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The trade deadline is a week away. Dress up, kids – we’re hitting the turbo button. I’m Levi Weaver, here with Ken Rosenthal — welcome to The Windup!
My family lives in a different state
The Braves made some moves yesterday to address their bullpen. First, they acquired RHP Pierce Johnson from the Rockies for minor-league pitchers Victor Vodnik and Tanner Gordon. Johnson has a 6.00 era in 43 games for the Rockies this year (although it’s 3.60 with 25 strikeouts and 8 walks over his last 15 innings).
Next, they acquired LHP Taylor Hearn from the Rangers. Hearn was a very effective reliever last year but has struggled out of the gate in the big leagues this year. In Triple A, he had a 3.66 ERA with 54 strikeouts and 24 walks in 29 1/3 innings. He was recently designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Alex Speas.
Interesting for Braves fans: Here’s a profile I wrote about Hearn this spring – his family is rodeo royalty.
One odd little inconsequential thing I noticed – both pitchers were in their hometown organizations before the trades. Johnson attended high school in Arvada, Colo., and Hearn was from Royse City, Texas.
For the Braves, the hope is that one or both will help offset the many injuries they’ve had – they currently have five relief pitchers in the IL. David O’Brien has a more in-depth analysis here.
Ken’s Notebook: Ps Frelick brought a new bat to the Brewers offense
For all you need to know about the Brewers offense, consider that 23-year-old Sal Frelick stands 5-foot-10 and 182 pounds and is on his second day in the majors — his second day! — he moved to the cleaning area.
Frelick earned that spot after making one of the most remarkable debuts in recent memory Saturday, going 3-for-3 with a sacrifice fly, driving in the tying run and making two spectacular catches in right field in the Brewers’ 4-3 win over the Braves.
A rival executive, granted anonymity so he could speak candidly, said of Frelick afterward, “Love the ‘D,’ didn’t sell the bat. Not sure I saw any power coming but good player overall.
Oops! The power came Monday night, when Frelick, again batting cleanup, hit his first career homer, a game-tying shot off the Reds’ Graham Ashcraft in the sixth inning. The Brewers went on to win, 3-2, on a walk-off single by Christian Yelich, improving their record against the second-place Reds to 9-2 and extending their lead in the NL Central to 1 1/2 games.
The Brewers offense ranks 26th in runs per game, ahead of the Marlins, Tigers, Royals and A’s. But Frelick, the No. 31 game prospects according to midseason update by The Athleticby Keith Law, provides a spark. The next step is for general manager Matt Arnold to supply reinforcements, starting with first base/DH types.
As usual, pitching and defense are staples for the Brewers. The expected return of right-hander Brandon Woodruff from a shoulder issue in mid-August should make the rotation stronger. But after Yelich, William Contreras and Willy Adames in the first three spots, the rest of the batting order is mostly rookies and journeymen.
Before I worked on the Braves-Brewers broadcast for Fox on Saturday, I told a Brewer guy the relative weakness of the team’s lineup, five through nine. He smiled and offered a slight correction, saying, “four to nine.”
Frelick, the 15th pick out of Boston College in the 2021 draft, batted sixth in his debut. Until further notice, he will continue to hit the cleanup. All 5-10 and 182 pounds of him.
When red flags turn white
You can tell we’re getting close to the deadline when we see an influx of “these guys can work here” or “these guys won’t be here long” stories.
• There are sellers, like the Mets. Tim Britton and Will Sammon team up to see who’s going out the door as the Tesla of baseball teams begins to remove passengers from a battery fire. Or the Tigers, who may be saying goodbye to some players.
• There are buyers, such as the Twins, who could use one of the 12 relief pitchers listed by Aaron Gleeman, or the Yankees, who have given Chris Kirschner eight outfield options to pursue. Chandler Rome answers some questions about the Astros’ deadline plans here.
• And there are … others, like the Padres, who might sell – they’re 6 games back in the wild-card race – but could also be buyers? Or the Red Sox, who have some minor league redundancies and can buy, but probably won’t mortgage the future for a shot at a wild-card berth.
If your team isn’t mentioned, we also have this week’s All-30, which examines each team’s player who seems most likely to be traded.
Tell me, what is the end
Jon Heyman of the NY Post tweeted yesterday on the Pirates willing to listen in offers to starting pitcher Mitch Keller, plus closer David Bednar. Bednar is expected to be a hot product at the deadline, but the willingness to trade Keller is new information.
Keller is not a free agent until after the 2025 season, and his salary this year — his first arbitration — is just over $2.4 million. That will go up over the next two years, but it’s a pretty low price for a pitcher who made his first All-Star team this year, especially when you consider that the Pirates have to go back to rebuilding the food chain.
The implication, then: The Pirates want players they believe will give them a better chance to win over the next two years and beyond than Keller. The 27-year-old is now 9-6 with a 4.01 ERA, with 137 strikeouts and 37 walks in 128 innings.
That’s not the kind of pitcher the Pirates need want of the sale, but again, the words are that Pittsburgh is “willing to listen.” Given the number of contenders looking for starting pitching (spoiler: it’s, like, all of them), it’s worth taking a few calls to gauge interest and see if they can bring back the ol’ blockbuster deal at the deadline, setting themselves up for a heavy haul to help them return to prominence in the coming years.
Baseball Card of the Week
“Hey Mike, for this one, your motivation is that you’re crouching, like behind a bush on the front lines of baseball wars. Your prudence brought you here, but you’re not a coward – you’re a philosopher, pondering what flaw in the human recipe forces us to go to war.
Shake hands and High Five
Shohei Ohtani Trade Rumor Tracker:
• According to Jon Morosi, the Orioles and Diamondbacks are among the teams that have inquired about Ohtani, though Morosi described both as “due diligence” at this point. That’s it for today. C’mon, teams — we’ve got a tracker to live with, here.
If you’re looking for a league view of the trade deadline, Ken has you covered, including details on the Lance Lynn trade market and Padres notes.
Tim Britton, fresh off his project to try to make comparisons for a Shohei Ohtani rental price, took on a slightly more traditional project: using comps to try to estimate the return value for some of the more marketable players available at this year’s deadline.
My name has never been bandied about as the trade deadline approaches, but check out the Reds’ entry in this week’s Power Rankings, which examines each team’s biggest needs at the deadline.
Yankees fans make trade proposals, Yankees writers analyze them.
Patrick Mooney has a profile on Kyle Hendricks, who was a model of soft-spoken consistency during his time with the Cubs.
Tough day in Denver. We already know that Antonio Senzatela will undergo Tommy John surgery. Apparently he will join the leakage of the Rockies’ top 12 prospects: Gabriel Hughes, Jackson Cox and Jordy Vargas.
Alex Kirilloff is your AL Player of the Week as the Twins pick up steam — they’re 8-2 in their last 10 games and now lead the AL Central by four games over the Guardians.
In Starkville: Jayson is in Cooperstown, so Doug Glanville is joined by former teammate and Phillies great Mike Lieberthal who played with Scott Rolen and learned how to pitch to Fred McGriff during his career behind the plate.
(Top photo by Mitch Keller: Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)