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Mystery Team Rumors
8:39am: Rosenthal definitively tweets that the Mariners are out of the mix on Upton at this juncture, further fueling the Padres scenario.
8:35am: Olney tweets that the Cubs aren’t in on Upton at this time. He adds that the Padres decided weeks ago that it Kemp had to play center field, they were OK with the idea. He also points out that the Braves have been trying to unload Chris Johnson in potential Upton deals, and San Diego does have an opening at third base.
8:31am: The Padres seem like the most likely club to acquire Upton, tweets Bowman. In addition to Renfroe, Bowman lists Matt Wisler, Max Fried and Austin Hedges as Padres prospects that intrigue the Braves.
8:23am: Buster Olney of ESPN tweets that the Astros aren’t the mystery club. He also tweets that the Braves asked San Diego for top outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe (their 2013 first-round pick) in Upton negotiations earlier this offseason.
8:13am: Bowman tweets that the early indication is that Upton isn’t heading to the A’s, Mariners or Rangers. Somewhat remarkably, Bowman notes that the Padres are a possibility to add Upton. San Diego has been hyper-aggressive of late, but they’ve also already added corner outfielders Matt Kemp and Wil Myers via trade.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the trade partner is not the Athletics. He, too, mentions the Padres as a possibility.
8:09am: Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets that the Rangers aren’t in the mix for Upton.
8:02am: MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets that the Braves have had recent talks with the A’s, Rangers and Mariners regarding Upton.
7:45am: The Braves are finalizing a trade of Justin Upton, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Late last night, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel reported that Atlanta appeared to be “down the road” on a deal sending Upton to an AL West team for young pitching (Twitter link).
Among AL West clubs, the Mariners have been prominently linked to Upton in trade rumors for much of the offseason, but the Rangers also have a need in the corner outfield, and the extremely active Athletics have been stocking up on young pitching in trades recently.
Just as a reminder, the Blue Jays, Cubs, Blue Jays and Brewers are the four clubs on Upton’s limited no-trade clause.
The Giants’ interest in Chase Headley is “turning aggressive,” FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (via Twitter). San Francisco had been linked to Headley and several other notable players in the wake of Pablo Sandoval leaving for Boston, though it appears they’ve stepped up their pursuit of Headley to fill their third base vacancy.
Headley reportedly has a four-year, $65MM offer in hand from a mystery team, a sizable bump from the four-year, $48MM that MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted Headley would receive in free agency. The Marlins and Yankees have both been linked to Headley in rumors, though neither team is the one behind the $65MM offer; the Yankees, in fact, don’t seem willing to go beyond three years to sign him.
Rosenthal isn’t sure how, if at all, the Giants’ focus on Headley could impact their interest in Jon Lester, who had also been cited as Giants target in recent days. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams noted in his Giants Offseason Outlook, the team was willing to give Sandoval a deal in the $95MM range and undoubtedly had a bump in revenue from their World Series victory. If I had to guess, I’d suspect that the Giants would be able to afford both Headley and an ace-level starter like Lester if they felt the need.
Jon Lester reportedly met with the Giants earlier this week and has now had in-person meetings with the Cubs, Red Sox, Braves, Giants and Cardinals. He’s hoping to have all of his team visits concluded prior to the beginning of the Winter Meetings on Sunday. As he moves closer to a decision, here are today’s Lester rumors…
- The Dodgers are preparing to make a major push to add Lester, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford and Alex Speier report. It would appear that Los Angeles is the “mystery team” involved, and that club’s entry could well provide a significant jolt to the market.
- Peter Gammons tweets that while many fans scoff at the notion of “mystery teams,” he’s spoken to three different GMs that feel there’s a serious new entrant into the Lester sweepstakes.
- Lining up with that report, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark writes that a fourth team has joined the Cubs, Red Sox, and Giants in the final bidding.
Red Sox ace Jon Lester has been traded, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports (Twitter link). The A’s appear to have a deal for Lester, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. WEEI’s Alex Speier adds that he’s trying to confirm, but he hears Lester and Jonny Gomes might be traded for Yoenis Cespedes.
Jon Lester has been scratched from his scheduled start tonight — a clear indicator that the Red Sox are looking to deal their ace. It briefly looked like the Orioles were close to a deal, but while those talks are serious, the deal isn’t close yet. Here’s the latest…
- The Cardinals and Pirates are making the strongest bids for Lester at the moment, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports report (Twitter link). The Dodgers also remain involved.
- In a full article, Heyman writes that the A’s are the mystery team that has stepped into the Lester bidding. Nothing is close between the two sides at the moment, however.
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that a mystery team is becoming more involved.
- Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio reports that the Athletics are in on Lester.
- Via WEEI’s Alex Speier (on Twitter), manager John Farrell expects Lester to be in uniform with the Red Sox today.
- The Cardinals‘ acquisition of Justin Masterson doesn’t necessarily take them out of the running for Lester, sources tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The Cards could still acquire Lester, though it may cost them Shelby Miller, Morosi adds in a second tweet.
- The Marlins aren’t entirely out of the Lester sweepstakes, an AL executive familiar with the negotiations tells Juan C. Rodriguez of the Miami Sun-Sentinel. However, the Marlins won’t part with top prospect Andrew Heaney in a Lester deal (or a deal for any rental player).
- The Cardinals and Dodgers are the two teams that are most aggressively competing for Lester’s services, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. They’re also the most aggressive clubs on David Price, though it’s far from a given that the Rays will move their own left-handed ace. Heyman hears similar things to yesterday’s reports regarding the Brewers and Orioles and says neither is in the mix at this point.
- An NL GM told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he thinks the Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers and Mariners are the primary suitors for Lester heading into Wednesday (Twitter link).
The Major League Baseball amateur draft is just hours away, and once it commences, free agent Kendrys Morales will no longer be burdened by the weight of draft pick compensation. While fellow draft-pick free agent Stephen Drew returned to the Red Sox recently, Morales elected to remain on the market and become the first free agent under the current CBA to wait beyond the draft to shed his associated compensation. He may not be waiting long, however, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Morales is likely to find a new home within the next day or two.
The Yankees have been connected to Morales of late, but Heyman reports that the team asked agent Scott Boras and Morales to wait on signing as they evaluate the health of injury-plagued switch hitters Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira. Morales isn’t inclined to play that waiting game, however, which makes other clubs more likely to end up with Morales.
Heyman lists the Brewers and Mariners as more likely destinations than the Yankees, noting that another team or two is in the mix at this time. The Rangers have indeed shown interest, he adds, but they aren’t as likely to sign Morales as Milwaukee, Seattle or the alleged “mystery team”(s). Morales has generated some interest on two-year deals, according to Heyman, but he may prefer a one-year deal to hit unencumbered free agency next winter.
Of course, many other reports have indicated that the Mariners simply don’t have the financial flexibility to add Morales after the large amounts they spent this offseason. The Orioles were said to have interest at one point, but executive VP Dan Duquette essentially closed those doors in an on-record interview with ESPN’s Buster Olney. Heyman also reported recently that the Royals could join the Morales bidding, though they’d likely need to clear some payroll first in order to make that happen.
Under the old player-posting system between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball, it was rare to see small-market MLB clubs bid on Japanese stars. You had the occasional case of a small-market team finding an underrated player that exceeded everyone's expectations (i.e. the Brewers' signing of Norichika Aoki) but for the most part, the biggest stars that came to North America from Japan usually ended up with richer MLB teams in recent years. Teams like the Yankees, Rangers and Red Sox were generally the only ones who could afford the ever-growing posting fees for Japan's best players, not to mention then being able to sign those players to lucrative contracts.
This issue was one of the reasons why MLB wanted a new deal with NPB, and thus the two leagues' new posting agreement was reached after weeks of negotiations. With posting fees for all players capped at $20MM, more than just the biggest markets are theoretically able to bid on top Japanese stars, such as this offseason's most influential available player, Rakuten Golden Eagles righty Masahiro Tanaka.
Of course, the demand for Tanaka's services has been so fierce that his eventual contract could approach the $100MM threshold, meaning that the usual big-market suspects are often cited as his likeliest suitors. The Yankees are widely known to covet Tanaka, with the Dodgers, Rangers, Angels, Diamondbacks, Cubs and Mariners also often cited as teams in the mix. I suspect that Tanaka's list of suitors will be much larger than just these clubs, however. I'm not talking about just the ever-popular "mystery team" or two — the list should, frankly, include almost every team in Major League Baseball.
If a team has scouted Tanaka and has legitimate questions about his ability to make the transition from NPB to North America, then that's obviously a fair reason to stay out of the Tanaka sweepstakes. If a team thinks Tanaka can pitch effectively in MLB and is simply shying away from bidding since they're in a rebuilding phase or thinks they can't afford his eventual contract, that seems like short-sighted thinking. As ESPN's Buster Olney tweets, "for a team to not indicate a willingness to pay a $20 million posting fee on Tanaka is like not running out a grounder; [it] costs nothing to try."
The Cubs' interest in Tanaka is the clearest argument against the "we're rebuilding" excuse. As recently detailed by ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers, Tanaka's age (25) makes him an attractive prospect for a Cubs team that isn't planning to contend for a couple more seasons, since Tanaka will still be in his prime by the time the Cubs expect to make a move in the NL Central. That same reasoning also makes Tanaka a realistic target for the Astros; The Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich admits that the Astros may be a "long shot" to sign the Japanese right-hander, but they're still expected to check in on Tanaka. It's also worth noting that if Tanaka lives up to the hype and becomes an ace in MLB, a losing team's rebuilding process suddenly becomes much shorter.
The "we can't afford him" argument isn't as potent as it once was given how every team is receiving extra money from MLB's national TV contracts and many clubs are getting a boost from their own local TV deals. As we've seen over the last two years, all sorts of teams in all sorts of markets have made surprising financial expenditures to either lock up their own stars to big extensions or sign pricey free agents.
Would it really be so surprising if the Twins bid on Tanaka and pushed hard to sign him, given how that team has already been very aggressive in upgrading its pitching this winter? The Royals are known to be gunning for the playoffs in 2014 and could make a run at Tanaka as Ervin Santana's replacement. Maybe even the Pirates could capitalize on their revival last season and look to add Tanaka as the final piece of the puzzle to get the team back to the World Series. Even teams like the Cardinals or Red Sox who seemingly have pitching depth to spare could use their financial resources and reputations as quality franchises to sign Tanaka, and then further upgrade their rosters by trading their excess starters.
You could argue that bidding on Tanaka wouldn't be worth a small- or mid-market team's time since they're likely to get outbid by a big-market team…but you never know. Going into the winter, you wouldn't have thought that the Mariners would've been the ones to land Robinson Cano, and while the M's may have had to drastically outbid the Yankees to do it, they ended up one of the game's best players and a transformed franchise.
This is all good news for Casey Close, Tanaka's agent, as a crowded market will naturally drive up Tanaka's asking price. While there's still a very good chance Tanaka will be pitching for a big-market team in 2014, don't be surprised at all to see some unlikely clubs get heavily involved in the sweepstakes. MLBTR readers agree — of the six teams listed in a recent MLBTR poll as Tanaka's top suitors, the choice of "other" was second in the voting. It could've just been wishful thinking from readers hoping that their own favorite team can acquire a potential ace, or it could be a portent that the changes to the posting system will indeed level the playing field for more than just baseball's richest teams.
FRIDAY: The two sides are nearing resolution on the claim with just minutes remaining until the deadline, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter).
THURSDAY, 11:37am: Rogers tweets that the Rays are the team that has claimed DeJesus.
11:22am: The Braves are not the team that claimed DeJesus, according to Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago (Twitter link).
10:58am: An unknown team has claimed David DeJesus on revocable waivers from the Nationals, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal notes that the deadline to work out a deal is tomorrow at 1pm ET, which would indicate that DeJesus was claimed yesterday afternoon (Twitter links). He also points out that the Nationals could, of course, simply let the claiming team have DeJesus and assume the remaining $2.5MM he's owed (between his 2013 salary and his $1.5MM option buyout).
The Nationals acquired DeJesus on Monday and immediately placed him on revocable waivers. It seemed an odd move, though Rosenthal reported at the time that the Nationals may not have been that interested in acquiring DeJesus when they made their claim. This is my own speculation, but the Nats could have acquired DeJesus for a player to be named later simply to move him to a team with worse waiver priority in hopes of receiving a superior player to the PTBNL they sent to Chicago.
In 320 plate appearances this season, DeJesus is batting .248/.328/.399. Nearly all of his damage has come against right-handed pitching, as evidenced by his .266/.347/.440 batting line against opposite-handed pitching. Ultimate Zone Rating has graded his center field defense as a positive this season (The Fielding Bible has not), which is a rarity, considering his -0.6 career UZR/150 in center. Both metrics suggest that he's a plus corner defender.
FRIDAY: A source involved in the trade talks between the two sides told Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio that the chances of a deal are "smaller than a bread basket."
THURSDAY, 4:51pm: A trade is unlikely to be reached, writes MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan. Prior to the deadline, the White Sox were interested in lefty Martin Perez, right-hander Luke Jackson and infielder Rougned Odor, and the Rangers aren't keen on giving up those players in a trade for Rios.
3:29pm: The Rangers and White Sox "weren't even close" on an agreement when discussing Rios prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, tweets Danny Knobler of CBS Sports. Knobler also tweets that Rios was placed on waivers on Monday, and the deadline to work out a deal for him is tomorrow. That would suggest that Rios was claimed earlier in the week, but the news only broke today.
2:45pm: The Rangers are the team that claimed Rios, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News (on Twitter). Grant cautions that claiming Rios and actually striking a deal to acquire the 32-year-old are very different things.
Because he is on revocable waivers, the White Sox have 48 hours to work out a trade with the claiming team or pull him back off waivers. Chicago could also let the claiming team have Rios for nothing and be content to dump his salary — the very manner in which Chicago acquired Rios from the Blue Jays in 2009 — but that seems unlikely given his .277/.328/.421 batting line. Rios is controlled through 2014 and owed $12.5MM next season with a $13.5MM club option, though each of those salaries will increase by $500K if he is traded.
It seems likely that an American League team was awarded the claim on Rios, as waiver priority at this point in the season is determined by league and record. All 15 AL teams would have the opportunity to claim Rios before an NL team. The Rangers and Pirates were both connected to Rios prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
- The Twins are receiving lots of calls on Perkins but still telling teams they won't trade him, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The team is also receiving interest in Willingham, despite the fact that he's currently on the DL.
- Berardino writes that Willingham is drawing interest, and one rival talent evaluator told him he could see a scenario where Willingham is dealt. GM Terry Ryan spoke to the media about trade chips last night, adds Berardino. While he didn't mention Willingham's name, he referenced the recent trade of Jesse Crain and a previous trade the Twins had made with injured players: "We did that once with the Dodgers, way back in the day, so it can be done."
- An August trade of Morneau is a more likely outcome than a deadline deal, according to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Rangers are a long shot to make a run at Morneau, the Orioles have cooled on him and the Pirates have other targets atop their wish list at this time.
- The Pirates, Orioles and two unidentified teams make up the market for Morneau at this time, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Rangers don't appear to be a fit, as they're seeking a right-handed bat, and the Yankees are content with Lyle Overbay as a lefty swinging option at first base.
- Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that the Twins are willing to eat some of the remaining $4.6MM on Morneau's contract if it means receiving a decent return.
- Reports from earlier today stated that Morneau wasn't a fit with the Orioles due to his contract and lack of production.