Author Archives: Zach Links

Central Notes: Richard, Tigers, Verlander, Royals, Cueto

The Pirates‘ trade of minor league starter Clayton Richard to the Cubs might not seem like huge news on the surface, but the move could prove to be significant if the Bucs have injuries in the rotation, Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. With Richard out of the picture and the team’s rash of injuries, the Pirates’ organizational starting depth has been compromised.  Manager Clint Hurdle is not yet terribly concerned about it, saying “I still think we are in a place where we are coveredIf something were to happen here and we lost two starters, that might change. We have lost our surplus. We had great depth at one point, now our depth isn’t as deep.”  Richard, 31, was a productive starter for the Padres before shoulder issues derailed his career. In both 2010 and 2012, he put up 200+ innings with a sub-4.00 ERA. He last appeared in the big leagues in 2013, struggling badly before ultimately going under the knife.

A few more notes from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Just one week ago, the Tigers were locks to be buyers at this year’s trade deadline, but James Schmehl of MLive.com examines the possibility that they could become sellers in the wake of Miguel Cabrera‘s injury. As Schemehl notes, the Tigers have a number of appealing trade chips in David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Rajai Davis — each of whom is set to hit free agency at season’s end. However, Schmehl also notes that the team has made a significant investment in winning this season and may be more likely to add a pair of relievers with an eye on the postseason. Asked about the possibility of becoming a deadline seller, manager Brad Ausmus replied, “That’s not really my call, but I’d be surprised.” Given the Tigers’ win-at-all-costs approach over the past few seasons, it would be a surprise to me as well to see them as deadline sellers, though perhaps they’ll take a similar route to 2014 and deal from their big league roster as a means of strengthening the current on-field product.
  • The New York Post’s Joel Sherman makes a bleak comparison for Tigers fans, writing that Justin Verlander has become Detroit’s version of CC Sabathia. Verlander is in the first year of a five-year, $140MM extension and has struggled to deliver any form of positive results over the past two seasons while dealing with injuries. He notes that GM Dave Dombrowski even talks about Verlander in the same manner that his Yankees counterpart, Brian Cashman, discusses Sabathia. Sherman quotes Dombrowski: “We don’t think you will see MVP-season Justin, but he can still be a very good pitcher and that would be really big for us. … He has just been a little inconsistent. We just need him to get more comfortable.” Verlander’s not showing quite the depleted velocity that Sabathia has, however, so perhaps there’s hope for him yet.
  • The Royals should make an aggressive play to acquire the RedsJohnny Cueto prior to the deadline, opines ESPN’s Christina Kahrl. She feels that the Royals are already strong favorites to win the AL Central, but adding Cueto gives them the rotation depth necessary to be a force in shorter playoff series. With Cueto and perhaps a returning Kris Medlen in the fold, Kahrl notes, the Royals can be shielded from the need to start Jeremy Guthrie in a pivotal postseason contest.

White Sox Won’t Dismantle At Deadline

With a few weeks to go until the trade deadline, little is certain about what the White Sox will do.  Jeff Samardzija has a litany of possible suitors, but he and other trade chips could wind up staying put depending on how the Sox fare in the coming days.  No matter what happens, however, White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams told Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports that the team won’t be holding a fire sale.

It’s important that we not lose sight of what our organization goal was, and that was to give us the best three-year window. And we’re not going to abandon that completely with only three months to play,” Williams said.  “I think [Rick Hahn’s] done one hell of a job. Everyone wants to put the blame on [manager] Robin [Ventura], too, but all he can do is put the players in position to succeed. They’re the ones who have to look in the mirror and execute. If we do anything, it will be consistent with trying to maximize this three-year plan or window that we set out originally.”

After today’s loss to the Orioles, Chicago owns a 36-43 record and sits last in the AL Central, 10 games back of the first-place Royals and 5.5 games behind the last wild card spot.  It’s not an ideal spot by any stretch, yet given the crowded American League standings, the White Sox are just be a hot week or two away from being right back in the hunt.

While it may be a bit too early to start selling yet, Williams said he’s open to at least hearing any trade proposal.  Teams can even pitch trades for ace Chris Sale, but it’s extremely unlikely that anything will happen on that front.

We’ve always had that mind-set that we will listen to anyone who wants to make an offer for our players,” Williams said. “How else do you know what the value is? Something may bowl you over. But we can’t envision anything happening along those lines.”

While Sale is locked up on a team-friendly deal that could run through the 2019 season, Samardzija is a different story, as he’s set to hit free agency this winter.  Nightengale mentions that “every club with an urgent pitching need” has expressed an interest in Samardzija, and that the Blue Jays in particular have “strongly pursued” the righty.

If Samardzija signed an extension to remain on the south side, that would obviously change things.  “We just have to get some sort of indication it’s possible or not to sign him. We have to also see if it’s realistic given our resources and the other obligations we have,” Williams said.

That said, a midseason deal seems very unlikely with Samardzija so close to the open market.  While he stressed that “by no means does it take the White Sox off my list” if he hits free agency, Samardzija seemed eager to take control over his playing future.

I worked hard to get to this spot in free agency.  I just want to sign with a team that is competing every September with a chance to be playing in October,” Samardzija said.  “Look, I don’t hold bad blood or grudges against anybody. I understand how the business side works. Front offices have to do what they have to do. But I also need to protect myself and make sure I’m in a situation where I can win for a long time.”


Phillies Acquire No. 1 Int’l Signing Slot From D’Backs

The Phillies announced that they have acquired the No. 1 international signing slot for 2015-16 signing period from the Diamondbacks for right-hander Chris Oliver, left-hander Josh Taylor, and the No. 9 slot.

Oliver, who turns 22 this week, was the Phillies’ fourth-round pick out of the University of Arkansas in 2014. He had a 4.04 ERA and 4.2 BB/9 but with an extremely low 3.5 K/9 in 69 innings with Class A Lakewood. He also struggled greatly in his pro debut last season. MLB.com ranked him the Phillies’ No. 20 prospect prior to the trade, however, noting that he can throw up to 97 MPH.

The Phillies signed Taylor as a non-drafted free agent. He posted a 4.61 ERA, 9.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 68 1/3 innings, also in the Lakewood rotation.

The Diamondbacks were awarded the largest international bonus pool heading into the July 2 signing season, at $5,393,900. The Phillies had a pool of $3,041,700, but they had already agreed to sign Dominican slugger Jhailyn Ortiz for $4.2MM and Venezuelan catcher Rafael Marchan for $200K. MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports that the No. 1 bonus slot is worth $3,590,400 and the No. 9 slot is worth $1,352,100, so the trade effectively gives the Phillies about $2.2 million extra spending to work with. That should give them enough spending rights to cover Ortiz and Marchan and still have a little money left over.



East Notes: Ramirez, KBO, Red Sox

Matt Harvey is just the latest reminder that recovery from Tommy John surgery is a process, Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com writes.  In his comeback campaign, the Mets pitcher has had flashes of brilliance but he has also struggled at times.

It’s definitely hard,” Harvey said after Saturday’s loss to the Dodgers. “It’s like one batter to the next batter, the arm slot, staying back, just trusting that my arm will stay healthy. It’s been a lot different than I thought it was going to be.

John Smoltz, who will be the first pitcher to have had the surgery to enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame, has talked with Mets skipper Terry Collins about the best way to manage a pitcher coming back from TJ.  In time, Smoltz believes that Harvey will return to his old form.  Here’s more from the East divisions..

  • The Mets tried hard to pry Manny Ramirez from the Red Sox a decade ago and at one point it seemed like there was a good chance of a deal happening, as David Lennon of Newsday writes.  “We weren’t able to match up and give them enough,” former Mets exec Jim Duquette said. “They were looking for more younger players in return. We wanted them to give more money. We weren’t going to take the full freight on that one. I don’t think they thought [Lastings] Milledge was the right guy. That’s why we were trying to bring in a third team.”
  • Ex-Blue Jays pitcher Scott Richmond has been embroiled in a nightmare legal battle with the Lotte Giants of the Korean Baseball Organization League, as Shi Davidi of Sportsnet writes.  The pitcher signed a guaranteed one-year, $700K deal with the KBO team in 2013 but he has yet to receive a dime of that money.  Richmond was good to go for the start of the season after suffering a knee injury, but he was turned away without payment.  RJ Hernandez, Richmond’s representative at Legacy, believes that this situation will dissuade other players from going overseas, particularly if the pitcher is unsuccessful in his suit.
  • For months, there has been talk about the Red Sox‘s need for an ace.  Right now, Clay Buchholz looks the part and he could be a big difference maker for Boston, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes.

NL East Notes: Maybin, Nola, Latos

Phillies interim manager manager Pete Mackanin said that he sees closer Jonathan Papelbon as the most worthy candidate to represent his team in the All-Star Game, Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes.

The save numbers aren’t there, but when you look at the other numbers, he’s been very efficient,” Mackanin said of Papelbon, who owns a 1.71 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. “He’s the first guy that comes to mind. I don’t know if there’s anyone else. He would be a guy that I would have to believe is under consideration.”

Here’s more out of the NL East..

  • Cameron Maybin was not viewed as a potential difference maker when the Braves acquired him via the April trade that sent Craig Kimbrel to the Padres.  However, over the past couple of months, Maybin is doing just that, as Mark Bowman of MLB.com writes.    In 281 plate appearances for the Braves, Maybin has hit .295/.364/.418 with seven homers.  The Braves have him under contract through the 2016 season with a club option for 2017.
  • As the Phillies‘ starting pitchers continue to struggle, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com if we’ll see prized prospect Aaron Nola sooner rather than later.  Of course, the Phillies’ starting five will be even weaker if ace Cole Hamels is traded in the next month.  In four starts for Triple-A Lehigh Valley this season, Nola has pitched to a 2.28 ERA with 9.1 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9.  Nola, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 draft, was ranked as the No. 39 prospect in the country by Baseball America heading into the 2015 season.
  • Dan O’Dowd of MLB.com listed Marlins pitcher Mat Latos as one of the most likely players to get dealt between now and July 31st.  With Jose Fernandez back in the fold, O’Dowd believes that the Marlins will look to recoup the type of quality talent that they gave up to land the impending free agent in the first place.  Late last week, MLBTR’s Steve Adams looked at Latos as a trade candidate.

AL Central Notes: Tigers, Chisenhall, Santana

White Sox Jeff Samardzija hurler  “may be the first starting pitcher moved ahead of the trading deadline” since “scouts are constantly at his games,” Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote yesterday.  Cafardo believes that the Royals, Tigers, Astros, Twins, Blue Jays, Yankees, Cardinals, Orioles, Angels, and Dodgers are among the many clubs with interest in the 30-year-old.  Here’s more from the AL Central..

  • Brad Ausmus told reporters, including James Schmehl of MLive.com (on Twitter), that he’d “probably be surprised” if the Tigers were sellers around the trade deadline.  The 41-39 Tigers learned on Saturday that they’ll be without the services of Miguel Cabrera for six weeks thanks to a calf strain.  Detroit will certainly miss his bat as Cabrera currently leads the American League in batting average (.350), on-base percentage (.456) and OPS (1.034).
  • Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer wonders what’s next for Lonnie Chisenhall now that he has played 21 games for Triple-A Columbus since his demotion.  At present, it’s hard to say where the 26-year-old could fit on the Indians‘ varsity squad.  Hoynes wonders if the third baseman could attract some interest from teams looking for some left-hander power off the bench or simply a reclamation project with upside.  In 89 plate appearances for Triple-A Columbus, Chisenhall has hit .309/.371/.469 with two home runs.
  • The Twins figure to get a rotation boost with Ervin Santana returning from an 80-game suspension today, Mike Bauman of MLB.com writes.  Santana inked a four-year, $55MM deal with Minnesota in December but his Twins debut was put on hold after his PED suspension.  Santana threw 196 innings for the Braves in 2014, posting a 3.95 ERA with 8.2 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9 and a 42.7% groundball rate.  There were signs that he was even better than those results would indicate, as FIP (3.39), xFIP (3.47), and SIERA (3.63) all liked his work.

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Ray, Upton, Indians

On this date in 1987, A’s first baseman Mark McGwire became the first rookie to hit 30 home runs before the All-Star Game, as Leo Panetta of NationalPastime.com writes.  McGwire would go on to finish the season with 49 homers, establishing a new rookie watermark, beating the previously shared record by Wally Berger and Frank Robinson (39).  Here’s this week’s look around the baseball blogosphere..

Please send submissions to Zach at ZachBBWI@gmail.com.


Pirates Outright Chris Volstad

JULY 4: The Bucs have outrighted Volstad to Triple-A Indianapolis, according to Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (on Twitter).

JUNE 28: The Pirates announced that they have designated Chris Volstad for assignment.  As reported earlier, outfielder Jose Tabata has also been bumped to make room on the 40-man roster.

Volstad, 28, was called up to the big league roster just last week and pitched two innings for the Bucs against the Reds on June 24th.  The right-hander seen substantial big league time since 2012, but he was solid in 76 Triple-A frames, putting up a 3.43 ERA with 5.9 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9.  For his career, the 6’8″ hurler owns a 4.92 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9.

As the MLBTR DFA Tracker shows, there are now five players in DFA limbo: Volstad, Tabata, Rafael Lopez, Erik Kratz, and Scott Atchison.


MLBTR Seeking Photoshop Experts

As you may have noticed, MLB Trade Rumors has launched a brand new Instagram account: @TradeRumorsMLB.  As the trade market heats up, MLBTR is looking for talented photoshop artists who can expertly (and quickly) make a jersey swap photo.

Are you the kind of photoshop expert we’re looking for?  If so, we want you to create a sample photo of Cole Hamels pitching in a Yankees jersey and email it to MLBTRonInstagram@gmail.com.  The position is part-time and compensated.  Good luck!


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Follow MLB Trade Rumors On Instagram

Today, MLB Trade Rumors is proud to announce the launch of our new official Instagram account: @TradeRumorsMLB.  No, we won’t be posting pictures of our lunches.  Instead, each day, we’ll be sharing conversation-inspiring images about the hottest topics in baseball.  From there, we invite you to give us a like, weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section, and even share the link with a friend.

Today’s Instagram picture asks you to predict which team will acquire Cole Hamels.  Will it be the Rangers, who have had talks with the Phillies this month regarding the left-hander?  Will the Yankees win the Hamels sweepstakes now that they’re not ruling out a pursuit of the superstar pitcher?  Could the surprising Astros make a run at the Philadelphia ace?  Or will it be one of the many other contending clubs that have interest in the 31-year-old?  Follow us on Instagram today and let us know!


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