- The Pirates are leaning against trading Andrew McCutchen, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, but they’ve also yet to give him a definite indication that they plan to pick up his $14.5MM club option. That seems like all but a formality at this juncture, given McCutchen’s resurgence at the plate over the past couple of months. The 30-year-old’s .292/.384/.507 batting line places him among the game’s most productive center fielders, even if his glovework in the outfield is still drawing poor marks from defensive metrics.
- In his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan (hat tip to Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), Pirates GM Neal Huntington said that the team will keep an eye on the outfield trade market with Gregory Polanco on the DL and Starling Marte ineligible for postseason play. Huntington said that asking prices for outfielders in May and June were too high, and the Bucs still won’t “overpay” for a player that may not be much of an upgrade over their internal options, plus the GM is hopeful that Polanco won’t miss much time recovering from his strained hamstring.
Thanks to a recent surge that has helped them climb over the .500 mark, the Pirates have ruled out trading either outfielder Andrew McCutchen or utilityman Josh Harrison prior to the deadline, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (video link). However, they’re not necessarily going into the deadline as full-blown buyers. Rather, the team could both buy and sell, as it did last year, and is willing to listen to offers for complementary players such as left-handed setup man Tony Watson, righty reliever Juan Nicasio, third baseman David Freese and first baseman/outfielder John Jaso. As for starter Gerrit Cole, the likelihood is that he’ll stay put, though the Pirates could still entertain offers for him, per Rosenthal.
- The Pirates have announced that they’ve placed outfielder Gregory Polanco on the 10-day DL with a hamstring strain. To take his place on the active roster, they’ve promoted lefty Steven Brault from Triple-A Indianapolis. Polanco left Friday’s game against the Rockies due to hamstring trouble. Polanco got off to a slow start this season but has hit .387/.406/.629, his hot streak roughly corresponding with the Bucs’ recent streak of winning play as a team. The Pirates have John Jaso, Jose Osuna and Adam Frazier to man the corner outfield while Polanco is out.
Yu Darvish is pitching tonight for the Rangers, so clearly there’s nothing imminent. Indeed, Texas seems likely to take its decision on the ace to the latest possible moment, even as it begins to solicit interest. As that process begins to take place, it’s important to note that Darvish possesses partial no-trade rights. While it’s not at all clear whether he’d get in the way of a deal, particularly given that he’ll be a free agent in a few months regardless, that adds another potential hurdle. Per Jim Bowden of Sirius XM, via Twitter, Darvish currently can block trades to the Cubs, Indians, Pirates, Red Sox, and Rockies (along with five other teams that are in no position to consider a rental starter).
The 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.
- The Red Sox now have Giants infielder Eduardo Nunez atop their list of possible third-base targets, a source tells MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (Twitter link). Indeed, the clubs have discussed Boston’s interest in both Nunez and reliever Hunter Strickland, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. It seems the Sox are also still engaged with the Marlins on third bagger Martin Prado (as well as reliever David Phelps) along with Pirates infielders David Freese and Josh Harrison. Of course, it’s worth bearing in mind that Prado is on the DL, while the Bucs may be hesitant to deal given the team’s improved outlook. All told, it still seems to be a wide-open search.
- The Nationals are also in on Neshek, per MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, who also links the Nats to Tigers lefty Justin Wilson and Pirates southpaw Tony Watson. Wilson has drawn wide interest in the midst of an excellent campaign, while Watson has flown somewhat under the radar while scuffling through a down year. The latter has allowed just one earned run in his last fourteen appearances, though he also has managed only a single strikeout in the month of July.
11:44am: Rosenthal tweets that Tampa Bay is also discussing Pirates lefty Tony Watson. The 32-year-old Watson is earning a bit more than twice Wilson’s salary ($5.6MM) and is a free agent at season’s end. He’s also having a down year, with a diminished strikeout rate (6.3 K/9) and ground-ball rate (41.6 percent) to go along with an increased home-run rate (1.51 HR/9). Watson has a 3.67 ERA through 41 2/3 innings overall, though FIP, xFIP and SIERA all peg him for a mark more in the mid- to upper-4.00 range. Of course, given all of those factors, the cost of acquiring Watson, in terms of prospects, would be considerably lesser than the cost of acquiring Wilson.
More generally speaking, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand tweets that the Rays have shown interest in virtually every reliever that has a chance of being made available, although certainly it seems that Wilson is higher up on their list than many, given the wording of Topkin’s initial report.
11:19am: Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that while the Rays do indeed have interest in Wilson, the prospect price is currently a bit high for them. Tampa Bay is expressing interest in a number of relievers, though, he adds. MLB.com’s Jason Beck tweets that the two sides are not yet close to a deal.
11:10am: The Rays have legitimate interest in Tigers lefty Justin Wilson, and talks between the two sides have gained some traction, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). The Rays are known to be on the hunt for a left-handed upgrade in their bullpen, which is further underscored by a new report from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and MLB Network revealing that Tampa Bay was in on Sean Doolittle before he headed to the Nationals (Twitter link).
Wilson’s excellent production, modest salary ($2.7MM in 2017) and remaining club control (through the 2018 season via arbitration) all figure to appeal to the Tampa Bay front office. Set to turn 30 next month, Wilson opened the season as Detroit’s primary setup reliever, but a combination of his brilliant performance and a nightmarish season for closer Francisco Rodriguez thrust the southpaw into the ninth inning spotlight.
Wilson has picked up 10 saves since taking the closer reins from K-Rod, and more importantly has dominated opponents all season long, regardless of role. Through 35 1/3 innings, Wilson has averaged 12.7 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 to complement a 35.1 percent ground-ball rate. He’s posted a career-best 96.1 mph average fastball and a career-high 14.7 percent swinging-strike rate on the season as well. The end result is a 2.29 ERA on the season, with ERA alternatives like FIP (2.89), xFIP (3.29) and SIERA (2.67) all largely supporting his excellent season.
- Pittsburgh, which sits seven games back of NL Central-leading Milwaukee, will begin a four-game series with the Brewers on Monday. The outcome of that set could have a major impact on the Pirates’ deadline plans, general manager Neal Huntington acknowledged Sunday (via Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). “Obviously an 0-4 changes the dynamic pretty significantly,” said Huntington. “We go 4-0, it changes the dynamic in a much more positive direction.” While Huntington’s focused on his team’s performance, his own future is murky, as the club still hasn’t exercised his option for 2018. “They’ve expressed interest in having us continue,” he revealed. “I’ve expressed interest in continuing. I’m sure at the appropriate time, we’ll get down to business and put something together.”