Yu Darvish is pitching tonight for the Rangers, so clearly there’s nothing imminent. Indeed, Texas seems likely to take its decision on the ace to the latest possible moment, even as it begins to solicit interest. As that process begins to take place, it’s important to note that Darvish possesses partial no-trade rights. While it’s not at all clear whether he’d get in the way of a deal, particularly given that he’ll be a free agent in a few months regardless, that adds another potential hurdle. Per Jim Bowden of Sirius XM, via Twitter, Darvish currently can block trades to the Cubs, Indians, Pirates, Red Sox, and Rockies (along with five other teams that are in no position to consider a rental starter).
- The Tigers are reportedly willing to pay the rest of Justin Verlander’s remaining 2017 salary in order to facilitate a deal, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports. This works out to roughly $10.89MM. Reports earlier this week indicated that Detroit was open to including some money as part of a Verlander deal, though according to rival executives who have spoken with Fenech, the Tigers would need to bump that figure up to $25MM-$30MM if the club hopes to receive a good prospect return for Verlander. The former Cy Young Award winner’s future salary obligations ($28MM in each of the next two seasons, and a $22MM vesting option for 2020) and his struggles in 2017 have greatly limited his trade value, though Fenech notes that teams like the Cubs and Dodgers still had scouts at Verlander’s most recent outing.
- The Cubs have expressed the most interest in catcher Alex Avila, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports (Twitter links), and Nightengale feels Avila will be the next notable Tiger to leave Detroit now that J.D. Martinez has been traded. Nightengale figures the Tigers would “ideally” receive a mid-level prospect in exchange for Avila, who is enjoying a career year just before hitting free agency this winter. Detroit is reportedly getting a lot of interest in Avila, though the Cubs and Blue Jays are the only teams specifically linked to the catcher (and Toronto has since acquired Miguel Montero).
1:30pm: There hasn’t been much progress in talks between the Rangers and Cubs, Morosi tweets. While the Cubs continue to have interest in Darvish, they’d still prefer to add a starter who is controlled beyond just this season.
9:18am: The Cubs have checked in with the Rangers about Yu Darvish, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi. Earlier today, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reported that Texas was open to at least discussing its ace with other teams, even if a trade doesn’t seem imminent.
Given that Chicago has been so aggressively pursuing starting pitching this summer, it isn’t any surprise that Theo Epstein and company have looked into Darvish. Even after landing Jose Quintana in a blockbuster deal with the White Sox, the Cubs have continued to seek out arms, asking about such names as Chris Archer, Marcus Stroman, and (perhaps most seriously) Sonny Gray. The Cubs were still interested in Gray as of last night, Morosi reports.
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A Darvish trade, however, would represent a shift in Chicago’s thinking. The Cubs have been looking into controllable pitchers that can sustain the rotation over the long term since Jake Arrieta and John Lackey will be free agents this winter. Darvish is a free agent himself in the offseason, so he would be a pure rental for the Cubs. After already surrendering several top prospects in the deals for Quintana and for Aroldis Chapman last July, the Cubs are likely wary about giving up even more top minor leaguers for just two-plus months of Darvish’s services. Then again, since Darvish would clearly be the best rental pitcher on the market, the Cubs may be willing to take the plunge in this specific case in order to emerge from the crowded NL Central race and take a run at another world championship.
With Darvish’s short-term status in mind, it is possible that a Rangers/Cubs deal could expand to more than just the star right-hander. For instance, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News “would not be surprised” if Jonathan Lucroy also became involved in trade talks between the two clubs, as the Cubs have been looking for a catching upgrade since parting ways with Miguel Montero.
The Pirates are on a roll in the NL Central, having just swept the division-leading Brewers in a four-game series. Even prior to today’s win, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports wrote in his weekly notes column that Pittsburgh not only continues to look unlikely to trade Gerrit Cole but is now also unlikely to deal outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who has undergone a remarkable turnaround at the plate since late May.
- The Tigers appear all but entirely unwilling to move young starter Michael Fulmer, per Heyman. That’s largely unsurprising, though perhaps it might have been expected that the club would at least entertain some scenarios in the interest of covering all its bases. While he’d surely draw a major haul, it would probably be tough for the team to part with its best asset while so many expensive veterans remain under contract. Meanwhile, Heyman notes that shortstop Jose Iglesias could be had for the right price, though it’s hard to see that coming together with such limited demand at the position.
- Though the White Sox are clearly in the midst of another aggressive sale, Heyman writes that there are no plans to move Jose Abreu at this time. The slugger is in the midst of a fine season, but there’s a limited market for first base help at this time. With another two years of control beyond this season, the ChiSox will perhaps have more opportunistic times to market him. Derek Holland, on the other hand, could very well be moved in the coming week, and the South Siders would like to move Melky Cabrera as well but would probably need to pay down most of the remainder of this year’s $15MM salary.
- The Indians are a possible landing spot for Jay Bruce, as their offense is currently without the injured Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis. The Mets are known to be looking to move Bruce, and it’s worth noting that USA Today’s Bob Nightengale recently reported that Cleveland was in the mix for slugger J.D. Martinez right up until the time he was traded.
- With limited trade partners for Yonder Alonso — especially following the Yankees’ acquisition of Todd Frazier — the Athletics once again touched base with Yonder Alonso’s reps at MVP Sports about an extension, per Heyman. They’ll circle back again and do so later this week as the two sides attempt to find a middle ground. Oakland is in the midst of an all-out rebuild, as executive vice president of baseball ops Billy Beane recently indicated, but Alonso could provide some leadership for the team’s younger players. And, if he sustains his breakout through season’s end and into 2018, he could certainly become a marketable asset in the future when there’s more of a need at his position.
- The Rangers aren’t likely to re-sign Yu Darvish after the season, Heyman writes, as Darvish’s camp has already thrown out Stephen Strasburg’s seven-year, $175MM contract as a potential comp. Texas isn’t prepared to bid that highly to retain Darvish, which is why they’ve at least signaled to teams that they’ll listen to offers on Darvish if they struggle too much between now and the deadline. There’s no plan to move Cole Hamels at this time, though, he adds.
- While the Diamondbacks may have made their biggest move already, the club is still looking at ways to bolster the pitching staff. Heyman pegs Blue Jays righty Marco Estrada as a possibility, though it’s unclear if he’s actively under consideration. It’s fair to wonder, too, whether the club would be better suited to focusing on bullpen help — though, of course, looking at starters doesn’t preclude that possibility.
- While the Cubs have made at least some contact with the Athletics on righty Sonny Gray even since acquiring Jose Quintana, Heyman says that it’s not at all clear that Chicago will be “a strong player” for another controllable starter.
- With Jaime Garcia seemingly going off the board, there ought to be greater focus now on Phillies righty Jeremy Hellickson. He ought to be easier to obtain now than he was last year, Heyman notes, as the Phils are willing to hold onto at least some of his $17.2MM salary to improve the prospect return.
- As many as 10 teams are still in the mix for Marlins righty David Phelps, tweets Nightengale. Phelps is indeed an attractive trade chip, though it’s unlikely that all 10 of those clubs are expressing serious interest and making competitive bids to acquire him. Nightengale names the Yankees, Red Sox, Brewers, Cubs, Rockies, and Rangers as the chief pursuers of Phelps.
- Olney lists Sonny Gray, Yonder Alonso, J.D. Martinez, Justin Wilson and Pat Neshek as five players that definitively will be traded prior to the non-waiver trade deadline. All of those players are known to be available, with the Athletics and Phillies at differing stages of a lengthy rebuilding process and the Tigers aiming to pare down payroll by moving short-term veterans. But, Olney’s strong characterization of the likelihood is nonetheless notable, especially since both Gray and Wilson are controllable beyond the 2017 campaign. The Brewers, Cubs, Astros, Yankees, Braves and Indians are among the teams in the mix for Gray, though likely not all to the same extent. Alonso, meanwhile, has reportedly had talks with the A’s about an extension, though Billy Beane’s rebuilding comments yesterday certainly lend credence to the notion that a trade could be the likelier outcome.
- The Cubs checked in on Chris Archer and Marcus Stroman during their wide-ranging search for young and controllable pitching, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com writes. Archer has long been linked to Chicago in trade rumors, though the most recent talks unsurprisingly went nowhere since the Rays want to keep their ace to make a playoff run. As for Stroman, the Blue Jays informed the Cubs that the 26-year-old righty would cost Chicago a player from its big league roster. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently observed in his “Taking Inventory” analysis on the Jays, Stroman probably isn’t a likely trade candidate unless Toronto decides to embark on a total rebuild. The Cubs, of course, acquired Jose Quintana earlier this week and are reportedly still on the lookout to add another controllable arm to their rotation.
- Rosenthal characterizes Gray to the Cubs as unlikely — Gray would likely cost Ian Happ or another top young hitter, and Rosenthal guesses the Cubs would rather go forward with their current collection of rotation talent (which, of course, now includes Jose Quintana) and sign a free agent next winter. Rosenthal points out, though, that whatever the Cubs’ actual level of interest, both the Cubs and Athletics probably like the perception that the Cubs want Gray, since the extra name on the market increases pressure on the Brewers, who’ve also been connected to him.
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The Cubs swung what might be the biggest deal of the summer yesterday by acquiring Jose Quintana for a prospect package headline by Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, but they’re still interested in A’s right-hander Sonny Gray, reports Jon Morosi of MLB.com (Twitter link). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and MLB Network tweets the same sentiment, that the Cubs are “pursuing” Gray despite having already added Quintana.
The Cubs’ acquisition of Quintana left them without two of their top prospects, though the Cubs still have a number of appealing young players. Infielder Jeimer Candelario ranks among the game’s Top 100 prospects over at MLB.com, and ESPN’s Keith Law recently noted that pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay and Oscar De La Cruz have seen their stock rise quite a bit this season.
Chicago also has a number of young position players already at the MLB level, though there’s been considerable doubt cast on their willingness to deal players that have already played their way into prominent roles on the Major League roster. If the team is to make a serious run at Gray, however, that may well be what is required of president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer.
It’s not necessarily clear that the Cubs are aggressively chasing Gray, who is controllable via arbitration through the 2019 campaign. Rosenthal tweets that it’s not yet known how hard they’ll push to bring Gray into the fold, though their openness to the notion is interesting all the same. Acquiring both Quintana and Gray would line the Cubs up for a rotation featuring that pair, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks for at least the next three years, and while Gray’s price figures to rise, it should be more manageable than filling the spots of Jake Arrieta and John Lackey via free agency when that pair reaches the open market this offseason. That could be a key for the Cubs, who will see Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Hendricks, Kyle Schwarber, Carl Edwards Jr. and others reach arbitration eligibility in the next two years.