MLB Trade Deadline: Cubs and Nationals Could be Sellers
In baseball, late July rosters can look like relics in a week. Six years ago on Friday, the Mets used left fielder John Mayberry Jr. as a clean-up hitter against Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Eight days later, Yoenis Cespedes was on his way to New York; the Mets were on their way to the World Series; and Mayberry’s career in the majors was over.
The end of July is the time for decisions in the majors. Competitors are abandoning replacement retreaded tires and modernizing through exchanges. Also-rans dump veterans, save money, and collect leads. The middle teams move forward cautiously and tend to stay where they are.
Then you have the Tampa Bay stingrays, still allergic to conventional methods. The Rays closed the first big deal in July on Thursday, acquiring designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who just made his seventh all-star team, from the Minnesota Twins for two pitching prospects.
“It’s very exciting,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “We’re a good team and we know we’ve improved. “
On Friday, however, the Rays struck a surprising deal for a playoff team, trading southpaw Rich Hill – their starting leader, with 19 – to the Mets for Class A receiver Matt Dyer. (The Mets also sent an injured reliever, Tommy Hunter, to roughly balance Hill’s pay.)
Rays general manager Erik Neander said the team wanted to take a closer look at better starting prospect Luis Patino and also expected veteran Chris Archer to return in August from an injury to the forearm.
“We’re thinking of Rich’s world, and he’s going to give the Mets exactly what they need,” Neander said. “For us it was a chance to acquire a player we love and help us balance our length options as we proceed here.”
The Mets will be the 11th major league team for Hill, a curveball specialist who is 6-4 with an earned-run average of 3.87. He was named the American League’s Pitcher of the Month for May, but has a 5.40 ERA in his last seven starts and has only played more than five innings once.
Despite that, Hill is expected to help the Mets, whose ace, Jacob deGrom, is on the injured list with forearm tightness. With Carlos Carrasco, David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi also on the injured list, the Mets’ rotation was down to Marcus Stroman, Taijuan Walker and rookie Tylor Megill. Hill – the majors’ oldest pitcher, at 41 – fills a crying need.
“He’s a guy that’s been around for years now, has a lot of experience, throws good baseball, throws baseball in the playoffs,” said manager Luis Rojas. “It’s a great fit. Our front office is diligent. We’ve talked about our need for starting pitchers, and he’s a guy who fits in perfectly. “
The Mets also have a hole in the roster, with shortstop Francisco Lindor sidelined with a strained right slant, but no other regular contender has emerged in the National League East. Atlanta improved around the sidelines this month with trades for wide receiver Stephen Vogt and outfielder Joc Pederson, but replacing their top player – outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., who is out for the season with a torn ligament. anterior cross – will be impossible.
Vogt’s former team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, are an obvious seller, with the majors’ worst record. Pederson’s previous team, the Chicago Cubs, is a more intriguing salesperson. The Cubs went 5-17 from June 25 through Thursday, putting them far behind the NL Central leader Milwaukee Brewers and reinforcing the idea that they won’t win another title with that core.
In facing this reality, the Cubs could have a major impact on the pennant race. They have four stars who will be free agents after the season: shortstop Javier Baez, third baseman Kris Bryant, closest Craig Kimbrel and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. A reunion of Rizzo and the Red Sox – who pulled him out of high school in 2007, traded him before he reached the majors and now needs a first baseman – would read like a fairy tale.
The trick for the Cubs, in all of their dealings, is to find a rival as desperate for a rental as in 2016, when they traded future All-Star shortstop Gleyber Torres to the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman, plus the Cubs were set to win their first World Series in 108 years.
The Washington Nationals are another recent champion with an alluring rental superstar: starter Max Scherzer. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo is programmed to compete, not to retreat. But with Patrick Corbin struggling and Stephen Strasburg out for most of the season with shoulder and neck injuries, the Nationals appear to have little hope of reaching the playoffs.
As a 10-year veteran who has spent the past five seasons with his current squad, Scherzer has the right to veto any trade. But it would be hard to imagine Scherzer, who turns 37 on Tuesday, passing up another shot at throwing in October before reaching free agency this fall. He’s been generally dominant – 7-4 with a 2.83 ERA and 142 strikeouts in 105 innings – and could make a significant impact in a playoff series.
The Nationals used an exceptional rotation – Scherzer, Strasbourg, Corbin and Anibal Sanchez – to win the 2019 World Series, and the Dodgers, who won it last year, have tried to stack aces this season in an attempt to repeat. But their depth has been tested: Trevor Bauer is on administrative leave as Major League Baseball investigates sexual assault allegations against him; Kershaw came out with an inflamed forearm; and Dustin May had Tommy John surgery in May.
Adding a starter like Scherzer to Walker Buehler and Julio Urias would restore the Dodgers’ greatest strength as they chase down the surprising San Francisco Giants in Western NL. But the Nationals, given their background and the Mets’ vulnerability, could just as easily be buyers – leaving pitchers like Jon Gray of the Colorado Rockies and Michael Pineda of the Twins as the most desirable free agents among starters. on non-competitors.
Jose Berrios of the Twins and Kyle Gibson of the Texas Rangers, who are under the team’s control until 2022, could also be treated, and veteran relievers are still readily available: think Greg Holland of the Kansas City Royals, Ian Kennedy of the Rangers, Richard Rodriguez of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Joakim Soria of the Diamondbacks and so on.
The Rockies could offer Daniel Bard and Mychal Givens from their field, along with Gray and everyday players like first baseman CJ Cron and shortstop Trevor Story, both of whom are potential free agents. But the Rockies have not had a permanent GM since Jeff Bridich resigned in May, leaving interim GM Bill Schmidt in charge of high-profile decisions for the franchise.
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