AL Notes: Hamels, Peavy, Yanks, Masterson, Tigers, Angels

Here’s the latest out of the American League:

  • The Red Sox could be involved as both buyers and sellers, according to reports from ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark (Twitter links). After inquiring with the Phillies on lefty Cole Hamels, Philadelphia has sent scouts to watch Boston’s Double-A affiliate. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have sent their own “top scouts” to take a look at the Cardinals‘ New York-Penn League club over the last few days, suggesting that a deal sending Jake Peavy to St. Louis could still be in the offing.
  • Though recent reports may (to some extent) suggest otherwise, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said earlier today that the team’s priority at this point is to add an “offensive piece,” as Bryan Hoch and Jake Kring-Schreifels of MLB.com report“It still feels like the pitching needs more help, but honestly, the offense has been consistently poor throughout the entire year.” Cashman added that, while second base prospect Rob Refsnyder could be the team’s “second baseman of the future, maybe as early as next year,” he would potentially only see time in the outfield at the MLB level this year and would not represent an immediate upgrade over incumbent Brian Roberts at the keystone.
  • Justin Masterson of the Indians may still be working through a rehab assignment, but that has not stopped teams from inquiring as to his availability, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. Hoynes writes that the interest in Masterson suggests both that the trade market for starters is wanting for quality and that teams value players differently, with some potentially willing to bet on a return to the righty’s results from 2013. Of course, as manager Terry Francona notes, a healthy and productive Masterson could also provide a significant boost to Cleveland’s own chances.
  • As they peruse the market from the buy side, the Indians are looking for players with future control rather than rentals, tweets ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden. That is unsurprising, given the team’s careful resource management and somewhat long postseason odds.
  • We learned earlier today that the Tigers are expected to pursue a left-handed reliever. The club does not appear to be in the market for a left-handed hitting outfielder or an infielder to play on the left side, as Chris Iott of MLive.com reports“I don’t know that either one of them would be real high on our priority list at this point,” said GM Dave Dombrowski.
  • The Angels are unlikely to deal for a starter in advance of the trade deadline, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Though the club has some payroll available to make an addition, it is hesitant to ship out more prospects after a series of recent moves.

Blue Jays Outright Brad Mills To Triple-A

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • The Blue Jays have outrighted lefty Brad Mills to Triple-A, according to the International League transactions page. Mills was designated for assignment after making just one rough outing for Toronto, which claimed him off waivers from the Athletics. Mills will have the opportunity to elect free agency.

Yankees Exploring Trades For Ian Kennedy, Jorge De La Rosa

10:21pm: The Yankees are also having discussions with the Rockies regarding starter Jorge De La Rosa, Bowden tweets.

10:09pm: The Yankees do have interest in Kennedy, but do not intend to give up both Jagielo and Clarkin for him, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter links). Heyman adds that there is “nothing hot at all” between the clubs at present.

Bowden adds (via Twitter) that a team executive informs him that Cashman has had discussions with many teams with potentially available starters.

10:02pm: The Yankees and Padres are discussing a deal that would send starter Ian Kennedy to New York in exchange for prospects Eric Jagielo and Ian Clarkin, a source tells Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (Twitter link). We heard earlier today that San Diego was disinclined to deal Kennedy unless it received an overwhelming offer.

Kennedy has been solid for the Padres this year after coming over from the Diamondbacks mid-year last season. Over 135 1/3 innings, he owns a 3.66 ERA (3.10 FIP) with 9.5 K/9, 2.8 BB.9 and a career-best 42.3 percent ground-ball rate. The 29-year-old is making $6.1MM this year and will pass through arbitration one more time before hitting the open market.

Jagielo and Clarkin were both first-round selections last year for New York. Jagielo, a third baseman, has slashed .243/.321/.470 through 209 plate appearances this year at age 22. Clarkin, meanwhile, is a 19-year-old southpaw who has pitched to a 3.36 ERA through 61 2/3 innings at low-A, notching 9.9 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9.



Mariners Have Inquired With Rockies On Drew Stubbs

9:41pm: There are no talks ongoing regarding Stubbs, Harding reports, but sources tell him that increased activity on the outfielder could occur over the coming week.

7:02pm: The Mariners have inquired with the Rockies about the possibility of acquiring outfielder Drew Stubbs, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Colorado is willing to listen on Stubbs, tweets Thomas Harding of MLB.com, and would be interested in bringing back a controllable young arm in return.

Stubbs, 29, has played exclusively in center field with the Rockies, though he also has experience in right. He has posted a career-best .297/.335/.498 slash with ten home runs an 11 stolen bases in 258 plate appearances. That comes on the heels of three straight seasons of below-average production with the Reds and Indians, however, which led to his being dealt to the Rockies from the latter club in exchange for southpaw reliever Josh Outman.

The right-handed hitting Stubbs is earning $4.1MM through arbitration this year and should be in line for a nice raise in 2015, his final season of arb eligibility. That contract situation limits his trade value, of course. Colorado is not yet sure if they would like to part with Stubbs, Morosi adds. Of course, he is part of a fairly crowded outfield situation at present, particularly given reports that the club would like to bring back veteran Michael Cuddyer.


Twins, Suzuki Far Apart In Extension Talks

JULY 24: Extension talks are ongoing, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter). Suzuki’s representatives at MVP Sports are seeking a contract commensurate with the annual values given to free agents Carlos Ruiz (three years, $26MM), Jarrod Saltalamacchia ($21MM over three years), and A.J. Pierzynski (one year, $8.25MM) over the last offseason.

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.


Padres GM Finalists Are Preller, Hazen, Eppler, Ng

JULY 24: The Padres have interviewed Ng again, the club announced. That would appear to complete the team’s second round of chats.

JULY 23, 8:50pm: Taking his second interview today was Eppler, according to a tweet from the San Diego Union Tribune.

11:04am: The Padres have completed a second interview with Hazen as well, the team announced (h/t: MLB.com’s Corey Brock on Twitter).

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

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

JULY 17th: 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.


D’backs Shopping Aaron Hill, Barely Listening On Martin Prado

While the Diamondbacks are interested in moving second baseman Aaron Hill, they have indicated a lack of motivation in dealing jack-of-all-trades Martin Pradoreports CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. According to Heyman, the club is “barely listening” to inquiries on the latter.

Both players are owed approximately the same amount in future guarantees: $28MM for Hill and $26MM for Prado, both through 2016. And both have scuffled at the plate, with Hill slashing .251/.285/.381 and Prado checking in with a .274/.319/.369 line. But the club appears to view Prado, who is two years younger and a more flexible option in the field, as a part of the team’s core moving forward.


Cubs Looking To Trade Edwin Jackson

The Cubs have attempted to deal away starter Edwin Jacksonreports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, but initial efforts have not been promising. Jackson, signed before the 2013 season, is playing on a $11MM annual salary this year and is owed the same amount for each of the next two campaigns.

Heyman adds that the Yankees did not seem interested in the 30-year-old righty, who has struggled to a 5.61 ERA through 110 2/3 frames this year. That follows on his poor numbers last year, when he threw 175 1/3 innings of 4.98 ERA ball. Jackson has restored his strikeout totals to the level they were when the Cubs signed him (8.1 K/9), but has struggled with control and has walked four batters per nine.


MLBPA Files Grievance Against Astros Relating To Unsigned Draft Picks

The MLB Player’s Association has filed a grievance action against the Astros relating to the team’s recent failure to sign top overall draft choice Brady Aiken, reports Murray Chass. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports also reports the filing, via Twitter.

Though details remain vague, it appears that the union’s action alleges that Houston inappropriately manipulated the signing situations of Aiken and fifth-rounder Jacob Nix after a dispute arose over Aiken’s medicals. Ultimately, the Astros reportedly offered Aiken only $5MM after having reportedly agreed to a $6.5MM bonus. The club also did not go forward with signing Nix after having reportedly agreed to sign him for $1.5MM.

Having failed to sign Aiken, inking Nix to that reported over-slot bonus would have put the Astros well above their pool allocation for signed players and subjected them to the penalty of forfeiting each of their next two first-round choices. As MLB.com’s Jim Callis has explained, some have charged that Houston sought to sign Aiken at the lower price tag in order to make a run at 21st-round choice Mac Marshall, who had previously announced that he would go to college. Of course, it remains to be seen what precise allegations have been made by the union.

While the result sought in the grievance proceeding remains unknown, presumably the MLBPA could seek some relief for Aiken and/or Nix if not also some action against the club. As things stand, the pair of hurlers face the decision whether to matriculate at a university (both were UCLA commits) or play junior college ball and re-enter the draft next year.


Phillies Have Considered Releasing Ryan Howard After Season

TODAY: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com has some additional details on Philadelphia’s efforts to deal Howard. The club has shopped him, indicating that it would eat “much or most” of his remaining salary. Rival executives say that Philly is working hard to line up a match.

As Heyman notes, an American League team would seem most likely to add the former MVP, and two GMs told him yesterday that Howard was probably worth between $3MM and $5MM annually at this point. (Though presumably that does not mean that a multi-year commitment at that price would be desirable.)

YESTERDAY: As his struggles worsen, the Phillies have had internal discussions about releasing one-time star first baseman Ryan Howard after the season, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Howard is owed the rest of his $25MM salary this season and comes with $60MM in future guarantees.

It does not appear that the club has reached any finality in regards to Howard’s future. The possibility of a trade has been explored, but Philadelphia has not found another club interested in taking on any substantial part of Howard’s contract. That is not surprising, of course, given that the 34-year-old is slashing a career-low .224/.305/.377 through 417 plate appearances on the year.

Now, with Howard’s decline becoming more pronounced, Philadelphia appears set to give more playing time to younger first base option Darin Ruf, who was recalled today. Manager Ryne Sandberg did not call it a platoon situation, but suggested as much. “As far as the lineup, that will be a day-to-day thing,” he said. “I think it’s important to see what a guy like Darin Ruf can do also going forward,” the skipper added.

Howard signed his extension at the start of the 2010 season, coming off of a four-year run in which he put up a composite .278/.379/.589 line and hit 198 home runs. Though he continued to produce at an above-average clip at the plate for two more seasons, things began to head south when he tore his Achilles tendon while making the last out of the team’s Game 5 loss in the 2011 NLDS. (That, of course, was also the Phils’ most recent postseason game.) Since that time, Howard — long considered a substandard fielder and baserunner – has mustered only 917 trips to the plate and owns an OPS that falls below league average.


Astros Unlikely To Deal Chad Qualls

Though he could hold appeal as a setup option to a contender, Astros closer Chad Qualls appears unlikely to change hands at the trade deadline,MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports. Qualls, 35, has been lights out this year with a 1.78 ERA and 7.9 K/9 against just 1.0 BB/9.

GM Jeff Luhnow indicated that he has little interest in moving Qualls, who is playing out the first season of a two-year, $6MM deal that includes a $3MM option for 2016. Said Luhnow:

“I hesitate to use the word ‘untouchable,’ but he likes it here, he’s comfortable here, and he’s pitching well. To have a guy who’s capable of pitching late in the game, in close games, we’re going to have opportunity going forward. This is a team that’s improving, and as the team improves, you have more save opportunities, more opportunities to pitch at the end of close games. We need more Chad Qualls. We don’t need less.”

Qualls, likewise, says he hopes to finish out his career in Houston.

While it is always tantalizing to consider the possibility of adding young talent, it should be noted that Qualls’s contract does look fairly reasonable at this point. And neither would he figure to bring back a significant haul. Instead of rolling the dice on another veteran next year, Houston may well be best served by holding onto him for the time being.


Yankees Acquire Chris Capuano From Rockies

The Yankees have acquired lefty Chris Capuano from the Rockies in exchange for cash considerations, the club announced via press release. Capuano joined Colorado on a minor league deal after he was released by the Red Sox.

The 35-year-old starter had not been given a chance to pitch for a Rockies club that is desperate for pitching, despite throwing 19 1/3 strong innings at Triple-A (2.79 ERA, 9.8 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9). He had less success at the MLB level this year as a member of the Boston bullpen, however, as he worked to a 4.55 ERA in 31 2/3 frames while striking out 8.2 and walking 4.3 batters per nine.

Offering the potential to start or relieve, Capuano represents a solid and flexible depth piece for the Yankees. It is not yet clear whether or when he will get a chance at the MLB level for New York.


Stark’s Latest: Price, Phillies, O’s, Royals, Pirates

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com has a new Rumblings & Grumblings column posted in which he runs down a plethora of trade-related topics. You’ll need to read the full post to get all the information and analysis, but here are some of the highlights …

  • The Rays are waiting until next week to make any decisions on whether or not to trade ace David Price. However, as Stark points out, it could still be a difficult judgment call as to whether or not the Rays are close enough to go for it or far enough back to sell. Tampa is currently seven games back of the division lead and four and a half games back from a Wild Card berth.
  • One executive tells Stark that he’s convinced the team will move Price if they get a big enough offer. Said the exec, “They’ve really built their team by making these kinds of deals. But if the return they can get now is something they think they can get this winter, they’ll hold him.” Another exec tells Stark that waiting until the winter could reduce the return in a trade by 30 to 40 percent.
  • Stark runs down the possible landing spots for Price, calling the Dodgers the favorite, but noting that L.A. has said it will not part with both Joc Pederson and Corey Seager, even in a Price trade. The Mariners are the second choice, he notes, with the Cardinals listed third followed by the Giants and Blue Jays (both of whom are painted as long shots by Stark).
  • If the Rays do sell Price, they’ll be open for business and listen on a number of other players, including Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Yunel Escobar. Their preference is to deal Price and Zobrist in separate trades, if that comes to pass.
  • The Phillies are the next team that everyone is watching, with nine players that could be moved but contractual problems surrounding many of them. Most execs feel the Phillies will eat money to facilitate deals and aren’t looking to just dump players on other clubs. Specifically, the team is in need of position-player prospects, one exec who has spoken with Philadelphia tells Stark.
  • Marlon Byrd is the most likely to be dealt, with the Mariners, Royals and Reds scouting him. The Reds, however, may not be able to take on Byrd’s remaining $3MM in 2014, and the Mariners and Royals are on his no-trade list.
  • Jonathan Papelbon and Cliff Lee aren’t likely to be dealt, executives tell Stark. In Lee’s case, they feel he’s a lock to clear waivers. One exec tells Stark that he’d be more inclined to take a chance on Lee were he a free agent, but his contract is too risky at this point.
  • Cole Hamels isn’t likely to be dealt either. It’s not that the Phillies aren’t willing to move him, it’s just that the prices they’ve specified consist of packages “that no one would possibly give up.”
  • A.J. Burnett‘s preference is indeed to return to the Pirates, but Pittsburgh would need assurances that he’s not going to exercise his player option for 2015. The Orioles‘ interest is said to be lukewarm, while the Phillies asked the Yankees and were told, “No thanks.”
  • At least half a dozen teams are in on Antonio Bastardo, whom Stark concretely says will be traded in the next week.
  • The Orioles aren’t looking for a closer upgrade over Zach Britton, but they’re looking for a rotation upgrade and a lefty reliever that’s more than just a left-on-left specialist. They’ve shown no interest in dealing Hunter Harvey or Dylan Bundy.
  • The Royals have called on virtually every right-handed hitter on the market, but they’re look specifically at right fielders, including Byrd, Alex Rios, Chris Denorfia and Dayan Viciedo. The first two of those options still look most likely.
  • Stark would be surprised if the Pirates didn’t add at least one pitcher, if not two in the next week, but it’d have to be at least a No. 3 option in terms of starters. On the relief front, they’re looking at seventh-inning arms, as they’re content with Tony Watson in the eighth and Mark Melancon in the ninth.

Tigers Looking For Left-Handed Relief Help

The Tigers made a huge move to fortify their bullpen last night by acquiring Joakim Soria from the Rangers, but they’re not done looking for bullpen help, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Detroit is on the hunt for a left-handed relief upgrade, though they’re not ruling out another right-handed option either, he adds.

Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets that Phillies southpaw Antonio Bastardo is a target for GM Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers, which lines up with yesterday’s reports that Detroit was among the teams to scout Bastardo.

Ian Krol and Phil Coke have served as Detroit’s primary left-handed relievers this season, but each has an ERA north of 4.50, and sabermetric ERA estimators such as FIP and xFIP don’t paint a much more optimistic projection. Both have been serviceable, albeit unspectacular against lefties, as Coke has yielded a .254/.306/.388 batting line to same-handed hitters, while Krol has been a bit worse at .241/.313/.397. Both have been dreadful against right-handed hitters, however, with Coke surrendering a .927 OPS and Krol surrendering an even more unsightly 1.114 OPS.

In addition to Bastardo, the trade market features Wesley Wright and James Russell of the Cubs, Tony Sipp of the Astros, Neal Cotts of the Rangers and perhaps Brian Duensing of the Twins (though that last name is my own speculation, as he’s yet to surface in trade rumors).


Mariners Acquire Kendrys Morales

The Mariners have acquired Kendrys Morales from the Twins in exchange for right-hander Stephen Pryor, the team announced.

Kendrys Morales

Morales’ stay with the Twins didn’t prove to be a lengthy one, as his tenure in Minnesota lasted just 39 games. The switch-hitting slugger’s overall numbers with the Twins don’t look like much, as he’s batted just .234/.259/.325. He did, however, just wrap up a 12-game hitting streak that saw him bat .292/.314/.417, so he’s showing some signs of life at the dish. Seattle designated hitters have batted just .217/.294/.343, so the bar for improvement isn’t set that high with the Mariners.

The Twins signed Morales shortly after the draft, paying him the prorated version of a $12MM base salary on a one-year deal. In other words, the Twins paid about $3.08MM for less than two months of Morales and turned that into the hard-throwing but control-challenged Pryor. The Mariners, on the other hand, appear to be on the hook for the remaining $4.3MM on Morales’ contract.

Pryor, who turned 25 yesterday, has spent much of the season with Triple-A Tacoma as he recovers from surgery to repair his latissimus dorsi muscle that he underwent in 2013 (as noted by Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN on Twitter). In 31 innings with Tacoma this season, Pryor has posted a 4.65 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 5.2 BB/9. However, Pryor does have some big league experience under his belt, as he has compiled a 2.81 ERA with a 35-to-16 K/BB ratio in 32 Major League innings. He’s averaged 96 mph on his fastball in his brief time in the Majors and can be controlled at least through the 2018 season. Pryor will report to Triple-A Rochester, per the Twins.

Morales was said by agent Scott Boras to be interested in working out a long-term deal with the Twins. Morales also said (via interpreter) on a road trip to Seattle that the reason he didn’t sign with the M’s this past offseason was that didn’t want to be in the same situation (presumably referring to the possibility of taking a one-year deal and again being hit with a qualifying offer in the 2014-15 offseason). It’s possible that the Twins could again show interest in Morales as a free agent this winter, and if he can hit well over the final two-plus months with the Mariners, he figures to do better on the open market than he did last time around. Because he did not spent the entire regular season with one team, he is now ineligible to receive a qualifying offer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.