Atlanta Braves Rumors

Atlanta Braves trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

East Notes: Price, Lester, Howard, Papelbon, Mets, Braves

All eyes were on Tampa, where David Price of the Rays and Jon Lester of the Red Sox are squared off in a match-up of top starting pitchers — and top potential trade pieces. And that includes many top scouts around the game, as several reports suggest. At least 17 clubs had eyes in the stands, tweets Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. That includes two each for the Royals, Giants, and Pirates. A scout from the Phillies was also on hand — according to a tweet from Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com, he is the club’s top evaluator — though presumably not for the two starters. Other teams with “top evaluators” watching, presumably with a variety of possible motives, included the Braves, Orioles, Mariners, Cubs, and Nationals, says Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Of course, it remains to be seen whether either of the two lefties is shopped, but the ramifications of the decisions of their respective clubs will obviously be widespread.

Here’s more from the game’s eastern divisions:

  • In comments after the game, Lester said that he is “aware of what’s coming next week,” referring to the possibility of deals, reports Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com (via Twitter). If he does end up being shipped out, Lester said that he would still be open to re-signing with the team as a free agent.
  • The Red Sox-Lester situation remains a complicated one, as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com explains. Boston’s decision-makers have clearly put out the word through the press that the club wanted to re-start extension negotiations, but were told that was not Lester’s preference. Meanwhile, sources tell Bradford that Lester’s camp would be willing to talk if the Sox came in with a realistic starting point. The underlying tension appears to be the basis for the notion that the fading club could consider dealing its best arm. If that does not happen, Bradford suggests that the team may intend to pursue a strategy it has employed in the past: make a larger offer after evaluating things in the offseason that falls shy of other open-market bids, banking on the player desiring to continue playing in Boston.
  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. expanded on his comments regarding first baseman Ryan Howard, as Todd Zolecki of MLBcom reports on Twitter“I fully expect him to be our first baseman next year,” said Amaro.
  • Meanwhile, the Phillies have told teams that they are willing to hold on to some of the $18MM still owed to closer Jonathan Papelbon, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. While there is still some market for Papelbon, Heyman says it does not look strong. His $13MM vesting clause for 2016, in particular, is a looming threat that would seem to complicate any deal.
  • The Mets are not engaged in any “substantive talks” at present, reports Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com (via Twitter). Of course, as Rubin notes, that does not mean that chatter won’t pick up in the coming days.
  • There were two injury updates today for the Braves, both via Joe Morgan of MLB.com. Southpaw Jonny Venters is making progress and is expected to begin throwing bullpen sessions soon. It still seems that he is a ways off, however, and manager Fredi Gonzalez made clear that the club is not yet counting on a return this season. Meanwhile, starter Gavin Floyd is also moving forward in his recovery from a fracture in his elbow, but Gonzalez says he will not even be evaluated again for a month. Needless to say, Atlanta does not seem destined to receive a surprise, late-season comeback from Floyd, who will be a free agent after the season.

East Notes: Lee, Hamels, Braves, Price, Orioles

There were plenty of scouts on hand for the Phillies‘ matchup tonight, as ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (links to Twitter). Among the players presumably being eyed were starter Cliff Lee, fresh off a lengthy DL stint, and southpaw reliever Antonio Bastardo. Clubs with representatives on-hand included the Tigers, Blue Jays, Orioles, Brewers, Angels, Royals, Giants, Rangers, Diamondbacks, Pirates, and Mariners, though Crasnick adds that all were not necessarily looking at Lee in particular. The return start for Lee did not go well for the veteran lefty, as he surrendered 12 base hits (11 singles and one long ball) and six earned runs to go with three strikeouts and a walk over 5 2/3 innings.

Here’s more from the game’s eastern divisions:

  • The Phillies are telling clubs that starter Cole Hamels is not available, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports on Twitter. Hamels looks to be the best trade piece on the club’s current MLB roster, but Philadelphia may well prefer to keep the 30-year-old as it attempts to avoid a total rebuild.
  • The Yankees appear on Lee’s twenty-team no-trade list, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Lee also listed New York on last year’s version of his slate of clubs to which he can decline to be dealt.
  • For the Braves, the trade deadline is likely to bring aid to the bullpen and bench, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. A left-handed reliever has long been on the club’s list, and Bowman says that the club might also look to add a bench bat that would improve the team’s anemic pinch-hitting results. As Bowman notes, Jordan Schafer and Ryan Doumit have both largely been ineffective in that role.
  • The Rays now seem more likely than ever to take the decision whether to deal David Price right up until the trade deadline, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post“I think they take it down to the wire,” an executive told Sherman. “That allows them to make sure they know who they are while making a couple teams sweat to the end that one of their competitors are going to get him. … It wouldn’t surprise me if Price actually ends up a July 31 decision.”
  • Meanwhile, the Orioles are looking at a broad array of options to bolster their club, reports MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli. In particular, the club is looking at both starting and relief arms, and has indicated to at least three clubs that righty Miguel Gonzalez could be moved. One of those teams is the Padres, who of course hold one of the better available starters in Ian Kennedy. A.J. Burnett of the Phillies is also on Baltimore’s radar, as is Jorge De La Rosa of the Rockies, though Ghiroli says that Colorado was asking for top prospect Kevin Gausman to be included. Manager Buck Showalter indicated that executive vice president Dan Duquette remains hesitant to part with the club’s best prospects, and could ultimately take things down to the wire to get the right deal. (That, of course, was the strategy that Baltimore employed in this year’s free agent market, though last year the club started buying somewhat early at the deadline.)

Relief Market Notes: Buyers, Red Sox, Tigers, Phils, Cubs, Cishek

As usual, the relief market promises to be active in the coming days. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports via Twitter, one executive with a reliever to shop cited the Tigers, Indians, Orioles, Blue Jays, Braves, Brewers, Giants, Dodgers, and Pirates as clubs that are in the market.

Here’s more on possible pen moves:

  • While many teams have interest in shoring up their bullpens, many top relief targets might not ultimately be moved, Rosenthal also tweets. He names Koji Uehara (Red Sox), Joakim Soria (Rangers), and Joaquin Benoit (Padres) as quality late-inning hurlers who could stay put.
  • The Red Sox have received plenty of interest in both Uehara and southpaw setup man Andrew Miller, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, but the pair is not going to be dealt at this point given the club’s recent winning streak, which reached five games tonight.
  • Among the most active buyers are the Tigers, who have scouted virtually all the available arms, tweets ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick. Detroit is showing interest in Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets, though the team is indeed keeping its eye on a wide variety of possibilities. That includes fellow Philly Jonathan Papelbon, adds Morosi.
  • After shipping out their top two targets, the Cubs are receiving the most hits on lefty James Russell, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Two other pen pieces — southpaw Wesley Wright and swingman Carlos Villanueva — are also “in play,” says Wittenmyer.
  • Marlins closer Steve Cishek is a recent addition to the rumor mill, though MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro says that Miami has told opposing clubs that they do not intend to deal the righty. The 28-year-old comes with three more years of control through arbitration, though he’ll be well-paid after taking home $3.8MM as a Super Two. Meanwhile, with the Fish hoping to make a run at extending star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton after the season, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald cites a source who tells him that shipping out Cishek could have a negative impact on that effort.


Minor Moves: Shackelford, Valdespin, Shreve

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here.

  • The Brewers (via MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy on Twitter) have announced that pitcher Kevin Shackelford has been outrighted to Double-A Huntsville. The Brewers designated Shackelford for assignment when they claimed Irving Falu earlier this week. Shackelford pitched well this year for Class A+ Brevard County but has struggled at Huntsville, posting a 6.35 ERA with 3.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 28 1/3 innings there.
  • The Marlins announce that they’ve selected the contract of IF/OF Jordany Valdespin, optioned Justin Bour to Triple-A New Orleans, and moved Rafael Furcal to the 60-day disabled list. After a poor 2013 season with the Mets, Valdespin signed a minor league deal with the Marlins, then hit .270/.374/.437 in 265 plate appearances at New Orleans.
  • The Braves have purchased the contract of lefty Chasen Shreve from Double-A Mississippi and optioned Luis Avilan to Triple-A Gwinnett, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution tweets. The Braves have struggled with lefty relief, and Shreve posted a 2.48 ERA with 12.6 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 at Double-A.
  • The Tigers have released catcher Ronny Paulino, according to MiLB.com. Paulino had appeared in 13 games for Triple-A Toledo in 2013 before receiving a 100-game PED suspension this offseason. He has not yet played this season. The former Pirates starting catcher has also appeared in the big leagues with the Marlins, Mets and Orioles, last playing in the Majors in 2012.
  • The Tigers announced that they have purchased the contract of P Drew VerHagen, who is slated to start one game in Saturday’s doubleheader against the Indians. To clear space for VerHagen on their 40-man roster, the Tigers moved reliever Joel Hanrahan to the 60-day DL. VerHagen, a fourth-round draft pick in 2012, had pitched 110 1/3 innings for Triple-A Toledo, posting a 3.67 ERA, 5.1 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9.

NL East Notes: Mets, Braves, Uggla, Lee, Marlins

The Mets haven’t decided whether they’ll be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, Mike Puma of the New York Post writes. “I think the last 10 games were important because they make the next 10 games relevant to what happens at the [July 31] trade deadline,” said GM Sandy Alderson before Friday’s win over the Padres. “[C]ertainly the last 10 games have to make us a little more optimistic.” The Mets are seven games back in the NL East and 6 1/2 games out of a Wild Card spot after taking nine of their last 11. Here are more notes from the NL East.

  • Alderson seems to be leaning more towards buying, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo tweets. “Sometimes you’ve gotta believe, right? This is a time,” Alderson says.
  • The Braves aren’t actively trying to upgrade their starting rotation right now, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweets. That means they probably won’t pursue Rays ace David Price.
  • The Braves are desperate to rid themselves of outfielder B.J. Upton, a GM tells Peter Gammons (via Twitter). Upton has hit .215/.277/.343 in 388 plate appearances this season, and the Braves still owe him over $50MM through 2017.
  • The Braves will continue to pay recently released infielder Dan Uggla through 2019, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes (via Twitter). Uggla has a deferred signing bonus that means he’ll be paid $250K per year between 2016 and 2019. Of course, they also owe him $13MM in 2015.
  • Cliff Lee will rejoin the Phillies‘ rotation Monday night against the Giants, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. “I feel strong and I feel good and I’m ready to try to help the team win,” says Lee. That will only give Lee two starts before the end of July, but if the Phillies are going to move him, Salisbury points out that they could trade him in August as a waiver deal, or after the season. In any case, Salisbury writes that the Phillies want a serious return for Lee.
  • The Marlins say they won’t trade “key pieces,” Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald writes. It’s unclear exactly what that might mean, but the Marlins’ key pieces surely include Giancarlo Stanton. Spencer believes the Marlins are very concerned about avoiding last place, which likely also means that any number of other players could be off-limits as well.

Braves Release Dan Uggla

2:05pm: The Braves announced that they have officially released Uggla (Twitter link).

1:40pm: The Braves will release embattled second baseman Dan Uggla, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post (via Twitter).

Dan Uggla

The 34-year-old Uggla’s tenure with the Braves came to a rocky end, to say the least, as the former All-Star slugger’s bat has eroded over the past few seasons. Dating back to Opening Day 2013, Uggla is hitting just .175/.295/.332 with a 31 percent strikeout rate. However, Uggla still has about $5.2MM remaining on this year’s $13MM salary before earning $13MM next year, which likely made the Braves reluctant to cut ties, as they hoped to salvage some value from those years. The Uggla saga has been an ongoing source of frustration for many Braves fans, even after Uggla lost the vast majority of his playing time to young second baseman Tommy La Stella.

Originally acquired from the Marlins in exchange for Mike Dunn and Omar Infante, Uggla quickly signed a five-year, $62MM extension with the Braves. While he cracked 36 homers in his first year in Atlanta and batted .233/.311/.453, things went south quickly from that point forth. Uggla’s power faded in the second half of an otherwise fairly typical season in 2012, leaving him with a .220/.348/.384 triple-slash.

Overall, Uggla will spend only three and a half seasons of his five-year deal with the Braves, and his time in Atlanta will conclude with a .209/.317/.391 line. Baseball-Reference pegs his time with the Braves at 2.5 WAR, while Fangraphs is more fond of his first two years with the club and values him at 5.3 WAR. Either way, the contract certainly didn’t pan out the way that Braves GM Frank Wren had hoped it would.

As for next steps for Uggla, he’ll first have to clear release waivers — which should be no problem given his remaining salary — before he is free to sign with a new club. Any team could then roll the dice on Uggla for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum. Teams with a need at second base might be open to such a minimal financial risk. The Reds could use a second baseman with Brandon Phillips on the disabled list. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays, Giants and A’s have been linked to the second base market for quite some time as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Bowden On Price, Hamels, Byrd, Angels, A’s, Reds, More

ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Insider subscription required and recommended) offers a bounty of information on the trade market as we draw to within two weeks of the deadline. While you’ll want to give the piece a full read, here are some of the many highlights:

  • The Rays are in no hurry to deal ace David Price, and some possible trade partners increasingly believe that he will not change hands before the deadline. The club still wants to see if a post-season run remains possible; though the club sits 9.5 games back at the break, the division does still look somewhat vulnerable. If Tampa does look to move Price, arguably the best potential trade chip in baseball, it will demand more in return than the Cubs received for Jeff Samardzija — who, you may recall, was the key piece in a package that brought back one of the game’s elite prospects in Addison Russell. Needless to say, Price is a rare commodity, especially given his additional season of control, and his potential absence from the market (combined with the A’s early strike for two other top starters) could have interesting repercussions.
  • One player whose trade attention would potentially rise if Price stays put is Cole Hamels of the Phillies, who of course has plenty of value regardless. Bowden says that GMs around the league get the sense that Philadelphia will be very hesitant to move their star lefty, however. (Fellow top southpaw Cliff Lee, meanwhile, looks more and more a potential August trade piece.)
  • Ultimately, while the Phillies will not conduct a true fire sale, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has indicated through conversations with his peers that the club is prepared to sell. Outfielder Marlon Byrd is the most likely to go, says Bowden, though his contract presents some complications. While the Mariners are interested in him, Bowden says that the recent free agent signee will ask that the club guarantee his $8MM option for 2016, which Seattle is not currently willing to do. The Royals could also make sense as a partner, but also appear on Byrd’s four-team no-trade list and do not want to take on that level of mid-term commitment. It would appear that Byrd’s representatives at ACES advised their client well in selecting the relatively paltry number of teams to which he could refuse a trade.
  • Angels owner Arte Moreno has enabled GM Jerry Dipoto to be aggressive in trade talks, says Bowden. In addition to Huston Street and Ian Kennedy (read more on them here), the Halos have asked the Padres about righty Tyson Ross, though the Super Two hurler is unlikely to be moved. Indeed, now in the midst of his second consecutive season of high-end production, the 27-year-old starter (and his three remaining years of control) would require a significant return.
  • The Athletics remain aggressive on the second base market, with GM Billy Beane also said to be exploring more creative means of improving his club. Oakland is not inclined to deal away shortstop prospect Daniel Robertson after moving their top prospect, says Bowden, with the club’s internal evaluators believing that he could have as much future value as the more-hyped Russell.
  • The Reds are still looking to add a hitter, with Ben Zobrist of the Rays making a perfect match on paper given his positional flexibility and the club’s current injury situation. (Of course, the same could be said of several other clubs.) With Josh Willingham of the Twins set to hit free agency, he has also been looked at by Cincinnati.
  • Bowden provides several other interesting notes. Among them: the Braves have canvassed the market for a southpaw reliever and could be interested in James Russell of the Cubs and Oliver Perez of the Diamondbacks. The Dodgers will likely add a starter. The Cardinals are planning to scout Twins‘ catcher Kurt Suzuki as they assess things behind the plate. And the Giants remain interested in a second base addition in the event that Marco Scutaro cannot stay healthy and productive.

Quick Hits: Urias, Braves, Burnett, McCutchen

17-year-old Dodgers lefty Julio Urias wowed observers at the Futures Game, leading to chatter about the possibility that he could make his big-league debut as soon as next year, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports writes. “This guy’s got the ability to pitch in the big leagues at 18,” says Dodgers scouting director Logan White. That doesn’t mean the Dodgers will promote Urias that soon — he’s currently at Class A+ Rancho Cucamonga, and he’s only pitched 52 1/3 innings because the Dodgers are concerned about overworking him. But his stuff (he can touch 97 MPH) and composure are impressive beyond his years. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • The Braves badly need lefty bullpen help and particularly like the Red SoxAndrew Miller, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Luis Avilan‘s struggles on Sunday are an example of the problems the Braves have had, O’Brien writes — Avilan entered in a 10-4 game in the eighth and faced three batters, giving up a single and two walks. By the time the inning was over, it was 10-7, and a blowout had suddenly become a save situation. Miller, who has struck out 14.4 batters per nine innings for Boston this season, would be a big upgrade. The Braves also like James Russell and Wesley Wright of the Cubs, O’Brien writes.
  • The Braves should release second baseman Dan Uggla, writes Mark Bradley of the Journal-Constitution. The $19MM the Braves owe Uggla through 2015 is a “sunken cost,” and the Braves won’t be able to find a team willing to trade for him. Uggla is hitting an execrable .162/.241/.231 in 145 plate appearances this season. Uggla received only 15 plate appearances in June and only has three so far in July. The Braves also suspended him for a game on Sunday for being late arriving at Wrigley Field Saturday.
  • A.J. Burnett wants to stay with the Phillies, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes. “I’m not a guy who looks for an out or wants to get out because things aren’t going the right way,” says Burnett. “If that happens, then it happens, but I’m not looking to move on. This is my team.” Burnett has a limited no-trade clause, and says he isn’t sure how he would respond if the Phillies asked him to waive it.
  • The rash of pitcher injuries this season might affect the salaries of free-agents-to-be like Max Scherzer and Jon Lester, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Recent injuries to Masahiro Tanaka and C.C. Sabathia and the questionable or disappointing contracts of pitchers like Justin Verlander and Johan Santana show how risky long-term deals for star pitchers can be. Scherzer and Lester have performed well this season, but other pitchers’ recent histories might affect the market this winter.
  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington wants Andrew McCutchen to be a Pirate for life, although he’s realistic about how difficult McCutchen will be to keep, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. “We truly hope Andrew McCutchen retires as a Pirate. That is going to be incredibly challenging to do, but that is our long-term goal,” says Huntington. The Bucs already control McCutchen through 2018 at bargain rates — his yearly salary through his age-31 season never exceeds $14.5MM.

Braves Suspend Dan Uggla For One Game

1:38pm: Gonzalez expects Uggla to be with the Braves on Friday when play resumes after the All-Star break, tweets O’Brien.

11:44am: The Braves have issued a one-game suspension to Dan Uggla, the team announced.  Triple-A second baseman Phil Gosselin was known to be getting a promotion prior to today’s game, and he’ll take Uggla’s spot on the roster in a corresponding move.  Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez declined to comment on the specifics of the suspension but David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution hears it was due to tardiness, as Uggla reportedly arrived to the ballpark only an hour before the start of Saturday’s game. (Twitter links).

Uggla has seen barely any action since losing his starting job to Tommy La Stella, and O’Brien speculated yesterday that with Gosselin on the way up, the Braves could have designated Ugggla for assignment today.  The suspension gives Atlanta a bit of extra time to decide what they’re going with Uggla over the long run, as the club still owes him approximately $5.42MM for the remainder of this season and $13MM in 2015.

The second baseman hasn’t lived up to expectations since the Braves acquired him from the Marlins in November 2010 and he signed a five-year, $62MM extension two months later.  Uggla has a .209/.317/.391 slash line and 79 homers over 1984 PA as a Brave and he’s seen his role decrease as his output has declined — he was left off Atlanta’s playoff roster last fall and his starting job was usurped by La Stella and Tyler Pastornicky.  Today’s suspension is the clearest sign yet that Uggla’s time with the club is about to end and the Braves will have to eat the remainder of Uggla’s contract.

Edward Creech contributed to this post.


Braves Sign Yenier Bello

JULY 12: Bello finally has his visa and is en route to Orlando, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets.

MARCH 3: Bello received a $400K signing bonus and an invite to big league Spring Training, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes (Twitter link).

MARCH 1: The Braves are completing a minor league deal with Cuban catcher Yenier Bello, an industry source tells Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The contract includes a signing bonus and a Spring Training invitation.

Bello has reportedly drawn interest from as many as 20 MLB clubs. Terms of the agreement aren’t yet known, but the 29-year-old wasn’t expected to command a contract in the same range as recent Cuban signees such as Jose Dariel Abreu and Yasiel Puig. Bello is older than 23 and has more than three years of pro experience, so he won’t count against the Braves’ international spending limit.

In Cuba’s Serie Nacional in 2011, Bello hit .274 and slugged 13 homers over the season’s 90-game schedule, so he’s expected to bring some power to the backstop position. Sanchez writes that he’s likely to begin the season in the minor leagues, however. Evan Gattis currently projects as the starting catcher for the Braves, who also have Gerald Laird under contract for 2014.