- A rival general manager describes Johnny Cueto’s potential trade value as “lower than a rental’s” due to the added complication of Cueto’s opt-out clause, which could make it hard for the Giants to find a trade partner. If a team were to acquire a normal pending free agent at the deadline and that player got injured or performed poorly, the two sides would likely just part ways after the year. If such a scenario happened to Cueto, however, he might not opt out, so the new team would be taking on a potentially diminished asset for the remaining four years/$84MM on Cueto’s contract.
The Giants have designated veteran utilityman Aaron Hill for assignment, as Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area was among those to tweet. Prospect Ryder Jones has had his contract purchased to take the open roster spot, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported on Twitter.
Like their neighbors in Oakland, the Giants are in the midst of a mid-season roster transformation with contention out of reach. San Francisco has already called upon several young players for their first MLB stints, and Jones now joins that group.
Hill, 35, has struggled mightily in the early going. Through eighty trips to the plate, he carries a .132/.250/.235 batting line — though he has managed 11 walks against just 13 strikeouts. He had earned a roster spot after joining the organization on a minors deal, but has never found a groove while also spending time on the DL.
It seems likely that other organizations will show some interest in Hill, though his $2MM annual salary will be something of an impediment to a trade. It’s perhaps more likely at this point that he’ll end up heading to free agency and signing another minor-league pact.
As for Jones, a second-round pick back in 2012, the current season has represented a big step forward. He had largely struggled to do much at the plate on his way up the ladder, but showed well in the Arizona Fall League and has broken out at Triple-A. Through 228 plate appearances, Jones owns a robust .299/.390/.553 slash withten long balls.
Jones is expected to line up at third base for the Giants while Eduardo Nunez is sidelined. Given that Nunez is also a trade candidate, that could be a signiicant opportunity for the 23-year-old. Of course, San Francisco previously gave a shot to young infielder Christian Arroyo, who struggled in his first call-up but surely factors into the long-term plans somewhere on the diamond.
The Pirates announced that righty Josh Lindblom has been outrighted to Triple-A. He had been throwing at Indianapolis already on a rehab assignment.
Lindblom, who just turned 30, threw 10 1/3 rough innings for Pittsburgh as a long reliever before hitting the DL with an oblique injury. Entering the season, he had not seen much big league action since 2013.
Pittsburgh had brought Lindblom in on a minors deal after he spent two years with Korea’s Lotte Giants. Before being called up, he was throwing fairly well at Triple-A, with 29 2/3 frames of 3.64 ERA ball and 7.3 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9.
- Giants infielder Eduardo Nunez is heading to the 10-day DL with a hamstring injury, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports on Twitter. That placement opens space for Conor Gillaspie to return from his own stint on the disabled list. It doesn’t seem to be a major injury, as the club has given Nunez time to try to work through the issue, but clearly the hope will be that he can return sooner than later. Nunez seems like the most obvious trade piece on the San Francisco roster, and he’ll need to be in top form at the deadline to maximize his return.
The Giants are set to designate righty Bryan Morris for assignment, according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). Lefty Steven Okert will be called up to take the open roster spot.
Morris, 30, owns an unsightly 6.43 ERA through his 21 frames on the year. He has struck out 6.4 and walked 4.7 batters per nine while showing an average fastball of just over 93 mph — well off his peak. Of course, it’s promising to see that Morris is healthy after shoulder issues ended his time with the Marlins.
The Giants have reached an agreement with first-rounder Heliot Ramos, reports Baseball America’s Hudson Belinsky. A high school outfielder out of Puerto Rico, Ramos will receive the full slot value of $3,101,700 that comes with the No. 19 overall selection. Their second round-pick has also agreed to terms, per MLB.com’s Jim Callis (Twitter link). High school third baseman Jacob Gonzalez will receive a $950K bonus that is about $170K below slot. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, meanwhile, reports that the Giants inked third-rounder Seth Corry for $1MM — roughly $450K over his slot value (Twitter link). Corry is represented by Jon Pridie of Sosnick Cobbe Karon.
Ramos headed into the draft as the No. 26 player on the list of Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen. ESPN’s Keith Law ranked him 29th overall, while Baseball America pegged him at No. 30, and Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com ranked him 40th in the draft.
Longenhagen, Law and BA all peg Ramos as a plus runner (plus-plus, per BA’s report) with an above-average arm, which should allow him to stick in center field. And all of the above-linked reports are bullish on Ramos’ raw power. There’s some question, it seems, about his hit tool and whether he’ll make enough contact to hit consistently as a professional. He draws huge praise for his athleticism, and it’s worth noting that he’s also one of the draft’s youngest players — he’ll turn 18 in September — which offers some explanation for why he’s a bit raw at the plate. BA notes that Ramos comes from a highly athletic family, as his brother Henry reached Triple-A with the Red Sox last year (and is currently with the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate) while his other brother, Hector, plays for Puerto Rico’s national soccer club.
Gonzalez ranked 125th on MLB.com’s Top 200 and 132nd on Baseball America’s Top 500. He’s the son of former big league slugger Luis Gonzalez, though unlike his father, Jacob bats right-handed. He’s listed at 6’4″ and 210 pounds, and both scouting reports on him mention the possibility of a move to first base due to a lack of speed. Gonzalez gets good reviews for his considerable strength and raw power.
Corry, meanwhile, was 61st on Law’s list, 102nd over at BA and 105th per Callis and Mayo. The high school lefty out of Utah has a fastball that sits 89-93 mph, per those scouting reports, and he draws significant praise for his curveball as well. He was committed to attend Brigham Young University but will apparently forgo college for a seven-figure bonus.
With baseball’s draft in the rear-view mirror, the focus for many clubs will begin shifting to trades over the next several weeks. In light of that, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron breaks the league down into nine definite buyers, nine very likely sellers and a dozen bubble teams that are hovering around the .500 mark. As Cameron notes, there’s a case to be made in either direction for virtually all of the 12 fringe clubs, whose playoff odds, as calculated by Fangraphs, range from six percent (Angels, Twins) to 36 percent (Blue Jays). The proximity of stars such as Yu Darvish, Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado to free agency all have a bearing on a team’s decision, as does the overall composition of the roster. (The Mariners, for instance, have a significant amount invested in winning now with a number of aging key players, seemingly making them likelier to push for a postseason spot.) It’s a well-reasoned and comprehensive look at the competitive landscape of baseball in mid-June 2017 and is well worth a full read-through.
Onto some actual rumors pertaining to the trade market…
- Even if the Rangers fall out of contention, they’re not planning to move Darvish, sources tell Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. Texas badly wants to retain their staff ace beyond the 2017 season, though Passan points out that there are only 11 free-agent pitchers that have ever signed a $100MM+ deal — and each has done so with a new team. Still, the Rangers want Darvish to hit the market with Arlington being the only place he’s called home during his Major League career rather than giving him a taste of a new city that could push him further away. I’d add that retaining him also allows the Rangers to make a qualifying offer, though for top-tier free agents such as Darvish, the QO isn’t the same free agency death knell that it has been for second- and third-tier names that have been tied to draft pick compensation.
- Jonathan Lucroy, on the other hand, could potentially be marketed this summer if the Rangers drop far enough out of the race, Passan continues. Texas gave up a massive amount of talent to land Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress last year, sending prospects Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz and Ryan Cordell to the Brewers for a year and a half of Lucroy and three years of Jeffress. Dealing Lucroy would allow the Rangers to get some value back if they can’t remain in contention, though Lucroy’s down season at the plate has been a factor in the Rangers’ underwhelming performance. Through 205 plate appearances, Lucroy is hitting a pedestrian .269/.307/.389. That’s perfectly acceptable for a catcher, but it’s a far cry from the .292/.355/.500 that he slashed last year.
- The Giants have yet to hold a “we’re open for business” meeting despite their awful standing in the NL West and NL Wild Card race, reports Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area. Giants sources tell Pavlovic that the team has been focused on the draft, but they’ll begin to look more closely at their 2017 roadmap now. Dealing Eduardo Nunez is an “easy decision” for the Giants to make, Pavlovic opines (I agree), but they’ll have more complicated questions to ponder when it comes to pitchers Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore. While some may feel that Cueto would be best served to forgo his opt-out, Passan points out that James Shields got four years and $75MM late in the offseason when he was two years older than Cueto will be this winter. Cueto has four years and $84MM remaining following the 2017 season.
Rockies righty Jon Gray made his first rehab start, as Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports. He may need only one or two more minor league outings before rejoining the Colorado rotation, but holds out the promise of providing a significant boost upon his return. Likewise, southpaw Tyler Anderson is making his way back toward the big leagues, meaning the Rox will face some rotation questions in short order.
Here’s more on a few other pitching health matters from around the league:
- It’s possible that the Red Sox may soon welcome back lefty Eduardo Rodriguez. per an update from manager John Farrell (h/t Peter Abraham of the Boston Glove; links to Twitter). Rodriguez was “ecstatic” after a 33-pitch pen session today, says Farrell, who indicated that the southpaw may be only one rehab start away from returning to the majors. That would surely be excellent news for Boston; Rodriguez’s knee issue seemed rather frightening when it arose, since he has dealt with significant problems in the joint in the past.
- Likewise, the Dodgers got good news on young southpaw Julio Urias, as Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports (Twitter links). While he’ll still be shut down until the soreness in his shoulder subsides, Urias did not exhibit any structural issues in an MRI.
- With the Giants back in Colorado, the team is seeing continued progress from ace Madison Bumgarner, who is still recovering from the shoulder injury he suffered in an off-day dirtbiking accident during the team’s prior trip out to Denver. As John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets, Bumgarner is set to face live hitting on Sunday and report to the organization’s spring facility. After that, he’d only be a rehab assignment away from a return, though the club will undoubtedly exercise ample caution given the club’s unenviable position in the standings.
- As the Twins continue to hold onto a surprising AL Central lead, despite one of the league’s worst bullpens, the front office is surely at least thinking of ways to bolster the MLB roster while also remaining mindful of the broader organizational mission. Unfortunately, the club seemingly won’t be able to call upon relief prospect J.T. Chargois, per Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, who tweets that a “stress reaction on the outside of his elbow” will keep the young righty out for some time. The fireballer already missed significant time earlier in his career with elbow problems. Minnesota already lost out on another possible mid-season boost to the bullpen when Nick Burdi required Tommy John surgery earlier this year.
MLBTR is launching a new summer series entitled Taking Inventory, in which we’ll preview the potential trade chips that could become available on a number of likely and borderline selling clubs throughout the league.
The Giants are already 25-39 and are not only 16 1/2 games behind the first-place Rockies in the NL West, they’re 13 1/2 games back of the third-place Diamondbacks. While it’s not impossible that they could still make a run at contention, it’s highly unlikely. That would seem to make them potential sellers at the trade deadline. Still, one shouldn’t necessarily expect fireworks. The Giants have endured frustrating seasons in the somewhat recent past and generally haven’t reacted with big shakeups, and even if their track record indicated a radical rebuild was a possibility, the circumstances of many of their veterans assets seemingly impede potential trades (as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick recently explained).
Johnny Cueto, RHP (starter) | Salary: $21MM
There are no indications yet that the Giants will move Cueto, and to do so would be complex, although not impossible. Cueto is signed through 2021 with a team option for 2022, but he has an opt-out after the 2017 season, meaning that it will be difficult for any potential trade partner to know whether they’re getting a long-term asset or a short-term one. Cueto will also receive a $5MM buyout if he exercises his opt-out and a $500K assignment bonus if he’s traded, further complicating a potential move. Cueto’s seemingly uneven performance this year might also be a factor, but perhaps a less important one — he has a 4.33 ERA this season, but his peripherals (9.0 K/9, 2.4 BB/9) are strong as usual.
Eduardo Nunez, IF | Salary: $4.2MM
Unlike many players on this list, Nunez is reasonably priced. While he’s never been a world-beater offensively, he’s been consistent, and his .293/.320/.401 line thus far this season provides a good indication of what to expect from his contact-heavy offensive game going forward. He’s also versatile defensively, capable of playing third base, shortstop and the corner outfield spots. A contender could easily see him as a terrific bench piece. Nunez is as likely as any player on this list to be moved, and a trade would have the benefit of clearing a spot for some combination of Christian Arroyo and Jae-gyun Hwang, who are both currently with Triple-A Sacramento.
Aaron Hill, IF | Salary: $2MM
Hill is a recent minor-league signee who’s batting .178/.238/.333 thus far this season. It’s possible the Giants could deal him to a team in need of infield depth, but the return isn’t likely to be significant.
Nick Hundley, C | Salary: $2MM
Like Hill, Hundley has hit sparingly this season and wouldn’t have much trade value. It’s possible the Giants could ship him in a minor deal to a team in need of catching depth.
Controlled Through 2018
Hunter Pence, OF | Salary: $18.5MM
Pence has a full no-trade clause and has played poorly this season, batting .228/.269/.310 and missing time to a hamstring strain. Like many Giants, he might net the team a bit of extra value on the trade market due to his postseason experience, but he’s still unlikely to command much of a return unless he hits well over the next six weeks.
Matt Cain, RHP (starter) | Salary: $20MM
Cain’s exorbitant salary, the $7.5MM buyout on his 2018 option, and his uninspiring performances the past several seasons would seemingly make a trade very tricky, except perhaps as a change-of-scenery deal in which the Giants were to pick up nearly all of his remaining salary.
Jeff Samardzija, RHP (starter); Buster Posey, C; Mark Melancon, RHP (reliever); Madison Bumgarner, LHP (starter), Denard Span, OF; Brandon Crawford, SS; Matt Moore, LHP (starter); Brandon Belt, 1B; George Kontos, RHP (reliever)
Though Samardzija has a 4.31 ERA this season, his outstanding ratios (10.5 K/9, 1.3 BB/9) would surely make him an attractive trade candidate. He is, however, signed through 2020 and can block trades to all but eight teams, complicating potential deals. It certainly wouldn’t be impossible for the Giants to trade him, but as with Cueto, it would be complex.
Posey and Melancon have full no-trade protection and are under contract for the next several seasons. Bumgarner has limited no-trade protection, is currently injured, and has reasonably priced options for 2018 and 2019. Span is 33, has produced modest offense this season, and is owed $9MM next season, plus at least a $4MM buyout and a remaining portion of his signing bonus. Crawford is signed through 2021 and has full no-trade protection. Moore is signed to a team-friendly contract that includes relatively cheap options for 2018 and 2019, potentially making him a trade asset, but he hasn’t pitched well this season. Belt is signed through 2021; his limited no-trade clause hasn’t yet kicked in, but he’s also in the first year of the extension he signed last season. Of all those players, perhaps the most likely to be dealt are Span and Moore, and neither of those seem that likely.
Kontos is one of a number of Giants relievers who could theoretically be dealt, also including Cory Gearrin, Hunter Strickland and Derek Law. Of those, Kontos is among the closest to free agency eligibility and the one with the longest track record. He’s signed for a reasonable $1.75MM in 2017 and is controllable for two more seasons, and while his strikeout and walk rates have fluctuated throughout his career and he’s never had elite velocity, he’s also never had a season in which he wasn’t at least modestly effective.
Giants star Madison Bumgarner is facing live hitters this weekend as he attempts to return from a shoulder injury suffered in a fateful dirt bike accident, as Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News and other reporters have noted. That means Bumgarner could return to game action sooner than anticipated, although manager Bruce Bochy says he doesn’t believe Bumgarner will be back before the All-Star Break. Here’s more injury news from the West divisions.