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FRIDAY: Taijuan Walker‘s name is once again at the center of trade talks surrounding Price, reports Heyman. He adds that Tampa has also expressed interest in the likes of corner infield prospect D.J. Peterson and James Paxton, neither of which is particularly surprising; Peterson and Paxton are two of the top young players in Seattle’s system.
The two sides are discussing various iterations of deals for Price, Zobrist or both. Heyman adds that Seattle might be willing to include Brad Miller in a deal as well, given the emergence of Triple-A shortstop Chris Taylor. The M’s, however, have said they won’t deal Mike Zunino.
THURSDAY, 9:51pm: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Mariners’ talks with the Rays have been more focused on Zobrist than Price, and the two sides have been discussing Zobrist “for weeks.” Nick Franklin‘s name has frequently come up in talks, he adds.
Heyman also reports that the Mariners have spoken to the Twins about Josh Willingham and the White Sox about Dayan Viciedo, and he notes that he, too, has heard Byrd’s name in learning of the Mariners’ trade talks. One big league source tells Heyman, however, that a deal for Byrd is now “less than likely” due to his no-trade clause.
He also adds that the Mariners’ ownership group is very big on bringing in players who want to be in Seattle. Offseason comments by Price’s agent about his client not wanting to sign a long-term deal in Seattle seem to indicate that Price doesn’t fit that description. However, the team’s status as a legitimate postseason contender may have changed Price’s thinking on that front.
2:10pm: Though no deal is imminent, the Mariners have been engaged in ongoing discussions with the Rays regarding lefty David Price and utilityman Ben Zobrist, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Meanwhile, talks have stalled with the Phillies regarding Marlon Byrd.
Needless to say, Price and Zobrist both represent potential impact to contenders. Either player could presumably add value to just about every roster in baseball. That holds particularly true for Seattle, which could not only pair Price with current ace Felix Hernandez but would be able to play Zobrist at shortstop, outfield, or even first base.
Of course, the return for either — and, especially, both — would figure to be substantial. (It is not clear from Morosi’s report whether the two would be joined in any potential deal, or indeed whether the sides have progressed that far.) Tampa is said to be interested in beating the return that the Cubs received for Jeff Samardzija, if it deals Price at all. Certainly, a hypothetical pairing of Price and Zobrist (both under control for next season) would require a bigger return on paper than was commanded by Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
Meanwhile, the news on Byrd makes sense in light of last night’s report from ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden, which indicated that Byrd would ask the Mariners to guarantee his $8MM option for 2016 in order to waive his no-trade clause. Seattle is one of just four teams on Byrd’s no-trade list.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
Here are today’s minor league transactions from around baseball, with the latest moves at the top of the post…
- Veteran Brett Tomko has found a new home with the Rockies on a minor league deal, reports Robert Murray of Sports Rumor Alert. Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (Twitter link) also cites a source saying that the 41-year-old righty is headed to Colorado Springs. Tomko, who was recently set loose by the Royals, last threw in the bigs in 2011 with the Rangers. He owns a 4.65 ERA over 1,816 career innings with ten clubs, much of them as a starter.
- Pitcher Brian Burres has also signed a minor league deal with the Rockies and will join their Triple-A affiliate, reports Mike Ashmore of MyCentralJersey.com (via Twitter). MLBTR reported back in May that Burres, most recently of the independent league Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, was drawing interest. The 33-year-old owns a 5.75 ERA through 358 1/3 career MLB frames.
- Alfredo Aceves has accepted his outright assignment to Triple- A rather than electing free agency, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Aceves was designated for assignment last week and outrighted to Triple-A on Sunday.
- The Mariners moved southpaw James Paxton to the 60-day disabled list in order to open a 40-man roster spot for Ji-Man Choi, the team announced. Paxton has already spent more than 60 days on the DL while recovering from shoulder inflammation. Choi will return to Double-A action after serving a 50-game PED suspension.
- The Mets selected the contract of catcher Taylor Teagarden on Sunday, the team announced. Teagarden will replaced the demoted Travis d’Arnaud on New York’s 25-man roster. For making the Major League roster, Teagarden will earn $725K, as per the minor league deal he signed with the Mets in January. The 30-year-old Teagarden posted a .950 OPS in 127 PA at Triple-A Las Vegas, a notoriously hitter-friendly park.
- The Angels released outfielder Chevy Clarke, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reports. Clarke was picked in the first round (30th overall) of the 2010 draft as a high schooler, but he has yet to play above the high-A level, hitting .219/.306/.337 with 23 home runs over 1542 career PA.
- Also from Eddy, the Diamondbacks released right-hander Eric Smith. Originally taken by Arizona in the second round of the 2009 draft, Smith posted a 5.10 ERA over 429 minor league innings (65 starts, 77 relief appearances). Smith was hit with a 50-game suspension last season for taking a drug of abuse, his second such violation.
- The Rangers released right-hander Chris Schwinden last week, as announced by the team’s Triple-A affiliate (via Twitter). Schwinden was hit hard in three starts for Round Rock, posting an 11.25 ERA over 12 innings. The 27-year-old pitched 29 2/3 innings for the Mets in 2011-12 and has pitched for five different organizations (plus an independent league team ) since the start of the 2012 season.
While there are, thankfully, no new Tommy John procedures to pass on, the news out of the American League was once again dominated by injury situations involving young arms. Here’s the latest:
- The Royals avoided an immediate scare with Yordano Ventura, but the news was not all positive, explains Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links). Manager Ned Yost said on the club’s television broadcast today that trainers diagnosed Ventura with “valgus stress overload,” which Passan says can have longer-term complications. Passan lists cartilage damage, arthritis, bone chips, and instability (with possible exposure for the UCL) as problems associated with that condition.
- Meanwhile, the club is not sanguine about the possibility of its other top young arm — Kyle Zimmer — making his way back from a lat injury to help the big league club this year, reports Dick Kaegel of MLB.com. “We were looking down the road at maybe after the All-Star break, if Kyle was really throwing good and there was a need, he might be a guy that we could bring up to help us,” said Yost. Now, says Kaegel, Zimmer may not even be throwing a baseball by the All-Star break. While the skipper indicated that the long-term prognosis remains positive, the injury could certainly have implications for how Kansas City navigates the summer.
- Turning to the Mariners, one of the team’s rehabbing young starters, James Paxton, has been shut down after an MRI revealed shoulder inflammation, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times (on Twitter). The club is hopeful that the rest period for the 25-year-old lefty will not be longer than one week, but it had been hoped that Paxton would be nearing a big league return. It bears noting that Paxton, who entered the year with 27 days of MLB service, has been adding time to his clock while on the 15-day DL.
- In spite of their extensive injury woes, it is too early to count the Rangers as trade deadline sellers, writes MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. “We’re in May,” said GM Jon Daniels. “The players aren’t giving up, and we certainly aren’t either.” Of course, the head baseball man also seemed not to rule out the possibility of the club ultimately deciding to recoup some future value if it cannot keep pace over the summer. “We’ll continue to evaluate it and let it play out,” he said. “We’ll make adjustments if we have to, but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves.”
- Ever since shortstop Jose Iglesias was lost for the season, speculation has run rampant about the possibility of the Tigers making an addition up the middle, but the club has thrived without a major move thus far. On the other hand, the club sits at second-to-last in the bigs in shortstop production (half a win below replacement level). As MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports, GM Dave Dombrowski recently got an in-person look at 22-year-old shortstop Eugenio Suarez, who has thrived in his first few games at the Triple-A level. “He’s done very well this year,” said Dombrowski. “Everybody has talked well of him.” Indeed, Suarez currently boasts a .291/.351/.520 line over 191 plate appearances, most of them at Double-A. While the GM certainly did not suggest that he was ready to hand the young Venezuelan the reigns, Beck notes that Suarez could well force his way into the big league conversation. Though Suarez has only just made it to the highest level of the minors, it could well make sense for Detroit to look at him at the major league level before deciding whether (and if so how) to shop at the trade deadline.
Though he may not be traded at this week's Winter Meetings (and may not be traded this offseason at all), Rays ace David Price figures to be one of the most popular topics of discussion over the coming days. Last week, it was reported that the Mariners could push for Price in the wake of their surprising Robinson Cano signing. We'll keep track of today's rumors surrounding Price's availability right here…
- The Mariners believe that they could land Price if they were willing to include Taijuan Walker in their offer, says Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter links). However, the M's have no interest in including either Walker or James Paxton, and believe they made a mistake by including Walker in their bid for Justin Upton nearly a year ago. Seattle would prefer to build an offer for Price around position players, according to Heyman.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post is hearing the same sort of rumblings as Stark (linked below). D-Backs GM Kevin Towers and another exec told Sherman that the Rays have yet to push Price onto the market, and that their plan may involve waiting for teams to miss out on their first or second options, then capitalizing.
- Teams that have inquired on Price get the impression that the Rays aren't in any rush to make a deal, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. One rival executive believes GM Andrew Friedman will move deliberately in an attempt to get the price as high as possible, then perhaps pull back and waiting for interested teams to get even more desperate.
- Rays manager Joe Maddon believes it's "probably less likely" that the team would wait until next season to move Price, as Stark writes in a separate ESPN.com piece.
- The Mariners, Rangers and Dodgers are the three most serious suitors for Price at this time, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
- The Dodgers and Rays may be matching up on a Price trade, tweets Bruce Levine of WSCR.
- The Dodgers have made their interest in Price known to the Rays, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. However, Hernandez feels that Price is a "long shot" to end up in Dodger Blue. For one, the Dodgers lack the type of impact, MLB-ready prospects the Rays will covet, as their top chips are teenagers Corey Seager and Julio Urias. Beyond that, dealing names like Seager and Urias would go against their desire to rebuild what has become a depleted farm system.
Check here for today's promotions of top prospects around baseball….
- The Mariners have called up left-hander James Paxton, Don Ruiz of the Tacoma News Tribune reports. Paxton, 24, was ranked before the season as one of the game's top prospects by MLB.com (57th) and Baseball America (#87) and he has posted a 4.45 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 2.26 K/BB rate over 145 2/3 innings in his first taste of Triple-A this year. The southpaw is the second top M's pitching prospect this week to receive a promotion, after Taijuan Walker. Paxton is under team control through the 2019 campaign and he'll have to be added to Seattle's 40-man roster.
- The Brewers have called up right-hander Jimmy Nelson, manager Ron Roenicke told reporters (including MLB.com's Adam McCalvy). Nelson, a second-rounder from the 2010 draft, has been a starter for the last three seasons but the Crew will use him as a reliever. MLB.com ranked Nelson as the top prospect in the Brewers system and the 88th-best prospect overall, saying that the 24-year-old has "a heavy fastball that elicits ground balls and sits in the low 90s." Nelson posted a 3.25 ERA, 9.6 K/9 and 2.51 K/BB rate in 27 starts at Double-A and Triple-A this season, though he didn't perform quite as well at Triple-A. Since he's being called up at this late date in the season, Nelson won't gain Super Two status and will be under team control through 2019.
- The Orioles have called up middle infielder Jonathan Schoop, according to David Hall of the Virginian Pilot (Twitter link). Schoop was ranked as the 50th-best prospect in baseball by ESPN's Keith Law (ESPN insider subscription required) before the season and MLB.com ranks him as the fourth-best prospect in the Baltimore organization. Schoop, 21, hails from Curacao and has gradually evolved from a shortstop to a second baseman over his five minor league seasons could possibly be Brian Roberts' replacement at the position in the Major Leagues. Schoop was limited to 285 PA at Triple-A Norfolk this season due to a stress fracture in his back, and he hit .255/.298/.397 with nine homers for the Tides. He will be under team control through 2019, as Schoop's late callup won't give him Super Two status. Besides Schoop, the O's have also called up Henry Urrutia and right-hander Josh Stinson.
- As expected, the Reds have purchased the contract of outfielder Billy Hamilton, according to a tweet from his now-former club, the Triple-A Louisville Bats. Hamilton currently stands as the 17th-best prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. The 22-year-old burner has scuffled somewhat in his first season at Triple-A, seeing his on-base percentage drop to a career-low .308 mark and carrying a .651 OPS. Nevertheless, he has swiped 75 bases in 90 attempts, added some pop (he has a career-best six home runs), and transitioned from shortstop to center field. Baseball Prospectus has a full scouting report on Hamilton (subscription required) as he reaches the bigs for the first time.
- The White Sox have brought up two of the organization's top prospects, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com tweets. In addition to well-regarded youngster Marcus Semien, the club has purchased the contract of righty Erik Johnson, who John Sickels of Minor League Ball ranks as the 76th-best prospect in the game. Though he missed the top-100 list of MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, Johnson did appear at the number two slot among White Sox prospects, with Mayo explaining that he has the repertoire to become a mid-rotation starter. The 23-year-old has an excellent 1.57 ERA over 57 1/3 innings since reaching Triple-A, where he maintains a 8.9 K/9 ratio against 3.0 BB/9.
10:50pm: Taijuan Walker would have been the fourth player in the trade package to the D'Backs, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter). Walker, a 20-year-old right-hander, was ranked as the 20th-best prospect in the sport by Baseball America prior to the 2012 season, though he struggled pitching at the Double-A level last year.
7:40pm: The Mariners offered a four-player package to the D'Backs, according to Scott Miller of CBS Sports. Arizona would have received Nick Franklin, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor and one of Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen or James Paxton.
6:06 pm: Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton invoked his limited no-trade clause to reject an agreed-upon deal between the D'Backs and Mariners that would have sent Upton to Seattle, reports Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. The M's were prepared to give up "a package of young talent" in the trade, a return that Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic has heard was "substantial" (Twitter link).
Though several teams have been linked to Upton over the last two seasons, the Mariners seem to be the first to propose a deal that has gotten the D'Backs to agree to move the 25-year-old outfielder. As Rosenthal/Morosi note, the trade rejection could be gamesmanship by either Upton or the D'Backs — Upton could be trying to control where he ends up, or the Snakes are sending the message that if Upton wants to leave Arizona, his only option is Seattle. The Mariners, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Cubs are the four teams on Upton's current no-trade list, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link).
Earlier today, ESPN's Buster Olney said we shouldn't be surprised if the Royals trade one of their core homegrown bats for starting pitching this offseason. Here's the latest on the club courtesy of The Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton…
- “I think it’s pretty safe to say he’s going to explore free agency,” said GM Dayton Moore, acknowledging that they're unlikely to agree to a new contract with Jeremy Guthrie during the exclusive negotiating period. “We’ll continue to monitor how that goes. He’s going to explore his options, and it’s important that we do as well.”
- Talks about a new contract with Joakim Soria are ongoing. The Royals are expected to buy the right-hander out of his $8MM option following his second Tommy John surgery. Moore described the discussions as "moving at (their) own pace."
- Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times notes that the Royals have been heavily scouting Mariners left-handed pitching prospect James Paxton in the Arizona Fall League. Dutton wonders if the two teams could work out a trade involving one of Kansas City's bats given Seattle's need for offense.
Rival teams say the Mariners have made many players untouchable in trades, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. However, a Seattle official tells Rosenthal the team is “wide open” on possible deals.
The list of untouchable players includes Felix Hernandez, Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager, and prospects Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Nick Franklin, Rosenthal reports. Some executives question whether Ackley and Seager should be off-limits at this stage in their careers.
Mariners such as Jason Vargas, Kevin Millwood, Brandon League, Miguel Olivo and Brendan Ryan could draw interest this summer. GM Jack Zduriencik will be expected to consider trade offers for some veterans given Seattle's 36-51 record.
It took a year and a half, but James Paxton finally got paid. The Mariners announced the signing of the 2010 fourth round pick and, according to Jim Callis of Baseball America, the deal is worth $942.5K (Twitter links)
The Blue Jays selected Paxton 37th overall in the first round of the 2009 draft, but didn't sign him. The left-hander turned down slot money (approximately $874K), according to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun (on Twitter). Paxton spent the 2010 season with the Grand Prairie AirHogs of the independent American Association after the NCAA ruled that he wasn’t eligible to resume his college career at the University of Kentucky.
Though most draftees have to sign by the middle of August, the deadline doesn’t apply to college seniors or players drafted out of independent leagues. ESPN.com's Keith Law first reported that the sides were close to a deal and Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times first reported the agreement.
The Mariners are close to signing James Paxton, their fourth round pick in the 2010 draft, according to ESPN.com’s Keith Law (on Twitter). The left-hander, formerly a top prospect, would provide the Mariners with another high-ceiling arm.
The Blue Jays selected Paxton 37th overall in the first round of the 2009 draft, but didn't sign him. Paxton spent the 2010 season with the Grand Prairie AirHogs of the independent American Association after the NCAA ruled that he wasn’t eligible to resume his college career at the University of Kentucky.
Though most draftees have to sign by the middle of August, the deadline doesn’t apply to college seniors or players drafted out of independent leagues.