MLB trade deadline watch: Could Rockies leverage trade market without many clear sellers? (2024)

MLB trade deadline watch: Could Rockies leverage trade market without many clear sellers? (1)

By The Athletic MLB Staff

Jul 3, 2024

By Will Sammon, Patrick Mooney and Katie Woo

MLB trade deadline watch is a collection of news and notes from our reporting team of Patrick Mooney, Will Sammon, Katie Woo and Ken Rosenthal.

The Colorado Rockies plan to consider deals for some of their players under club control beyond this season including starting pitchers Austin Gomber and Cal Quantrill, people familiar with the club’s thinking said. Whether or not such players get moved, however, is anything but a foregone conclusion. The Rockies made a flurry of deals last summer but were inactive for a few years before that.

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This market, though, is thin on sellers, giving the Rockies an opportunity to capitalize. Colorado (29-55) and the Miami Marlins (30-54) are the only two teams definitively out of the National League wild-card picture. Miami already made one significant trade — in May — and likely will make other deals. Colorado is at least open to operating similarly to how it did last year when it made five trades and addressed an area of need by acquiring seven pitchers.

Demand for pitching will be high and the Rockies have a handful of intriguing trade candidates. Rival scouts like Quantrill as someone who can help competitive teams fill innings in a capable way. Quantrill is making $6.55 million this year and has another year of arbitration left before becoming a free agent after the 2025 season. Gomber, who is making $3.15 million, also won’t be a free agent until after the 2025 season. League sources also pointed to right-hander Ryan Feltner, who has a 5.82 ERA but some decent underlying numbers, as another starting pitcher who may generate some interest.

Colorado always has trouble pitching and they have to be mindful of covering innings for the remainder of the season — even if it’s looking like a losing one — without rushing the development of young players. But a few starters returning from injury could, in theory, make it easier for Colorado to trade, say, Gomber and/or Quantrill. Kyle Freeland is already back while Germán Márquez is expected to return within a couple weeks with Antonio Senzatela behind him. Dealing from the rotation will mostly come down to interest, and what offers come the Rockies’ way.

In the bullpen, lefty Jalen Beeks stands out as an obvious trade candidate; he’s a free agent at the end of the season. League sources said the Rockies may also receive calls on right-handed relievers Justin Lawrence and Tyler Kinley despite both pitchers carrying ERAs over 5.00. Lawrence won’t be a free agent until 2029, but Kinley (8.02 ERA) is making $1.3 million and is under contract for next season at $3 million with a club option for 2026.

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Veteran Ryan McMahon is someone rival evaluators like, but Colorado likes him, too. His contract is relatively club-friendly as he is guaranteed $44 million over the next three seasons. The expectation from league sources is that Colorado will receive calls on both their catchers: Elias Díaz, who is making $6 million this season and is set to be a free agent, and Jacob Stallings, who is making $1.5 million with a mutual option for 2025.

There’s no guarantee that Colorado makes any deals involving any of the aforementioned players, and doing so in some cases would defy their reputation for being hesitant to sell off their pieces.

In an industry overrun with groupthink, the Rockies are often an outlier, an insular organization with a curious sense of attachment to the players on their last-place teams. Instead of trading Daniel Bard at the 2022 deadline, they announced a two-year, $19 million extension for the closer, who was 37 at the time and positioned to become a free agent after that season. Bard had one save last year, and he won’t throw a pitch this season while recovering from surgery on his flexor tendon.

The Rockies could have moved Brent Suter last summer, saving roughly $1 million on his expiring contract and adding another prospect to their farm system. It wouldn’t have been a blockbuster deal for a can’t-miss player, but Suter is a left-handed swingman with significant experience in multiple roles. Instead of getting something, the Rockies let him walk as a free agent and Suter signed with his hometown Cincinnati Reds.

This is an opportunity the Rockies shouldn’t waste.

Cardinals mulling over trade deadline decisions, but figure to add

At 44-40, the St. Louis Cardinals look to be well positioned to add to their club ahead of the trade deadline. Still, the organization has not made any definitive plans, according to sources familiar with the situation.

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If history holds, the Cardinals won’t sell. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak has sold once in his 17-year tenure, and begrudgingly at that. St. Louis was 13 games under .500 at the deadline last season and well out of contention, yet Mozeliak’s “fire sale” wasn’t much of a sale at all. Sure, the Cardinals traded five players (Jack Flaherty, Jordan Hicks, Jordan Montgomery, Paul DeJong and Chris Stratton), but all five were on expiring contracts. Mozeliak did not subtract from what he believed to be the core of his club, and multiple times publicly stated his desire to field a competitive team in 2024.

The Cardinals were not competitive at the start of the season. They were nine games under .500 on May 12, but they own one of baseball’s best records since. Their surge has propelled them back into playoff contention. What Mozeliak and the front office must address now is to which degree they’ll add.

The impending returns of Lars Nootbaar (oblique strain) and Tommy Edman (right wrist surgery) will be the leading factors. Both players are expected back around the All-Star break, Nootbaar possibly sooner. But the latest setback of Steven Matz, who has missed two months battling a protruding disc in his lower back, has opened the door to add to the rotation. Matz was shut down from his rehab assignment for the second time, and the earliest he can return is August.

There is a glaring lack of pitching depth on both the Cardinals’ 40-man roster and in Triple-A, an area the Cardinals will look to address this month. How aggressively they choose to do so will depend on how they close out the first half.

“At the trading deadline, you can always use pitching,” Mozeliak said. “There’s never been a year you don’t go into the deadline looking for pitching if you’re trying to contend. But ultimately, it’s going to be what do we look like in two or three weeks from a health standpoint?”

Should Cubs consider flipping pitchers?

Tyson Miller sat on a dock along Lake Sammamish, processing why the Seattle Mariners designated him for assignment and wondering where he might land next. Since Seattle called him up from Triple-A Tacoma in April, Miller had been crashing in an extra room in a lake house rented by Mariners reliever Tayler Saucedo. That arrangement lasted about a month before the roster crunch squeezed Miller again. As the hours went by, he said, “I got fried by the sun.”

In the 11-month span from September 2022 to August 2023, Miller had been selected by the Texas Rangers, claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers, traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, claimed by the New York Mets, and reclaimed then DFA’d by the Dodgers. Miller signed a minor-league deal with the Mariners last offseason and pitched well in nine appearances out of Seattle’s bullpen.

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“It was just unfortunate timing with guys coming off the IL,” Miller said. “I was the odd man out.”

Now, Miller could go from odd man out to being in demand. The Mariners traded Miller to the Chicago Cubs for Triple-A infielder Jake Slaughter, a transaction notable more for the early-season timing (May 14) than the names involved. But since then, Miller has posted a 1.53 ERA with a 0.623 WHIP across 17 2/3 innings, becoming perhaps the most trusted pitcher in Craig Counsell’s bullpen.

Teams are always fishing for more pitchers, but that’s especially true around the trade deadline, knowing that injuries could sink a season. The sense of urgency is only increased now that waiver trades are no longer an option for last-minute deals. With so much of their roster underperforming, it could make sense for the Cubs to explore the possibility of selling high on some of their overachieving players, especially since they have a sizable group of pitchers (Ben Brown, Jordan Wicks, Julian Merryweather, Mark Leiter Jr.) trending toward being activated off the injured list in mid-to-late July.

Miller will turn 29 the day before the July 30 deadline. The Cubs originally selected him in the fourth round of the 2016 draft out of California Baptist University, which was a Division II program at that time. He has grown into his 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame. He’s adjusted his slider to create more sweeping action and rearranged his pitch mix. The Brewers, for example, last year saw him as more of a bulk reliever than a late-inning option.

“It took a little while to try and find myself as a pitcher over the years,” Miller said. “With new teams, it’s people telling you, ‘Try this. Try that. We don’t like this pitch.’ That kind of thing. I’m just trying to figure out who I am as a pitcher. The Mariners helped show me that.”

(Top photo of Cal Quantrill: David Berding / Getty Images)

MLB trade deadline watch: Could Rockies leverage trade market without many clear sellers? (2024)
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