Javier Baez Rumors

Heyman’s Latest: Hamels/Jays, Lucroy, Baez, Correa, Alvarez

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has published the latest installment of his weekly Inside Baseball column, and he kicks it off by reporting that the Blue Jays have inquired on Cole Hamels. However, Heyman hears that Hamels was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause to allow a trade to Toronto, which is a blow for both clubs. The Jays desperately need help in both the rotation and the bullpen, and the Phillies, Heyman notes, would love to get their hands on young pitchers with the upside of Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris. The Blue Jays have a bit of financial leeway after going with inexpensive options at second base, center field and left field, and Heyman writes that the Blue Jays are expected to look at other potential front-line starters this summer as they become available. (He speculatively mentions Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir, though neither’s available just yet.) Additionally, Heyman notes that Blue Jays manager John Gibbons’ job is safe, as GM Alex Anthopoulos has a strong relationship with the skipper and recognizes that the team’s problems are roster-related and shouldn’t be pinned on Gibbons.

Some more highlights from the column, though it’s worth a read in its entirety…

  • The Braves are said to be disappointed in the play of Christian Bethancourt, even from a defensive standpoint, and recently inquired with the Brewers on Jonathan Lucroy. However, Atlanta executives were told by the Brewers that Lucroy isn’t available at this time. That the Brewers wouldn’t trade Lucroy isn’t a shock; he’s owed a very affordable $4MM in 2016 with a $5.25MM option for the 2017 season, so even if the team can’t quickly right the ship, he’d still have enormous trade value at the 2016 trade deadline. More interesting, to me, is that the Braves would so quickly look for an upgrade over Bethancourt and that they’re acting somewhat as buyers. Lucroy, of course, could be called a long-term piece that would be around to help the team when its rebuild is closer to completion. However, acquiring him would surely require the sting of parting with some of the key components of that rebuild.
  • Some rival execs feel that the Cubs are willing to part with Javier Baez and Dan Vogelbach in trades, in part because each was drafted under the previous administration and is not held in as high a regard by the new front office. Each player comes with issues, however, as Baez is trying to cut down on his swing and improve his contact skills, while a scout described first baseman Vogelbach as a “30 fielder” to Heyman (in reference to the 20-80 scouting scale).
  • There are members of the Astros‘ field staff that want to see Carlos Correa with the team right now, but Houston will likely keep him in the minors for another month or so in order to lessen the risk of Correa achieving Super Two status. I’ll add that the Astros will have a more legitimate claim that Correa still needs minor league time than other teams in similar situations have had in the past. Correa is still just 20 years old and has only nine games of experience at the Triple-A level, though he’s continued his brilliant work at the plate there, hitting .326/.362/.558 with a pair of homers. Also of interest to Astros fans — or to fans of teams needing outfield help — the Astros are on the lookout for starting pitching upgrades, and outfield prospect Preston Tucker “seems to be available.” Tucker recently made his MLB debut and has a .963 OPS through 34 plate appearances to go along with a strong minor league track record.
  • Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez has been pitching for years with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, according to Heyman. Some have described it as a “90 percent tear,” but he’s been able to pitch effectively in spite of the issue. Alvarez wouldn’t be the first to pitch through a UCL tear; Ervin Santana and Adam Wainwright are both recent examples of pitchers who pitched for many seasons with partially torn UCLs. Wainwright ultimately underwent Tommy John, though Santana’s is said to have healed and is no longer an issue. In another Marlins-related note, Heyman hears that pitching coach Chuck Hernandez is “under the microscope” with both Jarred Cosart and Steve Cishek struggling greatly in 2015.
  • Brewers starters Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza have little trade value due to their 2015 struggles, but Lohse’s lesser financial commitment and superior clubhouse reputation give him more value. The team is reluctant to trade not only Lucroy, but shortstop Jean Segura as well. The Brewers are a bit more open to dealing Carlos Gomez than that pair, as Gomez is closer to free agency (he’s controlled through 2016).
  • The Mets remain reluctant to trade any of their top arms, as they’ve seen on multiple occasions how quickly Tommy John surgery or other injuries can thin out a club’s depth. (Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz have all had TJ in their careers.) The Mets are also not rushing to find a shortstop, but they have indeed been “all over the map” in terms of trade possibilities with the Cubs.
  • Coco Crisp‘s neck injury is apparently quite serious, and there’s a fear that the oft-injured Athletics outfielder will ultimately require surgery that could bring his season to an end.
  • The Blue Jays would still like to extend both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but there have yet to be serious discussions with either slugger’s camp. Both players are controlled through the end of the 2016 season.

Cubs Notes: Baez, Bryant, Russell, Maddon, Castro

Earlier today, Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago appeared with host Jeff Todd on this week’s edition of the MLBTR Podcast, and the two discussed a variety of Cubs topics, from the Welington Castillo trade to Starlin Castro and the team’s rotation. For Cubs fans (and others) who have already checked that out, though, here are a few more notes on the team that sits four games back in the NL Central and currently leads the Padres 3-0…

  • Infielder Javier Baez has hit well at Triple-A this season, posting a .296/.375/.423 batting line in 80 plate appearances, but there doesn’t seem to be any rush to get him back to the big leagues at this time. Via David Kaplan of CSN Chicago (on Twitter), GM Jed Hoyer said that the Cubs “…want to take our time on Javy Baez. He is playing well, but we want to let him continue to keep working right now.” Addison Russell has seen most of the time at second base, where many thought Baez would play this season. After some early struggles, Russell has settled in and is hitting .273/.333/.455 over a 22-game stretch.
  • Speaking of Russell, agent Scott Boras, who represents both Russell and Kris Bryant, praised the Cubs organization prior to tonight’s game, writes Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. Boras feels that both Bryant and Russell have “dramatically” improved since joining the team, leading him to praise the organization’s developmental techniques. Boras said that his main gripe in Spring Training was that he wanted Bryant to know that his fate wasn’t pre-determined (presumably, that is, to know that he wouldn’t be reassigned to minor league camp at the end of Spring Training). He also praised manager Joe Maddon for his communication skills and work with young players. “Joe Maddon is a talent,” said Boras. “He’s very good at giving the players a focus at a variety of levels of their careers. And that has a lot to do with why they’re performing so well in their careers.”
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports feels that the Cubs should think twice before considering a trade of Castro. Rosenthal spoke to a number of Castro’s teammates as well as Maddon, assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske and president Theo Epstein — all of whom feel that the 25-year-old has made strides in terms of maturity, preparedness and defense this season. Rosenthal notes that with $37MM owed to Castro from 2016-19, his contract is highly affordable as well. Of course, Castro has struggled at the plate early this year, as even after a pair of singles tonight he’s hitting .272/.304/.346, which translates to a wRC+ of just 76 (24 percent worse than the league average).

Rosenthal’s Latest: Mets, Baez, Orioles, Trumbo

Despite shaky defense, Wilmer Flores will remain the Mets starting shortstop, reports Ken Rosenthal in his latest video for FOX Sports. However, one alternative is to trade Daniel Murphy, shift Flores to second base, and promote shortstop prospect Matt Reynolds. The move would instantly upgrade the Mets’ infield defense. Per Rosenthal, the club may prefer to promote Reynolds once David Wright returns to action.

As for trading Murphy, the club may look to acquire a prospect or reliever. Aside from Jeurys Familia and a couple role players, the Mets bullpen has been a little shaky. However, strong starting pitching has allowed the club to hide that shortcoming. New York relievers have thrown the fewest innings of any team. Conversely, their starters lead the league in innings pitched. Here’s more from Rosenthal:

  • Cubs second base prospect Javier Baez is on an 11-for-22 streak, leading to speculation that he could be promoted. The easiest way to insert him into the lineup would be to move Kris Bryant to the outfield and Baez to third. Since the club is juggling several important future pieces, they’ll want to be careful about how they handle the logjam.
  • The Orioles are built to sell with eight players on the 25 man roster set to reach free agency after the season. Don’t expect a fire sale anytime soon. Baltimore is just four games back in a shaky AL East. Owner Peter Angelos is loathe to throw in the towel. He famously nixed a couple trades involving Bobby Bonilla and David Wells during the 1996 season. The club later clawed its way into the postseason. It would seem the Orioles’ woes would have to get a lot worse before Chris Davis and others were shopped.
  • Many speculate that Mark Trumbo will be available this summer, however the Diamondbacks have publicly resisted the idea. Per Rosenthal, the club believes they will contend next season once Patrick Corbin and other youngsters solidify the rotation. Trumbo is signed to a $6.9MM contract and has one year of arbitration remaining. Arizona could replace Trumbo with a platoon of David Peralta and Yasmany Tomas.


Heyman’s Latest: Hamels, Astros, Hinch, Greinke

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman touched on many topics in his latest “Inside Baseball” column, and since we’ve already focused on Heyman’s notes about the Brewers, let’s look at some of his other hot stove info from around the league…

  • The Astros will be looking to add one or even two starting pitchers, though Cole Hamels is “too pricey” for them, according to one team source.  MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently explored the case for Houston going after the Phillies southpaw, and 42.44% of MLBTR readers polled thought that the Astros should indeed pursue Hamels.
  • Rival executives aren’t bothered by Hamels’ sub-par performance this season since all of this trade speculation is assumed to be impacting his work.  Executives “seem to be split on” whether the Phillies are making the right move in holding out for a blue chip prospect or two in exchange for Hamels, or if they should just be looking to get his big salary off the books for a lower return of young talent.
  • A.J. Hinch’s deal with the Astros is a three-year contract with a club option for 2018.  The exact dollar figure isn’t known but Heyman reports that the average annual value is less than $1MM, which could end up being a bargain given how Houston has thus far played under Hinch’s management.
  • While Zack Greinke is expected to opt out of his contract at the end of the season, Heyman doubts he’ll leave the Dodgers since they certainly have the money to sign him to a new deal.
  • One scout suggests that Javier Baez might need “a change of scenery” to get back on track.  Baez struck out a whopping 95 times in 229 plate appearances with the Cubs last season, and only has a .755 OPS at the Triple-A level this year.  Baez is only a year removed from being considered an elite-level prospect, so while it seems early to consider trading him, Chicago is already deep in young middle infield talent.
  • The Rangers are willing to deal Shin-Soo Choo, rival executives believe.  This is no surprise given Choo’s huge contract and underwhelming performance in Texas, though obviously those same issues will make dealing him a tall order.  Heyman notes that the Yankees were interested in Choo when he was a free agent two winters ago, though even if Choo turns it around, I’m not sure I see New York taking on a big contract when they already have a pretty full outfield.
  • The Cardinalswill rue the day they made that trade” of Shelby Miller and prospect Tyrell Jenkins for Jason Heyward and Jorden Walden, in the words of one scout.  Heyman feels this is a bit of a stretch, even though Miller has been outstanding for the Braves and Heyward has struggled for the Cards (and Walden is on the DL).
  • Veteran Andruw Jones isn’t yet planning to retire, though he won’t play in 2015.  Jones has played in Japan for the last two seasons and expressed interest in a return to Major League Baseball this winter, drawing interest from at least two teams, including the Indians.  According to Heyman, Jones turned down minor league contract offers from multiple teams.

Kris Bryant To Begin Season In Minors

The Cubs announced today that wunderkind Kris Bryant has been assigned to Minor League camp, indicating that he will not make the team’s Opening Day roster out of Spring Training. Second baseman Javier Baez was also optioned to Triple-A today.

The Bryant decision was widely expected, as the Cubs’ long-term benefit by optioning Bryant is almost impossible to ignore. Keeping Bryant in the Minors for even 12 days will leave him with 171 days of Major League service time this season, or one day shy of a full year. In other words, rather than controlling Bryant from 2015-20, the Cubs would gain an extra year of control and have the rights to Bryant through the 2021 season.

Oftentimes, teams will be willing to bring a player north to open the season because they plan on trying to negotiate a long-term deal eventually anyhow. The Cubs may well have interest in extending Bryant — why wouldn’t they? — but Bryant is also a client of agent Scott Boras, who traditionally encourages his players to go year-to-year through arbitration and test the free agent market as early as possible. While there are exceptions — Carlos Gomez, Jered Weaver and Carlos Gonzalez each come to mind — the Cubs have to know that their odds of buying out any of Bryant’s free agent years in advance are considerably thinner than they would be if Bryant had different representation.

Boras has been very vocal on the matter, which has been one of the most oft-discussed storylines this Spring Training. Boras told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that the Cubs had to make a choice regarding Bryant: “Are they going to present to their market that they are trying to win? [Cubs owner] Tom Ricketts said they were all about winning.” Boras would go on to argue that Bryant should have been promoted last September when the rosters expanded.

While it’s not surprising to see an agent advocating for the promotion of his player, it’s also hard to dismiss Boras’ comments as those of a biased party. Bryant batted a ridiculous .325/.438/.661 with 43 homers between Double-A and Triple-A last season, and he crushed nine homers in just 44 spring plate appearances while slashing .425/.477/1.175. Ranked by several outlets as the game’s top prospect, Bryant has certainly made a case that he belongs at the Major League level, and it’s difficult to compose an argument that he is not ready for the Majors, from a baseball standpoint.

The Cubs, of course, will not indicate that service time plays an issue in the decision. (Doing so would open the door for a grievance.) However, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein pointed out to reporters that he has never once taken a prospect north to open the season if it meant making his Major League debut, as he feels that Opening Day is a difficult time for a young player to debut. He also cited a belief that it’s good for players to be in a rhythm when called up to the Majors for the first time.

Needless to say, the service time rules that frequently cause teams to stash prospects in the Minors to delay their free agency or to avoid Super Two status figure to be a major talking point in the next collective bargaining agreement. Last year, there was plenty of controversy around the promotion timelines for prospects Gregory Polanco, Jon Singleton and George Springer, among others. MLBPA executive director has called the tactic “unfortunate,” though certain playerss, including Andrew Miller, have voiced an understanding that it’s part of the game.

In the case of Baez, it’s perhaps not surprising to see him begin the year in the Minors. He hit just 169/.227/.324 last season and struck out in more than 40 percent of his plate appearances, and this spring he batted .173/.218/.231 with 20 punchouts in 55 PA. Baez racked up 55 days of service time last year, and he’ll need 117 additional days in 2015 to reach one full year of big league service time.


Central Notes: White Sox, Dozier, Baez, Madson

If all the high-profile moves the White Sox have made this offseason don’t work out, the organization plans to be “nimble” in trying to contend in 2016 and beyond, GM Rick Hahn tells MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. “Knock on wood, given the young players that we have in the organization now and the ones we have coming and players under control for the next several years, I don’t think that what happens in ’15 is going to cause us to take a significant step backwards in terms of that plan,” says Hahn. “It just may have us reallocate assets to future seasons so that we can get back on track quickly.” That might suggest that the White Sox could trade someone like Jeff Samardzija, who is eligible for free agency after 2015, if the team doesn’t contend this summer. That stands to reason, of course, although it’s somewhat rare to hear a GM describe contingency plans in a year in which his team is expected to contend. Here’s more from the Central divisions.

  • Twins infielder Brian Dozier‘s new extension contains a few potential bonuses, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Dozier can make $100K for winning and MVP or World Series MVP award, plus $25K for Gold Gloves or All-Star appearances.
  • The Cubs haven’t yet decided whether Javier Baez will make the team out of camp, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com writes. “You put your present and future hat on. In the present tense, there has to be some adjustments made at the plate; future tense, I can see all those things coming together,” says manager Joe Maddon. Baez hit nine homers in 229 big-league plate appearances last year, but struck out in 41% of his plate appearances. As Tim Dierkes noted in today’s Offseason In Review post on the Cubs, Baez is part of a hazy middle infield picture in Chicago.
  • Royals reliever Ryan Madson says he has an opt-out at the end of Spring Training, but he hasn’t thought about exercising it, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. Madson, who has not appeared in the big leagues since 2011, is simply enjoying getting back to pitching after years of injury troubles.

Central Notes: White Sox, Twins, Baez

Members of the White Sox are excited about GM Rick Hahn’s high-profile offseason, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com writes. “They were busy, worked hard and instilled confidence in the guys that were here,” says Adam Eaton. “It kind of credits (us) that ‘This is a good base, this is the time to stretch it.’” For a 73-89 team, the 2014 White Sox had a lot go right, including excellent performances from starters Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, along with an exceptional rookie season from Jose Abreu and good contributions from Eaton and Alexei Ramirez. Now they’ve added Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche and Zach Duke to that talent base. “You go from not expecting anything or not knowing what to expect to now you expect quite a bit and expect success,” says Eaton. Here’s more from the Central divisions.

  • The Twins believed they had completed two trades that ultimately fell through this offseason, as the players they wanted were traded to other teams, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN reports (Twitter links). Wolfson says he wondered if those trades might have involved Jeremy Hellickson (who went to the Diamondbacks) or J.A. Happ (who headed to the Mariners), but was told no in both cases.
  • New Cubs manager Joe Maddon traveled to Puerto Rico to see Javier Baez play winter ball, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat writes, citing a report from the Puerto Rican paper El Nuevo Dia. “He’s trying way too hard,” says Maddon. “I want him to back off. The last thing I want him to do is try to impress me tonight. … I said, ‘Hit a couple singles and, above all, I want to see you smile.’” The 22-year-old Baez’s underwhelming 2014 debut (.169/.227/.324 in 229 plate appearances) was understandable given his youth, although he’ll probably have to improve his strikeout rate before he can make an impact in the big leagues. He’ll compete for a spot in the Cubs’ infield in Spring Training.

NL Central Notes: Pirates, Kang, Baez, Reds

The Pirates deserve praise for the depth they’ve built on their Major League roster, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his daily Insider-only blog post (subscription required and recommended). More and more, Olney writes, the Pirates are beginning to look like the second coming of the perennially-contending Cardinals, with talented players that can handle multiple positions, safeguarding the club against regression and injury. For instance, Josh Harrison can play right field if Gregory Polanco‘s adjustment to the Majors stalls again in 2015, with Jung-ho Kang sliding into third in his stead. Kang could also unseat Jordy Mercer at short if Mercer struggles, and the team has plenty of options at first base in addition to Pedro Alvarez, including Corey Hart, Sean Rodriguez and Andrew Lambo. That depth breeds success, which paired with the revitalization of pitchers A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, Edinson Volquez and Vance Worley, makes Pittsburgh a very desirable free agent destination — particularly for pitchers.

More on the Pirates and the NL Central…

  • The questions about Kang’s defense may not be an issue given how the Pirates have used shifts to cover up for their generally unimpressive fielding, Fangraphs’ Miles Wray writes.  If Kang’s defense isn’t an issue, Wray feels the Bucs made an acceptable risk in signing Kang given his power-hitting potential.
  • Javier Baez is having a tough time in Puerto Rico winter ball, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi reports, as the Cubs prospect is still plagued by strikeouts.  It is starting to look like Baez could begin the 2015 season in Triple-A unless he enjoys a big Spring Training.
  • Tony Cingrani and Anthony DeSclafani are the current favorites to fill the two remaining spots in the Reds rotation, though manager Bryan Price tells reporters (including C. Trent Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer) that nothing has been decided.  Jason Marquis, David Holmberg and Raicel Iglesias stand out as possible contenders to earn a rotation spot in Spring Training, with Iglesias something of an “X-factor” given how he went several months without pitching while arranging his departure from Cuba.

NL Central Notes: Martin, Huntington, Brewers, Cubs

As a former player, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly can relate to what Cubs prospects Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara are going through, writes David Just of the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s just a time factor with the young guys,” Mattingly said. “They can look good right away, and the next year they come out and it doesn’t look good. Or they can look kind of shaky and figure a lot of it out. So time is going to tell.” As a youngster, Mattingly got off to a slow start with the Yankees, hitting .278 with a .326 on-base percentage in his first 98 games during the 1982 and ’83 seasons. He then led the American League in hits, doubles, and batting average in 1984.

Here’s the latest from the NL Central:

  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington says re-signing catcher Russell Martin is a priority for the franchise, tweets Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We are going to try to do everything we can to keep Russ,” said Huntington. “We’d love nothing more than to have (Martin) in a Pirates uniform.
  • Huntington, however, reiterated the Pirates will not veer from their financial philosophy. “We’re going to continue to have to pay guys for what we believe they’re going to do, and not what they’ve done,” said Huntington (as quoted by MLB.com’s Stephen Pianovich). “The bigger markets certainly have luxury to be able to extend much beyond comfort levels to pay an extra year or two, to pave over prior mistakes with more money.
  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin does not “think there’s a need to go out and try to get another starter” and will instead focus on offense this offseason, reports MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. The Brewers are all but certain to pick up the $13MM option on Yovani Gallardo, McCalvy opines.
  • The Brewers‘ biggest offseason decisions will be the infield corners and whether to exercise Gallardo’s option, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a recent chat. The Brewers will consider both internal and external options at first base, but Haudricourt notes finding productive first basemen is easier said than done.
  • In a separate piece, Haudricourt writes Rickie Weeks is nearing the end of his tenure with the Brewers (his $11.5MM option isn’t expected to be exercised), but the team’s senior member in terms of service time is not thinking about 2015. “I’ll worry about that when the time comes,” Weeks said. “I’m still with the Brewers right now. That’s the way I look at it.
  • What we’d really like is to have a bunch of really good baserunners,” is what Cubs manager Rick Renteria told reporters, including MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat, when asked about the club’s 2015 wish list.

Cubs To Promote Javier Baez

The Cubs will promote star prospect Javier Baez in time for tomorrow’s game against the Rockies at Coors Field, Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com reports (Twitter link).  Corresponding moves still need to be made to make room for the Puerto Rico native on both the Cubs’ 25- and 40-man rosters.  Baez is a client of the Wasserman Media Group, as he just hired his new representation last week.

javier_baezBaez is a consensus top-10 prospect in the game, as detailed in recent midseason minor league rankings by Baseball Prospectus (which puts him at #5), MLB.com (#6), Baseball America (#7) and ESPN’s Keith Law (#8).  The 21-year-old impressed many with a big Spring Training performance but then got off to a slow start in his first couple of months at Triple-A.  After 434 plate appearances for Iowa, however, Baez is hitting .260/.323/.510 with 23 home runs, so it seems his power swing is ready for the big league spotlight.

Originally selected ninth overall in the 2011 draft, Baez has a .278/.336/.545 slash line in 1350 minor league PA, cranking 76 homers and stealing 62 bases (out of 79 attempts) over his four minor league seasons.  The 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook says that Baez could stand to slow down some of the natural aggressiveness in his game, yet raved about his “special bat speed” and baseball instincts.  The Handbook gave Baez’s power a 75 scouting grade (out of 80) and said “he profiles as an all-star-caliber, 30-homer infielder wherever he lands.”

It seems likely that Baez will land at second base for his Major League debut, with Starlin Castro entrenched at shortstop at Arismendy Alcantara (another well-regarded prospect) capable of shifting to center field.  Baez is a natural shortstop but has seen playing time at the keystone at Triple-A in preparation for both playing alongside Castro and because there is some concern that he might be better suited for second or third base over the long term.  With Castro locked into a relatively expensive contract through at least 2019 and a wealth of strong infield prospects (Baez, Alcantara, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell) in Chicago’s system, it will be interesting to see how the Cubs juggle all these young talents in the coming years.

Photo courtesy of Rick Scuteri/USA Today Sports Images