Whether it’s New York or somewhere else, today’s rumors of Kris Bryant being “as good as gone,” were pretty telling, when you consider the source (Jeff Passan). It’s not that I didn’t think Bryant was available – of course he is and has been – but in order of certainty to be traded, I would have ranked him behind Joc Pederson (already gone), Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Chafin, and Zach Davies. So if Bryant is “as good as gone” maybe that means we should be taking the over on Cubs players traded this month?
Here’s some other stuff.
Rumor Round-Up, Berrios Asking Price
Aside from the Kris Bryant stuff and the Craig Kimbrel stuff, both of which Brett got into earlier today, Jeff Passan had some other interesting notes that feel worth discussing (there’s so much more even than what I’m about to share, so really, go check that post out for yourself).
For example …
• Sources have told Passan that in a market already craving starting pitching, teams are especially coveting controllable starters, with Jose Berrios (1.5 years of remaining control) at the top of the pile. At this point, it’s fair to say that Berrios is the most attractive overall starter, but it’s still not clear if the Twins are going to move him, because …
• … According to Dan Hayes at The Athletic, the Twins asked for a pre-arb player *and* two top-100 prospect for Berrios in early trade talks. Now, whether that has come down closer to the deadline as the Twins inch closer to definite sellers is another question, but that’s the sort of ask that makes me think he’s not quite as available as we may have initially suspected.
• In any case, the Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Blue Jays (and maybe the Rays and Angels) are the teams seeking starters with more control than just a couple months.
• As of now, there are as many as 17(!) buyers in the market, which is just absurd and potentially great news for obvious sellers with lots of pieces like the Cubs. And although Passan concedes that the Braves and Nationals (and I would add the Yankees) could all switch gears if this next week or so doesn’t go as planned, the Indians and the Reds could be moving in the other direction. Again, that is a silly amount of buyers (thanks, two-wild card system) and a great piece of info for the Cubs. Between this deadline and the offseason, they have an opportunity to help set up the next five+ years or so.
• Although Kimbrel might have the widest market overall, the order of priciest available deadline candidates goes in this order: Byron Buxton, Joey Gallo, Jose Berrios, and then Craig Kimbrel and Kris Bryant. With that said, Buxton, Gallo, and Berrios each have 1.5 years of control and their teams are still not ready to let go of extension efforts.
• And when it comes to Gallo, specifically, Passan mentions the Padres (who are reportedly willing to go over luxury tax at the deadline), the Yankees (who I still just can’t see going all out at the deadline), and the Blue Jays.
Where is the Zach Davies Smoke?
I have to say, for as many rumors as I seek out (and for how pitching hungry this market has been) I have seen next to NO rumors about Cubs starting pitcher Zach Davies.
And although I know he’s not a top-of-the-rotation-type of starter – or even middle-of-the-rotation – the market for “the good ol workaday starter” such as Tyler Anderson (Pirates), Merrill Kelly (Diamondbacks), and Mike Minor (Royals) is considered to be “ripe.”
So again, this is more of a question than a revelation … where is all the smoke, especially given how everyone knows the Cubs are selling? Surely the Cubs don’t feel the need to hang onto Davies, who has been little more than perfectly fine – especially with a desire to see each of Alec Mills, Justin Steele, Keegan Thompson, and Trevor Williams more after the deadline?
For what it’s worth, both Passan and Ken Rosenthal have been clear that the Dodgers are seeking non-frontline help. Meanwhile, Robert Murray reaffirms that rotation help should be the “top priority” for the Mets, but what was once considered a search for a back-end starter has evolved after Jacob deGrom’s injury. Now, the Mets are connected to Jose Berrios and Jon Gray, who are in a league above Davies.
On a related note, the Yankees, Phillies, Cardinals, Angels, and Dodgers were among the 20 teams at Cole Hamels (a mid-to-back of the rotation free agent starter) showcase, which apparently went quite well. He won’t be ready for about a month, but he’s available for only cash and could perhaps be just as effective as Davies.
Still … I expect more Davies rumors to pop up. I just do. He isn’t going to net the Cubs a substantial return, but some team out there should want the five-ish competitive innings he can give you per start. The market is that hungry for starting pitching.
Starling Marte’s Market
Now that Starling Marte has rejected the Marlins half-effort at an extension (3 years, $30M), he’s firmly on the trade market and his personal market is beginning to take shape:
There is expected to be a strong market for Marte, with the Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves likely to show interest. The Astros have received solid production from Myles Straw and Chas McCormick in center field and might prefer to upgrade their bullpen. The Phillies and Braves, meanwhile, both rank in the bottom-five in OPS in center field and desperately need upgrades as they battle in an increasingly winnable NL East.
Although Marte (and Joey Gallo, for that matter) are both outfielders with solid bats that could be seen as competition for Bryant, Bryant’s versatility really makes him a different target altogether. I believe that just as myself, but I’ve also seen it mentioned several times from Passan and Rosenthal, in particular. That’s not to say a team can’t decide to go with one of the others in lieu of Bryant, but it’s just not quite an apples-to-apples competition.
Yankees Deadline Plans
But did you notice the Yankees were once again mentioned as a potential landing spot for Marte? They are included in rumors all over the place this past month, indicating at least some reported desire to buy at the deadline, but they are in fourth place of the AL east, 7.5 games out of first with the fourth best odds in their division to reach the playoffs at all this year.
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, however, that’s not stopping them from exploring buy-side deals. In fact, he outlines their specific needs as an outfielder (preferably someone left-handed who can play center field) and a starting pitcher. For the former, the Yankees have checked in on Starling Marte as well as Joey Gallo and Max Kepler. For the latter, however, they are more willing to gamble that their internal options will provide enough relief.
So I guess your thing to watch here is the Yankees involvement in the outfield market (which could hit the Cubs in terms of competition for Kris Bryant, Jake Marisnick, or others) if they win enough from here to the deadline. If they don’t, there won’t be a fire sale, but that would be one less buyer, which is not what you want for the Cubs.
Phillies Deadline Plans
It is interesting to read all this about the Phillies deadline plans, especially considering their current interest in Craig Kimbrel and their prior interest in Kris Bryant, but … it’s very confusing:
“John Middleton, the team’s most influential owner, has said he isn’t willing to exceed the luxury-tax limit if the Phillies are more than one move from fielding a championship-caliber team. The Phillies are about $4 million below the $210 million cap. The penalties for exceeding it are not crippling. The Phillies do not boast a strong farm system and are reluctant to part with the few high-end prospects they do have. They are inclined to spend money, not prospects, to obtain whatever upgrades they pursue this month. But that might mean paying the luxury tax for the first time in franchise history.”
So let’s get this straight. The Phillies don’t want to go over the luxury tax, but they’re very close to the threshold, but also the penalties aren’t very extreme. Oh, and they don’t have a strong farm system, don’t want to trade their high-end prospects, and yet somehow ARE inclined to spend money to obtain upgrades. Uh … what? I think I know less about their plans than when I started.
Perhaps this is just one of those leverage plays. I don’t know. You never really do with Dave Dombrowski.
Nationals Deadline Plans
Currently five games under .500, but 6.0 games back in the tight NL East, the Washington Nationals aren’t declaring anything yet:
Mike Rizzo says he believes the Nationals are buyers right now but will take a “dual approach” of dropping lines as sellers, too. Said that means they will likely act pretty close to the deadline, meaning the next 7-10 days will decide the ultimate direction.
— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) July 20, 2021
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said he expects Max Scherzer to be a National the day after the trade deadline. Anything that could change the calculus? “I think if we turn into definite sellers, everything would be on the table, I would think. Which I don’t foresee.”
— Maria Torres (@maria_torres3) July 20, 2021
Pretty easy to see why things often push right up to the deadline, right? It takes only a couple teams in the middle that want to wait to the end to hold things up – if they’re selling, it changes that market completely, if they’re buying and you’re the seller … what if they wind up with the best bid later on? Then you have to wait. Which makes other teams wait. And so on.
Odds and Ends:
• According to Jeff Passan, “executives across baseball agree Baez and Rizzo are far less likely to be moved” compared to the rest of the Cubs players on expiring contracts, which tracks with our gut and the general reports of potentially trying one last time for an extension before the deadline. However, according to David Kaplan, there hasn’t actually been any new movement on that front, at least with respect to Anthony Rizzo.
Here is the Pre-Kap of tonight’s #Cubs at #Cardinals matchup in St. Louis. Plus, @ARizzo44 says things are status quo regarding contract talks before the trade deadline. He joined us on @kapjhood on @ESPN1000 this morning. Check out the podcast here: https://t.co/LPEgux3VDF pic.twitter.com/mCoJxrgd8W
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) July 20, 2021
• Now, it remains possible that the Cubs haven’t changed their previous offers to Rizzo or Baez, but did check in just to get a sense of their willingness to re-sign with the team this offseason (either after being traded or after ending their existing contracts naturally). And the Cubs should have an advantage there. Not only do Rizzo and Baez both clearly like playing for Chicago, both players will receive and decline a qualifying offer, which will attach them to draft pick compensation making it tougher for other teams to sign them vis a vis the Cubs (who would experience only an opportunity cost, not a true loss of a pick/IFA money).
• The Twins are still trying to extend Byron Buxton, but according to Jeff Passan, an extension remains “a long shot.” That means that a trade is a possibility, and while “every team is in play,” Passan calls out the Rays, Brewers, and A’s as possibilities given Buxton’s low financial cost. Just something to watch.
• Sticking with the Twins, Dan Hayes writes that in addition to Berrios and Buxton, there could be (and/or already has been) interest in Taylor Rogers, Kenta Maeda, Nelson Cruz, Andrelton Simmons, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Alex Colome, and Hansel Robles. Basically, they’re the AL Cubs – lots of available players, still looking to compete in 2022, but almost certainly ready to sell on July 30th.