Justin Upton Rumors

Padres Notes: Kennedy, Cespedes, Shortstop, Ross

With the focus of the baseball world on San Diego this week for the Winter Meetings, here’s the latest on the city’s team:

  • The Padres have discussed a trade with the Red Sox involving Ian Kennedy and Yoenis Cespedes, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Boston, however, feels Cespedes can bring back a pitcher better than Kennedy.
  • Rosenthal also tweets the Padres could match up with Texas to fill their hole at shortstop since the Rangers have a surplus at the position and San Diego GM A.J. Preller knows their system very well.
  • The ultimate prize this offseason for the Padres could be Matt Kemp or Justin Upton, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Dennis Lin. While each player comes with substantial risk (Kemp’s contract and Upton being only a year away from free agency), Lin believes the risk is offset by the Padres’ need to land an impact bat to shore up an offense lacking corner infielders and a shortstop.
  • The interest between the Padres and free agent catcher David Ross is mutual, Lin tweets. The Padres, meanwhile, seem intent on moving a catcher. Ross has been connected to the Cubs and Braves, as well as the Padres.
  • If the Padres swing a trade with the Dodgers, Lin (via Twitter) wonders if left-hander Alex Torres could be involved. Torres has history with both Andrew Friedman and Josh Byrnes.

Quick Hits: Upton, Robertson, Headley, Ethier, Mets Shortstop

Justin Upton might be the best hitter on the market, but that’s not the only reason teams want him, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports. With one year and $14.5MM remaining on his contract, Upton is a financial steal. If a team acquires him this offseason, they’ll also be looking at a free draft pick when he declines their qualifying offer. He’s in his physical prime at 27 years old, and he’s a former number one overall pick. Heyman lists the Royals, Tigers, Mariners, Orioles, and Padres as possible destinations. We can expect the Braves to receive a notable player in return – after all, they netted Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins for Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden.

  • The Yankees would like to re-sign Chase Headley and David Robertson, reports Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. However, New York refuses to go overboard, which may let other clubs swoop in on the pair of free agents. Headley is said to have a four-year, $65MM offer on the table, and the Giants are reportedly “getting aggressive.” It’s unknown at this time if San Francisco is the team that offered the $65MM deal. The Yankees aren’t expected to value Headley that highly. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays supposedly “love” Robertson, and the Astros are in on him too. After New York signed Andrew Miller last week, there is less urgency to sign another relief ace.
  • A proposed swap of Andre Ethier and Miguel Montero fell through, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Diamondbacks would have received Ethier and catcher Tim Federowicz for Montero and lower level prospects. The Dodgers would have also kicked in money to help balance the extra $16MM guaranteed to Ethier over the next three seasons. Rosenthal lists a couple reasons the deal may have fallen through. DBacks owner Ken Kendrick is a fan of Montero, and Arizona may be hesitant to trade with their former GM Josh Byrnes on the other side of the negotiations (Byrnes is now the Dodgers Sr. VP of Baseball Operations).
  • Shortstop tops the Mets wish list at the winter meetings, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. While club officials keep saying they’re comfortable with Wilmer Flores, an upgrade would be welcomed. Unfortunately for the Mets, there aren’t many options available. The Mariners have a couple shortstops, but they have talked about using Brad Miller in the outfield. Other trade targets like Alexei Ramirez, Starlin Castro, and Troy Tulowitzki strike me as unlikely to move. As we know, the free agent market is bleak. Many clubs prefer Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie at second base. The next best options, Stephen Drew and Everth Cabrera, have a lot to prove before a team trusts them as a starter.

Quick Hits: Upton, Santana, Ethier, Blue Jays

Here’s the latest from around the majors:

  • The Orioles, Rangers, and Padres are still among the bidders for Braves outfielder Justin Upton, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. All three clubs have a need for a powerful outfielder, so it will be interesting to see where the bidding goes. It’s unclear if the Braves are targeting a specific position in return.
  • The Giants are showing interest in Ervin Santana and other starting pitchers, tweets Morosi. I assume this is due diligence as the club competes for Jon Lester. If they miss on the ace lefty, they will have groundwork laid for the next tier of free agent.
  • Andre Ethier has stated he would like to start in 2015 – be it for the Dodgers or another club, writes Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times. Ethier, 32 next season, has informed the club via his agent of his feelings. After spending much of last season as a part-time outfielder, Ethier is ready to get back into a regular role. Even with the club shopping Matt Kemp, it seems unlikely that a full time role will be available for Ethier in L.A.
  • The Blue Jays are focused on improving their bullpen at the Winter Meetings, reports Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. Toronto had the sixth worst bullpen ERA at 4.09, and they suffered through continual changes at the closer position – eight players recorded a save. Hiring a true closer and perhaps a setup man remain high on the Jays to-do list.


NL Notes: Martinez, MacDonald, Upton, Giants, Stauffer

Former Rays bench coach Dave Martinez, who left the organization after he was not selected as a finalist for their managerial opening, has joined the Cubs‘ coaching staff, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). Martinez will assume the familiar role of serving as Joe Maddon’s bench coach, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports. That the well-respected Martinez wasn’t named a finalist in Tampa’s managerial search surprised many. He’s previously interviewed for other managerial gigs and is widely considered to be have a chance to manage in the Majors someday. Heyman also notes that Brandon Hyde, who was expected to serve as bench coach on what was a full Cubs staff, will be re-assigned, but the team is expected to move him to a significant role.

A few more notes from around the National League…

  • The Braves announced today that former Padres vice president/assistant general manager Chad MacDonald will join the front office as a special assistant to president of baseball operations John Hart. MacDonald, according to the release, will be involved in all facets of Atlanta’s scouting efforts, including international, amateur and professional scouting. He’s previously served as the Mets’ director of scouting and both the assistant director of scouting and director of international scouting for the Diamondbacks.
  • Interest in Justin Upton has increased since the Braves signed Nick MarkakisHeyman tweets. ESPN’s Jayson Stark hears that the Braves have fielded more than a dozen calls on Upton, who is considered by many to be the best available bat on the trade market (Twitter link). Atlanta is still in no hurry to move Upton, Stark adds.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, meanwhile, tweets that it’s still possible the Braves will trade Evan Gattis and hang onto Upton in order to at least position themselves to collect a draft pick should Upton depart following the 2015 season.
  • The Giants‘ priorities at the Winter Meetings (and beyond) are third base and starting pitching, tweets Rosenthal. The team is in need of a left fielder but feels that Juan Perez, Gregor Blanco and Travis Ishikawa are all capable of handling the position. They’re not ruling out signing a free agent outfielder, but that priority has taken a back seat to the rotation and the hot corner.
  • The Padres are one of a number of to reach out to free agent righty Tim Stauffer, tweets Jeff Saunders of the San Diego Union Tribune. The 32-year-old Stauffer, formerly the fourth overall pick in the draft, posted a 3.50 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 64 1/3 innings (three starts, 41 relief appearances) for the Friars this past season. Friar has worked as a reliever in recent seasons but hurled 185 2/3 innings of 3.73 ERA ball for San Diego back in 2011.

NL Notes: Upton, Ross, Hundley, Lackey, Cards

The Braves have already received attractive trade proposals for outfielder Justin Upton, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets. With several free agents off the board, a deal could come together soon, per Sherman, possibly during the upcoming Winter Meetings. The team’s addition of free agent Nick Markakis would appear to increase the odds of the club dealing Upton and/or Evan Gattis, though its final course remains unclear.

More from the National League:

  • The BravesCubs, and Padres are among the teams pursuing free agent catcher David Ross, along with the incumbent Red Sox, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The 37-year-old Ross rates among the game’s most respected veterans.
  • The Rockies have expressed interest in free agent backstop Nick Hundley, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports on Twitter. Were the team to add Hundley or another option, it would likely deal Wilin Rosario, Crasnick adds.
  • Though John Lackey is under contract at league minimum for 2015, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak will meet with his representatives at the upcoming Winter Meetings to discuss “possibly reworking” that deal, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports on Twitter. It is not entirely clear what manner of modification could be contemplated, though one would expect that St. Louis would only be interested in a proposal that added a reasonably priced season or two to the 36-year-old’s deal.
  • The Cardinals have promoted Chris Correa to become the club’s new scouting director, Langosch reports. The club had an opening arise recently when Dan Kantrovitz left to become an assistant GM with the Athletics.

NL Notes: Tomas, Liriano, Marlins, Harper, Braves, Gattis

The Phillies never made an offer for outfielder Yasmany Tomas, agent Jay Alou Jr. tells Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Alou said that the club was engaged throughout the process, but that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. gave the impression that he had to “clear salary” before he could put dollars on the table. “His hands were tied,” Alou said in reference to Amaro. For his part, Amaro said only that “it was clear the Diamondbacks valued him higher than we did.” The ownership group has not created any “impediments” to his baseball operations staff, he added.

More from the National League:

  • With a line of quality pitchers queuing up behind Jon Lester and company, the Pirates are staying engaged with their own outgoing free agents, Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Twitter link). Dejan Kovacevic recently reported that the club hoped to return both hurlers, even after adding A.J. Burnett.
  • Indeed, Pittsburgh is making clear to agents of other free agent starters that Liriano is their top priority on the rotation market, according to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reports. Though the Bucs would stand to give up the sandwich pick they would receive were Liriano to sign elsewhere, he has been quite a valuable contributor to the team’s winning ways over the last two seasons.
  • The Marlins are unlikely to lock down any new extensions before the Winter Meetings, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com tweets, though that does not mean that the team is not making a legitimate effort to work out more deals. With offers on the table or soon to be delivered to several young players, the team appears to be making a push to follow the model that the Braves pursued last year.
  • Bryce Harper and the Nationals are headed towards a grievance in December to resolve the long-lingering question whether his contract permits him to opt into arbitration, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. (To understand the background, read this post from last November.) Rosenthal wonders whether the Nats would be better served not fighting the point, if the club hopes to have a shot at extending Harper.
  • As the Braves continue to weigh their trade options, the team is more likely to deal Justin Upton than to move both he and Evan Gattis, Mark Bowman of MLB.com tweets. The team has still not ruled out a scenario in which both players are traded, though that would obviously create quite a void in the middle of the team’s lineup.
  • Interestingly, the Braves had extended discussions earlier this offseason with the Astros about Gattis, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Atlanta wanted Houston to take a pairing of Gattis and the struggling B.J. Upton in a trade, but that involved too much payroll for the latter to stomach. The Braves expressed interest in both Dexter Fowler and Carlos Corporan in the talks. Rosenthal says that the original line of discussion faded, but that other talks involving Gattis could arise between the teams in the future.

Mariners Still Seeking Right Fielder

Earlier today, news broke that the Mariners and Nelson Cruz had agreed to a four-year deal. While some assumed that he would serve in an outfield capacity, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that the M’s prefer to use Cruz in a DH role and will still seek a right fielder from outside the organization. According to Dutton, two possibilities are free agents Torii Hunter and Alex Rios.

Dutton also reports that the Mariners still have interest in acquiring Matt Kemp from the Dodgers, but those talks have stalled due to Los Angeles’ insistence that one of Taijuan Walker or James Paxton be included in the deal. Additionally, he adds, the Orioles have shown increased interest in Kemp, presenting Seattle with competition to acquire his services.

One player whose name has surfaced in trade speculation is right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, as many feel he could be a fit for the Red Sox in a potential swap for Yoenis Cespedes. However, ESPN’s Jayson Stark hears that Iwakuma is firmly unavailable, as the Mariners are looking to add to the club rather than subtract (Twitter link).

The Mariners feel they have the payroll flexibility to add Kemp (and thereby Hunter or Rios as well, of course) even after signing Cruz and working out a seven-year, $100MM extension for Kyle Seager. Kemp is owed $107MM over the next five seasons — a hefty investment for a power bat whose defensive skills appear to be diminishing as well.

Dutton’s report makes no mention of Justin Upton, although it would stand to reason that if Kemp is still in play, there would be continued interest in Upton as well, to whom the Mariners have been linked on multiple occasions. However, as Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweeted after Cruz’s agreement, the Braves “almost certainly” would ask for Walker in exchange for Upton, so Seattle’s interest there figures to be limited until the asking price changes.

Both Hunter and Rios would provide a veteran right-handed bat to bring further balance to a lineup that was extremely left-handed in 2014. Hunter has recently been said to be considering the Mariners as well as the Rangers, Orioles, Royals and, to a lesser extent, the Twins. Rios, meanwhile, has yet to see his name surface in too many rumors, perhaps due to a down season at the plate (.280/.311/.398). The Mariners were said to consider him a fallback option earlier this month. Should the Mariners think on a larger scale, Melky Cabrera remains a free agent, and the price for parting with him is now slightly diminished, as Seattle would only need part with its second pick after forfeiting the No. 19 pick to sign Cruz.

In addition to the names listed, the Mariners do have a fairly strong in-house candidate in the form of Michael Saunders. However, Saunders is a left-handed bat and his relationship with the organization was strained after some postseason comments from GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon. The Mariners were said to be shopping Saunders as recently as last month’s GM Meetings, and those talks could of course be revisited at next week’s Winter Meetings.


Quick Hits: A’s, Rockies, Morales, Albers

With the Winter Meetings just a week away, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince names the top ten Hot Stove storylines heading into December. How the top-tier starting pitcher market shakes out heads the list, according to Castrovince, who notes the trade market for the likes of Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann, and Jeff Samardzija will heat up once free agents Jon Lester and Max Scherzer sign. Among Castrovince’s other top headlines this month are whether the Braves trade Justin Upton and how the Red Sox and Dodgers deal with their surplus of outfielders.

Elsewhere in baseball on the final day of November:

  • After A’s GM Billy Beane signed Billy Butler to a $30MM deal and traded third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com isn’t sure what the plan is in Oakland.
  • The best way for the Rockies to become contenders is for Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki to be healthy and productive, but it would be daring for GM Jeff Bridich to trade the duo in search of salary relief to address areas of concern, opines MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby.
  • The market for Kendrys Morales has been quiet to date with only the Indians being linked to the free agent DH. CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman tweets, besides Cleveland, the Rangers and Royals are also taking a look at Morales while the Mariners and Blue Jays are possibilities, as well.
  • Left-handed starter Andrew Albers recently became a free agent and has drawn interest from a number of big league clubs, an industry source told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Albers became a free agent when South Korea’s Hanwha Eagles declined the 2015 option on his one-year deal. The Canadian pitched to a 5.84 ERA in 146 1/3 innings, though he did make 27 starts and led his team with 102 strikeouts. BN-S writes Albers appears to be seeking a split contract with incentives.

Hart On Justin Upton, Lester, Gattis

Braves President of Baseball Operations John Hart was a guest of Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio’s “The Front Office” and addressed numerous topics. Here are the highlights (all links go to the Twitter accounts of Bowden and Duquette):

  • Hart said the Braves have not made one phone call on Justin Upton and do not plan to do so. Hart added signing Upton to a multi-year contract is “not out of the realm of possibility,” but downplayed its likelihood.
  • Jon Lester is probably the right player at the wrong time for Atlanta, according to Hart, but the bad contracts the Braves have to carry in Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton have affected the team’s offseason plan. In that same vein, Hart admitted the Braves will not be in the market for free agents who declined a qualifying offer.
  • Hart told Bowden and Duquette there are no active trade talks involving Evan Gattis and the club is toying with the idea of playing him in left field.

Athletics, Braves Discussing Justin Upton, Evan Gattis

SUNDAY, 8:11am: There have not been any recent trade talks between the Braves and A’s, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Twitter).  Meanwhile, a source close to the A’s tells John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group (on Twitter) that Oakland will not be trading Jeff Samardzija to the Braves.

FRIDAY, 11:39pm: After pulling off a blockbuster earlier tonight, the Athletics are perhaps unsurprisingly exploring more deals. The team is in conversations with the Braves regarding outfielder Justin Upton and catcher Evan Gattis, reports John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group (via Twitter).

The precise nature, timing, and progress of these talks remains unclear; indeed, it is not even apparent that both players would be under consideration in the same deal. While it is not difficult to imagine that Oakland could make use of those players — particularly if still other moves are being contemplated — neither do they jump out as obvious fits.

The Athletics did sacrifice a good bit of right-handed power in the Jon Lester deal, of course. But the club just added an everyday right-handed bat in Billy Butler. (And with respect to Gattis, if he is viewed as a catching option, Oakland has Derek Norris behind the dish.) More to the point, perhaps, the addition of another bat that requires time in the corner outfield would raise the question of what the team will do with a mix that includes the right-handed-hitting Craig Gentry and lefties Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick.

Hickey notes that starter Jeff Samardzija could be involved in talks involving the aforementioned players. From my perspective, though, it makes little sense for Atlanta to chase after a one-year arm of that kind. Of course, a three-team scenario could be imagined that might make sense of that concept. It should also be remembered that the A’s have a stock of arms beyond their projected Opening Day rotation, with A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker readying to return and carrying plenty of excess value upside.