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- Right-Hander Norge Ruiz Leaves Cuba, Will Seek Deal With MLB Club
- Smyly Will Not Have Surgery, Is Confident He Can Pitch In 2015
- Hyun-jin Ryu Undergoes Season-Ending Shoulder Surgery
- 2016 MLB Free Agent Power Rankings
- Hyun-jin Ryu To Undergo Shoulder Surgery
- Mariners Acquire Welington Castillo From Cubs For Yoervis Medina
- Bruce Chen Announces Retirement
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- Marlins Name GM Dan Jennings Manager
- GM Dan Jennings Could Become Marlins Manager
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- Rangers To Release Kyuji Fujikawa
- Right-Hander Norge Ruiz Leaves Cuba, Will Seek Deal With MLB Club
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- Smyly Will Not Have Surgery, Is Confident He Can Pitch In 2015
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Jonathan Papelbon Rumors
ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Insider link) lists five spring transactions that ought to occur. Among them are trades involving two veteran Phillies players — Chase Utley and Jonathan Papelbon. While Papelbon has been discussed quite frequently this offseason, as has fellow hurler Cole Hamels, Utley has scarcely seen his name come up in rumors (and is only just returning to action after suffering a sprained ankle). Bowden also advocates an early-career extension for Christian Yelich of the Marlins
Here’s more from the NL East:
- Injured Mets starter Zack Wheeler dealt with rather significant elbow pain last year, as GM Sandy Alderson has indicated and Andy Martino of the New York Daily News further reports. Per Martino, the team maintains publicly and privately that Wheeler’s UCL never was a matter of concern for the team, but he details some of the developments last year that raised red flags about the young righty’s health. Of course, as Martino is right to explain, there are not only many unknown details but also plenty of medical uncertainties in the world of pitching elbows.
- The Braves are prepared to announce a deal with Comcast involving the team’s new ballpark and mixed-use development, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. It appears that the cable company will occupy office space and provide technology services for the controversial new facility.
- Of course, that stadium opening is still years away, and the Braves are still working to resolve numerous roster matters before the start of the upcoming season. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman updates the situation in camp, writing that Jace Peterson appears to have the inside track on a 25-man spot, if not the starting gig at second base. The team has numerous infield and outfield slots still up for grabs.
- The Phillies have insurance on Cliff Lee‘s contract and will have a chance to recover an unknown sum for the time he is expected to miss, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. That will not match the return the team had hoped to be able to achieve if a healthy Lee had turned into an attractive mid-season trade chip, of course. As part of his rest and rehab plan, Lee will not even throw a ball for several months. While the decision not to undergo surgery was announced a mutual one between team and player, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News tweets that all doctors consulted recommended surgery and that it was Lee’s decision not to pursue that option.
- As Lee faces the possibility of retirement, former teammate Roy Halladay says he is interested in pursuing sports psychology as a second act, as Zolecki reports.
Of all the Phillies vets on the block, Jonathan Papelbon probably has come the closest to getting shipped out. The Phillies and Brewers were in talks for some time, but the closer says he wasn’t in the loop with regards to how close a deal actually was.
“I don’t know if I was ever going to be a Brewer,” Papelbon said, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. “Nobody ever said a word to me about it. I read about it, but I guess it never got far along enough for my agents or the team to let me know something. As far as I know I’m a Phillie and everyone else is, too. Nobody’s getting traded, as far as I know. This is actually a good group of guys. Best I’ve been around since I’ve been here.”
More from the NL East..
- A Mets source told Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com (via Twitter) that the team has not received any calls from the Rangers in the last 24 hours. Rangers ace Yu Darvish might need Tommy John surgery, but it appears that they have yet to call on Dillon Gee. On Saturday night night, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that the Rangers did not seem inclined to try to acquire Gee. The right-hander, who is currently slated to be in the bullpen thanks to the Mets’ crowded rotation, will turn 29 in April.
- In a chat with reporters, including Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com, union chief Tony Clark offered no objection to the Mets‘ “voluntary” offseason workouts and declined to criticize the team’s payroll. The Mets’ payroll has actually risen to $100MM for this season and Clark wouldn’t say whether he has spoken to the Mets specifically about their spending.
- Clark also spoke about the hiring of former Mets GM Omar Minaya for a union role earlier this winter, as Rubin writes. “We were looking for additional support in the area of international as well as baseball ops and player development. And for those of you who know Omar, that’s right up his alley,” Clark said. “So he’s providing us support in a few different areas that will invariably help the players as we sit down and discuss any number of issues tied to all three moving forward.”
- The Phillies are trying not to act desperate when it comes to the trade talk surrounding them, but it’s hard to pull that off since everyone knows they have to make a deal, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes. Silverman touched on the speculation regarding both Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, but as we learned earlier today, Lee could be sidelined for a while thanks to his sore elbow.
This season will mark the first since 1995 that features no new players from Japan, MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby notices. Heading into the offseason, Hiroshima Carp pitcher Kenta Maeda looked like the most likely to make the leap to the Majors, but the Carp decided not to post him. Then infielder Takashi Toritani, who also looked like a candidate to cross the Pacific, re-signed with Hanshin. For the last decade, Japanese players have arrived at a rate of about three per season, with Masahiro Tanaka and Tsuyoshi Wada (who actually signed with the Orioles prior to the 2012 season) making their debuts last year. Here’s more from around the league.
- Phillies pitchers Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon top the list of players who could be dealt before Opening Day, MLB.com’s Jim Duquette writes. Lee will need to prove he’s healthy after missing time due to an elbow injury last season. Last week, he faced hitters for the first time since July. Duquette lists the Dodgers, Marlins and Blue Jays as possibilities for Papelbon. The reliever has a limited no-trade clause, but last week he expressed interest in pitching for the Blue Jays.
- Andrew McCutchen‘s current $51.5MM contract with the Pirates, which tops out at a mere $14MM per season before the Bucs get a $14.5MM team option in 2018, is one of the most team-friendly in the game. But that doesn’t mean it’s turned out badly for McCutchen, GM Neal Huntington tells MLB.com’s Tom Singer. “It has worked out well for him. He is a very wealthy young man,” says Huntington. “He has been open about saying that the financial comfort and security freed him up to just go play. He didn’t have to worry about the risk of injury, or the risk of not performing. The contract has been a part of why he became such a great player.” Huntington goes on to point out that teams assume risks when they sign players to long-term deals, and even if a contract results in a player being underpaid, as is the case with McCutchen, he’s free to sign a bigger deal once his contract is over.
Brewers GM Doug Melvin discussed his team’s recent efforts to upgrade the back end of its bullpen in an interview today with Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Milwaukee ultimate reached agreement on a two-year, $13MM contract to bring back 2014 closer Francisco Rodriguez.
The deal with K-Rod came together after ongoing talks with the Phillies regarding Jonathan Papelbon finally “hit a dead end,” per the report. Multiple reports have suggested that Rodriguez hoped for a return to Milwaukee, where he has pitched for most of the last four campaigns, and that factor (not to mention the presence of fellow late-inning man Rafael Soriano on the market) surely transferred leverage to the Brewers on all fronts.
As for Papelbon, Melvin tells Haudricourt that details in the veteran closer’s contract posed significant hurdles in talks. “We did engage them and didn’t come to a comparable deal for both sides,” said Melvin. “We had a lot of conversations. It’s complicated because of next year with the $13MM [vesting option]. Even if you agree to a deal, you have to go to the agent about the no-trade [clause].”
The vesting option was doubly complicated to handle in trade negotiations, per the report, because of the possibility of varying usage by the teams involved. Papelbon will be owed $13MM for 2016 if he finishes 48 games this season. While the Brewers would have expected that to occur had Papelbon been installed in the 9th in Milwaukee, the potential for a mid-season closer switch by the Phillies could at least theoretically allow the team to avoid the obligation. As a result, Haudricourt writes, “how to account for that money was nearly impossible.”
Beyond that, Papelbon’s limited no-trade clause included protection from being dealt to Milwaukee without his blessing. Per the report, it was at least considered a strong possibility that Papelbon would demand his vesting option be guaranteed. And Philadelphia was apparently after “at least one top prospect,” Haudricourt writes.
Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon told reporters today, including Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, that he was happy to see the news that Francisco Rodriguez had agreed to a two-year deal in Milwaukee. Papelbon described Rodriguez a “talent that needs to be in Major League Baseball.” Asked if he was disappointed that a trade to Milwaukee was seemingly no longer an option, Papelbon said no, but he did have an interesting response when asked if he would be open to playing for the Blue Jays. “Yes, Toronto, interests me — if it interests [GM Ruben Amaro]. I know some of the guys on their coaching staff. They’re a good team. If Ruben can do a deal with them, I’d be interested.” Papelbon said he is more interested in pitching in Toronto than he had been in pitching for Milwaukee, but his ultimate hope is to contend with the Phillies. “My storybook ending here is sneaking into the wild card and getting hot in the playoffs with these Phillies.”
Here are some more Phillies-related items…
- The Red Sox don’t feel any sense of urgency to trade for Cole Hamels, writes CSN New England’s Sean McAdam. While the team’s reported agreement with Yoan Moncada prompted some speculation that Moncada’s presence made it easier for Boston to trade Mookie Betts, McAdam hears that the Sox are still steadfastly refusing to part with either Betts or Blake Swihart. The Phillies, too, are sticking to their guns, requiring that an acquiring team take on the entirety of Hamels’ salary in addition to parting with premium prospects.
- Cliff Lee threw eight minutes of live batting practice yesterday, Salisbury writes, marking the first time he’s thrown to hitters since his injury on July 31. He threw primarily fastballs but did snap off a breaking ball to Ben Revere. Lee could throw to hitters again over the weekend, as he’s been throwing every three days, but he’s not likely to pitch in a game until the second week of the schedule. He’ll have many eyes on him as clubs evaluate Lee’s health to determine whether or not he is a viable trade candidate.
- David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News spoke to Amaro about the team’s pursuit of Moncada and other Cuban talents that have now emerged as regulars, if not stars, at the Major League level. Amaro said that at a certain point, the risk a club takes outweighs the potential reward. “When you know you have an actual major league entity, that’s a known,” said Amaro. “I understand the devaluation as a guy gets older, there’s part of that too, but to me, it’s a risk/reward evaluation process that we go through all the time. Certain clubs have different ways of valuing or putting their dollars into the club and we have a little bit of a different one. Every club is a little bit different.” The Phillies have been involved in the pursuits of Moncada, Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig and Jorge Soler, among others. They did sign Cuban righty Miguel Gonzalez in 2013.
- In a second article, Murphy also looks at the Phillies’ slow entrance to the era of analytics. The Phillies have made some recent hires and are investing more than $1MM in building a computer information system similar to that of the Red Sox, which will serve as a database for scouting reports, medical info and statistical models. Amaro said that while the team has used analytics to its benefit in the past, he’s looking to put more emphasis in the field now and become more creative with their usage of data and statistical trends.
Phillies’ closer Jonathan Papelbon discussed the possibility of being dealt for the first of what could be many times in camp, as Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reports. Given that he possesses a 17-team no-trade list, Papelbon’s opinion will play a significant role in how he is marketed by the rebuilding club.
Papelbon says that he has not yet reached the point of considering any trade scenarios that may have implicated his no-trade clause. “Once I hear something from my agents, that’s when I get involved,” Papelbon said. “I never heard anything from them.” That clause is an important part of the free agent contract that brought him to Philadelphia, pursuant to which he is owed $13MM for the coming season and another $13MM for 2016 if (and only if) he finishes 48 games this year.
The veteran righty indicated last summer that he would be willing to waive his no-trade protection to join a winning club, and the same appears to hold true now. But as to whether he would demand that a club on his no-trade list pick up the 2016 vesting option — a key consideration in defining his market — Papelbon remained noncommital: “I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. I think it depends on where I’m going, what the situation is with that other ballclub, what my situation is here. The whole equation comes into play.”
While he may not have been asked to consider specific trade scenarios, he certainly seemed versed in the rumors. Papelbon mentioned two teams that he had been tied to in explaining his willingness to compete wherever he ends up (including Philadelphia): “If Toronto wants me, if Milwaukee wants me, whoever wants me, they’re going to get someone who knows how to compete and go play ball and lay it on the line.”
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe ranked every manager in baseball. Giants skipper Bruce Bochy took the top spot for his ability to get great production of of good, but not great, talent. After that, Bochy, Buck Showalter, Joe Maddon, Terry Francona, and Bob Melvin round out Cafardo’s top five. The bottom of the list doesn’t necessarily feature baseball’s “worst” managers as the first-timers are automatically the lowest ranked. More from today’s column..
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said last week that four teams made real offers for Cole Hamels and Cafardo hears from a major league source that one of those clubs was the Red Sox. From talking with various sources, Cafardo senses that the package Boston offered was heavy on the major league side, trying to avoid giving up any of their top prospects. Of course, the Phillies are insistent on prospects, and if they don’t get them now they’ll wait until the deadline when teams are a little more desperate.
- There may be a mystery team out there kicking the tires on Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies are still optimistic that they make a deal happen somewhere, even though the Brewers talks haven’t unfolded as expected.
- The Twins and Indians are looking for a right-handed bat and Cafardo wonders if Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig could be a fit. With Shane Victorino in the fold and Bryce Brentz in the minors, Cafardo wonders when Boston will try and clear up the logjam.
- Chad Billingsley could also be trade bait for the Phillies if he gets off to a good start. A couple of scouts tell Cafardo that they see Billingsley as an effective 150-160-inning guy at the back end of a rotation.
The Phillies are in for an uncomfortable spring training, writes Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer. As Brookover puts it, the club could contend for the “Most Awkward Spring Training in franchise history.” At issue are the number of returning veterans who were shopped extensively over the offseason. The most notable include Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, and Ryan Howard.
With Hamels, the potential for drama is limited. The club has asked for a king’s ransom in return for the left-handed ace, and he’s well compensated. Hamels seemingly understands the Phillies’ need to rebuild. His 20-team no-trade list does not include nine of the clubs most likely to acquire his services. He’ll continue to audition for a trade to a contender.
Strife is more likely with Papelbon. He has a reputation for honest comments to the media, and he appears to let frustration boil over publicly at times. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. assured Papelbon that the club meant to contend this season as recently as the 2014 trade deadline. Club representatives, including President Pat Gillick, have since been very forward about their intention to rebuild.
Brookover suggests that Papelbon may feel misled. Even if Papelbon takes a pragmatic approach to the rebuild, it’s clear the club intends to move him elsewhere. Papelbon has a 17-team no-trade clause, but he’s expressed a willingness to waive it. Rumor suggests he would ask for his 2016 option to be guaranteed as a condition to waiving the no trade clause.
While Papelbon could produce headlines this spring, the return of Howard is the most uncomfortable situation. While Amaro has loudly praised Howard’s character, he also told the former star first baseman that the club was better off without him. A market for Howard’s services never developed. It was rumored that the Phillies would eat a large portion of his contract to facilitate a trade. Howard’s continued presence may delay opportunities for prospects like Maikel Franco and Kelly Dugan.
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.