Chicago White Sox Rumors
The White Sox made an early splash by signing a powerful 27-year-old Cuban first baseman, acquired a new center fielder, swapped their closer for a third base prospect, and tinkered with small-scale free agent signings.
Major League Signings
- Jose Abreu, 1B: six years, $68MM (may opt into arbitration once eligible)
- Scott Downs, RP: one year, $4MM (includes $4.25MM club option for 2015 with $250K buyout)
- Matt Lindstrom, RP: one year, $4MM (club option exercised)
- Ronald Belisario, RP: one year, $3MM (can be controlled through 2016 as arbitration eligible player)
- Paul Konerko, 1B/DH: one year, $2.5MM ($1MM deferred until 2021)
- Felipe Paulino, SP: one year, $1.75MM ($4MM club option for 2015 with a $250K buyout)
- Mitchell Boggs, RP: one year, $1.1MM (can be controlled through 2015 as arbitration eligible player)
- Total spend: $84.35MM
Notable Minor League Signings
- Dylan Axelrod, David Purcey, Brian Omogrosso, Zach Putnam, Mauricio Robles, Hector Gimenez, Alex Liddi, Eric Patterson
Trades and Claims
- Acquired 1B Jackson Laumann from Braves for cash considerations
- Acquired OF Adam Eaton from Diamondbacks, gave up P Hector Santiago and OF Brandon Jacobs
- Acquired 3B Matt Davidson from Diamondbacks for RP Addison Reed
- Claimed C Adrian Nieto from Nationals in Rule 5 draft
- Claimed SP Eric Surkamp from Giants
- Claimed RP Maikel Cleto from Royals
- Acquired a player to be named later or cash considerations from Athletics for IF Jake Elmore
- Acquired cash considerations from Braves for SP Zach Stewart
White Sox GM Rick Hahn explained his plan to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune in late October: "Obviously getting better quickly is the goal, but the final determining factor is whether it's going to make us better for an extended period of time. I'm not going to keep churning this thing every two years with short-term fixes. Eventually you have to pay the piper for that and we want to set up something that's sustainable over an extended period." Hahn also made it clear in various offseason interviews that he felt good about the team's pitching depth and aimed to add position players.
It's no surprise, then, that the key moves of Hahn's offseason involved acquiring three position players. Jose Abreu (pictured), Adam Eaton, and Matt Davidson are all in their 20s, with Abreu the oldest at 27. Abreu is controlled through 2019, Eaton through '18, and Davidson through '19 or later. The newly-acquired trio is Major League ready or close to it, as is summer acquisition Avisail Garcia.
As I explained shortly before the October signing, Abreu checks all the boxes for the White Sox: long-term value, a contract that isn't monstrous by typical free agent standards, and no loss of a draft pick to sign him. Five teams offered $60MM+ for the Cuban slugger, but the White Sox prevailed with a six-year, $68MM deal that stands as the largest ever for an international free agent and the largest in team history. The White Sox hope Abreu can provide 30+ home runs annually as their first baseman for the next six years.
The Eaton trade was struck during baseball's Winter Meetings, in a collaboration with the Diamondbacks and Angels. The main piece the Sox had to surrender was 26-year-old southpaw Hector Santiago, who compiled a 3.51 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, and 1.10 HR/9 in 130 2/3 innings as a starter in 2013 and remains under team control through 2017. With Erik Johnson and Andre Rienzo coming on, the White Sox had the depth to spare Santiago, who still has to figure out command and home run issues.
Eaton, often described as a "dirtbag" type of ballplayer, comes with questions of his own. The former 19th round draft pick exceeded expectations in the minor leagues, earning a cup of coffee with Arizona in 2012 and becoming a popular Rookie of the Year candidate for 2013. However, that spring he sprained the UCL in his left elbow, and didn't return to the big leagues until July. Eaton is 25 with only one healthy month in the Majors to his name. The White Sox are gambling that he can be the scrappy consistent on-base threat with good defense that he appeared to be one year ago.
The third major pickup was Davidson, who was also acquired from Arizona. The Sox snagged Davidson straight-up for closer Addison Reed, a 25-year-old with four years of team control remaining. As MLBTR's Jeff Todd noted in his D'Backs Offseason In Review, Reed is not without his flaws, and the cost of saves in arbitration may cut down his years of team control. Davidson, 23 this month, hit .280/.350/.481 with 17 home runs in 500 Triple-A plate appearances and picked up 87 late-season plate appearances with the big club. Ranked 88th among all prospects by ESPN's Keith Law, Davidson "should be an above-average regular at third base given a season or two there to continue to progress." If that is the eventual outcome, the White Sox did very well in acquiring Davidson for perhaps three years of a good (and increasingly expensive) closer.
The White Sox traded Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton during the season and Reed in the offseason, so the bullpen demanded fresh arms. Hahn kept the commitments relatively light, exercising Lindstrom's option, and signing Belisario, Downs, and Boggs for a total of $12.1MM. Belisario and Boggs were non-tendered by their previous teams in December, and the Sox can control them beyond 2014 if it makes sense.
Belisario and Boggs will be projects for renowned pitching coach Don Cooper, as will scrap heap rotation hopeful Felipe Paulino. The 30-year-old last had significant time in the Majors in 2011, undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2012 and shoulder surgery in September 2013. When he was right, Paulino whiffed about a batter per inning and consistently worked at 95 miles per hour, and the White Sox could have the bargain of the offseason if they can get 25+ starts out of him. The White Sox did at least look into a bigger addition for the rotation, Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka. After an exploratory meeting with the pitcher in January, the Sox made an offer that one GM guessed was around $100MM. It doesn't seem that the Sox came close to signing Tanaka. As with their crosstown rivals, potentially paying him $108MM over the next four years did not make sense, even if his ability and youth were worth a bid.
In a process that dragged into December, White Sox all-time great Paul Konerko signed on for one more year at a meager $2.5MM. It was a sentimental signing of a limited player who fits poorly onto the team's roster. As explained by Jim Margalus of South Side Sox in an excellent reflection on the move, "Even the most ardent Konerko supporters acknowledge that he's significantly compromising the roster, but they're writing it off as a fair sacrifice because of the alleged effect he has on others." The signing reminds me of the Mariners bringing Ken Griffey Jr. back for the 2010 season, which didn't end well.
On the coaching front, the White Sox added hitting coach Todd Steverson in October, and extended manager Robin Ventura in January to avoid him entering 2014 in lame-duck status.
Despite the positive vibes from Rick Hahn's offseason, the White Sox still have a below-average collection of 25-and-under players and a farm system that Baseball America ranks 24th and Keith Law ranks 27th in the game. The 2014 draft will continue pushing things in the right direction, as the Sox have the third overall pick and a bonus pool near $10MM. Still, Hahn and company want to get back to contention quickly, and the team needs a good amount of work in the short-term.
The Sox never did address their catching situation this offseason, instead deciding to give the Tyler Flowers/Josh Phegley tandem another shot. I've heard they had significant interest in free agent Jarrod Saltalamacchia, particularly if he could have been had on a two-year deal, but Salty wound up with the Marlins on a three-year pact. The Sox picked up Adrian Nieto in the Rule 5 draft, but keeping a Double-A type backstop on the Major League roster all season would be challenging.
The acquisition of Eaton seemingly pushed Alejandro De Aza into a fourth outfielder role, for which he may be best suited anyway. With a $4.25MM salary, De Aza might have more value to another team, and it's likely the Sox will continue to explore trades. Then there's 25-year-old Dayan Viciedo, who hit 25 home runs in 2012 but slumped last year. He's controlled through 2017 and could still be a long-term piece, but I imagine the Sox will be open-minded to trade proposals.
Chicago's middle infield tandem of Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez has come up in trade rumors in the last year. The disappointing Beckham has two years of team control remaining, while Ramirez is signed through 2015 with a club option for '16. Ramirez is guaranteed $20.5MM over the next two years, his age 32-33 seasons. His trade value could be limited by the continued availability of free agent shortstop Stephen Drew. Both Beckham and Ramirez figure to frequent the pages of MLBTR this summer.
The White Sox have uncertainty at the back of their bullpen after the Reed trade, with Nate Jones the current favorite to close games in 2014. The franchise hasn't put together a particularly strong bullpen since their 2005 World Championship season.
Deal of Note
If an MLB team wants to throw a large, unrestricted sum of money at a player in his mid-20s, players coming over from Cuba and Japan are basically the only options. The White Sox took advantage of the opportunity by signing Abreu. At $68MM, his contract defied my expectations by a good 25%, but it still leaves room for upside. Accounting for the cost of a draft pick, the Mets paid a similar amount for Curtis Granderson's age 33-36 seasons, a deal that strikes me as mostly downside risk. If Abreu can provide the White Sox with 25+ home runs per year, a .340 OBP, and average defense, he'll easily be worth $11.3MM per year compared to continually rising market prices. And certainly, there's some chance of Abreu's power translating to a few 35-40 home run seasons in the bigs.
It should be noted that given the standard clause allowing Abreu to opt for arbitration once eligible, he might end up being paid more than $68MM over the next six years. In particular, given good production he'll prefer arbitration over the sixth year of the contract, and possibly even the fifth. If he's good enough to justify that, it will be worth the extra money for Chicago.
This is rebuilding, White Sox style. Like any team trying to improve its young talent base, they've recently taken a few steps back in the name of the greater good. But unlike the Cubs or Mets, the White Sox aren't on a four or five-year plan. Hahn has been acquiring Major League ready talent, and while the White Sox are a long shot for 2014, don't count them out for '15.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here's a quick look in at the American League East:
- With Red Sox outfielder Grady Sizemore progressing towards cracking the team's Opening Day roster, WEEI.com's Rob Bradford provides the details of his incentive-heavy contract. If Sizemore breaks camp, he would earn a $250K bonus and draw a $750K base salary. He can, as previously reported, boost the total value to $6MM if he were to hit all incentives. Here's how: $250K each for reaching 60, 90, 120, and 150 days in the big leagues; $250K for each increment of 25 plate appearances from 225 to 500; and a slate of award bonuses (including $50K for being named AL Comeback Player of the Year).
- Orioles third baseman Manny Machado says that his $519K contract for 2014 is "disappointing," reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Of course, with less than two years of service, Machado had little choice in the matter. The two sides have yet to discuss the possibility of an extension, though Connolly says there are "indications" that talks could take place once the health of the 21-year-old's left knee is more certain. Machado maintains that he would "love to be an Oriole forever," noting that his only wish is "to be treated fairly."
- The Yankees have drawn significant trade interest in backstop Francisco Cervelli, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Among the teams giving the catcher a look is the White Sox. Though the out-of-options, 28-year-old Cervelli figures to have the inside track on the reserve role for New York, the club has several other viable options to back up Brian McCann (as MLBTR's Steve Adams recently explained).
Stewart spent 2013, his age-26 season, with Chicago's Triple-A affiliate, posting a 4.25 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 167 1/3 innings of work. Originally a third-round pick by the Reds in 2008, the Texas Tech product has found himself included in trades for a number of high-profile players over the past six years. The Reds dealt him to Toronto along with Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Roenicke in 2008 to acquire Scott Rolen. He was then part of the three-team deal that sent Edwin Jackson to the Cardinals in 2011, and he was acquired by the White Sox to the Red Sox in June 2012's Kevin Youkilis deal. Chicago picked him back up on waivers last offseason.
Stewart has 103 Major League innings under his belt, but he's posted a 6.82 ERA in that time. He's whiffed just 5.6 hitters per nine innings, but has also averaged just 1.9 walks per nine to go along with a strong 50 percent ground-ball rate in the bigs. Both xFIP and SIERA feel his ERA to date should be just a shade under 4.00 rather than at its current level.
Atlanta's acquisition of Stewart isn't entirely surprising; the team looks to be adding depth with Kris Medlen's health status up in the air (he'll undergo an MRI on his right forearm today) along with the possibility that Mike Minor could miss a start or two in April. Of course, Atlanta has in-house options such as Alex Wood, Freddy Garcia and David Hale that would presumably be in line for big league starts before Stewart, who is most likely ticketed for Triple-A. Stewart was not on Chicago's 40-man roster.
The Orioles and Nationals may be based just an hour away from each other, but they're far apart in terms of strength of schedule this year. The Orioles' 2014 schedule is projected to be the toughest in baseball, while the Nationals' is projected to be the weakest, Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs writes. Unsurprisingly, AL schedules are much tougher than NL schedules, and schedules for AL East teams rate as the toughest of all -- after Baltimore, the other four AL East teams' schedules are the third-, fifth-, sixth- and seventh-toughest. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Sean Manaea is healthy, which could make him a bargain for the Royals, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes. Manaea was widely considered a top-tier draft prospect last year before hip and shoulder issues damaged his stock. He fell to the Royals with the No. 34 overall pick. He's now throwing 93-94 MPH in Royals minor-league spring training.
- Manager Robin Ventura and the White Sox aren't concerned about potential trades, writes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. "Something could come up and that changes but I’m preparing with this group. If something happens then you can roll it and change and go from there. Right now it is what it is here and you have to get your roster together with these guys," Ventura says. Outfielders Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza have recently been the subjects of trade rumors.
The White Sox and Mariners have discussed a deal involving outfielder Dayan Viciedo, Bruce Levine of CBSChicago.com reports. The White Sox are not actively looking to trade Viciedo, although they are willing to take calls on him, Levine notes. Levine suggests that the White Sox might want to receive a left-handed potential power hitter in return.
The Mariners admire Viciedo's talent and are looking to add a right-handed hitter to their lineup. Viciedo will make $2.8MM in 2014, and will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season.
Viciedo hit .265/.304/.426 in 473 plate appearances for the White Sox last season, a disappointing year, given that Viciedo is not a plus defensive outfielder. (As the Seattle Times' Jerry Brewer recently noted, the Mariners struggled with outfield defense last season. Viciedo would be unlikely to help in that area.) The Mariners are currently slated to go with an outfield mix of Dustin Ackley, Abraham Almonte, Michael Saunders, Corey Hart, Logan Morrison and perhaps Endy Chavez or another bench candidate, with Hart and Morrison also receiving time at first base and DH.
In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wonders if Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton could wind up with the Red Sox. Marlins GM Dan Jennings swears up and down that Stanton isn't going anywhere and even if he was for sale, Boston would be one of many clubs in pursuit. If things suddenly changed and the Fish made Stanton available, Cafardo wonders if a package of Will Middlebrooks or Garin Cecchini plus Matt Barnes, Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts could get a deal done. More from today's column:
- The Twins have some interest in White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza, who is getting interest even though he's not everything a club would want in a center fielder, leadoff type. Last season, De Aza slashed .264/.323/.405 with 17 homers in 675 plate appearances.
- Major league sources say the Tigers are still willing to listen to offers on Rick Porcello. While he has shown promise, Detroit would like a hurler with more consistency.
- The bidding for Ervin Santana has reportedly come down to the Orioles and Blue Jays. Cafardo hears the Rockies were also in it for some of the day while the Phillies did their due diligence but did not appear to be in the hunt.
- Bud Norris could be an alternative if Tommy Hunter can’t do the job as Orioles closer, but he also has trade interest and could have some appeal in the NL. For budgetary reasons, the O's probably wouldn't go for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, but it's possible if the Angelos family believes that they have a chance to win it all.
- One Red Sox player says that he's not crying for free agent Stephen Drew. “Why not accept a $14.1 million qualifying offer for one year?” the player said. “Is that a bad deal? That’s a lot of money. Stephen would be here playing with us by now if he’d done that.”
- Scouts are watching Orioles pitcher Zach Britton closely as he is out of options. Still only 26, Britton is still a pitcher scouts think they can salvage. The O's are aware of his value and the interest other clubs have, but could stash him in the bullpen if they can’t get good value for him.
Many have been quick to call Justin Masterson's reported three-year extension proposal to the Indians a bargain, but Dave Cameron of Fangraphs takes a step back and wonders how benevolent Masterson is really being. Cameron admits that he, too, initially considered a three-year, $45MM or four-year, $60MM deal to be a huge value, but he looks at the cognitive bias of "anchoring," in which we subconsciously turn an initial price for one item into an anchor price for others. Cameron argues that rather than comparing Masterson to the statistically similar Homer Bailey, who signed away five free agent years for $95MM, we should look at Masterson's expected value over the next three to four years. Doing so presents the case that Masterson's offer is fair, but hardly a tremendous discount for Cleveland. He adds that the Indians aren't a club that can afford to pay market value for too many wins, so it may not be as much of a no-brainer as many initially believed.
More from the AL Central...
- While he's yet to determine if the Twins have placed a call, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN knows that White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza has quite a few fans in Minnesota's front office (Twitter link). De Aza would seem a peculiar fit for the Twins in my opinion, given the fact that he has just two years of team control and Minnesota has a number of young outfielders and outfield prospects.
- Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that while he didn't look like a catcher trying to play third base in practice, that's exactly how Carlos Santana has looked thus far in Cactus League games. Hoynes describes his play as "stiff and uncomfortable," though he notes that Santana has had few chances to this point and could improve by playing consecutive games at the position. For the time being, it appears to be good news for Lonnie Chisenhall, as if Santana doesn't man third, he would DH and serve as a backup at first, catcher and occasionally third.
- Left-hander Blaine Hardy has gone from being released by the Royals last year to a minor league flier for the Tigers to a leading candidate to join Detroit's bullpen this season, writes James Schmel of MLive.com. Hardy posted a 1.67 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 between Double-A and Triple-A last season, serving as both a starter and reliever. He's allowed one hit in five innings this spring, catching the eye of manager Brad Ausmus and establishing himself as one of the top candidates to fill a long reliever role at the big league level.
The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options. That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so. I've included players on multiyear deals. This list was compiled through MLBTR's sources. Next, we'll take a look at the AL Central.
Both Carrasco and Outman will be on the Indians' pitching staff, noted Tony Lastoria of FOX Sports Ohio on Monday. Carrasco is battling a few others for the fifth starter job, but if he doesn't earn it he'll go to the pen.
Hayes seems to be the favorite to back up Salvador Perez at catcher, as 24-year-old Francisco Pena can get more seasoning at Triple-A. Veteran Ramon Hernandez, signed to a minor league deal, is also in the mix for the Royals' backup catcher job.
Dyson is expected to make the team as the center field backup for Lorenzo Cain, wrote Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star last week. That leaves Maxwell and Peguero battling for the fifth outfield spot. Maxwell would seem to have a leg up, having played well upon joining the team in a trade last July. His right-handed bat might be of more use to the Royals, who avoided arbitration with Maxwell in a January agreement about a week before acquiring Peguero.
The Royals seem to have room for five infielders, and Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star wrote last week that Valencia is likely to make the team. That would leave the team without a reserve middle infielder behind Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar. If the Royals do surprise and find a way to include a reserve middle infielder, it would be a competition of Ciriaco, Christian Colon, and Johnny Giavotella.
Kelly is in good standing as a super-utility man. There appears to be one bullpen job up for grabs, with pitchers such as Luke Putkonen, Justin Miller, Blaine Hardy, and Casey Crosby (if healthy) among those battling with Reed. The Tigers claimed Reed off waivers from the Marlins about a year ago, and will probably need to put him in their bullpen to start the season to retain him.
Plouffe and Swarzak are locks to make the club. Plouffe figures to man third base on an everyday basis now that Miguel Sano is out for the season, and Swarzak was among the league's best swingmen in 2013.
Diamond, Deduno and Worley are in the mix for the fifth spot in the rotation, and each can make their case based on historical context. Diamond was the club's best starter in 2012, Deduno has outperformed him since, and Worley was a key component of the Ben Revere trade just one offseason ago before a disastrous 2013 dropped his stock. The trio also has deal with top prospect Kyle Gibson, who is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. Any of the three could end up in the bullpen, but at least one seems likely to go.
Presley has the inside track to make the club either as the Opening Day center fielder -- should Aaron Hicks struggle in Spring Training -- or as a fourth outfielder.
Escobar's versatility is appealing to the Twins, and his case for the Opening Day roster has been strengthened now that starter Pedro Florimon had his appendix removed two weeks ago. Florimon is fielding grounders pain-free as of yesterday, per MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger, but his Opening Day status is up in the air. Former Twin Jason Bartlett is in camp as a non-roster invitee and could serve as competition.
Parmelee is a former first-rounder that hasn't hit since a 2011 September call-up. The now-26-year-old demolished Triple-A pitching in 2012 but has batted just .228/.302/.364 over his past 543 PAs in the Majors. He didn't fare much better at Triple-A in 2013. With Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham at the outfield corners, Joe Mauer at first base and Jason Kubel likely to make the club as a DH/corner outfielder, Parmelee's best hope is to lock down a bench role. His experience at first base could give him an edge for that spot.
The Sox seem to only have one spot open for a third baseman at this time, though that could change if they trade an outfielder like Dayan Viciedo or Alejandro De Aza. As it stands, Gillaspie is competing for third base with Jeff Keppinger and rookie Matt Davidson. It would be sensible to start Davidson at Triple-A, and it's possible lingering effects of Keppinger's September shoulder surgery could cause him to start the year on the DL.
Boggs and Belisario seem locks for the bullpen after signing as free agents, though Belisario has yet to arrive in camp due to visa issues. A few of the team's relievers are dealing with nagging injuries, but if everyone is healthy and Belisario is in camp as Opening Day approaches, there would seem to be one spot for either Veal (a lefty) or Cleto. Veal is the favorite over Cleto, who joined the team in a waiver claim just last week.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
It's still relatively early on in Spring Training, but the White Sox have already begun getting calls on outfielders Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). The two are battling for the everyday job in left field, as it 2013 trade acquisitions Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia are likely to man center field and right field, respectively.
De Aza is the more established player of the two but also comes with less team control. Set to turn 30 in early April, De Aza has batted .279/.343/.420 in 357 games with the White Sox since being claimed off waivers from the Marlins in 2009. The lefty swinger belted a career-high 17 homers last season and has stolen 46 bases over the past two seasons. Ultimate Zone Rating pegs him as an average defender in the outfield, though Defensive Runs Saved feels he's somewhat below average. He has extensive experience in center field and also played 426 innings in left field for the Sox last season. De Aza is under team control for two more seasons and will earn $4.25MM in 2014.
Viciedo is the younger and more powerful of the two, but comes with question marks about his defense and on-base skills. Viciedo, who turns 25 on Monday, mashed 25 homers in his first full season with the Sox in 2012, posting a .255/.300/.444 triple-slash line. However, he wasn't able to match that power level in 2013, as he hit just 14 homers with a .265/.304/.426 slash line. UZR/150 pegs him at -5.5 over his career in left field, while DRS has him at -3. Both metrics agree that his glove worsened in 2013. As a Super Two player, he'll earn $2.8MM in 2014 and is controllable through the 2017 season.
De Aza would seem to be a natural fit with the Tigers, who recently learned that they'll be without Andy Dirks for roughly three months due to back surgery. His left-handed bat would pair well with Rajai Davis to form a left field platoon, which was supposed to be the role filled by Dirks. With an extra year of team control, he could potentially fill Torii Hunter's spot in 2015 if Hunter signs elsewhere and the Tigers don't find a suitable replacement on the free agent or trade market. Of course, this is all purely speculation on my part, and the White Sox and Tigers may prefer not to swing a trade within their own division. Other teams that could use an upgrade in the outfield include the Orioles, Mariners and Pirates, to name a few.
The Mariners sent a scout to watch David Phelps' recent Spring Training outing, George A. King III of the New York Post reports, while the White Sox and Brewers also had scouts on hand to watch the Yankees' catchers. King previously reported last week that the White Sox had their eyes on the Yankees' catching surplus and that the Yankees were scouting Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks.
With the Yankees known to be looking for infielders, King speculates that Nick Franklin could be a target for the club, especially since Seattle is known to be exploring trades for the young second baseman. The M's are looknig to upgrade their pitching depth thanks to injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, though as King notes, it would take more than just Phelps to acquire Franklin.
It would be somewhat surprising to see the Yankees move Phelps given the club's lack of starting pitching depth. Phelps is competing with Michael Pineda and Adam Warren to be New York's fifth starter, and since Pineda hasn't pitched in a Major League game since 2011 and Warren has only three career starts over his two MLB seasons, the Yankees would have to be confident in both pitchers' development to send Phelps elsewhere. Phelps' advanced metrics (3.81 FIP, 4.03 xFIP, 3.91 SIERA) indicate that he pitched much better last season than his 4.98 ERA over 86 2/3 IP would indicate.
The Yankees have Francisco Cervelli, J.R. Murphy and Austin Romine competing to be Brian McCann's backup, and all could fit into reserve roles in Chicago or Milwaukee. The Sox could offer more regular time, as their catching mix of Josh Phegley, Tyler Flowers, Hector Gimenez and Rule 5 Draft pick Adrian Nieto isn't at all settled.
With Jonathan Lucroy firmly locked into the starting job in Milwaukee, the Brewers are only looking for a backup. If Weeks is a target, it's only a matter of how much of his $11MM salary the Crew will agree to absorb (King also suggests Aramis Ramirez as a trade possibility, but I doubt the Brewers would think to trade him unless they struggle during the season and fall out of the race).