The clock continues to tick toward the Trade Deadline, but most deals won’t go down until the thick of Brett’s Blog-A-Thon a week from today (or, well, so he hopes). To tide us over, Dan Szymborski imagines a series of theoretical deals that could go down over the next week, and unsurprisingly, the Cubs are heavily featured.
One deal sends Anthony Rizzo to the Boston Red Sox for three top-20(ish) organizational prospects, another sends Kris Bryant to the Mets (more on that in a second), but my favorite sends Craig Kimbrel to Toronto for a trio of infielders (listed in order of level): (1) Miguel Hiraldo, 20, is an above-average offensive shortstop/second baseman in A-Ball. (2) Jordan Groshans, 21, was MLB Pipeline’s No. 32 overall prospect before the season and is currently crushing Double-A pitching in his first attempt at that level, and finally (3) Kevin Smith, freshly 25, is absolutely demolishing Triple-A pitching and is projected to be a 3 WAR player in the big leagues (if he wasn’t blocked by Bo Bichette and Marcus Semien).
Frankly, I see a lottery ticket low-level guy, a sure-fire top-100 prospect already in Double-A, *and* an MLB ready middle infielder (just before the Cubs are about to lose several infielders to free agency) as a very solid return for Kimbrel in this era. Like, too solid to be true?
More Pressure on the Mets:
The New York Post is already pressuring the Mets into a pursuit of Kris Bryant at the deadline, but now SNY is adding to the noise with a mock trade, including (but not featuring as a headliner) a former Cubs prospect:
A Top 10 prospect in Vientos and two Top 30 guys in De La Cruz and Hernandez.
Are you doing this trade to bring Kris Bryant to the Mets? 🤔
— SNY (@SNYtv) July 22, 2021
Since being signed away from the Cubs as a Minor League free agent, Oscar De La Cruz has progressed upwards through the Mets system from Double-A to Triple-A … but not because of his performance (it has generally gone very poorly since he left the Cubs). Needless to say, he would not be the centerpiece of the deal. That honor would lie with Mark Vientos, who, funny enough, is also a big part of the more attractive trade package Dan Szymborski put together at FanGraphs (Vientos and J.T. Ginn).
None of these guys are top-100 prospects, but Ginn and Vientos are both clear organizational top-10 guys with some upside. Ginn was the No. 52 overall pick in 2020 and has a 2.56 ERA over his first eight professional starts. Vientos is a 21-year-old third baseman slashing .276/.352/.594 (146 wRC+) in his first attempt at Double-A this season (albeit with a lot of strikeouts). For two months of a positional player, you’d take that.
So to answer the question above? For the De La Cruz package? Less intriguing, even though I do like Vientos and his proximity to the big leagues. But the Szymborski package? Yeah, that one I’d accept if I’m the Cubs.
Giants Hot for Kimbrel (or Chafin)?
At The Athletic, Grant Brisbee really underscores how hungry the San Francisco Giants are to shore up their bullpen, looping both Craig Kimbrel and Andrew Chafin (among others) into the conversation. And it certainly all makes sense. The Giants have managed to capture some lightning in a bottle this season, which would be a shame to waste given the perennial competitiveness of the Dodgers and clear upswing of the Padres, but they’re still ahead by just 2.0 games.
Meanwhile, their entire bullpen (1.4 WAR) has been worth less than Craig Kimbrel (2.0 WAR) on his own, and barely more than Chafin (1.o WAR). That’s not hugely useful trio of statistics, but I think it paints some kind of picture? If that doesn’t work for you, they also have 17 blown saves this year (7th most in MLB).
In any case, Brisbee explains that for however much the Giants may want a top-shelf reliever, the market demand is extremely high and the supply is extremely low, making the prices exorbitant. Now, here’s the tricky part. The Giants actually do have the prospects to get a deal done for Kimbrel if they wanted. MLB Pipeline gave them five top-100 prospects before the season and FanGraphs kept them with five (albeit in a different order) with their mid-season update. However, it sounds as though Brisbee expects them to use some of that prospect currency in broader deals for starting pitching this offseason. It’s the classic short-term/long-term debate. And although Kimbrel is one of those super valuable postseason arms, the Giants aren’t actually *guaranteed* to be the division leaders when the regular season comes to a close, so their willingness to go after him might not be as high as some other, more certain contenders.
From all that, Brisbee’s takeaway seems to be that someone like Chafin, who can immediately help, but won’t cost as much as Kimbrel, could be the correct route to take. It’s fairly sound advice, but it doesn’t change the fact that Kimbrel is the clearly better option. Good convo though. Check it out.
The Phillies and Cubs Match Up:
The Phillies are “not selling” according to President of Baseball Ops Dave Dombrowski. Indeed, rather than even standing pat, they’re expected to buy. Indeed indeed, they’re not just expected to buy, the perception from other clubs, based on the caliber of players they’re reportedly after, is that they’re willing to exceed the $210M luxury tax threshold. So what do they need? Well, a back-end starter and upgrades in the bullpen … which just so happens to be exactly what Jed Hoyer has in his cupboard (Zach Davies, Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera, etc.):
Sources say the Phillies have asked about “everyone and everything” in their hunt for more pitching, but their primary targets have been late-inning relievers and No. 4 starter types. They also haven’t ruled out trading for a center fielder, but that appears to be a lesser priority.
Craig Kimbrel is name-checked, but it seems to be by default, though there is a specific mention of the Phillies checking in on Kris Bryant (and Starling Marte) for the outfield. That is obviously a LOT of overlap. With that said, the Phillies don’t have a particularly strong minor league system, so we’ll see if they have what it takes to get it down without touching their big league roster (which is not necessarily what I want, but rather what I’m suspecting they’d prefer).
Odds and Ends:
• Peter Gammons has a long read at The Athletic, but tucked in there is this idea that versatile players – like Kris Bryant – might also have some extra trade deadline value because of their unique ability to help teams counteract the relief-matchup tactics opposing managers often deploy in the postseason. I never really thought of that, but I could see how it would help (the ability to move Bryant all over opens up options for pinch hitters). Not sure that’s a new interest this year, though.
• Nick Castellanos was hit by a pitch on Friday and has basically not played since. Unfortunately, he has now revealed that he has a microfracture in his wrist and could be out of for a couple of weeks. That is obviously devastating news for the Reds, who need Castellanos right now if they want any chance to catch the Brewers, but also for Castellanos who figured a mortal lock to opt out of his deal this offseason in search of something better. Now, I have no clue how big of a deal this injury is – perhaps it’s nothing – but if he doesn’t come back strong once he DOES return, you wonder if he, the Reds, and the teams that may pursue him this winter all do some re-thinking. Wrists are tricky and can sap a player’s power. I hope, for his sake, it’s not a big deal. In the meantime, does it increase the chances that the Reds sell? Or at least do not buy?
• Among the potentially interested parties for Trevor Story: White Sox, Reds, Mets, and A’s. But we’ll see if the Rockies actually move their second star in a matter of months.
MLB trade deadline: Why Trevor Story is one of the best players available, and landing spots for Rockies star https://t.co/D8p903O3Wy
— CBS Sports MLB (@CBSSportsMLB) July 22, 2021
• A reiteration – with a little more forcefulness – from Jon Heyman on the starting pitcher market, and how gone he thinks Zach Davies is:
Starting pitcher market … Long shots to go: Scherzer*, Marquez, Means, Hendricks, Marlins guys, Indians guys. Not too Likely: Berrios, M. Kelly, Boyd**, Duffy***. Possibilities: Gibson, Morton, Smyly, Cobb, Heaney. Going going gone: T. Anderson, J Gray, Davies. *Veto rights **IL
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 22, 2021
• And finally, in case you missed it:
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) July 22, 2021