Buying or Selling Kris Bryant, Trevor Story and MLB's Latest Rumors and Buzz
Not even a quarter of the 2021 MLB season is complete, but there are already some notable rumors and rumblings that could set narratives going forward.
Some of these murmurs have to do with star players possibly on the move at the trade deadline. Others involve a pair of managers on high-profile clubs. All, at least for now, are at least somewhat speculative. But might there be something to all the smoke in due time?
Let's examine a little further.
Kris Bryant to the White Sox?
The most recent deal between the Chicago Cubs and White Sox didn't exactly pan out for the North Siders.
The Cubs needed more starting pitching ahead of the 2017 trade deadline, so they acquired White Sox starter Jose Quintana—an All-Star in 2016—for prospects Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease and others.
Though Quintana was serviceable, he wasn't exactly a frontline guy. Jimenez, meanwhile, was developing into one of the best young sluggers in the game prior to suffering a pectoral injury in spring training. Cease has looked terrific through his first six starts.
The White Sox got the better of the Cubs in that deal. Might they now be hoping to cash in on one Kris Bryant? Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago suggested the South Siders—dealing with the absences of Jimenez and now Luis Robert—should acquire the 2016 National League MVP.
Bryant is slashing .308/.395/.673 with nine homers and 22 RBI. He is coming off NL Player of the Week honors and ranks sixth among qualified hitters in fWAR. The 29-year-old has also played multiple spots for the Cubs, including all three outfield positions.
Bryant is in a contract year, and the Cubs could look to cash in on his value and continue to add young talent, with the White Sox possessing an intriguing blend of prospects.
But while Bryant's bat and positional versatility would be a major boon to the White Sox, the Brian Goodwin signing suggests general manager Rick Hahn may be more comfortable plugging in other options, at least for now.
Maybe the two clubs engage in discussions come July. However, there is also the chance the Cubs retain Bryant and instead move Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo. The team could go in any number of directions in the next few months.
Trevor Story Considered Most Likely to Get Dealt
Well, yeah. Duh.
Mark Feinsand of MLB.com polled 25 executives on the player most likely to be dealt before the 2021 trade deadline. The top vote-getter will hardly come as a surprise: Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story.
There has been ample speculation regarding Story's future for months now, but there is reason to believe a deal might be even more likely now than it was even just over a week ago. Former Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich stepped down April 26, and interim GM Bill Schmidt replaced him.
Colorado is a franchise in transition, and Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter recently ranked the Rockies farm system 28th in the majors. They need to stockpile prospects and rebuild in earnest, and moving Story figures to be part of that process.
The 28-year-old is on an expiring deal, and there has been no indication an extension will get done. Colorado will almost certainly hope to fetch a couple of prospects for him, and some executives told Feinsand they could see the Rockies trading him well in advance of the July deadline.
Story is off to a strong start in 2021, slashing .304/.370/.527 with four homers, 20 RBI and four stolen bases. He also has a career-high 133 OPS+.
It's more a matter of "when" than "if" a deal gets done.
Would Rays Really Deal Glasnow?
Tyler Glasnow became the Tampa Bay Rays' ace when the team sent Blake Snell to the San Diego Padres this offseason. He has lived up to that billing thus far, posting a 2.06 ERA in seven starts and leading the American League in hits per nine innings (4.7). The 6'8" right-hander also ranks fifth in the majors in skill-interactive ERA (SIERA).
Why would the Rays deal their ace, especially when they seem to need more rotation depth as is? Well, as Mark Feinsand pointed out, Glasnow—who has two more seasons of arbitration—is in the same "window" as former Rays starters David Price and James Shields when they were dealt to other teams.
"They have never suggested they would trade him," an AL executive told Feinsand. "But you never can tell with the Rays."
Indeed, Tampa Bay has often moved differently as a small-market club insistent on maintaining a deep farm system. Payroll concerns were mostly to blame for the Rays dealing Snell. Yet, it's worth noting he is just a year older than Glasnow and was under contract through 2023.
That said, it's way too early to start hypothesizing Glasnow deals. The Rays are in the playoff picture despite a number of injuries. They have yet to see what young pitchers Luis Patino and Shane McClanahan can really do. Positional talent in Wander Franco could soon arrive in the bigs. There is upside in Tampa Bay.
Plus, the Rays have flexibility with Glasnow's two additional arbitration years. It's hard to imagine them dealing him unless they are sub-.500 at the deadline and get a Godfather offer.
Shane Greene in 'Ongoing' Discussions with Teams
It's rather curious that veteran reliever Shane Greene is still a free agent. His market is becoming hard to decipher.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported Greene is having "ongoing discussions with multiple teams." That's perfectly sensible. A number of contenders could use bullpen depth, including the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants and Houston Astros, among others.
Greene produced volatile results in his first few years in the majors before becoming one of the prizes at the 2019 trade deadline.
The right-hander was horrendous in his first few outings with the Braves but had a 1.77 ERA and .171 opponents' batting average in his final 21 regular-season appearances. His success continued in 2020, as he had a 2.60 ERA in 27.2 innings and allowed just one run in six innings of postseason work.
Yet despite his recent track record of success, he has not found a deal. Heyman reported in March the 32-year-old was continuing to throw with the hopes the right opportunity would arise, but nothing has developed since then.
A lot of teams are probably testing out internal options as they hope to possibly preserve payroll space for midseason upgrades. Thus, it could still be some time before Greene is signed.
That said, it would be stunning if he remained unsigned through June or July.
Luis Rojas' Job Is Safe
This likely wasn't the kind of blazing start New York Mets owner Steve Cohen might have hoped for after all the moves the team made this past offseason.
But while the firing of hitting coach Chili Davis and assistant Tom Slater (more on that shortly) indicates a demanding work environment, it doesn't appear manager Luis Rojas is going anywhere.
Andy Martino of SNY.tv reported Rojas' job is safe. Now, just how much longer his job is "safe" remains uncertain.
Rojas faces immense pressure as a lame-duck manager on an expiring contract. This is a sort of a prove-it season for the second-year manager, though he hasn't been handed the best of circumstances.
The 39-year-old had been with the Mets for years as a minor league coach prior to being hired after New York dismissed Mickey Callaway. His knowledge of the organization should have been a plus, except for the fact that he was thrust into an unprecedented situation with a pandemic-shortened season. Perhaps some fans would complain about bullpen management, but the Mets just didn't have the pitching or defense to contend in 2020.
Fast forward about eight months and the Mets are struggling to live up to the preseason hype. New York's pitching staff has been terrific, but offensive struggles have resulted in a minus-11 run differential.
It's still quite early, and the Mets are around .500 and near the top of the NL East standings. That will suffice in early May.
However, a managerial change might not be totally out of the question if New York struggles to build momentum in the first half.
Verdict: Buy...for now
Mets Players Upset at Chili Davis Firing
Manager Luis Rojas apparently has a longer leash as the Mets try to stack wins, but time ran out for hitting coach Chili Davis and assistant hitting coach Tom Slater.
New York's offense has been woeful to start the season, as the Mets rank 13th in the NL in slugging and are hitting just .212 with a .616 OPS with runners in scoring position (RISP).
The individual performances have been strange. Jeff McNeil is starting to heat up but is still hitting .230 after three consecutive seasons above .300. Dominic Smith is slugging just .349. Francisco Lindor has a pitiful .478 OPS.
Whether Davis is to blame for some of the stars' struggles, notably Lindor, is up for debate. Team president Sandy Alderson seemed to think so. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported the decision to fire Davis came from Alderson, though he noted members of the team's front office were in agreement.
Regardless, the players seemed disappointed by his dismissal. Jon Heyman reported players "expressed dismay" in a meeting with Mets acting general manager Zack Scott. Sherman later reported Rojas was not exactly on board with the decision.
Why shouldn't they have been upset? Davis was given close to no slack. It would have been different if players did not like him, but that did not seem to be the case.
Now, that doesn't excuse the offensive performance. But why should the full extent of those struggles lie at Davis' feet? Not everything can possibly be a philosophical issue. At some point, the players have to perform.
The Mets seemed to acknowledge that last point. Maybe that's why they adopted the imaginary "Donnie Stevenson" character.
Is Tony La Russa Losing His Grip on the White Sox?
Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa is learning baseball cannot be managed as it was 10 years ago, and he's learning it the hard way.
Jeff Passan of ESPN reported "patience in some parts of the White Sox's clubhouse is growing thin" with La Russa after he made multiple managerial gaffes in the last week. One of the most notable came Wednesday when he admitted he didn't know he could have avoided using closer Liam Hendriks as a baserunner in extra innings.
La Russa has been caught unaware a couple of times. As Passan noted, he left ace Lucas Giolito in too long during an April 27 start against the Detroit Tigers, with Giolito later admitting he was basically gassed. The same kind of thing happened with reliever Matt Foster earlier in the season.
Is the Hall of Famer losing confidence in Chicago? It seems like a bit of a reach. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported some players are "frustrated" but noted others "offer little complaint."
This is a guy still getting to know the ins and outs of his team. Plus, he's had two significant injuries (Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert) to grapple with. The preseason concerns with La Russa tended to revolve around his inability to relate to a young and charismatic group of players. But at least in the offseason, guys such as Tim Anderson and Giolito only had praise for his style.
Rather, fans might show more concern regarding La Russa's managerial understanding.
Aside from the Hendriks and Giolito errors, he also let Michael Kopech throw 87 pitches on April 25 despite the right-hander previously being used as a reliever and coming off Tommy John. That kind of old-school mentality just doesn't translate in 2021.
Verdict: Sell the "losing his grip" angle; buy not being the right kind of manager for baseball in 2021