Cole Hamels Rumors

Latest On Jon Lester And Cole Hamels

Earlier today we heard that the Giants have shown interest in Jon Lester, and that interest may now increase with Pablo Sandoval reportedly set to join the Red Sox. San Francisco would make another entrant in a Lester race that has begun to take clearer shape over the past week or so. And, of course, the connection to the Phillies‘ trade market for Cole Hamels cannot be ignored, with several reports suggesting that the two southpaws’ fates are intertwined.

Here are today’s Lester and Hamels rumors…

  • Two NL GMs told Peter Gammons over the weekend that Lester is nearing a deal with the Red Sox. However, Gammons writes that the info doesn’t appear to be accurate at this time, as Lester is set to meet with the Cardinals sometime next week. According to Gammons, Lester might wish to have a deal in place in advance of the Winter Meetings, which begin Dec. 7 in San Diego. WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford echoes that there’s nothing close between the Red Sox and Lester at this time (Twitter link).
  • Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe tweets that the Red Sox and Lester are still “very much engaged” and it does appear possible for the Sox to add Lester, Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez (who agreed to a four-year, $88MM pact with Boston earlier today).
  • The Red Sox and Cubs are interested in Hamels, and both could “jump” at the chance to acquire him if they miss on Lester, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Boston has had the “most serious talks” with Philadelphia, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter), with Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweeting that the Phils are confident in striking a deal if Lester does not return to his former club.
  • The Dodgers are also in on Hamels, according to a tweet from Nightengale. Los Angeles represents a potentially powerful new entrant to that market, of course, and could shake up the pursuit if it decides to commit significant resources to adding a third stellar lefty to its rotation.

Indians Notes: Swisher, Bourn, Masterson, Hamels

MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian and Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group cleared out their inbox this weekend answering readers’ questions about possible moves for the Indians this offseason. Here are the highlights:

  • Bastian downplays a Nick Swisher-Ubaldo Jimenez swap of bad contracts. Cleveland could afford the move (Jimenez is due $38.75MM through 2017 while Swisher is owed $30MM through 2016 with a 2017 vesting option worth $14MM), but Bastian feels the odds of Swisher rebounding in 2015 is a better bet than three years of Jimenez.
  • If the Indians are looking to shed a bad contract, Hoynes thinks Michael Bourn would be easier to trade, but adds that doesn’t mean Cleveland wants to deal him.
  • Bastian and Hoynes both agree the Indians have interest in Justin Masterson on a one-year pillow contract, but feel the right-hander will find a multi-year pact elsewhere.
  • Trading for Cole Hamels is an interesting thought, according to Bastian, because the left-hander is cheaper ($90MM through 2018) than the top free agent rotation arms on the market and the Indians have the type of prospects the Phillies covet. Ultimately, though, Bastian sees Hamels’ annual salary and the potential prospects lost will be too steep of a price for the franchise to pay.
  • While noting manager Terry Francona’s penchant for strong bullpens, Hoynes doesn’t see the Indians investing in any of the high profile free agent relievers, especially with Zach McAllister waiting in the wings.
  • Does Francona’s new contract extension contain the same opt-out clause allowing him to leave if President Mark Shapiro or GM Chris Antonetti are fired? Antonetti did not provide details when asked that question, but Hoynes imagines the opt-out provision is included in the extension.
  • Bastian expects right-handers Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer to have break out seasons for the Indians in 2015.

Rosenthal’s Latest: M’s, Hamels, Kennedy, Markakis, Norris

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has a new notes column posted looking at a number of situations around the league. Here are some quick highlights…

  • The Mariners are on the hunt for a right-handed bat, but they prefer Nelson Cruz to signing Hanley Ramirez or trading for Matt Kemp. Justin Upton is also somewhere on their wish list and is potentially available. Rosenthal writes that the Mariners “are going to do something” of significance to address that search.
  • The Phillies are doing background work on the makeup of Red Sox prospects Christian Vazquez, Mookie Betts and Matt Barnes, Rosenthal hears, fueling some speculation about a Cole Hamels trade. Rosenthal says the Sox are disinclined to move Vazquez or Blake Swihart, however, and previous reports have indicated that the team is loath to consider parting with Betts. As others have noted, Rosenthal feels that Hamels would likely require the Red Sox to exercise his 2019 option ($20MM) in advance, bringing the total he is owed to $110MM over the next five years.
  • The Padres are continuing to listen to offers for Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy, with Kennedy being the most likely of the three to go. Kennedy is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $10.3MM in 2015, and the Royals are interested in the right-hander. Rosenthal also speculatively lists the Rangers as a club to watch in the Kennedy market.
  • A reunion between Nick Markakis and the Orioles seemed like a foregone conclusion at one point, but the two sides still aren’t close to a deal and talks are said to be merely “inching along.” Rosenthal wonders what’s taking so long but does note that the O’s are considering Yasmany Tomas and still working with Cruz as well, so it seems fair to speculate that having three options in the corner outfield is slowing the Markakis progress. As Rosenthal notes, the longer the wait, the more likely it is that Markakis explores other options more seriously.
  • Since the publication of that column, Rosenthal has tweeted that the Orioles might be willing to move Bud Norris, who is projected by Swartz to earn $8.7MM in 2015. Norris is a free agent next season but pitched well in 2014, posting a 3.65 ERA with 7.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 42.2 percent ground-ball rate in 165 1/3 innings. Rosenthal also hears that the O’s have gotten “moderate” interest in Ubaldo Jimenez, although with $38.75MM remaining on his contract, I’d imagine he could only be swapped for another bad contract.


AL Notes: Lester, Scherzer, Red Sox, Avila

Which of this offseason’s free agents are most likely to justify their contracts? It’s hard to say, given that we most big-name free agents haven’t even agreed to terms yet, but Doug Miller polled MLB.com’s writers to compile a list of top free agents, and they think Jon Lester‘s next contract is most likely to turn out to be a good one. Miller notes that contracts for pitchers often go south, but points out that Lester is healthy, left-handed and relatively young, and has been a consistently strong performer. Perhaps the most outside-the-box choice is Andrew Miller at No. 3, the idea being that Miller’s lack of closer status will limit him on the market, perhaps to three years and under $30MM. Here are the latest notes from the American League:

  • Scott Boras told Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio he has not heard anything from the Tigers indicating they are not interested in re-signing Max Scherzer. MLB.com’s Jason Beck has a partial transcript of the interview, including Boras saying he is not worried about the lack of teams linked to Scherzer while implying clubs may sign his client and then open a spot in their rotation by trading another of their starters calling this “a two-step process.”
  • Speaking of Scherzer (the top ranked free agent on MLBTR’s Top 50 Free Agents list), the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman believes the Red Sox should kick those tires because their rotation is in shambles. Lester is the preferred option, according to Silverman, but a trade for Cole Hamels may wind up being the surest route for the Red Sox to get the caliber of starter they need.
  • The Tigers have until Thursday to exercise Alex Avila‘s 2015 option, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. If the Tigers opt for the $200K buyout rather than the $5.4MM option, Morosi notes Avila will remain on their roster because he is still arbitration eligible.

Cafardo On Lester, Hamels, Iwakuma, Sandoval

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wonders if the Dodgers‘ outfield surplus could net them a solution to their shortstop situation.  Los Angeles isn’t expected to re-sign Hanley Ramirez and with underwhelming options on the open market, it stands to reason that the Dodgers could explore trading from their strongest area to find a replacement.  Earlier this week, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman acknowledged that “the best course of action” would probably be to trade one of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, or Carl Crawford.  More from today’s column..

  • While Jon Lester is reportedly receiving “legitimate interest” from six interested clubs, some are skeptical about his market.  “Really? Six teams are going to be six years at $150 million for Jon Lester?” said one NL executive. “Sounds like agent enhancement of his client to me.”
  • The Red Sox have already shot down a couple of proposals from the Phillies involving Cole Hamels.  Cafardo expects the Phillies to reopen talks with Boston.
  • The Mariners have fielded inquiries from a few teams on Hisashi Iwakuma and the Red Sox have had at least internal conversations about the 33-year-old right-hander. The Mariners, meanwhile, would want an impact hitter like Yoenis Cespedes in return.
  • It’s expected that the Red Sox would want to offer Pablo Sandoval a contract with bonuses that would reward him for staying within a certain range.  A Giants official told Cafardo that Sanoval lost almost 30 pounds in the offseason only to gain 20 of them back during the season.  The CBA forbids teams from taking money away from players for gaining weight, but they can incentivize staying trim.
  • Mark Mulder continues to work toward a comeback but he indicated to Cafardo that he’s not 100% sure it will happen.  Mulder was making a run at it last offseason when during one of his workouts he tore his Achilles.  Afterwards, the hurler returned to ESPN as an analyst.
  • Rival scouts have worked hard to cut through the hype in their evaluations of the Red Sox‘s pitching prospects.  The biggest debate concerns Henry Owens and how his 92-mile-per-hour fastball and slow curve would play in the big leagues.  Meanwhile, some believe that left-hander Brian Johnson might be the best pitcher in Boston’s system.
  • Cafardo reported last week that the Tigers are listening to trade proposals on Alex Avila and mentioned the Braves and Red Sox as possible suitors for his left-handed bat. Today, Cafardo added the Cardinals as a team that could see him as a solid backup option.

NL East Notes: Desmond, Fish, Phils, Hamels, Braves, Medlen

The Nationals made Ian Desmond a seven-year, $107MM extension offer last year, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports, though that also included contract deferrals that would have reduced its true value. Negotiations are expected to pick back up in the months to come, per Kilgore, and that offer will presumably be the starting point. Desmond, who put up another strong year and is now one year away from the open market, is one key piece of the team’s increasingly pressing long-term strategic questions.

Here’s the latest out of the division:

  • The Marlins‘ interest in the starting pitching market is fairly diverse, as Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. Possible trade targets range from buy-low (Ubaldo Jimenez) to buy-high (Johnny Cueto), and interest on the free agent markets includes Kyle Kendrick and Ervin Santana. The unifying force here is probably the expected ability of these varying arms to provide innings; as I noted yesterday, the Fish hope to add a solid, veteran presence to their staff.
  • Spencer also spoke with the Miami brass about Giancarlo Stanton, and discusses the team’s reasoning for trying to build a winner around him now, even if an extension cannot ultimately be worked out. “We’re trying to get away from that, that we have to trade everybody because they get expensive,” Hill said. “Enough of that. We want to win. We want to keep as many of our pieces as we can.”
  • There are “a lot of good fits” for Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd, who is likely to be traded, sources tell Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Philadelphia is seeing interest in Ben Revere as well.
  • Of course, the flashier chip for the Phils is lefty Cole Hamels. As Salisbury reports, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says “the free agent market will kind of dictate where this thing goes,” referring to the possibility of striking a deal. “[A]t some point the dominores will start to fall and then we’ll see where it takes us,” said Amaro, who notes that there is no need to deal Hamels since he “traverses the timeline” of contention that the club has in mind.
  • Hamels would prefer to be dealt, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Nightengale provides additional teams to which Hamels cannot decline a trade (on top of the previously-reported Cubs): the Yankees and Rangers are the two A.L. clubs, with the Dodgers, Nationals, Cardinals, Braves, and Padres among the National League teams.
  • The Braves increasingly sound inclined to aim for the near future, and we’ve already heard several prominent names listed as possible trade candidates. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman provides two more, via Twitter: reliever Jordan Walden (who projects to earn $3MM in arbitration) and young second baseman Tommy La Stella.
  • Braves president of baseball operations John Hart says the sides will “need to get creative” to work out a deal to keep Kris Medlen, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. While the team has every hope of keeping the righty, his second Tommy John procedure and $5.8MM projected arb price tag do not make for a straightforward situation given the team’s tight payroll. Sherman suggests that a significantly lower guarantee, combined with incentives and a 2016 option, could be palatable for both sides. It seems that Medlen would be able to do better, however, were he to force the Braves’ hand: he would either be tendered a contract, or hit the open market with plenty of suitors given his upside.

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.”