- The Mariners have reached out to both the Giants and the Padres about their available starting pitchers, tweets MLB.com’s Jon Morosi. San Diego has three rental options to offer, highlighted by breakout righty Trevor Cahill but also including right-hander Jhoulys Chacin and southpaw Clayton Richard. (Each is signed to a one-year, $1.75MM deal.) The Giants, meanwhile, could conceivably listen on Johnny Cueto (though he’s struggled, has an opt-out clause complicating his trade candidacy, and is on the shelf with blister issues). It’s Jeff Samardzija, however, that has drawn the most headlines on the rumor circuit as of late. Though he’s just halfway through the second season of a five-year, $90MM deal and has an ERA in the upper-4.00s, Samardzija is pacing MLB in K/BB ratio and is among the game’s best in K%-BB%. Of course, it’s uncertain if the Mariners would want any part of that contract, and if the Giants are looking toward 2018, they may hope to have a healthy Samardzija contributing 200+ innings in the middle of their rotation. Speculatively speaking, Matt Moore could also be a reclamation project, though he’s worked to an ERA of 5.81 with reduced velocity and diminished peripherals this year.
- The Mariners are becoming an “increasingly active” buyer as the deadline approaches, tweets Jon Morosi of MLB.com. Seattle currently sits just 1.5 games out of a Wild Card spot, and GM Jerry Dipoto is prioritizing starting pitching that can be controlled beyond the 2017 season. Seattle has had poor luck in its rotation this year, with Drew Smyly going down to Tommy John surgery and Hisashi Iwakuma missing a huge chunk of the season, to say nothing of injuries to Felix Hernandez and James Paxton. King Felix and Paxton are back in the fold now, but the M’s currently have rookies Andrew Moore and Sam Gaviglio in their rotation.
There’s “increasing buzz” that the Rangers will listen to offers on top starters Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels if they don’t open the second half of the season with strong play, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. It’s been previously reported that the Rangers will hold onto Darvish even if they fall out of the race, so that’d represent something of a change of mindset for GM Jon Daniels & Co. Darvish is set to hit the open market at season’s end, so if the Rangers are out of the race and don’t trade him, they run the risk of losing him to free agency (though he’d obviously receive and reject a qualifying offer, affording Texas some draft compensation). Hamels, meanwhile, hasn’t been listed as a potential trade target to date. He’s earning $23.5MM this year and next, and he’s owed at least $6MM as the buyout on a $20MM club option for the 2019 campaign. That contract and a bizarrely low strikeout rate (4.9 K/9) could complicate Hamels’ market, though he’s shown recent improvement with 12 strikeouts in his past 14 1/3 innings of work.
More trade chatter from around the league…
- The Marlins have told other clubs that they’re ready to sell off assets, a rival executive tells Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller. According to Miller, the Marlins have spoken to more than 10 teams about right-hander David Phelps, and there are two or three clubs that are showing “serious” interest in closer AJ Ramos. “They’re working on it and talking to clubs,” the exec tells Miller. “But the conversations always end with one caveat, that they don’t know that the owner won’t bail at the last minute.” Miller adds that Giancarlo Stanton isn’t likely to move until the Marlins accept that they won’t get someone to take his salary and give prospects back. The industry feeling is that it’d have to be almost a straight salary dump. (Stanton can also veto any deal via his no-trade clause.) Miller’s column features a look at all 30 teams and their possible deadline course as well.
- Sonny Gray, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are available in trades, writes Jon Morosi of MLB.com, but the Athletics, Tigers and Pirates have each set a lofty asking price. Perhaps more interestingly, Morosi adds that the Braves have said right-hander Julio Teheran isn’t available, though he’s reportedly been drawing interest and others (including David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports) have said that Atlanta would at least consider offers. In addition to that overview of the market for pitchers, Morosi runs down a position-by-position preview of the market for bats.
- Heyman reports that there’s little to no genuine interest in Justin Verlander at this time due to his huge contract and underwhelming numbers. Furthermore, he notes that due to Verlander’s status as a legend in Detroit, they can’t accept an underwhelming return and effectively signal to Tigers fans that his trade was a salary dump. There’s also very little interest in Ian Kinsler, according to Heyman, as the he’s struggled in 2017 and few teams are on the hunt for second base help. He adds that Alex Avila, J.D. Martinez and Justin Wilson are all drawing strong interest, however, so GM Al Avila should make some deals in the next 18 days.
- In his weekly AL Notes column, Heyman reports that with few top starters left on the market, the Astros may instead pursue high-end bullpen help in an effort to shorten the game and load up the relief corps for the postseason. Unsurprisingly, their list of targets would include Zach Britton, if he’s available. (Most clubs in the league would perk up at the notion of acquiring a healthy Britton.)
- Heyman also notes that Braves left-hander Jaime Garcia is one rental pitcher that interests the Royals. On the subject of Kansas City, he also notes that while the team does have interest in Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon, K.C. would want Miami to pay down some of the roughly $41MM remaining on Gordon’s contract, which the Fish aren’t willing to do. The same is true of the Angels and Blue Jays, he adds, both of whom like the player but not his current salary.
- Meanwhile, in his NL Notes column, Heyman writes that the Reds are believed to be willing to listen to offers on closer Raisel Iglesias but would only move him for a package that would “blow them away.” The 27-year-old Iglesias has emerged as one of baseball’s best relievers and is controllable through the 2020 season. He’s affordable at the moment ($3.5MM in 2017), but his contract allows him to opt into arbitration once eligible, so his salary is going to balloon quite a bit between now and 2020. Heyman also notes that the Reds would be interested in a two- or possibly three-year deal with Zack Cozart but recognize that he can earn more than they’re willing to pay when he gets to free agency.
- 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.
- Morosi also reports that the Mariners would like to add some pitching at this year’s trade deadline, but they’re not keen on adding any rentals (Twitter links). Seattle finished the first half poorly, and the notion of sacrificing prospects for a two-month rental and a chance at a one-game playoff is off-putting to the majority of teams around the league. Even if the Mariners’ slide continues, Morosi adds that the team has no plans to move slugger Nelson Cruz, who even at 37 years of age continues to be among the game’s most productive bats. Cruz is hitting .292/.372/.520 and is earning $14.25MM this year and next — the final two seasons of a four-year, $57MM pact inked prior to the 2015 campaign.
With the deadline approaching quickly, teams will be forced to make tough decisions. Health issues will play a large role in complicating those decisions. In some cases, when a player is known to be out for the entire season, acting decisively to find a replacement makes clear sense. But there are plenty of unresolved health issues throughout the game that will likely have significant impacts on a team’s approach to the deadline. Teams will be gathering information on internal players and on possible targets; here are a few players whose uncertain health status will be watched closely:
Carson Smith & Eduardo Rodriguez, Red Sox: While Pablo Sandoval is nominally on the DL, and perhaps still factors into the team’s needs at third base, the real action is in the pitching staff. Smith could yet represent a significant pen arm, but it’s still unclear how much (if at all) he’ll contribute. And while Rodriguez has been excellent, and seems slated to return shortly from the DL, his recurring knee problems could become a major near-term concern.
Matt Andriese, Rays: There have been plenty of suggestions that the Rays could consider dealing a starter — particularly, pending free agent Alex Cobb — even if they’re in contention. But that’d be much harder to do if Andriese isn’t showing clear signs of returning to full health. Even if he is, the club could elect to stand pat, perhaps deciding to use the abundance of starting options to bolster the relief corps rather than spending young talent to get a new bullpen arm.
Greg Bird & Tyler Austin, Yankees: Perhaps the ship has sailed on the Yanks fully relying on Bird in the second half. After all, he struggled when he was available and is dealing with an ankle injury that does not appear to come with a straightforward solution. And it’s unclear just how much stock the Yankees would put in Austin even if he were at full health. Still, the injury signals coming from these two over the next few weeks could impact the Bronx Bombers’ deadline plans, particularly since the organization is clearly looking to avoid parting with significant prospects unless strictly necessary.
J.J. Hardy, Orioles: Chris Davis is on the shelf as well, though the team’s glut of corner options allows them to weather that storm fairly well. It’s another story with Hardy, who is still one to three weeks from even resuming baseball activities. The Orioles have been in a free fall since mid-May, but GM Dan Duquette was maintaining a buyer’s outlook as recently as late June, but more recent suggestions indicated that the team is presently on the fence. If the O’s perform well in the first two weeks coming out of the break, Hardy’s absence creates a potential area of need.
Danny Salazar, Indians: Shoulder issues have significantly limited the talented right-hander, who is working back towards the majors at present. If he can return to full health, Salazar could conceivably get back to providing quality innings from the rotation — or, at least, the bullpen. If not, the team’s possible pitching needs will be all the more clear.
Hector Santiago, Twins: With a somewhat mysterious and lingering back issue, the southpaw is a question mark for Minnesota in the second half. The team is shopping for young starters regardless, but the urgency of that effort — if not also the possibility of considering at least a modest rental investment — could hinge in part upon Santiago’s progress.
Nate Karns, Royals: Kansas City is reportedly looking to augment the back of its rotation, which is likely in no small part due to the fact that the return of Karns is looking less and less likely. The last update on Karns suggested that thoracic outlet surgery may very well be in his future. If he is indeed lost for the season, as lefty Matt Strahm recently was, the Royals’ need to snag a back-of-the-rotation rental becomes more acute.
Dallas Keuchel & Collin McHugh, Astros: The AL West crown is already nearly in hand for Houston, but that doesn’t mean the team is without its needs. The ’Stros have the luxury of looking ahead to the postseason, but still clearly would like to add to the top of the rotation. So long as Keuchel and McHugh are moving back toward the major league mound, the addition of a starter will remain classified as a strong want. But if either (particularly Keuchel) show any worrying signs, the organization will surely feel a much greater urgency to add an arm that can help drive the team through the postseason.
Matt Shoemaker, Angels: Obviously, Mike Trout is of even greater concern. But all indications are that he’s good to go beginning this Friday. For the Angels, deciding whether it’s worth adding to the roster at the deadline could hinge more upon the health of the rotation. Shoemaker will get checked out before hopefully beginning a throwing program within the week; whether he is progressing toward a return will be important to the Halos’ plans. (Honorable mention: Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs, who are on longer-fuse rehab paths.)
Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners: It’s not clear at this point whether Seattle can expect much at all from the veteran down the stretch. Seattle is already without Drew Smyly for the year due to Tommy John surgery. If Iwakuma can’t begin to make his way back from shoulder problems before the deadline –and if the team can hang in the Wild Card hunt over the next two weeks — then pursuit of a starter would make all the more sense.
Keone Kela & Jake Diekman, Rangers: The Texas pen has produced plenty of hand-wringing this year. Ironically, perhaps, the first crack seemed to form with Kela’s stunning demotion to start the year, owing to behavioral issues. But he has been effective since making his way back, pitching his way into consideration for the closer’s role that has been vacated by Sam Dyson and Matt Bush. Now, however, Kela is dealing with shoulder soreness; his status could help dictate the team’s needs over the coming weeks. Diekman is even more of a question mark after surgery to treat ulcerative colits cost him the entire first half. He’s throwing from flat ground as of early July, and a return to the mound would obviously be a potential boon for the Texas relief corps. But, they also can’t fully know how much to expect from him in the second half given the unique nature of his medical status.
- Mariners bullpen coach Mike Hampton has tendered his resignation to the team, according to a press release from the club. Hampton’s resignation is effective immediately. The M’s didn’t announce a replacement for the former big league left-hander, though the release indicates that they’ll do so prior to Friday’s game. Hampton spent a season and a half as Seattle’s bullpen coach and had previously been coaching in the Angels’ minor league system before being named to the Mariners’ Major League staff.
- The Mariners are one of only a few teams open to adding payroll in deadline trades, which one official describes as not “as good as having prospects, but it is an asset.” The M’s began 2017 with a record payroll of more than $155.2MM, so with such a major financial investment already made, it makes sense that GM Jerry Dipoto and company are willing to spend a bit more to get the team over the hump. Dipoto recently stated that the team is still planning to add at the deadline, though Seattle ends the first half with a 43-47 record (albeit four games out of a wild card spot).
- Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto suggests that he still doesn’t perceive a need to shake things up too drastically at the deadline, despite a lull that has the M’s now sitting four games under .500. As MLB.com’s Greg Johns reports, Dipoto says that the team’s “roster plan has never really changed.” While buy and sell-side opportunities could arise at the deadline, it seems a major shift in either direction is unlikely. Starting pitching, clearly, is a prime need. “We’re not going to empty both barrels to try to go out and find the ace to perch atop the rotation to take us to the promised land, because that guy doesn’t exist,” said Dipoto. But he also noted that the trade deadline is but one of “two windows when you can access starting pitching” and promised at least to “stay in tune with” the market for starters.
Mariners righty Hisashi Iwakuma is not progressing as had been hoped, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports. Following another setback, he has received cortisone and platelet-rich plasma injections in his troublesome right shoulder.
The hope, of course, is that this course of treatment will spur healing and finally allow Iwakuma to maintain steady progress. But the expectation had been that the veteran starter would long since have advanced back to the majors.
Seattle’s rotation is in better shape now than it has been at times, with Felix Hernandez and James Paxton returning and rookie Andrew Moore showing well in his first two MLB starts. Ariel Miranda and Sam Gaviglio are producing solid results, though their peripherals portend some regression.
Still, Iwakuma’s halting recovery is an ongoing concern for a club that continues to hover around .500 — along with much of the rest of the American League. Indeed, Divish notes that there’s at least a strand of thinking in the organization of the belief that Iwakuma won’t contribute again this season.
It’s still anyone’s guess just how the M’s will approach the deadline with the division out of reach but a Wild Card berth still fully plausible. Seattle will have an opportunity to see how Iwakuma progresses over the next three weeks or so, and the on-field results will also impact the calculus. If the team looks into additions, though, the rotation arguably represents the primary area of need — particularly with southpaw Drew Smyly now ruled out for the year following Tommy John surgery.
- In another minor swap, the Giants purchased Tyler Herb from the Mariners for an undisclosed sum, both teams announced. He’ll actually represent the player to be named later in the deal that sent Chris Heston to Seattle, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets, with some undisclosed technicality requiring the particular treatment. The 25-year-old was taken in the 29th round of the 2014 draft. He made it up to the Double-A level last year and has thrown well there upon a repeat assignment. Herb has made it through 98 innings in 16 starts on the year, posting a 3.31 ERA with 8.1 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9.
- The Mariners released southpaw Nick Hagadone, according to Triple-A Tacoma announcer Mike Curto (via Twitter). As Curto notes, Hagadone has been particularly impressive of late. The 31-year-old has seen action in parts of four MLB seasons, all with the Indians, but missed all of last year after an elbow fracture. He landed in Seattle on a minors deal and has thrown 33 1/3 innings of 3.51 ERA ball — with 9.5 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9 — since arriving in Tacoma. (It could well be, then, that Hagadone utilized an opt-out clause, though we’ve heard no indication of that as of yet.)