Good morning, Mets fans!
As if there wasn’t enough chaos already with the Mets kicking off their second half tonight in the Bronx, the trade deadline continues to heat up with another acquisition late last night.
Cubs Looking For Bullpen Reinforcements
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic was the first to report – at the conclusion of their victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, no less – that the Chicago Cubs have acquired right-handed long-reliever Jesse Chavez from the Texas Rangers in exchange for left-handed pitching prospect Tyler Thomas. Chavez has a 3.51 ERA and 4.32 FIP in 56.1 innings this year, largely a result of the home runs he’s struggled with dating back to 2016 (1.60, 1.83, and 1.61 per nine innings over the past three seasons).
His arrival comes just a day after the Cubs placed closer Brandon Morrow on the 10-day disabled list with right biceps inflammation (his second stint of the past month), but he will likely slot towards the bottom of the bullpen as their more successful pieces (Anthony Bass and Randy Rosario, for example) move a peg up the ladder. This is definitely not to be viewed as any sort of blockbuster move that Chicago will rest on – at least not yet. Bruce Levine of 670 The Score had cited the Cubs as one of the “main players” in the push for left-handed closer Zach Britton earlier in the day.
Thomas, 22, was taken in the seventh round of last year’s draft, and has since dazzled in the lower levels of the minor leagues. He’s currently the owner of a 2.88 ERA, averaging just 1.7 BB/9 against 9.7 K/9 in Single-A, and could be the first step the Rangers take toward establishing a core of young pitching.
Diekman Drawing Interest for Texas
The Rangers’ trade of Chavez is also a likely appetizer in a set of moves they’re planning on making, specifically regarding their bullpen. In addition to the discussions surrounding Keone Kela and Jose Leclerc, Texas has also apparently been fielding calls about lefty Jake Diekman, according to TR Sullivan of MLB.com. Diekman has made 41 appearances this season, mostly as a one-out guy with reverse splits. Right-handed hitters have amassed just a .190/.260/.263 line against him this season, and while his 5.1 BB/9 is no doubt a concern, he’s kept it to a much more sustainable 2.37 per nine on the road (coupled with a 0.47 ERA).
An impending free agent at the season’s end, Diekman could bring to ballclubs what Addison Reed brought to the Mets a few years prior, taking a change in scenery and running with it for two solid months. Teams may be standoffish given the 31-year old’s strange injury history (only played 11 games last year due to a colon surgery and missed time in 2016 with a finger laceration), but if Texas sells Diekman’s value properly, they could likely net a lower-level prospect in exchange.
Padres Still Looking to Deal
In other news, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com has reported that despite dealing Brad Hand yesterday morning, the San Diego Padres could be on their way to moving more pitchers in the coming days. Teams have maintained interest in right-handed reliever Kirby Yates (16 holds, 11.5 K/9, 1.43 ERA) and, albeit a little less avidly, veteran starter Tyson Ross (108.1 IP, 1.27 WHIP, 2.26 K/BB ratio). Craig Stammen (1.94 FIP, 1 HR allowed in 46.1 IP) may profile well for teams looking to buy a year and a half, but Yates, who remains under team control until 2021, is obviously the golden goose.
One team that could potentially win out on any option is the Atlanta Braves, who according to David O’Brien of The Athletic, have become “increasingly likely” to prioritize bullpen upgrades at the deadline, with a possible space to improve in the rotation as well. General manager Alex Anthopoulos has added that the Braves would be willing to shed young talent in a potential deal. These clubs seem to line up perfectly, given San Diego’s intentions to contend next season and Atlanta’s commitment to grabbing the NL East once Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals inevitably split. The Braves have a plethora of starting pitchers in the upper minors (such as Mike Soroka, Luiz Gohara, Kyle Wright, Ian Anderson, and Kolby Allard – all of whom rank in MLB Pipeline’s top 50 prospects) who the Padres could incorporate into their future mold without hesitation.
Archer Wants to Win
The market surrounding controllable talent, particularly among starting pitchers, has also begun to materialize of late, as St. Louis Cardinals GM John Mozeliak announced yesterday that the club is unlikely to move young ace Carlos Martinez in the near future:
“For us, the one core we have is pitching,” Mozeliak said prior to last night’s contest. “And to start trying to arbitrage that would have to be a very special-type deal, otherwise it would make no sense to us… I don’t envision us moving pitching.”
Tampa Bay’s own potential trade chip, Chris Archer, sat down for an interview with Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, and offered his own insight regarding his team’s intent to retool and regroup for the future:
“If I’m going to be here, I want the process of not going to the playoffs to be expedited… I’ve seen the transition. I’m not saying I’m not happy, but I know that we are still transitioning. And the faster we can speed that up and get back to the 2008 through ’13, ’14 days, the better… I turn 30 in a couple months. I want to play the game for 10 more years, but there’s nothing guaranteed in life. I want to experience winning.”
Topkin speculates that tension is starting to mount between Archer and the Rays’ front office as rumors swirl around his name for a third straight year. The righty has a 4.29 ERA, 3.79 FIP, and 3.78 xFIP this season, but has lost a bit of his touch, with a K/9 rate down from 11.15 in 2017 to just 9.21 this year and a full mile per hour gone from his average fastball. With the more expensive portion of his contract looming, teams will have to find the line between financial burden and prospect weight before striking a deal, no matter how ugly the situation gets in Tampa.
On a separate but related note, Andre Fernandez of the Miami Herald recently sat down for an interview with Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, who would be open to an extension in the event he remains in the organization through the season: “If they approached me, I wouldn’t be opposed to having the conversation… the fact that they would think of me that way, to build around me, is an honor,” he said.
This development likely puts pressure on competitive teams starved for catching reinforcement, as they now have the Marlins themselves to compete with in their attempt to win the auction and bring in one of the best controllable backstops in the game. As the case has been over the past year now, Miami won’t pull the trigger on Realmuto without a substantial prospect package. It will be interesting to see how that aspect of their nuclear rebuild shakes out.
Phillies Need Pitching
Two teams that seem particularly intent on improving pitching as they vie for division titles – the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies – have taken different paths, but could still find themselves entangled in a bidding war. Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia has cited the top of the bullpen as a target for Philly, which has gotten next to nothing out of its closers, and could wind up seeking out either Jeurys Familia or Felipe Vazquez as rental assets.
The Phillies have also expressed interest in utility infielder Eduardo Escobar, who is currently hitting .271/.327/.507 with 14 homers and 57 RBI in Minnesota and would either be an improvement over Scott Kingery or possibly even spell Maikel Franco (who has admittedly heated up of late) at the hot corner.
On the other hand, Philadelphia could push for starter J.A. Happ, which would consequently – if done – strengthen their bullpen by pushing either Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta into the mix as long-relief options with high-90’s stuff.
Yankees Pushing Frazier in Talks
A rotational upgrade would in turn challenge the Yankees, who remain in the market for starting pitching help. Per Sung Min Kim of The Athletic, the Yankees have tried selling teams on outfield prospect Clint Frazier, who is currently pressed for starting time under three outfielders (he’s managed just 168 big-league plate appearances over two seasons, hitting .238/.295/.429), but could bring immediate value to teams looking to rebuild in under a year.
Frazier was again pulled from a game last night with concussion symptoms, however, and teams remain keen on prying a pitching prospect – be it Domingo Acevedo, Justus Sheffield, or Chance Adams – from the Yankees’ clutches. The Yankees may have to relent if the five spot remains a black hole in the coming weeks.