Cliff Lee Rumors

Quick Hits: Taveras, Samardzija, Hammel, Amateur

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.

Injury Notes: Harvey, Lee, Hart, Beltran

Rehabbing Mets ace Matt Harvey hopes to return to big league action at the end of this season, the righty tells Tom Verducci of SI.com. While Harvey acknowledged that he would not push to return before being cleared, he said he wants to re-establish himself on the hill before the year is out. “I just want the peace of mind,” said Harvey. “I want to go back out there and know I still have the stuff to strike out major league hitters.” For his part, club GM Sandy Alderson sounded a cautious note, reports ESPNNewYork.com’s Adam Rubin“Not being a medical doctor and not really faced with that decision previously, I’ll reserve judgment,” he said. “But the one thing we don’t want to do is be put in a situation where someone — Matt, or anyone else — has a setback because we’ve pushed the natural recovery processes further than we should have.”

Here’s the latest on some injury situations around the game that could potentially have transactional implications:

  • Cliff Lee of the Phillies underwent an MRI today on his left elbow, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. The durable and excellent lefty has been throwing through elbow tenderness for the last several weeks, but GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said that the discomfort increased in his last start. The 35-year-old has been diagnosed with a flexor pronator strain, tweets Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, though a full assessment will await the results of the MRI. Needless to say, a prolonged absence or ongoing injury questions could not only have ramifications for the Phils’ ability to stay in the post-season race, but could heavily impact the summer’s starting pitching trade market. Lee, who has 21-club no-trade rights, is owed $25MM this year and next before a 2016 vesting/club option that comes with a $12.5MM buyout.
  • Mariners first baseman/outfielder/DH Corey Hart is expected to miss four to six weeks, reports MLB.com’s Greg Johns (via Twitter). That news — and Stephen Drew‘s signing with the Red Sox today — has fueled calls for Seattle to take another look at re-signing first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales. Should Morales stay a free agent until the upcoming amateur draft, of course, he will be free to sign anywhere without costing his new team a pick, and without returning a compensatory choice to the M’s.
  • Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran still hopes to play through the bone spur in his elbow, but if surgery is required he would be out for about two months, reports Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (Twitter links). Beltran saw Dr. James Andrews today, who confirmed the original diagnosis. It appears that the question at this point is whether or not Beltran can deal with the pain while playing at full speed.

Cafardo On Lee, Yankees, Maeda, Lackey

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe discusses the rash of injuries to pitchers.  Some are suggesting that MLB lower the mound, which would reduce stress on the shoulder and elbow by reducing some of the downward force.  Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves has a different idea. “You have to stop shrinking the strike zone,” he said. “It has to be expanded. It’s incredible what you’re asking of pitchers nowadays. You expect them to throw the baseball into this tiny box. Do you know how much stress that puts on a pitcher’s arm? Just remembering when I pitched, the strike zone is so tiny compared to back then. It’s impossible to think that you make a pitcher hit that tiny box and not have it affect the health of a pitcher over time.”  Here’s more from today’s column..

  • Baseball executives think they’ll have their eyes on Cliff Lee if the Phillies fall out of the race.  The Yankees would have plenty of competition for Lee, perhaps even from the Red Sox, who have long coveted him, especially given his past relationship with John Farrell. The Red Sox also have more to give than the Yankees in terms of prospects. Lee, 35, will earn $25MM this season and next, and has a $27.5MM option for 2016, which vests with 200 innings in 2015 or 400 innings in 2014-15.
  • It’s expected that teams that missed out on Masahiro Tanaka will bid for Hiroshima Toyo Carp standout Kenta Maeda.  The Red Sox have scouted Maeda quite a bit and he’s garnering attention, even though he is not as accomplished as Tanaka.
  • Cafardo asked four GMs if they would rework John Lackey’s 2015 salary at the major league minimum if they were running the Red Sox. Three said no, that Lackey had agreed to play for the minimum in a sixth year if he lost a year to Tommy John surgery. The consensus was Lackey would be even more motivated to have a big year if he was playing for another big contract.
  • The Phillies didn’t have any suitors for Jonathan Papelbon over the offseason, but now that he’s pitched through some difficulty he may have a market.  The Phillies may not get a whole lot for him, however.


NL East Notes: Niese, Lee, Adams, Marlins, Rivero

Mets fans had a scare yesterday when projected Opening Day starter Jon Niese had to travel to New York to undergo an MRI after experiencing a dead arm. However, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweeted earlier today that the results of Niese's MRI were positive; doctors said his shoulder looked "perfect," and he will be able to resume throwing as soon as he returns to camp. Elsewhere in the NL East…

  • CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury writes that 2014 could finally be the year that the Phillies trade Cliff Lee if they fall out of contention. Lee says that the concept of trade rumors don't matter to him: "I really don't care. There’s no sense really thinking about it. Honestly, it usually means a good thing. It means you’ve had success and other teams really want you." Lee's contract is guaranteed through the 2015 season and contains a vesting option for 2016.
  • Rehabbing Phillies setup man Mike Adams threw his first bullpen of the spring today and said he felt great afterward, writes MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. Adams felt some discomfort when throwing from flat ground on monday, but the Phillies' head trainer assured him it was ok. Adams, set to earn $7MM in 2014 after missing most of 2013, said he threw at about 85 percent intensity today and could be in the Phillies' bullpen sometime in April.
  • Christina De Nicola of FOX Sports Florida spoke to Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill about his wealth of pitching prospects. Beyond Jose Fernandez, Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, and Jacob Turner, the Marlins also have minor leaguers Andrew Heaney, Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSclafani, Adam Conley, Brad Hand and Brian Flynn. "Those guys are all starting pitchers, which is an envious position to be in," Hill said. "We're proud of our depth, happy to have it and just hopeful that they all develop into what we think they can be."
  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo calls recent trade acquisition Felipe Rivero a "huge-upside left-handed starter," writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. Wagner spoke with Rivero about his transition from the Rays organization to the Nationals.

Phillies Notes: Brown, Papelbon, Lee, Hamels

The Phillies have been involved in a handful of rumors this week in Orlando, as reports surfaced suggesting that the team is open to moving Domonic Brown, as well as aces Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. However, it sounds like the price tags on any of those players would be extremely high, reducing the likelihood of a deal. Here's the latest on the Phillies:

  • One club told Peter Gammons (Twitter link) that the possibility of attaching Brown to Jonathan Papelbon in a trade is in play for the Phillies. In that scenario, Philadephia would use the savings to pursue starting pitching help.
  • Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly spoke to a few people who have "knowledge of the inner workings" of the team, and received mixed reactions on whether the Phillies would really move Lee or Hamels. One source called the rumors a "smokescreen" while another suggested the club might trade Lee, but not Hamels.
  • For his part, GM Ruben Amaro called the Lee and Hamels rumors "silly," according to Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News.
  • Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com wonders if the Angels' trade of Mark Trumbo might provide a blueprint for the Phillies and Brown, considering both players are corner outfielders with big bats and limited defensive value.
  • The Phillies are satisfied with their offense and aren't looking to make significant additions, but David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News notes that everything will have to break right for it to be an impact lineup.

Phillies Willing To Discuss Hamels, Lee In Trades

10:20am: ESPN's Jayson Stark tweets that the only way the Phillies would move Hamels or Lee would be in a "win-win" situation in which they receivea huge return and shed the entirety of the remaining salary. In other words, a trade is unlikely.

8:18am: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also hears that both Philadelphia aces are in play, but the Phillies won't eat any of the remaining money on either contract (Twitter link).

8:13am: The Phillies have indicated to other teams that they're willing to discuss Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee in trades, according to ESPN's Buster Olney (on Twitter).

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is apparently being quite open-minded at this year's Winter Meetings, as he's also said to be "actively shopping" Domonic Brown on the heels of Brown's 2013 breakout. Given the number of teams looking to acquire established pitchers, adding Hamels and/or Lee to a market that already includes David Price and Jeff Samardzija would give interested teams more options to choose from.

Hamels will be 30 at the end of this month and is guaranteed $112.5MM through the 2018 season ($22.5MM annually) with a $24MM vesting option for 2019. Though he started the season slowly, the left-hander posted a very Hamels-like 2.73 ERA from June 1 through season's end, finishing with a 3.60 ERA, 8.3 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9.

Lee, 35, will earn $25MM in each of the next two seasons and has a $27.5MM vesting option for the 2016 campaign. He pitched to a 2.87 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 222 2/3 innings, giving him a league-leading 6.94 K/BB ratio.


East Notes: Kuroda, Lee, Mets, Blue Jays

Yankees starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda hasn't decided whether he'll pitch in 2014, Anthony Rieber of New York Newsday reports (via Twitter). He might pitch in the U.S. or in Japan, and it's not impossible he could retire, either. Kuroda ranked sixth in Tim Dierkes' most recent Free Agent Power Rankings, and even though he'll turn 39 before the 2014 season starts, his ability to rack up high-quality innings makes him a valuable commodity. If he were to retire or return to Japan, that would put a significant dent in this offseason's free agent pitching market. Here are more notes from the East divisions.

  • Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee plans to retire after the 2016 season, Matt Gelb of the Inquirer reports (on Sulia). Lee's contract is guaranteed through 2015, and the Phillies have an option on his services for 2016. "I'm financially able to shut it down, so… that's how I feel right now," Lee says. "But when the time comes I might look at it differently."
  • The Mets will look for a veteran catcher to serve as Travis d'Arnaud's backup next season, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York tweets. Adding a veteran would also insure the Mets against the possibility that d'Arnaud gets hurt, Rubin notes. In mid-August, d'Arnaud took over for John Buck as the Mets' starting catcher.
  • The Blue Jays' disappointing season has left them well outside the playoff picture, but that doesn't mean their final series against the Rays is irrelevant, MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm writes. Right now, the Jays have baseball's seventh-worst record, tied with the Phillies, Rockies and Brewers. They're currently one game worse than the Mets and two worse than the Giants. That's significant, Chisholm points out, because the top ten picks in the draft are protected, meaning that if the Jays finish with one of baseball's ten worst records, they'll be able to pursue free agents who have been extended qualifying offers, and they won't have to worry about losing their first-round pick if they sign one. For example, the Indians had a protected first-round pick last season, which allowed them to keep the No. 5 overall pick (which they used on Clint Frazier) even after they signed Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. The Indians did sacrifice their second-round and Competitive Balance Round B picks.

Quick Hits: Lee, A’s, Rays, Yankees

In reality, the Red Sox were a "non factor" for Cliff Lee before they landed Jake Peavy, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  Will he get moved today to another club?  Baseball people are highly doubtful anyone would meet the supposed Phillies' asking price of three top prospects for a pitcher who has $70MM left on his deal through 2015.  "I don't know of a team in baseball that would [do] that. Taking on that much money and giving up three legit prospects seems like a stretch for anyone," one exec said.  Here's more from around baseball as we approach the 3pm central deadline..

  • The A's are still pursuing bullpen depth, tweets Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio and ESPN.
  • Teams that have spoken with the Phillies say they're not upbeat about making any deals today, tweets ESPN.com's Jayson Stark.  Michael Young is still in play, but there's no clear destination for the third baseman.
  • The Cardinals are leaning towards standing pat at the deadline unless there is a last minute drastic change, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (via Twitter).
  • Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times writes that the Rays have been looking into at least one more potential deal, presumably to add a bat.  Tampa Bay made a splash earlier this week when they landed Jesse Crain in a swap with the White Sox.
  • The Yankees were mainly working on smaller acquisitions like Alberto Callaspo this week and didn't have any interest in Alex Rios once they landed Alfonso Sorianotweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.  Callaspo wound up going from the Halos to the A's.
  • The Marlins don't expect to do much today and plan to keep Chad Qualls, Justin Ruggiano, and other trade chips if they can't get good value in return, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • Meanwhile, the Marlins are gauging interest in Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com
  • The Royals' search for a second baseman continues, but they don't appear to be close on anything at the moment, writes Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star.  “Anything’s possible,” one club official said. “We looking at a lot of things, but I doubt anything get done unless things change in the last few hours.
  • The Indians got the left-handed reliever they needed yesterday in Marc Rzepczynski and would still be open to a rotation upgrade, but they don't like the price so far, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).  For now, the Tribe is prepared to stand pat.
  • There are a lot of present and veteran Braves who think the club is making a serious mistake by allowing Brian McCann hit the open market at the end of the season, writes Peter Gammons at GammonsDaily.com. "Only the people around the team understand what he means to that pitching staff. He’s a star player in the team concept,” said David Ross of McCann, who also leads the team with a .884 OPS.
  • Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com spoke with Nationals players to get their take on the trade deadline.  Scott Hairston and Adam LaRoche have both been involved in multiple deadline deals.

Cliff Lee Not Getting Traded Today

Driving home the recent vibe, Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM says Phillies lefty Cliff Lee is not getting traded today.  GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said yesterday there was "very little chance" of him trading Lee.  With the Red Sox having acquired Jake Peavy, there are no clear suitors anyway.


Cliff Lee Rumors: Tuesday

Phillies lefty Cliff Lee is "eminently available," writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.  Given that the 34-year-old has at least $70MM remaining on his contract through 2015, his availability has sparked a debate over his true trade value.  The latest:

  • The Phillies have no no obvious bidders for Lee at this point, tweets Heyman, who adds that he would be surprised to see a team give up three top prospects and take on the remaining $70MM on Lee's contract.

Earlier Updates

  • The Red Sox are no longer pursuing Cliff Lee, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio (Twitter link).
  • There is "very little chance" of the Phillie trading Lee, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said on MLB Network on Tuesday afternoon.
  • The Red Sox feel a trade for Lee is highly unlikely, tweets Yahoo's Tim Brown, but Jake Peavyand Bud Norris are still in play for them.
  • The Phillies are believed to have asked for a package headed by Bogaerts and Brandon Workman, plus a big league ready outfielder, according to ESPN's Jayson Stark. Stark's source agrees with the consensus, that the Sox won't give up Bogaerts.
  • Though the Phillies want Bogaerts as the centerpiece of a Lee deal, the Red Sox "view his inclusion as a non-starter and will not consider proposals that involve him," writes John Tomase of the Boston Herald.  He says the Red Sox are willing to deal multiple top ten prospects though.
  • The Phillies won't settle for anything less than top Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts at the head of any package for Lee, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
  • The Red Sox are the biggest player in the Lee derby, writes Heyman.  "If there are other teams heavily involved in talks for Lee, they are doing it in an extremely stealthy manner," he adds.