Cliff Lee Rumors
The Phillies will listen to offers on starting pitcher Cliff Lee, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reports. It doesn't sound like GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is in any rush to move Lee, however. "Although we don't have any desire to move a guy like that because we view him as someone who will be key to our future, I am a businessperson as well and I'll be a good listener," Amaro says. There's another Lee-related story line to watch as we approach the trade deadline -- as Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes (via Twitter), Lee has been scratched from his start on Saturday due to a stiff neck.
If the Phillies were to become more receptive to moving Lee, it would mark a dramatic change in the trade market for starting pitching. With the Cubs having found a new home for Matt Garza in Texas, some of the top potential trade targets remaining include Jake Peavy, Ervin Santana, Bud Norris and Yovani Gallardo, and it's far from certain that all those players will be dealt.
As Crasnick suggests, Lee's contract will be an obstacle for potential suitors, particularly those with smaller payrolls. Lee has a salary of $25MM this season, and is owed $25MM per season for both 2014 and 2015. He has a $27.5MM club option for 2016 with a $12.5MM buyout. He has a limited no-trade clause that allows him to decline trades to 21 teams. Lee, 34, has a 3.05 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 this season.
The Phillies have lost five in a row, and their chances of making the playoffs are remote -- they're eight games back in the NL East, and 9.5 games back in the NL Wild Card chase. But Amaro still sounds noncommital about selling at the deadline, even if he's potentially open to it. "I can't sit here and say I'm not going to trade Chase (Utley), or Cliff, or Michael Young or Chooch (Carlos Ruiz), or any of these guys," he says. "Some guys are less tradeable than others. But I think I owe it to us as an organization to listen."
The Phillies, who lost Ben Revere for six to eight weeks over the weekend due to a broken bone in his ankle, are currently 6.5 games out of first place in the NL East. With Revere on the shelf for the foreseeable future, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is on the lookout for a center fielder. A rough couple of weeks could have the team selling pieces, however. Here's more on the Phils....
- Phillies chairman Bill Giles told Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer that this is the "most difficult (final) July two weeks" he has ever seen for the team. The 78-year-old Giles, who has been with the Phillies since 1969, is in particular "worried a lot" about Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley's futures. "I am rooting for Chase to be with us, I will tell you that," Giles said. "He is a quality person and has done so much for this organization."
- Utley, for his part, tells MLB.com's Todd Zolecki that he wants to remain in Philadelphia past the trade deadline and beyond. "I've never envisioned wearing another team's uniform," Utley said. "And I know there's a lot of speculation, but I still haven't....that still hasn't changed over the last month. I've talked to Ruben. I've told him what I think about the organization and city of Philly. That's kind of where we're at." Amaro recently said he hoped Utley would stay a Phillie for the remainder of his career.
- A Red Sox team source tells Tim Britton of the Providence Journal that they don't expect the Phillies to be sellers at the trade deadline since the Phils are still afloat in the NL playoff race.
- At today's All-Star festivities in New York, Cliff Lee told reporters (including WEEI.com's Rob Bradford) that as far as he knows, he will not be traded this year.
MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post
Phillies' right-hander Luis Garcia looked the part of a big league pitcher when he made his MLB debut on Wednesday, striking out Ryan Zimmerman and getting a double-play grounder from Adam LaRoche. However, prior to this season he'd been out of organized baseball for two years, working for a moving company and in a barbershop, Todd Zolecki and Stephen Pianovich of MLB.com write. After showing the Phillies a mid-90s fastball and a decent slider, the team assigned him to their high-A club, and he's now pitching out of a major league bullpen. Some more Friday night Phillies links...
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. isn't expected to make drastic changes to his team as the trade deadline approaches, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Though the Phils remain under .500, the team is playing well lately, having just taken five of seven from divison rivals Washington and Atlanta. A model for the Phillies' approach to the trade market this year might be the 2007 club under GM Pat Gillick, which plugged holes by acquiring infielder Tad Iguchi and pitcher Kyle Lohse for two non-prospects. Gelb also discussed the market for Michael Young, highlighting the Red Sox, the Yankees, the Dodgers and the Orioles as potential trade partners.
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com runs down possible trade pieces for the Phillies at the deadline. From conversations with people around baseball, it would seem that Lee is staying put while rival execs see at least a small chance of Jonathan Papelbon being traded. Opinions seem to be split 50/50 on Chase Utley, though there's a strong belief that Young is a goner if they're not in position to contend. Finally, execs could see the club trading catcher Carlos Ruiz if they remain on the cusp of the race or fall further.
- The Phillies signed 11th-round pick Denton Keys to a $350K bonus (plus a $200K college scholarship) that will put them over their bonus pool and force them to pay a luxury tax, according to Baseball America's Jim Callis (Twitter links). Because Callis mentions no loss of future draft picks, it seems that the Phils exceeded their pool by 0-5 percent. Any further overage would result in a loss of their 2014 first-rounder. Keys, according to Callis, is a prep left-hander from Colorado whose fastball touches 91 mph. He was committed to Kansas.
Ryan Howard will be out of action for six-to-eight weeks following surgery to repain a torn medial meniscus in his left knee. While Howard wasn't going to be a trade candidate at the deadline (no team would touch that contract), it's possible his absence might convince the Phillies to throw in the towel on the 2013 season and become full-fledged sellers this month. Here's the latest from around the NL East...
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo discussed his team's acquisition of Scott Hairston with reporters (including MASNsports.com's Dan Kolko) today. Hairston was the Nats' top target for right-handed bench help and the club had been negotiating with the Cubs for a couple of weeks, with an eye towards getting the deal finalized before the Nationals' current series with the Phillies. Rizzo liked that Hairston was contracted through 2014 so he can be an asset to Washington next season as well.
- Rizzo also noted that the Nats could make another move before the trade deadline but it won't be anything major. "You never stop trying to improve your club, but with that said, we feel like we like the club that we have and we're certainly playing better and we'll see where it takes us from here," Rizzo said. "I don't see any type of big splashy moves that are remaining."
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs likes the Hairston trade, noting that it's the kind of shrewd low-cost move that can pay dividends if Washington ends up in the postseason.
- Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post opines that a trade package of Danny Espinosa, Ross Detwiler, Tyler Moore and Lucas Giolito might be enough for the Nationals to obtain David Price from the Rays. While that's not a bad offer, I think the Rays could score a lot more elite talent if they started shopping their ace lefty.
- Braves catcher Brian McCann finally seems to be fully healthy and has been red-hot over the last two weeks, leading David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to predict that if McCann keeps it up, he'll score a free agent contact close to Yadier Molina's five-year, $75MM deal with the Cardinals. O'Brien notes that this deal will come from an AL team that will eventually transition McCann to a DH role, which is why I'd argue that McCann's eventual contract will fall at least $10-$15MM short of Molina's deal. McCann's bat doesn't carry a $15MM average annual value if it's not coming from the catcher position, plus Molina brought elite defense and a less-checkered injury history into his new contract.
- Zack Wheeler is set to face the Giants on Wednesday, almost two years after he was dealt from San Francisco to the Mets in exchange for Carlos Beltran. ESPN New York's Adam Rubin talks to Wheeler and Giants manager Bruce Bochy about the trade, and Bochy has no regrets since his club was gunning for another World Series title.
- The Rangers would love to acquire Cliff Lee from the Phillies, CBS Sports' Danny Knobler writes, "but at this point the Phillies seem to have most people in baseball convinced that they won't trade Lee (or maybe anyone else)."
- In NL East news from earlier today on MLBTR, we shared some Marlins-related news and also some Mets items as part of a collection of New York Notes.
The first big move of trade season went down yesterday when the Orioles acquired starter Scott Feldman from the Cubs, along with catcher Steve Clevenger, for starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, reliever Pedro Strop and international bonus pool money. The move will obviously have an impact on the O's, but more broadly, it means that we've entered the period when trade talk becomes more than just talk, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Here's more from today's column..
- Scouts that have spoken with Martino expect the Phillies to be active sellers, but hold onto Cliff Lee since they want to contend next year. However, rival scouts and execs anticipate that, in addition to Michael Young and Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon will be dealt or at least heavily shopped. We've heard previously that the Phillies are expected to ask for an astronomical haul to part with Papelbon.
- Papelbon also fits the bill as someone who could be kept for next year, but rivals that have spoken with Martino see too much of a need for bullpen help amongst contenders like the Red Sox and Tigers and they expect GM Ruben Amaro to get a strong offer for the closer.
- One executive involved in the talks for the Marlins' Ricky Nolasco predicts that he will land with the Dodgers, with the Giants a possibility and the Padres still somewhat interested. Last night it was reported that the Rangers, Rockies, and Dodgers are in "heavy pursuit" of the Miami hurler.
- A major league source told Martino that the Twins will likely shop Mike Pelfrey later this month, if he makes a strong few starts. While the 29-year-old hasn't exactly been a world-beater this year - he has a 6.11 ERA with 4.8 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 - he could perhaps get better as he moves further from last year's Tommy John surgery and appeal to a contender willing to throw starters against the wall like the Orioles.
Based on comments Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. made to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, it appears the team would not be inclined to take on money in the unlikely event they trade expensive pitchers Cliff Lee or Jonathan Papelbon. Asked about eating money to ensure the highest return in a trade, Amaro said:
"That's usually the case with most deals in this era. In the cases of the players rumored out there, like the Lees and Papelbons, taking back money is not going to be an issue because the talent is too high. That's not going to be debilitating for anybody. The teams who would be interested would be willing to take on the dollars associated with it. Particularly in those deals - I don't anticipate doing those - but it's about making baseball deals, not monetary deals. I haven't been mandated to go and shed payroll. I've never had that mandate."
Lee will be owed over $70MM through 2015 at the trade deadline, while Papelbon will have over $30MM through 2015 remaining (more if his 2016 option vests). Having dropped their last two contests, the Phillies sit at 9.5 games out in the NL East and eight back in the wild card. As Gelb explains, the team can afford to wait until the end of the month.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports runs down the names to watch as the trade deadline approaches in the latest edition of his 10 Degrees column, and the list is topped by Cliff Lee and Chase Utley. Giancarlo Stanton, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Justin Morneau, Jesse Crain, Oliver Perez and Matt Garza also appear on the list, along with Passan's rationale for shopping each. Here's more from around the league...
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that the price to acquire Lee from the Phillies would be "astronomical," and the same goes for Jonathan Papelbon. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told Heyman, "I never say never," but those two would be very difficult to replace. Utley and Michael Young are much more likely trade candidates, opines Heyman, given their impending free agency.
- The Blue Jays' decision on what to do with Munenori Kawasaki following Jose Reyes' return from the disabled list grows more difficult each day, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Kawasaki's popularity among fans and teammates has soared. Mark Buehrle went as far as calling the Japanese infielder one of his favorite teammates of all-time. Kawasaki also has a .341 OBP and is hitting .270/.372/.486 over his past 15 games.
- Both Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy recognize that roster changes are on the horizon for the White Sox if they can't turn things around at the last minute, writes Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. Dunn added that outside of Chris Sale -- whom he said the White Sox would need to receive an entire MLB team to part with -- everyone on the team is probably "fair game."
- Mark Appel could make his pro debut for Class A Tri-City in the first week of July, according to Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle. The current plan for Appel is for him to begin a throwing program in Kissimmee, Fla., as he currently hasn't thrown in about three weeks.
Phillies president David Montgomery showed support for GM Ruben Amaro Jr. on Wednesday, Bob Brookover of the Inquirer reports. "Ruben is not making independent decisions," Montgomery says. "He's going with a pretty good group of eyes who are looking out there at players and making determinations. God knows we're all trying to bat 1.000 on decision making. The reality is I think we do better than the .300 standard in baseball." The Phillies are 35-38 after going 81-81 last season. Here are more notes from the National League.
- The Phillies are among the teams that must rebuild, says ESPN's Jim Bowden (Insider-only). (Bowden also names the White Sox and the Brewers.) Bowden says the Phillies should try to trade veterans in order to reduce the payroll and add youth, but they shouldn't blow up the team completely, since the Phillies have a workable core. Trading Cliff Lee or Jonathan Papelbon would be the Phillies' best bet, Bowden says.
- Chris Carpenter, who is trying to come back from a nerve injury, will not factor in the Cardinals' trade deadline plans, GM John Mozeliak tells Derrick Gould and Brendan Meyer of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. " He hasn’t pitched yet. It’s still something that he could end up contributing, I think that’s a bonus. But I don’t think, going in to (July 31), (we will be) factoring him involved right now," says Mozeliak. Carpenter felt back tightness after throwing a bullpen session on Sunday.
- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says manager Dale Sveum isn't to blame for the team's poor record, ESPNChicago.com's Doug Padilla writes, citing an interview on ESPN 1000. The Cubs just don't have the talent to provide Sveum with good options right now, Epstein says. "I think Dale is taking a lot of heat for the fact that we don't have currently a roster that is talented enough to regularly win baseball games," says Epstein. "We just don't."
- Epstein also says the Cubs will not release Ian Stewart, Padilla notes. The Cubs suspended Stewart after he sent a series of tweets complaining that the club was unlikely to promote him. "He hasn't lived up to our expectations but he is a human being and his career is at stake," Epstein says. Stewart has hit .168/.286/.372 for Triple-A Iowa this season.
The Phillies have struggled to stay competitive this season and have been rumored to be a trade deadline seller for weeks, but GM Ruben Amaro Jr. doesn't plan on moving his most valuable pitching assets. Amaro told reporters (including ESPN's Jayson Stark) on Friday that he has "no desire to trade those guys. At all," referring to Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon.
"My job is to try and put a contending team on the field every year, and we have a much better chance to be a contending team with both of those guys on the club," Amaro said. "If we have those guys at the top of our rotation, we're a better club. ... It starts and ends with pitching, as far as I'm concerned. So the more quality pitching you have, the better chance you have to build around that to win."
The general manager didn't draw the line at any midseason moves, noting that "We have plenty of people to trade" and that "four or five guys come off the payroll" after the season, which could give the Phils more flexibility. It could also seem to hint that four of Philadelphia's pending free agents (Roy Halladay, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley and Michael Young) could be trade bait in July, though Young is the only one of the quartet who isn't on the DL, and Halladay's and Ruiz's injuries have greatly diminished -- if not destroyed -- their trade value.
Amaro didn't rule out bringing any of those free agents back in 2014 but noted that moves would still be made with an eye towards contending next season rather than beginning a rebuilding process.
"Whether you're talking about retooling or rewrapping or taking a different direction, I think there are ways we can do that," Amaro said. "But when you start talking about blowing it up, you're basically saying you're going to start from scratch. And that's not happening."
Dealing Lee (owed at least $78MM through the 2015 season) or Papelbon (roughly $33.6MM owed through 2015 with a $13MM vesting option for 2016) would count as sign that the Phillies were taking a step back to reload, and dealing Hamels (who just signed a six-year, $144MM extension last July) would count as the first step towards a major rebuild. Lee said yesterday that he wanted to play for a contender and that while his preference was to do so in Philadelphia, winning was his top priority. Lee has a partial no-trade clause in his contract that allows him to block a deal to 20 teams each season.
The latest out of baseball's Eastern divisions...
- Phillies ace Cliff Lee was noncommittal when asked by reporters (including CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury) if he'd like to stay in Philadelphia even if things don't turn around: "I definitely want to win. There’s no doubt about that. I want to win. I don’t know how to say it besides that. I want to win." Lee did go on to say he preferred to win in Philadelphia, but avoided discussing the possibility of pitching for another team.
- Alex Speier of WEEI.com reported yesterday that Red Sox top prospect Xander Bogaerts was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket. The Sox deliberated on the decision, but with Jose Iglesias sticking on the roster, the decision was made to move Baseball America's No. 8 prospect up a level. The shortstop hit .311/.407/.502 in 56 games at Double-A Portland.
- The Red Sox and Phillies are both interested in Dominican prospects Rafael Devers and Luis Encarnacion, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America (subscription required). Devers and Encarnacion are thought to be two of the best hitters on this year's July 2 market, and Badler expects both to sign for over $1MM. Badler says that early reports on Devers liken him to Hank Blalock as a teenager.
- Evan Drellich of MassLive.com adds that Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is placing a large emphasis on this year's international market, and confirms with team sources that there is heavy interest in Devers.