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MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki runs down a number of decisions with which the Phillies are faced in the coming offseason and examines some of the perceived problems on the roster. Sources have indicated to Zolecki that despite manager Ryne Sandberg’s desire to play Darin Ruf more often at first base, the Phils feel they need to let Ryan Howard play if they have any hope of moving him to an AL club this winter. Zolecki adds that while Sandberg would like to learn more about Ruf via extra playing time, the organization feels it knows that Ruf is a platoon player — a view shared by other clubs as well.
Here’s more from the NL East…
- Despite the common belief that the Mets should move Bartolo Colon this offseason, Ben Berkon of SNY.tv’s MetsBlog opines that the pitching-rich Mets should at least consider the possibility of moving a different starter such as Jon Niese. While Colon could potentially net some minor league pieces to help out in 2017-18, flipping Niese and his desirable contract (but oft-questionable health status) could bring the Mets more immediate help. Berkon speculates that Niese — perhaps paired with prospects Noah Syndergaard, Kevin Plawecki and/or Rafael Montero — could allow the Mets to land an impact bat that the Mets have been lacking despite strong seasons from Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda.
- The acquisition of Asdrubal Cabrera has helped the Nationals not only on the field but in the clubhouse as well, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. Manager Matt Williams offered nothing but praise for Cabrera’s professionalism, and shortstop Ian Desmond said he strives to live up to the clubhouse reputation and league-wide repsect that Cabrera has built.
- Between top prospects Christian Bethancourt and Jose Peraza, only Bethancourt should expect a September callup, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. Peraza has very little experience above Class A to this point, whereas Bethancourt impressed the Braves in his handling of the pitching staff in a brief two-week audition this summer. Bowman feels that the Braves’ comfort level with Bethancourt’s glove increases reason to believe that Evan Gattis should be traded to an AL club this winter. That seems like a leap in my eyes, given Bethancourt’s modest production at Triple-A and struggles against MLB pitching. Of course, Bethancourt, 22, is quite young to have played a full season at Triple-A as well, making his pedestrian numbers more understandable.
With the injuries piling up within the Dodgers‘ rotation, Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times wonders if the team erred by not making any significant additions both at the trade deadline or even last offseason. In refusing to deal any of their top prospects for Major League upgrades, “you have to wonder if the Dodgers’ desire to have it both ways — win now while simultaneously rebuilding the farm system — might not cost them their best chance at winning this season,” Dilbeck writes. Here’s some more from around the NL West…
- Rookie Kevin Quackenbush recorded his first career save last night, and if the youngster produces over the rest of the season, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune feels the Padres might go with the younger (and cheaper) option at closer in 2015. This would make Joaquin Benoit, the Friars’ current stopper, into an offseason trade candidate.
- David Peralta went from being a failed Cardinals pitching prospect to a reliable everyday outfielder for the Diamondbacks with an independent league stint in between, and FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi chronicles how Peralta’s unlikely career revival was due to one persistent D’Backs scout.
- Justin Upton is enjoying another strong season with the Braves, which again begs the question of why the Diamondbacks traded of the star outfielder in January 2013. A former D’Backs employee tells Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC subscription required) that the low-key Upton simply didn’t fit Arizona’s model for a superstar. “Management there wants it done a certain way. They want their guys to be Luis Gonzalez, who was very active in the community,” the source said. “They wanted Justin to be the face of the franchise — they had that ‘Uptown’ sign in the outfield — but that’s not Justin. He would say, ‘I just want to play the game.’ “
Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.
- The Braves have signed righty Joe Gardner to a minor league deal, according to MiLB.com. Gardner is best known as one of the four players the Rockies sent the Indians for Ubaldo Jimenez in 2011 (with Drew Pomeranz, Alex White and Matt McBride being the others). Now 26, Gardner has spent part of the 2014 season with Double-A Tennessee in the Cubs system and part of it with the independent Lancaster Barnstormers, for whom he posted a 2.51 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 43 innings.
There has been a lot of chatter regarding 27-year-old Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo. (Read here for some reactions to his well-attended recent workout, which seems to have increased his standing quite a bit around the league.) We’ll keep tabs on the latest right here:
- The Tigers, Red Sox, and Giants are still in the mix for Castillo, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Meanwhile, the Cubs, Yankees, and Phillies are not expected to place high bids for him.
- Bidding is strong, and could well reach or even exceed the $55MM level, according to a tweet from Sahadev Sharma of Baseball Prospectus. The Cubs appear not to be interested at that level, he adds.
- The Braves are “not in the bidding right now” for Castillo, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Atlanta has been noted as a possible suitor in the past.
- Six clubs are seen as viable landing spots for Castillo at this time, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (echoing, in some cases, earlier reports): the Red Sox, Tigers, Phillies, Cubs, Yankees, and Mariners. Castillo could sign a deal as soon as the end of the week, Heyman adds. We’ve heard conflicting reports on Philadelphia’s interest, in particular, and one executive tells Heyman that he believes the team could be attempting to downplay its interest while working to ink Castillo.
We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here.
- The Tigers will select the contract of reliever Jim Johnson on Sunday, MLB.com’s Jason Beck tweets. To make room on the 40-man roster, they’ll option fellow reliever Melvin Mercedes to Triple-A Toledo. Johnson, of course, struggled with Oakland after two strong years as the Orioles’ closer and ultimately got released before signing a minor league deal with Detroit. He has since pitched 4 2/3 innings for Toledo, allowing three runs, two earned.
- The Yankees have outrighted pitcher Chris Leroux, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Earlier this week, the team designated Leroux for the third time this year, and he’s only made two appearances this season in pinstripes, the last coming in early May. He has a 4.37 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 45 1/3 innings so far this season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
- The Braves have signed infielder Donnie Murphy to a minor league contract, according to MLB.com’s transactions page. As MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweets, that likely means Murphy opted out of the minor league deal he signed with the Reds last month. Murphy, 31, hit .196/.268/.330 in 128 plate appearances with the Rangers earlier this year, mostly playing second base.
- The Reds announce that they have selected the contract of righty Dylan Axelrod. They’ve also moved Homer Bailey (neck) to the 15-day DL and Joey Votto (quadriceps) to the 60-day DL. Axelrod will start tonight’s game against the Rockies. The Reds acquired Axelrod from the White Sox in a minor trade in July, and since then he’s posted a 3.06 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 35 1/3 innings at Triple-A Louisville.
- The Diamondbacks have released outfielder Blake Tekotte, according to MiLB.com. Arizona acquired Tekotte from the White Sox in a minor deal less than two weeks ago. This season, the 27-year-old has hit .249/.320/.439 in 340 plate appearances. From 2011 through 2013, he made brief big-league appearances with the Padres and then the White Sox.
- The Phillies have released lefty Jo-Jo Reyes, according to the International League transactions page. The 29-year-old pitched for the Braves, Blue Jays and Orioles from 2007 through 2011. He spent 2012 in the Pirates’ farm system, then headed to Korea in 2013. He made 13 starts in Korea in 2014 and struggled there, then headed to Lehigh Valley, where he pitched 20 2/3 innings, striking out nine batters and walking eight en route to a 10.45 ERA.
The Brewers will go the rest of the way without righties Tyler Thornburg and Jim Henderson, according to a tweet from MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Thornburg will receive a platelet-rich plasma injection in a bid to avoid surgery on his elbow, while Henderson may need shoulder surgery. Thornburg, 25, tossed 29 2/3 innings before being shut down, while the 31-year-old Henderson (who saved 28 games last season) scuffled through just 11 1/3 frames.
Here’s more out of the National League …
- Braves hurler Kris Medlen is just two and a half weeks away from beginning to throw again after his second Tommy John surgery, and feels confident that he’ll be back on the hill “at some point next season,” David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. But it remains to be seen whether he’ll work his way back with Atlanta, as his current $5.8MM salary and status as a two-time TJ patient makes him a non-tender possibility. “I’m a little nervous about it, just because it’s not in my hands,” said Medlen. “… It’s exciting to be able to pick up a ball in a couple of weeks, but I’m not going to lie, the contract stuff and wanting to come back — I mean, that’s somewhat up in the air this time, so it’s a little nerve-racking, but all I can do is get healthy.” In spite of his uncertain future, the 28-year-old righty should draw plenty of interest around the league if the Braves allow him to hit the open market.
- Were it not for Jonathan Papelbon‘s continued presence at the back of the Phillies‘ bullpen, young righty Ken Giles would likely have moved into the closer’s role, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News writes. Commenting on the story, Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider link) argues that the club should move Papelbon back into a setup role to give Giles an audition as a 9th-inning option and to prevent Papelbon from finishing enough games for his 2016 option to vest at $13MM. While this approach has some facial appeal, I would note that allowing Giles to begin racking up saves now will ultimately raise his price significantly when he ultimately reaches arbitration. (And, of course, there is the question of how to handle Papelbon’s insistence that he continues to close.)
- Yesterday, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. again discussed his organization’s future, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Declining to give many specifics, Amaro said that the “biggest plan is to make sure we improve offensively and with our pitching overall,” saying he will look to address those (rather broadly-framed) needs “in a variety of ways.” Sitting 14 games back in the division and 11 out of the wild card, the Phillies are nonetheless not entirely ready to give up hope this year. “Right now, we’re trying to win as many games as possible,” said Amaro. “At the same time, at some point, we’re going to have to start looking to the future. … And at some point, we may be looking more at what we have to do for 2015 as far as what’s going on, on the field. … We’re not quite there yet.”
- Though Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies continues to play shortstop at a very high level, it is time he considered moving to first base, argues Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post. Tulowitzki’s bat is obviously good enough to make the move — he led the league in all three triple-slash categories (.340/.432/.603) when he suffered his season-ending hip injury — but switching to first would obviously sap a good portion of his immense bottom-line value. On the other hand, of course, it is fair to wonder whether playing the least-demanding spot on the diamond might not only help keep Tulowitzki on the field but might also enable him to hit at a top-end level even further into the six years (and $118MM) left on his contract.
Here’s the latest out of the National League:
- The agent for Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval says that the free agent-to-be is still open to discussing a new deal, though no talks have occurred “in months,” according to a tweet from Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com. Sandoval, who will hit the market before his age-28 season, has put up a solid walk year. In addition to a .283/.330/.438 line and 14 home runs through 463 plate appearances, Sandoval has impressed defensive metrics and scouts alike with his glovework on the hot corner. Even better, his primary competitor on the third base market, Chase Headley, has not impressed. Of course, many clubs will probably view Hanley Ramirez as a third base option at this point as well.
- Cubs starter Jake Arrieta says he is open to an extension with the club, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Though his agent, Scott Boras, typically advises his clients to go year-to-year until reaching free agency, Arrieta says he loves playing in Chicago and would be interested in a reasonable new contract. “I don’t think I’m a guy that’s going to ask for an astronomical amount of money,” he said. “But I think if there’s a fair deal to be reached, I’m in 100 percent.” Arrieta added that he felt Boras would not be any hindrance to a deal, but would instead arm him with the necessary advice and information to enable him to reach a decision. He did note that no talks had occurred to date: “I don’t think it’s out of the question. I don’t think there’s been anything formal in the works, but this is an organization that I’ve really seen a transformation take place … .” Arrieta will be arb-eligible for the first time next year, entering his age-29 season, and could not have set himself up much better. His current line: 2.77 ERA over 110 1/3 innings with 9.2 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9.
- The Diamondbacks will be in the market for starting pitching over the coming winter, and could look to the Japanese market to fill the need, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Having worked to increase the team’s presence in Japan, the D’backs have been among the many teams watching 26-year-old righty Kenta Maeda, says Piecoro.
- Braves righty Cody Martin drew plenty of interest as the club looked to bolster its bullpen and bench at the trade deadline, writes Bill Ballew of Baseball America. With a solid feel for multiple quality offerings, Martin has drawn comparisons to Kris Medlen and is viewed as a solid rotation or pen candidate despite his lack of a single plus pitch.
FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported over the weekend that the Braves explored a trade prior to the deadline that would’ve sent B.J. Upton and a starting pitcher elsewhere. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link) has another detail on this scuttled trade, saying that the Braves would’ve taken on “a contract [the] other team [was] looking to shed.” It sounds like it would’ve essentially been a swap of one bad contract (the roughly $50MM owed to Upton through 2017) for another, though if Atlanta was willing to move a starter as well, the other contract was likely for a shorter term. It’ll be interesting to see if the identities of the mystery team and mystery player are revealed in the coming weeks or months but until then, let the guessing game begin!
Here’s some more from around the baseball world…
- Russell Martin‘s plan to take a short-term contract and rebuild his value for a richer, longer-term deal seems to have paid off, MLB.com’s Tom Singer and Stephen Pianovich write. Martin has a .743 OPS over his two seasons with the Pirates and is hitting .290/.417/.391 over 308 PA this year, which makes him easily the most attractive catcher available in this winter’s free agent market. Martin says he loves playing in Pittsburgh, though Singer/Pianovich note that the Bucs are unlikely to be able to afford his asking price and prospect Tony Sanchez is waiting in the wings.
- The 2015 Giants could be improved by moving Buster Posey to third base and Tim Lincecum to the bullpen, Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News opines. Lincecum’s value as a starter is diminishing but (as the 2012 postseason indicated) he could be a dominant force as a reliever or closer. If Pablo Sandoval leaves in free agency, Kawakami argues that Posey could slide to third in order to help him stay healthy and perhaps lead to more production at the plate. Posey already plays a lot of first base and Kawakami doesn’t mention another possibility I think the Giants could consider, which is trading Brandon Belt.
- Speaking of next year’s Giants team, CSNBayArea.com’s Andrew Baggarly points out that at least $125MM is already committed to a roster that still has a big hole to address at second base and five key free agents (Sandoval, Michael Morse, Sergio Romo, Ryan Vogelsong, Jake Peavy) to re-sign or replace. With payroll stretched so thin both this season and next, Baggarly says the team simply doesn’t have the resources to explore replacing struggling players like Lincecum or Brandon Crawford.
- The Astros could return to respectability by adding a few veteran players in an attempt to follow the model of the 2003 Tigers, Grantland’s Jonah Keri opines. Those Tigers responded to an infamous 119-loss season by signing veteran free agents over the next few years, who mixed well with a young core and led the team to an AL pennant by 2006.
Here’s the latest from around the game …
- Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is not currently engaged in extension talks with Baltimore and could make sense to a lot of clubs on the free agent market, says Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (audio link). But he would still fit back with the O’s, with club executive vice president Dan Duquette telling Rosenthal that the team puts a high value on keeping Manny Machado‘s glove at third, seemingly indicating that it may not look to move him back to his natural short. Though Hardy has not repeated his home run tallied from recent seasons, he is still a just-below-average offensive contributor with outstanding defense, and both major methods of calculating wins above replacement see him as having already contributed 2.5 WAR this year.
- The Braves were close to pulling off a major deadline deal that would have sent center fielder B.J. Upton and a starter (which could have been either Mike Minor or Ervin Santana) to an unidentified club and for an unidentified return. The nature of the hypothetical return has not been revealed, but Rosenthal says that Atlanta ultimately felt it was not receiving sufficient value in return. Ultimately, the conception of the move was intended more to shake up the roster and clubhouse (in addition, no doubt, to shedding Upton’s future obligations), and Rosenthal says that a deal of that type could be revisited in the offseason.
- The Cardinals should find a way to upgrade the bench in the coming weeks, opines Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. While Peter Bourjos has been an asset even as he sees less action than Jon Jay, Miklasz looks at the numbers on the rest of the non-regulars and sees plenty of room for improvement.
- The Phillies have found themselves in a seemingly intractable situation in part due to GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s willingness to bend and then break the organization’s own rules on limiting pitching contracts, writes Mitch Goldich of Baseball Prospectus. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, and Cole Hamels were all viewed to some extent as exceptions to the team’s internal guidelines. And while all have had their moments of success, the aggregate commitment (and already-clear lack of back-end value from at least the first three) has played a significant (albeit not exclusive) role in the team’s current predicament.
AUG. 9: The Yankees are ready to begin negotiating with Castillo, who worked out at their minor league complex Friday, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. The Yankees would want to use Castillo as a second baseman, with the outfield as a backup plan, King writes.
AUG. 6: While touring Wrigley Field on vacation, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith learned that the Cubs held a private workout for Castillo today (Twitter link).
AUG. 3: Castillo’s workout for the Mariners has been postponed and is expected to be rescheduled, tweets Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN.
JULY 29: Castillo, who worked out for the Phillies today, has set up a private workout with the Mariners on Sunday as well, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (on Twitter). His one-on-one workout with the Red Sox is still set for Friday.
JULY 28, 8:29pm: Ben Badler of Baseball America writes that the Yankees indeed have a private workout scheduled with Castillo.
7:33pm: General Manager Jeff Luhnow says the Astros may schedule a one-on-one workout with Castillo, writes Brian McTaggart of MLB.com.
7:24pm: A source tells Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (on Twitter) that only the Phillies (on Tuesday) and the Red Sox (Friday) have private workouts set up with Castillo. However, private workouts are in the works for the Yankees and other clubs.
Unsurprisingly, the Twins are not among the teams looking to line up a workout with Castillo, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Minnesota likes Castillo, but the expected asking price is too rich for their blood.
3:11pm: Reports indicated that 28 of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams were represented at Rusney Castillo‘s showcase over the weekend, and Ben Badler of Baseball America has the latest on the 27-year-old Cuban free agent. Castillo will have private workouts with the Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies this coming week, and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that the Orioles are also arranging a private workout.
Badler lists the White Sox, Mariners, Giants, Blue Jays, Cubs and Braves as other potential suitors. Because multiple teams have interest in getting a deal worked out quickly, however, there aren’t likely to be any further private workouts before a deal gets done, Badler writes. Additionally, Badler has posted some video footage from Castillo’s weekend showcase.
Multiple sources indicated to Badler that the Red Sox had the largest contingent on-hand Saturday for Castillo’s showcase. He notes that Jackie Bradley has more upside at the plate, and Mookie Betts might factor in as a corner outfield option in the long-term due to the presence of Dustin Pedroia, but Boston could be intrigued by Castillo as a corner option as well. He did play right field in Cuba, Badler adds.
The Yankees, meanwhile, could weigh the possibility of trying Castillo at second base, though they could have a corner spot open alongside Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner as well. Castillo played second base (and some third base) back in 2009-10, but scouts at the showcase weren’t overly impressed with his glovework as an infielder.
Center field is Castillo’s best position, Badler writes, so it stands to reason that the Phillies could view him as an upgrade over the light-hitting Ben Revere. Playing Castillo in center field allows him to maximize his best tool — 70-grade speed.
While the White Sox are very well-versed in the Cuban market — as evidenced by the presence of Jose Abreu, Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo on their roster — the presence of countrymen on their roster won’t influence Castillo, Badler hears. His decision will come down to financial terms.
Badler adds that the Giants also had a very strong presence at Castillo’s showcase, and he makes sense for them as their system has thinned following a trade for Jake Peavy and their continued interest in Ben Zobrist. The Cubs also had “a team” of evaluators on-hand to witness Castillo, who would bolster an already enviable crop of hitting prospects.