Jon Lester Rumors: Tuesday

Yesterday, reports indicated that the Orioles and Mariners have both inquired on Red Sox ace Jon Lester, but the Sox are likely to take any decision down to the wire. Earlier this morning, we noted that Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com heard there was less than a 50 percent chance Lester is dealt based on current talks, but offers are expected to increase in the coming days.

We’ll keep track of the rest of Tuesday’s Lester-related rumors in this post…

  • The Brewers have spoken to the Sox about Lester, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Milwaukee was said to have asked the Rays about David Price as well, but Price might not be dealt now, and Lester would cost less to acquire. Heyman notes that Boston has top pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson to offer as a centerpiece and has a deeper farm system than it has in prior years. Nelson ranked 38th on Baseball America’s midseason list of the game’s Top 50 prospects, and MLB.com ranked him 53rd on their midseason Top 100.

Edes On Lester, Miller, Kemp, Lackey

The Red Sox are currently weighing offers on Jon Lester and Andrew Miller, a source tells Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. However, as of late last night, there was a less than 50 percent chance that the Sox trade Lester, and the same holds true for Miller based on current talks. Edes’ source did note that he anticipates offers for each lefty will improve as the deadline draws nearer.

Regarding the club’s reported interest in Matt Kemp, Edes does hear that the Sox would consider Kemp, but a lot of money would need to be heading Boston’s way. At this point, talks with the Dodgers haven’t even gotten to the point where names have been swapped. (Weekend reports indicated that a Lester/Kemp framework would be possible if the Dodgers included other pieces.) The Dodgers have told some teams that they’d prefer to hang onto Kemp, but a source insisted to Edes that Kemp is still in play.

The Dodgers do like Miller as well, and reports last night indicated that they’re in on John Lackey also. Those reports indicated that Boston is “getting hit hard” on both Lackey and Lester, and Edes has another team to add to the Lackey mix: the Royals. Kansas City makes plenty of sense for Lackey, given the fact that he has a club option at the league minimum next year (triggered by an injury clause in his contract). That has to hold great appeal for the Royals, who have noted payroll limitations. The remaining $5.25MM on his 2014 salary, however, could be problematic.


Dodgers Interested In John Lackey

The Dodgers are investigating every top available starter, including Red Sox veteran John Lackey, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).  Of course, the Dodgers are also looking into the likes of Cole Hamels, David Price, and Lackey’s teammate, Jon Lester.

Lackey’s Tommy John surgery in 2012 triggered a $500K option for the 2015 season due to an injury clause in his contract, so he could provide a boost for the Dodgers beyond this season.  In 21 starts this season, Lackey owns a 3.60 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9.  Meanwhile, Lackey’s xFIP of 3.35 also suggests that he’s throwing the ball well.

Rosenthal reported earlier today that Boston is getting “hit hard” on both Lester and Lackey.  Lester would likely require a hefty trade package including a top prospect but Lackey represents a more affordable option for teams chatting with the Red Sox.



Central Notes: Pirates, Ruggiano, Pirates, Bastardo

If the Pirates can’t land a reliever this week, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review suggests that the Bucs could move Edinson Volquez to the bullpen.  Volquez, who has hit 98 mph on the gun this season, has been trending down since April. More from the Central Divisions..


East Notes: Rays, Colon, Blue Jays, Beckham

Expecting fireworks at the deadline from the Rays?  History would dictate that it won’t happen, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.  If anything, Topkin writes, Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman has been known for holding on to big-name players like Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, and James Shields.  More from the AL and NL East..

  • There’s “absolutely nothing” brewing on trade talks for Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon at the moment, a source tells Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (on Twitter).
  • The Blue Jays were interested in Darwin Barney before he was shipped to the Dodgers and have kicked the tires on the White Sox’s Gordon Beckham for the last month, tweets Bruce Levine of WSCR-AM.  However, Beckham’s recent slump has hurt progress in those talks.  Toronto was linked to Beckham last October.
  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said the main reason why he traded for Danny Valencia was his “success versus left-handers and what he can do in the box,” tweets Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.  Valencia boasts a career .879 OPS against lefties.

Mariners, Orioles Have Inquired On Lester

Jon Lester has emerged as perhaps the most sought after name on the trade market, and there will be plenty of buzz about him in the next three days. We’ll track all of today’s Lester updates in this post…

  • The Red Sox are open to trading both Lester and Lackey for the right returns, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • Multiple major league sources tell Rob Bradford of WEEI.com that it looks as though the Red Sox’s decision to trade Lester will most likely be made close to the 3pm CT deadline on July 31st, with the likelihood of a deal gaining steam.  One source says the Red Sox are unlikely to re-engage in talks with Lester’s representatives prior to the deadline.
  • The Red Sox, major league sources tell Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe, have been informed what kind of contract Lester is seeking and that has coincided with the team putting its ace on the trade market.
  • The Red Sox are getting “hit hard” on both Lester and John Lackey, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link), and teams within the AL East are among those showing interest. Lackey’s contract contains a club option for the league minimum in 2015 that triggered after he missed a year of his current contract due to Tommy John surgery.
  • Indeed, Rosenthal’s colleague Jon Paul Morosi tweets that the Orioles have reached out to Boston to express interest in Lester. Baltimore certainly has the pitching depth to make a push for Lester, although they’ve shown a past reluctance to part with any of Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Hunter Harvey or Eduardo Rodriguez.
  • Rosenthal also tweets that the Mariners have inquired on Lester, who is a native of Tacoma. The M’s have been connected to David Price since the offseason, but Lester would come with a slightly lower cost of acquisition given his proximity to free agency. Seattle has plenty of minor league talent as well, though top pitching prospects Taijuan Walker and James Paxton have both dealt with injuries in 2014.

West Notes: Jack Z, Angels, Padres, Dodgers

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has exasperated many trade partners with his negotiating style, executives tell Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.  Those execs say the M’s frequently inquire on a number of players, only to shift direction when a deal appears within reach. That’s not unusual for teams to do, but rival officials say Jack Z has become one of the most difficult GMs in the sport with whom to do business.  In a lengthy email to FOX Sports, the Mariners GM responded by saying that the in-and-out nature of his trade conversations are typical of those that occur throughout the industry.  Meanwhile, other teams are confused by the club’s recent acquisition of Kendrys Morales given the way Zduriencik has intimated that the club has limited financial breathing room.  Here’s more out of the AL and NL West..

  • If the Angels do add a starting pitcher, a rental probably makes more sense for them, tweets Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com.  The Mike Trout extension counts towards their competitive balance tax payroll next season, so they won’t have much wiggle room. Meanwhile, one industry source sees the Angels as more of a player for a starter in August when they take take advantage of available money without dealing prospects (link).  The Angels have $15MM in breathing room before they surpass the tax threshold, but they are hesitant to deal more prospects after dealing six to land Joe Thatcher and Huston Street (link).
  • Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego looks at Padres GM candidates A.J. Preller and Billy Eppler.  Preller, an assistant GM with the Rangers, isn’t afraid to go against the grain with one exec referring to him as “eccentric.”  Preller also has a rep as a grinder though his aggressiveness in signing talent from Latin America has rankled some competitors.
  • The Dodgers shouldn’t trade for David Price or Jon Lester, argues Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.  The Dodgers already have a strong mathematical likelihood of making the postseason and it doesn’t appear that the cost to land either of the star pitchers would be worth it for them, in Cameron’s view.
  • The Giants‘ interest in Ben Zobrist of the Rays could be deepening, writes Chris Haft of MLB.com.  The Giants’ pickup of Dan Uggla hasn’t moved the needle so far and Marco Scutaro is unable to play everyday due to his lingering back issues.

Latest On Rusney Castillo

8:29pm: Ben Badler of Baseball America writes that the Yankees indeed have a private workout scheduled with Castillo.

7:33pm: General Manager Jeff Luhnow says the Astros may schedule a one-on-one workout with Castillo, writes Brian McTaggart of MLB.com.

7:24pm: A source tells Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (on Twitter) that only the Phillies (on Tuesday) and the Red Sox (Friday) have private workouts set up with Castillo.  However, private workouts are in the works for the Yankees and other clubs.

Unsurprisingly, the Twins are not among the teams looking to line up a workout with Castillo, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN.  Minnesota likes Castillo, but the expected asking price is too rich for their blood.

3:11pm: Reports indicated that 28 of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams were represented at Rusney Castillo‘s showcase over the weekend, and Ben Badler of Baseball America has the latest on the 27-year-old Cuban free agent. Castillo will have private workouts with the Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies this coming week, and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that the Orioles are also arranging a private workout.

Badler lists the White Sox, Mariners, Giants, Blue Jays, Cubs and Braves as other potential suitors. Because multiple teams have interest in getting a deal worked out quickly, however, there aren’t likely to be any further private workouts before a deal gets done, Badler writes. Additionally, Badler has posted some video footage from Castillo’s weekend showcase.

Multiple sources indicated to Badler that the Red Sox had the largest contingent on-hand Saturday for Castillo’s showcase. He notes that Jackie Bradley has more upside at the plate, and Mookie Betts might factor in as a corner outfield option in the long-term due to the presence of Dustin Pedroia, but Boston could be intrigued by Castillo as a corner option as well. He did play right field in Cuba, Badler adds.

The Yankees, meanwhile, could weigh the possibility of trying Castillo at second base, though they could have a corner spot open alongside Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner as well. Castillo played second base (and some third base) back in 2009-10, but scouts at the showcase weren’t overly impressed with his glovework as an infielder.

Center field is Castillo’s best position, Badler writes, so it stands to reason that the Phillies could view him as an upgrade over the light-hitting Ben Revere. Playing Castillo in center field allows him to maximize his best tool — 70-grade speed.

While the White Sox are very well-versed in the Cuban market — as evidenced by the presence of Jose Abreu, Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo on their roster — the presence of countrymen on their roster won’t influence Castillo, Badler hears. His decision will come down to financial terms.

Badler adds that the Giants also had a very strong presence at Castillo’s showcase, and he makes sense for them as their system has thinned following a trade for Jake Peavy and their continued interest in Ben Zobrist. The Cubs also had “a team” of evaluators on-hand to witness Castillo, who would bolster an already enviable crop of hitting prospects.


NL East Rumors: Marlins, Phillies, Byrd, Bastardo

After a glance at the Mets earlier this evening, here’s a look at other items out of the NL East..

  • The Marlins are eyeing controllable pitchers and they’re thought to be considering A’s lefty Tommy Milone, D’Backs’ lefty Wade Miley, and Padres right-hander Ian Kennedy, writes Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.  Of course, if their three-game set against the Nationals doesn’t go well, they could wind up going the other way and selling.
  • Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd is no longer an option for the Royals and talks have stalled with the Mariners, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  Byrd will only waive his no-trade clause if his 2016 option is exercised.
  • The Phillies are talking with multiple clubs about Byrd and reliever Antonio Bastardo and there’s a lot of action on both, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.

Mets Rumors: Alderson, Syndergaard, Dice-K

With the trade deadline just a few days away, here’s the latest on the Mets…

  • In a chat with reporters, Mets GM Sandy Alderson acknowledged that the club has an opportunity to do a “thing or two,” but wouldn’t bet on something happening between now and the deadline, writes Anthony DiComo of MLB.com.   Alderson said that at some point he might be willing to use his top prospects in a blockbuster trade, but said that it would have to be “the right time for the right player under the right circumstances.”
  • Earlier today, Jeff Passan reported that the Mets would move Noah Syndergaard in a deal for Troy Tulowitzki, but David Lennon of Newsday (on Twitter) hears that the Mets will not include him in any type of trade.  Lennon cautions that things can change, but that’s the thinking at this moment.
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka, who landed on the disabled list on Friday with right elbow inflammation, should resume tossing a baseball in three or four days, manager Terry Collins said, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.  The right-hander could possibly be among the starters on the trade block this week.

Astros Open To Trading Keuchel, McHugh, Cosart

6:21pm: When asked about prospective deals Houston GM Jeff Luhnow said there’s “nothing that feels close” at this time, tweets Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The GM went on to say (link), “There’s conversations happening and there have been for the past week multiple conversations happening every day.”

5:32pm: The Astros have previously said that they weren’t inclined to move left-hander Dallas Keuchel or right-hander Collin McHugh, both of whom are in the midst of breakout seasons, but Luhnow softened his stance when speaking to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (12:23 timestamp in the update window). The Houston GM tells Rosenthal that the lack of available starting pitching has prompted him to consider dealing Keuchel, McHugh, or right-hander Jarred Cosart:

“We do seem to have an excess of pretty good young starters so we wouldn’t rule anything out. We’d have to get back a big-league piece, preferably a bat, in a package that makes sense for the future and present.”

The 26-year-old Keuchel can be controlled through the 2018 season, while McHugh, 27, and Cosart, 24, are controllable through the 2019 campaign. Keuchel and McHugh, in particular, have had surprisingly strong seasons, with Keuchel posting a 3.11 ERA in 127 1/3 innings, and McHugh notching a 3.45 ERA with 102 strikeouts in 88 2/3 innings (10.4 K/9).

Keuchel was Houston’s seventh-round selection in the 2009 draft, while McHugh was claimed off waivers (Houston had tried to trade for him in 2013), and Cosart was acquired in the Hunter Pence deal back in 2011. None of three are eligible for arbitration after the season. Keuchel will be arb-eligible following the 2015 season, while Cosart and McHugh are eligible following the 2016 season.


Royals Acquire Hendriks, Kratz For Valencia

6:10pm: The Blue Jays announced that they have acquired Danny Valencia from the Royals in exchange for Hendriks and Kratz.  Valencia, 29, posted a .282/.328/.382 slash line in 119 plate appearances for KC this season.  The veteran split 117 games between Baltimore and Triple-A Norfolk in 2013.  In 170 plate appearances last year for the O’s, he had a .304/.330/.553 slash line to go with eight homers.  The 29-year-old has seen scattered MLB action since a mediocre stint as the Twins’ everyday third bagger in 2011. 

5:51pm: Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports confirms that Kratz is headed to Kansas City (Twitter link).

5:46pm: The Royals and Blue Jays have agreed to a trade, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Right-hander Liam Hendriks is heading to Kansas City in the deal, and Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi tweets that catcher Erik Kratz is expected to be joining the Royals as well.

The 25-year-old Hendriks was once considered one of the Top 10 prospects in the Twins organization, but he made his rounds on waivers over the past season after failing to translate his excellent Triple-A numbers to the Major Leagues. Hendriks allowed nine runs in 13 1/3 innings for the Jays this season and has a 6.06 ERA in 169 1/3 innings throughout his big league career. The Aussie right-hander has a strong 3.23 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 362 1/3 career innings at the Triple-A level. Baseball America tweets that he was impressive at the Triple-A All Star Game this season — a team that he was named to after posting a brilliant 2.33 ERA in 18 minor league appearances this year.

Kratz, who turned 34 last month, is expected to help the Royals at the big league level. The former Phillies backstop has seen limited time with the Blue Jays in 2014, slashing .198/.226/.346 with three homers. Low batting averages and plus pop have been the story of Kratz’s big league career, as he’s hit just .216 with a .271 OBP in 501 plate appearances but boasts a solid .181 isolated power mark (slugging minus batting average). Kratz is a career .268/.342/.474 hitter in 1618 Triple-A plate appearances. He has consistently rated as a strong pitch-framer and pitch-blocker, and he’s gunned down 32 percent of attempted base stealers in his big league career.


Mariners Sign Brayan Hernandez

JULY 28th: The Mariners officially signed Hernandez, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America (on Twitter).  The M’s also confirmed the signing, tweets Bob Dutton of The News Tribune.

JULY 2nd: The Mariners have agreed to terms with top international prospect Brayan Hernandez, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. Hernandez, a 16-year-old outfielder from Venezuela, will receive a $1.85MM bonus, per Sanchez.

A switch-hitter, Hernandez ranked No. 8 on MLB.com’s list of top international amateurs and third on Baseball America’s version of the same list. Sanchez, BA’s Ben Badler and Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel have all connected the Mariners to Hernandez in the past, with McDaniel making the link all the way back in February.

Badler called Hernandez one of the most well-rounded players and best athletes in this year’s class. He has the potential to hit 15 to 20 homers with slightly above-average speed but a below-average throwing arm, per Badler. Sanchez calls him a contact hitter with a balanced setup that could improve quickly upon getting into regular games, due to a natural swing and strong hand-eye coordination.


Dodgers Acquire Darwin Barney

5:43pm: MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports that the Dodgers will pay $500K of what is owed to Barney this season (Twitter link).

2:32pm: The Dodgers have bolstered their infield depth and their defense with the acquisition of Darwin Barney from the Cubs, both teams announced. Chicago will send Barney and cash considerations to Los Angeles in return for a player to be named later, according to releases from each team. It was reported earlier today that Barney, who was designated for assignment last week, was garnering trade interest.

Darwin Barney

The 28-year-old Barney hit just .230/.265/.328 in 217 plate appearances with the Cubs this season, but his bat has never been his calling card. Barney consistently rates as one of the best defensive second baseman in the Major Leagues, and this year was no different. His Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games was +15.5, while Defensive Runs Saved pegged him at +7 runs in limited time. Per DRS, Barney has  saved 46 runs over the past three seasons.

Dee Gordon has established himself as Los Angeles’ everyday second baseman this season, so it doesn’t seem likely that Barney will be seeing everyday at-bats with the Dodgers. However, his glove makes him a nice bench piece that the team can use to improve its defense late in games. Barney was drafted as a shortstop and spent more time at short than at the keystone in his minor league career. Despite a lack of experience at the position in recent years, Barney could be used as a replacement if the team wants to either replace the defensively challenged Hanley Ramirez or shift him over to third base late in games.

Barney is earning just $2.3MM this season and is controllable through 2016 as an arbitration eligible player. His bat makes him a non-tender candidate in the offseason, but he will only cost the Dodgers about $804K from here through season’s end.

Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune first reported that the two sides were nearing a trade (on Twitter), and Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweeted that it was a deal. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Cubs would receive a PTBNL in return (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Rakuten Golden Eagles Sign Nick Evans

5:40pm: Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets that Evans’ deal is official, and he will fly to Japan tomorrow.

JULY 28, 2:49pm: The Diamondbacks now announce (via Twitter) that Evans has been released to make roster room for Jordan Pacheco (who is returning from the DL).

JULY 26, 10:23am:  Nick Evans has an agreement with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes tweets. The Diamondbacks will remove Evans from their 40-man roster.

Evans had collected 21 plate appearances for the Diamondbacks this season and had previously played parts of four seasons for the Mets between 2008 and 2011. The 28-year-old has spent most of the 2014 season with Triple-A Reno, where he hit .354/.423/.631 in 227 plate appearances.