- While the Athletics continue to weigh their options with first baseman Yonder Alonso, the club has not actually engaged in any extension talks with his reps, per ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Twitter link). While a new deal seems unlikely to come to fruition (yet more than it did already), the A’s are struggling to drum up interest in the breakout performer. Indeed, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com suggests on Twitter that the Yankees are the only team firmly pursuing Alonso at this time. Trouble is, it seems, Oakland isn’t enamored of the Yanks’ offers to date.
- Interestingly, in his recent run-down of the market for Athletics righty Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network noted that even the Padres have asked about the hotly pursued starter. That may be chalked up mostly to due diligence; though the Pads no doubt would love to install such an arm into their rotation for the next two years, it’s hard to see sufficient motivation to beat the offers of other organizations that will highly value the ability to utilize Gray for the next several months.
With the Red Sox looking far and wide for third base help, a couple of creative solutions are proposed by ESPN’s Scott Lauber and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (writing on his Facebook page). Lauber suggests that Boston could explore a deal for the Athletics’ Yonder Alonso (14 games as a third baseman over his eight-year MLB career) while Rosenthal’s suggestion is perhaps even more outside-the-box: the Tigers’ Ian Kinsler, who has played all of two innings at third in his 12 years in the Show. Both suggestions, it should be noted, are based on only speculation from the two writers. Rosenthal reports that the Red Sox and Tigers haven’t mentioned Kinsler in trade talks between the two clubs, while WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford (Twitter link) reports that Boston isn’t considering Alonso to fill its third base gap. Still, as per Rosenthal, Dombrowski is apparently considering several infielders who could switch positions and play third, so the Sox might yet end up with a unique choice before the deadline.
- The Yankees’ seven-player trade with the White Sox may be New York’s only really big move before the deadline, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The Yankees are still looking for a left-handed hitting first baseman and lefty reliever, though “they do not appear to have urgency in those areas,” and certainly not to the degree it would take to move a significant prospect to address either need. After missing out on Jose Quintana, the Yankees also don’t look like they’re willing to give up a notable prospect package to acquire a starter, since they were particularly enamored with Quintana’s durability and team-friendly contract. While New York has been linked to Sonny Gray, Sherman reports that Gray’s injury history is a concern for the Yankees. Similar concerns also scuttled the Yankees’ interest in Sean Doolittle before the Athletics dealt Doolittle to the Nationals.
FRIDAY: The A’s officially announced the signing.
Oakland knows what it’s getting in the lumbering Carter, who broke into the majors there back in 2010. But he took only 384 trips to the plate with the A’s before he was shipped to the Astros (along with now-flourishing righty Brad Peacock and catcher Max Stassi) in the deal that brought Jed Lowrie and Fernando Rodriguez to the bay.
Carter has continued to produce home runs and strikeouts at prodigious rates ever since. Last year, which he spent with the Brewers, there were enough of the former to make up for the latter; Carter led the National League in both categories. But things weren’t working with the Yankees, who signed Carter after he was non-tendered but received only a .201/.284/.370 batting line over his 208 plate appearances.
Clearly, the veteran is never going to shed the swing and miss. He’ll always hit for a ghastly average (.217 lifetime). But despite those flaws, he has typically been a productive overall hitter, due not just to his power but also his ability to draw walks at a better-than-league-average rate (11.5% for his career).
While the A’s currently employ a productive first baseman in Yonder Alonso, he is expected to be in another uniform by the end of the month. That could open an opportunity for Carter to ascend once more to the majors, giving the organization a near-term fill-in while affording him a chance to set himself up for another foray into free agency at the end of the year.
The Athletics have held at least exploratory talks about multi-year deals with both shortstop Marcus Semien and outfielder Khris Davis, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The club discussed an extension of up to five years with Semien during the offseason, though the shortstop tells Slusser that the two sides haven’t revisited talks since the spring.
Semien is open to revisiting negotiations, though he acknowledged that he isn’t sure if the A’s feel the same in the wake of his rough 2017 season. The shortstop missed almost three months due to wrist surgery, and he has hit just .151/.300/.247 in 90 plate appearances. There’s still obviously quite a bit of time for Semien to get back on track this year, not to mention the fact that some extra recovery time is usually needed in the case of wrist injuries.
Semien, who turns 27 in September, hit 27 homers last season but posted just a .238/.300/.435 slash line over 621 PA, making him an exactly league-average hitter (100) as per both the OPS+ and wRC+ metrics. Semien has below-average defensive metrics at shortstop over his career, and there has long been speculation whether he has enough glove to remain at short, or if a move to second base is in the cards once Oakland permanently calls up prospect Franklin Barreto.
In either case, the extension talks would seem to hint that the A’s indeed see Semien as part of their future in the middle infield. Had a five-year extension been reached last winter, it would have covered Semien’s final pre-arbitration season, his three arb years and his first free agent season. Unless Semien can turn things around at the plate over the final two-plus months of 2017, his lack of production will certainly hurt his first arbitration number, which could mean a lower price tag for an extension on the Athletics’ part, if the club is indeed still interested.
A Davis extension, meanwhile, would be a much costlier investment, as the left fielder is putting up another big power season — 27 homers and a .246/.334/.526 slash line through his first 392 PA, putting Davis on pace to match or surpass his career-high total of 42 home runs in 2016. Despite that prodigious amount of power, Davis is also prone to strikeouts and is a defensive liability in left field, so the A’s could have concerns about how he’ll age (Davis turns 30 in December) over the course of a long-term contract.
Davis is earning $5MM this season and is in line for a nice raise in his second time through the arbitration process this winter. Slusser says that the A’s just “briefly talked” with Davis about a long-term contract, so it would seem that more in-depth negotiations have yet to take place.
Usually, the rising cost of a player like Davis would lead to speculation that the low-payroll Athletics would be exploring trade options. While the A’s have again looked to move veterans this summer (such names as Sonny Gray and Yonder Alonso are trade candidates and Oakland has already moved Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle to the Nationals), executive VP of baseball ops Billy Beane recently stated that the team is hoping to get past this trend of constant player turnover and start locking in some key players to multi-year deals. Since this latest rebuild effort is tied to the Athletics’ still-unsettled quest to get a new ballpark, however, it remains to be seen if the timeline will match up so that Semien and Davis would be part of his first wave of long-term talent, or if they could eventually be the last members of the current generation of players dealt.
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.
6:25pm: Houston may actually be setting its sights elsewhere at the moment, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (Twitter links). Indeed, he says it’s not even clear if the sides are engaged presently in “serious talks.”
He adds that the Athletics have “named their price” on Gray with the Yankees. While there’s no indication that those two clubs are near to a deal, that certainly suggests it’s still an open situation.
10:28am: Trade talks between the Astros and Athletics pertaining to Sonny Gray are “heating up,” according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi (Twitter links). Morosi adds that while Houston is in talks with the A’s, the Astros are also maintaining interest in trying to work out a deal that would net both Justin Verlander and Justin Wilson from the Tigers.
Rumors connecting the Astros to Gray date back to the offseason and have been persistent throughout the regular season. The Astros’ roster lacks a clear need, though most reports indicate that if they’re to make a splash, it’d be for someone that could step into the postseason rotation. Gray certainly fits that bill, as he’s rebounded from a triceps injury in 2016 and a lat strain earlier this season to look more and more like his old self in recent months.
Over the past two months, Gray has made 11 starts and totaled 68 1/3 innings with 9.0 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 54.9 percent ground-ball rate. The resulting 3.56 ERA is solid but appears unspectacular, however the Athletics have also backed Gray with one of baseball’s worst defenses. Fielding-independent metrics like FIP (2.87) and xFIP (3.12) are much more bullish. It’s also worth noting that Gray’s past month has been especially impressive, as he’s posted a 1.62 ERA in his past 33 1/3 innings across five starts.
If talks with the Athletics do come to a head, the Astros will be getting a boost not only for their 2017 postseason chances but also through the 2019 season. Gray is earning just $3.575MM in 2017 — a slight silver lining resulting from last year’s injury troubles — and will be eligible for arbitration twice more before hitting the open market in the 2019-20 offseason. He’d slot into the Houston rotation behind 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel and righty Lance McCullers, who are controlled through 2018 and 2021, respectively.
The talks for Verlander and Wilson are another story entirely, as the hurdles involved with a potential Verlander trade have been well documented by this point. The 34-year-old Verlander is having a down season with more than $65MM owed to him through the 2019 season, and he also has a full no-trade clause that would allow him to veto any deal. The Tigers wouldn’t be able to both shed Verlander’s salary and command a significant prospect return for him, and given his status as an icon in Detroit, it’d be a tough sell to the fans to simply move him to shed his contract.
Adding Wilson to the talks would obviously sweeten the pot and could allow the Detroit front office to extract a more lucrative return, though they could potentially do better simply by trading Wilson in a standalone deal. Interest in the dominant setup-man-turned-closer has been extremely strong this month, and he stands out as Detroit’s best trade chip. Unlike J.D. Martinez, an excellent player that nonetheless commanded a lukewarm return due to a lack of a market for his services, more than a third of the league could conceivably have legitimately strong interest in Wilson.
The Yankees and Athletics are discussing possible trade scenarios involving first baseman Yonder Alonso, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi. There’s no indication, at this point, that a deal is particularly likely to materialize, though it’s easy to see how the teams could line up.
Indeed, the potential match between Oakland and New York has long been speculated. But a firm connection had not previously been established. The former has had eyes on the latter’s farm system of late, Ken Rosenthal reported yesterday on Twitter, suggesting that the sides could see a potential path to a swap of some kind.
As both reporters noted, it seems that righty Sonny Gray would also make for a sensible target for New York, though it is unclear at this point whether he has been the focus of any discussions between the organizations. There’ll be loads of competition for Gray, but he would help fill a need both now in the future for the Yanks.
It’s quite a different situation with regard to Alonso, who has morphed into an offensive force this year. There are several other quality first basemen who’ll likely be available — Lucas Duda of the Mets and Matt Adams of the Braves perhaps representing the most obvious options — and few contenders that have a clear need at the position. That seems to leave the Yankees in rather a strong bargaining position.
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.”
- Jed Lowrie has been one of the most oft-speculated trade candidates of the summer, but MLB Network’s Peter Gammons tweets that, to this point, the Athletics haven’t received so much as a single inquiry into his availability. Lowrie is obviously available in trade — as is the case with most of the Oakland roster — and it is indeed somewhat surprising to hear that interest in him is so scant. The versatile, switch-hitting 33-year-old is batting .272/.339/.455 with 10 homers, 27 doubles and two triples this year. Even if a contending club doesn’t view Lowrie as a starter, his $6.5MM salary and $6MM club option aren’t exactly outlandish for a productive utility option.
- 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 trade the Nationals and Athletics made on Sunday looks like a win-win, opines ESPN’s Keith Law (subscription required and recommended). In acquiring Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, the Nationals managed to land a pair of quality relievers who possess excellent control without giving up any of their absolute best prospects. On the other hand, Law writes that the rebuilding A’s cleared salary, got back a capable big league reliever in Blake Treinen and a couple promising young players, both of whom were high selections in the 2016 draft. Nineteen-year-old Jesus Luzardo, the 35th choice, had the upside of a No. 2 starter before undergoing Tommy John surgery a summer ago, per Law, who notes that the right-hander seems to be bouncing back well from the procedure. Infielder Sheldon Neuse, the 58th pick, boasts “an above-average hit tool and excellent instincts on both sides of the ball,” and could have a future in the middle infield (likely second base), at third base or at a combination of those positions.