Another day dawns, another day where baseball fans, experts, and journalists alike try to figure out just what's going to happen at this year's July 31 deadline. The Baltimore Orioles continue to shop shortstop Manny Machado to the highest bidder, and that field appears to be set amongst three teams. The question is, though, who are they?
Meanwhile, in Detroit, the Tigers are prepared to deal not one but two of their best young players, but only on their terms. It's a clear-cut case of wanting to move guys they don't want to pay later, so will opposing teams in need take the bait?
Oh, and what's this about the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals possibly doing business?
Fasten your seatbelts, folks. It's going to be a bumpy ride in the Rumor Roundup today!
Red Sox like Whit Merrifield
One name nobody expected to hear in trade rumors this season was that of Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield, but it appears he has at least one suitor in the Boston Red Sox. Jon Heyman of Fancred reported last night that not only were the Red Sox interested in Merrifield but so were the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers.
Merrifield would almost certainly play second base for Philadelphia, who would probably send Cesar Hernandez to KC in a deal, and he could also be packaged to Milwaukee for Jonathan Villar. Boston, however, is the most intriguing destination.
Keep in mind that Merrifield broke out last year to the tune of batting .278 with 19 home runs, 78 RBI, and 34 stolen bases. He's batting .302 this season, but only has five homers and 29 RBI albeit with 16 steals. The good news is that despite that big dropoff, the 29-year-old has upped his walk rate to 9% from 4.6% in 2017.
But what really attracts Boston to Merrifield is his cheap price tag. Spotrac lists his salary this year at just $569,500, and he has one more year of team control left before being eligible for arbitration. With the Red Sox over the luxury tax threshold and Dustin Pedroia's knee expected to keep him out for the season and maybe longer, adding Merrifield would fill a big void in the infield. Dave Dombrowski just has to make sure he pays accordingly, as Merrifield turns 30 in January.
Talks haven't progressed beyond the initial reaching out, but Merrifield's name just became one to watch for teams who may miss out on Manny Machado.
Detroit Tigers hit sell mode
The Detroit Tigers are officially listening to offers for young righty starter Michael Fulmer and outfielder Nick Castellanos, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Nightengale also noted that the Tigers won't accept anything less than a king's ransom for Fulmer, who has four years of arbitration starting in the offseason.
Fulmer is a former AL Rookie of the Year and is just hitting his prime at 25 years old, but 2018 has been something of a down year for him. He has a career-worst 4.11 ERA and 1.27 WHIP on the year, but that could do more with his hard contact percentage going up to 39% from 30% in 2017. Fulmer's groundball rate has also dropped to 46.6%, and he has also dealt with elbow problems in the past. Despite that, however, his age and ceiling make him a worthy investment for any team looking for an extra arm.
Castellanos, on the other hand, could be the more attractive target for teams looking to add a bat on the cheap. He only has a year of team control left before hitting free agency in 2020. Castellanos is also young at just 26 years of age and is batting .305 with 15 homers and 56 RBI in 2018. No teams have come forward asking about him specifically but between him and Fulmer, don't be surprised if Detroit's minor league system is suddenly a bit stronger come August 1.
Machado finalists set?
Manny Machado remains the hottest name on the trade market and if Nightengale is right, three teams have emerged as the favorites to land him. That trio consists of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, and New York Yankees, with no "clear cut favorite" yet according to Nightengale.
It's no secret that each of these teams could benefit extremely from adding Machado. The Dodgers could use him as a rental to fill their void at shortstop and potentially run away with the NL West en route to a second consecutive NL Pennant, and maybe re-sign him to a long-term deal in the offseason while moving Corey Seager to second base.
Milwaukee is an even more interesting destination, particularly because the team plays in such a small market. Despite that, the Brew Crew hold a slim lead in the NL Central now and need a shortstop whose name isn't Orlando Arcia. Machado's bat could be an excellent fit in Miller Park, though the odds of him signing a new deal in Milwaukee are slim.
Then, there are the New York Yankees who, as Jon Heyman reported earlier this week, have made Baltimore a "strong offer" for Machado. This offer was dubbed as such despite not featuring top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield, nor dynamic young outfielder Clint Frazier. Where Machado fits in the Bronx is a complicated question, especially with Didi Gregorius doing well at shortstop and rookie Miguel Andujar having a good enough year at third base, but there's no doubt he would give the Yankees a leg up in their race with the Boston Red Sox for the AL East crown.
It's all going to come down to prospects and each of these three teams have those in spades. The Dodgers can include young pitcher Walker Buehler and a couple of other pieces. Milwaukee has two fine young pitching prospects in Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta who Baltimore could find enticing. The Yankees have too many great prospects to count.
No Machado deal is imminent, but the finalists do appear to be set.