The only thing that may have been more prolific than Jay Bruce's ability to mash dingers over the last week has been the ability of his name to pop-up in trade rumors with the August 1st deadline barreling down on us all. The latest team to be reportedly interested in the Cincinnati Reds RF: the Seattle Mariners, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN (and formerly of the Cincinnati Post.)
On paper, Bruce's thunderbat wouldn't provide a great boost to the Seattle outfield production, since their outfield's collective 111 wRC+ ranks as the 7th best in all of baseball. There's a catch to that, however, since that total includes 42 starts in RF by Nelson Cruz and his .910 OPS on the season, and given his recent banged-up foot and history of hamstring issues, it's more likely than not that the M's would love to keep him as their everyday DH and limit his time roaming the OF. That would leave the struggling Nori Aoki and 33 year olds Franklin Gutierrez and Seth Smith as the everyday corner OFs, neither of whom have been everyday players for most of their careers (Smith due to platoon issues, and Gutierrez due to repeated injuries.)
At 51-49, Seattle sits in 3rd place in the AL West, 6.0 games back of the Texas Rangers and 4.5 games out of the AL's second Wild Card spot. It isn't exactly a position that screams "add players at the deadline," but again, there are caveats to that. For one, the average age on the Mariners roster (29.9) makes them the second oldest team in the league, and with huge contracts to aging stars like Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez on the books, it might make sense for them to go somewhat all-in now instead of wasting a chance to win with that core. Also, Hernandez recently returned after some two months of the shelf, and Seattle has shown they're a much, much more capable team when he's anchoring their rotation.
Bruce's lefty bat isn't an ideal fit for their team, which has gone just 14-20 against left-handed starters this season while watching their lefty-heavy lineup hit just .639 as lefties against lefties, but Bruce's .815 OPS against LHP this season suggests that may not be as big a problem as I just made it. He'd be an upgrade over the struggling Aoki, and would add serious thump to an order that already features Cano, Cruz, and Kyle Seager. Whether Bruce could bring back, say, MLB.com's #74 overall prospect Tyler O'Neill - an OF with great power potential currently in AA - remains to be seen, but Bruce's market has certainly heated up as he has dingered his way across the West Coast all week.
It has been hard to find a perfect fit for Bruce as the rumors have whirled, but this one at least appears to be a reasonable one. Stay tuned.
In other news - Mariners news, at that - Danny Hultzen is reportedly retiring, as the second overall pick from the 2011 MLB Draft and former consensus Top 25 prospect has been unable to recover from repeated shoulder injuries. It's yet another lesson that TNSTAAPP, and the Reds' recent decision to stockpile arms is pretty much the only way to ensure that enough of them make it to the big leagues healthy. Interestingly enough, he was a product of the University of Virginia, the same school that produced Nick Howard, the Reds' first round pick from the 2014 MLB Draft who has also seen shoulder issues derail his once promising career.
As for the actual Reds pitching staff, Tony Cingrani has been quite successful of late, and he's done so by using the same pitching recipe that got him to the big leagues in the first place: fastballs, fastballs, and more fastballs. The Enquirer's Zach Buchanan spoke with Tony Spaghetti about its usage and the closer's great success since June 1st, and how he's developed a splitter thanks to help from Blake Wood that has complemented it quite well.
MLB.com re-ranked the top prospects in all of baseball to include the most recent draft picks and international signings (that qualify), and the Reds placed 5 members of their farm system in the Top 100. Concurrently, they re-ranked each organizations top prospects, so there's a new Top Cincinnati 30 to sift through as well. Not to be outdone, Red Reporter re-ranked the Reds prospects, too, and I rank our rankings ahead of their rankings, because of course I do.
Finally, with the trade deadline just four days from now, it's worth realizing that the players that will be sent elsewhere won't just be doing so transactionally. Eno Sarris and David Laurila of FanGraphs spoke with numerous current and former big leaguers about what goes through their minds, their cars, and their apartments when they find out they've not only been traded, but have a game with a team they've not been part of the very next day. It's thoroughly interesting, and a reminder that there's a lot more that goes into each plate appearance, game, and weeklong stretches than just splits, projections, and numerical analysis.