MLB Rumor Roundup: Market for Zach Britton Heating Up

Good afternoon, Mets fans!

Despite an underwhelming return in yesterday’s trade of Jeurys Familia, fret not! There is no such organizational dysfunction in today’s edition of our rumor roundup.

With Familia and Brad Hand now officially off the books, Zach Britton is easily the best remaining reliever any team looking to improve their bullpen could pursue. According to a number of sources, interest has become clearer as discussions have progressed.

Last night, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reported that the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros had both been in contact with the Baltimore Orioles about Britton, and have attempted to “match up prospects.” Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports described the situation as a race between six teams, but Crasnick has since added that both the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers are less keen on a bid for Britton, citing mixed feelings about prospects and luxury tax issues for the respective teams. Less has been said about Heyman’s other two teams: the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox.

Dodgers Looking For Bullpen Help 

The Dodgers could, however, make a play for Baltimore’s set-up man Brad Brach, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Shaikin adds that they have monitored the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays, and have also checked in with the Oakland Athletics about Blake Treinen – who although less urgently needed with Familia’s arrival, would still, understandably command a hefty price given Oakland’s current record.

The Dodgers’ 3.83 bullpen ERA this season ranks fourth in the NL West division and has been even less reliable below Kenley Jansen. Even in a down year (4.34 ERA, 1.69 WHIP), Brach would be a surefire improvement over a number of late-inning alternatives the Dodgers currently have, such as Daniel Hudson, (1.41 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, -0.4 WAR), Pedro Baez (1.50 WHIP, 4.7 BB/9, and biceps tendinitis that has sidelined him since the beginning of June) and former Met Erik Goeddel (4.24 FIP, 4.9 BB/9, and 1.2 HR/9).

Archer and Hamels Drawing Big Interest

Starting pitching has also been a hot topic in the recent days, as interest in Tampa Bay right-hander, Chris Archer has become “significant,” according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Archer has only made two starts since returning from an abdominal strain, and on neither occasion could he make it out of the fifth inning. Archer’s case is particularly interesting given the four years’ worth of options and team control, but the ace has done little to establish himself as such the last three years (22-35, 4.09 ERA in 82 starts), and teams may be hesitant to part with bigger prospects as a result.

The market has also started to materialize regarding Texas Rangers left-hander Cole Hamels, who is expected to be sent to a trade partner by the deadline, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.

A 5.05 FIP and 1.7 HR/9 haven’t done much to combat the concern that Hamels is aging into a decline, but have also done little to deter teams like the Red Sox, Braves, and New York Yankees from taking interest in him altogether. The Phillies could potentially go after him as well, but aren’t sure if a dubious spot in the back of the rotation is worth a shipment of prospects.

Secondary Pitching Market Options Emerging 

Cafardo adds that teams have been scouting right-hander Sonny Gray, who demonstrated some much tighter control in a near-quality start against the Mets yesterday. While Gray has festered at the bottom of the Yankees’ rotation for most of the season, his next two starts between now and the end of the deadline could spell an opportunity for GM Brian Cashman to bounce prospects over in a leapfrog deal for a better starter.

The Seattle Mariners (per Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times) and Arizona Diamondbacks (per Rosenthal as well) are both possible entrants in the market for rotation upgrades as they center their search around relievers. Both teams have the financial wherewithal to eat salary, which could intensify the current rumor mill surrounding pitchers.

Speaking of Boston, ESPN’s Buster Olney has listed the Red Sox as one of many teams looking for a smaller-scale rotation improvement in Detroit Tigers’ righty Mike Fiers. Despite a 4.57 FIP and 4.75 xFIP, Fiers has managed to limit the walks and homers that once plagued him, and would be infinitely less expensive than Hamels or Archer.

In the aforementioned article, Cafardo highlights Miami innings-eater Dan Straily as another possible depth piece for the Sox. Straily, like Fiers, bears another year of team control, but has also struggled, possibly even more so considering his competition in the National League, 5.27 FIP, and 4.3 BB/9 (an increase from last year’s mark by a full walk).

Perhaps a new uniform is the simplest solution, and given the relatively hot competition going on above them, neither starter would likely cost a whole lot in prospects and/or slot money. Not much has been said about the degree of interest, neither on behalf of the Red Sox nor as it relates to the undisclosed teams.

Offensive Market Moving Slow

Not much else has developed regarding frontline hitters such as Mike Moustakas and Brian Dozier, although a few points of interest have started to become clearer.

The Tigers have been receiving calls about 28-year old shortstop Jose Iglesias, according to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. Iglesias has posted a .682 OPS, offering most of his value on the defensive side of the ball. Nonetheless, he could also make for a potential depth piece for teams in need of depth along the middle of the infield, such as the Milwaukee Brewers and Oakland Athletics.

Teams looking for help at first base would be wise to avoid the Chicago White Sox, who are strongly inclined to hang onto slugger Jose Abreu, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Abreu, who will be a free agent after the 2019 season, has regressed to a .250/.312/.435 line in his age-31 season, but still could have been a decent power improvement for teams looking for a more controllable asset in the middle of the order.

Josh Donaldson, however, is very much available, as Nick Cafardo writes. In fact, the Toronto Blue Jays apparently “hope” to have him dealt by the end of the summer – be it within the next week or the next month. Donaldson, who isn’t expected to recover from a calf injury until the beginning of August, has struggled mightily in his contract year. His .757 OPS is the lowest it’s been since he posted a .687 figure as a utility man with the Oakland Athletics in 2012.

Whether the intent will be to net prospects or enjoy any possible form of salary relief, Toronto will certainly look to get some value back – while they still can – in what has been a lost season for the former MVP.

About Jack Hendon 195 Articles
Jack Hendon (@jack_hendon99 on Twitter) is a sophomore at Haverford College, special assistant/statistician for the baseball team, prospective English major and psychology minor, and contributor to MetsMerized Online. He was seven when he saw Carlos Beltran take strike three in the 2006 NLCS, and since then has concentrated his love for the Mets through writing about particular fan memories, while also devoting time to recapping games, analyzing pitchers, and heckling (when appropriate) at Citi Field. LGM!