MLBTR Mailbag Rumors

MLBTR Mailbag: Dickey, Ethier, Price, Kennedy

As usual, I answered about forty questions in Tuesday's chat, and today we'll get to a few unanswered ones from that session.

Who do the Giants go after for left field? – Allen

Gregor Blanco, Andres Torres, and Francisco Peguero have manned left field for the Giants this year, posting a .250/.299/.336 line at the position.  In the National League, only the Reds and Marlins have received worse from left field than San Francisco's .634 OPS.  Asked yesterday by Andrew Baggarly of if he's satisfied with the production of his left field platoon, GM Brian Sabean replied, "I think so."  He continued, "We went on the side of the defense and the speed and to take our chances. And it wouldn’t be that much of an eyesore statistically from a run production standpoint if we had a bona fide six hitter, which should be [Brandon] Belt, but we’ve been forced to rotate and scramble a little with the bottom three spots. But on balance they’ve done a good job, given the skill set."  

Given the way Sabean steered the question toward Belt, I have to wonder if the first baseman is in as much jeopardy as the left field platoon.  Of course, Belt is actually hitting .297/.343/.516 out of the #6 spot in the order, and he's hitting quite well this month.  To answer the original question, Josh Willingham makes a lot of sense for the Giants if the Twins are willing to deal him.  I imagine the Giants are unlikely to turn back to Melky Cabrera, Nate Schierholtz, or Alfonso Soriano.  Beyond Willingham, Alex Rios and Mike Morse could be a couple names to watch, but the Twins, White Sox, and Mariners are in the range of contention currently.

If the Blue Jays decide to sell any chance the Mets get R.A. Dickey back? – Dan

Having won their last four games, the Jays are currently no further from contention than the Mets, who have dropped six in a row and have the second-to-worst record in the league.  So while the Blue Jays could become trade deadline sellers, it's difficult to picture them selling back to the Mets.  I also think they'd keep Dickey regardless, as he could be a key piece for them in 2014 and '15.  Furthermore, if Dickey's ERA still sits near 5.00 in two months, the Blue Jays would be selling low and perhaps unable to win back either premium prospect sent to New York in the deal, Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard

Is this the year we trade Andre Ethier and who would we target via trade? – Dodgers fan

Ethier, 31, is hitting .267/.355/.385 on the season in 155 plate appearances.  He has over $10MM in remaining salary this year, plus another $70MM for 2014-17.  The contract, signed in June of last year, isn't looking so great at the moment given Ethier's power drought.  Moving Ethier makes sense this summer if the Dodgers drop completely out of contention, with outfielders Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson waiting in the wings.  A top 100 prospect seems unlikely, but the Dodgers could focus on moving 60% or more of the contract, depending on how Ethier is playing in two months.  They could also try for a bad contract swap, though I haven't found a good matchup yet.

Does Tampa trade David Price for a legit controllable bat, prospects, or hold on to him this summer? – Grinch 

New information has emerged since this question was asked, as Price left last night's start with a left triceps strain.  We're not even sure yet if a DL trip will be necessary, but given the expected massive asking price on Price, the injury has to give would-be suitors pause as the lefty has also seen his average fastball velocity dip below 94 miles per hour.  The Rays have played well of late, too, so they'd have to take a serious nosedive to consider trading Price with two-plus years of control remaining.  Keep in mind too that an ERA in the 4.00s this year would depress Price's 2014 arbitration salary, making it easier for the Rays to fit him into their payroll.

Could Ian Kennedy be a good change of scenery guy? I can think of a few contenders that may want a solid SP that they can buy low on. – Sean

Kennedy, 28, has a 4.88 ERA, 7.2 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.14 HR/9, and 38.8% groundball rate in 55 1/3 innings for the Diamondbacks this year.  Strikeouts are down and walks are way up, which is concerning.  Earning $4.265MM this year as a first-time arbitration eligible player, Kennedy is at the top of the salary scale for his service class, a pace that might slow a bit with an off-year.  He's under team control through 2015, and since he is represented by the Boras Corporation, there's a good chance he reaches free agency when eligible.  He is a good candidate for a change of scenery, and if there's one GM who might trade his Opening Day starter midseason while contending, it's the Gunslinger.

Arizona's rotation has a 3.68 ERA, sixth-best in the league even with Kennedy's 4.88 ERA covering about 22% of their innings.  The readiness of Triple-A pitchers Tyler Skaggs, Randall Delgado, and Zeke Spruill would have to be a factor in considering a midseason trade of Kennedy.  None of them seem ready to fill Kennedy's shoes, as an innings eater who should be able to post a sub-4.00 ERA from here on out if the walks come down.  However, as a reader pointed out in the comments, Daniel Hudson should return from Tommy John surgery in July, which could provide the needed depth to trade Kennedy.

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MLBTR Mailbag: Cardinals, Dodgers, Cano

I answered over forty questions in Tuesday's hourlong chat; here are a few I didn't get to.

What will the Cardinals' trade deadline look like? – Jordon

The clear starting point is the team's bullpen, which lost closer Jason Motte and has been the worst in the league by measure of ERA.  However, if you look at the pen's current composition, the Cards are strong at the back end with Edward Mujica and Trevor Rosenthal, they have a credible lefty matchup guy in Randy Choate, and it'll be interesting to see what Carlos Martinez can do.  Two months from now, when most trades are happening, I'm not convinced anything will need to be done.  It'd be nice to acquire a shortstop, but the market is light on obvious trade candidates.  Perhaps Yunel Escobar of the Rays will be available, but he's playing terribly so far.  One intriguing name to watch is the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins, but only if they decide to blow it all up and he's willing to approve the trade.

How deep are the Dodgers' pockets? Any chance they take on some hefty salary for players like Cliff Lee? – Derk McCaw

We don't know the Dodgers' limitations, but I imagine they'll willing to add to their record payroll during the season.  Of course, the team is in last place, having dropped its last seven.  If the team can tread water until Zack Greinke and Hanley Ramirez return in June, GM Ned Colletti could have a month to evaluate whether his team has any shot at contention.  Aside from Lee, big-name targets could include Chase Utley, David Price, Jake Peavy, and Matt Garza.

What does Robinson Cano sign for? – Ryan

Once the 2013 season ends, it will have been almost two years since Scott Boras brokered a nine-year, $214MM deal for Prince Fielder with the Tigers.  Fielder was 28 in the first year of his new deal, while Cano will be 31.  Even though Cano is no longer represented by Boras, and is older than Fielder was, that contract has to be a point of reference and something CAA and Jay-Z will look to exceed, whether with the Yankees or on the open market.

I think if he continues to pitch well, Ervin Santana is a possible qualifying offer.  KC would probably be willing to overpay for one year to buy time for Duffy and Paulino rehab or Ventura and/or Zimmer to develop, right? – Fred

Should Santana's strong work continue, there's a good chance the Royals make a qualifying offer (which will potentially be around $14MM).  They already showed a willingness to pay him $12MM coming off a season in which he posted a 5.16 ERA and allowed 39 home runs.  That would be somewhat separate from an attempt to sign him, however, because I imagine he'd decline the offer in search of a multiyear deal.  That can be risky, as Kyle Lohse showed us, but Santana is younger and the market for pitching seems weaker.

What call-up has the most impact in 2013? - morF tnemmoC

If we're talking only about players called up midseason, my early vote goes to Reds starter Tony Cingrani, who has a 2.63 ERA filling in for Johnny Cueto and might be good enough to push Mike Leake to a bullpen role when Cueto returns.

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MLBTR Mailbag: Stanton, Harvey, Hamilton

I answered over 40 questions in my hourlong chat on Tuesday, but there are always some good ones that fall through the cracks.  In this post I'll tackle a few more, mailbag style.

Castellanos, Crosby, Porcello, and Fields for Stanton. Deal? – Will

Will is proposing a package that the Tigers could offer to the Marlins for three-plus years of young slugger Giancarlo Stanton, as fans often do in our chats.  As well-regarded as Castellanos is (#38 on Keith Law's top 100 prospects list for ESPN, and #21 on Baseball America's list), I don't think he's a big enough headliner for a Stanton trade.  Granted they added value with Wade Davis and Elliot Johnson, but the Royals were able to acquire the game's fourth-best prospect, Wil Myers, for two years of righty James Shields.  As for the rest of the proposal, I think the Marlins would like to have Crosby, but he doesn't seem to be the caliber of pitching prospect needed in a Stanton deal.

Why did the Astros pass on Julio Borbon? – Anonymous

The Cubs claimed Borbon off waivers from the Rangers five days ago, with the Astros the one team coming before them in the waiver order.  I think the Astros are committed to giving a full season of at-bats to Chris Carter as the left fielder/designated hitter.  While center fielder Justin Maxwell was not yet injured at the time of the Borbon claim, the Astros had other options in Brandon Barnes and the newly-promoted Robbie Grossman.  Releasing right fielder Rick Ankiel for Borbon seems hasty, plus the team already has a former top prospect in the mix in Fernando Martinez.  They'll also have J.D. Martinez off the DL in a few weeks.  Borbon is 27 years old at this point, and I think his upside is limited.

If you had to pick one to keep for the next five years, who would it be, Matt Harvey or Matt Moore? – Lou

If we're including this season as one of my five years, and money is a factor, Moore will earn $17MM for 2013-17 given the contract he signed in December 2011.  Harvey will be arbitration eligible for the 2016 season, so this five-year window would include his first and second arbitration years.  This is a long-winded way of saying that the money seems about the same even though Moore has a year of service on Harvey.  Ultimately, I would take Harvey.  Although you can't go wrong with either pitcher's stuff, I think Harvey has better control.  And while they're both big strikeout guys, Harvey is likely to be more efficient with his pitches and should go deeper into games.

Is Arte Moreno already regretting the Hamilton signing? And is Pujols going to be a DH for the next 9 years? – Matt E

Josh Hamilton, signed to a five-year, $125MM deal during the offseason, is hitting .225/.281/.350 across his first 89 plate appearances for the Angels.  But you don't have to look any further back than July of last year to find a month from Hamilton in which he posted a sub-.700 OPS.  He followed that up with a .943 OPS in August; he's a streaky hitter.  I don't think Moreno is regretting signing Hamilton — this is not the middle of the pack offense it's been so far.  As for the club's 4.88 ERA, that is more troublesome.  They never did assemble a playoff-caliber pitching staff to go with the offense.

While the term on Hamilton is relatively short, through 2017, the Angels have Pujols under contract through 2021.  He has a $26.5MM average annual value for 2014-21.  Pujols said recently that designated hitter is better for his plantar fasciitis.  While he may be dealing with the foot condition for his entire career, Pujols has proven to be extremely durable, meaning he has weathered many injuries that would have kept other players out longer.  Once his foot pain lessens, I think the 33-year-old has at least two or three more years as a first baseman.

If the Pirates are in contention at the trade deadline again this year, do you expect them to finally make that big splash that they haven't made in the past two seasons? – Nick Cap

In 2011 the Pirates added Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee at the July trade deadline, taking on salary rather than giving up prospects.  They also made under-the-radar pickups of Michael McKenry and Jason Grilli that summer.  Last year, the Bucs added Wandy Rodriguez, Gaby Sanchez, and Travis Snider.  GM Neal Huntington was willing to sacrifice a bit more, surrendering Grossman, Brad Lincoln, and a competitive balance pick in the various trades.  This summer, should the Pirates remain in contention, I think they'll again up the ante on what they're willing to give up.  I would not expect them to trade Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, or Alen Hanson.  But I wonder if the team might decide they have the outfield depth to part with Gregory Polanco, assuming a major difference-maker with control beyond this year becomes available.  

Isn't it time for the Phillies to hold a true fire sale?  Won't be pretty, but this group has no prayer in that division. – Logan

At 9-13, the Phillies are fourth in the NL East with over 86% of their season remaining.  We don't have enough data to draw conclusions, and generally even fringe contenders at least wait until July.  Perhaps Domonic Brown's bat will come alive, or the offense will get a boost from Carlos Ruiz.  We know Cole Hamels will be better, and perhaps Roy Halladay can settle in as a solid No. 3.  Maybe Jonathan Pettibone winds up pitching better than John Lannan would have, and Mike Adams' appearance last night was just a blip.  The Phillies' front office assembled a $160MM team.  There's no harm in laying some groundwork if the team eventually wants to sell off contract year guys like Halladay, Ruiz, Chase Utley, and Michael Young, but they've got about three months to let it ride. 

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