Trade & Free Agent Notes: Cubs, Beltran, Red Sox, Gurriel

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

It has been three days since Yankees president Randy Levine told reporters any talk about selling was “nonsense,” and boy, it would be much easier to make a snarky comment right now had the Yankees not come back to win that game last night. Still, their postseason odds are 9.0% per FanGraphs, and that’s not good. Regardless of what Levine says, the Yankees have to seriously consider shifting focus from this season to the future before the trade deadline. Here are some miscellaneous trade notes, with one free agent note thrown in for good measure.

Cubs continue to scout Yankees’ bullpen

The Cubs had multiple scouts at Yankee Stadium over the weekend to see the Yankees’ big three relievers, reports George King. Chicago had scouts on hand to see those guys earlier this month too. While I’m sure the Cubbies would love to get their hands on Dellin Betances, my guess is they’re focusing on Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman given their need for a late-inning southpaw.

For what it’s worth, Buster Olney (subs. req’d) hears the Yankees will tell the Cubs they have to part with Kyle Schwarber to get Miller. Chicago doesn’t want to do that, but they have plenty of other prospects and young big leaguers though, so when the time comes to field serious offers, Chicago can make a very competitive bid. Other contenders like the Nationals, Rangers, and Giants figure to be involved too, which is good news for the Yankees. Hooray bidding wars!

Beltran willing to waive no-trade clause

Carlos Beltran is one of the few big name Yankees without full no-trade protection — he can block deals to 14 teams — and he told Brendan Kuty that if the team comes to him to ask for approval for a trade, he’d be willing to okay the deal. “If they came to me about it, we would have a conversation,” he said. “When the team is looking to trade you, there’s no other decision to make other than go.”

The Yankees received a bit of a scare earlier this week when Beltran left a game with hamstring injury — that’s after receiving a scare when he needed his knee drained a few weeks ago — but thankfully he is only day-to-day. There don’t figure to be many impact bats available at the deadline, so even with Beltran’s defensive limitations, I imagine he’ll generate a ton of interest. The Indians and Royals are two obvious fits. The Giants and Nationals could have interest too. Hunter Pence is out long-term with a torn hamstring, so right field is open in San Francisco. Ben Revere hasn’t hit all year, so the Nats could put Beltran in right and slide Bryce Harper to center.

Dombrowski willing to trade with Yankees

Dombrowski. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)
Dombrowski. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)

I wouldn’t count on this actually happening, but Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told Brian MacPherson he is open to making a trade with the Yankees this summer. “I have made trades within our own division,” said the longtime exec, “… and the only time I’ve generally done that is when one club is in it and the other club is not. In that way, if they get the best return on their value, they don’t really care. If they’re in it and we’re in it, probably the odds are longer.”

I definitely understand why teams shy away from intradivision trades, but when you take the plunge and decide to sell, I think you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t consider all offers. I mean, teams don’t make trades unless they believe they’re coming out ahead, so theoretically an intradivision trade would make your roster stronger and a rival’s weaker. A Yankees-Red Sox trade — a big trade, I mean, not something like Kelly Johnson for Stephen Drew — might get squashed at the ownership level. The prospect of losing a trade to your biggest rival is enough to make folks squeamish.

Yankees not believed to have much interest in Gurriel

Let’s end with a note about a free agent, not a trade. At some point soon the Yankees will hold a private workout for Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel at their Tampa complex, assuming it hasn’t happened already. Despite that, George King says the team’s interest level is “not believed to be high.” I would expect nothing less. Even if the Yankees have interest, they’re not going to say so publicly. There’s nothing to be gained by doing so.

Most see Gurriel as an impact middle of the order hitter, something the Yankees really lack. That said, he is already 32 years old, so he’s at the age where you’d expect his game to start to slip. You’re buying mostly decline years. Gurriel is a player you add if you’re a contender right now and are looking for someone to put you over the top. He doesn’t make sense for a rebuilding team that is years away from contention. The Yankees have the resources to avoid a long rebuild and the plan for the offense going forward can’t simply be “hope the prospects work out.” I get why teams would shy away from a 32-year-old with no MLB track record even if I don’t necessarily agree with it.

Game 78: The Final Home Game of the First Half

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Was that the best game of the season last night or what? That was so fun. This season has generally sucked, but games like last night make it all worth it. Baseball is still pretty dang cool.

Thanks to that win, the Yankees have a chance to earn a split of this four-game series with the AL best Rangers this afternoon. Heck, the Yanks were pretty close to winning the first game of the series too before the rain interfered. This is the final home game before the All-Star break, so go out, get the win to split the series, then head to San Diego. Here is the Rangers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 1B Mark Teixeira
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. RF Aaron Hicks
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Michael Pineda

We’ve got pretty much perfect weather in New York today. No clouds in the sky, temperatures in the mid-80s, not that humid. Couldn’t ask for a better afternoon for a ballgame. Today’s series finale will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network out-of-market. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Carlos Beltran (hamstring) feels better and is planning to hit today. I’m not sure if he’ll take batting practice or hit in the cage. He’s not in the lineup, but he did test the hammy with some baseball activities.

Rotation Update: The Yankees will call up Chad Green to make a spot start Sunday. CC Sabathia will start Monday instead, so he won’t have to hit or run the bases on his balky knee (and ankle) over the weekend in San Diego. As an added bonus, the starters get an extra day of rest. It’s also worth noting this means Masahiro Tanaka will start July 10th, the Sunday before the All-Star break, which makes him ineligible to pitch in the All-Star Game should he make the roster. I wrote about that this morning.

The Yankees and the 2016 All-Star Game

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Next Tuesday, MLB will announce the 2016 All-Star Game starters and reserves during a live ESPN broadcast. They’ll announce the entire roster — including the starting position players per the fan voting — with the exception of the final spot, which will be decided through the Final Vote ballot. You remember that, right? Of course you do.

The Yankees are not going to have a starting position player in the All-Star Game for the second straight year, which is no surprise. Their biggest “star” is currently being benched against righties. The Yankees definitely have some players deserving of an All-Star Game nod though, and not just because the rules say every team needs a representative.

In my opinion the Yankees have six players worthy of serious consideration for the All-Star Game. That doesn’t mean all six will get in. In fact, I’d bet on the Yankees only getting one or two All-Stars this year. Three tops. There are only so many roster spots, plus it’s not often a fourth place team sends six players to the All-Star Game. Here are the candidates.

Carlos Beltran

The recent hamstring injury could really throw a wrench into Beltran’s All-Star candidacy. He’s second among all AL outfielders in SLG (.570) — he’s four points behind Mike Trout — and ranks fifth wRC+ (137). His 19 homers are tied for fifth among all AL players, not just outfielders. Beltran’s defense drags down his WAR, though that doesn’t really matter. The All-Star Game has not yet morphed into the Highest WAR Game, thankfully.

Generally speaking six or seven outfielders are named to each All-Star team each year. Beltran won’t be among the three starters voted in by the fans — the starters will probably end up being Trout, Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. based on the recent voting updates — and Ian Desmond will certainly be on the bench, leaving the last two or three spots for some combination of Beltran, Mark Trumbo, George Springer, Michael Saunders, and Nelson Cruz. (There could be some others in that mix too.)

On merit, Beltran belongs in the All-Star Game. He has the big power numbers and his track record sure doesn’t hurt either. The question is the hamstring. Right now it’s being called a day-to-day injury, but Joe Girardi said it is “worrisome” that the hamstring was still sore yesterday. If this lingers and causes Beltran to miss more than a few days or even land on the DL, it could put an end to his All-Star chances.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Masahiro Tanaka

You know, Tanaka really doesn’t get enough credit for being on the best pitchers in the league. I’m pretty sure it’s the elbow. Tanaka was an All-Star in 2014, when he was one of the best pitchers in the league, then he hurt his elbow and seemed to disappear from the great pitchers conversation. Even a big chunk of Yankee fans underrate him. Among qualified AL pitchers, Tanaka ranks …

  • Seventh in bWAR (2.6)
  • Fourth in fWAR (2.6)
  • Sixth in innings (104.2)
  • 11th in ERA (3.35)
  • Fourth in FIP (3.31)
  • Fifth in WHIP (1.06)
  • Eighth in K/BB (4.32)

And yes, that includes last night’s dud. Those games happen to everyone. Tanaka has been one of ten best starters in the league, meaning he’s absolutely worthy of All-Star consideration. Is he is a shoe-in? No, but he’s in the conversation. Will Tanaka actually get onto the roster? There’s usually seven or eight starters on the roster, so he might be able to sneak in.

It’s worth noting Tanaka is scheduled to make two more starts before the All-Star break, including one on Saturday, July 9th. That’s the Saturday before the All-Star break. The Yankees are six games into a 17 games in 17 days stretch to close out the first half, and I wonder if they’ll insert a spot sixth starter at some point to give the rotation members an extra day. If they do, Tanaka would instead start Sunday, July 10th, thus ruling him ineligible to pitch in the All-Star Game.

CC Sabathia

I think the last two starts may have doomed Sabathia’s All-Star Game chances. Two starts ago he was sitting on a 2.20 ERA (3.31 FIP) in 65.1 innings, ranking second in the AL in ERA. He was top ten in WAR even after missing two weeks with the groin injury. It’s close to impossible to keep a pitcher with those numbers out of the All-Star Game.

After those last two starts — Sabathia was really good for the first seven innings Tuesday, but the eighth inning happened — Sabathia now has a 3.17 ERA (3.65 FIP) in 76.2 innings. That’s still really good! But it’s probably not All-Star Game good, not even in the AL. Sabathia doesn’t have enough innings to qualify for the ERA title — he’d rank seventh in ERA if he did — so his lack of innings relative to other All-Star candidates will hurt him, plus he doesn’t rank among the top ten pitchers in anything (except hit batsmen).

Sabathia is going to make one more start before the All-Star rosters are announced and two more starts before the actual All-Star Game. A few extra pitchers are added to the roster each year as injury replacements and replacements for guys who pitch the Sunday before the All-Star break, so maybe Sabathia sneaks in that way. After these last two starts, I don’t think Sabathia gets in. That shiny near-2.00 ERA was his best chance to be an All-Star, and that’s gone.

Andrew Miller & Dellin Betances

I am certain at least one of these two is going to the All-Star Game. It’s definitely possible both are going, though Betances has had a few hiccups throughout the year, which could keep him out. There are generally six or seven relievers on each All-Star roster, and I have a hard time believing there are seven relievers in the AL more deserving than Dellinthis year.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Miller should be a lock for his first career All-Star Game. He’s not a closer, but his numbers are outrageous regardless of role. Miller is second among all relievers with 63 strikeouts (Betances leads with 67) and he’s fifth in WAR, though I’ve long been a believer in WAR underrating high-leverage relievers. Either way, Miller absolutely has All-Star numbers this year. If he doesn’t go the Midsummer Classic this year, when will he?

As for Betances, I think his track record (two-time All-Star) is going to help him, and I get the sense players around the league know how good he is, which could help. A big chunk on the roster is determined by the player vote, remember. Guys like Zach Britton, Sam Dyson, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Will Harris, Alex Colome, Roberto Osuna, Brad Brach, and Craig Kimbrel are also going to be in the mix for the All-Star bullpen. That’s a lot of competition! Maybe Betances will wind up on the Final Vote ballot.

Aroldis Chapman

The performance has been All-Star worthy, I’d say. Thirty-one strikeouts and four walks in 20 innings is pretty crazy. The problem is Chapman’s workload. The guy has thrown 20 innings because of his suspension. He’s 64th among all AL relievers innings, and he’s thrown literally half as many innings as most of the other All-Star worthy relievers. That lack of work is really going to hurt Chapman’s chances to go to the All-Star Game. He has the All-Star reputation and all that, but 20-something innings? Other guys have thrown way more innings and are more deserving. I can’t see Chapman getting in. He simply hasn’t pitched enough.

* * *

I suppose there’s a chance Brian McCann will sneak into the All-Star Game because AL catchers are so collectively terrible, but I feel like he’s been slumping a little too long to get in. (Last night’s game notwithstanding). Didi Gregorius has been awesome, but man, there are way too many good shortstop in the AL. Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts. There are your three AL All-Star shortstops from now through 2020. Sorry Didi. Not happening.

My not-so-bold prediction is the Yankees get two All-Stars this year: Beltran and Miller. Tanaka doesn’t make it and Betances falls victim to the bullpen numbers crunch. I think it’s much more likely Betances sneaks onto the roster than Tanaka, and I think it’s really unlikely Sabathia and Chapman make it to the All-Star Game at this point. Miller’s a lock. He’s been so outrageously good. Everyone else is a maybe, even Beltran because of the hamstring.

DotF: Judge, Austin, Cave lead Scranton to another win

The daily notes:

Triple-A Scranton (11-2 win over Syracuse) they faced former RailRider RHP Jaron Long … they’ve averaging 5.55 runs per game this month

  • LF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 R, 2 RBI
  • RF Aaron Judge: 2-5, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K — 23-for-63 (.365) with nine homers, 14 walks, and 16 strikeouts in his last 17 games
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-6, 1 R, 1 K
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K — 11-for-27 (.407) with three doubles and four homers in his last six games
  • CF Jake Cave: 3-4, 1 R, 3 RBI, 1 BB
  • RHP Luis Severino: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1/5 GB/FB — 73 of 100 pitches were strikes … allowed two runs on four hits and a walk in the first inning, then cruised the rest of the way
  • LHP Chasen Shreve: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K — eleven of 17 pitches were strikes … 11/3 K/BB in 6.2 Triple-A innings so far
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 1 IP, zeroes, 3 K — ten of 14 pitches were strikes … 22/12 K/BB in 21 innings here
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K — 12 of 19 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 77: Avoiding No. 40

(Getty)
(Getty)

Every once in a while I go back and compare teams to the 1998 Yankees, who were so obscenely good it doesn’t seem real even though I watched them with my own eyes. That team went 114-48, and they suffered their 40th loss in Game 140. I’m not joking. They were 100-39 at one point. The Red Sox went 92-70 in 1998 and finished 22 games behind the Yankees. Ridiculous.

Anyway, tonight the 2016 Yankees are trying to avoid their 40th loss of the season. In Game 77. This 2016 team is a wee bit off the pace from that 1998 squad, huh? Heck, even the 2013 Yankees didn’t suffer their 40th loss until Game 88. Can the 2016 Yankees delay that inevitable 40th loss another day? Maybe! Here is the Rangers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. RF Aaron Hicks
  9. 1B Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Much nicer weather today than the last few days. The sun is out and the chance of rain is down around 5%. There should be no problem getting the game in tonight. This evening’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Carlos Beltran (hamstring) is still sore and remains day-to-day. Joe Girardi said it is “worrisome” he’s still feeling it. This is fine. … Mark Teixeira has some soreness in his knee, which is why he’s out of the lineup.

Yankees holding 1996 championship team reunion on August 13

The 1996 Yankees are my favorite Yankees team of all time. I’m guessing many of you feel the same way. Sure, the 1998 and 2009 teams were awesome, but that 1996 squad was my first World Series championship team. I was still a kid and baseball had just crushed my soul for the first time in the 1995 ALDS. Not team will compare to the 1996 Yankees to me.

Earlier today the Yankees announced they will hold a ceremony honoring the 20th anniversary of 1996 Yankees on Saturday, August 13th. A total of 32 members of that 1996 team will be in attendance, including Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Wade Boggs, Paul O’Neill, Tim Raines, David Cone, Jimmy Key, Jim Leyritz, and Joe Torre. But not Kenny Rogers. He wasn’t invited. (I don’t know if that’s true, but he won’t be there.)

Here is the press release with the full list of attendees. The Yankees are playing the Rays, who didn’t even exist back in 1996, that weekend. Here’s the schedule of events:

  • Friday, Saturday 12th (7pm ET): First 15,000 fans receive a 1996 World Series replica trophy.
  • Saturday, Saturday 13th (1pm ET): 1996 Yankees reunion ceremony.
  • Sunday, Saturday 14th (1pm ET): Mariano Rivera Monument Park plaque dedication ceremony.

That is going to be a pretty awesome weekend. I’m sure the cynical folks among us will say the Yankees are doing all this because attendance is down and the 2016 team stinks, but this has been in the works for a while. The 20th anniversary of the 1996 Yankees was always going to have a special day, as it should. They’re going to do this again in 1998, 1999, and 2000 too.

We had an entire Retro Week dedicated to the 1996 Yankees earlier this season, so go back and check that all out if you haven’t seen it. And even if you have seen it, read it again.

What can Andrew Miller tell us about a possible Aroldis Chapman trade?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

At some point in the next four weeks, the Yankees will hopefully come to their senses and realize the 2016 Yankees aren’t going anywhere. It would take a massive run to become serious postseason contenders. Something like 20-8 in the 28 games before the trade deadline. That kind of run. Does this team seem capable of doing that? Not at all. Never say never, but … never.

I want the Yankees to win this year. I really do. But the team isn’t cooperating. At some point the focus has to shift from winning right now to winning in the future, and that decision has to be made relatively soon with the trade deadline looming. Should the Yankees sell, their two best trade chips are Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, two impact late-inning relievers wanted by basically every other team in the league.

Chapman will be a free agent after the season, so there figures to be more urgency to move him. Miller is signed for another two years and keeping him is a perfectly viable strategy. Estimating trade value is difficult — especially for an elite player since so few get traded — because so many trades come down to one team liking a player more than everyone else and making a bigger than expected offer. That’s what happened with Shelby Miller over the winter.

The Yankees figure to get a good return for Chapman assuming they make him available, but how good, exactly? That’s where Miller comes in. Two years ago he was an elite reliever due to become a free agent who was traded at the deadline. Miller can help give us an idea what Chapman is worth on the trade market, and I don’t mean just the trade itself. The trades for Miller that didn’t happen can tell us something too. Let’s look.

The Comparison

Might as well start here. At the time of the trade Miller was one of the most dominant relievers in all of baseball. He took his game to another level during that 2014 season, and somehow he’s taken it to yet another level with the Yankees. It’s been pretty awesome. Here is Miller’s pre-2014 trade deadline performance and Chapman’s 2016 performance to date.

ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/9
Miller in 2014 2.34 1.69 40.6% 7.7% 52.5% 0.43
Chapman in 2016 3.15 1.96 38.8% 5.0% 38.6% 0.90

Miller then was better than Chapman is now. It’s not quite as simple as a half-season worth of numbers in a table though. At the time of his trade, Miller had performed like one of the best relievers in the world for roughly 40 innings. That’s it. He broke out that 2014 season. Chapman has been doing it for years. His track record is far greater than Miller’s was back then, and that means something.

There’s also the salary difference, which isn’t negligible. Miller made only $1.9M during that 2014 season. Chapman is pulling down $11.325M this season. That’s a lot of money to take on at the deadline. Of course, the Yankees could always eat some money to facilitate a trade, and they should be very willing to do so if it means getting a greater return. I don’t think the money will be deal-breaker, but it is something that will factor into talks, no doubt.

I don’t think we can ignore the off-the-field stuff too. Chapman has served his suspension, but the domestic violence case absolutely means there will be a negative PR hit. Maybe not a huge one, many fans don’t seem to care about his incident, but there will be a PR hit. Pick up Chapman and some folks won’t like it. Miller has no such off-the-field issues and is widely seen as pretty much the perfect teammate. The perception of the two is very different and that matters.

Statistically, Miller was having a better season at the time of his trade than Chapman is now, but his track record was not nearly as good. Chapman is more expensive and the domestic violence incident isn’t something that can be ignored. I see 2014 Miller and 2016 Chapman having similar trade value overall despite all the differences. They’re elite rental relievers. Teams are looking at these guys as 20-30 inning pickups, not a long-term addition.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Initial Ask

What happens when a team makes a player available? They ask for the moon in return. Free agents do it too. The initial ask is always super high. Why? For starters, someone just might pay it. You’re never going to get Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano if you don’t ask. Scondly, it gives you some wiggle room to come down in negotiations.

According to Jayson Stark, here’s what the Red Sox sought for Miller at the 2014 trade deadline:

(The) two players on that list they’ve priced the highest are Lester and Miller. Officials of two clubs report the Red Sox have asked for one of their top prospects, plus a lesser prospect, just for Miller.

The BoSox set the price high. They initially asked teams for a top prospect plus a second piece for Miller. That’s a lot to seek for a rental reliever, but again, this was only the initial ask. When the time comes to move Chapman, the Yankees should open negotiations with a similar request. Give me a top prospect and a second player or he’ll go to one of the many other interested teams.

Interested Teams

As you’d expect, a whole bunch of teams wanted Miller in 2014. Contenders were the most aggressive. Ken Rosenthal says 10-12 team inquired about Miller, and according to Rosenthal and Nick Cafardo, the four finalists were the Orioles (duh), Tigers, Dodgers, and Brewers. Here are their records on the morning of the 2014 trade deadline.

  • Brewers: 60-49, 2.0 games up in NL Central (67.1% postseason odds per Baseball Prospectus)
  • Dodgers: 61-47, 2.5 games up in NL West (97.2% postseason odds)
  • Orioles: 60-46, 2.5 games up in AL East (77.0% postseason odds)
  • Tigers: 58-46, 5.0 games up in AL Central (90.4% postseason odds)

Four first place teams made the most serious pushes for Miller. The Brewers collapsed spectacularly in the second half of the 2014 season, but the three other teams went to the postseason. They weren’t looking at Miller as a “get me over the hump and into the playoffs” pickup. He was viewed as a “help me win the World Series” pickup. There’s a difference.

As of this morning, only six teams have postseason odds of 67% of better according to Baseball Prospectus: Cubs (99.8%), Indians (96.5%), Rangers (96.1%), Nationals (94.7%), Giants (90.3%), and Dodgers (80.8%). The Red Sox and Orioles are at 64.0% and 62.8%, respectively, so they’re not too far behind. That’s pretty much the market for Chapman right there. The best of the best. Not bubble teams.

The Actual Trade

When it was all said and done, the Red Sox traded Miller to the Orioles for pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. It was a straight one-for-one trade. Two things stand out about this.

1. They traded him within the division. The Red Sox took what they felt was the best package and sent Miller to a division rival. Some teams aren’t willing to make intradivision deals like that. Obviously it helped that the BoSox were out of it and Miller was only a rental, not someone under control for a few years. It wasn’t going to matter if he helped beat them that season, and he probably wasn’t going to stick around long enough to keep beating them in future years. Trading Chapman, the rental, to the Red Sox would be one thing. Trading Miller and two years of control to the Red Sox would be another.

2. They took the single best player over a package of multiple players. The initial ask was a top prospect and a secondary piece. Boston settled for only the top prospect. Rodriguez was in Double-A at the time of the trade and he really wasn’t pitching all that well: 4.79 ERA (3.52 FIP) with a 19.0% strikeout rate and an 8.0% walk rate in 82.2 innings. Orioles pitching prospects, yo.

Rodriguez went into the 2014 season as a consensus top 100 prospect. Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 43rd best prospect in the game while Baseball Prospectus (61st), Baseball America (65th), and MLB.com (68th) all had him a little lower. Neither Law (top 25) nor Baseball America (top 50) ranked Rodriguez in their midseason prospect list a few weeks prior to the trade deadline.

Based on that, the possible return for Chapman could be a top 100 caliber prospect who is reasonably close to the big leagues, but is not a truly elite prospect. Someone in the middle of the top 100. The precedent has been set. Using Baseball America’s 2016 top 100 list as guide, here are some possible targets from the teams mentioned in the previous section:

  • Cubs: SS Gleybar Torres (No. 41), C Willson Contreras (No. 61)
  • Indians: OF Clint Frazier (No. 44)
  • Rangers: RHP Luis Ortiz (No. 64), RHP Dillon Tate (No. 69)
  • Nationals: none
  • Giants: IF Christian Arroyo (No. 62)
  • Dodgers: 1B/OF Cody Bellinger (No. 54)

It goes without saying some of those guys are more attainable than others. There’s basically no chance the small market Indians will trade Frazier for a rental reliever. Contreras is in the big leagues now and making an impact for the Cubs, so forget him too. Also, I would be surprised if the Rangers were willing to discuss their 2015 first round pick (Tate) in a trade so soon. Torres, Ortiz, and Bellinger seem to be the most realistic trade targets.

Keep in mind this is just a “these guys are similar to the guy the Red Sox got for Miller two years ago” list, not a “this is who the Yankees can definitely get for Chapman now” list. The error bars here are pretty large. We’re just trying to get a ballpark idea here.

Bellinger, who is indeed Clay's kid. (Presswire)
Bellinger, who is indeed Clay’s kid. (Presswire)

The Failed Trade

Here’s where it gets interesting. Before completing the deal with the Orioles, the Red Sox actually agreed to trade Miller to the Tigers, but they backed out once the O’s put Rodriguez on the table. Detroit got 2010 Cliff Lee/Justin Smoak’d, basically.

“We thought we had him,” said then Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski to Joel Sherman at the time. “We were disappointed because we offered what (the Red Sox) asked for. Normally when you do that, you get the player. They felt they could do better. That is their prerogative.”

It’s unclear who the Tigers would have traded to the Red Sox for Miller, but reports indicate it was a multi-player package, not a one-for-one deal. Jon Morosi says pitching prospect Austin Kubitza was a name discussed in the deal, though I don’t think he was the center piece. He was a 22-year-old in Low Class-A who was Detroit’s fourth round pick the year prior. Kubitza was likely the second piece.

Miller was traded on deadline day, and a few days earlier the Tigers sent pitching prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel to the Rangers for Joakim Soria. Perhaps that was their Plan B? They offered Thompson and/or Knebel and/or Kubitza for Miller, then moved on to Soria once it was clear the Red Sox were going in another direction? Knebel was just a reliever, but Thompson was in the middle of a breakout season and has since landed on multiple top 100 lists.

Given their willingness to trade Thompson — and the fact their farm system was otherwise short on high-end prospects — it seems like he could have been the center piece in Miller trade talks. He was a 20-year-old kid in High Class-A at the time, so he wasn’t a Rodriguez level prospect, but he was in the process of becoming a top prospect. It wasn’t a secret. Everyone knew it at the time. Kubitza and/or Knebel would have then been the sweeteners.

There’s more than one way to build a trade package. The Red Sox went for the big one-for-one deal, though it seems they also considered a package of lesser prospects as well. The Yankees figure to entertain all offers, and really, it’s going to come down to their preference. One big prospect sounds more attractive, but getting two pieces for Chapman instead could be the best move. I don’t think there’s one right answer here. Both are reasonable.

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The O’s were widely panned for trading Rodriguez for Miller, which means nothing as far as Chapman is concerned. It doesn’t mean clubs will be less willing to trade a top prospect for a rental reliever. Remember, it only takes one team — and one desperate GM or owner — to go out and make that big offer. The Yankees picked up Chapman for peanuts, and now that the uncertainty surrounding his suspension no longer exists, they have a chance to flip him for something really good. The 2014 Miller trade suggests as much.