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David Price is trying to just focus on pitching amidst the many trade rumors surrounding him, and the Rays ace admitted to being a bit nervous when he was recently summoned from a pre-start hot tub soak to Joe Maddon’s office. Price told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that he was wondering if the long-rumored deal had finally come, but upon arriving at Maddon’s office, the skipper merely wanted to congratulate Price on making the All-Star team. Topkin’s piece quotes Price and several other Rays on how everyone is handling all the trade buzz surrounding the star left-hander.
Here’s some more news from around the AL East…
- The Giants are considered to be the team most interested in Ben Zobrist, Marc Topkin reports, with the Reds and Mariners among other teams also intrigued by the 33-year-old. Zobrist would help the Giants and Reds at second base while the versatile 33-year-old would fit in Seattle as a shortstop or right fielder since Robinson Cano has the keystone locked up for the M’s.
- The Red Sox have over $72MM coming off the books this offseason and will have lots of payroll flexibility to get the team back in contention, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. While the Sox seem adverse to signing veteran free agents to major contracts, there’s still plenty of payroll space for moves like re-signing Jon Lester. The Sox are still committed to their young prospect base, though Cafardo notes that the club could trade from this minor depth to acquire a more expensive proven Major Leaguer.
- John Lackey worries that the negotiations between Lester and the Red Sox have resembled his own extension talks with the Angels, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes. Lackey and the Halos tabled talks during Spring Training of Lackey’s final contract year in 2009 and then the Angels were outbid on the open market by the Sox. Now, Boston could be the ones who lose their ace due to another aggressive bidder if Lester ends up testing free agency. “(The Red Sox) messed up in spring training for sure. The price of gas is going up every time (Lester) goes out there,” Lackey said.
- Lackey also didn’t say whether he will approach the Red Sox about an extension, given that he’s under contract for a league minimum salary in 2015. “I haven’t even thought that far ahead. I’m just worried about pitching right now, and we’ll see what happens at the end of the year,” the righty said.
- Derek Jeter‘s retirement marks the end of the “Core Four” era for the Yankees, and ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand notes just how unlikely and special it was for the franchise to reach the postseason from every year, save one, from 1995-2012.
Orioles righty Kevin Gausman has made a strong showing in his most recent MLB stint, and that could set him up for a more permanent big league assignment, reports Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun. The 23-year-old came into the year rated as the 20th prospect in the game by Baseball America. Having entered the season with 71 days of service to his credit, Gausman would line himself up for potential Super Two status down the line if he can stay up for most or all of the rest of the season.
- The latest injury news out of the Yankees‘ rotation is not promising, reports Jorge Castillo of the Star-Ledger. Manager Joe Girardi said today that C.C. Sabathia is not expected to return until after the All-Star break, while Michael Pineda will probably be out until August at the earliest. Those updates certainly seem to increase the already-strong odds that New York will be in the market for starting pitching help at the trade deadline.
- Red Sox closer Koji Uehara addressed his future recently, as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. He said that his approaching free agency has not changed anything about how he goes to work, and indicated that he is taking things year to year at this point. “If I could change how I perform based on my free agent year, I would,” said Uehara. “But I can’t, so I’m just going to pitch how I can pitch. It doesn’t really affect me because I’m an older player. Every year I consider my last year.” As Bradford notes, it is reasonable to wonder whether Boston will consider making Uehara a qualifying offer after the season. As with last season, there are several high-performing late-inning relievers set to hit the open market, including Uehara, the Yankees’ David Robertson, Sergio Romo of the Giants, and the Jays’ Casey Janssen. Though he is throwing in his age-39 season, the righty has been nothing short of outstanding since coming to Boston on a one-year, $4.25MM deal that included an option that vested for 2014.
- Boston CEO Larry Lucchino addressed several topics in an interview with WEEI.com’s Dennis & Callahan (story via WEEI.com’s Nick Canelas). Signing Stephen Drew made sense in part based on “the idea of paying money rather than paying prospects,” he said. While Drew is off to a rough start and is currently sidelined with an oblique injury, Lucchino says that the evaluation of the deal will still depend on how the rest of the year plays out.
- Lucchino also touched on the situation of starter John Lackey. The club owns a league-minimum option over the starter for 2015 by operation of a vesting clause in his free agent contract. The Boston CEO said that the expectation is that Lackey will be back next year, but that it may not be at the relatively meager sum of $500K. “It depends on the circumstances,” he said. “John Lackey has been a tremendous contributor to this team this year and last. And we love having him here, and we’d like to have him here for a longer period of time. We’ll see when the time comes to negotiate whether there should be a playing out of the contract, whether there should be renegotiation with an extension. We’re open to a variety of possibilities.”
The Red Sox currently sit a disappointing six games under .500 and nine back in the AL East. GM Ben Cherington discussed a variety of pertinent topics today, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports (except as otherwise noted below):
- Cherington remains confident in his team’s core, indicating that he expects to rely on in-house options to carry the team back into contention. If they can do that, he said, “we’ll try to find any way we can to make improvements to the team as the summer goes on.” At this point, said Cherington, “typically, you’re sort of talking other teams into doing things, and that doesn’t always leave you in the best position to make deals.”
- If the team were to make an addition in advance of the trade deadline, it would most likely be an outfielder, he told Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link). Indeed, the team’s greatest struggles have been in the outfield, which is currently being led by Jonny Gomes‘s .722 OPS. When asked whether Boston has the payroll capacity to add players this year, he made clear that it does, reports Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal (via Twitter).
- Cherington affirmed that Jackie Bradley Jr. is the team’s center fielder. “[H]e’s playing really good defense, he’s grinding, he’s making offensive adjustments,” said Cherington. “He’s a very important guy for us and we feel he’s the right guy to be our center fielder.” The GM was somewhat less sanguine about Grady Sizemore, saying that he “hasn’t made the impact as he’d like to.”
- Cherington strongly disputed the notion that the club was forced by public pressure into signing Stephen Drew. “We signed Stephen Drew because I made a recommendation to ownership to sign Stephen Drew,” he said. “It happened to be that [Will Middlebrooks] got hurt. Stephen Drew was still out there, he was a free agent, and we felt like, if we didn’t sign him, we might be in position to have to make a trade at some point and give up talent to address, potentially an area of need … .”
- He also said that the team has not entertained any thoughts of dealing away staff ace and pending free agent Jon Lester if the team cannot get back in the mix. “Our position hasn’t changed,” said Cherington. “We hope to have a conversation again about his contract. We’d love to find a way to keep him here [past this year]. … [W]e’re going to want Jon Lester pitching for us down the stretch.”
- Finally, Cherington addressed the question whether fellow starter John Lackey might retire rather than playing next season for the league minimum option that the club picked up due to the time he’s missed due to injury. “That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” he said, “and obviously our expectation is that he’s going to be here.”
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has been plenty busy over the past few days, digging up rumors from all around the league. Here are some highlights from his latest work…
- Two sources tell Rosenthal that Matt Wieters‘ throwing program is going poorly and surgery is looking more likely (Twitter links). A third source, however, cautions that it’s too soon to make that judgment, adding that Wieters has good days and also bad days at this time.
- In this weekend’s Full Count video, he notes that while many were shocked by Max Scherzer‘s decision to turn down $144MM in an attempt to secure more on next year’s free agent market, Scherzer has an insurance policy on his right arm that Scherzer says “takes the injury risk out of it.” While the policy likely doesn’t cover the full amount of that offer, it sounds to be a substantial amount. Rosenthal adds that Jon Lester has a similar policy, though not for nearly as much money as Scherzer’s policy.
- Some friends of Jimmy Rollins feel that he’ll be willing to waive his 10-and-5 rights to approve a trade once he passes Mike Schmidt for the franchise lead in hits. Others feel he and his wife, a Philadelphia native, prefer to stay no matter what. Of course, Rollins’ $11MM vesting option damages his trade value as well, as he will easily reach the required plate appearances if he stays healthy.
- The Giants are looking to upgrade at second base this summer. While they could use a starting pitcher, they aren’t likely to make an addition that would turn Tim Lincecum into a $17MM bullpen arm. The Athletics, on the other hand, could use a starting pitching upgrade and have the necessary catching depth to make a move.
- The Orioles are willing to move Delmon Young, who is batting .286/.318/.369 and has lost most of his plate appearances to Steve Pearce. While Young isn’t the hitter than Kendrys Morales is, Rosenthal lists him as a low-cost alternative to teams that missed out on Morales; Young is set to earn about $600K over the rest of the season.
The changing rules and increasing number of extensions in the game are serving as a detriment to the Yankees, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. Tighter rules regarding performance enhancing drugs are preventing players from performing well into their 30s, and many would-be free agents are locked up through their decline years and therefore unavailable to the Yanks in free agency. MacPherson looks at New York's misses in the draft over the years, pointing out that they'll need to turn that trend around if they're to improve a "crumbling foundation … that can't be rebuilt the way it once was." Amazingly, he highlights that among Yankees position players with at least 20 plate appearances, only Yangervis Solarte is under 30 years of age.
Here's more out of the AL East…
- Scout.com's Kiley McDaniel looks at the story of how Yankees right-hander Shane Greene went from an unknown junior college arm to a big league pitcher. Yankees Florida area scout Jeff Deardorff had known Greene's family since Greene was nine years old, having lived down the street from them. Greene underwent Tommy John surgery his freshman year of JuCo, and afterward began asking Deardorff to watch him throw. Deardorff eventually conceded and was shocked to see his arm speed and velocity. He called scouting director Damon Oppenheimer to add Greene to the team's pre-draft workout, and the Yankees selected Greene in the 15th round having seen him throw just twice. McDaniel does an excellent job of telling Greene's story, and I would recommend taking the time to read the entire article.
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington appeared on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan show, and WEEI's Meredith Perri has some highlights. Cherington discussed John Lackey, his outfield and Jon Lester's extension process. Cherington said Lackey is understanding of the clause in his contract that will cause him to earn the Major League minimum next season after a serious arm injury and is one of the most accountable players in the game. Cherington expects Lackey to pitch beyond the 2015 season.
- The GM also said that recent salary hike for free agent pitchers has made the Lester negotiations more difficult, but there's always a chance for a deal to get worked out when both sides have interest — which they do. Cherington does not, however, make it sound like a slam dunk: "…[W]e want Jon Lester to be here. We will work as hard as we can to try to make that work, but there’s things that other teams might do that we just won’t do."
- WEEI's Rob Bradford looks at Koji Uehara's incredible run as the Red Sox' closer, noting that statistically speaking, his time in the ninth inning stacks up with the best runs of the great Mariano Rivera's career. Bradford spoke with Rangers GM Jon Daniels about Uehara, with Daniels saying that Texas made a very similar offer to Boston's following the 2012 season, but Uehara elected for a fresh start in Boston. Daniels, unsurprisingly, calls Uehara a "tremendous bargain" for Boston.
The Orioles organization suffered a major loss today, as PR director Monica Pence Barlow passed away at just 36 years of age after a long battle with cancer. As this morning's outpouring reveals, Barlow was an inspiration to those who knew her. Among the many writers impacted by the loss was MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko, who offers a tribute: "Whenever someone would ask, 'Why you?,' Monica would reply, 'Why not?' Pretty much says it all, doesn't it?"
As MLBTR joins in offering its condolences, here are some notes from around the American League East:
- Sam and Seth Levinson, the agents for Jon Lester and several other Red Sox players, have arrived in Fort Myers, reports WEEI.com's Rob Bradford. It is not yet known whether they will engage in talks with GM Ben Cherington regarding a new deal for Lester, but Cherington has made clear that he would to keep negotiations to the spring.
- Fellow Sox starter John Lackey says he is not worried about the fact that he'll be subject to a league-minimum club option net year, writes Bradford. "It's different," said Lackey. "There will be some things I will have to think about, for sure." But he says he isn't worried about that now. "I haven't even gotten to that point of thinking that far ahead," Lackey said. "We'll play this year out and see what happens. I'm not worried about the money. I've made plenty of that."
- Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus is entering his walk year, but he says he'll join Lackey in focusing on the present, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. "I haven't thought about it at all," said Rasmus. "For me, it's all about right now, and next year don't matter." After a turnaround 2013 season that restored some of his earlier luster, the 27-year-old Rasmus could play his way into (or out of) a big contract.
Rocco Baldelli was forced into premature retirement at age 29, but the former Rays outfielder has adjusted well to his post-playing career. As MLB.com's Bill Chastain relates, Baldelli is acting as something of a jack-of-all-trades as a special assistant in the Rays' baseball operations department, helping the club with everything from scouting to draft preparation to Spring Training work. "I get to see everything. I really enjoy gaining a perspective on everything we're doing. … It gives you a big picture view, and during the year I get the micro view of the organization," Baldelli said.
Here's some news from around the AL East…
- Sam Fuld is keeping the Rays in "the mix" as he decides his next contract, the outfielder tells Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times. "Would definitely be nice to be back if the opportunity is right," Fuld said, adding that he is "just waiting for the landscape to clear a bit." MLBTR's Zach Links reported last week that Fuld has been offered minor league deals from five teams, some of which have already been ruled out.
- The Yankees' plan to drastically overspend on the 2014-15 international free agent market is further explored by Scout.com's Kiley McDaniel, who explains why the Yankees are making this splash now and how they're exploiting this loophole in what McDaniel believes is a "broken" international spending system.
- There has been some speculation that the Red Sox could trade John Lackey, as the team is looking to move a veteran starter to make room for a younger arm. Trading Lackey would definitely be a sell-high move for Boston and they could command a strong return given Lackey's 2013 performance and his team-friendly contract, but MLB.com's Ian Browne doesn't "see any way the Red Sox will look to trade Lackey." That same team-friendly deal is also a boon to the Sox, Browne notes, and "barring a stunning development," Lackey will be on the Opening Day roster.
- In AL East news from earlier today on MLB Trade Rumors, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons' option for 2015 was guaranteed since he was still employed at the start of the calendar year, the Rays claimed southpaw Pedro Figueroa off waivers from the A's, and we shared a collection of Orioles notes.
In this week's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the Orioles owe it to their fans to take a shot at a championship by bolstering the roster. The O's moved Jim Johnson to save on his expected $10MM salary for 2014 but the nixing of Grant Balfour's deal leaves them without a proven closer. The Orioles, with a few fixes, could be exciting and fun to watch, but they need more if they want to win it all. More from this week's column..
- Cafardo cautions not to sleep on the Red Sox in the Masahiro Tanaka hunt and one AL scout says it’s the perfect time for the Red Sox to strike. “They have veteran pitchers in the final year or two years remaining on their deals,” he said. “They’ll be clearing out a lot of payroll soon. I know they feel they have good young pitching on the horizon, but Tanaka should be a very good No. 2 or No. 3 starter on any staff. I would think with their emphasis on pitching, they would get into it.” The Yankees, Cubs, Rangers, and Dodgers figure to be the most aggressive and the Angels, Phillies, Royals, and Blue Jays are expected to get into it.
- Will the Red Sox's experience with Daisuke Matsuzaka scare them off of Tanaka? “I don’t think that can enter their thinking. I’m sure they would have gone after Yu Darvish in retrospect,” said one National League GM.
- Cafardo recently spoke with a few GMs who feel the Yankees may wind up with Ubaldo Jimenez, even if they land Tanaka. “He had an excellent second half, has great stuff, and he has the type of personality that would fit New York,” one GM said. “He doesn’t let things get to him. He’s good at shrugging off things and turning the page.” If the Yankees ink both pitchers, it's pretty difficult to see them staying under the $189MM mark.
- Nelson Cruz is the best available free agent among position players, but his demand of four years at $75MM has turned off teams. While other PED guys such as Jhonny Peralta have cashed in, teams are worried that Cruz, who more relies on his power is of greater concern for teams who worry that being off the stuff could hurt his power numbers.
- John Lackey’s name has come up consistently this winter, but the Red Sox aren’t motivated to deal him. That could change, but the club is enthused about his $500K option for 2015.
- It'll be interesting to see if the Yankees can move Ichiro Suzuki given their crowded outfield. The Giants remain a possibility, Cafardo writes.
- The Dodgers could still trade from their outfield surplus. When it comes to Matt Kemp, of course, teams want to see how he rebounds from shoulder and ankle surgeries.
- With Brian McCann aboard and Francisco Cervelli as backup, Yankees catcher Austin Romine is very much available.
- Johan Santana is getting closer to making a decision on a minor league deal with a team. There’s been some speculation about the Twins since Santana still resides in Fort Myers, Fla., where the Twins have spring training. A small-market team such as the Astros could also have some interest.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Austin Romine | Boston Red Sox | Chicago Cubs | Houston Astros | Johan Santana | John Lackey | Kansas City Royals | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Masahiro Tanaka | Minnesota Twins | New York Yankees | Philadelphia Phillies | San Francisco Giants | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays
The news is coming in fast and furious today out of Orlando, where our own Steve Adams is on the scene. Here's the very latest out of the AL East..
- The Jarrod Saltalamacchia market remains quiet, but the Red Sox would take him back on a shorter deal, tweets Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. Meanwhile, Salty is looking for at least three to four years.
- More from Edes (link), who tweets that the Red Sox have used their time at the GM Meetings to gauge interest from clubs in their veteran starting pitchers, including John Lackey.
- A Yankees contingent, led by managing partner Hal Steinbrenner, met with the agents for Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew, Brian McCann and presumably other free agents at the GM Meetings, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Meanwhile, Steinbrenner has talked with Derek Jeter about the possibility of signing a starting shortstop and he is said to understand their position. The Bombers could be loaded with shortstop options in 2014: they like Drew and a possible signing of Brendan Ryan won't preclude them from making that happen.
- Scott Kazmir is high on the Orioles' list of free agent pitching candidates, tweets Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe.
- The Red Sox need a catcher but don't want to block their prospects so Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe (link) could see a two-year deal at a lofty rate for a backstop.
- Alex Speier of WEEI.com explained why Lackey's average annual value isn't calculated any differently as a result of the minimum salary that he will earn in 2015. A clause in Lackey's deal calls for him to make the minimum with the Red Sox in '15 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
- Check out this morning's collection of news out of the AL East.
There have been rumblings that the Red Sox have interest in signing Carlos Beltran, but the New York Post's Joel Sherman points out that there's a problem with that idea. Beltran's knee injuries mean he probably needs to move to the American League so he can play DH at least some of the time. But if he did so in Boston, he'd be getting in the way of David Ortiz. They could play Ortiz at first base a bit more frequently, but they would prefer not to given Ortiz's advanced age (and, presumably, his defensive deficiencies). They could also sign Beltran to play him for about 130 games a season in the outfield, but that raises the question of whether they would prefer to sign Beltran to a big-ticket contract to have him be, essentially, a part-time player. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- The Mets will meet with Scott Boras this week to discuss the possibility of signing Shin-Soo Choo and/or Stephen Drew, Newsday's David Lennon tweets. Lennon also notes that if the Mets acquire a new shortstop, one possibility for Ruben Tejada, who was disappointing in 2013, might be a move to second base. It's unclear what such a move might mean for Daniel Murphy, who was one of the Mets' better position players in 2013.
- If the Braves lose Tim Hudson via free agency, they could do worse than to look into John Lackey of the Red Sox, the Atlanta Journal Constitution's David O'Brien tweets. The Red Sox have Lackey signed for $15.25MM in 2014. They also have an option on his services for 2015 at a league-minimum salary, thanks to a contract clause that gave the Sox an extremely cheap option if Lackey's existing elbow injury caused him to miss significant time. After a strong season in 2013, two years and $15.75MM looks like a bargain, which means Lackey should have significant value if Boston chooses to deal him.