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Cole Hamels Rumors
Though many have argued to the contrary, the Diamondbacks are internally optimistic that their club can ride its young pitching to a surprising campaign, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. Piecoro discusses the club’s acquisitions, including a turnaround candidate in Jeremy Hellickson and advanced-level prospects Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, and Robbie Ray. “It’s our belief that with the young pitching we’ve got, we think it’s the right time,” said GM Dave Stewart. “Young pitching doesn’t normally start to show itself until the age that these guys are approaching — they’re not even there yet, they’re just approaching. The scouting reports that we have on each and every last one of the guys we acquired are good reports. Now, it’s just a matter of if they’re ready to move forward.”
Here’s more from the National League:
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says that the club has made “pretty decent progress” in turning over its club into a “younger and more athletic” unit, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. “We didn’t necessarily expect to make a full transition in a two- or three-month period of time,” said Amaro. “The process doesn’t start on October 1 and it doesn’t end on February 15. It continues. … There’s still a lot of work to be done.” Amaro rejected the idea that his club had set unrealistic price tags on its veterans: “Everybody has an idea of how they should evaluate. We have certain ways we evaluate our players and other players and what’s right for the organization. I think we’re in a better position to make those decisions than others.”
- Most of the criticism, of course, has targeted the Phillies‘ inability to date to work out a deal for lefty Cole Hamels. Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer opines that Amaro ought to make the best deal he can, now, rather than risking an injury or ineffectiveness.
- Speaking of Hamels, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs has put together another fascinating study of pitch comps. In this one, he notes the incredible similarities between the offerings of Hamels and fellow southpaw (and former Phillies hurler) J.A. Happ. As Sullivan explains, Hamels has vastly outperformed Happ not because he has better stuff, but likely through some combination of superior control, deception, and the like.
- The division-rival Braves, meanwhile, have not drawn the same kind of widespread scrutiny as have the Phils, even after stating that they were not interested in dealing star closer Craig Kimbrel. The outstanding righty remains entrenched in the ninth, and tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he still expects the team to compete for a championship and has a personal goal of converting every save chance he is given. As O’Brien notes, skeptics have suggested that the club may still hold out some possibility of trading Kimbrel if a truly massive package were dangled, but there have been virtually no reports suggesting any action. It is at least somewhat notable that Atlanta added two former closers in Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson, but at this point a hypothetical deal involving Kimbrel seems a topic that — at most — may be worth re-visiting at the trade deadline.
Over the weekend, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote that the Red Sox were one of the previously unnamed teams to have made a “real” offer (to use Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s term) for Cole Hamels, though Rob Bradford of WEEI.com writes that there’s nothing close between the two sides.
The Red Sox have made the Phillies aware of the parameters of what they’re willing to part with in order to acquire Hamels, a source tells Bradford. Per Cafardo’s weekend writing, the most recent offer consisted largely of Major League assets rather than the elite prospects that the Phillies are known to be seeking (specifically, Philadelphia is said to have its eye on top catching prospect Blake Swihart).
It’s unclear exactly what the Sox have expressed comfort in trading, though two completely speculative names with big league experience that could appeal to the rebuilding Phillies would be Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Vazquez. (Though I’d assume any package including those names would also contain further minor league talent.) The Sox have a notable outfield surplus, and Ryan Hanigan‘s excellent glove could bridge the gap from Opening Day to Swihart’s Major League debut. It stands to reason that Boston hasn’t mentioned the name Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts in those talks, as either would figure to grab Amaro’s attention immediately.
Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com agrees that Betts’ name likely hasn’t been mentioned, as he feels the inclusion of Betts would likely persuade the Phils to accept a deal. In Mastrodonato’s eyes, the Red Sox have been wise to exercise patience in regards to Hamels, as he could be one of a number of possible front-line starters available this summer. Beyond Hamels, names like Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, David Price, Jordan Zimmermann and Zack Greinke could be available this summer (the latter three pitch for likely contenders, though injuries routinely lead to unexpected deadline sellers), and the cost of acquiring a big-ticket rotation upgrade could decline by July.
As Mastrodonato points out, Hamels’ remaining $96MM commitment — which would very likely jump to $110MM, as Hamels could ask that his fifth-year vesting option be guaranteed as compensation for waiving his no-trade clause — is something Boston would have had to plan around adding, and there’s no indication that’s the case at this point. Indeed, general manager Ben Cherington again said today that he’s not expecting a roster addition before pitchers and catchers reports, tweets the Globe’s Peter Abraham.
One item worth noting on Hamels’ contract would be that guaranteeing his 2019 option, an acquiring team would actually lessen the luxury tax hit it would be taking on. Luxury tax is calculated by average annual value of a contract, and the deal’s AAV would actually drop, as guaranteeing the $20MM option is essentially adding one year and $14MM to the deal, as $6MM of that year’s value is already guaranteed in the form of a buyout.
Commisoner Rob Manfred tops the 50 most fascinating figures in baseball, according to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman. Manfred has been pro-active during the first month of his tenure, Sherman opines, by already engaging the MLBPA over issues such as keeping the batter in the box between pitches and being ready to ignite play quicker after half-inning breaks while continuing the pitch clock experiment in the minors with an impetus to have them in MLB by next season. Rounding out Sherman’s top five are: Alex Rodriguez, Matt Harvey, Giancarlo Stanton, and Joe Maddon.
Here’s the latest news and notes from the American League:
- If the Red Sox are to trade for an ace starting pitcher, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald opines Jordan Zimmermann is a better fit than Cole Hamels. Silverman also believes the Red Sox will be better off by parting ways with Edward Mujica and Allen Craig since both are expensive and superfluous.
- The Tigers will receive a medical update on Miguel Cabrera‘s right foot on Tuesday, writes Mlive.com’s James Schmehl.
- Chris Capuano is the favorite to claim the final spot in the Yankees‘ starting rotation, notes Chad Jennings of LoHud.com. The Yankees will also stretch out relievers Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers during Spring Training.
- Reports out of Venezuela (and relayed by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune and MLB.com’s Greg Johns) have Mariners prospect Victor Sanchez suffering a double skull fracture after being struck by a boat while swimming in Carúpano, Venezuela. The 20-year-old right-hander, ranked as the Mariners’ 11th-best prospect by MLB.com, is reportedly in intensive care with his condition listed as serious but stable. Sanchez, who received a $2.5MM bonus when he was signed out of Venezuela in 2011, threw a no-hitter for Class A Clinton in 2013 and last year posted a line of 4.19 ERA, 7.0 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9 in 23 starts covering 124 2/3 innings for Double-A Jackson as the second-youngest player in the Southern League.
Minor league coaches and instructors earn relatively meager salaries, reports Fangraphs’ David Laurila. The minimum salary for one club is $30K while multiple sources pegged the top end (for long-time managers and coordinators) between $150-175K. One source told Laurila the Marlins pay poorly while the Braves are among the most generous (“That’s why Miami has a lot of turnover and Atlanta doesn’t.“). Another reason Laurila cites for the low pay is the number of people who want those minor league positions with one front office executive saying his club receives between 300 and 400 resumes per year.
Here’s the latest news and notes from the National League:
- The Cardinals have the payroll flexibility and the prospects to either extend a player like Jason Heyward or acquire a high-profile contract like that of Cole Hamels, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Within the same article, Goold notes GM John Mozeliak has fielded calls this winter on out-of-options players like infielder Pete Kozma and left-hander Sam Freeman.
- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he is not concerned about being on the hot seat as he enters the final year of his contract. “I know I’ve got a contract this year and I’ll try to do the best I can. I can’t control what happens with that. I just plan to get the guys playing well, and hopefully we’ll get off to a good start again and we’ll see what happens.“
- Despite the dramatic overhaul of their roster, the Padres have plenty of questions to address this spring, Jeff Sanders of U-T San Diego writes.
- Nick Groke of The Denver Post takes a position-by-position look at the Rockies in 2015. This offseason, the Rockies put a heavy emphasis on improving their depth across the board.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe ranked every manager in baseball. Giants skipper Bruce Bochy took the top spot for his ability to get great production of of good, but not great, talent. After that, Bochy, Buck Showalter, Joe Maddon, Terry Francona, and Bob Melvin round out Cafardo’s top five. The bottom of the list doesn’t necessarily feature baseball’s “worst” managers as the first-timers are automatically the lowest ranked. More from today’s column..
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said last week that four teams made real offers for Cole Hamels and Cafardo hears from a major league source that one of those clubs was the Red Sox. From talking with various sources, Cafardo senses that the package Boston offered was heavy on the major league side, trying to avoid giving up any of their top prospects. Of course, the Phillies are insistent on prospects, and if they don’t get them now they’ll wait until the deadline when teams are a little more desperate.
- There may be a mystery team out there kicking the tires on Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies are still optimistic that they make a deal happen somewhere, even though the Brewers talks haven’t unfolded as expected.
- The Twins and Indians are looking for a right-handed bat and Cafardo wonders if Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig could be a fit. With Shane Victorino in the fold and Bryce Brentz in the minors, Cafardo wonders when Boston will try and clear up the logjam.
- Chad Billingsley could also be trade bait for the Phillies if he gets off to a good start. A couple of scouts tell Cafardo that they see Billingsley as an effective 150-160-inning guy at the back end of a rotation.
The Phillies are in for an uncomfortable spring training, writes Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer. As Brookover puts it, the club could contend for the “Most Awkward Spring Training in franchise history.” At issue are the number of returning veterans who were shopped extensively over the offseason. The most notable include Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, and Ryan Howard.
With Hamels, the potential for drama is limited. The club has asked for a king’s ransom in return for the left-handed ace, and he’s well compensated. Hamels seemingly understands the Phillies’ need to rebuild. His 20-team no-trade list does not include nine of the clubs most likely to acquire his services. He’ll continue to audition for a trade to a contender.
Strife is more likely with Papelbon. He has a reputation for honest comments to the media, and he appears to let frustration boil over publicly at times. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. assured Papelbon that the club meant to contend this season as recently as the 2014 trade deadline. Club representatives, including President Pat Gillick, have since been very forward about their intention to rebuild.
Brookover suggests that Papelbon may feel misled. Even if Papelbon takes a pragmatic approach to the rebuild, it’s clear the club intends to move him elsewhere. Papelbon has a 17-team no-trade clause, but he’s expressed a willingness to waive it. Rumor suggests he would ask for his 2016 option to be guaranteed as a condition to waiving the no trade clause.
While Papelbon could produce headlines this spring, the return of Howard is the most uncomfortable situation. While Amaro has loudly praised Howard’s character, he also told the former star first baseman that the club was better off without him. A market for Howard’s services never developed. It was rumored that the Phillies would eat a large portion of his contract to facilitate a trade. Howard’s continued presence may delay opportunities for prospects like Maikel Franco and Kelly Dugan.
The Yankees finalized last summer’s trades for Martin Prado, Josh Outman and Jeff Francis with cash rather than minor leaguers, a team official tells Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees blog. All three deals (with the Diamondbacks, Indians and Athletics, respectively) were made with either cash or a player to be named later going back to the other team in return. Here’s some more from around the baseball world…
- In an entry from Buster Olney’s latest Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, he notes that talent is a rarer commodity than money in today’s game, which is why he feels the Phillies should consider eating some of Cole Hamels‘ contract to bring back better prospects in a deal. Looking at the Hamels-to-Boston trade rumors, Olney wonders why the Red Sox would deal top prospects for Hamels now when a number of ace-level pitchers will be available for only cash in free agency next offseason.
- This offseason has already seen eight arbitration hearings and seven more outstanding cases could go to a hearing, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi notes. It’s an unusually high number given that there were only 13 arb hearings in total over the previous four offseasons, though Morosi doesn’t yet think this could be an omen about the upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations.
- Former big leaguer-turned-FOX Sports analyst C.J. Nitkowski is no stranger to minor league contracts, and he details some of the many factors that a player must consider before signing such a deal.
- Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron lists his ten least-favorite moves of the offseason, with the Padres‘ trade for Matt Kemp topping the list. Cameron believes the Padres paid far too heavy a price in both talent and salary to acquire Kemp, whose best days are possibly behind him due to a checkered injury history.
MLBTR sends our condolences to the family and colleagues of Alison Gordon, who passed away today at age 72. Gordon covered the Blue Jays for the Toronto Star from 1979 to 1983, becoming the first woman to work as a full-time beat writer covering an MLB club, as well as the first female member of the Baseball Writers Association Of America. The Star’s Brendan Kennedy has a fuller examination of Gordon’s career and her influence on countless female sportswriters.
Some news items from around the game…
- GM Jeff Luhnow said the Astros could add “perhaps another reliever but not another starter at this point,” Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports (via Twitter). The Astros added to their rotation depth earlier today by signing Roberto Hernandez, and the team could be closing in on a deal with left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher.
- The Rangers are another team with a “strong interest” in Thatcher, as well as another lefty bullpen arm in Phil Coke, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link). Coke recently threw for Texas.
- The arbitration hearing between Addison Reed and the Diamondbacks is scheduled for Friday unless the two sides can reach an agreement before then, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports.
- Rockies GM Jeff Bridich discusses the team’s offseason and his own hiring in an interview with Woody Paige and Les Shapiro of the Denver Post’s Sports Show (video link).
- Critics may claim the Phillies haven’t done enough to move their high-priced veterans this offseason, though Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News feels the Phils have a right to be cautious given the scope of their rebuild.
- “Patience,” is how a Phillies executive responded when asked by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal if the club was frustrated by the lack of quality offers for Cole Hamels. Both Rosenthal and the executive feel more trade opportunities could open up as teams’ needs change due to Spring Training injuries.
- The Blue Jays and Indians don’t appear to be in on any of Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano or Joba Chamberlain, ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden writes. The Tribe has less of a pressing need at the back of their bullpen given Cody Allen‘s emergence last season, while the Jays may also not specifically be looking for closing help, though they are looking at bullpen upgrades.
- The Dodgers‘ hiring of Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi to run the front office is the top transaction of the 2014-15 offseason, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron opines. Three other Dodgers moves appear in Cameron’s list of the winter’s top 10 moves, and he calls them “probably the scariest organization in baseball” now that their financial resources have been augmented by Friedman/Zaidi’s creative maneuvers.
Here’s the latest out of Philadelphia, which houses one of the league’s most interesting rosters to watch this spring. Steve Adams and I discuss that, among other topics, on today’s forthcoming podcast. In the meantime, some notes:
- The Phillies asked the Brewers for a “top prospect” in return for closer Jonathan Papelbon if the club was to pick up a big piece of the remainder of his deal, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (in a piece we cited earlier this morning). In response, Milwaukee broached the idea of sending Jonathan Broxton back to Philadelphia to help balance the cash, a concept that did not gain traction (and which Rosenthal argues made little sense for either club).
- Those talks are now dormant, per Rosenthal. That would appear to take the Brewers out of the picture for Papelbon at this point. As Rosenthal explains, the entire episode also demonstrates the broader difficulty the club is facing in moving Papelbon. While a spring injury could always shake up the market, it increasingly appears (as others have suggested) that waiting until the summer to deal might represent the best option for the Phils.
- The Red Sox have plenty of leverage in their pursuit of Phillies lefty Cole Hamels, writes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. That’s because “even the second-best deal [Amaro] can get for Hamels from the Red Sox is likely better than he can get elsewhere,” as Abraham puts it. Even taking on most of the Hamels deal is going to leave plenty of value left to be accounted for in any trade scenario — another topic that Steve and I discuss — but Abraham suggests that the gap might be bridged by a package fronted by lefty Henry Owens and including several other top prospects not named Betts, Swihart, or Rodriguez.
Cole Hamels remains available on the trade market, and as many eight teams have kicked the tires on the ace left-hander, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Asked by Salisbury how many clubs have made offers, Amaro replied, “Real offers? Four.”
Amaro wouldn’t comment on which clubs made those “real” offers, though earlier today it was reported that the Padres made an “aggressive” offer for Hamels prior to signing James Shields. Other teams that have been seriously linked to Hamels include the Cardinals, Rangers and Red Sox. Boston has reportedly balked at Amaro’s insistence on top catching prospect Blake Swihart‘s inclusion in a potential trade package.
Earlier this month, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that “five or six” teams were still trying to swing a trade for Hamels, though the Padres’ signing of Shields may remove them from that race. Padres ownership has said the payroll could land around $100MM, and they’re at roughly $96.5MM right now after adding Shields. However, some reports have indicated that $105MM might be the team’s max limit, so it strikes me as at least plausible — albeit unlikely — that they could attempt to squeeze Hamels into the mix if the Phillies eat some 2015 salary or take a different contract back.
The Phillies are more eager to trade Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon than Hamels, Salisbury writes, and they’re also very willing to trade Cliff Lee. Amaro wouldn’t rule out the possibility of making a trade prior to the onset of Spring Training, Salisbury adds, but moving someone like Lee would likely require him to demonstrate his health in Spring Training. A number of teams have told Amaro they’ll be monitoring the Phillies this spring.