Joe Blanton Rumors
Baseball America recently ranked all 30 organizations based on how much talent has passed through their systems since the end of the 2008 season and the Nationals and Braves place third and sixth, respectively. The Marlins (11th) and Phillies (12th) were also better than average, but the Mets were 28th. Here are today's NL East-related links...
- The Phillies are less motivated to trade Joe Blanton than they were earlier in the spring, when Joel Pineiro was around, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reports (Twitter links).
- The Phillies are cautiously optimistic about Chase Utley and hopeful that Ryan Howard will play in early May, Knobler writes.
- Braves third baseman Chipper Jones told reporters that his upcoming retirement will be final, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick writes (Twitter link). "I'm very comfortable with this decision and I'm ready to stick to it," Jones said this morning while discussing his decision.
It was on this day in 2000 that six Boston pitchers (including starter Pedro Martinez) combined to throw a perfect game against the Blue Jays in a Spring Training matchup. While perfect games in the spring obviously aren't nearly as prestigious as those during the regular season, it was still an opportunity for Martinez to finally be involved in a recognized perfecto. Martinez threw nine perfect innings against the Padres on June 3, 1995 but his performance isn't considered a perfect game by MLB rules since (shades of Harvey Haddix) the 0-0 game went into extra innings and Martinez allowed a hit to the first batter of the 10th inning.
Here's the latest from Fenway....
- The Red Sox have "their radar up on Roy Oswalt," writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe as part of a reader mailbag. Carfardo thinks if Oswalt wants to pitch for Boston, the club will sign him. Oswalt was reportedly holding out for a team closer to his Mississippi home but recently said he's willing to pitch anywhere, though perhaps not until midseason. Also in Cafardo's piece, he says the Sox aren't going to make a move for a pitcher until they see what they have in Daniel Bard and internal fifth starter candidates like Felix Doubront.
- Scouts from the Red Sox and Orioles have joined the contingent of scouts at Joe Blanton's spring starts, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. The Phillies are reportedly willing to pay up to $2MM of Blanton's $8MM salary as part of a trade, but Boston makes another move, even $6MM might be too much for the Sox, who are trying to keep payroll down to avoid a big luxury tax hit.
- Carlos Beltran was interested in joining the Red Sox this winter, reports Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal, but ultimately signed with the Cardinals since Boston's focus was on working out a deal with David Ortiz. "We talked a little bit, and they had interest," Beltran said. "They were trying to get something done first with David. At the end of the day, I wasn't going to wait until they got that done." As MacPherson points out, it may have been a moot point since the Sox wouldn't have been able to afford Beltran once Ortiz accepted salary arbitration.
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.
In this morning's column, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe takes a look at some of the emerging storylines in the American League East. In New York, Francisco Cervelli is set to be the backup catcher, but could become trade bait for the Yankees with Austin Romine knocking on the door. The catching situation with Tampa Bay is also worth keeping an eye on as Jose Molina needs a backup. The Rays could pick up Ivan Rodriguez or deal from their pitching surplus to fill the vacancy. If they trade Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis, Cafardo writes that it would be for a catcher. Here's more from Cafardo..
- The Phillies are making it clear to teams that they would eat as much as $2MM of Joe Blanton’s $8MM deal in a trade. Moving Blanton would allow the Phillies to have payroll flexibility and bump Kyle Kendrick into the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Yesterday, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos scouted the Phillies game and left after Blanton's exit.
- Meanwhile, the Nationals continue to dangle left-hander John Lannan. The club is spreading word that the 27-year-old is available in a deal, particularly one for a center fielder.
- The Braves are in need of a left field power bat and right-hander Jair Jurrjens could be the trade bait for one.
- At some point, Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar will have to move to second base to make room for Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. Escobar loves being a shortstop, so there is a bit of trepidation among some in the organization as to how he will accept this.
- Meanwhile, many feel that the Marlins' Hanley Ramirez won't stay happy for long at third base and eventually will demand a trade.
- With several teams in the market for a center fielder, Cafardo asked a National League scout if the Yankees would entertain a deal for Brett Gardner. Gardner is currently slated to start in left field for the Yanks but a National League scout said that at some point the club might seek out a more traditional left field option.
- The Red Sox are impressed with Chris Carpenter's live fastball but privately they are not happy with what they wound up getting in exchange for Theo Epstein.
On this day in 1966, the Orioles acquired catcher Cam Carreon from the Indians in exchange for leftfielder Lou Piniella. Sweet Lou became an everyday major leaguer in 1969 with the Royals and made his way back to the American League East with the Bombers in 1974. Here's what's happening in the AL East today..
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos scouted today's Phillies game and left after Joe Blanton exited the game, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.
- Even though Brandon League has blossomed into an All-Star closer for the Mariners, Anthopoulos has no regrets about the trade that shipped League to Seattle and brought Brandon Morrow to Toronto, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. The Blue Jays signed Morrow to three-year, $21MM contract extension this winter with a team option for 2015.
- Red Sox right-hander Michael Bowden is out-of-options and fighting to make the big league roster, writes Alex Speier of WEEI.com. The 25-year-old appeared in 14 games for the BoSox last season.
- There's a great deal of excitement surrounding Michael Pineda as he gets set for his first year in pinstripes, but GM Brian Cashman is looking to pump the brakes on fans' expectations for him, writes Jeff Bradley of the Star-Ledger. Cashman doesn't view Pineda as an "instant number two" but instead as a long-term asset with a great deal of promise.
This morning we learned that Mike Cameron has decided to retire after 17 seasons in the majors. The 39-year-old played for eight different teams during his career and won three Gold Gloves. Here's more on the Nats and other notes from around the National League East..
- Last week, the three-way trade the Phillies were looking to send Joe Blanton to the Angels for Bobby Abreu, then flip Abreu to the Yankees for A.J. Burnett, sources tell Buster Olney of ESPN.com (via Twitter). The Phillies' thinking was that two years of Burnett would have provided at least a bit of a safety net if they lost Cole Hamels to free agency, Olney tweets.
- Cameron's retirement will force the Nationals to get creative in center field and possibly look for another right-handed hitter at the position, writes Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider. Alternatively, Washington could let either Rick Ankiel or Roger Bernadina take the job outright or move Jayson Werth to center field and put Bryce Harper in right.
- Bill Ladson of MLB.com (via Twitter) spoke with Cameron who said Nationals GM Mike Rizzo tried to talk the veteran out of retiring. The center fielder said that he made up his mind last Wednesday.
- Third baseman David Wright's future with the Mets is likely independent of the club's performance, writes Dan Martin of the New York Post. The Mets hold a $16MM team option on the 29-year-old for next season, but Wright can void that option if he is traded.
- Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton isn't worried about hearing his name in trade rumors, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Phillies have reportedly shopped Blanton in order to create payroll flexibility and explored a three-way trade to land A.J. Burnett before he was traded to the Pirates.
The Phillies have called around to determine trade interest in Joe Blanton, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reports (all Twitter links). Moving Blanton and part of his $8.5MM salary would create payroll room for Roy Oswalt, but GM Ruben Amaro Jr. doesn't expect to be able to free up money to sign the right-hander. Though the Phillies have had dialogue about bringing Oswalt back to Philadelphia, a deal seems unlikely.
We heard yesterday that there's no traction between the Red Sox and Oswalt, that the Reds haven't had serious talks with him, and that he doesn't want to play in Pittsburgh. Oswalt, the top free agent pitcher remaining, is likely to sign a one-year deal for 2012. I doubt teams would commit $8.5MM to Blanton, who pitched just 41 1/3 innings last year.
As ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark points out, the NL Central will look considerably different in 2012, now that Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa have moved on. Ryan Braun could miss 50 games with a suspension that would make the division even less recognizable. Here are Stark’s latest notes and rumors:
- Scouts and executives doubt Miguel Cabrera will be able to play third base with much skill in 2012.
- One AL executive suggests the Tigers would have to eat a lot of money to trade Victor Martinez next offseason. Insurance will likely cover approximately half of the switch hitter’s 2012 salary of $13MM, Stark writes.
- Stark hears that the Phillies have sent signals that they might make Joe Blanton available this spring.
- Jason Bartlett has been available this winter and the Red Sox could pursue him, Stark writes. However, the shortstop will earn $5.5MM in 2012 and the Red Sox aim to stay below the luxury tax threshold.
- Scott Kazmir intends to pitch in 2012, but his fastball velocity is in the 84-85 mph range. The 28-year-old appeared in one game for the Angels last year and they released him after a rough stretch at Triple-A.
- There’s every indication that the commissioner’s office will discipline Juan Carlos Oviedo/Leo Nunez and Roberto (Heredia) Hernandez/Fausto Carmona for using false identities.
- Though many have told Bud Selig that adding a second Wild Card team to each league this year will create scheduling issues, the commissioner seems intent on expanding the playoffs in 2012, and Stark expects him to get his wish.
The Red Sox have five proven starters and a handful of viable alternatives, but that’s not stopping GM Theo Epstein from looking for more possibilities for the rotation, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Red Sox are looking for starting pitching depth and would love to add a veteran who’s open to pitching at Triple-A until he’s needed.
Wakefield, Aceves and Doubront are the team’s primary alternatives to the starting five of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka. It also appears that the Red Sox will start Andrew Miller at Triple-A and stretch him out as a starter in the minors.
Though some starting pitching is available, none of it appears to be a logical fit for the Red Sox. The $16MM remaining on Joe Blanton’s contract makes him an unattractive option; it seems doubtful that the Red Sox would meet the Twins' asking price for Kevin Slowey only to stash him in the minors and the Red Sox don’t appear to have much interest in Jeremy Bonderman.
I listed a number of potentially available starters earlier in the week.
Here's the latest from the four-time defending National League East champs...
- In an interview today on Philadelphia's WIP Radio, Cliff Lee said that his top priority as a free agent was to join the team with the best chance of winning. After the Phillies, his next choices were the Rangers and the Yankees, in that order. New York was the third choice since, Lee says, "I felt like with what the Red Sox had done and it seems like some of the Yankee guys are getting older, but I liked the Rangers.”
- It seems unlikely that the Phillies could manage to take on Michael Young's salary, but Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News outlines how the Phils could conceivably acquire the Rangers' infielder. Hagen surmises the club can partially pay for Young if they receive some insurance money back from a lengthy Chase Utley injury, and if the Phillies can move Joe Blanton (owed $17MM over the next two seasons) to the Rangers in the trade.
- Both Hagen and MLB.com's Todd Zolecki point out that the Phillies want to avoid having their payroll reach the $178MM threshold that would cost them a luxury tax payment. The Philadelphia payroll currently projects to be in the $165MM-$168MM range. GM Ruben Amaro tells Zolecki that the team believes Utley "will be healthy enough sooner rather than later," but if the team does look outside the organization for help, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes recently looked at some potential second base candidates.