Inside the Clubhouse rounds up the latest MLB Trade Deadline rumors, including the Brewers’ hunt for a bat, the Angels shopping for a deal and more.
If there was ever a time for the Milwaukee Brewers to go all-in, this season might be it.
They are 58-42 and lead the National League Central by 6.5 games. They have All-Star pitchers Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta who make them a matchup nightmare in the postseason. They have elite high-leverage relieves Josh Hader and Devin Williams to finish games. They also have an offense that entered Sunday ninth in runs scored (44) in the second half of the season with Lorenzo Cain, Daniel Vogelbach and Travis Shaw set to come off the injured list in the immediate future.
“We are close to being a legit contender,” one high-ranking Brewers executive said. “If we can add some valuable pieces, we could legitimately win this thing.”
A glaring need for the Brewers is in the bullpen, where they are expected to make one or two additions. They have previously had success with super bullpens, riding it to within a game of the World Series in 2018, and could attempt to follow a similar model this season by adding another high-leverage reliever alongside Hader and Williams.
But the Brewers have emerged as one of baseball’s best teams despite a slumping Christian Yelich and having an offense that ranks 22nd in baseball with a .697 OPS. Just imagine how good they would be if they added an elite bat to the lineup.
The Brewers rank toward the bottom of baseball in first base production with a .681 OPS and 11 homers, which makes it the most logical spot for them to upgrade. It’s difficult to envision the Chicago Cubs trading Anthony Rizzo to a division rival. Joey Gallo is more of an outfielder than first baseman but is arbitration-eligible through 2022. A reunion with Jesus Aguilar could make sense, but his production has typically fallen off in the second half.
But what about third base? Luis Urias has provided offensive production that the lineup has been lacking, but when discussing Urias and third base, Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that “it doesn’t mean you can’t get better.” Indeed, the Brewers have explored third base upgrades, sources said, and the options are much more appealing than at first base.
Could Trevor Story, who some teams have considered at positions other than shortstop, suddenly become an option? The Brewers, or any other team, would have to submit an offer more valuable than the compensatory pick the Rockies would receive if Story left in free agency to entice them to pull the trigger on a trade. Another option could be Minnesota Twins’ third baseman Josh Donaldson, though his four-year, $92 million contract could be out of their price range.
The Brewers will explore any opportunity to upgrade the roster, but are hesitant to significantly subtract from the future to go all-in on this season. But if Stearns has an opportunity to drastically upgrade his team without severely impacting their chances in future seasons, he should take it.
“We have affordable pitching and in our situation,” the executive said, “we should be doing whatever it takes to go for it and take advantage of this window.”
Kyle Gibson is an MLB Trade Deadline wild card
One rival executive recently referred to Texas Rangers starter Kyle Gibson as the “most unpredictable element” of the trade deadline, pointing out that the right-hander had only shown flashes in the first eight years of his career before emerging as an ace in the first half of 2021.
Those concerns have only grown louder since the All-Star break, with Gibson posting an 8.18 ERA in three starts while allowing 22 hits, 12 walks and 16 runs in 17.1 innings. His season ERA has increased from 2.29 to 2.87. His expected ERA is 3.58. His FIP sits at 3.62, nearly a full run above his actual ERA.
It has raised questions whether his first half was an anomaly or if his first three outings are a blip on the radar. One concern among contenders has been that Gibson, 33, does not have overpowering stuff or the ability to consistently record strikeouts in big situations, with one team believing he would be a No. 3 or 4 starter on a playoff rotation.
Still, Gibson is one of the top starting pitchers available and the Tampa Bay Rays are among teams that have inquired about him. But after trading Rich Hill to free up roughly $800,000, it’s unclear if the Rays have enough financial flexibility to take on the remaining $2.5 million left on Gibson’s contract that also owes him $7 million in 2022.
The Angels have to be looking for a deal
The Los Angeles Angels were waiting for the games between the All-Star break and July 30 to dictate their trade deadline strategy. But following a 4-6 stretch, falling to 11 games back in the AL West, they appear destined to be sellers — to an extent.
The Angels, in good faith, cannot start a rebuild. Any selling done this season cannot impact their chances of competing in 2022 and beyond. Not with Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon signed long-term and Shohei Ohtani emerging as baseball’s most prolific player.
But the Angels have two tradable assets in the rotation — Alex Cobb and Andrew Heaney — and both are drawing “strong” interest, according to major-league sources.
Cobb, 33, would appear the most likely of the two to get traded. He is on an expiring contract and has a 3.82 ERA in 15 starts. The Orioles are paying two-thirds of his $15 million salary and any team that acquires him at the deadline would have to pay him about $1.6 million the rest of the season.
Perhaps the Angels’ most intriguing trade candidate, however, is closer Raisel Iglesias. The 31-year-old is also on an expiring contract and has a 3.43 ERA in 44.2 innings. He is expected to have a strong market, with one rival executive calling him “probably the best reliever available not named Craig Kimbrel if they decide to move him.”
Whit Merrifield could be available
The Kansas City Royals are willing to discuss infielder Whit Merrifield in trades, as first reported by Jayson Stark of The Athletic, but a rival executive whose team is interested in Merrifield says the asking price is “hefty.”
Among the teams with interest in Merrifield, sources say, include the Seattle Mariners, who also attempted to trade for Adam Frazier before he was dealt to the San Diego Padres. But a source with direct knowledge said late Sunday night that “nothing is imminent” regarding a Merrifield trade.
Around the Horn:
- The Pittsburgh Pirates were thrilled to get second baseman Tucupita Marcano from the San Diego Padres, with one team official calling him the “key” piece in the Adam Frazier deal. But rival scouts thought the deal was light, with one saying “They didn’t give up much” and wondered why the Pirates pulled the trigger on a deal five days before the deadline.
- A team that recently checked in with the Washington Nationals about third baseman Carter Kieboom was turned away, saying they wouldn’t consider it “right now.” That stance is unlikely to change as the Nationals have emerged as likely sellers ahead of the July 30 trade deadline.
- Multiple rival executives believe the chances of the Minnesota Twins trading Jose Berrios increased following reports that the team couldn’t come to an agreement on a long-term contract extension with outielder Byron Buxton.
- I would be flat-out stunned if Cleveland traded Jose Ramirez.