Wednesday, July 3, 2013
NL trade deadline preview
By Buster Olney
The perception in some corners around baseball is that the Chicago Cubs fared well in their trade of Scott Feldman to the Baltimore Orioles Tuesday. "They turned a one-year rental into pieces that can help [going forward]," said an AL evaluator. "They signed him knowing that they could get something for him if he bounced back, and it paid off."
No one doubts that Jake Arrieta is talented, and as the Orioles know from their experience with Chris Davis, sometimes it just takes longer for some players to blossom than others. Maybe that will happen with Arrieta now that he is with the Cubs, a team that continues to collect as much volume as possible, in the same way the Astros have.
There are more deals to come from the Cubs in the days ahead, with Kevin Gregg and Matt Garza replacing Feldman on their front burner. When David DeJesus returns from the disabled list later this month, the Cubs probably will assess the interest for him and Nate Schierholtz and trade one, but not both.
Beyond the Cubs, here is how the trade market is shaping up for the rest of the teams in the National League.
Aaron Hill just came back, and they remain hopeful that Adam Eaton will return sometime soon to the everyday lineup. Their trade-market focus is pitching: They have been among the teams talking about Gregg for bullpen help, and about Yovani Gallardo and others for their rotation.
The perception among rival officials is that they are open to moving left-hander Tyler Skaggs in a significant deal, but not Archie Bradley.
J.J. Putz has not looked good since returning from the disabled list.
They are looking for relief help, actively, at a time when the Cubs are actively marketing Gregg. Keep in mind that left-handed hitters are 6-for-48 against him this year (.125).
Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty is known as a dabbler, someone who will test the temperature of the market very carefully before diving in. Cincinnati doesn’t have a glaring problem, given the overall strength of the rotation and the lineup, but could look to add bullpen depth.
They have hung in the Ricky Nolasco conversations, which may be resolved as soon as today, and rival executives say Colorado has been seeking relief help as well. No matter what they do, the Rockies’ moves figure to be measured: They won’t take on much money, and they won’t give up top prospects.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Even though a strong argument could be made that the first 14 months of the Guggenheim ownership might represent the most inefficient period of player personnel decisions in baseball history -- from the already outdated contract of Andre Ethier to the extraordinary overpayment in the trade with the Red Sox -- the Dodgers remain aggressive, prepared to make the biggest, boldest moves.
They’ll get another starting pitcher, whether it’s Nolasco later today or Cliff Lee if he becomes available, and if Carlos Marmol doesn’t work out, they’ll jump at somebody else. They’ll look for an infielder, perhaps someone like Michael Young. Yasiel Puig has helped to give them hope.
Nolasco probably will be the first to go, but some rival evaluators think that Miami will be at the center of the relief market, with Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn and Ryan Webb among the bullpen guys who could be on the move.
They have made it known they are open for business and are willing to discuss almost anyone, including Yovani Gallardo and relievers such as Francisco Rodriguez. But Gallardo -- who is making $7.75 million this year, and will make $11.25 million in 2014, leading up to a team option for 2015 -- is not helping his market value with his perfomance (4.78 ERA).
Rival evaluators are seeing increased effort in his delivery, rather than nice and easy velocity, and wonder if the Brewers might be better off waiting to see if Gallardo can bounce back in August or September to help their chances for decent trade return.
New York Mets
The cupboard is really thin. Rival evaluators don’t think they have much to offer beyond the core guys they won’t trade, and even if they did swap Marlon Byrd or Brandon Lyon, they probably wouldn’t get much in return.
Byrd is among the outfielders discussed by the Giants, and Lyon could be depth for a team such as the Red Sox, given his history of pitching for John Farrell. David Aardsma has thrown OK so far for the Mets.
Their ownership and front office have been searching to identify the tipping point: When is the right time to deal, and who are the right players to deal, in light of the upcoming TV contract negotiations and the inherent obligation to fans who’ve already bought tickets for the second half of this season?
The team is gradually making the decisions easier, because the Phillies are now 9 1/2 games out of first place in the NL East, and 8 games out in the wild-card race. Last year, there was hope that as players returned from the disabled list, the Phillies could climb back into the race, and in the final weeks, Philadelphia did make it interesting. But in 2013, there isn’t the same dynamic in play.
The Dodgers would love for the Phillies to market Lee, but that may never happen. There figures to be a conversation between the Phillies and Chase Utley to determine what his preferences are in the second half of this season. Jonathan Papelbon has been blowing saves of late, but overall, he’s still one of the best options in the relief market.
Only the Toronto Blue Jays have had to pitch in more bullpen innings than the Bucs, and as the Braves and Reds can attest from 2011, heavy relief use early in the season can lead to late-season problems. The Pirates are fully cognizant of all that, which is why Jason Grilli got a five-day mini-vacation last week.
The Pirates will monitor the relief market, but whatever they do will not complicate their long-term plans: They will likely work conservatively.
St. Louis Cardinals
They are one of the more intriguing teams in the market and in a power position, because if they decide at any point to get aggressive, they have the cache of prospects who could net them any player they target.
Shortstop Pete Kozma has a .590 OPS, which is third to last among shortstops qualified in the batting races, but it’s not as if there are a lot of strong alternatives available: Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox has one home run and an OPS of .660. And to put Kozma’s production in complete context, Elvis Andrus -- who just got paid in a big way -- has a lower OPS than Kozma, and two of the top offensive shortstops, Jhonny Peralta and Everth Cabrera, are being investigated in the Biogenesis scandal. There just aren’t many high-production shortstops these days.
The Cardinals talked about Asdrubal Cabrera in the offseason and maybe there would be some deal for the Indians to make -- for pitching -- that would aid Cleveland’s push for the AL Central title, but it’d be a very complicated midseason conversation.
If the Twins ever decide to market Glen Perkins, the Cardinals could be a great trade partner.
San Diego Padres
They could have an advantage in the Garza discussions with the Cubs, because Chicago GM Jed Hoyer and VP of scouting and player development Jason McLeod helped build the San Diego farm system when both were in San Diego.
But the Padres have to ask a very hard question before investing assets in Garza, who will either walk away as a free agent or require a significant contract: Are we for real? On one hand, the Padres are 2 1/2 games out of first place in the NL West, so they’re close enough to contend -- and on the other hand, they’re four games under .500 and not playing well. If they trade prospects for Garza, the effort could be wasted.
It may make more sense for San Diego to invest in a less costly pitcher than Garza, as it looks to augment the rotation.
San Francisco Giants
San Francisco is in a free fall, losing 22 of its past 33 games, and the Giants aren’t perceived to have a lot to deal. If and when they make trades, they’ll be looking to add players who will help them not only in 2013, but in 2014 as well.
As poorly as the rotation has performed, the Giants’ greatest need right now might be for a right-handed hitting outfielder, such as Alex Rios, to aid their desolate offense, which was no-hit by Homer Bailey Tuesday night.
The division is so packed that the Giants could move into first place in just a matter of a few days, but as of this morning, San Francisco is a last-place team.
Rival evaluators say they have talked about adding pitching depth, whether it be in their rotation or bullpen.
Tomorrow, we’ll run through the American League.
By the way: Evaluators liked the Feldman trade for the Orioles too, because rather than wait for some upper-echelon option to emerge, they aggressively worked to make sure they got some help.
Feldman is cheaper than Garza will be, and certainly less than a Lee will cost, but Orioles Manager Buck Showalter knows Feldman, given his Rangers background; he knows that as a ground ball pitcher, Feldman is going to be OK pitching in a bandbox home ballpark; and knows that can pitch out of the bullpen if necessary. And he’s having a good season (3.46 ERA).
Like every other team, the Orioles would love to have five 240-inning starting pitchers. But in lieu of that, Showalter seems comfortable setting up right-hander/left-hander tandems and taking advantage of the increasingly specialized platoons that are being used by a lot of managers. Last weekend, for example, when Joe Girardi started his right-handed lineup against T.J. McFarland, Showalter wound up pulling the lefty after just 2 2/3 innings and installing right-hander Kevin Gausman -- who buzzed through the lineup of right-handed hitters.
Some numbers on the Homer Bailey's no-hitter, from ESPN Stats & Information:
• Three Reds pitchers have thrown multiple no-hitters (Johnny Vander Meer, Jim Maloney and Bailey).
• Four active pitchers have thrown multiple no-hitters (Mark Buehrle, Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander and Bailey).
• Eight pitcher-catcher combos have multiple no-hitters; Bailey and Ryan Hanigan are the second for the Reds, joining Johnny Vander Meer and Ernie Lombardi.
• This was the ninth no-hitter against the defending World Series champion.
• The Reds have 16 no-hitters, the fourth most in MLB history. Conversely, the Giants have been no hit 16 times, third most by any franchise.
• The 17 starts between no-hitters for Bailey is tied for seventh fewest in MLB history.
• Bailey's career 4.36 ERA is the worst for any pitcher in history with multiple no-hitters.
• After throwing 71 percent fastballs in his first no-hitter at an average velocity of 91.0 mph, Bailey upped both his usage and velocity to 77 percent and 94.5 mph the second time around (see table).
• His 94.5 mph on his fastball was his second-fastest velocity in any start since 2010. The only start that surpassed it was his last start prior to this one (95.4 mph against Oakland on June 26).
• His fastball peaked at 97 mph on the pitches that struck out Pablo Sandoval to end the seventh inning and Tony Abreu for the second out in the ninth inning.
• Stuck with it: He threw 77 percent fastballs, his most in a start in his past three seasons.
• The NL Central now has a case for baseball's toughest division. Check out the run differential for each division:
1. AL East: 144
2. NL Central: 117
3. AL Central: 17
4. NL West: -86
5. AL West: -99
6. NL East: -113
And today will be better than yesterday.