Henry Owens Rumors

Red Sox To Promote Henry Owens

Red Sox pitching prospect Henry Owens will be called up to make his Major League debut on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, Sox manager John Farrell told reporters (including the Providence Journal’s Brian MacPherson).  Owens gets the call to replace Rick Porcello, who was placed on the 15-day DL today with a right triceps strain.  By coincidence, Owens will pitch a day before Yankees prospect Luis Severino makes his own much-anticipated debut.

Owens, 23, was chosen with the 36th overall pick of the 2011 draft and the lefty has since become not only Boston’s top pitching prospect, but one of the more well-regarded young arms in baseball.  Owens rated highly on preseason top-100 prospect lists from MLB.com (19th), ESPN’s Keith Law (20th) and Baseball America (44th).  The 2015 Baseball America Prospect Handbook described Owens as showing “an advanced feel for pitching that exceeds his age” in terms of reading and adapting to hitters’ swings.  Owens can touch 94mph on his fastball through he usually works in the 89-92mph range, with an “excellent” changeup and a promising curve that needs some more development.

Despite this praise, however, Baseball America actually downgraded Owens on their midseason prospect list, slotting him at #47.  The list, published on July 7, may have reflected Owens’ somewhat rocky start to his Triple-A season, though he has an overall 3.16 ERA in 122 1/3 innings.  Owens only has a 7.6 K/9 rate, a notable drop from his K/9 over his first three pro seasons, and he has continued to have some control issues.  He has a 4.1 BB/9 this season, in line with the 4.0 BB/9 he has posted over 518 career innings.


Red Sox Notes: Ortiz, Owens, Trade Plans, Masterson

David Ortiz has ten-and-five rights and says there’s “no chance” he’d approve a deal to another club, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. There hasn’t been any credible suggestion that Boston would look to move one of team’s best-known players, of course, but it sounds as if that has no chance of becoming a realistic possibility. “This is the team I’ll be with the rest off my career,” said Ortiz.

Here’s more on the Red Sox, who entered play today at ten games under .500:

  • Starting pitching prospect Henry Owens has struggled mightily this year at Triple-A, as Alex Speier of the Boston Globe writes. His walks have skyrocketed even as his strikeout numbers have lagged. Of course, the big southpaw is still just 22, and Pawtucket pitching coach Bob Kipper says there’s still plenty of reason to believe that Owens can be a quality big league starter. That may well be true, but Boston probably hoped Owens would be ready to step in this year or next, and he has some work to do to get back on track.
  • As the Red Sox front office gets ready to evaluate the summer trade market, the team could well face tough questions about whether contention is reasonably possible this season. As Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes, GM Ben Cherington did not directly answer the question whether the club could look to the future in structuring its moves. “Get better and be the best team we can be,” he said when asked whether the club would focus on current upgrades. “Not putting a date on it but just be the best team we can be. That’s what we would be geared toward. We haven’t considered anything other than that at this point.”
  • Cherington said that he takes responsibility for the team’s sluggish performance to date, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports. One key issue, of course, has been the poor overall work of major signings Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval“Look, we’ve had plenty of examples of guys who, 5 or 10 percent of the way through their contracts, there was an adjustment period and they didn’t take off quite yet and then in time it does,” Cherington said. “I’m not going to make any judgments on any specific decision or player based on that short amount of time. But I will certainly make judgments on myself for the overall performance and the team’s performance. That’s on me. If there’s any single person I’m focused on, it’s more my own decisions in total. If you want to talk about the total performance of the team, it’s got to be about me more than any individual out there.”
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports argues that Boston needs to do whatever it can — which would, surely, include eating quite a bit of money — to move both Ramirez and Sandoval. That seems a bit hasty, in spite of the obvious problems that have arisen, not least of which because the club would be selling quite low on both players. As John Tomase of WEEI.com writes, many of the team’s big contracts would be quite difficult to move without keeping a big piece of the salary obligations and/or including quality young talent to rid itself of those contracts. All said, from my view, the only course of action at this point is to wait and hope for better — though Cherington & Co. have shown plenty of willingness to jump on opportunities to get out from under bad contracts.
  • Of course, the focus early on was on the team’s pitching, and while there have been some signs of improvement, all is not quite well on that front either. Justin Masterson has, of course, struggled after signing a one-year deal that he and the team hoped would coincide with a turnaround. Masterson is coming to the end of a rehab stint, and the team has given him the choice whether to accept a move to the bullpen or take another rehab start to allow more time for evaluation, Mastrodonato reports. That might not be a permanent move, skipper John Farrell emphasized. “If it were in the next 10 days and he was in the bullpen we feel like he’s built up enough pitches that if he didn’t start for five, six days, he could be inserted into the rotation if needed,” Farrell said. “Those are all things being discussed and factored.”
  • In a longer-term matter, the Red Sox are increasingly considering whether it makes sense to shift good arms into bullpen roles earlier in their careers, Mastrodonato reports“In the lower levels obviously we’re trying to get guys as many innings as possible and starting is the easiest way to do that, but there’s an exception,” explained Cherington. “And we’ve been a little more proactive recently at the upper levels of trying to identify guys we think might perform better in that role, move them into that role a tick quicker.” The Boston GM did make clear that starting pitching was the priority, but said that the organization wants to be realistic about how it can get assets onto its major league roster. Then, there are broader market considerations. “Part of it is you’re trying to get players ready for the big leagues,” said Cherington, “but part of it is an acknowledgement of the market. Free agency is treating non-closing major league relievers better than ever.”

Phillies Notes: Papelbon, Brewers, Hamels, Red Sox

Here’s the latest out of Philadelphia, which houses one of the league’s most interesting rosters to watch this spring. Steve Adams and I discuss that, among other topics, on today’s forthcoming podcast. In the meantime, some notes:

  • The Phillies asked the Brewers for a “top prospect” in return for closer Jonathan Papelbon if the club was to pick up a big piece of the remainder of his deal, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (in a piece we cited earlier this morning). In response, Milwaukee broached the idea of sending Jonathan Broxton back to Philadelphia to help balance the cash, a concept that did not gain traction (and which Rosenthal argues made little sense for either club).
  • Those talks are now dormant, per Rosenthal. That would appear to take the Brewers out of the picture for Papelbon at this point. As Rosenthal explains, the entire episode also demonstrates the broader difficulty the club is facing in moving Papelbon. While a spring injury could always shake up the market, it increasingly appears (as others have suggested) that waiting until the summer to deal might represent the best option for the Phils.
  • The Red Sox have plenty of leverage in their pursuit of Phillies lefty Cole Hamels, writes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. That’s because “even the second-best deal [Amaro] can get for Hamels from the Red Sox is likely better than he can get elsewhere,” as Abraham puts it. Even taking on most of the Hamels deal is going to leave plenty of value left to be accounted for in any trade scenario — another topic that Steve and I discuss — but Abraham suggests that the gap might be bridged by a package fronted by lefty Henry Owens and including several other top prospects not named Betts, Swihart, or Rodriguez.


Cafardo On Lester, Hamels, Iwakuma, Sandoval

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wonders if the Dodgers‘ outfield surplus could net them a solution to their shortstop situation.  Los Angeles isn’t expected to re-sign Hanley Ramirez and with underwhelming options on the open market, it stands to reason that the Dodgers could explore trading from their strongest area to find a replacement.  Earlier this week, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman acknowledged that “the best course of action” would probably be to trade one of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, or Carl Crawford.  More from today’s column..

  • While Jon Lester is reportedly receiving “legitimate interest” from six interested clubs, some are skeptical about his market.  “Really? Six teams are going to be six years at $150 million for Jon Lester?” said one NL executive. “Sounds like agent enhancement of his client to me.”
  • The Red Sox have already shot down a couple of proposals from the Phillies involving Cole Hamels.  Cafardo expects the Phillies to reopen talks with Boston.
  • The Mariners have fielded inquiries from a few teams on Hisashi Iwakuma and the Red Sox have had at least internal conversations about the 33-year-old right-hander. The Mariners, meanwhile, would want an impact hitter like Yoenis Cespedes in return.
  • It’s expected that the Red Sox would want to offer Pablo Sandoval a contract with bonuses that would reward him for staying within a certain range.  A Giants official told Cafardo that Sanoval lost almost 30 pounds in the offseason only to gain 20 of them back during the season.  The CBA forbids teams from taking money away from players for gaining weight, but they can incentivize staying trim.
  • Mark Mulder continues to work toward a comeback but he indicated to Cafardo that he’s not 100% sure it will happen.  Mulder was making a run at it last offseason when during one of his workouts he tore his Achilles.  Afterwards, the hurler returned to ESPN as an analyst.
  • Rival scouts have worked hard to cut through the hype in their evaluations of the Red Sox‘s pitching prospects.  The biggest debate concerns Henry Owens and how his 92-mile-per-hour fastball and slow curve would play in the big leagues.  Meanwhile, some believe that left-hander Brian Johnson might be the best pitcher in Boston’s system.
  • Cafardo reported last week that the Tigers are listening to trade proposals on Alex Avila and mentioned the Braves and Red Sox as possible suitors for his left-handed bat. Today, Cafardo added the Cardinals as a team that could see him as a solid backup option.

AL Notes: Red Sox, Drew, Orioles, Tigers, Damon

Five years ago today, Alex Rodriguez admitted and apologized for using PEDs during his tenure with the Rangers. Rodriguez blamed the pressure of trying to fulfill the expectations created by his then-record 10-year, $252MM contract. Two days ago, Rodriguez voluntarily dismissed his federal lawsuit against MLB, the Commissioner's Office, and the MLBPA and will serve his 162-game suspension stemming from his role in the Biogenesis affair. Here's the latest from the American League:

  • Red Sox GM Ben Cherington told Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio (Twitter link) he doesn't expect anything to happen with Stephen Drew before the start of Spring Training; but, out of respect for the shortstop, has maintained a dialogue with agent Scott Boras.
  • Cherington also told the pair he is working the phones to add another reliever (via a Bowden tweet).
  • The Red Sox's starting rotation, currently flush with experienced hurlers, could take on a much younger and cheaper look in the next 12-18 months, writes the Boston Herald's Scott Lauber. Left-hander Henry Owens headlines the list of Boston's pitching prospects on the verge of reaching the Majors, according to Lauber. 
  • Having lost out on Bronson Arroyo and entering the second week of February without a truly significant free agent acquisition, the Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck opines it's fair to wonder how much the Orioles really want to win this year.
  • Tigers President/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters recently, including Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, the Prince FielderIan Kinsler trade set the tone for the other moves he made this offseason. "If that move wasn’t made, you’re really in a position where you’re kind of back to where you were. It was one move that set off our plans in place." One part of that plan has received much scrutiny: dealing Doug Fister to the Nationals. Dombrowski said Fister was expendable because the Tigers have six solid starters with three of them (Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Drew Smyly) under contract for at least the next four years while also proclaiming he'd love to have Max Scherzer "stay as a Tiger for a long time."   
  • Johnny Damon, whose last MLB appearance was with the Indians in 2012, is open to managing or resuming his playing career, but only on the Major League level, reports the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin.

AL East Notes: Red Sox, Orioles, Choo, Yankees, Rays

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington has acknowledged teams are inquiring about their rotation depth, but the Boston Herald's Michael Silverman notes there's an element missing from the starters' equation: a potential ace in his mid-20s. Silverman believes it will be close to impossible to acquire such a pitcher through trade or free agency, so the best bet is an internal option. Henry Owens, the 36th overall selection in the 2011 amateur draft, tops Silverman's list of future homegrown aces, as the 21-year-old left-hander posted a 2.67 ERA, 11.3 K/9, and 4.5 BB/9 in 135 innings (26 starts) across Boston's Class A Advanced and Double-A levels. Here's more from the AL East:

  • Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com wonders if the Orioles should make a play for free agent pitcher Bartolo Colon.  On one hand, Colon pitched to a 2.65 ERA with 5.5 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 30 starts and could possibly be signed for just one year.  Of course, Colon will turn 41 early on in the 2014 season and missed a good chunk of 2012 thanks to having elevated testosterone levels.  
  • Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com looked back at ten moves by former GM Andy MacPhail that helped shape the Orioles.  The list starts with MacPhail's signing of first-round pick Matt Wieters in 2007.  The O's didn't have the best history with agent Scott Boras at that point, but MacPhail worked out a deal that included a $6MM signing bonus for the player who turned out to be the best catcher in club history.
  • Shin-Soo Choo would bring more than just a solid on-base percentage to the Yankees or their crosstown rivals, writes David Lennon of Newsday.  Lennon wonders if Choo's marketability overseas could give him extra value to one of the New York teams given that they have the second-largest Korean population in the U.S and offer more exposure than anyone else.
  • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times runs down possible targets for the Rays this winter at their different areas of need.  The list starts with Mets first baseman Ike Davis, who could be an interesting buy-low fit.
  • The Rays were interested in Mark Lowe last offseason before he was scooped up by the Dodgers, Topkin writes.  Tampa Bay signed the 30-year-old reliever to a minor league deal yesterday.

Edward Creech contributed to this post.


Odds & Ends: AL East, Mauer, D’Backs, Sheets

Some links to read with Opening Day just a month away…