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Philadelphia Phillies Rumors
The Orioles‘ reported asking price of right-hander Jeff Hoffman (and others) from the Blue Jays in exchange for executive vice president/GM Dan Duquette seemingly ended those negotiations, but Jeff Blair of Sportsnet reports that the Orioles weren’t the only club to try to acquire Hoffman from Toronto this winter. According to Blair, the Braves also asked the Blue Jays for Hoffman when the two sides discussed a trade involving Justin Upton. Toronto’s answer, Blair says, was an emphatic “no.” Coincidentally, the Braves wound up acquiring another high-upside, former first-round pitcher that’s recovering from Tommy John — Max Fried — as the centerpiece in their trade of Upton to San Diego. Meanwhile, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos tells Blair that Hoffman, who was selected ninth overall in 2014 despite his surgery, is expected to get stretched back out in April, with an eye on activating him with a minor league club in May.
A few more notes pertaining to the game’s Eastern divisions before the northeast portion of the country is buried in snow…
- The Phillies never presented the Brewers with a firm financial offer in their trade talks regarding Jonathan Papelbon, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Those talks appear to be largely dead at this point, and the Phillies may end up hanging on to Papelbon to begin the season, based on Rosenthal’s writings. He adds that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. isn’t under pressure from ownership to move Papelbon and will only trade him if the move is to the team’s benefit.
- The acquisition of Alejandro De Aza last summer could end up being a key factor in the Orioles‘ 2015 season, as the former White Sox outfielder now looks to be a big piece of the roster, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. With Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis gone and no external replacements brought in, De Aza figures to be the team’s primary left fielder and leadoff hitter. Though that may seem an underwhelming option to some, Kubatko points out that De Aza’s career OBP mark (.330) would be a nice boost over last season’s team OBP of .311.
- Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel takes a look at the Yankees‘ new glut of international prospects in his ranking of the team’s minor leaguers, with colleague Dave Cameron noting in an introduction that the team’s philosophical shift could pay off in spades a few years down the line. While the Yankees have always been known for spending significantly on free agency, they instead opted to go on a spending spree and blow past their allotted international bonus pool this year while exercising what some consider to be surprising restraint in terms of big league free agents.
Talks between the Phillies and Brewers concerning closer Jonathan Papelbon are “on life support,” reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Haudricourt reported earlier today that “there was no traction” between the two sides. GM Doug Melvin echoed that sentiment, saying there was no momentum. It is thought that Papelbon’s $13MM option for 2016 is holding up an agreement. Since Papelbon has a limited no trade clause that includes the Brewers, he may ask for the option to be guaranteed before accepting a trade. The ball may be in Philadelphia’s court to find a financial solution to the situation.
- Brandon Beachy has “zeroed in on a new team,” tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN. Beachy and the unknown team are currently working on contractual details. Wolfson adds that the team is not the Twins. Beachy was non-tendered by the Braves earlier in the offseason after undergoing his second Tommy John procedure. If he avoids setbacks, he may return to action mid-season. It’s easy to compare Beachy’s situation with fellow former Brave Kris Medlen, who signed a two-year, $8.5MM deal with an option. Like Beachy, Medlen is also recovering from his second Tommy John surgery.
- Cuban infielder Hector Olivera held a public workout in the Dominican Republic last week and over 200 scouts attended, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The Giants, Padres, Rangers, Braves, and Yankees are showing the strongest interest in Olivera.
Talks between the Brewers and Phillies on closer Jonathan Papelbon do not appear to be gaining momentum, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Twitter links). There was “no traction today” and there remains “no reason to believe” that a deal is close, says Haudricourt. The Papelbon situation comes down to money, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who says that the veteran righty “almost certainly” would require Milwaukee to guarantee his 2016 option as a condition of waiving his no-trade rights against the club. Echoing that focus on the bottom line, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes that the the cost may be large but the Phillies need to pay what’s necessary to move on from Papelbon.
Here’s more from the east coast:
- As regards the Phillies‘ most significant trade piece, Cole Hamels, Rosenthal suggests that there is at least some line of thinking in the organization that Hamels and Cliff Lee could front an imposing rotation if a significant free agent arm were added next winter. (Links to Twitter.) That is not to say that a Hamels trade is no longer a possibility, as Rosenthal adds that the club is looking for one MLB-ready, impact prospect to go with further-off talent in a swap.
- The Orioles would seem unwilling to let executive vice president Dan Duquette leave for the Blue Jays in exchange for first-round draft pick Jeff Hoffman alone, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. That does seem to suggest, as Connolly writes, that Baltimore still has a high price tag on Duquette, though the scribe adds that he senses an increased likelihood that a deal gets worked out.
- All this intra-AL East intrigue has left us with plenty to think about, and there are plenty of worthwhile pieces breaking down the situation. Among them: Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star argues that the Blue Jays have bungled the pursuit of a new president and should stop chasing Duquette. And if you are wondering how to go about calculating a reasonable return for an executive, have a look at this piece from last September, in which Jeff Long of Baseball Prospectus attempts to value front office figures in terms of top prospects.
8:52am: Papelbon would want his $13MM option for the 2016 season to be guaranteed in order to waive his no-trade clause, Salisbury reports. That presents an expensive obstacle in trade talks, but Salisbury hears that the Phillies are committed to moving Papelbon and letting Ken Giles inherit the closer’s role. ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweets that figuring out how much of Papelbon’s 2016 salary the Phillies would pay is the “last remaining obstacle” in trade talks.
8:18am: The 12 teams to which Papelbon cannot block trades are the Red Sox, Rays, Royals, Angels, Mariners, Astros, Mets, Braves, Cardinals, Reds, Cubs and Padres, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com (on Twitter).
Additionally, Rosenthal tweets that while the Blue Jays did reach out to the Phillies regarding Papelbon, their interest is still very limited. He adds that Papelbon has not yet been approached about waiving his no-trade clause for a move to the Brewers, indicating that talks have not yet reached advanced stages.
7:14am: The Brewers are indeed on Papelbon’s no-trade list, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Of course, that doesn’t mean that a deal can’t be worked out, particularly if Papelbon’s desire to have a chance at winning is still his primary focus. Rosenthal notes that the Phillies would need to send money to Milwaukee in order to facilitate a deal, in addition to getting Papelbon’s approval.
Rosenthal also tweets that the Blue Jays expressed interest in Papelbon in recent weeks, although they, too, are on the closer’s no-trade list
1:01am: The Brewers are in serious talks to acquire Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). Earlier today, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that Milwaukee was casting a wide net as it looked for pitching upgrades, and GM Doug Melvin said in an appearance on MLB Network Radio that adding bullpen help was his top priority.
It’s unclear at this time whether or not Milwaukee is on Papelbon’s no-trade list, Passan adds, although indications over the summer were that Papelbon would waive his no-trade protection to be moved to a contender. While the Brewers are far from a lock to achieve a postseason berth in 2015, they do appear to be better positioned than the rebuilding Phillies, who have traded away Antonio Bastardo, Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd this offseason as the club looks to the future.
Papelbon, 34, is owed $13MM in 2015 and has a $13MM vesting option that will kick in this season if he reaches 48 games finished. Should Milwaukee ultimately reach a deal to acquire Papelbon, one would think that he’d supplant Jonathan Broxton as the club’s closer, making 48 games finished a highly attainable milestone. Of course, as Passan notes, it is not even clear at this time whether or not the Brewers are one of the 17 clubs on Papelbon’s no-trade list.
Though Papelbon’s velocity and strikeout rate have declined in recent seasons, his bottom-line results have remained largely intact. Papelbon’s heater sat at 95 mph in his final season with the Red Sox, but it dropped to 93.8 mph in 2012, 92 mph in 2013 and 91.3 mph in 2014. Nonetheless, Papelbon was still able to notch an excellent 2.04 ERA with 8.5 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and a 41.9 percent ground-ball rate in a 2014 campaign that also featured 39 saves — the second-highest single-season total of his career.
The Brewers recently traded Yovani Gallardo and his $13MM salary to the Rangers, although Milwaukee remains on the hook for $4MM of that sum. Still, that salary reduction leaves the Brewers well-equipped to add some payroll, particularly if the Phillies elect to eat some of the remaining money on Papelbon’s contract, which many have assumed they would need to do in order to move him.
As it stands, Broxton figures to be closing games, with righties Jim Henderson and Tyler Thornburg serving as setup options alongside lefty Will Smith. Both Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano have been mentioned as possible bullpen targets for the Brewers, although for the time being, the trade market appears to be the more likely avenue for Doug Melvin to improve his bullpen.
The Phillies are expressing significant interest in right-hander Chad Billingsley, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. According to Salisbury, Billingsley has thrown for the Phillies recently, suggesting that there’s mutual interest in striking a deal. As Salisbury notes, Billingsley lives in the Reading, Pa. area, making Philadelphia a geographically appealing destination.
The 30-year-old Billingsley’s career has stalled over the past two seasons due to Tommy John surgery in 2013 and surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in 2014, but he was a key part of the Dodgers’ rotation from 2007-12. In his four best (and healthiest) seasons from 2008-11, Billingsley averaged 194 innings per year, posting a 3.73 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9. Though he’s not a ground-ball specialist by any means, he’s registered a 46.3 percent ground-ball rate in his career, which one would think is appealing to the Phillies, given the homer-friendly nature of their home park.
Salisbury also adds that the Phillies have maintained contact with another local arm, Ryan Vogelsong, for much of the winter. However, Vogelsong has more recently been connected to the Astros and Giants, and the Giants appear likely to re-sign him according to the latest reports.
GM Ruben Amaro Jr. wouldn’t comment on his interest in Billingsley or Vogelsong when asked by Salisbury, but he did note that the club is looking for pitching depth — specifically “low-cost, low-risk, potentially high-reward type of guys.” Billingsley would seem to fit that description, as his asking price following a two-year stretch in which he has totaled just 12 Major League innings surely cannot be high. A one-year deal with a modest base salary and incentives based on innings pitched/games started would be the most logical expectation.
In an interview with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (audio link), Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman said his team will scout Yoan Moncada as they would any prospect of “great intrigue,” but “given our financial situation, I wouldn’t expect us to be the winners of an auction.” Silverman feels this is another example of how difficult it is for successful small-market teams to replenish their systems, as “all of the [player acquisition] structures, whether it’s the draft or international, put us at a disadvantage.”
Here’s some more from around baseball…
- A group of South Korean investors are talking with the Dodgers about buying a minority stake of the franchise, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. The news was originally reported by two South Korean newspapers, one of which (the Korea Joongang Daily) reports that the discussed terms were $370MM for 20 percent of the team. A source with knowledge of the talks told Shaikin there is a “zero” chance the Dodgers’ ownership group would give up control of the team in these negotiations.
- The Phillies face a tough road back to respectability but they can get there within two to four years if they augment their financial resources with good young talent, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan opines. The worst-case scenario would be if they make the wrong moves and revenues decline, thus putting the club in a long streak of losing seasons, a la the Orioles prior to their 2012 playoff appearance.
- Peter Greenberg, Johan Santana‘s agent, said his client doesn’t have any structural damage in his shoulder, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweets. Santana was recently scratched from a Venezuelan Winter League start due to his shoulder, though Greenberg said Santana might return to pitch in the league playoffs.
- Cuban outfielder Dayron Varona receives a scouting report from ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider subscription required), who praises Varona’s running and plus arm but has some questions about his hitting. The current popularity of Cuban players could inflate Varona’s market, Law feels, though he thinks Varona will sign for “close to eight figures as a potential big league backup.”
- The Blue Jays could consider Everth Cabrera as an option at second base, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Presumably the Jays’ interest would hinge on the outcome of Cabrera’s ongoing legal case, which may not take place until April. Heyman also notes that Rickie Weeks “seems to be further down [Toronto’s] list.”
- ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield lists the five teams he felt improved the most and least this winter.
Here are today’s minor moves from around baseball, with the newest transactions at the top of the post…
- The Mariners signed infielder Shawn O’Malley to a minor league deal and invited the 27-year-old to Spring Training, the team announced. O’Malley made his Major League debut last season, appearing in 11 games with the Angels. A fifth-round pick by the Rays in the 2006 draft, O’Malley has a .258/.351/.338 slash line over 2985 minor league plate appearances.
- The Phillies signed shortstop Tyler Greene to a minor league deal, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports (via Twitter). Greene, drafted 30th overall by the Cardinals in 2005, posted a .645 OPS over 746 PA with the Cards, Astros and White Sox from 2009-13, and he spent last season at the Triple-A level in the Braves’ and Padres’ systems.
- The White Sox signed right-handers Jairo Asencio and J.D. Martin to minor league deals and invited them to Spring Training, the team announced. Both righties spent last season pitching in the Korean Baseball Organization. Asencio posted a 5.34 ERA over 55 2/3 IP with four teams from 2009-13. Martin, drafted 35th overall by the Indians in the 2001 draft, last pitched in the majors in 2010.
- The Yankees signed catcher Eddy Rodriguez to a minor league deal, as per the team’s MLB.com transactions page. Rodriguez has a .235/.286/.386 slash line over 2271 minor league PA, mostly in San Diego’s system, as well as a two-game cup of coffee with the Padres in 2012.
The Phillies’ issues last year were not limited to on-field struggles, skipper Ryne Sandberg told reporters yesterday, including Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News. Sandberg said the clubhouse atmosphere was not “conducive to winning,” explaining that there was a “lack of leadership as far as winning a baseball game everyday” and that the club’s “younger players couldn’t be themselves.” He continued: “Sometimes it’s easy to take it for granted, and say, ‘[I] have a veteran club and they know everything and they’ll handle the clubhouse and everything will be fine. I learned that’s not the case.”
- Needless to say, creating the right setting for the team’s rebuild to thrive will be at or near the top of Sandberg’s responsibilities this year and in the years to come. The organization is not shying away from acknowledging the full rebuilding process that lies ahead, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Interim president Pat Gillick — who says he has no interest in the permanent post — has reiterated a rather distant expected contention timeline. “Yeah, maybe further out,” he said. “Maybe ’18. You need about two or three years.”
- Gillick also said that he expects interest in the team’s remaining trade chips — featuring, most prominently, lefty Cole Hamels — to pick up in the spring. “It’s funny,” said Gillick. “In this game, things change. People are not in the mood to do something, then they go to Spring Training and all of a sudden … they realize they want to be competitive and want to do something.”
- Another of the team’s obvious remaining veteran trade candidates is first baseman Ryan Howard, whose well-documented struggles and well-funded contract make him a tough sell. MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince argues that the team could do better if it waits to allow the market to develop and given Howard a chance to produce on the field. I tend to agree: Howard not only has little present appeal as a general matter, but there is little demand for his services. It is not difficult to imagine things looking differently if he puts up a solid first half and injuries or poor performance intervene elsewhere, and that potential benefit probably outweighs the meager return that Philadelphia could achieve right now.
The Cole Hamels saga has been an ongoing storyline throughout the entire offseason, as the rebuilding Phillies have begun to move Major League assets with an eye on bolstering their farm system. However, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tells Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer that he doesn’t expect to trade his ace before Opening Day:
“I think Cole Hamels is going to be in our uniform, frankly. I don’t really foresee him being moved. It is possible because we’re literally keeping our minds and eyes and ears open on every player that we have on our roster. That said, he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. And so, if we were to move him, we’re going to have to get some of the best prospects in baseball back.”
While Amaro of course doesn’t completely rule out a trade of Hamels, his comments certainly throw some cold water on recent rumors connecting him to the Padres, Red Sox, Rangers and Cardinals. (Of course, Texas was expected to be out of the picture anyhow following its acquisition of Yovani Gallardo.)
Some will undoubtedly read this as posturing on Amaro’s behalf in order to drive up the potential asking price for Hamels, but there’s little pressure to deal away the 31-year-old ace at this time as opposed to in July. In fact, come July, there could be fewer names available on the trade market. For instance, while many will speculate for the time being that both Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister are available following the Nationals’ signing of Max Scherzer, that’s not likely to be the case come July.
Indeed, Amaro tells Kaplan that not only does he feel no pressure to move Hamels, but the Phillies’ ownership group would prefer to keep Hamels rather than trade him. Additionally, the GM notes that talks regarding Hamels have not escalated since this past weekend’s activity, which saw Scherzer agree to terms with the Nats and Texas acquire Gallardo.
Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com has reported recently that while the Phillies have been seriously entertaining Hamels offers, the situation won’t come down to simply accepting the highest bid. Rather, Amaro has steadfastly held to his demand for a package fronted by a pair of elite young talents, presumably in addition to other, lesser-regarded pieces.
Of course, while further waiting on a Hamels trade increases the likelihood that an injury will sap his trade value, it also decreases the financial cost of Hamels’ contract and could very well create new buyers. Teams that don’t figure to have room or need for Hamels at the moment could find themselves with significant rotation injuries come summer time, and teams that didn’t fancy themselves true contenders could be in the playoff mix at that juncture as well.
While he awaits clearance from the government, Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada is putting on showcases for interested teams. The Yankees have already put the 19-year-old through the paces, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. In addition to New York and the previously-reported Giants, Moncada has worked out for the Brewers, Rangers, Red Sox, and Padres, per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Meanwhile, the Dodgers, Rays, Cubs, and Phillies have shown interest. For their part, the Twins will not seek a private workout because they believe the bidding will go too high, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.
Here are some more free agent notes:
- Fellow Cuban second bagger Hector Olivera will begin a two-day open showcase in the Dominican Republic tomorrow, Badler reports on Twitter. Olivera figures to be more of an immediate contributor than the younger Moncada.
- Clubs interested in righty Ronald Belisario, as with Burke Badenhop, include the Blue Jays and Nationals, per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The 32-year-old has run up solid innings totals over each of the last three years, but has seen his ERA steadily move north during that stretch. On the other hand, ERA estimators have viewed him as a solidly average performer in each of those seasons, with a low strand rate likely causing most of his troubles in 2014.
- The Yankees, Blue Jays, and Padres are three of the approximately six teams pursuing lefty Johan Santana, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. An upcoming Venezuelan league start could have some bearing on where the one-time ace ends up.
- Another prominent lefty is plotting his comeback as well. Per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link), Barry Zito still plans to return to baseball after a year off and will put on a showcase this spring. The 36-year-old last threw in 2013, working to a career-worst 5.74 ERA over 133 1/3 innings.
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