Dustin Ackley Rumors

Heyman’s Latest: Astros/Hamels, Reds, Matz, Zobrist, Ackley, Soriano

In this week’s edition of his Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports begins by examining the possibility of the Astros making a run at the PhilliesCole Hamels. Houston is seeking a top-of-the-rotation starter, and Hamels is on their radar, Heyman hears, even though he’s something of a long shot. The Astros are seeking a No. 1 or No. 2 starter, one person told Heyman, though Houston GM Jeff Luhnow indicated they’d be interested in any arm that could start Games 1-3 of a playoff series. The Phillies are said to be intrigued by outfield prospects Preston Tucker and Brett Phillips, among others, Heyman notes. Houston won’t part with top prospect Carlos Correa or impressive rookie right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., and they’d prefer to keep righty Vincent Velasquez as well. Heyman adds that it’s uncertain whether or not Hamels would approve a trade to Houston, with one source indicating that they didn’t find the scenario likely. If Hamels were to approve the trade, he’d likely ask that his 2019 option be exercised, and the Phillies would almost certainly have to pay down some of the $24MM he is owed annually, per Heyman.

Some more highlights…

  • The Reds are currently reluctant to sell any pieces according to rivals who have reached out to the team. That may simply be due to the fact that the team is set to host the All-Star game this year and doesn’t want to begin a potential fire sale before that game. However, other execs have indicated to Heyman that owner Bob Castellini prefers to see how his big-money investments in Joey Votto and others will play out rather than commencing a rebuilding effort.
  • Both Dillon Gee and Jon Niese remain widely available, as the Mets would prefer to add promising lefty Steven Matz to their six-man rotation. One scout that spoke to Heyman said Matz is better than any pitcher in the rotation aside from Matt Harvey, which is high praise, particularly considering Jacob deGrom‘s brilliant start to the season and the flashes of brilliance displayed by Noah Syndergaard.
  • The Yankees are interested in the AthleticsBen Zobrist as an option at second base and also still like Dustin Ackley despite his struggles with the Mariners. New York has been surprised by Jose Pirela‘s troubles to this point, and they still have questions about Rob Refsnyder‘s glove at second base. Heyman adds that the Yankees don’t expect to be big players on Cole Hamels this winter, and they were worried about Mark Teixeira enough this offseason that they checked in on Ryan Howard, though clearly those concerns have dissipated in light of Teixeira’s excellent resurgence.
  • The Cardinals, Blue Jays and Cubs are the three teams that Heyman mentions as most realistic options for right-hander Rafael Soriano. He calls the Cards “a surprise entry” into the Soriano mix, adding that the Jays have not given up the idea of signing him but will need to see what his price tag is now that he’s switched representatives.
  • The Mariners will probably see a need to add a veteran catcher after trading Welington Castillo to the D-Backs in order to land Mark Trumbo. Heyman spoke to someone close to the Mariners who described the team as “desperate” to add offense prior to the Trumbo deal, as they’ve received struggles from many of their outfielders and, surprisingly, Robinson Cano.
  • Red Sox higher-ups have an immense amount of respect for manager John Farrell, so while votes of confidence from ownership and executives often mean little, Heyman feels that Boston’s recent vote of confidence in Farrell has more weight behind it. However, Boston won’t be swayed by the fact that Farrell’s contract runs through 2017 if they do decide a change is needed down the line.
  • Both Dodgers right-hander Jose De Leon and Yankees shortstop Jorge Mateo have hired Scott Boras to represent them. The pair of prospects is well-regarded within each organization.

AL West Notes: Kazmir, Angels, Mariners, Correa

Athletics left-hander Scott Kazmir left today’s start against the Tigers with soreness in his throwing shoulder, and manager Bob Melvin told reporters after the game that Kazmir is undergoing an MRI (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Jane Lee). It’s not known at this time whether or not Kazmir will require a stint on the disabled list, but as an impending free agent and a potential trade target, that status of Kazmir is one that could have significant impact on storylines around the game in the coming months. To this point in the season, Kazmir has been brilliant, notching a 2.93 ERA with 8.8 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a 47.1 percent ground-ball rate in 58 1/3 inning. Kazmir is earning $11MM in the second and final season of a two-year, $22MM contract.

Here’s more from the AL West…

  • Following the Angels‘ trade for Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Marc Krauss could find himself headed back to Triple-A, but the team could also place Collin Cowgill on the disabled list, writes Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. Gonzalez’s notebook post looks at several roster situations for the Angels, including the team’s uncertain second base situation and the injury status of right-hander Mike Morin, who doesn’t sound to be returning anytime soon. Morin will miss “weeks, not days,” per manager Mike Scioscia.
  • The Mariners have been operating with a six-man bullpen for a couple of days as a means of delaying the need to make a decision on the team’s veterans, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Delaying a move by even a few days gave the Mariners time to further examine trade possibilities, Dutton notes, but they’ll soon need to add a reliever to the mix. Candidates include Lucas Luetge, Mayckol Guaipe and Kevin Gregg, though Gregg would require a 40-man roster move and force the team’s hand even sooner. Players currently at risk, Dutton writes, are Rickie Weeks, Willie Bloomquist, Justin Ruggiano and Dustin Ackley. It seems highly unlikely that the Mariners would do something as drastic as designating Ackley for assignment, but if they’re truly exploring trade possibilities, he’d likely have the most appeal of the four players listed by Dutton. One way to buy a bit more time would be to option Chris Taylor back to Triple-A to make room for a reliever that’s already on the 40-man roster.
  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that there will be no second-guessing on when the team should have brought up top prospect Carlos Correa, regardless of how the season ends. Luhnow says that despite Correa’s gaudy numbers at Triple-A, he’s still benefiting from the time there, as he’s being exposed to more offspeed pitches than ever before and being forced to make adjustments within at-bats. Luhnow said that even in an extreme scenario such as missing the playoffs by one game, there would be too many factors — managerial moves, daily roster decisions, player performances — to say whether or not promoting Correa early would’ve altered the course of the season.

Mariners Avoid Arb With Jackson, Morrison, Ackley, Furbush

4:10pm: Jackson will earn $7.7MM, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.

2:02pm: The Mariners announced today that they’ve avoided arbitration with Austin Jackson, Logan Morrison, Dustin Ackley and Charlie Furbush. The team also confirmed its previously reported agreement with Justin Ruggiano, who also avoided arbitration.

Terms of Jackson’s signing are not yet known, though he projected to earn $8MM in arbitration, according to MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. Meanwhile, Mike Perchick of WAPT has the salary figures for each of the others (All Twitter links). Morrison will earn $2.725MM with the ability to earn an extra $25K for reaching 500 and 600 plate appearances. Ackley settled at $2.6MM and will receive an additional $50K upon reaching 500 plate appearances. Furbush is penciled in for a $1.3MM salary that contains no incentives or bonuses.

Morrison, Ackley and Furbush were projected to receive respective salaries of $2.6MM, $2.8MM and $1MM. Meanwhile, the Mariners noted that Tom Wilhelmsen is still arb-eligible, suggesting that the two sides have exchanged or will exchange figures. A deal could still be agreed upon before a hearing, however.



AL West Notes: Dunn, A’s, McDonald, Ackley

In an excellent piece at Fangraphs, August Fagerstrom looks at the Athletics‘ acquisition of Adam Dunn as the final piece of GM Billy Beane’s playoff roster. Fagerstrom notes that if the A’s play in a Wild Card game — which is very likely — they’ll likely face either Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Shields, Yordano Ventura, Max Scherzer or David Price. Five of the six are right-handed, making Dunn a formidable weapon in such a matchup. Beyond that, Fagerstrom looks at the Athletics’ bench versus a right-handed pitcher and versus a left-handed pitcher, noting that each group is composed of entirely different players (with the exception of Sam Fuld). However, each group will also feature two catchers that can hit reasonably well, an infielder that can play all four infield positions, and a pair of elite defensive outfielders. The balance of the roster is truly impressive, and Fagerstrom’s piece highlights the roster construction particularly well.

Here’s more from the AL West…

  • In a lengthy piece for ESPN The Magazine, Tim Keown spoke with Beane at length about his team’s bold moves this season and the competition they’re facing in their quest for the World Series. Beane referred to division rival Mike Trout as “the best player who has ever walked on the planet” and said he doesn’t care for the narrative that the A’s are “all in” this season: “Just assume that every move we make in the front office means we’re all-in. We can’t afford a five-year plan, so every move means we’re trying to win every game we possibly can. All-in — I never liked that term. For one thing, I don’t have that many chips to throw into the middle of the table.” Keown also spoke with Jon Lester about his trade from the Red Sox to Oakland, and his piece also contains quotes from assistant GM Farhan Zaidi and Jeff Samardzija. The entire article is well worth the read not only for A’s fans, but for baseball fans in general.
  • Angels infielder John McDonald tells Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com that he may end up retiring following the 2014 season. McDonald says he’s more than aware of his dwindling playing time — he’s received just 81 PA despite appearing in 81 games this season — and knows the market for 40-year-old infielders isn’t great. “I got more out of my career than I ever thought was possible,” said McDonald. “I didn’t think I’d get a day in the big leagues, let alone parts of 16 years.” For the time being, he’s trying not to even think about the offseason, however, as it’s “just too much fun” to go to the stadium every day in the midst of a pennant race.
  • In a second Fangraphs piece pertaining to the AL West, Tony Blengino (former special assistant to the GM with the Mariners) looks at Dustin Ackley‘s batted ball data in an attempt to determine whether or not his second-half resurgence is legitimate. As Blengino notes, Ackley’s production has soared on pulled fly-balls, and his line-drive production has trended upward as well. The trade off has been some loss of authority on ground-balls, but as he notes, hitters will gladly make that swap. Blengino concludes that Ackley may never become a star, as his previously excellent walk rate now looks more pedestrian, but he’s capable of hitting .275-.280 with a .310-.310 OBP and a slugging percentage around .425 with solid-or-better defense in left field — an asset that seemed unlikely just a few months ago.
  • Also of interest, Blengino discusses how those with the benefit of hindsight may wonder why Trout didn’t go at the top of the draft class when Ackley was selected, but most clubs felt he was too raw to select near the top of the draft despite being an obvious talent. The Mariners had Stephen Strasburg atop their board and Ackley second, and current Reds righty Mike Leake was “likely” their backup plan should anything go wrong with Ackley, whom he says was “considered a pretty obvious second selection back in 2009.”

Yankees Notes: Robertson, Ackley, Prado

The Yankees bullpen has emerged from Mariano Rivera‘s shadow to carve out their own place, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. “Those two guys, they are amazing,” catcher Francisco Cervelli said of Dellin Betances and David Robertson. “If they’re facing, in the seventh or eighth, a guy throwing 100, and then Robertson comes in at 91 with cutters and curveballs, it’s difficult timing.”  More on the Bombers..

  • Before acquiring Martin Prado from the Diamondbacks on Thursday, the Yankees inquired about the Mariners’ Dustin Ackley, according to George A. King III of the New York Post.  However, those talks ended when the M’s asked for minor league right-hander Bryan Mitchell because the Yankees view the 23-year-old right-hander as a rotation candidate either this year or next.
  • Robertson continues to lock up saves and Yankees GM Brian Cashman should lock up the closer, writes Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.  The Yankees broke their long-standing rule of not extending players beyond their current contracts when they inked Brett Gardner to a four-year, $52MM deal during spring training and that’s looking like a smart move now.  Now that Robertson has proven himself to be a strong closer, the Bombers should make sure he’s there for the long haul.
  • The Yankees‘ acquisition of Prado means that they can be more patient in getting Carlos Beltran back from injury, writes Roger Rubin of the Daily News.

West Notes: Trout, Ackley, Castillo, Uggla, Towers

You probably will not be surprised to learn that Angels star Mike Trout has once again been rated the game’s most valuable asset by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. Though he now comes with a long-term financial commitment, Trout has also promised away three more seasons of club control and remains highly underpaid for his services. Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks also made a leap, moving into the third overall slot on Cameron’s top fifty; the entire series is, of course, well worth a read.

Here’s the latest from the game’s West divisions:

  • Mariners outfielder (and former second baseman) Dustin Ackley has drawn significant trade interest, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Clubs are interested in a chance at a turnaround from a player who was once one of the game’s top prospects, notes Heyman. With Robinson Cano etched in stone at second and Seattle looking to upgrade its production in the corner outfield, Ackley could theoretically be included as part of a package or dealt away to create roster space.
  • The Mariners plan to be on hand to watch Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo in his upcoming showcase, reports Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Of course, that does not mean that Seattle is in a unique position, as GM Jack Zduriencik explains. “Any time there’s someone out there showcasing, we’re going to have somebody there,” said Zduriencik. “This would be no different, but most other clubs will have somebody there as well.” Of course, the M’s are a particularly interesting team to watch with regard to Castillo given the team’s need for a right-handed hitting corner outfielder.
  • The Giants are considering bringing in just-released second baseman Dan Uggla, CSNBayArea.com’s Andrew Baggarly reports on Twitter. While Marco Scutaro is back on the active roster, it may take some time to determine whether he’ll be a regular, healthy contributor. Indeed, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle said in an appearance on the Sports Virus Podcast that it is “not a real optimistic situation” for Scutaro to hold down the club’s second base job.
  • Veteran starter Tim Hudson told Shea at the All-Star break that he and the rest of the club would welcome the addition of an impact player, especially a bat to bolster the lineup. There “wouldn’t be a guy in the locker room” who wouldn’t be for it,” said Hudson.
  • The Padres have not reached out to the Diamondbacks to discuss a possible new role in the organization for current Arizona GM (and former San Diego GM) Kevin Towers, reports MLB.com’s Corey Brock. “I know and like him,” said executive chairman Ron Fowler. “He has had a great relationship with many people in all areas of the Padres’ organization. That said, we have not asked for permission from the D’backs to talk to Kevin. I don’t know how this story got started.”

Astros’ Trade Discussion Notes Leaked

4:30pm: The Astros have issued the following statement regarding the leaked notes:

“Last month, we were made aware that proprietary information held on Astros’ servers and in Astros’ applications had been illegally obtained. Upon learning of the security breach, we immediately notified MLB security who, in turn, notified the FBI.  Since that time, we have been working closely with MLB security and the FBI to the determine the party, or parties, responsible.  This information was illegally obtained and published, and we intend to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent.

“It is unfortunate and extremely disappointing that an outside source has illegally obtained confidential information.  While it does appear that some of the content released was based on trade conversations, a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated.”

2:29pm: Extensive trade discussion notes, apparently logged by Astros executives about their talks with other teams, have been leaked onto the site AnonBin here and here, with Deadspin breaking the story and Yahoo’s Jeff Passan verifying the authenticity of the logs.  The earliest notes are from June 2013, and the latest are from March of this year.  The Astros have yet to comment on the leak, which provides unprecedented detail into how the team values players and approaches trade discussions.  According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Astros have been reaching out to people around baseball apologizing for the leaks, and plan to issue a statement soon.

A March feature by Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle outlines Ground Control, the Astros’ confidential internal database from which the trade discussion notes were likely taken.  At this time, it’s unclear whether the information reached the Internet via a rogue employee of the team, or by some kind of security vulnerability in Ground Control.  The trade discussion information, mostly from last summer and offseason, is somewhat dated in the fast-moving baseball hot stove world.  The larger ramification is the breach of trust experienced by the many non-Astros executives cited in the notes.  It’s unlikely any team would rule out the Astros as a trading partner based on this breach, but some teams could approach talks with added caution.  Additionally, I imagine the many other teams with such highly sensitive material online are doubling down on security right now.

The Astros’ trade notes from last summer and offseason range from the blockbuster to the mundane; here are some highlights.

  • On November 15th, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow expressed interest with Marlins GM Dan Jennings in slugger Giancarlo Stanton.  From the notes: “[Jennings] said he doesn’t think he’ll trade Stanton and the only deal he could think of from us that would work would be [George] Springer and [Carlos] Correa. [Luhnow] said that would not work. [Luhnow] posited a deal around [Jarred] Cosart and [Delino] DeShields.”  It’s not a big surprise that Luhnow rejected Jennings’ proposal out of hand, as Correa and Springer were ranked #4 and #19 on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list for ESPN, and are major building blocks for Houston.  That Luhnow didn’t appear to offer either player suggests he was mostly gauging Stanton’s price after an off-year with three years of control remaining.  UPDATE: Jennings has commented to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, saying it’s fabricated that they ever offered Stanton to the Astros or any other team, also using the word “laughable.”
  • Interest in Astros catcher Jason Castro was strong last offseason, with a few surprising suitors.  The Blue Jays and Rangers reached out in mid-October to gauge Castro’s price, the White Sox had “definite high interest,” and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told Luhnow in November that he was getting calls from other teams asking if he could get Castro from the Astros for those teams.  Zduriencik offered Dustin Ackley and was turned down.
  • Notes for the Astros’ summer trade discussions begin at June 17th, 2013.  The team ultimately went on to acquire Ronald Torreyes from the Cubs in June, and also dealt veterans Jose Veras, Bud Norris, and Justin Maxwell near the July deadline.  The Astros did not end up acquiring any top 100-type prospects, but they sure did ask for the moon.  For Norris, the Astros sought Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn from the Giants, Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman from the Orioles, Marcus Stroman and more from the Blue Jays, Xander Bogaerts, Allen Webster, Jackie Bradley Jr., or Garin Cecchini from the Red Sox, and Tyler Glasnow plus Luis Heredia or Nick Kingham from the Pirates.  The Red Sox offered Ryan Lavarnway or Deven Marrero for Norris and were turned down.  In the end, the Astros traded Norris and an international draft slot to the Orioles for L.J. Hoes, Josh Hader, and a 2014 competitive balance pick.
  • When Nationals GM Mike Rizzo called to express interest in middling Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell, who had a 5.17 ERA at the time and nearly as many walks as strikeouts, “[Luhnow] told him we would still need a headliner like [Lucas] Giolito because we still value Harrell highly. Rizzo did not respond immediately.”
    Harrell was designated for assignment, outrighted, and traded for a pittance nine months later, so the Astros might have overplayed their hand.
  • “Untouchable” players from other teams were revealed through conversations with their executives.  White Sox GM Rick Hahn wouldn’t consider trading Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, or Avisail Garcia.  Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos considered Brett Lawrie off-limits.  Pirates outfield prospect Gregory Polanco came up as well, in that GM Neal Huntington wouldn’t include him in any Norris deal.  In December talks regarding Harrell, the Giants said they would not discuss Brandon Belt.
  • More random notes: Mets executive Paul DePodesta asked Luhnow if the Astros would consider trading shortstop Jonathan Villar in a Daniel Murphy deal in December…the Marlins expressed interest in Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez, and others in December.

Mariners Notes: Free Agents, Montero, Ackley

We just looked at the latest on the Mariners' reported interest in Kendrys Morales and Nelson Cruz, but that isn't the only news out of Seattle today.

  • GM Jack Zduriencik said today that, while he is still keeping an eye out for additions, he is focused primarily on evaluating his current roster as it enters camp, reports Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune"I could have already done a couple of deals," said Zduriencik. "I didn't want to do them. I wanted to figure out what we had here. I want to see our players with our own eyes. Let's let a whole new coaching staff put their hands on them. Get their opinions, and we'll see. There will be opportunities if we want to do something. Not that we will, but I think they'll exist."
  • Whatever hopes the Seattle organization once had for once-treasured prospect Jesus Montero have all but vanished, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. "I have zero expectations for Jesus Montero," said Zduriencik. "Any expectations I had are gone." It would be hard to think of a player who has had a rougher year than Montero, who struggled through injury, PED suspension, and performance issues. Now, he is 40 pounds over his target weight at the start of camp. "After winter ball, all I did was eat," the catcher forthrightly acknowledged. "We are disappointed in how he came in physically," said Zduriencik. "He's got a ton to prove. It's all on him."
  • Another prospect whose star has dimmed somewat is second baseman-turned-outfielder Dustin Ackley,who has now failed to deliver on his promise as a hitter in two straight seasons. Though Ackley had worked mostly in center while learning on the fly last year, new skipper Lloyd McClendon says that he expects Ackley to "be in left field the majority of time." The 25-year-old had graded out quite well at the keystone over his career before the shift. Preliminary returns on his outfield defense have not been promising, though he has logged few innings outside of the infield dirt. On the whole, it seems far less likely that Ackley will be able to carve out a place as a productive big leaguer at the corner outfield than at his native second base, though he has little chance of returning to that spot with Seattle.

Yankees Notes: Kuroda, Third Base, A-Rod

Hiroki Kuroda gave the Yankees "top priority" this offseason after he decided to pitch another year, the hurler tells Sponichi (via an article by Mike Axisa of River Avenue Blues). Kuroda says the Yankees approached him about an extension as early as August. As Axisa notes, the episode is another indication that the Yankees have abandoned their "no extensions" policy. Here's more Yankees notes, with a heavy emphasis on Alex Rodriguez, who will be suspended for the entire 2014 season:

  • The A-Rod suspension gives the Yanks a much better chance of getting under the $189MM luxury tax threshold, but they'll also need to find someone to play third base, Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News writes. While the Yankees have Kelly Johnson in the fold, he's played just 16 games at third in his Major League career. 
  • Other potential fits include Mark Reynolds and Michael Young. Reynolds, you may remember, played 36 games in pinstripes last season. There's also Dustin Ackley and Nick Franklin of the Mariners, whom another source says the Yankees expressed interest in at the Winter Meetings. A trade may not be in the cards, however, McCarron says.
  • ESPN's Jerry Crasnick examines the fallout from the suspension, noting that cases such as Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro indicate A-Rod has little chance of entering the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, Commissioner Bud Selig can now argue that he's left the game "in a better place."
  • While Rodriguez plans to take his case to federal court, Ian O'Connor of ESPN New York opines that such a bid is also unlikely to succeed. "Federal judges historically have little interest in hearing cases already settled in collectively bargained arbitration," O'Connor writes.
  • Daniel Lazaroff, a professor at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, says A-Rod winning an injunction that would allow him to play in 2014 "is about as likely as the 'steroid-era' players being elected to the Hall of Fame." Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times has more from Lazaroff in his column on the suspension.
  • Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun expects a long court battle, which might be A-Rod's "only chance to preserve any semblance of a legacy."

AL East Links: Floyd, Ackley, Ortiz, Rays

Despite pitching just 28 1/3 innings in 2013, Gavin Floyd inked a one-year deal with the Braves yesterday that is worth $4MM and could reach $8.5MM via incentives. That's a fine payday for a mid-rotation arm coming off Tommy John surgery, but Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that Floyd could have been paid even more handsomely. According to Connolly, the Orioles offered Floyd a two-year deal that could have reached $20MM after incentives, but Floyd turned them down. Here's more out of the AL East…