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Boston Red Sox Rumors
As Thomas notes, the acquisition of Ryan Hanigan as a backup to Christian Vazquez and the presence of Blake Swihart on the 40-man roster made Butler an expendable asset for Boston. The 30-year-old Butler made his Major League debut in 2014 after signing with the Sox as an undrafted free agent in 2009. He posted a .618 OPS in a small sample of 20 plate appearances but has a nice track record at the Triple-A level. In 192 games (739 PA) with Pawtucket, Butler slashed .248/.329/.416 with 22 home runs while throwing out 31 percent of those who attempted to steal bases against the PawSox.
The D-Backs strike me as a possible fit for Butler, given their lack of depth behind the plate. The Orioles are another team that has been linked to backup catching options (despite already having five backstops on their 40-man roster). Of course, as Thomas notes, Butler could end up back with Boston on a new minor league deal if he isn’t traded and passes through waivers unclaimed.
Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league…
- Peter Gammons reports that the Red Sox have signed former Cardinals right-hander Mitchell Boggs (Twitter link). Not surprisingly, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com hears that it’s a minor league deal. Boggs, 30, struggled through 51 minor league innings between the White Sox and Giants in 2014, totaling an alarming 8.59 ERA after a rough 2013 at the big league level. However, Boggs was both durable and effective for the Redbirds from 2010-12, notching a 3.08 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 201 1/3 innings.
- The Brewers announced that they’ve signed catcher Nevin Ashley to a minor league contract that contains an invitation to Major League Spring Training. The 30-year-old Ashley, a longtime Rays farmhand, spent last season with the Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate. With Indianapolis, he batted .246/.332/.345 in 234 plate appearances — numbers that are commensurate with his lifetime .235/.322/.365 batting line at the Triple-A level. Ashley was twice named the best defensive catcher in the Rays’ system by Baseball America and has gunned down 38 percent of attempted base-stealers in a nine-year minor league career.
- The Yankees have re-signed former first-round pick Slade Heathcott to a minor league contract, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post (on Twitter). The Yanks non-tendered Heathcott this December on the heels of a season that limited him to just nine games. Injuries have long been a problem for the center fielder, although Heathcott is still heading into just his age-24 season and has a lifetime .268/.346/.404 triple slash in the minors. Somewhat painfully (for Yankees fans, anyhow), Sherman notes that the Yankees had intended to select Mike Trout with the 29th overall pick in 2009, but he went four picks prior to the Angels as a compensation pick for the loss of Mark Teixeira… who had signed with the Yankees.
- The Tigers have re-signed first baseman Jordan Lennerton, the infielder himself tweeted on New Year’s Eve. MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports that it’s a minor league contract, but it’s unclear whether or not Lennerton will be in big league camp (he was in 2014). Lennerton, 28, had a down season in terms of average and slugging percentage last year at Triple-A, though he still batted a respectable .249/.362/.395 on the whole.
That the Phillies are interested in dealing away first baseman Ryan Howard and some portion of his contract is well-known. Howard, of course, is in the middle of a huge extension that still includes two years and a guaranteed $60MM (including a $10MM buyout of a $23MM club option in 2017). That contract includes a “most favored nation” clause that allows Howard to match the no-trade terms in Cliff Lee‘s deal, under which the player is permitted to designate all but nine clubs for no-trade protection.
ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports the details on Howard’s current list of competitors. The nine teams to which Howard cannot prevent a trade are the Tigers, Royals, Angels, Mariners, Yankees, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, and Red Sox. Crasnick suggests that the teams listed are not particularly strong potential suitors for Howard, as most are either small-payroll clubs and/or lack a present need for a player of Howard’s ilk.
The list seems curious from a strategic perspective, in my view, since it includes only American League clubs. The prevailing sentiment around Howard seems to be that he might have some limited trade value as a designated hitter and left-handed bench bat, but it appears exceedingly unlikely that any National League team would have interest in adding him as a regular first baseman. And payroll is not likely to prevent any teams from pursuing Howard, as Philadelphia is expected to eat most or all of his remaining salary regardless of where he is dealt.
If anything, it could be that the list is simply made up of the American League teams that Howard would most like to play for. His money is earned, after all, and it is unlikely that he would be able to exert enough leverage to convince an acquiring team to provide him with some added benefit in exchange for waiving his no-trade protection. (The notion of demanding a guarantee of his option, for instance, seems far-fetched.) Rather than using the NTC as a means of opening the door to extracting concessions, then, the reported list seems to suggest that Howard is open to being dealt to a place where he is wanted and where he would like to play.
Reading the tea leaves for intent is only so possible and so useful, of course. And the bottom line remains the same: nine of the fifteen A.L. clubs can add Howard without receiving his permission.
MLB owners are likely to discuss a variety of potential rule changes next week at their quarterly meetings in Arizona, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi writes. One change that isn’t likely to take place for next season is the addition of a pitch clock, due to a lack of support from both the league and its players. Other rules, however, will receive strong consideration, including a rule requiring batters to keep one foot in the batter’s box between most pitches, and another requiring runners to slide directly toward second on double plays rather than going out of their way to slide into middle infielders. There could also be discussion about modifying the instant replay rule and Rule 7.13 (the rule designed to prevent collisions at home). MLB and the MLBPA will also meet this month to discuss a new policy regarding domestic violence, Morosi writes. Here’s more from around baseball.
- High school draftees are often more coachable than prospects from college, writes David Laurila of Fangraphs. High school draftees “usually listen more,” says Brewers farm director Reid Nichols. “Part of the reason is because everyone is as good, or better, than they are. They struggle, and when you struggle you look for help. In a more general sense, you have those extra three years to mold them and help them.” Astros GM Jeff Luhnow echoes Nichols’ sentiments but notes that because high school draftees are further from the Majors, there’s greater variance in how they ultimately turn out.
- Both Rick Porcello and the Red Sox are gambling on the righty’s performance this year, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. Porcello will make about $12.2MM this year, based on MLBTR’s projections, and then he’ll be eligible for free agency. With his age (he’ll be 27) and history, he could be in for a huge payday if he has a good year, even with a crowded 2015-16 free agent market that also looks to include David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann and Jeff Samardzija.
James Shields is expected to get at least five years and $100MM, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. Two executives tell Rosenthal that Shields already has a $110MM offer in hand. As Rosenthal notes, however, rumors of an $110MM offer don’t mean that Shields will ultimately sign for that much or more. For example, there were rumors of a $65MM offer for Chase Headley, who ultimately settled for less from the Yankees.
It’s still not clear who will sign Shields. The Marlins and Diamondbacks feel Shields is out of their price range, Rosenthal writes, and the Giants, Padres and Red Sox don’t currently seem highly motivated, either. And the Royals, who have spent on several players already this offseason, don’t appear likely to re-sign Shields. It’s possible that one or more of those teams has more interest than it’s letting on, however. Rosenthal also suggests the Tigers, Yankees and Angels as possibilities, although Shields hasn’t been closely connected to any of those teams.
Mark Polishuk recently polled MLBTR readers about Shields’ likely destination, and the results reflect the uncertainty that seems to exist throughout the industry. Less than 20% of you feel the Giants will sign Shields, followed by the Red Sox, Yankees, and “Other,” which got over 10% of the vote, even with 13 teams in the poll.
The return of Alex Rodriguez headlines the top ten baseball storylines in 2015, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. With the 39-year-old Rodriguez and his two degenerating hips returning after serving a 162-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, Cafardo posits the best-case scenario for the Yankees would be if A-Rod cannot hold up physically or the team and/or MLB come up with more damaging material to keep him out of baseball for good. Also making Cafardo’s list, the start of Rob Manfred’s tenure as Commissioner and Pete Rose testing the waters of reinstatement in the wake of the retirement of Bud Selig, a staunch opponent of allowing the all-time hits leader back into the game.
In other tidbits from Cafardo’s Sunday Notes column:
- It has been hard to gauge the market for James Shields because his negotiations have been private. However, a MLB source tells Cafardo the Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Dodgers, Rangers, Blue Jays, and Giants have had discussions or shown interest in the right-hander. Cafardo adds the Giants have cooled on Shields after re-signing Jake Peavy, but remain open-minded.
- The Giants, Nationals, Angels, and Cubs are seriously pursuing Ben Zobrist with the Rays‘ asking price being at least one top prospect and a mid-level one.
- Dan Uggla is confident in returning to his former self after being diagnosed with oculomotor dysfunction (poor motion vision when moving the head or body), which was caused by being hit in the head by a pitch on two separate occasions. After a two-week exercise regimen, doctors have declared the second baseman’s motion vision normal. The Nationals, who signed Uggla to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite the day after Christmas, have prior experience in dealing with oculomotor dysfunction, as Denard Span suffered through it in 2013. The Orioles and Rangers also expressed interest in Uggla.
- Despite his less-than-stellar reputation, Cafardo finds it hard to fathom a team would not trade for closer Jonathan Papelbon. Cafardo notes Papelbon has found a way to keep getting batters out with diminished velocity as evident by his 106 saves over the past three seasons, including 39 (with just four blown saves) for a bad Phillies team last year.
- Clubs are only offering outfielder Nori Aoki two-year deals. The Orioles have definite interest in Aoki, who also has some appeal to the Giants.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Alex Rodriguez | Baltimore Orioles | Ben Zobrist | Boston Red Sox | Chicago Cubs | Dan Uggla | James Shields | Jonathan Papelbon | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | New York Yankees | Norichika Aoki | Philadelphia Phillies | San Francisco Giants | Tampa Bay Rays | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays | Washington Nationals
Former Orioles GM Hank Peters passed away this morning following complications from a recent stroke, as Mike Klingaman of The Baltimore Sun writes. Peters, 90, was the architect of the Orioles’ 1983 championship team, the last time the O’s won the World Series. “Nobody in baseball taught me more than Hank did,” Ron Shapiro, longtime Baltimore sports agent told Klingaman. “Through negotiations, he taught me the value of listening and of keeping one’s perspective and balance in relationship with the other side…His soft-spokenness reflected his ego-free personality.” MLBTR extends its condolences to Peters’ family and friends. More from around baseball…
- Orioles manager Buck Showalter met with free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus yesterday, but a deal isn’t imminent, according to Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun. Rasmus has expressed interest in coming to Baltimore and a strong performance on one-year contract could allow him to cash in next winter, but it doesn’t sound like we should expect a deal to be struck in the coming days. The O’s have discussed Andre Ethier with the Dodgers and they continue to monitor Nori Aoki, so Baltimore is considering other options.
- The Red Sox have gone from worst-to-first-to-worst but GM Ben Cherington is working to build a team that will be in the mix every year. “I think we’re getting closer to figuring out what that next core is, and with that, we’re closer to something that’s more lasting, more sustainable,” Cherington told Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. “You can’t plan on a World Series every year, but we ought to be planning on winning teams and teams that are playing meaningful games in September and getting into October more often than not.”
- While Padres GM A.J. Preller made waves with his offensive overhaul, he has also changed things up in the bullpen by acquiring Shawn Kelley and Brandon Maurer, as Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego writes. The ‘pen was one the Padres’ bright spots in 2014 as their relievers turned in a 2.73 ERA, even after trading All-Star closer Huston Street in July.
White Sox second base prospect Micah Johnson will have a chance to earn a starting job this spring, but he has bigger plans for his baseball career, writes Scott Merkin of MLB.com. Johnson has his eyes on an eventual GM job when his playing career is concluded. He’s continued his studies while in the minors and plans to attend law school after his playing career is complete. Current GM Rick Hahn agrees that Johnson could fit in as a manager or GM. Per Hahn, “Micah is one of those guys who has that high off-the-field potential.”
- The A’s won’t become a surprise contender in the bidding for Max Scherzer or James Shields, writes Jane Lee of MLB.com. We all know about the payroll constraints facing Oakland. As Lee points out, the A’s have a solid rotation in place as it is, with Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir manning the front lines.
- Even if the A’s had reached the World Series, Lee thinks we would have seen GM Billy Beane complete many of the same offseason trades. Beane “sensed the club was regressing” when he went out to acquire Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester. With eight free agents outgoing, there was an overarching need to restock.
- The Red Sox met with free agent starter James Shields during the winter meetings, but no substantive talks have occurred, tweets Jim Bowden of ESPN. While there’s an obvious use for a front line starter in Boston, the club is clearly taking its time feeling out the market. The Sox are expected to be competitive in the AL East, but an ace could put them over the top.
It was on this day in 1986 that former White Sox, Indians and St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck passed away at the age of 71. Veeck helped break the American League’s color barrier by signing Larry Doby in 1947 and he was the last owner to bring Cleveland a World Series title, though he is perhaps best remembered today for the wacky promotions he used to draw crowds and entertain fans at the ballpark. My personal favorite was “Grandstand Managers Night,” when over a thousand St. Louis fans used placards to ‘manage’ the Browns to a victory over the A’s (Steve Wulf recently wrote about the promotion for ESPN The Magazine).
Here’s some news from around the league…
- The Red Sox have made an effort to add more regulars between the prime ages of 26-30 over the last several months, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe writes, as the 2014 team suffered from a mix of too many inexperienced young players and too many 30+ players who had declining seasons. “There’s no question that finding guys in that age range is appealing,” GM Ben Cherington said. “It’s a safer age range to be in if you’re investing in a player. To be clear, it’s not like we didn’t want that last year. It’s just, what were the alternatives? What were the possibilities? If we could build a team every year full of 26- to 30-year-olds, we would.”
- The Padres‘ acquisition of Brandon Maurer could pay even bigger dividends if the team explores turning Maurer back into a starting pitcher, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan writes for FOXSports.com. As Sullivan notes, Maurer is a decent comparable to Tyson Ross, who has enjoyed great success as a starter since coming to San Diego two years ago.
- In a comparison that surely can’t excite Cincinnati fans, ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider-only link) writes that “The Reds…are probably where the Phillies were a year ago, although they could use a decisive determination.” Reds owner Bob Castellini is too competitive to commit to a brief rebuild, leaving the team in the difficult position of subtracting salaries (like Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon) but also adding win-now pieces (like Marlon Byrd) at the same time.
- Also from Olney, “recent machinations within the Boston organization” seem to be leading to “less influence” for Larry Lucchino, the Red Sox president/CEO.
- A number of Yankees topics are addressed in a fan mailbag piece by Mike Axisa of the River Ave Blues blog, including a prediction by Axisa that New York will “go hard after Doug Fister” when the righty hits free agency next winter. Fister was originally drafted by the Yankees in 2005 and he’d require a smaller salary than other impending free agent starters like Johnny Cueto or Jordan Zimmermann.
- Also from Axisa, the Yankees could wait until after 2016 to make another big free agent splurge since the Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran contracts will be off the books. The Yankees’ strategy seems to be to sign several major players in a single offseason (as they did in 2013-14) to sacrifice only one year’s worth of high draft picks, and going on a spending spree in 2014-15 could result in a payroll in the $250MM range.
We at MLBTR would like to extend our condolences to the friends and family of Bill Kearns, a veteran Mariners scout who passed away last night at age 94. Kearns was hired by the Mariners prior to their debut 1977 season and has been with the franchise for its entire history. A World War II veteran and former Brooklyn Dodgers minor leaguer, Kearns’ long career in baseball led him to scouting jobs with the Dodgers, White Sox and Royals before eventually joining the M’s. In a statement from the team, Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik said “Bill was a gentleman, in the finest sense, and represented his family and the Mariners in a first-class manner. And he was an excellent scout, a true ambassador of the Mariners and the game of baseball. Bill was one of the most positive people I have ever met. He will be missed.”
Here’s some more notes from around the league as 2015 is now upon us…
- Left-hander Luis Avilan‘s name had recently come up in trade talks, though now that the Braves have traded another southpaw in Chasen Shreve, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman wonders (Twitter link) if Atlanta could keep Avilan in the fold. Earlier today, the Braves sent Shreve and David Carpenter to the Yankees in exchange for Manny Banuelos.
- Zduriencik and Seth Smith discussed the recent trade that brought Smith to the Mariners in a conference call with reporters (including Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune). The extension that Smith signed with the Padres last summer was a factor in the trade, as Zduriencik noted that “one of the things we tried to stay away from was giving up talent for one-year returns…I think you’re getting a player who can be with you for at least the next three years.”
- With Craig Breslow‘s physical scheduled for Monday, the Red Sox will face a tough decision in opening up a spot for the reliever on their 40-man roster, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes. Dan Butler, Tommy Layne, Zeke Spruill and Drake Britton are potential candidates to lose their 40-man spots, with Bradford citing Britton as maybe the most vulnerable because he’s out of options. There’s also “a very real scenario” where Boston makes a trade to free up roster space.
- A number of recent Orioles news items and rumors are recapped by MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko, including the new information that the O’s would like to sign a right-handed reliever, possibly on a minor league deal.
- Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi recently said his team won’t be making any other major starting pitching signings, which worries Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times since he feels the rotation lacks depth beyond the top three of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu. On the other hand, Dilbeck wonders if Zaidi’s statement was tactical, similar to how the GM denied that Dee Gordon was being shopped just before Gordon was dealt to Miami.
- In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Tony Blengino describes Adam LaRoche signing with the White Sox as “a perfect marriage of club, player, ballpark and contract.” Using analyses of LaRoche’s swing and U.S. Cellular Field’s park factor, Blengino thinks the veteran first baseman could challenge for the AL homer crown if he stays healthy.