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In his Sunday column, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes that “the key to [the Rays'] offseason flexibility might be trades” before noting that Tampa would be eager to deal either Grant Balfour or Jose Molina if they opportunity presented itself. He also speculates that names such as Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez and Jeremy Hellickson are names to watch, and he wonders whether or not Desmond Jennings and even Wil Myers will be discussed in trades this winter as well.
Here’s more from Topkin’s piece and the rest of the AL East…
- While trading Yunel Escobar to the A’s or letting him go on waivers might’ve been popular with Rays fans (and even some in the clubhouse, Topkin notes), the team held onto him for multiple reasons. Firstly, the Rays are confident that Escobar will rebound from a tough 2014 season next year. They also don’t trust Ben Zobrist at shortstop next year in his age-34 season and aren’t sold on Nick Franklin‘s defense at short. Nor are they certain whether or not Hak-Ju Lee and Tim Beckham will be ready in 2015. Beyond that, the Rays don’t feel they can replace Escobar for as cheap little as he stands to earn in 2015 ($5MM).
- Kelly Johnson, who went to the Orioles as the key to a four-player deal Saturday night, is now headed to his fifth straight AL East team. He’s happy to be headed to a likely playoff team in Baltimore, he tells the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. “It’s crazy,” says Johnson. “Obviously I’ll be familiar with the surroundings. … I’m obviously excited to be in a situation where you’re on a first-place team.”
- In a second piece, Britton also looked at the struggles of Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, and he spoke with Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen about whether or not the hardships experienced by that duo has led the Sox to reevaluate their evaluation process for young players. Hazen speaks at length about the league-wide decline of offense, the increase in defensive shifts and the progress made in scouting reports, noting that it’s tougher now for young players to break through.
The Orioles have announced that they’ve acquired infielders Kelly Johnson and Michael Almanzar from the Red Sox for infielders Jemile Weeks and Ivan De Jesus. This is the Orioles’ second significant trade of the evening, having also recently acquired outfielder Alejandro De Aza from the White Sox. The Johnson deal gives the Orioles a bit of low-cost infield depth.
Johnson, 32, began the season with the Yankees, then headed to Boston in a trade for Stephen Drew. (He also played for the Rays in 2013 and the Blue Jays in 2011 and 2012, meaning that he’s now been or will be on the roster of all five AL East teams, with no non-AL East teams in between.) He’s played mostly third base and first base since 2012, and he’s hit .212/.290/.354 for the season. With the Orioles, he’ll likely play mostly at third base in the wake of the team’s loss of Manny Machado for the rest of the year.
The Orioles selected Almanzar from the Red Sox in the Rule 5 Draft last winter, but returned him in early July. Since then, he’s hit .280/.360/.427 in 186 plate appearances for Double-A Portland, mostly playing third base. At 23, he’s the youngest player in the deal.
Weeks was a first-round draft pick by the Athletics in 2008, and they sent him to Baltimore in 2013 in the Jim Johnson trade. The 27-year-old Weeks played in 215 games with the A’s in 2011 and 2012 but has spent most of the past two seasons in the minors. This season, he’s hit .278/.391/.385 in 254 plate appearances for Triple-A Norfolk. Despite the high on-base percentage, the second baseman probably profiles mostly as depth at this point, although CSNNE.com’s Sean McAdam tweets that Weeks will join the Red Sox’ big-league team. (Dustin Pedroia may have suffered a concussion in Saturday’s game, but the timing of Weeks’ acquisition appears to be a coincidence.)
De Jesus, who heads back to the Red Sox after spending a few months in the organization in 2012, also appears to be mostly a depth player. De Jesus came to Boston from the Dodgers in the Adrian Gonzalez / Carl Crawford / Josh Beckett blockbuster, then headed to Pittsburgh almost immediately as the Red Sox traded for Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt. The Pirates showed little interest in him despite a strong offensive season in Triple-A in 2013, and he signed with the Orioles after the season. The 27-year-old hit .282/.358/.389 in 469 plate appearances for Norfolk this year, mostly playing shortstop.
Masahiro Tanaka threw a simulated game in Detroit earlier this week, but the Yankees have sent him back to New York with “general soreness” in his arm, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News writes. “There’s not a specific spot; it’s just throughout the arm that’s sore,” says Tanaka. “I’m glad that it’s not the elbow itself.” Right now, Yankees manager Joe Girardi describes the situation as a “little setback.” The setback further delays Tanaka’s return, however, meaning it’s increasingly unlikely he’ll be able to make it back before the season ends. Tanaka’s elbow injury has kept him out of action since July 8. Here’s more out of New York and Boston.
- Girardi says he’s keeping his eye on 2014 second-round pick Jacob Lindgren, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com writes. After zooming through four levels in his first pro season, Lindgren could be a potential September call-up, perhaps helping the Yankees bullpen down the stretch. So far, he’s pitched 24 2/3 innings and has struck out an amazing 17.5 batters per nine innings, or almost half the batters he’s faced. He’s currently at Double-A Trenton.
- Missing on Jose Abreu last year helped lead the Red Sox to put in the highest bid for Rusney Castillo, owner John Henry tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. “Yes, the financial aspects were impacted by coming close on Abreu. The White Sox did their homework,” says Henry. Castillo is scheduled to play his first minor league game with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox tomorrow.
- The Red Sox could pursue Royals ace James Shields to upgrade their rotation this offseason, particularly if they’re unable to stage a reunion with Jon Lester, Bradford notes. The Red Sox spent their July acquiring hitting and are likely to address starting pitching this offseason, and ESPN’s Buster Olney had previously noted that Shields was a potential target for the Red Sox. At 32 (33 in December), Shields isn’t young, but he might be able to get a four-year deal this winter.
New Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo will make his minor league debut tomorrow, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. Castillo, who has not played in an official game since 2012, will debut in the Gulf Coast League. The minor league season is, of course, almost at an end — the GCL Red Sox have a three-game series against the Yankees in the GCL finals. Britton notes that Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket are both also headed to their league playoffs, so Castillo could soon head to one of those affiliates, possibly making his way to the Majors later this year. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- Second baseman Dilson Herrera made his big-league debut with the Mets last night and went 0-for-3 with an error. “To be honest, it was a little bit of nerves going into the first inning, but after that it was fine,” said Herrera, via MetsBlog. “I felt good the rest of the night.” Herrera has made great strides since the Mets acquired him from the Pirates with Vic Black in the Marlon Byrd trade last year, and after a half-season breakout at Double-A Binghamton, he now looks like a top prospect. The Pirates paid heavily for Byrd, but he did hit .318/.357/.486 down the stretch for them, also hitting a homer in the Bucs’ win in the Wild Card game against the Reds.
- Highly regarded former big-league GM Pat Gillick is now the Phillies‘ interim team president as David Montgomery takes a medical leave of absence, but GM Ruben Amaro says team operations will be “status quo,” Jake Kaplan of the Daily News writes. Gillick was the Phillies’ GM when they won the World Series in 2008, but Amaro says Gillick’s current duties will only be temporary.
Derek Jeter has been worth only 0.1 fWAR in his final season, and the Yankees‘ insistence on keeping him as the regular shortstop and in the No. 2 spot in the batting order is hurting the team, CBS Sports’ Mike Axisa writes. Jeter is too proud and/or competitive to ask to be dropped in the lineup or take anything less than an everyday role, and the Yankees seem fine with the status quo given Jeter’s stature, Axisa opines. The problem is that Jeter’s lack of production in a key lineup spot might cost the Yankees a playoff spot.
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- The Orioles have talked to multiple clubs about trading for an infielder, and they checked in on Gordon Beckham at some point before the White Sox dealt him to the Angels, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports. Since the Angels (who own the best record in baseball) claimed Beckham on waivers, that would mean the O’s had an initial chance to claim the second baseman themselves but chose to pass.
- Also from Kubatko’s piece, he notes that the Orioles had a potential trade fall through once word got out about Manny Machado‘s season-ending knee surgery. Presumably, the Machado news meant that the other team raised its asking price. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported earlier this week, O’s officials were upset that Machado’s injury status became public, as it lowered their leverage in trade talks.
- Allen Craig‘s career is profiled by WEEI.com’s Nick Canelas, detailing the Red Sox first baseman’s early days to how the Cardinals scouted and drafted him to his current status in Boston.
- The Red Sox have a lot of decisions to make about their 2015 bullpen, and assistant GM Mike Hazen tells Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com that the team would be open to “spend more money on the back-end guy” if necessary. Such a move could be needed if Koji Uehara isn’t re-signed.
- The development of young pitchers like Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Drew Hutchison is a big reason why Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos will likely keep his job despite the Jays’ fade from contention, Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair writes. Anthopoulos is also helped by the fact that modern organizations generally give their general managers at least enough time on the job to see what their drafting and player development plans can produce.
It remains to be seen whether the Mets will pull off a deal for veteran starter Bartolo Colon, whose fate will be one of the most-watched storylines over the next few days. Over at Fangraphs, Mike Petriello questions why there has seemed to be such little demand for the righty, concluding that he is likely worth his $11MM salary for next season and could well be an important last-minute upgrade for a contender.
Here’s more from the east …
- Recent Red Sox signee Rusney Castillo has obtained a work visa in surprisingly short order and is now clear to play, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com reports on Twitter. It remains to be seen whether Boston will expose him to MLB action this year, but that is now a possibility with about a month left to go in the regular season.
- The Yankees continue to move forward in a fairly high-stakes attempt to rehab Masahiro Tanaka for a return this year, with success meaning a top-end arm down the stretch and failure potentially meaning a delayed resort to surgery. As George A. King III reports for the New York Post, Tanaka continues to pass hurdles, with colleague Ken Davidson writing that today’s simulated game was a significant step towards a return.
- Recent acquisitions of the Yankees – including Martin Prado, Stephen Drew, and Chase Headley — could hint at a broader strategic shift, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. All of those players have seen action at multiple positions, and Sherman argues that New York could well commit more resources to depth and versatility going forward, essentially putting additional cash behind the strategies of the Athletics and Rays.
- Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton said that some have misconstrued his recent comments regarding his contractual situation, as Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel reports. “There is no answer to what my future is,” he said, explaining that some have over-interpreted his words in either direction. Nevertheless, planned offseason extension discussions are sure to lead to immense scrutiny and speculation.
- Cole Hamels was just the latest Phillies player to publicly show up manager Ryne Sandberg in some manner, as Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com explains. Though the skipper downplayed the incident and said he has control of his clubhouse, Salisbury paints a picture of a tense situation in Philadelphia. As Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes, this on-field drama is playing out in the midst of broader leadership questions with the club. Martino says that the “fiercely loyal organization” is facing a difficult choice between that loyalty and the evident need for accountability.
We’ll use this post to track the players placed on revocable waivers today …
- The Blue Jays also placed knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on waivers on August 25th, Cafardo tweets. That means that he will either clear or have his claim awarded to a team at some point today. (Of course, that does not mean he will ultimately change hands.) Dickey is owed $12MM next year and comes with a $12MM club option ($1MM buyout) for 2016. He has not shown his Cy Young form since coming to Toronto, and owns a 4.11 ERA over 400 1/3 innings across the last two seasons.
- The Red Sox placed a series of younger players on revocable waivers yesterday, Cafardo tweets. Bryce Brentz, Drake Britton, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Anthony Ranaudo all hit the wire on Tuesday, and would all appear to be unlikely to clear or be included in any deal.
- Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle has been placed on revocable waivers, according to a tweet from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The 35-year-old lefty has had one of his finest seasons, posting a 3.41 ERA over 161 frames, but is guaranteed $19MM next year in the last season of his heavily backloaded four-year, $58MM contract. Toronto had figured to be a buyer for much of the year, and may well still hold onto its veteran pieces for next year, but now looks to be a longshot for the postseason after slipping back to .500. It is not clear precisely when Buehrle went on the wire.
For a more complete explanation of how revocable trade waivers and August trades work, check out MLBTR’s August Trades primer. You can also check out MLBTR’s list of players that have cleared revocable waivers to see who is eligible to be traded to any team.
Bartolo Colon is on revocable waivers, and while he could be of interest to a contending team in need of pitching such as the Dodgers or Angels, Marc Carig of Newsday hears that the Mets will not simply let Colon go to a claiming club in order to shed the remainder of his salary (Twitter links). The Mets feel that they can hang onto Colon and find a good trade for him in the offseason, when the remaining commitment will be just one year at $11MM.
Elsewhere in baseball’s Eastern divisions…
- MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo runs down the Mets‘ options with Colon and lists some potential destinations, speculating that the A’s and Pirates could be under-the-radar fits. While he ultimately deems the A’s a long shot (noting that they would only place a claim to block the Angels), he does remind that the Bucs were interested in Jon Lester prior to the July 31 deadline, and the Pirates did successfully complete a waiver trade with the Mets in 2013 (Marlon Byrd and John Buck for Dilson Herrera and Vic Black).
- Nationals trade acquisition Jose Lobaton hasn’t hit much this season, but the catcher has provided plenty of defensive value and credits one of his former teammates, James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. Lobaton says that the years he spent learning about pitch framing from Jose Molina have made perhaps the biggest impact on his game. Lobaton ranks 35th out of 91 catchers in total extra strikes added via framing, according to Baseball Prospectus. (Unsurprisingly, his former teammate Molina ranks first.)
- Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel provides a brief scouting report on new Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo. As McDaniel notes, while Castillo added a significant amount of muscle since defecting, the extra muscle hasn’t caused his 70-grade speed to diminish. The key to Castillo’s future will be his hit and power tools. While they project to be average (think .260-.270 average and 15-20 homers), they’re volatile enough that either could swing to above-average or below-average in short order.
- Despite repeated stories that the Marlins will not trade Giancarlo Stanton, his name has appeared in trade speculation, but Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald thinks the Red Sox should have their eyes on another NL East corner outfielder. Jason Heyward, one of the only core players on the Braves not to receive a long-term deal that extended the team’s control this offseason, would look very good in a Red Sox uniform, Lauber opines. Lauber suggests that the BoSox should look to trade a package of three young players to the Braves to land Heyward and extend him so that his prime years come with Boston. Heyward’s left-handed bat would help balance the lineup, and his elite defense is a good fit for Fenway Park’s tricky right field, he adds.
Top Mets pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard likely won’t get to make his big-league debut this season, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports. Mets manager Terry Collins says Syndergaard, who has pitched 124 1/3 frames for Triple-A Las Vegas this season, is close to hitting his innings limit for the year. Las Vegas will also make the PCL playoffs, so their season will continue past the usual early-September endpoint. Collins also says that if Syndergaard were to be promoted, the Mets would want it to be for more than just an inning or two. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- Rusney Castillo was able to get such a big contract from the Red Sox in part because his skill set of speed, defense and power will be rare in this offseason’s free agent market, his agent tells Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. “[E]specially when teams were evaluating what was going to be available either at the trade deadline this summer or, more importantly, in free agency this winter, there just weren’t players that matched (Castillo’s) skill set,” says Brodie Van Wagenen of Roc Nation Sports.
- The Phillies need to seriously consider removing Ryan Howard from their roster this offseason, David Murphy of the Daily News writes. Howard has, of course, struggled this season, hitting .222/.300/.373, but Murphy points out that Howard’s offensive struggles go all the way back to 2012, and there were signs of decline even before that. Meanwhile, as the Phillies attempt to remake themselves, plate appearances represent an asset — a way to gain information about a player who might help in the future, like Darin Ruf. Instead of finding playing time for Ruf primarily at first, though, the Phillies are moving him around, cutting into Domonic Brown‘s playing time.
Rusney Castillo will likely serve as the Red Sox center fielder, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports in his latest video. As Rosenthal points out, the Red Sox also need a center field quality outfielder for their spacious right field, but Castillo may not have the necessary arm strength for right. The club views Castillo as similar to Shane Victorino. He should be able hit second, sixth, or seventh while delivering power and good base running skills. Once he receives his work visa, the Sox plan to get Castillo some reps at the minor league level before exposing him to the majors in September.
- The Orioles are going to miss the presence of Manny Machado, who is sidelined for the remainder of the season while recovering from knee surgery. Chris Davis will slide to third with Steve Pearce at first. Club officials were peeved that news of the surgery leaked so quickly, since they believe it will affect their leverage in trade discussions.
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty’s contract expires after this season, but he will remain in Cincinnati. He has “unfinished business” to resolve, including a rotation that is set to lose four of it’s five members following the 2015 season.