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Jonathan Papelbon Rumors
Here’s the latest out of Philadelphia, which houses one of the league’s most interesting rosters to watch this spring. Steve Adams and I discuss that, among other topics, on today’s forthcoming podcast. In the meantime, some notes:
- The Phillies asked the Brewers for a “top prospect” in return for closer Jonathan Papelbon if the club was to pick up a big piece of the remainder of his deal, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (in a piece we cited earlier this morning). In response, Milwaukee broached the idea of sending Jonathan Broxton back to Philadelphia to help balance the cash, a concept that did not gain traction (and which Rosenthal argues made little sense for either club).
- Those talks are now dormant, per Rosenthal. That would appear to take the Brewers out of the picture for Papelbon at this point. As Rosenthal explains, the entire episode also demonstrates the broader difficulty the club is facing in moving Papelbon. While a spring injury could always shake up the market, it increasingly appears (as others have suggested) that waiting until the summer to deal might represent the best option for the Phils.
- The Red Sox have plenty of leverage in their pursuit of Phillies lefty Cole Hamels, writes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. That’s because “even the second-best deal [Amaro] can get for Hamels from the Red Sox is likely better than he can get elsewhere,” as Abraham puts it. Even taking on most of the Hamels deal is going to leave plenty of value left to be accounted for in any trade scenario — another topic that Steve and I discuss — but Abraham suggests that the gap might be bridged by a package fronted by lefty Henry Owens and including several other top prospects not named Betts, Swihart, or Rodriguez.
Cole Hamels remains available on the trade market, and as many eight teams have kicked the tires on the ace left-hander, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Asked by Salisbury how many clubs have made offers, Amaro replied, “Real offers? Four.”
Amaro wouldn’t comment on which clubs made those “real” offers, though earlier today it was reported that the Padres made an “aggressive” offer for Hamels prior to signing James Shields. Other teams that have been seriously linked to Hamels include the Cardinals, Rangers and Red Sox. Boston has reportedly balked at Amaro’s insistence on top catching prospect Blake Swihart‘s inclusion in a potential trade package.
Earlier this month, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that “five or six” teams were still trying to swing a trade for Hamels, though the Padres’ signing of Shields may remove them from that race. Padres ownership has said the payroll could land around $100MM, and they’re at roughly $96.5MM right now after adding Shields. However, some reports have indicated that $105MM might be the team’s max limit, so it strikes me as at least plausible — albeit unlikely — that they could attempt to squeeze Hamels into the mix if the Phillies eat some 2015 salary or take a different contract back.
The Phillies are more eager to trade Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon than Hamels, Salisbury writes, and they’re also very willing to trade Cliff Lee. Amaro wouldn’t rule out the possibility of making a trade prior to the onset of Spring Training, Salisbury adds, but moving someone like Lee would likely require him to demonstrate his health in Spring Training. A number of teams have told Amaro they’ll be monitoring the Phillies this spring.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman feels that the potential is there for a big year, but he’s not guaranteeing the AL East title or anything of that sort, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. “We have a lot of talent,” he said. “Like other teams, we have some ifs. If we get good comebacks and our rotation stays healthy, if our team stays healthy, we’re a good team.” Additions like Andrew Miller will be counted on for production, but the Bombers will really hope for some vintage performances from guys like Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and embattled third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Here’s more from today’s column..
- The Phillies continue to insist on Blake Swihart in any deal for Cole Hamels and there’s been no movement to ask instead for Christian Vazquez. The Red Sox, meanwhile, refuse to part with their top young catcher. Cafardo suggests the Phillies could have a better chance of working out a deal with the Padres as they are more open to moving catching prospect Austin Hedges.
- There are no substantive talks between the Mets and Everth Cabrera‘s camp at the moment as they seem committed to Wilmer Flores. It was reported earlier this winter that the Mets had interest in the former Padres shortstop. A major league source with knowledge of Cabrera’s situation indicated to Cafardo that he has made great strides personally.
- Cafardo writes that the Blue Jays remain interested in Phillies reliever Jonathan Papelbon. A report from earlier this month characterized the Blue Jays as a “major long shot” to land the closer due to financial reasons.
- General Managers around the league can’t stop raving about 19-year-old Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada. “He could be the next Robinson Cano/Chase Utley, but more Cano. That’s the kind of potential bat we’re talking about,” one National League talent evaluator said. An NL GM told Cafardo that Moncada “may be better than [Yasiel] Puig or [Jose] Abreu or [Yoenis] Cespedes or [Jorge] Soler.” Meanwhile, one GM tells Cafardo that the middle infielder would still require some minor league seasoning before breaking into the majors.
- There’s a good amount of interest in Brandon Beachy for when he’s finally ready to sign. The 28-year-old owns a lifetime 3.23 ERA over 46 big league starts, with a 3.34 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, and 3.39 SIERA.
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 Papelbon “probably 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.
The remaining free agent market is dominated by arms, and pitchers probably also carry the most intrigue in trade as well. Here’s the latest on some important situations percolating around the game:
- The Brewers feel they have ample leverage against the Phillies in trade talks for Jonathan Papelbon, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Twitter links). Milwaukee believes that it is the primary team with interest, and yesterday’s addition of Chris Perez reduces the urgency to add another late-inning righty.
- Fellow Phillies veteran Cole Hamels should be traded now to maximize his value, according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Insider link). Rival executives tell Olney they believe the Phils should have moved Hamels at last year’s trade deadline, and suggest that the team will have to budge on either the amount of money the team will kick in or the quality of the prospects it will receive. Of course, the Philadelphia brass has understandably rejected the idea in the past that it should lower the ask on Hamels, but it is fair to wonder at what point that attempt to maximize value could harm its own objective.
- The Padres have often been mentioned as a possible destination for the best starters that remain available, and executive chairman Ron Fowler did nothing to dampen the rumors in comments today to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Fowler explained that the club’s payroll could climb above $100MM, saying that “with A.J. [Preller] in the GM seat, things could change quickly” as “he continues to look at options to strengthen the team.” Fowler continued: “The front-loading of the Dodgers’ payment for [Matt] Kemp allowed us to be more aggressive regarding [Justin] Upton and continue to look at other opportunities.”
FEB. 4: The holdup in talks with the Brewers currently stems from player compensation as opposed to financial compensation, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. As such, Heyman speculates that the two sides may at least be on the same page in terms of how much money the Phillies would need to eat to facilitate a deal. The Brewers are believed to be the favorites to land Papelbon, should he be moved.
The Blue Jays, at this point, are viewed as a “major long shot,” according to Heyman, who cites finances as a significant stumbling block in Toronto’s talks. Heyman adds that, when reached earlier today, Amaro would only say, “We’re still having discussions with clubs.”
FEB. 2: The Phillies are still holding active negotiations regarding closer Jonathan Papelbon, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. “Things are still alive,” said Amaro. “We’re still having discussion — and not just with one club.”
Though Amaro declined to name specific teams, the Phillies have recently been linked to the Brewers to varying degrees in various reports. Salisbury’s sources tell him that Milwaukee is “the most viable trade partner” for Philadelphia. (Indeed, the Brewers have given public indication that a deal is still a possibility.) The Blue Jays have also inquired, though Toronto’s interest is said to be “mild.”
As to whether a deal will get done, Salisbury says that the Phils are not interested in moving such a productive reliever — however pricey — without receiving a “quality prospect.” When asked whether he was optimistic of striking a deal, Amaro hedged: “I’m not sure. We’ll see. It’s complicated. There are a lot of different factors involved.”
The price tag on James Shields may be dropping to the point where it makes too much sense for the Yankees to ignore, opines Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. Shields has never made sense for the Yankees at or in the vicinity of $100MM, Castrovince writes, but if his price tag is trending closer to that of Ervin Santana (four years, $55MM) than that $100MM plateau, the uncertainty and lack of stability in New York’s rotation makes them a logical destination. As Castrovince notes, the Yanks dished out four years and $52MM to Chase Headley shows that the team is still willing to spend on veterans at a price level with which they are comfortable, and Shields’ work ethic, leadership and durability make him a desirable rotation candidate in the Bronx.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- The Yankees have a pair of very viable closer candidates in Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, but MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch envisions Betances eventually locking down the closer role, with Miller likely ticketed to be the team’s top setup man. Hoch spoke with manager Joe Girardi, who did say that he’d like to have a set closer by the end of Spring Training. “I think guys like to know their roles, so I think if we can iron it out, I think it would be a good thing to do,” said Girardi. Using Betances in the ninth inning would cause his arbitration price to soar, although arbitration awards holds, strikeouts and ERA as well, so Betances looks like he’ll eventually be an expensive reliever regardless of his role.
- As Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun details, Delmon Young said at the Orioles‘ Fan Festival over the weekend that he entertained the idea of signing elsewhere and had the opportunity to do so, but his desire was always to return to Baltimore. “…my first goal was to come back here just because I like just being in a place where you’re guaranteed to have an opportunity to defend a division title,” said Young. “It could have been cool going to a different place and trying to win another one, but it’s always a lot better to defend what you earned the year before.” Young continued, explaining that he’s excited to have a larger role this year following the departure of Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz, also adding that he’s much more comfortable in right field than left field.
- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons spoke with Jim Bowden and Casey Stern on MLB Network Radio yesterday and acknowledged that the team has indeed talked about Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano (Twitter link). Gibbons said GM Alex Anthopoulos has been in touch with Scott Boras regarding the two free agents, as well as Philadelphia counterpart Ruben Amaro Jr. regarding Papelbon. However, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet notes (Twitter link), the Jays aim to be thorough in their search, so it makes sense that they’d explore all avenues.
Recent Brewers signee Neal Cotts tells Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he came close to hanging up his spikes before the Rangers offered him a deal for the 2013 season. After two fairly productive seasons in Texas, Cotts chose Milwaukee in part due to proximity to his home in Chicago.
Here are some notes on still-active bullpen situations around the game:
- The Red Sox have indicated a willingness over the last few days to deal righty Edward Mujica, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Mujica, 30, signed a two-year deal to head to Boston last year after a strong 2013 with the Cardinals, but struggled mightily out of the gate. He rebounded with a big second half, however, throwing 25 1/3 innings of 1.78 ERA ball over the second half. All said, Mujica ended the year having allowed 3.90 earned per nine and having compiled a 3.70 FIP that was nearly identical to his fielding-independent mark from the season prior.
- After adding Cotts, the Brewers will keep looking for a veteran, late-inning arm, potentially one with closing experience, assistant GM Gord Ash tells Haudricourt. The club is “juggling a lot of balls right now,” says Ash, who added that talks with the Phillies on Jonathan Papelbon are not dead even if nothing is imminent. Ash also indicated that the team was considering former closer Francisco Rodriguez, but noted that the club is not in on Rafael Soriano or Joba Chamberlain. Milwaukee also seems to have its eye out for a bargain, with Ash noting that the club is open to doing a minor league deal at any time.
- A few of the other names still on the market do have some interest even though they have yet to ink a contract, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter links). After a solid 2014, southpaw Joe Beimel has interest from three clubs, including the incumbent Mariners, while fellow lefty Joe Thatcher has drawn attention from a handful of teams.
The Blue Jays are “in contact” with the representatives of multiple top free agent relievers, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. Among them are righties Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Burke Badenhop.
With former Jays closer Casey Janssen now headed to the Nationals, Toronto officially must look elsewhere to build out its pen. The three names listed above are arguably the top three arms remaining, though several other options remain as well.
GM Alex Anthopoulos said earlier today that he is looking for many different ways to add talent to the relief corps, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. As things stand, Brett Cecil and Aaron Sanchez are perhaps the top two candidates to hold down the ninth inning, and Toronto is not sending signals that it feels an established closer is a necessity.
Payroll may be the driving factor at this point, writes Nicholson-Smith. With perhaps $5MM to $6MM in 2015 spending capacity remaining, that makes trade candidate Jonathan Papelbon a questionable fit. “When you see us linked to a player for days and days and back and forth, I’d say 9.9 times out of 10 there probably isn’t anything to it,” Anthopoulos said. “I can say we’re not going to be in the market for relievers making $10-plus million or more.”
Otherwise, Anthopoulos indicated that the team was in an opportunistic mode after getting a lot of work done earlier in the winter. “Most times the later you get in to the winter there’s potential for the prices to change on some of these guys,” he noted. One internal wild card, catcher Dioner Navarro, remains available in trade but seems destined to remain with the Jays unless a suitable offer comes in.
JAN. 28: Haudricourt now tweets that he gets the sense the Brewers would like to find a way to make a Papelbon trade work, despite the fact that it would be complicated. Failing that outcome, a Francisco Rodriguez reunion is a fallback option for Milwaukee.
JAN. 27: While trade talks between the Brewers and Phillies regarding Jonathan Papelbon have slowed, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki hears from two sources that the Phillies are still talking to both Milwaukee and Toronto about Papelbon. Zolecki adds that the seriousness of the talks is unclear at this time, though Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that Toronto’s interest is extremely limited (Twitter link). The Blue Jays would only acquire Papelbon if the financial risk associated with the transaction is “extremely limited,” per Rosenthal.
Additionally, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that the Phillies have been in touch with an unknown AL club regarding Papelbon in the past few days. While that club could certainly be Toronto, it’s also possible that a second American League club could have kicked the tires on Papelbon.
The Blue Jays have repeatedly expressed interest in adding some experience to the back of their bullpen, though Papelbon is an imperfect fit for a number of reasons. For one, the Blue Jays are said to have only about $7MM remaining to improve their 2015 roster, and Papelbon is owed $13MM in 2015. Secondly, as CSN Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury reported last week, Toronto is one of the team’s on Papelbon’s no-trade clause. Multiple reports indicated that Papelbon would require his $13MM vesting option to be guaranteed in order to approve a deal to a team on his no-trade clause, further muddying the financial situation for the Blue Jays.
As for the Brewers, talks with that team broke down due to financial concerns, and those concerns are still present, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. As he further notes, the ball is in Philadelphia’s court when it comes to a Papelbon trade, but the Phillies are strongly against letting his $13MM vesting option kick in, so it makes little sense for the Phillies to pay that money to facilitate a trade.
That scenario was one of the topics I discussed in today’s MLBTR Chat earlier this afternoon. The Phillies, as it stands, are on the hook for $13MM of Papelbon’s contract. If the team trades him and guarantees Papelbon’s vesting option, the acquiring club would owe the 34-year-old a total of $26MM. In that instance, even if the Phillies ate half of the money owed to Papelbon, they wouldn’t actually be saving anything. In fact, they may actually cost themselves money, as moving Ken Giles, the likely closer-in-waiting, into the ninth inning to open the 2015 season would surely cause his eventual arbitration price to rise.
It’s difficult then, to envision the Phillies paying anywhere close to $13MM of Papelbon’s salary without receiving a return that they feel is a significant upgrade to their farm system. The alternative would be to deal Papelbon to a club that is not on his no-trade list, with the acquiring club deploying him in a setup capacity. That could allow Philadelphia to save some money on Papelbon’s salary without the option coming into play. However, to this point, there haven’t been any indications that any of the 12 teams to which he cannot block a trade — the Red Sox, Rays, Royals, Angels, Mariners, Astros, Mets, Braves, Cardinals, Reds, Cubs and Padres — have any significant interest in trading for him.