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Ben Zobrist Rumors
Now that former Rays skipper Joe Maddon has signed with the Cubs, the Rays find themselves at a philosophical crossroads, writes Buster Olney of ESPN (Insider only). The Rays must decide whether to pursue tampering charges against the Cubs. Per Olney, the Rays thought they were close to signing Maddon to a multi-year extension before he ultimately opted out of his contract. The timing seems suspicious, but it may be difficult to prove tampering.
The Rays have two options. They can either ignore the whiff of wrong doing or pursue an investigation. Major League Baseball has the authority to demand phone and email records from all 30 clubs, so a basic investigation is possible. Other small market teams, tired of being bullied by the big spenders, would ostensibly support an investigation. If tampering is proven, the Cubs could be forced to relinquish a player in return for Maddon. Historically, such returns have been middling. Randy Winn was traded for Lou Piniella, reliever Chris Carpenter was dealt for Theo Epstein, and the pair of Jhan Marinez and Ozzie Martinez were sent to the White Sox for Ozzie Guillen.
- Despite turmoil atop the Rays organization, Ben Zobrist is excited to have his $7.5MM club option exercised, writes Marc Tomkin of the Tampa Bay Times. He expressed faith in GM Matt Silverman along with lieutenants Chaim Bloom and Erik Neander. Zobrist is set to become the first player in Rays franchise history to begin a 10th season with the club.
- The Orioles declined a $17.5MM option for Nick Markakis a few days ago, but they’re still striving to re-sign him, reports Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. One person who expects Markakis to return is manager Buck Showalter. The Orioles can negotiate exclusively with Markakis through Monday night. They also need to decide on a potential qualifying offer, which could depend on the character of their negotiations. After considering his $2MM buyout, the $15.3MM qualifying offer is just a $200K savings over the club option. If the club is confident Markakis will pursue a multi-year deal elsewhere, they may be more inclined to make the offer.
- Baltimore officially declined Nick Hundley‘s 2015 option via Twitter. The club is potentially interested in re-signing Hundley at a rate below his $5MM option, tweets Roch Kobatko of MASNsports.com. The 40 man roster now stands at 31 players according to Kubatko (also Twitter). We first learned the Orioles planned to decline the option last Thursday.
The Rays announced that they have exercised their one-year, $7.5MM club option on Ben Zobrist.
The move was perhaps one of the easiest calls for any team with an option over a player, as the 33-year-old Zobrist again turned in an excellent campaign and proved to be a tremendously valuable asset for Tampa. In 654 plate appearances for the Rays, Zobrist slashed .272/.354/.395 at second base and in the outfield corners, and he even chipped in at shortstop and in center field as well.
The upcoming season will mark Tampa’s final year of control over Zobrist, who early in the 2010 season signed a four-year, $18MM contract extension that contained a pair of club options. Zobrist earned $7MM in 2014 — the first of the two option years — and will earn $7.5MM this year, bringing his total earnings on the deal to $30MM over six years. He’s averaged a staggering 5.4 fWAR and 5.8 rWAR per season over the life of that deal.
It will be interesting to see how the Rays approach Zobrist over the next calendar year. He drew considerable interest at the trade deadline and would figure to do so again this offseason were new president of baseball operations Matthew Silverman willing to make Zobrist available. However, doing so would put a significant dent in the team’s hopes of contending next season. They could at some point approach him about an extension as well, or look to shop him next July should they again fall out of contention. Of course, Tampa could also just retain Zobrist through season’s end next year and extend him a qualifying offer, thereby guaranteeing themselves at east a compensatory draft pick following what would likely be another season of excellent production.
The Yankees have a mess on their hands as they look to assemble their 2015 roster and the presence of Alex Rodriguez complicates matters, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The Bombers hope that A-Rod can contribute at third at least on a part-time basis and serve as a solid DH option. If he can do neither, they’re unlikely to cut him due to his three-year, $61MM deal. Not only would it look bad for ownership, but A-Rod needs to fully show he can’t play if there is any chance of recouping some of that money through insurance. More from the AL and NL East..
- If the Dodgers come calling for Rays GM Andrew Friedman, the opportunity will have appeal, but it’s not a given that he’d go, as Roger Mooney of The Tampa Tribune writes. Friedman enjoys the challenge of competing with the Yankees and Red Sox with fewer resources and is loyal to Tampa Bay owner Stuart Sternberg. By the same token, the challenge may not motivate him the same way forever.
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times agrees that Friedman has a comfortable situation with the Rays. When considering his relationships with Sternberg, team president Matt Silverman, and manager Joe Maddon, Friedman has something in Tampa Bay that few other decision makers enjoy.
- Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider looks at the Nationals‘ second base options for 2015. If the Nationals wants to stick with what they know, they can re-sign Asdrubal Cabrera or give Danny Espinosa another shot at earning the job. Otherwise, they’ll have to go out of house. The free agent market is rather thin at the position, especially if the Rays pick up Ben Zobrist‘s $7.5MM option. However, teams like the Rangers, Diamondbacks, and Cubs are deep with middle infielders and could be potential trade partners.
- The time is now for the next wave of the Braves‘ homegrown talent like Christian Bethancourt and pitchers Alex Wood, Shae Simmons, and Chasen Shreve to step up and become bigger contributors in 2015, opines Bill Ballew of Baseball America (subscription required).
Jason Lane‘s improbable comeback story will add another chapter today when the outfielder-turned-pitcher will receive his first Major League start, getting a spot appearance in place of Padres ace Ian Kennedy (who’s battling a sore oblique). Lane began making regular mound appearances in 2012 in the minors in an attempt to revive his career, and the decision paid off earlier this season when he was called up by San Diego and threw 4 1/3 scoreless relief innings. That cup of coffee marked Lane’s first big league action since playing as an outfielder with the Astros and Padres from 2002-07. At age 37, Lane will be the oldest first-time starter since 38-year-old Troy Percival started a game for St. Louis in 2007.
Here’s some hot stove buzz from around the NL West…
- Despite already trading two of their better prospects in the Jake Peavy deal, the Giants have maintained an interest in Ben Zobrist and had two scouts watching the Rays this weekend, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi reports (Twitter links). San Francisco is one of “multiple teams” who are “ready to act” if Tampa indeed makes Zobrist available, sources tell Morosi and Ken Rosenthal.
- Multiple teams have shown interest in Diamondbacks right-hander Brad Ziegler, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports, though the Snakes aren’t likely to move him. Earlier this month, we heard the Tigers were known to be one of the clubs who asked about Ziegler. Gilbert’s piece also summarizes some of the trade rumors circulating about what Arizona may do at the deadline.
- Troy Tulowitzki would welcome a trade to the Red Sox, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe hears from a source (Twitter link). Given Tulowitzki’s controversial appearance in the stands at Sunday’s Blue Jays/Yankees game, expect more trade buzz than ever about the Rockies‘ star shortstop both over the next several weeks and through the offseason.
- Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said over the weekend that his club “may not do anything” at the trade deadline, and Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles thinks this might not necessarily be a concern given how the current roster performed in sweeping the Giants.
Jayson Stark of ESPN.com spent an hour chatting with readers about the trade deadline. Here are some highlights from his session…
- The Phillies have offered Ryan Howard to any American League club they think could theoretically use him and received no takers. GM Ruben Amaro has even offered to pay the vast majority of Howard’s deal while asking for little in return, but to no avail.
- The possibility of Jake Peavy heading to the Cardinals is still very much alive, Stark hears. The Red Sox just sent their top scouts to watch St. Louis’ short-season Class A club, which would fit with previous reports that Boston likes outfield prospect Rowan Wick (though he has since moved up to the Midwest League).
- Despite a six-game losing streak, the Reds are still buying, and their preference is to add a bat that they can control beyond this season. As such, Marlon Byrd and Ben Zobrist both are targets, though it’s far from a guarantee that the Rays will sell.
- Stark says he’s “barely heard [Stephen] Drew‘s name” on the trade market due to how poorly the shortstop has played since signing. If the Red Sox sell, he notes, the team will trade some combination of Peavy, Andrew Miller, Jonny Gomes and Junichi Tazawa. The addition of Tazawa’s name is a new wrinkle in the trade market. The 28-year-old has been dominant for the Sox and is controlled through 2016 via arbitration. One would think he could fetch a very nice return, given his 2.52 ERA (2.66 FIP), 9.4 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9.
- The Giants “really want a starter,” but Stark can’t see them seriously pursuing David Price. He does note that GM Brian Sabean usually ends up getting what he’s looking for at this time of the year. San Francisco has also shown some interest in Jimmy Rollins, but the chances are very low due to the former MVP’s 10-and-5 rights, his contract and the fact that Brandon Crawford would have to slide over to second base. (Alternatively, Rollins could simply play second, given Crawford’s defensive prowess.)
- While most reports out of New York indicate that the Mets don’t want to trade Daniel Murphy, Stark hears that they’d “definitely” move him if they received enough quality in return. I’d imagine the asking price on Murphy to be very high, given Alderson’s reluctance to sell off assets that are under control beyond the current season.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Andrew Miller | Ben Zobrist | Boston Red Sox | Cincinnati Reds | Daniel Murphy | Jimmy Rollins | Jonny Gomes | Junichi Tazawa | Marlon Byrd | New York Mets | Newsstand | Philadelphia Phillies | Ryan Howard | San Francisco Giants | St. Louis Cardinals | Stephen Drew | Tampa Bay Rays
Jayson Stark of ESPN.com has a new Rumblings & Grumblings column posted in which he runs down a plethora of trade-related topics. You’ll need to read the full post to get all the information and analysis, but here are some of the highlights …
- The Rays are waiting until next week to make any decisions on whether or not to trade ace David Price. However, as Stark points out, it could still be a difficult judgment call as to whether or not the Rays are close enough to go for it or far enough back to sell. Tampa is currently seven games back of the division lead and four and a half games back from a Wild Card berth.
- One executive tells Stark that he’s convinced the team will move Price if they get a big enough offer. Said the exec, “They’ve really built their team by making these kinds of deals. But if the return they can get now is something they think they can get this winter, they’ll hold him.” Another exec tells Stark that waiting until the winter could reduce the return in a trade by 30 to 40 percent.
- Stark runs down the possible landing spots for Price, calling the Dodgers the favorite, but noting that L.A. has said it will not part with both Joc Pederson and Corey Seager, even in a Price trade. The Mariners are the second choice, he notes, with the Cardinals listed third followed by the Giants and Blue Jays (both of whom are painted as long shots by Stark).
- If the Rays do sell Price, they’ll be open for business and listen on a number of other players, including Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Yunel Escobar. Their preference is to deal Price and Zobrist in separate trades, if that comes to pass.
- The Phillies are the next team that everyone is watching, with nine players that could be moved but contractual problems surrounding many of them. Most execs feel the Phillies will eat money to facilitate deals and aren’t looking to just dump players on other clubs. Specifically, the team is in need of position-player prospects, one exec who has spoken with Philadelphia tells Stark.
- Marlon Byrd is the most likely to be dealt, with the Mariners, Royals and Reds scouting him. The Reds, however, may not be able to take on Byrd’s remaining $3MM in 2014, and the Mariners and Royals are on his no-trade list.
- Jonathan Papelbon and Cliff Lee aren’t likely to be dealt, executives tell Stark. In Lee’s case, they feel he’s a lock to clear waivers. One exec tells Stark that he’d be more inclined to take a chance on Lee were he a free agent, but his contract is too risky at this point.
- Cole Hamels isn’t likely to be dealt either. It’s not that the Phillies aren’t willing to move him, it’s just that the prices they’ve specified consist of packages “that no one would possibly give up.”
- A.J. Burnett‘s preference is indeed to return to the Pirates, but Pittsburgh would need assurances that he’s not going to exercise his player option for 2015. The Orioles‘ interest is said to be lukewarm, while the Phillies asked the Yankees and were told, “No thanks.”
- At least half a dozen teams are in on Antonio Bastardo, whom Stark concretely says will be traded in the next week.
- The Orioles aren’t looking for a closer upgrade over Zach Britton, but they’re looking for a rotation upgrade and a lefty reliever that’s more than just a left-on-left specialist. They’ve shown no interest in dealing Hunter Harvey or Dylan Bundy.
- The Royals have called on virtually every right-handed hitter on the market, but they’re look specifically at right fielders, including Byrd, Alex Rios, Chris Denorfia and Dayan Viciedo. The first two of those options still look most likely.
- Stark would be surprised if the Pirates didn’t add at least one pitcher, if not two in the next week, but it’d have to be at least a No. 3 option in terms of starters. On the relief front, they’re looking at seventh-inning arms, as they’re content with Tony Watson in the eighth and Mark Melancon in the ninth.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: A.J. Burnett | Alex Rios | Antonio Bastardo | Baltimore Orioles | Ben Zobrist | Chicago White Sox | Chris Denorfia | Cincinnati Reds | Cliff Lee | Cole Hamels | Corey Seager | David Price | Dayan Viciedo | Dylan Bundy | Hunter Harvey | Joc Pederson | Jonathan Papelbon | Kansas City Royals | Los Angeles Dodgers | Marlon Byrd | Matt Joyce | Newsstand | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Seattle Mariners | St. Louis Cardinals | Tampa Bay Rays | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays | Yunel Escobar
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.
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.
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.
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.