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Justin Smoak Rumors
A good catcher can take a pitching staff to the next level, and that's why David Ross might be the Red Sox's top addition this year, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. A catcher like Ross can throw out a runner, block a ball at an opportune time, and get a pitcher straightened out if he’s lost his composure. In that regard, Ross could give Boston what they missed last season following Jason Varitek's retirement. Here's more from Cafardo..
- According to a major league source, the Orioles are said to have some interest in Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak. Seattle can afford to part with Smoak after acquiring Kendrys Morales from the Angels. The O's also have been linked to Adam LaRoche, but they are hesitant to give up a draft pick to sign him.
- While the Twins already have acquired Vance Worley in the Ben Revere deal with the Phillies, and have signed Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, and Rich Harden, they could still explore a signing of Brett Myers. We last heard of Minnesota's interest in Myers roughly three weeks ago. The right-hander should also garner interest from the Padres.
- Lance Berkman would be a nice fit for the Red Sox if his right knee is okay after two knee surgeries last season. The Sox have been looking for a left handed-hitting first baseman/outfielder and the 36-year-old switch-hitter would fit the bill.
The Mariners have talked with the Pirates about first baseman/right fielder Garrett Jones in recent weeks, according to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. Baker stresses that it was just one of the many conversations the M's have had with clubs, but the discussion went beyond just one phone call and names were batted back-and-forth.
One proposal had Jones and Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan and possibly another player going to the Mariners in exchange for first baseman Justin Smoak, catcher John Jaso, and starting pitcher Hector Noesi. The Bucs have let other teams know that Hanrahan is available and were said to be seeking rotation help in return.
Jones, 31, had a .274/.317/.516 batting line with 27 home runs in 515 plate appearances for the Pirates last year. We saw the first baseman/right fielder on the pages of MLBTR last offseason as the Yankees reportedly had interest in trading for him.
Hanrahan, also 31, posted a 2.72 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 5.4 BB/9 last season in Pittsburgh. The closer earned $4.1MM last season and is in line to earn $6.9MM for 2013 in his final year of arbitration. Jones earned $2.25MM in 2012 after heading to arbitration in his first year of eligibility and is projected to make $4.4MM. Baker writes that the Pirates may be motivated to make a deal like this in order to ease their payroll burden.
- The Rangers offered left-hander Robbie Ross to the Mets in a package of players for Carlos Beltran last summer, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (Twitter link). The Mets ultimately passed on Ross and obtained Zack Wheeler from the Giants.
- The Rangers would do well to sign Josh Hamilton to a short-term deal at a high average annual value, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. A four-year $100MM deal could work, Rosenthal suggests. The MLBPA views drug and alcohol-related contract provisions as unenforceable, according to Rosenthal, who offers a short history of related disputes between teams and players.
- The Angels aren't seeking outside catching help now, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com tweets. They'll rely on internal options such as Bobby Wilson until Chris Iannetta returns from wrist surgery one or two months from now.
- Dave Cameron of U.S.S. Mariner says the Mariners should shop Brandon League before his value drops because Seattle's bullpen could manage without him and rival teams would be interested in potential trades.
- Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak was once a top prospect, but ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden says we should adjust our expectations for him and accept that he’s not going to be a middle-of-the-order hitter.
Some links as Tuesday turns into Wednesday…
- “Like I’ve always said, there is one person responsible for making those decisions, and one person accountable for those results,” said Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts to reporters (including Paul Sullivan of The Chicago Tribune) when asked about the possibility of signing a player to a mammoth contract. “So if [Theo Epstein] believes strongly that’s what’s in the best interests of the team, then he’s got my support.” Earlier today we heard that the Cubs are pursuing both Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.
- Dave O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wonders if the Braves will offer Brian McCann a long-term contract extension soon. The six-time All-Star will make $11.5MM in 2012 and the team holds a $12MM club option for 2013, so there's no urgency to get a deal done at the moment.
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo is currently in the Dominican Republic scouting Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, reports MLB.com's Bill Ladson. On Monday we heard that Washington views Cespedes as an alternative to Fielder.
- The Mariners have interest in Fielder, and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports says (on Twitter) that they would make Justin Smoak available in a trade if they manage to sign the free agent slugger.
- Before he agreed to join the Royals, the Red Sox expressed interest in Jonathan Broxton according to Scott Lauber of The Boston Herald. Broxton wanted to sign before the winter meetings, and Lauber's source said that was “a little quicker than [the Sox] were comfortable with."
- There is no more than a "10 percent" chance that Rays GM Andrew Friedman could be convinced to take the Astros GM job according to one executive that spoke to Friedman and ESPN's Jayson Stark (Twitter link).
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman offered a “would not say" to George A. King III of The New York Post when asked if he has any interest in Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. The Seibu Lions posted Nakajima on Monday.
- Kelvim Escobar hopes to pitch in winter ball next month, agent Peter Greenberg told Mike Puma of The New York Post (Twitter link). The 35-year-old righty hopes to get back to MLB despite having pitched in just one game since 2007.
Earlier today, we learned that the Angels dismissed assistant GM Ken Forsch and special assistant Gary Sutherland. This comes after the Halos parted ways with GM Tony Reagins on Friday. Here are some notes on their GM search and other items out of the American League West..
- Today's dismissals make the possibility seem unlikely, but if the Angels decide to fill their GM vacancy from within, two candidates stand out above all the rest, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. Gary DiSarcina, the former shortstop who is a special assistant to the GM, and Tory Hernandez, the team's manager of baseball operations, would have the best crack at the job. Meanwhile, Oakland assistant GM David Forst and Chicago White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn are believed to be very interested in the position.
- The Halos are fighting perception that team is run in total by manager Mike Scioscia, tweets Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated. A competing GM remarked to Heyman that "[Scioscia is] the GM" of the club.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter) echoed similar sentiments, wondering aloud if the Angels will hire an actual GM or another figurehead for the position.
- The Mariners used this past season as a developmental year for their young players, but GM Jack Zduriencik is open to bringing in key veterans to bolster that group next season, writes Greg Johns of MLB.com. Of course, Zduriencik expects a major boost from within with a healthy return of Franklin Gutierrez and a stronger year from Justin Smoak.
Sunday night linkage..
- M's manager Don Wakamatsu urged fans to be patient with the newly acquired Justin Smoak, writes MLB.com's Mike McCall.
- Giants GM Brian Sabean isn't sure if his club can make the postseason without a trade, writes Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News.
- Darnell McDonald went from being a non-factor with the Orioles to being a key part of Boston's offense, says WEEI's DJ Bean.
- Kevin Cowherd of The Baltimore Sun wants to see the Orioles hire their new manager this week.
The Mariners cashed in their biggest chip yesterday, dealing Cliff Lee to the Rangers for Justin Smoak and three prospects. With the team currently 34-52 and 16 games back in the division, it's reasonable to expect GM Jack Zduriencik to continue making moves geared more towards contending in 2011 than righting the ship in 2010.
Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times points out that with Smoak set to man first on an every day basis, the Mariners now have three players (Milton Bradley, Russell Branyan, and Michael Saunders) for two roster spots (left field, designated hitter). Bradley's sore knee buys them some time, and Saunders could also be optioned to Triple-A, but flipping Branyan to a contender looking for some pop is very possible.
Saunders was almost sent to Philadelphia in last winter's Lee deal before the Phillies' requested Tyson Gillies instead, and Baker says the Zduriencik regime "hasn't exactly been in love" with holdover prospects from the Bill Bavasi era. Saunders could again find himself on the chopping block.
Backup first baseman Casey Kotchman could go at any time, though it's tough to believe there will be much trade interest in his .208/.292/.344 batting line, regardless of how good his defense is. The same could be said of the currently injured Mike Sweeney, though he was hitting a tolerable .263/.327/.475 before his back flared up.
Jose Lopez is very much available, but Baker doesn't think either Brandon League or David Aardsma will be dealt. Both are under team control for the next two seasons, so the Mariners aren't feeling pressure to move them immediately.
The Lee trade basically represented the white flag, but the Mariners don't have much left to trade away beyond Lopez, some relievers, and possibly Branyan. More than anything, they need to start getting better production out of Chone Figgins (.235/.334/.277) and Bradley (.211/.295/.368) while Jason Vargas (3.09 ERA) and Doug Fister (also a 3.09 ERA) continue to establish themselves as viable starters behind Felix Hernandez.
Cliff Lee is joining his fourth team in 12 months and the Rangers are hoping he can lead them to the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. The Rangers pried Lee away from the Mariners and multiple suitors today in a blockbuster deal that makes the 50-35 Rangers clear favorites to win the AL West.
Though the Rangers' ownership is uncertain, GM Jon Daniels was able to add Lee and his $9MM salary with some creative deal-making. The Mariners will cover about $2.5MM of the $4.2MM remaining on Lee's salary, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (via Twitter), presumably because the Rangers included an appealing group of prospects. But giving up Lee wasn't easy, even for top young talent.
“This is a bittersweet day for us,” Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said. “While we are excited about the group of young players we have acquired from the Rangers, it’s never easy to trade a player like Cliff Lee, who has been outstanding here.”
Justin Smoak has yet to stand out at the big league level, but has star potential. Baseball America ranked Smoak second among all Rangers prospects before the season, behind 2010 All-Star Neftali Feliz. The publication suggested Smoak, 23, has "a chance to be a switch-hitting slugger in the Mark Teixeira mold." So far, Smoak's big league performance has been less than Teixeira-esque. He has a .209/.316/.353 line with eight homers in half a season.
Beavan, 21, was the Rangers' first round pick in 2007 and is now pitching at AA. He has a 2.78 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and a Cliff Lee-like 1.0 BB/9. Baseball America ranked Beavan 17th among Rangers prospects before the season, explaining that he could become a back-of-the-rotation innings eater, even if his stuff doesn't improve.
Lawson, a 24-year-old second baseman is hitting .277/.371/.438 at AA, along with Lueke and Beavan. Lueke, 25, has a 3.86 ERA with 12.5 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 as a reliever this year.
A lot of talent is heading to Seattle, but the Rangers will have the chance to reclaim some young players, even if Lee departs as a free agent after the season. Lee currently ranks as a Type A free agent, so the Rangers can obtain two top picks in the 2011 draft if they offer Lee arbitration and he turns it down to sign elsewhere.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post first reported that a deal was close and first reported that the Rangers had agreed to acquire Lee. Buster Olney, Jon Heyman, Ken Davidoff, Mark Feinsand, Bob Nightengale, Ken Rosenthal, Jon Paul Morosi, Ed Price, Evan Grant, T.R. Sullivan, Frankie Piliere and others added updates and details.
The Rangers outbid the many other clubs connected to Lee, including the Rays, Tigers, White Sox, Twins, Phillies, Mets, Cardinals, Dodgers and Reds. Oh yeah, and the Yankees.
So much for the Yankees’ unwillingness to hand over prospects for three month rentals. Brian Cashman & Co. offered Jesus Montero, David Adams and another prospect, possibly Zach McAllister, for Lee and were 'on the brink' of acquiring him earlier today. The Yankees thought they had a deal for the left-hander, according to Rosenthal (Twitter link), but it wasn't the case. The Mariners re-opened discussions with the Rangers, learned that Smoak was available, and the sides reached a deal.
Now that we know for sure that Cliff Lee is headed to the Rangers, the pundits are already chiming in about the big swap — both about what it means for Texas and Seattle, and about what it means for the teams that fell short in the Lee sweepstakes.
- Since the Rangers didn't have to give up any of their blue-chip pitching prospects, the trade is "a huge, huge 'win' for" Texas, tweets Evan P. Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
- Grant also tweets that he was told that one of those young pitchers, Martin Perez, "was deemed untouchable" by the team.
- Jim Bowden of Sirius XM Radio thinks "both teams win on this deal," though the Rangers are the "biggest winner" since it helps their chances in October. Bowden also compliments the Mariners for getting more talent back for Lee than they dealt to acquire him in the winter. (Twitter link).
- USA Today's Bob Nightengale writes that last night, the Rangers thought that Lee was going to the Yankees. (Twitter link) Nightengale also thinks this trade makes Texas GM Jon Daniels the executive of the year.
- The Phillies are taking some heat for not getting as much minor league talent for Lee when they dealt him over the winter. ESPN's Jayson Stark tweets that one scouting director rated Philadelphia's haul for Lee as "last by a long shot" compared to what Seattle and Cleveland both got for the pitcher within the last year.
- John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the Reds "made what they thought was a serious offer" for Lee today, though Fay thinks both "the Rangers and Yankees offered a better package than the Reds could have put together."
- Ed Price of Fanhouse.com comments that the Rays didn't want to give up any significant prospects for Lee (via Twitter), while the Mets simply didn't have the caliber of prospects that Seattle was looking for. Price notes, however, that Jeremy Guthrie could be on the Mets' radar screen.
- The Mets could use this Lee deal as a guideline, however, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney. The Mets could follow the Rangers' example and try to get a trading partner to add money into a deal, since Olney reports that New York won't be able to add to their payroll before the deadline.
- Rays manager Joe Maddon is unsurprisingly happy that Lee isn't in Yankee pinstripes, reports Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times.
- Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski says his team "had interest [in Lee], but we didn’t come close to a deal," reports John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press.
- Alyson Footer of MLB.com tweets that the Lee trade may help Houston move Roy Oswalt, since the "more attractive pitcher is off the table & Roy is the next best option."
The Twins aren’t close to a deal for Cliff Lee, but the Rangers are working hard to acquire him and a number of other clubs are involved. The Mariners are seeking a monster return for Lee, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com and Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Click here to check out yesterday’s Lee rumblings and check back throughout the day for the latest on the lefty:
- MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports that talks between Seattle and the Reds have yet to "hit the serious stages." No formal proposals have been exchanged between the two teams.
- Lee appeared on ESPN 710's Brock and Salk earlier today, and said that he and his agent approached the Mariners about an extension before the season only to be told that the team wasn't "going to go down that road."
- The Mariners are interested in some of the game’s top prospects and young players, sources tell Jon Heyman of SI.com. Their wish list includes catching prospects Jesus Montero (Yankees) and Wilson Ramos (Twins) plus Justin Smoak and Wade Davis. A competing team says the Twins are a “real” threat to acquire Lee, though we’re not accustomed to seeing them give up lots of talent at the deadline.
- A rival executive told Heyman that the Rangers discussed Chris Davis and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in a possible Lee trade. As we heard earlier today, the Mariners prefer Smoak and would want more than Davis and Saltalamacchia.
- The Mariners asked the Yankees for at least three prospects, including Montero, according to Heyman.
- B.J. Upton’s name has come up, but Heyman suggests the Rays haven't offered him to the Mariners.
- Larry Stone of the Seattle Times hears rumblings that the White Sox, who just lost Jake Peavy to the DL, are at least 'kicking tires' on Lee. That would not be a surprise given Kenny Williams' track record.
- One MLB GM told Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that the Rangers are the favorites to acquire Lee. The Rangers don’t want to include Justin Smoak in a trade and at least one rival executive believes they would be ‘crazy’ to do so. The Rangers’ desire to hold onto Smoak is one of the biggest barriers remaining between the two teams. If the Rangers trade Smoak, they could call on Chris Davis, who has a .961 OPS in Triple A.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports hears the Mets mentioned with Lee less and less frequently (Twitter link). The Mariners are looking to obtain a major league-ready power bat, but the Mets don't want to part with Ike Davis.
- Jack Curry of the YES Network says the Yankees are being thorough and will inquire on Lee, just as they would on any available player of his caliber (Twitter link). That doesn't mean the Yanks are willing to out-bid everyone else, however.
- The Rangers and Mariners continue to discuss a possible Lee trade, according to Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com. The Rangers have spoken to numerous teams to figure out what it will take to improve the club for the stretch run.
- In case there was any doubt remaining about the Mariners' asking price, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer clears it up. An insider tells Fay that "it's going to take a ton," but Fay does not get the sense that a trade is about to happen.
- The Rangers have financial restrictions, but MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reports that they have some money ‘tucked away’ for making moves. GM Jon Daniels is ‘fully engaged’ in the Lee trade talk.
- We know a lot of teams are interested in Lee, but how many? “Pretty much every team within five games of the playoffs," a source tells Ken Davidoff of Newsday (That's 17 teams). We’ve heard that the Mets may have trouble adding payroll, but GM Omar Minaya and his front office are operating as though they can add salary. That means Lee and Ted Lilly could be targets for the Mets.