- There is some doubt as to whether or not Clayton Kershaw will make his 60-pitch sim game tomorrow, as Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters (including Mike DiGiovanna of The Los Angeles Times) that the star left-hander has “some residual soreness” in his throwing elbow. A bout of forearm inflammation sent Kershaw to the IL on July 7, and while he was expected back in August, this development could possibly throw a wrench into that timeline. To be clear, Roberts indicated that Kershaw might still throw the 60-pitch anyway, just that it wasn’t set in stone that the sim game would indeed take place as planned.
The Dodgers have placed right-hander Tony Gonsolin on the 10-day injured list due to right shoulder inflammation, and also sent right-hander Brusdar Graterol and outfielder Luke Raley to Triple-A. The trio of moves clears the way for Max Scherzer to be activated onto the Dodgers’ roster, while righty Edwin Uceta and southpaw Garrett Cleavinger were called up from Triple-A.
It seems likely that Gonsolin’s shoulder issue contributed to his tough start last night, as he lasted only 1 2/3 innings while allowing two runs on a hit and five walks in the Dodgers’ 6-5 loss to the Diamondbacks. Control has been an uncharacteristically major issue for Gonsolin this season, as his 16.5% walk rate is one of the worst of any pitcher with at least 30 innings tossed.
Since Gonsolin didn’t debut this season until June 9 due to shoulder inflammation, the Dodgers have been limiting his workload, but the right-hander has still been posting some quality results. Gonsolin has a 2.78 ERA despite his problem with free passes, as he has an above-average 26.6% strikeout rate and done a good job at limiting hard contact.
Gonsolin joins Clayton Kershaw and the newly-acquired Danny Duffy on the injured list, as Scherzer’s acquisition was intended to help correct the lack of available rotation depth. If everyone is healthy, Los Angeles will have a fearsome array of pitchers available for the playoffs, though even the Dodgers’ depth has been tested by multiple pitching injuries this season.
The Rockies reportedly received offers for All-Star shortstop Trevor Story from the Yankees, Brewers, White Sox, and Rays prior to Friday’s trade deadline, per Jon Heyman of the MLB Network (via Twitter). The Rockies have been criticized for their failure to move Story, given that they are all but assured to lose him as a free agent after the season. They will get a draft pick when he departs, and their front office did not deem any of the offers received as appreciably better than that draft pick will be.
- Despite all the talk, the Mets never came particularly close to acquiring Kris Bryant from the Cubs, per Mike Puma of the New York Post (via Twitter). The two clubs were obviously in steady communication — and eventually consummated a deal for Javier Baez — but the Cubs kept the conversation away from Bryant. Given how long Bryant had been “on the block,” the Cubs certainly had a sense of what was available.
- The Mets did, however, explore the cost for Kyle Gibson of the Rangers, notes Puma, but the Rangers informed them that they had a better offer on the table from the Phillies.
- The Nationals had the pieces in place for a deal that would have sent Max Scherzer to the Padres on Thursday night, but they also had a deal in place with an American League East team, per Juan Toribio of MLB.com. The Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays, and Red Sox were all said to have interest in Scherzer at one point or another.
- As for the Dodgers’ side of that deal eventual deal, they were intent on holding onto Ryan Pepiot, Bobby Miller, and Landon Knack, despite wide-ranging interest in that trio of arms.
This year’s trade season did not disappoint. After a wild couple of days, we’re gonna do our best to recap the action from one of the busiest trade deadlines in recent memory. Let’s start with the headlines coming out of the Senior Circuit this month…
The Champs Are Still The Champs: This phrase, in many ways, could serve as an ironic headline for this year’s trade deadline, as we saw the dismantling of a couple of former championship teams. The reigning champ, however, was not one of them. The Dodgers reasserted themselves as the team to beat in the National League by making the splashiest move of the deadline in acquiring Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Nationals.
The Dodgers stepped up, and now they have perhaps the most intimidating starter of his generation slotted into a rotation with Clayton Kershaw, probably the best pitcher of his generation, along with young stud Walker Buehler. It’s an amazing collection of talent for a single team.
That said, the Turner acquisition might be even more impactful, as he’s under team control through next season. Turner and Mookie Betts as a 1-2 punch in the lineup are devastating. Interestingly, the Dodgers also got Corey Seager back from the injured list today, and it remains to be seen how the Dodgers will deploy their pair of All-Star shortstops (to say nothing of Gavin Lux and Chris Taylor). The Dodgers have options now and for the future. Remember, Seager is a free agent after the season. They can still bring back their World Series MVP at the right price point, but they won’t be pressured to now that they have Turner in the fold.
The Padres Don’t Land Mad Max: The trade deadline madness really began on Thursday night when it was announced that the Padres and Nats had agreed on the players involved in a Scherzer deal. That didn’t sit well with the Dodgers, who swooped in to remind the Padres of who still runs the West. The Padres were expected to turn their attention to Jose Berrios, but they weren’t able to get him either.
At the end of the day, the Padres didn’t get Scherzer, Berrios, Joey Gallo, or any other of the big names. They did add Adam Frazier, a versatile defender and good contact hitter, along with Daniel Hudson, who is a legitimate get for the bullpen, and Jake Marisnick, who compliments their centerfield options nicely, even if he’s not much more than a depth piece. It was a less impactful deadline than expected, but what’s worse: Fernando Tatis Jr. promptly reaggravated his shoulder injury. Add it all up, and the swing from potentially acquiring Scherzer to potentially losing Tatis is enough to give any Padres fan whiplash.
Giants Add Bryant: The Padres took a big swing and missed, the Dodgers took their swing and connected, and sure to form, the Giants played the deadline slow and steady. Does the tortoise win again? Time will tell, but the Giants did ultimately nab a former MVP in Kris Bryant without giving up a top prospect. Bryant fits their profile like a glove, and he’ll be able to fill in at third until Evan Longoria returns and then move to the outfield.
Remember: The Giants have a three-game head start on LA and a five-game lead on the Padres. Adding Bryant has game-changing potential, while Tony Watson was a solid, low-key add to the pen. The Dodgers are scary, but if the Giants keep playing their game, LA may find themselves in the wild card game anyway.
Cubs Collapse, Dismantle 2016 World Series Champs: In a vacuum, the Cubs had a pretty good deadline. They added a number of buzzy, interesting young players like Nick Madrigal, Pete Crow-Armstrong, and Alexander Canario. But it came at a cost. After years of rumors, Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez were finally shipped out of town, along with Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera, Marisnick, and Trevor Williams. New players — and new narratives — are long overdue in Chicago, and the next chapter awaits.
Nationals Collapse, Dismantle 2019 World Series Champs: It’s appropriate that the Cubs are in DC to play the Nats this weekend, because really, the two clubs are mirror images of one another, right down to their interconnecting pieces like Kyle Schwarber and Jon Lester. Both teams were trying to contend on the legs of recent title teams, both teams had disastrous months of July, and both clubs desperately needed an influx of young talent. Both teams got it on Friday.
The Nats farm system was even more barren than Chicago’s and their need to restock even direr given the presence of young superstud Juan Soto. So Washington said their fare-thee-wells to Scherzer, Turner, Hudson, and Yan Gomes from the title team, plus recent additions Lester, Schwarber, Brad Hand, and Josh Harrison. GM Mike Rizzo does not sell off pieces willy nilly, but in doing so, they got some high-end, near-ready pieces as they look to quickly rebuild a contender in context around Soto before the Scott Boras client reaches free agency after the 2024 season.
Brewers Take Their Place Atop The NL Central: Milwaukee made their big acquisition back in May, and Willy Adames has transformed himself and the club since his arrival. They were last under .500 on the day before Adames arrived, they’ve gone 41-19 since and taken firm hold of the NL Central. Still, some tinkering remained on the docket for July, as the Brewers picked up Eduardo Escobar, Rowdy Tellez, John Curtiss, and Daniel Norris.
Injuries Keeping Mets From Runaway Division Title: The Mets left deadline day with a more acute awareness of what they lost than what they gained: Jacob deGrom has been shut down for another couple of weeks, leaving the all-world hurler out until at least September. That’s heartbreaking for a Mets team with a clear path to an NL East title. Plenty of upside remains in the Mets rotation with Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker posting career years, Carlos Carrasco set to make his debut, and Tylor Megill providing the surprising rookie breakout contenders seek. Still, deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are questionable at best for the rest of the season, and the only rotation additions the Mets made at the deadline were Rich Hill and Trevor Williams.
They did, however, account for Francisco Lindor’s injury by adding Javier Baez, Lindor’s friend and countrymate who can ably fill in while Lindor is out and then slide to second or third when he returns. Baez isn’t, perhaps, the former Cub that Mets fans expected, but he’s an excellent fit alongside Lindor and should bolster the pitching staff with his stellar glove — even if acquiring him did cost them a former first-rounder in Crow-Armstrong.
Braves Lose Acuna For The Season: The deadline might have looked a lot different for Atlanta had they not lost Ronald Acuna Jr. for the season back on July 10th. Without Acuna and Mike Soroka, the Braves weren’t expected to make any major swings at contention. But even a 13-12 July was enough to keep them within four games of first. A fourth consecutive NL East title remains in reach. So they nabbed one of the top available relief arms in Richard Rodriguez, as well as, seemingly, all the outfielders: Jorge Soler, old pal Adam Duvall, Eddie Rosario, and Joc Pederson, plus Stephen Vogt to reinforce their catching corps.
Soft Buys From The Fringes Of Contention: The Giants and Dodgers made headline additions, while the Nats and Cubs took a firm step away from contention. In the middle, there were a number of clubs that neither sold the farm nor raised the white flag. Such as…
…the Phillies… who seemed poised to add a bevy of arms given their bullpen situation, not to mention a starting rotation that’s received underwhelming performances from the back end. Instead, only Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy came to help, and they cost the Phillies’ top prospect Spencer Howard. Howard’s handling had been in question all season, and now he’s been served an unceremonious end to his Philly tenure. Gibson’s had a fine season thus far with the Rangers, but his groundball approach will be tested in front of Philly’s subpar infield defense. Sure, Freddy Galvis brings his glove back to help out, but will that be enough?
…and the Reds… who looked to undo their winter penny-pinching by restocking the bullpen. Justin Wilson, Luis Cessa, and Mychal Givens will try to help a bullpen that ranks 29th with a 5.31 ERA. The Reds’ inconsistent play in July kept them squarely on the deadline fence, however, and now that Nick Castellanos is on the injured list, they’re seven games behind the Brewers and looking like longshots for the postseason.
…and the Cardinals…who added a few pieces at the deadline, despite being 9.5 games behind the Brewers and 6.5 out of a wild card spot. The additions were modest, however, as St. Louis went on a run of graybeard southpaws in July, adding 36-year-old Wade LeBlanc, 37-year-old Jon Lester, and 38-year-old J.A. Happ to a rotation fronted by 39-year-old Adam Wainwright and caught by 39-year-old Yadier Molina.
Cellar Dwellers Sell: The Marlins, Pirates, and Diamondbacks, each in last place of their respective divisions, made some moves to turn expiring talent into youth for the future. The Marlins added the biggest fish in Jesus Luzardo, but the Pirates did well for themselves, too, by adding some plug-and-play talent like Michael Chavis from Boston and Bryse Wilson from Atlanta, while also grabbing two prospects from Seattle for Tyler Anderson. The Dbacks weren’t quite as active, but they did move Escobar and Joakim Soria, though a COVID-19 outbreak has brought more pressing issues to their attention.
The Rockies Don’t Trade Trevor Story Or Jon Gray: The most perplexing moves of the deadline were the trades that didn’t happen. Despite having no shot at contention in a division with zero margin for error (in the short-and-long term), the Rockies chose to stand pat rather than build for the future. Holding Gray is one thing, but Story has stated his desire to move on, so their decision not to acquire a prospect or two for him before he walks might be the biggest shock of deadline season.
After what was arguably the wildest trade deadline in years with dozens of deals around the league, multiple teams made follow-up roster moves. Trades end up squeezing some players off of rosters, or creating holes that need to be filled. This post will itemize the many 40-man roster moves that teams made after a dizzying array of blockbuster deals earlier in the day.
- The Orioles claimed Ryan Hartman off of waivers from the Astros, according to Rich Dubroff of BaltimoreBaseball.com. The 27-year-old lefty was recently designated for assignment when Brooks Raley was reinstated from the COVID-IL.
- The Red Sox designated outfielder Marcus Wilson for assignment. The move was needed to accommodate the acquisition of reliever Hansel Robles from the Twins.
- The Yankees announced that they designated Ryan LaMarre for assignment. The outfielder was recently selected to help the team patch some holes during their COVID outbreak.
- The Rays designated righties Sean Poppen and Jake Reed for assignment, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. This was to create roster space after the acquisition of Jordan Luplow and DJ Johnson from earlier today.
- Pablo Sandoval was released by the Indians. This was just hours after he was acquired in the Eddie Rosario trade. Based on his release, it’s clear that he was only included as salary offset.
- The Tigers selected the contract of reliever Ian Krol. The left-hander is back after being designated for assignment earlier in the week.
- The Mariners outrighted Vinny Nittoli to Triple-A. The righty recently had his contract selected, throwing one inning before being designated for assignment.
- The Rangers announced they were selecting the contracts of right-handers Jharel Cotton and Drew Anderson. Both hurlers signed minor league deals over the winter.
- The Marlins selected the contracts of outfielders Bryan De La Cruz and Brian Miller. Both players are now in line to make their major league debuts.
- As expected, the Mets officially reinstated starter Carlos Carrasco from the 60-day injured list. The righty made his team debut this evening against the Reds.
- The Phillies designated reliever Brandon Kintzler for assignment and transferred outfielder Matt Joyce to the 60-day injured list. The moves were necessary to create roster space to accommodate Philadelphia’s three deadline acquisitions.
- The Nationals selected the contracts of Gabe Klobosits and Adrian Sanchez, according to Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post. Klobosits, a right-handed pitcher, is a 36th round draft pick from 2017. He has no major league experience. Sanchez had a couple of cups of coffee with Washington from 2017-2019 before being outrighted in 2020 and then re-signing on a minor league deal.
- The Cubs selected the contracts of RHP Michael Rucker and utilityman Andrew Romine, according to Jesse Rogers of ESPN. Rucker was picked up by the Orioles in the Rule 5 draft in 2019 but returned to the Cubs before the season started and has yet to make his major league debut. As for Romine, the 35-year-old utility man was signed by the Cubs to a minor league deal earlier this year. The Cubs also selected the contract of righty Jake Jewell prior to yesterday’s game.
- The Brewers announced that they designated RHP Patrick Weigel for assignment. Weigel was acquired as part of the Orlando Arcia trade with Atlanta back in April.
- The Diamondbacks claimed outfielder Jake Hager off waivers from the Mariners. This will be Hager’s fourth club on the season, having been previously designated for assignment by the Mets, Brewers and Mariners. Arizona also selected the contracts of infielder Drew Ellis and left-hander Miguel Aguilar.
- The Dodgers announced that they claimed catcher Chad Wallach off waivers from the Marlins. Wallach was recently designated for assignment when Brian Anderson was reinstated from the IL.
The Dodgers announced they’re activating star shortstop Corey Seager from the 60-day injured list prior to this evening’s game against the Diamondbacks. He’s in tonight’s starting lineup, hitting cleanup and playing shortstop.
The star shortstop has been out since being hit on the hand with a pitch from Ross Detwiler in mid-May. X-rays revealed a fractured right hand for Seager that was expected to cause him to miss at least a month. Seager ended up more than doubling that timeline, missing 2 1/2 months. In the meantime, the Dodgers went out and acquired another star shortstop in Trea Turner.
Turner recently tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed on the COVID-IL, just a day before being traded. So, Seager can be slotted into the six-hole for now. But it’s unclear how the team will proceed once they have both players on the roster at the same time. Seager spoke to Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic and didn’t seem to be able to shed light on the situation, telling Ardaya that the team has not discussed the situation with him.
Being a free agent at season’s end, the Dodgers have no investment in Seager maintaining as a shortstop for the long-term. Turner, on the other hand, will still be under team control through 2022, having one year of arbitration remaining. Turner also is the better fielder, according to DRS, with Turner at a 10 for his career at shortstop and Seager at -8. UZR is reversed though, having Seager at 5.4 and Turner at -5.6.
Regardless of how it plays out, it’s a good problem to have for the Dodgers. Both players are among the best shortstops in the league. Before going on the IL, Seager had put up a wRC+ of 118. That’s down from his career mark of 129 but still well above the league average of 100. Turner, for his part, has a wRC+ of 137 this year, well above his career number of 121.
The market is heating up for star reliever Craig Kimbrel, who looks likely to wind up traded before this afternoon’s deadline. With the Cubs moving players off the big league roster, there’s little reason to hold onto Kimbrel at a time when his value is almost certainly at its apex.
The eight-time All-Star is having as good a season as he’s ever had, pitching to an incredible 0.49 ERA/1.83 SIERA over 36 2/3 innings. He’s playing out the year on a $16MM salary (around $5.6MM of which is still owed) and is under team control next season via a club option at a matching price. Unsurprisingly, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets that multiple teams are in conversations with the Cubs regarding the 32-year-old.
Here’s the latest chatter on Kimbrel:
- While the Dodgers are “kicking around” the idea of adding Kimbrel, his landing in L.A. seems unlikely, reports Rosenthal. The Rays, whom Rosenthal reported this morning have been in talks with the Cubs about both Kimbrel and Kris Bryant, remain involved.
- Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported that the Dodgers were exploring the market earlier this week, and they have continued interest, he reiterates today. It has been a whirlwind deadline season for Los Angeles, who has already added Danny Duffy and is apparently soon to acquire Trea Turner and Max Scherzer.
- The White Sox already picked up one quality reliever from the Cubs — Ryan Tepera — yesterday. They’re apparently at least kicking around the idea of making another move with their crosstown rivals. The two Chicago clubs are having discussions about a potential Kimbrel deal, reports David Kaplan of NBC Sports Chicago (on Twitter).
- Kimbrel’s first club, the Braves, checked in on a reunion, reports Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic (Twitter link). However, Atlanta does not “see itself as a factor” in the market at the moment.
In a stunning deadline blockbuster, the Dodgers acquired stars Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Nationals. In exchange, Los Angeles sent back four prospects, including two of the top young talents in baseball. Catcher Keibert Ruiz, right-handers Josiah Gray and Gerardo Carrillo, and outfielder Donovan Casey are go to Washington. Scherzer waived his no-trade rights to facilitate the deal.
It had become clear in recent days the Nationals were likely to trade Scherzer, but the saga took its share of twists and turns along the way. The division-rival Padres were reportedly close to landing the three-time Cy Young award winner earlier in the afternoon. Other teams — the Dodgers among them — lurked on the periphery, though, and Los Angeles jumped in as the Nationals’ talks with San Diego never got across the finish line. In the process, the Dodgers also add one of the game’s best position players as part of a jaw-dropping package deal.
Scherzer is one of the best pitchers of his generation, and the future Hall of Famer has continued to pitch at a level close to peak form. He’s tossed 111 innings across nineteen starts, working to a 2.76 ERA/3.59 FIP. He’s given up a few home runs (1.46 HR/9), but Scherzer’s strikeout and walk numbers are still among the game’s best. The eight-time All-Star has punched out 34.3% of batters faced while handing out free passes to a meager 6.5% of opponents. Among starters with 50+ innings pitched, only Jacob deGrom, Tyler Glasnow, Patrick Sandoval and Shane Bieber have generated swinging strikes at a higher clip than Scherzer’s 16.5% mark.
It’s the continuation of what was a remarkable tenure in Washington. Signed to a seven-year, $210MM deal over the 2014-15 offseason, the right-hander entered today’s outing with a 2.80 ERA/2.91 FIP across 1223 innings for the Nats. That deal proved to be one of the most successful free agent investments in recent memory. Scherzer won back-to-back NL Cy Young awards in 2016-17 and was selected to the All-Star game six times, with the lone exception due to the cancelation of last year’s festivities. Perhaps most importantly, Scherzer was integral to the Nationals’ 2019 World Series title, tossing 30 frames of 2.40 ERA ball during that year’s postseason run.
Scherzer now joins a rotation that already includes Walker Buehler and is expected to soon welcome back Clayton Kershaw from the injured list. That trio would make for an incredible top three in any postseason series, to say nothing of the presence of David Price and Tony Gonsolin as options for a fourth game and/or multi-inning work out of the bullpen. (Trevor Bauer remains on administrative leave after being accused of assault; it’s not clear if/when he’ll return to the team this season).
Of course, the Dodgers still need to solidify their chances of making a playoff series to unleash that three-headed monster in October. The Dodgers are almost certain to make the playoffs in some capacity, but the Giants somewhat surprisingly remain three games up on them in the NL West race. The competition at the top of the division from San Francisco and San Diego could leave the Dodgers staring down a one-game playoff. Acquiring Scherzer gives Los Angeles another ace to potentially take the ball in a Wild Card game, but it also increases their odds of winning the division and avoiding the contest altogether.
Incredibly, Scherzer is likely the second-most valuable part of the Dodgers’ haul. While Scherzer’s slated to hit free agency at the end of this season, Turner is controllable through 2022 via arbitration and every bit as productive. Turner has been a quality player since breaking into the big leagues in 2015, but he’s developed into a true superstar over the past couple seasons. Since the start of the 2020 campaign, the 28-year-old is hitting .327/.378/.546 (145 wRC+) with 30 home runs and 33 stolen bases across 155 games and 679 plate appearances.
Turner’s one of the top few players in the sport, even if he rather remarkably didn’t make an All-Star team until this season. In addition to that high-end offense, he’s one of the game’s most dangerous baserunners and a fine defensive shortstop. FanGraphs estimates Turner’s been worth seven wins above replacement over the past two years, a mark that trails only Fernando Tatís Jr. among position players.
A good portion of Turner’s overall value comes from his aforementioned ability to play shortstop. It’s not precisely clear whether he’ll continue to do so in Los Angeles, where Corey Seager is also one of the game’s stars. Turner has some experience manning second base and in center field, and the Dodgers have never been shy about moving players around the diamond defensively.
Seager is slated to hit free agency at the end of the season, and he’ll be one of the top options on the open market. The Dodgers could use Turner in a utility-type capacity for the remainder of this season and plug him in as their regular shortstop come 2022 if Seager signs elsewhere.
Regardless of their long-term vision, it’s unquestionable that adding Turner to the roster will be a massive boon to a position player group that was already among the league’s best. Seager has missed two months after fracturing his hand, but he’s expected to return to the lineup this weekend. Turner, who landed on the injured list this week after testing positive for COVID-19 in what’ll apparently be his final game as a National, is out for at least the next week-plus.
Unsurprisingly, adding two of the sport’s best players will cost quite a bit — both financially and from a talent perspective. Scherzer is playing out the year on a $35MM salary, a little less than $12MM of which remains to be paid. That money is entirely deferred until 2028, part of a broader trend throughout the term of his deal. While Scherzer is an impending free agent, he’ll still be owed $15MM every year from 2022-28 in deferrals. The Dodgers are reportedly assuming the entirety of Scherzer’s remaining salary for 2021 (which won’t actually be paid out for seven years). Presumably, the Nationals will remain on the hook for all the deferred payments for time he’s already spent in Washington.
Turner, meanwhile, is making $13MM in his penultimate year of arbitration, which the Dodgers will also assume. Around $4.5MM of that sum remains to be paid, and he’ll surely be in line for a sizable raise this winter during his final trip through the arb process.
In addition to those salaries, the Dodgers are set to take on rather significant expenditures in luxury tax payments. The remainder of Scherzer’s contract contains a luxury tax hit in the $10MM range, while Turner’s CBT number exactly matches that of his real salary. Altogether, the Dodgers are adding something in the realm of $14.5MM to their luxury tax ledger.
That’s significant but apparently not much of a deterrent. Even before today’s acquisitions, the Dodgers had a CBT number north of $260MM, in the estimation of Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. That places them in the highest tax bracket, with Los Angeles subject to a 62.5% tax on any dollar spent over that mark. By assuming the remainder of Scherzer’s and Turner’s deals, the Dodgers are agreeing to pay somewhere in the range of $9MM in penalties on top of the money they’ll owe to the players.
Ownership is apparently willing to do exactly that in service of constructing a potential super-team. The defending World Series champions were arguably the most talented club in the league already, and they’ve added Scherzer, Turner and Danny Duffy to that loaded roster the day before the trade deadline.
To make that happen, Los Angeles has parted with a couple of baseball’s most talented young players. Ruiz has seemingly been on top prospect lists forever, but he’s still just 23 years old. He’s only picked up 15 MLB plate appearances over the past two seasons, but he’d likely have accrued far more playing time were he playing in most other organizations.
With Will Smith entrenched as the Dodgers’ current and long-term catcher, there simply hasn’t been much opportunity for Ruiz. That said, the switch-hitting backstop has earned a major league look. He’s performed well at basically every minor league stop, and that’s continued in 2021.
Ruiz is hitting a massive .311/.381/.631 with 16 home runs across 231 plate appearances with Triple-A Oklahoma City. Baseball America just ranked him the league’s #16 overall prospect in their midseason top 100 update, lauding his elite bat-to-ball skills and suggesting he’s a solid enough defender to stick behind the plate. It’s not unreasonable to expect Ruiz to settle in as an above-average or All-Star caliber catcher given his rare offensive upside for the position.
Ruiz is already on the 40-man roster and would seem to be a big league caliber option for the Nats this season. He’s in his final minor league option year, so he’ll need to break camp with the Nationals in 2022.
Gray wasn’t too far behind Ruiz on BA’s top 100 list, checking in 56th overall and second in the Los Angeles system. The young starter draws praise for his fastball-slider combination and fantastic athleticism, which allows him to throw strikes at a strong rate. Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs slotted Gray as the sport’s #29 prospect entering the season (he’s up to 21st following other players’ graduations), calling him a likely “mid-rotation stalwart” at his peak.
The 23-year-old made his major league debut last week and has pitched in a pair of big league games. Gray spent the rest of the year with Triple-A Oklahoma City, although an injured list stint caused him to miss a fair amount of time. He tossed 15 2/3 innings of 2.87 ERA ball before his promotion, his first crack at the minors’ top level.
Neither Ruiz nor Gray will accrue enough big league time to reach a full year of service in 2021. They won’t reach free agency until after the 2027 season and aren’t likely to qualify for arbitration until the 2024-25 offseason. Both players have the opportunity to be long-term stalwarts in D.C., with many potential games featuring a Gray-Ruiz battery over the coming years. Gray still has all three options remaining.
Carrillo will also step directly onto Washington’s 40-man roster. His contract was selected last winter to prevent him from being taken in the Rule 5 draft, but Carrillo hasn’t yet appeared in the majors. He’s spent the entire season with Double-A Tulsa, tossing 59 1/3 innings of 4.25 ERA ball. The 22-year-old has struck out a strong 26.2% of batters faced but walked an alarming 10.9% of opponents.
Both Baseball America and FanGraphs suggest that lack of control is likely to eventually push Carrillo to the bullpen, but his mid-90’s sinker and power breaking ball could suit him quite well in short stints. Longenhagen slots Carrillo tenth in the Nationals system assuming the trade is completed.
Casey will need to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason or he’ll be exposed to the Rule 5 draft. The former 20th-round pick (2017) isn’t seen as a particularly strong prospect, but he’s having a quality season in a pitcher-friendly Double-A environment. The 25-year-old is hitting .296/.362/.462 with 11 home runs across 334 plate appearances with Tulsa. Casey has seen action at all three outfield positions.
The blockbuster completely changes the National League outlook. The Dodgers add two of the game’s best players to a tight divisional race, seemingly acquiring Scherzer out of the Padres grasp. With a few high-profile targets (José Berríos, Trevor Story and Kris Bryant chief among them) still having a chance to wind up on the move, the Dodgers’ in-state division rivals figure to be active themselves as the deadline approaches.
Jeff Passan of ESPN was first to report the Nationals and Dodgers were in serious discussions about a deal involving Scherzer and Turner. Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reported Ruiz’s and Casey’s involvement in the deal. Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported Gray’s inclusion, while Jim Bowden of the Athletic was first to identify Carrillo as part of the deal. Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post was first to report Scherzer’s willingness to waive his no-trade rights, and Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reported that the Dodgers would assume Scherzer’s and Turner’s remaining 2021 financial obligations.
The Royals parted ways with one of the faces of their franchise this evening, announcing a trade to send Danny Duffy to the Dodgers in exchange for a player to be named later. Kansas City will include an undisclosed amount of cash to offset some or all of his remaining salary. To create 40-man roster space, the Dodgers designated outfielder DJ Peters for assignment.
Duffy had full no-trade rights as a 10-and-5 player (one with ten years of major league service, the five most recent having been with the same team). However, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported a few weeks ago the Southern California native might be willing waive that protection to facilitate a deal to a West Coast club. That has indeed proven to be the case. The southpaw is currently on the 10-day injured list with a flexor strain in his throwing forearm, but Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore told reporters this week he’d be able to return at some point this season, perhaps near the end of August.
The move brings to an end — at least temporarily — Duffy’s long tenure in the Royals organization. Kansas City selected him out of high school in the third round of the 2007 draft. He made his big league debut in 2011 and has been with the club for over a decade, crossing the ten-year service milestone last month.
It was an unequivocally successful Kansas City tenure for Duffy, who emerged as a fixture in the rotation for almost the entirety of that time. He’s pitched to a 3.95 ERA across 1172 1/3 innings over the course of his career. A key piece of the Royals’ 2015 World Series championship team, Duffy signed a five-year, $65MM extension in January 2017.
That deal expires at the end of the season, though. With the Royals in fourth place in the AL Central, there’s plenty of sense in moving his final few months of team control to add some younger talent. For Duffy, the trade serves him well geographically and gives him an opportunity to pitch in a pennant race at the end of the year.
Of course, nothing stops the Royals from pursuing a reunion with Duffy this winter. He’s beloved amongst team personnel and fans. It seems that’s reciprocated, as the 32-year-old has gone on record in the past about his affinity for the organization and the city. The Royals haven’t been shy about pursuing free agent reunions with members of their mid-2010’s teams in recent years, and it’s possible they’ll take a similar course of action with Duffy during the upcoming offseason.
For the stretch run, the Dodgers are adding a pitcher who quietly had a fantastic start to the year — one that contributed to the Royals’ league-best record over the first few weeks of the season. Through his first seven starts, Duffy tossed 41 2/3 innings of 1.94 ERA/2.34 FIP ball. He struck out a lofty 28.2% of opposing hitters in that time against a tiny 7.1% walk rate and looked to have returned to the mid-rotation form he showed during his peak seasons.
Duffy landed on the IL with a flexor strain on May 17 and missed around five weeks. He built back arm strength on the fly upon his return, working shorter stints at the big league level rather than embarking upon a rehab assignment. Duffy stretched back out to five innings by early July, but he eventually went down with the same injury and landed on the IL on July 20.
It’s not clear how much volume Los Angeles can expect from Duffy, given that he won’t have much time to rehab from his latest injury. The Dodgers have been known to be on the hunt for starting pitching, but it’s also possible they activate Duffy as a multi-inning relief weapon. Whatever the role, the hope is he’ll be able to help the Dodgers in their battle with the Giants and Padres for the NL West and during their postseason run. The Duffy addition didn’t deter the Dodgers from putting together a prospect package likely to land Max Scherzer from the Nationals.
Duffy is making $15.5MM this season, around $5.4MM of which remains to be paid. It’s not precisely clear how much of the tab the Royals are picking up. Duffy’s luxury tax figure (calculated by the contract’s average annual value, not actual salary) is $13MM — so he carries an approximate $4.5MM luxury number the rest of the way. The Dodgers have already exceeded $260MM in luxury tax obligations, according to Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. That puts them in the highest bracket, so they’ll pay a 62.5% tax on any expenditures they take on this summer (on Duffy’s contract and other potential acquisitions).
To determine their return, the Royals will be free to choose from an agreed-upon list of players in the Dodgers’ system. They’ll have up to six months to make a decision, with the PTBNL setup particularly helpful for teams to continue to evaluate prospects after last year’s minor league season was canceled. Players selected in the 2021 draft cannot be traded as players to be named later until after the season is finished.
Peters has long been considered one of the more interesting position player prospects in the Dodgers organization. His combination of big raw power and speed has impressed scouts, and he’s generally been productive at the minor league level despite a sky-high strikeout rate. That hasn’t been the case this season, though, as the right-handed hitter has stumbled to a .223/.319/.372 line over 204 plate appearances with Triple-A Oklahoma City.
The Dodgers could trade Peters before tomorrow’s deadline. If they don’t, he’ll find himself on waivers. Between his proximity to the big leagues (Peters actually made a brief debut this year), decent prospect pedigree, and pair of remaining minor league option years, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he finds himself on another roster in the coming days.
Jeff Passan of ESPN first reported that Duffy was being traded to the Dodgers. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported the Royals would receive a player to be named later. Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported the inclusion of cash in the deal.
5:44 pm: The Rays, Blue Jays and Red Sox are the most active teams in the Berrios market, reports Heyman, who adds that the division’s other contender, the Yankees, have also checked in. It doesn’t seem likely that the Mets — who have long been interested in Berrios but deterred by the Twins’ asking price — will wind up landing him. The Mets continue to be put off by Minnesota’s demand, hears Andy Martino of SNY, and Anthony DiComo of MLB.com suggests that’s also the case in discussions between the two clubs regarding Pineda.
2:39pm: The Twins have numerous offers in hand for Berrios, per Ken Rosenthal and Dan Hayes of The Athletic, who add that the market has exceeded the Twins’ initial expectations (Twitter link). A trade is seen as increasingly likely. TSN’s Scott Mitchell tweets that the Blue Jays are “definitely” in the mix for Berrios.
2:34pm: The Twins are getting “bombarded” with offers for Berrios, Nightengale tweets, adding that the Padres in particular are being aggressive in their efforts.
1:58pm: Some teams who’ve spoken to the Twins about Berrios get the sense that they’re more willing to move him now than they were earlier in the summer, tweets MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman lists the Dodgers as a team with interest, and, like myriad other recent reports, also indicates the Padres have interest. Dan Hayes of The Athletic recently wrote that the Padres had interest in Berrios, Michael Pineda and Kenta Maeda. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale wrote this morning that San Diego is more focused on Berrios than on Max Scherzer.
8:11am: The Twins have already traded away Nelson Cruz, and with an off-day Thursday, today’s focus figures to be entirely on their deadline efforts to reload the club for 2022 and beyond. Jose Berrios is Minnesota’s most coveted trade candidate, and Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune writes that offers for Berrios “have spiked” with the trade deadline now less than 48 hours away.
MLB.com’s Jon Morosi tweets that the Mariners have been pursuing a Berrios acquisition this week, with the Twins focusing on one of Seattle’s top pitching prospects (Emerson Hancock or George Kirby) as part of a multi-player return. The two sides aren’t close to a deal, Morosi adds. Both Hancock (2020) and Kirby (2019) were first-round picks in recent Mariners drafts and have pitched at Class-A Advanced this year. Both players have missed time with shoulder fatigue this year, but Hancock returned this week and Kirby is expected back within the next couple of weeks, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times tweeted a couple days ago.
The Mets, too, have been linked to Berrios throughout the month of July, but all indications to this point have been that they consider the asking price too steep. Indeed, Dan Hayes of The Athletic reports that the Mets are “very” interested but also had “sticker shock” when the Twins initially asked for a combination of two top-100 prospects and a young big leaguer. Beyond that, the Mets’ lack of premium pitching prospects may be a problem. Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the Mets would perhaps need to involve a third team if they hoped to actually land Berrios. They’ve recently been more connected to rental pitchers.
Of course, virtually every contender or pseudo-contender has checked in with the Twins on Berrios’ asking price, given his affordable $6.1MM salary for the 2021 season as well as his remaining year of arbitration eligibility before free agency. The 27-year-old Berrios is enjoying the best season of an already impressive career, having pitched to a 3.48 ERA with career-best marks in strikeout percentage (25.7) and ground-ball percentage (43.6). His 6.5 percent walk rate is the second-lowest of his career, and the durable right-hander’s current pace would put him in line to land somewhere in the 195 to 200 range in terms of total innings pitched.