Lucas Harrell Rumors
In the wake of their acquisition of Dexter Fowler, the Astros are being viewed by other teams as a realistic trade partner this offseason, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal reports (via Twitter) that Astros starter Lucas Harrell is drawing some trade interest.
Harrell, 28, struggled through the 2013 season, losing a league-worst 17 games and recording a 5.86 ERA to go along with a 1.71 WHIP. Still, the right-hander had a strong 2012 campaign, and his 2013 peripherals, including an xFIP that was nearly a run lower than his ERA, suggest that he could be a bounceback candidate.
In addition to potentially fielding calls on Harrell, the Astros are in the market for a reliever who can potentially close, tweets ESPN.com's Jayson Stark. Jose Veras, who earned 19 saves for Houston last year before being shipped to the Tigers, is one of the "many names" on the Astros' list, says Stark.
Astros starting pitcher Bud Norris and reliever Jose Veras are drawing considerable interest and it's likely that both players will be traded, sources tell Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The Astros have said that they don't need to move Norris as his $3MM salary is affordable, but that also increases his value on the market.
The Orioles are one of the clubs that realize the value of Norris and other Astros hurlers. Even though they've already been aggressive on the trade market by acquiring Scott Feldman from the Cubs and Francisco Rodriguez from the Brewers, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that they're likely not done and are speaking with Houston about acquiring more arms. Baltimore likely would balk at the trade price for Norris - one report earlier this month said they're seeking two top prospects - but they could zero in on former O's lefty Erik Bedard or right-hander Lucas Harrell, sources told Rosenthal.
Meanwhile, one might guess that the Tigers would be among the leading suitors for Veras, but Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (via Twitter) hears that the Detroit front office is split on him. Knobler's best guess is that the Tigers don't make a play for the reliever, but there are some within the organization that are fans.
Heyman notes that the Red Sox, Pirates, Phillies, Rangers, Giants, and Dodgers have also shown interest in Norris at some point, which should make for some competitive bidding. Meanwhile, just about every contending team is considering relief help and the Pirates could be in that group after Jason Grilli was put on the shelf with a forearm issue.
Veras has a 3.12 ERA on the season with 9.6 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 on the season. Norris is also enjoying a solid campaign, posting a 3.91 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 through 20 starts.
With one-fourth of the season in the books, let's have a look around some injury situations and how they might impact the developing trade market.
- The Cardinals and Yankees provide an interesting case study as we enter the second quarter of the season. Both have excellent records and lead their division. Both have sizeable payrolls as well as large portions of those payrolls sitting idle on the DL. Both have had to insert players onto their active roster that they did not anticipate. But, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch well explains, the source of those substitute bodies has been drastically different. While the Yankees spent well over $20MM to bring in players like Lyle Overbay, Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells -- all of whom are 34 or older -- the Cards reached into their minor league system. Remarkably, St. Louis has plugged all of its holes with players making league minimum, including young pitchers John Gast, Shelby Miller, and Seth Maness.
- The Goold piece also includes some valuable insight from GM John Mozeliak. According to Mozeliak, amongst the team's Double-A and Triple-A rosters, "there is almost at any one position, if we needed help at the big leagues, someone we could call on from there." He acknowledges that such cheap, youthful depth cannot always be achieved, and says the team is prepared to pursue other markets as necessary. "I don't want us to go down the path where we feel like we've created this functional model and don't utilize a really robust pro scouting model that makes sure we understand the trade market and understand the free agent market. We can't be scared of those." Yet, by looking internally first, the team has managed to retain salary flexibility to add outside impact down the line. "This organization's way now of staying healthy is not being tied to those outside markets to fill needs," says Mozeliak. "Having some young players step up like they are now gives us additional flexibility when we're going to need it."
- The Cards' internal depth will once again be put to use with starter Jaime Garcia now staring at a strong possibility of season-ending shoulder surgery, writes Goold. Even with fellow starter Jake Westbrook also stuck on the DL, the team has multiple options among its current relief corps and Triple-A rotation that make a look outside the organization unlikely. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Garcia's replacement(s) can match his strong start to the year. He had thrown 55 1/3 innings of 3.58 ERA baseball to open the season. Veteran starter Chris Carpenter is increasingly shaping up as a viable mid-season option for the club. But any setback in his surprising recovery, or hiccups among the team's young hurlers, could lead St. Louis to consider eventually utilizing some of its salary reserves and young minor league depth in a trade.
- The Braves are another National League contender dealing with injured arms. As Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com's Matt Snyder writes, Eric O'Flaherty appears likely to join fellow setup man Jonny Venters as a season-ending Tommy John patient. While the team seems likely to utilize internal options to fill in for the present, the loss of its two late-inning lefties leaves the team with just one southpaw in the pen, Luis Avilan. Ultimately, then, Atlanta could be forced to explore the trade market to re-establish its depth as the season wears on.
- Teams shopping for starters at the trade deadline appear likely to find a limited supply of attractive arms, says ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required). Two Cubs pitchers headline the developing market, with Scott Feldman shaping up as the surprise top option at the moment. (Matt Garza, of course, will begin his potential audition on Tuesday.) In addition to several other well-documented trade candidates in Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins and the Astros' Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell, Olney pegs the Padres' Jason Marquis and Edinson Volquez as likely available. Meanwhile, Bartolo Colon of the Athletics and Cliff Lee of the Phillies could also be dealt, writes Olney, with the A's having other internal options and the Phils still weighing how to proceed with their excellent (but expensive) 35-year-old co-ace.
In his latest edition of Rumblings & Grumblings, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark looks at what we've learned around the 30-game mark of the season. The Red Sox have spent their money better than any team in baseball as Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, Koji Uehara, and Shane Victorino (before his back issues) have gotten off to excellent starts. Meanwhile, it looks like the Braves have made the best trade of anyone so far as they landed Justin Upton and Chris Johnson for Martin Prado and four players that aren't currently in the majors. Here's more from today's column..
- Teams that have checked in on Brian Wilson have been told that his target date to throw for interested clubs should be around the All-Star break. Wilson wants to ensure that he's fully recovered from Tommy John surgery before auditioning again.
- Giancarlo Stanton's hamstring injury should probably put any talk of a July trade to rest. "If they trade him in-season, they probably wouldn't get any major league talent," said one exec. "So given everything that's happened with their team and their attendance, are they really in a position to make a deal for him where they just get back prospects? Probably not." The exec concluded that the Marlins are better off waiting until the offseason and getting big league ready talent back for their star.
- The Rays may be the most closely-watched team in the league by contenders over the next few months. Teams know the Rays will keep David Price in July if they're alive in the AL East, and will listen hard if they're out of contention. If they're caught in between, one exec believes that the Rays still might move him if they feel like they're not good enough to win it all. The hurler's price tag is expected to by skyhigh if he hits the open market after the 2015 season.
- The buzzards are already starting to circle over the Phillies, Stark writes, but club officials have told teams that have checked in that they still expect their club to contend and won't even think about selling for another two months.
- If a Phillies sell-off happens, the biggest buzz would include impending free agent Chase Utley. One exec who has checked into things says his impression is that the Phillies would approach Utley first and get a feel for whether he wants to go elsewhere. Utley, who will be just short of 10-and-5 rights at the deadline - can block trades to 21 teams.
- Execs say they'd rather trade for Lucas Harrell than Bud Norris if they had a choice between the Astros pitchers. Harrell has two more years of control and one scout says that the big knock on Norris is that he's still basically a "two-pitch guy". Quite a few teams also think he profiles more as a bullpen weapon on a contender even though he's the Astros' ace.
- The Yankees want a right-handed bat, but one scout feels that they don't have enough pieces to land an impact deal. The Bombers added one right-handed hitter when they traded for Chris Nelson earlier this week.
12:04pm: About a half-dozen teams have inquired on Norris but Houston has yet to engage in serious talks, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (on Twitter).
THURSDAY, 9:10am: Astros GM Jeff Luhnow suggested a trade involving Norris or Harrell doesn't seem likely, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports. "I've always maintained that there's no such thing as an untouchable, but at the same time, Harrell and Norris are such an important part of this club right now it would take a significant offer to even consider something," Luhnow said.
WEDNESDAY: The Astros are still telling teams that they'll listen on anyone if they get two or more players back in a deal, rival clubs tell Jayson Stark of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Lots of scouts are eyeing right-hander Lucas Harrell in particular.
Recently, we learned that the Cardinals have interest in Harrell and fellow hurler Bud Norris. Last season was Harrell's first full big league season and the 27-year-old looked strong as he posted a 3.76 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 32 starts.
In addition to "asking about" available shortstops, the Cardinals are "interested in Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris of [the] Astros," reports MLB Network's Peter Gammons (on Twitter). While the Cards' interest in help up the middle is unsurprising (in spite of GM John Mozeliak's recent statements), St. Louis was not expected to be in on starting pitching.
As MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith detailed at the start of the offseason, the Cardinals already "feature an effective starting rotation with a combination of established veterans and powerful young arms." And as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently explained, the team was thought at this point to be narrowing its choice between Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller for the team's fifth starter spot. Of course, the Cardinals have already allowed Kyle Lohse to test the free agent waters for quite some time after the veteran turned down his qualifying offer.
Meanwhile, Harrell and Norris (both righties) are coming off of solid, if unspectacular, 2012 campaigns. Harrell, 27, threw 193 2/3 innings of 3.76 ERA baseball in his first full big league season. Norris, in turn, is entering his age 28 season after posting a 4.65 ERA over 168 1/3 innings last year, and features a longer history of performance at the highest level. Certainly, St. Louis is well-positioned to add either pitcher if it so chooses, as it possesses the kind of farm depth that would appeal to an Astros team that has been aggressively cutting payroll and adding young, unproven talent.