Discussion Rumors

AL East Notes: Orioles, Samardzija, Soria, Carrasco, Latos

Despite very public statements indicating that the team is all in on 2015, the Orioles are now giving “serious consideration” to selling, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes (Twitter links), Baltimore owner Peter Angelos has previously been disinclined to authorize such a move, but that could change (at least in theory) with several of the team’s better players set to reach free agency. Of course, executive vice president Dan Duquette said on Wednesday that his club will be a buyer. But a sweep at the hands of the division-leading Yankees has certainly impacted the team’s chances of making a run at the AL East.

Here’s more from the division:

  • The Blue Jays remain in “active discussions” with the White Sox about right-hander Jeff Samardzija, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The Jays have been said to have “strong” interest in adding Samardzija, a potential free agent at the end of the season. Upgrading the pitching staff is the Blue Jays’ top priority in the week leading up to the trade deadline, and Samardzija, whose eight-inning gem on Thursday dropped his ERA to 3.91, would certainly do that. Over his past eight outings, Samardzija has a 2.55 ERA, and he’s lasted at least seven innings in each of those contests. As Peter Gammons pointed out earlier today on Twitter, for a team with bullpen woes in addition to rotation troubles, adding a pitcher that is capable of effectively working deep into games should carry even greater appeal.
  • If the Tigers do end up selling, the Blue Jays will have interest in closer Joakim Soria, tweets Anthony Fenech of the Detroit News. Soria would be a pure rental, as he’s a free agent at the end of the year. He’s earning $7MM and has posted an even 3.00 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in his 39 innings this season, though he’s also had an unusually difficult time with home runs, which could make pitching at the Rogers Centre a challenge.
  • The Blue Jays‘ pursuit of Scott Kazmir illustrates that it’s “becoming more clear” that the team is open to a rental acquisition, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. Davidi notes that the Kazmir talks were never going to get off the ground based on the asking price — “think Jeff Hoffman or Daniel Norris,” says Davidi — especially considering Kazmir’s injury scares. Health concerns are another reason to wonder if the Blue Jays will seriously pursue Johnny Cueto or not, he adds. While the Blue Jays may be warming to the idea of a rental arm, they can’t afford to have their acquisition miss any time, and Cueto’s had a pair of minor elbow issues in 2015.
  • While the Blue Jays made a “big push” to land Carlos Carrasco from the Indians, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link), the trade simply “didn’t get done.” Cleveland isn’t necessarily motivated to trade a starter, though they’re also not entirely ruling out the possibility.
  • The Yankees have shown at least some interest in Marlins righty Mat Latos, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports on Twitter. They join a growing list of clubs that have shown some inclination to take a chance on Latos’s resurgence and past success. New York has given public indication that it is not lining up any major moves, but it would be surprising if it does not at least make a few acquisitions at areas of need, and rotation depth could certainly make sense.

Astros Nearing Deal With Ryan Vogelsong

11:15pm: Drellich tweets that a deal with Vogelsong would be for one year, if it is ultimately finalized.

6:57pm: Nothing is likely to get finalized tonight, tweets Drellich. Meanwhile, Berman adds that Vogelsong is no longer in Houston, though he doesn’t specify how the physical went.

TUESDAY, 8:42am: Vogelsong and the Astros are nearing a deal but are still addressing the final details of the arrangement, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick.

MONDAY, 10:44pm: Vogelsong is in Houston presently, tweets Mark Berman of FOX 26. He declined comment on his situation with the club, per Berman.

6:07pm: Vogelsong is a “realistic option,” but nothing is expected to be wrapped up tonight, Drellich tweets.

5:40pm: The Astros are in “serious discussions” with free agent righty Ryan Vogelsong, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reported earlier today that Houston was not done with its roster, noting that a pitching addition was possible and that Vogelsong was a player the club had confirmed interest in.

Houston added some rotation depth today by dealing for a package that included former MLB starter Dan Straily. But the team is obviously still looking for innings.

Vogelsong, 37, has been a steady presence at the back of the Giants’ bullpen since re-emerging with a stunning season back in 2011. Though his results have been up and down, he has averaged 164 frames per year of 3.74 ERA ball, to go with a 3.92 FIP on the back of 7.0 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. And it is worth noting both that Vogelsong has posted fairly consistent regular season velocity figures (and was able to amp up his fastball into the mid-90s during the postseason.

NL West Notes: Tomas, Padres Backstops, Kemp, Giants

The Giants were the runners up in the pursuit of Yasmany Tomas, who earlier today reportedly agreed to terms with the Diamondbacks, according to a Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter). For their $68.5MM, Arizona is getting a player with undeniable upside, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick writes after speaking with three scouting sources.

  • The Padres are receiving a “ton of inquiries” on backstops Yasmani Grandal, Rene Rivera, and Austin Hedges, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Each member of that trio has his own particular appeal, along with factors that hold down their trade value.
  • In other Padres news, Rosenthal notes (Twitter links) that he has received additional confirmation that San Diego had engaged with talks on Matt Kemp with the Dodgers. He hastens to add that these discussions were not “that recent” and that nothing is close to getting done, as the Friars continue to turn over a number of rocks in search of upgrades after missing on Pablo Sandoval and Tomas. Los Angeles would presumably have interested in arms and catching were talks to move forward.
  • The Giants will indeed seek to apply the money they hoped to spend on Sandoval or Tomas toward another top-end free agent, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reported this morning (before the Tomas signing was reported). As reported yesterday, the club is opening a broad search for a way to bolster its roster, aided by a bloated purse from winning the team’s third World Series in five seasons.

Astros, Tigers Trade Talks On Catcher Did Not Progress

1:08pm: The discussions occurred before Detroit exercised Avila’s option and did not progress, reports Jason Beck of MLB.com.

12:22pm: The Astros and Tigers have had “preliminary trade contact” regarding backstops, according to a report from Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The report indicates that the discussion involves the possibility of a catcher moving from Houston to Detroit.

The Tigers, of course, have reportedly expressed a willingness to listen on their own incumbent behind the dish, Alex Avila. The left-handed-hitting veteran, still just 27 years old, has battled concussions of late and has seen his offensive production decline from a 2011 peak. Bryan Holaday and the rising James McCann are also factors in Detroit’s backstop mix.

For its part, Houston has a bevy of options at the catching position after dealing for Hank Conger. The club is said to have placed a high asking price on starter Jason Castro, while preferring to deal Carlos Corporan. The younger Max Stassi is also a major league option for the Astros.

Discussion: The Braves’ Pitching Surplus

In the first trade of the offseason, the Braves shed $5MM of payroll when they shipped Derek Lowe to the Indians and agreed to pick up $10MM of his $15MM salary for 2012.  It was a deal that gave GM Frank Wren & Co. some much needed breathing room, and one that couldn't have been made without a good deal of pitching depth.

Even without Lowe in the mix, Atlanta still has a rotation headlined by Tim Hudson and Jair Jurrjens.  There are plenty of young hurlers available in support, including Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado , Arodys Vizcaino, Brandon Beachy, and Tommy Hanson.  While Atlanta would certainly like to avoid rushing their young pitchers into taking on major workloads, they might be better served by turning their pitching wealth into offense in 2012.

Wren claims to be content with his stockpile of arms and even though interest in Jurrjens is high, the GM is reportedly asking for a Zack Greinke-like return for the oft-injured 25-year-old.  While the Braves could come away with a solid package for Jurrjens, it's overly optimistic to put the youngster's value on a par with Greinke's. 

The Braves are looking to make a few upgrades in their lineup and would like to move on from shortstop Alex Gonzalez if they can.  They'd also like to land themselves a young center fielder as insurance if they can't retain Michael Bourn when he hits the open market after next season.  Wren would obviously love to keep Jurrjens as part of the starting five, but he can absolutely afford to flip him in order to improve elsewhere.

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Discussion: How Many Aces In MLB?

A week ago I kicked off a discussion among MLBTR writers about how many true ace starting pitchers there are in baseball.  I was surprised to find that my own off-the-cuff list totaled 18, with another eight falling into my "borderline" group.  My list of aces, in no particular order:

Adam Wainwright
Roy Halladay
Cole Hamels
Roy Oswalt
Cliff Lee
C.C. Sabathia
Dan Haren
Jered Weaver
Josh Johnson
Justin Verlander
Felix Hernandez
Jon Lester
David Price
Tim Lincecum
Chris Carpenter
Clayton Kershaw
Matt Cain
Tommy Hanson

My borderline group:

John Danks
Yovani Gallardo
Brett Anderson
Ricky Romero
Zack Greinke
Ubaldo Jimenez
Francisco Liriano
Trevor Cahill

I didn't crunch any numbers here – just good old-fashioned gut feelings.  But could there really be almost 20 ace starters in MLB?  Let's see your list in the comments.

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Discussion: Marlins’ Third Base Options

Recently, there was a great deal of speculation as to how the Marlins would take care of the third base job as prospect Matt Dominguez was demoted to the minors to improve his offense.  However, Larry Beinfest seemed to put that talk to rest when he said that the trade front was rather quiet, leaving Donnie Murphy as the club's Opening Day starting third baseman. 

Unfortunately for the Marlins, Dominguez suffered a slight fracture to his left elbow yesterday and Murphy was struck on his surgically-repaired right hand by a pitch in the seventh inning of tonight's contest against the Mets.  Dominguez should be back in action in 4-6 weeks but there is no word on Murphy's condition just yet.  If the Fish find themselves without Murphy's services for an extended period of time, they can refer back to their shortlist of third base candidates from just weeks ago.  We could hear names like Michael Young rehashed again, but with a $16MM annual salary, it's not likely that the Marlins and Rangers can match up.  Fortunately for the Marlins, a couple of the more affordable options are newly available.

The Marlins flirted with the idea of bringing in Royals veteran Pedro Feliz in March.  On Sunday, Feliz asked for, and was granted, his release.  Though it was said at the time at the Marlins weren't likely to sign the 35-year-old, circumstances may bring about a change of heart in the Florida front office.  Former Marlin Luis Castillo has also re-entered the open market after being cut loose by the Phillies.  Castillo could theoretically be put at his preferred position, second base, with Omar Infante being moved over to third.  Even though neither player would represent an earth-shattering signing, either player would be able to keep the spot at third warm until Dominguez recovers and gets his bat up to speed.

It's also quite possible that the Marlins would once again fill the void at third base internally.  After all, as Beinfest said, whoever they would acquire to play the position would be nothing more than a "placeholder".

Discussion: Could The Angels And Astros Be A Match?

Recently, after learning of Jason Castro's season-ending injury, Astros owner Drayton McLane reportedly decided that the club could allocate extra money to find a backstop for 2011.  It remains to be seen exactly how much funding the team is willing to put towards the catcher position, especially since Houston doesn't seem poised to contend this season and whoever they acquire will be simply keeping the spot warm for Castro.

There are plenty of catchers on the block, such as Pittsburgh's Ryan Doumit.  Doumit could fit the bill as a one-year solution, though he will take in $5.6MM on the year when including the $500K buyout of his remaining years.  The Astros' first choice to step in for Castro was Twins catcher Drew Butera, but they were quickly rebuffed.  Nationals backstop Jesus Flores reportedly drew interest from GM Ed Wade but the club is said to have cooled on him in recent days.  The 26-year-old has appeared healthy in Spring Training but Houston is still wary of his surgically repaired right shoulder.

While it seems that Wade won't take advantage of the Nats' glut at the catcher position, he could look elsewhere to find a club with a backstop to spare.  We've yet to hear of the Astros reaching out to the Angels about one of their catchers, but it would make an awful lot of sense for them to make an inquiry. 

While Jeff Mathis is in position to be the club's Opening Day catcher, Bobby Wilson is looking good in Spring Training – both literally and figuratively.  The soon-to-be 28-year-old dropped 33 pounds at the behest of manager Mike Scioscia and seems likely to take the No. 2 position on the depth chart, in part because he's out-of-options.  With youngster Hank Conger waiting in the wings, it would make sense for the Halos to clear a path for the up-and-coming prospect by dealing from a position of strength.  Wilson could obviously be had for less than Mathis, but both catchers have affordable contracts and it's unlikely that either one would be termed "untouchable".

Discussion: Should The Braves Shop Their Starters?

Earlier today, the Cardinals confirmed that Adam Wainwright will undergo Tommy John surgery, shelving him for all of 2011.  Without last year's Cy Young runner-up, St. Louis will certainly be in the market for a pitching upgrade.  They're not the only team that could use a rotation boost, however.  The Yankees and Nationals would like to shore up their respective starting fives, as would the Indians, though they likely can't afford a hefty contract.

Despite the need for pitching around the league, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez doesn't expect the club to move any of its starters.  Earlier today, Buster Olney noted that the Yankees have not inquired on veteran Tim Hudson but is sure that the club would love to have him.  Fellow vet Derek Lowe could also hold some value, but the righty is owed $30MM across the next two seasons. 

The rotation is rounded out with Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens with Mike Minor, Rodrigo Lopez, Brandon Beachy as fifth-spot candidates, leaving the Braves with plenty of depth.  Obviously, if Atlanta were to part with a hurler, they would opt to trade away Kenshin Kawakami, though finding a taker for his $6.67MM salary might be easier said than done.  The club has dangled the 35-year-old for quite some time but might have to instead settle for selling him to a Japanese team, which would pick up half of his contract.

If you were in GM Frank Wren's position, would you sacrifice some of your pitching depth to upgrade elsewhere or would you prefer to hang on to your starters as insurance?

Discussion: Jose Bautista

On Friday, Jays outfielder Jose Bautista told Ken Fidlin of the Toronto Sun that he has set a deadline for extension talks with the club.  The slugger and the club have an arbitration hearing scheduled for tomorrow and it seems like a safe bet that the meeting will go through as planned.  While Bautista would like to sign a multiyear deal with the club, the Blue Jays have yet to put an offer on the table.

Today, Fidlin implores Toronto to lock the 30-year-old up with a multiyear pact.  It's possible, he says, that the club is wary of signing another monster deal after having just gotten themselves out from under two monster contracts in the past year-and-a-half.  It's also possible that Alex Anthopoulos & Co. are wary of Bautista's shocking and sudden emergence as a primetime player.  After hitting .238/.329/.400 from 2004 through 2009, the veteran broke out in 2010, hitting .260/.378/.617 with a staggering 54 home runs – eclipsing his previous watermark of 16.

There remains a considerable gap between the two sides as Bautista seeks $10.5MM while the Blue Jays are offering $7.6MM.  Fidlin argues that the outcome of the hearing is rather inconsequential in the scheme of things.  The club has a limited time to work out a long-term deal with the Super Two star and must get a deal done while they can.   If you were in Anthopoulos' position, what would you do?