David Price Rumors
Over the last ten games, the Rays share a league-best 8-2 mark. Here are a few notes on the team as it looks to carry that momentum and regain its footing in a challenging AL East:
- The triceps strain that sent ace David Price to the DL could have major short and long-term implications for the Rays, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Of course, with Price now battling an injury after already struggling on the mound to start the season, the team is holding its breath that it will have its top pitcher in good form for a postseason run. But even more troubling, the injury could have a huge impact on the Rays' long-term plans. Topkin explains that Tampa Bay likely cannot afford to extend Price after giving a major contract to Evan Longoria. Instead, as with Matt Garza and James Shields, an eventual trade of Price seems likely. Not only will the injury likely foreclose a trade deadline deal this season (however unlikely that was to begin with), but could significantly downgrade Price's trade value next offseason. As Topkin notes, even if Price returns strong, this blip on the radar could suppress the willingness of trade partners to offer the truly monumental prospect haul that Price was expected to garner.
- As expected, Jake Odorizzi will take Price's spot in the rotation for the time being, reports Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com. Odorizzi, of course, was acquired by the Rays -- along with the even higher-regarded Wil Myers and two other prospects -- in exchange for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis. With Shields off to a fine start for the Royals, Odorizzi's ascension to the bigs will allow the Rays to begin adding production to their side of the ledger.
- Meanwhile, the Rays' success remains predicated, as ever, on executive vice president Andrew Friedman's uncanny ability to reclaim and restore veteran ballplayers. In particular, the club has stayed above .500, in spite of the surprising struggles of its pitching staff, by hitting above expectations. (The team is tied for third in all of baseball for team batting wins above replacement.) As Topkin writes, a major piece of the Rays' sudden offensive prowess is the much-maligned James Loney. Making only $2MM on a one-year deal, Loney is raking in Tampa, hitting .359/.415/.523 in his first 143 plate appearances. Since he showed the promise of this kind of production as a 23-year-old in 2007, the now-29-year-old has largely disappointed. Nevertheless, Tampa Bay banked on Loney's long-observed skill, and he has finally come through.
- Topkin goes on to list and describe several other successful Friedman reclamation projects, including relievers Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, and Fernando Rodney, as well as infielders Jeff Keppinger and Carlos Pena. Of course, the Rays are hoping that Rodney can turn around his poor start and at least approach his incredible 2012 season.
- Another player that could be added to that list is Kelly Johnson, 31, who has played all over the diamond this year for the Rays while posting a .273/.348/.496 line in 138 plate appearances. This level may be surprising given Johnson's mediocre 2011-12 seasons, but as the Rays were no doubt aware, Johnson has at least three seasons under his belt (2007, 2008, 2010) as a productive big league hitter. With the team on the hook for only a modest one-year, $2.45MM investment, a veteran gamble has once again paid big dividends to Tampa Bay.
- According to Fangraphs' WAR measurements, Loney and Johnson have been the 42nd and 62nd most valuable hitters (respectively) in baseball this year. With Loney's relative youth and Johnson's ability to play second base, continued production from these players could make them very interesting free agent cases in 2014.
In his latest edition of Rumblings & Grumblings, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark looks at what we've learned around the 30-game mark of the season. The Red Sox have spent their money better than any team in baseball as Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, Koji Uehara, and Shane Victorino (before his back issues) have gotten off to excellent starts. Meanwhile, it looks like the Braves have made the best trade of anyone so far as they landed Justin Upton and Chris Johnson for Martin Prado and four players that aren't currently in the majors. Here's more from today's column..
- Teams that have checked in on Brian Wilson have been told that his target date to throw for interested clubs should be around the All-Star break. Wilson wants to ensure that he's fully recovered from Tommy John surgery before auditioning again.
- Giancarlo Stanton's hamstring injury should probably put any talk of a July trade to rest. "If they trade him in-season, they probably wouldn't get any major league talent," said one exec. "So given everything that's happened with their team and their attendance, are they really in a position to make a deal for him where they just get back prospects? Probably not." The exec concluded that the Marlins are better off waiting until the offseason and getting big league ready talent back for their star.
- The Rays may be the most closely-watched team in the league by contenders over the next few months. Teams know the Rays will keep David Price in July if they're alive in the AL East, and will listen hard if they're out of contention. If they're caught in between, one exec believes that the Rays still might move him if they feel like they're not good enough to win it all. The hurler's price tag is expected to by skyhigh if he hits the open market after the 2015 season.
- The buzzards are already starting to circle over the Phillies, Stark writes, but club officials have told teams that have checked in that they still expect their club to contend and won't even think about selling for another two months.
- If a Phillies sell-off happens, the biggest buzz would include impending free agent Chase Utley. One exec who has checked into things says his impression is that the Phillies would approach Utley first and get a feel for whether he wants to go elsewhere. Utley, who will be just short of 10-and-5 rights at the deadline - can block trades to 21 teams.
- Execs say they'd rather trade for Lucas Harrell than Bud Norris if they had a choice between the Astros pitchers. Harrell has two more years of control and one scout says that the big knock on Norris is that he's still basically a "two-pitch guy". Quite a few teams also think he profiles more as a bullpen weapon on a contender even though he's the Astros' ace.
- The Yankees want a right-handed bat, but one scout feels that they don't have enough pieces to land an impact deal. The Bombers added one right-handed hitter when they traded for Chris Nelson earlier this week.
The Twins have devoted only 22.5% of their 2013 payroll to pitching (MLB average is 49.8%) and haven't exceeded the league average since 2005. Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes perhaps no statistic better illustrates the Twins' dry spell in developing pitching prospects. "It’s not by design. It’s not like we said, 'Let’s spend less on pitching and go another way,'" said Twins assistant GM Rob Antony. "When we’ve spent a lot on a contract, more often than not, it’s on players we already have, that we know. We know how they fit in the clubhouse, and we know their health situation. It makes you a little more comfortable with the investment." Miller notes several pitching investments have been wasted because of injuries including this year's highest-paid pitcher Nick Blackburn ($5.5MM), who was removed from the 40-man roster as he recovers from wrist surgery. One investment that does seem to be paying dividends is Kevin Correia, who signed a two-year, $10MM free agent contract last December. The right-hander tossed eight shutout innings and lowered his ERA to 2.31 in the Twins' 5-0 win over the Rangers. In other news and notes from the American League:
- After a four-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees, the seat is becoming hotter for Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman calls this a big test for Gibbons while Keith Law of ESPN.com says it's too early to think about firing the skipper (Twitter links).
- Before the game, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos met with the media, including Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, and said he doesn't expect Jose Reyes back until the beginning of July "just to make sure that we do this correctly and we don’t have any setbacks." In the meantime, the plan is use Munenori Kawasaki and Maicer Izturis because Anthopoulos said the costs of going outside the organization for a Reyes replacement "don’t line up for us with what our alternatives are."
- Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg reiterated his team's ability to afford David Price in an interview with WFAN (partial transcript provided by the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin). "We can; I don't know if we'll have any team around him other than him and (Evan) Longoria."
- In the same interview, Sternberg said he expects the Rays' next TV contract to be "big relative to the size of our attendance" but "mid-sized market" compared to other teams.
- The Red Sox prefer to give Shane Victorino some time to work out his back issues rather than trying to bring Jackie Bradley back too soon, tweets the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo. Victorino underwent an MRI yesterday, which revealed inflammation in his lower back. Bradley, meanwhile, is 7-for-31 with 10 strikeouts and five walks since being optioned to Triple-A.
Baseball, like the rest of the country, has its mind on yesterday's tragedy at the Boston Marathon. SI.com's Tom Verducci explores the role of the national pastime -- and, especially, Boston's own Red Sox -- in dealing with an event of such magnitude: "Every tragedy is ... an unwelcome reminder that life goes on for the survivors. Baseball, which, unlike any other sport, is there for us virtually every day, is entwined with what is the comfort and curse of that daily challenge. However small, however unimportant baseball seems today, the Red Sox remain a part of daily life in Boston. These Red Sox, win or lose, now play for a broken city. Whatever comfort or distraction they provide in the best of times assumes a different weight in these worst of times."
- Verducci went on to discuss the Sox' early-season pitching renaissance, crediting the club's deal with Toronto to bring back former pitching coach John Farrell as manager. In particular, starters Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have been outstanding thus far, combining for a 5-0 record and 0.88 ERA.
- While only a side note, Verducci used interesting terms to describe the Boston free agent acquisition strategy, which resulted in the signing of players like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, David Ross, and Jonny Gomes. "The analytically-minded Red Sox ... disregarded the Carmine computer program to put an emphasis on extroverted, high-motor guys who fit the Boston fishbowl."
- As the Red Sox face the Indians tonight, Victorino reflected on his free agency decision between the two clubs over the winter, writes Alex Speier of WEEI.com. The 32-year-old outfielder said that there were things he liked about Cleveland but he ultimately chose Boston because of their winning tradition.
- Outfielder Curtis Granderson is as eager for his return as are the Yankees, writes Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News. While he says he will go about his business the same way regardless of his pending free agency, Granderson acknowledged that it makes it hard to remain patient knowing that he will be reaching the open market after this season.
- The difficulties facing the Blue Jays in filling in for Jose Reyes may be daunting, but they are not unique, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. With the Jays finding the asking price high on possible trade targets, they seem likely to use patches rather than make a big move. If that is the case, writes Nicholson-Smith, Toronto will be following the path of other clubs that lost their shortstops early in recent seasons.
- The Blue Jays' lineup was missing one quality everyday bat even before Reyes went down, writes Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail. GM Alex Anthopoulos is not only working the phones for a Reyes stop-gap, but is interested in what Blair describes as a "significant transaction that might require several moving pieces." With Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie potentially capable of manning alternative positions, Blair says Toronto may be looking for an impact bat that it can shoehorn into the lineup rather than targeting a specific position.
- The Rays' offensive struggles make a Wil Myers call-up enticing, but the club should nevertheless stay patient, writes Jonah Keri for Grantland. Keri wonders whether the club might pursue an Evan Longoria-esque early-career extension for the young outfielder, which would resolve service time concerns if the Rays want to call him up.
- Meanwhile, we heard earlier today (in an Insider piece) that ESPN's Buster Olney believes that Rays ace David Price would likely command less than Giancarlo Stanton on the trade market. Of course, the Rays would surely bring back an impressive haul if they were to make the reigning AL Cy Young winner available. Olney's "educated guess" at the top potential suitors for Price are the Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Rangers.
Sixty-six years ago today, Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier when he made his Major League debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers. After an 0-for-3 debut, Robinson went on to hit .297/.383/.427 with 12 home runs, a league-leading 29 stolen bases and won Rookie of the Year honors. As MLB.com's Richard Justice writes, the movie "42" introduces Robinson to a new generation of Americans and helps to immortalize the legacy of one of America's most courageous figures: "Robinson paid an incomprehensible price in the pain he endured and the responsibility he carried," writes Justice.
Baseball as we know it would not be the same were it not for Robinson's courage, talent and perseverance. Here's a look at some news from around the league on Jackie Robinson day...
- In his latest MLB.com mailbag, T.R. Sullivan writes that the Elvis Andrus extension, while risky for the Rangers, is still beneficial to the team. He credits Scott Boras for "astutely putting risk" on Texas.
- Within that same piece, Sullivan writes that the Rangers would trade a package of prospects highlighted by Jurickson Profar "in the blink of an eye" if it meant landing David Price from the Rays or Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins.
- Jim Callis of Baseball America feels that Mark Appel has plenty of leverage in the upcoming draft and will likely sign a bonus in the $6MM neighborhood. As Callis notes, teams can't risk offering something like a $5MM "take it or leave it" offer and signing the rest of their picks. Doing so could ultimately lead to paying over slot to sign Appel, costing them future picks. It's in the best interest of whoever drafts Appel to sign him first, and doing so could prove highly expensive.
- Callis also notes that Appel and Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray have established themselves as the clear-cut top two prospects in the draft.
- Major League Baseball is making progress on its investigation of the Biogenesis scandal, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. However, it appears MLB is looking for "a smoking gun" before taking what could be its only chance to question players such as Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun who have been connected to the Miami clinic. Heyman confirms that MLB has purchased Biogenesis documentation, but notes that the MLBPA will be sure to question documents that were produced after a cash transaction.
- With Verlander, Buster Posey and Adam Wainwright all agreeing to extensions with their teams this week, "the age of teams retaining their stars is upon us," MLB.com's Matthew Leach writes. Leach points out that Felix Hernandez, Joey Votto, Cole Hamels, Evan Longoria and Matt Kemp all also fairly recently agreed to huge contracts with their current teams. More money through new TV contracts is partially fueling this trend. "And it becomes somewhat cyclical," Leach writes. "As fewer stars hit free agency, clubs have fewer places to spend that money. So they spend it on their own players, and the cycle continues."
- The string of enormous contracts for players like Verlander should be approached with skepticism, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports argues. "These $100 million contracts are the price of doing business, no doubt," says Rosenthal. "Whether they qualify as good business is another question entirely." Rosenthal points out that big-money contracts for players like Joe Mauer and Johan Santana have gone sour, and says that while contracts like Verlander's may be exciting when they're announced, they might not seem like such great ideas a few years after the fact.
- The size of Verlander's contract likely makes it impossible for the Rays to keep David Price, ESPN's Buster Olney tweets. An extension for Price would mean yearly salaries that would require an enormous percentage of Tampa Bay's payroll.
- Fellow Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer says that any time he eats dinner with Verlander this year, Verlander is paying for it, MLive.com's Chris Iott reports. "I got a nice little contract this year, but no, he's buying every single dinner this year." Scherzer can afford to buy his own dinner, of course -- he's scheduled to make $6.725MM in 2013.
Happy birthday to Rays right-hander Jeff Niemann, who turns 30 years old today. Niemann, the fourth overall pick of the 2004 draft, is looking to rebound from an injury-shortened 2012 season and has also drawn some interest on the trade market -- the pitching-needy Rockies reportedly asked the Rays about Niemann's availability. Here's the latest out of Tampa Bay...
- "In a perfect world" David Price says he would love to stay with the Rays and "in a vacuum," executive VP Andrew Friedman would love to keep Price for years to come, ESPN's Jayson Stark reports. Both men, however, are realistic about the difficulties involved in keeping Price in Tampa Bay over the long term. Price is under team control through the 2015 season and recently said he wouldn't take a discount on a new multiyear deal to remain with the Rays.
- Several recent additions to the Rays roster have checkered reputations off the field, MLB.com's Matthew Leach writes, and Friedman admits to making some "calculated risks" with such players as a function of operating in a small market. "And we're much more comfortable taking them now than we probably were in '07, just having more of a developed culture. So we go through things very methodically in great detail. And there have been guys we have determined wouldn't necessarily fit in, and others that we feel like the reward far outweighs the risk," Friedman said.
- Joe Maddon is a fan of Tim Beckham, telling MLB.com's Bill Chastain that the 2008 first overall pick "has a really high ceiling as a Major League player" and sees Beckham "playing at a very high end for a very long time." Beckham, 23, hit .256/.325/.361 in 323 PA at the Triple-A level in 2012 and was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for marijuana.
- Ben Nicholson-Smith reviewed the Rays' offseason earlier today on MLBTR.
- David Price recently said he’d be hesitant to sign a long-term deal with the Yankees because of their facial hair policy. However, the left-hander said today that he wouldn’t rule out playing for New York at some point, Newsday’s David Lennon reports (Twitter links). No doubt realizing his leverage will increase if the Yankees are interested, Price said he might not even have a beard by the time he hits free agency.
- The Tigers haven’t considered re-signing Jose Valverde for a moment, Lynn Henning of the Detroit News reports (on Twitter). The reliever will have the chance to boost his free agent stock in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
- Edwin Jackson, one of the top free agent pitchers of the 2012-13 offseason, said his choice came down to the Cubs and Indians, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reports. The Indians were aggressive in free agency this winter, signing Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn while pursuing others such as Jackson. The right-hander pitched on a one-year deal in 2012 and is pleased to have signed a multiyear deal this time. “It’s always a good feeling to have security," he said.
David Price says he “would love” to continue pitching for the Rays long-term, even though recent history suggests the organization won’t spend to retain him. However, the defending American League Cy Young winner told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that he’s “not taking a discount” to sign long-term with the Rays.
“I don’t play this game for the money, but I don’t want to be under-appreciated,” Price told FOX Sports. “What I’ve done for this organization so far, I feel like I’ve helped this organization a great deal. So if they want to show me some appreciation, then fine.”
Price acknowledged that 2013 could be his last year -- or half-year -- in a Rays uniform. He said he tries not to dwell on his future and realizes he has “no say-so in what goes on” between now and the 2015-16 offseason, when he’s scheduled to hit free agency.
The left-handed Bo McKinnis client told Morosi that there’s “nothing new” to report regarding a potential extension. Price will earn $10.1125MM in 2013 and go to arbitration two more times before becoming a free agent.
Once he hits free agency, he doesn’t intend to sign with an organization that burdens its players with rules. For example, if the Yankees traded for him, he wouldn’t stay there very long. “I wouldn’t sign a long-term deal there,” he told Morosi. “Those rules, that’s old-school baseball.”
The Mariners dominated headlines around baseball today, agreeing to an extension with Felix Hernandez, agreeing to terms with Joe Saunders, finalizing a one-year deal with Kelly Shoppach and designating Shawn Kelley for assignment. While the bulk of the news from the AL West came from Seattle, here are some more items from around the division...
- In an interview on the MLB Network (video link), Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said he was looking forward to having Bud Norris in the rotation next season and that he wasn't currently talking to anyone about trading the right-hander. Luhnow noted, however, that the Astros' recent history has shown "we're willing to talk to any club about any player if we feel the deal furthers our strategy to develop the best young talent in baseball....We'll continue to look at all options." FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported on Tuesday that Norris was available and that the Cardinals, Padres and Orioles were all interested in Norris during the Winter Meetings.
- Speaking of Houston's recent moves, Luhnow's trades as Astros general manager are recapped by MLB.com's Brian McTaggart.
- "Our currency is not cash. Our currency is young players," Athletics GM Billy Beane tells CBS Sports' Danny Knobler. While the A's won't see a major payroll increase in 2013, the team has been dealing young talent in exchange for more expensive veterans this offseason since Oakland feels it can contend next season.
- The topic of a Jurickson Profar-for-David Price deal was recently posed to ESPN's Keith Law during a radio appearance, and ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett goes further in-depth in analyzing the specifics of such a trade between the Rangers and Rays. Durrett would make the trade since it would give the Rangers a proven ace, while Law wouldn't make the deal one-for-one since Texas would be giving up too many years of team control. Law, however, doesn't think Tampa Bay would consider such an offer anyway since, "it would be very hard for the Rays to justify a deal like that with the perceived value of Price."