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Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has published the latest installment of his weekly Inside Baseball column, and he kicks it off by reporting that the Blue Jays have inquired on Cole Hamels. However, Heyman hears that Hamels was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause to allow a trade to Toronto, which is a blow for both clubs. The Jays desperately need help in both the rotation and the bullpen, and the Phillies, Heyman notes, would love to get their hands on young pitchers with the upside of Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris. The Blue Jays have a bit of financial leeway after going with inexpensive options at second base, center field and left field, and Heyman writes that the Blue Jays are expected to look at other potential front-line starters this summer as they become available. (He speculatively mentions Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir, though neither’s available just yet.) Additionally, Heyman notes that Blue Jays manager John Gibbons’ job is safe, as GM Alex Anthopoulos has a strong relationship with the skipper and recognizes that the team’s problems are roster-related and shouldn’t be pinned on Gibbons.
Some more highlights from the column, though it’s worth a read in its entirety…
- The Braves are said to be disappointed in the play of Christian Bethancourt, even from a defensive standpoint, and recently inquired with the Brewers on Jonathan Lucroy. However, Atlanta executives were told by the Brewers that Lucroy isn’t available at this time. That the Brewers wouldn’t trade Lucroy isn’t a shock; he’s owed a very affordable $4MM in 2016 with a $5.25MM option for the 2017 season, so even if the team can’t quickly right the ship, he’d still have enormous trade value at the 2016 trade deadline. More interesting, to me, is that the Braves would so quickly look for an upgrade over Bethancourt and that they’re acting somewhat as buyers. Lucroy, of course, could be called a long-term piece that would be around to help the team when its rebuild is closer to completion. However, acquiring him would surely require the sting of parting with some of the key components of that rebuild.
- Some rival execs feel that the Cubs are willing to part with Javier Baez and Dan Vogelbach in trades, in part because each was drafted under the previous administration and is not held in as high a regard by the new front office. Each player comes with issues, however, as Baez is trying to cut down on his swing and improve his contact skills, while a scout described first baseman Vogelbach as a “30 fielder” to Heyman (in reference to the 20-80 scouting scale).
- There are members of the Astros‘ field staff that want to see Carlos Correa with the team right now, but Houston will likely keep him in the minors for another month or so in order to lessen the risk of Correa achieving Super Two status. I’ll add that the Astros will have a more legitimate claim that Correa still needs minor league time than other teams in similar situations have had in the past. Correa is still just 20 years old and has only nine games of experience at the Triple-A level, though he’s continued his brilliant work at the plate there, hitting .326/.362/.558 with a pair of homers. Also of interest to Astros fans — or to fans of teams needing outfield help — the Astros are on the lookout for starting pitching upgrades, and outfield prospect Preston Tucker “seems to be available.” Tucker recently made his MLB debut and has a .963 OPS through 34 plate appearances to go along with a strong minor league track record.
- Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez has been pitching for years with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, according to Heyman. Some have described it as a “90 percent tear,” but he’s been able to pitch effectively in spite of the issue. Alvarez wouldn’t be the first to pitch through a UCL tear; Ervin Santana and Adam Wainwright are both recent examples of pitchers who pitched for many seasons with partially torn UCLs. Wainwright ultimately underwent Tommy John, though Santana’s is said to have healed and is no longer an issue. In another Marlins-related note, Heyman hears that pitching coach Chuck Hernandez is “under the microscope” with both Jarred Cosart and Steve Cishek struggling greatly in 2015.
- Brewers starters Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza have little trade value due to their 2015 struggles, but Lohse’s lesser financial commitment and superior clubhouse reputation give him more value. The team is reluctant to trade not only Lucroy, but shortstop Jean Segura as well. The Brewers are a bit more open to dealing Carlos Gomez than that pair, as Gomez is closer to free agency (he’s controlled through 2016).
- The Mets remain reluctant to trade any of their top arms, as they’ve seen on multiple occasions how quickly Tommy John surgery or other injuries can thin out a club’s depth. (Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz have all had TJ in their careers.) The Mets are also not rushing to find a shortstop, but they have indeed been “all over the map” in terms of trade possibilities with the Cubs.
- Coco Crisp‘s neck injury is apparently quite serious, and there’s a fear that the oft-injured Athletics outfielder will ultimately require surgery that could bring his season to an end.
- The Blue Jays would still like to extend both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but there have yet to be serious discussions with either slugger’s camp. Both players are controlled through the end of the 2016 season.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Aaron Sanchez | Atlanta Braves | Carlos Correa | Carlos Gomez | Chicago Cubs | Christian Bethancourt | Coco Crisp | Cole Hamels | Dan Vogelbach | Daniel Norris | Edwin Encarnacion | Henderson Alvarez | Houston Astros | Javier Baez | Jean Segura | John Gibbons | Johnny Cueto | Jonathan Lucroy | Jose Bautista | Kyle Lohse | Matt Garza | Miami Marlins | Milwaukee Brewers | New York Mets | Oakland Athletics | Philadelphia Phillies | Preston Tucker | Scott Kazmir | Steven Matz | Toronto Blue Jays | Zack Wheeler
Let’s take a quick look in at the AL East:
- The Yankees have called up outfielder Slade Heathcott after placing Jacoby Ellsbury on the 15-day DL, as Jack Curry of the YES Network tweeted last night. For Heathcott, the opportunity represents yet another step in a remarkable turnaround. The former top-100 prospect has impressed the organization this spring since losing his 40-man roster spot and re-signing to a minor league deal. As for Ellsbury, it’s only a knee sprain at the moment, but his recovery bears watching given his injury history.
- Meanwhile, the Yankees got more promising injury news out of starter Masahiro Tanaka, as George A. King III of the New York Post reports on Twitter. The injured hurler will make a rehab start on Thursday at Triple-A, per King.
- It’s time for the Blue Jays to look into dealing either Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion for pitching, Joel Sherman of the New York Post opines. While those sluggers continue to provide low-cost power production, Sherman argues that an arm is a more pressing need for the club. Unsurprisingly, GM Alex Anthopoulos indicated that he was not inclined to move either player. It’s certainly hard to disagree that the team needs to bolster its staff if it wants to make a serious run this year, though for my money it still probably makes more sense to deal away prospects to make that happen. After all, the most likely contention scenario would be one in which Bautista and Encarnacion remained in Toronto, and either or both could always be dealt after the season to recoup any lost long-term value if things don’t pan out.
The Blue Jays held a “State Of The Franchise” event for season ticket-holders at the Rogers Centre on Thursday, with president Paul Beeston, manager John Gibbons and GM Alex Anthopoulos in attendance to discuss the club’s offseason and future plans. As you would expect, most of the hot stove-related news came from Anthopoulos, and here’s the roundup of his comments from Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi (links are to Davidi’s Twitter feed).
- The Jays are still concentrating their efforts on bullpen help, though Anthopoulos said they’re looking for depth and not specifically a closer. “We’re not overly concerned about the ninth inning, because we do think there are some guys that can get those last three outs,” Anthopoulos said, referring to Aaron Sanchez and Brett Cecil. “We are concerned about the general depth — just having enough guys to lead into the ninth.” Toronto has been linked to such notable relief names as Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano and Phil Coke in recent weeks, though of that group, Coke is the only one who wouldn’t expect to close.
- While the club is still looking for relievers, Anthopoulos said the Jays could also save their payroll space to make additions at the end of Spring Training or during the season.
- The Jays are likely set at second base, Anthopoulos said. Maicer Izturis, Ryan Goins, Steve Tolleson and Munenori Kawasaki are the internal options at the keystone, with newly-acquired prospect Devon Travis still probably a year away.
- With Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion both entering their last seasons under contract, Anthopoulos said he expects “that at some point we’ll sit down with them and try to work something out” in regards to extensions. The Jays hold club options ($14MM for Bautista, $10MM for Encarnacion) on the two sluggers for 2016 that look like no-brainers to be exercised, so the club has plenty of time to negotiate.
- The Mariners claimed J.A. Happ off waivers from the Blue Jays last August, Anthopoulos said. The two sides couldn’t agree to a trade at the time and Happ finished the season in Toronto, though they did discuss Michael Saunders during negotiations. The M’s and Jays finally worked out a Saunders-for-Happ trade in December.
We covered a couple of Yankees items as part of a New York Notes post earlier today, so now let's take a look around the rest of the AL East…
- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said the team is open to possibly extending the contracts of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes, the GM tells The Toronto Star's Richard Griffin. Bautista (33) and Encarnacion (31) are contracted through 2015 and the Jays have team options on both players for 2016, while Reyes (30) is locked up through the 2017 season. Extensions would take any of the trio well into their late-30's, yet Anthopoulos points to David Ortiz and Carlos Beltran as older players who are still big hitters.
- Also as part of the wide-ranging interview, Anthopoulos discusses his disappointment over the Ervin Santana non-signing, restocking the farm system and more.
- Grady Sizemore will be the Red Sox center fielder on Opening Day, manager John Farrell told reporters (including Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald). Star prospect Jackie Bradley was widely presumed the favorite to take over from Jacoby Ellsbury as Boston's new center fielder this season, yet Bradley struggled to hit in Spring Training and will start the year at Triple-A. Sizemore, meanwhile, enjoyed a big spring and proved he was healthy after missing the last two seasons. Sizemore signed a $750K minor league deal with Boston this winter that could be worth as much as $6MM if Sizemore meets all the incentives.
- Farrell said that Sizemore will still receive regular rest in order to keep him fresh. Since this will free up some outfield playing time, FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi wonders if the Red Sox could be in the market for a right-handed hitting outfielder who can play all three OF spots.
- Red Sox sports-medicine coordinator Dan Dyrek played an important part in both convincing Sizemore to sign with Boston and in getting him back in playing condition, Sizemore tells Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. Dyrek was “the first guy who has understood not only how it happened but what caused it and how to fix it and how to prevent it from happening again,” Sizemore said.
- The Orioles plan to have Jonathan Schoop on the Opening Day roster, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets. Schoop will play both second and third base, splitting time with Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Flaherty, respectively. The 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook ranked Schoop as the fifth-best prospect in the Baltimore farm system, and Schoop fought his way onto the 25-man roster thanks to a huge Spring Training.
Teams have asked the Blue Jays about Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (via Twitter) that he hasn't "entertained the idea" of trading either player. Bautista hit .259/.358/.498 with 28 homers in 2013 and saw his season end early after being shut down due to a hip issue. Encarnacion had a solid campaign, posting a slash line of .272/.370/.534 with 36 home runs. Bautista is owed $14MM annually through 2015 with a club option for the same amount in 2016 while Encarnacion will make $19MM through '15 with a $10MM club option for '16. Here's more out of the AL East…
- The Yankees are refusing to punt and are living for today with their Brian McCann signing, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. McCann's lefty pull power should provide a huge boost in 2014 (and probably '15 and '16), but beyond that is a mystery.
- Within the same article, Sherman writes that the Yankees are now more upbeat about the chances of Hiroki Kuroda returning. There remains a chance that the veteran pitcher decides to play in Japan next season.
- The McCann agreement allows the Yankees to take their time developing Gary Sanchez, their top prospect per MLB.com, knowing McCann will eventually move to first base or they can use him as a trade chip, tweets the New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand.
- Feinsand, in a second tweet, sees the backup job coming down to Austin Romine and Francisco Cervelli with Chris Stewart being non-tendered. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz estimates the arbitration eligible Cervelli and Stewart will each earn $1MM.
- Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com wonders how McCann's new $85MM deal with the Yankees affects the Orioles' Matt Wieters. Wieters’ offensive numbers aren’t as good, but he is is two years younger than McCann and Scott Boras will certainly dig up data to show that Wieters is deserving of more money.
- Meanwhile, Alex Speier of WEEI.com looks at what McCann's deal might mean for Red Sox free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Salty is now the best avaialble free agent catcher and his market should now start to take shape.
- A combination of familiarity and affordability led to Jose Molina returning to the Rays, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Financial terms of the yet-to-be-completed deal are not yet known, but Topkin writes that it's unlikely that he received more than the $3.3MM total he made the last two seasons.
- The Orioles won't re-sign Tsuyoshi Wada, according to MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko. The O's declined their club option on Wada earlier this month; but, at the time, the door was said to be open for a minor league deal in Baltimore.
- The Orioles need to be creative in wringing the most value out of Jim Johnson, writes the Baltimore Sun's Eduardo A. Encina. Encina dangles the idea of moving Johnson, who MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects to receive $10.8MM in arbitration, into the rotation, but that begs the questions of whether starting is a good fit for the 30-year-old right-hander and who will step in as closer.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
As the Rangers expand their search for offense, they've called the Blue Jays about Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, according to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports (Twitter link). The Blue Jays aren't interested in dealing either slugger, however, Knobler adds.
The Rangers are reportedly willing to listen on any of their players — even Elvis Andrus and the recently acquired Matt Garza — and they could also lose Lance Berkman for the remainder of the season due to injury. It's likely that uncertainty surrounding Nelson Cruz's status with a Biogenesis suspension looming is also motivating the Rangers' search for a bat.
- The Cubs aren't necessarily planning to trade David DeJesus, who they have signed through 2014, but they'll listen to offers. DeJesus could be a trade candidate in August, after he recovers from a shoulder injury.
- While the Rangers' 2011 decision to trade Chris Davis for Koji Uehara has recently received plenty of attention, Rosenthal notes that the Athletics also have a what-could-have-been in their recent history as well. The A's claimed Edwin Encarnacion from the Blue Jays in November 2010, then non-tendered him, and he ended up back with the Jays. Since then, he's hit 84 home runs.
- The Rangers might be interested in Michael Cuddyer if the Rockies wished to trade him, Rosenthal notes. The Rangers are reportedly on the lookout for a righty hitter, and Cuddyer would fit the bill.
- The Braves aren't looking for a top starter, Rosenthal writes, but they'd like to augment their bullpen.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos reviewed the Blue Jays’ on-field progress and discussed a variety of off-field issues in an extended interview with Drew Fairservice of the Score. Here are some highlights from their conversation:
- It’s becoming more difficult for teams to get good trade value for players with one or two remaining years of team control, Anthopoulos said. “Now it is starting to shift a little bit, it is three years of control or four years of control,” he said. Players just one year away from free agency don’t have as much trade value now, according to the GM.
- The Blue Jays entered the season with a payroll in the $80MM range and Anthopoulos described it as “a solid payroll to have” (Toronto’s Opening Day payroll was $83.7MM according to Cot's Baseball Contracts and $75.5MM according to USA Today). He repeated that the team can increase payroll, but noted that “it isn’t going to go up for the sake of going up.”
- Draft pick compensation has become less of a consideration for the Blue Jays given the franchise’s minor league depth and recent changes to baseball’s collective bargaining agreement. “Now we are more interested in guys who will be around for a while and have some swing-and-miss stuff,” Anthopoulos said of potential relief acquisitions.
- There’s no formula for extensions, Anthopoulos said. “It always comes down to price.” The Blue Jays discussed a possible extension for Edwin Encarnacion last offseason and ultimately signed him this summer.
- Part of the reason the Blue Jays generally avoid long-term contracts is the unpredictable nature of baseball. “Players change, things change,” Anthopoulos told Fairservice. “Players get hurt and you tend to forget six or seven years is an awfully long time.” The GM added that it sometimes makes sense to wait a little longer before locking a player up, even if it means paying a bit more.
- Anthopoulos knows he wasn’t “hired to react to the whims and the emotions” of a 162-game schedule, but it doesn’t mean he enjoys being calculated all of the time. “To be honest with you, I get sick of having to be so guarded,” he said. “It is exhausting. I know it is important to stay consistent but it is exhausting.”
It was on this day in 1997 that Roger Clemens struck out 16 Red Sox batters to lead the Blue Jays to a 3-1 win at Fenway Park. It was Clemens' first appearance in Boston since he signed a free agent contract with Toronto the previous winter, and there were some definite hard feelings — Clemens punctuated several of his strikeouts with glances up towards the Fenway luxury boxes and then-Sox GM Dan Duquette.
Here's the latest from around the AL East…
- Speaking of Duquette, the current Orioles executive VP tells Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun that he is looking for a hitter with on-base skills to bat first or second in the Orioles' lineup. Connolly speculates that Shane Victorino could fit that bill though the O's would have to outbid several other teams if the Phillies made Victorino available.
- Duquette didn't completely rule out dealing a major prospect like Manny Machado or Dylan Bundy, but such a deal is very unlikely. "They can be really good major leaguers for a really long time,” Duquette said. “That’s the way I look at it. I don’t know that we want to send them to another ballclub for two months or 10 starts of a pitcher. I don’t think that’s the kind of trade we’d want to make. But we want to advance our team in the pennant race.” (Quotes courtesy of Connolly's Twitter feed).
- Evan Longoria's recovery timeline will "influence" what the Rays will do at the trade deadline, Andrew Friedman told reporters, including Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune (Twitter link). Longoria is expected back in August though the third baseman has already experienced one setback during his recovery from a torn hamstring.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told reporters (including Sportsnet's Shi Davidi) that with Edwin Encarnacion's extension settled, the team can now focus on acquiring pitching. Anthopoulos also said he "didn't have any intention of trading" Encarnacion, though ESPN's Jayson Stark reported earlier today that the Jays were checking on trade interest in Encarnacion just last week.
- The Yankees have wrapped up negotiations with first-round draft pick Ty Hensley and are waiting to hear if the right-hander will accept their offer before tomorrow's draft signing deadline, reports Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger.
- The Red Sox are almost obligated to be active at the trade deadline, says ESPN's Tim Kurkjian during a radio appearance on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan show. (WEEI.com's Morley Quatroche has a partial transcript.) “I think they’re going to have to be buyers because they’re the Red Sox,” Kurkjian said. “And they can’t give up on a season….The Red Sox have to go out and get somebody. They have to go out and get another starting pitcher, whether it’s Ryan Dempster or Zack Greinke. It’s going to take an enormous amount to do it.” Kurkjian also discusses such topics as Carl Crawford's injury, Bobby Valentine's managerial style and the mood in the Sox clubhouse.
- For most Boston-related material, here's a collection of Red Sox notes from earlier today, plus news about trade interest in the team's backup outfielders.
Here's some news from the Twitter feed of ESPN's Jayson Stark…
- Two executives who have recently spoken to the Cubs say that Chicago is mentioning Bryan LaHair's name in trade talks. LaHair made the All-Star team after a hot start, though as Stark notes, is hitting just .220/.278/.341 since May 15.
- Stark was somewhat surprised by Edwin Encarnacion's three-year extension with the Blue Jays, as he reports the Jays were gauging trade interest in Encarnacion as late as last week.
- The Orioles' interest in Matt Garza has faded and the O's are now "poking around on Jason Vargas." The Braves are also known to be looking at the Mariners southpaw, as Stark reported last month. MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently examined Vargas as a trade candidate.