Hunter Harvey Rumors

Jon Lester Rumors: Thursday

As of late last night, the Pirates and the Cardinals were said to be the two teams most aggressively pursuing Jon Lester, who was scratched from Wednesday’s scheduled start. At one point yesterday, the Orioles looked close to a deal, but conflicting reports emerged on the severity of those negotiations. Regardless, Baltimore does seem to be in the mix, and a late-to-the-party mystery team was revealed to be the Athletics. We’ll keep track of the final stages of the Lester sweepstakes in this post…

Earlier Updates

  • Hall of Fame reporter Peter Gammons tells WEEI’s John Dennis and Gerry Callahan that the Dodgers aren’t in the mix to acquire Lester at this point (Twitter link).

Stark’s Latest: Price, Phillies, O’s, Royals, Pirates

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com has a new Rumblings & Grumblings column posted in which he runs down a plethora of trade-related topics. You’ll need to read the full post to get all the information and analysis, but here are some of the highlights …

  • The Rays are waiting until next week to make any decisions on whether or not to trade ace David Price. However, as Stark points out, it could still be a difficult judgment call as to whether or not the Rays are close enough to go for it or far enough back to sell. Tampa is currently seven games back of the division lead and four and a half games back from a Wild Card berth.
  • One executive tells Stark that he’s convinced the team will move Price if they get a big enough offer. Said the exec, “They’ve really built their team by making these kinds of deals. But if the return they can get now is something they think they can get this winter, they’ll hold him.” Another exec tells Stark that waiting until the winter could reduce the return in a trade by 30 to 40 percent.
  • Stark runs down the possible landing spots for Price, calling the Dodgers the favorite, but noting that L.A. has said it will not part with both Joc Pederson and Corey Seager, even in a Price trade. The Mariners are the second choice, he notes, with the Cardinals listed third followed by the Giants and Blue Jays (both of whom are painted as long shots by Stark).
  • If the Rays do sell Price, they’ll be open for business and listen on a number of other players, including Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Yunel Escobar. Their preference is to deal Price and Zobrist in separate trades, if that comes to pass.
  • The Phillies are the next team that everyone is watching, with nine players that could be moved but contractual problems surrounding many of them. Most execs feel the Phillies will eat money to facilitate deals and aren’t looking to just dump players on other clubs. Specifically, the team is in need of position-player prospects, one exec who has spoken with Philadelphia tells Stark.
  • Marlon Byrd is the most likely to be dealt, with the Mariners, Royals and Reds scouting him. The Reds, however, may not be able to take on Byrd’s remaining $3MM in 2014, and the Mariners and Royals are on his no-trade list.
  • Jonathan Papelbon and Cliff Lee aren’t likely to be dealt, executives tell Stark. In Lee’s case, they feel he’s a lock to clear waivers. One exec tells Stark that he’d be more inclined to take a chance on Lee were he a free agent, but his contract is too risky at this point.
  • Cole Hamels isn’t likely to be dealt either. It’s not that the Phillies aren’t willing to move him, it’s just that the prices they’ve specified consist of packages “that no one would possibly give up.”
  • A.J. Burnett‘s preference is indeed to return to the Pirates, but Pittsburgh would need assurances that he’s not going to exercise his player option for 2015. The Orioles‘ interest is said to be lukewarm, while the Phillies asked the Yankees and were told, “No thanks.”
  • At least half a dozen teams are in on Antonio Bastardo, whom Stark concretely says will be traded in the next week.
  • The Orioles aren’t looking for a closer upgrade over Zach Britton, but they’re looking for a rotation upgrade and a lefty reliever that’s more than just a left-on-left specialist. They’ve shown no interest in dealing Hunter Harvey or Dylan Bundy.
  • The Royals have called on virtually every right-handed hitter on the market, but they’re look specifically at right fielders, including Byrd, Alex Rios, Chris Denorfia and Dayan Viciedo. The first two of those options still look most likely.
  • Stark would be surprised if the Pirates didn’t add at least one pitcher, if not two in the next week, but it’d have to be at least a No. 3 option in terms of starters. On the relief front, they’re looking at seventh-inning arms, as they’re content with Tony Watson in the eighth and Mark Melancon in the ninth.

Orioles Showing Most Early Interest In Samardzija

2:27pm: Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun adds to the story, reporting that the Cubs had one of their top talent evaluators — one who is not typically assigned to low-level minor league games — present at one of Harvey’s most recent start for Class-A Delmarva.

Connolly asked Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette about the timeline for trades, and Duquette replied by pointing out that the team just made a trade to acquire Nick Hundley this weekend. Duquette added that he and his staff are constantly talking to other teams, though naturally, he declined to comment on Samardzija specifically.

Of course, as Connolly points out, even if the O’s are being aggressive, it doesn’t necessarily behoove the Cubs to deal early. They could potentially extract more from a deal by getting other teams involved in the bidding to drive up the eventual return.

10:42am: While we’re still more than two months from the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, multiple sources have indicated to Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago that the Orioles are the “leading team of interest” in the early stages of the Jeff Samardzija sweepstakes. According to Levine, there’s mutual interest between the two teams, which isn’t surprising given the Orioles’ wealth of young pitching.

Baltimore has built up a strong crop of top-tier pitching prospects in the form of Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Hunter Harvey (who, as a 2013 draftee, is ineligible to be dealt until after this year’s draft) and Eduardo Rodriguez. Each of those players ranked inside the game’s top 61 prospects, per Baseball Prospectus. While Harvey didn’t crack the Top 100 lists of Baseball America or MLB.com, the other three are all present on those lists as well. That crop makes the O’s a particularly logical trading partner for the Cubs, who are stocked with high-end hitting prospects in their well-regarded farm system but lack potential high-impact arms.

Those names might seem a steep price to pay for Orioles fans, but it’s likely that the Cubs would ask for two from that list, in my opinion. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently reported that the Cubs asked for Drew Hutchison and one of Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez from the Blue Jays this winter, and that was before Samardzija got off to the best start of his career.

The 29-year-old Samardzija ranks second only to Adam Wainwright with a 1.68 ERA among qualified starters (Wainwright, at 1.67, has only been nominally better in terms of ERA). He’s racked up 75 innings while averaging 7.7 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 to go along with a career-best 51 percent ground-ball rate. The Chicago ace is affordable, as he’s earning just $5.35MM after avoiding arbitration last winter, and he’s controllable through the 2015 season. Sabermetric estimators agree that Samardzija’s start has been outstanding, with FIP pegging him at 2.79 and xFIP estimating 3.27.

Last summer, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer and president Theo Epstein were able to extract a package of C.J. Edwards (now the game’s No. 28 ranked prospect, per BA), Mike Olt, Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez for two months of Matt Garza. It seems logical that Chicago’s front office will look to exceed that package in order to deal a pitcher with more team control that is off to a better start and comes with far less injury concern than the one they traded away last summer.

Baltimore currently sits just 3.5 games back in the AL East, thanks largely to the team’s offense. Orioles starters have combined for a 4.57 ERA this season, which ranks 25th in the Majors.



AL East Notes: Drew, Doubront, Kelley, Harvey

Stephen Drew chose to ink a one-year deal with the Red Sox in spite of the fact that he received multi-year offers since the start of the season, agent Scott Boras said today on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (via WEEI.com’s Joon Lee). “The quest, knowing that Stephen had set forth a path to achieve the dynamic of being an unrestricted free agent the idea was to put himself in a position where the team, and within an environment we knew he could be successful,” said Boras. “It turned out we did get multi-year offers as the season opened up but it was Stephen’s decision to take a one-year deal and return to the Red Sox and have a chance to compete for another championship.” Boras indicated that, after Drew was unable to get a multi-year contract wrapped up before the season, his agency focused on the fact that Drew could avoid a second consecutive qualifying offer by waiting to sign until the season had started, calling it “a right that is of great and substantial value.”

  • Red Sox Starter Felix Doubront has been placed on the 15-day DL after experiencing increasing shoulder numbness throughout last night’s game. Lee has the story, noting that Doubront will await the results of an MRI today. The 26-year-old lefty said today that he had banged the shoulder into his car door at some point prior to the start, tweets Alex Speier of WEEI.com.
  • Doubront’s injury adds to the increasing uncertainty in the Red Sox rotation, which has compiled 4.6 fWAR but owns a mediocre 4.31 ERA. Jake Peavy has seen his earned run mark balloon from 1.93 (after his April 15 start) up to 4.33 at present, while Clay Buchholz has looked out of sorts and was run early again today. Speier took a look at the club’s internal options to fill in for Doubront, each of whom could be called upon if other needs arise as well. Brandon Workman still seems the most likely immediately call-up due to his recent big league experience, with Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, and Anthony Ranaudo all viable options as well. (Speier also mentions Matt Barnes, but notes that he is not on the 40-man and is still building up arm strength after a delayed start to the season.)
  • Meanwhile, the pitching injury issues continued to be compounded for the Yankees, who learned that reliever Shawn Kelley has suffered a setback, as Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports. Kelley, who spent time as the team’s injury-replacement closer earlier in the season, had been expected to begin mound work in the coming days, but he experienced back stiffness after playing catch. Nevertheless, manager Joe Girardi said that an MRI had shown no structural issues.
  • A cast of Baseball Prospectus writers participated in a written debate over the prospect value of Orioles righty Hunter Harvey, who opened the year as the game’s 58th-best prospect in the view of BP and has dominated early in 2014. While Ryan Parker and CJ Wittmann disagree slightly on Harvey’s ceiling, both agree that he projects as at least a number-three starter and is likely to jump up on prospect lists. Baltimore seems to have a steal with Harvey, who was snatched with the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft and signed for the slot recommendation of about $1.95MM. He slots alongside well-regarded minor league arms like Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, and Eduardo Rodriguez to form an impressive group of young pitching filtering up to Baltimore.