A.J. Burnett Rumors

NL East Notes: Braves Catcher, Burnett, Tomas

Who will catch for the Braves in 2015? It’s liable to be a question of interest all offseason long as several roster moves could depend on the outcome. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explores the conundrum. We’ve previously seen speculation that the Braves will deal Evan Gattis to an AL club so defense-first prospect Christian Bethancourt can start. Alternatively, the club could deal an outfielder and move Gattis to left field. While there are a lot moving parts to consider, it’s hard to ignore both Jason Heyward and Justin Upton are set to become free agents following the season and will be expensive to re-sign. Meanwhile, Gattis will earn around $600k next season and is club controlled through 2018.

  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. cited changes in Jerome Williams‘ approach and rotation depth as reasons for yesterday’s contract extension, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Depth is certainly an issue for the Phillies rotation. Cliff Lee ended the season on the disabled list, Kyle Kendrick is a free agent, and only Cole Hamels and David Buchanan finished the season healthy. Another possible factor, A.J. Burnett, is weighing a mutual option. When asked about Burnett, Amaro said, “my inclination is that he’s going to want to pitch. He’s a competitive guy.”
  • Yasmany Tomas makes a lot of sense for a number of teams, but insiders are pointing to the Phillies as the current front runners, according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Martino spoke with a rival executive who noted the Phillies have the money to reach a deal with Tomas – which could possibly reach nine figures. More to the point, they have a thin farm system and a desire to turn around quickly. That could make the Cuban market more attractive for the club. Another source said to Martino, “don’t count out the Tigers.”

NL Notes: Posey, Cabrera, Phillies, Braves, Grandal

With Derek Jeter‘s retirement and the Giants playing in their third World Series in five years, Buster Posey should be the next face of baseball. That’s the theme of separate articles by ESPN’s Jayson Stark and the New York Post’s Joel Sherman. Starks believes Posey is comparable to Jeter in making his team a perennial World Series contender with an understated, but intently competitive manner, the flowing awards and accolades, and his ability to move merchandise. Sherman theorizes Posey hasn’t already assumed Jeter’s mantle because of the position he plays, the market in which he plays, and a lack of a seminal playoff moment.

Here’s more news and notes from the National League:

  • It will be tough for other teams to copy “the Giants Way” because the Giants themselves can’t explain their success, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. “That’s a tough question to answer,” General Manager Brian Sabean said. “Things develop over time.” Time has been on the Giants’ side, notes Shaikin, as Sabean is the longest-tenured GM in baseball and his top lieutenants (Dick Tidrow and Bobby Evans, who told Shaikin he has never been interviewed for a GM opening) have been with the organization for two decades.
  • Earlier today, MLBTR’s Zach Links predicted Nationals infielder Asdrubal Cabrera will land a three-year, $27MM contract in free agency. CSNWashington’s Mark Zuckerman posits Cabrera’s best days are possibly behind him, so the Nationals’ interest will be based on whether there are better options available either via free agency or on the trade market.
  • The Phillies should have at least $20MM in payroll space this offseason which should be enough for a major signing or a few mid-level signings, provided they are committed to winning in 2015, according to CSNPhilly.com’s Corey Seidman. A.J. Burnett declining his $12.75 option and dealing Antonio Bastardo and/or Domonic Brown could increase that amount, Seidman adds.
  • Braves President John Schuerholz indicated to Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (on Twitter) the club’s first choice to be their full-time GM is John Hart; however, he will not force the timeline.
  • The first home run of the Dominican Winter League was hit by the PadresYasmani Grandal. Now a full season away from his 50-game suspension for an elevated testosterone level and knee surgery and possessing excellent plate discipline (13.1% walk rate in 2014), Grandal can become a breakout offensive force for the Padres in 2015, opines the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Dennis Lin.
  • The Dodgers are in good hands with Andrew Friedman aboard, writes Peter Gammons for Gammons Daily.

Latest On A.J. Burnett

A.J. Burnett has a $12.75MM player option for the 2015 season, but he’s also debated retirement on multiple occasions over the past two seasons, so whether or not he picks it up remains uncertain. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports hears, however, that Burnett is leaning toward pitching again in 2015. Heyman spoke to people close to Burnett and got the sense that given the righty’s love of pitching and the solid $12.75MM payday, there’s a “good chance” that he’ll pitch in 2015.

The news may bring about mixed reactions among Phillies faithful, as Burnett unquestionably struggled this season. Though the 37-year-old posted his highest innings total since 2008 (213 2/3) and made an NL-leading 34 starts, he also posted a disappointing 4.59 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 and a 50.6 percent ground-ball rate. Burnett posted an NL-worst 18 losses as well, though clearly that total is also reflective of his defense and a lack of run support. Beyond that, Burnett also pitched through a hernia for much of the season, an injury that, as Burnett told MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, will require offseason surgery.

However, the prospect of a healthy Burnett in 2015 would improve the Phillies’ outlook. Currently, the team has little certainty in the rotation beyond ace Cole Hamels and righty David Buchanan (117 2/3 innings of 3.75 ERA in 2014), as it’s impossible to know what to expect of Cliff Lee next season as he recovers from a flexor tendon injury. Kyle Kendrick and Jerome Williams, each of whom occupied a rotation spot late in the 2014 season, are both free agents. Aaron Nola, the team’s first-round selection from 2014, could eventually factor into the equation. Other in-house options include Jonathan Pettibone and Jesse Biddle, though the latter certainly figures to need some more time to develop in the minors, and the former missed much of 2014 following shoulder surgery.



East Notes: Sandoval, Burnett, Shields, Mets

The AL East champion Orioles are looking for their first playoff sweep since they eliminated the A’s in the 1971 ALCS as they face the Tigers in Game Three of their ALDS. The NL East champion Nationals, meanwhile, will look to avoid being swept by the Giants tomorrow in their NLDS.

Here’s the latest from baseball’s East divisions:

  • Pablo Sandoval, with his personality and left-handed bat, would be a good fit for the Red Sox, opines the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Despite Sandoval’s weight issues and a declining OPS over the past four seasons, Cafardo hears the third baseman will command a five-year, $100MM pact with the Yankees and Dodgers joining Boston in the bidding.
  • A.J. Burnett‘s decision whether to exercise his $12.75MM player option will dictate how the Phillies‘ offseason unfolds, according to CSNPhilly.com’s Corey Seidman. If Burnett declines the option, the Phillies will have the financial flexibility required to make impactful free agent signings and begin the necessary roster overhaul, Seidman writes.
  • The James Shields-Wil Myers trade between the Rays and Royals is still under evaluation, notes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. At this point, who “won” the trade depends on whom you ask.
  • The Mets don’t need a spending spree to improve for 2015, posits Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Of course, it would be nice if they could spend the necessary money to sign free agent catcher Russell Martin, but there are cheaper ways they can upgrade their offense. One idea Sherman has is calling the Red Sox to inquire on a Bartolo Colon for Shane Victorino deal.

NL Notes: Burnett, Hamels, Niese, Mets, Padres, Johnson

Here’s the latest from the National League:

  • Phillies starter A.J. Burnett seems more likely to retire (and forgo his $12.75MM player option) than many people believe, observes Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com in an offseason preview piece. Meanwhile, the club will listen on Cole Hamels but continue to demand a ransom in return, while Philadelphia could be more open to dealing not only veteran Marlon Byrd but also arb-eligible outfielders Domonic Brown and Ben Revere. As Salisbury notes, the rotation has plenty of question marks and openings.
  • While Salisbury says he believes the Phillies will ultimately hang onto the 30-year-old Hamels, for better or worse, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki argues that the organization must view Hamels (and his fellow core veterans) from a pure baseball perspective. Attendance is plummeting in spite of the continued presence of numerous pieces of the team’s run of success, he notes, and the only way to rebuild the fan base is through winning.
  • Neutral talent evaluators believe that lefty Jon Niese is the Mets‘ best trade chip among the club’s veteran starters, tweets Marc Carig of Newsday. Niese, 27, threw to a 3.40 ERA over 187 2/3 frames in 2014. He is owed $16MM over the next two seasons and has a pair of options ($10MM and $11MM, with respective $500K buyouts) thereafter.
  • The Mets are expected to replace hitting coach Lamar Johnson, tweets Mike Puma of the New York Post. That move is still not official, however, and New York is in the early stages of assessing who they might bring in.
  • Padres GM A.J. Preller is about to get his first taste of open market action from the seat of power, as MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports. Preller said that he anticipates a lot of trade attention on the team’s slate of arms, and indicated that he would be open to discussing any players if there’s a way to improve the club.
  • One interesting player who remains under the Padres‘ control is starter Josh Johnson, whose injury-shortened year left the club with a $4MM team option. Preller said that he hopes to have Johnson in the fold next year, though left unclear whether the team is interested in a straight exercise of the option. “With Josh, he’s a guy that everyone has a positive feel for,” said Preller. “We’ll try to go down the road with him and try to present something to him that makes sense to him.”

NL Notes: Zimmermann, Stanton, Roenicke, Phillies, Rockies

For the second consecutive year, MLB has a no-hitter to close out the regular season. The Nationals’ Jordan Zimmermann threw the first no-hitter for the franchise since their move to Washington, D.C., but needed a diving, over-the-shoulder grab by leftfielder Steven Souza, who entered the game as a defensive replacement for Ryan Zimmerman in the top of the ninth, to preserve the 1-0 gem. “No-doubt double and [Souza] comes out of nowhere. Whatever he wants, I’ll buy him anything,” Zimmermann said (as tweeted by the Washington Post’s James Wagner). As for his defensive wizardry, Souza (as quoted by Paul White of USA Today) “knew it was over my head. I was just hoping I had a prayer of laying out. Anything can happen when you hit the ground. I came down like a football catch and that thing wasn’t getting out.Henderson Alvarez, who tossed last year’s season-ending no-hitter, was the victim today.

Elsewhere in the National League:

  • The Marlins will discuss a contract extension with Giancarlo Stanton this offseason, reports Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. “That is our plan, to talk with him about extending him beyond his arbitration years,” said Marlins President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill. “We have to hear from them and what their goals are, and what they hope to accomplish. We have some ideas we’ll streamline and tighten up as have those meetings. And hopefully we’re on the same page and can get something done.” Stanton is represented by the Wasserman Media Group, per MLBTR’s Agency Database.
  • Earlier today, Marlins manager Mike Redmond received a contract extension. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, meanwhile, is still awaiting his fate. “Yeah, I don’t know where we stand,” Roenicke told reporters, including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. “Yeah, it’s always uncomfortable when you’re not sure what’s going to happen. You do the best you can do, and you know when you’re a manager, that sometimes if it doesn’t go well, that you’re the guy that’s going to get blamed for it.” The Brewers lost to the Cubs to finish the year at 82-80 and 9-22 since August 26.
  • Ryan Howard is just as unclear about his 2015 status with the Phillies, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. “Whether it’s going to be here or not, I don’t know. But I’ll be playing baseball. So my future is certain in that aspect,” said Howard, who went so far as to ask reporters if they think he has played his last game as a Phillie. 
  • Phillies right-hander A.J. Burnett, who will undergo hernia surgery next week, remains undecided about exercising his $12.75MM player option, writes MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. “It’s ultimately going to come down to me,” Burnett said. “I had the same thoughts last year. Then I woke up and I wanted to compete. So I can’t just shut that down if it’s still there. But then again, my youngins, they have a say in it.
  • Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post opines losing has taken such a toll throughout the Rockies organization that players, coaches, and other staff members are wondering if there is a vision to right the franchise.
  • Wally Backman will not be added to the Mets‘ coaching staff in 2015, sources tell Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.

Phillies Notes: Burnett, Tomas, Offseason Needs

On the day that the Phillies were officially eliminated from the postseason race, let’s check in on things in Philadelphia:

  • 37-year-old starter A.J. Burnett indicated that he is pitching through several physical maladies as he nears a tough decision on his future, reports Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. In addition to the need for offseason hernia surgery, Burnett said that his right arm was fatigued. “If I can lift my arm up at the end of the season then I might pitch,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes.” Burnett faces a decision whether to exercise his $12.75MM player option just one week after the World Series wraps up, but indicated to Gelb that he may have some reservations about his time in Philadelphia — while declining to get into specifics. “I expected a lot of things to be different,” he said. “A lot.”
  • The Phillies have “legitimate interest” in Cuban free agent Yasmani Tomas, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. The 23-year-old power hitter appeals more to Philadelphia than did countrymate Rusney Castillo, says Salisbury. His youth and profile would appear to be a nice fit for a Philly club that is in need of an infusion of MLB-ready talent.
  • Indeed, manager Ryne Sandberg said today that improved production from the middle of the order is high on his wish list for next year, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Of course, as Sandberg acknowledged, “everybody needs the same thing.” That also holds true of the other area that he stressed: “solidify[ing] the starting rotation.” With around $140MM already on the books for next year (assuming Burnett returns), and arbitration raises coming for Antonio Bastardo, Ben Revere, and Domonic Brown (if they are not traded), Philly will have some room to add salary before bumping up to the $189MM luxury tax. Of course, the team must decide whether it is wise to add substantial future obligations to veterans through free agency.

NL Notes: Giants, Mets, Burnett

Here’s the latest out of the National League:

  • A repeat of last year’s late-season extensions seems unlikely for the Giants, tweets Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. The club is not talking about new deals with any of its pending free agents, says Schulman. That would include, of course, third baseman Pablo Sandoval. In a recent poll, MLBTR readers indicated a collective expectation that Sandoval will find a new home next year.
  • Mets GM Sandy Alderson explained that his recent comments on the club’s younger players have been somewhat misinterpreted as forecasts of the team’s spending plans, as Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. Saying that his statements were intended to focus on the team’s younger players, particularly given his audience (related to one of the team’s affiliates), Alderson emphasized that it would be unfair to “assume that we’ve made decisions about what we’re going to or not going to do at those positions.” Though Martino notes that the organization still needs to prove it actually has the ability and willingness to bump up its spending, Alderson maintains that he has no complaints and believes in the club’s process. “It’s important to keep in mind a couple things,” he said. “One is, I actually believe we will have some payroll flexibility that goes beyond what some people are thinking. But at the same time, I don’t think we expect to go out and spend money just to get to a threshold. We have to see what’s there, both in terms of the free agent market and over time the trade market. We have to evaluate what we have.”
  • Veteran Phillies righty A.J. Burnett has bumped the value of his 2015 player option to $12.75MM with tonight’s start, his 32nd, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki notes on Twitter. While it remains to be seen whether he decides to return, Burnett’s injury-free but less productive 2014 campaign makes it unlikely that he would deliver much in return via trade. (Of course, his 20-team no-trade clause also presents a significant barrier.)

Quick Hits: Duffy, Burnett, Rasmus, Red Sox

Royals pitcher Danny Duffy left his outing after just one pitch this afternoon against the Yankees, with catcher Salvador Perez signaling to the dugout and pointing at his shoulder (as YES Network’s Jack Curry tweets). Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports that Duffy was officially removed due to shoulder soreness. An injury to Duffy would be tough news for the Royals, who lead the AL Central heading down the stretch. The lefty has been a key to a tough Royals rotation, posting a 2.42 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 141 1/3 innings so far this season. Here are more notes from around the game.

  • Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett is making his 30th start of the season this afternoon, and it’ll be an expensive one, as CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury tweets. Burnett’s 30th start increases the value of his 2015 player option from $10MM to $11.75MM. In addition, he gets a $750K bonus this season for making his 30th start. The Phillies’ obligation to Burnett thus continues to accumulate even though he isn’t having the best season, posting a 4.40 ERA so far with 8.1 K/9 and a league-leading 78 walks in 184 innings.
  • Colby Rasmus is one of the best available free-agent position players this winter, and he’s currently on the Blue Jays‘ bench, which tells you much of what you need to know about this offseason’s crop of free agent hitters, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. That juxtaposition explains why the Red Sox spent the summer acquiring hitting talent, signing Rusney Castillo and getting Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig in trades.

West Notes: Angels, Burnett, Tulowitzki, Astros

The Angels had interest in A.J. Burnett of the Phillies, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes, confirming a report by Peter Gammons (all Twitter links). The Angels, though, wanted Burnett to waive his player option for next season, perhaps to get them under the luxury tax threshold. It wouldn’t be surprising if Burnett hadn’t wanted to do that, given that he prefers playing near the East Coast, and that his option guarantees him $10MM or more in 2015. The Angels, then, will continue to hunt for a starting pitcher to replace the injured Garrett Richards. Here’s more from the West divisions.

  • Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki would rather retire than change positions, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. No. It’s just who I am, it’s what I do, it’s what I have dreamed of as a kid,” Tulowitzki says. “So I guess when you have a dream and you accomplish it and someone tries to take it away from you … it wouldn’t be worth it for me to try and move somewhere else.” Tulowitzki is just 29 and is still a plus defensive shortstop when healthy, but he continues to have issues with injuries, and it’s not difficult to see how he might need to change positions before the end of his contract, which runs through 2020. Saunders notes that Tulowitzki is currently on crutches after surgery to fix a torn labrum in his hip.
  • The Astros‘ “extreme Moneyball” approach is still controversial throughout the game, Joshua Green of Bloomberg BusinessWeek writes in a profile of the Astros since Jeff Luhnow’s hiring in 2011. The Astros’ poor results the past few years, and their relentless questioning of conventional wisdom (leading to, for example, their aggressive approach to shifting and to their tandem minor league rotations), have predictably been divisive. Luhnow gives Green a look at the Astros’ “Ground Control” database (notes from which were leaked in June), which uses an algorithm to tell the team’s management when players ought to be promoted.