Jackie Bradley Jr. Rumors

Astros’ Trade Discussion Notes Leaked

4:30pm: The Astros have issued the following statement regarding the leaked notes:

“Last month, we were made aware that proprietary information held on Astros’ servers and in Astros’ applications had been illegally obtained. Upon learning of the security breach, we immediately notified MLB security who, in turn, notified the FBI.  Since that time, we have been working closely with MLB security and the FBI to the determine the party, or parties, responsible.  This information was illegally obtained and published, and we intend to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent.

“It is unfortunate and extremely disappointing that an outside source has illegally obtained confidential information.  While it does appear that some of the content released was based on trade conversations, a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated.”

2:29pm: Extensive trade discussion notes, apparently logged by Astros executives about their talks with other teams, have been leaked onto the site AnonBin here and here, with Deadspin breaking the story and Yahoo’s Jeff Passan verifying the authenticity of the logs.  The earliest notes are from June 2013, and the latest are from March of this year.  The Astros have yet to comment on the leak, which provides unprecedented detail into how the team values players and approaches trade discussions.  According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Astros have been reaching out to people around baseball apologizing for the leaks, and plan to issue a statement soon.

A March feature by Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle outlines Ground Control, the Astros’ confidential internal database from which the trade discussion notes were likely taken.  At this time, it’s unclear whether the information reached the Internet via a rogue employee of the team, or by some kind of security vulnerability in Ground Control.  The trade discussion information, mostly from last summer and offseason, is somewhat dated in the fast-moving baseball hot stove world.  The larger ramification is the breach of trust experienced by the many non-Astros executives cited in the notes.  It’s unlikely any team would rule out the Astros as a trading partner based on this breach, but some teams could approach talks with added caution.  Additionally, I imagine the many other teams with such highly sensitive material online are doubling down on security right now.

The Astros’ trade notes from last summer and offseason range from the blockbuster to the mundane; here are some highlights.

  • On November 15th, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow expressed interest with Marlins GM Dan Jennings in slugger Giancarlo Stanton.  From the notes: “[Jennings] said he doesn’t think he’ll trade Stanton and the only deal he could think of from us that would work would be [George] Springer and [Carlos] Correa. [Luhnow] said that would not work. [Luhnow] posited a deal around [Jarred] Cosart and [Delino] DeShields.”  It’s not a big surprise that Luhnow rejected Jennings’ proposal out of hand, as Correa and Springer were ranked #4 and #19 on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list for ESPN, and are major building blocks for Houston.  That Luhnow didn’t appear to offer either player suggests he was mostly gauging Stanton’s price after an off-year with three years of control remaining.  UPDATE: Jennings has commented to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, saying it’s fabricated that they ever offered Stanton to the Astros or any other team, also using the word “laughable.”
  • Interest in Astros catcher Jason Castro was strong last offseason, with a few surprising suitors.  The Blue Jays and Rangers reached out in mid-October to gauge Castro’s price, the White Sox had “definite high interest,” and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told Luhnow in November that he was getting calls from other teams asking if he could get Castro from the Astros for those teams.  Zduriencik offered Dustin Ackley and was turned down.
  • Notes for the Astros’ summer trade discussions begin at June 17th, 2013.  The team ultimately went on to acquire Ronald Torreyes from the Cubs in June, and also dealt veterans Jose Veras, Bud Norris, and Justin Maxwell near the July deadline.  The Astros did not end up acquiring any top 100-type prospects, but they sure did ask for the moon.  For Norris, the Astros sought Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn from the Giants, Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman from the Orioles, Marcus Stroman and more from the Blue Jays, Xander Bogaerts, Allen Webster, Jackie Bradley Jr., or Garin Cecchini from the Red Sox, and Tyler Glasnow plus Luis Heredia or Nick Kingham from the Pirates.  The Red Sox offered Ryan Lavarnway or Deven Marrero for Norris and were turned down.  In the end, the Astros traded Norris and an international draft slot to the Orioles for L.J. Hoes, Josh Hader, and a 2014 competitive balance pick.
  • When Nationals GM Mike Rizzo called to express interest in middling Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell, who had a 5.17 ERA at the time and nearly as many walks as strikeouts, “[Luhnow] told him we would still need a headliner like [Lucas] Giolito because we still value Harrell highly. Rizzo did not respond immediately.”
    Harrell was designated for assignment, outrighted, and traded for a pittance nine months later, so the Astros might have overplayed their hand.
  • “Untouchable” players from other teams were revealed through conversations with their executives.  White Sox GM Rick Hahn wouldn’t consider trading Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, or Avisail Garcia.  Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos considered Brett Lawrie off-limits.  Pirates outfield prospect Gregory Polanco came up as well, in that GM Neal Huntington wouldn’t include him in any Norris deal.  In December talks regarding Harrell, the Giants said they would not discuss Brandon Belt.
  • More random notes: Mets executive Paul DePodesta asked Luhnow if the Astros would consider trading shortstop Jonathan Villar in a Daniel Murphy deal in December…the Marlins expressed interest in Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez, and others in December.

AL East Notes: Anthopoulos, Sizemore, Schoop

We covered a couple of Yankees items as part of a New York Notes post earlier today, so now let's take a look around the rest of the AL East…

  • Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said the team is open to possibly extending the contracts of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes, the GM tells The Toronto Star's Richard Griffin.  Bautista (33) and Encarnacion (31) are contracted through 2015 and the Jays have team options on both players for 2016, while Reyes (30) is locked up through the 2017 season.  Extensions would take any of the trio well into their late-30's, yet Anthopoulos points to David Ortiz and Carlos Beltran as older players who are still big hitters.
  • Also as part of the wide-ranging interview, Anthopoulos discusses his disappointment over the Ervin Santana non-signing, restocking the farm system and more.
  • Grady Sizemore will be the Red Sox center fielder on Opening Day, manager John Farrell told reporters (including Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald).  Star prospect Jackie Bradley was widely presumed the favorite to take over from Jacoby Ellsbury as Boston's new center fielder this season, yet Bradley struggled to hit in Spring Training and will start the year at Triple-A.  Sizemore, meanwhile, enjoyed a big spring and proved he was healthy after missing the last two seasons.  Sizemore signed a $750K minor league deal with Boston this winter that could be worth as much as $6MM if Sizemore meets all the incentives.
  • Farrell said that Sizemore will still receive regular rest in order to keep him fresh.  Since this will free up some outfield playing time, FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi wonders if the Red Sox could be in the market for a right-handed hitting outfielder who can play all three OF spots.
  • Red Sox sports-medicine coordinator Dan Dyrek played an important part in both convincing Sizemore to sign with Boston and in getting him back in playing condition, Sizemore tells Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.  Dyrek was “the first guy who has understood not only how it happened but what caused it and how to fix it and how to prevent it from happening again,” Sizemore said.
  • The Orioles plan to have Jonathan Schoop on the Opening Day roster, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets.  Schoop will play both second and third base, splitting time with Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Flaherty, respectively.  The 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook ranked Schoop as the fifth-best prospect in the Baltimore farm system, and Schoop fought his way onto the 25-man roster thanks to a huge Spring Training.

AL Notes: Clark, Bradley, Yankees, Bay

Orioles pitcher Zach Clark was recently outrighted to Double-A Bowie. While he's there, he'll "experiment" with the knuckleball, the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly notes. He'll work with Hall of Famer Phil Niekro on Thursday. Clark joins Zach Staniewicz and Eddie Gamboa as knuckleball pitchers in the Orioles system. Here are more notes from the American League.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

AL Notes: Twins, Gibbons, Reyes, Price, Jackie Bradley

The Twins have devoted only 22.5% of their 2013 payroll to pitching (MLB average is 49.8%) and haven't exceeded the league average since 2005. Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes perhaps no statistic better illustrates the Twins' dry spell in developing pitching prospects. "It’s not by design. It’s not like we said, 'Let’s spend less on pitching and go another way,'" said Twins assistant GM Rob Antony. "When we’ve spent a lot on a contract, more often than not, it’s on players we already have, that we know. We know how they fit in the clubhouse, and we know their health situation. It makes you a little more comfortable with the investment." Miller notes several pitching investments have been wasted because of injuries including this year's highest-paid pitcher Nick Blackburn ($5.5MM), who was removed from the 40-man roster as he recovers from wrist surgery. One investment that does seem to be paying dividends is Kevin Correia, who signed a two-year, $10MM free agent contract last December. The right-hander tossed eight shutout innings and lowered his ERA to 2.31 in the Twins' 5-0 win over the Rangers. In other news and notes from the American League:

  • After a four-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees, the seat is becoming hotter for Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman calls this a big test for Gibbons while Keith Law of ESPN.com says it's too early to think about firing the skipper (Twitter links).
  • Before the game, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos met with the media, including Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, and said he doesn't expect Jose Reyes back until the beginning of July "just to make sure that we do this correctly and we don’t have any setbacks." In the meantime, the plan is use Munenori Kawasaki and Maicer Izturis because Anthopoulos said the costs of going outside the organization for a Reyes replacement "don’t line up for us with what our alternatives are."
  • Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg reiterated his team's ability to afford David Price in an interview with WFAN (partial transcript provided by the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin). "We can; I don't know if we'll have any team around him other than him and (Evan) Longoria."
  • In the same interview, Sternberg said he expects the Rays' next TV contract to be "big relative to the size of our attendance" but "mid-sized market" compared to other teams.  
  • The Red Sox prefer to give Shane Victorino some time to work out his back issues rather than trying to bring Jackie Bradley back too soon, tweets the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo. Victorino underwent an MRI yesterday, which revealed inflammation in his lower back. Bradley, meanwhile, is 7-for-31 with 10 strikeouts and five walks since being optioned to Triple-A.

Prospect Rumor Roundup

Welcome to the first edition of the weekly Prospect Rumor Roundup here at MLBTR…

Jackie Bradley, OF, Boston Red Sox: Both the Red Sox and the Twins made aggressive player development decisions this spring when the clubs gave opening day roster spots to young outfielders Jackie Bradley and Aaron Hicks. Each player had their share of struggles early on in 2013 and Bradley has already found his way back to the minor leagues.

Both players spent the bulk of the 2012 season at the Double-A level, but the Red Sox prospect's promotion was far more aggressive. A 2011 amateur draft pick, Bradley was added to the 40-man roster at the conclusion of spring training, a full two years before he had to be added to be protected from the Rule 5 draft. This decision could potentially cost the organization two seasons of cost-controlled development time. Hicks, on the other hand, was added to the 40-man roster on time, last November, after his fifth professional season. He still has all three of his minor league options remaining. With the recent demotion to Triple-A for Bradley, the young prospect has now burned one of his three option years.

While speaking with Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe, Red Sox manager John Farrell said the rookie's early taste of big league action — and struggles — could be good for Bradley in the long run. "We fully expect and have the utmost confidence he's going to be a very good everyday player in time… Players are going to fail and they're going to get challenged and the fact that Jackie got it early in his career, I think, will serve him well going forward."

Boston will certainly hope that holds true. Now at Triple-A, Bradley is off to a hot start with his new club. He's hitting .400 with six hits and four walks in four games. With incumbent center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury a free agent after the 2013 season, the smooth-fielding outfield prospect could be a cost-effective replacement if his offense stabilizes in time.

Jesse Biddle, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies: With more uncertainty than usual in their starting five, the Phillies may be looking for an infusion of youth in starting rotation sooner than expected. Former first round draft pick (2010) Jesse Biddle could find himself in the right place at the right time. Currently pitching at Double-A, the southpaw struck out 16 batters and took a perfect game into the seventh inning of his start on April 22. He ended up allowing just one hit in seven innings of work. Through four starts, he's now allowed just 11 hits in 25 innings on the year.

Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com said the organization is buzzing about Biddle's early 2013 efforts. The scribe spoke with Joe Jordan, the Phillies director of player development, after the pitching prospect's dominating start. "What Jesse did was very exciting.  To strike out 14 hitters in six innings with 73 pitches is almost impossible to do. That's like 12 pitches and inning. Very impressive."

As Salisbury pointed out, the Phillies have a number of young arms like Biddle to choose from in the event of injury or ineffectiveness to the current big league starters. Pitching prospects like Tyler Cloyd, Adam Morgan and Jonathan Pettibone, who was recently promoted in the wake of veteran starter John Lannan's injury. "We feel like we've got more than one guy to turn to depending on what the major league club's needs are," Jordan said.

Biddle's success should come as no surprise as he opened the year rated as the Phillies' No. 1 prospect by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs. Working against him, in terms of earning a promotion to the Majors, is the fact that he doesn't need to be added to the 40-man roster until after the 2014 season — at which point he'll be awarded three option years that will allow him to be sent up and down between the Majors and the minors without being exposed to waivers. Adding him to the roster in 2013 would start the process two years early.

Prospect Tidbits: Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (Twitter link) was the first to announce that the Angels' 2012 ninth round draft pick Michael Roth would make a spot start last night. Known for being a 'big game pitcher' while playing for the University of South Carolina, the southpaw needed just 12 games in the minors — one above rookie ball — to reach The Show….. After narrowly missing an opening day roster spot with the Tigers, Bruce Rondon has finally received the call. The sturdy right-hander did not allow a run in seven Triple-A appearances and continued to show improved control with just two walks during that span. The 22-year-old hurler has a dominating fastball that can reach triple-digits. Tigers manager Jim Leyland told George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press that Rondon will be used in the sixth and seventh innings.

Quick Hits: Rookies, Rays, Cubs

Jose Fernandez of the Marlins, Aaron Hicks of the Twins, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. of the Red Sox are all on their teams' Opening Day rosters, even though that might make them free agents a year earlier, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports is rooting for all three of them. Rosenthal says he's tired of watching talented players languish in the minors at the start of each season as their teams attempt to delay their service-time clocks. The best players should be on the field, Rosenthal argues. "The game is so flush with cash, teams are awarding hundred-million dollar extensions like Halloween candy," he says. "I’ll grant that certain low-revenue clubs need to watch their money more carefully than others. The rest of ‘em, no way."

  • "The system" keeps the Rays on a winning path, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. "One of the things I'm most proud of is that we've been able to remain committed to our plan," says executive vice president Andrew Friedman. "It takes a tremendous amount of discipline because there are times when it is very tempting to deviate from that plan, but I feel very confident that had we done that in '08 or '09 we wouldn't be sitting where we are today." Topkin notes that the Rays haven't been successful in every area — they haven't done well in the draft recently, and they haven't had much success with catchers and designated hitters. But a key area at which they have been successful is in developing their own starting pitching. By developing their own pitching, they're able to not only avoid expensive free-agent commitments, but to trade from their own stockpile, as they did when they sent James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals for Wil Myers and prospects.
  • Bud Selig isn't concerned about the Cubs' debt, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times reports. The Ricketts family purchased the Cubs for $845MM in 2009, and the team still has substantial debt related to that purpose. "The Ricketts family worked closely with our office to develop certain financial structures designed to [ensure] the stability of the franchise at these debt levels," a spokesman for Selig says.

Red Sox Designate Mauro Gomez For Assignment

The Red Sox have announced they have designated infielder Mauro Gomez for assignment. The move was made to create room on the 40-man roster for Jackie Bradley, Jr. The Red Sox now have ten days to trade, release, or outright Gomez to the minors.

Bradley, who was named the Opening Day left fielder by manager John Farrell today, played his way onto the roster with a Spring Training slash line of .419/.507/.613 and a team-high 12 RBI's in 28 games. The absence of David Ortiz, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right Achilles tendinopathy, also opened the door for the 40th overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft.

At 22, Bradley becomes the youngest starting Opening Day left fielder for the Red Sox since Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski in 1961 and 1962 (per the team's public relations department) and is also the youngest Red Sox position player to start Opening Day in 15 years (h/t Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald). 

Gomez, meanwhile, struggled this spring batting only .156./.240/.200 during 50 plate appearances. The 28-year-old did post respectable numbers in his MLB debut season last year: .275/.324/.422 in 111 plate appearances over the course of 37 games. 

Quick Hits: Phillies, Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs

Let's take a quick trip around four of baseball's five most valuable franchises, according to Forbes:

  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. discussed the team's offseason strategy and looked ahead to the new season in a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with Sam Donnellon of the Philadelphia Daily News. When asked about the decision to add yet more older players to his club, Amaro said that "age is a factor," but not the only factor. "I've said this before and [Yankees GM] Brian Cashman has said this before," said Amaro. "I don't worry so much about age as I do about production." Amaro did note that the team figures to get younger in the outfield with Ben Revere and Domonic Brown expected to occupy two starting spots.
  • Meanwhile, the club has announced its Opening Day roster, which includes outfielder Ender Inciarte, according to a team tweet. As MLBTR previously noted, the 22-year-old Rule 5 draftee has yet to appear above High-A ball. Inciarte will remain Phillies property so long as he sticks on the club's 25-man roster (or is placed on the DL) for the duration of the season. Click here for an explanation of the Rule 5 Draft. Todd Zolecki of MLB.com tweets that he expects Inciarte to be returned to the Diamondbacks when Delmon Young is ready to join the club.
  • Turning to Cashman's Yankees, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman pulled no punches when reviewing the club's offseason, writing that "no one had a worse spring training than baseball's most storied team, maybe ever." Heyman further reports that, in spite of their public proclamations and massive payroll, the Yanks' brass is very concerned internally about the club's prospects for 2013. Likewise, ESPN's Jim Bowden predicted that New York would finish last in the AL East, writing that the club could sport a losing record for the first time since 1992.
  • Meanwhile, first baseman Lyle Overbay has made the Yankees Opening Day roster, Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger reported on Twitter. The 36-year-old was inked shortly after being released by the Red Sox. MLB.com's Bryan Hoch previously reported that Overbay signed what Cashman described as "a three-day, NBA-style contract" to allow the club to get "a quick peek" at the veteran. As McCullough wrote, Cashman has described his recent scramble to add players by evoking the famous Emma Lazarus line featured on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to break [sic] free."
  • While nothing is yet official, Red Sox prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. is heading with the club to New York, where the team opens against the Yankees on Monday, tweets Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. The club will need to clear a 40-man roster spot before it can select the contract of the young outfielder, notes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal (on Twitter). 
  • The Cubs' front office is working hard to make final additions to the roster, writes Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune (must register to access article). After adding players like Luis Valbuena and Shawn Camp around this time last year, Rogers says, the club could be active on the waiver wire.

AL East Notes: Phelps, Red Sox, Bradley

Yankees GM Brian Cashman spoke bluntly about prospective transactions yesterday, as reported by Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. Cashman noted that he is often approached about young starter David Phelps, but continued: "I'm not looking to move him. I'm only looking to move the bad stuff."

  • Cashman also addressed the question whether the club's 25-man roster was all in camp, Feinsand reports. The GM indicated that the Yankees are still shopping: "The stuff that's possibly out there that we could add, those decisions aren't in our control. If there are castoffs from other camps that we'll look at and evaluate."
  • In searching for "castoffs," one area that New York is likely to target first is the corner infield, as the club is currently "actively seeking" help at first and third according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (via Twitter). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports echoed that possibility, writing that the Yankees figure to add another corner infielder before Opening Day. Rosenthal reported earlier in the week on Twitter that the Yankees were "asking around about everybody." 
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders if the Yankees and Pirates might have the pieces to make a deal.  The Bucs could have interest in someone like David Aardsma to support closer Jason Grilli and they have an abundance of corner players.  Garrett Jones or Gaby Sanchez could be a fit for the Yanks as they look to weather the storm during Mark Teixeira's stint on the disabled list.
  • Unlike his counterpart in New York, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington indicated that "in all likelihood our Opening Day roster is going to be made up of guys who are here now," reported Alex Speier of WEEI.com. Cherington also appeared to downplay any suggestion from manager John Farrell that Boston is actively looking to add rotation depth, saying that, while "it can never be deep enough,"  he "feel[s] a little better than I did this time last year, in terms of our options, at least early in the season."
  • Jackie Bradley Jr.’s defense and the importance of starting the season strong are among the reasons the Red Sox should start the season with Bradley on their roster, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com writes.

Zach Links and Ben Nicholson-Smith contributed to this post.

Olney On Yankees, Lohse, Bradley

Here is the latest from ESPN.com's Buster Olney:

  • With the Yankees facing more uncertainties in 2013 than the club is accustomed to, it will be interesting to watch whether owner Hal Steinbrenner reacts like his father might have if the team get off to a slow start, writes Olney (Insider sub. req'd). While the club's "austerity plan makes a lot of financial sense," Olney suggests, "it's one thing to come up with a plan in the offseason in a quiet office in December, and a whole other challenge to live it hour by hour through a long summer."
  • While the deterrent power of the draft pick compensation tied to free agent hurler Kyle Lohse is well-documented, Olney notes that it only becomes more impactful over time. With the amateur draft now only two months away, "clubs tend to be more clingy with their draft picks than they might have been last fall." And following the news that Lohse appears unlikely to wait until June to sign to "be free of the draft-pick anchor," Olney offers some reasons why the former Cardinal might not take such an approach: clubs would be wary of such a long layoff at his age (34) and could well "want to see him throw before jumping in."
  • Olney also discussed the decision facing the Red Sox on young outfield prospect Jackie Bradley Jr., whose torrid spring (combined with the continued unavailability of David Ortiz) has presented Boston with a difficult balance of short-term reward and long-term cost. The service time considerations for Bradley Jr. were also broken down in detail by ESPN.com's Gordon Edes. Indeed, as reported by Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, Sox GM Ben Cherington has made clear that "there are other factors" at play beyond the young outfielder's ability and readiness.