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Baseball's central divisions have four clear sellers in the Cubs, Brewers, White Sox, and Twins. At seven games out, the Royals are on the bubble. The team sees "a winning record as an important secondary goal even if they don’t reach postseason," according to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, so they may stand pat. Meanwhile, the Tigers, Indians, Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds are the five central division buyers. Links from both divisions…
- In a Q&A mailbag, a reader asks Dutton how hot the seat is under Royals GM Dayton Moore. Dutton writes that despite fan criticism for the team's longtime decision maker, there's nothing to suggest his job is actually in jeopardy. Elsewhere in the mailbag, Dutton notes that there is no indication the team is shopping starter Ervin Santana, and that he does not expect the team to reduce payroll next year.
- "We ought to know and be right on the first couple of picks. But it's those middle-round guys that your scouts push and say, 'We need to get this guy,' who make your organization," Royals senior advisor to the GM Mike Arbuckle told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick in regard to former 10th round draft pick Greg Holland, now the team's All-Star closer.
- "Trying to think like another team, usually the guys who are traded are going better than I am," White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko told Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune on his minor league rehab assignment in the Southern League. Konerko, 37, is battling a back injury in the last year of his contract with the White Sox.
- Cubs closer Kevin Gregg is on the trading block alongside starter Matt Garza, and Gregg seems ready to jump to a contender. "Garza’s a headline piece, but I think that in the baseball world, people are looking for relievers. I hope I’m on that list," Gregg told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times recently. The 35-year-old has enjoyed an improbable rise back to prominence and the Cubs' closer job, though he has a 7.36 ERA over the last month.
- Speaking to Tom Singer of MLB.com, Pirates GM Neal Huntington explained that his strong farm system gives him the confidence to make trades without depleting it. Huntington didn't rule out rental players, saying, "We've never gone in with a premeditated view on rentals, whether we want or don't want them. We've gone into the Deadline to impact that year's club as best we could. Now, while it does not make a ton of sense for us to give up an elite prospect for a two-month rental, you've always got to have the majority of attention on today."
Zach Links contributed to this post.
The Chicago Blackhawks recently bought the Stanley Cup back to the Windy City, but it seems awfully unlikely that either of Chicago's baseball teams will catch fire and add a World Series title to the city's list of sports championships. Both the Cubs and White Sox are seemingly looking ahead to 2014, as you'll see in this collection of Chicago baseball news…
- Cubs president Theo Epstein tells reporters (including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune) that there is an even-money chance the Cubs will make a deal before the All-Star break. “Judging by the amount of calls that are going on, and the number of pieces we intend to have available and the number of opportunities that might present themselves for us to get better, yeah, I’d say 50-50,” Epstein said.
- Also from Sullivan's item, the Red Sox have sent top scout Gary Hughes to follow the Cubs while the team is on the west coast. Sullivan considers it likely that the Cubs will ask for two or three of Boston's top prospects in any significant deal given Epstein's familiarity with the Red Sox farm system.
- Alfonso Soriano recently received consecutive days off and said he's open to ceding playing time to some of the Cubs' younger players down the stretch, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. That said, Soriano didn't dismiss the idea that getting less playing time would induce him to waive his no-trade clause and go elsewhere before the deadline. “I don’t think about it. Let’s wait and see if that happens, and I’ll think about it,” Soriano said. “I don’t want to put my mind on something that hasn’t happened yet. The front office has their job, and I have my job.” Soriano had posted a .704 OPS heading into today's play and the 37-year-old is owed approximately $27MM between now and the end of the 2014 season.
- If the White Sox do intend to become trade deadline sellers, general manager Rick Hahn told reporters (including MLB.com's Scott Merkin) that he doesn't intend to make his club's intentions public. Hahn hopes the Sox can get back into the pennant race but "we aren't going to delude ourselves, and we're not going to wishcast our performance this year. We're going to respond to our performance to date and make adjustments when the time calls for it."
- Hahn said that the White Sox would be looking for "high-impact, premium talent" at middle infield positions, center field and the starting rotation if they did dip into the trade market. While Hahn is willing to listen to offers on any player, "that doesn't mean that some players [aren't] extraordinarily difficult to acquire." It was reported earlier this week that the Sox were open to dealing anyone besides Chris Sale and Paul Konerko.
- Speaking of Konerko, the veteran slugger said yesterday that he was just focused on recovering from a back injury rather than being traded. Today, Konerko told Merkin that he would judge potential deals on a case-by-case basis. "I've been here 15 years, and if that's the way it's going to go with this team, it's pretty lucky to really have one time out of 15 years where [getting traded has] been an issue," Konerko said.
- From earlier today on MLBTR, ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine reported that the Giants, Diamondbacks and Rangers were a few of the teams scouting White Sox outfielder Alex Rios. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal also opined that Rios would be a perfect fit in right field for the Pirates.
Paul Konerko isn't interested in discussing a potential trade from the White Sox to a contender, MLB.com's Scott Merkin reports on Twitter. "I don’t know many teams that are going to want a guy who can’t play," the first baseman said. Konerko, 37, is nursing a back injury and hasn't played since June 23rd. As Merkin notes, Konerko has ten-and-five rights, meaning he cannot be traded without permission. The White Sox reportedly aren't interested in moving him anyway, even though they expect to be sellers at the deadline. Here's more from around baseball..
- The Orioles are interested in the Cubs' Matt Garza after being "lukewarm" on him previously, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports via Twitter. However, they believe the Cubs' current asking price is too high.
- A team source says Cuban righty Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is "not a fit" for the Nationals, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, via Twitter. The Nats had two scouts watch Gonzalez pitch this month but believe he'll be overpriced.
- The Yankees aren't involved in discussions for Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco "or any other pitcher," FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal says via Twitter, noting that offense is the team's primary need.
- It sounds as though A's GM Billy Beane will give serious thought to re-signing Grant Balfour, despite having two cheaper heir-apparents in the fold, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.
We heard last week that the White Sox had begun to receive calls on their veteran players. Now, rival executives tell Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that the ChiSox are "open for business" and willing to discuss anyone on their roster with the exception of Chris Sale and Paul Konerko.
That means that even John Danks, who just last year signed a five-year, $65MM extension with the Sox, could be had in the right deal. The team also has desirable trade chips like Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, Jesse Crain, Matt Lindstrom, Matt Thornton and Jake Peavy (though he's currently on the DL). Heyman also adds that Jeff Keppinger's name has already come up in conversations, despite the fact that he signed a three-year deal just this past offseason.
Not surprisingly, one executive told Heyman that Adam Dunn will be difficult to move. Dunn is owed $15MM in 2014 and is hitting .194/.303/.460 this season. Another said that Peavy will be tough to find a match for as well. The White Sox will have a high asking price on their co-ace, but teams won't have much time to determine if he's truly healthy.
Another executive told Heyman that the Mets could look at Ramirez as a potential long-term option at shortstop. While he's not hitting for power anymore, Ramirez is batting .280/.308/.345 with 18 stolen bases and outstanding defense, according to advanced metrics like UZR and DRS. He's owed $10MM in 2014 and has a $10MM club option for 2015 on his contract as well.
In his latest edition of Full Count, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (video link) gives the Yankees credit for realizing that Vernon Wells still had a lot left. The big stumbling block in trade talks between the Yankees and Angels was how much of the $42MM deal the Bombers would pay for. Discussions stalled until the spring when the Yankees lost Mark Teixeira to injury and their interest was renewed. Here's more from Rosenthal..
- If the Phillies fall out of contention, Cliff Lee could become a trade target once again. They declined to trade him last August after the Dodgers claimed him on waivers, but it would make sense to make a deal if they're not winning. However, Lee is earning $25MM per season through 2015 and has a $27.5MM vesting option for 2016. On top of that, he can only be traded to nine teams without his permission. The Phillies may have trouble making a deal for Lee because of those issues, but a shortage of quality starting pitching could lead to a swap with a contending team. Rosenthal lists the Red Sox, Dodgers, and Cardinals as teams that could be interested, depending on their needs.
- Don't expect a Mariano Rivera-style victory lap for Paul Konerko as he won't make up his mind about his future until after the season. The decision will likely hinge on multiple factors, including how he plays, whether the White Sox want him back, and whether another club would be a potential fit. The D'Backs made a run at Konerko the last time he was on the open market, but that first base job now belongs to Paul Goldschmidt.
- Francisco Rodriguez could look elsewhere if he doesn't make the Brewers' roster in 30 days, but Milwaukee is probably his best option. He'll earn the prorated portion of a $2.25MM salary if he makes the squad, plus incentives.
The signing of Felix Hernandez marks a major move in the history of the Mariners organization but will only matter if the deal is the first of many to come, writes Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times. “This signing, given the size and length of the contract, is the best evidence that the ownership group is committed to winning and doing what it takes to win,” Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln said. Here's the latest news and stories making headlines from around the American League.
- Yunel Escobar made his first comments about his trade to the Rays, reports the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin. Escobar, with teammate Jose Molina acting as his interpreter, said he "felt really happy" about coming to Tampa Bay adding manager Joe Maddon made him feel very welcome and having former teammates like Molina and Kelly Johnson on the team makes him feel like he's "in the family already."
- GM Chris Antonetti discussed the Indians' starting rotation with Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio (audio link).
- White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko reiterated he will not make any decision on his future until after the 2013 season, reports Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com.
- The 2013 Blue Jays offer a lot to like and dislike as CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler breaks down what he's seen so far this Spring Training.
Daniel Seco contributed to this post.
Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar tops MLB.com's list of the top 100 prospects in baseball for 2013. Profar has been the subject of many trade rumors this winter but the Rangers are unwilling to move him, for good reason given his high ceiling. Of the six prospects atop MLB.com's list, two (Wil Myers and Travis d'Arnaud) were dealt to new teams this offseason and another (Taijuan Walker) would have been on the move were it not for Justin Upton's no-trade clause.
Here are some items from around the Majors…
- Joe Saunders has been offered a two-year deal worth roughly $15MM from an unknown team, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports, though his sources aren't directly involved in the negotiations. The Orioles aren't the mystery team, as Baltimore would prefer to sign Saunders to a one-year deal with a team option for the second year. Connolly says the O's are still interested in Saunders despite their recent agreement with Jair Jurrjens. Besides the O's, the Mariners and Twins have also been linked to Saunders this winter, and the Twins have offered Saunders a one-year deal.
- The White Sox are still looking for a left-handed hitter, MLB.com Scott Merkin tweets. Such a player is likely to be a platooner or bench depth at this point in the offseason.
- Paul Konerko tells CSN Chicago's Chuck Garfien that his on-field performance won't be the key factor if he decides to retire after the 2013 season. "Don't look at the numbers, that if things are going well [in 2013], that necessarily means I would play [after this season]. And the reverse of that is true, too," Konerko said. It was almost a year ago that Konerko told Garfien that he was pondering retirement once his contract is up.
- It's hard to find ace-level pitching available in a trade, but Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal cites Yovani Gallardo, Ian Kennedy and Jarrod Parker as pitchers who could be on the block should their teams fall out of contention next season. Parker may seem like a premature trade target but MacPherson notes that "the Athletics have a history of trading young pitchers for even younger pitchers."
- The Rangers have signed the most international prospects that appear in Baseball America's 2013 Prospect Handbook, B-A's Ben Badler writes. Fifteen international players originally signed by the Rangers are ranked either among their own top 30 prospects or in the top-30 lists of other teams, as determined by Baseball America. At the bottom of the list are the Astros, who have just two international signings ranked.
Paul Konerko said 2013 could be his final season as a player, according to Chuck Garfien of CSNChicago.com. The first baseman turns 36 next month and it's not a given that he'll continue playing after his contract expires following the 2013 campaign.
"Yeah, in all reality I would see it ending after next year or maybe another year,” Konerko said. “I mean, at some point you got to go home and be around your kids and have other things to do."
Konerko expects to consider playing opportunities after the 2013 season, but he doesn’t intend to “hang on for another year and kind of go through the motions.” The White Sox briefly considered making Konerko a player-manager this offseason, and though he doesn’t expect to manage any time soon, it could happen at some point. He posted a .300/.388/.517 line with 31 homers in 2011, when he was named to the American League All-Star team for the fifth time in his career.
The Tigers defeated the Rangers tonight and they now trail two games to one in the ALCS. Detroit could even the series at two games if they win at home tomorrow afternoon. Here are today's links…
- The Angels have D'Backs exec Jerry Dipoto and Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer on their list of GM candidates, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (Twitter link). We recently introduced Dipoto and Oppenheimer as part of our GM Candidates series.
- Astros owner Drayton McLane told Stephen Goff of the Houston Astros Examiner that he'll complete the ownership transfer to Jim Crane, though it could take three or four weeks (all Twitter links).
- The Astros announced that they have agreed to one-year deals with hitting coach Mike Barnett and pitching coach Doug Brocail.
- MLBTR's Tim Dierkes learned that Jason Bartlett's $5.5MM club option for 2013 vests if he picks up 432 plate appearances in '12 (Twitter link). That would give the Padres infielder 1050 trips to the plate in 2011-12.
- White Sox GM Kenny Williams admitted to reporters that he considered Paul Konerko as a possible player-manager before hiring rookie skipper Robin Ventura. "He would probably drive himself nuts right now playing and managing at the same time," Williams said, according to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune.
- Nolan Ryan wouldn't predict the Rangers' chances of re-signing C.J. Wilson, according to Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com. Ryan says the Rangers will start negotiating with Wilson's agent once their season ends.
- Joel Zumaya told reporters, including Jason Beck of MLB.com, that he'd like to re-sign with the Tigers after the season. The hard-throwing right-hander didn't pitch this year because of elbow soreness and has started throwing again.
- As J.J. Cooper of Baseball America explains, young players are being squeezed out of independent baseball. But some, such as Marshall Schuler of the Frontier League, could become options for MLB teams.
Congratulations to the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals, who will meet in the NLCS after each club won a superb Game Five tonight. This is the first all-NL Central NLCS since the Astros topped the Cards in 2005, and this is the first time Milwaukee and St. Louis have met in the postseason since the 1982 World Series. The NLCS begins on Sunday at Miller Park, with Zack Greinke getting the Game One start for the Brewers.
Some more news as we head into the weekend….
- There is plenty of reaction to Andy MacPhail's decision to step down as the Orioles' president of baseball operations. Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun credits MacPhail with leaving the team in better shape than when he arrived, though this wasn't reflected in the win-loss column. MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli provides a recap of MacPhail's most notable moves in Baltimore. Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com expects the next O's GM to have "a more aggressive approach [in free agency]…for better or worse" as opposed to MacPhail's practice of "letting the market play out."
- The White Sox seem to be looking to 2012 as a rebuilding year, writes MLB.com's Scott Merkin. After a year of seeing how young players develop in the Majors and seeing how rookie manager Robin Ventura adapts to the job, Merkin says Chicago could push for contention in 2013 if all goes well.
- With this youth movement in mind, Merkin thinks A.J. Pierzynski and Paul Konerko could be approached about waiving their no-trade clauses. Both players were somewhat open to the idea, though both clearly stated they wanted to end their careers with the White Sox.
- How did Juan Carlos Oviedo (a.k.a. Leo Nunez) keep his identity hidden for years? Frances Robles of the Miami Herald examines Oviedo's situation and the risks that some Latin American players take to escape poverty and reach the Major Leagues. Oviedo "was able to keep the secret for long, because he was living the dream that every Dominican boy imagines growing up. If he lied and succeeded, then the end justified the means,” said Charles Farrell, head of the Dominican Republic Sports and Education Academy. “No one was going to fault him for that, no one was going to blow his cover."
- Farrell also tells Robles that by his estimate, there are at least 30 current Dominican players using false identities.
- Ron Gardenhire says the Twins aren't likely to sign a top free agent pitcher like C.J. Wilson, reports MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger as part of a mailbag piece. "I think we're all smart enough to figure out that free agents out there, as far as pitchers go, if they're really good they're probably going to require a little bit more money than we're willing to pay them," Gardenhire said. "All the big shooters. And there's going to be a market for the rest of them."
- Mark DeRosa could be a good fit as a versatile bench bat for the Braves, provided he can stay healthy, writes MLB.com's Mark Bowman.
- With the Astros' possible move to the AL West in mind, Fangraphs' Reed MacPhail analyzes how each of this season's National League teams would've fared playing in the AL West.