MLB trade deadline rumors: Royals’ Trevor Rosenthal in demand; Cubs’ Theo Epstein says money could be obstacle

The 2020 MLB season is only four weeks old and yet the Aug. 31 trade deadline is a little more than one week away. Teams have nine days to evaluate their roster, dig through the market, and make upgrades. The first significant deal of the trade season went down Friday, as the Phillies acquired relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree in a four-player trade with the Red Sox. 

Now here are Saturday’s trade deadline rumors.

Rosenthal a hot commodity

Kansas City Royals closer Trevor Rosenthal is among the hottest names on the trade market, reports MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. Rosenthal returned from Tommy John surgery last year and had a brutal season with the Nationals and Tigers (24 runs and 26 walks in 15 1/3 innings), but he’s been lights out this year. His rate of pitches in the strike zone tells a story:

  • 2016: 57.5 percent
  • 2017: 54.9 percent
  • 2018: did not pitch (Tommy John surgery)
  • 2019: 48.4 percent
  • 2020: 56.7 percent

Control is often the last thing to returning following elbow reconstruction and that appears to be the case with Rosenthal, whose fastball is averaged 98.0 mph and has topped out at 100.4 mph this year. Rosenthal is only 30 and he is a rental on a low cost one-year contract. Pretty much every contender seeking bullpen will give Royals GM Dayton Moore a call about him.

Epstein admits money may be an obstacle

Not surprisingly, Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told reporters, including The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney, that money could be an obstacle at the trade deadline. That applies to all teams, not just the Cubs. Every club took a big financial hit during the COVID-19 shutdown and many may not have room to add payroll either this year or long-term. Here’s what Epstein said:

“The financial picture’s not great,” Epstein said before Friday’s 10-1 loss to the White Sox. “Any time revenues are slashed to the extent they are, that means there are losses. That means, unfortunately, we’re having to potentially cut in other areas that also hit very close to home and are painful. How we weigh all those things is not easy. It’s not something that I can give a blanket answer to. And not something that I can share. It’ll involve conversations right up to the point of when we have to decide on a transaction, and probably right up to the deadline itself.”¬†

Epstein also told reporters, including Russell Dorsey of the Chicago Sun-Times, that the club’s trade deadline activity “might be more complementary and there might be more internal solutions.” Beyond bullpen help, the Cubbies could possibility use a center fielder (with Ian Happ sliding to another position) and a depth starter seeing how Tyler Chatwood is on the injured list and they have at least two more doubleheaders on the schedule.

As for the money, it’s worth noting the Red Sox included $815,000 in the Workman/Hembree trade, allowing them to score a higher quality prospect in return. The willingness to take on money (or eat money) will be a distinct advantage at the deadline. Much moreso than usual following the shutdown. Epstein has a history of downplaying the team’s expected deadline activity but, in this case, he’s 100 percent correct about the league-wide financial picture being a mess.

Marlins eyeing Royals relievers, plan to be buyers

The Miami Marlins currently occupy second place in the NL East and thus a postseason spot, and they plan to be buyers at the trade deadline¬†according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi. They will focus on bullpen help and Morosi says the Marlins are monitoring Royals relievers specifically. Kansas City has three veteran rental relievers who could interest contenders in Greg Holland, Ian Kennedy, and Trevor Rosenthal.

The Marlins are still without close to a dozen MLB pitchers following their COVID-19 outbreak, including late-inning relievers Adam Conley, Yimi Garcia, and Ryne Stanek. Brandon Kintzler is holding down the closer’s spot right now with journeyman Brad Boxberger and recent trade addition Richard Bleier setting up. Even if Miami gets its regular relievers back soon, there is still room for improvement in the bullpen. Bet against them trading top prospects or taking on big money, but upgrades are still possible.

Brewers designate Holt

The Milwaukee Brewers have designated utility man Brock Holt for assignment, the team announced Saturday. The move clears a roster spot for fellow utility man Jace Peterson, who was called up from the team’s alternate site. The Brewers signed Holt to a one-year deal worth $3.25 million over the winter, though he’s struggled this season (3 for 30) and the team couldn’t wait any longer for him to turn things around in a 60-game season.

Holt, 32, is still owed approximately $720,000 in prorated salary this season. He is likely to clear waivers and elect free agency, at which point the Brewers will be on the hook for the rest of his salary and any other team can sign him for the prorated portion of the league minimum. An All-Star in 2015, Holt is very versatile and he put up a .297/.369/.402 batting line just a year ago. In the 28-man roster era, it is very likely he’ll hook on with another team before long.

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