Alexei Ramirez Rumors
The White Sox made one of the first big strikes of the offseason when they agreed to sign Jose Dariel Abreu to a six-year, $68MM deal. We've already collected some reaction to the Abreu signing and heard what it could mean for Paul Konerko's future with the Sox, so let's expand our look at the Windy City's baseball news to include the latest on the Cubs...
- "Depending on what is considered major," Abreu's signing will probably be the only major White Sox free agent move of the offseason, MLB.com's Scott Merkin writes. The Sox could still make further moves via trades, as Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham have drawn some interest from other teams.
- Also from Merkin, GM Rick Hahn goes into detail about how the three-team trade from last July between the White Sox, Red Sox and Tigers developed. Chicago got an important piece for the future in Avisail Garcia while the deal is currently having a big impact on the ALCS, with Jake Peavy starting for Boston and Jose Iglesias starting at shortstop for Detroit.
- Jim Thome won't be the next White Sox hitting coach, Hahn told reporters (including CSN Chicago's Charlie Roumeliotis) during a conference call today. Still, Hahn praised Thome's work as a special assistant to the GM and predicted he would become a coach in the future.
- An NL executive tells Peter Gammons that while the White Sox may have overpaid for Abreu, they have "one of the half-dozen thinnest farm systems in the game and Abreu doesn’t cost them a draft choice." Gammons also hears mixed reviews of Abreu from a scout and a general manager, though the GM's team still offered Abreu $40MM.
- Rays bench coach Dave Martinez interviewed with the Cubs today about their managerial opening and now the club will move onto the next step of its hiring process, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. Martinez joins Manny Acta, A.J. Hinch and Rick Renteria as contenders for the job, and while Renteria just underwent hip surgery, he is still "considered a very strong candidate."
- The Cubs would prefer to hire a bilingual manager since they have so many important Latin American prospects, FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi reports (Twitter links). Speaking Spanish isn't "a must" but it could be a tiebreaker if the Cubs are weighing equal candidates. Hinch is the only one of the four who doesn't speak Spanish, though the Cubs could still hire him to manage and hire Spanish-speaking coaches instead.
- CSN Chicago's Dave Kaplan spoke to several sources around the game about the four candidates. Martinez is seen as the clear best choice, Renteria was praised though there were some doubts about him as a first-time manager, Acta's unsuccessful stints managing the Indians and Nationals are strikes against him and Hinch drew scathing reviews. Kaplan, for his part, thinks the Cubs should hire Brad Ausmus.
For some fascinating reading this Saturday morning, check out Jonah Keri of Grantland's in-depth base-stealing discussion with Coco Crisp. I found the portion involving southpaw tells to be particularly interesting (look for the clip of Crisp stealing off of Brian Matus). Back to the transactional side of the game, here are a few assorted links:
- Former Mariners and Reds outfielder Wladimir Balentien has turned into a star in Japan, where he is currently sitting three long balls back of the single-season record of 55 first reached by the legendary Sadaharu Oh back in 1964. With a slugging percentage north of .800, the 29-year-old might have drawn big league interest. Balentien, however, is in the first year of a three-year, $7.5MM deal with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows that does not contain an opt-out clause, according to a recent report from Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca.
- High-priced Mets reliever Frank Francisco is moving through the minor leagues on a rehab assignment, but may nevertheless be released upon his activation, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Rather than attempting to salvage some value from Francisco's cringe-worthy two-year, $12MM contract, the Mets -- who obviously will not secure a post-season berth regardless -- seem determined not to allow Francisco to put on a free agency showcase in a Mets uniform.
- Addressing a reader question, MLB.com's Scott Merkin took a look at the futures of shortstop Alexei Ramirez and outfielder Alejandro De Aza with the club. Merkin says that Ramirez -- whose contract includes $19.5MM for the next two years and a $10MM ($1MM buyout) club option for 2016 -- would bring a "solid return" in a trade but figures to stick in Chicago. With his home run tallies dwindling to a trickle, Ramirez's deal does not seem to be any kind of bargain, though perhaps positional scarcity around the league increases its value.
- As for De Aza, Merkin argues that poor baserunning and defense make him more likely to find himself out of the team's plans, especially as he is set to earn a raise on his $2.075MM salary as he enters his second year of arbitration eligibility. While De Aza looks at first glance to be a solid regular at low cost, there seems to be an interesting split on the value of his contribution this year. Fangraphs credits De Aza with 2.2 WAR on the season, while Baseball-Reference pegs him at just .1 WAR based on an exceedingly poor defensive rating. In 2011 and 2012, both sites viewed him as an approximately 2.5 win player. Whatever his actual value, the Sox would presumably be able to get a reasonable return if they made De Aza available via trade.
- The Angels are working towards a long-term deal with the city of Anaheim, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. The current proposal would allow the team to drop the appendage "of Anaheim" from its name, and and would see the Angels pay to renovate Angels Stadium in exchange for beneficial land lease and development rights surrounding the ballpark.
Let's take a look at the latest from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal in this week's edition of Full Count:
- The Diamondbacks were the runner-up among teams vying to acquire Bud Norris from the Astros. The Snakes planned to keep Norris in the rotation for the remainder of the season, then shift him to the bullpen through the end of his contract, Rosenthal says, noting the team's wealth of young starting pitching and contracts for relievers Heath Bell and J.J. Putz that will expire after 2014. However, the Orioles were able to offer Houston the superior compensation pick.
- Tim Lincecum is pushing his free agent stock up with his recent run of strong starts, but the Giants haven't initiated contract talks yet with the hurler. An executive cited by Rosenthal pegged a potential deal for Lincecum in the three-year range with a $13MM-14MM annual salary. Though that initially appears high considering the right hander's poor performance last year and at the beginning of this one, the qualifying offer the Giants are likely to extend will probably be in the same $13MM-14MM range.
- Though the White Sox weren't able to find a taker for Alex Rios' contract before the deadline, Nelson Cruz's suspension changed the thinking in the Rangers' front office, according to Rosenthal. Texas was previously asking for significant cash back in any trade, while the Pirates weren't even interested enough to discuss specific names, Rosenthal reports. However, the Sox will likely eventually get infielder Leury Garcia from their deal with the Rangers, which could give them the flexibility to trade either second baseman Gordon Beckham or shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
- The dearth of hitters reaching the open market could have made Chase Utley quite popular in free agency. Rosenthal cites the Dodgers, Athletics and Orioles as potential suitors. The two years and $27MM of guaranteed salary that Utley received from the Phillies is comparable to guarantees that David Ortiz, Torii Hunter and Carlos Beltran got in free agency, Rosenthal notes.
Jake Peavy has cleared his belongings from the White Sox's clubhouse and is prepared to be traded soon, reports ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine. "It is sad to think that this is probably my last day in here," Peavy said this morning. "We all realize the reality of the situation and I am prepared with that to happen soon. If I am not traded I would be happy to know the message here is we think we can win it all next year with you a part of it. I am reflecting on my four years here as we speak and getting a little caught up in the emotion. It is a sad day when you think it could be your last. This is a business and this is what we do. I will always cherish the people here and my time in Chicago." Here are the other rumors involving Peavy today:
- The White Sox have shown no interest in absorbing any of the approximately $24MM owed Peavy and that, along with health concerns, are big issues for the Braves, Orioles, Cardinals, and even the Dodgers, tweets ESPN's Jayson Stark.
- Baseball executives still feel it is likely the White Sox will trade Peavy before the deadline, ESPN's Buster Olney reports (Insider-only). The Cardinals have more than enough young pitching to get Peavy, but they don't seem inclined to move it, Olney writes. He guesses that Peavy will ultimately wind up with the Athletics.
- The Sox are having difficulty trading Peavy, however, tweets Peter Gammons, whose reporting echoes Stark's. The Sox asked the Athletics for top young players Sonny Gray and Addison Russell, while also asking the A's to pay almost $20MM in salary, Gammons writes. That's surely far more than the A's would be willing to pay.
- The Braves are no longer in the mix for Peavy, tweets FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal. In a separate tweet, Rosenthal notes Orioles owner Peter Angelos has historically been a stickler on medical issues and Peavy's long injury history may affect their pursuit.
- The sense is the A's are working the hardest to acquire Peavy while the Braves like him but not enough to offer a significant package, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
- The current front-runners for Peavy are (in order): A's, Cardinals, Red Sox, and Orioles, according to ESPN's Buster Olney (Twitter link).
- The White Sox are targeting top prospects, but interested teams figure the price will come down and see the Sox accepting multiple prospects instead, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. Passan, in a separate tweet, reports the asking price for Peavy is higher than for Matt Garza.
- Levine notes, in the aforementioned article, talks with the Braves have heated up since Tim Hudson's season-ending ankle injury, but MLB.com's Mark Bowman writes, while there might be some lingering interest in Peavy, GM Frank Wren appears focused on upgrading the bullpen.
- The Cardinals are continuing their pursuit of Peavy and Alexei Ramirez, tweets Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio. Bowden lists Carlos Martinez, Joe Kelly and Kolten Wong as names being mentioned on the Cardinals' end.
Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.
Cardinals GM John Mozeliak says he probably won't be terribly active at the trade deadline, given the high prices of upgrades, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold (on Sulia). Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com, meanwhile, tweets that, according to Mozeliak, the Cardinals are unlikely to make a big splash. "We're probably not likely going to do much," Mozeliak says.
Mozeliak blames the slow trading market on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, as well as the trend throughout the game of signing cost-controlled players to long-term contracts. "Clearly having more teams alive right now or believing they are competitive makes it more difficult for the trading market," he says. "Clearly teams are trying to secure their younger talent. That's just the way the game is going. Seeing players moved to be moved is somewhat archaic."
The Cardinals have been connected to White Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy and shortstop Alexei Ramirez. Mozeliak's comments, if they can be taken at face value, seem to indicate a deal for either player is unlikely. The Cards are nearly certain to make the playoffs, but they are just two games ahead of the Pirates and five ahead of the Reds in the NL Central.
Tonight's AL Central Links..
- The White Sox are shopping right-handed reliever Matt Lindstrom along with Alex Rios, Jake Peavy, and Alexei Ramirez, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com tweets. However, it's unclear how much interest other teams have, Knobler adds. Lindstrom, 33, has a 3.35 ERA in 40 1/3 innings pitched and has yet to allow a home run this year. However, his 6.2 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 could give some teams some pause.
- We've heard the Royals have set a high price for Ervin Santana, and now Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that rival executives believe Luke Hochevar may be more likely to be traded. One executive described the 29-year-old Hochevar as "a hot item," as he's blossomed in the bullpen this season, posting a 1.89 ERA in 38 innings after struggling in the Royals' rotation for years. Some clubs may believe he could return to a starting role, potentially increasing his value. He's expected to draw interest from the Braves and Dodgers, among other teams.
- Meanwhile, Santana may also be a fit in Atlanta, Heyman says. That matches with what we've heard, though the Royals are indicating they'd need to be "overwhelmed" to trade him. Kansas City is targeting right field and second base help, Heyman adds.
- An official familiar with the situation tells Knobler that a trade sending Ramirez from the White Sox to the Cardinals is "not likely," though as Knobler notes, such a deal appears to make sense on paper. Shortstop is the one position in a stacked St. Louis lineup that could use an upgrade, while the Sox are open for business and had a top scout in St. Louis this week. The two teams have discussed Ramirez along with Peavy, according to Knobler, who also reports that the Rangers maintain their interest in Rios. The Pirates may also be involved in Rios talks. Peavy, meanwhile, appears to be drawing the most attention from the Red Sox, but the A's and Braves have also expressed interest in the right-hander.
8:04am: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the White Sox did not turn down Martinez for Ramirez, though he wouldn't be surprised if the Cardinals are indeed interested in Chicago's shortstop.
12:29am: The White Sox have as many trade chips as any deadline seller in the majors and they're putting a high price tag on their key players. According to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, the Sox recently turned down a trade offer from the Cardinals that would have sent shortstop Alexei Ramirez to St. Louis in exchange for right-hander Carlos Martinez, one of the many elite prospects in the Cards' minor league system. Gonzales said the deal was "involving" those two players, so it was likely not a one-for-one swap.
The Cardinals had been relying on Pete Kozma at short ever since Rafael Furcal underwent Tommy John surgery in March, and while Ramirez's production has dropped, he still would've presented a big upgrade. Ramirez entered Tuesday's play hitting .284/.310/.357 in 408 PA but only one homer and 23 RBI. Ramirez averaged 17 homers per year from 2008-11 but has just 10 homers total over 1029 PA in 2012-13. While his power isn't what it used to be, Ramirez has 20 steals (in 26 chances) this year and is one of the game's better defensive shortstops, with an 8.5 UZR/150 this season and a 7.7 UZR/150 for his career.
Ramirez still has value, but he turns 32 in September and is owed roughly $22MM through the end of the 2015 season, plus a $10MM club option for 2016 that can be bought out for $1MM. By that token it's surprising that the White Sox weren't willing to move the veteran for Martinez, a consensus top-40 prospect controlled through the 2019 season, though as noted, there may have been more to this trade than simply Ramirez for Martinez straight-up.
The 21-year-old Martinez was ranked as the third-best prospect in the St. Louis farm system by Baseball America, and he possesses "a biting curveball" and a changeup and could both become plus pitches. His fastball has touched 100 mph but usually clocks in the 94-98 mph range. Martinez made his Major League debut this season and has 11 strikeouts in 10 1/3 relief innings. His 6.10 ERA is largely due to a tough outing last Friday when he allowed three runs in a third of an inning against San Diego.
Also from Gonzales, Jake Peavy and Jesse Crain are drawing a lot of interest and scouts from the Diamondbacks, Reds, Braves, Red Sox and Dodgers are expected to be in Chicago through the end of the week to watch one or both men pitch. Peavy just recently returned from a DL stint while Crain is currently on the DL with a sprained right shoulder but could be activated by Sunday.
The Pirates own the second-best record in all of baseball but find themselves in second place in their own division thanks to the Cardinals. Seeking to bolster their lineup for the season's second half, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that GM Neal Huntington has his sights set on Alex Rios and may be interested in Alexei Ramirez as well.
Pirates right fielders have combined to hit .235/.309/.394 this season and played below replacement level as a whole, according to Fangraphs, thanks to poor defense and baserunning. Rios would obviously serve as a massive upgrade for the final two and a half months, as he's hitting .270/.326/.429 with strong defense and baserunning. However, as Heyman notes, the $18MM that he is guaranteed through next season is steep for the Pirates, who opened the season with a payroll just under $67MM.
Ramirez is also costly, as he's owed $23MM through the 2015 season. He's hitting .286/.311/.358 with 20 stolen bases, and advanced metrics like Ultimate Zone Rating love his range at shortstop. Jordy Mercer took over as Pittsburgh's starting shortstop recently, but he's hitting just .188/.246/.188 over his past 18 games and doesn't have much of a track record.
To this point, the White Sox have been "extremely disappointed" in the offers they've received for Rios, but the Pirates have a deep farm system that ranked seventh in baseball prior to the season, according to Baseball America. It stands to reason that the Pirates could put together an enticing offer, especially if White Sox GM Rick Hahn agrees to include cash to help facilitate a deal. The Buccos are not one of the six teams on Rios' no-trade list.
We heard last week that the White Sox had begun to receive calls on their veteran players. Now, rival executives tell Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that the ChiSox are "open for business" and willing to discuss anyone on their roster with the exception of Chris Sale and Paul Konerko.
That means that even John Danks, who just last year signed a five-year, $65MM extension with the Sox, could be had in the right deal. The team also has desirable trade chips like Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, Jesse Crain, Matt Lindstrom, Matt Thornton and Jake Peavy (though he's currently on the DL). Heyman also adds that Jeff Keppinger's name has already come up in conversations, despite the fact that he signed a three-year deal just this past offseason.
Not surprisingly, one executive told Heyman that Adam Dunn will be difficult to move. Dunn is owed $15MM in 2014 and is hitting .194/.303/.460 this season. Another said that Peavy will be tough to find a match for as well. The White Sox will have a high asking price on their co-ace, but teams won't have much time to determine if he's truly healthy.
Another executive told Heyman that the Mets could look at Ramirez as a potential long-term option at shortstop. While he's not hitting for power anymore, Ramirez is batting .280/.308/.345 with 18 stolen bases and outstanding defense, according to advanced metrics like UZR and DRS. He's owed $10MM in 2014 and has a $10MM club option for 2015 on his contract as well.
We learned earlier today that the Cubs are "open for business" and ready to sell, and it sounds like Chicago's other team may not be far behind. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke with White Sox GM Rick Hahn recently, who confirmed that other teams have begun to express interest in his players:
"We are getting phone calls, and they will probably become a little bit more voluminous if we don't turn it around pretty quickly," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said.
Heyman's sources indicate that Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez will at least be discussed, with one rival general manager telling him that Rios will draw more interest. Rios,32, is owed $12.5MM in 2014, the final guaranteed year of his contract, though his deal contains a club option as well. Ramirez, 31, is controlled through 2015 and owed $9.5MM in 2014, $10MM in 2015 and has a $1MM buyout on his $10MM club option for 2016.
Heyman also speculates that names such as Jake Peavy, Jesse Crain, Matt Thornton, Matt Lindstrom and perhaps even Gordon Beckham will become available if the White Sox do indeed take the position of sellers this July. Crain, of course, is on a historic run, having fired 28 shutout innings over his past 28 appearances with a 37-to-7 K/BB ratio in that time.