Craig Breslow Rumors

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.


NL East Notes: Clippard, Kang, Breslow

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told reporters that there’s no progress to report in potential contract extensions with Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond, Tyler Clippard, and Denard Span, tweets William Ladson of MLB.com.  Here’s a look at more out of the NL East..

  • Rizzo told Ladson that teams are showing interest in Clippard. The right-handed reliever has spent most of his career as a setup man but has some experience as a closer too. He’s projected by MLBTR’s Matt Swartz to earn $9.3MM in his final spin through arbitration.
  • The Mets are interested in Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang, tweets Matt Ehalt of The Record. Kang is expected to be posted later this week. As we learned earlier this evening, GM Sandy Alderson alluded that Kang could be out of the club’s price range. As for left-handed reliever Craig Breslow, the Mets’ interest is “overblown.”
  • Mets farm director Jon Miller will leave the organization at the end of the year, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter).  Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (via Twitter) hears that Miller is already done with the club.
  • Rizzo sounds like a man who is ready to make some moves.  “We’re open for business,” the Nationals GM said, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post (via Twitter).

Orioles Notes: Upton, Young, Breslow

Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette addressed the media this afternoon.  Here are the highlights..

  • Duquette says the Orioles have not talked to the Braves about Justin Upton, as Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com tweets.  A report earlier today indicated that Atlanta is fielding interest from the O’s as well as the Rangers and Padres.
  • Duquette expects to meet with Delmon Young‘s agent in the next few days, tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.   The Orioles are reportedly trying to bring back Young on a one-year deal, but they may be open to including an option.
  • For what it’s worth, Duquette grinned when asked about his potential interest in left-hander Craig Breslow, according to Kubatko (via Twitter).
  • Even though there has been plenty of interest, Duquette says he would be reluctant to trade a starter, Ghiroli tweets.
  • Duquette indicated that he’s looking for a right-handed bat and a left-handed outfielder/DH, according to Kubatko (on Twitter).
  • When asked if the rumors of the Blue Jays’ interest in him would hinder the O’s efforts this week and throughout the offseason, Duquette responded “I would hope not,” according to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter).
  • Duquette says there’s a better chance right now that the O’s will sign a free agent than make a trade, Kubatko tweets.

Free Agent Notes: Top Pitchers, Rios, Royals, Everth, Astros

With the Winter Meetings nearly upon us, ESPN’s Jayson Stark spoke to nine baseball executives regarding the “Big Three” starting pitchers on this year’s free agent market — Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields — and asked when and where they will sign. While answers as to when Scherzer will sign varied, there was a much tighter window on Lester, with all nine believing he will sign between Dec. 8 and Dec. 13. The execs polled by Stark feel that Shields’ market is tied so closely to Lester that he will sign within two weeks of Lester and perhaps even as soon as next week’s Winter Meetings. Many identified Shields as a fallback for teams that miss on Lester. Execs picked Lester to sign with the usual suspects at this point: the Red Sox, Cubs, Giants or Dodgers. Interestingly, Scherzer’s landing spot was predicted to be the Yankees, Nationals, Cubs or Tigers, by the five who were willing to wager a guess on that outcome.

A few more notes pertaining to free agency…

  • The MarinersRoyals, and Indians have all checked in on Alex Rios, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Rios, who joined the Boras Corporation earlier this offseason, has had a fairly quiet market to this point, though one would expect interest to pick up now that Nelson Cruz, Torii Hunter and Yasmany Tomas are off the market.
  • The Royals are looking for a right fielder and a starting pitcher but likely only have the available funds to make a “significant” investment in one of the two areas, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. The Royals may have to bargain shop for the other, he notes. Kansas City has invested a modest amount of its available funds to the bullpen in the past week, re-signing righties Jason Frasor and Luke Hochevar. However, it’s at least worth noting that Hochevar’s contract reportedly contains performance incentives tied to starting (though it also contains relief incentives).
  • Though the Mets are in need of a shortstop, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin writes that recently non-tendered Padres speedster Everth Cabrera is not a consideration. Though he’s talented and has twice led the NL in stolen bases, Cabrera has a good deal of off-field issues on his record, including a 50-game PED suspension and more recent legal issues, as he’s been charged with resisting arrest after being stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana. (Cabrera plead not guilty to those charges today, per the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Jeff Sanders.)
  • Lefty reliever Craig Breslow is drawing significant interest, but his timetable to sign is currently dependent on the rest of the relief market, tweets WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. Breslow is coming off a down season but has a strong track record. Interest in Breslow and other relievers could intensify now that Andrew Miller is off the board, I would think.
  • Though the Astros missed out on Miller even after offering him more money than the Yankees did, they’re still on the hunt for relievers, tweets Heyman. Houston remains interested in David Robertson, Sergio Romo and others.

NL East Notes: Hamels, Marlins, Braves, Breslow

ESPN’s Jayson Stark took a look at the Cole Hamels trade market and spoke to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. about the possibility of trading the ace. Amaro took a familiar stance, stating that he’s not under any pressure to move Hamels, whom he rightly deemed one of baseball’s best starters. Rival execs tell Stark that Amaro is still asking for two premium prospects plus another piece or two in addition to the acquiring club taking on Hamels’ entire contract. As Stark notes, it’s unfortunate that a rebuilding club’s best chip is an ace in an offseason where free agency and the trade market are both pitching-rich. With next season shaping up to be a buyer’s market for pitching as well, Stark wonders if July will be the best time for Amaro to move Hamels, as few aces are ever available at the deadline. Multiple clubs have told Stark that Amaro is holding out for “the deal of the century,” as Stark terms it.

Two items of particular note from Stark are that the Blue Jays are said to have very strong interest in Hamels and that reports of Hamels’ no-trade clause are not entirely accurate. Hamels can indeed block trades to eight clubs, but previous reports listed the Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals, Nats, Braves, Padres, Yankees and Rangers as teams to which Hamels cannot veto a deal. Stark hears that list is outdated, and at least one club has been changed since season’s end.

Some other late-night NL East notes…

  • Reports have indicated that the Marlins are serious about adding pieces to contend in 2015 this offseason, and while the focus has been more on bats for the lineup, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Fish have reached out to the Tigers to inquire on David Price and Rick Porcello. Talks aren’t serious at this time, he adds, but the fact that the Marlins are even kicking the tires on a pair of high-priced arms (Price and Porcello project to earn $18.9MM and $12.2MM next year, respectively) suggests that they’re willing to take on some significant payroll.
  • The Braves are interested in a reunion with backstop David Ross, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien reported yesterday (Twitter link). Ross spent four seasons as Brian McCann‘s backup in Atlanta from 2009-12, enjoying some of the most productive seasons of his career as a Brave. He could serve as an excellent mentor to Christian Bethancourt, who figures to take the reins as Atlanta’s everyday catcher with Evan Gattis moving to the outfield full time.
  • MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports another potential catching target for the Braves, tweeting that they have interest in A.J. Pierzynski. The soon-to-be 38-year-old Pierzynski has never had Ross’ defensive chops, though he’d give the Braves a left-handed bat to insert in the lineup when they prefer to rest Bethancourt against tough right-handers.
  • The Mets are interested in lefty reliever Craig Breslow, tweets Morosi. The Mets are thin on left-handed relief, and Breslow should represent a low-cost option. The 34-year-old picked a poor time to have a career-worst season, pitching to a 5.96 ERA this past season in a contract year. However, he entered the 2014 campaign with a career 2.82 ERA in 402 innings. Breslow doesn’t dominate lefties the way many specialists do (.671 OPS), but he’s also more effective against right-handed hitters than a number of his southpaw brethren (.680 OPS).

Quick Hits: Hahn, Street, Kim, Breslow, Mets

White Sox GM Rick Hahn expects his team to mentioned in a flood of trade rumors this offseason, though he doesn’t mind since this winter, some of them will be true.  “We aren’t going to be precluded from any single player because of running up against the limits of our payroll.  And in terms of the rumors, we’ve always operated under the standpoint that we’re going to be involved in any premium player that’s available, whether it’s via free agency or via trade,” Hahn told reporters, including CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes.  “In years past some of those free-agent fits may have been a little less realistic because of what their market was going to bear out to be versus what we were able to pay. This year I understand why we’re associated with some of the more higher-profile free agent types.”

Here’s some more news from around the game as the GM Meetings roll on…

  • The Angels haven’t “yet” had any extension talks with closer Huston Street, Halos GM Jerry Dipoto tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (Twitter link).  Street’s current contract is up at the end of the 2015 season.
  • An unidentified MLB team has posted the highest bid for Korean left-hander Kwang-hyun Kim, Jee-ho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency reports.  A follow-up report from Naver Sports (Korean language link, hat tip to Sung-Min Kim for the partial translation), suggests that SK Wyverns, the southpaw’s club, is delaying the official announcement since they aren’t happy that the winning bid was so low.  As MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo speculates, this could mean that SK Wyverns will reject the bid and Kim won’t be made available.
  • Reliever Craig Breslow is “getting plenty of interest,” ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes tweets.  The lefty struggled to a 5.96 ERA over 54 1/3 IP in 2014, though Edes notes that teams are seeing last season “as an outlier” given how well Breslow has otherwise pitched in his career.
  • The Metsfeel a sense of urgency” to compete, a team official tells Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, which is partially why the Mets moved quickly to sign Cuddyer.  Martino feels the team will need to add more than just Cuddyer, though a smaller addition is much likelier than a blockbuster for the likes of Giancarlo Stanton or Troy Tulowitzki.
  • Also from Martino, he wonders if Yasmany Tomas would accept a three-year contract that would allow him to hit free agency prior to his age-27 season.
  • An anonymous GM, an anonymous agent and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman predict the contracts for 50 of the offseason’s top free agents.  They’re only picking contract values, not the actual teams, so Heyman’s game is like an inverted version of the annual MLBTR Free Agent Prediction Contest.

AL East Links: Chavez, Yankees, Breslow, Jays

The Yankees have hired longtime big league third baseman Eric Chavez as a special assignment scout, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Chavez retired at midseason this year but has expressed a desire to remain within the game. He’s had a close relationship with Yankees GM Brian Cashman and assistant GM Billy Eppler since playing with the Yankees in 2011-12. Heyman adds that Chavez was eyed by some clubs as a potential hitting coach, though it’s uncertain whether or not he’s interested in coaching gigs at this time.

A few other items on the Yankees and the rest of the AL East …

  • In a piece for Baseball America, George King examines changes to the Yankees‘ player development structure and notes that the team is much happier with its current crop of minor league talent than it was two years ago. However, King also spoke to an NL scout who said the minor league system lacks depth beyond Luis Severino and Gary Sanchez, adding that he didn’t feel there was a true power-hitting bat that could play every day in the Majors. Baseball America’s Josh Norris released the Yankees’ list of Top 10 prospects today, which is headlined by Severino, outfielder Aaron Judge, shortstop Jorge Mateo, first baseman Greg Bird and Sanchez.
  • The Red Sox declined reliever Craig Breslow‘s $4MM option after a poor 2014 season, but they could aim to bring him back at a lower price, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. “He has a lot of good qualities and we have a great relationship with him, so we’ll see what happens,” says GM Ben Cherington.
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs, which are owned in part by Rogers Communications, signed defenseman Dion Phaneuf to a seven-year contract. As the Canadian Baseball Network’s Bob Elliott reports, agent Scott Boras wonders why the Blue Jays, which are owned in full by Rogers Communications, don’t sign players to seven-year deals. “If they can give one of their hockey players a seven-year deal, why can’t they give a seven-year deal to a baseball player?” asks Boras. Of course, the last Blue Jay to receive a seven-year contract was outfielder Vernon Wells, which might provide a partial answer to that question. The Jays haven’t been very active in recent years in signing key free agents to shorter deals, either, although they’ve made some splashy moves via trade.

Red Sox Decline Craig Breslow’s Option

The Red Sox announced that they’ve declined their $4MM club option on left-hander Craig Breslow. The 34-year-old Breslow will instead receive a $100K buyout and become a free agent.

Breslow struggled in 2014 but is just one season removed from a 2013 campaign in which he posted a 1.81 ERA in 59 2/3 innings. The 2014 campaign wasn’t as kind to Breslow, however, as he saw his ERA spike to 5.96 despite an increase in strikeouts. Breslow’s command also worsened (his 4.6 BB/9 was the worst full-season mark of his career) and he saw his fastball velocity dip from an average of just under 90 mph to 88.4 mph.

Prior to this season he’d been a fairly reliable relief arm, having pitched to a 2.82 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 373 2/3 innings from 2008-13. That stretch of success will likely generate some interest on a market for lefty relievers that is fronted by Andrew Miller but also includes Zach Duke, Joe Thatcher and Neal Cotts, among others.