Ben Zobrist Rumors

Gammons On Zobrist, Uehara, Miller, Lester

Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons appeared on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Show (audio link) to discuss a host of Red Sox topics earlier today, and in doing so he touched on quite a few Red Sox issues, as well as some issues pertaining to other teams around the AL. Here are some highlights from the interview, and readers can check out full quotes from Gammons in the transcription provided by WEEI’s Ryan Conor

  • Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is torn as to whether or not he should buy or sell at this year’s trade deadline. He’s had scouts looking at top prospects around the league, but the upcoming road trip will do a lot to determine their course of action. Gammons notes that he may even have to consider dealing Jon Lester if the team truly isn’t going to work out a new deal with him.
  • The Rays’ recent surge in the standings has them holding off on selling pieces, Mariners sources told Gammons. Seattle thought they were closing in on a deal for Ben Zobrist, but they’ve since been told that the Rays plan to wait until the final 48 hours prior to the deadline before determining a course of action.
  • One GM who contacted the Red Sox about Koji Uehara told Gammons that Cherington seems disinclined to even discuss the possibility of trading his closer. The Sox want to bring Uehara back in 2015 and have him close.
  • Uehara hasn’t even been generating the most interest, Gammons hears. That distinction goes to Andrew Miller, who has “by far” been the subject of the most inquiries in Boston’s bullpen.
  • Gammons hears that Lester told teammates that he’d have signed in Spring Training if the team had offered even one dollar more than Homer Bailey‘s six-year, $105MM contract. The Red Sox maintain that their four-year, $70MM offer was merely a starting point, not a final offer, as they didn’t want to start at $110MM and end up in “Max Scherzer” territory (referring to the six-year, $144MM which Scherzer rejected).
  • That Scherzer offer, however, may be what Lester ultimately secures as a free agent, Gammons said. Two general managers have told Gammons that they expect Lester to sign for at least that much on the open market. “There’s a lot of money out there,” said one GM.
  • Gammons can see the Sox pursuing James Shields on the free agent market, but he notes that it’s more important for the team to cast a wide net rather than have just one contingency plan for Lester. He lists Cole Hamels as another alternative, though he points out how difficult it would be to acquire Hamels, as Phils GM Ruben Amaro Jr. would need to hit a home run on the deal after failing to acquire useful pieces from the Cliff Lee-to-Seattle deal and some other missteps.
  • Gammons feels that Christian Vazquez, Blake Swihart, Mookie Betts, Rubby De La Rosa and Henry Owens are probably all untouchable in trades at this point.

A’s Interested In Nick Franklin

Mariners second baseman Nick Franklin is “a top target” of the Athletics as they explore upgrades at the keystone, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.  Franklin’s name has been a fixture in trade rumors ever since the M’s signed Robinson Cano, with the Royals and Rays among the clubs most recently connected to the 23-year-old infielder.

As Slusser notes, there are some obstacles in the way of an Oakland/Seattle trade match on Franklin, mainly that the Mariners may not be interested in helping a division rival.  The Mariners are also known to be asking for a high price for Franklin, and the A’s may not have enough young talent left in the system following their recent major trade with the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.

Franklin played 104 games for Seattle in 2013 and was seemingly being groomed as the Mariners’ second baseman of the future before Cano signed.  Franklin has appeared in only 17 games with the M’s this season and has spent most of the year dominating minor league pitching — he owns a .300/.394/.481 slash line in 283 PA at Triple-A Tacoma.  With experience at both second and shortstop, Franklin could be a fit for the A’s at either position; Oakland’s long-term shortstop plans are somewhat in flux with Addison Russell traded and Jed Lowrie set for free agency this winter, though 2012 first-rounder Daniel Robertson is enjoying a big year at high-A ball.

Among more experienced second base targets, Ben Zobrist may not be a fit for the Athletics since the Rays want a big return for the utilityman, and he may not be available anyway since Tampa remains on the fringes of the AL East race.  The Phillies had one of their top scouts at Sunday’s A’s/Orioles game, which could hint at a connection with Chase Utley, though Slusser notes that Baltimore could be looking for second base help as well.


NL Central Notes: Reds, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates

The National League Central saw a change atop its leaderboard as the Brewers fell out of first place for the first time since April 5 after a 5-4 walk-off loss to the Nationals. It could be temporary pending the outcome of the Cardinals’ game with the Dodgers tonight. Here’s the latest from the NL Central:

  • Reds General Manager Walt Jocketty has several of his inner-circle baseball operations people on the road with him and is eyeing some additions, but that doesn’t mean anything will happen this month. “I’d like to add a bat,” Jocketty said, according to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. “We just haven’t found anything that attracts us yet. It may not happen before the 31st.”  Jocketty went on to say if the Reds acquire a bat, the preference would be for the player to play multiple positions.
  • With Brandon Phillips on the disabled list, the Reds GM was asked about pursuing the recently released Dan Uggla. “We haven’t discussed that yet,” Jocketty said (as quoted by John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer). “I haven’t talked to our scouts that saw him. I don’t know. We’re going to meet tomorrow and go over some stuff.
  • In a chat with Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (via Twitter), Jocketty made it clear he’d like to acquire a middle of the order bat he could put into the Reds‘ lineup right away, not an injury risk type player.  When asked about Rays‘ second baseman Ben Zobrist (link), Jocketty said, “That’s a good name. That’s all I’ll say.”
  • The Reds have interest in the Phillies‘ Marlon Byrd and Antonio Bastardo, reports CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury.
  • The Cardinals‘ top Trade Deadline priority should be starting pitching and not a replacement for the injured Yadier Molina, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • The Cardinals‘ due diligence with David Price is reminiscent of their pursuit of Matt Holliday in 2009, tweets Strauss’ colleague at the P-D, Derrick Goold (Twitter links).
  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin has downplayed the prospects of making a major deal before the Trade Deadline citing the lack of playing time for a bat and the limited impact a reliever can have because of the few innings they pitch, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt.
  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington told reporters, including Karen Price of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the ask is still high on the trade market, but the club has the payroll flexibility to make a move. “It’s the basic law of supply and demand,” Huntington said. “There’s not a lot of teams that are looking to sell, and there are a lot of teams looking to buy. There’s not a ton of players out there who are significant upgrades. There are some guys you think can be, so as a result asking prices higher than you’d like. It’s a balance of what do you give up for projected current wins for projected future wins.

Zach Links contributed to this post.



Latest On Trade Talks Between Mariners, Rays

FRIDAY: Taijuan Walker‘s name is once again at the center of trade talks surrounding Price, reports Heyman. He adds that Tampa has also expressed interest in the likes of corner infield prospect D.J. Peterson and James Paxton, neither of which is particularly surprising; Peterson and Paxton are two of the top young players in Seattle’s system.

The two sides are discussing various iterations of deals for Price, Zobrist or both. Heyman adds that Seattle might be willing to include Brad Miller in a deal as well, given the emergence of Triple-A shortstop Chris Taylor. The M’s, however, have said they won’t deal Mike Zunino.

THURSDAY, 9:51pm: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Mariners’ talks with the Rays have been more focused on Zobrist than Price, and the two sides have been discussing Zobrist “for weeks.” Nick Franklin‘s name has frequently come up in talks, he adds.

Heyman also reports that the Mariners have spoken to the Twins about Josh Willingham and the White Sox about Dayan Viciedo, and he notes that he, too, has heard Byrd’s name in learning of the Mariners’ trade talks. One big league source tells Heyman, however, that a deal for Byrd is now “less than likely” due to his no-trade clause.

He also adds that the Mariners’ ownership group is very big on bringing in players who want to be in Seattle. Offseason comments by Price’s agent about his client not wanting to sign a long-term deal in Seattle seem to indicate that Price doesn’t fit that description. However, the team’s status as a legitimate postseason contender may have changed Price’s thinking on that front.

2:10pm: Though no deal is imminent, the Mariners have been engaged in ongoing discussions with the Rays regarding lefty David Price and utilityman Ben Zobrist, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Meanwhile, talks have stalled with the Phillies regarding Marlon Byrd.

Needless to say, Price and Zobrist both represent potential impact to contenders. Either player could presumably add value to just about every roster in baseball. That holds particularly true for Seattle, which could not only pair Price with current ace Felix Hernandez but would be able to play Zobrist at shortstop, outfield, or even first base.

Of course, the return for either — and, especially, both — would figure to be substantial. (It is not clear from Morosi’s report whether the two would be joined in any potential deal, or indeed whether the sides have progressed that far.) Tampa is said to be interested in beating the return that the Cubs received for Jeff Samardzija, if it deals Price at all. Certainly, a hypothetical pairing of Price and Zobrist (both under control for next season) would require a bigger return on paper than was commanded by Samardzija and Jason Hammel.

Meanwhile, the news on Byrd makes sense in light of last night’s report from ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden, which indicated that Byrd would ask the Mariners to guarantee his $8MM option for 2016 in order to waive his no-trade clause. Seattle is one of just four teams on Byrd’s no-trade list.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


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.

AL East Notes: Price, Zobrist, Lackey, Lester

David Price is trying to just focus on pitching amidst the many trade rumors surrounding him, and the Rays ace admitted to being a bit nervous when he was recently summoned from a pre-start hot tub soak to Joe Maddon’s office.  Price told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that he was wondering if the long-rumored deal had finally come, but upon arriving at Maddon’s office, the skipper merely wanted to congratulate Price on making the All-Star team.  Topkin’s piece quotes Price and several other Rays on how everyone is handling all the trade buzz surrounding the star left-hander.

Here’s some more news from around the AL East…

  • The Giants are considered to be the team most interested in Ben Zobrist, Marc Topkin reports, with the Reds and Mariners among other teams also intrigued by the 33-year-old.  Zobrist would help the Giants and Reds at second base while the versatile 33-year-old would fit in Seattle as a shortstop or right fielder since Robinson Cano has the keystone locked up for the M’s.
  • The Red Sox have over $72MM coming off the books this offseason and will have lots of payroll flexibility to get the team back in contention, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes.  While the Sox seem adverse to signing veteran free agents to major contracts, there’s still plenty of payroll space for moves like re-signing Jon Lester.  The Sox are still committed to their young prospect base, though Cafardo notes that the club could trade from this minor depth to acquire a more expensive proven Major Leaguer.
  • John Lackey worries that the negotiations between Lester and the Red Sox have resembled his own extension talks with the Angels, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes.  Lackey and the Halos tabled talks during Spring Training of Lackey’s final contract year in 2009 and then the Angels were outbid on the open market by the Sox.  Now, Boston could be the ones who lose their ace due to another aggressive bidder if Lester ends up testing free agency.  “(The Red Sox) messed up in spring training for sure. The price of gas is going up every time (Lester) goes out there,” Lackey said.
  • Lackey also didn’t say whether he will approach the Red Sox about an extension, given that he’s under contract for a league minimum salary in 2015.  “I haven’t even thought that far ahead. I’m just worried about pitching right now, and we’ll see what happens at the end of the year,” the righty said.
  • Derek Jeter‘s retirement marks the end of the “Core Four” era for the Yankees, and ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand notes just how unlikely and special it was for the franchise to reach the postseason from every year, save one, from 1995-2012.

NL West Notes: Crawford, Dodgers, Zobrist, D’Backs

We took a look at the Rockies earlier today. Now, let’s check in on the rest of the NL West, which could be shaping up to be a busy division at the deadline:

  • The Dodgers plan to utilize outfielder Carl Crawford off of the bench when he is activated from the DL, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. For the time being, then, the club seems to have resolved its long-running logjam. “Carl happened to be the one who got hurt,” explained manager Don Mattingly, who said that Crawford is primarily a left-fielder, but that the position was now occupied by Matt Kemp. As Shaikin notes, Crawford still has $69MM remaining on his deal, including the rest of ths season and his annual payments through 2017, and could potentially be shopped in some kind of large contract swap.
  • Meanwhile, the Dodgers would be interested if the Red Sox make their relievers available, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. He lists Koji Uehara, Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, and Craig Breslow as players who Boston could conceivably listen on, as the first three are set to become free agents while Breslow had a $4MM club option with a $100K buyout.
  • The Giants may have interest in Rays infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist, according to a report from Chris Haft and Ryan Hood of MLB.com. The Giants have sent special assignment scout to Pat Burrell to Tropicana Field recently, and the duo adds that the Rays are believed to have scouted San Francisco’s Double-A affiliate extensively.
  • The Diamondbacks entered this season with a $110MM payroll and are believed to be targeting the same number for next season, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The problem, however, is that the current roster projects to come in around that amount due to arbitration raises and escalating salaries on current long-term deals. As such, the team figures to make trades to shed payroll in the coming weeks. Martin Prado and Aaron Hill are listed by Piecoro as candidates to be dealt.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


Rosenthal’s Latest: Zobrist, Price, Hanley, Dodgers, Martinez

In the video atop his latest Notes column for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal states that he feels this will finally be the year that the Rays deal David Price, as they can receive max value for him by dealing their ace to a team that can use him for two playoff pushes. He also adds that he expects the Rays to move Ben Zobrist, even though his price tag is affordable, simply because the demand for Zobrist will be so high.

Here are some more highlights from his column…

  • Hanley Ramirez‘s poor glove is perhaps the main reason that he and the Dodgers have yet to agree to an extension, Rosenthal writes. He wonders how much that flaw will impact Ramirez’s value on the open market at a time when teams are placing a higher premium than ever before on defense. He adds that if Ramirez does stay in L.A. and shift to third base in the long-term on his next contract, the team may have to trade Juan Uribe and his $6.5MM 2015 salary.
  • Looking at other Dodgers issues, Rosenthal writes that many executives around the league expect that it will ultimately be Matt Kemp who is traded to clear the team’s outfield logjam, though it likely won’t happen until the offseason. He adds that the Dodgers are likely to be in the market for a starting pitcher after the news that Chad Billingsley is out for the season, as Josh Beckett and Dan Haren are tough to rely on down the stretch.
  • Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez completely revamped his swing mechanics this offseason before he was released by the Astros in Spring Training. He signed a minor league deal with Detroit two days later and found himself teammates with the man whose mechanics he spent the entire offseason studying — Miguel Cabrera. Martinez tells Rosenthal he watched video of Cabrera and Ryan Braun all winter and “re-invented” himself at the plate. It may not be sustainable, but the early results are positive; Martinez is hitting .300/.333/.570 with six homers in 108 PA with Detroit.

Stark On Rays, Zobrist, Utley, Cubs, Padres

The trade deadline is rapidly approaching and while things figure to get exciting over the next month and change, not everyone is drooling over what might be available.  “To be honest, I don’t see much out there,” an official of one contender told Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. “Who’s even selling? And what are they selling? I know there will be guys to trade for. But where’s the quality?”  The whole column is worth a read, but here are some of the highlights from Stark’s latest..

  • The Rays front office believed that they had the talent to win it all this year and that optimism could play into how they approach the deadline.  The Rays aren’t selling and Stark writes that if they believe what they have can power them to a championship next season, they might stand pat and keep the band together.  Teams that have spoken with Tampa Bay see a fire sale as unlikely.
  • The Rays might listen on Ben Zobrist, but one exec who has spoken with the club gets the sense that it would be “really, really difficult” for them to part with him.  The exception to all of this, of course, is David Price.
  • The Phillies are expected to be open for business between now and the deadline, but they might not like the offers that come in.  “Look at their trade chips,” said an NL executive. “Even if they blow it up, dangle [Cole] Hamels and dangle all these other guys, each one of those guys has some reason it will be hard for them to get back what they want.
  • Meanwhile, one exec flatly said a Chase Utley trade is “not happening.”  The sticker price might not be met on Phillies like Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, and Jimmy Rollins, but teams see Domonic Brown as someone whom the Phillies would like to swap for a different young change-of-scenery candidate.
  • Teams that have spoken with the Cubs expect them to move pitcher Jason Hammel in the next two weeks.  That could just be the warm up for Jeff Samardzija, but they continue to tell teams that they’d like to hammer out a new contract with him.  This week we learned that the Cubs ace rejected a five-year, $85MM+ offer.
  • While some teams are beating around the bush, the Padres are aggressively letting teams know that they want to sell.  All of their outfielders, except Cameron Maybin, are available, and that includes Seth Smith, Chris Denorfia, and Will Venable.
  • Several teams report the Dodgers are telling them they’ll listen right now on every one of their outfielders except Yasiel Puig.
  • The Yankees have been asking almost exclusively about starting pitching in their preliminary conversations.
  • Teams that have talked with the Tigers say they’re focused on bullpen upgrades, not shortstop.
  • The Angels are in the bullpen market, but they’re looking hard at left-handed-relief options, not closers.
  • Things are murky around the D’Backs since no one really knows who is in charge their or what their goals are.
  • Royals GM Dayton Moore has indicated that the Royals can add payroll, but clubs believe that he won’t get to go-ahead to spend until mid-July.  When and if KC starts buying, they are expected to target right fielders and bullpen arms since that is what they’ve been asking about in conversations.

Trade Deadline Notes: D’Backs, Price, Zobrist, Lee, Cubs

With the draft in the rear-view mirror, the league’s attention will increasingly turn to the coming summer trade market — though, with so many teams still in the hunt and so much money owed to many possible trade candidates, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wonders if it will be a sluggish market.

Here’s the latest on some teams and players who could be discussed:

  • The Diamondbacks, who feature a roster with several attractive veteran pieces, have also been widely noted for their abundance of quality young middle infielders. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links), current Triple-A shortstop Nick Ahmed has sparked interest from multiple other clubs. Ahmed, 24, is known as an outstanding defensive player and has enjoyed his most productive season at the plate this year with a .304/.385/.401 line in 250 plate appearances in his first run at Triple-A.
  • The Rays should consider putting ace David Price on the market now rather than waiting for the deadline to approach, opines MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince. Tampa may not achieve the return it hopes for if it waits, says Castrovince, citing a variety of reasons — including the current proliferation of teams still in the hunt, the possibility that Cubs hurler Jeff Samardzija may approach or even surpass him in value, and the potential introduction of Royals’ ace James Shields into the discussion.
  • Price may be the Rays‘ most valuable trade chip, but the versatile Ben Zobrist would draw the widest interest if he is put on the block, tweets Rosenthal. The 33-year-old jack of all trades is owed just $7MM this year and comes with an attractive $7.5MM club option for 2015.
  • Indeed, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com writes that Zobrist is “the perfect acquisition for a team like the TigersGiants, or Dodgers.” As I noted a few days ago, he would also make sense for a team like the Nationals if they decide to add an impact veteran, and there are surely many others with possible interest.
  • Gammons goes on to cite a few other possibly overlooked trade possibilities. He lists Bartolo Colon of the Mets and Steve Cishek of the Marlins in addition to some more commonly mentioned names like Jason Hammel of the Cubs, and Chase Headley of the Padres.
  • Cliff Lee of the Phillies, a hypothetically intriguing trade candidate, finally threw a baseball yesterday for the first time since May 18, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. After what he described as a “light throwing session,” Lee said that his elbow was feeling “better.” Of course, he would need to make it back for at least a few starts to allow Philadelphia to recoup anything close to maximum value were they to shop him.
  • In today’s Baseball Tonight podcast (audio link), ESPN’s Buster Olney says that hears the Cubs will approach this year’s deadline as they did in 2013, dealing one pitcher early as they did with Scott Feldman last year and waiting until later to move a second, as they did with Matt Garza. Presumably, that’d mean Jason Hammel would be moved first, with Jeff Samardzija being moved later. His colleague, Keith Law, feels the strategy can work, as there will never be enough starting pitchers for all the teams looking to buy, and the price for Hammel isn’t as difficult to agree upon. Moving Hammel early on forces interested clubs to force on the bigger target later in the deadline as the need becomes greater.
  • Olney lists the Blue Jays, the Orioles and the Athletics as teams that could have early interest in Hammel, and he wonders if the recent injuries to the Pirates‘ rotation would cause them to jump into the mix. Law feels the Angels could be added to that mix, as their weak farm system would prevent them from adding a big-name starter.