July 2014

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.


Quick Hits: Cards, Fish, Willingham, Sox, Kemp, Lindstrom

It’s been a busy afternoon, but no deals have gone down; let’s round up some worthwhile recent news and rumors as the market heats up:

  • The Cardinals are in need of a starter for Saturday, and manager Mike Matheny says that it could go to an arm that is not currently in the organization, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Philadelphia has sent a scout to watch the Cardinals’ top minor league affiliate, Goold adds. As he indicates, it is easy to see the Cards showing interest in the Phillies‘ Cole Hamels given his high-end talent and extended team control. On the other hand, a recent report suggests that the Phils have yet to go very far down the line in discussing Hamels, and the club is said to be looking for an overwhelming return to part with the lefty.
  • For the Marlins, the desire to add a top-end starter does not mean that the team will part with any core MLB players, including outfielder Christian Yelich, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Additionally, Miami remains more interested in adding an arm that it can control past this season. The club therefore might be more inclined to pursue John Lackey than Jon Lester from the Red Sox, and would have “heavy interest” if David Price of the Rays were to be made available. Frisaro says the club is working hard to make one or two deals by the trade deadline.
  • The Mariners are currently discussing outfielder Josh Willingham with the Twins, sources tell Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The sides were connected a few weeks back by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, and Seattle has long been said to be seeking a right-handed bat for the outfield. Also still in the mix on Willingham are the Yankees, among other teams including Seattle, reports Heyman.
  • Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp interests the Red Sox whether or not he would be involved in a hypothetical deal for Lester, reports Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com (Twitter links). Boston has scouted him on and off over the last month, says Edes, and would consider adding him over the offseason if nothing comes to pass this summer.
  • The Rangers are working to deal outfielder Alex Rios, a source with a team interested in a bat tells Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). Rios, who was off to a hot start, struggled mightily in June and but has improved to a .304/.317/.405 line for the month of July.
  • White Sox reliever Matt Lindstrom is nearing a rehab stint, MLB.com’s Scott Merkin reports on Twitter. The 34-year-old owns a 3.32 ERA through 19 innings, and could be a possible August trade chip if he can return healthy. He is playing on a $4MM salary this year before hitting the open market.

Phillies Have Not Had “Meaningful Dialogue” On Hamels

The Phillies have not reached the point of receiving offers or making “specific requests” for packages involving lefty Cole Hamels, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). Indeed, the team has had no “meaningful dialogue” regarding Hamels, Rosenthal reports.

That would seem to be in some tension with an early report from Bob Nightengale, which indicated that the Phillies had responded to a Dodger inquiry on the price for Hamels (which was said to be quite steep).

A source tells Rosenthal that a deal involving Hamels is the least likely possibility among the trades that the team is contemplating. That is not a surprising assessment, given that the lefty is currently healthy, productive, relatively young, and under team control for five more years (one via option).

 

 


Diamondbacks Shopping Gerardo Parra

The Diamondbacks are shopping outfielder Gerardo Parra, an MLB executive tells ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). The 27-year-old is earning $4.85MM in his penultimate season of arbitration eligibility.

Parra, who bats from the left side, was said to be an unlikely trade candidate, but it appears that Arizona’s stance has changed. Parra has struggled this year with a .256/.301/.358 line, while defensive metrics have soured on his work in the outfield. After posting 5.5 rWAR and 4.5 fWAR last year, he has been at or below replacement level in 2014.

Nevertheless, Parra could be attractive to teams given his ability to play center and track record of success. And while he will not be cheap next year, Parra should remain affordable in a market that handed eight-figure, two-year guarantees to players like Nate McLouth, Rajai Davis, and David Murphy.


Dodgers Designate Scott Elbert For Assignment

The Dodgers have designated lefty Scott Elbert for assignment, according to the MLB transactions page. Elbert, 28, had been rehabbing from Tommy John surgery (and subsequent toe injury) on the 60-day DL.

Elbert was a major contributor for the Dodgers over 2011-12, throwing 66 innings of 2.32 ERA ball (with 8.6 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9) over that span. But he has thrown only 20 frames over the last two years, all in the minors. He owns a 4.26 ERA in 12 2/3 innings this year, striking out 9.2 and walking 5.0 runners per nine.


Minor Moves: Joe Saunders, George Kottaras, Matt Guerrier

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • Lefty Joe Saunders has been released, the Royals announced on Twitter. Saunders opted out of his minor league deal, reports Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (Twitter link). The 33-year-old lefty will presumably now look for his fourth organization of the year.
  • The Cardinals have released catcher George Kottaras after designating him for assignment to create room for the addition of A.J. Pierzynski, reports Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com (via Twitter). Kottaras, 31, saw just six plate appearances for the Cardinals but owns a .269/.375/.615 slash on the year through just 33 plate appearances.
  • Twins reliever Matt Guerrier has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, but will elect free agency rather than accepting the assignment, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Guerrier could hold appeal to contenders as a depth piece, particularly on a minor league deal. The veteran righty has produced a solid 3.86 ERA in 28 innings, but has struck out just 3.9 batters per nine.

Rays “Talking And Willing” To Trade David Price

The Rays are “talking and willing” to trade ace David Price in spite of the club’s recent success, a team source tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. It remains to be seen whether “any teams have the desire” to make a deal, the source adds.

His peers believe that GM Andrew Friedman would be willing to make the bold move with his team playing itself onto the fringe of contention. It is worth noting also that Friedman now possesses ample leverage to demand a deal that he finds sufficient before pulling the trigger. Of course, the apparent availability of Jon Lester could have some impact on the possible return for Price, though some clubs may have a greater or lesser preference for a pure rental as opposed to a pitcher (such as Price) who comes with a year of control and window of opportunity for an extension.

As we recently covered, Bob Nightengale of USA Today suggests that Tampa would be in position to receive a package from the Cardinals including top prospect Oscar Taveras, struggling young starter Shelby Miller, and the team’s compensation choice at the end of the first round next year. While it remains unclear whether that offer is actually on the table, rival executives tell Heyman that the possibility “had some merit” and that it could well tempt Friedman.