- Angels GM Billy Eppler will at least listen to offers on both Hector Santiago and Matt Shoemaker, though each is controllable beyond this season (Shoemaker for another four years, Santiago through 2017), so there’s no definitive urge to move either. Yunel Escobar and Joe Smith are both trade candidates for the Halos as well, as has been noted frequently over the past couple of weeks.
- The Cubs and Rangers have both called the Mariners about Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, but Seattle hasn’t shown any inclination toward moving either pitcher. Wade Miley is more likely to be moved, and Heyman adds that the Mariners are still open to adding some pieces for 2016 and have checked into Angels righty Joe Smith, whom GM Jerry Dipoto signed while serving as GM in Anaheim.
The rapid decline of Trevor Rosenthal, who has now been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder injury following his season-long struggles, has the Cardinals in the market for a late-inning arm to add to their relief corps, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.
St. Louis has turned to right-hander Seung-hwan Oh, whose modest offseason signing has proven to be one of the savviest investments of the winter, to handle ninth-inning duties in Rosenthal’s stead. Oh has lived up to his “Final Boss” nickname in the Majors, pitching to a brilliant 1.72 ERA with 11.9 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 41.4 percent ground-ball rate in 52 1/3 innings. Those are dominant numbers out of the rookie relief ace, but the absence of Rosenthal’s typically high-quality innings has stretched the Cardinals a bit thin at the back of the ’pen.
Behind Oh, the Cardinals have relied heavily on Seth Maness, Tyler Lyons, Kevin Siegrist, Jonathan Broxton and Matt Bowman in the bullpen this season. Maness, though, missed more than a month with inflammation in his right elbow and has seen his average fastball velocity dip from 89.5 mph to 87.9 mph this season. Siegrist and Lyons have been outstanding from the left side, though Siegrist recently missed a couple of weeks with a bout of mono. Broxton looks more like a middle reliever than the standout closer he once was, and Bowman doesn’t miss many bats, though he’s been a ground-ball machine and has a 2.98 ERA on the year.
That collection of relief arms has delivered mostly strong results, but Oh is the only truly dominant arm of the bunch, so it’s not a surprise to see the Cardinals tied to relief help. The exact quality of the arm they’re looking for, however, isn’t entirely certain based on Heyman’s report. Heyman writes that either Angels closer Huston Street or Royals closer Wade Davis “could make sense for St. Louis” if traded, though he stops short of saying that the Cardinals have actually inquired on either arm, and there’s obviously a wide gap overall talent and 2016 performance between those two arms. The Cardinals have looked into Halos right-hander Joe Smith, he writes, and have in fact been seeking help for the back of the bullpen for some time now, as their search predates Rosenthal’s placement on the disabled list.
Of course, many Cards fans feel that the best possible upgrade the team could make to its bullpen is already in the organization. Right-hander Alex Reyes has emerged as one of the very top pitching prospects in all of baseball and opened plenty of eyes with his 100+ mph fastball in this year’s Futures Game over the All-Star break. However, Reyes’ recent results haven’t been overly encouraging, as he’s posted a 6.52 ERA in his past 29 innings (six starts) with Triple-A Memphis. He has a 5.07 ERA overall on the season and has averaged 12.9 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9 in 55 innings out of the rotation since serving a 50-game suspension for a drug of abuse. Reyes’ overpowering stuff leads some to believe that he could thrive in the Majors right now in a short-relief role despite his rotation struggles in Memphis, but the Cardinals are reportedly being cautious with regards to their prized righty and may not wish to rush him to the Majors. (Reyes was pulled from his most recent start after three innings, prompting some speculation about a call-up, though Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Reyes’ quick hook from the game was “insurance” in the event that Lyons is unable to make a needed spot start for St. Louis on Saturday.)
If the Cardinals do ultimately feel that the trade market presents the best route to an upgrade, they’ll face plenty of competition, as the majority of contending clubs in the league are said to be eyeing upgrades for their relief corps. Within the past two or three days alone, we’ve heard the Giants, Nationals, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Indians, Rangers, Dodgers and Mets all tied to varying degrees of bullpen help, and other clubs figure to be more quietly on the lookout as well.
The Angels have designated outfielder Todd Cunningham for assignment in order to clear a spot on the roster for left-hander Tyler Skaggs, who will return to a big league mound for the first time in nearly two years tonight, per Pedro Moura of the L.A. Times (Twitter link).
Skaggs, 25, looked to be establishing himself as a long-term cog in the Halos’ rotation back in 2014 before a torn UCL presented him with the dreaded Tommy John roadblock. He underwent the procedure late in the 2014 season and spent all of 2015 rehabbing. While the team clearly hoped that Skaggs would return sooner than late July, his rehabilitation was slowed by tendinitis in his biceps, among other minor maladies. He’s been dominant since rebooting his rehab assignment in Triple-A, though, logging a 1.19 ERA with an eye-popping 35-to-3 K/BB ratio across 22 2/3 innings that spanned four starts. In his final pair of rehab starts — a total of 12 2/3 innings — Skaggs punched out 26 batters. He’ll give the Angels a much-needed option in the rotation, as the club has lost three pitchers — Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano — to torn UCLs this season and also lost C.J. Wilson to shoulder surgery before ever he ever threw a pitch.
Cunningham, 27, received 29 plate appearances for the Halos this season and batted .148/.179/.259. The former Braves farmhand is a .207/.256/.264 hitter in 130 big league plate appearances and a .276/.348/.368 batter in nearly 1700 appearances at the Triple-A level. He’s capable of playing all three outfield positions and has spent a fair amount of time at each outfield slot in 2016 while playing in Triple-A.
5:38pm: Miami has reached out to the Halos on Santiago and other, unspecified starters, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi (via Twitter).
3:25pm: The Angels have received inquiries from a number of teams about left-hander Hector Santiago, and they’re willing to listen to offers for him, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter). The team is also getting hits on Matt Shoemaker, perhaps unsurprisingly, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter).
Los Angeles is said to be amenable at least to considering scenarios involving the two controllable starters, but only if it would improve the team’s roster right now or in the “near future.” That near-term focus is precisely why it’s hard to see a match coming together, particularly for Shoemaker.
Santiago, 28, is earning $5MM this season and is controlled through the 2017 campaign via arbitration, so he’s more appealing than a number of arms that are of similar quality but either hit free agency at season’s end or are making considerably more money. The lefty is in the midst of his weakest season at the Major League level but still owns a respectable 4.32 ERA with 7.8 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a career-best 38.7 percent ground-ball rate. His 91.8 mph average fastball is a notable step up over last season’s average of 90.3 mph and represents the highest mark he’s ever posted in a full season out of the rotation.
Metrics such as FIP, xFIP and SIERA feel that Santiago’s been fortunate to keep his ERA where it is this season, but Santiago has long outperformed those metrics. As a fly-ball pitcher that generates a large number of pop-ups, Santiago has been able to routinely post BABIP marks that are considerably lower than the league average (having Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun in the outfield doesn’t hurt), and he’s also proven to be adept at stranding runners; his 76.6 percent left-on-base percentage is 14th in the Majors over the past five years among starters with at least 500 innings pitched. Those factors have contributed heavily to the career 3.78 ERA Santiago has been able to post out of the rotation in spite of ERA estimators that project his earned run average to check in somewhere in the vicinity of a full run higher.
Crasnick lists the Orioles, Pirates and “possibly” the Astros and Mets as speculative fits for Santiago after speaking to a pair of big league executives (links to Twitter). Those two execs also listed Miami as a possible fit, but Crasnick adds that the Marlins, who are known to be looking for a stabilizing force near the back of the rotation, are currently “aiming their sights higher” than Santiago. Considering their desire for a large quantity of innings down the stretch, perhaps that’s not surprising; Santiago’s career-high in innings pitched was last year’s 180 2/3 frames, but he averaged a lesser 152 innings from 2013-15 due to some time spent in the bullpen in 2013 and 2014.
The Orioles have long been tied to a left-handed rotation upgrade, and Santiago would be an improvement over many of the names that Baltimore has trotted out to the mound this season. Santiago wouldn’t fit the Pirates’ mold of pursuing pitchers with high ground-ball rates, but he’d give them a capable arm for the back of the rotation that could take some of the pressure of their bounty of young starters that could be leaned upon heavily over the final months (e.g. Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault). The Astros have a short porch in left field which could spell problems for a fly-ball prone lefty, while the Mets reportedly continue to prioritize bullpen help. However, given the uncertainty that currently exists in their starting ranks, it wouldn’t be a total shock to see them jump into the market for a starter over the next week as the non-waiver deadline approaches.
- The Giants’ list of relief pitching targets includes Angels closer Huston Street, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Henry Schulman reports. Street, who turns 33 in August, is enduring by far the worst season of his 12-year career — the veteran has as many walks (11) as strikeouts over his 19 2/3 innings pitched, and he missed a month due to an oblique strain. His 5.03 K/9 would be a career low, while ERA indicators (5.69 FIP, 6.16 xFIP, 5.67 SIERA) show that Street is actually somewhat fortunate to “only” be posting a 5.03 ERA, though he also has a .358 BABIP. With around $2.8MM still owed to Street this season and $9MM for 2017, the Angels would surely have to eat a big chunk of that contract to facilitate a deal given Street’s struggles.
The most prominent pitcher the Rangers have pursued as the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline nears is White Sox ace Chris Sale, who’s currently embroiled in a strange controversy, but the sides haven’t made much progress, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. With that in mind, Texas’ focus is on the Rays’ starters at the moment, writes Grant. Tampa Bay’s asking price is high for Matt Moore and Jake Odorizzi, though, as it wants powerful corner infielder/outfielder Joey Gallo – Baseball America’s 11th-ranked prospect. The Rangers would only give up Gallo for the Rays’ top starter, Chris Archer, per Grant.
More rumors from the American League:
- While reports have connected the Rangers to Milwaukee catcher and trade candidate Jonathan Lucroy for months, Texas is “not really” in pursuit of the All-Star backstop as of now, reports T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com (Twitter link). The Rangers’ focus is instead on upgrading their pitching.
- The Twins aren’t inclined to deal right-hander Ervin Santana unless they’re “wowed” by an offer, tweets Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. Despite Santana’s age (33) and their distance from contention, the last-place Twins regard him as a quality future piece. Santana, who’s on a $13.5MM yearly salary through 2018 and has a $14MM club option for 2019, has pitched respectably this season (105 1/ innings, 3.93 ERA, 6.41 K/9, 2.48 BB/9).
- 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).
- The playoffs continue to look highly unlikely for the Angels, who have won 10 of 12 games and closed the gap in the AL West from 19 1/2 games to a still-high 11 1/2 behind first-place Texas, but their recent hot streak could prevent them from selling, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. “A lot of things have come together at the exact same time,” GM Billy Eppler told DiGiovanna. “We felt that this club had a lot of positive elements to it. It wasn’t all clicking like it is right now, but the character and the fight within those guys has never faded.” The Halos don’t have the assets to turn into buyers, notes DiGiovanna, so their decision will come down to selling or keeping the roster as it is. If they sell, DiGiovanna lists third baseman Yunel Escobar, setup man Joe Smith and closer Huston Street as Angels who could soon change homes.
- The Mets are monitoring right-handed relievers Joe Smith of the Angels, Chris Withrow of the Braves and Jeremy Jeffress of the Brewers, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post. Despite Bartolo Colon’s recent struggles and uncertainty surrounding the bone spurs of both Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, the Mets’ front office isn’t sure there’s a rotation upgrade to be had that would be worth the asking price. Notably, Puma also writes that a reunion with Tyler Clippard, whom Arizona GM Dave Stewart has said is available in trades, doesn’t seem likely. Smith’s asking price would be the lowest of the bunch, in my estimation, as he’s a pure rental. Jeffress and Withrow both have three years of club control remaining beyond this one, and Jeffress has had a better season than Withrow while emerging as Milwaukee’s closer this season, so he’s probably the toughest of the bunch to pry loose. As Puma pointed out earlier this week (on Twitter), Jim Henderson won’t be an option in the near future, as a hamstring injury suffered in the minors has forced him to restart his rehab assignment.
Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Angels announced that right-hander A.J. Achter has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Salt Lake. Acther, a longtime Twins farmhand who made his way to the Halos via waivers, has pitched to a 3.98 ERA in 20 1/3 innings with the Angels this season and issued just four walks. However, he’s also struck out just nine batters in that time and has only 28 strikeouts in 44 2/3 relief innings in the Majors. The 27-year-old was already outrighted once earlier this season, so he’ll have the opportunity to reject in favor of free agency or accept and head to Triple-A, where he has a career 2.94 ERA in 174 1/3 innings with a vastly superior 8.2 K/9 rate.
- The Dodgers announced that they’ve selected the contract of left-handed reliever Grant Dayton from Triple-A Oklahoma City and moved Chris Hatcher to the 60-day DL to open a spot on the 40-man roster. (Zach Links of MLBTR/Pro Football Rumors first reported, on Twitter, that Dayton would be promoted.) The 28-year-old Dayton has spent parts of seven seasons in the minors before today’s promotion, which looks to be well-earned. He’s posted a 2.44 ERA with eye-popping averages of 15.9 strikeouts and 1.9 walks per nine innings pitched through 48 minor league frames this year.
Angels right-hander Nick Tropeano has been diagnosed with a medium- to high-grade tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, the team informed reporters (Twitter link via Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times). While he’s headed for a second opinion, Tommy John surgery is the likely outcome. While he could potentially aim for the same stem-cell treatment that teammates Andrew Heaney and Garrett Richards have utilized — Heaney has been ticketed for Tommy John surgery in spite of said alternative — MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez notes (links to Twitter) that doing so would mean that Tropeano’s recovery would linger well into the 2018 season if he attempts the treatment and ultimately finds it unsuccessful.
For the Angels, the highly likely loss of Tropeano adds to what has been a nearly unprecedented deluge of pitching injuries. The Halos have now lost Richards, Heaney and Tropeano to UCL tears, while left-hander C.J. Wilson will not pitch this season due to shoulder surgery. Further complicating matters for the Halos has been Jered Weaver’s significant dip in velocity, as the former ace has limped to a 5.02 ERA in 107 2/3 innings this season with a fastball that sits in the 82-83 mph range. Left-hander Tyler Skaggs has yet to pitch at the big league level this season due to setbacks in the recovery from his own Tommy John surgery (in late 2014), though he’s said to be nearing a return to the big league rotation at long last.
The Angels were already clearly out of the picture in the American League West and in the AL Wild Card race, but the loss of so many arms with injuries that will cost them some or all of the 2017 season calls into question how willingly they can part with potential trade chips like Hector Santiago and Matt Shoemaker. Anaheim’s farm system has been largely depleted by trades and the forfeiture of high draft picks to sign free agents, and the team has very little in the pipeline that is on the immediate horizon. If the club is able to acquire some near-term rotation options in trades for either of those arms or for potential trade chips like Yunel Escobar and Huston Street, it’d be a major boon to the system. However, as it stands, the club’s rotation consists of Weaver, Shoemaker, Santiago and the struggling Tim Lincecum, with Skaggs, Jhoulys Chacin and prospect Nate Smith serving as possible alternatives.
While the Angels have seen their share of struggles out of the rotation this season, Tropeano had been a bright spot, logging a 3.56 ERA with 9.0 K/9, 4.1 BB/9 and a 33.3 percent ground-ball rate in 68 1/3 innings. Acquired from the Astros alongside Carlos Perez (in exchange for catcher Hank Conger), Tropeano is under control through the 2021 season, so even if Tommy John surgery is the ultimate outcome, the 25-year-old will have plenty of time to contribute to future Angels’ pitching staffs down the line.