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Milwaukee Brewers Rumors
JAN. 28: Haudricourt now tweets that he gets the sense the Brewers would like to find a way to make a Papelbon trade work, despite the fact that it would be complicated. Failing that outcome, a Francisco Rodriguez reunion is a fallback option for Milwaukee.
JAN. 27: While trade talks between the Brewers and Phillies regarding Jonathan Papelbon have slowed, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki hears from two sources that the Phillies are still talking to both Milwaukee and Toronto about Papelbon. Zolecki adds that the seriousness of the talks is unclear at this time, though Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that Toronto’s interest is extremely limited (Twitter link). The Blue Jays would only acquire Papelbon if the financial risk associated with the transaction is “extremely limited,” per Rosenthal.
Additionally, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that the Phillies have been in touch with an unknown AL club regarding Papelbon in the past few days. While that club could certainly be Toronto, it’s also possible that a second American League club could have kicked the tires on Papelbon.
The Blue Jays have repeatedly expressed interest in adding some experience to the back of their bullpen, though Papelbon is an imperfect fit for a number of reasons. For one, the Blue Jays are said to have only about $7MM remaining to improve their 2015 roster, and Papelbon is owed $13MM in 2015. Secondly, as CSN Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury reported last week, Toronto is one of the team’s on Papelbon’s no-trade clause. Multiple reports indicated that Papelbon would require his $13MM vesting option to be guaranteed in order to approve a deal to a team on his no-trade clause, further muddying the financial situation for the Blue Jays.
As for the Brewers, talks with that team broke down due to financial concerns, and those concerns are still present, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. As he further notes, the ball is in Philadelphia’s court when it comes to a Papelbon trade, but the Phillies are strongly against letting his $13MM vesting option kick in, so it makes little sense for the Phillies to pay that money to facilitate a trade.
That scenario was one of the topics I discussed in today’s MLBTR Chat earlier this afternoon. The Phillies, as it stands, are on the hook for $13MM of Papelbon’s contract. If the team trades him and guarantees Papelbon’s vesting option, the acquiring club would owe the 34-year-old a total of $26MM. In that instance, even if the Phillies ate half of the money owed to Papelbon, they wouldn’t actually be saving anything. In fact, they may actually cost themselves money, as moving Ken Giles, the likely closer-in-waiting, into the ninth inning to open the 2015 season would surely cause his eventual arbitration price to rise.
It’s difficult then, to envision the Phillies paying anywhere close to $13MM of Papelbon’s salary without receiving a return that they feel is a significant upgrade to their farm system. The alternative would be to deal Papelbon to a club that is not on his no-trade list, with the acquiring club deploying him in a setup capacity. That could allow Philadelphia to save some money on Papelbon’s salary without the option coming into play. However, to this point, there haven’t been any indications that any of the 12 teams to which he cannot block a trade — the Red Sox, Rays, Royals, Angels, Mariners, Astros, Mets, Braves, Cardinals, Reds, Cubs and Padres — have any significant interest in trading for him.
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- First baseman Hunter Morris has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, the Brewers announced this week. Morris was at one point considered to be the Brewers’ first baseman of the future, and he posted an impressive .303/.357/.563 batting line at Double-A in 2012. However, he’s slipped to a .260/.315/.453 line in two seasons at Triple-A and missed time with a fractured forearm this season. Morris will play the coming season at age 26.
- The Angels have signed right-hander Zach Stewart to a minor league deal with no invite to Spring Training, tweets Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. Stewart, 28, once looked to be a fairly promising prospect but has registered just a 6.82 ERA in 103 innings with the Blue Jays, White Sox and Red Sox. The former Reds third-rounder has a lifetime 4.15 ERA in 364 2/3 Triple-A innings.
- The Angels announced the signing of righty Frank Herrmann to a minor league deal with a spring invite, via Twitter. The 30-year-old last worked in the bigs back in 2012, and owns a 4.26 ERA with 5.4 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 over 120 1/3 career frames. After Tommy John surgery wiped out his 2013, Herrmann struggled last year in 29 2/3 Triple-A frames with the Indians, the only organization he had previously played for.
The international market provides opportunities to make (mostly) open-market purchases of the rights to the types of players who rarely can be acquired in that manner. Recent years have brought early-prime starters (Masahiro Tanaka, Hyun-jin Ryu), still-youthful sluggers (Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes), and high-upside talents (Yasiel Puig, Jorge Soler). Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada certainly fits into that last category, rating as the type of player who would be chosen at or near the top of an amateur draft. In that regard, his ultimate payday (bonus plus ~100% penalty) will provide some fascinating insight into team valuations. But, of course, we are still waiting for the United States Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) to establish Moncada’s eligibility to sign. Here’s the latest:
- The precise hold-up in Moncada’s seemingly overdue OFAC application is not clear, writes Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs. Moncada’s agent indicated that he has not heard from OFAC since President Obama announced changes in the US diplomatic stance toward Cuba, seemingly indicating that higher-level activity is playing a role in Moncada’s situation. As McDaniel explains, MLB is working with the government to determine how to apply new unblocking policies. For what it’s worth, as MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez notes on Twitter, a similar policy appears to have been in place several years back, when Cespedes was preparing to enter the market.
- One entirely hypothetical reason for the delay with regard to Moncada, apart from the broader diplomatic considerations, is the fact that he was allowed to leave the island legally. Per McDaniel, concern that money could flow from Moncada back to the Cuban government is a possible, but by no means substantiated, factor distinguishing his situation.
- Of note, fellow top young middle infielder Andy Ibanez is also rumored to have left the island with the blessing of the government. There are rumblings that he could be unblocked soon, however, McDaniel notes.
- As for another largely-uncertain bit of information, McDaniel adds that the latest chatter has Moncada going for about a $80MM total investment (based on a $40MM bonus).
- Moncada worked out for the Dodgers this morning, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports on Twitter. Los Angeles has given public indication of its interest, and if impressed with its private look will certainly have to be counted among the most capable suitors. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and manager Don Mattingly were both on hand, Sanchez reports on Twitter.
- The other teams to have held private workouts are the Brewers, Rangers, Giants, Yankees, Red Sox, and Padres, Sanchez tweets.
The Orioles‘ reported asking price of right-hander Jeff Hoffman (and others) from the Blue Jays in exchange for executive vice president/GM Dan Duquette seemingly ended those negotiations, but Jeff Blair of Sportsnet reports that the Orioles weren’t the only club to try to acquire Hoffman from Toronto this winter. According to Blair, the Braves also asked the Blue Jays for Hoffman when the two sides discussed a trade involving Justin Upton. Toronto’s answer, Blair says, was an emphatic “no.” Coincidentally, the Braves wound up acquiring another high-upside, former first-round pitcher that’s recovering from Tommy John — Max Fried — as the centerpiece in their trade of Upton to San Diego. Meanwhile, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos tells Blair that Hoffman, who was selected ninth overall in 2014 despite his surgery, is expected to get stretched back out in April, with an eye on activating him with a minor league club in May.
A few more notes pertaining to the game’s Eastern divisions before the northeast portion of the country is buried in snow…
- The Phillies never presented the Brewers with a firm financial offer in their trade talks regarding Jonathan Papelbon, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Those talks appear to be largely dead at this point, and the Phillies may end up hanging on to Papelbon to begin the season, based on Rosenthal’s writings. He adds that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. isn’t under pressure from ownership to move Papelbon and will only trade him if the move is to the team’s benefit.
- The acquisition of Alejandro De Aza last summer could end up being a key factor in the Orioles‘ 2015 season, as the former White Sox outfielder now looks to be a big piece of the roster, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. With Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis gone and no external replacements brought in, De Aza figures to be the team’s primary left fielder and leadoff hitter. Though that may seem an underwhelming option to some, Kubatko points out that De Aza’s career OBP mark (.330) would be a nice boost over last season’s team OBP of .311.
- Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel takes a look at the Yankees‘ new glut of international prospects in his ranking of the team’s minor leaguers, with colleague Dave Cameron noting in an introduction that the team’s philosophical shift could pay off in spades a few years down the line. While the Yankees have always been known for spending significantly on free agency, they instead opted to go on a spending spree and blow past their allotted international bonus pool this year while exercising what some consider to be surprising restraint in terms of big league free agents.
The Brewers are currently talking with right-hander Francisco Rodriguez about a reunion, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney (on Twitter). Last week, the Brewers were said to be exploring pitching upgrades via free agency and trade, and over the weekend, owner Mark Attanasio told fans that he’d be surprised if the team didn’t make at least one more free agent signing this offseason.
That signing could very well be K-Rod, who over parts of the past four seasons has pitched to a 3.11 ERA with 9.5 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and 57 saves in 193 2/3 innings for the Brewers. The market for K-Rod hasn’t exactly been robust this offseason, although he has been connected to multiple clubs over the past month. Those teams include the Blue Jays and Rockies, and there was a bit of speculation regarding the Nationals following the trade of Tyler Clippard and signing of Max Scherzer. It’s arguable that he’s the best closing option left on the market; other free agent pitchers with 20 or more saves in 2014 include Rafael Soriano and Casey Janssen, while former closers such as John Axford and Brian Wilson have yet to sign this offseason as well.
The Brewers have also been linked to Soriano recently, and of course last week the team was said to be in serious trade discussions regarding Jonathan Papelbon. However, complications regarding the financial compensation required to due to Papelbon’s $13MM vesting option appear to have slowed, if not entirely halted those talks.
Exactly one week after the trade of Yovani Gallardo was first reported, Milwaukee hosted its annual winter fan festival Brewers On Deck. One year ago, Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio opened the event by announcing the signing of Matt Garza to the richest free agent contract in franchise history. Today, Attanasio told the crowd he will be very surprised if the Brewers do not make one more signing before Spring Training starts, tweets MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. GM Doug Melvin has said his focus is strengthening the bullpen and told the assemblage, as tweeted by Andrew Gruman of FOX Sports Wisconsin, he is having negotiations with a few people and there is a chance of adding a reliever. Melvin downplayed the Jonathan Papelbon rumors while Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweeted he feels a reunion is in store with Francisco Rodriguez, who saved 44 games for the Brewers last year.
In other news and notes coming out of Brewers On Deck:
- Ryan Braun‘s right thumb, which has plagued him for the past two seasons, is feeling fine allowing him to perform his normal offseason regimen with no restrictions, reports Haudricourt. Braun underwent a cryotherapy procedure on the thumb last October and there are no current plans or need for a follow up session, tweets Haudricourt’s Journal Sentinel colleague Todd Rosiak.
- Attanasio addressed the Gallardo trade (transcript provided by Rosiak). “I could go on and on about how terrific Yovani Gallardo was for our team and the city. There’s a huge amount of risk in doing that. But in the nature of the sport, we need to do that. The goal is not to be average in Milwaukee.“
- The Gallardo deal has left the Brewers without any proven MLB rotation depth which concerns manager Ron Roenicke, Rosiak tweets. Roenicke, however, maintains the team has some good prospects who could step up.
- “I don’t think we have room for a notable starting pitcher,” said Melvin, per Gruman (Twitter). “We’d like to add a pitcher that could be a spot starter.“
- Filling Gallardo’s void in the rotation will be Jimmy Nelson who told Haudricourt he knows why he struggled in 2014. “The problem was when I got to the big leagues I got away from my game plan. The things I was doing to be successful, I got away from that when I got up here.“
- Jim Henderson, who missed most of 2014 battling bone spurs in his right shoulder, began throwing off a mound last week and will have his first true bullpen sessions this week, McCalvy tweets.
- Fellow right-hander Tyler Thornburg, who also missed most of 2014, says platelet-rich plasma therapy and lots of rest has helped heal his UCL injury and is throwing two bullpens per week and plans on being ahead of schedule when pitchers and catcher report next month, according to Gruman (Twitter links).
- The Brewers introduced a new addition to their mascot family: Barrelman. No word if he and Bernie Brewer will have joint custody of the slide.
Talks between the Phillies and Brewers concerning closer Jonathan Papelbon are “on life support,” reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Haudricourt reported earlier today that “there was no traction” between the two sides. GM Doug Melvin echoed that sentiment, saying there was no momentum. It is thought that Papelbon’s $13MM option for 2016 is holding up an agreement. Since Papelbon has a limited no trade clause that includes the Brewers, he may ask for the option to be guaranteed before accepting a trade. The ball may be in Philadelphia’s court to find a financial solution to the situation.
- Brandon Beachy has “zeroed in on a new team,” tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN. Beachy and the unknown team are currently working on contractual details. Wolfson adds that the team is not the Twins. Beachy was non-tendered by the Braves earlier in the offseason after undergoing his second Tommy John procedure. If he avoids setbacks, he may return to action mid-season. It’s easy to compare Beachy’s situation with fellow former Brave Kris Medlen, who signed a two-year, $8.5MM deal with an option. Like Beachy, Medlen is also recovering from his second Tommy John surgery.
- Cuban infielder Hector Olivera held a public workout in the Dominican Republic last week and over 200 scouts attended, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The Giants, Padres, Rangers, Braves, and Yankees are showing the strongest interest in Olivera.
Talks between the Brewers and Phillies on closer Jonathan Papelbon do not appear to be gaining momentum, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Twitter links). There was “no traction today” and there remains “no reason to believe” that a deal is close, says Haudricourt. The Papelbon situation comes down to money, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who says that the veteran righty “almost certainly” would require Milwaukee to guarantee his 2016 option as a condition of waiving his no-trade rights against the club. Echoing that focus on the bottom line, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes that the the cost may be large but the Phillies need to pay what’s necessary to move on from Papelbon.
Here’s more from the east coast:
- As regards the Phillies‘ most significant trade piece, Cole Hamels, Rosenthal suggests that there is at least some line of thinking in the organization that Hamels and Cliff Lee could front an imposing rotation if a significant free agent arm were added next winter. (Links to Twitter.) That is not to say that a Hamels trade is no longer a possibility, as Rosenthal adds that the club is looking for one MLB-ready, impact prospect to go with further-off talent in a swap.
- The Orioles would seem unwilling to let executive vice president Dan Duquette leave for the Blue Jays in exchange for first-round draft pick Jeff Hoffman alone, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. That does seem to suggest, as Connolly writes, that Baltimore still has a high price tag on Duquette, though the scribe adds that he senses an increased likelihood that a deal gets worked out.
- All this intra-AL East intrigue has left us with plenty to think about, and there are plenty of worthwhile pieces breaking down the situation. Among them: Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star argues that the Blue Jays have bungled the pursuit of a new president and should stop chasing Duquette. And if you are wondering how to go about calculating a reasonable return for an executive, have a look at this piece from last September, in which Jeff Long of Baseball Prospectus attempts to value front office figures in terms of top prospects.
8:52am: Papelbon would want his $13MM option for the 2016 season to be guaranteed in order to waive his no-trade clause, Salisbury reports. That presents an expensive obstacle in trade talks, but Salisbury hears that the Phillies are committed to moving Papelbon and letting Ken Giles inherit the closer’s role. ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweets that figuring out how much of Papelbon’s 2016 salary the Phillies would pay is the “last remaining obstacle” in trade talks.
8:18am: The 12 teams to which Papelbon cannot block trades are the Red Sox, Rays, Royals, Angels, Mariners, Astros, Mets, Braves, Cardinals, Reds, Cubs and Padres, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com (on Twitter).
Additionally, Rosenthal tweets that while the Blue Jays did reach out to the Phillies regarding Papelbon, their interest is still very limited. He adds that Papelbon has not yet been approached about waiving his no-trade clause for a move to the Brewers, indicating that talks have not yet reached advanced stages.
7:14am: The Brewers are indeed on Papelbon’s no-trade list, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Of course, that doesn’t mean that a deal can’t be worked out, particularly if Papelbon’s desire to have a chance at winning is still his primary focus. Rosenthal notes that the Phillies would need to send money to Milwaukee in order to facilitate a deal, in addition to getting Papelbon’s approval.
Rosenthal also tweets that the Blue Jays expressed interest in Papelbon in recent weeks, although they, too, are on the closer’s no-trade list
1:01am: The Brewers are in serious talks to acquire Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). Earlier today, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that Milwaukee was casting a wide net as it looked for pitching upgrades, and GM Doug Melvin said in an appearance on MLB Network Radio that adding bullpen help was his top priority.
It’s unclear at this time whether or not Milwaukee is on Papelbon’s no-trade list, Passan adds, although indications over the summer were that Papelbon would waive his no-trade protection to be moved to a contender. While the Brewers are far from a lock to achieve a postseason berth in 2015, they do appear to be better positioned than the rebuilding Phillies, who have traded away Antonio Bastardo, Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd this offseason as the club looks to the future.
Papelbon, 34, is owed $13MM in 2015 and has a $13MM vesting option that will kick in this season if he reaches 48 games finished. Should Milwaukee ultimately reach a deal to acquire Papelbon, one would think that he’d supplant Jonathan Broxton as the club’s closer, making 48 games finished a highly attainable milestone. Of course, as Passan notes, it is not even clear at this time whether or not the Brewers are one of the 17 clubs on Papelbon’s no-trade list.
Though Papelbon’s velocity and strikeout rate have declined in recent seasons, his bottom-line results have remained largely intact. Papelbon’s heater sat at 95 mph in his final season with the Red Sox, but it dropped to 93.8 mph in 2012, 92 mph in 2013 and 91.3 mph in 2014. Nonetheless, Papelbon was still able to notch an excellent 2.04 ERA with 8.5 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and a 41.9 percent ground-ball rate in a 2014 campaign that also featured 39 saves — the second-highest single-season total of his career.
The Brewers recently traded Yovani Gallardo and his $13MM salary to the Rangers, although Milwaukee remains on the hook for $4MM of that sum. Still, that salary reduction leaves the Brewers well-equipped to add some payroll, particularly if the Phillies elect to eat some of the remaining money on Papelbon’s contract, which many have assumed they would need to do in order to move him.
As it stands, Broxton figures to be closing games, with righties Jim Henderson and Tyler Thornburg serving as setup options alongside lefty Will Smith. Both Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano have been mentioned as possible bullpen targets for the Brewers, although for the time being, the trade market appears to be the more likely avenue for Doug Melvin to improve his bullpen.
James Shields‘ market still lacks clarity, as more notable teams are claiming to be out rather than in on the free agent right-hander. The Diamondbacks and Brewers both seem to be out of the running, while Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said his team is more focused on adding rotation depth than a potential ace. Here’s some more about which clubs may or may not still be in the Shields derby…
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports takes an overview of Shields’ market, plus passing on the news that Shields would prefer to pitch closer to his home on the west coast. Rosenthal also adds to the lack of a Brewers/Shields connection, reporting that Milwaukee owner Mark Attanasio isn’t pushing his front office to add Shields. The Blue Jays, who are known to be interested in Shields, have limited payroll space and would need a “massive backload” of a contract to make it work.
- Also from Rosenthal, some executives think Shields will receive a four-year deal worth $70-$80MM. Page Odle, Shields’ agent, has been very quiet about his strategy or expectations for his client’s next salary, though Rosenthal reports that some around the game feel Shields would’ve been better off billing himself as a No. 2 or No.3 starter rather than as a top-of-the-rotation ace.
- The Marlins are “closely monitoring” the Shields market, ESPN’s Jim Bowden reports (Twitter link). Miami has been linked to Shields in recent weeks though they’re wary about paying too much to sign him and Grantland’s Jonah Keri recently reported there is a “zero percent” chance of Shields joining the Fish.
- In an interview with Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (audio link), Royals GM Dayton Moore said it’s “doubtful” that Shields returns to Kansas City. While Moore admitted that “I can’t say [re-signing Shields] hasn’t crossed my mind,” he said that the Royals’ roster, and particularly its rotation with new addition Edinson Volquez, is probably settled going into Spring Training.
- The Padres are “unlikely” to sign Shields though they’re still “on [the] periphery” of his market, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. A few weeks ago, I speculated that the Padres could be a dark-horse contender for Shields since they’ve been so aggressive in upgrading their roster, not to mention the fact that Shields lives in the San Diego area.