Josh Willingham Rumors

Central Notes: Cardinals, Reds, Willingham, Ryan

Three of baseball's hottest teams reside in the NL Central, where the Reds (15 wins in their last 17 games) hold a two-game lead over the Pirates (15-6 in their last 21 games) and a 5.5 game lead over the Cardinals (seven wins in their last eight games).  Let's check out the latest from both leagues' Central divisions…

  • The improved performance of the Cardinals' rotation "takes a little pressure off in terms of feeling like we have to do something," GM John Mozeliak tells MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch.  "If you were to go after a starter, who are you really bouncing out? And how are you improving? That's why I don't think the urgency is quite there for rotational help as maybe it was, say, three or four weeks ago." It seems as if St. Louis will trade for a reliever if they do make a deadline move for pitching, Langosch notes, though the bullpen has also recently been better.
  • The Reds are looking to start their trade deadline shopping, with a leadoff man atop their wishlist, writes MLB.com's Mark Sheldon.
  • The Indians were only willing to offer two guaranteed years to Josh Willingham last winter given the slugger's injury woes, reports MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.  Willingham ended up signing a three-year contract with the Twins and is enjoying a superb season, while the Tribe is still looking for a big right-handed bat for their lineup. 
  • Twins interim GM Terry Ryan told Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities that he hasn't spoken to team owner Carl Pohlad about taking over the position on a permanent basis. "We haven't talked about it at all and I don't anticipate talking about it until we get to the latter part of this year," Ryan said.  "We have not had a good year. We've got a lot of work to do here. I'm not in any position to say that interim is going to be off me."
  • "It's business as usual" for the Royals heading into the deadline, GM Dayton Moore tells MLB.com's Dick Kaegel. Moore wouldn't comment on rumors about Jonathan Broxton, Yuniesky Betancourt, Jeff Francoeur or Jose Mijares.

Dodgers, Cubs Have Discussed Soriano, LaHair

The Dodgers and Cubs have had some discussions about including Alfonso Soriano or Bryan LaHair in a trade for Ryan Dempster, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reports. The Dodgers continue seeking offense as well as pitching, but it’s a definite longshot that they’ll acquire Soriano or LaHair, Knobler writes.

The Cubs are “desperate” to trade Soriano, who earns $18MM per season through 2014. The Cubs have offered to pay almost all of Soriano’s salary, but he’s drawing minimal interest from other teams, according to Knobler. At least one team has checked in on Soriano, who has 19 home runs and a respectable .274/.324/.503 batting line.

The Dodgers have also talked about the possibility of acquiring Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham of the Twins, Knobler reports.


Stark On Marlins, Phillies, Dodgers, Garza, Twins

Here's the latest from ESPN's Jayson Stark

  • One official who spoke with the Marlins brass estimates that the odds Josh Johnson remains with Miami are "95 percent." The Red Sox, Angels, Rangers, White Sox, Blue Jays, and Royals have all checked in.
  • Carlos Lee, Ricky Nolasco, Heath Bell, and Gaby Sanchez are all very available. Other than Johnson, Giancarlo Stanton will be the toughest player to pry away from the Fish.
  • The Phillies have talked about trading Cliff Lee following the Cole Hamels extension and they haven't discouraged other teams from inquiring, but their game plan right now is to keep their trio of aces intact.
  • Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton are good bets to be dealt and the Phillies will listen on Hunter Pence. They want multiple young big leaguers to plug holes at third base, in the outfield, and in the bullpen in return.
  • The Dodgers are in on a number of starting pitchers, including Nolasco, Blanton, Kevin Millwood, and Jason Vargas in addition to Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza. They've also checked in on outfield and first base help, including Victorino and Justin Morneau.
  • Clubs have not been assured by the Cubs that Garza will make another start before the trade deadline due to his triceps issue. He's more likely to be dealt in the offseason.
  • In the wake of acquiring Wandy Rodriguez, the Pirates are sending signals that they could trade away a starter like Jeff Karstens or Kevin Correia.
  • The Twins' asking prices for Morneau ("pricey"), Denard Span ("more pricey"), and Josh Willingham ("it made me laugh") are high. Minnesota insists they will listen on anyone and Stark says Morneau is the bat they're most likely to move. Francisco Liriano is "nearly 100 percent" likely to be traded.
  • The Orioles continue to look for pitching, someone they consider a number three starter or better. Garza and Vargas have their eye but Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado are off the table. They've gotten hits on Jake Arrieta but won't move him unless they get a similar young arm with several years of team control remaining in return.
  • The Brewers will trade Randy Wolf "for nothing if you take the money," according to one official. 
  • The Rays have "got a big market" for Wade Davis


Rosenthal & Morosi On White Sox, Tigers, Angels

White Sox GM Kenny Williams has already traded for Kevin Youkilis and Brett Myers, but he may not be done dealing yet, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports write. The White Sox want to add a starting pitcher and Zack Greinke is high on their list of potentially available arms, Rosenthal and Morosi report. Here are the rest of the notes and rumors from the FOX reporters…

  • The White Sox are eager to move Gavin Floyd, Rosenthal and Morosi report. 
  • Though the White Sox don’t have a deep farm system, they could flip Floyd for prospects and use those prospects to acquire Greinke from Milwaukee, Rosenthal and Morosi suggest.
  • A National League executive suggested to Morosi that Anibal Sanchez will be the third-best free agent starter this offseason behind Greinke and Cole Hamels (Twitter link). 
  • Morosi expects the Tigers to extend catcher Alex Avila at some point (Twitter link). Avila, the son of Tigers assistant GM Al Avila, has a .237/.339/.381 batting line this year. He has battled hamstring issues in 2012, his final year as a pre-arbitration eligible catcher.
  • The Blue Jays remain in buy mode, Morosi notes. Toronto executives believe a second-place finish in the AL East is possible (Twitter link).
  • The Blue Jays, Yankees, Giants, Indians, Diamondbacks and Cardinals all had scouts at last night’s Marlins game, according to Morosi (Twitter link).
  • Josh Willingham is available, but prohibitively expensive, one GM told Rosenthal (Twitter link).
  • Josh Johnson, James Shields and Greinke are among the starting pitching options the Angels could consider, Rosenthal writes.

Heyman On Upton, Hanley, Twins, Lannan

Arizona GM Kevin Towers could wait until the offseason to trade Justin Upton instead of moving him within the next eight days. A patient approach makes sense for the Diamondbacks if it allows them to maximize their return, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes. Here are some more notes from Heyman…

  • One general manager doesn’t know where he’d play Hanley Ramirez on defense. "He's not a third baseman, he's not a shortstop anymore. I wouldn't know where to hide him," the GM told Heyman.
  • The Twins don’t seem interested in trading Josh Willingham, but a long list of teams would have interest if Minnesota makes the outfielder available.
  • John Lannan made a successful spot start for Washington over the weekend, but it’s clear he’s not in the team’s long-term plans. Heyman suggests it’d be best if the Nationals can find a way to trade the left-hander, who earns a $5MM salary in 2012.

Rosenthal & Morosi On Brewers, Victorino, Twins

The Giants are interested in Indians reliever Chris Perez, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reported this morning. Here are more notes and rumors from the FOX reporters…

  • The Brewers are not ready to declare themselves sellers, but after losing three straight games to the Reds over the weekend Milwaukee is moving in that direction, Rosenthal reports. “We’ve put ourselves in a position where it’s a tough hill to climb,” GM Doug Melvin acknowledged. The Rangers, Angels, Braves and Nationals are among the teams that have shown some level of interest in Zack Greinke, according to Rosenthal. The 44-50 Brewers could also trade Randy Wolf, Francisco Rodriguez and George Kottaras, among others.
  • The Phillies and Dodgers have discussed Shane Victorino, Morosi reports (on Twitter). However, there’s no momentum toward a deal at this point.
  • The Blue Jays are still looking for a starting pitcher even after acquiring J.A. Happ, Morosi notes (on Twitter).
  • The Twins haven’t put Josh Willingham on the trade market yet, but he’s in high demand, Morosi reports (on Twitter).
  • The Twins are inclined to listen to trade offers for Francisco Liriano, because they could obtain power arms for the future by completing a deal, Morosi reports.
  • MLBTR summarized more rumors from Rosenthal earlier today.

Rosenthal On Hamels, Giants, Brewers

Talks between Cole Hamels and the Phillies will accelerate this week, as the sides consider the possibility of a mid-season extension, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Hamels must decide whether to accept an offer from the Phillies with the trade deadline looming and free agency just a couple of months away. The left-hander is “conflicted” about how to proceed, Rosenthal writes. The Phillies will almost certainly trade Hamels if they don’t sign him to a long-term deal, Rosenthal reports. Here are more notes from around MLB…

  • The Giants’ biggest offensive need might be a right-handed hitting outfielder.
  • A rival executive notes that the Nationals have relied heavily on their bullpen and suggests it’d make sense for Washington to add a starting pitcher this summer.
  • The Twins would want a major return if they trade Josh Willingham, who has a reasonable three-year, $21MM contract.
  • Some teams like Asher Wojciechowski, a right-handed pitching prospect acquired by the Astros from Toronto in last week’s ten-player deal. Overall the trade wasn’t considered a blockbuster, however.
  • Brewers relievers Manny Parra and Kameron Loe are drawing interest.
  • The Phillies might need to include cash if they trade Shane Victorino. Including salary relief could help the team obtain better prospects for the prospective free agent.

AL Central Notes: Castillo, Tigers, Willingham

The White Sox lead the AL Central with a 49-39 record, and they are considering at least one high-profile midseason reinforcement. The White Sox have Zack Greinke on their radar, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today. Here are the latest AL Central rumors, starting in Chicago…

  • The White Sox agreed to sign Dominican prospect Luis Castillo for $450K, the Dominican Prospect League announced. The league release describes Castillo as a "man child" who hits the ball hard and runs well for his size.
  • The Tigers and White Sox are both prioritizing starting pitching in trade talks, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reports.
  • The Twins haven't made Josh Willingham off-limits to other teams, but they aren't shopping him, Phil Mackey and Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com report. Willingham, who's in the first year of a three-year, $21MM contract, is "definitely" Minnesota's most valuable trade chip, 1500ESPN.com reports. However, the Twins are enjoying Willingham's production and would prefer not to trade a player so early in a multiyear contract.
  • The Angels, Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Blue Jays and Braves are believed to have some interest in Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano, Heyman reports.

Quick Hits: Sheets, Athletics, Twins

After missing two years due to elbow injuries, righty Ben Sheets made a triumphant comeback start today as a member of the Braves, tossing six scoreless innings against the Mets for the win.  Should Sheets manage a dozen decent starts for the Braves, the minor league signing will stand as a shrewd under-the-radar move by GM Frank Wren.  Today's shrewd, under-the-radar links:

  • "I feel like myself. That's one thing I can say I never felt like in Oakland," Sheets told reporters today including Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Sheets signed a one-year, $10MM contract with the A's prior to the 2010 season despite missing all of '09.
  • "It's just as necessary for the Yankees to have young players with a few years of control as it is for the Twins or the A's," GM Billy Beane explained to Tyler Kepner of the New York Times yesterday.  The A's GM has been trading away players further from free agency lately, but this year Beane's club is surprisingly in the mix for a wild card spot.
  • Scouts from the Yankees, Blue Jays, Braves, Mets, Reds, Padres and Nationals have attended recent Francisco Liriano starts, report Phil Mackey and Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com, though some of those clubs may have had other interests.  Slugger Josh Willingham would require a lopsided offer and seems likely to stay put, as we've heard before.  Willingham is signed through 2014 and is interested in staying with the Twins beyond his current contract.
  • Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer had Mike Trout second on his board for the 2009 draft, after only Stephen Strasburg, writes John Harper of the New York Daily News.  The Angels had two consecutive picks at 24 and 25, with the Yankees at 29, and Oppenheimer thought he might get Trout once the Halos took another high school outfielder in Randal Grichuk at 24.  Of course, Angels scouting director Eddie Bane took Trout at 25.  Trout told Harper he's motivated by all the teams that passed on him.
  • The Diamondbacks signed Dominican shortstop Sergio Alcantara, according to Baseball America's Ben Badler.  BA says Alcantara draws praise for his defense, and the D'Backs had been favored to sign him.  BA ranked Alcantara 18th overall in the July 2nd class.

West Notes: Upton, Colon, Bloomquist, Billingsley

Colorado is the epicenter of scouting activity this afternoon as Cole Hamels starts against the Rockies. The Angels, Dodgers, and Rangers are scouting the Phillie left-hander, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports (Twitter links). The Tigers are on hand taking a look at Marco Scutaro, tweets Tracy Ringolsby of Root Sports.  Here's the rest of the news from the AL and NL West with the most recent up top: