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Former White Sox first-rounder and top prospect Brian Anderson is making one last comeback attempt, he tells MLB.com's Scott Merkin. After trying his luck as a pitcher, the soon-to-be 32-year-old Anderson is looking to catch on as an outfielder once again and believes he's made adjustments that will allow him to succeed. Making those adjustments didn't always come easily, he tells Merkin: "…I was too stubborn to fully commit to making adjustments. That led to my demise and my inconsistency at the plate. I wanted everything that came with the big leagues without having to prove myself." Anderson is hoping for a Spring Training invite with a chance to win a fourth outfielder gig before hitting his way into more playing time. Here's more out of baseball's Central divisions…
- Steph Rogers of Getting Blanked interviewed Twins top pitching prospect Alex Meyer and covered a number of topics ranging from the best advice he's received to the transition to pro ball to the most beneficial aspects of winter ball. Meyer tells Rogers that he treasures the time he's been able to spend with former Reds left-hander Tom Browning in winter ball. Says Meyer of Browning, who pitched a perfect game in 1988: "If I can continue to pick his brain for the limited time I have left, it would be so beneficial."
- New Cardinals center fielder Peter Bourjos told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he wasn't surprised to be traded by the Angels this offseason. Bourjos told Hummel that one of his goals with the Cards is to steal 40 bases, adding that it will depend on how he swings the bat because he knows drawing walks is not one of his strengths.
- MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tackles a number of trade Indians scenarios in his latest Inbox piece but ultimately concludes that Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Masterson and Lonnie Chisenhall will all be in the organization come Opening Day (though he doesn't believe Chisenhall will start at third base).
- Earlier today, I ran down several NL Central notes, including pieces on Kolten Wong, Mark Reynolds and several Cubs topics.
Of all the baseball news that broke in 2013, the story of how David Murphy's contract with the Indians became public has to be the most unique. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer relates how Murphy and the Tribe had agreed to terms but were keeping the deal under wraps until it was finalized…only to have Murphy's five-year-old daughter spill the beans to her kindergarten class during a lesson about Thanksgiving. “She was in preschool and they were learning about Pilgrims and Indians,” Murphy told reporters last month. “She spoke up that her dad was going to the Indians. Obviously, the word spreads quickly because of social media. It’s not the best situation, but it’s a good story to tell her when she gets older.”
Here's some more Tribe-related notes from Hoynes, as part of a reader mailbag…
- The Indians don't have any current interest in Jake Westbrook, who pitched in Cleveland from 2001-10. Westbrook hit free agency after the Cardinals bought out his 2014 option but it's been a pretty quiet winter of rumors about the veteran right-hander. Hoynes reported in October that the Tribe would "keep an eye" on Westbrook but nothing seems to have come of that interest. Westbrook, 36, posted a 4.63 ERA in 116 2/3 IP with the Cardinals last season and had trouble missing bats, as he recorded only 44 strikeouts (against 50 walks).
- A right-handed power bat isn't high on the club's priority list as the Indians are focused on adding pitching.
- Hoynes figures the Indians will post a $20MM bid for Masahiro Tanaka since they "have nothing to lose" in doing so, given that only the team that signs Tanaka has to pay the $20MM posting fee. While the Indians may check on the Japanese righty, however, Hoynes thinks larger-market teams will offer Tanaka a much bigger contract offer.
- Hoynes thinks Ubaldo Jimenez will end up signing with the Blue Jays, Diamondbacks or Yankees. The Tanaka signing could affect this prediction as the latter two teams are known to be heavily interested in Tanaka and Toronto will likely be interested as well.
- Francisco Lindor is only likely to see time as a September callup, and that's only if the Indians' star prospect rebounds from a 2013 back injury and impresses in his first taste of Double-A and Triple-A baseball. Lindor's progress will also naturally impact the Tribe's future decision on Asdrubal Cabrera, who will be a free agent next winter. Cleveland is known to be listening to trade offers for Cabrera, who is coming off a down year in 2013.
10:41am: Despite their need for a shortstop, the Mets aren't in on Cabrera, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (on Twitter).
TUESDAY, 10:32am: The Indians are also willing to listen on Asdrubal Cabrera, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links). As Morosi notes, Cleveland has a potential franchise shortstop on the horizon in Francisco Lindor. Their willingness to shop Cabrera isn't surprising given Lindor's presence, Cabrera's $10MM salary in 2014 and the fact that Cabrera slumped to a .242/.299/.402 batting line in 2013.
MONDAY: The Indians are open to fielding Justin Masterson trade pitches, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Rosenthal reports that Cleveland will listen on Masterson, with the idea of targeting players that would remain under team control for more years.
Masterson, 28, enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career in 2013, posting a 3.45 ERA and 9.1 K/9 in 32 outings (29 starts) for the Indians. However, he's entering his final arbitration-eligible season, meaning he'll likely earn between $9-10MM in 2014, based on Matt Swartz's projections. Masterson will also be eligible for free agency a year from now, so the Indians will have to decide soon whether or not he'll be part of the club's long-term plan.
Baseball America's Matt Eddy provided a breakdown of the minor trade that went down earlier in the week that saw the Twins ship Duke Welker back to the Pirates in exchange for Kris Johnson. Johnson has an above-average two- and four-seam fastball that sits in the low 90s, but his breaking pitches are average at best, says Eddy. One bonus for the Twins is that Johnson has three minor league options remaining, while Welker has just one. Here's more on the Twins and the rest of the AL Central…
- The Twins were interested in free agent/reclamation project Grady Sizemore at one point, but they've moved on from Sizemore, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (Twitter link).
- ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that the Royals have had internal discussions about acquiring Brett Anderson from the Athletics. An Anderson acquisition would be a somewhat similar move to GM Dayton Moore's decision to buy low on Ervin Santana in a trade last October. Unlike Santana, however, the Royals could control Anderson for two years, as his contract contains a $12MM option for 2015.
- White Sox southpaw Hector Santiago told the Chicago Tribune's Colleen Kane that the summer trades of Jake Peavy and Matt Thornton taught him that any player can get traded. Santiago said he tries not to worry about hearing his name in rumors. He added that he hopes Chicago's decision to shut him down after 130 innings is an indication that they're protecting his arm so he can throw 200 innings in 2014.
- The Indians will listen to offers on Asdrubal Cabrera this winter, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer in his latest mailbag. Hoynes adds that any trading the team does will likely prioritize getting pitching in return, and the team would like to add a free agent starting pitcher. Hoynes lists Bartolo Colon and Jake Westbrook as speculative possibilities.
A few items from around the AL Central…
- After making a big push to contend in 2013, the Royals need to be willing to raise payroll to put the team over the top next season, Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star opines. "If there was ever a time the Royals had both the resources and motivation to make a push for the short-term, this is it," Mellinger writes.
- The Indians won't move Asdrubal Cabrera this offseason, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer predicts during his podcast with Dan Labbe. Shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor isn't ready and is coming off a significant back injury, and Mike Aviles is a better fit for the Tribe as a bench player. Cabrera hit only .242/.299/.402 in 562 PA in 2013 and will be a free agent following the 2014 season.
- "There is so much focus on the offense, but it’ll be interesting to see how the Tribe approaches upgrading its defense this winter," MLB.com's Jordan Bastian writes in an examination of the Indians' fielding numbers. Cleveland had a team UZR/150 of -4.5 in 2013, the fifth-worst UZR/150 of any club in baseball.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn told reporters (including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune) that he'd like to get his team back on the winning track as quickly as the Red Sox did from 2012 to 2013 but that might not involve mining the free agent market as much as Boston did. "There's not going to be a free agent — premium or otherwise — who we don't view as helping us that we won't check in on at least….We're not ruling anything out. But the options in the free-agent market probably won't be quite as robust as some trade opportunities," Hahn said. The bigger-picture plan for Hahn is to build from within rather than just pursue "short-term fixes."
- In AL Central news from earlier today, White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham is drawing trade interest from the Blue Jays, and the Tigers will not be re-signing free agent catcher Brayan Pena.
C.C. Sabathia's deal with the Yankees could turn out to be an ugly one, Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com writes. "That contract might not be a disaster of A-Rod-ian proportions, but unless Sabathia finds a way to turn it all round, it might turn out to be the next-worst thing," Matthews writes. Sabathia has three years left on his contract, plus a vesting option for 2017 that the Yankees can avoid only if Sabathia has a left shoulder injury. All told, the Yankees are likely to be on the hook for $96MM after this season. Sabathia's season arguably isn't as bad as his 4.81 ERA makes it look — his peripherals are indicative of ERA about a run lower. But his declining velocity is a serious concern. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- The Red Sox's huge trade of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the Dodgers one year ago gave them the payroll flexibility to acquire Ryan Dempster, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, Koji Uehara, and Jonny Gomes, Scott Miller of CBS Sports writes. But that doesn't mean the Dodgers are unhappy with their end of the deal — Miller notes that it "changed the path of both franchises." Miller also quotes Dodgers manager Don Mattingly noting that his team likely would have pursued Victorino (for whom they had traded in July 2012) as a free agent if they hadn't acquired Crawford.
- The trade also gave the Sox the flexibility to acquire Jake Peavy, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal notes. Peavy's matchup against Chris Capuano on Sunday reminds MacPherson that the Red Sox made a "desperate attempt" to acquire Capuano from the Mets in 2011. The talent gap between Peavy and Capuano is significant, and MacPherson argues that the trade with the Dodgers made the difference in acquiring Peavy this time.
- There will be interest in Asdrubal Cabrera and Chris Perez this offseason if the Indians want to trade them, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. Cabrera has struggled this season, hitting .237/.292/.389, and he's set to make $10MM in the last year of his contract in 2014. Perez, meanwhile, is set to earn a raise in arbitration on his $7.3MM 2013 salary before becoming a free agent after 2014. His pitching hasn't been stellar in 2013 — he has a 3.30 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. Hoynes may be right that the Indians could deal Perez if they wanted to. For example, the Red Sox's offseason trade for Joel Hanrahan, a pitcher with a similar salary and contract situation, perhaps shows that teams are always willing to deal for an established closer. But that deal also demonstrates just how volatile closers can be, and Perez has never been dominant in the way Hanrahan once was.
- As the August trade deadline approaches, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak says that his team is unlikely to make a trade, Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch tweets. That makes it unlikely that the Cards will wind up with Dan Haren of the Nationals. The Cardinals recently lost Jake Westbrook to injury and have replaced him in the rotation with Tyler Lyons, at least for now.
Justin Verlander and Yu Darvish face off in a marquee pitching matchup tonight in Arlington when the Tigers play the Rangers in a battle of AL division leaders. Detroit could lose the AL Central lead with a loss, as the idle Indians are only a half-game out of first place.
Here's the latest from around the AL Central…
- There hasn't yet been any talk of the Indians pursuing an extension with Mark Reynolds, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian writes in a reader mailbag. Reynolds signed a one-year, $6MM contract with the Tribe in December and is enjoying a big season, hitting .271/.362/.581 and sitting tied for American League home run lead with 11 long balls. Bastian suggests that Reynolds is likely to test the free agent market in order to capitalize on his comeback year. Reynolds recently cracked Tim Dierkes' 2014 free agent power rankings, clocking in at the #9 position.
- Also from Bastian, Francisco Lindor has been on fire in Class A ball but the Indians shortstop prospect isn't expected to be in the Major Leagues until next season at the absolute earliest. In order words, Asdrubal Cabrera is unlikely to be on the trade block anytime soon. Though Cabrera is off to a slow start, it makes little sense for Cleveland to move one of their key regulars if they're in a pennant race.
- If the White Sox become sellers before the trade deadline, Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago thinks Chris Sale might be the only untouchable player on the roster. Even Jake Peavy, who signed a two-year extension (albeit without a no-trade clause) with Chicago last October, could potentially be dealt for a big haul of prospects.
- Twins minor league outfielder Joe Benson is in danger of losing his 40-man roster spot, 1500 ESPN Twin Cities Phil Mackey speculates. Benson was ranked by Baseball America as the 99th-best prospect in the sport prior to the 2012 season, but the 25-year-old has struggled badly since.
- From earlier today on MLBTR, we heard that the Tigers were looking for relief pitching.
Red Sox principal owner John Henry has no intention of selling the team, he says in a wide-ranging interview with Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald. "I’ve not had one partner in 11 years suggest thinking about selling the Red Sox, even though they haven’t received dividends," he says. Henry also defends club president and CEO Larry Lucchino, saying Lucchino "revolutionized the game" with the building of Camden Yards in Baltimore, and adding that Lucchino's focus on revenue is critical to the Red Sox maintaining a high payroll. Henry also suggests that Lucchino will one day be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Here are more notes from around the majors.
- The Cubs' trade of Sean Marshall to the Reds for Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt and minor-leaguer Ronald Torreyes might turn out well for Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times suggests. Sappelt performed well in a brief big-league stint last year and will break camp with the team, and Wood made 26 starts for the Cubs in 2012. "I think it could turn out to be a good trade," Sappelt says. "I think it already is a good trade, and I’ll get to face Marshall a lot, so we’ll see." Wittenmyer also says the Cubs are unlikely to pursue Chone Figgins or Bill Hall for their bench.
- Asdrubal Cabrera could be dealt if the Indians have a bad season, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. After an offseason in which Cabrera's name was connected with the Trevor Bauer deal, however, there are no trade rumors regarding Cabrera right now. Pluto also notes that Cabrera could receive more off days this season, thanks to the addition of Mike Aviles.
"[Aroldis] Chapman stands to lose millions of dollars by committing himself to a relief role," writes ESPN's Buster Olney in his latest column (Insider subscription required). The fact that Chapman likes closing enough to risk these future riches, however, makes Olney think the Reds are making the right move by keeping Chapman in the bullpen as the club pursues a World Series title. "Chapman doesn't have a plow horse's show-me-the-direction approach; he's known to be a complicated guy, and if he were to fight [starting] internally all year, it would be a mess," Olney says.
Here are some more items from Olney…
- Rival executives think Asdrubal Cabrera will be on the trade block if the Indians get off to a slow start. Olney speculates that the Dodgers could be players for Cabrera in the wake of Hanley Ramirez's thumb injury, though for now the Dodgers are satisfied to use internal options on the left side of their infield.
- The Tigers "have not made a single specific proposal to another team, asking for a particular player" in exchange for Rick Porcello. Detroit has told teams that they will listen to offers for the right-hander but only in exchange for Major League players, not prospects. Several teams have been linked to Porcello, with the Padres and Rangers showing the most recent interest.
- "Nothing is close" between the Giants and Buster Posey on a long-term extension. We heard earlier this week that the two sides were still deciding the length of the possible new contract. Olney believes that Joey Votto's recent extension with the Reds could be a model for Posey's new deal since Posey is athletic enough to handle playing third base or first base later his career.
Indians CEO Paul Dolan explains his team's thought process following a 68-94 season in 2012 and says that a total rebuild was not an option, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. "None of us wanted to think about tearing it down. Our goal is to put together a team to win a World Series. Another goal is to avoid 20 years of losing, which some smaller-market teams have endured." The Indians did trade outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, but rather than also dealing veterans like Asdrubal Cabrera, Chris Perez and Justin Masterson, the team spent heavily on free agents like Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher. Here are more notes from Pluto's interview with Dolan.
- Dolan expresses "a high degree of confidence" in team president Mark Shapiro and GM Chris Antonetti, even though the Indians haven't had a winning season since 2007.
- Dolan also confirms that the Indians offered a four-year, $43MM deal to outfielder Shane Victorino, who ended up going to the Red Sox for three years and $39MM.
- Dolan says he didn't want to worry much about the possibility of Bourn's four-year, $48MM deal turning out badly, but the Indians' history with long-term contracts gives him pause. "We've not had good luck with some of our longer deals," he says. That includes pacts with Travis Hafner, Jake Westbrook and Kerry Wood.
- Pluto notes that season-ticket sales are up since the signings of Bourn and Swisher, but Dolan says that the Indians "will lose money" in 2013. Dolan views the team's offseason spending splurge as an investment in its future.