Nelson Cruz Rumors
The Orioles are "active" in discussions for multiple free agent pitchers and hitters, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Among them are outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz as well as starter Ubaldo Jimenez, according to Morosi.
While Baltimore entered the off-season with several needs, MLBTR's Mark Polishuk explained that budget constraints -- especially with Chris Davis and Matt Wieters entering their last year of team control -- left it unclear just how much the club would be able to spend. After clearing the projected $10.8MM salary of closer Jim Johnson, however, executive vice president Dan Duquette may have additional space with which to work.
Discussing the Johnson deal, Duquette indicated that it was in large part driven by "resource allocation." Looking forward, Duquette said the club was "still looking for help in left field" and "would also like to sign some other pitchers."
While any of the above-noted players would fill a need for Baltimore, it would seem to be something of a surprise for one to land there. As Duquette went on to note, "I don't think free agency is the way to build a strong team." And the big dollars expected to be landed by Choo, Cruz, and Jimenez would certainly eat up a big chunk of the present and future payroll for the O's.
3:30pm: The Diamondbacks may also be looking to the trade market for power bats, according to a recent series of tweets from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal reports that the D-Backs and A's recently discussed a trade that would send Yoenis Cespedes to Arizona in exchange for Tyler Skaggs, A.J. Pollock and others. Both sides have cooled on the idea and backed off the trade at this time, however, and the A's would only trade Cespedes for a "monster" return, according to Rosenthal. Still, as he points out, it serves as an example that the Diamondbacks will be aggressive and creative in their search for a power bat in the outfield.
1:54pm: The Diamondbacks are motivated to swing a trade for an ace-caliber pitcher, reports ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. Crasnick spoke with Arizona GM Kevin Towers, president/CEO Derrick Hall and owner Ken Kendrick in an excellent, in-depth breakdown of the situation. While Towers was quick to say that no player is untouchable, he sounded loath to part with prized pitching prospect Archie Bradley, a consensus Top 10 MLB prospect. Asked about the possiblity of trading Bradley, he replied:
"I don't see that happening. Not that anybody is untouchable, but we're hoping he's our David Price, and we can control him [for several years]. He's gonna get every opportunity to crack our rotation this spring ... He's not looking to make our rotation as the fifth guy -- he's looking to make it as the ace."
Hall pointed to the Diamondbacks' success in 2011 when Ian Kennedy finished fourth in the Cy Young race, noting how impactful having a "No. 1 type starter" was to that year's team. Hall expects activity to pick up: "We're getting a lot of calls and making a lot of calls, and we can see the interest is there. We're probably a good fit for a lot of clubs."
In addition to enviable pitching depth, the Diamondbacks also have several intriguing shortstops in the form of Didi Gregorius, Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed. Martin Prado's presence means that Arizona could also be inclined to include Matt Davidson in potential trades, and the presence of both A.J. Pollock could mean that Adam Eaton is attainable as well, notes Crasnick.
Crasnick lists familiar trade targets Price and Jeff Samardzija for the Diamondbacks, though Price has had multiple ace-caliber seasons while Samardzija has more so flashed ace potential. Crasnick adds that Tyler Skaggs and Randall Delgado, each of whom is still younger than 24, may be more likely to be included in potential trades.
The Diamondbacks are also looking to add an impact bat to the outfield, though that addition may be more likely to come via free agency, reports Crasnick. Big-name items like Nelson Cruz and Curtis Granderson may not fit into Arizona's payroll, which could lead to pursuits of names like Corey Hart and Michael Morse, though there are many who don't consider either one to be capable of handling the outfield at this point.
9:48am: The Mets are moving forward with Granderson, and their interest in Nelson Cruz has cooled, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link).
7:00am: Talks between the Mets and Curtis Granderson's agent intensified late Tuesday, a source tells Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Nothing is imminent, a second source told Rubin. The two sides are discussing a three-year deal, though the Mets could concede a fourth guaranteed year to get the deal done, Rubin hears.
Granderson met Sunday with Mets GM Sandy Alderson, which the player later described to reporters as "conversation, a Q-and-A kind of thing" during which he enjoyed some salmon. Granderson, 33 in March, hit .229/.317/.407 in 245 plate appearances for the Yankees in 2013, missing significant time due to being hit by two separate pitches. Since Granderson turned down a qualifying offer from the Yankees, the Mets would have to forfeit their second-round pick to sign him. Plus, four years would be a reach for a player his age unless agent Matt Brown compromises greatly on the average annual value. MLBTR's Steve Adams suggested a $15MM AAV on a three-year deal in his September profile.
The Athletics have a "meaningful interest" in Nelson Cruz, a source tells Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, though no deal is imminent between the two sides. The A's were noted as one of the clubs interested in Cruz (along with the Mariners, Rangers, Mets and possibly the Phillies) earlier this week by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. As Slusser notes, Cruz's demands for a four-year/$75MM contract seem well out of Oakland's price range and the team already has a set outfield. Signing Cruz would also cost the A's a first round draft pick as compensation, so I'd have to say that a Cruz/Oakland connection seems like a long shot.
Here are some more items from around both the AL and NL West divisions...
- Also from Slusser, "nothing is imminent" between the A's and Bartolo Colon, though the team is still interested in the veteran right-hander. Jed Lowrie is drawing "significant interest" from other teams but the A's need him at shortstop and are "highly unlikely" to pursue trade talks.
- The Diamondbacks aren't interested in Cruz or any player connected to PED usage, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. Ken Kendrick, the D'Backs' managing general partner, is a key figure behind this unofficial policy, though a few exceptions have been made on the roster and on the coaching staff. As Piecoro notes, D'Backs reliever Brad Ziegler was openly critical of the Cardinals' recent signing of Jhonny Peralta, another player who missed time with a PED suspension last season.
- Justin Morneau is the Rockies' "primary target," Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes. Renck reported yesterday that Colorado was "aggressively pursuing" Morneau, and he feels the former AL MVP could thrive at Coors Field.
- Mariners chairman and CEO Howard Lincoln tells Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times that the team's payroll budget will be higher than last season's $95MM mark (of which around $84MM was spent). "It’s certainly going to be above what we budgeted last year,” Lincoln said. “How much? For competitive purposes, I’m not prepared to say. But it certainly is not going to go down.” Lincoln also talks about the search to replace retiring president/COO Chuck Armstrong.
- For more from the West divisions, check out Jeff Todd's collection of NL West Notes from earlier today on MLBTR.
If Jhonny Peralta's contract proved to be alarming to some, Nelson Cruz's asking price will likely cause some jaws to hit the floor. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Cruz is seeking a four-year contract worth $75MM.
Cruz, a client of the Wasserman Media Group's Adam Katz, has drawn interest from the Mariners, Mets, Athletics and Rangers, according to Heyman. That the Phillies had some early interest, says Heyman before noting that they'd likely have to trade someone to clear a spot for Cruz in the wake of their Marlon Byrd signing.
The 33-year-old Cruz hit .266/.327/.506 with 27 homers in 109 games (456 plate appearances) before being slapped with a 50-game suspension for PED use that he admitted took place prior to the 2012 season. As we saw in the case of Peralta's four-year, $53MM contract with the Cardinals, teams may be less hesitant to commit large dollars to previously suspended players than most have anticipated. Still, a $75MM contract for Cruz would shatter most pundits' expectations and likely lead to considerable cries for stricter punishment for PED users.
There's been a lot of talk about the Mets following the "Red Sox model" of signing multiple mid-tier free agents to shorter-term deals without sacrificing draft picks this season, but Matt Meyers of ESPNNewYork.com writes that this model won't work for the Mets. New York doesn't have a positional core like Boston had in Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz, nor can the team match Boston's $150MM payroll. Meyers feels that the Mets should follow the Indians' model this winter and look at the Pirates' philosophy long-term. To fans clamoring for big free agent spending, Meyers points out that such actions are precisely what dug the team into its current hole. More Mets links for your Tuesday afternoon...
- David Wright appeared on ESPN New York radio recently, stating that he's not worried about the team's slow start to the offseason and adding that he thinks GM Sandy Alderson "has some tricks up his sleeve." (ESPN's Adam Rubin has some quotes transcribed) Wright elaborated: "In all reality, I think that the offseason doesn't really necessarily kick off until the winter meetings, and that starts right after Thanksgiving ... have some faith because, like I said, I fully expect us to be a much better team moving forward. Hopefully that will begin at the winter meetings or shortly after Thanksgiving."
- Barring a surprise signing of Stephen Drew, it's looking more and more like the Mets will open 2014 with Ruben Tejada as their shortstop, writes MLB.com's Anthony DiComo in his latest Mets Inbox. DiComo points to Cardinals GM John Mozeliak's comments about how steep the prices are for shortstops on the trade market in suggesting that such a move isn't likely to occur. Rafael Furcal may be an upgrade, but as DiComo points out, he's far from a sure thing.
- The large number of holes the Mets have to fill puts Daniel Murphy "at risk of being elsewhere" next season, DiComo adds. The Mets could move Eric Young to his natural position, second base, and address a different hole by trading Murphy.
- Also from DiComo, the Mets would like to find a veteran backup catcher, but that's low on their list of priorities at this point. He tells a reader that while John Buck would likely be a nice it, Buck probably prefers to find a larger role with a team than the Mets can offer.
- The Mets did indeed check in on Ryan Braun, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, though the inquiry consisted of four words, Alderson told Heyman: "What's up with Braun?" Alderson asked Brewers GM Doug Melvin before finding him to be unavailable. The Mets are continuing to pursue corner outfielders Nelson Cruz and Curtis Granderson, however, Heyman writes.
The Athletics have reached a new lease agreement with O.Co Coliseum that runs through December of 2015, according to an Associated Press report (via ESPN). The A's will pay $1.75MM in each year of the lease. Here are some more links pertaining to baseball's western divisions...
- The Mariners are pursuing both Nelson Cruz and Carlos Beltran, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN. He wonders -- as many do -- whether or not Seattle will appeal to major free agents, as they've had difficulty luring top hitters there in previous years.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports definitively writes that the Mariners are interested in Mike Napoli (he'd received conflicting information earlier in the month). Rosenthal also notes the difficulty that the Mariners have had in luring top free agents such as Josh Hamilton and Prince Fielder but notes that Seattle could simply overpay to land their free agent targets. Two separate sources called the Mariners "desperate," and as Rosenthal notes: "Desperate teams spend money. Desperate teams are capable of just about anything." Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury are also on the team's wish list, says Rosenthal.
- Also from Rosenthal, the Angels learned that Peter Bourjos didn't have enough value to land them the controllable young starting pitcher they coveted on the trade market, and so they elected to use him to fill another hole -- third base. While many in the media have pegged the deal as a win for the Cardinals, Rosenthal writes that the common perception of Bourjos' value may not line up with the actual perception among teams.
- Lastly from Rosenthal, the Diamondbacks know what it would take to land Jeff Samardzija from the Cubs, but their fear is that if they pounce too soon on a deal, they could miss out on a bigger value later in the offseason. The Angels aren't a fit for Samardzija, Rosenthal adds, because the Cubs want young pitching in exchange for Samardzija.
- The Dodgers' biggest risk in weighing Matt Kemp trades isn't deciding to hang onto him and finding out he's no longer an MVP-caliber player, opines Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. Rather, the biggest risk facing the Dodgers is learning that Kemp indeed still is that player, but finding out by seeing him prove it in a Mariners, Red Sox or Rangers uniform. Brown feels it's in the Dodgers' best interest to hang onto Kemp.
- Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that the Angels' acquisition of Fernando Salas and Joe Smith could make Kevin Jepsen a non-tender candidate.
The Mets have reached an agreement with outfielder Chris Young on a one-year deal, but that won't preclude the team from pursuing other outfield options, apparently. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Mets are still in the mix for Nelson Cruz (Twitter link).
Cruz, 33, slashed .266/.327/.506 with 27 homers in 109 games (456 plate appearances) but saw his season cut short by a 50-game suspension due to his involvement with the Biogenesis PED scandal. As I noted in his free agent profile, Cruz was candid about his mistake, admitting that prior to the 2012 season, he had lost nearly 40 pounds as a result of a bacterial infection that led to his usage of a banned substance. He accepted his punishment without appeal.
Cruz rejected a qualifying offer from the Rangers, so the Mets would have to forfeit their second-round pick in order to sign him (their first-round pick is protected). At last week's GM Meetings in Orlando, special assistant J.P. Ricciardi told me that the Mets would be willing to make such a sacrifice for the right player and that the team's highest priority was adding offense. As one of the most powerful bats on the market, Cruz would certainly provide a boost to a Mets team that finished 26th in the Majors in home runs and 29th in slugging percentage.
The latest out of Queens, New York, by way of Orlando, Florida..
- Owner Jeff Wilpon says the Mets have been busy and could have something working later this afternoon, tweets David Lennon of Newsday. He also added that the free agent prices in this market could be "scary."
- Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (on Twitter) says that if something is close with the Mets, it's not with Curtis Granderson since they have yet to meet with his agent.
- Meanwhile, the Mets' interest in Granderson and Nelson Cruz has been overstated, a team insider tells Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Asked about the Mets enthusiastically being linked to Granderson and Cruz, a team insider said: "I would not believe everything you read."
Executives yesterday predicted a lot of interest in Mets first baseman Ike Davis and that is already taking shape today, according to Marc Carig of Newsday (via Twitter). The Mets and Brewers reportedly discussed a deal involving Davis and earlier today Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that the Astros, Orioles, Rays, and Rockies have also checked in on him.
The Mariners have money to spend and a need for offense. Yesterday, Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote that the team could be aggressive on free agents Jhonny Peralta, Nelson Cruz, and Mike Napoli. The latest:
- The Mariners' reported interest in Jacoby Ellsbury may be overblown, hears ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. Crasnick wrote earlier than the Ms are more immersed in the Carlos Beltran/Peralta/Kendrys Morales market than in Ellsbury's. The Mariners would like to find a way to add Cruz and Beltran, tweets Crasnick. If they are to pull that off, it could be another offseason of disregarding defense, in my opinion. Signing Cruz and Beltran requires the forfeiture of draft picks, but the Mariners' first rounder is protected. They would lose their second round pick as well as their Competitive Balance Round B pick (similar to the Indians last winter).