Johnny Cueto Rumors

Cafardo On Roster Size, Cueto, Moncada, Maddon

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe opines baseball needs to expand its roster and suggests a 28-man limit with 25 eligible on game day. MLB spokesman Pat Courtney told Cafardo there have been discussions about roster expansion, but nothing has advanced. There are obstacles with increased salaries and insurances costs, but those issues, according to Cafardo, are outweighed by the 162-game schedule becoming too much for a player’s body to handle. Cafardo also proposes baseball convene a panel of players who avoided the disabled list throughout their careers to determine if there are any patterns to their remaining healthy.

In other items from Cafardo’s Sunday Baseball Notes column:

  • According to one GM, Johnny Cueto “will get a Max Scherzer deal” if the Reds right-hander can put together a 15-20-win season. Cueto ranks fifth on MLBTR’s 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings list.
  • The Yankees were given the opportunity to top the Red Sox‘s $31.5MM offer to Yoan Moncada, but declined. “We scouted him extensively for years,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. “I feel we put him through the highest level of scouting and medical evaluation. I just wasn’t comfortable offering what we actually offered ($25MM), let alone going any higher.
  • For now, the Red Sox will play Moncada at second base, but his eventual position will depend on Boston’s needs in the next couple of years.
  • The tampering allegation made by the Rays over the Cubs‘ hiring of Joe Maddon is still alive.
  • The Red Sox are showcasing Jemile Weeks, likely ticketed for Triple-A, as a super utility player and may be able sell fairly high on him with the Tigers one of the teams in the market for such a player.

 


NL Notes: Cueto, Pagan, Mets Pen, Bryant

Reds GM Walt Jocketty said today that the club has “had some discussions” on an extension with representatives of ace Johnny Cueto in an interview on MLB Network Radio (audio link). Noting that pitching salaries continue to rise, Jocketty said that he could not give “any odds” on how likely a new deal was, though he noted that the team is “still trying” and indicated that both sides hope to continue their relationship. Cueto, of course, is set to hit the free agent market after the season.

Here’s more from the National League:

  • Giants skipper Bruce Bochy says he is “a little concerned” about the injury status of center fielder Angel Pagan, Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com tweets“I think we need to be [concerned],” said Bochy. “I think we need to be. he had back surgery, now he’s hit a bump in the road.” With Hunter Pence already set to miss a good bit of time to start the year, any time missed from Pagan would stretch the club’s outfield depth. That could increase the urgency to make an addition, though a recent report suggests that the team has not been actively searching for another outfielder.
  • Mets manager Terry Collins had some less-than-promising things to say about the state of the club’s bullpen, as Marc Carig of Newsday reports (links to Twitter). The most prominent issue, of course, is the question of matching up against opposing lefties now that Josh Edgin is out for the year. Collins also mentioned concern with Vic Black‘s ability to return from shoulder issues in time for Opening Day, though Black himself evidently does not see it as quite so large an issue. “We’ve been … telling everybody that we didn’t have to rebuild our bullpen,” said Collins. “Right now, we’re in the process of rebuilding it.” In spite of those comments, it would be surprising to see the club do anything to add a new arm other than searching for additional left-handed help.
  • Top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant has handled the simmering controversy over his promotion timeline quite professionally, by all appearances. While praising the organization, and his agent, Bryant does say that he feels he’s received “mixed messages,” as Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “I’m hearing from my teammates that they want me up and I’m doing well and everybody’s telling me I’m progressing well,” said Bryant. He continued to note that he “took … to heart” the team’s message to players that roster spots could be earned in the spring.
  • Of course, the underlying service time rules at play are the larger issue in the Bryant matter, and it is rather difficult to dream up alternative systems that would really change the analysis for teams in a mutually agreeable way. ESPN.com’s Keith Law weighs in (subscription required) to offer a unique solution: when a team puts a true rookie on the active roster to start the year, and the player then reaches exactly six years of service, that player gets a special one-year form of free agency in which any team may make a single-season offer but his current team gets the choice to match the high bid. Law posits that this approach would encourage teams to go ahead and add their best prospects to the roster, comforted by the knowledge that they can still maximize team control — even if it ultimately comes at a (potentially much) higher cost in the final season. That proposal would obviously create quite an interesting new wrinkle in the market.

NL Central Links: Bryant, Cueto, Burnett

Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is baseball’s best prospect, as per Baseball America’s newly-released list of the top 100 prospects in the game.  Since being drafted second overall in 2013, Bryant has put up an extraordinary .331/.431/.673 slash line and 58 homers in 832 minor league plate appearances, which includes an 1.036 OPS in 297 PA at the Triple-A level last season.  The Cubs placed six players on the top 100 list overall, including four in the top 19 (Kyle Schwarber at #19, Jorge Soler at #12) and two in the top three, as shortstop Addison Russell was ranked in the #3 spot.

Here’s the latest from around the NL Central…

  • There’s nothing new to report” about Johnny Cueto‘s extension negotiations with the Reds, agent Bryce Dixon told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer in a text message. Dixon said in a text message.  “Johnny’s excited for camp and optimistic about the season and wants to be a Red, so nothing’s changed on our end.”  Cueto reiterated to reporters today that he wants to stay in Cincinnati but is focusing on his Spring Training preparations rather than contract talks.
  • If the Reds can’t extend Cueto before he hits free agency next winter, the question then becomes whether the team will be competitive enough to avoid having to trade Cueto before the July deadline, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince writes.
  • A.J. Burnett made it clear to Pirates GM Neal Huntington that he only wanted to pitch for the Bucs next season, which almost made their negotiation “odd,” Huntington tells FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.  Burnett declined a $12.75MM player option with the Phillies to sign a one-year, $8.5MM deal to return to Pittsburgh, and finding the appropriate dollar figure was difficult.  “The last thing we wanted to do was insult him,” Huntington said. “At the same time, every dollar we can save in every contract we can re-allocate to another player who can make us deeper, a better club.  It was almost a little bit more challenging to approach that negotiation vs. a negotiation where you know you’re competing against prior comparable contracts or other players on the market.”  Also in the piece, Burnett talks to Rosenthal about how he missed his Pirates teammates and how he decided that 2015 will be his last season.
  • In other NL Central news from earlier today on MLBTR, Pedro Alvarez won his arbitration case against the Pirates, and the Cardinals and John Lackey haven’t made any headway on a new contract.


Quick Hits: Cueto, Leake, Papelbon, Stewart

An international draft is often pitched as the answer to big-market teams cornering the market on top international prospects, though Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron (writing for FOXSports.com) proposes that a firmer spending cap tied to Major League payroll would be a better solution. The proposal extends so far as to abolish the North American first-year player draft, giving smaller-revenue clubs a clearer path to acquiring young talent and giving prospects more freedom in choosing their future employers. Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • During an interview (hat tip to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon) on MLB Network’s “Hot Stove” show, Reds GM Walt Jocketty said that his team is still trying to extend Johnny Cueto. “With Johnny, we’ll never say ‘never.’ We are going to do everything we can to try and come up with some sort of plan to keep him,” Jocketty said. “I’m not sure we’ll be able to, because the numbers are obviously starting to skyrocket and it’s very tough in our market to continue to retain guys at a high price like that. We’ll continue to work on that and see where it comes out.” As last we heard earlier this month, the two sides had reportedly made little progress on an extension that would keep Cueto from free agency next winter.
  • Beyond Cueto, Mike Leake is also eligible for free agency after the 2015 season. Jocketty said the Reds kept Leake due to his consistency, and “We’ll see what we can do with him in the future as well” in terms of an extension.
  • Ruben Amaro thinks Jonathan Papelbonprobably will” still be a Phillie when Spring Training camp opens, though the GM told Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News that the closer’s status “could change. We’re still having discussions on a couple different fronts with regard to the players we have.” Papelbon has drawn a lot of trade buzz in recent days, with the Brewers rumored to be the favorites to acquire the stopper while the Blue Jays are longer-shot candidates.
  • The Diamondbacks haven’t made any progress in negotiations with Mark Trumbo and Addison Reed and it seems like both players’ cases will go to arbitration, GM Dave Stewart tells MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. A $1.6MM gap separates Trumbo and the Snakes ($6.9MM to $5.3MM) while Reed and the team are $900K apart ($5.6MM to $4.7MM).
  • Baseball America has released its 2015 ranking of the top ten prospects in each team’s farm system. More scouting information is available to BA subscribers.

Quick Hits: Orioles, Ogando, Santana, Reds

The Orioles could be preparing for Delmon Young to play more next season, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. “Delmon Young is an accomplished major league hitter who had a nice year with a lot of clutch hits in part-time duty in 2014,” texts Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette. “We look forward to his return and contribution on our 2015 team. Depending on how the team is structured, he could have a more vital role this season.” Playing the right-handed Young more regularly could help make up for the loss of Nelson Cruz, although the Orioles continue to look at the left-handed Colby Rasmus as well, with an Orioles source telling Encina the odds that the team will sign him are “50-50.” Here are more notes from around baseball.

  • About two dozen teams were expected to be on hand for Alexi Ogando‘s showcase yesterday in Tampa, tweets Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons. Ogando, 31, was non-tendered by the Rangers this offseason after he missed much of the 2014 campaign with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Although he had a rough time in 2014 with an ERA near 7.00, Ogando entered the season with a career 3.12 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 381 innings split between the Rangers’ rotation and bullpen. Given his track record of success as both a starter and reliever, it’s not surprising that more than two-thirds of the team in the league would want to get a look at him to gauge his health for themselves.
  • Johan Santana is again plotting a comeback, and ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick updates his progress. The lefty is preparing to appear in a Venezuelan winter league game and hopes to sign before camp opens, agent Peter Greenberg says.
  • Reds GM Walt Jocketty didn’t want to handicap the odds of his club signing ace Johnny Cueto to an extension prior to his specified Opening Day deadline when asked by MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Jocketty says the Cincinnati front office has a lot on its plate right now, with arbitration cases for Mike Leake, Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier, Aroldis Chapman and Zack Cozart on the horizon. The Reds are also still pursuing upgrades for the bench and bullpen — a process Jocketty referred to as “slow.” Sheldon feels that given the Reds’ full 40-man roster, the most likely scenario would be a few additions on minor league deals with invites to big league camp.

NL Central Notes: Kang, Cueto, Garrett, Reds, Cards

Alan Nero, the agent for Korean shortstop Jung-ho Kang, is confident that his client will reach a deal with the Pirates, he tells Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Nero described the negotiation process as positive and said that GM Neal Huntington has “tried very hard to basically come to the table with an offer.” Brink notes that Kang could begin the season in a bench role, providing insurance in case Neil Walker‘s back continues to be problematic or in case Jordy Mercer struggles at short. I’d think that given the expected financial commitment, the Pirates will look to get Kang as many at-bats as possible.

More news from the NL Central…

  • There’s been no recent progress in extension talks between the Reds and Johnny Cueto, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Cueto’s agent said last month that his client loves Cincinnati and is open to staying for the right price, but they’ll only talk extension prior to the start of the regular season.
  • Reds prospect Amir Garrett has thrived after giving up basketball this past year, writes MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Cincinnati selected Garrett in the 22nd round of the 2011 draft and allowed him to play college basketball as well, but the left-hander explained to Sheldon why he elected to give his full attention to one sport for the first time in his life. Reds player development director Jeff Graupe tells Sheldon that the shift to focus solely on baseball is a large reason behind Garrett’s 2.86 ERA over his final 14 starts. Now on the 40-man roster, Garrett will be in big league camp for the first time in 2015.
  • In a piece for Baseball America, the Cincinnati Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans spoke with Reds GM Walt Jocketty about his club’s direction for the future. Jocketty stressed the importance of stockpiling pitching talent — something the club has made an effort to do in recent drafts — as the key to sustained success. The breakthroughs of both Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier have given the Reds even more reason for optimism, Rosecrans writes, but there are still questions in the rotation and with some of the club’s injured stars.
  • Though reports have indicated that the Cardinals are toying with the idea of adding a front-line starter such as Cole Hamels, Max Scherzer or David Price, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeff Gordon feels that the Cards should trust the depth they have and make only a minor addition, if any. (Gordon suggests that flipping Peter Bourjos for a lower-caliber arm could make sense.) Any trade for Price or Hamels would likely have to include one of Stephen Piscotty or Randal Grichuk (among other players, of course), which would leave the Cardinals thin when Jason Heyward hits free agency next winter. Gordon notes that the trade of Shelby Miller in the Heyward deal suggest that GM John Mozeliak and his staff are confident in Michael Wacha‘s ability to rebound from injury, thereby lessening the need for a large addition.

NL Notes: Kimbrel, Kang, Cueto, Phillies, Dodgers

The signing of a former closer, Jason Grilli, led to some speculation from Braves fans, but a team official tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that a trade of Craig Kimbrel hasn’t even been discussed (Twitter link). President of baseball operations John Hart said tonight that he hopes the club can build the bullpen around Kimbrel for the next 10 years, O’Brien tweets. The Braves have moved both Jason Heyward and Justin Upton this offseason, but each is a free agent following the season. Kimbrel is locked up for at least three more seasons at a total of $34MM, and the Braves hold a $13MM club option for the 2018 season as well.

Here are some more notes from the NL…

  • The Cardinals made a bid for Jung-ho Kang but lost out to the Pirates, writes Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. GM John Mozeliak spoke with Hummel about the team’s desire to continue to develop a better understanding of Asian baseball and the talent in Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization.
  • Bryce Dixon, agent for Johnny Cueto, has already stated that his client will not listen to extension offers after the season begins, but he spoke at a bit more length with MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon about Cueto’s desire to remain with the Reds. Cueto “loves” Cincinnati, though Dixon did add the troubling caveat “if the numbers are right.” Dixon says he had preliminary contract talks with the Reds at the Winter Meetings and have exchanged a few text messages since, but there have been no further verbal discussions.
  • Jimmy Rollins had an exclusive interview with Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com following his trade to the Dodgers, and CSN’s Enrico Campitelli breaks down one of the more interesting takeaways from the conversation. Rollins spoke about Phillies minority owner John Middleton, who is rumored to be pushing for majority ownership and reportedly has 48 percent ownership of the club right now. Rollins praised Middleton’s vision and desire to put a winning product on the field, adding that he thinks it’d be good for the Phillies if Middleton were given the reins. Rollins feels that Middleton would “be doing a lot of different things with the team.”
  • The Dodgers are still looking for bullpen help, president of baseball ops Andrew Friedman tells Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Friedman says the bullpen will almost always be an area of potential improvement at any point of any offseason. “It has to be my nature never to feel comfortable with a bullpen in the offseason,” Friedman tells Saxon.

NL Notes: Kemp, Rockies, Reds, Cueto, Kang

The Dodgers‘ $32MM payment to the Padres in the Matt Kemp deal will include $18MM spread over 2015, the Associated Press reports (via the Boston Herald). After getting most of its salary relief up front, San Diego will receive $3.5MM annually for the rest of the deal. As Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune explains, that means that the Padres currently project to open the year with less than $90MM on the books. That could mean the team has more capacity to add, and indeed chairman Ron Fowler has indicated that there are more moves in the works while not committing to a payroll target.

Here’s more from the National League:

  • MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby takes a look at the Rockies‘ inaction to this point. “I am constantly reminding myself and other people are reminding me that when we had health last year, we had a good team,” said GM Jeff Bridich. “It is not our intention from the get-go to give the roster a radical facelift. We are going to stick to our plan.” Injuries, of course, are not the only reason that the club was unable to stay in contention into the summer last year. But Colorado certainly has more talent than its record last year would indicate, and holding pat is an intriguingly bold strategy in its own right.
  • Another team that has been quiet in terms of addition is the Reds, though of course Cincinnati was proactive in dealing away two starters. MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon breaks down the remaining options for the club in left field, noting that Nori Aoki is still available and positing that the Padres could be a good match for a trade.
  • Reds ace Johnny Cueto will give the team until the start of the season to discuss an extension, agent Bryce Dixon tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Dixon also told Heyman that he views Jon Lester and, especially, Max Scherzer as viable comps for what Cueto will be able to land in free agency. The 28-year-old certainly has posted true-ace numbers, when healthy, dating back to 2011, though ERA estimators are not quite as enamored with his work. The Reds started a conversation with Cueto’s camp at the Winter Meetings, but have expressed a lack of confidence in getting something done.
  • Alan Nero, the agent for Korean infielder Jung-ho Kang, said yesterday that his client is excited that the Pirates won the rights to negotiate with him — even if the club does not have a direct route to a starting shortstop job. (Via Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, in a series of tweets.) Of course, Kang has little choice in the matter, since the high bidder gets exclusive bargaining. While he may have hoped that a team would add him with intentions of installing him directly into its regular lineup, Kang will certainly have at least some chance to unseat Jordy Mercer and should have other avenues to playing time for an adaptable Pittsburgh organization.

AL East Notes: Yanks, Detwiler, McLouth, Melky, Sox

The Yankees came away from the Winter Meetings without completing any deals, though it wasn’t for lack of trying, GM Brian Cashman told reporters, including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch“We threw a lot of ideas a lot of different ways, but we’ve got a long way between now and Opening Day,” said Cashman as he left the meetings. We’ll keep our conversations that still are ongoing alive, and just wait and see.” Hoch writes that the Yankees never made proposals to David Robertson or Brandon McCarthy, the latter of whom “went to a level we couldn’t play on,” in Cashman’s words.

More from the AL East…

  • The Orioles had definite interest in Ross Detwiler before the Nats traded him to the Rangers, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. That he ended up in Texas may be best for the player himself, however, as Kubatko notes that Baltimore would’ve kept Detwiler in the ‘pen. The Rangers plan to use him as a starter, which is his preference.
  • Also from Kubatko, the Orioles have interest in bringing back old friend Nate McLouth, though not at his current $5MM (plus a $750K buyout of a 2016 option) price tag. The Nationals are willing to eat part of that salary to move McLouth, Kubatko adds, but the Orioles will wait to see if he is released for the time being.
  • The Orioles have some interest in Melky Cabrera, reports Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, but only on a two- or three-year deal (Twitter link). Cabrera is said to be eyeing a five-year deal, however, and the Mariners’ previously reported interest appears to be stronger than that of the Orioles, based on Encina’s tweet.
  • Though the Red Sox have five starters (or will have five, once the Wade Miley trade is completed), Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets that they’re still a match for Cole Hamels. He speculates that an arm like Joe Kelly could be a part of a trade with the Phillies, thereby opening a spot in the Boston rotation.
  • Peter Gammons looks at the reconstructed Red Sox rotation, noting a heavy emphasis on ground-ball pitchers that places some pressure on Xander Bogaerts and Pablo Sandoval. Gammons notes that the Red Sox brass is aware of its lack of a front-line starter. They’d like to add James Shields, but “exit polls” at the Winter Meetings had him going to the Giants, according to Gammons. Johnny Cueto is of interest, but the “timing and price isn’t there right now,” and Hamels negotiations with the Phillies have been difficult for all teams involved.

Reactions To And Fallout From The Jon Lester Deal

Here’s a roundup of reactions from around the web on the Cubs’ $155MM deal with Jon Lester:

  • Adding Lester is huge for the Cubs, but they’re at least one more good starter away from contention, ESPN’s Keith Law writes (Insider-only). Brandon McCarthy would be a good fit, Law suggests, or they could trade young hitting for another starter. Even if the Cubs’ core of young hitting needs another year to develop before the team can contend, though, Lester figures to age well and should still be pitching at a high level in 2016.
  • The Lester deal gives the Cubs more credibility, new manager Joe Maddon told reporters, including MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. “It definitely makes it more believable to everybody else in that [clubhouse],” Maddon said. “I’ll stand up and make the same speech regardless, but when you have it backed up by that particular kind of presence, it adds to it. … Having people like that in the room definitely helps other guys believe this is possible.”
  • The deal is an awkward one for the Red Sox, tweets Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan. They could have offered Lester far less last spring than their losing bid this time around, and he would have accepted.
  • The Red Sox still have to upgrade their rotation, and their missing out on Lester by $20MM is a bad sign, ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes writes. It will be hard, Edes writes, for the Red Sox to have a rotation without Lester as good as the one they could have had if they had signed him.
  • Lester becoming a Cub shifts the balance of power in the NL Central, and the New York Post’s Joel Sherman wonders (via Twitter) if it will be what causes the Reds to begin rebuilding.
  • On a related note, Lester’s contract sets the standard for extension talks between the Reds and Johnny Cueto, who is eligible for free agency after 2015, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. Rosecrans also notes that, with Lester heading to Chicago, the Red Sox figure to be clearly in the market for starting pitching, and there might be a match between the Red Sox and Reds, who could offer Mat Latos or Mike Leake.