Jesse Crain Rumors

White Sox Notes: Ramirez, Peavy, Crain

8:04am: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the White Sox did not turn down Martinez for Ramirez, though he wouldn't be surprised if the Cardinals are indeed interested in Chicago's shortstop.

12:29am: The White Sox have as many trade chips as any deadline seller in the majors and they're putting a high price tag on their key players.  According to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, the Sox recently turned down a trade offer from the Cardinals that would have sent shortstop Alexei Ramirez to St. Louis in exchange for right-hander Carlos Martinez, one of the many elite prospects in the Cards' minor league system.  Gonzales said the deal was "involving" those two players, so it was likely not a one-for-one swap.

The Cardinals had been relying on Pete Kozma at short ever since Rafael Furcal underwent Tommy John surgery in March, and while Ramirez's production has dropped, he still would've presented a big upgrade.  Ramirez entered Tuesday's play hitting .284/.310/.357 in 408 PA but only one homer and 23 RBI.  Ramirez averaged 17 homers per year from 2008-11 but has just 10 homers total over 1029 PA in 2012-13.  While his power isn't what it used to be, Ramirez has 20 steals (in 26 chances) this year and is one of the game's better defensive shortstops, with an 8.5 UZR/150 this season and a 7.7 UZR/150 for his career.

Ramirez still has value, but he turns 32 in September and is owed roughly $22MM through the end of the 2015 season, plus a $10MM club option for 2016 that can be bought out for $1MM.  By that token it's surprising that the White Sox weren't willing to move the veteran for Martinez, a consensus top-40 prospect controlled through the 2019 season, though as noted, there may have been more to this trade than simply Ramirez for Martinez straight-up.

The 21-year-old Martinez was ranked as the third-best prospect in the St. Louis farm system by Baseball America, and he possesses "a biting curveball" and a changeup and could both become plus pitches. His fastball has touched 100 mph but usually clocks in the 94-98 mph range.  Martinez made his Major League debut this season and has 11 strikeouts in 10 1/3 relief innings.  His 6.10 ERA is largely due to a tough outing last Friday when he allowed three runs in a third of an inning against San Diego.

Also from Gonzales, Jake Peavy and Jesse Crain are drawing a lot of interest and scouts from the Diamondbacks, Reds, Braves, Red Sox and Dodgers are expected to be in Chicago through the end of the week to watch one or both men pitch.  Peavy just recently returned from a DL stint while Crain is currently on the DL with a sprained right shoulder but could be activated by Sunday.


Bowden’s Latest: Garza, Rox, Rios, Morneau, Perkins

The trade deadline is just two weeks away, and with the All-Star Game in the rear-view mirror, Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio writes that the market will pick up rapidly beginning Friday. Here are some highlights from the highly informative article penned by the former GM of the Reds, Expos and Nationals (ESPN Insider required and recommended)…

  • Bowden hears there's an 80 percent chance that Matt Garza will be traded before his next scheduled start (Monday or Tuesday of next week). The Rangers, Red Sox and Diamondbacks are still involved, He describes the D-backs as "dark horses," adding that their odds in the Garza sweepstakes would increase if they were willing to part with left-hander David Holmberg.
  • The Rockies could also be interested in Garza, but they're not clear-cut buyers right now, and the prospective cost is prohibitive to them. If they were to sell, Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle could be had. Michael Cuddyer could be moved, but only if Colorado is "blown away."
  • The White Sox have been "extremely disappointed" with offers for Alex Rios thus far. Bowden feels that offers will improve as the deadline draws closer.
  • The Justin Morneau era in Minnesota is coming to an end, and the Twins are prepared to trade the former MVP, according to Bowden. The Rays, Pirates and Yankees are said by Bowden to be possible destinations for Morneau.
  • The Cardinals, Reds, Dodgers and Braves have all inquired on Twins closer Glen Perkins and been turned away. Those four teams are all monitoring the health of Jesse Crain as well.
  • The Yankees are trying to use Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and catching prospect J.R. Murphy to acquire a bat but have had no luck thus far. None of those players figure to interest the Twins in regards to Morneau, Bowden adds, given the impending free agency of Hughes and Chamberlain and the presence of Joe Mauer behind the plate for the Twins.

Jesse Crain Rumors: Tuesday

Jesse Crain's rapidly rising trade value took a hit when he was placed on the 15-day disabled list earlier this month with a right shoulder strain, but the right-hander is still likely to be highly sought if he returns healthy next week, as he's expected to do. Here's the latest on the White Sox setup man…

  • The Rockies are very interested in Crain given the struggles of Wilton Lopez, writes Troy Renck of the Denver Post. The Rockies have long coveted Crain, according to Renck. While Crain was born in Toronto, he attended high school in Colorado and admitted to Renck that he nearly accepted a two-year offer from the Rockies prior to signing his three-year pact with the White Sox.
  • Crain told Rob Bradford of WEEI.com that "it would be fun" to play for the first-place Red Sox. Crain says he's heard plenty of rumors about Boston being a potential destination for him on the trade market, and that trade rumors were frequently on his mind prior to his injury. He's now focused on getting healthy rather than where he will be pitching come August 1.


AL Notes: Mariners, White Sox, Astros, Blue Jays

Here are a few trade notes from around the American League:

  • As we approach the trade deadline with the Mariners looking more like sellers than buyers, Larry Stone of the Seattle Times took a look back at GM Jack Zduriencik's recent history at the deadline. Beginning with an ill-fated swap of a young Michael Morse for Ryan Langerhans and featuring the retrospectively painful Doug Fister deal, the net return to Seattle has not been terribly productive.
  • This year, the Mariners could be in a position to deal some relievers. Last night, we took a look at FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal's breakdown of potentially available NL relievers. Tonight, let's look at the AL crop. From the M's, Rosenthal says that veteran lefty Oliver Perez is the most likely to be dealt, with Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmsen also prime candidates. The latter two, however, will likely command a high price given that Furbush may just be reaching arbitration after this season as a Super Two, while Wilhelmsen will not reach arbitration until after the 2014 campaign.
  • Rosenthal also pegs the White Sox and Astros as sellers with attractive bullpen pieces. Chicago could swing a trade for stud reliever Jesse Crain if he can return in time to prove his health; otherwise, both Matt Thornton and Matt Lindstrom could hold some appeal. (Both of the latter two pitchers come with club options for 2014.) For Houston, meanwhile, the prime trade chip among its relief corps is unquestionably closer Jose Veras, who is cheap, strikes out a lot of hitters, and has been solid in late-inning work this year.
  • One other team that should look to the future, according to FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, is the Blue Jays. With the club again fading after its recent resurgence, Morosi says Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos faces a "virtually impossible" task to right the ship before the trade deadline. Rather than selling out for this season, says Morosi, the Jays should look to shore up the team's rotation to make a run in 2014 and 2015.
  • Sticking with the Jays, Morosi says that Josh Johnson — occasionally noted as a potential trade candidate earlier in the year — has been "perhaps the team's greatest disappointment this year." Johnson currently carries a 4.89 ERA in 53 1/3 innings; his walk rate is below his career average at 3.4 BB/9, though he is striking batters out at a strong 9.1 K/9 clip. At this point, Morosi suggests, Toronto may be best served by shipping Johnson back to the National League rather than looking to try and bring him back next year.

White Sox Place Jesse Crain On 15-Day DL

The White Sox have placed one of their most desirable trade chips — setup man Jesse Crain — on the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain, the team announced via press release.

Crain's DL stint is retroactive to June 30, so he will be eligible for activation well in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. However, a recent stint on the DL and a questionable shoulder certainly don't do any favors to his trade value.

The 31-year-old Crain has enjoyed far and away the best season of his career and arguably the best season of any reliever in Major League Baseball this year. He boasts a 0.74 ERA with 11.3 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 36 1/3 innings and recently went on a historic scoreless streak. Crain rattled off 29 straight scoreless appearances, and even when that streak came to an end, it was due to three unearned runs. He allowed his first earned run since April 12 in his final appearance before hitting the DL (June 29). Fangraphs pegs his value to date at two wins above replacement, leading all Major League relievers.

Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune tweets that Crain warmed in last night's game and adds that he could return after the All-Star break. There are 12 games that fall after the All-Star break but before the deadline, so Crain will have a bit of time to showcase his health if activated immediately. Crain was recently linked to the Red Sox, Orioles and Yankees, though nearly every contender in baseball could use some additional bullpen help.

The Sox also placed Paul Konerko on the DL with a lower back strain, but even though he's in the final year of his contract, the team has said it won't trade the long-time team captain.


Cafardo On Utley, Gonzalez, Crain, Yankees

As impressive as young players like Manny MachadoMiguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Yasiel Puig have been, no one was more spectacular than young Alex Rodriguez, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.  However, A-Rod has since tarnished his legacy by being linked to performance enhancing drugs.  It all comes back to Rodriguez's love of baseball, because for him, being the best was never good enough.  Now he finds himself rehabbing from injury in Tampa, Florida and no one knows how it will play out.  Rodriguez could retire because of a physical disability and collect the remaining $114MM on his contract or he return to the Yankees after the All-Star break and provide the righthanded bat they sorely need.  Here's more from today's column..

  • One team that has at least discussed acquiring the PhilliesChase Utley is the Royals.  Kansas City would love to stabilize their lineup and/or second base situation with someone of Utley’s caliber.  Meanwhile, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says that he wants the second baseman to retire in a Phillies uniform, if possible.
  • The Red Sox are one of the teams extremely interested in Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, but they won’t break the bank for him, according to a team source.  The Sox were certainly burned by the Daisuke Matsuzaka signing and don’t want to get burned again on a deal for the 26-year-old righthander. Even though Gonzalez seems to be the real deal, past injuries seem to be giving some teams pause. 
  • White Sox reliever Jesse Crain will draw interest and Cafardo warns not to rule out the Red Sox. Pitching coach Juan NIeves coached him in Chicago and he’s a stable force at the end of games.  Meanwhile, there will be others vying for Crain, including the Orioles and Yankees.  Our own Charlie Wilmoth recently examined Crain as a trade candidate.
  • FIrst baseman Chris Carter is an interesting righthanded bat the Astros would move for the right package of young players. The Yankees are a possibility since they need a righthanded hitter who can play first base and the outfield.  Even though he strikes out a lot, the 26-year-old Carter could be an intriguing option for clubs. 
  • The Cubs have a lot of desirable trade pieces, starting of course with Matt Garza, who could be dealt sooner rather than later – maybe even sooner than the Marlins' Ricky Nolasco.  Besides Garza, there’s been a lot of interest in outfielder Nate Schierholtz and veteran righthander Scott Feldman, who Cafardo sees as a match for the Orioles.  Outfielders Alfonso Soriano and David DeJesus along with relievers Kevin Gregg and James Russell could be moved as well.
  • While the Twins say that Glen Perkins is not available, they should expect some club – possibly the Tigers - to offer a substantial package.

White Sox Ready To Sell; Won’t Trade Sale Or Konerko

We heard last week that the White Sox had begun to receive calls on their veteran players. Now, rival executives tell Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that the ChiSox are "open for business" and willing to discuss anyone on their roster with the exception of Chris Sale and Paul Konerko.

That means that even John Danks, who just last year signed a five-year, $65MM extension with the Sox, could be had in the right deal. The team also has desirable trade chips like Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, Jesse Crain, Matt Lindstrom, Matt Thornton and Jake Peavy (though he's currently on the DL). Heyman also adds that Jeff Keppinger's name has already come up in conversations, despite the fact that he signed a three-year deal just this past offseason.

Not surprisingly, one executive told Heyman that Adam Dunn will be difficult to move. Dunn is owed $15MM in 2014 and is hitting .194/.303/.460 this season. Another said that Peavy will be tough to find a match for as well. The White Sox will have a high asking price on their co-ace, but teams won't have much time to determine if he's truly healthy.

Another executive told Heyman that the Mets could look at Ramirez as a potential long-term option at shortstop. While he's not hitting for power anymore, Ramirez is batting .280/.308/.345 with 18 stolen bases and outstanding defense, according to advanced metrics like UZR and DRS. He's owed $10MM in 2014 and has a $10MM club option for 2015 on his contract as well.


Trade Candidate: Jesse Crain

The White Sox have fallen 9.5 games back in the AL Central after losing their last four games, and unless they can pull off the unlikely feat of battling their way into the playoff picture in the next few weeks, their veterans will likely be part of trade rumors as late July approaches. USATSI_6512624

Jeff Todd recently discussed the possible fate of one of those veterans, Alex Rios. Another is righty reliever Jesse Crain, who the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo discussed in his latest rumor roundup. "As bullpens become depleted teams are looking for solid, dependable guys who can be used from the seventh inning on. [Crain] is becoming a top name on wish lists around baseball," Cafardo says.

Crain has never been a closer, and thus doesn't have the "proven closer" label that occasionally causes teams to overpay for relievers at the trade deadline. The White Sox's closer, Addison Reed, has also pitched well this year, though he's unlikely to be traded due to his youth and the fact that he isn't even arbitration-eligible yet.

But Crain, 31, should be a valuable piece nonetheless. His strikeout rate has improved in every season since 2005, and this year he's taken a step forward with his control as well. He's posted an 0.60 ERA this season, with 11.7 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9, and he hasn't allowed a run in 26 straight appearances. The 0.60 ERA isn't sustainable, clearly, but Crain's strikeout rate and walk rate are both very strong. He's capable of getting outs with either his mid-90s fastball or his plus slider. He's also effective against both righties and lefties, which makes him an excellent fit in his current role as a setup man. A creative team in need of a closer could also do worse than to trade for Crain and use him in that position.

Assuming they can't fight their way back into the playoff race, the White Sox would be well-served to deal Crain. He'll be a free agent after the season, and the White Sox's farm system is poor — before the season, Keith Law and John Sickels both ranked it the third-worst farm system in baseball. Trading a non-closing reliever in his 30s, even an excellent one with a cheap $4.5MM salary, isn't the easiest way to build a farm system. But given their place in the standings and Crain's impending free agency, the White Sox have little to lose, and there are occasional trades where a contender will pay premium prices for a very good setup man. (The Padres' 2011 trade of Mike Adams to the Rangers for Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland comes to mind, although, unlike Crain, Adams had a year and a half left before he was eligible for free agency.)

There are few contenders that couldn't use Crain, although a team with question marks at the back of its bullpen would be an ideal fit. The Reds and Red Sox could well be on the hunt for bullpen help at the trade deadline. The Tigers would also make sense if Detroit and Chicago are willing to make a trade within the AL Central.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Cafardo On Norris, Crisp, Papelbon, Vazquez

Now that the draft is over, teams are focusing more on bolstering their rotations with one more piece, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.  No one more aggressive in the pursuit of pitching than Orioles GM Dan Duquette who knows that one veteran starter could make all the difference.  While they're anxious to improve their starting five, it doesn't sound as if the O's will be in the mix for someone like Cliff Lee.  “We’re looking for a starter and a reliever,” said Duquette. “We’d like to solidify our pitching all around because that’s the name of the game, really. We have to look at everything. Don’t think we’re going to be in the market for a big-money pitcher, but there seem to be some guys out there that we might focus on and see where it takes us.”  Here's more from today's column..

  • The Astros will craft a game plan early this week for how to approach their veteran assets.  Teams are already calling about Bud Norris, who has a cheap $3MM salary, but won't be cheap to acquire. The Orioles, Giants, and Pirates have kicked around the idea of acquiring Norris, but one National League exec says there will be about a dozen teams interested before all is said and done.
  • It seems like a no-brainer for the A’s to pick up Coco Crisp's 2014 option for $7.5MM, but he'll be in demand if they don’t.  Even though he's 33-years-old, there aren’t many top center fielder/leadoff hitter types out there.  Jacoby Ellsbury will be the No. 1 guy in that department, but , one American League special assignment scout said Crisp might be a better low-cost option because “he can do everything Ellsbury can do. Neither of them have an arm, but Coco is still fast, a very good outfielder, and can still be a game-changer.
  • The Phillies believe there are at least three teams — Red Sox, Tigers, and Cardinals — that may have some interest in Jonathan Papelbon at the trade deadline and the Phillies are scouting those teams with a potential deal in mind.  General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week that he’s not ready to “blow up” the Phillies, but a Papelbon trade could help retool the club.
  • Teams continue to nudge Javier Vazquez into coming back to pitch, but the right-hander seems to be content with staying with his family, according to a source familiar with Vazquez’s thinking. 
  • The Red Sox can trade Stephen Drew now that June 15th has come and gone, and they would have no problem finding a taker given the lack of shortstops around baseball.  However, Boston firmly believes that Drew is their guy.  One National League GM doesn't quite understand their infatuation with the shortstop. “They’re either trying to justify the $9.5MM they paid him, or they’re not sold on [Jose] Iglesias, who could start for 29 other teams.” 
  • If the White Sox decide to finally bolster their farm system, they could get some helpful prospects back by moving right-hander Jesse Crain.  The reliever is becoming a top name on wish lists around baseball.
  • While many baseball people remain focused on Giancarlo Stanton’s availability in a deal, 25-year-old Logan Morrison is now healthy and has returned to the lineup.  The Marlins first baseman/outfielder is a big lefthanded hitter who will be monitored closely by scouts over the next month.

Quick Hits: Biogenesis, Ortiz, Crain, Reed, Diaz

If Major League Baseball is really hoping to suspend the 20+ players involved in the Biogenesis scandal, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal thinks the league will need more evidence than just the word of clinic founder Tony Bosch.  It will be too easy, Rosenthal argues, for the players' representatives to claim that Bosch lacks credibility and that he is only naming names to avoid possible criminal prosecution and getting himself sued by the league.

Here are some news items from around the sport…

  • "To be honest with you, all those years I got to free agency, I never thought about going somewhere else," David Ortiz tells WEEI.com's Alex Speier.  "I feel like I'm a big part of these ball clubs. I feel like what I was asking for wasn't anything they couldn't give me. You look into situations, and I never had the feeling that I was going to go somewhere else, to be honest with you."  Ortiz is off to a big start this season and is making good on the two-year, $26MM deal he signed to remain with the Red Sox last offseason.
  • Jesse Crain and Addison Reed both aren't worried about possibly becoming trade bait this summer if the White Sox decide to rebuild, MLB.com's Scott Merkin reports.  Merkin notes that the veteran Crain is the likelier of the two to be moved, and I'd argue that Chicago would only move Reed if they received a knockout offer.
  • Aledmys Diaz is playing with a Mexican League team this summer and during the winter, MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez reports.  The Cuban shortstop hopes to sign with a Major League team in February.  Diaz drew attention from at least 10 teams last winter, though at least one team (the Twins) thought Diaz's asking price was "too high" and MLB was investigating whether Diaz was really 23 years old.
  • Nationals manager Davey Johnson told reporters (including Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington) that he expects both Henry Rodriguez and Zach Duke to be claimed by other teams.  The two relievers were both designated for assignment by the Nats today.