MLB TRADE RUMORS: FACTS OR FICTION

MLB Trade Rumors: ‘Fact or Fiction’ on 10 Last-Minute Rumors

By

(Featured Columnist) on July 30, 2013

 

 

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USA TODAY Sports

According to sources, July 30—aka MLB Trade Deadline Eve—is annually littered with more rumors and speculations than any other day on the calendar. Making sense of the commotion often comes down to determining which portions of it actually make sense.

For example, virtually every team with a winning percentage above .450 has been mentioned as a possible landing spot for Jake Peavy. But in the end, he can only pitch for one team, and I’m convinced Oakland is where he’ll spend August and September (and October?).

Trade rumors can change in the blink of an eye—or 40 winks in the case of the Tigers bullpen. When most of us went to bed on Sunday night, the latest rumor had the Tigers inquiring about Joe Nathan. Not long after we woke up, they had traded for Jose Veras.

As such, don’t be surprised if some or all of these rumors have shifted winds within an hour of posting. However, as of 8:00 ET on Tuesday morning, these are the fact or fiction predictions for the latest MLB trade rumors.

Ervin Santana and Luke Hochevar Staying Put?

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Rumor: Ervin Santana and Luke Hochevar likely won’t be moved, per Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.

Verdict: Fact

 

Most teams would view being seven games behind a World Series favorite in late July as a reason to pack it in and start playing for next season. They would take it as a signal that it’s time to get something in return for free agents who will likely be too expensive to re-sign in the offseason.

Not Kansas City.

Since switching to the three-division format in 1994, the Royals have only finished above .500 once, winning 83 games in 2003. It wasn’t good enough to make the playoffs, though. You would have to go back 28 years to the 1985 World Series to find the last time the Royals made the playoffs.

(Considering the Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game since 1993, you would think Kansas City would get some more credibility in the “most cursed sports cities” discussions, but that’s neither here nor there.)

The Royals have effectively been playing for next year for nearly three decades, and it’s time to chase after the hope that 2013 is finally that year.

Barring a team that misses out on Jake Peavy desperately offering up half of its farm system for Santana, the Royals will likely stand pat at the deadline—perhaps even becoming buyers.

Luke Gregerson and John Axford on the Move?

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Rumor: Padres’ Luke Gregerson and Brewers’ John Axford could be traded, writes Danny Knobler.

Verdict: Fiction

 

The market for right-handed relievers is shrinking at an alarming rate.

Francisco Rodriguez, Jose Veras and Jesse Crain have already been traded to American League contenders. With the Phillies on an eight-game losing streak, not only are they incredibly unlikely to be buyers, but they could be introducing an even more valuable right-handed reliever into the market by making Jonathan Papelbon available.

If either rumored right-hander is dealt, Gregerson makes much more sense as the potential target. He has been one of the most valuable middle relievers in all of baseball over the past five seasons, while Axford has been something of a train wreck over the past two seasons.

But I don’t think either reliever is changing uniforms anytime soon. San Diego is far more likely to move Joe Thatcher out of its bullpen, and opposing teams are more likely to demand Jim Henderson from the Brewers ‘pen over Axford.

Giants Trading Their Veterans?

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Rumor: San Francisco Giants are listening to offers on key free agents, according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

Verdict: Fact

 

As is the case with every big-name soon-to-be free agent in the history of sports, the Giants are hopeful that they can re-sign Tim Lincecum, Javier Lopez and Hunter Pence this offseason, but they also have an open ear just in case.

Lincecum probably isn’t going anywhere. If they couldn’t or wouldn’t trade him in the four days after his no-hitter, I don’t see how they would suddenly be willing and able to part with him now.

Those other two players might be hot commodities, though.

With the asking price for Alex Rios apparently at an arm, a leg and three other highly touted limbs, Pence would seem to be at or near the top of the list of outfielders who are both good and available. And now that Scott Downs is no longer obtainable, Lopez might be the best left-handed reliever left on the market.

Would Texas Deal Joe Nathan?

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Rumor: Rangers have considered trading Joe Nathan, per Ken Rosenthal.

Verdict: Fiction

 

With Jose Veras moving to Detroit, it would appear the “Nathan to Tigers” rumors barely had a chance to get off the ground before they were squashed.

That doesn’t mean the Rangers are suddenly finished shopping him around town.

In my opinion, it was a stupid idea to begin with, and the Rangers will eventually realize how much he means to their team.

Despite a slightly rocky 2011 season spent regaining his form and confidence after Tommy John surgery, Nathan has been the second-most valuable closer in all of baseball for the past decade. In eight of his past nine seasons, both his ERA and FIP have been lower than 2.90.

More often than not, I would fully endorse getting as much as you can for a closer on the open market, but Nathan is an exception to the rule. Even if Joakim Soria might be capable of taking over as the closer, why not just have him set up for Nathan and assemble the strongest back-of-the-bullpen duo in the entire league?

Bud Norris Staying Put?

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Rumor: Houston isn’t close to any moves beyond the Jose Veras trade, tweets Astros beat writer Brian McTaggart.

Verdict: Fact

 

Even though they just traded their closer for an outfielder who probably won’t be ready for the big leagues until at least 2016, there’s no reason for the Astros to simply get whatever they can for Bud Norris.

And it doesn’t sound like they’re going to. According to one scout, the Astros are looking for a top prospect in return for a relatively cheap starting pitcher under team control through 2015.

However, being the de facto ace of the Astros doesn’t necessarily mean you belong at the top of any other rotation. In order to give up as much as Houston is asking for, teams would be looking for a top-of-the-line starter in return, and the jury is very much out on whether Norris can fill that role.

As such, it’s starting to seem less and less likely that Norris will be going anywhere at the trade deadline.

 

Padres Make Some Noise?

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Rumor: San Diego makes a “significant deadline deal,” tweets ESPN.com writer Jerry Crasnick.

Verdict: Fact (depending upon your definition of “significant”)

 

Crasnick reported that the Padres have a 25 percent chance of making a big trade. Aside from being about as informative or newsworthy as saying that Lindsay Lohan might get arrested in a given year, this led me to wonder what the Padres would consider a significant deal, and whether they would pull the trigger.

For as much as he has struggled, Chase Headley remains the Padres’ biggest trade chip. I doubt that’s what they have in mind, though. They’ve seemed pretty bullish about hanging on to him.

Something centered around Joe Thatcher and either Carlos Quentin or Will Venable seems to make more sense as a significant trade, especially given the number of contenders who could use both a corner outfielder and a left-handed reliever.

Whatever the trade ends up being, they’re one of the few sellers with marketable pieces, so they figure to wind up making one of the bigger multi-player trades at this year’s deadline.

Will the Nationals Do Anything at the Deadline?

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Rumor: No “big splash” for the Nationals, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

Verdict: Fiction

 

The decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg was all anyone could talk about over the final month of the 2012 season. What kind of general manager would willingly give up a great shot to win one season in order to potentially improve the odds of contending the following season?

If Mike Rizzo doesn’t do anything at this year’s trade deadline, people might be asking the same question about this season.

The Cincinnati Reds still play six games against the Pirates and nine games against the Cardinals. Pittsburgh and St. Louis played the first of their remaining 14 head-to-head games on Monday night. Someone in the NL Central is inevitably going to stumble enough to open up the door for someone else to claim the second wild-card spot.

If Rizzo wants to prove that he’s interested in winning championships rather than simply building contenders, here’s his shot. Acquiring another starting pitcher to replace the injured Ross Detwiler and soon-to-be-shut-down Taylor Jordan in the rotation might give the Nationals enough firepower to steal a playoff berth.

One year removed from sacrificing today for tomorrow, there’s no sense in taking the opposite approach at this year’s deadline.

Justin Morneau to Birdland?

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Rumor: The Orioles are interested in acquiring Justin Morneau, according to Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun.

Verdict: Fact

 

There has been some dissension as to whether the Orioles would consider trading Dylan Bundy or whether they would not.

Most would agree, though, that Morneau would be an excellent deadline acquisition for Baltimore.

Obviously, Chris Davis is doing just fine as the everyday first baseman, but the Orioles have spent the entire season trying to figure out their designated hitter situation. They have had 13 different players appear as a designated hitter, with none of them getting the call more often than Nolan Reimold’s 28 games at DH.

Morneau has struggled throughout the month of July, but some players handle incessant involvement in trade rumors better than others. His .180 batting average in this month may very well have decreased his demand, but put him in a position to play for a pennant and not keep a packed bag by the door, and he should improve markedly.

Will the Phillies Do Anything at All?

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Rumor: The Phillies—looking to sign Chase Utley to an extension, according to John Heyman, and asking too much for Cliff Lee, per Ken Rosenthal—won’t make any big trades.

Verdict: Fiction

 

The news on a possible Utley extension sounds like a desperate plea to convince other teams that they aren’t desperate to get something in return for him at the deadline.

If any team understands the health risks associated with Utley, it’s the Phillies. They would be borderline crazy to re-commit to a will-be-35-in-December middle infielder who only averaged 100 games played over the last three seasons.

Hard to believe Ruben Amaro Jr. is suddenly unwilling to part with a player who started the 2012 season on the disabled list with “partially tendinitis and partially a cartilage issue” in both knees.

If they do actually commit the necessary finances to Utley and haven’t yet located a money-growing tree, they’ll probably need to make up for it elsewhere by either trading Lee or Jonathan Papelbon.

Jake Peavy to Oakland?

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Rumor: Oakland wins the Jake Peavy sweepstakes, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

Verdict: Fact

 

Peavy has been in rumored trade talks with just about every big league team other than the Houston Astros. Frankly, I’m surprised we haven’t heard that the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters are interested in acquiring his services.

But the only two destinations that seem to keep coming up over and over again are Boston and Oakland.

Atlanta popped up when Tim Hudson went down, but that never made sense. With Brandon Beachy on his way back to the big leagues, they’re already going to have more starters than necessary.

I think Peavy ends up in Oakland instead of Boston for three main reasons.

1. The A’s were the other primary suitor in the Matt Garza trade talks. If they were a finalist for one of the two biggest names available, it’s safe to assume they’ll make a big push for the other one.

2. Clay Buchholz is reportedly beginning his rehab and could negate the need for a starting pitcher in Boston if he can make a full comeback soon.

3. Whether they lose him this year to Biogenesis or next year to retirement, the A’s need to replace Bartolo Colon in their rotation at some point. Fourteen months of Jake Peavy seems like the perfect amount, as one would assume Sonny Gray would definitely be ready to be a full-time member of a big league rotation by 2015.

News from Buster Olney on Monday afternoon is that Chicago is telling other teams it wants to keep him, and Ken Rosenthal reports the A’s are moving on from Peavy, but I’m not buying it. Sounds like a couple of disgruntled trade partners letting off steam before ultimately reconvening with cool heads for a trade.

 

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