July 2014

NL Notes: Tulowitzki, Murphy, De La Rosa, Burnett, Nationals, Marlins, Dodgers

The Rockies are not prepared to deal star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki at present (not least of which because he is on the DL), but the Mets have reached out to indicate that they would be interested if he is marketed, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. A National League executive tells Sherman that he thinks the Mets could match up well given their young pitching depth and Colorado’s need for the same. On the other hand, sources tell Sherman that the Cardinals think very highly of the star shortstop and would give up a substantial haul to add him. And of course, Sherman also notes, Tulowitzki would have a wider market given his top-tier abilities.

Here’s more from the National League:

  • Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy has drawn recent trade interest, sources tell Marc Carig of Newsday. It still seems likely that Murphy will remain in New York, however, according to Carig.
  • The Rockies could be willing to listen on current closer LaTroy Hawkins and starter Jorge De La Rosa, reports Thomas Harding of MLB.com. One team that has been connected to De La Rosa is the Orioles, though Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today that talks have not progressed given Colorado’s high asking price of top prospect Kevin Gausman. Harding says that the Rockies do have interest in other Baltimore minor leaguers, including lefty Tim Berry, rising prospect Hunter Harvey, and righties Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson.
  • The Pirates‘ interest in Phillies righty A.J. Burnett is “mild at best,” according to Heyman. And that is even before addressing the issue of Burnett’s 2015 player option, which seems likely to rise through escalators to $12.75MM. Neither the Orioles nor the Yankees appear to be interested in Burnett, Heyman adds.
  • There are varying reports coming out of Washington, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Some clubs have indicated that the Nationals are looking for a second baseman and left-handed reliever. But the Nats themselves have said that they are merely fielding inquiries from teams offering second baggers and would only look to pick up a southpaw pen piece if they can upgrade the team’s current options. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, likewise, tweets that an executive of one selling team sees the Nationals as pursuing multiple possibilities, with a particular focus on adding relief pitching.
  • The Marlins are looking to add players that will contribute this year and in the future, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. The Fish are not currently shopping their veterans, Bowden adds. In an opinion piece, Rosenthal writes that the club should trade star Giancarlo Stanton sooner rather than later to maximize its return, opining that the team is unlikely to sign him to a long-term deal.
  • The Dodgers have continued to look for additional set-up arms for the bullpen, tweets Bowden, but finding a match is complicated by the fact that three of the most obvious sellers also reside in the NL West. Meanwhile, the club has long been said to be interested in adding a starter. Given the recent struggles of Dan Haren, his spot in the rotation (rather than that of Josh Beckett) could be the one that is turned over, Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports.

AL Notes: Hamels, Peavy, Yanks, Masterson, Tigers, Angels

Here’s the latest out of the American League:

  • The Red Sox could be involved as both buyers and sellers, according to reports from ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark (Twitter links). After inquiring with the Phillies on lefty Cole Hamels, Philadelphia has sent scouts to watch Boston’s Double-A affiliate. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have sent their own “top scouts” to take a look at the Cardinals‘ New York-Penn League club over the last few days, suggesting that a deal sending Jake Peavy to St. Louis could still be in the offing.
  • Though recent reports may (to some extent) suggest otherwise, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said earlier today that the team’s priority at this point is to add an “offensive piece,” as Bryan Hoch and Jake Kring-Schreifels of MLB.com report“It still feels like the pitching needs more help, but honestly, the offense has been consistently poor throughout the entire year.” Cashman added that, while second base prospect Rob Refsnyder could be the team’s “second baseman of the future, maybe as early as next year,” he would potentially only see time in the outfield at the MLB level this year and would not represent an immediate upgrade over incumbent Brian Roberts at the keystone.
  • Justin Masterson of the Indians may still be working through a rehab assignment, but that has not stopped teams from inquiring as to his availability, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. Hoynes writes that the interest in Masterson suggests both that the trade market for starters is wanting for quality and that teams value players differently, with some potentially willing to bet on a return to the righty’s results from 2013. Of course, as manager Terry Francona notes, a healthy and productive Masterson could also provide a significant boost to Cleveland’s own chances.
  • As they peruse the market from the buy side, the Indians are looking for players with future control rather than rentals, tweets ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden. That is unsurprising, given the team’s careful resource management and somewhat long postseason odds.
  • We learned earlier today that the Tigers are expected to pursue a left-handed reliever. The club does not appear to be in the market for a left-handed hitting outfielder or an infielder to play on the left side, as Chris Iott of MLive.com reports“I don’t know that either one of them would be real high on our priority list at this point,” said GM Dave Dombrowski.
  • The Angels are unlikely to deal for a starter in advance of the trade deadline, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Though the club has some payroll available to make an addition, it is hesitant to ship out more prospects after a series of recent moves.

Blue Jays Outright Brad Mills To Triple-A

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • The Blue Jays have outrighted lefty Brad Mills to Triple-A, according to the International League transactions page. Mills was designated for assignment after making just one rough outing for Toronto, which claimed him off waivers from the Athletics. Mills will have the opportunity to elect free agency.


Yankees Exploring Trades For Ian Kennedy, Jorge De La Rosa

10:21pm: The Yankees are also having discussions with the Rockies regarding starter Jorge De La Rosa, Bowden tweets.

10:09pm: The Yankees do have interest in Kennedy, but do not intend to give up both Jagielo and Clarkin for him, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter links). Heyman adds that there is “nothing hot at all” between the clubs at present.

Bowden adds (via Twitter) that a team executive informs him that Cashman has had discussions with many teams with potentially available starters.

10:02pm: The Yankees and Padres are discussing a deal that would send starter Ian Kennedy to New York in exchange for prospects Eric Jagielo and Ian Clarkin, a source tells Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (Twitter link). We heard earlier today that San Diego was disinclined to deal Kennedy unless it received an overwhelming offer.

Kennedy has been solid for the Padres this year after coming over from the Diamondbacks mid-year last season. Over 135 1/3 innings, he owns a 3.66 ERA (3.10 FIP) with 9.5 K/9, 2.8 BB.9 and a career-best 42.3 percent ground-ball rate. The 29-year-old is making $6.1MM this year and will pass through arbitration one more time before hitting the open market.

Jagielo and Clarkin were both first-round selections last year for New York. Jagielo, a third baseman, has slashed .243/.321/.470 through 209 plate appearances this year at age 22. Clarkin, meanwhile, is a 19-year-old southpaw who has pitched to a 3.36 ERA through 61 2/3 innings at low-A, notching 9.9 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9.


Mariners Have Inquired With Rockies On Drew Stubbs

9:41pm: There are no talks ongoing regarding Stubbs, Harding reports, but sources tell him that increased activity on the outfielder could occur over the coming week.

7:02pm: The Mariners have inquired with the Rockies about the possibility of acquiring outfielder Drew Stubbs, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Colorado is willing to listen on Stubbs, tweets Thomas Harding of MLB.com, and would be interested in bringing back a controllable young arm in return.

Stubbs, 29, has played exclusively in center field with the Rockies, though he also has experience in right. He has posted a career-best .297/.335/.498 slash with ten home runs an 11 stolen bases in 258 plate appearances. That comes on the heels of three straight seasons of below-average production with the Reds and Indians, however, which led to his being dealt to the Rockies from the latter club in exchange for southpaw reliever Josh Outman.

The right-handed hitting Stubbs is earning $4.1MM through arbitration this year and should be in line for a nice raise in 2015, his final season of arb eligibility. That contract situation limits his trade value, of course. Colorado is not yet sure if they would like to part with Stubbs, Morosi adds. Of course, he is part of a fairly crowded outfield situation at present, particularly given reports that the club would like to bring back veteran Michael Cuddyer.


Twins, Suzuki Far Apart In Extension Talks

JULY 24: Extension talks are ongoing, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter). Suzuki’s representatives at MVP Sports are seeking a contract commensurate with the annual values given to free agents Carlos Ruiz (three years, $26MM), Jarrod Saltalamacchia ($21MM over three years), and A.J. Pierzynski (one year, $8.25MM) over the last offseason.

JULY 22: There’s mutual interest in an extension, manager Ron Gardenhire told hosts Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio today (Twitter link). Gardenhire’s comments, of course, don’t mean the two sides are any closer to a deal.

JULY 21: The Twins and catcher Kurt Suzuki recently engaged in extension talks, but the two sides aren’t seeing eye to eye in terms of contract parameters, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Berardino characterizes the talks as “exploratory” but notes that establishing fair parameters looks like it will be a challenge.

The news is significant, as Suzuki figures to be a prime trade chip if the Twins aren’t able to secure a new contract with the first-time All-Star. Signed to a one-year, $2.75MM contract (with $500K of incentives), Suzuki seems a highly unlikely candidate to receive a qualifying offer after the season. As such, a trade may be the only way for the Twins to receive long-term value, should Suzuki sign elsewhere as a free agent this winter.

Suzuki, 30, has served as Minnesota’s primary backstop all season and slashed a strong .305/.364/.389. While he’s cracked just a pair of homers, he’s shown the best full-season walk rate of his career (7.5 percent) and is striking out at a career-low rate (8.8 percent). That strikeout rate is currently the sixth-lowest in all of Major League Baseball (among qualified hitters).

Defensively speaking, Suzuki has been a mixed bag. He’s thrown out a solid 24 percent of opposing base-stealers and rates as one of the best in the league at blocking potential passed balls and wild pitches, per Baseball Prospectus. However, he ranks at the bottom of the league in terms of pitch framing, per BP and Matthew Carruth at StatCorner.com.

Both the Cardinals and Orioles have seen their starting catchers go down with serious injuries, while other contenders such as the Dodgers and Blue Jays have also received below-average offense behind the plate.


Padres GM Finalists Are Preller, Hazen, Eppler, Ng

JULY 24: The Padres have interviewed Ng again, the club announced. That would appear to complete the team’s second round of chats.

JULY 23, 8:50pm: Taking his second interview today was Eppler, according to a tweet from the San Diego Union Tribune.

11:04am: The Padres have completed a second interview with Hazen as well, the team announced (h/t: MLB.com’s Corey Brock on Twitter).

JULY 22: The Padres announced late last night that they have officially completed a second interview with Preller.

JULY 20th: Jim Bowden of ESPN (on Twitter) hears from a league source that Eppler and Preller have moved into the lead.

JULY 17th: The Padres have narrowed their list of candidates for the club’s open GM position with intentions of conducting second interviews next week, reports Scott Miller of Bleacher Report (Twitter links). Among the candidates for the GM office, Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen could be the favorite, according to a report from Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (via Twitter).

According to Miller, the finalists are Hazen, Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller, Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler, and MLB executive Kim Ng. It appears from that list that the club has every intention of handing the reins over to a somewhat younger option who has never occupied the head baseball operations role.

Reports have indicated, however, that the club could look to bring back former GM Kevin Towers in a senior adviser role if he is dumped by the D’backs. Click here to read a recent round-up of the San Diego front office search.


D’backs Shopping Aaron Hill, Barely Listening On Martin Prado

While the Diamondbacks are interested in moving second baseman Aaron Hill, they have indicated a lack of motivation in dealing jack-of-all-trades Martin Pradoreports CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. According to Heyman, the club is “barely listening” to inquiries on the latter.

Both players are owed approximately the same amount in future guarantees: $28MM for Hill and $26MM for Prado, both through 2016. And both have scuffled at the plate, with Hill slashing .251/.285/.381 and Prado checking in with a .274/.319/.369 line. But the club appears to view Prado, who is two years younger and a more flexible option in the field, as a part of the team’s core moving forward.


Cubs Looking To Trade Edwin Jackson

The Cubs have attempted to deal away starter Edwin Jacksonreports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, but initial efforts have not been promising. Jackson, signed before the 2013 season, is playing on a $11MM annual salary this year and is owed the same amount for each of the next two campaigns.

Heyman adds that the Yankees did not seem interested in the 30-year-old righty, who has struggled to a 5.61 ERA through 110 2/3 frames this year. That follows on his poor numbers last year, when he threw 175 1/3 innings of 4.98 ERA ball. Jackson has restored his strikeout totals to the level they were when the Cubs signed him (8.1 K/9), but has struggled with control and has walked four batters per nine.


MLBPA Files Grievance Against Astros Relating To Unsigned Draft Picks

The MLB Player’s Association has filed a grievance action against the Astros relating to the team’s recent failure to sign top overall draft choice Brady Aiken, reports Murray Chass. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports also reports the filing, via Twitter.

Though details remain vague, it appears that the union’s action alleges that Houston inappropriately manipulated the signing situations of Aiken and fifth-rounder Jacob Nix after a dispute arose over Aiken’s medicals. Ultimately, the Astros reportedly offered Aiken only $5MM after having reportedly agreed to a $6.5MM bonus. The club also did not go forward with signing Nix after having reportedly agreed to sign him for $1.5MM.

Having failed to sign Aiken, inking Nix to that reported over-slot bonus would have put the Astros well above their pool allocation for signed players and subjected them to the penalty of forfeiting each of their next two first-round choices. As MLB.com’s Jim Callis has explained, some have charged that Houston sought to sign Aiken at the lower price tag in order to make a run at 21st-round choice Mac Marshall, who had previously announced that he would go to college. Of course, it remains to be seen what precise allegations have been made by the union.

While the result sought in the grievance proceeding remains unknown, presumably the MLBPA could seek some relief for Aiken and/or Nix if not also some action against the club. As things stand, the pair of hurlers face the decision whether to matriculate at a university (both were UCLA commits) or play junior college ball and re-enter the draft next year.