Jon Lester Rumors
Over at Fangraphs, Dave Cameron provides an interesting look at team age, weighted for anticipated playing time. The unsurprising result is that the oldest current MLB roster belongs to the Yankees. With the Red Sox and Blue Jays also falling in the top five, and the Rays landing in the top half with what Cameron calls a "sneaky old" roster, the American League East would appear to be the most veteran-laden division in the game.
- The loss of pitchers Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, and Jeremy Hellickson has exposed the fact that the Rays are thin on pitching depth in their system, says Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com (Twitter links). Gammons notes that, despite having five of the first 79 picks in the 2010 draft and a whopping ten of the first 60 choices in 2011, the only major leaguer to have emerged from those additions is infielder Derek Dietrich (who, of course, has since been dealt for fellow infielder Yunel Escobar).
- Looking at the bigger picture for the Rays, the club is still looking for a location to target for a new ballpark, as the Associated Press (via ESPN.com) reports. One possibility is to land in the city after which the club is named. "Tampa is obviously very, very attractive on the list," said club owner Stuart Sternberg, "and we expect to at some point, hopefully sooner, look there as well as some other parts of the region." The organization still needs to undertake "a full-out exploration" of possible sites in the area, including Tampa and St. Petersburg, Sternberg said. Tampa's current lease -- at the St. Petersburg-located Tropicana Field -- has often been noted as a significant hindrance for the team's spending capacity, and runs through the 2027 season.
- Injuries to the middle infield have not changed the Yankees' stance on Stephen Drew, according to principal owner Hal Steinbrenner. As MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom reports, Steinbrenner said that he is "pretty content with [the Yankees'] infield right now," especially given the early returns on some of the club's lower-profile offseason additions. "I'm happy with a couple of our Minor League free-agent signings -- [Yangervis Solarte] and [Dean Anna]. Jeter has been healthy. So far, I'm pretty content with where we are, but I will always analyze options." (Anna was actually acquired via trade, though certainly he was the same type of addition.)
- The Yankees are also enjoying the excellent early showing from Michael Pineda, who was picked up in a rare swap of highly touted young talent. (Jesus Montero, of course, went to Seattle in that deal.) Continuing a strong Spring Training run, in 12 innings over two starts, Pineda has allowed just two earned runs and has struck out 12 batters while walking only two. As Tony Blengino of Fangraphs writes, a full return to form for Pineda would be "basically unprecedented in baseball history," with the one notable exception of another outstanding young pitcher who returned from an early-career shoulder injury to post a Hall-of-Fame career: Jim Palmer.
- Red Sox hurler Jon Lester projects to be worthy of a six-year, $145MM deal in free agency, according to ESPN.com's Dan Szymborski. Other than sticking in Boston, Lester could draw interest from teams like the Cubs, Mariners, Giants, and Tigers, in Szymborski's estimation.
Dr. James Andrews tells MLB Network Radio (via MetsBlog) that a number of factors have contributed to an increase in Tommy John surgeries throughout baseball. One issue is that high school pitchers are throwing too hard, and their ligaments aren't maturing quickly enough to keep up with their velocity. Year-round baseball is another issue, as is throwing breaking balls at a young age. High school pitchers who throw harder than 80-85 MPH also run the risk of having arm issues. Here are a few notes from around the American League.
- The Indians' trade of Shin-Soo Choo was one of GM Chris Antonetti's best deals, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. The Indians gave up Choo, a player they could not have afforded to keep, and the other players they dealt (Tony Sipp, Lars Anderson and Jason Donald) haven't proven consequential. The Indians received Trevor Bauer, who had a great first start of the season on Wednesday, and a good bullpen arm in Bryan Shaw. They also got Matt Albers, who pitched reasonably well last season before heading to the Astros as a free agent, and Drew Stubbs, who went to the Rockies for Josh Outman. Outman now joins Shaw in the Indians' bullpen.
- Sam Fuld isn't surprised that the Athletics designated him for assignment, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. "I guess the one good thing is that I have been bracing myself for it," says Fuld. Coco Crisp is now healthy, and Craig Gentry is back from the disabled list, which left little room for Fuld.
- The Red Sox' most recent $70MM extension offer to Jon Lester might seem low, but Lester himself is trying to keep it in context, John Tomase of the Boston Herald tweets. "They're trying to set up their business for the future. They're weighing risk," Lester says. "I can't just stand up and say, 'Pay me pay me pay me.'"
3:56pm: Lester says that he isn't ruling out the possibility that he will remain with the Red Sox, Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston tweets. "Why does it mean I'm out of Boston?" Lester says. "Things can definitely change.''
11:59am: The Red Sox' most recent extension offer to starting pitcher Jon Lester was for four years and between $70MM, Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan tweets, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports initially reported that the Red Sox had offered between $70MM and $80MM.
Lester is eligible for free agency after the season, and Rosenthal writes that sources tell him that Lester will not negotiate an extension again until the season is over. (The two sides ceased extension talks in late March, but it appeared then that they could continue talking during the season.)
Even an offer of $80MM would appear to be significantly below market for Lester -- Homer Bailey received six years and $105MM for the Reds, and Lester, who has a longer track record of success, would figure to make more on the open market. Rosenthal points out that the Red Sox' offer was below the $82.5MM John Lackey received from the team in 2009. The Red Sox have a "willingness to go higher" than their recent offer, Rosenthal writes, and they'll likely need to in order to sign Lester.
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.
Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira has been placed on the 15-day DL with a hamstring injury, the club announced today. Needless to say, that is not the start to the year that he or the team had hoped for as the 33-year-old works back from wrist surgery. The injury has revealed some roster issues in New York, which will move Kelly Johnson from third to first for the time being and call up catcher Austin Romine to take the open active roster spot. While the team was surely uninterested in carrying three backstops, the move was dictated by 40-man constraints. As Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News notes on Twitter, the Yankees have no infielders among the portion of the MLB roster that is not already active, meaning that the team would have had to remove another player to make room for Russ Canzler or another minor league call-up option. Here's more from the American League:
- Though Jon Lester and the Red Sox have tabled extension talks for the time being, owner John Henry says he remains hopeful that a deal will be struck, WEEI.com's Meredith Perri reports. "It won't be easy to come to a deal," said Henry, "but we're going to work very creatively, both sides, and hopefully there will be a deal." But Henry cautioned that the team would not spend at all costs to keep the 30-year-old lefty. "It's not surprising that given where the market is right now, it's just something we haven't been chasing the market this way," said Henry. "Some teams have. Jon wants to come back. ... We're going to do as we did with [Dustin Pedroia] last year -- everything we can to bring him back. He's an important part of this club, but we're not going to do what some clubs might do."
- The recent extension of Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis is another move towards stability in the team's core, writes MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince. Having already locked up Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes, but not starter Justin Masterson, Cleveland now has added price certainty and control over that group and maintains control over 16 players on its current 25-man roster through at lest 2016.
- Speaking of Kipnis, I asked MLBTR readers last night how his new deal stacks up to the similar extensions just reached by the Braves with Andrelton Simmons and the Cardinals with Matt Carpenter. As of this moment, Simmons is leading the way with just under 40% of the vote, with Kipnis (32.25%) and Carpenter (28.06%) also getting significant support.
The Red Sox are no strangers to White House visits over the last decade, though David Ortiz marked yesterday's team trip to Pennsylvania Avenue by taking a memorable selfie alongside another famous face. Here's some more news from Boston...
- With Felix Doubront set to become eligible for arbitration after the season, MassLive.com's Jason Mastrodonato thinks the young southpaw could be an extension candidate if he pitches well in 2014. Mastrodonato notes that Doubront's status becomes particularly important given that Jon Lester and Jake Peavy are both free agents after the season, though Doubront isn't focusing on contract negotiations. "When that moment comes, we’ll talk. You want to stay away from that, for my own good," Doubront said. "If you think about that, mentally it makes things bigger. You just want to stay on the same page. We’ll see what happens after this season."
- Lester's impending free agency was discussed by ESPN's Buster Olney in a radio interview on WEEI's Mut & Merloni Show (partial transcript from WEEI.com's Arjuna Ramgopal). Olney feels the middle ground between Lester and the Red Sox falls in the range of a five-year, $110-$120MM contract and while both sides will "have to go out of their comfort zones," Olney feels Lester will have to budge a bit more. “It’s going to be because Jon Lester makes it happen, the way that Dustin Pedroia made it happen last year. The Red Sox, philosophically, are not going to box themselves in." The Sox and Lester recently tabled their extension talks, though they could be re-open negotiations during the season.
- Xander Bogaerts' rise from an anonymous 16-year-old from the baseball non-hotbed of Aruba to one of the game's top prospects and the Red Sox Opening Day shortstop is chronicled by Sports On Earth's Jorge Arangure Jr. Boston was able to find Bogaerts due to the organization's wide-ranging scouting process, and Bogaerts took it from there, quickly advancing through the Red Sox academy and minor league system.
John Gibbons of the Blue Jays, Kirk Gibson of the Diamondbacks, and Terry Collins of the Mets are among the managers currently on the hot seat, writes FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. Gibbons presided over an extremely disappointing 2013 Jays season, Gibson's Diamondbacks haven't taken a step forward, and Collins might become a victim of unfair expectations. Here are more notes from around baseball.
- Good closers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and big-name closers aren't always what they seem to be, Tyler Kepner shows in a long piece for the New York Times. That means overpaying for a closer can be a mistake. "We had a different guy for about six years in a row — Joe Borowski, Todd Jones, Armando Benitez," says Marlins director of baseball operations Dan Noffsinger. "Each one of these guys would have 30-plus saves, be successful and go get a bigger contract elsewhere. We would just move on to the next guy." The Marlins' example shows one reason why the Orioles were willing to trade Jim Johnson this offseason, for example, and the White Sox were willing to deal Addison Reed.
- The selection of Shelby Miller in the first round of the 2009 draft marked a turning point for the Cardinals, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. "By the time we picked Miller, I think our knowledge base in at least how to avoid the high-risk players had evolved to the point where we felt more comfortable fishing in those waters," says Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, who ran the Cardinals' draft at the time. "He had the delivery. He had the pitches that we thought could develop. The size. The makeup. We had learned from our mistakes." Goold points out that before Miller, the Cardinals hadn't selected a pitcher in the first 30 picks of the draft since 1991. The Cardinals attacked the problem of which high-school pitchers were the best picks by looking at big-league pitchers and figuring out why they succeeded, and they focused on arm strength and athleticism. Later in that same 2009 draft, the Cardinals also selected Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal.
- Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester isn't concerned about his impending free agency, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. "If I use that for motivation, I’ve got problems," Lester says. "That’s not what motivates me to go out and pitch and get better. Money has never driven me." Lester and the Red Sox recently suspended negotiations on an extension.
- Free agent pitcher Brad Penny has changed agencies from to the Legacy Agency to Millennium Sports, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweets. In early March, the Royals released Penny from their minor-league deal with him.
The retirements of Yankee icon Derek Jeter and Commissioner Bud Selig and the Red Sox's quest to repeat as World Series champions are baseball's top storylines this season, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Mike Trout/Miguel Cabrera debate also makes Cafardo's list along with five other topics to monitor in 2014. Stoking the discussion, the dynamic duo both agreed to lengthy and lucrative contract extensions just one day apart this past week: six years, $144.5MM for Trout and eight years, $248MM for Cabrera.
In other news and notes from the American League:
- Within the same article, Cafardo opines Jon Lester better be willing to accept less from the Red Sox than the six-year, $144MM proposal the Tigers made to Max Scherzer adding negotiations with the left-hander will be a true test of how much faith the club has in its top pitching prospects.
- Lester addressed the media today, including WEEI.com's Rob Bradford (who provides a transcript of the extension-related portion of the presser) and contrasted his situation to Scherzer's. "Every situation is different, every negotiation is different, every person is different, so until it's there in front of you with a pen to sign it, or not presented to you and you have to go the other way, then like I said, we'll deal with that when it comes."
- Contact lenses could be the key to the season for Red Sox's third baseman Will Middlebrooks, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. An eye test this spring revealed Middlebrooks' vision had deteriorated to 20-25 in his right eye and 20-30 in his left. "For everyday life, you’d never correct it," the 25-year-old said. "But for what I do, you need to be able to see the little things. Once I put them in, I could really see the spin on the ball. I was always just reading trajectory of the ball. I was never seeing the spin."
- Pitching and offense are reasons why the Red Sox can repeat while history (no team has sucessfully defended its World Series title since 2000) and questions up the middle are reasons why they won't, writes CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam.
- Tigers President/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski told MLB Network Radio (Twitter link) he had the financial wherewithal to extend both Cabrera and Scherzer. "We had both negotiations going simultaneously," said Dombrowski. "We were trying to sign both."
- The Royals have had mixed results with their philsophy of developing pitchers, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. The organization believes you need 10 pitching prospects to deliver one to the Majors and that has worked in developing relievers, but only four prospects have started a game for Kansas City during GM Dayton Moore's seven-year tenure, McCullough notes.
- The Astros have been active at the Trade Deadline the past two seasons, but that may not be the case this year, writes the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich. "No question. This year's different," GM Jeff Luhnow told Drellich. "This year, we have veteran players. If they play well, we're likely to keep them as opposed to move them. There’s always going to be that temptation...we’ll balance all the factors, including the fact that we do want to show significant progress."
The Red Sox and staff ace Jon Lester have decided to table their discussions on an extension, reports Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). Talks were terminated "amicably," says Abraham, and the sides could pick up discussions during the upcoming season.
At times, it had seemed quite likely that a new deal would be reached to keep Lester in Boston for the foreseeable future. But with Opening Day fast approaching, the sides were apparently not close enough to keep the dialogue going into the start of the season. Lester is set to hit the open market after the coming season.
WEEI.com's Alex Speier provides some statements from GM Ben Cherington (links to Twitter), who says that the team still hopes to lock up Lester for the future. Both sides have a "shared desire to continue to talk," said Cherington, who would not rule out inter-season discussions but also said they may not pick up until the 2014 campaign is over.
Red Sox free-agent-to-be Jon Lester says the six-year, $144MM deal the Tigers reportedly offered Max Scherzer would be "hard to walk away from," Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal tweets. Lester says there's no news concerning negotiations for his own contract but that the two sides continue to talk, tweets Alex Speier of WEEI.com. The Red Sox are reportedly trying to resolve Lester's contract situation by Opening Day, either by signing him or by suspending negotiations once the season starts. Here are more notes from around the American League.
- The Twins have "done their homework" on Stephen Drew, although it remains very unlikely that they'll sign him, 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson tweets. The team watched Drew in a workout more than a month ago.
- The Twins added Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes this offseason, but they planned to spend even more money, assistant GM Rob Antony tells Phil Miller of the Star Tribune (via Twitter). "We were trying to give money away," Antony says. They were not able to sign any position players to significant contracts, however.
- Astros manager Bo Porter says one reason the team hasn't set its rotation yet is because it has the top waiver priority, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweets. That suggests the Astros could wait to claim a starting pitcher to insert into their rotation.