Back at the end of May, the Mariners and Rays turned some heads, when Tampa Bay sent closer Alex Colome and outfielder Denard Span to Seattle in exchange for a couple of right-handed pitchers – one, a reliever in the upper minors, the other, a low-level starting pitching prospect.
But however unusual and notable a big May deal like that would normally be, this particular deal didn’t quite feel like it was the one to jump-start the trade market. As Brett pointed out so perfectly on Twitter, I think we all “just instinctively exclude all SEA/TB trades as being indicative of anything.”
He was mostly kidding around, but there’s definitely some truth there. The Mariners (and Jerry Dipoto) are routinely one of the most aggressive teams out there and the Rays are constantly pushing anyone who’s not making as little money as possible. So while it was a little surprising to see any two teams put something together so early on, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything about the market as a whole.
But the Nationals move for Royals closer Kelvin Herrera yesterday certainly feels different. Not only is Herrera a bigger name than Colome (though both were closers for their original team), the Nationals and Royals are slightly more typical actors. It’s probably fair to point out that the Royals are not all that unlike the Rays in a lot of ways, while the Nationals are in a particularly compelling “go-for-it” season with Bryce Harper’s foot already out the door, but this move still puts me on slightly higher trade alert than usual.
It also presents this weird, probably unfair issue:
Kelvin Herrera was having an all-star season. So which all-star team should he make?
The answer will probably be "neither" now. Which seems ridiculous.
(If he'd been traded to, say, the Astros, he'd have made the AL team, right?)
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) June 19, 2018
And it also, also means it’s time for a Lukewarm Stove in June …
- And to start, why don’t we chat about everyone’s favorite (LOL!) rumor: Manny Machado to the Cubs. As you know, the Orioles have been shopping Machado since roughly the Winter Meetings and about half the teams in baseball, including (if not featuring) the Chicago Cubs, have been involved at one point or another. As we discussed yesterday, the presence and recent/potential emergence of Addison Russell – plus the inherent small sample flaws of trading for a rental – could make things trickier for the Cubs, but the opportunity to land a talent like Machado does not come around often. It will be discussed, and probably already has been. And although we’ve discussed it to death, there are a couple new wrinkles today.
- First, Robbert Murray (FRS Sports) seems to believe the Orioles might actually hold onto Machado through the year, which is both plausible (given what we know about the Orioles’ ownership) and a move so laughably bad I think Orioles fans would and should protest. Keeping one of the best players in the league on one of the worst teams in baseball for an extra two months when you can get years of quality value in exchange for him is nothing short of reckless. But the Orioles have done strange stuff before, so don’t put it past them.
- The bigger rumor bit from Murray, however, is this: Not only does he paint the Cubs as the team to beat for Machado, but he also adds that a person close to Machado believes that “if there was a team he’d consider re-signing with before hitting free agency, it’s the Cubs.” Ok. It still seems highly unlikely that Machado will do that (he’s all but said it), and maybe this speculation from a person close to Machado is just about his relationship with Albert Almora. There might not be too much of substance here.
- Another reason to slow down for just a second is the inherent issue whenever a rental like Machado (one that you definitely would want your team to re-sign) is involved in a rumor like this. So let’s put it bluntly: unless Machado was going to agree to a below-market extension *before* the deal is finalized, you just can’t advocate for giving up more than you were already willing to give the Orioles for Machado. The only thing the Orioles have to trade are these last few months of control over Machado during the 2018 season – they do not get credit for what’s sure to be a fair market extension (at best!), because they don’t have that to give. With that said, if Machado is willing to ink an extension before the deal is done (which I find extremely unlikely) that *could* make the Cubs more willing/comfortable to trade for him, but again, they should still only be willing to give up what it takes to get him as a rental, because that’s what they’re getting.
- Also from that FRS post, Murray sees Orioles reliever Zach Britton as a risky, but potentially VERY lucrative trade target (the Cubs were interested last summer, but their bullpen is in a much better spot today). And, separately, he believes the Brewers could trade Eric Thames this season (while still going for October) thanks to Jesus Aguilar’s excellent season.
- Ken Rosenthal opens his latest notes at The Athletic with a lengthy discussion about the crossroads the Cardinals now find themselves. So if you need a smile today, start there. But on a more rumory-front, Rosenthal relays information from sources that the Mets are “ready to entertain offers for virtually everyone on their roster.” We had already heard that the Mets were willing to listen on Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, and if they’re willing to listen on those two, then they’re willing to listen on anybody, but this is further confirmation that they might just tear it all down (shortstop Ahmed Rosario, outfielders Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto, and right-handers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman are all listed). Rosenthal does add that the Mets are more willing to part with Syndergaard than deGrom, but it sure seems like you can have anyone. The most realistic trade candidate, though, remains free-agent-to-be and closer Jeurys Familia, but that’ll depend how he looks now that he’s returned from a sore right shoulder.
- But while the Mets may have closers, starters, infielders and outfielders to trade, it’s hard to see just how the Cubs would fit in. While mid-season acquisitions are great and the Cubs team isn’t perfect, it’s not like there’s an obvious need anywhere – especially not if Mike Montgomery continues on pitching the way he has and Yu Darvish comes back healthy soon (which seems likely). So I genuinely don’t know what the Cubs will do this July.
- There’s always room to improve the bullpen, I suppose, but it is worth pointing out that the Cubs don’t have a ton of quality Minor League trade chips. It’ll be an interesting month and a half and I think are rooting interest is just for everyone to remain healthy and there be no need for a trade.
- And, to be sure, even the Cubs themselves have suggested they don’t yet know what they’ll need when the Trade Deadline rolls around. The obvious needs haven’t developed yet. As Theo Epstein told the Sun-Times: “There are some years where it’s obvious you’re going to go out and you need to make a big move or there’s a certain area you’re going to try to address. I think this group, as talented and as deep as we are in most areas, it’s more about observation and maintenance and trying to stay ahead of the depth areas …. We’ll see how we’re playing. We’ll see what the 25-man roster looks like, who’s feeling good, who’s not feeling good, who’s playing well, who’s not playing well.”
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.