Jameson Taillon Rumors
It was on this day in 1986 that Rollie Fingers chose his mustache over the Reds. The veteran closer was offered a Spring Training invite by the Reds on the condition that Fingers shave his famous handlebar in order to meet with the team's facial hair policies. Fingers turned the deal down and instead retired, ending his 17-year Major League career and paving the way for his eventual induction into the Hall of Fame.
Here's the latest from around the NL Central...
- The Cardinals exchanged figures with Alex Gonzalez this offseason but couldn't come to terms, and the veteran shortstop instead signed with the Brewers, MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports. The Cards' best offer was a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $1MM plus another $1MM if Gonzalez made the roster, which couldn't top Gonzalez's deal with Milwaukee. A dozen teams scouted Gonzalez's offseason workout sessions, with the Red Sox and Dodgers showing particular interest in the 36-year-old.
- Steve Hammond, Adam Wainwright's agent, is out of the country for the next 10 days so there won't be any immediate extension talks between Wainwright and the Cardinals, B.J. Rains of St. Louis 1380 AM Radio reports (via Twitter). We heard on Monday that both sides were keeping the lines of communication open about a new contract for the ace right-hander.
- Dontrelle Willis talks to CSN Chicago's Patrick Mooney about his career, his short-lived retirement, his controversial exit from the Orioles organization and his return to the Cubs on a minor league contract.
- The Pirates are desperate for success but ESPN's Buster Olney notes that the team must weigh the short-term benefit of a winning season against the long-term costs (both developmentally and financially) of calling up young starters Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole. MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith noted earlier today that the Pirates could prevent Cole from gaining Super Two eligibility by delaying his callup until mid-June.
The Pirates fell below .500 when they lost to the Brewers last night, but that’s not why the team is making headlines today. Details surrounding some unusual player development practices have surfaced, generating surprise and criticism. Here are the details:
- Pirates prospects spent this past weekend in Florida performing military drills directed by former Navy SEALS, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. General manager Neal Huntington and assistant GM Kyle Stark implemented the program, which started at 5 am daily and included running along the beach with a telephone pole, flipping truck tires, and diving into sand piles. Earlier in the year Stark emailed his players, encouraging them to “Dream and be creative like a Hippie. Have the discipline and perseverance of a Boy Scout. Be crazy and take risks like the Hells Angels.”
- Kovacevic calls the Pirates' actions inexplicable and indefensible.
- Players dreaded the activities and team officials feared them, Yahoo's Jeff Passan reports. MLB executives expressed skepticism about the program’s effectiveness. "I didn't like it,” one person told Passan. “Nobody did. They don't know what they're doing."
- Top prospect Jameson Taillon once suffered a non-serious knee injury during the program’s hand-to-hand combat component, Passan reports.
- “Whispers are becoming louder” that Huntington’s job status isn’t completely secure, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. However, an ownership source told Heyman the Pirates’ upper management really seems to like manager Clint Hurdle.
Justin Upton's no-trade protection enables him to block trades to the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs and Indians. The Yankees have checked in on Upton, but there doesn't seem to be much traction between the two teams. Here's the latest on Upton, who collected three hits against the Reds last night...
- Agent Larry Reynolds told Bob Nightengale of USA Today that Upton hasn’t ruled out the possibility of accepting a trade to a team on his no-trade list (Twitter link). If nothing else, the no-trade list provides Upton and Reynolds with some potential leverage.
- The Pirates have stayed in contact with the Diamondbacks about Upton, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports. So far Pirates GM Neal Huntington has refused to part with outfield prospect Starling Marte or pitching prospect Jameson Taillon in trade talks, Morosi writes.
- ESPN.com's Buster Olney spoke with more officials who are convinced the Diamondbacks will trade Upton.
- The Blue Jays are interested in Upton, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported today.
- The Pirates and Diamondbacks are having trouble matching up on a trade because Arizona is seeking a shortstop, tweets Olney.
Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster, who MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith profiled as a trade candidate last month, did nothing to hurt his market value by extending his scoreless streak to 27 innings in a 7-0 shutout of the Mets. The streak is the longest by a Cub since Ken Holtzman also tossed 27 scoreless innings in 1971 and is six innings away from tying Holtzman's club record set in 1969. Dempster meanwhile lowered his ERA to 1.99 during his five-inning stint where he struck out four and did not walk a batter.
- Dempster isn't paying attention to all the trade talk telling reporters, including the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan (via Twitter), that the only television he watches is "Swamp People."
- Indians outfielder Shelley Duncan doesn't think the team needs to be active at the trade deadline. "We have the talent," Duncan told reporters including MLB.com's Justin Albers. "A lot of people out there always talk about bringing in new people, getting a bat and all that stuff. But the guys we have on this team, we honestly feel from the bottom of our hearts, we don't need that. We don't need that at all."
- In the same piece, Indians GM Chris Antonetti says finances will not affect his approach at the trade deadline. "I have not limited our focus on potential acquisitions by their contract status." Antonetti added, "There's always a sense of urgency. Every game that passes is a missed opportunity."
- With the Pirates in first place in the NL Central and looking to be buyers at the trade deadline, pitcher Jameson Taillon's name has been mentioned as a possible trade chip. The second overall pick in the 2010 draft told Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he tries to avoid the trade talk but it's unavoidable. "There are some people that will bring it up to you and say, 'Hey did you see this? Did you see that rumor?' To be honest, I love the Pirates. You can’t pay too much attention to it. I’m just really glad to be a Pirate." (Twitter links) Taillon will pitch for the United States during the annual All-Star Futures Game being played today in Kansas City.
11:27am: Interest in Upton is said to be "huge'' and the Diamondbacks are only interested in making a "perfect" deal, sources tell Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Sources say that the outfielder's limited no-trade list is not the same as it was a couple years ago when it consisted of the Tigers, Indians, A's, and Royals. Detroit, Heyman notes, is a team that would have interest in Upton.
10:54am: The Pirates have had preliminary trade discussions involving the Padres' Carlos Quentin and the Diamondbacks' Justin Upton, major league sources tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.com. Talent evaluators from both teams have scouted PIttsburgh's farm system in recent days and the teams are preparing lists of prospects they would target in a potential deal.
It is unlikely the Pirates would acquire both outfielders, but they have a strong desire to land one of the two. Quentin, 29, would require a lesser package as he is eligible for free agency after this season. Upton, 24, would cost more in terms of prospects as he is under contract through 2015.
When it comes to trades, the Pirates are said to be more attached to Gerrit Cole than Jameson Taillon, in part because Cole is closer to the big leagues. The D'Backs are looking to compete again in 2013 and would likely target players who are closer to the majors in a deal for Upton. The Padres, meanwhile, are willing to take younger players, as long as they have considerable upside.
The Brewers have gone 8-2 over their last 10 games to pull away in the NL Central race, currently leading by 8.5 games. There's more to this division than just the standings though, as shown in this collection of links:
- MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch has some quotes from Pirates GM Neal Huntington on top prospect Jameson Taillon. Huntington says that while the 2010 No. 2 overall pick's numbers aren't spectacular -- a 4.52 ERA through 79 2/3 innings -- he's been working heavily on his fastball command. Huntington says Taillon can overpower Low-A hitters with his breaking ball but has gotten hit trying to improve his heater.
- In the same piece, Langosch reports that Paul Maholm will see Dr. James Andrews for a second evaluation of his shoulder. Huntington cautions not to read too much into it, but Maholm's shoulder is worth keeping an eye on as it could impact a major financial decision; the Buccos hold a $9.75MM option on Maholm for 2012 that comes with a $750K buyout.
- Skip Schumaker's 2012 contract status is questionable, writes Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Cardinals could non-tender Schumaker this offeseason.
- In Nick Cafardo's Sunday column for the Boston Globe, he says that Major League owners are "wading through a lot of personal stuff" on prospective Astros buyer Jim Crane before approving him. Crane has had complaints filed against him in the past by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Pirates GM Neal Huntington spoke to some reporters today, and Colin Dunlap of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has the audio up. Here's some highlights:
- Huntington feels it's unfortunate that top prospects Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie are often linked so closely because they're very different cases. Taillon has been pitching his whole life and therefore has a more accelerated schedule with his innings, whereas Allie was more of a position prospect until his emergence on the mound during his senior year of high school and will be handled more slowly.
- Minor leaguer Alex Presley will continue to "make it a challenge" for the Pirates to keep him off the Major League roster if he continues playing at his current level. Huntington points out that it's a good problem to have when players are excelling at Triple-A but there isn't a Major League roster spot open. Presley is following up a .320/.373/.494 effort in 2010 with a .367/.413/.560 performance so far in 2011.
- Huntington says he trusts his scouts will make an informed decision to draft the best player possible, but it's difficult without a consensus #1 like the Nationals had with Stephen Strasburg. Most expect the Pirates to draft either UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole or Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon.
- Ultimately, the decision will come down to scouting director Greg Smith, who has final veto power on the first overall pick. Huntington says he has "complete trust and faith" in Smith, but if the pick goes wrong, it will be his own fault, not Smith's.
- 2011 would be a great year to be able to trade the #1 overall pick if Major League Baseball's rules allowed it, due to the depth of the draft. Huntington says it's a great year to be Tampa Bay, San Diego, or Toronto with all of their high picks.
Overall, the 12-minute clip offers some great insight into the Pirates' means of evaluating players and their approach to the draft. It's definitely worth a listen.
As Albert Pujols joins the 400-homer club, here are some items of note...
- White Sox GM Kenny Williams hinted that his club may be pursuing a lower-profile waiver wire target than Manny Ramirez, reports MLB.com's Scott Merkin. This target, however, is apparently not Trevor Hoffman. Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com writes that Williams denied a report saying that the Sox put in a claim on Hoffman, but were unable to work out a trade with the Brewers.
- The Orioles are "increasingly less likely" to call up left-hander Zach Britton in September, reports MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli. Britton, ranked as the 63rd-best prospect in the game by Baseball America's preseason rankings, would only be in line to start every six or seven days given Baltimore's full staff and a number of September off-days. Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun adds that Britton is already nearing his 2010 innings limit.
- The Cubs interviewed Eric Wedge today for their open manager's job, reports Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com. Levine mentions that Fredi Gonzalez, Pat Listach and Ryne Sandberg are all slated for interviews, and Chicago GM Jim Hendry wants a new manager hired before the team's November organizational meetings.
- It's "unlikely at this point" that the Diamondbacks will be making any more trades, a team executive tells Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com.
- The Pirates were wise to get Jameson Taillon signed at an over-slot price rather than take their chances with two top-3 picks in the 2011 amateur draft, writes Chuck Finder of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Jeff Bagwell isn't sure if he wants to return as Houston's hitting coach next season, says MLB.com's Alyson Footer.
12:03am: Taillon's bonus is worth $6.5MM, according to Jim Callis of Baseball America (on Twitter).
9:14pm: Taillon and the Pirates agreed on a deal worth slightly more than $5MM, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter).
7:52pm: The Pirates signed second-overall pick Jameson Taillon, the pitcher's father told to Chuck Finder of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The tall Texas right-hander has drawn comparisons to other power pitchers such as Roger Clemens and Josh Beckett. Back in May, MLBTR's Mike Axisa profiled Taillon in detail.
The specifics on Taillon's deal aren't yet known, but MLB recommended a $3.25MM bonus for the second overall pick last year. The Mariners, who chose second overall in 2009, signed Dustin Ackley to a $6MM bonus and it wouldn't be surprising to see the Pirates pay Taillon considerably more than slot, too. They already appear to have signed second-rounder Stetson Allie.
With less than three hours remaining between now and the deadline to sign picks, 13 first-rounders have yet to sign.
Let's check out some Pirates tidbits, courtesy of Chuck Finder of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette..
- The Pirates remain the favorites to land 16-year-old Mexican pitcher Luis Heredia. Veracruz, the Mexican team that holds his rights, is allowed by the Mexican Baseball League to begin entertaining offers on Thursday. Early last month, the Pirates and Blue Jays were said to be the favorites for his services. Toronto reportedly offered $2.8MM while Pittsburgh offered $2.5MM. The Yankees were said to be gaining interest in the prospect as of a month ago.
- Jameson Taillon's father Michael expects his son and the club to reach agreement prior to tomorrow's deadline. Michael mentioned that there remained a "variable" for the two sides to work out. The variable, Finder says, could be a spot on the 40-man roster. It appears that the Pirates are reluctant to oblige, though the father of the second overall selection doesn't see it as a potential stumbling block. The slot recommendation for Taillon is $3.25MM, though he will likely receive more.
- As for the Pirates and second-round choice Stetson Allie, there's optimism on both sides that a deal can be reached. Both Allie and Taillon are represented by the Hendricks brothers.