Josh Willingham Rumors

Quick Hits: Cards, Fish, Willingham, Sox, Kemp, Lindstrom

It’s been a busy afternoon, but no deals have gone down; let’s round up some worthwhile recent news and rumors as the market heats up:

  • The Cardinals are in need of a starter for Saturday, and manager Mike Matheny says that it could go to an arm that is not currently in the organization, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Philadelphia has sent a scout to watch the Cardinals’ top minor league affiliate, Goold adds. As he indicates, it is easy to see the Cards showing interest in the Phillies‘ Cole Hamels given his high-end talent and extended team control. On the other hand, a recent report suggests that the Phils have yet to go very far down the line in discussing Hamels, and the club is said to be looking for an overwhelming return to part with the lefty.
  • For the Marlins, the desire to add a top-end starter does not mean that the team will part with any core MLB players, including outfielder Christian Yelich, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Additionally, Miami remains more interested in adding an arm that it can control past this season. The club therefore might be more inclined to pursue John Lackey than Jon Lester from the Red Sox, and would have “heavy interest” if David Price of the Rays were to be made available. Frisaro says the club is working hard to make one or two deals by the trade deadline.
  • The Mariners are currently discussing outfielder Josh Willingham with the Twins, sources tell Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The sides were connected a few weeks back by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, and Seattle has long been said to be seeking a right-handed bat for the outfield. Also still in the mix on Willingham are the Yankees, among other teams including Seattle, reports Heyman.
  • Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp interests the Red Sox whether or not he would be involved in a hypothetical deal for Lester, reports Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com (Twitter links). Boston has scouted him on and off over the last month, says Edes, and would consider adding him over the offseason if nothing comes to pass this summer.
  • The Rangers are working to deal outfielder Alex Rios, a source with a team interested in a bat tells Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). Rios, who was off to a hot start, struggled mightily in June and but has improved to a .304/.317/.405 line for the month of July.
  • White Sox reliever Matt Lindstrom is nearing a rehab stint, MLB.com’s Scott Merkin reports on Twitter. The 34-year-old owns a 3.32 ERA through 19 innings, and could be a possible August trade chip if he can return healthy. He is playing on a $4MM salary this year before hitting the open market.

Yankees Looking At Josh Willingham, Other Bats

The Yankees are “looking at” Twins outfielder Josh Willingham, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The club is also eyeing several other possible additions that would bolster the lineup.

GM Brian Cashman said recently that the team sees adding offense as the first priority. Heyman explains that, while the rotation is an obvious need, the club never intended for Ichiro Suzuki to play everyday and may be looking for depth given Carlos Beltran‘s struggles with injury.

Willingham may hold more appeal to New York than other corner outfield bats like Marlon Byrd of the Phillies and Alex Rios of the Rangers, says Heyman, because he is cheaper now and does not come with future commitments. The latter two players, however, have not been ruled out by New York as targets.

Of course, the 35-year-old Twin also figures to be available for a lesser prospect return. Coming off a tough 2013, he was out early with a fractured wrist. He has, however, been productive upon his return. While is batting average is just .215, he has slugged .420 (with ten home runs) and reached base at a .357 clip through 227 plate appearances.


Central Notes: Indians, Royals, Rios, Twins, Willingham, Cards, Peavy

There was some action on the shortstop front for the Indians today, as starter Asdrubal Cabrera left the game with lower back spasms, per Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (via Twitter). That would appear to be a minor injury, but the news coincided with the club’s decision to promote top prospect (and fellow shortstop) Francisco Lindor to Triple-A, as Hoynes tweets. Cleveland has indicated, however, that the move was unrelated. Of course, Cabrera has often been mentioned as a trade candidate — at season’s end if not at this year’s deadline — due in large part to the continued rise of Lindor, his presumed successor.

Here’s more out of the AL and NL Central:

  • With the Royals focusing on adding a corner bat, one possibility that the club has considered is Alex Rios of the Rangers, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Rios does have a six-team no-trade clause which, according to Cot’s on Contracts, includes Kansas City. His $13.5MM club option for next season is not cheap, but could potentially take the place of Billy Butler‘s own $12.5MM option if the latter is dealt or has his option declined.
  • The Twins appear to be prepared to sell, according to a report from MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger“We’re in a tough spot right now and we’ve been in a tough spot for four years,” said GM Terry Ryan. “So you have to listen. And that’s what we do.” 
  • One prime trade candidate for the Twins is outfielder Josh Willingham, who is slashing .209/.357/.399 with eight home runs in 207 plate appearances as he prepares to hit the open market after the season. Two clubs to watch as possible suitors are the Reds and Pirates, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN.
  • The Cardinals received some promising news on righty Michael Wacha, who could begin throwing again in two weeks after seeing improved MRI and CT scan results, reports Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. An early September return still appears the best case scenario, according to GM John Mozeliak. But Wacha’s health will not dictate the club’s trade deadline plans. “They’re independent of each other,” said Mozeliak. “That’s still something we can explore in the next eight to ten days.”
  • One oft-discussed option for the Cardinals is veteran Red Sox starter Jake Peavy, who once seemed close to being moved but could now be held as Boston looks to make a late surge. St. Louis is still keeping Peavy on their “back burner,” a source tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (Twitter link), who notes that Peavy has put together three consecutive solid outings.


Latest On Trade Talks Between Mariners, Rays

FRIDAY: Taijuan Walker‘s name is once again at the center of trade talks surrounding Price, reports Heyman. He adds that Tampa has also expressed interest in the likes of corner infield prospect D.J. Peterson and James Paxton, neither of which is particularly surprising; Peterson and Paxton are two of the top young players in Seattle’s system.

The two sides are discussing various iterations of deals for Price, Zobrist or both. Heyman adds that Seattle might be willing to include Brad Miller in a deal as well, given the emergence of Triple-A shortstop Chris Taylor. The M’s, however, have said they won’t deal Mike Zunino.

THURSDAY, 9:51pm: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Mariners’ talks with the Rays have been more focused on Zobrist than Price, and the two sides have been discussing Zobrist “for weeks.” Nick Franklin‘s name has frequently come up in talks, he adds.

Heyman also reports that the Mariners have spoken to the Twins about Josh Willingham and the White Sox about Dayan Viciedo, and he notes that he, too, has heard Byrd’s name in learning of the Mariners’ trade talks. One big league source tells Heyman, however, that a deal for Byrd is now “less than likely” due to his no-trade clause.

He also adds that the Mariners’ ownership group is very big on bringing in players who want to be in Seattle. Offseason comments by Price’s agent about his client not wanting to sign a long-term deal in Seattle seem to indicate that Price doesn’t fit that description. However, the team’s status as a legitimate postseason contender may have changed Price’s thinking on that front.

2:10pm: Though no deal is imminent, the Mariners have been engaged in ongoing discussions with the Rays regarding lefty David Price and utilityman Ben Zobrist, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Meanwhile, talks have stalled with the Phillies regarding Marlon Byrd.

Needless to say, Price and Zobrist both represent potential impact to contenders. Either player could presumably add value to just about every roster in baseball. That holds particularly true for Seattle, which could not only pair Price with current ace Felix Hernandez but would be able to play Zobrist at shortstop, outfield, or even first base.

Of course, the return for either — and, especially, both — would figure to be substantial. (It is not clear from Morosi’s report whether the two would be joined in any potential deal, or indeed whether the sides have progressed that far.) Tampa is said to be interested in beating the return that the Cubs received for Jeff Samardzija, if it deals Price at all. Certainly, a hypothetical pairing of Price and Zobrist (both under control for next season) would require a bigger return on paper than was commanded by Samardzija and Jason Hammel.

Meanwhile, the news on Byrd makes sense in light of last night’s report from ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden, which indicated that Byrd would ask the Mariners to guarantee his $8MM option for 2016 in order to waive his no-trade clause. Seattle is one of just four teams on Byrd’s no-trade list.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


Bowden On Price, Hamels, Byrd, Angels, A’s, Reds, More

ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Insider subscription required and recommended) offers a bounty of information on the trade market as we draw to within two weeks of the deadline. While you’ll want to give the piece a full read, here are some of the many highlights:

  • The Rays are in no hurry to deal ace David Price, and some possible trade partners increasingly believe that he will not change hands before the deadline. The club still wants to see if a post-season run remains possible; though the club sits 9.5 games back at the break, the division does still look somewhat vulnerable. If Tampa does look to move Price, arguably the best potential trade chip in baseball, it will demand more in return than the Cubs received for Jeff Samardzija — who, you may recall, was the key piece in a package that brought back one of the game’s elite prospects in Addison Russell. Needless to say, Price is a rare commodity, especially given his additional season of control, and his potential absence from the market (combined with the A’s early strike for two other top starters) could have interesting repercussions.
  • One player whose trade attention would potentially rise if Price stays put is Cole Hamels of the Phillies, who of course has plenty of value regardless. Bowden says that GMs around the league get the sense that Philadelphia will be very hesitant to move their star lefty, however. (Fellow top southpaw Cliff Lee, meanwhile, looks more and more a potential August trade piece.)
  • Ultimately, while the Phillies will not conduct a true fire sale, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has indicated through conversations with his peers that the club is prepared to sell. Outfielder Marlon Byrd is the most likely to go, says Bowden, though his contract presents some complications. While the Mariners are interested in him, Bowden says that the recent free agent signee will ask that the club guarantee his $8MM option for 2016, which Seattle is not currently willing to do. The Royals could also make sense as a partner, but also appear on Byrd’s four-team no-trade list and do not want to take on that level of mid-term commitment. It would appear that Byrd’s representatives at ACES advised their client well in selecting the relatively paltry number of teams to which he could refuse a trade.
  • Angels owner Arte Moreno has enabled GM Jerry Dipoto to be aggressive in trade talks, says Bowden. In addition to Huston Street and Ian Kennedy (read more on them here), the Halos have asked the Padres about righty Tyson Ross, though the Super Two hurler is unlikely to be moved. Indeed, now in the midst of his second consecutive season of high-end production, the 27-year-old starter (and his three remaining years of control) would require a significant return.
  • The Athletics remain aggressive on the second base market, with GM Billy Beane also said to be exploring more creative means of improving his club. Oakland is not inclined to deal away shortstop prospect Daniel Robertson after moving their top prospect, says Bowden, with the club’s internal evaluators believing that he could have as much future value as the more-hyped Russell.
  • The Reds are still looking to add a hitter, with Ben Zobrist of the Rays making a perfect match on paper given his positional flexibility and the club’s current injury situation. (Of course, the same could be said of several other clubs.) With Josh Willingham of the Twins set to hit free agency, he has also been looked at by Cincinnati.
  • Bowden provides several other interesting notes. Among them: the Braves have canvassed the market for a southpaw reliever and could be interested in James Russell of the Cubs and Oliver Perez of the Diamondbacks. The Dodgers will likely add a starter. The Cardinals are planning to scout Twins‘ catcher Kurt Suzuki as they assess things behind the plate. And the Giants remain interested in a second base addition in the event that Marco Scutaro cannot stay healthy and productive.

Central Links: McLeod, Alcantara, Vargas, Gordon, Willingham

The Cubs have given senior vice president of player development and amateur scouting Jason McLeod a two-year extension, reports Scott Miller of MLB Network Radio and FOX Sports San Diego (Twitter link). While president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer may have more name recognition, McLeod was also a key member of the Red Sox front office alongside Epstein and Hoyer last decade. He followed Hoyer to the Padres when Hoyer served as San Diego’s GM and moved to Chicago alongside Hoyer and Epstein when Chicago restructured its front office.

Here’s more from baseball’s Central divisions…

  • Top Cubs prospect Arismendy Alcantara is getting a two-day promotion while Darwin Barney is on paternity leave, tweets Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. While he stresses that it’s just for two days, Cubs fans will be getting their first look at a Top 100 prospect who GM Jed Hoyer has said could get a lengthier look this season.
  • Royals lefty Jason Vargas will be out three to four weeks after being rushed to the hospital for an appendectomy today, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. That’s not the only bad news on the injury front in K.C., either, as McCullough adds that Alex Gordon will undergo an MRI on his wrist. “I can’t swing,” Gordon told reporters. Manager Ned Yost thinks Gordon can avoid the DL, McCullough tweets, but he doesn’t expect him to play in a big series against the division-leading Tigers.
  • ESPN’s Jim Bowden looks at what it would take for contending teams to acquire Josh Willingham from the Twins (ESPN Insider required). Bowden feels that the slugger’s modest salary (he’s earning $7MM in 2014) and relatively low prospect cost make him a good fit for the Mariners, Royals and Reds.

Quick Hits: Trade Targets, Marlins, Garcia

The Independence Day trade that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics is definitely the top story of the day. When we polled MLBTR readers last week over which pitcher would be traded first, Hammel was the resounding top choice with 31.05% of readers picking the right-hander. Samardzija came in third with 16.19% of the vote. David Price (24.07%) was the only other pitcher to finish with over 10% of the vote, and it very well could have been Price headed to Oakland. Let’s focus our attention on some of the other rumors and notes of the day.

  • Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports the Tigers are interested in re-acquiring Joaquin Benoit (via Twitter). Of course, Benoit is in the midst of a fantastic season with the Padres. He’s pitched to a 1.26 ERA with 10.09 K/9 and 1.77 BB/9.
  • The Angels are also interested in Benoit according to Morosi (Twitter). It’s unclear if that interest remains after the acquisitions of Jason Grilli and Joe Thatcher.
  • Morosi (also on Twitter) notes that the Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Giants are interested in Diamondbacks infielders. Veterans Aaron Hill and Martin Prado have been frequently connected to rumors, although the club does have additional shortstop depth too.
  • Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes that the Twins are expected to make Josh Willingham and Kevin Correia available barring a sudden turnaround. Both players will be free agents after the season and aren’t good candidates for a qualifying offer. Willingham has been productive when healthy including a .228/.377/.441 batting line in 162 plate appearances this season. Heyman mentions the Red Sox and Mariners as two clubs in need of offense. To me, Correia looks more like a roster patch for a contender with his 4.95 ERA and 4.11 FIP.
  • The Marlins made a club record number of moves in June writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. A total of 45 transactions were made in June. The previous one-month record was 30 moves. July could bring more of the same for the Fish with Tom Koehler and Adeiny Hechavarria scheduled to return soon.
  • Oft-injured Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia will undergo season ending surgery to address his thoracic outlet syndrome according to Derrick Goold and Joe Trezza of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. The club wasn’t counting on a return by Garcia, who has been on the disabled list since late June. The news provides additional incentive for the club to explore the trade market.

Willingham Would Like To Remain With Twins

WEDNESDAY: Willingham himself confirmed his desire to remain with the Twins to Berardino today: "I do love playing in Minnesota," Willingham said. "I would love to stay here for another year or so." Willingham went on to say that he "would never" approach a front office about an extension but would "obviously" be up for it if the Twins approached him. The veteran slugger added that he respects the people in the organization from top to bottom and doesn't feel they're far from winning, adding that his wife and children "love" Minnesota (All links to Berardino's Twitter).

MONDAY: The Twins have finished 66-96 in both of Josh Willingham's seasons with the Twins, but despite the team's lack of success, agent Matt Sosnick tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that his client "loves" Minnesota and "would be happy to finish his career in Minnesota." However, the Twins haven't engaged in extension talks with Willingham, who hopes to play through 2017 if he is healthy, says Sosnick.

Willingham played much of the 2013 season with a knee injury that eventually required arthroscopic surgery in early July. The slugger originally injured his knee on what he described to Berardino at the time of his surgery as an "awkward slide" into second base on his lone steal attempt of the season on April 27 (he was successful). Willingham had hit his fourth homer of the year in that game, boosting his slash line to .254/.397/.542 — similar numbers to the monster .260/.366/.524 batting line he posted in 2012 with Minnesota. However, following that slide into second base, Willingham batted just .200/.332/.336 on the year.

Willingham, who turns 35 today (Happy birthday, Josh!), is entering the final season of a three-year, $21MM contract. A return to his 2012 form would likely increase the team's interest in keeping him around, but it would also make him a prime trade chip come July if the Twins are unable to turn their fortunes around. Minnesota is likely hopeful that some combination of Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks and top prospect Byron Buxton can round out its outfield for years to come (once Buxton is Major League ready), so Willingham's best bet to remain with the club could come as a DH/part-time outfielder.

Should Willingham hit the free agent market next winter, he'll join a group of corner outfielders that includes Michael Cuddyer, Norichika Aoki, Brett Gardner, Torii Hunter and Melky Cabrera, among others.


Twins Notes: Willingham, Johan, Rotation, Sano

Josh Willingham's three-year, $21MM contract is the largest free agent contract the Twins have ever issued, but agent Matt Sosnick told Parker Hageman of Twins Daily that Willingham actually turned down a more lucrative offer from a team that was farther west than the Twins are from his Alabama home. More from Hageman's piece and some other Twins-related items below…

  • Sosnick also told Hageman he "loves the Twins" and that there's no GM in the game he respects more than Terry Ryan. His respect for the Twins' honesty and player development led him to turn down more money for German outfield prospect Max Kepler back in 2009 to sign with Minnesota. Kepler still signed for $800K, which was, at the time, the largest bonus ever signed by a European prospect.
  • Within his piece, Hageman notes that he also spoke with Ryan about the upcoming offseason. Ryan "flinched" when talking about signing pitchers on the wrong side of 30 to multiyear deals, as they're more likely to break down.
  • The Twins are one of several teams to reach out to Johan Santana's agent and request his medicals, writes La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Santana's agent, Ed Greenberg, told Neal that his client "still loves Minnesota" and enjoyed working with pitching coach Rick Anderson, who is still serving the same role on the Twins' coaching staff.
  • Neal also reports that the Twins have checked in with the agents for Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco (who is represented by Sosnick), Dan Haren and Scott Feldman, though their specific level of interest in each is unknown. Ryan told Neal that he thinks the quick turnarounds of the Indians and Red Sox will be good for non-contending teams' chances at signing free agents, as they served as examples that a team's fortunes can change quickly. The Twins won just 66 games in 2013 — just two and three games fewer than the Indians and Red Sox won in 2012, respectively.
  • Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported earlier in the week Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are done for their respective seasons in the Arizona Fall League and Dominican Winter League. Buxton has been battling a left (non-throwing) shoulder strain, and Sano has been diagnosed with a strained UCL in his throwing elbow. Sano's injury sounds more serious, but he's been examined by Dr. James Andrews, who agreed with the team's medical staff that no surgery is necessary. Paul Molitor, the newest member of the Twins' coaching staff, told Berardino that Sano's elbow troubles aren't related to his throwing mechanics.

Twins Pull Willingham Back Off Waivers

FRIDAY, 12:33pm: The Twins and Orioles could not come to an agreement on a trade, and Willingham has been pulled back off waivers, according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). Earlier reports indicated that the Twins asked for top prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, causing Baltimore to back off.

WEDNESDAY, 10:57pm: The Orioles are the team that claimed Willingham, a source tells Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (on Twitter).  The O's are trying to work out a deal with the Twins.

5:01pm: Josh Willingham has been claimed off waivers by at least one other team, according to a big league source cited by Phil Miller of the Star Tribune. The team that was awarded the claim isn't known at this point. The Twins will have until noon on Friday to put together a trade for the slugger or pull him back.

It's been a disappointing season for Willingham, 34, who missed all of July with a knee injury. Since returning to the lineup on Aug. 9, he's hit just .177/.316/.371. As MLBTR's Steve Adams noted on Tuesday, the left fielder has continued to hit for power and post a strong walk rate, but more pop-ups and fewer line drives have dragged down his batting average. However, it was just a year ago that Willingham slashed .260/.366/.524 for the Twins in 615 plate appearances, so he may be a good candidate for a bounce-back campaign in 2014.

Willingham is owed $1.26MM for the remainder of the 2013 season and will be paid $7MM next year.