Marcus Stroman Rumors

Chicago Links: Beckham, Quintana, Russell, Wright, Garcia, Samardzija

The White Sox are willing to move second baseman Gordon Beckham, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, but Jose Quintana isn’t available (Twitter link). The 27-year-old Beckham opened the season on the disabled list and had a strong month of May after being activated, but he’s cooled since that time and is hitting .248/.302/.395. He’s under team control through 2015 and is earning $4.18MM this season after avoiding arbitration for the second time this season. It’s not entirely surprising that the team wouldn’t move Quintana, as he just inked a five-year, $21MM contract extension in Spring Training. He’s in the midst of his finest season in the Majors to this point, having posted a 3.20 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a 47.6 percent ground-ball rate.

Here are a few more items pertaining to the Sox and their north-side counterparts…

  • Left-handers James Russell and Wesley Wright are both drawing trade interest, reports Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish. Each southpaw is under team control through the 2015 season, and each has a 2.22 ERA through 24 1/3 innings this season. Wright, who is earning $1.43MM is slightly more affordable than Russell and his $1.78MM salary.

Earlier Links

  • White Sox GM Rick Hahn told reporters today that injured outfielder Avisail Garcia has been cleared to resume baseball activities (via CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes). While he has a long way to go and it’s a long shot, Hahn wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Garcia could play in the Majors again this season.
  • Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports that the Cubs talked with the Blue Jays regarding Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel before trading the pair to the A’s on Independence Day. The Cubs were asking for Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison in addition to “at least” one of Daniel Norris, Aaron Sanchez and Dalton Pompey. That’s a steep price to pay, to be sure, though none of those prospects are as highly regarded as the centerpiece Chicago did acquire in the deal — shortstop Addison Russell.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports heard the same five names, though he hears that they were discussed in various combinations, and the Blue Jays didn’t discuss packages to acquire both pitchers (Twitter links). One scout tells Rosenthal that Norris and Stroman could both be No. 1 or No. 2 types of starters, and the Jays would be “crazy” to deal them.
  • Speaking to WFAN’s Mike Francesca on Monday, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that he had extensive negotiations with the Cubs to acquire both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, but he doesn’t think the Cubs could have landed a better package than they one they wound up taking from Oakland, regardless of who they were dealing with. CBS New York has highlights and audio from the conversation.

Astros’ Trade Discussion Notes Leaked

4:30pm: The Astros have issued the following statement regarding the leaked notes:

“Last month, we were made aware that proprietary information held on Astros’ servers and in Astros’ applications had been illegally obtained. Upon learning of the security breach, we immediately notified MLB security who, in turn, notified the FBI.  Since that time, we have been working closely with MLB security and the FBI to the determine the party, or parties, responsible.  This information was illegally obtained and published, and we intend to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent.

“It is unfortunate and extremely disappointing that an outside source has illegally obtained confidential information.  While it does appear that some of the content released was based on trade conversations, a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated.”

2:29pm: Extensive trade discussion notes, apparently logged by Astros executives about their talks with other teams, have been leaked onto the site AnonBin here and here, with Deadspin breaking the story and Yahoo’s Jeff Passan verifying the authenticity of the logs.  The earliest notes are from June 2013, and the latest are from March of this year.  The Astros have yet to comment on the leak, which provides unprecedented detail into how the team values players and approaches trade discussions.  According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Astros have been reaching out to people around baseball apologizing for the leaks, and plan to issue a statement soon.

A March feature by Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle outlines Ground Control, the Astros’ confidential internal database from which the trade discussion notes were likely taken.  At this time, it’s unclear whether the information reached the Internet via a rogue employee of the team, or by some kind of security vulnerability in Ground Control.  The trade discussion information, mostly from last summer and offseason, is somewhat dated in the fast-moving baseball hot stove world.  The larger ramification is the breach of trust experienced by the many non-Astros executives cited in the notes.  It’s unlikely any team would rule out the Astros as a trading partner based on this breach, but some teams could approach talks with added caution.  Additionally, I imagine the many other teams with such highly sensitive material online are doubling down on security right now.

The Astros’ trade notes from last summer and offseason range from the blockbuster to the mundane; here are some highlights.

  • On November 15th, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow expressed interest with Marlins GM Dan Jennings in slugger Giancarlo Stanton.  From the notes: “[Jennings] said he doesn’t think he’ll trade Stanton and the only deal he could think of from us that would work would be [George] Springer and [Carlos] Correa. [Luhnow] said that would not work. [Luhnow] posited a deal around [Jarred] Cosart and [Delino] DeShields.”  It’s not a big surprise that Luhnow rejected Jennings’ proposal out of hand, as Correa and Springer were ranked #4 and #19 on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list for ESPN, and are major building blocks for Houston.  That Luhnow didn’t appear to offer either player suggests he was mostly gauging Stanton’s price after an off-year with three years of control remaining.  UPDATE: Jennings has commented to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, saying it’s fabricated that they ever offered Stanton to the Astros or any other team, also using the word “laughable.”
  • Interest in Astros catcher Jason Castro was strong last offseason, with a few surprising suitors.  The Blue Jays and Rangers reached out in mid-October to gauge Castro’s price, the White Sox had “definite high interest,” and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told Luhnow in November that he was getting calls from other teams asking if he could get Castro from the Astros for those teams.  Zduriencik offered Dustin Ackley and was turned down.
  • Notes for the Astros’ summer trade discussions begin at June 17th, 2013.  The team ultimately went on to acquire Ronald Torreyes from the Cubs in June, and also dealt veterans Jose Veras, Bud Norris, and Justin Maxwell near the July deadline.  The Astros did not end up acquiring any top 100-type prospects, but they sure did ask for the moon.  For Norris, the Astros sought Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn from the Giants, Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman from the Orioles, Marcus Stroman and more from the Blue Jays, Xander Bogaerts, Allen Webster, Jackie Bradley Jr., or Garin Cecchini from the Red Sox, and Tyler Glasnow plus Luis Heredia or Nick Kingham from the Pirates.  The Red Sox offered Ryan Lavarnway or Deven Marrero for Norris and were turned down.  In the end, the Astros traded Norris and an international draft slot to the Orioles for L.J. Hoes, Josh Hader, and a 2014 competitive balance pick.
  • When Nationals GM Mike Rizzo called to express interest in middling Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell, who had a 5.17 ERA at the time and nearly as many walks as strikeouts, “[Luhnow] told him we would still need a headliner like [Lucas] Giolito because we still value Harrell highly. Rizzo did not respond immediately.”
    Harrell was designated for assignment, outrighted, and traded for a pittance nine months later, so the Astros might have overplayed their hand.
  • “Untouchable” players from other teams were revealed through conversations with their executives.  White Sox GM Rick Hahn wouldn’t consider trading Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, or Avisail Garcia.  Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos considered Brett Lawrie off-limits.  Pirates outfield prospect Gregory Polanco came up as well, in that GM Neal Huntington wouldn’t include him in any Norris deal.  In December talks regarding Harrell, the Giants said they would not discuss Brandon Belt.
  • More random notes: Mets executive Paul DePodesta asked Luhnow if the Astros would consider trading shortstop Jonathan Villar in a Daniel Murphy deal in December…the Marlins expressed interest in Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez, and others in December.

Quick Hits: Chapman, Giants, Stroman

The Reds have announced that they have reinstated closer Aroldis Chapman from the disabled list. He will immediately move back into his usual ninth-inning role, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. Chapman had surgery to insert a metal plate into his head after being struck with a line drive in spring training. He made two rehab appearances for Triple-A Louisville this week. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Outfielder Tyler Colvin has been promoted to the Giants, Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News tweets.  Colvin had been hitting .267/.315/.408 in 130 plate appearances for Fresno. Brandon Belt, meanwhile, is headed to the disabled list with a broken thumb, and CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly writes that Belt could be out six weeks. Mike Morse will be the Giants’ starting first baseman until Belt returns, ESPN’s Jim Bowden tweets. The Giants also activated Matt Cain and optioned pitcher George Kontos to Triple-A Fresno.
  • Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays is appearing as a reliever in his first stint in the big leagues even though he started in the minors, Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.ca notes. That’s a little bit unusual for a promising starting pitcher, but it’s not totally without precedent — Earl Weaver favored having rookie pitchers begin their careers in the bullpen, and the Cardinals frequently have top young starters pitch in relief in their first seasons. “We have been a very competitive team for the last ten years and we typically have had strong rotations,” says Cards GM John Mozeliak. “Getting pitchers to begin their careers in the bullpen allows them to experience the major league hitters, ballparks, and experience.” Mozeliak also adds that having young starters pitch in relief prevents them from becoming overworked. On the flip side, Nicholson-Smith points out, having an excellent young pitcher in the bullpen blunts his impact — having Jose Fernandez start his career in relief would have cost the Marlins wins, for example.


Blue Jays To Promote Marcus Stroman

The Blue Jays will call up right-handed pitching prospect Marcus Stroman, the team told reporters (including Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca) after tonight’s loss to the Pirates.  Stroman will pitch out of the bullpen for the Jays, at least at first, though he has pitched exclusively as a starter for the last two minor league seasons and there had been rumors that he was on pace to join the rotation.  A corresponding move will come tomorrow, as Stroman isn’t on Toronto’s 40-man roster.

Stroman, who just turned 23 years old on Thursday, was taken by the Jays with the 22nd overall pick of the 2012 amateur draft.  He began his pro career in ignominious fashion by serving a 50-game suspension for a PED violation, but returned to post a 3.30 ERA, 10.4 K/9 and 4.78 K/BB rate over 20 Double-A starts in 2013.  The righty has been even better in five Triple-A starts this season, posting a 1.69 ERA, 12.2 K/9 and 5.14 K/BB rate over 26 2/3 IP.

This performance earned Stroman a place on several preseason prospect lists.  MLB.com ranked Stroman 52nd on its list of the top 100 prospects in the game, while Baseball America ranked the righty 55th and ESPN’s Keith Law ranked him 58th.  The 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook ranked Stroman as the second-best prospect in Toronto’s farm system (behind only Aaron Sanchez) and praised his 92-95 mph “heavy fastball…with above-average movement” also counted his slider and cutter as plus pitches.  The knock on Stroman is his 5’9″ height, as the BA Handbook noted that “if Stroman does not defy the odds and become at least a No. 3 starter, then he could be a high-end late-game reliever.”

While the Blue Jays obviously hope Stroman becomes a quality starter in the long term, late-game relief help of any sort would be a boon for a struggling Jays bullpen.  Toronto relievers have a 7.45 ERA over their last 48 1/3 IP, which includes the five runs allowed by Aaron Loup and Todd Redmond over 1 2/3 IP in tonight’s loss.

Stroman’s minor league starts had been lined up with Dustin McGowan‘s starts for the Jays, leading to speculation that Stroman would take his spot in the rotation and McGowan would be moved back to the pen.  The Blue Jays were also planning to go to a six-man rotation (with J.A. Happ starting) to keep their starters fresh during their current stretch of 20 consecutive games, though Brandon Morrow‘s injury may have shelved that plan for the time being.

If Stroman remains on the Major League roster for the remainder of the season, he will accrue 148 days of service time and be virtually assured of reaching Super Two status.  (Two years and 146 days of service time has been the highest Super Two cutoff point of the last six years.)  This will earn Stroman an extra year of arbitration eligibility, though Toronto still controls his rights through the 2020 season.


Blue Jays Notes: Stroman, Pearce, Buehrle

The bullpen was one of the Blue Jays’ few strengths in 2013 and yet the relief corps has gotten off to a terrible start this year, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi writes.  Last night’s blowup against the Royals was only the latest in a series of late-game meltdowns for the bullpen, which has a cumulative 5.08 ERA that ranks as the third-worst in the majors.  Here’s some more news from Toronto…

  • Cubs scout Dave Littlefield was in Buffalo last night to watch Marcus Stroman‘s six no-hit innings for the Triple-A Bisons, Davidi reports.  Chicago reportedly asked for both Stroman and Aaron Sanchez as part of a trade package for Jeff Samardzija in the offseason, a deal that the Jays rejected out of hand.  Littlefield’s presence could indicate a continued interest on the Cubs’ behalf or, as Davidi notes, simple due diligence.
  • Steve Pearce turned down the Jays’ waiver claim on his services in order to return to the Orioles because he could receive everyday playing time in Baltimore, according to Davidi.  Pearce will likely receive regular work at first base for the O’s while Chris Davis is out with an oblique injury.  The Blue Jays were looking at Pearce to start against left-handers as part of a DH platoon with Adam Lind.
  • If the Jays aren’t in contention by midseason, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star notes that Mark Buehrle would likely have the most trade value of any Blue Jays starting pitcher.  The veteran southpaw has been the Jays’ best starter in 2014 and, as Griffin notes, Buehrle’s consistent track record means that a trade partner knows exactly what they’re getting.  Moving Buehrle would also free up payroll space for the Jays — he is owed approximately $15MM over the rest of 2014 and is owed $19MM in 2015.
  • Also from Griffin’s piece, he interviews Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava about several prospects at all levels of Toronto’s minor league system.

Prospect Notes: Draft, Astros, Stroman

In the midst of a season in which he hasn’t been as dominant as many draft-watchers projected, NC State pitcher Carlos Rodon is no longer a clear favorite to be the Astros‘ selection with the No. 1 pick in the June draft, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo writes. East Carolina pitcher Jeff Hoffman hasn’t cemented his place at the top of the draft, either, clearing the way for California high school pitcher Brady Aiken and Texas high school pitcher Tyler Kolek to enter the picture for the top overall pick. “I think it’s Kolek, being a hometown guy,” says one scout, referring to who the Astros ought to pick. “Rodon has Scott Boras [as an advisor]; you’re not going to get a discount there. If it comes down to Kolek and Aiken, it has to come to the guy in your backyard, especially if he’s throwing 100 MPH.” Here are more notes on the draft and the minors.

  • Pitchers will dominate the first round of this year’s draft, writes MLB.com’s Jim Callis. “There could be eight or nine pitchers taken in the top 10,” says an AL scouting director. “How many can go in the top 15? Twelve? Thirteen? There are so many arms. This is a deeper pool of players than last year, especially with pitchers.” Aiken, Kolek, Rodon and Hoffman are likely among the Astros’ top candidates for the first overall pick, perhaps along with California high school C/OF Alex Jackson, LSU pitcher Aaron Nola, NC State shortstop Trea Turner and San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer.
  • The Blue Jays are likely to soon promote top pitching prospect Marcus Stroman to join their rotation, and Baseball America’s Vince Lara-Cinisomo has a scouting report. Stroman has good stuff despite his small size (5-foot-9), with a fastball that reaches into the mid-90s and a good slider. Stroman’s workload could be a factor this season, since he only threw 111 2/3 innings in 2013.

AL Notes: Campos, Masterson, Stroman

Yankees minor-league pitcher Jose Campos had Tommy John surgery on Friday, CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler tweets. Campos, of course, arrived from the Mariners prior to the 2012 season with Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi, a trade that seems to have been cursed for everyone involved. Pineda was recently suspended ten games for his pine tar incident, Montero is with Triple-A Tacoma after hitting .208/.264/.327 in 110 big-league plate appearances last season, and Noesi has been designated for assignment twice in the past month. Here are more notes from the American League.

  • The Indians have been cautious with a new contract for Justin Masterson because his velocity was down in spring training, he can be inconsistent, and has imperfect mechanics, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. That’s why they balked when he asked for a three-year contract of around $53MM this offseason, preferring a deal of around $45MM instead, Pluto suggests.
  • The Blue Jays have scheduled top prospect Marcus Stroman‘s next start for Triple-A Buffalo to coincide with that of big-league fifth starter Dustin McGowan, Shi Davidi of SportsNet.ca reports. That could indicate that the Jays might promote Stroman soon. Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook 2014 names Stroman the Jays’ second-best prospect (behind Aaron Sanchez) and praises the small righty’s fastball, slider and athleticism. BA ranked Stroman the 55th-best prospect in baseball before the season. He currently has a 2.18 ERA with 11.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 20 2/3 innings for Buffalo.