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Christian Bethancourt Rumors
ESPN’s Jayson Stark took a look at the Cole Hamels trade market and spoke to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. about the possibility of trading the ace. Amaro took a familiar stance, stating that he’s not under any pressure to move Hamels, whom he rightly deemed one of baseball’s best starters. Rival execs tell Stark that Amaro is still asking for two premium prospects plus another piece or two in addition to the acquiring club taking on Hamels’ entire contract. As Stark notes, it’s unfortunate that a rebuilding club’s best chip is an ace in an offseason where free agency and the trade market are both pitching-rich. With next season shaping up to be a buyer’s market for pitching as well, Stark wonders if July will be the best time for Amaro to move Hamels, as few aces are ever available at the deadline. Multiple clubs have told Stark that Amaro is holding out for “the deal of the century,” as Stark terms it.
Two items of particular note from Stark are that the Blue Jays are said to have very strong interest in Hamels and that reports of Hamels’ no-trade clause are not entirely accurate. Hamels can indeed block trades to eight clubs, but previous reports listed the Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals, Nats, Braves, Padres, Yankees and Rangers as teams to which Hamels cannot veto a deal. Stark hears that list is outdated, and at least one club has been changed since season’s end.
Some other late-night NL East notes…
- Reports have indicated that the Marlins are serious about adding pieces to contend in 2015 this offseason, and while the focus has been more on bats for the lineup, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Fish have reached out to the Tigers to inquire on David Price and Rick Porcello. Talks aren’t serious at this time, he adds, but the fact that the Marlins are even kicking the tires on a pair of high-priced arms (Price and Porcello project to earn $18.9MM and $12.2MM next year, respectively) suggests that they’re willing to take on some significant payroll.
- The Braves are interested in a reunion with backstop David Ross, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien reported yesterday (Twitter link). Ross spent four seasons as Brian McCann‘s backup in Atlanta from 2009-12, enjoying some of the most productive seasons of his career as a Brave. He could serve as an excellent mentor to Christian Bethancourt, who figures to take the reins as Atlanta’s everyday catcher with Evan Gattis moving to the outfield full time.
- MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports another potential catching target for the Braves, tweeting that they have interest in A.J. Pierzynski. The soon-to-be 38-year-old Pierzynski has never had Ross’ defensive chops, though he’d give the Braves a left-handed bat to insert in the lineup when they prefer to rest Bethancourt against tough right-handers.
- The Mets are interested in lefty reliever Craig Breslow, tweets Morosi. The Mets are thin on left-handed relief, and Breslow should represent a low-cost option. The 34-year-old picked a poor time to have a career-worst season, pitching to a 5.96 ERA this past season in a contract year. However, he entered the 2014 campaign with a career 2.82 ERA in 402 innings. Breslow doesn’t dominate lefties the way many specialists do (.671 OPS), but he’s also more effective against right-handed hitters than a number of his southpaw brethren (.680 OPS).
Who will catch for the Braves in 2015? It’s liable to be a question of interest all offseason long as several roster moves could depend on the outcome. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explores the conundrum. We’ve previously seen speculation that the Braves will deal Evan Gattis to an AL club so defense-first prospect Christian Bethancourt can start. Alternatively, the club could deal an outfielder and move Gattis to left field. While there are a lot moving parts to consider, it’s hard to ignore both Jason Heyward and Justin Upton are set to become free agents following the season and will be expensive to re-sign. Meanwhile, Gattis will earn around $600k next season and is club controlled through 2018.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. cited changes in Jerome Williams‘ approach and rotation depth as reasons for yesterday’s contract extension, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Depth is certainly an issue for the Phillies rotation. Cliff Lee ended the season on the disabled list, Kyle Kendrick is a free agent, and only Cole Hamels and David Buchanan finished the season healthy. Another possible factor, A.J. Burnett, is weighing a mutual option. When asked about Burnett, Amaro said, “my inclination is that he’s going to want to pitch. He’s a competitive guy.”
- Yasmany Tomas makes a lot of sense for a number of teams, but insiders are pointing to the Phillies as the current front runners, according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Martino spoke with a rival executive who noted the Phillies have the money to reach a deal with Tomas – which could possibly reach nine figures. More to the point, they have a thin farm system and a desire to turn around quickly. That could make the Cuban market more attractive for the club. Another source said to Martino, “don’t count out the Tigers.”
The Yankees have a mess on their hands as they look to assemble their 2015 roster and the presence of Alex Rodriguez complicates matters, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The Bombers hope that A-Rod can contribute at third at least on a part-time basis and serve as a solid DH option. If he can do neither, they’re unlikely to cut him due to his three-year, $61MM deal. Not only would it look bad for ownership, but A-Rod needs to fully show he can’t play if there is any chance of recouping some of that money through insurance. More from the AL and NL East..
- If the Dodgers come calling for Rays GM Andrew Friedman, the opportunity will have appeal, but it’s not a given that he’d go, as Roger Mooney of The Tampa Tribune writes. Friedman enjoys the challenge of competing with the Yankees and Red Sox with fewer resources and is loyal to Tampa Bay owner Stuart Sternberg. By the same token, the challenge may not motivate him the same way forever.
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times agrees that Friedman has a comfortable situation with the Rays. When considering his relationships with Sternberg, team president Matt Silverman, and manager Joe Maddon, Friedman has something in Tampa Bay that few other decision makers enjoy.
- Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider looks at the Nationals‘ second base options for 2015. If the Nationals wants to stick with what they know, they can re-sign Asdrubal Cabrera or give Danny Espinosa another shot at earning the job. Otherwise, they’ll have to go out of house. The free agent market is rather thin at the position, especially if the Rays pick up Ben Zobrist‘s $7.5MM option. However, teams like the Rangers, Diamondbacks, and Cubs are deep with middle infielders and could be potential trade partners.
- The time is now for the next wave of the Braves‘ homegrown talent like Christian Bethancourt and pitchers Alex Wood, Shae Simmons, and Chasen Shreve to step up and become bigger contributors in 2015, opines Bill Ballew of Baseball America (subscription required).
MLBTR’s thoughts and best wishes are with Giancarlo Stanton as he recovers from a frightening incident in which he was struck in the face by a fastball from Brewers right-hander Mike Fiers last night. Stanton has been diagnosed with a laceration and facial fractures, and appears to be done for the season, though the Marlins have said that surgery likely won’t be required. The NL MVP candidate tweeted this morning a heartfelt thanks to baseball fans for the support he has received and, more importantly, announced that he is feeling much better. As Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets, Stanton is still eyeing a comeback this season, which would be a remarkable return.
As we all wish Stanton a speedy recovery, here’s more on the Marlins’ franchise player and the rest of the NL East…
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs examines what a potential Giancarlo Stanton extension would look like for the Marlins, exploring two different options. Firstly, Cameron outlines a shorter extension that buys out his prime years (ages 27-32) but leaves him a chance at one more significant free agent deal. His second hypothesis is for a Joey Votto-style extension that buys out 10 free agent years on top of his remaining two arbitration years (which Cameron pegs at $30-35MM). Based on WAR/$ and factoring in for some slight inflation, Cameron pegs the shorter deal at $240MM over eight years, though he notes that Stanton would likely feel the need to top Miguel Cabrera‘s $248MM guarantee. The 10-year extension could fetch a $270MM guarantee, which, when paired with the remaining $30-35MM would amount to a 12-year deal worth $300MM+, in Cameron’s estimation.
- While he’s tired of hearing that Daniel Murphy is “more valuable to the Mets than to other clubs,” Matthew Cerrone of SNY’s MetsBlog is beginning to believe it’s true after speaking with six talent evaluators from other clubs. Four officials told him that Murphy would likely be viewed as a super-utility option, while one said that he could see a contending team making a push for him, but more as a secondary option than a primary target. Ultimately, with Dilson Herrera still just 20 years old, Cerrone feels that an extension is probably the best course of action for the Mets. I examined a potential Murphy extension earlier this summer, theorizing that a four-year deal in the $45-48MM range might make sense.
- MLB.com’s Mark Bowman has previously examined the possibility of an Evan Gattis trade to clear room for Christian Bethancourt to serve as the team’s everyday catcher, and he recently got the opinion of several Braves players and coaches on the possibility of Bethancourt starting in the future. Gerald Laird called Bethancourt “the catcher of the future” noting that while it’s understandable to want to keep Gattis’ bat in the lineup, “you can’t sit this kid.” Freddie Freeman praised Bethancourt’s improving approach, while hitting coach Greg Walker and manager Fredi Gonzalez both gave him rave reviews as well. Of course, with the lineup struggling to score as it is, the Braves may want to keep Gattis and place him in the outfield rather than dangle him on the trade market.
We’re still six weeks or so away from the non-waiver trade deadline, but trade discussions are beginning to pick up around the league. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Braves are already receiving interest in their starting pitchers. While the Braves certainly aren’t sellers, they can afford to move Gavin Floyd or Aaron Harang due to the presence of Alex Wood in the minor leagues, Morosi points out. Many clubs have been linked to pitching on the trade market, including the Blue Jays, Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Red Sox, Giants and A’s. Some have also speculated that the Pirates will make a move for a starter after Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano both hit the disabled list.
Here’s more on the NL East’s division leaders…
- Mark Bowman of MLB.com writes that the Braves have had internal discussions about moving Evan Gattis to left field and promoting Christian Bethancourt to serve as the everyday catcher. In that scenario, Justin Upton would shift to right field, Jason Heyward would slide over to center field and B.J. Upton would fall into a reserve role. As Bowman notes, Bethancourt has hit very well over the past month for Triple-A Gwinnett, and there’s never really been any concern over his defensive skills, which are very highly regarded.
- David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, however, hears a different story entirely. O’Brien writes that multiple sources within the organization have told him there hasn’t been any discussion of moving Gattis to the outfield, as he’s more valuable behind the plate. A move to the outfield, where he isn’t comfortable playing (according to O’Brien) would weaken the outfield defense and diminish Gattis’ value. O’Brien goes on to write that the Braves may consider making the switch if they feel they have no choice in a pennant race, but for the time being, a switch isn’t likely.
- There’s simply no sense in the Braves’ decision to keep Dan Uggla on the roster at this point, ESPN’s Buster Olney opined over the weekend (Twitter link). The current situation helps neither the team nor the player, and both sides would benefit from Uggla being waived, Olney continues.
Here's the latest on the Braves from David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution…
- The Braves could move Dan Uggla if they can find a team willing to pay roughly a quarter of the $26MM remaining owed to the second baseman over the next two seasons Tyler Pastornicky, Tommy La Stella and Ramiro Pena would all compete for the 2B job in Spring Training, though I'd guess the Braves would want to bring in a more established second baseman.
- The Braves offered Tim Hudson a one-year deal that, even with incentives, was worth less than the $9MM than he earned in each of the previous four seasons. They never considered making Hudson a qualifying offer since the $14.1MM price was too rich for a 38-year-old coming off a severely broken ankle. While the Braves want Hudson back, they're just one of at least nine teams interested in the veteran righty and the healthy market could net Hudson a two-year, $24MM deal.
- O'Brien would "be shocked" if Brian McCann received a $100MM contract and thinks the catcher will receive something akin to a five-year, $75MM deal. Given the big-market clubs interested in McCann's services, there have been rumors that he would indeed fetch such a nine-figure contract.
- The Braves' payroll is expected to rise from $90MM to around $100MM, which isn't enough for the club to obtain a top-tier ace in free agency. To add a veteran to their young staff, O'Brien wonders if Atlanta could take a chance on a former ace like Roy Halladay if Hudson leaves.
- The team has been hesitant to trade top prospects in recent years and O'Brien doesn't see that changing, so the likes of Christian Bethancourt or Lucas Sims wouldn't be moved in a potential deal for David Price or Max Scherzer.
- There isn't any talk in the Braves organization of exploring trades involving Evan Gattis.
The Braves will promote top prospect Christian Bethancourt today, according to Tom Hart of FOX Sports in Atlanta (Twitter link). The 22-year-old catcher hit .277/.305/.436 at Double-A Mississippi this season. While those numbers don't look tremendously impressive, Bethancourt turned it on after a slow start, batting .300/.339/.521 with 11 homers from June 13 on. He currently ranks as the Braves' No. 3 prospect and the fifth-best catching prospect in baseball in the eyes of MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. Here's more on Bethancourt and the rest of the NL East…
- MLB.com's Mark Bowman tweets that Bethancourt's promotion will allow him to get acquainted with the Majors, which is a good thing, as it's likely that he or Evan Gattis will be the Braves' starting catcher in 2014. In doing so, Bowman implies that Brian McCann is likely to sign elsewhere as a free agent. That thought has been echoed by others in recent weeks, including David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- The Mets will stall Ruben Tejada's promotion back to the Majors, writes Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, and in doing so, they will delay his free agency until after the 2017 season instead of the 2016 season. Tejada hasn't exactly torn the cover off the ball of late, as he's batted just .275/.324/.364 from July through Sept. 2 at Triple-A Las Vegas — one of the most hitter-friendly environments in all of professional baseball.
- Ryan Zimmerman has regained confidence in his throwing and believes he can continue to play third base for the Nationals, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Zimmerman concedes that he doubted his future at the hot corner earlier in the season. He tells Kilgore that his shoulder injuries in 2012 wore his right arm down to the point where he couldn't lift it above his head, causing him to develop bad throwing habits. He had surgery to repair the shoulder last October, but breaking those poor habits and rebuilding the strength in his arm has been a slow process, Zimmerman says. Ultimately, the decision on when to move to first won't be Zimmerman's, Kilgore writes. The team could even move Adam LaRoche this winter and make the switch in 2014.