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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 Yankees, Giants, 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.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Alexi Amarista | Boston Red Sox | Carlos Correa | Chicago Cubs | Clay Buchholz | Cole Hamels | Colorado Rockies | Didi Gregorius | Hector Rondon | Houston Astros | Jean Segura | Juan Uribe | Kyle Lohse | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Matt Garza | Milwaukee Brewers | New York Mets | New York Yankees | Noah Syndergaard | Oakland Athletics | Rafael Soriano | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Scott Kazmir | St. Louis Cardinals | Steven Matz | Troy Tulowitzki | Wilmer Flores | Yunel Escobar
Rockies starter Jordan Lyles has apparently escaped last night’s injury scare with nothing more than a significant bruise on his right hand, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post tweets. Lyles says he hopes to make his next start, though it is probably too soon to tell whether he’ll miss some action. The 24-year-old was struck on his throwing hand by an Albert Pujols comebacker last night, with the subsequent swelling leading many to fear that he may have suffered a fracture. Lyles and Eddie Butler have arguably been the Rockies’ most consistent starters this season.
More from the NL West…
- Hector Olivera is expected to arrive in Los Angeles tonight, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link). The Cuban infielder will take his physical and, presuming all is well, his agreement with the Dodgers will finally be official.
- James Shields is delivering on the mound and in the clubhouse for the Padres, leading USA Today’s Bob Nightengale to wonder if the several teams who passed on Shields this winter are now second-guessing their decision.
- Wil Myers has tendinitis in his left wrist as the Padres hope that a few days of rest will help the outfielder avoid a DL stint, MLB.com’s Corey Brock tweets. Myers underwent surgery on his right wrist last year, though he was dealing with an existing left wrist injury at that time as well.
- Don Mattingly deserves credit for keeping the Dodgers in first place despite several key injuries and some underperforming stars, Joel Sherman of the New York Post opines. There have been rumors that the team’s new front office could bring in their own manager after the season is over or if the Dodgers struggled, yet Sherman feels Mattingly is staking his claim as a long-term answer in the dugout.
- Despite the growing buzz surrounding Troy Tulowitzki‘s name, a source tells the Record’s Matt Ehalt that the Mets haven’t changed their thoughts on acquiring the longtime star shortstop. Ehalt cites Tulowitzki’s injury history, the money remaining on his contract and a repeated unwillingness from the Mets to part with top-tier pitching prospects. Wilmer Flores, who homered today, has shown good pop but questionable on-base skills and defense in his first extended look at shortstop in the Majors.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports discussed the Rockies in his latest piece, writing that it’s “obvious to everyone” but Rockies owner Dick Monfort that the time to trade Tulowitzki has come. However, rather than look to begin moving pieces in the wake of a 10-game losing streak, the Rockies are still actively searching for starting pitching in hopes of improving the club. Rosenthal notes that the second wild card spot in each league can often act as “fool’s gold,” leading teams without legitimate hopes of contending to delay, or in some cases, refuse to sell off pieces with an eye toward the future.
Rockies right-hander Jordan Lyles was forced to exit Wednesday evening’s start against the Angels after taking an Albert Pujols line drive off his pitching hand. Twitter reactions indicated that Lyles’ hand became visibly swollen in nearly instantaneous fashion (image via Vic Lombardi of CBS Denver on Twitter). Clearly, the struggling Rockies can ill afford to lose a reliable rotation arm such as Lyles for a significant amount of time. To date, the 24-year-old Lyles has a 4.30 ERA with a somewhat troublesome 21-to-17 K/BB ratio in 37 2/3 innings with the Rockies. He’s notched a characteristically strong 49.6 percent ground-ball rate as well. A serious injury would mark the second consecutive season in which a freak injury shelved Lyles, as last year he suffered a fracture in his non-throwing hand while covering home plate.
Here’s more on the Rockies and the rest of the division in what is an injury-tinted look at the NL West…
- Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post joined Sandy Clough and Scott Hastings of 104.3 The Fan in Denver (audio link) to discuss recent news in which Troy Tulowitzki‘s agent publicly mentioned that he and his client would consider requesting a trade. Saunders touches on the previous unwillingness of Rockies owner Dick Monfort to part with veteran players. Saunders offers a very candid take on his view of the state of the Rockies and how the team has handled Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez in the past, specifically wondering if the latter of the two has much of any trade value left. (At present, it would seem to me that he has very little, due to the remaining three years on his contract, his injury history and lack of productivity to begin the season.)
- Josh Johnson‘s return from Tommy John surgery had recently been slowed by some soreness, but Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets that the oft-injured righty has resumed throwing. The Padres are optimistic that Johnson can soon begin a rehab assignment, Morosi adds. Johnson returned to the Padres on a one-year, $1MM contract this winter after missing the entire 2014 season due to a torn UCL.
- Via FOX Sports Arizona’s Jack Magruder (Twitter link), Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart said in a recent TV interview that the club is targeting a June 4 return for fallen ace Patrick Corbin, who, like Johnson, underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2014 season.
- Yasiel Puig has experienced a setback in his recovery from a strained hamstring and isn’t expected to join the Dodgers anytime soon, manager Don Mattingly told reporters, including MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. An MRI taken Monday revealed that Puig’s hamstring strain has not yet healed, and Mattingly said that it would be “at least a couple weeks” that Puig will remain on the shelf. It seems fair to believe that Puig may be sidelined into June.
- In other Dodgers injury news, righty reliever Pedro Baez was forced to leave tonight’s game after he felt something in his right pectoral muscle, tweets the L.A. News Group’s J.P. Hoornstra. Baez is slated to undergo an MRI tomorrow. He’s been a highly useful member of the Dodgers’ bullpen, entering play Wednesday with a 1.88 ERA and a 19-to-3 K/BB ratio in 14 1/3 innings.
- Giants right-hander Matt Cain threw his first bullpen session since his elbow surgery yesterday, tweets John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. He’ll have another session on Friday and will need three to four in total before moving onto facing liver hitters, Shea adds.
There are varying reports about the visa status of Dodgers signees Hector Olivera and Pablo Fernandez. Several reporters say the pair have received their work visas and are en route to the United States to begin their careers. (Baseball Essential’s Robert Murray reports that Olivera had his visa, and Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register tweets that Fernandez had secured his.) However, Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com tweets that it still remains unclear when the visas will be obtained. The Dodgers spent a combined $70.5MM on the pair, with $62.5MM of that coming in the form of a six-year, Major League contract for Olivera. It’s not clear which to which minor league affiliate either would report. As Murray notes, Olivera still needs to take his physical, which could potentially reveal significant damage in his right elbow’s ulnar collateral ligament. If that is indeed the case, and extra year will be added to Olivera’s contract at the price of just $1MM.
Elsewhere in the Senior Circuit’s Western division…
- The Diamondbacks have reached out to prep catcher Taylor Stephenson, prep outfielders Daz Cameron and Garrett Whitley and other high school prospects about potential under-slot deals with the first overall pick in the draft, reports Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel (All links to McDaniel’s Twitter). The industry belief, however, is that the D-Backs are still leaning toward a college player at 1-1 and are using this method to determine potential over-slot targets with the Nos. 43 and 76 picks in the draft. The Diamondbacks are in line to save between $2.5MM and $5MM on the first pick, which comes with an $8.6169MM slot value, per McDaniel, which would allow them to call players that are on the board in the mid-first round and inform them they’re able to offer significantly above slot later in the draft. This type of incident happened multiple times in the 2014 draft, McDaniel adds.
- If the Rockies do ultimately decide to trade Troy Tulowitzki this summer or in the offseason, the resurgence of former prospect Trevor Story has given them a viable internal replacement, Chris Mitchell of Fangraphs argues. Mitchell notes that Story’s prospect status took a nosedive when his strikeouts became unmanageable and his overall offensive results suffered as a result. However, he’s striking out at his lowest rate since 2012 thus far, and he’s also showing considerably better power than he did during his swift decline. Mitchell uses his own projection system and likens Story’s production to seasons of previous minor league shortstops and finds a number of potentially favorable comparables, including Eugenio Suarez and Trevor Plouffe. He notes that Story isn’t likely to develop into an above-average Major League hitter in spite of the turnaround, but shortstops needn’t be plus hitters as long as they can handle their own from a defensive standpoint, which Story seems capable of doing. A league-average bat at shortstop is indeed a valuable commodity, and of course, Story’s extra time at Coors Field would surely bolster his numbers, even if park-adjusted metrics like wRC+ and OPS+ painted him in a less favorable light.
The Cubs‘ pitching staff is having trouble this month, and it’s unclear where help will come from, Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago writes. It isn’t the best time of the year to make trades. While the Phillies likely don’t feel they have to wait until the trade deadline to make a Cole Hamels deal, such a trade might be easier for the Cubs to strike after some time to make sure they’re contenders. And finding relief help in the trade market will likely be more straightfoward later in the summer. Rafael Soriano is available via free agency, but the Cubs aren’t likely to sign him unless they’re more impressed with him than other teams have been. Here’s more from around the big leagues.
- Closer Kenley Jansen‘s impending return from a foot injury will result in a tough decision for the Dodgers, whose bullpen has been terrific in his absence, J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group writes. The Dodgers reliever who’s gotten the worst results has been Chris Hatcher, so he might seem like the most obvious candidate to come off the active roster, although he’s out of options and was only recently acquired via trade. (Also, his 13.5 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and mid-90s velocity strongly suggest the Dodgers would be unwise to give up on him too quickly).
- 30-year-old Nationals rookie reliever Rafael Martin has a highly unusual background, Lacy Lusk writes for Baseball America (subscription-only). The Southern California native spent four years after high school working in construction, then ended up in the Mexican League as the result of a tryout. After three years in Mexico, he signed with the Nationals in 2010, then toiled in the high minors, struggling with injuries before pitching brilliantly at Double-A and Triple-A last year. The Nats finally purchased his contract last month, and he whiffed five straight batters in his first big-league appearance.
- The Rays have a winning record so far this season despite their rotation being decimated by injuries, Andrew Astleford of FOX Sports Florida writes. It’s helped that they’ve gotten remarkable performances from Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi, who have stayed healthy the entire season. Nate Karns has also gotten reasonable results in seven starts, and Alex Colome has pitched well in two. The team has also already leaned on Erasmo Ramirez, Steve Geltz, Matt Andriese and the now-injured Drew Smyly to start, meaning they’ve already used eight starters even though the season is less than six weeks old.
The Dodgers paid the Marlins to take on Dan Haren‘s salary and traded Dee Gordon in part to get Howie Kendrick, and Gordon has been one of baseball’s best players so far this season, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes. “I think this is kind of a fresh start for him,” says Haren. “I’ve been traded many times. You always kind of get a chip on your shoulder. You want to prove the other team wrong.” Gordon is hitting a ridiculous .437/.461/.521. Obviously, he won’t bat .437 or post a .491 BABIP over the course of a season, and May 9 isn’t the best time to judge offseason trades. But Gordon’s start would have helped the Dodgers (although Kendrick has played well), and Haren would have been a useful part in what’s been a banged-up rotation. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- Recent injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin show why the Athletics acquired so much starting pitching this offseason, John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group writes. The A’s got Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman in the Josh Donaldson deal, Jesse Hahn in the Derek Norris trade and Chris Bassitt in the Jeff Samardzija trade. Hahn is the only one of the four who’s made a significant impression so far, but the Parker and Griffin injuries could create opportunities for the other three.
- It might now be next to impossible for the Rockies to trade Carlos Gonzalez, FanGraphs’ Paul Swydan writes. Gonzalez’s ability to hit for power appears to have dwindled, and it will be difficult to interest other teams in a “broken down player” who will make $16MM this year and a total of $37MM in 2016 and 2017. Gonzalez will also receive a $1MM bonus if the Rockies trade him.
The Athletics have traded for outfielder Matt Carson from the Dodgers, Melissa Lockard of Oakland Clubhouse reports on Twitter. Los Angeles will receive cash in the deal, J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group tweets.
Carson, 33, has seen short big league stints with the A’s, Twins, and Indians, compiling a .237/.257/.356 slash in 187 turns at bat. That included, most recently, an impressive swing through Cleveland back in 2013, when he produced about half a win of value with seven hits, a home run, and three steals in just 13 plate appearances over 20 games.
Carson has spent much of his time at Triple-A over the years, taking just under 3,000 plate appearances at the highest level of the minors. All said, he has put up a strong .272/.338/.471 batting line with 110 home runs at Triple-A, though he was off to a slow start this year in Oklahoma City.
The Padres could be facing an extended absence for first baseman Yonder Alonso following a shoulder injury sustained in last night’s contest, reports MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom. Alonso is slated to have an MRI today after jamming his shoulder while diving to field a grounder. The 28-year-old was already scheduled for an x-ray on the shoulder today as well, Bloom notes, having been hit by a pitch there over the weekend — an incident which led to soreness that cost him two games in this week’s series against the Giants. Losing Alonso would be a difficult setback for the Padres for a number of reasons. The former top prospect is hitting well this season, with a .333/.427/.437 batting line in 103 plate appearances. He’s also the only true first baseman on the 25-man roster, and he’s been the most productive left-handed bat on an exceptionally right-leaning Padres roster.
In other news from the NL West…
- The D-Backs made no promises to Jarrod Saltalamacchia upon signing him to a Minor League deal, writes Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic. In fact, chief baseball officer Tony La Russa tells Buchanan that the team wouldn’t have signed Saltalamacchia had he and agent Jim Munsey insisted on being added to the 25-man roster. The club has received virtually no offense from Tuffy Gosewisch thus far — though Gosewisch did respond to Salty’s signing by lacing three doubles on Thursday — but manager Chip Hale said they knew they’d likely be sacrificing some offense for Gosewisch’s glove. The D-Backs were hoping to have more offense from the rest of the order, making the need for production from catcher a bit less glaring. “It depends on how much our shortstop hits, how much our second baseman hits,” said Hale. “You can’t have it be really tough on you after the fifth hitter.”
- Hunter Pence has yet to play in the second season of his five-year, $90MM contract with the Giants, but the right fielder is set to begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Sacramento on Friday, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Pence is in line for a relatively long rehab assignment, possibly as many as 10 games according to Schulman, in order to make up some of the lost ground from missing Spring Training. Justin Maxwell and Gregor Blanco have shouldered the load in Pence’s absence, but the Giants’ collective .229/.305/.400 line from right fielders clearly isn’t equal to what Pence can provide.
- Dodgers righty Brandon Beachy is traveling with the Dodgers and working with VP of medical services Stan Conte and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt on changing his mechanics, writes Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. The changes, made in an effort to prevent further elbow injury once he’s healed from his second Tommy John surgery, were Beachy’s idea. Conte immediately supported the pitcher’s interest in pitching mechanics and biomechanics. Beachy admitted that he’s having trouble commanding his pitches thus far in bullpen sessions, perhaps in part due to the new mechanics. While he has plenty of time to iron out the kinks, reduced control would be a trade-off Beachy would happily make if it meant avoiding another surgery. “I think I’d rather be less effective and be able to stay healthy for longer than one or two months.”
First baseman/outfielder Mike Carp opted out of his deal with the Dodgers, MLBTR has learned. Carp just signed a minor league deal with L.A. two weeks ago, but had managed only two hits in 23 plate appearances for Triple-A Oklahoma City. The Dodgers acquired Andy Wilkins from the Blue Jays on May 3rd, likely a factor in Carp’s decision.
Since posting an .885 OPS over 243 PA for the World Series-champion Red Sox in 2013, Carp has been under contract with four different teams — he was claimed off waivers by the Rangers last summer, signed a minor league deal with the Nationals in January and then elected free agency after failing to win a spot on their Opening Day roster. Carp only hit .175/.289/.230 in 149 PA with Boston and Texas last season.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman touched on many topics in his latest “Inside Baseball” column, and since we’ve already focused on Heyman’s notes about the Brewers, let’s look at some of his other hot stove info from around the league…
- The Astros will be looking to add one or even two starting pitchers, though Cole Hamels is “too pricey” for them, according to one team source. MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently explored the case for Houston going after the Phillies southpaw, and 42.44% of MLBTR readers polled thought that the Astros should indeed pursue Hamels.
- Rival executives aren’t bothered by Hamels’ sub-par performance this season since all of this trade speculation is assumed to be impacting his work. Executives “seem to be split on” whether the Phillies are making the right move in holding out for a blue chip prospect or two in exchange for Hamels, or if they should just be looking to get his big salary off the books for a lower return of young talent.
- A.J. Hinch’s deal with the Astros is a three-year contract with a club option for 2018. The exact dollar figure isn’t known but Heyman reports that the average annual value is less than $1MM, which could end up being a bargain given how Houston has thus far played under Hinch’s management.
- While Zack Greinke is expected to opt out of his contract at the end of the season, Heyman doubts he’ll leave the Dodgers since they certainly have the money to sign him to a new deal.
- One scout suggests that Javier Baez might need “a change of scenery” to get back on track. Baez struck out a whopping 95 times in 229 plate appearances with the Cubs last season, and only has a .755 OPS at the Triple-A level this year. Baez is only a year removed from being considered an elite-level prospect, so while it seems early to consider trading him, Chicago is already deep in young middle infield talent.
- The Rangers are willing to deal Shin-Soo Choo, rival executives believe. This is no surprise given Choo’s huge contract and underwhelming performance in Texas, though obviously those same issues will make dealing him a tall order. Heyman notes that the Yankees were interested in Choo when he was a free agent two winters ago, though even if Choo turns it around, I’m not sure I see New York taking on a big contract when they already have a pretty full outfield.
- The Cardinals “will rue the day they made that trade” of Shelby Miller and prospect Tyrell Jenkins for Jason Heyward and Jorden Walden, in the words of one scout. Heyman feels this is a bit of a stretch, even though Miller has been outstanding for the Braves and Heyward has struggled for the Cards (and Walden is on the DL).
- Veteran Andruw Jones isn’t yet planning to retire, though he won’t play in 2015. Jones has played in Japan for the last two seasons and expressed interest in a return to Major League Baseball this winter, drawing interest from at least two teams, including the Indians. According to Heyman, Jones turned down minor league contract offers from multiple teams.