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Billy Butler Rumors
The Tigers have discussed trading Austin Jackson to the Yankees in exchange for Brett Gardner, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports. Both players have been above-average fielders in center over their careers and have comparable career batting lines, though Gardner is a better base-stealer and Jackson has more doubles pop. Jackson turns 27 in February, is projected to earn $5.3MM in his second year of arbitration eligibility and he'll hit free agency after the 2015 season; the 30-year-old Gardner is projected to earn $4MM and he'll be a free agent next winter. I'm not sure this deal makes sense for the Tigers unless they don't think they can sign Jackson (a Scott Boras client) to an extension, or if they aren't interested in extending Jackson. From the Yankees' side, they like Gardner enough that they probably wouldn't move him for a very similar player, albeit a younger one.
Here are some more items from all five AL Central franchises…
- The Twins have increased the value of their two-year offer to Mike Pelfrey from $10MM to $12MM, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The Rangers and Giants have also shown interest in Pelfrey, Neal reports.
- Also from Neal, the stumbling block between Matt Garza and the Twins seems to be Garza's demands for a four- or five-year contract, as Minnesota isn't willing to make that long a commitment due to injury concerns. That said, Neal isn't counting the Twins out of the Garza race yet as he hears the team is still in the hunt (Twitter links). You can read more about the Twins' hunt for pitching here.
- The Royals could continue to shop Billy Butler since "Before too long, the DH spot has to be a rotating position for us. It really does," a club official tells Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. For one, the Royals may use Salvador Perez at DH to keep his bat in the lineup when he isn't catching, plus added DH days would help keep Perez healthy. Even if Butler isn't dealt this offseason, Dutton doesn't believe the Royals will sign him to an extension once his current deal is up. It was reported earlier today that Butler's name had come up in trade talks with the Blue Jays.
- The Royals, Indians and Rangers are among the teams interested in Shaun Marcum, ESPN's Jayson Stark tweets. Marcum underwent surgery to correct his thoracic outlet syndrome in July and his agent updated MLBTR's Tim Dierkes on the recovery process last month.
- The White Sox are looking to cut their payroll from just under $119MM in 2013 to between $89MM-$99MM range for 2014, ESPN Chicago's Doug Padilla writes, with the $99MM figure being the likelier of the two. Despite the cuts on the Major League side, GM Rick Hahn said the club will reinvest the saved money into extra spending on the draft and international signings.
- In other AL Central news from earlier today, the Tigers reached an agreement with Joba Chamberlain and the Indians were battling with the Padres over Joaquin Benoit.
The Royals and Blue Jays have talked about a trade that would send Billy Butler and prospects to Toronto, The Globe & Mail's Jeff Blair reports (Twitter links). No deal is imminent, however, as Blair says the talks haven't "moved beyond [the] discussion stage."
Butler was rumored to be on the shopping block earlier this winter, especially during the Royals' pursuit of Carlos Beltran. Even with Beltran now a Yankee, ESPN's Jayson Stark reported on Tuesday that the Royals could still be looking to move Butler, and would perhaps then attempt to sign Nelson Cruz. The rationale behind a Butler trade would be to free up payroll space and also free up the Royals' DH spot so a defensively-challenged player like Cruz wouldn't be locked into playing the field every day.
Butler will earn $8MM in 2014 and the Royals hold a $12.5MM option (with a $1MM buyout) on his services for 2015. The 27-year-old slugger hit .289/.374/.412 with 15 homers in 668 PA in 2013, solid numbers that nevertheless represented a step back from the .854 OPS and 21 homers that Butler averaged from 2009-12.
It seems that Toronto wouldn't be able to make a move for Butler until they could unload Adam Lind, the team's incumbent designated hitter. Lind outhit Butler (23 homers, .854 OPS) in 147 fewer PA in 2013, but Lind is three years older, posted subpar numbers from 2010-12 and struggles to hit left-handed pitching, whereas Butler has produced against both lefties and righties. The Pirates showed interest in Lind earlier this offseason but trade talks with the Jays didn't develop.
By participating in the three-team Mark Trumbo trade with the Diamondbacks and Angels, the White Sox hindered their cross-town rivals' hopes of dealing Jeff Samardzija, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. The Diamondbacks have been interested in Samardzija since the summer, and one of the players they dealt in the Trumbo deal, pitcher Tyler Skaggs, would have been a key component of any package strong enough for the Cubs to send Samardzija to the desert. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Wittenmyer also reports that the Cubs haven't yet made an offer to Scott Baker, who worked through an elbow injury and made three late-season starts for the Cubs in 2013. They have, however, talked with his agency. Baker is represented by Octagon.
- The Blue Jays are still prefer not to sign players for more than five years, although, as Sportsnet.ca's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently noted (via Twitter), there may be signs that could be softening somewhat. Still, their reluctance removes them from the market for top-tier free agents, who usually sign for longer, MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm points out. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos prefers to trading for high-profile players rather than signing them. "There are some players out there in trade that signed long-term contracts, and then a year or two later, they're already getting moved," he says. "That's pretty telling. I still think five years is a long period of time."
- Chisholm also reports that Anthopoulos says that prospects Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman "come up in every trade talk we probably have," due to their relatively close proximity to the Majors. "If you're trying to get a controllable starter, everyone would prefer to get the talent level that's closest," Anthopoulos says.
- Even though the the Royals didn't sign Carlos Beltran, they haven't ruled out the possibility of trading DH Billy Butler, ESPN's Jayson Stark tweets. If they do, they could end up signing Nelson Cruz.
- The Rangers, Mariners and Orioles still appear to have interest in Cruz, Stark tweets, noting that it could still be awhile before Cruz signs.
- The Orioles have also checked in on free agent starting pitcher Bartolo Colon, tweets FOX Sports' Jon Morosi.
- The Yankees, Mets and Padres have asked about Dustin Ackley of the Mariners, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets. Ackley, 25, hit .253/.319/.341 in 427 plate appearances in 2013, with his time split between second base and outfield.
- Ten teams are interested in infielder Justin Turner, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes writes (via Twitter). Turner hit .280/.319/.385 in 214 plate appearances and played all four infield position for the Mets in 2013.
- Astros outfielder L.J. Hoes is now represented by MVP Sports Group, Dierkes tweets.
As Day One of the 2013 winter meetings nears a close, let's round up a few updates from around the AL West….
- The Rangers will "probably not" be involved in a trade for a high-end starting pitcher, GM Jon Daniels conceded on Monday. "We’d love to have some of the guys that are out there, but there doesn’t appear to be a fit for us," Daniels said, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
- Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Rangers had interest in acquiring Billy Butler earlier in the offseason, but after trading for Prince Fielder, Texas is unlikely to maintain serious interest in the Royals' DH.
- Discussing the possibility of adding a right-handed bat, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik suggested that it "could very well be our main focus," according to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune (Twitter link).
- It was a quiet Monday in Orlando for the Athletics, says Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Nonetheless, assistant GM David Forst says the A's will remain in touch with teams and agents in the hopes of improving the team. Forst also acknowledged that Oakland could use some more prospects in the upper levels of its minor league system (all Twitter links).
The Royals have serious interest in free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran and appear willing to offer their former star a three-year deal, the Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton reports. Last week, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman wrote that the Royals "could become real threats" to sign Beltran. "We’d love to have him in," a Royals official tells Dutton. "One thing about Carlos Beltran is he’s a money player. He’s an RBI guy. He produces."
The Royals will have lots of competition for Beltran, whose other suitors might include the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Rangers, and Mariners. And after the signing of Jason Vargas, the Royals already appear to have little money to spare. Dutton reports, however, that the Royals might be able to find space in their payroll for Beltran, perhaps by making other transactions to reduce salary. If the Royals were to sign Beltran, for example, one possibility might be to trade DH Billy Butler, who is set to make $8MM in 2014 (with an option and a $1MM buyout for 2015).
In any case, the Royals are looking for a hitter, and one reason for their focus on Beltran is that the trade market isn't particularly promising. "[W]hen you look at the landscape, I’m not sure there are many clubs out there that are willing to trade impact bats," says GM Dayton Moore. "There just are not that many, and a lot of people are looking for the same thing."
It's a weak market for catchers now that the Yankees have taken Brian McCann off the board, an article by Bradley Woodrum of Fangraphs shows. While teams such as the Red Sox, Rockies and Rangers are still in the market for backstop help, the best remaining option, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, will bring a large platoon split to the lineup of whichever team signs him. Here's the latest from around the AL, as a busy evening on MLBTR draws to a close:
- The Royals have had no talks about Billy Butler with any team, a source tells Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star (via Twitter).
- In an article for the Detroit Free Press, John Lowe considers the impact of the Ian Kinsler deal on the Tigers' lineup. Much depends on whether the front office believes prospect Nick Castellanos is ready to hit in the big leagues, Lowe writes. If so, he could take the third base job, allowing Miguel Cabrera to slide back to first base.
- FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets that Kinsler's agent, Jay Franklin, says the Tigers are indicating they'll play Kinsler at second base. Given this and the team's other priorities, signing Robinson Cano is likely a long shot at this point, Rosenthal says (via Twitter).
- Mike Napoli says he "wouldn’t see why not" when asked about the possibility of returning to the Red Sox in 2014, Rob Bradford writes in an article for WEEI.com. A recent end-of-season MRI showed that the avascular necrosis in Napoli's hips isn't an issue at the time, according to the article.
- Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com considers how the Yankees' signing of McCann could affect potential negotiations between the Orioles and Matt Wieters over an extension. The O's must try to figure out "to what extreme [Wieters agent Scott] Boras will attempt to trump the McCann deal," Kubatko says.
- The Orioles are among clubs with interest in Tomo Ohka, tweets NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman, citing a report from Sanspo. The 10-year big league veteran is trying to make it back to the majors as a knuckleballer.
- The Prince Fielder trade shows that the Rangers are getting creative in their offseason quest for bats, T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com writes. Texas is hesitant to forfeit a first-round draft pick to sign a player such as Jacoby Ellsbury, as the team will already be limited on the international side of the amateur talent market after greatly exceeding their bonus pool this past summer.
- Shipping Peter Bourjos to the Cardinals sets the Angels up with an outfield of Mike Trout in center, Kole Calhoun in right and Josh Hamilton in left, Mike DiGiovanna says in an article on the trade for the Los Angeles Times. As DiGiovanna notes, the trade also reunites David Freese with Albert Pujols, his teammate in 2011 with the Cardinals.
- Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times wonders how the Angels will fit two starters into their offseason budget after acquiring Joe Smith, Freese and Fernando Salas (Twitter link).
The Royals were reportedly open to listening to offers for Billy Butler last month and several teams (including the Mariners) are interested in the slugger, but a Royals team official tells Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that a Butler trade is unlikely. “Do the math. We’re looking to add offense," the official said. "If we trade Butler, we’d have to add a lot of offense. It would have to be a series of moves to do that, and that’s hard to do. Plus, there’s just not that much available offense out there.”
Here's some more from Dutton…
- The Royals are only looking to add one pitcher to their rotation this offseason, at most. James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie have the first two spots and GM Dayton Moore hopes that the final two spots can be filled by the club's internal depth. “To say we need to go out and get two guys…if it happens, great. But it’s not a necessity for us. We’d like to get one, but we want to get the right one for the right type of contract," Moore said.
- While Moore wouldn't mind if young arms like Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy and Kyle Zimmer all won rotation spots, the club prefers a veteran starter. "We've seen medicals on all of the guys…We're still trying to determine what pitchers out there will give us the least amount of risk," Moore said. Dutton has cited Josh Johnson, Tim Hudson and Phil Hughes as Royals targets.
- The Royals are still in contact with Bruce Chen, though they see the left-hander as a swingman more than a solid rotation fixture.
- It seems as if Ervin Santana has priced himself out of the Royals' range, though Moore didn't close the door on a possible return for the free agent right-hander. "Erv was a terrific pitcher for us, and we’re going to stay engaged. He’s agreed to stay engaged with us. We’ll see how it works. I hope he gets a great deal.”
- Manager Ned Yost recently said that he and Moore had mentioned Brandon Phillips' name in discussions, though Dutton hears that such a trade would be unlikely. Moore said “Second base is not a huge priority for us” earlier this week, and even with the Reds eating part of Phillips' contract, he would be a costly addition for the Royals.
Here's a look at the latest news from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports..
- Major league sources say it's not a surprise that the Orioles are willing to deal Matt Wieters. The bigger question is how Baltimore would reshape the roster if they made such a move. The O's don't have much breathing room to spend, but Rosenthal suggests the Orioles could gain flexibility by moving the catcher and also closer Jim Johnson, who projects to earn $10.8MM through arbitration. The O's could then find cheaper alternatives at both positions and be aggressive on the open market.
- If the Royals sign Carlos Beltran or another right-handed slugger, they could afford to trade designated hitter Billy Butler, who is signed for $8MM in 2014 with a $12.5MM club option for ’15. The Mariners are among the teams that covet Butler, a major league source tells Rosenthal.
- The Reds haven’t given up on re-signing Shin-Soo Choo, but they probably would need to trade Brandon Phillips and possibly Homer Bailey to create the necessary room, sources say. We've heard that Phillips is a likely a goner, but Bailey a more difficult call since losing him would require the Reds to move Aroldis Chapman to the rotation, unless they acquired another starter. All that might be too much to ask to accommodate the signing of a $100MM+ free agent, but they'd ideally like to have Choo back to give them another year before putting Billy Hamilton in center field. If they lose Choo, they likely would go with Hamilton and seek out a veteran complement in center.
- The Mets appear likely to trade Ike Davis, who is drawing interest from a number of clubs. Rosenthal also cautions not to be surprised if they move Daniel Murphy as well.
- Opinions are split on Jacoby Ellsbury's value. One rival exec's statistical analysis rated Ellsbury as the top Red Sox player last season, ahead of Dustin Pedroia. Others in the industry, however, are wary of Ellsbury’s diminished power since he has hit only 13 home runs over the past two seasons.
- One rival exec described the Rangers' infield logjam as an untenable situation.
The Royals are ready to listen on offers for Billy Butler this winter, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (via Twitter). The designated hitter/first baseman is owed $8MM in 2014, and the Royals hold a $12.5MM club option with a $1MM on Butler for the 2015 season.
Butler, 27, hit .289/.374/.412 with 15 homers this season and played in all 162 games. It was a step back from what the Royals were used to seeing from the slugger – he had a career .300/.362/.468 slash line heading into 2013 and belted a career-high 29 homers in 2012.
Kansas City could find a limited market for Butler this offseason as he is probably better suited for the American League and has a good amount of money left on his deal over the next two years. The slugger known as Country Breakfast drew interest from the Mariners and Orioles last winter.
Yesterday there was quite a bit of speculation regarding interest from both the Orioles and Mariners in Billy Butler. We'll keep track of any new rumors regarding Country Breakfast right here, with the latest info on top…
- Although he cautions that the Royals aren't actively looking to move Wil Myers, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com tweets that Kansas City is "definitely" more open to the idea of moving Myers than Butler.
- ESPN's Jerry Crasnick spoke with two sources familiar with the talks that told him speculation about a possible Butler-to-Seattle deal is "significantly overblown" (Twitter link).