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B.J. Upton Rumors
FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported over the weekend that the Braves explored a trade prior to the deadline that would’ve sent B.J. Upton and a starting pitcher elsewhere. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link) has another detail on this scuttled trade, saying that the Braves would’ve taken on “a contract [the] other team [was] looking to shed.” It sounds like it would’ve essentially been a swap of one bad contract (the roughly $50MM owed to Upton through 2017) for another, though if Atlanta was willing to move a starter as well, the other contract was likely for a shorter term. It’ll be interesting to see if the identities of the mystery team and mystery player are revealed in the coming weeks or months but until then, let the guessing game begin!
Here’s some more from around the baseball world…
- Russell Martin‘s plan to take a short-term contract and rebuild his value for a richer, longer-term deal seems to have paid off, MLB.com’s Tom Singer and Stephen Pianovich write. Martin has a .743 OPS over his two seasons with the Pirates and is hitting .290/.417/.391 over 308 PA this year, which makes him easily the most attractive catcher available in this winter’s free agent market. Martin says he loves playing in Pittsburgh, though Singer/Pianovich note that the Bucs are unlikely to be able to afford his asking price and prospect Tony Sanchez is waiting in the wings.
- The 2015 Giants could be improved by moving Buster Posey to third base and Tim Lincecum to the bullpen, Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News opines. Lincecum’s value as a starter is diminishing but (as the 2012 postseason indicated) he could be a dominant force as a reliever or closer. If Pablo Sandoval leaves in free agency, Kawakami argues that Posey could slide to third in order to help him stay healthy and perhaps lead to more production at the plate. Posey already plays a lot of first base and Kawakami doesn’t mention another possibility I think the Giants could consider, which is trading Brandon Belt.
- Speaking of next year’s Giants team, CSNBayArea.com’s Andrew Baggarly points out that at least $125MM is already committed to a roster that still has a big hole to address at second base and five key free agents (Sandoval, Michael Morse, Sergio Romo, Ryan Vogelsong, Jake Peavy) to re-sign or replace. With payroll stretched so thin both this season and next, Baggarly says the team simply doesn’t have the resources to explore replacing struggling players like Lincecum or Brandon Crawford.
- The Astros could return to respectability by adding a few veteran players in an attempt to follow the model of the 2003 Tigers, Grantland’s Jonah Keri opines. Those Tigers responded to an infamous 119-loss season by signing veteran free agents over the next few years, who mixed well with a young core and led the team to an AL pennant by 2006.
The Mets haven’t decided whether they’ll be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, Mike Puma of the New York Post writes. “I think the last 10 games were important because they make the next 10 games relevant to what happens at the [July 31] trade deadline,” said GM Sandy Alderson before Friday’s win over the Padres. “[C]ertainly the last 10 games have to make us a little more optimistic.” The Mets are seven games back in the NL East and 6 1/2 games out of a Wild Card spot after taking nine of their last 11. Here are more notes from the NL East.
- Alderson seems to be leaning more towards buying, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo tweets. “Sometimes you’ve gotta believe, right? This is a time,” Alderson says.
- The Braves aren’t actively trying to upgrade their starting rotation right now, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweets. That means they probably won’t pursue Rays ace David Price.
- The Braves are desperate to rid themselves of outfielder B.J. Upton, a GM tells Peter Gammons (via Twitter). Upton has hit .215/.277/.343 in 388 plate appearances this season, and the Braves still owe him over $50MM through 2017.
- The Braves will continue to pay recently released infielder Dan Uggla through 2019, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes (via Twitter). Uggla has a deferred signing bonus that means he’ll be paid $250K per year between 2016 and 2019. Of course, they also owe him $13MM in 2015.
- Cliff Lee will rejoin the Phillies‘ rotation Monday night against the Giants, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. “I feel strong and I feel good and I’m ready to try to help the team win,” says Lee. That will only give Lee two starts before the end of July, but if the Phillies are going to move him, Salisbury points out that they could trade him in August as a waiver deal, or after the season. In any case, Salisbury writes that the Phillies want a serious return for Lee.
- The Marlins say they won’t trade “key pieces,” Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald writes. It’s unclear exactly what that might mean, but the Marlins’ key pieces surely include Giancarlo Stanton. Spencer believes the Marlins are very concerned about avoiding last place, which likely also means that any number of other players could be off-limits as well.
Andrew Bailey is a non-tender candidate for the Red Sox after undergoing shoulder surgery, but the reliever tells Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal that he considers himself a member of the team until he hears otherwise. "Until something is on the table, you try not to think about it," Bailey says. "I'd love to be back with Boston." Here's the latest from the AL East:
- Rich Dubroff of Comcast Sports Net sifts through offseason possibilities for the Orioles, writing that with the Winter Meetings ahead, Baltimore has been more involved in discussions this year than in winters past. Closer Jim Johnson, who's projected to earn $10.8MM in arbitration by MLBTR's Matt Swartz, appears to be a logical trade candidate if the Orioles sign a higher-tier free agent, according to Dubroff.
- Orioles Executive Vice-President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette says recent acquisition Johnny Monell could compete for the club's backup catcher job or at DH, according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that the O's have four catchers on their 40-man roster after adding Monell.
- The Rays are likely to turn their attention to their first base job after addressing needs at catcher and in the bullpen, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times says. Trade targets such as Ike Davis of the Mets and Mark Trumbo of the Angels remain available, while players like Justin Morneau or Mark Reynolds could be targets in free agency.
- Regarding a potential trade of David Price, Topkin writes that the Rays appear to be comfortable listening to what clubs are saying as they go about addressing other offseason issues.
The Mets have generated most of the division's headlines today thanks to Zack Wheeler's official promotion to the Major Leagues, the signing of second-round draft pick Andrew Church and the news that the team plans to hold onto closer Bobby Parnell through the trade deadline. Here's the latest from elsewhere around the NL East…
- "There’s no indication the Tigers are pursuing Jonathan Papelbon," John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press writes. The Tigers, Cardinals and Red Sox were recently cited by the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo as some of the teams the Phillies believed would form a market for Papelbon at the trade deadline given those clubs' lack of a proven closer. Detroit has the most pressing need for a closer and money has rarely been an object for the club in recent years, though the Tigers may instead pursue a less-expensive bullpen option than Papelbon.
- "I don't do five year plans — other organizations do, I guess," Phillies GM Ruben Amaro told reporters (including David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News) today, though Amaro did describe how long-term planning plays a natural role in his decisions. Murphy opines that Amaro may need to take the long view as the team approaches the trade deadline given that past moves such as the Ryan Howard extension have backfired and left the Phillies a flawed, expensive probable non-contender.
- B.J. Upton is finally hitting (a .946 OPS in 53 June plate appearances) after a horrible first two months. David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution talks to the outfielder and several of his Braves teammates about those early-season struggles. Hitting coach Greg Walker noted that other recent major free agent hitters like Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Adam Dunn also struggled upon joining new teams on big contracts.
Here's tonight's look around baseball..
- Aramis Ramirez may be a popular name in trade rumors this deadline, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com. The Brewers may look to move the veteran third baseman, with the club struggling in last place in the NL Central. Ramirez understands the speculation, saying "It’s part of baseball. When teams don’t perform, you see changes." The 34-year-old is signed through 2014, and has played well despite injuries this season, slashing .305/.387/.512 in 93 plate appearances.
- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told reporters that he has discussed sending major offseason acquisition B.J. Upton to Triple-A to work out if his current struggles, according to an Associated Press report. Gonzalez acknowledges that there may be some obstacles involved, "I think there's some logistics — contractual things and that sort of stuff — that they might not be able to do it that easy."
- In his latest mailbag, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe answered questions about possible trade deadline targets for the Red Sox, as well as Jacoby Ellsbury. Cafardo doesn't feel the club needs to make a deal to improve its pitching, but he did state that Jonathan Papelbon continues to be a likely target. Meanwhile, Cafardo thinks that it would still take a major contract to keep Ellsbury in Boston past this season.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com looks back at the Nationals' decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg in light of the young starter’s latest injury scare. Morosi feels that last season may have been the Nationals best shot at a World Series, and wonders what could have been done to best utilize Strasburg’s prized arm.
The hiring of Royals legend George Brett as the team's new hitting coach could buy manager Ned Yost some extra time, a rival executive tells FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, as Royals executives will want to see how Yost adjusts to such a notable change to his coaching staff. If the Royals do fire their manager, however, scouts have rumored that Jim Fregosi could be Yost's replacement. Fregosi's son is a special assistant to Royals GM Dayton Moore.
Here's more from Rosenthal, via his latest Hot Corner video…
- In the wake of B.J. Upton's five-year, $75.25MM deal with the Braves last November, Rosenthal said a number of veteran players expressed surprise about the deal. The general consensus was summed up as, "How can that guy get this much money? He really hasn't proven all that much." Upton's .146/.232/.247 line makes him Rosenthal's biggest disappointment thus far in the 2013 season.
- Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, meanwhile, is the most improved player of the 2013 season. Dan Duquette attributes Davis' success to his swinging at more strikes and being more selective at the plate.
- The Indians and Rockies are somewhat surprising contenders and the big question for both clubs is if they'll have the pitching to stay in their respective pennant races. Rosenthal figures Cleveland is the slightly more likely of the two to acquire another starter, as Colorado has Roy Oswalt and Double-A right-hander Chad Bettis as possible internal reinforcements.
- The Indians' and Rockies' ability to add players and payroll at the trade deadline will mostly be determined by how much revenue they can generate through attendance in the next two months.
Matt Harvey posted a game score of 97 while taking a perfect game into the seventh, striking out 12, and walking none over nine innings against the White Sox Tuesday night, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports notes (on Twitter). Only 40 outings of nine innings or fewer since 1916 have earned a higher game score. Here's a collection of notes from around the majors.
- The nine Asian-born pitchers who have pitched in the big leagues this year have combined to post numbers similar to a typical Justin Verlander season, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs says. Those nine pitchers have 241 1/3 innings pitched so far in 2013, with a 2.91 ERA, 9.6 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. Yu Darvish has been a big part of that, of course, but Hyun-Jin Ryu, Hisashi Iwakuma, Hiroki Kuroda, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara have also pitched well. The past struggles of pitchers like Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Irabu have allowed today's Asian-born pitchers to fly under the radar somewhat, Cameron argues, and he wonders whether pitchers from overseas leagues might be undervalued in the market. Specifically, he says, emphasis on fastball velocity and breaking balls may cause teams to undervalue pitchers with great splitters or changeups.
- Free agency has become "a used car lot cluttered with lemons," with only a few bargains to be found, Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated argues, citing the examples of Josh Hamilton (Angels), B.J. Upton (Braves) and Zack Greinke (Dodgers). Thus far, Hamilton and Upton have failed to produce with their new teams, and Greinke is hurt. In the past four seasons, Verducci notes, there have been 24 free-agent contracts worth $35MM or more. Most of those have turned out badly, and some (such as Jason Bay's deal with the Mets) have looked bad almost immediately. That means that "win[ning] the winter" by signing the biggest-name free agents isn't all it's cracked up to be, as the 2012 Marlins can attest. This year's Angels and Dodgers have struggled out of the gate, and so have the Blue Jays (who had a big offseason mostly driven by trades).
- The Astros' decisions to designate Rick Ankiel and Fernando Martinez for assignment made their outfield more athletic, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart says. Robbie Grossman, Brandon Barnes and Jimmy Paredes started in the outfield for the Astros Tuesday night. "We went out to get more athletic, get more guys who have the ability to mishit the ball and still have a possibility of getting on base because of their athletic ability," says manager Bo Porter.
- Will Middlebrooks and David Ross left the Red Sox's game against the Twins Tuesday night after they collided. There is no indication yes that Middlebrooks will miss significant time. But after Middlebrooks, the Red Sox have little depth at third base, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports. Utility infielder Pedro Ciriaco "isn't the answer," MacPherson says, and the choices at Triple-A Pawtucket aren't thrilling. Minor-league veteran Justin Henry, who was acquired in the offseason for Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus, may be the best option there. Brock Holt, who arrived from the Pirates with Joel Hanrahan in the offseason, is another possibility. Of course, Middlebrooks himself has struggled this year, hitting just .195/.232/.281.
- Jake Peavy does not have a no-trade clause in his new contract with the White Sox, and he doesn't need one, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. "I told (GM) Rick Hahn that if he didn’t trade me before spring training was over, that was good enough for me," says Peavy, pointing out that it's unlikely he will be traded if the White Sox are contending.
- Rosenthal also notes that Madison Bumgarner's contract with the Giants could be one of the most team-friendly in baseball. Bumgarner, 23, would have been eligible for free agency after the 2016 season, but his new deal contains cheap team options that can allow the Giants to carry him through 2019.
- The Brewers have assigned Francisco Rodriguez to Class A+ Brevard County, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes. Rodriguez will make three relief appearances there, then head to Triple-A Nashville. The Brewers must promote Rodriguez to the majors by May 17, or he can become a free agent. Rodriguez posted a 4.38 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 78 appearances with the Brewers in 2012.
- Diamond Mines' new database provides a fascinating look at old scouting reports, including many in the scouts' own handwriting.
The Marlins will be paying Ozzie Guillen $2.5MM this season not to manage the team, according to D.J. Short of NBCSports.com (via Twitter). The financial figure is higher than all but the salaries of two players on the squad. Here's the latest news and stories making headlines from around the Major Leagues.
- Astros owner Jim Crane spoke in front of his ever-evolving ballclub on Saturday to share his vision for the future for the franchise and his plans on how to get there, writes Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. "Certainly our fingerprints are all over this now and all the changes we made are our changes," Crane said. "Bo [Porter] told them this and I told them this: Neither one of us have lost in anything we've done, and we're not going to start now. We're expecting to turn this into a winner, starting today."
- Justin Upton and B.J. Upton are already over the initial joyous feelings that come with playing side-by-side with one's brother at the Major League level and focused on spoiling Davey Johnson's swan song, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com. While the Nationals may have a more complete roster on paper than the Braves, each one of the Braves' starting outfielders, including Jason Heyward, poses a legitimate threat to compete for NL MVP.
- Pablo Sandoval's inability to keep his weight at an optimal level continues to be an ongoing issue for the hefty third baseman, says Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com. The veteran met with Giants manager Bruce Bochy in a closed-door meeting to discuss how being in baseball shape (Sandoval played winter ball) is not the same as playing at a healthy weight. "Like all the guys, we’ve got to get ourselves in game condition," Bochy said. "Even though he’s been playing games, it’s fair to say he has to shed a few pounds, and he will. He has the time. He’s up there working as we speak."
Soon after the Braves signed B.J. Upton, the center fielder told team executives how much he’d enjoy playing with his brother Justin. B.J. might not have known as much at the time, but general manager Frank Wren was already a step ahead of him. Intrigued by the possibility of having both Upton brothers in their outfield, the Braves had begun discussing potential trades with the Diamondbacks in November. It ultimately took months of on-and-off trade talks for the seven-player deal to become a reality.
“It all fell in place for us where we had all of the ingredients to make it happen, and we’re very fortunate that it worked out,” Wren said on a conference call with reporters today.
Wren said the Braves front office is excited to add Upton, “a young, dynamic player that arguably gives us one of the best outfields in the game.” The 25-year-old will add right-handed power to the middle of the Braves’ batting order and patrol the outfield along with Jason Heyward and his older brother.
"It was a a dream of ours to play together,” Upton told reporters. “I didn't think it would happen this early.”
The pair last played together in high school, but they’ve continued exchanging tips and observations over the years as they’ve established themselves in the big leagues. Upton stressed that he’s looking to become a consistently strong player, suggesting that playing alongside his brother could lead to improved results on the field.
“I think we can really feed off of each other throughout that lineup to try to get everybody to a consistent production rate,” he explained.
Wren said he didn’t begin the offseason with the particular intention of adding both B.J. and Justin. The Braves had strong interest in both players, and now that they’re in place there’s an expectation that the brothers will indeed feed off of one another.
“I do think it’ll drive them,” Wren said. “I think it’ll push them. So I think there are a lot of positives to go around.”
The Braves and Diamondbacks discussed potential trades involving Upton in November and December, generating little traction at first. The teams considered many versions of the deal, going back and forth often leading up to the holidays. The rumors persisted — “there was a lot of chatter whether it was on Trade Rumors, or Twitter,” Wren noted — but discussions didn’t pick up until the last week or so, and the Braves didn’t think they had a good shot at completing the deal until this weekend.
Upton’s name has surfaced in trade rumors since the 2010-11 offseason, when Kevin Towers became Arizona’s GM. Trades and rumors are part of the business, as agent Larry Reynolds knows. That said, there’s a certain amount of relief now that a deal has been completed.
“When reality hits you get a little excited because it’s over first of all for Justin,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds, who represents both Uptons, went on to describe the brothers as competitive with “outstanding baseball acumen.” The Braves were far from the only team interested in Upton, which meant they had to part with some pieces they would have preferred to keep. While the Braves didn’t want to trade Martin Prado, the Diamondbacks pushed for his inclusion in the deal. Wren noted that Prado’s pending arbitration case wasn’t a factor in the move, and acknowledged that years of control figure in to any trade talks. Still, giving up Prado was difficult, even though he’s just a year away from free agency.
“I don’t think there’s any question that was the most difficult part of it,” Wren said. “We’re sad to see him go.”
Wren was quick to note that teams don’t obtain difference makers without giving up “something really good.” And as the Braves set out to retool their team for the post-Chipper Jones era, they wanted impact players. With both Upton brothers in place, the Braves have completed the bulk of their offseason work and will be viewed by many as a contender.
“Where we sit today in January we like our club a lot,” Wren said. “Now we’ve got to go perform.”
Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive VP of labor relations, told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that he’s not ready to say baseball’s collective bargaining agreement needs changes. While the CBA appears to have limited the market for certain players who declined qualifying offers, Manfred says it’s still early. “I’m not inclined to get into a discussion about changing an agreement when it hasn’t even operated for a full year.” As Rosenthal points out, draft pick compensation places an artificial burden on free agents. Here are some more links from around MLB…
- The Rangers aren’t a perfect fit for Justin Upton, because their lineup already includes many right-handed hitters, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney notes (Twitter links). The Braves could be a better fit, and could deal from a surplus of pitching. Olney reported yesterday that the Diamondbacks are open to dealing the right fielder.
- The Pirates haven’t announced their two-year, $12.75MM agreement with Francisco Liriano, but MLB.com’s Tom Singer still expects the deal to go through (Twitter link). The Pirates have been trying to get the left-hander to Pittsburgh for a physical.
- The Orioles have not watched free agent right-hander Javier Vazquez work out and they have no current plans to attend any of his scheduled sessions, Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com reports (on Twitter). That said, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun suggested today that the Orioles could have some interest (Twitter link).
- Within an in-depth piece about third baseman Chase Headley, Padres GM Josh Byrnes revealed to MLB.com's Corey Brock that he pushed for the Red Sox to draft Headley back in 2005 when he was in the Boston front office. Headley, 28, is arbitration eligible for the third time this offseason.