Ben Zobrist Rumors

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.

AL Notes: Keppinger, Zobrist, Singleton, De Vries

Earlier today, the White Sox made the tough decision to designate infielder Jeff Keppinger for assignment, despite the fact that his contract calls for a $4MM salary in 2014 and a $4.5MM salary in 2015. GM Rick Hahn spoke to reporters about the move (Twitter links to MLB.com’s Scott Merkin) about the decision: We are focusing on the future as opposed to trying to justify a decision from the past. … [Keppinger’s signing] didn’t work. That’s on me.”

Here’s more from the American League:

  • Versatile Rays infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist suffered a dislocated left thumb in today’s action, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (links to Twitter). A brief trip to the DL seems likely, though the injury does not appear to be a long-term concern. Through 177 plate appearances, Zobrist owned an effective (but low for his standards) .258/.352/.364 line with three home runs and three stolen bases. Discussing the struggling Tampa club in a piece for Grantland earlier today, Jonah Keri wrote that Zobrist, who is earning just $7MM this year, could potentially become a trade piece if the Rays cannot turn things around. His contract, long one of the most team-friendly in the game, includes a club option for next season at $7.5MM (with a $500K buyout).
  • The Astros are still deliberating on when to call up first baseman Jon Singleton, per a report from Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston (Twitter links). “We have seen the reaction the fans have to bringing up a prospect like [George Springer],” said Luhnow. “I would say Singleton is on deck.” While Singleton, 22, has mashed at Triple-A this year (.293/.401/.629 with 12 home runs in 167 plate appearances), Luhnow did not commit to a timeline. “I think he will play up here this year,” he said. “When, that remains to be seen.” Singleton entered the year as a consensus top-100 prospect. (MLB.com placed him 44th; ESPN.com’s Keith law ranked him 78th; and Baseball America put him at 82nd.)
  • Former Twins pitcher Cole De Vries has officially retired, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN via Twitter. The 29-year-old righty threw to a 4.11 ERA in 87 2/3 innings (most of them as a starter) back in 2012, with 6.0 K/9 against just 1.8 BB/9. He was less successful last year, however, giving up 18 earned runs in just 15 frames. De Vries became a minor league free agent after the year, but said that he is trying his hand at commercial real estate rather than looking for another crack at the bigs.

Rays Exercise 2014 Club Options On Zobrist, Escobar

The Rays have exercised their club options over utilityman extraordinaire Ben Zobrist and shortstop Yunel Escobar, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. As Topkin notes, the club's more difficult option decision comes due tomorrow, when Tampa must act on David DeJesus.

Neither move comes as a surprise, given that the option amounts for Zobrist and Escobar ($7MM and $5MM, respectively) are modest compared to their 2013 production. Zobrist slashed .275/.354/.402, a step back from his offensive output over 2011-12. But with stellar defense and baserunning, he nevertheless managed a third straight 5+ fWAR campaign and remains one of baseball's best values and most adaptable players. Escobar put up an exactly league-average wRC mark, but that will play at short, particularly when combined with outstanding fielding. He figures also to provide surplus production going forward after putting up a redemptive 3.9 fWAR in his first year in Tampa.

The best news for the Rays is that the club has virtually identical club options for this pair next year, as well. (Zobrist's jumps in value by $500k, though his buyout also plummets.) Tampa will hope the decision is just as easy next time around.


Friedman Talks Pitching, Trades, Zobrist

When I asked Andrew Friedman how he’d assess the Rays’ starting pitching heading into 2013, he made his point pretty quickly. “It’s good,” he said. I caught up with Tampa Bay’s executive VP of baseball operations at the GM meetings in Indian Wells, California yesterday. Here are some of the details…

  • The Rays will consider trading starting pitching since they believe in listening to trade offers whenever possible. Still, they realize pitching depth can be fleeting. “The one thing that we’re very wary of is waking up one day and not being able to fill out a rotation in the American League East.”
  • The Rays could upgrade at a variety of positions with Jeff Keppinger and B.J. Upton hitting free agency and the versatile Ben Zobrist on the roster. “Our approach is to attack this with a very open mind and focus on guys that we want to acquire in a vacuum.” Once the Rays make one move, their focus will narrow depending on how the initial move affects their roster.
  • The Rays like having the flexibility to pursue players at many positions. “That being said, you can’t get paralyzed by the flexibility and end up in January with way too many things to accomplish,” Friedman said.
  • Friedman acknowledged that the Rays need position players and relievers. “We have a lot of things we need to accomplish without a ton of resources,” he said.