We’re gonna dive into the specifics later on in this post, but I thought a fitting intro for today’s Lukewarm Stove was this response from Jon Heyman, when asked who, among the sellers, he believes will be the big winners of the trade deadline:
Among the sellers, I’m going to say the Cubs. As you’ve said, they’ve got so many great pieces to move. I think Rizzo probably stays, Báez may stay, but I can’t see how Bryant and Kimbrel stay. Kimbrel has been fantastic, [the Cubs] should be able to get a haul for him. Zach Davies is another piece to move …. They are so far ahead of anybody else in terms of what they can actually trade and what they should be able to get back …. The Cubs are in a category all by themselves.
The next nine days are going to be a trip. Buckle up.
Could the Reds Trade for Trevor Story?
I pretty much never think the Reds should be going for it, and then they always do. So I suppose a deadline play for Trevor Story, about which Ken Rosenthal speculates in the Athletic, is not unfathomable. But it’s just so hard to really see happening.
With that said, the Reds whiffed on trading for Willy Adames (now with the Brewers) when he was available and their shortstops have a combined 68 wRC+ (27th in MLB) and -0.4 WAR (29th in MLB) this season, so there’s almost unlimited potential for improvement at the position and that’s not meaningless. Moreover, grabbing Story right now not only helps their push for this season, but might also give them a leg up on a free agent deal this winter. He’s going to test the market, no doubt, but you can give him the long sales pitch.
As of today, the Reds’ playoff odds are low, but they have 23 more games against the Pirates and “soon-to-be-deconstructed” Cubs compared to the Brewers 16. It’s not impossible to imagine that a big addition like Story could help them makeup some ground against Milwaukee.
Mets Pitching Needs Increasing
Even before Jacob deGrom was injured, the Mets were looking for starting pitching on the trade market. And although deGrom is not expected to be out for long, GM Zack Scott didn’t seem to have a good sense of when he will return (for what it’s worth, he’s still not throwing).
On top of that, Carlos Carrasco, working his way back from injury, himself, was supposed to provide some pre-deadline relief to the rotation, but his second rehab start went really poorly: “Carrasco’s command was all over the place, and while the starting pitching needy Mets were mulling the possibility of bringing him back to the majors to make his debut on Sunday, this is now up in the air after he failed to reach the three inning mark last night.”
And on top of THAT, former Cub Robert Stock, who’s made two recent starts for the Mets, just suffered a hamstring injury, taking another potential short-term solution of the table (the Mets have already used 15 starters this year). They have just two other pitchers on their 40-man roster who are healthy and in the minors, and only one of those two is even a starting pitcher.
So long story short, they’re as desperate for starting pitching as a true contender can be – will interest in Zach Davies develop? One wonders. The Cubs haven’t officially announced their starting pitchers for this weekend yet, with Kyle Hendricks going tonight and Adbert Alzolay going tomorrow.
Along those lines, the Mets have reportedly shown interest in Diamondbacks righty Merrill Kelly (4.66 ERA, 4.27 FIP), underscoring their desire to add competent starters more than top of the rotation guys, but the Diamondbacks are reluctant to trade him given his 3.5 years of remaining team control. I’m telling you, this all adds up to at least SOME interest in Davies. Maybe not big-prospect-offer, but some interest. I’m completely speculating, but it’s correct.
Interestingly, Mets GM Zack Scott seemed to confirm the Mets interest in starting pitching at the deadline, but brushed away their specific need for a closer (Craig Kimbrel was brought up by Heyman, but Scott wisely side stepped any specificity in his response). Scott did mention, however, that the Mets could use a non-closer high-leverage reliever and so maybe that’s where someone like Andrew Chafin or Ryan Tepera steps in.
For what it’s worth, the Mets bullpen is already one of the top teams by ERA against left-handed batters (3.22, 4th in MLB), but Chafin has kind of dominated everyone this season anyway.
As an aside, Scott tried to explain why he was not interested in adding a position player (Bryant was mentioned, but Scott again sidestepped his name), because he likes his group and thinks the marginal improvement would be negligible. But I don’t know if I fully believe him. We’ve seen the rumors and he needs to maintain that position publicly. Just letting you know it was mentioned.
Kimbrel and Chafin Competition
Hey since we’ve mentioned Craig Kimbrel and Andrew Chafin, I thought I’d list some of the closers and non-closing, high-leverage relievers that could be competition for either guy over the next nine days. To be clear, Kimbrel has no equal in this market and will (or, well … should) command the biggest return for any reliever, while Andrew Chafin is right up there for non-closing relievers. His left-handedness but split-neutral dominance and track record of success is a big plus.
Among the available relievers via Jon Heyman:
Closers: Ian Kennedy (Rangers, 2.59 ERA, 15 SV), Kendall Graveman (0.90 ERA, 9 SV), Cesar Valdez (Orioles, 5.88 ERA, 8 SV), Raisel Iglesias (Angels, 3.40 ERA, 19 SV), Richard Rodriguez (Pirates, 2.65 ERA, 13 SV).
Non-closer relievers of note: Mychal Gibbons (Rockies, 3.04 ERA), Taylor Rodgers (Twins, 3.43 ERA)
Obviously, not all of those are created equal, not everyone is actually going to be moved, and other relievers can/will join the party. These are just some of the names mentioned by Heyman. Brett wrote earlier about what kind of return you can get for very good, non-closing relievers.
Big Infield Trade Market
Eduardo Escobar (near-certain), Adam Frazier (90%), Kris Bryant (90%), and Trevor Story (less-certain) are the big four infielders FIRMLY available at the trade deadline, and those percentages/notes in parenthesis are how confident Jon Heyman is that each gets traded. On Story, in particular, Heyman wonders if Rockies ownership might step in to make sure the franchise doesn’t lose another face in the course of a few months (Nolan Arenado being the other). It’s unclear if that means an extension now or just nixing any deal in an effort to reengage later on, but, well, yeah that’s that.
Of course, the Cubs also have a couple other infielders, Javy Báez and Anthony Rizzo, that are theoretically available, but Heyman didn’t seem to believe either would be on the move at the deadline. He did seem to indicate a greater effort to extend Báez now (versus Rizzo, whom he does see sticking with the Cubs long-term, but maybe that gets settled in the offseason? It was unclear), but he did say there is a “chance” Báez gets dealt. I still think both are staying put, probably long-term, but we’ll see how it shakes out.
Jayson Stark, meanwhile, hears that the Royals may finally be willing to deal long-time Cubs-fan trade target Whit Merrifield, 32, who leads the league with 24 stolen bases (in 25 attempt). However, the Royals have signaled an interest in trading him for only near-MLB ready prospects, which, in Stark’s estimation, makes it likely that he sticks around.
Odds and Ends:
• According to Ken Rosenthal, the Oakland A’s need a left-handed hitter and an impact reliever, the latter of which obviously carries some Cubs overlap, but their farm system ranks 29th in MLB, so perhaps that’ll make a deal more difficult to complete.
• Royals starter Danny Duffy felt like an obvious trade candidate for a while, but he suffered a left flexor strain and is likely “off the list of available starting pitchers now.” The Dodgers were said to have some interest, though we already know they’re interested in all starting pitching at all costs.
• The Houston Astros are looking for relief and center field help, checking in on Starling Marte, who has also received interest from the Phillies, Yankees, and Giants. For what it’s worth, the Padres are routinely mentioned as suitors for outfielder Joey Gallo, though the Rangers have waffled on their desire to move him, so maybe San Diego pops up as an option for Marte soon, too. They’re different players in terms of type of impact and control, but when you need an outfield bat, you need an outfield bat.
• The Dodgers just picked up outfielder Billy McKinney from the Mets. He’d been DFA’d last week, and has been bouncing around this year.