Matt Joyce Rumors

AL East Links: Cruz, Young, Greene, Pedroia

In his latest Insider-only piece for ESPN, Buster Olney expressed doubt that the Orioles would re-sign Nelson Cruz this winter.  The O’s are more likely to let Cruz go and pick up an extra draft pick (via the qualifying offer) since Cruz’s big season may have made him too expensive for Baltimore.  If the team looks for a right-handed bat to replace Cruz, Olney opines that the Braves’ Evan Gattis, rumored to be a trade candidate, would be a perfect fit as the Orioles’ new designated hitter.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Also from Olney, Yankees GM Brian Cashman originally passed on the idea of signing Chris Young when the team’s statistical analysts recommended that the Yankees pick up the recently-released Met.  Cashman’s change of heart paid off, as Young has a whopping 1.266 OPS in his short stint (29 PA) as a Yankee and three homers, including a walkoff to beat the Rays last Thursday.
  • Rookie right-hander Shane Greene‘s emergence has been a boon for the Yankees‘ injury-riddled rotation, and Kevin Kernan of the New York Post details the unlikely story of how Greene originally caught the eyes of team scouts.  Greene, a 15th-round draft pick in 2009, has a 3.56 ERA, 9.2 K/9 and 2.92 K/BB rate over 68 1/3 IP this season.
  • Dustin Pedroia‘s contract extension was considered to be very team-friendly when it was signed last year, but ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes wonders if the Red Sox were too quick to extend Pedroia given how recurring injuries caused his performance to drop off in 2014.  The Sox already had Pedroia locked up through 2014 (with a team option for 2015) on a prior contract before tearing that deal up for his new extension that runs through the 2021 season.
  • The Rays‘ planned payroll cut might not be all that drastic, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes, as the team still plans to contend next season.  Any payroll saved “will be the product of trades and tough choices.”  For instance, Topkin thinks Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Joyce could be trade candidates, as both players will get raises in arbitration this winter.
  • Earlier today, MLBTR’s Steve Adams compiled more news from around the AL East.

Stark’s Latest: Price, Phillies, O’s, Royals, Pirates

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com has a new Rumblings & Grumblings column posted in which he runs down a plethora of trade-related topics. You’ll need to read the full post to get all the information and analysis, but here are some of the highlights …

  • The Rays are waiting until next week to make any decisions on whether or not to trade ace David Price. However, as Stark points out, it could still be a difficult judgment call as to whether or not the Rays are close enough to go for it or far enough back to sell. Tampa is currently seven games back of the division lead and four and a half games back from a Wild Card berth.
  • One executive tells Stark that he’s convinced the team will move Price if they get a big enough offer. Said the exec, “They’ve really built their team by making these kinds of deals. But if the return they can get now is something they think they can get this winter, they’ll hold him.” Another exec tells Stark that waiting until the winter could reduce the return in a trade by 30 to 40 percent.
  • Stark runs down the possible landing spots for Price, calling the Dodgers the favorite, but noting that L.A. has said it will not part with both Joc Pederson and Corey Seager, even in a Price trade. The Mariners are the second choice, he notes, with the Cardinals listed third followed by the Giants and Blue Jays (both of whom are painted as long shots by Stark).
  • If the Rays do sell Price, they’ll be open for business and listen on a number of other players, including Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Yunel Escobar. Their preference is to deal Price and Zobrist in separate trades, if that comes to pass.
  • The Phillies are the next team that everyone is watching, with nine players that could be moved but contractual problems surrounding many of them. Most execs feel the Phillies will eat money to facilitate deals and aren’t looking to just dump players on other clubs. Specifically, the team is in need of position-player prospects, one exec who has spoken with Philadelphia tells Stark.
  • Marlon Byrd is the most likely to be dealt, with the Mariners, Royals and Reds scouting him. The Reds, however, may not be able to take on Byrd’s remaining $3MM in 2014, and the Mariners and Royals are on his no-trade list.
  • Jonathan Papelbon and Cliff Lee aren’t likely to be dealt, executives tell Stark. In Lee’s case, they feel he’s a lock to clear waivers. One exec tells Stark that he’d be more inclined to take a chance on Lee were he a free agent, but his contract is too risky at this point.
  • Cole Hamels isn’t likely to be dealt either. It’s not that the Phillies aren’t willing to move him, it’s just that the prices they’ve specified consist of packages “that no one would possibly give up.”
  • A.J. Burnett‘s preference is indeed to return to the Pirates, but Pittsburgh would need assurances that he’s not going to exercise his player option for 2015. The Orioles‘ interest is said to be lukewarm, while the Phillies asked the Yankees and were told, “No thanks.”
  • At least half a dozen teams are in on Antonio Bastardo, whom Stark concretely says will be traded in the next week.
  • The Orioles aren’t looking for a closer upgrade over Zach Britton, but they’re looking for a rotation upgrade and a lefty reliever that’s more than just a left-on-left specialist. They’ve shown no interest in dealing Hunter Harvey or Dylan Bundy.
  • The Royals have called on virtually every right-handed hitter on the market, but they’re look specifically at right fielders, including Byrd, Alex Rios, Chris Denorfia and Dayan Viciedo. The first two of those options still look most likely.
  • Stark would be surprised if the Pirates didn’t add at least one pitcher, if not two in the next week, but it’d have to be at least a No. 3 option in terms of starters. On the relief front, they’re looking at seventh-inning arms, as they’re content with Tony Watson in the eighth and Mark Melancon in the ninth.

Orioles, Pirates Still Interested In Ike Davis

Although Mets Spring Training is underway and Ike Davis trade rumors have largely died down as of late, a pair of clubs is still interested in the 26-year-old. ESPN's Jayson Stark wrote yesterday that the Pirates continue to monitor Davis' status in camp, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Orioles are still interested in acquiring Davis to serve primarily in a DH capacity.

Pirates GM Neal Huntington told Stark yesterday that the team is confident in its internal candidates to serve as a platoon partner for Gaby Sanchez — namely Andrew Lambo, Chris McGuiness and Travis Ishikawa. However, Huntington added:

"That doesn't stop us from looking elsewhere. It’s just that now, our bar has been set a little bit higher, as to 'How do we make the club better?' And 'How do we make the club better at the right situation for us?'"

As for the Orioles, acquiring Davis would allow them to add some more power while preserving the No. 55 pick in the draft — a selection that would be forfeited should the team go the free-agent route by signing either Kendrys Morales or Nelson Cruz. Davis would also be significantly cheaper in terms of salary, as he's slated to earn just $3.5MM this season. However, Mets GM Sandy Alderson has made it clear that he will not simply give Davis away. Previous reports indicated that Alderson has asked the Orioles to part with top pitching rospect Eduardo Rodriguez in a Davis trade.

Sherman also reports that at one point this offseason, the Mets and Rays were discussing players that could be added to a Davis-for-Matt Joyce swap before Tampa finally proposed a straight one-for-one trade. The Mets rejected that deal, and Tampa closed the door on talks by signing James Loney to a three-year, $21MM contract.

Davis batted .205/.326/.334 overall last season but fared very well upon his recall from the minor leagues after being sent down in early June. The former first-round pick posted an .872 OPS over his final two months, including a .290/.468/.522 triple-slash in August. An oblique strain cut his strong finish to the season short, sidelining him for the entire month of September.



Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

We'll keep track of today's smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post. Click here for background on the upcoming arbitration schedule and how MLBTR is covering it. You can also check in on our Arbitration Tracker and look at MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz's arbitration projections.

Today's noon CT deadline to exchange arb figures has passed, but negotiations to avoid an arbitration hearing can continue into February. The Braves are the only strict "file and trial" team that did not agree to terms with all of its arb-eligible players, meaning they could be headed for several hearings. The Nats and Indians have also shown a willingness to go to a trial and still have some players unsigned. On to today's contract agreements…

  • After exchanging numbers, the Mets and pitcher Dillon Gee have agreed to settle at the midpoint of $3.625MM, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Swartz projected Gee to earn $3.4MM.
  • The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, president Theo Epstein told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He will earn $1.325MM next year, according to a tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. It is not immediately apparent whether the deal was reached before the sides exchanged terms.
  • The Angels have reached agreement on a $3.8MM deal with reliever Ernesto Frieri, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter). 
  • Mike Minor has agreed to terms on a $3.85MM deal with the Braves to avoid arbitration, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). The deal came before figures were exchanged, Bowman notes.
  • Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the D-Backs and lefty Joe Thatcher have avoided arb with a one-year, $2.375MM deal (Twitter link).
  • Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Angels and Fernando Salas reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. Salas is the first Halos player to avoid arb. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Salas will earn $870K, which beats out his $700K projection.
  • MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (via Twitter) that the Tigers and righty Al Alburquerque have reached agreement on a deal to avoid arb. The hard-throwing righty will earn $837.5K in 2014, tweets Beck.
  • Sherman tweets that the Yankees and Ivan Nova avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal.
  • The Pirates and Vin Mazzaro inked a one-year, $950K deal in lieu of an arbitration hearing, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
  • The Royals announced that they've avoided arbitration with infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Heyman tweets that Bonifacio will earn $3.5MM in 2014.
  • Sherman reports that the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeremy Hellickson and Sean Rodriguez (Twitter link). Hellickson landed a $3.625MM payday with a $25K bonus if he hits 195 innings pitched. Rodriguez will get $1.475MM with a $25K bump for hitting 300 plate appearances.
  • Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Brian Matusz avoided arb with the Orioles. Sherman adds that he'll earn $2.4MM in 2014.
  • MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Jason Castro and the Astros have avoided arbitration. McTaggart adds in a second tweet that Jesus Guzman avoided arb as well. Heyman reports that Castro will be paid $2.45MM, while Sherman tweets that Guzman will make $1.3MM.
  • The Indians tweeted that they've avoided arb with lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that he'll earn $1.375MM in 2014. Bastian adds that Scrabble will earn an additional $25K for appearing in 55 games and another $25K for 60 games.
  • The Giants avoided arbitration with Yusmeiro Petit, according to MLBTR's Steve Adams (on Twitter).  He'll earn $845K, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).

(more…)


AL Notes: Rays, Garza, Ibanez, Astros

On this date in 1980, the Yankees made Dave Winfield the highest-paid athlete in all of sports with a ten-year, $16MM contract. In the intervening four decades, a ten-year MLB contract is now worth something in the neighborhood of $240MM (Robinson Cano and Albert Pujols) to $275MM (Alex Rodriguez). Meanwhile, $16MM will only buy you one year of Hiroki Kuroda or two years of Marlon Byrd this offseason, per MLBTR's Transaction Tracker. As you rush out and buy your child a bat, a glove, and every baseball instructional video ever made, here's today's American League news and notes:

  • The Rays feel justified in giving James Loney the most lucrative free agent contract during Andrew Friedman's tenure, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The Rays value Loney's defense, quality at-bats, clubhouse presence, and his left-handed bat which balances a predominantly right-handed lineup.
  • Also from Topkin's article, the Rays will now turn their attention to adding bench and bullpen pieces with catcher Jose Lobaton and outfielder Matt Joyce as possible trade chips.
  • The market for Matt Garza is strong because of his 2013 season, AL East pedigree, and not being attached to draft pick compensation, tweets CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman.
  • The Angels believe they can sign both Garza and Raul Ibanez and still fall below the $189MM luxury tax threshold, writes FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal notes the Angels' interest in Ibanez stems from his career slash line of .349/.407/.522 in 327 plate appearances at Angel Stadium.
  • Also from Rosenthal, the Astros are still in the market for a first baseman and could turn to the Nationals' Tyler Moore.
  • Despite the signing of Joba Chamberlain, the Tigers' preference is to have Bruce Rondon set up closer Joe Nathan, according to John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press.
  • The Royals are to be commended not just for signing Omar Infante away from the Yankees, but also strengthening their ballclub immediately at a reasonable cost, opines Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan.

AL East Notes: Moreland, Joyce, Ibanez, Floyd, Yanks

The latest out of the AL East as today's Winter Meetings news heats up…

  • ESPN's Jayson Stark tweets that the Rays are interested in Mitch Moreland of the Rangers and notes that a swap of Moreland and Matt Joyce is a possibility. That scenario hasn't gained much traction to this point, however, according to Stark (Twitter links).
  • MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli was among the reporters to speak with Orioles manager Buck Showalter, and she reports that the O's aren't interested in Raul Ibanez but do have some interest in Gavin Floyd (Twitter link).
  • Top Yankees prospects such as Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams have seen their stock fall precipitously in the past year, diminishing New York's ability to make trades, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. One Cubs official told Sherman, "The Yankees have no upper-level talent," when asked about potential trades between the two clubs.
  • Also from Sherman's piece, right-hander Tommy Kahnle and lefty Fred Lewis are candidates to be selected in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. Kahnle was among the Yankees' most sought-after players in July trade talks but was left off the 40-man roster.
  • Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe spoke with A.J. Pierzynski, who told him that the Twins offered him a two-year deal to return to Minnesota, but he couldn't pass up on the opportunity to play for the Red Sox (Twitter link).
  • Joh Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke with a high-ranking Yankees official who told him there haven't been any discussions between the Yanks and Giants about New York's outfielders at the Winter Meetings (Twitter link).

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

Dozens of players will agree to terms with their respective teams today and avoid arbitration. We'll have detailed posts on the top earners around MLB, and we'll track more modest agreements — those worth less than $4MM — right here. MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker will have all of the details.

Teams had until 12pm CDT today to exchange filing numbers with their arbitration eligible players. Generally speaking the deadline creates lots of discussion and leads to early deals. Plus, for ‘file and trial’ teams this marks the final chance for negotiations in advance of a hearing. Here are the latest agreements from around MLB…

  • The Padres announced that they have avoided arbitration with Edinson Volquez.  Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
  • The Red Sox announced that they avoided arbitration with Andrew Bailey ($4.1MM), Daniel Bard ($1.8625MM), Andrew Miller ($1.475MM), and Franklin Morales ($1.4875MM).  Terms courtesy of WEEI.com's Rob Bradford.
  • The Mets and Bobby Parnell avoided arb with a $1.7MM deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter).
  • The Red Sox avoided arbitration with Alfredo Aceves, agreeing to a deal worth $2.65MM plus incentives, according to O'Connell Sports Management, Aceves' agency (on Twitter via Jon Heyman).
  • The Cubs avoided arbitration with James Russell and Jeff Samardzija, Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com reports (on Twitter). Samardzija obtains $2.64MM while Russell gets $1.075MM, Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com reports (on Twitter).
  • The Diamondbacks announced that they avoided arbitration with Chris Johnson ($2.2875MM). The team also avoided arbitration with Brad Ziegler ($3.15MM), agreeing to a one-year deal, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reports (on Twitter).  Terms courtesy of Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (on Twitter).
  • The Nationals announced that they agreed to terms with Tyler Clippard, avoiding arbitration (via Amanda Comak on Twitter). The Nationals avoided arbitration with Ian Desmond, agreeing to a one-year, $3.8MM deal, Amanda Comak of the Washington Times reports (on Twitter). The Nationals also avoided arb with Roger Bernadina according to the outfielder's agent, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports (on Twitter). The Nationals and Ross Detwiler agreed to a one-year, $2.3375MM contract, according to CAA (via Twitter).
  • Brennan Boesch and Phil Coke avoided arbitration, agreeing to one-year deals with the Tigers, Jason Beck of MLB.com reports (on Twitter). Boesch will earn $2.3MM while Coke will earn $1.85MM. The Tigers also avoided arbitration with Alex Avila, agreeing to a one-year, $2.95MM deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (all Twitter links). Austin Jackson agreed to a deal worth $3.5MM for 2013, Heyman reports. Doug Fister obtained a one-year, $4MM deal from Detroit, Heyman reports.
  • The Dodgers and A.J. Ellis avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year, $2MM deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). Ronald Belisario agreed to a one-year, $1.45MM deal, MLB.com's Ken Gurnick reports (on Twitter).
  • The Mariners announced that they avoided arbitration with Kendrys Morales and Brendan Ryan on one-year agreements for 2013. Morales will obtain $5.25MM plus performance bonuses, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). Ryan obtained $3.25MM, Heyman reports (on Twitter).
  • The Rockies avoided arb with Tyler Colvin, agreeing to a one-year deal, the team announced (on Twitter). Colvin will earn $2.275MM, Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes (on Twitter).
  • The Braves avoided arbitration with Cristhian Martinez, agreeing to a one-year deal, MLB.com's Mark Bowman reports (on Twitter). The Braves avoided arb with Kris Medlen, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports (on Twitter). Medlen will earn $2.6MM in 2013. They also avoided arb with Jason Heyward, agreeing to a one-year, $3.65MM deal, Bowman reports (onTwitter). The Braves agreed with another young player, avoiding arb with Jonny Venters, O'Brien reports (on Twitter). It's a $1.625MM deal. Earlier today the Braves agreed to a one-year deal with Eric O'Flaherty, avoiding arbitration, Bowman reported (on Twitter). He'll earn $4.32MM plus awards bonuses, Bowman adds.
  • The Athletics announced they avoided arb with Jerry Blevins and Brandon Moss, agreeing to one-year deals for 2013.
  • The Cardinals avoided arb with Mitchell Boggs and Edward Mujica, B.J. Rains of FOX Sports MidWest reports (on Twitter).
  • The Indians announced that they avoided arb with Matt Albers and Justin Masterson. Albers will earn $1.75MM in 2013, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports (on Twitter). Masterson will earn $5.6875MM according to Bastian (on Twitter). The Indians and Joe Smith avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.15MM deal, Bastian reported earlier today (on Twitter). The Indians also avoided arbitration with Lou Marson, Bastian reports (Twitter links). The catcher will earn $1MM on a one-year deal in 2013.
  • The Astros avoided arb with Wesley Wright, agreeing to a one-year deal, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports (on Twitter).  Wright will earn $1.025MM, according to Heyman (on Twitter). Earlier today the Astros and Bud Norris avoided arb with a one-year, $3MM deal, McTaggart reports (on Twitter). The Astros and Jed Lowrie avoided arbitration with a one-year, $2.4MM deal with awards bonuses, according to his representatives at CAA Baseball (on Twitter).
  • The White Sox announced that they avoided arbitration with Alejandro De Aza, agreeing to a $2.075MM deal for 2013. The White Sox also avoided arb with Gordon Beckham, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $2.925MM for 2013, MLBTR has learned.
  • The Orioles announced that they avoided arb with Chris Davis and Brian Matusz (Twitter link). Matusz gets a base salary of $1.6MM while Davis gets $3.3MM, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports (Twitter links). The Orioles also avoided arbitration with Troy Patton. The sides agreed to a one-year, $815K deal, his agency, CAA Sports, announced on Twitter
  • The Brewers avoided arb with right-hander Marco Estrada and reliever Burke Badenhop, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (Twitter links). Estrada will earn $1.955MM while Badenhop will earn $1.55MM, Haudricourt reports.
  • The Rays avoided arbitration with Matthew Joyce and Ryan Roberts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports (on Twitter). Joyce will earn $2.45MM and Roberts will earn $2.95MM plus incentives, the Rays announced. The Rays also avoided arbitration with Sam Fuld, agreeing to a one-year, $725K deal, Topkin reported (on Twitter). Earlier today the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeff Niemann. The sides agreed to a one-year, $3MM deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter).
  • The Royals announced that they avoided arbitration with Luke Hochevar, agreeing to a one-year deal for 2013. Hochevar will earn $4.56MM plus performance bonuses, Pete Grathoff of the Kansas City Star reports (on Twitter).
  • The Yankees avoided arb with Boone Logan, agreeing to a one-year, $3.15MM deal (via CAA Sports on Twitter).
  • The Padres avoided arb with John Baker, agreeing to a $930K deal (via CAA Sports on Twitter).
  • The Twins and Brian Duensing avoided arb with a $1.3MM deal for 2013 (via CAA Sports on Twitter).
  • The Marlins avoided arbitration with Ryan Webb, agreeing to a $975K deal, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports (on Twitter).
  • The Blue Jays announced that they avoided arbitration with Emilio Bonifacio by agreeing to a one-year, $2.6MM deal. The Blue Jays also announced that they avoided arbitration with J.A. Happ, agreeing to a one-year, $3.7MM deal for 2013.
  • The Angels and Tommy Hanson avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.725MM deal, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. 
  • The Giants avoided arb with Gregor Blanco, agreeing to a one-year, $1.35MM deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter).
  • The Phillies announced that they avoided arbitration with Antonio Bastardo with a $1.4MM contract for 2013.
  • Gaby Sanchez and the Pirates have reached agreement on a one-year, $1.75MM deal plus bonuses to avoid arbitration, according to the Beverly Hills Sports Council (on Twitter).

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Quick Hits: Jon Daniels, Cole Hamels, Matt Kemp

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo has delivered three game-winning RBIs in his five games since being called up from Triple-A last week. Here's the latest news and headlines from around the big leagues…

  • The Rangers will take a business-as-usual approach to the upcoming trade deadline meaning Jon Daniels and his associates plan to consider the best players available, writes Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News. Daniels hopes his team will benefit from getting four pitchers back from the disabled list before the end of the month. "… I’m hoping we’re not big players at the deadline. Hopefully, we get our guys back, get healthy and stay healthy. That’s the biggest thing."
  • The Phillies will make at least one more attempt to sign Cole Hamels to a long-term contract before the team fully commits to dealing the left-hander, reports Buster Olney of ESPN.com (via Twitter). As mentioned earlier today, opposing clubs believe Philadelphia has an asking price of four to five prospects for Hamels, which makes a deal unlikely at this point. The 28-year-old was selected for his third All-Star team on Sunday after posting a 3.08 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 through 16 starts this season.
  • Dodgers star Matt Kemp remains confident in his team's ability to be successful on the field after Los Angeles' deal with the Astros for Carlos Lee fell through on Sunday, says Alex Angert of MLB.com. "It's always good to get people to make your team better," Kemp said. "I don't know exactly what people think we need. We did a great job with what we have here. If we get somebody, that's good. But if we don't, it keeps going on and we have to keep playing the way we have in the first half."
  • The Rays, depleted by a series of injuries, will determine how they approach the trade deadline based upon the health of Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. If Longoria and Joyce return from the disabled list shortly after the All-Star break, it would free up the Rays to bolster their weak spots at catcher and shortstop. More likely, Tampa Bay will pursue an offensive weapon that adds power to the lineup, such as Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano, who has 15 home runs since May 15.

Quick Hits: Kershaw, Moreno, Cespedes, Joyce

Here are a few items from around the Majors as we head into Sunday…

  • The first priority for the new Dodgers owner should be to sign Clayton Kershaw to a long-term extension, says ESPN's Buster Olney in a video blog.  Kershaw's recent two-year contract only covers his first two arbitration years, putting him on track for free agency (at age 26) after the 2014 season.  "The entire landscape of baseball would be all over Kershaw as a free agent," says Olney, who believes the Dodgers should offer Kershaw something akin to a five-year, $100-120MM deal to lock him up.
  • Arte Moreno expects the Angels to be "a highly competitive team" and discussed several other topics about the upcoming season with MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez.
  • As part of a piece about the risks of signing Yoenis Cespedes, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald explores how other heavily-hyped Cuban stars have been the victim of high expectations in the Major Leagues.
  • Rays outfielder Matt Joyce has changed agents and is now represented by the ACES firm, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.  Joyce, a possible extension candidate, will be arbitration-eligible for the first time next winter and is under team control through 2015.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera's arbitration-avoiding deal with the Indians prompted Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer to examine the possibility of signing Cabrera to a multiyear deal.  Last month, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes looked at what a Cabrera extension could cost the Tribe.
  • From that same piece, Hoynes says that the Indians' lack of guaranteed contracts past 2012 is probably not a sign that the Dolan family is "streamlining the franchise" as a prelude to a possible sale of the club.
  • Four of top seven prospects in the Athletics' system came via the Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez trades, writes MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.

Extension Candidate: Matt Joyce

Icon_7570143When it comes to signing young players to long-term contract extensions, no team has been as aggressive as the Rays in recent years. Left-hander Matt Moore became the latest to cash in when he signed a five-year, $14MM contract earlier this month despite having just 17 days of service time to his credit. Evan Longoria, James Shields, Ben Zobrist, and Wade Davis are also signed to similar contracts, and next in line could be outfielder Matt Joyce.

Joyce, 27, was acquired from the Tigers for Edwin Jackson three winters ago. The 2011 season was the first time he spent a full season in the Majors, and he rewarded the Rays by making the AL All-Star Team and hitting .277/.347/.478 with 19 homers and 13 steals. In 1,097 career plate appearances spread across 321 games (three games shy of two full seasons), Joyce is a .259/.345/.482 hitter with 64 doubles and 44 homers. The advanced metrics rate his corner outfield defense as a touch better than average.

Back in October, Tommy Rancel of ESPN Florida suggested that Zobrist's contract – four years, $18MM with two club options – could serve as a blueprint for a Joyce extension. Zobrist signed that deal one year before he was due to become arbitration-eligible, which is where Joyce is now. Zobrist was coming off an MVP caliber season (.297/.405/.543 with 27 homers) at the time though, and he offered much more defensive versatility. As a switch-hitter, he also didn't have the same platoon problem as Joyce, a left-handed bat with a .196/.280/.322 career line against southpaws. The blueprint could work, but the dollar figures will need some tweaking.

Unlike his teammates, Joyce could offer the club a true hometown discount since he grew up in the Tampa area. He also didn't receive a huge signing bonus as a 12th round pick in 2005, so getting some financial security at age 27 could be more appealing to him than most. The Rays love club options, so expect any deal with Joyce to contain a few of them, perhaps even as many as three. The Rays lost Carl Crawford to free agency last offseason and could lose B.J. Upton next offseason, but Joyce and fellow extension candidate Desmond Jennings form a solid outfield core going forward. One way or the other, Tampa controls the duo's contractual rights through 2015.

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.