Murray Monday | Would Machado re-sign with Cubs if traded?
We’re right in the thick of the regular season, and there are plenty of things that jumped out. Here’s what I’m thinking and hearing:
Free agent starting pitching class from 2018 off to a rough start:
1. Jake Arrieta: His case is a bit different. Through his first 10 starts, he had allowed only 14 runs in 58.1 innings pitched, good for a 2.16 ERA. In his last three starts, things have gotten off track, allowing at least five runs in each appearance. His ERA ballooned from 2.16 to 2.66 to 2.97 to 3.33, where it’s at after allowing eight runs (four earned) against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Even stranger are his home/road splits. At home, he has been a far superior pitcher.
- Home: 6 starts, 37.1 innings pitched, 24 hits, 11 runs (7 earned), 33/12 K/BB ratio, .186 batting average. 1.69 ERA.
- Road: 7 starts, 35.2 innings pitched, 43 hits, 27 runs (20 earned), 16/12 K/BB ratio, .309 batting average. 5.05 ERA.
2. Yu Darvish: Darvish’s season has been riddled with injuries – first with a parainfluenza virus, then with right triceps soreness. When he’s been on the field, it hasn’t been pretty. Unlike Arrieta, his struggles have come both at home and on the road.
On the season, he’s posted a 4.95 ERA, a -0.3 WAR and a 49/21 K/BB ratio.
For a player that signed a six-year, $126 million deal in the offseason, those numbers are less than ideal. Whether those struggles were a product of the illness and triceps injury or part of adjusting to a new city remains to be seen. For the Cubs, they better hope he figures it out fast after this DL stint.
3. Alex Cobb: Of the three, Cobb has easily been the biggest disappointment. At this stage, he’s arguably the worst free agent signing from this past offseason.
In 11 starts, he’s thrown 56 innings, allowed 50 runs (45 earned) with a 37/14 K/BB ratio, worthy of a -1.0 WAR.
Among the issues for Cobb has been the long ball. In his peak years with the Rays from 2012-14, he pitched in 446 innings (roughly 149 per season) and gave up 35 home runs (11.67) per year.
This season, he has already allowed 11 home runs in 56.0 innings. Lets say Cobb pitches in 149 innings this year, that would put him on pace to allow 29 home runs on the season.
It’s early, but the four-year, $57 million deal the Baltimore Orioles handed him in the offseason is looking like a major mistake.
Madison Bumgarner – what’s going on exactly?
It’s only three starts in for Bumgarner, but early on, he hasn’t seemed like the same pitcher he has in years past. The once dominant polarizing lefty, in the words of The Athletic’s John Middlekauff, has seemed like “just a guy.”
The good news for the Giants: Bumgarner has gotten better in each of his three starts. Against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he pitched six innings, allowing three runs (two homers), but only struck out three batters.
The bad news for the Giants: they’re 0-3 in his starts. He’s gotten into dustups with umpires in two of those starts, been ejected once and there are concerns surrounding the effectiveness of his pitches even though they are relatively the same velocity as in years past.
Bumgarner was supposed to be the saving grace for the Giants – the one that turned their Cinderella story of surprise contenders in the National League West into a legitimate threat. Instead, the Giants are 5.0 games back of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the division, losing ground to both them and the Dodgers.
If San Francisco continues to fall out of contention, a selloff at the trade deadline is possible. Bumgarner has been mentioned in trade rumors even before coming back from injury, with the New York Yankees being talked about as the main potential suitor. But if he continues to show signs he isn’t the player he once was, it could result in a potential trade package being lessened significantly.
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Philadelphia Phillies are just fine. Relax.
Look at the Philadelphia Phillies roster. What jumps out? Talent is one. The youth is another.
They’re one of the five youngest teams in baseball, with the Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds rounding out the group (h/t Joe Giglio of NJ.com).
With that youth comes inexperience. There will be growing pains – bad defense and struggles at the plate being two of them, with the Phillies being the worst defensive team in baseball.
In 67 games played, the Phillies have 53 errors. For comparison sakes, the league’s best defensive team, the Houston Astros, have committed 22 errors in 71 games.
JP Crawford and Scott Kingery, two key pieces to the Phillies rebuild, are playing out of position defensively and hitting in the low .200s. Crawford is a natural shortstop playing third base. Kingery is a natural second baseman playing shortstop.
With all the woes, you’d think the sky was falling in Philadelphia. Coming into Monday, the Phillies hold a record of 37-32, only four games back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.
Youngest team in baseball. Rookie manager. Significant financial flexibility going forward. I understand Philly fans are impatient. Give the Phillies some time. They’re ahead in the rebuild, figure to be strong players for one of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in free agency, and the young talent is only going to get better.
Thoughts on the Baltimore Orioles at the trade deadline:
I think they’ll hold onto Manny Machado. I think they should trade him – it shouldn’t be up for debate. I just don’t think ownership will let it happen. In the odd chance they do trade Machado, the team I’d watch for is the Chicago Cubs.
One person close to Machado believes if there was a team he’d consider re-signing with before hitting free agency, it’s the Cubs.
As mentioned, a Machado trade is more unlikely than likely. But that’s something to file for free agency.
One player I do see being dealt: All-Star closer Zach Britton.
Last year, Baltimore and the Astros had a deal in place to send Britton to Houston, but the deal fell apart at the 11th hour.
Britton dealt with knee and elbow injuries in 2017, which resulted in some of his pitches losing effectiveness. Coming off a ruptured Achilles, any team looking to acquire the left-hander is taking a bit of a risk – but it could pay huge dividends.
Other trade candidates: Adam Jones, Brad Brach.
Possible the Brewers sell players off their big-league team?
At 42-29, the Brewers don’t exactly jump out as a team that would trade major-league talent, but there is a thought they might do just that.
The player: first baseman Eric Thames.
“Don’t be shocked [if he’s traded],” one league source texted recently.
Thames is known for his power – nine home runs in 27 games played in 2018 – and is a solid presence in Milwaukee’s lineup. With the emergence of Jesus Aguilar, there is a belief it could make Thames expendable.
Trading Thames, 31, would allow the Brewers to give Aguilar the everyday first base job, free up money ($6 million in 2019; $7.5 million club option for 2020), and potentially net a starting pitcher that they seek.
Granted, at his age, he wouldn’t be the headliner in a trade for a legitimate ace – a deal would still likely have to include top prospect Keston Hiura, among others, for it to get done.
We have a ways to go until the July 31 trade deadline, so a lot can happen. But it would hardly be a surprise if Thames is playing elsewhere come August 1.
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