Joe Saunders Rumors

Quick Hits: Buxton, Heyward, Padres, Saunders

Byron Buxton holds the top position in Baseball America's 2014 ranking of the top 100 prospects in the sport.  It's no surprise that Buxton was ranked #1 given that the Twins outfielder was similarly ranked in BA's midseason top 100 last summer.  Red Sox infielder Xander Bogaerts, Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (who qualifies for the list despite his long career in Japan) and Cubs shortstop Javier Baez round out the top five.

Here's some more from around baseball….

  • Baseball America's John Manuel picks out some of the best and worst rankings from the past 24 years of BA's Top 100 Prospects lists.
  • The Braves signed long-term extensions with several core players but only extended Jason Heyward through his two remaining arbitration years.  While some believe that this means Heyward's time in Atlanta is limited, MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby writes that "the expectation is that after next season, the Heyward deal can be expanded so that he, too, will be locked up at least through the first year in the new ballpark."  Such a deal would require extending Heyward through at least his first two free agent years, which could get very expensive for the Braves if Heyward finally breaks out into stardom, as many have predicted for the young outfielder.
  • Padres chairman Ron Fowler told reporters (including Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune) that the club is prepared to raise payroll even further beyond the current $87MM+ projection for 2014. 
  • In regards to negotiations with Chase Headley on a multiyear deal, Fowler said, “There has been dialogue and we will continue to have dialogue at the appropriate time through the appropriate sources.”  Headley recently hinted that not much progress was being made and that talks could be tabled until after the season.
  • According to a talent evaluator who has seen Joe Saunders throw, the veteran southpaw could be the "steal of February," the evaluator tells FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link).  Saunders posted a rough 5.26 ERA over 183 innings for the Mariners last season.  "No one saying he’s a star, but he’s a major-league pitcher," Rosenthal writes.
  • The Nationals' acquisition of Doug Fister from the Tigers is the best transaction of the 2014 offseason, as judged by Fangraphs' Dave Cameron.  The Fister trade headlines Cameron's list of the winter's top 10 moves.
  • Though Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts denied that his club's profits were going anywhere but back into the team, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times wonders why the Cubs' revenues haven't been reflected in the Major League payroll.
  • NC State left-hander Carlos Rodon stands alone in his own tier atop ESPN's Keith Law's four-tier breakdown of the 2014 draft's top prospects (Insider subscription required).

Orioles Talking With Saunders, Capuano

The Orioles are in discussions with free agent left-handers Joe Saunders and Chris Capuano, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports

Orioles Executive Vice-President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette has said on several occasions that the O's are on the hunt for a veteran starter this offseason, and both Saunders and Capuano would fit that bill. However, neither distinguished themselves in 2013, as Saunders posted a 5.26 ERA in 183 innings for the Mariners, and Capuano managed just 105 2/3 frames for the Dodgers after struggling with various injuries. He eventually received a $1MM buyout. With both Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez still on the market, it's safe to say a deal for Saunders or Capuano wouldn't be the impact move many O's fans have waited for this offseason.

The Orioles were known to be in pursuit of A.J. Burnett, who is a Maryland resident. However, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reported yesterday that the chances of a deal "don't look good," as it's believed Burnett would prefer to remain in the National League.


Morosi On Drew, Diaz, Hanson, Garland, Saunders

Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports has been a busy man today it seems, as his Twitter timeline is rife with updates on free agents in search of work. Here's the latest from Morosi, with all links pointing to his Twitter unless otherwise noted…

  • One potential hangup in the Stephen Drew market could be the fact that Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz will be cleared to sign in two weeks. The 23-year-old was declared ineligible to sign after falsifying his age last year (Diaz claimed to be 23 then, in order to be eligible for MLB one year early). Morosi reminds that MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez listed (MLBTR link) the Red Sox and Yankees as two of eight clubs to have shown interest in Diaz back in December, and both have been linked to Drew.
  • Morosi spoke with Tommy Hanson's agent, Greg Genske, and was told that Hanson has received multiple offers. Genske said Hanson is in a great place both mentally and physically, which could not be said last year as he dealt with the tragic death of his brother.
  • Agent Craig Landis tells Morosi that his client, Jon Garland, is unlikely to pitch in 2014. Garland is not retiring and is willing to sign and pitch in the right circumstances, Landis told Morosi.
  • Morosi also chatted with Landis regarding another of his clients — lefty Joe Saunders. Saunders is fully healthy and plans to pitch this season, according to Landis. Saunders is coming off the worst season of his career, though his 4.23 xFIP was more than a full run lower than his 5.26 ERA. Saunders maintained his career strikeout rate, posted a career-best ground-ball rate but was plagued by a career-worst 14.5 percent homer-to-flyball ratio.


Mets Notes: Choo, Dodgers, Saunders, Trades

We learned of a few Mets items earlier today and a couple of minor league signings for the club.  Here's some more news from Citi Field…

  • Robinson Cano is the only player the Mets value as a $100MM-plus player this offseason, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes.  Since they won't be in on Cano, the Mets may also not be able to afford Shin-Soo Choo due to agent Scott Boras' nine-figure contract demands.
  • A Mets source tells Heyman that none of Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier are currently part of the team's offseason plans.  We heard earlier today that the Dodgers were open to dealing any of the three veteran outfielders and the Mets have been linked to Ethier in the past.
  • Joe Saunders is a good fit for the Mets as a relatively inexpensive veteran innings-eater, several rival talent evaluators tell Mike Puma of the New York Post.  A pitcher like Saunders would help the Mets rotation in the short term while still allowing the team to spend larger dollars on hitters.
  • The Mets could "aggressively shop" Daniel Murphy this winter, MLB.com's Anthony DiComo writes as part of a reader mailbag.  The Mets could be looking to sell high on Murphy as team COO Jeff Wilpon didn't mention the second baseman when discussing players guaranteed roster spots for 2014.  In other mailbag topics, DiComo also doesn't see the Mets spending big on a single player like Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury, and he outlines the club's shortstop depth issue (though re-acquiring Jose Reyes is not a solution).

Mariners Decline Options For Joe Saunders, Franklin Gutierrez

The Mariners have issued a press release to announce that they have declined their half of Joe Saunders' $8.3MM mutual option and also declined Franklin Gutierrez's $7.5MM club option. Saunders will receive a $900K buyout, while Gutierrez will receive a $500K buyout.

Saunders' option was originally for $7.5MM with a $500K buyout as well, but he boosted those numbers by reaching incentives for starts made and innings pitched. After signing a one-year deal with that option last winter, Saunders posted a 5.26 ERA with 5.3 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 183 innings. Opponents batted .311/.365/.507 against Saunders and swatted 25 homers in 820 plate appearances.

Gutierrez, 31 in February, signed a four-year, $20.5MM extension with the Mariners after an outstanding 2009 season in which he batted .283/.339/.425 with 18 homers, 16 stolen bases and the best center field defense in the game (all totaling a stellar six wins above replacement). Unfortunately for both Gutierrez and the Mariners, he's had six separate DL stints over the life of that contract, dealing with hamstring, pectoral and oblique issues as well as a serious concussion.

Gutierrez can't be counted on to stay healthy, but as a low-risk option for a team in need of outfield help this winter, he would represent a high-upside gamble.


Orioles Looking For Starters, Bats

1:55pm: The Orioles are lukewarm on Morneau as well as Mike Morse, tweets Scott Miller of CBS Sports.

12:11pm: Saunders is not a target for the Orioles right now, hears Connolly.

12:02pm: The Orioles are interested in a reunion with Joe Saunders, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. They also have some degree of interest in Oliver Perez, he adds.

10:57am: Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that the Orioles feel the asking prices remain too high in their pursuits of upgrades to their offense and rotation.

10:47am: Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets that the O's kicked around the idea of acquiring Morneau but don't see a fit due to his contract and lack of production. Nothing has heated up in recent days, he adds.

10:23am: The Orioles are still engaged in trade talks for Astros righty Bud Norris and Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio (on Twitter).

Baltimore's interest in both players has been well-documented to this point, though they appear to have shown more interest in Norris than Morneau. Norris is controllable for two additional seasons and earning just $3MM in 2013, while the slumping Morneau is a free agent at season's end and is owed an additional $4.6MM through season's end.


West Notes: Affeldt, Wilson, Dodgers, Gonzalez, M’s

The Giants have lost left-handed reliever Jeremy Affeldt for four-to-six weeks after a MRI revealed a moderate strain of muscle and tendon in his left groin, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Jose Mijares will absorb most of Affeldt's innings, but CSNBayArea.com's Andrew Baggarly writes the Giants could, if history is any guide, look to acquire another lefty reliever. Baggarly notes it was nearly three years ago to the day Affeldt injured his oblique and GM Brian Sabean acquired Javier Lopez, an under-the-radar move which paid dividends as the Giants won the World Series. In other news and notes from MLB's West divisions:

  • While Affeldt's injury may change the calculus slightly, Baggarly, within that same article, sees the Giants continuing their quest for starting pitching. Manager Bruce Bochy loves Jake Peavy, but the two teams have not discussed a deal and the Giants don’t have the quantity or quality of trade chips to get a seat at the table, according to Baggarly.
  • Ex-Giants closer Brian Wilson is expected to begin showcasing his arm for teams within the next few weeks and the Giants have asked Wilson's representative to include them in the process, reports Schulman. Wilson underwent his second Tommy John surgery 15 month ago.
  • Dodgers GM Ned Colletti doesn't expect to make any franchise-altering deals prior to the Trade Deadline, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. "I don't know that that player is out there," Colletti said. "When I call around teams, there's not a lot of names of position players being discussed. I'm not sure if there's a market out there on the sell side."
  • Earlier today, we learned the Dodgers are prepared to offer Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez something in the neighborhood of $50MM over five years. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, however, tweets sources have told him the Dodgers' interest in the Cuban right-hander is not as fervent as has been portrayed. 
  • Manager Eric Wedge doesn't think the fourth-place Mariners, winners of six straight, will be active at the Trade Deadline, writes MLB.com's Greg Johns. "Unless it's something that raises the bar, I don't think we're going to do anything," said Wedge. "We're not going to move somebody just to move somebody." The Mariners have several veterans on one-year deals, who could be appealing to contenders, including left-handed reliever Oliver Perez, left-handed starter Joe Saunders, outfielder Raul Ibanez, first baseman Kendrys Morales, and shortstop Brendan Ryan.
  • Two years ago, the Dodgers had agreed to deals with both the Tigers and Red Sox for Hiroki Kuroda, but the right-hander invoked his no-trade clause to veto each trade. Through his interpreter, Kuroda provided FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal his rationale for refusing to join a team in the playoff hunt: if you only play for a team in August and September, it is not as meaningful as being with a club from Spring Training until the end of the season.

Cafardo On Saunders, Kubel, Reed, Tigers

In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the Pirates have lofty dreams and the talent to make them a reality.  “It’s certainly nice to feel that buzz in the city, and the recognition we get, it’s nothing we don’t deserve,” standout pitcher Jeff Locke said. “Some of our guys play with a chip on their shoulder because now that we’re doing well, everybody loves us. Everybody’s wearing Pirates hats. This city has a lot of passion for its sports teams. I know when the Bruins were playing the Penguins it would take me 45 minutes to go about four-10ths of a mile because of the traffic in the city. I know how passionate people are about their team. People are coming out and they believe in us.”  Here's more from today's column..

  • Mariners left-hander Joe Saunders should become a commodity after Matt Garza is moved and even though Seattle isn't looking to trade him, they'll certainly listen to offers.  Cafardo cautions not to be surprised if the Orioles look to reacquire him after he pitched so well for them late last season.
  • The Diamondbacks are open to dealing Jason Kubel if they can get a pitcher in return. Kubel, who hit 30 homers last season, has only five to go along with a .237/.315/.356 slash line.
  • White Sox closer Addison Reed is available, though the price will be much steeper than it was for Matt Thornton, or will be for Jesse Crain once he’s back in action.  There’s been a lot of speculation about the Tigers being a player for him, and all indications are that GM Rick Hahn would be willing to deal him to a division rival if the return was decent.
  • Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez is due to come off of the DL tomorrow and could become a trade chip for Milwaukee if he shows that he is healthy.

AL West Notes: DeShields, Mariners, Saunders

Over the weekend, the Astros locked up second baseman Jose Altuve to a low-risk four-year, $12.5MM extension that carries a pair of club options at $6MM and $6.5MM. All told, Altuve can be controlled through the 2019 season if the Astros choose, and those six years would cost a total of $25MM. Here's more out of the AL West…

  • In light of Altuve's extension, Brian T. Smith and Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle note that a position change is a possibility for top prospect Delino DeShields Jr., whose path to the Majors as a second baseman is now blocked. The No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft, DeShields is hitting .290/.388/.399 with 30 steals in 71 games this season at high Class A. Last season, he swiped 101 bases in 135 games. General manager Jeff Luhnow said for the time being, DeShields would finish the season as a second baseman.
  • The Rays are believed to have checked in on Mariners bats such as Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in the most recent edition of his Stock Watch column. He speculates that the Yankees and Rangers would also make sense as potential trade partners for Seattle.
  • From that same piece, Heyman adds that Joe Saunders is likely more available than either Morales or Ibanez. After a brutal start to the season, Saunders has a 2.37 ERA over his past nine starts. The Mariners are currently deciding when to begin a sale, says Heyman.

Orioles Seeking Rotation Upgrades

At 42-31, the Orioles have the second-best record in the American League. That impressive win total comes despite the fact that their starting pitchers, as a whole, have the fourth-worst ERA in the Majors at 4.76. Given that number, it's no surprise to see MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli write that the Orioles will be in the market for starting pitching help in her latest Orioles Inbox. According to Ghiroli, names like Ricky Nolasco, Bud Norris, Jason Vargas and Joe Saunders are on the team's radar. She adds that Mike Pelfrey's name has also surfaced.

No one from that group stands out as an ace-caliber pitcher, which meshes with Ghiroli's statement that the Orioles "would like to add at least one more pitcher to help eat innings and keep the bullpen fresh." That trade could come prior to the July 31 non-waiver deadline, or, if asking prices are high, executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette could make a waiver trade in August as he did in 2012 when he acquired Saunders from the Diamondbacks for Matt Lindstrom.

Asked about the Orioles seeking a potential upgrade at second base via the trade market, Ghiroli said that the team isn't looking for second base upgrades. Baltimore is satisfied with the defense of Ryan Flaherty, and Brian Roberts is nearing a rehab assignment. According to Ghiroli, the Orioles would prefer to "[funnel] any and all resources and trade chips into helping out the rotation."

Not surprisingly, the Orioles aren't willing to discuss Kevin Gausman or Dylan Bundy in trades, which is likely the reason for focusing on second- and third-tier trade targets. Of the five names mentioned, Norris figures to have the highest asking price. Only he is controlled beyond 2013; each of the other four can be free agents at season's end.

Earlier this season the O's were said to be looking for a top-of-the-rotation starter, but they seem to have shifted that focus. Given their unwillingness to part with Gausman or Bundy, it stands to reason that acquiring an ace-caliber arm would've been an unrealistic goal.