“I am positive he’s the best prospect I’ve seen in (more than a decade) of full-time scouting,” a National League scout raved to Baseball America's J.J. Cooper about Twins prospect Byron Buxton. “It’s not even close. Tools, athleticism, feel and vision. Time will tell what kind of major league player he becomes, but the sky is the limit.” Other scouts shared similar praise and there's even a belief that Buxton is as good a prospect as Mike Trout was before his legendary 2012 season.
Here's the latest from around the majors as we head into July...
- Buxton was taken second overall by the Twins in the 2012 draft, with the Astros passing on the outfielder to select Carlos Correa at #1 and then using their surplus bonus pool money to sign Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz. Cooper surveys scouts who have been all four youngsters play and discovers that the majority would take Buxton alone over the other three, even though Correa/McCullers/Ruiz are themselves strong prospects.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos watched Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez pitch on Friday in Tijuana, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports (Twitter link). The Jays made a high-profile signing out of Cuba three years ago when they signed shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria to a four-year, $10MM contract.
- Two Cardinals officials say that trading within the NL Central is "not desirable" and GM John Mozeliak said that the club isn't going to move top prospects like Oscar Taveras or Michael Wacha, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The Cards are likely to look for relief help before the deadline, or perhaps a starter that would then send a current rotation member into the bullpen.
- John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer chimed in on some Reds-related trade deadline discussion on Twitter this afternoon. Finding relief pitching is the priority for the Reds and it's doubtful that they're looking for starters. Prospects Billy Hamilton and Robert Stephenson are probably untouchable in trade talks. White Sox reliever Jesse Crain is a realistic trade target for Cincinnati, while Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo and Mariners slugger Michael Morse are not.
- Mariners right-hander Josh Kinney was listed on the Tacoma Rainiers roster today, Rainiers broadcaster Mike Curto tweets, so it appears as though Kinney has accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A. Kinney has been recovering from a rib injury for the entire season and was just reinstated from the 60-day DL on Friday.
The Yankees dropped a 4-2 result to the Orioles tonight, giving the Bombers an 11-16 record in June and extending their losing streak to five games. Here's the latest from the Bronx...
- Alex Rodriguez and Yankees GM Brian Cashman shared some harsh words this week but team president Randy Levine told ESPN New York's Ian O'Connor that the Yankees both want and "need Alex back" as soon as possible. "We are desperate for his right-handed power, and he's better than any third baseman on this team right now," Levine said. "Alex is going to help us. Obviously, it's no secret that we're struggling against left-handed pitching, that our whole offense is struggling, and that we've had very, very serious injuries....Any semblance of A-Rod would help us. Even last year's A-Rod would be a big upgrade over what we have right now."
- The Yankees have scouted Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez but won't pursue signing him, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. One scout tells King that it "looks like the Dodgers" will sign the 26-year-old, echoing rumors that the Dodgers are willing to "go all out" to acquire Gonzalez.
- Also from King, the Yankees are interested in two players from the Dominican Republic: third baseman Rafael Devers and center fielder Leonardo Molina. The Yankees have been considered to be the "most likely suitor" for the 15-year-old Molina, while the Phillies and Red Sox have also been linked to Devers.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro said yesterday that he hoped Chase Utley would retire as a Phillie, but though Utley will be a free agent this winter, there have been no extension talks between the club and the veteran second baseman, WPVI-TV's Jeff Skversky reports (Twitter link). It's probably no surprise that the Phils were hesitant about a new contract given Utley's injury problems over the last few seasons, and Utley has already spent a month on the DL with an oblique injury this season.
Here's the latest from around the NL East...
- As much as the Phillies hate to part with the veterans that helped them to so much success over the last several seasons, Yahoo Sports' Tim Brown thinks the team is on the verge of at least a partial rebuild. "Where this leaves the Phillies is at the start of a month that could redirect the franchise. That probably should redirect the franchise," Brown writes.
- The Phillies will stick to their usual strategy of not spending big on international signings as the July 2 signing period approaches, Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Brookover also talks to Joe Jordan, the Phils' director of player development, about some of the international prospects currently in the farm system.
- Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest discusses the Ricky Nolasco trade rumors, Jose Fernandez's innings limit and Giancarlo Stanton's future in Miami with Jim Bowden and Jeff Joyce on The Front Office program on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (audio link).
- The Braves are likely to seek depth for the bullpen and bench before the trade deadline, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets.
A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR this past week:
- With the Trade Deadline less than five weeks away, Tim Dierkes has created a Trade Candidate Leaderboard on FanGraphs for MLBTR readers to track the performance of potential trade targets.
- Tim examined the trade market for catchers and first basemen.
- Tim analyzed the 42 free agent-eligible starting pitchers using a customized FanGraphs leaderboard.
- MLBTR contributor Marc Hulet penned this week's installment of Prospect Rumor Roundup.
- Tim was the first to learn the Orioles placed infielder Yamaico Navarro on outright waivers.
- Tim was the first to report utilityman Michael Martinez cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A by the Phillies.
- Zach Links gathered the best the baseball corner of the web had to offer in Baseball Blogs Weigh In.
- Tim hosted the weekly live chat.
The legend of Yasiel Puig added another chapter today as the Cuban phenom went 4-for-5, stole two bases and finished a homer shy of a cycle for the Dodgers in their 6-1 win over the Phillies. Puig collected 44 hits in June, the second-highest hit total in a calendar month for any rookie in MLB history --- the only rookie with more hits in a calendar month was a player you might've heard of by the name of Joe DiMaggio. Though the Dodgers are still just 38-43 on the season and in last place in the NL West, they're only four games behind the first place Diamondbacks. Here's the latest from this tightly-packed division...
- The Rockies have already been connected to a few notable pitchers in trade rumors and now Cubs right-hander Scott Feldman can be added to the list, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports. That said, the Rockies don't want to give up prospects for "a rental starter who is not going to re-sign" and Feldman is a free agent this winter. MLBTR's Steve Adams noted that Feldman's solid ground-ball rate (50.7%) would make him a good fit at Coors Field as part of a Trade Candidate piece earlier this month.
- The difficulties of pitching at Coors Field make the Rockies "hypersensitive" about trading for pitching, Renck writes.
- If Drew Pomeranz and Roy Oswalt pitch well as starters, Renck reports that the Rockies will cool their search for starters and instead focus on the bullpen. The team is prepared to add payroll but it could resemble their 2009 trades for Rafael Betancourt and Joe Beimel that helped Colorado win the NL Wild Card.
- The mention of Jeff Francoeur's name to Giants executives has drawn "a lot of scrunched faces and worries about his outfield play", Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. Francoeur was designated for assignment by the Royals on Saturday and could fit the Giants' rumored desire for a right-handed outfield bat.
- In NL West news from earlier today, the Giants and Diamondbacks are two of the teams scouting White Sox right fielder Alex Rios, the Dodgers designated Matt Guerrier for assignment, the Rockies signed Xavier Nady and Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune shared a collection of Padres notes.
Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune discusses (or shoots down) some Padres trade possibilities in his weekly online chat with fans...
- The Padres "are enamored" with Orioles right-hander Jake Arrieta. Center reported last week that the Padres have been linked to Arrieta, and Center spoke to a pair of scouts this week who "really love Arrieta's stuff" and believe he could be a second or third starter "in the right situation."
- Center hears that Arrieta and Matt Garza are the pitchers most associated with a potential Padres trade. Several teams are interested in Garza, though I'd argue the Padres could have a possible edge due to Cubs GM Jed Hoyer's familiarity with the San Diego organization and farm system.
- Andrew Cashner, Jedd Gyorko and Everth Cabrera are three players that Center considers "untouchable" for the Padres. Cabrera could be an exception if San Diego received a Major League shortstop in return.
- Center hasn't heard of any Padres interest in Yovani Gallardo or Phil Hughes.
- It's a "long shot" that the Padres would re-acquire White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy. The veteran hurler will be out until after the All-Star break with a rib injury and you would think the Padres would want a safer option if they were going to acquire a starter.
- The San Diego bullpen has been shakier than usual, and Center believes the team may have to make a move to address the problem unless the club can get longer outings from its starting pitchers. Entering Sunday, Padres relievers had thrown 278 innings this season, tied for the third-highest total in the Major Leagues.
- There is a greater possibility that Luke Gregerson is dealt rather than Huston Street because Gregerson would draw more interest on the trade market. Gregerson has been shaky of late (one of the victims of the overworked San Diego bullpen) but still has a 2.67 ERA, 7.5 K/9 and 3.5 K/BB ratio in 33 2/3 innings this season. Gregerson is also much cheaper than Street, who is owed $10.5MM through the end of the 2014 season.
The Chicago Blackhawks recently bought the Stanley Cup back to the Windy City, but it seems awfully unlikely that either of Chicago's baseball teams will catch fire and add a World Series title to the city's list of sports championships. Both the Cubs and White Sox are seemingly looking ahead to 2014, as you'll see in this collection of Chicago baseball news...
- Cubs president Theo Epstein tells reporters (including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune) that there is an even-money chance the Cubs will make a deal before the All-Star break. “Judging by the amount of calls that are going on, and the number of pieces we intend to have available and the number of opportunities that might present themselves for us to get better, yeah, I’d say 50-50,” Epstein said.
- Also from Sullivan's item, the Red Sox have sent top scout Gary Hughes to follow the Cubs while the team is on the west coast. Sullivan considers it likely that the Cubs will ask for two or three of Boston's top prospects in any significant deal given Epstein's familiarity with the Red Sox farm system.
- Alfonso Soriano recently received consecutive days off and said he's open to ceding playing time to some of the Cubs' younger players down the stretch, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. That said, Soriano didn't dismiss the idea that getting less playing time would induce him to waive his no-trade clause and go elsewhere before the deadline. “I don’t think about it. Let’s wait and see if that happens, and I’ll think about it,” Soriano said. “I don’t want to put my mind on something that hasn’t happened yet. The front office has their job, and I have my job.” Soriano had posted a .704 OPS heading into today's play and the 37-year-old is owed approximately $27MM between now and the end of the 2014 season.
- If the White Sox do intend to become trade deadline sellers, general manager Rick Hahn told reporters (including MLB.com's Scott Merkin) that he doesn't intend to make his club's intentions public. Hahn hopes the Sox can get back into the pennant race but "we aren't going to delude ourselves, and we're not going to wishcast our performance this year. We're going to respond to our performance to date and make adjustments when the time calls for it."
- Hahn said that the White Sox would be looking for "high-impact, premium talent" at middle infield positions, center field and the starting rotation if they did dip into the trade market. While Hahn is willing to listen to offers on any player, "that doesn't mean that some players [aren't] extraordinarily difficult to acquire." It was reported earlier this week that the Sox were open to dealing anyone besides Chris Sale and Paul Konerko.
- Speaking of Konerko, the veteran slugger said yesterday that he was just focused on recovering from a back injury rather than being traded. Today, Konerko told Merkin that he would judge potential deals on a case-by-case basis. "I've been here 15 years, and if that's the way it's going to go with this team, it's pretty lucky to really have one time out of 15 years where [getting traded has] been an issue," Konerko said.
- From earlier today on MLBTR, ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine reported that the Giants, Diamondbacks and Rangers were a few of the teams scouting White Sox outfielder Alex Rios. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal also opined that Rios would be a perfect fit in right field for the Pirates.
The Orioles and catcher Matt Wieters haven't made any progress on extension talks, ESPN's Buster Olney reports (Insider subscription required). "Unless something changes dramatically," the team believes that Wieters will forego a long-term deal and hit the free agent market after the 2015 season.
Olney reported in April that there was "no momentum" between the two sides on a multiyear deal, though the O's were open to giving Wieters a six-year contract. Wieters was arbitration-eligible for the first time last winter and avoided going to an arb hearing by agreeing to a one-year, $5.5MM contract with Baltimore. The Boras Corporation client has two more years of arb-eligibility left before he becomes a free agent at age 29 and as Olney notes, Boras clients usually test the open market once they're close to free agency.
The Orioles may have been fortunate in holding off on an extension for the catcher given that Wieters is hitting just .231/.290/407 with 10 homers through 298 PA this season. Wieters carried a .260/.328/.421 career line into this season --- solid numbers for a catcher, but below expectations considering Wieters' high draft status (fifth overall in 2007) and his ranking as the sport's top prospect by Baseball America before the 2009 season.
White Sox outfielder Alex Rios is drawing interest from several teams as the trade deadline approaches, and the Rangers, Diamondbacks and Giants are a few of the clubs scouting the veteran, industry sources tell ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine. Rios heard about the Rangers' interest first-hand from former teammate and current Texas catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
"A.J. contacted me the other day and said his team was talking about trying to get me,” Rios said. “All players want to be on a winner and in our situation it has been tough to win. I love it here in Chicago and so does my family but this is the time of year teams make these decisions. We have put ourselves in that position.”
Rios has a limited no-trade clause that allows him to block deals to six teams. The right fielder said his preference would be to remain in Chicago but "if they give me a choice I will have to weigh my options.” Levine opines that if Rios if presented with a deal to a contending team, he will waive his no-trade clause.
It was reported earlier this week that the White Sox are willing to consider dealing anyone besides Chris Sale and Paul Konerko, and Rios stands out as one of the more attractive options on the Chicago roster. Rios entered Sunday's action hitting .272/.331/.450 with 11 homers and 14 steals in 327 PA. The 32-year-old is owed roughly $19.75MM through the end of the 2014 season (which includes a total $1MM salary bump for being dealt before Spring Training 2014), and his contract also includes a $13.5MM club option for 2015 that can be bought out for $1MM.
The Rangers' outfield recently lost Craig Gentry to a fractured hand, and the remaining starters carry a number of question marks. David Murphy is struggling, Leonys Martin is only suited to play against right-handed pitching and Nelson Cruz could face a suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal.
Gerardo Parra is the only solid everyday outfield option in Arizona, as Cody Ross (.669 OPS), A.J. Pollock (.700 OPS) and Jason Kubel (.715 OPS) have all yet to catch fire at the plate. Rookie Adam Eaton has missed the entire season with an elbow injury and could finally reach the Majors after the All-Star break, though the D'Backs would likely want a more proven veteran option to help them in their NL West pennant drive.
Though Rios hasn't played center field since 2011, the Giants could use him at that position to replace the injured Angel Pagan. The World Series champs are rumored to be looking for a right-handed hitting outfielder, though GM Brian Sabean recently said that it was too early for his club to make a major trade.
In his latest column for FOX Sports, Jon Paul Morosi reminds us that you never know which trade deadline move will pay the biggest dividends. For example, the deal that sent Marco Scutaro from the Rockies to the Giants last July ended up being the most influential move of the 2012 season, as Scutaro helped lead the Giants to a World Series title. Here's Morosi's latest...
- Wednesday could be a "soft deadline" for the Marlins to trade Ricky Nolasco. That's the date of Nolasco's next scheduled start and also the day that Henderson Alvarez (Nolasco's probable replacement in the Miami rotation) comes off the disabled list. Nolasco's recent struggles over his last few starts, however, haven't done much to help his trade stock.
- "It may be wise" for the Pirates to investigate acquiring Nolasco, Matt Garza or Bud Norris, Morosi opines. The Bucs could use veteran starting help if Wandy Rodriguez and A.J. Burnett are still a ways away from returning from the disabled list.
- Ervin Santana "would instantly become one of the top arms" available if the Royals chose to trade the right-hander. Santana will be a free agent this winter and is on pace (2.74 ERA, 4.67 K/BB, 7.2 K/9) for the best season of his nine-year career, though he has been aided by a low .253 BABIP and a high 82.8% strand rate. The Royals play nothing but contenders until the All-Star break and if they haven't reached .500 by the Midsummer Classic, Morosi speculates they could become sellers.
- The White Sox and Tigers haven't made a deal together since 1989, a fact that Chicago executive VP Kenny Williams notes "hasn’t been for lack of trying or fear on either part. It’s just one of those things.” The two teams could be ideal trade partners this summer since Detroit is looking for relief pitching and the Sox have bullpen arms to spare. Williams joked that he'd happily take one of Detroit's top prospects “for two players of our choosing. We will consider that making good on the Tigers’ steal in ’89," in reference to Williams himself being part of that 24-year-old deal.