- Athletics southpaw Rich Hill believes he’ll be able to pitch on Sunday after throwing 50 pitches with protective covering over his blistered left hand and another 20 without the cover, tweets John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group. Hill has scarcely been able to pitch since late May due to a groin strain and this newfound blister issue, but he remains a highly intriguing rental option thanks to a 2.25 ERA with 10.7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and a 50 percent ground-ball rate through 76 innings out of the Oakland rotation this season. That would obviously give rival scouts just one more opportunity to look at Hill before Monday’s non-waiver deadline, but that could prove crucial given his limited recent exposure.
- Some of the same teams pursuing Bruce are in on Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi notes on Twitter. That’s not surprising — both are left-handed-hitting corner outfielders, albeit rather different ones — and it’s certainly possible to imagine the interplay between their respective markets having an impact on how trade talks progress. The Cubs, Dodgers, and Indians all have some level of interest in both players, per the report.
- As for the Athletics and Reddick, there are other teams in the mix, too. Per John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group, the Royals and Giants are also taking a look. Of course, we also heard today (subsequent to Hickey’s report) that Kansas City may instead head in a different direction.
- 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.
Athletics lefty Rich Hill still isn’t ready to throw from a mound due to a blister on his pitching hand, manager Bob Melvin told reporters including Comcast’s Joe Stiglich (via Twitter). Though he is keeping his arm in shape by throwing with the blister area covered, the overall progress doesn’t seem quite as advanced as might be hoped. At this point, Oakland just has to hope that Hill can fully recover in time to make one more start before the trade deadline and show that he’s past the issue.
- Outfielder Josh Reddick expressed frustration with the fact that he and the Athletics haven’t engaged in recent extension talks, Stiglich also tweets. Reddick called the situation “kind of disheartening,” presumably referring to the fact that he’s likely to be traded with no new deal in place. Player and team have long been said to be engaging in dialogue over a new deal, but it now seems that the time has passed for an agreement.
The Cubs are showing some interest in Athletics right fielder Josh Reddick, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB.com. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein drafted Reddick while serving as GM of the Red Sox, and the two sides were loosely linked by Morosi earlier this season. Of course, outfield isn’t necessarily a primary need for the Cubs, who have been more tied to bullpen help of late. However, the Cubs did cross one item off their wishlist with yesterday’s pickup of Mike Montgomery, and the Chicago front office/field staff clearly place a high value on harboring a deep roster that is tailored to allowing manager Joe Maddon to play matchups. Chicago is currently deploying Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Willson Contreras in the outfield with regularity, although Dexter Fowler will soon return, which could push Contreras back behind the plate and Bryant back to the hot corner more frequently. Reddick has long handled righties better than lefties and would provide a solid defensive option in the outfield. It’s a similar skill-set to that of Jason Heyward, though Reddick’s been the more productive of the two this season, slashing .301/.380/.445 in a season that’s been shortened by a fractured thumb. Reddick initially slumped upon activation from the DL, but he’s hit well more recently.
A few more notes out of Chicago…
- The White Sox are now at least considering changing course to act as sellers this summer, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. In particular, David Robertson is generating quite a few calls for the Sox, who have lost five of their past seven games and dropped below the .500 mark. Robertson is owed $29.45MM through the end of his contract in 2018, so he comes with considerable financial considerations. Then again, he’s also pitched quite well outside of a pair of disastrous meltdowns that saw him yield four and six earned runs this season, and the demand for impact relievers is high.
- The ChiSox are also getting quite a few calls on outfielder Adam Eaton, says Heyman, though he’s controllable at a much more affordable rate and for considerably longer than Robertson. Eaton is owed just $21MM through the end of the 2019 campaign, and his contract includes club options for the 2020 and 2021 seasons that are respectively valued at $9.5MM and $10.5MM. For a player with his offensive profile and defensive wizardry in the corner outfield, that’s an enormously valuable deal that would require a huge haul for the White Sox to surrender.
- While most who eye the White Sox will be hopeful that the club will part with ace Chris Sale or No. 2 starter Jose Quintana (who would be the top pitcher on many teams), Morosi tweeted this morning that there’s still great doubt within the industry that the Sox would part with either left-hander. The Dodgers, he notes have the prospects to make an overwhelming offer. I should point out that the Rangers do as well, with Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News recently speculating that they could be a fit for Quintana if the Sox decide to sell.
- Morosi tweets that the White Sox will have opportunities to move lefty reliever Zach Duke, who is controlled through 2017 and earning $5.5MM next year. That’s probably an understatement, as Duke boasts a 2.97 ERA with 10.5 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a 58.1 percent ground-ball rate this season. If the Sox do sell off some veteran pieces, I’d wager that they could get a nice piece for Duke even if they understandably hang onto more core pieces like Sale, Quintana and Eaton.
Padres general manager A.J. Preller was on-hand to watch the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate earlier this week, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The Roughriders, Grant notes, were playing the Padres’ own Double-A affiliate so there’s the possibility of reading too much into the situation, but he notes that the GMs of selling clubs are more concerned with watching who they might acquire this time of year rather than evaluating their own internal talent. Per Grant, the Athletics also had one of their top minor league evaluators, Billy Owens, present at that contest. Grant notes that names like Andrew Cashner and Rich Hill have been connected to the Rangers in recent weeks, so there’s reason to believe that some homework on one of those two very available pitchers was being done. On a related note, the Padres are reportedly hoping to trade Cashner before his scheduled start tomorrow evening.
Athletics lefty Rich Hill is doubtful to make a start on Sunday, the next open day in Oakland’s rotation, manager Bob Melvin told reporters including MLB.com’s Jane Lee (Twitter link). Hill left his most recent start after only five pitches when a blister on his left middle finger popped.
It seems that the ill-timed blister is still not responding well enough to get Hill back on the bump. Oakland now has a razor-thin margin for error in getting the southpaw back in action before the trade deadline. While it’s theoretically possible that he could be traded without making another start, there’s little question that it would seriously hamper his value — particularly given the 36-year-old’s lack of a big league track record.
Hill is already a highly unconventional trade candidate, having resuscitated his career late last season. He has been nothing short of masterful, though, since signing with the A’s over the winter, and carries a 2.25 ERA with 10.7 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 over 76 frames on the year.
Oakland surely felt it had dodged a bullet when Hill made it back from an earlier groin issue without any ill effects. In his first two starts of this month, he delivered 12 innings over which he permitted just three earned runs on seven hits and four walks, striking out 16 along the way. Excepting that most recent, truncated outing, however, he has now gone two weeks without pitching.
MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk recently examined the potential market for Hill’s services, discussing the impact of the blister — which now seems only to be rising in relevance. As the list of potentially available starters shows, there’s a significant dearth of pure rental rotation additions out there for the taking. But at this point, Hill won’t be able to log two more starts unless he’s able to make an appearance early next week. Odds are, it seems, the A’s will be banking quite a bit on a single remaining outing before accepting final bids on the unique lefty.
- Catcher Carson Blair has been released by the Athletics. The 26-year-old appeared briefly in the majors last year, and was outrighted off of the 40-man over the winter. He has struggled in limited action at the Triple-A level, but has handled Double-A pitching quite well (.288/.398/.514) in a slightly more robust sample of 136 plate appearances.
Something as small as a blister could have a huge impact on this year’s trade deadline. Rich Hill was forced to leave Sunday’s start against the Blue Jays after just five pitches due to a popped blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand, disappointing the many scouts in attendance and bringing into question the status of perhaps the most hotly-pursued starter heading into August 1.
Injury may have been the only thing that could’ve lowered Hill’s trade value at this point. The 36-year-old lefty already missed a month recovering from a groin strain, though he looked good in his first two outings back from the DL. This blister issue already caused Hill’s first post-break start to be pushed back two days, and now Hill believes it will at least a few days before the blister heals well enough for him to throw again. It could be a full week before Hill takes the mound again, leaving him time for perhaps two starts before the trade deadline.
Needless to say, this isn’t a welcome development for an A’s team that was looking to cash in on Hill’s unexpected dominance. Between his four-start emergence for the Red Sox in 2015 and his continued terrific work in 2016, Hill has posted a 2.06 ERA, 10.8 K/9 and 3.82 K/BB over his past 105 innings. Hill is a free agent this winter and is owed around $2.3MM for the remainder of the season, making him an easily affordable rental for teams in both large and small markets.
Affordable in salary, that is — not necessarily affordable in terms of the return it will take to pry him out of Oakland. Hill has pitched so well that the A’s could justify issuing him a qualifying offer in order to recoup a first-round compensation draft pick back if Hill signed elsewhere. (Though it’s an interesting question if Hill would accept the QO to lock in a one-year deal in the $16MM range, which would certainly impact the A’s decision to issue the offer.) That means the Athletics’ absolute minimum asking price will be a prospect graded as equal to the value of that comp pick, and the asking price to this point has been much higher; the A’s reportedly initially wanted Anderson Espinoza when the Red Sox inquired about Hill.
The blister and groin strain underline the great unknown that is Hill’s durability, as the 76 innings he’s thrown this year is already the third-highest innings total of his 12-year career. This being said, in a very thin summer market for starting pitching, Hill may still emerge as the top arm available if he is able to recover from his blister and deliver at least one more quality start before the deadline. There’s been so much interest in Hill that the A’s should still be able to find a trade partner, even if their hopes of landing a top-tier prospect may not be realized.
Billy Beane, David Forst and company will probably take the usual route of looking for the best talent available when shopping Hill, Josh Reddick, Danny Valencia or other trade chips before Aug. 1. If the A’s do prioritize a need, Baseball America’s Jim Shonerd (BA subscription required) recently noted that the A’s are thin on minor league outfield talent. That could be a particular area of focus in trade talks, especially if Reddick is also dealt. It’s also not out of the question that Oakland looks to add a Major League player, given that the Athletics have been loath to fully rebuild in the Beane era. While the A’s have struggled over the last two seasons, recent history suggests that they have their eye on rebounding in 2017.
Over a third of the league has been scouting Hill or has been otherwise connected to him in trade rumors, and you can make a case that a few other postseason contenders could also be a fit for the 36-year-old lefty. Let’s try to figure out who might be best-positioned to trade for Hill, beginning with the 11 teams who have already shown interest…