Jay Bruce Rumors

AL East Notes: Red Sox, Miley, Cashman, Bruce

Even with Justin Masterson, Rick Porcello and (eventually) Wade Miley now in the fold, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington didn’t close the door on the possibility of more pitching moves.  “I think we’€™re going to keep working and see what comes to us. Our hope was to really strengthen our rotation, our position with the rotation, this week, or at some point soon. Hopefully we’€™ll be able to do that,” Cherington told reporters, including WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford.  The GM said he thinks teams can get by without having a frontline ace atop their rotation, though also pointed out his roster has “a lot of younger pitching that we think in time, some of them have a chance to develop into that type of guy.”

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • The Miley trade hasn’t yet been finalized since the Red Sox and Diamondbacks are “still squabbling about the extra player,” Arizona GM Dave Stewart tells reporters, including MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert.  The player in question is a prospect Boston will be sending to the D’Backs along with Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster.
  • The Yankees talked to the D’Backs and Tigers about Miley and Porcello, Brian Cashman told reporters (including George A. King III of the New York Post).  “Did I call Arizona? Yes. Did I call Detroit? Yes. I didn’t have [Yoenis] Cespedes to send to Detroit. We are waiting for something we are comfortable with,” Cashman said.  The GM said he “threw a lot of different ideas a lot of different ways” during a quiet Winter Meetings for the Yankees and he’ll “keep conversations alive” throughout the offseason.
  • The Orioles “kicked the tires” on Reds outfielder Jay Bruce but couldn’t match up on a trade with Cincinnati, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets.  In the wake of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis signing elsewhere, the O’s have a definite need for corner outfield help.
  • Scott Boras told reporters (including Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi) that the Blue Jays were one of the teams who had expressed interest in Japanese middle infielder Takashi Toritani.  This would be a rare case of a Boras client signing with Toronto, a disconnect that the agent attributes to the club’s policy against contracts longer than five years.  “They’re the only team that has said that limitation is five years. When you do that, you are cutting yourself off from a pool of talent that makes it very, very difficult to compete, particularly in the AL East,” Boras said.  (It should be noted that the Jays’ five-year policy probably isn’t applicable in Toritani’s case, as the 33-year-old infielder is very unlikely to receive that long a contract from any team.)

Quick Hits: Pirates, Bruce, Rule 5 Draft, Capuano

The Diamondbacks won the Yasmany Tomas sweepstakes, signing the Cuban outfielder to a six-year, $68.5MM contract and drawing praise from some around the baseball world, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports.  One AL scout called the contract “a great deal,” since another AL scout told Piecoro that “most people thought it would cost between $80MM-$100MM” to sign Tomas.  It’s possible that the Snakes were able to get a relative bargain, however, due to concerns that other teams had about Tomas’ defense and plate discipline, not to mention career numbers in Cuba’s Serie Nacional that fell well behind the totals posted by such stars as Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes or Yasiel Puig.

MLBTR wishes all our readers a Happy Thanksgiving, and here are some items from around baseball to go with your pumpkin pie for dessert…

  • Pirates president Frank Coonelly tells Dejan Kovacevic of DKOnPittsburghSports.com that the team’s payroll “certainly can and I suspect will” top the $90MM mark in 2015.  This works out to roughly $20MM in available funds by Kovacevic’s calculations, and “everything I’m hearing is that most, if not all, of that money will be committed to starting pitching,” with the Pirates hoping to re-sign both Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez.
  • The Reds are looking for multiple “inexpensive Major League-ready players” in exchange for Jay Bruce, a rival scout familiar with the team’s demands told Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun.  Cincinnati is known to be listening to offers for Bruce, though it could just be a case of due diligence rather than a legitimate desire to deal the outfielder.
  • The Rule 5 Draft is coming up on December 11, and Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper lists some of the intriguing names that are likely or unlikely be picked in two weeks’ time.  BA’s Matt Eddy, meanwhile, examines some of the key statistics and factors that led several prospects to be added to team’s 40-man rosters in advance of the draft.
  • Chris Capuano said “there’s a lot of truth to” rumors he is interested in pitching in Japan next season, the veteran lefty told Casey Stern and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link).  “It piqued my interest back in 2006….we’re considering it,” Capuano said.  The 36-year-old posted a 4.35 ERA, 2.47 K/BB and 7.5 K/9 over 97 1/3 IP in 2014, making 12 starts for the Yankees and 28 relief appearances for the Red Sox.
  • The Mariners would be hard-pressed to deal starting pitching given their lack of rotation depth, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes, and thus a rumored Hisashi Iwakuma-for-Yoenis Cespedes deal doesn’t make much sense for the team.
  • If GM Brian Cashman truly believes David Robertsonchecks every box” for what’s expected from a Yankees closer, then the team should’ve re-signed Robertson by now, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News opines.  The Robertson/Dellin Betances combo was a major strength for the Yankees last season, though Betances might not be ready to take over the closer’s role.  Plus, as Feinsand argues, “who takes over the setup role if Betances moves to the ninth? Andrew Miller? Luke Gregerson? If you’re going to pay a free-agent reliever, why not spend on the one you’ve drafted and developed yourself?”

Details On Jay Bruce’s No-Trade Clause

We heard recently that the Reds will at least listen to offers on outfielder Jay Bruce. While that still seems to be a long shot, it is worth noting that Bruce has an eight-team no-trade clause that would come into play were he shopped.

According to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, Bruce can block deals to the Athletics, Blue Jays, D’backs, Marlins, Rays, Red Sox, Twins, and Yankees. That mix of small and large-market teams presumably shields Bruce from destinations he may prefer not to play in while affording him leverage if a big-spending AL East club were to come calling.

Bruce had an off year in 2014, but has been one of the game’s most consistent power threats and is just entering his age-28 season. He is guaranteed $25.5MM over the next two seasons, which includes a buyout for a $13MM club option in 2017.



AL East Notes: Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays

The action today was in the AL East, with the Red Sox reportedly reaching terms with both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. The day’s moves could well set up a series of others in a division that is setting the early pace in spending. Here’s the latest:

  • With the Red Sox taking on gobs of new salary obligations and seemingly prepared to add more, attention has naturally turned to the question of how much the team could be willing to spend. Owner John Henry mentioned last year that going over the luxury tax line is not necessarily a devastating event, notes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Boston has relatively little committed in the future, but is already well north of $100MM in obligations for 2015 even before accounting for Sandoval and Ramirez.
  • WEEI.com’s Alex Speier takes a closer look at the team’s possible methods for freeing salary to devote to pitching. He notes that the cap may not be a hard ceiling for the Sox, though the roster will need to be trimmed regardless of financial considerations. Speier’s colleague, Rob Bradford, evaluates the expected addition of Ramirez in terms of the many moving parts that the organization must account for.
  • Boston’s moves will test the Yankees‘ restraint, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. New York is still putting out the vibe that it will not play in the top of the free agent market, but the temptation is obvious. As Sherman rightly notes, also, the bidding for return targets like Chase Headley, Brandon McCarthy, and David Robertson could well shoot up rather quickly.
  • Sources also tell Sherman that the Bombers are pushing harder to acquire a shortstop than a third baseman. The club has made “a series of trade offers” to land one, per Sherman.
  • The Blue Jays are “talking about” Reds outfielder Jay Bruce, according to a tweet from Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. While the report is not entirely clear, it seems to refer to internal discussion among the Toronto brass, rather than trade chatter between the clubs. While a recent report indicated that Cincinnati would listen on Bruce, it is difficult to imagine a trade scenario that would entice the Reds and a team looking to add the talented 27-year-old at a discount.

Reds Listening On Jay Bruce; Padres Have Shown Interest

FRIDAY: In response to the report that Bruce rejected the Reds’ extension offers, agent Matt Sosnick went on the record with ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick to offer the following statement:

“It is true that the Reds made Jay two offers during the season. The fact the deal didn’t get done had nothing to do with Jay’s desire to remain a Red for life, which is still the case. It was more about his desire to make sure that contract talks didn’t become a distraction during the season. But Jay still greatly appreciated the offers.”

THURSDAY: The Reds have long been known to be open to dealing a starter this winter — Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon are all free agents following the 2015 season — but Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that they’re also open to moving other high-priced players. According to Rosenthal, the Reds are listening to offers for Jay Bruce and have had preliminary trade discussions with other clubs, including the Padres.

Rosenthal’s sources indicate that the Reds made a pair of extension offers to Bruce prior to the 2014 season, but Bruce rejected each scenario. Bruce, of course, went on to have his worst season in 2014, due largely to an early injury that required knee surgery. Bruce missed just 15 days following the operation and never felt right after that, GM Walt Jocketty admits. The two-time All-Star and Silver Slugger winner batted just .217/.281/.373 with a career-low 18 home runs this year.

The Reds certainly aren’t committed to moving Bruce, Rosenthal notes, adding that owner Bob Castellini’s preference is likely to try to win in 2015. Adding a left fielder and receiving full, healthy seasons from Bruce, Joey Votto, Homer Bailey and Brandon Phillips could go a long way toward that end, but the Reds do have somewhat of a payroll crunch on their hands that could limit their flexibility this offseason if they don’t trade at least one significant salary away.

Though Bruce struggled in 2014 following his operation, he’s been a force at the plate throughout his career. The 27-year-old batted .262/.337/.489 and averaged 30 homers from 2010-13. He’s owed $12MM in 2015, $12.5MM in 2016 and has a $13MM club option with a $1MM buyout for the 2017 season. His $51MM extension contains a limited no-trade clause that allows him to block deals to eight clubs, as shown on Cot’s Contracts. Clearly, the Reds wouldn’t move Bruce simply to save cash and would be looking for a significant return in terms of prospects and/or young, MLB-ready talent in a potential deal.


Central Links: Reds, Cubs, Avila, Tigers, Tomas, Butler

Reds GM Walt Jocketty is of the mindset that his team will need to either be “all in” or “all out” in 2015, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. In other words, if the Reds decide to trade one of four starters who is eligible for free agency following the 2015 season — Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Alfredo Simon — others may very well follow. Sherman lists Jay Bruce and Aroldis Chapman as names to watch if Cincinnati does elect to go into a full rebuild. Both can be free agents after 2016, though the Reds have a club option on Bruce for the 2017 season.

Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Sherman also tweets that the Cubs aren’t likely to spend big on a closer this winter, which seemingly eliminates a potential suitor for David Robertson. Earlier today, reports indicated that Robertson is seeking a contract comparable to Jonathan Papelbon‘s four-year, $50MM contract.
  • The Tigers are willing to listen to offers on Alex Avila, tweets the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Avila has a $5.4MM club option for his final arb year and was projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn the same amount in arbitration. Cafardo notes that the Braves and Red Sox are both looking for left-handed bats. While both have inexperienced catchers (Christian Bethancourt and Christian Vasquez, respectively), adding Avila would limit each team’s ability to get an extended look at how their young backstop handles a full workload.
  • John Manuel of Baseball America tweets that the Tigers‘ defense up the middle in 2015 could be special with Jose Iglesias and the newly acquired Anthony Gose. He also notes that Devon Travis, who went to the Blue Jays in the deal, now has a clear shot to Major League playing time that he may not have had in Detroit.
  • The Royals could scout Yasmany Tomas in the Dominican Republic next week, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. Royals officials will be in the Dominican Republic on other business anyway and met with Tomas’ agent, Jay Alou, earlier this week at the GM Meetings. The team’s payroll could surpass the $100MM mark for the first time next season, and there’s perhaps room for one significant expenditure such as Tomas, Ervin Santana or Melky Cabrera, McCullough writes.
  • Billy Butler is receiving interest from a number of clubs — even one National League club — tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The interest in Butler likely means that a return to the Royals isn’t the best fit, he adds. McCullough reported Tuesday that K.C. doesn’t seem inclined to go beyond two years to retain Butler.
  • Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wonders if the Brewers will consider trading a starting pitcher (Twitter link). The Brew Crew needs some payroll flexibility, and the Braves are one team that has been poking around at the GM Meetings.

Quick Hits: Bruce, Lueke, Phillies, Roberts

The Reds will spend the next three to four weeks without right fielder Jay Bruce, who needs surgery to fix a partially torn meniscus in his knee, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. The Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay initially tweeted that Bruce might need surgery. Here are notes from around the big leagues.

  • The slow start by Curtis Granderson of the Mets is worthy of panic, whereas Brian McCann‘s slow start with the Yankees is not, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports writes in a piece about stars, and teams, who have struggled in 2014 so far. Passan cites the holes in Granderson’s swing, which could end up making his four-year, $52MM deal a poor one. Meanwhile, Passan suggests there isn’t anything glaringly wrong with McCann’s game — he has walked less than usual and swung at more pitches outside the zone, but Passan thinks those issues are correctable.
  • Joe Maddon says the Rays decided to designate Heath Bell for assignment rather than Josh Lueke because they like Lueke’s potential, Bill Chastain of MLB.com reports. “From a scouting perspective, we still see a really big upside with [Lueke],” Maddon says. “At times, you have to be more patient with a more youthful player … We still think if he gets everything together that we’re going to be rewarded by that patience.” In 18 2/3 innings so far this season, Lueke has a 4.82 ERA with 5.3 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9.
  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro’s moves down the stretch last season and this offseason have helped the team in 2014, Bob Brookover of the Inquirer argues. A.J. Burnett has pitched well so far, and Roberto Hernandez has been at least moderately helpful. Also, Amaro didn’t break up the team’s veteran core, and Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard have all hit well so far. Jonathan Papelbon has gotten good results as well. (Of course, the Phillies are still just 15-14, so they’re only performing modestly ahead of expectations.)
  • Ryan Roberts of the Red Sox could have declined his outright assignment and become a free agent two weeks ago, but he opted to stay in the organization in order to get regular playing time at Triple-A Pawtucket, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. “I didn’t need to go wait for another team to pick me up and go somewhere else,” says Roberts. “I didn’t have time to do any of that stuff. What I needed to do was start playing baseball. Sitting at home for a couple of weeks was enough for me.” Roberts spent most of the last three seasons in the big leagues with the Diamondbacks and Rays, but did spend a chunk of 2013 at the Triple-A level.

Central Notes: Bruce, Phillips, Arroyo, Johan

While Jay Bruce's agent, Matt Sosnick, said his client hasn't discussed an extension with the Reds, he didn't quash the idea either, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.  "Obviously, Jay loves playing in Cincinnati. He's made it clear in the past that all things equal, he'd like to finish his career there and certainly would be open to anything," said Sosnick.  While the Reds control Bruce through 2017 with three guaranteed years at $34.5MM and a team option for $13MM, the idea of a pre-emptive extension makes sense since the slugger will only be 30 upon hitting the open market.  Here's more out of the Central divisions..

  • Passan spoke to one exec who said that Brandon Phillips is as good as "gone" in Cincinnati.  Yesterday we learned that the Yankees made a preliminary inquiry on the second baseman, but it's possible that they're simply looking for leverage in talks with Robinson Cano.
  • The Twins have expressed interest in free agent pitchers Bronson Arroyo, Phil Hughes, and Jason Vargas, sources tell Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press.  While the Twins have yet to make a formal offer to Arroyo, the interest appears to be mutual between the club and the 36-year-old.
  • The Twins have also called on Scott Kazmir and Johan Santana, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN.
  • Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network (video link) spoke with Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer about dealing with trade speculation and the possibility of hammering out an extension.
  • It might not have made a difference, but the Red Sox weren't showing any indication that they were ready to let Torey Lovullo go to the Cubs, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).  The Cubs agreed not to poach personnel from the Red Sox after Theo Epstein left to take over their operations.

Why I Chose My Agency: Jay Bruce

Reds right fielder Jay Bruce is a longtime client of Sosnick Cobbe Sports.  I spoke with Jay Monday night about his agency choice.

How he first came into contact with Sosnick Cobbe Sports:

I spoke with some guys from around Beaumont, Jason Tyner and Kevin Millar, they told me I should start speaking with advisors [prior to the 2005 draft]. First guy on that list was Toby Trotter from Sosnick Cobbe Sports. And this was before all the hoopla started, all the big games and national scouting combines. They were one of the first groups to come in. I was a little bit under the radar. I met with Toby, and everything about him pretty much added up to me to a guy I wanted to work with.

On being advised by the Boras Corporation prior to Sosnick Cobbe:

I also interviewed ACES and the Boras Corporation. Everyone knows who Scott Boras is. Boras is known for having the biggest players in the game, the most heralded players in the game. Being a 17 or 18-year-old naive high school student, I went with the name.  A couple of months before the draft, a lot of scouts came up to me at the Texas Scouting Association game, and told me, "We just want to let you know that you are probably cutting out a third to half of the teams in baseball by choosing Scott Boras." I started thinking about it, and I went home, talked to my parents, and they said, "You have to go with your gut. If baseball is what you really want to pursue out of high school, then you probably need to re-evaluate your choice." I thought about it, and I'm still kind of ashamed to this day, my mom called Jim Pizzolatto [his contact at the Boras Corporation] and let him know that I was going to switch agencies. I still see Jim sometimes and we're very cordial, and I don't think there's any hard feelings.

On why Boras didn't work for him:

This is no slight on Scott at all or anything that they did, because they are one of if not the best at doing their job for their players.  It wasn't anything necessarily that they did wrong, but I wanted to take a different approach to the way I "marketed" myself, because they didn't want me hitting for any scouts, they didn't want me filling out any information, they were really really pushing me to go to college. Some guys, that works great for. But I wanted to give myself the chance to be drafted as highly as I could, and they didn't need to push me to go to college, because had I not gotten drafted in the first round out of high school, I was going to college. I signed a letter of intent to go to Tulane University, and I was going to honor that. I had no problem going to college.

It was just not as open of a relationship as I would have liked. They just didn't seem like the way that I wanted to represent myself, they didn't sit well with me. I like talking to people, I like really giving people the impression of myself, from myself. I like people to know what they're getting. They want to keep the distance with high schoolers, I think, between the scouts and the player. Which for a lot of guys, it works, but I just wanted to give myself the opportunity to make the best impression I could on all these people.   They never did anything wrong to me, but I just decided to go back to Sosnick Cobbe. They made the best impression, and they were straightforward. It became a relationship that kind of transcended business a little bit. A lot of people don't like to mix business with friendship, but if I can trust someone that I consider a friend, I can trust them to do business.

On how Matt Sosnick retained Jay's business after Toby Trotter left the agency:

After the draft, I was in the airport going to instructional league. Toby and Matt called me up. Toby said "Hey Jay, I just want to let you know that I'm leaving the agency." He had prayed a lot about it and decided he wanted to do something else. Matt said, "I want to let you know that I am going to be the guy you deal with now." If it wasn't for Matt being on the phone, I probably would have switched agencies and been done with it.

He made me feel like I was a priority. Matt was on the phone and made it an easy decision for me, and that was the true start of what I consider a great relationship both on and off the field. That showed how Matt is as a person. That means a lot to me. He takes a genuine interest in my family and really goes beyond the job description. That's important to me, but it's not important to some people and I completely respect that. I really value my relationship with Matt, and he's also done a great job, so it works out. I definitely understand that if he didn't do a great job for me and we were friends, it would be a little tougher to move on or even have that conversation. I consider him a friend, but he does an unbelievable job with contract negotiations.

On the six-year, $51MM extension Bruce signed with the Reds in 2010:

I was interested in getting something worked out. It kind of became more of a trend, teams locking guys up. I talked to Matt, and he had pretty amicable talks with the Reds. Matt has a very good understanding as far as the numbers and comps and stuff like that. He did a good job and communicated with the Reds well and was really up front with them and let them know I wanted to get something done. The Reds were accommodating as well. Matt relayed what I wanted to them and we got the deal done.

I signed the contract extension with the Reds, and Matt provided the information that allowed me to make a decision that I felt was right.  Matt does a good job of providing information that allows you to make a decision on your own, and that's something that I really like.

On Jay's relationship with Matt and the agency:

The personal side of it is as important to me as the business. I enjoy working with him as a person and I enjoy our relationship as friends, too. Anyone who has talked to Matt knows, he's an incredibly bright human being. He provides me a lot of perspective on things that otherwise I might not even really know about. I think over the years we've created a relationship with a very open line of communication. Over the years he's been an open book and so have I. There's no beating around the bush.

I wasn't just a number, and that was huge to me. That's how I conduct my life. It's an extension of yourself. If people deal with Sosnick Cobbe Sports, and they know that I deal with them, I want them to say, "Oh, that's Jay Bruce's agency. I can see why.

On big vs. small agencies:

A lot of times, the agent and the player don't have much of a relationship outside the business part of it. And if you don't have a contract, there's really not a ton the agent does. They facilitate endorsement deals, but as far as the day-to-day stuff, there's really not a ton to talk about. I never talked to Scott Boras when I had them. If you take the baseball part out of it and think about small companies vs. big corporations, there's more personal service at a small company. I think quality at the smaller agencies has probably gotten much better over the years because the information available to them now is a lot more than it was.

It's hard to go away from the big agencies. It's hard to not go with the proven names of the industry. I'm glad that I gave Matt and those guys a chance and I'm glad that they sought me out as well. I couldn't have asked for anything more.

Check out our first entry in the Why I Chose My Agency series, where Matt Holliday discussed his relationship with Boras.


Jocketty Discusses Reds Offseason Rumors

Reds GM Walt Jocketty spoke to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer about some of the free agent names connected to his club this winter…

  • The Reds' first priority is trying to find a leadoff hitter, though Jocketty said that Michael Bourn is too expensive for his club and the same could be true about Angel Pagan.  Jocketty said that the team hasn't contacted Pagan yet and "not that we wouldn’t but I wonder about the money.”
  • Jocketty confirmed that the Reds have talked to Jonathan Broxton and Ryan Madson about returning to Cincinnati, while the team has also spoke to free agent Joakim Soria.  Broxton is the only one of the trio who would be able to pitch on Opening Day, as Madson and Soria are both recovering from Tommy John surgery.  The Reds are likely one of the eight contenders who Soria's agent, Oscar Suarez, says has shown interest in his client.
  • The Reds talked to Torii Hunter's agent "but the money was too much," Jocketty said.  The general manager doubted that Hunter's two-year, $26MM contract with the Tigers would impact Ryan Ludwick's price since "they're different kind(s) of players."  The Reds have had "preliminary" talks with Ludwick about a new deal.
  • Jocketty told FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi last week that the Reds could deal one of their shortstops (Zack Cozart and Didi Gregorius) if the right deal came along, but Jocketty said that neither player is being shopped.  "We’re not taking offers,” Jocketty said. “That gets out and then we have to call Cozart and call Didi.”
  • The Reds have no plans to extend Jay Bruce's contract.  "We control him for five more years,” Jocketty said. “It’s so far off. It’s something we haven’t talked about.”  Matt Sosnick, Bruce's agent, raised the possibility of an extension beyond 2016 for his client earlier today.