Newsstand Rumors

Troy Tulowitzki, Agent Weighing Trade Request

8:35pm: Tulowitzki spoke with Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post about Cohen’s comments stating that he hasn’t read them, but he routinely meets with his agent whenever he is in Los Angeles. Tulo did somewhat nebulously address the topic when asked what the future holds, however:

“I really don’t have a clue — honestly. I just know that I don’t want all of this hanging over my head every day I come to the ballpark. This game is hard enough as it is. … It’s a tough topic to talk about, but if it’s being thrown around there, it’s something I need to get addressed, because the last thing I want is to come to the field every day with that hanging over my head.”

6:21pm: With the Rockies mired in a nine-game losing streak, agent Paul Cohen, who represents Troy Tulowitzki, tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post that he and his client will meet on Thursday and discuss, among other issues, whether or not the star shortstop should request a trade.

Cohen tells Sherman that it would be “silly” to suggest that a trade isn’t a possibility, adding that he and Tulowitzki spent quite a bit of time discussing the scenario in the offseason. It’s not hard to see why Tulowitzki would entertain the idea of asking for a trade, given the team’s struggles, Cohen says, and he also sees value in acting early for the organization. From Sherman’s piece:

“It could get to the point for [owner] Dick Monfort and GM Jeff [Bridich] that the storyline every day with the team is when is Tulowitzki being traded,” Cohen said. “That is negative for the franchise as the idea of trading the face of the franchise. They are smart enough to recognize they don’t want that going forward.”

While there’s certainly logic behind Cohen’s reasoning, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Rockies aren’t yet ready to pursue a trade of Tulowitzki (Twitter link). The team would like to add some pitching, but their preference is a much lower cost of acquisition than dealing away the face of their franchise.

The frustration with Tulowitzki does seem palpable, however. Sherman said he spoke to two people that are close to Tulowitzki who said that he is frustrated with four losing seasons and wants out of Colorado. (Cohen declined to comment on his client’s mindset, per Sherman.) In the wake of the team’s latest loss on Sunday, Tulowitzki told Nick Groke of the Denver Post this weekend“I’m sitting in my chair here and trying to think of one positive thing and there are not many. It’s tough, but what are you going to do?”

Sherman lists the Padres, Mets, Pirates and Mariners as speculative teams with needs at the shortstop position, adding that the Yankees remain unlikely to make a play for Tulowitzki. The Yankees, according to Sherman, are emphasizing defense and to limit long-term risk. Some scouts and officials to whom Sherman has spoken feel that Tulowitzki may not be long for shortstop given his age and history with injuries.

Tulowitzki, 30, is hitting .307/.317/.495 this season with a pair of homers but a troubling 23-to-2 K/BB ratio in 104 plate appearances. Owed $118MM from 2015-20, Tulowitzki’s contract also contains a $15MM club option for the 2021 season and provides him with a $2MM bonus and full no-trade protection in the event that he is traded. The four-time All-Star’s 2014 season ended prematurely when he underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. Over the past five years, Tulowitzki has averaged just 106 games per season, though some of his injuries — including a broken hamate bone suffered when he was hit by a pitch — have been fluky in nature.


Marlins “Very Much Engaged” In Talks With Rafael Soriano

7:15pm: The Marlins are “very much engaged” in negotiations with Soriano, Frisaro now tweets.

That talks seem to have intensified, perhaps, shouldn’t come as a surprise. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reported tonight that Cishek has been told he’s being removed from the closer’s role (Twitter links). The Marlins will likely give A.J. Ramos the bulk of the closing time in his stead, for now, according to Spencer, though Mike Dunn and Bryan Morris could also see occasional looks. However, if the team is moving on from Cishek as a closing option, adding a more experienced arm wouldn’t be a surprising route.

3:13pm: Marlins GM Dan Jennings is expected to have an opportunity to speak today in Los Angeles with Soriano’s agent, Scott Boras, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports.

10:31am: The Marlins have reached out to Rafael Soriano‘s representatives to express interest in the veteran reliever, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports. Miami has exchanged some dialogue with agent Scott Boras, per the report, as it weighs its options in the relief corps. Per Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, via Twitter, the sides are not close to a deal at present.

Soriano, of course, remains on the free agent market despite ranking among the game’s fifty best open market players coming into the year (per MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes). The 35-year-old struggled down the stretch last year, but still finished with 62 innings of 3.19 ERA ball under his belt with 8.6 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9.

Spurring the opening of talks with Soriano, of course, are the struggles of closer Steve Cishek. After establishing himself as one of the game’s better late-inning arms in recent years, Cishek has stumbled badly in the early going and appears to be moving out of the 9th inning role.

Miami had previously explored adding a veteran arm to bolster the back of its pen, most notably pursuing Francisco Rodriguez before he signed with the Brewers, so the interest and availability of funds is not a new thing. The club opened the day with a 15-18 record, sitting 5.5 games off the NL East pace, but has been performing much better since a 3-11 start.

Of course, as Frisaro emphasizes, a Soriano signing is just one of several possible avenues the club is considering to drive improvement in its late-inning pitching. There are several internal options both to fill the closer’s role and to otherwise boost the pen. And the club could look at the trade market, possibly revisiting Rodriguez — who is pitching well with Milwaukee — or even taking a look at an intra-division deal for Jonathan Papelbon.

From my perspective, it remains a bit early for the Marlins to make any rash decisions. The club has plausible replacements for Cishek and can still hope he can right the ship. And it is not yet clear whether a significant investment will make sense over the summer. That said, it obviously makes good sense to explore the possibilities with Soriano, particularly if he may be drawn to sign for a somewhat more palatable sum if he has a reasonable expectation of slotting into the 9th inning.


Barry Bonds Preparing Grievance Action For Collusion

Controversial all-time great slugger Barry Bonds is going ahead with a case against Major League Baseball alleging that he was colluded against following the 2007 season, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Bonds recently had an obstruction of justice conviction overturned, which apparently spurred the effort to proceed against MLB.

Bonds will reportedly assert that the league conspired to keep him from returning to action after the 2007 season. The home run king never found a new team after reaching free agency. 2007 was his age-42 campaign, so he was obviously past his prime, but Bonds still managed to slash an obviously productive .276/.480/.565 with 28 home runs over 477 plate appearances that year for San Francisco.  Heyman writes that Bonds’ camp waited until after resolution of his successfully-challenged felony conviction to pursue a collusion claim.

The topic was covered at length here at MLBTR at the time: Bonds’ reputation was in tatters, and there were health questions. Nevertheless, given his unrivaled productivity even at an advanced age — he led the league in OBP in 2007 and five of the six seasons before it — it remained rather remarkable that he did not receive a single offer that offseason (per his agent, Jeff Borris). That has led to various suggestions that Bonds was effectively blacklisted across the league.

As is mandated by the CBA, Bonds’ issue would first be addressed by the grievance process.  Bonds appears to be working with the MLBPA on the case.  MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, MLBPA head Tony Clark, and Borris all are said to have declined Heyman’s requests for comment.


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Reds Designate Kevin Gregg For Assignment

The Reds announced that they have designated right-hander Kevin Gregg for assignment. Right-hander Pedro Villarreal has been recalled from Triple-A Louisville to fill his spot in the bullpen.

The 36-year-old Gregg made Cincinnati’s bullpen out of Spring Training after signing a minor league deal this offseason, but he’s struggled all season long. Gregg has appeared in 11 contests for Cincinnati and allowed runs in eight of them, the end result of which is a grisly 10.13 ERA.

Gregg has missed plenty of bats with the Reds, whiffing 14 batters against five walks in his 10 2/3 frames, and he’s also averaged 91 mph on his heater — his best since 2012. His struggles have contributed to a team-wide problem for the Reds. Cincinnati has a collective 5.56 bullpen ERA that ranks dead last in the Majors, with the Rockies’ 5.20 mark representing a relatively distant second-worst.


Giants, Ricky Romero Agree To Minor League Deal

10:20am: Romero and the Giants have indeed agreed to a Minor League contract, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter).

MAY 11, 7:09am: The Giants and Romero are making progress on a deal and could have something finalized as soon as today, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (via Twitter). Romero would report to extended Spring Training with the Giants upon completion of the deal.

MAY 10: The Giants are close to signing former Blue Jays starting pitcher Ricky Romero, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun tweets. The deal will, presumably, be of the minor-league variety. The Jays released the 30-year-old lefty last month. Romero is a client of the Legacy Agency.

Romero appeared to be blossoming into one of the game’s better young starters in 2011, when he posted a 2.92 ERA in 225 innings with Toronto. He struggled the following season, though, leading the American League in walks, then had elbow surgery and never returned to his previous form. He last appeared in the bigs in 2013. Lately, he’s battled knee injuries, and Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said his team decided to release Romero because they didn’t think he would recover in time to contribute this year. The Jays are on the hook for the remainder of Romero’s $7.5MM 2015 salary, plus a $600K buyout.


Drew Smyly Likely To Have Season-Ending Surgery

MAY 11: Smyly underwent his second MRI yesterday in order to get a second opinion on his injured shoulder, writes Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune. Team officials stressed yesterday that no decision has been made in regards to surgery.

MAY 9: Rays starter Drew Smyly has a labrum tear and will probably require season-ending surgery, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Topkin also notes it’s possible the Rays could try to address the injury through rehab before resorting to surgery. Smyly will have an MRI on Monday. The Rays had already placed him on the disabled list on Friday with shoulder tightness. Erasmo Ramirez will likely take Smyly’s spot in the rotation.

Losing Smyly would be another wound for a Rays rotation that has also lost Alex Cobb and Burch Smith to Tommy John surgery. The team is also still waiting on the return of Matt Moore, who had Tommy John surgery last year.

Smyly, 25, was one of the keys to the Rays’ end of last summer’s David Price trade. He was off to a good start this season, posting a 2.70 ERA with 11.3 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 16 1/3 innings. He also pitched very well in down the stretch for the Rays in 2014, posting a 1.70 ERA while striking out four times as many batters as he walked.


Jarrod Parker Suffers Arm Injury

A’s pitcher Jarrod Parker has suffered a fracture of the right medial epicondyle, as John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group writes. Parker is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery and given how critical the right medial epicondyle is to holding together a surgically-repair arm, it is feared that Parker could be in store for a third Tommy John procedure.

We don’t know how much this is going to set back his recovery at this point in time,’’ A’s trainer Nick Paparesta said Saturday night. “He’s going to go home, where we’re going to set him up to see some specialists and see what our options are. It seems like surgery is kind of imminent, what kind of surgery we kind of have to wait and see.’’

Until Parker gets further evaluated, he won’t know the exact nature of his injury or the level of surgery that will be required.  Therefore, at this time, there is no timetable for his recovery, but it sounds like there is fear that he could be lost for the season.  Parker received a x-rays and a CT-scan on Saturday night, so a diagnosis might not be too far away.

Parker, 26, broke out in his first full major league season, pitching to a 3.47 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. He followed that up in 2013 by posting a 3.97 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 across 32 starts. Unfortunately, however, he has not seen a big league mound since then.  This season, Parker in the minors working to get back on track before this latest setback.


Athletics Acquire Edward Mujica

The Athletics have acquired right-hander Edward Mujica and cash considerations from the Red Sox in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations, the teams announced. Right-hander Jarrod Parker has been transferred to the 60-day disabled list to clear a 40-man roster spot for Mujica in Oakland, per MLB.com’s Jane Lee (Twitter link).

This complicated-looking trade likely essentially means that the Red Sox are giving up Mujica, plus a bit of extra money to pay some of the remainder of his $4.75MM 2015 salary, in exchange for a bit of salary relief. The Red Sox designated Mujica for assignment this week after he posted a 4.61 ERA with eight strikeouts and three walks in 13 2/3 innings this year. The former Cardinals closer didn’t make much of an impression after signing with the Red Sox before last season, posting a 3.90 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 2014.

Mujica doesn’t throw particularly hard and has modest strikeout totals, not topping that 2014 6.5 K/9 in any of the last four seasons. As a result, his upside appears limited. He’s always had good control and has gotten his fair share of ground balls, however, so perhaps he can provide the Athletics with a decent middle reliever at a reasonable price until he becomes a free agent after the season. The Athletics’ bullpen has produced a 5.29 ERA this season while struggling through injuries, so Mujica looks likely to help.


Red Sox To Option Allen Craig

6:42pm: The Red Sox will option Craig to the minors, Mastrodonato tweets.

5:11pm: A struggling Red Sox team appears set to shake up its roster, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes. Roster moves are “under discussion right now,” according to manager John Farrell. Michael Silverman, also of the Herald, tweets that one possible move could be a trade of outfielder Allen Craig. The team could also option Craig to the minors. Mastrodonato writes that Craig was in Farrell’s office with the door closed this afternoon.

Meanwhile, outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who has hit well for Triple-A Pawtucket, was scratched from the PawSox’ game Saturday. Mastrodonato notes that if Bradley were promoted, he could play center field against many righties, with Mookie Betts moving to right and Shane Victorino (who’s currently on a rehab assignment at Double-A Portland) playing right field against lefties.

It would likely be easier for the Red Sox to option Craig than to trade him. He’s off to a .146/.255/.208 start and also hit poorly last year, and he has about $25MM remaining on his contract. It would appear that the only way to trade him, then, would be to eat a significant amount of salary in the process. Hitting coach Chili Davis says he believes Craig needs to play every day to regain his hitting stroke, so perhaps a stint at Pawtucket could help rebuild his value.


Mets To Promote Noah Syndergaard

The Mets will promote top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard to start on Tuesday, GM Sandy Alderson told reporters today, including ESPNNewYork.com’s Adam Rubin (Twitter link). Righty Dillon Gee is headed to the DL with a groin strain, though the injury does not appear to be serious.

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Syndergaard, 22, is widely regarded as one of the very best prospects in all of baseball. The towering righty came to New York along with backstop Travis d’Arnaud in the deal that sent R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays.

Since that trade, Syndergaard has shot up prospect boards by continuing to show a huge fastball, solid control, and quality secondary offerings, as Baseball America explained in rating him New York’s best minor league arm coming into the year. There is a clear industry consensus that Syndergaard is ready and able to be a quality big league pitcher: BA rated him the 11th best prospect in the game, with MLB.com (#10) and Baseball Prospectus (#9) concurring in the general assessment. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs is somewhat less bullish, but only slightly, as he rated Syndergaard just inside the top 20 while expressing some concern with the consistency of the youngster’s offspeed offerings.

Syndergaard has done nothing to tamper expectations so far in 2015. Over 29 2/3 frames at Triple-A Las Vegas, a tough place to pitch, he has a 1.82 ERA with 10.3 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9. That start to the year seems to answer any questions that might have cropped up after Syndergaard proved somewhat easier to score against than expected last year (4.60 ERA) in his first run at the highest level of the minors.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether Syndergaard will hold down a big league job this year. Certainly, the opportunity is there. While Gee has been as solid as usual, and the Mets have ample rotation depth even after losing Zack Wheeler for the year, the club’s strong 18-10 opening to the year only raises expectations and increases the importance of putting the best product possible on the field.

If Syndergaard is able to hold onto an active roster slot all season, he would set himself up for future Super Two qualification. But by keeping him down to start the year, the Mets would retain control over their prized young arm through 2021. Regardless of roster status, it is not likely that Syndergaard will spend the entire year putting up long outings at the big league level; he has yet to exceed 133 frames in a professional season, meaning the club will likely look to manage his innings.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.