Today marks eight days prior to the MLB Non-Waiver Trade Deadline (don’t worry about what that phrase means: I’ll cover it next week). Around the Braves, there’s a lot of “buzz”, but not enough “honey” to report so far. That’s also the case throughout baseball unless you’re a fan of the Cubs or the Rangers. Here’s the round-up of tidbits as of this morning – and we’ll keep you updated as soon as things change:
Who’s in on Gonzalez?
Last week, I reported on the Braves interest in Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. If nothing else, he has a MUCH easier name than Yasiel Puig or even Yoenis Cespedes. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez is still on this story, and reports (via twitter) that the race is down to five teams. Let’s try and figure out which five, based on the reports about the interested parties:
- Phillies. Despite their payroll, they could afford Gonzalez since Roy Halladay‘s $20m will come off the books at year’s end (his option will not vest). Also, they spent a bunch of prospects last off-season to get Ben Revere… on top of other trades that have hurt their farm. This could be a way to help all of that out. Yes.
- Twins. Have pitchers galore in their system and are tight with payroll. No.
- Blue Jays. Can afford; always involved in unconventional things. Possible.
- Dodgers. You would think so – reports had them in the running up to $50m/5 years. But their payroll might be showing signs of being stretched – and there is not a lot of room on their roster for more pitching. But today comes another report that they are out on Gonzalez. Huh. No.
- Orioles. Will not outbid others. No.
- Marlins. Likely are counting on proximity to Cuba for a chance. No.
- Rangers. You might think not given the “all in” trade for Garza, but they could afford to bid, plus Garza is still just a rental. Yes.
- Cubs. Speaking of “all in”, have you seen how much they’ve blown on international signings? Gonzalez would not count against that cap… which they have exceeded anyway… and now as Alphonso Soriano is (maybe?) being moved to New York, the Cubs will save some money (at least worth a pizza or two). Note also that the loss of Garza leaves a large hole in their rotation, though this opportunity could be about a year ahead of their schedule. Possible.
- Red Sox. Has there been two minutes this year in which Boston wasn’t looking for pitching? Yes.
- Angels. Not said to be pursuing Gonzalez. Payroll is certainly a consideration there. No.
- Yankees. Payroll has been a stated consideration for New York. Oddly enough, though, if they want to be in on this, they can be: Jeter will likely be back – at a reduced rate. ARod… well, it is likely they simply won’t have to pay him for at least half the year, and that saves a ton of money right there. Granderson – if he returns – will not be making $15m again (and in fact, he will be an interesting call on a Qualifying offer this off-season). Gonzalez could slot into the rotation either in Andy Pettitte‘s slot, or Phil Hughes, depending on what happens with those two. In short: never count out the Yankees – Yes.
So where does that leave Atlanta? I counted around six teams still in the running. So only if I’m wrong about at least a couple of those can the Braves be on the short list. But here’s the reasons why they should be bidding hard:
- A chance to control a topflight arm for the next 5-ish years. At the price of a #2/#3 arm.
- A chance to get him without any impact to the farm system.
- A chance to replace a hole in the rotation (Paul Maholm, possibly Tim Hudson) for 2014 almost instantly.
I may be a lone wolf out here on this story – but it does seem to make good business sense. The Braves have signed Cuban expatriates in the past (Yunel Escobar, Brayan Pena, to name two), but certainly never at this level of price.
I’ll leave you with this teaser – from AJC beat writer Dave O’Brien, via twitter, just now:
We’ll likely know Gonzalez’ decision within the next two days.
- The Braves were among teams scouting the Twins this weekend, presumably for relief pitching. According to this report, those teams included the Phillies and Red Sox.
- Atlanta is emphasizing lefty relievers, it seems (“if he’s left-handed and breathing, chances are the Braves have checked in on him“), and this tweet from Jim Bowden underscores the point:
- MLB’s Mark Bowman (see link cited above) adds these names to Bowden’s list: former Brave Mike Gonzalez (Brewers) and Wesley Wright (Astros). Jayson Stark just reminded me that Charlie Furbush (Seattle) should also be on the list.
- Of those names, I would personally rank them roughly as Perez, Downs, Russell/Furbush, Dunn/Gonzalez, and Wright… but all are worth pursuit. I also agree with Bowden that the Twins would like to keep Perkins (hence not being ranked). Dunn may be more difficult to obtain based on statements coming from the Marlins. Furbush is under contractual control for a while, so he is probably the most difficult to trade for.
- Finances will not be an issue; trade pieces will be. Those pitchers under more control and with less age will require more/better prospects from the Atlanta farm.
- Do not rule out guys like Jesse Crain from the White Sox. Yes, he’s a righty, but Craig Kimbrel has been struggling through some lengthy innings lately (last night was pretty much rain-induced), so it would be a great idea to get a ‘second closer’ if the price is right. He’s still on their DL, but that could help make the price right… perhaps with one show of health before next Wednesday’s deadline.
Out of the Baseline
- The Phillies are second in the NL East, seven games out of first place (and the wild card), but they have been playing decently for a while… excepting their bullpen. So the notion that they have been checking on relievers in not surprising, but also a sign that they are not yet throwing in the towel, either. Let’s see how they do over the next several days – they could get aggressive quick… if they have any farm system left to work with.
- The Braves are not sitting back and doing nothing – that much is certain. Injuries have been taking a toll over the past few weeks, and this is the time of year to mend those kinds of problems. This could also include a utility infielder who can hit a bit. But that is clearly priority #2… or #3… behind relief pitching.
- I have previously mentioned the idea of a third baseman, but I believe that pursuit will wait until the off-season… Chris Johnson has certainly earned consideration for the post (and he’s contractually under control at the Braves’ discretion).