Aaron Hicks Rumors

AL Central Notes: Iglesias, Tigers, Hicks, Masterson

Any Tigers fans that were holding out hope for a Jose Iglesias return in late 2014 will have to wait until next year, as GM Dave Dombrowski told Tony Paul of the Detroit News today that the team doesn’t expect the defensive wizard back at any point in 2014. Previous reports had indicated that Iglesias was likely to miss “most” of 2014 with stress fractures in his shins, though most were already operating under the assumption that his season was indeed lost. Detroit has a definite need at short, as the players that have manned the position to this point have combined for an MLB-worst .187/.239/.235 batting line while adding negative defensive contributions according to both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved.

Some more links pertaining to the Tigers and their division…

  • James Schmel of MLive.com fielded plenty of interesting questions in his latest Twitter mailbag, including some on Victor Martinez‘s future with the Tigers and the team’s deadline approach. He feels V-Mart will receive a qualifying offer, but the Tigers will be hesitant about a deal of three of more years for their aging DH. He adds that the Tigers likely feel they’re set in the outfield with Andy Dirks on the mend, but it’s not hard to envision them targeting some rotation depth next month.
  • The Twins are continuing to look for a stopgap option in center field so they can option Aaron Hicks to the minors, reports La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. One potential option, Sam Fuld, is currently nearing a rehab assignment after sustaining a concussion last month, Neal writes. Hicks recently gave up switch-hitting in favor of what has long been a superior right-handed stroke, but learning to gauge breaking balls from right-handed pitchers as a right-handed hitter at the Major League level is a tall task. Hicks’ .722 OPS as a right-handed hitter in his career dwarfs his .549 mark from the left side.
  • Justin Masterson spoke with WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford on the Indians‘ recent trip to Boston about his contract situation. Masterson said he’s following his former teammate Jon Lester‘s lead as the pair approaches free agency, not letting it distract him after failing to reach an extension agreement in Spring Training. “I’m the exact same way. One way or another, something is going to happen. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about it or not.” He added that while he hasn’t tracked the success of other impending free agents, he has kept an eye on Lester’s numbers, but only because the two are friends.

Quick Hits: Abreu, Thornton, Hicks

The Mets have announced that they will promote former star outfielder Bobby Abreu from Triple-A Las Vegas tomorrow. Abreu is 40 and hasn't played in the big leagues since 2012, which he spent with the Angels and Dodgers. But he made a good impression in Vegas, hitting .412/.500/.529 in 40 plate appearances there, and the Mets have space for a left-handed bench player after trading Ike Davis to the Pirates. As Newsday's Marc Carig tweets, that means the Mets' active roster will include Abreu, Bartolo Colon, Kyle Farnsworth, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jose Valverde. Here are more notes from around baseball.

  • Zack Thornton, the reliever the Mets acquired (along with a PTBNL) in the Davis trade, made his debut in the Mets organization on Sunday, pitching two innings for Las Vegas against El Paso. Thornton allowed a solo homer to Kyle Blanks, but allowed no other runs while striking out one in two innings. The player to be named is reportedly the "key piece" in the deal.
  • The Twins' decision to claim Sam Fuld could impact Aaron Hicks, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Twins assistant GM Rob Antony says the Twins are considering having Hicks get fewer at-bats against righties. If they do, Fuld, a lefty, is a likely candidate to take Hicks' playing time. Hicks is hitting just .179/.299/.214 in 67 plate appearances so far this season.

Rob Antony Talks Twins’ Offseason, Future

For the fourth straight year, Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony sat down with Jesse Lund of SB Nation's Twinkie Town to discuss the state of affairs with his team. Antony and Lund discussed the Twins' offseason at length, ranging from the trades of Denard Span and Ben Revere to the Twins' pursuit of starting pitching. Here's a look at some of the highlights, but bear in mind that entire piece is well worth your time…

  • The Twins never intended to trade both Revere and Span, but the Phillies' offer of Trevor May and Vance Worley was too strong not to pull the trigger. Antony identifies May as someone who could get a September call-up in 2013 if he enjoys a strong season.
  • The Twins had conversations with both Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano, but were unable to agree to terms with either one. In particular, the Twins sought a club option for Baker, who wanted strictly a one-year deal. Antony said they didn't want 2013 to "be a donation" to Baker in the event that he wasn't healthy and effective for most of the season. That decision looks wise, with Baker on the 60-day disabled list for the Cubs.
  • Mike Pelfrey identified the Twins as a team he wanted to pitch for and was aggressive in working out a deal, according to Antony. The Twins did quite a bit of homework on Pelfrey's recovery from Tommy John surgery in order to ascertain that the right-hander would indeed be ready for Opening Day, as he promised.
  • The Twins made several "competitive offers" to free agent starting pitchers, in some cases making better offers than the ones those pitchers ultimately took. The Twins had conversations with nearly every free agent starting pitcher and spoke with around 15 agents for pitchers at the Winter Meetings in December.
  • Following the Span trade, most teams didn't believe that the team would also trade Revere. Antony says four teams were in the mix for Revere, but the Phillies were the most aggressive and ultimately landed him with the aforementioned offer.
  • The Twins were willing to do a one-for-one swap of Span and Alex Meyer because they believe Meyer is a legitimate front-of-the-rotation candidate who can be a "dominant" strikeout pitcher.
  • The decision to bring Aaron Hicks north as the team's Opening Day center fielder was a result of Hicks' strong play in Spring Training and his poise off the field. The Twins' front office was never overly concerned with delaying Hicks' free agency by a season: "If he's that good of a player we're going to do what we can to sign him long term and none of that's going to matter."
  • Antony, GM Terry Ryan and the rest of the front office prefer to gradually expose their top prospects to the Major Leagues so as not to field a team of all rookies. Additionally, that line of thinking prevents mass arbitration and free agency issues: "If you can bring a couple guys, a couple rookies in each year, it helps infuse that and it helps to spread it out so that not everybody becomes arbitration eligible at the same time or free agents at the same time, all that stuff."
  • The Twins "admire" the Royals' bullpen of power arms and would like to build a similar bullpen. The team prioritized power arms in the 2012 Draft, selecting a number of hard-throwing college relievers.
  • Antony offered a definitive "No," when asked if the team had interest in Aaron Harang prior to his trade to the Mariners. The Twins feel they have a number of similar arms in the organization already.
  • There's been no contact between the Twins and Jim Thome for "a couple of months," and the two were never on the same page. Minnesota had interest in Thome, but they were far apart in discussions.
  • "It would be great if he could be a Twin for life," Antony said of Justin Morneau. "He's a guy who's meant a lot for this organization and we'd love it if he were to play his entire career here, but you just don't know how things are going to work out in the end."
  • Antony feels that too much has been made of the decision not to extend Ron Gardenhire prior to this season. Many have speculated that Gardenhire is on the hot seat following a pair of 90-loss seasons, but Antony said it was intended to be an organization-wide message that they're looking to get better from top to bottom. He adds that he hopes Gardenhire is the Twins' manager for years to come, and that in three years people are surprised there was even a debate.


Quick Hits: Rookies, Rays, Cubs

Jose Fernandez of the Marlins, Aaron Hicks of the Twins, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. of the Red Sox are all on their teams' Opening Day rosters, even though that might make them free agents a year earlier, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports is rooting for all three of them. Rosenthal says he's tired of watching talented players languish in the minors at the start of each season as their teams attempt to delay their service-time clocks. The best players should be on the field, Rosenthal argues. "The game is so flush with cash, teams are awarding hundred-million dollar extensions like Halloween candy," he says. "I’ll grant that certain low-revenue clubs need to watch their money more carefully than others. The rest of ‘em, no way."

  • "The system" keeps the Rays on a winning path, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. "One of the things I'm most proud of is that we've been able to remain committed to our plan," says executive vice president Andrew Friedman. "It takes a tremendous amount of discipline because there are times when it is very tempting to deviate from that plan, but I feel very confident that had we done that in '08 or '09 we wouldn't be sitting where we are today." Topkin notes that the Rays haven't been successful in every area — they haven't done well in the draft recently, and they haven't had much success with catchers and designated hitters. But a key area at which they have been successful is in developing their own starting pitching. By developing their own pitching, they're able to not only avoid expensive free-agent commitments, but to trade from their own stockpile, as they did when they sent James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals for Wil Myers and prospects.
  • Bud Selig isn't concerned about the Cubs' debt, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times reports. The Ricketts family purchased the Cubs for $845MM in 2009, and the team still has substantial debt related to that purpose. "The Ricketts family worked closely with our office to develop certain financial structures designed to [ensure] the stability of the franchise at these debt levels," a spokesman for Selig says.

Twins Notes: Hicks, Butera, Young, Betancourt, Garcia

The Twins announced yesterday that they will hand the reins in center field over to top prospect Aaron Hicks. The 2008 first-rounder ranked 72nd on Baseball America's Top 100 list and 98th on MLB.com's Top 100. Here's some more on the Twinkies as we draw closer to the end of Spring Training…

  • General manager Terry Ryan told MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger that Hicks won the Opening Day job because he doesn't believe in holding players back for service time reasons: "'Can you imagine if we sent somebody out who did what the kid did?' Ryan said. 'And I had to look at [Josh] Willingham, [Justin] Morneau, [Glen] Perkins, [Joe] Mauer and those guys who are trying to win, and I'm going to stop that guy? I just don't believe in that.'"
  • Other teams are interested in catcher Drew Butera, who the Twins optioned to Triple-A yesterday, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). However the Twins prefer to keep Butera, who they signed to a $700K contract in order to avoid arbitration this winter. The 29-year-old is just a .183/.232/.265 career hitter but is regarded as a terrific defensive catcher.
  • The Twins contacted Chris Young this offseason and had interest in him at one point according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, but an official tells Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that the team no longer considers him a fit (Twitter link). Young is set to opt out of his contract with the Nationals.
  • The Twins were approached by representatives for both Yuniesky Betancourt and Freddy Garcia, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, but the team passed on both players (Twitter links).
  • Outfielder Wilkin Ramirez, who signed a minor league deal with the Twins, has all but guaranteed himself a spot on the Opening Day roster, tweets MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger. A corresponding 40-man roster move will need to be made in the coming days.

AL Central Notes: Tigers, Twins, Hicks, Indians

Here's a look at tonight's news out of the AL Central..

  • Tigers right-hander Bruce Rondon struck out two and did not issue a walk this afternoon in what was his best outing of the Grapefruit League season so far.  In fact, if the rookie had thrown this well in his previous outings, the Tigers would probably feel more confident about their closer situation, writes Chris Iott of MLive.com.  The Tigers are said to be scouring the trade market in search of a proven ninth-inning option.
  • When asked if whether starting the service time clock will play a role in whether prospect Aaron Hicks makes team, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan responded, "Not here," according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com (on Twitter).  Recently, our own Ben Nicholson-Smith looked at service time considerations for Hicks and other top prospects across baseball.
  • The pain of a 68-94 season was the Indians' motivating factor in going out and getting Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds, and Brett Myers, CEO Paul Dolan told Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer.  "We didn't want to go through something like that again," he said. "In some ways, it was a shock we needed."
Twins GM Terry Ryan on whether service time/arbitration will play role in whether Hicks makes team: "Not here."

Sherman’s Latest: Dickey, Wright, Hunter, Upton

Here's the latest from Joel Sherman of The New York Post…

  • The Mets are making progress, albeit slowly, in contract talks with David Wright and R.A. Dickey. The impression is that there is still a substantial gap in talks with Dickey, and they've been gauging his trade value during the GM Meetings. They are not doing the same with Wright, however.
  • The Yankees would not do a two-year deal worth $20MM or so for Torii Hunter since they want to get under the luxury tax threshold next year. They are fixated on one-year contracts this offseason and could fill their right field hole with a low-cost platoon.
  • "The Yankees are not on him," said a source about Justin Upton, in part because they're unsure if he's a good fit for New York (Twitter link). The Rangers and Rays are strongest early players for Upton, and Sherman gets the sense that the D'Backs want to act quickly (Twitter links).
  • The Diamondbacks want high-end, MLB ready players in return for Upton and would love to get Jurickson Profar or (more likely) Elvis Andrus from the Rangers. They don't love Mike Olt, however (Twitter links). GM Kevin Towers likes Yankees prospect Mason Williams, but he is several years away from the show and unlikely to be enough to headline a trade package (all Twitter links).
  • Next year's crop of free agent starting pitchers is weak, which could benefit Zack Greinke since teams won't be able to find a stopgap and reassess next year. Josh Johnson and Tim Lincecum highlight next winter's pitching crop, and both come with question marks.
  • The Mariners, who have young pitching, are said to be talking to the Royals and Twins, who have young hitting. Seattle would love to pry Wil Myers, Aaron Hicks, and/or Ben Revere loose.
  • Jason Bay didn't produce with the Mets, but he lived up to his billing as a hard worker and good teammate. Sherman expects the outfielder to take a low-salary, change of scenery deal (Twitter link).
  • Mets officials think Scott Hairston will get a two-year deal worth between $8-10MM this winter.

Odds & Ends: Tigers, Orioles, Manny, Astros, Uribe

Happy birthday to two former All-Star catchers!  Future Hall-of-Famer Ivan Rodriguez turns 39 today, while Angels manager Mike Scioscia turns 52.

Some news items…


Cliff Lee Rumors: Wednesday

The Cliff Lee trade talk started intensifying yesterday, as the Twins, Mets, Yankees, Rangers, Phillies and Tigers now have a new suitor to out-bid: the Rays. Not only are the Rays on the periphery of the Lee sweepstakes, they are ready to add payroll and appear willing to part with B.J. Upton. The Yankees are confident that they can jump in and pry Lee away from their divisional foes, but let's not rule out the Yanks' crosstown rivals. Here is the latest on Cliff Lee, with more rumors to come throughout the day:

  • MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan says that the Rangers are working hard to acquire Lee, but nothing is imminent. Texas has plenty of minor league talent to offer, but they don't appear to be willing to move Tanner Scheppers or Martin Perez according to Sullivan. Derek Holland, Blake Beavan, Chris Davis, Justin Smoak, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia could all be fair game.  Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram says the Mariners "inquired about the availability" of Davis and Saltalamacchia.  Righty Alexi Ogando is said to be on the Mariners radar, though "there is some resistance to include him in a deal" on the Rangers' side. 
  • Morosi expands on his earlier tweet, saying that the Reds and Mariners have exchanged names "in preliminary fashion," though the two sides have yet to exchange firm proposals. One GM called Cincinnati a "sleeper" in the Lee sweepstakes.
  • CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam checked on the status of Boston's interest in Lee earlier today, and heard that the asking price was too high (Twitter links). Seattle wants a "stud catcher" close to the bigs, which the Red Sox simply don't have.
  • Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune gets the impression that the Mariners aren't close to moving Lee, at least not to the Twins. He was also told that the two sides haven't exchanged official proposals, and that the Ramos-Hicks talk is "pure speculation."
  • The Mariners are seeking a “mammoth return” for Lee, according to Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. One executive interested in the left-hander said the Mariners made a “crazy ask,” demanding an even better package than Wilson Ramos and Aaron Hicks.
  • FOX reports that the Twins offered Ramos and Kevin Slowey for Lee. At the moment, the Twins, Mets, Yankees and Rangers are most actively engaged with the Mariners in trade talks.
  • The Mariners are calling teams back and telling them that it will take two blue-chip prospects plus a third young player to acquire Lee, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com.
  • Two scouts tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that third base prospect Juan Francisco would be the Reds' best trade chip, not Yonder Alonso (Twitter link).
  • ESPN.com’s Buster Olney hears that the Yankees are not engaged in trade talks for Lee now. They are confident they could acquire the left-hander, but do not intend to deal for him. Olney says the Twins are the favorites to acquire Lee, followed by the Reds, the Rays, the Mets, the Rangers and the field.
  • The Mets officials who have spoken to Joel Sherman of the New York Post don’t seem concerned that the Twins are the perceived frontrunners for Lee. The perception within the game is that the Mariners are leaning more toward scouting than number crunching, and the Mets believe that will work in their favor.

Cliff Lee Rumors: Tuesday

The Twins offered prospects Wilson Ramos and Aaron Hicks to the Mariners for Cliff Lee, according to a report by Jeff Fletcher of AOL FanHouse yesterday. Reports have since indicated that the two clubs are not close to a deal. If nothing works out between the Twins and Mariners, other teams, such as the Yankees, Mets, Rangers and Reds would likely be involved. We'll keep track of all the day's Cliff Lee rumors right here, so check back later in the day to see if we have moved this post back to the top of the page with updates.

  • ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Twitter link) hears that Lee trade talks are "heating up," since some teams want to add the southpaw as soon as possible.
  • An official from one team interested in Lee tells AOL FanHouse's Ed Price that his club has yet to hear back from Jack Zduriencik regarding what sort of return the Mariners are seeking.
  • B.J. Upton, now involved in the Lee rumors, tells Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times that he doesn't want the Rays to trade him (Twitter link). Joe Maddon also talks to Topkin about the Upton rumors, saying there's "nothing from our end regarding that being true."
  • The Yankees believe they could trade for Lee if they wanted to, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (via Twitter).
  • The Yankees are “kicking the tires” on Lee, a source tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The source estimates that the Yanks have less than a 50% chance of obtaining Lee and suggests the Yankees could flip Javier Vazquez to another team if they do acquire Lee.
  • The Rays are on the periphery of the Lee sweepstakes, according to Rosenthal’s sources, who confirm that B.J. Upton-Cliff Lee trade talk surfaced amoung scouts last night.
  • The Tigers like Lee, but aren't optimistic about acquiring him, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter).
  • Olney hears that the Mariners "really like" Brewers prospect Brett Lawrie (Twitter link). The 20-year-old second baseman recently made Baseball America's mid-season All-Star team. Lawrie "still strikes out too often and is a work in progress at second base," but is among the offensive leaders at AA. The Mariners have 2009 first rounder Dustin Ackley, also a second baseman, hitting well in AA, though Ackley's presence doesn't mean they can't pursue Lawrie.
  • Morosi hears that talks between the Mets and Mariners have not progressed much (Twitter link).
  • Jerry Crasnick's sources estimate that there's a 60-100% chance that the Mariners trade Lee this month. The Mets prefer Lee to innings eaters and the Yankees ‘covet’ him, but the Phillies would be more likely to pursue Dan Haren if they go after an ace, according to Crasnick’s report for ESPN.com. One AL executive suggested the Mariners might have to explore three-way trades to get as much as possible in return for the left-hander.
  • A rival executive told Ed Price of AOL FanHouse that the Twins will ‘go hard’ after Lee. Some believe the Rangers called Omar Beltre up to showcase him for the Mariners.
  • Peter Gammons hears rumblings of a Lee-B.J. Upton deal and wonders if a third team could be involved along with the Mariners and Rays (Twitter link).
  • Rosenthal hears that no deal between the Twins and Mariners is imminent. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik declined to characterize the talks he has had with the Twins, but Jon Paul Morosi hears that the Mariners have scouted the Twins extensively. Executives were divided on whether the Twins, who have traditionally held onto their prospects, would offer Hicks and Ramos in the same deal.