- When the Athletics put Rich Hill on the market, they can be expected to charge a high price for him, Rosenthal says. Hill’s stats — if only for this season — compare favorably to David Price’s last year, and he might be amenable to an extension with his new team.
- Prior to this season, there was no trade interest in Melvin Upton unless the Padres took on the rest of his contract. After a .268/.315/.464 performance this year, though, that’s changing, at least to a degree. San Diego still owes Upton a little under $40MM through 2017, but teams are now willing to give up talent, with the Padres’ return increasing depending upon how much salary they’re willing to take on. The Padres might be motivated to deal Upton and/or Matt Kemp to clear space for former first-round pick Hunter Renfroe, who’s batting .335/.362/.611 for Triple-A El Paso. Austin Hedges has also hit well for the Chihuahuas, which means the Padres could also look to move fellow catcher Derek Norris to clear space in the big leagues.
- Jay Bruce to the Blue Jays would make sense, Rosenthal opines. Acquiring Bruce from the Reds would allow the Jays to move Jose Bautista (who’s currently on the DL with a toe injury) to DH and reduce playing time for the underwhelming Justin Smoak. The Jays have a greater need for pitching, but might play to the strengths of the market by acquiring hitting instead.
- The Phillies could consider keeping Jeremy Hellickson, who’s in the midst of a solid season — he could eat innings for them down the stretch, with the Phillies perhaps gambling on him by extending a qualifying offer this coming winter and hoping to grab a draft pick as a result. But they would still “jump” at a good trade offer. Of their relievers, the Phils are more likely to deal David Hernandez or Andrew Bailey than Jeanmar Gomez, who they can control for 2017. Other Phillies candidates to be dealt include Andres Blanco and Peter Bourjos.
- Rosenthal begins the second video with a brief discussion of an article of his from earlier today about former Cardinals minor leaguer Cody Stanley, who has already received a 162-game suspension and expects to receive a lifetime ban for repeatedly testing positive for the steroid Turinabol. Stanley claims to not know why he keeps testing positive. “I will never apologize for something I didn’t do,” Stanley said in a statement. “We will not stop searching for why all of this has happened.” Chris Colabello of the Blue Jays, Alec Asher and Daniel Stumpf of the Phillies and Boog Powell of the Mariners have all tested positive for Turinabol and received suspensions, and all claim not to know what happened. “Who would be stupid enough to take the same steroid again?” Stanley asks Rosenthal.
- The Mets are likely to trade for pitching after a series of injuries to their hurlers, Rosenthal says. Recent injuries to Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard could have the team looking in different directions this month than previously anticipated, perhaps to starters, perhaps to relievers.
- The Dodgers will consider dealing Yasiel Puig before the August 1 deadline, Rosenthal suggests. Whether they actually do deal him could depend, however, on the timing of Andre Ethier’s return and whether they acquire another outfielder.
This is the debut of my weekly “Knocking Down the Door” series here at MLBTR. The purpose is to identify players in Triple-A or Double-A who are doing everything in their power to earn a big league call-up in the very near future.
For the most part, I’ll try to include players who could make a significant impact soon after arriving to the majors, if not right away. So unless it’s a really slow week for potential impact prospects, I will not be telling you about the pending arrival of the next great middle reliever, spot starter or fourth outfielder.
Here are five players to keep an eye on …
Alex Bregman, 3B, Houston Astros (Double-A Corpus Christi): The Houston Astros might be the most disappointing team in baseball. And while the next Carlos Correa probably isn’t waiting in the wings—check back in another decade or so—it’s possible that Alex Bregman can give them a much-needed spark before their season goes completely down the drain.
Correa did make a quick stop in Triple-A before he was called up to the majors last season, but the fading Astros might not be able to wait much longer on the 22-year-old Bregman if they think he can help them out.
The 2nd overall pick in the 2015 draft, Bregman has been a man among boys in Double-A with a 1.007 OPS to go along with 13 homers and more walks (27) than strikeouts (20), which is a good sign that he can handle himself against big league pitching. He’s only played seven games at third base, although a move from shortstop shouldn’t be a difficult transition.
Ryon Healy, 1B, Oakland Athletics (Triple-A Nashville): The A’s have plenty of incentive to continue giving at-bats to Yonder Alonso, who was acquired in the offseason for All-Star candidate Drew Pomeranz, and Billy Butler, who is in year two of a three-year, $30MM deal.
But at some point very soon, they’ll need to move on from at least one of the two—Alonso does have 13 hits in his last eight games to boost his OPS to .642; Butler is coming off of a three-hit game that increased his OPS to .683—and reward first base prospect Ryon Healy for the damage he’s done to Double-A and Triple-A pitching this season.
The 24-year-old Healy has nine hits, including three homers, in his last 22-at-bats to give him an overall slash line of .343/.404/.615 in 60 games between the two levels.
Jose De Leon, SP/RP, Los Angeles Dodgers (Triple-A Oklahoma City): After a breakout season in 2015, Jose De Leon has fallen a bit off the radar due to multiple injuries that have limited him to only three Triple-A starts this season.
While this makes it unlikely that he’ll be able to make an impact in the Dodgers’ rotation anytime soon—he’s made a pair of three-inning starts since returning from the disabled list earlier this month—the 23-year-old right-hander is an intriguing option for a bullpen that does not have a reliable power arm to bridge the gap to closer Kenley Jansen.
In 11 innings, De Leon has allowed three earned runs on four hits with three walks while striking out 21 batters. Sounds like a power arm to me.
Hunter Renfroe, RF/LF, San Diego Padres (Triple-A El Paso): Top outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe is doing his part to earn a big league promotion with a robust .598 slugging percentage after recently belting his 13th and 14th homers of the season. Now he just needs general manager A.J. Preller to do his part and create a spot for him.
Preller has his work cut out for him as he works the phones and tries to find takers for outfielders Matt Kemp and Melvin Upton Jr. and at least some of the remaining salary due on their contracts. Trading free agent-to-be Jon Jay, who is having a nice bounce back season, shouldn’t be difficult. It should only take one trade, though, for the 24-year-old Renfroe to get the call, where the big league coaching staff will hopefully introduce him to something called “plate discipline.”
Renfroe’s Kemp-esque 7-to-45 walk-to-strikeout ratio is a concern. However, in what should be a rebuilding season, it would be great if a key part of the team’s future can get regular at-bats against big league pitching.
Ben Lively, SP, Philadelphia Phillies (Triple-A Lehigh Valley): It’s Zach Eflin who is getting the call tomorrow to replace the injured Vince Velasquez, but it could’ve easily been Ben Lively or Jake Thompson. All three are pitching well. In fact, it was pretty much a coin toss between Lively and Thompson for this highly-coveted spot on the “Knocking Down the Door” list. With the 24-year-old Lively being nearly two years Thompson’s elder, I’m giving him the nod.
Acquired from the Reds for Marlon Byrd two offseasons ago, Lively has really stepped up his game after not making much of an impression in his debut season with the Phillies. After posting a 4.13 ERA in 25 Double-A starts in 2015, the 6’4″ right-hander has put himself on the prospect map with a 1.94 ERA, 2.6 BB/9 and 7.9 K/9 in 13 starts between Triple-A and Double-A. He’s also 10-0, which is probably meaningless, but impressive, nonetheless. Maybe he’s one of those guys who “just knows how to win.”
The Padres are shopping young outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Travis Jankowski in trade talks, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. San Diego also continues to discuss Tyson Ross, James Shields, and Andrew Cashner in trades, with Cashner being “particularly pushed” by the club.
It is not clear from the report what San Diego is looking to do with its two outfield prospects, both of whom rate among the better young assets in the system. Lin notes that the club could just be “gauging interest,” but the addition of Jon Jay did reduce the immediate need for outfield help and the club could look to continue the asset-shifting moves it’s made already this winter.
Jankowski reached the majors last year, struggling in limited exposure, but put up a strong .335/.413/.425 batting line in the upper minors. And the 23-year-old Renfroe exploded upon reaching Triple-A late in the year, ending the season with a .272/.321/.462 slash and twenty home runs.
Of course, we’ve long heard talk that the Padres could consider a move involving their starters, but Shields has drawn more recent attention. Of course, with A.J. Preller at the helm, it has proven nearly impossible to predict what direction the organization will take.
The Giants are seen as the frontrunner for outfielder Alex Gordon by some “rival evaluators,” ESPN.com’s Buster Olney tweets. One other possible target for GM Bobby Evans and co. is Dexter Fowler, per ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). Of course, we’ve also heard San Francisco connected to some of the other top free agent outfielders available, so there still seems to be plenty of uncertainty and opportunity for the organization in that area.
More from out west:
- The Astros are “still trying to pry” young closer Ken Giles away from the Phillies, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. He’d cost some significant prospects if a deal is struck, Heyman suggests.
- The Angels are receiving the most hits on lefty Hector Santiago, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports on Twitter. He certainly represents an interesting chip after putting up 180 2/3 innings of 3.59 ERA pitching last year. The Orioles are among “many” clubs that have inquired on Santiago, Heyman tweets.
- Teams are not showing much of an appetite for C.J. Wilson, Gonzalez adds. Los Angeles would need to hold onto about $15MM of Wilson’s $20MM salary to get something done, which wouldn’t offer enough salary relief to make sense.
- The Rangers and Diamondbacks have been talking about a possible deal, T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports on Twitter. Arizona “may have extra pitching,” suggests Sullivan, in light of its two major recent rotation upgrades. Meanwhile, Heyman says on Twitter that the D’backs might be hunting for relievers, which could be a target area with Texas.
- It does not appear as if the Padres intend to utilize Jon Jay in left field, writes Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune, meaning the team will be looking for another option there. GM A.J. Preller discussed the possibility of Hunter Renfroe stepping in there, but it seems as if he won’t be an option until the middle of the season at the earliest. That could leave the organization searching for an outside addition.
The Padres declined to part with top outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe in their deal for closer Craig Kimbrel, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. At the same time, the Braves weren’t sold on top catching prospect Austin Hedges and feared that his hitting might not develop enough. Ultimately, that left pitcher Matt Wisler as the key prospect in the deal. Here’s more from Heyman’s column..
- Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle is considering retirement following the 2015 season, Heyman reports. While he notes that April retirement ruminations often prove to be inaccurate, there seems to be a strong possibility that the 36-year-old Buehrle will call it quits.
- Tigers executives were shocked that they were able to pry right-hander Shane Greene away from the Yankees this winter, Heyman writes. The Yankees considered trading Greene “painful,” but the team was desperate for a shortstop, and New York scouting guru Gene Michael was a strong supporter of Gregorius.
- Trading Ryan Howard seems less and less likely for the Phillies each coming day, Heyman writes, noting that one scout said that Howard simply looks “lost” at the plate. Heyman also notes that the stacked starting pitching class on next year’s free agent market may be hindering the Phillies’ ability to move Cole Hamels, as teams are content to wait to bid on the likes of David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija and others.
- The Orioles checked in on Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro at some point late in the spring. Navarro, who has been supplanted as the starting catcher in Toronto by Russell Martin, is hoping to go elsewhere and start. The diplomatic Navarro spoke with MLBTR’s Zach Links last month about the trade talk surrounding him.
- One GM who has some interest in Elvis Andrus suggested to Heyman that it’d be hard for the Rangers to trade him now. While Texas has infield depth, most of it is at the lower rungs of their system. Meanwhile, they’ll be without Jurickson Profar for a second straight year.
- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has one year to go on his contract, but word is that the front office likes him and they mainly want to see progress from their younger players before extending him. It’s said that Gonzalez won’t be judged on his win-loss record, but so far he’s doing pretty well in that department too.
- The Red Sox made at least a preliminary offer to Yoenis Cespedes before trading him, which seems to poke a hole in the theory that Boston coaches “hated” the outfielder.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Despite coming off their third World Series title in five years, many pundits aren’t expecting much of a title defense for the Giants, which Tim Hudson tells ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is just fine by the clubhouse. “I think the guys in here embrace the underdog role. It’s like they say, ’OK, everybody is picking us to finish mid-pack again. We’re gonna show ’em.’ I think it’s great,” Hudson said. “I would rather be the underdog than the favorite. The pressure is on the favorite all the time.” Here’s some more from around the NL West…
- Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told reporters (including Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register) that he likes the team’s internal options as replacements for the injured Kenley Jansen. This said, the Dodgers are “open-minded” about free agent additions, Friedman said. L.A. is known to be looking at acquiring bullpen help, and are reportedly interested in Joba Chamberlain.
- Zack Greinke will, unsurprisingly, wait until the end of the season before deciding whether to exercise the opt-out clause in his Dodgers contract, the righty told reporters (including MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick). Greinke reiterated that he enjoys pitching for the Dodgers and said he’s open to discussing a new contract with the team.
- The opt-out clause, Greinke said, is “all to your benefit. If things are going good, you can use it for more power. There’s no negative to it.” He also made some telling remarks about why he wanted the clause in the first place, seemingly based on regrets over his first multi-year contract when he pitched for the Royals. “I know you can’t really trust the front office and what they tell you. Guys have signed long deals and get traded the next year. It happens all the time,” Greinke said. “Teams do what’s best for them and you can’t fault them, but you can’t trust them to do what’s best for you. Their job is to do what’s best for the team.”
- Signing Rafael Soriano or Francisco Rodriguez to bolster the bullpen will be costly, though Steve Dilbeck of the L.A Times opines that the Dodgers shouldn’t shy away from using their financial resources now when a proven closer could help the team win a championship.
- According to recent reports, the Padres offered Austin Hedges and Hunter Renfroe to the Phillies in exchange for Cole Hamels. With the assumption that it was a legit offer that the Phillies rejected, and that no other players or money were involved, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan examines the proposal and feels that the Phils were probably right to turn it down. While “the offer seems in the vicinity of fair” and wouldn’t have been a bad return for Hamels, there are significant questions about Hedges and Renfroe’s long-term future as major leaguers. Sullivan thinks Philadelphia could find a better deal elsewhere, even if he doesn’t think they’ll be able to land a true blue-chip prospect for Hamels.
- In other NL West news from earlier today on MLBTR, Mark Trumbo won his arbitration hearing against the Diamondbacks.
Phillies lefty Cole Hamels would prefer to be dealt to a contender, he tells Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “I want to go to a place where I can win again,” said Hamels. Though he made clear he was not demanding a trade, Hamels did indicate that he wants to play for a winning ballclub, saying “I know it’s not going to happen here.”
Hamels, 31, has represented perhaps the biggest unconsummated trade story of the offseason. With all major arms now signed off of the free agent market, and most teams presumably set to enter camp with their rotations intact, he may well be the only achievable prize left for clubs looking to add an impact starter.
According to Nightengale, the Phillies have continued to work hard to find an acceptable deal. The Padres have dangled a package of Hunter Renfroe and Austin Hedges, but that was not deemed sufficient by the Philadelphia front office. And the Phils have been unsuccessful in prying their key targets from teams like the Red Sox (who won’t include Blake Swihart), Dodgers (who haven’t offered any of the team’s top four prospects), and Cardinals (who have not agreed to move Carlos Martinez).
Hamels says that he will do his best to prepare for the season in the normal course, and gave no indication that he will do anything other than honor his contract, particularly with camp set to open. “Now that I’m here, I plan on being here for the next six weeks,” said Hamels, explaining that he had kept an eye on rumors over the winter. “I think it would be pretty chaotic if that’s not the case. But it’s out of my control.”
The veteran southpaw says that he crafted his no-trade list by identifying the nine teams he would most want to play for and leaving himself unprotected from those clubs. Only the Yankees and Rangers can deal for him without approval among American League teams, though Hamels notes that he would be “all ears” to the possibility of waiving his no-trade protection were the Red Sox to work out an agreement to acquire him. (He did not address the idea, advanced in some earlier reports, that he might seek inducements, such as a guarantee of his fifth-year option, from a team over which he possesses veto power.)
TUESDAY, 2:04pm: The Padres have confirmed the signing via press release.
MONDAY, 9:39pm: The Padres will sign Renfroe for $2.678MM tomorrow, Baseball America's Jim Callis reports (Twitter link). This bonus exactly matches Renfroe's assigned slot price.
4:57pm: The Padres are close to signing first-round draft pick Hunter Renfroe, as MLB.com's Corey Brock reports (via Twitter) that the Mississippi State outfielder is in San Diego today to take his physical. Once the physical is passed and the deal is signed, Renfroe will report to the Padres' short-season A ball affiliate later this week. Renfroe is advised by McKinnis Sports Management.
No terms of the deal are known, though the 13th overall pick carries an assigned slot value of $2.678MM. The Padres have agreed to terms with the rest of their picks from the first 10 rounds and are roughly $83K under their assigned draft pool budget, so it's possible this extra money could be used to give Renfroe a slightly-above slot deal. (Tip of the cap to Baseball America for the previous two links.)
Renfroe, 21, was originally a 31st-round pick for the Red Sox in the 2010 draft but he instead chose to attend Mississippi State and ended up improving his draft stock considerably. Baseball America ranked Renfroe as the 11th-best prospect of the 2013 draft class, while ESPN's Keith Law ranked him 12th and MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo ranked him 28th. Renfroe projects as a right fielder due to his strong throwing arm and plus speed. The right-handed hatter has "outstanding raw power" according to MLB.com's scouting report and has "progressed tremendously at the plate" in college, though "there's still some swing and miss to his game."
Once Renfroe's deal is finalized, he will be the 29th of the 33 first-round picks from the 2013 draft to sign contracts.