Inside the Clubhouse: Pirates, Twins, D-backs as trade deadline sellers?

This week, Inside the Clubhouse looks at the surging value of Adam Frazier, trade deadline sellers like the Pirates, Twins, D-Backs, and more.

Adam Frazier will be the Pittsburgh Pirates’ top trade chip — and he’s already generating interest ahead of the July 30 trade deadline, according to major-league sources.

Frazier, 29, is hitting .333/.396/.471 in 225 at-bats this season. He is tied with Reds’ outfielder Nick Castellanos for most hits (75) in baseball and his .333 average ranks fourth among qualified hitters. His .867 far exceeds his previous career-high and evaluators who have closely followed his career believe this level of production is sustainable.

“Frazier is an unreal hitter,” one scout said, “but I’d focus on his versatility.”

Frazier has played 55 games at second base this season, but that same scout said “he might possibly have better metrics in left field.” He has also logged playing time at all three outfield positions and at shortstop, with the Pirates believing he also has the ability to play at third base if needed.

The New York Yankees are among the potential fits for Frazier, as first mentioned by Jon Morosi of MLB.com, but are not among the teams to express early interest. Frazier, who is making $4.3 million this season, would go a long way toward improving the Yankees’ league-worst .573 OPS among left-handed hitters.

Among the other Pirates’ potential trade candidates include outfielder Bryan Reynolds and reliever Richard Rodriguez, who is widely regarded as one of the most underrated bullpen pieces in baseball. But Frazier is the crown jewel of them all and should be among the most discussed players at the deadline.

“If I’m running a team and was asked who the one player we need to get,” one National League executive said, “I’d say Adam Frazier.”

Cardinals will be looking for pitching on the trade market

The St. Louis Cardinals intend to explore the trade market for starting pitchers after recent injuries to Jack Flaherty, Kwang-hyun Kim and Miles Mikolas.

The options, however, appear thin. Max Scherzer will be the most desirable pitcher before July 30, but there is skepticism that he will be dealt since Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner has never been eager to sell. The other top option on the market, Colorado Rockies pitcher Jon Gray, recently left with right forearm soreness, though MRIs came back clean and showed no structural damage.

The Minnesota Twins have starters J.A. Happ, Jose Berrios and Michael Pineda who figure to be available. Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander Tyler Anderson, who is signed for $2.5 million, could be a bargain for a team looking to upgrade the back-end of the rotation. Detroit Tigers lefty Matthew Boyd, who is signed through 2022, has bounced back in large part because of a new-look changeup. Among other options could include Los Angeles Angels starters Dylan Bunch and Andrew Heaney and Texas Rangers right-hander Jordan Lyles.

For now, the Cardinals will rely on their internal pitching depth to account for these injuries. Adam Wainwright has once again been dependable and Carlos Martinez has shown flashes (despite allowing 10 runs last time out) while John Gant has emerged as one of their most consistent starting pitchers. Team officials are also hopeful that their lineup, which ranks 20th in OPS, will perform at a much higher level in the second half of the regular season and take pressure off the rotation.

But with Flaherty out a “significant” amount of time, and the Cardinals now in third place in the NL Central and 3-7 in their last 10 games, they may need to acquire an impact starting pitcher sooner than later. Their season may ultimately depend on it.

Twins could join the Pirates as trade deadline sellers

There were signs that the Twins had turned the corner, but after falling to 22-35 and 13 games back of the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central, they appear primed to be baseball’s most intriguing seller before the July 30 trade deadline.

Among the Twins’ most notable trade chips include designated hitter Nelson Cruz and shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who both are signed to one-year deals. Other candidates include pitchers J.A. Happ, Michael Pineda, Jose Berrios, Matt Shoemaker and Alex Colome.

Teams were expected to check in on outfielder Byron Buxton, but he has been out a month with a Grade 2 hip strain. Even then, there were no indications that the Twins were willing to entertain offers for Buxton, 27, who some evaluators pegged as a perfect fit for the Yankees after Aaron Hicks suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.

Simmons, 31, appears most likely to be traded. He has had a down year offensively, hitting .250/.329/.326 in 144 at-bats, but remains one of baseball’s premier defensive shortstops. The Oakland A’s, who let Marcus Semien depart in free agency, now own the lowest OPS among shortstops and could be among the potential fits for Simmons if the remainder of his $10.5 million salary fits their budget.

Cruz figures to draw interest from contending American League teams in search of a veteran bat. But in a weak pitching market, the Twins have no shortage of intriguing options and teams could target their rotation and bullpen to bolster their pitching staffs for the second half of the regular season.

Brandon Nimmo could be back on the field soon

The New York Mets have been decimated by injuries, but are 28-23 and lead the National League East by 3.5 games. But Brandon Nimmo, who is regarded by scouts as one of the most underrated players in baseball, could soon start taking swings in the batting cage as he nears a return from a left hand/nerve injury.

Here are a couple numbers that show just how good Nimmo has been in recent seasons:

Keston Hiura is still figuring out the major leagues

Keston Hiura has struggled in his baseball career, but never quite like this.

Hiura, 24, is hitting .125/.216/.212 in 104 at-bats this season. He is 2 for 29 with 16 strikeouts since being recalled from Triple-A Nashville and was held out of the lineup for four consecutive games before starting the series finale Sunday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Yet, the Milwaukee Brewers remain optimistic that Hiura is on the verge of bouncing back. Team officials say that he had a “great few days” working with hitting coach Andy Haines and is working on a few different tweaks, including moving his hands higher in his batting stance, something he has already begun to implement in games.

When asked about Hiura’s struggles, Brewers manager Craig Counsell said that the team “needs to evaluate it.” But Hiura has never struggled to this degree at any level and he moved quickly through the minors, with one player close to Hiura saying “he had no reference of how to get back on track.”

“The environment in the big leagues now, everything is hard on hitters,” the player said. “Never been a bigger gap between Triple-A and the big leagues. So that didn’t really help him on what he needs to do to succeed here consistently.”

Perhaps the work with Haines, along with Major League Baseball cracking down on pitchers using foreign substances, will allow Hiura to bounce back. But if his struggles continue, he could soon end up being sent for a second stint in Nashville.

The Brewers, meanwhile, continue to insist that he’s close.

Diamondbacks could be selling at the trade deadline as well

The first checkpoint for teams to assess their season is typically on June 1. But a rival general manager says that the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are 20-40 and 18 games back in the National League West, should begin to position themselves as sellers well before the July 30 trade deadline.

Indeed, rival executives say that outfielder David Peralta is among the players the Diamondbacks have already made available. Peralta, 34 this summer, is hitting .245/.303/.412 with four home runs and 30 RBI in 204 at-bats this season and under club control through 2022 making a team-friendly $7.5 million per season.

Among the potential options for Peralta include the St. Louis Cardinals, though it’s not immediately clear how he’d fit in the outfield. The club has little depth behind their starting outfielders and once Harrison Bader returns off the injured list, Peralta could slide in as the No. 4 outfielder and see most of his action against right-handed pitchers.

The Diamondbacks’ most intriguing trade chip, however, is Ketel Marte. The 27-year-old is hitting .376/.413/.612 in 85 at-bats and is signed to a five-year, $24 million contract through 2023. The New York Yankees and New York Mets, who are both looking for center fielders, are among the many teams that make sense for Marte.

Other Diamondbacks trade candidates include Asdrubal Cabrera and Eduardo Escobar. Cabrera, 35, can play most infield positions and is hitting .287/.387/.470 with four home runs and 17 RBI in 137 at-bats. Escobar, 32, has once again found his power, hitting 14 home runs in 234 at-bats this season, and could be a reasonably cheap addition ($7.5 million salary) for a team in need of an upgrade at second or third bases.

Pitcher WAR leaders entering Monday, via FanGraphs:

1. Jacob deGrom — 3.2

2. Gerrit Cole — 3.0

3. Zack Wheeler — 2.7

4. Corbin Burnes — 2.6

4. Brandon Woodruff — 2.6

4. Kevin Gausman — 2.6

7. Nathan Eovaldi — 2.2

7. Trevor Rogers — 2.1

9. Max Scherzer — 2.1

9. Clayton Kershaw — 2.1

9. Shane Bieber — 2.1

Eovaldi, 31, is perhaps the most surprising name on that list. He signed a four-year, $68 million deal with the Red Sox in December 2018 and immediately dealt with injuries that threatened to derail his career. He was briefly discussed in a deal in 2020 that would have sent him to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Rougned Odor, though talks did not advance.

Now, Eovaldi is pitching like an ace while Odor was designated for assignment and traded to the New York Yankees for two low-end minor-league outfielders in April 2021. Sometimes the best trades are the ones that you don’t make.

Around the Horn:

  • An American League scout who watched San Francisco Giants pitching prospect Sam Long recently make his Triple-A debut came away impressed, saying he has “real good stuff. 92-95 mph mostly with a hammer and a good changeup.” Long, who is on a pitch count of 60 pitches, struck out the first eight batters he faced, finishing with nine strikeouts in 3.2 innings.
  • Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader owns the best strikeout percentage (44.3) in MLB history.
  • How good has Mets ace Jacob deGrom been this season? He has a 0.62 ERA through nine starts. His 14.4 strikeouts per nine innings, 0.57 WHIP, .128 opposing batting average and 99.1 mph average fastball all rank first in baseball.
  • Toronto Blue Jays top prospect Alejandro Kirk is now represented by Eric Izen of Vayner Baseball.

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