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“Well, at least the Shohei Ohtani saga is solved,” I thought as I closed my laptop. “He’s not being traded. No more Ohtani stories in the first place. At least for one day.” I’m Levi Weaver, here with Ken Rosenthal — welcome to The Windup!
Ohtani story, first position
Sheesh, okay, we get it, you’re the face of the sport.
News came on Wednesday that the Angels wouldn’t trade Ohtani after all, and in case you didn’t believe them, they doubled down and traded two of their top prospects to the White Sox for Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo López. It certainly wasn’t the most pragmatic move, but I can’t help but respect the magnitude of the warning that was just ignored.
On Thursday, Ohtani responded to the vote of confidence by hoisting that warning atop a one-man hurricane. In the first game of a doubleheader against the Tigers, he threw a one-hitter for the first shutout of his career. In the second game – and again, this is after throwing 111 pitches – he went 2-for-3 with two home runs.
He was taken out of the game for a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning, because apparently even superheroes get cramps. The Angels won both games and are now back in the wild card race just three times. Not only that, they start a series in Toronto against the Blue Jays – who are currently holding that final playoff position.
Luckily it’s Friday, so we can’t start a new Ohtani story until at least Monday.
More Angels: Bubba Harkins claims he was scapegoated for using “tacky stuff”. Three years after his firing, his defamation case against the Angels will go to trial.
The Reds are not going to trade second baseman Jonathan India for prospects if their farm system is already loaded. They are not going to trade him in for a two month lease if he comes with three extra years of club control. Perhaps the only way they’d trade him would be if they could, ahem, acquire a controllable starting pitcher, and good luck trying to broker such a deal.
The 26-year-old India still looms as a potential odd man out, but according to sources briefed on the team’s thinking, the Reds are much more likely to move him off-season than by the deadline. Sure, they’re looking for rotational assistance, like pretty much any other contender. But India the 2021 National League Rookie of the Year is probably not the piece that will help them get it. The same goes for the team’s best prospects, at least when it comes to the rental market.
The Reds took great care in assembling their wealth of young talent. If they get a lease, they won’t part with the best of those players. Some of them are already in the majors. Others come closer. And others are in the picture of the team for 2024.
Consider Triple A right-hander Connor Phillips, who was the player named in the Eugenio Suárez-Jesse Winker deal with the Mariners in March 2022. Phillips, with a combined 3.09 ERA in 19 starts between Double A and Triple A, is on court to join the Reds at some point this season.
Or take third baseman Noelvi Marte, who at age 21 hit .329 with an .898 OPS in his first 76 at bats at Triple A. Marte could be the Reds’ third baseman next season in all-24-and under infield , with Elly De La Cruz at shortstop, Matt McLain at second base and Christian Encarnacion-Strand at first.
Those players will be less expensive than India, which is entering its first year of arbitration. They also have more benefit. According to OPS+, India has been a slightly less attacking player than average over the past two seasons. His defense ranks near the bottom of all second basemen, according to leading defensive statistics. At one point, he still seems to rule out.
More from Ken: here’s his “What I Hear” column from last night.
Does this mean the Mets are open?
News came late last night that David Robertson, who did not pitch in the 2-1 victory over the Nationals, had been traded to the Marlins for two minor leaguers: infielder Marco Vargas and catcher Ronald Hernández.
Vargas was not one of Keith Law’s top Marlins prospects in February. Hernández was ranked No. 18. At the time of trading, MLB.com had Vargas at No. 18 and Hernández at No. 21.
It’s no surprise that the Mets sell – the loss cut them to 48-54, 17 games behind the Braves and seven games from a wild card position – but it still feels like there’s a little extra bleach on the white flag when a closer is traded to a league rival. Robertson has a 2.05 ERA with 14 saves and 48 strikeouts against only 13 walks in 44 innings this year.
What is perhaps even more surprising is the return. While some suspected “sellers” — the Cardinals, for example — are reportedly targeting returns that could help them win as early as next year, both Vargas and Hernández are in rookieball.
That may not mean the Mets are gearing up for a multi-year rebuild, but it certainly raises the antenna for how thorough this year’s sell-off will be. Tommy Pham seems like a likely candidate to be shared (just ask Tommy Pham), but over the past 24 hours there have been increasing rumors that Justin Verlander is also on the trading bloc.
This was signing bonus month as recently drafted players signed their first pro contracts, including a record-breaking $9.2 million for first-choice Paul Skenes. But today’s Chandler Rome story is about how a pair of unannounced draft picks who signed for $1,000 each help the Astros chase another division title.
Chas McCormick hits .278 with 13 home runs and an .890 OPS, with 2.8 bWAR—all three third on the 2023 Astros—while patrolling all three outfield positions. He has been a catalyst for Houston as they climb back into the AL West pennant chase, hitting .339/.436/.708 (1,144 OPS) for the month of July.
A few spots down in seventh on that fWAR list at 1.9 is JP France, who has done his best to stabilize an injury-stained rotation. He is 6-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 14 starts after making his big league-debut on May 6. Like McCormick, he’s hot in July, going 3-0 this month with a 2.22 ERA in four starts.
More JP France: He and other young pitchers talk to Eno Sarris about their pitch development process.
Handshakes and High Fives
You want trading predictions? We’ve got a whole league of trading predictions in today’s All-30.
Maybe Weird and Wild is your taste? Well, I’ve got news for you: It’s a double dip today, as Jayson Stark watches the return of the Angels’ travel buddy from Chicago and that day earlier this month when it seemed everyone was scoring in double digits.
If you somehow haven’t seen this Joey Votto interview, do yourself a favor and check it out. He’s always been extremely intelligent, but in the later stages of his career, he’s really let his guard down and allowed himself to have (and be) fun without worrying about whether or not he’s passing “cool tests. As a result, he becomes one of the most easily rooted players in recent history.
Dave O’Brien takes a look at Isaiah Drake, who is part of an encouraging MLB trend: a rise in black baseball players being drafted after years of declining numbers in the game.
It’s nothing like a blockbuster, but Carlos Santana adds a sixth team, which should help you win your immaculate grid. He was traded from the Pirates to the Brewers yesterday.
Noah Syndergaard joined the Guardians in Chicago and will debut on Monday. He talked about his time with the Dodgers and what he hopes to accomplish in Cleveland.
On TABS: The 3-0 Show covers the “all in” Angels and other deals as the trading season heats up.
(Top photo: Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)