Jose Veras Rumors
Dave Stewart, Matt Kemp's agent, has a "strong feeling something could happen" involving his client at the Winter Meetings, the former pitcher tells ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes. "This is the first time we've experienced this," Stewart said. "This is the first time we've heard it this much, and the first time we really believe something could happen." The Dodgers have been listening to offers for Kemp, and the Mariners, Rangers and Red Sox have all been linked to the outfielder, plus other teams.
Here's the latest from around the NL West...
- The Rockies are still looking for bullpen help and have maintained their interest in Jose Veras and Jesse Crain, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports (Twitter links). The club's interest in Crain, of course, hinges on whether he is healthy following the shoulder injury that prematurely ended his 2013 season.
- The Rockies had interest in Corey Hart and Mike Morse but both players profiled better as first basemen, Renck notes, a position that Colorado has since addressed by signing Justin Morneau. The Rockies have a hole in left field, with Carlos Gonzalez shifting to center and Michael Cuddyer remaining in right.
- The Padres had some interest in David Murphy and Nate McLouth, MLB.com's Corey Brock tweets. With Murphy and McLouth respectively signed by the Indians and Nationals, however, San Diego's search for a left-handed hitting outfielder may have ended with their trade for Seth Smith.
- Ichiro Suzuki seems relegated to the bench in New York, so John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter links) thinks the Giants should try to acquire the veteran address their outfield depth. Shea notes that Suzuki and Giants manager Bruce Bochy share an agent, plus Suzuki could be cheaply acquired from the Yankees. San Francisco had some interest in Ichiro when he was a free agent last winter.
4:25pm: In addition to Ruiz, Veras and Smith, the Rockies are also pursuing Brian Wilson, Renck reports in a new article. Colorado is prioritizing power arms to serve as a safety net for Rex Brothers or in order to use Brothers in a setup role where he could match up against lefties in tough situations.
Wilson returned on a $1MM contract with the Dodgers late in the season and totaled 19 2/3 innings between the regular season and the playoffs, allowing just one run and posting a 21-to-6 K/BB ratio. Earlier today it was reported that the Rockies are also interest in Grant Balfour.
9:10am: With Matt Belisle back in the fold after both he and the Rockies exercised their half of his $4.25MM option, the Rockies are eyeing right-handers Jose Veras and Joe Smith as pieces to help fix what was the worst bullpen in the NL last season, reports Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Perhaps more interestingly, Renck adds that the Rockies are continuing their pursuit of backstop Carlos Ruiz and plan to offer him a multiyear contract this week.
The Rockies currently have Wilin Rosario at catcher, but bringing in Ruiz would allow them to give Rosario some additional at-bats at first base and perhaps in right field, writes Renck. The team considers Ruiz to be a clear defensive upgrade over Rosario, although one would imagine that Rosario wouldn't exactly be a swift defender in the outfield should be find playing time out there (then again, neither is incumbent Michael Cuddyer).
Smith, who turns 30 next March, is likely appealing to the Rockies due to his career 57.2 percent ground-ball rate. That number dropped much closer to the league average in 2013, checking in at 49.1 percent, but Smith compensated to an extent by topping his career rates in strikeouts (7.7 K/9) and walks (3.2 BB/9). Overall, his ERA sat at 2.29 in 63 innings of work the the Indians.
The 33-year-old Veras posted a career-best 3.02 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 41.2 percent ground-ball rate in 62 2/3 innings between the Astros and Tigers. Detroit made the surprising decision to buy out his club option last week, making an eighth team in nine seasons a very real possibility for Veras.
The Rockies' 4.23 bullpen ERA in 2013 was the worst in the National League and the third-worst in all of Major League Baseball. The team has already lost former closer Rafael Betancourt to Tommy John surgery, and last offseason's acquisition of Wilton Lopez didn't work as planned, as the former Astro pitched to a 4.06 ERA with a career-low 5.7 K/9 rate in 75 1/3 innings. Lopez figures to return along with Belisle, Adam Ottavino and likely closer Rex Brothers.
TODAY, 11:18am: The value of the option declined by the Tigers was actually $4MM, tweets FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. Because Veras finished 42 games, he added $750k to the base $3.25MM option price.
Veras finished 45 games last year, seven of which came with Detroit. Though only two of those game-finishing appearances for the Tigers resulted in saves, it does not appear that he was the last man on the hill for any true blow-outs. However, the $750k bump probably could have been avoided: the escalator-triggering appearance came the day after the Tigers clinched the division. In his final outing of the regular season, Veras came on in the eighth with a one-run deficit and earned the GF when the Tigers failed to score in the ninth.
YESTERDAY, 1:45pm: The Tigers announced that they have declined their $3.25MM option on right-hander Jose Veras in favor of a $150K buyout.
The decision to buy out Veras' option is somewhat of a surprise, given his solid overall numbers on the season and the Tigers' prolonged bullpen struggles over the season. Veras enjoyed the finest season of his career in 2013, pitching to a 3.02 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 41.8 percent ground-ball rate. He signed a one-year deal with the Astros to be their closer but found himself traded to the Tigers in a deadline deal that netted the Astros outfield prospect Danry Vasquez and hard-throwing but injured relief prospect David Paulino.
For the Tigers, Veras excelled in 19 2/3 innings, totaling a 3.20 ERA with 16 strikeouts against seven unintentional walks. He was solid in his lone ALDS appearance but also has the dubious distinction of being the pitcher who came in with the bases loaded and surrendered a crushing grand slam to Shane Victorino in Game 6 of the ALCS.
With Veras (somewhat surprisingly) on the market, there are now eight relievers available who saved at least 21 games in 2013: Veras, Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour, Fernando Rodney, Joaquin Benoit Chris Perez, Edward Mujica and Kevin Gregg, not to mention longtime closer Brian Wilson, who returned with the Dodgers and dominated in a setup capacity.
The Astros have acquired right-hander David Paulino from the Tigers as the player to be named later from the July trade that sent Jose Veras to Detroit, tweets MLB.com's Jason Beck. The Astros received outfield prospect Danry Vasquez as the centerpiece of the trade.
Paulino, 19, made four starts for the Tigers' Rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate this season and was very impressive in the process. The Dominican native allowed six runs in 20 innings for a 2.70 ERA with an impressive 22-to-2 K/BB ratio. In a separate pair of tweets, Beck notes that Paulino last pitched in mid-July and is currently on the 60-day disabled list in the GCL after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Astros like Paulino's power arm and feel the injury is worth the risk. The trade will separate David from his older brother, Brenny Paulino, who has yet to pitch this year after missing 2012 with arm problems and undergoing shoulder surgery last June.
Since joining the Tigers, Veras has posted a 2.76 ERA with 12 strikeouts and six walks in 16 1/3 innings of relief. Vasquez, meanwhile, continued a solid season in the Class-A Midwest League after moving from Detroit's affiliate in West Michigan to Houston's affiliate in the Quad Cities. The 19-year-old posted very similar batting lines for each club, slashing .283/.334/.400 in the Tigers organization and .288/.323/.398 in the Astros organization.
We've seen three relievers get shipped off to new teams already today, with the Tigers acquiring Jose Veras for Danry Vasquez and a PTBNL, the Braves landing Scott Downs for Cory Rasmus and the Rays making a play for the injured Jesse Crain. The Crain deal will remain an unknown as the two sides are still working out "future considerations" to be sent to the White Sox due to Crain's DL status, but the baseball world is already weighing in on the Veras and Downs deals. Let's take a look...
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs calls the trade a win-win move. He notes that over the past year, Veras has been statisically similar to Jonathan Papelbon but comes at a fraction of the price. The Astros, meanwhile, cashed in on an asset for which they had little need and received someone with notable upside in the process.
- ESPN's Keith Law also likes the move for both sides (ESPN Insider required and recommended), noting that Vasquez's prospect status has slipped this season, but he's still a nice lottery ticket for the Astros, who have little need for a solid closer in a likely 100-loss season.
- Houston GM Jeff Luhnow told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart that he's been following Vasquez since he was an international free agent and is excited to add him to the team's Class-A affiliate: "And he's at the A ball level, and you plug him into Quad Cities with [Rio] Ruiz, [Carlos] Correa and the pitchers there, it's a pretty formidable group there and pretty exciting. He's young and has a tremendous upside. He has the potential to be hit in the middle of the lineup."
- The move was bittersweet for Veras, who told McTaggart that he considers Houston his home but is excited to be going to a team with a chance to make the playoffs. He also has friends such as Omar Infante, Brayan Pena and Ramon Santiago in Detroit.
- Cameron offers his take on the Downs trade as well, noting that Downs shouldn't face righties anymore but can still provide a boost in the playoffs against tough lefties like Joey Votto and Adrian Gonzalez. The Angels didn't get much back in return, in Cameron's mind, as most organizations have plenty of relief prospects who can throw 93 mph and miss bats with questionable command. However, getting "something just north of nothing" was better than simply letting Downs leave at season's end.
- Downs "[has] a place in any modern day bullpen," given his dominance over lefties, writes Matt Eddy of Baseball America. Eddy provides a scouting report on Rasmus, whose biggest weakness is his control. Eddy points out that Rasmus is capable of retiring both lefties and righties if he can reign in the walks.
- One scout told Danny Knobler of CBS Sports that Downs has lost the "turbo-sink" that prompted Anaheim to sign him to a three-year, $15MM contract but wondered if joining a playoff contender will revitalize the 37-year-old lefty.
- The Braves got Downs "for virtually nothing" writes Law (ESPN Insider required). Rasmus profiles as a generic right-handed reliever whose main value is that he's cost-controlled. Rasmus' high fly-ball rates will play better in Angel Stadium and with Anaheim's defense though, Law adds.
The first-place Tigers augmented their bullpen, at a time the back end finally seemed to have stabilized. Detroit acquired reliever Jose Veras today from the Astros for outfield prospect Danry Vasquez and a player to be named later, which will be decided on or before September 15th.
Veras, 32, has successfully served as the Astros' closer this year after signing a one-year, $2MM free agent deal in December. In a big benefit to his trade value, Veras' contract includes a $3.25MM club option for 2014. "We are pleased to add an experienced arm to our bullpen," Tigers' president, CEO, and GM Dave Dombrowski said in a statement. "Jose can pitch in a variety of roles, provides depth in the bullpen, and complements the roles of Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly." Veras has a 2.93 ERA, 9.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 0.84 HR/9, and 45.3% groundball rate in 43 innings this year. He's always thrown hard and racked up strikeouts, but this year he's been able to trim his walk rate significantly. In November, the Brewers outrighted Veras rather than retain his rights for 2013 through the arbitration process.
The Tigers add Veras at a time their larger bullpen concerns seemed behind them. They entered the season with uncertainty at closer, and re-signed Jose Valverde to a minor league deal in April. Valverde saved nine games for the club, but was removed from the closer role in late June and ultimately replaced by Benoit.
Vasquez "adds to an already formidable group of prospects at the A ball level," Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said in a statement. The 19-year-old left fielder was hitting .281/.333/.390 in his second stint for the Tigers' Low-A club. Prior to the season, Baseball America ranked Vasquez sixth among Tigers prospects, noting that the offensive-minded Venezuelan "projects as a solid hitter with plus power potential." Baseball America's Matt Eddy has more on Vasquez. The Veras trade is Luhnow's second this month, as he acquired Ronald Torreyes from the Cubs for international bonus pool money. "There's nothing else close at this point," McTaggart quotes Luhnow as saying this morning. Starter Bud Norris is thought to be the Astros' other major trade chip this month.
Closer Jonathan Papelbon is dissatisfied with the Phillies' current direction, MLB.com's Todd Zalecki reports. In the midst of an eight-game losing streak, Philadelphia has fallen to seven games below .500, and that's not what Papelbon anticipated when he signed with the Phils. "I definitely didn't come here for this," he says. He also doesn't sound optimistic when asked about the Phillies' future. "Oh man," he says. "We could be here all day."
Papelbon is of the opinion that the Phillies need to undergo an overhaul, similar to that of his former team, the Red Sox (whose overhaul, ironically, included losing Papelbon to free agency). He says he does not want to be traded, but adds that he does not want to stay in Philadelphia if his team continues on the same path.
- The Tigers and Rangers have discussed the possibility of a deal that would send Joe Nathan to Detroit, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. Right now, though, the Rangers are asking a lot, and Morosi says there is "no momentum toward a deal." As MLBTR's Aaron Steen noted yesterday, Joakim Soria could close for the Rangers if Nathan were to depart. The Rangers could target the Tigers' current setup man, Drew Smyly, if they were to deal Nathan, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports.
- The Tigers are not trying to trade for Papelbon, Morosi tweets, but Luke Gregerson of the Padres is a possibility (Twitter links).
- The Padres and Brewers are the top sellers for bullpen arms, CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler reports. The Padres can offer Gregerson and Joe Thatcher, while the Brewers have John Axford and Mike Gonzalez. The Astros, meanwhile, could deal Jose Veras or Wesley Wright, while the Angels could move Scott Downs.
The Rays might be the only contending team that doesn't need to do anything at the deadline, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. As for the other 13 clubs that are still in the hunt, Cafardo runs down each of their needs in advance of Wednesday's deadline. The Cardinals would like to add a starter and perhaps a middle infielder, but are good to go with what they have. The Rangers got their big fish in Matt Garza, but they'll still be on the hunt for a right-handed hitting outfielder as their concern grows over Nelson Cruz. Meanwhile, not every club has the resources to make the upgrades that they'd like to. The Reds have three top arms on the shelf in Johnny Cueto, Jonathan Broxton, and Sean Marshall, but they might not have enough to obtain another. Here's more from today's column..
- Contrary to some reports, the Twins have received “numerous calls” on Justin Morneau, according to a major league source. The Blue Jays are one team that has expressed interest in the Canadian.
- Scouts and executives are split on whether the Blue Jays could sell off Mark Buehrle and/or Josh Johnson. Buehrle, 34, isn’t the same pitcher he used to be, but he shows that he has value for a contender with performances like Thursday against the Astros.
- Jose Veras has done well as the Astros' closer and he’s receiving a lot of attention from teams looking for a late-inning reliever. However, teams are wary of the fact that Veras hasn't had to deal with real pressure and the Astros' high asking price. “I don’t think you can make a blanket statement like he pitches for the Astros so there’s no pressure,” said an American League GM. “If you look at his performances, he comes in when there’s pressure and he handles it well.”
- Manny Ramirez was getting rave reviews in his first week for the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate, but he's now slumping. Texas isn’t bringing him up any time soon, and the Rangers remain focused on acquiring a bat.
- Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey is an under-the-radar guy whose performance is peaking and he's available since he'll be a free agent at season's end. It's a small sample size for sure, but Pelfrey has a 2.28 ERA in four July starts.
Astros starting pitcher Bud Norris and reliever Jose Veras are drawing considerable interest and it's likely that both players will be traded, sources tell Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The Astros have said that they don't need to move Norris as his $3MM salary is affordable, but that also increases his value on the market.
The Orioles are one of the clubs that realize the value of Norris and other Astros hurlers. Even though they've already been aggressive on the trade market by acquiring Scott Feldman from the Cubs and Francisco Rodriguez from the Brewers, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that they're likely not done and are speaking with Houston about acquiring more arms. Baltimore likely would balk at the trade price for Norris - one report earlier this month said they're seeking two top prospects - but they could zero in on former O's lefty Erik Bedard or right-hander Lucas Harrell, sources told Rosenthal.
Meanwhile, one might guess that the Tigers would be among the leading suitors for Veras, but Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (via Twitter) hears that the Detroit front office is split on him. Knobler's best guess is that the Tigers don't make a play for the reliever, but there are some within the organization that are fans.
Heyman notes that the Red Sox, Pirates, Phillies, Rangers, Giants, and Dodgers have also shown interest in Norris at some point, which should make for some competitive bidding. Meanwhile, just about every contending team is considering relief help and the Pirates could be in that group after Jason Grilli was put on the shelf with a forearm issue.
Veras has a 3.12 ERA on the season with 9.6 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 on the season. Norris is also enjoying a solid campaign, posting a 3.91 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 through 20 starts.
Here are a few trade notes from around the American League:
- As we approach the trade deadline with the Mariners looking more like sellers than buyers, Larry Stone of the Seattle Times took a look back at GM Jack Zduriencik's recent history at the deadline. Beginning with an ill-fated swap of a young Michael Morse for Ryan Langerhans and featuring the retrospectively painful Doug Fister deal, the net return to Seattle has not been terribly productive.
- This year, the Mariners could be in a position to deal some relievers. Last night, we took a look at FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal's breakdown of potentially available NL relievers. Tonight, let's look at the AL crop. From the M's, Rosenthal says that veteran lefty Oliver Perez is the most likely to be dealt, with Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmsen also prime candidates. The latter two, however, will likely command a high price given that Furbush may just be reaching arbitration after this season as a Super Two, while Wilhelmsen will not reach arbitration until after the 2014 campaign.
- Rosenthal also pegs the White Sox and Astros as sellers with attractive bullpen pieces. Chicago could swing a trade for stud reliever Jesse Crain if he can return in time to prove his health; otherwise, both Matt Thornton and Matt Lindstrom could hold some appeal. (Both of the latter two pitchers come with club options for 2014.) For Houston, meanwhile, the prime trade chip among its relief corps is unquestionably closer Jose Veras, who is cheap, strikes out a lot of hitters, and has been solid in late-inning work this year.
- One other team that should look to the future, according to FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, is the Blue Jays. With the club again fading after its recent resurgence, Morosi says Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos faces a "virtually impossible" task to right the ship before the trade deadline. Rather than selling out for this season, says Morosi, the Jays should look to shore up the team's rotation to make a run in 2014 and 2015.
- Sticking with the Jays, Morosi says that Josh Johnson -- occasionally noted as a potential trade candidate earlier in the year -- has been "perhaps the team's greatest disappointment this year." Johnson currently carries a 4.89 ERA in 53 1/3 innings; his walk rate is below his career average at 3.4 BB/9, though he is striking batters out at a strong 9.1 K/9 clip. At this point, Morosi suggests, Toronto may be best served by shipping Johnson back to the National League rather than looking to try and bring him back next year.