Brandon Phillips Rumors

Central Notes: Phillips, Axford, Joba, Buck

Here's the latest news from both the NL and AL Central divisions…

  • The Brandon Phillips trade rumors may have temporarily stopped, though Reds president/CEO Bob Castellini left the door slightly open when talking to reporters today (including MLB.com's Mark Sheldon and the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay).  "Brandon is part of the team, boys," Castellini said.  "Walt [GM Walt Jocketty] was just exploring.  You have to understand what he's up against. He's got to look around. Brandon Phillips is an integral part of this franchise….But you never say never."
  • The Cubs and John Axford share a mutual interest in each other, Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com reports.  Axford would get a chance to compete for the Cubs' closing job, though the right-hander seemingly has plenty of opportunities around the league, with a reported 14 teams checking in following his non-tender from the Cardinals.
  • The Cubs and Royals are two of the teams who have shown interest in Joba Chamberlain, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweets.  No signing seems to be imminent for either team, however.  Chamberlain is another relief arm who has drawn significant attention on the open market, as he may be seen as a reclamation candidate after some tough seasons with the Yankees.
  • The Twins have spoken to John Buck's agent, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports, and a source tells Berardino that Buck is Minnesota's top target amongst available catchers.  It isn't clear how interested in the Twins are, however, given that Josmil Pinto is still the club's preferred choice to take over the everyday catching job now that Joe Mauer has been moved to first base.
  • Carl Pavano talked with Berardino about his comeback attempt from a freak snow-shoveling accident that left him with a ruptured spleen and sidelined the veteran righty for the entire 2013 season.  Pavano said the Twins haven't contacted him about a return: "I haven't really talked to them.  I don't know if that would be a good fit anyway. I think we're in different places. They need those younger guys in their rotation."

NL Notes: Mets, Nats, Reds, Samardzija, Rockies, D-Backs

Here are the latest updates from the National League side of the ledger:

  • The Mets are increasingly expressing optimism about their efforts to bring Curtis Granderson into the fold, reports Marc Carig of Newsday, though nothing appears to be immiment. Joining the Mets in pursuit of Granderson are the White Sox and Mariners, tweets Mike Puma of the New York Post. If that does not work out for New York, says Puma, the club will "likely" turn its attention to Nelson Cruz.
  • After parting ways with two left-handed relief options in Fernando Abad and Ian Krol, the Nationals remain interested in adding Oliver Perez, tweets Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Kilgore says that the Mariners and Padres also have interest in the 32-year-old southpaw, who pitched to a 3.74 ERA in 53 innings last year for Seattle.
  • Echoing previous reportsReds GM Walt Jocketty says that the club has told second baseman Brandon Phillips that it is "not in any talks to trade him," reports MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. Though Jocketty also noted that he could not rule out that possibility, he definitely left the impression that he is not actively shopping Phillips.
  • Jocketty also indicated that the club is likely going to keep Aroldis Chapman in the closer role rather than converting him to a starter, reports Sheldon. Though Cincinnati will keep the starting option on the table in the spring, Jocketty said that the club likes its depth at the present. As MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth wrote at the start of the off-season, the Reds could tinker with their rotation, but lack a pressing need to do so.
  • Though the latest scuttlebutt has Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija marked for trade talks, club president Theo Epstein says that the club still hopes to extend him, tweets Carrie Muskat of MLB.com. Of course, Chicago could certainly be keeping both options on the table for the time being.
  • After trading away center fielder Dexter Fowler, the Rockies plan to shift Carlos Gonzalez over to fill the vacancy, reports the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). Meanwhile, the club is still shopping for relief pitchers, reports the Denver Post's Troy Renck (via Sulia), and may be most likely to add a bullpen arm via trade. 
  • The Diamondbacks are still looking to add a major piece, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, and GM Kevin Towers has indicated that the club would be willing to give up its first-round draft choice to sign a free agent who turned down a qualifying offer. Towers indicated that the club is most likely to add a starter via trade, leaving Piecoro to posit that the most likely open-market targets would be Granderson, Nelson Cruz, or Carlos Beltran.
  • Meanwhile, the D-Backs could be much more willing to deal pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs than they had been in the past, Piecoro writes. In fact, the club apparently recently explored just that possibility. Coming off of a down year that saw his velocity drop, however, the 22-year-old probably also has diminished trade value at the moment, Piecoro further notes.

Reds Unlikely To Trade Brandon Phillips

WEDNESDAY: ESPN's Jayson Stark spoke with three teams that inquired on Phillips, each of which got the sense that Reds ownership wants to trade Phillips more than the front office does (Twitter link).

TUESDAY: The Reds are now unlikely to trade Brandon Phillips, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).  The second baseman has been in trade whispers for quite some time, but it now appears that GM Walt Jocketty & Co. will hang on to him despite a lack of available quality options at the position.

Phillips, 32, batted .261/.310/.396 with 18 home runs this season but was involved in a pair of ugly PR incidents: one in which he publicly complained about how the Reds handled his contract negotiations and another in which went on a tirade against a Cincinnati reporter for pointing to his low on-base percentage. He is owed $50MM over the final four years of his six-year, $72.5MM contract.

The Yankees and Royals have both been linked to him this offseason, but it's not known how serious things got for either team.  Phillips' 2013 batting line was down from his previous six seasons in Cincinnati where he hit .280/.329/.446.



Royals Notes: Butler, Pitching, Chen, Santana, Phillips

The Royals were reportedly open to listening to offers for Billy Butler last month and several teams (including the Mariners) are interested in the slugger, but a Royals team official tells Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that a Butler trade is unlikely.  “Do the math. We’re looking to add offense," the official said.  "If we trade Butler, we’d have to add a lot of offense. It would have to be a series of moves to do that, and that’s hard to do. Plus, there’s just not that much available offense out there.”

Here's some more from Dutton…

  • The Royals are only looking to add one pitcher to their rotation this offseason, at most.  James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie have the first two spots and GM Dayton Moore hopes that the final two spots can be filled by the club's internal depth.  “To say we need to go out and get two guys…if it happens, great. But it’s not a necessity for us. We’d like to get one, but we want to get the right one for the right type of contract," Moore said.
  • While Moore wouldn't mind if young arms like Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy and Kyle Zimmer all won rotation spots, the club prefers a veteran starter.  "We've seen medicals on all of the guys…We're still trying to determine what pitchers out there will give us the least amount of risk," Moore said.  Dutton has cited Josh Johnson, Tim Hudson and Phil Hughes as Royals targets.
  • The Royals are still in contact with Bruce Chen, though they see the left-hander as a swingman more than a solid rotation fixture.
  • It seems as if Ervin Santana has priced himself out of the Royals' range, though Moore didn't close the door on a possible return for the free agent right-hander.  "Erv was a terrific pitcher for us, and we’re going to stay engaged. He’s agreed to stay engaged with us. We’ll see how it works. I hope he gets a great deal.”
  • Manager Ned Yost recently said that he and Moore had mentioned Brandon Phillips' name in discussions, though Dutton hears that such a trade would be unlikely.  Moore said “Second base is not a huge priority for us” earlier this week, and even with the Reds eating part of Phillips' contract, he would be a costly addition for the Royals.

Rosenthal On Wieters, Butler, Choo, Davis

Here's a look at the latest news from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports..  

  • Major league sources say it's not a surprise that the Orioles are willing to deal Matt Wieters.  The bigger question is how Baltimore would reshape the roster if they made such a move.  The O's don't have much breathing room to spend, but Rosenthal suggests the Orioles could gain flexibility by moving the catcher and also closer Jim Johnson, who projects to earn $10.8MM through arbitration. The O's could then find cheaper alternatives at both positions and be aggressive on the open market. 
  • If the Royals sign Carlos Beltran or another right-handed slugger, they could afford to trade designated hitter Billy Butler, who is signed for $8MM in 2014 with a $12.5MM club option for ’15.  The Mariners are among the teams that covet Butler, a major league source tells Rosenthal.
  • The Reds haven’t given up on re-signing Shin-Soo Choo, but they probably would need to trade Brandon Phillips and possibly Homer Bailey to create the necessary room, sources say.  We've heard that Phillips is a likely a goner, but Bailey a more difficult call since losing him would require the Reds to move Aroldis Chapman to the rotation, unless they acquired another starter. All that might be too much to ask to accommodate the signing of a $100MM+ free agent, but they'd ideally like to have Choo back to give them another year before putting Billy Hamilton in center field. If they lose Choo, they likely would go with Hamilton and seek out a veteran complement in center.
  • The Mets appear likely to trade Ike Davis, who is drawing interest from a number of clubs.  Rosenthal also cautions not to be surprised if they move Daniel Murphy as well.
  • Opinions are split on Jacoby Ellsbury's value.  One rival exec's statistical analysis rated Ellsbury as the top Red Sox player last season, ahead of Dustin Pedroia.  Others in the industry, however, are wary of Ellsbury’s diminished power since he has hit only 13 home runs over the past two seasons.
  • One rival exec described the Rangers' infield logjam as an untenable situation.

Quick Hits: Kazmir, Royals, Rodney, Wilson

Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com hears the Mets aren't considering a reunion with Scott Kazmir.  Earlier today, we heard that the Indians don't expect to hang on to the left-hander as he's likely to command a multi-year pact and they're not willing to go beyond one.  Here's more from around baseball..

  • Royals manager Ned Yost told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (Twitter links) that his priorities are starting pitching and second base. Yost also indicated that Carlos Beltran, Brandon Phillips, and Ervin Santana have popped up in discussions.
  • Indians GM Chris Antonetti is scheduled to talk to agent Dan Lozano about two of his clients, closers Fernando Rodney and Brian Wilson, according to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer. Cleveland is looking into out-of-house closing options after parting ways with Chris Perez.
  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman says he's looking to add "400 innings" to the rotation this winter, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com.
  • Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers says he has scouted Masahiro Tanaka extensively and hopes to be in the mix for him, tweets ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick.
  • If Carlos Ruiz really has a two-year, $20MM offer on the table, then he probably shouldn't let it sit for too long, opines MLBTR's Tim Dierkes (on Twitter).
  • Nationals assistant GM and VP of player personnel Roy Clark has the club to take a job with the Dodgers, according to Keith Law of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Central Notes: Bruce, Phillips, Arroyo, Johan

While Jay Bruce's agent, Matt Sosnick, said his client hasn't discussed an extension with the Reds, he didn't quash the idea either, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.  "Obviously, Jay loves playing in Cincinnati. He's made it clear in the past that all things equal, he'd like to finish his career there and certainly would be open to anything," said Sosnick.  While the Reds control Bruce through 2017 with three guaranteed years at $34.5MM and a team option for $13MM, the idea of a pre-emptive extension makes sense since the slugger will only be 30 upon hitting the open market.  Here's more out of the Central divisions..

  • Passan spoke to one exec who said that Brandon Phillips is as good as "gone" in Cincinnati.  Yesterday we learned that the Yankees made a preliminary inquiry on the second baseman, but it's possible that they're simply looking for leverage in talks with Robinson Cano.
  • The Twins have expressed interest in free agent pitchers Bronson Arroyo, Phil Hughes, and Jason Vargas, sources tell Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press.  While the Twins have yet to make a formal offer to Arroyo, the interest appears to be mutual between the club and the 36-year-old.
  • The Twins have also called on Scott Kazmir and Johan Santana, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN.
  • Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network (video link) spoke with Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer about dealing with trade speculation and the possibility of hammering out an extension.
  • It might not have made a difference, but the Red Sox weren't showing any indication that they were ready to let Torey Lovullo go to the Cubs, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).  The Cubs agreed not to poach personnel from the Red Sox after Theo Epstein left to take over their operations.

Yanks Made Preliminary Inquiry On Brandon Phillips

Preparing themselves in the event that Robinson Cano signs elsewhere, the Yankees have placed a preliminary call to the Reds on Brandon Phillipsreports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Cincinnati's asking price for Phillips is said to be "way too steep" according to Heyman.

Phillips, 32, batted .261/.310/.396 with 18 home runs this season but was involved in a pair of ugly PR incidents: one in which he publicly complained about how the Reds handled his contract negotiations and another in which went on a tirade against a Cincinnati reporter for pointing to his low on-base percentage. He is owed $50MM over the final four years of his six-year, $72.5MM contract.

Reports from this past weekend indicated that the Yankees made a similar preliminary inquiry on free agent Omar Infante. The Yankees are still considered the favorites to re-sign Cano this offseason, but it's not surprising to see GM Brian Cashman doing his homework in the event that another team swoops in and lands the All-Star second baseman.


Quick Hits: Chapman, Phillips, Butler, Tanaka

At today's news conference, new Reds skipper Bryan Price said that no decision has been made on whether Aroldis Chapman will be a starter or reliever going forward.  However, Price did say that pitchers "get better by throwing innings. I haven't changed that philosophy," according to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link).  Here's more from around baseball..

  • Reds GM Walt Jocketty says that he's not shopping second baseman Brandon Phillips, but he stopped short of guaranteeing that he'll be with the club by the start of Spring Training, writes MLB.com's Mark Sheldon.  "[Phillips] texted wanting to know if we were trading him. I told him that I have not spoken to anybody about that," Jocketty said. "I'm not talking to any clubs about him."  Earlier today, Charlie Wilmoth previewed the offseason ahead for Cincinnati.
  • The Royals are reportedly willing to listen on Billy Butler this winter, but Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star notes that GM Dayton Moore is always open-minded to all opportunities. 
  • The Dodgers scouted Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka three days ago and could become major players for him, tweets Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com.  The hurler is among the very best starting pitchers available on the open market this winter.

NL Notes: Cardinals, Phillips, Dodgers

With the Cardinals advancing to the World Series yet again, SI.com's Tom Verducci writes that it is fair to expect more of the same in the future. Verducci says that the Adam WainwrightMichael Wacha starting combo has been a younger version of the Diamondbacks' top-of-the-rotation duo of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling during that club's 2001 World Series run. Some of the Cards' top National League competitors, meanwhile, are already looking for ways to knock them off their perch:

  • The Braves could be interested in trading for Reds' second baseman Brandon Phillips if Cinci is amenable to taking on fellow keystoner Dan Uggla in the deal, tweets David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlanta would most likely need to part with a top prospect to make such a deal happen, according to O'Brien. We learned yesterday that the Redlegs were shopping their veteran second bagger. 
  • Meanwhile, after losing to St. Louis, the Dodgers face some significant questions about 2014, writes MLB.com's Ken Gurnick. The club holds options over manager Don Mattingly, second baseman Mark Ellis, and lefty Chris Capuano. With Juan Uribe and Ricky Nolasco reaching free agency, third base and the back end of the starting rotation are question marks. And the pen and bench could also be reworked, according to Gurnick. Though we've already heard that the skipper will return, the remainder of the openings just noted could be filled in any number of ways.