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With the Mets’ offense floundering while key hitters David Wright, Daniel Murphy and Travis d’Arnaud are on the disabled list, the team has spoken to the Athletics about a potential Ben Zobrist trade, reports John Harper of the New York Daily News. Citing sources “on both sides,” Harper says that while there have been talks, there’s nothing to indicate that the talks are particularly advanced.
The Mets have dropped seven consecutive games and fallen under the .500 mark — a swift fall from the high that came along with an 11-game winning streak back in April. Still, as Harper notes, the team’s rotation is too good to remain idle and hope for improved performance and/or better health. Harper spoke to Alderson about the need to make a move, with the GM telling him, “It would be nice to do something if we could to improve this team and give it a psychological boost.” According to Harper, Alderson made it clear that he understands the urgency to make some kind of move to help the team.
Zobrist is the type of player in which the Mets are reportedly interested. Previous indications have been that the club is eyeing someone versatile — potentially someone that could play at third base while Wright is on the shelf and slide to another position when he returns to the club. (The Mets are hoping to have Wright back around the All-Star break.) Zobrist is highly versatile, having logged significant playing time in the Majors at second base, shortstop, left field and right field. Zobrist also has more brief exposure to third base, center field and first base. While he wouldn’t be an ideal candidate to step in at the hot corner for Wright, the team could use Murphy at third with Zobrist at second until Wright returns, then potentially use Zobrist at either shortstop or in a corner outfield slot.
Of course, all of that is relatively aggressive speculation, given the seemingly preliminary nature of the discussions between the two teams. In fact, previous reports have indicated that while the Mets do covet Zobrist, they also feel they’ll be outbid for his services. As Harper notes, it doesn’t help the Mets’ cause that one of their more marketable trade chips, right-hander Rafael Montero, has been sidelined for two months with a shoulder injury.
Zobrist underwent knee surgery earlier this year and struggled upon his return, but he’s hitting a solid .250/.335/.451 with five homers on the season after heating up recently. Defensive metrics are quite down on his work this year, though it’s fair to wonder how much that’s tied to the knee surgery, as he’s long graded out as a plus defensive player all around the diamond. If the knee is the reason for the defensive struggles, then it stands to reason that his glovework should improve along with his bat as he works his way back to full strength. Zobrist is owed $4.18MM through the end of the season, at which point he’s eligible for free agency.
Certainly, a Zobrist trade — with the Mets or any other team — isn’t likely to transpire in the near future. The A’s are still said to be pushing to get back into the race, and they’ve played better as of late, winning eight of their past 10 contests and 13 of 21 in June. Beyond that, we’re in the early stages of what looks to be a market skewed decisively in favor of sellers, so any significant trade made at this juncture would likely be very costly for the acquiring team.
In his latest notes column for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal begins with an interesting note on the Nationals. Despite a substantial payroll and a heavy offseason investment in Max Scherzer, Nats ownership is reluctant to add payroll during the season. Rosenthal notes that, in hindsight, we saw an indication of this last July when Cleveland paid all of the $3.3MM remaining on Asdrubal Cabrera‘s salary after the Nats acquired him. (Of course, the Nats were also willing to take on all of Matt Thornton‘s salary via waiver claim.)
Because of this, Rosenthal wonders if the Nats will consider trading Ian Desmond this summer to clear room for a different acquisition. Given Desmond’s struggles, the team could be better off with Danny Espinosa, Yunel Escobar and Anthony Rendon seeing regular time in the infield. Earlier in the week, I speculated on a possible Desmond trade after it was reported that the Nats were interesred in the D-Backs’ middle infielders, but Rosenthal notes that it could also allow them more flexibility to pursue Aroldis Chapman, Ben Zobrist or even a reunion with Tyler Clippard. Of course, Desmond’s offensive and defensive woes diminish his trade value, as well.
A few more highlights from Rosenthal’s column…
- Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart tells Rosenthal that he usually doesn’t pay attention to media criticism, but he’s aware of the near-universal criticism of the D-Backs for their trade of Touki Toussaint (in which the team essentially sold its 2014 first-round pick to Atlanta). Rosenthal quotes Stewart: “The truth is we did not know what Touki’s value would be if we shopped him. There is a lot of speculation on that. People are assuming it would have been better, but we don’t know. There was an opportunity to make a deal that gave us more flexibility today as well as next year. We took that opportunity. It’s tough to say we could have gotten more. He was drafted at No. 16, given ($2.7) million. In my opinion, that’s his value.” Stewart continues to say that Toussaint has not thrown 96 mph with the D-Backs, despite some scouting reports and that there’s “some inflation of what people think Touki is.” Stewart adds that the D-Backs think Toussaint will be a Major League pitcher but not for another five to six years.
- A brief interjection from me to offer my take on those comments: It’s odd to hear a GM openly devalue a player in this fashion, even after trading him away. Beyond that, however, it’s puzzling to hear Stewart equate Toussaint’s value with the clearly arbitrary number assigned to last year’s draft slot value. Having shown a willingness to spend $16MM+ on a pitching prospect (Yoan Lopez) this offseason, Stewart is undoubtedly cognizant of the fact that Toussaint would have fetched far, far more than $2.7MM in a theoretical free agent setting. Additionally, if they truly do feel that Toussaint will pitch in the Major Leagues, that makes the trade all the more puzzling to me, as my best explanation to this point had been that they simply didn’t believe in his future all that strongly.
- Back to Rosenthal’s piece, which has several more quotes from Stewart, including the GM’s own admission of surprise to his team’s current standing in the NL West. The D-Backs were built with an eye on the longer-term picture than 2015, says Stewart, and they’ll need to assess how to respond at the deadline. To this point, the D-Backs have received inquiries on their starting pitching, but not on their middle infield. Stewart flatly says “…we’re not moving [Nick] Ahmed,” and calls a trade of Chris Owings “very unlikely.” Interestingly, that does seem to indicate that the new GM values Ahmed over Owings.
- The Astros remain interested in Jeff Samardzija, and as Rosenthal notes, a move away from what has been a brutal White Sox defense would likely help Samardzija quite a bit. Samardzija’s .338 BABIP has helped contribute to a significant discrepancy between his 4.53 ERA and 3.67 FIP. Of course, Chicago’s porous defense doesn’t necessarily explain Samardzija’s diminished strikeout rate and struggles to strand runners in 2015. The Astros, Rosenthal says, are eyeing Samardzija and other pitchers, but the White Sox are not yet ready to sell.
- The Brewers aren’t receiving very strong interest in Francisco Rodriguez, likely in part due to his backloaded contract, Rosenthal hears. K-Rod is still owed $1.95MM in 2015, plus $9.5MM in 2016 between his salary and the buyout on a $6MM club option for the 2017 season. Lefty Neal Cotts, however, figures to be in demand and may even be of interest to his former club, the Rangers, Rosenthal writes. Cotts’s 4.30 ERA isn’t anything to write home about, but he’s held lefties to a .546 OPS.
- The Cardinals might not be as urgent to add a starter as many had previously expected. The club feels that Michael Wacha can top 200 innings, and Carlos Martinez can deliver about 170. A bigger need might be a left-handed-hitting complement for Mark Reynolds at first base, and Rosenthal suggests Adam LaRoche as a speculative fit to improve the team on both sides of the ball.
Full Story | 20 Comments | Categories: Adam LaRoche | Anthony Rendon | Arizona Diamondbacks | Aroldis Chapman | Ben Zobrist | Chicago White Sox | Chris Owings | Cincinnati Reds | Francisco Rodriguez | Houston Astros | Ian Desmond | Jeff Samardzija | Mark Reynolds | Milwaukee Brewers | Neal Cotts | Nick Ahmed | Oakland Athletics | St. Louis Cardinals | Texas Rangers | Touki Toussaint | Tyler Clippard | Washington Nationals | Yunel Escobar
A bone bruise in his right wrist has landed Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman on the DL, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. The team is hopeful that Freeman won’t miss too much time, but Bowman adds that it would be “optimistic” to expect that he will return on July 3 when he is first eligible to be activated.
A few more items pertaining to the NL East…
- Though they’re 11 games under .500, the Marlins are not yet thinking of selling, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). The team could revisit that thinking if things don’t improve after facing the Cardinals, Dodgers and Giants on the upcoming homestand, he says. Still, the team could soon have a surplus of starting pitching on its hands, once Jose Fernandez, Jarred Cosart and Henderson Alvarez are all activated from the disabled list. Mat Latos could end up being the odd man out, Rosenthal speculates, adding that veteran righty Dan Haren isn’t likely to be moved.
- While reports of scouts watching a certain team/player can sometimes be overblown, there are a pair of NL East clubs scouting possible trade pieces tonight. The Nationals have a high-level scout watching the Athletics tonight, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, noting that Washington has been linked to Ben Zobrist recently. Additionally, Jared Sandler of the Rangers Radio Network tweets that the Phillies have a scout in attendance for Chi Chi Gonzalez‘s start tonight. Gonzalez’s name has been floated in rumors connecting the Rangers to Cole Hamels.
- Andy Martino of the New York Daily News joined SNY’s Mostly Mets podcast to discuss possible upgrades for the Mets‘ offense (audio link). “They’re moving cautiously, because my understanding is that they have payroll flexibility, but essentially, Alderson has one big bullet to fire that way,” Martino said. Alderson may have the ability to either add a few lower-cost pieces or pursue one more expensive player, but Martino points to Alderson’s history of not parting with significant prospect packages to outbid other clubs in speculating that the ultimate result of the Mets’ trade efforts will be adding a few lower-profile pieces.
- The Mets announced today that Travis d’Arnaud has hit the DL with a sprain in his left elbow (Twitter link). At this time, there’s no immediate timetable for d’Arnaud’s return, though it’s at least positive that the injury is in his non-throwing elbow.
- In the wake of Maikel Franco‘s scorching hot streak and his third homer in two games at Yankee Stadium, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweets that the Phillies beat the Yankees‘ offer to Franco by a mere $5,000 back in 2010. Philadelphia offered Franco a $100K signing bonus, whereas the Yankees’ top offer was $95K. That’s probably another $5-10K that the Yankees wish they’d spent, though there’s little certainty when dealing with players of that age. (Franco was 17 at the time he signed with the Phils.)
The Royals are casting a wide net in their search for upgrades on the trade market and have shown signs of interest in Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Ben Zobrist, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter).
The Reds have, in fact, received inquiries from multiple clubs on Cueto, Leake and Aroldis Chapman, Morosi continues, but Cincinnati is still reluctant to engage in serious trade discussions despite sitting 12.5 games back in the NL Central. Likewise, Morosi’s colleague, Ken Rosenthal, hears that the A’s are in no rush to move Zobrist, as the team is still trying to get back into the race (Twitter link). Rosenthal adds that it’s not entirely clear if the Royals have inquired on Zobrist specifically, but they’ve discussed upgrading at second base, making Zobrist a logical target.
Many pundits feel that while a sale of veteran pieces is only a matter of time for the Reds, they’ll wait until after hosting next month’s All-Star Game before doing so. It would, after all, be a bitter pill to swallow for Cincinnati natives to watch Cueto and Chapman pitch in the All-Star Game while wearing another club’s jersey.
On last week’s MLBTR Podcast, Jeff Todd and I discussed the Reds’ trade possibilities at length. I posited that given the sheer volume of appealing pieces the team could trade, it’s possible that Cincinnati could enjoy a Braves-esque turnaround by willingly listening to offers on not only Cueto, Chapman and Leake, but also Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier.
As for the Athletics, their reluctance to throw in the towel has been noted before, but the team remains 10 games under .500 and 10 games out of first in the AL West even after going 17-11 over the past month. They’re a slightly more manageable eight games back from a second consecutive Wild Card playoff berth, but there’s a clear uphill battle for the A’s to become serious contenders again.
From the Royals’ standpoint, it’s not hard to see why they’d be interested in an upgrade at second base. Setting aside the avalanche of Omar Infante/All-Star jokes already pouring in on Twitter, Kansas City second basemen have combined to hit a woeful .230/.248/.307 this season. Of course, Infante is owed a significant $22.01MM through the end of the 2017 season. (That number will rise by $500K if he does indeed start the All-Star game.)
A rotation upgrade would seem sensible for Royals GM Dayton Moore as well; the Kansas City rotation has produced just a 4.37 ERA this season (21st in the league), and metrics such as FIP and xFIP feel that’s a pretty fair indicator of what to expect based on the talent the Royals are working with. Just three pitchers have made 10 or more starts for the Royals this year, and two of them are Yordano Ventura and Jeremy Guthrie, who have posted respective ERAs of 4.68 and 5.55. Both Cueto and Leake, then, stand out as logical trade targets for the first-place Royals, while on the Oakland side of the equation, names like Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez could come into play. Cueto, Leake and Kazmir are all free agents at season’s end, where the late-blooming and somewhat unheralded Chavez is controllable through the 2016 season.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Marlins announced that recently designated catcher Jhonatan Solano has been outrighted to Triple-A New Orleans after clearing waivers. The 29-year-old catcher was designated on Saturday to clear room for starter Justin Nicolino. Solano has been designated and outrighted twice in 2015 alone, and as a player who’s previously been outrighted, he’ll have the option of rejecting the assignment in favor of free agency.
- Similarly, the Athletics announced today that Andy Parrino, who was designated for assignment last week, has cleared waivers and been sent outright to Triple-A. The 29-year-old infielder has a .524 OPS in 131 games spent in very pitcher-friendly home environments (San Diego, Oakland). He has a solid .745 OPS in parts of five seasons at the Triple-A level. He, like Solano, has been previously outrighted and has the option to elect free agency.
- In his latest Minor League Transactions roundup, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy runs down a significant amount of undrafted free agents that have signed with teams this week. He also, as usual, has several previously unreported minor league signings and releases. Among the notable names in this week’s roundup are right-hander Matt Magill and first baseman Kila Ka’aihue. Magill, who underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year, re-signed on a minor league deal with the Reds to continue his rehab. He’d been released to clear a 40-man spot. Ka’aihue, who was released by the Nationals, signed a minor league pact with the Marlins. The Hawaiian slugger hasn’t appeared in the Majors since 2012 and struggled through 140 PAs with the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate. He hit .258/.358/.443 over the past two seasons in Japan with the Hiroshima Carp and has a strong minor league track record.
Smolinski, 26, had hit just .133/.270/.200 in 74 plate appearances at the big league level this year. But he’s had plenty of success in other recent stints. Smolinski has obliterated Triple-A pitching in 2015, putting up a 1.280 OPS in 50 turns at bat, and slashed a strong .349/.391/.512 over 92 trips to the plate in his first run at the majors last year.
Both of those big state lines were fueled by huge BABIP numbers, however, and Smolinski’s history is more of sturdy reliability than significant pop. He has never finished a full campaign in the upper minors with an OPS over the .800 mark.
So far this afternoon, we have seen Smolinski claimed by Oakland, Royals catcher Erik Kratz claimed by the Red Sox, and Dillon Gee outrighted by the Mets. As the MLBTR DFA Tracker shows, that leaves eight players in DFA limbo: Jhonatan Solano, Phillippe Aumont, Eury De La Rosa, Andy Parrino, Dustin McGowan, Hector Noesi, Jeff Bianchi, and Rickie Weeks.
The Athletics have designated utilityman Andy Parrino for assignment, the club announced. Both Ike Davis and Edward Mujica are coming off the DL, creating a need for two roster spots (with the other created by the optioning of reliever Arnold Leon).
Parrino saw only eight turns at bat this year for Oakland. All said, he owns a .175/.280/.244 slash line in 288 big league plate appearances over parts of five seasons at the game’s highest level. In his 1,500 career trips to the plate at Triple-A, Parrino owns a .272/.353/.392 overall slash line.
The 29-year-old is, of course, valued for his defensive versatility first and foremost. As a big leaguer, he’s seen most of his time up the middle on the infield dirt while also filling in periodically at third and the corner outfield.
Steve Adams joins the show to discuss the growing departure from traditional “buyers” and “sellers,” the Braves’ expedited rebuild process and the possibility of teams cashing in their biggest assets for younger, more controllable talent. Jeff then takes a closer look at one such hypothetical: the Reds and Aroldis Chapman.
The MLB Trade Rumors Podcast runs weekly on Thursday afternoons.
The Nationals and Athletics have matched up on trade deadline rentals (and other deals) with some frequency of late, and the clubs have reportedly discussed both Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard this year. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports, nothing has gained significant traction as of yet. Oakland has expressed interest in young Nats outfielder Michael Taylor, who has found himself playing a significant role on the club this year as a fill-in for Denard Span (to start the year) and Jayson Werth (currently on the DL). The A’s have also asked about the Nats’ young arms, per Rosenthal, who argues that the Taylor ask suggests that Oakland GM Billy Beane could be looking to “operate as both a buyer and seller” this summer. From my perspective, looking to add an unpolished but big-league-ready and controllable piece like Taylor is to be expected, whether or not Beane thinks his club has enough time to get back in contention this season. I’d also add that the Nats seem unlikely to move Taylor with Span set to hit free agency after the season.
Here are some more notes on the trade market:
- The Yankees are getting a good look at Reds starter Johnny Cueto, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. New York has sent a scout to watch both of Cueto’s last two starts, per the report. Of course, they surely are not alone in dedicating attention to the player who could be the best arm available this July.
- Though he doesn’t call for a trade directly, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch breaks down the flaws in the Cardinals bench alignment. In particular, utility infielder Pete Kozma has struggled badly at the plate for some time. And the team’s resources have been stretched somewhat with Mark Reynolds needed to fill in for the injured Matt Adams. Certainly, as the team looks to fortify itself for a stretch run and hopeful post-season berth, reserve players could be on the wish list.
- The Indians remain in a somewhat uncertain position in a tough AL Central; entering today’s action, the team remains four games under .500 and eight back in the division. In an appearance on MLB Network Radio (Twitter link), Cleveland GM Chris Antonetti certainly sounded more like a buyer. “We’re still learning about our team,” he said. “We’re still trying to find out where we’ll need to supplement.”
- In his own recent MLB Network Radio spot several days ago (via Twitter), Rangers GM Jon Daniels explained that he is preparing to take a hard look at the trade market. “If someone out there can help us, we have to be open-minded,” said Daniels. “We’ll evaluate our own guys first and go from there.” As both of these executive quotes indicate, one somewhat underappreciated factor in the slow onset of serious trades is the fact that many clubs are interested in obtaining an extended look at multiple internal options — all while seeing how other teams’ players are performing — before deciding whether to part with assets.
- The White Sox are in an even tougher spot than their division rivals from Cleveland, but GM Rick Hahn emphasized that the team is still focused on crawling back into contention, as Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reports. “The organization still absolutely believes in this team,” Hahn said. “The focus on the ballgames and the belief we will win ballgames is there.” Of course, as Levine rightly notes, the best way to get back in the hunt — improved performance — is also the optimal means of building trade value. Hahn went on to explain that he had no interest in giving public insight into the team’s strategic thinking. “Do we have thoughts on potential moves to reinvigorate the 2015 club and put us in a better position to contend going forward? Absolutely,” said Hahn. “As for the timing or the nature of those moves, that is not something that we will lay out in advance.”
- ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark lays out his top ten targets, rating Cole Hamels of the Phillies as the biggest trade piece. One executive tells Stark that Hamels has probably increased his value over the first few months of the season, though of course he is out right now with what is hoped to be a relatively minor hamstring issue. Teams that have had contact with the Phils are indicating that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is still insisting on young players that possible buyers have said they’re not willing to move. One source tells Stark that a “more creative” approach will be needed to get something done. Amaro has obviously taken a lot of heat for his handling of the team’s trade chips, though at this point it is probably best to withhold judgment; after all, Hamels is a somewhat unique trade commodity given his large but manageable contract, and a bidding war remains a plausible scenario.
Here are the day’s significant draft signings of less than $1MM, with slot values via Baseball America. All signing links to Twitter.
- Royals second-rounder Josh Staumont will receive the 64th selection’s full $964,600 slot value, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com reports. The MLB.com prospect team was highest among evaluators on Staumont, listing the collegiate righty as the 65th-best player available and crediting his top-of-class arm strength. Though he has issues with hitting the zone, Staumont has flashed enough easy velocity and promise with his secondary offerings to have a lofty ceiling.
- The Yankees will pay third-round choice Drew Finley an above-slot $950K bonus, Mayo reports. That’s $323,400 above the 92nd pick’s alloted pool space. ESPN.com’s Keith Law likes Finley quite a bit, explaining that the prep righty combines the projection and control to profile as a future starter. New York also agreed to an at-slot $456,800 payday for fourth-round choice Jeff Hendrix, also via Mayo.
- The Angels have agreed to an above-slot bonus for second-rounder Jahmai Jones, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. The precise bonus value remains unreported, but Jones was taken with the 70th pick in the draft, which had a $880K allocation. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs listed the high schooler as the 50th player on his board, crediting his advanced bat and solid power. The question is whether Jones can play an up-the-middle position defensively, but McDaniel says there is enough of a track record to suggest he can. Los Angeles has also agreed to a slot-value, $548,600 bonus for third-rounder Grayson Long, according to Mike DiGiovanna of MLB.com.
- Pirates second-rounder Kevin Kramer will take home a $850K bonus, according to Jim Callis of MLB.com. The team will save $144,800 against the pool space afforded by the 62nd overall selection. Law had the highest rating on the UCLA shorstop among pundits, calling him the 71st-best prospect and praising his overall skillset (while noting long-term questions about Kramer’s ability to stick at short and general lack of impact tools).
- The Nationals have reached agreement with high school outfielder Blake Perkins, who May says took home a $800K bonus, $93,100 under his slot value at 69th overall. Bryan Webb tweeted this morning that a deal was done. Only Law placed Perkins within his top-100 draft prospects, with Baseball America explaining that he has five-tool potential but has plenty of development ahead of him. Fourth-rounder Mariano Rivera Jr. has agreed to a slot-value ($410,700) bonus, also per Mayo. (You might remember his father, who had a lengthy MLB career for some good clubs.)
- The Diamondbacks announced a host of signings, including third-rounder Taylor Clarke, fourth-round pick Breckin Williams, and fifth-rounder Ryan Burr. The 76th choice was valued at $801,900, while the 106th pick came with a $538,200 allotment, though bonuses remain unreported. Per BA, Clarke’s future may depend upon his ability to harness his change-up, as the collegiate senior has a useful fastball and well-commanded slider. bArizona will pay Burr the slot value of $403K, Mayo adds.
- Likewise, the Mariners say they’ve formally signed a number of players to undisclosed bonuses, among them third-rounder Braden Bishop ($607,700 slot value) and fourth-round choice Dylan Thompson ($448K slot value). Bishop, a University of Washington outfielder, drew the 81st position on the MLB.com pre-draft list, which cited his big speed.
- The Marlins went well above slot to nab eight-round choice Chris Paddack, with Callis reporting that he’ll get an even $400K. The 236th slot in the draft was worth just $173,100.
- Athletics fourth-round pick Skye Bolt lands a $650K bonus, per Callis. That’s a nice bump up over the 128th choice’s $453,300 allotted value. MLB.com had the highest grade on the UNC outfielder, rating him 67th overall based upon Bolt’s four plus tools. The question is with the bat, which the switch-hitter has failed to show over the last two seasons.
Full Story | 16 Comments | Categories: 2015 Amateur Draft | 2015 Amateur Draft Signings | Arizona Diamondbacks | Kansas City Royals | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Miami Marlins | New York Yankees | Oakland Athletics | Pittsburgh Pirates | Ryan Webb | Seattle Mariners | Tampa Bay Rays | Transactions | Washington Nationals