John Axford Rumors
With the post-season eligibility deadline at midnight tonight, the August revocable waiver trade market is coming to a close. We just saw a big trade go down with Justin Morneau heading to Pittsburgh, and could still see more action over the afternoon and evening. One situation to keep an eye on is the possibility of the Red Sox going after a reliever, although the Boston Globe's Pete Abraham tweets that nothing is in the works for Boston at the moment.
In the meantime, let's round up some links on the recently completed deals:
- The Orioles ultimately found Michael Morse to be "a little better fit" than Josh Willingham, GM Dan Duquette told reporters including MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko, leading the team to pull the trigger on his acquisition. "Morse has a big, physical presence and has some power, and hopefully he can bounce back and have a good month," said Duquette. "He has experience and he's been to the playoffs. Those are all good things."
- Morse's former manager with the Nationals, Davey Johnson, noted that he "shudder[s] to think" about the impact Morse could have hitting in Camden Yards, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. "That ballpark is made for him," said Johnson. "He's that right-center hitter, and that's the jet stream. He's a good fit there."
- The Cardinals and Brewers were talking all week about a deal and swapping names before settling on the trade that sent reliever John Axford to St. Louis, reports Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. Manager Mike Matheny explained: "There's a lot of experience there, a lot of upside. It's hard to forget that two years ago this guy was one of the top relievers in the game."
- Don't look for any more players to depart Milwaukee via trade, according to a tweet from Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. GM Doug Melvin says that the team is likely to stand pat after nabbing a player to be named later and clearing some cash in the Axford deal.
- After picking up struggling outfielder Jason Kubel, the Indians now face the question of how to use him. As Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports, manager Terry Francona praised GM Chris Antonetti for "trying to help us," but did not seem clear about how Kubel would be deployed. Francona says he first needs "to see how healthy [Kubel] is for the outfield," but did indicate that the 31-year-old could see some time at DH, sharing duties with fellow lefty Jason Giambi. "We love having G [Giambi] do what he does, but he can't do it every day," Francona explained. "It will be nice to have another bat here. If he gets hot, or gets a couple of big hits, it certainly isn't going to hurt anything." Of course, as low-average, low-speed, power-first, defensively-limited left-handed hitters, Kubel and GIambi seem somewhat redundant at this point if one of them does not regularly play in the field.
Closer Jonathan Papelbon is dissatisfied with the Phillies' current direction, MLB.com's Todd Zalecki reports. In the midst of an eight-game losing streak, Philadelphia has fallen to seven games below .500, and that's not what Papelbon anticipated when he signed with the Phils. "I definitely didn't come here for this," he says. He also doesn't sound optimistic when asked about the Phillies' future. "Oh man," he says. "We could be here all day."
Papelbon is of the opinion that the Phillies need to undergo an overhaul, similar to that of his former team, the Red Sox (whose overhaul, ironically, included losing Papelbon to free agency). He says he does not want to be traded, but adds that he does not want to stay in Philadelphia if his team continues on the same path.
- The Tigers and Rangers have discussed the possibility of a deal that would send Joe Nathan to Detroit, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. Right now, though, the Rangers are asking a lot, and Morosi says there is "no momentum toward a deal." As MLBTR's Aaron Steen noted yesterday, Joakim Soria could close for the Rangers if Nathan were to depart. The Rangers could target the Tigers' current setup man, Drew Smyly, if they were to deal Nathan, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports.
- The Tigers are not trying to trade for Papelbon, Morosi tweets, but Luke Gregerson of the Padres is a possibility (Twitter links).
- The Padres and Brewers are the top sellers for bullpen arms, CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler reports. The Padres can offer Gregerson and Joe Thatcher, while the Brewers have John Axford and Mike Gonzalez. The Astros, meanwhile, could deal Jose Veras or Wesley Wright, while the Angels could move Scott Downs.
It's time for MLB to push the trade deadline from July 31st to a later date, opines Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. Cameron argues that with an expanded postseason, many teams are still holding out hope around this time of year that they are still in it and therefore they aren't selling. A new deadline would certainly take some getting used to, but the date has shifted over time. As you ponder Cameron's suggestion, here are some links from around the league...
- Braves pitcher Tim Hudson fractured his ankle against the Mets tonight as he was covering first base and the club announced that he will need to undergo season-ending ankle surgery. Before Hudson's injury, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com noted that Atlanta had some interest in acquiring another starter.
- The Brewers have shipped off Francisco Rodriguez, but Danny Knobler of CBS Sports tweets that plenty of teams are still interested in their remaining bullpen arms such as John Axford and Mike Gonzalez. The Dodgers are among the interested parties, according to Knobler.
- Cubs outfielder David DeJesus is returning just in time to be showcased for the deadline, but club president Theo Epstein doesn't think he's going anywhere, writes Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. However, he won't make any guarantees. "Does that make him untouchable?" Epstein said. "No, no one is untouchable, but we'll sit and weigh out the options as to what's best for the Cubs. Just because you may listen on somebody doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate everything he brings to the organization."
- Peter Gammons of the MLB Network reports that the Angels are receiving calls on lefty Scott Downs, who is a free agent at season's end (Twitter link). A deal is unlikely to happen, however, Gammons adds.
- One league executive told Jayson Stark of ESPN.com (via Twitter) that he has "no doubt" that the Phillies are buyers after talking to them.
Francisco Rodriguez's trade to the Orioles may be the first of several moves for the Brewers before the trade deadline, though Brewers GM Doug Melvin hinted that further moves (if any) would require a very high return. Here are the highlights of Melvin's conference call with reporters, including Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal...
- As many as six teams had interest in Rodriguez but the field narrowed to three bidders, Melvin said. The other two finalists, besides the O's, were also from the American League. The Tigers and Red Sox were known to have interest in Rodriguez, though it's just speculation on my part that they could have been the two mystery AL teams.
- Melvin spoke highly of Nick Delmonico, the infield prospect acquired from Baltimore. Melvin said he asked the Orioles about Delmonico three weeks ago and were turned down, so the deep trade market for Rodriguez helped the Brewers eventually get the prospect they wanted.
- The Brewers are "not shopping" other bullpen pieces like John Axford or Jim Henderson "but if teams have interest, I have to listen," Melvin said. "We've still got a lot of good young players here. People talk about our pitching but if you trade pitching, you're going to need pitching back for this year, next year and the following years."
- Teams have called about Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse but Melvin said he's "not motivated" to move either starter. Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) reported earlier today that the Brewers "need to be blown away" to consider moving Lohse, and the Giants weren't a fit as a trade partner.
- Melvin made it clear that he isn't under any pressure to move veterans just for the sake of rebuilding the roster. "This isn't where we're selling. I'm not a believer in buyers and sellers; I'm a believer in making a good deal," Melvin said. "Deals that help both ball clubs are the best deals to work. When you're selling, you're just moving players because of salary and we don't have to do that."
- Some teams have called about the Brewers' position players though Melvin declined to provide details.
Brewers relievers John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, and Mike Gonzalez are a popular bunch. A Dodgers scout was sent to Milwaukee this week to watch the available trio, writes Danny Knobler of CBS Sports, while the Red Sox, Orioles and Tigers have scouts in Milwaukee this week and the other NL West teams are interested in the Brewers' relievers as well as Yovani Gallardo. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports has a new report too, saying the Tigers, Orioles, and Diamondbacks have scouted the Brewers' relievers in recent days and weeks.
Morosi says the D'Backs and Brewers have discussed Axford, Rodriguez, and Jim Henderson, while Knobler says the Brewers have told teams Henderson won't be dealt. Interest from the Tigers and Orioles appears more preliminary, writes Morosi, and the Tigers and Brewers have not had formal talks recently.
Rodriguez and Gonzalez will be eligible for free agency after the season, while Axford is under team control through 2016 as an arbitration eligible player. As a Super Two with 106 career saves to his credit, Axford's salary jumped to $5MM this year. As Morosi notes, Axford's salary might scare some teams off, though his lack of saves this year will slow down his arbitration raises. Even though a team can technically own Axford's rights through 2016, the focus for a team acquiring him has to be on 2013, with tendering him a contract even for 2014 a decision that will require more information and some thought. It's one of the reasons the Brewers are reportedly willing to move him.
Former Colorado Rockie Ryan Spilborghs has been blogging for The Denver Post about his experiences playing for the Seibu Lions in Japan this season, and he weighs in on the issue of PEDs in his latest post. While Spilborghs doesn't approve of PED use, he suggests that baseball's long season can push players too far without giving them enough time to recover. A better model may be the schedule adopted by Japan's NPB league, which has teams playing 144 games in about 180 days, Spilborghs says.
Some more notes from around the senior circuit...
- Ike Davis will rejoin the Mets on Friday for their matchup with the Brewers, a source told Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Davis was demoted on June 10 after hitting just .161/.242/.258 in 207 plate appearances, but work with Triple-A coaches to address a hitch in Davis' swing was apparently successful, as the first baseman has compiled a .293/.424/.667 line with the Las Vegas 51s. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes speculated in a May post that Davis could be a non-tender candidate this offseason.
- The Dodgers are expected to activate outfielder Carl Crawford from the DL as soon as Friday, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Los Angeles will soon be faced with a long-anticipated glut of regular outfielders, with Crawford joining Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and sensation Yasiel Puig on the active roster. Manager Don Mattingly acknowledges that it will be a "sticky" situation to manage. It remains to be seen whether the Dodgers will consider moving Andre Ethier, who was given a five-year, $85MM extension just over a year ago.
- While Yovani Gallardo of the Brewers has been the subject of trade dialogue, Adam McCalvy of MLB.com reports that the righty is determined not to let the rumors affect him. "We all hear things. I'm not going to lie. ... But basically I just leave it at that. I hear them, and then don't think about it too much." Gallardo did acknowledge, however, that he had become aware of some of the teams on his no-trade list.
- Though the loss of Jesse Crain to the DL dampens the reliever market, a number of potentially available NL hurlers could help bolster a contender's bullpen, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports notes. The Cubs' Kevin Gregg has earned 14 saves in 15 opportunities, while the Brewers' Francisco Rodriguez is a perfect seven for seven in save chances and could help the Tigers, Rosenthal says. John Axford, Milwaukee's former closer, could also be a useful piece.
- The Marlins could offer Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn, or Ryan Webb, as they have power arms in the pipeline and "never mind trading relievers," according to Rosenthal. Both Cishek and Dunn have been effective for the Fish and become eligible for arbitration after this season. Miami could have a tougher time finding a taker for Webb, however, as he's shown discouraging strikeout and walk trends.
- Rosenthal is also less high on the Phillies' Jonathan Papelbon, noting his high salary and declining strikeout rate, and the Brewers' Michael Gonzalez, a lefty who opponents have managed a .746 OPS against despite his high K/9 rate.
11:14am: The Diamondbacks have "no interest" in moving Skaggs, writes MLB.com Steve's Gilbert. Gilbert also notes that Skaggs has been impressive at Triple-A as of late and is likely to replace the injured Trevor Cahill in the rotation tomorrow.
THURSDAY, 11:08am: The Diamondbacks are also interested in relievers John Axford, Jim Henderson and Francisco Rodriguez, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Morosi adds that given the recent injury to White Sox setup ace Jesse Crain -- who some considered to be the best reliever on the market -- interest in the Brewers' relievers could pick up quickly.
WEDNESDAY: While nothing is imminent, the Diamondbacks and Brewers have been talking about possible trades involving right-hander Yovani Gallardo and one of the Arizona names that's surfaced in discussions is top pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
The two teams appear to be good partners as the Brewers have another veteran starter in Kyle Lohse and Arizona has plenty of solid young pitching, including Skaggs and Randall Delgado. However, it doesn't appear anything is close at this point and one person familiar with the talks said, "There's no traction at this point.''
Even though a deal isn't going down today or tomorrow, Heyman says that it's a situation worth keeping an eye on. Gallardo fits the bill for the Diamondbacks as they are targeting younger, high-upside, controlled starters.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
The Brewers have lost four in a row, used 57 different lineups in 80 games this season, and own the third-worst record in all of baseball. The Brewers are expected to be sellers at the Trade Deadline, a fate further cemented with the news of Corey Hart missing the rest of the year with his third knee surgery in 16 months and Ryan Braun out, at least, until after the All-Star break (per MLB.com's Adam McCalvy) with an irritated nerve in his right hand. Milwaukee's best trade chips are a quartet of relievers (John Axford, Michael Gonzalez, Jim Henderson, and Francisco Rodriguez), who have closer experience. Here's the latest Trade Deadline news involving the Brewers:
- GM Doug Melvin admits to receiving calls about his bullpen, but he isn't quite sure what to expect in return, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Teams have to determine what is important to them and how they value relief pitchers," Melvin said. "Sometimes they don't want to give up a lot to acquire them. They think teams will give up guys just to get rid of their contracts. We're not really looking to do that."
- Axford, the Brewers' highest-paid reliever at $5MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility as a Super Two, is aware his name is being floated in trade rumors. "I'm sure there will be talk about it as we get closer to the trade deadline," Axford told Haudricourt. "Teams probably will test the waters and see what the Brewers' response is. I'll be fine with it. You have to block that out and focus on your job here."
- Manager Ron Roenicke has re-inserted Rodriguez into the closer's role, reports Haudricourt's colleague Michael Hunt. Did the idea of showcasing Rodriguez for a Trade Deadline deal have any role in this decision? "None, not to me," said Roenicke. "Not until I meet with (GM) Doug (Melvin) and Doug tells me something different."
- Teams also are reported to have shown interest in Brewers' starting pitchers Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse, but Melvin told Haudricourt trading either one "is not something we have to do. We're not necessarily looking to sell. But if somebody steps up (with a big offer), I'd have to listen."
The Brewers are receiving "a lot of calls" regarding the availability of John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez and Mike Gonzalez, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). He adds that Yovani Gallardo is also drawing "some" interest.
Axford started the season as Milwaukee's closer but lost the job after he allowed nine runs in his first 3 1/3 innings. Over the past five weeks, however, he's fired 18 1/3 scoreless innings in a row, striking out 18 hitters and walking just seven in that time.
A look at the custom Fangraphs leaderboard of relief trade candidates compiled by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes shows that each of the three relievers ranks in the top 20 in xFIP. All three are striking out more than a batter per inning, though all three are pretty significant flyball pitchers as well.
As for Gallardo, Brewers GM Doug Melvin spoke about the right-hander earlier this week. While he feels that Gallardo is important to their chances of winning games in the future, he also acknowledged that contenders will likely make him offers that he has to consider. Tim also analyzed Gallardo's case as a trade candidate earlier this year.
Yesterday, ESPN's Jayson Stark noted that the Brewers will listen on any position player other than Carlos Gomez, Ryan Braun and Jean Segura. I'd imagine that Kyle Lohse will also draw some interest from other clubs.