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Jonathan Papelbon Rumors
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.
The Orioles‘ reported asking price of right-hander Jeff Hoffman (and others) from the Blue Jays in exchange for executive vice president/GM Dan Duquette seemingly ended those negotiations, but Jeff Blair of Sportsnet reports that the Orioles weren’t the only club to try to acquire Hoffman from Toronto this winter. According to Blair, the Braves also asked the Blue Jays for Hoffman when the two sides discussed a trade involving Justin Upton. Toronto’s answer, Blair says, was an emphatic “no.” Coincidentally, the Braves wound up acquiring another high-upside, former first-round pitcher that’s recovering from Tommy John — Max Fried — as the centerpiece in their trade of Upton to San Diego. Meanwhile, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos tells Blair that Hoffman, who was selected ninth overall in 2014 despite his surgery, is expected to get stretched back out in April, with an eye on activating him with a minor league club in May.
A few more notes pertaining to the game’s Eastern divisions before the northeast portion of the country is buried in snow…
- The Phillies never presented the Brewers with a firm financial offer in their trade talks regarding Jonathan Papelbon, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Those talks appear to be largely dead at this point, and the Phillies may end up hanging on to Papelbon to begin the season, based on Rosenthal’s writings. He adds that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. isn’t under pressure from ownership to move Papelbon and will only trade him if the move is to the team’s benefit.
- The acquisition of Alejandro De Aza last summer could end up being a key factor in the Orioles‘ 2015 season, as the former White Sox outfielder now looks to be a big piece of the roster, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. With Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis gone and no external replacements brought in, De Aza figures to be the team’s primary left fielder and leadoff hitter. Though that may seem an underwhelming option to some, Kubatko points out that De Aza’s career OBP mark (.330) would be a nice boost over last season’s team OBP of .311.
- Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel takes a look at the Yankees‘ new glut of international prospects in his ranking of the team’s minor leaguers, with colleague Dave Cameron noting in an introduction that the team’s philosophical shift could pay off in spades a few years down the line. While the Yankees have always been known for spending significantly on free agency, they instead opted to go on a spending spree and blow past their allotted international bonus pool this year while exercising what some consider to be surprising restraint in terms of big league free agents.
Talks between the Phillies and Brewers concerning closer Jonathan Papelbon are “on life support,” reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Haudricourt reported earlier today that “there was no traction” between the two sides. GM Doug Melvin echoed that sentiment, saying there was no momentum. It is thought that Papelbon’s $13MM option for 2016 is holding up an agreement. Since Papelbon has a limited no trade clause that includes the Brewers, he may ask for the option to be guaranteed before accepting a trade. The ball may be in Philadelphia’s court to find a financial solution to the situation.
- Brandon Beachy has “zeroed in on a new team,” tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN. Beachy and the unknown team are currently working on contractual details. Wolfson adds that the team is not the Twins. Beachy was non-tendered by the Braves earlier in the offseason after undergoing his second Tommy John procedure. If he avoids setbacks, he may return to action mid-season. It’s easy to compare Beachy’s situation with fellow former Brave Kris Medlen, who signed a two-year, $8.5MM deal with an option. Like Beachy, Medlen is also recovering from his second Tommy John surgery.
- Cuban infielder Hector Olivera held a public workout in the Dominican Republic last week and over 200 scouts attended, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The Giants, Padres, Rangers, Braves, and Yankees are showing the strongest interest in Olivera.
8:52am: Papelbon would want his $13MM option for the 2016 season to be guaranteed in order to waive his no-trade clause, Salisbury reports. That presents an expensive obstacle in trade talks, but Salisbury hears that the Phillies are committed to moving Papelbon and letting Ken Giles inherit the closer’s role. ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweets that figuring out how much of Papelbon’s 2016 salary the Phillies would pay is the “last remaining obstacle” in trade talks.
8:18am: The 12 teams to which Papelbon cannot block trades are the Red Sox, Rays, Royals, Angels, Mariners, Astros, Mets, Braves, Cardinals, Reds, Cubs and Padres, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com (on Twitter).
Additionally, Rosenthal tweets that while the Blue Jays did reach out to the Phillies regarding Papelbon, their interest is still very limited. He adds that Papelbon has not yet been approached about waiving his no-trade clause for a move to the Brewers, indicating that talks have not yet reached advanced stages.
7:14am: The Brewers are indeed on Papelbon’s no-trade list, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Of course, that doesn’t mean that a deal can’t be worked out, particularly if Papelbon’s desire to have a chance at winning is still his primary focus. Rosenthal notes that the Phillies would need to send money to Milwaukee in order to facilitate a deal, in addition to getting Papelbon’s approval.
Rosenthal also tweets that the Blue Jays expressed interest in Papelbon in recent weeks, although they, too, are on the closer’s no-trade list
1:01am: The Brewers are in serious talks to acquire Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). Earlier today, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that Milwaukee was casting a wide net as it looked for pitching upgrades, and GM Doug Melvin said in an appearance on MLB Network Radio that adding bullpen help was his top priority.
It’s unclear at this time whether or not Milwaukee is on Papelbon’s no-trade list, Passan adds, although indications over the summer were that Papelbon would waive his no-trade protection to be moved to a contender. While the Brewers are far from a lock to achieve a postseason berth in 2015, they do appear to be better positioned than the rebuilding Phillies, who have traded away Antonio Bastardo, Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd this offseason as the club looks to the future.
Papelbon, 34, is owed $13MM in 2015 and has a $13MM vesting option that will kick in this season if he reaches 48 games finished. Should Milwaukee ultimately reach a deal to acquire Papelbon, one would think that he’d supplant Jonathan Broxton as the club’s closer, making 48 games finished a highly attainable milestone. Of course, as Passan notes, it is not even clear at this time whether or not the Brewers are one of the 17 clubs on Papelbon’s no-trade list.
Though Papelbon’s velocity and strikeout rate have declined in recent seasons, his bottom-line results have remained largely intact. Papelbon’s heater sat at 95 mph in his final season with the Red Sox, but it dropped to 93.8 mph in 2012, 92 mph in 2013 and 91.3 mph in 2014. Nonetheless, Papelbon was still able to notch an excellent 2.04 ERA with 8.5 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and a 41.9 percent ground-ball rate in a 2014 campaign that also featured 39 saves — the second-highest single-season total of his career.
The Brewers recently traded Yovani Gallardo and his $13MM salary to the Rangers, although Milwaukee remains on the hook for $4MM of that sum. Still, that salary reduction leaves the Brewers well-equipped to add some payroll, particularly if the Phillies elect to eat some of the remaining money on Papelbon’s contract, which many have assumed they would need to do in order to move him.
As it stands, Broxton figures to be closing games, with righties Jim Henderson and Tyler Thornburg serving as setup options alongside lefty Will Smith. Both Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano have been mentioned as possible bullpen targets for the Brewers, although for the time being, the trade market appears to be the more likely avenue for Doug Melvin to improve his bullpen.