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Cliff Lee Rumors
Highly-regarded Blue Jays prospect Aaron Sanchez is proving that his stuff plays at the MLB level, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. His upper-90s fastball is generating swings and misses along with plenty of groundballs, and he’s also found success with his curve. As Nicholson-Smith notes, Sanchez has shown that the two-pitch combo can make him a force out of the pen, but the next step will be for him to incorporate his change as he looks to establish himself as a big league starter in the future. Sanchez is currently rated the game’s 37th-best overall prospect by MLB.com.
Here’s more from the east:
- The Rays expect their payroll to drop below this season’s franchise record of over $80MM, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports on Twitter. Overall spending is “clearly going to be lower,” said owner Stuart Sternberg. That is hardly surprising, especially given that the team will not be paying David Price a big arbitration raise and has Heath Bell coming off the books. On the other hand, it would seem to indicate that Tampa does not expect to add significant salary via free agency or trade, as the team will be paying raises to players like James Loney and Grant Balfour (whose free agent deals were backloaded) as well as arbitration-eligibles such as Matt Joyce, Jeremy Hellickson, Jake McGee, Desmond Jennings, and the recently-acquired Drew Smyly.
- Since going to the Rays in the Price trade, Smyly has increased his strikeout rate and improved his effectiveness against righties by elevating his fastball, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports originally explored and Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs further explains with the aid of many interesting statistics and GIFs. As Sullivan writes — and as Fangraphs has been discussing more generally of late — there is an increasing movement among some teams (including Tampa) and some pitchers to pursue the use of high heat as batters have adjusted to lower pitching.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says that he expects Cliff Lee to deliver significant on-field value next year, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Lee is on track in his rehab plan, which currently means continued rest. As Gelb notes, Lee’s situation will likely not begin to clarify until he begins throwing this fall and begins to ramp up for the spring.
- The Mets have issued a statement denying the allegations of former executive Leigh Castergine, as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports. “We have received and reviewed the complaint,” the statement reads. “The claims are without merit. Our organization maintains strong policies against any and all forms of discrimination.” In a rather scathing assessment, meanwhile, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports argues that MLB should investigate immediately and act firmly in the wake of Castergine’s troubling allegations. As Passan notes, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon — whose alleged statements and actions form the basis for much of the lawsuit — not only occupies a key position with the team, but also sits on the boards of MLB Enterprises and MLB Network.
11:11pm: GM Ruben Amaro Jr. confirmed to Zolecki that Lee is done for the year and added that the team’s hope is for Lee to begin a throwing program in October or November. Surgery won’t be required for Lee, who is on his way from New York (where he had an appointment with Dr. David Altchek) to Philadelphia, where he will receive a platelet-rich plasma injection. Lee will travel home to Arkansas for two weeks before rejoining the team next month.
AUG. 6, 8:26pm: Lee’s locker in the Phillies’ clubhouse has been completely cleaned out, and he is heading home to rest his injured elbow, according to Todd Zolecki and Austin Laymance of MLB.com. While there’s been no official announcement from the team, all signs point to his season being over.
AUG. 1: Lee has already been placed on the DL and says he “probably” will miss the rest of the year, as Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. He said that, as indicated last night, he likely suffered a recurrence of his previous injury.
JULY 31: Cliff Lee walked off the mound during his start against the Nationals today, indicating that he was dealing with elbow discomfort. The veteran has experienced the same injury that just cost him two months — a flexor pronator strain — according to a tweet from MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki.
It seems likely that Lee is headed for another DL stint, and at this point it would not be surprising to learn that he will miss the rest of the season. Needless to say, barring a fortunate turn, it seems that Lee will not be an August trade target.
The bigger question for the Phillies, of course, is whether he can return to form for 2015. Lee is owed $25MM next year and his deal includes a $27.5MM club option for 2016 (with a substantial $12.5MM buyout).
Here’s the latest from ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark:
- The Rays are still holding onto David Price unless and until an offer forces a move. “I’d say they’re kind of where they were all winter,” said a competing executive. “Yeah, they’d trade him. But you’ve got to make it so they can’t say no.”
- Though both sides explored the possibility, the Cardinals and Phillies did not match up on a potential Cliff Lee deal. With Philly seeking a “major prospect” in return, the Cards ultimately turned elsewhere and added Justin Masterson. While St. Louis seemed the best fit for a pre-deadline deal with Lee, Philadelphia still is looking to see if the lefty can be moved before August.
- The Red Sox are encountering some skepticism from trade partners that John Lackey will play for the league minimum rate next year, as provided by his contract. Of course, that provision makes up a huge portion of Lackey’s trade value, as he would not only contribute down the stretch in 2014 but looks like a very solid rotation piece at a replacement-level price for 2015.
- The Orioles seem to be focusing more on adding a reliever at this point than a starter, says Stark. Baltimore has been liked to Neal Cotts of the Rangers and Oliver Perez of the Diamondbacks, neither of whom is a pure LOOGY.
- In search of bullpen help, the Yankees have inquired into Joaquin Benoit of the Padres, James Russell of the Cubs, and Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies. The club has also checked on outfielders Marlon Byrd of the Phillies and Dayan Viciedo of the White Sox.
- The Blue Jays, Braves, and Royals are telling teams they cannot add significant payroll in a trade, though Kansas City could take on a starter who would slot in place of James Shields next year.
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Jon Lester remains the most-discussed name at the moment, and ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark contributes his take after discussing the lefty with several club executives who will not be involved in any deals. He discusses the possibility of eight teams going after Lester: the Dodgers, Cardinals, Mariners, Orioles, Blue Jays, Braves, Brewers, and Pirates. Though Los Angeles still seems unwilling to part with any of its premium prospects, Stark tabs them the likeliest landing spot.
Of course, Stark also provides a number of important updates from elsewhere in the market in his latest post. Here are the key takeaways:
- Talks between the Phillies and Pirates regarding A.J. Burnett are “all but dead,” writes Stark. The issue is that Burnett has been unwilling to give an assurance that he would not pick up his player option for next season, creating too much financial uncertainty for Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, the Phillies have not yet abandoned hope of dealing fellow starter Cliff Lee before the deadline, though an official says that they want significant prospects in return.
- Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if David Price of the Rays or Ian Kennedy of the Padres are moved, with Stark writing that the former will be a last-minute decision and the latter remains a 50-50 proposition. With the GM seat still unfilled in San Diego, and given that Kennedy remains under control for next year, the club is unwilling to move him unless the return includes a starter capable of stepping into the rotation along with another prospect.
- The Red Sox are asking for a strong return on John Lackey in discussions. The club wants an established major league starter, presumably with additional control. If that is part of the return on Lester, however, the club might be open to more flexibility in a return for Lackey.
- The Twins are telling inquiring clubs that they have not yet given up on extending Kurt Suzuki, and could keep him past the deadline. If that occurs, the team could still consider August deals, though the waiver process (and Suzuki’s cheap contract) could prove a hindrance.
- Scouting trips can obviously be undertaken for many purposes, but Stark provides a few interesting ones to note: The Rangers have scouted the Nationals‘ top affiliate this weekend; though rumors quickly died down, Washington was said to have inquired about Adrian Beltre. The White Sox are looking at the affiliates of the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox as they consider offers for John Danks. And the Red Sox have scouted the Triple-A affiliate of the Braves, who are said to be very interested in lefty Andrew Miller.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: A.J. Burnett | Atlanta Braves | Boston Red Sox | Chicago White Sox | Cliff Lee | Ian Kennedy | John Lackey | Kurt Suzuki | Minnesota Twins | New York Yankees | Philadelphia Phillies | Pittsburgh Pirates | San Diego Padres | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays | Washington Nationals
With roughly three days until the non-waiver trade deadline, here are some highlights from the latest Rumblings & Grumblings column by ESPN’s Jayson Stark…
- The Red Sox have contacted every contending team in each league and told them that Jon Lester is available for a two- to three-prospect package fronted by at least one upper-echelon prospect. One executive, however, tells Stark that the Sox simply can’t get as much as the Rays would get if they moved David Price, which isn’t surprising, given Lester’s impending free agency and the remaining year of control that Price has.
- Lester isn’t the only player being shopped — Boston has firmly planted a “for sale” sign in the ground, and they’re willing to move any impending free agents with the exception of Koji Uehara, whom they hope to re-sign. They’re peddling Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes and Craig Breslow. The price for Miller is also exorbitant at this time, however, as officials from two interested clubs tell Stark that Boston has asked for one of the top prospects plus a lesser prospect.
- The Giants have asked the Phillies about Marlon Byrd, but their main priority is second base. The Reds are reassessing their stance after losing eight of nine games, and the Royals have backed off of Byrd. The Mariners appears to be the most logical option, but Byrd still wants his $8MM 2016 vesting option guaranteed to approve a trade there.
- Byrd tells Stark that he’d have to think long and hard if GM Ruben Amaro Jr. came to him and asked him to approve a trade to a team on his no-trade clause. While his hope was to retire a Phillie, he appreciates how aggressive Amaro was in signing him. “[Ruben] made it easy for me this offseason,” he said. Still, given the odds that he’d want some form of perk to approve a trade, it’s no longer certain that he gets dealt.
- While the Red Sox and Mariners have been connected to Matt Kemp, officials from other clubs tell Stark they feel an offseason trade is much more likely than an in-season deal.
- The White Sox have had scouts watching the Yankees‘ surplus of minor league catchers in recent weeks, fueling speculation that the Yanks would like to acquire John Danks.
- Some officials believe the Yankees would like to find a right-handed hitting platoon partner to pair with Ichiro in Suzuki in right field. New York wants an option that doesn’t have commitments beyond 2014, making names like Justin Ruggiano of the Cubs and Chris Denorfia of the Padres as possible targets. Earlier today it was reported that Denorfia could be moved soon.
- The Royals have decided that Alex Rios isn’t a good fit for their right field need. Because the team is unable to take on much additional salary (if any), they could wait until August to add a bat.
- While Troy Tulowitzki‘s name has had a lot of buzz around it, club officials from interested teams tell Stark there’s no indication he is available. Rather, the Rockies are open to moving bullpen arms Adam Ottavino, Rex Brothers, LaTroy Hawkins and Matt Belisle. However, the team would only move Hawkins if they’re overwhelmed. That seems a bit odd, given his age, but Hawkins does have a cheap club option and has drawn praise in Denver for his mentoring of younger talent.
- The D’Backs are telling clubs that they’d move Addison Reed, but they don’t want to move Brad Ziegler. Arizona is also willing to move Aaron Hill and Oliver Perez. They’ll listen on Martin Prado and Josh Collmenter, although they’re more hesitant to deal them.
- The chances of Cliff Lee being traded before August are almost nonexistent. Scouts who have seen him don’t think he looks close to healthy, and the money he’s owed is of course problematic.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Aaron Hill | Adam Ottavino | Addison Reed | Alex Rios | Andrew Miller | Arizona Diamondbacks | Boston Red Sox | Brad Ziegler | Burke Badenhop | Chicago Cubs | Chicago White Sox | Chris Denorfia | Cincinnati Reds | Cliff Lee | Colorado Rockies | Craig Breslow | John Danks | Jon Lester | Jonny Gomes | Josh Collmenter | Justin Ruggiano | Kansas City Royals | Koji Uehara | LaTroy Hawkins | Marlon Byrd | Martin Prado | Matt Belisle | New York Yankees | Newsstand | Oliver Perez | Philadelphia Phillies | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Seattle Mariners | Stephen Drew | Texas Rangers | Troy Tulowitzki
6:51pm: A source from the Dodgers indicates there are no significant discussions between the Dodgers and Red Sox involving Kemp or Lester, the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo tweets.
4:00pm: The Red Sox are considering a trade with the Dodgers involving Matt Kemp and Jon Lester as the principals, a club source tells Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. The Dodgers’ interest in Lester was reported yesterday by Edes.
Kemp’s name is being floated since the Dodgers are unwilling to part with top outfield prospect Joc Pederson, according to Edes. Centering a deal around Kemp, however, is problematic from the Red Sox’s perspective because of the $107MM remaining on his contract. For the deal to make any sense for Boston, Edes reports the Dodgers would have to be willing to eat a considerable amount of money, but they might be willing to do so for a pitcher of Lester’s caliber despite him being no more than a two-month rental. The Red Sox preference, however, is a package centered around Pederson.
Edes also notes Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels is not available and the Red Sox have not inquired about Cliff Lee. For more on the 2014 trade market, check out MLBTR’s position-by-position breakdown.
Jayson Stark of ESPN.com has a new Rumblings & Grumblings column posted in which he runs down a plethora of trade-related topics. You’ll need to read the full post to get all the information and analysis, but here are some of the highlights …
- The Rays are waiting until next week to make any decisions on whether or not to trade ace David Price. However, as Stark points out, it could still be a difficult judgment call as to whether or not the Rays are close enough to go for it or far enough back to sell. Tampa is currently seven games back of the division lead and four and a half games back from a Wild Card berth.
- One executive tells Stark that he’s convinced the team will move Price if they get a big enough offer. Said the exec, “They’ve really built their team by making these kinds of deals. But if the return they can get now is something they think they can get this winter, they’ll hold him.” Another exec tells Stark that waiting until the winter could reduce the return in a trade by 30 to 40 percent.
- Stark runs down the possible landing spots for Price, calling the Dodgers the favorite, but noting that L.A. has said it will not part with both Joc Pederson and Corey Seager, even in a Price trade. The Mariners are the second choice, he notes, with the Cardinals listed third followed by the Giants and Blue Jays (both of whom are painted as long shots by Stark).
- If the Rays do sell Price, they’ll be open for business and listen on a number of other players, including Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Yunel Escobar. Their preference is to deal Price and Zobrist in separate trades, if that comes to pass.
- The Phillies are the next team that everyone is watching, with nine players that could be moved but contractual problems surrounding many of them. Most execs feel the Phillies will eat money to facilitate deals and aren’t looking to just dump players on other clubs. Specifically, the team is in need of position-player prospects, one exec who has spoken with Philadelphia tells Stark.
- Marlon Byrd is the most likely to be dealt, with the Mariners, Royals and Reds scouting him. The Reds, however, may not be able to take on Byrd’s remaining $3MM in 2014, and the Mariners and Royals are on his no-trade list.
- Jonathan Papelbon and Cliff Lee aren’t likely to be dealt, executives tell Stark. In Lee’s case, they feel he’s a lock to clear waivers. One exec tells Stark that he’d be more inclined to take a chance on Lee were he a free agent, but his contract is too risky at this point.
- Cole Hamels isn’t likely to be dealt either. It’s not that the Phillies aren’t willing to move him, it’s just that the prices they’ve specified consist of packages “that no one would possibly give up.”
- A.J. Burnett‘s preference is indeed to return to the Pirates, but Pittsburgh would need assurances that he’s not going to exercise his player option for 2015. The Orioles‘ interest is said to be lukewarm, while the Phillies asked the Yankees and were told, “No thanks.”
- At least half a dozen teams are in on Antonio Bastardo, whom Stark concretely says will be traded in the next week.
- The Orioles aren’t looking for a closer upgrade over Zach Britton, but they’re looking for a rotation upgrade and a lefty reliever that’s more than just a left-on-left specialist. They’ve shown no interest in dealing Hunter Harvey or Dylan Bundy.
- The Royals have called on virtually every right-handed hitter on the market, but they’re look specifically at right fielders, including Byrd, Alex Rios, Chris Denorfia and Dayan Viciedo. The first two of those options still look most likely.
- Stark would be surprised if the Pirates didn’t add at least one pitcher, if not two in the next week, but it’d have to be at least a No. 3 option in terms of starters. On the relief front, they’re looking at seventh-inning arms, as they’re content with Tony Watson in the eighth and Mark Melancon in the ninth.
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Here’s the latest out of the National League East:
- For the Mets, trading and replacing starter Bartolo Colon would be a more natural step in the club’s progression than moving second baseman Daniel Murphy, making a trade of the former much more likely, according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. As for Colon, the scouts watching the Mets’ game today against the Mariners were probably not there to see him, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com (via Twitter). Of course, word will surely get around of his strong outing; Colon carried a perfect game into the 7th before Robinson Cano broke it up. He ultimately allowed three hits, two earned runs, and a walk while striking out five.
- The Phillies are still listening to trade interest in outfielder Marlon Byrd, tweets ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick. As yet, however, Philadelphia’s asking price has been too high for a buyer to pull the trigger.
- Phillies hurler Cliff Lee would clear waivers in August, rival evaluators tell ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Twitter link). Lee’s first outing back from the DL was not promising. As Olney explains (Insider link), however, short samples are important for evaluations of players’ current health and productivity, and that works both ways here. Lee will have one more chance before the deadline (and, presumably, more in August) to boost his value.
- The already somewhat marginal trade outlook of Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon has been clouded even further by two straight poor appearances and this evening’s trade of Joakim Soria to the Tigers. Among the contenders in need of help at the back of the bullpen, the Angels and Tigers seemed among the more likely to take on significant salary rather than dealing prospects for cheaper arms. But both clubs did the latter, taking away two possible landing spots for the veteran righty.
- Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals appears to have suffered a “pretty substantial” strain of his right hamstring, manager Matt Williams told reporters including Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post (Twitter link). The third baseman/left fielder seems likely to be out a few weeks at least, though his prognosis remains undetermined. As Kilgore wrote earlier today, the injury could lead the Nats to look into acquiring a second or third baseman before the deadline (with Anthony Rendon playing the alternative position). GM Mike Rizzo said that the team was content with playing Danny Espinosa at second for the time being, but Kilgore notes that players such as Aaron Hill or especially Martin Prado of the Diamondbacks could make sense as trade targets.
Cliff Lee struggled in his first start back from the disabled list last night, allowing six runs on 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings, and while that outing likely didn’t bolster his trade value much, his name still figures to be bandied about in the days leading up to the trade deadline (and in August, if he isn’t moved this month). Lee has a no-trade clause that allows him to block deals to 20 clubs, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has the full details on that clause.
The nine teams to which Lee cannot block trades are the Braves, Indians, Astros, Marlins, Twins, Mets, Padres, Rays and Nationals. Should GM Ruben Amaro Jr. look to deal Lee to any of the other 20 clubs in baseball, Lee would have the ability to block the trade.
The list of teams to which Lee can be traded without his consent includes all four of Philadelphia’s division rivals (unlikely trade partners in the first place) plus a few teams that are either in states of prolonged losing/rebuilding or lack the financial wherewithal to take on Lee’s salary. In other words, Lee likely didn’t feel the need to include any of these nine in his no-trade clause, as the circumstances surrounding his current team and contract make a deal to any of the nine highly unlikely. (The Indians might be a sentimental exception to that thinking, although Lee’s salary would certainly be difficult for Cleveland to absorb.)
What Lee’s no-trade clause does do is provide him with leverage. We’ve already seen reports indicate that Marlon Byrd would approve a trade to the Mariners if they were to guarantee his third-year vesting option, and Lee could theoretically make a similar bargaining ploy to waive his own no-trade rights (that’s just my own speculation).
Of course, Lee will very likely need to convince clubs that he’s the version of Cliff Lee that everyone is used to seeing — or at least something close to it — before any team would take on a significant of his salary. As Crasnick notes, there were some positives on Monday: Lee fired a perfect first inning on nine pitches, many of the hits he gave up were “bleeders,” and he broke a few bats as well. However, one AL scout told Crasnick:
“His fastball command was off and he wasn’t nearly as precise as usual. He threw too many hittable pitches, and his overall stuff was flatter than normal. Give him another start before rushing to judgment. He threw strikes, but not with the level of precision he typically does.”
Lee is owed $9.43MM through season’s end (that number drops to $8.2MM from July 31 through season’s end), and he’s guaranteed $25MM in 2015. His $27.5MM vesting option triggers with 200 innings pitched next season, but even if he doesn’t hit that mark, it remains a club option with an incredible $12.5MM buyout. At that point, any team that controls Lee is essentially making a $14.5MM decision on whether or not to retain his services.
There were plenty of scouts on hand for the Phillies‘ matchup tonight, as ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (links to Twitter). Among the players presumably being eyed were starter Cliff Lee, fresh off a lengthy DL stint, and southpaw reliever Antonio Bastardo. Clubs with representatives on-hand included the Tigers, Blue Jays, Orioles, Brewers, Angels, Royals, Giants, Rangers, Diamondbacks, Pirates, and Mariners, though Crasnick adds that all were not necessarily looking at Lee in particular. The return start for Lee did not go well for the veteran lefty, as he surrendered 12 base hits (11 singles and one long ball) and six earned runs to go with three strikeouts and a walk over 5 2/3 innings.
Here’s more from the game’s eastern divisions:
- The Phillies are telling clubs that starter Cole Hamels is not available, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports on Twitter. Hamels looks to be the best trade piece on the club’s current MLB roster, but Philadelphia may well prefer to keep the 30-year-old as it attempts to avoid a total rebuild.
- The Yankees appear on Lee’s twenty-team no-trade list, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Lee also listed New York on last year’s version of his slate of clubs to which he can decline to be dealt.
- For the Braves, the trade deadline is likely to bring aid to the bullpen and bench, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. A left-handed reliever has long been on the club’s list, and Bowman says that the club might also look to add a bench bat that would improve the team’s anemic pinch-hitting results. As Bowman notes, Jordan Schafer and Ryan Doumit have both largely been ineffective in that role.
- The Rays now seem more likely than ever to take the decision whether to deal David Price right up until the trade deadline, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. “I think they take it down to the wire,” an executive told Sherman. “That allows them to make sure they know who they are while making a couple teams sweat to the end that one of their competitors are going to get him. … It wouldn’t surprise me if Price actually ends up a July 31 decision.”
- Meanwhile, the Orioles are looking at a broad array of options to bolster their club, reports MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli. In particular, the club is looking at both starting and relief arms, and has indicated to at least three clubs that righty Miguel Gonzalez could be moved. One of those teams is the Padres, who of course hold one of the better available starters in Ian Kennedy. A.J. Burnett of the Phillies is also on Baltimore’s radar, as is Jorge De La Rosa of the Rockies, though Ghiroli says that Colorado was asking for top prospect Kevin Gausman to be included. Manager Buck Showalter indicated that executive vice president Dan Duquette remains hesitant to part with the club’s best prospects, and could ultimately take things down to the wire to get the right deal. (That, of course, was the strategy that Baltimore employed in this year’s free agent market, though last year the club started buying somewhat early at the deadline.)
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