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The Cubs weren’t included on Cole Hamels‘ updated 20-team no-trade list, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (Twitter link). The Cubs are known to be looking for top-of-the-rotation arms this winter, and the remaining four years/$96MM on Hamels’ contract would cost Chicago less than what it would take to sign a top free agent starter like Max Scherzer or Jon Lester. On the other hand, the Cubs would have to give up multiple top prospects to obtain Hamels from the Phillies, so they could prefer to just keep their young talent and spend extra to sign a free agent ace. The Red Sox are thus far the only team known to be on Hamels’ no-trade list.
Here’s more from around the NL Central…
- Right field has sadly become an offseason concern for the Cardinals due to Oscar Taveras‘ untimely death, GM John Mozeliak told MLB.com’s Jen Langsoch. “I think it certainly leaves that position in question,” Mozeliak said. “Clearly internally, we have [Randal] Grichuk and potentially [Stephen] Piscotty to fill that spot. I would also say that it does now force us to explore other options, whether it’s the free-agent market or the trade market….I’m not saying it’s a must, but I also think we need to be prudent and make sure that we understand what that landscape looks like.” The Cards will explore both short-term and long-term options in RF, Mozeliak said. Out of respect for Taveras, Mozeliak waited a week after the outfielder’s passing to begin making calls to agents and general managers, Langosch writes.
- The Reds “are listening” to offers for their starting pitchers but ace Johnny Cueto seems the least likely to be moved, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. Cincinnati would probably have to be “absolutely overwhelmed” to deal Cueto, Heyman writes, as the team plans to contend in 2015.
- Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan also hears that Cueto is unlikely to be traded, though rival executives tell Passan (Twitter link) that the Reds are willing to discuss trading Mat Latos and Mike Leake.
- The Reds are “at [a] fascinating crossroads,” FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes in a series of tweets. If the Reds deal Cueto, they might as well deal Aroldis Chapman too as part of a rebuild, Rosenthal opines. Attendance and the fact that they’re hosting the All-Star Game could make 2015 a bit of a “buffer” year for the Reds, though Rosenthal points out that the team might not want to rebuild in a season when they’re hosting the Midsummer Classic. Back in September, I explored Cincinnati’s trade options with their rotation members in a Trade Candidates piece.
- Major League Baseball has opened an investigation into whether or not the Cubs tampered with Joe Maddon when he was still under contract with the Rays, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. The Rays asked MLB to investigate last week. “There was no tampering whatsoever,” Cubs president Theo Epstein told reporters (including ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers). “I’d rather they investigate so we can clear our name and move on from this quickly. We’re giving our full cooperation and we welcome it.”
At least ten teams have reached out to express interest in Torii Hunter, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today, and the free agent’s most aggressive suitors are in the very familiar AL Central. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals, Twins, Tigers, Cubs, Giants, Rangers and Mariners have all shown some early interest in Hunter (Twitter links). Hunter’s preference is to remain in Detroit, he adds, but his fate may be tied to that of Victor Martinez, as the Tigers likely can’t re-sign both.
Though Hunter turns 40 next July, he still enjoyed a productive season at the plate in a fairly pitcher-friendly home environment, hitting .286/.319/.446 with 17 homers in 586 plate appearances. His defensive game, however, appears to have slipped as Defensive Runs Saved pegged him at -18 runs and Ultimate Zone Rating agreed (-18.3).
Given his age, I’d think Hunter’s priority would be signing with a team he expects to contend in 2015 rather than maxing out his contract or perhaps making a sentimental return to his former Minneapolis stomping grounds.
The Reds could improve considerably in 2015 simply by getting the most out of their current roster, writes Richard Justice of MLB.com. With four starting pitchers a year from free agency, GM Walt Jocketty has the difficult decision to “hold ‘em or fold ‘em.” He could take one more shot at the postseason by luring a Michael Morse-type player, or he could begin the rebuilding process now. The market for his soon-to-be free agents could help him make the decision.
- Marlins GM Dan Jennings says contract extension talks with Giancarlo Stanton are ongoing, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). There is no time table on the talks. In Justice’s article, he mentions the Cardinals as a possible fit for Stanton is extension talks with Miami fizzle.
- We’ve heard everything when it comes to the Cubs and their place in the free agent market. GM Jed Hoyer showed part of his hand recently, reports Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. The club would like to add some veteran leadership with Hoyer saying: “maybe a player in the starting lineup, maybe a bench player, maybe someone in the bullpen, maybe someone in the rotation.” That’s a lot of maybe’s, but the idea is that a veteran presence in each role can help the youngsters improve and develop character. Rogers has more comments from Hoyer that are well worth a read.
- The Mets need to answer three questions at the GM Meetings, opines Mike Puma of the New York Post. Assuming the club isn’t satisfied with Wilmer Flores, the shortstop market must be gauged. A trade with either Chicago team might be the way to go. Outfield is another area of concern, with only Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson scheduled for regular roles. Lastly, GM Sandy Alderson should measure interest in Daniel Murphy.
The Padres decision to designate left-handed pitcher Eric Stults for assignment was based on finances rather than performance, writes Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Per MLBTR’s Matt Swartz, Stults was projected to earn about $4.6MM via arbitration after a season in which he posted a 4.30 ERA and 17 losses. Stults, 35 next season, represents a solid depth piece at the back of a rotation due to durability and decent stuff. However, the Padres are in need of offensive help and have plenty of pitching. The rotation is already filled without Stults, and Sanders names another five pitchers who can serve as additional depth. The cash savings will ostensibly be applied to the offense, and it’s possible Stults will return to San Diego on a lesser contract.
- Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart spoke with MLB Network Radio on a variety of topics. Arizona won’t be in the market for the top three free agent pitchers according to Stewart (tweet), but they may be more involved on Kenta Maeda (also Twitter). As for top prospect Archie Bradley, Stewart would like to see him get more seasoning at the Triple-A level before reaching the majors (via Twitter).
- While Cubs GM Jed Hoyer downplayed the possibility of a “supercharged offseason” yesterday, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times believes they are poised for a spending spree. He figures they have $70MM in available payroll. The Cubs have an “acquisition window…through the 2015-2016 offseason,” so we shouldn’t expect all of that money to be used this winter. Howover, several of the biggest market clubs like the Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, and Phillies are trying to be cost conscious this offseason, which makes now a good time to strike on top players.
- Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano is still considering his qualifying offer and “several options,” tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. That could hint to a possible multi-year contract offer from the Pirates or other clubs, although that’s just my speculation. MLBTR’s Steve Adams covered Liriano’s free agent profile earlier this week and ultimately estimated a three-year, $40MM deal.
Earlier today, we learned that free agent catcher Russell Martin will meet with four teams – the Cubs, Pirates, Dodgers, and Blue Jays. In fact, he’s already met with Chicago. Other clubs may become involved in the bidding, but this is the initial group upon which to focus. Martin’s price is expected to soar due to a dearth of catcher talent on the market.
Initially, it appeared that the Pirates might pull out all the stops to re-sign Martin. The club is thin at catcher with Tony Sanchez and Chris Stewart occupying the top of the depth chart. While the need for Martin is obvious, the ever-increasing rumored cost might push them out of the market.
The Cubs and Dodgers are a better financial fit, since we know both teams can afford Martin at any reasonable cost. They have a decent internal options – Wellington Castillo for the Cubs and A.J. Ellis for the Dodgers – so they’re not desperate for a backstop in the same way as the Pirates. The Cubs recently dismissed a well-regarded manager to hire Joe Maddon, so a similar move at catcher is easy to picture. The Dodgers are supposed to be more financially responsible with Andrew Friedman at the reins. We’ll see if and how that affects their pursuit of Martin.
From the outside, the Blue Jays look like a dark horse candidate, although catcher has been an area of concern since they traded away prospect Travis d’Arnaud. Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole are currently under contract to man the position, but neither player is close to Martin’s talent level.
Of course, the infamous mystery team could rear its head. A few clubs who could conceivably join the fray include the Angels, Tigers, Rangers, Mariners, White Sox, and Nationals.
The rumor train has a majority of free agents linked to the Cubs in some way, but the club may take a restrained approach, reports Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. GM Jed Hoyer hedged against the idea of a “supercharged offseason,” saying “that’s probably overstated.” Hoyer notes that it behooves agents to connect their clients with deep pocketed teams. However, Chicago won’t pass on an opportunity that makes sense, which means a deal with Russell Martin, a front line starting pitcher, or virtually any other free agent could still in the cards. My own perspective: in sales there is a saying – “undersell and over-deliver.” It’s possible Hoyer is preparing fans in case the bidding for Martin or their other top targets exceeds reason.
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (via Twitter) that seven teams are interested in Torii Hunter including the Twins and Royals. Hunter has also been strongly linked to the Tigers in recent weeks. The 39-year-old outfielder has been remarkably consistent throughout his 17 year career. Teams presumably view Hunter as a corner outfielder or designated hitter. One team that isn’t in on Hunter is the Mets, tweets Marc Carig of Newsday.
- In an interview airing Monday for MLB Network, Ichiro Suzuki will announce his intention to play in 2015, writes Chad Jennings of LoHud.com. Ichiro admits he’s unsure where he’ll suit up, since it depends on a team having a need for a 41-year-old outfielder. Given the relatively thin outfield market, there should be plenty of opportunities for a player who hit .284/.324/.340 in 385 plate appearances.
- The Indians shouldn’t trade Francisco Lindor just because he might fail to reach his ceiling, writes Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group in his latest Hey, Hoynsie. The 21-year-old acquitted himself well in Triple-A, even if the performance wasn’t phenomenal. Lindor is generally viewed as a top 10 prospect by scouts, so his trade value is significant. My own take: while the Indians have Jose Ramirez at the major league level, there’s no reason to force a deal based on that modicum of depth. Either player could be moved to another position when the time comes. Moreover, as a budget conscious franchise, the Indians can’t simply deal Lindor for just any established star. They would need to identify another relatively inexpensive target like Josh Donaldson.
It is early in the free agent process, but the Cubs have already met with top backstop Russell Martin, Bruce Levine reports for CBS Chicago. Martin is also expected to visit and undertake preliminary discussions with the Pirates, Dodgers, and Blue Jays, according to Levine. It is far from clear, of course, that Martin’s market will ultimately be limited to that group. After all, he figures to draw broad interest around the game.
Incumbent Cubs catcher Welington Castillo struggled with his offense and framing last year, and the big-market Cubs have money to spend, so it’s unsurprising they would have interest in Martin. In Los Angeles, catcher A.J. Ellis hit just .191/.323/.254 last season, and the Dodgers’ new saber-friendly front office will likely place a high value on Martin, particularly given his work behind the plate. The Jays have had internal discussions about pursuing Martin and making current starting catcher Dioner Navarro their primary DH.
In his latest ESPN Insider-only blog (subscription required), Buster Olney looks at the latest chapter in the Alex Rodriguez saga — a report from the Miami Herald indicating that Rodriguez admitted his PED use to the DEA in January — and opines that the Yankees need to do everything in their power to be free of him. Olney wonders if the Yankees could release or suspend him and invoke the player conduct clause in their standard contract in an effort to legally absolve themselves of the remaining $61MM commitment in light of his confession. Industry perception, Olney writes, is that the conduct clause is superseded by the language in the CBA, but no one has ever really made a challenge using the player conduct clause. And, he writes, the worst-case scenario would be paying him the remainder of his salary while getting nothing in return — an outcome which could happen even with Rodriguez in uniform. Of course, it’s not a given that Rodriguez doesn’t have some productivity left in his bat, but it’s hard to fault Olney for doubting the possible contributions of a 39-year-old who has appeared in just 265 games since Opening Day 2011.
More from Olney’s piece…
- Hanley Ramirez‘s strong desire to play shortstop — or the infield in general — will be a detriment to his free agent stock, Olney writes. He suggests that Ramirez announce to teams right now that he is willing to play a corner outfield position, shortstop or third base next season in order to create the strongest market possible for his services. Olney rightly points out that the idea of Ramirez in a corner outfield spot would broaden his appeal to numerous clubs and help to create a bidding war for his services. It doesn’t seem that Ramirez is changing his plans anytime soon, however. As Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times pointed out today (Twitter link), Ramirez has changed his Twitter bio to read “MLB Shortstop.”
- Olney has gotten indications that the Mets will be aggressive with at least one free agent signing and one trade this offseason, and he lists the familiar matchup of the Cubs as an ideal trade partner. Starlin Castro‘s name arises as a speculative target for Olney, though he adds that the price tag could be prohibitive: Jacob deGrom or Zack Wheeler.
- The Giants are interested in working out a new deal with right-hander Jake Peavy following his excellent work for the Giants after their July acquisition. Peavy struggled in the playoffs, but his regular-season work in San Francisco was excellent: a 2.17 ERA (3.03 FIP/3.91 SIERA) with 6.6 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 78 2/3 innings (12 starts).
As expected, the Marlins have begun extension talks with star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports on Twitter. President of baseball operations Michael Hill tells Spencer that the team has “reached out” to Stanton’s representatives and that “negotiations are ongoing.”
Here’s more from the NL East:
- At present, the Mets are more inclined to fill their needs in the corner outfield via trade than through a free agent signing, reports Marc Carig of Newsday. New York is still hesitant to give up any of its best young talent in a swap. But veterans like Michael Morse, Alex Rios, and Torii Hunter all seem more like fallback options that the team would pursue if value can be had and nothing better has materialized. The Mets are said to prefer to add a right-handed bat.
- One other hypothetical possibility, Nick Markakis, is not presently engaged with the team in any way, according to Matt Ehalt of The Record (Twitter link).
- As they weigh their options at second, the Nationals are not unmindful of the Cuban market that has begun to materialize in recent weeks, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports. The primary possible targets, per Wagner, are 26-year-old Jose Fernandez and high-upside youngster Yoan Moncada. The 20-year-old Moncada will draw immense interest, with Ben Badler of Baseball America saying he is talented enough that he would be the odds-on favorite to go first overall in this year’s amateur draft (were he eligible).
- The Phillies are still the favorite to land Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, with A.J. Burnett‘s decision to decline his option possibly burnishing Philly’s chances. That does not mean they are without competition, of course. Other clubs that have seen (or will soon see) Tomas since his showcase include the Rangers, D’backs, Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Red Sox, and Mariners.
- Also per Heyman, the Phillies could clear yet more payroll space and add young talent through a deal for pitcher Cole Hamels, with the Cubs still showing interest in the lefty.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: A.J. Burnett | Alex Rios | Boston Red Sox | Chicago Cubs | Cole Hamels | Giancarlo Stanton | Jose Fernandez 2B | Los Angeles Dodgers | Miami Marlins | Michael Morse | New York Mets | Philadelphia Phillies | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Seattle Mariners | Texas Rangers | Torii Hunter | Washington Nationals | Yasmany Tomas | Yoan Moncada
Prior to being hired by the Cubs, manager Joe Maddon reached out to the Rays with an “olive branch” offer that is believed to be for less guaranteed money than he received from the Cubs, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman writes, however, that even Maddon’s lighter offer was more than the team was willing or able to pay. The Rays offered Maddon an annual salary approaching $3MM, Heyman continues, which would have represented a raise from his previous $1.8MM salary. Of course, that number is still well shy of Maddon’s reported five-year, $25MM deal with the Cubs. Maddon’s agent, Alan Nero, recently appeared on MLB Network Radio with Jim Bowden and said that the Cubs verified the opt-out and received permission from the league before reaching out regarding Maddon’s availability, calling accusations of tampering “insulting.”
Here’s more on the Cubs and the game’s central divisions…
- The Cubs are rich with hitting prospects, but one whose future with the team is a bit cloudy is first baseman Dan Vogelbach writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times in a piece for Baseball America. As Wittenmyer notes, Vogelbach is seen by the Cubs (and other clubs) as a first baseman only, and he has Anthony Rizzo to serve as a firm roadblock to the Majors. The Cubs have already fielded calls on his availability in trades, writes Wittenmyer, who notes that Vogelbach, formerly listed at 6’0″ and 250 pounds, dropped 30 pounds and improved a good deal defensively this season. He does note that the improvement took him merely from “unplayable” to “below average.” Vogelbach recovered from a slow start at High-A to hit .285/.373/.461 over his final 115 games.
- Two A.L. Central teams — if not more — could be among the key competitors for the services of veteran outfielder Torii Hunter. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweeted last night that the Twins are “already in on” Hunter. And Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports on Twitter that there is mutual interest in a reunion with the Tigers.
- Reds starter Mat Latos tells MLB Network Radio (Twitter link) that he has not had any extension discussions with the club. Nevertheless, Latos — who stands to reach free agency after the coming season — said he would be interested in trying to find agreement on a new contract if Cincinnati is willing to talk.