Good morning Mets fans, and welcome back to another rumor roundup! With the first blockbuster trade on the board, neighboring teams are under more pressure to make moves as rival front offices begin putting pieces together and negotiating with free agents. Here are a handful of updates from yesterday’s action:
Yankees Not Finished Adding Pitchers Yet
While the acquisition of former Mariners ace James Paxton has grabbed most of the headlines across the past 18 hours, it’s worth noting that the New York Yankees are still interested in signing a free agent starter, as first reported by Jon Morosi of MLB Network. Per Morosi, finishing the rotation will likely be a higher priority for the Yankees than signing either of 2019’s young sluggers in Manny Machado or Bryce Harper.
Even such lavish names as Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ remain on the docket for general manager Brian Cashman, who despite parting with a prized pitching prospect in Justus Sheffield, inherits an arbitration-eligible lefty with a 2.90 FIP in over 400 innings dating back to 2016.
Inking even Nathan Eovaldi or Dallas Keuchel would push CC Sabathia into the five-spot and leave Sonny Gray on the bubble – a development that appeared to be miles away just a few months earlier in the season. Even then, the Yankees’ starting rotation amassed a 16.9 fWAR that ranked fifth in the major leagues, though more concrete stats like ERA (4.05, 14th in baseball) and total innings (861.2, 18th) could be improved.
Astros Draw Line at Whitley in Paxton Deal, Offer Morton Contract
The Yankees may in fact owe the Houston Astros a box of chocolates for their role in the Paxton trade, as Morosi also tweeted out yesterday afternoon that the Mariners’ decision to strike a deal with Cashman was precipitated by Houston’s refusal to hand over Forrest Whitley – who currently ranks on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list as the best pitching prospect in baseball and eighth-best prospect overall.
Just a year younger than Sheffield at 21, Whitley made just eight starts with Double-A Corpus Christi due to a drug suspension, posting a 3.76 ERA while striking out 34 batters and walking 11 over just 26.1 innings of work. Sheffield made 25 starts between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, pitching to a pristine 2.48 ERA, though admittedly averaging fewer strikeouts and more walks per nine innings (9.5 and 3.9 to Whitley’s 11.6 and 3.8, respectively). Whitley’s upside, as evidenced by a 2017 campaign in which he shoved a 2.83 ERA and 4.21 K/BB ratio in 23 starters, was clearly too high to turn away from, most likely as one piece in a multi-prospect deal.
In a (seemingly) correspondent move, the Astros pounded the pavement on the mild side of this offseason’s crop of free agent pitchers, extending a one-year offer (financials unknown) to Charlie Morton (first reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today). Morton, 35, first burst onto the scene with an impressive 14-7 record, 3.62 ERA, 10 K/9, and 1.8 bWAR at the back of Houston’s rotation in their championship run two years ago. He followed up with an even more remarkable 2018 showing, going 15-3 with a 3.13 ERA, 10.8 K/9, and a 3.5 bWAR that earned him an All-Star nomination. Of course, it would be unfair to look at such numbers as “mild,” but given both his age and ties to Houston, Morton may not be in for too substantial a pay raise.
Indians Getting Calls About Gomes, Starters
Back to trade rumors, The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal recently reported that the Cleveland Indians have been “drawing significant interest” in catcher Yan Gomes as well as their coveted trio of starting pitchers in Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Carlos Carrasco. A rival executive tells Rosenthal that the Indians’ front office has been “scrambling to get young players.”
Gomes, 31, hit .266/.313/.449 in 112 games with the Indians last season, nabbing 29% of baserunners (7th-highest rate among qualifiers) and scoring the fourth-best frame rate (0.6 RAA, per StatCorner). By Fangraphs’ defensive metrics, Gomes has been the fourth most valuable catcher since 2014. He’s owed roughly $7MM next season, and a combined $20MM leading up to his walk year in 2021, but given the dearth of offensively-viable catchers in baseball, his numbers will surely fly should Cleveland look hard enough for an interested team.
Finding suitors for their pitchers may be a different story, however. While all three of the aforementioned starters have impressed on a consistent basis, Bauer will be controllable through 2021, while Kluber and Carrasco enter buyout years and will likely command high prices on the trade market that may be tough to satisfy this far ahead of Opening Day. Stacking up on young talent as teams like the San Diego Padres and (in years prior) New York Yankees may be the Indians’ best bet as they try to remodel their core.