Cole Hamels Rumors

Blue Jays Notes: Melky, Hamels, Gattis, Salty

Signing the likes of Pablo Sandoval or Russell Martin would represent a major shift from how the Blue Jays have approached the free agent market in recent years, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi writes.  Under Alex Anthopoulos, the Jays have signed only three free agents to multiyear contracts, none longer than three years (for Maicer Izturis) and none for more than $16MM (for Melky Cabrera).  The Jays’ stated internal policy of not offering contracts longer than five years could play a role, though they’d almost certainly have to top that mark to sign Sandoval, who reportedly wants a six-year deal.

More from north of the border…

  • With Cabrera’s status still up in the air, Anthopoulos is doing his due diligence on possible replacements within Toronto’s lineup, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi reports.  “We’ve thought about alternatives, you have to think about alternatives all the time for any position. I can’t speak for Melky specifically other than we’d like to have him back,” Anthopoulos said.  “We may have a good sense right now of what the likelihood is of signing him or not signing him, but I’m sensitive to not talking about someone else’s free agency, and not divulging negotiations or things like that….That’s not to say we don’t want it to happen with Melky, but we’re also being real with this. There’s a good chance he doesn’t come back, we just don’t know.”
  • Also from Davidi, the Blue Jays are one of the 20 teams on Cole Hamels‘ no-trade list.  The Red Sox are also known to be on Hamels’ block list, while the Cubs are not.
  • The BravesEvan Gattis doesn’t appear to be a Jays trade target, Davidi reports, and he also reiterates that the Jays aren’t interested in Yasmany Tomas.
  • If the Jays can’t land Martin, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun speculates that the club could pursue Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, “who is available” following a .220/.320/.362 performance over 435 PA in 2014.  Saltalamacchia just signed a three-year, $21MM free agent deal with Miami last winter, though obviously it wouldn’t be the first time the Marlins have looked to deal a recent high-profile signing.  I’m not sure I see Saltalamacchia as a fit for the Jays, as he costs a lot more than incumbent catcher Dioner Navarro but arguably isn’t an upgrade.
  • The Jays are talking to Brook Jacoby about becoming the club’s new hitting coach, Elliott reports.  Jacoby is an assistant hitting coordinator for the Rangers and previously spent seven years as the Reds’ hitting coach.

AL East Links: Rays Stadium, Duquette, O’s, Marrero, Sox

The Rays are nearing an agreement with St. Peterburg mayor Rick Kriseman that will grant the team permission to explore new stadium sites in Hillsborough County, report Stephen Nohlgren and Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times. Kriseman would like to finalize an agreement within the next month and “definitely before Christmas” so he can present the plan to City Council. If the Rays do leave for a new Hillsborough stadium, the city of St. Petersburg would be entitled to monetary compensation, as the Rays’ current lease at Tropicana Field runs through 2027.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • Orioles GM Dan Duquette was named Major League Baseball Executive of the Year by The Sporting News, and he spoke with MLB.com’s Paul Hagen about the honor. Duquette, who narrowly edged out Dayton Moore of the Royals, said his focus from day one has been improving the club’s pitching staff. He also addressed the success he’s had in finding value from unheralded minor league signings, and how that success makes them an attractive destination: “…when players sign with us, whether it’s Triple-A or the big leagues, they know they’re going to get an opportunity.”
  • Duquette tells Andy Martino of the New York Daily News that he has enough financial flexibility to sign both Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz (Twitter links). He plans to meet with Cruz’s new agent, Diego Bentz of Relativity Sports, at the GM Meetings, and the book is not closed on Markakis returning even though he’s meeting with other clubs.
  • The Red Sox are receiving a lot of interest in minor league shortstop Deven Marrero, reports Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com (Twitter link). The 24-year-old was the club’s first-round pick back in 2012 and has an excellent defensive reputation, though he batted just .258/.327/.372 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2014. The Mets, of course, are one team known to be looking high and low for a shortstop.
  • Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal spoke with Sox GM Ben Cherington about interest in Marrero, and while he noted that there has indeed been interest, Cherington said it hasn’t been any greater than the interest he’s received in the past. Marrero has drawn steady interest over the years, according to Cherington. As MacPherson notes, however, Marrero is posting particularly strong numbers in the Arizona Fall League this year.
  • Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe discussed the possibility of the Red Sox acquiring Cole Hamels with Hamels’ agent, John Boggs, and came away with the belief that the team has a shot, even though the Sox are on Hamels’ no-trade list. Hamels doesn’t have any issue with Boston, writes Cafardo, though he’d likely use the no-trade clause as leverage to get his 2019 option picked up in advance, as Ken Rosenthal noted yesterday. The Phillies have scouted Boston’s system extensively and like many of their players.
  • Cafardo also notes that the Sox are receiving quite a bit of interest in Yoenis Cespedes. Boston is “desperately” trying to keep an outfield spot open for Mookie Betts, making a trade of Cespedes possible.
  • The Boston Herald’s John Tomase spoke with Cherington, who stopped short of labeling any of his prospects untouchable, but he made it clear that those who contributed in 2014 (e.g. Betts) are extremely unlikely to be moved, Tomase adds (Twitter link).

Blue Jays Notes: Martin, Kawasaki, Phillies

The Blue Jays are in on several top free agents as the offseason kicks off.  They’ll meet with Pablo Sandoval‘s agent Gustavo Vasquez today, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.  Reps for Victor Martinez spoke to the Jays recently, and there’s reportedly a meeting on the books with Russell Martin‘s agent as well.  Further details on Canada’s team…

  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos preached flexibility yesterday.  According to Davidi, Anthopoulos said, “We’re going to try to take the best player available, and we’re not locked into one thing, like we need a defender at first base, we need a pure DH. It depends on what becomes available to us.”  Edwin Encarnacion can be deployed at first base or DH, while third base could be opened up by using Brett Lawrie at second.
  • Martin, a Canada native, turned down the Blue Jays before the 2010 season because the Yankees offered more playing time behind the plate, according to Davidi.  Davidi feels that of all the Blue Jays rumors, Martin may be the one with the most substance.
  • The Jays are looking at Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar in center field next year, barring a trade.
  • Infielder Munenori Kawasaki is leaning toward a return to Japan, but Davidi says he might be swayed by a Major League contract.
  • The Jays called the Phillies about Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, and Antonio Bastardo, according to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun.


NL Central Links: Hamels, Cards, Cueto, Reds

The Cubs weren’t included on Cole Hamels‘ updated 20-team no-trade list, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (Twitter link).  The Cubs are known to be looking for top-of-the-rotation arms this winter, and the remaining four years/$96MM on Hamels’ contract would cost Chicago less than what it would take to sign a top free agent starter like Max Scherzer or Jon Lester.  On the other hand, the Cubs would have to give up multiple top prospects to obtain Hamels from the Phillies, so they could prefer to just keep their young talent and spend extra to sign a free agent ace.  The Red Sox are thus far the only team known to be on Hamels’ no-trade list.

Here’s more from around the NL Central…

  • Right field has sadly become an offseason concern for the Cardinals due to Oscar Taveras‘ untimely death, GM John Mozeliak told MLB.com’s Jen Langsoch.  “I think it certainly leaves that position in question,” Mozeliak said. “Clearly internally, we have [Randal] Grichuk and potentially [Stephen] Piscotty to fill that spot. I would also say that it does now force us to explore other options, whether it’s the free-agent market or the trade market….I’m not saying it’s a must, but I also think we need to be prudent and make sure that we understand what that landscape looks like.”  The Cards will explore both short-term and long-term options in RF, Mozeliak said.  Out of respect for Taveras, Mozeliak waited a week after the outfielder’s passing to begin making calls to agents and general managers, Langosch writes.
  • The Reds “are listening” to offers for their starting pitchers but ace Johnny Cueto seems the least likely to be moved, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  Cincinnati would probably have to be “absolutely overwhelmed” to deal Cueto, Heyman writes, as the team plans to contend in 2015.
  • Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan also hears that Cueto is unlikely to be traded, though rival executives tell Passan (Twitter link) that the Reds are willing to discuss trading Mat Latos and Mike Leake.
  • The Reds are “at [a] fascinating crossroads,” FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes in a series of tweets.  If the Reds deal Cueto, they might as well deal Aroldis Chapman too as part of a rebuild, Rosenthal opines.  Attendance and the fact that they’re hosting the All-Star Game could make 2015 a bit of a “buffer” year for the Reds, though Rosenthal points out that the team might not want to rebuild in a season when they’re hosting the Midsummer Classic.  Back in September, I explored Cincinnati’s trade options with their rotation members in a Trade Candidates piece.
  • Major League Baseball has opened an investigation into whether or not the Cubs tampered with Joe Maddon when he was still under contract with the Rays, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports.  The Rays asked MLB to investigate last week.  “There was no tampering whatsoever,” Cubs president Theo Epstein told reporters (including ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers).  “I’d rather they investigate so we can clear our name and move on from this quickly. We’re giving our full cooperation and we welcome it.”

East Links: Hamels, Tomas, Mets, Andrus, Jays

The Red Sox are one of the 20 teams on Cole Hamels‘ no-trade list, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). As Rosenthal notes, Hamels wouldn’t necessarily block a trade to Boston, but he may want a team to pick up his 2019 vesting option ($20MM) in order to waive the clause. That would take Hamels’ total guarantee from four years and $90MM to five years and $110MM, likely making him a bit less attractive as  a trade target. Boston has been an oft-rumored potential trade partner should the Phillies decide to move their ace.

More from baseball’s Eastern divisions…

  • Yasmany Tomas isn’t close to a deal of any sort, but Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets that Tomas’ agent, Jay Alou, had a one-on-one meeting with Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. at today’s GM Meetings in Phoenix.
  • The Mets saw Tomas, but their scouts didn’t love him and they’re not likely to go near the $100MM range to sign him, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. He does note that the Mets are looking at outfielders on the trade market and willing to listen on Daniel Murphy again. However, the Mets have been underwhelmed by past offers for Murphy and may just hang onto him, as they’re comfortable giving Dilson Herrera more time to develop in the minors.
  • Sherman also reports that the Yankees are “intrigued” by Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus. The Yankees are trying to get younger and are hopeful of acquiring youthful players that may not have had their best season yet, and Andrus could fit that bill. However, they’re also wary of Andrus’ huge $120MM contract extension, which doesn’t even kick in until next season.
  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos tells Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair that he won’t allow other teams to dictate his offseason. What he means by that, Blair explains, is that the Jays won’t wait to see where a certain player signs before pursuing another. Blair recalls the 2006 Winter Meetings, when Anthopoulos was an assistant GM to J.P. Ricciardi. Toronto was hamstrung at the Winter Meetings waiting to hear back from free agents Ted Lilly and Gil Meche, both of whom signed elsewhere in the end. According to Blair, there was some stark internal criticism about how the other team’s plans were held up by other clubs. Toronto’s priority is re-signing Melky Cabrera, Blair writes, but the Blue Jays are aware that his QO and past ties to PEDs could lead to a slow-developing market.

NL Notes: McCutchen, Hamels, Diamondbacks

Pirates star Andrew McCutchen rarely gives long, opinionated interviews, so his lengthy and relatively candid discussion with Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is surprising. McCutchen, who is controlled through 2018, says that he would like to play the rest of his career in Pittsburgh. He also says, however, that the Pirates’ front office needs to do more to provide him with a championship-caliber supporting cast, and he suggests that the Pirates’ platoon arrangement at first base in particular is a problem. “You can have a platoon in the outfield every now and then,” says McCutchen. “Outfield platoons, I understand. But when it comes to the infield, you need that group of guys who are always going to be there.” The Pirates platooned Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez at first in 2014, and Davis, Sanchez and Pedro Alvarez are candidates to play there next season. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • The Phillies want “at least three” top prospects, including two who are ready for the big leagues, in return for Cole Hamels, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes. It’s not currently known who is on Hamels’ limited no-trade list (which he updated at the beginning of the month), but Salisbury suggests that Hamels would have been smart to add the Cubs, Red Sox and Dodgers so that he can demand that his new team pick up his 2019 option as a condition of a trade.
  • GM Dave Stewart says the Diamondbacks won’t be bidders for Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields this offseason, Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio tweets. Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall has said that the team will look for starting pitching this offseason. There have been few or no indications that the D-backs plan to pursue top-tier pitchers, however.

NL East Notes: Stanton, Mets, Nationals, Tomas, Hamels

As expected, the Marlins have begun extension talks with star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports on Twitter. President of baseball operations Michael Hill tells Spencer that the team has “reached out” to Stanton’s representatives and that “negotiations are ongoing.”

Here’s more from the NL East:

  • At present, the Mets are more inclined to fill their needs in the corner outfield via trade than through a free agent signing, reports Marc Carig of Newsday. New York is still hesitant to give up any of its best young talent in a swap. But veterans like Michael Morse, Alex Rios, and Torii Hunter all seem more like fallback options that the team would pursue if value can be had and nothing better has materialized. The Mets are said to prefer to add a right-handed bat.
  • One other hypothetical possibility, Nick Markakis, is not presently engaged with the team in any way, according to Matt Ehalt of The Record (Twitter link).
  • As they weigh their options at second, the Nationals are not unmindful of the Cuban market that has begun to materialize in recent weeks, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports. The primary possible targets, per Wagner, are 26-year-old Jose Fernandez and high-upside youngster Yoan Moncada. The 20-year-old Moncada will draw immense interest, with Ben Badler of Baseball America saying he is talented enough that he would be the odds-on favorite to go first overall in this year’s amateur draft (were he eligible).
  • The Phillies are still the favorite to land Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, with A.J. Burnett‘s decision to decline his option possibly burnishing Philly’s chances. That does not mean they are without competition, of course. Other clubs that have seen (or will soon see) Tomas since his showcase include the Rangers, D’backs, Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Red Sox, and Mariners.
  • Also per Heyman, the Phillies could clear yet more payroll space and add young talent through a deal for pitcher Cole Hamels, with the Cubs still showing interest in the lefty.

AL East Notes: Markakis, Cespedes, Hamels

The Orioles have spoken to Nick Markakis‘ agent and will continue contract discussions this week, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports.  Markakis is expected to hit free agency when the O’s decline their half of a $17.5MM option on the outfielder’s services for 2015.  “Both sides want to get a deal done, but….A hometown discount has its limits,” Kubatko writes.  Indeed, Markakis will draw a lot of interest on the open market, with MLBTR’s Steve Adams predicting Markakis will find a three- or four-year deal worth between $39-$48MM (depending on whether the Orioles extend a qualifying offer).

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • The Red Sox had some preliminary talks with Adam Katz, then Yoenis Cespedes‘ agent, about a four- or five-year extension, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News reports.  Since then, however, Cespedes changed his representation to Roc Nation Sports and is expected to look for a longer-term deal, making it more likely that the Sox explore trading him this winter.  Beyond contract reasons, Boston could look to move the outfielder because, as a source tells Madden, Cespedes “marches to his own drum and the [Red Sox] coaches all hate him.”
  • The Red Sox could use Cespedes as a trade chip for starting pitching, and Madden speculates that the Mets line up with the Sox as trade partners.  Boston is also “exploring” what the Phillies would want for Cole Hamels, though Philadelphia isn’t interested in Cespedes.
  • Ex-Rays manager Joe Maddon spoke with Fangraphs’ David Laurila in September (before the current drama surrounding Maddon’s opt-out) and discussed why pitching and defense are dominating the sport. Beyond the PED crackdown, Maddon pointed out that quite a bit of recent significant sabermetrics work has been focused on pitching and defense, rather than offense.  Maddon also said driving a starter out of a game no longer presents the opportunity it once did, as “You see a lot of 95-plus out of the pen now, and some of those guys have quality secondary pitches. I think it’s become easier to build bullpens, and it’s rare a team has a bad one.”
  • Maddon also suggested speed might become a more crucial part of the game than it has been in the recent past, when homers and walks became the blueprint for offensive production.  The Red Sox, however, are one team that plans to stick to its offensive philosophy, GM Ben Cherington tells Laurila. “We know we need to build a better offense, but we have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater,” Cherington said. “If we can see pitches and get on base, and still hit for power and hit with runners in scoring position, I still think that’s a formula to score runs.”

East Notes: Nationals, Phillies, Hamels, Rays

The Nationals will try to re-sign some combination of Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond and Doug Fister this offseason, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post writes. The trio combined for 10.8 fWAR in 2014, and all three are eligible for free agency following the 2015 season. The Nats might have to make decisions about which of the three to extend, and could consider trading those they don’t, although GM Mike Rizzo suggests no trades are imminent. “I think we’re a long way from that conversation,” he says. Kilgore adds that Zimmermann became more difficult to sign when the Reds signed Homer Bailey to a $105MM deal last February, changing the market for starting pitchers. Here are more notes from the East divisions.

  • Interim president Pat Gillick’s recent comments that the Phillies did not figure to contend again until at least 2017 marked a change in philosophy for the organization, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes. “We’ve been talking about a lot of things internally,” says GM Ruben Amaro Jr. “[I]t’s pretty clear that we have had a shift. … [W]e’ve got some regrouping, rebuilding — whatever you want to call it. There’s things that we have to do that are different.” That means the Phillies will try to deal Ryan Howard this offseason, and they’ll also consider dealing Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins if they get the right offers (and if Utley and Rollins approve trades). The Phillies could also sign Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, who would be expensive but who would add youth and star power.
  • The Phillies are willing to deal Hamels, but they’ll be asking a lot, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Hamels should fetch a strong return on the trade market despite the four years and $96MM remaining on his contract, Heyman writes, because free agent aces Max Scherzer and Jon Lester are likely to get even more. Hamels has a 20-team no-trade list that he must update by November 1. Until then, Hamels can be traded to the Dodgers, Angels, Padres, Cardinals, Nationals, Braves, Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers without his consent. The Cubs claimed Hamels off revocable waivers in August.
  • The Rays‘ list of candidates to replace Joe Maddon could include bench coach Dave Martinez, Triple-A manager Charlie Montoyo, FOX Sports analyst Gabe Kapler, White Sox coach Joe McEwing and former Rangers interim manager Tim Bogar, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. Topkin notes that Martinez has interviewed for five other managerial jobs already.

NL Notes: Burnett, Hamels, Niese, Mets, Padres, Johnson

Here’s the latest from the National League:

  • Phillies starter A.J. Burnett seems more likely to retire (and forgo his $12.75MM player option) than many people believe, observes Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com in an offseason preview piece. Meanwhile, the club will listen on Cole Hamels but continue to demand a ransom in return, while Philadelphia could be more open to dealing not only veteran Marlon Byrd but also arb-eligible outfielders Domonic Brown and Ben Revere. As Salisbury notes, the rotation has plenty of question marks and openings.
  • While Salisbury says he believes the Phillies will ultimately hang onto the 30-year-old Hamels, for better or worse, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki argues that the organization must view Hamels (and his fellow core veterans) from a pure baseball perspective. Attendance is plummeting in spite of the continued presence of numerous pieces of the team’s run of success, he notes, and the only way to rebuild the fan base is through winning.
  • Neutral talent evaluators believe that lefty Jon Niese is the Mets‘ best trade chip among the club’s veteran starters, tweets Marc Carig of Newsday. Niese, 27, threw to a 3.40 ERA over 187 2/3 frames in 2014. He is owed $16MM over the next two seasons and has a pair of options ($10MM and $11MM, with respective $500K buyouts) thereafter.
  • The Mets are expected to replace hitting coach Lamar Johnson, tweets Mike Puma of the New York Post. That move is still not official, however, and New York is in the early stages of assessing who they might bring in.
  • Padres GM A.J. Preller is about to get his first taste of open market action from the seat of power, as MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports. Preller said that he anticipates a lot of trade attention on the team’s slate of arms, and indicated that he would be open to discussing any players if there’s a way to improve the club.
  • One interesting player who remains under the Padres‘ control is starter Josh Johnson, whose injury-shortened year left the club with a $4MM team option. Preller said that he hopes to have Johnson in the fold next year, though left unclear whether the team is interested in a straight exercise of the option. “With Josh, he’s a guy that everyone has a positive feel for,” said Preller. “We’ll try to go down the road with him and try to present something to him that makes sense to him.”