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Philadelphia Phillies Rumors
Following a tough start on Tuesday night, A.J. Burnett sounded as if retirement was on his mind when asked by reporters if he planned to pitch in 2015. “I have no idea. Probably not, but we’ll see,” Burnett told the media, including Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer. As Narducci notes, Burnett’s comments could be stemming from frustration given how both he and the Phillies have struggled this season, so it’s too early to assume Burnett is hanging up his glove. Narducci also cites Burnett’s competitive nature and his increasingly pricey player option for 2015 as reasons why the veteran righty won’t want to end his career quite yet.
Here’s some more from the City of Brotherly Love…
- In a radio interview with Mike Missanelli of 97.5FM radio yesterday, ESPN’s Jayson Stark said he wasn’t surprised that team president David Montgomery recently gave GM Ruben Amaro a vote of confidence but Stark feels no decision has been made about Amaro’s future yet. The Phillies’ other owners could get involved, and the anti-Amaro sentiment amongst the team’s fans could also play a role. “They are certainly going to make changes in the organization. There’s a lot of rumors swirling about all sorts of stuff below Ruben,” Stark said. With just one left year on Amaro’s contract, if the Phillies decide to keep him, Stark wonders if the GM could actually receive an extension in order to avoid lame-duck status. (Hat tip to Peter Mucha of Philly.com for the partial transcript of Stark’s interview.)
- “There are indications” the Phillies will make a strong play for Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury reports. Tomas is expected to become eligible to sign this offseason, and the recently-defected outfielder is considered to be an intriguing power prospect.
- Burnett retiring would only make the Phillies’ offseason need for starting pitching all the more dire, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News writes. The Phillies could have as many as three rotation spots to fill given Cliff Lee‘s injury issues, Burnett’s uncertain status and pending free agency for Kyle Kendrick and Jerome Williams. Lawrence predicts the Phils will target mid-tier starters this winter given how much payroll space is already tied up by Lee and Cole Hamels.
- Speaking of Kendrick, the right-hander recently discussed his free agency in general terms with reporters, including MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. Kendrick isn’t sure if he’ll remain in Philadelphia, saying “I want to go where whoever wants me. That’s where I want to go. If it’s here, great. If they want me. You want to go somewhere where you’re wanted. We’ll see. I don’t know.”
- Ken Giles looks like a closer of the future for the Phillies, and ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription required) suggests that that the team could take the bold step of installing Giles as the closer right now. The switch could also prevent Jonathan Papelbon from reaching his $13MM vesting option for 2016, which would help increase Papelbon’s trade value. Olney notes that Papelbon could easily file a grievance over the situation, though I’d argue that given Papelbon’s past comments about wanting to play for a contender, he might begrudgingly go along with the move if it helps get him out of Philadelphia.
The Red Sox, Giants and Tigers were said to be the front-runners for Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo as of yesterday evening. The outfielder’s rumored asking price continues to crawl upward as his decision reportedly inches closer. We’ll keep track of today’s Castillo rumors in this post…
- ESPN’s Jayson Stark hears that the bidding for Castillo could cost $50-60MM over five years. Stark lists five of the six usual suspects as finalists, noting that the Red Sox, Tigers, Giants, Phillies and Yankees remain in the mix for Castillo.
- The Phillies will take a shot at Castillo but aren’t likely to land him, multiple sources have told MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki.
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that at least four teams remain in the running for Castillo, with the Red Sox representing one of that group. The Tigers and Giants have a sense of urgency about their pursuit, as they plan to use Castillo to bolster their 2014 playoff hopes. In addition to those three clubs and previously mentioned teams such as the Phillies, Cubs and Yankees, Heyman lists the Mariners as a team with interest, though he cautions that it isn’t clear how involved they are at this stage of the talks.
- Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that the Red Sox are one of multiple teams that have made a “strong bid” for Castillo. Those wondering what sort of role the presence of countryman and former teammate Yoenis Cespedes would have on Castillo will be interested to hear Cespedes’ comments that he hasn’t spoken to his former teammate anytime recently. However, Cespedes did offer high praise for Castillo, telling Bradford, “If he’s not a five-tool player, he’s at least a four-tool player. He’s very comparable to [Yasiel] Puig. Obviously a different height and size, but very similar qualities.” BoSox GM Ben Cherington confirmed that they’ve spoken to Castillo but offered no further comment. Bradford, too, hears that Castillo is expected to make a decision by week’s end.
There has been a lot of chatter regarding 27-year-old Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo. (Read here for some reactions to his well-attended recent workout, which seems to have increased his standing quite a bit around the league.) We’ll keep tabs on the latest right here:
- The Tigers, Red Sox, and Giants are still in the mix for Castillo, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Meanwhile, the Cubs, Yankees, and Phillies are not expected to place high bids for him.
- Bidding is strong, and could well reach or even exceed the $55MM level, according to a tweet from Sahadev Sharma of Baseball Prospectus. The Cubs appear not to be interested at that level, he adds.
- The Braves are “not in the bidding right now” for Castillo, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Atlanta has been noted as a possible suitor in the past.
- Six clubs are seen as viable landing spots for Castillo at this time, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (echoing, in some cases, earlier reports): the Red Sox, Tigers, Phillies, Cubs, Yankees, and Mariners. Castillo could sign a deal as soon as the end of the week, Heyman adds. We’ve heard conflicting reports on Philadelphia’s interest, in particular, and one executive tells Heyman that he believes the team could be attempting to downplay its interest while working to ink Castillo.
Here’s the latest on Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo, who has drawn plenty of attention from teams looking to add a bat this year and into the future …
- Several competitors believe that the Phillies are the favorites to land Castillo, George A. King III of the New York Post reports, though that is not a universally shared belief. While Castillo is actively considering offers, there is presently no known timetable for him to choose a team and finalize a contract, King adds. Sources tell King that the contractual guarantee will likely fall in the $40MM to $55MM range.
- Castillo is “moving quickly” toward choosing a club, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports on Twitter. As Lauber notes, the Red Sox are one club that appears to be strongly pursuing the 27-year-old outfielder/infielder. Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com reported early this morning that Boston was intrigued by Castillo’s skillset and was continuing to pursue him despite the recent additions of Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig.
- The Phillies appear to be a “longshot” to add Castillo, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, who also notes that a decision seems to be close. Though Philadelphia GM Ruben Amero Jr. is in contact with Castillo’s representatives, Salisbury cites sources who question just how interested the club is in beating the market for Castillo.
- Responding to a poll this morning, MLBTR readers say that the Yankees and Red Sox are the leading candidates to land Castillo, with “mystery team” and the Tigers the next most likely destinations.
The Phillies are pleased with the first part of their return for pitcher Roberto Hernandez, according to CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. The club announced recently (MLBTR link) that they acquired Jesmuel Valentin as the first of two players to be named later. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. had plenty of things to say about Valentin. One line that stood out: “for the situation we’re in and the player we gave up, I think we did pretty well. Even if we had just this guy, we’d be happy.”
- Salisbury also reports that the club may be close to choosing the second player to be named. Per Amaro, “We have a pretty good idea of who we want, but we’re waiting to make a decision right now. We’re checking on some medical stuff.”
- Former prospect Brett Jackson was once frequently compared to greats like Jim Edmonds and Larry Walker. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic spoke with several Diamondbacks insiders about the new acquisition. The prevailing hope is that a change in scenery could help Jackson tap into his former potential (and trim his 40 percent strikeout rate). He’s just 25 years old, so there is still time for the light to go on. However, his debut in the Arizona system was not a success – he went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts.
We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here.
- The Tigers will select the contract of reliever Jim Johnson on Sunday, MLB.com’s Jason Beck tweets. To make room on the 40-man roster, they’ll option fellow reliever Melvin Mercedes to Triple-A Toledo. Johnson, of course, struggled with Oakland after two strong years as the Orioles’ closer and ultimately got released before signing a minor league deal with Detroit. He has since pitched 4 2/3 innings for Toledo, allowing three runs, two earned.
- The Yankees have outrighted pitcher Chris Leroux, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Earlier this week, the team designated Leroux for the third time this year, and he’s only made two appearances this season in pinstripes, the last coming in early May. He has a 4.37 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 45 1/3 innings so far this season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
- The Braves have signed infielder Donnie Murphy to a minor league contract, according to MLB.com’s transactions page. As MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweets, that likely means Murphy opted out of the minor league deal he signed with the Reds last month. Murphy, 31, hit .196/.268/.330 in 128 plate appearances with the Rangers earlier this year, mostly playing second base.
- The Reds announce that they have selected the contract of righty Dylan Axelrod. They’ve also moved Homer Bailey (neck) to the 15-day DL and Joey Votto (quadriceps) to the 60-day DL. Axelrod will start tonight’s game against the Rockies. The Reds acquired Axelrod from the White Sox in a minor trade in July, and since then he’s posted a 3.06 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 35 1/3 innings at Triple-A Louisville.
- The Diamondbacks have released outfielder Blake Tekotte, according to MiLB.com. Arizona acquired Tekotte from the White Sox in a minor deal less than two weeks ago. This season, the 27-year-old has hit .249/.320/.439 in 340 plate appearances. From 2011 through 2013, he made brief big-league appearances with the Padres and then the White Sox.
- The Phillies have released lefty Jo-Jo Reyes, according to the International League transactions page. The 29-year-old pitched for the Braves, Blue Jays and Orioles from 2007 through 2011. He spent 2012 in the Pirates’ farm system, then headed to Korea in 2013. He made 13 starts in Korea in 2014 and struggled there, then headed to Lehigh Valley, where he pitched 20 2/3 innings, striking out nine batters and walking eight en route to a 10.45 ERA.
AUGUST 16: The Phillies have announced that one of the two players they’re acquiring from the Dodgers is second baseman Jesmuel Valentin, a 2012 first-round pick from Puerto Rico who was hitting .282/.352/.433 for Class A Great Lakes as a 20-year-old. Heading into the season, Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook 2014 listed him as the Dodgers’ 22nd-best prospect, projecting him as a utility player. MLB.com ranked him at No. 13 in the Dodgers’ system and was somewhat more optimistic, suggesting he lacks power but could be the sort of hitter who typically bats second in a team’s batting order. He is the son of former big-league infielder Jose Valentin.
AUGUST 7: The Phillies announce that they have traded Roberto Hernandez to the Dodgers for two players to be named later or cash considerations. ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweets that the Phillies will get two “lower-level minor leaguers,” and MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki tweets that the Phillies will select them from a group of players. The Phillies placed Hernandez, along with a number of other players, on revocable waivers on Saturday.
The Phillies signed Hernandez to a one-year, $4.5MM deal last winter, and he posted a 3.87 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 121 innings for them, with a strong 52.0% ground ball rate. He has gotten good results recently, with a 2.18 ERA in three starts since the All-Star break. Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona, has played parts of nine seasons, also spending time with the Indians and Rays.
Hernandez’s role with the Dodgers is unclear. Obviously, they have a strong rotation featuring Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Josh Beckett has, however, struggled in three outings since returning from the disabled list with a hip injury, and Matt Gelb of the Inquirer tweets that Hernandez will start in Beckett’s place Friday.
For the Phillies, the move marks their first trade of a veteran since their very quiet trade deadline. It may have helped them that Hernandez’s contract was a relatively easy one to trade. The Phillies are currently 51-63 and in last place in the NL East.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
With the Phillies having retained most of their veteran players through the trading season, Ryne Sandberg is trying to figure out how to juggle playing time for his current roster, Matt Gelb of the Inquirer writes. That could get even tougher next month, as rosters expand and players like infielders Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez come aboard, Gelb points out. “As of right now, it’s to give everybody looks and playing opportunity,” says Sandberg. “Let everybody participate. Now, September could be a little tricky, too, with some added numbers. It’ll be more challenging then.” GM Ruben Amaro recently said the Phillies are still trying to win as much as they can, which likely means playing veterans, even thought the Phillies are 54-68. Here’s more from Philadelphia.
- If the Phillies were to trade Cole Hamels, they would want three or four top prospects in return, and they’d want to avoid eating any of the $96MM remaining on his contract after 2014, Gelb writes. The Phillies think Hamels could provide a big head start as they attempt to change their fortunes. “He’d be tough to replace,” Says Sandberg. “We have question marks about Cliff [Lee]. Cliff, we won’t know. A.J. [Burnett], we don’t know. You have to start your staff somewhere and he’d be a good place to start.”
- The Phillies could have interest in bringing veteran outfielder Grady Sizemore back next season, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes. “He’s played well enough to certainly be in consideration for 2015 and beyond,” says Amaro. “But again that’s one of those questions we’ll continue to assess.” Sizemore has hit .305/.347/.432 in 101 plate appearances with the Phillies since being released by the Red Sox in June. Marlon Byrd, Domonic Brown and Ben Revere all now figure to be part of the Phillies’ outfield in 2015. As Zolecki points out, Sizemore has out-hit both Brown and Revere, although both of them are much younger than Sizemore.
The Brewers will go the rest of the way without righties Tyler Thornburg and Jim Henderson, according to a tweet from MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Thornburg will receive a platelet-rich plasma injection in a bid to avoid surgery on his elbow, while Henderson may need shoulder surgery. Thornburg, 25, tossed 29 2/3 innings before being shut down, while the 31-year-old Henderson (who saved 28 games last season) scuffled through just 11 1/3 frames.
Here’s more out of the National League …
- Braves hurler Kris Medlen is just two and a half weeks away from beginning to throw again after his second Tommy John surgery, and feels confident that he’ll be back on the hill “at some point next season,” David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. But it remains to be seen whether he’ll work his way back with Atlanta, as his current $5.8MM salary and status as a two-time TJ patient makes him a non-tender possibility. “I’m a little nervous about it, just because it’s not in my hands,” said Medlen. “… It’s exciting to be able to pick up a ball in a couple of weeks, but I’m not going to lie, the contract stuff and wanting to come back — I mean, that’s somewhat up in the air this time, so it’s a little nerve-racking, but all I can do is get healthy.” In spite of his uncertain future, the 28-year-old righty should draw plenty of interest around the league if the Braves allow him to hit the open market.
- Were it not for Jonathan Papelbon‘s continued presence at the back of the Phillies‘ bullpen, young righty Ken Giles would likely have moved into the closer’s role, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News writes. Commenting on the story, Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider link) argues that the club should move Papelbon back into a setup role to give Giles an audition as a 9th-inning option and to prevent Papelbon from finishing enough games for his 2016 option to vest at $13MM. While this approach has some facial appeal, I would note that allowing Giles to begin racking up saves now will ultimately raise his price significantly when he ultimately reaches arbitration. (And, of course, there is the question of how to handle Papelbon’s insistence that he continues to close.)
- Yesterday, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. again discussed his organization’s future, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Declining to give many specifics, Amaro said that the “biggest plan is to make sure we improve offensively and with our pitching overall,” saying he will look to address those (rather broadly-framed) needs “in a variety of ways.” Sitting 14 games back in the division and 11 out of the wild card, the Phillies are nonetheless not entirely ready to give up hope this year. “Right now, we’re trying to win as many games as possible,” said Amaro. “At the same time, at some point, we’re going to have to start looking to the future. … And at some point, we may be looking more at what we have to do for 2015 as far as what’s going on, on the field. … We’re not quite there yet.”
- Though Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies continues to play shortstop at a very high level, it is time he considered moving to first base, argues Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post. Tulowitzki’s bat is obviously good enough to make the move — he led the league in all three triple-slash categories (.340/.432/.603) when he suffered his season-ending hip injury — but switching to first would obviously sap a good portion of his immense bottom-line value. On the other hand, of course, it is fair to wonder whether playing the least-demanding spot on the diamond might not only help keep Tulowitzki on the field but might also enable him to hit at a top-end level even further into the six years (and $118MM) left on his contract.
Over the last three years, the Orioles have consistently walked away with more victories than models would predict (whether based on forecasts or observed game action), but Dave Cameron of Fangraphs argues that random variation is still the most likely explanation. You’ll need to read the full piece, but in essence, Cameron says that the O’s outperforming streak is probably not attributable to some skill or special insight, but is rather an outlier that falls within the expectations of the models that predict win-loss record.
More from around the game:
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer indicated that the team is focused on building out its big league staff in the near term, as Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports on Twitter. “We know we have to have balance,” said Hoyer. “That’s going to be our main area of focus.” With several of Chicago’s touted young position players beginning to make an impact at the MLB level, many have suggested that the organization could become a big player on next year’s free agent market — especially to fill out a rotation that is now without Jeff Samardzija.
- Designated hitter Billy Butler reiterated recently that he is still hopeful of remaining with the Royals, Jeffrey Flanagan of FOX Sports Kansas City reports. In spite of a recent hot streak, his $12.5MM club option for 2015 seems a bit steep. “After the season, we’ll see what happens,” said Butler. “We’ll know five days after the World Series what will happen. But even if they decline, it doesn’t mean they won’t offer me something else. I hope that’s the case.”
- Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg’s comments about Darin Ruf‘s playing time reveal a continued flaw in the organization’s decisionmaking, argues David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. “The situations he’s been in the last couple of years here, not being able to have a string of at-bats, it’s hard to really get a gauge still,” Sandberg said of Ruf. But while consistent playing time would appear to offer a means of evaluating the outfielder/first baseman, Sandberg said “that’s the tricky part about making lineups and also trying to win a game.” As Murphy opines, this line of thinking suggests that the organization is still focused primarily on winning meaningless games this year, rather than setting up the organization for future success.