Boston Red Sox Rumors

Boston Red Sox trade and free agent rumors from

Cafardo On Hamels, Rays, Red Sox

The Phillies are “waiting with open arms” to find the right trade for at least one of their big-name veteran players, a major league official tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.  That list of big names, of course, includes ace Cole Hamels, though Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley could also be moved, Cafardo writes.  Amaro recently told reporters that he’s willing to eat part of Hamels’ contract in a trade if necessary, and that could help bring about a deal for the Phillies.  More from today’s column..

  • Major league sources tell Cafardo that the tampering investigation brought by Rays owner Stuart Sternberg against the Cubs for their hiring of Joe Maddon was reopened when Sternberg objected to the original verdict.  In the end, however, it was found that there was no tampering in the negotiations.
  • Marlins GM Dan Jennings thought he had trade possibilities for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was designated for assignment last week. He’s currently in the 10-day limbo period in which he could be traded, claimed, or put on waivers.
  • Scouts are still waiting for Red Sox outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig to bust out and it appears Boston is going to play him more to boost his trade value.  Cafardo notes that Craig has historically hit well in the month of May.
  • The Red Sox are trying to create roster versatility by using players at different positions. Shortstop Deven Marrero is the team’s latest experiment after seeing time at second base. One NL scout isn’t so wild about the concept. “He’s a terrific athlete so he’ll do well at the other positions, but this is the type of guy where you know he’s a terrific shortstop so why mess around with that?” said the scout. “He’s got high confidence as a shortstop and now you’re reducing that confidence level by making him play positions he’s not used to.

East Notes: Howard, A-Rod, Phillies

Ryan Hanigan‘s injury pushed the Red Sox to throw Blake Swihart directly into the fire upon his big league promotion, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. Learning on the fly is hardly ideal for a catcher, but Boston doesn’t have much choice and Swihart says he’s up for the task. “I feel ready,” he said. “I don’t think I’d be here if I didn’t feel ready. I love a challenge. I’m ready.”  A look at the AL and NL East..

  • Ryan Howard earned his 10-and-5 rights on Saturday, but Phillies GM Ruben Amaro claims he isn’t concerned about how that could affect a potential trade.  “I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Amaro said, according to Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s a big deal for him, for two reasons: I think he should be recognized for [having] the most games played at first base in our franchise. That’s a pretty awesome feat, No. 1. And No. 2, obviously he’s been a long-standing member of this club and has had a great deal to do with the success.”  As Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News explained over the weekend, Howard essentially had full no-trade protection prior to Saturday thanks to a modification to Jimmy Rollins‘ contract before his trade.
  • Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald wonders how history would have been changed if Alex Rodriguez joined the Red Sox back in 2003.  The player’s union shot down a deal that would have sent Rodriguez to the Rangers for Manny Ramirez and Jon Lester (then a prospect in Single-A) because A-Rod would have taken a $28MM pay cut to make the deal possible.  If that marriage did take place, it might not have lasted long.  Apparently, the Red Sox would have allowed Rodriguez to opt out of his contract after the 2007 season, multiple sources familiar with the team’s thinking at the time tell Lauber. And unlike the Yankees, who re-signed him to a 10-year, $275MM contract after allowing him to exercise the opt-out, they “definitely would have let him walk,” an NL exec said.
  • As a Hall of Famer managing in the bigs after his induction, Phillies skipper Ryne Sandberg is part of a rare breed.  Despite his resume, Sandberg didn’t feel like he was too good to work his way up through managing in the minors first, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes.  “I would say that just because you’re a Hall of Famer doesn’t mean managing is for you,” said Sandberg, whose team is in last place in the NL East. “I think the perception is that Hall of Famers don’t want to prove (themselves) and go the route that you have to go. I thought it was necessary and worthwhile for me.”

Reactions To Blake Swihart’s Promotion

Injuries to Ryan Hanigan and Christian Vazquez led the Red Sox to promote top catching prospect Blake Swihart ahead of schedule, a move that became official today. Here are a few notes on Swihart’s call-up.

  • Swihart started catching full-time only after being drafted in 2011 and still has more to learn about calling pitches and working with pitchers, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe writes. “I think we’re starting to see him recognizing that a little bit more, reading swings, understanding where these hitters are at, and making the attack from them. You can obviously have a pitch plan on paper. That’s nice. But these hitters, they adjust,” says Kevin Boles, Swihart’s manager at Triple-A Pawtucket. “The window that we had last year, he’s very athletic but there still remained quite a bit to work on. There still is, but he’s showing a little more polish at this point.”
  • Scouts also think Swihart’s work behind the plate needs additional work, although they think he’s ready offensively, Speier writes. “He will have some defensive lapses just from a lack of total development time, but his athleticism, arm, and makeup will help him survive,” says one scout.
  • Swihart isn’t ready to start in the big leagues yet, but a source tells Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald that the Red Sox don’t seem interested in re-acquiring Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who the Marlins recently designated for assignment.
  • Swihart possesses considerable upside, with tools reminiscent of Buster Posey, Vince Lara-Cinosomo of Baseball America writes. While Swihart’s work behind the plate will make his transition to the big leagues a tough one, his athleticism should help him.
  • The loss of Hanigan, who will require surgery to treat a fracture in one of the knuckles of his right hand, will be a tough one, Sox starter Justin Masterson tells Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. “It’s a big loss,” says Masterson. “He’s a big part of helping things come together.” Hanigan, acquired last offseason after being traded from the Rays to the Padres and then to Boston, was already making solid progress in getting to know the Red Sox’ pitching staff, manager John Farrell says.

Red Sox Promote Blake Swihart

SATURDAY: The Red Sox have formally announced that they’ve promoted Swihart and placed Hanigan on the disabled list.

FRIDAY: The Red Sox will promote top prospect Blake Swihart, Sean McAdam of reports on Twitter. Swihart will fill in for Ryan Hanigan, who went down tonight with a broken finger.

Mar 7, 2015; Sarasota, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart (71) at bat against the Baltimore Orioles at a spring training baseball game at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Boston will continue to look for external candidates behind the plate with both of its top two options (Hanigan and Christian Vazquez) now out for the foreseeable future. The team is still not interested in bringing back Jarrod Saltalamacchia, however, McAdam says.

It remains unclear, then, whether Swihart will end up sticking in the bigs for the rest of the year. But he’ll certainly have a chance to do so; certainly, the club could add another catcher and chose to move Sandy Leon rather than Swihart. If he can avoid an optional assignment, Swihart will line up to qualify for Super Two status down the road.

Things probably hinge on the 23-year-old’s defense, the main limiting factor coming into the year. It isn’t that Swihart lacks athleticism or promise; it’s that he is still working out the finer points after converting to the position late in his high school career. His offensive upside for an up-the-middle bat is undisputed, and is the cause for his consensus top-20 prospect rating.

Though Swihart struggled somewhat in his first Triple-A action last year and has not hit for power there this season, the bat seems about ready. All said, he owns a .287/.341/.428 slash over five minor league seasons since being taken late in the first round back in 2011.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ryan Hanigan Requires Surgery On Broken Finger

Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan has suffered a displaced fracture to his finger and is destined for surgery, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter. He is expected to miss a significant period of time after taking a deflected ball to his hand in tonight’s game.

That’s highly unwelcome news for a Boston team that is already without the other half of its expected backstop tandem in Christian Vazquez for the rest of the season. Sandy Leon was added to the mix just before the start of the season, and the team does have both top prospect Blake Swihart and veteran Humberto Quintero available at Triple-A.

But none of those options are really ideal, for various reasons. Leon has never been viewed with much promise offensively, while Quintero is a 35-year-old career backup. Swihart is, of course, the game’s best-regarded catching prospect. But he is still completing his development and would line up as a Super Two if promoted now.

Speculation will immediately turn to the possibility of an acquisition, and indeed there seems to be good reason to think that could occur. No player is more available than former Boston backstop Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who remains in DFA limbo with a Marlins club that is highly motivated to save some money on his contract. Players like Dioner Navarro of the Blue Jays and Welington Castillo of the Cubs also remain under-utilized with their current clubs.

Heyman’s Latest: A-Rod, BoSox, Bryant, Ventura, Gordon, Duda

In this week’s edition of his Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports begins by looking at the contentious courtroom showdown that stands between Alex Rodriguez and as much as $30MM worth of home run milestone bonuses. As Heyman notes, people on all sides of the case have reasons to dislike A-Rod. Rodriguez filed a lawsuit (that was eventually dropped) against the MLBPA, and he parted ways with agent Scott Boras more than six years ago. The Yankees’ reasons for resenting Rodriguez are obvious, as are those of the league, with whom Rodriguez battled to reduce a 212-game suspension to a still-significant 162 game ban. Heyman looks at the arguments that can be made by both sides as well as the potential fallout once the situation is finally resolved.

Some highlights from the latest edition of Heyman’s newest weekly column…

  • Though the Red Sox aren’t blinking when it comes to trade talks with the Phillies regarding Cole Hamels, one rival GM considers Boston the favorite. The Phillies quite like center field prospect Manuel Margot, and Boston does have other nice pieces. Heyman notes that one scout actually expressed concern to him about Mookie Betts‘ ability to hit the ball on the outer half of the plate, but the Sox remain steadfast in their refusal to part ways with Betts.
  • The Cubs aren’t concerned with a potential grievance being filed against them on behalf of Kris Bryant. Rather, their main concern is trying to find a way to extend him beyond his current allotment of team control. Heyman hears that Cubs are already considering trying to make him a Cub for life, though he also notes that it’s a bit early for those discussions.
  • White Sox skipper Robin Ventura signed an extension of an unreported length prior to the 2014 season, and Heyman now hears that Ventura is under contract through the 2016 season. The contract length is said to be of little importance to ChiSox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who loves Ventura.
  • The Royals plan to try to do “whatever they can” to retain Alex Gordon beyond the 2015 season. The 32-year-old Gordon’s $12.5MM player option has increased to $13.25MM based on performance escalators, per Heyman. While Gordon has implied that he will exercise the option in the past, it’s exceptionally difficult to envision him merely picking up the option rather than trying for a highly lucrative multi-year deal. The Royals never felt they had a great shot at retaining James Shields, but their hope with Gordon is that the career Royal and Nebraska native might be easier to retain. Heyman adds that while the club is interested in trying to extend Salvador Perez beyond the 2019 season, those talks aren’t likely to come until after the season.
  • Juan Uribe is off to a decent start with the Dodgers, but the hot play of Alex Guerrero and the addition of Hector Olivera in Spring Training could eventually lead to Uribe becoming available on the trade market. Uribe’s at hasn’t lined up with his previous seasons to this point, but he’s hit a perhaps surprisingly strong .293/.333/.435 dating back to Opening Day 2013.
  • Rival executives are anxiously anticipating a Brewers fire sale following the club’s awful 5-17 start to the season, Heyman hears. One exec listed Carlos Gomez, Khris Davis, Jean Segura, Gerardo Parra, Kyle Lohse and Francisco Rodriguez as players who will draw interest, noting that Jonathan Lucroy is probably untouchable, while Matt Garza and Ryan Braun are somewhat overpriced.
  • The Mets were trying for a three-year extension that contained a club option and would’ve guaranteed Lucas Duda a bit shy of $30MM. I’d imagine that with Duda could end up the beneficiary in that scenario, particularly if he can sustain the increase in his walk rate and the more notable decrease in his strikeout rate.
  • Multiple Yankees people have shot down the notion that the team would pursue Hamels when asked by Heyman. One replied that the team is “not looking” at Hamels, while another wondered if Hamels is still a legitimate ace or more of just a big name.

AL East Notes: Bailey, Sox Rotation, Romero

Yankees right-hander Andrew Bailey‘s road to recovery has again been slowed by a setback, reports Chad Jennings of the Journal News. GM Brian Cashman tells Jennings that Bailey underwent an MRI that has revealed a shoulder strain, and the former A’s closer will be shut down for the time being with no clear timetable for a return. Bailey tossed just 44 innings over the 2012-13 seasons with the Red Sox after being acquired in a trade that sent Josh Reddick to Oakland, and he’s signed Minor League deals with the Yankees in each of the past two offseasons.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • The Red Sox have struggled tremendously in terms of starting pitching, but those hoping for a quick fix might instead need to be more patient, because the Sox themselves are typically patient with this type of problem, writes the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. Speier looks at recent slow starts and poor stretches for a number of Sox hurlers in the Ben Cherington era, noting that more often than not, starters are given the opportunity to work out of slumps rather than replaced after limited struggles. Examples listed by Speier include Clay Buchholz in early 2012, Daniel Bard in 2012 and Felix Doubront in early 2013. Speier also notes that even amidst rotation in 2013, Allen Wesbter, arguably the team’s most MLB-ready prospect, made 10 starts at Triple-A while the big league group tried to sort things out.
  • Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards also tackles the Red Sox rotation, noting that the starting mix is filled with pitchers whose FIP is significantly better than their actual ERAs. Edwards looks at teams whose rotations have endured similar struggles stranding runners in the month of April over the past five seasons, noting that each has demonstrated marked improvement moving forward.
  • Ricky Romero was surprised to be released by the Blue Jays after a positive meeting with manager John Gibbons and pitching coach Pete Walker late in Spring Training, writes David Singh of Sportsnet“(They) let me know they were still thinking of me and still believe in me,” said Romero. “They told me ‘Make sure you take your time’ and we think it’s going to be a great story the day you come back up and help us.” Romero said that while he was uplifted by that conversation, he understands that it’s a business decision for Toronto. GM Alex Anthopoulos recently explained that Romero was cut loose after the team realized that he wouldn’t be recovered from a pair of knee surgeries by the end of the season.

Korean Slugger Byung-Ho Park Hoping To Jump To MLB In 2016

After seeing former teammate Jung-ho Kang sign with the Pirates this offseason, Byung-ho Park of the Korea Baseball Organization’s Nexen Heroes is hopeful that he will have the opportunity to make his way to MLB as well, reports Jee-ho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency. Park, a two-time KBO MVP, told reporters prior to the season that he’s long dreamed of playing in Major League Baseball, according to Yoo.

Park is eligible to be posted for MLB clubs following the 2015 season if the Heroes choose to allow it. Yoo reports that Park has enlisted Octagon, the same agency that negotiated Kang’s four-year deal with the Pirates, to represent him if he is indeed posted. It’s worth reminding that the KBO posting process is not the same as the new posting process with Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. Under the Korean system, which is the same as the old NPB posting system, all 30 teams would have the opportunity to submit a blind bid for Park’s services, and the team to submit the highest bid would then have a 30-day window to negotiate a contract with Park. Should the two sides fail to reach an agreement, the posting fee would be returned to the team that won the bid.

Six Major League clubs, including the Pirates, have asked for credentials to send scouts to watch the Heroes this week, according to Yoo. However, teams regularly scout KBO and other Asian leagues, and one Heroes official said to Yoo that he “only heard they’re here to watch the whole league.” Yoo adds that Park’s agents at Octagon had contact with the Red Sox and A’s during Spring Training when the Heroes were training in Arizona. Additionally, a scout who attended Tuesday’s Heroes game told Yoo that there is indeed interest in Park among scouts, though that shouldn’t be entirely surprising based on the 28-year-old’s numbers.

KBO is known to be an exceptionally hitter-friendly environment, but Park’s .310/.434/.645 batting line over the past two seasons is nonetheless impressive. After hitting 31 homers in 2012 and 37 in 2013, Park’s long ball total soared to 52 last season, and he’s already belted six in 103 plate appearances this season. However, with the increase in power came an uptick in strikeouts, as his strikeout rate jumped from about 17 percent in 2013 to 25 percent in 2014. His 24 punchouts in 103 PAs this season seem to suggest that the increase in whiffs could be a lasting trend.

The right-handed hitting Park is listed at 6’1″, 236 pounds and is set to turn 29 years old this July, so if he were to be posted, teams would still be potentially buying some prime years. While his placement on the low end of the defensive spectrum likely limits his value somewhat, a potential prime-aged, right-handed power bat could add an interesting wrinkle to a class of free agent first basemen that is led by Chris Davis but also features mid-30s bats such as Mike Napoli and Justin Morneau.

2016 Vesting Options Update

Several notable players could see their 2016 statuses change depending on whether or not they unlock vesting options in their current contracts.  With the opening month of the 2015 season almost in the books, let’s check in on the progress each of these players are making towards those getting those options to vest…

  • Chase Utley: The veteran second baseman has a $15MM vesting option for 2016 that becomes guaranteed if he makes 500 plate appearances.  (If he doesn’t, it becomes a team option worth between $5MM-$11MM depending on how much time Utley spends on the DL, with a $2MM buyout.)  Utley has received 81 PA while playing in 21 of the Phillies’ first 22 games, so he is well on the way to having his option vest despite a very rough start — only a .398 OPS and two homers this season, thanks to an incredibly low .102 BABIP.  There is little chance the Phils would let Utley walk for nothing this winter, especially when they could obtain something for him in a trade this summer if Utley agrees to waive his no-trade clause.
  • Jonathan Papelbon: The Phillies closer’s 2016 vesting option is one of the reasons why he hasn’t yet been traded, as other teams have been wary about acquiring a reliever with such a potentially large price tag.  Papelbon’s $13MM vests if he finishes 55 games this season, or posts a combined 100 games finished between 2014-15.  The stopper finished 52 games last year and has seven finishes thus far in 2015, putting him on pace for that guaranteed salary next year.
  • David Ortiz: If Ortiz makes at least 425 PA and passes a physical after the season, Boston’s $10MM team option on his services for 2016 will become guaranteed at $11MM (or more, depending on how many plate appearances Ortiz makes).  Ortiz has only had less than 425 PA in two of the last 14 seasons, so barring any injury setbacks for Big Papi, this one seems like a safe bet to vest.
  • Joaquin Benoit: The Padres hold an $8MM team option on Benoit for 2016, but the righty can turn that into a guaranteed option if he finishes at least 55 games this season.  Benoit’s chances are pretty remote, as he was relegated to setup man duties after San Diego acquired Craig Kimbrel.
  • Marlon Byrd: His original two-year, $16MM deal with the Phillies included an $8MM club option for 2016 that becomes guaranteed if he reaches 600 PA this season, or a total of 1100 PA over 2014-15 with at least 550 PA this season.  Byrd received 637 PA last season and he has 74 PA over 20 games with the Reds in 2015.  He should continue to get regular playing time for Cincinnati though Byrd is off to a slow start — a .441 OPS with no walks and 24 strikeouts.
  • Santiago Casilla: The Giants righty signed a three-year, $15MM deal in the 2012-13 offseason that contained a vesting option, though little is known about the option’s value or specifics.
  • Nori Aoki: The Giants’ $5.5MM club option on Aoki for 2016 will become a mutual option if Aoki reaches 550 PA.  The outfielder is hitting well and his 102 PA currently leads the league, so he’s well ahead of the pace to vest his option.
  • Jonny Gomes: The Braves outfielder can guaranteed another year on his contract (at a $3MM salary) if he makes 325 PA, and he can unlock higher salaries at the 425 PA and 500 PA plateaus.  Gomes has thus far received 47 PA over 15 games, putting him in decent shape for at least the first level of his vesting option.

We already know that Cliff Lee won’t achieve the innings totals required for his 2016 option to vest.  The Phillies southpaw is attempting to recover from a torn left flexor tendon without undergoing surgery and is currently on the 60-day DL.  Dodgers reliever Brandon League is also recovering from a right shoulder injury and thus stands virtually no chance of reaching the games-finished totals required to allow his 2016 player option to vest.

Cole Hamels Rumors: Thursday

Here’s the latest trade buzz about Phillies lefty Cole Hamels

  • “The Cubs have continued to touch base with the Phillies” about Hamels, sources tell Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.  The likes of Kris Bryant or Addison Russell are “unquestionably off the table,” yet Chicago has enough prospect depth to get the Phillies’ attention.  Whether it’s Hamels or another notable arm, Wittenmyer expects the Cubs to target starting pitching at the trade deadline.
  • The Red Sox have long been connected to Hamels in trade talks, and while those rumors have primarily swirled around Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe notes that the Phillies also “like” Sox youngsters Jackie Bradley, Deven Marrero, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson and possibly others.  The Phillies have been insisting on Swihart or Betts in any Hamels deal and the Sox have been firm that neither player is being traded.  Also from Cafardo’s mailbag piece, he feels Boston should add an ace but thinks the team will give Rodriguez or Johnson a shot in the rotation before they make a major trade to upgrade their pitching.
  • Of course, there is no evidence that the Phillies will trade Hamels (or Jonathan Papelbon) any time soon, if at all.  GM Ruben Amaro said as much to’s Todd Zolecki, noting that “I have no mandate to trade players. These are not financial deals. These are baseball deals. That’s the beauty of the flexibility our ownership group is giving us. This is really about doing baseball deals. We don’t have to move money.”