Chase Utley Rumors

NL Notes: Evans, Cardinals, Flores, Utley

Giants GM Bobby Evans has succeeded with subtly bold action, as Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News writes in an interesting feature on the recently promoted executive. If you’re interested in learning how exactly one can make it to the top echelons of baseball decisionmaking without a professional playing career or other “in” to get you there, this is essential reading. Now 46, Evans got his start with an internship, worked in the commissioner’s office, and then jumped on an opportunity to join the San Francisco organization as a minor league administrative assistant. “He was very eager, obviously an intelligent kid, he had the intern experience in Boston and the commissioner’s office, and quite frankly, he was single and wide-eyed and willing to put the hours in,” said former Giants GM and current executive VP of operations Brian Sabean of Evans’s start with the club.  “That’s half the battle. You have to be willing to punch the clock, and put up with the demands.” 21 years and a lot of hard work later, Evans was given the general manager’s chair as Sabean moved to a more senior post.

Here’s more from the National League:

  • As it investigates Cardinals employees’ improper access of the Astros‘ computer system, the FBI is still working to determine precisely which personnel were responsible for the breach, Michael Schmidt of the New York Times reports. Per the report, the focus is on “a small group of Cardinals employees who specialize in statistical analysis and computer programming and had access to a computer in a residence” in Jupiter, Florida last spring. Given the potential criminal ramifications, several individuals under investigation have obtained representation, which necessarily constrains the fact-finding process. It appears that the intrusion came from a commonly-used computer, as the report indicates that a significant part of the puzzle involves the questions of when and for how long various Cardinals employees were utilizing a single machine around the time that the Astros’ databases were accessed.
  • Though a lawsuit against the Cardinals by the Astros is not likely given the league rules barring such an action, and fines are capped at $2MM, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes that the Cards could still face significant financial exposure. Namely, commissioner Rob Manfred could function as an arbitrator to award damages should Houston seek to prove that it suffered harm due to the actions of the St. Louis employees (and the public exposure of the information).
  • The Mets shortstop saga may have a new chapter, as the team appears likely to move Wilmer Flores to second base when Daniel Murphy is activated from the DL, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reports. In that scenario, Murphy would play third (in place of David Wright), while Ruben Tejada would slide in at short for at least some time with Dilson Herrera moving to the bench. Hypothetically, of course, the club could seek an outside addition to take over for Flores while keeping his bat in the lineup at second. But it’s far from clear whether that is a realistic or wise option for the New York front office, particularly with the team sliding of late.
  • Chase Utley‘s DL stint for a nagging ankle injury came as something of a surprise to Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reports“In my communication with Chase throughout the season about playing he’s always been up and willing to go and no real reports of anything holding him back, so I was a little bit surprised by it in some regards,” Sandberg said. The skipper’s reaction is at least potentially notable because of the delicate situation that seems to be playing itself out in Philly. Sandberg had increasingly turned to Cesar Hernandez at second, but it has remained unclear what strategic direction the organization was taking with Utley, one of the faces of the team’s last great run. The veteran is already halfway (249/500 plate appearances) to triggering a $15MM vesting clause for next year. Given his recent injury history and marked production downturn this year, it would obviously behoove the club to avoid that obligation, but doing so will likely require some deft handling.

Chase Utley To DL, May Impact Vesting Option

Late Tuesday night, the Phillies announced that they placed second baseman Chase Utley on the disabled list after a season of struggling with a right ankle injury.  The news is frustrating for Utley for the obvious reasons, but the DL trip could also impact his future beyond this season.  As Todd Zolecki of MLB.com notes, Utley has a $15MM option for 2016 that automatically vests if he reaches 500 plate appearances.  It’s quite possible that Utley’s time away from the field could keep him from reaching that plateau.

As of today, the 36-year-old has 249 PAs through the first 73 games of the season.  The 15-day DL stint alone won’t rule out 500 plate appearances, of course, but any missed time beyond that will make it even more challenging.  As it stands, Utley isn’t sure exactly how long he’s going to need in order to heal up.

Talking to the doctor today, the more time I can lay off it the better chance it has to heal properly,” Utley said. “I don’t have an exact time frame. It will be at least 15 days.

On the plus side, Utley says that his knees – which have been an issue in the past – are healthy.  Through roughly three months of the season, Utley hasn’t been looking like the six-time All-Star that he is.  The veteran owns a slash line of .179/.257/.275, which would easily stand as his career worst if the season ended today.  Utley’s name popped up on MLBTR more than once this season as a trade possibility, but he won’t garner much interest this summer with the way he has been hitting and his ankle issue.

In other Phillies news, we learned earlier today that the Yankees are not ruling out a pursuit of ace Cole Hamels.


NL East Notes: Nats, Mets, Conforto, Phils, Utley, Braves

The Nationals have yet to play to expectations and are dealing with several injury and performance issues, as Jonah Keri of Grantland explains (in addition to breaking down several other clubs, particularly the A’s, Rays, and Pirates). In terms of potential deadline moves, the area that Keri highlights as needing improvement is first base. As he explains, Ryan Zimmerman has not performed at the plate and is now in the midst of a DL stint of indeterminate length as he deals with plantar fasciitis. Keri suggests that the Nats could go after a rental such as Adam Lind, reserving longer-term questions for the future. From my perspective, adding a left-handed power bat makes a good deal of sense: such a player could boost the team’s production now while ultimately serving as a bench bat and/or platoon mate for Zimmerman, depending upon how things progress, while also supplying some injury insurance.

Here’s more from the NL East:

  • Even as the Mets continue to try to practice responsible roster-building, the club risks legitimate criticism if it can’t find a way to improve its chances while the Nationals look vulnerable, Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggests. There are plenty of possibilities for bold action, of course, but Sherman says not to expect a change of manager. The promotion of young lefty Steven Matz is not the panacea some might think, says Sherman, but could make a difference. (From my perspective, that still seems the single most likely move to inject talent onto the big league roster.) As for trades, Sherman writes that the club may need to get creative, but should be prepared to turn in some of its resources (payroll & prospects) to make something happen.
  • Of course, some have suggested that the Mets really ought to be taking a look at 2014 first-round draft pick Michael Conforto to help boost the team’s sagging offense. But the club is “not considering” that move at this time, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets. That’s probably not too surprising, really. Conforto is still only 22 and has less than a full season of professional plate appearances on his resume. He has been raking at Double-A, but has not even seen 100 turns at bat at that level and was producing solid but hardly overwhelming numbers at High-A.
  • If the Phillies are serious about building an organization that can succeed in the long run, then they should open their upper management search up broadly before making a decision, writes David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. President Pat Gillick was never expected to stay at the helm of the organization for very long, and it seems that one key function of his office is to find a more permanent replacement. One name that has come up, of course, is former Orioles, Cubs, and Twins executive Andy MacPhail. Murphy says that MacPhail may or may not be the best person to take over, but the club ought to make that determination through a process that includes “a thorough examination of other top candidates throughout the sport.”
  • Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg says he is aware of Chase Utley‘s vesting clause terms but won’t allow it to dictate his lineups, as Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reports. The struggling veteran has lost time to Cesar Hernandez recently. Utley will be guaranteed $15MM next year if he reaches 500 plate appearances this season. He’s just one PA shy of the halfway mark, easily putting him on pace. But as things stand — Utley is slashing .179/.257/.275, and his hard contact and line drive rates have plummeted — the organization would be amply justified to curb his playing time.
  • The Braves are not likely to sell off any significant pieces at the deadline, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes in response to a fan question, though they could ship out a few one-year veterans if they fall well out of the picture. Atlanta could still be a limited buyer, Bowman suggests, with the team potentially looking to bolster its bullpen.


Quick Hits: Harper, DBacks, Phillies, Gregorius

Here’s the latest from around the league as the evening winds down:

  • Bryce Harper may be likely to enter free agency after the 2018 season, but Yankees fans shouldn’t start counting their chickens just yet. Bill Shaiken of the LA Times believes the Dodgers have a better chance to sign Harper. The Yankees roster is aging and none of their prospects are among Baseball America’s top 30. Meanwhile, the Dodgers may have a brighter future when Harper is a free agent. They have a young, talented active roster with Corey Seager and Julio Urias waiting in the minors. Harper could prove to be a valuable supplement to young assets like Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, and Yasmani Grandal. Of course, this all assumes the Nationals can’t manage an extension or that they won’t trade him to another team that can.
  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart “does not seem inclined” to trade for pitching at the trade deadline, tweets Steve Gilbert of MLB.com. The club has plenty of young depth both in the majors and the minors, but Stewart wants to continue developing internally. Arizona is currently fourth in the NL West and 7.5 games behind the first place Dodgers. They’re also five games back in the Wild Card hunt. In my opinion, there will be more pressure to improve the rotation and bullpen if the club is within a few games of the plays at the deadline.
  • Don’t expect the Phillies to sit on their veteran assets at the trade deadline, writes Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News. Last July, the Phillies controversially opted to hold steady, but the club is now more thoroughly committed to rebuilding. Lawrence runs through possible destinations and hypothetical trade packages for the team’s remaining veterans. Interestingly, he believes the performance and complicated contracts of Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz will make them harder to trade than Ryan Howard.
  • The Yankees trade to acquire Didi Gregorius doesn’t look so bad after the Tigers optioned starter Shane Greene to Triple-A, opines Brendan Kuty of NJ.com. Greene began the season with a 0.39 ERA in three starts, but he has since allowed just under a run per inning. Of course, Gregorius has hardly lit the world on fire with a .228/.287/.298 line and 0.4 UZR. While it’s much too early to declare a winner of this modest trade, perhaps we should be looking at the Diamondbacks. They acquired Robbie Ray in the swap. Through three starts, he has a 1.53 ERA with 6.62 K/9 and 2.55 BB/9. Just don’t forget how Greene looked through three starts!

Phillies Notes: Revere, Utley, Howard, Nola

Ben Revere‘s name has begun to surface in trade rumors, but the speedy outfielder tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that he isn’t fazed by seeing his name floated as a trade candidate. Revere says that the talk isn’t distracting, characterizing it as something that every player has to deal with at some point. (I’d imagine that having been traded once in the past has prepared him somewhat as well.) “This is a business,” Revere says. “When [Cody] Asche and [Domonic Brown] come back we’re going to have a lot of outfielders and someone might be out. I just have to prepare to help my team win whether it’s here or somewhere else. Just bust my tail and try to stay in the lineup.” Salisbury adds that he, like others, hears that the Angels have indeed discussed Revere with the Phillies.

Some more Phillies notes…

  • Continuing to play Ryan Howard and Chase Utley could actually help the Phillies’ rebuild, opines MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. Zolecki points out that in mid-April, fans wanted Howard to be benched, if not released, but he’s hitting .292/.346/.615 with eight homers in 27 games dating back to April 21. By demonstrating that level of production, Zolecki notes, Howard can only have helped his trade value. The same could eventually be said of Utley, who is struggling badly this year. The Phils have little to lose by continuing to run Utley out there, however, he argues. The club will have plenty of time to see Cesar Hernandez play in the coming years, and Utley isn’t blocking a top-tier prospect. While some are worried about triggering Utley’s vesting option, Zolecki notes that if he’s still hitting well below .200 come July, the team can very easily alter that pace in the second half of the season.
  • General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and president Pat Gillick were on hand for yesterday’s Double-A Reading game, writes Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News, and the two saw a masterful performance by 2014 first-round pick Aaron Nola. The Phillies’ top decision-makers saw Nola fire seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits and a walk against seven strikeouts in an effort that dropped his ERA to 1.54 through 52 2/3 innings. However, Amaro said that the team is not yet ready to give Nola a look at the Major League level, Lawrence writes. “There are some things he needs to work on still,” said Amaro. “There’s some areas he’s continuing to work on. We continue to discuss and put together a plan for him. We’re in the middle of formulating that plan.” Amaro wouldn’t say what specific areas Nola needed to improve, but the GM did say that it was certainly within the realm of possibility that Nola would pitch in the Major Leagues this season.

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.

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.


NL East Notes: Span, Utley, Hamels, Johnson, Familia

The Nationals activated Denard Span from the disabled list and inserted him into the starting lineup for this afternoon’s game against the Phillies, reports MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. To make room for Span on the roster, Michael Taylor was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse despite slashing .271/.314/.500 in 51 plate appearances this season. “He is one of our future players and needs to play every day,” Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said in explaining the reasoning behind Taylor’s demotion. “We got to see Michael Taylor become a player for us right in front of our eyes. I thought he handled himself brilliantly with some youthful mistakes. The ability level is there. The usefulness of putting it to a Major League setting was there and he took to it very well.

Elsewhere in the NL East:

  • The Phillies have told teams over the past year Chase Utley will not waive his no-trade clause, but ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in an Insider piece (subscription required) the second baseman, facing a long rebuild in Philadelphia, may have a change of heart like former teammate Jimmy Rollins. Olney also notes rival evaluators believe Cole Hamels wants out of Philadelphia, as well.
  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez isn’t too concerned with Jim Johnson being roughed up in his last two appearances (four runs, six hits, and two home runs allowed) and will keep the right-hander in the role of the 8th inning setup reliever, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’ll see how it plays out,” said Gonzalez. “But from what I saw in Spring Training, and other than these two outings here, I think he’s been fine. We always have a tendency to say what’s the matter with a guy as soon as he gives up something.
  • Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters, including MLB.com’s Joe Trezza, closer Jeurys Familia will remain in that role when Bobby Parnell and Vic Black join the club after completing their rehab assignments. “Certainly, right now Jeurys Familia has pitched well enough,” Collins said. “He is that guy until those other guys show us they’re ready.” Collins adds, in a perfect world, Parnell would be the closer with Black and Familia slotted for the 8th and 7th innings, respectively. Black’s return may be delayed as Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets the right-hander will undergo a MRI of his shoulder/neck area.

NL East Notes: Utley, Stanton, Marlins

Washington hasn’t had a baseball all-star game since the Senators hosted the game at RFK Stadium in 1969, but that’s about to change.  An announcement naming Nationals Park the host of the 2018 All-Star Game is expected to come on Monday, a source tells James Wagner of the Washington Post.  The Montreal Expos, the franchise that was moved to the District by MLB, hosted the game in 1982, but this will be the first game hosted by the Nationals.  Here’s more out of the NL East..

  • The feeling among some baseball executives is that Phillies star second baseman Chase Utley will eventually give in to a deal as the losing escalates in Philly, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes.  Cafardo adds that Utley, who has a no-trade clause, could be attracted to West Coast teams such as the Dodgers, Giants, Angels, or A’s.  Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently wrote that the Padres, Angels, and possibly the Giants could be among the teams with interest in the California native.
  • The Marlins‘ first order of business was signing Giancarlo Stanton to a long-term deal, but president of baseball operations Michael Hill knew that there was much more to be done beyond that, as Clark Spencer of The Miami Herald writes.  Hill and GM Dan Jennings spoke to Spencer about the inner workings of some of the club’s biggest offseason moves, including the signing of Michael Morse and the Martin Prado deal.
  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald spoke former GMs Jim Bowden and Dan O’Dowd plus Hall Of Fame journalist Peter Gammons to get their thoughts on the Marlins.  While going through each unit on the roster, they also touched on the new contracts given to outfielders Stanton and Christian Yelich.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Rays, Utley, D-Backs, Matusz

Here are the highlights from an enormous notes post by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:

  • There’s the potential for lots of trade activity between now and Opening Day, with an unusual number of teams with logjams at particular positions. But there aren’t many good pitching options, and many teams are already close to their payroll limits.
  • The Rays are one of several teams looking for starting pitching, but they’re currently focusing their efforts on depth, figuring they only need to cover for injured starters Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly for a month or so.
  • If the Phillies struggle early in the year, trade whispers involving Chase Utley could grow louder, with the Padres, Angels and possibly Giants looming as potentially interested teams. Utley would, of course, have to waive his no-trade clause, but he has West Coast roots.
  • The Diamondbacks are currently unwilling to trade Mark Trumbo, but that could change if they become dissatisfied with their outfield defense.
  • The Orioles discussed trading lefty Brian Matusz to the Rangers before Texas acquired Sam Freeman, and have listened to other clubs interested in Matusz as well. But the Nationals might be more willing than the Orioles to trade a lefty reliever — some within the Orioles see Matusz as a better option than either T.J. McFarland or Wesley Wright.