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Cole Hamels Rumors
Many teams have called on ace Cole Hamels, but so far one club has enticed the Phillies more than the others. Of the teams that have expressed interest in Hamels, the Yankees have come closer than anyone, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. The Bombers have offered a package of prospects for the 31-year-old that at least has given the Phillies a baseline for future talks.
Trading Hamels, who pitched two strong innings in his spring training debut Friday against the Yankees, would help the Phillies kickstart their rebuilding efforts in earnest. However, they continue to insist that another team should take on the entirety of Hamels’ salary as well as part with top level prospects. Last month, Cafardo wrote that the Phillies seemed willing to wait it out for the right deal, perhaps even taking things up until the trade deadline.
The Red Sox have been heavily connected to Hamels this winter but Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported recently that talks have actually been dormant for weeks. Meanwhile, Cafardo hears that Cliff Lee could actually wind up changing uniforms before Hamels does.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post runs down a list of the teams with obvious trade candidates this spring and notes that executives to whom he spoke most often mentioned the Red Sox as a team to watch. Sherman examines speculative landing spots for Allen Craig, Shane Victorino and Jackie Bradley. He feels that a healthy Victorino would be an idea fit in Seattle in front of Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano (though I don’t imagine Seattle having interest given their platoon acquisition of Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano). For Craig, he theorizes that the Angels make some sense, should Josh Hamilton face a lengthy suspension. And the Braves have long fancied Bradley, even before Melvin Upton went down with a foot injury, Sherman adds. Sherman also runs down situations in Los Angeles, San Diego, Toronto, Chicago and Philadelphia.
A bit more from his piece and a few other trade-related notes from around the league…
- As Sherman notes, many out-of-options players will become trade candidates at the end of Spring Training, and he feels that some such candidates could be outfielder David Lough, infielder Eduardo Nunez, lefties Felix Doubront and Brad Hand, and right-handers Jacob Turner, Randall Delgado, Stolmy Pimentel and Jesse Chavez. I’d be a bit surprised to see Chavez moved coming off such a strong season, though it’s certainly possible. Lough, in particular, strikes me as someone who could interest clubs, given his elite defense and his strong numbers against right-handed pitching.
- While each side will privately acknowledge that they’ve been in contact with the other, talks between the Red Sox and Phillies regarding Cole Hamels have been dormant for weeks, writes Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Nightengale spoke to Boston GM Ben Cherington and Red Sox pitchers Rick Porcello and Wade Miley about the confidence each has in their current staff.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson tells MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo that it’s “fair to say” there’s been little to no recent trade talk regarding right-hander Dillon Gee and any of the Mets’ other starting pitching options (Twitter link). Gee seems destined to open the season in the bullpen, barring an injury or a spring injury to a rotation member.
- Travis Sawchick of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review takes a look at the spring battle between Vance Worley and Jeff Locke for the Pirates‘ fifth spot in the rotation, noting that neither is a candidate for a bullpen spot, so the loser of the battle could ultimately end up as a trade candidate. Sawchik notes that it’s possible that both could end up breaking camp with the team, should Charlie Morton open the season on the DL (or should the Bucs incur another spring injury), but he predicts that Worley will win the rotation spot if everyone else is healthy.
The Marlins‘ best offer for Francisco Rodriguez was for two years and $10MM, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. While that was not enough to convince K-Rod to part from the Brewers, it does represent a relatively significant chunk of change that the team could presumably tap into at some point in the future.
Here’s more from the eastern divisions:
- Braves owner Liberty Media continues to provide some interesting insight into the club through its legally-required Securities and Exchange Commission filings, as Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains. In addition to ticking through the accounting for last year’s emergency pickup of Ervin Santana and release of Dan Uggla, the filing documents that the organization has already borrowed about $100MM from credit facilities arranged to help fund its portion of the funding of its new stadium.
- Atlanta’s biggest write-off may be yet to come, as struggling and now injured center fielder Melvin Upton could eventually go the way of Uggla. For now, the team is focused on finding a temporary replacement and getting him back up to speed as soon as possible, as David O’Brien of the AJC reports. One possible fill-in, prospect Todd Cunningham, says that the players in camp “can kind of smell blood in the water,” while Eric Young Jr. called it an “unfortunate situation” but acknowledged that “you’re kidding anybody if you don’t see it as an opportunity.” The most interesting possibility could be Eury Perez, who is just 24 and has a solid track record in the upper minors but never had a real chance with his prior clubs.
- The Phillies have had one of their top advisers, Charlie Kerfeld, watching Red Sox prospects as the clubs continue to eye one another over left-handed pitching, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. There is a sense now that Cliff Lee could be dealt before Cole Hamels, Cafardo adds, though that doesn’t necessarily mean Boston is the inevitable destination.
- As Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reports, there are no signs of progress on a Hamels deal. The Sox are more likely to be willing to part with players like Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero, and Jackie Bradley Jr. in any trade scenarios than they are some of their other top young players, Mastrodonato adds.
Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon told reporters today, including Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, that he was happy to see the news that Francisco Rodriguez had agreed to a two-year deal in Milwaukee. Papelbon described Rodriguez a “talent that needs to be in Major League Baseball.” Asked if he was disappointed that a trade to Milwaukee was seemingly no longer an option, Papelbon said no, but he did have an interesting response when asked if he would be open to playing for the Blue Jays. “Yes, Toronto, interests me — if it interests [GM Ruben Amaro]. I know some of the guys on their coaching staff. They’re a good team. If Ruben can do a deal with them, I’d be interested.” Papelbon said he is more interested in pitching in Toronto than he had been in pitching for Milwaukee, but his ultimate hope is to contend with the Phillies. “My storybook ending here is sneaking into the wild card and getting hot in the playoffs with these Phillies.”
Here are some more Phillies-related items…
- The Red Sox don’t feel any sense of urgency to trade for Cole Hamels, writes CSN New England’s Sean McAdam. While the team’s reported agreement with Yoan Moncada prompted some speculation that Moncada’s presence made it easier for Boston to trade Mookie Betts, McAdam hears that the Sox are still steadfastly refusing to part with either Betts or Blake Swihart. The Phillies, too, are sticking to their guns, requiring that an acquiring team take on the entirety of Hamels’ salary in addition to parting with premium prospects.
- Cliff Lee threw eight minutes of live batting practice yesterday, Salisbury writes, marking the first time he’s thrown to hitters since his injury on July 31. He threw primarily fastballs but did snap off a breaking ball to Ben Revere. Lee could throw to hitters again over the weekend, as he’s been throwing every three days, but he’s not likely to pitch in a game until the second week of the schedule. He’ll have many eyes on him as clubs evaluate Lee’s health to determine whether or not he is a viable trade candidate.
- David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News spoke to Amaro about the team’s pursuit of Moncada and other Cuban talents that have now emerged as regulars, if not stars, at the Major League level. Amaro said that at a certain point, the risk a club takes outweighs the potential reward. “When you know you have an actual major league entity, that’s a known,” said Amaro. “I understand the devaluation as a guy gets older, there’s part of that too, but to me, it’s a risk/reward evaluation process that we go through all the time. Certain clubs have different ways of valuing or putting their dollars into the club and we have a little bit of a different one. Every club is a little bit different.” The Phillies have been involved in the pursuits of Moncada, Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig and Jorge Soler, among others. They did sign Cuban righty Miguel Gonzalez in 2013.
- In a second article, Murphy also looks at the Phillies’ slow entrance to the era of analytics. The Phillies have made some recent hires and are investing more than $1MM in building a computer information system similar to that of the Red Sox, which will serve as a database for scouting reports, medical info and statistical models. Amaro said that while the team has used analytics to its benefit in the past, he’s looking to put more emphasis in the field now and become more creative with their usage of data and statistical trends.
It’s not at all certain that the Red Sox will trade Jackie Bradley Jr., Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston writes. Bradley struggled in the big leagues last season and the Red Sox have plenty of outfielders, but Bradley has limited experience in the high minors and can be optioned, so the Red Sox could easily just send him to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he would benefit from everyday playing time. Bradley’s outstanding defense distinguishes him from the rest of the Red Sox’ collection of outfielders, and there could be space for him in Boston in 2016, given the potential departure of Shane Victorino and the possibility that Hanley Ramirez could move to first base or DH. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- Speaking of Pawtucket, the sale of the PawSox to a group led by Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino will be announced Monday, Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal writes. The deal does not include McCoy Stadium, the PawSox’ longtime home ballpark. The stadium requires extensive work each year, and the Red Sox have suggested that there’s more work to be done there. The sale, then, raises questions about where the team will play. “With the new ownership group expected to be named on Monday, I, along with [the other leaders], look forward to speaking with the group and learning how the City of Pawtucket will continue to be a partner with them in the future,” says Pawtucket mayor Donald Grebien.
- The Phillies‘ struggles to find the right return for Cole Hamels have delayed their rebuilding process, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. Hamels, who has said he wants to play for a contender, likely wouldn’t block a trade, but he’s valued his time in Philadelphia. “To make my home in Philly and see what sports really do mean to Philly fans, it’s been nice,” says Hamels. “And being able to go out and represent not only the organization but the city of Philadelphia has been an honor. And I think I’ll remain to do so until I’m told that I can’t.”
- The Mets outrighted reliever Scott Rice in October, but it was still an easy decision for Rice to re-sign a minor-league deal with the team, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York writes. “There was nowhere else I wanted to go,” says Rice, who first made the Majors as a 31-year-old Met in 2013. Rice’s 2014 season ended early as he had elbow surgery in late July, but he will compete to be the Mets’ second bullpen lefty this spring.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the Yankees could actually make a bit of money off of Alex Rodriguez‘s return. The curiosity factor regarding his return is going to generate increased ticket revenue, better TV ratings, and more interest and activity in the Yankees’ brand and licensing, in Cafardo’s estimation. More from today’s column..
- Even though Cole Hamels wants out of Philadelphia, that doesn’t mean the Phillies will rush to make a deal, a team source tells Cafardo. The Phillies don’t have to do anything out of desperation since they’re a big market team with deep pockets and they’re willing to wait for the right deal, perhaps until the trade deadline. Of course, that plan could backfire and the potential return could drop, but a contending team or two in need of a frontline pitcher could drive the price up.
- One GM that was in the hunt for Yoan Moncada but is no longer in the mix said he would bet on the Yankees winning the sweepstakes. “I think their need is great,” said the GM. “They can sell it as the replacement for Robinson Cano. I don’t think anyone wants to pay out that bonus, but he is a special talent and may be the best of the Cuban hitters who have come over.”
- Red Sox manager John Farrell recently said the club will start veteran Shane Victorino in right field if he’s healthy, but Cafardo isn’t buying it. If he is healthy, the Boston Globe scribe expects him to draw interest and be moved.
- Despite rumblings to the contrary, Red Sox chairman Tom Werner says there have been no changes to Larry Lucchino’s role as president and CEO of the Red Sox. “It’s a non-story,” said Werner. “There is no change in his role, nor is there a so-called power struggle. Larry is reporting to John [Henry, the principal owner] and myself, as always.”
While attention remains focused on Cole Hamels, clubs should consider trading for Cliff Lee instead, writes Dave Cameron of FanGraphs.com. Lee’s struggles in 2014 can be chalked up to injury and bad luck, so teams should be willing to take a bet on better performance. Cameron thinks the Phillies should bite the bullet and swallow the entire $25MM owed to Lee this season, leaving an acquiring club to cover the $12.5MM buyout or $27.5MM club option for next season. If the Phillies eat enough money, they should receive at least one notable prospect in exchange for the ace. Lee dealt with a recurring elbow injury last season, so rivals are probably playing wait-and-see.
- The Phillies are easing Lee back into regular action, reports Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly. Most pitchers are throwing bullpens every other day, but Lee will work from the mound every third day. His health this spring will determine if he is a salable asset. One consideration to keep in mind – Lee’s partial no-trade list includes many of the clubs most likely to acquire him. Meanwhile, Hamels list appears to name places least likely to contend.
- Hamels wants to play for a winner, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. He is comfortable in Philadelphia and hopes the club can be surprise contenders this season. However, he’s also pragmatic. He understands GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has to address the big picture, which could include dealing him to greener pastures.
- Mets ace Matt Harvey will pitch within the first five games of the season, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPN. Manager Terry Collins says the club won’t skip any of his starts either. It was previously reported that Harvey will be on a strict innings limit, but they’ve backed off that position in the last day.
- The Marlins continue to consider Francisco Rodriguez, reports Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. We recently learned K-Rod is seeking a one-year, $10MM guarantee. The Marlins appear to be interested in a much lower rate.
Despite coming off their third World Series title in five years, many pundits aren’t expecting much of a title defense for the Giants, which Tim Hudson tells ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is just fine by the clubhouse. “I think the guys in here embrace the underdog role. It’s like they say, ‘OK, everybody is picking us to finish mid-pack again. We’re gonna show ‘em.’ I think it’s great,” Hudson said. “I would rather be the underdog than the favorite. The pressure is on the favorite all the time.” Here’s some more from around the NL West…
- Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told reporters (including Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register) that he likes the team’s internal options as replacements for the injured Kenley Jansen. This said, the Dodgers are “open-minded” about free agent additions, Friedman said. L.A. is known to be looking at acquiring bullpen help, and are reportedly interested in Joba Chamberlain.
- Zack Greinke will, unsurprisingly, wait until the end of the season before deciding whether to exercise the opt-out clause in his Dodgers contract, the righty told reporters (including MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick). Greinke reiterated that he enjoys pitching for the Dodgers and said he’s open to discussing a new contract with the team.
- The opt-out clause, Greinke said, is “all to your benefit. If things are going good, you can use it for more power. There’s no negative to it.” He also made some telling remarks about why he wanted the clause in the first place, seemingly based on regrets over his first multi-year contract when he pitched for the Royals. “I know you can’t really trust the front office and what they tell you. Guys have signed long deals and get traded the next year. It happens all the time,” Greinke said. “Teams do what’s best for them and you can’t fault them, but you can’t trust them to do what’s best for you. Their job is to do what’s best for the team.”
- Signing Rafael Soriano or Francisco Rodriguez to bolster the bullpen will be costly, though Steve Dilbeck of the L.A Times opines that the Dodgers shouldn’t shy away from using their financial resources now when a proven closer could help the team win a championship.
- According to recent reports, the Padres offered Austin Hedges and Hunter Renfroe to the Phillies in exchange for Cole Hamels. With the assumption that it was a legit offer that the Phillies rejected, and that no other players or money were involved, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan examines the proposal and feels that the Phils were probably right to turn it down. While “the offer seems in the vicinity of fair” and wouldn’t have been a bad return for Hamels, there are significant questions about Hedges and Renfroe’s long-term future as major leaguers. Sullivan thinks Philadelphia could find a better deal elsewhere, even if he doesn’t think they’ll be able to land a true blue-chip prospect for Hamels.
- In other NL West news from earlier today on MLBTR, Mark Trumbo won his arbitration hearing against the Diamondbacks.
Prompted in part by trade rumors surrounding Cole Hamels and also by the recent release of multiple top prospects lists, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs/FOX Sports examined the reasons behind the perceived over-valuing of prospects. As Cameron notes, roughly 70 percent of all prospects to have appeared in Baseball America’s Top 100 lists over the years have failed to produce meaningful careers (that isn’t a knock on BA — rather, just an illustration of the difficulty in projecting minor leaguers). Despite that high failure rate, teams have been reluctant to part with two premium prospects to acquire Cole Hamels. However, Cameron theorizes that the unwillingness to part with prospects isn’t due to overvaluing prospects, but rather to teams looking past the longstanding narrative of “proven veterans” to realize that veteran players carry significant risk as well. Cameron studied the 100 best players from 2009-11 (weighting recent performance more heavily) and looked at the output of those players from 2012-14. Even some of the game’s best talents from that period — Roy Halladay, Dan Haren, Mark Teixeira, B.J. Upton and many more — have quickly seen their skills erode or, in Halladay’s case, been forced out of the game. Twenty-five of the 100 players Cameron looked at have failed to outproduce the same line that Cameron set to determine a busted prospect in his study, while another 34 were merely average Major Leaguers.
While Cameron’s piece is only loosely tied to the Phillies, here are a few more items focused directly on the team…
- Hamels’ candid words to Bob Nightengale of USA Today earlier this afternoon — the left-hander stated that he wanted to pitch for a winning club and knows that won’t happen in Philadelphia — have hurt the Phillies’ bargaining power in trade talks, opines Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Beyond that, however, they’ve made the job of manager Ryne Sandberg more difficult and sent a poor message to his teammates, with whom he may still share a locker room for at least several more months. Between Hamels’ words and Jonathan Papelbon‘s infamous 2013 quote, “I definitely didn’t come here for this,” Sandberg has multiple veterans on the roster who may prefer to be elsewhere, Brookover notes.
- Brookover’s colleague, Jake Kaplan, also spoke to Sandberg and was told that Ryan Howard is ticketed to be the team’s first baseman and had a “very positive” talk with the manager one month ago. Sandberg did leave open the possibility that Howard will be unseated, but it seems clear that the Phillies recognize that there’s little hope of trading the 35-year-old and won’t release him with $60MM remaining on his contract. Kaplan notes that Howard’s 10-and-5 rights will kick in on May 2 of this year, though he already has a 20-team no-trade clause in his contract as it is, and that certainly hasn’t been the reason that Philadelphia hasn’t been able to find a match.
- The Phillies obviously will face many questions this spring, and MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki took an early look with Sandberg as the club gears up for camp. Per Sandberg, veteran lefty Cliff Lee — a possible summer trade candidate — has been on schedule except for a delay caused by a mild illness. “He’s got no complaints and he’s pretty much where he usually is,” said Sandberg. Fellow starter Chad Billingsley, himself at least a theoretical mid-season flip, has “looked very good,” per the skipper (though Kaplan noted in the piece above that it’s no guarantee that Billingsley will be ready for Opening Day). And Sandberg says that second baseman Chase Utley, who has been surprisingly absent from any significant trade chatter, may get additional rest over the course of the season.
Phillies lefty Cole Hamels would prefer to be dealt to a contender, he tells Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “I want to go to a place where I can win again,” said Hamels. Though he made clear he was not demanding a trade, Hamels did indicate that he wants to play for a winning ballclub, saying “I know it’s not going to happen here.”
Hamels, 31, has represented perhaps the biggest unconsummated trade story of the offseason. With all major arms now signed off of the free agent market, and most teams presumably set to enter camp with their rotations intact, he may well be the only achievable prize left for clubs looking to add an impact starter.
According to Nightengale, the Phillies have continued to work hard to find an acceptable deal. The Padres have dangled a package of Hunter Renfroe and Austin Hedges, but that was not deemed sufficient by the Philadelphia front office. And the Phils have been unsuccessful in prying their key targets from teams like the Red Sox (who won’t include Blake Swihart), Dodgers (who haven’t offered any of the team’s top four prospects), and Cardinals (who have not agreed to move Carlos Martinez).
Hamels says that he will do his best to prepare for the season in the normal course, and gave no indication that he will do anything other than honor his contract, particularly with camp set to open. “Now that I’m here, I plan on being here for the next six weeks,” said Hamels, explaining that he had kept an eye on rumors over the winter. “I think it would be pretty chaotic if that’s not the case. But it’s out of my control.”
The veteran southpaw says that he crafted his no-trade list by identifying the nine teams he would most want to play for and leaving himself unprotected from those clubs. Only the Yankees and Rangers can deal for him without approval among American League teams, though Hamels notes that he would be “all ears” to the possibility of waiving his no-trade protection were the Red Sox to work out an agreement to acquire him. (He did not address the idea, advanced in some earlier reports, that he might seek inducements, such as a guarantee of his fifth-year option, from a team over which he possesses veto power.)