Cliff Lee Rumors

Stark’s Latest: Lester, Miller, Byrd, Kemp, Danks, Rios

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.

Red Sox Considering Lester For Kemp Trade

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.

Earlier today, it was reported Kemp is a backup plan for the Mariners while the Yankees are not currently in on the Dodgers outfielder. Kemp has been linked to the Indians and Rangers, as well.

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.


Stark’s Latest: Price, Phillies, O’s, Royals, Pirates

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.


NL East Notes: Colon, Byrd, Lee, Papelbon, Zimmerman

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.

The Details Of Cliff Lee’s No-Trade Clause

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.


East Notes: Lee, Hamels, Braves, Price, Orioles

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.)

Phillies Outright Koyie Hill, Designate Tony Gwynn Jr.

The Phillies announced that they have outrighted veteran catcher Koyie Hill off the 40-man roster and designated center fielder Tony Gwynn Jr. for assignment. The team also announced that Cesar Hernandez has been optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The series of roster moves creates space for Cliff Lee, Wil Nieves and Reid Brignac to be activated from the disabled list.

The 35-year-old Hill appeared in 10 games and collected 22 plate appearances this season with Nieves on the disabled list. He hit .238/.273/.286 in that brief sample. As a player who has been outrighted in the past, he will have the ability to reject the assignment in favor of free agency, though Hill is no stranger to playing at the Triple-A level, so he may simply accept.

The 31-year-old Gwynn batted .163/.284/.204 in 119 plate appearances and played his typical brand of solid defense in center field (a few misplays in left field appear to have created some negative defensive marks for his brief, 33-inning sample there). It’s been a rough few weeks for Gwynn, who tragically lost his father — Hall of Famer and Padres legend Tony Gwynn Sr. — to cancer last month.

Lee will come off the disabled list to start tonight’s contest, meaning that he should be able to make at least two starts in the trade deadline (his third start would currently project to fall on the day of the trade deadline, though he could make one earlier than that if he pitches on short rest). The Philadelphia ace last pitched on May 18 and has been sidelined by a left elbow strain. He’s posted a 3.18 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 1.2 BB/9 and a career-best 49.1 percent ground-ball rate in 68 innings this season. If you subtract a disastrous Opening Day outing, he’s been even better this year, pitching to a 2.29 ERA in 63 innings (nine starts). Though Lee can block trades to 20 teams, some reports have indicated that he’d be open to waiving his no-trade rights in order to move to a contending team. His name figures to be heavily discussed in the coming 10 days, though he could also be an August trade candidate.


Phillies Notes: Burnett, Hamels, Lee

Here’s the latest on the Phillies and the numerous trade candidates on their roster…

  • The Pirates had a scout watching A.J. Burnett‘s start on Friday, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.  The Bucs are known to be looking for starting pitching and Burnett is certainly a familiar quantity for them.  The veteran righty has a partial no-trade clause, though it isn’t known if he can block a deal to Pittsburgh or if Burnett would welcome a deal to a contender that is still close to his Maryland home.
  • Cole Hamels has received some trade interest from the Red Sox, though CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman wonders if this could be a tactic to restart extension talks with Jon Lester.  Otherwise, Boston’s pursuit of Hamels doesn’t make a lot of sense to Heyman — the Sox could just re-sign Lester, rather than pay a similar price to Hamels through 2018 and have to give up prospects to the Phillies to get him.
  • The Blue Jays and Yankees both scouted Cliff Lee‘s final rehab start, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury writes.  Lee returns from the DL to start against the Giants tonight, and scouts from several teams are expected in attendance for Lee’s two scheduled starts prior to the July 31st deadline.

Quick Hits: Cishek, Lee, Kendrick

Steve Cishek‘s name has begun appearing in trade talks, suggesting that the Marlins could be sellers, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes. Another Marlins reliever, Mike Dunn, might also be a trade possibility, although the Marlins still do not want to trade Giancarlo Stanton. The Marlins had hoped to add talent at the deadline, but they’re now at 45-52 and would have a tough swim against the current to make it to the playoffs. Cishek, a proven closer who’s making just $3.8MM this year, would be a very desirable trade target. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • The Competitive Balance Lottery will take place in New York on Wednesday, MLB.com’s Jim Callis notes. Thanks to their market size and/or revenue pools, the Athletics, Brewers, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Indians, Marlins, Orioles, Padres, Pirates, Rays, Reds, Rockies and Royals will each be in the running for one of six 2015 supplemental first-round picks. The Mariners, Twins and teams from the above list that miss on a first-rounder will each vie for one of six supplemental second-round picks. Callis notes that these picks are especially valuable under the current draft system, since each supplemental pick adds money to the pool from which a team is allowed to spend on picks from the first ten rounds of the draft. Teams are also allowed to trade competitive balance picks.
  • After missing two months with an elbow injury, Cliff Lee will rejoin the Phillies‘ rotation on Monday , giving interested teams a couple chances to watch him before the trade deadline, writes Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. Given his contract, Castrovince notes, Lee will need to pitch very well in order to be much of a trade asset. There’s also the chance Lee could be traded in August.
  • The Blue Jays could consider the Phillies’ Kyle Kendrick if they aren’t able to make a higher-profile trade, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury writes. A Jays scout watched Kendrick as he struggled in his start against the Braves on Sunday. It’s unclear what sort of return Kendrick might fetch — he has struggled this season, posting a 4.87 ERA, 5.5 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 over 125 2/3 innings. Kendrick is eligible for free agency after the season.

NL Notes: Hamels, Lee, Burnett, Colon, Padres

The Rockies, who have lost four in a row and 11 of their last 15, own the National League’s worst record and the third-worst mark in all of baseball. The franchise faces six key questions, according to the Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders, including whether to trade Troy Tulowitzki and to overhaul the front office to appease the disgruntled fan base. Saunders doesn’t see either happening because owner Dick Monfort is an extremely loyal and stubborn man. Saunders writes Tulowitzki could force a trade if he is willing to be portrayed as the disloyal, bad guy. Elsewhere in the NL:

Edward Creech contributed to this post.