Kyle Lohse Rumors

Astros Targeting Cueto Over Hamels

In recent weeks, the Astros have been connected to Phillies ace Cole Hamels, but it doesn’t sound as though he’s their top pitching target.  Instead, it’s Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto that is atop Houston’s wish list, according to sources who spoke with Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.

One of the main reasons for their preference of Cueto over Hamels is that the Astros are seeking out a 2015 rental or possibly someone whose contract runs for one more year.  With a hefty contract that runs through 2018, Hamels simply doesn’t fit the bill.  Cueto, meanwhile, is only owed the prorated portion of his 2015 salary of $10MM, which is a little over $5MM the rest of the way.  Hamels, meanwhile, is set to earn the balance of his $22.5MM salary for the remainder of this season, $22.5MM in the next three seasons, and a $20MM option/$6MM buyout that can vest with good health and a certain number of innings pitched.

For his part, Hamels recently indicated that he would be “open-minded” to being traded to any team, including the Astros.  Instead, it sounds like Houston has their attention focused on the Reds’ pitching, where other suitors include the Dodgers, Yankees, and Blue Jays, a source tells Drellich.  All in all, Drellich hears that the Phillies have been pumping up the perception of the Astros’ interest as negotiating leverage in talks about Hamels.

The Astros are casting a wide net in their effort to add a solid starter to their rotation to go with Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Vincent Velasquez, and Lance McCullers.  In addition to Cueto and Mike Leake, the Astros are doing their homework on A’s lefty Scott Kazmir, Brewers right-handers Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse, and White Sox right-hander Jeff Samardzija.


Heyman’s Latest: Hamels/Jays, Lucroy, Baez, Correa, Alvarez

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has published the latest installment of his weekly Inside Baseball column, and he kicks it off by reporting that the Blue Jays have inquired on Cole Hamels. However, Heyman hears that Hamels was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause to allow a trade to Toronto, which is a blow for both clubs. The Jays desperately need help in both the rotation and the bullpen, and the Phillies, Heyman notes, would love to get their hands on young pitchers with the upside of Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris. The Blue Jays have a bit of financial leeway after going with inexpensive options at second base, center field and left field, and Heyman writes that the Blue Jays are expected to look at other potential front-line starters this summer as they become available. (He speculatively mentions Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir, though neither’s available just yet.) Additionally, Heyman notes that Blue Jays manager John Gibbons’ job is safe, as GM Alex Anthopoulos has a strong relationship with the skipper and recognizes that the team’s problems are roster-related and shouldn’t be pinned on Gibbons.

Some more highlights from the column, though it’s worth a read in its entirety…

  • The Braves are said to be disappointed in the play of Christian Bethancourt, even from a defensive standpoint, and recently inquired with the Brewers on Jonathan Lucroy. However, Atlanta executives were told by the Brewers that Lucroy isn’t available at this time. That the Brewers wouldn’t trade Lucroy isn’t a shock; he’s owed a very affordable $4MM in 2016 with a $5.25MM option for the 2017 season, so even if the team can’t quickly right the ship, he’d still have enormous trade value at the 2016 trade deadline. More interesting, to me, is that the Braves would so quickly look for an upgrade over Bethancourt and that they’re acting somewhat as buyers. Lucroy, of course, could be called a long-term piece that would be around to help the team when its rebuild is closer to completion. However, acquiring him would surely require the sting of parting with some of the key components of that rebuild.
  • Some rival execs feel that the Cubs are willing to part with Javier Baez and Dan Vogelbach in trades, in part because each was drafted under the previous administration and is not held in as high a regard by the new front office. Each player comes with issues, however, as Baez is trying to cut down on his swing and improve his contact skills, while a scout described first baseman Vogelbach as a “30 fielder” to Heyman (in reference to the 20-80 scouting scale).
  • There are members of the Astros‘ field staff that want to see Carlos Correa with the team right now, but Houston will likely keep him in the minors for another month or so in order to lessen the risk of Correa achieving Super Two status. I’ll add that the Astros will have a more legitimate claim that Correa still needs minor league time than other teams in similar situations have had in the past. Correa is still just 20 years old and has only nine games of experience at the Triple-A level, though he’s continued his brilliant work at the plate there, hitting .326/.362/.558 with a pair of homers. Also of interest to Astros fans — or to fans of teams needing outfield help — the Astros are on the lookout for starting pitching upgrades, and outfield prospect Preston Tucker “seems to be available.” Tucker recently made his MLB debut and has a .963 OPS through 34 plate appearances to go along with a strong minor league track record.
  • Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez has been pitching for years with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, according to Heyman. Some have described it as a “90 percent tear,” but he’s been able to pitch effectively in spite of the issue. Alvarez wouldn’t be the first to pitch through a UCL tear; Ervin Santana and Adam Wainwright are both recent examples of pitchers who pitched for many seasons with partially torn UCLs. Wainwright ultimately underwent Tommy John, though Santana’s is said to have healed and is no longer an issue. In another Marlins-related note, Heyman hears that pitching coach Chuck Hernandez is “under the microscope” with both Jarred Cosart and Steve Cishek struggling greatly in 2015.
  • Brewers starters Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza have little trade value due to their 2015 struggles, but Lohse’s lesser financial commitment and superior clubhouse reputation give him more value. The team is reluctant to trade not only Lucroy, but shortstop Jean Segura as well. The Brewers are a bit more open to dealing Carlos Gomez than that pair, as Gomez is closer to free agency (he’s controlled through 2016).
  • The Mets remain reluctant to trade any of their top arms, as they’ve seen on multiple occasions how quickly Tommy John surgery or other injuries can thin out a club’s depth. (Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz have all had TJ in their careers.) The Mets are also not rushing to find a shortstop, but they have indeed been “all over the map” in terms of trade possibilities with the Cubs.
  • Coco Crisp‘s neck injury is apparently quite serious, and there’s a fear that the oft-injured Athletics outfielder will ultimately require surgery that could bring his season to an end.
  • The Blue Jays would still like to extend both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but there have yet to be serious discussions with either slugger’s camp. Both players are controlled through the end of the 2016 season.

Cafardo On Phillies, Lohse, Royals, Leake, Haren

Here are a few highlights from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe’s latest rumors roundup:

  • The Phillies have scouted the Red Sox‘ Double-A Portland team the past six days, Cafardo writes. The Red Sox have, of course, repeatedly been connected to Cole Hamels, although the Phillies have several other veterans who could also be trade candidates. Portland isn’t a particularly prospect-rich team right now, with many of the Red Sox’ best minor-leaguers at Triple-A Pawtucket or Class A Greenville. So it’s hard to say who the Phillies might be scouting, and it’s likely they aren’t scouting a potential centerpiece for a Hamels deal.
  • The Brewers are already prepared to trade starters Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse. At least one scout tells Cafardo that Lohse (who has allowed ten homers in his first 47 2/3 innings this season, although his strikeout and walk numbers have been fine) is in need of a “change of scenery.”
  • The Royals‘ bullpen this year has been terrific, but their rotation hasn’t. The Royals are looking for cheap starting pitching to help ease the burden on their bullpen caused by short outings from their starters (although any acquisition they might make right now would likely be minor, since they aren’t yet willing to trade for a starter).
  • Teams could see Reds starter Mike Leake as a very viable trade candidate. Leake is having a strong season so far, and it would likely be easier to sign him long-term than to sign his rotation-mate Johnny Cueto, so Leake could attract plenty of interest. Like Cueto, he’s eligible for free agency after the season.
  • If the Marlins‘ season doesn’t improve, they could easily trade Dan Haren to a team on his preferred coast, Cafardo writes. Haren’s desire to play in California is well known. He’s in the midst of a good season (3.70 ERA, 6.1 K/9, 1.7 BB/9), and any number of teams out west could have interest.


Heyman’s Latest: Tulo, Soriano, Correa, Garza, Segura, Mets

The latest installment of Jon Heyman’s weekly Inside Baseball column is up over at CBS Sports, and Heyman begins by addressing the Troy Tulowitzki trade talk that has once again surfaced. Heyman, like many others, feels the time has arrived for the marriage between Tulo and the Rockies to come to an end, but neither Tulowitzki or owner Dick Monfort wants to appear to be the “bad guy” in the situation. Heyman hears that Tulowitzki would prefer to play for the YankeesGiants, Dodgers or Angels if he is traded, though one person who knows the shortstop well told Heyman that he may ok with the Mets, Cardinals and Red Sox as well. Tulowitzki’s preferred destination is largely a moot point though, as his contract doesn’t have a no-trade clause. Heyman notes that in a year’s time, Tulowitzki will receive 10-and-5 rights, allowing him to veto any deal. That reality only furthers Colorado’s need to move Tulowitzki, Heyman opines. Heyman also lists 11 clubs that he could see making some degree of sense for the face of the Rockies’ franchise.

Some more highlights from a lengthy but always-informative column…

  • The Cubs “may consider” Rafael Soriano at some point as a means of lengthening their bullpen, according to Heyman. I’d note that while the team has looked a bit thin beyond Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop, the Cubs just got Justin Grimm back from the disabled list and likely won’t be without Neil Ramirez for too much longer.
  • Astros top prospect — and arguably the top prospect in all of MLB — Carlos Correa could be up to the Majors within three weeks, one Houston source estimated to Heyman. Also of note on the Astros front, he writes that a pursuit of Cole Hamels would appear to be a long shot, but Scott Kazmir (Houston native) and Clay Buchholz are names to keep an eye on for Houston, should either become available.
  • Kyle Lohse seems like a natural candidate to be traded this offseason, but the Brewers are particularly interested in shedding Matt Garza‘s contract. The right-hander is guaranteed $12.5MM in 2015 and will earn the same rate in each of the following two seasons. Neither pitcher, however, has been particularly impressive for Milwaukee.
  • Jean Segura is one of the players that the Brewers have the least interest in trading, but Heyman hears that the Padres would be interested, should Brewers GM Doug Melvin entertain offers. San Diego likes Alexi Amarista but prefers to use him in a utility role rather than as a starter.
  • Rival teams seriously doubt that the Mets would ever consider parting ways with Noah Syndergaard, but there’s “a little hope” that the team could be persuaded to part with highly touted left-hander Steven Matz in a trade. Heyman adds that the Mets are going to remain patient with Wilmer Flores as their shortstop for the time being.
  • It’s been reported that Yunel Escobar wanted no part of playing with Oakland, and Heyman hears that the reasoning was as simple as the fact that Escobar is very particular when it comes to geographical preferences and wanted to remain on the East coast. A trade to the Nationals accomplished that goal.
  • The clause in Alex Guerrero‘s contract that allows him to opt out of his deal and elect free agency at season’s end, if he is traded, hinders his trade value. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but given the presence of Guerrero and the versatile Justin Turner, Juan Uribe could end up as a summer trade candidate for the Dodgers.
  • In some agency news, Heyman reports that Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius will now be represented by Casey Close of Excel Sports Management — the agent for Gregorius’ predecessor, Derek Jeter. Gregorius had previously been repped by the Wasserman Media Group.

Heyman On The Brewers: Counsell, Lucroy, Segura

In his newest column for CBS Sports, Jon Heyman examines how the Brewers are hopeful that new manager Craig Counsell can help turn the club around, yet GM Doug Melvin has also “already sent out feelers” to other teams if Milwaukee continues to struggle.  Here are more Brew Crew-related notes from Heyman’s piece…

  • Counsell received a strong vote of confidence from Melvin, which included an 18-point e-mail to owner Mark Attanasio arguing why Counsell was the ideal choice to replace Ron Roenicke.  As Heyman notes, the club may have been better served to fire Roenicke after last year’s late-season fade rather than guaranteeing his 2016 option and letting him continue to manage.
  • While Melvin is “planning to consider just about anything in terms of trades,” Jonathan Lucroy and Jean Segura (in that order) are the Brewers’ two most untouchable players.  “I guess you have to be open to everything. But you’d have to be overwhelmed….[Catcher and shortstop] are positions that can take years to fill,” Melvin said.
  • Carlos Gomez is likely the Brewers’ top trade chip, and would undoubtedly generate the most interest from other teams if he’s shopped.  MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently explored Gomez’s trade candidacy in the subscriber-only MLBTR Newsletter.
  • The Dodgers, Astros and Cardinals all seem like fits for Kyle Lohse, rival GMs tell Heyman.  Lohse formerly pitched for the Cardinals and also has ties to Houston, as GM Jeff Luhnow was in the St. Louis front office when Lohse pitched for the team.  The surprising Astros have already been considering starting pitching upgrades, while the Dodgers (Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-jin Ryu) and Cardinals (Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia) are both looking to replace injured starters.
  • Matt Garza is owed roughly $35MM through the 2017 season and has a $13MM club option for 2018 that can vest into a guaranteed year.  With this in  mind, “I’m not sure anyone would want him,” a rival executive said about Garza, who has a 4.58 ERA and unimpressive peripherals over six starts.
  • Scooter Gennett received some interest from the Angels and others during the offseason and could be shopped again to clubs in need of second base help.

NL Central Notes: Brewers, Wainwright, Hamels, Cingrani

There’s a belief in the industry that the 4-16 Brewers could begin selling off pieces in the near future if they don’t turn their season around, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman hears that veteran right-handers Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza could both be in play. Lohse, 36, is a free agent at the end of the year and is owed $11MM in 2015. The 31-year-old Garza has quite a bit more remaining on his deal, as he’s in just the second year of a four-year contract. Garza is owed $12.5MM in 2015 and will earn that same sum in both 2016 and 2017 as well. His contract also contains a $13MM vesting option that becomes a $5MM club option if it does not vest.

Here’s more from the NL Central…

  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak spoke with Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about how the club will handle the loss of Adam Wainwright. While the short-term fix will be to rely on internal options, Mozeliak acknowledged that the bulk of innings the team expects from Wainwright might eventually lead him to look outside the organization. As Goold notes, a desire to limit the innings of young pitchers Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha only further adds uncertainty to how the team will replace those innings. Goold notes that the team has spoken to the Phillies about Cole Hamels in the past but found the asking price unreasonable. Whatever route the team winds up taking to overcome this roadblock, Mozeliak has stated that he has the flexibility to add significant payroll this season if necessary, Goold reminds.
  • Reds skipper Bryan Price explained to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com why Tony Cingrani isn’t viewed as an option to step into the rotation even after a potentially season-ending injury to Homer Bailey“I made the decision – I was involved, a big supporter of putting him in the bullpen – not because that’s what we needed for this club at the time,” said Price. “What I felt was it was where he was best suited coming off a year of a lot of injury and shoulder concerns and the limited development of his off-speed pitches.” Price added that he certainly isn’t ruling out the possibility of Cingrani proving him wrong and one day being an excellent starting pitcher, but for the time being, he appears locked into the Cincinnati bullpen.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Tillman, Gomez, Beltre

Here’s the latest from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, via a video on FOX Sports:

  • When the Orioles discussed an extension with Chris Tillman this spring, Tillman favored a contract similar to Lance Lynn‘s three-year, $22MM deal with the Cardinals. That contract did not buy out any of Lynn’s free-agent years. The Orioles were interested in a longer deal for Tillman that would have delayed his free agency eligibility.
  • The Brewers‘ poor start suggests that they could be sellers at the trade deadline, and Rosenthal notes that they could deal Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Gerardo Parra or even Aramis Ramirez (despite Ramirez’s plans to retire at the end of the season). A player who could bring a much greater return, though, is Carlos Gomez, who is signed to a bargain contract the next two years.
  • The Rangers could trade anyone if they fall out of contention, but it might be somewhat tricky for them to deal Adrian Beltre, who has limited no-trade protection and who has about $34MM left on his contract. Beltre also recently turned 36 and is off to a slow .149/.167/.298 start offensively. One might think that would only impede a trade if it were to continue deep into the summer, however — Beltre has a long history of providing excellent value both offensively and defensively.

NL Central Notes: Lester, McCarthy, Cozart, Reds

The trust that Jon Lester has in Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer from their days together in Boston is singled out by Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan as the key reason why the lefty chose Wrigley Field as his next home.  Here’s some news from around the NL Central…

  • The Pirates were one of the finalists for Brandon McCarthy, MLB.com’s Tom Singer writes.  The Bucs weren’t known to be connected to McCarthy in the offseason rumor mill, though they fit as a logical contender for his services.  Even with Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett signed, Singer thinks the Pirates could still look to add starting pitching, such as re-signing Edinson Volquez.
  • Other teams feel that the Reds will look to trade Zack Cozart now that they’ve acquired Eugenio Suarez, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports (Twitter link).
  • With Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon respectively traded to the Marlins and Tigers, Reds GM Walt Jocketty told reporters (including MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon) that the team can start to explore other upgrades now that they’ve addressed their payroll concerns.  “We’re in a better position to start looking at some other possibilities to improve our club — the hitter we’re looking for and some bullpen depth,” Jocketty said.  “We’re close to where we need to be, [payroll-wise]. Now we can concentrate on filling some of the needs.”
  • In an Insider-only post, ESPN’s Keith Law looks at the Reds‘ two pitching trades and feels the team got more from Detroit than they did from Miami.  Law thinks Suarez is an improvement over Cozart and Jonathon Crawford could potentially be the Reds’ closer of the future.
  • Kyle Lohse and Yovani Gallardo are two of several prominent Brewers entering the last year of their contracts, and MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy opines that the Crew could explore trading the two starters if they think Mike Fiers or Jimmy Nelson can be viable rotation options.

NL Central Links: Lohse, Arrieta, Sveum

The NL Central has morphed into one of the game's toughest divisions, with three teams ticketed for October baseball in the form of the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates. Here are some notes on the division's non-playoff teams…

  • Kyle Lohse picked up a $350K bonus tonight for reaching the 190-inning mark, tweets Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Lohse signed a three-year, $33MM contract in Spring Training and has delivered nearly 200 innings of a mid-3.00 ERA for the Brewers.
  • Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago writes that the Cubs' 2014 rotation is beginning to take shape, and Jake Arrieta has cemented a spot for himself among the team's core of starting pitchers with his solid performance after coming over from the Orioles in the Scott Feldman trade. Manager Dale Sveum told Rogers the only uncertainty in the rotation, in his mind, circles around the No. 5 spot. Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson will join Arrieta in the rotation next season.
  • Speaking of Sveum, David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune opines that the right thing for Cubs president Theo Epstein to do is bring his manager back for the 2014 season (subscription required). Firing Sveum with one year left on his contract would send the wrong message, writes Haugh. He's been given little Major League talent to work with and has done nothing to embarrass the organization.

Central Notes: Chen, Konerko, Brewers, Axford

For the first time since 1992, the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to the postseason.  The Buccos and Reds each clinched playoff spots tonight, though it remains to be seen if those two clubs will face each other in the Wild Card game, or if one of them can catch the Cardinals for the NL Central lead.  Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and St. Louis all won on Monday, so the Cards retained their two-game lead.

Here's the latest from both the NL and AL Central divisions…

  • Bruce Chen loves pitching for the Royals and wants to re-sign the team this winter, the veteran southpaw tells Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star.  Chen said that he hasn't yet sat down with agent Scott Boras to determine his market and that the Royals "haven’t talked to me" about a new contract, but Chen said he hopes to pitch for at least another four or five seasons.  The 36-year-old has a 3.13 ERA, 5.7 K/9 and 2.30 K/BB ratio in 109 1/3 IP this season, making 13 starts and 19 appearances out of the bullpen.  Dutton shared some more Royals items earlier today.
  • Paul Konerko won't decide on his playing future until after the season, a source tells ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine.  Konerko has been toying with the idea of retirement all season, though he has reportedly told friends he intends to play in 2014.
  • Norichika Aoki earned a $250K bonus upon making his 140th start of the season tonight, MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports.  This ups Aoki's salary to $1.5MM for the season, and he can earn $0.5875MM for playing in one more game this year.  The Brewers have already gotten a huge bargain from Aoki's original two-year, $2.5MM contract and they hold a $1.5MM team option on the outfielder for 2014.
  • In other Brewers contract news from McCalvy, right-hander Kyle Lohse will earn a $350K bonus on Wednesday when he retires his first batter and reaches the 190-inning mark for the season.
  • John Axford is "open to discussing something with the Cardinals" about a new contract this offseason but for now is just looking forward to the postseason, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.  Axford has posted a 1.93 ERA in 9 1/3 IP since joining the Cards three weeks ago but he could be a non-tender candidate due to his high arbitration number.  Axford is arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and will earn a raise on his $5MM salary, plus he has two more arb years remaining after that as a Super Two player.