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Cole Hamels Rumors
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.)
ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark polled league executives for their takes on the offseason, and some of the strongest opinions related to the game’s eastern divisions. Collectively, that group liked the Blue Jays’ signing of Russell Martin, but was skeptical of the contracts given to players like Max Scherzer (Nationals) and Hanley Ramirez (Red Sox). Check out the piece for the results on a number of other questions.
- Regarding the oft-discussed possibility of the Red Sox dealing for Cole Hamels of the Phillies, Peter Gammons of Gammons Daily suggests that circumstances may need to change to force a deal. Any changes to Boston’s internal pitching dynamics could, of course, push it toward a deal. Or, with the Sox uninterested in taking on all of Hamels’s salary, a new willingness by the Phils to eat cash to increase the prospect return could move the needle.
- One other factor in driving trade possibilities for the Red Sox is the club’s overflowing cup of outfielders. Before deciding how to proceed, the club will look to see where things stand, says Gammons, especially in terms of health.
- Of note is that the Braves have made clear to Boston that they have “strong interest” in young outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. This is not necessarily an active matter, however: Gammons notes that any possible action on that front would occur in the late spring, at the earliest, and David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets his understanding that the expression of interest was made earlier in the offseason, before other moves occurred.
- Lefty Mike Minor will face a hearing with the Braves tomorrow, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman notes on Twitter. $500K remains at stake between the sides ($5.6MM versus $5.1MM).
- Rays outfielder David DeJesus tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that he has prepared for the possibility of being dealt but hopes to remain with Tampa. DeJesus says he is refreshed and ready after a “long, grueling” go of things last year, though as Topkin writes there appears to be a logjam in front of him in the outfield.
- Alfredo Aceves, a seven-year veteran of the Red Sox and Yankees, will throw for teams this afternoon, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets. Among those expected to be in attendance are the Giants, Padres, Royals, Brewers, and Reds.
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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.