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David Price Rumors
Grant Balfour is no longer the Rays‘ closer, as manager Joe Maddon told reporters (including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times) that his team is moving to a closer committee. The demotion comes as no surprise following Balfour’s rough performance on Sunday, when he allowed the Mariners to score five runs in the ninth inning. Balfour has struggled badly this season, posting a 6.46 ERA and recording almost as many walks (20) as strikeouts (21) over 23 2/3 innings of work. The 36-year-old signed a two-year, $12MM free agent contract with Tampa in the offseason. If you have Balfour on a fantasy team, stay tuned to @CloserNews (MLBTR’s save-centric sister Twitter account) to keep tabs on the Rays’ bullpen and other late-game situations throughout baseball.
Here’s some more from the AL East…
- The Rays could be sellers at the trade deadline, and Fangraphs’ Eno Sarris looks at some of the club’s veteran pieces with a particular focus on David Price. While Tampa Bay will rightly seek a big prospect haul for Price, Sarris notes the difficulty in finding a contender (especially outside the AL East) who has the necessary minor league depth to swing a trade. Sarris also notes that a fire sale seems unlikely, as the Rays will still look to contend in 2015.
- Peter Gammons discussed several Red Sox topics in an interview on the Dennis & Callahan radio show this morning (WEEI.com’s Conor Ryan has a partial transcript). While Gammons doesn’t think the Red Sox regret signing the struggling Stephen Drew, “there are so many political angles at play here that you’ve just got to wonder, ‘What are they going to be a year from now?” Gammons believes the Boston media’s criticisms of Xander Bogaerts‘ ability to play short pressured the club to re-sign Drew, whereas Gammons felt the Red Sox should’ve acquired an outfielder instead.
- Gammons doesn’t see the Red Sox becoming major sellers if they fall out of the race because they want pitchers like Jon Lester and John Lackey back in 2015 and also “just because of the nature of the Boston fans and because of the nature of the market and because of NESN.” A.J. Pierzynski could potentially become a trade chip if the Sox fell far enough out of a playoff spot, which would open the door for Christian Vasquez to get called up and gain some big league experience.
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington won’t make moves for the sake of making moves, John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes, as the current roster will have to prove its worth as a contender over the next six weeks to convince the front office to pursue upgrades.
- Orioles executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette appeared on Middays With MFB today (again, tip of the cap to WEEI.com’s Conor Ryan) and said that trade talk around the league is slow since so many teams are still technically in contention. “There aren’t many sellers, from what I can tell. Usually after the draft, which was just completed, teams will start calling around, but I only know that there’s just a couple of sellers right now….It’s going to be challenging to add to the team,” Duquette said.
- The Yankees should look to shake up their struggling lineup by getting rid of Brian Roberts and Alfonso Soriano, Mike Axisa of the River Ave Blues blog opines. Since Derek Jeter won’t be moved down in the lineup due to his stature, Axisa suggests that Jeter actually become the leadoff hitter in order to have the Yankees’ best four hitters (Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, Yangervis Solarte) all hit in a row.
Count FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal among those puzzled by David Price‘s revived feud with David Ortiz, as Rosenthal notes that the two seemed to have buried the hatchet after last year’s controversy in the ALDS. While Price has been no stranger to high-profile situations over his career and is widely considered to be a level-headed person, Rosenthal wonders how the Rays ace would deal with increased scrutiny if he is dealt to a more pressurized market than Tampa Bay. Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- The Blue Jays don’t have the prospect depth to pursue Price or Jeff Samardzija on the trade market this summer, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes (Insider subscription required). Both aces are only under contract through 2015 and seem unlikely to sign extensions to stay in Toronto, so the Jays aren’t willing to pay the high price of several top prospects for such short-term acquisitions.
- The Jays could look to add less-costly pitching help before the deadline, Olney writes, as well as an upgrade at second base, though the Brett Lawrie/Steve Tolleson/Juan Francisco rotation between 2B and 3B is working well. Toronto could also add another bullpen arm (if Sergio Santos isn’t healthy or effective) either before the deadline or into the August waiver period.
- “There’s no magic number for attendance” that will impact whether the Blue Jays make deadline deals or not, team president Paul Beeston tells Sportsnet’s Michael Grange. “If there’s a deal it’s not going to be money that determines if it’s going to be done, it’s going to be wins. If we’re winning we’ll do it. I hope we have that opportunity,” Beeston said.
- The big free agent deals signed by Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury last winter have yet to translate into an improved offense for the Yankees, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News writes. Beltran has been injured, McCann has struggled and Ellsbury has been miscast as a No. 3 hitter, a lineup spot Ellsbury has often been forced to fill due to injuries. Madden wonders why the Yankees didn’t pursue a first base backup for Mark Teixeira (again battling wrist problems) over the offseason and believes the team needs to sign Kendrys Morales to help the lineup.
- Ken Davidoff of the New York Post also looked at the Yankees’ hitting woes and argues that the club could be better served by trading for starting pitching rather than offensive help. If the Yankees’ veteran hitters are healthy, they’re at least known commodities, while New York has several unproven young arms in its injury-riddled rotation.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at the 20 biggest disappointments of the 2014 season so far. Near the top of the list: the Rangers unfortunate rash of injuries. Texas will be without Prince Fielder for the rest of the season and Jurickson Profar‘s status is up in the air as well. In total, the Rangers have had 14 players land on the disabled list, twice as many as any other team. More from Cafardo..
- Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija is being watched more than any pitcher by major league scouts. Among those watching are the Blue Jays, who are more convinced than ever they can win the AL East if they obtain a top starter like Samardzija. Meanwhile, one major league scout tells Cafardo that Toronto is still insistent on not giving up Drew Hutchison.
- There’s some concern about David Price‘s performance this season when it comes to Price, including a 3-mile-per-hour dropoff in velocity in recent outings, but one AL GM doesn’t believe the Rays will have trouble getting what they want in a deal. “Unless there’s a reason to believe he has something wrong with his shoulder, pitchers have ebbs and flows with velocity throughout a season,” said the GM. “Price will be fine.”
- The Pirates designated Wandy Rodriguez for assignment last week and they won’t find a deal for him if the medicals are too bad, but the feeling is that some team will take a chance.
- If new Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa starts hiring people in Arizona, Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque could be brought aboard for a front office role.
Happy birthday to the legendary Yogi Berra, who turns 89 years old today. Arguably the greatest catcher in baseball history, Berra won three AL MVP Awards and 10 World Series titles in 18 seasons with the Yankees, plus he added three more Series rings as a coach with the Yankees and Mets. Here’s the latest from around the AL East…
- There’s still time for the Rays to turn things around, but if their early-season struggles continue, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi wonders if the club will be forced to trade David Price. Beyond just adding some needed minor league talent to the Rays’ system, a Price trade could have an even larger impact on the franchise as Morosi wonders if owner Stuart Sternberg would explore selling the team if faced with going through a rebuilding phase.
- At age 30, Jon Lester is on pace for the best season of his career, which WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford notes is another example of how ace pitchers often take years to fully master their craft. As such, it could take years for any of the young arms in the Red Sox farm system to be able to replace Lester should the southpaw leave Boston in free agency this winter.
- Masahiro Tanaka has been an instant hit as a Yankee, which even came as a bit of a surprise to Brian Cashman, the general manager told CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman. “I would have expected a transition to some degree. You always expect a transition period coming to New York, even if it’s just coming from another city (in MLB). Here, he’s coming from Japan, where they have a different pitching schedule and different travel,” Cashman said. Tanaka has exceeded expectations thus far in his first exposure to American baseball, as Cashman noted that the Yankees only projected Tanaka as “a solid No. 3” starter who could possibly be a No. 2.
In his column last night, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe discussed several matters concerning the American League East. From a transactional perspective, Cafardo says not to be surprised if David Ortiz asks the Red Sox to break the $20MM barrier in adding a year to his current contract. Here's more from the AL East:
- Early returns on Red Sox outfielder Grady Sizemore are positive, reports Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com. Hitting coach Gregg Colbrunn said that his swing has "all the good things you look for" in spite of his long layoff, while manager John Farrell said that Sizmore has been at "full speed" on the bases and in the field. Of course, notes Mastrodonato, the club has maintained that it is mostly focused on gauging whether Sizemore can maintain his health over a draining season.
- We heard earlier today that the Orioles have approached J.J. Hardy about opening extension talks. From Hardy's perspective, the shortstop tells ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, he still has not heard much about how things might shape up. "I don't know how that will all play out," Hardy said. "We'll see. I'm actually going to meet with my agent. And we're going to talk a litle bit about what could happen. And he'll kind of fill me in … because I don't really know much."
- Rays GM Andrew Friedman covered a variety of topics on the MLB Network Hot Stove show (transcript via Cork Gaines of Rays Index). Friedman said that the club still feels it will be tough to hold onto ace David Price for the long haul, but that its "mindset is to enjoy each and every day we have David here and do everything in our power to continue that relationship." The likely ultimate scenario — a trade — could take any form, explained the Tampa GM, whose assessment of the Price situation reflects the franchise's general operating strategy. "[W]e really can't have any hard and fast rules about anything," said Friedman. "So we have to be really prepared and nimble. The more prepared you are, the easier it is for you to react more quickly when things pop up. And that's what we have to do is to remain very fluid and not ever get into a situation where we have to make a certain move. But to continue to kind of assess the market and figure out when things kind of line up in our time horizon of what makes the most sense for us to sustain success."
- While the Yankees' money surely played a substantial role in landing Masahiro Tanaka, the club did not just rely on making the highest offer, reports Brandon Kuty of the Star-Ledger. With Pacific advisor George Rose leading the charge, the Yanks put together a series of gestures intended to convince him of their longstanding interest in Tanaka and overall experience with Japanese ballplayers.
For the last year or two, Nick Markakis has been vocal about how important it would be to spend his entire career with one organization, and the outfielder tells Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun how he hopes his contract year will help carry the Orioles to a championship and, potentially, convince the team to keep him in the fold. "In a perfect world, I'd like to [stay here],'' Markakis said. "A lot of people play this game for the wrong reasons. A lot of people play it where the money is. I get a bigger satisfaction being with the same team your whole career….To be able to do that would be a pretty cool experience. It would be something special to me." The O's have a $17.5MM option on Markakis for 2015 that seems a bit too expensive to exercise even if Markakis does rebound from his career-low numbers last season, though the two sides could work out another multiyear deal.
Here's more from around the AL East…
- Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg told reporters (including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times) that while he didn't plan on having a payroll in the $80MM range for the coming season, the opportunity was there for the Rays to sign Grant Balfour and re-sign James Loney.
- Sternberg noted that extending a star like David Price is "more difficult now than it was in the past, given the numbers. There's been inflation.'' That said, Sternberg also "wouldn't say it's likely" that this is Price's last year in Tampa. "You just can't make decisions like that this far in advance, and we're trying to give the team as big of a chance as we can this year without sacrificing our future as well," Sternberg said. "There's the opportuniuty of other players, there's the expense that's involved in it, but we're…a little enamored with the possibilities of what we can do, and what he brings."
- The Blue Jays haven't made many roster moves this winter but GM Alex Anthopoulos tells ESPN's Jayson Stark that he expects the Jays to improve simply by avoiding some of the injuries and misfortune that plagued the club last season. “Sometimes you sit there and say, ‘We won 74 games, when everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong,’” Anthopoulos said. “So this year, what happens if we just have a little bit of luck? I can understand the skepticism about our team, absolutely, coming off the year we’re coming off. But I just don’t think it’s a stretch to expect improvement out of a lot of these guys this year, simply because the floor was so low.”
- The Blue Jays' second base options project to generate only 0.4 WAR in 2014, Fangraphs' Mike Petriello notes, and he explores a few trade possibilities that could upgrade Toronto at the keystone position.
- With the Red Sox enjoying huge revenues and big drops in payroll obligations in 2015 and 2016, ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes argues that the time is right to extend David Ortiz. The slugger's contract negotiations have generated some bad publicity in recent years, so Edes suggests that Ortiz could receive a club option in perpetuity, a la Tim Wakefield's contract with the Sox.
- Red Sox limited partner Michael Gordon isn't a well-known figure to most fans, but WEEI.com's Alex Speier profiles the man who has quietly become a more influential voice within the team's ownership group over the last few years.
The Rays haven't yet traded David Price, and Price thinks the holdup on the pitching market due to Masahiro Tanaka's arrival might be the reason why, ESPN's Jayson Stark writes. "With Tanaka not being able to sign until the 24th [of January] and stuff like that, it seemed like teams waited for that market to fall," Price says. "You know, if he had signed during the winter meetings or something, it might have been a little bit different. That would have given teams a lot more time to figure out what they wanted to do." Still, Stark quotes an executive who notes the Rays will still probably eventually trade Price, because deals for players like Wil Myers and Chris Archer are currently the Rays' most reliable way to accumulate talent, since recent drafts haven't yielded much top talent and since they don't have the budget to acquire key players on the free-agent market. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- Brett Wallace isn't concerned that the Astros removed him from their 40-man roster, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. His goal before was to win a job coming out of camp, and that's still his goal. "I was coming in here to win a job anyway. Being on the roster doesn't guarantee you anything," he says.
- John Mayberry Jr. and Kevin Frandsen, who were both eligible for arbitration this winter, both now have contracts that are guaranteed, writes Matt Gelb of the Inquirer. Mayberry is under contract for $1.59MM, while Frandsen will make $900K. That could affect the Phillies as they try to set their roster, because they can't cut either of them in spring training without running the risk of paying them their entire salaries anyway. Often, contracts for players in their arbitration-eligible seasons are non-guaranteed, as was the case with, for example, Emilio Bonifacio and the Royals. When the Royals designated Bonifacio for assignment, they paid only a percentage of his $3.5MM salary.
- Manager John Farrell says the Red Sox still don't know whether Stephen Drew will return to them, and they don't want a "lingering what-if" in the clubhouse as the season approaches, WEEI.com's Alex Speier reports. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts would move to third base and third baseman Will Middlebrooks would move to the bench if Drew were to re-sign.
The Mariners are "back in business, showing strong interest" in Nelson Cruz and Fernando Rodney again, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports in his latest column. The Mariners, who are said to have some financial leeway by new team president Kevin Mather, is also looking at the trade market for starting pitchers, though they're not currently focused on David Price or Jeff Samardzija. Rosenthal also notes that the Indians aren't having any conversations on Justin Masterson, nor are the Reds inclined to move any of their starters, further limiting the list of trade targets. More highlights below…
- Cruz could be a fallback option for the Rangers, but probably only if he's willing to sign a one-year deal. Bringing Cruz back would allow the Rangers to deal Mitch Moreland.
- Rosenthal wonders if the Reds should be thinking about dealing a starter. While they're trying to extend Homer Bailey, that seems to be a tall order as he's just one year from free agency. Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto are all only controlled through 2015, and as Rosenthal notes, not all can be long-term pieces.
- The Athletics aren't considering making a run at Stephen Drew and shifting Jed Lowrie from short to second base. The A's are comfortable platooning Eric Sogard and Nick Punto.
- A rival executive wondered to Rosenthal if the Braves would match up with the Mariners on a Dustin Ackley trade, but Rosenthal hears that the Braves aren't looking for a second baseman. They currently have Dan Uggla, who is owed $26MM through 2015, and three fallback options in Ramiro Pena, Tommy La Stella and Tyler Pastornicky.
- Braves GM Frank Wren said he doesn't hold any ill will toward players who go to arbitration hearings — such as the ones he could face with Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman: "We don’t look at it as an antagonistic process. We look at it as a solution to a disagreement on a player’s salary."
Now that Masahiro Tanaka is off the market, teams that missed out on Japanese righty could try to acquire another ace-level pitcher in the form of David Price. The Price trade rumors had died down as the offseason progressed and there was a growing expectation that Price would be a Ray in 2014, though one Major League executive expects the Rays to reach out to the Dodgers and other teams about Price's availability. "I have no doubt they will revisit that, starting today," the executive tells Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.
- Jayson Nix's minor league deal with the Rays allows him to look for a Major League job elsewhere if he isn't on Tampa Bay's opening day roster, MLBTR's Zach Links reports (Twitter links). Nix's deal also allows him to opt out of his contract on June 1 even if he is on the Rays' Major League roster.
- The Rays and Padres completed a seven-player trade earlier today and Tampa Bay executive VP Andrew Friedman discussed the deal in a conference call with reporters, including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (two links). Friedman broke down the five players the Rays received from San Diego and noted that Logan Forsythe "is a guy that we had tried to get previously and a guy that was very high on our target list."
- While Friedman appreciated the work that Alex Torres had done in Tampa Bay, the Rays felt they had enough left-handed relief depth to use a southpaw as trade bait.
Andrew Friedman of the Rays and Billy Beane of the Athletics have the most job security of any GMs in baseball, Scout.com's Kiley McDaniel writes. At the other end of the spectrum are Jack Zduriencik of the Mariners and Jerry Dipoto of the Angels. McDaniel writes that Zduriencik could hang on in Seattle with a playoff run in 2014, but that doesn't seem likely. Here are more notes from around the American League.
- The Rays should not trade David Price, Dayn Perry of CBS Sports writes. Price figures to be the Rays' best starter in what should be a contending season. Also, Price will likely out-produce the $14MM he'll make in 2014. If the Rays struggle this year, Keri says, they can reconsider dealing Price when the trade deadline rolls around.
- The Mariners recently designated outfielder Carlos Peguero for assignment when they added John Buck. Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs points out that Peguero is out of options, and is unlikely to make it in the big leagues despite "big-time raw upside" — he strikes out too much and walks too little to take advantage of his power. Sullivan looks at players who have had seasons with strikeout and walk numbers comparable to those of Peguero's 2011 debut, and finds only a few who had meaningful careers, including Tony Armas, Don Demeter, Dick Stuart, and former Mariners star Bret Boone.