- Blue Jays Sign Dayan Viciedo
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Boston Red Sox Rumors
The big fish are off the market, but the Marlins are still looking to pick up a couple of notable relievers. Miami is interested in signing Phil Coke to a minor league deal and they’re still open to inking Francisco Rodriguez. Signing Coke to a minor league deal might not be a reality, however. The 32-year-old is seeking a $2MM guarantee and is getting interest for a major league deal, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. More from the AL and NL East..
- Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee won’t be winning any championships in Philadelphia this season, but they could help the Phillies win one down the road, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes. Both players have been involved in trade rumors, of course, but it’s likely that they’ll start the season with the team and get moved sometime before the July 31st trade deadline. “Sometimes trades take two years to do, sometimes they take seven minutes,” GM Ruben Amaro said recently. Amaro recently indicated that as many as eight teams have kicked the tires on Hamels and four have made “real” offers.
- With five years and $74MM left on the contract extension he signed in 2012, Ryan Zimmerman may no longer be the face of the Nationals‘ franchise, but he’s still one of the team’s most important players, as Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider writes. This season, his ability to make a permanent position switch at the age of 30 may go a long way towards determining how far the Nats can go in 2015 and beyond.
- Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald looked at Rick Porcello, who has the unique opportunity of becoming a free agent before his 27th birthday. Boston is still without a true ace and the right-hander is being counted on by many to fill that role.
- On Saturday, our own Mark Polishuk looked at Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro as a trade candidate.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe ranked every manager in baseball. Giants skipper Bruce Bochy took the top spot for his ability to get great production of of good, but not great, talent. After that, Bochy, Buck Showalter, Joe Maddon, Terry Francona, and Bob Melvin round out Cafardo’s top five. The bottom of the list doesn’t necessarily feature baseball’s “worst” managers as the first-timers are automatically the lowest ranked. More from today’s column..
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said last week that four teams made real offers for Cole Hamels and Cafardo hears from a major league source that one of those clubs was the Red Sox. From talking with various sources, Cafardo senses that the package Boston offered was heavy on the major league side, trying to avoid giving up any of their top prospects. Of course, the Phillies are insistent on prospects, and if they don’t get them now they’ll wait until the deadline when teams are a little more desperate.
- There may be a mystery team out there kicking the tires on Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies are still optimistic that they make a deal happen somewhere, even though the Brewers talks haven’t unfolded as expected.
- The Twins and Indians are looking for a right-handed bat and Cafardo wonders if Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig could be a fit. With Shane Victorino in the fold and Bryce Brentz in the minors, Cafardo wonders when Boston will try and clear up the logjam.
- Chad Billingsley could also be trade bait for the Phillies if he gets off to a good start. A couple of scouts tell Cafardo that they see Billingsley as an effective 150-160-inning guy at the back end of a rotation.
Entering 2015, the Royals possess baseball’s best defense, writes Anthony Castrovince of Sports On Earth. With stalwarts like Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, and Alcides Escobar, the club can count on preventing dozens of runs next season. On the bench lurks speedy defensive whiz Jarrod Dyson to help track down fly balls. Rounding out Castrovince’s top five defenses are the Orioles, Reds, Yankees, and Cardinals.
- Baseball is fighting for relevance, writes Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic. While football can claim a larger fandom than baseball, it’s not the job of Commissioner Rob Manfred to reverse that trend. Instead, the league needs to improve its relevance with youth. A lot of attention has fixated on minor tweaks to the game like a faster pace of play. Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall has some more novel ideas for improving the fan experience. He suggests letting the home team take batting practice second to improve player-fan interactions. He also proposes using pre-game fielding practice as a stage for displays of athleticism.
- The Red Sox have a revamped lineup, new rotation, deeper bullpen, and a $200MM payroll, writes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. The rotation is viewed as a weakness because nobody stands out as a potential ace. However, manager John Farrell believes the current unit will be sufficient. The lineup should provide plenty of fire power and the defense can also help to bail out the rotation. If the rotation is revealed to be a weakness, the club has plenty of prospects to acquire reinforcements.
- The Astros are looking to win in the present season for the first time in the Jeff Luhnow era, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The club is setting a target for a .500 finish, which does appear to be a viable goal. With several 2014 breakouts and more impactful prospects on the way, Houston appears to be turning the corner on their rebuild. Luhnow points to building chemistry as one important piece of the puzzle. Several roster decisions will be made this spring, most notably in the outfield where Robbie Grossman and Alex Presley will be fighting for jobs.
Toronto will host the Pan American Games this summer from July 11 to July 19, writes Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Team USA could field a potent roster headlined by Byron Buxton, Addison Russell, Corey Seager, and others. To be eligible, players cannot be on a 40-man roster. They also need permission from their parent club to participate. Each team is different, but some will probably allow their top prospects to attend. Rangers prospect Joey Gallo could be among the players asked to participate, and GM Jon Daniels likes the idea of his players competing internationally. One wrinkle to watch: the Futures Game takes place on July 12.
Here are more prospect notes from around the league:
- Pitcher Jacob Nix could be a late first round pick in the upcoming Rule 4 draft, reports Keith Law of ESPN.com (Insider required). You may recall Nix’s part in Houston’s Brady Aiken fiasco – he was the player who lost a $1.5MM bonus when Aiken failed to sign. Without Aiken’s expected under slot signing bonus, the club didn’t have the funds to honor Nix’s deal without losing 2015 draft picks and money. Nix is now pitching with IMG Academy, a post-graduate team in Bradenton, Florida.
- Of the prospects in Mets camp, Rafael Montero is the most likely to make the major league roster, writes Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. The club has plenty of starting pitchers, but they could use Montero out of the bullpen. Others like Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz will look to make a strong impression while at the big league camp. Remember, an opening day assignment to the majors can affect when a player reaches arbitration or free agency.
- Due to depth at the major league level, the Red Sox aren’t expected to add a prospect to their opening day roster. However, hard throwing righty Matt Barnes could be among the first called up, writes Ian Browne of MLB.com. Barnes pitched a few innings out of the bullpen last season, so he’s already on the 40-man roster. Another prospect with brief major league experience, Garin Cecchini, will work on improving his defensive versatility.
- The Twins will welcome number one prospect Buxton to their major league camp for the second time, writes Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. However, it’s 29th ranked prospect Alex Meyer who has the best chance to break camp with the club. The giant righty will compete for a spot in the rotation, although he’ll face competition from Tommy Milone, Mike Pelfrey, Tim Stauffer, and Trevor May.
The Yankees finalized last summer’s trades for Martin Prado, Josh Outman and Jeff Francis with cash rather than minor leaguers, a team official tells Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees blog. All three deals (with the Diamondbacks, Indians and Athletics, respectively) were made with either cash or a player to be named later going back to the other team in return. Here’s some more from around the baseball world…
- In an entry from Buster Olney’s latest Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, he notes that talent is a rarer commodity than money in today’s game, which is why he feels the Phillies should consider eating some of Cole Hamels‘ contract to bring back better prospects in a deal. Looking at the Hamels-to-Boston trade rumors, Olney wonders why the Red Sox would deal top prospects for Hamels now when a number of ace-level pitchers will be available for only cash in free agency next offseason.
- This offseason has already seen eight arbitration hearings and seven more outstanding cases could go to a hearing, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi notes. It’s an unusually high number given that there were only 13 arb hearings in total over the previous four offseasons, though Morosi doesn’t yet think this could be an omen about the upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations.
- Former big leaguer-turned-FOX Sports analyst C.J. Nitkowski is no stranger to minor league contracts, and he details some of the many factors that a player must consider before signing such a deal.
- Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron lists his ten least-favorite moves of the offseason, with the Padres‘ trade for Matt Kemp topping the list. Cameron believes the Padres paid far too heavy a price in both talent and salary to acquire Kemp, whose best days are possibly behind him due to a checkered injury history.
J.J. Hardy made an early exit from the free agent market when he re-signed with the Orioles before the ALCS, but the shortstop would’ve preferred to have inked his new contract even sooner. “It kind of went a lot longer than I wanted it to,” Hardy told Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com. “I didn’t think it needed to go that long, but it did. But I told my agent, ‘Listen, this is what I want and I like it in Baltimore. Let’s get to what is fair and make this happen.’ Now that it is done, I’m glad everything worked out as it did.” Hardy also said he was hampered by a bad back last season, and hopes to deliver more of his customary power now that he’s feeling healthier. Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Canadian-born Russell Martin, Dalton Pompey and Michael Saunders are slated to play major roles for the Blue Jays, though team president Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos tell Robert MacLeod of the Globe & Mail that this increase in Canadian talent is a coincidence in roster-building, not a promotional gimmick. “The city and the fans and the country embrace great players because great players help you win. And I think winning is what promotes the sport and baseball in Canada,” Anthopoulos said.
- Rays minor leaguer Spencer Edwards has been issued an 80-game suspension for a PED violation, the league announced. Edwards was Tampa’s second-round pick in the 2012 draft, selected 88th overall. The 21-year-old shortstop/center fielder has a .558 OPS in 569 PA over his first three pro seasons, none above the A-ball level.
- Rough seasons for Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley were a big reason why the Red Sox suffered through a last-place finish in 2014. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe examines both why these players struggled and takes a broad overview of how the Sox are adapting their player development system as part of an in-depth four-part series of articles.
- The main takeaway from Speier’s piece is that the Red Sox felt empowered by their 2013 World Series title to deploy so many youngsters in last year’s starting lineup, and realistically, the team didn’t even expect all three to contribute right away. The larger roster flaw, according to Speier, may have been that Boston didn’t acquire enough veteran depth last winter to account for some growing pains by their three young starters. In response, the Red Sox began adding notable veterans even before last season ended, and now theoretically have protection should Bogaerts, Bradley or other unproven talents like Mookie Betts or Rusney Castillo underperform.
- Speier’s piece also explores some bigger-picture topics, such as how the Red Sox are dealing with the age-old problem of how to best prepare each individual prospect to be ready for the majors. This is complicated by the fact that the quality gap between Triple-A and MLB has never been wider, yet top prospects are coming into the game with higher expectations than ever thanks to media hype and fan interest.
With the crop of six-year service time free agents thinning noticeably, attention has turned to the fascinating group of players readying to sign after leaving their native Cuba. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has been among the most active observers on this still-developing segment of the market, and delivers a host of interesting information in his latest post on the subject.
While I recommend a full read of his work, here are some highlights:
- Hector Olivera is the lone name who figures to have immediate impact. (Fellow middle infielder Jose Fernandez reportedly remains in Cuba after having been thought to have left with intentions of seeking a MLB deal.) McDaniel agrees with Baseball America’s Ben Badler that Olivera has the potential for immediate impact, but says there are significant doubts about his long-term prospects. For one, Olivera’s medical history is not just limited to sports injuries, but includes a significant case of thrombosis. Then, there is the fact that Olivera’s age cannot be confirmed with certainty and even some indications that scouts are questioning why he is “fatigued earlier in workouts than an athlete of his size, strength and age should.”
- Ultimately, McDaniel concurs with Badler that Olivera is seeking and could obtain a $10MM+ annual guarantee. But McDaniel cautions that he expects it to run over just two or three seasons (with an outside chance at a fourth guaranteed year) with options and incentives included.
- The other name making noise at the recent international showcase was Cuban righty Yadier Alvarez, who McDaniel has in the mid-to-upper 90s with a plus slider and promising change. The rest of the package checks out for his age, with McDaniel saying that Alvarez’s raw talent and progress to date is on the same level as the very best high school arms entering the draft. Alvarez expects to have him ready to sign in the next month or two and does not seem inclined to wait for the market to turn over on July 2nd, which would mean the Cubs and Rangers would not be eligible to sign him. (Should he wait to sign, Alvarez would lose the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, D’backs, and Angels as potential suitors.) While this particular market is in the very earliest stages of development, McDaniel says that Alvarez is plainly superior to Yoan Lopez, who just got a $8.25MM bonus from Arizona.
- McDaniel also provides an update on 21-year-old infielder Andy Ibanez, who is seemingly no longer showcasing. That could mean that he is in the process of (or will soon be) sorting through offers. While the demand side of the equation is hard to peg in his case, McDaniel says he expects one of the bonus-busting teams listed above to land him at a potential cost of between $5MM to $12MM.
- The most exciting name out there remains Yoan Moncada. Though there is not much new to pass on in his case, Badler does present some video of Moncada’s past plate appearances against several notable young arms. One executive tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links) that the bidding on Moncada could reach nine figures in terms of total investment (given the near-100% tax for signing him). Rosenthal also says that the Moncada case may be a catalyst for debate on the issue of how amateur rights are secured.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…
- Righty David Herndon has signed a minor league deal with the Brewers, Adam McCalvy of MLB.com tweets. The 29-year-old, who is trying to reach the bigs for the first time since 2012, has been significantly limited by injuries over the last several seasons. Over 117 total MLB frames from 2010-12, Herndon owns a 3.85 ERA with 5.8 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9.
- Third baseman Josh Bell has signed a minor league deal with the Padres, agent Josh Kusnick announced on Twitter. Formerly a top prospect with the Dodgers and one of the top 40 prospects in baseball (per Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus), Bell spent much of last season in Korea, hitting .267/.345/.433 with the LG Twins. Those numbers are a near-mirror image of his career line at Triple-A, where he’s batted .267/.355/.451 in 1402 plate appearances.
- Right-hander Gonzalez Germen has cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A Iowa by the Cubs, tweets the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales. Germen, who has been designated for assignment a stunning four times this winter, will finally know which organization he will be a part of come Spring Training. He’ll be invited to Major League camp, per Gonzales.
- Reds left-hander Ismael Guillon has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, reports MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon (on Twitter). Guillon was designated for assignment when the team signed Burke Badenhop over the weekend. Guillon, who turns 23 years old today, has been a mainstay on Cincinnati’s Top 30 prospects list (per Baseball America), topping out at No. 9, but he’s struggled to a 4.82 ERA over the past two seasons at multiple Class-A levels. Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel recently ranked him 21st among Reds farmhands, noting that one scout called him a “pull your hair out” type of guy due to his wild inconsistencies.
- The Giants have signed lefty specialist Clay Rapada to a minor league contract, reports Baseball America’s Matt Eddy (via Twitter). Yankees blogger Robert Casey first reported the news recently on Twitter. Rapada, 34 in March, has just two Major League innings over the past two seasons but has an excellent track record of dominating left-handed hitters. He’s held opposing lefties to a .164/.255/.231 batting line in 257 big league plate appearances, but righties have tattooed him at a .345/.464/.611 clip. Rapada held lefties to a .639 OPS in Triple-A last season, but righties got to him for a 1.134 OPS.
Third baseman Nick Delmonico, who was released by the Brewers last week, has latched on with the White Sox on a minor league deal, tweets Eddy. If Delmonico’s name looks familiar, it’s because he was the player the Brewers received from the Orioles in exchange for Francisco Rodriguez in 2013. Formerly one of Baltimore’s top prospects, Delmonico was suspended last summer for amphetamine usage. The 22-year-old has yet to climb higher than Class-A Advanced, where he is a .241/.332/.417 hitter in 500 plate appearances.
- Eddy also tweets that the Red Sox have signed right-hander Jess Todd — not to be confused with MLBTR scribe Jeff Todd — to a minor league contract. Todd, originally drafted by the Cardinals, was traded to the Indians alongside Chris Perez in return for Mark DeRosa back in 2009. Now 28 years of age, Todd has little MLB experience (28 1/3 innings) but does boast a strong track record at Triple-A, where he’s worked to a 3.62 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 380 1/3 innings.
The Yankees‘ primary focus with trade acquisition Nathan Eovaldi will be on improving his offspeed offerings, writes Dan Martin of the New York Post. Despite Eovaldi’s imposing velocity, the 25-year-old generates a surprisingly low number of strikeouts. And, while he struggles more against left-handed hitters, his lack of whiffs isn’t as a result of any platoon issue (6.5 K/9 vs. RHB in his career; 6.0 K/9 vs. LHB). He’s already begun working with pitching coach Larry Rothschild on improving those pitches and would do well to improve his change-up to give him a true out pitch versus lefties. As it is, lefty hitters have batted .466 with a .655 slugging percentage against Eovaldi’s change in his career. The Yankees, Martin writes, were drawn to Eovaldi because of his velocity (95.9 mph fastball from 2013-14), age and the durability he showed in 2014, throwing 199 2/3 innings.
A few more notes from around the AL East…
- Red Sox third base prospect Garin Cecchini isn’t worried about the team’s addition of Pablo Sandoval, he tells Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. “I take it as a positive for my career,” Cecchini explains. “I get to hang out with a great player like that and work with him in spring training. That has to help me. It’s easy to say, ‘Where is my spot?’ but I can’t worry about that. You have to create your own opportunity.” Of course, creating that opportunity won’t be easy, barring an injury to Sandoval. And even in that instance, left fielder Hanley Ramirez could slide over to third base, as the Sox have tremendous outfield depth. Cecchini acknowledged to Abraham that a position change or trade could be the eventual outcome. “You hear that kind of stuff. But I don’t look too much into it. … I understand Pablo is in front of me but I hope I can do something to help.”
- The Blue Jays had two scouts watch Matt Albers‘ recent workout, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Albers turned down multiple offers to sign with the White Sox, according to Nicholson-Smith, though it’s not clear if Toronto was one of the teams to make an offer. Shortly after Albers signed, the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich tweeted that Albers had offers from four teams besides the ChiSox.
- Nicholson-Smith also spoke with someone familiar with the arbitration process who estimated that the Blue Jays‘ win over Josh Donaldson in yesterday’s arbitration hearing may have saved the club upwards of $6MM over the next several winters, as each salary is based upon the previous year’s figure (Twitter link).
Here’s the latest out of Philadelphia, which houses one of the league’s most interesting rosters to watch this spring. Steve Adams and I discuss that, among other topics, on today’s forthcoming podcast. In the meantime, some notes:
- The Phillies asked the Brewers for a “top prospect” in return for closer Jonathan Papelbon if the club was to pick up a big piece of the remainder of his deal, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (in a piece we cited earlier this morning). In response, Milwaukee broached the idea of sending Jonathan Broxton back to Philadelphia to help balance the cash, a concept that did not gain traction (and which Rosenthal argues made little sense for either club).
- Those talks are now dormant, per Rosenthal. That would appear to take the Brewers out of the picture for Papelbon at this point. As Rosenthal explains, the entire episode also demonstrates the broader difficulty the club is facing in moving Papelbon. While a spring injury could always shake up the market, it increasingly appears (as others have suggested) that waiting until the summer to deal might represent the best option for the Phils.
- The Red Sox have plenty of leverage in their pursuit of Phillies lefty Cole Hamels, writes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. That’s because “even the second-best deal [Amaro] can get for Hamels from the Red Sox is likely better than he can get elsewhere,” as Abraham puts it. Even taking on most of the Hamels deal is going to leave plenty of value left to be accounted for in any trade scenario — another topic that Steve and I discuss — but Abraham suggests that the gap might be bridged by a package fronted by lefty Henry Owens and including several other top prospects not named Betts, Swihart, or Rodriguez.