Jeremy Hellickson Rumors

NL Central Notes: Pirates Targets, Soriano, Kirby

The Pirates would like to add a player or two prior the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. First base and right field are the two most obvious areas of need, where the Bucs could at the very least use platoon partners for Pedro Alvarez and Gregory Polanco. Biertempfel again mentions both Ben Revere and Jeff Francoeur as potential fits, though Revere would seem more likely to supplant Polanco than platoon with him (both are left-handed, although Revere does actually hit lefties better than righties). In addition to those two offensive positions, the Pirates have been scouting big league starters and bullpen depth. Pittsburgh has “checked out” the Diamondbacks, writes Biertempfel, noting that both Addison Reed and Jeremy Hellickson are known to be available. (He does not, seemingly, indicate that there have been any actual discussions regarding those players, however.) Biertempfel also notes that the Pirates have previously had interest in Adam Lind, Scott Kazmir and Dan Haren, each of whom could be on the block.

Here’s more on the Pirates and their division…

  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington feels that his team is in a good position because it doesn’t have one glaring hole and a subsequent need to overpay in order to fill that hole, writes Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. However, upgrading the back end of the rotation may come with the risk, if not the likelihood of losing Vance Worley or Jeff Locke. Brink feels that the team is unlikely to move either starter to the bullpen if an upgrade is acquired — he points out that the Bucs elected to trade Clayton Richard rather than place him in the ‘pen — and since both Worley and Locke are out of options, they’d have to be exposed to waivers.
  • The Cubs have promoted right-hander Rafael Soriano to Triple-A as he continues to ramp up and prepare to join the team in the second half, writes MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. Soriano debuted with Triple-A Iowa last night, allowing one hit but striking out the side. The strong performance continued a nice run through the team’s minor league system; Soriano has fired six scoreless innings with a 7-to-3 K/BB ratio between Double-A and Triple-A. Signed to a minor league deal with a $4MM base salary (he’ll receive the pro-rated version of that for time spent on the MLB roster) plus incentives, Soriano could be a factor in the Cubs’ bullpen in the near future.
  • Today is the deadline to sign picks from the 2015 draft, and while there’s been no reported agreement between the Brewers and No. 40 overall selection Nathan Kirby, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel hears (Twitter link) that the team still expects to sign the Virgina left-hander. Kirby was at one time a consideration to go in the top five to 10 picks, but a severe lat strain submarined his stock.
  • Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently penned an overview of the NL Central as we prepare to enter peak trade season. Miklasz runs down each club’s needs, as well as their most desirable trade chips (looking at prospects, among the buying clubs and Major Leaguers among the sellers).

Heyman On Grilli, D-backs, Marlins, Dodgers

Here are the highlights from Jon Heyman’s massive new Inside Baseball article for CBS Sports. Be sure to check out Heyman on the latest edition of the MLBTR Podcast.

  • The Braves have had “serious talks” about dealing closer Jason Grilli to a contender, Heyman writes, with the Blue Jays and Dodgers among the teams that make the most sense.
  • The Diamondbacks have made infielder Aaron Hill and pitchers Jeremy Hellickson and Addison Reed available in trades, and all three players have attracted at least some interest.
  • The Marlins could trade starter Dan Haren for the right return. On paper, the Dodgers would seem to make sense, but that seems unlikely, since the Dodgers treated Haren basically as a throw-in in the Dee Gordon trade in the offseason. The Dodgers would also prefer to find a starter they could use in the playoffs, and Haren likely doesn’t qualify.
  • Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins could become available in a trade as top prospect Corey Seager continues to demonstrate he’s ready for the big leagues.
  • The Dodgers, Blue Jays, Nationals and perhaps other teams had scouts on hand as Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma returned from a lat injury this week. Iwakuma could be a trade candidate, but Heyman notes that giving up four homers to the Tigers probably didn’t exactly increase his value.
  • Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez still seems set on retiring after the season, despite agent Paul Kinzer’s efforts to get him to continue.
  • The Padres have been scouting the Mets lately, leading to speculation that the Mets could be trying to trade for Justin Upton.
  • The Phillies are “not bending” in their demands for Cole Hamels, and his limited no-trade clause remains an obstacle.
  • The Giants have had talks with free agent infielder Everth Cabrera. The Orioles released Cabrera last month. He would provide depth for San Francisco.

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

With the deadline to exchange arbitration figures set for noon CT, there figure to be a large number of agreements to avoid arb today, as there were yesterday. All arbitration agreements can be followed using MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker, and we’ll keep track of today’s smaller agreements in this post, with all projections coming courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz

  • Righty Henderson Alvarez agreed to a $4MM deal with the Marlins, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today on Twitter. Alvarez had been projected to earn $4.5MM after putting up a huge 187-inning, 2.65 ERA campaign entering his first season of arb eligibility.
  • The Athletics have agreed to a $1.4MM deal with righty Ryan Cook that includes, MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports on Twitter. Cook gets a slight increase over the $1.3MM he had been projected to earn. Oakland has also inked outfielder Sam Fuld to a $1.75MM deal, per Mike Perchik of WAPT (via Twitter). He too lands just above his projection, which was for $1.6MM.
  • Outfielder Collin Cowgill avoided arbitration with the Angels for $995K, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweets. He was projected to earn $900K.
  • Righties David Carpenter and Nathan Eovaldi both have deals with the Yankees, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports on Twitter. Carpenter will earn about $1.3MM while Eovaldi will take home $3.3MM
  • The Rockies have a deal in place with lefty Rex Brothers, tweets MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. Brothers was projected to earn $1.3MM but will take home $1.4MM, Harding adds via Twitter.
  • ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers reports that the Cubs have settled with both Travis Wood and Luis Valbuena (Twitter links). Wood will receive $5.686MM — a bit north of his $5.5MM projection, while Valbuena will earn $4.2MM, per Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald (on Twitter). Valbuena was projected to earn $3.1MM.
  • Mike Perchick of WAPT in New Jersey has a wave of arbitration agreements, starting with the Astros and Hank Conger settling on a $1.075MM, which is just $25K behind Swartz’s projection (Twitter link).
  • Also via Perchick, the Athletics and Brett Lawrie settled on a $1.925MM contract (Twitter links). Lawrie, who had been projected at $1.8MM, was acquired by Oakland in the Josh Donaldson blockbuster.
  • Rockies backstop Michael McKenry will earn $1.0876MM in 2015, via Perchick. McKenry was projected by Swartz to earn $1.5MM.
  • Michael Pineda and the Yankees settled on a $2.1MM salary for the upcoming season, Perchick tweets, which is a direct match with Swartz’s projection.
  • Domonic Brown and the Phillies settled on a one-year pact worth $2.6MM, via Perchick, which represents a difference of just $100K between Swartz’s projection and the actual figure. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweets that Ben Revere has avoided arbitration as well, and the club now announces that he’ll earn $4.1MM — $100K north of his $4MM projection.
  • Red Sox setup man Junichi Tazawa agreed to a $2.25MM payday, according to Perchick. Swartz had pegged him for a $2MM contract.

(more…)



Quick Hits: Tigers, Yankees, Burnett, Hellickson

The Tigers are a team built to win in the present, but that doesn’t mean their future has to be bleak, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs writes. The team’s recent four-year deal for Victor Martinez is one of many Tigers contracts that could turn ugly, and the team already has $75MM on the books in 2018 for Martinez, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have any flexibility. Considering the likelihood of modest payroll increases in the coming seasons, they could have a payroll north of $180MM in 2018. That would give them enough leeway to have a shot even with their current commitments and thin farm system. Sullivan suggests that one future-oriented move the Tigers could make would be to sign J.D. Martinez to a long-term deal. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Yankees first baseman Greg Bird has been named the MVP of the Arizona Fall League. Bird, a fifth-round pick out of high school in 2011, hit .271/.376/.472 in a 2014 season split between Class A+ Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Bird then hit .313/.391/.556 in 26 games with the Scottsdale Scorpions. The 22-year-old Bird isn’t on the same level as the previous winner, Cubs super-prospect Kris Bryant, but he could still potentially play his way onto the Yankees roster at some point in 2015.
  • Re-signing David Robertson is the Yankees’ highest priority this offseason, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News writes. The Royals’ success shows how important a good bullpen can be, and how much a good ‘pen can do to help starters who don’t rack up high innings totals. With Robertson, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Jacob Lindgren, Shawn Kelley and new acquisition Justin Wilson, the Yankees could have one of the stronger bullpens in the Majors in 2015, Madden writes. On the flip side, the Yankees would like to re-sign starter Brandon McCarthy, but they think they’ll be able to replace him if another team outbids them.
  • A.J. Burnett is a back-end starter at this point, but his new discount contract is still a good one for the Pirates, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. The deal is only for one year, and it’s likely to produce about 1.5 WAR in value, which is a solid rate for an $8.5MM contract. Meanwhile, the Pirates’ homer-suppressing ballpark, defensive shifting and emphasis on pitch framing make Pittsburgh a great destination for pitchers.
  • Dave Stewart of the Diamondbacks sees Jeremy Hellickson as “a number two or number three starter,” Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. The prospects the Diamondbacks sent to the Rays, Justin Williams and Andrew Velazquez, both have potential. (Williams hit .351/.403/.437 in 320 plate appearances in rookie ball and at Class A South Bend this season, impressive numbers for an 18-year-old at any level.) But for Stewart, Hellickson’s talent was more important, and he can help the Diamondbacks now. They could both be All-Stars, but from our standpoint they’re three or four years away from being major league players,” says Stewart. “We have an opportunity to get a good starter to put in our rotation now and go along with our plans for our team with the 2015 season.”

West Notes: Cruz, Mariners, Hellickson, Rangers

The Mariners make sense as a suitor for Nelson Cruz, but their organizational philosophy regarding players who have been suspended for PED could be an issue, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. There are conflicting details regarding whether the Mariners might have a policy in place preventing them from signing PED players and whether Mariners chairman Howard Lincoln refused to approve a deal for Cruz last winter. If they team does have such a policy, however, it could have a significant impact on their offseason, given that both Cruz and Melky Cabrera, who play positions the Mariners could try to upgrade, have PED suspensions in their pasts. A source within the Mariners tells Morosi that the team does not have a policy against PED players, and, further, that the team has spoken to Cruz and his agent this offseason. Here are more notes from the West divisions.

  • Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano fractured his toe while playing in Japan Saturday and will miss the rest of the Japan series, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports. Cano will only be out three to four weeks, however, and should easily be ready for spring training.
  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart is a big fan of new acquisition Jeremy Hellickson, Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona writes. “He is going to be outstanding here,” says Stewart. “He is going to pitch well. This is one guy I believe is really going to help our rotation.” The Hellickson deal, which sent two prospects to Tampa, became official last night. The Diamondbacks will continue to search for starting pitching, Magruder adds, with Kenta Maeda or Chad Billingsley (a former client of Stewart’s when he was an agent) as possibilities.
  • The Rangers‘ recent extensions for GM Jon Daniels and assistant GM Thad Levine help provide continuity and stability throughout the organization, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. “We want to build from within and keep the group together,” says Daniels. “Thad and I are the ones mentioned in the press release, but [ownership] has allowed us to do good things for others.” Daniels adds that Levine is likely to one day be a GM, perhaps in Texas.

Diamondbacks Acquire Jeremy Hellickson

The Diamondbacks have reached a deal to acquire starter Jeremy Hellickson from the Rays, the clubs announced. Outfielder Justin Williams and shortstop Andrew Velazquez — both prospects playing in the low minors — constitute the return for Tampa.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays

The swap represents perhaps the first significant move of the tenure of both principle baseball decisionmakers involved: GM Dave Stewart of the D’backs and president of baseball operations Matt Silverman of Tampa. For Stewart, Hellickson represents the arm (or, perhaps, one of the arms) that he has repeatedly said was the focus of the offseason.

Hellickson is projected by MLBTR/Matt Swartz to earn $3.9MM in his second trip through the arbitration process. He will have one final year of control in 2016 before hitting the open market.

Entering his age-28 campaign, Hellickson has seen his value drop after a rough couple of campaigns. First, there is the fact that Hellickson has pitched to a 5.00 ERA in 237 2/3 innings over 2013-14. Then, there’s the fact that he only threw 63 2/3 of those frames last year, after undergoing an elbow cleanup procedure just before the open of camp.

Hellickson took home the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year award, but did so in spite of ERA estimators that valued him more as a back-of-the-rotation innings eater. That assessment has never really changed; Hellickson has never posted a FIP, xFIP, or SIERA mark below the 4.00 level over a season. Though he averaged a 3.02 ERA over 366 innings in 2011-12, but those marks were propped up by an unsustainable BABIP (.223 and .261, respectively) and the regression came with a vengeance.

That being said, there are, perhaps, some signs of encouragement. Hellickson has seen his strikeout rate rise over each of the last three years. And those very same advanced metrics that predicted a decline after Hellickson’s hot start also look more promising now than they did at the time.

As for Tampa’s end of the deal, the club gets a pair of interesting young players while clearing some payroll space. Both Velazquez (#12) and Williams (#14) rated among the D’backs’ twenty best prospects in the most recent list from MLB.com’s prospect gurus Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo.

Previously a largely marginal prospect, he 20-year-old Velazquez made his name with a record-setting 74-game on-base streak this year, besting the more celebrated run of Mookie Betts. He finished a full season at low-A with a .290/.367/.428 slash to go with nine home runs and an eye-opening 50 stolen bases over 623 trips to bat. MLB.com says that Velazquez has improved his approach and strike zone awareness while delivering plus speed, though his small size and remaining contact issues could limit him moving forward.

Williams, 19, reached low-A ball last year after being taken in the second round of the 2013 draft. The left-handed-hitting youngster continued to put up strong overall numbers last year, but continues to lag in the power department. Over 544 plate appearances as a pro, Williams has swatted only five long balls. Despite the fact that he is said to possess a big power tool, it has yet to show up in game action. Nevertheless, his overall line in the minors — .351/.401/.461 — and solid pedigree led Baseball America to rate him the seventh overall prospect in the Pioneer League this year.

Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com first reported that a deal was close between the two teams. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported on Twitter.that the deal was finalized. Cotillo (via Twitter), Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter), and Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (via Twitter) each reported elements of the prospect return.


D’Backs, Rays Working On Hellickson Trade

FRIDAY: The Diamondbacks are in negotiations with the Rays, and a deal could be in place soon, reports Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (Twitter links).

MONDAY, 9:14pm: The Rockies aren’t the mystery NL team, The Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders reports (via Twitter).

1:47pm: The D’Backs have interest in Hellickson, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link). However, it’s not clear that Arizona is in or has had any advanced talks with the Rays.

9:27am: The Rays are moving toward dealing right-hander Jeremy Hellickson to an unknown National League team, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Times (via Twitter). A deal is likely to get done this week, Sherman adds.

Hellickson, who turns 28 next April, was limited to 63 2/3 innings in 2014 as he recovered from January surgery to remove loose bodies from his throwing elbow. The 2011 AL Rookie of the Year pitched to a 2.95 ERA in a stellar rookie season, but he’s never graded out well when looking at sabermetric indicators such as FIP, xFIP and SIERA. Each of those three metrics pegs Hellickson between 4.34 and 4.38, suggesting that his strong work early in his career was a bit of a mirage, likely propped up by a BABIP south of .260 and a strand rate north of 80 percent.

Over the past two seasons, Hellickson has an even 5.00 ERA in 237 2/3 innings. On the plus side, he’s bumped his K/9 to 7.2 over those past two seasons and dropped his walk rate to 2.7 per nine — both of which are improvements over the marks he posted early on in his career.

Though Hellickson has struggled recently and never graded out that well from a sabermetric standpoint, there’s plenty of upside to be had from an acquiring team’s standpoint. He’s still in his prime and was ranked among the game’s Top 10 prospects by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus prior to his promotion to the Majors. The Scott Boras client can be controlled through the 2016 season and is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn a very reasonable $3.9MM in 2015.

Though the Rays dealt Cesar Ramos to the Angels last week, a Hellickson deal would be the first significant move by new Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman and newly minted VPs Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom. The Cubs, Rockies, Giants, Pirates and Braves could all make some sense for Hellickson, and it’s of course worth speculating that new Dodgers president of baseball ops Andrew Friedman is interested in re-acquiring the right-hander.


NL West Notes: Front Offices, Ellis, Morrow, Rox, Hellickson

The front office shuffling of the NL West continued today with another pair of moves. The Dodgers will hire Scott Bream away from the Tigers to be their new pro scouting director, tweets Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the Padres announced that they’ve promoted regional supervisor Mark Conner to director of scouting. The 38-year-old Conner joined the Friars in 2010 as an amateur scout and was the scout responsible for signing the highly touted Matt Wisler.

Here’s more from the NL West…

  • New Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi declined to give a firm answer when asked by Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times whether or not the team will tender a contract to A.J. Ellis. However, Zaidi offered strong praise for Ellis’ leadership and relationships with the pitching staff. “…it’s clear he’s a big part of this team and a big part of the preparation and comfort level for the pitchers,” Zaidi told Hernandez.
  • In a second tweet, Saxon notes that Brandon Morrow is a name to keep an eye on for Dodgers fans. As Saxon points out, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has had success turning starters with dynamic arms and transitioning them to the bullpen. Of course, it’s not clear if he is open to ‘pen work. Morrow indicated late in the season that his preference was to be a starter.
  • Rockies GM Jeff Bridich tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post that the team “absolutely, 100 percent” needs to upgrade its rotation. Bridich said the club is keeping all avenues open to acquire pitching talent. One possibility that may intrigue Rockies fans is Jeremy Hellickson, whom the Rays are said to be discussing with an NL club. However, Saunders hears from a Major League source that the Rockies aren’t targeting Hellickson at this time, although they have shown past interest.

NL West Notes: Sandoval, Dodgers, Hellickson

Could a clause regarding Pablo Sandoval‘s conditioning be written into his next contract?  ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick addressed the question, noting that a Sandoval contract could include bonuses rewarding him for staying at or under a certain weight.  Similar clauses have existed in other players’ contracts in the past, though the CBA doesn’t allow a team to reduce salary (or halt it altogether) if a player is over a set weight limit.

Here’s some more from around the National League West…

  • The Dodgers haven’t been having any internal discussion about bringing back Hanley Ramirez on a new multiyear deal, ESPN Los Angeles’ Mark Saxon reports.  President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the team is looking at shortstops in free agency and the trade market, and the Dodgers aren’t necessarily looking at short-term players to fill the position until prospect Corey Seager is ready.  “The limited supply at the position makes it hard to put a lot of rules on it,” Friedman said. “We’re going to try to acquire the best player we can and, if we wind up having depth there, that’s a good problem to have.”  As Saxon notes, Seager could eventually end up as a third baseman.
  • The Diamondbacks probably aren’t the ones “moving closer” to acquiring Jeremy Hellickson if the Rays are indeed approaching a trade with an NL team, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets.
  • Both Carlos Quentin and the Padres seem to “recognize what would be in their mutual interest” in regards to a trade, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes.  A deal to an AL team would allow Quentin to rest his knees in a DH role, while the Padres can get at least a bit of Quentin’s $8MM salary for 2015 off their books.  While Quentin is probably open to waiving his no-trade clause, the greater question will be if a trade partner can be found given Quentin’s injury history.  Padres GM A.J. Preller recently said that the club wasn’t looking to move offensive players until some new bats were acquired, so releasing Quentin isn’t yet an option.

Cafardo On Hellickson, Gardenhire, Ramirez

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes looks at six teams that badly need some fixing this offseason.  The list starts with the Braves, who have been held back in part by B.J. Upton‘s five-year, $75MM deal.  The Rangers also need some serious help in the form of two starting pitchers, a right-handed power bat, and possibly a catcher.  The Phillies are in the toughest spot of all, Cafardo writes, as they are overloaded with older players on bad contracts.  Here are some of the highlights from today’s column..

  • As teams start putting together lists of pitchers who could be had in trade this offseason, Jeremy Hellickson’s name has been surfacing.  One AL team believes that the Rays could make another Wil MyersJake Odorizzi for James ShieldsWade Davis type of deal centering around Hellickson, who is still just 27 and inexpensive.
  • It looks more and more like Twins manager Ron Gardenhire will return next season.  A Twins executive said he would be “surprised” if Gardenhire didn’t come back based on his young team playing hard and having fun playing the spoiler role down the stretch.
  • Even with Alex Rodriguez coming back, Cafardo sees the Yankees as a possibility for Hanley Ramirez if the Dodgers don’t retain him.
  • The Red Sox haven’t committed to bringing David Ross back next season but it doesn’t appear he’ll have to worry about finding a job.  A few teams have privately discussed Ross as a backup/mentor.  If Boston moves on from Ross, there aren’t many clear-cut alternatives on the open market.
  • Red Sox vice president of player personnel Allard Baird had a very good interview for the Diamondbacks‘ vacant GM job, but Tony La Russa is still leaning towards Dave Stewart or Gary LaRocque, according to a source. Baird, of course, was the GM of the Royals from 2000-06.
  • Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield is beginning to receive more interest as a managerial candidate.  Don’t be surprised to see his name mentioned more often for openings, Cafardo writes.