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Cole Hamels Rumors
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.
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.