Brandon Phillips Rumors

NL Central Notes: Reds, Parra, Soriano, Alvarez

The Reds have opened the doors on a fire sale, writes John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Todd Frazier will stay put. Billy Hamilton probably isn’t going anywhere. Most others are probably on the table. Fay expects at least four players to be traded, presumably Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, and Marlon Byrd as a starting point. Others like Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, and Skip Schumaker are also expected to be shopped. The Reds are seven games below .500 and 15.5 games back in the NL Central. It’s probably too late for a rebound.

Here’s more news out of the NL Central:

  • Gerardo Parra‘s strong play has all but ensured that he’ll be traded by the Brewers, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Parra is in the midst of a career season, hitting .311/.345/.502 with nine home runs and six stolen bases. Known for fantastic defense, he’s actually struggled this year per Ultimate Zone Rating (-9.8 UZR). Still, plenty of playoff teams have need of a high average, left-handed outfielder.
  • Cubs manager Joe Maddon said reliever Rafael Soriano might be “up sooner than planned,” tweets Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Soriano was signed on June 12. He has a career 2.85 ERA and 207 saves in 630 innings. The Cubs have manufactured a pseudo-closer battle. They demoted Hector Rondon from the role earlier in the summer despite solid production. The club also recently called up Neil Ramirez – another candidate for saves.
  • The Pirates would probably like to de-emphasize Pedro Alvarez, reports Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The former third baseman has continued his defensive ineptitude at first base with 15 errors. He’s also offered a .233/.299/.424 slash which is well below average for a first baseman. Unfortunately, the Pirates will have to look outside of the organization to move beyond Alvarez. Adam Lind is probably the most notable first baseman on the trade market. If the Pirates get creative, they could also try a three-team swap for Jon Singleton. Typically, Pittsburgh will look for fringier options like Chris Parmelee. We heard earlier this evening that the Orioles may soon designate Parmelee for assignment.

Heyman’s Latest: Phillies, C. Johnson, Sellers, Harang, Rays

In his weekly Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports begins by taking a look at a messy situation in Philadelphia. Heyman hears the same rumblings that were first reported by CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury — that Andy MacPhail could very well be in line for an executive role with the Phillies. The hiring of MacPhail would bring into question the status of both GM Ruben Amaro and manager Ryne Sandberg. While one exec notes that no one could have had much success with the hand Sandberg has been dealt, his calm demeanor hasn’t motivated the team much, and he may have lost the clubhouse at this point. Heyman notes that partial owner John Middleton, who is believed by some to be calling the shots in Philly, may have extra impetus to get a new decision-maker in the door so that a lame-duck GM (Amaro’s contract expires at season’s end) isn’t the primary decision-maker on what could be a franchise-altering Cole Hamels trade. Speaking of Hamels, Heyman notes that interested teams will want to see him pitch at least twice now that he had a start pushed back due to a hamstring strain, thinning the window of opportunity to trade him. As far as Jonathan Papelbon goes, the belief is that he’d approve any trade that sent him to a contending team, though the Cubs might be his preferred fit at this point if he had a say in the matter.

Some more highlights from Heyman’s latest (though there’s more in the column than we can cover here)…

  • The Braves have tried to trade Chris Johnson and even offered to substantially pay down the remaining money on his contract, but there’s been little interest. The Johnson deal was widely questioned from the start, and there’s still about $21MM owed to Johnson through the end of the 2017 season. Johnson’s a viable weapon against lefties, but he’s a sub-par hitter against right-handed pitchers and is not well-regarded from a defensive standpoint.
  • Rival teams are beginning to wonder if the Red Sox might sell some pieces this summer, with Mike Napoli, Clay Buchholz and Koji Uehara among the possible names listed by Heyman. Napoli isn’t hitting for average but has shown good power and a nice walk rate. Buchholz has improved after a rocky start and Uehara again has strong numbers in the ‘pen.
  • The White Sox are beginning to think about selling, Heyman hears, but they’re not quite ready to move their bigger pieces. Emilio Bonifacio might be the first name they make available, but eventually, Jeff Samardzija‘s name could be out there. Heyman writes that while Samardzija isn’t pitching well in 2015, his big arm is so tantalizing to scouts that there will still be interest in him.
  • The Reds aren’t expected to sell until after the All-Star Game and would be very open to shedding Brandon Phillips‘ contract, per Heyman, though I have a difficult time envisioning too many teams lining up to take on the remainder of that deal. Phillips is owed about $34.1MM through the end of the 2017 season and has seen his power more or less vanish. Heyman speculates that Everth Cabrera could be a fit in Cincinnati with Zack Cozart out for the year, and there’s some logic to that scenario, though they may first prefer to see what they have in Eugenio Suarez. The Mets aren’t interested in Cabrera, he adds later.
  • The Marlins aren’t selling yet, according to GM-turned-manager Dan Jennings. “We’re in it, we’re not jumping off the ship. No doubt about that,” Jennings told Heyman. If their attitude changes, Heyman thinks they’ll find interest in Martin Prado and Mike Dunn.
  • The Astros like Aaron Harang but are said to be aiming higher when looking at potential trade targets to bolster their rotation.
  • The Dodgers are on the hunt for a top-tier starting pitcher and a late-inning arm to help bridge the gap to Kenley Jansen. In other Dodgers-related news, Heyman hears that No. 35 pick Kyle Funkhouser is strongly considering returning to Louisville. Funkhouser was once looked at as a potential Top 10 pick, but he fell to a slot with a $1.756MM value. He’d have less leverage in 2016 as a senior sign, of course, but he could certainly improve his draft stock and his bonus with a big senior year.
  • Yankees chief international officer/executive vice president Felix Lopez is no longer listed on the team’s web site and some indicate that he’s been gone from the organization for three months, Heyman writes. Lopez was said to have angered Yoan Moncada‘s camp after calling to express displeasure with their decision to sign in Boston over New York. The team hasn’t made a statement on his departure.
  • The Rays are looking for first base help with James Loney on the disabled list, but Loney’s said to be returning around the All-Star break. Heyman speculates on the possibility of Ryan Howard ending up in Tampa Bay if the Phillies eat some or all of the contract, but I’d think there’d be something of a logjam there once Loney is activated in that scenario.

Quick Hits: Astros, Huntington, Reds, Nola

Collin McHugh‘s recent struggles have only sharpened the Astros‘ need for starting pitching help, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes.  McHugh has a 7.77 ERA over his last four starts, leaving ace Dallas Keuchel as the only truly reliable rotation option, as it’s asking a lot of rookies Lance McCullers and Vincent Velasquez to immediately help carry a playoff-contending team (though McCullers has been outstanding in six starts.)  Here’s some more from around baseball as we head into the new week…

  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington tells David Manel of the Bucs Dugout blog that the club will again “walk that balance between now and the future” in making any deadline additions.  “We want to do everything we can to put this club in a position to make the playoffs this year, win a World Series this year. At the same time, we want to be able to be in that position as many years in the future as we can,” Huntington said.  Pittsburgh will face a lot of competition in making deals only a few teams are truly out of the race at this point; as Huntington puts it, “this is absolutely a sellers market, at this point in time.”
  • The rising costs of youth baseball has led to fewer young athletes choosing the game, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes.  The Pirates value having versatile players who are able to play multiple positions, and the best fits for this model are those who played baseball and other sports growing up, so they have a larger athletic toolbox.  With more youngsters specializing only in one sport growing up, however, these well-rounded athletes are harder to find.
  • Despite the Reds‘ struggles, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer doesn’t think manager Bryan Price’s job is in jeopardy.  “It would be hard and foolish to fire Bryan Price given all the injuries” the Reds have had to deal with, Fay writes.
  • Most scouts feel that the Reds wouldn’t trade Aroldis Chapman “if push came to shove” and they became deadline sellers, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports.  There hasn’t been any indication that the Reds are willing to deal Chapman, though his name has at least been floated in talks with the Nationals.
  • Also from Cafardo, some scouts following the Reds have mentioned Brandon Phillips, but while he’s having a good season, Cafardo feels the second baseman’s large contract is still a deterrent to a trade.
  • The Padres, White Sox and Indians are three of the many clubs still relatively close to a postseason spot but unsure if they’ll be able to make a legitimate run, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes (Insider subscription required).  San Diego’s situation is particularly tricky given their major winter expenditures and rival evaluators doubt that the Padres would engage in any major sell-off if they continue to struggle.
  • Top Phillies pitching prospect Aaron Nola has been promoted to Triple-A, the club announced earlier today.  Nola, the seventh overall pick of the 2014 draft, posted a 1.88 ERA and 6.56 K/BB rate over 76 2/3 innings at Double-A this season, with the only minor red flag being a middling 6.9 K/9.  At this point, Nola seems well on pace to earn a promotion to the Show late this season.


West Notes: Trumbo, Chacin, Angels, Ethier, Quentin

The dark side of Venezuelan baseball players reaping the riches of their profession is their family members, who decline to move permanently to the United States and remain in Venezuela, become targets of kidnappers. Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News chronicles the kidnapping attempt made on the brother of Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus last year. Fortunately, Andrus provided his brother’s family with armed bodyguards and they thwarted the attempt after being fired upon and struck in their bulletproof vests. “This happens with everybody who has family there,” said Andrus. “It’s easy for them to kidnap people and ask for money. And everybody knows how much money the players make. They can Google it. It’s just not safe. You have to take steps. It was pretty shocking, for sure.

In other news and notes from baseball’s West divisions:

  • The Diamondbacks will not alleviate their outfield surplus by trading Mark Trumbo, reports CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. “We are not moving Trumbo,” GM Dave Stewart said. “Trumbo is a proven bat. Tough to move him for an unknown.” Stewart went even further with the New York Post’s Joel Sherman (Twitter link) telling the scribe he will not trade any of his outfielders because he values the depth.
  • The Rockies are to be commended for releasing Jhoulys Chacin because a team must change direction if a player isn’t performing and the right-hander wasn’t, tweets Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.
  • The Angels enter 2015 with the most financial flexibility they have had in four years, but will wait until mid-season to decide if or how to spend that payroll, according to MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. The Angels’ most likely area of need is second base with Gonzalez naming the PhilliesChase Utley, the RedsBrandon Phillips, the DiamondbacksAaron Hill, and the MetsDaniel Murphy as possible targets.
  • The Dodgers‘ pitching depth is sorely being tested in the wake of the team shutting down Hyun-jin Ryu with shoulder inflammation, notes MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick.
  • Andre Ethier tells Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com he isn’t monitoring trade rumors online or with his agent and he isn’t counting the number of scouts in attendance at the Dodgers‘ Spring Training games. Ethier has said he is open to a trade and the club is reportedly willing to eat as much as half of the $56MM remaining on the outfielder’s contract to facilitate a swap, but have yet to find any takers.
  • Carlos Quentin asked to see some reps at first base in an attempt to earn more at-bats with the Padres, which could also make him more attractive to other teams, writes MLB.com’s Corey Brock.
  • Peter Gammons of DailyGammons.com opines some have been cynical of San Diego’s offseason overhaul, but a healthy and productive Matt Kemp can become the poster person of this new age for the Padres.

Brandon Phillips Suffers Torn Thumb Ligament

3:12pm: Phillips has indeed suffered a torn thumb ligament, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. He will undergo surgery tomorrow.

3:00pm: Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips has suffered an injury to the ligament in his left thumb which could be a tear, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). As Rosenthal notes, Phillips is expected to be “out a while;” Bryce Harper recently lost 57 games to a torn ligament in his thumb.

The news on Phillips is not the only significant injury development out of Cincinnati (to say nothing of the rest of the NL Central). After placing first baseman Joey Votto on the DL and seeing center fielder Billy Hamilton go down with a hamstring issue last night, starter Homer Bailey left in the middle of his start today with what the team described as pain in his left patellar tendon (via Twitter). The status of those two important players remains unknown.

MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently broke down the trade market for second basemen. If Phillips requires an extended absence, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes asks (via Twitter) whether the Reds might match up with the White Sox on a deal for Gordon Beckham.


Dodgers Notes: Kemp, Phillips, Gordon, Kasten

Matt Kemp and Brandon Phillips have been two of the offseason's biggest names rumored to be on the trade market, and there was a chance the two could've been dealt for each other in a blockbuster.  The Dodgers and Reds "briefly spoke about" swapping the two All-Stars earlier this winter, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, but the Dodgers didn't have much interest.  L.A. wasn't keen on adding an older player (Phillips is 32) who is owed $50MM through 2017, plus the Dodgers felt the deal wouldn't have been a fair swap if Kemp returned to full health.

Here are some more items from Chavez Ravine…

  • There isn't any truth to rumors of a Dodgers/Royals trade that would sent Dee Gordon to Kansas City in exchange for Justin Maxwell, ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon reports (via Twitter).
  • The Dodgers fully intend to rebuild their minor league depth, team president Stan Kasten said tells Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, and while they've moved some minor leaguers in trades, Kasten is pleased that "we kept adding pieces while keeping the guys we valued the most."  Speaking in general, Kasten said "what would have interested us — and might still — is to trade one of our veterans if we can get back young, controllable players and prospects."  In addition, while Kasten says the Dodgers don't plan to trade any of their key youngsters, "there are deals on the table that include top prospects."
  • The Dodgers could consider trading pitching prospects in order to obtain more position player prospects, Kasten said, as the club is lacking in youngsters who can play the field.
  • Earlier today on MLBTR, the Dodgers acquired righty Seth Rosin from the Mets, and FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal shared a few items about the Dodgers in his most recent column.

Yankees Turned Down Gardner-For-Phillips Swap

10:37pm: Phillips has a no-trade clause that allows him to block a deal to the Yankees but the Reds did not ask him to waive his no-trade, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  Meanwhile, the Yankees continue to say that they are reluctant to trade Gardner, who will earn a little more than $4MM in his walk year (link).

10:05pm: Before the Yankees turned down the proposed swap, Phillips asked for his contract to be re-opened to pay him more money to agree to the deal, a National League source tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).

9:22pm: Both Brandon Phillips and Brett Gardner have seen their names pop up in trade rumors recently, but Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports (via Twitter) that the two of them actually had their name in the same deal. The Yankees, according to Heyman, turned down a Phillips-for-Gardner swap that was proposed by the Reds.

Phillips, 32, regressed to a .261/.310/.396 batting line with 18 homers in 2013. Always one of baseball's best defenders at second base, Phillips didn't disappoint on that front, turning in a strong +8.5 UZR/150 mark. The Yankees are a logical suitor for Phillips, given the fact that they just lost Robinson Cano to the Mariners late last week. However, though he's cheaper than Cano, Phillips is still owed $50MM over the next four years — his age-32 through age-35 seasons.

Gardner, 30, also saw his role come into question due to the Yankees' free agent decisions. New York inked Jacoby Ellsbury to a massive seven-year, $153MM contract, giving them an outfield mixture of Ellsbury, Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, Alfonso Soriano and Vernon Wells. Gardner is viewed as superior to most of those options and likely appeals to Cincinnati because he could play center field for a season while top prospect Billy Hamilton gets some additional minor league seasoning. Gardner batted .273/.344/.416 with eight homers, 24 steals and a league-leading 10 triples in 2013. That would make him a dynamic leadoff option to replace Shin-Soo Choo atop Cincinnati's lineup while delivering elite center field defense.

The trade would fill a need for both teams, so it'll be interesting to see if they revisit the framework down the line, perhaps adding other pieces to make it more appealing to the Yankees.


Shin-Soo Choo Rumors: Wednesday

Reports yesterday indicated that both the Diamondbacks and Tigers are likely out of the Shin-Soo Choo sweepstakes (though I personally question whether or not the signing of Rajai Davis truly removes Detroit from the equation). The Rangers are still said to be in the mix, however. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick provided a rundown of potential Choo suitors yesterday, cautioning never to bet against Scott Boras. Here are Wednesday’s Choo rumors…

  • Rangers source says the club isn’t optimistic about their chances of signing Choo, writes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com.  Texas doesn’t have a seven-year offer out to the outfielder, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram.
  • The Rangers have a seven-year offer on the table to Choo and he is giving it serious consideration, a source tells T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com.  The deal is worth less than the $153MM deal that Jacoby Ellsbury inked with the Yankees but it’s strong enough for Choo to mull over.
  • The general sense among teams involved in the Choo sweepstakes is whichever team goes to eight years will land him, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.  He’s believed to have a seven-year offer in hand already.
  • The Mariners are likely out of the picture on Choo after adding Corey Hart and Logan Morrison today, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.

Earlier Updates

  • Scott Boras spoke with more than 100 reporters today and said that he’s received multiple offers for Choo, who wants to his time and discuss all of his options with his wife. Boras said he’s received offers from teams that are rebuilding and also for teams that are looking to win in 2014. “He really is a player I think is revered,” said Boras (ESPN Dallas’ Richard Durrett reporting).
  • “I think we have to move on,” Reds GM Walt Jocketty told C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer when asked about Choo (Twitter link).
  • The Rangers like Choo but not at his asking price, which Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram hears is $22MM annually (Twitter link). Nelson Cruz is a more viable option for Texas, Wilson adds.
  • Bob Nightengale of USA Today has heard that Choo is looking for $140MM over seven years (Twitter link). Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweets that he’s heard the same.
  • One executive told Joel Sherman of the New York Post that the Mariners and Rangers “are the lead dogs” in the Choo market (Twitter link).
  • The Reds met to discuss Choo last night, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. However, their inability to clear some payroll by dealing Brandon Phillips first has dimmed their chances, he adds.

Brandon Phillips Still In Play

Reports this offseason have gone back and forth on whether or not the Reds will trade Brandon Phillips. Earlier today it was reported that the Reds' ability or inability to trade their second baseman could impact their chances at retaining Shin-Soo Choo. We'll run down rumors on Phillips right here…

  • Phillips is "definitely" in play, tweets Rosenthal, adding that Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty will move his second baseman if it improves the club in 2014.

Earlier Updates

  • The Reds aren't ruling out a trade of Phillips, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. They've yet to have any discussion with the Yankees at this point after New York missed out on Robinson Cano, though.

Reds Notes: Phillips, Choo, Chapman, Bailey

The latest on the Reds..

  • At a fan event today, Reds GM Walt Jocketty said that he felt the rumor about Brandon Phillips being availble via trade and of interest to the Yankees was a ploy to put pressure on Robinson Cano, according to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com (on Twitter). "It didn't work," the GM said.
  • Jocketty also admitted that it would be "very difficult" to re-sign Shin-Soo Choo with the dollar figures that are being floated around, Sheldon tweets.  Choo now stands as the top available free agent on Tim Dierkes' Top 50 list for the offseason.
  • Prospect Billy Hamilton is Choo's likely replacement, Sheldon writes in an MLB.com article.  While Choo's 116 walks will be difficult to replace, Hamilton should bring more speed to the top of the Reds' lineup, as he stole 88 bases between Triple-A and the majors in 2013.
  • The Reds have toyed with the idea of moving Aroldis Chapman into the starting rotation and some felt that he might be persuaded to make the move this winter, but he now says that he's not interested in a move, writes C. Trent Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer.  “I’m tired of every year the same thing about me either starting or closing,” Chapman said. “What I have in mind is closing games and that’s it.” 
  • An AL evaluator tells Andy McCullough of The Star-Ledger (Twitter link) that the Reds should consider dealing Homer Bailey to the Yankees for Brett Gardner and a lower-level prospect. Both players will become free agents following the 2014 season.

Aaron Steen contributed to this post.