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Edwin Jackson Rumors
The Pirates had scouts in attendance at Yasmany Tomas‘ weekend showcase, writes MLB.com’s Tom Singer, but GM Neal Huntington didn’t sound overly optimistic about the team’s chances. “We like the player,” Huntington told Singer. “We will participate in the process. As it has with most Cuban players, the market may take it above a place where we feel comfortable.”
Here’s more from the NL Central…
- Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes that while Pirates owner Bob Nutting is the one who ultimately determines payroll, Huntington is the one who distributes the funds. And while Huntington doesn’t like the idea of allocating more than 18 percent of a team’s payroll to one player, Sawchik opines that Russell Martin is the rare case in which an exemption should be made. He notes that it’s unlikely for teams to go beyond four years for Martin, and they’re also unlikely to go as high as Brian McCann‘s $17MM average annual value. The Pirates can get by offering Martin something close to $60MM over four years, Sawchik writes, and given the lack of alternative options, he feels they’d be wise to do so.
- It’s best for both the Cubs and Edwin Jackson if Chicago can orchestrate a change of scenery for the beleaguered right-hander next season, writes Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. Jackson, owed $22MM from 2015-16, has been a good citizen through his significant struggles in Chicago and remains positive, but both sides need to move on from a bad situation, Rogers continues. The Cubs’s best chance at moving Jackson is likely to swap him for another bad contract or to pay a large portion of his remaining salary, though as Rogers notes, it may be best to move on “no matter how they get rid of him.”
- While many Reds fans are convinced that the team needs to add a power bat to play left field, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes that the team should instead prioritize on-base percentage in a left field upgrade. Cincinnati’s team OBP dropped from .327 in 2013 to .298 in 2014. Shin-Soo Choo, who reached base 300 times last year, was replaced by Billy Hamilton, who is on pace to reach 184 times. Joey Votto, who reached 316 times in 2013, spent most of this season on the DL, and the team’s No. 3 hitters have combined to reach just 206 times as a result. Pointing to the team’s struggles in one-run games (22-38), Fay notes how important a healthy Votto and an OBP-focused left fielder could be to the team.
While news of Cuban ballplayer Rusney Castillo continues to dominate the news cycle, the human trafficking side of Cuban imports also made headlines. Eliezer Lazo entered a guilty plea in connection to the smuggling of over 1,000 Cubans, including Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin, reports Curt Anderson of the Associated Press. The article covers some of the sordid details involved in this human trafficking case.
- In related news, a lawsuit brought against Martin by a Mexican baseball academy associated with Lazo will likely be dropped as a result of the criminal case. The Estrellas baseball academy alleged that Martin agreed to pay them up to 35% of his major league contract, but Martin only paid $1.2MM of his $15.5MM deal.
- The Braves and Cubs discussed a proposal that would have sent Edwin Jackson to Atlanta in return for B.J. Upton, writes Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports. The deal would have served as a straight swap of albatross contracts. The sides apparently weren’t close to finalizing a trade but could re-open talks over the offseason. It appears this was probably the rumored trade first reported on August 9.
- In what is likely to become an ongoing “will they, won’t they” story, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer speculates about moving on from Ryan Howard. The club currently has Darin Ruf taking the occasional start in left field while Howard blocks his playing time at first base. Philadelphia seemingly needs to decide which of three players possess the higher upside – Howard, Ruf, or left fielder Domonic Brown. Given Howard’s age, 34, and rapidly diminishing numbers – he had a .678 OPS before today’s home run – it’s fair to wonder if Howard should be the odd man out. Corner infield prospect Maikel Franco could also figure in the mix before long.
- We at MLBTR seek to find answers for the pressing questions such as “Does Rusney Castillo know Jay-Z?” Castillo, who is represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports and Brodie Van Wagonen of CAA, does indeed know the mogul, according to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber.
The Cubs have demoted outfielder Junior Lake to Triple-A Iowa, according to the MLB.com transactions page. After a good rookie season as a 23-year-old in 2013, Lake has struggled badly this season, hitting .216/.243/.364 in 305 plate appearances. None of the outfielders who started for the Cubs in their Opening Day loss to the Pirates this season are still on their active roster — the Cubs have optioned Lake, traded Emilio Bonifacio to the Braves, and released Nate Schierholtz, lately going with some combination of Chris Coghlan, Arismendy Alcantara, Justin Ruggiano and Ryan Sweeney in the outfield. Here’s more from Chicago.
- The Cubs are loaded with young shortstops, but GM Jed Hoyer says they don’t need to trade any of them, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun Times writes. Chicago has Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, Addison Russell and Alcantara, which means that the team could have to find new positions for as many as three of them if they want to keep them all. “I think we can be a better team for it in a lot of ways if we end up doing that,” says Hoyer. (Alcantara has already played shortstop only sparingly this season, spending time in second base and outfield instead.) The shortstop-starved Mets love the Cubs’ talent at that position, and Wittenmyer notes that they like Russell more than Castro.
- Nearly two years into a four-year, $52MM deal, Edwin Jackson has been a bust so far, Wittenmyer writes. This season, Jackson has a 5.74 ERA in 136 1/3 innings, although his reasonable 8.0 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 suggest he’s been at least somewhat better than his ERA indicates. Jackson is still just 30 and has good stuff, so his struggles in Chicago have been a disappointment. “I think it’s his location,” Hoyer says. “When he pitches up in the zone he gets hit, and the times he’s been able to stay down in the zone and locate his fastball away, he’s had some success.” Given that Jackson still throws hard and has two years left on his contract, the Cubs are likely to continue to give him chances to reemerge.
The Cubs have attempted to deal away starter Edwin Jackson, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, but initial efforts have not been promising. Jackson, signed before the 2013 season, is playing on a $11MM annual salary this year and is owed the same amount for each of the next two campaigns.
Heyman adds that the Yankees did not seem interested in the 30-year-old righty, who has struggled to a 5.61 ERA through 110 2/3 frames this year. That follows on his poor numbers last year, when he threw 175 1/3 innings of 4.98 ERA ball. Jackson has restored his strikeout totals to the level they were when the Cubs signed him (8.1 K/9), but has struggled with control and has walked four batters per nine.
The Yankees’ win-now ethos is “refreshing,” Andy Martino of New York Daily News writes. “Oh, he’s out there,” says another team’s GM of Yankees executive Brian Cashman. “He’s really trying to make something happen. I personally don’t think he has the pieces to get a big trade done, but he’s working at it.” After a rash of injuries, the Yankees continue to look for starting pitching, although Martino notes that there aren’t many possibilities, with Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel already off the market and David Price unlikely to be traded within the AL East. The Padres won’t deal Andrew Cashner, Martino writes, and might not trade Ian Kennedy either. That means New York might have to settle for smaller moves. Here are more notes on the Yankees:
- The Yankees would make sense as a possible destination for Cubs starter Edwin Jackson, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. The Yankees could afford to pay at least some of the approximately $26MM left on Jackson’s contract.
- Nonetheless, the Yankees are not close to any move to upgrade their pitching, although they continue to try, Martino tweets.
- Luis Severino has risen from obscurity to become one of the Yankees’ better prospects, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Sherman tells the story of how Will Kuntz, then the Yankees’ pro scouting director, went to a Yankees spring training minor league game and didn’t even know who Severino was before he clocked him at 95 MPH on his radar gun. The Yankees recently promoted Severino, now 20, to Double-A Trenton after he pitched well at Class A Charleston and dominated at Class A+ Tampa.
- Cashman says the Yankees have no interest in second baseman Dan Uggla, Martino tweets. That’s no surprise, of course, given that he’s hit .162/.241/.231 in 145 plate appearances this season. The Braves are responsible for the remainder of Uggla’s contract, since they released him.
Justin Verlander‘s recent struggles are “a giant concern” for the Tigers, writes James Schmel of MLive.com, because Verlander himself admits that he isn’t sure how to fix them. Verlander told reporters that he doesn’t feel he’s at the point in his career where he needs to reinvent himself on the mound, though he acknowledged that he doesn’t have the same velocity he used to have and said he didn’t blame the fans for booing him last night as he left the game. Verlander yielded seven runs on 12 hits last night and has posted a 7.83 ERA with a woeful 26-to-20 K/BB ratio over his last 43 2/3 innings (seven starts). He is averaging a career-worst (though still solid) 92.6 mph on his fastball.
Here’s more on the Tigers and the baseball’s Central divisions…
- Jon Morosi of FOX Sports hears that the Tigers aren’t planning on making a move to upgrade at shortstop, as they like what they’ve seen from rookie Eugenio Suarez since his promotion to the Majors (Twitter link). It’s tough not to like what they’ve seen from the 22-year-old Suarez, who is hitting .346/.452/.808 with three homers through his first 10 games. Clearly, he’s due for some regression, but the optimism is understandable.
- An AL scout tells David Kaplan of CSN Chicago that he’s spoken to the Cubs about both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, but he hasn’t gotten any indication from Chicago that any of their other starters are available (Twitter link). That contrasts recent reports that the team would be willing to listen to offers on Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta. Given Jackson’s remaining salary, it seems hard to believe that Chicago wouldn’t be open to moving him.
- The Pirates weren’t looking to trade right-hander Bryan Morris before trading him to the Marlins, GM Neal Huntington tells Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. However, Miami expressed interest in the deal after being attracted to an increase in Morris’ velocity and the addition of a two-seam/sinking fastball to his repertoire, and the two sides were able to strike a deal. Pittsburgh received Miami’s Competitive Balance Round A pick (No. 39 overall), used to draft (and sign) Connor Joe, while Miami has been rewarded to this point with 9 1/3 innings of scoreless relief from Morris, who has shown greatly improved command.
- Twins closer Glen Perkins offered some candid comments regarding catcher Josmil Pinto on 1500 ESPN Radio with Phil Mackey and Judd Zulgad (via Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press). While he was highly complimentary of Pinto’s offensive skills, the left-hander was blunt in his description of Pinto’s defense: “He’s a long, long ways away, to be honest with you. …his pitch framing, he’s got some work to do.” Perkins flatly he said Pinto is “surely not at the big-league level as far as catching for me.” Perkins went on to preach the importance of framing and praise veterans Jonathan Lucroy and Jose Molina for their prowess at the skill. Minnesota recently sent Pinto to the minors to get more consistent at-bats and consistent time behind the plate. He’s spent much of the season DHing while Kurt Suzuki, whose offensive contributions have been somewhat surprising, has done the bulk of the catching.
- After leaving the Reds organization to take a “mental break,” the representative of reliever Carlos Marmol says that the righty may not look to return this season, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Agent Paul Kinzer told Heyman that Marmol decided to return to the Dominican Republic to deal with unspecified personal issues, and has had no physical problems.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
JUNE 16: In addition to discussing Samardzija and Hammel trades, the Cubs are at least willing to consider the possibility of moving additional arms, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). Morosi hears Chicago is trying to gauge the market on Samardzija, Hammel, Edwin Jackson and even Jake Arrieta.
It’s not surprising that they’d be willing to move Jackson, as they undoubtedly would be pleased to shed some of his salary obligations — he is owed roughly $28.3MM through 2016 — but Arrieta is somewhat of a surprise. Chicago acquired him in last year’s Scott Feldman trade, and he’s off to an outstanding start in 2014, having pitched to a 2.09 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 52.1 percent ground-ball rate in 43 innings. Still just 28 years old, Arrieta is not yet arbitration eligible and is under team control through 2017, so it stands to reason that the asking price would be high.
Listening on Arrieta is a bit puzzling, as one would think he’s the type of arm the Cubs would like to build their rotation around, but he’s also battled injuries and has never been able to consistently succeed in the Majors, despite having the talent to do so. As Morosi notes, the Cubs aren’t planning to trade all four starters, but rather is doing its due diligence to know the market value of each starter heading into trade season.
JUNE 14: The Cubs are already discussing trades involving starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel with at least two teams, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Interested teams include the Braves, Blue Jays and Mariners, and Wittenmyer cites one source from within baseball who tells him Hammel is likely to wind up with Seattle.
With about six weeks left to go before the trade deadline, the Cubs are 27-38, 11 1/2 games behind the Brewers in the NL Central. It is, of course, not necessarily surprising that the Cubs would consider trading two veteran pitchers who are having good seasons. Samardzija, who is eligible for free agency following the 2015 season, currently has a 2.77 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 91 innings. Hammel, who’s signed to a one-year deal for $6MM, is in the midst of the best season of his career, with a 2.81 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
Theo Epstein admitted that the Cubs "got a little ahead of ourselves" in signing Edwin Jackson to a four-year, $52MM contract last winter. In response to a fan's question at a season ticket-holders event in Chicago, Epstein said the team “didn’t fully understand the scope of our situation, the overall situation with the timing of our business plan, the timing of our facilities and the timing of our baseball plan." (hat tip to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times). The Jackson signing was seen a surprise move for the rebuilding Cubs and it hasn't worked out thus far, as Jackson posted a 4.98 ERA over 175 1/3 IP in 2013.
Here are some more items as we head into the weekend…
- Epstein told reporters (including MLB.com's Carrie Muskat) that he expects Jackson to be a positive for the Cubs next season, though he noted that the team plans to add more "quality" starting pitching this winter. "Every starting pitcher we acquire is someone we hope is starting Game 1 of the World Series for us," Epstein said.
- The Indians' biggest needs this winter are bullpen pieces and a complementary bat, Tribe general manager Chris Antonetti tells Jim Bowden and Casey Stern on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link).
- Scott Boras scoffed at projections that Stephen Drew would only find a three-year contract this winter, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. "A three-year deal, for a 30-year-old free agent, really? Are these writers aware of what Elvis Andrus signed for?", Boras asked. The Andrus comparison isn't as entirely outlandish as it first appears, since Andrus' eight-year, $120MM extension with the Rangers is only guaranteed for four years and $62MM since Andrus has opt-out clauses. Still, even that price tag seems quite high — MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted Drew for a four-year, $48MM deal this winter and that was with reservations about the fourth year and the draft pick compensation attached to Drew's free agency.
- Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan could be a better catching option for 2014 than Jarrod Saltalamacchia even aside from the financial considerations, Fangraphs' Dave Cameron opines (Twitter links). Hanigan actually has a higher career WAR than Saltalamacchia (8.3 to 6.9) and could be available in a trade, while "Salty" could cost a team around $36MM in free agency.
- The Dodgers should at least consider trading Yasiel Puig, ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon argues. He would certainly net more in a deal than any club's higher-priced outfielders and the Dodgers could be selling high on Puig since it's unclear whether his style of play will age well.
- The Angels don't have much payroll room to make big changes for 2014 but MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby thinks the Halos might only need a few tweaks to contend.
- The Tigers aren't likely to re-sign Ramon Santiago, MLive.com's Chris Iott reports, as the team has younger and cheaper utility infield options available. Santiago, 34, has played for Detroit since 2006 and spent 10 seasons overall with the Tigers as a backup or part-time starter in the middle infield.
Here are a few notes from around baseball's Central divisions:
- With the Reds welcoming the division-rival Cubs for a three-game set on the same day that Cincinnati reliever Sean Marshall made another DL trip, Hal McCoy of the Dayton Times looked back on the December 2011 deal between these clubs that put Marshall in the Reds' pen. Travis Wood, the primary piece going to Chicago in that trade, is off to a sparkling start to the year with a 2.24 ERA over 60 1/3 innings. While he has posted a pedestrian 5.8 K/9 to go with 2.8 BB/9, Wood has managed a stellar .928 WHIP this season, good for seventh best among starters, tied with Shelby Miller. (Of course, that mark owes to the lefty's exceedingly low .193 BABIP-against. He sports a career mark of .262; league average currently sits at .292.) Marshall, meanwhile, continues to be effective when he is healthy: he sports an ERA of just over 2.50 over his two seasons in Cincinnati. It is worth noting, as well, that the Reds' rotation is in fine shape thus far without Wood: Cinci starters own the second-best collective ERA in baseball, after the Cardinals.
- Even if the Cubs have played better than their record, the team is looking up in the standings at a host of strong ballclubs. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the club is already feeling the mid-summer trade deadline, though it remains a ways away. Manager Dale Sveum acknowledged that, while the team is still "trying to put things together where you pull off some streaks … to give yourself a chance to give yourself hope," the team "all know[s] that if we don't, there can be changes." Wittenmyer says that a number of players could be on the trading block, including starters Scott Feldman and Matt Garza, relivers Kevin Gregg and James Russell, and outfielder David DeJesus.
- The Cubs' major offseason acquisition, pitcher Edwin Jackson, has been a disappointment among an otherwise solid rotation. Nevertheless, the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan reports, Jackson is in no danger of losing his starting role. Sveum said that the team is "going to stick with him," in part due to Jackson's four-year, $52MM deal. Said Sveum: "You've got a commitment there and you've got to stick with the commitment."
- Twins first bagger Justin Morneau, a soon-to-be free agent, has not engaged in any extension talks with his team, a source tells Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com. As Morneau finishes off his six-year, $80MM deal with Minnesota, he has failed to restore the power that landed him that contract. Morneau slashed .345/.437/.628 over an injury-shortened 2010 season, but registered a .267/.333/.440 line last year and currently sits at .312/.353/.416 over 190 plate appearances this season.
It's not often that you see a well-regarded starting pitcher (or any well-regarded player, for that matter) appear on eight different teams prior to his 30th birthday, but that's the situation in which Edwin Jackson currently finds himself. Of course, Jackson inked a four-year deal with the Cubs that should give him some stability, but that's not his first stop in Chicago.
Jackson spent parts of two seasons across town as a member of the White Sox rotation from 2010-11. General manager Kenny Williams swung a midseason deal in 2010 that brought a struggling Jackson from the Diamondbacks to the White Sox in exchange for right-hander Daniel Hudson (23 years old at the time) and minor league lefty David Holmberg (18). It's been nearly three years since that trade occurred, so let's take a look at the players involved…
- Edwin Jackson: While he had thrown a no-hitter for the D-backs that season, Jackson was struggling at the time of the trade. He'd posted a 5.16 ERA in in 21 starts but was coming off a solid 2009 campaign and had one and a half years of team control remaining. Jackson turned things around with the South Siders in a big way. His K/9 rate soared from 7.0 to 9.2 while his BB/9 dropped from 4.0 to 2.2. Jackson contributed 1.9 WAR (per Fangraphs) to an 88-win season for the White Sox, but they came up short and finished second in the AL Central. He was terrific in the first half of 2011 as well, posting an even 3.0 WAR before being traded to the Blue Jays (who immediately flipped him to St. Louis) in a deal that netted Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart while also freeing the Sox of the remaining $7.2MM on Mark Teahen's contract.
- Daniel Hudson: Hudson ranked as Chicago's No. 3 prospect, per Baseball America, prior to the 2010 season. He'd struggled in three big league starts that year, but he was a revelation for the Diamondbacks down the stretch. In 11 starts following the trade, Hudson posted a 1.69 ERA, 7.9 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9, cementing his place in Arizona's rotation. He followed up that 2.2 WAR effort with an incredible 4.9-win sophomore campaign for the D-backs, but he was a Tommy John victim after just nine ugly starts in 2012. All told, Hudson has a 3.58 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 347 innings as a Diamondback. He's not yet eligible for arbitration and can be controlled through 2016.
The Minor League Side:
- David Holmberg: At the time of the trade, Holmberg was BA's eighth-ranked White Sox prospect, but he'd struggled to a 4.46 ERA in eight starts in the rookie-level Pioneer League that season. Holmberg has ascended quickly, however, and now ranks as the D-backs' No. 6 prospect according to BA and the No. 8 prospect according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. BA notes that Holmberg is likely to reach his ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter in the Major Leagues thanks to his plus command and a very strong changeup. His fastball sits 88-91 mph and can touch 93 at times. Mayo notes that while Tyler Skaggs is the lefty who gets all of the buzz in the Diamondbacks' system, Holmberg "isn't that far behind him." Holmberg reached Double-A as a 20-year-old in 2012 and made 15 solid starts. Now 21 years of age, he's opened the 2013 season at the same level and sports a 3.10 ERA 6.3 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 151 career Double-A innings.
Three years later, it looks like the Diamondbacks got a very good return for a talented but struggling starter. It's conceivable that within the next two seasons, 40 percent of Arizona's rotation will consist of the two players they received in this deal. Jerry Dipoto, the D-backs' GM at the time of the trade (he's now GM of the Angels), did well to secure a pair of prospects who ranked in Chicago's Top 10.
The price Chicago paid doesn't seem crazy either, given Jackson's terrific results with the White Sox. Jackson gave them 4.9 wins above replacement, but most fans will look back on this trade in a negative light due to the lack of return for Jackson when they traded him a year later. That's a fair criticism (and also a trade for another post), but Jackson was every bit the pitcher the White Sox were hoping he'd be when they acquired him. This would probably go down as a win-win had the Sox contended in 2011 or made the playoffs in 2010.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.