Andre Ethier Rumors

NL Notes: Ethier, Mattingly, Wacha, Pagan

Memorial Day weekend is the time when fans begin to zero in on what's happening in baseball, so Joel Sherman of the New York Post provides his analysis of the 2013 season. Sherman sees Cliff Lee, Matt Garza, Jose Bautista, Alex Rios, and Justin Morneau as the top five trade possibilities. Shin-Soo Choo was Sherman's choice as the best acquisition of 2013 with the combination of Justin Upton and Chris Johnson, Vernon Wells, Nick Swisher, and Mark Melancon rounding out the top five. Sherman also identifies the season's top storylines, prospects, and injuries to date. Let's focus on the news and notes coming from the National League:

  • ESPN.com's Buster Olney writes the Mets make the most sense of the possible trade suitors for Andre Ethier (subscription required). According to Olney, the Dodgers will only deal Ethier if they decide he can no longer be an effective player for them and are willing to absorb a large portion of the approximately $80MM due the outfielder over the next five years. 
  • Don Mattingly has all the hallmarks of a manager in quicksand and is conjuring up images of Clint Hurdle during his final days as manager of the Rockies, opines Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post. Hurdle vowed to exercise more authority by creating new rules and benched Troy Tulowitzki for violating one of those rules. Hurdle was fired one week later. Mattingly benched Matt Kemp for today's game calling it a "baseball decision" and not a disciplinary reaction to Kemp expressing his displeasure at being removed in a double-switch the night before, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.  
  • The Cardinals are looking to replace yet another starter and top pitching prospect Michael Wacha could get the call, according to MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch. Wacha is scheduled to start for Triple-A Memphis tomorrow afternoon, the same day GM John Mozeliak will meet with manager Mike Matheny and the coaching staff to determine who will fill the vacancy in the rotation. Nearly 40% of MLBTR's readers, when asked by Steve Adams this past Wednesday, predicted Wacha will be the next 2012 first-rounder to reach the Majors.
  • Angel Pagan gave the Giants a dramatic victory last night with a walk-off inside-the-park home run. Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets the Mets made two mistakes in their December 2011 trade of Pagan to the Giants for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez: an inclination to non-tender a valuable player and, rather than non-tender, using that money on Torres and Ramirez.

Quick Hits: Yankees, Dodgers

The Yankees and Dodgers have far and away the game's highest Opening Day payrolls, but have had polar opposite results thus far. While the Yanks were supposed to be the team that failed to deliver performance commensurate with its big spending, they sit atop the AL East with a robust 29-18 record. The Dodgers, meanwhile, are buried seven games back in the basement of the NL West, sporting a 19-27 mark after a listless showing against the Cardinals last night at Dodger Stadium. Let's take a look at the latest on these clubs:

  • It has been a comedy of injuries this year for the Yankees, with a steady flow of DL stints nevertheless failing to slow the team's winning ways. Last night brought more of the same, as two key players — outfielder Curtis Granderson and starter David Phelps — left the team's 9-4 drubbing of the Rays. MLB.com's Bryan Hoch had the story. Phelps, who was hit on the arm by a come-backer, appears to have escaped significant injury and is expected to make his next scheduled start. Granderson was not so lucky. After suffering a broken forearm on a hit-by-pitch during Spring Training, causing him to miss the first month and a half of the year, Granderson only logged 31 big league plate appearances before being struck by another inside pitch. This time, the ball broke a knuckle on his left hand. The preliminary word is that he will miss a minimum of four weeks. The path to a substantial free agent pay day is now murkier for the big left-handed bat, who is set to hit the market after the season. It seems unlikely, at this point, that Granderson will have more than half of a season of performance in his walk year. While he has been a consistent home run and stolen base threat for much of his career, teams will certainly watch closely to see whether his arm and hand injuries sap his power as he finishes off his age-32 season.
  • For the Yankees, the loss of Granderson appears unlikely to warrant an immediate look outside the organization. As Hoch tweeted yesterday evening, and confirmed today, the club will call up outfielder Brennan Boesch. The Yanks nabbed Boesch late in the spring due in part to the fact that he still had an option year. He saw 45 unremarkable plate appearances early in the season, slashing .209/.244/.419, but was optioned in mid-May and has struggled to a .179/.343/.214 slash in limited action at Triple-A.
  • A swirl of news around a manager is generally not a good thing, and that is certainly the case with the Dodgers' Don Mattingly. Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times explains that, with Mattingly taking on an increasingly combative persona, the skipper may be going down with a fight, but seems to be going down nonetheless. Team president Stan Kasten, along with GM Ned Colletti, expressed agreement with Mattingly's attempts to light a fire under the team. And Kasten did say that Mattingly's job was not at risk. But he also made clear that it would be if the team can't reverse its fortunes: "I do expect us to turn it around, and because of that, I expect Donnie to be here for a long time. There's another side of that, if things don't go well."
  • Meanwhile, internal discord seemingly failed to die down after Mattingly recently called out highly-paid outfielder Andre Ethier. While Ethier expressed surprise and hurt at the public questioning of his effort and toughness, and said he had not even discussed the issue with Mattingly, the manager continued to see things differently. "Guys who play the game right, they don't have any problem with anything I'm saying," said Mattingly. "So I can't even come close to backing off things I said the other day. I feel exactly that way." But was Ethier right that the manager had not even talked about his comments with the player? "I'm getting old and my memory is going, but we definitely talked." Needless to say, this public feud only further reduces L.A.'s leverage should it look to move Ethier's big contract and so-far sluggish bat.

Dodgers Notes: Ethier, Mattingly, Puig, Pederson

Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier isn't going to ask for a trade in the wake of his recent benchings.  "I don't think there's ever a question," Ethier told reporters, including MLB.com's Ken Gurnick. "I made a commitment to what we're doing. We all have tough times. We just have got to figure out what's going on and battle through it. Quitting is not an option."

  • Unsurprisingly, Ethier was upset at seemingly being singled out as not being a tough player given manager Don Mattingly's recent criticism of his team's competitiveness.  "Yeah, I take offense to that, without approaching me first," Ethier said.  "Other than that, I show up every day and find ways to compete, to work hard whether I'm going good or bad. Just like everyone here, I have to get a grip and a handle on what's gone on."  Ethier also said he thinks Mattingly will keep his job as the Dodgers are just a hot streak away from getting back into the pennant race.
  • Mattingly told the media (including Ken Gurnick) that the Dodgers had talked internally about calling up Double-A outfielders Yasiel Puig or Joc Pederson.  Both players are among MLB.com's list of baseball's top 100 prospects (Puig at #76, Pederson at #85) while Puig was also ranked as the 47th-best prospect in the game by Baseball America.  Puig would probably be the first of the two prospects to be called up, given Puig's huge spring numbers and the fact that he's already signed to a $42MM contract.
  • The Dodgers aren't in a good position to trade Ethier given that they have little leverage to demand a fair return for him, ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon argues.  The Dodgers will likely have to eat a large piece of Ethier's contract in a deal anyway, so they could get more back if they wait until closer to the trade deadline.


West Links: Dodgers, Ethier, Norberto, Mariners

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly offered up some brutally honest and scathing remarks for his players and the team's upper management prior to Wednesday's game, and Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times has a recap. Mattingly benched $85MM right fielder Andre Ethier in favor of rookie Scott Van Slyke, commenting that to use his “most competitive lineup” and one that would “fight the hardest.” Mattingly wouldn't confirm whether or not he still viewed Ethier as an everyday player. He also noted that the front office tried to buy an All-Star team, stating: “All grit and no talent isn’t going to make you successful. But all talent and no grit is not going to get you there, either.” Here's more out of baseball's Western divisions…

  • One rival general manager told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that it seems like Mattingly is trying to get himself fired.
  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes that Ethier is now "eminently available" and suggests some speculative trades. Cameron proposes a swap of Ethier and Jeff Francoeur, with the Dodgers picking up the tab (Twitter link) on Ethier's final two seasons. Doing so would save the Dodgers up to $40MM, allow them to call up Yasiel Puig and give Kansas City an upgrade over Francoeur. He also suggests a swap with Franklin Gutierrez of the Mariners or dumping Ethier on the Rangers.
  • Jordan Norberto's preference is still to re-sign with the Athletics after being released earlier in the month, according to John Shea and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Norberto was cut loose due to an elbow strain, and he's throwing again as he rehabs from the injury. The Cubs, Royals and Rays are all interested in Norberto, but he told Shea and Slusser: "I've never felt anything for a team before like I do about the A's – the teammates, the pitching coach, the manager, the fans."
  • The Mariners need better than what Aaron Harang is giving them every five days, writes Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, who suggests that it's time to designate Harang for assignment and give Jeremy Bonderman a try. Bonderman has a 3.79 ERA in nine Triple-A starts.
  • The Mariners are better than their record indicates, writes Rosenthal, but a number of their key offensive pieces are free agents. Rosenthal feels that the Mariners and GM Jack Zduriencik are at a crossroads, but an improved record could make Seattle a desirable destination for Northwest natives Jacoby Ellsbury and Tim Lincecum.

Mets Monitoring Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Gonzalez

The Mets "retain an unfilled craving for a marquee outfielder," writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, and are monitoring superstars such as Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins and Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies.  One Mets person told Martino "there is heat there," in regard to the team having a preliminary discussion with the Marlins about Stanton.  Still, Martino is unsure whether GMs Sandy Alderson and Larry Beinfest have discussed the powerful right fielder.

To acquire four years of Stanton, the Mets would likely have to part with their two best prospects, pitcher Zack Wheeler and catcher Travis D'Arnaud.  An associate of Alderson's told Martino the GM "did not have any extra attachment to those players, simply because he traded for them."

According to Martino, the Mets debated using Wheeler to get Justin Upton or Wil Myers, during the Winter Meetings.  They also considered asking for the Dodgers' Andre Ethier in an R.A. Dickey deal, and this spring checked in on the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano.  So, it appears the Mets' long-term interest in improving the outfield runs the gamut, from the game's best young stars to overpaid veterans.  The Mets were willing to increase payroll to the $125MM range last winter for the right players, writes Martino.

Keep in mind that no deals are close, and the idea that Stanton or CarGo could become available this year is speculation.


West Notes: Ethier, Marcum, Ruggiano, Ankiel

Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier has been the subject of trade rumors all winter, but the veteran isn't buying into the notion that he'll be playing elsewhere come Opening Day, writes Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times“I haven’t looked too much into it,” Ethier said. “It’s something I see as rumors. I think Ned was pretty quick to say there was nothing to it. That was enough to ease my mind, even though obviously there was a lot following that."

Here's the latest news and headlines from both the AL and NL West…

  • The Mariners and Rangers both had discussions with Shaun Marcum before the veteran elected to sign with the Mets, writes Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com (via Twitter). As a result, each team remains in the hunt for starting pitching.
  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has some regrets for trading Justin Ruggiano to the Marlins last spring, but likes the player he received in Jobduan Morales, says Brian McTaggart of MLB.com (on Twitter). 
  • Houston manager Bo Porter believes Rick Ankiel will make the big league roster out of Spring Training if he can play up to his potential, writes Dave Zangaro of CSNHouston.com. “He will add leadership. He will add a veteran presence in the lineup. You look at his ability to play defense, I watched him make some throws and make some catches that make you shake your head. This guy’s phenomenal.”

Diamondbacks “Open” To Discussing Upton

6:52pm: The Braves and Mariners have inquired on Upton along with the Rangers, major league sources tell Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.  One source said that Atlanta “made strong overtures” for Upton earlier in the offseason but came away thinking that the Diamondbacks were not motivated to trade him.

The Mariners are particularly eager to add a hitter and some have gone so far as to say that they're desperate to do so.  They have checked in on the Dodgers’ Andre Ethier and the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton, according to sources.  Upton might be the Mariners' most realistic pursuit, according to one source with knowledge of the team’s thinking.  The M's have had “on-and-off” discussions with Arizona throughout the offseason, but Upton is not inclined to remove them from his four-team no-trade list.

3:44pm: Facing a surplus of outfielders following their deal with Cody Ross, the Diamondbacks are once again “very much open” to talking about trading Justin Upton, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports (all Twitter links). Their specific demands have changed, Olney notes.

Diamondbacks executives have viewed the Mariners as a possible trade partner for Upton, according to Olney. However, the Mariners are on Upton’s no-trade list, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier in the offseason (Twitter link). The Blue Jays are also on the list, which is partially in place to provide Upton with leverage in talks.

Some officials are now convinced the Diamondbacks will trade Upton rather than Jason Kubel, Olney reports. MLBTR readers disagree. Approximately 34% of nearly 10,000 voters said today that they expect the Diamondbacks to address their outfield depth by trading Upton, but approximately 45% expect Kubel to be moved.

The Rangers, Diamondbacks, Rays and Indians discussed multi-team trade scenarios involving Upton at the 2012 Winter Meetings. Texas, Seattle and the Mets now seem like potential fits in my view.

Zach Links contributed to this post.


Quick Hits: Qualifying Offers, Swisher, Kennedy

All but seven of MLBTR's top 50 free agents have agreed to terms, but there are still dozens of unsigned players at this stage in the winter, as MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker shows. Here are some links from around MLB as the 2013 portion of the 2012-13 offseason gets underway…

  • Yahoo's Jeff Passan explains the tension between the MLB teams that aim to keep their top draft picks and free agents such as Kyle Lohse, Rafael Soriano, Michael Bourn and Adam LaRoche, who are linked to draft pick compensation after declining qualifying offers. Agent Scott Boras, who represents Lohse, Soriano and Bourn, faces the challenge of finding contracts for these players at a time that some teams are hesitant to engage them.
  • Dave Cameron of FanGraphs wonders if the next collective bargaining agreement will adjust or even overhaul the current system of qualifying offers to find a balance for all parties involved.
  • Nick Swisher will be introduced to the Cleveland media tomorrow if he passes his physical, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports (on Twitter). The Indians agreed to sign the outfielder for $56MM over four years.
  • Though former Angels infielder Adam Kennedy hasn’t officially retired, he’s opening a baseball development facility in Anaheim next week, Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times reports (on Twitter). The 36-year-old TWC Sports client played in 86 games for the 2012 Dodgers, posting a .262/.345/.357 batting line in 201 plate appearances.
  • The Dodgers and Mariners haven’t talked about a potential deal involving Andre Ethier in weeks, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). Earlier today ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reported that the Mariners have called the Dodgers repeatedly to ask about the outfielder.

Olney On Astros, Price, Ethier

ESPN.com's Buster Olney explains that the Angels, Rangers, A's and Mariners could benefit from Houston's presence in the AL West. The Astros, losers of 100-plus games in 2011 and 2012, project as a sub-.500 team again in 2013. Conversely, NL Central teams such as the Reds and Cardinals might miss their former rival. Here’s more from Olney’s ESPN.com column…

  • Olney ranks the game's top infields, starting with the Rangers, Tigers and Reds.
  • There's an assumption within the industry that the Rays will trade David Price sometime in the next calendar year, Olney writes. The left-hander recently avoided arbitration with Tampa Bay, agreeing to a one-year, $10.1MM contract.
  • The Mariners have called the Dodgers repeatedly to ask about potential trades involving Andre Ethier, Olney reports. The Dodgers intend to hold onto Ethier, but would listen to offers on him. The Mariners haven't presented Los Angeles with a formal proposal, according to Olney.

Quick Hits: Indians, Matsui, Ethier, Sanchez

The Indians are the latest team to get a financial boost from a new TV contract, as the club announced that it has sold SportsTime Ohio (and the broadcasting rights to Indians games) to FOX Sports Media Group.  The Tribe's contract with FOX will run for at least 10 years and the team will receive at least $400MM over the course of the deal, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  The Indians will get $40MM from FOX in 2013, up from the $33MM the team received from STO in 2012.  While it isn't the multi-billion dollar deal that other teams have received in recent TV rights deals, the extra funds have already played a role in the Indians' operations, namely the $56MM contract given to Nick Swisher.

Here are some items from around baseball as we head into the final weekend of 2012…

  • Hideki Matsui told reporters (including Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News) that he received offers from several Japanese teams but decided to retire since he felt he wasn't able to play up his standards.  Amongst Major League clubs, only the Astros were known to have shown any interest in Matsui this winter.
  • The Mariners could be in on Andre Ethier, tweets CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, though there is "no real evidence" that the Dodgers have any interest in dealing the right fielder.
  • Matt Sosnick, agent for infielder Freddy Sanchez, tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his client is healthy and has received some interest from teams, though no offers.  Sanchez, 35, has been plagued by injuries over the last two seasons and was limited to just 10 minor league plate appearances in 2012.
  • The Brewers signed righty Alfredo Figaro to a minor league deal last week but they were unaware that Figaro's rights were still controlled by the NPL's Orix Buffaloes, reports MLB.com's Adam McCalvy.  Milwaukee assistant GM Gord Ash said that the Brewers have told Orix that they will retract their offer if the Buffaloes choose to retain Figaro.
  • ESPN's Jim Bowden lists five possible transactions that he thinks make sense for contending teams, such as the Cardinals trading for Carlos Gonzalez or the Orioles signing Kyle Lohse.
  • Twins assistant GM Rob Antony tells La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the team could still make further additions to its pitching depth.  "I wouldn't say we're done," Antony said. "I wouldn't say were pushing hard. We have our feelers out there. If the situation is right, we could do something else. If not, we're OK too.''  Minnesota has already added Kevin Correia, Rich Harden, Mike Pelfrey and Vance Worley this winter but Neal doesn't think the team is willing to give a two-year, $14-$15MM contract to the likes of Joe Saunders, Shaun Marcum or Brett Myers.