Frank Wren Rumors

Gammons’ Latest: Braves, Sandoval, Monfort, Tomas, Padres

Hall of Fame journalist and MLB Network contributor Peter Gammons appeared on MLBN’s High Heat yesterday (video link) and published a full notes column today, both of which have plenty of excellent information. Here are some highlights from Gammons’ latest work…

  • While Braves GM Frank Wren did well to patch their rotation with Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang this season, the team’s offense has been woeful, and Wren has the Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton contracts weighing on him. Former Indians GM John Hart, who was brought on as a senior advisor last offseason, could be moved into a more significant role, such as a president of baseball operations (like Theo Epstein in Chicago) or a chief baseball officer like Tony La Russa in Arizona. Hart served as an overseer to Jon Daniels in Texas, and the Braves do have a prime young GM candidate in the form of John Coppolella.
  • Gammons thinks that Pablo Sandoval‘s days as a member of the Giants are numbered. Sandoval will be one of baseball’s most sought-after free agents this offseason, and the Marlins and Red Sox are both “very interested,” according to Gammons. “The Giants, I don’t think have any chance of re-signing him,” he adds.
  • The Rockies had a July deal agreed to that would have sent Jorge De La Rosa to the Orioles in exchange for left-handed pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, but Rockies owner Dick Monfort nixed the trade. De La Rosa was eventually extended on a two-year, $25MM deal, while Rodriguez was traded to the Red Sox in exchange for Andrew Miller. Gammons uses this story as a means of illustrating Monfort’s fierce loyalty — a trait that makes him an enigma even to the Rockies’ own employees. No one in Colorado is quite sure what Monfort will do this offseason, Gammons writes, though trying to pluck former Rockies assistant Thad Levine from the Rangers, where he is currently an assistant GM, is one scenario on which he speculates.
  • At least two dozen teams will be on hand to see Yasmani Tomas‘ showcase in the Dominican Republic this weekend, and Gammons hears that the early front-runners to sign him are the Giants, Phillies, Padres, Rangers and Tigers. All of that, of course, could change quickly following his showcase. The Padres might seem a curious fit there, given the team’s typically tight payroll, but I’d imagine that the international focus of new GM A.J. Preller might be a factor.
  • While the common belief is that Padres manager Bud Black is safe even with the GM change, one person who interviewed for the position told Gammons that he was asked by CEO Mike Dee how he felt about the possibility of Jason Varitek coming on board as the team’s new skipper. Dee, as Gammons notes, is quite familiar with Varitek and his leadership from their days together in Boston. This isn’t the first time that Varitek’s name was connected to the Padres.

Quick Hits: Stewart, Hill, Braves, Rangers

MLBTR has been keeping track of all the rumors and candidates tied to the Diamondbacks‘ GM search, and it appears as if Dave Stewart is now “the favorite” to be the team’s next general manager, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets.  Stewart will formally interview for the job this week.  Here’s some more news from around baseball…

  • Aaron Hill tells FOX Sports’ Jack Magruder that he wants to remain with the Diamondbacks next season.  Hill has lost September playing time to some of the D’Backs’ young infielders and was shopped before the July trade deadline.  It’s no surprise that Arizona might be looking to the future given that Hill has struggled this season, he’ll be 33 next Opening Day and the second baseman is still owed $24MM through the 2016 season.
  • While the Braves are still on the fringes of the NL wild card race, it looks like this could be a lost season for Atlanta.  MLB.com’s Mark Bowman looks at how the team was hurt by some front office and player (namely, Tim Hudson) losses and Bowman wonders if the Braves could shake up the coaching staff or even consider replacing GM Frank Wren.
  • The Rangers have used 27 different position players this season, and MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan looks at how each of them could fit into the 2015 team as Texas looks to rebound from this injury-riddled campaign.  Sullivan’s comments include his opinion that the Rangers will pick up Alex Rios‘ contract option for 2015 and that the catching situation “may be the most intriguing decision” of the offseason as the team will have to decide if Robinson Chirinos will be the regular catcher.

NL Notes: Cubs, Bailey, Rolen, Braves, Nats Bullpen

Thirty-one years ago today, the Cubs and Phillies swapped shortstops with Ivan DeJesus heading to Philadelphia and Larry Bowa going to Chicago. The Cubs also acquired a 22-year-old prospect by the name of Ryne Sandberg. This prospect managed to be named the 1984 National League MVP, played 16 years, finished with a career slash line of .285/.344/.452, and was enshrined into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005. Let's take a look at the news and notes involving the Cubs and the rest of the Senior Circuit:

  • Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette on SiriusXM's MLB Network Radio "never say never…but likely this is the team we go to Spring Training with," Bowden tweeted.
  • Regarding Matt Garza, Hoyer told Bowden and Duquette the focus is to get him healthy and into the Cubs' rotation; but, that could change since Garza will become a free agent after the 2013 season and the team needs to collect talent (Twitter link).
  • Homer Bailey says "nothing has been mentioned at all" about a long-term contract with the Reds, but "it would be something to consider," reports Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. The arbitration eligible right-hander says the arb process has been slower this year because of the Reds' large arbitration class, but "it will all work itself out." You can follow all arbitration cases by using the MLBTR Arbitration Tracker
  • Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has reached out to Scott Rolen to express the team's interest in him, according to MLB.com's Ken Gurnick. Mattingly said he spoke to Rolen about what the Dodgers envision his role would be, but did not ask Rolen specifically about his decision making or timing. The Dodgers see the 37-year-old as insurance if Luis Cruz fails at third base, as well as a potential right-handed-hitting backup to Adrian Gonzalez at first base.
  • Braves GM Frank Wren sat down for an interview with Bill Shanks of the Macon Telegraph and spoke in great detail about the Justin Upton trade, the financial flexibility the deal gives the Braves, and whether future payrolls will be increased from the current $98MM.
  • Nationals relievers Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard were both surprised by the signing of Rafael Soriano, but believe he makes the team better, writes Amanda Comak of the Washington Times. GM Mike Rizzo met with Storen and Clippard this weekend to reassure them that acquiring Soriano was not a reflection on their abilities, Comak added. 


Frank Wren, Justin Upton Discuss Trade

Soon after the Braves signed B.J. Upton, the center fielder told team executives how much he’d enjoy playing with his brother Justin. B.J. might not have known as much at the time, but general manager Frank Wren was already a step ahead of him. Intrigued by the possibility of having both Upton brothers in their outfield, the Braves had begun discussing potential trades with the Diamondbacks in November. It ultimately took months of on-and-off trade talks for the seven-player deal to become a reality.

“It all fell in place for us where we had all of the ingredients to make it happen, and we’re very fortunate that it worked out,” Wren said on a conference call with reporters today.

Wren said the Braves front office is excited to add Upton, “a young, dynamic player that arguably gives us one of the best outfields in the game.” The 25-year-old will add right-handed power to the middle of the Braves’ batting order and patrol the outfield along with Jason Heyward and his older brother. 

"It was a a dream of ours to play together,” Upton told reporters. “I didn't think it would happen this early.”

The pair last played together in high school, but they’ve continued exchanging tips and observations over the years as they’ve established themselves in the big leagues. Upton stressed that he’s looking to become a consistently strong player, suggesting that playing alongside his brother could lead to improved results on the field.

“I think we can really feed off of each other throughout that lineup to try to get everybody to a consistent production rate,” he explained.

Wren said he didn’t begin the offseason with the particular intention of adding both B.J. and Justin. The Braves had strong interest in both players, and now that they’re in place there’s an expectation that the brothers will indeed feed off of one another.

“I do think it’ll drive them,” Wren said. “I think it’ll push them. So I think there are a lot of positives to go around.”

The Braves and Diamondbacks discussed potential trades involving Upton in November and December, generating little traction at first. The teams considered many versions of the deal, going back and forth often leading up to the holidays. The rumors persisted — “there was a lot of chatter whether it was on Trade Rumors, or Twitter,” Wren noted — but discussions didn’t pick up until the last week or so, and the Braves didn’t think they had a good shot at completing the deal until this weekend.

Upton’s name has surfaced in trade rumors since the 2010-11 offseason, when Kevin Towers became Arizona’s GM. Trades and rumors are part of the business, as agent Larry Reynolds knows. That said, there’s a certain amount of relief now that a deal has been completed.

“When reality hits you get a little excited because it’s over first of all for Justin,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds, who represents both Uptons, went on to describe the brothers as competitive with “outstanding baseball acumen.” The Braves were far from the only team interested in Upton, which meant they had to part with some pieces they would have preferred to keep. While the Braves didn’t want to trade Martin Prado, the Diamondbacks pushed for his inclusion in the deal. Wren noted that Prado’s pending arbitration case wasn’t a factor in the move, and acknowledged that years of control figure in to any trade talks. Still, giving up Prado was difficult, even though he’s just a year away from free agency.

“I don’t think there’s any question that was the most difficult part of it,” Wren said. “We’re sad to see him go.”

Wren was quick to note that teams don’t obtain difference makers without giving up “something really good.” And as the Braves set out to retool their team for the post-Chipper Jones era, they wanted impact players. With both Upton brothers in place, the Braves have completed the bulk of their offseason work and will be viewed by many as a contender.

“Where we sit today in January we like our club a lot,” Wren said. “Now we’ve got to go perform.”


Wren Talks Hamilton, Prado, Bourn

The Braves’ pitching staff looks deep, but they could turn over one quarter of their lineup in the coming offseason. GM Frank Wren discussed the team with MLBTR at this year's general manager meetings in Indian Wells, California. Here’s the latest on the Braves, including Wren’s thoughts on the offseason’s top free agent position player

  • The Braves are looking at free agents that could fit in Atlanta, and the GM acknowledged Josh Hamilton is on the team’s radar. “Obviously we’re aware of Josh being a free agent, being a guy that would fit the bill for us,” Wren said. “But we’re not a club that has a huge payroll, and one player taking a huge percentage of our payroll is not the strategy we generally take to field our club. We need to put as many quality players on the field as we can and when one player takes such a large percentage, that inhibits our ability to put a team together.” Danny Knobler reported last week that the Braves are intrigued by Hamilton.
  • Martin Prado’s versatility means the Braves can pursue outfielders or third basemen, Wren said. “His flexibility is a real benefit to us.”
  • The Braves will be seeking outfield reinforcements this offseason, and they’d like to bring back Michael Bourn if possible. “I’m not sure where that market’s going to go, and where he’s going to go. We’ll stay abreast of it,” Wren said. “He’s a guy we’d like to have back.” The center fielder will presumably decline Atlanta’s qualifying offer by Friday’s deadline.
  • The Braves’ pitching staff will return mostly unchanged in 2013, and Wren considers pitching depth one of the organization’s primary strengths. “We have some dynamic young pitchers that are on the verge of being a part of our rotation or on our club,” he added. Though Wren remains open to trading from pitching depth, he pointed out that it can disappear quickly.

Braves Extend Frank Wren

Five years into Frank Wren's tenure as the Braves' general manager, the team continues contending on an annual basis. Wren will have at least two more seasons to bring a championship to Atlanta, as he has agreed to a contract extension through 2014. His previous contract covered the 2012-13 seasons.

In related moves the Braves promoted Bruce Manno to the role of vice president and assistant GM/player development and John Coppolella to the role of assistant GM.

“These changes are a reflection of the good work and success of our Major League baseball team and the work of Frank and his senior staff,” team president John Schuerholz said.

Atlanta won 94 games this year, losing to the Cardinals in a controversy-filled Wild Card play-in game. It marked Atlanta's second postseason appearance under Wren; the Braves lost in the Division Series two years ago.

Since being named to his current post on October 11, 2007, Wren has weathered the departure of franchise icons Bobby Cox and Chipper Jones while acquiring key contributors. Wren traded for players such as Jair Jurrjens and Michael Bourn, claimed Eric O'Flaherty off of waivers, and signed Brandon Beachy as a non-drafted free agent. The 54-year-old GM signed Derek Lowe for four years and $60MM, but in general the team has not spent aggressively on outside free agents, as MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker shows.

Wren, Schuerholz's former assistant, joined the Braves in 2000. The former minor league outfielder had previously worked for the Expos, Marlins and Orioles, including a stint as Baltimore's GM.


Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Roberts, Giles, Amaro

On this date nine years ago, the Astros signed Richard Hidalgo to a four-year, $32MM contract. At the time, it was the third-richest contract in franchise history, behind only Jeff Bagwell's five-year, $85MM deal and Craig Biggio's four-year, $33MM deal. Hidalgo would go on to hit .266/.342/.475 with 87 home runs during the life of the deal, though he was dealt to the Mets mid-way through the 2004 season.

Here's a look at what's been written around the web…

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GM Trade Histories: NL East

Brendan Bianowicz is back with a bunch of updates to the GM Trade History series.  The Excel spreadsheets linked below cover each GM's trades, free agent signings, and top draft picks via tabs along the bottom.  It's interesting to see each GM's most frequent trade partner – for example, Omar Minaya has matched up with Larry Beinfest and Mark Shapiro most often in his career.


Lowe For Sale?

In an informative post-mortem on the Braves, Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports that Atlanta General Manager Frank Wren "is expected to explore the possibility of trading [Derek] Lowe, who is owed $45MM over the final three years of his contract."

The idea makes a ton of sense for Atlanta. With multiple needs, and a surplus of starters, the Braves should certainly jettison one in an effort to add a first baseman, outfielder and/or help in the bullpen.

The question is less about why Atlanta would deal Lowe, and more why anyone would want to deal for him at his price.

Lowe is coming off of a season with a 4.67 ERA along with a strikeout rate of just 5.1 per nine innings. He certainly didn't finish strong, with a 5.05 second-half ERA, and a 6,23 mark from September 1 on. And that $15MM per season will pay for Lowe's age-37, age-38 and age-39 campaigns.

Even if Lowe had pitched extremely well in 2009, it is hard to imagine that many teams could afford him. And of those teams, both the Yankees and Red Sox would hardly want to ask a pitcher with a declining strikeout rate to switch leagues.

It will be fascinating to see if the Braves can find a trading partner for Lowe. They can always make the argument, "He's just a year removed from a 3.24 ERA!" But those arguments never seem to result in renaissance seasons. A lot can change with a year removed. After all, Jon and Kate are just a year removed from being "happily married television stars."


Odds & Ends: Aramis, Marte, Lowe

Links for Wednesday…

  • Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune talked to Aramis Ramirez about his $14.6MM player option for 2011, and the Cubs' third baseman was noncommittal.  Other third basemen who may become free agents after the 2010 season include Garrett Atkins, Jorge Cantu, Mike Lowell, Jhonny Peralta, and Scott Rolen.
  • Former top prospect Andy Marte spoke with Indians GM Mark Shapiro about the future, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  Shapiro told Marte to play first and third base in winter ball and show up early to Spring Training.  It was a tough year for Marte, who turns 26 in November.  He was designated for assignment to make room for Juan Salas in February, cleared waivers, raked at Triple A, and then struggled in the bigs.
  • Braves GM Frank Wren told MLB.com's Mark Bowman that Derek Lowe "pitched really well for us."  Aside from his home run rate, Lowe's numbers declined across the board this year.
  • The Nationals will improve their minor league catching depth for next year, GM Mike Rizzo told MLB.com's Bill Ladson.
  • Miguel Angel Sano is on the backburner for the Orioles, Roch Kubatko of MASN learned from team president Andy MacPhail.  MLB's inconclusive age investigation is the problem.
  • David Waldstein of the New York Times says Ramon Pena, a special assistant to Mets GM Omar Minaya, will not be back next year.  Waldstein says a scouting/player development shakeup is in order.  Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News has info on possible changes aside from Pena.
  • White Sox closer Bobby Jenks is out for the season with a calf injury.  Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times wonders about the righty's future, given a possible $7MM arbitration reward for the 2010 season.
  • Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News notes the impending raise for Giants closer Brian Wilson, who enters his first arbitration year.  Jenks' $5.6MM salary this year will serve as a comparable, so the Giants will add around $5MM to the payroll compared to Wilson's $480K this year.
  • Braves manager Bobby Cox was not happy with the way GM Frank Wren handled the John Smoltz situation last winter, according to Yahoo's Gordon Edes.