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The Cubs have given senior vice president of player development and amateur scouting Jason McLeod a two-year extension, reports Scott Miller of MLB Network Radio and FOX Sports San Diego (Twitter link). While president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer may have more name recognition, McLeod was also a key member of the Red Sox front office alongside Epstein and Hoyer last decade. He followed Hoyer to the Padres when Hoyer served as San Diego’s GM and moved to Chicago alongside Hoyer and Epstein when Chicago restructured its front office.
Here’s more from baseball’s Central divisions…
- Top Cubs prospect Arismendy Alcantara is getting a two-day promotion while Darwin Barney is on paternity leave, tweets Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. While he stresses that it’s just for two days, Cubs fans will be getting their first look at a Top 100 prospect who GM Jed Hoyer has said could get a lengthier look this season.
- Royals lefty Jason Vargas will be out three to four weeks after being rushed to the hospital for an appendectomy today, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. That’s not the only bad news on the injury front in K.C., either, as McCullough adds that Alex Gordon will undergo an MRI on his wrist. “I can’t swing,” Gordon told reporters. Manager Ned Yost thinks Gordon can avoid the DL, McCullough tweets, but he doesn’t expect him to play in a big series against the division-leading Tigers.
- ESPN’s Jim Bowden looks at what it would take for contending teams to acquire Josh Willingham from the Twins (ESPN Insider required). Bowden feels that the slugger’s modest salary (he’s earning $7MM in 2014) and relatively low prospect cost make him a good fit for the Mariners, Royals and Reds.
Though Byron Buxton has only played in six games this season due to a wrist injury, the Twins outfielder still sits atop Baseball America’s midseason ranking of the top 50 prospects in the sport. Twenty-two of the 30 Major League teams have at least one player on the list, and the Cubs stand out with three players in the top seven — Kris Bryant at #2, the newly-acquired Addison Russell at #5 and Javier Baez at #7.
Here’s some news as we kick off the final week before the All-Star break…
- Jed Hoyer discussed several Cubs topics with David Kaplan and David Haugh on their podcast this morning, including how the general manager believes the offseason will be a busy one for his team. “I expect us to be far more active this winter than last winter,” Hoyer said. “We have money to spend and I expect teams looking for offense to call us.” (Hat tip to Kaplan’s Twitter page.)
- C.C. Sabathia‘s career is at a crossroads with the news that the veteran lefty might require microfracture surgery on his right knee. Given Sabathia’s declining numbers and 2017 vesting option, ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription needed) wonders if the Yankees would be better off if Sabathia retired.
- The week’s minor league transactions are recapped by Matt Eddy of Baseball America.
- While the A’s are seemingly going all-in with the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade, Giants GM Brian Sabean could see upgrades as a lost cause given how his team has struggled recently, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Shea opines that Sabean isn’t keen on trading prospects for 2014 given that he’ll have a number of roster holes to fill next season thanks to possibly departing free agents.
Cubs executive Jason McLeod sees flashes of Troy Glaus in top prospect Kris Bryant, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. “Definitely 40-home run power,” says McLeod. “There’ll be some strikeouts, but he has a great eye at the plate. He’ll take his share of walks and work the count.” Bryant, last year’s second overall draft pick, continues to dominate after having been promoted to Triple-A Iowa, hitting .364/.432/.773 in 74 plate appearances there. Here’s more from Cafardo.
- One reason Addison Russell made sense for the Cubs in the Jeff Samardzija deal, Cafardo suggests, is that Russell is unlikely to stick at shortstop, meaning that he won’t be blocked by Starlin Castro and/or Javier Baez.
- The Twins‘ best trade chips could include Josh Willingham and Kendrys Morales, Cafardo writes. Willingham could make sense for the Red Sox or Royals.
- Some NL teams could show interest in starter Jake Peavy if the Red Sox are willing to eat some of the remainder of his 2014 salary.
- Daniel Murphy could make sense for the Giants if the Mets decide to deal him. AL East teams could have interest in Bartolo Colon, and the Mets might be able to get at least some talent in return if they elect to trade him. The Mets are trying to decide if they can make enough noise in the second half to keep players like Murphy and Colon, Cafardo writes.
In his latest video, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has an interesting theory as to why the Dodgers may be keen to acquire Rays starter David Price. Over 70% of the Dodgers market is currently blacked out due to a dispute between Time Warner and Direct TV. Adding another superstar pitcher to a rotation that includes Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke could put even more pressure on the two telecom giants to work out a deal.
- Speaking of Price, A’s GM Billy Beane confirmed interest in the southpaw, but he preferred to add two pitchers in one fell swoop. He was also concerned about Price’s potential $20MM price tag next season, which would be hard to absorb into the club’s payroll or move via trade.
- For their part, the Cubs were eager to deal Jason Hammel before the market became saturated with similar pitchers.
- The Padres have interviewed four candidates for their open GM position and plan to interview another seven to eight prior to the end of the All-Star break. Then they will invite two or three candidates back. A new GM may be named by the end of the month, although they may not start until after the non-waiver trade deadline.
- The Twins will hang onto their trade chips until after the All-Star game, which will be hosted at Target Field. As we heard earlier tonight, Josh Willingham, Kevin Correia, and Kurt Suzuki are the most likely to find new homes.
The Independence Day trade that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics is definitely the top story of the day. When we polled MLBTR readers last week over which pitcher would be traded first, Hammel was the resounding top choice with 31.05% of readers picking the right-hander. Samardzija came in third with 16.19% of the vote. David Price (24.07%) was the only other pitcher to finish with over 10% of the vote, and it very well could have been Price headed to Oakland. Let’s focus our attention on some of the other rumors and notes of the day.
- Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports the Tigers are interested in re-acquiring Joaquin Benoit (via Twitter). Of course, Benoit is in the midst of a fantastic season with the Padres. He’s pitched to a 1.26 ERA with 10.09 K/9 and 1.77 BB/9.
- The Angels are also interested in Benoit according to Morosi (Twitter). It’s unclear if that interest remains after the acquisitions of Jason Grilli and Joe Thatcher.
- Morosi (also on Twitter) notes that the Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Giants are interested in Diamondbacks infielders. Veterans Aaron Hill and Martin Prado have been frequently connected to rumors, although the club does have additional shortstop depth too.
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes that the Twins are expected to make Josh Willingham and Kevin Correia available barring a sudden turnaround. Both players will be free agents after the season and aren’t good candidates for a qualifying offer. Willingham has been productive when healthy including a .228/.377/.441 batting line in 162 plate appearances this season. Heyman mentions the Red Sox and Mariners as two clubs in need of offense. To me, Correia looks more like a roster patch for a contender with his 4.95 ERA and 4.11 FIP.
- The Marlins made a club record number of moves in June writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. A total of 45 transactions were made in June. The previous one-month record was 30 moves. July could bring more of the same for the Fish with Tom Koehler and Adeiny Hechavarria scheduled to return soon.
- Oft-injured Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia will undergo season ending surgery to address his thoracic outlet syndrome according to Derrick Goold and Joe Trezza of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. The club wasn’t counting on a return by Garcia, who has been on the disabled list since late June. The news provides additional incentive for the club to explore the trade market.
As Ernesto Frieri was en route to the Pirates after being traded by the Angels, he ran into a familiar face at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, writes MLB.com’s Tom Singer. “I’m waiting for my next flight, so I just went to a bathroom to wash my face. First thing, I look at this guy washing his hands next to me,” said Frieri, “and I thought, ‘I think I know this guy.’” He was right – that guy was Jason Grilli, the reliever for whom he had been traded hours earlier. Anyone who has been in the colossal O’Hare Airport can appreciate exactly how unlikely this chance meeting was. Here’s more from the AL and NL Central..
- A year and one day ago, the Cubs traded Scott Feldman to the Orioles rather than waiting until the July 31st deadline was closer. This year, while there are plenty of scouts watching the Cubs, General Manager Jed Hoyer isn’t positive that we’ll see a similarly timed move this year. “Last year it really came together,” Hoyer said, according to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. “Baltimore was so determined to get a starter. You can always tell when teams have a feel for what we’re looking for. Ultimately, sometimes it takes a deadline to make deals. People get a lot more serious with each day that gets closer to the deadline. It probably works both ways. I don’t think you ever go into July thinking you’re going to make deals early, but sometimes it can come together.”
- Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have sent at least ten scouts to watch the Cubs since September and several sources tell Gonzales that they have followed Jason Hammel just as closely as they have followed Jeff Samardzija.
- We saw a bunch of international signings on July 2nd, but Twins VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff says they aren’t in a rush to spend. “Right now the biggest issue is early committing,” Radcliff said, according to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “It just doesn’t make sense. You’re talking about 15- and 16-year-olds. You’d think you’d want more time to figure it out and have more people see the players, but people are just throwing their money out there and locking them up earlier and earlier. I think we’re all still figuring it out.”
- The White Sox have made several big-dollar signings: shortstop Ricardo Mota has signed for $750K, second baseman Felix Mercedes will receive a $950K bonus, and catcher Jhoandro Alfaro (brother of Rangers’ prospect Jorge) will get $750K, according to Dionisio Soldevila of ESPNDeportes.com (links to Twitter). Earlier, we learned that shortstop Amado Nunez has agreed to a $900K bonus with Chicago, per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets. The club has announced all four signings, per Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). Nunez is perhaps the highest-rated of the foursome, with MLB.com and BA both rating him the 26th-best available prospect. Though he lacks any eye-popping tools and may ultimately need to move off of shortstop, BA says that his broad-based talents tend to show up in game action.
- The Yankees have agreed to a $750K bonus with shortstop Diego Castillo, tweets MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. The highly-rated Venezuelan prospect (16th by MLB.com, 24th by BA) is small in stature but shows promising skill up the middle and a nice line-drive swing at the plate.
- Julio Martinez has signed with the Tigers for $600K, reports Dionisio Soldevila of ESPNDeportes.com (via Twitter). Martinez, an outfielder from the Dominican Republic, placed 19th on MLB.com’s ranking, owing largely to his hit and power tools.
- The Astros have agreed to sign righty Franklin Perez and shortstop Miguel Sierra for $1MM each, reports Sanchez (via Twitter). MLB.com rated them the 21st and 23rd best available prospects, respectively, while Baseball America had them at 15th and 19th on its list. Perez is said to have a good fastball and advanced approach on the mound, while Sierra profiles as a solid all-around player with a line-drive stroke and the ability to stay at short.
- The Twins have reached agreement on a $800K bonus with righty Huascar Ynoa, tweets Sanchez. The younger brother of record-holding international signee Michael Ynoa, the Dominican landed at 17th among available prospects on the MLB.com list and 14th in the eyes of Baseball America, which credits him with outstanding stuff but streaky control.
Yesterday’s leak of roughly 10 months worth of Astros trade notes and discussions made plenty of headlines around the nation. Not only was information that was sensitive to the Astros revealed, but other teams found their own executives and trade discussions included in the data. Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has a full transcript of GM Jeff Luhnow’s response to the situation. Luhnow says that he’s been on the phone with other clubs since the information leaked and said that “in general, they’re understanding and supportive,” though he added that he’s sure other clubs aren’t happy to have seen their names in place. Luhnow mentions multiple times that not all of the info in the data leak is accurate, adding that the team is working with the FBI to determine who stole the information and will press criminal charges. He also says that the Astros have since upgraded the security on their databases, but he still used a pencil and paper to take notes in all conversations he had yesterday. “I think we were prepared,” Luhnow told Drellich after being asked if the Astros should’ve been better prepared. “We had security in place, and when you’re talking about criminals we just never know if we have enough. I think we were prepared as we could have been.”
Here are some reactions from around the baseball world…
- Jim Margalus of SB Nation’s South Side Sox looks at the mentions of the White Sox within the leak and makes some educated guesses as to how the team’s offseason trade talks played out. He points back to a December comment from Sox GM Rick Hahn in which Hahn noted that the club almost swapped one of its pitchers for a position player before the other team decided it preferred a position player from another club. Margalus speculates that, based on data leaked yesterday and Hahn’s prior comments, that a Hector Santiago/Peter Bourjos swap (or a different three-team deal involving those players) may have been in play at one point.
- Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports that the Blue Jays will review the safeguards on their own proprietary database — entitled “The BEST.” He describes the system as a “one stop catch-all for scouting reports, video, medical records, analytics and dialogue with various clubs.”
- Twins GM Terry Ryan tells Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he’s thankful to have escaped from the situation unscathed, as he’s “certainly talked to the Astros about various things.” The Twins have had internal discussions about communications security since the breach.
- George Springer, whose name appeared in supposed trade talks in the leaked information, offered little comment when asked by Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “I’m just here to play baseball. That’s it,” Springer said.
- MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reminds that the Marlins made it clear prior to last offseason’s GM Meetings that Giancarlo Stanton wasn’t on the market. Still, he continues, teams commonly throw out feelers, but that hardly means the noted discussion of Stanton for Springer and Carlos Correa ever had any real legs to it. Marlins GM Dan Jennings dismissed the information yesterday, calling it “laughable.”
- Rob Neyer of FOX Sports writes that he simply doesn’t believe Jennings’ claim that the two sides never discussed anything involving Stanton. Neyer points out that it does behoove Jennings and the Marlins to deny the report in an effort not to upset fans or Stanton himself, but the better route to take would be to simply acknowledge that he’d have been doing the Marlins a disservice not to float the idea of two elite prospects as headliners for a Stanton trade package.
The Blue Jays need to do some navel-gazing heading into trade season, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. The rotation leads the AL with 35 wins, but other stats like ERA and total bases allowed stack up less promisingly. Veteran Mark Buerhle has provided a timely career season, while other members of the rotation have been solid but volatile. Improvements to the rotation may rank at the top of the Jays’ trade deadline wish list.
- In the same piece, Davidi speaks with Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos. He acknowledges there will be inconsistency with the rotation and points to health as something that is particularly difficult to predict. He also reiterated his preference for in-season trades since it’s easier to gauge which teams and players are performing well.
- Orioles GM Dan Duquette recently addressed fans at the “State of the Orioles” address, reports MASNsports.com Steve Melewski. One of the topics discussed was Nolan Reimold‘s role with the club. He’s currently hitting .326/.433/.522 at Double-A. Said Duquette “we’ll have to see if he can help our ballclub.” The Orioles must add Reimold to the active roster by Monday or else designate him for assignment. Given his current performance, it’s likely they will lose him if he’s placed on waivers.
- Despite rumors that the Yankees plan to spend upwards of $30 million in the international market, the Twins intend to participate aggressively, writes Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. According to Twins GM Terry Ryan, “we aren’t going to lie low.” He also expressed skepticism about the rumors of other teams blowing past their budget, saying “Once you start paying some of that tax, all of a sudden other people get involved.”
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington spoke with reporters about the club’s direction, reports MassLive.com’s Jason Mastrodonato. Cherington highlights the team’s talent base as a reason to stay positive for the current season. While he wasn’t “sugarcoating” their 7.5 game deficit in the AL East, he didn’t rule out a trade deadline addition. It’s widely speculated that the Sox will deal from their depth of starting pitchers.
JUNE 24: The deal is official, tweets Twins’ director of communications Dustin Morse. Burdi will head to Class-A Cedar Rapids. He will indeed receive a full-slot bonus of $1,218,800, reports John Manuel of Baseball America (via Twitter).
JUNE 17: The Twins and second-rounder Nick Burdi are closing in on a deal, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter links). Burdi, a right-hander who spent this past season as Louisville’s closer, will receive close to the full slot value of $1,218,800, according to Heyman. He adds that Burdi is scheduled to take his physical for the Twins within the week.
Burdi was thought by most to be the top college reliever in this year’s draft class. He ranked 34th on MLB.com’s Top 200 draft prospects list, 36th on Baseball America’s Top 500 and 56th on the Top 100 of ESPN’s Keith Law. Burdi’s blistering fastball has reached otherworldly heights, touching 103 mph and sitting comfortably in the 96-100 mph range. BA’s scouting report adds that he throws a power slider that can run as high as 92-93 mph but sits more in the 87-90 mph range with good depth. Law noted his ability to miss bats and generate ground-balls, adding that he has a good chance to be a big league reliever and perhaps even a closer.
This is actually the second time the Twins have drafted Burdi, as they took him in the 24th round out of high school back in the 2011 draft. He was the first of many high-profile college relievers selected by the Twins. Many reports on the Twins’ draft noted that they landed the two hardest-throwing relievers in this year’s class in Burdi and third-round selection Michael Cederoth. The Twins have already signed Cederoth as well as first-rounder Nick Gordon, so bringing Burdi into the fold would secure their top three picks. Fans that are interested in learning more about Burdi can check out the conversation he had with MLBTR’s own Zach Links for our Draft Prospect Q&A series.