AL Central Links: Royals, Hanrahan, Lindor, Sox

Despite the fact that the Royals recently went through a stretch of 18 losses in 27 games, GM Dayton Moore tells Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star that manager Ned Yost’s job is safe. Perhaps more pertinent to MLBTR faithful is that Moore tells McCullough his 49-50 ball club will not be sellers at this year’s deadline. Moore says that he doesn’t blame the players, coaches or anyone but himself: “I look at myself, and what I can do, and what we can do as a baseball operations department to improve our team. … We’re going to keep pushing until the standings say we’re done.”

Here’s more from the AL Central…

  • The Royals scouted the Phillies twice this week already, tweets Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Salisbury notes that Antonio Bastardo performed well in front of Kansas City evaluators, who are on the lookout for bullpen help.
  • Joel Hanrahan is a “long shot” to pitch in the Majors this season, reports Lynn Henning of the Detroit News (Twitter link). The Tigers, who signed Hanrahan for a guaranteed $1MM base salary in May, have been hopeful that he will eventually fortify their late-inning relief corps, but they’ve also been linked to numerous bullpen arms, suggesting that they may not be counting on much from the former Pirates All-Star.
  • Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that while it may have been a planned promotion, the timing of Francisco Lindor‘s promotion to Triple-A is “as subtle as a brick to the head.” The Indians announced Lindor’s promotion to Columbus shortly after Asdrubal Cabrera left Monday’s contest with an injury, and while Lindor likely wouldn’t be the immediate replacement, there’s little doubt that he’s seen as Cabrera’s replacement next year. Hoynes also notes how poorly timed a DL stint would be for Cabrera, as it would hurt the team’s chances to stay in the AL Central race while also costing them a potential trade chip.
  • The two White Sox players that are generating the most interest in trade are John Danks and Dayan Viciedo, tweets Chris Cotillo of SB Nation’s MLB Daily Dish. The Yankees have reportedly had some discussions with the South Siders about acquiring Danks as of yesterday afternoon. Danks has a six-team no-trade clause, with only four contenders on the list, according to yesterday’s report from MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. He can block deals to the Orioles, A’s, Nationals and Blue Jays.

A’s On Track To Finalize 10-Year Coliseum Lease

Various roadblocks slowed final approval of the Athletics’ 10-year lease agreement with the Oakland-Alameda County Colisum Authority. Now, an agreement has been reached that paves the way to a finalization of the deal, which is expected to keep the club in the O.Co Coliseum for the next decade, as Will Kane and Carolyn Jones of the San Francisco Chronicle report.

Oakland raised various issues after the deal had initially been struck, leading MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to give A’s owner Lew Wolff permission to look for a new home city for the club. But those issues were worked out this week, with Oakland’s City Council joining the Coliseum Authority in granting approval. The last apparent hurdles — approval by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and a potential re-approval by the Authority — are expected to pose no difficulties, according to the report.

The approximately $20MM deal still permits the A’s to leave the stadium as soon as December of 2017, though they would remain on the hook for the full rental term. Both Wolff and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan have expressed hope in finding a way to build a new ballpark in the relatively near future.


NL West Notes: Rockies, Giants, D’backs, Pads’ GM

With Michael Cuddyer and Troy Tulowitzki both now stuck on the DL through the trade deadline, it would appear that neither has much chance of being dealt at this point by the Rockies. Of course, it is conceivable that Cuddyer could be moved in the revocable waiver period, as Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports that a mid-August return is possible. But Cuddyer would probably not generate much of a return given his long layoff, and the Rockies have given signals that they do not intend to deal him.

Here’s more out of Colorado and the rest of the NL West:

  • The Rockies are approaching a breaking point with their decisionmaking structure, opines Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who reports that senior VP of major league operations Bill Geivett and manager Walt Weiss have not been on the same page in terms of the roster. Geivett operates alongside GM Dan O’Dowd to jointly perform the roles normally assigned to one person, and his “major league operations” role includes keeping an office in the clubhouse.
  • The Giants are “intensifying” their efforts to add a starter, reports Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com. With Matt Cain‘s elbow issues creating significant uncertainty, it appears that San Francisco could have a real need to add depth. While complicating factors make the Giants a tough buyer to line up, Baggarly says that Jake Peavy of the Red Sox appears to make a good deal of sense on paper. Meanwhile, San Francisco continues to look at right-handed hitting corner outfield and second base options, with Chris Denorfia (Padres) and Emilio Bonifacio (Cubs) seeming possibilities.
  • For the Diamondbacks, a measured sell-off appears to be the club’s preferred tack, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Even after the more obvious keepers, the club seems inclined to hold onto veterans like Brad Ziegler and Martin Prado who come with significant future control. Of course, the remaining trade options tend to be players who would be expected to draw less back in return. Heyman notes that Arizona “would listen” on closer Addison Reed and may prefer to wait until the offseason to shop Didi Gregorius.
  • The Padres have prioritized international scouting in their search for a new GM, tweets Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. That is one factor that has led some to suggest that Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller could be in the lead for the position.


MLB Begins Interviewing Commissioner Candidates

9:53pm: In his full report, Costa writes that the committee has also interviewed at least two people who do not currently work in the commissioner’s office. Giants CEO Larry Baer has had “informal discussions” regarding the post, but has not made himself a candidate at this point, Costa adds. Likewise, discussions with Disney CEO Robert Iger have not moved past the preliminary stages and his potential candidacy appears to come with some complicating circumstances.

5:02pm: The process of replacing longtime MLB commissioner Bud Selig appears to be entering its next phase. Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal reports on Twitter that at least three internal candidates have been interviewed, presumably by the league’s succession committee.

The first name that Costa mentions will come as no surprise: Rob Manfred, the MLB COO. Manfred has long been considered a leading candidate and is currently “heavily favored” to succeed Selig, according to the report.

Also earning a chance to make a pitch for the commissioner’s chair were Tim Brosnan and Bob Bowman, each of whom occupy lofty positions within the MLB hierarchy. The former heads MLB’s domestic and international business ventures, while the latter is the CEO of MLB Advanced Media.

 


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East Notes: Nats, Colon, Rios, Doubront, Headley, Yanks

We just took a look at the Marlins; now here are some notes on the rest of the NL East and their geographical counterparts from the American League:

  • The Nationals rank as perhaps the league’s quietest contender approaching the trade deadline, in large part because it is difficult to see where the club might reasonably look to upgrade. We’ve heard previously that the team might target a young shortstop to plug into its pipeline, but one possibility for the MLB roster is a bullpen addition, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports. While the Washington relief corps has been outstanding, and the club lacks apparent roster flexibility, Kilgore says that the Nats are interested in adding depth for the stretch run.
  • This is my speculation, but if a new arm is added to the big league club, Washington could potentially stash rookie Aaron Barrett in the minors until rosters expand in September, though he has been quite solid (2.61 ERA with 10.7 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 31 innings). More intriguingly, a pen slot could theoretically be opened if the team was to deal away former starter Ross Detwiler, though that would obviously result in a corresponding loss of depth.
  • There have been several reports on Mets starter Bartolo Colon, who is earning $9MM this year and is promised $11MM for 2015. The club is “trying hard” to deal him, according to Danny Knobler (via Twitter), while Newsday’s Marc Carig tweets that interest is picking up but the Mets are disinclined to hold onto any of Colon’s salary in a deal.
  • Moving the 41-year-old won’t be easy, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post, because his future salary is both what New York wants to offload and what other clubs will want to avoid. Meanwhile, Sherman refutes reports suggesting that the Giants have engaged the Mets on Colon (Twitter link), writing that San Francisco would only have interest if it can avoid paying for a significant portion of Colon’s 2015 salary. Like Carig, Sherman hears that is not the Mets’ preference.
  • The Blue Jays have shown interest in bringing back outfielder Alex Rios, currently with the Rangers, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Toronto shed Rios and his big contract by declining to revoke an August waiver claim back in 2009, but the veteran has turned things around and now comes with only a $14MM team option left for 2015. Of course, there remains some doubt as to whether the Jays would be able to take on the remainder of Rios’s $12.5MM salary for the current season.
  • Red Sox starter-turned-reliever Felix Doubront is not enjoying his current role with the club and hopes to see more action — in Boston or elsewhere — reports Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. The 26-year-old lefty has been mentioned before as a trade candidate, though it is not clear whether Boston will be inclined to move him as the club tries to get back in the mix, especially with talk that Jake Peavy could be dealt. Doubront will be eligible for arbitration for the first time next year.
  • The Yankees acquired third baseman Chase Headley with the expectation that he will be a two-month rental, GM Brian Cashman told reporters including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (Twitter link). The deal came together today after about three weeks of discussions, Cashman added.
  • Headley will likely not be the last addition for New York, Cashman indicated in further comments, via Jorge Castillo of the Star-Ledger“I have more work to do,” he said. The GM explained that larger moves could be in the offing: “We’ve got high-end stuff, without a doubt, players that other teams like. And those players would be available, or will be available, in the right circumstances. These are the deals that I can present to you that we were able to conclude, but we’re talking much larger type deals, [and] clearly much smaller, incremental upgrades.”

Marlins Notes: Relievers, Johnson, McGehee

The Marlins sit 8.5 games off of the NL East pace entering today’s action, with a 46-52 record and negative-26 run differential. But that mark beat the expectations of many, and the club seems inclined to continue to develop good will with its fans (if not also star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton) by fielding a competitive ballclub.

Here’s the latest out of Miami, home to one of the more interesting organizations to watch over the coming days:

  • Scouts are flocking to watch Marlins relievers Steve Cishek and Mike Dunn, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro, but thus far Miami has not indicated that it will make either available. In fact, the club still hopes to act as a buyer, says Frisaro, with a “controllable starter” and second baseman both in its sights.
  • In fact, the Marlins are actually showing continued interest in acquiring struggling former Athletics closer Jim Johnson, reports Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. The teams have discussed a deal involving minor leaguer Adam Conley, a 2011 second-rounder who has scuffled in Triple-A.
  • Another Marlins player that has drawn interest is reclaimed third baseman Casey McGehee, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. One club with potential interest is the Mariners, says Heyman, who seems to indicate that Seattle might even be willing to use McGehee in the corner outfield.
  • While there may be interest in McGehee, Frisaro reports that the Fish see McGehee as a mid-term or even long-term piece and are not marketing him. The 31-year-old has a season of arbitration eligibility remaining after signing a one-year, $1.1MM deal with Miami, Frisaro notes, and the team has actually considered offering him an extension.

The Details Of John Danks’ No-Trade Clause

White Sox starter John Danks is permitted to designate six clubs for no-trade protection under his five-year, $65MM extension. His list for 2014 includes the Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, and Blue Jays, MLB.com’s Scott Merkin reports on Twitter.

Though Danks has reportedly drawn some interest, including from the Yankees, his contract certainly limits his appeal. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams noted in breaking down the potentially available starters, Danks is due about $34MM through 2016. However, the 29-year-old lefty holds some value after working back from shoulder surgery, as he has shown the ability to produce over stretches. Through 124 innings on the year, Danks owns a 4.35 ERA with 6.3 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9. But he had lowered that mark to 3.99 before getting hit hard two days ago by the Astros.

Of course, it is far from clear that any of those four clubs would be interested in adding Danks (and, in particular, his contract), so the clause’s impact on Danks’ market may be limited. The A’s and Nats appear to be set in their rotations, while the Jays are reportedly interested in adding a pure rental and the O’s may likewise prefer not to take on that kind of commitment after promising $50MM to the struggling Ubaldo Jimenez before the season.

No-trade details have begun to emerge on several possible trade pieces around the league. Earlier today, we covered the teams to which A.J. Burnett and Cliff Lee can block trades (here and here).


NL Central Links: Pirates, Burnett, Cardinals, Peavy

The Pirates are not on A.J. Burnett‘s 20-team no-trade clause (as outlined by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick earlier today), and they are his preferred destination if the Phillies choose to move him, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). As I speculated in this morning’s post on his no-trade clause, however, Rosenthal notes that Burnett’s complex mutual/player option may be a deterrent for the Bucs, as Burnett could potentially be a spendy acquisition if he makes a full season’s worth of starts. Nonetheless, Pirates players are lobbying with the front office in an attempt to persuade GM Neal Huntington and his staff to reacquire their former teammate, according to Rosenthal.

Here’s more out of the NL Central…

  • Pirates president Frank Coonelly says that the team has financial flexibility to add payroll, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Whether or not that would extend to taking on Burnett’s future commitments, of course, remains to be seen.
  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said last night that he expects Michael Wacha to pitch in September, but Rosenthal tweets that St. Louis is still looking for rotation upgrades. The Cardinals are exploring everything from front-line starters to back-of-the-rotation types, he says.
  • Peter Gammons reports that the Red Sox have been scouting Cardinals short-season Class-A outfielder Rowan Wick in case the Redbirds decide to make a run at Jake Peavy (Twitter link).
  • The reason that a deal sending Peavy to the Cardinals has not yet taken place, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com, is that Boston wants a prospect of some kind in return. St. Louis, meanwhile, was more interested in doing the deal primarily in exchange for taking on Peavy’s salary. Peavy is earning $14.5MM this year. (A $15MM player option would vest for 2015 if he is able to log at least 137 2/3 more innings this year, though that would appear to be quite a tall order.)

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.


Ian Stewart Accepts Outright Assignment

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • Angels infielder Ian Stewart has accepted his assignment to Triple-A rather than electing free agency, the club announced. Stewart was recently designated and then outrighted by the Halos after seeing his first MLB action since 2012.

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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 (though he’s playing center field tonight), with fellow top youngster Javier Baez reportedly also moving to that spot at Triple-A 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.


MLBTR Live Chat

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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.