B.J. Upton Rumors

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.

Kubatko On Orioles: Delmon, Ubaldo, De Aza

Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com provides an interesting round-up on the latest out of Baltimore. Among the highlights:

  • Baltimore remains interested in bringing back Delmon Young, but are not willing to meet his demand for two years at present. Given his strong work last year in a bench role, it is not surprising that he would test the interest in a multi-year guarantee. Though Young has never quite lived up to expectations, of course, he is just 29 and put up a .779 OPS last year and actually posted reverse platoon splits in so doing.
  • The O’s have been approached by multiple clubs regarding struggling righty Ubaldo Jimenez. The Braves asked about the possibility of a swap involving B.J. Upton, but Kubatko says that is “not happening.”
  • While there has been some indication that the Orioles would consider non-tendering outfielder Alejandro De Aza, Kubatko says that the team has “every intention” of keeping him in the fold. He could serve as a platoon option in left, notes Kubatko, though of course his projected $5.9MM arbitration earnings will make that a fairly expensive choice.
  • After announcing a host of minor league signings yesterday, Baltimore has interest in adding infielders Paul Janish and Rey Navarro as well. Kubatko writes that the 24-year-old Navarro, a switch-hitting shortstop, is expected to draw significant interest around the game.

Braves Notes: Gattis, B.J. Upton, Third Base

Joel Sherman of the New York Post heard yesterday that the Braves were pushing catcher Evan Gattis hard, but the team’s president of baseball operations, John Hart, called the report “absolutely inaccurate.”  The latest on the team…

  • One strategy for the Braves is to package Gattis with B.J. Upton, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  Upton is owed $46.35MM through 2017 after posting two awful years for Atlanta.  Rosenthal says most of the Braves’ roster is in play.
  • The Braves want to add a left-handed hitter who could possibly platoon with third baseman Chris Johnson, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  I doubt the Braves want Juan Francisco back, but the Cubs’ Luis Valbuena could be a fit.
  • Hart doesn’t expect to make a trade at the GM Meetings, according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman.  Hart explained, “I think you’re going to have conversations. I think the Winter Meetings are a pretty good dance place, because people will have seen what is going on in the free-agent ranks, evaluated the trade market for players they want and done all of the things clubs do to make a deal.”  Bowman notes that beyond Gattis, the Braves might trade Justin Upton or Jason Heyward this winter.  Each outfielder is scheduled for free agency after 2015.

Braves Notes: Front Office, Payroll, Heyward, Trades

The Braves today announced five new front office hires as well as a promotion. According to a press release, the Braves have hired D’Backs assistant GM Billy Ryan as director of baseball operations; Red Sox scout Tom Batista as a national crosschecker (marking his second stint with the organization); Astros international crosschecker Marc Russo as director of international operations; Mets international crosschecker Mike Silvestri as director of Latin American scouting; and Angels scout Lebi Ochoa as a senior adviser to the player development department. Additionally, Dixie Keller has been promoted from scouting coordinator to manager of scouting operations after 14 years with the organization.

More on the Braves…

  • CEO Terry McGuirk tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the team’s payroll won’t be going down in 2015 (Twitter link). O’Brien expects that payroll will remain around the same $112MM mark that the team saw in 2014. That’s not an insignificant amount, as the Braves stretched their payroll considerably in Spring Training in order to add Ervin Santana on a one-year $14.1MM contract after they learned that both Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy would require second Tommy John surgeries. Atlanta’s Opening Day figure of $112MM was the highest in franchise history. The Braves currently have about $79.6MM committed to eight players (plus Dan Uggla) in 2015, and their arbitration class projects to earn $21.4MM (that number would drop by $1.6MM if Jonny Venters is non-tendered). Factoring in the necessary league-minimum players to round out the roster, Atlanta would be looking at a payroll around $106MM by my calculations, so they don’t have a significant amount of flexibility without subtracting from the current roster or receiving an unexpected payroll boost from ownership.
  • O’Brien also points out that Jason Heyward‘s 2015 salary has increased from $7.8MM to $8.3MM, as he received $500K in bonuses for winning a Gold Glove and surpassing 502 plate appearances in 2014 (Twitter links). Additionally, Heyward can earn another $250K for finishing 11th through 20th in the upcoming National League MVP voting. Based on the points-based incentives system outlined on Cot’s Contracts, that number would rise to $375K were he to finish in the 6-10 range.
  • The trade market figures to be a greater focus for president of baseball operations John Hart and assistant GM John Coppolella than the free agent market this offseason, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. Hart and Coppolella figure to spend some of their time at next week’s GM Meetings getting a feel for what type of return they could attain were they to trade Heyward, Justin Upton or Evan Gattis. Additionally, they’ll likely once again try to determine if there’s a creative way to rid themselves of B.J. Upton‘s contract.

Quick Hits: Braves Outfielders, Romo, Hudson

Here are a few stray notes from around the game …

  • As I recently explored in my breakdown of the Braves‘ offseason-to-come, Atlanta faces some decisions in the outfield. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution goes into more detail on the situations of the disappointing B.J. Upton and corner outfielders Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, both of whom will become free agents at season’s end. The Braves “seem prepared” to take a bath on the elder Upton’s long-term deal to move him off the roster, according to O’Brien, and if the can manage it would probably utilize Heyward or a stop-gap in center. Dealing one of the other two players while trying to extend the other has long been discussed as a plausible option, and O’Brien indicates that it is a realistic option to slide Evan Gattis into a corner role to fill any resulting void.
  • As far as extensions go, O’Brien says the Braves talked with Heyward’s representatives about a deal last winter. The team was interested in something that would have fallen well shy of Freddie Freeman‘s $135MM pact, says O’Brien, and Heyward’s asking price was well out of Atlanta’s comfort zone. His number has, in all likelihood, only gone up in the meantime, as Heyward just turned 25 and continues to rack up production — even though he has not returned to the offensive power ceiling he showed earlier in his career.
  • The Royals passed on a chance to sign Sergio Romo for a meager $1K bonus before the Giants eventually took a chance on the reliever, ESPN.com’s Keith Law tweets. While Kansas City certainly cannot be faulted for leaving the then-unheralded Romo behind, it surely would have been nice to have added him from the team’s perspective.
  • On the other hand, the Royals were willing to pay righty Tim Hudson, who said that K.C. made him a “very good offer” of two years this past offseason, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports on Twitter. Like Romo, the veteran ended up with the Giants — in his case, by choice — and will square off against the Royals in the World Series.

Braves To Revisit B.J. Upton Trade Talks, Could Move Gattis In Offseason

Talks of a rumored deal that would have sent B.J. Upton to the Cubs (perhaps along with a pitcher or cash) in exchange for Edwin Jackson have been circulating over the past couple weeks, and David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that it could be because the Braves would like to rekindle those talks in the offseason.

It won’t be easy to trade Upton and the remaining $47MM on his contract, of course, but the Braves could be willing to sweeten the deal by including three years of Mike Minor or by including a significant amount of cash to help offset Upton’s salary. The Braves are not, however, interested in including both Minor and cash in order to facilitate a trade. Regardless of how the ties are severed, O’Brien feels that it is a fait accompli that the elder Upton is dealt by next Spring Training. (Of course, many people felt the same about Dan Uggla, who lingered on Atlanta’s roster well into the summer.)

Minor has struggled for much of the season after opening the year on the disabled list, pitching to a 4.90 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 39.3 percent ground-ball rate. Minor’s main problem has been an increased home run rate which, paired with an uptick in his walks, has led to a HR/9 rate of 1.51 — fifth-worst among pitchers with at least 110 innings thrown in 2014. Nonetheless, three years of a pitcher who posted a 3.72 ERA in 466 2/3 innings from 2011-13 (including a stellar 3.21 mark in 204 2/3 innings last year) would have value to pitching-hungry teams.

Perhaps more interesting is the fact that O’Brien also feels there’s “at least a pretty good chance” that Gattis could be traded in the coming offseason. While Atlanta loves Gattis’ bat, it is less enamored with his defensive prowess and isn’t certain how long his 250-pound frame can hold up at the position. Meanwhile, waiting in the wings is top prospect Christian Bethancourt, who is known for his strong arm and receiving skills.

As O’Brien points out, Gattis would make for a nice trade target for an American League club, given the fact that he could split time between DH and catcher (and perhaps the outfield on occasion). The 28-year-old is hitting a hefty .276/.331/.520 with 20 homers in 353 plate appearances this season, quieting some skeptics (myself included) who felt that his hot start in 2013 may not have been sustainable.

Gattis will finish the season with exactly two years of Major League service, meaning that a club could potentially gain four years of team control over a 20-30 homer bat, and that would certainly have value on the trade market, especially given the dearth of starting-caliber catchers on the free agent market. Beyond Russell Martin, teams looking for catching help will be left looking at A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto in the second tier of free agent backstops.


Quick Hits: Cuban Smuggling, Martin, Jackson, Howard, Castillo

While news of Cuban ballplayer Rusney Castillo continues to dominate the news cycle, the human trafficking side of Cuban imports also made headlines. Eliezer Lazo entered a guilty plea in connection to the smuggling of over 1,000 Cubans, including Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin, reports Curt Anderson of the Associated Press. The article covers some of the sordid details involved in this human trafficking case.

  • In related news, a lawsuit brought against Martin by a Mexican baseball academy associated with Lazo will likely be dropped as a result of the criminal case. The Estrellas baseball academy alleged that Martin agreed to pay them up to 35% of his major league contract, but Martin only paid $1.2MM of his $15.5MM deal.
  • The Braves and Cubs discussed a proposal that would have sent Edwin Jackson to Atlanta in return for B.J. Upton, writes Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports. The deal would have served as a straight swap of albatross contracts. The sides apparently weren’t close to finalizing a trade but could re-open talks over the offseason. It appears this was probably the rumored trade first reported on August 9.
  • In what is likely to become an ongoing “will they, won’t they” story, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer speculates about moving on from Ryan Howard. The club currently has Darin Ruf taking the occasional start in left field while Howard blocks his playing time at first base. Philadelphia seemingly needs to decide which of three players possess the higher upside – Howard, Ruf, or left fielder Domonic Brown. Given Howard’s age, 34, and rapidly diminishing numbers – he had a .678 OPS before today’s home run – it’s fair to wonder if Howard should be the odd man out. Corner infield prospect Maikel Franco could also figure in the mix before long.
  • We at MLBTR seek to find answers for the pressing questions such as “Does Rusney Castillo know Jay-Z?” Castillo, who is represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports and Brodie Van Wagonen of CAA, does indeed know the mogul, according to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber.