- There’s still a wide market for Phillies reliever Pat Neshek, per Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network (Twitter link). Among the teams in pursuit are the Brewers, Rays, and Yankees, but it seems there’s no favorite at the moment. While Tampa Bay has been tied mostly to southpaws, the team is also interested in righties such as Neshek, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick noted today on Twitter.
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.”
- 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 Blue Jays are receiving interest from the Brewers and other teams in left-hander J.A. Happ, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links), though it is “highly unlikely” that the Jays will trade the southpaw since Toronto plans to compete in 2018.
Milwaukee has been aggressive in pursuing deadline upgrades, as the team has been linked to such names as Sonny Gray, Brad Hand and (the since-traded) Jose Quintana in recent days. GM David Stearns recently stated that his club’s strong preference is to obtain players who are under contract beyond just this season, and Happ fits that bill, owed $13MM in 2018 as well as roughly $4.7MM remaining on his 2017 salary. While a controllable pitcher of Happ’s ability is naturally of interest to many teams in general, Rosenthal notes that teams are particularly looking at Happ in part because this winter’s free agent class is thin on front-of-the-rotation starters.
Happ was seen as more of a reliable innings-eater than as a possible ace when he signed a three-year, $36MM deal with Toronto in the 2015-16 offseason, though the left-handed enjoyed the best season of his 11-year career in 2016, posting a 3.18 ERA over 195 innings and finishing sixth in the AL Cy Young Award voting. Elbow inflammation has limited to Happ to just 11 starts and 61 innings this year, though he has been on pace for even better numbers than in 2016, delivering a 3.54 ERA, 8.9 K/9 and 4.29 K/BB rate.
Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro suggested earlier this month that the Jays weren’t planning a major sell-off at the deadline, nor were they going to pursue rental players in an attempt at a postseason berth that is looking increasingly unlikely (the Jays took a 42-48 record into action today). Recent reports suggest that Toronto will be open to moving pending free agents like Joe Smith, Marco Estrada, Francisco Liriano or J.P. Howell, but perhaps not any notable pieces who are under contract beyond this season.
- Realistically, no one would have expected the Brewers to hold a 5.5-game advantage in the NL Central this late in the season, which could lead to an agonizing deadline for the team’s decision-makers, as Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. The Brewers, who were in on now-Cub Jose Quintana before the White Sox traded him Thursday and have interest in the Athletics’ Sonny Gray, must weigh whether to make a bold strike that eats into their farm system or take a more conservative approach. General manager David Stearns doesn’t seem eager to part with a prospect haul, telling Haudricourt: “We’ve worked very hard to build our system and organization as a whole where the level of young talent we have is a good place to be. I don’t see us, whether it’s this year or any year going forward, moving from that strategy.” Nevertheless, Haudricourt points to Gray’s team control, his connection to Milwaukee pitching coach Derek Johnson (who coached Gray at Vanderbilt) and the Brewers’ rotation questions as reasons why acquiring him would make sense.
- Speaking of the Brewers, their success has come without having left fielder Ryan Braun at full strength, and his health will continue to be an issue for the rest of the season. Manager Craig Counsell said Saturday (via the Associated Press) that the Brewers will evaluate Braun daily through the end of the year, given that a strained right calf has hampered him for a while and forced him to the disabled list twice. While the 33-year-old has once again been a quality contributor to Milwaukee’s offense, having hit .260/.343/.553 across 169 plate appearances, Counsell believes there’s enough talent on hand to weather Braun’s issues. “We certainly want a healthy Ryan Braun, but we’ve had success with this team because of depth and we’ll continue to rely on that if we have to,” Counsell said.
Of the several teams eyeing Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Brewers have shown the most interest, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The unexpected playoff hopefuls began doing “background work” on both Gray and now-former White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana just over a week ago, but the latter went to the NL Central rival Cubs on Thursday in a blockbuster trade. Acquiring Gray would be a quite a counterpunch by Milwaukee, which has a 5.5-game lead over the Cubs, and Cafardo observes that the Brewers have the prospect capital to make it happen. But even after getting Quintana, the Cubs haven’t closed the door on adding Gray, too.
The Brewers have announced that they’ve signed righty reliever Jeanmar Gomez, presumably to a minor-league deal. (They also announced that they’ve signed righty and former Rockies farmhand Alec Kenilvort and released righty Stephen Kohlscheen.) Gomez is a client of Magnus Sports.
The Phillies designated Gomez for assignment and then released him last month after he posted a 7.25 ERA and and seven home runs allowed over 22 1/3 innings, albeit with a decent 8.5 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. Gomez recorded 37 saves for Philadelphia in 2016 (a performance that earned him a $4.2MM deal as an arbitration-eligible player last winter) but was quickly replaced in the closer’s role after getting off to a bad start this April. It’s perhaps also worth noting that Gomez doesn’t have archetypal closer stuff — he’s a groundball pitcher with a low-90s fastball. He has, however, previously proven fairly useful in parts of eight big-league seasons, particularly given his ability to pitch in multi-inning stretches (and even start as needed, although he hasn’t done so since 2013). For his career, Gomez has a 4.39 ERA, 5.6 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 515 innings.
After a nearly silent All-Star break on the rumor front, the Cubs and White Sox stunned the baseball world by announcing a blockbuster deal that sent left-hander Jose Quintana from Chicago’s American League club to its National League team in exchange for minor leaguers Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease, Matt Rose and Bryant Flete. Over the past 24 hours, both teams have addressed the media, pundits from around the media have weighed in on the swap, and others have reported details on alternative talks that each team had leading up to the blockbuster move. Here’s a before-and-after, if you will, of how what might be the summer’s biggest trade transpired…
- The Yankees, Brewers and Astros were all involved in varying levels of trade talks regarding Quintana before the Cubs ultimately acquired him, per Jon Morosi of MLB.com (via Twitter). The Braves, too, were in on Quintana “until the end,” USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. Meanwhile, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post tweets that the Rockies were “never really in” on Quintana despite a potential need for some rotation upgrades with some of their younger arms sputtering lately.
- The Cubs tried to engage the Tigers in trade talks on Michael Fulmer before acquiring Quintana, reports Nightengale in a full column. However, Detroit gave no indication that it was willing to listen unless the Cubs were willing to include both Javier Baez and Ian Happ in trade talks. They also inquired on Justin Verlander, per Morosi (also via Twitter), though he notes that, similarly, talks between the two sides “never gained momentum.”
- While many were stunned to see the Sox and Cubs line up on a trade — their first since 2006 — White Sox GM Rick Hahn scoffed at the notion that their shared city would serve as an impediment to trade talks, writes Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. “This notion that we wouldn’t do business with them because they’re in town — or somehow we would actually take an inferior baseball deal for non-baseball reasons because of emotion or a rivalry or something totally unrelated to putting the best possible team on the field for the next several years — is laughable,” said Hahn. The South Side GM went on to laud Jimenez’s upside, calling him a potential middle-of-the-order bat with power potential and the ability to hit to all fields. Hahn adds that yesterday’s package was “far and away the best offer, the best possibility, that we’ve discussed with any club since we’ve started this process roughly a year or ago or so.”
- The Cubs believed that they were out of the running to acquire Quintana after talking to Hahn in June, president of baseball operations told reporters (via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times). Hahn, though, re-engaged with Epstein on Sunday night, and the two talked over the next few days, including a conversation that included Hahn ducking behind an exhibit at All-Star FanFest in Miami to avoid being seen (per ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers, on Twitter). Ultimately, it became clear that the Cubs would have to part with two of their very best prospects to get the deal done. “This deal had zero-percent chance of happening without both Eloy and Cease in it,” said Epstein. The Cubs president went on to say that they’ve been trying to acquire a pitcher like Quintana for “a long time” and added that his analytics and scouting teams “[dug] deep” to determine whether there were any changes that led to Quintana’s slow start t the season. “Our assessment on both fronts was that he is the same guy, and our staff felt that way with conviction,” Epstein said.
- Also via Wittenmyer’s column, Epstein said that the team isn’t necessarily done yet, though their play in the next two weeks will dictate what other moves are or aren’t made. “We need to play well coming out of the gates here, and we’ll assess what we’re trying to do in large part based on how we play and where we are in the standings, and how realistic we think a World Series run is this year,” Epstein said. “Everything is still on the table for this year.”
- ESPN’s Keith Law opines (Insider subscription required and recommended) that both clubs did well in the trade. The Cubs picked up a durable arm that has a near-ace-level track record over the past three years whose raw stuff “didn’t really waver” even through his struggles earlier this season. Quintana can help offset the loss of right-hander Jake Arrieta after the season, joining Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks in the rotation for the next several years. His contract is also affordable enough that the team can comfortably pursue rotation help on the free-agent market this winter. Law projects Jimenez as a middle-of-the-order bat and suggests that he alone could’ve been an acceptable return, though the inclusion of Cease sweetens the deal. Cease has questions about his command as well as his durability and may end up in the ’pen, though his velocity and pair of potentially above-average secondary offerings make him a nice upside play. Law notes that he’s been leapfrogged by a pair of pitching prospects on the Cubs’ organizational rankings, which might’ve made him easier to deal.
- Both Nightengale and Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network opine that it’s ridiculous that this is just the second trade these two teams have made this decade and offer praise for Hahn and Epstein for their pragmatic approach to dealing with one another. Teams are making more rational and data-driven decisions than ever before, Rosenthal notes, ultimately surmising that that trend should also include a willingness to deal within the same city and within the same division.
- Yahoo’s Jeff Passan writes that Quintana’s contract was every bit as important to the Cubs as Quintana himself. With significant arbitration raises looming for players like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Hendricks, Javier Baez, Carl Edwards Jr. and others looming in the next two years, the team’s enviable young core is going to rapidly become considerably more expensive. Shedding money from aging veterans like Arrieta, John Lackey and Ben Zobrist will obviously free up some cash, but Quintana’s contract meets an important nexus of future payroll flexibility, remaining under the luxury tax and improving the near- and long-term roster.
- Brewers GM David Stearns chatted with Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel following his team’s acquisition of left-hander Tyler Webb from the Yankees earlier today. The 26-year-old Webb’s history of missing bats and limiting free passes in the minors were points in his favor for the Brewers, per Stearns, whose big league bullpen has had few left-handed options thus far in 2017. “He has three options remaining, which gives us flexibility over the next couple of years, and we think he has the ability to help us in the near term as well,” said Stearns. “We’ve been looking, in general, to improve our depth and potentially upgrade our relief pitching as a whole. Those guys, we’ve used them a lot, asked a lot out of them.” It’s clear that the Brewers do view Webb as a near-term piece, as well, given that Haudricourt also tweeted today that Webb will jump directly into the Major League bullpen tomorrow, with Michael Blazek being optioned to Triple-A.
- Stearns also spoke with MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand in the wake of the division-rival Cubs’ blockbuster acquisition of Jose Quintana. Asked if the Brewers felt any pressure to quickly “respond” to the trade by swinging a deal of his own, Stearns suggested that he wouldn’t act so rashly. “I think that can be a little bit dangerous,” the GM explained. “We have to make moves that make the most sense for our franchise, and that’s regardless of what a particular rival or another team in our division is doing. … Obviously we’re going to continue to look at the market and see if there’s a fit for us down the road.” Stearns didn’t expressly rule out making a significant addition of his own, though his further comments to Feinsand cast some doubt on how willing he would be to part with his top tier of prospects.
- 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.