- Brewers relievers Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith are also Giants targets, with Schulman reporting that Milwaukee has been trying to include either reliever together with Jonathan Lucroy or Ryan Braun as part of a larger trade. This tactic is of no interest to San Francisco since the Giants have no interest in Lucroy or Braun.
The Mets are interested in Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy, and current Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud seems to be part of any potential package the Amazins could send to Milwaukee, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reports. The Brewers rejected a straight one-for-one offer of Lucroy for d’Arnaud, so as Ackert notes, the Mets’ ability to stay competitive in the race for Lucroy’s services will hinge on the caliber of prospect New York is willing to surrender along with d’Arnaud. As of Sunday, no deal between the Mets and Brewers was imminent.
Lucroy has been speculatively linked to the Mets as a possible solution to their hitting woes, though the Mets were still thought to be looking at d’Arnaud as their catcher of the future. In my recent examination of Lucroy’s trade market, I also dismissed the Mets as a possible candidate mostly due to d’Arnaud’s presence but also due to a lack of minor league depth. While New York has some impressive prospects on hand (i.e. Dominic Smith, Amed Rosario, Gavin Cecchini, Brandon Nimmo), their system is rather thin overall.
For dealing d’Arnaud and years of a controllable top prospect, the Mets would land one of the top catchers in baseball in Lucroy. Not only has Lucroy strongly bounced back after an injury-plagued 2015 season, he has re-established himself as one of the game’s top bargains. Lucroy is in the final guaranteed year of a five-year, $11MM extension signed prior to his breakout 2012 season, and there is a team option on his services for only $5.25MM for 2017. With payroll limitations still a lingering concern for the Mets, they could be particularly eager to obtain a top-tier talent at a low price.
It wasn’t too long ago that d’Arnaud was himself a sought-after commodity, as he and Noah Syndergaard headlined the trade package sent by the Blue Jays to the Mets in the R.A. Dickey trade in December 2012. While d’Arnaud has looked good when healthy, he has been plagued by a wide array of injuries during his brief career, missing time due to varied injuries to his hand, foot, knee, back, elbow and (most recently) a rotator cuff strain that put him on the DL earlier this season. Perhaps most troubling of all, d’Arnaud has also suffered at least three known concussions. There has already been heavy speculation that d’Arnaud will have to be moved to first base for the sake of his health, so he doesn’t necessarily protect as a replacement for Lucroy behind the plate in Milwaukee.
Lucroy may not be the only Mets target on the Milwaukee roster, as the Amazins are known to be looking for relief help and have been linked to relievers Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith. Ackert reports that the Brewers were one of many teams recently scouting the Mets’ lower-level minor league clubs. This is just my speculation, but New York may be more willing to part with a top prospect in the Smith/Rosario/Cecchini tier if both Lucroy and one of the relievers could be obtained in the same deal.
- 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.
- The Giants could match up with the Brewers on a trade for bullpen help, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link). The Brewers, according to Schulman, have been scouting Giants pitching prospect Adalberto Mejia recently and are believed to think quite highly of the left-hander, who rated 91st on Baseball America’s midseason list of the game’s Top 100 prospects. Mejia recently moved up to Triple-A and has enjoyed a strong all-around season in the minors, working to a 2.77 ERA with 8.4 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9 in 100 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Of course, he’s also a nearly MLB-ready arm, and the Giants have been in need of rotation depth for much of the season. San Francisco could also simply turn to Mejia in the bullpen for the remainder of the year if it preferred not to sacrifice big-league-ready pitching depth, though that’s just my speculation. The Giants have been linked to Brewers relievers Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress of late.
- If the Brewers want to extract maximum value for Jonathan Lucroy, the time to trade him is in the next 11 days, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. While demand in the offseason may be greater with more teams looking for catching help, clubs won’t be willing to part with as much this winter, and beyond that Lucroy is currently in the midst of an offensive surge that is bolstering his value. He’s been connected to the Rangers and Indians within the past few days, and Haudricourt writes, “…rest assured there have been talks with other clubs as well.”
JULY 21: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that Cleveland, above all else, is still seeking to upgrade its bullpen, downplaying the Lucroy matchup. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, meanwhile, tweets that “you can bet relievers are a part of talks” between Cleveland and Milwaukee, as the Indians are focused on upgrading their bullpen as well. Nothing is imminent between Cleveland and Milwaukee, Jon Morosi of MLB.com adds, tweeting that the Brewers are discussing Lucroy with multiple teams.
JULY 20: The Indians and Brewers are in trade talks pertaining to catcher Jonathan Lucroy, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney (via Twitter). Olney notes that it’s possible that yesterday’s setback for Michael Brantley (and, presumably, the injury to Yan Gomes) has urged Cleveland to add a hitter.
As I noted at the time of Gomes shoulder injury (which will sideline him for four to eight weeks), Cleveland has received less production from its catchers than any club in baseball this season. Cleveland backstops are hitting just .172/.219/.299, as Gomes has struggled even when healthy, and Chris Gimenez has provided little value with the bat despite receiving a good amount of praise for the work he’s done with the pitching staff (namely Trevor Bauer). Cleveland was reportedly content to deploy Gimenez and Roberto Perez behind the plate, though that seemed like a questionable claim at the time, and further injury to Brantley could certainly have contributed to the team’s desire to bolster the lineup.
Lucroy, 30, is having a tremendous bounce-back season, hitting .305/.362/.494 with 12 homers and excellent defense behind the plate. Last season’s concussion issues look to be in the rear-view mirror for Lucroy, who is earning a modest $4MM this season and has a no-brainer $5.25MM club option on his contract. While Olney’s report doesn’t indicate anything of the sort, Cleveland has also been linked to left-handed relief help, and Will Smith’s name has been bandied about the rumor mill for quite some time. A package of Lucroy and Smith makes plenty of sense for Cleveland’s front office, though that’s purely my own speculation at this juncture.
Giants GM Bobby Evans suggested yesterday that his organization is looking hard at relievers, in an appearance on the podcast of ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (audio link). Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the organization is said to be “blanketing” the market for bullpen arms, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link).
The Phillies and Brewers are among the rival teams being eyed by San Francisco scouts, per Crasnick’s report. It appears that the Giants are paying particular attention to Philly’s Jeanmar Gomez and David Hernandez, as well as Milwaukee’s Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress. All of those players have featured on MLBTR’s breakdown of the top trade candidates, though only Jeffress has consistently cracked the ranking itself.
Notably, Crasnick adds that the Giants are mostly “lingering” in the market for Yankees’ relief aces Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. The expectation seems to be that other National League contenders — namely, the Cubs and Nationals — are likely to be bigger players for those two high-octane lefties.
Evans had hinted that there’s a lot of demand to contend with on the market. That was a significant factor in the team’s decision to rely on some younger arms this year, he suggested. “We didn’t realize that half of baseball would be also looking for the same relievers and that the market would be so limited,” he said of the winter’s free agent market, “but that’s where we are.”
The San Francisco GM went on to note that his organization will not just be looking to build out depth in its relief corps. “We have a pretty strong bullpen in the sense of guys that are pretty hard to replace,” he said, “so you’re really trying to replace one guy, and we’ve got to be sure it’s an upgrade. So we won’t be getting a reliever just to get a reliever.”
Evans also touched upon the idea of adding an outfielder, which has often been noted as a possible need. With Hunter Pence nearing a return, the veteran executive indicated that the position isn’t a high priority. It seems that a depth addition could be considered, but isn’t viewed as essential.
The Brewers may hold the most interesting chips on the market for relievers, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron writes. That includes not only Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith, each of whom have served as the club’s closer in recent years, but also 27-year-old righty Tyler Thornburg, who owns a 2.45 ERA with 12.3 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 on the year. In fact, Cameron argues that Thornburg is the pick of the litter from the Milwaukee pen, documenting the advances in his offerings this year. Entering his first season of arbitration in the offseason to come, Thornburg won’t be an easy asset to acquire, but he could make for an interesting target over the next two weeks.
3:06pm: The Indians announced that Gomes has been placed on the disabled list with a separated A/C joint and will miss the next four to eight weeks due to the injury. Perez has been activated in his place.
7:58am: Indians catcher Yan Gomes suffered a separated right shoulder in yesterday afternoon’s game against the Twins when he tumbled following a close play at first base and will be placed on the disabled list, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The injury could bring Gomes’ 2016 season to an end, he adds. Fellow backstop Roberto Perez is set to be reinstated from his own stint on the disabled list in Gomes’ place. Perez has been out since the first week of May after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured thumb.
According to Hoynes, the immediate response from the club was that even with the loss of its starting catcher for what could be the rest of the year, Cleveland doesn’t plan to pursue a more established catcher like Jonathan Lucroy via the trade market. The team’s belief is that Perez can hold down the fort as the primary catcher for the remainder of the season, with Chris Gimenez continuing to serve as the top backup option.
Of course, it’d be a surprise to see Cleveland brass plainly state that the plan was to pursue an upgrade on the trade market, and despite whatever the team wishes to publicly state, catcher is and has been an unequivocal weakness for the team all season long. Hoynes reported on Saturday that Cleveland valued Gomes’ defensive contributions to the point where it wouldn’t look for an upgrade in spite of his offensive woes, but the 28-year-old (29 tomorrow) has batted a woeful .165/.198/.313 at the plate this season. Gimenez’s .188/.231/.271 line isn’t any better, and Perez was hitless through 15 plate appearances prior to his injury (though he did have six walks).
All told, Cleveland catchers have been far and away the least productive collection of backstops in all of Major League Baseball this season, hitting a combined .169/.216/.299. That production more closely resembles the league-average pitcher (.134/.163/.171) than it does the league-average catcher (.240/.308/.384). The 27-year-old Perez offers some hope, to be sure, having posted very solid OBP and slugging marks in spite of a low average in 2015 when he batted .228/.348/.402 in 226 plate appearances. He hit well in 24 plate appearances on his rehab assignment as well, though the bulk of that work came at Rookie ball, and a sample of 24 PAs is hardly indicative of things to come anyhow. Moreover, Perez is returning from a thumb operation, and it’s not uncommon for players to struggle at the plate in the early stages of their returns from thumb, hand or wrist surgery.
The Indians may indeed wish to see how Perez handles his first few games back from the disabled list before pursuing any outside help, but it’s hard to imagine that the front office won’t be at least gauging the price on potentially available backstops. Even in the event that they don’t wish to pay a prohibitive price for a top-tier option such as Lucroy, the market features a number of rentals that are currently performing well (e.g. Nick Hundley, Kurt Suzuki) and several other options that won’t come at such a premium cost, as I wrote last week when examining the 2016 trade market for catchers.
- As the Rangers continue to browse the shelves of potentially-available starters, the team has at least asked the Braves about Julio Teheran, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter links). That hardly means there’s any real action on the righty, particularly since we’ve seen Texas tied to a whole host of starters in recent weeks. Cotillo also hears that the Rangers have had talks with the Brewers on catcher Jonathan Lucroy and southpaw Will Smith, though Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweets that the chatter “went nowhere.” All told, it still seems that the Texas front office is canvassing possibilities with the deadline a few weeks off.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports covers a lot of ground in his latest Inside Baseball column, beginning with a look at the Royals and the closing window of Kansas City’s core players (Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas). Hosmer is controllable through 2017, and while the Royals would love to keep him in K.C. forever, Heyman writes that Royals brass feels Hosmer and agent Scott Boras could seek $20MM+ on a 10-year deal. Those numbers may sound jarring for Hosmer, especially in light of Brandon Belt’s $79MM price tag this offseason, but a pair of GMs to whom Heyman spoke invoked contractual comparisons of Jason Heyward and Jacoby Ellsbury when looking ahead to Hosmer’s market. Hosmer will be entering his age-28 season when he hits the free-agent market, so he’ll certainly have youth on his side in addition to consistently improving performance.
More from the lengthy column…
- While the Diamondbacks have received trade interest in left-hander Patrick Corbin, GM Dave Stewart bluntly tells Heyman that he is “not moving Corbin.” Moving Corbin right now would be selling exceptionally low on a highly talented left-hander in the midst of a down season; Corbin looked like a budding star with the D-backs in 2013 and barely missed a beat in 2015 when returning from 2014 Tommy John surgery, but he’s currently sporting a 4.94 ERA on the season.
- The Orioles continue to hunt for starting pitching and have looked at Rich Hill and also checked in on Drew Pomeranz prior to his trade to the Red Sox. Baltimore, though, is pretty low on top-end prospects, which could make it difficult to submit the best offer for Hill, who’s been in high demand this summer.
- Astros right-hander Scott Feldman is available in trades, according to Heyman, and some rival executives believe that Houston would be open to moving Pat Neshek and Josh Fields despite their recent surge back into the division race. Feldman has handled a shift to the bullpen with aplomb and is currently sporting a 2.56 ERA with an improved 6.2 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 and a 47.6 percent ground-ball rate in 52 2/3 innings. He’s earning $8MM in the final season of a front-loaded three-year, $30MM contract. Neshek has a $7.8MM club option for the 2017 season ($500K buyout) and has a strong 2.54 ERA, though metrics like FIP, xFIP and SIERA all feel he’s been fortunate to post that mark this season. Fields is the opposite, with strong peripherals laying underneath an unsightly 6.89 ERA. He’s controllable through 2018.
- There “hasn’t been much buzz lately” when it comes to the potential trades of Brewers stars Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun, per Heyman, who notes that Lucroy again voiced at the All-Star festivities that he’d like to play for a contending club. Heyman adds that relievers Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress figure to draw plenty of interest, though there’s no firm indication that Milwaukee is open to dealing either of those controllable bullpen cogs.
- A club that spoke to the Rangers about trades came away with the impression that Joey Gallo isn’t very attainable. Gallo hasn’t been definitively mentioned as a trade candidate, but there’s been plenty of speculation about whether he could be included in a win-now move for the Rangers, especially in the wake of Adrian Beltre’s extension earlier this season. Heyman adds that the Rangers have investigated “basically all available starters,” which lines up with reports from recent weeks linking them to the likes of Ervin Santana, Pomeranz, Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore and others.