Craig Kimbrel Rumors

NL East Links: Realmuto, Nats, Phillies, Kimbrel

Giancarlo Stanton connected on his first homer of the season tonight — a two-run blast off Mets righty Dillon Gee that marked the 155th round-tripper of his career. The home run had particular significance for Stanton, who now moves past Dan Uggla into sole possession of the Marlins‘ all-time franchise home run record. Given his 13-year contract, one can expect that Stanton will occupy the top spot on that list for quite some time.

Another Marlins item and some news from around the division…

  • Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto had two hits in the team’s win yesterday and started again on Thursday, and the top prospect could be ticketed for a more significant role on the team moving forward, writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Manager Mike Redmond said he spoke with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is earning $7MM in 2015, about the division of playing time already. “I think it’s always a touchy situation anytime you have conversations with guys, and you have to give them a break,” Redmond explained. “…[W]e’re trying to win ballgames. If giving Salty a few extra days here or there helps him and helps us, then it will be worth it.”
  • The Nationals have had quite a bit of bad luck in terms of injuries early in the season, but Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post tweets that GM Mike Rizzo is focusing on internal options to patch up the bullpen. Of course, Janes’ tweet did come prior to the announcement that Craig Stammen may be lost for the season, but the Nats likely were prepared for bad news on Stammen at the time of her tweet.
  • Without a left-handed reliever in the bullpen beyond Jake Diekman, the Phillies could use an upgrade in that area but are short on internal options, writes MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. seemingly expressed a bit of frustration that lefty relief option Andy Oliver elected free agency rather than remaining with the club when he didn’t make the Opening Day roster. Zolecki writes that Oliver would’ve been on a short list of potential call-ups, and Amaro spoke candidly about the 27-year-old Oliver’s decision to leave: “We offered him a pretty good deal to come back. He just decided to go somewhere else. I think it was a very foolish move on his part, but that’s OK. He had a choice. He had that right.”
  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez spoke with Steve Phillips and Todd Hollandsworth of MLB Network Radio about the conversations he had with president of baseball operations John Hart prior to the finalization of the Craig Kimbrel trade (audio link). Gonzalez learned of the strong possibility of a trade 48 hours prior to its completion, and he called that time “maybe the toughest two days.” Gonzalez said it was difficult to see Kimbrel leave because of his talent and what he meant to the organization, and he also discussed the conflict he felt as a manager. “I’m going to have to put on two different hats here,” said Gonzalez. “You’re asking me to trade the best closer in the game, and you’re asking me to win ball games and I’m in the last year of my contract. But then you’re telling me the reasons of why we’re doing it and why it’s going to help the organization. … I took a step back and digested for a day and a half — I think it was going to happen whether I said yes or no — but I said, ‘You know what John, this is what’s best for the organization. This is what we have to do.'”

MLB Trade Rumors Podcast: Cash, Closers & Kimbrel

After the weekly quick hits, Jeff welcomes fellow MLBTR writers Steve Adams and Charlie Wilmoth to the show.  Jeff and Steve break down the blockbuster trade between the Braves and Padres that brought Craig Kimbrel to San Diego.  Jeff and Charlie then explore the unique set of recent transactions involving Ryan Webb, as well as a discussion of Charlie’s post from earlier this week about qualifying offer-worthy impending free agents who could be trade candidates this summer.

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This week’s episode of the MLB Trade Rumors Podcast, which runs weekly on Thursday afternoons, is brought to you by DraftKings. Use the promo code “MLBTR” to gain free entry into a daily fantasy sports contest!


Quick Hits: Cubs, Kimbrel, Bryant, Pirates

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

Here’s more from around the league.

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


Heyman’s Latest: Kimbrel, Howard, Perez, Salty, Soriano, Cueto

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has penned a lengthy column that’s chock full of Hot Stove related items as the season gets underway. First and foremost, he chronicles the Braves‘ trade of Craig Kimbrel at length. Heyman spoke to president of baseball ops John Hart, who candidly told Heyman that the team took a hard line of refusing to trade Kimbrel unless Melvin Upton Jr. was involved in the deal. “We were not going to separate Kimbrel and trade him by himself,” Hart told Heyman. Atlanta reached out to the Cubs, Astros, Dodgers and Padres, among others, this winter in an effort to move Upton, and despite the Dodgers’ bullpen needs, they weren’t willing to add Upton’s contract to that of Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier, having already shed Matt Kemp‘s contract. The Padres trade didn’t heat up until about four days before it was agreed upon, Heyman writes, with Hart even remaining in Orlando to finish negotiations rather than fly with the team to Miami at the end of Spring Training. Hart credited assistant GM John Coppolella for doing much of the legwork and his creativity in getting the trade finalized.

More highlights from Heyman’s article (though the entire piece is well worth your time)…

  • While some reports late in Spring Training indicated that the Phillies would be willing to eat up to $50MM of the remaining $60MM on Ryan Howard‘s contract, two GMs tell Heyman they hadn’t heard that figure. One of those GMs was of the belief that the Phillies’ top offer was to pay about $35MM, which, Heyman speculates, may have been a large reason that the Royals opted to sign Kendrys Morales for two years and $17MM rather than pursue a Howard trade.
  • Speaking of the Royals, Heyman hears that the team is open to pursuing a second extension with catcher Salvador Perez and would be happy to make him a Royal for life. Heyman notes that some in the organization even have some sympathy for Perez, whose five-year, $7MM contract is widely considered the most team-friendly deal in all of baseball. Perez’s deal contains three startlingly low club options valued at $3.75MM, $5MM and $6MM for the 2017-19 seasons — two of which would have been free-agent seasons beginning at the age of 28.
  • The Marlins tried to trade Jarrod Saltalamacchia this winter after the catcher’s first season on a three-year, $21MM pact was a struggle, but his salary was too great a deterrent. The Marlins presumably feel that top prospect J.T. Realmuto could step into the catcher’s role in the not-too-distant future.
  • The Tigers are believed to be at least monitoring Rafael Soriano‘s workouts at the Boras Sports Training Institute in Miami, per Heyman. However, Soriano has seen his stock suffer not only due to ineffective innings late int he 2014 season but also due to perceptions about his personality and negative clubhouse impact. At least one club that was taking a hard look at late-inning relievers ruled out Soriano entirely due to that perception, Heyman reports.
  • The Reds felt the odds of extending Johnny Cueto prior to Opening Day were so slim that it’s not even clear if they made a formal offer, writes Heyman. Cueto is seeking a figure in the range of $200MM following Max Scherzer‘s mammoth contract this offseason, he adds. Heyman also opines that David Price would probably be selling himself short if he took much less than $200MM from the Tigers at this point as well.
  • Anecdotally, Heyman tells the story of how Cody Ross‘ career began when he was sold to the Marlins from the Reds in exchange for “cash considerations” of precisely one dollar. Former Reds GM Wayne Krivsky spoke to Heyman about the deal, explaining that they didn’t have room on the Cincinnati roster back in ’06 but genuinely wanted to get Ross into the best possible position to have a chance at a Major League roster spot. Ross has gone on to earn more than $52MM in the game of baseball.

NL Notes: Papelbon, Kimbrel, Padres, Castro

The Padres expressed some mild interest in Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon earlier in the offseason, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Obviously, San Diego no longer looks like an even hypothetical landing spot for Papelbon. It seems likely that Papelbon’s greatest appeal will ultimately lie with a club that suffers an injury or wants a chance to add late-inning depth over the summer.

Here’s more from the National League:

  • With the Padres having taken on significant salary commitments and given up young talent to acquire Craig Kimbrel from the Braves, reactions to the move have been divided somewhat between front office and uniformed personnel, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney writes (Insider link). Atlanta has the backing of most executives, says Olney, while players and coaches have understandably focused on the impact that Kimbrel could have in San Diego.
  • The Padres received immediate trade interest in their bullpen after adding Kimbrel, as Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. “Within minutes, probably, of the (Kimbrel) deal, four or five teams have checked in,” said GM A.J. Preller. “So that’s part of making the deal. Hopefully, you add depth and it may help us in another area down the road.” Of course, that depth could be put to use either to fill in the pen or to shore up another area of need via trade.
  • The shortstop position is an obvious area to watch for the Cubs, but Olney says (in the above-linked piece) that it may not all be positive. Starlin Castro has proven he can hit, but Olney says there are real concerns about how committed he is to grinding things out on defense. Chicago informed other teams this winter that it was open to trade scenarios involving the 25-year-old.

Additional Reactions To The Kimbrel/Upton Trade

Last night’s unexpected blockbuster that sent Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton to the Padres in exchange for Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin (since designated for assignment), Matt Wisler, Jordan Paroubeck and a Competitive Balance draft pick (No. 41 overall) stunned much of the baseball world. While there’s already been a significant amount of reactions to the move, here are a few more from around the industry…

  • The Braves are “huge winners” in the trade, opines ESPN’s Keith Law. Atlanta was able to move a valueless asset in Upton and a high-risk commodity in Kimbrel in exchange for a valuable but injury-prone center fielder (Maybin), a Major League ready pitching prospect (Wisler), a highly athletic outfield prospect (Paroubeck) and a draft pick that gives them the fourth-highest pool this June, writes Law. Wisler could become a No. 2 starter if any of his secondary pitches develop into plus offerings, in Law’s opinion. While he considers that unlikely, he does note that Wisler can still be a league-average starter that adds value through durability.
  • Braves president of baseball operations John Hart tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution that it was incredibly difficult to trade Kimbrel, and the front office was prepared for the inevitable fan backlash to trading the wildly popular closer. “Believe me, this wasn’t something that anybody in this organization had any disregard for fans,” Hart explained. “This was a huge part of the discussion as we went through it. … It’s not like you wanted to come in and start looking around and say, look, we’re going to heartlessly trade these guys off. We’re looking to, if you will, do the best thing and the right thing for the organization, and sometimes things like this happen.” Hart also said that Kimbrel handled the news that he’d been traded with the utmost class and spoke exceptionally highly of Kimbrel’s character.
  • MLB.com’s Mark Bowman also has some reactions from Hart, most notably explaining the importance of the financial flexibility attained by his team in this trade. Said Hart: “…[W]e freed up some financial flexibility and I think, again, what we do with that financial flexibility remains to be determined. But I think it’s going to be something where we’ll be aggressive in our approach.”
  • FOX’s Rob Neyer offers his take on the deal, reacting to colleague Ken Rosenthal’s description of the deal as “Craig Kimbrel for $53.35 million, two prospects and the 41st pick of the June draft.” Neyer notes that the cost may be more than $53.35MM, as that doesn’t include the value that Wisler could provide if he’s even a league-average starter for a couple seasons. Neyer argues that the inclusion of Paroubeck and the draft pick could very well be extraneous in nature, as it’s unlikely that either ultimately nets a significant amount of value at the Major League level, but Wisler’s value and the potential negative value of a dead roster spot (Upton) could make the perceived monetary cost of acquiring Kimbrel even steeper.
  • Neither team is a loser in this deal in the opinion of Grantland’s Jonah Keri, who writes that the Padres may now boast a bullpen trio that can rival that of Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera in Kansas City. Kimbrel, Joaquin Benoit and potentially Kevin Quackenbush (if and when he is recalled from the Minors) will be a dominant triumvirate that will not only excel late in games but will also lighten the workload of injury-prone arms like Andrew Cashner and Brandon Morrow. And while the Braves have parted with their best pitcher, they shed an enormous amount of payroll while adding a near-MLB-ready pitcher and a high pick in this year’s draft, accelerating their rebuild.
  • Quentin didn’t ask for anything in exchange for waiving his no-trade clause, tweets Scott Miller of Bleacher Report/FOX Sports San Diego. The lack of incentive is a contrast to many players we’ve seen recently indicate that they’d like options exercised in advance as compensation for waiving their no-trade clause. (Quentin does have a $10MM mutual option for next year.)

Padres Acquire Kimbrel, Melvin Upton From Braves

The Padres are beginning the 2015 season with yet another blockbuster trade, receiving closer Craig Kimbrel and outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. from the Braves for outfielders Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin, pitching prospect Matt Wisler, outfield prospect Jordan Paroubeck and the 41st overall pick in the June draft.

USATSI_8488950_154513410_lowresKimbrel is obviously the centerpiece of the deal, an elite closer who has posted dominant numbers since arriving in the league in 2010. Kimbrel is signed through 2017 for $33MM plus a $1MM buyout on a $13MM option for 2018. It’s not easy for a reliever to be a bargain at that price, but Kimbrel clearly is. His 2014 season, in which he posted a 1.61 ERA with 13.9 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9, was a fairly typical one. At 26, it’s reasonable to hope he continue producing at a very high level for the next several years if he can remain healthy, even though relievers tend to have shorter shelf lives than other player types. The move will, presumably, bump Joaquin Benoit back into a setup role. Kimbrel’s addition gives the Padres yet another big-name player to go with Justin Upton, James Shields, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks, all of whom they acquired in a transformative offseason.

The presence of the other Major League players in the deal has much to do with their contract statuses. None of them figure to help their new teams much. Melvin Upton is owed $46.35MM over the next three seasons. Even with the departures of Maybin and Quentin, the Padres have a full outfield and have no real use for Upton, who hit .208/.287/.333 in 2014 and also struggled the previous season. But taking on his contract surely helped persuade the Braves to part with a great player in Kimbrel. In San Diego, Upton will reunite with his brother Justin, who the Braves also recently sent west.

Quentin is owed $8MM in 2015. He hit .177/.284/.315 in 2014 and had no obvious role with the Padres. He has a no-trade clause, although it appears he waived it. The Braves plan to designate him for assignment, suggesting he was included in the trade purely to help offset salary. He could wind up with an American League team. Maybin, who will receive $15MM for the next two years plus a $1MM buyout for 2017, would have been an expensive reserve in San Diego. He hit .235/.290/.331 in 2015.

By parting with two players they didn’t figure to use much, the Padres will receive $24MM in salary relief to offset the salary they’re taking on with Upton. That means that they’ll add a total of about $56MM in salary as a result of the deal, continuing to aggressively increase their payroll after taking on big commitments in Kemp and Shields, in particular, this offseason.

Wisler is the most valuable property headed to Atlanta in the deal. Baseball America recently rated him the No. 34 prospect in baseball, with Baseball Prospectus ranking him No. 53 and MLB.com placing him at No. 69. MLB.com ranked him the Padres’ second-best prospect, praising his slider and the movement on his low- to mid-90s fastball. The 22-year-old righty posted a 4.42 ERA at Double-A and Triple-A in 2014, although he had a fine 8.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9, and most of his 146 2/3 innings were in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

Paroubeck was a second-round pick in the 2013 draft. The switch-hitting 20-year-old hit .286/.346/.457 in rookie ball in 2014, and MLB.com ranked him the Padres’ 19th-best prospect, noting his ability to hit to all fields, along with his good speed and the reasonable likelihood that his power will develop. He and the draft pick give the Braves a bit of extra value in the deal, even though Wisler and the salary relief were likely much more crucial. (The Padres could, of course, trade the draft pick because it’s a Competitive Balance selection, and the current CBA permits teams to trade such picks.)

On the surface, the trade appears to be a risky one for San Diego. Kimbrel is inarguably a great closer, but it remains to be seen whether he will prove to be worth parting with $56MM, a top prospect in Wisler and two additional prospects in Paroubeck and the draft pick. The Padres also had more pressing needs in their infield, and it’s unclear whether Kimbrel is the right player to get them over the hump. As Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan notes, the fact that the Padres optioned solid relievers in Brandon Maurer and Kevin Quackenbush today shows how good their bullpen already was. And as the New York Post’s Joel Sherman tweets, perhaps an easier course if the Padres wanted to upgrade the closer role would have been to keep Huston Street, who the team’s previous management traded last year. Still, the deal unquestionably adds another blue-chip player to a team that’s suddenly full of them.

The Braves, meanwhile, continued their rebuild, subtracting salary while adding additional upside, including a starting pitcher in Wisler who should be able to help this year. Kimbrel’s departure will surely be painful for Braves fans, particularly given the Alabama-born Kimbrel’s Southern roots, but it might have only been a matter of time, since an elite closer is more valuable to a contender than to a rebuilding team. With Kimbrel gone, one of Jason Grilli or Jim Johnson, both of whom have closing experience, could take over ninth-inning duties in Atlanta.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports was the first to note that a trade was complete, and he also tweeted that the Braves would acquire Maybin, Quentin and the draft pick. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs tweeted that the Padres would receive Kimbrel and Upton, and that the Braves would receive Paroubeck. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweeted that Wisler was involved.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Reactions To And Fallout From The Kimbrel Trade

Here’s the latest on today’s trade of Craig Kimbrel to the Padres:

  • Padres GM A.J. Preller says he tried negotiating a variety of possible trades to bring Kimbrel to San Diego, but the only way he could do it was to also take on Melvin Upton Jr.‘s contract, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets.
  • Upton (foot) likely won’t be available until May, and he will not challenge Wil Myers for the starting center field job, Preller says (via Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller on Twitter).
  • This was a difficult trade to make from a personal standpoint,” says Braves GM John Hart, via David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution (Twitter links). “From a professional standpoint, we continue to be consistent in our plan, where we’re gong and what we needed to do to get there.”
  • Braves icon Chipper Jones took to Twitter (1 2 3 4) to defend the trade from Atlanta’s perspective. “I know it sucks, Braves Country, but once you decide to rebuild, you better go all the way,” he wrote. “You now have a ton of minor league talent that is on the verge of being Major League talent. You now have four picks in the top 54 picks in this year’s draft. And you now have flexibility in your payroll to be able to compete on the free agent market if you so desire.”
  • The deal is a risky one for the Padres, who now have over $68MM on the books for Kimbrel, Upton, Matt Kemp and James Shields in 2017, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. If the Padres don’t win with their current team, Preller could quickly have to pivot into rebuild mode. Meanwhile, the Braves’ signing of Nick Markakis to a $44MM deal this offseason now looks “preposterous” now that they’re shedding salary.
  • The Padres improved what was already a team strength with the trade, and now they have the best bullpen in baseball, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs writes. Nonetheless, the deal was a risky one from the Padres’ perspective, given the amount of money involved and how unpredictable relievers can be.
  • Both the Padres and Braves doubled down on their current strategies with the trade, Sherman writes. The Padres continued buying talented but expensive veterans, while the Braves continued a rebuild that they had already begun.
  • The Dodgers were, at one point, in discussions with the Braves for Kimbrel, but they were unable to strike a deal, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.

Cafardo On Porcello, Chacin, Kimbrel

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe checked in with Max Scherzer, who is missing former teammate Rick Porcello.  Scherzer, of course, left the Tigers in free agency to sign with the Nationals in January.  Porcello, meanwhile, was shipped from the Tigers to the Red Sox in December.  Scherzer still texts a lot with Porcello, and they have had conversations about free agency.

He understands the business of the game really well and what teams are trying to accomplish,” said Scherzer. “As most players, he’s motivated by winning as well. What works is going out there and having one motivation and that’s winning. And those things will take care of themselves.”

Cafardo has talked with a few baseball executives who believe Porcello will walk from the Red Sox and do exactly what Scherzer did – go to the highest bidder.  Here’s more from today’s column..

  • The Rockies tried to trade Jhoulys Chacin but couldn’t find a buyer, so they released him last week.  The 27-year-old was a victim of Coors Field, where his ERA was 4.21 as opposed to a much more palatable 3.24 on the road.  Cafardo writes that the Red Sox, Dodgers, Rays, and Blue Jays have been looking for a veteran starter and may be considering him.
  • Braves people insist that they will not entertain a deal for closer Craig Kimbrel, but a few executives expect that Atlanta will be thinking differently if they are out of contention at the trade deadline.  The Braves are eyeing 2017 as their relaunch, so Cafardo doesn’t see the need for them to hang on to a top closer like Kimbrel in the interim.
  • Dan Uggla has an April 1st opt-out on his minor league deal with the Nationals and his play this spring is giving GM Mike Rizzo something to think about, but roster space is an issue.  If Uggla doesn’t make the cut in Washington, Cafardo suggests that the Angels, Braves, Orioles, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Padres, and Rays could all justify bringing him aboard.

NL East Notes: Braves, Desmond, Jordan

Let’s take a look at the latest from the National League East:

  • Braves president of baseball operations John Hart says that the club never considered dealing closer Craig Kimbrel or other “core” pieces, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The purpose of the offseason was not to kick off a full-on rebuilding effort, said Hart. “Do a lot of things have to come together? Are we in a tough division? Yes, yes,” he said. “But I don’t think that anybody came in with the idea or even discussed that we were going to blow this thing up. We held onto our core guys all winter. We never discussed them. We’re not looking to run up the white flag and not compete.”
  • Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond does not plan to discuss his contract situation this year, he tells MLB.com’s Bill Ladson“I owe it to everybody here to give my 100 percent concentration and that’s what I’m going to do,” Desmond said. “All the other stuff is really not going to be talked about. It’s time to go.” The organization’s longest-tenured player says that the only thing he heard about a trade over the winter was a message from manager Matt Williams informing him that he was not going to be dealt.
  • Righty Taylor Jordan is now largely a forgotten piece of the Nationals‘ rotation picture, but it wasn’t long ago he was looked upon as a valuable young arm. After a tough and injury-plagued 2014, Jordan tells Tom Schad of the Washington Times that he feels healthy and ready to get back on track. Though he is no longer a plausible candidate for a starting role, the 26-year-old could put himself in line on the depth chart and might even turn into an interesting trade chip if he can thrive again in the upper minors.