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MLB.com’s Thomas Harding rounds up some of the names connected to Rockies’ offseason pitching search, including the new information that Colorado is interested in Josh Johnson and Aaron Harang. Johnson may soon be off the board as he’s close to re-signing with San Diego, though Harang’s market has been pretty quiet this winter. As Harding notes, the Rockies are looking for ground ball pitchers (such as Kevin Correia or Kyle Kendrick) who could handle the thin air of Coors Field, but Harang doesn’t fit that bill; the veteran righty only has a 38.2% grounder rate over his career. The Rockies are still exploring trade possibilities and aren’t believed to have begun serious negotiations with any pitcher, Harding reports.
Here’s some more from the Mile High city…
- One of those possible trades could involve the Mets’ Dillon Gee, though Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post (Twitter link) said talks are “on hold.” Saunders thinks the two sides “were close” to a deal at one point.
- Besides looking for pitching, the Wilin Rosario trade market has been the Rockies’ biggest offseason focus, ESPN’s Jerry Crsnick tweets. American League teams are the “prime targets” for Rosario, as his long-term future may be at DH rather than catcher.
- The Rockies want pitching back in any trade for Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez or Justin Morneau, though no deal involving any of the three stars is imminent, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi reports (via Twitter). Colorado has discussed all three players in trade talks this offseason.
Reds pitcher and regular MLBTR reader Mike Leake keeps track of offseason trade whispers but tries not to worry about them, Mark Sheldon of MLB.com writes. “I’m curious. I check MLB Trade Rumors every day just to see what’s new,” says Leake, a potential trade candidate this winter. “There’s nothing you can do about it. You sit and wait and see if your name is thrown in a trade.” Leake notes that he would be happy to remain with the Reds, but would be understanding if they traded him.
- If the Red Sox decide to deal Allen Craig, there will be interest despite his poor 2014 season, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. The Marlins and Brewers have had interest in the past, and one evaluator expresses confidence that Craig’s performance last season was derailed by injuries and not by a steep decline in ability.
- Also from Cafardo, Francisco Liriano would be a good fit in either the NL or AL, but teams are concerned about giving him more than a three-year deal since he’s never been an innings-eater. The Pirates remain interested in retaining him but not on a four-year contract. Some executives feel the “tipping point” of Liriano’s market will be if at least one team is willing to give that fourth year, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets.
- Liriano is one of the Pirates‘ top targets, sources tell Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- Justin Masterson has received a lot of interest but no actual offers yet, Fangraphs’ David Laurila reports. Laurila suggested in a recent column that Masterson could be a good candidate to be converted to relief pitching, though no teams have approached him with that idea and Masterson wouldn’t be interested if they did.
- Also from Laurila’s piece, he talks to Burke Badenhop and the righty reliever said he felt he improved his free agent stock by posting strong numbers against left-handed batters in 2014.
- Ichiro Suzuki‘s market is “not hot,” agent John Boggs tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link). Boggs is trying to push his client’s ability to play all three outfield spots and a bat that delivered a .284 average in 2014, hoping that teams won’t shy away because Ichiro is entering his age-41 season.
- It would be surprising if the Rockies pulled off a blockbuster deal involving Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez during the Winter Meetings, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. “If I was a betting man, I sure wouldn’t put down money on a trade,” a Major League executive tells Saunders. The likeliest scenario is that neither player is traded (if at all) until they’ve proven they’re healthy.
With the Winter Meetings just a week away, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince names the top ten Hot Stove storylines heading into December. How the top-tier starting pitcher market shakes out heads the list, according to Castrovince, who notes the trade market for the likes of Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann, and Jeff Samardzija will heat up once free agents Jon Lester and Max Scherzer sign. Among Castrovince’s other top headlines this month are whether the Braves trade Justin Upton and how the Red Sox and Dodgers deal with their surplus of outfielders.
Elsewhere in baseball on the final day of November:
- After A’s GM Billy Beane signed Billy Butler to a $30MM deal and traded third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com isn’t sure what the plan is in Oakland.
- The best way for the Rockies to become contenders is for Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki to be healthy and productive, but it would be daring for GM Jeff Bridich to trade the duo in search of salary relief to address areas of concern, opines MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby.
- The market for Kendrys Morales has been quiet to date with only the Indians being linked to the free agent DH. CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman tweets, besides Cleveland, the Rangers and Royals are also taking a look at Morales while the Mariners and Blue Jays are possibilities, as well.
- Left-handed starter Andrew Albers recently became a free agent and has drawn interest from a number of big league clubs, an industry source told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Albers became a free agent when South Korea’s Hanwha Eagles declined the 2015 option on his one-year deal. The Canadian pitched to a 5.84 ERA in 146 1/3 innings, though he did make 27 starts and led his team with 102 strikeouts. BN-S writes Albers appears to be seeking a split contract with incentives.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Andrew Albers | Atlanta Braves | Billy Butler | Boston Red Sox | Carlos Gonzalez | Cleveland Indians | Cole Hamels | Colorado Rockies | Jeff Samardzija | Jon Lester | Jordan Zimmermann | Josh Donaldson | Justin Upton | Kansas City Royals | Kendrys Morales | Los Angeles Dodgers | Max Scherzer | Oakland Athletics | Seattle Mariners | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays | Troy Tulowitzki
Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa says he has hired Ed Lewis to take charge of the team’s analytical department, Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal reports on Twitter. Lewis is an old friend of La Russa’s who does stock market analytical work, the head D’backs baseball man tells Costa. The question whether and how the Arizona ballclub would incorporate analytics into its operations has been a topic of interest since even before La Russa’s hiring, and it will be interesting to see what this latest front office addition means for the team’s intentions.
Here are a few more stray notes from the National League:
- The Mets do not have any near-term intentions to approach second baseman Daniel Murphy about a contract extension, GM Sandy Alderson tells ESPNNewYork.com’s Adam Rubin. At the same time, the team is “reluctant” to deal him away at present, said Alderson. That could change, of course, if the club adds a new shortstop or otherwise adds offense, per the report.
- Rockies GM Jeff Bridich says that deciding whether to deal stars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez is “not just a casual type of process” for the club, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports. Calling them “marquee” players, Bridich said it could be that other teams will not be willing to give up a haul that meets that lofty standard given both players’ injury issues. “We may or may not find out in the coming weeks,” he said. “Nothing of substance has taken place, so here we are.”
- The Cardinals have “payroll muscle” at their disposal, GM John Mozeliak tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Though the team has no intentions of spending its money just to put it to use, Mozeliak says it will do so in the right circumstances: “You’re definitely right in the assessment that we do have resources. If adding a year or adding a higher [average salary] means a deal, yes, we’re capable of doing that as long as it stays within the parameters of being rational.”
- Deciding to deal a high-performing veteran is a difficult decision in many circumstances, none more so than for a team that intends to contend. That is the strategic choice facing the Nationals, who have several top players entering their final year of team control. As I noted about ten days ago in my offseason outlook for the Nats, the concept of a trade (most likely involving Zimmermann) has to at least be entertained, particularly if a young middle infielder was part of the return, and GM Mike Rizzo sounds willing to consider anything. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post argues, quite validly, that this is not the time to be viewing the pitcher as an asset to be optimally leveraged, but rather an opportunity to push for the present (comfortable with the knowledge that a qualifying offer would still be available). Drew Fairservice of Fangraphs, meanwhile, proposes that the Nats should move the righty as a means not only of setting up for the future but also possibly addressing present needs (namely, second base).
The Rockies have told other teams that they are willing to consider trade scenarios involving their two best players, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, according to a report from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
While the likelihood of a deal remains rather slight, and neither player is being shopped around, the report does indicate that Colorado is much more open to moving one of its stars than it had been previously. Notably, Rosenthal says that the Rockies are telling clubs that they will not accept a return that does not provide fair value for the healthy production levels of both players.
Needless to say, there is a large gap between a theoretical willingness to trade a player and a realistic chance of a deal getting done. In this case, that divide may be wider than usual. While Tulowitzki is arguably the very best shortstop in baseball, he has missed long stretches of time in recent years with hip, groin, and wrist surgeries, along with various other maladies. And he is due $20MM per year from 2015-2019, plus $14MM in 2020 and a $4MM buyout in 2021.
Much the same story holds for Gonzalez, who has had five-win seasons but had both knee and finger surgery last year. Then there is the fact that he put up just a .238/.292/.431 batting line when he was in the lineup last year, a fall-off that can in large part be pinned on his health issues but which nevertheless must be considered. Gonzalez is owed $53MM over the next three seasons, a steal if he’s healthy but a big problem if he is not.
The Rockies’ payroll will likely remain near its Opening Day mark of $94MM, a team spokesperson tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. This is problematic for the Rockies, Saunders writes, given that Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Jorge De La Rosa will combine to earn $48.5MM of that figure next season. Season-ending injuries to Tulowitzki and Gonzalez will make it difficult to extract full prospect value for either star in a potentially cost-saving trade, meaning that the team is likely to have 51.8 percent of its payroll tied up in three players. That, in turn, would make it difficult to adequately address the rotation, bullpen and catching situation this offseason — all of which are areas of need in Denver. Geivett recently reiterated to Saunders that the team has had no discussions about trading either Tulowitzki or Gonzalez
Here’s more from Saunders and more on the Rockies…
- Saunders spoke to senior VP of Major League operations Bill Geivett about the team’s $12MM option on Brett Anderson. Geivett said that the Rockies “really think he’s an impact starter when healthy,” but that the option would be discussed following the season. Given the team’s payroll constraints, it seems almost impossible to imagine Colorado paying Anderson $12MM after starting just 32 games over the past four seasons.
- Saunders also notes that Michael Cuddyer is a favorite of owner Dick Monfort and manager Walt Weiss, both of whom want the veteran back. However, Saunders feels it’s difficult to imagine the Rockies paying even $4-6MM for Cuddyer next season, and I’d wager that he’s looking for more than that despite an injury plagued 2014. Cuddyer, 36 next March, has batted .328/.382/.530 in 170 games over the past two seasons.
- Twenty-eight-year-old lefty Yohan Flande will get a couple of starts before season’s end in an audition for 2015, writes Saunders’ colleague, Nick Groke. Weiss said the organization feels Flande can transition to the bullpen if needed, but they’ve yet to give up on him as a starting pitcher. MLB.com’s Thomas Harding notes that top prospect Eddie Butler, too, will receive a look in the final two weeks. While it seems Colorado is evaluating its internal options, I have to think they’ll at least attempt to lure in a veteran starter to complement De La Rosa alongside younger arms such as Butler, Jordan Lyles, Tyler Matzek and, eventually, Jon Gray. Jhoulys Chacin also figures to be in the mix, though he’s battled shoulder injuries this season.
- A look at Cot’s Contracts reveals that the Rockies currently have about $61.4MM on the books in 2015. That doesn’t include arbitration raises for Chacin, Drew Stubbs, Juan Nicasio, Rex Brothers, Tyler Chatwood, Wilin Rosario and Adam Ottavino. Wilton Lopez and Nicasio seem like clear non-tender candidates, and it’s possible that a few others could meet that fate as well. Nonetheless, Colorado’s glut of forthcoming arbitration raises doesn’t seem to leave the team with much wiggle room, if payroll truly is to remain in the $94MM range.
Earlier today, we learned that the Dodgers are interested in adding a reliever, as well as a bench bat. The club has already added two right-handed starters this month, acquiring Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Correia. Now, comes word Zack Greinke has skipped his between-starts side session with what manager Don Mattingly called “some soreness and things like that,” reports ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Mark Saxon. The Dodgers, who have lost starters Josh Beckett and Hyun-Jin Ryu to the disabled list, are hopeful Greinke will make his next start Thursday. Here’s more out of the NL West..
- Giants GM Brian Sabean said he is skeptical making of any roster additions in August, tweets Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com. Heading into tonight’s slate of games, the Giants trail the Dodgers by 3.5 games in the NL West and hold a thin lead on the second Wild Card spot.
- New Padres GM A.J. Preller has successfully pried veteran executive Don Welke away from the Rangers, two sources tell Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News. The Padres have confirmed the hiring announcing Welke will serve as their vice president of scouting operations. The Rangers had the right to refuse but chose not to get in Welke’s way of taking a job with San Diego. Welke, a long-time scout under Pat Gillick in Toronto, was in his eighth season with the Rangers after coming over from the Dodgers.
- Earlier today, the Padres optioned right-hander Jesse Hahn to Double-A San Antonio as a way to taper his workload, according to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The 25-year-old has tossed 110 1/3 innings this season between San Diego and San Antonio and is expected to rejoin the parent club when rosters expand in September.
- The Dodgers are having bullpen problems, but acquiring a quality reliever at this point of the season is downright impossible, writes MLB.com’s Sarah D. Morris. The Dodgers’ bullpen has been performing below expectations all season long, but losing both Paul Maholm and Chris Perez weakened it even further.
- Carlos Gonzalez underwent left knee surgery today (his third different operation this year) and says “everything went perfect,” reports Nick Groke of the Denver Post. The rehab, however, is expected to extend into Spring Training as the Rockies outfielder will be in a walking brace for three months and a determination on his status won’t be made for another two months after that.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
11:22pm: The Rockies have announced (on Twitter) that Gonzalez will indeed undergo season-ending surgery to repair the patellar tendon in his left knee. The operation will be performed by Dr. Tom Hackett next Monday.
8:08pm: Just one day after the news that superstar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki will miss the remainder of the season to undergo hip surgery, the Rockies are now facing the likely loss of their other best player for the remainder of the year. Carlos Gonzalez seems resigned to the fact that his season will end prematurely due to left knee surgery, reports Nick Groke of the Denver Post.
Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger tells Groke that Gonzalez has been battling tendinitis in his knee since last season, and an MRI performed yesterday revealed that the injury had worsened in the past few weeks. Manager Walt Weiss, in particular, spoke definitively in regards to his stars’ injuries: “Everyone felt like that might be the case, that we might not have [Tulowitzki and Gonzalez] for the rest of the season, and unfortunately, that’s what it’s gonna be.”
Gonzalez himself didn’t offer a much more optimistic take, telling Groke: “I show up the first game and go 3-for-5 with a home run and I extend a single into a double. And then the next day I feel like I got hit by a bus. … It’s hard to play that way, when you go out there and feel like, ‘I can’t move today. I just hope nobody hits the ball where I’m playing right now.'”
Both Tulowitzki and Gonzalez have seen their names pop up in trade rumors over the past month, but the injuries to both serve as a cautionary tale and a reminder to potentially interested parties. Neither player has been able to consistently stay on the field over the past few years. If this is the end of Gonzalez’s 2014 campaign, he will have averaged just 110 games over the past four seasons. Gonzalez has never played in more than 145 games — a total he reached back in 2010 when he finished third in the National League MVP voting.
The soon-to-be 29-year-old signed a seven-year, $80MM contract to be a building block for the Rockies, but the aforementioned 110-game average has come over the first four years of that contract, and he now has just three years remaining on that deal. The heavily backloaded contract still calls for Gonzalez to earn $53MM over the next three seasons — $16MM in 2015, $17MM in 2016 and $20MM in 2017. Those annual salaries are below market value for a full season of a healthy and effective Gonzalez, but they would present a risky investment for a team looking to acquire him via trade.
Overall, Gonzalez has batted .238/.292/.431 with 15 homers as he has battled knee injuries, a tumor in his index finger (which was surgically removed midseason) and a sprained ankle this season.
In a guest piece on the blog of ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Insider link), Athletics closer Sean Doolittle offers a look inside some of the less conventional advanced metrics employed by Oakland’s front office. In particular, a unique twist on BABIP (batting average relative to Bip Roberts) seems to have played an important role in the organization’s oft-noted ability to outperform its payroll. (Obviously, the piece is in jest, but it’s a fun read from a player who has had quite an interesting career path.)
Here’s more from the game’s western divisions:
- The Rockies will soon learn more about the injury situations of their two stars, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, as Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports, as both men are set to visit specialists today. Tulowitzki, battling a strained left hip flexor, may have a hip labrum his issue. If that is the case, there are non-surgical options that might allow him to return to action this year. Meanwhile, Gonzalez is struggling with chronic tendinitis in his left knee. He, too, could conceivably play again in 2014, though some treatments would keep him out until the spring. Needless to say, the lingering (and, potentially, expanding) injury concerns with both players not only create yet more questions about Colorado’s ability to put together a contending roster next year, but could further dampen the possibility of either player being dealt over the offseason.
- When the Padres hired A.J. Preller to take over as GM, they agreed with the Rangers not to hire away any Texas front office staffers over the next two year, Scott Miller of Bleacher Report tweets. Presumably, the Rangers were able to extract this promise in exchange for allowing San Diego to interview and hire away Preller himself before his own contract was up.
- More on Preller: Miller applauds the Friars for taking a chance on a bold candidate. And on his blog, Jamey Newberg provides some interesting thoughts on Preller, who he calls a “scout’s scout who prefers doing his work behind the scenes.”
- Though Alex Rios of the Rangers appears to have avoided a significant injury, his continued absence from the lineup means that he is increasingly unlikely to be dealt, writes ESPNDallas.com’s Calvin Watkins. Not only do the Royals now appear to be an unlikely suitor, says Watkins, but other possible landing spots could disappear as the month goes on and playoff races clarify.
Before the deadline, the Rockies seemingly took the Mets‘ bid to acquire Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez at least somewhat seriously, with GM Dan O’Dowd and other top evaluators scouting the Mets’ minor leaguers in person, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes. The Rockies were especially interested in Noah Syndergaard, but they also considered Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom, Matt den Dekker, Ruben Tejada and Matt Reynolds. Talks between the two teams didn’t get far, but they might lay the groundwork for future discussions. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- Former Red Sox pitcher John Lackey is “happy where he is now,” guesses Sox GM Ben Cherington in an interview with Dennis & Callahan at WEEI. Cherington says that Lackey’s unusual contract, which allows his team to pay him the league minimum salary next year, enabled the Red Sox to get the value they did, picking up Allen Craig and Joe Kelly from the Cardinals. “[W]e wouldn’t have traded both [Jon] Lester and Lackey without getting a) major league talent back and b) at least one major league starter back,” says Cherington. “That was sort of the standard.”
- Closer David Robertson says he might have given the Yankees a discount last winter if they had signed him to an extension, George A. King of the New York Post reports. Now, he says, he’ll likely wait to become a free agent this offseason. “It would have to be a legit offer at this point of the year,” he says. Robertson has pitched brilliantly while replacing Mariano Rivera at closer, posting a 2.68 ERA in 43 2/3 innings this year, with 14.6 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. King notes that the Yankees will probably extend Robertson a qualifying offer this fall.