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In his latest Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Buster Olney reports that he’s spoken to executives around the league who assume that the Red Sox will target James Shields in free agency this offseason. Shields would be a good fit for a Boston team that is suddenly light on veteran pitching after Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jake Peavy were all traded within the last week. I wonder how high the Sox would be willing to bid on Shields, however, since the team’s concerns about paying big money to a pitcher throughout his 30′s kept them from working out an extension with Lester. While Shields would come at a lower price and probably a shorter-term deal, Shields will also be 33 on Opening Day.
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- A clause in Yoenis Cespedes‘ contract will allow him to become a free agent after the 2015 season, and according to Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron (Twitter link), it means the Red Sox would have to non-tender their newly-acquired outfielder. This would make Cespedes ineligible to receive a qualifying offer, and thus Boston wouldn’t get any draft pick compensation if Cespedes signed elsewhere.
- The Athletics released Jim Johnson today, and there has been speculation that the Orioles will offer their former closer a minor league contract, Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun writes. Manager Buck Showalter spoke highly of Johnson to reporters today, though he was careful with his words due to uncertainty about whether Johnson was free of any ties to Oakland.
- The Rays plan to contend in 2015, which is why Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan (writing for FOXSports.com) feels the team felt comfortable trading David Price for a package highlighted by players — Drew Smyly and Nick Franklin — with Major League experience. It’s unclear if any of the blue-chip prospects often cited in trade rumors were actually available for Price and such prospects might not pan out anyway, whereas Smyly and Franklin have already shown they can contribute at the big-league level.
- Had the Rays waited until the offseason to trade Price, they might’ve had trouble finding a better return. As one executive noted to ESPN’s Jayson Stark (Twitter link), Tampa would’ve been shopping Price in a crowded marketplace for ace pitchers given that Lester, Shields and Max Scherzer are all slated to be available in free agency.
Saunders joins his third organization of the season after being released by the Royals and Rangers within the last month. The southpaw posted a 6.13 ERA in 39 2/3 innings with Texas earlier this year and also struggled in four starts with Kansas City’s Triple-A affiliate.
This is Saunders’ second stint in Baltimore, as he was first acquired by the O’s in late August 2012. He was a key part of the Orioles’ playoff push that year, posting a 3.63 ERA over seven regular season starts and then a 1.59 ERA over two postseason starts, earning the win in the Orioles’ wild card game victory over the Rangers. Baltimore had some interest in Saunders during the offseason and, according to Connolly, are looking at Saunders as a possible long relief option out of the bullpen.
While technically a DFA, Webb has only been designated off Baltimore’s 25-man roster. The Orioles needed to make this procedural move in order to assign Webb to Triple-A since over three years had passed since his first Major League appearance — the O’s performed a similar transaction earlier this season with Evan Meek. Webb is still on the Orioles’ 40-man roster but is currently on optional assignment waivers.
Webb signed a two-year, $4.5MM deal with the Orioles last winter after the Marlins (surprisingly) didn’t tender him a contract for 2014. The righty has been shaky in recent weeks but has been a solid contributor overall to Baltimore’s pen, posting a 3.80 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 3.4 K/BB rate over 42 2/3 innings. Webb has held opposing batters to a .255/.301/.315 slash line and has actually performed better against left-handed batters (.555 OPS) than righty bats (.649 OPS) this year.
We’ll take a look at every division in baseball, but it’s hard not to start here. The division is always fun to watch, and it was full of intrigue in 2014. Here’s what took place over the last month or so, culminating in a whirlwind today:
- Acquired third baseman Danny Valencia from Royals in exchange for righty Liam Hendriks and catcher Erik Kratz
- Acquired first baseman Brett Wallace from Orioles in exchange for cash considerations
- Acquired lefty Andrew Miller from Red Sox in exchange for lefty Eduardo Rodriguez
- Acquired utilityman Jimmy Paredes from Royals in exchange for cash considerations
- Acquired cash considerations from Blue Jays in exchange for first baseman Brett Wallace
- Acquired lefty Drew Smyly, infielder Nick Franklin, and shortstop Willy Adames from Tigers and Mariners in exchange for lefty David Price
- Acquired infielder Kelly Johnson from Yankees in exchange for infielder Stephen Drew and cash
- Acquired lefty Eduardo Rodriguez from Orioles in exchange for lefty Andrew Miller
- Acquired outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and 2015 compensatory draft pick from Athletics in exchange for Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes, and cash
- Acquired righty Joe Kelly and first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig from Cardinals in exchange for righty John Lackey, lefty Corey Littrell, and cash
- Acquired player to be named later from Cubs in exchange for lefty Felix Doubront
- Acquired lefty Edwin Escobar and righty Heath Hembree from Giants in exchange for righty Jake Peavy
- Acquired infielder/outfielder Martin Prado from Diamondbacks in exchange for catcher Peter O’Brien
- Acquired infielder Stephen Drew and cash from Red Sox in exchange for infielder Kelly Johnson
- Acquired lefty Chris Capuano from Rockies in exchange for cash
- Acquired third baseman Chase Headley and cash from Padres in exchange for infielder Yangervis Solarte and righty Rafael De Paula
- Acquired lefty Jeff Francis and cash from Athletics in exchange for a player to be named later
- Acquired righty Brandon McCarthy from Diamondbacks in exchange for lefty Vidal Nuno
- Acquired lefty David Huff from Giants in exchange for cash
The Yankees were somewhat quiet buyers, the Red Sox were incredibly loud sellers, and there were multiple inter-division deals. It was decidedly not business as usual in the AL East, but plenty of business was done … except, that is, in Toronto.
Despite long being rumored to be looking for additions to the rotation, bullpen, and/or infield, the Blue Jays (as they did in free agency) largely stayed quiet. Several players actually expressed frustration with the inactivity, but GM Alex Anthopoulos said that clubs were asking for big league players in return and that nothing ended up making baseball sense. He indicated that the August market could hold some possibilities, but at this point, it seems likely that the Jays will sink or swim with their current alignment.
The Orioles, likewise, were known to have a rather similar list of possible needs, and were expected mostly to pursue new arms. Baltimore ultimately did just that, steering clear of a starting pitching market filled with big swaps but ultimately landing the most sought-after reliever who remained available. It cost the club one of its better prospects — Rodriguez, probably the best pre-MLB player to change hands today — but will give the team a high-leverage weapon as it tries to hold onto precious wins. But as with Toronto, if the team comes up just short in a year in which the division seems so tantalizingly open, it will be fair to ask whether one more piece would have made the difference.
The Yankees took something of a different approach, adding a bevy of potentially useful veterans who struggled in the season’s first half and were playing on fairly sizable contracts. Among them, only the most recent addition — Prado — comes with team control beyond the present season. Buried by by other, larger deals, the Prado swap not only completes an infield makeover for this year but also gives the team plenty of flexibility moving forward.
Reaching the bottom of the division, one finds some fairly atypical selling clubs. The Rays, of course, have been roaring back on the field, even if the playoff picture largely remains the same. Perhaps the failure to climb the ladder drove the club’s decision to move this year’s biggest trade chip in Price. While the return does not feature the kinds of prospects that one might have expected, it delivered plenty of long-term value back to Tampa. And it left the club, notably, with plenty of talent still in the fold for 2014. A nice run from Smyly, and perhaps even a late-season boost from Franklin, could play a role in continuing the Rays’ rise in the standings. None of the teams ahead of them appears poised to run away with things, but it will be interesting to see how the clubhouse responds to the trade.
In a series of moves that were every bit as bold as Tampa’s big stroke, the Red Sox parted with the club’s two best pitchers, two other members of the World Series-defending, Opening Day rotation, a dominant set-up man, and a just-signed veteran shortstop (and what a journey it’s been for Drew). But this was no traditional roster blow-up; instead, Boston returned mostly big league pieces that changed the team’s makeup dramatically but gave notice that it intends to contend next year. Adding power bats to the corner outfield and young arms to the current and near-future rotation — the team now has an impressive array of young arms and other prospects — the Red Sox look primed to add yet more more pieces in free agency and aim for another title run. GM Ben Cherington said that the team will be a player for veteran pitching in free agency, and reports even indicated that the team could have its sights set on a reunion with Lester. It remains to be seen whether Boston would have been better served by pushing its clock further back and perhaps bringing in more upside, but if Cespedes and Craig can return to their 2012 levels of production, Boston will be right back in the thick of things in 2015.
In return, Boston has picked up left-handed pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, per a tweet from Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com (via Twitter) first reported that a young arm was included in the deal.
Rodriguez represents a significant return for Boston on Miller, who emerged as the most sought-after left-handed reliever but is set to reach free agency at year’s end. He had been nothing short of dominant this year, posting 14.7 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 and generating a 52.5% groundball rate.
Miller’s excellent 2.34 ERA is actually higher than advanced metrics would suggest, as Miller owns lower marks per ERA estimators such as FIP (1.69), xFIP (1.76) and SIERA (1.42). Miller has held down both lefties (.420 OPS) and righties (.537 OPS) on the year.
Rodriguez came into the year as Baltimore’s 3rd-best overall prospect, per Baseball America. The 21-year-old has not taken a step forward at Double-A, however, as he owns a 4.79 ERA with 7.5 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 through 82 2/3 innings on the year. Though he profiles more as a middle-of-the-rotation arm, Rodriguez had been on a fast track to the big leagues and still has plenty of value.
Boston’s Andrew Miller has been the most talked-about left-handed relief option on the trade market, and with good reason. The impending free agent has pitched to a 2.34 ERA with dazzling secondary stats: 14.7 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 52.5 percent ground-ball rate. ERA estimators such as FIP (1.69), xFIP (1.76) and SIERA (1.42) feel that Miller has been even better than that 2.34 mark, and he’s dominated both lefties (.420 OPS) and righties (.537 OPS) this season.
Here’s the latest …
- The Tigers are “making a big push” on Miller, tweets ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick.
- There is some internal resistance to moving Miller, tweets Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. If that is the case, Edes wonders whether the club would instead consider dealing closer Koji Uehara.
- Another club that is a possible landing spot at this point is the Pirates, tweets McAdam.
- The Orioles are also in on Miller, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
- Boston expects to deal Miller by this afternoon, tweets Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com. Offers are rising with strong interest from many clubs, he adds.
- The Tigers have strong interest in acquiring Miller to bolster their bullpen for a potential postseason matchup with the A’s or Angels, tweets Bruce Levine of WSCR-AM/670 The Score.
- The Red Sox are being “swarmed” with offers for Miller, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Needless to say, the club has kept its asking price high in light of the demand. A rival executive tells Nightengale that Miller is holding up the rest of the market.
- Jon Lester helped the Red Sox out last week by publicly stating that he’d be willing to re-sign with Boston if traded, and it appears that Boston thinks the same scenario could play out with lefty reliever Andrew Miller. Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald spoke to a source (Twitter link) who told him that the Sox “believe they have built up enough good will that [Miller would] consider coming back as free agent.”
- Miller has drawn interest from the Braves, Royals, Dodgers and Pirates, but the asking price is said to be very high. The Sox are reportedly seeking a rival team’s top prospect and a lesser prospect in order to move their dominant setup man. Earning just $1.9MM in 2014, Miller is owed only $633K through season’s end.
TODAY, 12:04am: Also in on Bonifacio as of this morning were the Pirates, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
11:13am: There is plenty of action on Bonifacio, who is being pursued currently by the Orioles, Giants, and Mariners, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.com.
YESTERDAY, 8:12pm: It does not appear that the Giants are going to acquire Bonifacio, according to a tweet from Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
6:42pm: The Royals are not yet close to adding Bonifacio, tweets Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star.
5:48pm: The O’s are not in on Bonifacio, tweets Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, who hears that the versatile fielder could be returning to Kansas City. Needless to say, that would be an interesting turn of events: Bonifacio finished well last year with Kansas City, was tendered a contract, agreed to a salary to avoid arbitration, and was then released before the start of the season.
5:14pm: At present, the Giants, Orioles, and Reds are all in play for Bonifacio, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
4:50pm: Bonifacio has been told to be prepared for a deal today, tweets Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.
4:42pm: Bonifacio is indeed not in the lineup, with manager Rick Renteria saying it was “prudent” to hold him out, according to Rogers (Twitter link).
2:50pm: The Cubs are getting close to trading Bonifacio, tweets Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. Levine tweets that Bonifacio is not in tonight’s lineup, which could obviously signal that a deal is nigh. Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle hears that the Giants have been scouting Bonifacio all week, but the asking price for the impending free agent is said to be high.
2:32pm: The Orioles are Giants are considering Cubs utility man Emilio Bonifacio as a trade option, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. Bruce Levine of 670 The Score adds the Royals, Mariners, and Reds as three more potential suitors (All Twitter links).
Bonifacio, 29, is hitting .279/.318/.373 in 298 plate appearances for the Cubs. The switch-hitter is raking against lefties in this year’s limited sample. He’s mainly played center field and second base for the Cubs. Bonifacio is eligible for free agency after the season.
As of late last night, the Pirates and the Cardinals were said to be the two teams most aggressively pursuing Jon Lester, who was scratched from Wednesday’s scheduled start. At one point yesterday, the Orioles looked close to a deal, but conflicting reports emerged on the severity of those negotiations. Regardless, Baltimore does seem to be in the mix, and a late-to-the-party mystery team was revealed to be the Athletics. We’ll keep track of the final stages of the Lester sweepstakes in this post…
- Talks with the Orioles fizzled yesterday in part due to a season-ending elbow injury to Hunter Harvey (one of Baltimore’s top pitching prospects), writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. With Harvey sidelined, the O’s became even more hesitant to deal from their crop of top arms.
- Hall of Fame reporter Peter Gammons tells WEEI’s John Dennis and Gerry Callahan that the Dodgers aren’t in the mix to acquire Lester at this point (Twitter link).
Jon Lester has been scratched from his scheduled start tonight — a clear indicator that the Red Sox are looking to deal their ace. It briefly looked like the Orioles were close to a deal, but while those talks are serious, the deal isn’t close yet. Here’s the latest…
- The Cardinals and Pirates are making the strongest bids for Lester at the moment, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports report (Twitter link). The Dodgers also remain involved.
- In a full article, Heyman writes that the A’s are the mystery team that has stepped into the Lester bidding. Nothing is close between the two sides at the moment, however.
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that a mystery team is becoming more involved.
- Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio reports that the Athletics are in on Lester.
- Via WEEI’s Alex Speier (on Twitter), manager John Farrell expects Lester to be in uniform with the Red Sox today.
- The Cardinals‘ acquisition of Justin Masterson doesn’t necessarily take them out of the running for Lester, sources tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The Cards could still acquire Lester, though it may cost them Shelby Miller, Morosi adds in a second tweet.
- The Marlins aren’t entirely out of the Lester sweepstakes, an AL executive familiar with the negotiations tells Juan C. Rodriguez of the Miami Sun-Sentinel. However, the Marlins won’t part with top prospect Andrew Heaney in a Lester deal (or a deal for any rental player).
- The Cardinals and Dodgers are the two teams that are most aggressively competing for Lester’s services, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. They’re also the most aggressive clubs on David Price, though it’s far from a given that the Rays will move their own left-handed ace. Heyman hears similar things to yesterday’s reports regarding the Brewers and Orioles and says neither is in the mix at this point.
- An NL GM told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he thinks the Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers and Mariners are the primary suitors for Lester heading into Wednesday (Twitter link).
6:58pm: The Orioles did have discussions earlier on Lester, but talks have fizzled and there no longer appears to be a match, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.
For what it’s worth, Duquette did tell reporters that he had at least some interest in adding a frontline starter, which is something of a different tone than the club had set in recent days, as Connolly reports. “We’d be interested in adding pitchers that could help us at the top of our rotation,” said Duquette. “Who wouldn’t be?” But Duquette did not waver from his prior statements that Baltimore is quite hesitant to part with young arms: “I think with our young pitchers we would be conservative, and we would try and give them a prolonged trial in the big leagues before we would trade them.”
3:58pm: Told of rumors that a deal could be close, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said that would be “news to him,” as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets.
3:50pm: Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun hears differently than Abraham and Ghiroli, reporting that his sources indicate there’s nothing hot between the two sides at this time (Twitter link).
2:36pm: Abraham tweets that the two sides are in advanced discussions, but the Red Sox have alternatives, should Baltimore not meet their asking price. Ghiroli adds that Baltimore isn’t likely to part with Gausman in a Lester deal, but the two sides are still in serious discussions.
2:25pm: Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that a deal isn’t close at this time, although Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that talks are indeed heating up. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports also tweets that nothing is close to finalization at this point, though that doesn’t preclude a deal from being reached. Andy Martino of the New York Daily news also hears that a deal is possible, but not close at this time (Twitter link).
2:16pm: The Orioles are in advanced talks that would send a pitcher to Boston in exchange for Jon Lester, reports Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (on Twitter). MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli tweets that the two sides are “close” to a deal.