The Rays believe there are roughly eight teams with strong enough farm systems to put together a package for right-hander Chris Archer in advance of the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, reports FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (video link). One of those clubs, the Pirates, would have to move both righty Tyler Glasnow and outfield prospect Austin Meadows to acquire Archer. Glasnow, who’s currently in the midst of his second major league start, is sixth on Baseball America’s Midseason Top 100, while Meadows is 10th. Tampa Bay’s asking price is quite high, then, but Rosenthal notes that Archer has an eminently team-friendly contract through 2021. The soon-to-be 28-year-old has struggled to prevent runs this season and has seen both his walk and home run rates increase significantly, but he was a top-of-the-rotation option over 535 1/3 innings from 2013-15.
Here are the day’s notable minor moves:
- The Braves have agreed to a minor league deal with backstop Michael McKenry, per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation (via Twitter). As Cotillo notes, that signing, along with the team’s addition of fellow veteran George Kottaras, could help bolster the team’s catching ranks if A.J. Pierzynski is traded away. McKenry was recently cut loose by the Cardinals after a brief appearance on the MLB roster. He owns a useful .238/.318/.406 slash in his 953 big league plate appearances, but evaluators don’t love his work behind the dish.
- Another catcher, Erik Kratz, has elected free agency after being outrighted by the Pirates, as Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets. Kratz has not produced with the bat at all this year, but does typically bring some pop to the table. The 36-year-old is a lifetime .200/.248/.362 hitter, with 24 home runs in 647 plate appearances. With plenty of organizations looking for depth, he’ll likely latch on with another organization in short order.
- The Rays are in a powerful position on the trade market, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. With so few options on the market for starting pitching, they’re poised to ask for lofty demands for any of Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore or even Chris Archer, though the common refrain on Archer is that he won’t be moved. The Dodgers and Rangers are both following the Rays’ starters closely, and Topkin lists the Pirates, Astros, Marlins, Nationals and Red Sox as teams with serious interest. Topkin adds Pearce, right-hander Erasmo Ramirez and left-hander Xavier Cedeno to the list of possible trade options for president of baseball operations Matt Silverman and his staff. Notably, the Marlins were recently tied to left-handed relief help, so they could be interested not only in Tampa Bay’s starters but Cedeno as well.
The Pirates designated catcher Erik Kratz for assignment, per a team announcement. Pittsburgh has activated fellow receiver Francisco Cervelli, precipitating the move. The Bucs also announced that Jameson Taillon has been activated, with fellow righty Chad Kuhl optioned to make way.
[Related: Updated Pirates Depth Chart]
The 36-year-old Kratz has endured an awful year offensively, recording only eight hits in 87 plate appearances, and owns a lifetime .200/.248/.362 batting line at the major league level. Like many veteran receivers, though, he’s valued more for his work behind the dish. It seems likely that he’ll either stick with the Pittsburgh organization after clearing waivers or move on to provide depth to another club.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington says that he’s working hard to upgrade the club’s pitching staff, as Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. He didn’t specify whether the rotation or the pen was the priority, and suggested that a move wasn’t a foregone conclusion, but it’s easy to imagine the club looking into opportunities in both areas. “We’re doing due diligence on all fronts, but the pitching is what seems to need the most help at this point unless we’re willing to go with what we’ve got internally,” said Huntington. Biertempfel takes a closer look at how the Bucs’ pitching is shaping up heading out of the break.
- Matt Moore, another of the Rays’ coveted starters, drew scouts from the Dodgers, Red Sox, Rangers, Pirates and Nationals for his Saturday start, per Roger Mooney of the Tampa Bay Times. As is the case with Odorizzi, the Rangers are also engaging with the Rays about Moore, so Texas’ interest isn’t a revelation. Moore spun 7 1/3 two-run innings in a 2-1 loss and dropped his ERA to 4.33. The 27-year-old has also put up 7.58 K/9 against 2.63 BB/9 this season.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington discusses several Bucs-related topics with Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other reporters, including how the Pirates are exploring the trade market for pitching but finding very high prices. “You continue to look externally, but your bar’s set fairly high in terms of what your acquisition needs to be,” Huntington said. “That acquisition comes with an extreme acquisition cost. We will weigh, are we better going with our own guys, is there something that makes sense from the outside, and that will play out over the next couple of weeks.”
- In another Huntington interview, he discussed the Pirates’ pitching search and other items with Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (audio link).
The Pirates and Yankees have discussed a swap involving Yankees righty Nathan Eovaldi, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. The Bucs are currently seeking stability in their rotation after watching Jon Niese and Jeff Locke struggle this year. They recently sent Niese to the bullpen.
Eovaldi, too, has had his troubles this year, with a 5.11 ERA, 7.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 to go with 19 home runs allowed in 98 2/3 innings. But the Pirates, whose 2013-2015 playoff runs were built in large part upon their ability to fix other organizations’ struggling pitchers (including former Yankees starter A.J. Burnett), might see promise in Eovaldi, given his high-90s fastball and good ground ball rate (50.7% this season). He also is controllable through 2017, potentially giving the Pirates a longer-term rotation fix. The Yankees recently moved Eovaldi to the bullpen, although he is scheduled to return to the rotation Tuesday.
The Pirates were briefly connected to Eovaldi when he was with the Marlins, with MLB.com’s Tom Singer tweeting at the time that there were discussions between the two teams. Bucs president Frank Coonelly said shortly thereafter that the Pirates hadn’t come close to acquiring Eovaldi, however.
The Yankees are currently 44-45 and on the fringes of the Wild Card race, although dealing Eovaldi might be seen less as part of an overall selling strategy and more as an effort to move a veteran who has been ineffective. Biertempfel points out that the Pirates have several ready or nearly-ready young starting pitchers to trade, including Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault and Trevor Williams.
In an appearance on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan, Pirates GM Neal Huntington admits that the winter swap of Neil Walker for Jon Niese was a mistake. “We felt that that was our best return, and it has not played out that way, and that’s a challenge,” Huntington said. “We own that. We accept that.” Reports have suggested that the Bucs are hoping to trade Niese. For the time being, he’s headed for bullpen duties, as Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweets. Though Huntington expressed hope that Niese can turn things around, he was unusually forthright in acknowledging the faulty trade (while also hinting at the team’s alternatives in shopping Walker). “In hindsight, maybe the two fringe prospects and trying to figure out where to reallocate the money might have been a better return,” he said.
Multiple reports last week indicated that the Pirates are shopping left-hander Jon Niese, and and today Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review adds that the Bucs are trying to move Niese and/or fellow lefty Jeff Locke (Twitter link). Trading either struggling southpaw would create a permanent spot in the Pittsburgh rotation for Tyler Glasnow, whose name, as noted by Biertempfel, is not listed among the upcoming probable starters for Pittsburgh’s Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis.
That the Bucs would look to move Locke isn’t exactly a stunner, as the 28-year-old has been on the fringes of the rotation anyhow in recent seasons. Locke found himself in a competition with Vance Worley for a rotation spot in 2015, and, dating back to Opening Day of last season, has pitched to a combined 4.78 ERA in 269 1/3 innings (including a 5.26 mark this season). The 28-year-old is averaging career-lows in K/9 (4.7) and ground-ball rate this season (46.6 percent) and has yielded a troublesome .287/.351/.498 batting line to opposing right-handed hitters this season.
Locke isn’t teeming with upside, but a club that has been beset by injuries in the rotation could certainly do worse than him when filling out the back of the rotation. Locke did, after all, manage a 3.98 ERA in 81 starts from 2013-15, and he’s earning a reasonable $3.025MM salary in 2016. He’s controllable for another pair of seasons beyond the current campaign and doesn’t figure to be in line for a significant bump in salary due to his aforementioned 2016 struggles.
While it’s rare to see a contending club move one or even two arms from its big league rotation — especially when its ace (i.e. Gerrit Cole) is on the disabled list — Pittsburgh has a number of young, MLB-ready arms that could step into the rotation down the stretch. In addition to Glasnow, we’ve seen Jameson Taillon, Steven Brault and Chad Kuhl each make his Major League debut this season. Taillon, of course, is presently on the big league disabled list with some fatigue in his right shoulder and will eventually need to have his innings capped after not pitching in 2014-15 due to injury. However, he could return later this month, and the Bucs are also hoping to get Cole back following the All-Star break as well (he’s already begun a Triple-A rehab assignment). Vogelsong, too, could be back in late July. As such, even without Locke and Niese, Pittsburgh could conceivably have a combination of Cole, Francisco Liriano, Vogelsong, Glasnow, Kuhl, Taillon and Brault make the bulk of their starts in the final two and a half of months of the season.