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The latest installment of Jon Heyman’s weekly Inside Baseball column is up over at CBS Sports, and Heyman begins by addressing the Troy Tulowitzki trade talk that has once again surfaced. Heyman, like many others, feels the time has arrived for the marriage between Tulo and the Rockies to come to an end, but neither Tulowitzki or owner Dick Monfort wants to appear to be the “bad guy” in the situation. Heyman hears that Tulowitzki would prefer to play for the Yankees, Giants, Dodgers or Angels if he is traded, though one person who knows the shortstop well told Heyman that he may ok with the Mets, Cardinals and Red Sox as well. Tulowitzki’s preferred destination is largely a moot point though, as his contract doesn’t have a no-trade clause. Heyman notes that in a year’s time, Tulowitzki will receive 10-and-5 rights, allowing him to veto any deal. That reality only furthers Colorado’s need to move Tulowitzki, Heyman opines. Heyman also lists 11 clubs that he could see making some degree of sense for the face of the Rockies’ franchise.
Some more highlights from a lengthy but always-informative column…
- The Cubs “may consider” Rafael Soriano at some point as a means of lengthening their bullpen, according to Heyman. I’d note that while the team has looked a bit thin beyond Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop, the Cubs just got Justin Grimm back from the disabled list and likely won’t be without Neil Ramirez for too much longer.
- Astros top prospect — and arguably the top prospect in all of MLB — Carlos Correa could be up to the Majors within three weeks, one Houston source estimated to Heyman. Also of note on the Astros front, he writes that a pursuit of Cole Hamels would appear to be a long shot, but Scott Kazmir (Houston native) and Clay Buchholz are names to keep an eye on for Houston, should either become available.
- Kyle Lohse seems like a natural candidate to be traded this offseason, but the Brewers are particularly interested in shedding Matt Garza‘s contract. The right-hander is guaranteed $12.5MM in 2015 and will earn the same rate in each of the following two seasons. Neither pitcher, however, has been particularly impressive for Milwaukee.
- Jean Segura is one of the players that the Brewers have the least interest in trading, but Heyman hears that the Padres would be interested, should Brewers GM Doug Melvin entertain offers. San Diego likes Alexi Amarista but prefers to use him in a utility role rather than as a starter.
- Rival teams seriously doubt that the Mets would ever consider parting ways with Noah Syndergaard, but there’s “a little hope” that the team could be persuaded to part with highly touted left-hander Steven Matz in a trade. Heyman adds that the Mets are going to remain patient with Wilmer Flores as their shortstop for the time being.
- It’s been reported that Yunel Escobar wanted no part of playing with Oakland, and Heyman hears that the reasoning was as simple as the fact that Escobar is very particular when it comes to geographical preferences and wanted to remain on the East coast. A trade to the Nationals accomplished that goal.
- The clause in Alex Guerrero‘s contract that allows him to opt out of his deal and elect free agency at season’s end, if he is traded, hinders his trade value. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but given the presence of Guerrero and the versatile Justin Turner, Juan Uribe could end up as a summer trade candidate for the Dodgers.
- In some agency news, Heyman reports that Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius will now be represented by Casey Close of Excel Sports Management — the agent for Gregorius’ predecessor, Derek Jeter. Gregorius had previously been repped by the Wasserman Media Group.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Alexi Amarista | Boston Red Sox | Carlos Correa | Chicago Cubs | Clay Buchholz | Cole Hamels | Colorado Rockies | Didi Gregorius | Hector Rondon | Houston Astros | Jean Segura | Juan Uribe | Kyle Lohse | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Matt Garza | Milwaukee Brewers | New York Mets | New York Yankees | Noah Syndergaard | Oakland Athletics | Rafael Soriano | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Scott Kazmir | St. Louis Cardinals | Steven Matz | Troy Tulowitzki | Wilmer Flores | Yunel Escobar
The Yankees are set to bring up second base prospect Jose Pirela, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports on Twitter. It remains to be seen how the playing time will be sorted in the middle infield, but the club has received scant production to date at both second base (Stephen Drew and Gregorio Petit) and shortstop (Didi Gregorius). With the Yankees otherwise looking good atop the AL East, it is fair to wonder whether Pirela and/or Rob Refsnyder will get extended early looks to help inform the club’s decisionmaking over the summer.
Here’s more from the competitive AL East:
- Meanwhile, things are headed in quite a different direction at the keystone for the Blue Jays, who have received stunning production from offseason acquisition Devon Travis. As Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca explains, while Travis’s incredible start is obviously not sustainable, he has exhibited a series of skills — hitting the ball long and hard, and showing quality strike zone control — that bode well for his future. While Toronto obviously hoped he could become a long-term answer when it dealt for him, the club now has good reason to believe that he will be installed at second for years to come.
- Another infielder off to a surprisingly hot start is Jimmy Paredes of the Orioles. As Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes, the 26-year-old has traveled a long road through five organizations to get to this point. Still a work in progress in the field, Paredes has shown real promise at the plate this year. With Jonathan Schoop still working back from injury and Manny Machado having missed significant time in each of the last two seasons, Paredes could be an important piece for Baltimore if the team hopes to stay in the playoff hunt.
- Things have gotten bad in a hurry for the Red Sox, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Bradford opines that losing Hanley Ramirez for any significant stretch would be a huge blow for Boston; while his injury does not appear to be as serious as it looked, any loss of production could be problematic in a tough division. Of course, the club has plenty of options in the outfield, and the bigger concern remains a rotation that has struggled badly. Though it is reasonable to hope that the results will begin to better match the underlying peripherals, Bradford says that the team does not have any obviously promising internal candidates to add quality innings in the near term.
Pete Rose will join the FOX Sports1 team, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. As you’re well aware, Rose is banned from baseball for gambling on the sport over 26 years ago. FOX is a broadcast partner with MLB, but the commissioner’s office has no say over who FOX does and does not hire. The media outlet did clear the move with MLB and says Rose was hired to provide a compelling, on-air personality. As I see it, this is a smart play for Rose as he continues to seek reinstatement.
- In 2013, the Phillies made a mistake by returning Rule 5 pick Ender Inciarte to the Diamondbacks, writes Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly. However, the club is at no risk of repeating the poor decision with Odubel Herrera. The 23-year-old is hitting .308/.372/.513 in 43 plate appearances. He’s temporarily supplanted Ben Revere atop the lineup. Herrera was selected last December from the Rangers – a team that could also use him right around now.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman made a couple trades over the offseason to address shortstop and starting pitcher. Those moves have not shown positive early returns, writes Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Cashman sent pitcher Shane Greene to Detroit in a three-team swap for Didi Gregorius. Greene has pitched excellently in two outings – 16 innings, zero runs, eight strikeouts, and one walk. Meanwhile, Gregorius has hit just .152/.194/.152 and with a couple iffy plays on defense. In a related move, Cashman dealt Martin Prado for hard-throwing Marlins pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. He’s allowed five runs over 10 and one-third innings.
- The Dodgers local TV blackout does not hurt the team’s brand, argues Bill Shaiken of the LA Times. Owner Magic Johnson said the same recently. As you might expect, there was some backlash to the comments. As Shaiken pointed out, the fans returned to the Dodgers after the Frank McCourt era. NFL teams are clamoring to return to the Los Angeles market despite losing a generation of fans. While L.A. residents may be forgiving, the club’s TV plans remain in limbo while federal regulators work through a proposed merger of Time Warner Cable and Comcast.
Kevin Pillar was expected to be the Blue Jays‘ fourth outfielder this season and, until Michael Saunders returned from the DL, only a short-term replacement in left field. After a hot start both offensively and defensively (including an incredible homer-robbing catch last night), however, Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith notes that Pillar is making a strong bid for regular playing time even after Saunders is back. Given Saunders’ knee injury and recent hamstring issue, I’d guess that he could see some DH time to keep him fresh, opening the door for Pillar to continue playing in left. Switch-hitting center fielder Dalton Pompey has badly struggled against left-handed pitching in his brief career, so Pillar (a right-handed hitter) could also be used in a semi-platoon situation.
Here’s some news from around the AL East…
- The Orioles are dealing with several roster questions, and MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko notes that the club’s decisions involve both making the team better in 2015 and also looking ahead to who might fill some holes on the 2016 roster. Baltimore has 10 players scheduled for free agency this winter, leaving plenty of room to evaluate players for bigger roles, like T.J. McFarland or Mike Wright for a possible rotation spot next year.
- Also from Kubatko’s piece, the Orioles want to keep Rule 5 Draft pick Jason Garcia as a piece for 2016 and beyond, though keeping him on the roster for all of this season could be tricky. Garcia also has some interest from other teams, as “at least one member of the organization is convinced that the Rays would claim” the young righty if he was put on waivers.
- Grantland’s Jonah Keri explores why the Orioles are keeping Kevin Gausman in the bullpen when the promising youngster and former fourth overall pick could be more valuable in the rotation. One theory Keri has heard is that the O’s are giving their five veterans an opportunity to start in order to showcase them for possible trades, which would then open a space for Gausman. Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris are both free agents after the season and the O’s would likely love to rid themselves of Ubaldo Jimenez‘s contract, though it’s worth noting that Gausman has thus far struggled (8.31 ERA and a 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio over four innings) in a relief role.
- The early returns on the Yankees‘ offseason three-team trade with the Diamondbacks and Tigers aren’t promising for the Bronx Bombers, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Shane Greene, who went to Detroit from New York, has yet to allow a run in 16 innings for the Tigers, while Didi Gregorius has had an all-around rough start to his Yankees career. While it’s still early, one scout tells Sherman that Greene made some strong adjustments and “was the best pitcher he had seen in March.” Sherman also notes that the Yankees haven’t historically had much success in trades with Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski.
Venezuelan players are having trouble living at home in the offseason due to unrest there, Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today writes. Cubs catcher Miguel Montero tried going to Venezuela this winter but was only able to stay five days. “I would go from the place where I was trying to get my passport to the house and back. That’s it,” Montero said. “There are safety concerns anywhere in the world, but you watch the news about Venezuela and more people have been killed there than in Afghanistan.” Many Venezuelan stars, like Felix Hernandez and Miguel Cabrera, have established permanent homes in the U.S., with others trying to become permanent U.S. residents. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- The Rockies should consider using a sort of starter platoon system, with some starters pitching in Denver as much as possible and some regularly pitching on the road, to help combat the Coors Field effect, FanGraphs’ Mike Petriello writes. To make the plan work, the Rockies might need a sixth starter, and they would have to frequently shuttle pitchers back and forth from Triple-A. The plan would give a starter like Jorge De La Rosa, the rare pitcher who seems to thrive at Coors Field, more chances to pitch there. Petriello looks through the Rockies’ schedule and comes up with a way to allow De La Rosa to make 20 of 34 starts at home. It now appears likely that De La Rosa will begin the season on the disabled list, so he won’t actually be able to make 34 starts, and the Rockies’ rotation probably has enough immediate concerns heading into the season that it can’t try something this experimental right now. But it’s an interesting idea.
- Didi Gregorius is earning over-the-top praise in Yankees camp, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes. “[Gregorius] has made plays from the hole, from his back foot, throwing the ball 90 mph across the diamond from his back foot. You don’t see that,” says Alex Rodriguez. “It also makes it a lot easier for your third baseman to play third base.” (The rest of the A-Rod quotes alone make Rosenthal’s article worth reading — Rodriguez talks about Gregorius like a scout, complete with repeated references to a variant of the 20-to-80 scouting scale used to evaluate ballplayers. Also check out the sidebar, in which Rodriguez describes how shifts changed the game just in the year he was suspended.) As Derek Jeter‘s replacement, Gregorius has big shoes to fill, but he’s getting great reviews so far, at least defensively.
For the first time in awhile, the Yankees are showing signs of youth and upside, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Per GM Brian Cashman, the club is deeper, flexible, younger, and more diverse. Rosenthal notes that Cashman is finally operating “from a position of strength,” and “no longer is in a box.” The Yankees have options moving forward besides depending on outspending the competition. Here’s more Yankees notes from Rosenthal’s column.
- The Yankees have the prospect depth to trade for Cole Hamels if they wanted. However, Rosenthal cautions that Cashman may be reluctant to part with the depth he’s so carefully nurtured. A deal for Hamels might also start with newly acquired shortstop Didi Gregorius, which would just create a new problem to solve (arguably a more difficult problem in my opinion). The Yankees had the pieces to add Johan Santana back when the the Twins were shopping him, but they kept their prospects and spent on C.C. Sabathia the following offseason. We could be in for some deja vu, especially with next offseason’s free agent market shaping up to be pitching rich.
- While the club can turn to free agency rather than trade for Hamels, Rosenthal thinks they would have re-signed Robinson Cano last offseason if they wanted to make a $200MM investment. For that reason, a pact with Max Scherzer might be unlikely.
- Cashman has three surprising trades this offseason, so guessing his behavior based on history might be misleading. The club could deal from its minor league catching depth, such as John Ryan Murphy or Gary Sanchez. Others such as Gregorius, Nathan Eovaldi, David Carpenter, and Brett Gardner are less likely to be offered in trade talks.
Here’s the latest from Mets exec Sandy Alderson, via Adam Rubin of ESPN New York.
- The Mets currently appear slated to head into 2015 with Wilmer Flores at shortstop, Alderson says. The team did not have significant discussions with the Diamondbacks about Didi Gregorius before Gregorius was traded to the Yankees. “We knew Arizona was looking for young pitching,” says Alderson. “There’s some young pitching we weren’t prepared to trade, but I can’t say we had a lot of extensive conversations with Arizona.” The Diamondbacks reportedly asked for Noah Syndergaard in exchange for Gregorius.
- Rubin writes that the team has had talks with the Mariners about Brad Miller and Chris Taylor, but they could wait until January to acquire shortstop (if they do acquire one), whether that’s through a trade or through the signing of someone like Jed Lowrie.
- The Mets are also looking for a left-handed reliever and a right-handed bench bat, but Alderson suggests they could wait until after the Winter Meetings to obtain them.
- Likewise, the Mets could wait to trade one of their starting pitchers — likely Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese or Dillon Gee — until later this offseason. “[Y]ou look at the free-agent market — not a lot has happened on the pitching side,” says Alderson. “Some of that activity may have to take place before we’re able to really have serious discussions with anyone on a possible trade.”
- Alderson says he is not overly worried about the possibility of trading Niese and being without a lefty in the Mets’ starting rotation.
Here’s the latest from Baltimore, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta:
- Outfield is the top priority for the Orioles next week, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. The team is trying to bring back Delmon Young on a one-year deal, but may be open to including an option. Young is looking for a multi-year deal after playing for five teams in the last four seasons. Justin Upton may not fit since the club already has several starters slated to hit free agency after the 2015 season. In fact, all of the most readily available outfielders come with baggage that could make them unattractive to Baltimore.
- Although the O’s have a full 40 man roster, Connolly thinks they will free up space for a Rule 5 draft pick. GM Dan Duquette has a solid track record, having selected Ryan Flaherty and T.J. McFarland in recent seasons.
- The Rays aren’t worried about newly minted manager Kevin Cash‘s lack of experience, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The existing clubhouse infrastructure should help to ease him into the job. Luminaries such as Terry Francona, David Ortiz, and Chris Gimenez all praised his baseball intelligence.
- The Braves aren’t done make moves, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a series of tweets. The club is looking to add another starting pitcher, second baseman, and backup catcher. Atlanta is still in the mix for former Braves backstop David Ross, which could address one of those concerns. A left-handed reliever and additional bench help are also on the wish list. As for available funds, they can afford to pursue a moderately priced free agent or perhaps make a bigger splash if they move more money.
The Yankees acquired shortstop Didi Gregorius as part of a three team trade yesterday, but he won’t be expected to fill Derek Jeter‘s shoes, writes Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. Gammons explores the experience of similar infielders like Andrelton Simmons, Xander Bogaerts, Jurickson Profar, and Jonathan Schoop. All reached the majors at a young age and stumbled. It’s likely that most of these skilled athletes simply need to adjust to life in the majors. Gregorius may be experiencing the same growing pains.
- The Bombers acquired Gregorius to play a steady shortstop, reports Richard Justice of MLB.com in an evaluation of the trade. Gammons’ piece (linked above), noted the young shortstop’s platoon splits, which could open playing time for Brendan Ryan. Gregorius hit .247/.304/.402 against right-handed pitchers while struggling to a .137/.228/.196 line versus fellow lefties. For development purposes, the Yankees won’t want to completely hide him against southpaws.
- The Mets will be patient with their starting pitching depth, writes Newday’s Marc Carig. Unlike with hitters, the market for pitchers has been slow to develop. Between free agents and a glut of trade targets, teams in need of pitching have a slew of choices. As those go off the board, demand for the Mets’ hurlers should increase. Among those most readily available are Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon, and Dillon Gee. GM Sandy Alderson isn’t concerned, saying “there’s always somebody that needs more pitching.”
- The Yankees will promote Marcus Thames to assistant hitting coach, reports Anthony McCarron and Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. He spent last season as the hitting coach for Double-A Trenton. The former major leaguer retired after 2011.
- The Yankees also looking to fill the primary hitting coach role. Jody Reed, the Yankees’ minor league field coordinator, is thought to be the favorite. GM Brian Cashman reportedly wanted input from the next hitting coach before hiring an assistant, so the decision to promote Thames may indicate that a move is already being finalized.
The Yankees addressed two major needs earlier today when they completed a three-team deal to land shortstop Didi Gregorius and later signed reliever Andrew Miller to a four-year, $36MM deal. Since the Miller deal came to light, some have wondered whether he will displace free agent David Robertson as the team’s closer. In a conference call earlier today, GM Brian Cashman left the door open for Robertson but also made it clear that he’ll be addressing other needs as well.
“We’ll wait and see. We’re still evaluating all opportunities in this market place,” Cashman said. “We need to address the left side of the infield, the starting rotation, finding a fourth outfielder…we’ll evaluate every opportunity that comes our way and with all the moving pieces that we have going on, we have to take a serious interest in all of those things and I can’t predict how that will go.”
If one thing is for certain in Cashman’s mind, it’s that there is plenty more work to be done this winter. He told reporters that he is in “acquisition mode” this offseason as the Yankees look to take care of their multiple needs. Still, he won’t prioritize one area over another as intends to pounce on whatever opportunities and strong fits come his way.
Of course, he trimmed down the checklist a good amount today with the acquisitions of Miller and Gregorius. As Cashman explained, his pursuit of the young shortstop has been going on for some time.
“He’s a young athletic shortstop and his defense is very good. He’s struggled against left-handed pitching and we believe he hits right-handed pitching well, so I think at the very least, we open up 2015 with him in a platoon with Brendan Ryan until he separates himself. So, the high end projection is that we think there’s more in the tank there as he continues to develop. We think he’s an exciting talent, but honestly he’s not a finished product.
“He’s someone we targeted not just this winter, but in past seasons, both with the old regime and the new regime. I had to go through another club to get my hands on him. We believe we’re in a better place than we were before we had him,” Cashman explained.
Even though Cashman was happy to finally get his man, it was difficult for him to part with right-hander Shane Greene in order to make it happen. In the end, Cashman felt that Greene established himself as a promising talent after last season, but that was the price he had to pay in order to get an up-and-coming player at a premium position.
While today’s acquisitions will be counted on for big performances in 2014, Cashman knows that it’ll be even more crucial for the Bombers to get strong play out of their veterans coming back from injury. Alex Rodriguez‘s name was mentioned alongside the likes of Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, and Brian McCann, but he was noticeably left out when Cashman noted that he has one possibility to play third base (Martin Prado) on the roster. When asked to expand, Cashman explained that he’s only hoping for, not banking on, A-Rod to be a factor at third base.
“I think it’s every color on the rainbow. The extreme hope is that you can get the middle of the lineup bat to play third whenever you want, if not all the time. The worst case scenario is that he’s no longer a third baseman and doesn’t have that bat and you’re looking other places,” said the GM.
Ultimately, Prado could wind up being slotted in at second or third base and Cashman sounded like someone who was equally open to either possibility. Figuring out a solution for one of those two positions will be amongst the Bombers’ top priorities going forward, but the crazy nature of the baseball offseason means that Cashman will have to be equal parts proactive and reactive in filling the team’s holes. Whether the Yankees put more resources into the infield or, say, fortifying the starting rotation will hinge on what opportunities present themselves in the coming weeks.
“I will gravitate faster to whatever presents itself as the most interesting option. I will have to act accordingly because there are many teams with the same needs as us,” Cashman said.