serious interest. Topkin adds Pearce, right-hander Erasmo Ramirez and left-hander Xavier Cedeno to the list of possible trade options for president of baseball operations Matt Silverman and his staff. Notably, the Marlins were recently tied to left-handed relief help, so they could be interested not only in Tampa Bay’s starters but Cedeno as well.
- Astros manager A.J. Hinch said appearance yesterday on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link) that he expects just-signed third baseman Yulieski Gurriel to be ready for the majors in relatively short order. “We want his bat in the line-up, we want him to get acclimated as much as possible,” said Hinch. “That’s probably 2 or 3 weeks.” In the meantime, outfielder Preston Tucker has been called back to the big league club to take the place of the optioned A.J. Reed.
- Astros top prospect — and the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball, per ESPN’s Keith Law — Alex Bregman played left field for the first time with Triple-A Fresno tonight, writes Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. As Kaplan notes, increased defensive versatility will make it easier to keep Bregman in the lineup once he joins the big league club — especially with Yulieski Gurriel not far behind him. Kaplan says that while the Astros aren’t publicly tipping their hand as to when Bregman will be promoted, it could happen as soon as Friday for the club’s weekend series against the Angels. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX and MLB.com hears similarly, tweeting that Bregman could be playing left field in the Majors by next week.