MLBTR Originals Rumors

AL West Notes: Williams, Astros, Angels, Ramirez

Recently-released Astros hurler Jerome Williams has already drawn inquiries from eight clubs, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. That does not include the Twins, he notes. Williams’ agent tells MLBTR’s Zach Links (Twitter link) that he believes the veteran righty will get a chance to start on a major league club.

Here’s more from the AL West:

  • The Astros are interested in upgrading the club’s bullpen in both the short and long-term, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Owner Jim Crane said that the team’s relief corps has cost the club ballgames, indicating that he hopes to find some solutions during the current season. Nevertheless, any moves would keep an eye firmly on the future: “We’re always looking more long term,” he said, “but we want to try to establish a nucleus this year and win a lot more ballgames than we did last year.”
  • Of course, the Angels‘ bullpen needs are on a much shorter fuse. Even after making several recent acquisitions, club GM Jerry Dipoto says that the team is still browsing the market, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter). Dipoto hopes to form a late-inning nucleus that can record the “last nine outs” of a game. “We will continue to look for a guy who can join that group,” he said.
  • Multiple teams have expressed interest in Mariners righty Erasmo Ramirez, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports on Twitter. The 24-year-old has not had sustained success at the major league level, but does offer plenty of youth and team control. Ramirez would seem to make a useful trade chip in a lower-level deal for Seattle, or as a part of a package in a larger swap.

Minor Moves: Jerome Williams, Jo-Jo Reyes, Ramon Ramirez, Brad Glenn

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • Righty Jerome Williams has been released by the Astros, according to the MLB.com transactions page. The 32-year-old swingman owns a 6.04 ERA through 47 2/3 innings (all as a reliever) on the year for Houston, with 7.2 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9. Across nine MLB seasons, he has allowed 4.45 earned runs per nine while working mostly as a starter.
  • The Phillies have agreed to a minor league deal with Jo-Jo Reyes, reports MLBTR’s Zach Links (via Twitter). The 29-year-old lefty has seen time in parts of five MLB seasons, the last of which came in 2011. He owns a 6.05 career ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 through 334 2/3 innings, mostly as a starter. Reyes has been playing in Korea since the start of the 2013 season.
  • The Orioles have outrighted righty Ramon Ramirez to Triple-A, the club announced. Ramirez got just one inning during his time with Baltimore, though he has seen action in parts of nine MLB seasons.
  • After being designated for assignment by the Blue Jays on Sunday, outfielder Brad Glenn has cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A, reports Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star (via Twitter). The 27-year-old notched his first MLB hit during a brief call-up.
  • The DFA rolls are growing, with the following players are currently in limbo (per MLBTR’s DFA tracker): Justin Maxwell (Royals), Jeff Francis (Athletics), Rich Hill (Angels), Raul Fernandez (Rockies), Alfonso Soriano (Yankees), Brad Mills (Athletics), Donnie Murphy (Rangers), George Kottaras (Indians), John Buck (Mariners), and Mark Lowe (Indians).

Trade Market For Second Basemen

Last summer, we saw several second base options change hands in the form of veterans Emilio Bonifacio, John McDonald, Alberto Callaspo and Michael Young, while young options like Leury Garcia and Grant Green included as returns in deals. There’s no shortage of contending clubs that have received little to no production at the keystone this season; the Cardinals, Athletics, Braves, Orioles, Marlins, Royals, Giants and Nationals have all seen their second basemen combine to turn in a wRC+ of 76 or lower (per Fangraphs).

Here’s a look at some names that could potentially be available on the market…

Starters

Daniel Murphy (Mets), Ben Zobrist (Rays), Aaron Hill (D’Backs), Martin Prado (D’Backs), Gordon Beckham (White Sox), Nick Franklin (Mariners), Danny Espinosa (Nationals), Chase Utley (Phillies), Luis Valbuena (Cubs)

  • Murphy is controlled through 2015 and is well on his way to the finest season of his career (already at 2.5 fWAR). He’s improved his defense steadily over the past few years and is hitting .302/.343/.411. Reports have indicated that the Mets could also extend Murphy rather than trade him, a possibility which I examined in depth late last month.
  • Also controlled through 2015, Zobrist may be the most desirable second base option on the market. Zobrist is a highly versatile defender and switch-hitter with a solid bat from both sides of the plate, and even if his offensive game is declining at age 33, he still has a .268/.350/.411 batting line (118 wRC+) and adds value on the bases as well. His $7.5MM club option is a bargain that most teams can afford.
  • The 32-year-old Hill is having arguably the worst season of his career and certainly his worst with the D’Backs, but he’s just a year removed from a strong .291/.356/.462 batting line. Hill’s contract — he is owed $12MM in 2015 and again in 2016 — is a detriment, and Arizona would likely need to eat some salary.
  • Prado, 30, hasn’t played second baseman extensively since 2010 with the Braves, but he has nearly 2000 career innings at the position. He’s not as strong defensively at the keystone as he is at third base or in left field, however. He’s also owed about $27MM through the 2016 season and hitting a sub-par .268/.313/.365 in 2014. Those numbers translate to an OPS+ of just 89, but he had a mark of 109 from 2008-13.
  • Beckham, 27, is hitting just .244/.298/.389, having cooled off after an excellent month of May. He’s controlled fairly cheaply through 2015, earning $4.18MM in 2014 before being arb-eligible one last time this winter. However, he doesn’t come with a great defensive reputation, and he’s had some injury issues. Still, the rebuilding ChiSox are reportedly willing to deal him.
  • The 23-year-old Franklin was recently considered one of the game’s top prospects. He’s been displaced by Robinson Cano and used some in a utility role with Seattle, but most of his time has come in the minors. He’s hitting .298/.396/.487 at Triple-A this season and is likely ready for a full-time crack at the Majors, despite his ugly numbers there in his brief stint this season.
  • An Espinosa trade wouldn’t be ideal for the Nationals, but it would clear up their latest roster logjam. However, the Nats would also be selling low on Espinosa, which they’ve previously shown an unwillingness to do. The switch-hitter has just a .216/.283/.347 batting line this season and hit just .158/.193/.272 in 2013. While an Espinosa trade seems at least plausible, it doesn’t seem likely at this time.
  • Utley’s inclusion on the list is simply due to the fact that there’s bound to be speculation regarding the lifetime Phillie. However, he’s gone on-record to say that he’s not planning on waiving his 10-and-5 rights, and I’d put the odds of him being traded under five percent, personally. Still, teams will likely at least ask GM Ruben Amaro Jr. about Utley, who is in the first year of a two-year extension that contains three vesting options.
  • Valbuena hasn’t played much second base since 2010, and some clubs may prefer him in a utility role, but he’s hitting well enough in 2014 to justify regular at-bats. Controlled through 2016, Valbuena is earning $1.7MM this season and has a solid .260/.344/.427 triple-slash line.

Backups/Utility Players/Defensive Specialists

Darwin Barney (Cubs), Cliff Pennington (D’Backs), Rickie Weeks (Brewers), Chone Figgins (Dodgers), Logan Forsythe (Rays), Sean Rodriguez (Rays), Ryan Goins (Blue Jays), Daniel Descalso (Cardinals), Dan Uggla (Braves), Josh Rutledge (Rockies)

Uggla isn’t so much a trade candidate as he is a release candidate, but if and when the Braves cut him loose, another club could buy low on his powerful bat and hope a change of scenery turns him around. Weeks has been a serviceable right-handed component of a platoon in Milwaukee, but the Brew Crew may be open to shedding some of his salary and going with a cheaper option there if someone wants to roll the dice on giving Weeks a bigger role (though that’s just my speculation). Rutledge could be viewed by some teams as a starter, and Colorado could feel comfortable in dealing him and going with Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu up the middle (again, my speculation). But, he’s posted some pretty pedestrian numbers in his career despite hitting at Coors Field.

Some players on this list — Descalso, Figgins, Goins — are under control with contenders, but they could conceivably moved for another piece and replaced with an internal option. The recently designated Donnie Murphy (Rangers) could be of interest to teams in need of bench help as well. He struggled in 2014 but did mash 11 homers in just 164 PA for the Cubs in 2013.



MLBTR Originals

A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR this past week:

  • Zach Links participated in the conference call with Cubs President Theo Epstein announcing the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade and reported Epstein’s desire never to be a Trade Deadline seller again. “We thought a lot internally as we went through this process that we hope that this is the last year that we’ll be obvious sellers at the deadline. And, nothing would make us happier than aggressively adding to the big league team and enhancing chances for a World Series.
  • Tim Dierkes was the first to report the Rays claimed right-hander Cory Burns off waivers from the Rangers.
  • Tim analyzed the trade market for catchers.
  • Steve Adams provided a primer on the 2014-15 international free agent signing period, which began July 2 and runs through June 15, 2015.
  • Brad Johnson asked MLBTR readers who will be the first position player traded. Martin Prado was the top pick followed by Chase Headley, Luis Valbuena, Dayan Viciedo, and Ben Zobrist.
  • Steve hosted the MLBTR live chat this week.
  • Zach put together the best of the baseball blogosphere in a double dose of Baseball Blogs Weigh In.

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Theo Epstein On Trading Samardzija, Hammel

Yesterday, the Cubs set off fireworks in the baseball world when they agreed to send Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics for top prospect Addison Russell, outfield prospect Billy McKinney, and pitcher Dan Straily.  In a conference call earlier today, Cubs President Theo Epstein spoke fondly of both starters and thanked them profusely for their effort while in Chicago.  Samardzija will be under contract with Oakland through 2015 but Hammel will hit the open market after the 2014 season.  I asked Epstein if he might circle back to the 31-year-old whom he signed to a reasonable one-year, $6MM deal earlier this year.

You know, Jason left a great impression while he was here, but he’s an Oakland A now,” Epstein said.  “We just wish him well with Oakland all the way through October.

While word of the trade leaked out late last night, the deal between Chicago and Oakland was actually agreed to mid-afternoon yesterday.  A’s GM Billy Beane first reached out to Epstein “about a month ago” to let him know that they wanted to be aggressive this year, particularly in acquiring pitching, and asked him to keep the A’s in mind when it came to Samardzija and Hammel.  Epstein quickly realized the two clubs didn’t match up “one-for-one” in a deal involving Samardzija and Russell, but they managed to expand the deal in yesterday’s talks to something that worked for both sides.

Russell is one of the top prospects in baseball and gives the Cubs a nice return for their pitchers, but Epstein is hopeful this will be the last time they find themselves on this side of a summer deal.

We thought a lot internally as we went through this process that we hope that this is the last year that we’ll be obvious sellers at the deadline.  And, nothing would make us happier than aggressively adding to the big league team and enhancing chances for a World Series,” Epstein said.  “We repeated to ourselves that this type of move is not something that we want to do.

Of course, the addition of Russell gives the Cubs something of a glut at shortstop on the surface.  However, even with Starlin Castro at the big league level and two top-100 prospects in Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara waiting in the wings, Epstein says no one will be changing positions right away.

The nice thing about having impact players who are athletic, can play in the middle of the field, and can hit is that it gives you options.  You can never have too many shortstops and you look around baseball and you see some of the best outfielders in the game came up as shortstops and the same for the best third basemen and second basemen.  We feel that Baez is a shortstop but we’re also comfortable that he can play second base or third base or outfield if he has to.  Addison Russell has versatility to play all over the infield, Bryant can also go out to right field with a relatively smooth transition, Alcantara can play shortstop or second base or be one heck of an outfielder…They can all fit on the field together,” said the Cubs president, who went on to say the acquisition of Russell had “nothing to do” with Castro.

Ultimately, the Cubs feel you can never have too much of a good thing and they have a plan in place to make sure everyone is utilized.  Of course, as Epstein himself said, there also figures to be plenty of trades in the club’s future.


Trade Market For Catchers

Last summer, catchers Steve Clevenger and Drew Butera were traded in July, while Kurt Suzuki and John Buck were dealt in August.  The Orioles, Blue Jays, and Dodgers could consider adding a starting catcher, while clubs such as the Royals and Giants could seek a backup.  Here’s a look at this summer’s trade market for catchers.  The roles listed below could differ based on the acquiring team.

Starters

Miguel Montero (Diamondbacks), Carlos Ruiz (Phillies), Kurt Suzuki (Twins), Jason Castro (Astros), Welington Castillo (Cubs), Wilin Rosario (Rockies), Yasmani Grandal (Padres), A.J. Pierzynski (Red Sox)

  • Montero, 30, has been the most productive of the group.  He’s having a resurgent campaign after a lost 2013, and at the trade deadline he’ll have roughly $43MM left on his contract through 2017.  However, the D’Backs are not looking to dump salary, and aim to contend in 2015.  To that end, trading Montero doesn’t make sense, but GM Kevin Towers is known as the Gunslinger for a reason.
  • The Phillies made a three-year commitment to Ruiz last offseason, so he’s not the most likely candidate to be dealt.  Plus, he’s currently on the seven-day concussion DL.
  • Suzuki, a free agent after the season, seems a reasonable trade candidate.  He’s having his best season in years and will be owed less than a million bucks by the deadline.  The Twins could look to extend him instead, though.
  • Castro’s performance has taken a tumble since his breakout 2013 season.  Certainly the Astros would consider trading the 27-year-old, who is under team control through 2016 as an arbitration eligible player.  However, the club will probably be disinclined to sell low.
  • Castillo is a speculative name here, in that the Cubs would likely at least listen.  He’s 27 years old and under team control through 2017, and the Cubs don’t have much catching in their farm system.  But if they manage to acquire a better “Catcher of the Future” candidate in another trade, moving Castillo becomes more palatable.
  • Would the Rockies trade Rosario?  They made an offer to Ruiz in the offseason, suggesting they weren’t thrilled with Rosario’s defensive chops.  Rosario, just 25, is under team control through 2017.  He hit 49 home runs from 2012-13.
  • Grandal is a player who could be considered more by a non-contending team, if the Padres decide to cut bait with the former top prospect.
  • At 6.5 games out, the Red Sox are currently on the bubble of contention.  The meager return they could get for Pierzynski may not be worth shaking up their catching situation, with the veteran having the worst offensive season of his career.

Backups

Robinson Chirinos (Rangers), Ryan Hanigan (Rays), Rene Rivera (Padres), Carlos Corporan (Astros), Chris Gimenez (Rangers), John Ryan Murphy (Yankees), Austin Romine (Yankees), Tony Sanchez (Pirates), David Ross (Red Sox), J.P. Arencibia (Rangers), John Baker (Cubs), Jose Molina (Rays), Geovany Soto (Rangers), Gerald Laird (Braves)

It should be noted that Soto is currently on the 60-day DL, recovering from March knee surgery.  This group presents a wide range of options, with a few players who are able to play regularly as well as some young players who have yet to establish themselves.  Hanigan would be the most complicated one to move, with nearly $12MM coming to him through 2016.


Rays Claim Cory Burns Off Waivers From Rangers

The Rays have claimed Cory Burns off waivers from the Rangers, according to MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes (via Twitter).  The right-hander has spent parts of the last two seasons in the majors but has been with Texas’ Triple-A affiliate for 2014.

Burns, 26, owns a 7.44 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 19 relief appearances and one start this season.  In a combined 27 appearances for the Padres and Rangers between 2012 and 2013, Burns posted a 4.60 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 5.2 BB/9.


MLBTR Originals

A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR the last seven days:


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Examining A Potential Daniel Murphy Extension

It’s been reported that the Mets, who have shown a reluctance to move veteran pieces under GM Sandy Alderson, could work out an extension with second baseman Daniel Murphy rather than trade him for prospects at this year’s deadline. The natural reaction to that news, particularly for Mets fans, is to wonder what an extension would cost the team.

Murphy entered the year with four years, 109 days of service time and a $5.7MM salary in his back pocket after avoiding arbitration with the team for the second time this past winter. He’s under control through next season and is due one more raise in arbitration before being scheduled to hit the open market for the first time in his career.

Using MLBTR’s Extension Tracker to look at extensions for second basemen with between four and six years of service time, Martin Prado jumps out as a strong comparable for Murphy both in terms of service time and in terms of production. Here’s a look at Murphy’s career to date alongside Prado’s career through the time he signed his four-year, $40MM deal with the D’Backs:

From an offensive standpoint, the two are very similar. Even when adjusting for ball park, Murphy has a 110 OPS+, where Prado’s was at 109 heading into the 2013 season. The big difference between the two, of course, is defense. Murphy, drafted as a third baseman, learned to play second base on the job and was a liability there early in his career. Defensive metrics have come around on his glovework at the keystone, but Defensive Runs Saved still pegs him as below-average, and Ultimate Zone Rating feels he’s average at best.

Prado, meanwhile, was considered a standout defender at third base and in left field at the time of his extension, and he was also capable of sliding over to second base or shortstop if needed. That’s versatility that Murphy simply doesn’t have to offer, and it’s a large reason for the fact that Fangraphs valued Prado’s career at 14.2 WAR when he signed his deal, while Murphy’s career to date is pegged at 11.1 fWAR.

However, Prado’s contract was signed 18 months ago, and his $4.75MM salary in 2012 was lower than Murphy’s current $5.7MM mark. It stands to reason that Murphy would earn more next season in arbitration than Prado would have in his final arb year, and we’ve seen the price of extensions grow over the past few seasons. Additionally, if the Mets feel that Murphy has progressed to the point where he’s at least an adequate defender at second base, they’ll likely be willing to pay for his future defensive value rather than ding him for his past struggles.

Murphy himself mentioned the possibility of a four-year deal multiple times in the report from Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, and if that’s the target window for an extension, something in the neighborhood of $9MM in 2015 and $12-13MM annually for his first three free agent seasons could work for both sides. That’d put his deal in the $45-48MM range over four years, beginning in 2015.

Murphy could also follow the route of Brett Gardner — another above-average player who was never seen as a star prior to his offseason contract extension. Gardner agreed to his final arbitration salary and then signed a four-year deal that began in 2015 and covered only free agent years. Were Murphy to go that route, an additional year at $12-14MM could be added to Murphy’s deal (which would then begin in 2016), meaning he would earn roughly $9MM in 2015 and earn something in the $48-52MM range for his age-31 through age-34 seasons (2016-19).


Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Sabean, Buehrle, Duffy

On this date in 2012, Jim Thome set a major league mark with his 13th career walk-off home run, a solo shot over the left-field wall in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving the Phillies a dramatic 7-6 victory over Tampa Bay.  Before the historic round-tripper at Citizens Bank Park, the 41-year-old five-time All Star had shared the record with five Hall of Famers: Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, and Frank Robinson.  Here’s this week’s look around the baseball blogosphere..

Please send submissions to Zach at ZachBBWI@gmail.com.