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The Pirates announced that they have signed outfielder Jayson Nix. The veteran is expected to be active for today’s game against the Diamondbacks. To make room for Nix, the Bucs designated Dean Anna for assignment.
Nix signed with Tampa Bay in January as a non-roster player before being shipped to the Phillies in March for cash. The Phillies went on to outright Nix in May, allowing him to return to the Rays, who released him late last week from their Triple-A affiliate. Nix, who turns 32 later this month, was originally drafted 44th overall by the Rockies in 2001 and he’s suited up for six different franchises over his seven years in the majors.
The Pirates claimed Anna, 27, off waivers from the Yankees in July after he was DFA’d. He hasn’t set the world on fire this season but he’s only a year removed from being a Pacific Coast League All-Star and leading the PCL in batting average while producing a .331/.410/.482 line in 132 games for the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate
- Acquired outfielder Gerardo Parra from Diamondbacks for outfielder Mitch Haniger and lefty Anthony Banda
- Acquired righty John Lackey, lefty Corey Littrell, and cash from Red Sox in exchange for righty Joe Kelly and outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig
- Acquired righty Justin Masterson from Indians in exchange for outfielder James Ramsey
- Acquired catcher Victor Caratini from Braves in exchange for lefty James Russell and infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio
- Acquired lefty Felix Doubront from Red Sox in exchange for PTBNL
- Acquired righty Jonathan Martinez from the Dodgers in exchange for second baseman Darwin Barney
- Acquired shortstop Addison Russell, outfielder Billy McKinney, and pitcher Dan Straily from Athletics in exchange for righties Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel
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.
Here’s what’s happening around the NL Central…
- John Lackey told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jen Langosch) that he will honor his contract and pitch in 2015 despite the fact that he’ll only earn a minimum salary. The fact that Lackey was traded to the contending Cardinals played a factor in his decision: “Obviously, it was case by case. It would have been a harder decision other places, for sure, but this is definitely somewhere I wanted to be, and I’m excited about it.”
- The Brewers checked in on such names as the Padres‘ Joaquin Benoit, the Rockies‘ LaTroy Hawkins and the Diamondbacks‘ Addison Reed and Brad Ziegler yet came up short in their hunt for a right-handed reliever, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (Twitter link). Earlier today, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the Crew were one of the finalists to obtain a notable lefty reliever in Andrew Miller.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington discussed his team’s lack of trade activity, telling reporters (including MLB.com’s Tom Singer) that “we identified potential fits, wanted to add and worked hard to. At the end of the day, we weren’t able to push anything across the line….It was interesting, in that the majority of impact players went for Major League talent instead of teams trying to grab the best prospects they can, as has been the case in recent years.” Since Pittsburgh was connected to Jon Lester and David Price, Singer speculates that Huntington was perhaps willing to move young prospects for these aces but couldn’t outbid the A’s and Tigers’ respective offers, both of which included established players.
The Pirates claimed righty Angel Sanchez off waivers from the White Sox, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Nightengale adds that the Bucs designated righty Josh Wall for assignment to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Sanchez.
The Rays claimed Sanchez off waivers from the Marlins in June, and then the White Sox claimed him earlier this month. The 24-year-old has a 6.57 ERA, 5.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, and 0.71 HR/9 in 89 innings at Double-A and High-A this year. Baseball America ranked him 16th among Marlins prospects prior to the season, noting a live 92-95 mile per hour fastball. The Marlins had acquired him from the Dodgers last July as part of the Ricky Nolasco trade.
Wall, 27, was also sent to the Marlins in the Nolasco deal last summer. He was claimed off waivers by the Angels in October, then claimed by the Pirates in May. He has a 3.55 ERA, 9.0 K/9, and 3.8 BB/9 in 33 Triple-A relief innings this year.
2:42pm: A three-team deal involving Price could well be in the works, with Price being the only piece moving from Tampa, tweets Topkin.
2:31pm: A three-team mix could be in the offing, according to reports. Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that there were discussions of such a deal involving Price and the Tigers and Mariners. And Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that a three-team arrangement is under discussion now.
2:14pm: The Tigers appear to be the front-runner on Price at the moment, tweets Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.
2:13pm: The Yankees are unlikely to get Price, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
2:04pm: The Yankees are also involved in discussions, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter).
1:33pm: The Cardinals may also still be involved on Price, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). His source indicates that the Cards, along with the Tigers and Mariners, are the final possible suitors.
1:28pm: The Rays are nearing a deal involving Price, tweets ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark. Where, however, remains unclear.
1:11pm: The Dodgers are “not back in” on Price, tweets Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com.
12:47pm: The Dodgers and Mariners are the leading contenders to acquire Price, if he is dealt, tweets Jim Bowden of ESPN.com.
While Price has long been a subject of trade speculation, it seemed less and less likely he would be moved as Tampa reeled off an extensive winning streak. But in spite of the club’s solid play, it remains largely on the fringes of contention at this point.
TODAY, 12:04am: Also in on Bonifacio as of this morning were the Pirates, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
11:13am: There is plenty of action on Bonifacio, who is being pursued currently by the Orioles, Giants, and Mariners, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.com.
YESTERDAY, 8:12pm: It does not appear that the Giants are going to acquire Bonifacio, according to a tweet from Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
6:42pm: The Royals are not yet close to adding Bonifacio, tweets Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star.
5:48pm: The O’s are not in on Bonifacio, tweets Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, who hears that the versatile fielder could be returning to Kansas City. Needless to say, that would be an interesting turn of events: Bonifacio finished well last year with Kansas City, was tendered a contract, agreed to a salary to avoid arbitration, and was then released before the start of the season.
5:14pm: At present, the Giants, Orioles, and Reds are all in play for Bonifacio, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
4:50pm: Bonifacio has been told to be prepared for a deal today, tweets Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.
4:42pm: Bonifacio is indeed not in the lineup, with manager Rick Renteria saying it was “prudent” to hold him out, according to Rogers (Twitter link).
2:50pm: The Cubs are getting close to trading Bonifacio, tweets Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. Levine tweets that Bonifacio is not in tonight’s lineup, which could obviously signal that a deal is nigh. Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle hears that the Giants have been scouting Bonifacio all week, but the asking price for the impending free agent is said to be high.
2:32pm: The Orioles are Giants are considering Cubs utility man Emilio Bonifacio as a trade option, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. Bruce Levine of 670 The Score adds the Royals, Mariners, and Reds as three more potential suitors (All Twitter links).
Bonifacio, 29, is hitting .279/.318/.373 in 298 plate appearances for the Cubs. The switch-hitter is raking against lefties in this year’s limited sample. He’s mainly played center field and second base for the Cubs. Bonifacio is eligible for free agency after the season.
Yesterday we learned there’s a “very good chance” that the Red Sox will trade right-hander John Lackey in advance of this afternoon’s non-waiver trade deadline. The Royals, Indians, and Dodgers have been linked to the right-hander, while the Angels and Brewers are reportedly not pursuing him. The Marlins were also linked to Lackey, though reports on the likelihood of that deal vary from “zero chance” to the two sides still discussing potential deals. Here’s the latest Lackey buzz as the deadline looms…
- The Red Sox are still working to trade Lackey, tweets Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, with a source giving a 70% chance he’s dealt today.
- The Pirates were known to have interest in Jon Lester before he was traded to Oakland, but prior to that trade today Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe said the Bucs were in on Lackey as well. Cafardo also weighed in on previous interest from San Francisco, writing, “The Giants, who acquired [Jake] Peavy last weekend, were also in the hunt for another arm, and Lackey was also mentioned.”
We took a look yesterday at the Royals’ search for an outfielder. Kansas City has also been mentioned alongside several starting pitchers in recent days, including A.J. Burnett, Bartolo Colon, and John Lackey. (MLBTR links.) Here’s the latest:
- The Royals have asked the Rockies about Jorge De La Rosa, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. De La Rosa spent a few years with Kansas City before they dealt him to Colorado to complete the Ramon Ramirez deal in 2008. Earlier this month, Rockies owner Dick Monfort told Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post the team aimed to do everything they can to keep De La Rosa, who is eligible for free agency after the season.
- The Royals are talking with the Phillies about A.J. Burnett, but nothing is close, tweets Rosenthal. With bats in scarce supply, Kansas City is still exploring the pitching market, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star adds on Twitter.
- The Royals are in on Ian Kennedy of the Padres, along with the Pirates and Marlins (and still others), tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Of course, as Rosenthal notes, it is not clear that San Diego will deal away Kennedy.
- Boston is looking for power pitching in return for Lackey, but K.C. places a high value on its young arms, tweets McCullough.
- The Royals have indeed inquired on Colon, but got the sense that New York did not intend to move him, tweets McCullough.
- The Phillies have had recent discussions with the Royals about Burnett as well as Antonio Bastardo, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. As for Colon, his market is not developing with any clubs, let alone the Royals, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.com.
- As of earlier this morning, the Royals were unwilling to meet the Red Sox‘ asking price on Lackey, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Kansas City remains interested if the price comes down, adds Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (via Twitter).
- While the team is looking into adding a starter (and/or an outfielder or reliever), McCullough tweets, GM Dayton Moore says he is still counting on internal production to drive results.
Jon Lester has been scratched from his scheduled start tonight — a clear indicator that the Red Sox are looking to deal their ace. It briefly looked like the Orioles were close to a deal, but while those talks are serious, the deal isn’t close yet. Here’s the latest…
- The Cardinals and Pirates are making the strongest bids for Lester at the moment, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports report (Twitter link). The Dodgers also remain involved.
- In a full article, Heyman writes that the A’s are the mystery team that has stepped into the Lester bidding. Nothing is close between the two sides at the moment, however.
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that a mystery team is becoming more involved.
- Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio reports that the Athletics are in on Lester.
- Via WEEI’s Alex Speier (on Twitter), manager John Farrell expects Lester to be in uniform with the Red Sox today.
- The Cardinals‘ acquisition of Justin Masterson doesn’t necessarily take them out of the running for Lester, sources tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The Cards could still acquire Lester, though it may cost them Shelby Miller, Morosi adds in a second tweet.
- The Marlins aren’t entirely out of the Lester sweepstakes, an AL executive familiar with the negotiations tells Juan C. Rodriguez of the Miami Sun-Sentinel. However, the Marlins won’t part with top prospect Andrew Heaney in a Lester deal (or a deal for any rental player).
- The Cardinals and Dodgers are the two teams that are most aggressively competing for Lester’s services, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. They’re also the most aggressive clubs on David Price, though it’s far from a given that the Rays will move their own left-handed ace. Heyman hears similar things to yesterday’s reports regarding the Brewers and Orioles and says neither is in the mix at this point.
- An NL GM told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he thinks the Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers and Mariners are the primary suitors for Lester heading into Wednesday (Twitter link).
The Rockies do not intend to deal closer LaTroy Hawkins, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Having surveyed the market, discussing Hawkins with the Pirates and other clubs, the team determined it would rather keep the veteran than move him for a limited return.
Colorado intends to pick up its club option over Hawkins next year, which registers at a fairly reasonable $2.25MM. The team is also interested in keeping him around for his veteran presence in a youthful clubhouse. The 41-year-old righty has a 3.09 ERA in 35 innings on the year, though he has struck out only 4.4 batters while issuing 2.3 free passes per nine.
As with Chad Qualls of the Astros, who is also expected to stay with his current club despite drawing interest, Hawkins will apparently stay put on a non-contender despite having some trade value. While that may seem somewhat irrational at first glance, it is worth noting that rebuilding clubs rightly value not only veteran mentorship but also the cost savings and reduced risk of keeping in-house options such as this pair. That reasoning has its limits, of course, but a marginal prospect return is not always worth moving such a player and then trying to find a suitable replacement in the offseason.