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With the Winter Meetings just a week away, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince names the top ten Hot Stove storylines heading into December. How the top-tier starting pitcher market shakes out heads the list, according to Castrovince, who notes the trade market for the likes of Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann, and Jeff Samardzija will heat up once free agents Jon Lester and Max Scherzer sign. Among Castrovince’s other top headlines this month are whether the Braves trade Justin Upton and how the Red Sox and Dodgers deal with their surplus of outfielders.
Elsewhere in baseball on the final day of November:
- After A’s GM Billy Beane signed Billy Butler to a $30MM deal and traded third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com isn’t sure what the plan is in Oakland.
- The best way for the Rockies to become contenders is for Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki to be healthy and productive, but it would be daring for GM Jeff Bridich to trade the duo in search of salary relief to address areas of concern, opines MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby.
- The market for Kendrys Morales has been quiet to date with only the Indians being linked to the free agent DH. CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman tweets, besides Cleveland, the Rangers and Royals are also taking a look at Morales while the Mariners and Blue Jays are possibilities, as well.
- Left-handed starter Andrew Albers recently became a free agent and has drawn interest from a number of big league clubs, an industry source told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Albers became a free agent when South Korea’s Hanwha Eagles declined the 2015 option on his one-year deal. The Canadian pitched to a 5.84 ERA in 146 1/3 innings, though he did make 27 starts and led his team with 102 strikeouts. BN-S writes Albers appears to be seeking a split contract with incentives.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Andrew Albers | Atlanta Braves | Billy Butler | Boston Red Sox | Carlos Gonzalez | Cleveland Indians | Cole Hamels | Colorado Rockies | Jeff Samardzija | Jon Lester | Jordan Zimmermann | Josh Donaldson | Justin Upton | Kansas City Royals | Kendrys Morales | Los Angeles Dodgers | Max Scherzer | Oakland Athletics | Seattle Mariners | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays | Troy Tulowitzki
The Nationals have not re-started extension talks with righty Jordan Zimmermann since they broke off last winter, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports. The homegrown star says that he still hopes to stay with the team in the long run and remains interested in an extension — “if the deal is right.”
“I like D.C.,” he said. “I like the ownership. I like the manager, the coaches. I like everything about D.C. It’s just a waiting game right now to see what happens.”
While recent reports suggested that Zimmermann had rejected a five-year, $85MM offer last year, Wagner reports that the actual offer is believed to have been lower. As he also notes, the Homer Bailey deal (five years, $105MM) would appear to set a practical starting point, as Zimmerman has a better track record than the Reds hurler.
Meanwhile, the club has informed competitors that it is willing to deal Zimmermann and fellow righty Doug Fister in the right scenarios, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports (Twitter links). Fister, like his compatriot, is poised to hit free agency after the coming season.
Of course, Rizzo has emphasized in the past that he will listen to proposals on any player, and in that regard this report does not appear to change the club’s stance. But the notion that the Nationals have told other clubs of an openness to fielding trade proposals could, potentially be an added development.
With a roster that puts the organization firmly in contention mode, it will surely take a big offer to pry either arm loose. Indeed, per Nightengale, the Nats will not move Zimmermann for less than a “strong return,” and will not pursue a deal simply to shed salary.
It is worth recalling that we previously heard more specific rumors involving Zimmermann, though those were quickly shot down. But in concept, the idea of a trade is not as far-fetched as it might seem at first glance. As I explained a few weeks back in my outlook for the Nats, it makes eminent sense for the club to at least dangle both starters to see if an overwhelming return — particularly, one that can fill a current need (most likely, second base) while delivering future value — can be found.
Of course, payroll flexibility always must be considered. Though Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told me at the GM Meetings that the organization is not feeling the pinch, every team has its limits. Zimmermann is earning $16.5MM in the second half of his backloaded, two-year deal from last season, while Fister is projected by MLBTR/Matt Swartz to take home $11.4MM through arbitration.
Replacing the production of one of those outstanding performers would no doubt be difficult, and the Nationals unquestionably hope to put another World Series-contending club on the field next year. But there are plenty of internal options, and the free agent market is plentiful. In past seasons, Rizzo has looked to high-upside rebound candidates; how he would act in a post-deal scenario is anyone’s guess, but would likely be opportunity-driven.
The Nationals are entering the offseason with “an eye on 2015 and also beyond,” club president and GM Mike Rizzo said today from the GM Meetings in Phoenix. As it looks to build off of an NL East-winning 2014, the club will benefit from a measure of financial flexibility.
Last year’s Opening Day payroll evidently does not set a ceiling for the team’s spending, according to Rizzo. Asked where the club stood financially with a slate of guarantees and likely arbitration commitments that already push beyond last year’s starting salary point, the Nats’ head baseball decisionmaker told MLBTR: “There’s nothing off the table, there’s no restrictions. We’re going to make good, prudent baseball moves … regardless of payroll.”
At the start of last year, club ownership indicated that the $136MM+ budget was above where the organization wanted to be. But Rizzo said that the Nationals “have the flexibility to put the best club on the field.”
Rizzo also preached a balance between present and future in assessing the possibility of trading from the current roster. Though he rejected last night’s rumors that the Nats and Cubs were in talks on Jordan Zimmermann, he did say that the team is always willing to listen in an effort to improve.
The team does “not necessarily have to have a major league return on one of [the] 5+ [service-time] guys,” Rizzo said, explaining that he would be looking for “the greatest impact that you can make with the players you trade, especially when you don’t have to trade them.” In terms of value maximization, Rizzo also emphasized the fact that several of the Nationals’ 5+ players would likely be qualifying offer candidates next year.
Of course, players like Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, Doug Fister, and (to a much lesser extent, given the team’s rising younger players) Denard Span all figure as extension candidates. I asked Rizzo about the equally impressive group of players coming behind those who are nearing free agency. The team has “a long-term outlook and a long-term plan,” said Rizzo. “We’ve definitely thought about who and how and what players we should look into extending and we certainly have our plans in place to do what we need to do to protect the longevity and success of the franchise.”
The Mets and Mariners could be trade partners on a deal that would send a young shortstop to Citi Field, multiple sources tell ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin. Seattle has a pair of young middle infield options in Brad Miller and Chris Taylor, and both could be expendable should the M’s acquire a more proven veteran to play shortstop — for instance, the Mariners reportedly have a strong interest in Hanley Ramirez. Here’s some more from around the NL East…
- David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter links) would “be surprised” if the Braves don’t trade Evan Gattis or an outfielder in exchange for “a good/very good young starting pitcher in the next several weeks.” The Braves are known to be looking to add pitching given Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy‘s injury situations and the fact that Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang are free agents.
- Despite recent rumors, it is very unlikely that the Nationals would trade Jordan Zimmermann, CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman writes. Nats GM Mike Rizzo would need a massive offer to even consider moving Zimmermann, as while the righty is only under contract for one more season, losing him would be a blow to a Nats team that wants to win a World Series in 2015.
- Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley have consistently said they want to remain lifetime Phillies and aren’t willing to waive their 10-and-5 rights to accommodate a trade, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News writes. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has spoken to both players about the club’s rebuilding plans, and Lawrence wonders if either Rollins or Utley would be more open being dealt now that the Phils are openly planning for the future.
- Also from Lawrence, he lists the Reds, Cardinals and Tigers atop a list of 15 teams who he sees as possible trade fits for the Phillies‘ Marlon Byrd. Last week, we heard that Byrd was drawing a lot of interest on the trade market.
A rumored deal of Jordan Zimmermann to the Cubs is reportedly not happening, which makes sense to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal since such a trade wouldn’t really be a fit for either the Cubs or the Nationals. The Cubs are likely to address their pitching need by either signing a top free agent arm or trading one of their infield prospects for a controllable younger arm. Dealing for Zimmermann would the Cubs to both give up prospects and spend big, Rosenthal notes, since Chicago would obviously want to sign the righty to a long-term extension.
Here’s some more from around the NL Central…
- The Cardinals are wary of making commitments that will result in future roadblocks to upcoming younger players, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. GM John Mozeliak notes that the team feels it could be “exposed” at first base or the corner outfield if it does not get the performances it hopes for, and is interested in left-handed relief help and a utility infielder.
- In fact, the Cardinals met with representatives for Andrew Miller on Tuesday, Goold tweets. The meeting was characterized as exploratory in nature, though the fit is obvious.
- Both the Cardinals and Reds had interest in Michael Cuddyer before he signed with the Mets, Goold reports in a separate piece.
- Though the Reds are interested in Nori Aoki and Michael Morse, that is not an exclusive list, GM Walt Jocketty tells C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link). The club’s top priority is adding offense, and it is considering trade scenarios in addition to looking at the free agent market.
For those who need further convincing that the Marlins are serious about extending Giancarlo Stanton, president of baseball operations Michael Hill told reporters, including the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo (Twitter link), that teams aren’t even bothering to call and ask about Stanton’s availability anymore. Joel Sherman of the New York Post expands on that quote from Hill, noting that there are some indications that the team is willing to break its policy of not giving out no-trade clauses in order to lock up Stanton. Hill wouldn’t directly state that the team is willing to give Stanton a no-trade clause, but that could certainly be inferred from his comments: “It’s been an organizational policy, but you are talking about a star talent. You look at the marketplace and what other stars have gotten. It will be a topic of discussion.”
More from the NL East…
- Braves president of baseball operations John Hart tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he doesn’t envision an extension for Jason Heyward this offseason (Twitter links). That’s not due to a lack of interest on Atlanta’s behalf, but rather due to Heyward’s proximity to free agency. With Heyward set to hit the open market next winter, Hart said that his assumption is it’s “probably the wrong time,” though he said the team could still try to sign Heyward as a free agent.
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo acknowledged to James Wagner of the Washington Post that he’s been in contact with Asdrubal Cabrera‘s agent as the team looks at all options on the second base market (Twitter link).
- Wagner also tweets that the Nationals and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann aren’t engaged in any form of extension talks at the moment. The ace righty is slated to hit the open market next winter after pocketing a $16.5MM salary in 2015.
- Marc Carig of Newsday provides a breakdown of where the Mets are in their pursuit of a shortstop. The Mets aren’t big on the idea of multi-year deals for either Jed Lowrie or Asdrubal Cabrera, and looking to the trade market has been difficult thus far. Arizona’s asking price on Didi Gregorius is high — GM Dave Stewart said the return would need to be “earth-shattering” in terms of controllable pitching — and the Cubs haven’t given indication they’ll part with Starlin Castro. The Mets are concerned about Alexei Ramirez‘s declining range, and while they briefly floated the idea of pursuing Jimmy Rollins, that notion went nowhere when they learned that Rollins wouldn’t waive his no-trade rights to go there. A trade for Troy Tulowitzki is considered an extreme long shot, he adds.
- Matthew Cerrone of SNY.tv’s Metsblog has some highlights (and the audio) from the Mets‘ conference call announcing Michael Cuddyer‘s signing today. Within, he notes that GM Sandy Alderson admitted to being caught off guard by the Rockies’ qualifying offer, but they ultimately decided that they’d prefer to sacrifice a draft pick rather than sacrifice a current minor league prospect in a trade for an outfielder. That makes some sense, considering they figure to do so in order to acquire a shortstop at some point.
- The Phillies are willing to trade anyone, writes Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, but they may have to wait until the free agent market pans out a bit further before seeing some big deals come to fruition. If they’re able to find a taker for Ryan Howard, it may not come until big bats like Victor Martinez, Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera are off the market. The same could be said regarding Cole Hamels in relation to Max Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester; GM Ruben Amaro Jr. might find teams more willing to part with a significant prospect package when there are no longer ace-caliber alternatives in free agency.
9:21pm: The Nationals and Cubs have not exchanged names and a deal is unlikely, tweets Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.
8:04pm: The Cubs are engaged with discussions with the Nationals to acquire right-handed starter Jordan Zimmermann, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Talks are serious enough that the sides have exchanged names that would be involved, with at least one top young middle infielder likely to be part of the package.
Importantly, per Wittenmyer, Chicago would want to be able to ink Zimmermann to an extension in order to pull the trigger. The Relativity Baseball client is set to hit the open market after this season. He’ll earn $16.5MM in his final year of arb eligibility, after agreeing to a back-loaded two year deal to avoid arbitration last year.
Zimmermann reportedly rejected a five-year, $85MM contract proposal from the Nats last year, and his value has only risen. Zimmermann, 28, threw to a 2.66 ERA over 199 2/3 frames in 2014, striking out 8.2 and walking a league-low 1.3 batters per nine. And that campaign brought him one year closer to free agency, reducing his risk and increasing his leverage in talks.
Zimmermann is, of course, not the only pitching option being pursued by Chicago. Wittenmyer says that Jon Lester is still a possibility, and the club is also chasing the kind of high-upside, high-risk arms it has in the past. Justin Masterson is one of those, per Wittenmyer, who says the righty could be amenable to a low-cost, one-year deal to rebuild his value. Per Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (via Twitter), the team has had talks with Masterson, though nothing is close. Lefty Brett Anderson is another possibility, according to the Sun-Times report.
From the Nationals’ perspective, there is obvious appeal in the Cubs’ bevy of interesting, controllable middle infielders. Washington has an opening at second and has said it is interested in acquiring a shortstop option both for depth purposes and to provide an alternative to Ian Desmond, if he cannot be extended. Wittenmyer says the team feels comfortable with its staff even without Zimmermann, though I expect a free agent addition would be forthcoming if an arm is dealt.
While it is far too soon to speculate as to the pieces that might be included in a trade, the Cubs have several possible candidates that could be dangled. Starting shortstop Starlin Castro is signed to an attractive, yet pricey contract. And then there are heralded youngsters Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, and Addison Russell.
Kevin Towers considered another front office job with the Diamondbacks after being fired as the team’s general manager, but Towers told AZCentral.com’s Zach Buchanan that he chose to leave rather than possibly make things awkward for new GM Dave Stewart and his staff. “It didn’t feel right, and I didn’t want to be that elephant in the room when they’re making roster decisions or maybe letting people go,” Towers said. “‘I know K.T. likes him…’ I didn’t want them to have to worry about that.” Towers said he’s spoken to a few teams and thinks he’ll be in a new job before the year is out, also hinting he likely wouldn’t return to one of his other ex-clubs (the Padres, Yankees and Pirates).
As we enjoy two LCS games today, here’s some news from around baseball…
- With offense dropping around the game and a number of top-tier pitchers available in trades or free agency this offseason and next, this year’s free agent aces may find their markets slightly diminished, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes (ESPN Insider subscription required).
- Also from Olney’s piece, he reports that rival officials feel Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann will test the free agent market when he is eligible after the 2015 season. Zimmermann’s long-term status in Washington will be one of the biggest questions facing the Nats this winter.
- Alex Rodriguez “is the most expensive mystery in baseball history,” Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The Yankees currently have no idea if A-Rod will be able to handle third base on a regular basis, provide first base depth, hit well enough to earn DH at-bats or be healthy enough to play whatsoever. This makes the team’s winter planning rather difficult, as just releasing Rodriguez would mean the Yankees have no way of recovering any of the $61MM remaining on his contract via insurance payments.
- First baseman Dan Johnson is looking to add to his skillset by learning the knuckleball, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith writes. “Why not have something else in the bag? Give yourself every chance,” Johnson said. “I’m not 24 anymore. I want to help out as much as possible and still be relevant in this game.” Johnson, best known for his dramatic Game 162 homer for the Rays in 2011, recently elected to become a free agent after the Blue Jays outrighted him off their 40-man roster.
- MLB.com’s Corey Brock profiles Dan Kantrovitz, a St. Louis native who rose from a teenage internship (mostly handling Mark McGwire’s fan mail) with the Cardinals to becoming the club’s scouting director.
- The Astros are next up for Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel in his rankings of each team’s top prospects and their overall farm system depth.
Ninety years and one day ago, the Washington Senators defeated the New York Giants in Game Seven of the 1924 World Series. Newsreel footage (YouTube link) of the Senators’ 12-inning walkoff win was recently uncovered by the Library of Congress, giving us a very cool glimpse into how baseball has both changed and stayed the same over nine decades. (The blunt “President is there” title card is also pretty funny; poor Calvin Coolidge didn’t even merit being named?) The Senators franchise won two more championships after they moved to Minnesota and became the Twins, but 1924 was the only time Washington D.C. celebrated a World Series title.
It’ll be at least one more year of waiting for D.C. in the wake of the Nationals’ loss in the NLDS but in the meantime, here are some Nats-related links…
- Asdrubal Cabrera would prefer play shortstop but said he is open to playing second base on a contending team, he tells MASNsports.com’s Dan Kolko. “It depends. A team like this team, a good team that want me to play second, I would love to stay here. I just want to win. I’ve got eight seasons already. I want to be in the World Series one day,” Cabrera said. With a fairly thin crop of free agent shortstops, Cabrera could draw a lot of interest this winter, and his market will be further widened if he is willing to play second as well. It would seem that the Nationals are Cabrera’s first choice given how he stressed how much he enjoyed his brief stint with the club.
- The Nationals offered Jordan Zimmermann a five-year, $85MM extension last winter, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports. Zimmermann mentioned that the two sides had discussed a lengthier deal than his eventual two-year, $24MM agreement, though the term and dollar figure of the larger offer weren’t known at the time. The right-hander will be a free agent after the 2015 season and, if he continues his current form, he’ll be looking at deals in the $130-$140MM range on the open market.
- Beyond Zimmermann, the Nationals also have to consider extensions for Ian Desmond and Doug Fister this offseason, CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman writes. All three players will be free agents after 2015. The Nationals could look to lock up Fister since he’ll command less money than Zimmermann, Zuckerman opines, and he also wonders if a seven-year, $105MM deal would be enough to keep Desmond in the fold. That would represent a bump from the seven-year, $85-98MM deal that Desmond reportedly rejected last winter.
For the second consecutive year, MLB has a no-hitter to close out the regular season. The Nationals’ Jordan Zimmermann threw the first no-hitter for the franchise since their move to Washington, D.C., but needed a diving, over-the-shoulder grab by leftfielder Steven Souza, who entered the game as a defensive replacement for Ryan Zimmerman in the top of the ninth, to preserve the 1-0 gem. “No-doubt double and [Souza] comes out of nowhere. Whatever he wants, I’ll buy him anything,” Zimmermann said (as tweeted by the Washington Post’s James Wagner). As for his defensive wizardry, Souza (as quoted by Paul White of USA Today) “knew it was over my head. I was just hoping I had a prayer of laying out. Anything can happen when you hit the ground. I came down like a football catch and that thing wasn’t getting out.” Henderson Alvarez, who tossed last year’s season-ending no-hitter, was the victim today.
Elsewhere in the National League:
- The Marlins will discuss a contract extension with Giancarlo Stanton this offseason, reports Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. “That is our plan, to talk with him about extending him beyond his arbitration years,” said Marlins President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill. “We have to hear from them and what their goals are, and what they hope to accomplish. We have some ideas we’ll streamline and tighten up as have those meetings. And hopefully we’re on the same page and can get something done.” Stanton is represented by the Wasserman Media Group, per MLBTR’s Agency Database.
- Earlier today, Marlins manager Mike Redmond received a contract extension. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, meanwhile, is still awaiting his fate. “Yeah, I don’t know where we stand,” Roenicke told reporters, including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. “Yeah, it’s always uncomfortable when you’re not sure what’s going to happen. You do the best you can do, and you know when you’re a manager, that sometimes if it doesn’t go well, that you’re the guy that’s going to get blamed for it.” The Brewers lost to the Cubs to finish the year at 82-80 and 9-22 since August 26.
- Ryan Howard is just as unclear about his 2015 status with the Phillies, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. “Whether it’s going to be here or not, I don’t know. But I’ll be playing baseball. So my future is certain in that aspect,” said Howard, who went so far as to ask reporters if they think he has played his last game as a Phillie.
- Phillies right-hander A.J. Burnett, who will undergo hernia surgery next week, remains undecided about exercising his $12.75MM player option, writes MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. “It’s ultimately going to come down to me,” Burnett said. “I had the same thoughts last year. Then I woke up and I wanted to compete. So I can’t just shut that down if it’s still there. But then again, my youngins, they have a say in it.“
- Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post opines losing has taken such a toll throughout the Rockies organization that players, coaches, and other staff members are wondering if there is a vision to right the franchise.
- Wally Backman will not be added to the Mets‘ coaching staff in 2015, sources tell Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.