Newsstand Rumors

Cafardo’s Latest: Revere, Kennedy, Hamels, Jays

The Angels were first linked to Ben Revere in trade rumors in May but the rumors almost became a reality.  Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that the Phillies and Angels came close a few weeks ago on a trade that would’ve sent Revere to Anaheim for right-hander Trevor Gott.  The Phils thought the deal was done but the Halos “pulled out of the deal at the last minute and tried to redirect the Phillies toward a starting pitching prospect.”  Talks fell through after that.  Here’s some more from Cafardo’s weekly notes column, with a particular focus on news from Toronto…

  • Ian Kennedy has a 2.31 ERA over his last six starts and the Padres right-hander has begun to generate some trade interest in his services.  Kennedy had an ugly 7.15 ERA over his first eight starts and owns a 4.86 ERA for the season, though his peripherals (8.51 K/9, 3.04 K/BB rate, 3.74 xFIP, 3.70 SIERA) are are pretty solid, aside from a 22.1% homer rate that more than double his career average.  Kennedy is a free agent this winter and would be a natural trade chip for San Diego if the Friars decided to sell.
  • Cole Hamels has publicly said he’s willing to consider deals to any team but is reportedly unlikely to waive his no-trade clause if he’s dealt to the Astros or Blue Jays.  Cafardo wonders if Hamels would remain adamant against a move to Houston or Toronto, however, if those were the only deals on the table and his only avenues away from the rebuilding Phillies.
  • Attracting free agents north of the border has long been an issue for the Blue Jays, as Cafardo cites higher taxes, customs delays and the Rogers Centre’s artificial surface as factors that can sometimes make Toronto a tough sell.  (Josh Donaldson and Jose Reyes both praised their city, though Reyes admitted he isn’t a fan of the turf.)  The bigger problem for the Jays, however, is that they have barely contended since their last playoff appearance in 1993.  “It just seems GM Alex Anthopoulos has to go through corporate layers to OK big expenditures, slowing the process considerably,” Cafardo writes.  “Players always want to know that their ownership is doing all it can to produce a winner.”
  • Braves closer Jason Grilli is one of the Blue Jays‘ targets as the team looks for bullpen help.  Grilli would cost less in both salary and trade chips than Jonathan Papelbon or Francisco Rodriguez, two closers who have also been connected to the Jays this summer.  Atlanta isn’t yet looking to move Grilli, however, as the team is still in the race.
  • Other have asked the Blue Jays about several players in trade talks, including young talent like Miguel Castro, Daniel Norris, Roberto Osuna, Kevin Pillar, Dalton Pompey, Aaron Sanchez and Devon Travis.
  • “Every indication is that” R.A. Dickey is in his last year with the Blue Jays, as the team will either use their $1MM buyout of Dickey’s $12MM club option for 2016 or Dickey may just retire.  The 40-year-old knuckleballer had a tough start today against the Tigers and now owns a 5.02 ERA over 107 2/3 innings this season.
  • Jeff Samardzija “may be the first starting pitcher moved ahead of the trading deadline” since “scouts are constantly at his games,” Cafardo writes.  The White Sox aren’t ready to start selling yet, but they’ll find a strong market for Samardzija’s services that includes the Royals, Astros and Tigers.  (Cafardo cited several more teams in the Samardzija market in his column last week.
  • Nobody knows what the Red Sox are going to do because they don’t know what they’re going to do,” one NL executive said.  Boston has played modestly better as of late, winning 10 of its last 16 games, though the Sox are still just 38-45 on the season.  Koji Uehara is cited by the executive as one of “a few players teams would want” if the Red Sox decided to start selling.  The team is known to be looking for young pitching on the trade market.

Rosenthal On Angels, Black, Parra, Samardzija

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal shares several hot stove items in his weekly “Full Count” video

  • Ex-Padres skipper Bud Black is well-liked by Angels owner Arte Moreno, manager Mike Scioscia and interim GM Bill Stoneman, and there has been “rampant” industry speculation that the Halos want Black as their next full-time general manager.  Several of Black’s friends, however, think he wants to manage again rather than run a front office.
  • Prior to Jerry Dipoto’s resignation, the Angels and Brewers were discussing Gerardo Parra and Adam Lind in trade talks.  No deal was ever close for Parra, however, and “ideally” the Angels want to add a bigger bat to the lineup.  Parra entered the day with a strong .303/.337/.466 line over 271 PA with Milwaukee, though he is known more for his defense than his bat (a .274/.326/.395 career slash line prior to this season).
  • Rosenthal describes Jeff Samardzija as “a perfect fit” for the Yankees.  Samardzija’s wife is from the New York area, Jim Hendry (the former Cubs GM who signed Samardzija) is in the Yankees front office, and Rosenthal feels the righty’s personality would thrive in the Bronx.  Acquiring Samardzija now would also presumably give the Yankees an edge in pursuing him as a free agent this winter.  This being said, Rosenthal notes that the White Sox haven’t decided to start selling yet and there haven’t been any talks between the two sides.
  • The Dodgers are looking for starting pitching depth and “don’t be surprised if they add multiple starters.”  Brett Anderson‘s long injury history makes him a question mark to last the entire season, while Mike Bolsinger and Carlos Frias are better fits as depth options rather than regular members of the rotation (though Bolsinger has pitched well).  Even getting a mid-rotation starter would help L.A., though “in a perfect world” the Dodgers would land an ace like Johnny Cueto.

Braves Still Shopping Chris Johnson

The Braves have continued to look for a trade partner for third baseman Chris Johnson, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports in a series of tweets.  In addition to deals for Johnson himself, Atlanta has also made proposals that would include Johnson along with another (more desirable) player, akin to how the Braves managed to get Melvin Upton Jr.‘s contract off their books by dealing him to the Padres with Craig Kimbrel in April.  The Braves tried a similar “packaging” tactic with Johnson himself in offseason trade talks.

Johnson is hitting .229/.272/.313 with one homer over 103 plate appearances this season, and he also missed about a month of action recovering from a hand fracture.  If struggling at the plate in 2014 and 2015 wasn’t enough to lower his trade value, Johnson is owed roughly $3MM more in salary this season and $17.5MM through the 2017 campaign.

The Giants were one of the clubs who at least discussed Johnson with the Braves last winter but Rosenthal reports that San Francisco doesn’t have any interest now.  Rookie Matt Duffy has quite capably stepped in at third base in the wake of Casey McGehee‘s struggles, and since both Duffy and Johnson are right-handed bats, there would be little avenue for Johnson to find playing time in the Bay Area even if he was being acquired largely as a throw-in.

Rosenthal speculates that a deal of Johnson and Cameron Maybin for Jake Peavy and Angel Pagan would balance out the salaries, though that exact package was never discussed between the two teams.  It’s also hard to imagine Peavy waiving his no-trade clause to go to a rebuilding team, though the Braves are just a few games back of the Giants in the standings.

Though Atlanta is still in the wild card hunt, the team has made such a push to acquire young talent under president of baseball operations John Hart that it’s hard to see the Braves being notable buyers at the trade deadline.  The Braves could perhaps tie Johnson to one of those newly-acquired prospects in order to get him off the roster — the “buy a prospect” strategy that Hart himself used to recently acquire Touki Toussaint and Bronson Arroyo‘s expiring contract from Arizona.  Maybin or closer Jason Grilli stand out as veterans who could be shopped and possibly linked along with Johnson in a trade.



Mets’ Alderson Expresses Support For Terry Collins

Mets GM Sandy Alderson says manager Terry Collins and is not to blame for the team’s current troubles and that the Mets have no plans to fire him, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York writes. Alderson is traveling with the Mets on the team’s current West Coast road trip, but he says that’s unrelated to Collins’ status.

We’re a .500 team. We haven’t been moving in the right direction,” Alderson says. However, he adds, “[w]e’ve had a lot of people hurt for long periods of time. … We’ve got some young guys in particular that are not hitting. We’ve got some older players that have had to try to carry the load. I think to put all of this on Terry would be grossly unfair.”

The Mets’ front office also had a meeting Thursday, although FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal indicates that the meeting was routine and that the organization did not discuss Collins’ status. Rosenthal notes,  however, that the next several weeks will be important ones for the team.

The Mets were 15-5 in late April, but since then they’ve gone 26-35 and are currently just one game above .500. Veteran hitters like Michael Cuddyer and Lucas Duda have struggled lately, along with relievers like Carlos Torres and Alex Torres. Cuddyer, David Wright and catcher Travis d’Arnaud are among a number of Mets players currently dealing with injuries.


Miguel Cabrera To Miss Six Weeks

The Tigers have placed first baseman Miguel Cabrera on the 15-day disabled list with a Grade 3 calf strain, and he will miss six weeks, according to Jason Beck of MLB.com (Twitter links). They’ve selected the contract of infielder Jefry Marte from Triple-A Toledo to take his place on the active roster.

Obviously, the injury represents a significant blow to the Tigers, who are trying to hold on against the Royals and Twins in the AL Central. Cabrera currently leads the American League in batting average (.350), on-base percentage (.456) and OPS (1.034).

The 32-year-old Cabrera has been one of baseball’s most durable players throughout his career, appearing in 148 or more games in every season since 2004. Remarkably, this will be his first career stint on the disabled list.

When Miggy says he can’t play, you know it’s serious,” says Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, via MLive.com’s James Schmehl. “Miggy plays through anything.”

It’s unclear how the Tigers will replace Cabrera in their lineup. Marte, formerly a prospect in the Mets organization, hit a solid .271/.337/.497 for Toledo while playing third base and shortstop, although he’s also played first base on occasion in the past. Alex Avila and Andrew Romine are also currently on the Tigers’ active roster and have played first base this season. Avila, who recently returned from the disabled list himself, will start at first base today, Schmehl tweets.


Yankees, A-Rod Settle Home Run Milestone Dispute

The Yankees have reached agreement with Alex Rodriguez on a settlement regarding the payment of a home run milestone bonus clause in his contract, as the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com). New York will pay out $3.5MM to charitable organizations under the settlement.

Rodriguez and the MLBPA had reportedly planned to contest the team’s refusal to pay a $6MM bonus for his 660th home run, the first of several that trigger such bonuses under his deal. The club cited the fact that the bonus was termed a discretionary marketing opportunity under the contract in asserting that it was not obligated to make payment. (Click here for the contract’s details.)

The settlement avoids a potentially ugly grievance proceeding, which all involved were surely motivated not to undertake. It is unclear whether the parties have reached any agreement or understanding regarding future milestones. The next one up is Babe Ruth’s 714 mark, though that seems a long shot for this season with Rodriguez sitting at 669 long balls. Of course, his contract does promise him another $40MM after this season, covering the 2016 and 2017 campaigns.

Notably, the deal means that the Yankees will avoid paying any luxury tax on the $6MM bonus, which would have cost the club $3MM. That adds to the savings achieved on the actual payout.


Rangers Designate Neftali Feliz, Activate Matt Harrison

The Rangers have designated righty Neftali Feliz for assignment, Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest reports on Twitter. His roster spot will go to starter Matt Harrison, who will return to the big leagues after a long layoff for serious back surgery.

May 12, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers relief pitcher Neftali Feliz (30) throws a pitch in the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Royals won 7-6 in 10 innings. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Feliz, 27, was once an ace reliever for Texas and owns a 2.71 career ERA over 259 1/3 big league innings. He has struck out 8.4 and walked 3.5 batters per nine over that span, with a 35.4% groundball rate.

Those career marks include a particularly rough start to the current season. Feliz has allowed 5.09 earned runs per regulation game, with 7.6 K/9 against 4.6 BB/9. He still works in the 93 to 94 mph range with his fastball, down a few ticks from his early season peak but still in line with recent campaigns.

Truth be told, the results have not been supported by ERA estimators in recent seasons. Feliz has not posted a sub-4.00 SIERA since way back in 2011, and has not dipped below the 3.00 mark by that measure since his first two seasons. Much the same holds when one looks at his FIP and xFIP numbers.

Things seemingly took a turn for the worse when the team attempted to utilize him as a starter in 2012. Feliz had a rocky go of it, throwing 42 2/3 innings of 3.16 ERA ball while benefiting greatly from a high strand rate and miniscule .213 BABIP. ERA estimators all had him pegged as a replacement level rotation piece. Feliz ultimately succumbed to Tommy John surgery in May of 2012, and has never quite recovered his arm speed.

While all the signs were there, it nevertheless remains stunning to see the move. Feliz was one of the game’s more promising arms in his heyday. He is owed $4.13MM this year, and comes with one more season of arbitration eligibility. Given his salary and recent performance, it would not be surprising to see him pass through waivers, but with over five years of service (he entered the season with 4.151 on his tab), he’d be eligible to elect free agency and keep the money.

The other major news here, of course, is the return of Harrison. It once seemed unclear whether he’d ever throw again, yet alone return to the majors. The 29-year-old was a steady contributor over 2011-12, racing up 399 frames with a 3.34 ERA and leading the team to lock him up to a five-year, $55MM pact. He is still under control through 2018, with the last year coming through a $13.25MM club option ($2MM buyout), and at this point Texas will be glad to receive any contribution from the southpaw.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Jocketty: Reds “Prepared To Go Either Way” At Deadline

Reds GM Walt Jocketty indicated that his team could either sell off pieces or continue trying to contend at this year’s trade deadline, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports. Cincinnati entered action today sitting five games under .500 and 14.5 games back of the division-leading Cardinals.

“I think we’ll see how it plays out. We’re prepared to go either way,” said Jocketty. “We’re certainly not throwing in the towel. If people are interested in our guys, we’ll certainly listen and see if there’s something that makes sense to make us better in the long run.”

Jocketty said that he’s received contact from teams interested in the club’s veterans, but indicated that he has not been targeted for chats in an overly aggressive manner. He explained: “I’ve had some calls for a while. Nothing out of the order.”

The Cincinnati GM also made clear that he had no interest in dealing away All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier. He made clear that recent speculation about interest from the Mets was without basis. “He’s too valuable to our club,” Jocketty said. “I think all that came from when we were in New York. It made sense. The Mets need a third baseman. He’s from that area.”

While a move involving the controllable Frazier always seemed unlikely, the Reds obviously possess a series of highly desirable, relatively short-term commodities. Leading the way is top starter Johnny Cueto, who could be dealt along with rotation mate Mike Leake before they reach free agency after the season. Likewise, closer Aroldis Chapman is only under contract through 2016, and would be likely to return quite a haul if dealt. Other players who could theoretically be shipped out include outfielders Jay Bruce and Marlon Byrd as well as reliever Manny Parra.

Whatever course the team takes, Jocketty left the impression that he does not intend to full gut the roster. “Even if we do make some deals, or if we don’t, we will try to keep this club as competitive as possible for the remainder of the year,” he said.

 


Federal Charges Recommended For Astros Computer Breach

Investigators working on the investigation into the unlawful access of the Astros’ computer systems have recommended charges against at least one Cardinals employee, CNN’s Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz report. The identity of that employee is not yet known.

To date, only one St. Louis staffer has been implicated directly: scouting director Chris Correa, who was fired yesterday. Reporting on Correa’s termination indicates that he was not responsible for disseminating any of the information that was ultimately leaked.

Correa’s attorney has argued that Correa did nothing illegal and sought only to assess whether Astros GM Jeff Luhnow had taken proprietary information from the Cardinals when he departed for Houston. (Luhnow has already flatly denied that line of thinking. And, of course, it’s far from clear how that suspicion would warrant a self-appointed effort to access the other club’s databases.)

The investigation is now complete, per CNN. It is not clear what the inquiry has revealed regarding other members of the St. Louis organization. Officials looking into the computer breach “have also focused on whether senior officials at the Cardinals were aware of the spying,” the report adds. Club chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. and GM John Mozeliak have both stringently denied any knowledge or involvement while condemning any improper actions by those under their charge.

It has previously been reported that investigators were taking a close look at a Jupiter, Florida house utilized by Cardinals employees during Spring Training. The report notes that Correa was one of the employees who resided there, seemingly tying his involvement to that point in time.

But it remains unclear whether other employees, or Correa himself, may have been responsible for the other breaches that have reportedly occurred. The Jupiter-based intrusion into the Astros’ system is said to have occurred in the spring of 2014. As David Barron and Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle note in their latest piece on the subject, computer breaches occurred as early as 2012. The Astros trade discussion notes that were ultimately leaked publicly last summer were dated between June of 2013 and March of 2014, and seemingly represented two separate time periods.


Trade Candidate: Mat Latos

An offseason trade that sent Mat Latos from Cincinnati to Miami in exchange for young righty Anthony DeSclafani and catching prospect Chad Wallach was supposed to be one of the key moves for a Marlins team that was making a push to contend in 2015 on the heels of a record-setting Giancarlo Stanton extension. Things have not gone according to plan in Miami, however.

Mat Latos

The Marlins currently sit at 34-46, a disappointing 9.5 games back from both the division lead and a Wild Card playoff berth. Mike Redmond has been fired and replaced as the on-field manager by former GM Dan Jennings. Stanton is on the disabled list with a broken hand, where he’s joined by Opening Day starter Henderson Alvarez as well Opening Day starters Mike Morse and Martin Prado. Miami has yet to throw in the towel according to multiple reports, but their starters are drawing interest from pitching-hungry teams. All of this brings us back to Latos, whose own 2015 shortcomings have contributed to the Marlins’ sub-par start.

Latos, 27, entered the season with a career 3.34 ERA at the Major League level despite spending three seasons with the Reds, whose home park is among the most hitter-friendly environments in the game. However, as of this writing, Latos is sporting a 5.27 ERA with the highest BB/9 rate he’s posted since debuting with the Padres in 2009. He’s earning $9.4MM after losing an arbitration hearing to the Marlins this winter and is slated to hit free agency at the end of the year. Of that $9.4MM, about $4.83MM remains, and Latos has already missed time this season due to inflammation in his left knee.

None of this paints Latos as a very flattering trade candidate, but there’s still a compelling case to be made that says he can help a team in need of pitching. Latos opened the 2014 season on the DL as he recovered from spring surgery on his left knee — the same knee that sidelined him in 2015. From the time of his activation in 2014 to the time he was placed on the DL in 2015, Latos averaged about 90.7 mph on his fastball — two full miles below the 92.7 mph he averaged from 2011-13.

However, since he’s come off the disabled list, Latos’ missing velocity has suddenly returned. A look at his velocity stats on BrooksBaseball.net indicates that his four-seamer is averaging 93.66 mph over his past four starts, and his sinker is averaging 92.95 mph. Both marks are two miles per hour faster than he averaged prior to hitting the DL. In fact, if you break down his average velocity on a game-by-game basis, his slowest average fastball in a start since coming off the DL is 92.42 mph. That mark is still better than even his best pre-DL days, in terms of radar readings.

Perhaps, then, it shouldn’t be surprising to see that Latos has worked to a much more palatable 3.86 ERA in his small sample of work since being activated. He’s whiffed 24 hitters against just six walks in 25 2/3 innings — each a significant improvement over his K/9 and BB/9 rates earlier in the year when working with diminished velocity. Latos has seen significant jumps in his whiff rate on both pitches since adding velocity, and the same holds true for his splitter as well.

It’s not known for certain whether Latos’ knee will hold up, nor can we definitively say that his velocity increase is sustainable. However, interested clubs will be able to watch another four weeks’ worth of his starts in order to make that determination for themselves. If Latos is back to the form that most came to expect of him from 2010-14, then suddenly, committing $4-5MM to him over the remainder of the season no longer looks to be an unreasonable undertaking.

The Marlins, in fact, could have good reason  deal Latos even if they don’t otherwise act as sellers on the upcoming market. Aside from the obvious up-front financial savings that hold more value to a tight-budgeted team like Miami than a larger-payroll club, the Marlins may be reluctant to extend a qualifying offer to Latos following the season. The value of last year’s QO was a hefty $15.3MM, and that number figures to increase in 2015. A payroll-conscious team such as Miami could be reluctant to roll the dice on Latos remaining healthy for the rest of the season. If he re-injures the knee, the Fish would likely be too apprehensive to make a QO to an injured pitcher. Even if Latos remains healthy and looks like a good bet to reject the QO, Miami might find the small chance that he accepts somewhat risky. Trading him now, especially in a market that is currently tilted in favor of teams willing to sell assets, would be one way to ensure that they receive some long-term value in exchange for their relatively significant offseason investment in Latos.

The Marlins have the depth to replace Latos, as Jose Fernandez is now healthy and joined in the rotation by Dan Haren, Tom Koehler, Jarred Cosart and Latos. Even if Latos is dealt, David Phelps and Brad Hand both have experience starting in the Majors, and Alvarez is expected off the DL later this season. Jose Urena and Justin Nicolino represent rotation options in the upper minors.

The Tigers are said to have scouted Miami’s starters recently, though no interest in specific pitchers was mentioned, so it’s probably best not to read too much into that bit of info. (Multiple teams, after all, figure to be scouting Miami’s starters.) In addition to Detroit, though, plenty of other clubs are interested in adding to their rotation. The Blue Jays, Dodgers, Astros, Royals, Rangers, Yankees and Pirates are among teams that have been connected to pitching upgrades or speculated to eventually be in the market for rotation help.