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In this week’s edition of his Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports begins by examining the possibility of the Astros making a run at the Phillies‘ Cole Hamels. Houston is seeking a top-of-the-rotation starter, and Hamels is on their radar, Heyman hears, even though he’s something of a long shot. The Astros are seeking a No. 1 or No. 2 starter, one person told Heyman, though Houston GM Jeff Luhnow indicated they’d be interested in any arm that could start Games 1-3 of a playoff series. The Phillies are said to be intrigued by outfield prospects Preston Tucker and Brett Phillips, among others, Heyman notes. Houston won’t part with top prospect Carlos Correa or impressive rookie right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., and they’d prefer to keep righty Vincent Velasquez as well. Heyman adds that it’s uncertain whether or not Hamels would approve a trade to Houston, with one source indicating that they didn’t find the scenario likely. If Hamels were to approve the trade, he’d likely ask that his 2019 option be exercised, and the Phillies would almost certainly have to pay down some of the $24MM he is owed annually, per Heyman.
Some more highlights…
- The Reds are currently reluctant to sell any pieces according to rivals who have reached out to the team. That may simply be due to the fact that the team is set to host the All-Star game this year and doesn’t want to begin a potential fire sale before that game. However, other execs have indicated to Heyman that owner Bob Castellini prefers to see how his big-money investments in Joey Votto and others will play out rather than commencing a rebuilding effort.
- Both Dillon Gee and Jon Niese remain widely available, as the Mets would prefer to add promising lefty Steven Matz to their six-man rotation. One scout that spoke to Heyman said Matz is better than any pitcher in the rotation aside from Matt Harvey, which is high praise, particularly considering Jacob deGrom‘s brilliant start to the season and the flashes of brilliance displayed by Noah Syndergaard.
- The Yankees are interested in the Athletics‘ Ben Zobrist as an option at second base and also still like Dustin Ackley despite his struggles with the Mariners. New York has been surprised by Jose Pirela‘s troubles to this point, and they still have questions about Rob Refsnyder‘s glove at second base. Heyman adds that the Yankees don’t expect to be big players on Cole Hamels this winter, and they were worried about Mark Teixeira enough this offseason that they checked in on Ryan Howard, though clearly those concerns have dissipated in light of Teixeira’s excellent resurgence.
- The Cardinals, Blue Jays and Cubs are the three teams that Heyman mentions as most realistic options for right-hander Rafael Soriano. He calls the Cards “a surprise entry” into the Soriano mix, adding that the Jays have not given up the idea of signing him but will need to see what his price tag is now that he’s switched representatives.
- The Mariners will probably see a need to add a veteran catcher after trading Welington Castillo to the D-Backs in order to land Mark Trumbo. Heyman spoke to someone close to the Mariners who described the team as “desperate” to add offense prior to the Trumbo deal, as they’ve received struggles from many of their outfielders and, surprisingly, Robinson Cano.
- Red Sox higher-ups have an immense amount of respect for manager John Farrell, so while votes of confidence from ownership and executives often mean little, Heyman feels that Boston’s recent vote of confidence in Farrell has more weight behind it. However, Boston won’t be swayed by the fact that Farrell’s contract runs through 2017 if they do decide a change is needed down the line.
- Both Dodgers right-hander Jose De Leon and Yankees shortstop Jorge Mateo have hired Scott Boras to represent them. The pair of prospects is well-regarded within each organization.
Full Story | 348 Comments | Categories: Ben Zobrist | Boston Red Sox | Carlos Correa | Chicago Cubs | Cincinnati Reds | Cole Hamels | Dillon Gee | Dustin Ackley | Houston Astros | John Farrell | Jon Niese | Jose Pirela | Los Angeles Dodgers | New York Mets | New York Yankees | Newsstand | Oakland Athletics | Philadelphia Phillies | Preston Tucker | Rafael Soriano | Ryan Howard | Seattle Mariners | St. Louis Cardinals | Steven Matz | Toronto Blue Jays
Red Sox owner John Henry had a number of interesting comments yesterday, as he addressed his ballclub’s struggles. He noted, first of all, that GM Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell are not at risk of losing their jobs, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets.
Here’s more from the Boston owner and other notes from the team:
- The Red Sox seem as an organization to have identified some problems in their recent moves, but it’s not yet clear that they have a new, positive vision, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald suggests in his piece on Henry. Addressing last year’s increasingly questionable series of transactions (running from the trade deadline through the winter), Henry acknowledged that it is not to soon to wonder whether the right calls had been made. “At this point, you can question that, and you should, we should question that,” Henry said. “They’re going to have to prove it on the field that we made the right decisions, and they’ll prove us right or they’ll prove us wrong.”
- Looking further into Henry’s comments, Lauber’s colleague John Tomase writes that the Red Sox seem to be late in responding to some significant developments league-wide — particularly, the expanding strike zone and increasing availability of power relief arms. “The way you win games in 2003 is different from the way you win games in 2015,” Henry said. “And we have to make those adjustments as an organization. … The strike zone is larger than it used to be, so you can’t be as patient as you used to. The game of baseball has changed a lot. The standings reflect that.” The trouble, says Tomase, is that adapting will require a fairly drastic shift in the approach of numerous key hitters — along with longer-timeline changes in organizational thinking.
- DH David Ortiz says he still does not have set plans on when he’d like to retire, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com reports. Of course, that question has been asked with somewhat greater urgency given that the seemingly-ageless (but actually 39-year-old) slugger is off to a rough .224/.308/.379 start to the year. Ortiz dismissed those concerns with typical wit and wisdom. “A lot of people looked at me like that [six] years ago, and here I am still,” he said. “I don’t have no timetable for [retirement]. I don’t think anybody has it, either. If it happens, who cares, man, I’m just another player that comes in and comes out. Everybody’s time is up at some point. I don’t think that’s my problem, though. I’ll keep on trying like I normally do.”
With a 22-29 record on the books, the Red Sox may already have cause to regret several recent decisions, writes Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. Whether or not the team is better set up for the long term, he says, adding Wade Miley, Justin Masterson, and Joe Kelly (as opposed to, say, keeping John Lackey and acquiring Jeff Samardzija) has not paid off in the short run. Likewise, the signings of Hanley Ramirez (who has not adapted well to the outfield) and Pablo Sandoval (who owns a .688 OPS) have not paid the dividends hoped for when the club allocated $183MM between the two veterans.
Here’s more from Boston:
- Dealing with the on-field problems is not just a baseball question, explains Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. It’s imperative for the bottom line that the club do what it can to stay in contention, which is made plausible by the fact that the rest of the divisions has been mired in mediocrity. The risk of another long season out of the race, says Bradford, is an apathetic fan base that could lose patience with the organization.
- Boston’s struggles have put manager John Farrell’s job at risk, says Christopher Gasper of the Boston Globe, even if they aren’t really his fault. The club is nearing a point where some drastic change is needed, says Gasper, and the “even-keeled and cerebral” Farrell may need to engineer a quick turnaround to keep his position. Gasper observes that, while the club’s less-than-powerful offense can hope for better luck given its league-low .269 BABIP, it has also produced a league-worst 21.1% soft contact rate (per Fangraphs).
- As if trouble on offense and in the rotation were not enough, the Globe’s Alex Speier discusses the team’s sub-par overall efforts on defense. Errors have not generally been a big problem on the whole, but advanced metrics view the Sox as one of the league’s worst defensive units. The biggest problem, says Speier, is that Ramirez has been the league’s single worst fielder by a significant margin. Remarkably, Ramirez has cost the club about one quarter of a run per game thus far, and Speier observes that there are no ready solutions (other than continuing to work toward and hope for improvement) given Boston’s current roster alignment.
- In an interview with Toucher & Rich of CBS Boston (audio link), Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe explains that Farrell is not the main issue with the Red Sox. The skipper has done what he can with the roster, says Abraham, who goes on to argue that Ramirez can’t just be shifted to first base — which might create even greater problems. Nevertheless, with the AL East underperforming, Abraham says there is reason to believe the club can stay in the hunt.
White Sox great Paul Konerko‘s number will be retired today, as Bruce Levine of CBSChicago.com notes. Since retiring last season, Konerko says, he has watched the White Sox on occasion but hasn’t spent much time watching baseball. He did, however, attend Wayne Gretzky’s fantasy hockey camp, and he has three young children. “A lot of guys I talked to said, ‘Listen, you have to find things to do,'” says Konerko. “When you go home, they said, ‘You can only play so much golf.’ I definitely have a lot of stuff going on to keep me sharp.” Here’s more from the American League.
- Of all the players who left the Blue Jays last winter, the one who would have helped the team the most is, improbably, J.A. Happ, Brendan Kennedy of TheStar.com writes. The Jays’ rotation has struggled this season, while Happ has produced a 3.61 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 for the Mariners. Happ had frequently been little more than a contingency plan in Toronto. “They must have felt like they had better options,” says Happ. “I just tried to take advantage of the opportunities when I got them, but I was definitely trying to fight for my cause.”
- The Red Sox should at least consider firing John Farrell, writes Christopher Smith of MassLive.com. Since winning a World Series with the Red Sox in 2013, Farrell has a .441 winning percentage as manager, and this year’s team is filled with expensive but struggling veterans. Nonetheless, the AL East hasn’t been a strong division this year, and the Red Sox could still win it. Smith suggests that might be difficult, though, if the Red Sox don’t dramatically improve or make changes.
The Red Sox have announced that they’ve extended manager John Farrell through the 2017 season with an option for 2018. The deal adds one year plus an option to Farrell’s current deal, which continues through 2015 with a team option for 2016.
Farrell replaced Bobby Valentine following the 2012 season and led the Red Sox to a World Series win the following season, winning the Sporting News AL Manager of the Year award and finishing second in BBWAA AL Manager of the Year voting. Last season, the Red Sox fell to last place, and Farrell now owns a 168-156 record in two years with the team. Farrell also led the Blue Jays to a 154-170 record as their manager during the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
The Red Sox have held preliminary discussions with manager John Farrell about a contract extension, Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com reports. Farrell’s deal is only guaranteed through 2015, though it comes with an additional club option as well. Boston hopes to “add length and security” in a new deal, per the report.
Here are some more items from around the game:
- Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino sat down with WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford to discuss his recovery from back surgery, telling Bradford that he feels 100 percent and is as motivated as he’s ever been heading into Spring Training. Victorino disagrees with the notion that there’s a “competition” between himself and Mookie Betts, saying that, rather, he views it as two athletes pushing each other to be better. “I’ve been a big advocate of Mookie since Day 1,” said Victorino. “I learned from Day 1 that he’s a kid that wants to learn. My first day in my rehab assignment in Pawtucket, 15 minutes before the game he’s asking me questions in the most respectful way. From Day 1 I’ve been a big fan of that kid.”
- Right-hander Steve Delabar was disappointed not to be called up in September by the Blue Jays last year, writes John Lott of the National Post. The team felt that Delabar, a 2013 All-Star who battled knee injuries throughout the 2014 season, needed to rest. Those knee issues, coupled with a 2013 shoulder injury that prevented Delabar from fully engaging in his offseason weighted-ball program, contributed to a rough year in 2014, Lott writes. Delabar will be competing for one of three bullpen spots, and the fact that he has minor league options remaining could work against him if he isn’t sharp this spring.
- The Rays were excellent at unearthing quality relievers while under the leadership of now-Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney notes (Insider link). Friedman will face an immediate challenge in finding a replacement for outstanding closer Kenley Jansen, at least for the season’s early going. The market still contains some notable arms — free agents Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano, as well as trade candidate Jonathan Papelbon — but in some respects their availability only increases the stakes of getting the decision right. There are several possibilities for filling the closer role and the open pen slot, including a few recent acquisitions as well as younger arms (Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia) who got a taste of the bigs last year and have impressed the new front office.
- MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently endeavored to identify potential landing spots for free agent righty Chris Young, and Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs contributes his own analysis on where Young’s notably flyball-prone propensities would best fit. Steve’s market analysis and Sullivan’s fit assessment concur in identifying the Rays as a match.
Here’s the latest on the Red Sox:
- An executive with another team says that Boston is “all-in” on third baseman Pablo Sandoval, reports Gordon Edes of ESPN.com. GM Ben Cherington discussed the team’s interest with reporters today. “We’ve met with several [agents], including [Vasquez], and had good constructive conversations with a lot of guys already,” he said. “All those conversations will continue. I don’t expect anything to happen this week, or maybe in the near term. This may play out. I expect many [conversations] to continue over the next few weeks.”
- Cherington says that the Red Sox have no hard and fast rule against giving long-term deals to slightly older starting pitchers, Edes reports. “It’s never been a hard policy,” he said. “We’ve made exceptions, and I’m sure there will be another exception. It’s a case-by-case thing.” As for Lester, specifically, Cherington said that he is “interested in having a conversation with him” and has some added comfort level given the team’s familiarity with Lester. “We need to add to our rotation,” Cherington added. “He’s obviously a known commodity, a proven guy in our market. He’s of obvious interest.” Both Cherington and fellow GM Jed Hoyer of the Cubs foresee a slow-developing market for starters, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets.
- The Sox are open to discussing a contract extension with manager John Farrell before the start of the year, reports Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. As things stand, Farrell is under contract for 2015 with the club holding an option for another year.
- Boston still sees Jackie Bradley Jr. as a future everyday center fielder, Cherington tells Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. After a productive season in the field and sub-par campaign at the plate, the 24-year-old has perhaps lost some of his luster, though that could be in part due to expectations that raised wildly last spring. “I do think there are some teams that think of him that way — as they should,” Cherington said. “We think of him that way. We don’t know on what date that will happen, but we certainly still think of him that way — as an everyday-caliber center fielder.”
John Farrell met with the Boston media today, two days after the official completion of the long-awaited deal between the Red Sox and Blue Jays. Farrell explained that he intends to be more passionate in recommending player moves, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter links). Farrell added that Blue Jays president Paul Beeston and general manager Alex Anthopoulos were understanding about his desire to leave Toronto for Boston. Here are some more managerial links from around MLB…
- Mike Redmond appears to be a strong frontrunner for the Marlins job while Bryan Price is also in the mix, tweets Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. Redmond currently manages the Blue Jays' Class A-Advanced affiliate in Dunedin, Florida.
- Former Rockies, Dodgers and Pirates manager Jim Tracy and former Nationals and Indians manager Manny Acta are entrants in the managerial sweepstakes in Toronto, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports. Tracy, Acta, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Don Wakamatsu are among the leading candidates for the Blue Jays position, Elliott writes.
- Former Blue Jays first base coach Torey Lovullo will become Boston's bench coach, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. Lovullo has experience managing the Triple-A affiliate of the Red Sox.
- The Rockies will start interviewing outside managerial candidates in the coming days, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports (Twitter links). Jason Giambi, one of the candidates in Colorado, was very impressive in his interview, and bench coach Tom Runnells has also interviewed for the position.
- The Cubs named David Bell their third base coach and named James Rowson their permanent hitting coach.
The Red Sox have begun talks with the Blue Jays in an effort to work out compensation for manager John Farrell, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). General Manager Ben Cherington is set to meet with Orioles third base coach DeMarlo Hale tomorrow but there is currently nobody scheduled to interview after that.
Boston has long been linked to Farrell but the skipper said in an interview late last week that he is happy in Toronto and has yet to speak with Cherington & Co. regarding their vacancy. Meanwhile, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulous has said repeatedly that the club's policy precludes personnel from leaving for a lateral move. While Farrell is said to be at or near the top of the Red Sox's list, Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus and Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach have also been linked to the position.
Links from the AL East, before the Orioles and Yankees play for the right to face off against the Tigers in the ALCS…
- Red Sox owner John Henry is seeking a minority owner for Fenway Sports Group, Charlie Gasparino and Matt Egan of the FOX Business Network report. Henry appears to be entertaining the idea of establishing a limited partnership in the holding company, according to the FOX reporters.
- The Red Sox denied the report, saying it contains “absolutely no truth,” according to Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. The Red Sox made a similar statement last month when Gasparino reported Henry had started shopping the team.
- Blue Jays manager John Farrell told Jody McDonald on MLB Network Radio that rumors about interest from the Red Sox haven't distracted him from his job in Toronto. "I'm extremely challenged, happy as manager of the Blue Jays," Farrell said, adding that he hasn't been in touch with the Red Sox or heard of talks between GM Alex Anthopoulos and his counterpart in Boston, Ben Cherington.
- A number of high-profile pitchers who were traded last offseason are now making an impact in the postseason, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca writes. Trades involving pitchers such as Gio Gonzalez and Mat Latos will prompt teams like the Blue Jays to weigh the value of depth against the value of certainty as they contemplate their own moves for the offseason ahead.
- Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal explains that while money can't buy championships, it can help teams like the Yankees build deep benches. Aging stars like Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez are luxuries the Yankees can afford, and the depth is paying off this October.