Josh Willingham Rumors
The Royals made this a special Father's Day for 21 dads as the team invited the players' fathers to travel with them on their current road trip to Tampa and Cleveland. Dick Kaegel of MLB.com reports the idea was the brainstorm of the Royals' senior director of travel Jeff Davenport, who borrowed the idea from NHL teams, and was approved quickly by GM Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost. The idea came as a shock to some of the dads including the father of infielder Elliot Johnson, Robert. "Elliot told me about it and I had to call him back three times to make sure I got this story right -- I said, 'You've got to be kidding me. All I have to do is get to Kansas City and they're going to put me on a plane and fly me along with you and not charge me anything? And I'm going to get in a hotel and eat with you guys and hang out with you?" The trip hasn't been without incident. Robert Johnson admitted he had an argument with Hall of Famer and new Royals batting coach George Brett over - what else - Elliot's hitting. In other news and notes from MLB's Central divisions:
- After struggling for most of the season, Yovani Gallardo has now tossed 14 consecutive scoreless innings. With the Brewers in last place and Gallardo controlled affordably through 2015 ($11.25MM in 2014 and a 2015 club option worth $13MM), the right-hander's name has popped up as a trade candidate (including by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes two weeks ago) and he has heard the talk. "We'll see what happens," Gallardo told reporters including MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. "It's definitely a little bit different. It's the first time I've been in a situation like this -- not to say that anything is going to happen." McCalvy reports Gallardo can block trades to ten teams, but Gallardo acknowledges even he doesn't know the identity of all of them.
- While the Brewers don't anticipate Corey Hart returning from offseason knee surgery until after the All-Star break, at the earliest, GM Doug Melvin will not rush first base prospect Hunter Morris to the Majors, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Melvin told Haudricourt service time considerations aren't part of the decision-making process, "He needs to play more at Triple-A. We just want to make sure he's ready before making a move like that." The Brewers entered the weekend last in the NL at first base with a .493 OPS and 14th with four home runs and a .275 slugging percentage.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan told Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau, and Kevin Correia will be the most asked about players as the Trade Deadline approaches (Twitter link).
- Twins closer Glen Perkins will also be sought after by teams looking to bolster their bullpen, including the division rival Tigers. Ryan, however, told Bowden he has not had any conversations with Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski and would rather have Perkins pitch for him than against him (Twitter link).
- Yesterday, the White Sox announced the signing of seventh-round draft choice Trey Michalczewski. Today, Jim Callis of Baseball America tweeted the prep third baseman will receive a $500K bonus, which is $323.4K above the recommended slot (per Baseball America).
In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that MLB is working to address the lack of African-American participation in baseball, both on the field and in the stands. While the RBI program [Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities] has seen more than 200 of its kids drafted to major league teams, Cafardo writes that it hasn't sparked the kind of interest that leads to a kid getting his friends together and playing an informal game at the park. Here's more from today's column..
- The feeling is that if the Twins aren’t in the race in early July, Josh Willingham would become available. “He’s a power righthanded bat that any contender could stick right in the middle of their lineup and get outstanding production,” said one National League GM. “You’d have to give something up, but he’d be worth the expenditure. He can really hit.”
- Scouts and GMs say Chase Headley could be the most sought-after player at the trade deadline. Part of it is that the Padres star plays third, is a good hitter, and teams in contention believe he would really thrive if he played for a winner.
- The Pirates really wanted shortstop Jose Iglesias in the Joel Hanrahan deal as their scouts felt he would eventually hit. For now, it looks like his offense has improved. “The Pirates really wanted a young shortstop they could build around and Iglesias was the guy they earmarked,” said one baseball executive. “The jury was out by some teams’ evaluations on him, but there was no denying his defense and no denying that he had a chance with the bat as he matured. Maybe that time has come.”
- One scout who watched the Red Sox's Triple-A affiliate recently gave high marks to the club for their haul in last year's mega-deal with the Dodgers. "If Ben Cherington never makes another trade he can rest assured that the two kids he got from the Dodgers [Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa] have tremendous arms." The scout added that he would like to see the Red Sox continue to extend De La Rosa as a starter.
- There’s a feeling among Astros personnel that Chris Carter, who was acquired from the A’s, could emerge as a 30-home run guy. Carter has been hot after a 1-for-19 start to the season.
Here's the latest on Philadelphia's offseason dealings, courtesy of CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury...
- Before the Phillies acquired Ben Revere from the Twins, they attempted to also get Josh Willingham in either the same trade package or in a separate deal.
- The club is still in the market for a corner outfielder. The Phillies "have seriously considered" signing Ichiro Suzuki and "have long liked" Cody Ross.
- Any further upgrades may have to come via the free agency market since the Phillies don't have much prospect depth aside from possibly at catcher. Salisbury notes that Tommy Joseph, the most well-regarded of the team's young catchers, "probably isn't going anywhere."
- The Red Sox approached the Phillies about a trade of Jacoby Ellsbury for Cliff Lee, but the Phillies said that Lee wasn't available. I can't blame the Phils for turning that offer down; even if they did want to move Lee, he would fetch far more on the trade market than just one year of Ellsbury, who hits free agency next winter.
While the top options on the free agent market may be out of the Twins' price range the club's search for pitching has Minnesota eyeing Joe Blanton as a "prime target," according to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick. Kevin Correia and Brett Myers are also on the team's radar, Crasnick reports.
In addition to those three names, recently non-tendered pitchers like Mike Pelfrey, John Lannan, and others could interest the Twins, according to Crasnick. Vicente Padilla has also drawn a little interest from Minnesota.
Although the Twins seem to be looking at plenty of pitching options in free agency, the team has also been more active in trade talks than expected, says Crasnick. Teams with pitchers on the block have approached the Twins about both Ben Revere and Josh Willingham.
Here are the latest news and notes from the NL and AL Central divisions:
- Sources tell FOXSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal the Reds like Dexter Fowler and the Rockies like Homer Bailey. Now the question is whether their mutual interest crystallizes into trade discussions during the Winter Meetings.
- The Brewers are prioritizing a left-handed reliever with the available free agent possibilities including Sean Burnett, Randy Choate, Mike Gonzalez, J.P. Howell, and Tom Gorzelanny, tweets Morosi.
- Cubs officials have yet to confirm or comment on reports of their signing of Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa, writes Carrie Muskat of MLB.com. The Cubs, however, are willing to talk about their need for a third baseman, an outfielder, and pitching depth. Muskat adds the Cubs could re-sign third baseman Ian Stewart after non-tendering him on Friday.
- The White Sox and Phillies are the two most aggressive teams in pursuit of a third baseman, a source tells Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. Kevin Youkilis is the object of both team's pursuit. Hayes writes the Sox may have to move another high salary in order to afford Youkilis and floats the names of Jeff Keppinger, Mark Reynolds, and Eric Chavez as alternatives.
- The Pirates feel they are better equipped to restock their bullpen, despite the free agency of Jason Grilli and the recent trade of Chris Resop, and may be interested in turning closer Joel Hanrahan into a much needed starting pitcher, according to MLB.com's Tom Singer.
- The Twins plan to focus more on free agents than trades during the Winter Meetings, tweets Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com. The Twins have already dealt their best trade chip in Denard Span and plan on keeping Josh Willingham, writes Mackey in a separate piece.
The Phillies, who have openings at third base and in the outfield, checked in with the recently released Chone Figgins, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. However, the extent of the club's interest is unclear at this time. More from around baseball..
- No less than seven teams have interest in right-hander Mike Pelfrey, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The Mets non-tendered Pelfrey last week but they still have interest in re-signing him for less than the $5.875MM he earned last season.
- The Twins don't want to trade Josh Willingham but there are multiple teams interested in the leftfielder, according to Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter). An AL executive recently told Mackey that the club might not get much more than a No. 4 starter for Willingham, despite his team-friendly contract. Willingham is owed $14MM through 2014.
- Rays GM Andrew Friedman figures to be a popular man during the meetings as he may dangle James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson to acquire offense, Morosi writes.
- The Mariners need to increase their risk tolerance if they hope to take a major step forward at this week's meetings, opines Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. For the M's, that could mean spending a lot more money on payroll or trading away young prospects for proven players.
- One exec tells Morosi (via Twitter) that this year's Rule 5 draft class is one of the best that he has seen. The draft will take place on Thursday.
Here's the latest from the home of the American League champion Tigers....
- The Twins might not receive much more than a No. 4 starter in exchange for Josh Willingham, an AL executive tells Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities Radio. "There's no doubt Josh has a very good contract, but I really doubt a team would trade a viable starting pitcher for a guy with a strong bat but who is limited defensively," the executive said. "It's a lot easier to find a left-field or DH-type than to trade a good starting pitcher for one and then have to backfill the rotation spot." The 33-year-old Willingham is owed $14MM through 2014 and posted an .890 OPS last season, but another AL executive says Denard Span is a better trade chip for Minnesota.
- The Orioles have asked the Twins and Royals about Willingham and designated hitter Billy Butler, reports MLB.com's Paul Hagen. Both the Twins and Royals are desperate for pitching and while the O's have some good young arms, I don't think Baltimore has the pitching depth to spare in either the majors or minors.
- The Tigers want to keep backup catcher Gerald Laird but he will probably leave for a team that will give him more playing time, tweets Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.
- The Tigers are generally active early in the offseason, though FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi (Twitter link) thinks this won't be the case this winter as the club's plans were pushed back by their World Series appearance.
- Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sees Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera as a good trade target for the Cardinals, and he suggests a few young Cards prospects who could go to Cleveland in exchange for the All-Star.
The White Sox may be in first place in the AL Central but they're apparently going to be making some front office changes this winter. Here are some more items from around the division....
- Jim Leyland remains the right person to manage the Tigers, even though the team trails the White Sox in the AL Central, Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press writes. Leyland has questionable job security with two weeks remaining in the regular season.
- The Twins have a number of offseason needs but manager Ron Gardenhire told reporters (including MLB.com's Zack Meisel) that starting pitching is his team's top priority.
- Josh Willingham recently said he'd be open to an extension with the Twins, a prospect that Seth Stohs of the Minneapolis Star Tribune thinks the club should wait to explore until after the 2013 season. Willingham is finishing the first season of a three-year, $21MM contract and I'd agree that Minnesota should be in no rush to extend an outfielder who will be 35 years old when his current deal expires.
- Shin-Soo Choo's trade value and his worth on the free agent market after 2013 will be limited by his inability to hit left-handed pitching, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Choo, a left-handed hitter, has just a .556 OPS against southpaws this season and a .246/.334/.353 line against lefties for his career.
- MLB.com's Jordan Bastian looks at the Indians' pitching struggles this season how the Tribe will try to fix the problem this winter. Pitching upgrades are likelier to come through trades than by spending on free agents, as Bastian asks, "What team should spend big after a 90-plus loss season? The time has come again to shift the focus back to building a better foundation. The current core is not breeding confidence, especially on the mound."
MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith contributed to this post
1:32pm: Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik is looking to acquire hitters who could contribute for the next two or three seasons, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports. The Mariners aim to improve an offense that currently ranks last in the American League with just 3.9 runs per game.
The Mariners are more focused on players such as Josh Willingham and Allen Craig than players like Shin-Soo Choo and Hunter Pence. Choo and Pence are eligible for free agency after the 2013 season, while Willingham is under contract through 2014 and Craig won't even be arbitration eligible before the 2013-14 offseason.
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.