- The Twins weren’t necessarily surprised by Torii Hunter’s retirement in October, Antony says. That Hunter made his decision early in the offseason allowed the Twins time to plan, and helped them enter the bidding for KBO slugger Byung Ho Park. Later, Antony adds that the Twins had been aware of Park since he was in high school, and they were interested in signing him even then.
- The Twins struggled offensively at the catcher position in 2015, and especially didn’t do well from the backup catcher spot. That deficiency led them to acquire John Ryan Murphy (who they got from the Yankees for Aaron Hicks). Murphy, Antony feels, can be a long-term answer as a starting catcher. That trade took place in November, and Antony says that the Twins wanted to make the deal quickly because many teams were looking for catching and the Twins wanted to get a player who might be around for several years. For that reason, they felt that the trade market was a better avenue to pursue than the free agent market.
- The Twins considered blowing past their international bonus pool in recent years but did not do so because of the way the market for international amateur talent unfolded. “[W]hat ended up happening was a few teams – basically we had about six, seven players that we were prepared to just go get and spend millions of dollars on – well, some teams that lost out on guys they were after went after some of those same players and basically doubled what we were prepared to do,” Antony says.
- The Twins have not discussed the possibility of eating a portion of the $25MM remaining on Ricky Nolasco’s contract in a potential trade, despite how poorly the first two years of his contract have gone. Nolasco’s role on this year’s team is unclear, but Antony emphasizes that the Twins plan to use him and still view him as a potentially helpful pitcher.
Following their reported signing of Juan Uribe to a one-year deal, the Indians “seem to be considering” a run at free agent outfielder Austin Jackson, tweets Jon Heyman. Cleveland has a well-documented need in the outfield that has yet to be addressed — as Jeff Todd and I discussed on this week’s MLBTR Podcast. Jackson would add some stability to the picture at a potentially bargain rate at this juncture of the offseason and on the heels of a pair of so-so seasons at the plate. Heyman notes that there are other possibilities for Jackson, though, citing the White Sox, Angels, Brewers and “maybe” the Rangers, noting that Texas may not want to spend the money. It’s unclear whether Heyman was merely speculating on that last grouping of teams, though given the Angels’ reluctance to spend on free agents this winter and Texas GM Jon Daniels’ recent comments suggesting the payroll isn’t likely to grow much more, Jackson could be a stretch for either club.
Here’s more on the AL Central…
- Heyman also tweets that the White Sox appear to be open to one more outfield addition — one that can handle playing some center field. Austin Jackson, of course, would fit the bill in that regard, he notes, as would Dexter Fowler, if the Sox are willing to spend more. Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago/670 The Score also writes that the Sox are interested in adding to their outfield depth and are indeed considering Fowler. However, Fowler is said to be one of Baltimore’s top targets, and the O’s reportedly “expect” that they’ll be able to land both Fowler and free-agent right-hander Yovani Gallardo.
- Left-hander Mike Minor, who inked a two-year contract with the Royals earlier today, will be unavailable for the first six weeks to two months of the regular season, general manager Dayton Moore told reporters, including Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star (Twitter link). That Minor will be sidelined for some time to open the season isn’t unexpected, as the former Braves hurler is recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
- The Tigers are reportedly set on adding relief arms to their Spring Training mix after adding Bobby Parnell on a minor league pact, but MLB.com’s Jason Beck tweets that the team could yet bring in another player on a minor league deal — likely an infielder. The infield market has been largely picked clean, though a few recognizable names such as Alberto Callaspo, Jonathan Herrera and Dan Uggla have yet to sign this offseason.
- Twins skipper Paul Molitor tells reporters, including MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (Twitter link) that heading into Spring Training, he’s considering Kurt Suzuki his starting catcher and trade acquisition John Ryan Murphy the backup. Of course, it’d be somewhat surprising to see a manager promise a starting role to a just-acquired, inexperienced option with a seasoned veteran in house. Suzuki probably will get the nod on Opening Day, and I can imagine him getting some more time early in the year as Murphy learns a new pitching staff and acclimates to his new organization. However, barring a return to 2014 form for Suzuki, it seems likely that Murphy will at least work his way into a larger role than that of a traditional backup catcher, as Minnesota’s hope is that he can develop into its primary catcher beyond the 2016 campaign. It’s worth noting, too, that Suzuki has a $6MM option that will vest at 485 plate appearances. He’s averaged 491 PAs as the clear No. 1 catcher in the past two seasons, and the Twins probably would prefer to avoid that option vesting — especially if Suzuki’s production more closely resembles 2015 than 2014.
In an ESPN Insider analysis of today’s Twins/Yankees swap of center fielder Aaron Hicks and catcher John Ryan Murphy, Keith Law opines that both sides did quite well. While the Twins might have traded a bit more upside in exchange for stability, both clubs came away with a player who fit their current roster better than the piece they traded, says Law. Hicks has the potential to be an elite defender and is an immediate upgrade for the Yankees in a regular role solely based on his glove, while Murphy’s defense has steadily improved. Law feels that Murphy projects as an everyday catcher, though not a star-caliber one with tremendous offensive upside.
A few more notes from the game’s Central divisions…
- Asked about the possibility of a contract extension for Cubs ace Jake Arrieta, agent Scott Boras told reporters, including ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers: “We’re going to be talking about that as the offseason unfolds, about Jake. I would say it’s fair to say the Cubs are pleased with Jake. And I’m sure Jake is happy playing there so we have to see where it goes.” Boras went on to state that Cubs’ ownership is in a new phase, having entered a “championship phase” after spending years in a rebuilding phase. “How owners react to that and what they do is a completely different thought process,” said Boras.
- The Cubs still like Jeff Samardzija and aren’t ruling out a return for the right-hander, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports wrote today. The Cubs, at one point, offered Samardzija $80-85MM on a contract extension, and Heyman notes that a similar sum may be a ballpark offer for what he can expect on the free-agent market.
- The rebuilding Brewers won’t be players for top-of-the-market free agents, writes MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat, but new GM David Stearns could still sign some free agents to fill the club’s voids in center field and at third base. Stearns said that Domingo Santana, who played some center field in 2015, is best-suited for a corner outfield spot, but he’s not against using Santana in center if needed. If no external center field option is acquired, Santana will man the position in 2016. At third base, Stearns spoke of a need to pursue some external options given the lack of depth the Brewers currently have. “There’s a chance [internal options] could take a step up in production, and we’re certainly also going to look for external options,” said Stearns.
- The Indians are interested in Korean right-hander Seung-hwan Oh, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Cleveland bid “aggressively” on first baseman Byung-ho Park but fell short of the division-rival Twins’ bid. However, Oh won’t be subject to the posting system given his professional service time in Korea, and Oh would present a much-needed late-inning option for manager Terry Francona to put alongside Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw. Oh, nicknamed “the Final Boss” and “Stone Buddha” in Korea, is said to be traveling to the U.S. to meet with MLB clubs this week.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the team must consider playing on the free agent market in a way he typically avoids. As Goold notes, recent Cardinals’ free-agent plays for pitchers have either been short-term deals or re-signings of pitchers the team already knows (e.g. Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook). However, the loss of Lance Lynn and the potential departure of Lackey on a two- or three-year deal with another club could lead to atypical activity for the Cardinals. Mozeliak is bullish on a healthy return for Carlos Martinez, but the team still needs further certainty in the rotation. Said Mozeliak: “The opportunity to add is something that we have to consider. … We’ll see. I’d like to let the market develop before I weigh in on that.”
- Aroldis Chapman will probably be the first domino to fall in the Reds’ impending fire sale, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The Reds know that Chapman, a free agent after the season, will earn about $13MM via arbitration (MLBTR projects him at $12.9MM), and they need to maximize the return they can get on him by dealing him this offseason so that an acquiring team can make a qualifying offer following the 2016 campaign.
Recently demoted Yankees catcher J.R. Murphy is garnering a lot of trade interest, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). The 23-year-old Murphy batted .286/.308/.365 in 65 plate appearances for the Yanks this season and enjoyed a solid minor league season in 2013, hitting .269/.347/.426 between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wikes-Barre. However, the Yankees’ offseason signing of Brian McCann to a five-year deal makes it unlikely that he’ll have an everyday spot with the club in the long-term.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- Though there’s been a great deal of focus on the the Blue Jays’ search for pitching upgrades, GM Alex Anthopoulos tells Jeff Blair and Kevin Barker of 590 The Fan in Toronto that he has had active discussions to bring in an everyday infielder as well (via Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith). Anthopoulos spoke candidly about the fact that eliminating the current infield platoon would free up some bench flexibility. He added that carrying three catchers, as the club is currently doing, is far from an ideal scenario.
- In his latest Fangraphs On FOX article, Dave Cameron examines the trade market for David Price and wonders if the Rays’ ace might end up being traded twice in the next year. Cameron notes that a number of big-spending clubs aren’t ideal fits due to sharing a division with Tampa, a poor farm system or a poor rank within the standings. As such, he speculates that a lower budget team (listing the A’s as an example) could acquire Price to fuel their 2014 World Series chances, then look to flip him in the offseason to recoup some of the prospect value lost in acquiring Price and his likely $18-20MM salary in 2015.
- ESPN’s Jim Bowden speculates on the five most likely teams to trade for Price, listing the Angels, Blue Jays, White Sox, Yankees and Braves. Bowden runs down trade scenarios for each team within his Insider-only piece. From my point of view, the Halos don’t have the prospects to land Price, while the White Sox are a long-shot because the required prospect package goes against GM Rick Hahn’s long-term plan for the team.
- In attempting to paint an accurate picture of what next year’s Rays roster could look like, Cork Gaines of RaysIndex lists Price, Desmond Jennings, Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Jeremy Hellickson as potential trade chips either at this summer’s deadline or in the offseason. Jennings will see his price tag go up in arbitration, Gaines explains, and the potential emergence of Kevin Kiermaier could make him expendable. Of course, that would likely only be the case were Kiermaier to prove himself over a larger sample than 74 big league PAs.
The Tigers have a clear need for bullpen help but finding relief arms is easier said than done, MLive.com’s Chris Iott writes. Iott’s reasons include the difficulty of making trades this early in the season, the scarcity of quality left-handers and the amount of competition that Detroit could have in signing free agent Joel Hanrahan.
A few more items from around baseball…
- Phil Nevin, the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A manager, would likely be the choice to replace Kirk Gibson in the Major League dugout if GM Kevin Towers decides a change is necessary, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports. This is only Nevin’s first season in the Arizona organization, though he has ties to Towers from his playing days in San Diego (when Towers was the Padres’ GM). Prior to joining the D’Backs, Nevin managed the Tigers’ Triple-A team from 2011-13 and their Double-A team in 2010.
- John Ryan Murphy has drawn the attention of several opposing scouts and the young catcher could become a sought-after trade chip for the Yankees, John Harper of the New York Daily News reports. “Some team might see him as a guy who could start for them,’’ one scout told Harper. “He’s solid with the bat and behind the plate.’’
- Delaying a prospect’s Super Two service clock “is not a driving factor” behind the Pirates’ decision to call up a young star, GM Neal Huntington tells Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in regards to Gregory Polanco’s continued presence at Triple-A. Huntington said that Polanco is “continuing to refine some of the intricacies of his game” and didn’t give details for fear that opposing teams would use the info against the outfielder (an explanation that Biertempfel doesn’t buy). Polanco currently has a 1.104 OPS in 100 PA at Triple-A this season and his bat would be a big addition to the offensively-challenged Bucs lineup.
MLBTR's Offseason In Review series continued earlier today with my look at the Orioles' winter moves, covering everything from the Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz signings to the lack of progress on extensions for Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters. Here's some more from around the AL East…
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters (including ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews) that he's "hearing from a lot of people about" catchers John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine. The Yankees have been shopping their catching depth for weeks, and now that Francisco Cervelli has won the backup job, Murphy and Romine could be more expendable. Cashman, however, doesn't feel pressure to move either players. "They’re assets. We’re not in any position where we have to do anything, but if something made sense, we’d consider it. But right now, we’re happy with what we’ve got," Cashman said.
- Rays manager Joe Maddon told reporters (including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times) that he has informed Wilson Betemit and Jayson Nix that they won't be making Tampa's Opening Day roster, in order to give the two players extra time to find another Major League opportunity. The two veterans signed minor league deals with the Rays earlier this winter and have the ability to opt out, though Betemit told Topkin that he would play for Tampa's Triple-A affiliate if he couldn't find a roster spot elsewhere (Topkin believes Nix feels the same way).
- Mark Lowe is also open to returning to the Rays, the veteran right-hander tells Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times. Lowe's family lives in the Tampa area and he praised the Rays organization, saying that he would be willing to pitch at Triple-A unless, like Betemit and Nix, he finds a job with another team. The Rays granted Lowe his release earlier today after he was also told he wouldn't make the 25-man roster.
- The Blue Jays' decision to make Dustin McGowan their fifth starter raises concerns about whether McGowan is up to the task both performance-wise and health-wise, Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi writes. Since McGowan made the rotation almost by default given how the Jays' other options struggled, Davidi wonders "if he and the Blue Jays are playing a game of Russian Roulette with his career" by returning McGowan to a starting role before he's even fully stretched out. The injury-plagued McGowan missed three of the previous four seasons with shoulder and knee surgeries but pitched effectively over 25 2/3 innings out of the bullpen in 2013.
- Corey Brown didn't invoke the opt-out clause in his minor league contract with the Red Sox and will report to the club's Triple-A club, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports.
The Yankees have questionable infield depth at best, with Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Eduardo Nunez all figuring to see significant playing time in 2014. As such, the team's scouts are placing a heavy emphasis on watching infielders when looking at other clubs in Spring Training, according to George A. King III of the New York Post. King writes that the Yankees could use their surplus of catching options to bolster the infield.
In addition to Brian McCann, who signed a five-year, $85MM contract with the Bombers this offseason, the Yankees have Francisco Cervelli (who is out of options), J.R. Murphy, Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez on their 40-man roster. With the exception of Sanchez, each could be considered Major League ready. Cervelli, of course, has racked up 623 plate appearances with the Yanks over the past several seasons, while Romine had 168 big league PAs in 2013, and Murphy made his Major League debut as well.
It's natural to speculate on the possibility simply adding Stephen Drew, but as Newsday's David Lennon tweeted earlier today, the Yankees will only add to their infield if the addition doesn't come with significant financial impact. GM Brian Cashman told Lennon: "If we need to do improvements, it’s got to be cheap. We’ve spent our money."
Likewise, it's easy to speculate that the reportedly available Nick Franklin would fit with the Yankees, but Seattle likely feels they have their catcher of the future in 2012 No. 3 overall draft selection Mike Zunino. They're said to be interested in acquiring pitching in exchange for Franklin, should they end up dealing him.
King writes that the White Sox, Giants, Tigers, Astros and Twins all had scouts in attendance to watch Cervelli, Murphy and Sanchez in yesterday's exhibition game against Florida State. While that could just be routine and doesn't necessarily carry much weight, King does add that an industry source indicated that the White Sox are seeking catching upgrades. He also adds that the Yankees will monitor Rickie Weeks during Spring Training, who figures to be plenty available due to his $11MM salary and $11.5MM vesting option. It stands to reason that Milwaukee would need to eat a significant amount of salary in any deal to move Weeks, who batted just .209/.306/.357 last season.
Earlier today the Mets introduced Curtis Granderson at a press conference. Here's the latest news out of the New York market with the Winter Meetings in full swing…
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman spoke to several reporters today, including MLB.com's Bryan Hoch, and noted that he's been in contact with the agents for Mark Reynolds and Boone Logan (Twitter link).
- Hoch also tweets that the Yanks are receiving many calls on Brett Gardner but aren't shopping him. Cashman said he didn't sign Jacoby Ellsbury to trade Gardner.
- The Star-Ledger's Andy McCullough tweets that in addition to Gardner, the Yanks have received calls on Ivan Nova, Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy (Twitter link).
- Cashman also said that Michael Pineda is healthy and will compete for a rotation spot in Spring Training (Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweeting).
- Hoch adds that Cashman thinks it will be easier to sign a free agent pitcher than to work out a trade for rotation help.
- Newsday's David Lennon reports that the Mets will meet with the representatives for Freddy Garcia, Cesar Izturis and Johan Santana today (Twitter link). The team sees a good fit with that group of veterans.
- Granderson confirmed to reporters, including Newsday's Marc Carig, that the Mets were the lone team to offer four years (Twitter link).
The July trade deadline in Major League Baseball is less than two weeks away on the 31st. We don't exactly know who will be on the move, or how many trades will be completed, but we do know that a lot of minor league prospects will be changing uniforms within the next 13 days.
Below is a look at some of the prospects who could be on the move to new organizations looking to build for the future.
Athletics: Oakland hasn't shied away from leaning on young players while in a playoff hunt and recent promotions for pitcher Sonny Gray and infielder/outfielder Grant Green could also serve a secondary purpose: showcasing. Gray, a right-handed hurler, was extremely successful in Triple-A and was lights-out during his one big league appearance before the All-Star break. He could develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter, or a high-leverage reliever. Green has played sparingly since his promotion but the former first round draft pick's versatility could be highly coveted.
Indians: Cleveland has one of the top shortstop prospects in (untouchable) Francisco Lindor, which could make fellow infielder Dorssys Paulino expendable in the right deal. Just 18, his numbers don't look great but he's holding his own in Low-A ball at a young age and has shown signs of improvement in June and July.
Orioles: L.J.Hoes doesn't have a huge ceiling but the 23-year-old prospect can play all three outfield positions, as well as second and third base. Currently hitting .308/.405/.413 at Triple-A, he makes good contact and can run the bases well.
Rangers: It would probably take a very intriguing veteran player with more than one year of control but Texas' middle infield depth could allow the club to dangle shortstop Luis Sardinas on the trade market. The 20-year-old infielder is a slick defender with little-to-no power but the ability to hit for average and steal some bases.
Rays: Right-hander Alex Colome made three starts with Tampa Bay earlier this year and the organization's pitching depth could allow the right-hander to be offered in an attractive deal, but he's currently on the Triple-A disabled list with what has been called a "mild elbow strain." Second baseman Ryan Brett, 21, received a 50-game suspension last year, so that cloud is still hanging over his head, but the scrappy baseball player can really hit. He's currently batting .336/.392/.480 with 17 steals in 39High-A ball games.
Red Sox: Boston is in an enviable position with a fair amount of depth that can be used to help strengthen the big league product. The presence of top prospect Xander Bogaerts means that the club can comfortably move third base prospect Garin Cecchini or shortstop Deven Marrero, should the right deal come along, because Bogaerts could probably handle either position at the big league level. Cecchini swings a mean stick but he lacks the prototypical power that teams look for from the hot corner. Marrero's numbers have been respectable in 2013 but nothing to write home about. A team that really liked him in college, though, might be willing to bite.
Tigers: The Tigers system is pretty thin, which could impact the organization's ability to make key moves via the trade market. Outfielder Danry Vasquez is highly projectable thanks to his frame and left-handed swing, both of which hint at future power. Just 19, he's aggressive but makes good contact given his limited experience.
Yankees: Catcher J.R. Murphy could be an attractive name on the trade market, if New York is willing to part with him knowing that Gary Sanchez is not that far behind. Murphy is an offensive-minded backstop who's improved his defensive game, especially with throwing out baserunners.
Braves: On the surface it seems like the Braves haven't really made the amateur draft a priority in recent years and that has hurt the organization's depth. The versatile Joey Terdoslavich's strong performance in Triple-A earned him a promotion to the big league level where he's possibly been showcased for a deal. The pop in his bat, along with his ability to switch hit and positional versatility could make him an intriguing trade target.
Cardinals: The Cardinals have some impressive middle infield depth and former first round draft pick Kolten Wong could become a casualty. The second baseman can hit, but converted third baseman Matt Carpenter has been nothing short of brilliant at the big league level. Any team that acquires Wong is getting a player who's very close to MLB ready.
Diamondbacks: If Arizona is looking to make a big splash at the trade deadline, the club has a lot of pitching depth to deal from, including (likely) untouchables Archie Bradley and Tyler Skaggs. It would take a special player coming over to Arizona to nab him, but lefty David Holmberg is an underrated talent that could help a lot of ball clubs. His ceiling is probably that of a No. 3 or 4 starter but he's been durable and isn't afraid to throw strikes.
Dodgers: Los Angeles is always rumored to have a lot of irons in the fire and the club is definitely looking to improve itself despite the massive payroll. Southpaw Onelki Garcia, signed out of Cuba in 2012, made just one appearances during the regular season last year. In 2013, he's been very good in Double-A thanks to his above-average fastball. He's mostly viewed as a future reliever but Garcia has made six starts.
Pirates: To get value back, you often have to trade quality players. Pittsburgh has enjoyed breakouts over the past year in the form of infielder Alen Hanson, outfielder Gregory Polanco and pitcher Tyler Glasnow, among others, and that trio is probably safe at the trade deadline barring a blockbuster deal. However, pitcher Luis Heredia could perhaps be had at the right price. The right-hander is just 18 with three years of pro experience under his belt. He's a larger-framed pitcher and hasn't developed quite as hoped, suggesting a modest ceiling as a starter. He's been passed on the depth chart by a number of guys like Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham and Glasnow.
Reds: Outfielder Jesse Winker doesn't wow with his tools but he gets the most out of his abilities and is one of the safer bets in Cincinnati's system to have a big league career. The 19-year-old prospect has modest power and doesn't steal bases so he's going to have to hit for average to provide value as a hitter — along with his willingness to take a free pass.
Rockies: Colorado doesn't have much in the way of tradable commodities, but the organization could cash in on the lack of catching depth around the game — much like the Yankees — with Tom Murphy. The second-year catcher, who's now 22 years old, has inexplicably been left in Low-A ball all year long despite overpowering the younger competition. He's by no means a finished product and has holes in his game but an OPS over 1.000 is going to attract some suitors.
The trade deadline is just two weeks away, and with the All-Star Game in the rear-view mirror, Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio writes that the market will pick up rapidly beginning Friday. Here are some highlights from the highly informative article penned by the former GM of the Reds, Expos and Nationals (ESPN Insider required and recommended)…
- Bowden hears there's an 80 percent chance that Matt Garza will be traded before his next scheduled start (Monday or Tuesday of next week). The Rangers, Red Sox and Diamondbacks are still involved, He describes the D-backs as "dark horses," adding that their odds in the Garza sweepstakes would increase if they were willing to part with left-hander David Holmberg.
- The Rockies could also be interested in Garza, but they're not clear-cut buyers right now, and the prospective cost is prohibitive to them. If they were to sell, Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle could be had. Michael Cuddyer could be moved, but only if Colorado is "blown away."
- The White Sox have been "extremely disappointed" with offers for Alex Rios thus far. Bowden feels that offers will improve as the deadline draws closer.
- The Justin Morneau era in Minnesota is coming to an end, and the Twins are prepared to trade the former MVP, according to Bowden. The Rays, Pirates and Yankees are said by Bowden to be possible destinations for Morneau.
- The Cardinals, Reds, Dodgers and Braves have all inquired on Twins closer Glen Perkins and been turned away. Those four teams are all monitoring the health of Jesse Crain as well.
- The Yankees are trying to use Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and catching prospect J.R. Murphy to acquire a bat but have had no luck thus far. None of those players figure to interest the Twins in regards to Morneau, Bowden adds, given the impending free agency of Hughes and Chamberlain and the presence of Joe Mauer behind the plate for the Twins.