Mike Napoli Rumors

Stark’s Latest: Giants, Hamels, Price, Orioles, Gallardo, Alvarez

The latest deadline rumblings from Jayson Stark of ESPN.com

  • The Giants are still searching for starting pitching, but they’re only looking at top-of-the-rotation arms to pair with Madison Bumgarner in a playoff rotation, Stark hears. San Francisco has checked in on both David Price and Cole Hamels, but they’re not considered a favorite to land Hamels from the Phillies, and there’s still no definitive sense that Price has been made available by the Tigers. Yesterday, Stark reported that the Dodgers and Rangers were emerging as the favorites in the Hamels market.
  • The Orioles are speaking with other clubs to get a feel for what kind of return they could get if they market Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, Wei-Yin Chen, Tommy Hunter and Bud Norris, Stark hears. However, rival clubs feel the O’s will only sell if they slide to six or more games back in the Wild Card race — and they’re 3.5 games out with four to play before the deadline at this time. If they make up a bit of ground, they could add a bat, but Stark says it’d likely be a bench piece as opposed to a bigger name. Baltimore GM Dan Duquette said last week he would be a buyer regardless of the team’s play, though others have suggested that the Orioles could still end up selling if they struggle enough.
  • Adding help that can be controlled beyond 2015 is the priority for the Rangers, which is why they’re targeting Hamels, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner while also listening to offers on Yovani Gallardo. However, according to Stark, those moves aren’t linked, and Texas could acquire a rotation piece for 2016 but also hang onto Gallardo. Personally, I think Gallardo’s pitched well enough to warrant a qualifying offer. A draft pick and improved odds of making a late run (especially if they do add another rotation arm) present enough value that the Rangers shouldn’t feel obligated to simply take the best offer for Gallardo if the proposed packages aren’t all that impressive.
  • The Pirates are now likely to hang onto Pedro Alvarez after shopping him without success for several weeks. They’ve asked the Brewers, White Sox and Rays about Adam Lind, Adam LaRoche and James Loney, respectively, but with Alvarez in the fold, they’re not likely to make a move at first. Stark adds that multiple sources downplayed the recent reports connecting Pittsburgh to the Red SoxMike Napoli.

Pirates Interested In Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino

The Pirates have considered acquiring Mike Napoli and/or Shane Victorino, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (on Twitter). Napoli hasn’t been successful at the plate lately but he has been decent defensively, Biertempfel notes.

The Bucs’ interest in Napoli might be a brand new development.  Late last week, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that the Red Sox weren’t getting any interest in the struggling first baseman.  Napoli has hit just .205/.301/.372 in 335 plate appearances this season, well off the .818 OPS mark he carried through his first two seasons in Boston. If he can rebound, though, he might help the Pirates against lefties while also easing their dependence on Pedro Alvarez, who has struggled defensively in his first season at first base.

Victorino has been injured for much of the past two seasons and has more than $5MM remaining on his 2015 salary.  For his part, the 34-year-old says that he hopes to stay in Boston through the end of his contract. The right-handed Victorino would complement Gregory Polanco in right field, although Polanco has played better lately. Victorino could also potentially help the Pirates’ bench, although he hasn’t hit well in either of the last two seasons and has struggled since returning from a calf injury earlier this month. He’s making $13MM this season, after which he’ll be a free agent.


Heyman On Padres, Tigers, Cubs, Phillies, Orioles, Sox, Reds, Marlins, Yankees

The real question facing the Padres at present is not whether to buy or sell, but how far to go in moving pieces, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. At least one rival GM expects the club to “sell big,” and Heyman says that San Diego is “offering around” closer Craig Kimbrel and starter James Shields, both of whom are under long-term control. While the former would figure to have a wide market, potentially including the Blue Jays, Nationals, and Dodgers, another GM says that he believes the club would have to chip in cash to move Shields. That may indicate that he could become an August trade piece, Heyman suggests, because he could well clear waivers. San Diego is interested in adding a young shortstop, he goes on to note, and has looked at several of the Brewers options (Jean Segura, Luis Sardinas, and top prospect Orlando Arcia).

Here are more highlights from the column:

  • Heyman hears that the Tigers are still weighing their options, too, and have not decided to sell. The club could even add an arm, he says, and is likely to see how its next two series play out before reaching a final conclusion.
  • While the Cubs are indeed willing to consider including Starlin Castro or Javier Baez in a deal for Cole Hamels of the Phillies, a source tells Heyman that the team would not be interested in moving both to add the lefty. Philadelphia’s plans for Hamels remain something of a mystery, but per the report the club may be backing down from its previous high-end demands from clubs like the Dodgers (Corey Seager or Julio Urias) and Red Sox (Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart).
  • There is now virtually no chance that Phillies lefty Cliff Lee will try to make it back this year, and he appears likely to retire over the winter.
  • As they approach the deadline and look ahead to free agency, the Cubs have some limitations on their spending capacity but will nevertheless try to add David Price (at least once he hits the open market). Meanwhile, the team has at least some interest in Reds starter Mike Leake as a trade piece but are somewhat hesitant to pursue rental options. While the Giants have plenty of rotation options, they too have considered Leake.
  • While we’ve just heard a suggestion that the Orioles could reverse course, Heyman says that they are still weighing outfield additions. The team has considered rental pieces like Marlon Byrd, Gerardo Parra, and Justin Upton. And he suggests that Carl Crawford or Shane Victorino could make sense as well; presumably, Baltimore would only be interested in either if their current clubs paid down a good bit of salary.
  • The Orioles intend to make qualifying offers after the season not only to Matt Wieters and Chris Davis, but also to lefty Wei-Yin Chen. The 30-year-old never seemed like a qualifying offer-level player, but was strong last year and has put up even better results in 2015 (while significantly outperforming his peripherals, it should be noted).
  • The Red Sox have received no trade interest in struggling first baseman Mike Napoli, says Heyman, but has gotten hits on Victorino as well as bullpen arms Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa.
  • The White Sox are looking to add some volume if they deal righty Jeff Samardzija, says Heyman. Chicago would like to pick up four young pieces in any trade.
  • While the Marlins have fielded interest in righty Tom Koehler and super utilityman Martin Prado, the club is not interested in dealing either player at present. Meanwhile, Miami is open to dealing veteran Dan Haren, but has rebuffed at least one club that asked for money to be sent along with him.
  • The Yankees are looking at both second base and top rotation candidates, says Heyman, but don’t feel a pressing need to add in either area. New York has no interest in veteran Diamondbacks infielder Aaron Hill, he adds.
  • Be sure to check out the rest of the piece for more notes on many of the teams around the league.


AL East Notes: Rays, Smyly, Cueto, Jays, Napoli

Rays GM Matthew Silverman says that he remains confident in his club despite its recent slide, and indicated that he does not see the need for significant deadline additions, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports“If we’re a healthy team there isn’t a glaring need for us at the deadline,” said Silverman.

  • The Rays expect to welcome back both outfielder Desmond Jennings and lefty Drew Smyly in August, Silverman added. While the former has been expected to return this year, it was not at all clear that Smyly would do so. Per a Topkin tweet, there is some chance that the labrum tear identified in Smyly’s pitching shoulder is an old injury, and the team is reasonably optimistic of getting him back in 2015.
  • Among the teams watching Johnny Cueto throw yesterday were three AL East clubs — the YankeesOrioles, and Blue Jays — per a tweet from Joel Sherman of the New York Post. All three line up as possible acquirers of pitchers, of course, so it’s not at all surprising to hear that they would be interested in taking a look at the prized righty (as, no doubt, are plenty of other teams). Who’ll land Cueto remains a hot topic; be sure to check out MLBTR’s Instagram post on just that topic.
  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos continues to publicly address his teams’ needs with some regularity, this time in an appearance on Sportsnet 590 The Fan (via Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca; Twitter links). Anthopoulos certainly did not leave the impression that he is plotting a run at Cueto, saying that the market for pure rental players is “the last aisle that I’d want to shop in.” Rather than going after a single player, it seems, Toronto is exploring a number of possible options. “Anybody that’s going to be out there in trades, we’re going to have interest in,” he said.
  • Mike Napoli increasingly looks like an odd man out with the Red Sox, but it’s far too soon to tell where things are headed. Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes that the first baseman has already lost time with the team playing David Ortiz and rookie Travis Shaw at first, while colleague Brian MacPherson explains the appeal of utilizing Ortiz at first in order to slot Hanley Ramirez as the DH. Manager John Farrell says that he is “not turning from” Napoli, as WEEI.com’s Justin Pallenik reports. And Ortiz himself hardly seems interested in anything more than spot duty in the infield, as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. While it remains at least theoretically possible that Boston could look to move Napoli, his $16MM annual salary and lack of an obvious replacement make that a complicated proposition.

Heyman’s Latest: Phillies, C. Johnson, Sellers, Harang, Rays

In his weekly Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports begins by taking a look at a messy situation in Philadelphia. Heyman hears the same rumblings that were first reported by CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury — that Andy MacPhail could very well be in line for an executive role with the Phillies. The hiring of MacPhail would bring into question the status of both GM Ruben Amaro and manager Ryne Sandberg. While one exec notes that no one could have had much success with the hand Sandberg has been dealt, his calm demeanor hasn’t motivated the team much, and he may have lost the clubhouse at this point. Heyman notes that partial owner John Middleton, who is believed by some to be calling the shots in Philly, may have extra impetus to get a new decision-maker in the door so that a lame-duck GM (Amaro’s contract expires at season’s end) isn’t the primary decision-maker on what could be a franchise-altering Cole Hamels trade. Speaking of Hamels, Heyman notes that interested teams will want to see him pitch at least twice now that he had a start pushed back due to a hamstring strain, thinning the window of opportunity to trade him. As far as Jonathan Papelbon goes, the belief is that he’d approve any trade that sent him to a contending team, though the Cubs might be his preferred fit at this point if he had a say in the matter.

Some more highlights from Heyman’s latest (though there’s more in the column than we can cover here)…

  • The Braves have tried to trade Chris Johnson and even offered to substantially pay down the remaining money on his contract, but there’s been little interest. The Johnson deal was widely questioned from the start, and there’s still about $21MM owed to Johnson through the end of the 2017 season. Johnson’s a viable weapon against lefties, but he’s a sub-par hitter against right-handed pitchers and is not well-regarded from a defensive standpoint.
  • Rival teams are beginning to wonder if the Red Sox might sell some pieces this summer, with Mike Napoli, Clay Buchholz and Koji Uehara among the possible names listed by Heyman. Napoli isn’t hitting for average but has shown good power and a nice walk rate. Buchholz has improved after a rocky start and Uehara again has strong numbers in the ‘pen.
  • The White Sox are beginning to think about selling, Heyman hears, but they’re not quite ready to move their bigger pieces. Emilio Bonifacio might be the first name they make available, but eventually, Jeff Samardzija‘s name could be out there. Heyman writes that while Samardzija isn’t pitching well in 2015, his big arm is so tantalizing to scouts that there will still be interest in him.
  • The Reds aren’t expected to sell until after the All-Star Game and would be very open to shedding Brandon Phillips‘ contract, per Heyman, though I have a difficult time envisioning too many teams lining up to take on the remainder of that deal. Phillips is owed about $34.1MM through the end of the 2017 season and has seen his power more or less vanish. Heyman speculates that Everth Cabrera could be a fit in Cincinnati with Zack Cozart out for the year, and there’s some logic to that scenario, though they may first prefer to see what they have in Eugenio Suarez. The Mets aren’t interested in Cabrera, he adds later.
  • The Marlins aren’t selling yet, according to GM-turned-manager Dan Jennings. “We’re in it, we’re not jumping off the ship. No doubt about that,” Jennings told Heyman. If their attitude changes, Heyman thinks they’ll find interest in Martin Prado and Mike Dunn.
  • The Astros like Aaron Harang but are said to be aiming higher when looking at potential trade targets to bolster their rotation.
  • The Dodgers are on the hunt for a top-tier starting pitcher and a late-inning arm to help bridge the gap to Kenley Jansen. In other Dodgers-related news, Heyman hears that No. 35 pick Kyle Funkhouser is strongly considering returning to Louisville. Funkhouser was once looked at as a potential Top 10 pick, but he fell to a slot with a $1.756MM value. He’d have less leverage in 2016 as a senior sign, of course, but he could certainly improve his draft stock and his bonus with a big senior year.
  • Yankees chief international officer/executive vice president Felix Lopez is no longer listed on the team’s web site and some indicate that he’s been gone from the organization for three months, Heyman writes. Lopez was said to have angered Yoan Moncada‘s camp after calling to express displeasure with their decision to sign in Boston over New York. The team hasn’t made a statement on his departure.
  • The Rays are looking for first base help with James Loney on the disabled list, but Loney’s said to be returning around the All-Star break. Heyman speculates on the possibility of Ryan Howard ending up in Tampa Bay if the Phillies eat some or all of the contract, but I’d think there’d be something of a logjam there once Loney is activated in that scenario.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Mike Napoli

Outside of Chris Davis of the Orioles, Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli will likely be the most highly sought-after player at the position on next year’s free agent market. But a slow start at the plate has him looking to regain value the rest of the way.

Jun 2, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox first baseman Mike  Napoli (12) reacts after hitting a double during the second inning against the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Napoli has hit just .213/.315/.404 in his first 216 plate appearances, well off the .818 OPS mark he carried through his first two seasons in Boston. On the positive side, he has contributed nine home runs and continues to put up typical K:BB numbers (24.5% strikeout rate versus 13.0% walk rate).

Looking behind the slash numbers, there is some cause for concern. Though Napoli carries a .246 BABIP that falls well below his lifetime .308 mark, Fangraphs also credits him with declining hard contact rates and a career-worst 21.5% rate of soft contact. And his line-drive percentage is down to 13.3%, a significant drop from his typical numbers.

While it may be too soon to put much stock in defensive metrics, Napoli has profiled more as a sturdy first baseman than the above-average performer he rated as over the last two seasons. UZR pegs the issue as a decline in his range.

Rob Bradford of WEEI.com examines Napoli’s situation and market standing in an interesting piece today. Napoli himself says he still hopes to stay in Boston, and believes he is in a good place in spite of his dip in productivity. “I swear, until you just said this to me, I hadn’t even thought about it for a while,” he said. “I just feel like everything is going to take care of itself. I feel like I have a lot of good years left. This is the best I’ve felt in a long time health-wise. My sleeping has gotten better. We’ll see. I feel like I could play a long time now.”

Bradford explores the impact of a widening strike zone on Napoli, both in terms of results and his market. Napoli paces the league in the number of pitches seen per plate appearance over the past three years — just shy of 4.5 per — but Bradford says that teams may no longer place quite the premium on that skill that they have in the past.

Napoli himself acknowledged the issue, saying: “if the strike zone is getting bigger that hurts my style of play.” He tells Bradford that he has noticed an impact. “It gets the point where it’s hard for me to think I can take a close pitch,” he said. “Instead I’m swinging at stuff.”

Indeed, the numbers do bear that out to some extent. As Sons of Sam Horn examines in detail, Napoli has seemingly been impacted by a larger zone. And that may be creating broader problems: while his chase rate is flat, and he has a career-high contact rate on pitches in the zone, Napoli’s contact rate on pitches outside the zone has fallen by about ten percentage points from his levels over the past several seasons.

Broader market trends do show some good news for the slugger, however. While he’ll be entering his age-34 season when he hits free agency this fall, only the younger (and, likely, much more costly) Davis presents much of a challenge in terms of first base talent. And there will be plenty of clubs that prefer Napoli’s veteran presence, presumably shorter commitment, and more stable offensive profile to that of Davis.

Napoli looks like a solid bet to remain a viable first baseman, meaning that he won’t be restricted to American League clubs. It’s far too early to play the match-up game, but teams like the Orioles, Rays, Marlins, Brewers, Cardinals, Twins, Padres, Angels, and Mariners all seem like plausible suitors. And a return to the Red Sox cannot be ruled out entirely, particularly given that Hanley Ramirez has rather emphatically rejected the concept of playing first base.

It goes without saying that Napoli’s performance the rest of the way will play an enormous role in determining his standing after the season. As things stand, he seems a borderline qualifying offer candidate, though of course the same up-tick in performance that would make a QO desirable would also increase his appeal. All said, in spite of his rough start, Napoli’s market value probably has not taken much of a hit at this point — particularly given his track record and the fact that Davis has yet to regain his 2013 form — though he has work ahead of him to show that he can still deliver well-above-average offensive production.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Rosenthal On Napoli, Dodgers, Rangers

Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a pair of videos from FOX Sports:

  • It’s “difficult to imagineJosh Hamilton will play for the Angels again given the team’s current dispute with him, Rosenthal says.
  • Mike Napoli of the Red Sox had an insurance policy that would have paid him a tax-free $10MM if he had failed to meet certain salary thresholds. Because he collected $8MM in incentives on his contract with the Red Sox in 2013, however, he did not need to file a claim.
  • With the addition of a Competitive Balance pick in their trade for Ryan Webb, the Dodgers now hold four of the first 74 picks of the draft in June, including one they got as compensation for losing Hanley Ramirez. The Dodgers will pick at No. 24, No. 35, No. 67 and No. 74.
  • The Rangers could be trade-deadline sellers, but they don’t have much to deal besides Yovani Gallardo, Rosenthal says. They don’t have enough middle-infield depth to trade Elvis Andrus unless they get another shortstop back.

Napoli “Would Love” To Finish Career In Boston

Mike Napoli is entering the final season of a two-year, $32MM contract with the Red Sox, but the first baseman tells Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald that his hope is to not only re-sign with Boston, but to remain with the Red Sox until he’s ready to retire. “I’d love to finish my career here,” says Napoli, who underwent surgery to correct a lifelong battle with sleep apnea this winter. “And with this surgery, I think it’s going to put a lot of years on my career, just being able to stay healthy, my body recouping. We’ve got a good team, and I like it so much here. It fits me well.”

As Lauber writes, Napoli and his gregarious personality have taken to the city and its community; he’s a frequent attendee of Bruins games, owns a place near the Beacon Hill neighborhood of the city and has celebrated both the 2013 World Series and Super Bowl XLIX victories with fans in public.

Napoli isn’t without some health concerns, as his original three-year, $39MM contract with the Sox was reduced to a one-year $5MM (plus $8MM worth of incentives — all of which he reached) after his physical revealed avascular necrosis (AVN) in each of his hips — a degenerative bone tissue disorder. However, that issue has done little to curb his production since joining the BoSox. Napoli has batted .254/.365/.453 with 40 homers over the past two seasons, and one would think that a portion of his power dip in 2014 could be attributable to a dislocated/sprained finger that sidelined him for two weeks in May. Napoli also dealt with a foot injury at season’s end, but the Sox are likely encouraged by the fact that his hips appear to be holding up just fine.

Should he reach the open market next year, Napoli would be in competition with a much younger Chris Davis and a slightly older Justin Morneau (presuming his $9MM mutual option is not exercised) as the primary options for teams in search of first base help.


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AL East Notes: Duquette, Napoli, Minaya, Long

Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe examines Dan Duquette’s unusual journey to becoming the Orioles‘ GM. A Boston-area native, Duquette realized his dream at 36 years of age when he was named GM of the Red Sox, but that came to an abrupt end in 2002 when he was dismissed by new owners, only to see the Sox — anchored by a number of players he drafted or acquired — win the World Series two years later. Duquette spent 10 years away from the game, coaching his kids’ teams, founding a league in Isarael and running a college summer team, Abraham notes. Duquette revealed to Abraham that he was offered multiple jobs that he turned down — including a position with the Braves and an adviser role with the Red Sox — because he believed he’d get another crack at a GM role. Duquette feels the time away has made him friendlier and put things into perspective; his cousin, Jim Duquette (an analyst for MLB Network), says there are distinct differences between how Dan was with the Red Sox and how he is with the O’s. He isn’t bothered as much by “little things” and is less guarded. “Baltimore isn’t Boston. It isn’t New York. That aspect has been good for him. He doesn’t take himself so seriously,” said Jim.

More from the AL East…

  • Mike Napoli has dealt with injuries to his finger, back and toe, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, but despite all of those issues he’ll be undergoing surgery for a different procedure on Nov. 4 . Napoli will undergo Bimaxillary Advancement surgery in an attempt to end a career-long battle with sleep apnea. “I’ve tried numerous things and none of them worked,” Napoli told Bradford via text. “Dental mouth piece, CPAP machine, medicines … It’s just gotten to the point where I have to get this done.”
  • The Yankees have had serious dialogue about hiring Padres senior VP of baseball operations and former Mets GM Omar Minaya, multiple sources tell Newsday’s Erik Boland. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets that the team would be interested in Minaya in a scouting or advisory role — not as a replacement for farm director Mark Newman. As Boland notes, GM Brian Cashman has brought former GMs into the fold before, hiring Kevin Towers as a special assignment scout in 2009 and hiring Jim Hendry to fill the same role since 2012.
  • Recently fired Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long is generating quite a bit of interest from other clubs, reports Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (Twitter links). To this point, Long has already spoken with the Mets, Braves and Blue Jays, including a meeting with Mets GM Sandy Alderson. The D’Backs, Brewers and Pirates are all possibilities as well, per Feinsand.

Red Sox Rumors: Bogaerts, Cespedes, Cherington

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington chatted with reporters just minutes ago and it’s no surprise to hear his admission that the club was not expecting Xander Bogaerts to struggle to this extent in 2014 (via Tim Britton of The Providence Journal on Twitter).    Still just 21, Bogaerts has slashed .226/.293/.339 in 472 plate appearances this season.  Earlier this week, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote that the struggles of Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. have left many around the game wondering how good each player truly is.    Here’s more out of Boston..