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Didi Gregorius Rumors
Not only does new D’Backs GM Dave Stewart have Kevin Towers’ previous job, but the executive tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that he’s actually living in Towers’ old house (Twitter link). That anecdote has little to do with the Diamondbacks’ future, however, so here are some more pertinent links…
- The Diamondbacks will definitely tender Cliff Pennington a contract, reports Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona (Twitter link). Stewart considers Pennington to be a valuable piece and won’t let him go to save salary. Pennington projects to earn $3.3MM in 2015 and is coming off a .254/.340/.350 batting line with his typically solid defense.
- The Diamondbacks remain interested in Chad Billingsley, Magruder tweets. Billingsley didn’t pitch in 2014 due to a torn flexor tendon that he suffered while rehabbing from 2013 Tommy John surgery. The interest is hardly surprising, as Billingsley is a former client of Stewart’s from his agency days. Billingsley has since signed on with Octagon’s Steve Hilliard, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted last week.
- Stewart went on-record with Andy Martino of the New York Daily News to say that if the D’Backs are to move either Didi Gregorius or Chris Owings, it would be to acquire controllable, young pitching (All Twitter links). The Diamondbacks don’t have any interest in names like Jon Niese, Dillon Gee or Bartolo Colon, Stewart stated.
TUESDAY: Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic spoke to GM Dave Stewart, who characterized talks for Montero as due diligence rather than shopping the catcher. However, Piecoro also spoke with a source from a rival club and got the same sense that Rosenthal did: “They’ve definitely put him out there.”
Stewart stressed to Piecoro that the D’Backs aren’t interested in strictly dumping salary and added that any move the team makes “has to better our rotation.”
Piecoro speculates that the Cubs, White Sox and Rangers could be interested in taking on Montero. The Cubs have previously expressed interest in Montero, he writes, also adding that Cubs president Theo Epstein tried to land Montero back when he was still GM of the Red Sox as well.
SUNDAY: The Diamondbacks are considering trades for catcher Miguel Montero, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports. A D’Backs official says the team is in “listening mode” for offers while rival teams say Arizona is openly shopping Montero’s services.
Montero has three years and $40MM remaining on the five-year, $60MM extension he signed with the D’Backs in May 2012. After posting a .798 OPS over the first seven years of his career, Montero’s hitting has dropped off, as the catcher has only posted a .237/.324/.358 slash line in 1035 PA since the start of the 2013 season. You’ll note that large number of plate appearances for a catcher; as Rosenthal mentions, Montero has played more games behind the plate than any other catcher over the last four seasons.
This wear-and-tear could have contributed to Montero’s offensive decline and some teams could therefore be wary of acquiring the 31-year-old, or he could be seen as a rebound candidate if he gets more regular rest, Rosenthal observed. While Montero has posted negative Defensive Runs Saved totals in each of the last three seasons, he is still considered one of baseball’s best pitch-framers.
The Diamondbacks would be looking to create some extra payroll space by moving Montero, though Rosenthal speculates that the team may have to cover some of his remaining salary and the D’Backs would need to find a replacement catcher since they don’t have any Major League-ready catching options in reserve. With a very thin free agent catching market outside of Russell Martin, however, you’d expect Montero to attract some interest from teams looking to upgrade behind the plate.
Also from Rosenthal’s piece, the Diamondbacks have received a lot of calls about Wade Miley and A.J. Pollock, though the team isn’t interested in moving either player. Chris Owings and Didi Gregorius, meanwhile, continue to draw attention from clubs looking for middle infield help.
In a lengthy and interesting piece, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times looks at the potentially fractured relationship between the Mariners and Michael Saunders following some comments made by GM Jack Zduriencik at an end-of-season press conference. Asked at the time what he felt about Saunders’ future with the team, Zduriencik said, “…It’s up to Michael. … He was playing well, got hurt, came back, got sick, came back again and did some nice things. But I think what Michael has to do and has to answer this to himself, is ‘how do I prepare myself to play as many games through the course of 162 that I can possibly play without being setback by injury.’ … some of these things need to be handled from a maintenance standpoint where he put himself in a position where he’s able to compete through the course of the season.”
Divish spoke to Saunders himself, who declined to comment on the situation. Saunders’ agent, Michael McCann, said it was both “shocking” and “very disappointing.” Said McCann: “These comments don’t reflect Michael Saunders’ work habits. They imply that that he’s lackadaisical.” Part of the trouble, Divish writes, is that Saunders had never before had his work ethic or preparation questioned by the Mariners, and to have that done in a public forum was hurtful. Zduriencik clarified that the comments he made could be applied to any player, and he was adamant to Divish that the organization is not planning on moving on from Saunders. However, he has previously identified corner outfield as a potential area to add some offense. Divish speculates on an offseason trade, though he also notes that even if Saunders is pushed to the role of fourth outfielder, his low salary (he should earn less than $3MM via arbitration) would be an acceptable price for that role, especially given his upside. Over the past three seasons, the former top prospect has batted .248/.320/.423 with 39 homers and 38 steals. I should note that Divish’s entire piece is well worth the read, as this brief write-up doesn’t capture nearly all of the quotes and information he compiled.
Here’s more from baseball’s Western divisions…
- The Diamondbacks should give strong consideration to moving one of their young shortstops if it can bolster the rotation, writes the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro. The Snakes finished the season with Didi Gregorius, Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed all on the roster, but no room to play all three of them with Aaron Hill being owed $24MM through 2016 and prospects Jake Lamb and Brandon Drury both looking like third base options in the near future. (Lamb already received a taste of the Majors in 2014.) The team seems to view Owings as the best of the bunch, given his greater offensive ceiling, but both Gregorius and Ahmed have value to other clubs. Piecoro spoke to rival executives about each shortstop, with one stating that while Gregorius might not bring back “a Matt Harvey or a Jacob deGrom,” he could be worth someone such as Rafael Montero of the Mets. Another evaluator told Piecoro that his club actually prefers Ahmed to Gregorius, so both could seemingly have good trade value.
- Though he’s been a popular managerial candidate this year, Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo will not be interviewed by the D’Backs for their own managerial vacancy, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Lovullo interviewed with the Astros prior to their hiring of A.J. Hinch, he’s already interviewed with the Rangers and will reportedly interview with the Twins as well.
- Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler tells Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune that they have “definitely expanded our international focus under [new GM] A.J. [Preller].” Lin examines whether or not that could mean a legitimate run at Yasmany Tomas, though as he notes, that would be an unprecedented move for the Friars. In fact, last season’s signing of Joaquin Benoit to a two-year, $15.5MM contract was the largest free agent expenditure in franchise history, Lin points out. The largest contract in franchise history, he adds, is Jake Peavy‘s old three-year, $52MM deal. Tomas could cost double that amount, but the Padres have just $40.5MM committed to next year’s payroll, and the $90MM Opening Day figure from 2014 could rise, ownership has said.
- After losing hitting coach John Mallee to the Cubs, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow spoke highly about Mallee’s work to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Drellich points out that Mallee deserves some credit for the success of Jose Altuve and Chris Carter in 2014, although skeptics could also point to the strikeout problems some of the other team’s young hitters had. Luhnow said he hopes to have a finalized coaching staff in place by month’s end, and as Drellich notes, only pitching coach Brent Strom is a guarantee to return at this point.
Daniel Hudson pitched last night for the Diamondbacks for the first time since 2012, when he underwent his first of what ultimately became two Tommy John procedures. He tossed a scoreless frame and reportedly sat at 95 mph with his fastball. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports writes up the 27-year-old’s comeback, which surely provides some hope to other hurlers who have recently received their second new ulnar collateral ligament. Hudson signed a minor league deal to stay with Arizona, but earned MLB service time as he was added to the 40-man roster and DL’ed all year. He will have over four years of service heading into the offseason, but the club will have the chance to retain him through a $800K option. MLBTR congratulates Hudson on his return to action.
Here’s the latest out of the division …
- Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers indicated that he may be ready to hand the reins over to a young middle infield combination next year, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports. “In a perfect world, long term, I think hopefully it’s [Didi Gregorius] and [Chris Owings] with [Aaron Hill] kind of moving around from second to third,” said Towers. “My gut is that I think it will work. I love both of those guys. Didi is probably our best shortstop defensively. C.O. is probably the best offensive middle infielder we have. He seems to be comfortable at second.” In that scenario, Hill will function as a rather expensive ($12MM in each of the next two years) utility option. Towers also indicated that he may well retain Cliff Pennington, who is arb eligible for a final time. With top third base prospect Jake Lamb seemingly ready for a chance at the bigs, in spite of his difficulties in a brief call-up thus far, it will be interesting to see how Arizona proceeds with filling out the non-Paul Goldschmidt portion of its infield (even after clearing Martin Prado out of the picture).
- Though the Giants farm system generally does not draw rave reviews from outside, the club is higher internally on its slate of youngsters, writes Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com. “We always have what we need,” said club vice president Dick Tidrow. “We have turned down trades for all of these guys,” Tidrow added, referring to the current active roster players who came through the San Francisco system (including its recent call-ups).
- Former Padres closer Heath Bell says that he hopes to join the club next year after taking the latter portion of 2014 off, Barry Bloom of MLB.com reports (Twitter links). Bell said that he asked the Yankees to release him when they failed to bring him onto the MLB roster. The 36-year-old righty was highly productive in San Diego, where he pitched to a 2.53 ERA in 374 innings over five seasons.
- New Padres GM A.J. Preller will, of course, make the call whether to give Bell another run in San Diego. As MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports, Preller’s lengthy to-do list would appear to have a few higher priorities at the moment. After getting his arms around the organization, including most of its minor league affiliates, Preller is now turning his focus to the big league club for the end of the season. “Some of the newcomers, [see if] can they break in, be part of the club in the last month and set themselves up for net spring and get in a spot where they can compete to make the team,” Preller said of what he was watching for. “And for guys like Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy, you want to see them finish strong.”
The Giants are weighing whether or not to continue with beleaguered right-hander Tim Lincecum in their rotation, writes John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. Lincecum himself offered a frank, expletive-laced assessment of his recent performance and sounded aware that he may not make his next start. Shea spoke with manager Bruce Bochy about rotation candidate Yusmeiro Petit‘s struggles as a starter and excellence in the bullpen this year, with Bochy calling Petit’s rotation work too small of sample to judge. Petit’s recent bullpen work, however, has been nothing short of incredible, if not historic. He’s retired 38 consecutive batters, striking out 16. As Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com points out (on Twitter), Petit is seven batters shy of matching the Major League record for most consecutive hitters retired. Lincecum, who is in the first season of a two-year, $35MM extension, has a 9.49 ERA over his past six starts and has totaled just 24 2/3 innings in that time. Baggarly tweets that for now, the team’s Thursday starter is listed as “TBA.”
Here’s more from the NL West…
- While the most commonly linked team to Bartolo Colon (who is currently on revocable waivers) has been the Angels, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his daily blog that the injury-plagued Dodgers are a candidate to place a claim as well (ESPN Insider required). Olney points out that Colon’s start against the Dodgers tonight could serve as an audition.
- Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa feels that his team can post a winning record in 2015, he tells Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. La Russa feels that the D’Backs can make improvements with their current roster solely by improving their approach at the plate and improving their baserunning, but he also cites the desire to make “two or three impactful moves” in the offseason, including the addition of at least one hitter and at least one pitcher.
- Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic writes that the D’Backs are in evaluation mode with middle infielders Chris Owings, Didi Gregorius, and Nick Ahmed. Additionally, the club is trying to determine how to mix in veterans Aaron Hill and Cliff Pennington. For the time being, GM Kevin Towers tells Buchanan that Owings will see more time at second base with Gregorius getting a look at short, but that doesn’t mean Owings is being converted to a second baseman full-time. Hill, meanwhile, will see action at third, though a full-time transition there would block prospect Jake Lamb, Buchanan notes. In my view, Pennington is a non-tender candidate following the season and Ahmed could use more work at Triple-A, leaving three infielders for two spots. Hill is guaranteed $12MM in 2015 and again in 2016, making him difficult to trade, but any number of clubs would likely be interested in Owings, Gregorius or Ahmed in trades.
- The Rockies are further away from contending now than they were at the beginning of the season, opines Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. Saunders looks at Colorado’s pitching predicament, noting that Tyler Chatwood will miss the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery and Jhoulys Chacin‘s shoulder cannot be relied upon. Brett Anderson‘s injuries make it difficult to exercise his $12MM option, and Jorge De La Rosa could end up pitching elsewhere, as several sources with whom Saunders has conversed feel that there’s only a 50-50 chance he returns. Add in the persistent trade rumors regarding Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez — Saunders feels the latter is more likely to go — and the offseason is rife with question marks and uncertainty.
The Reds had yet to place any of their starting pitchers on waivers as of Saturday morning, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports in his weekly “Full Count” video. As Rosenthal notes, their waiver status may be a moot point, as each would likely be claimed and subsequently pulled back. More highlights regarding the Reds and the rest of the league below…
- The real drama surrounding the Reds‘ rotation could come this offseason, as Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon will all be entering their final year of team control. The Reds will have to decide which, if any, they want to sign to a long-term deal, and Rosenthal notes that they will likely trade “at least” one. Latos is perhaps the likeliest candidate to be dealt, according to Rosenthal, who notes that both Latos and Cueto would command more than Homer Bailey‘s six-year, $105MM contract.
- Rusney Castillo‘s six-year, $72.5MM contract with the Red Sox might not stand as the largest deal for a Cuban free agent very long. Yasmani Tomas is expected to be cleared as a free agent this offseason, and his huge raw power will be highly appealing, even if he is limited to left field, defensively speaking. As Rosenthal points out, Tomas is four years younger than Castillo and is against a crop of weak free agent bats. One executive that spoke with Rosenthal said the only flaw he sees in Castillo is his propensity to swing and miss.
- Rosenthal points back to a report of his prior to the trade deadline in which he had learned that the Nationals were looking for a young shortstop on the trade market. He’s now learned that Didi Gregorius of the Diamondbacks was one of their targets. Washington had planned on playing Gregorius at second base in the near-term and moving him back over to shortstop if Ian Desmond could not be retained. Of course, the club still wants to extend Desmond, who is a free agent following the 2015 season.
With Michael Cuddyer and Troy Tulowitzki both now stuck on the DL through the trade deadline, it would appear that neither has much chance of being dealt at this point by the Rockies. Of course, it is conceivable that Cuddyer could be moved in the revocable waiver period, as Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports that a mid-August return is possible. But Cuddyer would probably not generate much of a return given his long layoff, and the Rockies have given signals that they do not intend to deal him.
Here’s more out of Colorado and the rest of the NL West:
- The Rockies are approaching a breaking point with their decisionmaking structure, opines Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who reports that senior VP of major league operations Bill Geivett and manager Walt Weiss have not been on the same page in terms of the roster. Geivett operates alongside GM Dan O’Dowd to jointly perform the roles normally assigned to one person, and his “major league operations” role includes keeping an office in the clubhouse.
- The Giants are “intensifying” their efforts to add a starter, reports Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com. With Matt Cain‘s elbow issues creating significant uncertainty, it appears that San Francisco could have a real need to add depth. While complicating factors make the Giants a tough buyer to line up, Baggarly says that Jake Peavy of the Red Sox appears to make a good deal of sense on paper. Meanwhile, San Francisco continues to look at right-handed hitting corner outfield and second base options, with Chris Denorfia (Padres) and Emilio Bonifacio (Cubs) seeming possibilities.
- For the Diamondbacks, a measured sell-off appears to be the club’s preferred tack, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Even after the more obvious keepers, the club seems inclined to hold onto veterans like Brad Ziegler and Martin Prado who come with significant future control. Of course, the remaining trade options tend to be players who would be expected to draw less back in return. Heyman notes that Arizona “would listen” on closer Addison Reed and may prefer to wait until the offseason to shop Didi Gregorius.
- The Padres have prioritized international scouting in their search for a new GM, tweets Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. That is one factor that has led some to suggest that Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller could be in the lead for the position.
Though his ERA and win-loss record aren’t much to look at (5.38 and 1-10), Diamondbacks right-hander Brandon McCarthy is drawing trade interest, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). A free agent at season’s end, McCarthy has about $4.72MM remaining on this year’s $9MM salary — the second year of a two-year, $15.5MM pact he inked in the 2012-13 offseason. Rosenthal notes that Arizona is likely to make multiple trades before this year’s deadline.
While McCarthy’s season looks rough on the surface, there are a lot of factors suggesting that he could quickly turn things around. McCarthy’s .339 batting average on balls in play is 44 points higher than the league average, and he’s sporting the best ground-ball and K/9 rates of his career (55.9 percent and 7.4, respectively). His fastball velocity has soared from an average of 90.8 mph over the past two seasons to 93 mph, and he’s sporting his best swinging-strike rate since 2006 as a result. McCarthy has mostly been plagued by home runs this season, but his fluky 21.7 percent homer-to-flyball ratio figures to come down.
There’s not much question that McCarthy will be available in trades. As Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports, the Snakes are said to be preparing to put a “for sale” sign on their roster and are weighing trades of multiple veteran players. GM Kevin Towers — who, despite the hiring of Tony La Russa, calls this July business as usual — told Piecoro: “[W]e have to look at being more open-minded of moving some contracts and some veteran players for younger players.”
A fire sale may not be as easy for the D’Backs as it would for most teams, however, Piecoro cautions. McCarthy and fellow veterans Cody Ross and Aaron Hill are underperforming this season, which will hurt Arizona’s potential return in trades. Other movable veterans such as Eric Chavez, Bronson Arroyo and Mark Trumbo are all currently on the disabled list.
One scout told Piecoro that the left-handers in Arizona’s bullpen — Joe Thatcher and Oliver Perez — figure to be of interest to other clubs. Both have enjoyed strong seasons to this point. Thatcher is a free agent at season’s end, while Perez, who signed a two-year deal this winter, is controlled through 2015. That same scout said he is intrigued by Gerardo Parra, but noted that the outfielder’s declining speed is a concern.
Towers noted to Piecoro that he would be reluctant to move young, controllable players such as Didi Gregorius and Triple-A shortstop Nick Ahmed (presumably, Chris Owings falls into that category as well).
Though they were never that interested in Stephen Drew, finding a solution at shortstop remains a priority for the Mets, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. While the upcoming free agent class features prominent names such as Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie, Martino hears that the team isn’t looking at that market yet. Rather, the Mets are focused on adding a young, controllable shortstop on the trade market this summer.
Martino lists Brad Miller and Nick Franklin of the Mariners as possibilities, though one source tells him that the two sides haven’t been in contact recently. Arizona’s Didi Gregorius is hitting very well at Triple-A Reno, and Martino says the Mets are continually monitoring him, but the front office shakeup in Arizona makes trading with them a bit confusing at this time, he adds. Martino writes that other teams, at this point, aren’t even sure whether to contact GM Kevin Towers or new Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa regarding trades, though Mets GM Sandy Alderson has a good relationship with both.
He continues by stating that the Mets were only interested in Drew on a one-year deal, as they didn’t want to be responsible for 2015 and beyond if he struggled this season. The team currently wants to see if Wilmer Flores can handle the position, but his defensive question marks have been well-documented.
From this point on, I’m purely speculating, but I wonder if a name like Hak-Ju Lee could be available on the trade market now that the Rays have extended Yunel Escobar‘s contract through at least 2016. Lee is struggling thus far in his return from multiple ligament tears in his knee last season, but he’s a former Top 100 prospect that could be blocked on the big league roster.
The Rangers also have some middle infield depth with Luis Sardinas likely blocked from a starting role due to the presence of Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar. The pitching-hungry Twins also have a solid shortstop prospect in Danny Santana, though their own lack of a quality long-term option at short might make them hesitant to deal the 23-year-old.
The Mets possess enviable pitching depth with Matt Harvey on the mend from Tommy John surgery and a group of young starters including Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee, Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom and top prospect Noah Syndergaard. With such a wide range of arms under team control, the Mets could conceivably use that depth to entice a rival club to part with a controllable shortstop.
The Pirates have had trade talks with the Diamondbacks about shortstop Didi Gregorius, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Last Wednesday, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reported the D'Backs were making Gregorius available in trade, after Chris Owings won the team's starting shortstop job. Rubin wrote that the Diamondbacks seek an MLB-ready starting pitcher to offset the loss of Patrick Corbin.
Rubin implied potential interest from the Mets, and now we have another possible suitor in the Pirates. The Pirates enter the season with Jordy Mercer atop their shortstop depth chart, with top prospect Alen Hanson likely ticketed to return to Double-A. Though he's not Major League ready, the Pirates have a pitching prospect who's fairly close in Nick Kingham. Easier to acquire would be Jeff Locke, who will begin the season back at Triple-A, with, as he tells Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "a bit of a chip on my shoulder."
Aside from the Mets and Pirates, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports lists the Reds, Tigers, and Yankees as teams the D'Backs "have thought of as possibilities" for Gregorius.