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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.
Full Story | 27 Comments | Categories: Aaron Harang | Andy MacPhail | Atlanta Braves | Boston Red Sox | Brandon Phillips | Chicago Cubs | Chicago White Sox | Chris Johnson | Cincinnati Reds | Clay Buchholz | Cole Hamels | Emilio Bonifacio | Everth Cabrera | Houston Astros | Jeff Samardzija | Jonathan Papelbon | Koji Uehara | Los Angeles Dodgers | Martin Prado | Miami Marlins | Mike Dunn | Mike Napoli | New York Yankees | Philadelphia Phillies | Ryan Howard | Ryne Sandberg | Tampa Bay Rays
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.
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.
- It’s “difficult to imagine” Josh 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.
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.
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 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..
- Peter Gammons (Twitter links) cautions not to read much into waiver trade bites on Bogaerts, Clay Buchholz, Brock Holt, Joe Kelly, Yoenis Cespedes, Christian Vazquez, Burke Badenhop, Mike Napoli, Will Middlebrooks, Daniel Nava, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara.
- Cherington said that he won’t be resistant to trade prospects this off-season, “for the right guy,” tweets Jason Mastrodonato of The Springfield Republican. He added that the club has never been opposed to dealing prospects, but such decisions are “contextual,” tweets Alex Speier of WEEI.com.
- The GM wouldn’t give much on the team’s interest in Rusney Castillo. “We are one of many teams interested. That’s all I’ll say,” the GM said, according to Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston.com (on Twitter).
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at some of the recently suggestions put forth by Red Sox chairman Tom Werner to help make the game more marketable to young people.
“Too many people are leaving games in the sixth and seventh innings because they can’t watch 3½-hour games, so they’re leaving the game at the point where the game should be getting exciting,” Werner said. “You wouldn’t make a 3½-hour movie. The NFL makes changes almost on an annual basis. They’re considering making the extra point from 35 yards rather than from the 8-yard line… I respect tradition, but I don’t revere it.”
Among Werner’s ideas: instituting a pitch clock, limiting the number of times a batter can step out of the box, and putting a cap on the number of catcher and pitching coach visits to the mound. More from today’s column..
- Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson could be on the hot seat and there has been a lot of speculation about Joe McEwing, a third base coach with the White Sox, or Mike Aldrete, the bench coach for the Cardinals. If Gibson is canned it would mark Tony La Russa‘s first big decision but GM Kevin Towers would also likely to have a say.
- In a chat with Cafardo, David Ross spoke glowingly of the amenities or “little things” that the Red Sox do for their players and Cafardo wonders if that could keep Jon Lester in Boston beyond this season. Lester’s family was always taken care of the team’s traveling secretary and while other teams can offer similar services, the consensus among players who have been multiple places is that Red Sox and Yankees are the teams that offer more to their players.
- Ross tells Cafardo that even though there have been no contract talks with the Red Sox yet, he would like to return. Boston would certainly love for him to keep working with Christian Vazquez, but Ross’s recent bout with plantar fasciitis has slowed him. Ross is finishing up a two-year, 6.2MM deal.
- Daniel Nava drew interest from the Tigers and had interest from the Royals before they traded for Josh Willingham, but he has yet to be put on waivers. It’s not a certainty that he’ll clear and but the Red Sox will likely put him on revocable waivers later in the month to see what type of interest he’ll get. The Sox’ outfield looks crowded next season with Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley Jr., Shane Victorino, Yoenis Cespedes, Mookie Betts, and Brock Holt all in the mix so it makes sense to see what can be had for Nava.
- In a separate tweet, Cafardo reports Nava, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara, and Will Middlebrooks have been placed on revocable waivers.
The Red Sox, Rangers and Phillies are all struggling this season but for different reasons, and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe touches on each team’s situation in his weekly Sunday notes column. Boston’s young talent (as either lineup upgrades or trade chips) puts them “in the best shape” according to one AL executive, while Rangers GM Jon Daniels intends to address his team’s injury-riddled rotation at the deadline. Philadelphia seems to be in the toughest shape of the three given that they both have a number of hard-to-move expensive veterans on the roster, plus Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley haven’t seemed willing to waive their no-trade clauses.
Here’s some more from Cafardo’s latest…
- The Red Sox have received some calls about Mike Napoli. The first baseman has spent some time on the DL this year but is still hitting .265/.386/.432 with 10 homers in 316 PA. The two-year, $32MM contract that Napoli signed last winter carries some limited no-trade protection. Though Napoli’s bat makes him an attractive commodity, I’d be surprised to see the Sox move him given their own need for power hitting both this season and beyond.
- A recent Marlins slump led to a renewed series of calls about Giancarlo Stanton, and Miami GM Dan Jennings again reiterated that Stanton isn’t for sale. Cafardo notes that the Stanton trade rumors won’t die down until he signs a big extension with the Marlins, something that seemed unlikely two offseasons ago when he was upset by the club’s fire sale trade with the Blue Jays. Now, however, Jennings says, “I think some things have changed for Giancarlo. He’s taken a leadership role here. He knows we’re serious about winning and how much we want him to be part of that. He’s seen the team come together and the young talent developing around him.”
- Jennings told Cafardo on Friday that the Marlins would look to be trade deadline buyers if they were within five or six games of the NL East lead going into the All-Star break, and the GM was meeting with owner Jeffrey Loria this weekend. Miami sits 6.5 games behind the tied Nationals and Braves heading into today’s action.
- It seems unlikely that the Rockies will deal Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez since owner Charles Monfort feels moving either star would negatively hurt Colorado’s ticket sales and TV ratings. “Monfort centers everything around Tulo and Cargo,” a Major League source tells Cafardo. Dick Monfort, the other half of the club’s ownership team, recently said there were no plans to deal wither Tulowitzki or Gonzalez.
The Giants received some tough news tonight, as young first baseman Brandon Belt suffered a broken thumb on a hit-by-pitch, CSNBayArea.com’s Andrew Baggarly tweets. San Francisco does have internal options, Baggarly writes, with recent signee Travis Ishikawa and career minor leaguer Adam Duvall on the team’s Triple-A roster. Among currently active players, outfielder Michael Morse has spent significant time at first. The best bet in the immediate term, Baggarly says, is for Buster Posey to shift from behind the plate.
Here’s more from San Francisco and some other western division clubs …
- Even before Belt’s injury, the Giants were already looking forward to some roster moves with righty Matt Cain and lefty David Huff nearing returns from the DL. As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle writes, the club will probably not try to sneak one of their so-far-outstanding relievers through waivers. Instead, outfielder Juan Perez and pen arm George Kontos will likely lose their spots since they can be optioned down.
- Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin is nearing a return, which could come on the team’s upcoming road swing, reports Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Quentin signed a three-year extension in the middle of the 2012 season that guarantees him $27MM through 2015 and includes a $10MM option ($3MM buyout) for 2016. While Quentin has done nothing but hit when healthy — he had a 145 OPS+ last year in a half-season of work — injuries have limited his time on the field. Sporting a league-worst 67 wRC+, San Diego will no doubt hope that Quentin can begin to make good on his contract. But with the club buried well back in the NL West, a healthy and productive return from Quentin could hypothetically make him a trade target this year or next.
- Former Rangers backstop Mike Napoli said today that he thought about returning to Texas before re-signing with the Red Sox, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports. “If there was any other place I’d be happy playing,” said Napoli, who has since converted to first, “it’d be Texas.” Though the Rangers showed interest in Napoli last November, he told his agent that he preferred to stay in Boston. “I don’t think it ever got to where push came to shove,” Napoli said of talks with his previous team.
If David Price isn't traded, "almost every baseball person one talks to mentions the Rays as the team to beat in the American League," Peter Gammons writes in his latest piece for his Gammons Daily website. Price has stayed in the fold despite multiple trade rumors this winter, with the Rays instead adding roster depth instead of moving another cornerstone player for prospects. The depth and continuity carrying over from 2013 is a big factor for Evan Longoria, who notes that "for the first time since I’ve been here, we have almost everyone back. We have a team that is going to play together two years in a row.”
Here's some more from around the AL East…
- The Rays' "laid back environment" was a key reason why Mark Lowe chose to sign a minor league deal with the club, MLB.com's Bill Chastain reports. Lowe notes that his choice came down to the Rays and Indians this winter, as those were the two clubs who "pushed the hardest" for his services. Tampa manager Joe Maddon said that the Rays originally tried to sign Lowe during the 2012-13 offseason.
- Jhonny Peralta said the Yankees offered him a three-year contract and the opportunity to play third base, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports (Twitter links). The Yankees were Peralta's preferred Big Apple team since the Mets only offered him a two-year deal that Peralta described as "not really good." Of course, Peralta overcame the stigma of his 50-game PED suspension last season to sign a four-year, $53MM contract with the Cardinals as their everyday shortstop.
- Mike Napoli rejected a qualifying offer from the Red Sox last fall and the slugger felt the draft pick compensation limited his free agent options, Napoli tells Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. “It’s tough because it’s kind of holding you back,” Napoli said. “You get (to free agency) and it should be all the teams that want you. The way it is now, if a team doesn’t want to give up a pick, they’re not going to be interested.” It ended up being something of a moot point for Napoli, as he openly wanted to return to Boston and re-signed for a two-year, $32MM deal.
- There isn't any new news about David Ortiz's contract talks with the Red Sox, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. The two sides apparently haven't had any further negotiations since their initial meetings two weeks ago. (Cafardo shared some more items about the AL East in his regular Sunday column, as reported earlier.)
- Quintin Berry talks to WEEI.com's Rob Bradford about why he signed with the Orioles and how he appreciated his time with the Red Sox last season, though the Sox didn't push too hard to re-sign him. “Supposedly [they tried] a little bit, but I know they had a couple of things in mind they wanted to do, some guys they wanted to try and give experience to,” Berry said. “So I just wanted to test the market and see what else I could do." Berry signed a minor league deal with the O's in January.