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Here's the latest out of the AL central…
- The White Sox's Jake Peavy may be the top name on the trade market now that he's returned from the DL, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com says. Up until now, most of the market's attention seems to have been on another Chicago hurler, the Cubs' Matt Garza, but a survey of GMs and assistant GMs favored Peavy, Heyman writes. Executives say they like Peavy's extra year of club control – allowing a club to extend a qualifying offer, which won't be an option for the team that acquires Garza – and overall appeared to be "pretty enamored" of the Chicago righty. "Peavy has been better than Garza except for lately and he has done it in a hitter's park in the American League," an NL GM said. "Garza's better for 2013, but I think Peavy has more overall value."
- Scouts from the Blue Jays, the Red Sox, the Yankees, the Orioles and the Diamondbacks were on hand for the White Sox's matchup with the Braves today, FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal tweets. However, not all were there to watch Peavy, who started for the White Sox and went six innings, striking out three and walking none. Rosenthal says Yankees scouts were in attendance merely as a part of the team's normal coverage, while the Diamondbacks aren't in on the righty.
- The Tigers hope to be the team that ends up with the Brewers' Francisco Rodriguez when the trade deadline passes, ESPN's Buster Olney reports (Twitter link). K-Rod appears to make the most sense for Detroit and Boston, Olney tweets, as he has experience in the ninth inning but can pitch in any role and any market.
With yesterday's unfortunate news on reliever Andrew Bailey and extension talks surrounding second bagger Dustin Pedroia, things are getting interesting in Boston as the trade deadline nears. Here's the latest:
- Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez could make sense for the Red Sox, ESPN's Buster Olney opines on Twitter. When MLBTR's Tim Dierkes first listed preliminary relief trade candidates earlier in the year, Rodriguez had yet to appear for the Brewers after signing in mid-April. More recently, however, MLBTR's Steve Adams noted and explored Rodriguez's emergence on the trade market for righty pen pieces.
- If he is even made available by the Phillies, former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon shouldn't be considered by Boston, according to Bill Chuck of BaseballAnalytics.org. As Chuck explains, Papelbon's ERA and WHIP are masking significant declines in the velocity and effectiveness of Papelbon's fastball, making his $13MM annual salary over 2014-15 an unwise investment.
- Boston is sending a scout to the White Sox game today, presumably to take a look at starter Jake Peavy, Olney reports via Twitter. As noted earlier today, Peavy will make his first outing since going on the DL this afternoon in an inter-league matchup against the Braves.
- If the Sox do look to make a big splash on the trade market, pitcing prospect Anthony Ranaudo is one piece that it could consider moving, write WEEI.com's Alex Speier and Katie Morrison. While Ranaudo's value was down after being shut down last year, he has been overpowering (if inconsistent) at times this year in Double-A. The 23-year-old sports a 2.87 ERA with 9.1 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. Given the organization's upper-level minor league starting pitching depth, say Speier and Morrison, Ranaudo is a candidate to be dealt.
- Looking at the overall pitching needs of the Red Sox in light of the loss of Bailey and uncertainty surrounding injured starter Clay Buchholz, Speier says (in another piece) that the team's recent trade history shows that it is unlikely to act rashly. Of course, as Speier's breakdown shows, the failure to shore up the roster has left the team shorthanded at times over the post-season push.
- Indeed, while the Red Sox may feel pressure to go out and find a replacement for Bailey, the team's management and ownership appear to be in unison in not wanting to mortgage the future to do so, writes Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com. While McAdam notes that the organization could feel pressure to make a post-season drive at all costs, he quotes a source as saying that ownership "trust[s]" and is "on the same page" with the baseball operations team. GM Ben Cherington said that he is determined to attack this season's trade deadline "in a way that makes us better but doesn't alter our long-term course."
Brewers relievers John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, and Mike Gonzalez are a popular bunch. A Dodgers scout was sent to Milwaukee this week to watch the available trio, writes Danny Knobler of CBS Sports, while the Red Sox, Orioles and Tigers have scouts in Milwaukee this week and the other NL West teams are interested in the Brewers' relievers as well as Yovani Gallardo. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports has a new report too, saying the Tigers, Orioles, and Diamondbacks have scouted the Brewers' relievers in recent days and weeks.
Morosi says the D'Backs and Brewers have discussed Axford, Rodriguez, and Jim Henderson, while Knobler says the Brewers have told teams Henderson won't be dealt. Interest from the Tigers and Orioles appears more preliminary, writes Morosi, and the Tigers and Brewers have not had formal talks recently.
Rodriguez and Gonzalez will be eligible for free agency after the season, while Axford is under team control through 2016 as an arbitration eligible player. As a Super Two with 106 career saves to his credit, Axford's salary jumped to $5MM this year. As Morosi notes, Axford's salary might scare some teams off, though his lack of saves this year will slow down his arbitration raises. Even though a team can technically own Axford's rights through 2016, the focus for a team acquiring him has to be on 2013, with tendering him a contract even for 2014 a decision that will require more information and some thought. It's one of the reasons the Brewers are reportedly willing to move him.
Former Colorado Rockie Ryan Spilborghs has been blogging for The Denver Post about his experiences playing for the Seibu Lions in Japan this season, and he weighs in on the issue of PEDs in his latest post. While Spilborghs doesn't approve of PED use, he suggests that baseball's long season can push players too far without giving them enough time to recover. A better model may be the schedule adopted by Japan's NPB league, which has teams playing 144 games in about 180 days, Spilborghs says.
Some more notes from around the senior circuit…
- Ike Davis will rejoin the Mets on Friday for their matchup with the Brewers, a source told Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Davis was demoted on June 10 after hitting just .161/.242/.258 in 207 plate appearances, but work with Triple-A coaches to address a hitch in Davis' swing was apparently successful, as the first baseman has compiled a .293/.424/.667 line with the Las Vegas 51s. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes speculated in a May post that Davis could be a non-tender candidate this offseason.
- The Dodgers are expected to activate outfielder Carl Crawford from the DL as soon as Friday, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Los Angeles will soon be faced with a long-anticipated glut of regular outfielders, with Crawford joining Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and sensation Yasiel Puig on the active roster. Manager Don Mattingly acknowledges that it will be a "sticky" situation to manage. It remains to be seen whether the Dodgers will consider moving Andre Ethier, who was given a five-year, $85MM extension just over a year ago.
- While Yovani Gallardo of the Brewers has been the subject of trade dialogue, Adam McCalvy of MLB.com reports that the righty is determined not to let the rumors affect him. "We all hear things. I'm not going to lie. … But basically I just leave it at that. I hear them, and then don't think about it too much." Gallardo did acknowledge, however, that he had become aware of some of the teams on his no-trade list.
- Though the loss of Jesse Crain to the DL dampens the reliever market, a number of potentially available NL hurlers could help bolster a contender's bullpen, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports notes. The Cubs' Kevin Gregg has earned 14 saves in 15 opportunities, while the Brewers' Francisco Rodriguez is a perfect seven for seven in save chances and could help the Tigers, Rosenthal says. John Axford, Milwaukee's former closer, could also be a useful piece.
- The Marlins could offer Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn, or Ryan Webb, as they have power arms in the pipeline and "never mind trading relievers," according to Rosenthal. Both Cishek and Dunn have been effective for the Fish and become eligible for arbitration after this season. Miami could have a tougher time finding a taker for Webb, however, as he's shown discouraging strikeout and walk trends.
- Rosenthal is also less high on the Phillies' Jonathan Papelbon, noting his high salary and declining strikeout rate, and the Brewers' Michael Gonzalez, a lefty who opponents have managed a .746 OPS against despite his high K/9 rate.
MLBTR's Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
11:14am: The Diamondbacks have "no interest" in moving Skaggs, writes MLB.com Steve's Gilbert. Gilbert also notes that Skaggs has been impressive at Triple-A as of late and is likely to replace the injured Trevor Cahill in the rotation tomorrow.
THURSDAY, 11:08am: The Diamondbacks are also interested in relievers John Axford, Jim Henderson and Francisco Rodriguez, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Morosi adds that given the recent injury to White Sox setup ace Jesse Crain — who some considered to be the best reliever on the market — interest in the Brewers' relievers could pick up quickly.
WEDNESDAY: While nothing is imminent, the Diamondbacks and Brewers have been talking about possible trades involving right-hander Yovani Gallardo and one of the Arizona names that's surfaced in discussions is top pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
The two teams appear to be good partners as the Brewers have another veteran starter in Kyle Lohse and Arizona has plenty of solid young pitching, including Skaggs and Randall Delgado. However, it doesn't appear anything is close at this point and one person familiar with the talks said, "There's no traction at this point.''
Even though a deal isn't going down today or tomorrow, Heyman says that it's a situation worth keeping an eye on. Gallardo fits the bill for the Diamondbacks as they are targeting younger, high-upside, controlled starters.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
The Brewers have lost four in a row, used 57 different lineups in 80 games this season, and own the third-worst record in all of baseball. The Brewers are expected to be sellers at the Trade Deadline, a fate further cemented with the news of Corey Hart missing the rest of the year with his third knee surgery in 16 months and Ryan Braun out, at least, until after the All-Star break (per MLB.com's Adam McCalvy) with an irritated nerve in his right hand. Milwaukee's best trade chips are a quartet of relievers (John Axford, Michael Gonzalez, Jim Henderson, and Francisco Rodriguez), who have closer experience. Here's the latest Trade Deadline news involving the Brewers:
- GM Doug Melvin admits to receiving calls about his bullpen, but he isn't quite sure what to expect in return, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Teams have to determine what is important to them and how they value relief pitchers," Melvin said. "Sometimes they don't want to give up a lot to acquire them. They think teams will give up guys just to get rid of their contracts. We're not really looking to do that."
- Axford, the Brewers' highest-paid reliever at $5MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility as a Super Two, is aware his name is being floated in trade rumors. "I'm sure there will be talk about it as we get closer to the trade deadline," Axford told Haudricourt. "Teams probably will test the waters and see what the Brewers' response is. I'll be fine with it. You have to block that out and focus on your job here."
- Manager Ron Roenicke has re-inserted Rodriguez into the closer's role, reports Haudricourt's colleague Michael Hunt. Did the idea of showcasing Rodriguez for a Trade Deadline deal have any role in this decision? "None, not to me," said Roenicke. "Not until I meet with (GM) Doug (Melvin) and Doug tells me something different."
- Teams also are reported to have shown interest in Brewers' starting pitchers Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse, but Melvin told Haudricourt trading either one "is not something we have to do. We're not necessarily looking to sell. But if somebody steps up (with a big offer), I'd have to listen."
The Brewers are receiving "a lot of calls" regarding the availability of John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez and Mike Gonzalez, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). He adds that Yovani Gallardo is also drawing "some" interest.
Axford started the season as Milwaukee's closer but lost the job after he allowed nine runs in his first 3 1/3 innings. Over the past five weeks, however, he's fired 18 1/3 scoreless innings in a row, striking out 18 hitters and walking just seven in that time.
A look at the custom Fangraphs leaderboard of relief trade candidates compiled by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes shows that each of the three relievers ranks in the top 20 in xFIP. All three are striking out more than a batter per inning, though all three are pretty significant flyball pitchers as well.
As for Gallardo, Brewers GM Doug Melvin spoke about the right-hander earlier this week. While he feels that Gallardo is important to their chances of winning games in the future, he also acknowledged that contenders will likely make him offers that he has to consider. Tim also analyzed Gallardo's case as a trade candidate earlier this year.
Yesterday, ESPN's Jayson Stark noted that the Brewers will listen on any position player other than Carlos Gomez, Ryan Braun and Jean Segura. I'd imagine that Kyle Lohse will also draw some interest from other clubs.
It could be argued that Anthony Rizzo cost himself some arbitration riches by signing a seven-year, $41MM contract extension with the Cubs, but Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports sees Rizzo's logic. As Rosenthal explains in his latest Hot Corner video, Rizzo's personal history — including a past brush with Hodgkin's lymphoma and a demotion to the minors when with the Padres — could've played a role in his accepting the security of a multiyear deal. Rizzo entered the season with less than a full year of service time, plus Rosenthal notes that Rizzo will still get a crack at free agency. If the Cubs pick up both option years on the deal, Rizzo could hit the market at age 32, young enough to score another nice contract.
Let's check in with some more news from around the NL Central…
- Also from Rosenthal's video, he praises the Cardinals' depth at both the major and minor league levels, giving the team great flexibility in case of injuries or if they want to pursue a trade.
- Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. is an unsung figure in the club's organizational success, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch observes. Miklasz chronicles how DeWitt championed the analytical process of then-vice president Jeff Luhnow (now the Astros' GM) that helped the Cards develop their highly-regarded minor league system.
- Francisco Rodriguez received a few Major League offers from other clubs this winter, the reliever tells MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, but Rodriguez chose to instead sign a minor league deal with the Brewers due to his familiarity with the organization. "There were a few teams out there, but I was waiting for the right opportunity," Rodriguez said. "I had a few options I could have taken to be at the big league level right away, but I wasn't ready physically to make that commitment."
- The Brewers' limited trade options, and a possible Jean Segura contract extension are amongst the topics covered by Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in his reader mailbag.
Yesterday, we learned that the Brewers offered a contract extension to Jean Segura about a month ago, but no deal is close between the two sides at this time. The 23-year-old has just 81 big league games under his belt and there's not a great deal of precedent in place to work out a new deal as only two position players with less than one year of service (Evan Longoria and Salvador Perez) have inked extensions. Still, Milwaukee would love to lock up their young standout to a team-friendly deal as the Cubs did earlier this week. Here's more out of the NL Central..
- Today was Francisco Rodriguez's opt-out date with the Brewers and the club decided to call him up to the big league roster, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Now that he has been promoted to the varsity squad, K-Rod's deal calls for him to earn roughly $2MM for the 2013 season. Milwaukee had 30 days to evaluate Rodriguez before making their determination today.
- Despite his struggles, Carlos Marmol firmly denied a rumor that he wants out of Chicago in order to get a fresh start, writes Carrie Muskat of MLB.com. “I’m not going nowhere,” Marmol said. “I’m very happy here. I can’t wait until they do something so I can stay here. I always talk about how I love Chicago, I love being here, I love my teammates, I love everybody here.” The pitcher met with agent Paul Kinzer earlier today but Marmol says they weren't talking about moving on from the Cubs.
- In his latest mailbag, a reader asks Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune if the club could get Marmol back on track by moving him to the starting rotation. Sullivan notes that the reliever began as a starter in 2006 and didn't succeed and opines that a trade is the only solution.
Matt Harvey posted a game score of 97 while taking a perfect game into the seventh, striking out 12, and walking none over nine innings against the White Sox Tuesday night, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports notes (on Twitter). Only 40 outings of nine innings or fewer since 1916 have earned a higher game score. Here's a collection of notes from around the majors.
- The nine Asian-born pitchers who have pitched in the big leagues this year have combined to post numbers similar to a typical Justin Verlander season, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs says. Those nine pitchers have 241 1/3 innings pitched so far in 2013, with a 2.91 ERA, 9.6 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. Yu Darvish has been a big part of that, of course, but Hyun-Jin Ryu, Hisashi Iwakuma, Hiroki Kuroda, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara have also pitched well. The past struggles of pitchers like Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Irabu have allowed today's Asian-born pitchers to fly under the radar somewhat, Cameron argues, and he wonders whether pitchers from overseas leagues might be undervalued in the market. Specifically, he says, emphasis on fastball velocity and breaking balls may cause teams to undervalue pitchers with great splitters or changeups.
- Free agency has become "a used car lot cluttered with lemons," with only a few bargains to be found, Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated argues, citing the examples of Josh Hamilton (Angels), B.J. Upton (Braves) and Zack Greinke (Dodgers). Thus far, Hamilton and Upton have failed to produce with their new teams, and Greinke is hurt. In the past four seasons, Verducci notes, there have been 24 free-agent contracts worth $35MM or more. Most of those have turned out badly, and some (such as Jason Bay's deal with the Mets) have looked bad almost immediately. That means that "win[ning] the winter" by signing the biggest-name free agents isn't all it's cracked up to be, as the 2012 Marlins can attest. This year's Angels and Dodgers have struggled out of the gate, and so have the Blue Jays (who had a big offseason mostly driven by trades).
- The Astros' decisions to designate Rick Ankiel and Fernando Martinez for assignment made their outfield more athletic, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart says. Robbie Grossman, Brandon Barnes and Jimmy Paredes started in the outfield for the Astros Tuesday night. "We went out to get more athletic, get more guys who have the ability to mishit the ball and still have a possibility of getting on base because of their athletic ability," says manager Bo Porter.
- Will Middlebrooks and David Ross left the Red Sox's game against the Twins Tuesday night after they collided. There is no indication yes that Middlebrooks will miss significant time. But after Middlebrooks, the Red Sox have little depth at third base, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports. Utility infielder Pedro Ciriaco "isn't the answer," MacPherson says, and the choices at Triple-A Pawtucket aren't thrilling. Minor-league veteran Justin Henry, who was acquired in the offseason for Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus, may be the best option there. Brock Holt, who arrived from the Pirates with Joel Hanrahan in the offseason, is another possibility. Of course, Middlebrooks himself has struggled this year, hitting just .195/.232/.281.
- Jake Peavy does not have a no-trade clause in his new contract with the White Sox, and he doesn't need one, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. "I told (GM) Rick Hahn that if he didn’t trade me before spring training was over, that was good enough for me," says Peavy, pointing out that it's unlikely he will be traded if the White Sox are contending.
- Rosenthal also notes that Madison Bumgarner's contract with the Giants could be one of the most team-friendly in baseball. Bumgarner, 23, would have been eligible for free agency after the 2016 season, but his new deal contains cheap team options that can allow the Giants to carry him through 2019.
- The Brewers have assigned Francisco Rodriguez to Class A+ Brevard County, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes. Rodriguez will make three relief appearances there, then head to Triple-A Nashville. The Brewers must promote Rodriguez to the majors by May 17, or he can become a free agent. Rodriguez posted a 4.38 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 78 appearances with the Brewers in 2012.
- Diamond Mines' new database provides a fascinating look at old scouting reports, including many in the scouts' own handwriting.