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Justin Upton Rumors
Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a video at FOX Sports:
- At 36-40, the Padres have considered buying as well as selling at the trade deadline. They could pursue a shortstop and left-handed hitter if they buy. If they sell, they could consider dealing Justin Upton, James Shields and Craig Kimbrel. Upton is the only one of the three who’s eligible for free agency after the season, though, and the Padres might not want to tear down entirely, since they’re hosting the All-Star Game next year.
- The Cubs have considered dealing for Mets left-hander Jon Niese, although they might also aim higher. The salary remaining on Niese’s current deal (he’ll make $9MM next year, plus a $500K buyout or $10MM option in 2016) might also be a slight obstacle to trading him.
- The Blue Jays are interested in pitching, but also perhaps in outfield help. Acquiring an outfielder would help the Jays to keep top young player Dalton Pompey in the minors — he’s currently hitting very well for Double-A New Hampshire after struggling in both the big leagues and in Triple-A this year.
- Former Padres manager Bud Black could be a possibility for the Braves if they eventually decide to replace Fredi Gonzalez. Black worked for the Indians front office when current Braves GM John Hart was in Cleveland, and Braves president John Schuerholz traded for Black all the way back in 1982, when Schuerholz was GM of the Royals.
The struggling Reds are hosting this year’s All-Star Game, but the possibility of bad P.R. shouldn’t prevent them from dismissing manager Bryan Price, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Rosenthal notes that owner Bob Castellini likes Price and Jocketty and is wary of an upheaval before the break. But the Reds have played poorly lately, and Price’s occasional bursts of odd behavior (including an infamous profane tirade against the media a few weeks ago) raise questions about whether he’s well suited for the job. The organization has third base coach Jim Riggleman, Triple-A manager Delino DeShields and perhaps roving instructor Barry Larkin as potential replacements. Here’s more from the National League.
- The Mets have lots of talented young pitching and the Cubs have terrific young position players, and MLB.com’s Jim Duquette proposes several trades the two clubs might make. By far the wildest one (and one Duquette fully acknowledges is vanishingly unlikely) is Matt Harvey for Kris Bryant. The Mets and Cubs’ respective fan bases have pinned their hopes heavily on those two players, so such a trade would be nearly impossible, but it’s fun to think about. The sense here is that the Mets would easily be getting the better of such a deal — Bryant’s bat is rare, to put it mildly, and Harvey is three years closer to free agency and probably also more of an injury risk.
- Carlos Frias‘ poor performance Sunday shows why the Dodgers are likely to pursue outside starting pitching help, Anthony Witrado of ESPN Los Angeles writes. Frias gave up ten runs, including two homers, over four innings against the Padres, more than doubling his ERA. Frias did pitch reasonably well in four starts before that, but there’s no doubt the Dodgers’ rotation situation is somewhat uncomfortable, due to injuries to Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy.
- The Padres haven’t performed as well as they’ve hoped, but Justin Upton has been terrific, and the team needs to do everything it can to keep him, Matt Calkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. The Padres’ new ownership did well to open its wallet last winter, but it must continue to show it’s serious about winning. Of course, keeping Upton won’t be easy to do — Upton currently tops MLBTR’s 2015-2016 Free Agent Power Rankings.
- Cardinals lefty Marco Gonzales will miss a start with Triple-A Memphis on Monday with pectoral muscle tightness, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com writes. Gonzales dealt with the same injury earlier this season. Gonzales hasn’t yet pitched in the big-leagues this season, but as Langosch points out, he’s a key part of the Cardinals’ rotation depth, especially given Adam Wainwright‘s absence.
Next year’s free agent market contains plenty of players who could receive qualifying offers — David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Heyward, and others. Here’s a look at potential qualifying offer recipients who have the best chance of being traded this season, thus preventing them from receiving that designation.
At issue, of course, is draft pick compensation and forfeiture. A team extending a qualifying offer to a player receives a draft pick in return if the player signs elsewhere. The signing team also gives up a draft pick. But a player who has been traded in the season before he becomes a free agent can’t be extended a qualifying offer and thus isn’t attached to draft picks. That can be an important consideration for teams shopping for free agents, as we’ve seen in recent years in the cases of Kyle Lohse, Nelson Cruz, Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales, whose markets have all shrunk in part because of the qualifying offer.
Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, Reds. The Reds are off to a 4-0 start but still aren’t that likely to contend, which means that Cueto and Leake could hit the free agent market this summer. Trading Cueto, in particular, would be a great way for the Reds to add to their collection of young talent. Leake might be somewhat trickier to trade, since the Reds’ return might not be worth that much more than the draft pick and negotiating leverage they would forgo by dealing him.
Ben Zobrist and Scott Kazmir, Athletics. Billy Beane’s trade for Zobrist this offseason was a somewhat surprising one to begin with. The Athletics could easily contend, but if they don’t, Beane seems unlikely to sit still, and finding a new home for Zobrist wouldn’t be difficult given his versatility. Kazmir is another possibility — if he performs at his 2014 levels, he could receive a qualifying offer if the A’s contend or be traded if they don’t.
Alex Gordon, Royals. The Royals haven’t discussed an extension with Gordon, who would undoubtedly be an attractive trade target if the Royals were to fall out of contention in the AL Central. They’re currently 4-0, however, and there’s still the matter of Gordon’s $12.5MM option. Exercising it would likely not be an optimal financial decision from Gordon’s perspective, but he’s expressed interest in doing so before. If he were to make clear to the Royals that he planned to do so, he almost certainly wouldn’t be a trade candidate.
Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy, Padres. San Diego gambled heavily this offseason on the Padres’ ability to win in 2015. If they don’t, A.J. Preller doesn’t seem like the sort of GM to hang onto two key players who are due to become free agents. One possibility if the Padres were to trade Kennedy or especially Upton would be to acquire big-league talent in return, much like the Red Sox did when they dealt Jon Lester last summer. That would enable the Padres to re-tool for 2016, when they’ll still control most of the players they acquired over the winter.
Yovani Gallardo, Rangers. The Brewers exercised what was effectively a $12.4MM 2015 option ($13MM minus a $600K buyout) before trading Gallardo to Texas. His market value likely is somewhere near the value of a qualifying offer, and extending him one wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Rangers if he performs well this season. They could easily trade him rather than doing that, although that might be somewhat difficult given all the higher-impact starters who might be available and the value that would disappear if the ability to extend Gallardo a qualifying offer were to vanish.
Jeff Samardzija, White Sox. The new-look White Sox are 0-4, and GM Rick Hahn has said he will be “nimble” in turning his attention to the future if the organization’s moves to contend this summer don’t work out. That might mean Samardzija could be traded for the third time in a year. He would likely command significant value on the trade market.
Chris Davis and Matt Wieters, Orioles. Davis and Wieters are worth watching, although it’s somewhat unlikely that they’re valuable enough to receive qualifying offers and that they become trade candidates. Davis had a down season in 2014, while Wieters continues to struggle with health problems (and there’s currently no timetable for his return from an elbow injury). If Davis and Wieters are productive and healthy, the Orioles could well contend, and thus it’s unlikely they’ll be traded. If they aren’t, they might not be qualifying offer candidates.
Full Story | 0 Comments | Categories: Alex Gordon | Baltimore Orioles | Ben Zobrist | Chicago White Sox | Chris Davis | Cincinnati Reds | Free Agent Market | Ian Kennedy | Jeff Samardzija | Johnny Cueto | Justin Upton | Kansas City Royals | Matt Wieters | Mike Leake | MLBTR Originals | Oakland Athletics | San Diego Padres | Texas Rangers | Yovani Gallardo
Padres GM A.J. Preller says that the team does not view outfielder Justin Upton as a mere rental player, as MLB.com’s Barry Bloom reports. “We made a big trade for him, and when you do something like that, you always hope you can work something out long term and do something together,” said Preller of Upton. “… That’s why we acquired him. You always want guys like that on your team.” While Preller has already made quite an impression in his first offseason at the helm in San Diego, an extension or free agent signing of Upton would be grander and more committing than any of his other moves. The 27-year-old sits atop the free agent power rankings of MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes, owing in large part to his youth and power output. For now, Preller says the team is focused on letting Upton get comfortable with the organization in the hopes that he will “see the long-term fit.” Upton, meanwhile, says it is too soon to discuss the possibility of a new deal with the Padres. “”I’ve only been here for a month,” he said. “I don’t even want to talk about that.”
Here’s more out of the western divisions:
- The Athletics have optioned righty Ryan Cook to Triple-A, as MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports. Cook has struggled this spring, but has a well-established track record at the big league level and owns a 2.77 ERA over nearly 200 frames over the last four seasons. It is worth noting that Cook has more at stake than his immediate roster spot: he entered the year with three years and 36 days of service, meaning that a lengthy minor league stint could delay his free agency by a year.
- Giants GM Brian Sabean addressed the team’s outfield situation today, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Angel Pagan‘s back troubles are not cause for the team to go searching for another outfielder, he said, noting also that Hunter Pence is only out for a small portion of the season.
- The Diamondbacks, in many respects, “appear to see things differently than the rest of the league,” Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. That applies to the team’s overall approach to blending statistics and scouting and its assessment of the defensive capabilities of several of its young players, among other things. Cameron cautions not to write off the team’s ultimate ability to compete based on a process that he believes is flawed, citing the Orioles’ somewhat surprising run of success, though he also makes clear that he does not see a promising method being applied in Arizona.
- The first trade of Preller’s stint with the Padres was not nearly as heralded as his later swaps, as MLB.com’s Corey Brock writes. Lefty Kyle Bartsch was, in fact, the first name added to San Diego’s slate of players under the Preller regime, representing the return on outfielder Reymond Fuentes. The 2013 seventh-round pick probably fit expectations for the new San Diego front office better than the later, splashier additions. “With Fuentes, he was someone who was coming off our roster, so you look for smaller deals and value-type pieces and in Kyle we found someone with three pitches, had success [in the pros], had success in college,” Preller said. “He’s a lefty and that’s always a good thing. That’s an area he fit for us.”
Padres outfielder Justin Upton could be a linchpin for the club, writes Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The former top prospect and MVP candidate is still just 27. GM A.J. Preller hinted that the club could extend Upton depending on how the relationship develops. “We made this deal with eyes open, knowing that this may be a long-term relationship and it may end up being a one-year relationship…We’re not really sure, but that’s the benefit of getting around a player like that that’s obviously going to command big dollars and big value on the open market.” MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes ranked Upton the top name in the 2016 free agent market. He implied that a $200MM contract is possible.
Here’s more from out West:
- With Padres backup catcher Tim Federowicz sidelined for three to six months, the club could turn to veteran Wil Nieves, Lin reports. The 37-year-old claims to be in the best shape of his life with coaches and teammates supporting the assertion. He’s a career .243/.281/.317 hitter in over 1,200 plate appearances. However, the role of backup catcher is often more about defense and forming a rapport with the pitching staff. If GM A.J. Preller opts for somebody other than Nieves, he’ll probably have to look outside of the organization. Prospect Austin Hedges is major league ready behind the plate, but scouts say his bat lags behind his glove.
- The Mariners are aiming to score 700 runs this season, reports Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. The M’s are the only AL club to not pass the 700 run threshold since 2007. As Kepner notes, only eight teams scored that many runs in 2014, with five reaching the postseason. While the arbitrary threshold is not required for a playoff bound club, it would dramatically improve their odds. Seattle has to contend with the star-laden Angels and the pesky Athletics.
The Padres are baseball’s most improved team, opines Jim Duquette of MLB.com. The additions of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and Derek Norris should revive an offense that has slumbered for years. GM A.J. Preller managed to overhaul the offense without dipping into his starting pitching depth nor by trading the team’s best prospects. For what it’s worth, I’m more impressed by the efforts of the Cubs, who Duquette lists as the fifth most improved club.
- Dodgers starter Zack Greinke has not decided if he will opt out of his contract following the 2015 season, writes Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. The 31-year-old signed a six-year, $147MM contract prior to the 2013 season, but he can opt out following next season. He’s averaged a 2.67 ERA over the last two seasons, which could set him up for another big, multi-year contract in free agency. In the past, we’ve seen CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez leverage opt outs with the Yankees to gain more guaranteed dollars and years. Greinke may take the same approach with the Dodgers. Per his comments, he seems comfortable in Los Angeles.
- Greinke doesn’t believe the Dodgers improved via “addition by subtraction” this offseason. Outgoing players like Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon, and Brian Wilson weren’t distractions in the clubhouse per Greinke. President Andrew Friedman has admitted the club might lose a little on offense, but the goal is to replace the runs scored with better defense and depth.
- Reliever Chris Withrow may be a long shot to help the Dodgers this season, reports Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles (via Twitter). The righty has pitched well in parts of two seasons with Los Angeles, with a 2.73 ERA, 11.41 K/9, and 4.98 BB/9 in 56 innings. He’s currently recovering from Tommy John and back surgeries. The back issue has slowed the timetable for his Tommy John rehab.
The Orioles‘ reported asking price of right-hander Jeff Hoffman (and others) from the Blue Jays in exchange for executive vice president/GM Dan Duquette seemingly ended those negotiations, but Jeff Blair of Sportsnet reports that the Orioles weren’t the only club to try to acquire Hoffman from Toronto this winter. According to Blair, the Braves also asked the Blue Jays for Hoffman when the two sides discussed a trade involving Justin Upton. Toronto’s answer, Blair says, was an emphatic “no.” Coincidentally, the Braves wound up acquiring another high-upside, former first-round pitcher that’s recovering from Tommy John — Max Fried — as the centerpiece in their trade of Upton to San Diego. Meanwhile, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos tells Blair that Hoffman, who was selected ninth overall in 2014 despite his surgery, is expected to get stretched back out in April, with an eye on activating him with a minor league club in May.
A few more notes pertaining to the game’s Eastern divisions before the northeast portion of the country is buried in snow…
- The Phillies never presented the Brewers with a firm financial offer in their trade talks regarding Jonathan Papelbon, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Those talks appear to be largely dead at this point, and the Phillies may end up hanging on to Papelbon to begin the season, based on Rosenthal’s writings. He adds that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. isn’t under pressure from ownership to move Papelbon and will only trade him if the move is to the team’s benefit.
- The acquisition of Alejandro De Aza last summer could end up being a key factor in the Orioles‘ 2015 season, as the former White Sox outfielder now looks to be a big piece of the roster, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. With Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis gone and no external replacements brought in, De Aza figures to be the team’s primary left fielder and leadoff hitter. Though that may seem an underwhelming option to some, Kubatko points out that De Aza’s career OBP mark (.330) would be a nice boost over last season’s team OBP of .311.
- Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel takes a look at the Yankees‘ new glut of international prospects in his ranking of the team’s minor leaguers, with colleague Dave Cameron noting in an introduction that the team’s philosophical shift could pay off in spades a few years down the line. While the Yankees have always been known for spending significantly on free agency, they instead opted to go on a spending spree and blow past their allotted international bonus pool this year while exercising what some consider to be surprising restraint in terms of big league free agents.
Justin Upton will not negotiate a contact extension once Spring Training starts, his agent tells MLB Network Radio (audio link). Larry Reynolds says he will “never say no to anything” and “will take it as it comes” when asked by hosts Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette whether Upton is open to an extension with the Padres or is intent on hitting free agency.
Reynolds also acknowledged the Braves never approached him about a long-term contract for Upton, who will earn $14.5MM in 2015, and wasn’t surprised by the trade, especially after Jason Heyward was dealt to the Cardinals. The Padres acquired Upton in a six-player swap with the Braves Friday and may be comfortable with the idea of him being a one-year rental knowing draft pick compensation is possible with a qualifying offer.
3:52pm: Both teams announced the deal via press release. The final deal has Justin Upton and right-handed pitcher Aaron Northcraft going to the Padres for left-hander Max Fried, second baseman/shortstop Jace Peterson, third baseman Dustin Peterson, outfielder Mallex Smith, and international bonus compensation.
9:20am: The Padres’ roster overhaul is not yet finished, as the team has now reportedly struck an agreement to acquire Justin Upton from the Braves. San Diego will send a sizable haul of left-hander Max Fried, second baseman/shortstop Jace Peterson, third baseman Dustin Peterson and outfielder Mallex Smith to the Braves in exchange for Upton and a low-level minor leaguer.
Upton will be the third right-handed corner outfield bat acquired by the Padres in the past couple of days when the trade is finalized, as the team has announced the Matt Kemp deal and is on the verge of announcing the three-team Wil Myers trade as well. Obviously, the Padres have more corner outfielders than spots available, so the defensive alignment they’ll deploy is up for debate. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted earlier that the Padres had decided weeks ago they were OK with playing Kemp in center field, if need be. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports hears (Twitter links) that Myers will likely be the one to handle center at Petco Park in 2015.
New Padres GM A.J. Preller has completely reshaped his club’s offense in about one week’s time with the agreements to acquire Kemp, Myers, Derek Norris and now Upton. The group will give the Friars a rare wealth of right-handed power — a much-needed change after the team finished last season with a collective .226/.292/.342 batting line and scored a Major League worst 535 runs.
Upton has just one year of team control remaining and is owed $14.5MM before hitting the open market next winter. He’s coming off a season in which he batted .270/.342/.491 with 29 homers — his highest total since an MVP-caliber season back in 2011. Upton hasn’t been able to consistently turn in the superstar-level results he showed in that 2011 season, but he’s at least a well above-average player and still carries that elite upside as he heads into his age-27 campaign.
While the Padres will now have a year to potentially explore a long-term deal with Upton, MLB.com’s Corey Brock gets the sense that the Padres are content with knowing that he could simply be a one-year rental (Twitter link). Even if Upton departs after just one year with the Friars, San Diego will undoubtedly make a qualifying offer (barring a catastrophic injury or collapse) and net a compensatory draft pick that will recover some of the lost value in this deal.
While the Padres may now have their starting outfield in place, they’re far from done with outfield-related trades. The Friars still possess a deep pool of outfielders that could be potentially moved. Carlos Quentin, owed $8MM, was previously said to be willing to waive his no-trade clause and may be even more keen on doing so now that it’s clear at-bats for him in 2015 would be few and far between in San Diego.
The Padres also have Will Venable under contract through 2015 and Cameron Maybin and Seth Smith controlled through 2016. Venable is owed $4.25MM, while Maybin will earn $16MM over the next two seasons and Smith will take home $13MM.
Smith has significant trade value after hitting .266/.367/.440 last season. While he was assured that he wouldn’t be traded when he signed the extension, that sentiment came from previous Padres management and clearly may not hold weight under the Preller regime. Venable is coming off a down season but has a history of productivity, particularly away from Petco Park, and his price tag would likely be appealing to rival clubs. Maybin’s deal comes with negative trade value, though he could serve as an expensive fourth outfielder in San Diego, as he’s still capable of playing a solid center field.
The 20-year-old Fried, selected seventh overall in the 2012 draft, ranked as a consensus Top 100 prospect heading into the season, but he required Tommy John surgery early in the year that limited him to just 10 2/3 frames. He will be sidelined for most of the 2015 campaign as he recovers. Prior to the season, however, Baseball America ranked Fried 53rd (full scouting report requires subscription) among all prospects and noted that he had the ceiling of a No. 2 starter with potential for three plus pitches and an extremely projectable 6’4″, 185-pound frame that added to his ceiling. MLB.com’s most recent rankings had him third among San Diego farmhands and 68th in all of baseball.
Jace Peterson, 24, made his Major League debut this season, though he collected just 58 plate appearances and struggled to a .113/.161/.113 batting line. BA ranked him seventh among Padres prospects last offseason, noting that while he lacks a single plus tool, he has average tools across the board with great athleticism and instincts. BA praised his line-drive stroke and ability to handle left-on-left matchups, noting that he could be a table-setting shortstop if his ceiling is reached. Obviously, with Atlanta having Andrelton Simmons locked up for the foreseeable future, Peterson is more of a second-base candidate with the Braves, however.
The other Peterson in the deal, Dustin, could eventually see time as a third base option for Atlanta. The 2013 second-rounder is now 20 years old and struggled a bit as a 19-year-old against older competition in the Class-A Midwest League in 2014, hitting .233/.274/.361 with 10 homers. BA ranked him 22nd among Padres prospects last winter. The younger brother of Mariners top prospect D.J. Peterson, Dustin is regarded as a bat-first prospect who may have to shift from third to the right side of the infield or left field, per BA. His excellent bat speed and ability to use the whole field are among the traits that BA and MLB.com praise in their scouting reports. MLB.com ranked him 10th among Padres prospects recently.
Smith, 21, dropped off BA’s Top 30 list last offseason but ranked 20th on MLB.com’s current list of Padres prospects primarily due to his blazing speed. The outfielder possesses little power and has work to do on his routes, per their scouting report. He’s a career .290/.383/.388 hitter in the minors and has stolen 169 bases in 265 career games — including 88 steals this past season.
For those that are particularly interested in the Braves’ end of the return, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel wrote up scouting reports and posted video of each of the players acquired by Atlanta in this deal.
Yahoo’s Jeff Passan first reported (via Twitter) that the Braves were wrapping up an Upton deal. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman first listed the Padres as a possibility and then as a likely candidate (Twitter links). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted that Upton was going to the Padres. Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio reported that Fried and Jace Peterson were in the deal (Twitter links). Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted that Smith and Dustin Peterson were in the trade with a low-level prospect going to San Diego.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
8:39am: Rosenthal definitively tweets that the Mariners are out of the mix on Upton at this juncture, further fueling the Padres scenario.
8:35am: Olney tweets that the Cubs aren’t in on Upton at this time. He adds that the Padres decided weeks ago that it Kemp had to play center field, they were OK with the idea. He also points out that the Braves have been trying to unload Chris Johnson in potential Upton deals, and San Diego does have an opening at third base.
8:31am: The Padres seem like the most likely club to acquire Upton, tweets Bowman. In addition to Renfroe, Bowman lists Matt Wisler, Max Fried and Austin Hedges as Padres prospects that intrigue the Braves.
8:23am: Buster Olney of ESPN tweets that the Astros aren’t the mystery club. He also tweets that the Braves asked San Diego for top outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe (their 2013 first-round pick) in Upton negotiations earlier this offseason.
8:13am: Bowman tweets that the early indication is that Upton isn’t heading to the A’s, Mariners or Rangers. Somewhat remarkably, Bowman notes that the Padres are a possibility to add Upton. San Diego has been hyper-aggressive of late, but they’ve also already added corner outfielders Matt Kemp and Wil Myers via trade.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the trade partner is not the Athletics. He, too, mentions the Padres as a possibility.
8:09am: Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets that the Rangers aren’t in the mix for Upton.
8:02am: MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets that the Braves have had recent talks with the A’s, Rangers and Mariners regarding Upton.
7:45am: The Braves are finalizing a trade of Justin Upton, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Late last night, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel reported that Atlanta appeared to be “down the road” on a deal sending Upton to an AL West team for young pitching (Twitter link).
Among AL West clubs, the Mariners have been prominently linked to Upton in trade rumors for much of the offseason, but the Rangers also have a need in the corner outfield, and the extremely active Athletics have been stocking up on young pitching in trades recently.
Just as a reminder, the Blue Jays, Cubs, Blue Jays and Brewers are the four clubs on Upton’s limited no-trade clause.