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B.J. Upton Rumors
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.
Zack Greinke turned down a potential trade to the Nationals two years ago when he was a member of the Royals, but now that the Nats are the defending NL East champs and have added Denard Span as their latest upgrade, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal thinks that Greinke (or any free agent) would see Washington as a prime destination. The Nationals have been mentioned as one of Greinke's top suitors this winter, along with the Dodgers, Angels and Rangers, so there's a possibility the right-hander could yet end up in D.C. two years later.
Here are some items from around the division…
- David Wright may wait under after the Winter Meetings to decide on the Mets' seven-year, $124MM extension offer, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post. A Mets source speculates that Wright and his representatives may wait due to their unhappiness that negotiations were made public. Wright and agent Seth Levinson told MLBTR earlier this week that rumors about the contract talks were inaccurate.
- The Phillies' best offer to B.J. Upton was a five-year, $55MM contract, tweets MLB.com's Mark Bowman. Upton agreed to a five-year, $75.25MM pact with the Braves yesterday.
- The Braves and Marlins are two of a half-dozen teams interested in free agent utilityman Ryan Raburn, reports ESPN's Jayson Stark (Twitter link). The Rays and Rangers are two of the other known teams.
- The Nationals still have a minor league option remaining on left-hander John Lannan, reports Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider. Washington could keep Lannan at Triple-A as rotation insurance again, though MLBTR's Tim Dierkes thinks Lannan will be non-tendered rather than earn a projected $5MM in his third year of arbitration eligibility.
- Shane Victorino "might actually represent the best value on the market," writes David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News, though Murphy doesn't think the Phillies will look for a reunion with their former outfielder. The Phils haven't been linked to Victorino this offseason, though at least seven teams are known to be interested in the Hawaiian.
MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes will interview Peter Gammons of MLB Network tomorrow, and if you have any particular questions you’d like Tim to ask the Hall of Famer we’d like to hear them. To get in touch you can leave a comment below, reach us on Twitter (@mlbtraderumors) or use MLBTR’s contact form. Here are today’s links…
- An executive who asked the Twins about Joe Mauer heard the catcher isn't available, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reports (on Twitter). Not only does Mauer have a no-trade clause, he's the face of the Twins and Minnesota isn't looking to dump salary.
- Yahoo's Tim Brown tells the story of a recent meeting between Scott Boras and Marvin Miller. Check out Brown’s entire piece, which includes some thoughtful quotes from Boras and is definitely worth your time. Miller, the first executive director of the MLBPA, died this week at the age of 95.
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com previews the outfield market in the aftermath of B.J. Upton’s five-year, $75.25MM contract with the Braves. The Phillies’ best offer to Upton was worth $55MM over five years, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports (on Twitter). The Red Sox weren't in on Upton, but have been in on Shane Victorino, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports (on Twitter).
- Chan Ho Park is set to announce his retirement tomorrow, reports Korea's Yonhap News Agency (passed on by C. Trent Rosecrans of CBS Sports). The 39-year-old right-hander was the first Korean-born player to reach the Major Leagues, posting a 4.36 ERA in 476 games over his 17 seasons in MLB from 1994-2010. Park earned $85.46MM (hat tip to Baseball Reference) during his Major League career and pitched for seven teams. Park spent the last two seasons pitching in Japan and South Korea, respectively.
- The Braves signed Upton to a franchise record five-year, $75.25MM contract despite some warning signs that other organizations had identified, Olney writes. Upton has a declining on-base percentage and a bat that can be inconsistent. However, one of Olney's sources praised the deal. "He is the most talented player in the free agent market and somebody I think will age well," the person said.
- The conversations about a 2013 contract between the Yankees and Andy Pettitte started at the GM Meetings earlier this month, agent Jim Murray told Olney. “We worked on it between then and now, talking fairly frequently," Murray said. Pettitte signed a one-year, $12MM contract yesterday.
- Agents and executives agree that David Wright will take the Mets’ extension offer, Olney reports. It would be difficult to decline such a proposal, since there’s no guarantee he’d have similar long-term offers a year from now. MLBTR rounded up the latest on Wright earlier today. It appears the Mets have offered him $124MM for seven seasons starting in 2014.
5:10pm: Topkin reports (on Twitter) there is no option, so it's a straight five-year contract.
4:49pm: It's a five-year, $75.25MM contract, Rosenthal reports (on Twitter).
4:22pm: It's a five-year deal, worth $70-75MM, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (on Twitter).
The 28-year-old ranked fifth on MLBTR’s list of the offseason’s top 50 free agents. In 633 plate appearances for the Rays this past season, Upton hit 28 home runs and posted a .246/.298/.454 batting line. The right-handed hitter would add balance to the Braves' lefty-heavy lineup. The Phillies were the runners up in the bidding for Upton, Nightengale reports (on Twitter).
Upton declined a qualifying offer from the Rays, which means the Rays are now eligible to obtain a top pick in the 2013 draft. The Braves will surrender their first round draft pick to sign Upton, though that selection won't go directly to Tampa Bay.
ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick first reported the sides were in serious talks and Mark Bowman of MLB.com first reported they were nearing a deal. Mike Axisa contributed to this post.
4:05pm: The Braves have spent most of the day in negotiations with Upton's representatives at Reynolds Sports Management, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (on Twitter). The sides had no serious obstacles remaining by mid-afternoon.
3:55pm: The Braves are nearing a deal with Upton, Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports (on Twitter).
The 28-year-old ranked fifth on MLBTR’s list of the offseason’s top 50 free agents. In 633 plate appearances for the Rays this past season, Upton hit 28 home runs and posted a .246/.298/.454 batting line. The right-handed hitter would add balance to the Braves' lefty-heavy lineup.
This post was first published at 3:42pm CDT on November 28th.
Rosters and Rumblings, a new podcast featuring MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith and Jason Martinez of MLB Depth Charts, debuted today. Check out the inaugural episode for discussion of Evan Longoria’s new deal, Jonathan Broxton’s contract talks with the Reds and B.J. Upton’s impact on the NL East. Speaking of the baseball's eastern divisions, here are some links…
- Andy Pettitte still hasn't divulged whether or not he'll pitch in 2013, but he told Jack Curry of the YES Network via text message that a decision was coming soon (Twitter link). Curry adds that he thinks Pettitte will return to pitch for the Yankees.
- The Yankees have hired former Major League manager and Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin as a scout, tweets Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.
- B.J. Upton's interest in the Braves "seemed to soar" following his meeting with GM Frank Wren, manager Fredi Gonzalez and future Hall of Famer Bobby Cox two weeks ago, writes MLB.com's Mark Bowman.