Craig Breslow Rumors

Heyman’s Latest: Jays, Goldschmidt, Teheran, Chen, Epstein, Gordon, Gray

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports kicks off his weekly Inside Baseball column by chronicling the efforts of Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline. Perhaps most interesting are some of the items about trades the Jays elected not to make. As Heyman notes, the Reds asked for right-hander Marcus Stroman in exchange for Johnny Cueto, but Stroman was a deal-breaker in all trade talks with Toronto. Dating back to the offseason, the Blue Jays considered signing Craig Breslow, Joba Chamberlain, John Axford and Rafael Soriano, as well as some larger names, including David Robertson, whom they considered “closely.” (Toronto never made a firm offer to Robertson, though, Heyman writes.) The Blue Jays’ willingness to include Daniel Norris in a trade for David Price effectively shut every other team out of the market, per Heyman, as others weren’t willing to discuss their absolute top prospects. The Yankees, for instance, wouldn’t part with Luis Severino, while the Dodgers steadfastly refused to part with Corey Seager or Julio Urias.

More highlights from the article (which is worth checking out in its entirety, as there’s far more than can be recapped here with any form of brevity)…

  • Paul Goldschmidt is under team control through 2019, but the D-Backs will attempt to extend him further this offseason, per GM Dave Stewart. “We want to make him a lifetime Diamondback,” Stewart told Heyman. I imagine the price tag there will be extraordinary, as Goldschmidt has gone from rising talent to unequivocal superstardom since signing his initial extension with Arizona. Heyman also reports that the D-Backs will take a shot at extending the arbitration-eligible A.J. Pollock. While not a household name, Pollock probably earns my personal vote as the most underrated player in baseball.
  • The Braves have been making an effort to shed contracts that reach beyond the 2016 season, and Heyman writes to “look for them to take offers on Julio Teheran” this offseason. Clearly, Atlanta would be selling low on a talented arm that comes with a very reasonable contract. Teheran signed a six-year, $32.4MM extension prior to the 2014 season, but he’s logged a 4.57 ERA due in part to diminished control in 2015.
  • The Orioles will make left-hander Wei-Yin Chen a qualifying offer this winter, Heyman reports. Chen might not seem like a prototypical QO candidate, but he’s a lock to turn it down, in my mind, coming off a very nice season at age 30. He should draw pretty significant interest this winter, as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd recently noted in examining Chen’s free agent stock.
  • Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is up for an extension at an excellent time, as the Cubs’ rebuild looks to be paying tremendous dividends. Epstein has been earning about $4MM per year with the Cubs, but Heyman hears from some in the industry that the expectation is for Epstein to top Andrew Friedman’s reported $7MM annual salary with the Dodgers if and when he signs a new deal.
  • Despite a poor season for the Reds, there’s a sense among some that they may keep manager Bryan Price. The second-year Reds skipper has had to deal with the losses of Devin Mesoraco, Zack Cozart and Homer Bailey, among many injuries to others in 2015.
  • There’s been some buzz about the Tigers trimming payroll, but Heyman spoke to multiple sources close to the situation who say that talk might be overstated. One spoke specifically about the Ilitch family’s continued commitment to winning. Heyman speculatively mentions Justin Upton as a player that has previously piqued Detroit’s interest. He also lists the White Sox as a team that may show interest in Upton.
  • The Royals are serious about trying to make Alex Gordon a lifetime member of the organization. It’ll be tough for Kansas City to do so if he’s seeking something in the vicinity of Shin-Soo Choo money ($130MM), but the increased revenue they’re receiving from the Kansas City baseball renaissance could allow them to spend more than they would’ve in previous seasons.
  • The Dodgers have interest in Johnny Cueto as a free agent, and adding a right-handed arm does intrigue them. Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-jin Ryu and Julio Urias (expected to eventually join the L.A. rotation) are all left-handed, as is fellow offseason target David Price, whom Heyman terms a “more obvious target” for Friedman & Co.
  • The Brewers are serious about trying to emphasize analytics with a new GM hire, as the Attanasio family (the team’s owners) are big believers in the growing statistical trend. Mark Attanasio’s son, a former basketball player, is an MIT grad with a strong foundation in basketball analytics. John Coppolella, Thad Levine, David Forst, Mike Hazen, Billy Eppler, Michael Girsch and Jerry Dipoto are among the names that Heyman feels could be fits in Milwaukee’s GM seat.
  • “Not happening. Not even slightly,” was the response from Athletics general manager Billy Beane when asked by Heyman about the possibility of trading Sonny Gray this winter. That’s a pretty emphatic denial, and while some will recall similar comments made about Josh Donaldson last October, those came from an anonymous executive as opposed to an on-record denial from Oakland’s top decision-maker.

Players On Revocable Waivers: Thursday

Now that the non-waiver trade deadline has passed, it becomes much more difficult for teams to move players. Those looking for a crash course can check out MLBTR’s August trade primer, but the quick version is that each team will place a significant amount of players on revocable trade waivers this month. If a player is claimed, his team can either force the claiming team to take the entirety of his contract, work out a trade with the claiming team (they have 48.5 hours to do so) or pull the player back off waivers. Players that clear waivers can be traded to any team. If a player is put through waivers a second time, his team loses the ability to revoke the waivers.

Bear in mind that teams will often place players they have no intention of trading on revocable trade waivers. There’s no harm in the process, it can help to mask the players they do want to trade, and it allows them a chance to gauge interest and be overwhelmed by an unexpected offer. (Again, for further detail, check out MLBTR’s full post on the process.)

All that said, the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo has provided our first batch of players that have been placed on revocable waivers. It’s not clear when each of these names was placed on waivers, so some may have already cleared or been pulled back…

  • The Red Sox have placed Mike Napoli, Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley Jr., Brock Holt, Hanley Ramirez, Craig Breslow and Justin Masterson on waivers. Of that group, I’d imagine that Napoli (earning $16MM in 2015), Castillo (owed $56.5MM from 2016-20), Ramirez ($66MM from 2016-18) and Masterson (earning $9.5MM in 2015) would each clear just based on salary alone. The remaining portion of Breslow’s $2MM salary isn’t exactly prohibitive, but he’s posted a 4.25 ERA this year with unsightly peripheral stats that have led stats like FIP and xFIP to suggest that his ERA should be north of 5.00. Lefties are hitting .271/.354/.456 against Breslow in 2015.
  • Holt and Bradley, on the other hand, would probably be interest to a large number of teams. The versatile Holt can play all over the diamond and is hitting .277/.351/.380 on the season with an increased walk rate and positive value contributed both defensively and on the basepaths. He’s controllable through 2019, and the Sox almost certainly aren’t interested in moving him, though a claiming team will have the opportunity to offer something substantial. Bradley’s stock has fallen quite a bit from his days as a Top 100 prospect, but he’s an elite glove in center field that is still just 25 years old and can be controlled through 2020. Certainly, there are teams that would have interest in trying to sort out his offensive struggles. (He’s batted just .188/.264/.269 in 589 Major League plate appearances.)
  • Cafardo also reports that both James Shields and Matt Kemp have been placed on waivers by the Padres. Kemp has struggled in the field and produced a roughly league-average batting line (park-adjusted) at the plate, so teams aren’t likely to place a claim on his remaining salary.
  • Shields has $65MM coming his way after 2015 due to the backloaded nature of his contract, and he can opt out after the 2016 season. It’d be a risk for any club to claim him on the heels of reports that the Padres were shopping him somewhat aggressively in July. The Padres’ thinking could be that they know his market at this time and are confident that he’s less likely to be claimed in early August, so getting him through waivers early will allow them to spend the month further exploring trades. Shields has been uncharacteristically homer-prone this season, but the workhorse has made 23 starts and turned in a 3.74 ERA with a much-improved strikeout rate. He’s posted a 2.57 ERA with just five homers over his past 42 innings as well.

Relief Market Notes: Astros Working Hard, Twins, Lowe

The Astros are “pushing hard” to find an upgrade in the bullpen and have several irons in the fire, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Given the players under consideration, it looks like Houston is aiming high. We just heard of talks with the Padres that may include Craig Kimbrel, and Bowden says they’ve also discussed Joaquin Benoit. As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweeted earlier, the Rays have spoken with the Astros about pen arms, though he adds nothing seems likely there, and Bowden lists Brad Boxberger and Jake McGee as names that have come up. And Houston has even made inquiries on outstanding Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, he adds.

Here’s more on the relief market, which should be among the most active areas of discussion leading up to tomorrow’s deadline.

  • Though the Twins are in the market for relief help, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (via Twitter) that they’re not interested in either Junichi Tazawa or Craig Breslow of the Red Sox. Berardino hears that the Twins are turned off by Tazawa’s five-plus years of service (he’ll be a free agent after 2016) and Breslow’s impending free agency.
  • Mariners right-hander Mark Lowe is drawing quite a bit of interest, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). The journeyman reliever is in the midst of a breakout season, having pitched to an incredible 1.00 ERA with 11.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 36.5 percent ground-ball rate in 36 innings this season. Lowe’s average fastball velocity of 95 mph is his best since 2011, and because he took a minor league deal in an attempt to revitalize his career (so far, so good), any team could afford him from a financial standpoint.


Quick Hits: Breslow, Kang, Marlins

Reliever Craig Breslow, the Red Sox‘ representative to the MLBPA, is opposed to an international draft and would like for it to remain possible for international free agents to receive bonuses as big as Yoan Moncada‘s, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes. A huge deal like Moncada’s would likely be impossible with an international draft in place. “I think while, intuitively, people may look at a guy who has never played here and gets a big signing bonus and there’s potentially some envy, I think the greater membership (of players) understands that anytime we can eliminate restrictions to signing, that’s a good thing,” says Breslow. On Sunday, Breslow visited with MLBPA head Tony Clark, who has voiced skepticism about the idea of an international draft. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Jung-ho Kang, who signed this offseason for four years and $11MM plus a posting fee of around $5MM, provides the Pirates with a low-cost insurance policy throughout their infield, Newsday’s David Lennon writes. Second baseman Neil Walker and first baseman Pedro Alvarez can become free agents after 2016, while third baseman Josh Harrison will become eligible after 2017 (and can be moved around the diamond if needed). That means the Pirates could turn to Kang at one of a number of positions, perhaps getting a starter at a cost of only a few million dollars a year. “If he turns out to be a regular player, it’s a great signing for us,” says Huntington. “If he turns out to be a role player, it’s still an OK signing for us. And if we’ve missed, well, it won’t cripple us. But it will hurt us.”
  • Marlins president David Samson says the team’s decisions to sign Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich arose out of their struggles in 2012, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes. That year, the Marlins prepared for the opening of their new ballpark by acquiring Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and Carlos Zambrano. Those big outside acquisitions didn’t work out, and the Marlins finished 69-93. “I truly felt that opening the ballpark and making splashes was the way to do it and it didn’t lead to sustainability,” says Samson. “That was a big moment for all of us in our history and I got it wrong, completely, almost in every way.” Instead of building their team around veterans, then, they’re focusing on keeping the right core players in Miami.

Quick Hits: Avilan, Zduriencik, Red Sox

We at MLBTR would like to extend our condolences to the friends and family of Bill Kearns, a veteran Mariners scout who passed away last night at age 94.  Kearns was hired by the Mariners prior to their debut 1977 season and has been with the franchise for its entire history.  A World War II veteran and former Brooklyn Dodgers minor leaguer, Kearns’ long career in baseball led him to scouting jobs with the Dodgers, White Sox and Royals before eventually joining the M’s.  In a statement from the team, Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik said “Bill was a gentleman, in the finest sense, and represented his family and the Mariners in a first-class manner. And he was an excellent scout, a true ambassador of the Mariners and the game of baseball. Bill was one of the most positive people I have ever met.  He will be missed.”

Here’s some more notes from around the league as 2015 is now upon us…

  • Left-hander Luis Avilan‘s name had recently come up in trade talks, though now that the Braves have traded another southpaw in Chasen Shreve, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman wonders (Twitter link) if Atlanta could keep Avilan in the fold.  Earlier today, the Braves sent Shreve and David Carpenter to the Yankees in exchange for Manny Banuelos.
  • Zduriencik and Seth Smith discussed the recent trade that brought Smith to the Mariners in a conference call with reporters (including Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune).  The extension that Smith signed with the Padres last summer was a factor in the trade, as Zduriencik noted that “one of the things we tried to stay away from was giving up talent for one-year returns…I think you’re getting a player who can be with you for at least the next three years.”
  • With Craig Breslow‘s physical scheduled for Monday, the Red Sox will face a tough decision in opening up a spot for the reliever on their 40-man roster, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes.  Dan Butler, Tommy Layne, Zeke Spruill and Drake Britton are potential candidates to lose their 40-man spots, with Bradford citing Britton as maybe the most vulnerable because he’s out of options.  There’s also “a very real scenario” where Boston makes a trade to free up roster space.
  • A number of recent Orioles news items and rumors are recapped by MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko, including the new information that the O’s would like to sign a right-handed reliever, possibly on a minor league deal.
  • Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi recently said his team won’t be making any other major starting pitching signings, which worries Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times since he feels the rotation lacks depth beyond the top three of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu.  On the other hand, Dilbeck wonders if Zaidi’s statement was tactical, similar to how the GM denied that Dee Gordon was being shopped just before Gordon was dealt to Miami.
  • In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Tony Blengino describes Adam LaRoche signing with the White Sox as “a perfect marriage of club, player, ballpark and contract.”  Using analyses of LaRoche’s swing and U.S. Cellular Field’s park factor, Blengino thinks the veteran first baseman could challenge for the AL homer crown if he stays healthy.

AL East Notes: Blue Jays, Orioles, Breslow

The Blue Jays only have about $9MM left to spend this offseason, Richard Griffin of TheStar.com writes. The team’s top priority is upgrading the bullpen, which means the Jays aren’t likely to spend most of that money on a second baseman or an additional bat. (Griffin notes on Twitter that the Blue Jays’ apparent lack of funds likely means they won’t get Stephen Drew, who has reportedly been asking for around $9MM.) Griffin suggests that GM Alex Anthopoulos might prefer to add a younger pitcher, which could limit the Jays’ interest in older free agent options like Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano or former team closer Casey Janssen. Instead, he could pursue trade options like Tyler Clippard, Tommy Hunter (although, as a reader points out, it does not seem likely that the Orioles would trade Hunter within the division), Tanner Scheppers, or one of any number of Athletics relievers. Here are more notes from the AL East.

  • The Orioles have recently been connected to Colby Rasmus, and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com looks at the repercussions for other Orioles outfielders, and especially David Lough, if the O’s were to acquire another left-handed outfielder. The main reason for keeping Lough was his ability to play center field, but Rasmus has played center throughout his career. Separately, Kubatko notes that the Orioles will need to open a 40-man roster spot shortly to clear space for Delmon Young.
  • After struggling in 2014, Craig Breslow took an unusual road back to the Red Sox this offseason, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com writes. “In terms of the process, it was exciting, it was unsettling,” says Breslow, who agreed to a one-year, $2MM deal to return to Boston after posting a 5.96 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 in 2014. “[E]veryone will go through a career with one season being their worst. Now, the fact that mine came on the cusp of free agency, that’s not how you draw it up.” Breslow attended the Winter Meetings and sat in on discussions between his agent, Bob Baratta, and various teams, explaining his tough year and making a case for himself. “Ultimately even teams we diverged from mentioned their appreciation for my involvement and that I had left an impression on them,” Breslow says.

Red Sox To Re-Sign Craig Breslow

The Red Sox have agreed to sign lefty Craig Breslow to a one-year, $2MM deal, Rob Braford of WEEI.com reports on Twitter. Baratta Partners represents the veteran hurler.

Breslow, 34, will look to bounce back from a rough 2014 in which he worked to a 5.96 ERA over 54 1/3 innings, with 6.1 K/9 against 4.6 BB/9. Though ERA estimators all felt that Breslow was the victim of some bad luck, even the rosiest among them (SIERA, 4.72) saw him as a well-below-average producer. Oddly, he struggled most against same-handed hitters, whom he walked more often than he struck out. Lefties hit Breslow to the tune of .291/.381/.456 last year.

That said, Breslow is not exactly an unknown commodity. He had never before gone over the four-earned-per-nine level in a season, and was fresh off of a 1.81 ERA campaign in 2013. Over his lifetime work, he has been much better against left-handed bats, though in general he posts minimal platoon numbers.


Quick Hits: Braves, Ross, Cabrera, Kang, Aoki

The White Sox, Yankees and Astros have spent heavily on relief help this offseason, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick wonders if they’ll end up regretting their expensive contracts for veteran relievers. “In the last couple of years we’ve lost a lot of games late in the eighth and ninth inning,” says White Sox manager Ventura. “After a while you sit there and think, ‘We have to have somebody who can come in and do this.’ Everything has its risks — and this is one of them — but we’re pretty confident we got a guy [David Robertson] who we can put in the bullpen and be a leader.” The reason for all the spending on players like Robertson, Zach Duke, Andrew Miller, Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek isn’t so much that teams are trying to emulate the Royals‘ ferocious 2014 bullpen, Crasnick suggests. Rather, it’s more that teams are loaded with cash and pitchers like Robertson and Miller are very good. Here are more notes from around the Majors.

  • The Braves continue to explore potential trades involving Justin Upton and Evan Gattis, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports (Twitter links). The Braves have spoken about Upton and Gattis with five teams Wednesday, and continued to consider ways to include B.J. Upton or Chris Johnson in trades involving Justin Upton or Gattis. The Padres had previously looked like a potential destination for Justin Upton, but it would appear that their agreement to acquire Wil Myers today rules them out as a potential trade partner, at least for now.
  • Free agent catcher David Ross is deciding between the Red Sox, Cubs and Padres, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes. Meanwhile, lefty reliever Craig Breslow has spoken to the Red Sox and Cubs. Ross has played for the Red Sox, of course, and has a history with Jon Lester and Theo Epstein of the Cubs (although his signing with the Cubs would likely result in, or come as the result of, a trade of Welington Castillo). The Padres are in the process of trading both Yasmani Grandal and Rene Rivera, but are also in the process of acquiring Ryan Hanigan and Tim Federowicz, so it’s unclear where Ross would fit in.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera has drawn interest from the Giants, Athletics, Mets, Cardinals and Twins, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Heyman writes that Cabrera could play second base or third base as well as shortstop, although there have been rumblings that Cabrera prefers to play shortstop or second base only, and not third. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle would be surprised if the A’s are interested, as they’ve never shown interest in Cabrera in past years despite up-the-middle needs (Twitter links).
  • Those same five teams have asked about Korean middle infielder Jung-ho Kang, although the Athletics and Mets are downplaying their interest, Heyman tweets. A’s GM Billy Beane has stated on the record that reports of his club’s interest in Kang are inaccurate. Kang was posted earlier this week.
  • Heyman lists the Orioles, Reds and Mariners as possibilities for Nori Aoki, with the veteran outfielder potentially receiving two to three years at $7MM-$8MM per year. Aoki had previously been connected to the Orioles and Reds, with the Orioles mostly interested in him as a backup option. Heyman reported last week that Aoki was looking for a three-year deal. Earlier this offseason, we at MLBTR guessed he would receive two years and $16MM.

NL East Rumors: Mets, Coke, Breslow, Detwiler

The latest batch of rumors out of the National League East..

  • The Mets have had preliminary contact with free agent reliever Phil Coke, but there have been no substantive discussions yet, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter).
  • The Mets have cast a wide net on lefty relievers but at this time nothing is close and no one in that group stands out, according to Marc Carig of Newsday (via Twitter).  He also hears that the Mets are not engaged with Coke.
  • The Mets met with the reps for Neal Cotts and Craig Breslow, but neither appear to be likely options, according to Carig (via Twitter).
  • The Nationals are also open to moving Ross Detwiler to teams that value him as a starter and, therefore, would give them more in return, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

NL East Rumors: Howard, Hamels, Breslow, Mets

Ryan Howard will gain full no-trade rights as a 10-and-5 player in May, and that’s no small matter for the Phillies, writes Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com.  The Phillies are willing to eat a significant portion of the $60MM that remains on Howard’s contract to get a deal done, but once his 20-team no-trade list turns into a full no-trade provision, it could create another roadblock for them.  More from the NL East..

  • A major league source told Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com (on Twitter) that the Phillies haven’t been active in trying to move Cole Hamels at the winter meetings.
  • Phillies skipper Ryne Sandberg said the return for Hamels “would need to have a wow factor” for the Phillies to trade him to the Red Sox, tweets Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald.  Sandberg added that in a Hamels deal he would want pieces that could help in 2015, tweets Alex Speier of WEEI.com.
  • The Mets have remained in contact with free agent reliever Craig Breslow, according to Jon Paul Morosi (Twitter link) and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  However, Andy Martino of the Daily News (on Twitter) gets the impression that the Mets aren’t currently in serious pursuit of him.
  • Mets GM Sandy Alderson has said that any shortstop upgrade would be a modest one, so we shouldn’t expect to see the likes of Troy Tulowitzki, Starlin Castro, or Elvis Andrus in Queens, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Alderson says there are two to three options on the shortstop trade market at present, according to Matt Ehalt of The Bergen Record (via Twitter).  The Mets are looking at a mix of youngsters and veterans.
  • Ian Levin has been named as the new farm director of the Mets, according to Rubin (on Twitter).  He previously headed the analytics department, which will now be run by T.J. Barra.