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Cole Hamels Rumors
Ben Cherington and the Red Sox aren’t expecting to make a significant trade before the season begins, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. Any moves the Red Sox might make before the end of the month are likely to be small ones. “You never know exactly who might be available right at the end … but I would say it’s much more likely that the 25 guys (who will break camp with the team) are already here,” says Cherington.
Independent of context, that’s more of a truism than a noteworthy statement. As Lauber points out, key trades rarely occur in Spring Training. Teams tend to be healthier (this year’s rash of pitcher injuries notwithstanding), and executives tend to be more optimistic about the players they already have on hand. “Since it’s the beginning of the year, you’re likely to have more healthy players,” says Cherington. “But the biggest thing is, you’ve put all this together. So there’s a sense of, give it a chance to see what it can do.”
The idea that the Red Sox are planning on going with the roster they have is perhaps noteworthy in their specific case, however. They have an abundance of outfielders, with Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts, Shane Victorino, Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig and Daniel Nava all on hand. They’ve also repeatedly been connected to Cole Hamels of the Phillies, although nothing appears close on that front.
The Rangers and Phillies are still talking about a deal that would send top lefty Cole Hamels to Texas, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. While the sides are talking about possible prospect packages, nothing is close at the moment.
Heyman notes that “there is no evidence the Red Sox and Phillies have talked seriously in recent weeks” on a deal involving Hamels, meaning that the Rangers could be the most promising landing spot at present. Philly is reportedly looking to add three legitimate prospects in a deal, with at least one potential impact player among them.
In addition to its impressive list of youngsters, the Rangers have some payroll flexibility, according to Heyman. After foregoing any significant spending this winter, the team appears likely to open the year with just under $140MM committed to its 25-man roster (and disabled list). Looking forward, Texas has over $100MM already on the books for 2016 and at least $50MM in each of the three years that follow. Hamels’s contract would tack on $22.5MM to those tallies over each of the next four years, and it also includes a $20MM option for 2019 that carries a $6MM buyout.
Yu Darvish‘s season-ending Tommy John surgery has left a void atop the Rangers’ rotation, and it is surely tempting to replace him with Hamels. Of course, such a deal probably would have made as much or more sense prior to that injury, given the team’s other rotation questions. Part of the motivation for continuing to talk with Philadelphia could well be that the club already had designs on adding another long-term arm at some point in the near future.
Here’s the latest from the American League East:
- The Red Sox risk losing a chance to acquire Cole Hamels of the Phillies by waiting to deal for him, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. While it is too early to judge the team’s current rotation, results — and, perhaps more importantly, reviews from rival scouts — have been less than promising.
- Meanwhile, the Red Sox are still “trying to find a trade partner” for first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig, per Cafardo. He notes that the club has assigned several “top pro scouts” to watch the Giants, Padres, and Cubs recently, though it is not entirely clear that all of those clubs could match up on Craig.
- Orioles catcher Matt Wieters will be shut down for about a week after experiencing tendinitis in his surgically-repaired right elbow after his first stint behind the dish, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. Manage Buck Showalter said that he does not see the news as a setback, and indicated that the move was made as an exercise of caution. Wieters’ ability to return to his usually sturdy work with the mask on is critical not only to the team’s hopes this year, but also to his free agent case after the season.
- Reliever Andrew Bailey made his return to competitive action today for the Yankees, with Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees Blog tweeting that Bailey’s fastball sat in the low 90s in his inning of work. Meanwhile, Masahiro Tanaka continued to show strong form this spring, as Jennings further reports. If both of those arms can prove healthy and effective, the club’s run prevention efforts will obviously receive a significant boost. While Tanaka pitched much of last season before being shut down with a partial UCL tear, Bailey has not thrown a big league pitch since 2013 and represents pure upside for New York.
The Phillies and Red Sox have made “virtually no headway” on a Cole Hamels trade, and that’s because the Red Sox refuse to include top catching prospect Blake Swihart, Jayson Stark of ESPN writes. Of course, that didn’t stop media speculation when Swihart joined the Red Sox’ starting lineup as they took on the Phillies in Clearwater Sunday. “I think it’s funny just like you guys do,” says Swihart. In the meantime, manager John Farrell expresses confidence in another young Red Sox catcher, Christian Vazquez. “Blake is the name that’s always been in the rumors, because of what he potentially could be attached to,” says Farrell. “But the guy who is as good as anybody in the game right now, as far as catching, receiving and throwing, is Christian Vazquez.” Vazquez will start for the Red Sox while Swihart appears likely to begin the season at Triple-A, a level at which he has only 18 games of experience. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Cubs slugger Kris Bryant is eager to prove he belongs in the big leagues, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. “I want to build on what I’ve done so far. Now I’ve got the gas to the floor, and I’m not going to let up,” Bryant says. The Cubs want Bryant to work on his defense, and he likely won’t start the year in the Majors. Heyman suggests that’s not due to service-time concerns, but the fact that the Cubs will gain an extra year of service time by holding Bryant back for a couple weeks of the regular season is surely, at the very least, a happy byproduct of their likely development plan. Whenever Bryant’s promotion to the big leagues arrives, it will be a momentous occasion. By hitting six homers in his first 23 Spring Training plate appearances, Bryant has done nothing to quiet the hype that swirled around him last year.
- Jack Zduriencik and the Mariners are hoping to improve on a 2014 season in which they fell just short of a playoff berth, MLB.com’s Mike Bauman writes. “I like what should be our 25-man roster,” says Zduriencik after an offseason in which the Mariners added Nelson Cruz, Seth Smith, J.A. Happ, Justin Ruggiano and Rickie Weeks. He adds that he feels the Mariners’ depth in the minors is also an asset. “We hoped we could have a good, competitive club year in and year out, a good Minor League system that could continue to fill the void when you have a need, instead of what we had a few years ago, when we had 16, 17, 18 players that debuted in the big leagues in one year.”
The Rangers and Phillies have maintained communication regarding Cole Hamels, although there have been no new developments in those talks, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes. The Rangers have a huge hole in their starting rotation given that Yu Darvish will be out for the season while he recovers from Tommy John surgery, and Heyman points out that the Rangers have the money and the farm system necessary to make a deal. (GM Jon Daniels said earlier this week that the Rangers planned to replace Darvish internally, however.)
One problem with pursuing Hamels might be that the Rangers wouldn’t be a great bet to contend in 2015 even if they added Hamels, given that their current rotation would be thin even with him in the fold. If the Rangers want to add a top-notch starting pitcher, perhaps the better route would be to wait until next winter and then pick from a very good group of free agents. That might cost more in terms of dollars (Hamels has four guaranteed years and $96MM remaining on his contract), but it would allow them to keep their minor-league system intact.
Lefty Mike Dunn is the rare player who hopes to be criticized for signing a multi-year deal, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. “I want it to be a situation where, at the end of it, someone can say to me, ‘Well, that was a terrible deal. If you would have done it year to year, you could have made more money,’ ” Dunn said. “That’s what I want it to be. I want to prove I’m worth more than that. I want to live up to that two-year deal, and hopefully surpass it.” The two-year, $5.8MM contract represents a rare multi-year commitment to a reliever for the Marlins, though they were comfortable giving Dunn two years because of his extreme durability. Dunn has averaged 70 appearances a year since 2011 and never been on the DL during his nine-year professional career.
Here’s some more from around the NL East…
- Should the Phillies trade Cole Hamels sooner rather than later? MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki makes the point that the club has already been burned by moving too quickly to deal other recent aces — Curt Schilling in 2000 and Cliff Lee in 2009 — and there’s no reason to rush into a Hamels deal just because of Lee’s current injury concerns.
- The presence of highly-regarded pitching coach Roger McDowell was a big reason why Eric Stults and Jim Johnson signed with the Braves, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.
- With Josh Edgin possibly facing Tommy John surgery, the Mets are even thinner on left-handed relief pitching options. Manager Terry Collins is “disappointed” (according to ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin) with how his southpaws have performed in Spring Training and said he could even consider having an all-righty bullpen, though GM Sandy Alderson told reporters (including Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal) that he “can’t forsee” a pen without at least one left-hander present.
- The lack of lefty bullpen depth is another example of how the Mets are hampering themselves by a lack of spending, Joel Sherman of the New York Post opines.
- Alderson spoke to reporters (including Adam Rubin) in order to clarify comments made in his biography about the Mets‘ payroll situation. “Some people want to interpret the last four years strictly in terms of what financial resources were available or not available to the Mets….From that standpoint, that’s never been an issue for me,” Alderson said. “I never talked about the payroll as an unfortunate limitation to us. I haven’t talked about it recently. I haven’t talked about it in the past. I don’t intend to. It’s not relevant to me….Look, our payroll is at $100 million right now, which is up about 20 percent from what it was last year. I don’t think anybody has any complaints at all on our end.”
The devastating loss of Marcus Stroman for the season greatly increases the likelihood that top prospect Aaron Sanchez will be in the Blue Jays’ rotation rather than bullpen, as many had assumed, writes MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm. Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Marco Estrada will compete for the final two rotation spots behind R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Drew Hutchison. Chisolm notes that if Sanchez does end up in the rotation, an already thin bullpen becomes even thinner, as Brett Cecil becomes the likely closer, with Aaron Loup the top setup option. Behind that duo, Estrada could relieve if he doesn’t win a starting role, and the club can also look to Steve Delabar, Wilton Lopez, Todd Redmond, Kyle Drabek, Jeff Francis and prospect Miguel Castro. One thing no one should expect, Chisolm writes, is a significant trade. GM Alex Anthopoulos all but ruled that out, stating to reporters: “Those guys aren’t normally available in March, actually there might be one but I don’t know that we can afford that right now.” Presumably, Anthopoulos was referring to Cole Hamels.
Here are some more Blue Jays items as they plan for a season without their projected top starter…
- Writing for FOX Sports, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron opines that the Jays should give Estrada the first crack at the vacant rotation spot. Cameron notes that while Estrada was undeniably ineffective in 2014, he was a useful rotation piece in 2012-13, getting by with a skill-set similar to that of Jered Weaver; that is to say, he succeeded despite below-average velocity as a result of his ability to command the zone and induce a tremendous amount of infield flies. One shouldn’t expect Estrada to morph into Weaver, of course, but Cameron concludes that Estrada could be useful enough in the first half for the Blue Jays to see if the rest of their team lives up to its potential, and at that point, go rent an ace for the stretch run. Using Estrada in the rotation would also allow Sanchez to pitch at the back of the bullpen, giving the team a bit more relief depth.
- Castro and fellow right-hander Roberto Osuna, both 20, have a chance at cracking the team’s bullpen, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. While each is considered a long shot, the duo has impressed Blue Jays management with their power arms and advanced feel, particularly Castro. “If he’s really, really good this spring, there’s an outside shot he could be on the team simply because he’s advanced,” said manager John Gibbons, who noted that Castro is impressive not only due to power stuff but because he can throw strikes. Gibbons also touched on the fact that while there wasn’t necessarily a philosophical change in the organization last year, they acted more aggressively with young arms like Sanchez and Norris and could do so again to help fill out the bullpen.
- Since publishing that article yesterday, Nicholson-Smith has tweeted that Castro’s odds to make the club seem to be getting better with every passing day. It likely helps that Castro fired two scoreless innings today, yielding one hit and no walks with two strikeouts.
Cliff Lee‘s season — and possibly his career — is in jeopardy due to a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow, effectively eliminating him as a trade chip for the Phillies and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. The Philadelphia GM told ESPN’s Jayson Stark, however, that losing one of his two ace-caliber trade chips won’t change his approach to his healthy ace, Cole Hamels.
“No reason to change it,” said Amaro. “I don’t know what our ‘stance’ on Cole is. Others have ‘stances,’ I guess, for us. I guess other people must think we have a ‘stance.’ Our ‘stance’ is that we’re open-minded. And that hasn’t changed one bit.”
Amaro sees little comparison between the two pitchers, noting that in Lee, the team had a pitcher that was hurt in 2014 and is still hurt now. With Hamels, he finished the season healthy and is healthy now in camp. There’s no “lesson” to be learned from Lee’s situation, said Amaro, because any pitcher can get hurt at any time. “Is there a lesson learned from Yu Darvish?” Amaro rhetorically asked Stark. “All pitchers can get hurt. All players can get hurt. It can happen any time. That has nothing to do with the way we go about our business, (by) planning for a player to get hurt. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Amaro pointed out that other teams’ top pitchers are equally likely to get hurt, which could present new trade opportunities this summer. On whether or not he feels he should have trade Lee when Lee was healthy in 2012 or 2013, the GM said the Phillies were still trying to win at that point. Said Amaro: “I think (team president Pat Gillick) made a statement the other day that we maybe waited one year too long to go into rebuild mode. Maybe we did. But we’ve got to look forward now. We can’t do anything about it now.”
The quotes from Amaro likely shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the GM has already stated this spring that he expects Hamels to open the season with the Phillies, and he has repeatedly stated that he’s under no pressure from ownership to move Hamels.
Left-hander Cliff Lee is disheartened by his recent elbow injury but told reporters, including MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, that he takes solace in knowing that he did everything he possibly could this offseason to prevent a relapse of the injury that ended his 2014 season. Lee is dealing with elbow soreness that he described today as “just what it felt like at the start of when I started feeling it last year.” The Phillies are sending the images from Lee’s ultrasound and MRI to Dr. James Andrews to take a look, and Lee is hoping to hear that it’s merely scar tissue that formed around his old injury, and the pain is normal. However, he’s bracing for surgery that he knows could sideline him for six to eight months. “So basically if I have the surgery this season will be done, possibly my career, I guess,” said Lee.
On that somber note, here are a few more Phillies items…
- Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com was also on hand to speak with Lee and offers an additional quote in which Lee said that Andrews, doctor David Altchek and Phillies team physician all agreed last year that there was something in the vicinity of a 90 percent chance that rest and rehab would heal his elbow as opposed to surgery.
- None of what has transpired with Lee should impact the way the Phillies approach the Cole Hamels situation, opines David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. Hamels is five years younger and in his physical prime, and even in a worst-case scenario where he blows out his elbow in the first half, he could be back on the mound after Tommy John with two-plus years of his contract remaining at a below-market rate. Murphy disagrees with assessments that Hamels isn’t worth the package sought by Amaro, positing that there’s no true way to define what a player is worth; rather, that is determined by demand and by the utility that a team projects itself to gain from the added wins Hamels will provide. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. wasn’t able to land the package he sought in a market with top-of-the-rotation alternatives, but Murphy implies that the summer trade market may be a better opportunity for the Phillies to sell. I’m inclined to agree; I don’t buy the notion of some fans that the Phils have botched this situation and should merely take the best offer presented. The potential reward of waiting until July to move Hamels is greater than the more minimal risk that he incurs some kind of significant injury in the interim.
- Also from Zolecki, the Phillies have confirmed that former supplemental-round pick Larry Greene (No. 39 overall in 2011) will not be reporting to camp and does not appear to want to play baseball anymore (as first mentioned on the Phoulballz Phillies blog). Greene, now 22, had a solid enough pro debut at short-season Class-A in 2011, but he never advanced beyond the Class-A South Atlantic League and has a .224/.318/.321 batting line in 989 career plate appearances.
Many players grow up as fans of the game, but once they sign with a pro team, the nature of their fandom changes, FanGraphs’ David Laurila writes. “Once you sign a contract, you have a team of your own,” says Orioles reliever T.J. McFarland, who grew up a fan of the White Sox. “My family still roots for the White Sox, but I went from being a fan to an employee – an actual worker – within the profession.” Of course, the associations they had with veteran players they rooted for as kids don’t just disappear. McFarland says he took pride in playing opposite Mark Buehrle and Paul Konerko, and says he found it “surreal” when he faced Derek Jeter. Here’s more from throughout the league.
- Earlier today, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported that the Yankees had come closer than any other team to acquiring Phillies star Cole Hamels. If that’s true, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes, that might mean the Phillies haven’t come close to dealing Hamels to any team, because the two sides have not had discussions recently and never were near a deal. The Phillies are fans of Yankees prospects Luis Severino and Aaron Judge, but the Yankees likely don’t want to trade Severino in a Hamels deal. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have refused to deal Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart for Hamels. The Rangers are another possibility, but they too appear disinclined to trade their top prospects, including Joey Gallo and Jorge Alfaro.
- Cliff Lee‘s recent bout of elbow soreness demonstrates the risk the Phillies are taking with Hamels, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes. Each time Hamels pitches, he could get injured, causing his trade value to decrease or simply vanish.
- It’s wise to be skeptical of reports suggesting Cuban infielder Hector Olivera will get $70MM or more, FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel writes. That says more about Olivera’s representative Rudy Santin’s use of the media than about Olivera’s actual market. Finding comparables for a Cuban player with no MLB experience is difficult, so it’s hard for the U.S. media to be appropriately skeptical of reported offers for a player like Olivera, McDaniel argues. McDaniel says he would be surprised if Olivera topped $50MM.