D’Backs To Sign Clayton Richard

Left-hander Clayton Richard informs Nathan Baird of the Lafayette Journal & Courier that he will sign a minor league deal with the Diamondbacks and make his first minor league start with the organization this weekend.

Richard, 30, had a pair of 200-inning seasons with the Padres after coming over from the White Sox in 2009′s Jake Peavy trade, but he’s been sidelined all season while recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in February.

The former eighth-round pick has never been much of a strikeout pitcher, but has a career 4.33 ERA with 5.6 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 50 percent ground-ball rate in 773 innings for the White Sox and Padres. He’ll add some pitching depth to the D’Backs organization, though it’s still unclear what sort of timeline he would have in getting to the Majors.


Jon Lester Rumors: Wednesday

Last night, Jon Lester was scratched from his scheduled start tonight — a clear indicator that the Red Sox are looking to deal their ace. Reports from late in the evening indicated that the Brewers, Orioles and Blue Jays were all fading from the Lester sweepstakes. We’ll run down Wednesday’s Lester rumors in this post….

Earlier Updates

  • The Cardinals and Dodgers are the two teams that are most aggressively competing for Lester’s services, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. They’re also the most aggressive clubs on David Price, though it’s far from a given that the Rays will move their own left-handed ace. Heyman hears similar things to yesterday’s reports regarding the Brewers and Orioles and says neither is in the mix at this point.
  • An NL GM told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he thinks the Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers and Mariners are the primary suitors for Lester heading into Wednesday (Twitter link).

Chances Of Lackey Trade Are “Very Good”

There’s now a “very good chance” that the Red Sox will trade John Lackey as well as Jon Lester, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter). Lackey has been known to be available for days, but there had also been speculation that Boston could work out some form of extension with the right-hander.

Lackey’s five-year, $82.5MM contract with the Red Sox contained a clause that gave Boston a 2015 club option at the league minimum in the event that he missed significant time with an elbow injury. A torn ulnar collateral ligament that required Tommy John surgery triggered that clause, making Lackey a highly appealing trade chip even to teams with the most modest of payrolls.

Lackey will likely want an extension regardless of where he ends up, Rosenthal adds (Twitter links), but that’s not necessarily an unappealing concept for teams in search of a starter that can be controlled beyond 2014. Rosenthal lists the Indians and Marlins as two such clubs.

The Dodgers and Royals have shown interest in Lackey already, and reports yesterday indicated that the Marlins may prefer Lackey to Lester, as the asking price could be lesser. However, the asking price on Lackey isn’t exactly tame, as ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported yesterday that Boston wants an established big league starter in return (presumably, one with team control beyond 2015). Indeed, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald tweets, the BoSox aren’t likely to move both Lackey and Lester without getting starting pitching in return.

In 326 2/3 innings dating back to last season, Lackey has reestablished himself as a solid big league starter. He’s posted a 3.55 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9, averaging nearly 6 2/3 innings per outing.



Dodgers Eyeing Joaquin Benoit

The Dodgers are interested in Joaquin Benoit, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter), but the Padres would prefer not to trade him within the division. It doesn’t sound like they’re completely ruling out the idea of moving Benoit, however, as one source told MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo yesterday that there’s a good chance Benoit is traded even after San Diego dealt Huston Street.

Benoit inherited the ninth inning in San Diego following the trade of Street, and he’s been excellent with the Friars all year after inking a two-year, $15.5MM deal in the offseason. The 37-year-old has turned in a 1.88 ERA with 10.7 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 38.1 percent ground-ball rate in 43 innings this season. He’s owed just over $2MM from now through season’s end, and he’s guaranteed $8MM in 2015. Benoit’s contract contains an $8MM club option for 2016, which comes with a $1.5MM buyout.

It’s a bit curious to see that the Padres don’t want to move Benoit within the division. The Padres would strengthen their own farm system while weakening the minor league system of a division rival, and they’re unlikely to contend next year while Benoit is still under contract at any rate. Then again, Padres ownership may feel that the team’s core of young pitching can help them to contend in 2015 if the offense can be properly augmented.


Phillies Make Hamels Available; Dodgers Interested

WEDNESDAY: The Phillies have requested multiple top prospects from the Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, but officials who have expressed interest get the impression that Philadelphia isn’t serious about trading its ace.

MONDAY, 3:50pm: In today’s Rumblings & Grumblings column, ESPN’s Jayson Stark touched on Hamels’ availability (highlights from the rest of the piece can be seen here, though it’s worth reading in its entirety).

Officials from other teams tell Stark that the Phillies are asking for each team’s top three or four prospects in any Hamels deal, but they’re only willing to eat about $10MM of the remaining $90MM+ on Hamels’ contract. Stark quotes one unnamed executive, who told him, “Ruben wants his doors blown off in order to trade him. And you don’t get your doors blown off if this kind of money is attached. It doesn’t work that way.”

Meanwhile, Morosi hears that the Dodgers and Cardinals are the two most likely clubs to acquire Hamels (Twitter link).

3:03pm: Though we’ve been hearing for weeks that the Phillies won’t move ace Cole Hamels, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports hears that the team has now made the lefty available, and the Dodgers are interested (Twitter link). However, the asking price on Hamels is still said to be very high, per Morosi.

Recently, it was reported that Hamels could block trades to 20 teams. The nine teams to which Hamels cannot block a trade are the Dodgers, Angels, Cardinals, Nationals, Braves, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Padres, so he wouldn’t have any say should the Dodgers put together a strong enough offer.

Hamels, 30, is enjoying yet another strong season atop Philadelphia’s rotation, having pitched to a 2.72 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 47.5 percent ground-ball rate in 122 1/3 innings. He’s earning $22.5MM in 2014 and is guaranteed $90MM from 2015-18, with a $20MM club option for the 2019 season that can vest at $24MM with 400 innings from 2017-18 or 200 innings in 2018. He has about $7.87MM remaining on this year’s salary, meaning that he’s guaranteed another $97.87MM and could earn as much as $121.87MM before hitting free agency.

The Dodgers appear to be looking to make a big splash on the pitching front, as they’ve been oft-linked to David Price and have recently been heavily connected to Red Sox ace Jon Lester. Los Angeles has reportedly been loath to part with both Corey Seager and Joc Pederson in trades, but it’s worth wondering if they’d part with both hitters in order to acquire someone with so much team control remaining. Left-hander Julio Urias has seen his stock skyrocket in 2014 as well, while other pitching prospects such as Zach Lee, Chris Anderson and Tom Windle have delivered relatively disappointing results this year.

The Dodgers’ interest in Hamels isn’t entirely surprising, as the team could lose Zack Greinke to an opt-out clause following the 2015 season. Hamels would give them a dominant arm to pair with Clayton Kershaw in the event that Greinke signs elsewhere.


Latest On Royals’ Search For Outfielder

The Royals are in the market for a right-handed hitting bat to play right field, but ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the team isn’t in on Boston’s Jonny Gomes or Minnesota’s Josh Willingham (Twitter links). Additionally, Crasnick tweets that he isn’t sure the Royals view Chris Denorfia and Justin Ruggiano as upgrades over Justin Maxwell, who is hitting well in Triple-A.

The Royals don’t feel that Gomes is capable of handling right field, and the same applies to Willingham as well. (As Crasnick notes, Willingham’s July swoon hasn’t helped his value.) Crasnick hears from one AL executive that the Twins would very much like to move Willingham, but they’re simply not getting much interest at this time.

Gomes, Willingham, and Denorfia are all free agents at season’s end, while Ruggiano would remain under team control via arbitration. The Royals were said at one point to have interest in Marlon Byrd, but a report yesterday indicated that they were backing off both Byrd and Alex Rios. The Royals are on Byrd’s limited no-trade clause, and he’d reportedly like the Royals to guarantee his $8MM option for 2016 in order to waive that clause.

If you’re wondering who else could be available, MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth recently took a look at the trade market for corner outfielders.


Javier Baez Joins Wasserman Media Group

Top Cubs prospect Javier Baez has left KPS Sports and signed with agent Nick Chanock of the Wasserman Media Group, according to Bruce Levine of WSAR-AM radio/670 The Score (Twitter link).

This is the third agency that Baez has been with in the past year, as he began with Jet Sports Management and then joined KPS Sports before this most recent switch. Baez is a consensus top 10 prospect in the Majors based on the recent midseason lists compiled by Baseball Prospectus (#5), MLB.com (#6), Baseball America (#7) and Keith Law of ESPN (#8). The 21-year-old is currently hitting .254/.314/.486 with 19 homers at Triple-A Iowa and has recently been seeing some time at second base in addition to his usual position of shortstop — perhaps preparing him for a potential position change at the big league level.

By joining WMG, Baez will be represented by the same agency that represents a vast number of Major Leaguers, including Yoenis Cespedes, Nelson Cruz, Bartolo Colon, Yasiel Puig, Kris Medlen and Addison Reed. For additional agency info on more than 2,000 Major League and Minor League players, check out MLBTR’s Agency Database. If you see any errors or omissions, please contact us via email: mlbtrdatabase@gmail.com.


Cubs Notes: Russell, Baez, Trades, Castillo

ESPN’s Jim Bowden spoke with Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein for the latest installment of his video blogThe GM’s Office. Here are some highlights from the interview (although as usual, the entire interview is well worth your time) and some other Cubs-related notes as the trade deadline approaches…

  • The Cubs had initially hoped to acquire a “can’t miss” prospect that they could “hang [their] hat on” by trading Jeff Samardzija on his own, but the team couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to acquire Addison Russell once Athletics GM Billy Beane said he would include him if Jason Hammel were in the trade as well.
  • If Javier Baez has to move off shortstop due to the presence of Russell or Starlin Castro, the Cubs see him as more of a second baseman than a third baseman. Chicago has played Baez at second base quite a bit following the All-Star break, and Epstein called the transition “seamless.”
  • “Having too many shortstops is never a problem,” Epstein said. “They’re the best athletes, the best defenders, and we’ll find spots for all these guys. … We don’t see it as a problem. We have lots of different ways they can all fit on the field together. Kris Bryant, who’s playing third now, also has the option of going out and playing right field.”
  • Asked about the possibility of trading a lefty reliever such as James Russell in a more minor move (relative to the Samardzija/Hammel blockbuster), Epstein replied: “I think chances are pretty good we’ll make at least one move. We have a number of players, like James, that are under control and that factor into our plans going forward. The threshold to move those players is certainly higher … you’re probably more likely to see a deal for a player who’s eligible for free agency at the end of the season.”
  • Bowden asked it this would be the offseason in which the Cubs delve heavily into the free agent market, to which Epstein replied, “There’s no switch that gets flipped that says now all of a sudden we’re big players in free agency.” As Epstein points out, the Cubs have spent on the free agent market previously, and they made a “very, very significant” offer to Masahiro Tanaka in an effort to bring him to Wrigley Field as well. Epstein emphasized that in free agency, “you have to be willing to walk away,” as it’s too dangerous to be locked in on any player, regardless of the cost.
  • The Cubs had five scouts in attendance at Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo‘s showcase, GM Jed Hoyer tells Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Castillo’s name continues to generate buzz, and some believe he could fetch a contract similar to that of Yoenis Cespedes or Yasiel Puig.
  • A second tweet from Gonzales contains a short and sweet quote from Hoyer on the team’s approach at the trade deadline: “We’ll be active.”

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Yankees Showing Interest In Brett Anderson

The Yankees are looking at the second tier of starting pitchers rather than focusing on front-line arms, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney, and one player they’ve discussed is Rockies left-hander Brett Anderson (Twitter link).

The 26-year-old has been injury plagued over the last several seasons and has totaled just 33 1/3 frames this year, though the results have been favorable: a 3.24 ERA with a ground-ball percentage just north of 60 percent. Anderson’s 18-to-13 K/BB ratio in that same time isn’t as encouraging, of course.

Acquired from the A’s in an offseason deal that sent fellow hurlers Drew Pomeranz and Chris Jensen to the Rockies, Anderson is earning $8MM in 2014, $2MM of which is being paid by the A’s. His contract also contains a $12MM club option ($1.5MM buyout) for the 2015 season.

Anderson was once looked at as one of the game’s most promising young pitchers, but injuries have derailed some of that shine. He still sports a career ERA of 3.77 (with identical FIP and xFIP marks of 3.57) to go along with 7.0 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 and a 55.3 percent ground-ball rate, but he’s totaled just 196 1/3 innings since Opening Day of 2011.

It remains to be seen, however, if the Rockies will be willing to move Anderson at all. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported this morning (Twitter link) that the Rockies don’t consider Anderson a trade candidate. The team is planning to pick up his $12MM option or sign him to a longer-term deal. It would seem that Anderson’s ground-ball arsenal is appealing to the Rockies, who play in the hitter-friendly Coors Field. Colorado has shown an unwillingness to move any of its starting pitchers, as reports have indicated that they’re unlikely to move Jorge De La Rosa as well, despite his status as an impending free agent.


Rangers Willing To Include Cash In Rios Trade

The Rangers are willing to eat some of the remaining salary on Alex Rios‘ deal, but talks could still go down to the wire, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Rosenthal hears that interest from several Rios suitors — including the Indians, Giants, Reds and Royals — has waned of late.

At least four teams were said to be in on Rios over the weekend, but there’s been little chatter regarding the right fielder since that time. The 33-year-old is batting a strong .305/.334/.430 this season, but his power has declined in 2014. Rios has just four homers on the season after belting 18 last year and 25 in 2012. He’s owed roughly $4.23MM of his $12.5MM salary for the remainder of the 2014 season, plus a $1MM buyout on a $13.5MM option for the 2015 campaign.

The Rangers have already dealt Jason Frasor to the Royals and Joakim Soria to the Tigers, and given Rios’ contractual situation, he’s a logical trade chip as well. However, the Rangers seem unwilling to listen to offers on Adrian Beltre and Yu Darvish — both of whom they’re hoping will contribute to a contending club in 2015 once their roster is back to full health.


Latest On Cardinals’ Pitching Search

The Cardinals have been strongly linked to starting pitching, and the club is making its final assessments in advance of the trade deadline, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It appears that St. Louis is aiming for a fairly impactful arm to slot into its rotation.

In addition to Cole Hamels, the club is at least doing background work on Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett of the Phillies. (As Strauss’s colleague Derrick Goold recently reported, Philadelphia is watching the Cards’ Triple-A club.) Likewise, the Cards are performing diligence on Jon Lester of the Red Sox, Ian Kennedy of the Padres, Justin Masterson of the Indians, and David Price of the Rays — among others — according to Strauss. That does not necessarily mean that the club intends to make offers on any or all of these pitchers, of course, but at least seems to indicate the direction of GM John Mozeliak’s thinking.

Though the team’s offense has lagged at times, it seems likely at this point that the Cardinals will count on its in-house options to increase their output to put runs on the board. But with Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia out of action, and varying degrees of uncertainty surrounding Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez, a rotation addition seems quite likely.


Rockies Plan To Keep LaTroy Hawkins

The Rockies do not intend to deal closer LaTroy Hawkins, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Having surveyed the market, discussing Hawkins with the Pirates and other clubs, the team determined it would rather keep the veteran than move him for a limited return.

Colorado intends to pick up its club option over Hawkins next year, which registers at a fairly reasonable $2.25MM. The team is also interested in keeping him around for his veteran presence in a youthful clubhouse. The 41-year-old righty has a 3.09 ERA in 35 innings on the year, though he has struck out only 4.4 batters while issuing 2.3 free passes per nine.

As with Chad Qualls of the Astros, who is also expected to stay with his current club despite drawing interest, Hawkins will apparently stay put on a non-contender despite having some trade value. While that may seem somewhat irrational at first glance, it is worth noting that rebuilding clubs rightly value not only veteran mentorship but also the cost savings and reduced risk of keeping in-house options such as this pair. That reasoning has its limits, of course, but a marginal prospect return is not always worth moving such a player and then trying to find a suitable replacement in the offseason.


Ryan Zimmerman Has Grade 3 Hamstring Strain

Nationals third baseman/left fielder Ryan Zimmerman has been diagnosed with a Grade 3 hamstring strain, reports MLB.com’s Bill Ladson (via Twitter). That is the most severe form of hamstring strain, involving a tear of half or more of the muscle, and could shelve Zimmerman for a significant stretch. The injury took place on July 22.

The Nationals have already been said to be probing the market for a possible third or second baseman, with the presumed intention of utilizing Anthony Rendon at whichever spot is not filled via trade. The seriousness of Zimmerman’s injury could increase the likelihood of an addition. Of course, the team could stick with its current alignment, with Danny Espinosa and Zach Walters sharing time at the keystone and Rendon playing his natural hot corner.

If Washington looks to make an addition, it would look to a market with relatively few everyday regulars seemingly available. Among potentially available third basemen, Adrian Beltre of the Rangers is the clear prize — if he’s put up for sale. The Nats were reportedly “rebuffed” in an earlier inquiry, but Texas is said to have had eyes on Triple-A Syracuse last weekend. The second base market does not contain many names that appear to be likely fits, though Aaron Hill of the Diamondbacks could be a possibility. His Arizona teammate, Martin Prado, has spent time at both positions and has been mentioned as a possible fit.


Jon Lester Scratched From Tomorrow’s Start

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…

  • A source with direct knowledge of the situation says that there are six clubs still in on Lester, per Edes (via Twitter): the Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Athletics.
  • At present, the Red Sox have not received a trade proposal that the club is satisfied with, tweets Abraham. Multiple reports have indicated that no trade was in place when Lester was scratched from his start. At the moment, the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Pirates are all in the mix for Lester, tweets Rosenthal.
  • The Brewers are “not on” Lester, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • Lester has been scratched from his start tomorrow, manager John Farrell tells reporters, including Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com (via Twitter). A rival GM tells Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (Twitter link) that it appears a deal will be in place tonight or tomorrow morning.
  • The division-rival Jays and Orioles seem out of the running for Lester at this point, per Bradford (Twitter links). A team source rejected the suggestion that the Dodgers would offer top prospect Joc Pederson for Lester, Saxon reports.
  • If the Pirates make a deal for Lester, it will have to occur before his start tomorrow so he can take his next turn for Pittsburgh, reports MLB.com’s Tom Singer. The Bucs are not willing to part with prospects Tyler Glasnow, Nick Kingham, Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell, or Austin Meadows in a deal. But the team would consider dealing Alen Hanson or JaCoby Jones, and Singer says that outfielder Jose Tabata is a “wild card” in discussions, which could potentially expand to include Mike Carp or one of several Boston relievers.

Earlier Updates

  • The Red Sox were never given a “figure … on what it would have taken to sign” Lester, a source tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). But while Lester and his representatives never formally made an offer to the Red Sox, both sides exchanged numbers and understood their respective parameters, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports.
  • The Red Sox have enhanced leverage regarding Lester because he could tip the balance in the NL Central, if not also the rest of the National League, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Sherman discusses the possibility of the Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates, and Brewers making the move for a rotation upgrade. Boston is “at least considering” attempting to deal and later re-sign its staff ace, Sherman adds.
  • Sox manager John Farrell says that the club still has Lester penciled in to start, but is prepared to use Brandon Workman in his place if Lester is dealt, as Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe tweets.
  • The Dodgers are not close to any major deals at the moment and adding Lester “appears … unlikely,” tweets Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Nevertheless, Los Angeles appears on top of the list of likeliest suitors for the Boston lefty, as handicapped by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
  • The Pirates are emerging as a dark-horse to acquire Lester, report Jeff Passan and Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. One possible centerpiece of such a deal would be well-regarded prospect Josh Bell, the Yahoo writers add. A deal with the Pirates would not necessarily involve Bell, however, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com tweets.
  • The Red Sox are actively taking offers and preparing to deal Lester, a National League GM tells Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Abraham says it is difficult to see Lester taking his start tomorrow for Boston.
  • Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio reports (via Twitter) that the Blue Jays, Mariners, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Orioles and Marlins are all currently in on Lester. The Marlins are certainly a new addition to the mix, although that would line up with Buster Olney’s report from earlier today pegging them as a potential surprise candidate for some starting pitchers. Miami has a number of high-end prospects, and Lester’s remaining $4.48MM in salary might not be too overwhelming.
  • Andy Martino of the New York Daily News hears the same as Olney did earlier this morning (Twitter link): There’s “little doubt” in the industry that Boston will move its ace. Rival clubs are expecting a trade.
  • Lester’s agent, Seth Levinson of ACES, denied a previous report that his client’s asking price in extension talks motivated the Red Sox to trade him, reports Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. Unsurprisingly, Levinson shed no further light on any extension talks with Lester: “The discussions we had with the Red Sox were confidential and will remain that way,” Levinson said to Edes in an email.
  • Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com adds some new teams to the Lester mix, as he reports that the Athletics, Blue Jays and Braves have all called to inquire on the BoSox ace. Of those teams, Toronto is being the most aggressive in its pursuit, a source tells McAdam. The Sox are willing to move him to the division-rival Jays or Orioles, according to McAdam’s source. Boston is still seeking multiple prospects in return, specifically one elite prospect — McAdam uses Oscar Taveras, Joc Pederson and Corey Seager as examples — and at least one more lesser prospect. Interestingly, McAdam notes that the Red Sox will not consider trading Lester to the Yankees.
  • 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 Milwaukee 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.

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.