The 34-34 Yankees remain in the thick of the playoff race in the American League, where they sit 5.5 games back of the AL East-leading Orioles and 3.5 games out of a Wild Card position. If the Yankees fall off prior to the Aug. 1 trade deadline and decide to shop elite relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, they’ll garner interest from the Cubs, Nationals, Giants, Dodgers and Rangers, among other potential suitors, reports FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (video link).
New York could trade both and find a complement to Dellin Betances through free agency, according to Rosenthal, who notes that Chapman, the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen and the Pirates’ Mark Melancon – a former Yankee – are all on expiring contracts. Of those three, the only one who’s likely to cost a first-round pick to sign is Jansen, who’s a good bet to receive a qualifying offer (worth roughly $16MM) from Los Angeles.
Miller’s connection to the Cubs, Nationals and Giants is nothing new, of course, with the same holding true for Chapman in regards to Chicago and Washington. The Cubs scouted Yankees relievers last week, and multiple reports this month have linked the Nationals to Chapman and Miller. The Giants, meanwhile, were reportedly mulling going after Miller as of two weeks ago. The Dodgers nearly acquired Chapman from the Reds over the winter, but they moved on amid the 28-year-old’s domestic violence issues and pondered pursuing Miller, whom the Yankees ultimately retained.
The Dodgers already rank an outstanding fourth in bullpen ERA (3.12) and ninth in K/BB (2.88), though adding Chapman or Miller to the likes of Jansen, Joe Blanton and Adam Liberatore would improve their odds of catching the NL West-leading Giants, whom they’re 6.5 games behind, or at least keeping pace in the Wild Card hunt.
Despite San Francisco’s success, its bullpen has been mediocre on the whole and lacks anyone in the stratosphere of Chapman or Miller. It helps that either of those two would bring variety to a unit whose best options – Santiago Casilla, Hunter Strickland, Cory Gearrin and Derek Law – are all right-handed.
The Cubs, who lead the majors with a 46-20 record, are all but devoid of weaknesses. They lack a top-end lefty reliever to complement shutdown righties Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon, however, which is why they’re interested in the Yankees’ tandem. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein acknowledged Friday that relievers are on the team’s radar, saying he “would love” to pick up another quality bullpen arm.
Nationals relievers are eighth in the league in both ERA (3.38) and K/BB ratio (2.9), which has helped the team gain a six-game advantage in the NL East, but closer Jonathan Papelbon is on the disabled list with a right intercostal strain and was merely good before succumbing to injury. There’s also risk with fill-in closer Shawn Kelley – while he has fared brilliantly this season, the 32-year-old is a two-time Tommy John surgery recipient.
Although they’re atop the AL with a 44-25 mark, Rangers relievers are just 25th in ERA (4.84) and a below-average 19th in K/BB (2.38). Sam Dyson, Jake Diekman and Matt Bush are all thriving, but team president and GM Jon Daniels said Saturday that the Rangers would consider looking for outside bullpen help.
Acquiring either Chapman or Miller would clearly be a boon to any of these World Series-contending clubs, though the latter of the two figures to command a heftier return. Not only is Miller locked up through 2018 at a reasonable $9MM salary, but he doesn’t bring any of Chapman’s off-the-field baggage and has been the better of the tandem this season. If shopped, both should require notable young talent coming back, and it’s worth pointing out that ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider required) placed the Dodgers second, the Cubs fourth, the Rangers ninth, the Nationals 15th and the Giants 21st in his preseason farm system rankings.