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Philadelphia Phillies Rumors
Much has been made of trade rumors surrounding Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon over the course of the winter, but Chase Utley‘s name has rarely come up due to the veteran’s 10-and-5 rights that allow him to block trades. However, Utley told reporters today, including Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News, that he’d consider any trade scenario brought to him by GM Ruben Amaro (Twitter link). However, Utley doesn’t sound like a man with an urge to get out of a Phillies uniform. “I want nothing more than to play for this organization as long as I can,” he told the media.
More on the Phillies and the NL East…
- Domonic Brown tells MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki that he’s not sure exactly what the Phillies have in store for him, but he consider’s last year’s struggles a learning experience and believes he can post better numbers. Brown wouldn’t comment on whether or not he was more comfortable playing right field now that Marlon Byrd has been traded to the Reds. As Zolecki notes, another poor showing from Brown could very well mean that the team will search elsewhere for corner outfielders in the future.
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia hasn’t looked at defensive numbers from 2014, he tells Juan C. Rodriguez of the Miami Sun-Sentinel, because he already knows he didn’t perform up to his expectations. Both Saltalamacchia and manager Marlins Mike Redmond spoke about how the catcher can improve in the second year of a three-year, $21MM pact with Miami. As Rodriguez points out, Saltalamacchia has graded out well in terms of pitch-framing before but ranked as the league’s worst framer in 2014, according to Baseball Prospectus.
- Though the Braves are hopeful that right-hander Michael Foltynewicz, who was acquired in the Evan Gattis trade, is a starter in the long-term, the team hasn’t ruled out opening the year with him in the bullpen, tweets MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. Foltynewicz instantly became one of the Braves’ best young arms in that trade, and using his 100mph fastball in the bullpen to get him acclimated to the Majors while going with a veteran such as Eric Stults in the fifth spot of the rotation may have some merit in the team’s eyes.
- Speaking more in depth on those trades, president of baseball operations John Hart tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien that he doesn’t consider the Braves‘ offseason moves to be a full-on rebuild. Rather, according to Hart, the team tried to walk a “parallel path” in which Major League pieces were subtracted to shore up the farm system while other MLB pieces were brought in to help the 2015 team. The Braves’ core players appear to be on board with the moves, Hart adds, saying he’s received “nothing but positive (feedback)” from them.
It’s not at all certain that the Red Sox will trade Jackie Bradley Jr., Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston writes. Bradley struggled in the big leagues last season and the Red Sox have plenty of outfielders, but Bradley has limited experience in the high minors and can be optioned, so the Red Sox could easily just send him to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he would benefit from everyday playing time. Bradley’s outstanding defense distinguishes him from the rest of the Red Sox’ collection of outfielders, and there could be space for him in Boston in 2016, given the potential departure of Shane Victorino and the possibility that Hanley Ramirez could move to first base or DH. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- Speaking of Pawtucket, the sale of the PawSox to a group led by Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino will be announced Monday, Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal writes. The deal does not include McCoy Stadium, the PawSox’ longtime home ballpark. The stadium requires extensive work each year, and the Red Sox have suggested that there’s more work to be done there. The sale, then, raises questions about where the team will play. “With the new ownership group expected to be named on Monday, I, along with [the other leaders], look forward to speaking with the group and learning how the City of Pawtucket will continue to be a partner with them in the future,” says Pawtucket mayor Donald Grebien.
- The Phillies‘ struggles to find the right return for Cole Hamels have delayed their rebuilding process, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. Hamels, who has said he wants to play for a contender, likely wouldn’t block a trade, but he’s valued his time in Philadelphia. “To make my home in Philly and see what sports really do mean to Philly fans, it’s been nice,” says Hamels. “And being able to go out and represent not only the organization but the city of Philadelphia has been an honor. And I think I’ll remain to do so until I’m told that I can’t.”
- The Mets outrighted reliever Scott Rice in October, but it was still an easy decision for Rice to re-sign a minor-league deal with the team, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York writes. “There was nowhere else I wanted to go,” says Rice, who first made the Majors as a 31-year-old Met in 2013. Rice’s 2014 season ended early as he had elbow surgery in late July, but he will compete to be the Mets’ second bullpen lefty this spring.
If a rose by any other name still smells as sweet, does a baseball player by any other name peform better? B.J. Upton will answer that question this season as he will go by his given name of Melvin Upton Jr. and, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes, will have “Jr.” on the back of his uniform for the first time in his professional career. Upton has struggled since his arrival in Atlanta after signing a five-year, $75.25MM free agent contract in November 2012 slashing .198/.279/.314 with 21 home runs and 61 RBIs in those two years. John Hart, Braves president of baseball operations, first tipped Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz to the name change (Twitter links). For those wondering, B.J. is short for Bossman Jr., his father’s nickname.
In other news from the NL East:
- Nationals centerfielder Denard Span is one of the team’s seven impending free agents and is looking forward to that opportunity, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. “I’ve worked my whole career to get to this point, to be a free agent,” Span said. “But at the same time, I’m concentrating on trying to do the best that I can to help this ball club win. I feel like if I do my job and we do our jobs collectively I’ll get compensated and everything will fall into place.” Wagner adds the Nationals have not approached Span about a contract extension.
- With the increasing likelihood of Ryan Howard opening the season in Philadelphia, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is making amends for the comments he made about the Phillies being better off without the first baseman, reports Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News. “Frankly, I apologized for those comments that I made that were public,” said Amaro. “And I think he appreciated that. Other than that, I want to keep the conversation private. It was a good talk.” Despite a willingness to eat a substantial portion of the $60MM remaining on Howard’s contract, no market has developed for the 35-year-old.
- Speaking publicly for the first time since being dealt from the Yankees in December, recent Marlins addition Martin Prado told reporters, including Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald he “couldn’t be happier when I found out I was going to play with [Giancarlo] Stanton and [Jose] Fernandez and young kids coming up. Very happy to be here. Couldn’t be more excited. They have a good mix of young guys and veteran guys. I hope we can build a team around [Stanton] and take some pressure [off] him.”
- The Marlins believe the signing of Ichiro Suzuki already is paying off and he hasn’t even arrived from his native Japan yet, according to Tom D’Angelo of the Palm Beach Post. Over the weekend, President David Samson said at least 90 Marlins games will be televised in Japan. The 41-year-old won’t be play every day, but the $2MM deal is already paying dividends for Miami.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the Yankees could actually make a bit of money off of Alex Rodriguez‘s return. The curiosity factor regarding his return is going to generate increased ticket revenue, better TV ratings, and more interest and activity in the Yankees’ brand and licensing, in Cafardo’s estimation. More from today’s column..
- Even though Cole Hamels wants out of Philadelphia, that doesn’t mean the Phillies will rush to make a deal, a team source tells Cafardo. The Phillies don’t have to do anything out of desperation since they’re a big market team with deep pockets and they’re willing to wait for the right deal, perhaps until the trade deadline. Of course, that plan could backfire and the potential return could drop, but a contending team or two in need of a frontline pitcher could drive the price up.
- One GM that was in the hunt for Yoan Moncada but is no longer in the mix said he would bet on the Yankees winning the sweepstakes. “I think their need is great,” said the GM. “They can sell it as the replacement for Robinson Cano. I don’t think anyone wants to pay out that bonus, but he is a special talent and may be the best of the Cuban hitters who have come over.”
- Red Sox manager John Farrell recently said the club will start veteran Shane Victorino in right field if he’s healthy, but Cafardo isn’t buying it. If he is healthy, the Boston Globe scribe expects him to draw interest and be moved.
- Despite rumblings to the contrary, Red Sox chairman Tom Werner says there have been no changes to Larry Lucchino’s role as president and CEO of the Red Sox. “It’s a non-story,” said Werner. “There is no change in his role, nor is there a so-called power struggle. Larry is reporting to John [Henry, the principal owner] and myself, as always.”
While attention remains focused on Cole Hamels, clubs should consider trading for Cliff Lee instead, writes Dave Cameron of FanGraphs.com. Lee’s struggles in 2014 can be chalked up to injury and bad luck, so teams should be willing to take a bet on better performance. Cameron thinks the Phillies should bite the bullet and swallow the entire $25MM owed to Lee this season, leaving an acquiring club to cover the $12.5MM buyout or $27.5MM club option for next season. If the Phillies eat enough money, they should receive at least one notable prospect in exchange for the ace. Lee dealt with a recurring elbow injury last season, so rivals are probably playing wait-and-see.
- The Phillies are easing Lee back into regular action, reports Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly. Most pitchers are throwing bullpens every other day, but Lee will work from the mound every third day. His health this spring will determine if he is a salable asset. One consideration to keep in mind – Lee’s partial no-trade list includes many of the clubs most likely to acquire him. Meanwhile, Hamels list appears to name places least likely to contend.
- Hamels wants to play for a winner, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. He is comfortable in Philadelphia and hopes the club can be surprise contenders this season. However, he’s also pragmatic. He understands GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has to address the big picture, which could include dealing him to greener pastures.
- Mets ace Matt Harvey will pitch within the first five games of the season, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPN. Manager Terry Collins says the club won’t skip any of his starts either. It was previously reported that Harvey will be on a strict innings limit, but they’ve backed off that position in the last day.
- The Marlins continue to consider Francisco Rodriguez, reports Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. We recently learned K-Rod is seeking a one-year, $10MM guarantee. The Marlins appear to be interested in a much lower rate.
Phillies’ closer Jonathan Papelbon discussed the possibility of being dealt for the first of what could be many times in camp, as Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reports. Given that he possesses a 17-team no-trade list, Papelbon’s opinion will play a significant role in how he is marketed by the rebuilding club.
Papelbon says that he has not yet reached the point of considering any trade scenarios that may have implicated his no-trade clause. “Once I hear something from my agents, that’s when I get involved,” Papelbon said. “I never heard anything from them.” That clause is an important part of the free agent contract that brought him to Philadelphia, pursuant to which he is owed $13MM for the coming season and another $13MM for 2016 if (and only if) he finishes 48 games this year.
The veteran righty indicated last summer that he would be willing to waive his no-trade protection to join a winning club, and the same appears to hold true now. But as to whether he would demand that a club on his no-trade list pick up the 2016 vesting option — a key consideration in defining his market — Papelbon remained noncommital: “I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. I think it depends on where I’m going, what the situation is with that other ballclub, what my situation is here. The whole equation comes into play.”
While he may not have been asked to consider specific trade scenarios, he certainly seemed versed in the rumors. Papelbon mentioned two teams that he had been tied to in explaining his willingness to compete wherever he ends up (including Philadelphia): “If Toronto wants me, if Milwaukee wants me, whoever wants me, they’re going to get someone who knows how to compete and go play ball and lay it on the line.”
Carlos Villanueva had hoped to throw in a different division before he was contacted by the Cardinals, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. After spending seven of his nine seasons with NL Central teams, Villanueva will look to take a swingman role with St. Louis. Though Villanueva was given no guarantees, Goold says that the club targeted him with hopes he would earn a pen/spot starter slot in camp.
Here are some notes from the rest of the division:
- The time for Welington Castillo with the Cubs is up, says Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Though the backstop has said he still hopes to compete for a job, multi-year commitments to Miguel Montero and David Ross make that exceedingly unlikely. Chicago has continued to discuss trades — and had already started doing so even before dealing for Montero — with the Phillies among the teams in talks, per Wittenmyer. Castillo certainly seems to be bringing a good attitude with him to camp, but the report indicates that Chicago is mostly just waiting for the market to open up.
- Righty Mike Leake, who’ll qualify for free agency after the season, said he would be interested in exploring an extension but that the club has not approached him, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports. “I’ll be happy to stay in Cincinnati, but I’d also be happy to go to free agency,” he said. “I’d like for them to show interest. They haven’t yet. If they don’t have interest, they don’t have interest.”
- It’s all reading tea leaves at this point, but Pirates manager Clint Hurdle gave no indication in early spring comments that Jung-ho Kang is being groomed as an eventual replacement for second baseman Neil Walker, MLB.com’s Tom Singer reports. Per Hurdle, Kang “will get reps at short and third, positions he has played, then maybe second.” While Kang’s potential versatility — like that of Josh Harrison — could well impact the team’s plans for the increasingly-pricey Walker, it seems most likely that Pittsburgh will allow circumstances to dictate how things proceed.
- Of course, Kang has a significant period of transition in store, on and off the field. Global Sporting Integration discusses that and provides an audio link to the proper pronunciation of the Korean star’s name.
While Dan Haren admits that he did consider retirement this offseason, it wasn’t due to the trade that sent him to the Marlins, he told reporters today at Marlins’ camp (via the Miami Sun-Sentinel’s Juan C. Rodriguez). Haren refrained from speaking directly to the media as he weighed his options this winter, and he feels that may have led to some speculation going overboard. Rodriguez quotes Haren: “I think a lot of things were probably overblown, one, because I never really said anything directly to any media at all. I’m here. I’m happy to be here. I had a good talk with [manager] Mike Redmond. I’m ready to get going.” Specifically, Haren adds that he never requested that the Marlins trade him back to a West Coast team. He hopes to continue his 10-season streak of making 30 or more starts — the second-longest active streak in the Majors, behind Mark Buehrle — and said he considers Marlins Park a good fit for him at this stage of his career and is looking forward to being a Marlin. “[W]ho am I to say where I play? I’m not Clayton Kershaw. I respect the game. It’s given me a lot more than I could have every imagined. I’m excited to be here.”
Here’s more on the Marlins and their division…
- Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill told MLB Network Radio’s Jim Bowden that his team is keeping a finger on the pulse of the available free agent relievers (Twitter link). The Marlins reportedly have interest in Francisco Rodriguez on something in the range of a two-year, $10MM deal, but K-Rod is said to be seeking $10MM for 2015 alone.
- Mike Vurkunov of the Star Ledger tweets that Mets GM Sandy Alderson believes that if his team trades a starting pitcher, it will likely be to acquire prospect depth rather than to supplement the Major League roster. Of course, it is far from clear that a deal will get done at all at this point, though injury situations can always change the demand calculus.
- Phillies prospect Jesse Biddle has been through a rather incredible set of challenges, but says he is back on track entering the spring, as Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Certainly, a healthy and progressing Biddle would go a long way toward boosting perceptions of the club’s farm system.
Despite coming off their third World Series title in five years, many pundits aren’t expecting much of a title defense for the Giants, which Tim Hudson tells ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is just fine by the clubhouse. “I think the guys in here embrace the underdog role. It’s like they say, ‘OK, everybody is picking us to finish mid-pack again. We’re gonna show ‘em.’ I think it’s great,” Hudson said. “I would rather be the underdog than the favorite. The pressure is on the favorite all the time.” Here’s some more from around the NL West…
- Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told reporters (including Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register) that he likes the team’s internal options as replacements for the injured Kenley Jansen. This said, the Dodgers are “open-minded” about free agent additions, Friedman said. L.A. is known to be looking at acquiring bullpen help, and are reportedly interested in Joba Chamberlain.
- Zack Greinke will, unsurprisingly, wait until the end of the season before deciding whether to exercise the opt-out clause in his Dodgers contract, the righty told reporters (including MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick). Greinke reiterated that he enjoys pitching for the Dodgers and said he’s open to discussing a new contract with the team.
- The opt-out clause, Greinke said, is “all to your benefit. If things are going good, you can use it for more power. There’s no negative to it.” He also made some telling remarks about why he wanted the clause in the first place, seemingly based on regrets over his first multi-year contract when he pitched for the Royals. “I know you can’t really trust the front office and what they tell you. Guys have signed long deals and get traded the next year. It happens all the time,” Greinke said. “Teams do what’s best for them and you can’t fault them, but you can’t trust them to do what’s best for you. Their job is to do what’s best for the team.”
- Signing Rafael Soriano or Francisco Rodriguez to bolster the bullpen will be costly, though Steve Dilbeck of the L.A Times opines that the Dodgers shouldn’t shy away from using their financial resources now when a proven closer could help the team win a championship.
- According to recent reports, the Padres offered Austin Hedges and Hunter Renfroe to the Phillies in exchange for Cole Hamels. With the assumption that it was a legit offer that the Phillies rejected, and that no other players or money were involved, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan examines the proposal and feels that the Phils were probably right to turn it down. While “the offer seems in the vicinity of fair” and wouldn’t have been a bad return for Hamels, there are significant questions about Hedges and Renfroe’s long-term future as major leaguers. Sullivan thinks Philadelphia could find a better deal elsewhere, even if he doesn’t think they’ll be able to land a true blue-chip prospect for Hamels.
- In other NL West news from earlier today on MLBTR, Mark Trumbo won his arbitration hearing against the Diamondbacks.
Prompted in part by trade rumors surrounding Cole Hamels and also by the recent release of multiple top prospects lists, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs/FOX Sports examined the reasons behind the perceived over-valuing of prospects. As Cameron notes, roughly 70 percent of all prospects to have appeared in Baseball America’s Top 100 lists over the years have failed to produce meaningful careers (that isn’t a knock on BA — rather, just an illustration of the difficulty in projecting minor leaguers). Despite that high failure rate, teams have been reluctant to part with two premium prospects to acquire Cole Hamels. However, Cameron theorizes that the unwillingness to part with prospects isn’t due to overvaluing prospects, but rather to teams looking past the longstanding narrative of “proven veterans” to realize that veteran players carry significant risk as well. Cameron studied the 100 best players from 2009-11 (weighting recent performance more heavily) and looked at the output of those players from 2012-14. Even some of the game’s best talents from that period — Roy Halladay, Dan Haren, Mark Teixeira, B.J. Upton and many more — have quickly seen their skills erode or, in Halladay’s case, been forced out of the game. Twenty-five of the 100 players Cameron looked at have failed to outproduce the same line that Cameron set to determine a busted prospect in his study, while another 34 were merely average Major Leaguers.
While Cameron’s piece is only loosely tied to the Phillies, here are a few more items focused directly on the team…
- Hamels’ candid words to Bob Nightengale of USA Today earlier this afternoon — the left-hander stated that he wanted to pitch for a winning club and knows that won’t happen in Philadelphia — have hurt the Phillies’ bargaining power in trade talks, opines Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Beyond that, however, they’ve made the job of manager Ryne Sandberg more difficult and sent a poor message to his teammates, with whom he may still share a locker room for at least several more months. Between Hamels’ words and Jonathan Papelbon‘s infamous 2013 quote, “I definitely didn’t come here for this,” Sandberg has multiple veterans on the roster who may prefer to be elsewhere, Brookover notes.
- Brookover’s colleague, Jake Kaplan, also spoke to Sandberg and was told that Ryan Howard is ticketed to be the team’s first baseman and had a “very positive” talk with the manager one month ago. Sandberg did leave open the possibility that Howard will be unseated, but it seems clear that the Phillies recognize that there’s little hope of trading the 35-year-old and won’t release him with $60MM remaining on his contract. Kaplan notes that Howard’s 10-and-5 rights will kick in on May 2 of this year, though he already has a 20-team no-trade clause in his contract as it is, and that certainly hasn’t been the reason that Philadelphia hasn’t been able to find a match.
- The Phillies obviously will face many questions this spring, and MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki took an early look with Sandberg as the club gears up for camp. Per Sandberg, veteran lefty Cliff Lee — a possible summer trade candidate — has been on schedule except for a delay caused by a mild illness. “He’s got no complaints and he’s pretty much where he usually is,” said Sandberg. Fellow starter Chad Billingsley, himself at least a theoretical mid-season flip, has “looked very good,” per the skipper (though Kaplan noted in the piece above that it’s no guarantee that Billingsley will be ready for Opening Day). And Sandberg says that second baseman Chase Utley, who has been surprisingly absent from any significant trade chatter, may get additional rest over the course of the season.