John Lackey Rumors
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.
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.
Free agents are not allowed to negotiate with all 30 MLB clubs until 11:01 pm (CT) Monday, but agent Scott Boras says his phone was ringing off the hook regarding Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew within hours of the Red Sox winning the World Series, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Yankees will be the most interesting team during free agency, according to Cafardo, but will be hamstrung until a decision is made on Alex Rodriguez's appeal. Cafardo also lists the Phillies, Tigers, Giants, Orioles, Blue Jays, and Rangers as active participants in the free agent market. In other tidbits from his Sunday Baseball Notes column:
- Both LA teams are interested in acquiring David Price from the Rays. The Angels may have a slight edge because they can put together package with bats like Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick while the Dodgers have an overstocked rotation.
- Joe Nathan should be of interest to both the Tigers and Yankees even though the latter seems to have settled on David Robertson as Mariano Rivera's replacement.
- There may be no better time for the Red Sox to trade John Lackey than right now.
- The Red Sox may consider re-signing Joel Hanrahan after he recovers from Tommy John surgery to provide protection for incumbent closer Koji Uehara.
- Franklin Gutierrez, whose $7.5MM club option was declined by the Mariners, is an intriguing player who can still perform at a high level when healthy. Staying healthy has been an issue for Gutierrez with six trips to the disabled list in the last four years.
- Johan Santana, whose $25MM club option was declined by the Mets, is another pretty good low-cost gamble.
While David Price has resigned himself to being traded, the Rays appear to be trying to figure out ways to make their ace the focal point of their pitching staff for many years to come, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Cafardo notes, however, the Rays' front office realizes it could be a losing battle, so a trade is likely with nearly half of baseball rumored to be interested in the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. "It's a big name, a big-time pitcher," one National League GM told Cafardo. "Even if you feel you don't need that level of pitcher, you look into it because he's so special and such a game changer. You do more than kick the tires. You try to make something happen, and I think you'll see teams that don't even need him step up." Here's more from Cafardo's column:
- The Red Sox will likely trade one of their veteran starters to make room for their young arms. Cafardo suggests Jon Lester and Jake Peavy could be available while Ryan Dempster, John Lackey, and Felix Doubront are also vulnerable.
- Jacoby Ellsbury is a perfect fit for the Mariners and Carlos Beltran likewise for the Orioles.
- Curtis Granderson will likely receive a qualifying offer from the Yankees and there's a strong possibility he would take it because he could post his biggest numbers at Yankee Stadium.
- The Dodgers will make Andre Ethier and/or Matt Kemp available this winter. Kemp will come with injury concerns, but that shouldn't prevent a team from taking a chance on his talent.
- James Loney has rebuilt his value with a strong season in Tampa (.299/.348/.430 with a 2.1 oWAR in 158 games and 598 plate appearances). Loney could find a market with the Rangers, if the Rays don't re-sign the free agent first baseman.
- Reds pitching coach Bryan Price appears to be the front-runner to replace Dusty Baker as manager in Cincinnati while Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr is in a strong position to take over from Davey Johnson, unless ownership wants a bigger name as its new manager.
If it is fair to label the Yankees' hot start as a surprise in spite of the team's history and payroll, then certainly the same should be said of the Red Sox. With a win today, the team noted in a press release, the Sox would move to an even 30-20, good for its best start since 2008. Let's check in on the team that sported the fourth-highest Opening Day payroll:
- Perhaps the biggest surprise in Boston is starter John Lackey, whose five-year, $82.5MM deal has long been viewed as a major drag on the organization. After a terrible 2011 season, Lackey missed 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Now, explains John Tomase of the Boston Herald, a "vintage" Lackey is back throwing in the mid-90's and hitting his spots. He has thrown to a 2.72 ERA over 39 2/3 innings this year, and is sporting an enviable 9.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. He is producing ground balls at a strong 53.6% clip, and his performance is backed up by a 2.92 FIP and 3.03 xFIP. While it remains unlikely that the Red Sox will ultimately get full value for their investment in the 34-year-old righty, the remainder of the deal is starting to look much more palatable. In addition to the $15.25MM Lackey will be paid this season, he is under contract for 2014 at a $15.25MM rate. More importantly, as Ben Goessling recently noted at ESPNBoston.com, Lackey's TJ procedure triggered a 2015 team option at the league minimum. In addition to generating cap and luxury tax benefits for the Sox, that option year could be an incredible bargain if Lackey maintains anything remotely close to his current performance.
- WEEI.com's Alex Speier wraps up his three-part look at Red Sox ownership and management by documenting changes in the relationship between the club's baseball operations department and its ownership/upper-management. He notes that principal owner John Henry, in particular, has been increasingly assertive. According to Henry, "Over time, I've become less of a chain-of-command guy because the issues in professional sports have become so financially oriented -- there aren't that many issues that don't have a financial component that are of real substance. Having a stronger presence, in my view, was needed. I'm more hands-on than I was." I recommend a full read of this piece, along with the first two segments, as there is much more valuable material than can be passed along here.
- One benefit of Boston's miserable 2012 season, writes Tim Britton of the Providence Journal, is that the club will have its first top-15 selection in the amateur draft in fifteen years. Sitting at number seven, Boston will have an opportunity to score a talented youngster to go with the high-upside prospects (and massive salary relief) that it picked up last season in last year's stunning blockbuster trade with the Dodgers. Past years have seen such impact big leaguers as Prince Fielder, Troy Tulowitzki, Clayton Kershaw, and Matt Harvey snagged with the seventh choice. While Britton discusses the possibility of the Sox going after an arm, several recent mock drafts have the Red Sox landing a bat, such as North Carolina's Colin Moran or Georgia high schooler Clint Frazier.
The Dodgers lead the NL West by the slimmest of margins (half a game) over the Giants, but their American League counterpart isn’t so well-positioned. The Angels are just two games above .500 after losing four games in a row and they’re now 4.5 games behind the Wild Card leaders. Here's the latest on Los Angeles' two teams...
- Catcher A.J. Ellis explains how this year's trade deadline unfolded from the point of view of the Dodgers’ players in a guest column at Buster Olney's ESPN.com blog. Ellis acknowledges that players refresh MLBTR in search of news as the trade deadline approaches. "Few of us would admit to religiously checking websites like MLBTradeRumors and Twitter feeds looking for rumors, but we do," he writes.
- Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times would not be surprised if the Angels try to engage the Red Sox in trade talks about a possible John Lackey for Vernon Wells deal this offseason (Twitter links). Wells, who has $42MM on his contract after 2012, could be a fit in Fenway Park, DiGiovanna writes. Lackey, who pitched in Anaheim from 2002-09, has $30.5MM remaining on his contract after 2012.
- The trade that sent Zack Greinke to Anaheim hasn't worked out as well as expected for the Angels, Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel writes. Greinke has a 6.19 ERA in five starts since being traded.
- Boston has yet to make a contract offer to David Ortiz but the sides are expected to speak soon, possibly tomorrow, a source familiar with the talks told Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald.
- The Red Sox will begin to interview managerial candidates early this week, starting with Pete Mackanin and Dale Sveum, according to WEEI's Rob Bradford.
- With Bud Selig looking more likely to intervene in discussions between the Red Sox and Cubs on Theo Epstein compensation, ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider link) predicts that the Sox won't get much for their former GM. Olney writes that the league has attempted to "tamp down the perceived value of executives," and that a huge return for Epstein wouldn't be consistent with those efforts.
- A source tells Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald that the Red Sox attempted to convince John Lackey to get Tommy John surgery as early as April, but the right-hander refused.
- In his weekly column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo surveys executives and evaluators, asking whether a club might sign David Ortiz to play first base this winter. The answers ranged from "no way" to "he's athletic enough to be able to pull it off."
- From the team's perspective, there's no rush to try to lock up Jacoby Ellsbury to a long-term extension, argues Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.