- Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart is on the shelf at Triple-A Pawtucket with inflammation in his left ankle, on which he underwent surgery last August. His current troubles aren’t in the exact spot, per the Providence Journal’s Brian MacPherson, though he suggests that Swihart’s problems are likely related to last year’s injury and surgery. Swihart suffered the injury while playing left field for Boston last June. He’s back behind the plate on a full-time basis this year, but all of his work has come in the minors and he has only hit .213/.265/.327 across 163 plate appearances.
- The Astros are essentially a lock for the postseason thanks to their big lead in the AL West, which allows the team to take a somewhat more measured approach to the deadline, GM Jeff Luhnow tells Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi. They’re even looking ahead to individualized needs against potential playoff opponents; as Luhnow said, “you really can start focusing on what does this team need to look like to face the Cleveland Indians in a seven-game series, to face the Boston Red Sox in a seven-game series, do we match up well.” While Houston is prepared to deal from its minor league depth to add at the deadline, Luhnow also sees no reason to abandon the franchise’s long-built plan for sustained success. “We want to win now, for sure, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to win now,” Luhnow said. “But at the same time, we’ve been building up all this currency, all these players in the pipeline so that we could be good for a long time….I certainly want it to be more than a three- or four-year run.”
- Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told reporters (including WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford) that “We’re not looking for starting pitching at this point. I’ll stop at that.” Injuries and some subpar results from Rick Porcello has led to some instability within Boston’s rotation, though with Eduardo Rodriguez almost back from the DL, the Sox will soon be able to deploy their first-choice starting five of Chris Sale, David Price, Porcello, Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz. I would guess the Red Sox might check in on some low-cost starting depth at the deadline, though a major acquisition seems quite unlikely (barring a notable injury). Dombrowski also raised the possibility that the Red Sox could stand pat entirely at the deadline, which would be the more surprising move given that the club could use some help in the bullpen and at third base.
- Speaking of the hot corner, despite the recent fine play from Tzu-Wei Lin and Deven Marrero, both CSNNE.com’s Evan Drellich and ESPN’s Scott Lauber think the Red Sox should and will still be looking to add a third baseman at the deadline. The two youngsters were pressed into regular duty at third base thanks to Boston’s many infield injuries, though Marrero has delivered excellent defense and Lin has surprisingly hit .313/.436/.438 over his first 40 career PA in the big leagues. There’s no guarantee that this performance will continue, however, and a more established third baseman would provide a clearer upgrade for the Sox lineup.
Here’s the latest out of Miami:
- With the team set to be sold at some point in the near future, the Marlins appear to be lining up for some significant moves at the deadline. As Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports, the Fish appear to be targeting a few organizations in particular as they look to shop their biggest contracts. Marlins scouts are taking a hard look at the systems of the Yankees, Red Sox, Brewers, Rockies, and Cubs, per the report. Whether that’s based upon demand coming from those organizations or instead Miami’s own interest in certain prospects isn’t entirely clear; obviously, plenty of other teams will likely end up engaging with the Marlins in what is shaping up to be an interesting deadline period.
- Miami is not concerned about righty Edinson Volquez, Spencer also notes. Though he experienced left-knee discomfort in his most recent start, skipper Don Mattingly suggested the veteran will be ready to go after the All-Star break. He could well be one of the players dangled in trade talks over the next few weeks.
- The less-than-straightforward Marlins sale process remains in flux as the organization prepares to host the All-Star Game. Bidding groups led by Tagg Romney, on the one hand, and Derek Jeter, on the other, have each run into issues, according to a report from Claire Atinson, Ken Davidoff, and Josh Kosman of the New York Post. In fact, the Romney group may even have pulled out of the process altogether, per the report. Jeter’s group, meanwhile, no longer has the backing of one key investor. That could place a third bidder, Jorge Mas, in position to make a deal. But it’s also possible that Jeter could try to “convince MLB to push back a decision date … possibly to the end of the season in October,” sources tell the Post.
- Mas has attempted to get the Marlins to agree to an exclusive negotiating window, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag, but that has yet to occur. Still, the report suggests, the process could be only weeks away from completion. While Mas is said to be in the driver’s seat, Heyman hears that the Romney-led group may still be involved.
- The Red Sox will won’t bring Eduardo Rodriguez back to the rotation before the All-Star break, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal tweets. Rodriguez hasn’t pitched since June 1 due to a partial right kneecap dislocation, the latest in a series of knee injuries the left-handed has dealt with in his young career. The Sox could give Rodriguez another rehab start in the minors or activate him from the DL for use as a reliever next weekend, Britton writes.
5:48pm: The Reds sent $2.75MM in spending room to the Red Sox, tweets Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
10:33am: The Red Sox have acquired international bonus pool space from the Reds in exchange for minor league first baseman Nick Longhi, as per a Sox press release. In a separate deal, Boston also acquired more pool space from the Cardinals in exchange for minor league infielders Imeldo Diaz and Stanley Espinal. Specific financial terms weren’t announced for either trade.
The Sox made a big splash as the 2017-18 international signing period opened this morning, agreeing to deals with highly-touted prospects Daniel Flores, Danny Diaz and Antoni Flores for a combined $6.1MM in bonuses. Since the Red Sox had only $4.75MM available to spend in their draft pool, some trading was necessary to bring in the extra funds for these youngsters, as well as any other less-splashy international signings the Sox may make. Teams are allowed to acquire as much as 75 percent of their original draft pool, which works out to $3,562,500 in Boston’s case.
Longhi was rated as Boston’s 14th-best minor leaguer by the 2017 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, which described Longhi as “one of the best pure hitters in the Red Sox system” despite a lack of power. Longhi has six of his 16 career homers as a professional this season at Double-A, with a .262/.306/.401 overall batting line in 252 PA. The 21-year-old was originally a 30th-round pick for the Sox in the 2013 amateur draft.
Both Espinal and Diaz have appeared in just seven games each this season, all for Boston’s low A-ball affiliate in Lowell. Espinal, a 20-year-old third baseman out of the Dominican Republic, has a .682 OPS over 577 pro plate appearances. The 19-year-old Diaz also hasn’t shown much at the plate in his brief career, hitting .222/.279/.258 over 522 PA.
The Cardinals had $5.75MM and the Reds $5.25MM in available pool money for this July 2 class, though both teams are under the $300K limit since both exceeded their bonus pools in the 2016-17 signing period. It stands to reason that St. Louis and Cincinnati felt comfortable dealing their pool money since they didn’t plan on using all of it given their limited signing capabilities. It wouldn’t be a surprise if other teams facing the $300K penalty (the Astros, A’s, Cubs, Padres, Royals, Braves, Giants, Dodgers and Nationals) also deal some from their bonus pool funds in the coming weeks and months.
The Red Sox have reached agreement with 16-year-old Venezuelan prospects Daniel Flores, Danny Diaz and Antoni Flores, Ben Badler of Baseball America reports. Daniel Flores, a catcher, will receive a bonus worth $3.1MM. Diaz and Antoni Flores, both shortstops, will respectively get bonuses worth $1.6MM and $1.4MM, as per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (all Twitter links).
The flurry of signings marks Boston’s return to prominence in the international signing market, as the Sox were restricted to signings of $300K or less in the last two July 2 classes as punishment for exceeding their bonus pool limit in the 2014-15 class (which saw them splurge on the likes of Yoan Moncada and Anderson Espinoza). The Flores/Diaz/Flores signings put the Red Sox in excess of their $4.75MM pool for this year’s international class, and since the new collective bargaining agreement strictly forbids teams from spending beyond their pool limit, the Sox have already made some minor trades to acquire more pool space. Teams are allowed to acquire as much as 75 percent of their original draft pool, so the Red Sox could have slightly more than $8.25MM to spend if they traded for the maximum amount of additional pool money.
Daniel Flores is the centerpiece of Boston’s signings, and possibly of the entire 2017-18 class, as most scouts consider Flores or Wander Samuel Franco (who agreed to sign with the Rays) as the top names within this international signing period. Both MLB.com and Baseball America rated Flores as the second-best prospect of this year’s class.
Flores has drawn raves for his defense, and he is described many scouts as perhaps the best defensive catcher they’ve seen for a 16-year-old player. Between his strong work behind the plate and an outstanding throwing arm, MLB.com and Baseball America both use the phrase “elite defender” as Flores’ potential ceiling as a big league catcher. He is still something of a work in progress at the plate, showing some raw power as a switch-hitter who performs better as a right-handed bat. BA’s scouting report (subscription required) noted that Flores received mixed reviews for his work against live pitching, though in game action last summer Flores displayed “a sound approach and a high contact rate.”
Diaz was rated 7th by Baseball America and 13th by MLB.com, while Antoni Flores checked in at 20th on MLB.com’s list and 35th on BA’s list. Diaz has a strong bat with a lot of power potential, as Baseball America feels Diaz should eventually merit a 60 in power on the 20-80 scouting scale. On defense, Diaz will likely move off shortstop to third base or possibly even first as he keeps growing; interestingly, MLB.com lists Diaz as 6’1″ and 170 pounds, while BA pegs him at 6’3″ and 200 pounds. Flores is said to possess good defensive tools at shortstop though a position change could be possible in the future; MLB.com’s scouting report says some scouts feel Flores could be “the next Alcides Escobar.”
- With the Red Sox in desperate need of a third baseman, it would make sense for them to pursue Pirates utilityman Josh Harrison, posits Rosenthal. Harrison, controllable at affordable rates through 2020, has recovered from an injury-hampered 2016 to slash .289/.369/.449 with nine homers and 10 steals across 338 PAs this season. If the Red Sox were to acquire Harrison, he’d presumably hold down third for the rest of the year, but it’s unclear what would happen after that. Boston has top third base prospect Rafael Devers on the way, after all, while Harrison’s other positions (second base and the corner outfield) belong to Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi.
Craig, 32, will hit the open market after an ill-fated stint in the Sox organization. He was acquired back in 2014 along with righty Joe Kelly in the surprising trade that sent John Lackey to the Cardinals.
At the time, Craig was viewed as a possible bounce-back piece. Though he was carrying only a .237/.291/.346 batting line at the time of the deal, Boston obviously saw upside in the remainder of Craig’s contract extension. After all, prior to 2014, he owns an excellent career .306/.358/.492 batting line.
Unfortunately, the rebound never occurred. Craig only appeared in 65 MLB games with the Red Sox, posting a .432 OPS. And he has never shown much life while banished to Triple-A. Though Craig continues to reach base at a solid clip, he has hit just one home run and carries a .316 slugging percentage this year at Pawtucket.
Boston has long since written off his salary as an investment that won’t deliver any return, but it’s still a notable sum. Craig will still be entitled to the remainder of his $11MM guarantee this year, and will also take home a $1MM buyout on a $13MM option for 2018.
The Red Sox do not need to stay under the luxury tax line in making their deadline moves, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said in an appearance today on WEEI (h/t to Rob Bradford, on Twitter). Recent estimates put Boston about $9MM shy of the threshold, which has added implications under the new CBA since the tax escalates when it is owed in consecutive seasons. While the Sox will no doubt weigh that factor in assessing possible trades, it’s notable that the organization doesn’t feel compelled to stay within those limits. Boston is likely to be involved in the market for third basemen — I looked at possible targets recently — and could also add pitching.
Here’s more …
- The Giants are clearly in position to deal a few veterans, but it’s not yet known just how significant the moves will be. Signs are, though, that San Francisco is willing to listen to offers on just about any player, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi writes. The Giants are not interested in moving Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, and Brandon Crawford, per the report. That could leave some other interesting names available, with Morosi even suggesting that first baseman Brandon Belt could be available. He calls the Angels a potentially “intriguing fit” — though it’s not clear whether there’s any firm interest from Los Angeles — while noting that several other buyers will be looking at a variety of left-handed-hitting first basemen on what seems still to be a wide-open market.
- Unsurprisingly, interest in relief pitching will be robust at this year’s deadline, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com writes. Executives suggest that there’ll be a premium on pen arms, as usual, though the expectation remains that none will fetch the kind of immense returns that Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller commanded last year.
- The Padres have inquired with the Yankees about elite shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag. That said, there’s no indication the Yanks have any interest in parting with the talented youngster — even though he is expected to miss the remainder of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. That injury doesn’t really change his long-term value, of course, and it’s not altogether clear what Padres players the Yankees might target that could command that kind of trade value. Lefty Brad Hand and former New York infielder Yangervis Solarte may well be of interest, as Heyman notes, but it’s tough to imagine the Yankees parting with such an elite prospect for either or both of them.
- Heyman also weighs in on veteran Tigers hurler Justin Verlander, who has seen his name begin to come up in trade rumors. At this point, a deal seems less than likely, a source tells Heyman, but there is a real possibility that the righty (and his contract — which promises $56MM over 2018 and 2019) could end up on the move. Three or four teams are said to have participated in exploratory talks on Verlander, per the report, though any deal would require Verlander to waive his no-trade protection.
- Reds shortstop Zack Cozart, a clear trade candidate with his strong play and expiring contract, tells Heyman that his preference would be to remain in Cincinnati. While he says he understands and accepts that a deal “is more than likely to happen,” Cozart noted that he has informed the front office that he’d be amenable to exploring a long-term contract instead. It’s not terribly surprising, particularly given their internal options, that the Reds haven’t yet made an offer to the 31-year-old.
- Mets infielder Asdrubal Cabrera is walking back his recent call to be traded after being moved from short to second, as Dan Martin of the New York Post writes. Cabrera explains: “In that moment when I said that, I wasn’t saying I want to get traded. I was just saying it didn’t seem like they had a plan for me. … If they’ve got a plan, they should tell me.” He went on to say that he is “fine with playing second base,” saying that his complaint related more to a lack of communication. In any event, it remains unclear just how much demand there’ll be for the veteran, and also how inclined the Mets are to bring him back next year at a $8.5MM price tag (versus a $2MM buyout).
Here’s the latest trade chatter from around the league:
- The Athletics do not feel a need to wait until the deadline to begin moving veterans, sources tell MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. That may be true even (or especially) in the case of Sonny Gray. While he’s controllable, and doesn’t have to be traded, a rival exec says he thinks Oakland will be interested in dealing him early to avoid a month of injury risk. Possible rentals Yonder Alonso and Jed Lowrie are both said to be on the block as well, unsurprisingly.
- Other teams beginning to explore sell-side moves, per Feinsand, are the Braves, Marlins, Mets, and Reds. Those clubs are all obvious suspects given their placement in the standings. Atlanta could be an interesting team, though, since the organization seems to be prioritizing improvement in the on-field results and doesn’t have a lot of clearly valuable trade pieces.
- The Yankees and Red Sox are both looking over the Marlins roster and have asked about a few players, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Both New York and Boston have inquired on veteran third baseman Martin Prado, who is not terribly cheap and has spent a good chunk of the year on the DL. The Yanks are also expressing some interest in Miami first baseman Justin Bour, per the report; he’d offer a quality left-handed bat, though his affordable control will likely come with a fairly high asking price. The Fish are also said to have indicated an openness to dealing “anyone with a multi-year contract,” Nightengale adds. That would obviously free up quite a few intriguing potential trade candidates, including the club’s three quality young outfielders.
- Rival executives feel that the Tigers will market veteran righty Justin Verlander, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports writes, though Detroit’s intentions (and asking price) remain unclear. He’d be an easy product to pitch were this 2016, when Verlander was in vintage form. But he hasn’t followed that up with any degree of consistency thus far in 2017. Still, the $56MM he’s owed in 2018 and 2019 seems fairly reasonable, and it’s hard to ignore the top-line upside that still seems to reside in Verlander’s powerful right arm.
- The Padres, meanwhile, are apparently setting their sights high in talks involving southpaw Brad Hand, with one source telling Passan that GM AJ Preller hopes to achieve a return commensurate with that achieved last year by the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman. As Passan notes, that does seem steep — despite the fact that Hand does come with two more years of cheap arb control — but it likely won’t hurt to aim big at this stage of the proceedings.
- There, are, of course, some other talented relievers available. Two Marlins hurlers are also drawing interest from “multiple teams,” per Passan. AJ Ramos and David Phelps appear to be solid (albeit hardly perfect) late-inning pen options for contenders; indeed, MLBTR ranked them in a tie for 11th in the most recent list of the top fifty trade targets leaguewide. Both hurlers are reasonably expensive ($6.55MM and $4.6MM, respectively), so the salary-conscious Fish may see an opportunity to avoid some obligations. They each also can be controlled for an additional season via arbitration.