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Chase Utley Rumors
No team in baseball holds a bigger lead on first place in its division than the Braves' 11.5 game advantage on the second-place Nationals. And yet, as MLBTR's Jeff Todd pointed out Thursday, just four trades involving NL East teams occurred in the entire month of July. Here's more on the Braves and the rest of the AL East…
- The Braves still want to add another infielder and a left-handed bat to their bench, and GM Frank Wren told Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that there's a good chance of an August trade for Atlanta to address those needs. The team also needs to see how outfielders Reed Johnson, Jordan Schafer and B.J. Upton fare as they work their way back to health.
- Wren called this year's deadline "strange," noting that there were fewer sellers and fewer players available than he's accustomed to seeing, according to MLB.com's Mark Bowman. Wren said he had some conversations on Wednesday leading up to the deadline, but none proved to be substantial.
- Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest told Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald that he never got the sense that anything was close in the trade discussions he had leading up to the deadline. "[Wednesday] wasn't our day," said Beinfest.
- After holding onto Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon, both players are now part of the Phillies' rebuild, writes Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Papelbon would be wise to follow the examples of Lee and Michael Young, in the mind of Brookover, rather than make candid comments like the one Papelbon issued this past Sunday when he said, "I definitely didn't come here for this," adding that the organization needed changes from top to bottom.
- Phillies president David Montgomery offered the highest praise for Chase Utley when speaking to Brookover's colleague, Ryan Lawrence. Montgomery noted that Utley has endeared himself to the city and is a "max-out player" and "a tremendous teammate." Clearly, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. agreed, adding: "I'm not sure he's a guy you can replace at second base." The two sides continue to work toward an extension, though Lawrence notes that the Phillies don't feel they need to get a deal done before he hits free agency, likening Utley's situation to that of Jimmy Rollins following the 2011 season.
WEDNESDAY: The two sides are discussing a three-year deal or two-year deal (plus a vesting option) for around $13MM per season, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Phillies consider Utley to be their franchise player and have every intention of keeping him around.
MONDAY: Two GMs with interest in Utley were informed he's unavailable, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman confirms the Phillies are trying to sign him to an extension.
THURSDAY: The Phillies had recent talks with Chase Utley's representation about a contract extension, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Salisbury also notes that the Phillies are not listening to trade offers for their second baseman, they did include him in a post-trade deadline promotion, and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has "recently been spotted huddling for private conversations at the ballpark" with Utley.
Utley, 34, hovered right outside our top ten free agents in a mid-July power rankings update. He's hitting .286/.346/.520 with 13 home runs in 298 plate appearances. Despite missing a month with an oblique injury, he seems primed to play 125 games for the first time since '09. I imagine the Phillies would be willing to make a qualifying offer after the season if they don't extend or trade Utley, as the sticking point in negotiations could be more about years than salary since he will play next year at age 35. Utley was drafted and developed by the Phillies and could have a Hall of Fame case if he finishes his career strong.
The trade market for second basemen is light without Utley, as you can see from Steve Adams' analysis earlier this month.
The Phillies are willing to listen to offers on any players except Domonic Brown, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. That includes Cliff Lee, though general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.'s preference is to hang onto him, and he'd need to be blown away to move his ace left-hander.
The Phillies view Hamels' poor season as an aberration, according to Salisbury, and their desire is for Hamels and Lee to front their rotation in 2014. Utley, of course, is said to be working on an extension with the Phillies, and Brown has emerged as the young power bat that the Phillies have hoped he could become.
Boston is currently the most interested team in Lee's services, according to Salisbury, and their interest dates back to the offseason when they were told he wasn't available. Salisbury adds that the Red Sox's reluctance to part with Xander Bogaerts or Jackie Bradley Jr. makes it likely that Lee will likely remain with the Phillies beyond the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Recent reports have indicated that Lee would require three or four top prospects to acquire, though at least one NL executive speculated that he did think Lee would be traded.
Both the Yankees and Red Sox continue to show interest in Michael Young, and Salisbury writes that Jonathan Papelbon is "very much available" as well. He notes that the Tigers' interest in Papelbon had cooled even before their acquisition of Jose Veras on Monday, so there may no longer be a fit between the two sides.
Marlins hitting coach Tino Martinez resigned today amid allegations of verbal and physical abuse of players, according to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. Two sources told Spencer the agent for recently-demoted second baseman Derek Dietrich contacted the team several months ago to report an incident where Martinez erupted in anger unjustly and grabbed a player by his neck and neck chain. The MLBPA was notified of the alleged incident, as well as others involving Martinez, and the union then contacted the Commisioner's office and that office was expected to contact the Marlins on Tuesday, Spencer reports. Martinez, who had never been a Major League coach before this season, was owner Jeffrey Loria’s hand-picked selection to become Marlins' hitting coach. The Red Sox also had interest in hiring Martinez before he took the job with the Marlins. In other news and notes coming from the NL East:
- The Phillies are still not acknowledging the signing of Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez as sources say the Cuban right-hander is awaiting visa approval, reports Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Gonzalez reportedly agreed to a six-year, $48MM contract with the Phillies, which could be worth as much as $59MM.
- Gelb also tweeted that Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins indicated he is not willing to waive his no-trade clause, if asked.
- There is no indication the Phillies are aggressively taking offers for Chase Utley in the event a contract extension cannot be reached, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney.
- The Braves have not had any conversations with the Royals regarding Ervin Santana, according to Mark Bowman of MLB.com.
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told reporters, including the Washington Times' Amanda Comak, he would like to add some more depth before the Trade Deadline. "If we could tweak or improve certain spots on the bench, I think that would be one place that we would attack," Rizzo said. "We’ve got a lot of trade discussions. We’ve received calls, we’ve made calls."
- Manager Terry Collins doesn't expect the Mets to make any moves prior to the Trade Deadline, reports Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. Marlon Byrd is the Met name most mentioned in trade rumors and a team source tells Ackert the asking price is a top 10-15 prospect.
Earlier today, the Phillies placed Domonic Brown on the seven-day disabled list with concussion-like symptoms. The move was retroactive to July 24, meaning he'd be eligible to return next Wednesday. As general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. noted to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, the speed with which Brown can return will have an impact on the team's decision to buy or sell heading into the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Here's more on the Phillies and the rest of th NL East…
- Also from Salisbury's piece, Amaro was hesitant to discuss reports that he and his staff are working on an extension for Chase Utley. Salisbury writes that if the Phillies don't think they can sign him long-term, they'll probably move him. When asked if Utley will be a Phillie after the deadline, Amaro replied, "I would think so."
- Many teams are keeping an eye on Marlon Byrd whether they admit to it or not, a Major League executive told Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. The Mets are still planning to hang onto both Byrd and Bobby Parnell, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reported today. Martino cites a source "with direct knowledge of the Mets' plans" as saying the pair will remain with the team unless they receive an offer they simply can't turn down.
- Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post examines the uncertainty that surrounds the Nationals' bullpen, noting that it's possible the team could option former closer Drew Storen to the minors to rediscover himself. Storen has a 5.40 ERA and 1.46 WHIP with 9.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 41 2/3 innings this season.
- Kilgore also notes that it's likely the Nationals will trade one of their relievers this offseason. Rafael Soriano is set to make $14MM in 2014, while Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard will both receive raises on their respective 2013 salaries of $2.5MM and $4MM via arbitration. Kilgore notes that the Nats could do what would've seemed unthinkable a few weeks ago by trading one of their relievers now in order to maximize the return.
The Phillies, who lost Ben Revere for six to eight weeks over the weekend due to a broken bone in his ankle, are currently 6.5 games out of first place in the NL East. With Revere on the shelf for the foreseeable future, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is on the lookout for a center fielder. A rough couple of weeks could have the team selling pieces, however. Here's more on the Phils….
- Phillies chairman Bill Giles told Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer that this is the "most difficult (final) July two weeks" he has ever seen for the team. The 78-year-old Giles, who has been with the Phillies since 1969, is in particular "worried a lot" about Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley's futures. "I am rooting for Chase to be with us, I will tell you that," Giles said. "He is a quality person and has done so much for this organization."
- Utley, for his part, tells MLB.com's Todd Zolecki that he wants to remain in Philadelphia past the trade deadline and beyond. "I've never envisioned wearing another team's uniform," Utley said. "And I know there's a lot of speculation, but I still haven't….that still hasn't changed over the last month. I've talked to Ruben. I've told him what I think about the organization and city of Philly. That's kind of where we're at." Amaro recently said he hoped Utley would stay a Phillie for the remainder of his career.
- A Red Sox team source tells Tim Britton of the Providence Journal that they don't expect the Phillies to be sellers at the trade deadline since the Phils are still afloat in the NL playoff race.
- At today's All-Star festivities in New York, Cliff Lee told reporters (including WEEI.com's Rob Bradford) that as far as he knows, he will not be traded this year.
MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post
Phillies' right-hander Luis Garcia looked the part of a big league pitcher when he made his MLB debut on Wednesday, striking out Ryan Zimmerman and getting a double-play grounder from Adam LaRoche. However, prior to this season he'd been out of organized baseball for two years, working for a moving company and in a barbershop, Todd Zolecki and Stephen Pianovich of MLB.com write. After showing the Phillies a mid-90s fastball and a decent slider, the team assigned him to their high-A club, and he's now pitching out of a major league bullpen. Some more Friday night Phillies links…
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. isn't expected to make drastic changes to his team as the trade deadline approaches, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Though the Phils remain under .500, the team is playing well lately, having just taken five of seven from divison rivals Washington and Atlanta. A model for the Phillies' approach to the trade market this year might be the 2007 club under GM Pat Gillick, which plugged holes by acquiring infielder Tad Iguchi and pitcher Kyle Lohse for two non-prospects. Gelb also discussed the market for Michael Young, highlighting the Red Sox, the Yankees, the Dodgers and the Orioles as potential trade partners.
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com runs down possible trade pieces for the Phillies at the deadline. From conversations with people around baseball, it would seem that Lee is staying put while rival execs see at least a small chance of Jonathan Papelbon being traded. Opinions seem to be split 50/50 on Chase Utley, though there's a strong belief that Young is a goner if they're not in position to contend. Finally, execs could see the club trading catcher Carlos Ruiz if they remain on the cusp of the race or fall further.
- The Phillies signed 11th-round pick Denton Keys to a $350K bonus (plus a $200K college scholarship) that will put them over their bonus pool and force them to pay a luxury tax, according to Baseball America's Jim Callis (Twitter links). Because Callis mentions no loss of future draft picks, it seems that the Phils exceeded their pool by 0-5 percent. Any further overage would result in a loss of their 2014 first-rounder. Keys, according to Callis, is a prep left-hander from Colorado whose fastball touches 91 mph. He was committed to Kansas.
Earlier today, we learned that the Phillies are likely to decide between buying and selling based on their current ten game homestand. General Manager Ruben Amaro says that he has had a lot of interesting discussion on his players with other clubs but whether any of them actually get moved remains to be seen. Here's more on the Phillies and other Eastern items..
- Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes that what the Red Sox do at the deadline will impact their roster on December 12th. Boston has a number of players they need to protect from the Rule 5 Draft this winter, and that will explain who’s available and who’s not in July.
- If Clay Buchholz is healthy, it will be tough for the Red Sox to go out and acquire a starter, tweets Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. If another hurler is added to the starting five, it's not clear who would get bumped from the group.
- Within today's column from Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, Amaro went on to say that no one is truly off the table, but there are players he'd definitely like to hang on to in particular. “Some guys are a lot less touchable than others,” he said. “But we’ll keep our eyes open, our ears open.” Amaro has been open about his desire to keep Cliff Lee and hang on to fan favorite Chase Utley. Last night, Amaro said it would be "really tough" for him to part with the second baseman.
In his latest column (Insider subscription required and recommended), ESPN's Buster Olney writes that Nelson Cruz is among the players whose free agent stock could be severely impacted by the Biogenesis scandal. If Cruz is cleared of any wrongdoing by that time he will be fine, but if discipline has yet to be handed out, or he receives a suspension near the end of the season, teams will be wary. Cruz's case could be further complicated if the Rangers make him a qualifying offer. Here are a few of the highlights from Olney's excellent piece…
- The Blue Jays are looking for upgrades in their rotation and at second base, and they will be interested in Chase Utley should the Phillies make him available.
- Former Giants closer Brian Wilson is working out in Hawaii and could pitch for teams later this month or in early August.
- The Cubs are "making progress" in trade negotiations surrounding Matt Garza, and they're actively talking with the Rangers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Indians and Dodgers. They may also still be involved in talks with the Orioles as well as other NL West teams.
- Olney also spoke with his colleague Jayson Stark on today's Baseball Tonight podcast, and they discussed the impact of Biogenesis on pennant races in addition to discussing the upcoming trade deadline (Biogenesis talk begins immediately; trade discussions begin shortly after the 11:00 mark).
- Olney said he'd be "shocked" if Garza was still on the Cubs by the All-Star break, but Stark hears that the Cubs may prefer to wait for a team to meet their price, even if it means waiting until the end of July. Stark and Olney agree that Garza will have the highest price tag of any player on the trade market.
- The Dodgers, Rangers and Rockies are the three teams that are still in the mix on Ricky Nolasco, while the other formerly interested parties are "on the periphery" according to Stark.
The first big move of trade season went down yesterday when the Orioles acquired starter Scott Feldman from the Cubs, along with catcher Steve Clevenger, for starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, reliever Pedro Strop and international bonus pool money. The move will obviously have an impact on the O's, but more broadly, it means that we've entered the period when trade talk becomes more than just talk, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Here's more from today's column..
- Scouts that have spoken with Martino expect the Phillies to be active sellers, but hold onto Cliff Lee since they want to contend next year. However, rival scouts and execs anticipate that, in addition to Michael Young and Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon will be dealt or at least heavily shopped. We've heard previously that the Phillies are expected to ask for an astronomical haul to part with Papelbon.
- Papelbon also fits the bill as someone who could be kept for next year, but rivals that have spoken with Martino see too much of a need for bullpen help amongst contenders like the Red Sox and Tigers and they expect GM Ruben Amaro to get a strong offer for the closer.
- One executive involved in the talks for the Marlins' Ricky Nolasco predicts that he will land with the Dodgers, with the Giants a possibility and the Padres still somewhat interested. Last night it was reported that the Rangers, Rockies, and Dodgers are in "heavy pursuit" of the Miami hurler.
- A major league source told Martino that the Twins will likely shop Mike Pelfrey later this month, if he makes a strong few starts. While the 29-year-old hasn't exactly been a world-beater this year – he has a 6.11 ERA with 4.8 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 – he could perhaps get better as he moves further from last year's Tommy John surgery and appeal to a contender willing to throw starters against the wall like the Orioles.