Kendrys Morales Rumors
The Rays' attempts to trade David Price are greatly complicated by the fact that the team is still trying to contend in 2014, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. Most teams unloading a star player are doing so in order to rebuild and add young talent across the board, but Tampa Bay is trying to add Major League-ready players for another playoff run next season. Here are some more items from Rosenthal's latest column...
- The Rays "probably wouldn't be excited" by the prospect of trading Jeremy Hellickson if they couldn't move Price. Hellickson's name came up in trade rumors last offseason before the Rays moved James Shields, and I agree that if Tampa Bay doesn't trade Price, the team is much more likely to just stand pat with its rotation rather than move another starter.
- Brett Gardner's career numbers compare to those of Michael Bourn and (somewhat surprisingly) even Jacoby Ellsbury, so Rosenthal wonders if the Yankees could sign Gardner to an extension now and perhaps save themselves some future money if they want to keep the outfielder in the fold.
- MLBPA officials believe Gardner will earn a "considerably higher" salary in arbitration than the $4MM number projected by MLBTR's Matt Swartz.
- If the Yankees do abandon their plan to stay under the $189MM luxury tax threshold, then Rosenthal wonders why the team bothered setting that goal for themselves in the first place when it may have cost them several players over the past year. Rosenthal also suggests Bronson Arroyo as a durable short-term option for New York, noting Arroyo's friendship with Yankees strength and conditioning coach Matthew Krause.
- Rosenthal wonders if the Mariners would be willing to re-sign Kendrys Morales (provided that they're still willing to spend, that is). I'd argue that bringing Morales back as the regular DH would create some problems for the M's --- they'd have to trade Justin Smoak, plus play Corey Hart and Logan Morrison in the field every day, which could be a risky move given their injury histories.
- An AL general manager praised the Orioles' trade for David Lough, noting that "he can do everything that [Nate] McLouth does. He might end up being an even better hitter than McLouth.”
David Price's trade market has been somewhat slow to develop, as it may be harder than expected to find a team with both the means and the immediate need to pay the Rays' high asking price for their ace left-hander. The Dodgers may not have enough Major League-ready prospects to pull off a Price deal, ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon opines, though adding Yasiel Puig to the mix would certainly get Tampa Bay's attention. The Cubs, meanwhile, have talented youngsters (Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, etc.) that could pry Price from the Rays, but ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers doesn't think it makes sense for the Cubs to short-circuit their rebuilding process just for two years of Price on a team that isn't ready to contend.
Here's some more from around the AL East...
- The Orioles would have to give up their first round draft pick (17th overall) to sign Kendrys Morales, which FOX Sports Jon Morosi tweets is still "a substantial barrier" to Morales coming to Baltimore. Still, the O's remain interested in the free agent slugger. MLBTR's Jeff Todd recently examined the rather slim market for Morales, who is hampered by both the draft pick compensation and his defensive limitations.
- The Red Sox want Stephen Drew back and hope to still re-sign him, manager John Farrell said during a radio appearance on WEEI's Hot Stove Show (partial transcript from WEEI.com's Alex Speier). Boston's recent trade for Jonathan Herrera adds needed experience to their young left side of the infield, but Farrell said that there's mutual interest between Drew and the Sox in a reunion.
- In AL East news from earlier today, the Orioles' deal with Grant Balfour may be held up due to a medical concern about Balfour's shoulder...the Orioles signed Xavier Paul to a minor league contract...we covered a number of Yankees-related items in a Yankees Notes post.
Kendrys Morales is being pursued by National League teams as well as American League teams, agent Scott Boras tells Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Boras describes Morales as a "first baseman who can DH" but Morosi thinks that the draft pick compensation issue will hurt his value. More from around baseball..
- One GM tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter) that he doesn't think there's any doubt that Masahiro Tanaka will get more than $100MM.
- The Rakuten Golden Eagles can only take in $20MM under the new posting system, but Ben Badler of Baseball America came up with a sneaky way for the club to make more off of the superstar pitcher.
- The Rangers are doing significant background work on Tanaka, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Texas has room for just one significant expenditure, which could slow their movement on Shin-Soo Choo, Passan adds.
- It's odd to see setup men Boone Logan and Joe Smith get more guaranteed money than established closer Grant Balfour, even if it's over three years rather than two, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Balfour agreed to a two-year, $15MM deal with the Orioles earlier today.
- The Yankees' last couple of signings would suggest that they seriously intend to get under the $189MM threshold, so a surprise victory for Alex Rodriguez in his battle would hurt the club quite a bit, Heyman tweets.
- The Rockies are looking for a bench player, but it's not a priority, writes Troy Renck of the Denver Post (Sulia link).
The Winter Meetings featured the three-team trade that sent Mark Trumbo to the Diamondbacks, as well as a number of other moves, but Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe argues that this year's meetings featured plenty of press, but comparatively little meaningful activity. Cafardo wonders whether baseball should issue a moratorium on moves before the Winter Meetings, so that the meetings themselves feature more signal and less noise. Here's more from Cafardo:
- For the Diamondbacks, the Trumbo acquisition was about adding power, which is in short supply these days. "Just looking at the West, and looking at the National League and looking at the free agent market going forward, I just don’t know where you’re going to find power," says GM Kevin Towers.
- If the Red Sox re-sign Stephen Drew, that would bump Xander Bogaerts to third base and make Will Middlebrooks a trade candidate. The Marlins, who are looking for a third baseman, would likely be interested.
- Even after a report that the Orioles had interest in A.J. Burnett and had been in touch with his agent, the Pirates feel Burnett doesn't want to play for any other team. "There’s no reason for [Burnett] not to be back," says a Pirates official.
- Four teams have offered two-year deals to free agent Bronson Arroyo, but Arroyo is holding out for a three-year deal, or maybe a two-year deal with a vesting option.
- There doesn't appear to be a particularly robust market for Kendrys Morales, with the Mariners adding Corey Hart and Logan Morrison and the Angels likely to sign Raul Ibanez. The Orioles might be one possibility, but not at Morales' price.
With Corey Hart and Logan Morrison heading to the Mariners and James Loney agreeing to return to the Rays this week, the Pirates and Brewers remain on the hunt for a first baseman, as MLB.com's Anthony DiComo notes (via Twitter). The Astros could be on the lookout for a first baseman as well. With Mike Napoli (Red Sox) and Justin Morneau (Rockies) also gone, there isn't much left on the free-agent market, which means teams still hoping to acquire a first baseman will probably also consider trades. Here's a look at the main options still available.
- Matt Adams, Cardinals. Adams is far better than most of the players listed below, but the Cardinals would only be likely to move him in a major deal. It would be very hard for the Pirates or Brewers to pry him away, since they're both NL Central teams, and the Astros likely don't have the big-league talent the Cardinals would need in order to decide to part with him. His .284/.335/.503 line in 2013 would be a valuable addition to any big-league lineup, however.
- Kendrys Morales, free agent. Morales might be the highest-profile name remaining as a free agent, but after a season in which he hit .277/.336/.449 while playing poor defense (in the 31 games in which he played first base), he declined the Mariners' qualifying offer. It's hard to see many teams, including the Pirates and Brewers, give up a draft pick for the right to sign a defensively-limited player on the wrong side of 30. It appears likely that Morales will end up back with an AL team, as CBS Sports' Mike Axisa recently noted.
- Ike Davis, Mets. The Mets seem determined to trade either Davis or Lucas Duda. Davis may be the more attractive of the two candidates, due to his power, although he'll also be more expensive than Duda in arbitration this year. The Mets also seem more inclined to trade Davis. With Loney off the market, there's now a clear path for the Mets to deal Davis to either the Brewers or Pirates. There may be a feeling around baseball that they waited too long, however, with Mike Puma of the New York Post recently tweeting that a source recently told him the Mets were going to "sell low" on Davis. The Star-Ledger's Andy McCullough, meanwhile, tweeted, "The Mets' slow, steady march toward trading Ike Davis for something like a right-handed relief prospect is such a drag." In any case, it's hard to see the Mets getting much for Davis, or any team getting particularly excited about installing him at first, after he hit .205/.326/.334 in 2013, even though he batted .286/.449/.505 after the All-Star break. Davis appears set to make about $3.5MM through arbitration in 2014.
- Justin Smoak, Mariners. With Hart and Morrison both heading to Seattle, Smoak is now available, with the Mariners likely favoring a big-league contributor, rather than a prospect, in return. It remains to be seen how much other teams might want Smoak, however -- the former top prospect has hovered around replacement level for his career, and at 27, it may be that his once-highly-regarded bat won't ever carry him. Smoak hit .238/.334/.412 in 2013.
- Mitch Moreland, Rangers. Moreland's name has appeared in trade rumors since Texas traded for Prince Fielder, but he currently still has a role in Texas at DH. That could change somewhat, however, if the Rangers sign Shin-Soo Choo or re-sign Nelson Cruz, but right now, there appears to be no pressing reason for the Rangers to trade Moreland unless they want to. Moreland hit .232/.299/.437 in 2013, but unlike any of the trade candidates mentioned above, he does play plus defense at first base.
- Adam Lind, Blue Jays. Lind, who batted .288/.357/.497 in 2013, is a well-above-average hitter, but he's not much of a defender at any position. Also, like Moreland, he has a clear role on his current team as a DH. The Pirates recently asked the Jays about Lind, only to have the Jays ask for Neil Walker in return. If the Blue Jays do trade Lind, he probably won't come cheap.
- Mike Carp, Red Sox. WEEI's Rob Bradford recently tweeted that Carp was receiving plenty of attention on the trade market, which is no surprise -- unlike Davis and Smoak, Carp hit well in 2013, and unlike Moreland and Lind, he has no clear starting role with his current team. Carp played mostly first base and outfield in 2013, but with Jackie Bradley Jr. expected to replace Jacoby Ellsbury in center field, and with Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes expected to play in the corner spots, he won't necessarily be needed in the outfield next year. There isn't much room elsewhere, either, with Mike Napoli and David Ortiz returning at first base and DH, respectively. If Carp hits .296/.362/.523 again, the Red Sox can surely find space for him, but if another team approaches them with a nice offer, they could easily deal him, too.
- Eric Chavez, free agent. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman recently reported that the Pirates were one of several teams to check in on Chavez, and upon inspection, it's easy to see why. The veteran hit .281/.332/.478 in Arizona in 2013, and while he has limited experience at first base and isn't the defensive star he once was at third, it's easy to imagine he would be at least average defensively if he were to move across the diamond. He might also be relatively cheap, since he was a part-time player in 2013. He's an injury risk, but with Pittsburgh, in particular, he wouldn't have to play every day, since Gaby Sanchez would start against lefties.
- Kevin Youkilis, free agent. Youkilis missed most of the 2013 season due to injury and wasn't good when he played, but he was a valuable asset as recently as 2011. He'll be 35 in March, however, and showed signs of decline in 2012, so it's fair to wonder how much he has left. He also prefers to play on the West Coast, so he may not want to sign with Milwaukee or Pittsburgh.
The Mariners long seemed destined to bring back Kendrys Morales after the first baseman/designated hitter declined his $14.1MM qualifying offer. With interest already likely limited to American League clubs since he is not generally viewed as a regular first baseman, Morales's market figured to be dragged down further by draft pick compensation. That, in turn, made a return to Seattle an obvious fit.
But now, after adding both Corey Hart and Logan Morrison in quick succession, Seattle may no longer be a real landing spot for Morales. Both of those players seem more likely to see time at first and DH than in the outfield, and the club still has Justin Smoak in the mix as well. (Smoak, of course, just had his best big league season at age 26.)
On the other hand, the M's could elect to deal Smoak and bring back Morales. But if they do not, the remaining market looks to be a tough one for the Cuban national. It may be fair to wonder whether he will be able to better the qualifying offer that he turned down. (It would not be the first time that something like this has happened: Jason Varitek declined arbitration, under the prior Type A/B compensation system, only to re-sign with the Red Sox for far less than he stood to earn via arbitration.) Indeed, one GM even told Peter Gammons that he "just cannot see Kendrys Morales signing until after the draft." (Twitter link.)
There are, of course, some other American League clubs that would seem to make sense as a landing spot for Morales. (Presumably, NL teams will remain disinterested given his defensive limitations, even if agent Scott Boras is pitching him as a regular in the field.) After all, the switch-hitter is capable from both sides of the plate and mashes righties in particular. He has hit thirty home runs and seems a good bet to knock over twenty on a regular basis. Since his first season as a regular in 2009, he has a 128 OPS+. There is a reason he received, and declined, a qualifying offer, and he begins to look more and more appealing the more top players depart the open market.
There is one team that, like the Mariners, could make a great deal of sense if they make a trade. The Yankees currently stand to give a lot of DH at-bats to Alfonso Soriano. If the club deals Brett Gardner -- however unlikely that may be -- Soriano would move back to the oufield and potentially open the door for Morales, who could also spell a recovering Mark Teixeira at first. Bear in mind, New York would have relatively little to lose in terms of sacrificing draft picks, having already given up its first rounder. And Yankee Stadium would make quite an appealing spot for Morales to up his power numbers.
Then, there are the Orioles and Angels, both of which could definitely use Morales' bat. Unfortunately, each of those teams would also be required to give up a first-round draft selection (the 15th and 17th overall, respectively) to bring him in. And that is before considering payroll limitations. Nevertheless, the Brewers ultimately proved willing last year to give up a top choice to bring in Kyle Lohse on a seemingly reasonable deal last year, so it would be unwise to count the Halos and O's out completely.
The most interesting alternative possibility, however, could be the Astros. Houston has begun spending after trimming payroll to minimal levels in years past, and an interesting bat would elevate interest and expectations. And the team would only lose a second round choice if they inked Morales. GM Jeff Luhnow said just yesterday that the first base/DH slot was an area that the club might consider upgrading. Brett Wallace and Chris Carter are both limited players, while top prospect Jonathan Singleton might still need time to develop. If Morales could be had at a low enough cost, Houston could slot his bat in the middle of the lineup and use Wallace and Carter in some manner of platoon (or shed one of them).
While a return to Seattle may not be in the cards, there's still a market out there for Morales, even if there isn't a clear odds-on favorite for his services.
News from the AL and NL West..
- Agent Scott Boras says he'll talk to the Angels about signing Kendrys Morales, writes the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin. The Angels say they are not interested, however, because they need to rebuild a depleted minor league system and they would have to forfeit their first-round draft choice to sign Morales. "We're much more comfortable with the idea of maintaining our first-round pick and continuing to build the organization in a much more positive way," General Manager Jerry Dipoto said.
- In an interview on MLB Network (Twitter link), Dodgers GM Ned Colletti attemped to throw water on Matt Kemp trade rumors, saying that L.A. is higher on the outfielder than anyone.
- Pablo Sandoval's brother, Michael, has recently been certified as an agent and will join his current agent, Gustavo Vazquez, in representing him, writes Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. If the Giants want to discuss an extension, Michael says that his team will listen. Yesterday, GM Brian Sabean indicated that they'd be open to a new deal if he comes to spring training in shape.
- The Giants say they haven't talked to Jeff Baker's agent in a little over a week, tweets Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com.
- Giants vice president Bobby Evans tells Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com (on Twitter) that the club would like to sign a left fielder tonight. Baggarly hears that they like Franklin Gutierrez.
- Rockies manager Walt Weiss says that they have talked to Carlos Gonzalez about possibly playing center field and they think he might be able to manage it, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post (via Sulia).
Since being ruled ineligible due to providing a false birthdate over the summer, Cuban shortstop prospect Aledmys Diaz has interest from a list of teams including the Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Orioles, Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees, agent Jamie Torres tells Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. "There are some very good players out right now and more are coming," Torres said. "Let's put it this way: I can predict that a few of the Cuban players that sign between now and Spring Training are going to contribute in the big leagues in the 2014 season and their contribution is going to be significant." More from around baseball..
- Omar Infante has been looking for a four-year deal and is drawing some interest from clubs who see him as a left fielder or third baseman, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Yesterday it was reported that Infante is seeking a deal with an $8MM+ average annual value.
- Some agents and teams are convinced that the three-year, $30MM deal the Astros gave free agent pitcher Scott Feldman has been a wrench in talks for others since agents feel obligated to also shoot for that type of "lottery ticket" contract, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com.
- Free agent Raul Ibanez is considering offers from multiple contenders, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Earlier today, Stark reported that Ibanez could be headed to the Angels.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson says he'll hold on to Ike Davis if no one comes to the table with a strong enough offer, writes Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. "Let me emphasize one thing: We're not in the business of giving players away," Alderson said. "We don't expect to get in that business."
- The Tigers are in on Ervin Santana, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter). The Twins, meanwhile, aren't in the mix because of the draft pick compensation tied to him.
- Agent Scott Boras says he would talk to Orioles owner Peter Angelos about extensions for Matt Wieters and Chris Davis, writes CSNBaltimore.com's Rich Dubroff.
- The Twins continue to talk to free agent pitcher Mike Pelfrey, a source tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). It's unclear whether a deal with Pelfrey would preclude a signing of fellow free agent hurler Bronson Arroyo, but MInnesota has flexibility.
- One GM tells Peter Gammons of Gammons Daily (Twitter link) that he can't see Kendrys Morales signing until after the draft.
- White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn says his team still has several potential options ahead less than 24 hours after acquiring center fielder Adam Eaton from the Diamondbacks in a three-team deal, writes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. One rival exec believes the White Sox would like to trade outfielder Dayan Viciedo, who is now part of a crowded house with the addition of Eaton. Another baseball source said the White Sox have looked into the possibility of trading away second baseman Gordon Beckham.
- The free agent market for second basemen seems to be impacted by the availability of Howie Kendrick, Brandon Phillips, and others, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette confirmed to Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (on Twitter) that he has interest in Raul Ibanez and Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier, but says that he won't be in the mix for Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka or Kendrys Morales. The O's will be out looking for a left-handed hitting left fielder or DH as well as pitching (link). Here's more out of Baltimore..
- The Orioles checked on the availability of Ethier and fellow Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, but there were issues with the amount of salary that the Dodgers were willing to absorb, an industry source told Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.
- While he didn't shut the door on re-signing second baseman Brian Roberts, Duquette told reporters, including Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, he is pleased with his options at the position, especially Ryan Flaherty.
- The O's will announce their signing of Ryan Webb today, but they're still in the hunt for a closer, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). Webb agreed to a two-year, $4.5MM deal with Baltimore last week.
ESPN.com's Jayson Stark is out with a Winter Meetings preview, noting that the frenzy of signings and trades this week threatens to overshadow an event that's traditionally one of the hot stove's busiest periods. Twenty teams either swapped a player or agreed to terms with a free agent between Monday afternoon and Tuesday night, according to ESPN's count. "I don't ever remember a day like Tuesday ever," an AL official commented. "Not just [during] the week before the Winter Meetings. Ever." Nevertheless, with several top names remaining unsigned and rumors of a David Price trade hanging in the air, Stark notes that there's plenty of hot stove left. Here's a run-through of his Winter Meetings preview, which includes a survey of 17 big league executives (conducted before the Carlos Beltran and Robinson Cano signings):
- Some believe Scott Boras will bide his time with Shin-Soo Choo following how quickly a deal for Jacoby Ellsbury came together with the Yankees, but there's another group that believes the superagent wants to show new rival Jay Z that he can be decisive. Around half of execs polled said they think Choo could sign during the Winter Meetings, or immediately afterward. All speculated he'll land with either the Rangers, Mariners or Tigers, though Detroit is indicating they're not involved.
- The market for starting pitching has been slow to develop because of uncertainty surrounding Masahiro Tanaka, as well as slow-developing rumors for Price and Jeff Samardzija, leaving Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez still on the board. Officials polled varied widely in their predictions for when the two will sign, though many see Garza heading to the Yankees or the Orioles. Draft pick compensation is an issue with Jimenez, who doesn't have a consistent track record.
- Kendrys Morales isn't expected to sign soon, with many NL clubs passing on the slugger because there's a perception that he'll need to DH. "I think he has all the makings of this year's Kyle Lohse," one exec commented. Draft pick compensation is also an issue. "You should never forget how many teams don't want to give up those draft picks," one exec commented.
- Samardzija was seen as the player most likely to be traded during the Meetings among players who are still on the market, though his three votes only slightly surpassed Mark Trumbo's two. Many believe, however, that Samardzija could remain a Cub until later in the winter, or even until the summer trade deadline in July. One exec said he thinks the Angels were more willing to move Trumbo a month ago than they are currently.
- Carlos Beltran was by far seen as the most likely player to sign during the Meetings, though as that's already happened, the title is now held by Choo.
- While the Dodgers, Rangers, Mariners, Angels, Braves, Diamondbacks and Padres all appear to be interested in trading for Price, the group of teams that are actually able to consummate a deal could be much smaller. Rays GM Andrew Friedman appears to be taking his time allowing the market to develop. "Andrew is looking to make the Herschel Walker trade," a source tells Stark, referring to the 1989 NFL trade that involved 18 players and draft picks.