$100K MLB Medium Midsummer Classic Contest At DraftKings

Earn your share of a $100K prize pool in tonight’s MLB Medium Midsummer Classic at DraftKings!  The contest has a $20 entry fee, and first place will take home $20K with the top 1,125 finishers getting paid.  The deadline for entry is tonight at 6:05pm central time.  You can sign up here.

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Cubs Designate Darwin Barney For Assignment

The Cubs have designated second baseman Darwin Barney for assignment, tweets Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Barney, 28, had been the club’s regular at the keystone dating back to 2011.

Though regarded as a plus (and, at times, elite) defender, Barney has struggled to deliver value from the offensive side. After averaging a barely serviceable .265/.306/.354 slash over 2011-12, Barney has slipped to a combined .214/.266/.311 line since the start of 2013. He has also contributed on the basepaths, but certainly was not doing enough to merit a starting role; indeed, he has graded out as barely above replacement level over the past two seasons.

The move’s immediate purpose is to clear roster space for the activation of Emilio Bonifacio. In the grand scheme of things, however, it represents yet another step towards the infusion of the Cubs’ top prospects into the MLB roster. Since being promoted when Barney went on paternity leave, Arismendy Alcantara has taken the lion’s share of time at second, with fellow top youngster Javier Baez reportedly moving to that spot defensively in recent days.


Blue Jays Designate Brad Mills For Assignment

2:17pm: The Blue Jays have announced the move to designate Mills.

1:35pm: The Blue Jays will designate left-hander Brad Mills for assignment in order to clear a roster spot for top prospect Aaron Sanchez, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (via Twitter). Earlier today, Nicholson-Smith’s colleague, Shi Davidi, reported that Sanchez would be promoted.

The 29-year-old Mills pitched two innings for the Blue Jays after they claimed him off waivers from the A’s, yielding eight runs on seven hits and a walk with three strikeouts. Overall, he’s surrendered 16 runs in 18 1/3 innings of work at the big league level this season despite tremendous success at the Triple-A level. In 75 innings with Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate, Mills pitched to a 1.75 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9.



Yankees, White Sox Have Discussed John Danks

The Yankees have checked in on White Sox left-hander John Danks, but talks are still in the early stages, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish hears that the market for Danks has begun to pick up over the past three days. Nothing appears close at this time, though Heyman notes that the Sox are looking for prospects, so Danks likely would require more than just salary relief to acquire.

The 29-year-old Danks averaged 195 innings for the ChiSox from 2008-11, but a shoulder injury required surgery in 2012 and limited him to just 192 innings combined over 2012-13. He’s been healthy all year in 2014, and while his fastball velocity is down to an average of 88.2 mph (per Fangraphs), he’s been reasonably effective.

Danks’ ERA spiked after a seven-run hiccup in his most recent start, but he had been a roll prior to that, posting a 2.69 ERA with a 42-to-20 K/BB ratio over his past 67 innings (10 starts). Overall, Danks has a 4.35 ERA with 6.3 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and a 40.1 percent ground-ball rate in 124 innings this season.

While Danks has a fairly sizable chunk of money owed to him, that shouldn’t be a huge issue for the Yankees. Danks is due $5.4MM through season’s end and $14.25MM in both 2015 and 2016, making for a total commitment of roughly $33.9MM.


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2015 Free Agent Power Rankings

The trade deadline will be upon us next week, but the 2014-15 free agent class still warrants an early look.  My June edition of the 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings can be found here, and the full list of 2015 free agents is here.

1.  Max Scherzer.  Scherzer overcame a midseason hiccup by posting a 1.87 ERA over his last five starts, bringing him back down to 3.34 on the season.  He even picked up the win for the American League in the All-Star Game.  It’s been a long time since agent Scott Boras has had a starting pitcher of this caliber as a free agent.

2.  Jon Lester.  Lester isn’t far behind Scherzer, having allowed three earned runs in 38 2/3 innings since our last set of rankings.  Lester owns a 2.50 ERA as well as superb timing, and he’s been better than Scherzer this year.  Lester hasn’t whiffed this many batters since 2010, and he’s never shown this level of control.  Accounting for performance prior to this year, I still give Scherzer the overall edge.  Around late June the Red Sox looked to reignite extension talks with Lester, but the pitcher did not receive a new offer and continues to prefer to table discussions until after the season.  The Red Sox have won five in a row and retain some shot at the playoffs, so it seems Lester will at least be staying in Boston through the end of the season.

3.  Hanley Ramirez.  Ramirez’s shoulder and calf have been bothering him, and he’s been hit by pitches three times this month.  The 30-year-old avoided the DL and continues to hit well.  On the other hand, he’s giving back some runs in the field, and defensive question marks are enough to push him down a few spots in the rankings.

4.  James Shields.  With a 4.39 ERA since May, Shields has failed to keep pace with Lester.  Still, Shields’ 2014 peripheral stats are mostly better than last year’s, which led to a 3.15 ERA.  The Royals also seem to be hanging around contention enough that they won’t give serious consideration to trading the big righty.  With a new contract that will begin with his age-33 season, Shields will be difficult to price in free agency.

5.  Pablo Sandoval.  As of May 13th, Sandoval’s OPS was down to .554.  He’s at .903 since then, with a .335/.370/.533 line in 230 plate appearances.  Just 28 in August, Sandoval has age on his side relative to most free agents.

6.  Nelson Cruz.  Cruz has stumbled since our last set of rankings, hitting .229/.282/.422 in 117 plate appearances.  He still ranks second in all of baseball in home runs and RBI, and could top his career-high of 33 longballs at some point in August.  Cruz is another tough free agent to price, as teams will be buying into his age 34-36 seasons (and perhaps age 37, if things go well for the slugger).

7.  Victor Martinez.  V-Mart’s resurgent contract year has continued unabated.  Though he’ll be 36 in December, Martinez’s goal might be a three-year pact.  On June 29th, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote that while there have been no extension discussions, Martinez would love to remain in Detroit.  One complication for the Tigers is that Miguel Cabrera is signed through 2023 and will probably need to move to DH at some point.

8.  Yasmani Tomas.  A new entrant to this list, Tomas is a different kind of potential free agent.  As Ben Badler of Baseball America explained on June 20th, Tomas left Cuba to pursue an MLB contract but still has to clear the usual hurdles before he’s free to sign.  A 23-year-old corner outfielder, Badler pegs Tomas’ raw power as a 70.  It seems possible Tomas’ actual free agency will coincide with the MLB offseason.  Jose Abreu‘s dazzling debut has made his $68MM contract look like a bargain, which should help Tomas score big.  It’s worth noting that Tomas isn’t said to be as polished as Abreu and likely doesn’t have the same ceiling.  He is younger, however, which helps his cause.

9.  Melky Cabrera.  Cabrera, 29, is hitting .305/.352/.463 on the season.  His ties to Biogenesis cloud the picture, but his injury-shortened 2013 might end up being Cabrera’s only poor season in his last four.

10.  Russell Martin.  Perhaps Martin can’t maintain his .271 batting average, but he’s in the midst of another solid campaign and doesn’t turn 32 until February.  Teams are also placing more and more emphasis on catching defense, and Martin has gunned down 37 percent of attempted base-stealers while ranking sixth in extra strikes added via pitch framing, per Baseball Prospectus.

This month’s Kenta Maeda watch: the 26-year-old Japanese righty is down to a 2.08 ERA in 15 starts.  Ervin Santana has been decent of late.  Jason Hammel was traded to Oakland and has seen his ERA rise from 2.98 to 3.35 after two starts.  Josh Beckett returns from a DL stint for a hip injury tonight.

You likely won’t find a reliever cracking the top 10, but closers David Robertson, Francisco Rodriguez, Casey Janssen and Rafael Soriano have been excellent, while Luke Gregerson and Andrew Miller have been lights out in a setup capacity.

Among position players, Chase Headley, who earlier today was traded to the Yankees, is still not showing any power (though perhaps a move to the hitter-friendly parks of the AL East can change that).   Colby Rasmus was placed in something of a platoon role earlier this month.   Nick Markakis leads MLB in plate appearances and has been useful this year.  Aramis Ramirez, who like Markakis has a mutual option on his deal, is having a nice year at the plate as well.  Stephen Drew‘s bat has started to come alive this month after his late start to the season, while Kendrys Morales is hitting .295/.319/.432 over an 11-game hitting streak.  Neither Boras client has very appealing overall numbers.  Both Asdrubal Cabrera and Mike Morse have dropped off the list after sluggish performances since our last edition of the rankings.  A strong finish could put either back onto the map.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


Yankees Acquire Chase Headley

The Yankees announced that they have officially acquired Chase Headley from the Padres. The Yankees will send Yangervis Solarte and minor league right-hander Rafael De Paula to the Padres in return for Headley and $1MM.

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Headley, a lifetime member of the Padres, is hitting just .229/.296/.355 with seven homers this season, though he’s playing outstanding defense at third base, per both UZR/150 (+19.7) and Defensive Runs Saved (+7). Headley is earning $10.535MM in 2014, of which $3.97MM remains. He is eligible for free agency following the season.

The Yankees are just four games out of the division lead in the AL East and two and a half games back of a Wild Card berth, meaning every additional win the team picks up could be crucial. Yankees third basemen are hitting .245/.323/.391 on the season with 14 home runs (which translates to a nearly league-average 98 wRC+). However, much of that is due to what looks to have been an unsustainable hot streak for Solarte early in the season. The 27-year-old Solarte had a scorching hot month of April (fueled by a .349 BABIP), but he’s batted just .233/.307/.347 in 200 plate appearances since that time. If nothing else, Headley’s glove may provide an extra win over the rest of the season, but the hope is undoubtedly that a move from the pitcher-friendly Petco Park to the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium will rejuvenate his bat as well.

It’s not long ago that Headley looked to be a breakout star. He batted a whopping .286/.376/.498 with 31 homers to go along with elite defense and solid baserunning in 2012, but since that time he’s been slowed by a fractured thumb, a calf strain and a herniated disc in his back (for which he received an epidural injection earlier this month). He’s hitting .323 with a homer, a triple and four doubles this month, so perhaps the injection helped to ease some of the pain he was experiencing. However, he’s yet to walk in July and has struck out 16 times, so his approach at the plate certainly doesn’t appear to be what it was in 2012 when he posted a career-best 12.3 percent walk rate.

From a big picture standpoint, the move signifies that the Yankees, in typical fashion, will maintain a dogged pursuit of the postseason. Despite losing CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and potentially Masahiro Tanaka for the season (with Michael Pineda missing the majority of the year as well), the Yankees feel they have a shot to contend in an abnormally weak AL East. The team has already acquired Brandon McCarthy (in exchange for lefty Vidal Nuno), and it seems likely that GM Brian Cashman will continue to be aggressive as he looks to upgrade his roster.

For the Padres, it’s tough to describe the outcome as anything but disappointing. Headley looked to be on the verge of stardom following the 2012 season, and they could likely have netted a king’s ransom had they moved him then. Even this offseason, Headley’s value coming off a .250/.347/.400 season with excellent defense would have been fairly strong. Now, they’ll receive a player whom the Yankees signed to a minor league deal this offseason (Solarte) and a pitcher that ranked 15th in a weak Yankees farm system coming into the year (per Baseball America). At this point, however, it has to be considered a silver lining for the Friars that they weren’t able to extend Headley — either with the reported franchise-record deal they were weighing last spring or the three-year, $33-39MM deal they offered over the winter.

Solarte is hitting .254/.337/.381 with the Yankees this season, though much of that production came in the aforementioned April hot streak. The Padres can control him for six years, as he made his big league debut this year, and he’s appeared at second base, third base and shortstop this season. Ideally, he could settle into a utility role for San Diego for the next several seasons.

De Paula, 23, has a 4.15 ERA with 10.5 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 89 innings (17 starts, three relief appearances) at Class-A Advanced Tampa this season. Baseball America noted in its scouting report that De Paula’s mid- to upper-90s fastball was enough to dominate hitters in Low Class A, but he struggled with last year’s debut in High-A Tampa due to an inability to throw his breaking pitches for strikes. He’s made some strides in his command this year, averaging fewer walks. BA noted that if he could learn to command either his slider or changeup, that would be enough to pair with his plus fastball to project as a big league reliever, but if he could learn to command both, he could start in the bigs.

De Paula doesn’t come without personal baggage, as BA’s Ben Badler notes (on Twitter). Badler says De Paula “will be a big leaguer,” but points out that he’s used multiple falsified identities and dates of birth in his road to professional baseball.

Jack Curry of the YES Network first tweeted that the two sides were close to a deal. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported the trade was done and added the terms shortly thereafter (Twitter links).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Yankees Nearing Deal For Chase Headley

12:05pm: Andy Martino of the New York Daily News hears (Twitter link) that one or two minor leaguers will be heading to the Padres, neither of whom are considered “top guys.”

12:01pm: The Yankees are in the process of finalizing a deal to acquire Chase Headley from the Padres, reports Jack Curry of the YES Network (on Twitter).

Headley, a lifetime member of the Padres, is hitting just .229/.296/.355 with seven homers this season, though he’s playing outstanding defense at third base, per both UZR/150 (+19.7) and Defensive Runs Saved (+7). Headley is earning $10.53MM in 2014 and is eligible for free agency following the season.


Twins, Suzuki Far Apart In Extension Talks

JULY 22: There’s mutual interest in an extension, manager Ron Gardenhire told hosts Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio today (Twitter link). Gardenhire’s comments, of course, don’t mean the two sides are any closer to a deal.

JULY 21: The Twins and catcher Kurt Suzuki recently engaged in extension talks, but the two sides aren’t seeing eye to eye in terms of contract parameters, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Berardino characterizes the talks as “exploratory” but notes that establishing fair parameters looks like it will be a challenge.

The news is significant, as Suzuki figures to be a prime trade chip if the Twins aren’t able to secure a new contract with the first-time All-Star. Signed to a one-year, $2.75MM contract (with $500K of incentives), Suzuki seems a highly unlikely candidate to receive a qualifying offer after the season. As such, a trade may be the only way for the Twins to receive long-term value, should Suzuki sign elsewhere as a free agent this winter.

Suzuki, 30, has served as Minnesota’s primary backstop all season and slashed a strong .305/.364/.389. While he’s cracked just a pair of homers, he’s shown the best full-season walk rate of his career (7.5 percent) and is striking out at a career-low rate (8.8 percent). That strikeout rate is currently the sixth-lowest in all of Major League Baseball (among qualified hitters).

Defensively speaking, Suzuki has been a mixed bag. He’s thrown out a solid 24 percent of opposing base-stealers and rates as one of the best in the league at blocking potential passed balls and wild pitches, per Baseball Prospectus. However, he ranks at the bottom of the league in terms of pitch framing, per BP and Matthew Carruth at StatCorner.com.

Both the Cardinals and Orioles have seen their starting catchers go down with serious injuries, while other contenders such as the Dodgers and Blue Jays have also received below-average offense behind the plate.


The Details Of A.J. Burnett’s No-Trade Clause

Earlier today, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported the teams to which Cliff Lee can be traded without his consent, and he now reports the trades to which Lee’s teammate, A.J. Burnett, can be dealt without consent (Twitter link).

Burnett has the same 20-team no-trade clause that Lee has, according to Crasnick, and the nine teams to which he can be dealt without prior approval are the Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Pirates, Reds, Royals, Nationals and Cardinals. Unlike Lee, Burnett appears to have factored personal preference into his no-trade clause more than leverage. While Lee blocked potential deals to contending clubs outside of his division, Burnett blocked deals to markets that are further away from his Maryland home. All nine teams to which Burnett can be traded are in the midwest or on the east coast, which isn’t necessarily surprising, given the strong role that geography played in his free agency decision this offseason.

Of note is a second tweet from Crasnick, in which he says the perception that Burnett and the Pirates parted on bad terms is vastly overblown. It appears that Burnett would be open to a reunion with the Bucs, for whom he excelled in 2012-13. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Pirates are equipped to take on his remaining salary.

Per Cot’s Contracts, Burnett is owed $7.5MM in 2014 salary, with a $2.75MM deferred signing bonus payment due next January and a $3.75MM deferred signing bonus payment due next June. Additionally, Burnett will earn an extra $500K upon reaching 24 and 27 games started, and he will receive an additional $750K if he reaches 30 starts.

His complex contract also contains a $15MM mutual option ($1MM buyout) that becomes a $7.5MM player option if the team declines its half. That player option increases to $8.5MM with 24 starts, $10MM with 27 starts, $11.75MM with 30 starts and $12.75MM with 32 starts. Burnett is tied for the league lead with 21 starts, making him very likely to hit the salary and option escalators in his contract.


The Details Of Cliff Lee’s No-Trade Clause

Cliff Lee struggled in his first start back from the disabled list last night, allowing six runs on 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings, and while that outing likely didn’t bolster his trade value much, his name still figures to be bandied about in the days leading up to the trade deadline (and in August, if he isn’t moved this month). Lee has a no-trade clause that allows him to block deals to 20 clubs, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has the full details on that clause.

The nine teams to which Lee cannot block trades are the Braves, Indians, Astros, Marlins, Twins, Mets, Padres, Rays and Nationals. Should GM Ruben Amaro Jr. look to deal Lee to any of the other 20 clubs in baseball, Lee would have the ability to block the trade.

The list of teams to which Lee can be traded without his consent includes all four of Philadelphia’s division rivals (unlikely trade partners in the first place) plus a few teams that are either in states of prolonged losing/rebuilding or lack the financial wherewithal to take on Lee’s salary. In other words, Lee likely didn’t feel the need to include any of these nine in his no-trade clause, as the circumstances surrounding his current team and contract make a deal to any of the nine highly unlikely. (The Indians might be a sentimental exception to that thinking, although Lee’s salary would certainly be difficult for Cleveland to absorb.)

What Lee’s no-trade clause does do is provide him with leverage. We’ve already seen reports indicate that Marlon Byrd would approve a trade to the Mariners if they were to guarantee his third-year vesting option, and Lee could theoretically make a similar bargaining ploy to waive his own no-trade rights (that’s just my own speculation).

Of course, Lee will very likely need to convince clubs that he’s the version of Cliff Lee that everyone is used to seeing — or at least something close to it — before any team would take on a significant of his salary. As Crasnick notes, there were some positives on Monday: Lee fired a perfect first inning on nine pitches, many of the hits he gave up were “bleeders,” and he broke a few bats as well. However, one AL scout told Crasnick:

“His fastball command was off and he wasn’t nearly as precise as usual. He threw too many hittable pitches, and his overall stuff was flatter than normal. Give him another start before rushing to judgment. He threw strikes, but not with the level of precision he typically does.”

Lee is owed $9.43MM through season’s end (that number drops to $8.2MM from July 31 through season’s end), and he’s guaranteed $25MM in 2015. His $27.5MM vesting option triggers with 200 innings pitched next season, but even if he doesn’t hit that mark, it remains a club option with an incredible $12.5MM buyout. At that point, any team that controls Lee is essentially making a $14.5MM decision on whether or not to retain his services.


Trade Market For Starting Pitchers

We’ve already looked at the trade markets for catchers, first basemen, second basemen, shortstops, third basemen, corner outfielders and center fielders. Up next is starting pitchers, and there’s never any shortage of starters dealt in the summer trade market. Last year, we saw Scott Feldman, Ricky Nolasco, Bud Norris, Ian Kennedy, Jake Peavy and Matt Garza get dealt to new clubs, and this year, there have already been a few early moves.

The Yankees acquired Brandon McCarthy from the D’Backs in exchange for young southpaw Vidal Nuno, and the A’s pulled off what could end up as the summer’s biggest deal when they landed both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs in exchange for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily.

Here’s a look at some of the remaining arms that could hear their names mentioned over the next week-plus (and possibly into August)…

Top-of-the-Rotation Arms

David Price (Rays), Cliff Lee (Phillies), Cole Hamels (Phillies), Jon Lester (Red Sox), James Shields (Royals)

  • Trade rumors surrounding Price have been plentiful, but the Rays’ recent surge and the declining success of division rivals might convince Tampa to hang onto its ace. He’s controlled through 2015 (and projects to earn $18-20MM next year), meaning that any team will have to gut its farm to acquire Price. Acquiring Price is a win-now move that is going to hurt his new team’s minor league system in a big way. The A’s gave up a Top 5 prospect in Russell; their 2013 first-rounder in McKinney; and a 25-year-old righty with five-plus years of team control left in Straily. Price will command a similar, if not more significant package, though as Peter Gammons reported yesterday, they’ll wait until the final 48 hours prior to the deadline before deciding to sell.
  • Lee’s health is up in the air. He struggled in his return from elbow strain and will make at least one more start before the non-waiver deadline. If he’s healthy, Lee is a difference-maker that can lead a rotation for this year and next, though he’s guaranteed roughly $48MM through the end of next season. Part of that is a $12.5MM buyout on a $27.5MM vesting option for 2016 that will trigger with 200 innings pitched next year. A deep-pocketed team could conceivably add Lee for two-and-a-half seasons, but that contract limits his market.
  • Hamels is guaranteed just under $100MM from now through 2018, and he has a $20MM vesting option for 2019 as well. He’s among the game’s most consistently excellent pitchers, and at 30 years of age, he still has some prime years remaining. Hamels can block trades to 20 clubs, but among the deep-pocketed teams to which he cannot block a trade are the Dodgers and Yankees. The Cardinals and Red Sox are two teams with a glut of MLB-ready talent that could put together a package for Hamels as well.
  • The odds of Lester being dealt are slim, to say the least, but if the two sides realize that no deal is going to happen until free agency, rival clubs will at least inquire on the possibility of renting Lester for August through October. Boston will be in the mix to sign him as a free agent, regardless, and the return would be significant. Lester has a 2.50 ERA with his best strikeout rate since 2010 and the lowest walk rate of his career.
  • Shields, like Lester, is unlikely to be dealt as the Royals maintain hope for a strong second half that would propel them into the postseason. It would take something like a 10-game losing streak for the Royals to really entertain the thought of dealing Shields, and even then, the team may prefer to simply hang onto him and make a qualifying offer at season’s end.

Mid-Rotation Arms/Innings Eaters/Back-End Starters

Ian Kennedy (Padres), Bartolo Colon (Mets), Jake Peavy (Red Sox), John Lackey (Red Sox), A.J. Burnett (Phillies), Roberto Hernandez (Phillies), Kyle Kendrick (Phillies), Kevin Correia (Twins), Jorge De La Rosa (Rockies), Scott Feldman (Astros), Erik Bedard (Rays), John Danks (White Sox), Justin Masterson (Indians), Brandon McCarthy (Yankees), Colby Lewis (Rangers), Edwin Jackson (Cubs), Ross Detwiler (Nationals), Daisuke Matsuzaka (Mets), Marco Estrada (Brewers)

  • Kennedy has reemerged as a strong starting option, and some may consider him eligible for the previous section of this post based on his strong numbers in 2014. A 3.68 ERA, 2.98 FIP and a career-best strikeout rate (9.5 K/9) combined with team control through 2015 make him an outstanding trade chip for San Diego. The asking price will be lofty, and certainly more than head-scratching package of Joe Thatcher, Matt Stites and a Competitive Balance pick that San Diego sent to Arizona last summer to acquire him.
  • Colon is known to be available, and despite his age and body type, he’s having a strong first season in Queens. The Mets might not trade many pieces this summer, but Colon is the most likely to go, and with a 4.12 ERA, 6.8 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 126 2/3 innings, his two-year, $20MM contract looks like a reasonable price. If a team simply needs some above-average innings behind its front-line starters, Colon is a great fit.
  • Peavy’s name has been popular lately, and while his velocity is down and most of his stats are declining, he’s a serviceable right-hander that can slot into the back of a rotation — particularly in the NL. He’s owed about $6MM through season’s end, and Boston could sweeten the pot by eating some salary. With ready-made replacements like Rubby De La Rosa in-house, the Sox should be motivated to move him.
  • Lackey’s contract has a ridiculously cheap $500K option for 2015 that triggered after he missed a season with Tommy John surgery, and that will be highly appealing to rival clubs. There’s been talk that he could simply retire rather than play for that amount, but that seems unlikely when he clearly has plenty left in the tank.
  • Burnett has a limited no-trade clause, and his stats have declined along with his velocity in 2014. Still, he’s posted a 4.08 ERA and would be of interest to teams looking for a mid-rotation piece to bolster the back of a potential playoff rotation. Burnett has a player option on his deal that he doesn’t seem likely to exercise, barring a poor finish to the season.
  • Hernandez has walked way too many hitters this season, but control hasn’t been an issue with him since 2010, so a different team might think it can help him get back to his low-walk ways. He gets plenty of ground-balls and has whiffed better than six per nine over the past two seasons. With a cheap price tag, he could have some appeal to another club for a very modest return.
  • Kendrick is somewhat similar to Hernandez. He generates fewer grounders and strikeouts but comes with better command, albeit at a higher price tag ($7.7MM in 2014). He’s a free agent at year’s end and won’t be receiving a qualifying offer, so the Phils would seemingly be open to dealing him. Given his down season (4.87 ERA), however, the return wouldn’t be much.
  • Correia’s overall numbers don’t look great, but he’s quietly pitched to an excellent 2.87 ERA over his past eight starts, and he has a 3.96 ERA dating back to May 1. However, his K/9 rate is the lowest in baseball among qualified starters, and he comes with limited upside. A team with a need in the fifth spot of its rotation could do worse, and his modest $5.5MM salary isn’t as burdensome as some similar starters (e.g. Kendrick).
  • De La Rosa, a free agent at season’s end, is sporting a 4.39 ERA that doesn’t look highly impressive on the surface. However, his fastball velocity, ground-ball rate and strikeout rate are all up this year. A move from Coors Field would be beneficial, and he’s already been connected to the Orioles. Other teams have undoubtedly noticed some of his improvements this year, even if a slight increase in walks and decrease in strand rate have hurt his ERA.
  • It’d be a surprise to see Houston deal Feldman just three months into a three-year deal, but the Astros have recently shown a willingness to deal almost anyone. Feldman is having a marginal season, but the Astros did front-load his contract, perhaps making it slightly more appealing in trades.
  • Bedard’s strikeout rate this year isn’t what it once was, and he’s recently shifted to the bullpen for the Rays. A move out of the AL East might benefit him some (he’s been rocked by Toronto and Baltimore), but every division has some tough lineups. The asking price figures to be minimal, but the former ace isn’t much more than a No. 5 option at this point.
  • The roughly $34MM still owed to Danks through the 2016 season drags down his value, but also figures to substantially lower Chicago’s asking price. Danks has a 3.41 ERA over his past 11 starts as well, suggesting that he may be recovered from shoulder surgery that cost him a calendar year from May 2012 to May 2013.
  • Masterson has had a brutal year, thanks in part to a fastball that has dipped by 2.5 mph and a BB/9 rate that has spiked north of 5.00. Currently on the DL for a knee issue, he could possibly be acquired by a team that thinks resting his knee will return him to the form that made him one of the top projected free agents prior to this season. Of course, Cleveland may not be willing to sell low on its former ace.
  • McCarthy has been a sabermetric darling this year, as his 4.8063 ERA doesn’t line up with his 2.87 xFIP or 2.98 SIERA. McCarthy has the best strikeout and ground-ball rates of his career to go along with excellent command. If the Yankees decide they can’t recover from Masahiro Tanaka‘s injury, they could flip McCarthy, perhaps for more than they gave up, as Vidal Nuno wasn’t too steep a price to pay.
  • Solid strikeout and walk rates have helped Lewis post a reasonable 4.11 FIP, but his 6.37 ERA doesn’t look anywhere near as appealing. Lewis’ .413 BABIP will come down, but a contender might not want to wait for his luck to turn around. Needless to say, the asking price wouldn’t be much for any team looking to buy low.
  • Another pitcher whose FIP (4.27), xFIP (3.95) and SIERA (4.13) all suggest that Jackson has been better than his 5.61 ERA, the Cubs would almost certainly be happy to move some of his remaining $26.4MM, but it’s tough to envision too many interested parties, despite a career-best 8.1 K/9.
  • Detwiler has been shifted to the bullpen this year following the Doug Fister trade, despite the fact that he performed well as a starter with the Nats over the past few years. He now sports a 3.61 ERA out of the ‘pen, and he’s controllable through next season. Earning just $3MM this season, he won’t be too expensive after his final round of arbitration.
  • Matsuzaka hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire in his return to the Mets, but he’s been a solid swingman, making nine starts (4.24 ERA) and 18 relief appearances (2.45 ERA). His strikeout rate is a strong 8.6 per nine innings, but he’s shown his usual control problems (5.5 BB/9).
  • Estrada hasn’t pitched particularly well in 2014, as his strikeout rate has dropped while his walk rate has increased substantially. Always homer-prone, he’s averaged more than two long balls per nine innings this season. He’s controlled through 2015, so a team could buy low on him as a rotation option for this year and next, while the Brewers replace him with Jimmy Nelson (of course, that scenario is just speculation).

Controllable/Young Arms with MLB Experience

Randall Delgado (D’Backs), Tyson Ross (Padres), Tommy Milone (A’s), Hector Santiago (Angels), Felix Doubront (Red Sox), Jacob Turner (Marlins), Shelby Miller (Cardinals)

  • Delgado’s name was somewhat curiously absent from Arizona’s list of untouchable players. Despite being a key piece to the 2013 Justin Upton trade, he seems to have fallen out of favor with the organization, to an extent. Rather than give him a shot in the rotation, the D’Backs inked Bronson Arroyo in the offseason. And now, even with the rotation in disarray, Delgado is in the bullpen. He’s posted a 3.99 ERA and 11.7 K/9 as a reliever, but some clubs may look at the former Top 50 prospect as a buy-low rotation candidate. He’s controlled through 2018.
  • Ross, too, is unlikely to be dealt, as he’s controlled through 2017 as a Super Two player and has broken out over the past calendar year with the Friars. The 27-year-old has the lowest contact rate among all qualified starters (hat tip: Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune on Twitter), and he’s posted an even 3.00 ERA since Opening Day 2013.
  • Also controlled through 2017, Milone lost his roster spot when Oakland acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. That’s a harsh reality for a southpaw with a career 3.84 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 468 2/3 innings. O.Co Coliseum has no doubt helped his ERA, but Milone profiles as a controllable back-of-the-rotation starter (if not more) and is seemingly without a rotation spot this year or next (when Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin will return). Milone’s name will undoubtedly be popular after yesterday’s reports that he asked the A’s to trade him. It’s tough to see the A’s moving him without a pretty strong return, however.
  • With a 4.72 ERA in a dozen starts, Santiago hasn’t fortified the rotation as the Angels has hoped. The 26-year-old lefty has a career 3.61 ERA with 8.7 K/9, but poor control (4.3 BB/9) and some good fortune on balls in play have led FIP, xFIP and SIERA to project something in the low to mid-4.00 range. He’s controlled through 2017 as well.
  • Doubront has been shuffled back and forth between Boston’s bullpen and rotation over the past few seasons, and the 26-year-old could ultimately benefit from a change of scenery. Doubront has seen his fastball velocity decline rapidly since 2012, and his strikeout rate has fallen accordingly. That might dissuade teams that would’ve been interested a year ago from looking him up now. Like many others on this list, he’s controlled through 2017.
  • A former first-rounder and the centerpiece of Miami’s trade of Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, Turner may have fallen out of the Marlins’ rotation plans. With Jose Fernandez, Andrew Heaney, Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi looking like the future front four, Turner would be competing with a host of other prospects for the fifth slot. He’s posted a 6.22 ERA (3.83 FIP) in 63 2/3 innings in 2014 and has been in the bullpen since mid-June. Turner is controlled through 2018.
  • Miller was recently shifted to the bullpen after posting a 5.65 ERA over a 10-start stretch. Overall, his ERA is a seemingly passable 4.25, but a 4.79 FIP and 4.88 xFIP suggest that he’s been fortunate to keep it that low. Miller was once one of baseball’s top prospects and was outstanding for most of 2013, which would make him an excellent buy-low candidate. St. Louis may be hesitant to include him in a deal for an impact player, but he’d still be plenty intriguing to other clubs.

Blue Jays To Promote Aaron Sanchez

The Blue Jays will promote top prospect Aaron Sanchez to join their bullpen today, sources tell Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. The right-handed starter had been moved to the bullpen at Triple-A recently to prepare him for the role in the Majors, though he made just two relief appearances before this promotion.

Aaron  Sanchez

Sanchez, 22, ranked as the game’s No. 32 prospect on Baseball America’s pre-season Top 100. He ranked 31st on Baseball Prospectus’ version of the same list and 23rd on MLB.com’s Top 100. Sanchez has had a bit of a down season, causing him to fall off of the midseason edition of BA’s Top 50 prospects. However, BP wasn’t as swayed by his regression and upped his ranking to No. 29 on their midseason list (though as they note, given the number of prospects that have been promoted ahead of him, the ranking is actually a bit of a step back).

In 100 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this season, Sanchez has a 3.95 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 5.1 BB/9. As BP’s Chris Mellen notes in his write-up of Sanchez on BP’s midseason list (subscription required and recommended), he consistently teases the Blue Jays by showing front-of-the-rotation stuff but with heavily inconsistent fastball command. As a result, the “clear-headed line of sight” points to a mid-rotation role for Sanchez, Mellen writes. Prior to the season BA praised his ability to induce grounders with his fastball as well as the tilt and depth of his potentially plus curveball. They did note, however, that when pitching from the stretch in 2013, he walked more hitters than he struck out. Sanchez’s changeup has potential to be a third average-or-better offering as well, per MLB.com’s scouting report.

If Sanchez is at the Major League level to stay, he would accumulate 70 days of service time through season’s end, which would leave him well shy of attaining Super Two status. Recent reports have indicated that the Blue Jays are looking for bullpen help, but if Sanchez can solidify a relief role, he could be an alternative to making a trade.

Sanchez has also seen his name mentioned in trade rumors pertaining to starting pitching additions, but GM Alex Anthopoulos has shown a strong resistance to moving Sanchez’s lofty ceiling. Sanchez’s name was frequently brought up in possible Jeff Samardzija trades — alongside lefty Daniel Norris and center fielder Dalton Pompey — before “Shark” was ultimately dealt to Oakland.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Padres GM Finalists Are Preller, Hazen, Eppler, Ng

JULY 22: The Padres announced late last night that they have officially completed a second interview with Preller.

JULY 20th, 9:28am: Jim Bowden of ESPN (on Twitter) hears from a league source that Eppler and Preller have moved into the lead.

JULY 17th, 3:39pm: The Padres have narrowed their list of candidates for the club’s open GM position with intentions of conducting second interviews next week, reports Scott Miller of Bleacher Report (Twitter links). Among the candidates for the GM office, Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen could be the favorite, according to a report from Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (via Twitter).

According to Miller, the finalists are Hazen, Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller, Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler, and MLB executive Kim Ng. It appears from that list that the club has every intention of handing the reins over to a somewhat younger option who has never occupied the head baseball operations role.

Reports have indicated, however, that the club could look to bring back former GM Kevin Towers in a senior adviser role if he is dumped by the D’backs. Click here to read a recent round-up of the San Diego front office search.


Central Notes: Indians, Royals, Rios, Twins, Willingham, Cards, Peavy

There was some action on the shortstop front for the Indians today, as starter Asdrubal Cabrera left the game with lower back spasms, per Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (via Twitter). That would appear to be a minor injury, but the news coincided with the club’s decision to promote top prospect (and fellow shortstop) Francisco Lindor to Triple-A, as Hoynes tweets. Cleveland has indicated, however, that the move was unrelated. Of course, Cabrera has often been mentioned as a trade candidate — at season’s end if not at this year’s deadline — due in large part to the continued rise of Lindor, his presumed successor.

Here’s more out of the AL and NL Central:

  • With the Royals focusing on adding a corner bat, one possibility that the club has considered is Alex Rios of the Rangers, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Rios does have a six-team no-trade clause which, according to Cot’s on Contracts, includes Kansas City. His $13.5MM club option for next season is not cheap, but could potentially take the place of Billy Butler‘s own $12.5MM option if the latter is dealt or has his option declined.
  • The Twins appear to be prepared to sell, according to a report from MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger“We’re in a tough spot right now and we’ve been in a tough spot for four years,” said GM Terry Ryan. “So you have to listen. And that’s what we do.” 
  • One prime trade candidate for the Twins is outfielder Josh Willingham, who is slashing .209/.357/.399 with eight home runs in 207 plate appearances as he prepares to hit the open market after the season. Two clubs to watch as possible suitors are the Reds and Pirates, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN.
  • The Cardinals received some promising news on righty Michael Wacha, who could begin throwing again in two weeks after seeing improved MRI and CT scan results, reports Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. An early September return still appears the best case scenario, according to GM John Mozeliak. But Wacha’s health will not dictate the club’s trade deadline plans. “They’re independent of each other,” said Mozeliak. “That’s still something we can explore in the next eight to ten days.”
  • One oft-discussed option for the Cardinals is veteran Red Sox starter Jake Peavy, who once seemed close to being moved but could now be held as Boston looks to make a late surge. St. Louis is still keeping Peavy on their “back burner,” a source tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (Twitter link), who notes that Peavy has put together three consecutive solid outings.