Mike Zunino Rumors

Rosenthal’s Latest: Pitching Market, O’s, Zunino, Inciarte, Astros

In his latest notes post for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal writes that while he opined on Saturday that pitching-hungry GMs should act sooner rather than later, he spoke to one exec yesterday that plans to wait until the trade deadline is nearly at hand, believing prices will drop late in the month. A second exec opined to Rosenthal, though, that the market for pitchers other than Johnny Cueto and Cole Hamels will soften in the coming days. Rosenthal gets the sense that the trade market will “erupt” and action will be “frenetic,” but it might take awhile to reach that boiling point.

Some highlights from his column (though I’d recommend checking out the entire column)…

  • Orioles GM Dan Duquette is very serious about wanting to add a bat and has indeed expressed interest in Jay Bruce, Justin Upton and Carlos Gomez, but as Rosenthal notes, the Orioles may have the thinnest farm system in the game. Baseball America ranked Baltimore’s farm just 29th heading into the season, and that was before recent injuries to top arms Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey. The team has some interesting names ready at the Triple-A level, but they also need to replace departing free agents Chris Davis, Matt Wieters and Wei-Yin Chen and will need to rely on the farm to fill some of those holes.
  • The Mariners aren’t just looking for a backup to Mike Zunino, Rosenthal hears, but a veteran option who would allow them to send Zunino back to Triple-A. Of course, he points out the fact that Seattle had such a player in the form of Welington Castillo but traded him to the D-Backs in the Mark Trumbo deal, only to watch Castillo out-hit Trumbo.
  • The Padres talked with the Diamondbacks about a trade that would’ve brought both Aaron Hill and Ender Inciarte to San Diego during Spring Training, and they’ve made a much more recent inquiry on Inciarte than that as well. The D-Backs are also receiving interest in David Peralta, Rosenthal writes, but Arizona isn’t motivated to trade either outfielder. Both are controlled through the 2020 season. Inciarte is a logical trade candidate for the Padres, in my mind, as a plus defender in center field and a left-handed bat — two things which the club currently lacks.
  • The Phillies may end up hanging on to Jeff Francoeur rather than trading him, according to Rosenthal. While a last-place team hanging onto a short-term veteran such as Francoeur seems counter-intuitive, he notes that the return on Francoeur would be extremely minimal, so the team may value his leadership over the warm body they’d receive for trading him. I agree that the return on Francoeur, who’s hitting .257/.288/.449 with suspect range in the corner outfield, wouldn’t be all that exciting.
  • The Astros do want to add a bat, but the team’s search for starting pitcher is a significantly greater priority, sources tell Rosenthal. GM Jeff Luhnow did tell MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart on Friday that getting a bat is a growing area of focus, however, and Chris Carter hasn’t played since Friday due to an ankle sprain. (He and other Houston first basemen have struggled at the plate even when healthy, as well.)

Latest On Trade Talks Between Mariners, Rays

FRIDAY: Taijuan Walker‘s name is once again at the center of trade talks surrounding Price, reports Heyman. He adds that Tampa has also expressed interest in the likes of corner infield prospect D.J. Peterson and James Paxton, neither of which is particularly surprising; Peterson and Paxton are two of the top young players in Seattle’s system.

The two sides are discussing various iterations of deals for Price, Zobrist or both. Heyman adds that Seattle might be willing to include Brad Miller in a deal as well, given the emergence of Triple-A shortstop Chris Taylor. The M’s, however, have said they won’t deal Mike Zunino.

THURSDAY, 9:51pm: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Mariners’ talks with the Rays have been more focused on Zobrist than Price, and the two sides have been discussing Zobrist “for weeks.” Nick Franklin‘s name has frequently come up in talks, he adds.

Heyman also reports that the Mariners have spoken to the Twins about Josh Willingham and the White Sox about Dayan Viciedo, and he notes that he, too, has heard Byrd’s name in learning of the Mariners’ trade talks. One big league source tells Heyman, however, that a deal for Byrd is now “less than likely” due to his no-trade clause.

He also adds that the Mariners’ ownership group is very big on bringing in players who want to be in Seattle. Offseason comments by Price’s agent about his client not wanting to sign a long-term deal in Seattle seem to indicate that Price doesn’t fit that description. However, the team’s status as a legitimate postseason contender may have changed Price’s thinking on that front.

2:10pm: Though no deal is imminent, the Mariners have been engaged in ongoing discussions with the Rays regarding lefty David Price and utilityman Ben Zobrist, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Meanwhile, talks have stalled with the Phillies regarding Marlon Byrd.

Needless to say, Price and Zobrist both represent potential impact to contenders. Either player could presumably add value to just about every roster in baseball. That holds particularly true for Seattle, which could not only pair Price with current ace Felix Hernandez but would be able to play Zobrist at shortstop, outfield, or even first base.

Of course, the return for either — and, especially, both — would figure to be substantial. (It is not clear from Morosi’s report whether the two would be joined in any potential deal, or indeed whether the sides have progressed that far.) Tampa is said to be interested in beating the return that the Cubs received for Jeff Samardzija, if it deals Price at all. Certainly, a hypothetical pairing of Price and Zobrist (both under control for next season) would require a bigger return on paper than was commanded by Samardzija and Jason Hammel.

Meanwhile, the news on Byrd makes sense in light of last night’s report from ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden, which indicated that Byrd would ask the Mariners to guarantee his $8MM option for 2016 in order to waive his no-trade clause. Seattle is one of just four teams on Byrd’s no-trade list.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.

Mariners Sign Humberto Quintero

The Mariners have signed catcher Humberto Quintero, Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweets. Quintero has taken the 25-man roster spot formerly occupied by Mike Zunino, who is currently on the disabled list with a fractured hamate bone after being struck on the hand by a foul ball yesterday.

Quintero recently became a free agent after the Phillies designated him for assignment and he cleared waivers. He has a career .238/.268/.327 line in 11 seasons with the Padres, Astros, Royals and Phillies.

Rosenthal’s Latest: M’s, Yanks, Roenicke, Rays, Cubs

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has a lengthy new article discussing All-Stars, some of the game's top young hitters and a plethora of hot stove info. Here are some highlights…

  • Rival executives around the league are critical of the Mariners for rushing their top prospects, but Rosenthal notes that Nick Franklin has been more than up to the challenge, and Brad Miller earned his promotion with his minor league performance. Regarding the struggling Mike Zunino, GM Jack Zduriencik told Rosenthal: "We planned all along to get Mike to Seattle at some point in July … He wasn't expected to be a big contributor offensively if it was now, July, September … but he has held his own, and what he is receiving now will set him up for 2014 and beyond."
  • Multiple scouts have questioned the work ethic of the Brewers' players, with one telling Rosenthal "there's a lot of quit on that team." Rosenthal writes that it isn't manager Ron Roenicke's fault that Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and Aramis Ramirez have been injured, but the negative reports could be an "ominous sign" for Roenicke. Rosenthal tweets a correction, noting that Roenicke is signed through 2014, not through 2013 as he initially reported.
  • The Yankees aren't planning a fire sale, but if they did, they'd have some of the most attractive trade chips in the game. The Yankees could part with Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, however, and Rosenthal adds Curtis Granderson's name to the mix, assuming the injured outfielder gets healthy in time.
  • The Rays aren't looking to add a starting pitcher with both David Price and Alex Cobb likely to return in the near future. If the Rays make any moves at all, they'll be for impact players regardless of position.
  • The Cubs are "all but certain" to trade pending free agents Matt Garza, Kevin Gregg and Scott Feldman, but they're not in a rush to deal Nate Schierholtz and David DeJesus, both of whom are controlled beyond 2013. 

Mariners Promote Mike Zunino

The No. 3 overall selection from last year's draft is on his way to the Majors. Larry Stone of the Seattle Times tweets that top prospect Mike Zunino will be on the next plane to Seattle to join the Mariners.  Zunino

Zunino, 22, ranked as the No. 17 prospect in baseball prior to this season according to Baseball America's Top 100 list. He placed 23rd on MLB.com's Top 100, and ESPN's Keith Law ranked him 18th in a recently updated edition of his Top 25 prospects (Insider required). Law notes that while Zunino has struggled, he's also the only hitter from last year's draft who has already advanced to Triple-A.

Zunino has indeed struggled, batting .238/.303/.503 with 11 homers in 47 games for Triple-A Tacoma this season. The former Florida Gator is striking out quite a bit (28.4 percent), though his average has likely been partially deflated by a .277 BABIP. It's hard to believe Zunino could be any worse than the .202/.276/.322 batting line produced by Seattle catchers thus far, but Dave Cameron of Fangraphs and the U.S.S. Mariner questions the motives behind the move, opining that Zunino hasn't earned his call-up (Twitter links).

The Mariners have waited long enough with the promotion to delay Zunino's free agency by a full season, but he could still be eligible for Super Two status, given the projected service time cutoff of two year, 119 days. If he stays in the Major Leagues for the remainder of the season, Zunino will earn 112 days of service time. With this promotion, he joins Kevin Gausman and Michael Wacha as the only first-round selections from the 2012 draft to have reached the Majors.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Prospect Rumor Roundup: 2012 Draft Review

The 2013 Major League Baseball amateur draft will begin later today and the Houston Astros possess the first overall pick for the second year in a row. The draft acts as a cost-effective tool for clubs looking to stockpile young talent. Despite the thousands of hours logged by each club's scouting department while trying to determine the best amateur talents available, the draft remains a bit of a crapshoot and will be full of hits and misses — although it may be years before most teams' outcomes are fully known.

Five players from the 2012 draft — Kevin Gausman (fourth overall, Orioles), Michael Wacha (19th overall, Cardinals), Paco Rodriguez (second round, Dodgers), Alex Wood (second round, Braves) and Michael Roth (ninth round, Angels) — have already made their debuts in The Show. Many others have seen their prospect values soar, while a select few have already taken steps backward. It's generally thought that the best talents of any given draft will be found in the first five to 10 picks but success is never a guarantee. Let's have a look at the early results from the first 10 picks of the 2012 draft and see if that belief has held true.

1. Carlos Correa, SS, Astros (Puerto Rico HS): It's been reported that Houston's front office went down to the wire before finally settling on Correa as the first overall pick. While speaking with "someone in the know" during the offseason, I was told that one of the things that made the young Puerto Rican attractive — other than his obvious raw talents — was that he will likely be ready to be an impact talent at the big league level when the rebuilding Astros are ready to legitimately compete in the American League West. Someone like Gausman, Mark Appel, or Mike Zunino are more likely to see their best seasons occur while the club is still finding its competitive footing. Still just 18, Correa has held his own in A-ball while showing the ability to hit for a solid average, an impressive understanding of the strike zone and good power.

2. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins (Georgia HS): Buxton, a toolsy Georgia native, has made Correa's 2013 numbers look pedestrian. The Twins prospect is currently hitting .348 with a 1.023 OPS and 26 stolen bases in 53 games. At just 19 years of age, the gifted centerfielder looks too advanced for Low-A ball. Robert Emrich of MiLB.com wrote a piece on Buxton last night after the prospect went 5-for-6 with two triples.

3. Mike Zunino, C, Mariners (University of Florida): Seattle fans were eager to see the catcher make the big league club out of Spring Training but the organization wisely played it safe and assigned him to Triple-A. After a quick start to the 2013 season, holes in Zunino's game were exposed and his batting average plummeted while his strikeout rate rose. Currently hitting just .228, he's still showing impressive power with 11 home runs in 43 games.

4. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Orioles (LSU): As mentioned above in the intro, Gausman has already reached the Majors — no doubt a welcome sight for the O's after former top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy succumbed to an elbow injury.  Gausman struck out 49 batters with just five walks in eight Double-A starts, though his Major League results have thus far been inconsistent (a 7.20 ERA through three starts).

5. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals (University of San Francisco): Considered almost on par with Gausman from a talent perspective prior to the draft, Zimmer is currently stuck in High-A ball. He's flashed a heavy, powerful fastball and has struck out 65 batters in 52 innings of work but he's struggled with his command, resulting in seven home runs allowed and a 5.54 ERA.

6. Albert Almora, OF, Cubs (Florida HS): Considered a gifted fielder, it was said that Almora's defensive work in center field was almost MLB caliber at the time of the draft. The Florida native got a late start to the 2013 season thanks to a broken hamate bone but he's been on fire since being activated. He's hitting .429 with just six strikeouts in 12 games.

7. Max Fried, LHP, Padres (California HS): Fried got off to a quick start to the year and has shown glimpses of his immense talent but he's also displayed the need for improvements in a number of areas. He's allowed 13 runs in his last 13 1/3 innings of work. On the year, he's issued 22 walks in 44 innings and has struggled against right-handed hitters ( RHHs at .265 vs. LHHs batting .149).

8. Mark Appel, RHP, Pirates (Stanford): Appel was the lone 2012 first-rounder that did not come to terms with the club that selected him. He returned to Stanford for his senior year of college and has improved his draft stock; he's expected to be a top-three pick, going to either the Astros, Cubs or Rockies. That should land him a larger signing bonus than he would have been eligible for with the Pirates in 2012. Had Appel signed with Pittsburgh, he would have given the organization quite an impressive future rotation along with Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. Tim Keown of ESPN.com recently wrote about Appel's decision to return to college and re-enter the draft in 2013.

9. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Marlins (Oklahoma State): Like Almora, Heaney was slowed by injury and did not make his first start of the year until late May. In total, he's made three starts and has an ERA below 2.00 with 18 strikeouts in just 12 1/3 innings. He joins Justin Nicolino, who was acquired from the Blue Jays in the offseason, as a pair of impressive left-handed pitching prospects that look close to ready for the challenge of Double-A.

10. David Dahl, OF, Rockies (Alabama HS): Dahl made a very positive impression during his 67-game pro debut in 2012 and, during the offseason, was touted as one of the steals of the draft as the 10th overall selection. However, some questionable decision making (which reportedly involved missing a flight) got him shipped out to extended Spring Training in April, despite originally earning a roster spot on the Low-A club to begin the season.  Dahl has since regained his Low-A spot and produced solid-but-unspectacular results in his first 10 games; he was recently placed on the minor league disabled list.

Supplemental Round Picks of Note

The first round of the MLB amateur draft is not the only place to find high-ceiling talent. Quality prospects can be found littered throughout the 40 rounds. Below are some of the players that were taken in the supplemental first round — picks mainly given as compensation for the loss of key free agents from the previous offseason. A number of the players selected in that round have looked impressive early in their careers and have performed well enough to suggest they should have been true first-round selections.

Jose Berrios, RHP, Twins: Berrios brings a much-needed power arm to the Twins organization. The Puerto Rico native has struck out 44 batters in 39 innings despite being one of the youngest pitchers in the Low-A Midwest League; Berrios just recently turned 19 years old.

Zach Eflin, RHP, Padres: Like his fellow Padres prospect Max Fried, Eflin was a promising prep arm acquired in the 2012 draft. Unlike his southpaw teammate, though, the right-hander has gotten stronger as the year has progressed and has been a little more consistent.

Daniel Robertson, SS, Athletics: Originally expected to move from shortstop to third base as a pro, Robertson's steady defensive play has convinced the organization to give him a longer look at his natural position. Despite missing much of the first month of the year while rehabbing an injury, the young hitter has shown flashes of above-average potential at the plate.

Kevin Plawecki, C, Mets: High draft picks from the college ranks typically skip over Low-A ball and begin their careers in High-A ball, but the Mets organization has been cautious with Plawecki — possibly to give him an opportunity to polish his defense. The 22-year-old prospect is showing that his bat is more than ready for a promotion with a .341 batting average and 30 extra base hits. MLB.com's Teddy Cahill recently wrote a feature on Plawecki.

Joey Gallo, 3B, Rangers: After a much-hyped start to his pro career that saw him hit 22 home runs in his first 59 games, the left-handed hitter has come crashing back down to earth. He's slugged another 14 dingers this year but he's also struck out 89 times in 55 games, causing his batting average to dip to .210. He has a lot of adjustments to make to avoid becoming the next Russell Branyan.

Lance McCullers Jr., RHP, Astros: McCullers showed the raw potential to be a first round draft pick in the 2012 draft but questions about his delivery and potential move to the bullpen caused him to slip into the supplemental round. The young pitcher, though, has temporarily quieted his critics and overpowered the Midwest League with a 1.70 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings.

Eddie Butler, RHP, Rockies: As with McCullers, Butler was thought to be potentially headed for a pro career out of the bullpen. He's been exceptional as a starter, although the college product did begin the year in Low-A ball where he should have dominated the less-experienced competition. He was recently promoted to High-A ball and has a 3.71 ERA in his first three starts. David Lee of the Augusta Chronicle wrote about Butler's promotion.

Poll: The Next 2012 First-Rounder To Be Called Up

The Orioles made headlines last night by announcing the promotion of Kevin Gausman to the Majors. Gausman, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 draft, reached Double-A as a 22-year-old and posted a 3.11 ERA with a 49-to-5 K/BB ratio in 46 1/3 innings there. With that promotion, Gausman becomes the first member of last year's first round to make it to the Majors. Among 2012 first-rounders, only four other players have even reached the Double-A level to this point.

Mike Zunino, selected by the Mariners at No. 3 overall, has reached Triple-A, but the catcher is hitting just .220/.290/.496 through 33 games in Tacoma. Given the Mariners' need for offense, however, he could be a hot streak away. Promoting him would allow the Mariners to use Jesus Montero at DH, but that only adds to a roster crunch of corner OF/1B/DH types in Seattle.

Right-hander Michael Wacha, the No. 19 overall selection by the Cardinals, has also reached Triple-A. He's posted a 2.05 ERA, 5.8 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 through 52 2/3 innings for the Memphis Redbirds to open the season, and the Cardinals have some injury problems in their rotation with Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook on the shelf. For now, they've gone with John Gast and Tyler Lyons over Wacha.

Marcus Stroman's 50-game suspension for a positive stimulant has finished, and the Blue Jays right-hander made a strong debut at Double-A with five scoreless innings in a start. Many pegged the Duke product to be the quickest first rounder to reach the Majors last year, and Baseball America's Ben Badler wrote Sunday that it "shouldn't take him long" before he's big league ready.

James Ramsey, the Cardinals' other selection (No. 23), is the only other player from the first round to reach Double-A or higher thus far. As an outfielder, he has an uphill battle to reach the Major Leagues given the presence of Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Carlos Beltran and top prospect Oscar Taveras within the Cardinals organization. He's a huge long shot, but he's advanced further than most college players from the first round already.

Let's open this up to a poll…

Mariners Sign Mike Zunino

9:12pm: Ben Badler of Baseball America writes that despite signing Zunino for well under the slot recommendation, the Mariners are $36,600 over their bonus pool for the first 10 rounds of the draft. Badler also gives a brief recap of Zunino's season, noting that he was Baseball America's College Player of the Year.

8:45pm: ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reports that Zunino will receive a bonus of $4MM — well below the slot recommendation (Twitter link).

8:32pm: The Mariners have signed No. 3 overall pick Mike Zunino, the team announced (on Twitter). A press conference to introduce Zunino will be held tomorrow.

Details of the signing are not yet known, but the recommended bonus for the third overall slot is $5.2MM. Over the weekend, we had heard that the Mariners were expected to sign the former University of Florida catcher in the near future. Baseball America says Zunino's hitting ability "projects to be above-average for a Major League catcher" while noting that he offers strong intangibles that draw Jason Varitek comparisons.

With the signing of Zunino, there are now eight first round picks who have yet to sign.

Mariners Expected To Sign Mike Zunino Shortly

July 1: ESPN's Keith Law tweeted Zunino is on his way to Seattle to sign with the Mariners. Jerry Crasnick confirms his colleague's report tweeting Zunino is heading to Seattle to take his physical.

June 26: The Mariners are expected to sign third overall pick Mike Zunino shortly, reports Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times. The announcement could come in early-July after the catcher from Florida attends two awards ceremonies.

Slot money for the third overall selection is $5.2MM. Baseball America says Zunino's hitting ability "projects to be above-average for a major league catcher" while noting that he offers strong intangibles that draw Jason Varitek comparisons. Zunino is the highest unsigned pick and is one of ten unsigned first rounders.

Draft Notes: Cubs, Garcia, Pirates, Twins

MLB's first year player draft takes place one week from today. The notes below should provide some hints as to what might happen on June 4th…

  • Chicago GM Jed Hoyer says "pitching is a target” for the Cubs in next week’s draft, Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald reports (Twitter link) “As an organization, our pitching depth is one of our bigger concerns,” Hoyer said.
  • In this week's edition of Ask BA Jim Callis of Baseball America explains why teams won't use top picks to draft players they don't intend to sign.
  • Cuban left-hander Onelki Garcia has his eyes on a major payday with the draft looming. The 22-year-old is looking for a signing bonus of $7MM and will not sign unless he's taken in the first round, tweets ESPN.com's Keith Law.
  • Jim Callis of Baseball America expects the Pirates to take a hitter with the eighth overall selection (all Twitter links). Callis keeps hearing the Pirates connected to Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero, and prep outfielder Albert Almora and University of Florida catcher Mike Zunino are also possibilities. Zunino draws comparisons to Jason Varitek, Callis notes.
  • Callis expects the Twins to take the top talent available when they select second overall, but notes that they could use pitching.

Daniel Seco contributed to this post.