- Prior to tearing his ACL, Wilson Ramos was aiming at a $100MM contract in free agency. It’s an eye-popping number, as Joe Mauer ($184MM from the Twins) and Buster Posey ($167MM) are the only catchers to crack the nine-figure threshold. Both of those deals were extensions rather than free agent contracts, and both Mauer and Posey had more consistent track records than Ramos. It’s quite common for a player and his representatives to aim high with an initial asking price, of course, especially when that player is the top free agent at his position. Injury notwithstanding, Ramos is still expected to receive significant interest, to the point that he is still looking for four or five years on the open market.
- The Mets will indeed tender a contract to first baseman Lucas Duda. MLBTR projects Duda to earn $6.7MM in arbitration this winter, following a rough year that saw Duda spend much of the season on the DL due to a stress fracture in his lower back. He hit just .229/.302/.412 with seven homers over 172 PA in 2016, though given the first baseman’s strong production in previous seasons, the Mets are surely counting on a bounce-back next year when Duda is healthy.
- “Nothing’s close” on a reunion between the Mets and Bartolo Colon, though the team has interest in bringing the veteran back and “no one would be surprised” if the two sides work out another contract.
- “It would be an upset” if the Diamondbacks hire anyone other than Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo as their new manager, Heyman writes. Lovullo has been widely connected to the Arizona job from virtually the moment former Boston GM Mike Hazen took over as the D’Backs’ new general manager. Hazen does plan to interview between 5-7 candidates as part of a managerial search, and as of last Tuesday, the D’Backs hadn’t yet asked the Sox for permission to speak with Lovullo.
- One executive suggests Dexter Fowler should accept the Cubs’ qualifying offer, though Heyman believes the center fielder can top the one-year, $17.2MM offer in free agency. I agree with Heyman; while the QO limited Fowler’s market last winter, his outstanding season for the NL champions should easily net him a nice multi-year deal this offseason.
- Assuming Fowler leaves, Heyman notes that the Cubs face an “interesting” outfield situation with Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward all best suited to playing the corners. It should be noted that Chicago faced a similar scenario last winter prior to Fowler’s unexpected return, as the Cubs had Schwarber and Jorge Soler lined up for the corner outfield spots and Heyward was going to play center. Heyward has posted excellent defensive metrics over his brief (404 innings) time as a center fielder during his career, though since Heyward is arguably the best defensive right fielder in the game, any lessening of his value could be a problem given how badly Heyward fell off at the plate this year. The versatile Zobrist is now locked into outfield duty with Javier Baez’s emergence at second while Soler and Albert Almora are also in the outfield mix, so the Cubs are fully stocked with outfield options.
- The Blue Jays have parted ways with scout Ed Lynch. Best known as the Cubs’ GM from 1994 to 2000, Lynch had been working as a scout for the Jays since 2010.
The Indians are at least opening the door to the possibility of utilizing Carlos Santana in left field when the World Series moves to Wrigley Field and takes the DH off of the table, as Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. It doesn’t seem as if there are any clear plans to play him there — he hasn’t roamed the outfield grass since the minors — but the team is getting him some reps just in case. Even if Cleveland won’t start Santana in left just in order to get his and Mike Napoli’s bats into the same lineup, it’s not impossible to imagine a late-game substitution scenario that calls for such a bold move.
Here’s more from Cleveland with the fall classic set to get underway:
- How exactly did World Series Game 1 starter Corey Kluber end up with the Indians? Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch compiles something of an oral history of the 2010 trade that brought the relatively unknown righty to Cleveland. With the Padres and Cardinals each looking for veteran assets, the Indians were able to facilitate their needs by taking Kluber. Then-Cleveland GM Chris Antonetti said at the time that he preferred not to be on the prospect end of such trades, though certainly that move helped set up the team’s current run — which included a deal that sent young talent out for the player who’s the subject of the next bullet.
- We’ve increasingly heard chatter — as is typical this time of year — about how postseason teams can serve as a model for other organizations in the ensuing winter. While I’d argue that the value of premium relief arms seems worth paying attention to, it does seem curious to hear discussion of whether teams could look to emulate the specific pen usage of roving Indians out-machine Andrew Miller. That approach isn’t likely to carry over into the regular season, Russell Carleton of Baseball Prospectus suggests (subscription required — and recommended) in a detailed and interesting analysis. Relievers are simply not as effective when they re-appear for a second inning of work, Carleton finds, and managers rightly need to be more judicious in deploying their most valuable relief-pitching-innings — those handled by their best relievers — over the course of a long season. Unless and until some team decides to really push the boundaries of how much of an innings workload a reliever can handle, he says, we’ll likely continue to see a lot of one-inning relievers in relatively well-defined roles (for the bulk of the year, at least).
- When the Indians went and got Miller, it sent a meaningful message to the team’s players, second baseman Jason Kipnis tells MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link). But it came at a real price that could end up hurting down the line — as is the nature of deadline deals (see Kluber, Corey). Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reports that Cleveland offered much more than any other team to grab Miller. But that was what it took to pry him loose, since the Yankees were under no obligation to swing a deal for a player with two more seasons of control remaining. With the Giants unwilling to move Joe Panik and the Nationals not interested in boosting their offer of young pitching talent, New York would’ve held pat had the Indians not offered up a prospect package made up of outfielder Clint Frazier, southpaw Justus Sheffield, and right-handers Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen.
- Before getting that deal done, of course, the Indians had a pact in place for catcher Jonathan Lucroy that only fell through when he exercised his no-trade protection to nix it. As ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports, Lucroy doesn’t regret utilizing the clause — even with the Indians now in the World Series. The veteran receiver landed in a good spot, helping the Rangers lock up an AL West title, and he’s not interested in revisiting things now. “I’m not worried about it at all,” he said. “It’s over with and in the past.”
The Cubs’ recent path to the World Series is “a case study in how to bring a team or a business back to life,” Alex Rodriguez (yes, that Alex Rodriguez) writes for FOX Sports. A-Rod praises top Cubs exec Theo Epstein, with whom he negotiated prior to the 2004 season, when the Red Sox were trying to bring Rodriguez to Boston in a pair of mega-deals that would have sent Jon Lester and Manny Ramirez to Texas, while also acquiring Magglio Ordonez and Brandon McCarthy from the White Sox for Nomar Garciaparra. The deal, in which Rodriguez was to take a $40MM pay cut, was vetoed by the players’ union. Rodriguez, of course, headed to the Yankees, but the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series anyway. “We were three 20-somethings convinced we were about to turn baseball upside down together,” Rodriguez writes, referring to himself, Epstein and Jed Hoyer. “Though I never got a chance to work with Theo, I knew then that he was going to be a force.” Here are more quick notes on the Fall Classic.
- There’s little mystery to the Cubs’ success, Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs writes. The reasons for the accomplishments of other recent World Series teams, like the Royals and Giants, have been a bit harder to explain, but the Cubs are simply “a super-good club, made up of super-good players.” Even if the Cubs lose this time around, they’re extremely well positioned to make a run at another World Series or three in the near future — they have Lester, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Kyle Hendricks and Willson Contreras under control for four or more seasons.
- Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman both began the season as members of the Yankees, but they’ll finish it opposing one another in the World Series, MLB.com’s Richard Justice writes. Miller has been dominant thus far this postseason for the Indians, with 21 strikeouts in 11 2/3 scoreless innings thus far. Chapman has allowed three runs over eight frames for the Cubs. Both are obviously standouts as MLB pitchers go, but as Justice notes, this World Series could turn either or both into household names.
With the American League champion Indians set for their first World Series appearance since 1997, team president Chris Antonetti revisited the crucial July trade that brought ace reliever Andrew Miller to Cleveland.
On acquiring the left-hander from the Yankees, Antonetti told Andrew Marchand of ESPN.com, “There is excitement about coming to terms for a guy that we targeted. At the same time, there was a pit in your stomach because we knew we were trading really good players. That is a hard thing for us to do. There is that dichotomy.”
The Indians faced serious leaguewide competition for Miller’s services, but they ultimately landed him after agreeing to part with a package that included outfielder Clint Frazier and southpaw Justus Sheffield – two highly regarded prospects. The negotiation for Miller was “excruciating,” said Antonetti, who engaged in 100-plus conversations and texts with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman from late June until the deal went through July 31.
“We felt a unique circumstance with Andrew; with all the elements he brought to the table, it was worth paying a very steep price,” commented Antonetti.
Miller has been worth the price so far, having carried his regular-season brilliance into the playoffs. The 31-year-old won ALCS MVP honors after throwing seven shutout innings and striking out 14 without issuing a walk in the Indians’ five-game elimination of the Blue Jays. Previously, in Cleveland’s three-game ALDS sweep over Boston, Miller tossed four scoreless frames with seven strikeouts and two walks. Miller has recorded between four and eight outs in each of his six playoff appearances this year, which is what the Indians had in mind when they were attempting to acquire him.
“We envisioned using him like we are,” revealed manager Terry Francona, who discussed how the team would deploy Miller with Antonetti and pitching coach Mickey Callaway prior to the trade.
Before Cashman dealt Miller, he had to convince Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner that it was the right path to take. With the Yankees hanging around the wild-card race, Steinbrenner wasn’t on board with moving Miller after the club had already dealt closer Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs. That changed when the Rays swept the Yankees in a late-July series leading up to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, paving the way for the end of Miller’s year-plus run in the Bronx.
“Once the medicals cleared for both sides, then it was a pit in my stomach that I have the most difficult job of all in calling Andrew Miller,” said Cashman. “Andrew, he didn’t want to go anywhere. He loved playing here. Andrew was everything you want. Unfortunately, we had a lot of areas that need to be addressed, so unfortunately he was part of that type of solution.”
Given that Miller is under team control through 2018 at a reasonable $9MM per year, the Yankees “needed two twin firstborns” to deal him, Cashman quipped. For his part, Antonetti told Marchand he’s “confident that the guys we traded away will make a big impact with the Yankees.”
That may indeed prove true for Frazier and Sheffield. In the meantime, Miller has made an enormous mark on the Indians, who are four wins away from their first championship since 1948. Miller and the Tribe will face the Cubs and his former New York bullpen mate, Chapman, in a battle of franchises that own the majors’ longest championship droughts. If the Cubs are going to break through for the first time since 1908, their best bet is to jump on the Indians early in games and avoid Miller, the 2016 postseason’s most dominant force.
Here’s the latest from around the AL East…
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman talks to John Harper of the New York Daily News about the trades of Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs and Andrew Miller to the Indians, deals that took quite a bit of preparation on the Yankees’ part as they looked to get maximum value for the two star relievers. Yankee scouts targeted certain players within the farm systems of the many organizations that had interest in Chapman and Miller, and Cashman wasn’t willing to budge from his high, and specific, asking prices. The two relievers are playing big roles in the postseason, and Cashman is rooting for a Chicago/Cleveland World Series matchup. “I want the teams that stepped up and made those trades to be rewarded for doing so. It would justify the action they took,” Cashman said. “I have absolutely no regrets about the deals we made — other than being in the position we were in. We did what we had to do, and hopefully everybody wins.”
- The Rays’ view of the postseason has to be more bittersweet, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes, given that Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman have their new teams fighting for the NL pennant. Both left following the 2014 campaign, and the Rays have since suffered two losing seasons. It’s still too soon to judge manager Kevin Cash or baseball operations president Matt Silverman, though Topkin wonders if the front office would’ve been better off under a traditional “baseball guy” type of executive, or at least a singular voice in charge rather than Silverman’s penchant for group decisions amongst his top lieutenants.
- Also from Topkin, he notes that Rays prospect Josh Lowe has been playing center field in Instructional League action and could take over the position on a full-time basis. Lowe, a Georgia high schooler selected 13th overall by the Rays in the 2016 draft, taken as a third baseman but has often been considered athletic enough to potentially handle an outfield role. Lowe was also a very accomplished pitcher, and MLB.com (which ranks Lowe as Tampa’s fourth-best prospect) notes in its scouting report that a return to the mound could be a possibility if Lowe doesn’t develop as a position player.
- Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis stands out as a future managerial candidate, though as Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald notes, the path to a big league managerial job isn’t an easy one for minorities. Drellich’s piece is well worth a full read, as it details both Davis’ coaching history and how Major League Baseball is taking steps to ensure that teams are giving minority candidates a fair look in hiring. Davis is under contract to the Red Sox for 2017, Drellich notes, though that wouldn’t be a big obstacle if one of the teams looking to hire a new skipper this winter made him an offer.
- The Orioles should issue a qualifying offer to Matt Wieters, CSNmidatlantic.com’s Rich Dubroff opines. Though Wieters had another below-average offensive year, Dubroff figures that he will still look to land a multi-year deal in free agency, especially now that Wilson Ramos’ injury has made Wieters the top catcher on the open market. There’s a chance Wieters could again accept the QO, and while $17.2MM is a high price tag for a catcher who has produced as little as Wieters has in recent years, Dubroff could see Wieters and Caleb Joseph providing a one-year bridge until prospect Chance Sisco develops as the longer-term answer behind the plate. If Wieters leaves, Dubroff suggests that the club could sign former Oriole Nick Hundley to team with Joseph.
- The Orioles should pursue an extension with Zach Britton rather than consider a trade, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko writes. Britton’s price tag will continue to rise through his final two arbitration years so there is some logic in dealing him now to both save money and sell high in the wake of Britton’s excellent season. On the flip side, Britton has been so tremendous as Baltimore’s closer that he could lock down ninth innings for the O’s for years to come.
Here’s the latest notes column from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, with a particular focus on how the Red Sox will be targeting DH, the bullpen and the rotation as their three main areas of need this offseason…
- Acquiring Chris Sale would be a major rotation upgrade for the Red Sox, and since they had discussions with the White Sox about the star southpaw this summer, talks could be revisited in the offseason. Cafardo figures Boston would have to give up Jackie Bradley Jr. (who the White Sox have long liked) and at least one of top prospects Yoan Moncada or Rafael Devers to land Sale; Chicago could also ask for Eduardo Rodriguez as part of the trade package. It would be a heavy price to pay, though the White Sox are obviously going to shoot for the moon if they explore dealing their ace, who is both one of the game’s best pitchers and one of its best bargains thanks to his team-friendly contract. The Red Sox would have Andrew Benintendi take over for Bradley in center field, while left field would presumably be handled by some combination of Chris Young, Brock Holt, Blake Swihart. If not dealt, Moncada would also be in the mix for both 2017 and as a long-term answer.
- Beyond those three big areas, catcher is also something of a question mark for the Red Sox. Boston seems to be looking at a tandem of Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez behind the plate in 2017, which would indicate an $800K buyout of Ryan Hanigan’s $3.75MM club option for the coming season. Leon had a huge breakout at the plate but rather came back to earth over the last six weeks of the season, while Vazquez has yet to show any ability to hit Major League pitching.
- There’s still a chance the Red Sox could reunite with Jonathan Papelbon, as Cafardo figures the team will again check in with the veteran reliever. Papelbon drew interest from several teams (including Boston) after being released by the Nationals last summer, though he didn’t sign anywhere. There hasn’t been much Papelbon news in the last several weeks, so it’s unknown what the former closer’s plans are for 2017.
- In his sole year as Red Sox manager, Bobby Valentine wanted to use both Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard out of the bullpen. Miller was turning to relief pitching after failing to catch on as a starter, and he went to become one of the game’s best relievers. Bard was already a bullpen star for the Sox, though both he and the front office wanted to transition to starting pitching. That move proved disastrous for Bard, as he developed severe control problems that have curtailed his career. He last pitched in the bigs in 2013 and has since bounced around the minors with four different organizations.
- Marlins management will soon meet with club owner Jeffrey Loria to decide on the team’s offseason plans, which were thrown into disarray in the wake of Jose Fernandez’s tragic death. Miami was in need of pitching even with Fernandez in the fold, and this winter’s very thin pitching market could leave the team unable to augment its impressive lineup. Cafardo notes that rumors of the Marlins reloading the farm system by trading Giancarlo Stanton have swirled for years, though with Fernandez gone, Stanton may have become even more of a cornerstone piece for the club.
FanRag’s Jon Heyman kicks off his weekly notes column by recapping seven moves that turned the Cubs from cellar-dwellers into contenders, recalling the trades that netted the team Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Addison Russell as well as the Rule 5 selection of Hector Rondon. Here are some highlights from his roundup of notes on all 30 big league clubs…
- Brian Snitker, Terry Pendleton and Bo Porter are the Braves’ primary internal candidates to fill the managerial vacancy, while Heyman lists some potential outside candidates as Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, former Padres manager Bud Black, former Twins manager Rob Gardenhire and Royals bench coach/former Mariners skipper Don Wakamatsu.
- The Astros will seek rotation help this offseason even if Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers get back up to full strength from their respective shoulder and elbow issues. With Doug Fister hitting the open market and the Astros receiving lackluster production from Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers, that’s not exactly a surprise.
- Both Tim Lincecum and Jered Weaver are determined to return in 2017, according to Heyman. He writes that Lincecum feels that he focused so much on strengthening his surgically repaired hip that he neglected to strengthen his arm enough, though a return to prominence for Lincecum always seemed like a fairly noted long shot after four down seasons and a significant surgical procedure.
- The Yankees will make a run at re-signing Aroldis Chapman as a free agent this winter, Heyman writes, at least in part due to Dellin Betances’ recent struggles. While Betances’ slump has been magnified by the fact that it’s taken place in late September, he was excellent for the bulk of the time following the Yankees’ deadline sale, pitching to a 0.57 ERA in his first 15 2/3 innings following the deadline and allowing only one run in August. If the motivation to re-sign Chapman is simply to once again create an extraordinarily deep back of the bullpen, that certainly makes sense, but pursuing him in light of three poor September outings from Betances seems rather reactionary when looking at Betances’ body of work as a whole.
- Second-half bullpen struggles have the Giants kicking themselves for not making a stronger push for Mark Melancon, Heyman reports. The Giants felt their offer was comparable to that of the Nationals, but Pittsburgh ultimately traded Melancon to D.C. in exchange for left-hander Felipe Rivero and minor league lefty Taylor Hearn. While the Giants made a run at Andrew Miller, as well, the Yankees asked for Joe Panik in exchange, which the Giants understandably found to be too steep an ask. GM Bobby Evans lamented not adding another established reliever to Heyman, and it seems likely that they’ll be in the mix for the top bullpen options this winter (Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Melancon).
- Extension talks between the Rangers and Rougned Odor were put on hold earlier this season, as the two sides couldn’t get on the same page. Odor’s camp was seeking a deal larger than Gregory Polanco’s five-year, $35MM pact with the Pirates, and while the Rangers wanted two club options tacked onto their top offer, Odor’s reps were only willing to concede one option year. That, of course, doesn’t rule out a deal being reached further down the line, but Odor’s 31-homer season as a 22-year-old second baseman figures to give his side plenty of leverage in talks, even if that power comes with an OBP that’s barely scraping the .300 mark.
The Indians have dramatically fortified their bullpen as they look to further pad their lead on the American League Central, announcing on Sunday morning the acquisition of left-hander Andrew Miller from the Yankees in exchange for outfield prospect Clint Frazier, minor league left-hander Justus Sheffield and minor league right-handers Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen.
Miller, 31, has been one of baseball’s most dominant relievers for the third year in a row, but the 2016 season has been arguably his best. He’s pitched to a lights-out 1.39 ERA with a 77-t0-7 K/BB ratio and a 52.9 percent ground-ball rate in 45 1/3 innings. He’s earning $9MM this season and in each of the next two to come — a highly reasonable price for a pitcher that has shown his level of dominance late in games. That he’s controllable for another two campaigns beyond 2016 undoubtedly made this deal more palatable for the Indians, who have a deep enough farm system to make this move without gutting their entire pipeline of prospects. However, the price that looks to have been paid is unequivocally steep, as Frazier is widely regarded as one of the top 25 or so best prospects in the game, and Sheffield has worked his way onto a number of top 100 rankings as well.
While future iterations of the Indians may suffer down the line if Frazier and Sheffield reach their ceilings, Cleveland holds a 4.5 game lead over the American League Central division and has definitively announced itself to be in win-now mode. Cleveland reportedly had an agreement in place with the Brewers to acquire Jonathan Lucroy, but that move was blown up when Lucroy exercised his no-trade clause to nix the deal. Whether or not the Indians can pull off another major acquisition, they have filled one clear need on their roster with a top-of-the-market upgrade as they push to capture their first World Series title since 1948.
The Yankees, meanwhile, have seemingly become reluctant deadline sellers, now trading two-thirds of what was one of the most dominant late-inning trios Major League history. Dellin Betances will step into the ninth inning for the Yankees, who have parlayed their investments in Miller and Chapman into a slew of intriguing prospects. The Yankees’ farm system is now teeming with top-tier talent, positioning them well for the future either by allowing them to develop a number of core young players or put together a package for controllable, impact talent at the Major League level.
Frazier, 21, is one of the game’s most highly touted outfield prospects and draws rave reviews for his exceptional bat speed. He was recently promoted to Triple-A after hitting .276/.356/.469 with 13 homers and 13 steals in 391 plate appearances against much older competition at Double-A Akron. He rated 21st on Baseball America’s midseason list of the game’s top 100 prospects, 24th on MLB.com’s same version of that list, 26th on Baseball Prospectus’ midseason top 50 and 34th on Keith Law’s midseason top 50 at ESPN.com. He’s playing center field right now, but he may have to eventually move to a corner spot, where his bat will still play. Frazier draws positive reviews for his plus raw power and improving plate discipline. His walk and strikeout rates have improved significantly since his debut in pro ball, and given the fact that he’s already in Triple-A, he could be an option for the Yankees as soon as next season if his development doesn’t stall at the top minor league level.
Sheffield, 20, is currently holding his own against much older competition in the Class-A Advanced Carolina League. He’s worked to a 3.59 ERA with 8.8 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9 with a 45 percent ground-ball rate in 19 starts this season, spanning a total of 95 1/3 innings. Cleveland selected Sheffield with the 31st overall pick in the 2014 draft, and he currently rates 69th on BA’s midseason top 100 and 95th on MLB.com’s version of the list. Sheffield’s fastball has some sink to it and sits in the 92-93 mph range, occasionally reaching as high as 96 mph, per MLB.com. He’s a bit undersized at 5’10”, but most scouting reports on Sheffield peg him as a potential mid-rotation starter with a potentially plus curveball and a developing changeup.
Both Heller and Feyereisen could help the Yankees’ bullpen in the near future, tweets MLB.com’s Jim Callis. Heller rated as the Indians’ No. 30 prospect, per Callis and colleague Jonathan Mayo, He’s currently pitching at Triple-A after posting a dazzling 0.55 ERA with 12.7 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 in 16 1/3 Double-A innings to open the season. The 24-year-old Heller has had continued success since moving up a level, logging a 2.49 ERA with a 25-to-7 K/BB ratio in 25 1/3 innings. Heller’s fastball sits in the upper 90s and can touch 100 mph, and his slider draws above-average reviews from Callis and Mayo. The 23-year-old Feyereisen is currently pitching in Double-A, where he’s compiled a 2.23 ERA with a 56-to-20 K/BB ratio in 40 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. Though he’s averaged 4.5 walks per nine innings this season, control hasn’t been a major issue for him in past seasons.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported that Miller had been traded to Cleveland (Twitter link). ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that Frazier, Sheffield and two others were in the deal (links to Twitter). FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported the inclusion of Heller and Feyereisen (Twitter link).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
1:15pm: A straight-up swap of Giolito wouldn’t be enough to get the Yankees to budge on Miller, Heyman tweets.
12:53pm: We’ve long heard about the Nationals’ interest in Yankees ace reliever Andrew Miller, but it has never quite been clear what the team would be willing to do to make that happen. Per MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, via Twitter, “sources who have spoken with the [Nationals] believe” they’d do a one-for-one swap of Miller for top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito.
That language certainly still leaves a bit of wiggle room, and it’s not clear that a firm offer has been proposed. There’s no question, though, that the towering righty would represent a tantalizing offer for New York — if he is in fact being placed on the table.
New York is looking for a massive return for its star lefty, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reports (Twitter links). The club is said to want three times the total value it achieved in its trade of Aroldis Chapman, who netted one very good prospect in Gleyber Torres along with three other pieces with real value. While Chapman is a pure rental piece, Miller comes with two added years of club control at a reasonable (though not cheap) price tag of $9MM annually. Heyman also notes that it still seems unlikely he’ll change hands, though perhaps New York is open to being blown away by an offer.
Joining the Nats with ongoing interest in Miller are the Cardinals, Indians, Rangers, and Giants, according to Heyman. Certainly, all of those clubs could put together appealing packages, though none has a rotation prospect that quite reaches Giolito’s standing — with the Cards’ Alex Reyes being the closest thing (though, to be clear, we’ve heard no indication to this point that he could be had). Texas also has some premium assets that it could dangle, though they land mostly on the position-player side. And it’s far from clear whether those teams’ best pieces are on offer for Miller.
If Giolito is, in fact, available, it would seem to make the Nats a favorite to acquire Miller. Giolito is widely regarded as one of the game’s truly premier starting pitching prospects, and he has already reached the majors for D.C. Truth be told, he would represent a rather stunning return, even for a reliever of Miller’s undeniable excellence.
The Nats were said not to be willing to give up Giolito, or even some lesser prospects, in a deal for Chapman. But there’s obviously good reason to cough up more assets for the controllable Miller, and the team has a deep stock of appealing young arms. Plus, Washington’s need for a premium late-inning pen piece only continues to grow, with incumbent closer Jonathan Papelbon struggling more than ever.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post walks readers through the winding process the Cubs took to reach an agreement on an Aroldis Chapman trade with the Yankees. Per Sherman, the Cubs never wanted to pursue a rental pitcher but weren’t able to convince the Yankees to back down from their demand of Kyle Schwarber. Chicago then turned to the Royals, only to find the asking price on Wade Davis to be even higher than the asking price on Miller. The Cubs weren’t willing to deal from their big league roster to upgrade the ’pen but were willing to deal from their infield depth, parting with Class-A shortstop Gleyber Torres largely because of the presence of both Addison Russell and Javier Baez on the Major League roster. (Notably, Chicago also dealt from its first base depth in moving Dan Vogelbach for another left-handed reliever: Seattle’s Mike Montgomery.) Sherman adds that owner Hal Steinbrenner still wants to win in 2016 despite approving the Chapman swap, which calls into question whether the club would entertain even an overwhelming offer for Miller.
A few notes on the pitching market…
- Twins interim GM Rob Antony has expressed an openness to moving Ervin Santana if approached with a strong offer, but he tells Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he’s not shopping the right-hander (Twitter link). “I’ll be honest,” said Antony, “I’m not calling anybody trying to move him.” As Antony explained yesterday in a Q&A with MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, his feeling is that he couldn’t sign a pitcher of Santana’s effectiveness to a two-year, $27MM contract with a third-year club option (the remaining commitment on Santana’s deal after 2016) on the free agent market this winter and, as such, believes there to be enough value that he needn’t shop Santana to other clubs. Antony again stated that he’s not under any type of ownership mandate to trim payroll, suggesting that shedding Santana’s salary may not be all that appealing.
- Pitching is the Twins’ biggest priority on the trade market this summer, according to Antony (Twitter link via Bollinger). While the club is clearly open to trading veteran pieces to acquire young pitching help, Antony said he’s also talked to other teams that are considered to be sellers about acquiring big league pitching — presumably MLB arms that are controllable well beyond the 2016 season.
- 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.
- Both the Rangers and Orioles were in attendance for Jeremy Hellickson’s scoreless six innings for the Phillies against the Marlins last night, per ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. (The Marlins — Hellickson’s opponents — also obviously had evaluators on hand and have long been linked to Hellickson.) There’s no clear frontrunner for Hellickson’s services, Crasnick notes, but it’s a “virtual lock” that he’ll change teams on or before next Monday.
- The Padres asked the Orioles to include minor league left-hander Garrett Cleavinger and minor legaue righty Jhon Peluffo in the trade that would’ve sent Ubaldo Jimenez to San Diego in exchange for Melvin Upton Jr., according to MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko (on Twitter). However, FOX’s Ken Rosenthal tweets that the talks broke down over finances, and Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller adds (also via Twitter) that owner Peter Angelos had a late change of heart and altered the nearly agreed-upon deal — specifically the amount of money that would have changed hands. The Padres ultimately shifted course and sent Upton to the Blue Jays.
- Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins says he’s not done making moves after swooping in and acquiring Upton earlier this morning, via Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith (links to Nicholson–Smith on Twitter). Atkins’ comments seemingly focused on pitching upgrades, with the GM indicating that the market for relief help is more robust than the market for starters at present. Atkins says he’s talked with all 29 other clubs on multiple occasions and is now focused on a smaller group of teams that could potentially upgrade his pitching staff. Asked specifically about the Padres — the Jays have been linked multiple times to Andrew Cashner, who tossed a quality start against them tonight — Atkins replied, “They have interesting pitching as well.”