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Cliff Lee Rumors
10:25am: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that the Phillies’ preference is to deal Cliff Lee rather than Hamels, though his current injury complicates that matter. Those familiar with the team feel that Lee would prioritize a winning team over remaining in Philadelphia, and that he would therefore be more likely to waive his no-trade clause. The same cannot be said for Hamels at this time, whose preference is to remain in Philly, Heyman writes.
Lee should be able to make at least two, if not three starts prior to July 31 after he is activated from the disabled list. That’s not a huge sample, but it should be enough time for him to prove his health, to an extent.
8:33am: While some recent rumors have circulated regarding the Red Sox and Cole Hamels, the Phillies aren’t currently inclined to deal him, a Major League source tells Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. The Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber suggests a similar notion (Twitter links). A source tells him that while the Sox are open to adding front-line starting pitching as insurance in case they cannot retain Jon Lester, there’s nothing in the works with Hamels, and acquiring him is more of a concept than a reality at this point.
Recently, it was reported that Hamels could block trades to 20 teams. The nine teams to which Hamels cannot block a trade are the Dodgers, Angels, Cardinals, Nationals, Braves, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Padres. Bradford writes that the Red Sox are believed to have checked in on Hamels earlier this season, but the two sides haven’t engaged in any recent trade discussions.
Hamels’ availability — or lack thereof — will be a defining point on this summer’s trade market. The 30-year-old is owed $90MM through 2018 — a reasonable sum in today’s market given his track record of excellence — and his contract contains a $20MM club option that can vest at $24MM if Hamels is healthy and throws 200 innings in 2018 (or 400 innings from 2017-18). Should he be made available in the next 13 days, Hamels would join David Price (and perhaps teammate Cliff Lee, depending on his health) as one of the most desirable arms on the open market.
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. offered a frank assessment of his team’s offense to reporters, including CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury: “I didn’t anticipate our guys being this poor. Because they are. They are this poor. We think that they’re better. But they haven’t shown it. So at some point we’re going to have to make some changes.”
More from Salisbury’s piece, and some other Phillies-related notes…
- Amaro listed Darin Ruf, Grady Sizemore and Freddy Galvis as possible players who could be recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and he wouldn’t rule out top prospect Maikel Franco either. When referring to Franco, he noted that Franco can also play first base, indicating perhaps that the struggling Ryan Howard could see his playing time diminish.
- Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reminds that last season, one of the reasons Amaro gave for not wanting to shop Jonathan Papelbon was a lack of a clear replacement. That excuse is no longer valid, Gelb writes, due to the emergence of Ken Giles. The 23-year-old Giles has dominated Major League hitters in his first 11 2/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits and three walks with 17 strikeouts. Papelbon, who is pitching as well as he ever has in a Phillies uniform, could be moved if the Phils kick in $13MM to cover his potential vesting option, Gelb opines.
- ESPN’s Jim Bowden (Insider subscription required) feels that the Orioles are the most logical landing place for A.J. Burnett in a trade. Bowden writes that while Pittsburgh and Cleveland make some sense, both are long shots. He also speculates on what it would cost each team to acquire Burnett.
- Cliff Lee is now slated to return after the All-Star break because one of his rehab outings was delayed by rain, according to a report from ESPN’s Jayson Stark. Stark has previously reported that rival clubs expect the Phillies to aggressively shop Lee upon his return, though with a July 19 return target, he’d only have roughly three starts to impress.
The latest from ESPN’s Jayson Stark…
- Phillies ace Cliff Lee threw a bullpen session yesterday and is slated to return around the All-Star break, Stark writes for ESPN.com. Lee’s next step is to throw a simulated game this weekend before heading out on a minor league rehab assignment and returning either just before or just after the All-Star break. Rival teams tell Stark that they expect the Phillies to aggressively shop Lee, and they believe that Philadelphia would eat a significant amount of the remaining $50MM guarantee on Lee’s deal in order to net the right pieces.
- The Tigers, Pirates, Blue Jays and Angels are scouting the Phillies this week, Stark tweets. The Phillies are telling other teams around the league that this week could determine their status as buyer or sellers next month.
- Stark also tweets that he asked an unnamed club official if any teams other than the Cubs are aggressively selling at this point and was told him that in addition to Chicago, the Rays are “definitely open for business.” Stark’s colleague, Buster Olney, reported yesterday that the Rays would deal David Price “right now” if the right offer came along.
Here’s the latest from the National League East …
- In his latest Mets inbox, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo writes that he can’t envision the club trading Daniel Murphy this summer due to Sandy Alderson’s precedent for not wanting to deal proven commodities. He does provide a list of reasons to back up his belief that the Mets should be shopping Murphy, and he notes that Alderson has wavered at times, dealing Carlos Beltran and Marlon Byrd.
- Cliff Lee remains on track to return by the All-Star break, reports Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com. That would presumably give him at least a few starts to establish his value before the trade deadline (though it is fair to note that Lee could be a plausible August trade candidate). Seidman looks at the market for Lee from the Phils’ perspective, breaking down four possible trade partners (Yankees, Blue Jays, Angels, and Orioles) and what they might be willing and able to offer if Lee is made available.
- The Marlins will base their buy/sell stance in part upon whether the team is within striking distance not only of the wild card, but also the division, reports the Miami Herald’s Clark Spencer. “Just looking right now, I would tell you the best shot may be the division,” said GM Dan Jennings. Indeed, the NL East remains largely wide open. If the club does buy, Jennings confirmed prior reports that starting pitching appears a likely target. “Our starting pitching needs to step up a notch,” said Jennings, who explained that the club “loves” recent call-ups Andrew Heaney and Anthony DeSclafani but must assess how they perform at the MLB level at this early stage of their careers.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
The Reds‘ mostly homegrown rotation prevents them from having to spend big on starting pitching in free agency and gives them a big advantage, Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith writes. Homegrown pitchers like Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Tony Cingrani and Homer Bailey (leaving aside Bailey’s large recent extension, at least) have proven to be cost effective, and even Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon, both from outside the organization, were acquired without the Reds having to turn to the free agent market. Here are more notes from throughout the big leagues.
- Of the high-impact pitchers who might be available at the trade deadline, the Phillies‘ Cliff Lee makes the most sense for the Yankees, the New York Daily News’ Mark Feinsand writes. Lee will have an enormous salary in 2015, but the Yankees ignored the luxury-tax threshold last offseason, and there’s little reason to think they couldn’t do it again. Lee’s injury status (he went on the DL with an elbow strain in May) and huge contract might mean the Yankees could acquire him for a lesser cost in prospects.
- Lee threw 30 pitches in a bullpen session Friday, Marc Narducci of the Inquirer reports. He is not yet 100 percent, however. “It is not pain . . . it is not discomfort,” Lee says. “I would say it is there.”
- The Nationals aren’t planning on making any big trades anytime soon, reports MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. They don’t want to trade Danny Espinosa, believing he’s a future All-Star, or Adam LaRoche. They would listen to offers on pitcher Ross Detwiler, but aren’t actively looking to deal him.
In his Sunday Baseball Notes column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reminisces about a pitchers’ duel between the Red Sox’s Luis Tiant and the Angels’ Nolan Ryan 40 years ago, the likes of which we may never see again in today’s game. Tiant threw 195 pitches and was still on the hill when the Angels scored the game-winner with one out in the bottom of the 15th inning. Ryan, meanwhile, tossed 235 pitches in a meager 13 innings of work. “When you took the baseball, you wanted to finish what you started,” Tiant told Cafardo. “I didn’t even feel tired. I could have gone as long as I had to go. They beat me on a ground ball that went through the second baseman’s legs. It was the 15th inning and I was OK.” The last pitcher to pitch more than nine innings in a MLB game was Cliff Lee, who lasted ten innings in April 2012.
Here’s more from Cafardo’s column:
- Speaking of Lee, the Phillies left-hander will likely have to be a post-waiver deadline deal since he won’t have enough time between now and July 31st to rehab his strained elbow. Lee should be able to clear waivers because he has two years left on his deal at $25MM each.
- Jonathan Papelbon is pitching a lot better and there’s an expectation he could be one of the first Phillies to go once they decide to sell. One AL scout who has watched Papelbon’s outings said, “I’ll give him credit. I think he’s learning to pitch with what he’s got left. He’s not 96-98 [miles per hour], but he’s getting back up to 92-93 and making a lot of good adjustments.” Cafardo wonders if he could be a future member of the Tigers or Orioles.
- When Marco Scutaro returns from his back injury, he will likely become the Giants‘ utilityman and GM Brian Sabean is trying to add a second baseman by the trading deadline. Chase Utley would be a great fit, but Cafardo wonders if the Phillies will actually deal him, whether the veteran would waive his ten-and-five rights, and whether the Giants would give up the necessary bounty to acquire him. Ultimately, SF could set its sights lower.
- Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel is having a good season, but the scouting community is mixed on what impact he’d have on a contending team. Some question whether he can keep up this pace or whether he’ll be more of a back-of-the-rotation starter. Even positive comments Cafardo has heard have been tagged with the caveat you wouldn’t give up the farm for him.
- Despite the harsh assessment of the Padres‘ season by club CEO Mike Dee recently, Cafardo finds it hard to imagine Bud Black losing his job and opines firing him would be a mistake because he is seen as one of the game’s best managers in the eyes of a lot of baseball executives.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
With the draft in the rear-view mirror, the league’s attention will increasingly turn to the coming summer trade market — though, with so many teams still in the hunt and so much money owed to many possible trade candidates, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wonders if it will be a sluggish market.
Here’s the latest on some teams and players who could be discussed:
- The Diamondbacks, who feature a roster with several attractive veteran pieces, have also been widely noted for their abundance of quality young middle infielders. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links), current Triple-A shortstop Nick Ahmed has sparked interest from multiple other clubs. Ahmed, 24, is known as an outstanding defensive player and has enjoyed his most productive season at the plate this year with a .304/.385/.401 line in 250 plate appearances in his first run at Triple-A.
- The Rays should consider putting ace David Price on the market now rather than waiting for the deadline to approach, opines MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince. Tampa may not achieve the return it hopes for if it waits, says Castrovince, citing a variety of reasons — including the current proliferation of teams still in the hunt, the possibility that Cubs hurler Jeff Samardzija may approach or even surpass him in value, and the potential introduction of Royals’ ace James Shields into the discussion.
- Price may be the Rays‘ most valuable trade chip, but the versatile Ben Zobrist would draw the widest interest if he is put on the block, tweets Rosenthal. The 33-year-old jack of all trades is owed just $7MM this year and comes with an attractive $7.5MM club option for 2015.
- Indeed, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com writes that Zobrist is “the perfect acquisition for a team like the Tigers, Giants, or Dodgers.” As I noted a few days ago, he would also make sense for a team like the Nationals if they decide to add an impact veteran, and there are surely many others with possible interest.
- Gammons goes on to cite a few other possibly overlooked trade possibilities. He lists Bartolo Colon of the Mets and Steve Cishek of the Marlins in addition to some more commonly mentioned names like Jason Hammel of the Cubs, and Chase Headley of the Padres.
- Cliff Lee of the Phillies, a hypothetically intriguing trade candidate, finally threw a baseball yesterday for the first time since May 18, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. After what he described as a “light throwing session,” Lee said that his elbow was feeling “better.” Of course, he would need to make it back for at least a few starts to allow Philadelphia to recoup anything close to maximum value were they to shop him.
- In today’s Baseball Tonight podcast (audio link), ESPN’s Buster Olney says that hears the Cubs will approach this year’s deadline as they did in 2013, dealing one pitcher early as they did with Scott Feldman last year and waiting until later to move a second, as they did with Matt Garza. Presumably, that’d mean Jason Hammel would be moved first, with Jeff Samardzija being moved later. His colleague, Keith Law, feels the strategy can work, as there will never be enough starting pitchers for all the teams looking to buy, and the price for Hammel isn’t as difficult to agree upon. Moving Hammel early on forces interested clubs to force on the bigger target later in the deadline as the need becomes greater.
- Olney lists the Blue Jays, the Orioles and the Athletics as teams that could have early interest in Hammel, and he wonders if the recent injuries to the Pirates‘ rotation would cause them to jump into the mix. Law feels the Angels could be added to that mix, as their weak farm system would prevent them from adding a big-name starter.
Just five games stand between the first-place Braves and the last-place Phillies in the current NL East standings. Here’s the latest out of baseball’s tightest division…
- The Braves announced that they have called up second base prospect Tommy La Stella, though no corresponding move has been announced. However, a source has indicated to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman that Dan Uggla is remaining with the team rather than being released or designated for assignment to create room for La Stella. The 25-year-old La Stella hit .293/.384/.359 in 198 Triple-A plate appearances this season and ranked as Atlanta’s No. 7 prospect per MLB.com and No. 9 prospect per Baseball America.
- There’s no telling how long Phillies ace Cliff Lee will be sidelined until he’s reevaluated today, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tells Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News. “It could be up to a month, it could be a month and a half, it could be three weeks,” said Amaro. “I have no idea when the guy is going to be ready to pitch … I have no timetable until he’s up and throwing again.”
- Amaro also tells Lawrence that top third base prospect Maikel Franco was considered as an option when Cody Asche was injured, but ultimately, Franco simply isn’t ready for the Majors yet. “Offensively, he’s made some adjustments, he’s made some improvements better than in the earlier part of the season, but he’s not really going on all cylinders now. We’re still contemplating it. We’ll see how it goes.”
- Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes that Mets GM Sandy Alderson thought he’d be working with a bigger payroll when he took the job, though Alderson would never admit to that himself. Martino adds that the mood around the Mets is tense these days, due to speculation about Terry Collins’ job security (which he says is not justified) and the post-firing comments from hitting coach Dave Hudgens.
Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reports that Phillies president David Montgomery recently underwent surgery to remove cancer from his jaw. The procedure, which involved taking a bone from Montgomery’s leg and transplanting it to his mouth, will leave the 67-year-old hospitalized for another week. He is expected to make a full recovery. MLBTR wishes Montgomery a speedy return.
Here’s the latest on the Phillies…
- Cliff Lee has been placed on the disabled list with what has been termed a mild flexor tendon sprain, the team announced yesterday. The Inquirer’s Matt Gelb writes that doctors stressed to Lee the fact that he has no ligament damage. Still the team could be without its ace for at least three weeks, as Lee will rest entirely for one week then spend two weeks rebuilding the strength that rest will cause him to lose.
- ESPN’s Jayson Stark spoke with GM Ruben Amaro Jr., who said that he doesn’t yet know how Lee’s injury will impact his team’s strategy this summer. Amaro pointed out the parity throughout the game right now, citing it as another reason that he can’t assess whether his team will be a buyer or seller. He said David Buchanan is the most likely candidate to replace Lee, though he wouldn’t commit to that 100 percent. Darin Ruf has been called up for the time being, though Amaro termed that a “three-day fix.”
- Amaro also provided an update on righty Jonathan Pettibone, as Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports (Twitter links). A visit to Dr. James Andrews revealed a small labral tear, but Pettibone will not undergo surgery at this time. Instead, he will be treated with an anti-inflammatory shot and continue resting before starting to throw again. It was Pettibone’s decision to try to avoid surgery, reports Salisbury, which seems to imply that a procedure could still be a possibility in the future. As MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes, the so-called SLAP tear can present serious issues, and it is far from certain that Pettibone will ultimately avoid a more drastic solution.
- Veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins has put up quite an impressive performance through the first quarter of the season. His current pace — a .275/.369/.458 triple-slash with 6 home runs and 6 steals — is not only a bounce back from a rough 2013, but is reminiscent of his form in the glory days of the mid-to-late 2000′s. The 35-year-old has combined with Chase Utley to form one of the game’s most productive middle-infield duos. In theory, that makes Rollins an intriguing trade chip and, potentially, upcoming free agent. In fact, it is still far from clear that the Phils will look to deal him, let alone that he would agree to waive his ten-and-five rights. And Rollins is now exceedingly unlikely to hit the open market after the season. With 177 plate appearances already in the bag, the vesting of his $11MM option for next year seems a virtual shoo-in, barring significant injury. (It would vest at 600 plate appearances this year or 1,100 combined between 2013-14, though the latter scenario has injury protections built in for the team.)
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
Speculation has heightened as to when the Cardinals will call up top prospect Oscar Taveras. He is part of a special trio of Triple-A outfielders, along with Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk, a scout tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). That same scout said that Taveras needs a new challenge at this point. “He’s on cruise control,” he said. “Gives away at-bats. Needs to play with more urgency. He’ll get a wake-up call but it will take [the] big leagues to do it.” Of course, whatever his level of motivation and effort, Taveras has played well; he entered the day with a .304/.354/.509 line through 175 plate appearances.
Here are some more stray notes to round out the evening:
- While he remains winless, Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija continues to drive up his stock with an outstanding start to the season. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes that the club should shop him this summer at peak value; as a GM tells Heyman, Chicago will “want top, top guys” in return. Heyman lists the ten clubs that could possibly match up on Samardzija, topped by the three northernmost A.L. East clubs.
- While Heyman puts the Yankees first among possible Samardzija suitors, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post says that fellow Cubs starter Jason Hammel may make more sense for New York. Samardzija may price himself out of the Yanks’ reach in terms of a prospect package, says Davidoff. While Cliff Lee of the Phillies would also be of interest — and, presumably, be more achievable for the Yankees given his hefty contract — he now has significant arm issues for the first time in his career.
- The early-agreement trend on the July 2 international market has not only changed the dynamics of the market itself, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America, but has made it more difficult for prospect watchers to scout players. When players reach terms, they tend to steer clear of showcases and tryouts. As Badler notes, increasingly aggressive signing tactics also “elevate the risk and uncertainty” for teams, because young players can change so much in a short period of time.
- Now a decade in the past, the 2004 amateur draft understandably looks quite different in retrospect. ESPN.com’s Keith Law takes a look back in two Insider pieces (subscription required). There were many misses, of course, headlined by first overall pick Matt Bush. If teams had perfect foresight at the time, says Law, the first three choices would have brought Justin Verlander to the Padres, Dustin Pedroia to the Tigers, and Jered Weaver to the Mets.