AROUND THE HORN

Cecil Whig - - INSIDEBASEBALL -

Are the Mariners throw­ing in the towel on 2016? On July 20, Seat­tle traded left-handed re­liever Mike Mont­gomery (who had a 2.34 ERA with 54 strike­outs in 61.2 in­nings for the Mariners this sea­son) and Class AAA righty Jor­dan Pries to the Cubs for first base­man Dan Vo­gel­bach and righthander Paul Black­burn. The deal makes sense for both teams; the Cubs had just two left­ies, Clayton Richard and Travis Wood, in their bullpen, and Richard was pitch­ing hor­ri­bly. Mont­gomery, who had started 16 games for Seat­tle in 2015, was lim­it­ing left­ies to a .164 bat­ting av­er­age and should move into a set-up role. Vo­gel­bach, 23, was hit­ting .318/.425/.548 with 16 homers at AAA and has been a top prospect in that sys­tem for years, but at 6–0 and 250 pounds, and with All-Star An­thony Rizzo block­ing his path at first, his fu­ture as a Cub ap­peared to be lim­ited. Pries, 26, is a lower-level prospect, but the Cubs will put him in their AAA ro­ta­tion and think he could help the big league club at some point. Black­burn, 22, had a 3.17 ERA in 102.1 Class AA in­nings this sea­son, and the Mariners be­lieve he’ll be a No. 4 starter for them as soon as next sea­son. …

On Mon­day, the Cubs added per­haps the game’s most gifted closer in Aroldis Chap­man, ac­quired from the Yan­kees for pitcher Adam War­ren and prospects Gley­ber Tor­res and Billy McKin­ney. Tor­res (age 19) is re­garded as one of base­ball’s top short­stop prospects, and McKin­ney (21), an out­fielder, has ap­peared on sev­eral top-100 prospect lists in re­cent years. …

The Rangers may have lost Prince Fielder for the sea­son, but could that make Texas bet­ter? Fielder went on the DL on July 20 and was pon­der­ing neck surgery for a her­ni­ated disc — the same one he had surgery on two years ago — which would end his sea­son. Fielder hit .212/.292/.334 in 89 games this year and was re­placed by Jurick­son Pro­far at first. The 23-year-old Pro­far was con­sid­ered base­ball’s top prospect as re­cently as three years ago and has hit well (.304/.351/.435) since his late-May pro­mo­tion from the mi­nors. Pro­far is a nat­u­ral sec­ond base­man, and with Rougned Odor en­trenched there, Texas had not been able to find a full-time role for him. Teams are re­luc­tant to bench play­ers with huge con­tracts like Fielder’s, which pays him an av­er­age salary of $23.77 mil­lion through 2020. …

Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred has not been shy in sug­gest­ing over­hauls to make the game move faster, and Man­fred, while not of­fer­ing a spe­cific pro­posal, says that MLB is con­sid­er­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of lim­it­ing the num­ber of re­liev­ers a team can use in a game. Through July 20, the av­er­age game was last­ing 3:04, up 16 min­utes from 2005.

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