- USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that the Royals are closely monitoring Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn to see if St. Louis makes him available between now and the deadline. ESPN’s Buster Olney reported earlier today that the Royals are looking around for not one but two rental starters to try to make one last run with their current core, and as a free agent at season’s end, Lynn would fit that mold. If the Royals are indeed watching, they probably didn’t mind what they saw today when Lynn tossed six innings of one-run ball against the Mets, though he did allow his 21st homer of the season, which is already far and away a career-high.
- The Royals are once again struggling, having dropped seven of their past 10 games, but ESPN’s Buster Olney hears that they’re not deviating from their course as deadline buyers. Kansas City has been hopeful of adding two “cost-efficient” starting pitchers and are also looking into adding a reliever. It’d take a total collapse between now and the deadline for the Royals to change course and sell off their impending free agents, Olney adds.
- David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets that the Royals had a scout in attendance to watch Julio Teheran’s start for the Braves last night. It should be noted, of course, that there were likely a number of clubs on hand and that the Royals are certain to be scouting a number of potential rotation additions. Teheran turned in six innings of two-run ball without allowing a homer, though he also issued four walks and uncorked a wild pitch.
Athletics righty Sonny Gray is an obvious target for contenders, and he’s among the players touched upon in a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today (which also delves into some analysis and predictions). The Brewers “may be the most aggressive” suitor for the Oakland starter, per Nightengale, with the Royals even entering the picture to some extent. He guesses, though, that the Astros are most likely to land Gray. That’s not to say that it’s Houston’s first choice; Nightengale says that the team spoke with the Tigers on Michael Fulmer but “came up empty.”
- The Cardinals, Dodgers and Royals seem to be leading the chase for Tigers contract-year slugger J.D. Martinez, according to Cafardo. As AL Central rivals of the Tigers, the Royals are especially familiar with Martinez, who has slashed .298/.379/.602 with 14 home runs in 219 plate appearances this year. The $11.75MM right fielder would significantly boost a below-average Kansas City offense that has received awful production from longtime franchise cornerstone Alex Gordon in left field. Meanwhile, with Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk on the disabled list, the Cardinals are shorthanded in the outfield. Winners of 40 of their past 51 games, the 62-29 Dodgers seemingly aren’t lacking for quality players anywhere, but picking up Martinez would make them all the formidable as they vie for a World Series.
JULY 15: Karns will, in fact, have surgery on Wednesday to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweets. Karns will miss the rest of the season.
JULY 7: The Royals may go without righty Nate Karns for the rest of the year, per manager Ned Yost. The skipper says that it’s “looking more and more like” Karns will require thoracic outlet surgery, as Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star reports.
Karns gave the Royals 45 1/3 innings of 4.17 ERA pitching before hitting the shelf with forearm discomfort after his start on May 19th. With 51 strikeouts against just 13 walks over that span, there was quite a lot of optimism that he might be even more effective upon returning from what was expected to be a brief spell on the DL.
The forearm troubles, though, failed to improve as expected. A connection to thoracic outlet syndrome was eventually drawn. And now, it seem, a surgical option is squarely on the table.
If Karns does go under the knife, it’d surely end his 2017 season, though that doesn’t mean the organization wouldn’t still see him as a future contributor. The 29-year-old, acquired over the winter for Jarrod Dyson, will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this fall.
Even if Karns is able to avoid a procedure and begin moving toward a return this year, it will obviously be tough for Kansas City to expect much from him the rest of the way. That helps explain the team’s reported interest in pursuing a rental starter at the deadline.
- The Royals announced earlier this week that right-hander Glenn Sparkman has been returned to the team following his DFA from the Blue Jays. Sparkman was Toronto’s selection in last year’s Rule 5 Draft, and he’ll head back to Kansas City’s Double-A affiliate, per the Royals’ announcement. Sparkman missed most of the season with a fractured thumb and was rocked for seven runs in one inning across two appearances upon being activated and making his MLB debut. He has brilliant numbers in Class-A Advanced and a solid but limited track record in Double-A, so he’ll continue to gain experience in the upper minors for the time being.
- Heyman also notes that Braves left-hander Jaime Garcia is one rental pitcher that interests the Royals. On the subject of Kansas City, he also notes that while the team does have interest in Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon, K.C. would want Miami to pay down some of the roughly $41MM remaining on Gordon’s contract, which the Fish aren’t willing to do. The same is true of the Angels and Blue Jays, he adds, both of whom like the player but not his current salary.
- The Yankees, Nationals, Dodgers, Cubs, Brewers, Royals, Angels and Mariners could all be in the mix for lefty Brad Hand, Heyman reports. Regarding the Dodgers, Heyman and Robert Murray report that San Diego asked Los Angeles for top prospect Alex Verdugo in return, though there’s “no likelihood” of L.A. meeting that price. The Padres are also getting calls on cheap starters Trevor Cahill, Clayton Richard and Jhoulys Chacin, each of whom inked a one-year deal worth $1.75MM this past offseason.
With the deadline approaching quickly, teams will be forced to make tough decisions. Health issues will play a large role in complicating those decisions. In some cases, when a player is known to be out for the entire season, acting decisively to find a replacement makes clear sense. But there are plenty of unresolved health issues throughout the game that will likely have significant impacts on a team’s approach to the deadline. Teams will be gathering information on internal players and on possible targets; here are a few players whose uncertain health status will be watched closely:
Carson Smith & Eduardo Rodriguez, Red Sox: While Pablo Sandoval is nominally on the DL, and perhaps still factors into the team’s needs at third base, the real action is in the pitching staff. Smith could yet represent a significant pen arm, but it’s still unclear how much (if at all) he’ll contribute. And while Rodriguez has been excellent, and seems slated to return shortly from the DL, his recurring knee problems could become a major near-term concern.
Matt Andriese, Rays: There have been plenty of suggestions that the Rays could consider dealing a starter — particularly, pending free agent Alex Cobb — even if they’re in contention. But that’d be much harder to do if Andriese isn’t showing clear signs of returning to full health. Even if he is, the club could elect to stand pat, perhaps deciding to use the abundance of starting options to bolster the relief corps rather than spending young talent to get a new bullpen arm.
Greg Bird & Tyler Austin, Yankees: Perhaps the ship has sailed on the Yanks fully relying on Bird in the second half. After all, he struggled when he was available and is dealing with an ankle injury that does not appear to come with a straightforward solution. And it’s unclear just how much stock the Yankees would put in Austin even if he were at full health. Still, the injury signals coming from these two over the next few weeks could impact the Bronx Bombers’ deadline plans, particularly since the organization is clearly looking to avoid parting with significant prospects unless strictly necessary.
J.J. Hardy, Orioles: Chris Davis is on the shelf as well, though the team’s glut of corner options allows them to weather that storm fairly well. It’s another story with Hardy, who is still one to three weeks from even resuming baseball activities. The Orioles have been in a free fall since mid-May, but GM Dan Duquette was maintaining a buyer’s outlook as recently as late June, but more recent suggestions indicated that the team is presently on the fence. If the O’s perform well in the first two weeks coming out of the break, Hardy’s absence creates a potential area of need.
Danny Salazar, Indians: Shoulder issues have significantly limited the talented right-hander, who is working back towards the majors at present. If he can return to full health, Salazar could conceivably get back to providing quality innings from the rotation — or, at least, the bullpen. If not, the team’s possible pitching needs will be all the more clear.
Hector Santiago, Twins: With a somewhat mysterious and lingering back issue, the southpaw is a question mark for Minnesota in the second half. The team is shopping for young starters regardless, but the urgency of that effort — if not also the possibility of considering at least a modest rental investment — could hinge in part upon Santiago’s progress.
Nate Karns, Royals: Kansas City is reportedly looking to augment the back of its rotation, which is likely in no small part due to the fact that the return of Karns is looking less and less likely. The last update on Karns suggested that thoracic outlet surgery may very well be in his future. If he is indeed lost for the season, as lefty Matt Strahm recently was, the Royals’ need to snag a back-of-the-rotation rental becomes more acute.
Dallas Keuchel & Collin McHugh, Astros: The AL West crown is already nearly in hand for Houston, but that doesn’t mean the team is without its needs. The ’Stros have the luxury of looking ahead to the postseason, but still clearly would like to add to the top of the rotation. So long as Keuchel and McHugh are moving back toward the major league mound, the addition of a starter will remain classified as a strong want. But if either (particularly Keuchel) show any worrying signs, the organization will surely feel a much greater urgency to add an arm that can help drive the team through the postseason.
Matt Shoemaker, Angels: Obviously, Mike Trout is of even greater concern. But all indications are that he’s good to go beginning this Friday. For the Angels, deciding whether it’s worth adding to the roster at the deadline could hinge more upon the health of the rotation. Shoemaker will get checked out before hopefully beginning a throwing program within the week; whether he is progressing toward a return will be important to the Halos’ plans. (Honorable mention: Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs, who are on longer-fuse rehab paths.)
Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners: It’s not clear at this point whether Seattle can expect much at all from the veteran down the stretch. Seattle is already without Drew Smyly for the year due to Tommy John surgery. If Iwakuma can’t begin to make his way back from shoulder problems before the deadline –and if the team can hang in the Wild Card hunt over the next two weeks — then pursuit of a starter would make all the more sense.
Keone Kela & Jake Diekman, Rangers: The Texas pen has produced plenty of hand-wringing this year. Ironically, perhaps, the first crack seemed to form with Kela’s stunning demotion to start the year, owing to behavioral issues. But he has been effective since making his way back, pitching his way into consideration for the closer’s role that has been vacated by Sam Dyson and Matt Bush. Now, however, Kela is dealing with shoulder soreness; his status could help dictate the team’s needs over the coming weeks. Diekman is even more of a question mark after surgery to treat ulcerative colits cost him the entire first half. He’s throwing from flat ground as of early July, and a return to the mound would obviously be a potential boon for the Texas relief corps. But, they also can’t fully know how much to expect from him in the second half given the unique nature of his medical status.
At least three teams have expressed some interest in Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon, according to a report from Jon Heyman of Fan Rag. The Angels, Blue Jays, and Royals have each “at least mentioned” the infielder as a possible deadline target, per Heyman.
Gordon, 29, hasn’t continued the form he showed in 2015, his first season with Miami. He slashed a career-best .333/.359/.418 — helped along by a .383 batting average on balls in play — and swiped 58 bags that year. With quality glovework mixed in, Gordon was valued at 4.7 fWAR and earned himself a five-year, $50MM extension.
He has had a somewhat redemptive 2017 season, at least, after his second season with the Marlins was marred by a PED suspension and significant performance decline. In his 375 plate appearances this year, Gordon owns a .295/.342/.358 batting line and has already stolen 32 bases.
While there isn’t immense need at second base around the game, Gordon would be a future asset for any acquiring team. And with his immense speed and highly rated glovework, he’d also be a particularly useful postseason roster piece.
All said, Gordon’s contract seems fairly reasonable, though it’s certainly not the bargain the Marlins once hoped it would be. The deal promises Gordon $7.5MM this year and $38MM over the three seasons to come — which includes a $1MM buyout on a $14MM option for 2021. (That option would be guaranteed if Gordon reaches 600 plate appearances in 2020 or 1,200 over that and the prior season.)
It’s not yet clear just what kinds of trade scenarios might entice the Marlins. Presumably, though, the focus would be on shedding as much of the financial commitment as possible. It’s not difficult to see the reason for interest from the teams that Heyman lists, as the Halos, Jays, and Royals have each had their share of uncertainty at second base. But it’s an open question whether those or any other teams would really be willing to take on most or all of Gordon’s contract.