- Andrew Cashner wasn’t the only Padre to draw interest from the Orioles, as the O’s also discussed James Shields and Matt Kemp in talks with San Diego. Shields has been the subject of some trade speculation this winter but there hasn’t been much solid buzz around the veteran following his somewhat disappointing 2015 campaign. Shields allowed a career-high 17.6% homer rate last year despite pitching home games at Petco Park, which certainly would be a concern for a team playing in hitter-friendly Camden Yards. Shields can opt out of his contract after 2016, and if he chooses to remain in his current deal, he’s owed $44MM in 2017-18 (counting the buyout of his 2019 club option). That opt-out and Shields’ age make him a trickier trade candidate than Cashner, despite Shields’ stronger career track record and history of success in the AL East.
- Kemp, meanwhile, was also an Orioles target last winter before the outfielder was dealt from the Dodgers to the Padres. Kemp would provide the O’s with a bat beyond their rumored targets of Dexter Fowler, Pedro Alvarez and Jay Bruce, and he might come at a discounted price since San Diego would obviously have to eat a healthy chunk of the $86MM owed to Kemp through the 2019 season (the Dodgers are also paying $14MM of that total). Kemp’s hitting has been inconsistent over the last three seasons, however, and Baltimore’s outfield defense would take a big hit with either Kemp or Mark Trumbo getting regular playing time. As Kubatko puts it, Kemp is “still not coming to Baltimore,” so it may be that the O’s have moved on.
- Several teams have asked Baltimore about Jonathan Schoop but the O’s aren’t listening to offers involving the young second baseman.
- Minor league southpaw Chris Lee is also getting attention in trade talks, and while Lee doesn’t seem as untouchable as Schoop, Kubatko says the Orioles “would like to hold onto” the left-hander. Lee was recently ranked as the seventh-best prospect in Baltimore’s system by Baseball America after a 2015 that saw him make his Double-A debut. The Orioles acquired Lee from Houston last May for two international bonus slots.
- The Orioles are planning to watch Tim Lincecum’s upcoming throwing session once the date is finalized. The O’s were linked to Lincecum earlier this month and they’ll likely be one of several teams interested in seeing if the former two-time NL Cy Young Award winner is looking healthy.
- Beyond Lincecum, “the Orioles are pretty much open to any bounceback candidate coming off an injury,” Kubatko writes. This search would include Cliff Lee, though the O’s don’t seem to feel that the veteran southpaw wants to pitch in 2016.
There’s plenty of trade chatter as camp approaches, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes in a column today. That’s already been made evident by the notable deal struck earlier this evening. As always, a full read is recommended, but here are some of the highlights of the post:
- The Orioles would prefer to add Dexter Fowler after signing Yovani Gallardo — assuming they can get that deal done — says Rosenthal. But if that doesn’t work out for some reason, Baltimore’s backup plan would be to pursue a deal for Jay Bruce. The Reds appear to have realistic expectations with the veteran, who hasn’t been consistently productive in recent years and is owed $12.5MM this year (with a $13MM option for another season). Indeed, getting something done would likely require rather modest expectations. Though Bruce has shown quite a bit of talent over the years, and is still shy of thirty years of age, his track record over the past two seasons (.222/.288/.406) isn’t inspiring.
- The White Sox could be a threat on Fowler or other free agent outfielders, per the report. Chicago seems to have more interest in adding there than in pursuing Ian Desmond, as the team likes its internal options at shortstop. The South Siders are pushing on multiple fronts and might well also line up a deal for Avisail Garcia if they make a significant addition. The willingness to be flexible and seek creative avenues to value could certainly serve the Sox well as the winter wraps up; the team already seems to have done well in securing Mat Latos at just $3MM.
- Chicago’s interest in Andre Ethier has been overstated, says Rosenthal, but the Dodgers have indeed explored trade scenarios. It’s a complicated decision, as he notes, since Ethier has been plenty useful. Then there’s the fact that his contract status comes with some intricacies. Ethier is set to reach ten-and-five rights early in the year, and his vesting clause poses a bit of a barrier for possible suitors. From my perspective, it remains somewhat difficult to see another organization being willing to take on enough salary (and/or give back enough value) to make a deal work out. There’s $38MM still to go over two years, plus the threat of a reasonably attainable vesting clause, and that’s quite a bit for a player who will soon turn 34 and would come with expectations of being a solid regular rather than a difference maker.
- While the Padres are still looking around for deals, discussing players like Matt Kemp and Derek Norris, near-term deals for those prominent names appear unlikely. Likewise, the Athletics have had talks involving Billy Butler, and may even have had one opportunity to deal the struggling DH. Butler is more expendable than ever with Khris Davis now in the fold, though that addition hardly makes a trade inevitable given how much Butler is owed. Oakland will presumably hope he can rebuild value by carrying momentum from a solid finish to an otherwise rough 2015.
The Padres have been shopping Matt Kemp and asking about shortstops, sources from rival teams tell Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune (Twitter link). The Padres “may be reluctant to eat a lot of money” in such a deal, which could make things tricky given Kemp’s poor 2015 season and the $72MM owed to him through 2019. It isn’t clear if San Diego would be willing to attach highly sought-after righty Tyson Ross to Kemp, which FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal speculated about last month as a way to entice a club into taking Kemp off the Padres’ hands. Here’s some more from around the NL West…
- The Diamondbacks’ surprising signing of Zack Greinke was conceived and concluded in under 12 hours, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale writes. GM Dave Stewart tells Nightengale that the club had only discussing Greinke “in passing” before owner Ken Kendrick and president Derrick Hall gave Stewart the go-ahead on Friday morning.
- With so much committed to Greinke, however, the Diamondbacks are already pushing the limits of their payroll, a source tells Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The team is thus looking at trades to further bolster its pitching, rather than free agent signings. As such, Piecoro reports in a tweet that D’Backs people aren’t too optimistic about their chances of signing Mike Leake.
- One rival executive thinks the Diamondbacks will be busy at the Winter Meetings, telling Piecoro that “If they’re going to sign Greinke, I would expect them to try to go get more.”
- The Dodgers are expected to meet with Yovani Gallardo’s agents during the Winter Meetings, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets, and the free agent righty could be a plan-B option for L.A. after missing out on other pitching targets. The Dodgers are on the verge of landing one new arm, as they’re close to an agreement with Hisashi Iwakuma.
- The Rockies are “open-minded” about trading outfielders like Carlos Gonzalez or Charlie Blackmon, sources tell FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link).
With the Diamondbacks striving to address the weakness in their rotation, the Padres competition has grown even more challenging, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The team wants to walk the fine line between contending and rebuilding by collecting a high volume of prospects for their current trade chips. Rosenthal calls it the “Kimbrel Model.” With the high cost of free agent pitching, the club’s rotation depth should become more attractive to other organizations.
- The Diamondbacks’ signing of Zack Greinke doesn’t change the Padres’ plans, tweets Rosenthal. The club will still aim to contend while reducing payroll and adding prospects. From my perspective, I see that some fans may prefer for the club to enter a full rebuilding mode while others prefer instant gratification. In the case of the Padres, the tightrope approach could make sense. The club has just enough talent to maybe get lucky, yet they’ll probably still collect early draft picks. I find their situation reminiscent of the 2015 Braves. They contended for the first half of the season before selling.
- Tyson Ross is the team’s best trade asset, but the club could also opt to extend him, suggests Rosenthal (tweet). Ross is under club control through the 2017 season. The righty is widely regarded as possessing perhaps the best slider in baseball, but his fastballs grade out as below average per PITCHf/x. He has a career 3.57 ERA with 8.49 K/9, and 3.65 BB/9. His slider-heavy repertoire means he probably won’t improve upon his walk rate, but he has posted more strikeouts and a better ERA in recent seasons.
- Per ESPN’s Jayson Stark, it would be hard for the Padres to trade Ross and pretend to contend. That could lead San Diego to prefer a trade involving Andrew Cashner, says CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman (via Twitter). The Padres will look to deal Cashner once the free agent market dries up. The hard throwing righty is coming off a disappointing season that included a 4.34 ERA with 8.04 K/9 and 3.22 BB/9. He’s posted better walk rates in past seasons, so a rebound in his control could help the 29-year-old recover his past form.
- Ten teams have shown interest in free agent third baseman Will Middlebrooks, tweets Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. The Padres non-tendered Middlebrooks earlier this week. San Diego originally acquired the former Red Sox starter last winter in exchange for Ryan Hanigan. After a promising rookie season in 2012, Middlebrooks has failed to live up to expectations. He posted a meager .212/.241/.361 line in 270 plate appearances last season.
- The Padres future flexibility depends upon which contracts they shed, tweets Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The club owes about $64.5MM to eight players with four arbitration eligible players set to earn about $21MM more. Matt Kemp, Melvin Upton, James Shields, and Ross are their priciest talents.
- Lin also has the details of the split-contracts signed by Josmil Pinto and Cesar Vargas (tweet). Both will earn just north of the league minimum in the majors ($500K) with at least a six figure guarantee if optioned to the minors.
This afternoon, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports released a news-filled column with rumblings from around the league. The whole article is worth a read, but here’s a look at some of the highlights:
- The Braves are shopping first baseman Freddie Freeman, according to officials from three different clubs that have spoken with Rosenthal. One of Rosenthal’s sources added that the possibility of Freeman getting traded was “the talk of the [Arizona] Fall League” among scouts earlier this month. Freeman’s salary is set to rise from $12MM in 2016 to $20.5MM in ’17 and the Braves might not want to pay out those salaries as they look to rebuild. After trading shortstop Andrelton Simmons, it’s clear that the Braves are not too fearful of the fan backlash that comes from trading star players.
- Another official asserts that the Braves are “shopping everyone owed money.” That could mean that the likes of right-hander Julio Teheran, right fielder Nick Markakis, and center fielder Cameron Maybin are for sale. Earlier today, we learned that some folks within the Orioles organization would be open to a reunion with Markakis. After a down year, Teheran’s value isn’t as high as that of Simmons, but Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com recently wrote that there’s a “good chance” that he would be made available.
- Sources tell Rosenthal that the Braves “are talking to a number of…non-compensation free agents, including some veteran relievers.” Ultimately, Rosenthal writes, it’s hard to tell what the Braves’ goal is in 2016. In the end, the gameplan might be to sell off Freeman and Teheran, land even more prospects, and land a top choice in the 2017 draft.
- The Padres are shopping right-hander Tyson Ross and outfielder Matt Kemp, major league sources tell Rosenthal. Kemp is owed $86MM over the next four years and Rosenthal wonders aloud if the two players could be packaged together in order to facilitate a deal. Ross, 29 in April, is under club control for two more seasons. In 2015, he pitched to a 3.26 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 across 33 starts. Kemp, meanwhile, posted a .265/.312/.443 slash line that was below his career average with 23 homers in 2015 while playing poor defensively.
- Sources say that the Cubs will “at least explore” the trade interest they are getting in right fielder Jorge Soler and infielder Javier Baez, Rosenthal writes. Meanwhile, the Cubs do not intend to move third baseman Kris Bryant, shortstop Addison Russell or left fielder Kyle Schwarber. If the Cubs were to move Soler or Baez, they would likely seek their pitching equivalent, meaning a player with similar service time and talent that’s roughly the same age.
- The Rays are getting bites on relievers Jake McGee and Brad Boxberger, particularly after the Craig Kimbrel deal, according to sources. Furthermore, teams are also zeroing in on Rays starters.
Now that the non-waiver trade deadline has passed, it becomes much more difficult for teams to move players. Those looking for a crash course can check out MLBTR’s August trade primer, but the quick version is that each team will place a significant amount of players on revocable trade waivers this month. If a player is claimed, his team can either force the claiming team to take the entirety of his contract, work out a trade with the claiming team (they have 48.5 hours to do so) or pull the player back off waivers. Players that clear waivers can be traded to any team. If a player is put through waivers a second time, his team loses the ability to revoke the waivers.
Bear in mind that teams will often place players they have no intention of trading on revocable trade waivers. There’s no harm in the process, it can help to mask the players they do want to trade, and it allows them a chance to gauge interest and be overwhelmed by an unexpected offer. (Again, for further detail, check out MLBTR’s full post on the process.)
All that said, the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo has provided our first batch of players that have been placed on revocable waivers. It’s not clear when each of these names was placed on waivers, so some may have already cleared or been pulled back…
- The Red Sox have placed Mike Napoli, Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley Jr., Brock Holt, Hanley Ramirez, Craig Breslow and Justin Masterson on waivers. Of that group, I’d imagine that Napoli (earning $16MM in 2015), Castillo (owed $56.5MM from 2016-20), Ramirez ($66MM from 2016-18) and Masterson (earning $9.5MM in 2015) would each clear just based on salary alone. The remaining portion of Breslow’s $2MM salary isn’t exactly prohibitive, but he’s posted a 4.25 ERA this year with unsightly peripheral stats that have led stats like FIP and xFIP to suggest that his ERA should be north of 5.00. Lefties are hitting .271/.354/.456 against Breslow in 2015.
- Holt and Bradley, on the other hand, would probably be interest to a large number of teams. The versatile Holt can play all over the diamond and is hitting .277/.351/.380 on the season with an increased walk rate and positive value contributed both defensively and on the basepaths. He’s controllable through 2019, and the Sox almost certainly aren’t interested in moving him, though a claiming team will have the opportunity to offer something substantial. Bradley’s stock has fallen quite a bit from his days as a Top 100 prospect, but he’s an elite glove in center field that is still just 25 years old and can be controlled through 2020. Certainly, there are teams that would have interest in trying to sort out his offensive struggles. (He’s batted just .188/.264/.269 in 589 Major League plate appearances.)
- Cafardo also reports that both James Shields and Matt Kemp have been placed on waivers by the Padres. Kemp has struggled in the field and produced a roughly league-average batting line (park-adjusted) at the plate, so teams aren’t likely to place a claim on his remaining salary.
- Shields has $65MM coming his way after 2015 due to the backloaded nature of his contract, and he can opt out after the 2016 season. It’d be a risk for any club to claim him on the heels of reports that the Padres were shopping him somewhat aggressively in July. The Padres’ thinking could be that they know his market at this time and are confident that he’s less likely to be claimed in early August, so getting him through waivers early will allow them to spend the month further exploring trades. Shields has been uncharacteristically homer-prone this season, but the workhorse has made 23 starts and turned in a 3.74 ERA with a much-improved strikeout rate. He’s posted a 2.57 ERA with just five homers over his past 42 innings as well.
This week’s complicated three-way trade looks like a great move for the Dodgers, a mixed bag for the Braves, and another deal for the Marlins which appears to be financially motivated, Keith Law of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req’d) writes. The Dodgers badly needed another starter given the injuries in their rotation and lack of organizational depth and Law believes that Mat Latos is probably worth two extra wins to L.A. the rest of the way. Here’s more out of L.A.
- The Dodgers are paying $85.75MM for eight players no longer with the organization, writes Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Hector Olivera’s $28MM signing bonus is the biggest expenditure on the list. Matt Kemp ($18MM) and Dan Haren ($10MM) round out of the eight figure commitments.
- In a second piece, Shaikin wonders whether the Dodgers even have a financial limit. GM Farhan Zaidi says yes, then goes on to elaborate that “nobody has ever mentioned a number to us.” The Dodgers are projected to pay a record $43MM in luxury taxes this season. It’s possible that number could increase in August. Zaidi did allude to a time when the Dodgers will field a more typical payroll with the help of cost controlled talent.
- Also from Shaikin, the Dodgers are currently paying for 25 percent of the Marlins payroll. The players’ union has taken fresh notice of Miami’s penchant to deal talent for financial relief.
- The Dodgers looked into White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija “some time ago,” tweets Shaikin. Talks did not progress. After a brutal start to the season, the Pale Hose are just two games below .500 and 3.5 games behind the second Wild Card. Undoubtedly, the surging roster affected their willingness to sell Samardzija.
The dark side of Venezuelan baseball players reaping the riches of their profession is their family members, who decline to move permanently to the United States and remain in Venezuela, become targets of kidnappers. Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News chronicles the kidnapping attempt made on the brother of Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus last year. Fortunately, Andrus provided his brother’s family with armed bodyguards and they thwarted the attempt after being fired upon and struck in their bulletproof vests. “This happens with everybody who has family there,” said Andrus. “It’s easy for them to kidnap people and ask for money. And everybody knows how much money the players make. They can Google it. It’s just not safe. You have to take steps. It was pretty shocking, for sure.”
In other news and notes from baseball’s West divisions:
- The Diamondbacks will not alleviate their outfield surplus by trading Mark Trumbo, reports CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. “We are not moving Trumbo,” GM Dave Stewart said. “Trumbo is a proven bat. Tough to move him for an unknown.” Stewart went even further with the New York Post’s Joel Sherman (Twitter link) telling the scribe he will not trade any of his outfielders because he values the depth.
- The Rockies are to be commended for releasing Jhoulys Chacin because a team must change direction if a player isn’t performing and the right-hander wasn’t, tweets Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.
- The Angels enter 2015 with the most financial flexibility they have had in four years, but will wait until mid-season to decide if or how to spend that payroll, according to MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. The Angels’ most likely area of need is second base with Gonzalez naming the Phillies’ Chase Utley, the Reds’ Brandon Phillips, the Diamondbacks’ Aaron Hill, and the Mets’ Daniel Murphy as possible targets.
- The Dodgers’ pitching depth is sorely being tested in the wake of the team shutting down Hyun-jin Ryu with shoulder inflammation, notes MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick.
- Andre Ethier tells Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com he isn’t monitoring trade rumors online or with his agent and he isn’t counting the number of scouts in attendance at the Dodgers’ Spring Training games. Ethier has said he is open to a trade and the club is reportedly willing to eat as much as half of the $56MM remaining on the outfielder’s contract to facilitate a swap, but have yet to find any takers.
- Carlos Quentin asked to see some reps at first base in an attempt to earn more at-bats with the Padres, which could also make him more attractive to other teams, writes MLB.com’s Corey Brock.
- Peter Gammons of DailyGammons.com opines some have been cynical of San Diego’s offseason overhaul, but a healthy and productive Matt Kemp can become the poster person of this new age for the Padres.
The Padres are baseball’s most improved team, opines Jim Duquette of MLB.com. The additions of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and Derek Norris should revive an offense that has slumbered for years. GM A.J. Preller managed to overhaul the offense without dipping into his starting pitching depth nor by trading the team’s best prospects. For what it’s worth, I’m more impressed by the efforts of the Cubs, who Duquette lists as the fifth most improved club.
- Dodgers starter Zack Greinke has not decided if he will opt out of his contract following the 2015 season, writes Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. The 31-year-old signed a six-year, $147MM contract prior to the 2013 season, but he can opt out following next season. He’s averaged a 2.67 ERA over the last two seasons, which could set him up for another big, multi-year contract in free agency. In the past, we’ve seen CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez leverage opt outs with the Yankees to gain more guaranteed dollars and years. Greinke may take the same approach with the Dodgers. Per his comments, he seems comfortable in Los Angeles.
- Greinke doesn’t believe the Dodgers improved via “addition by subtraction” this offseason. Outgoing players like Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon, and Brian Wilson weren’t distractions in the clubhouse per Greinke. President Andrew Friedman has admitted the club might lose a little on offense, but the goal is to replace the runs scored with better defense and depth.
- Reliever Chris Withrow may be a long shot to help the Dodgers this season, reports Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles (via Twitter). The righty has pitched well in parts of two seasons with Los Angeles, with a 2.73 ERA, 11.41 K/9, and 4.98 BB/9 in 56 innings. He’s currently recovering from Tommy John and back surgeries. The back issue has slowed the timetable for his Tommy John rehab.
The Dodgers’ $32MM payment to the Padres in the Matt Kemp deal will include $18MM spread over 2015, the Associated Press reports (via the Boston Herald). After getting most of its salary relief up front, San Diego will receive $3.5MM annually for the rest of the deal. As Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune explains, that means that the Padres currently project to open the year with less than $90MM on the books. That could mean the team has more capacity to add, and indeed chairman Ron Fowler has indicated that there are more moves in the works while not committing to a payroll target.
Here’s more from the National League:
- MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby takes a look at the Rockies’ inaction to this point. “I am constantly reminding myself and other people are reminding me that when we had health last year, we had a good team,” said GM Jeff Bridich. “It is not our intention from the get-go to give the roster a radical facelift. We are going to stick to our plan.” Injuries, of course, are not the only reason that the club was unable to stay in contention into the summer last year. But Colorado certainly has more talent than its record last year would indicate, and holding pat is an intriguingly bold strategy in its own right.
- Another team that has been quiet in terms of addition is the Reds, though of course Cincinnati was proactive in dealing away two starters. MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon breaks down the remaining options for the club in left field, noting that Nori Aoki is still available and positing that the Padres could be a good match for a trade.
- Reds ace Johnny Cueto will give the team until the start of the season to discuss an extension, agent Bryce Dixon tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Dixon also told Heyman that he views Jon Lester and, especially, Max Scherzer as viable comps for what Cueto will be able to land in free agency. The 28-year-old certainly has posted true-ace numbers, when healthy, dating back to 2011, though ERA estimators are not quite as enamored with his work. The Reds started a conversation with Cueto’s camp at the Winter Meetings, but have expressed a lack of confidence in getting something done.
- Alan Nero, the agent for Korean infielder Jung-ho Kang, said yesterday that his client is excited that the Pirates won the rights to negotiate with him — even if the club does not have a direct route to a starting shortstop job. (Via Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, in a series of tweets.) Of course, Kang has little choice in the matter, since the high bidder gets exclusive bargaining. While he may have hoped that a team would add him with intentions of installing him directly into its regular lineup, Kang will certainly have at least some chance to unseat Jordy Mercer and should have other avenues to playing time for an adaptable Pittsburgh organization.