Jonathan Papelbon Rumors
The latest from the AL East as the Orioles host the Red Sox and the Rays host the Yankees...
- Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, who will hit free agency after the season, tells Rob Bradford of WEEI.com that he's excited about the opportunity to prove himself in the second half of the season, but only focusing on what he can control.
- The Yankees called Hiroki Kuroda's agent to gather information and heard that the starter doesn't want to leave Los Angeles for the East Coast, according to Peter Gammons of MLB Network (on Twitter).
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com that he isn't close to making any moves, though that could change quickly, since dialogue between GMs is picking up.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports discusses teams on the fringes of contention and provides recommendations for their deadline strategy. Among Morosi's more surprising advice: the Rays should sell.
- For the latest on the Orioles, check out Mike Axisa's post from earlier this evening.
The Red Sox kick off the second half on Friday with a big series at Tropicana Field against the Rays. Here are some notes about the club with the AL's best record...
- The Red Sox have contacted the Mets about Carlos Beltran, a Boston team official tells Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston (Twitter link). According to the official, however, the Sox were "just doing [their] due diligence."
- Beltran would certainly fill Boston's hole in right field, an area that GM Theo Epstein admitted is an area of concern, reports MLB.com's Ian Browne. Epstein said he would make a move if necessary, but the GM also noted that the Sox could improve at the position from within, either with Josh Reddick playing more or J.D. Drew breaking out of his season-long slump.
- WEEI.com's Ryan Hannable has a partial transcript of Peter Gammons' appearance on the Mut & Merloni radio show today. Gammons said Boston faces "difficult decisions" on pending free agents David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon, particularly Papelbon since Daniel Bard is waiting in the wings as the club's next closer. Gammons believes if Papelbon wants a three-year deal worth $36MM or more, the Sox will let him go.
- Also from Gammons, he doesn't think Boston will trade a number of prospects for a starter like Matt Garza in order to solve its lack of rotation depth.
- The Red Sox face a 40-man roster crunch this winter, reports Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. "For that reason, the Red Sox can afford -- and, indeed, might be wise -- to trade three or four high-level prospects for an impact player," MacPherson writes. "Not only could that impact player help them win the World Series, but the trade could clear the 40-man-roster logjam and allow the Red Sox to retain some of the other prospects they've devoted so many resources to developing."
No American League team has more wins than the Red Sox, who boast a 55-35 record at the All-Star break despite a surprisingly slow start. Here's the latest on the Red Sox...
- The Red Sox haven't engaged Jonathan Papelbon in extension talks this season, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Papelbon hits free agency after the season and it's a situation that fellow free agent closer Heath Bell will be monitoring in case a job opens up at the back of Boston's bullpen.
- Scott Boras pointed out that Jacoby Ellsbury's combination of power, speed and defense is hard to find. “Your skill set to play centerfield and steal bases obviously generates itself around speed," the agent told Alex Speier of WEEI.com. "So, to go beyond and add an offensive power to that is hard to do. It’s a rare skill set.”
- Carlos Beltran told Speier that he would accept the trade to Boston if the Mets decide to move him. “They’re in first place,” Beltran said. “That’s a no-brainer.” Beltran is an unlikely target for the Red Sox, who don't have much money available and would prefer to find an internal solution, according to Speier. Beltran earns $18.5MM this year and has said that he would waive his no-trade clause under the right circumstances.
- David Ortiz, who will hit free agency after the season, told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he hasn't heard anything about his future and isn't worried about it. Ortiz says he hopes to play for more than one season after 2011.
- Andre Ethier told Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe that he likes the idea of playing for the Diamondbacks with Dustin Pedroia late in their respective careers (Twitter link).
It's early, but baseball's toughest division doesn't appear to be getting any easier. The Red Sox, Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays are all within two games of the AL East lead. Here are the latest links from the division...
- Jonathan Papelbon told Rob Bradford of WEEI.com that he’d like to stay in Boston after the season and break records and win championships with the Red Sox. The prospective free agent says he’ll do what’s best for his family, though there’s more to that than the bottom line. "It's not about the money, it's about going somewhere day in and day out and wanting to be there."
- Jose Bautista reflects on his ascension from hard-throwing college closer to utility player to MLB home run king with MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca that top prospect Brett Lawrie has made the adjustments the Jays asked him to make and is close to Major League-ready (Twitter link). Earlier today, ESPN.com’s Keith Law ranked Lawrie 11th among MLB prospects.
- Orioles utility player Jake Fox told Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com that his role is unclear and that he has had trouble timing and recognizing pitches without regular at bats.
ESPN's Jayson Stark recently chatted with fans about several topics, including these hot stove-related items...
- Stark predicts there won't be "a lot of difference-making starters" available at the trade deadline this summer, so a lower-tier arm like Jason Marquis could garner some interest if Washington makes him available.
- It has been widely assumed that this is Jonathan Papelbon's last year in Boston, but Stark isn't so sure the stopper will find a better deal elsewhere. "He'll test the market," Stark writes, "but you'll have a ton of closers out there this winter. [Papelbon] might not get what he thinks he'll get."
- Stark hears from teams who have "kicked the tires" about acquiring Derek Lowe that the Braves want to keep the veteran right-hander. (Stark's ESPN colleague Buster Olney reported the same earlier this week.) Atlanta values its starting pitching depth, which has already been tested this season with Brandon Beachy's current DL stint.
- The Phillies "can't add anybody who makes even modest money unless ownership signs off on it," which could leave them unable to make a major acquisition at the trade deadline.
- Stark has heard from some general managers that "eventually, there will be a push to get rid of the DH" to get both leagues playing under the same set of rules. Such a rule change would be years away from being implemented, however, since teams have spent a lot on players who they intended to use as designated hitters now or in the future.
- The Orioles don't seem like they'd be willing to trade Jeremy Guthrie, and Luke Scott "isn't an easy guy to deal" given his controversial political views.
- Jesus Montero "isn't ready" for the majors yet, according to some International League scouts.
Joey Votto is the player of the month for ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark, who hears from a scout that the Reds’ first baseman is more feared than anybody in the National League, including Albert Pujols. Here are the rest of Stark’s rumors:
- One NL executive thinks the Mariners are so far from winning that they should be listening to offers for Felix Hernandez, who is under team control through 2014. Yesterday, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports heard from a number of executives who expect King Felix to stay put for now.
- An AL official says the Rangers are the most likely candidate to trade for a high-profile reliever this summer. Their bullpen has taken a number of hits, with Neftali Feliz and Darren O’Day on the DL and Alexi Ogando moving to the rotation.
- Stark hears that the only players available now are those with “awful contracts.”
- Despite the buzz about Mark DeRosa and the Marlins, Stark hears that the Giants and Marlins have not had serious discussions about the currently-injured utility player.
- The Phillies will find it hard to add payroll this summer, but they’re eyeing potentially available bats.
- Though Jonathan Papelbon will likely test the free agent market after the season, Stark gets the impression that the reliever could re-sign in Boston after all.
We're just four weeks into the season, so prospective free agents still have lots of time to establish their value before hitting the open market. Cliff Lee, who went on to become last offseason's most highly coveted free agent, had made just one start at this point last year. Adrian Beltre also started slowly; he was homerless with a .772 OPS last April before heating up and re-establishing his free agent value.
Other free agents used April as a springboard for standout walk years. Carl Crawford (.941 OPS, 7 steals) and Jayson Werth (.987 OPS) used the first month of the season to establish themselves as top free agents in 2010. With that in mind, here's a look at what ten members of this year's free agent class have done over the course of the first four weeks of the season:
- Albert Pujols - It took him a few games to heat up, but Pujols has 7 homers, 18 RBI and a .258/.321/.485 line. It's nothing special, but he has been unlucky on balls in play and has hit like his usual self since the middle of the month.
- C.C. Sabathia - Sabathia can opt out of the four years and $92MM remaining on his contract after the season and the way he's pitching, he may be able to obtain more guaranteed money that way. Sabathia is putting together another phenomenal season, with a 2.25 ERA, 8.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9.
- Prince Fielder - Fielder leads the NL with 23 RBI and has a .326/.415/.565 line. Agent Scott Boras figures to be asking for Mark Teixeira money ($180MM) and then some this offseason.
- Jose Reyes - Reyes has a robust .321/.359/.459 line with 8 stolen bases and 11 extra base hits. If he keeps this up, could ask for $100MM-plus this winter.
- Jimmy Rollins - Rollins, 32, has a .271/.346/.354 line so far this season. He's getting on base at a respectable clip, but he has never had a season with a slugging percentage this low. It seems unlikely that Rollins will have another 30 homer season, as his slugging percentage and isolated power have been in decline since 2007.
- C.J. Wilson - Wilson's 3-0 record and 3.51 ERA look good and he's striking our nearly a batter per inning (8.4 K/9). He has a career-best walk rate so far (2.4 BB/9) after struggling with walks for years.
- Carlos Beltran - With 3 homers and a .280/.359/.488 line, the 34-year-old Beltran is off to a strong start. Seemingly healthy after two injury-plagued seasons, he is now playing right field (though agent Scott Boras insists he can still handle center).
- Mark Buehrle - Buehrle, 32, has a 5.12 ERA, but his peripheral stats suggest that his ERA should fall closer to his 3.87 career mark. Buehrle, who averaged 33 starts per year over the course of the last decade, leads the league with six starts in 2011.
- Jonathan Papelbon - Elite relief pitching is arguably the biggest strength of the upcoming free agent class, so it remains to be seen whether Papelbon will have much leverage this winter. He's off to an excellent start, with 5 saves, a 1.93 ERA, 11.6 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9.
- Heath Bell - Bell would like to stay in San Diego, but the Padres may not be able to afford him. If he keeps pitching like this - 0.90 ERA, 5 saves, 6.3 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 - someone else will be happy to pay for his services. His strikeout rate has dipped, but it's early.
Jonathan Papelbon says there’s a “50-50” chance that he returns to the Red Sox after the season, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Papelbon, who is set to earn $12MM this year before hitting free agency for the first time in his career, says it’s “a tossup.”
“Whatever happens, happens. I don’t have much control over that,” Papelbon said in reference to the free agent market in general. “I’m worried about putting up numbers and trying to be the best I can be at my craft, be part of the equation for a championship club again.”
Papelbon says the notion that he wants to play elsewhere is a “big misconception” and that he can see himself returning to Boston, where he has spent the first six seasons of his career. The 30-year-old will have competition on the free agent market after the season, when Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Capps, Francisco Cordero, Ryan Franklin, Brad Lidge, Joe Nathan, Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano and Jose Valverde could all hit free agency as well.
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says the Red Sox are the team to beat in 2011 and that's far from the only news out of Boston's Spring Training camp today...
- David Ortiz told Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com that he feels good and is open to negotiating an extension during the season if the Red Sox are interested in one (link in Spanish).
- Adrian Gonzalez told Rojas that he has no pre-set extension agreement with the Red Sox and that he needs to prove that his shoulder is completely healthy before finalizing a deal with his new team (link in Spanish). Gonzalez denied that the sides are waiting to announce the deal because of baseball’s luxury tax.
- Ortiz told Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston.com that that he would at least consider playing for the Yankees. "Well, if I don't get signed here, I would play somewhere," Ortiz said. "You know what I'm saying? I'm not saying I would play for the Yankees, but I if I don't have a job, I gotta go somewhere else. As long as I play, right?"
- But Ortiz tells Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald that he is "not even thinking" about his next contract yet.
- Jonathan Papelbon says his slider will be a key pitch for him in 2011, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. The closer hits free agency for the first time after the season, though he'll have plenty of competition as the relief market figures to be strong again.
Red Sox GM Theo Epstein told Dennis & Callahan on WEEI that the Red Sox are vulnerable in certain areas, even after a successful offseason. Here's the latest from Epstein, including details on the team's pursuit of its new left fielder...
- Epstein prefers to integrate young players onto the Major League roster with minimal fanfare. Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester, for example, came up through Boston’s system and are now top starters.
- Epstein identified starting pitching depth as a possible area of weakness for the Red Sox. Boston has Tim Wakefield, Felix Doubront and Alfredo Aceves plus its starting five, but doesn’t necessarily have MLB-ready starters in the minors.
- Catching depth is another one of the team’s “areas of vulnerability,” Epstein says.
- The Red Sox didn’t expect Carl Crawford to want to sign with them, but soon realized that he wanted to stay in the AL East. It took lots of research on Boston’s part to determine its level of interest in the left fielder. “We covered him as if we were privately investigating him,” Epstein said. “We had a scout on him literally the last three, four months of the season at the ballpark, away from the ballpark.”
- The Red Sox never expected to sign Crawford as swiftly as they did, despite their strong interest in him.
- Epstein explained Boston’s approach to extensions for arbitration eligible players: “Our philosophy, which is actually a policy in writing, is if we’re going to sign arbitration-eligible players long term, we have to get one free agent year and we have to get an option for the club. Because we’re giving the player certainty. We need to be able get some of those prime years back in exchange. That makes it a fair bargain."
- It's a near-certainty that Jonathan Papelbon, who never signed an extension with Boston, will reach free agency after the season.
- Epstein says there’s “no real timetable” for an Adrian Gonzalez extension.