B.J. Upton Rumors

John Hart Talks Braves Trades Of Past And Future

Braves president of baseball operations John Hart discussed the upcoming trade deadline and a wide range of other topics in a fascinating Q&A with Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A full read of this excellent interview is highly recommended, but here are some of the highlights:

With July 31 fast approaching, Hart said it’s still an open question: “Do we pick up the phone or answer the phone? I’m not sure yet.” Noting that he “never made any false promises that we were built to win this year,” Hart nevertheless said it’s still possible that the team will make some additions at the deadline. But he cautioned that “we’re not going to be big buyers.”

[RELATED: Braves To Sign Jason Frasor]

Of course, selling is also still a distinct possibility, but Hart made clear that he wouldn’t move veterans just to get something back. “We don’t have the big chip that will take somebody over the top,” said Hart. “If people want good pieces and they can offer us something, yeah. But we’re going to take great care. We’re playing short. There is a very real possibility we won’t do anything.”

Looking back, Hart said that his first order of business upon taking the reigns of baseball decisionmaking in Atlanta was “to rebuild the pitching staff” at the major league level and “grow” the farm system. It was not, apparently, a tough choice to move veteran assets to facilitate those efforts. As he put it: “At some point, you have to stop and ask, ‘How long are we going to chase this?'”

And the major challenge? Per Hart: “[W]e had some economic pieces out there that weren’t conducive to this club making moves. I had to think about moving some good players and I had to think: How do I attach good players to move money? I had some of the most unusual trade conversations I’ve had in my life.”

Hart also talked through the deals that were ultimately made. You’ll need to (and should) read the entire piece for his full breakdown, of course. Hart indicated that he was somewhat disappointed with being unable to add both a current major league starter and a future arm for Justin Upton (after achieving that with Jason Heyward).

“The Justin Upton deal we [discussed] so many pieces. The guys we wanted, [the Padres] didn’t put in — they got put into another [trade],” Hart said. “[Evan] Gattis, we looked at a lot of different names. There were some circumstances that didn’t work out.” (It’s not clear this is the deal he’s referring to, but it’s worth noting that San Diego shipped Jesse Hahn to the A’s, as part of the Derek Norris deal, the day before acquiring Upton.)

[RELATED: Braves Trade Justin Upton To Padres]

As for the deal that sent closer Craig Kimbrel to the Padres on the eve of Opening Day, Hart explaind that it took an exceptional set of circumstances. Questions via Schultz, of course:

Q: But was your only chance to get rid of B.J. Upton’s contract.

A: That was obviously the intent. We had 10 calls on Kimbrel in the winter but we just hung up because they wouldn’t take an off load. San Diego was one of the clubs that came up early.

Q: Did it shock you when they said they would take Upton?

A: Yeah, it did. They put all of their chips in.

Hart went on to address catcher Christian Bethancourt, saying that he believes the youngster needs to improve his “level of preparedness.” As to whether the team moved him to the big leagues too soon, Hart explained: “We talked about it in the winter. We called him up last year and he had a good first month and a not-so-good last month. That sort of left a bad taste. It’s fixable. But at some point the player has to assume some responsibility.”

Finally, Hart offered rather effusive praise for skipper Fredi Gonzalez. He indicated that he felt it would be an easy decision to decide whether to retain him for 2016, though stopped short of making any promises. “I don’t want to go there,” said Hart. “There’s timing. But Fredi’s been really good. He’s been good to work with and he’s done a good job with his staff. And this club may fall apart but I know if it happens it’s not going to be because Fredi forgot how to manage.”


Heyman’s Latest: Bryant, Upton, Rays, Leake, Soriano, Polanco

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is said to be “ready to reach out to [Kris] Bryant soon to determine his mindset” on whether or not a grievance should be filed against the Cubs for holding him in Triple-A to start the season, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in his latest Inside Baseball column. Heyman notes that the union could file a grievance on Bryant’s behalf even without his consent, though that’s unlikely. The issue at hand, of course, would be whether or not Bryant was clearly one of Chicago’s 25 best players and the demotion was made purely for service time implications. (Chicago bought an extra year of control over Bryant by stashing him in the Minors for all of eight games/11 days). Heyman points out that it would be difficult to an arbitrator to rule in Bryant’s favor, as there’s no precedent for this type of grievance. Players in similar situations have historically been hesitant to file a grievance, he adds, because it would be a contentious way to begin a relationship with a team to which a player will be tied for the next six-plus years. A “Cubs connected person” called the notion of a grievance “laughable” when asked by Heyman. However, the points that Bryant was recalled on the first day the team could add him while still delaying free agency and slotted directly into the cleanup spot could make a case that the club had an understanding of his value, Heyman writes. From the union’s perspective, it’s understandable that they’d have interest in preventing this type of situation in the future, even if it’s a long shot.

More highlights from a lengthy Heyman column…

  • The Padres don’t yet view Melvin Upton Jr. as a throwaway piece and will use him as an occasional outfielder and pinch-runner, Heyman writes. He also looks back on Upton’s original five-year, $75.2MM pact and notes that it’s one of the worst contracts in recent history, particularly given the fact that the next-highest offer was believed to come from the Phillies at somewhere in the $40MMs.
  • The league’s investigation into the Rays‘ allegations of the Cubs‘ tampering in the Joe Maddon saga could come to a close as soon as next week, per Heyman. MLB was still interviewing people as recently as last week, but to this point there “is believed to have been no smoking guns found.”
  • The Reds never approached right-hander Mike Leake about a contract extension this offseason, and the free-agent-to-be is said to be a bit hurt not to have been contacted. Leake’s not a front-line starter, but he’ll hit the open market heading into his age-28 season and currently sports a 3.56 ERA in 427 1/3 innings dating back to Opening Day 2013. A third straight season of 190+ innings and an ERA in the mid-3.00s should position him for a nice contract, especially considering the fact that half of his starts have come in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
  • Multiple teams have worked out Rafael Soriano, and while he’s on the Tigers‘ radar, there’s also been some contact with the Mariners. Heyman adds the Pirates, Indians and Dodgers as “logical suitors,” though I’d imagine the Pirates and Indians in particular would have some payroll constraints, depending on the asking price of agent Scott Boras.
  • Heyman echoes ESPN’s Buster Olney in speculating that the Dodgers could make a run at extending Howie Kendrick, noting that the Dodgers love Kendrick both on the field and in the clubhouse. He also notes that the Dodgers are impressed with Alex Guerrero‘s bat and may coming around on him as a passable option at third base or in left field, though the team is already well-stocked at each position.
  • The Pirates and Gregory Polanco may have come as close as about $1MM on agreeing to a seven-year contract, Heyman hears. The biggest holdup was over the three club options on the deal, which ranged from $11-13MM, and when the team would have been required to exercise them.
  • Though recent reports have indicated that John Lackey hopes the Cardinals will approach him about an extension, Heyman writes that it’s not a likely scenario. St. Louis likes its pitching depth and the young starters in line beyond those in the 2015 rotation.
  • The Orioles asked the Blue Jays for both of the team’s first round picks from the 2014 draft — right-hander Jeff Hoffman and catcher Max Pentecost — in exchange for the ability to hire EVP/general manager Dan Duquette as their new president, according to Heyman.

Heyman’s Latest: Kimbrel, Howard, Perez, Salty, Soriano, Cueto

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has penned a lengthy column that’s chock full of Hot Stove related items as the season gets underway. First and foremost, he chronicles the Braves‘ trade of Craig Kimbrel at length. Heyman spoke to president of baseball ops John Hart, who candidly told Heyman that the team took a hard line of refusing to trade Kimbrel unless Melvin Upton Jr. was involved in the deal. “We were not going to separate Kimbrel and trade him by himself,” Hart told Heyman. Atlanta reached out to the Cubs, Astros, Dodgers and Padres, among others, this winter in an effort to move Upton, and despite the Dodgers’ bullpen needs, they weren’t willing to add Upton’s contract to that of Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier, having already shed Matt Kemp‘s contract. The Padres trade didn’t heat up until about four days before it was agreed upon, Heyman writes, with Hart even remaining in Orlando to finish negotiations rather than fly with the team to Miami at the end of Spring Training. Hart credited assistant GM John Coppolella for doing much of the legwork and his creativity in getting the trade finalized.

More highlights from Heyman’s article (though the entire piece is well worth your time)…

  • While some reports late in Spring Training indicated that the Phillies would be willing to eat up to $50MM of the remaining $60MM on Ryan Howard‘s contract, two GMs tell Heyman they hadn’t heard that figure. One of those GMs was of the belief that the Phillies’ top offer was to pay about $35MM, which, Heyman speculates, may have been a large reason that the Royals opted to sign Kendrys Morales for two years and $17MM rather than pursue a Howard trade.
  • Speaking of the Royals, Heyman hears that the team is open to pursuing a second extension with catcher Salvador Perez and would be happy to make him a Royal for life. Heyman notes that some in the organization even have some sympathy for Perez, whose five-year, $7MM contract is widely considered the most team-friendly deal in all of baseball. Perez’s deal contains three startlingly low club options valued at $3.75MM, $5MM and $6MM for the 2017-19 seasons — two of which would have been free-agent seasons beginning at the age of 28.
  • The Marlins tried to trade Jarrod Saltalamacchia this winter after the catcher’s first season on a three-year, $21MM pact was a struggle, but his salary was too great a deterrent. The Marlins presumably feel that top prospect J.T. Realmuto could step into the catcher’s role in the not-too-distant future.
  • The Tigers are believed to be at least monitoring Rafael Soriano‘s workouts at the Boras Sports Training Institute in Miami, per Heyman. However, Soriano has seen his stock suffer not only due to ineffective innings late int he 2014 season but also due to perceptions about his personality and negative clubhouse impact. At least one club that was taking a hard look at late-inning relievers ruled out Soriano entirely due to that perception, Heyman reports.
  • The Reds felt the odds of extending Johnny Cueto prior to Opening Day were so slim that it’s not even clear if they made a formal offer, writes Heyman. Cueto is seeking a figure in the range of $200MM following Max Scherzer‘s mammoth contract this offseason, he adds. Heyman also opines that David Price would probably be selling himself short if he took much less than $200MM from the Tigers at this point as well.
  • Anecdotally, Heyman tells the story of how Cody Ross‘ career began when he was sold to the Marlins from the Reds in exchange for “cash considerations” of precisely one dollar. Former Reds GM Wayne Krivsky spoke to Heyman about the deal, explaining that they didn’t have room on the Cincinnati roster back in ’06 but genuinely wanted to get Ross into the best possible position to have a chance at a Major League roster spot. Ross has gone on to earn more than $52MM in the game of baseball.


Additional Reactions To The Kimbrel/Upton Trade

Last night’s unexpected blockbuster that sent Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton to the Padres in exchange for Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin (since designated for assignment), Matt Wisler, Jordan Paroubeck and a Competitive Balance draft pick (No. 41 overall) stunned much of the baseball world. While there’s already been a significant amount of reactions to the move, here are a few more from around the industry…

  • The Braves are “huge winners” in the trade, opines ESPN’s Keith Law. Atlanta was able to move a valueless asset in Upton and a high-risk commodity in Kimbrel in exchange for a valuable but injury-prone center fielder (Maybin), a Major League ready pitching prospect (Wisler), a highly athletic outfield prospect (Paroubeck) and a draft pick that gives them the fourth-highest pool this June, writes Law. Wisler could become a No. 2 starter if any of his secondary pitches develop into plus offerings, in Law’s opinion. While he considers that unlikely, he does note that Wisler can still be a league-average starter that adds value through durability.
  • Braves president of baseball operations John Hart tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution that it was incredibly difficult to trade Kimbrel, and the front office was prepared for the inevitable fan backlash to trading the wildly popular closer. “Believe me, this wasn’t something that anybody in this organization had any disregard for fans,” Hart explained. “This was a huge part of the discussion as we went through it. … It’s not like you wanted to come in and start looking around and say, look, we’re going to heartlessly trade these guys off. We’re looking to, if you will, do the best thing and the right thing for the organization, and sometimes things like this happen.” Hart also said that Kimbrel handled the news that he’d been traded with the utmost class and spoke exceptionally highly of Kimbrel’s character.
  • MLB.com’s Mark Bowman also has some reactions from Hart, most notably explaining the importance of the financial flexibility attained by his team in this trade. Said Hart: “…[W]e freed up some financial flexibility and I think, again, what we do with that financial flexibility remains to be determined. But I think it’s going to be something where we’ll be aggressive in our approach.”
  • FOX’s Rob Neyer offers his take on the deal, reacting to colleague Ken Rosenthal’s description of the deal as “Craig Kimbrel for $53.35 million, two prospects and the 41st pick of the June draft.” Neyer notes that the cost may be more than $53.35MM, as that doesn’t include the value that Wisler could provide if he’s even a league-average starter for a couple seasons. Neyer argues that the inclusion of Paroubeck and the draft pick could very well be extraneous in nature, as it’s unlikely that either ultimately nets a significant amount of value at the Major League level, but Wisler’s value and the potential negative value of a dead roster spot (Upton) could make the perceived monetary cost of acquiring Kimbrel even steeper.
  • Neither team is a loser in this deal in the opinion of Grantland’s Jonah Keri, who writes that the Padres may now boast a bullpen trio that can rival that of Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera in Kansas City. Kimbrel, Joaquin Benoit and potentially Kevin Quackenbush (if and when he is recalled from the Minors) will be a dominant triumvirate that will not only excel late in games but will also lighten the workload of injury-prone arms like Andrew Cashner and Brandon Morrow. And while the Braves have parted with their best pitcher, they shed an enormous amount of payroll while adding a near-MLB-ready pitcher and a high pick in this year’s draft, accelerating their rebuild.
  • Quentin didn’t ask for anything in exchange for waiving his no-trade clause, tweets Scott Miller of Bleacher Report/FOX Sports San Diego. The lack of incentive is a contrast to many players we’ve seen recently indicate that they’d like options exercised in advance as compensation for waiving their no-trade clause. (Quentin does have a $10MM mutual option for next year.)

Padres Acquire Kimbrel, Melvin Upton From Braves

The Padres are beginning the 2015 season with yet another blockbuster trade, receiving closer Craig Kimbrel and outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. from the Braves for outfielders Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin, pitching prospect Matt Wisler, outfield prospect Jordan Paroubeck and the 41st overall pick in the June draft.

USATSI_8488950_154513410_lowresKimbrel is obviously the centerpiece of the deal, an elite closer who has posted dominant numbers since arriving in the league in 2010. Kimbrel is signed through 2017 for $33MM plus a $1MM buyout on a $13MM option for 2018. It’s not easy for a reliever to be a bargain at that price, but Kimbrel clearly is. His 2014 season, in which he posted a 1.61 ERA with 13.9 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9, was a fairly typical one. At 26, it’s reasonable to hope he continue producing at a very high level for the next several years if he can remain healthy, even though relievers tend to have shorter shelf lives than other player types. The move will, presumably, bump Joaquin Benoit back into a setup role. Kimbrel’s addition gives the Padres yet another big-name player to go with Justin Upton, James Shields, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks, all of whom they acquired in a transformative offseason.

The presence of the other Major League players in the deal has much to do with their contract statuses. None of them figure to help their new teams much. Melvin Upton is owed $46.35MM over the next three seasons. Even with the departures of Maybin and Quentin, the Padres have a full outfield and have no real use for Upton, who hit .208/.287/.333 in 2014 and also struggled the previous season. But taking on his contract surely helped persuade the Braves to part with a great player in Kimbrel. In San Diego, Upton will reunite with his brother Justin, who the Braves also recently sent west.

Quentin is owed $8MM in 2015. He hit .177/.284/.315 in 2014 and had no obvious role with the Padres. He has a no-trade clause, although it appears he waived it. The Braves plan to designate him for assignment, suggesting he was included in the trade purely to help offset salary. He could wind up with an American League team. Maybin, who will receive $15MM for the next two years plus a $1MM buyout for 2017, would have been an expensive reserve in San Diego. He hit .235/.290/.331 in 2015.

By parting with two players they didn’t figure to use much, the Padres will receive $24MM in salary relief to offset the salary they’re taking on with Upton. That means that they’ll add a total of about $56MM in salary as a result of the deal, continuing to aggressively increase their payroll after taking on big commitments in Kemp and Shields, in particular, this offseason.

Wisler is the most valuable property headed to Atlanta in the deal. Baseball America recently rated him the No. 34 prospect in baseball, with Baseball Prospectus ranking him No. 53 and MLB.com placing him at No. 69. MLB.com ranked him the Padres’ second-best prospect, praising his slider and the movement on his low- to mid-90s fastball. The 22-year-old righty posted a 4.42 ERA at Double-A and Triple-A in 2014, although he had a fine 8.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9, and most of his 146 2/3 innings were in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

Paroubeck was a second-round pick in the 2013 draft. The switch-hitting 20-year-old hit .286/.346/.457 in rookie ball in 2014, and MLB.com ranked him the Padres’ 19th-best prospect, noting his ability to hit to all fields, along with his good speed and the reasonable likelihood that his power will develop. He and the draft pick give the Braves a bit of extra value in the deal, even though Wisler and the salary relief were likely much more crucial. (The Padres could, of course, trade the draft pick because it’s a Competitive Balance selection, and the current CBA permits teams to trade such picks.)

On the surface, the trade appears to be a risky one for San Diego. Kimbrel is inarguably a great closer, but it remains to be seen whether he will prove to be worth parting with $56MM, a top prospect in Wisler and two additional prospects in Paroubeck and the draft pick. The Padres also had more pressing needs in their infield, and it’s unclear whether Kimbrel is the right player to get them over the hump. As Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan notes, the fact that the Padres optioned solid relievers in Brandon Maurer and Kevin Quackenbush today shows how good their bullpen already was. And as the New York Post’s Joel Sherman tweets, perhaps an easier course if the Padres wanted to upgrade the closer role would have been to keep Huston Street, who the team’s previous management traded last year. Still, the deal unquestionably adds another blue-chip player to a team that’s suddenly full of them.

The Braves, meanwhile, continued their rebuild, subtracting salary while adding additional upside, including a starting pitcher in Wisler who should be able to help this year. Kimbrel’s departure will surely be painful for Braves fans, particularly given the Alabama-born Kimbrel’s Southern roots, but it might have only been a matter of time, since an elite closer is more valuable to a contender than to a rebuilding team. With Kimbrel gone, one of Jason Grilli or Jim Johnson, both of whom have closing experience, could take over ninth-inning duties in Atlanta.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports was the first to note that a trade was complete, and he also tweeted that the Braves would acquire Maybin, Quentin and the draft pick. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs tweeted that the Padres would receive Kimbrel and Upton, and that the Braves would receive Paroubeck. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweeted that Wisler was involved.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Reactions To And Fallout From The Kimbrel Trade

Here’s the latest on today’s trade of Craig Kimbrel to the Padres:

  • Padres GM A.J. Preller says he tried negotiating a variety of possible trades to bring Kimbrel to San Diego, but the only way he could do it was to also take on Melvin Upton Jr.‘s contract, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets.
  • Upton (foot) likely won’t be available until May, and he will not challenge Wil Myers for the starting center field job, Preller says (via Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller on Twitter).
  • This was a difficult trade to make from a personal standpoint,” says Braves GM John Hart, via David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution (Twitter links). “From a professional standpoint, we continue to be consistent in our plan, where we’re gong and what we needed to do to get there.”
  • Braves icon Chipper Jones took to Twitter (1 2 3 4) to defend the trade from Atlanta’s perspective. “I know it sucks, Braves Country, but once you decide to rebuild, you better go all the way,” he wrote. “You now have a ton of minor league talent that is on the verge of being Major League talent. You now have four picks in the top 54 picks in this year’s draft. And you now have flexibility in your payroll to be able to compete on the free agent market if you so desire.”
  • The deal is a risky one for the Padres, who now have over $68MM on the books for Kimbrel, Upton, Matt Kemp and James Shields in 2017, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. If the Padres don’t win with their current team, Preller could quickly have to pivot into rebuild mode. Meanwhile, the Braves’ signing of Nick Markakis to a $44MM deal this offseason now looks “preposterous” now that they’re shedding salary.
  • The Padres improved what was already a team strength with the trade, and now they have the best bullpen in baseball, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs writes. Nonetheless, the deal was a risky one from the Padres’ perspective, given the amount of money involved and how unpredictable relievers can be.
  • Both the Padres and Braves doubled down on their current strategies with the trade, Sherman writes. The Padres continued buying talented but expensive veterans, while the Braves continued a rebuild that they had already begun.
  • The Dodgers were, at one point, in discussions with the Braves for Kimbrel, but they were unable to strike a deal, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.

NL Notes: Upton, Brewers, Dodgers

Braves center fielder Melvin Upton (long known as B.J.) will miss the start of the season with inflammation in his left foot, the club announced. He is not expected to resume baseball activities until early April, per the release. Needless to say, these circumstances likely wipe out any remaining possibility of a spring trade of Upton and the three years and $46.35MM left on his deal. The club is expected to allow in-house options such as Eury Perez, Eric Young Jr., Zoilo Almonte, and Todd Cunningham to compete for the job in camp, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.

More from the National League:

  • With Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez expected to retire after the season, Milwaukee will need to implement their succession plan, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy writes. The need for a replacement is not a surprise to the club, but that doesn’t mean it has an immediately attractive option. While Nick Delmonico had been viewed as a strong possibility when he was acquired in 2013, his fallout with the team and subsequent release left a gap. A weak free agent class limits that avenue. And internally, the most plausible candidates appear to be waiver claimee Luis Jimenez and shortstop prospects Hector Gomez and Luis Sardinas.
  • The remade Dodgers front office is acutely aware of the impact of injuries on team performance, writes Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register. While the club invested in several oft-injured arms over the offseason, they did so with an equal appreciation for the risk and the upside, in the words of president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. The Los Angeles brass is exploring means of blending data and biophysics to reduce the harm wrought by physical issues — both to inform personnel decisions and to protect players already under contract. “I would contend that any kind of advantage in injury prevention is significant,” said Friedman.

NL East Notes: Upton, Span, Howard, Marlins

If a rose by any other name still smells as sweet, does a baseball player by any other name peform better? B.J. Upton will answer that question this season as he will go by his given name of Melvin Upton Jr. and, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes, will have “Jr.” on the back of his uniform for the first time in his professional career. Upton has struggled since his arrival in Atlanta after signing a five-year, $75.25MM free agent contract in November 2012 slashing .198/.279/.314 with 21 home runs and 61 RBIs in those two years. John Hart, Braves president of baseball operations, first tipped Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz to the name change (Twitter links). For those wondering, B.J. is short for Bossman Jr., his father’s nickname.

In other news from the NL East:

  • Nationals centerfielder Denard Span is one of the team’s seven impending free agents and is looking forward to that opportunity, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. “I’ve worked my whole career to get to this point, to be a free agent,” Span said. “But at the same time, I’m concentrating on trying to do the best that I can to help this ball club win. I feel like if I do my job and we do our jobs collectively I’ll get compensated and everything will fall into place.” Wagner adds the Nationals have not approached Span about a contract extension.
  • With the increasing likelihood of Ryan Howard opening the season in Philadelphia, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is making amends for the comments he made about the Phillies being better off without the first baseman, reports Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News. “Frankly, I apologized for those comments that I made that were public,” said Amaro. “And I think he appreciated that. Other than that, I want to keep the conversation private. It was a good talk.” Despite a willingness to eat a substantial portion of the $60MM remaining on Howard’s contract, no market has developed for the 35-year-old.
  • Speaking publicly for the first time since being dealt from the Yankees in December, recent Marlins addition Martin Prado told reporters, including Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald he “couldn’t be happier when I found out I was going to play with [Giancarlo] Stanton and [Jose] Fernandez and young kids coming up. Very happy to be here. Couldn’t be more excited. They have a good mix of young guys and veteran guys. I hope we can build a team around [Stanton] and take some pressure [off] him.
  • The Marlins believe the signing of Ichiro Suzuki already is paying off and he hasn’t even arrived from his native Japan yet, according to Tom D’Angelo of the Palm Beach Post. Over the weekend, President David Samson said at least 90 Marlins games will be televised in Japan. The 41-year-old won’t be play every day, but the $2MM deal is already paying dividends for Miami.

AL East Notes: Wieters, Rays, Yankees

The Silver Shield Foundation, a charity established by the late Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, will pay for the education of the two children of slain NYPD officer Rafael Ramos, reports Bill Madden and Teri Thompson of the New York Daily News. The foundation was started by Steinbrenner and former Olympian Jim Fuchs 32 years ago and, among other services (per the foundation’s website), pays for the education of the children of all members of the Fire Department of the City of New York; Police Department of the City of New York; Port Authority of New York/New Jersey Police Department; New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut State Police; police departments of Nassau and Suffolk Counties; and all police departments in Connecticut who died in the line of duty, as well as 700 children who lost a parent on September 11, 2001. Ramos was killed yesterday with his partner Wenjian Liu (who didn’t have any children) by a lone gunman in Brooklyn.

Here’s the latest news and notes from the American League East:

  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman has taken some huge gambles with his offseason moves (getting younger and stockpiling power arms) which belie the organization’s long held win-now, World Series or bust philosophy, opines Madden in a separate article.
  • Scott Boras tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (via Twitter) Orioles catcher Matt Wieters will be ready by Opening Day. Earlier today, Cafardo reported there is no urgency on either side in negotiating an extension.
  • The Rays‘ search for offense in the wake of the Wil Myers trade is limited to what remains of the outfield free agent market or obtaining a player whose team will eat almost all the salary on a bad contract, writes the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin. Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Howard, and B.J. Upton fit the latter category, according to Topkin.

Quick Hits: Braves, Ross, Cabrera, Kang, Aoki

The White Sox, Yankees and Astros have spent heavily on relief help this offseason, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick wonders if they’ll end up regretting their expensive contracts for veteran relievers. “In the last couple of years we’ve lost a lot of games late in the eighth and ninth inning,” says White Sox manager Ventura. “After a while you sit there and think, ‘We have to have somebody who can come in and do this.’ Everything has its risks — and this is one of them — but we’re pretty confident we got a guy [David Robertson] who we can put in the bullpen and be a leader.” The reason for all the spending on players like Robertson, Zach Duke, Andrew Miller, Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek isn’t so much that teams are trying to emulate the Royals‘ ferocious 2014 bullpen, Crasnick suggests. Rather, it’s more that teams are loaded with cash and pitchers like Robertson and Miller are very good. Here are more notes from around the Majors.

  • The Braves continue to explore potential trades involving Justin Upton and Evan Gattis, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports (Twitter links). The Braves have spoken about Upton and Gattis with five teams Wednesday, and continued to consider ways to include B.J. Upton or Chris Johnson in trades involving Justin Upton or Gattis. The Padres had previously looked like a potential destination for Justin Upton, but it would appear that their agreement to acquire Wil Myers today rules them out as a potential trade partner, at least for now.
  • Free agent catcher David Ross is deciding between the Red Sox, Cubs and Padres, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes. Meanwhile, lefty reliever Craig Breslow has spoken to the Red Sox and Cubs. Ross has played for the Red Sox, of course, and has a history with Jon Lester and Theo Epstein of the Cubs (although his signing with the Cubs would likely result in, or come as the result of, a trade of Welington Castillo). The Padres are in the process of trading both Yasmani Grandal and Rene Rivera, but are also in the process of acquiring Ryan Hanigan and Tim Federowicz, so it’s unclear where Ross would fit in.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera has drawn interest from the Giants, Athletics, Mets, Cardinals and Twins, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Heyman writes that Cabrera could play second base or third base as well as shortstop, although there have been rumblings that Cabrera prefers to play shortstop or second base only, and not third. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle would be surprised if the A’s are interested, as they’ve never shown interest in Cabrera in past years despite up-the-middle needs (Twitter links).
  • Those same five teams have asked about Korean middle infielder Jung-ho Kang, although the Athletics and Mets are downplaying their interest, Heyman tweets. A’s GM Billy Beane has stated on the record that reports of his club’s interest in Kang are inaccurate. Kang was posted earlier this week.
  • Heyman lists the Orioles, Reds and Mariners as possibilities for Nori Aoki, with the veteran outfielder potentially receiving two to three years at $7MM-$8MM per year. Aoki had previously been connected to the Orioles and Reds, with the Orioles mostly interested in him as a backup option. Heyman reported last week that Aoki was looking for a three-year deal. Earlier this offseason, we at MLBTR guessed he would receive two years and $16MM.