As we enter the All-Star Break, there are even more questions surrounding the upcoming July 31 MLB Trade Deadline. Manny Machado wound up remaining with the Baltimore Orioles, but will one team that set itself apart from the pack trigger a deal with the Birds? Moreover, will the Miami Marlins deal another popular player?
Oh, and going back to Baltimore, are the rumors true that another contending team has shown interest in Zach Britton?
No time to waste even if it is the All-Star Break, baseball fans. This is the Rumor Roundup.
Cubs interested in Zach Britton
The Orioles are also seeking to move closer Zach Britton in a trade, which makes sense since he is in the same boat as Machado in that his contract expires at season's end. A report last week linked him to the Philadelphia Phillies, who also really like Machado, but it appears they may now have some competition. Per Bruce Levine of 670 The Score, the Chicago Cubs are interested in Britton and also San Diego Padres southpaw Brad Hand.
This would be a great move for the Cubs, except Britton wouldn't come aboard as the team's closer. That job belongs to righty Brandon Morrow, who has 22 saves to go with a 1.47 ERA on the season. The Cubs also have a talented lefty in Justin Wilson in their bullpen, but his 2.77 ERA has been overshadowed by an issue with walks, 6.23 per nine innings to be exact.
Britton stumbled out of the starting gate in his return from Achilles surgery in the offseason but has lowered his ERA to 3.68. His power sinker could also be just what the Cubs need if they want to keep chasing the Milwaukee Brewers for the NL Central crown. Chicago currently ranks fourth in MLB in bullpen ERA with a mark of 3.09 and even though upgrading the relief corps isn't a priority, Britton and his ground ball rate of 62.2% would be a boon regardless.
Expect Britton's trade market to heat up in the coming weeks, especially with both Philadelphia and the Cubs now involved.
Nationals check in on JT Realmuto
The Washington Nationals have had a hole at catcher for most of the season and though they showed interest in Miami Marlins backstop JT Realmuto early on, GM Mike Rizzo appeared to move on after balking at Miami's high asking price. Well, it appears negotiations are now back on.
The Nats are now willing to "revisit" talks with Miami, according to Jon Heyman of Fancred, and are even open to including a top prospect in a potential deal. Realmuto, 27, is batting .310 with 12 home runs and 45 RBI for the fourth-place Fish and would be an immediate impact player on a Nationals team that currently sits just 5.5 games behind the Phillies for first place in the NL East.
While it's all well and good that Rizzo is now willing to include a top prospect in a potential Realmuto deal, it is vitally important the Nationals' GM plays his cards right. Miami has been in full-on fire sale mode since last offseason when star players in Christian Yelich, Dee Gordon, Marcell Ozuna, and reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton were all traded. These trades were all because new owners Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman were focused on cleaning up the financial mess left by previous owner Jeffrey Loria, which meant literally starting from scratch.
Sure, Ozuna brought in a top pitching prospect in Sandy Alcantara and Yelich a promising young outfielder in Lewis Brinson, but neither has lived up to their overall hype since arriving in South Florida. They were really only involved for two reasons: Miami was insisting on getting back top prospects in any potential deal, and both the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals wanted Yelich and Ozuna so much that it seems they overpaid without really considering Miami's position.
Heyman said in his report some thought the Nationals could include top prospect Victor Robles in a trade for Realmuto, but that's just a terrible idea. Robles has been injured for most of the season and if Bryce Harper walks in free agency, chances are he could immediately feature in Washington's starting lineup. With Miami coming from a position of weakness, Rizzo should be smarter than to include his best minor league players, even if Realmuto does have two years of team control remaining.
Phillies closing in on Machado?
If recent reports are any indication, the Manny Machado sweepstakes could come to a close shortly after the All-Star Break. The landscape changed over the weekend and as was reported by Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun yesterday afternoon, three teams have emerged as "in the lead" for Machado: the Brewers, Phillies, and Los Angeles Dodgers. Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe noted the New York Yankees are still "serious" about acquiring the star shortstop, but Encina called the Bronx Bombers' supposedly strong offer "exaggerated."
Encina was also quick to point out the race between Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles was "too close to call," but the general feeling is that Philly is in the lead. Phillies GM Matt Klentak is a former Baltimore front office assistant and knows Machado well, and he also has plenty of young prospects to offer in a deal, namely Sixto Sanchez and Adonis Medina.
But don't count out the Dodgers, Brewers, or Yankees either. Both Los Angeles and New York have plenty of prospects to offer that will help restock Baltimore's farm system, and Milwaukee is in win-now mode and seem willing to part with everything up to and including the kitchen sink if it means scoring Machado for a deep playoff run, even as a rental.
That all being said, until it is reported that the Orioles are closing in on a deal with one specific team, one must assume the Machado sweepstakes are going to come right down to the wire.