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July Trade Recap: NL Central

After covering the AL Central, AL East and NL East in our look back at the July trade market, let’s turn the spotlight on the NL Central:

Brewers

Cardinals

Cubs

Pirates

  • None

Reds

Synopsis

With four teams over .500 and only 5.5 games separating first place from fourth place after Friday’s games, it wasn’t hard to imagine that the NL Central would see a lot of action heading into the trade deadline.  While a few major arms came and went from the division, however, the action was a bit muted overall thanks to inactivity from two of those contending teams.

The Pirates didn’t swing a single deal in July despite being connected to many of the major pitching names known to be available.  David Price, Jon Lester, Lackey, Ian Kennedy, A.J. Burnett…all of these upper-tier starters were linked to the Bucs in trade rumors over the summer yet none ended up wearing the black-and-gold.  Pittsburgh likewise came up short in finding a left-handed reliever to help reinforce the bullpen.  While the Pirates had a pretty quiet July, however, it’s too early to say that they won’t still add to their roster — they didn’t make any major moves in July 2013 either yet picked up Marlon Byrd, John Buck and Justin Morneau before the August 31st deadline.  The Pirates’ payroll limitations will keep from them going for any of the more expensive names that might pop up on the waiver wire this month, yet it wouldn’t be surprising to see them add another useful piece or two.

A minor deal involving Jair Jurrjens notwithstanding, the Reds also didn’t do anything in July, and they’re another team that could be more active in August simply because they might not know if they’re contenders yet.  Cincinnati is 55-54 despite major injuries to several key players (i.e. Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips) and a brutal 2-10 slide following the All-Star break.  It seemed like the Reds themselves were on the fence about being buyers or sellers given that they checked in on Bonifacio and Alex Rios yet were also listening to offers for Mat Latos and Ryan Ludwick.  Like with Pittsburgh, a lack of available payroll space played a role in Cincinnati’s inaction, so moving Latos or Ludwick could’ve been ways of freeing up salary and (in Latos’ case) trading a big chip to help elsewhere on the Major League roster than than add prospects.

With a rotation that lacks a true ace but is otherwise quite solid from one to five, the Brewers’ rumored interest in the likes of Price and Lackey seemed more like due diligence rather than a genuine desire to make a big splash.  The division leaders were known to be looking for relief help but overall, Milwaukee didn’t have many roster holes that were in drastic need of an upgrade.  In Parra, the Brew Crew adds a very solid fourth outfielder who can play all three OF positions can provide above-average or better defense at any of them, and while he’s slumped at the plate this year, Parra has been a useful hitter in a platoon role.  Khris Davis left Friday’s game with a calf injury, so it’s possible Parra could quickly take on a bigger role.

It’s hard to believe that pitching was the Cardinals’ deadline focus given their seemingly inexhaustible supply of talented minor league arms, yet St. Louis was involved in talks for Price, Lester and Jake Peavy before eventually making the division’s two biggest acquisitions in Lackey and Masterson.  The Cardinal clubhouse might not be pleased about some of the players lost, yet the two veteran arms could provide needed help to a rotation that has been thinned by injuries and ineffectiveness.

In acquiring these pitchers, the Cards didn’t give up anyone who was providing any value to the 2014 squad.  After contributing heavily to last year’s pennant winners, Kelly (0.2 fWAR) and Craig (-0.6 fWAR) became expendable this season, especially on a team with so many young replacements in the minors.  Ramsey would be a top-three prospect on many clubs, yet since the Cardinals have a plethora of young outfield talent, they felt comfortable in sending him to Cleveland for Masterson.

Lackey should provide good value for this season and next, especially given that he’s under contract for only a league minimum salary in 2015.  Masterson is a free agent this winter and has been bothered by a bad knee, a drop in fastball velocity and control issues this season, yet his peripheral numbers indicate that his 5.51 ERA should be around a run and a half lower.  You could think that Masterson, an extreme ground ball pitcher, will improve in St. Louis simply because he’s going from the league’s worst defensive team to its best in terms of defensive runs saved.

The Cubs are the only NL Central team not still in the playoff hunt, and they continued their rebuilding effort in four deals that added even more young talent to an already-impressive farm system.  One trade involved adding an established big leaguer in Doubront, as perhaps a reunion with Theo Epstein will help get his career back on track after a tough season in Boston.

The other three trades saw the Cubs move veterans who had little value to a non-contender.  Russell drew a lot of attention from several teams and the Cubs packaged the southpaw and Bonifacio for switch-hitting catcher Caratini, the Braves’ second round pick in 2013.  Defensive specialist Barney was moved in a lower-level deal (he had already been designated for assignment by the Cubs) for a lottery ticket in Martinez, a 20-year-old with a live arm in Class A.

After over a year of rumors, the Cubs finally pulled the trigger on trading Samardzija, sending both the Shark and Jason Hammel to Oakland for a major prospect package.  Addison Russell gives the Cubs yet another young blue-chip middle infielder, and his acquisition has already generated rumors that the Cubs’ next step could be trading Starlin Castro for another established big league talent to upgrade the outfield or rotation in the offseason.  While Russell was the headliner of that trade, McKinney is also ranked ninth amongst Cubs prospects according to MLB.com’s midseason rankings, and Straily was considered a top-85 prospect by Baseball Prospectus before the 2013 season.

There were some whispers that the Cubs could use their prospect depth to make a deal for Price, yet that would’ve been a puzzling move for a team that isn’t planning to win now.  For where the Cubs are in their rebuilding process, it’s hard to see their July moves as anything less than a big win for the Cubs front office, turning four short-term veterans in Hammel, Bonifacio (both under contract only through 2014), Samardzija and Russell (through 2015) into four promising young players who combine for over two decades’ worth of controllable years.  Some more moves could be coming in August, as outfielders Justin Ruggiano, Nate Schierholtz and Ryan Sweeney would all likely not have much trouble passing through waivers.


Rosenthal On Cardinals, Miller, Price, Beane

Here are some notes from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal as he looks back on an incredibly busy Deadline Day…

  • Several Cardinals players were unhappy that Allen Craig and Joe Kelly were traded away, which didn’t necessarily surprise St. Louis GM John Mozeliak.  “We’ve had a tight clubhouse for many years, a lot of homegrown players who have been together a long time….When you have a young team, sometimes you don’t see these types of trades happening while you’re competing,” Mozeliak told Rosenthal.  “It caught some people off-guard. But time will heal all wounds.”  Rosenthal wonders if this trade and the recent signing of “notorious irritant” A.J. Pierzynski could’ve been made in order to shake up a clubhouse that had “perhaps grown too comfortable.”
  • The Brewers and Tigers were the other finalists for Andrew Miller‘s services before the Red Sox decided to trade the southpaw to the Orioles.  Boston received inquiries from between 10-12 teams about Miller’s services. Jon Morosi, Rosenthal’s FOX Sports colleague, reported yesterday that Detroit was close to a deal for Miller about 2.5 hours before the trade with Baltimore was finalized.
  • Some pundits have argued that the Rays should’ve gotten more from the Tigers and Mariners in the David Price trade, but Rosenthal is withholding judgement given how difficult the circumstances were for Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman.  The return could’ve been even less had Friedman waited until the offseason to move his ace.
  • In a tweet, Rosenthal notes that the Athletics decided against pursuing a Price trade in part because GM Billy Beane was worried that it would be tough to deal the southpaw this winter.  Price could earn up to $20MM on his 2015 contract in his last year of arbitration eligibility, so as good as the left-hander is, the salary and only the one year of control would limit Price’s trade value.

Minor Moves: Thornburg, Johnson, Wilson

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • The Brewers moved right-hander Tyler Thornburg to the 60-day disabled list in order to create a 40-man roster spot for the newly-acquired Gerardo Parra, the club announced.  Thornburg has been on the DL since early June with an elbow injury and still seems weeks away from a return, if he pitches again in 2014 at all.
  • The Athletics released embattled former closer Jim Johnson, per a club announcement. Brought in via trade, Johnson failed to deliver on his $10MM salary. The A’s will be responsible for the rest of it, less the prorated league minimum rate if Johnson catches on with a new team.
  • The Athletics outrighted outfielder Kenny Wilson to Double-A yesterday, according to the MLB transactions page. The speedy 24-year-old outfielder has been no stranger to transactions this year, as he obviously holds appeal to clubs but is hard to keep on a 40-man roster.
  • Catching up on the always-shifting DFA rolls, the following players are currently in limbo, per MLBTR’s DFA tracker: Jake Elmore (Athletics), Nick Noonan and Jose De Paula (Giants), Juan Carlos Oviedo and Erik Bedard (Rays), Jeff Francis and Brian Roberts (Yankees), Josh Wall (Pirates), and Ryan Wheeler (Rockies).


Brewers Acquire Gerardo Parra

The Brewers officially acquired two-time Gold Glove winner Gerardo Parra from the Diamondbacks today for minor leaguers Mitch Haniger and Anthony Banda.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers

Parra, 27, is hitting .259/.305/.362 in 440 plate appearances this year, playing mostly right field for Arizona.  Parra has typically posted stellar defensive metrics, though he’s been about average this year based on UZR and DRS.  He has about $1.6MM remaining on his contract this year, and is arbitration eligible for 2015.  A left-handed batter, Parra could enter something of a platoon with Khris Davis in left field.  Or, he may just spell Davis, Carlos Gomez, and Ryan Braun as an oft-used fourth outfielder.

Haniger, 23, is hitting .255/.316/.416 in 271 plate appearances at Double-A this year.  Baseball America rated Haniger the third-best prospect in the Brewers’ weak farm system prior to the season, calling him the team’s most advanced hitting prospect.  The Brewers drafted Haniger 38th overall in 2012 as a supplemental draft pick for the loss of Prince Fielder.  Banda, 20, is a southpaw starter with 83 2/3 innings at Low-A this year.  Baseball America ranked him 27th among Brewers prospects prior to the season, though they say the team viewed him as a potential mid-rotation starter.

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick first reported the Brewers and D’Backs completed a trade involving Mitch Haniger.  John Gambadoro of KTAR first reported the Brewers acquired Parra.  Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic first reported the D’Backs acquired a second player.  Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Chances Of Lackey Trade Are “Very Good”

3:00pm: The Indians are indeed interested in Lackey, tweets Rosenthal. Two teams that aren’t in play, he adds, are the Angels and Brewers.

12:01pm: There’s now a “very good chance” that the Red Sox will trade John Lackey as well as Jon Lester, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter). Lackey has been known to be available for days, but there had also been speculation that Boston could work out some form of extension with the right-hander.

Lackey’s five-year, $82.5MM contract with the Red Sox contained a clause that gave Boston a 2015 club option at the league minimum in the event that he missed significant time with an elbow injury. A torn ulnar collateral ligament that required Tommy John surgery triggered that clause, making Lackey a highly appealing trade chip even to teams with the most modest of payrolls.

Lackey will likely want an extension regardless of where he ends up, Rosenthal adds (Twitter links), but that’s not necessarily an unappealing concept for teams in search of a starter that can be controlled beyond 2014. Rosenthal lists the Indians and Marlins as two such clubs.

The Dodgers and Royals have shown interest in Lackey already, and reports yesterday indicated that the Marlins may prefer Lackey to Lester, as the asking price could be lesser. However, the asking price on Lackey isn’t exactly tame, as ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported yesterday that Boston wants an established big league starter in return (presumably, one with team control beyond 2015). Indeed, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald tweets, the BoSox aren’t likely to move both Lackey and Lester without getting starting pitching in return.

In 326 2/3 innings dating back to last season, Lackey has reestablished himself as a solid big league starter. He’s posted a 3.55 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9, averaging nearly 6 2/3 innings per outing.


Jon Lester Scratched From Tomorrow’s Start

Yesterday, reports indicated that the Orioles and Mariners have both inquired on Red Sox ace Jon Lester, but the Sox are likely to take any decision down to the wire. Earlier this morning, we noted that Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com heard there was less than a 50 percent chance Lester is dealt based on current talks, but offers are expected to increase in the coming days.

We’ll keep track of the rest of Tuesday’s Lester-related rumors in this post…

  • A source with direct knowledge of the situation says that there are six clubs still in on Lester, per Edes (via Twitter): the Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Athletics.
  • At present, the Red Sox have not received a trade proposal that the club is satisfied with, tweets Abraham. Multiple reports have indicated that no trade was in place when Lester was scratched from his start. At the moment, the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Pirates are all in the mix for Lester, tweets Rosenthal.
  • The Brewers are “not on” Lester, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • Lester has been scratched from his start tomorrow, manager John Farrell tells reporters, including Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com (via Twitter). A rival GM tells Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (Twitter link) that it appears a deal will be in place tonight or tomorrow morning.
  • The division-rival Jays and Orioles seem out of the running for Lester at this point, per Bradford (Twitter links). A team source rejected the suggestion that the Dodgers would offer top prospect Joc Pederson for Lester, Saxon reports.
  • If the Pirates make a deal for Lester, it will have to occur before his start tomorrow so he can take his next turn for Pittsburgh, reports MLB.com’s Tom Singer. The Bucs are not willing to part with prospects Tyler Glasnow, Nick Kingham, Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell, or Austin Meadows in a deal. But the team would consider dealing Alen Hanson or JaCoby Jones, and Singer says that outfielder Jose Tabata is a “wild card” in discussions, which could potentially expand to include Mike Carp or one of several Boston relievers.

Earlier Updates

  • The Red Sox were never given a “figure … on what it would have taken to sign” Lester, a source tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). But while Lester and his representatives never formally made an offer to the Red Sox, both sides exchanged numbers and understood their respective parameters, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports.
  • The Red Sox have enhanced leverage regarding Lester because he could tip the balance in the NL Central, if not also the rest of the National League, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Sherman discusses the possibility of the Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates, and Brewers making the move for a rotation upgrade. Boston is “at least considering” attempting to deal and later re-sign its staff ace, Sherman adds.
  • Sox manager John Farrell says that the club still has Lester penciled in to start, but is prepared to use Brandon Workman in his place if Lester is dealt, as Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe tweets.
  • The Dodgers are not close to any major deals at the moment and adding Lester “appears … unlikely,” tweets Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Nevertheless, Los Angeles appears on top of the list of likeliest suitors for the Boston lefty, as handicapped by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
  • The Pirates are emerging as a dark-horse to acquire Lester, report Jeff Passan and Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. (John Perrotto of the Beaver County Times was first to link the Bucs with a possible move on Lester; subscription link.) One possible centerpiece of such a deal would be well-regarded prospect Josh Bell, the Yahoo writers add. A deal with the Pirates would not necessarily involve Bell, however, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com tweets.
  • The Red Sox are actively taking offers and preparing to deal Lester, a National League GM tells Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Abraham says it is difficult to see Lester taking his start tomorrow for Boston.
  • Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio reports (via Twitter) that the Blue Jays, Mariners, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Orioles and Marlins are all currently in on Lester. The Marlins are certainly a new addition to the mix, although that would line up with Buster Olney’s report from earlier today pegging them as a potential surprise candidate for some starting pitchers. Miami has a number of high-end prospects, and Lester’s remaining $4.48MM in salary might not be too overwhelming.
  • Andy Martino of the New York Daily News hears the same as Olney did earlier this morning (Twitter link): There’s “little doubt” in the industry that Boston will move its ace. Rival clubs are expecting a trade.
  • Lester’s agent, Seth Levinson of ACES, denied a previous report that his client’s asking price in extension talks motivated the Red Sox to trade him, reports Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. Unsurprisingly, Levinson shed no further light on any extension talks with Lester: “The discussions we had with the Red Sox were confidential and will remain that way,” Levinson said to Edes in an email.
  • Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com adds some new teams to the Lester mix, as he reports that the Athletics, Blue Jays and Braves have all called to inquire on the BoSox ace. Of those teams, Toronto is being the most aggressive in its pursuit, a source tells McAdam. The Sox are willing to move him to the division-rival Jays or Orioles, according to McAdam’s source. Boston is still seeking multiple prospects in return, specifically one elite prospect — McAdam uses Oscar Taveras, Joc Pederson and Corey Seager as examples — and at least one more lesser prospect. Interestingly, McAdam notes that the Red Sox will not consider trading Lester to the Yankees.
  • The Brewers have spoken to the Sox about Lester, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Milwaukee was said to have asked the Rays about David Price as well, but Price might not be dealt now, and Lester would cost less to acquire. Heyman notes that Milwaukee has top pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson to offer as a centerpiece and has a deeper farm system than it has in prior years. Nelson ranked 38th on Baseball America’s midseason list of the game’s Top 50 prospects, and MLB.com ranked him 53rd on their midseason Top 100.

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.


Central Notes: Pirates, Ruggiano, Pirates, Bastardo

If the Pirates can’t land a reliever this week, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review suggests that the Bucs could move Edinson Volquez to the bullpen.  Volquez, who has hit 98 mph on the gun this season, has been trending down since April. More from the Central Divisions..


David Price Rumors: Monday

Here’s the latest on Rays ace David Price

  • The Brewers are one of the teams who have asked about Price, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports.  A source tells Rosenthal that the Crew just put their “foot in the water” of the Price sweepstakes, so it remains to be seen if Milwaukee was making a due diligence move or if they have a deeper interest.  As Rosenthal notes, the Brewers would be “a long shot” to end up with Price given the relative lack of depth in their farm system (especially compared to the Cardinals and other teams connected to Price) and their ability to afford Price’s possible $20MM salary through arbitration in 2015.
  • Rosenthal noted that some in the industry expect the Cubs to make an attempt to land Price.  A Cubs executive tells USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Twitter link), however, that Chicago has “zero interest” in acquiring Price now since the team prefers to hang onto its highly-regarded prospects.
  • In an appearance on FOX Sports Live (video link), Jon Morosi still feels that Price will be traded before Thursday’s deadline and the southpaw won’t make his scheduled start on Wednesday afternoon.  This said, Morosi noted that it is still very unclear whether Tampa will decide to trade their ace.

NL Central Notes: Brewers, Reds, Pirates

The Brewers have been active at the trade deadline in recent seasons, but GM Doug Melvin is downplaying the impact a deadline acquisition might have, writes MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. “We’re out there, we’re going to have our ears open,” says Melvin. “But we still have to play well as a team and not to think that one acquisition makes a difference. Not many times does that acquisition make the difference without the team still continuing to play well.” Melvin’s acquisition of C.C. Sabathia in early July 2008 was exactly the sort of high-impact move GMs hope for when they make summer deals, although Melvin is obviously correct that one player can’t carry a team all by himself. McCalvy suggests that the Brewers could be in the market for right-handed relief help this summer. Here are more notes on the NL Central.

  • The Reds have struggled recently, and it’s unclear what they’ll do at the trade deadline, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon writes. If they end up buying, they’d like a hitter who can play more than one position. Injuries have hurt the Reds this season, and a number of bulky salaries in 2015 could impede their ability to upgrade. If they do decide to sell (although there does not appear to be much evidence that’s likely), they could make available a number of desirable pieces, including Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Mat Latos and Mike Leake.
  • Pirates manager Clint Hurdle agrees with general manager Neal Huntington that the Bucs need to be careful trading top prospects for short-term upgrades, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. “You start talking about moving three or four prospects in your top 10, 15? That can get a little dicey,” Hurdle says. “What can help now versus hamstring you later?” Hurdle also notes, however, that the Pirates have made late-summer moves to improve their club in each of the last three seasons, getting players like Derrek Lee, Ryan Ludwick, Wandy Rodriguez, Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau. The Pirates’ biggest need this year is probably in the bullpen, and upgrading there shouldn’t necessarily cost top prospects.

Quick Hits: Brewers, Angels, Dodgers, Astros

Brewers GM Doug Melvin says he’s “been pretty aggressive as far as contacting teams,” but the trade front remains quiet, per Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel. Melvin reportedly checked in on right-handed setup men, but found the market lacking. According to Melvin, two players who surprisingly may not be dealt are LaTroy Hawkins and Chad Qualls.

  • The Angels were active early and often in this season’s trade market, and GM Jerry Dipoto thinks the club is ready to stand pat, tweets Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. Per Dipoto, “We really like our team. The likelihood is that we’ll do nothing, but we will stay in touch.”
  • With rumors swirling, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti thinks a trade for an elite pitcher is “unlikely,” writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Colletti is loath to part with any of his top prospects, including Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Julio Urias. In discussing Pederson, Colletti notes that he isn’t ready to contribute to a pennant race. Hitting southpaws and trimming his strikeout rate top Pederson’s to-do list.
  • The Astros have a handful of relievers to market this July, including Qualls, Josh Fields, and Tony Sipp. The Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich reports that the trio of relievers continue to draw plenty of offers. It’s interesting to see this juxtaposed with Melvin’s expectations that the Astros intend to keep Qualls.