MLB Trade Rumors: Last-Minute Speculation and Analysis
Just when you thought that MLB's 2013 non-waiver trade deadline was going to lack the big names and exciting moves of years past, chaos is on the verge of erupting.
From front-of-the-rotation arms and lineup-changing bats to middle relievers and role players that could fill holes on a contender's roster, there are some difference-making deals that could materialize between now and 4:00 p.m. ET this afternoon.
Looming suspensions from MLB's investigation into the Biogenesis Anti-Aging Clinic in Miami could only add to the intrigue and excitement that the next few hours promise to bring our way as teams scramble to fill holes caused by those potential sanctions.
Let's take a look at where things stand—both for players and teams—heading into the last few hours before the deadline hits.
*All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and are current through games of July 30.
Second Base in Kansas City
While the Royals are selling—to the point that they are willing to listen to offers for RHP Ervin Santana and a few others—Kansas City is also looking to buy, specifically at second base.
CBS Sports' Danny Knobler reports that the Royals have checked in on Chicago's Gordon Beckham, Los Angeles' Howie Kendrick and Milwaukee's Rickie Weeks. However, no deal was thought to be close, and Kendrick can block a trade to Kansas City if he wants to, per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
Per Knobler, Kansas City also called Philadelphia about Kevin Frandsen, though he's more of a utility player—just like those who have manned second base in Kansas City this season.
The Royals are looking for a second baseman who is under team control for more than the next few months, which makes sense when you consider that it's been five years since they've had a legitimate option at the position (Mark Grudzielanek).
Howie Kendrick, 2B, Los Angeles Angels
There had been a smattering of rumors about longtime Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick on Tuesday afternoon, but with the team's acquisition of second baseman Grant Green from Oakland late Tuesday night, per CBS Sports' Danny Knobler, it's fair to speculate that one of those rumors might have some life to it.
ESPN's Jayson Stark reported that the Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers had a "casual conversation" about a potential deal involving Kendrick, though he said that there were no indications that talks had become serious.
Kansas City checked in with the Angels about Kendrick as well, according to CBS Sports' Knobler, but as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports' points out, Kansas City is one of 12 teams that Kendrick can block a trade to, adding another hurdle to jump over before a deal could be completed.
Early Wednesday morning, MLB.com's Aiden Gonzalez confirmed that Kendrick was still very much available and could be moved in the next few hours.
Ian Kennedy, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Update: Ian Kennedy has been traded to the San Diego Padres, originally reported by MLB.com's Corey Brock.
Originally part of a rumored three-team deal between Arizona, Chicago and Los Angeles that would have sent Jake Peavy to the Diamondbacks, though it materialized, Ian Kennedy remains a member of Arizona's starting rotation—for now, anyway.
There's still a possibility that the team will look to trade Kennedy, as both Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy are expected to rejoin Arizona's starting rotation in early August.
Kennedy has a history with Angels GM Jerry DiPoto, who was Arizona's director of scouting and player personnel in 2009 when the Diamondbacks, Tigers and Yankees pulled off a three-way deal that sent Kennedy from New York to Arizona, and he was the team's interim GM when Kennedy went 21-4 in 2011.
The Angels need pitching, and Kennedy, who is under team control through the 2015 season, could be viewed by the club as a buy-low candidate, hoping that a change of scenery will revitalize his career.
Both teams have relievers available—Chicago with Kevin Gregg and James Russell, San Diego with Luke Gregerson and Joe Thatcher—and any of the four could be attractive to an Arizona team that desperately needs to bolster its bullpen.
Cliff Lee, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
If there are other teams heavily involved in talks for Lee, they are doing it in an extremely stealthy manner. But considering the price tag (at least three top prospects) and salary ($70 million), it's understandable the field would be limited.
With Boston now out of the running for the 34-year-old southpaw, there doesn't appear to be a team willing to meet Philadelphia's asking price or able to absorb Lee's substantial contract.
I suppose you can never count out the free-spending Los Angeles Dodgers, who claimed Lee on waivers last season, though Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi reported on Monday that the two teams had not had discussions about Lee recently.
If you're a betting man (or woman), I'd put money on the fact that Lee will make his next start for the Phillies on Friday when they open a three-game series against Atlanta.
Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins
Justin Morneau picked the worst possible time to go into a prolonged slump.
Posting an anemic .174/.269/.337 slash line with just four home runs and five RBI in July, it's going to be close to impossible for the Twins to receive what they believe to be fair market value for the former American League MVP.
But with Morneau set to hit free agency after the season and not necessarily a part of the team's future plans, moving him now makes more sense than letting him walk after the season for no compensation at all.
Scott Miller from CBS Sports says that Baltimore has interest in Morneau, likely as a designated hitter, while Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes that Tampa Bay has scouted Morneau for the past few weeks. Both Miller and Berardino put the odds of Morneau being dealt as "50-50 at best."
While he's not the right-handed bat that the Yankees would prefer, it's fair to speculate that the Bronx Bombers could make a move for Morneau, who they could view as an upgrade over Lyle Overbay.
Mike Morse, 1B/OF, Seattle Mariners
While Seattle isn't ready to become a full-blown seller, the New York Post's Joel Sherman reports that one of the team's prized acquisitions from this past offseason, Mike Morse, is "very available."
Morse, who has battled a finger injury since early this season and has missed all but one game in July because of a strained quad, is seemingly healthy and a player that multiple contenders could have interest in.
Sherman notes that the New York Yankees had interest in him during the winter before he was traded to Seattle, and the 31-year-old still makes sense for them, as he's a right-handed bat with power who could platoon with the left-handed Lyle Overbay at first base.
While his numbers this season are disappointing—a .246/.307/.445 slash line with 11 home runs and 23 RBI,—Morse averaged a .296/.345/.516 slash line with 21 home runs and 66 RBI a season with Washington from 2010 through 2012.
Seattle is sure to point to that past production—and the fact that Morse hit six home runs in the first nine games of the season before injuring his finger—in an attempt to extract a solid return from any team that comes calling.
Bud Norris, RHP, Houston Astros
Update: Bud Norris has been traded to the Baltimore Orioles, originally reported by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.
Trade winds surrounding Bud Norris only gained speed on Tuesday when the Astros scratched the 28-year-old from his scheduled start against Baltimore, though it's Wednesday morning and Norris remains a member of the Astros—for the time being, anyway.
Arizona, Baltimore and Pittsburgh are the three teams most recently linked to Norris, according to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart, though as CBS Sports' Danny Knobler reports, a deal was not close with any of the three teams.
In a separate report, Knobler notes that the Orioles had yet to make an offer for Norris. And Pittsburgh would not include outfield prospect Gregory Polanco or pitching prospect Tyler Glasnow in a deal for Norris, according to Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan.
Arizona, which lost out on its pursuit of Jake Peavy, could be more motivated to make a move for Norris now, though adding any starter to its rotation likely rests on the team's ability to move Ian Kennedy.
Controllable starting pitching, especially when the pitcher is under the age of 30, is always a valuable commodity in baseball, so it's entirely possible that a team that hasn't been linked to Norris could seemingly come out of nowhere to acquire him at the last second.
Hunter Pence, RF, San Francisco Giants
While San Francisco has made Hunter Pence available, the asking price is high, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, as the team intends on extending a qualifying offer to him after the season and would like to keep him in its outfield for the foreseeable future.
Four teams—the Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates and Texas Rangers—have all been linked to Pence in the past few days, with Texas perhaps the most intriguing of the four due to the team's strong minor league system and the potential of Nelson Cruz facing a season-ending suspension.
Whether any of those teams is willing to meet San Francisco's demands remains to be seen, and it's far more likely that Pence remains with the Giants than it is that he gets traded at this point, though plenty can change between now and Wednesday afternoon's deadline.
But if we've learned anything over the years, it's that you can never say never.
Alex Rios, RF, Chicago White Sox
What happened to Alex Rios on Tuesday is a perfect example of just how quickly things can change as the trade deadline nears.
Take a look at this timeline of events:
- 1:19 p.m. ET: CSN Chicago's David Kaplan tweets that a deal sending Rios to Pittsburgh is close to being completed.
- 2:09 p.m. ET: MLB.com's Tom Singer reports that if Chicago picks up a substantial part of the $18 million that remains on his contract, Rios could be wearing a Pirates uniform.
- 2:53 p.m. ET: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports says that a deal sending Rios to Pittsburgh is not close.
- 3:15 p.m. ET: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel confirms Heyman's report, citing a source with the Pirates.
- 4:26 p.m. ET: Singer's colleague, Scott Merkin, tweets that the New York Yankees are back on Rios' trail.
- 7:07 p.m. ET: Merkin says that the Pirates are losing interest in acquiring Rios.
- 7:14 p.m. ET: ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the Yankees do not have interest in Rios, pointing to the team's recent acquisition of Alfonso Soriano and expected return of Curtis Granderson as reasons why.
- 9:20 p.m. ET (approximately): Rios fouls a ball off of his foot leading off the eighth inning against Cleveland and leaves the game.
- 10:04 p.m. ET: The White Sox announce via Twitter that Rios suffered a contusion on top of his left foot in Tuesday night's game and will have precautionary X-Rays taken.
That's a lot to digest in a nine-hour span.
Nothing kills a player's trade value like an injury, but as long as the injury turns out to be nothing more than a bruise, this one shouldn't have much impact on Rios' value.
Still, it takes two teams to complete a trade, and, at this point, it doesn't seem like the White Sox have a willing partner lined up.
Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Chicago Cubs
If you were dreaming of Jeff Samardzija joining your favorite team's starting rotation today, you can forget it.
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports that the Cubs have quickly determined that they are not going to get the incredibly high asking price that they put on the 28-year-old and will not trade him on Wednesday. Instead, the team will make one more attempt at signing him to a long-term extension this winter.
If that fails, Heyman says that the chances of an offseason trade involving the team's ace will become "much more likely."
San Diego's Relievers
Update: Joe Thatcher has been traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of a package for Ian Kennedy, originally reported by MLB.com's Corey Brock.
ESPN's Buster Olney confirms that San Diego is willing to move right-handed reliever Luke Gregerson and southpaw Joe Thatcher, though he notes that the Padres would need to be "inspired" to trade either one.
San Diego's primary need is young, controllable starting pitching, a commodity that you don't normally see involved in trades for middle relievers.
Yet if a contending team believes that either Gregerson or Thatcher is the one piece that it needs to solidify its bullpen, it's not impossible to think that a young, controllable starter could be moved to acquire either one.
As previously mentioned, San Diego has interest in Arizona's Ian Kennedy, and Arizona has a gaping hole in its bullpen, so there is some sense for a Kennedy-for-Gregerson deal to be made, though that is all speculation on my part.
Shortstop in St. Louis
St. Louis really doesn't want Pete Kozma playing shortstop anymore.
After unsuccessful attempts to pry Alexei Ramirez from the Chicago White Sox and Jimmy Rollins from the Philadelphia Phillies, the Cardinals have set their sights on Los Angeles' Erick Aybar, according to CBS Sports' Danny Knobler.
While Aybar is the superior offensive contributor, the one-time Gold Glove Award winner can't compete with Kozma's fielding this season:
Those are some pretty significant gaps.
Knobler points to the Cardinals' plethora of young pitching prospects as the key to prying Aybar away from the Angels, a team that is in desperate need of young, quality arms in both the rotation and in the bullpen.
ESPN's Jim Bowden confirms that the Angels are seeking top pitching prospects and a replacement for Aybar in a deal, reporting that the Angels asked St. Louis for Kozma along with either Carlos Martinez or Michael Wacha.
The problem, according to Bowden, is that the Cardinals are not interested in moving either youngster in a deal for Aybar, something that they've already expressed to the Angels. With that, Aiden Gonzalez from MLB.com reports that Aybar is unlikely to be traded at this point.
*UZR/150 and DRS courtesy of FanGraphs and current through games of July 30.
Nate Schierholtz, of Chicago Cubs
Nate Schierholtz's days as a member of the Chicago Cubs are very likely coming to an end, according to ESPN's Buster Olney, who notes that the 29-year-old is one of the better hitters left on the market.
Last week, I ranked Schierholtz as the sixth-best outfielder available, and unlike some of the others who are known to be available, Schierholtz doesn't have a burdensome contract that interested teams need to take into account.
Making only $2.25 million in 2013 and arbitration-eligible for 2014, his salary is one that any team could fit into its budget.
ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine reports that the Pittsburgh Pirates are interested in Schierholtz, pointing to PNC Park's short right-field porch as a reason why the left-handed-hitting outfielder would be a perfect fit for the Bucs.
Texas is another potential landing spot for him, according to Levine's colleague Jesse Rogers, which makes sense, especially with a potential suspension coming for right fielder Nelson Cruz as a result of MLB's investigation into the Biogenesis Anti-Aging Clinic in Miami.
Michael Young, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
Part of the reason for that is Young himself, as he is trying to steer trades to his preferred destinations, one-by-one, according to ESPN's Buster Olney. Armed with a no-trade clause, he has the power to do just that.
ESPN's Jayson Stark says that Young's first choice is to go back to Texas, where he spent the first 13 years of his career. But MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reported on Monday night that the Rangers have no plans for a reunion.
Stark says that Boston would be his second preferred destination, with the New York Yankees a possibility if deals with both the Rangers and Red Sox don't materialize.
Young makes sense for both of the AL East rivals, with the entire left side of Boston's infield in flux and the Yankees in desperate need of a third baseman who is capable of producing, especially with Alex Rodriguez's uncertain future.