Jim Thome Rumors

Quick Hits: Upton, Greinke, Escobar, Managers

Stephen Strasburg may not be there, but the Nationals are going to the playoffs.  The Nats clinched a postseason berth with tonight's 4-1 win over the Dodgers and now have a magic number of eight to clinch the NL East.  This is the franchise's first postseason appearance since reaching the NLCS (as the Expos) in 1981, and the first time a Washington baseball team has made the postseason since the Senators played in the 1933 World Series.

Here's the latest from around the majors…

  • Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic talks to several executives and scouts about Justin Upton's trade value, with the general consensus being that the Diamondbacks can still command a high price for the outfielder, though Upton's disappointing 2012 campaign has hurt his value.  Opinion was split on whether the D'Backs or Rangers would have to add players in such a possible Upton-for-Elvis Andrus deal.
  • Upton discusses his season, his career development and his feelings about the trade rumors in an extensive profile by Robert Sanchez of ESPN The Magazine.
  • John Axford believes the Zack Greinke trade was the inspiration for the Brewers' surprising turn-around, reports MLB.com's Adam McCalvy.  Since Greinke was dealt to the Angels on July 27, the Brewers have surged back into the NL wild card race with a 32-18 record, including today's win over the Pirates.  "Personally, I thought it was going to be more motivation for certain guys," Axford said. "There wasn't ever a thought on this team that this was a lost season. It was disappointing for a while….But there's no guy on this team that's going to lie down and give up. It's shown recently."  
  • "The sense now is that some teams would still be willing to take [Yunel Escobar] on provided he delivers a proper penance first," writes Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi.  Escobar is scheduled to return on Friday from his three-game suspension for wearing eye black that contained a homophobic slur.  This incident could spur Escobar's departure from Toronto, especially since the Blue Jays have promising shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria waiting in the wings. 
  • ESPN's Jim Bowden lists ten of the top managerial candidates, a compilation that includes nine men who have never managed at the Major League level and two-time World Series winner Terry Francona.  Two names on Bowden's list (Tim Bogar and Dave Martinez) are reportedly the top candidates to become the Astros' new manager.
  • Jim Thome's quest for a World Series ring has surprisingly taken him to the Orioles instead of the Phillies, writes MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince, but the slugger has dropped hints that 2012 may not be his last season.
  • Derek Jeter told ESPN's Rick Reilly (passed on by Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News) that he would potentially be open to playing for a team besides the Yankees once his current contract expires.  "Well, if I wanted to keep playing, yes," Jeter said. "It's a business. People forget that."  Jeter is under contract through the 2013 season with an $8MM player option for 2014; the shortstop turns 40 years old in June 2014.

AL East Notes: Valentine, Thome, Lowe

The Orioles defeated the Mariners tonight to draw within a half game of one of the American League's Wild Card spots. In what most consider to be a shocking season, the second-place Orioles trail the Yankees by 5 1/2 games following New York's loss to the Tigers. Here are some links pertaining to the division…

  • "We are not making a change at manager," Red Sox principal owner John Henry told WEEI.com's Rob Bradford via email. Henry wrote that managers often get too much credit and also too little credit for what happens on the field.
  • WEEI's Alex Speier tweeted a quote from Red Sox GM Ben Cherington that echoed Henry's sentiment, though Cherington stopped short of saying how long Valentine's Boston tenure would last (Twitter links).
  • Orioles DH Jim Thome was told to refrain from baseball activities for 30 days, reports MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli. With an early September return questionable at best, he may be more interested in coming back for another season, according to Ghiroli (Twitter links).
  • An Orioles team official told Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com that the team doesn't have interest in Derek Lowe, who was recently DFA'ed by the Indians (Twitter link). Cleveland is said to be exploring trade options for Lowe.

Orioles Acquire Jim Thome

The Orioles have acquired veteran slugger Jim Thome from the Phillies for Single-A prospects Kyle Simon and Gabriel Lino, both teams have announced. O's GM Dan Duquette told reporters (including Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com) that the two sides had been talking for about a week before finalizing the trade on Saturday (Twitter link).

Uspw_6131886Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. recently disclosed that he was open to moving Thome if there was a deal that made sense for both the slugger and the team. After his recent strong showing at designated hitter during interleague play, Thome was on board with joining an American League club in need of a bat. Philadelphia had been reportedly shopping him to teams in need of a DH and the O's fit the bill.

Thome, 41, is hitting .242/.338/.516 with five homers in 71 plate appearances this season. Most of that damage has come as the DH during interleague play, including a 6-for-13 showing during a three-game series in Camden Yards earlier this month. Thome missed more than a month with a back strain earlier this season.

Baltimore's designated hitters have hit a solid .258/.349/.439 this season, though they've rotated between Nick Johnson, Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis, and others. Johnson was recently placed on the DL with a wrist problem, so Thome gives them a replacement left-handed bat, one that should provide more power. The Orioles designated left-hander Zach Phillips for assignment in a corresponding move to free up a 40-man roster spot.

Simon, 21, was Baltimore's fourth round pick in last year's draft. The right-hander has pitched to a 3.96 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 14 starts and 72 2/3 innings down in A-ball this year. Baseball America ranked him as the Orioles' 18th best prospect before the season in their Prospect Handbook, saying Simon "should be an innings-eating starter." He was originally drafted by Joe Jordan, the Phillies farm director who was previously with the Orioles.

Lino, a 19-year-old backstop, is hitting .218/.282/.340 in 227 plate appearances down in Low Class-A this year. Baseball America ranked him as Baltimore's 21st best prospect before the season in their Prospect Handbook, noting that he offers power potential but is raw behind the plate.

Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com first reported that the two sides were in talks while Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the trade agreement (on Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and Rosenthal later added details (Twitter links). Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

Phillies, Orioles Discussing Thome Trade

The Phillies and Orioles are talking seriously about a deal involving Jim Thome, a source tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com.  Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. recently disclosed that he's open to moving the veteran if there is a deal that makes sense for both the slugger and the team.

After Thome's recent strong showing at designated hitter during interleague play, he is on board with joining an American League club in need of a bat.  The Phillies have been reportedly been shopping Thome to teams in need of a DH and a team like the O's would fit the bill.      

This post was originally published on June 30th.

NL East Notes: Phillies, Marlins, Harper

Last year's Phillies team comfortably led the Major Leagues in run prevention by allowing just 3.27 runs per game. It's been a different story so far in 2012. Just seven teams surrender more runs than the last-place Phillies, who are averaging 4.46 runs allowed per game. Here's the latest from the NL East…

  • ESPN.com's Buster Olney considers some possible fits for Jim Thome, who's being shopped to American League teams.
  • There hasn't been any progress in the Phillies' contract talks with Cole Hamels, Olney writes. Hamels' contract expires after the 2012 season.
  • GM Ruben Amaro Jr. must address the Phillies' bullpen issues relatively soon, Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. It's "pretty damn difficult" to develop inexperienced pitchers and win simultaneously, manager Charlie Manuel noted.
  • Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria told Greg Cote of the Miami Herald that he believes the 35-40 Marlins have a spectacular club. “It’s a playoff-caliber team, absolutely,” Loria said. “We’re going to have our run."
  • D.C. is starting to feel like home for Bryce Harper, and he'd like to continue playing for the Nationals for a long time, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post writes. “You look at Cal Ripken. You look at Derek Jeter. You look at all the greats that played for one team their whole career,” Harper has said. “I want to be like that. I’ve always wanted to be like that. I’ve always wanted to play with that same team.”

Phillies Shopping Thome To DH-Needy AL Teams

The Phillies are making Jim Thome available to American League teams in need of help at designated hitter, two AL executives tell ESPN's Jayson Stark.  Ruben Amaro didn't confirm that he was shopping the veteran slugger, but said "if there's a situation out there that benefits both Jim and the Phillies, we'll try to put something together."

"The ideal situation right now, because he can't really play defense in the National League, would be for Jim to play in the American League," Amaro said. "He still has the ability to win a game for us and be productive off the bench. The problem is, the further away he gets from regular at-bats, the more difficult it becomes for him to do that."

Thome spent a month on the DL with a back injury and is just 1-for-16 as a pinch-hitter for Philadelphia this season, but showed he can still produce with regular playing time, hitting .333/.415/.722 with four homers in 41 plate appearances while serving as the Phillies' designated hitter in interleague play.  This stretch convinced Thome that he is best suited as a DH and he has told the Phils that he would accept a trade to an AL team if a fit can be found.

Thome's friends say he would prefer to return to one of his former teams, but the Indians and White Sox have their DH spots filled and the Twins will be sellers instead of buyers at the trade deadline.  Among AL contenders, the Orioles stand out as having the clearest need for a DH, with the Rays (Luke Scott has struggled and Hideki Matsui hasn't produced much) and Rangers as darkhorse candidates, though Thome would be expendable in Texas once Mitch Moreland returns from the DL in August.

Quick Hits: Padres, Phillies, Drabek, Vlad

Teams interested in acquiring starting pitching help surely noticed when the Cubs placed right-hander Ryan Dempster on the disabled list with right lat tightness today. Dempster, 35, is one of the top starters known to be available in trades. Here are today’s links…

  • A quick sale of the Padres may not be possible at this point, writes Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times. The three apparent finalists are all leading bid groups with multiple investors, which will require extensive background work once a sale is announced. 
  • Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com examines the trade stock of some of the Phillies biggest names in the event that their slide continues into late July.
  • Blue Jays righty Kyle Drabek is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery tomorrow, tweets Barry Davis of Sportsnet.ca. This will be the second time Drabek has been through Tommy John.
  • Free agent designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero isn't close to signing, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter).
  • There's no indication the Tigers are interested in Jim Thome, John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press reports. Thome, a "longtime tormentor" of the Tigers, bats left-handed, which means he’s not a perfect fit in Detroit. The Tigers are interested in acquiring a bat before the July 31st trade deadline and they'd prefer to add a right-handed hitter, Morosi reported yesterday.
  • GM Brian Cashman told Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio that the Yankees haven't pursued contract extensions for Robinson Cano or Curtis Granderson, but aim to keep both players long-term (Twitter link).
  • Maury Brown explains that TV deals are boosting franchise values across MLB in a piece at Baseball Prospectus.

Quick Hits: Bay, Indians, Brewers

Happy Father's Day to all dads!  Jim Thome, a father of two, became just the fourth player in baseball history to hit 100 home runs for three different clubs with his solo shot in the Phillies' game against the Blue Jays. Thome joins Alex Rodriguez, Reggie Jackson, and Darrell Evans in that exclusive club. 

  • Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters, including Adam Rosenbloom of MLB.com, he is concerned about the playing career of Jason Bay, who is on the disabled list with his second career concussion. "We've got to put ourselves in his shoes, and decide what we think is the best for the future," Collins said.
  • Indians GM Chris Antonetti will not show any apprehension approaching the trade deadline after the mixed results of the Ubaldo Jimenez deal last year, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I continue to trust our process and evaluators," said Antonetti. "If we feel the right guy is out there, and it's the right trade, we'll certainly be willing to make it. I don't think we'd operate any differently."
  • Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes the Brewers recent sweep at the hands of the Royals may cause the team to be sellers at the trade deadline. Haudricourt points out the Brewers will have several question marks heading into 2013 including the starting rotation, first base, outfield, and shortstop.

Olney On Red Sox, Quentin, Willingham, Pirates

ESPN's Buster Olney shared a number of items (via his Twitter feed) about a variety of hot stove topics and rumors…

Phillies Notes: Blanton, Gillies, Thome

The latest the the Phillies, who are looking for a sixth consecutive NL East title in the increasingly competitive NL East…

  • The perception among most baseball people is that Joe Blanton is available for the right price, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News writes.
  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said outfielder Tyson Gillies has the skillset to play in the Major Leagues, according to Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer. "He has better tools than a lot of the guys we've got," Amaro said. "He just needs to play. The poor guy hasn't gotten a chance to play. He's still young." Gillies, 23, missed all but three games in 2011 and played in only 28 games in 2010.
  • The Phillies’ projected 25-man roster consists of many older players, but Sheridan writes that "it's more important to get better than simply younger.” The Phillies added players such as Jim Thome (41), Ty Wigginton (34) and Chad Qualls (33) this past offseason.
  • Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer explains why Thome's defensive work will affect the Phillies' ability to work him into their lineup.