Cole Hamels Rumors

NL East Notes: Span, Utley, Hamels, Johnson, Familia

The Nationals activated Denard Span from the disabled list and inserted him into the starting lineup for this afternoon’s game against the Phillies, reports MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. To make room for Span on the roster, Michael Taylor was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse despite slashing .271/.314/.500 in 51 plate appearances this season. “He is one of our future players and needs to play every day,” Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said in explaining the reasoning behind Taylor’s demotion. “We got to see Michael Taylor become a player for us right in front of our eyes. I thought he handled himself brilliantly with some youthful mistakes. The ability level is there. The usefulness of putting it to a Major League setting was there and he took to it very well.

Elsewhere in the NL East:

  • The Phillies have told teams over the past year Chase Utley will not waive his no-trade clause, but ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in an Insider piece (subscription required) the second baseman, facing a long rebuild in Philadelphia, may have a change of heart like former teammate Jimmy Rollins. Olney also notes rival evaluators believe Cole Hamels wants out of Philadelphia, as well.
  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez isn’t too concerned with Jim Johnson being roughed up in his last two appearances (four runs, six hits, and two home runs allowed) and will keep the right-hander in the role of the 8th inning setup reliever, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’ll see how it plays out,” said Gonzalez. “But from what I saw in Spring Training, and other than these two outings here, I think he’s been fine. We always have a tendency to say what’s the matter with a guy as soon as he gives up something.
  • Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters, including MLB.com’s Joe Trezza, closer Jeurys Familia will remain in that role when Bobby Parnell and Vic Black join the club after completing their rehab assignments. “Certainly, right now Jeurys Familia has pitched well enough,” Collins said. “He is that guy until those other guys show us they’re ready.” Collins adds, in a perfect world, Parnell would be the closer with Black and Familia slotted for the 8th and 7th innings, respectively. Black’s return may be delayed as Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets the right-hander will undergo a MRI of his shoulder/neck area.

Cafardo’s Latest: Giants, Craig, Lackey, Hamels, Kazmir, Viola

Though the Giants have had a rough start to the season — their 4-9 record has them at the bottom of the NL West — new GM Bobby Evans isn’t overly concerned yet, and an early-season trade for reinforcements is unlikely, he tells the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo“At this point you’re just going back to players that were offered you before that you didn’t deal for,” Evans explains. “Players who some teams are still trying to move that you took a pass on.” Injuries have already been a problem for San Francisco, who saw Hunter Pence go down with a broken forearm in Spring Training and have already placed both Matt Cain and Jake Peavy on the 15-day disabled list. Cafardo notes, however, that in all three of the Giants’ recent World Series runs, midseason acquisitions such as Cody Ross, Marco Scutaro and Peavy have played integral roles (I’d add Pat Burrell‘s name to that list as well), and this year will likely be no different if the Giants are to ultimately turn things around.

Here’s more from Cafardo’s weekly Sunday Baseball Notes column…

  • The Red Sox are in a catch-22 with Allen Craig, writes Cafardo. His poor 2014 performance has reduced him to a bench player, and no team is currently making much of an effort to acquire the first baseman/outfielder. However, if he doesn’t play much, he’s unlikely to look any better and boost his trade value.
  • Right-hander John Lackey is hopeful that the Cardinals will approach him about a contract extension, Cafardo reports, but the team is currently thrilled to have him at just the league minimum. Lackey’s preference may be to remain with the Cardinals, but he’ll likely pitch in 2016 whether it’s in St. Louis or elsewhere, as he recently told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that he wouldn’t be pitching this year if he didn’t plan to play beyond 2015.
  • One general manager who has inquired recently tells Cafardo that the Phillies‘ asking price on Cole Hamels has not dropped one bit since the beginning of the season, despite the fact that Hamels has had two rough starts in his first three appearances of the year. Hamels has, somewhat incredibly, yielded seven homers in just 18 innings after surrendering only 14 in 204 2/3 frames last year. Of course, homer-to-flyball ratio tends to stabilize around 10-11 percent (Hamels’ career mark is 11.2 percent), and he’s currently sporting a remarkably high 36.8 percent HR/FB, so better days are almost certainly ahead for Hamels.
  • An AL scout who has attended both of Scott Kazmir‘s starts this season says he’s never seen the left-hander more confident or more impressive on the mound. “Don’t know if it’s because it’s his walk year and he can become a free agent, but if he keeps this up most of the season, he’s going to make himself a lot of money,” said the scout. Of course, that’s just one scout’s take, but Kazmir has been electric to date. The 31-year-old has whiffed 18 hitters against five walks in 13 innings, and the 91.7 mph he’s averaged on his two-seamer in those two starts is up from last year’s average of 90.9, though it remains to be seen whether not that increase can be maintained.
  • David Price‘s hot start to the season makes it likely that his offseason price will land somewhere in the vicinity of Max Scherzer‘s seven-year, $210MM and Clayton Kershaw‘s seven-year, $215MM pact, one Major League source opined to Cafardo.
  • Former Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is helping Frank Viola III, the son of former AL Cy Young winner Frank Viola, develop a knuckleball, Cafardo writes. Viola III was a 29th-round pick by the White Sox back in 2004, but Tommy John surgery and knee surgery derailed his career, and he retired from the game in 2010. He returned in 2014 and pitched with the Blue Jays’ Class-A affiliates, and he’s now aiming to get a look in the independent leagues as he attempts to work his way back into the game. Viola III has also worked with R.A. Dickey and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro on honing is skill with the pitch.

Quick Hits: Trout, Wilson, Tigers

Mike Trout is taking a more aggressive approach this season, writes Buster Olney for ESPN Insider. The result is a likely improvement to his 26.1% strikeout rate from last year. The new approach is designed to avoid pitchers’ counts. While we can’t draw any statistical conclusions from his 42 plate appearances, he has a 11.9% walk rate and 16.7% strikeout rate.

Olney also included a number of other interesting topics. Those include home runs allowed by Cole Hamels, Curtis Granderson‘s low swinging strike rate, and Mike Moustakas‘ all-field approach. Here’s more from around the league.

  • The Rangers own the baseball rights to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, and they want him to play, Wilson told HBO’s Bryant Gumble (via Mike Florio of NBC Sports). Wilson, 25, was a two sport athlete in college. He spent a couple seasons in the Rockies minor league system, hitting .229/.354/.356 in 379 plate appearances. A tepid Single-A performance mixed with three years away from the sport isn’t encouraging, but Seahawks GM John Schneider notes Wilson’s off the charts confidence and preparation. It strikes me as unlikely that anything will come of Wilson’s interest in playing two sports. If something were to happen, it’s seemingly too late for the 2015 season.
  • The Tigers have done an excellent job remaining consistent while overhauling their roster, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. The team won the AL Central in each of the last four seasons and currently sports the top record in baseball (9-2). Aside from Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Alex Avila, and Justin Verlander, most of the roster has turned over since Detroit won the AL pennant in 2012. Much of the credit goes to President and GM Dave Dombrowski who has overseen major trades involving Ian Kinsler, David Price, and Joakim Soria in recent seasons (among others).


Heyman’s Latest: Padres, Buehrle, Greene

The Padres declined to part with top outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe in their deal for closer Craig Kimbrel, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  At the same time, the Braves weren’t sold on top catching prospect Austin Hedges and feared that his hitting might not develop enough. Ultimately, that left pitcher Matt Wisler as the key prospect in the deal.  Here’s more from Heyman’s column..

  • Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle is considering retirement following the 2015 season, Heyman reports. While he notes that April retirement ruminations often prove to be inaccurate, there seems to be a strong possibility that the 36-year-old Buehrle will call it quits.
  • Tigers executives were shocked that they were able to pry right-hander Shane Greene away from the Yankees this winter, Heyman writes. The Yankees considered trading Greene “painful,” but the team was desperate for a shortstop, and New York scouting guru Gene Michael was a strong supporter of Gregorius.
  • Trading Ryan Howard seems less and less likely for the Phillies each coming day, Heyman writes, noting that one scout said that Howard simply looks “lost” at the plate. Heyman also notes that the stacked starting pitching class on next year’s free agent market may be hindering the Phillies’ ability to move Cole Hamels, as teams are content to wait to bid on the likes of David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija and others.
  • The Orioles checked in on Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro at some point late in the spring.  Navarro, who has been supplanted as the starting catcher in Toronto by Russell Martin, is hoping to go elsewhere and start.  The diplomatic Navarro spoke with MLBTR’s Zach Links last month about the trade talk surrounding him.
  • One GM who has some interest in Elvis Andrus suggested to Heyman that it’d be hard for the Rangers to trade him now.  While Texas has infield depth, most of it is at the lower rungs of their system.  Meanwhile, they’ll be without Jurickson Profar for a second straight year.
  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has one year to go on his contract, but word is that the front office likes him and they mainly want to see progress from their younger players before extending him.  It’s said that Gonzalez won’t be judged on his win-loss record, but so far he’s doing pretty well in that department too.
  • The Red Sox made at least a preliminary offer to Yoenis Cespedes before trading him, which seems to poke a hole in the theory that Boston coaches “hated” the outfielder.

Zach Links contributed to this post.


Quick Hits: Cubs, Kimbrel, Bryant, Pirates

Teams have quickly accepted the importance of the mental side of the game, reports the Associated Press in the New York Times. For example, the Cubs view mental skills coach Josh Lifrak as an equal to their hitting and pitching coaches. The article describes part of the process used by the Cubs, Nationals, and Red Sox, although all teams have probably adopted some form of mental skills development.

Here’s more from around the league.

  • Padres senior advisor Trevor Hoffman was thrilled by the team’s recent trade for Craig Kimbrel, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. Kimbrel follows Hoffman (the all-time NL leader in saves) in a line of strong Padres closers. “We’ve been pretty fortunate to have a guy at the backend, even before I got here and continuing with Huston (Street) and Joaquin (Benoit),” says Hoffman. “The street cred [Kimbrel has] built in the game over the last four, five years really separates him from the rest of the group as one of the top-echelon closers in the game.”
  • The Cubs‘ decision to send Kris Bryant to the minors to start the season led to controversy, but now that he’s there, the team has him working on playing outfield, Gordon Wittenmyer writes for Baseball America (subscription-only). While many assume that Bryant will be activated as soon as next week, the Cubs may legitimately be concerned about finding him a defensive home.
  • If the Pirates have money to spend at the trade deadline this year, they could target an ace pitcher, writes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The payroll is cheap thanks to a number of young players and team friendly extensions. That could make Cole Hamels a potential fit. He, like Andrew McCutchen, has four years remaining on his contract. My thought: it’s at least conceivable that the Phillies would take on a large portion of his contract for the right prospects. To be clear, this is not to say that the Pirates have inquired about Hamels, only that a fit might exist.

AL East Notes: Orioles, Swihart, Rays, Yankees

After covering five postseason games in St. Petersburg, Florida and two exhibition games at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com is convinced there is a greater passion for the game in Montreal than in Tampa Bay. The Rays aren’t heading north of the border anytime soon; but, in Morosi’s view, this weekend’s big turnout in the Expos’ former home showed that Montrealers feel a greater connection to the team they lost than Tampa Bay fans do for the team they still have.

Here’s more from the AL East:

  • The Orioles are still trying to make a trade to give them some flexibility, writes Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com. Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette confirmed to reporters, including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko (via Twitter), submitting the Opening Day roster does not prevent him from making moves. “Once you submit your roster it’s like the regular season,” said Duquette. “You can make moves anytime after you get your roster submitted.” Baltimore will need to make a roster move after its first contest, as Chris Davis will have completed his 25-game suspension for Adderall use.
  • The Red Sox didn’t trade Lars Anderson or Ryan Lavarnway at the peak of their value and they have rebuffed whatever advances the Phillies have made toward Blake Swihart in a Cole Hamels deal. Despite outside pressure from some fans, GM Ben Cherington has always erred on the side of patience, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. “The reason that you fight back against trading a young player you believe in,” Cherington said, “is that, when it does happen, when it works the way you hope it works and the way you think it might work at the major-league level, it’s really impactful. If we think a guy has a good shot to be successful in Boston, we are going to have a presumption to try to keep them.”
  • The Rays appeared to be in learn-now, win-later mode early in the offseason, but they also made several present-day improvements to put themselves in position to win in 2014, opines Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The Rays now believe they have put together a team that is deeper offensively, more athletic, and improved defensively. The pitching situation also appeared to be improved, though the Rays currently have three starters on the shelf.
  • The New York Post’s Joel Sherman posits the Yankees coud miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season and finish with a losing record for the first time since 1992, but their long-term future looks more encouraging that it has in a decade.

Red Sox Unlikely To Make Big Move Before Season

Ben Cherington and the Red Sox aren’t expecting to make a significant trade before the season begins, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. Any moves the Red Sox might make before the end of the month are likely to be small ones. “You never know exactly who might be available right at the end … but I would say it’s much more likely that the 25 guys (who will break camp with the team) are already here,” says Cherington.

Independent of context, that’s more of a truism than a noteworthy statement. As Lauber points out, key trades rarely occur in Spring Training. Teams tend to be healthier (this year’s rash of pitcher injuries notwithstanding), and executives tend to be more optimistic about the players they already have on hand. “Since it’s the beginning of the year, you’re likely to have more healthy players,” says Cherington. “But the biggest thing is, you’ve put all this together. So there’s a sense of, give it a chance to see what it can do.”

The idea that the Red Sox are planning on going with the roster they have is perhaps noteworthy in their specific case, however. They have an abundance of outfielders, with Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts, Shane Victorino, Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig and Daniel Nava all on hand. They’ve also repeatedly been connected to Cole Hamels of the Phillies, although nothing appears close on that front.


Rangers, Phillies Still Discussing Hamels Deal, But Nothing Close

The Rangers and Phillies are still talking about a deal that would send top lefty Cole Hamels to Texas, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. While the sides are talking about possible prospect packages, nothing is close at the moment.

Heyman notes that “there is no evidence the Red Sox and Phillies have talked seriously in recent weeks” on a deal involving Hamels, meaning that the Rangers could be the most promising landing spot at present. Philly is reportedly looking to add three legitimate prospects in a deal, with at least one potential impact player among them.

In addition to its impressive list of youngsters, the Rangers have some payroll flexibility, according to Heyman. After foregoing any significant spending this winter, the team appears likely to open the year with just under $140MM committed to its 25-man roster (and disabled list). Looking forward, Texas has over $100MM already on the books for 2016 and at least $50MM in each of the three years that follow. Hamels’s contract would tack on $22.5MM to those tallies over each of the next four years, and it also includes a $20MM option for 2019 that carries a $6MM buyout.

Yu Darvish‘s season-ending Tommy John surgery has left a void atop the Rangers’ rotation, and it is surely tempting to replace him with Hamels. Of course, such a deal probably would have made as much or more sense prior to that injury, given the team’s other rotation questions. Part of the motivation for continuing to talk with Philadelphia could well be that the club already had designs on adding another long-term arm at some point in the near future.


AL East Notes: Red Sox, Craig, Wieters, Bailey, Tanaka

Here’s the latest from the American League East:

  • The Red Sox risk losing a chance to acquire Cole Hamels of the Phillies by waiting to deal for him, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. While it is too early to judge the team’s current rotation, results — and, perhaps more importantly, reviews from rival scouts — have been less than promising.
  • Meanwhile, the Red Sox are still “trying to find a trade partner” for first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig, per Cafardo. He notes that the club has assigned several “top pro scouts” to watch the Giants, Padres, and Cubs recently, though it is not entirely clear that all of those clubs could match up on Craig.
  • Orioles catcher Matt Wieters will be shut down for about a week after experiencing tendinitis in his surgically-repaired right elbow after his first stint behind the dish, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. Manage Buck Showalter said that he does not see the news as a setback, and indicated that the move was made as an exercise of caution. Wieters’ ability to return to his usually sturdy work with the mask on is critical not only to the team’s hopes this year, but also to his free agent case after the season.
  • Reliever Andrew Bailey made his return to competitive action today for the Yankees, with Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees Blog tweeting that Bailey’s fastball sat in the low 90s in his inning of work. Meanwhile, Masahiro Tanaka continued to show strong form this spring, as Jennings further reports. If both of those arms can prove healthy and effective, the club’s run prevention efforts will obviously receive a significant boost. While Tanaka pitched much of last season before being shut down with a partial UCL tear, Bailey has not thrown a big league pitch since 2013 and represents pure upside for New York.

Quick Hits: Swihart, Bryant, Mariners

The Phillies and Red Sox have made “virtually no headway” on a Cole Hamels trade, and that’s because the Red Sox refuse to include top catching prospect Blake Swihart, Jayson Stark of ESPN writes. Of course, that didn’t stop media speculation when Swihart joined the Red Sox’ starting lineup as they took on the Phillies in Clearwater Sunday. “I think it’s funny just like you guys do,” says Swihart. In the meantime, manager John Farrell expresses confidence in another young Red Sox catcher, Christian Vazquez. “Blake is the name that’s always been in the rumors, because of what he potentially could be attached to,” says Farrell. “But the guy who is as good as anybody in the game right now, as far as catching, receiving and throwing, is Christian Vazquez.” Vazquez will start for the Red Sox while Swihart appears likely to begin the season at Triple-A, a level at which he has only 18 games of experience. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Cubs slugger Kris Bryant is eager to prove he belongs in the big leagues, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. “I want to build on what I’ve done so far. Now I’ve got the gas to the floor, and I’m not going to let up,” Bryant says. The Cubs want Bryant to work on his defense, and he likely won’t start the year in the Majors. Heyman suggests that’s not due to service-time concerns, but the fact that the Cubs will gain an extra year of service time by holding Bryant back for a couple weeks of the regular season is surely, at the very least, a happy byproduct of their likely development plan. Whenever Bryant’s promotion to the big leagues arrives, it will be a momentous occasion. By hitting six homers in his first 23 Spring Training plate appearances, Bryant has done nothing to quiet the hype that swirled around him last year.
  • Jack Zduriencik and the Mariners are hoping to improve on a 2014 season in which they fell just short of a playoff berth, MLB.com’s Mike Bauman writes. “I like what should be our 25-man roster,” says Zduriencik after an offseason in which the Mariners added Nelson Cruz, Seth Smith, J.A. Happ, Justin Ruggiano and Rickie Weeks. He adds that he feels the Mariners’ depth in the minors is also an asset. “We hoped we could have a good, competitive club year in and year out, a good Minor League system that could continue to fill the void when you have a need, instead of what we had a few years ago, when we had 16, 17, 18 players that debuted in the big leagues in one year.”