Author Archives: Brad Johnson

Braves To Sign Cuban Outfielder Dian Toscano

DEC. 15: Toscano’s contract is for $7.5MM over four years and contains a fifth-year club option, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (on Twitter). His contract is still pending a physical, per Sanchez.

DEC. 10: The Braves have completed the financial specifics on Toscano’s deal and the pact is now pending a physical, according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (via Twitter).

DEC. 8: The Braves are pursuing Cuban outfielder Dian Toscano, tweets Mark Bowman of MLB.com. It was reported earlier that an agreement had been reached, but Bowman asserts the two sides have yet to reach the finish line. The 25-year-old played five seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, so he’s exempt from international bonus pool rules.

Not much is known about Toscano since he did not play for the Cuban National team. He played left field for the Villa Clara club and hit .356/.400/.452 in 86 plate appearances during the 2012 campaign – his last with the team. Badler adds that Toscano possess the necessary speed for center field, but he typically plays left field due to suspect arm strength. A left-handed hitter, he features good bat control and strike zone awareness.

Ben Badler of Baseball America was the first to report the Braves interest.


NL Notes: Giants, Braves, Mets, Andrus, Nationals

GM Brian Sabean says the Giants won’t have Buster Posey replace Pablo Sandoval at third base, and they continue to view him as a backstop, MLB.com’s Chris Haft writes. “He’s a franchise player, a franchise catcher,” Sabean says, adding that Sandoval, who recently signed with the Red Sox, was a key presence in the Giants’ clubhouse. “He brought a lot of energy. He loved playing the game. He’ll be missed on and off the field,” Sabean says. The Giants will continue to look for a third baseman and left fielder, but Sabean expects they might do so through trades and not through free agent signings. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • Braves president of baseball operations John Hart told MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (via Twitter) that a few teams have shown interest in Justin Upton and Evan Gattis. Hart expects things to heat up once some key free agents sign.
  • The Braves do not have any trade talks at a “serious stage,” tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. According to Hart, the club has spent more time talking with free agents, particularly second basemen and starting pitchers.
  • We heard earlier tonight that the Mets and Rangers have engaged in trade talks. Texas is looking for starting pitching, which New York has in abundance. However, the Mets aren’t high on Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, reports Marc Carig of Newsday (via Twitter). Presumably, the Mets aren’t keen on the eight-years and $120MM owed to Andrus. Another shortstop option, prospect Luis Sardinas, looks more like a utility fielder to the Mets. They don’t think he’s a long term solution at shortstop.
  • Thanks to Anthony Rendon‘s flexibility, the Nationals can look to acquire a second or third baseman to fill out their roster, writes Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider. The club has kept in touch with free agent Asdrubal Cabrera and is exploring the trade market. Danny Espinosa is the current in-house option at second base.

AL Notes: Angels, Holt, Rays, Mariners, Gutierrez

The Angels have at least a little interest in Red Sox infielder Brock Holt, Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston tweets. After non-tendering Gordon Beckham, the Angels are on the lookout for a backup infielder, and GM Jerry Dipoto has said that a trade for one is a possibility. Holt would be a good get for the Angels — he hit a solid .281/.331/.381 last season while playing seven positions. Here’s more from the American League.

  • Rays GM Matt Silverman told reporters, including Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune (via Twitter), that clubs are calling about outfielders. Now that some of the notable free agents have signed, demand has increased.
  • The Rays are in active search mode for a second catcher, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. According to Silverman, the club is active on both the free agent and trade front. They’re remaining open-minded about both veterans and youngsters. Tampa currently has Ryan Hanigan, Curt Casali, and Justin O’Conner on the 40-man roster.
  • The Mariners are keeping their eyes on former outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, who they could bring back on a minor-league deal, MLB.com’s Greg Johns writes. Gutierrez spent the 2014 season on the restricted list while dealing with a nerve condition, but he’s currently playing winter ball in Venezuela. “I have not talked to him myself,” says GM Jack Zduriencik. “I plan to, but I’ve not done that yet. He missed a whole year, so we’ll see. I don’t know where he is physically or mentally.” Gutierrez’s exceptional defense once made him very valuable, but the 31-year-old struggled with injuries even before the 2014 season.


Phillies Notes: Lester, Hamels, Gillick

While the Phillies aren’t a part of the Jon Lester sweepstakes, they’re paying attention to the outcome, writes Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com. The best matches for Hamels appear to be the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Cubs, who just happen to be three of the four finalists for Lester. If he signs with the fourth team – the Giants – then the Phillies can maximize their leverage. Hamels has some advantages over the other options on the market. He’s under contract for four years, presumably at a lesser rate than Max Scherzer (he already turned down a contract nearly identical to Hamels’). Hamels is better than James Shields, and both Jeff Samardzija and Jordan Zimmermann are free agents after the season.

  • The Dodgers line up best to acquire Hamels, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Phillies covet outfield depth like Joc Pederson and the Dodgers are swimming in outfielders. The big budget club could also feature a dominant rotation with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hamels.
  • For his part, Hamels is conflicted about the trade rumors, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. On the one hand, he’s comfortable in Philadelphia. He also understands that the club is rebuilding, so he has a better chance to win elsewhere. Hamels does possess a no trade clause which includes the Red Sox. It’s speculated that he would waive the clause if the acquiring team picked up his 2019 option.
  • Pat Gillick discussed the club’s rebuilding process with reporters including Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Gillick stressed the need to be patient and methodical. The club wants to get younger, but it can’t be done all at once. Each older piece needs to be converted into a meaningful, younger piece. There’s no point in gutting the roster simply to clean house. If the Phillies can’t acquire the right pieces for Hamels, Marlon Byrd or others, they’re liable to keep them. That said, Gillick admitted it would be disappointing if the club failed to make any changes before the season.
  • Amaro has three or four trades he could make today, but they don’t benefit the club, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Amaro says he’s had many good conversations that could lead somewhere. The rumors that he’s asking too much in trade discussions are “malarkey.” Everybody is available, but certain guys like Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins will be hard to move do to 10-and-5 rights.

Cubs, D’Backs Discussing Miguel Montero

11:31pm: A source tells Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (via Twitter) that a deal isn’t close to fruition.

10:30pm: If the deal happens, Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic (on Twitter) hears it’ll “likely” be for two Single-A pitchers.

8:46pm: The return for Montero wouldn’t be big, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (two tweets). The DBacks would receive low level prospects with the Cubs assuming most or all of Montero’s $40MM contract. Rosenthal hears Arizona would receive pitching prospects (via Twitter).

8:28pm: The Cubs and Diamondbacks are discussing a trade that would send Miguel Montero to Chicago, sources tell Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter).  The two teams are expected to talk again tonight, Rosenthal tweets.  The Cubs and Diamondbacks have been engaged for weeks and a deal appears to be getting closer. There is no word yet as to what the Cubs have on offer.

Montero, 31, has three years and $40MM remaining on his current contract. The left-handed backstop struggles against same-handed pitching, including a .198/.252/.311 line in 115 plate appearances last season. He was considerably better against right-handers, with a .256/.348/.386 slash.

He started strong last season. His performance dwindled as the season wore on, leading some (including me) to speculate that he tired. In Chicago, Montero could form a potent platoon with Cubs incumbent Welington Castillo, who hits very well against southpaws – .301/.350/.505 last year. The presence of Castillo could also help to keep Montero fresh.

As a catcher, Montero draws strong grades on his pitch framing. Per StatCorner, he accrued the most framing value of any catcher last season. He caught 29% of base runners in 2014 which is solid but slightly below his career average.

Interestingly, the Cubs recently hired former Diamondbacks coach Henry Blanco. He mentored Montero last season and could be a factor in the Cubs interest. Buster Olney of ESPN was the first to deduce the connection (via Twitter).


A’s, White Sox Near Jeff Samardzija Deal

11:27pm: The two sides agreed to the parameters of the deal several days ago, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter).

11:14pm: The deal is on hold for the moment but will likely happen Tuesday, tweets John Hickey of the Oakland Tribune.

9:53pm: Even if a Samardzija deal is close to being finalized, it doesn’t sound as if the A’s are planning to announce anything tonight, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter).

9:22pm: The White Sox are close to acquiring Samardzija from the A’s, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter).

9:12pm: The A’s are close to a deal involving Samardzija and it appears likely he’ll be heading to the White Sox, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

There was speculation that the Red Sox were also involved, but the White Sox have been the most interested of anyone and they’re the likely winners here.  The White Sox have several young infielders that could make sense for the A’s.  If the White Sox complete the deal, that would give them a strong right-hander to join Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and John Danks.

8:10pm: The White Sox are among the favorites to acquire A’s starter Jeff Samardzija – assuming he’s traded. If a deal does happen, the A’s would receive Marcus Semien and prospects, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (two tweets). Chicago doesn’t want to trade top prospects like shortstop Tim Anderson or pitcher Francellis Montas for Samardzija since he has only one season of club control remaining.

If the A’s do acquire Semien, he would play shortstop. The 24-year-old hit .234/.300/.372 in 255 plate appearances last season, although there is some room for optimism. He struck out 27.5% of the time, but his minor league rates have been considerably lower. Perhaps an adjustment or two will allow him to put more balls in play and post a higher average.

The Red Sox have also been connected to the 29-year-old but it’s the White Sox that appear to have won out.  The A’s were intent on finding a promising young shortstop in exchange for the right-hander and reportedly would have wanted to get prospect Deven Marrero in a swap with the Red Sox.

Teams that spoke with the A’s also got the impression that Oakland would not greenlight an extension negotiation window as a part of any deal.  That stance makes sense as the pitcher seems intent on testing the open market after the 2014 season.


Central Rumors: Cubs, Lester, Masterson

If the Cubs land Jon Lester, an industry source tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter) they’re next move would be to pursue a big bat – to go along with Miguel Montero – to try and accelerate their revival. The Cubs are reportedly discussing Montero with the D’Backs in a deal that wouldn’t require them giving up much in the way of assets.  More out of the Central divisions..

  • The Indians kicked the tires on Justin Masterson, but were never really “all in” on bringing him back, according to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer (via Twitter).
  • Twins GM Terry Ryan says he has no interest in the Blue Jays’ president/CEO role, according to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press (on Twitter).  “[I’m] very humbled to hear [that], but I’m a GM.  I’m a baseball guy,” Ryan said.
  • Even though word has only recently leaked, White Sox executive Kenny Williams was contacted by the Blue Jays about their team president position shortly after the end of the season, writes Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. Current Jays president Paul Beeston is part of the executive search process, which indicates the club isn’t going behind his back to make a change. Williams also likes the idea of being the first African American MLB CEO.
  • Indians GM Chris Antonetti is comfortable with his current roster, he tells Jordan Bastian of MLB.com (Twitter). The acquisition of Brandon Moss affords the club depth and versatility. We learned earlier tonight that the club would now look to build upon its seven pitcher deep rotation. We could also see them shop Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, or David Murphy, but I doubt they would receive much salary relief in a trade.
  • Ryan went on to say that the Twins have been in serious talks with both agents and clubs about acquiring pitching, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com (on Twitter).
  • Cubs GM Jed Hoyer isn’t making any secret about what he wants to do this winter, tweets Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com.  “Clearly we want to add multiple starting pitchers this winter. We need to,” Hoyer said.

NL East Notes: Clippard, Kang, Breslow

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told reporters that there’s no progress to report in potential contract extensions with Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond, Tyler Clippard, and Denard Span, tweets William Ladson of MLB.com.  Here’s a look at more out of the NL East..

  • Rizzo told Ladson that teams are showing interest in Clippard. The right-handed reliever has spent most of his career as a setup man but has some experience as a closer too. He’s projected by MLBTR’s Matt Swartz to earn $9.3MM in his final spin through arbitration.
  • The Mets are interested in Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang, tweets Matt Ehalt of The Record. Kang is expected to be posted later this week. As we learned earlier this evening, GM Sandy Alderson alluded that Kang could be out of the club’s price range. As for left-handed reliever Craig Breslow, the Mets’ interest is “overblown.”
  • Mets farm director Jon Miller will leave the organization at the end of the year, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter).  Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (via Twitter) hears that Miller is already done with the club.
  • Rizzo sounds like a man who is ready to make some moves.  “We’re open for business,” the Nationals GM said, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post (via Twitter).

AL Central Rumors: Williams, Rodriguez, Indians

The latest from the AL Central..

  • We learned earlier that the Blue Jays had interest in White Sox executive Kenny Williams, but the club did not grant Williams permission to interview. Chicago’s chairman Jerry Reindorf spoke about the decision, saying “this is not the right time,” reports Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune.  He went on to say the club is focused on building a contender for 2015.
  • Francisco Rodriguez is among the many relievers that the White Sox are looking at, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).
  • Now that the Indians have added Brandon Moss, they will shift their focus to pitching, tweets Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Specifically, they’ll aim to add more starting pitcher depth. This is already a strength for the club, but as they say, you can never have enough pitching. Presently, veterans Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin are listed as the sixth and seventh starters.

Rangers Interested In Evan Gattis

6:43pm: The Braves are not looking to trade Gattis, O’Brien reiterates (via Twitter). For a deal to happen, “a team would have to blow their doors off.” It’s unclear what would constitute that level of offer, but a package with more than one of the below prospects would seem to fit the bill.

5:54pm: The Braves aren’t eager to trade Gattis, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. However, the Rangers could offer multiple names from among Jake Thompson, Alex Gonzalez, outfielder Nomar Mazara, or others.

5:32pm: The Rangers are showing interest in Braves catcher Evan Gattis, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The Rangers have been repeatedly linked to Braves outfielder Justin Upton, but Gattis makes more sense for Texas. Unlike Upton, who is a free agent after the season, Gattis is under club control for another four seasons. While most teams prefer to think of him as an outfielder or designated hitter, he’s a good enough catcher to fill a part time role in 2015.

Grant mentions a few of the Rangers’ top prospects as targets for Atlanta. Texas is unwilling to offer right-handed pitchers Jake Thompson or Alex Gonzalez in a trade for Upton since he’s a short term patch. Ostensibly, they may be on the table for Gattis since he’s a long term solution.

Ultimately, a deal is still a “long-shot from being even a long-shot.” If the Rangers do acquire Gattis, his cheap salary could allow them to more aggressive pursue mid-tier free agents like Justin Masterson.