- A.J. Burnett Expected To Miss Four Weeks With Flexor Strain
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- Red Sox President Larry Lucchino To Be Replaced
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- Dodgers, Braves, Marlins Complete 13-Player Trade
- Blue Jays Designate Danny Valencia, Ezequiel Carerra
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- Cubs Designate Clayton Richard
- A.J. Burnett Expected To Miss Four Weeks With Flexor Strain
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- Athletics Claim Danny Valencia
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David Wright Rumors
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe backed Commissioner Rob Manfred’s optimism about possibly expanding. The last time baseball expanded was in 1998 with the additions of the Rays and D’Backs and Cafardo feels that MLB is due. Manfred recently acknowledged there’s been interest from a few cities, including Montreal (former home of the Expos), Charlotte, and Portland. Cafardo goes on to list other potential spots for expansion franchises, including Vancouver, Las Vegas, Nashville, northern New Jersey, and Brooklyn. Of course, with those last two, there are obvious territorial issues to consider. Here’s more from today’s column..
- If third baseman David Wright doesn’t look like himself when he comes back or if he doesn’t come back at all in 2015, the Mets will give some thoughts to acquiring a pair of hitters. One of those players, Cafardo writes, would likely be a shortstop. There’s currently a feeling in the organization that the Mets will make a move for a hitter in the coming days with pitcher Jon Niese being the outgoing asset.
- There is more and more talk of Yasiel Puig losing popularity with his Dodgers teammates, a major league source tells Cafardo. Puig was once viewed an untouchable player because of his talent, but the new regime does not feel that way at this time. Cafardo wonders aloud if they would move the slugger for a pitcher and pondered him as a match in a Cole Hamels deal with the Phillies.
- There’s “a buzz in the ownership/management community” that chairman Tom Werner could be more involved in the Red Sox‘s day-to-day operations, with president and CEO Larry Lucchino being less involved. Werner’s pace-of-play ideas have worked out well so far and he is being viewed as a more influential figure both in Boston and throughout the game. There have been rumblings of Lucchino losing power in Boston for some time now.
- Former Padres skipper Bud Black has a great relationship with owner Arte Moreno and manager Mike Scioscia and Cafardo feels that talk of him becoming the Angels‘ GM bears watching.
- Meanwhile, Angels assistant GM Matt Klentak, he writes, may get strong consideration from both the Angels and the Phillies. He worked for Andy MacPhail in baseball’s Labor Relations Department, so he has an in with Philly. MLBTR wrote that Klentak was a strong GM candidate all the way back in 2011.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports kicks off his weekly Inside Baseball column by reporting that the Dodgers have “quietly continued having dialogue with the Phillies” regarding Cole Hamels. The Dodgers are also giving serious consideration to the rental market and prioritizing Johnny Cueto over others among such targets. The Dodgers “appear determined” to land a top-of-the-rotation arm to pair with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, writes Heyman, but most executives think they’ll hold onto top prospects Corey Seager and Julio Urias. The Dodgers have a deep farm system beyond that pairing (righty Jose De Leon has recently been ranked a Top 25 prospect by Baseball America and ESPN), and one exec tells Heyman that the Phillies’ asking price on Hamels has become “more reasonable” recently. The Dodgers feel that Greinke is a lock to opt out of his contract at the end of the season, and while they could possibly re-sign him by adding a year or two to the deal and upping his $24.5MM AAV, Hamels would provide insurance should Greinke sign elsewhere. Jeff Samardzija is also a consideration for the Dodgers, but while they like him, they consider him more of a No. 2/3 starter and don’t love him.
Some more highlights from Heyman’s article, though the synopsis won’t cover everything within the piece, so I’d highly recommend reading it in its entirety…
- The Braves will be deadline sellers, Heyman hears, with Jim Johnson, Juan Uribe and Cameron Maybin among the players that will be available to interested teams. Chris Johnson, too, continues to be available, but there are no takers for his contract, which Atlanta has aggressively tried to move in the past.
- With the Reds expected to trade so many veterans to other clubs, many in the industry expect the team to make a run at extending Todd Frazier beyond his current two-year deal, Heyman writes. (Frazier has one more year of arbitration following his current pact.) Jeff Todd and I have discussed Frazier’s situation on the MLBTR Podcast in the past (and will do so again this afternoon), and I’ve personally taken the stance that given the significant commitments to Joey Votto and Homer Bailey, the Reds could have a difficult time affording Frazier, whose 2014-15 breakout has hugely inflated his price tag. Given the lack of impact bats on the trade market, Frazier would net a king’s ransom and could rapidly expedite the rebuilding process, though the PR hit of trading him with so much control and on the heels of a Home Run Derby victory would of course be significant.
- In other Reds news, Heyman hears Mike Leake‘s ground-ball tendencies are appealing to AL East clubs, and he’s drawn interest from the Blue Jays, Orioles and Red Sox in addition to the Royals, Dodgers, Rangers, Cubs and Giants. Manny Parra and Marlon Byrd are both “likely to go” as well.
- Asked about the possibility of signing with the Cubs this offseason due to his relationship with skipper Joe Maddon, Tigers ace David Price replied, “Wherever I play baseball next year it’s not going to be because of a manager.”
- The Astros are interested in both Cueto and Leake, and Houston seems willing to deal from its glut of MLB-ready outfield prospects, including Domingo Santana and Preston Tucker. (Previous reports have indicated they’re reluctant to part with Brett Phillips, however, who may be the best among the outfield bunch.)
- The Brewers are now showing a willingness to trade both Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura, Heyman hears. Though it was previously believed they were reluctant to move Segura, the emergence of Orlando Arcia (the younger brother of the Twins’ Oswaldo Arcia) may have changed Milwaukee’s thinking. However, Arcia himself is also drawing a huge amount of trade interest, and the Padres have called to express interest. One NL exec called him the best player he’s seen in the minors this year, while another comped him to Francisco Lindor, but said Arcia is better. Regarding Segura, Heyman hears that the Mets dislike his free-swinging approach.
- The Twins aren’t closed off to the idea of re-acquiring Gomez from the Brewers, but their primary focus at this point is bullpen help.
- The Mets are aiming high in their pursuit of an outfield bat and have both Gomez and Justin Upton on their radar. They’re not likely to add Aramis Ramirez from the Brewers unless they receive bad news on the prognosis of David Wright. They also have little interest in swinging a deal for Uribe.
- Padres officials insist that they haven’t determined their course of action heading into the deadline, but Heyman writes that free-agents-to-be such as Upton, Ian Kennedy, Joaquin Benoit and Will Venable could be traded regardless. James Shields‘ backloaded contract limits his value, but one GM felt Benoit has “big value” and Heyman notes that Craig Kimbrel would be in huge demand as well, should the Padres try to recoup some value from that deal.
- Cueto, Samardzija and Leake are atop the Blue Jays‘ wish list, and the team was also in talks with the Braves regarding Jason Grilli prior to his season-ending injury. A top starting pitcher is Toronto’s top priority at this point, says Heyman. He also adds that there’s no evidence to suggest that manager John Gibbons is on the hot seat.
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There has still been “no change” in the status of Mets third baseman David Wright, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. While both team and player had indicated some optimism recently, Wright has still not been cleared to resume baseball activities. As Puma notes, with at least a three week delay between the point of clearance and a return to the big leagues, Wright’s window for a return this year is rather narrow.
Here are a few more quick notes from the NL East:
- Soon-to-be Phillies president Andy MacPhail ought to make it his first order of business to find a modern baseball mind to join him in Philadelphia, argues David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. As the piece puts it, the Phils have ended up in their current state not because they’ve been unable to identify talented players, but rather due to a “blind spot [in] the macro-valuation of that talent, within the context of both sheer market appraisal and the impact of opportunity cost on the organization.” For MacPhail to succeed, says Murphy, he’ll need to find a top subordinate who can get a handle on these concepts — particularly given that Philadelphia’s advantages in total spending capacity appear likely to be reduced in importance over time.
- While the Braves seemingly continue to take many positive steps, the stunted development of backstop Christian Bethancourt has been a significant disappointment, Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Schultz indicates that there was more at play in the decision to send Bethancourt down than his anemic .508 OPS, citing “weaknesses in defense and handling a pitching staff” and hinting that the 23-year-old may have maturity and/or commitment issues. Bethancourt has hit well since taking up residence at Triple-A, but we’ve heard recently that Atlanta is looking outside the organization for young talent behind the dish.
The Mets’ inaction this season has been “inexplicable,” ESPN’s Buster Olney writes. The Mets have failed to address an injury-ravaged lineup, thus leaving Lucas Duda and an excellent rotation hanging out to dry. As a result, the Mets have scored only 25 runs total since June 16. As Olney points out, of course, there isn’t much happening on the trade market right now, with several weeks to go before the deadline and not many teams yet willing to pull the plugs on their seasons. But Olney suggests the Mets could at least find a depth-type player who might help, much as the Blue Jays did with Chris Colabello. They could also find help by being willing to take on a chunk of a bad contract. The team’s problem isn’t manager Terry Collins, Olney writes — it’s complacency. Here’s more from the Mets.
- The Mets have decided not to promote top prospect Michael Conforto despite their need for offense, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo writes. “At this point, he’s still in Binghamton and I would expect him to be over the near-term,” says GM Sandy Alderson. The Mets might be right not to see Conforto as a short-term fix for their sagging offense — he’s hitting .333/.414/.521 with Double-A Binghamton, but in only 133 plate appearances, and those represent his only experience in the high minors.
- Injured star David Wright (spinal stenosis) is hopeful he’ll be able to return to action this season, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York writes. “We’re getting down to the second half of the season now, and I feel like I’ve got one shot to get this thing right,” Wright says. Standing upright no longer causes him discomfort, although he has not yet begun running, and he will probably need several weeks to get back into baseball activities before he can return.
Though he admitted that he’s not privy to the front office’s discussions, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that he expects ace Cole Hamels to be traded. “We’re not involved on the field,” said Mackanin. “But the whole point of this year basically is to see young guys, help us get ready for next year and beyond. If we can get good deals for Hamels and good deals for whomever else there might be out there, (Jonathan) Papelbon.” Hamels recently told Salisbury that he’s open to a trade to any club, including the Blue Jays and Astros. Previous reports had indicated that Hamels would block a deal to either club.
Here’s more from the NL East…
- The Tigers are scouting the Marlins‘ starting pitchers, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). There could be very little to read into here, as multiple teams are likely scouting the Marlins, and the Tigers of course are scouting other clubs. Nonetheless, a pitching matchup, at least on paper, does seem to exist between the two sides. The Tigers have seen Shane Greene lose his spot in the rotation and received little from Justin Verlander to this point. A solid addition to the rotation would make some sense, and the Marlins have a surplus now that Jose Fernandez is healthy. Fernandez joins Mat Latos, Dan Haren, Tom Koehler and Jarred Cosart in the rotation. Latos and Haren, though, are free agents at season’s end, and the team has internal replacements capable of slotting into the rotation in the event of a trade.
- Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald hears that the Marlins are indeed willing to listen to offers on Latos and Haren. He adds Steve Cishek to that list as well and unsurprisingly says that the fallen closer likely will be non-tendered this offseason. Jackson, like other reporters, hears that the team isn’t entertaining the idea of moving Martin Prado at this point.
- Mets captain David Wright is “extremely optimistic” that he can begin baseball activities next week, tweets ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin. Wright won’t begin hitting in that time, however. Previously, the Mets have expressed hope to have the third baseman back by the All-Star break, though that timeline is fast approaching and Wright is still quite a ways from a rehab assignment.
Earlier this morning, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reported that the Braves would option struggling catcher Christian Bethancourt to Triple-A Gwinnett (Twitter link). While the corresponding move was not reported at the time, Atlanta has since announced that it will select the contract of Ryan Lavarnway to take Bethancourt’s place. Bethancourt, 23, has batted just .208/.231/.297 in 2014 plate appearances this season. While his elite arm behind the plate would be enough to outweigh a reasonable amount of offensive struggles, that batting line translates to the seventh-worst wRC+ in all of baseball among players with 100 PAs. Via David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, president of baseball ops John Hart likened the Bethancourt demotion to the 2014 demotions of Kolten Wong and Mike Moustakas. Each, like Bethancourt, was a former Top 100 prospect that had struggled in the Majors but has taken a step toward stardom since returning to the bigs. The Braves will hope that’s the outcome for Bethancourt, but in the meantime, they’ll hand his role to Lavarnway. The 27-year-old Lavarnway is a former Top 100 prospect himself, but he’s never replicated the promise he showed in a 2013 cup of coffee when he batted .299/.329/.429 in 84 PAs with Boston.
Here’s more from the NL East…
- Via the Record’s Matt Ehalt, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said today that a realistic target date for David Wright‘s return will be the All-Star break (Twitter link). The Mets captain has missed all but eight games this season, most of which has been due to a recent diagnosis of spinal stenosis. New York has been said to be looking to acquire a versatile bat that can play third base in the short-term and then move elsewhere once Wright is again healthy.
- The Mets recently discussed a scenario in which Noah Syndergaard would switch to a relief role in an effort to aid what has been a fragile bullpen, report Mike Puma and Zach Braziller of the New York Post. In that scenario, Steven Matz would have been recalled to take Syndergaard’s spot in the rotation. However, the team has decided against that decision and will remain committed to using Syndergaard as a starter. The story does seem to lend further credence to recent reports that the Mets are itching to get Matz to the Majors. They’ve reportedly discussed Jon Niese and Dillon Gee with other teams, though neither has generated much interest.
- While many Phillies fans have given up hope on Domonic Brown, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News feels the organization is doing the right thing by giving him a perhaps final shot at proving he’s been anything more than he has shown to this point. Brown, 27, has scarcely hit in the Majors, save for a blistering two-month stretch in 2013, but he still has more growth potential than alternative Phillies options such as Jeff Francoeur and Ben Revere. Brown explained to Murphy his offensive struggles in the minors this season — specifically feeling a lack of strength in his legs early on after returning from an Achilles injury. Brown’s production improved as the strength returned, and he’ll now get some opportunities to force his way into the lineup with regularity, manager Ryne Sandberg implied. Still, Brown is out of options after this season, so Murphy rightly points out that this could effectively be Brown’s last legitimate chance in Philadelphia.
Dillon Gee and Jon Niese have long seen their names floated in trade rumors, but that trend could increase in the weeks to come, as ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin hears from a team source that the Mets may promote left-hander Steven Matz before month’s end. (Over the weekend, Mike Puma of the New York Post wrote that Matz could be up prior to the All-Star break, adding that GM Sandy Alderson said the lefty had little else to prove to the team in the minors.) Trade efforts surrounding Gee and Niese have taken a back seat to the draft at the moment, Rubin writes, but talks will again pick up once the draft is complete.
The Mets would like to add a bat to help the big league roster in any trade, writes Rubin, but they’d prefer to add someone versatile as opposed to a strict third baseman, because the team still believes that David Wright will return this season. The team is, however, interested in someone who can play third in addition to several other positions. Rubin notes that a versatile piece such as Ben Zobrist or Martin Prado would be ideal, though it’d almost certainly take more than Niese or Gee to acquire either of those pieces.
The team could improve its chances of landing an MLB-ready bat by packaging Niese or Gee with a younger piece with some additional team control. Yesterday, Puma reported that Rafael Montero could be considered a trade chip when he’s healthy, but the team has no intention of trading catcher Kevin Plawecki, even once Travis d’Arnaud is activated from the disabled list. A healthy Montero would appeal to a number of clubs, though as Puma noted, his injury troubles have lowered his trade value.
Neither Gee nor Niese would completely turn the tide for a struggling rotation, but either could provide some stability toward the back end of a currently top-heavy group of starters. Gee, who is earning $5.3MM this season, can be controlled through 2016 via arbitration. In 674 career innings, Gee has a 3.94 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 46.2 percent ground-ball rate.
Niese is more expensive but also has a better track record. The 28-year-old lefty is earning $7MM this season and is guaranteed $9MM in 2016, and his deal contains 2017 and 2018 club options valued at $10MM and $10.5MM, respectively. Each option has a $500K buyout. Niese has battled shoulder problems in his career, but he has a 3.90 ERA in 954 2/3 big league innings. Niese has averaged 7.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 with a 49.4 percent ground-ball rate in his career, and he’s outperformed his ERA in the eyes of metrics such as FIP and xFIP.
Star Mets third baseman David Wright, who has been diagnosed with a condition called spinal stenosis, joined GM Sandy Alderson in addressing the situation with the media yesterday (via Newsday’s Mark Carig). While Alderson says the club is “comfortable” in expecting that Wright will return, it also appears more and more likely that the problem will be a concern even if he does make it back to action.
“It literally is a week-to-week process,” Wright said, explaining that he is regularly undergoing tests of his back condition that must be passed before he can even begin working back to on-field action. “I’m not there right now,” he said. “They run me through the tests and I flat-out can’t do it.”
Surgery is only on the table as a last resort, in the event that rehabilitation proves unavailing. “There’s never been a question in my mind that not only am I going to come back but I want to come back sooner rather than later,” Wright said. “It’s just a matter of being symptom-free.”
In spite of that positivity, and Alderson’s statement that he was not planning to go outside the organization to find a replacement, the GM hinted at an uncertain (and possibly lengthy) timeline when he said the team is “not on the edge of our seat waiting for David to come back.” And he acknowledged the long-term concerns: “I’m not sure we can have any assurance at this point that when he comes back it will be incident-free for the rest of the season.”
Wright is earning $20MM this year and is promised an additional $87MM from 2016-2020. While the club reportedly has insurance that would cover a significant portion of that tab if Wright misses a large chunk of time, that would not offer much relief if he is able to play but can’t return to his former levels (or if, say, he needs scattered DL stints to deal with flare-ups).
In the immediate term, the team does have options, as David Lennon writes for Newsday. Daniel Murphy can occupy third, with some combination of Wilmer Flores, Ruben Tejada, and Dilson Herrera (when he returns from his own injury) playing up the middle. Or, of course, a more established option could be added at the deadline. Regardless, it would now seem a major surprise if Murphy — who has sometimes been discussed as a trade chip — was to be made available this summer.
The Phillies may have lost a trade partner — at least, in the immediate future — when the Mets shipped left-handed-hitting outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis to the Angels, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes. The Phils and Halos had been discussing a deal involving Philly outfielder Ben Revere deal for some time, per Zolecki, but couldn’t agree upon compensation. While it’s certainly plausible to imagine a swap being revisited between those clubs, Philadelphia appears motivated to deal Revere in the near term, in advance of a coming roster logjam in the outfield. Of course, it is also understandable that Philadelphia would not want to accept a less-than-fair return for the outfielder, who has two years of arbitration control remaining. But it’s not clear that the speedy but power-challenged Revere will command much in trade, particularly since he’s already playing on a $4.1MM arb salary this year.
- While it’s far too early to judge him, newly-installed Marlins manager Dan Jennings has certainly not been able to effect a quick turnaround from a foundering ballclub. As Bob Nightengale of USA Today writes, that has pleased some around the game. Jennings himself says he is resolute in both respecting the job and doing everything in his power to produce a winning club. Before hiring Jennings, says Nightengale, Miami bounced around the idea of several more established candidates — among them, Ron Washington, Dusty Baker, and even Ozzie Guillen.
- Though the Mets are giving every indication that they are not overly concerned with David Wright‘s long-term health, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes that the third baseman’s condition — known as spinal stenosis — can be a serious one. A clinician tells Martino that it tends to be degenerative and quite problematic for athletes, though another expert put things in a somewhat more positive light, telling Laura Albanese of Newsday that the condition can be overcome. While New York reportedly has insurance coverage for at least a significant portion of Wright’s contract, in the event of injury, that does not change the fact that his presence is badly needed on the field. And there would seem to be cause for at least some concern that Wright could be limited by the injury moving forward, even when he does return to the active roster.
- Jayson Werth and the Nationals will hope to learn more about his still-balky wrist when he makes a visit to the specialist who has helped him through prior wrist issues, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. Though tests have not revealed any structural damage, swelling caused by a recent hit-by-pitch has yet to subside (though it’s improved recently). Already planned to coincide with an off day for the team, a visit to Dr. Richard Berger of the Mayo Clinic is in order. The Nats will, of course, hope for continued improvement — the team has played well of late, but has done so without receiving any production from the club’s two best hitters of 2014.
While the Mets hope it won’t come to this, they’re protected against an extended absence from David Wright, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). The Mets have insurance on Wright’s contract that will cover 75 percent of the money he is owed for time he misses once he is on the shelf for 60 or more days. Given Wright’s $20MM salary this season, that could mean a significant amount of money being put back into the Mets’ pockets in the unfortunate event that their star third baseman is out for two or more months due to the spinal stenosis with which he was recently diagnosed. For a budget-conscious team, that could have a significant impact on the club’s ability to add help on the trade market this summer.
More from the NL East…
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. apologized today for prior comments that some fans “don’t understand” the game and the process of bringing minor league talent along, writes CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. “I’d like to apologize to the fans,” said Amaro. “I’m a fan myself. I understand the passion and knowledge that our fans have for our game and the other major sports, all the other sports in Philly. The comments weren’t meant to disparage our fans by any stretch of the imagination. I probably used my words incorrectly or poorly. I want to apologize for that.” Amaro reiterated that prospects such as Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin likely aren’t too far from the Major Leagues, but he also stressed the dangers of rushing prospects too quickly. While he acknowledged that he understands why fans want to see the organization’s best minor leaguers, given the lackluster product on the Major League field right now, Amaro said that the team is trying to develop its top talent “at the right pace so that they can be the best players they can be when they get here.”
- In a radio appearance (transcription via CSN Philly’s Jordan Hall), Amaro conceded that the Phillies likely waited too long to begin the rebuilding process. “Perhaps we waited a year or two too long to try and go into this transition,” said Amaro. “…we decided this offseason … to work from kind of the bottom up to make sure that we can get ourselves to the point where we’re building enough talent in our system to bring them at the appropriate time and to continue that process so that we can be perennial contenders.” The Phillies traded Antonio Bastardo, Marlon Byrd and Jimmy Rollins this offseason in addition, of course, to entertaining offers for Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jonathan Papelbon. Any of those names could be in play over the course of the summer, and Ben Revere‘s name has been mentioned frequently in recent trade rumors as well.
- ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick takes a look at Bryce Harper‘s historic start to his age-22 season and the polarizing personality behind the eye-popping numbers. Harper himself admitted to Crasnick that he can have trouble maintaining a level head when on the playing field, referring specifically back to a controversial ejection at the hands of home plate umpire Marvin Hudson. However, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo and manager Matt Williams spoke glowingly about Harper’s demeanor off the field, while Jayson Werth offered strong praise for the strides Harper has made as a teammate (though he is quick to specify that Harper has never been a bad teammate by any means). Harper himself took a humble tone when asked by Crasnick about Mike Trout and the frequent comparisons between the two. “I still believe Trout is the best player in the game, hands down,” said Harper. “It’s not about taking a backseat to anybody. I love seeing Stanton hit homers or Kris Bryant do the things he does. I love watching Matt Harvey or Gerrit Cole or Noah Syndergaard come up and throw 100 mph. I cheer for guys. I’ve always been that way.” Fans and detractors of Harper alike will presumably find the piece to be an interesting read.