- 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 Braves, meanwhile, are “very much open to offers for Julio Teheran,” Olney reports, citing execs with other clubs that have spoken to Atlanta about the righty. Olney’s report meshes with recent indications from David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as he writes that the Braves would like to move Teheran for a package of prospects but would first prefer to acquire a suitable rotation replacement for him. Teheran has struggled mightily at Atlanta’s new SunTrust Park this season (7.58 ERA, 13 HR in 46 1/3 home innings; 2.53 ERA, seven HR in 57 road innings), so perhaps the Atlanta front office thinks now more than ever that he’s best suited for a change of scenery.
- The Twins have let other clubs know that while they plan to be buyers at the deadline, they’ll act in a measured sense and won’t gut the upper echelon of their farm system in order to land a significant name. Minnesota has previously been linked to bullpen and rotation help, and while GM Thad Levine has outwardly suggested that the team will at least consider pursuing controllable assets this July, Olney’s column casts some doubt on how strongly the Twins will be in the mix for the top names available (e.g. Gray).
- The Padres seem intent on getting the best return possible on lefty Brad Hand at some point in the next two weeks rather than waiting for the offseason, Olney writes. While the 27-year-old is controlled through the 2019 season, there’s an argument to be made that his value is near its peak right now, especially with so many clubs seeking bullpen help. Olney notes that the Rays are one such team that is looking specifically for left-handed relief pitching.
- Currently sitting at 46-49 and buried in the AL West but just 3.5 games out of a Wild Card spot, the Angels will determine their deadline course based largely on their play in the next week or so, per Olney. A strong week that puts them closer to a Wild Card spot could lead to a conservative buyers’ mentality (similar to the Twins), but if they struggle and fall further back, rental relievers like Bud Norris, David Hernandez and Yusmeiro Petit could all be marketed. The same goes for other impending free agents such as Cameron Maybin and Yunel Escobar.
The Angels will place third baseman Yunel Escobar on the 10-day DL with a left hamstring strain, as per a team announcement. Escobar is expected to miss between 2-4 weeks of action with the Grade 1 strain, which is the least-serious type of such hamstring injuries.
Escobar has delivered a solid .272/.324/.411 slash line over 170 plate appearances for the Halos, buoyed by a strong first week of the season and a red-hot May. The veteran already has five homers this season, tying his total from all of last season. Escobar’s early power surge is reflected in his .139 Isolated Slugging mark, which would be the highest of his 11-year career (his previous single-season high of .136 came in 2009, when he hit a career-best 14 home runs for the Braves).
The loss of such a productive bat is a significant blow to the Angels, who already rank in the bottom-third of most major offensive categories. Mike Trout is having another incredible season and Luis Valbuena has hit well since returning from the DL, though the Halos have gotten little from regulars like Albert Pujols, Kole Calhoun, Cameron Maybin and Danny Espinosa. Despite this lack of offense and an injury-ravaged rotation, however, the Angels are staying afloat with a 19-21 record, good enough to keep pace in the tightly-packed American League.
A corresponding move will be made once Los Angeles officially puts Escobar on the DL, though it seems like the Angels will simply keep Jefry Marte on the active roster, according to Pedro Moura of the L.A. Times. Marte had just been optioned to Triple-A earlier today, though if he’s sticking around in Anaheim, he and backup infielder Cliff Pennington are the logical candidates to handle third base while Escobar is sidelined.
Escobar, who just turned 34, continued to hit after heading to Los Angeles last winter in a deal that sent reliever Trevor Gott to the Nationals. He ended with a .304/.355/.391 batting line and five home runs over 567 plate appearances.
Ultimately, the veteran infielder isn’t a terribly exciting option. He doesn’t walk a ton but also rarely strikes out, and relies upon batting average to make up for below-average power. While he has carried a rather lofty batting average on balls in play over the last two years (.347 and .339, respectively), that’s supported in some part by the fact that Escobar keeps the ball on a line or on the ground much more than the league-average hitter. (He hit fly balls just 20.8% of the time, as against the league’s 34.6% rate.)
Though he was long a shortstop, Escobar isn’t considered a valuable defender at third. Both UZR and DRS have rated him as well below average at the hot corner in each of the last two seasons. Still, there’s value in the fact that Escobar can handle third reasonably, and also that he’d presumably be able to take residence at second if needed.
All said, it was an easy call for the Halos to make. The team recently added another one-year veteran in Cameron Maybin, and is looking to fill in needs on limited commitments wherever necessary. Locking in Escobar leaves the team looking to add a second baseman (or, perhaps, a third baseman) and build out the pitching staff. The future payroll situation remains unchanged thus far, maintaining some flexibility for the organization.
The Angels have placed concussed third baseman Yunel Escobar on the seven-day disabled list, recalled third bagger Kaleb Cowart from Triple-A Salt Lake, activated first baseman C.J. Cron from the DL, and designated second baseman Johnny Giavotella for assignment, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (Twitter link).
Escobar suffered his injury on a fourth-inning bunt attempt against the Yankees on Friday. The ball went off Escobar’s bat and hit him in the face, causing him to leave early.
“We’re going to take it one step at a time, but (the DL) is a possibility,” manager Mike Scioscia said afterward (via Steve Dilbeck of the Associated Press).
Escobar has enjoyed his second straight quality offensive season, having posted a .320/.368/.402 batting line through 479 plate appearances. He’s playing on a $7MM salary this year and has a $7MM club option for 2017, which either makes him an affordable option for the Angels or a potential trade candidate. With the end of August drawing nearer, a concussion issue won’t help the Angels’ cause if they’re willing to deal Escobar, though there’s no word on whether that’s the case. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Thursday that Escobar, 33, drew interest prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline.
Taking Escobar’s place on the roster will be Cowart, whom MLBTR’s Jason Martinez highlighted in his “Knocking Down the Door” series earlier this week. As Martinez noted, Cowart had been swinging a red-hot bat in the minors prior to his call-up and has the ability to play a handful of positions. The 24-year-old has collected just 58 major league plate appearances since the Angels selected him 18th overall in the 2010 draft. He peaked as Baseball America’s 60th-ranked prospect after the 2012 season.
Cron, meanwhile, is returning after landing on the DL on July 8 with a fractured left hand that occurred on a hit by pitch. Cron has been one of the few bright spots for the club, slashing .280/.331/.479 with 11 home runs over 283 plate appearances. That represents nice progress for the 26-year-old, who had only been a slightly above-average hitter in his two previous seasons. Cron also recorded career-best rates in walks (6 percent) and strikeouts (14.5 percent) prior to the injury.
Although he has logged 869 plate appearances with the Angels since last season, Giavotella’s playing time had been dwindling lately in favor of Cliff Pennington and Gregorio Petit, Fletcher wrote Thursday.
“Johnny is a good player,” Scioscia told Fletcher. “But those guys have jumped up and won more playing time.”
The 29-year-old Giavotella is making just over the league minimum and is scheduled for his first trip through arbitration during the upcoming offseason. He has hit .260/.287/.376 with six homers in 367 plate appearances this season and owns a similar .256/.295/.361 line in 1,334 major league PAs.
The Angels will induct former outfielder Garret Anderson into their Hall of Fame on Saturday, as Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register notes. Anderson hasn’t appeared in the big leagues since being released by the Dodgers in 2010, and he says he’s enjoyed his time away from the game, in which he hasn’t had to deal with the frustrations of failing. “I was a mess in the minors. If I struck out in my first at-bat, I was done. For a good player to become better, he has to put that aside,” he says. “I miss the one-on-one with the pitchers. I miss competing against Pedro Martinez, a guy who could make you miss. Other than that, I don’t miss anything. When it was over, I was going home to be with my family. The game was never my identity.” Interestingly, Anderson credits Mike Scioscia — who appears likely to remain with the Angels in 2017 — with instilling a winning culture that changed the Angels. “We had a third-place mentality,” he says. “We’d have good years but we wouldn’t get the player we needed, so that’s how we played. Then Mike Scioscia came in and after a while I realized, this guy really thinks we can win.” Here’s more from Anaheim.
- Third baseman Yunel Escobar could wind up on the disabled list, Jeff Fletcher of the Register tweets. Escobar left yesterday’s game after bunting a ball off his face. X-rays came back negative, but he is sore. The 33-year-old is batting a strong .320/.368/.402 in his first season with the Angels. He has a $7MM club option for next season.
- Angels pro scouting director Hal Morris is leaving the organization to work in athlete development for Fantex in San Francisco, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Fantex is the company that makes deals with athletes, paying them an upfront sum in exchange for a percentage of their future earnings and then offering shares of those players to investors. Its MLB players include Jonathan Schoop, Maikel Franco, Collin McHugh, Yangervis Solarte, Tyler Duffey and current Angel Andrew Heaney. Morris, the former Reds first baseman, was a candidate for the Angels’ GM job before the team hired Billy Eppler.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports kicks off his weekly Inside Baseball column with a look at the job security of a number of managers, noting that Mets skipper Terry Collins, D-backs manager Chip Hale and White Sox manager Robin Ventura could all be on the hot seat, while Braves interim manager Brian Snitker doesn’t seem especially likely to shed the interim label and keep his post. Other names mentioned include Mike Scioscia (Angels), Brad Ausmus (Tigers), Kevin Cash (Rays), Paul Molitor (Twins), Bryan Price (Reds) and Walt Weiss (Rockies), but none from that group seems to be eminently in danger of losing his job even at season’s end, per Heyman.
Some highlights from the lengthy column…
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn was far more in favor of a deadline sale than owner Jerry Reinsdorf, Heyman writes, but the Sox ultimately held onto nearly all of their tradeable assets, with the exception of left-hander Zach Duke, suggesting that Hahn ultimately wasn’t given the go-ahead to operate as he might’ve wished. The Sox haven’t put Chris Sale on trade waivers yet, Heyman notes, though that decision is a moot point. He’d be claimed by the first team available — the Twins, as things currently stand — and pulled back off waivers. Chicago had interest in Gary Sanchez when the Yankees were looking at Sale, he adds, though that’s not much of a surprise. Catcher has long been a weak spot in Chicago, and Sanchez is among the more highly regarded prospects in all of baseball.
- There wasn’t much chatter pertaining to Yunel Escobar prior to the non-waiver trade deadline (and there’s been less in August), but Heyman writes that Escobar did draw interest in July. However, the Angels like what he’s been able to give to the club offensively, batting .316/.365/.397 in 474 plate appearances. I’m not sure I see the logic behind not being willing to move Escobar but trading a similarly priced and very arguably more valuable asset with the same amount of club control (Hector Santiago) for what amounted to an injured prospect, but perhaps the Halos simply didn’t receive an offer to their liking for Escobar.
- The Dodgers “love” Rich Hill and were planning to pursue him last winter until Brett Anderson accepted the team’s qualifying offer, per Heyman. Those two don’t seem like they should’ve been mutually exclusive — the Dodgers went out and signed Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir following Anderson’s acceptance of the QO, after all — but perhaps the Dodgers either couldn’t guarantee a rotation spot or didn’t find the notion of two starters with such recent injury woes to be palatable. Either way, if the Dodgers are as fond of Hill as Heyman indicates, it seems likely that they’ll be in the mix to re-sign him come the offseason.
- One executive from a non-Dodgers club opined to Heyman that no team will claim Yasiel Puig if and when he’s placed on revocable waivers and added, “…if they do, they’re going to get him.” Furthermore, Heyman writes that it isn’t likely that Puig will rejoin the Dodgers at any point this season, as he has “turned off” many of his teammates. It seems difficult to fathom that the Dodgers wouldn’t bring him back in the month of September when rosters expand, but we’ll find out in just a few weeks — if Puig isn’t dealt first.
- The Padres have yet to put Derek Norris on trade waivers, and Heyman calls him a more likely offseason trade candidate. The Indians showed mild interest but ultimately decided that their internal options were preferable to Norris, who is once again struggling tremendously following a strong showing at the plate from May 1 through the All-Star break. Heyman also notes that the Padres are interested enough in Puig to at least be thinking about it and points out the connection between pro scouting director Logan White and Puig. White was the Dodgers VP of amateur scouting prior to his Padres gig and was one of the execs that recommended Puig to his colleagues.
- The Rangers weren’t able to swing a deal for any of the big-name starters they pursued, but that’s in part due to the asking prices they received. The Rays asked the Rangers for Jurickson Profar and other pieces in exchange for Matt Moore, while Rougned Odor’s name was suggested by the Rays in Chris Archer talks and by the White Sox in talks for Chris Sale.
Here’s the latest from around the AL West…
- Mariners lefty James Paxton was two outs away from a complete game victory yesterday when he was hit on his throwing elbow by an Andrelton Simmons line drive. Fortunately for Paxton and the M’s, x-rays were negative and manager Scott Servais told reporters (including Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune) that he’s hoping Paxton may not even miss a start, thanks to an off-day this week in Seattle’s schedule. The injury has been diagnosed as a deep bruise, and Paxton will be able to pitch if the swelling subsides. Paxton has been a big part of the Mariners rotation, posting a 3.53 ERA, 4.06 K/BB rate and 8.04 K/9 over 81 2/3 IP this season, and any missed time for Paxton would undoubtedly be a blow to Seattle’s wild card hopes.
- In other Mariners pitching news, Taijuan Walker was optioned to Triple-A to create a 25-man roster spot for the newly-acquired Arquimedes Caminero. Ariel Miranda will continue in the Mariners’ rotation filling Walker’s spot. [Updated Mariners depth chart at Roster Resource.] Walker got off to a strong start this season that fueled his solid year-long stats (4.10 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 4.0 K/BB rate), though he has had trouble pitching deep into games. Walker has also struggled in his last two outings, sandwiched around a month-long DL stint due to right foot tendinitis, and the M’s couldn’t allow for Walker time to regain his form with the team in a playoff race. “His last 13 starts, he’s had three quality starts. It may be different if we were 10 or 15 games below .500. We’re not,” Servais told Dutton and other reporters.
- Despite the demotion, the Mariners haven’t given up on Walker and aren’t looking to trade him, Dutton tweets in response to a reader question. Walker received a lot of attention from other teams prior to the trade deadline but GM Jerry Dipoto said the young hurler wasn’t available.
With the Angels already looking ahead to 2017, both MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez and the Los Angeles Times’ Pedro Moura addressed the team’s future in separate mailbag pieces. Gonzalez believes the Halos will have an offseason similar to last, when they look to upgrade with relatively low-cost or cost-neutral moves since the payroll will still be bogged down by several large contracts (albeit with some relief since C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver will be off the books). Aiming for contention in 2018 may be a wiser move since Josh Hamilton’s contract will also be up, and Gonzalez feels Kole Calhoun could be an interesting trade chip to address other needs, though Calhoun is obviously a valuable piece of the current roster.
Moura’s mailbag addresses such topics as whether or not Arte Moreno would consider selling the team (Moura doesn’t believe so), the possibility of Yunel Escobar being traded and Kaleb Cowart possibly stepping in as a low-cost third base option in his place, plus how Angels GM Billy Eppler really can’t be judged on his job performance since Eppler is still dealing with poor organizational decisions made prior to his hiring.
The most prominent pitcher the Rangers have pursued as the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline nears is White Sox ace Chris Sale, who’s currently embroiled in a strange controversy, but the sides haven’t made much progress, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. With that in mind, Texas’ focus is on the Rays’ starters at the moment, writes Grant. Tampa Bay’s asking price is high for Matt Moore and Jake Odorizzi, though, as it wants powerful corner infielder/outfielder Joey Gallo – Baseball America’s 11th-ranked prospect. The Rangers would only give up Gallo for the Rays’ top starter, Chris Archer, per Grant.
More rumors from the American League:
- While reports have connected the Rangers to Milwaukee catcher and trade candidate Jonathan Lucroy for months, Texas is “not really” in pursuit of the All-Star backstop as of now, reports T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com (Twitter link). The Rangers’ focus is instead on upgrading their pitching.
- The Twins aren’t inclined to deal right-hander Ervin Santana unless they’re “wowed” by an offer, tweets Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. Despite Santana’s age (33) and their distance from contention, the last-place Twins regard him as a quality future piece. Santana, who’s on a $13.5MM yearly salary through 2018 and has a $14MM club option for 2019, has pitched respectably this season (105 1/ innings, 3.93 ERA, 6.41 K/9, 2.48 BB/9).
- The Tigers, who are 51-46 and just 2.5 games out of a Wild Card spot, are likely to stand pat at the deadline, general manager Al Avila told reporters – including Evan Woodbery of MLive.com (via Twitter) – on Saturday. “It’s not sexy,” admitted Avila, who added that buying is difficult because teams are asking for the Tigers’ best young starters, standout rookie righty Michael Fulmer and southpaw Daniel Norris. “I have been in contact with several GMs in sell mode. The asking price is too high right now, even for fifth starters,” Avila stated (Twitter links via Jason Beck of MLB.com). Avila’s Tigers do have in-house reinforcements on the way in Norris, righty Jordan Zimmermann and right fielder J.D. Martinez, all of whom are on the disabled list. When those three come back, Avila expects Detroit to have enough talent to compete for a World Series (Twitter link via Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press).
- The playoffs continue to look highly unlikely for the Angels, who have won 10 of 12 games and closed the gap in the AL West from 19 1/2 games to a still-high 11 1/2 behind first-place Texas, but their recent hot streak could prevent them from selling, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. “A lot of things have come together at the exact same time,” GM Billy Eppler told DiGiovanna. “We felt that this club had a lot of positive elements to it. It wasn’t all clicking like it is right now, but the character and the fight within those guys has never faded.” The Halos don’t have the assets to turn into buyers, notes DiGiovanna, so their decision will come down to selling or keeping the roster as it is. If they sell, DiGiovanna lists third baseman Yunel Escobar, setup man Joe Smith and closer Huston Street as Angels who could soon change homes.
Ervin Santana is the “most likely” member of the Twins to be traded this summer, per ESPN’s Jayson Stark. However, executives that have spoken to the Twins about trades tell Stark that Minnesota is willing to talk about virtually anyone on their roster. Per one exec to whom Stark spoke, the Twins are telling potential trade partners, “If you’ve got any ideas, throw them out there.” Santana is far from the only trade candidate on the Twins’ roster; Fernando Abad, Eduardo Nunez, Ricky Nolasco and Trevor Plouffe are all free agents at the end of the 2017 season, and Kurt Suzuki is set to hit the open market following the current season. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd has listed several Twins among the game’s top trade candidates over the past few weeks. As for Santana, who tossed a shutout yesterday in Oakland, he’s earning $13.5MM this year and in each of the next two seasons, so he’d be considerably more than a rental piece for an interested club. However, that remaining salary might mean that some interested parties would want the Twins to include some cash in a deal to make the trade more financially palatable.
A few more notes on the trade market…
- The Red Sox have been scouting Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson lately tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB.com. Per Morosi, Hellickson is one of many options that Boston is considering as it seeks to upgrade the back of its rotation. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said tonight on the conference call to discuss the Aaron Hill trade with the media that the fourth and fifth spots of his rotation are indeed areas of focus, as ESPN Boston’s Scott Lauber writes. Hellickson could indeed fill one of those spots, as he’s delivered a solid 3.92 ERA with 7.9 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 42.4 percent ground-ball rate in 105 2/3 innings. The Phillies can probably get more for Hellickson than they surrendered to acquire him at this point, and as a free agent at season’s end it seems likely that he’ll be wearing a new uniform by the time the non-waiver deadline passes.
- Infielder Yunel Escobar and left-hander Hector Santiago are getting hot at an opportune time if the Angels wish to shop them, writes MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. However, he also notes that it’s difficult to envision the Halos parting with either player. The Angels have a desperate need for rotation pieces in 2017 after losing Andrew Heaney to Tommy John surgery while Garrett Richards faces the possibility of the same fate. Santiago is controlled through the end of the 2017 season and doesn’t figure to be overly expensive, as he’s earning $5MM this year. Moving Escobar would mean that the Halos need to find a new third baseman for the third time in four years, Gonzalez points out, though he lists the Royals, Mets and Giants as possible suitors for the versatile infielder. Escobar, of course, comes with a questionable clubhouse reputation, but Gonzalez spoke to Santiago about Escobar’s presence in the clubhouse and received a positive review. Santiago admitted that he disliked Escobar when playing against him but enjoys his passion and enthusiasm now that they’re teammates.
- The Royals are continuing to monitor the market for starting pitchers, reports Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. The Royals are moving Chris Young to the bullpen and have seen both Kris Medlen and Mike Minor suffer setbacks in their rehab, leaving a very thin supply of starters from which to choose. Either Dillon Gee or Brian Flynn could get a start this weekend, but Dodd cites a source in stating that the Royals have expressed some interest in the Rays’ available starting pitchers. Tampa Bay starters Jake Odorizzi and Matt Moore have each seen their names pop up in trade rumors as of late.
SUNDAY: The Mets have also shown interest in Escobar, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times reports (Twitter link). Escobar could directly serve as a replacement for the injured David Wright at third, or his multi-position versatility could further add to a plethora of infield options for New York, especially now that Jose Reyes is also in the mix.
FRIDAY: The Angels are listening to offers on infielder Yunel Escobar, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). It appears that multiple teams have expressed at least some level of interest, with the Giants among them.
Escobar, 33, has continued to put up strong offensive numbers since he was acquired over the winter from the Nationals. All told, he owns a .313/.369/.413 batting line over 892 plate appearances dating to the start of 2015. He has only hit a dozen home runs in that span, but has continued to hit at a high average while knocking 43 doubles.
Long a shortstop, Escobar has seen most of his action recently at third. He had been slated to play second for the Nats before internal needs dictated a change, though, and it seems that a contender could add him with intentions of utilizing him in any number of ways in the infield. Though the glove doesn’t rate very well, it’s versatile. It’s worth noting, too, that Escobar can be controlled for another season via a $7MM club option (with a $1MM buyout). He’s playing this year at the same reasonable annual rate, so there’s a bit of contract value included as well.
For the Giants, it’s hard not to tie interest in Escobar to Matt Duffy’s issues. He’s not expected to need a terribly long DL stint after a recent injury, but was off to a rough .253/.313/.358 start to the season that fell well shy of the above-average batting line he put up in 2015. Of course, he’s still a highly-valued defender, but it’s not difficult to see why the organization might want to add another piece with a bit more bat to the infield mix. Both Duffy and Escobar hit from the right side, but the latter could fill in now at the hot corner and then float around the infield thereafter. (Notably, second bagger Joe Panik and shortstop Brandon Crawford both hit from the left side, though quality young utilityman Kelby Tomlinson is another righty bat.)
If you’re curious how Escobar might hypothetically fit on the San Francisco roster, you can check out the team’s depth chart right here.