Latest On Market For Craig Kimbrel

10:18pm: Heyman reports that Kimbrel’s name has “at least surfaced” in talks with the Yankees, but New York’s reluctance to part with any of Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Greg Bird and Jorge Mateo would need to change before anything could ever come to fruition. As Heyman notes, the Yankees are checking on nearly all available pitchers, so it’s tough to gauge how much significance to place on the fact that his name has been kicked around.

9:41pm: The Nationals are the team that is “hottest” after Kimbrel, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets.

9:43am: The Nationals, Blue Jays and Astros are among the teams to have shown interest in Padres closer Craig Kimbrel, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Astros, though, are concerned with the financial commitment that comes along with Kimbrel in the future, he adds.

While many would think the same should hold true of the Blue Jays, it should be pointed out that Toronto can potentially see Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Dioner Navarro, Marco Estrada and Maicer Izturis depart as free agents this offseason. Additionally, they’ll finally be freed from the burden of the ill-fated Ricky Romero contract this winter. That means more than $50MM will come off their books.

Of course, some of those departures will be offset by a significant increase to Russell Martin‘s salary on his backloaded contract ($7MM in 2015, $15MM in 2016) and arbitration raises to players such as Josh Donaldson, Drew Hutchison and Justin Smoak, among others. (Donaldson’s raise, in particular, will be substantial.) Kimbrel’s remaining $3.49MM salary in 2015 would fit into the Blue Jays’ reported $5-8MM in-season spending limitations, though such a move would also limit GM Alex Anthopoulos’ ability to address the rotation, which is reportedly his focus.

The inclusion of the Nationals is a bit peculiar at first glance, given Drew Storen‘s excellent 2015 season, but the team has had some bullpen issues beyond Storen. And, as the Royals made abundantly clear in 2014, a deep bullpen is a notable advantage in the postseason. Over the weekend, ESPN’s Jayson Stark speculated this weekend that the Nats could make a play for Kimbrel.

As for the Astros, GM Jeff Luhnow has stated that he’d like to add a flamethrower to his bullpen if an upgrade is made, and Kimbrel’s average fastball velocity is 97.4 mph, so he’d certainly fit that description. His four-year contract’s guaranteed salaries escalate in 2016-17, however. Kimbrel is earning $9MM this year, but that jumps to $11MM in 2016 and $13MM in 2017. He’s also guaranteed at least $1MM via the buyout of his $13MM club option for the 2018 season.

Kimbrel got off to a rough start to his Padres tenure, surrendering 10 earned runs (partially on the strength of three homers) through his first 15 2/3 innings. Since May 19, though, he hasn’t allowed a single homer, and he’s reeled off a 0.76 ERA with a 32-to-10 K/BB ratio in 23 2/3 innings. Recent reports have indicated that the Padres are “pushing” to move some of their big-name, expensive assets.


Dodgers Willing To Listen On Yasiel Puig

The Dodgers have informed rival clubs that they would be willing to move outfielder Yasiel Puig “in the right deal,” Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports on Twitter. Thus far, however, Los Angeles has received more trade inquiries on their higher-end prospects.

Puig was reportedly informed by the team recently that he would not be dealt. At the time, the report (from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com) indicated that the team was not engaged in any trade talks regarding the somewhat controversial, but incredibly talented, 24-year-old.

All said, it still seems unlikely that anything will come together on Puig. He’s not playing up to his prior levels, but still owns a productive .253/.327/.423 slash over 217 plate appearances.

With a meager $4.5MM salary this year and three more years of control remaining for just $19.5MM, Puig’s contract has long looked like one of the game’s best bargains. But his less-than-inspiring play this year and a variety of off-field issues have raised some questions about his true value.

For the Dodgers, parting with a high-end young asset would seem to be a stretch. But the team does have a wide variety of options in the outfield, with Andre Ethier playing at a high level, Joc Pederson emerging as a young star, Carl Crawford finally returning to action, and several strong platoon candidates under control.

Los Angeles figures to make a move for starting pitching, and has been said to be involved in a variety of scenarios. The team is apparently unwilling to part with its best prospects — infielder Corey Seager and pitcher Julio Urias being the two blue-chip pieces — but would surely have to give up young talent to add a quality, controllable arm. Rental arms are also under consideration, of course, and it remains to be seen how the team will proceed.


White Sox Waiting To Decide On Dealing Samardzija

9:44pm: Chicago is waiting to see where they stand after their current series to decide whether to move Samardzija, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets.

6:28pm: The Blue Jays are showing the strongest interest in Jeff Samardzija of any interested team, reports Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago (Twitter link). The Giants, too, have recently checked in on Samardzija, according to Hayes.

[RELATED: Blue Jays Show Interest In Craig Kimbrel]

Toronto’s focus is said to be on the rotation, and they’ve been connected to Samardzija a number of times over the past week. Of course, the Jays are also said to be casting quite a wide net.

As for San Francisco, it’s still unclear whether the club is more than an opportunistic buyer for starters. Recent reports have indicated that the team would like to add a major arm, but may not be willing to extend itself to do so.

On the White Sox side of things, Hayes reported last week that the team is becoming “increasingly willing” to trade Samardzija, who is earning $9.8MM this season and is a free agent at year’s end. That being said, Chicago has still not given a “definitive signal” to other clubs that it will move Samardzija, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com tweets.

With the Wild Card race still not completely out of reach, it seems that the White Sox may be taking things down to the wire. Then, there’s the fact that other, bigger chips may need to move (or be declared off-limits) before Samardzija can be marketed to his maximum value.



Outfield Market Notes: Maybin, Reddick, Mets, Angels, Parra, Gomez

Though the Braves have fielded plenty of interest in the revived Cameron Maybin, and have considered moving him, the team now feels it “would need to be blown away with an offer” to make a deal, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Contrary to an earlier report, Bowman adds, an Atlanta source vehemently denied the suggestion that Maybin had been dangled in an earlier effort to add Angel Pagan of the Giants. Maybin, 28, has been one of the game’s best turnaround stories, with his play dramatically altering perceptions of both his contract and the deal that brought him to Atlanta (which was already widely viewed as a Braves win).

Here’s more on the still-developing outfield market, which just saw one move with Shane Victorino heading to the Angels:

  • The Athletics seem unlikely to move outfielder Josh Reddick, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. In his comments after today’s Tyler Clippard trade, GM Billy Beane said that his club is not presently working on deals involving players who are under future control.
  • Despite a trio of acquisitions already completed, the Mets are still looking at a handful of outfield options, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets. New York has, of course, just brought up top prospect Michael Conforto with Michael Cuddyer on the DL, but the team also designated John Mayberry Jr. and could use another quality option.
  • A source also tells Marc Carig of Newsday that the Mets are still shopping for outfield bats. Carig notes that the team could wait for asking prices to drop on deadline day.
  • The Angels are also still looking at left-handed hitting outfielders after adding Victorino, and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets that Jay Bruce (Reds), David Murphy (Indians), and Ben Revere (Phillies) are all still on their radar.
  • Gerardo Parra of the Brewers is also a player that the Angels are interested in, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (via Twitter). Heyman breaks down his market, citing the Mets and Orioles as prime suitors (along with the Halos) for the left-handed hitter. There’s also a classic mystery team involved, per the report.
  • Heyman adds that some in the Brewers organization do not believe that Carlos Gomez will end up being dealt. Milwaukee is somewhat hesitant to move an affordable, in-prime player with control remaining.
  • Be sure to check out MLBTR’s Trade Market series for all the most likely outfield trade pieces. We’ve covered both center field candidates as well as corner options.

Cubs, Padres Talked Castro; Cubs Not In On Shields

8:57pm: In their conversations with the Padres, the Cubs have been focused on Ross, per a Rosenthal tweet. As he notes, that isn’t exactly surprising. The 28-year-old has been rather excellent dating back to 2013, and comes with two more seasons of control. There’s a good argument to be made that his contract is the organization’s single most valuable asset.

As Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today, a wide variety of teams have interest in Ross, including the Blue Jays, Astros, Dodgers, and Rangers.

8:02pm: Whatever other talks the teams may have had, Chicago is not making a run at Shields, Buster Olney of ESPN.com tweets.

7:35pm: The Cubs have had discussions with the Padres regarding shortstop Starlin Castro, Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports report on Twitter. San Diego does not look like a traditional buyer, but as noted in MLBTR’s overview of the shortstop trade market, the team makes sense as a future-oriented acquirer at the position.

Castro is still just 25, though he’s playing in his sixth big league season. He is owed $37MM over the next four seasons and can be controlled with a $16MM option in 2020 ($1MM buyout).

That contract once looked like an asset, but after a second rough campaign in three years, it looks more like a reasonable risk. Castro owns a .233/.268/.302 slash over 399 plate appearances, which falls well below his roughly league-average career output. He’s generally regarded as a mediocre defender at short, and metrics suggest he’s slightly to firmly below average in that department.

It’s not clear what kind of deal would be considered, but San Diego has a number of players who could hold appeal to the Cubs. Morosi suggests the possibility of a swap of James Shields, which holds at least some plausibility (as a starting point, at least) since both are owed significant future money and could arguably be better fits for the current needs of the other club. But he gave no indication that there is anything to that idea other than his own analysis.

Looking at the San Diego roster for other pieces that could be intriguing to the Cubs — whether or not as part of any deal involving Castro — the rotation certainly seems the place to focus. We’ve heard plenty in the past about the need for a rotation addition in Chicago, and both Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner are younger, controllable pieces that have been mentioned as possible trade pieces. On the rental side, Ian Kennedy should hold some appeal and could also be a theoretical fit for Chicago. Outfielder Will Venable and reliever Joaquin Benoit are two more pending free agents that could make sense.

Should the Cubs make a major move, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has explained that it would likely be for a controllable piece. (Via ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers; links to Twitter.) While the team is entertaining rental options, it seems unlikely to pay a steep price to add a premium player that will hit the open market after the season.

“If we do something on the bigger end, it will involve players that will help us beyond this year,” said Epstein. “If we do something on the smaller side, it will probably be more for a rental. And if we do nothing, it will be because we couldn’t find anything rational that we could actually do.”

As for as larger possible moves go, we’ve heard the Cubs linked to Cole Hamels of the Phillies at various times. Per Morosi, via Twitter, the team is only on the “periphery” of the Hamels market at present.


Latest On Hamels: D’backs Interested, Astros “Making Big Push,” Rangers Talking Prospects

8:04pm: The Astros are “making [a] big push” to add Hamels even after nabbing rental starter Scott Kazmir, Crasnick tweets.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports updates the names that have been discussed between the Rangers and Phillies, noting that not all would be included in a theoretical deal. (Links to Twitter.) Catching prospect Jorge Alfaro, young righty Chi Chi Gonzalez and Luis Ortiz, and outfielders Nick Williams and Lewis Brinson have all come up recently, per Rosenthal.

Texas will not move Nomar Mazara in a deal for Hamels, he says, and would only include Alfaro if the Phillies pay down more of the deal. The club is also hesitant to part with Gonzalez, who made his major league debut this season. As Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today, the Phillies are focused on adding Alfaro or Mazara if they strike a deal with the Rangers.

Heyman adds that the Phillies continue to dangle Hamels to the Yankees in hopes of acquiring either Luis Severino or Aaron Judge. He suggests that could be an indication that the team is not really satisfied with what it’s being offered elsewhere.

4:19pm: There’s a late possible dark horse in the Cole Hamels sweepstakes, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, who says that the Diamondbacks have “reached out to the Phillies to express their interest.” (Twitter link.)

While Arizona seems an unlikely suitor, as they sit five games under .500 entering today’s action, their situation is not necessarily much different from the Rangers, who are reportedly among the teams in most active pursuit. It would seem that the D’Backs are mostly interested in adding Hamels for the future, though he would certainly bolster their marginal Wild Card chances. With an obvious

It’s worth bearing in mind that the Diamondbacks have very little in guaranteed commitments for the future. Next year’s current tab is just over $27MM at present, though of course there will be some arbitration salaries to account for, and it only goes down from there. With an obvious need for both current and long-term improvement in the rotation, it makes sense that Arizona is exploring the market for future-oriented pitching additions.

The Hamels contract is sizable, but manageable for the mid-market D’backs. He is owed $22.5MM annually from 2016-18, and comes with a $20MM option for 2019 ($6MM buyout). That kind of cash likely won’t buy a top-line starter through free agency, so Arizona may see an opportunity to get such an arm at a discount.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that there wouldn’t be a steep price to pay in terms of talent. The Diamondbacks are generally viewed as having a middle-of-the-road farm, but they do have plenty of quality young pieces at or near the big leagues — including arms like Archie Bradley and up-the-middle infielders such as Chris Owings. It would obviously be foolish to speculate as to what the club might be willing to offer, or what the Phillies might hypothetically look to bring back, but Arizona possesses sufficiently intriguing players to make a match seem plausible.

It’s worth noting that the D’backs are on Hamels’ no-trade list, meaning he could block a deal there, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets. We’ve heard chatter about the lefty’s preferences regarding other clubs, but it’s not clear whether he’d have any interest in a move to Arizona.


Ben Cherington On Shane Victorino, Rusney Castillo

Earlier this evening, the Red Sox and the Angels reached agreement on a deal to send Shane Victorino and cash considerations out west in exchange for infielder Josh Rutledge.  In a conference call with reporters, Red Sox Executive Vice President/GM Ben Cherington explained that the talks started only in the last few days.

The deal kind of came together over the weekend,” Cherington said. “I talked to Shane this afternoon during batting practice about it…He’s been a part of a lot of great moments, not just for the Red Sox, but throughout his career.”

The deal was not an easy one for Cherington to make and it has brought about some mixed emotions for the Flyin’ Hawaiian.  Victorino expressed to Cherington that he’s happy to have an opportunity to join up with a contender and play meaningful games down the stretch.  On the other hand, the veteran feels that his time in Boston marked a very important part of his career and he is sad to leave his Red Sox teammates behind.

Baseball-wise, the deal opens up space on the Red Sox’s roster, allowing them to get a good look at international signee Rusney Castillo.  While Cherington wouldn’t quantify how much that played a role in the Victorino trade, he said that it was “certainly” a consideration.  However, there aren’t any immediate plans to make a similar move to accommodate Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie is doing well. There’s merit and consideration in trying to get some opportunities for him too, but today it’s Castillo.  We’ll see where it goes after that,” said the GM.

As for Rutledge, Cherington confessed that he has had interest in the infielder “going back to his Colorado days.”  With Dustin Pedroia on the DL, the 26-year-old figures to see a good amount of playing time the rest of the way.  If he does well, Cherington says he can envision him “being a part of the team going forward.”

Outside of today’s transaction, Cherington kept mum about other possible dealings this week.  When asked about the level of interest he’s received in Mike Napoli, he effectively gave a no comment.  When another reporter inquired on what’s next, Cherington tersely replied, “[There’s] nothing to announce and nothing is particularly close.”


Giants Designate Joaquin Arias

The Giants have designated infielder Joaquin Arias for assignment, Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area reports on Twitter. His roster spot was needed for the activation of Nori Aoki.

Arias, 30, has struggled to a .207/.207/.276 slash over 59 plate appearances on the year. He’s seen part-time duty in each of the last four seasons in San Francisco, along with four prior seasons with MLB action. All said, he owns a .265/.293/.350 batting line in 1,118 plate appearances.


Latest On Giants’ Efforts To Add Pitching

We’ve heard recently that the Giants are only interested in premium arms, if they add to their staff. But Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com hears (Twitter link) that San Francisco is looking at several rotation options, but remains a “long shot” to actually pull the trigger on a deal to add a major starter.

Meanwhile, the Giants have at least inquired with the Reds on ace reliever Aroldis Chapman, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. The clubs have not exchanged offers, so it appears as if the discussions are rather preliminary.

While the Giants have not received the strongest work from veteran righty Santiago Casilla, or from top set-up man Sergio Romo, the club has received solid overall results from its pen. It remains to be seen how motivated they are to add a pen arm, but if the interest in Chapman is indication, San Francisco will look to the top of the market in that area as well.


Mets Acquire Tyler Clippard

5:35pm: New York will receive $1MM in the deal, meaning that they’ll pay Clippard just over $2MM the rest of the way, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post tweets.

5:16pm: The Mets have agreed to a deal that will land them reliever Tyler Clippard from the Athletics, Oakland announced (and as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported on Twitter). Oakland will receive righty Casey Meisner in return, and will also send some cash to New York in the deal.

Jun 25, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Oakland Athletics pitcher Tyler Clippard (36) pitches in the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington.  The Athletics beat the Rangers 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Clippard has not delivered the same kind of performance that he did over the previous four seasons in Washington, over which he put up a 2.50 ERA with 10.2 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9. Though the veteran has always outperformed the expectations of ERA estimators, he hasn’t maintained anything near the peripherals he had set as a baseline.

Over his 38 2/3 frames in Oakland, all compiled since coming over in a winter trade for Yunel Escobar, Clippard has seen his strikeout rate drop to 8.8 K/9 while his walk rate has shot up to 4.9 BB/9. His average fastball velocity has not fallen off sharply, but has continued to decline. And Clippard has seen his swinging strike rate fall to 12.4%, below his career average.

That being said, Clippard has still picked up 17 saves and carries a 2.79 ERA over 38 2/3 innings. He’s benefitted from a .214 BABIP-against, but his career rate is a miniscule .234 — a product of the many flyouts he induces. Interestingly, Clippard has seen his infield fly rate drop off significantly (from around 19% over the last two seasons to 11.9% this year). Clippard continues to excel at retiring opposite-handed hitters, which he accomplishes with a devastating change to accompany his typically up-in-the-zone heater.

New York will hope for a more vintage performance from its latest addition. The team is clearly pushing some chips in with hopes of overtaking the Nationals in the NL East. Clippard joins Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson as new acquisitions, and New York may not be done.

As for the return, Meisner is a 20-year-old righty who has reached the High-A level for the first time this year. The 2013 third-rounder stands at 6’7 and has delivered strong results this year, with a 2.35 ERA over 111 minor league frames and 7.2 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9. But those figures — particularly the peripherals — have benefitted from the fact that 76 of those innings came at the Class A level, as Meisner has not maintained them since his promotion.

Oakland has added yet another young piece as it continues to part with veteran assets. The Scott Kazmir trade also returned somewhat lower-level prospects, which could give some indication where GM Billy Beane is headed. Meisner has drawn mixed reviews at times, with Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs tweeting that he looks like a back-end starter at best given his difficulty repeating a delivery and mediocre secondary offerings. But ESPN.com’s Keith Law recently mentioned Meisner as a strong sleeper prospect (Insider link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Angels Acquire Shane Victorino

5:20pm: Los Angeles will be responsible for $1.1MM of the $4.9MM or so left on the contract, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter.

5:00pm: The Angels have acquired veteran outfielder Shane Victorino from the Red Sox, Boston announced (as first reported by Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reports on Twitter). Infielder Josh Rutledge will head to the Red Sox in the deal, while Boston will also send an unidentified amount of cash to Los Angeles.

May 15, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino (18) gets a high-five in the dugout after scoring a run against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Victorino, 34, is a switch-hitting corner outfielder who has done much more damage from the right side of the plate in recent years. That makes him a reasonable platoon candidate to pair with Matt Joyce, the left-handed-hitting corner outfielder who has historically been quite good against right-handed pitching.

There had been indications that Los Angeles was looking into a more impactful addition at the corner outfield — perhaps one that would put an everyday player into the spot. The team seemingly preferred a left-handed bat, per reports. That could still come to pass, of course, if the Angels are willing to cut Joyce loose and use Victorino as a pure fourth outfielder. Indeed, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets that the club still has interest in another outfield addition.

There’s around $4.5MM left on Victorino’s contract, which expires after the present season. It’s unclear exactly how much will remain the responsibility of the Red Sox.

For Boston, the deal was all about saving some cash and clearing roster space for a lengthy audition of major recent international signee Rusney Castillo. The 28-year-old has been recalled to take Victorino’s place on the active roster.

Rutledge, after all, has not even seen time yet at the big league level this year after joining the Angels in a winter trade. His star has dimmed considerably since a nice rookie campaign with the Rockies back in 2012, though he continues to put up solid numbers at Triple-A (.286/.336/.432) and could certainly find his way back to the majors in Boston.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Duquette: Orioles Are Deadline Buyers

JULY 27: Duquette reiterated today that he does not see any circumstances in which the Orioles would turn into sellers before the deadline, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports (Twitter links). “We may make some trades, but anything that we do we’re gonna try and improve our ballclub for this year,” said Duquette.

There had been some suggestion that Baltimore could switch into sell mode after slipping under .500, but the team’s top baseball decisionmaker certainly did not appear to leave any room for that possibility with the deadline just days away.

JULY 22: Orioles executive vice president/general manager Dan Duquette held court with the Baltimore media prior to today’s game and definitively said that the club will be buyers at the trade deadline regardless of how the team plays over the next week (via Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, on Twitter). Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Duquette specifically said that the team needs better production from its outfield and pitching depth. Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com tweets that Duquette said the team is not looking to trade right-hander Kevin Gausman, but he’s the type of piece that other clubs will routinely ask about. (As Encina notes, Duquette’s comments don’t necessarily squash the rumor that he’s willing to listen to offers on Gausman.)

The Orioles are currently a .500 club at 46-46, which places them five games out of the division lead in the American League East. The Yankees are presently in the division lead, with the second-place Blue Jays just a half-game ahead of Baltimore.

Outfield production has indeed been a problem for Baltimore in 2015. A year after letting Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz walk as free agents, Orioles left fielders are batting a putrid .219/.289/.344. Baltimore right fielders have produced a more palatable .285/.321/.440 triple-slash, and Adam Jones, of course, has contributed his typical brand of strong offensive output in center field.

Duquette and the Orioles hoped that the combination of Alejandro De Aza, Delmon Young, Steve Pearce, Travis Snider and David Lough would sufficiently cover their corner outfield needs, but that hasn’t been the case. However, De Aza and Young were both designated for assignment, with the former headed to Boston via trade and the latter ultimately getting released. Pearce hasn’t come close to reproducing his 2014 breakout, Snider’s offense is down significantly from 2014, and Lough’s value was always going to come more from his ability to prevent runs than his ability to create them.

In the rotation, Chris Tillman, Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez have all struggled, although Tillman’s shown signs of life over his past four outings, posting a sub-2.00 ERA with a 24-to-3 K/BB ratio in 24 1/3 innings. Ubaldo Jimenez. who is enjoying one of the best rebound campaigns in all of baseball this season, has been an unexpected bright spot as well. Nonetheless, Baltimore’s rotation has turned in a collective 4.22 ERA that ranks 22nd in the Majors. What’s worse is the fact that Baltimore starters haven’t pitched deep into the game, either; the team’s 523 innings out of the rotation is the fourth-lowest total in all of Major League Baseball, leading only the Rockies, Royals and Diamondbacks.

The Orioles face an uphill battle if they’re to add a significant piece to their big league club, as the Baltimore farm system is commonly regarded as one of the worst in the league. (Forfeiting two picks in the 2014 draft to sign Cruz and Jimenez, plus failing to sign their second-round pick in the most recent draft haven’t helped matters.) Duquette’s comments seem to suggest that the Orioles aren’t actively shopping Gausman, though as Encina noted above, he also declined to make a definitive statement that Gausman is off the table. Perhaps that’s reading too much into his comments, but I’d imagine that with scant depth in the farm, teams would be intrigued by an MLB-ready arm such as Gausman.

To this point, the Orioles have been connected to many of the impact bats on the market, including Justin Upton and Carlos Gomez. Jay Bruce‘s name has surfaced as a target as well. Things on the pitching side of the equation are a bit murkier, though one name that’s been tied to the Orioles is Cincinnati’s Mike Leake.


Rangers Designate Ross Ohlendorf For Assignment

Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf has been designated for assignment by the Rangers, according to the team’s executive vice president of communications, John Blake (on Twitter). The move clears room for righty Phil Klein to come up from Triple-A Round Rock.

The veteran Ohlendorf logged 7 2/3 innings for Texas this season, striking out nine and walking four (one intentional) while allowing three earned runs. It was his first big league action since 2013, but Ohlendorf has a relatively lengthy track record in the Majors. He’s spent parts of eight seasons with the Pirates, Yankees, Padres, Nationals and Rangers in the Majors, totaling 509 1/3 innings of 4.86 ERA to go along with 6.5 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9. He could serve as a depth piece for another club, and if he clears outright waivers, he’d have the option to decline in favor of free agency.


Padres Have Discussed Justin Upton With Orioles

The Padres have discussed a Justin Upton trade with the Orioles, sources tell Jayson Stark of ESPN (Twitter link). According to Stark, the two sides could try to expand talks to include some of the Padres’ controllable pitchers. He lists Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross as two possibilities. San Diego is reportedly “pushing hard” to trade some its expensive, big-name talent.

Stark’s latest report adds to the deluge of mixed signals regarding the Orioles’ trade deadline direction. Just last week, general manager Dan Duquette told the media that he planned on being a buyer regardless of how his club performed in the days leading up to the deadline. However, multiple reports have surfaced since that time to indicate that the Orioles may yet consider selling veteran pieces. Stark himself heard earlier today that the Orioles have at least gauged interest in impending free agents like Matt Wieters, Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter, adding that if the Orioles did pick up a bat, it may only be a bench piece.

Clearly, Upton is considerably more than a bench piece. Although he isn’t hitting like he did in his best years with the D-Backs and Braves, he’s still been a very sound producer in his first (and perhaps only) four months with the Padres. The 27-year-old Upton is batting .251/.330/.429 with 16 homers on the season. The temptation of many would be to blame his offensive woes on the Padres pitcher-friendly home environment, but Upton’s OPS at home is more than 300 points higher than his road mark. He’s batted an enormous .297/.354/.558 at home compared to a putrid .208/.308/.306 on the road.

Upton is controlled only through the end of the year and is earning $14.5MM this year — of which a not-insignificant $5.55MM remains. A trade for him could be good news, as it’d prevent him from receiving a qualifying offer at the end of the year, which would serve to boost his free agent stock a bit.

The Orioles, though, aren’t in a great spot to pay for only a rental. Their farm system already ranks among the worst in baseball, and as previously mentioned, they’re set to lose a number of key players to free agency (Wieters, Davis, Chen, Hunter). In my eyes, that makes the addition of Cashner or Ross — particularly Ross — a logical path to explore.

Both Cashner and Ross are controlled beyond 2015, though Cashner is a free agent after the 2016 campaign. Ross is controllable through 2017. Either would serve as an upgrade and could reasonably stake a claim to being Baltimore’s best pitcher based on their track records, though each is also having somewhat of a down season. Cashner’s strikeout, walk and ground-ball rates are all about even with his 2014 marks, causing xFIP and SIERA to give him similar grades, but his ERA has ballooned a bit due to difficulty in terms of stranding runners and serving up home runs. Ross has never been known as a pitcher with pinpoint control, and his previously diminished control issues have now resurfaced in 2015. He is, however, whiffing more hitters than ever before and racking up grounders at a career-best rate, so there’s some reason for optimism.

The question for Baltimore would be what it could offer to entice the Padres to part with what is unequivocally a significant amount of win-now talent. Some reports have indicated that the Orioles are willing to listen to offers on former No. 4 overall pick Kevin Gausman — a big-league ready power arm that, at present, hasn’t grabbed hold of a long-term spot in the Baltimore rotation.

In terms of upper-level talent in the minors, the Orioles have some big-league ready pieces in the form of outfielder Dariel Alvarez and pitchers Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson, but none of that trio has a particularly high ceiling, per most scouting reports. Right-handers Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey certainly do, but each has also suffered a lost season due to injuries (the second such season, in Bundy’s case). Turning to the big league roster, the Orioles have young pieces such as Jonathan Schoop, who missed much of the season with a knee injury but has hit reasonably well and played sound defense in limited action.

All of the names mentioned as possible pieces of interest for the Padres are, of course, pure speculation on my part, but it stands to reason that the Orioles would need to put together a creative offer — perhaps even one involving MLB-ready talent or talent from the current big league roster — in order to land the likes of Upton and Cashner and/or Ross. One potential alternative would be to bail the Padres out of the Melvin Upton Jr. contract, though that seems exceptionally unlikely considering we saw the team essentially sell a Competitive Balance draft pick to the Dodgers by packaging it with in order to free themselves of Ryan Webb‘s roughly $2.75MM salary.


Cubs Release Edwin Jackson

JULY 27: Jackson has been officially released, tweets MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat.

JULY 19: The Cubs have designated Edwin Jackson for assignment, tweets Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. The club has recalled reliever Rafael Soriano in a corresponding move.

Coming off of a four-season run in which he carried a 3.98 ERA over 812 2/3 frames, Jackson signed a four-year, $52MM contract with Chicago prior to the 2013 campaign. That move constituted the first real indication that the Cubs were prepared again to open their wallet.

As things stand now, Jackson hits DFA limbo while still owed the balance of his $11MM salary this season along with $11MM next year. That makes for a total future commitment of $15.63MM, per Wittenmyer.

Rather than serving as a sturdy number three or four option for the now-contending club, as might have been hoped, Jackson entered this year as a marginal roster candidate after posting a 6.33 ERA in 2014. The Cubs moved Jackson to the bullpen, and he has been better in a long relief capacity, carrying a 3.19 ERA and 6.68 K/9 against 3.48 BB/9. His velocity has also jumped back to 94.2 mph.

All said, there’s good reason to believe that Jackson still possesses a major league arm, and he’s likely to get another shot in relatively short order. But he has delivered nothing close to the value his salary demands, and it’s inconceivable that another team will grab him off the wire. Assuming that Jackson clears waivers, rejects an outright assignment, and hits the open market, the Cubs will only be lined up to save (at most) the pro-rated portion of the league minimum salary this year and next.

Chicago, then, is all but certain to remain on the hook for most of the $15MM and change remaining on Jackson’s deal. For the over fifty million invested, the team received a composite contribution of 347 innings of 5.37 ERA pitching (with 7.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9). The empty $11MM hit that Jackson represents for 2016 is hardly crippling, but does represent a notable impediment to an organization that seems likely to be tabbed with big expectations next year.

While the Cubs might otherwise have had cause to hold onto Jackson, the team has also been utilizing another deposed starter — Travis Wood — in a long relief role. Of the two, Wood is younger, cheaper, and has performed better (2.59 ERA in 17 relief appearances). As such, Jackson was viewed as expendable despite solid numbers.

Interestingly, Jackson’s contract has served as something of a template for several starting pitching deals struck in the ensuing offseasons. So far, none of those signings — Ricky Nolasco & Ervin Santana (Twins), Matt Garza (Brewers), Ubaldo Jimenez (Orioles), and Brandon McCarthy (Dodgers) — has really worked out as hoped, though there’s plenty of time left for assessment.

Soriano, meanwhile, was signed as a free agent on June 12 for a pro-rated $4.1MM with $4MM in incentives. He’ll serve to further bolster an increasingly deep Cubs bullpen. Jason Motte has filled in as the team’s closer in recent weeks, but it stands to reason that Soriano could factor into the late innings too.

The 35-year-old languished on the market after an up and down 2014 campaign. But he ultimately joined the Cubs last month on a deal that will pay him the pro-rated portion of a $4.1MM annual salary (plus incentives).

Since joining the organization, Soriano has yet to allow an earned run over seven minor league appearances. In 630 career innings, he has racked up 207 saves, a 2.85 ERA, 9.09 K/9, and 2.80 BB/9. Soriano spent most of the 2014 season as the Nationals closer before giving way to Drew Storen late in the season. He has 27 or more saves in five of the last six seasons.