Aaron Sanchez Rumors

AL East Notes: Blue Jays, Masterson, Santos

Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (audio link) that he’s zeroing in on fixing the starting five before addressing the relief situation.  “That’s probably more our priority,” Anthopoulos said. “We could use both, but if I did have to prioritize it I’d say rotation first, bullpen would be next.” Pitcher Aaron Sanchez is expected to join the rotation upon returning from a lat strain, but the GM went on to say that he wouldn’t rule out using Sanchez in the bullpen if he were able to acquire two superior starters via trade.  Here’s more out of the AL East..

  • It doesn’t sound like we should expect the Blue Jays to pull off any deals anytime soon.  “Very few teams are willing to do anything early…Really we might be the only one willing to do anything now,” Anthopoulos said (via SiriusXM on Twitter).
  • Red Sox hurler Justin Masterson won’t specifically say that he’ll ask for a trade, but he did acknowledge the possibility, as Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes.  “I dont know if it’s in my nature to do that, to say, ‘Beat it guys, trade me or put me in [the rotation],’” he said. “No, I don’t think that’s the time right now. Especially the way I see this team going and the way I believe in this team too.”  Masterson, who is signed to a one-year, $9.5MM deal, could conceivably draw interest from a team in need of a starter.  For his part, Masterson would much rather start than pitch in relief.
  • The Yankees announced that reliever Sergio Santos will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery, as Grace Raynor of MLB.com writes. Santos made two appearances with the Yankees after signing a minor league pact earlier this month.  Over parts of six MLB seasons, Santos owns a career 3.98 ERA with 11.2 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9.
  • Yankees manager Joe Girardi suspects that Ivan Nova‘s next start will be in the big leagues, Ryan Hatch of The Star-Ledger writes. Nova last pitched in the majors in April 2014 and underwent surgery on his elbow shortly afterward.
  • Tim Britton of The Providence Journal looked at why the Red Sox have been underperforming their projections despite an active offseason.

Heyman’s Latest: Hamels/Jays, Lucroy, Baez, Correa, Alvarez

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has published the latest installment of his weekly Inside Baseball column, and he kicks it off by reporting that the Blue Jays have inquired on Cole Hamels. However, Heyman hears that Hamels was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause to allow a trade to Toronto, which is a blow for both clubs. The Jays desperately need help in both the rotation and the bullpen, and the Phillies, Heyman notes, would love to get their hands on young pitchers with the upside of Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris. The Blue Jays have a bit of financial leeway after going with inexpensive options at second base, center field and left field, and Heyman writes that the Blue Jays are expected to look at other potential front-line starters this summer as they become available. (He speculatively mentions Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir, though neither’s available just yet.) Additionally, Heyman notes that Blue Jays manager John Gibbons’ job is safe, as GM Alex Anthopoulos has a strong relationship with the skipper and recognizes that the team’s problems are roster-related and shouldn’t be pinned on Gibbons.

Some more highlights from the column, though it’s worth a read in its entirety…

  • The Braves are said to be disappointed in the play of Christian Bethancourt, even from a defensive standpoint, and recently inquired with the Brewers on Jonathan Lucroy. However, Atlanta executives were told by the Brewers that Lucroy isn’t available at this time. That the Brewers wouldn’t trade Lucroy isn’t a shock; he’s owed a very affordable $4MM in 2016 with a $5.25MM option for the 2017 season, so even if the team can’t quickly right the ship, he’d still have enormous trade value at the 2016 trade deadline. More interesting, to me, is that the Braves would so quickly look for an upgrade over Bethancourt and that they’re acting somewhat as buyers. Lucroy, of course, could be called a long-term piece that would be around to help the team when its rebuild is closer to completion. However, acquiring him would surely require the sting of parting with some of the key components of that rebuild.
  • Some rival execs feel that the Cubs are willing to part with Javier Baez and Dan Vogelbach in trades, in part because each was drafted under the previous administration and is not held in as high a regard by the new front office. Each player comes with issues, however, as Baez is trying to cut down on his swing and improve his contact skills, while a scout described first baseman Vogelbach as a “30 fielder” to Heyman (in reference to the 20-80 scouting scale).
  • There are members of the Astros‘ field staff that want to see Carlos Correa with the team right now, but Houston will likely keep him in the minors for another month or so in order to lessen the risk of Correa achieving Super Two status. I’ll add that the Astros will have a more legitimate claim that Correa still needs minor league time than other teams in similar situations have had in the past. Correa is still just 20 years old and has only nine games of experience at the Triple-A level, though he’s continued his brilliant work at the plate there, hitting .326/.362/.558 with a pair of homers. Also of interest to Astros fans — or to fans of teams needing outfield help — the Astros are on the lookout for starting pitching upgrades, and outfield prospect Preston Tucker “seems to be available.” Tucker recently made his MLB debut and has a .963 OPS through 34 plate appearances to go along with a strong minor league track record.
  • Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez has been pitching for years with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, according to Heyman. Some have described it as a “90 percent tear,” but he’s been able to pitch effectively in spite of the issue. Alvarez wouldn’t be the first to pitch through a UCL tear; Ervin Santana and Adam Wainwright are both recent examples of pitchers who pitched for many seasons with partially torn UCLs. Wainwright ultimately underwent Tommy John, though Santana’s is said to have healed and is no longer an issue. In another Marlins-related note, Heyman hears that pitching coach Chuck Hernandez is “under the microscope” with both Jarred Cosart and Steve Cishek struggling greatly in 2015.
  • Brewers starters Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza have little trade value due to their 2015 struggles, but Lohse’s lesser financial commitment and superior clubhouse reputation give him more value. The team is reluctant to trade not only Lucroy, but shortstop Jean Segura as well. The Brewers are a bit more open to dealing Carlos Gomez than that pair, as Gomez is closer to free agency (he’s controlled through 2016).
  • The Mets remain reluctant to trade any of their top arms, as they’ve seen on multiple occasions how quickly Tommy John surgery or other injuries can thin out a club’s depth. (Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz have all had TJ in their careers.) The Mets are also not rushing to find a shortstop, but they have indeed been “all over the map” in terms of trade possibilities with the Cubs.
  • Coco Crisp‘s neck injury is apparently quite serious, and there’s a fear that the oft-injured Athletics outfielder will ultimately require surgery that could bring his season to an end.
  • The Blue Jays would still like to extend both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but there have yet to be serious discussions with either slugger’s camp. Both players are controlled through the end of the 2016 season.

Blue Jays Notes: Travis, Pompey, Bullpen, Santiago

The Blue Jays set the majority of their 25-man roster today, and there were plenty of interesting decisions to break down. A look at some of the outcomes…

  • Two key spots on the lineup will be manned by promising young prospects, as Dalton Pompey was named the center fielder (as was widely expected) and Devon Travis was named the starting second baseman. As MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes, the two prospects have been friends since 2013 — before Travis was even acquired from the Tigers in exchange for Anthony Gose this offseason. One of the first calls Travis received upon being traded to Toronto was from Pompey, with whom he had maintained contact after meeting at the 2013 MidWest All-Star Game. Travis emotionally called today the “best day of [his] life,” adding that it was “incredible” to know he’d be a part of a Major League roster.
  • Pompey and Travis will be just two of six rookies on the roster, as Shi Davidi of Sportsnet reported today that 20-year-olds Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna have made the team and will pitch out of the bullpen. Both hard-throwing righties impressed scouts this spring, as they combined for 20 innings (10 each) of one-run ball with 18 strikeouts against just three walks (all from Osuna). Rookies Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez will be in the rotation with Marcus Stroman out for the season.
  • The Blue Jays released veteran infielder Ramon Santiago earlier today, as the 35-year-old had broken his collarbone earlier in the spring. However, Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes tweets (in Spanish) that the Jays may yet re-sign him to a new Minor League deal. Doing so would allow the Jays to keep Santiago and allow him to rehab in the organization while avoiding having to pay the former Article XX(B) free agent a $100K retention bonus.


AL East Notes: Steinbrenner, Tillman, Matusz, Norris

Yankees owner and managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner covered a number of topics in a recent chat with Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Among other things, Steinbrenner credited the front office with having “better drafts of late,” naming prospects Greg Bird, Rob Refsnyder, and Aaron Judge as some of the players to show promise. He also addressed the team’s offseason spending, which — while still substantial — was not as extraordinary as it has been at times in the past. Steinbrenner noted that the team still put out a lot of money on the international market even as it missed on Yoan Moncada. He also gave some thoughts on the team’s future intentions in free agency: “I’m not saying we’ll never give another seven-year contract, but going in you know you’re probably only going to get three-four good years out of it. It remains my goal to get under that $189 million (luxury-tax threshold), but it’s not going to happen for at least two more years when these big contracts we have expire. But I’ve continued to say you shouldn’t need $200 million to win a championship.”

Here are some more links from the AL East:

  • The Orioles continue to discuss contractual matters with starter Chris Tillman even after agreeing to an arbitration salary for 2015, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. President of baseball operations Dan Duquette said earlier this year that the sides have “mutual interest” in an extension. MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth recently examined his extension case.
  • Meanwhile, Orioles lefty Brian Matusz has seen his name come up in trade rumors. After tossing four scoreless frames today, he acknowledged the chatter, as MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli reports. Matusz is still hoping to line up a starting role, but says he is most focused on providing value in any capacity. “I mean, it’s no secret. I’m well aware of talks and things going on,” said Matusz regarding the possibility of a deal. “But for me all I can control is what I can control. To be able to go out and pitch and get extended and throw all four pitches and mix. Be able to pitch my game is really what it’s all about.”
  • Young lefty Daniel Norris seems to have all but established himself as the Blue Jays‘ fifth starter, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star reports. While veteran Marco Estrada is still considered part of the competition, Kennedy says that it would take a major change to move Norris out of the role now. Both Norris and fellow youngster Aaron Sanchez would stand to put themselves on track to hit arbitration eligibility in 2018 before qualifying for free agency in the 2021 season, if they can hold onto their big league roster spots for all or most of 2015. (Norris 29 days of big league service at present, while Sanchez has 69 days.)

AL East Notes: Wieters, Castillo, Sanchez, Jays, Rays

The Orioles got good news on Matt Wieters today, whose elbow X-ray came back clean, as Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets. While his new UCL will obviously handled with care, that is good news for the top catcher in next year’s free agent class.

Here’s more from the AL East:

  • Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo still hopes to be able to get enough work in this spring to be ready to make the Opening Day roster, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports. But with the time he has lost to an oblique strain, the outstanding play of Mookie Betts, and the team’s otherwise less flexible group of plausible big league outfielders, it seems that a stint at Triple-A is certainly possible — in spite of his huge salary. Castillo says he “wouldn’t feel bad about that at all if that’s the decision that’s made.” As Lauber notes, Boston’s outfield situation remains a fascinating story line as the season fast approaches.
  • Another interesting situation to watch — the Blue Jays staff makeup — is gaining some clarity, as Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star reports. Aaron Sanchez is highly likely to open in the rotation, according to manager John Gibbons, with Marco Estrada and Daniel Norris still in the mix for the last starting spot. Meanwhile, it appears that fellow youngster Miguel Castro is headed for a slot in the pen. Those much-hyped arms all saw their timelines accelerated when fellow young right-hander Marcus Stroman went down to an ACL tear; he had successful surgery today.
  • Meanwhile, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said today on The Fan 590 that the club could still look around for another option at first, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca tweets. The team currently appears set to utilize Justin Smoak and, potentially, Daric Barton at the position when Edwin Encarnacion is in the DH slot. Given Encarnacion’s back issues, that could be more often than not in the season’s early going. The team’s decisions regarding catcher Dioner Navarro could also factor into things, as he could potentially take a bench role if he is not dealt.
  • Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said today that he is still not seeing progress on stadium talks, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Emphasizing that he sees a future for the organization in the greater Tampa area, Sternberg nevertheless expressed frustration with opposition that has been encountered from the St. Petersburg City Council regarding issues relating to the team’s quest to find a new park.

AL East Notes: Victorino, Pedroia, Pentecost, Blue Jays, ARod

Red Sox manager John Farrell says the club will start veteran Shane Victorino in right field if he’s healthy, tweets Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. Farrell added that Victorino is “full go,” indicating that only a setback could change those plans. With Hanley Ramirez the obvious starter in left field, that could mean Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo will compete for the center field job. Others like Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley, Brock Holt, and Daniel Nava appear thoroughly blocked in the outfield. Here’s more from the AL East.

  • Dustin Pedroia is healthy and ready to go, reports Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston. My take: a healthy Pedroia means that Betts and Holt are also blocked in the infield. Should everybody remain healthy, some kind of trade looks all but inevitable. Several players like Betts, Castillo, and Holt still have options, so the club can stow some major league quality talent at Triple-A if necessary.
  • The Rays lost great talent this offseason, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Executive Andrew Friedman tops the list of 13 impactful losses. His departure is mitigated by the presence of Matt Silverman. Rounding out the top five poignant losses include Ben Zobrist, Joe Maddon, Joel Peralta, and bench coach Dave Martinez.
  • Blue Jays top draft pick Max Pentecost has undergone shoulder surgery, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.ca. Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure. Pentecost, a catcher, is expected to resume throwing in about three months.
  • The Blue Jays continue to be faced with three big questions, writes Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. They include the identity of their closer, second baseman, and fifth starter. Brett Cecil and Aaron Sanchez are expected to compete for ninth inning duties, although Sanchez could factor in the rotation battle too. Other candidates to start include Marco Estrada and prospect Daniel Norris. Second base will probably go to Maicer Izturis, Ryan Goins, or prospect Devon Travis.
  • The Yankees are right to allow beleaguered veteran Alex Rodriguez to attend camp, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. It’s surprising to see other writers suggest the club swallow the $61MM remaining on Rodriguez’s contract without at least giving him a chance to provide some value. If he fails to remain healthy, the club can also recoup part of the money via insurance.

Blue Jays Notes: Lind, Cabrera, McGowan, Sanchez

When the Blue Jays brass met to discuss the offseason, Adam Lind was at the top of the list, writes John Lott of the National Post. The first baseman’s presence on the roster impeded flexibility, which is why the club dealt him for pitcher Marco Estrada earlier today. GM Alex Anthopoulos expressed hope that the trade would be the first domino in a series of moves. Here’s more from north of the border.

  • FOXSports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets that the White Sox were also interested in Lind but did not make a substantial offer. I’m not surprised the Sox did not match the Brewers’ offer. With the possible exception of Dayan Viciedo, the White Sox don’t possess a player like Estrada, i.e. an established major leaguer coming off a disappointing season.
  • The Jays and free agent Melky Cabrera are far apart in contract negotiations, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Anthopoulos was forthcoming about the talks, comparing the situation to some arbitration cases. “Sometimes you need to have that third party, which is the market…so they truly know what they are worth.” Based on those comments, it appears likely that Cabrera will test the market. We at MLBTR pegged Cabrera for a five-year, $70MM contract, but he’s obviously among the hardest players to gauge due to his history with performance enhancing drugs and a lost season in 2013 from a back injury. For what it’s worth, I consider the $70MM estimate to be conservative in today’s offensively anemic game.
  • Toronto declined Dustin McGowan‘s $4MM option because the contract was too rich for his projected role, says Davidi (Twitter link). Anthopoulos did not rule out a reunion with McGowan at a lesser rate, per Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star (via Twitter).
  • Anthopoulos confirmed that the club views prospect Aaron Sanchez as a starter long term, tweets Kennedy. However, there may not be a spot in the rotation. My observation from strolling around the internet is that many fans hope to see Sanchez installed as the closer. No plans have been made at this time.
  • The Blue Jays will not make a qualifying offer to Colby Rasmus or Casey Janssen, tweets Davidi. He referred to the news as “confirming the obvious,” since neither player was viewed as a candidate for an offer.

Anthopoulos On Payroll, Cabrera, Pitching, Gibbons

Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos met with the media, including Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi (Twitter links) and the National Post’s John Lott, for 50 minutes today before Toronto’s season finale against Baltimore. Here are the highlights:

  • Anthopoulos declined to put a figure on the team’s 2015 payroll, but expects to have the financial flexibility to make moves and has “some ideas on trades and free agents.”
  • The Blue Jays will make a competitive offer to Melky Cabrera, but Anthopoulos reiterated the club’s policy of limiting contracts to five years “is still firmly in place. That’s not going to change.” 
  • On the Jays’ starting rotation, I wouldn’t feel good going into the season with five,Anthopoulos said. “Philosophically speaking, you want to hoard as much as you can, keep as much depth as you can.” To that end, Anthopoulos hinted J.A. Happ‘s $6.7MM option will be exercised and Aaron Sanchez (“frontline starter potential“) will be stretched out in Spring Training. He will, however, at least consider trade offers for established arms.
  • The Blue Jays will eschew big-name relievers and focus on set-up arms in an effort to rebuild their bullpen. Sanchez may pitch in relief sometime during the course of 2015, but only to manage his innings.
  • Yes,” was Anthopoulos’ reply when asked would he hire John Gibbons if he had a managerial opening next season.
  • Brett Lawrie is slated to play third base next year, but could be moved to second if an impact third baseman is acquired. As for evaluating the other position players, Anthopoulos will place a premium on durability.
  • Nicholson-Smith opines bench upgrades will most likely be accomplished through trades rather than free agency.

East Notes: Sanchez, Rays, Smyly, Lee, Mets Lawsuit

Highly-regarded Blue Jays prospect Aaron Sanchez is proving that his stuff plays at the MLB level, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. His upper-90s fastball is generating swings and misses along with plenty of groundballs, and he’s also found success with his curve. As Nicholson-Smith notes, Sanchez has shown that the two-pitch combo can make him a force out of the pen, but the next step will be for him to incorporate his change as he looks to establish himself as a big league starter in the future. Sanchez is currently rated the game’s 37th-best overall prospect by MLB.com.

Here’s more from the east:

  • The Rays expect their payroll to drop below this season’s franchise record of over $80MM, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports on Twitter. Overall spending is “clearly going to be lower,” said owner Stuart Sternberg. That is hardly surprising, especially given that the team will not be paying David Price a big arbitration raise and has Heath Bell coming off the books. On the other hand, it would seem to indicate that Tampa does not expect to add significant salary via free agency or trade, as the team will be paying raises to players like James Loney and Grant Balfour (whose free agent deals were backloaded) as well as arbitration-eligibles such as Matt Joyce, Jeremy Hellickson, Jake McGee, Desmond Jennings, and the recently-acquired Drew Smyly.
  • Since going to the Rays in the Price trade, Smyly has increased his strikeout rate and improved his effectiveness against righties by elevating his fastball, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports originally explored and Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs further explains with the aid of many interesting statistics and GIFs. As Sullivan writes — and as Fangraphs has been discussing more generally of late — there is an increasing movement among some teams (including Tampa) and some pitchers to pursue the use of high heat as batters have adjusted to lower pitching.
  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says that he expects Cliff Lee to deliver significant on-field value next year, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Lee is on track in his rehab plan, which currently means continued rest. As Gelb notes, Lee’s situation will likely not begin to clarify until he begins throwing this fall and begins to ramp up for the spring.
  • The Mets have issued a statement denying the allegations of former executive Leigh Castergine, as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports“We have received and reviewed the complaint,” the statement reads. “The claims are without merit. Our organization maintains strong policies against any and all forms of discrimination.” In a rather scathing assessment, meanwhile, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports argues that MLB should investigate immediately and act firmly in the wake of Castergine’s troubling allegations. As Passan notes, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon — whose alleged statements and actions form the basis for much of the lawsuit — not only occupies a key position with the team, but also sits on the boards of MLB Enterprises and MLB Network.

Blue Jays To Promote Aaron Sanchez

The Blue Jays will promote top prospect Aaron Sanchez to join their bullpen today, sources tell Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. The right-handed starter had been moved to the bullpen at Triple-A recently to prepare him for the role in the Majors, though he made just two relief appearances before this promotion.

Aaron  Sanchez

Sanchez, 22, ranked as the game’s No. 32 prospect on Baseball America’s pre-season Top 100. He ranked 31st on Baseball Prospectus’ version of the same list and 23rd on MLB.com’s Top 100. Sanchez has had a bit of a down season, causing him to fall off of the midseason edition of BA’s Top 50 prospects. However, BP wasn’t as swayed by his regression and upped his ranking to No. 29 on their midseason list (though as they note, given the number of prospects that have been promoted ahead of him, the ranking is actually a bit of a step back).

In 100 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this season, Sanchez has a 3.95 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 5.1 BB/9. As BP’s Chris Mellen notes in his write-up of Sanchez on BP’s midseason list (subscription required and recommended), he consistently teases the Blue Jays by showing front-of-the-rotation stuff but with heavily inconsistent fastball command. As a result, the “clear-headed line of sight” points to a mid-rotation role for Sanchez, Mellen writes. Prior to the season BA praised his ability to induce grounders with his fastball as well as the tilt and depth of his potentially plus curveball. They did note, however, that when pitching from the stretch in 2013, he walked more hitters than he struck out. Sanchez’s changeup has potential to be a third average-or-better offering as well, per MLB.com’s scouting report.

If Sanchez is at the Major League level to stay, he would accumulate 70 days of service time through season’s end, which would leave him well shy of attaining Super Two status. Recent reports have indicated that the Blue Jays are looking for bullpen help, but if Sanchez can solidify a relief role, he could be an alternative to making a trade.

Sanchez has also seen his name mentioned in trade rumors pertaining to starting pitching additions, but GM Alex Anthopoulos has shown a strong resistance to moving Sanchez’s lofty ceiling. Sanchez’s name was frequently brought up in possible Jeff Samardzija trades — alongside lefty Daniel Norris and center fielder Dalton Pompey — before “Shark” was ultimately dealt to Oakland.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.