The Yankees and Mariners got together on a pretty notable deal this weekend, as Edwin Encarnacion becomes the latest big bat to join the Yankees lineup. Trade season coming early this year, or just Jerry Dipoto gonna Jerry Dipoto?
We shall see …
- MLB Trade Rumors busted out their annual top trade candidate rankings, and the dude at the very top, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the guy many of us want desperately for the Cubs: Giants lefty Will Smith. The rental reliever has been dominant the last couple seasons, and has already been attached vaguely to the Cubs by rumor. Thing is, there is not a contender in baseball that could not accommodate Smith and would not want him in their bullpen. Hence his appropriate designation as the belle of the trade ball, and there are few if any prospects the Cubs could consider off limits when discussing a Smith trade if they wanted a real shot at him. If that makes you uncomfortable, pine elsewhere.
- What you notice in the rankings – which really make for a more interesting look at the types of guys who could be available, rather than a true set of rankings, because it’s not like free agency where everyone on the list is definitely available – is that there is a high volume of lefty relievers and complementary bench pieces, each of whom could be of particular interest to the Cubs.
- Speaking of which, Jordan Bastian’s latest Inbox reminds us that the Cubs will be looking at lefty relievers this trade season – “Some left-handed relievers whose names will probably pop up in the weeks leading up to the Deadline include Jake Diekman, Sean Doolittle, Brad Hand, Will Smith and Tony Watson, among others” – and he also points out just how incredibly bad current Cubs lefty relievers have been against fellow lefties this season. Basically bottom five in the league across the board. And for as much talent as the Cubs have at AAA Iowa (and/or have already shuttled up) waiting to fill into the bullpen (Rowan Wick, Dillon Maples, Dakota Mekkes, James Norwood, Tony Barnette, Craig Brooks, etc.), most of the guys who jump out at you are righties.
- Ken Rosenthal’s latest at The Athletic looks at the (once again) middle-ground spot the Nationals find themselves in. They are just loaded with talent, and yet they’re buried under .500, and in desperate need of a hot streak lest they look like should-be-sellers in a month. If the Nationals don’t get hot, would they dream of trading away Max Scherzer, 34, while he still has considerable value?
- After this year, Scherzer will get 10/5 no-trade rights, so if you were going to maximize his trade value and if you considered yourselves out of the race next month, wouldn’t you be derelict in not at least thinking about it? Also, consider Scherzer’s ridiculous contract: not only does he come at a healthy $30 million AAV (which will scare some teams in this luxury-tax-sensitive era), but in terms of actual dollars being paid out, he gets $15 million this year, next year, and in 2021 … and then $15 million each year from 2022 through 2028, even though he won’t still be on your team. Obviously the Nationals could negotiate around that in a trade, but it would reduce their return – the contract was structured in a way to frontload performance while dramatically backloading payment.
- Should the Nationals sell, you have to think the Cubs will explore lefty Sean Doolittle. The rub will be that the 32-year-old is having some down results this year, relative to his best seasons, has a pretty extensive injury history, and is making $6 million this year (we don’t know how much flexibility the Cubs have left to add “real” salary after the Craig Kimbrel deal). To the upside, Doolittle is frequently awesome, is much better than a mere match-up lefty (but pretty much always humiliates lefties), and is controlled through next year on a $6.5 million team option.
- Meanwhile, the Padres – owners of a better record than the Nationals, and only 4.5 out of the Wild Card – have some pieces they’ll likely consider moving regardless of competitiveness considerations. Per the San Diego U-T: “Virtually every position player besides Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer and Fernando Tatis Jr. can be had.” Outfielder Hunter Renfroe comes in for particular mention in the piece, which would be a really interesting bat to see on the market, given the monster year he’s having (.256/.305/.647, 23 homers). The 27-year-old is a former top prospect who has taken a long time to break through, and isn’t even arbitration-eligible for the first time until next year (as a Super Two). Yes, his value is extremely heavily-dependent on his power, because he strikes out a ton and doesn’t walk, but he plays solid defense and the power is legit.
- I really don’t think you’d see the Cubs seriously involved in the pursuit of a guy like Renfroe at a time like this, though it’s certainly interesting that what the Padres would reportedly be looking to pick up is a big league ready center fielder or an offensively-inclined catcher. Suffice to say, the Cubs *could* accommodate those desires in a variety of ways (and then, say, Renfroe becomes a corner outfielder with Jason Heyward making up more time in center field), but we’re getting dangerously close to fantasy land if you try to actually put a mid-season deal together between teams in competitive situations for cost-controlled players. It happens! But it’s rare.
- The Padres also have Franmil Reyes in the outfield (similar profile, but four years younger), as well as Wil Myers (only 28, but bat has fallen way off and has $20 million coming his way annually in 2020-22), but I don’t think they’d be likely trade pieces.
- What about Padres pitchers? Well, there’s overwhelmingly dominant closer Kirby Yates, but the Padres don’t sound at all inclined to deal him right now short of a monster return.