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Cleveland Indians Rumors
3:00pm: The Indians are indeed interested in Lackey, tweets Rosenthal. Two teams that aren’t in play, he adds, are the Angels and Brewers.
12:01pm: There’s now a “very good chance” that the Red Sox will trade John Lackey as well as Jon Lester, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter). Lackey has been known to be available for days, but there had also been speculation that Boston could work out some form of extension with the right-hander.
Lackey’s five-year, $82.5MM contract with the Red Sox contained a clause that gave Boston a 2015 club option at the league minimum in the event that he missed significant time with an elbow injury. A torn ulnar collateral ligament that required Tommy John surgery triggered that clause, making Lackey a highly appealing trade chip even to teams with the most modest of payrolls.
Lackey will likely want an extension regardless of where he ends up, Rosenthal adds (Twitter links), but that’s not necessarily an unappealing concept for teams in search of a starter that can be controlled beyond 2014. Rosenthal lists the Indians and Marlins as two such clubs.
The Dodgers and Royals have shown interest in Lackey already, and reports yesterday indicated that the Marlins may prefer Lackey to Lester, as the asking price could be lesser. However, the asking price on Lackey isn’t exactly tame, as ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported yesterday that Boston wants an established big league starter in return (presumably, one with team control beyond 2015). Indeed, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald tweets, the BoSox aren’t likely to move both Lackey and Lester without getting starting pitching in return.
In 326 2/3 innings dating back to last season, Lackey has reestablished himself as a solid big league starter. He’s posted a 3.55 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9, averaging nearly 6 2/3 innings per outing.
The Cardinals have bolstered their starting rotation depth by acquiring Justin Masterson from the Indians in exchange for top outfield prospect James Ramsey. Both teams have officially announced the deal. Right-hander Michael Wacha has been moved to the 60-day DL to make room on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster.
Masterson, 29, is currently on the disabled list (he’s set to be activated this weekend) and in the midst of a down season as he heads into free agency. He’s earning $9.7625MM this season, of which roughly $3.3MM remains.
Masterson looked the part of a top-of-the-rotation starter in 2013, posting a 3.45 ERA with 9.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 58.5 percent ground-ball rate in 193 innings. He’s battled a knee issue for most of this season, which could very likely have contributed to his 5.51 ERA and bloated walk rate (5.1 BB/9).
Masterson’s fastball velocity has declined significantly this season, falling from an average of 91.6 mph in 2013 to 89.1 in 2014. However, Masterson’s now former pitching coach Mickey Callaway said earlier in the month that he felt Masterson’s knee injury had altered his mechanics, which could explain the dip in velocity as well as the increase in walks.
The Cardinals have been on the lookout for rotation help for weeks now, having also been connected to Jake Peavy as well as aces David Price and Jon Lester. Masterson comes with upside, to be sure; FIP, xFIP and SIERA all feel his skill-set should have resulted in an ERA in the low 4.00s this season, and he’s had a good deal of past success. However, his injury and ineffective results will leave some Cardinals fans wondering if he’s truly an upgrade over internal options.
That remains to be seen, but the Cardinals felt that Masterson could bolster their starting pitching in light of Michael Wacha‘s injury and the struggles of Shelby Miller. While Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn are reliable arms atop the rotation, Joe Kelly has been injured for most of the season, and Carlos Martinez would shatter last season’s innings total were he to remain in the rotation over the final two months (to say nothing of the postseason).
As for the Indians, they’ll receive Ramsey, a 2012 first-round pick that ranked seventh among Cardinals prospects on Baseball America’s midseason list and ranked sixth according to Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. The 24-year-old is hitting .300/.389/.527 with 13 homers in 281 Double-A plate appearances this season. Callis and Mayo note that Ramsey has the speed to play center field (though he’s not a huge threat on the bases) and the arm to play right field if a change is needed. He draws a fair amount of walks and has shown more power than some anticipated coming out of college, the MLB.com duo adds.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Cardinals have been strongly linked to starting pitching, and the club is making its final assessments in advance of the trade deadline, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It appears that St. Louis is aiming for a fairly impactful arm to slot into its rotation.
In addition to Cole Hamels, the club is at least doing background work on Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett of the Phillies. (As Strauss’s colleague Derrick Goold recently reported, Philadelphia is watching the Cards’ Triple-A club.) Likewise, the Cards are performing diligence on Jon Lester of the Red Sox, Ian Kennedy of the Padres, Justin Masterson of the Indians, and David Price of the Rays — among others — according to Strauss. That does not necessarily mean that the club intends to make offers on any or all of these pitchers, of course, but at least seems to indicate the direction of GM John Mozeliak’s thinking.
Though the team’s offense has lagged at times, it seems likely at this point that the Cardinals will count on its in-house options to increase their output to put runs on the board. But with Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia out of action, and varying degrees of uncertainty surrounding Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez, a rotation addition seems quite likely.
Cabrera makes for an interesting target, because unlike Masterson, he’s enjoying a relatively productive season. Cabrera is hitting .249/.309/.392 as of this writing, and while that’s hardly elite, park- and league-adjusted metrics like OPS+ (99) and wRC+ (98) peg him as just slightly below league average. That, of course, is relative to all hitters around the league, but middle infielders come with a lower offensive standard, making the switch-hitting Cabrera’s production more valuable.
Defensively speaking, Cabrera doesn’t offer much; he’s never posted a positive UZR in a sample of 100+ innings, and Defensive Runs Saved feels that he’s cost Cleveland 28 runs over the past three seasons at short. However, he’s graded out better in his career at second base, albeit in a much smaller sample size (1341 innings compared to 6282 innings at short). Cabrera has about $3.44MM of this season’s $10MM salary remaining, and he is a free agent at season’s end.
MONDAY: Though he won’t be activated from the disabled list until this Friday, the Indians are “very willing” to trade Justin Masterson, sources tell Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Cleveland’s preference would be to obtain controllable starting pitching in return for their embattled right-hander.
Masterson has struggled for much of the 2014 season, posting a 5.51 ERA with 8.5 K/9, 5.1 BB/9 and a 58.5 percent ground-ball rate. More concerning, perhaps, is the stark decline in his fastball velocity; after averaging 91.6 mph on his heater in 2013 (and 91.9 mph in 2012), Masterson averaged just 89.1 mph before being placed on the disabled list with a knee injury. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway said before the All-Star break that he felt Masterson’s knee injury forced him to alter the way he landed coming off his delivery, which got his mechanics out of sync and could have been partially to blame for the velocity issues.
The 29-year-old is set to become a free agent at season’s end, and it seems unlikely that a team would surrender top talent to acquire a two-month rental that has struggled so greatly in 2014. As such (and this is my own speculation), Masterson might be more of an August trade candidate. If he can come back healthy and effective, scouts might be willing to overlook some of his early-season struggles (to an extent).
Masterson is earning $9.7625MM this season after avoiding arbitration for the final time this offseason. Cleveland had interest in extending its now-former ace (Corey Kluber likely holds that distinction now), but even when Masterson himself suggested seemingly below-market two- and three-year deals at $17-18MM annually, the Indians didn’t bite. Of course, at this point, that looks like it could have been a shrewd move on Cleveland’s behalf.
The Red Sox are willing to move one or both of John Lackey and Jon Lester, depending on the returns, sources tell WEEI’s Alex Speier. However, while the club is willing to move Lester within the division because he is a free agent at season’s end, they’re less inclined to move Lackey within the division, as he is controlled through 2015.
Here’s more on Lackey and the AL East…
- In a second piece, Speier writes that it will be difficult for the Sox to move Lackey, though, as he’s expressed an understandable hesitance to pitch at the league minimum next year, and it would leave the Red Sox with little to no stability in their rotation. Speier suggests a one-year, $16.5MM extension (the AAV of Lackey’s current deal, prior to his league-minimum option kicking in), which could feel fair to both clubs. Essentially, it would amount to a two-year, $17MM deal, of course.
- A trade of Lester could impact Lackey’s willingness to return to the Red Sox, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Lackey and Lester are close, and Rosenthal suggests that Lackey may not want to sign an extension or play for $500K next year if Lester is gone.
- Yesterday’s acquisition of Danny Valencia may prove to be the biggest move that GM Alex Anthopoulos makes prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, writes Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star. The Blue Jays are getting contributions from two of their biggest trade chips — Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman — and the platoon of Steven Tolleson and Munenori Kawasaki has hit well to this point. Anthopoulos is still looking for a right-handed platoon partner for Adam Lind, but Nolan Reimold could fill that void. It seems to me that it’s a stretch to count on that many question marks, but Kennedy speculates that the team’s payroll limitations may be more significant than Anthopoulos has admitted to the public. Kennedy runs down the pros and cons of some speculative Jays targets.
- While Justin Masterson is similar to Yankees acquisitions Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley — all are formerly productive players with sizable salaries and diminished production in 2014 — the Yanks aren’t interested in acquiring him, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Sherman points out that teams could be more open to acquiring Masterson in August if he clears waivers and begins pitching better following a DL stint, but the Indians, who are still in the Wild Card hunt, may just hang onto him then. Cleveland is “very willing” to move Masterson, who has reportedly drawn trade interest from other clubs.
The Royals are interested in Andrew Miller but aren’t currently pursuing Jonny Gomes, Major League sources tell Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Multiple reports have previously connected the Royals to Gomes, but it appears their interest has waned for the time being. Miller, of course, is being pursued by many teams due to his dominant numbers and relatively inexpensive salary. He’ll be a free agent at season’s end but could alter the composition of a bullpen and be a vital postseason piece. Miller tells Bradford that if he’s traded, he’ll harbor no hard feelings toward an organization with which he has “loved” his time. “I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to an end in the next couple of days, but if it does it won’t spoil it for me,” said Miller. “If it does I’m certainly not going to burn a bridge on the way out of town.” Earlier this morning, K.C. was also linked to John Lackey.
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- Despite reported interest from the Yankees, the White Sox might have a difficult time moving John Danks, a source tells Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. “Anybody who throws 200 innings in the big leagues is worth his weight in gold,” the source said. “But I don’t think his weight is worth $30 million worth of gold.” Van Schouwen’s source feels that the Sox would let Danks go if he were to be claimed on waivers next month in order to free themselves of his remaining salary obligations.
- As for Chicago’s other tradeable pieces, Van Schouwen notes that Adam Dunn, Gordon Beckham, Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo have limited markets due to contractual obligations (Dunn) or poor performance (the others). Alexei Ramirez would fetch a nice return, but the ChiSox don’t have an in-house replacement for the 32-year-old.
- Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer looks at the Indians‘ current situation and feels that the team could sell some veterans without hurting their chances in the Wild Card hunt. Justin Masterson has underperformed, and Asdrubal Cabrera has been decent at best, but both have drawn trade interest, Hoynes reports. He suggests calling Oakland and San Francisco about Cabrera to peddle him as a second base option. Ultimately, the Indians could benefit from relying more on names like Jose Ramirez, Danny Salazar and Zach McAllister than their declining stars, Hoynes writes.
- Glen Perkins made no effort to hide his feelings on whether or not the Twins should extend Kurt Suzuki when asked by Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press over the weekend: “That would be the ideal. I think everyone else would agree. Not even just pitchers. He’s fit in this clubhouse great, too, with everybody.” GM Terry Ryan told Berardino that he’s been happy with Suzuki’s contributions, though he acknowledged that Suzuki rates poorly in terms of pitch-framing. Berardino noted that the Orioles, Blue Jays and Giants had scouts in attendance at Twins games over the weekend.
- In more Twins news, Ryan is sending assistant GM Rob Antony on the team’s current road trip to Kansas City and Chicago while he settles in with VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff and special adviser Wayne Krivsky to work out deadline deals, writes La Valle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Ryan acknowledged the team’s position as sellers, telling Neal: “As long as it stops in the near future, then it is worthwhile. … This isn’t what anyone signed up to do. Nobody wants to watch a club get into late July and be in a position where you don’t have a chance.” Neal lists several Twins trade candidates, including Suzuki, Josh Willingham, Brian Duensing and Casey Fien.
If the Pirates can’t land a reliever this week, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review suggests that the Bucs could move Edinson Volquez to the bullpen. Volquez, who has hit 98 mph on the gun this season, has been trending down since April. More from the Central Divisions..
- The Cubs have rebuffed inquiries by the Yankees and others for outfielder Justin Ruggiano, and also are expecting to keep the rejuvenated Chris Coghlan, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. They might also look to trade outfielder Nate Schierholtz, but they can put him through waivers in August and make a deal then. Meanwhile, the versatile Emilio Bonifacio is now drawing interest.
- The Pirates are showing interest in Phillies left-hander Antonio Bastardo and outfielder Marlon Byrd, sources tell Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter).
- A couple of baseball executives think that the Pirates might get into the Jon Lester trade talks with the Red Sox, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
- Nick Delmonico, who came to the Brewers in last year’s Francisco Rodriguez trade, was suspended 50-games for a positive drug test, tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.
- It’ll be hard for the Indians to get real value for Asdrubal Cabrera without eating some of his contract, writes Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. Cabrera earns $10MM this season.
After going into the All-Star break on a 2-8 slide, the Blue Jays have righted the ship by winning seven of 10 games since the Midsummer Classic. This hot streak has gotten the Jays back into the postseason picture, as they currently hold a one-game lead over the Yankees for the second AL wild card slot. Here’s the latest hot stove buzz out of Toronto…
- The Phillies specifically scouted a recent rehab start by Jays southpaw prospect Sean Nolin, Rogers Sportnet’s Shi Davidi reports. Nolin was rated as the 97th-best prospect in the sport by Baseball America prior to the 2013 season, and he owns a 3.12 ERA, 7.5 K/9 and 1.62 K/BB rate over 13 Triple-A starts.
- Also from Davidi’s piece, the Rangers are one of a few clubs who have been sending more scouts to watch the Jays’ short-season Class A team in Vancouver. Righty Miguel Castro, left-hander Jairo Labourt and shortstop Franklin Barreto appear to be drawing the bulk of the scouts’ interest.
- Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera is “an option” for the Jays, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link). Cabrera would presumably be a candidate at second base for Toronto since Jose Reyes is locked into the shortstop job; Cabrera saw lots of action at the keystone over the first three years of his career but hasn’t seen any action at 2B since 2009. He is a free agent this winter and is thought to be an expendable piece for the Tribe since top prospect Francisco Lindor is on the way.
- The Padres were willing to pay all of the $4MM that was owed to Chase Headley for the rest of the 2014 season as part of a proposed deal that would’ve sent the third baseman to Toronto, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports. An executive familiar with the negotiations between the Padres and Jays tells Elliott that San Diego was asking for Juan Francisco and two “not big-time prospects” in return. Francisco (.242/.313/.529 with 16 homers in 249 PA) is having a much better season than Headley (.238/.300/.371 with eight homers in 330 PA) and comes with three years of control while Headley is a free agent after this season, though Headley has obviously been the more high-profile player in recent years. San Diego ended up dealing Headley to the Yankees for Yangervis Solarte, Rafael De Paula and all but $1MM of Headley’s remaining salary.
- The Blue Jays were one of 28 teams at the Rusney Castillo showcase on Saturday, Shi Davidi tweets, with the Jays sending “multiple people” to check out the Cuban outfielder.
Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a video for FOX Sports:
- The Red Sox and Mariners have inquired about Matt Kemp, but the Dodgers are unlikely to trade him, and trade talks did not go far. Kemp has hit well in the past week, with a .320/.414/.440 line in 29 plate appearances since the All-Star break.
- In fact, as Rosenthal notes (via Twitter), the Dodgers are not close to a deal of any kind.
- Asdrubal Cabrera has value on the trade market because of the lack of middle infield talent available, and it’s possible the Indians could deal him for starting pitching — either veterans or young players. The impending arrival of Francisco Lindor (who was recently promoted to Triple-A Columbus) could make dealing Cabrera a bit easier for Cleveland.
The Indians are in the market for a starting pitcher and a right-handed hitting outfielder, reports Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer. While the team is looking for a way to add a number one type rotation piece, Hoynes says that looks unlikely at present.
Adding a piece of the magnitude of David Price would cost Cleveland its best prospect, Francisco Lindor, says Hoynes, and the team is not willing to part with it shortstop of the future. Lower-end arms do not have much appeal, given that the club already has its fair share of middle-of-the-road starters. While the Indians hope that Justin Masterson can return to health and form, Hoynes says that the club would consider dealing the 29-year-old righty in August if he (and/or, presumably, the team) does not perform up to expectations.
Second on the team’s priority list is a righty bat to play in the outfield. With Michael Bourn still dealing with hamstring issues, Ryan Raburn scuffling, and David Murphy inconsistent, outfield help could be useful. Hoynes says that the team is particularly interested in a player who swings from the right side, which would allow for balance to the lineup and better flexibility in late-game situations. GM Chris Antonetti has indicated that the team would be most interested in adding someone who comes with control at least through next year.