The ride so far has been wild. Not only have major names like Jose Quintana found new homes, would-be contenders like the Tampa Bay Rays have made repeated splashes in an effort to push through gritty divisional standings and into the postseason.
Which is the point, right? Teams going all-in around this time of year at the risk of long-term stability along the farm systems is a show of confidence and a potential yanking upward on the window to create excitement for fans.
It’s clear the Rays and notables such as the Chicago Cubs, winners of the Quintana sweepstakes, aren’t alone in this pursuit. Here’s a look at the latest making the rounds.
Cubs’ Hunt Continues
The above wasn’t meant to suggest the Cubs are anywhere close to done on the open market, not with an apparent need at catcher still weighing down the team’s outlook.
It seems the staff in Chicago wants a defensive-minded player behind the plate to pair with a shiny new toy like Quintana ahead of a playoff run.
Here’s Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal on the matter:
Alex Avila of the Detroit Tigers is a natural target for the Cubs, considering he’s one of this year’s unexpected breakout stars, hitting .276 with 11 homers and 32 RBI. He’s one of the more impressive catchers at the plate this year but who could see some natural regression, but as the report mentions, the Cubs aren’t necessarily tied to the idea.
The nice thing about the open market is having options. According to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro, the Cubs also have an eye on the Miami Marlins’ A.J. Ellis:
Ellis, though six years older than Avila at 36, is more in line with what the Cubs want. He’s only appeared in 27 games this year but would be a nice situational deployment behind Willson Contreras—and he’s the definition of a rental as he heads to free agency this offseason.
Maybe the bigger picture here is stressing the point that catcher is a position that could heat up in a hurry. The Cubs are the big fish on the hunt in the pond, but plenty of teams, spanning contenders and long-term thinkers alike, wouldn’t mind grabbing Avila even at a high selling point and seeing if he can fend off regression at the plate.
Verlander’s Market Slows?
It might be time to pump the brakes on chatter about a Verlander trade.
At first, it seemed obvious the Tigers would easily find a trade partner for an ace, especially with MLB Network’s Jon Morosi noting the Cubs had an interest as recently as last week—though his salary over the next two years was clearly an issue.
Morosi followed up Friday night by walking back some of the hype the rumor mill built over the past few days:
This aligns with a Rosenthal Facebook post from a day earlier saying the “odds remain heavily against” a trade before detailing the fact Verlander’s resume means he needs to approve a deal and that the league itself would need to approve any significant cash exchanging hands between teams.
It’s a shame, as the 34-year-old Verlander in new settings would be quite the interesting sight. He’s not performing like the ace who tallied a sub-4.00 ERA in each of the past two seasons, but a 4.50 mark with 120 strikeouts over 124 innings isn’t terrible, and a change of scenery might help.
Despite the reversal in tone, the Cubs and others might make this interesting on the run to the deadline. Plenty of others—such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, per Morosi—have an interest, and it only takes one team getting desperate after missing on another target like a Darvish or Sonny Gray.
For now, buzz seems mild on Verlander. But as longtime fans understand, these things change in a matter of hours, and there has simply been too much smoke so far to turn away now.
Clock Keeps Ticking on Darvish
Few teams have their backs to the wall more than the Texas Rangers as this deadline nears.
Most expect the team to move an elite arm like Darvish, even after an early denial by the front office, according to USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale.
The mood has all changed in a matter of days, according to Rosenthal‘s Facebook post: “The Rangers are telling interested clubs that they will move right-hander Yu Darvish, according to major league sources. They are confident they will get a quality return and actively exchanging names with teams.”
It’s silly to think the Rangers would sit on Darvish now, given some of the teams interested. Though he has a handful of teams such as the Cubs on his no-trade list, sharks like the Dodgers and New York Yankees still seem in the running if the price is right.
And it might just be—Darvish boasts a 4.01 ERA with 148 fanned batters over 137 innings, but he just took the mound on Wednesday and coughed up 10 earned runs in 3.2 innings in an eventual 22-10 loss. Teams understand a dud happens, but it’s a leverage point in blockbuster trade talks.
With the Rangers still in the hunt in the American League West, it’s easier than it should be for the Rangers to laugh off trade offers that don’t include a top-tier prospect or two. The fact he’s heading to free agency after the season means little to the team if keeping him means a playoff push.
Like many of the potential deals being mulled over the next 48 hours or so, any wide range of outcomes seems plausible here. Darvish could land elsewhere if the Rangers decide to focus on the future, or he could stick in town and land a lucrative extension in the offseason.
In short, Darvish is one of a few massive dominoes capable of falling and setting off a string of fireworks over the weekend.
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.
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