Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres and Astros have discussed starting pitching, with the July 31 trade deadline looming. The 42-49 Padres still haven’t officially committed to selling, but a poor showing in the upcoming week could seal their fate. Lin notes that Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are believed to have piqued the Astros’ interest.
Cashner, 28, has had a mediocre season, posting a 4.10 ERA with a 97/34 K/BB ratio in 109 2/3 innings. The biggest factor for him, though, is that he has been able to stay healthy. The right-hander is hoping to cross the 30-start threshold for the first time in his career. Cashner is earning $4.05 million this year and will be eligible for his third and final year of arbitration after the season.
Ross, 28, started off slow but has picked things up as of late. He owns a 3.34 ERA with a 118/55 K/BB ratio in 110 1/3 innings. The right-hander is earning $5.25 million this season and has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining.
The Astros are also believed to have significant interest in Reds starter Johnny Cueto, among others.
At what point does speed outweigh a lousy OBP?
Joe Morgan was fond of saying that speed was the No. 1 factor in searching for a leadoff hitter. Statheads used to believe that OBP was everything, that it made far more sense to put a slow guy with a big OBP in the leadoff spot than a fast guy who didn’t get on base.
Billy Hamilton pretty much sucks at getting on base. But he’s so ridiculously good when he does get on that he’s a viable leadoff hitter anyway.
Hamilton has hit leadoff for the Reds 36 times this year and scored 27 runs in those games. Brandon Phillips, though, has been leading off while healthy these last seven weeks. He’s scored 19 runs in 37 games leading off.
Of course, that’s not really a valid test of speed versus OBP. Oddly enough, both have .280 OBPs in their time batting leadoff. Both have also hit three homers as leadoff man, so that doesn’t really factor in. And while Phillips isn’t quite a burner these days, he’s actually gone 6-for-7 stealing bases from the leadoff spot.
The run totals, even if they’re a bit fluky, suggest that Hamilton should be leading off for the Reds. His .280 OBP is probably worth about the same there as a .330 mark from a merely decent runner. He wouldn’t continue scoring three runs every four games if returned to the spot, but then, who does? Mike Trout and Brian Dozier currently lead the majors in runs scored (largely because they have 27 and 20 homers, respectively) and they’re barely better than that (.775 runs scored per game).
And the Reds’ alternatives simply aren’t any good. Phillips has never been an on-base guy, and the other four guys to have opened a game in the leadoff spot for the Reds this year (Zack Cozart, Skip Schumaker, Ivan De Jesus Jr. and Kris Negron) have posted even worse OBPs. Plus, Joey Votto has thrived on those occasions in which he’s hit second behind Hamilton. Unless the Reds somehow come up with a viable option in one of their upcoming trades involving Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake or Jay Bruce, Hamilton is going to be their best option at the top the rest of the way.
Not exactly shocking news, but Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com reports that the Reds “are prepared to trade” both Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake.
That’s been the assumption with both pitchers headed to free agency after the season and it’s why I included Cueto and Leake in my article earlier this week about the best starting pitchers likely to be available at the trade deadline.
Cueto is a legit ace and one of the truly elite starters in all of baseball, whereas Leake is a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. It’s possible Cincinnati could look to maximize their return by packaging both pitchers in the same trade, trying to entice a contending into giving up a top-50 prospect as part of the haul for a pair of two-month rentals.
No word yet on what the Reds plan to do with All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman, who unlike Cueto and Leake is also under contract for 2016.