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A.J. Pollock Rumors
TUESDAY: Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic spoke to GM Dave Stewart, who characterized talks for Montero as due diligence rather than shopping the catcher. However, Piecoro also spoke with a source from a rival club and got the same sense that Rosenthal did: “They’ve definitely put him out there.”
Stewart stressed to Piecoro that the D’Backs aren’t interested in strictly dumping salary and added that any move the team makes “has to better our rotation.”
Piecoro speculates that the Cubs, White Sox and Rangers could be interested in taking on Montero. The Cubs have previously expressed interest in Montero, he writes, also adding that Cubs president Theo Epstein tried to land Montero back when he was still GM of the Red Sox as well.
SUNDAY: The Diamondbacks are considering trades for catcher Miguel Montero, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports. A D’Backs official says the team is in “listening mode” for offers while rival teams say Arizona is openly shopping Montero’s services.
Montero has three years and $40MM remaining on the five-year, $60MM extension he signed with the D’Backs in May 2012. After posting a .798 OPS over the first seven years of his career, Montero’s hitting has dropped off, as the catcher has only posted a .237/.324/.358 slash line in 1035 PA since the start of the 2013 season. You’ll note that large number of plate appearances for a catcher; as Rosenthal mentions, Montero has played more games behind the plate than any other catcher over the last four seasons.
This wear-and-tear could have contributed to Montero’s offensive decline and some teams could therefore be wary of acquiring the 31-year-old, or he could be seen as a rebound candidate if he gets more regular rest, Rosenthal observed. While Montero has posted negative Defensive Runs Saved totals in each of the last three seasons, he is still considered one of baseball’s best pitch-framers.
The Diamondbacks would be looking to create some extra payroll space by moving Montero, though Rosenthal speculates that the team may have to cover some of his remaining salary and the D’Backs would need to find a replacement catcher since they don’t have any Major League-ready catching options in reserve. With a very thin free agent catching market outside of Russell Martin, however, you’d expect Montero to attract some interest from teams looking to upgrade behind the plate.
Also from Rosenthal’s piece, the Diamondbacks have received a lot of calls about Wade Miley and A.J. Pollock, though the team isn’t interested in moving either player. Chris Owings and Didi Gregorius, meanwhile, continue to draw attention from clubs looking for middle infield help.
As always, you can find information on player representation in MLBTR’s Agency Database. Here’s the latest on notable agency changes:
- Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock has changed representatives, moving to Brian Peters of the Legacy Sports Group, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Pollock had been represented by Icon Sports Management. The 26-year-old dealt with some injuries this year, but that did not detract much from the sparkling .302/.353/.498 line, with 7 home runs and 14 stolen bases, that he put up in 287 plate appearances. With sparkling defense in center factored in, Pollock was worth a rather remarkable 3.9 rWAR and 3.3 fWAR in that stretch. Though he is not arb-eligible until after the 2015 season, Pollock certainly looks like an extension candidate.
- Top Astros prospect Carlos Correa is shopping around for a new agent, leading to a major chase to add him as a client, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter links). Among the contenders are such familiar outfits as the Legacy Agency, the Boras Agency, Excel Sports Management, and Dan Lozano. The shortstop, who just turned 20, is currently represented by Kinzer Management Group. Correa had his season cut short by a broken leg, but nevertheless saw his star continue to rise with a .325/.416/.510 campaign at High-A. He also swiped 20 bags and contributed six long balls. The first overall pick in the 2012 draft, Correa currently rates as the second-best prospect in all of baseball in the eyes of MLB.com.
The Diamondbacks more or less kicked off their offseason last week when they announced the hiring of Dave Stewart as general manager and De Jon Watson as vice president of baseball operations. That duo, along with chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, will be tasked with righting the ship for a team that lost an MLB-worst 98 games in 2014. Both Nick Piecoro and Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic have authored highly informative columns about how things will shake out this offseason after talking with that group. Here are some highlights from the Republic’s scribes, but each piece is full of lengthier quotes and is well worth reading in its entirety…
- It’s tough to get a read on Stewart at this point, Piecoro writes, as the new GM expressed a desire to add a front-of-the-rotation arm but expressed hesitancy toward the free agent market and toward the trade market. Stewart appears to be more conservative than predecessor Kevin Towers on the trade front, according to Piecoro, and as for free agency, both Stewart and Watson doubted the team would have the resources to pursue Jon Lester, Max Scherzer or James Shields.
- A trade of minor league talent to acquire an established pitcher doesn’t seem likely either, Piecoro writes. He quotes Stewart: “We’re going to try to maintain our minor-league system. We’ve got to start putting players back in our system. So the trade market, we’ll look at it if it makes sense, but it’s not likely.”
- La Russa tells Piecoro that when it comes to a manager, the team is looking for a candidate that can “lead and inspire.” Previous managerial experience sounded important to La Russa, who stated, “…when you start managing the game, the more that you’ve pulled the trigger as a manager somewhere, there is an art to that.” Asked specifically about recently dismissed Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, La Russa said he is “sure” that Gardenhire’s name will come up during their search.
- La Russa also touched on payroll, though his answer when asked for a specific figure was nebulous; payroll could fall anywhere between $80-110MM, he stated, depending on whether or not there is value to be found, per Piecoro.
- Shifting to Buchanan’s piece, La Russa said that there may not be many changes to the team’s coaching staff beyond the firings of Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell. La Russa offered particularly high praise for first base coach Dave McKay, pitching coach Mike Harkey and bullpen coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. — the latter two of whom he feels handled Arizona’s slew of injuries well. Roving pitching instructor Dave Duncan, La Russa’s former pitching coach, will take on a bigger role in the organization but will not return to a coaching position.
- Buchanan spoke with Stewart on the team’s outfield situation. While Towers had expressed the desire to add an outfield bat, Stewart sounds much less inclined to do so. “I think that A.J. (Pollock) in center, (David) Peralta played well, (Mark) Trumbo will probably be in the outfield mix with (Paul) Goldschmidt being at first base and being healthy again,” the GM explained to Buchanan. “It’s a pretty solid outfield, in my opinion.” La Russa spoke on the outfield as well, adding praise for Ender Inciarte.
- The D’Backs have yet to address their desire to incorporate analytics into their front office, but Stewart again repeated that it is a priority for the team. “…We’ve got to go through the process of trying to get the right person in to take over that department for us,” he said.
The Diamondbacks have been receiving interest in left-hander Wade Miley, but are telling interested parties that he is unavailable, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Some had speculated that Miley could fetch a nice return as an under-the-radar trade candidate, but given his long-term control (through 2017), it appears that Arizona will likely resist the temptation.
Other players the D’Backs aren’t willing to move, according to Rosenthal (Twitter links), include Chris Owings, A.J. Pollock, Paul Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin, Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley. Even veteran setup man Brad Ziegler is likely unavailable, per Rosenthal’s sources. Rosenthal offers a somewhat softer take on Mark Trumbo‘s availability, stating that a trade is “unlikely.” Trumbo is controlled through the 2016 season, Rosenthal notes, and Arizona would be hard-pressed to get near the same value they surrendered to acquire the slugger in the offseason.
All said, it is not surprising that Arizona would be unwilling to part with most of the players listed above, especially the younger players who are now (or are expected soon to be) playing at the MLB level. While Trumbo comes with just two years of control remaining, his long injury layoff will at least suppress his salary somewhat. And Arizona will surely be hesitant to move him for a cut rate after parting with both Adam Eaton and Tyler Skaggs for his rights over the offseason.
Ziegler’s inclusion, though, is a bit surprising at first glance. The righty has been consistently excellent, of course — and has even managed to increase his strikeout numbers this year to a far-and-away career best of 8.0 K/9 — but at 34 years of age he is probably not a long-term asset. (He is, however, under contract for next season at $5MM and is under control through a $5.5MM team option, which comes with a $1MM buyout, for 2016.)
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
The Diamondbacks announced today that outfielder A.J. Pollock underwent surgery to repair a right hand fracture and would not resume baseball activity for eight weeks. Pollock, 26, had been a rare bright spot on one of baseball’s most disappointing clubs, emerging with a .316/.366/.554 triple-slash with six home runs and eight stolen bases in 192 plate appearances. Here’s more from around the league:
- The Royals could enter the running to sign first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales to bolster a sagging offense, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. While no serious discussions have happened to date, the club is not ruling out the possibility, adds Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (via Twitter). According to Heyman, pursuit of Morales would require the Royals to move some salary off its books. Ticking through the team’s roster, the most obvious big-salary trade candidate (assuming, of course, that the team is looking to make a run) is DH Billy Butler, who earns $8.5MM this year and comes with a $12.5MM club option ($1MM buyout) for 2015. But his defensive limitations and serious struggles this year make it somewhat difficult to imagine that the team will be able to find a buyer willing to take on enough salary to make the switch-out plausible — especially since clubs looking at Butler would presumably also have interest in Morales. (Then, there’s the question whether Kansas City could both lock up Morales and dump Butler or another contract in early June.)
- Meanwhile, the Yankees have made contact with Morales but are waiting to learn more on Mark Teixeira‘s wrist re-aggravation before acting decisively, Heyman reports. Turning to analysis, Heyman writes that the Yankees have many reasons to pursue Morales strongly, whether or not they get good news on Teixeira in the coming days.
- Informed of recent comments from Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino indicating that the club expects to re-engage him in extension talks, Jon Lester emphasized that he remains focused on the season at hand, reports Boston.com’s Maureen Mullen. “I think right now, obviously with us playing good baseball and us focused on what we need to do today, I think that’s where we need to stay,” he said. “The contract talks will come at the right time. … [T]hat time’ll come, whether it’s tomorrow, I don’t know. Whether it’s in the offseason, I don’t know. We’ll figure that out as we go.”
- Carlos Villanueva of the Cubs says that he and fellow righty Jason Hammel hope to stay with the team but realize they could be traded, reports MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. “What’s happened here the last couple years, you can’t help but wonder if you’re going to be one of those guys, too,” he said. “When they sign here, they know. They know the direction this team is going.” Both pitchers, explained Villanueva, have played with multiple clubs and understand the business of the game. “In a perfect world, we could stay here and build around the young guys, and we could be part of the upswing of the team,” he said. “That could still happen — we’re still here, we’re going to make the most of it.”