MLB Trade Deadline Live Blog: Sonny Gray heads to Yankees, Yu Darvish to the Dodgers

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Monday July 31st, 2017

The Trade Deadline is here! Every Major League team looking to bolster its roster before the playoff run or restock its farm system for the future has until 4 p.m. ET today to complete a trade without a player going on waivers. With classic contenders (Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees) looking to add pitching and upstart teams (Rockies, Diamondbacks) looking to complete their unlikely playoff runs, this year's race to 4 p.m. should be as exciting as any in recent memory. Follow along with us here before tuning into our live show later today with SI MLB staff Jay Jaffe, Ben Reiter and Ted Keith.

4:10 p.m.: Dodgers acquire Yu Darvish from Rangers

Jon Tayler: Another walk-off for the Dodgers, who came in just after the 4 p.m. deadline and picked up Yu Darvish from the Rangers. Arguably the best starter available on the market, the Japanese righthander is amid his fourth All-Star season in five years. The initial numbers are a little surprising: a 4.01 ERA in 137 innings is nothing special, and his 114 ERA+ is his lowest mark since his rookie season in 2012. That’s thanks in large part to a dip in the 30-year-old’s strikeout rates—he’s down to 9.7 per nine after whiffing 11.8 per nine last season—and a slight uptick in home runs allowed. That may be mechanical (there are some striking variations in Darvish’s release points this season), or it may be that his pitches have lost some bite.

But the Dodgers will bet that whatever’s ailed him can be fixed, and when he’s on, few pitchers are as tough to hit as he is, thanks to his bewildering array of offerings—as many as eight different pitches, including a wipeout slider and a hard four-seamer that sits at 94 mph. That makes him a viable second piece in the rotation behind Clayton Kershaw (when he’s healthy), but Los Angeles doesn’t need him to secure the NL West, where the team has a staggering 14-game lead to go with the most wins and best winning percentage in baseball.

Instead, Darvish will provide a terrifying presence in the postseason, as he’ll take the pressure off Kershaw to pitch on short rest in multiple series and rescue Dave Roberts from having to play bullpen roulette due to his cast of good but less durable starter options like Rich Hill, Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda. Darvish can get through a lineup three times if needed—a huge bonus against the far tougher offenses that the playoffs contain.

For Texas, the big return is Willie Calhoun, the Dodgers’ No. 4 prospect according to MLB.com; Baseball America had him fifth ahead of the season. Calhoun is on the smaller side—he’s only 5 '8"—but the former fourth-round pick can swing a big stick, profiling as a Howie Kendrick-type hitter who excels at making contact but with more power. 

The big question will be whether he can stick at second base; scouts are divided on his defense there, and he will likely end up as a corner outfielder, dampening his offense in the process. Righthander A.J. Alexy clocked in at No. 17 on MLB’s list; the 19-year-old righty was an 11th-round pick last year. Standing tall at 6' 4", Alexy has put up big-time strikeout numbers in low A ball, whiffing 86 in 73 2/3 innings. He doesn’t offer much velocity at the moment, topping out at 93, but he has plenty of room to grow (well, pitching-wise; he’s probably topped out in height). The third piece is 20-year-old infielder Brendon Davis, a draft-day splurge in 2015 who was given second-round money ($918,600) in the fifth. Davis hasn’t done much at the plate in his short time with the Dodgers and is unlikely to stick at shortstop, but his quick bat and solid defense at third base make him an intriguing prospect with upside, albeit one who needs to learn plate discipline. All in all, it’s not a bad return for a rental player in Darvish, though Los Angeles did well to hold on to top prospects Alex Verdugo and Walker Buehler.

4:00 p.m.: Nationals acquire Brandon Kintzler from Twins

3:45 p.m.: Dodgers acquire Tony Watson from Pirates, Tony Cingrani from Reds

Jon Tayler: Tony Watson is a Dodger, which means Zach Britton and Brad Hand won’t be. That’s the biggest takeaway from Los Angeles’ acquisition of the Pirates’ former closer, who lost his job back in mid-June amid a wildly inconsistent season. The lefty’s 3.66 ERA is fine on the surface, but his mediocre strikeout rate (6.8 per nine) and gopher-itis (seven homers allowed in 46 2/3 innings) paint a less pleasant picture. Watson is a free agent at the end of the season, but he has held lefties to a .711 OPS against this season and a .569 mark in his career. He should at least be an upgrade over Luis Avilan, the Dodgers’ top southpaw reliever at the moment, even if he won’t make quite the impact that Britton or Hand would have.​ The Dodgers also added lefty Tony Cingrani from the Reds, a former top prospect who is struggling this season, but is designed to provide bullpen depth.

3:05 p.m.: Yankees acquire Sonny Gray from A's

Jay Jaffe: The Yankees have won the Sonny Gray sweepstakes, acquiring the 27-year-old right from the A’s in exchange for outfielder Dustin Fowler, shortstop Jorge Mateo and righty James Kaprielian​. Gray has rebounded from an injury-plagued season to post a 3.43 ERA, 3.24 GIP and 8.7 k/9 in 97 innings for the A’s. He comes with two years of remaining control, which explains why the Yankees had to give up so much to get him, but also why they saw him as a much better option than a rental such as Yu Darvish. CC Sabathia, the injured Michael Pineda and the newly-acquired Jaime Garcia will be free agents after this season, while Masahiro Tanaka can opt out, not that he’s having a strong enough season to make that worth his while.

Via Baseball America, Mateo and Kaprielian were the team’s fourth- and fifth-best prospect coming into the season, while Fowler was ranked ninth. But what’s striking is that the Yankees didn’t give up any sure things here. Both Karprelian, their 2015 first-round pick, and Fowler, an 18th round 2013 pick, are out for the season, the former due to Tommy John surgery and the latter due to a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee, suffered before he could even get to the plate for the first time in his major league debut.

Mateo, a 22-year-old whom the Yankees signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, was hitting .258/.318/.438 split between High A Tampa and Double A Trenton; his stock slipped from 2016 (26th among BA’s top 100) to 2017 (85th) after a season at Tampa in which he scuffled and served a team-issued suspension for insubordination. The team clearly views him as a lesser prospect than Gleyber Torres, who was in the running to be the game’s overall top prospect coming into the year before needing Tommy John surgery.

2:00 p.m.: Brewers acquire Jeremy Jeffress from Rangers

Jon Tayler: Jon Daniels has spent the last days of the trade deadline frantically trying to find the receipts for last year’s shopping spree, only to learn that the merchandise is too damaged to be of any value. On Sunday, he sent Jonathan Lucroy—who cost Texas two top prospects last summer—to the Rockies for essentially nothing. Today, he sent reliever Jeremy Jeffress—who was part of that Lucroy deal—back to Milwaukee for … essentially nothing. That’s not a surprise, as Jeffress has been awful this season: a 5.31 ERA in 40 2/3 innings, with just 29 strikeouts against 19 walks and eight home runs allowed, as well as a decline in velocity. There’s not a lot there for the Brewers, but maybe a return to the team that developed him can turn him into a serviceable middle relief arm. As for Texas, well, life comes at you very fast some times.

1:50 p.m.: Blue Jays trade Francisco Liriano to Astros

Jay Jaffe: We have another trade! The Blue Jays have dealt enigmatic lefty starter Francisco Liriano to the Astros in exchange for outfielder Nori Aoki (we assumed it wasn't going to be George Springer) and minor leaguer Teoscar Hernandez.

Given that Lance McCullers has been lit for a 9.64 ERA in 18 2/3 innings in four starts this month, only one of which reached five innings, that Dallas Keuchel lasted just three innings on July 28 against the Tigers, his first start in the majors since June 2, and that the team is banking on Collin McHugh rounding back into form after missing the first half of the season due to elbow impingement, it was clear that the Astros needed rotation help.

Whether Liriano will actually provide that is another matter. The 33-year-old southpaw has been rocked for a 5.88 ERA and a 4.72 FIP this year, with his strikeout-to-walk ratio falling below 2.0 for the second year in a row; he’s been issuing 4.7 passes per nine. The Astros are banking on a change of scenery jump-starting his revival, and maybe they’re not crazy; after all, Liriano was getting lit for a 5.46 ERA/5.28 FIP in Pittsburgh last year, then rebounded to a 2.92 ERA/3.98 FIP in 49 1/3 innings after being acquired by the Blue Jays in a five-player deal on August 1. Similarly, he turned it around when going from the White Sox in 2012 (5.34 ERA and 4.51 FIP that year between them and the Twins) and the Pirates from 2013–15 (3.26 ERA/3.39 FIP) before falling apart last year. He’s making $13.67 million this year and will be a free agent again this winter; there’s no word yet on whether there’s money changing hands.

For now, it looks like Liriano will operate out of the bullpen instead of the rotation. While the Astros could still use more help there, the New York Post’s Joel Sherman reports that the plan is to use Lirano out of the bullpen; that unit has been battered for a 5.42 ERA since the start of June. It’s worth remembering that back in 2013, Liriano was as dominant against same-side hitters as anyone for whom we have splits (.131/.175/.146 in 138 PA). Even in a bad year, he’s been very good against lefties (.615 OPS allowed in 63 PA vs. LHB, .880 in 312 PA vs. RHB), and has been significantly better when facing batters for the first time in a game (.784 OPS) compared to second or third (.851 and .929, respectively).

12:45 p.m.: Determining the Yu Darvish market

Gabriel Baumgaertner: Yu Darvish is probably the sexiest name on this year's trade market, but the market for him may be thinner than Rangers GM Jon Daniels anticipated. The Dodgers are the team most closely linked to Darvish, but their front office is never keen on surrendering top prospects for rentals, and no other team appears willing to part with their best young players for a pending free agent. For more on the Darvish and Gray markets, consult my piece last night examining which teams have the most work to do at the deadline. The most recent news, however, indicates that the two teams aren't close on a trade.

 

12:30 p.m.: Zach Britton may be on the move

Jay Jaffe: Via ESPN’s Buster Olney and other reports, it appears increasingly likely that the Orioles will trade lefty closer Zach Britton.

The Indians are said to be pushing hard for Britton—can you imagine a bullpen with him and Andrew Miller?—and the mix also includes the Astros according to MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal.

12:05 p.m.: It's probably the Yankees or bust for Sonny Gray 

Jay Jaffe: Joel Sherman of The New York Post and Jon Morosi of MLB.com both report that Oakland’s Sonny Gray is most likely to be traded to the Yankees, with Sherman tweeting, “Still not at finish line, but becoming more than less likely now.” Over the weekend, the Yankees bolstered their rotation by acquiring lefty Jaime Garcia from the Twins for two pitching prospects, Zack Littell and Dietrich Enns. If the Gray deal goes down, that would give the Yankees a bit of flexibility, since they would have six able-bodied starters, with Garcia, Luis Severino, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and rookie Jordan Montgomery the other five; Michael Pineda was lost for the year due to Tommy John surgery earlier this month. Montgomery, a rookie who appears to be running out of gas and will eventually face some kind of innings cap, was rocked for a 5.90 ERA (though just a 4.49 FIP) in July while failing to last five innings in three of his six starts; through June he had pitched to a 3.53 ERA and 3.83 FIP.​

MLB
As MLB Trade Deadline Hits Home Stretch, Will Gray and Darvish Be on the Move?

11:55 a.m.: Mets trade Addison Reed to the Red Sox for three prospects

Jay Jaffe: Good morning. We already have our first trade of the day: the Mets dealing closer Addison Reed to the Red Sox for a trio of prospects, all of them relievers: Stephen Nogosek (18th among Boston’s top 30 prospects according to MLB Pipeline), Jamie Callahan (23rd), and Gerson Bautista (28th).

Reed, a 28-year-old pending free agent, picked up from the Diamondbacks on August 30, 2015, enjoyed a nice little renaissance in New York, posting a 2.09 ERA with 9.9 K/9 in 142 innings since then and taking over for the absent Jeurys Familia to log 19 saves with a 2.57 ERA and 8.8 K/9 in 49 innings this year. He’ll serve as Boston’s new eighth-inning guy ahead of Craig Kimbrel, given Joe Kelly’s absence since July 12 due to a hamstring strain. Thanks to that rebound from a rough patch in Arizona, Reed was apparently the most desired of the Mets’ trade chips.

Not only do the Mets get a trio of prospects, but the Red Sox are assuming the remainder of Reed’s salary, about $2.6 million. Of the trio, Callahan is said to be the most ready, with the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier noting, “Callahan is close to big leagues (AAA) w/mid-90s fastball, swing/miss slider and split. and “Bautista has mid- to high-90s fastball and slider. Nogosek is low- to mid-90s with a wipeout slider. Both in High-A.

It's great that the Mets got three lottery tickets for Reed, but it’s also worth remembering some sage wisdom that my former Baseball Prospectus colleague Christina Karhl noted about just-traded minor league relievers 14 years ago: “[G]etting all excited about minor league relievers is sort of like getting excited about ants: yes, they're nifty testaments to life in its glory, profusion, and wonder, but mostly, there are just a lot of them.” 

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