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Yankees free agent Curtis Granderson joined Ken Rosenthal on MLB Network's Hot Stove to discuss his offseason thus far. The outfielder told Rosenthal that the number one thing he's looking for is to sign with a winner. More from the AL East..
- With uncertainty over Alex Rodriguez and the future of Robinson Cano, the Yankees have contacted free agent Kelly Johnson, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Johnson has primarily played second base over the course of his career but he also offers experience at left field and saw some time at third base in 2013.
- It's not a huge surprise, but teams are inquiring on Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (on Twitter). Whether they are willing to move him is another story.
- Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Beltran are targets 1 and 1A for the Yankees, a person familiar with their thinking tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Fellow outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury sits a hair behind the other two stars.
- Bryan Hoch of MLB.com (on Twitter) also hears that the Yankees are serious about their pursuit of Beltran.
- Former Red Sox pitcher Alfredo Aceves is working out in Mexico and drawing interest from multiple teams, tweets Rob Bradford of WEEI.com.
- The Blue Jays' priority is improving the rotation, but they're also keeping an eye out for help at second base and catcher, writes Heyman. It's no surprise to hear that they're interested in Robinson Cano, but his price tag will probably prove to be too much since they need to direct their bucks towards starting pitching.
- Alex Speier of WEEI.com explains why Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, and Stephen Drew all turned down the $14.1MM qualifying offer from the Red Sox.
It's been a disappointing season for the Blue Jays, who announced earlier this week that Jose Bautista would be shut down through season's end. Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos made a radio appearance with Greg Brady and Jim Lang on Sportsnet 590 earlier today to discuss the team (audio link). For those who don't have time to listen to the whole interview, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith has transcribed Anthopoulos' comments. Here are some more highlights…
- The Blue Jays were focused on adding quality innings to their rotation this past offseason, as evidenced by the acquisition of R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. One element Anthopoulos says the Jays should have been more focused on is the team's defense. He also stresses it's important to reassess their thinking from last offseason: "You have to look back. If you're going to be arrogant and stubborn and think you had all the answers and 'oh it just didn't work out,' I don't think you're going to get any better."
- Anthopoulos feels that, from a defensive standpoint, rookie Ryan Goins could be the best second baseman the Blue Jays have had since Orlando Hudson in his prime. Indeed, both UZR/150 (+40.6) and The Fielding Bible (+6 runs) rave about Goins defense in an admittedly microscopic 99-inning sample size. He adds that over the past month, Brett Lawrie has been as locked-in defensively (and offensively) as he's ever been.
- The Blue Jays will talk to their medical and training staff and try to decide by mid-October whether or not they will extend a qualfying offer of roughly $14MM to Johnson.
- Anthopoulos called Ricky Romero on the phone late in August to see how the left-hander was feeling. He asked where Romero was at in terms of wanting to come up for September, and whether heading home for the winter to be away from the grind of a long season was the best thing for him from a mental standpoint. Romero wanted to come up and be a part of the team, even with no guarantee of innings pitched or appearances. Anthopoulos adds that he told Romero, who is owed $7.5MM in 2014 and 2015, that he will likely be removed from the 40-man roster again this winter. Romero will be given a clean slate in 2014 and a chance to win a spot on the roster, according to the GM.
- Asked about the possibility of listening to trade offers on Bautista, Anthopoulos replied: "I always [listen on every player], and I tell the players that and I've had players ask me. As a policy, we don't have no-trade clauses on this team, and the question always comes up, 'Well, do you think I might get traded?' and so on. I tell them, 'Look, if I can guarantee you wouldn't get traded, I'd be very comfortable giving you a full no-trade, and we wouldn't have to have this discussion.'" Anthopoulos said it's very hard to trade his best players though, as it's usually a case of creating a new hole in order to fill an existing one.
- The Blue Jays are encouraged by the strong second-half showings of Dickey and Buehrle and will likely look to add another arm to the rotation via free agency or trade.
Here's a look at the latest out of the AL and NL East..
- The Blue Jays tweeted that Jose Bautista has been shut down for the remainder of the season. Bautista left an Aug. 20 game with hip soreness and hasn't appeared in the Jays' lineup since. The club expects him to be ready for 2014 Spring Training, however.
- With Ike Davis shut down for the season, Mets GM Sandy Alderson told reporters Tuesday that the club will use the remainder of the season to evaluate Lucas Duda at first base, according to Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. The 27-year-old has appeared mainly in the outfield across parts of four seasons with the Mets, but says he feels more comfortable at first. In 289 plate appearances this season, Duda has a .240/.360/.434 line.
- As Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer notes (Twitter link), it was only two years ago that the Phillies opted not to give a September call-up to first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss, who hit .275/.368/.509 for the club's Triple-A affiliate that year. Since catching on with the A's in June 2012, Moss has slugged 47 major league homers, and carried a 2013 line of .249/.329/.495 heading into tonight's matchup with the Rangers.
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.
As the Rangers expand their search for offense, they've called the Blue Jays about Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, according to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports (Twitter link). The Blue Jays aren't interested in dealing either slugger, however, Knobler adds.
The Rangers are reportedly willing to listen on any of their players — even Elvis Andrus and the recently acquired Matt Garza — and they could also lose Lance Berkman for the remainder of the season due to injury. It's likely that uncertainty surrounding Nelson Cruz's status with a Biogenesis suspension looming is also motivating the Rangers' search for a bat.
After a look at the AL East earlier this morning, let's turn our attention out west …
- While the Athletics are looking to buttress their 4-game division lead by buying at the deadline, John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group reports that the club is finding supply to be limited. "Right now there are more buyers than there are sellers, more buyers than last year," says GM Billy Beane. Second base and starting pitching are the needs atop Oakland's wish list, team sources tell Hickey. In spite of the rotation's solid performance to date, Hickey says a trade could allow the team to utilize Brett Anderson in a bullpen role when he returns from injury. Citing Beane's apparent willingness to take on some relatively significant salary obligations, Hickey lists Jake Peavy (White Sox), Edinson Volquez (Padres), Bud Norris (Astros), and Kyle Lohse (Brewers) as potential targets.
- After adding starter Matt Garza, the Rangers are looking at dealing for an outfielder, writes CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman. Currently, says Heyman, Alex Rios of the White Sox is the most likely candidate for Texas. Heyman further notes, however, that the club could look to wait out the market in the hopes that players like Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins, Michael Cuddyer of the Rockies, Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, or the Giants' Hunter Pence become available, with Pence being the most likely among those to change hands. Texas has also considered Chris Denorfia of the Padres, Marlon Byrd of the Mets, and Justin Ruggiano of the Marlins, though Heyman notes that those options would rank below Rios in terms of impact.
- The Astros' Mark Appel is the highest-rated player from the recent amateur draft on MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo's updated Top 100 prospects list. As Mayo explains in his overview of the changes to the list, the top overall choice leads a group of eight recently-drafted players to crack the top 100. Houston is tied with the Red Sox with the most total players to make Mayo's list, with eight apiece. In terms of a simple weighting metric that Mayo calls "Prospect Points," the 'Stros have the most overall prospect value in baseball in high-end prospects, followed closely by the Twins. Though the Astros passed on top overall prospect Byron Buxton in last year's draft, its strategy enabled it to land the players currently checking in at number nine (Carlos Correa) and number sixty-five (Lance McCullers) instead.
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This time last year, the Major League home run leader appeared to be on the trade block and teams were asking about his availability daily. The Giants, Phillies, White Sox and Tigers all inquired on Jose Bautista, and while the talk intrigued front offices and fans alike, it didn’t faze Bautista.
"That wasn’t something that bothered me too much,” he told MLBTR. “By now, I don’t think any trade rumors bother me. It’s always somewhat intriguing to know that you’re involved in talks.”
Twelve months later, the MLB home run leaderboard looks similar – Bautista tops it with 31 home runs – but the right fielder turned third baseman no longer hears himself mentioned as a trade candidate. Bautista, who has switched organizations six times in his career, obtained some stability over the winter, signing a five-year, $64MM extension with the Blue Jays.
On this date seven years ago, long before the multiyear contracts and home run titles, the trade talk turned to reality for Bautista, who was traded twice on July 30th, 2004. The Royals sent him to the Mets, who flipped him to the Pirates, the organization that drafted and developed him. Bautista was on the field for batting practice when he was told to go inside.
“I just thought it was a routine call into the office to talk about something else,” he recalled. “They told me straight up ‘all right, we’ve got some good news and bad news, which one do you want first?’ I was like ‘give me the bad news first and then give me the good news.’ They said ‘well the bad news is we just lost you, we just traded you away. The good news is you’re going to your original team and you’re going to have a lot of opportunities.”
Then a rookie Rule 5 pick who had already suited up for the Orioles, Rays and Royals in the first three months of the 2004 season, Bautista says getting traded so often early on in his career was disorienting at times.
“There’s always a little bit of ‘what the hell am I doing wrong that people don’t want me,'" he said. "At the same time, you’re going somewhere where people do want you. Mixed bag of feelings, but ultimately it was the best thing that happened to me at that point in my career.”
Seven years later, Bautista doesn't have to pack his bags or hear his name in trade rumors. It’s now time for him to experience this summer’s trade deadline in another way – as an observer.
Photo courtesy Icon SMI.
The Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays have had their offensive issues, yet all three teams placed in the top eight in scoring in MLB entering tonight's action. Here are the latest links from the American League East…
- Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues examines Heath Bell as a possible trade candidate before determining that the Padres closer would be a luxury at this point, since the Yankees have more pressing needs. The Yankees have called the Padres about the closer.
- Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail explained that the Orioles consider sabermetrics when acquiring players and evaluating their own team. MacPhail also looks at basic information, salary, traditional stats and scouting reports, according to Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com, who passes along more quotes from the weekend's season ticket holders event.
- The Blue Jays could move Jose Bautista to third base as soon as tomorrow, according to Chris Vannini of MLB.com. The slugger is heading back to the infield, partly because the Blue Jays have had such poor offense from their third basemen this season (combined .183/.243/.308 line).
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, who extended Bautista this spring, has said he only works on one extension at a time, as Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star recently pointed out. Griffin wonders which Blue Jay Anthopoulos will target for an extension next.
- Anthopoulos has done enough since taking over as Toronto’s GM to earn a tribute song from the Bottom of the Fourth Blog.
John Farrell inherited a vastly different offense than the one that clubbed a league-leading 257 home runs for Cito Gaston in 2010. Vernon Wells, John Buck and Lyle Overbay are gone and newcomers Rajai Davis (pictured), Corey Patterson and Juan Rivera now have prominent roles on the team. Before the season, the new Blue Jays manager explained his vision of a more complete offense, one that would feature players zipping from base to base instead of waiting for their chance to break into a home run trot.
“I would like us to become a much more aggressive team on the basepaths,” Farrell said in January. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to try to make Jose Molina a base stealer. But it does mean that there are opportunities where we can turn guys loose.”
And turn them loose he did. Even Molina has a pair of steals and Toronto has already stolen more bases than it did during the entire 2010 season. The increase is largely because of Davis, the slumping speedster who has attempted to steal 26 of the 50 times he has been on with an open base ahead of him. Unfortunately for Farrell, Davis has only succeeded 18 times (69%) and his running mate, Patterson, is only 11 for 17 (65%).
As a unit, Blue Jays baserunners are succeeding at a lower rate than they did under Gaston, though they’ve already eclipsed last year’s stolen base total. The team’s success rate has dropped from 74% to 71% in the early going, but the Jays have been successful in another department: taking the extra base. As the table below shows, Blue Jays baserunners have been more aggressive, taking extra bases on plays they showed more caution on under Gaston.
For example, the Blue Jays scored from first on a double 33 times last year. Led by Jose Bautista, who has scored four of the five times he has been on first for a teammate’s two-base hit, the Jays have already scored from first on a double 22 times under Farrell.
But Bautista's success running the bases is mitigated by the fact that he has already been picked off three times. In fact, Farrell's aggressive approach has led to 13 pickoffs so far, just one shy of the team's 2010 total.
Despite the pickoffs, Bautista has been Toronto’s most effective baserunner this year, according to UBR, a stat that measures a player’s impact on the bases (not including attempted steals). Still, Farrell has known all along that home runs are an essential weapon for his right fielder and for his entire offense.
“We’re going to play to that strength,” Farrell said. “But in preparing against this team [as an opponent], it was one that seemed to be one-dimensional and a little predictable.”
The numbers suggest the Blue Jays were among the worst teams baserunning teams in baseball last year. But after placing 27th in MLB with a -11.1 UBR in 2010, they’re fifth in baseball with +4.4 UBR this season. In other words, the Jays are on a pace to add a win on the basepaths this year, after losing a win on the bases last year.
Farrell still finds himself looking for a ‘spark’ and the offense will remain something of a work in progress until Aaron Hill and Travis Snider find their strokes and Brett Lawrie’s wrist is healthy. There’s no denying that the Blue Jays’ offense is sputtering at the moment – they’ve scored only three runs in their past four games – but the group has generally been productive. Only six MLB teams have scored more runs than Toronto this year and the offense is above average thanks in part to Farrell’s aggressive baserunning.
Photo courtesy Icon SMI.
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.
Today the Brewers claimed Danny Herrera from Cincinnati, the Reds optioned Edinson Volquez to the minors and Josh Hamilton homered in his return from the disabled list. The connection? Back in December of 2007, the Rangers sent Herrera and Volquez to Cincinnati for Hamilton. Here are the latest links from around the league…
- The Brewers optioned Herrera to Triple-A Nashville and moved left-hander Manny Parra to the 60-day DL, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (on Twitter).
- One Blue Jays person told Danny Knobler of CBSSports that Jose Bautista is “our Derek Jeter.” Bautista hit homer #19 today as the Blue Jays defeated Jeter’s Yankees.
- Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues points out that recently-designated southpaw Jerry Blevins could be an appealing option for the Yankees if they're looking for more upside than Randy Flores offers.
- Earlier today, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes suggested that the Yankees are one of many contenders that could look for lefty relief.