Newsstand Rumors

Indians Sign Scott Downs

The Indians have announced that they’ve signed lefty reliever Scott Downs to a minor league deal with a spring training invite. Downs will make $800K plus incentives if he makes the team, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer tweets.

Downs pitched 38 innings last season for the White Sox and Royals, posting a 4.97 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9 while suffering through diminished velocity — Downs was never a hard thrower, but his average fastball fell to 86.9 MPH in 2014. Downs had success as recently as the previous year, when he had a 2.49 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 for the Angels and Braves. In his 13-year career, the 38-year-old has also pitched for the Cubs, Expos and Blue Jays.


Giants Acquire Casey McGehee

SATURDAY: The Giants have officially announced the deal.

FRIDAY: The Giants have found their replacement for Pablo Sandoval, at least for the time being. San Francisco has added third baseman Casey McGehee from the Marlins in a trade that sends young righties Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo to the Fish.

Miami was said to be quite high on McGehee after he turned in a nice rebound campaign with the team last year. But the organization jumped on the chance to add Martin Prado in a deal with the Yankees, and wasted no time in moving McGehee to another team with a need at third.

McGehee had a solid return season last year for Miami, after playing one year in Japan. He slashed .287/.355/.357 over 691 plate appearances, though a .335 BABIP certainly helped with his batting average and on-base numbers. Indeed, a drastic fall in his batting average on balls in play in last season’s second half contributed to a much less productive tail end of the season for the National League Comeback Player of the Year. He ultimately checked in at about one or two wins above replacement, depending upon one’s formula of choice.

Of course, San Francisco will not expect McGehee to fully replace the production of Sandoval, who will take the field for the Red Sox next year (and for several years thereafter). McGehee will presumably be expected to hold down the position for 2015 while the team looks for longer-term solutions. And he will do so at a fairly palatable price, as he is projected by MLBTR and Matt Swartz to earn $3.5MM through arbitration this year, his final season of eligibility before reaching free agency.

Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel first reported on Twitter that the deal was close. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeted that the deal was done. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro (via Twitter) and Rodriguez (likewise) reported the return. Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets that the deal is “official.”


Nexen Accepts Jung-ho Kang Posting Fee From Unknown MLB Team

SATURDAY: The team that posted the winning bid isn’t yet known, but it isn’t the Mets, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin writes. It also isn’t the Padres, tweets CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman. The Orioles aren’t the team, either, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets, and it’s not the Blue Jays, according to Jays broadcaster Mike Wilner (on Twitter), or the Yankees, via ESPN’s Jim Bowden (on Twitter).

FRIDAY 11:59pm: In an English-language article, Yonhap reports (h/t to Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net, on Twitter) that the club has in fact announced the acceptance of the bid. The article indicates that even Nexen is not sure which MLB club subitted the winning offer.

Per the article, Kang is seeking between $5MM and $6MM per season on a multi-year deal of up to four years in duration.

10:31pm: With the posting fee bids submitted for infielder Jung-ho Kang, the KBO’s Nexen Heroes are expected to accept an approximately $5MM bid for the right to negotiate a contract with the Korean star, as the Yonhap News Agency reports (Twitter link via Jeeho Yoo; Korean-language article, via Sun-Min Kim, on Twitter).

The MLB team with the winning bid has yet to be reported. If that club is unable to work out a deal with Kang, it would be refunded the amount of the posting fee. Otherwise, the team would owe that $5MM on top of whatever contractual terms it reaches with Kang.

Kang, 27, raised eyebrows with a 40 home run/1.198 OPS campaign last year. The star shortstop has been a productive hitter for some time now, but that impressive power display certainly raised his profile. The KBO has turned into a fairly drastic hitter’s league, though Kang’s numbers still look outstanding against league average.

Just how his tools translate to the big leagues remains to be seen, of course, and questions remain whether he can play up the middle at the game’s highest level. Be sure to give a listen to this week’s podcast for great insight on Kang from former MLB and KBO pitcher Ryan Sadowski of Global Sporting Integration.


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Padres, Red Sox Swap Hanigan, Middlebrooks

9:47pm: The Red Sox have announced the one-for-one deal.

10:19am: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the agreement is in place, but WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford tweets that the trade is contingent on Middlebrooks passing a physical.

9:56am: The Padres and Red Sox are nearing a trade that would send catcher Ryan Hanigan from San Diego to Boston in exchange for third baseman Will Middlebrooks, reports Yahoo’s Jeff Passan (Twitter link).

The Padres have yet to so much as make their acquisition of Hanigan official, as the three-team deal that will net him and outfielder Wil Myers hasn’t been announced by the clubs. However, that hasn’t stopped them from shopping around one of their newest acquisitions and figuring out the framework for a deal that seemingly helps both parties involved.

Hanigan, 34, is an excellent defensive catcher coming off a season in which he batted just .218/.318/.324 in his first season with the Rays. He’s owed a total of $8MM over the next two seasons (including the $800K buyout on a $3.75MM club option for 2017) and could pair well behind the plate with Christian Vazquez in Boston.

The 26-year-old Middlebrooks was once one of the top prospects in the Red Sox organization, but he’s yet to replicate the .288/.325/.509 batting line he put together in his rookie season of 2012. Since that time, Middlebrooks has dealt with injuries and a rapidly rising strikeout rate, both of which have contributed to a paltry .213/.265/.364 batting line from 2013-14.

Despite those struggles, Middlebrooks still has upside, and he fills a need at third base for the Padres, who can now turn to Derek Norris and Tim Federowicz behind the plate in 2015. The Red Sox were unlikely to find significant playing time for Middlebrooks anyhow after signing both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez this offseason. While the return of a defensive-minded catcher is certainly less than Sox fans may have hoped for given past hype surrounding Middlebrooks, the swap does improve and deepen Boston’s roster for 2015.

San Diego can control Middlebrooks through the 2018 season, and he won’t be eligible for arbitration until next offseason.


Dodgers Release Brian Wilson

FRIDAY: Wilson has been given his release, as SB Nation’s Eric Stephen was first to report.

TUESDAY: The Dodgers have designated reliever Brian Wilson, the club announced. The move creates roster space for the addition of Brandon McCarthy.

While the end of Wilson’s tenure comes as something of a shock given his stout $9.5MM salary for next season, the fact is that he was not good at all last year. The 32-year-old pitched to a 4.22 ERA over 48 1/3 innings, with 10.1 K/9 against 5.4 BB/9.

He had shown excellent form over a short sample late in 2013, leading the Dodgers (under then-GM Ned Colletti) to award him a $10MM deal with a player option that floated in value and ultimately came in at $9.5MM. While it is likely that another team would be interested in bringing in Wilson to compete for a job in camp, his value obviously falls well shy of what he is owed.

The new brass in Los Angeles has been aggressive in turning over its roster, eating significant cash in the process. Wilson’s $9.5MM salary joins the $10MM owed to Dan Haren and $32MM piece of Matt Kemp‘s contract as cash on the books for players who are no longer on the team’s roster.


Red Sox To Re-Sign Craig Breslow

The Red Sox have agreed to sign lefty Craig Breslow to a one-year, $2MM deal, Rob Braford of WEEI.com reports on Twitter. Baratta Partners represents the veteran hurler.

Breslow, 34, will look to bounce back from a rough 2014 in which he worked to a 5.96 ERA over 54 1/3 innings, with 6.1 K/9 against 4.6 BB/9. Though ERA estimators all felt that Breslow was the victim of some bad luck, even the rosiest among them (SIERA, 4.72) saw him as a well-below-average producer. Oddly, he struggled most against same-handed hitters, whom he walked more often than he struck out. Lefties hit Breslow to the tune of .291/.381/.456 last year.

That said, Breslow is not exactly an unknown commodity. He had never before gone over the four-earned-per-nine level in a season, and was fresh off of a 1.81 ERA campaign in 2013. Over his lifetime work, he has been much better against left-handed bats, though in general he posts minimal platoon numbers.


Latest On Troy Tulowitzki

Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki remains one of the most tantalizing potential trade targets in the game, but it remains to be seen whether a serious effort — both by his club and potential suitors — will be made at a transaction.

Here’s the latest:

  • The Rockies are still discussing Tulowitzki with other clubs, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The Mets are among the teams participating in the chatter, says Heyman, who writes that top prospect Noah Syndergaard is being talked about as the centerpiece of the hypothetical deal, with New York likely wanting a partial refund on Tulowitzki’s contract. Of course, as Heyman adds, agreement is still a long ways off, and several sources have downplayed its likelihood.
  • But those discussions are not active, Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports. Indeed, the teams are not talking about a player package or how to handle Tulowitzki’s contract, per Harding’s source.
  • The discussions between those teams have gone on all offseason, says Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links), but have yet to gain much traction. Rosenthal’s source puts the likelihood of a deal at 5-10%.
  • Likewise, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reports that the odds of Tulo joining the Metropolitans are very slim, noting that Colorado wants a package in return that would make Mets fans cringe. And a source tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post that even the limited reporting on the possibility of a deal involving Tulowitzki is “overblown.”

Padres Acquire Justin Upton

3:52pm: Both teams announced the deal via press release.  The final deal has Justin Upton and right-handed pitcher Aaron Northcraft going to the Padres for left-hander Max Fried, second baseman/shortstop Jace Peterson, third baseman Dustin Peterson, outfielder Mallex Smith, and international bonus compensation.

9:20am: The Padres’ roster overhaul is not yet finished, as the team has now reportedly struck an agreement to acquire Justin Upton from the Braves. San Diego will send a sizable haul of left-hander Max Fried, second baseman/shortstop Jace Peterson, third baseman Dustin Peterson and outfielder Mallex Smith to the Braves in exchange for Upton and a low-level minor leaguer.

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Upton will be the third right-handed corner outfield bat acquired by the Padres in the past couple of days when the trade is finalized, as the team has announced the Matt Kemp deal and is on the verge of announcing the three-team Wil Myers trade as well. Obviously, the Padres have more corner outfielders than spots available, so the defensive alignment they’ll deploy is up for debate. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted earlier that the Padres had decided weeks ago they were OK with playing Kemp in center field, if need be. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports hears (Twitter links) that Myers will likely be the one to handle center at Petco Park in 2015.

New Padres GM A.J. Preller has completely reshaped his club’s offense in about one week’s time with the agreements to acquire Kemp, Myers, Derek Norris and now Upton. The group will give the Friars a rare wealth of right-handed power — a much-needed change after the team finished last season with a collective .226/.292/.342 batting line and scored a Major League worst 535 runs.

Upton has just one year of team control remaining and is owed $14.5MM before hitting the open market next winter. He’s coming off a season in which he batted .270/.342/.491 with 29 homers — his highest total since an MVP-caliber season back in 2011. Upton hasn’t been able to consistently turn in the superstar-level results he showed in that 2011 season, but he’s at least a well above-average player and still carries that elite upside as he heads into his age-27 campaign.

While the Padres will now have a year to potentially explore a long-term deal with Upton, MLB.com’s Corey Brock gets the sense that the Padres are content with knowing that he could simply be a one-year rental (Twitter link). Even if Upton departs after just one year with the Friars, San Diego will undoubtedly make a qualifying offer (barring a catastrophic injury or collapse) and net a compensatory draft pick that will recover some of the lost value in this deal.

While the Padres may now have their starting outfield in place, they’re far from done with outfield-related trades. The Friars still possess a deep pool of outfielders that could be potentially moved. Carlos Quentin, owed $8MM, was previously said to be willing to waive his no-trade clause and may be even more keen on doing so now that it’s clear at-bats for him in 2015 would be few and far between in San Diego.

The Padres also have Will Venable under contract through 2015 and Cameron Maybin and Seth Smith controlled through 2016. Venable is owed $4.25MM, while Maybin will earn $16MM over the next two seasons and Smith will take home $13MM.

Smith has significant trade value after hitting .266/.367/.440 last season. While he was assured that he wouldn’t be traded when he signed the extension, that sentiment came from previous Padres management and clearly may not hold weight under the Preller regime. Venable is coming off a down season but has a history of productivity, particularly away from Petco Park, and his price tag would likely be appealing to rival clubs. Maybin’s deal comes with negative trade value, though he could serve as an expensive fourth outfielder in San Diego, as he’s still capable of playing a solid center field.

The 20-year-old Fried, selected seventh overall in the 2012 draft, ranked as a consensus Top 100 prospect heading into the season, but he required Tommy John surgery early in the year that limited him to just 10 2/3 frames. He will be sidelined for most of the 2015 campaign as he recovers. Prior to the season, however, Baseball America ranked Fried 53rd (full scouting report requires subscription) among all prospects and noted that he had the ceiling of a No. 2 starter with potential for three plus pitches and an extremely projectable 6’4″, 185-pound frame that added to his ceiling. MLB.com’s most recent rankings had him third among San Diego farmhands and 68th in all of baseball.

Jace Peterson, 24, made his Major League debut this season, though he collected just 58 plate appearances and struggled to a .113/.161/.113 batting line. BA ranked him seventh among Padres prospects last offseason, noting that while he lacks a single plus tool, he has average tools across the board with great athleticism and instincts. BA praised his line-drive stroke and ability to handle left-on-left matchups, noting that he could be a table-setting shortstop if his ceiling is reached. Obviously, with Atlanta having Andrelton Simmons locked up for the foreseeable future, Peterson is more of a second-base candidate with the Braves, however.

The other Peterson in the deal, Dustin, could eventually see time as a third base option for Atlanta. The 2013 second-rounder is now 20 years old and struggled a bit as a 19-year-old against older competition in the Class-A Midwest League in 2014, hitting .233/.274/.361 with 10 homers. BA ranked him 22nd among Padres prospects last winter. The younger brother of Mariners top prospect D.J. Peterson, Dustin is regarded as a bat-first prospect who may have to shift from third to the right side of the infield or left field, per BA. His excellent bat speed and ability to use the whole field are among the traits that BA and MLB.com praise in their scouting reports. MLB.com ranked him 10th among Padres prospects recently.

Smith, 21, dropped off BA’s Top 30 list last offseason but ranked 20th on MLB.com’s current list of Padres prospects primarily due to his blazing speed. The outfielder possesses little power and has work to do on his routes, per their scouting report. He’s a career .290/.383/.388 hitter in the minors and has stolen 169 bases in 265 career games — including 88 steals this past season.

For those that are particularly interested in the Braves’ end of the return, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel wrote up scouting reports and posted video of each of the players acquired by Atlanta in this deal.

Yahoo’s Jeff Passan first reported (via Twitter) that the Braves were wrapping up an Upton deal. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman first listed the Padres as a possibility and then as a likely candidate (Twitter links). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted that Upton was going to the Padres. Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio reported that Fried and Jace Peterson were in the deal (Twitter links). Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted that Smith and Dustin Peterson were in the trade with a low-level prospect going to San Diego.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Latest On Giants’ Search For Third Baseman

The Giants continue to look for a replacement for longtime starting third baseman Pablo Sandoval. With Chase Headley now also off of the market, here’s the latest on some possible trade candidates:

  • San Francisco is in contact with the Marlins about Casey McGehee, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Among the Giants players being discussed are reliever Hunter Strickland and infielder Matt Duffy, per Rosenthal.
  • The Giants are also still interested in Braves third bagger Chris Johnson, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Johnson is owed $23.5MM over the next three years, and Atlanta may need to hold onto a portion of that commitment to move him.
  • Free agent Asdrubal Cabrera is among the finalists, with McGehee, to be brought on at third for the Giants, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. Club assistant GM Bobby Evans indicated previously that Cabrera was interested in finding a job up the middle, but said the door would remain open to further conversations.

Cubs To Sign David Ross

The Cubs have agreed to a two-year, $5MM deal with catcher David Ross, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Reports emerged earlier today suggesting that the veteran was headed to the Padres, but indications are that he is in fact set to join former teammate Jon Lester in Chicago.

Ross, a client of Sports One Athlete Management client, will add yet more veteran leadership behind the plate for the Cubs. He will slot in alongside the recently-acquired Miguel Montero, providing a right-handed-hitting complement. Chicago also added another former Red Sox backstop today in Ryan Lavarnway, who was added via waiver claim.

Before joining the Red Sox in 2013, Ross spent four years as the reserve option for the Braves. He slashed a robust .269/.353/.463, but never made more than 200 plate appearances in a given season. Ross has fallen back to a .650 OPS over the last two seasons in Boston, over 287 plate appearances. Defensively, Baseball Prospectus did not value Ross’s work very highly last year.

In the aggregate, then, there are plenty of questions about Ross’s abilities moving forward. But he does have a rather high established ceiling for a backup catcher, and obviously is one of the game’s most respected elder statesmen at this stage of his career.