Chris Sale Rumors

White Sox Listening To Trade Offers; Samardzija Most Likely Candidate

The White Sox have entered “listening” mode following a series loss to the Royals this weekend, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). The Sox, however, will not tear down their club simply because of a poor 2015 season and will not trade Chris Sale, he hears. Chicago views 2015 as the first of a potential three-year window and, as such, is not likely to trade long-term assets. Jeff Samardzija is the most likely candidate to go due to his status as the team’s most notable free agent, according to Rosenthal.

Samardzija, 30, was acquired from the A’s this winter in exchange for Marcus Semien, Josh Phegley, Chris Bassitt and Rangel Ravelo. He’s earning $9.8MM this season — of which about $4.12MM is still owed to him — and will be a free agent following the 2015 campaign.

The Sox acquired Samardzija with the hope that he’d be a co-ace atop their rotation alongside Sale, but the bottom line results have been something less than that. Through 132 1/3 innings this year, Samardzija has a 4.08 ERA with 7.1 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and a 40.2 percent ground-ball rate. Certainly, he hasn’t been helped at all by the Chicago defense, which ranks as one of the worst in Major League Baseball, but that’s not the sole reason for his decline, either. Samardzija’s strikeout rate is easily the lowest of his career since becoming a full-time starter, and his ground-ball rate is a career-low as well. The reasoning behind the drop in strikeouts, though, might not be as clear as one would imagine. Samardzija’s velocity has not significantly declined, nor has his swinging-strike rate, and he’s getting ahead of hitters with a first-pitch strike at nearly a 65 percent clip.

Rosenthal also notes that it’s possible for the White Sox to add some pieces. He doesn’t specify the nature of the types of players they’d add, but presumably, given the mention of a three-year window, they’d be interested in acquiring players that can help them as soon as 2016-17. That could mean they’d look at doing something similar to the Red Sox’ 2014 approach of trading Jon Lester for Yoenis Cespedes. It could also mean that the Sox would prioritize MLB-ready assets over a higher-upside prospect that is further away from the Majors.

The White Sox do have a number of long-term pieces in place. The Sox control Sale, Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia through the 2019 season, while Jose Quintana can be controlled through 2020, while Adam Eaton and Carlos Rodon can be controlled through 2021.

Looking around the rest of their roster, a few more incremental moves could potentially be made. Gordon Beckham, Emilio Bonifacio and Geovany Soto are all on one-year deals, and Alexei Ramirez‘s option is almost certain to be declined at the end of the year. Adam LaRoche is under contract for 2016, though I’d imagine they’re at least open to moving the remainder of his contract following his diminished production in 2015.


White Sox Won’t Dismantle At Deadline

With a few weeks to go until the trade deadline, little is certain about what the White Sox will do.  Jeff Samardzija has a litany of possible suitors, but he and other trade chips could wind up staying put depending on how the Sox fare in the coming days.  No matter what happens, however, White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams told Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports that the team won’t be holding a fire sale.

It’s important that we not lose sight of what our organization goal was, and that was to give us the best three-year window. And we’re not going to abandon that completely with only three months to play,” Williams said.  “I think [Rick Hahn’s] done one hell of a job. Everyone wants to put the blame on [manager] Robin [Ventura], too, but all he can do is put the players in position to succeed. They’re the ones who have to look in the mirror and execute. If we do anything, it will be consistent with trying to maximize this three-year plan or window that we set out originally.”

After today’s loss to the Orioles, Chicago owns a 36-43 record and sits last in the AL Central, 10 games back of the first-place Royals and 5.5 games behind the last wild card spot.  It’s not an ideal spot by any stretch, yet given the crowded American League standings, the White Sox are just be a hot week or two away from being right back in the hunt.

While it may be a bit too early to start selling yet, Williams said he’s open to at least hearing any trade proposal.  Teams can even pitch trades for ace Chris Sale, but it’s extremely unlikely that anything will happen on that front.

We’ve always had that mind-set that we will listen to anyone who wants to make an offer for our players,” Williams said. “How else do you know what the value is? Something may bowl you over. But we can’t envision anything happening along those lines.”

While Sale is locked up on a team-friendly deal that could run through the 2019 season, Samardzija is a different story, as he’s set to hit free agency this winter.  Nightengale mentions that “every club with an urgent pitching need” has expressed an interest in Samardzija, and that the Blue Jays in particular have “strongly pursued” the righty.

If Samardzija signed an extension to remain on the south side, that would obviously change things.  “We just have to get some sort of indication it’s possible or not to sign him. We have to also see if it’s realistic given our resources and the other obligations we have,” Williams said.

That said, a midseason deal seems very unlikely with Samardzija so close to the open market.  While he stressed that “by no means does it take the White Sox off my list” if he hits free agency, Samardzija seemed eager to take control over his playing future.

I worked hard to get to this spot in free agency.  I just want to sign with a team that is competing every September with a chance to be playing in October,” Samardzija said.  “Look, I don’t hold bad blood or grudges against anybody. I understand how the business side works. Front offices have to do what they have to do. But I also need to protect myself and make sure I’m in a situation where I can win for a long time.”


White Sox Sign Carson Fulmer

The White Sox announced today that they have signed first-round pick Carson Fulmer to a minor league contract with a $3,470,600 signing bonus. The announced bonus matches the full slot value of Fulmer’s No. 8 overall selection (slot value via Baseball America). A right-handed pitcher out of Vanderbilt, Fulmer was advised by and is now a client of Icon Sports Management.

Carson Fulmer

Fulmer was one of the most interesting available players heading into the draft, with big-time stuff and a track record of excellence in major college ball, but also questions about whether he’ll be a big league starter in the long run. Having dominated the SEC with a 1.83 ERA and 13.1 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9, and featuring a sustainable, mid-90s heater with a very good curve and promising change, Fulmer is about as MLB-ready as drafted players come.

So what’s the downside? To an extent, it comes down to how you value near-term contributions versus long-term expectations, as Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs explained before the draft. Those prospect observers that attributed significant value to his near-big league readiness rated Fulmer as a top-ten prospect (McDaniel had him fifth, MLB.com ranked him 3rd, and Baseball America placed him sixth on its list).

But others, concerned with Fulmer’s high-effort delivery, relatively small stature, and lack of a consistent third pitch, put more weight on the idea that he has too great a chance of being relegated tot he pen in the long run. Keith Law of ESPN.com fell in the latter camp, placing Fulmer way down in the 43rd spot on his board.

Chicago, obviously, decided that Fulmer’s risky (but still high-ceiling) future outlook was worth taking on in order to add such an immediately impactful arm. With Fulmer now set to join an increasingly impressive stable of controllable starters — led by Chris Sale but also including Jose Quintana and last year’s third overall pick, Carlos Rodon — the White Sox rotation has quite a bit o potential. The team has now signed all of its choices from the first ten rounds.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Quick Hits: Castellini, Aiken, Rays, Brewers

Unless someone blows the Reds away with an offer, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer could see them rolling the dice, effectively staying pat, and hoping for a second-half turnaround.  There are people in the organization willing to blow it all up, but Fay writes that owner Bob Castellini is an optimist.  Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Aroldis Chapman could yield great returns for the Reds, but their owner might not be ready to call it quits on 2015.  The Reds are 32-36 following today’s 5-2 win over the Marlins.

  • Since signing Brady Aiken, the Indians have kept the size of his bonus “on top-secret lockdown for some reason,” MLB.com’s Jim Callis writes (all Twitter links).  Callis predicts that Aiken will receive the “max of what [the] Indians can pay without crossing 105% pool threshold,” so roughly a bonus of $2.7 to $2.75MM, which would top his slot value as the 17th overall pick by over $300K.  Aiken’s bonus has been the source of speculation given how he was both the first player taken in 2014 and a recent Tommy John patient.  As Jason Lukehart of the Let’s Go Tribe blog recently noted, Cleveland has saved a lot of money in their draft pool to go significantly over slot to sign Aiken and 42nd overall pick Triston McKenzie.
  • The Rays have long been able to deliver winning teams on small payrolls, yet Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times observes that the 2015 season may be the club’s most impressive feat yet.  The Rays are in first place in the AL East despite paying almost $36MM of their $72MM Opening Day payroll to players who are either on the DL, in the minors or no longer with the organization.
  • It will be tough for the Brewers to receive good prospect value back on the trade market since so many of their high-priced veterans are struggling, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes.  Dealing controllable pieces like Jonathan Lucroy, Wily Peralta or Jimmy Nelson wouldn’t make sense, so Haudricourt thinks Carlos Gomez or Jean Segura would have to be the ones to go in order for Milwaukee to get some quality minor league talent.
  • Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson have become big parts of the Yankees bullpen, though Joel Sherman of the New York Post notes that the Bombers paid a surprisingly hefty price.  Ex-top prospect Manny Banuelos (dealt for Shreve and the released David Carpenter) is pitching well for the Braves’ Triple-A team while Francisco Cervelli (traded for Wilson) has emerged as a huge help behind the plate for the Pirates.
  • While the chances of the White Sox trading Chris Sale are remote, ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider-only piece) opines that the Sox should at least consider dealing Sale since the return would be so enormous for a 26-year-old ace who is controllable through 2019 on a team-friendly contract.  White Sox sources told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that the club isn’t making Sale available, which is understandable, though Olney is right in noting that Sale would instantly become the biggest trade chip on the market.

Cafardo On Sale, Ramirez, Uehara, Papelbon

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe suggests ten steps to help fix the Red Sox.  The first item on the list is one that has been discussed quite a bit – Boston’s need for a true ace in the rotation.  Beyond that, Cafardo would like to see the Sox trade Clay Buchholz, focus on acquiring players who can thrive in their environment, and hire an executive to oversee and question the moves of GM Ben Cherington.   Here’s a look at some of the highlights from Cafardo’s Sunday offering..

  • White Sox left-hander Chris Sale is on a strikeout tear and teams would surely like to add him this summer.  However, team sources tell Cafardo that Sale is not available.  Even though the White Sox are in last place, they see him as the cornerstone of their franchise.  Sale, 26, has a 2.74 ERA with 12.1 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 through 13 starts this season.
  • There have been conflicting reports on the subject, but Cafardo hears that the Mets have made inquiries on Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez.  Ramirez, who turns 37 this week, has hit just .220/.256/.405 in 211 plate appearances this season.  However, some feel that a move to a contending club could get him back on track.  Cafardo also writes that it wouldn’t be surprising if the Giants or Padres got in the mix on the veteran.
  • Teams are watching Red Sox closer Koji Uehara and monitoring him to make sure that he’s free of serious injury concerns.  At the same time, his $9MM salary for next season is a deterrent for rival teams.   “There’s always going to be a holding of your breath to commit to him, but he’s still very good. Boston would have to pick up some of the salary. But I think teams will definitely inquire and make a push for him,” one AL evaluator told Cafardo.
  • Jonathan Papelbon would seem to be a great fit for the the Blue Jays, but money continues to be an issue for Toronto.  The Phillies could probably assume a lot of Papelbon’s deal for this year and some of the $13MM vesting option for 2016, but the sense is that Toronto wants to go even cheaper.  Also, they don’t want to give up youngster Daniel Norris to find their late-inning solution.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Redmond, Cubs, Harvey, O’s, White Sox

It would be foolhardy for the Marlins to fire manager Mike Redmond this early in the season, opines FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal in his latest notes column. Redmond is well-respected among the industry, Rosenthal notes, and he cannot be blamed for the fact that Henderson Alvarez is injured and Mat Latos has struggled so greatly. (Latos’ diminished velocity is likely a significant culprit in that regard.) Rosenthal writes that owner Jeffrey Loria needs to realize that the unstable culture he creates by cycling through managers so willingly is part of the problem in Miami.

A few more notes from Rosenthal’s latest column…

  • In the video atop his column, Rosenthal notes that Cubs top prospect Addison Russell has begun playing some second base and may eventually get a look there in the Majors. However, because he is their best defensive shortstop, Russell may eventually push Starlin Castro to third base and Kris Bryant to the outfield, or his arrival may lead to a trade of Castro.
  • Rosenthal writes about former Mets GM Omar Minaya’s decision to draft Matt Harvey with the seventh pick in the 2010 draft. The team had been deciding between Harvey and Chris Sale, but the Mets, like many other clubs, had some reservations about whether or not Sale would last as a starter. Minaya became convinced of Harvey after watching him in an April start at the University of Miami, though as Rosenthal notes, others in the front office/scouting department, including Marlin McPhail, Rudy Terrasas and Bryan Lambe all played large roles as well. Interestingly, Rosenthal adds that the White Sox were thrilled to get Chris Sale at No. 13, as they feared the Royals would select him fifth overall. Kansas City instead selected Cal State Fulelrton infielder Christian Colon.
  • Delmon Young told the Orioles that he wanted to regain some of his lost athleticism, and so the team had him work extensively with outfielder-turned-executive Brady Anderson in Spring Training. Young was the first to the clubhouse every day during Spring Training and is now has the fastest 10-yard dash time on the Orioles, per manager Buck Showalter. Rosenthal also notes that Everth Cabrera told the O’s that he knew advanced metrics pegged him as a below-average defender, and he expressed an interest in improving in that area. Baltimore is working with Cabrera to correct a tendency to retreat with his hands and “baby” the ball, as Rosenthal put it.
  • The White Sox weren’t as successful in upgrading their catching position as they’d have liked, but for the time being, they’re content with Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto. Rosenthal notes that while Welington Castillo is widely believed to be available, the Sox and Cubs rarely make trades.

Central Notes: Sale, Cubs, Floyd

The White Sox have announced that star pitcher Chris Sale has suffered an avulsion fracture in his right foot, sustained Friday in an accident at his home. (GM Rick Hahn says Sale sustained the injury while unloading his truck, according to CSNChicago.com’s Dan Hayes on Twitter.) Sale is expected to be out three weeks. That means he should return to pitching before the start of the season, although it remains to be seen how the timing of the injury will affect his preparations. The White Sox say they’ll evaluate whether Sale will be ready for Opening Day once he undergoes more tests. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.

  • Most of the Cubs‘ top picks from their 2010 draft haven’t panned out, but the team could still get good value from several of their later-round picks, including Matt Szczur, Dallas Beeler and Eric Jokisch, the Associated Press writes. “I was the first one out of the draft class to be called up, and everyone seemed to follow after that,” says Beeler. “I felt like I got the ball rolling for everybody on that. That was a good feeling.” Beeler and Jokisch got good results in their first exposure to the big leagues last season, although neither are likely to make the team out of Spring Training after the Cubs added pitching talent this offseason.
  • Pitcher Gavin Floyd says he signed with the Indians in part because he felt manager Terry Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway could help him, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. Also, Floyd liked the Indians’ chances of winning and welcomed a return to the AL Central, with which he became familiar as a member of the White Sox from 2007-2013. Floyd has also been limited the past two years due to arm injuries, and the Indians have a fairly good track record of getting the most from bounce-back pitchers like Scott Kazmir and Carl Pavano. After missing much of the 2014 season with a broken bone in his elbow, Floyd has been pitching off a mound in Spring Training.

Cafardo’s Latest: Cespedes, Sale, Samardzija, Castro

Here are the highlights of the latest rumors column from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe:

  • The Red Sox don’t “hateYoenis Cespedes, despite a previous report that indicated otherwise. But Cafardo suggests Cespedes didn’t do enough work on his defense after arriving in Boston, and his offense wasn’t enough to compensate for it. Cespedes has only one year left on his contract, but it’s not clear whether, or when, the Red Sox will deal him.
  • Cafardo says he got “a minute of straight laughter” when he asked if the White Sox might trade Chris Sale.
  • The Red Sox and Athletics could discuss a Jeff Samardzija trade. Cafardo speculates Red Sox shortstop prospect Deven Marrero could be a potential piece, given that the A’s appear to be about to lose Jed Lowrie (to free agency) and already lost Addison Russell (when they traded for Samardzija in the first place).
  • Now that they’ve acquired Hank Conger, the Astros could listen to offers for fellow catcher Jason Castro. Castro hit just .222/.286/.386 in a disappointing offensive season in 2014. He has two years remaining before free agency.

White Sox Notes: Payroll, Second Base, Montas

Here’s the latest from the South Side of Chicago…

  • Jose Abreu, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana will combine for (at most) $16.445MM in salary in 2015, a huge bargain for three star players that has left the White Sox with plenty of payroll space, CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes writes.  Quintana and Sale’s contracts, in particular, looks like very shrewd investments for the Sox at this point.  Sale, for his part, has no regrets about signing his extension in March 2013 since it allows the team to acquire more talent.  “With them being able to do that and have pieces of the puzzle and still a little money in the bank, they can kind of assemble guys around us to do the same things,” Sale said.
  • Marcus Semien, Carlos Sanchez and Micah Johnson will be competing for second base job in the spring, and ESPN’s Doug Padilla doubts all three players will still be with the team by Opening Day.  Padilla figures one of the trio could be dealt for a reliever, or could be part of a package in a larger trade.
  • In a look at notable Arizona Fall League prospects, ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider subscription required) praised White Sox righty Francellis Montas, who joined the organization as part of the Jake Peavy trade in July 2013.  Montas, 21, posted a 1.44 ERA, 8.9 K/9 and 3.64 K/BB rate over a combined 81 innings at rookie ball, high-A ball and Double-A in 2014, and Law said Montas’ fastball touched 102 mph in a recent instructional league game.
  • Law also had good things to say about the White Sox farm system in general, saying this is the strongest Chicago’s system has been in the six years he’s been working for ESPN.  Law hinted that four White Sox minor leaguers are slated for his next top-100 prospect list.

Central Links: Alcantara, Bailey, Worley, Masterson, Sox

Originally recalled for a two-day period with Darwin Barney on paternity leave, Cubs second baseman Arismendy Alcantara has been informed that he will be with the team at least through the All-Star break, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Alcantara, who ranked 33rd on Baseball America’s midseason list of the game’s Top 50 prospects, says he was surprised by the news. Manager Rick Renteria offered praise for the 22-year-old, who collected his first four Major League hits in today’s contest.

Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Reds right-hander Homer Bailey left today’s game after five innings due to a slight strain in his right knee, but he won’t see his name added to the list of significant injuries that have stricken contending teams today. The Reds have announced that he is expected to make his next start.
  • Twins GM Terry Ryan tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he’s glad to see Vance Worley performing well with the Pirates, though he did imply that it’s too early to say that the Twins gave up on Worley too soon: “Give him a little time to see what he does over the course of starts. We’ll talk about that in October. See how it goes. I know he’s done well.”
  • The Indians are hopeful that Justin Masterson‘s two weeks on the disabled list will not only give him a chance to heal, but to help him get his mechanics back in line, reports MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway feels that Masterson’s knee has affected the way he’s been able to land during his delivery, which would explain the sharp decrease in velocity Masterson has seen this year.
  • White Sox GM Rick Hahn would need to receive an offer that knocks his cell phone out of his hands in order to trade Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Avisail Garcia or Jose Abreu, writes Scott Merkin of MLB.com. However, Hahn notes that oftentimes, a trade will come together when a rival club’s initial inquiry is on a player that is unavailable, as it leads to the suggestion of alternative options.