Koji Uehara Rumors

Red Sox Notes: Free Agents, Young Arms, Betts, Uehara

While Red Sox chairman Tom Werner recently implied that the team is likely to do some significant spending on the free agent market this offseason, a source tells Alex Speier of WEEI.com that adding two top-tier pitchers isn’t in the club’s offseason blueprint. The team will likely pursue one ace-caliber pitcher, but the feeling within the organization is that there’s enough talent to fill out a championship-caliber rotation. Joe Kelly and Rubby De La Rosa appear to have spots penciled in, and Clay Buchholz has had a resurgence of late. Beyond those three, the Sox have Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, Henry Owens, Brian Johnson and Eduardo Rodriguez all in line to compete for rotation spots. It’s still believed that the team will pursue Jon Lester most aggressively, Speier writes, though he also spoke with Rays manager Joe Maddon about the Tampa skipper’s former right-hander, James Shields.

Here’s more on the 2013 World Series champs and their attempt to get out of the cellar in 2015…

  • Webster, Workman and Ranaudo have failed to impress in extended looks at the Major League level this season, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. MacPherson has a hard time envisioning GM Ben Cherington heading into the 2015 campaign with two or three unproven arms in the rotation following the struggles that many of the team’s young prospects endured in 2014. Only De La Rosa has shownthe ability to be a piece of next year’s rotation, he concludes. MacPherson spoke with both manager John Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves about the struggles that Boston’s young pitchers have endured thus far.
  • In a second piece, Speier writes that Mookie Betts has gone “from blocked to building block,” noting that his versatility and upside may have led to him supplanting Xander Bogaerts as the club’s most untouchable asset in trades. Of course, Dustin Pedroia remains under contract at second base and the team has an enviable outfield logjam, so interest in Betts will likely be high, but Speier opines that Betts should be retained, as his versatility would allow the Red Sox to pursue upgrades at a number of positions in the future, knowing that Betts could be moved around the diamond and still thrive.
  • Koji Uehara told reporters, including Speier’s colleague Rob Bradford, that the life on his splitter still isn’t there. As Bradford notes, Uehara has experienced a late-season downturn like this before, as he struggled greatly at an oddly similar juncture near the end of his tenure with the Rangers in 2011. The displaced closer adds that he’s not thinking about where he’ll play in 2015 or regaining the ninth inning, but rather trying to finish the season on a high note before “see[ing] what happens in free agency.”

Quick Hits: Nix, Astros, Buehrle, Uehara

Every small-market team dreams of building a rotation of young, controllable arms, and Peter Gammons (in his latest piece for Gammons Daily) feels the Indians have done just that in Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer.  Salazar was signed as an undrafted high schooler and the other three were acquired in trades, giving the Tribe an enviable collection of pitchers for both their wild card push this season and to stay in contention for years to come.

Here’s some more from around the game as we head into the weekend…

  • The Astros have made little progress in negotiations with draft pick Jacob Nix and the situation between the two sides seems likely to proceed to a hearing, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  The MLBPA filed a grievance on Nix’s behalf after Houston withdrew an offer to the fifth-rounder that had seemingly been agreed-upon.
  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow hasn’t decided whether to make his managerial search candidates known to the public, he tells Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle.
  • Mark Buehrle‘s future with the Blue Jays is discussed by several Sportsnet writers and broadcasters.  Buehrle will earn $19MM in 2015, his last year under contract, and the feeling amongst the panel is that the Jays could explore trading the veteran in order to free up payroll space.  While Buehrle still has value on the mound and as a mentor to Toronto’s young starters, that might not be worth the $19MM piece he takes out of what could be a limited Jays budget.
  • Koji Uehara will be temporarily replaced by Edward Mujica as the Red Sox closer, manager John Farrell told reporters today (including MLB.com’s Steven Petrella).  Uehara has slumped badly over his last few outings, indicating to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal that GM Ben Cherington may have erred in not dealing Uehara at the trade deadline.  Uehara is a free agent this winter and, at the very least, his struggles have eliminated any chance of the Sox extending him a qualifying offer.
  • Right-hander John Holdzkom began his season in independent ball and now may end it on the Pirates‘ Major League roster.  Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper looks at Holdzkom’s seven-year journey through the minors that finally led to his Major League debut last Tuesday.

Red Sox Rumors: Bogaerts, Cespedes, Cherington

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington chatted with reporters just minutes ago and it’s no surprise to hear his admission that the club was not expecting Xander Bogaerts to struggle to this extent in 2014 (via Tim Britton of The Providence Journal on Twitter).    Still just 21, Bogaerts has slashed .226/.293/.339 in 472 plate appearances this season.  Earlier this week, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote that the struggles of Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. have left many around the game wondering how good each player truly is.    Here’s more out of Boston..



Cafardo On D’Backs, Red Sox, Lester, Nava

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at some of the recently suggestions put forth by Red Sox chairman Tom Werner to help make the game more marketable to young people.

Too many people are leaving games in the sixth and seventh innings because they can’t watch 3½-hour games, so they’re leaving the game at the point where the game should be getting exciting,” Werner said. “You wouldn’t make a 3½-hour movie. The NFL makes changes almost on an annual basis. They’re considering making the extra point from 35 yards rather than from the 8-yard line… I respect tradition, but I don’t revere it.”

Among Werner’s ideas: instituting a pitch clock, limiting the number of times a batter can step out of the box, and putting a cap on the number of catcher and pitching coach visits to the mound.  More from today’s column..

  • Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson could be on the hot seat and there has been a lot of speculation about Joe McEwing, a third base coach with the White Sox, or Mike Aldrete, the bench coach for the Cardinals.  If Gibson is canned it would mark Tony La Russa‘s first big decision but GM Kevin Towers would also likely to have a say.
  • In a chat with Cafardo, David Ross spoke glowingly of the amenities or “little things” that the Red Sox do for their players and Cafardo wonders if that could keep Jon Lester in Boston beyond this season.  Lester’s family was always taken care of the team’s traveling secretary and while other teams can offer similar services, the consensus among players who have been multiple places is that Red Sox and Yankees are the teams that offer more to their players.
  • Ross tells Cafardo that even though there have been no contract talks with the Red Sox yet, he would like to return.  Boston would certainly love for him to keep working with Christian Vazquez, but Ross’s recent bout with plantar fasciitis has slowed him.  Ross is finishing up a two-year, 6.2MM deal.
  • Daniel Nava drew interest from the Tigers and had interest from the Royals before they traded for Josh Willingham, but he has yet to be put on waivers.  It’s not a certainty that he’ll clear and but the Red Sox will likely put him on revocable waivers later in the month to see what type of interest he’ll get.  The Sox’ outfield looks crowded next season with Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley Jr., Shane Victorino, Yoenis Cespedes, Mookie Betts, and Brock Holt all in the mix so it makes sense to see what can be had for Nava.
  • In a separate tweet, Cafardo reports Nava, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara, and Will Middlebrooks have been placed on revocable waivers.

Red Sox Links: Uehara, Bradley, Stanton

Here’s the latest news out of Fenway Park…

  • Ben Cherington said the Red Sox “haven’t gotten to” the stage of exploring a contract extension for closer Koji Uehara, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports, though they’ll broach the topic in October.  “He’s a guy who has done a great job for us, certainly one of the guys that we would love to have here. We’ll address that after the season,” Cherington said.  As for Uehara, he is “happy and honored they feel that way…Boston has been good for me, but they are one of 30 teams I would consider.”  As Abraham notes, there has been speculation that the Sox could extend a one-year qualifying offer to Uehara since they (unlike many teams) can afford spending approximately $15MM on a one-year deal for a closer.
  • Jackie Bradley Jr.‘s offensive struggles have gotten to the point that WEEI.com’s Alex Speier is wondering about his long-term future with the Sox.  While Bradley hit in the minors and was a heralded prospect entering the season, Speier finds little historical evidence to suggest that Bradley will be able to recover from his poor start and eventually become a decent hitter at the Major League level.
  • If the Marlins are unable to extend Giancarlo Stanton and decide to trade the slugger, John Tomase of the Boston Herald feels “no team is better positioned” than the Red Sox to procure Stanton’s services given the number of top-flight prospects in Boston’s farm system.  The Sox could add a Major League piece to the mix as well in Yoenis Cespedes, though he’d have limited value to Miami given that he can opt out of his contract after the 2015 season.
  • Also from Tomase, the Red Sox are “realistic about their chances” of bringing Jon Lester back in free agency.  Though Boston certainly intends to pursue Lester, the team’s reluctance to commit too much money to over-30 pitchers could see the Sox get outbid by another suitor.

Cafardo’s Latest: Bogaerts, Bradley, Phillies, Masterson, Uehara

In the latest edition of his Sunday column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the early struggles of Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. have left many around the game wondering how good each player truly is. Bogaerts’ youth makes his scuffles more understandable, but one NL adviser said that Bradley has fallen from a prospect that would be the centerpiece of a trade to a “throw-in.” The 24-year-old is a standout defender, but he’s hit just .208/.284/.303 in 470 big league plate appearances and has shown “absolutely no sign of the hitting getting better,” said the adviser. Boston will commit to Bogaerts for next year regardless of his finish, writes Cafardo, but he concludes that Bradley will have to show improvement over the final seven weeks in order to handed the center field job in 2015.

More from his column…

  • In 30 years covering baseball, Cafardo says he cannot recall an instance of a team scouting another club as much as the Phillies scouted the Red Sox without pulling the trigger on a trade. The Phillies have continued to send scouts to all three of Boston’s post-deadline series, and Cafardo wonders if the team could be preparing for offseason negotiations regarding Cole Hamels. He hears that the Sox, Rangers, Angels, Dodgers and Cubs will be the big players for Hamels this winter.
  • The Red Sox will have interest in bringing back right-hander Justin Masterson back to the organization as a free agent this winter.
  • James Shields will be one of the most sought-after free agents on this year’s market, and while his age presents risk, one AL GM tells Cafardo that being older than Jon Lester and Max Scherzer actually has some appeal: “He’s thrown a lot of innings and pitched a lot of games and there’s always the possibility of breakdown, but the fact you might be able to get him at a shorter term reduces that big risk.”
  • “The Phillies are just unreasonable in their demands,” an AL official said when discussing the trade market for Jonathan Papelbon. Still, that official feels that Papelbon will indeed be traded in August, though it may not happen until the end of the month when the Phillies will be forced to “get a bit more realistic.”
  • The Red Sox want to retain Koji Uehara, but they don’t want to go as high as the approximately $15MM qualifying offer. It appears that Uehara wants to return, though Cafardo notes that the Orioles could be a factor, as the closer’s family makes its home in the Baltimore area.
  • The MarinersChris Young just picked up his 10th win, but he tells Cafardo that the statistic doesn’t mean much to him these days. “Earlier in my career, I think it’s something I’d get excited about,” he said. “But at this point in my career, I know that wins are so far beyond a pitcher’s control. One day, the media will stop evaluating us on that.”

Stark’s Latest: Lester, Miller, Byrd, Kemp, Danks, Rios

With roughly three days until the non-waiver trade deadline, here are some highlights from the latest Rumblings & Grumblings column by ESPN’s Jayson Stark

  • The Red Sox have contacted every contending team in each league and told them that Jon Lester is available for a two- to three-prospect package fronted by at least one upper-echelon prospect. One executive, however, tells Stark that the Sox simply can’t get as much as the Rays would get if they moved David Price, which isn’t surprising, given Lester’s impending free agency and the remaining year of control that Price has.
  • Lester isn’t the only player being shopped — Boston has firmly planted a “for sale” sign in the ground, and they’re willing to move any impending free agents with the exception of Koji Uehara, whom they hope to re-sign. They’re peddling Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes and Craig Breslow. The price for Miller is also exorbitant at this time, however, as officials from two interested clubs tell Stark that Boston has asked for one of the top prospects plus a lesser prospect.
  • The Giants have asked the Phillies about Marlon Byrd, but their main priority is second base. The Reds are reassessing their stance after losing eight of nine games, and the Royals have backed off of Byrd. The Mariners appears to be the most logical option, but Byrd still wants his $8MM 2016 vesting option guaranteed to approve a trade there.
  • Byrd tells Stark that he’d have to think long and hard if GM Ruben Amaro Jr. came to him and asked him to approve a trade to a team on his no-trade clause. While his hope was to retire a Phillie, he  appreciates how aggressive Amaro was in signing him. “[Ruben] made it easy for me this offseason,” he said. Still, given the odds that he’d want some form of perk to approve a trade, it’s no longer certain that he gets dealt.
  • While the Red Sox and Mariners have been connected to Matt Kemp, officials from other clubs tell Stark they feel an offseason trade is much more likely than an in-season deal.
  • The White Sox have had scouts watching the Yankees‘ surplus of minor league catchers in recent weeks, fueling speculation that the Yanks would like to acquire John Danks.
  • Some officials believe the Yankees would like to find a right-handed hitting platoon partner to pair with Ichiro in Suzuki in right field. New York wants an option that doesn’t have commitments beyond 2014, making names like Justin Ruggiano of the Cubs and Chris Denorfia of the Padres as possible targets. Earlier today it was reported that Denorfia could be moved soon.
  • The Royals have decided that Alex Rios isn’t a good fit for their right field need. Because the team is unable to take on much additional salary (if any), they could wait until August to add a bat.
  • While Troy Tulowitzki‘s name has had a lot of buzz around it, club officials from interested teams tell Stark there’s no indication he is available. Rather, the Rockies are open to moving bullpen arms Adam Ottavino, Rex Brothers, LaTroy Hawkins and Matt Belisle. However, the team would only move Hawkins if they’re overwhelmed. That seems a bit odd, given his age, but Hawkins does have a cheap club option and has drawn praise in Denver for his mentoring of younger talent.
  • The D’Backs are telling clubs that they’d move Addison Reed, but they don’t want to move Brad Ziegler. Arizona is also willing to move Aaron Hill and Oliver Perez. They’ll listen on Martin Prado and Josh Collmenter, although they’re more hesitant to deal them.
  • The chances of Cliff Lee being traded before August are almost nonexistent. Scouts who have seen him don’t think he looks close to healthy, and the money he’s owed is of course problematic.

Nationals Notes: Astros, Hill, Prado, Iglesias

It’s difficult to tell whether the Nationals could be very busy or stand pat before the trade deadine, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post writes.  It seems like the Nats are at least exploring a number of options, as Kilgore reports…

  • The Nationals have asked the Astros about available relievers, and Houston had scouts watching the Nats’ Triple-A and Class A affiliates over the weekend.  Left-hander Tony Sipp best fits the Nationals’ needs, Kilgore surmises, since Washington is thin on southpaw relief options.
  • The Nationals haven’t talked to the Diamondbacks about Aaron Hill or Martin Prado.  Either player could fill the hole at second base created by Ryan Zimmerman‘s injury (Anthony Rendon moved to third), or Prado could simply play third and Rendon could return to second.  Kilgore isn’t sure the Nats want to pay Hill the $26MM he’s owed through 2016, however, though Hill loved playing for manager Matt Williams when Williams was a D’Backs coach.  Arizona is reportedly shopping Hill but “barely listening” to inquiries about Prado.
  • With Jose Iglesias possibly on the trade block in Detroit, Kilgore thinks the Nats could be interested given the team’s desire to add a young shortstop as depth if Ian Desmond can’t be extended.  The Tigers had a scout watching the Nationals’ Class A team recently, Kilgore notes, though that isn’t necessarily related to Iglesias.
  • Speaking of scouting assignments, the Rangers had an evaluator watching a recent game between the Nationals’ and Braves’ Triple-A teams.  The two NL East rivals are both known to be looking for relief pitching.
  • Washington had scouts watching two recent Red Sox series, and Kilgore figures that they were checking out relievers Koji Uehara and Andrew Miller.  Earlier today, Peter Gammons reported that the Nats were interested in Miller.

AL East Notes: O’s Catching, Uehara, Rays, Tanaka, Pineda

Here’s the latest out of an AL East division that will be quite intriguing to watch over the coming days:

  • While noting that it is difficult to “transition” the club’s catchers more than one time in a season, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette told Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com that the addition of another backstop is “something [the club is] taking a look at.” While he is happy with the way that Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley have handled the staff, Duquette acknowledged that their offensive production was lacking. Nevertheless, upgrading at the catching position is still third on the team’s priority list after a late-inning pen arm and starter, according to Kubatko.
  • The Red Sox have not engaged closer Koji Uehara in extension talks, reports WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford“So far, there have been no talks,” Uehara said through his translator. “I’ll leave it all up to my agent, but right now I haven’t heard anything.” Recent reports have indicated that Boston is disinclined to deal Uehara even if it does go into sell mode, in large part because the team hopes to bring back the 39-year-old pending free agent. But it remains unclear how it will pursue that outcome; as Bradford notes, Uehara could be extended a qualifying offer (with the expectation that he would probably accept). Or, in a more likely scenario, the club could offer him a deal at some point that includes a guaranteed second year or vesting option.
  • Rays GM Andrew Friedman has not yet ruled out the possibility of adding players at the deadline, he told Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link via Bowden). Then again, Bowden notes, neither would Friedman say that ace David Price would not be dealt. It seems that the Tampa strategy will be to wait until the last point possible to make some key decisions. If the club decides to keep the band together and even add to it, Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com says the word is that the Rays could be interested in adding a reliever. The club just lost Joel Peralta to the DL and has obviously received disappointing results from closer Grant Balfour.
  • Two key Yankees arms remain in limbo, and the latest news was mixed. Michael Pineda has progressed to the point that he is set to toss 30 pitches over two simulated innings tomorrow, tweets MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. Meanwhile, Masahiro Tanaka is still feeling pain in his elbow, which is “not good … at this stage,” GM Brian Cashman told Michael Kay of ESPN New York 98.7 (quotes via Brendan Kuty of NJ.com). Though the New York GM said that the plan remains to watch Tanaka closely and “adjust accordingly,” his statements seem to shed some doubt on the hurler’s efforts to return this year (if not also to avoid Tommy John surgery).
  • Cashman explained yesterday that part of the motivation for acquiring Chase Headley was his improvement in some underlying metrics such as hit velocity (the speed of the ball off of the bat), as John Harper of the New York Daily News reports. Similar analysis led the club to add Brandon McCarthy and encourage him to go back to using his cutter more frequently.

Gammons On Zobrist, Uehara, Miller, Lester

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.