Eric O’Flaherty Rumors

Quick Hits: Phils, O’Flaherty, Maine, Guerrier, Cotts

Somewhat remarkably, both of the Phillies' last two GMs and last two managers are still employed by the organization, observes Justin Klugh of Philly.com. Meanwhile, the club only recently hired an analytical employee, and it remains unclear how much pull that position holds. While keeping the old guard around is a nice touch, says Klugh, the club should make a stronger commitment to progress. Here are more notes from around the league:

  • There is now only a "slim chance" that southpaw reliever Eric O'Flaherty will return to the Braves, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com. The issue, Bowman indicates, is that Atlanta is not as interested in working O'Flaherty into their plans as other clubs. Specifically, Bowman names the Orioles as a contender for the lefty. 
  • The Braves may have found yet another diamond in the rough with minor league free agent signees Luis Vasquez and Lay Batista, writes Bill Ballew of Baseball America. "We identified Vasquez and Batista as potential high-octane arms who could contribute in Atlanta as soon as 2014," said assistant GM John Coppolella.
  • Lefty Scott Maine is reportedly throwing well in Puerto Rico and beginning to draw interest from clubs, reports MLBTR's Zach Links (via Twitter). He could sign with a club as soon as this week, Links adds. Maine has a 5.59 career ERA in 46 2/3 big league innings. He spent time in the Marlins' system last year.
  • Another right-handed reliever, Matt Guerrier, is expected to audition for MLB clubs in the next ten days or so, Links further tweets. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN recently reported that the Twins could be interested in a reunion.
  • The $2.2MM contract agreed upon yesterday between the Rangers and reliever Neal Cotts is fully guaranteed, Links tweets. As Links observes, Cotts' representatives at Pro Star Management did well to get their client a guarantee given his injury history.

Quick Hits: Angels, Cardinals, Yankees, O’Flaherty

Playing winter ball in Venezuela can help North American ballplayers make ends meet, and Joshua Goodman of the Associated Press provides a fascinating look into what their lives are like as they deal with the wildly different stadium atmosphere there, not to mention the different political atmosphere. Players often make $10K to $20K a month in Venezuela, far more than most of them do in the US minor leagues or in independent ball. They play for large, raucous crowds, unlike some of those in the minors. "I've never played in the big leagues, but I don't think the environment is nearly as fun" as it is in Venezuela, says Jamie Romak, a 28-year-old minor-league veteran who played in the Cardinals system last year and is now playing for La Guaira. Here are more notes from around baseball.

  • Masahiro Tanaka's free agent contract will have much to say about the way we value prospects, writes Dave Cameron of FanGraphs. The market might value Tanaka at something like $120MM to $150MM, even though he is generally considered to be a lesser talent than Yu Darvish was before his debut, and Darvish ranked behind several prospects (like Matt Moore and Shelby Miller) on some analysts' lists at the time. So if Tanaka is worth $120MM, how much is Taijuan Walker worth? How much, for that matter, is Xander Bogaerts worth? Estimates might end up somewhere north of $100MM, even though those players haven't yet proven themselves in the big leagues. That's why, Cameron argues, the Royals should not have included Wil Myers in the James Shields trade last year.
  • The Angels haven't been known for their farm system in recent years, but MLB.com's Jim Callis writes that their 2009 draft was the best one of the past decade. The Angels had five selections in the first 48 picks, and with the second of those, they landed Mike Trout, currently baseball's best all-around player. They also grabbed Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs (who both went to Arizona in the Dan Haren deal, although Skaggs returned earlier this month as Mark Trumbo went to the desert), outfielder Randal Grichuk (who was part of the David Freese trade) and Garrett Richards.
  • Meanwhile, Callis' colleague at MLB.com, Jonathan Mayo, argues that the Cardinals' 2009 draft was actually the best. That draft produced Matt Carpenter, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Adams and Joe Kelly.
  • Even if they sign Tanaka, the Yankees might be able to get below the $189MM luxury-tax threshold for 2014 if they trade high-priced players during the season, Joel Sherman of the New York Post points out. Even that would be tricky, however. Alex Rodriguez would still have to miss a hefty chunk of the season due to his suspension (however his appeal turns out), and the Yankees would have to trade a number of expensive players. Sherman suggests that the Yankees may have missed a better opportunity to try something like this — with much of their core injured in 2013, they could have dealt free-agents-to-be like Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes to get under last year's threshold. Such a move would have reduced their tax burden and allowed them to spend even more heavily this offseason. It would have been unlikely if the Yankees had waved the white flag on 2013, however, because they don't typically behave that way.
  • The Braves are still in talks with reliever Eric O'Flaherty, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution tweets. O'Flaherty had Tommy John surgery last May and will likely miss the beginning of the season. He's one of only a handful of lefty relievers remaining on the free agent market, along with Oliver Perez, Mike Gonzalez, Jose Mijares and Rich Hill.

NL East Notes: Papelbon, Braves, Samardzija, Nats

Trading Jonathan Papelbon wouldn't solve much for the Phillies at this point, opines Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com. Seidman runs down a possible scenario in which the Phillies ate $6MM to move Papelbon, noting that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. would then still try to sign a replacement. Names like Grant Balfour and Joaquin Benoit could cost upwards of $10MM per season anyhow, meaning the Phillies may not even save much money should that scenario play out. Papelbon will have more value to teams at the trade deadline when fewer quality options are available, writes Seidman. Here's more from the NL East…

  • David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets that the Braves have approached some of their young stars about extensions over the past two years but felt they'd have to overpay to get something done.
  • O'Brien also runs down the Braves needs on the heels of a quiet Winter Meetings, noting that they're optimistic about re-signing Eric O'Flaherty. Atlanta is still pursuing a veteran bench bat — O'Brien mentions Eric Chavez — and are still interested in Jeff Samardzija. The Braves may be considered the favorites to land Samardzija at this point, says O'Brien, noting that payroll constraints will likely preclude them from pursuing David Price.
  • After adding to their rotation, bench and bullpen, the Nationals will now turn their focus to extending Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Should the Nats be unable to extend Zimmermann, they may be forced to consider trading him this time next season, one source told Kilgore.
  • Nate McLouth spoke to former teammate Adam LaRoche (whom he called one of his favorite teammates ever) and asked what the Nationals clubhouse was like before deciding to sign there, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. McLouth doesn't hold ill will toward the Orioles for not retaining him.


Relief Rumors: Lefties, Axford, Papelbon, Benoit, Guerrier, Rays

Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that the top left-handed relievers on the market — J.P. Howell, Boone Logan, Eric O'Flaherty and Scott Downs — should begin to start coming off the board in the next 24 to 48 hours. It's already been reported that O'Flaherty is in talks with the Braves about a return to Atlanta. Here's the latest on the market for relievers…

  • Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets that there's a sense that the Nationals will land a left-handed reliever today.
  • The Orioles have had talks with John Axford, tweets Morosi. They're also said to be the current favorites for Grant Balfour.
  • A rival executive estimated that the Phillies would have to eat about 40 to 50 percent of Jonathan Papelbon's remaining salary to trade him, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Papelbon is owed $13MM in each of the next two seasons and has a vesting option for a fifth year.
  • The Rockies have had discussions with Joaquin Benoit but are a ways apart in terms of salary, Morosi reports. Talks between the two sides are fading, as Benoit appears likely to seek a more lucrative deal elsewhere (Twitter links).
  • Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweeted yesterday that when the dust settles from the Winter Meetings, Matt Guerrier's name could be a of interest to the Indians.
  • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that even after re-signing Juan Carlos Oviedo and acquiring Heath Bell, the Rays are still looking to improve their bullpen. One option could be injured lefty Jordan Norberto, who underwent Tommy John surgery last season.

East Notes: Tanaka, Red Sox, Mets, Braves, Chavez

The Red Sox would benefit most strongly if Masahiro Tanaka were to not be posted, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. If Tanaka were to stay in Japan, not only would he not go to the Yankees, but prices for other starters (such as Ervin Santana and Matt Garza) would rise, and so would the value of the Red Sox's own pitchers, such as John Lackey, Ryan Dempster and Jake Peavy. Also, if Tanaka were to be posted next offseason, the Red Sox might actually bid for him. Right now, they don't have a need. Here are more notes from the East divisions.


Braves In Talks With Eric O’Flaherty

The Braves are in talks with left-hander Eric O'Flaherty, and there's a good chance that he ends up back in Atlanta, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (on Twitter).

Tommy John surgery limited the talented lefty to 18 innings in his age-28 season this past year. Since joining the Braves in 2009, O'Flaherty has a 1.99 ERA in 249 1/3 innings of work. He's been said to be coveted by the Nationals most recently.


Nationals Eyeing J.P. Howell, Scott Downs

J.P. Howell and Scott Downs have both been mentioned as possible targets for the Nationals within the last few days, and it appears that Washington may be narrowing its focus on the pair of southpaws. According to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark (Twitter link), if the Nats sign a free agent left-handed reliever, it will likely be either Howell or Downs.

Washington had also been linked to Eric O'Flaherty, but other clubs are getting the sense that O'Flaherty will probably return to the Braves, says Stark. The lefty, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, had indicated earlier today that he'd be open to signing anywhere, including Washington.

Howell, 30, is coming off an excellent season in Los Angeles, where he posted a 2.03 ERA in 62 innings for the Dodgers. Downs, 37, was his usual effective self in 2013 as well, recording a 2.49 ERA in 68 total appearances for the Angels and Braves. It was the seventh straight season that Downs has posted an ERA of 3.15 or better.


NL East Links: Izturis, Mets, Colon, Arroyo, O’Flaherty

The Marlins have made the most headlines in the NL East today, agreeing to terms with Garrett Jones and talking trades with a number of teams regarding Logan Morrison. There's a lot more going on in the NL East though, and here's a rundown of some news from today…

  • The Mets have already had internal discussions regarding Cesar Izturis and plan to meet with his agent in the coming days, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post (on Twitter). Izturis batted just .209/.259/.271 in his age-33 season with the Reds in 2013.
  • Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes that the Mets aren't likely to sign Bartolo Colon or Bronson Arroyo and instead figure to look at back-end type starters like Daisuke Matsuzaka"We'd be hesitant to give a multi-year deal (to a pitcher), but that doesn't mean we wouldn't," GM Sandy Alderson told Martino. Alderson said he's also had recent discussions with Johan Santana's agent.
  • The Nationals aren't interested in adding another catcher at this time, tweets Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington. GM Mike Rizzo believes that Wilson Ramos can catch 125 games next season, though he's never appeared in more than 113 games in a single Major League season.
  • The Nationals have been linked to Eric O'Flaherty a number of times already, but a source told MLB.com's Bill Ladson that that issue will be addressed "down the road." O'Flaherty told Ladson in a phone interview that he's open to going anywhere and also spoke highly of Washington's group of young talent.
  • Adding a lefty reliever is one of Rizzo's top priorities, but a deal may not get done this week, reports Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com. Rizzo added that in an ideal world, they'd add more than a lefty specialist, landing someone who can also get right-handed hitters out as well.
  • Braves GM Frank Wren told David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he doesn't envision making a move to acquire a front-line player (Twitter link). "I see more support (type) moves," Wren told O'Brien, which O'Brien speculates could mean a power bat for the bench and depth for the bullpen and rotation.

NL Notes: Ibanez, O’Flaherty, Cardinals, Halladay

Earlier today, MLBTR posted a batch of notes from the National League West. Now, let's take a look at the other teams playing in the Senior Circuit:

Aaron Steen contributed to this post.


Relief Notes: Axford, Downs, O’Flaherty

The market for relievers continues to take shape, as the Tigers yesterday announced a two-year, $20MM contract with Joe Nathan, and the Red Sox and Edward Mujica struck a two-year agreement. Here's the latest on the free agent market for relievers…

  • Agent Dan Horwits received calls from 14 teams regarding client John Axford in the first 36 hours following his non-tender by the Cardinals, he told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. As Nicholson-Smith writes, any team to sign Axford would control him through the 2016 season, making him a potentially more appealing target.
  • One team who figures to be heavily in the mix for Axford is the Orioles, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. The O's liked Mujica prior to his signing with the Red Sox, and the fact that he is off the board likely strengthens Baltimore's interest in Axford, Kubatko adds.
  • The Nationals are interested in Scott Downs and have inquired on him at least twice, according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson. It's not clear what kind of contract Downs is looking for at this time, writes Ladson, who also reports that the Nats are considering using Ross Detwiler out of the bullpen in 2014.
  • The Nationals are also interested in southpaw Eric O'Flaherty, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Though the Nationals have yet to make an offer, they've maintained a constant dialogue with his agent. Washington is one of six teams to have shown interest in O'Flaherty and is also eyeing J.P. Howell and Boone Logan, per Kilgore.