Nick Ahmed Rumors

NL West Notes: Lincecum, Myers, Castillo, D-Backs

The Giants aren’t ruling out the possibility of a reunion with Tim Lincecum following the 2015 season, CEO Larry Baer and manager Bruce Bochy told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle“I don’t think Timmy is ruling it out, and I don’t think we’re ruling it out,” said Baer. Bochy added: “My door will always be open for Tim Lincecum. That’s how much I think of him. That’s a decision that’s made on the baseball side, obviously with everybody. I appreciate what he’s done and the time I’ve had to this point with him. It doesn’t mean that won’t continue.” Baer called Lincecum’s contributions to the Giants franchise “endless.” The 31-year-old underwent season-ending hip surgery yesterday that will require about five months of recovery time. A free agent at season’s end, it’s possible that Lincecum’s days with the Giants are done.

Elsewhere in the division…

  • Padres outfielder Wil Myers spoke with ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick about the frustration of the past two season’s wrist injuries and the accumulation of the “injury-prone” reputation that’s now become attached to his name. “It’s the worst,” said Myers of the label. “I see it on Twitter and I hear it all the time. Everybody is like, ‘He’s too injury-prone,’ but it’s not like I have a hamstring injury where every time I run, I’m cautious about it. I had a bone spur taken out, and once this heals I won’t have to deal with this injury anymore.” Myers is confident in his ability to rebound once the wrist injury is fully healed, but as Crasnick notes, there’s a question as to where he will play. Myers was probably miscast as a center fielder this season, so he could slide over to left field if Justin Upton departs via free agency. Another possibility is first base, if the Padres are looking for an upgrade over Yonder Alonso’s low power numbers. One NL scout told Crasnick he feels Myers could be a Gold Glove caliber first baseman, based purely on his athleticism.
  • Welington Castillo has positioned himself as the Diamondbacks‘ catcher of the future, but as Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Repbulic writes, Castillo nearly gave up baseball at the age of 16 when faced with the realization that his future was behind the plate. Castillo grew up playing shortstop but lacked the speed or quickness to play there at a high level as he grew. When a Phillies scout asked for a private workout based on Castillo’s bat and then asked him to make some throws from behind the plate, Castillo was impressive but also uninterested. He walked away from the game for three months before being coerced into returning, only to receive an offer of just $10K after another Phillies scout deemed him “too short to catch.” Castillo eventually signed with the Cubs for a meager $22K bonus — a number that, in hindsight, looks like a considerable bargain for Chicago.
  • Buchanan’s colleague, Nick Piecoro, examines the budding logjam in the D-Backs infield. Chris Owings, Nick Ahmed and Jake Lamb have all shown flashes of potential but lack consistency, Piecoro writes, and now the progress of second baseman/third baseman Brandon Drury has muddied the picture. Manager Chip Hale told Piecoro that teams frequently ask about Lamb in trades, and they’ve also received inquiries on Drury and Owings. The presence of multiple seemingly big-league-ready infielders will give Arizona GM Dave Stewart some options as he navigates the trade market this offseason.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Desmond, Toussaint, D-Backs, Samardzija, Cotts

In his latest notes column for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal begins with an interesting note on the Nationals. Despite a substantial payroll and a heavy offseason investment in Max Scherzer, Nats ownership is reluctant to add payroll during the season. Rosenthal notes that, in hindsight, we saw an indication of this last July when Cleveland paid all of the $3.3MM remaining on Asdrubal Cabrera‘s salary after the Nats acquired him. (Of course, the Nats were also willing to take on all of Matt Thornton‘s salary via waiver claim.)

Because of this, Rosenthal wonders if the Nats will consider trading Ian Desmond this summer to clear room for a different acquisition. Given Desmond’s struggles, the team could be better off with Danny Espinosa, Yunel Escobar and Anthony Rendon seeing regular time in the infield. Earlier in the week, I speculated on a possible Desmond trade after it was reported that the Nats were interesred in the D-Backs’ middle infielders, but Rosenthal notes that it could also allow them more flexibility to pursue Aroldis Chapman, Ben Zobrist or even a reunion with Tyler Clippard. Of course, Desmond’s offensive and defensive woes diminish his trade value, as well.

A few more highlights from Rosenthal’s column…

  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart tells Rosenthal that he usually doesn’t pay attention to media criticism, but he’s aware of the near-universal criticism of the D-Backs for their trade of Touki Toussaint (in which the team essentially sold its 2014 first-round pick to Atlanta). Rosenthal quotes Stewart: “The truth is we did not know what Touki’s value would be if we shopped him. There is a lot of speculation on that. People are assuming it would have been better, but we don’t know. There was an opportunity to make a deal that gave us more flexibility today as well as next year. We took that opportunity. It’s tough to say we could have gotten more. He was drafted at No. 16, given ($2.7) million. In my opinion, that’s his value.” Stewart continues to say that Toussaint has not thrown 96 mph with the D-Backs, despite some scouting reports and that there’s “some inflation of what people think Touki is.” Stewart adds that the D-Backs think Toussaint will be a Major League pitcher but not for another five to six years.
  • A brief interjection from me to offer my take on those comments: It’s odd to hear a GM openly devalue a player in this fashion, even after trading him away. Beyond that, however, it’s puzzling to hear Stewart equate Toussaint’s value with the clearly arbitrary number assigned to last year’s draft slot value. Having shown a willingness to spend $16MM+ on a pitching prospect (Yoan Lopez) this offseason, Stewart is undoubtedly cognizant of the fact that Toussaint would have fetched far, far more than $2.7MM in a theoretical free agent setting. Additionally, if they truly do feel that Toussaint will pitch in the Major Leagues, that makes the trade all the more puzzling to me, as my best explanation to this point had been that they simply didn’t believe in his future all that strongly.
  • Back to Rosenthal’s piece, which has several more quotes from Stewart, including the GM’s own admission of surprise to his team’s current standing in the NL West. The D-Backs were built with an eye on the longer-term picture than 2015, says Stewart, and they’ll need to assess how to respond at the deadline. To this point, the D-Backs have received inquiries on their starting pitching, but not on their middle infield. Stewart flatly says “…we’re not moving [Nick] Ahmed,” and calls a trade of Chris Owings “very unlikely.” Interestingly, that does seem to indicate that the new GM values Ahmed over Owings.
  • The Astros remain interested in Jeff Samardzija, and as Rosenthal notes, a move away from what has been a brutal White Sox defense would likely help Samardzija quite a bit. Samardzija’s .338 BABIP has helped contribute to a significant discrepancy between his 4.53 ERA and 3.67 FIP. Of course, Chicago’s porous defense doesn’t necessarily explain Samardzija’s diminished strikeout rate and struggles to strand runners in 2015. The Astros, Rosenthal says, are eyeing Samardzija and other pitchers, but the White Sox are not yet ready to sell.
  • The Brewers aren’t receiving very strong interest in Francisco Rodriguez, likely in part due to his backloaded contract, Rosenthal hears. K-Rod is still owed $1.95MM in 2015, plus $9.5MM in 2016 between his salary and the buyout on a $6MM club option for the 2017 season. Lefty Neal Cotts, however, figures to be in demand and may even be of interest to his former club, the Rangers, Rosenthal writes. Cotts’s 4.30 ERA isn’t anything to write home about, but he’s held lefties to a .546 OPS.
  • The Cardinals might not be as urgent to add a starter as many had previously expected. The club feels that Michael Wacha can top 200 innings, and Carlos Martinez can deliver about 170. A bigger need might be a left-handed-hitting complement for Mark Reynolds at first base, and Rosenthal suggests Adam LaRoche as a speculative fit to improve the team on both sides of the ball.

Nats Interested In D-Backs’ Middle Infielders

The Nationals have been connected to Ben Zobrist in recent weeks, and he’s apparently not their only infield target, as the team has also expressed interest in the Diamondbacks’ middle infield depth, according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The D-Backs have quite a few middle infield options, as Chris Owings, Nick Ahmed and Cliff Pennington are all capable of handling either shortstop or second base. Aaron Hill, though expensive, comes with quite a bit of experience at second base.

The Nats have seen Ian Desmond struggle for much of the season, and Anthony Rendon has missed a good chunk of the year as well. Despite that fact, though, the team does seem to have a relatively full infield picture. Rendon and Yunel Escobar can both play second and third base, Danny Espinosa is quietly having a very strong rebound season and is defensively gifted at both middle-infield positions. And, of course, despite the 2015 struggles, Desmond has been one of the team’s best overall players, if not one of the best overall players in the National League over the past few seasons.

There was at least some talk of Washington trading Desmond, a free-agent-to-be, this past offseason, so it stands to reason that the notion isn’t completely off the table for the Nationals as the trade deadline approaches. The team may feel that Desmond can be traded for more than a qualifying offer would return, though his .222/.266/.341 batting line hardly helps his trade value.

As for the players that the D-Backs could theoretically trade, Pennington and Hill would seem to be the most logical candidates. Pennington is owed $3.275MM in 2015 but has struggled at the dish, batting a mere .192/.297/.218. Hill is earning $12MM in 2015 and again in 2016, so Arizona would need to eat a lot of salary in order to facilitate a deal, but the veteran isn’t part of the team’s long-term picture.

The D-Backs have been willing to go to similar lengths in the past, keeping about half of Trevor Cahill‘s remaining salary and sending a Competitive Balance draft pick to the Braves. The D-Backs and Braves again matched up on a trade intended to save Arizona some money over the weekend when the Braves acquired Bronson Arroyo (and the remaining $10MM he’s owed) and top prospect Touki Toussaint in exchange for utility infielder Phil Gosselin. That move essentially proved to be the D-Backs selling Toussaint for about $10MM. Put more concisely, Arizona has shown a clear interest in getting out from underneath a portion of the large contracts they have on their books.

As for Owings and Ahmed, either one would figure to be significantly more expensive than their veteran counterparts. Owings is struggling greatly in 2015, hitting just .235/.252/.330, but he was an NL Rookie of the Year candidate in 2014 before shoulder troubles ended his season. Ahmed’s .227/.306/.319 batting line isn’t worlds better, but the 25-year-old is an elite defensive option at shortstop. Owings can be controlled through at least the 2019 season, while Ahmed is controllable through at least 2020.



Diamondbacks Still Trying To Trade Aaron Hill

The Diamondbacks are still attempting to find a taker for second baseman Aaron Hill, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Arizona has indicated that it will not finalize its Opening Day roster until tomorrow, which could be due in part to efforts to move Hill.

It appears that Hill will start the season on the bench if he is not moved, as manager Chip Hale tells reporters that Chris Owings will start at second with Nick Ahmed taking over at short (via Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic, on Twitter). Needless to say, it appears that the club would be pleased to find a taker for some of Hill’s $12MM salary.

Of course, the 33-year-old Hill has long been the subject of trade speculation, but it has bee hard to find a believer in his bat after a rough .244/.287/.367 campaign last year. Hill had put up two straight highly productive seasons at the plate before that time, at least when healthy, but did not help his cause with a .189/.232/.208 slash over 53 spring at-bats.


West Links: Saunders, Gregorius, Lovullo, Tomas

In a lengthy and interesting piece, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times looks at the potentially fractured relationship between the Mariners and Michael Saunders following some comments made by GM Jack Zduriencik at an end-of-season press conference. Asked at the time what he felt about Saunders’ future with the team, Zduriencik said, “…It’s up to Michael. … He was playing well, got hurt, came back, got sick, came back again and did some nice things. But I think what Michael has to do and has to answer this to himself, is ‘how do I prepare myself to play as many games through the course of 162 that I can possibly play without being setback by injury.’ … some of these things need to be handled from a maintenance standpoint where he put himself in a position where he’s able to compete through the course of the season.”

Divish spoke to Saunders himself, who declined to comment on the situation. Saunders’ agent, Michael McCann, said it was both “shocking” and “very disappointing.” Said McCann: “These comments don’t reflect Michael Saunders’ work habits. They imply that that he’s lackadaisical.” Part of the trouble, Divish writes, is that Saunders had never before had his work ethic or preparation questioned by the Mariners, and to have that done in a public forum was hurtful. Zduriencik clarified that the comments he made could be applied to any player, and he was adamant to Divish that the organization is not planning on moving on from Saunders. However, he has previously identified corner outfield as a potential area to add some offense. Divish speculates on an offseason trade, though he also notes that even if Saunders is pushed to the role of fourth outfielder, his low salary (he should earn less than $3MM via arbitration) would be an acceptable price for that role, especially given his upside. Over the past three seasons, the former top prospect has batted .248/.320/.423 with 39 homers and 38 steals. I should note that Divish’s entire piece is well worth the read, as this brief write-up doesn’t capture nearly all of the quotes and information he compiled.

Here’s more from baseball’s Western divisions…

  • The Diamondbacks should give strong consideration to moving one of their young shortstops if it can bolster the rotation, writes the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro. The Snakes finished the season with Didi Gregorius, Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed all on the roster, but no room to play all three of them with Aaron Hill being owed $24MM through 2016 and prospects Jake Lamb and Brandon Drury both looking like third base options in the near future. (Lamb already received a taste of the Majors in 2014.) The team seems to view Owings as the best of the bunch, given his greater offensive ceiling, but both Gregorius and Ahmed have value to other clubs. Piecoro spoke to rival executives about each shortstop, with one stating that while Gregorius might not bring back “a Matt Harvey or a Jacob deGrom,” he could be worth someone such as Rafael Montero of the Mets. Another evaluator told Piecoro that his club actually prefers Ahmed to Gregorius, so both could seemingly have good trade value.
  • Though he’s been a popular managerial candidate this year, Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo will not be interviewed by the D’Backs for their own managerial vacancy, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Lovullo interviewed with the Astros prior to their hiring of A.J. Hinch, he’s already interviewed with the Rangers and will reportedly interview with the Twins as well.
  • Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler tells Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune that they have “definitely expanded our international focus under [new GM] A.J. [Preller].” Lin examines whether or not that could mean a legitimate run at Yasmany Tomas, though as he notes, that would be an unprecedented move for the Friars. In fact, last season’s signing of Joaquin Benoit to a two-year, $15.5MM contract was the largest free agent expenditure in franchise history, Lin points out. The largest contract in franchise history, he adds, is Jake Peavy‘s old three-year, $52MM deal. Tomas could cost double that amount, but the Padres have just $40.5MM committed to next year’s payroll, and the $90MM Opening Day figure from 2014 could rise, ownership has said.
  • After losing hitting coach John Mallee to the Cubs, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow spoke highly about Mallee’s work to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Drellich points out that Mallee deserves some credit for the success of Jose Altuve and Chris Carter in 2014, although skeptics could also point to the strikeout problems some of the other team’s young hitters had. Luhnow said he hopes to have a finalized coaching staff in place by month’s end, and as Drellich notes, only pitching coach Brent Strom is a guarantee to return at this point.

NL West Notes: Lincecum, Petit, Colon, D’Backs, Rockies

The Giants are weighing whether or not to continue with beleaguered right-hander Tim Lincecum in their rotation, writes John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. Lincecum himself offered a frank, expletive-laced assessment of his recent performance and sounded aware that he may not make his next start. Shea spoke with manager Bruce Bochy about rotation candidate Yusmeiro Petit‘s struggles as a starter and excellence in the bullpen this year, with Bochy calling Petit’s rotation work too small of sample to judge. Petit’s recent bullpen work, however, has been nothing short of incredible, if not historic. He’s retired 38 consecutive batters, striking out 16. As Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com points out (on Twitter), Petit is seven batters shy of matching the Major League record for most consecutive hitters retired. Lincecum, who is in the first season of a two-year, $35MM extension, has a 9.49 ERA over his past six starts and has totaled just 24 2/3 innings in that time. Baggarly tweets that for now, the team’s Thursday starter is listed as “TBA.”

Here’s more from the NL West…

  • While the most commonly linked team to Bartolo Colon (who is currently on revocable waivers) has been the Angels, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his daily blog that the injury-plagued Dodgers are a candidate to place a claim as well (ESPN Insider required). Olney points out that Colon’s start against the Dodgers tonight could serve as an audition.
  • Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa feels that his team can post a winning record in 2015, he tells Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. La Russa feels that the D’Backs can make improvements with their current roster solely by improving their approach at the plate and improving their baserunning, but he also cites the desire to make “two or three impactful moves” in the offseason, including the addition of at least one hitter and at least one pitcher.
  • Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic writes that the D’Backs are in evaluation mode with middle infielders Chris Owings, Didi Gregorius, and Nick Ahmed. Additionally, the club is trying to determine how to mix in veterans Aaron Hill and Cliff Pennington. For the time being, GM Kevin Towers tells Buchanan that Owings will see more time at second base with Gregorius getting a look at short, but that doesn’t mean Owings is being converted to a second baseman full-time. Hill, meanwhile, will see action at third, though a full-time transition there would block prospect Jake Lamb, Buchanan notes. In my view, Pennington is a non-tender candidate following the season and Ahmed could use more work at Triple-A, leaving three infielders for two spots. Hill is guaranteed $12MM in 2015 and again in 2016, making him difficult to trade, but any number of clubs would likely be interested in Owings, Gregorius or Ahmed in trades.
  • The Rockies are further away from contending now than they were at the beginning of the season, opines Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. Saunders looks at Colorado’s pitching predicament, noting that Tyler Chatwood will miss the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery and Jhoulys Chacin‘s shoulder cannot be relied upon. Brett Anderson‘s injuries make it difficult to exercise his $12MM option, and Jorge De La Rosa could end up pitching elsewhere, as several sources with whom Saunders has conversed feel that there’s only a 50-50 chance he returns. Add in the persistent trade rumors regarding Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez — Saunders feels the latter is more likely to go — and the offseason is rife with question marks and uncertainty.

D’Backs Preparing To Sell; McCarthy Drawing Interest

Though his ERA and win-loss record aren’t much to look at (5.38 and 1-10), Diamondbacks right-hander Brandon McCarthy is drawing trade interest, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). A free agent at season’s end, McCarthy has about $4.72MM remaining on this year’s $9MM salary — the second year of a two-year, $15.5MM pact he inked in the 2012-13 offseason. Rosenthal notes that Arizona is likely to make multiple trades before this year’s deadline.

While McCarthy’s season looks rough on the surface, there are a lot of factors suggesting that he could quickly turn things around. McCarthy’s .339 batting average on balls in play is 44 points higher than the league average, and he’s sporting the best ground-ball and K/9 rates of his career (55.9 percent and 7.4, respectively). His fastball velocity has soared from an average of 90.8 mph over the past two seasons to 93 mph, and he’s sporting his best swinging-strike rate since 2006 as a result. McCarthy has mostly been plagued by home runs this season, but his fluky 21.7 percent homer-to-flyball ratio figures to come down.

There’s not much question that McCarthy will be available in trades. As Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports, the Snakes are said to be preparing to put a “for sale” sign on their roster and are weighing trades of multiple veteran players. GM Kevin Towers — who, despite the hiring of Tony La Russa, calls this July business as usual — told Piecoro: “[W]e have to look at being more open-minded of moving some contracts and some veteran players for younger players.”

A fire sale may not be as easy for the D’Backs as it would for most teams, however, Piecoro cautions. McCarthy and fellow veterans Cody Ross and Aaron Hill are underperforming this season, which will hurt Arizona’s potential return in trades. Other movable veterans such as Eric Chavez, Bronson Arroyo and Mark Trumbo are all currently on the disabled list.

One scout told Piecoro that the left-handers in Arizona’s bullpen — Joe Thatcher and Oliver Perez — figure to be of interest to other clubs. Both have enjoyed strong seasons to this point. Thatcher is a free agent at season’s end, while Perez, who signed a two-year deal this winter, is controlled through 2015. That same scout said he is intrigued by Gerardo Parra, but noted that the outfielder’s declining speed is a concern.

Towers noted to Piecoro that he would be reluctant to move young, controllable players such as Didi Gregorius and Triple-A shortstop Nick Ahmed (presumably, Chris Owings falls into that category as well).


Trade Deadline Notes: D’Backs, Price, Zobrist, Lee, Cubs

With the draft in the rear-view mirror, the league’s attention will increasingly turn to the coming summer trade market — though, with so many teams still in the hunt and so much money owed to many possible trade candidates, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wonders if it will be a sluggish market.

Here’s the latest on some teams and players who could be discussed:

  • The Diamondbacks, who feature a roster with several attractive veteran pieces, have also been widely noted for their abundance of quality young middle infielders. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links), current Triple-A shortstop Nick Ahmed has sparked interest from multiple other clubs. Ahmed, 24, is known as an outstanding defensive player and has enjoyed his most productive season at the plate this year with a .304/.385/.401 line in 250 plate appearances in his first run at Triple-A.
  • The Rays should consider putting ace David Price on the market now rather than waiting for the deadline to approach, opines MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince. Tampa may not achieve the return it hopes for if it waits, says Castrovince, citing a variety of reasons — including the current proliferation of teams still in the hunt, the possibility that Cubs hurler Jeff Samardzija may approach or even surpass him in value, and the potential introduction of Royals’ ace James Shields into the discussion.
  • Price may be the Rays‘ most valuable trade chip, but the versatile Ben Zobrist would draw the widest interest if he is put on the block, tweets Rosenthal. The 33-year-old jack of all trades is owed just $7MM this year and comes with an attractive $7.5MM club option for 2015.
  • Indeed, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com writes that Zobrist is “the perfect acquisition for a team like the TigersGiants, or Dodgers.” As I noted a few days ago, he would also make sense for a team like the Nationals if they decide to add an impact veteran, and there are surely many others with possible interest.
  • Gammons goes on to cite a few other possibly overlooked trade possibilities. He lists Bartolo Colon of the Mets and Steve Cishek of the Marlins in addition to some more commonly mentioned names like Jason Hammel of the Cubs, and Chase Headley of the Padres.
  • Cliff Lee of the Phillies, a hypothetically intriguing trade candidate, finally threw a baseball yesterday for the first time since May 18, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. After what he described as a “light throwing session,” Lee said that his elbow was feeling “better.” Of course, he would need to make it back for at least a few starts to allow Philadelphia to recoup anything close to maximum value were they to shop him.
  • In today’s Baseball Tonight podcast (audio link), ESPN’s Buster Olney says that hears the Cubs will approach this year’s deadline as they did in 2013, dealing one pitcher early as they did with Scott Feldman last year and waiting until later to move a second, as they did with Matt Garza. Presumably, that’d mean Jason Hammel would be moved first, with Jeff Samardzija being moved later. His colleague, Keith Law, feels the strategy can work, as there will never be enough starting pitchers for all the teams looking to buy, and the price for Hammel isn’t as difficult to agree upon. Moving Hammel early on forces interested clubs to force on the bigger target later in the deadline as the need becomes greater.
  • Olney lists the Blue Jays, the Orioles and the Athletics as teams that could have early interest in Hammel, and he wonders if the recent injuries to the Pirates‘ rotation would cause them to jump into the mix. Law feels the Angels could be added to that mix, as their weak farm system would prevent them from adding a big-name starter.