Aroldis Chapman Rumors

Rosenthal’s Latest: Desmond, Toussaint, D-Backs, Samardzija, Cotts

In his latest notes column for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal begins with an interesting note on the Nationals. Despite a substantial payroll and a heavy offseason investment in Max Scherzer, Nats ownership is reluctant to add payroll during the season. Rosenthal notes that, in hindsight, we saw an indication of this last July when Cleveland paid all of the $3.3MM remaining on Asdrubal Cabrera‘s salary after the Nats acquired him. (Of course, the Nats were also willing to take on all of Matt Thornton‘s salary via waiver claim.)

Because of this, Rosenthal wonders if the Nats will consider trading Ian Desmond this summer to clear room for a different acquisition. Given Desmond’s struggles, the team could be better off with Danny Espinosa, Yunel Escobar and Anthony Rendon seeing regular time in the infield. Earlier in the week, I speculated on a possible Desmond trade after it was reported that the Nats were interesred in the D-Backs’ middle infielders, but Rosenthal notes that it could also allow them more flexibility to pursue Aroldis Chapman, Ben Zobrist or even a reunion with Tyler Clippard. Of course, Desmond’s offensive and defensive woes diminish his trade value, as well.

A few more highlights from Rosenthal’s column…

  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart tells Rosenthal that he usually doesn’t pay attention to media criticism, but he’s aware of the near-universal criticism of the D-Backs for their trade of Touki Toussaint (in which the team essentially sold its 2014 first-round pick to Atlanta). Rosenthal quotes Stewart: “The truth is we did not know what Touki’s value would be if we shopped him. There is a lot of speculation on that. People are assuming it would have been better, but we don’t know. There was an opportunity to make a deal that gave us more flexibility today as well as next year. We took that opportunity. It’s tough to say we could have gotten more. He was drafted at No. 16, given ($2.7) million. In my opinion, that’s his value.” Stewart continues to say that Toussaint has not thrown 96 mph with the D-Backs, despite some scouting reports and that there’s “some inflation of what people think Touki is.” Stewart adds that the D-Backs think Toussaint will be a Major League pitcher but not for another five to six years.
  • A brief interjection from me to offer my take on those comments: It’s odd to hear a GM openly devalue a player in this fashion, even after trading him away. Beyond that, however, it’s puzzling to hear Stewart equate Toussaint’s value with the clearly arbitrary number assigned to last year’s draft slot value. Having shown a willingness to spend $16MM+ on a pitching prospect (Yoan Lopez) this offseason, Stewart is undoubtedly cognizant of the fact that Toussaint would have fetched far, far more than $2.7MM in a theoretical free agent setting. Additionally, if they truly do feel that Toussaint will pitch in the Major Leagues, that makes the trade all the more puzzling to me, as my best explanation to this point had been that they simply didn’t believe in his future all that strongly.
  • Back to Rosenthal’s piece, which has several more quotes from Stewart, including the GM’s own admission of surprise to his team’s current standing in the NL West. The D-Backs were built with an eye on the longer-term picture than 2015, says Stewart, and they’ll need to assess how to respond at the deadline. To this point, the D-Backs have received inquiries on their starting pitching, but not on their middle infield. Stewart flatly says “…we’re not moving [Nick] Ahmed,” and calls a trade of Chris Owings “very unlikely.” Interestingly, that does seem to indicate that the new GM values Ahmed over Owings.
  • The Astros remain interested in Jeff Samardzija, and as Rosenthal notes, a move away from what has been a brutal White Sox defense would likely help Samardzija quite a bit. Samardzija’s .338 BABIP has helped contribute to a significant discrepancy between his 4.53 ERA and 3.67 FIP. Of course, Chicago’s porous defense doesn’t necessarily explain Samardzija’s diminished strikeout rate and struggles to strand runners in 2015. The Astros, Rosenthal says, are eyeing Samardzija and other pitchers, but the White Sox are not yet ready to sell.
  • The Brewers aren’t receiving very strong interest in Francisco Rodriguez, likely in part due to his backloaded contract, Rosenthal hears. K-Rod is still owed $1.95MM in 2015, plus $9.5MM in 2016 between his salary and the buyout on a $6MM club option for the 2017 season. Lefty Neal Cotts, however, figures to be in demand and may even be of interest to his former club, the Rangers, Rosenthal writes. Cotts’s 4.30 ERA isn’t anything to write home about, but he’s held lefties to a .546 OPS.
  • The Cardinals might not be as urgent to add a starter as many had previously expected. The club feels that Michael Wacha can top 200 innings, and Carlos Martinez can deliver about 170. A bigger need might be a left-handed-hitting complement for Mark Reynolds at first base, and Rosenthal suggests Adam LaRoche as a speculative fit to improve the team on both sides of the ball.

Quick Hits: Astros, Huntington, Reds, Nola

Collin McHugh‘s recent struggles have only sharpened the Astros‘ need for starting pitching help, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes.  McHugh has a 7.77 ERA over his last four starts, leaving ace Dallas Keuchel as the only truly reliable rotation option, as it’s asking a lot of rookies Lance McCullers and Vincent Velasquez to immediately help carry a playoff-contending team (though McCullers has been outstanding in six starts.)  Here’s some more from around baseball as we head into the new week…

  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington tells David Manel of the Bucs Dugout blog that the club will again “walk that balance between now and the future” in making any deadline additions.  “We want to do everything we can to put this club in a position to make the playoffs this year, win a World Series this year. At the same time, we want to be able to be in that position as many years in the future as we can,” Huntington said.  Pittsburgh will face a lot of competition in making deals only a few teams are truly out of the race at this point; as Huntington puts it, “this is absolutely a sellers market, at this point in time.”
  • The rising costs of youth baseball has led to fewer young athletes choosing the game, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes.  The Pirates value having versatile players who are able to play multiple positions, and the best fits for this model are those who played baseball and other sports growing up, so they have a larger athletic toolbox.  With more youngsters specializing only in one sport growing up, however, these well-rounded athletes are harder to find.
  • Despite the Reds‘ struggles, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer doesn’t think manager Bryan Price’s job is in jeopardy.  “It would be hard and foolish to fire Bryan Price given all the injuries” the Reds have had to deal with, Fay writes.
  • Most scouts feel that the Reds wouldn’t trade Aroldis Chapman “if push came to shove” and they became deadline sellers, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports.  There hasn’t been any indication that the Reds are willing to deal Chapman, though his name has at least been floated in talks with the Nationals.
  • Also from Cafardo, some scouts following the Reds have mentioned Brandon Phillips, but while he’s having a good season, Cafardo feels the second baseman’s large contract is still a deterrent to a trade.
  • The Padres, White Sox and Indians are three of the many clubs still relatively close to a postseason spot but unsure if they’ll be able to make a legitimate run, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes (Insider subscription required).  San Diego’s situation is particularly tricky given their major winter expenditures and rival evaluators doubt that the Padres would engage in any major sell-off if they continue to struggle.
  • Top Phillies pitching prospect Aaron Nola has been promoted to Triple-A, the club announced earlier today.  Nola, the seventh overall pick of the 2014 draft, posted a 1.88 ERA and 6.56 K/BB rate over 76 2/3 innings at Double-A this season, with the only minor red flag being a middling 6.9 K/9.  At this point, Nola seems well on pace to earn a promotion to the Show late this season.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Reds, A’s, Orioles, Marlins

The Reds are doomed by injuries and an 11.5 game deficit, says FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal in his latest video. However, owner Bob Castellini is not yet ready to concede. The baseball operations staff understands that the club needs to convert veterans and soon-to-be free agents into future talent – they just have to convince their boss.

  • The A’s have performed well by run differential as well as the BaseRuns metric used by FanGraphs. However, they are 13 games below .500 and 10 games back in the AL West. The bullpen is a serious issue. Other clubs are looking to snipe players like Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard. Expect GM Billy Beane to jump on a properly enticing offer.
  • The Orioles have nine impending free agents. They should act as both buyers and sellers at the trade deadline. The club needs a power hitting corner outfield. They could trade a starter like Bud Norris.
  • The Marlins may also look to deal a starter. Jarred Cosart will return from the disabled list soon. Jose Urena or Tom Koehler are candidates to be optioned. However, there will be a surplus once Jose Fernandez returns from Tommy John surgery. At that point, the club could look to trade Dan Haren or Mat Latos. The Marlins are currently nine games below .500 but just six back in a weak NL East.
  • If Cincinnati shops Aroldis Chapman, count the Marlins among the potential suitors. The club is always a fit for Cuban talent. Personally, I’m not sure if Chapman is the best use of Miami’s resources. Reliever A.J. Ramos has ably replaced Steve Cishek as the closer, but he has bouts of wildness in his track record. However, Carter Capps is standing by should Ramos falter.


Nats, Reds Have Discussed Aroldis Chapman Trade

The Nationals and Reds have discussed a trade involving Aroldis Chapman, although no deal appears imminent, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. (In a separate tweet, Morosi characterizes the talks as “very preliminary.”) Earlier today, Morosi wrote that the Nationals were looking for late-inning bullpen help. Chapman would obviously fit the bill, even though the Nats don’t have any specific need for a closer in particular, with Drew Storen performing well.

The 27-year-old Chapman has struggled with his control a bit more this year than in years past, with 5.6 BB/9. As usual, though, his eye-popping stuff and strikeout numbers (14.8 K/9) have been more than enough to paper over any minor control issues. Chapman’s fastball remains otherworldly, clocking in at an average velocity of 99.5 MPH this year, and his slider is very much a plus pitch as well.

Chapman is making $8.05MM this season. He is eligible for free agency after 2016. Given his dominance, he represents a bargain at his current salary. The prospect cost the Reds could command for him ought to be substantial, particularly given that he has a year of control remaining beyond this one.


Quick Hits: Indians, Correa, Astros, Gee, Reds

Here’s the latest from around the league.

  • The Indians aren’t likely to option Jose Ramirez or call up Francisco Lindor, writes Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. As Hoynes puts it, Ramirez often does something to help the team win despite a .184/.252/.245 slash. The club would like to see more from Lindor before considering a promotion. He’s currently hitting .265/.341/.383 at Triple-A. Mike Aviles is stretched thin covering for both Ramirez and third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall. The team could promote utility infield Zach Walters, but there’s no guarantee he would be an upgrade. As such, Ramirez will probably continue to play with regularity.
  • Astros top prospect Carlos Correa could be promoted as soon as their upcoming series against the White Sox, writes Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle. Manager A.J. Hinch spoke with reporters about the importance of being mentally and physically prepared for the majors. With Jed Lowrie sidelined, the club has turned to a combination of Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Villar. The pair have not performed well. Given Houston’s place atop the AL West, there is some pressure to summon Correa. Since his promotion to Triple-A, he’s hitting a restrained .253/.324/.429 in 102 plate appearances.
  • The Astros have the highest bonus pool for the upcoming draft, writes Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. Houston can spend $17,289,200 because they have the second and fifth overall picks. GM Jeff Luhnow aims to have the “best yield” of any club. In the past, the Astros signed Correa to an under-slot contract in order to go over-slot for Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz. They attempted to do the same last year with Brady Aiken and Jacob Nix, but Aiken’s failed physical ruined that plan.
  • The Mets have scrapped their six-man rotation, and Dillon Gee will move to the bullpen, writes Adam Rubin of ESPN. Gee is unhappy with the move. He believes he’ll have less value to the team and on the trade market as a reliever. He’s owed $5.3MM in 2015 and is club controlled through 2016. The club was using a six-man rotation to limit the workloads of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard. New York may also promote Steven Matz at some point. He has a 1.94 ERA with 9.08 K/9 and 3.27 BB/9 in the hitter friendly PCL.
  • The next few weeks will decide if the Reds are deadline sellers, writes Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. The team is currently 23-31 and seven games back from the second Wild Card slot. If the club continues to scuffle, players like Aroldis Chapman, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Jay Bruce could be shopped. Cueto and Leake are free agents at the end of the season.

Quick Hits: Reds, Meyer, Ryu, Arruebarrena

The game is in need of greater minority representation in its most visible non-playing role, that of manager, says Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Heyman lists twenty excellent candidates who ought to receive strong consideration from those clubs that are in need of new dugout leaders after the season.

  • It’s no secret, of course, that Reds pitchers Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman would draw intense interest on the trade market if they are made available. Writing for FOX Sports, Jeff Sullivan analyzes just how much they could bring back this summer. In spite of his excellence, Cueto might most realistically be expected to bring back a very good prospect rather than a great one, says Sullivan, while Chapman probably has somewhat more value given his nearly-unmatched dominance and extra year of control. As Sullivan notes, the possibility of jointly marketing the two in search of more premium talent in less player seems interesting, though perhaps something of a long shot.
  • The Twins have decided to move top-100 pitching prospect Alex Meyer into the Triple-A bullpen, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports. It appears that the team is doing so more with the idea of getting him back on track than preparing him for MLB bullpen work — Meyer has struggled mightily, especially with his control — but it would not be surprising to see him appear as a late-inning arm if he can turn things around and Minnesota can stay in the hunt.
  • Dodgers lefty Hyun-jin Ryu, who is set to miss the rest of the year with shoulder surgery, told reporters that he has been pitching with a labrum tear at least since he signed with the club, as J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group tweets. Ryu says that his MRI back in 2013 revealed the slight tear, which has not worsened — but is apparently now a much greater problem — since that time.
  • Meanwhile, the Dodgers will not attempt to void the contract of infielder Erisbel Arruebarrena, Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com tweets. While the club felt justified in suspending Arruebarrena for the entire rest of the year for disciplinary reasons, Saxon says that the still-unreported transgressions were not considered significant enough to warrant yet more drastic action.

NL East Notes: Nats, Chapman, Duda, Braves

ESPN’s Jayson Stark is picking the Nationals to win the World Series, and his opinion that they’re baseball’s best team is shared by many scouts and executives around the game.  The Nats have depth, playoff experience, an incredible pitching staff and an easy road (on paper) to the postseason since the NL East projects to be a weak division.  Also, with so many major free agents after the year, the Nationals have a great sense of urgency to win in 2015 and will surely be aggressive in filling roster needs throughout the season.  “They have what everyone wants — a ‘now’ team with ingredients they can move if they need to,” one scout told Stark.

Here’s some more from around the NL East…

  • As an example of how aggressive the Nationals could get, Stark heard “a lot” of speculation that they could try to obtain Aroldis Chapman from the Reds at the trade deadline if Drew Storen underachieves as closer.  This would, of course, likely depend on whether or not the Reds are themselves contenders.
  • There’s no progress on extension talks between the Mets and Lucas Duda‘s representatives, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin reports.  The two sides are still talking but have yet Opening Day as the negotiating deadline.
  • No teams are showing any “significant interest” in Mets righty Dillon Gee, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports (via Twitter).
  • The Braves are still considering possible trades, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets, but it seems as if Pedro Ciriaco will make the roster as a backup outfielder.  Ciriaco signed a minor league deal with Atlanta last October and the Braves will have to create a 40-man roster spot for him if he indeed breaks camp with the team.
  • At the moment, the Braves aren’t close to making any trades, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link).

Reds Avoid Arbitration With Aroldis Chapman

9:20am: Chapman settled at an $8.05MM figure, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. That sum is a fairly sizable $375K higher than the midpoint of the two figures, suggesting that the Reds may have been particularly motivated to avoid a hearing.

9:12am: The Reds announced that they have avoided arbitration with closer Aroldis Chapman by agreeing to a one-year deal. The flamethrowing southpaw, projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $8.3MM in 2015, had filed for an $8.7MM salary, while the team had countered at $6.65MM (as shown in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker).

Chapman, who was arbitration eligible for the second time this offseason, enjoyed a characteristically brilliant season out of the bullpen for Cincinnati. Though he missed the beginning of the season after he was struck in the face by a line drive in Spring Training, Chapman showed no negative effects once he was able to take the field. The soon-to-be 27-year-old Relativity Sports client pitched to an even 2.00 ERA with a preposterous 17.7 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 and a 43.5 percent ground-ball rate. Despite the missed time, his 36 saves fell just two shy of his career-high 38 — a total he achieved in both 2012 and 2013.


Central Notes: Royals, Frazier, Chapman, Reds, Indians

The Royals should employ “selective memory” regarding their successful 2014 playoff run, writes Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star. During the Wild Card game, the Royals were just a few outs from elimination against the Athletics. A series of improbable events led to a remarkable comeback victory. Without that first win, Ned Yost would be a punching bag in the media due to questionable decisions, Mike Moustakas would have entered the offseason with another disappointing season on his resume, and Lorenzo Cain would have failed to gain national acclaim. The postseason success also allowed the Royals to bolster their payroll, which should help in 2015.

  • The Reds have two more arbitration players – Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman, writes Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. The club continues to talk to agents of both players in an effort to find a middle ground. Per GM Walt Jocketty, “we’re going to keep working on it this weekend and see if we can make some progress.” Both players have fairly substantial differences in their submitted figures. Frazier asked for $5.7MM compared to the club’s offer of $3.9MM in his first season of eligibility. Chapman’s camp submitted for $8.7MM while the Reds countered at $6.65MM. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected a $4.6MM payday for Frazier and $8.3MM for Chapman.
  • The Reds are “pretty much done” with free agent signings, reports Sheldon. Cincinnati inked reliever Burke Badenhop earlier today and signed former closer Kevin Gregg to a minor league deal. Jocketty left the door open, saying he’ll see if “something pops up,” but it’s unlikely.
  • Patience allowed the Indians to acquire and develop three of their semi-homegrown stars, writes the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto. Michael Brantley was a player to be named later in the 2008 CC Sabathia trade. It took him six seasons to breakout at the major league level. In 2010, Corey Kluber was acquired in a three team trade. As we know, he also took awhile to reach his ceiling. Catcher Yan Gomes is another important trade acquisition for the club. Cleveland sent pitcher Esmil Rogers to Toronto in exchange for Gomes and Mike Aviles. All three players never ranked among the top 100 prospects in the game, and they’re all under club control through at least 2017.

Central Notes: Ramirez, Shields, Reds

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince takes a look at some folks around the league who are, in his view, facing make-or-break seasons. He includes some less obvious names, but two players stand out who could conceivably be All-Stars or become non-tender candidate: Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates and Mike Moustakas of the Royals.

Here are some notes from the game’s Central divisions…

  • The Indians had the team’s defense in mind when they traded Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals at the July 31 non-waiver deadline, manager Terry Francona explains to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link). However, Francona admits that there was some hesitation on Cleveland’s behalf because of how they thought the move would be perceived by fans and the rest of the roster. “…[GM Chris Antonetti] was justifiably concerned about the perception, that we were throwing up the white flag. So we had to kind of decide, ‘OK, look, we believe in what we’re doing and we’ll make sure the players understand that we think we can actually be a better team and get a prospect back.’ I think it took awhile, but once [Jose] Ramirez came up and everybody saw how he played shortstop, they saw why we wanted to make the move. We love Cabby — always will — but we felt we had a chance to get a little bit more athletic at shortstop and you saw the way Jose played.”
  • Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals are still monitoring James Shields‘ free agency, though he notes it’s likely just due diligence. Said general manager Dayton Moore said to McCullough: “I’m not sure there’s a fit.” As McCullough notes in a followup tweet, the Royals have six starting pitchers under contract (including Kris Medlen), and the team’s payroll is already set to top $110MM — a club record.
  • The Reds completed a four-year extension with catcher Devin Mesoraco earlier today that bought out all three of his arbitration seasons and one free agent year, but it doesn’t sound like agreements for the team’s remaining arb-eligible players are close. GM Walt Jocketty told MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that the Reds are “a ways apart” with both Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman (Twitter link). It sounds like Cincinnati may have spoken with Frazier’s agents at CAA about an extension as well, via the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay, but things don’t look promising based on his tweet. Jocketty tells Fay that the Reds talked to Frazier about a new deal, “but we’re not nearly as close as we were with Mesoraco.”