MLB Rumor Roundup: Relief Market Nearly Cleaned Out

Photo courtesy of Steve Russell, Toronto Star

Happy Monday, Mets fans! Just two days to go in the non-waiver trade deadline, and a few moves – both blockbuster and simple fixes – remain to be made.

Following the Atlanta Braves’ acquisition of right-handed set-up man Brad Brach yesterday in exchange for $250K in international bonus money, the headline of this peak trading period again calls for a reshuffled list of available relief pitchers. More controllable arms have become part of the conversation between contenders and those in need of a more thorough rebuild, as reported by multiple different sources this past weekend.

Osuna On the Move?

With his 75-game suspension (violation of the league’s domestic violence policy) due to end on August 5, fiery young closer Roberto Osuna has become the center of the Toronto Blue Jays’ latest efforts to renovate their farm system, which ranks ninth on MLB.com, but could certainly benefit from more reinforcements once Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are promoted in the next month or two. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, rival executives have been receiving calls to gauge interest in the righty.

Although he has yet to allow a run in six minor league rehab appearances and proudly owns a career 0.92 WHIP and 6.33 K/BB ratio (10.2 to 1.6 per nine innings), Osuna would indubitably carry some baggage as baseball fans have become more vigilant and critical of teams indulging problematic figures in recent months. Even if a team bites and brings in Osuna (who is eligible to pitch in the postseason and isn’t a free agent until 2021), the marketing burden seems likely to factor into whatever Toronto would receive in return.

Ziegler the Next to Go

Jon Heyman of FanCred Sports has cited the Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, and Cleveland Indians as three possible landing spots for 38-year old Miami reliever Brad Ziegler – who, per Heyman, is “likely to be moved soon.”

Ziegler has allowed just 2 runs over his last 27 innings of work, but even then, still owns an earned run average of 3.98 and currently averages a career-high 1.2 HR/9. Such numbers serve to illustrate just how nightmarish the first two months of Ziegler’s season truly were – which could possibly hamper interest as a result. However, it’s hard to expect that any team break the bank on an impending free agent reliever, to begin with.

Of course, given that every high-end reliever has found a new home thus far, it’s also hard to picture teams shying away from Ziegler – given his value as a rental – and pursuing better options that may not necessarily exist. In any case, it will be interesting to see where he winds up.

Interest Mounting in Kela

Perhaps the most attractive bullpen arm on the market to offer controllable years, Keone Kela continues to make his way into discussions with just about any team willing to assist with a Texas-sized rebuild.

Team beat writer TR Sullivan recently described the Rangers’ closer as having “the potential to bring back the biggest return of any player the Rangers are discussing with other clubs.” It’s hard to dispute such an assertion, given the fact that the Dodgers, Red Sox, Indians, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Cubs, and Braves have all scouted the Hawaiian flamethrower at some point during the current trading sweepstakes.

Kela, 25, won’t be a free agent until after the 2021 season, and has hashed out a 2.97 FIP with 10.4 K/9 while converting 24 out of a possible 25 saves in his first regular taste of the ninth inning this year. While the Rangers had sent scouts to watch Braves’ prospect Luiz Gohara strike out 10 in 5.2 minor league innings earlier last week, Ken Rosenthal has added that Atlanta would only deal Gohara if it signified a controllable starter for a return.

Orioles Not Done Unloading

After pulling in next to nothing in exchange for Brad Brach (at least in terms of minor league talent), the Baltimore Orioles could see themselves pawning off more controllable players in the near future, as tweeted by Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic.

Biertempfel speculates that the Pirates, who have been “chasing” righty starter Kevin Gausman, could also reel in incumbent closer Mychal Givens if the package does in fact go out for delivery. Givens has seen his K rate fall to a career-low 9.91, but both the righty’s 2.99 FIP and .352 opponent BABIP (95 points higher than their batting average) suggest he’s fallen victim to some bad luck.

Photo courtesy of Joy R. Absalon, USA Today Sports

Givens seems an even more likely candidate to be shipped out considering the Orioles are unlikely to find a trade partner for outfielder Adam Jones. While he’s on pace to hit just 16 home runs this year (which would be his lowest figure since 2008) and has lost his magic as a defender in center, Jones has in fact drawn interest – most notably from the Philadelphia Phillies. Jones is in fact deciding to stay in Baltimore for the rest of the season, as reported by Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports, with family and familiarity dictating his decision to maintain his 10-5 rights (thus allowing him to use his no-trade clause).

Minnesota Also Holding Off

While still very much interested in deals surrounding expiring contracts such as those of Brian Dozier, Lance Lynn, and Zach Duke, the Minnesota Twins have made it clear to their trade partners (as reported by La Velle E. Neal of the Star Tribune) that they’d need a serious return if they intend to deal controllable starter Kyle Gibson.

Gibson, 30, currently ranks 12th in the American League with a 3.42 ERA, boasts a career-high with 8.8 K/9 through 21 appearances, and is on pace to eclipse 200 innings for the first time as a big-league pitcher.

Whether or not they plan to retain him in a competitive effort in 2019, or simply want to build value as much as they can now and try their hand at a whopping prospect return the following year hasn’t been specified. In any case, however, Gibson has been a perfect complement behind ace Jose Berrios in the Twins’ rotation, and has earned a chance to continue improving over the next few months.

Archer Talks Escalating

While it’s been a relatively slow weekend for starters ever since the Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ trades, Tampa Bay has continued to field calls and negotiate potential deals involving their current ace and lone starting pitcherChris ArcherJerry Crasnick of ESPN has quoted the Rays’ discussions as “intensifying,” with Archer carrying a “number one starter type of price tag.”

Joel Sherman of the New York Post has cited the Braves and Yankees as outside chances to acquire Archer, though the Yankees are reportedly a “long shot” despite Tampa’s scouted interest in pitching prospect Justus Sheffield. Sources have told Ken Rosenthal that the Dodgers may also be interested, but the emerging frontrunner, per Jon Heyman, is in San Diego.

Archer has struggled to return to his once dominant form as an ace in 2014-2015, compiling a 4.10 ERA and 22-36 record, falling victim to the home run bug (1.2 per nine) despite maintaining some solid strikeout and walk numbers (10.5 to 2.9 per nine).

His increased dependence on his offspeed pitches, despite similar velocities with his fastball, could be the clearest culprit. However, even if they were to lose in a trade involving one or two prospect arms, the Padres still boast the best farm system in baseball, and have plenty of options to move around if they decide to shake things up.

About Jack Hendon 164 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!