Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports that the Braves are considering making an interesting though potentially dangerous move: calling up catching prospect Christian Bethancourt. Calling him up is not the dangerous part. The move they’d make to give him playing time is:
Though a decision does not necessarily seem imminent, the Braves have discussed the possibility of promoting Bethancourt to serve as Atlanta’s starting catcher. If this decision were to be made, Gattis would move to left field and Justin Upton would transition to right field. To complete this equation, Jason Heyward would replace B.J. Upton in center field.
Upton can handle right. Heyward can handle center. Evan Gattis, as we all saw down the stretch last year, is a hot mess in the outfield. I mean, the effort is there and the brains are there, but he is truly a catcher and just can’t get to the balls he needs to get to.
Of course, the Braves’ biggest problem this year has been its offense. It has shown some signs of life in recent days, particularly at second base, where Tommy La Stella has taken over for the corpse of Dan Uggla. But B.J. Upton is still a drag on the offense despite some recent improvement. Bethancourt is no offensive powerhouse, but he has improved of late. He doesn’t need to be better than Gattis at the plate. He just needs to be better than Upton.
Interesting, and maybe a good move for the middle of the regular season. But I do worry about Gattis roaming left field if the race is close in September. And if he’s out there in the playoffs I may need to get heart medication.
Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reports the Nationals have agreed to terms with free agent reliever Kevin Jepsen.
Think of this as the latest in what will likely be a series of no-risk bullpen additions. The Nats, basically, collecting as many almost free arms they can find in an effort to fix their bullpen woes without having to give up anything valuable at the trade deadline. Just like the K-Rod signing earlier this week or the Edwin Jackson signing two weeks ago.
Jepsen pitched for Tampa Bay and Minnesota last year, posting a 5.68 ERA with the Rays and a 6.16 ERA with the Twins, appearing in 58 games in all. He went unsigned this past offseason.
Eh, it might work. It probably won’t, but it might.
About a month ago, a report circulated that if the Detroit Tigers weren’t above .500 by the end of June, they were going to chuck the season, look to trade off veterans and rebuild. It’s now June 29 and the Tigers are 34-42 and sit six games out of first place.
As such, we should not be too terribly surprised to see a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo that multiple baseball executives expect Tigers ace Justin Verlander to hit the trade market sometime in the next two weeks. Passan notes that the Tigers haven’t formally offered him and that he’s just passing along speculation from rivals, but it’s pretty astute speculation.
The question is what the Tigers can get for Verlander. On the one hand, yes, Verlander is Verlander and has been one of the top starters in baseball for a decade. While he had struggled for a bit, last year featured a return to Cy Young form. He still has a blazing fastball and there is no reason to think he could not anchor the staff of a playoff caliber team.
On the other hand, as Passan notes, his 2017 has been . . . not so good. He looks amazing at times and very hittable at other times. Overall his walk rate is way up and his strikeout rate is down. There doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with him — various ailments contributed to his 2014-15 swoon — so it’s possible he’s just had a rough couple of months. Like I said, Verlander is Verlander, and it may not be a bad gamble to expect him to run off a string of dominant starts like he has so many times in the past.
The problem, though, is that anyone acquiring Verlander is not just gambling on a handful of starts down the stretch. They’re gambling on the $56 million he’s owed between 2018 and 2019 and the $22 million extra he’ll be guaranteed for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019. Those would be his age 35, 36 and 37 seasons. There are certainly worse gambles in baseball, but it’s a gamble all the same.
If the Tigers don’t find any gamblers out there on the market, they’re going to have to make a gamble of their own: let Verlander go and get relatively little in return if another club picks up that $56 million commitment or eat it themselves and get prospects back in return to help kickstart a rebuild. Personally I’d go with the latter option, but I don’t work for the Illitch family.