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Boston Red Sox Rumors
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.
Red Sox starter Rick Porcello figures to present a fascinating free agent case, as Mike Petriello of Fangraphs writes. The righty will enter free agency in advance of his age-27 campaign and remains a candidate to put up a big year in Boston. Even if he ends up with more typical results than a true breakout, and even accounting for robust market supply, his age could make him a $100MM player, in Petriello’s view.
Here are a few notes on some of the few remaining current free agents:
- Reliever David Aardsma pushed his velocity up to 92 mph in a recent showcase in front of eighteen scouts, MLBTR’s Steve Adams reports (Twitter links). The 33-year-old has not seen MLB action since 2013, but worked to a 1.46 ERA with better than a strikeout per inning last year at Triple-A with the Cardinals organization. He is expected to choose a team in the near future.
- Fellow righty Matt Albers also threw for teams recently, as already reported, and the Indians were among those in attendance, as Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. Cleveland also had a look at lefty Barry Zito, who threw for observers yesterday.
- Speaking of prior reports on Albers and Zito, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle — who broke the news last night — tweets today that Astros owner Jim Crane says the team could bring in Zito with a spring training invite. Drellich cautions that it still seems unlikely that Zito will land with Houston.
Before agreeing to terms with James Shields, the Padres made an “aggressive offer” to the Phillies for lefty Cole Hamels, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. San Diego had long been said to be pursuing both arms.
Though the precise parameters of the offer are not known, Rosenthal indicates that Philadelphia may not feel that the San Diego system has a sufficiently promising single prospect asset to warrant Hamels. It is not clear whether the Padres have any continued interest in working out a deal, though it seems somewhat unlikely that sufficient payroll flexibility remains.
The Phillies prefer to deal with the Red Sox, per Rosenthal, hoping to land either Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart in return. But Boston has not made such an offer, he adds, making a deal seem unlikely unless the Red Sox “reverse course.”
With the free agent market wrapping up, there remains plenty of intrigue left in the offseason. In addition to extensions, several trade situations still seem worth watching over the spring.
One of those is the glut of outfielders in Boston. Even after dealing Yoenis Cespedes, the Red Sox have an arguably-untenable bunching of players lined up for outfield reps. Spring Training could go a long way toward sorting through the apparent bunching, to be sure, but good health and solid performances could force a deal.
Let’s take a look at the club’s candidates for the roster and/or trade block. (Note: I am not saying that all of these players are realistic trade candidates!) It’s one of the most interesting compilations of outfielders we are likely ever to see heading into spring.
Mookie Betts — He’d be the starting second baseman for many teams, but with the Red Sox he could theoretically slot in anywhere. Betts is an extremely flexible piece with plenty of long-term value, and there is no way he will be dealt in anything other than a blockbuster.
Jackie Bradley Jr. — Something of a forgotten man, Bradley remains a high-floor player with his top-end glove and would surely draw plenty of interest in trade. If he no longer has a firm place in the team’s long-term plans, Bradley would be perhaps the most obvious chip to be used to make a late run at adding another starter. He could still be stashed in Triple-A, of course, though fitting him on the big league roster appears to be difficult at this point.
Rusney Castillo – Boston will be anxious to see how Castillo’s skills transfer in a full big league season after his impressive, but short-lived, debut late last year. He is highly unlikely to be traded.
Allen Craig — On most clubs, Craig would probably spend most of his time at first or DH. But with David Ortiz and Mike Napoli on board, he lands in an awkward spot for the Red Sox. With a terrible 2014 and still-spendy contract weighing down his value, Craig’s spring will likely determine his fate.
Brock Holt — Last year’s emergent hero looks like a solid bet to function as a super-utility player for the club next year, though a sub-par spring could certainly change that. Though he figures in the outfield mix as well, Holt is probably best viewed primarily as a utility infielder and therefore may not really be a part of this roster crunch.
Daniel Nava — Though his production dipped somewhat last year after a strong 2013, Nava still showed a league-average bat and actually posted much-improved defensive metrics. He would figure to draw a good deal of interest: though he is out of options, Nava is owed a reasonable $1.85MM and is controllable for two more years.
Hanley Ramirez — Not even eligible to be dealt at this point, Ramirez is unquestionably going to break camp with the team barring injury. But whether he transitions well to the outfield will have a major role in the team’s plans.
Shane Victorino — His contract looked like a steal after 2013, but a tough 2014 campaign makes the $13MM left to go seem a bit high. A healthy Victorino could force his way into the starting mix, or could make himself attractive in a trade — particularly if a contending club were to suffer an injury during camp.
And that’s all before mentioning Bryce Brentz, another viable outfield candidate who got his first taste of the bigs last year. Even if Boston carries six of the above players on its Opening Day roster — with a view to using Holt, Betts, and even Ramirez as part-time infield options as well — that leaves two players that will need to end up somewhere other than the MLB roster. While Bradley could easily start off in the minors, it would be much more difficult to justify such a move for Betts.
It is not impossible that the team will enter the season with control over all of these names, especially if a DL stint or two intervenes to delay the inevitable, but the backlog makes a trade rather likely. I would look for the club to take a close look at its options early in the spring and maintain an opportunistic outlook in trade talks.
With several of the more likely trade candidates needing to show their health and/or productivity this spring, it could be a drawn-out process with many hypothetically viable trade permutations. Also, with the enticing but low-probability possibility of going after a top-end starter, carrying this deep group will allow GM Ben Cherington to explore all such avenues without fear of exposing a lack of depth.
All said, the Boston outfield situation is one of the most interesting in the game. It should provide plenty for fans to digest and debate over the coming months.
Yankees starters Masahiro Tanaka and C.C. Sabathia are generating positive reports, team pitching coach Larry Rothschild tells Mark Didtler of the Associated Press (via the LoHud Yankees Blog). Tanaka has “felt good” while going through a normal winter progression, says Rothschild. The pair’s progress this spring will be critical for the Yankees. If Tanaka’s partially torn UCL or Sabathia’s balky knee are problematic, the club would seem a prime candidate to add pitching.
- In the final analysis, the Royals‘ run with James Shields was an example of the team “beating the system,” according to Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star. By selling high on Wil Myers to add Shields, Kansas City added the arm it needed before cashing him in for a new first-round pick through the qualifying offer system.
- The Red Sox and Orioles have at least begun looking into the idea of playing a spring game in Cuba this year, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports. While it appears unlikely that will happen in such short order, it certainly hints at how quickly things could move in that arena.
- Signing players to big extensions is obviously risky, and rarely works out in the way that many expect when a deal is struck. But that does not mean that they fail to deliver good value, or that teams are irrational in reaching them, Russell Carleton of Baseball Prospectus writes.
If Rick Porcello‘s first season with the Red Sox goes well, he could be this season’s version of Jon Lester, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes. At the beginning of next offseason, Porcello will still be just 26, and his combination of youth and performance could mean he’ll be sorting through nine-figure contract offers, just as Lester did earlier this winter after playing part of last season in Boston. For now, Porcello doesn’t seem to be in any hurry. “Honestly, I haven’t even thought about that yet,” he says. “I think whether it’s a contract discussion or anything else that could possibly to be a distraction for the team I think it’s important for those things to be limited.” Here are more notes from around the league.
- The White Sox‘ splashy offseason hasn’t come at the expense of their improving farm system, writes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com writes. In particular, their trade for Jeff Samardzija didn’t come at too high a cost, especially considering the price the Athletics paid to get Samardzija in the first place. The White Sox have kept top prospects like Tim Anderson, Francellis Montas and Tyler Danish (and, of course, Carlos Rodon, although Rodon isn’t yet eligible to be traded anyway). “I was impressed,” says MLB.com’s Jim Callis. “Rick Hahn has done a tremendous job since he has been on the job of getting talent without giving up a whole lot, it doesn’t seem to me.”
- Todd Frazier‘s new $12MM contract with the Reds only covers his first two arbitration-eligible seasons, but Frazier would be open to a longer extension at some point, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon writes. “I think both sides are pretty happy about it,” Frazier says, referring to his new contract. “I think everybody wants a long-term deal and stability. Right now, we thought this was the best option for us.” From the Reds’ perspective, there might not be much need right now to sign Frazier long-term, since Frazier’s big-league career got off to a relatively late start. Including the extra season of arbitration eligibility following the expiration of Frazier’s new contract, the Reds already control his rights through his age-31 season, so a long-term deal would only buy out new seasons beginning at age 32.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman feels that the potential is there for a big year, but he’s not guaranteeing the AL East title or anything of that sort, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. “We have a lot of talent,” he said. “Like other teams, we have some ifs. If we get good comebacks and our rotation stays healthy, if our team stays healthy, we’re a good team.” Additions like Andrew Miller will be counted on for production, but the Bombers will really hope for some vintage performances from guys like Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and embattled third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Here’s more from today’s column..
- The Phillies continue to insist on Blake Swihart in any deal for Cole Hamels and there’s been no movement to ask instead for Christian Vazquez. The Red Sox, meanwhile, refuse to part with their top young catcher. Cafardo suggests the Phillies could have a better chance of working out a deal with the Padres as they are more open to moving catching prospect Austin Hedges.
- There are no substantive talks between the Mets and Everth Cabrera‘s camp at the moment as they seem committed to Wilmer Flores. It was reported earlier this winter that the Mets had interest in the former Padres shortstop. A major league source with knowledge of Cabrera’s situation indicated to Cafardo that he has made great strides personally.
- Cafardo writes that the Blue Jays remain interested in Phillies reliever Jonathan Papelbon. A report from earlier this month characterized the Blue Jays as a “major long shot” to land the closer due to financial reasons.
- General Managers around the league can’t stop raving about 19-year-old Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada. “He could be the next Robinson Cano/Chase Utley, but more Cano. That’s the kind of potential bat we’re talking about,” one National League talent evaluator said. An NL GM told Cafardo that Moncada “may be better than [Yasiel] Puig or [Jose] Abreu or [Yoenis] Cespedes or [Jorge] Soler.” Meanwhile, one GM tells Cafardo that the middle infielder would still require some minor league seasoning before breaking into the majors.
- There’s a good amount of interest in Brandon Beachy for when he’s finally ready to sign. The 28-year-old owns a lifetime 3.23 ERA over 46 big league starts, with a 3.34 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, and 3.39 SIERA.