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Koji Uehara Rumors
Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons appeared on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Show (audio link) to discuss a host of Red Sox topics earlier today, and in doing so he touched on quite a few Red Sox issues, as well as some issues pertaining to other teams around the AL. Here are some highlights from the interview, and readers can check out full quotes from Gammons in the transcription provided by WEEI’s Ryan Conor…
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is torn as to whether or not he should buy or sell at this year’s trade deadline. He’s had scouts looking at top prospects around the league, but the upcoming road trip will do a lot to determine their course of action. Gammons notes that he may even have to consider dealing Jon Lester if the team truly isn’t going to work out a new deal with him.
- The Rays’ recent surge in the standings has them holding off on selling pieces, Mariners sources told Gammons. Seattle thought they were closing in on a deal for Ben Zobrist, but they’ve since been told that the Rays plan to wait until the final 48 hours prior to the deadline before determining a course of action.
- One GM who contacted the Red Sox about Koji Uehara told Gammons that Cherington seems disinclined to even discuss the possibility of trading his closer. The Sox want to bring Uehara back in 2015 and have him close.
- Uehara hasn’t even been generating the most interest, Gammons hears. That distinction goes to Andrew Miller, who has “by far” been the subject of the most inquiries in Boston’s bullpen.
- Gammons hears that Lester told teammates that he’d have signed in Spring Training if the team had offered even one dollar more than Homer Bailey‘s six-year, $105MM contract. The Red Sox maintain that their four-year, $70MM offer was merely a starting point, not a final offer, as they didn’t want to start at $110MM and end up in “Max Scherzer” territory (referring to the six-year, $144MM which Scherzer rejected).
- That Scherzer offer, however, may be what Lester ultimately secures as a free agent, Gammons said. Two general managers have told Gammons that they expect Lester to sign for at least that much on the open market. “There’s a lot of money out there,” said one GM.
- Gammons can see the Sox pursuing James Shields on the free agent market, but he notes that it’s more important for the team to cast a wide net rather than have just one contingency plan for Lester. He lists Cole Hamels as another alternative, though he points out how difficult it would be to acquire Hamels, as Phils GM Ruben Amaro Jr. would need to hit a home run on the deal after failing to acquire useful pieces from the Cliff Lee-to-Seattle deal and some other missteps.
- Gammons feels that Christian Vazquez, Blake Swihart, Mookie Betts, Rubby De La Rosa and Henry Owens are probably all untouchable in trades at this point.
Cuban catcher Lednier Ricardo recently held a workout in the Dominican Republic, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted recently. MLBTR has learned additional details on the 25-year-old, who has been cleared to sign as a free agent and will not be subject to international spending limits. About a dozen teams were represented at the showcase, including the Yankees, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Mariners, Astros, Royals, Rangers, Tigers, Athletics, and Reds. Public information is scarce on Ricardo, who has seen limited time with the Cuban national team and has maintained an OPS in the .730 range in recent years in Serie Nacional action. The backstop will look to impress scouts enough to earn a significant bonus to come stateside.
Here’s the latest out of the American League:
- Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe provides a few notes on the Red Sox, via Twitter, that could impact the team’s trade deadline plans. The club prefers to keep Koji Uehara for the 2015 campaign, he says, though of course the closer is slated to hit the open market. Meanwhile, the team would prefer to keep Xander Bogaerts at third for the present, but could nevertheless be open to dealing Stephen Drew if he can show some kind of turnaround at the plate.
- The Royals are “looking hard” at options to bolster their pen, Cafardo further reports (Twitter link). Though the Kansas City pen ranks third in the game in accumulated fWAR, much of that has come from top options Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera. And the relief corps rates just 19th in cumulative ERA (3.68). Among the Royals’ remaining active relievers, Aaron Crow and Francisley Bueno have outperformed their peripherals, Louis Coleman has struggled by any measure, and Scott Downs was knocked around yesterday after three quality outings to start his tenure with his second club of the season.
- The Rays will listen on catcher Jose Molina, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports on Twitter. Olney wonders whether the Cardinals would consider looking into the older brother of the injured Yadier Molina. It is worth bearing in mind, of course, the elder Molina is under contract for next season at $2.75MM.
- With few intriguing bats available, the Mariners should go all in by pursuing Rays ace David Price, argues Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Seattle should be able to fit Price’s salary this year and next, says Rosenthal, and the surely steep price in terms of prospects would be worth it to a club that could seize an opportunity to make a postseason run.
In his latest notes column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that he wouldn’t be surprised to see Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki ask for a trade this offseason. One friend of Tulo told Rosenthal, “I think the guy is going to lose his mind,” due to Colorado’s consistently poor results. He adds that this offseason will be a better time to deal Tulo or Carlos Gonzalez (with an eye on a larger rebuild), and while owner Dick Monfort may prefer to move CarGo, plenty of teams would make sense as a landing spot for Tulowitzki.
Here are some more highlights from Rosenthal’s newest work…
- One reason that Tulo could be particularly frustrated is with the Rockies‘ inability to build a competitive pitching staff at Coors Field. That’s no easy task, as Rosenthal notes, but it isn’t helped by the fact that free-agent pitchers simply don’t want to go there. While Jon Gray and Eddie Butler are promising, Butler joins a long list of currently injured Rockies starters. Additionally, rival scouts opined to Rosenthal that Colorado pitchers are poorly prepared: “They pitch not to hitters’ weaknesses but hitters strengths,” one scout told Rosenthal.
- The Dodgers talked with the Cubs about Jeff Samardzija before he was dealt to Oakland, but talks never got serious, as Los Angeles didn’t want to part with Joc Pederson or Corey Seager.
- Speaking of the Samardzija trade, Rosenthal hears that the deal was almost larger, as the Athletics at one point were trying to get Chicago to include Luis Valbuena in the deal as well. The A’s like Valbuena as a potential second-base upgrade and could rekindle talks for him later this month, but Chicago is reluctant to deal him, as he’s controlled through 2016, according to Rosenthal.
- The Cubs are receiving interest in lefty relievers James Russell and Wesley Wright, both of whom are more likely to be traded than Valbuena.
- Multiple reports today have indicated that the Cardinals have interest in Jake Peavy of the Red Sox, and Rosenthal reports that the two sides spoke a month ago, though not necessarily about Peavy. Boston has interest in the Cardinals’ young outfielders, and while St. Louis won’t deal Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty for Peavy, the teams could expand the deal to include other players and make something work. Rosenthal floats the idea of a scenario in which Allen Craig heads to Boston, though that appears to be speculation.
- In other Red Sox rumors, he writes that the Sox don’t necessarily want to move free agents they would like to re-sign after the season even if they end up as sellers. In other words, Jon Lester and Koji Uehara may stay put regardless of the team’s approach. Beyond that, the team’s chips are largely underwhelming, as Jonny Gomes, Burke Badenhop, Stephen Drew and A.J. Pierzynski either don’t have huge appeal to buyers or would net marginal returns at best.
The results of today’s Giants-Reds and Dodgers-Cardinals games look like the crest of a sea change that has reshaped the NL playoff race. Homer Bailey took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning against the Giants, and the Reds emerged with a 4-0 win. Meanwhile, Clayton Kershaw struck out 13 Cardinals in seven innings as the Dodgers cruised to a 6-0 victory. The Dodgers, 9 1/2 games out of first in the NL West three weeks ago, are now even with the Giants, and the Reds are now tied with St. Louis for second place in the Central. With two teams near the top in the NL East as well, and a wide-open Wild Card picture, there could be plenty of competition for veteran talent at the trade deadline. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Third baseman Chase Headley says he doesn’t feel the Padres are the reason he’s inconsistent, and doesn’t think a change of scenery will help him, Chris Jenkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. “Even when things are going full-on crappy, like now, I’m confident that sometime in the near future, I’m going to get healthy, stay healthy and start playing the way I know I’m capable of,” says Headley. “I don’t look at it like, ‘Man, I gotta get out of here to be me again.’ I’m going to be me again, whether it’s here or somewhere else.” Headley is currently hitting .207/.294/.332 while dealing with a herniated disk in his back, but his banner 2012 season likely ensures there will be plenty of interest in him, both at the trade deadline and when he becomes a free agent this offseason.
- The Braves‘ constant stream of young talent helps keep them consistently competitive and prevents them from having to rebuild, Marc Narducci of Philly.com writes. “What they have done in our organization is pretty special,” says Freddie Freeman. “They have great development people and it seems like when a guy is ready, they don’t let him sit there and they give him at-bats – and that is what they did with me.” Narducci contrasts the Braves’ approach with that of the Phillies, who seem to keep older players longer and often lack interesting young players to plug into their lineup when playing time finally becomes available.
- The Red Sox should consider trading Koji Uehara, John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes. Tomase points to the Rangers’ 2003 trade of Ugueth Urbina to the Marlins for Adrian Gonzalez and two other players as evidence of the good things that can happen when a team deals an experienced closer. As Tomase himself notes, of course, it’s very rare to receive a player of Gonzalez’s caliber in return for a reliever. And of course, first the Red Sox need to figure out if they’re buyers or sellers. “Here’s how I view it from the outside. The first thing you have to do is cross that bridge and say, ‘Is it even worth it for us to go out and try to fill two or three holes?‘” says John Hart, the former Rangers GM who pulled off the Gonzalez deal.
- Sox starter Jake Peavy will be a free agent this winter, and the emergence of Rubby De La Rosa has led to speculation about the possibility Peavy could be traded. But Peavy says he’s not concerned about trade rumors, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier writes. “I have a great relationship with my pitching coach (Juan Nieves), my manager (John Farrell) and my general manager (Ben Cherington). We’re all very open with each other. I don’t need any clarity on any situation involving anything,” says Peavy. “If you start worrying about stuff like that, your focus is off where it needs to be and it’s going to affect things.”
Orioles righty Kevin Gausman has made a strong showing in his most recent MLB stint, and that could set him up for a more permanent big league assignment, reports Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun. The 23-year-old came into the year rated as the 20th prospect in the game by Baseball America. Having entered the season with 71 days of service to his credit, Gausman would line himself up for potential Super Two status down the line if he can stay up for most or all of the rest of the season.
- The latest injury news out of the Yankees‘ rotation is not promising, reports Jorge Castillo of the Star-Ledger. Manager Joe Girardi said today that C.C. Sabathia is not expected to return until after the All-Star break, while Michael Pineda will probably be out until August at the earliest. Those updates certainly seem to increase the already-strong odds that New York will be in the market for starting pitching help at the trade deadline.
- Red Sox closer Koji Uehara addressed his future recently, as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. He said that his approaching free agency has not changed anything about how he goes to work, and indicated that he is taking things year to year at this point. “If I could change how I perform based on my free agent year, I would,” said Uehara. “But I can’t, so I’m just going to pitch how I can pitch. It doesn’t really affect me because I’m an older player. Every year I consider my last year.” As Bradford notes, it is reasonable to wonder whether Boston will consider making Uehara a qualifying offer after the season. As with last season, there are several high-performing late-inning relievers set to hit the open market, including Uehara, the Yankees’ David Robertson, Sergio Romo of the Giants, and the Jays’ Casey Janssen. Though he is throwing in his age-39 season, the righty has been nothing short of outstanding since coming to Boston on a one-year, $4.25MM deal that included an option that vested for 2014.
- Boston CEO Larry Lucchino addressed several topics in an interview with WEEI.com’s Dennis & Callahan (story via WEEI.com’s Nick Canelas). Signing Stephen Drew made sense in part based on “the idea of paying money rather than paying prospects,” he said. While Drew is off to a rough start and is currently sidelined with an oblique injury, Lucchino says that the evaluation of the deal will still depend on how the rest of the year plays out.
- Lucchino also touched on the situation of starter John Lackey. The club owns a league-minimum option over the starter for 2015 by operation of a vesting clause in his free agent contract. The Boston CEO said that the expectation is that Lackey will be back next year, but that it may not be at the relatively meager sum of $500K. “It depends on the circumstances,” he said. “John Lackey has been a tremendous contributor to this team this year and last. And we love having him here, and we’d like to have him here for a longer period of time. We’ll see when the time comes to negotiate whether there should be a playing out of the contract, whether there should be renegotiation with an extension. We’re open to a variety of possibilities.”
The Reds‘ quiet offseason included few depth signings, and now that lack of roster depth is being tested given the number of key players currently on the team’s disabled list. Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty tells Fangraphs’ David Laurila that “there weren’t a lot of moves to make” and warned against too much roster turnover, though finances also played a part in the Reds’ uneventful winter. “It wasn’t just [will we have money later], it was also ‘Do we have enough money now?,’ Jockett said. “We’d have loved to have [Shin-Soo] Choo back, but we couldn’t afford him. And there really wasn’t anything else we felt we could do — that we felt we could financially do. Once your club is set, it’s pretty hard to make changes.”
Here are some more items from around baseball…
- Also from Laurila’s piece, Red Sox closer Koji Uehara wasn’t sure he was ready to pitch in North America when he was first eligible at age 24, though he would’ve liked to have arrived sooner than his age-34 season. The issue for Uehara was that his Japanese club, the Yomiuri Giants, didn’t post their players and instead required them to fulfill the entirety of their contacts.
- Right-hander Tyler Kolek regularly hits the 100-mph plateau and “is the hardest-throwing high schooler of the draft era,” scouts tells Baseball America’s John Manuel. Kolek has been widely predicted to be at least a top-three selection in this year’s amateur draft.
- As pitchers like Kolek are throwing faster and harder at increasingly young ages, evaluating these young arms has become “a convergence of fascination and fear,” for scouts, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince writes. Teams are as interested in ever with hard-throwers, yet are also concerned with the injury risk attached with regularly throwing at such high velocities.
- Mets fans are losing patience with the team’s rebuilding plan and Sandy Alderson’s front office has seemed either unwilling or unable to spend to make the Amazins more competitive, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin opines. Even the low-cost moves that were supposed to be Alderson’s forte have backfired, Rubin notes in regards to the club’s struggling bullpen.
- Baseball America’s Ben Badler (BA subscription required) profiles five international prospects who have drawn the attention of the Yankees and Astros in the lead-up to the July 2 deadline. New York has been linked to catcher Miguel Flames, shortstop Diego Castillo and outfielder Jonathan Amundaray, while Houston is interested in outfielder Ronny Rafael and shortstop Miguel Angel Sierra.
- Should the Tigers use Robbie Ray as a much-needed southpaw reliever or send him back to the minors to get regular work as a starter? Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press argues the former point while MLive.com’s Chris Iott argues the latter.
- The revamped draft and free agent rules haven’t helped parity or benefited smaller-market teams, Peter Gammons writes for GammonsDaily.com. Tying the draft directly to the free agent compensation system (in regards to qualifying offers) has created flaws in both areas, Gammons argues, and the real purpose of the new rules was “to lessen the power of agents and limit the money paid to amateur prospects.”
Koji Uehara's run of 37 straight batters retired came to an end last night, falling eight men shy of Mark Buehrle's absurd Major League record of 45 consecutive batters retired. Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus breaks down Uehara's streak (with some help from Dan Brooks of Brooksbaseball.net), looking at several at-bats along the way and calculating that, based on the projected rest-of-season OBPs of the hitters that Uehara faced, the average pitcher has a 0.000056 percent chance of retiring those 37 batters consecutively. Here's more on the Red Sox…
- General manager Ben Cherington may have gone 6-for-7 in terms of free agent signings this offseason, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman lists Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara, David Ross, Jonny Gomes and Stephen Drew as wins, and that's not including the cheap pick-up of Mike Carp. Other teams are taking note of the blueprint, with one Mets official telling Heyman there's "a lot of merit" to Cherington's approach. Heyman points out that even with the $8MM worth of incentives to Napoli, the total free agent commitment of $108.2MM is about $17MM less than Josh Hamilton's contract on its own.
- Ian Browne of MLB.com believes the Red Sox are probably more comfortable trying to retain Jarrod Saltalamacchia than trying to bring in a free agent or trade target to rebuild the excellent rapport that Saltalamacchia has established with the team's pitching staff.
- Within that same Inbox piece, Browne speculates that the team likely isn't comfortable going to six or seven years for Jacoby Ellsbury as a free agent, having learned the hard way from the Carl Crawford contract.
- Browne also writes that it's all but certain that the Red Sox will non-tender Andrew Bailey this offseason. Bailey earned $4.1MM this season and would've been in line for a slight raise via arbitration because he pitched well prior to being lost for the season due to injury once again. The team could still look to bring Bailey back at a reduced rate, but Uehara will be Boston's closer in 2014, Browne writes definitively.
On this day in 2007, Terry Ryan announced that he would step aside from his post as the Twins general manager at the end of the season. As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes noted, Ryan's history was checkered at best at the time. Of course, as a read through this site's most recent post would indicate, Ryan is now back at the helm. Though the team has yet to post more than seventy wins in a season since Ryan returned in November of 2011, Minnesota stands at 15th in ESPN's latest future power rankings on the strength of its minor league system. While Ryan has long been said to have his job as long as he wants to keep it, some other GMs may not be so lucky …
- There are four general managers around the league who could soon be replaced, writes Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. According to Gammons, two of those — Jerry Dipoto of the Angels and Larry Beinfest of the Marlins – have arguably been undone by meddling owners. (Gammons cites Arte Moreno's $365MM investment in Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, and Jeffrey Loria's propensity for "whimsically run[ning] everything.") Meanwhile, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik may not survive to see whether the team's top young pitching talent can drive a winner. And Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd — the game's fourth-longest tenured GM — has yet to figure out how to craft a squad that can win away from Coors field. (For what it's worth, O'Dowd was in charge for the franchise's lone season with a winning road record, when it posted a 41-40 mark in 2009.)
- It would be ridiculous to consider Rangers GM Jon Daniels among those at risk, writes Baseball Nation's Grant Brisbee. While he surely could have sacrificed future value to win at all costs this season, says Brisbee, Daniels was prudent not to and still delivered a team that should qualify for the post-season.
- Teams must determine whether to make outgoing free agents a qualifying offer just five days after the conclusion of this year's World Series, and those decisions will play a major role in setting the stage for the 2014 free agent market. For non-obvious candidates, writes Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, an important part of the equation lies in valuing the compensation pick that the team would receive if the player declines the offer and then signs with another club. Working off of a rough valuation of international signing slot dollars, Cameron opines that teams could value the dollars spent on a comp pick as much as three-to-four times higher than money the team could spend outside the draft. As he explains, this would imply that there is substantial excess value in obtaining non-marketable draft picks, which could move the needle in favor of making qualifying offers in marginal situations.
- As we prepare to weigh a new class of free agents, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman ranks the best signings of 2013. His top three are a collection of veterans whose contributions have vastly outweighed the relatively meager financial commitments that they received: Pirates starter Francisco Liriano, Red Sox reliever Koji Uehara, and Athletics starter Bartolo Colon. Next on his list is Boston's David Ortiz, who as Heyman notes was the only player to accept a qualifying offer in the first year of the system.
As he moves from Baseball America to MLB.com, Jim Callis spoke with WEEI.com's Alex Speier about his two decades covering the Red Sox farm system. Anyone interested in the Sox system or prospect rankings more generally should listen in as Callis effectively passes the baton to Speier. Here's some more Red Sox chatter …
- When Boston acquired John McDonald just before the August 31st post-season roster deadline, it became the infielder's eighth major league team in his career and his fourth club this season, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com notes. “I’ve been getting closer to home, going from Arizona, to Pittsburgh, to Cleveland to Philly to Boston,” said the 38-year-old, who was drafted out of Rhode Island's Providence College in 1996. "It might be baseball's way of telling me something. But I’m not ready to listen."
- The implosion of Daniel Bard — designated for assignment yesterday by the Sox — resulted from the "worst misstep" of GM Ben Cherington's early tenure at the helm, writes the Boston Herald's Scott Lauber. Switching Bard to the rotation, rather than making him the team's closer, not only aligned with the onset of Bard's various issues but triggered a series of ill-fated trades involving late-inning relievers.
- While the team had hoped that new manager John Farrell would help turn Bard around, he does not sound sanguine about that possibility at this point, and leaves the impression that the team is moving on. While a change of scenery "can help," said Farrell, "to say that that’s the sole reason, that would be wishful thinking.” So what went wrong? “It was a combination of delivery issues that were being ironed out and certainly confidence issues,” Farrell said. “That’s where the question was, which comes first. We felt like performance was going to lead to confidence. It looked like he was on his way, and unfortunately, it didn’t happen.”
- For another look at Bard's downfall, the Providence Journal's Tim Britton provides an interesting timeline of quotes from Bard and others.
- In spite of the rocky history of the Red Sox closers of late, Koji Uehara has brought clarity to the situation. WEEI.com's Rob Bradford argues that he could be the most important player in the entire American League because of the way he settled down a potentially disastrous situation. Even as Uehara creeps closer to guaranteeing himself a $5MM payday next year through his contract's vesting option – he is just five games finished away – Boston will surely be glad to pay up.
- Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia has done everything he could to set himself up for a big contract when he reaches free agency this off-season as a 28-year-old, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. As the Sox decide whether and how much to bid on Salty, one important and hard-to-quantify question is the extent to which the team values his handling of the team's pitching staff. MacPherson suggests that his rapport with the club's arms could make him more valuable to Boston than other organizations. Of course, this is an area where the Sox have an information advantage on the rest of the market.
Koji Uehara pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings last night and earned his third win of the season, but the appearance carried far more significance, as it triggered his vesting option for the 2014 season.
Uehara's contract was originally reported to be a one-year deal worth $4.25MM, but over the weekend, the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo reported that Uehara has a vesting option, and on Monday, Alex Speier of WEEI.com reported that it is valued at $4.25MM.
Uehara finished his 24th game of the season last night, bringing him within 11 games finished of a clause in his contract that boosts his 2014 salary to $5MM. The 38-year-old right-hander has a very good chance to finish 35 games for the Red Sox this season and make that happen, and the Red Sox will have no problem spending a little extra to keep Uehara around.
In 54 2/3 innings this season, the Osaka native has a 1.32 ERA with 12.3 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9. Uehara's 2.1 wins above replacement (per Fangraphs) are second among relief pitchers, and he leads the Majors in WHIP (0.68) and swinging-strike rate (16.9 percent).