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Justin Upton Rumors
Japanese right-hander Chihiro Kaneko is visiting the United States to get a first-hand look at the atmosphere of Major League Baseball by visiting the World Series, according to Yahoo Sports Japan (Japanese link). The 31-year-old Kaneko is the ace of Nippon Professional Baseball’s Orix Buffaloes and is eligible to be posted this offseason, if his team agrees to post him (and, if he expresses a desire to jump to MLB). Kaneko has been scouted personally by Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. in September as well as the Red Sox and Padres, according to the Yahoo report. In 184 innings this season, Kaneko posted a sparkling 1.91 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9, allowing a minuscule seven homers in an excellent season. In parts of nine pro seasons, Kaneko has a 2.69 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 0.6 HR/9 in 1279 1/3 innings.
Here’s more pertaining to the National League East…
- Some familiar with the Mets‘ thinking believe that the team would be interested in adding Michael Cuddyer on a two-year deal, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. The Mets are known to be hesitant to deal from their crop of high-upside young arms, and Cuddyer would provide them with a fairly versatile piece that can add some punch to the lineup. Martino also notes that the Mets are monitoring Yoenis Cespedes and consider Rafael Montero more tradeable than Noah Syndergaard or Jacob deGrom. For what it’s worth, Cuddyer grew up in the same town as David Wright and the two have long been friends and offseason workout partners. MLBTR’s Zach Links recently profiled Cuddyer and projected a two-year, $22MM contract.
- More from Martino, who wrote yesterday that the Mets could be nearing an extension with assistant GM J.P. Ricciardi. The former Blue Jays GM has been with the Mets since 2010 and currently oversees the club’s pro scouting operations while also serving as an adviser to GM Sandy Alderson.
- There’s been a great deal of speculation that Evan Gattis could be trade bait this winter, but MLB.com’s Mark Bowman takes a long look at whether or not the Braves should entertain offers for Justin Upton and/or Jason Heyward as well. Each corner outfielder is set to become a free agent next winter. Moving one would allow the team to keep Gattis and play him in the outfield, although as Bowman notes, that would significantly weaken the club’s defense. Still, with each dangerously close to the open market, the front office could move one for a group of prospects that would further position the team for success as it heads into a new stadium in 2017, Bowman writes.
Here are a few stray notes from around the game …
- As I recently explored in my breakdown of the Braves‘ offseason-to-come, Atlanta faces some decisions in the outfield. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution goes into more detail on the situations of the disappointing B.J. Upton and corner outfielders Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, both of whom will become free agents at season’s end. The Braves “seem prepared” to take a bath on the elder Upton’s long-term deal to move him off the roster, according to O’Brien, and if the can manage it would probably utilize Heyward or a stop-gap in center. Dealing one of the other two players while trying to extend the other has long been discussed as a plausible option, and O’Brien indicates that it is a realistic option to slide Evan Gattis into a corner role to fill any resulting void.
- As far as extensions go, O’Brien says the Braves talked with Heyward’s representatives about a deal last winter. The team was interested in something that would have fallen well shy of Freddie Freeman‘s $135MM pact, says O’Brien, and Heyward’s asking price was well out of Atlanta’s comfort zone. His number has, in all likelihood, only gone up in the meantime, as Heyward just turned 25 and continues to rack up production — even though he has not returned to the offensive power ceiling he showed earlier in his career.
- The Royals passed on a chance to sign Sergio Romo for a meager $1K bonus before the Giants eventually took a chance on the reliever, ESPN.com’s Keith Law tweets. While Kansas City certainly cannot be faulted for leaving the then-unheralded Romo behind, it surely would have been nice to have added him from the team’s perspective.
- On the other hand, the Royals were willing to pay righty Tim Hudson, who said that K.C. made him a “very good offer” of two years this past offseason, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports on Twitter. Like Romo, the veteran ended up with the Giants — in his case, by choice — and will square off against the Royals in the World Series.
With the injuries piling up within the Dodgers‘ rotation, Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times wonders if the team erred by not making any significant additions both at the trade deadline or even last offseason. In refusing to deal any of their top prospects for Major League upgrades, “you have to wonder if the Dodgers’ desire to have it both ways — win now while simultaneously rebuilding the farm system — might not cost them their best chance at winning this season,” Dilbeck writes. Here’s some more from around the NL West…
- Rookie Kevin Quackenbush recorded his first career save last night, and if the youngster produces over the rest of the season, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune feels the Padres might go with the younger (and cheaper) option at closer in 2015. This would make Joaquin Benoit, the Friars’ current stopper, into an offseason trade candidate.
- David Peralta went from being a failed Cardinals pitching prospect to a reliable everyday outfielder for the Diamondbacks with an independent league stint in between, and FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi chronicles how Peralta’s unlikely career revival was due to one persistent D’Backs scout.
- Justin Upton is enjoying another strong season with the Braves, which again begs the question of why the Diamondbacks traded of the star outfielder in January 2013. A former D’Backs employee tells Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC subscription required) that the low-key Upton simply didn’t fit Arizona’s model for a superstar. “Management there wants it done a certain way. They want their guys to be Luis Gonzalez, who was very active in the community,” the source said. “They wanted Justin to be the face of the franchise — they had that ‘Uptown’ sign in the outfield — but that’s not Justin. He would say, ‘I just want to play the game.’ “
In an attempt to compensate for the looming loss of Nelson Cruz to his 50-game suspension, the Rangers tried to swing a big trade for Justin Upton at the July trade deadline, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. The Braves refused a package of Matt Garza, Joe Nathan and David Murphy. If those are the only three players the Rangers offered, it's not a surprise that the Braves passed — Garza and Murphy are eligible for free agency after the season, while Upton is a good young player who is under contract through 2015. Eventually, of course, the Rangers acquired Alex Rios in August. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- The Athletics clinched their second AL West title in a row with an 11-7 win over the Twins on Sunday, and GM Billy Beane says the team's depth has been the key to their smooth season, John Hickey of InsideBayArea.com reports. "We knew going in this was the deepest roster we’d ever had here," says Beane. "We needed that depth, and it paid for itself." As Hickey points out, the Athletics hardly missed a beat all season, even though Brett Anderson, Josh Reddick, John Jaso and Derek Norris all missed significant time. Here are more notes from around the Majors. A quietly brilliant season from Josh Donaldson surely helped, but the A's got solid offensive and defensive performances from most of their hitters, and other than Anderson, their starting rotation mostly stayed healthy.
- After taking in the ceremony for Mariano Rivera and the applause for Andy Pettitte on Sunday, it dawned on injured Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter that he had played his final game with his two retiring teammates, Andy McCullough of the Star Ledger reports. "I’m going to miss them a lot," says Jeter. "These guys have been brothers to me. We’ve been through quite a bit together. Pretty much everything you can experience on a field. In my whole professional career, I’ve been playing with at least one of them." The three had their rookie seasons together with the 1995 Yankees, and Jeter and Pettitte also played on many of the same minor-league teams, including Class A Greensboro in 1992 and and Triple-A Columbus in 1994 and 1995.
- Pitcher Dan Haren thinks the Nationals should aim to keep their team together, writes MLB.com's Andrew Simon. "Last year they had a great year and this year we’ve shown a lot of fight here the last few months. I think as close as things could stay to the guys in this room, I think the better," Haren says. He also appears to support bench coach Randy Knorr for the Nationals' managerial position, which will be open when Davey Johnson retires after the season. Haren himself is a free agent, of course, and he seems aware that he might not be part of the 2014 Nationals, even if they ultimately go with a similar roster: "I know there’ll be some subtle changes, me probably being one of them."
- Now that the Phillies have settled on Ryne Sandberg as their manager, they'll now turn their attention to their coaching staff, MLB.com's Todd Zolecki reports. With a new manager, it's typical to have at least some change in the rest of the coaching staff. Zolecki mentions that one potential change might be re-hiring former manager Larry Bowa in some capacity.
- A "winter of discontent" is on the way for Phillies fans, writes Bob Ford of the Inquirer. After a recent streak of successful seasons, Ford says, a team elsewhere might "get a standing ovation and then be allowed to attempt its rebuilding with patient if not fervent support. That might be the case here as well, if only the team would get on with the rebuilding." Instead, the Phils will head into the offseason expecting to keep aging veterans Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Cliff Lee. They might also go into 2014 with Carlos Ruiz still at catcher, and perhaps also with Roy Halladay in the rotation. Ford compares the Phillies to a rock band who are still touring long past the point where they've lost relevance, "dyeing their hair and wearing hearing aids."
Another day, another gem from a Cardinals starter. Adam Wainwright took a no-hitter through 7 1/3 innings en route to a complete game, two-hit shutout in St. Louis' 3-0 victory over the Rockies. Wainwright's outing was a day after Shelby Miller's complete game one-hitter against Colorado, in the process tying a Major League record for most consecutive batters retired by one team against another. Between Eric Young's leadoff single on Friday and Todd Helton's fifth-inning walk against Wainwright today, the Rockies sent 40 batters to the plate without success.
Here's some news as we head towards a full slate of Mother's Day baseball…
- The Cardinals' pitching depth was one reason they were comfortable letting Kyle Lohse leave in the offseason, the latest case of the Cards saving money and still contending thanks to their constant supply of young talent, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. “I would say it this way: you don’t want to have a situation where you can’t re-sign your best talent, long term, but there are times when you have to pick and choose where you want to invest it," St. Louis GM John Mozeliak said. "Our model has been, if possible, to have that flexibility within our payroll allocation without going too long and deep.”
- Paul Goldschmidt is hearing unanimous praise from scouts and is being compared to some of the game's elite hitters, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. Goldschmidt took a .977 OPS into Saturday's game, and as Piecoro notes, the Diamondbacks' five-year, $32MM extension (with an option on a sixth year) with their first baseman is looking like a major bargain.
- Also from Piecoro, he hears from Justin Upton and Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers that neither side has hard feelings about the big trade that sent Upton to the Braves in January. It has particularly worked out for Upton, who is enjoying an MVP-caliber season for NL East-leading Atlanta.
- Padres backup catcher John Baker could be expendable once Yasmani Grandal returns from his PED suspension. Baker tells Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune that he enjoys playing with the Padres but is prepared for whatever happens.
- Matt Eddy of Baseball America recaps the week's minor league transactions.
- Advanced statistics are taken with a grain of salt by many players, including several in the Rangers clubhouse, Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Derek Lowe, for one, believes his unimpressive peripheral stats were part of the reason why it took him until March to find a contract with a team. Texas, unlike several Major League clubs, doesn't have a full-time statistical analysis department in their front office though the club uses sabermetrics as part of their player evaluation process.
Earlier today, Marc Hulet took a look at the prospects involved in this offseason's Blue Jays/Marlins and Blue Jays/Mets blockbuster trades. If that's not enough Mets coverage for you, here's more on the Amazins for your Thursday afternoon…
- Matt Meyers of ESPNNewYork.com wonders if the Mets might come to regret their refusal to include Zack Wheeler in a Justin Upton trade this winter. Wheeler could obviously develop into a serious talent, but Meyers notes that Upton is already a team-controlled, established star at a position of great need for the Mets.
- The Mets have issues, but manager Terry Collins isn't one of them, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The soon-to-be 64-year-old is in the final year of his deal and there has been speculation that he may not be back in 2014.
- Heyman also writes that playing for the Mets is a dream come true for John Buck, who has surprisingly been the best player involved in this offseason's blockbuster Blue Jays trades. Buck grew up in Utah aspiring to one day play for a New York team and has now improbably reached that goal. Even more unlikely, he has done so alongside one of his youth-league teammates — Brandon Lyon.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Here are a few notes from around baseball:
- The Blue Jays are already looking at an uphill battle to achieve a postseason berth, so much so that Dave Cameron of Fangraphs says it is not too early to wonder whether they will be trade deadline sellers. In particular, Cameron notes that the team may be forced to consider dealing soon-to-be free agent starter Josh Johnson. He adds in an audio chat, however, that there is little likelihood that a hypothetical Johnson trade would happen before mid-June. Cameron expanded upon the article in the chat, including discussion of the way that baseball's current rule system will continue to impact teams' trade incentives (beginning at around the 8:57 mark).
- The Rangers have used thirteen pitchers this season, ten of whom have never appeared in another MLB uniform, notes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Team CEO Nolan Ryan explains: "What you're seeing is a philosophy of pitching in our system and we've stayed the course and we are committed to developing pitching within our system." The current and future flow of pitching talent has enabled the team to pursue top line free agents like Zack Greinke without feeling compelled to overpay.
- With their solid start coming in spite of bad health, the Yankees could continue to tinker with their roster, writes Mike Axisa of River Avenue Blues. In particular, Axisa says players like Casper Wells, Chris Nelson, and Humberto Quintero could all be easy ways to make small, but still-important upgrades.
- The Brewers are hoping to acquire a corner infielder/outfielder in the mold of Mark Kotsay, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. In 2011, Kotsay played in 104 games for the Brewers at all three outfield spots as well as first base.
- Neither the Braves nor Diamondbacks will end up as the loser of the deal that sent Justin Upton to Atlanta, Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com opined last week. Ringolsby says that Upton needed a change of scenery to an environment where he did not have to be "The Guy." With the Braves able to fully realize Upton's value, says Ringolsby, the Diamondbacks in turn were able to open playing time for other outfielders (specifically, Adam Eaton and Gerardo Parra) while impacting the team's clubhouse and building farm depth.
Let's start the last weekend in April with some notes from the National League:
- As expected, offseason acquisition Shaun Marcum has been activated to make his first start for the Mets today, the team announced via Twitter. In a corresponding move, the team optioned 26-year-old lefty Josh Edgin to the minors, where he will try to sort out his poor start to the year. The Mets hope that Marcum, who came to New York on a one-year, $4MM deal, can stabilize the back of the team's rotation. While Matt Harvey has been lights out and Jon Niese has been solid, the remaining Mets starters have combined to allow well over five earned runs per nine innings.
- Even with the mixed results from the team's starting staff, the Mets have gotten off to a fairly promising start. Meanwhile, the Nationals and Phillies have failed to live up to expectations in the early going. While acknowledging it is a long shot, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post looks at what it would take for the Mets to seize any opening should the Nats and Phils continue to underperform. Many variables would have to break right for the Mets, says Davidoff. The club must hold things together and hope that Travis d'Arnaud and Zack Wheeler arrive mid-summer, ready to contribute. (Of course, the d'Arnaud side of this already looks unlikely given his approximately two-month injury timetable.) If that happens, the Mets will face a test of their asserted willingness to take on salary — and/or even deal young talent — to make a run at a postseason appearance.
- In the midst of what MLBTR's Mark Polishuk calls a make or break year, Giants starter Tim Lincecum has put together two consecutive quality starts. As Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com writes, last night Lincecum struck out nine Padres over seven innings, allowing just two runs. Lincecum, who currently stands ninth in Tim Dierkes's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, had struggled mightily in his first three outings. While he still ranks among baseball's worst in BB/9 (5.16), Lincecum has raised his strikeout rate to 9.71 K/9.
- The Cardinals are not currently looking outside the organization to supplement their bullpen, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. While the club waits to learn the fate of injured closer Jason Motte, it has been rewarded for handing larger roles to Edward Mujica and Joe Kelly. GM John Mozeliak says that, while he is open to looking at the trade market, "that would not be in the near future."
- Morosi also addressed the subject of Braves outfielder Justin Upton, wondering why exactly the Diamondbacks decided to trade him. While Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick publicly called Upton "an enigma," and manager Kirk Gibson purportedly did not see eye-to-eye with the young slugger, Morosi says there was no single moment that apparently caused a rift. In case you missed it, Upton is off to something of a solid start for his new ballclub.
The Padres' 6-15 record is the second-worst in baseball and fans are starting to get impatient, judging by the tone of several questions (or just outright rants) posed to Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune during his latest online chat. Here are a few of the hot stove notes from Center…
- Some fans are calling for a fire sale but Center points out that such a move wouldn't be prudent given how many Padres are underachieving. "Even if the Padres started unloading players, what would they get for what they have? Unfortunately, they couldn't sell high in very many areas right now. Honestly, unloading might only make it worse," Center writes.
- Chase Headley is perhaps the only Padre that would fetch a premium return on the trade market, though Headley himself has struggled (.547 OPS) since returning from the DL. Center notes that Headley's struggles could actually help the Padres long-term since it would lower Headley's price on a possible extension.
- Since Headley is under team control through next season, Center doesn't think the Friars need to decide on the third baseman until mid-2014. That said, losing Headley "might be a major blow to the new owners' already weakening perception among fans." MLBTR's Tim Dierkes recently looked at a few of the teams who might be interested in acquiring Headley should San Diego put him on the market this summer.
- Center speculates that Carlos Quentin could be open to waiving his no-trade clause if he was dealt to an AL club where he could serve as a designated hitter.
- Josh Byrnes was given permission by team management to pursue a trade for Justin Upton this past winter. The Diamondbacks wanted a package from the Padres that would've included Headley "and more" Major League talent, not only prospects. Ultimately the D'Backs had concerns about dealing Upton to a division rival and the talks led nowhere. Any San Diego/Arizona trade, of course, contains some extra baggage given that Byrnes used to be the Diamondbacks' GM and Kevin Towers is a former Padres general manager.
- Firing Bud Black may not be the answer, as Center believes Black "has the same ingredients" as former Padres manager Bruce Bochy. Despite Bochy's four division titles in 12 years as Padres' manager, the club let him go to the Giants, where he has since won two World Series championships.
Everyone knows Jackie Robinson's story but few remember the name of John Wright, the second African-American player to sign with the Dodgers just weeks after Robinson signed his contract. Baseball America's Ryan Whirty details the brief career of Wright, a right-hander who struggled in the minors in 1946 and was back pitching in the Negro Leagues by 1947.
Here's the latest from the NL West…
- Major League Baseball has announced the suspensions of Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin for eight games and Dodgers utilityman Jerry Hairston for one game for their parts in Thursday's brawl between the two teams. Both men are appealing their suspensions, so both could be able to play when the Padres and Dodgers begin a three-game series on Monday, though Yahoo's Jeff Passan (Twitter link) feels MLB and the MLBPA will arrange for Quentin to miss Monday's game.
- Zack Greinke, meanwhile, will be out of action for around eight weeks following surgery to fix his broken collarbone. MLBTR's Steve Adams looked at the implications of Greinke's injury earlier today.
- Rockies owner Dick Monfort talks to Mark Kiszla over the Denver Post about manager Walt Weiss' unusual one-year contract with the club. Monfort admits the short-term deal was an "oversight" since he values loyalty in employees and usually operates on handshake agreements, and also said that the Rockies management team hired Weiss without first establishing his salary.
- Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall told Arizona Sports 620 Radio's Doug & Wolf that he felt the Justin Upton trade has worked out for both the D'Backs and Braves. "I would agree that ‘would he have had the same success here that he's had [in Atlanta] to start off the season, maybe not' sometimes players need a change of scenery for it to happen," Hall said. "I mean this was just two different teams that had two different needs and it worked out well for both, not to mention we still have four prospects that we're going to be dealing with in the next few years."
- Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic doesn't agree with Hall's belief that Upton needed a fresh start. "But even if [Upton] did need a new environment, what happened to the environment here? What does that say about the environment you’re creating if a 25-year-old with his kind of ability can’t succeed in it anymore?" Piecoro asks.
- While breaking down Tim Lincecum's struggles, Grantland's Jonah Keri noted that the success of the Giants' starting rotation has obscured the team's lack of pitching depth. The Giants may need to explore a trade for a new starter later this season if Lincecum can't turn things around. I tabbed 2013 as a Make Or Break Season for Lincecum since he'll need to regain his old form in order to fetch a nice free agent contract this winter.
- In other NL West news from earlier today, I compiled a set of Padres notes while Steve Adams reviewed the Giants' offseason moves.