Chris Johnson Rumors

Notes On The Bourn/Swisher Trade

Here are a few notes on the Indians’ recent trade of Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and cash to the Braves for Chris Johnson.

  • From the Braves’ perspective, one key to the deal was the financial flexibility they’ll add as they open their new stadium in 2017, GM John Hart tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I think for us, a part of it was the flexibility we’re going to have going into ’17. That’s going to be extra dollars that we’re going to be able to have then,” says Hart. “And I think for Cleveland, even though they’re paying a significant piece to fill the large gap (in salaries), I think this gives them a little more flexibility to do some things in ’16.” Bourn and Swisher are both likely to become free agents after 2016 (both have options that are unlikely to vest), whereas Johnson doesn’t become a free agent until after the 2017 season.
  • The trade provides the Indians with “roster flexibility,” Bud Shaw writes for the Northeast Ohio Media Group. The Indians won’t have roster spots locked down for two players to whom they feel obligated to give chances. The Indians saved a bit of money in the deal too, Shaw notes, but not so much that it’s likely to make them big players in the free agent market this winter.
  • In a Q+A addressing a variety of questions about the Indians’ recent moves, the Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Paul Hoynes writes that the Indians’ trades are unlikely to make their attendance much worse. Hoynes notes that the Indians’ attendance to this point has been better than only that of the Rays, so it isn’t as if they can fall much further. It might also be worth noting that while the trades of Brandon Moss and David Murphy might hurt the Indians a bit in the short term, the departures of Bourn, Swisher and Marc Rzepczynski should have little negative on-field impact on the team. The Indians have retained most of their core players, like Corey Kluber, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Francisco Lindor and Cody Allen.

Braves Acquire Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn For Chris Johnson

SATURDAY: The Indians will send closer to $15MM, not $10MM, to the Braves, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince tweets. Swisher and Bourn are owed about $38MM combined for the remainder of their contracts, while Johnson is owed about $19.5MM, so it appears the Indians will save between $3MM and $4MM total on the deal.

FRIDAY: The Braves and Indians have announced a swap of three bad contracts that will send Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and cash considerations (reportedly about $10MM) to the Braves in exchange for third baseman Chris Johnson.

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Both Swisher and Bourn are in the third season of significant four-year pacts ($56MM and $48MM, respectively). Swisher is owed $15MM in 2016, whereas Bourn is owed $14MM next season. Both players have 2017 vesting options, but neither figures to accrue the necessary 550 plate appearances in 2016 to trigger the additional year.

Johnson’s contract calls for him to earn $19.5MM through the end of the 2017 season, so the roughly $10MM included by the Indians will balance out the money on the two contracts.

In this week’s MLBTR Newsletter, I examined the possibility of a Johnson-for-Bourn swap. This expanded iteration of the deal, in essence, boils down to a swap of bad contracts that will allow the Braves to free up some money in 2017 (when they reportedly plan to push for contention in their new stadium, SunTrust Park) and give Cleveland more immediate roster flexibility at the cost of paying some of the remaining salary up front.

Swisher, 34, underwent arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees last August in an effort to correct pain that had caused a rapid decline in his production at the plate. However, Swisher has followed up a .208/.278/.331 campaign in 2014 with a .198/.261/.297 batting line in 30 games this season. Inflammation in his left knee has again landed Swisher on the disabled list, though he was on a rehab assignment at the time of the deal. The Braves’ key motivation in making this deal is to move around some finances, but they’d undoubtedly be pleased if Swisher were able to return to anything resembling the form he showed in 2006-13, when he batted .257/.362/.464 and averaged 26 homers per season.

Though Swisher is on the disabled list, MLBTR has confirmed that players on the disabled list can be sent through revocable trade waivers if their minimum period of inactivity has passed and if they’re healthy and able to play at their accustomed level. Because Swisher has been on the 15-day for more than 15 days and is on a rehab assignment at Triple-A, he was eligible to go on waivers.

Bourn, 32, has seen a similar downturn in his production since signing in Cleveland, as he’s batted just .257/.315/.345 in 1388 plate appearances. Like Swisher, he’s been hampered by injuries, though his have primarily been of the hamstring variety. Bourn underwent surgery on his left hamstring in 2014 and has been sidelined by a strain in that same hamstring this season. The leg injuries have significantly slowed him down, as he’s swiped just 46 bases in 331 games with Cleveland after stealing 42 in his final season before free agency. (A season that he, coincidentally, spent with the Braves.)

As for Johnson, he signed a three-year, $23.5MM contract prior to the 2014 season. Then 29 years old, Johnson was coming off a career year in which he batted .321/.358/.457 with 12 homers. However, much of that production was the result of a .394 batting average on balls in play, and his overall numbers have come back down to Earth as his BABIP regressed to his career norm.

Over the past two seasons, Johnson has batted .257/.288/.352. He’ll probably get a fair chance at playing time in Cleveland, though, as Lonnie Chisenhall has been moved to the outfield after struggling again in 2015, and rookie Giovanny Urshela hasn’t hit much in his debut. Cleveland is lacking in MLB-ready options at the hot corner, so Johnson could find semi-regular at-bats and a chance at redemption. If nothing else, he’s proven to be a useful platoon bat over the course of his career; Johnson is a .313/.349/.439 hitter in 692 plate appearances versus lefties.

Yahoo’s Tim Brown first reported (via Twitter) that Swisher was about to head to Atlanta. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted that an agreement was in place. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that Bourn and cash considerations would round out the deal (Twitter links). Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweeted the financial details on the swap.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


NL East Notes: Mets, Wheeler, Bour, Capps, Braves

Mets GM Sandy Alderson and the Wilpon family (the team’s owners), who have drawn plenty of fan and media ire for payroll constraints and a lack of spending in recent years, deserve credit for acting like a big-market team at the trade deadline this year, opines Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The Wilpons didn’t merely pocket the extra money they could’ve saved from the insurance on David Wright‘s contract and the unexpected salary they recouped from Jenrry Mejia‘s suspension but authorized Alderson to spend $8.5MM to bring in Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson and Tyler Clippard. Alderson, too, deserves credit for his willingness to part with a very good prospect (Michael Fulmer) in an effort to win immediately, as well as his persistence in trade talks after the Carlos Gomez deal fell through, he continues. Sherman adds that Mets fans reminded ownership and the front office just how important those decisions were with a raucous crowd as the team swept the Nationals this weekend and created a dead heat in the NL East.

More on the Mets and their division…

  • Speaking to Newsday’s Marc Carig, Zack Wheeler elaborated on his reported phone call to Alderson in which he expressed a strong desire to remain with the Mets as opposed to going elsewhere via trade. “I told him I know it’s a business and he has a job to do, but I’d really like to be here because of what’s about to happen,” said Wheeler. “I’ve been here a couple of years and want to see it through.” Wheeler told Carig that while he knew such a tactic was uncommon, he felt it was the best way to communicate a desire to “stay and be part of this team’s winning future.” Alderson told Carig that in all of his years as an executive, he’d never seen a player make a call of this nature, and the move had “quite an impact.”
  • With Mike Morse now traded, the Marlins will give Justin Bour every opportunity to stick at first base, writes Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Hitting .254/.333/.445 with 10 homers in 234 plate appearances, the 27-year-old Bour is a rare example of a player selected in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft that will have a chance to make a significant impact on his new team’s organization. Miami picked up Bour in the minor league phase of the 2013 Rule 5 Draft.
  • Jackson adds that despite a number of rumors pertaining to fireballing setup man Carter Capps on Friday, the Marlins never came particularly close to trading him. President of baseball operations Michael Hill called Capps a “a championship-caliber piece under team control” when speaking to Jackson.
  • Braves veterans Jonny Gomes and A.J. Pierzynski find themselves in an unusual position, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. Each is a veteran on a cheap one-year deal that remained with his rebuilding team as opposed to being moved at the trade deadline. Gomes recognizes that he could still change teams in August but praised the work that president of baseball operations John Hart has done in restocking the farm and rebuilding the big league roster. Bowman writes that for now, the Braves’ hope is that both Pierzynski and Gomes spend another few weeks mentoring some of the team’s young talent. He also notes that at some point in the next couple of months, the Braves may simply have to cut bait on Chris Johnson and release him, but they’ll take the month of August to continue their longstanding effort to shed a portion of the remaining $20MM or so on his contract.


NL Notes: Tulo, Teheran, Braves, Reds, Niese

In an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM, Rockies GM Jeff Bridich said that he is “at least open to considering” a deal involving star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (Twitter link). Last we checked in, Tulowitzki said he was not interested in being dealt, and he is believed to have significant sway with club ownership over his status. All said, there remains little reason to believe at present that Tulo is a serious trade candidate.

We already touched upon a series of interesting rumors involving National League clubs earlier today, but here’s the latest out of the NL:

  • Despite recent chatter that the Braves could consider dealing starter Julio Teheran, the young righty is “not being shopped,” David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on Twitter. Given his cheap control, O’Brien says the team would need to be overwhelmed by an offer to consider such a move.
  • Indeed, the Braves are more likely to hold off on deciding whether to part with Teheran or outfielder Cameron Maybin, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. The more likely trade pieces for Atlanta, he suggests, are veterans on one-year deals such as reliever Jim Johnson, utilityman Kelly Johnson, and catcher A.J. Pierzynski. The Braves have been asked about outfielder Nick Markakis, who still has three years left on his free agent deal, but the team is not making him available. And while Juan Uribe could well be dealt, the club reportedly prefers to attempt to move Chris Johnson first.
  • An executive of a club with interest in adding a hitter says the Reds are giving the impression that they are looking to “save money” wherever possible, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. That seemingly speaks to the availability of outfielder Jay Bruce, who recent reports indicate is very much in play.
  • The Mets are still willing to deal Jon Niese, but are asking for a player with multiple years of control in return, Stark tweets. The southpaw has turned up his performance of late, racking up eight straight quality starts (at least 6 innings pitched, no more than 3 earned runs) since a run of rough outings to end the month of May. He is playing on a $7MM salary this year and represents a $9MM tab for 2016, but can be controlled thereafter through a pair of options ($10MM and $11MM, respectively, each with $500K buyouts). Given New York’s evident budgetary restrictions, it has seemed that moving Niese’s salary could be a way for the club to free resources to allocate to the struggling offense, but it’s not clear whether they’ll have much hope of pulling that off in a single transaction.

NL East Notes: C. Johnson, K. Johnson, Parra, deGrom, Prado

The Braves have been determined to deal away Chris Johnson for some time, and the third baseman tells MLB.com’s Mark Bowman that he hopes to find a new home. “I’ve been called in the manager’s office,” said Johnson. “[Manager Fredi Gonzalez] has told me they are trying to move me. I want to be moved, and they want to move me. Hopefully, something gets done.”While saying he’s enjoyed his time in Atlanta, Johnson emphasized that he is interested in receiving a better opportunity for playing time elsewhere. Obviously, the Braves are looking to shave off as much of Johnson’s contract as possible. Under the extension he signed early in the 2014 campaign, he is due roughly $19.99MM (including $2.52MM for this season and the buyout of a 2018 option).

A bit more on the Braves and their division…

  • Kelly Johnson has parlayed a minor league deal into a critical role on the Braves, writes David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Johnson credits first-year hitting coach Kevin Seitzer with helping him to shorten his swing and improve his overall approach at the plate. Of course, as a veteran on a one-year deal with a losing team, Johnson’s name may pop up over the next few days as a trade candidate; I listed him and three others Braves when looking at the trade market for third basemen earlier today.
  • The Mets continue to be intrigued by Brewers outfielder Gerardo Parra, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. They’re also looking at Justin Upton and Carlos Gomez, though multiple reporters (most recently Marc Carig of Newsday, who also reported interest in Parra late last week) have characterized that type of high profile acquisition as a long shot. Parra, Heyman notes, is drawing quite a bit of interest around the league.
  • Peter Gammons relays an anecdote from the 2012 trade deadline that could have vastly reshaped the current state of two franchises. When the Red Sox and Mets were discussing a trade for veteran catcher Kelly Shoppach, Boston initially asked about right-hander Jacob deGrom, who had recently undergone surgery. (deGrom was never projected to become the ace that he presently is, of course, and he had just undergone surgery.) However, after talking it over with his minor league evaluators, GM Sandy Alderson and the Mets passed. The two sides eventually lined up on a deal that sent right-hander Pedro Beato to Boston.
  • Marlins third baseman Martin Prado tells Zach Buchanan and Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic that he’s not concerned with the possibility that he could be traded for the third time in the past year. Prado says there’s no sense in thinking, “Oh my goodness, this is going to happen again,” and he’s instead focused on helping his teammates out. He’s candid when addressing the current state of the Marlins, however. “We’re in a pretty bad situation here,” says Prado. “I’m just trying to bring good energy for my teammates and my team. That’s all I can do right now.”

Heyman’s Latest: Dodgers/Hamels, Braves, Frazier, Price, Brewers, Upton

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports kicks off his weekly Inside Baseball column by reporting that the Dodgers have “quietly continued having dialogue with the Phillies” regarding Cole Hamels. The Dodgers are also giving serious consideration to the rental market and prioritizing Johnny Cueto over others among such targets. The Dodgers “appear determined” to land a top-of-the-rotation arm to pair with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, writes Heyman, but most executives think they’ll hold onto top prospects Corey Seager and Julio Urias. The Dodgers have a deep farm system beyond that pairing (righty Jose De Leon has recently been ranked a Top 25 prospect by Baseball America and ESPN), and one exec tells Heyman that the Phillies’ asking price on Hamels has become “more reasonable” recently. The Dodgers feel that Greinke is a lock to opt out of his contract at the end of the season, and while they could possibly re-sign him by adding a year or two to the deal and upping his $24.5MM AAV, Hamels would provide insurance should Greinke sign elsewhere. Jeff Samardzija is also a consideration for the Dodgers, but while they like him, they consider him more of a No. 2/3 starter and don’t love him.

Some more highlights from Heyman’s article, though the synopsis won’t cover everything within the piece, so I’d highly recommend reading it in its entirety…

  • The Braves will be deadline sellers, Heyman hears, with Jim Johnson, Juan Uribe and Cameron Maybin among the players that will be available to interested teams. Chris Johnson, too, continues to be available, but there are no takers for his contract, which Atlanta has aggressively tried to move in the past.
  • With the Reds expected to trade so many veterans to other clubs, many in the industry expect the team to make a run at extending Todd Frazier beyond his current two-year deal, Heyman writes. (Frazier has one more year of arbitration following his current pact.) Jeff Todd and I have discussed Frazier’s situation on the MLBTR Podcast in the past (and will do so again this afternoon), and I’ve personally taken the stance that given the significant commitments to Joey Votto and Homer Bailey, the Reds could have a difficult time affording Frazier, whose 2014-15 breakout has hugely inflated his price tag. Given the lack of impact bats on the trade market, Frazier would net a king’s ransom and could rapidly expedite the rebuilding process, though the PR hit of trading him with so much control and on the heels of a Home Run Derby victory would of course be significant.
  • In other Reds news, Heyman hears Mike Leake‘s ground-ball tendencies are appealing to AL East clubs, and he’s drawn interest from the Blue Jays, Orioles and Red Sox in addition to the Royals, Dodgers, Rangers, Cubs and Giants. Manny Parra and Marlon Byrd are both “likely to go” as well.
  • Asked about the possibility of signing with the Cubs this offseason due to his relationship with skipper Joe Maddon, Tigers ace David Price replied, “Wherever I play baseball next year it’s not going to be because of a manager.”
  • The Astros are interested in both Cueto and Leake, and Houston seems willing to deal from its glut of MLB-ready outfield prospects, including Domingo Santana and Preston Tucker. (Previous reports have indicated they’re reluctant to part with Brett Phillips, however, who may be the best among the outfield bunch.)
  • The Brewers are now showing a willingness to trade both Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura, Heyman hears. Though it was previously believed they were reluctant to move Segura, the emergence of Orlando Arcia (the younger brother of the Twins’ Oswaldo Arcia) may have changed Milwaukee’s thinking. However, Arcia himself is also drawing a huge amount of trade interest, and the Padres have called to express interest. One NL exec called him the best player he’s seen in the minors this year, while another comped him to Francisco Lindor, but said Arcia is better. Regarding Segura, Heyman hears that the Mets dislike his free-swinging approach.
  • The Twins aren’t closed off to the idea of re-acquiring Gomez from the Brewers, but their primary focus at this point is bullpen help.
  • The Mets are aiming high in their pursuit of an outfield bat and have both Gomez and Justin Upton on their radar. They’re not likely to add Aramis Ramirez from the Brewers unless they receive bad news on the prognosis of David Wright. They also have little interest in swinging a deal for Uribe.
  • Padres officials insist that they haven’t determined their course of action heading into the deadline, but Heyman writes that free-agents-to-be such as Upton, Ian Kennedy, Joaquin Benoit and Will Venable could be traded regardless. James Shields‘ backloaded contract limits his value, but one GM felt Benoit has “big value” and Heyman notes that Craig Kimbrel would be in huge demand as well, should the Padres try to recoup some value from that deal.
  • Cueto, Samardzija and Leake are atop the Blue Jays‘ wish list, and the team was also in talks with the Braves regarding Jason Grilli prior to his season-ending injury. A top starting pitcher is Toronto’s top priority at this point, says Heyman. He also adds that there’s no evidence to suggest that manager John Gibbons is on the hot seat.

NL East Notes: Hamels, Braves, Pierzynski, Rizzo

Assuming normal rest, Cole Hamels is scheduled to start for the Phillies on July 19, July 25 and July 31, Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes.  That July 31st start is a night game, so Hamels could be scratched if he’s dealt prior to the deadline earlier that afternoon (assuming he hasn’t already been traded before the 31st).  Here’s some more from Philadelphia and elsewhere around the NL East…

  • The Braves had discussed packaging Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson together in trade talks, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports, with the idea that two relievers would bring back a larger return from a bullpen-needy team. That plan was scuttled when Grilli suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon tear yesterday, though Johnson remains a trade candidate.
  • Bowman’s piece lists several possible trade chips on the Braves roster, including Johnson, Chris Johnson, Kelly Johnson, Cameron Maybin, Juan Uribe and A.J. Pierzynski.  In regards to Pierzynski, Bowman believes Atlanta will try to bring the catcher back in 2016 even if they do trade him this year.
  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo broadly discussed his team’s general deadline plans with reporters, including Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post.  The Nats lineup will be boosted by the returns of several stars from the DL, and while Janes feels Washington could use another relief arm, Rizzo praised the job done by current relievers like Aaron Barrett and Blake Treinen.
  • It’s only a matter of time before Aaron Nola is promoted to the majors, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury writes, and he believes the Phillies could call Nola up within “the next couple of weeks, possibly in tandem with a trade deadline move.”  This is just my speculation, but promoting Nola to fill Hamels’ roster spot would be a good the-future-is-now type of move.
  • Several scouts believe former Angels GM Jerry Dipoto would be a good fit as the Phillies‘ next general manager, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets.  Interestingly, Dipoto’s former assistant GM in Anaheim, Matt Klentak, has also been mentioned in connection to a job in the new Andy MacPhail-run Phillies front office.
  • In NL East news from earlier today, the Pirates have interest in Phillies outfielders Ben Revere and Jeff Francoeur.

AL Central Notes: Mondesi, Swisher, Johnson, Tigers

Raul Mondesi is the Royals‘ “most appealing asset for trade discussions,” rival evaluators tell Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star, though “the Royals have little interest in parting with him.”  Mondesi was a consensus top-40 prospect in preseason rankings from Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com, with BA listing him 28th before the year began and updating his status to 25th in their recent midseason rankings.  Despite a less-than-stellar showing at Double-A this season, the 19-year-old Mondesi has been discussed as a possible September call-up.  Here’s some more from around the AL Central…

  • Before Nick Swisher went on the DL, the Indians and Braves discussed a trade that would’ve sent Swisher to Atlanta in exchange for Chris Johnson, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links).  The Braves ended talks since Swisher is owed significantly more than Johnson (approximately $6.25MM to $2.5MM) over the remainder of the 2015 campaign.  Johnson is guaranteed $17.5MM over the 2016-17 seasons while Swisher is owed $15MM in 2016 and he has a $14MM vesting option for 2017.  The deal would’ve been an interesting case of clubs essentially swapping one disappointment for another, as both Swisher and Johnson have posted underwhelming numbers over the last two seasons.
  • Indians scouting director Brad Grant discusses his team’s top three draft picks (Brady Aiken, Triston McKenzie and Juan Hillman) with Fangraphs’ David Laurila, noting how the Tribe wasn’t shy to take a pitcher recovering from Tommy John surgery and two high school arms.
  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has a very impressive history at the trade deadline, as Tony Paul of the Detroit News lists nine deals that benefited the team over Dombrowski’s tenure.

Braves Still Shopping Chris Johnson

The Braves have continued to look for a trade partner for third baseman Chris Johnson, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports in a series of tweets.  In addition to deals for Johnson himself, Atlanta has also made proposals that would include Johnson along with another (more desirable) player, akin to how the Braves managed to get Melvin Upton Jr.‘s contract off their books by dealing him to the Padres with Craig Kimbrel in April.  The Braves tried a similar “packaging” tactic with Johnson himself in offseason trade talks.

Johnson is hitting .229/.272/.313 with one homer over 103 plate appearances this season, and he also missed about a month of action recovering from a hand fracture.  If struggling at the plate in 2014 and 2015 wasn’t enough to lower his trade value, Johnson is owed roughly $3MM more in salary this season and $17.5MM through the 2017 campaign.

The Giants were one of the clubs who at least discussed Johnson with the Braves last winter but Rosenthal reports that San Francisco doesn’t have any interest now.  Rookie Matt Duffy has quite capably stepped in at third base in the wake of Casey McGehee‘s struggles, and since both Duffy and Johnson are right-handed bats, there would be little avenue for Johnson to find playing time in the Bay Area even if he was being acquired largely as a throw-in.

Rosenthal speculates that a deal of Johnson and Cameron Maybin for Jake Peavy and Angel Pagan would balance out the salaries, though that exact package was never discussed between the two teams.  It’s also hard to imagine Peavy waiving his no-trade clause to go to a rebuilding team, though the Braves are just a few games back of the Giants in the standings.

Though Atlanta is still in the wild card hunt, the team has made such a push to acquire young talent under president of baseball operations John Hart that it’s hard to see the Braves being notable buyers at the trade deadline.  The Braves could perhaps tie Johnson to one of those newly-acquired prospects in order to get him off the roster — the “buy a prospect” strategy that Hart himself used to recently acquire Touki Toussaint and Bronson Arroyo‘s expiring contract from Arizona.  Maybin or closer Jason Grilli stand out as veterans who could be shopped and possibly linked along with Johnson in a trade.


Heyman’s Latest: Phillies, C. Johnson, Sellers, Harang, Rays

In his weekly Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports begins by taking a look at a messy situation in Philadelphia. Heyman hears the same rumblings that were first reported by CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury — that Andy MacPhail could very well be in line for an executive role with the Phillies. The hiring of MacPhail would bring into question the status of both GM Ruben Amaro and manager Ryne Sandberg. While one exec notes that no one could have had much success with the hand Sandberg has been dealt, his calm demeanor hasn’t motivated the team much, and he may have lost the clubhouse at this point. Heyman notes that partial owner John Middleton, who is believed by some to be calling the shots in Philly, may have extra impetus to get a new decision-maker in the door so that a lame-duck GM (Amaro’s contract expires at season’s end) isn’t the primary decision-maker on what could be a franchise-altering Cole Hamels trade. Speaking of Hamels, Heyman notes that interested teams will want to see him pitch at least twice now that he had a start pushed back due to a hamstring strain, thinning the window of opportunity to trade him. As far as Jonathan Papelbon goes, the belief is that he’d approve any trade that sent him to a contending team, though the Cubs might be his preferred fit at this point if he had a say in the matter.

Some more highlights from Heyman’s latest (though there’s more in the column than we can cover here)…

  • The Braves have tried to trade Chris Johnson and even offered to substantially pay down the remaining money on his contract, but there’s been little interest. The Johnson deal was widely questioned from the start, and there’s still about $21MM owed to Johnson through the end of the 2017 season. Johnson’s a viable weapon against lefties, but he’s a sub-par hitter against right-handed pitchers and is not well-regarded from a defensive standpoint.
  • Rival teams are beginning to wonder if the Red Sox might sell some pieces this summer, with Mike Napoli, Clay Buchholz and Koji Uehara among the possible names listed by Heyman. Napoli isn’t hitting for average but has shown good power and a nice walk rate. Buchholz has improved after a rocky start and Uehara again has strong numbers in the ‘pen.
  • The White Sox are beginning to think about selling, Heyman hears, but they’re not quite ready to move their bigger pieces. Emilio Bonifacio might be the first name they make available, but eventually, Jeff Samardzija‘s name could be out there. Heyman writes that while Samardzija isn’t pitching well in 2015, his big arm is so tantalizing to scouts that there will still be interest in him.
  • The Reds aren’t expected to sell until after the All-Star Game and would be very open to shedding Brandon Phillips‘ contract, per Heyman, though I have a difficult time envisioning too many teams lining up to take on the remainder of that deal. Phillips is owed about $34.1MM through the end of the 2017 season and has seen his power more or less vanish. Heyman speculates that Everth Cabrera could be a fit in Cincinnati with Zack Cozart out for the year, and there’s some logic to that scenario, though they may first prefer to see what they have in Eugenio Suarez. The Mets aren’t interested in Cabrera, he adds later.
  • The Marlins aren’t selling yet, according to GM-turned-manager Dan Jennings. “We’re in it, we’re not jumping off the ship. No doubt about that,” Jennings told Heyman. If their attitude changes, Heyman thinks they’ll find interest in Martin Prado and Mike Dunn.
  • The Astros like Aaron Harang but are said to be aiming higher when looking at potential trade targets to bolster their rotation.
  • The Dodgers are on the hunt for a top-tier starting pitcher and a late-inning arm to help bridge the gap to Kenley Jansen. In other Dodgers-related news, Heyman hears that No. 35 pick Kyle Funkhouser is strongly considering returning to Louisville. Funkhouser was once looked at as a potential Top 10 pick, but he fell to a slot with a $1.756MM value. He’d have less leverage in 2016 as a senior sign, of course, but he could certainly improve his draft stock and his bonus with a big senior year.
  • Yankees chief international officer/executive vice president Felix Lopez is no longer listed on the team’s web site and some indicate that he’s been gone from the organization for three months, Heyman writes. Lopez was said to have angered Yoan Moncada‘s camp after calling to express displeasure with their decision to sign in Boston over New York. The team hasn’t made a statement on his departure.
  • The Rays are looking for first base help with James Loney on the disabled list, but Loney’s said to be returning around the All-Star break. Heyman speculates on the possibility of Ryan Howard ending up in Tampa Bay if the Phillies eat some or all of the contract, but I’d think there’d be something of a logjam there once Loney is activated in that scenario.