Nomar Mazara Rumors

Rangers Notes: Holland, Darvish, Martin, Mazara

The Rangers looked like future buyers when they dealt for Cole Hamels at the trade deadline, but the team now finds itself right in the mix for the postseason. Here’s the latest out of Texas:

  • Left-hander Derek Holland is set to return from the DL on Wednesday, executive VP of communications John Blake announced on Twitter. Holland, 28, has seen very little time on the bump at the MLB level over the past two seasons as he’s dealt with knee and shoulder issues. He’s not only an important piece of the team’s current efforts to crack the playoffs, but will be entering a critical campaign in 2016. Guaranteed $10MM next year, the southpaw can be controlled by a pair of options thereafter, but will need to prove both health and effectiveness for the club to exercise them.
  • Staff ace Yu Darvish also hit a milestone in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, though he remains a ways off. As Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets, the outstanding righty began a throwing program today and did not experience any discomfort afterwards. Darvish remains a huge key to the club’s near future, and will surely look to stay on track to be a significant contributor next season.
  • Outfielder Leonys Martin, meanwhile, is set to visit with a specialist to determine the source of pain in his hand, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. The club is worried that he may have broken his hamate bone, which would end his season. Martin has struggled at the big league level this year, though he’d been playing well since his demotion to Triple-A. If nothing else, his speed and high-quality defense would make him a very useful player to have up with expanded rosters in September.
  • With Martin out, top prospect Nomar Mazara has been bumped up to the Triple-A level, Grant adds. The 20-year-old outfielder owns a .284/.357/.443 slash with 13 long balls over 470 plate appearances at Double-A on the year. He’ll now slot in alongside fellow prized youngster Joey Gallo in the Round Rock lineup.

Rangers, Astros, Dodgers In Mix For Cole Hamels

Though Cole Hamels hasn’t performed well over his past two starts, trade interest in him doesn’t appear to be dying down. Despite previous comments that put a damper on the Hamels-to-Rangers rumors for awhile, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that the Rangers are “very much involved” in trade talks for Hamels, and they appear to be bidding about the Astros. That’s not the only Rangers/Hamels connection, either; Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the Dodgers are the name he hears linked to Hamels most frequently, but the Rangers closely follow them.

Grant writes that while the Rangers do want to bolster their 2015 chances, a Hamels acquisition would be made with an eye toward pairing him atop their rotation with Yu Darsish in 2016-17. The Rangers have been said to dislike the notion of paying Hamels $23.5MM annually, so it seems likely that they’d ask for some kind of financial compensation, especially if they’re to part with top prospects in the deal. Joey Gallo wouldn’t exchange hands in a Hamels deal, Grant notes, listing outfielder Nomar Mazara and the injured-but-still-vaunted catching prospect Jorge Alfaro as likelier options. (Chi Chi Gonzalez‘s name has also come up in speculative rumors in the past.)

Grant doesn’t get any indication of what the Astros might be willing to offer, but GM Jeff Luhnow has been vocal about acquiring a pitcher that could pitch in the first game or two of a playoff series. Hamels would fit that bill. Houston’s reportedly more comfortable parting with right-hander Mark Appel than with top outfield prospect Brett Phillips, and the team is said to be highly resistant to the idea of trading right-hander Lance McCullers. Even beyond McCullers, Phillips and the of-course-off-limits Carlos Correa, however, the Astros have a deep farm system that got even deeper with what most praised as a highly successful draft. While the players selected in this year’s draft are, of course, ineligible to be traded, the influx of talent might make Houston a bit more comfortable moving some of its preexisting young talent.

The Dodgers/Hamels connection has been persistent over the past few months. Los Angeles clearly has the financial wherewithal to absorb Hamels’ contract in its entirety, if the Phillies wish to go that route, though doing so would lessen the return that Philadelphia received in terms of prospects. To this point, it’s been reported that neither Corey Seager or Julio Urias is available in trades, and Peter Gammons reported yesterday that the Dodgers are also loath to part with promising young catcher Austin Barnes or right-hander Jose De Leon, whose stock continues to rapidly rise (both ESPN’s Keith Law and Baseball America ranked him among the game’s Top 25 prospects on their midseason updates.)


Phillies Willing To Pay Some Of Hamels’ Contract In Trade

An incalculable amount of ink has been dedicated to the Cole Hamels saga and whether or not Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is asking too much in trade talks, but the GM himself added another layer to the story Tuesday in telling USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that the Phillies would pay down some of Hamels’ contract in a trade.

“We are very open-minded,” Amaro told Nightengale. “We’re not afraid to subsidize contracts. We never told a club that we would not absolutely subsidize his contract. That is not a realistic way to do business. If there’s a deal to be made, and we have to subsidize part of it, we’ll do it.”

As recently as Spring Training, reports indicated that the Phillies were looking to add multiple top prospects and get an acquiring club to take on the entirety of Hamels’ four years and $96MM. (His contract also has a $20MM club option that can vest at $24MM based on innings pitched.)

Amaro again took a patient approach when discussing the Hamels situation, noting that it’s understandable if teams want to assess their internal options before making a more drastic move to acquire someone from another organization. “It’s no secret that one team lost an ace and two or three teams have lost very important starters,” said Amaro. “Some teams want to move quickly. Other teams want to ride things out. I think all of us would rather do deals only after exhausting their own internal possibilities and go from there.”

The Cardinals’ recent loss of Adam Wainwright has fueled quite a bit of Hamels-to-St. Louis speculation, and Nightengale also touched base with Cards GM John Mozeliak to discuss Hamels. Mozeliak noted that the team will certainly do its due diligence on trade candidates. Asked if the team could make a deal without including Carlos Martinez, a key member of the 2015 rotation, Mozeliak replied, “There’s probably always a deal worth making.”

Nightengale lists the Cardinals, Red Sox, Dodgers and Blue Jays as teams that could desperately use Hamels in their rotation. The Blue Jays wouldn’t seem to have the payroll capacity to add Hamels’ contract, but perhaps with enough money being paid down, something could be worked out. And for what it’s worth, Amaro did mention Toronto GM when making a tongue-in-cheek comment about his stress levels regarding the Hamels negotiations, stating: “I guarantee I’ll get more grey hairs from my daughter [taking her driving test] than any trade talks with Mozeliak, Anthopoulos and Cherington.” Nightengale adds that Amaro had talks regarding Hamels with a team as recently as Tuesday morning, and “some desperation” began to creep into those talks.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports took a lengthy look at the market for Hamels earlier today, noting that the Phillies do indeed covet Martinez, though it’s unclear if they’ve formally asked for Martinez in trade negotiations with the Redbirds. Per Heyman, the Phillies are also taken with Jorge Alfaro and Nomar Mazara of the Rangers as well as Luis Severino and Aaron Judge of the Yankees. Despite a brutal month for the Red Sox’ rotation, there’s been no change to their refusal to part with Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart, and the Dodgers similarly won’t part with any of Joc Pederson, Corey Seager or Julio Urias, even with injuries ravaging their own rotation.

One rival exec noted to Heyman that, “A few things have lined up in the Phillies’ favor. There’s a little bit of a crescendo. And now is the time to act.” However, a GM explained to Heyman that he’d be more inclined to part with significant pieces to add someone controllable like Seattle’s Taijuan Walker than an aging star like Hamels. (That comment, for what it’s worth, was made prior to Amaro’s comments to Nightengale about absorbing some of the money on Hamels’ contract.)

It strikes me as unlikely that a deal would come together in the near future, but the early rash of pitching injuries, which grew with tonight’s news that Masahiro Tanaka is lost for at least a month, has likely increased the demand for Hamels. Though Amaro’s refusal to budge has drawn a great deal of criticism, it’s certainly easy to make the claim that he’s in a better spot to trade Hamels than he was late in the offseason.



West Notes: Gattis, Rangers, Astros, Padres, Dodgers

It’s been a hectic day in the AL West to say the least, with the Astros acquiring Evan Gattis from the Braves and the Athletics flipping the recently acquired Yunel Escobar to the Nats for Tyler Clippard. However, multiple reports indicated today that the Rangers were heavily interested in Gattis as well, and Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram sheds a bit of light on those talks (Twitter link). Per Wilson, the Rangers were in on Gattis but balked at Atlanta’s asking price of right-hander and former first-round pick Alex Gonzalez and/or top outfield prospect Nomar Mazara (who received a hefty $5MM bonus to sign with Texas in 2011 and reached Double-A last year). In the end, the Astros landed Gattis for righty Michael Foltynewicz, right-hander Andrew Thurman and third baseman Rio Ruiz.

Here are a few more notes on Houston and the game’s Western divisions…

  • The Astros still have some money to spend, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, and the team is currently looking at both the starting pitching market and at corner infielders. Astros fans with visions of elite starters in their minds should temper those thoughts, however, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the club is thinking more along the lines of back-end starters such as Ryan Vogelsong and Kyle Kendrick.
  • MLB.com’s Corey Brock spoke with Padres GM A.J. Preller and chairman Ron Fowler about the team’s flurry of moves this offseason. Specifically, Brock and Preller touched on how differently the offseason could have played out had the Friars secured their top target: Pablo Sandoval“You’ve got to be prepared to move on to Plan B, C, D or F or Z. We don’t have a [front-office] group that dwells on things too long,” Preller told Brock in reference to losing out on Sandoval, who signed with Boston. “…Each decision takes you down a slightly different path. … If we had signed Pablo, it would have changed our course a little bit. That’s just the nature of the offseason.” Fowler told Brock that Preller has often worked on four or five deals at once, and his approach was so tireless that right after acquiring Matt Kemp, Preller said to Fowler, “Let’s go after [Justin] Upton.” The Upton acquisition, Fowler said, was possible due to the fact that the Dodgers front-loaded the money they sent to San Diego in the Kemp deal, sending $18MM of the $32MM right off the bat.
  • Earlier tonight we noted Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi’s candid acknowledgment of the club’s pursuit of Yoan Moncada when speaking with Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio. The audio clip of that discussion is now available, and within it, Zaidi sidesteps a fairly loaded question about Max Scherzer and James Shields, to an extent, but acknowledges that the L.A. front office won’t close any doors. Said Zaidi: “I’m going to give you the same boring and annoying answer that I give to our local media — and they already love me for it — that we don’t comment on free agents that are out there. I will just say we’re not closing any doors at this point. I get asked a lot, ‘Are you guys done?’ And you’re never done. You’re constantly evaluating new options to improve the team, and we’re still in that phase. And if there’s a guy out there that we think makes us better and is available at the right price, we’ll absolutely consider it.”

Prospect Rumor Roundup: July 2 Prospects

Hardcore fans will be eagerly anticipating July 2, 2013. That date represents the first day that Major League Baseball teams can sign this year's crop of international free agents, many of whom recently turned (or will be turning) 16 years old and are in line for seven-figure bonuses. No one covers the international market better than Baseball America's Ben Badler, who has been busy compiling information on all the key international prospects. Follow this link to read up on the cream of the crop for the 2013 signing period.

Badler has been following the international free agent market for a number of years now and has educated fans on quite a few Latin amateurs who have gone on to become top prospects in their respective organizations. Much like selecting players in the annual North American amateur draft, dabbling in the international market comes with a great deal of risk — especially given how raw many of these teenagers can be when they sign their first contracts. Not surprisingly, it can take years for these particular prospects to develop.

Like the amateur draft, the rules changed for the international market in 2012 to include a spending limit, which has significantly reduced the bonuses. Taking a look back at Baseball America's top international prospects list from 2011 — the last year that teams could spend freely without restrictions and penalties — we find a number of players that have become top prospects and intriguing sleepers. Below is a look at some of the best 2011 signees, as of this date, and numbered by Badler's original pre-July 2 talent ranking.

1. Elier Hernandez, OF, Kansas City: Despite being given the third highest bonus in the signing class at $3MM, Hernandez struggled in his 2012 debut and hit just .208 with 66 strikeouts in 60 games. He has returned to the same Rookie ball club for the 2013 season and is hitting .308 through six games, but has eight strikeouts and no walks.

2. Ronald Guzman, 1B, Texas Rangers: Texas signed two Latin players in 2011 for a total of more than $8MM, and Guzman received a $3.5 MM payday, good for the second highest bonus overall. Assigned to full-season ball in 2013, the outfielder-turned-first-baseman didn't play until the end of May thanks to an injury. Guzman, 18, came out swinging and is hitting .333 in his first 19 games, although he has yet to tap into his raw power and has walked just two times. Jason Cole of Lonestar Ball interviewed Guzman earlier this month and caught it on video.

3. Victor Sanchez, RHP, Seattle Mariners: The hard-throwing Sanchez has had little trouble with professional hitters to date. He allowed just 69 hits and a 3.18 ERA in 85 Rookie ball innings in 2012. He currently features a 2.43 ERA with just six walks in 40 2/3 innings of work in A-ball. He missed about a month of the '13 season after being placed on the temporarily inactive list. Rick Randall of Lookout Landing took an in-depth look at some of the Mariners' lesser-known prospects in April — including Sanchez.

4. Roberto Osuna, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays: Signed out of the Mexican League for a bonus of $1.5 MM, Osuna has flashed a mature approach on the mound and has been quite reliable when healthy. Unfortunately, he was shut down for a short period of time earlier this year when a small tear was discovered in his throwing elbow. Rather than undergo Tommy John surgery, the organization chose to try rest and rehab — a similar approach that was taken with former Yankees prospect Arodys Vizcaino, which merely delayed the inevitable. Gregor Chisholm and Teddy Cahill of MLB.com took a look at Osuna shortly after he returned from his rehab.

5. Wuilmer Becerra, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: Becerra was given a $1.3 MM signing bonus. His North American debut in 2012 was cut short when he was hit in the face by an errant pitch and required surgery. He was then traded to the New York Mets during the offseason as part of the package for Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. In April, Mike Kerwick provided a piece for Baseball America (subscription required) that detailed the high hopes that the Mets front office has for the young prospect, who's back playing the Gulf Coast League in 2013.

6. Dawel Lugo, SS, Toronto Blue Jays: The third player signed by the Jays for more than $1MM, Lugo is repeating Rookie ball in 2013, although he's moved up to a more advanced league. He's off to a hot start with 11 hits in his first six games in the Appalachian League and is firmly in the conversation for the Jays' shortstop of the future.

10. Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers: Given the largest bonus among the projected top prospects in the 2011 class, Mazara received a whopping $5 MM bonus. He's now one of the youngest players in full-season A-ball after spending the 2012 season in Rookie ball. The outfielder has flashed some intriguing power at times but he's also experienced some growing pains with a .246 batting average and 75 strikeouts in 71 games.

12. Raul (Adalberto) Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals: The son of former big leaguer Raul Mondesi, the prospect formerly known as Adalberto originally signed for $2MM. He came stateside in 2012 and more than held his own as a 17 year old in Rookie ball by posting a .733 OPS and .290 batting average. It's been a little tougher for him in 2013 at the A-ball level. He's struck out 71 times in 66 games but is warming up with the weather and has a .292 batting average in June. Ashley Marshall of MiLB.com checked in with Mondesi after he hit for the cycle in late May.

14. Dorssys Paulino, SS, Cleveland Indians: Paulino wowed talent evaluators during his pro debut in 2012 and found himself on a number of top prospects lists. Signed for $1.1MM, the teenager hit .355 during his Rookie ball debut and even earned a late-season promotion to the more advanced New York Penn League. Promoted to A-ball in 2013, Paulino has struggled with a .594 OPS in 63 games. On the plus side, his numbers have improved a little bit with each passing month. Guy Cipriano of the Cleveland New-Herald penned a piece on Paulino and his efforts to adjust to life in North America and as a professional baseball player.

16. Manuel Margot, OF, Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox took a more cautious approach with Margot than a number of organizations did with other prospects on this list. He opened his pro career in the Dominican Summer League in 2012 before moving all the way up into the New York Penn League this summer. The teenager has teased talent evaluators with a four-tool approach and outstanding athletic ability. Alex Speier, writing for WEEI.com, looked at the Red Sox difficult decision on where to assign Margot for the 2013 season.