Nelson Cruz Rumors

AL Notes: Soria, Indians, Cruz, Bogar

Offense is at a premium this season and Rays manager Joe Maddon doesn’t think it will improve any time soon, writes MLB.com’s Bill Chastain. “The hitter’s at a total disadvantage right now,” Maddon said. “And there’s no advantages on the horizon. I don’t see it. That’s why it’s going to take a lot of creative thinking. It could be just going back maybe to something that had been done before. I’m not sure. But right now, offense is going south, and it’s going to continue going south based on pitching and defense. Everything, data, video, all the information benefits them over offense.” Maddon also pointed to improved bullpens throughout baseball as another factor in the depressed offensive numbers.

Here’s more from the American League:

  • July acquisition Joakim Soria deserves a shot at pitching in high-pressure situations for the Tigers, writes Chris Iott of MLive.com. Soria could be the best relief pitcher the Tigers have and they paid a price to get him, so they should utilize him in the best way possible, Iott argues.
  • The Indians led the majors in errors for much of the sesaon, but there likely won’t be sweeping changes in Cleveland’s infield, writes Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer.
  • Nelson Cruz reiterated he would like to stay with the Orioles, but extension talks will still wait until after the season, tweets Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
  • Tim Bogar is now the clear runaway favorite to be hired as the next Rangers manager, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (on Twitter).

Olney On Qualifying Offer Candidates

In his latest Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney runs down a list of pending free agents that are candidates to receive qualifying offers. Olney spoke with several executives from around the league and is of the mind that James Shields, Max Scherzer, Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, J.J. Hardy, Victor Martinez, Ervin Santana, David Robertson and Hanley Ramirez will receive qualifying offers, which should fall between $15MM and $15.5MM.

Here are a few more notes from Olney’s piece…

  • The Giants intend to give Sandoval a QO with the assumption that he will reject the offer and test the open market. San Francisco appears willing to offer him just three years, says Olney, and even going to four years might be too much of a stretch. Such a commitment seems much too light to land Sandoval, who, at 28 years old, will be one of the youngest free agents on the market.
  • It looks like the Dodgers and Ramirez could be moving in separate directions, as rival evaluators anticipate the team will extend a qualifying offer with the expectation that Ramirez signs elsewhere.
  • The value of Martin on a one-year deal, even north of $15MM, makes a QO for the Pirates “an easy call,” one rival GM said to Olney. Some may wonder whether or not Francisco Liriano is a QO candidate, but executives polled by Olney feel that his injury history and lack of innings present too much risk for the Bucs to extend such an offer. I’m inclined to agree; while Martin is a lock to turn down the QO, Liriano would have more hesitancy, and a $15MM salary would represent nearly 21 percent of the Pirates’ Opening Day payroll from 2014.
  • Some evaluators think that Cruz will again find himself with a more limited market than he expects due to his age, 2013 PED suspension and the fact that his OBP and defense are less impressive than his power totals.
  • Many rival executives feel there’s simply no way that the Tigers will let Martinez get away. Olney’s right in noting that a QO is “an easy call” for V-Mart, who currently sports a hefty .333/.401/.567 with a career-high 31 homers.
  • Olney also feels that a QO for Robertson is an easy call. While he notes that teams don’t pay $15MM for closers anymore, one evaluator said to him: “…with any other team, we wouldn’t be talking about this. But it’s the Yankees, and they can do it.” On a somewhat related note, Olney adds that Koji Uehara‘s late-season swoon may be a blessing of sorts for the Red Sox, who can now approach him with an offer much lower than a QO would have been. I noted in yesterday’s MLBTR chat that I’d be more hesitant to give Robertson a QO, but the Yankees could certainly afford to run the risk.

AL East Links: Cruz, Young, Greene, Pedroia

In his latest Insider-only piece for ESPN, Buster Olney expressed doubt that the Orioles would re-sign Nelson Cruz this winter.  The O’s are more likely to let Cruz go and pick up an extra draft pick (via the qualifying offer) since Cruz’s big season may have made him too expensive for Baltimore.  If the team looks for a right-handed bat to replace Cruz, Olney opines that the Braves’ Evan Gattis, rumored to be a trade candidate, would be a perfect fit as the Orioles’ new designated hitter.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Also from Olney, Yankees GM Brian Cashman originally passed on the idea of signing Chris Young when the team’s statistical analysts recommended that the Yankees pick up the recently-released Met.  Cashman’s change of heart paid off, as Young has a whopping 1.266 OPS in his short stint (29 PA) as a Yankee and three homers, including a walkoff to beat the Rays last Thursday.
  • Rookie right-hander Shane Greene‘s emergence has been a boon for the Yankees‘ injury-riddled rotation, and Kevin Kernan of the New York Post details the unlikely story of how Greene originally caught the eyes of team scouts.  Greene, a 15th-round draft pick in 2009, has a 3.56 ERA, 9.2 K/9 and 2.92 K/BB rate over 68 1/3 IP this season.
  • Dustin Pedroia‘s contract extension was considered to be very team-friendly when it was signed last year, but ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes wonders if the Red Sox were too quick to extend Pedroia given how recurring injuries caused his performance to drop off in 2014.  The Sox already had Pedroia locked up through 2014 (with a team option for 2015) on a prior contract before tearing that deal up for his new extension that runs through the 2021 season.
  • The Rays‘ planned payroll cut might not be all that drastic, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes, as the team still plans to contend next season.  Any payroll saved “will be the product of trades and tough choices.”  For instance, Topkin thinks Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Joyce could be trade candidates, as both players will get raises in arbitration this winter.
  • Earlier today, MLBTR’s Steve Adams compiled more news from around the AL East.


Cafardo On Hamels, Cruz, Hardy, Tomas

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at Jake Peavy‘s effect on the Giants this season. “He brings a lot of intensity, he brings a lot of energy, he brings a lot of veteran leadership, he brings a lot of guts,” Hunter Pence said last week. “He’s been a big charge to this run we’ve made. That energy is exciting to be around. It’s a different dugout when he’s in it.”  More from today’s column..

  • John Boggs, the agent for Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, told Cafardo he will sit down with his client and put together a new 20-team no-trade list by November 1.  Boggs says the Red Sox were on Hamels’s 2014 no-trade list and the Phillies would have to have asked permission to deal him to Boston. “It doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have accepted it,” Boggs said. “We are still deliberating on what teams will be on that list for 2015.”
  • After a one-year pillow offer, Nelson Cruz appears to have riches awaiting for him this winter.  The Orioles will make him the $15MM+ qualifying offer, but he’ll be in demand as one of the few right-handed power hitters out there.  The Yankees can be expected to have interest and the Rangers could look to bring him back.
  • Manager Buck Showalter has talked with J.J. Hardy about how much the Orioles want him to re-sign, but they may not offer the most money. Showalter said the team would make him a fair offer, but he tried to appeal to how much Hardy has enjoyed playing in Baltimore.
  • Showalter is a realist when it comes to the Orioles‘ financial limitations, but he feels he can still come up with good players going the minor league free agent route. The Orioles did it with journeyman first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce, who has had an excellent season.  Showalter feels that he can do it again with 28-32 year old hitters that are just starting to figure it out.
  • One team’s international scout tells Cafardo that Yasmani Tomas could command as much as $100MM.  The scout said Tomas has gotten himself in shape and if he performs well at his showcase later in the month, the money will get “really high.”
  • One American League evaluator thinks it’s possible for the Phillies to move Ryan Howard to the American League, where he could be a full-time DH. “He’s not a lost cause,” said the evaluator. “He’s knocked in 92 runs for a bad team, so there’s obviously something still there. He could help an American League team as a DH.” However, that would require the Phillies to eat a good portion of the $60MM left on his contract.

Orioles, Nelson Cruz Mutually Interested In Extension

3:03pm: Cruz himself now tells reporters, including MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli, that the Orioles and Katz have had some extension talks since the All-Star break, but the talks have not been serious in nature. The slugger adds that after his difficult experience last offseason, he would like to get an extension worked out before season’s end, although he knows that scenario may not be realistic, given the casual nature of talks to this point. He also repeated that he would like to remain an Oriole beyond the 2014 season (Twitter links).

11:37am: The Orioles and Nelson Cruz share an interest in keeping the slugger in Baltimore past the 2014 season, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  Both Dan Duquette and Adam Katz (Cruz’s agent) declined on comment on whether any extension talks have already taken place or will take place, though both parties have felt Cruz has been a good fit in Baltimore this year.

It’s no secret it’s been a very positive experience for Nelson and the Orioles — though I don’t want to speak for them,” Katz said. “He’s enjoyed every minute of it.”

Cruz is set to hit free agency this winter and his big 2014 numbers will put him in line for a solid multiyear deal.  (MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes ranked Cruz as the sixth-best player on the market in his most recent 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings.)  Cruz’s league-leading 34 homers and .256/.324/.510 slash line have gone a long way in answering the doubts that plagued his stint as a free agent last winter.  With a qualifying offer draft pick attached to him and a 50-game PED suspension clouding his reputation, Cruz was forced to settle for a one-year, $8MM deal from the O’s.

This tough experience last offseason might be a reason why Cruz is considering an extension, as Heyman notes it would be rather unusual for a player in Cruz’s situation (signing a one-year pillow contract type of deal and then delivering big) to not test the open market.  The O’s will certainly offer Cruz a one-year qualifying offer if an extension can’t be worked out, and rather than face such uncertainty again, it could be that Cruz simply prefers to stay in a familiar situation.


AL East Notes: Cano, Yankees, Cruz, Francisco

Robinson Cano told reporters, including the New York Daily News’ Andy Martino, that he wasn’t bothered by the boos he received in returning to Yankee Stadium. Martino goes on to opine that the booing of Cano seems to be the only emotion the Yankee fanbase can muster due to the team’s lackluster performance. He asked Brett Gardner how the club could be more consistent at the plate and received a frustrated reply: “Well, if we knew that, we would have done it two days ago.” More on the Yankees’ decision to let Cano walk and the AL East…

  • Martino’s colleague, John Harper, wonders if the Yankees would let Cano walk again if they had a mulligan on the offseason. As he notes, there’s virtually no certainty next season in the infield with Derek Jeter retiring, Brian Roberts on a one-year deal, Mark Teixeira‘s injuries, an unproven track record for Yangervis Solarte and Alex Rodriguez‘s suspension. While the back-end of any Cano deal would surely look poor, he asks if that would be an acceptable price to pay for chasing greatness in the short term.
  • Rangers GM Jon Daniels appeared on The Afternoon Show with Cowlishaw and Moseley in Texas yesterday and discussed Nelson Cruz‘s hot start with the Orioles. Daniels said he’s not surprised to see Cruz thriving — though they wouldn’t have expected 20 homers through this point in the season. He adds that Texas made multiple attempts to sign Cruz, making a qualifying offer and offering a multi-year deal at the Winter Meetings. Daniels adds: “…by the time it came down to Spring Training, when he was signing, there was some other factors at play. We made the decision that we did to give our own guys an opportunity and keep the draft pick.”
  • Shi Davidi of Sportsnet breaks down Juan Francisco‘s strong play for the Blue Jays and wonders if the Jays could possibly have struck gold on a third low-cost slugger acquisition. Davidi points out that Toronto stumbled into franchise cornerstones Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, and Francisco is cut largely from the same cloth. Davidi looks at improvements to Francisco’s pitch selection — though his strikeout rate remains high — and changes to his approach made by the team’s coaching staff. Francisco, a close friend of Encarnacion, says he feels at home with the Jays. Davidi also reports that Toronto tried to acquire Francisco last season as well before Atlanta traded him to Milwaukee, suggesting he’s been on their radar for quite some time.

AL East Notes: Anthopoulos, Betances, Rosenthal

The Blue Jays sit atop the AL East but most feel that the club will try to fortify its starting rotation before the trade deadline.  Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos hinted to Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com that if his team did make a move, the price might be too high for a big-name arm.  “We are pretty much maxed out in terms of payroll, but more important, we cannot keep trading our young [minor league] pitchers,” Anthopoulos said.  “We also have to be realistic about whom we can extend if we make a trade for him….We have been feeling out teams and doing background work.  I think we’d probably look at something where we have a pitcher for the rest of this season. That makes sense.”  Gammons wonders if this means the Jays wouldn’t pursue David Price or Jeff Samardzija since neither pitcher is likely to sign an extension with Toronto to becoming a free agent after 2015.  James Shields (a free agent this winter) would also cost a lot, while Gammons suggests names like Francisco Liriano, Jason Hammel or Justin Masterson as possible fits.

Here’s the latest from around the AL East…

  • Dellin Betances no longer frets about trade rumors like he did in his younger days, the Yankees reliever tells Brendan Kuty of NJ.com.  “I try not to pay too much attention,” Betances said. “Actually, I haven’t heard anything. But this has happened so many times that — you always hear rumors that are coming up.”  CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman recently explored Betances as a possible trade chip the Yankees could use in a package for Samardzija, though with Betances pitching so well, Heyman noted New York would be hesitant to move the right-hander.
  • In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Christopher Crawford breaks down what each of the five AL East teams could look for in the upcoming amateur draft.
  • The struggling Red Sox may not look to help their lineup by trading for a notable hitter, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal said in a recent radio appearance on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Show (WEEI.com’s Nick Canelas has a partial transcript).  “To expend what you’€™d have to expend to get that player, I’€™m not sure the Red Sox want to do that because right now they’re in a situation where they are protective of what they have,” Rosenthal said.  “They have depth in young talent all over the place, we know that; left side of the infield, catching, pitching to some extent. But their idea is to keep this going, and I’€™m not sure you keep it going by trading for a big-money hitter and expending prospects to do it with one or two years left on the guy’€™s contract.”
  • From that same interview, Rosenthal also touched on Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz, who “looks like a player that a lot of people underestimated” coming off his PED suspension in 2013.  “The price was not to the liking of a lot of teams early on, and he’€™s not that offensive-defensive mixture that most teams seek now….He’s a guy that clearly has shown that whatever was going on with him, assuming that nothing is going on now, he is back to the player that we thought he should be.”  Cruz is currently slashing .295/.361/.612 with a Major League-leading 16 homers.
  • Rosenthal notes that the Red Sox didn’t pursue Cruz last winter.  Cruz’s success notwithstanding, I’d say it’s hard to fault Boston for that non-move since the club was seemingly set in the corner outfield spots and David Ortiz is the everyday DH.

AL Notes: Orioles, Rodney, Sabathia, A’s Catchers

We just looked at the latest from the AL Central; here are some notes from the rest of the American League:

  • The Orioles will not discuss contract extensions during the season, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. “We’re not going to be exploring any extensions during the season,” said Executive VP Dan Duquette. “… Once the season starts, I think it benefits the team and the players and the fans to keep the focus on the field and the players on the field.” While star center fielder Adam Jones was inked to a mid-season extension back in 2012, Duquette explained that was a different situation since “we started that discussion during the winter, and it extended into the season.” The team is not presently in talks with any of its current crop of pending free agents, Duquette said. While shortstop J.J. Hardy had been linked to contract chatter during the spring, he and fellow free-agents-to-be Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis will seemingly be allowed to test the open market. (MLBTR’s Steve Adams just took a look an early look at the free agent case of Markakis.)
  • Mariners closer Fernando Rodney said today that he wanted to stay with the Rays but never received a contract offer, reports Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune (Twitter link). Rodney added that he received two-year offers from the MetsOrioles, and Indians, in addition to a one-year offer from the Yankees, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Of course, Rodney ultimately went to Seattle for two years and $14MM.
  • Yankees hurler C.C. Sabathia is headed to see Dr. James Andrews, tweets Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com, though thankfully the issue is in his knee rather than his left elbow. As MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch writes, the visit is viewed as precautionary, as a recent MRI showed no structural issues. “The best-case scenario is, CC gets the knee drained, rests for five days and gets a couple of bullpens under his belt and he takes the start after he comes off the DL,” said GM Brian Cashman. “That’s the best-case scenario. I’m not saying that’s the scenario we’re dealing with yet, but that’s the best.” The club will hope that proves to be the result, as its rotation is already dealing with several notable injuries. Needless to say, any ongoing issues with Sabathia would only further enhance New York’s starting pitcher needs at the trade deadline.
  • The Athletics have gained more production from the catching spot than any other American League club through the combination of Derek Norris and John Jaso, writes John Hickey of Bay Area News Group. Heading into today’s action, the platoon pair had combined for an impressive .338/.419/.507 triple-slash. Indeed, that line has actually been good enough to vault the A’s catching unit into the league lead by measure of fWAR, with a healthy 1.9 wins above replacement through just 184 plate appearances. Both players came to Oakland through trades involving the Nationals, with Norris a piece in the Gio Gonzalez trade and Jaso heading down from the Mariners in the three-team Michael Morse deal.

AL East Notes: Morrow, Francisco, Cruz, Santana, Sabathia

With Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow going to the 60-day DL with a torn tendon sheath, the Star’s Richard Griffin writes that Morrow may well have thrown his last pitch for the club. As Griffin notes, the 29-year-old’s $10MM club option (which comes with a $1MM buyout) seems unlikely to be exercised at this point after yet another significant injury. Here’s more from Toronto and the rest of the AL East:

  • Indications are that the Blue Jays will look to keep power-hitting corner infielder Juan Francisco in the fold after Adam Lind is activated, tweets Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star. Discussing the situation, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes that Toronto could conceivably drop one of its eight relievers or shift Brett Lawrie into the club’s regular second base role.
  • Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz discussed his difficult last year with MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli, saying that it was hardest on his family. As for the qualifying offer situation, Cruz said he probably would have grabbed it had he known what was in store. “But it’s something that you risk and you trust your instincts,” said Cruz. “In this case, it wasn’t what I expected. But I’m happy with my decision and happy with where I am now. That’s the only thing that matters.” From the O’s perspective, executive VP Dan Duquette said that the deal was made when Cruz’s camp “adjusted what they were looking for in terms of the term” (i.e. length) of the deal. Cruz if off to a hot start, of course, posting a .294/.369/.596 triple-slash with nine home runs in his first 122 plate appearances with Baltimore.
  • A less-consequential decision for the Orioles front office was the low-risk signing of one-time ace Johan Santana, who has been working his way back to full strength on a minor league contract. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter that Santana’s fastball has reached the 88-89 mph range, with his slider in the low-80′s and change in the mid-70′s. While that obviously represents a significant drop from his peak years, Santana posted an average fastball velocity of just 89.6 mph in his 2.98 ERA, 199-inning 2010 season.
  • In a chat today, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick touched upon the situation of Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia. A scout recently told Crasnick that Sabathia’s offerings are “very fringy,” and that he will need impeccable control to be effective going forward. On the other hand, Crasnick opines that Sabathia has actually delivered decent value to New York on his massive contract. For what it’s worth, Sabathia’s unsightly 5.75 ERA through his first 40 2/3 innings in 2014 is much worse than his 4.16 FIP, 2.95 xFIP, and 2.92 SIERA marks. Indeed, while Sabathia has been hurt by the long ball (21.9% HR/FB rate) and a .361 BABIP, he is sporting 9.74 K/9 against just 1.99 BB/9 while generating a 50.8% ground-ball rate.

AL East Links: Lester, Hinojosa, Cruz, Orr

George Digby, a Red Sox scout from 1944 to 1994 and a scouting consultant until 2004, passed away on Friday at age 96.  Digby’s long career earned him a spot in the Red Sox Hall Of Fame and his many signings included such notable names as Wade Boggs, Mike Greenwell and Jody Reed.  An even bigger name, however, eluded Digby through no fault of his own.  As ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes relates, Digby pushed the Red Sox to sign Willie Mays in 1949 yet got nowhere thanks to the club’s ban on black players that shamefully existed until 1959.  The MLBTR staff extends our condolences to Digby’s family and many friends around baseball.

Here’s the latest from the AL East…

  • Jon Lester recorded a career-best 15 strikeouts over eight innings of one-hit ball in a 6-3 Boston win over Oakland today.  MLB.com’s Mike Bauman notes that such performances are what makes Lester so valuable to the Red Sox and it only raises the southpaw’s asking price on his next contract.  When last we heard about negotiations, Lester and the Sox had reportedly suspended talks until the end of the season.
  • Dalier Hinojosa has a 7.15 ERA and 12 walks over his first 11 1/3 innings with Triple-A Pawtucket, yet the PawSox coaching staff isn’t yet concerned about the Cuban right-hander, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes.  This is not only Hinojosa’s first taste of American pro baseball since signing a $4.25MM contract with the Red Sox in October, but it is also his first time pitching in cold weather, which the PawSox coaches believe is affecting his performance.
  • Nelson Cruz is off to a hot start and is only under contract through 2014, though MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski opines that the Orioles shouldn’t be in any rush to extend Cruz’s contract.  The O’s have other long-term deals for building block players (i.e. Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy) to consider first, plus Baltimore can also extend a qualifying offer to Cruz in the offseason.
  • Infielder Pete Orr wanted to sign with the Blue Jays last winter, his agent Blake Corosky tells Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith.  “Pete made it clear to them that they were his first choice and starting in [Triple-A] Buffalo was fine.  But they were equally clear there were better options and that they liked him but not enough,” Corosky said.  Orr, born just outside Toronto in nearby Richmond Hill, instead signed a minor league deal with the Brewers.