This summer has seen the action pick up considerably earlier than it usually does, as four trades went down over the past week. Let’s go over them, and the smaller things that may have flown under your radar in this edition of Crash Course!
Brad Hand is Finally Traded
Fellow Baseball Essential contributor Tom Dorsa wrote a fantastic piece on the Brad Hand deal which can be found here. Looking at what the deal entailed, the Padres received can’t-miss prospect in Francisco Mejia from Cleveland in exchange for Hand and breakout young reliever Adam Cimber.
It’s clearly a win-win for both sides. The Indians, who have had bullpen struggles this year and currently stand to lose Andrew Miller and Cody Allen in free agency this winter, benefit both now and later, as both Hand and Cimber are both controlled for the foreseeable future, as Hand’s contract goes through 2021 (including his player option) and Cimber is locked down through 2023. Meanwhile, for the Padres, while they are close to competing are not there quite yet.
As it was said when Ken Giles was traded from the Phillies to the Astros a few years ago, a great closer on a rebuilding team is like buying yourself a brand new snowblower in July. They turned both relievers into a young catcher who compliments the defensively gifted Austin Hedges quite nicely. While Hedges has an elite glove, his bat leaves something to be desired, which is the opposite of Mejia, who has a superstar bat, but an abysmal glove. It remains to be seen how the Friars will go about this situation, as they could use the pair in a platoon, move Mejia to left field, or simply demote Hedges to a back-up role (thus having one of the best back-up catchers of all time).
- While it has long been speculated that Cole Hamels could be returning to Philly over the summer, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports that a reunion is unlikely. The Phillies see their rotation as a major strength this season, and it doesn’t look like the veteran would be an upgrade over any of their options at the moment. I wouldn’t consider the Phillies to be major players in the starting pitching market, barring injury or an opportunity that they couldn’t pass up.
- The most coveted players on the Rangers right now appear to be relievers Jake Diekman and Keone Kela. The 31-year old Diekman is a rental, therefore I wouldn’t anticipate a jaw-dropping return, but Kela looks to be the second most valuable reliever on the market right now, behind Raisel Iglesias. Seeing as how he is controlled through 2021, the Rangers have no need to trade him now, and can afford to wait for the best offer to come around. He’s a guy who could really boost their system.
Tampa Trade Talks
- At this moment, Chris Archer is generating some unspecified interest. Archer has seen his name in trade rumors consistently for years now, but he has not performed up to the “ace” standard that many hold him to. Personally, I do not expect Archer to be traded just yet, as the Rays have control over him, and with just over a week to go before the deadline, they have pieces that they need to trade including Nathan Eovaldi, Adeiny Hechavarria, Sergio Romo, and Carlos Gomez.
- While Wilson Ramos was placed on the disabled list, he can still technically be traded, although any deal would need the approval of the commissioner. While I don’t anticipate a deal, it’s something to keep in the back of your head.
- Prospect Justin Williams earned a call-up this week. Williams is toolsy, with a solid hit tool, good power potential, speed and athleticism, but he also could use some refinement with his approach. He’s another guy who could be a 20-20 guy or another Domonic Brown. I expect that the 22-year old will remain with the club for the foreseeable future given anticipated trades opening up spots, and I am interested to see how he performs.
The Zach Britton Derby
- With Familia, Hand, and Kelvin Herrera all off the table, Britton seems likely to be the next guy to go off of the block and it seems as though there is no shortage of interest in the O’s closer.
- It has been reported that there are “at least” six teams interested in Britton as the Cubs, Phillies, Yankees, Red Sox, Astros, Dodgers and Braves have all been reported to be players.
- At this point, the O’s want more than the Royals got for Herrera, which simply doesn’t make a ton of sense, as he’s making about $4 million more, has had less success this season and carries more injury risk. If the O’s were known as a team who would ordinarily eat money, then it might be a legitimate discussion, but it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where the Orioles were willing to take on much, if any, of the remaining money on Britton’s contract.
Additional Fallout From the Machado Deal
- To make room on the roster for Machado, Andrew Toles was sent to Triple-A. Toles is a guy who could actually hold some value if the Dodgers decided to try to upgrade elsewhere, as he really doesn’t have much of a place to play in Los Angeles.
- The O’s called up Renato Nunez to see some time at third base. While Machado had primarily played shortstop, Nunez gives the O’s a bit of additional depth now that Machado is gone, and Danny Valencia could soon follow him. Chris Tillman was cut loose to make room, and has not yet decided whether to accept minor league assignment.
Miscellaneous Trade Rumors
- The Red Sox have shown interest in Mike Fiers of the Tigers, while Jose Iglesias has drawn interest from at least one team. Both seem likely to be traded over the next week or so, and I wouldn’t count out a potential Leonys Martin deal either.
- Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry DiPoto has said that he is more focused on upgrading the rotation than second base. I’m very interested to see what DiPoto has up his sleeve for the next week or so.
- The Brewers have shown interest in Twins’ second baseman Brian Dozier which would be an excellent fit. While the Twins won’t be able to get a Jose De Leon type return at this point (which I’m still baffled that they declined), they should be able to get a useful piece or so from a loaded Brewers’ farm system.
- Now with Bradley Zimmer out for the remainder of the season, I would expect talks regarding Adam Jones to intensify. It seems like one of the best pure fits for any deal.
- The Indians dodged a real bullet this week, as Ryan Merritt cleared waivers. I would guess the fact that he’s out of options is the reason that he cleared, but nevertheless, I’m floored that a major league ready left-handed starter cleared waivers at this time of the year, as sellers prepare to let go of many of their major league starters. Merritt would have been an excellent potential replacement. While it’s a small 31.1 inning sample size, Merritt has posted an excellent 1.71 ERA in the major leagues with supporting peripherals including a 2.71 FIP and a 1.1 BB/9 with no home runs allowed. While he will be eligible for minor league free agency this season, I highly doubt he reaches it. I could certainly see the Indians either including him in a trade package for an outfielder, or calling him up in September to rest their main starters for the playoffs. In this situation, I can certainly see him impressing enough to earn a spot either in Cleveland or elsewhere.
- The Indians also brought in catcher Rob Brantly, after he was released by the Braves following a disappointing .218/.254/.293 showing in Gwinnett. Once upon a time, the now 29-year old was a top catching prospect for the Marlins and Tigers and was a key piece to the Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante deal.
- The Yankees called up my favorite minor league pitcher Domingo Acevedo this week. While he was sent down without making an appearance, I think he’s going to be an ace or a generational closer.
- The White Sox signed Braves’ castoff Mauricio Cabrera and assigned him to Double-A Birmingham. Cabrera is a fireballer who has really struggled with his control. He was sent outright from the Braves’ 40-man roster during spring training and was sent to Class A Advanced, where he struggled mightily. While he’s a high upside piece, based on velocity, I’m not sure that he’s ever going to live up to his potential.
- The Brewers brought in a pair of former top prospects on minor league deals, as third baseman Richie Shaffer and outfielder Rymer Liriano will join Triple-A Colorado Springs. Liriano was just released about a week ago despite being selected to play in the Triple-A All-Star game. He has all the tools necessary to be an excellent major leaguer, but strikeouts have killed him. This will actually be Liriano’s second stint with the Brewers, as he was expected to play a rather significant semi-regular role in 2016 before he missed the season with facial fractures after taking a pitch from Matt West. As for Shaffer, he was the Triple-A All-Star game MVP last season with the Indians, but fell off in a big way during the second half, which carried over into this season. While there’s still tons of potential for the former first round pick, he’s running out of time at 27-years old.
- In other Brewers news, pitcher Braulio Ortiz was cut after posting a 5.40 ERA between Class A and Class A Advanced at the age of 26. Another 26-year old pitcher, Alec Crawford was released as well after posting a strong 2.77 ERA over 13 innings pitched with three walks and 15 strikeouts. Unfortunately, it seems as though he was the beneficiary of some good luck, as his FIP was 5.79.
- A trio of players hit the waiver wire over the past few days including Rays outfielder Johnny Field, who was cut to make room for Adam Moore, Rockies infielder Daniel Castro to make room for Garrett Hampson and Enny Romero who was removed by Kansas City to make room for Jakob Junis. Seeing as how Ryan Merritt cleared waivers, I would be genuinely shocked if any of these guys drew claims.
- This is Romero’s third trip on the wire this season, after going from Washington to Pittsburgh to Kansas City. One would imagine as a rather established reliever, he would have a good chance to carve out a role in the Royals’ pen, but finds himself on the outside looking in after allowing nine runs in four innings.
- While Castro is surprisingly young (25) and mashing at Triple-A to the tune of a .333/.367/.457 line, keep in mind that he’s in the PCL and carries an unsustainable .351 BABip. Also, the .034 isolated on base percentage doesn’t help his case, nor does the fact that he carries a weak .174/.191/.261 batting line in the majors with a 2.1% walks rate.
- As for Field, he was hitting .213/.253/.373 with a 3.9% walk rate and a 32.4% strikeout rate. While the 26-year old is a great clubhouse guy and a solid defender, I can’t see him drawing much interest.
- The Red Sox made a fantastic minor league signing in Mark Montgomery this week. For my full opinion and projection on Montgomery, check out my article from about two weeks ago, when he was released by Detroit.