Johnny Cueto Rumors

New York Notes: Drew, Refsnyder, Lagares

Here’s the latest from both Big Apple teams…

  • Despite Stephen Drew‘s struggles, ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand writes that the Yankes may not address second base in any major way at the trade deadline due to a lack of clear upgrades on the market.  Rob Refsnyder has shown defensive improvement at Triple-A and could be called up to supplant Jose Pirela, yet it’s possible Refsnyder himself could be trade bait; he has some prospect value but he isn’t one of the “top tier guys” in the Yankee farm system.
  • From that same piece, Marchand also notes that the Yankees aren’t likely to obtain an ace starter like Johnny Cueto or Cole Hamels “unless prices drop significantly.”
  • The Yankees are only a season and a half removed from handing more than $500MM in free agent contracts to Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka, yet the early returns are still inconclusive at best, Marchand and Wallace Matthews write.  Beltran hasn’t shown much, McCann struggled in 2014 but has hit well this season, and Ellsbury and Tanaka have both looked good when healthy but still have injury question marks hanging over them.  While there’s still plenty of time for the quartet to live up to their big contracts, this uncertainty in the early years of their contracts (when each, save Beltran, should still be in or close to their primes) isn’t an encouraging sign.
  • The Mets have struggled badly against right-handed pitching this season, a problem that Joel Sherman of the New York Post blames on “front office negligence” and a “refusal to churn — to aggressively try to upgrade even marginally” for quality left-handed bench depth.  Juan Lagares has been particularly ineffective against righty pitching, and Sherman lists five players (Brock Holt, Gerardo Parra, David Peralta, Seth Smith and Will Venable) he feels would be good options as platoon partners with Lagares in center field.  Of that group, I highly doubt the Red Sox would deal the versatile Holt and Smith’s contract is likely too expensive for the Mets’ seemingly limited payroll.
  • If Mets GM Sandy Alderson is indeed “prepared to overpay” for a hitting upgrade, ESPN’s Buster Olney (via Twitter) wonders if the team could shop Zack Wheeler to an American League team.  The Mets already have a plethora of young rotation options and Wheeler could be seen as expendable.  An interested team would be making “a futures bet,” as Olney puts it, since Wheeler is out of action until roughly the middle of 2016 recovering from both Tommy John and tendon surgeries.

Red Sox Prioritizing Young Arms Controlled Beyond 2015 In Trades

Rumors connecting the Red Sox and Cole Hamels have been circulating for months, with the lack of an ace atop their rotation being a common refrain. However, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that Hamels and fellow established ace Johnny Cueto are unlikely candidates for the Sox, as their top priority heading into the trade deadline is to target younger arms that are under control beyond the 2015 season. Neither Cueto nor Hamels fits that mold, as Cueto is a free agent at season’s end and Hamels is 31 years of age.

The Red Sox are looking at both starters and relievers in their search for pitching, according to Bradford, which widens the array of possible trade targets even further. There’s little sense in speculating which arms will land on Boston’s wish list, though recent reports have indicated that one pitcher who meets this criteria, Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray, is off limits as the deadline nears. Assistant GM David Forst said point blank in a recent radio appearance (h/t: CSN Bay Area’s Joe Stiglich): Sonny Gray‘s not going anywhere.”

Boston has employed this approach recently, acquiring young starters Joe Kelly and Wade Miley in separate trades over the past calendar year, though the results have been mixed, at best. Miley got off to a rough start in his tenure as a member of the Red Sox, but he’s been very good since May 1, working to a 3.41 ERA in 68 2/3 innings. The results for Kelly haven’t been as promising; the former Cardinal has a 4.96 ERA in 24 starts with the Sox due to shaky control and a hittable fastball, all of which contributed to the decision to option the hard-throwing righty to Triple-A Pawtucket last month.

GM Ben Cherington and his staff will have multiple avenues to explore in an attempt to achieve this goal. As we saw last July, the Sox moved veteran righty John Lackey in order to acquire Kelly along with first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig. In the offseason, Miley was acquired for young righties Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa. Boston’s been willing to deal from its farm system and its Major League roster in order to pull in this type of pitcher, and the front office should again be able to go either route. The Sox have a rich, if somewhat depleted farm system that includes the likes of Manuel Margot, Henry Owens, Garin Cecchini, Brian Johnson and Rafael Devers, among others. Similarly, however, there are veteran pieces on the team that would figure to fetch a nice return. Clay Buchholz has been outstanding of late, and late-inning righties Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa have both performed well in 2015. Perhaps none of those names could fetch a premier young arm on their own, but any could be paired with young talent to facilitate a deal.

Boston also has the type of Major League ready talent that many clubs covet around the diamond. We’ve heard multiple times that Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Blake Swihart are each likely untouchable, but perhaps the Sox would reconsider if a tantalizing enough pitcher were to be dangled from a trade partner. Other MLB-ready pieces that may be easier to acquire could include Jackie Bradley Jr. and Deven Marrero, both of whom are appealing but likely have lower ceilings than the aforementioned young talent.

Boston is currently 36-44, placing them last in the AL East and seven behind the Orioles for the division lead. Of course, the entire AL East is essentially up for grabs, with the Orioles, Yankees, Blue Jays and Rays all separated by only a game and a half in the standings.


Astros Targeting Cueto Over Hamels

In recent weeks, the Astros have been connected to Phillies ace Cole Hamels, but it doesn’t sound as though he’s their top pitching target.  Instead, it’s Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto that is atop Houston’s wish list, according to sources who spoke with Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.

One of the main reasons for their preference of Cueto over Hamels is that the Astros are seeking out a 2015 rental or possibly someone whose contract runs for one more year.  With a hefty contract that runs through 2018, Hamels simply doesn’t fit the bill.  Cueto, meanwhile, is only owed the prorated portion of his 2015 salary of $10MM, which is a little over $5MM the rest of the way.  Hamels, meanwhile, is set to earn the balance of his $22.5MM salary for the remainder of this season, $22.5MM in the next three seasons, and a $20MM option/$6MM buyout that can vest with good health and a certain number of innings pitched.

For his part, Hamels recently indicated that he would be “open-minded” to being traded to any team, including the Astros.  Instead, it sounds like Houston has their attention focused on the Reds’ pitching, where other suitors include the Dodgers, Yankees, and Blue Jays, a source tells Drellich.  All in all, Drellich hears that the Phillies have been pumping up the perception of the Astros’ interest as negotiating leverage in talks about Hamels.

The Astros are casting a wide net in their effort to add a solid starter to their rotation to go with Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Vincent Velasquez, and Lance McCullers.  In addition to Cueto and Mike Leake, the Astros are doing their homework on A’s lefty Scott Kazmir, Brewers right-handers Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse, and White Sox right-hander Jeff Samardzija.



Cafardo On Buchholz, Samardzija, Cueto, Hamels

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe pit Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts against Tigers shorstop Jose Iglesias.  Of course, Boston once had both, but Iglesias was shipped out in 2013 in a three-team deal that brought Jake Peavy to Fenway.  Bogaerts offers more potential as a hitter, but Iglesias clearly has the superior glove.  That difference in the field never made Bogaerts doubt himself, however.

No, that’s just a guy who’s really gifted beyond anyone else,” Bogaerts said. “I just paid attention to trying to get better. I never compared myself to him because you can’t compare anyone to him. He’s a great defensive player and flashy.”

More from today’s column..

  • The same teams that are pursuing Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz are going after White Sox hurler Jeff Samardzija.  That list of teams includes the Royals, Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays, Yankees, Cardinals, Orioles, Angels, and Dodgers, according to Cafardo.  Late last week, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the Astros are also interested in Samardzija.  Meanwhile, at this time, the Red Sox reportedly are not interested in moving Buchholz.
  • The Astros are a team to watch in July as they could get very aggressive in their pursuit of a starter.  Cafardo hears that the Astros have been evaluating Reds pitchers Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake quite a bit.  Cole Hamels obviously stands as one of the biggest prizes out there, but Cafardo feels he likely wouldn’t sign off on a trade to Houston.  Over the weekend, Hamels indicated that he would be “open-minded” to being traded to any team.
  • Giants GM Bobby Evans told Cafardo that his club is out of the starting pitching market for now thanks to the upcoming returns of Matt Cain and Jake Peavy.
  • The Phillies would like to sell off their pieces little by little rather than make a ton of deals right at the deadline.  However, Cafardo hears that teams aren’t coming to the table with actual offers yet, leaving the Phillies frustrated.
  • Baseball execs who spoke with Cafardo say the Mets are still the best match for Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.  A package for Tulo could start with left-hander Steven Matz, who makes his big league debut today.
  • Even at his advanced age, one NL evaluator feels that Phillies veteran Carlos Ruiz is still “a better option than “more than 50 percent of the catchers in the league.”
  • Some teams are concerned with Hamels’ poor performance in interleague play while others see it just as a fluky thing.  Hamels has a career 4.73 ERA across 31 interleague starts.

Royals Showing Interest In Cueto, Leake, Zobrist

The Royals are casting a wide net in their search for upgrades on the trade market and have shown signs of interest in Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Ben Zobrist, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter).

The Reds have, in fact, received inquiries from multiple clubs on Cueto, Leake and Aroldis Chapman, Morosi continues, but Cincinnati is still reluctant to engage in serious trade discussions despite sitting 12.5 games back in the NL Central. Likewise, Morosi’s colleague, Ken Rosenthal, hears that the A’s are in no rush to move Zobrist, as the team is still trying to get back into the race (Twitter link). Rosenthal adds that it’s not entirely clear if the Royals have inquired on Zobrist specifically, but they’ve discussed upgrading at second base, making Zobrist a logical target.

Many pundits feel that while a sale of veteran pieces is only a matter of time for the Reds, they’ll wait until after hosting next month’s All-Star Game before doing so. It would, after all, be a bitter pill to swallow for Cincinnati natives to watch Cueto and Chapman pitch in the All-Star Game while wearing another club’s jersey.

On last week’s MLBTR Podcast, Jeff Todd and I discussed the Reds’ trade possibilities at length. I posited that given the sheer volume of appealing pieces the team could trade, it’s possible that Cincinnati could enjoy a Braves-esque turnaround by willingly listening to offers on not only Cueto, Chapman and Leake, but also Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier.

As for the Athletics, their reluctance to throw in the towel has been noted before, but the team remains 10 games under .500 and 10 games out of first in the AL West even after going 17-11 over the past month. They’re a slightly more manageable eight games back from a second consecutive Wild Card playoff berth, but there’s a clear uphill battle for the A’s to become serious contenders again.

From the Royals’ standpoint, it’s not hard to see why they’d be interested in an upgrade at second base. Setting aside the avalanche of Omar Infante/All-Star jokes already pouring in on Twitter, Kansas City second basemen have combined to hit a woeful .230/.248/.307 this season. Of course, Infante is owed a significant $22.01MM through the end of the 2017 season. (That number will rise by $500K if he does indeed start the All-Star game.)

A rotation upgrade would seem sensible for Royals GM Dayton Moore as well; the Kansas City rotation has produced just a 4.37 ERA this season (21st in the league), and metrics such as FIP and xFIP feel that’s a pretty fair indicator of what to expect based on the talent the Royals are working with. Just three pitchers have made 10 or more starts for the Royals this year, and two of them are Yordano Ventura and Jeremy Guthrie, who have posted respective ERAs of 4.68 and 5.55. Both Cueto and Leake, then, stand out as logical trade targets for the first-place Royals, while on the Oakland side of the equation, names like Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez could come into play. Cueto, Leake and Kazmir are all free agents at season’s end, where the late-blooming and somewhat unheralded Chavez is controllable through the 2016 season.


Trade Notes: Taylor, Cueto, Cards, Indians, Rangers, White Sox

The Nationals and Athletics have matched up on trade deadline rentals (and other deals) with some frequency of late, and the clubs have reportedly discussed both Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard this year. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports, nothing has gained significant traction as of yet. Oakland has expressed interest in young Nats outfielder Michael Taylor, who has found himself playing a significant role on the club this year as a fill-in for Denard Span (to start the year) and Jayson Werth (currently on the DL). The A’s have also asked about the Nats’ young arms, per Rosenthal, who argues that the Taylor ask suggests that Oakland GM Billy Beane could be looking to “operate as both a buyer and seller” this summer. From my perspective, looking to add an unpolished but big-league-ready and controllable piece like Taylor is to be expected, whether or not Beane thinks his club has enough time to get back in contention this season. I’d also add that the Nats seem unlikely to move Taylor with Span set to hit free agency after the season.

Here are some more notes on the trade market:

  • The Yankees are getting a good look at Reds starter Johnny Cueto, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. New York has sent a scout to watch both of Cueto’s last two starts, per the report. Of course, they surely are not alone in dedicating attention to the player who could be the best arm available this July.
  • Though he doesn’t call for a trade directly, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch breaks down the flaws in the Cardinals bench alignment. In particular, utility infielder Pete Kozma has struggled badly at the plate for some time. And the team’s resources have been stretched somewhat with Mark Reynolds needed to fill in for the injured Matt Adams. Certainly, as the team looks to fortify itself for a stretch run and hopeful post-season berth, reserve players could be on the wish list.
  • The Indians remain in a somewhat uncertain position in a tough AL Central; entering today’s action, the team remains four games under .500 and eight back in the division. In an appearance on MLB Network Radio (Twitter link), Cleveland GM Chris Antonetti certainly sounded more like a buyer. “We’re still learning about our team,” he said. “We’re still trying to find out where we’ll need to supplement.”
  • In his own recent MLB Network Radio spot several days ago (via Twitter), Rangers GM Jon Daniels explained that he is preparing to take a hard look at the trade market. “If someone out there can help us, we have to be open-minded,” said Daniels. “We’ll evaluate our own guys first and go from there.” As both of these executive quotes indicate, one somewhat underappreciated factor in the slow onset of serious trades is the fact that many clubs are interested in obtaining an extended look at multiple internal options — all while seeing how other teams’ players are performing — before deciding whether to part with assets.
  • The White Sox are in an even tougher spot than their division rivals from Cleveland, but GM Rick Hahn emphasized that the team is still focused on crawling back into contention, as Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reports. “The organization still absolutely believes in this team,” Hahn said. “The focus on the ballgames and the belief we will win ballgames is there.” Of course, as Levine rightly notes, the best way to get back in the hunt — improved performance — is also the optimal means of building trade value. Hahn went on to explain that he had no interest in giving public insight into the team’s strategic thinking. “Do we have thoughts on potential moves to reinvigorate the 2015 club and put us in a better position to contend going forward? Absolutely,” said Hahn. “As for the timing or the nature of those moves, that is not something that we will lay out in advance.”
  • ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark lays out his top ten targets, rating Cole Hamels of the Phillies as the biggest trade piece. One executive tells Stark that Hamels has probably increased his value over the first few months of the season, though of course he is out right now with what is hoped to be a relatively minor hamstring issue. Teams that have had contact with the Phils are indicating that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is still insisting on young players that possible buyers have said they’re not willing to move. One source tells Stark that a “more creative” approach will be needed to get something done. Amaro has obviously taken a lot of heat for his handling of the team’s trade chips, though at this point it is probably best to withhold judgment; after all, Hamels is a somewhat unique trade commodity given his large but manageable contract, and a bidding war remains a plausible scenario.

New York Notes: Cueto, Leake, Phillies, Mets

Here’s the latest from the Big Apple…

  • The Yankees had a scout watching Johnny Cueto‘s last start, and George A. King III of the New York Post reports that same scout (Jeff Datz) also saw Mike Leake pitch the next day for the Reds.  King adds that Cincinnati has also been scouting the Yankees’ farm system, and he speculates that prospects like Mason Williams, Ramon Flores and Bryan Mitchell could interest the Reds as part of a package for one of the two starting pitchers.  The Reds are sure to ask about top prospects Luis Severino and Aaron Judge, though King doubts the Yankees would move either for Cueto or Leake since both hurlers are free agents this winter.
  • Also from King, the Phillies had scouts watching the Yankees/Orioles game on Sunday.  King isn’t sure the Yankees would want to either cover Cole Hamels‘ substantial remaining contract or give up the prospects Philadelphia wants for the ace southpaw.  Some in the industry believe Hamels is an ideal fit for the Orioles, who have received some shaky outings from their rotation this season.
  • The perception of the Mets around the league is that they won’t be willing to take on salary in midseason trades, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (subscription required).  Club ownership also hasn’t given any indication that it’s willing to extend payroll.  It “makes no sense” to Olney that the Mets wouldn’t be willing to spend on some needed reinforcements for what looks like a playoff contender.
  • The Mets have been rumored to be exploring infield upgrades, though they may have found an internal solution in Dilson Herrera.  Manager Terry Collins told reporters (including Adam Rubin of ESPN New York) that Herrera is likely to retain the starting second base job once Daniel Murphy returns from the DL next week.  This would mean that Murphy would play third, which would address the Mets’ need at the hot corner with David Wright out of action.

AL East Notes: Sox, Cueto, Parmelee, Reimold

It was only a couple of weeks ago that the AL East boasted only one team with a winning record.  Now, the Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays are over the .500 mark and the Orioles are right on the line with an even 31-31 record.  The only team yet to turn things around are the Red Sox, who have lost six in a row to drop to 27-37 on the season (tied with the Marlins for the fourth-worst record in baseball).  Here’s some news from around the division…

  • Though the Red Sox have continued to struggle, manager John Farrell and GM Ben Cherington “remain safe for now,” Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports.  Earlier this month, owner John Henry said both men were in no danger of being fired.
  • The Red Sox, Yankees and Tigers each had a scout at Johnny Cueto‘s last start, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi reports (Twitter links).  As Morosi notes, it’s hard to see Boston buying at the trade deadline given their current record, and Cueto isn’t a fit on a non-contender since he’s only under contract through 2015.
  • Chris Parmelee is thought to have a June 15 opt-out date in his minor league deal with the Orioles, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (via Twitter).  Parmelee, owner of a .709 OPS over 901 PA with the Twins from 2011-14, took a .319/.388/.454 slash line over 260 Triple-A plate appearances into today’s action.  If the Orioles don’t promote Parmelee and he opts for free agency, Rosenthal lists the Rays as a team that could be interested the first baseman/outfielder’s services.
  • Nolan Reimold‘s agent and some family members thought a “fresh start” might be best for the outfielder rather than rejoining the Orioles last offseason, but he tells MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski that he wanted to return to Baltimore.  Reimold signed a minor league deal with the O’s and returned to the bigs last Tuesday, already delivering two homers and a 1.232 OPS over his first 16 plate appearances.

California Notes: Dipoto, Ethier, Giants

Months ago, the Angels exercised their 2016 option on GM Jerry Dipoto’s contract, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets. That news had not been reported until now. The option is the last one on Dipoto’s original contract, a three-year deal that included two options. That the organization has not extended Dipoto to this point might or might not be notable. The Angels have not always quite lived up to lofty expectations in the last few seasons, and Dipoto’s tenure has been shaped in part by an unfortunate contract and ugly dispute with Josh Hamilton (which, to be fair, were both at least partially the fault of owner Arte Moreno), but the team is coming off a 98-win 2014 campaign. Here are more notes from the West Coast.

  • Outfielder Andre Ethier has reestablished himself this year after a winter in which the Dodgers couldn’t trade him, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register writes. “I don’t think anybody wanted me either,” says Ethier. “It takes two to tango like in a lot of things. … At the same time, maybe they knew what they were doing. Maybe the reason it didn’t happen was because they were asking more than other teams were willing to give.” Now, Ethier is in the midst of a resurgent .287/.369/.506 season, and Plunkett points out that, as the dollars remaining on Ethier’s contract continue to shrink (he’s currently owed about $49MM more through 2017, including a buyout for 2018), it might become a lot easier for the Dodgers to trade him than it was last winter.
  • Giants executives Brian Sabean and Lee Elder were on hand to watch today’s Reds/Cubs game in Chicago, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes (all Twitter links). As Rosenthal points out, the natural conclusion is that Sabean and Elder were in town to watch Reds starter Johnny Cueto — Cueto will be a sought-after trade target this summer, and the Giants need rotation help. It could be, though, that the pair were at Wrigley for other reasons.
  • Giants outfielder Hunter Pence is headed to the disabled list with wrist tendinitis, as Rosenthal tweets. Pence has not played since June 2, so he should be able to return within a week if he’s ready. To take Pence’s place on the active roster, the Giants selected the contract of righty Mike Broadway today after promoting an outfielder, Jarrett Parker, earlier this week.

Trade Market Notes: Top Targets, Papelbon, Jays, Mets, Cueto

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com ranks the top forty trade candidates around the league, adding observations and notes on each. Though he notes that clubs like the Red Sox and Orioles could potentially end up moving assets, Heyman restricts things to clubs that seem more likely than not to sell at this point. Cole Hamels of the Phillies lands in the pole position; though some top suitors remain unwilling to part with the top players targeted by Philadelphia, one GM tells Heyman that the club will probably be able to land a premium prospect for the lefty. He also argues that a deal involving Dodgers outfielder and Angels starter C.J. Wilson looks good on paper, though the teams have not discussed such an arrangement. You’ll need to read the whole post to take it all in, of course.

  • The Blue Jays and Phillies have not discussed Jonathan Papelbon in the last week, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (Twitter links), adding that Toronto is looking at other arms at the moment. One name to watch, says Sherman, is Tyler Clippard of the Athletics, who Toronto had in-depth discussions about over the winter.
  • It’s academic at this point, but Clippard also drew significant interest from the Astros over the offseason, Sherman further tweets. Indeed, Houston was “very close” to acquiring the veteran reliever, says Sherman, which raises the interesting question of what the Nationals would have received in return. Ultimately, the club took infielder Yunel Escobar in return, though that deal did not occur until a month after the Astros had already spent big on free agent bullpen arms, which could indicate that the prospective Clippard acquisition might have been contemplated earlier in the winter.
  • Mets GM Sandy Alderson indicated that the club will not rely on a return from David Wright in making its summer moves, David Lennon of Newsday writes. Alderson said the club would not continue providing regular updates on Wright’s status, and said he would not be restricted in making moves. “Would we consider a third baseman who can’t do anything else?” Alderson queried. “Under the circumstances, yeah, we probably would. But we’re not just looking for any third baseman. It has to be something we think is an improvement that doesn’t cost us significantly.” The veteran GM continued to throw cold water on the idea of a move in the near-term, noting that the market was “narrow” and generally features underperforming players at this stage.
  • C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer discusses the Reds‘ current predicament, with Zack Cozart out for the season, Devin Mesoraco likely to join him in that regard, and Marlon Byrd sidelined for a significant stretch. Cincinnati should not allow its hosting of the All-Star game to slow its efforts to deal Johnny Cueto, opines Rosecrans, who suggests that the team could reap a larger reward by moving him now (both by selling more starts and, perhaps, by getting ahead of the market). Dealing Cueto, of course, would also increase the appeal of shipping out Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman. Rosecrans concludes: “At this point, the organization doesn’t need to think about the All-Star Game, or even 2016. This is a long-term move and needs long-term thinking.”
  • Though he’s a rental, Cueto is a true ace and should bring back a healthy return — even if it won’t be near what the Reds might have achieved last year (as Rosecrans explains). There should be no shortage of suitors, but MLB.com’s Phil Rogers lists the five most plausible landing spots: the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Dodgers, Rangers, and Padres.