- Mets Acquire Alex Torres
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- Mets, Lucas Duda Discussing Extension
- Nate Schierholtz Opts Out Of Deal With Rangers
- Cubs Release Felix Doubront
- Rangers Acquire Sam Freeman From Cardinals
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Philadelphia Phillies Rumors
Last offseason, Jerome Williams was on the shelf for quite a while as he waited to find out where his next home would be. The veteran had just turned in a career-high 169 1/3 innings for the Angels in 2013 and even though his core stats weren’t stellar, the advanced metrics indicated that he would have had a much better ERA with some luck on his side. Ultimately, Williams was left in limbo until February when he signed a one-year deal with the Astros with $2.1MM guaranteed. All in all, that offseason experience is one that the 33-year-old is glad to have in his rear view mirror.
“It was kind of nerve racking. Going through a season where I was with the Angels and I felt like things would have gotten done earlier, I proved to people that I could [start and pitch out of the bullpen] at that time. I was the only pitcher that had 25 starts and ten relief appearances, I think I was thinking at that time that people would come out and offer me something and it didn’t happen. It was kind of nerve racking but we got it done and that’s all that mattered,” Williams told MLBTR in the Phillies’ Clearwater clubhouse.
Even though he was biting his nails a bit, Williams says he wasn’t phoning agent Larry O’Brien to get constant updates. The Full Circle Sports Management rep has been in the field for more than 30 years and, as Williams put it, “he knows what he’s doing.” Indeed, O’Brien was relentless in his efforts to find a suitable deal for Williams and eventually he found a solid one-year platform for him to showcase his talents.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out in Houston and the next stop in Texas wasn’t fruitful, but he found success with the Phillies when he landed there in August. In nine starts for Philadelphia, Williams pitched to a 2.83 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 across 57 1/3 frames. After ending the year on a high note, Williams jumped at the chance to skip the free agent process and stick with the Phillies with a one-year, $2.5MM contract extension.
“This was a no-brainer for me,” Williams explained. “Playing with them for the couple months I was with them, it was a no-brainer. The atmosphere, the guys in the clubhouse, the city, it was a no-brainer to come back.”
Williams credited his Philadelphia battery mates Carlos Ruiz and Wil Nieves for his improved performance to close out the year. His comfort level with the Phillies also helped matters. With seven different major league stops over the course of his career, Williams knows what he likes in a clubhouse and what he would rather avoid.
“I like being here because everybody treats everybody like family. When I came in, I was a new guy but I’ve been a long time and I knew a lot of the veteran guys here, so that made the transition a lot easier. I started talking to Jimmy [Rollins], Chase [Utley], I played with Chase in the [Arizona] Fall League, I played against Marlon [Byrd], I played against A.J. [Burnett], so it’s like, whoa, I know these guys.”
“Just seeing the younger guys mature, it was like a family, so that’s what the clubhouse is all about. This is your domain, this is our family, this is our place. So if we can be one as a family and as a unit, we can do things together,” Williams said.
Family is a concept that’s hugely important to Williams. In honor of his late mother who lost her battle to breast cancer in 2001, he’ll once again be donning a multitude of colorful gloves to raise awareness for different forms of cancer. Williams’ top choice is pink in recognition of his mother, but he’ll also be mixing it up with four different colors to put the spotlight on prostate, pancreatic, liver, and childhood cancers.
After a stress-free winter and a productive spring, Williams is eager to take the mound in April and build on his strong performance at the close of 2014. If all goes according to plan, Williams won’t find himself waiting around for a call next winter either.
The Phillies officially embarked on a rebuilding effort, but several key trade chips remain with the organization as the season approaches.
Major League Signings
- SP Aaron Harang: one year, $5MM
- SP Chad Billingsley: one year, $1.5MM
- RP Elvis Araujo: one year, $507,500 (estimated)
- Total Spend: $7.075MM
Notable Minor League Signings
- INF Andres Blanco, OF Brian Bogusevic, INF/OF Russ Canzler, SP Paul Clemens, OF Chase d’Arnaud, RP Jeanmar Gomez, OF Jeff Francoeur, C John Hester, C Koyie Hill, OF Darin Mastroianni, 1B Chris McGuiness, 3B Chris Nelson, SP Sean O’Sullivan, INF/OF Cord Phelps, SP/RP Kevin Slowey
Trades And Claims
- Acquired SP Zach Eflin, SP Tom Windle from Dodgers in exchange for SS Jimmy Rollins and $1MM
- Acquired SP Ben Lively from Reds in exchange for OF Marlon Byrd and $4MM
- Acquired RP Joely Rodriguez from Pirates in exchange for RP Antonio Bastardo
- Claimed OF Jordan Danks from White Sox
- Claimed OF Odubel Herrera from Rangers in Rule 5 draft
- Claimed RP Andy Oliver from Pirates in Rule 5 draft
This winter, for Philadelphia, addressing needs meant opening up holes on the big league roster in exchange for salary relief and youth. Simply put, none of the team’s trades made sense from the perspective of competing in 2015. To the contrary, each obviously made the team worse in the near term — but all fit in the bigger picture.
In addition to the public comments of newly-rehired club president Pat Gillick and GM Ruben Amaro Jr., dealing away franchise cornerstone Jimmy Rollins was the surest sign yet that the organization is committed to turning over its roster. Though it had been unclear whether the still-productive veteran would waive his no-trade clause to facilitate a deal, he ultimately chose to accept a move to the powerful Dodgers.
Of course, it was the long-anticipated parting with useful lefty Antonio Bastardo that kicked things off. And by the time he and Rollins were gone, a deal involving the aging Marlon Byrd seemed all but inevitable, and it was not long before he was ticketed for Cincinnati. Of course, that same reasoning seemingly applied to several other key veterans; yet, as discussed further below, that trio is as yet unaccompanied in departing.
Regarding the return on those assets, only time will tell whether Amaro chose wisely. Certainly, none of the players acquired appear to have terribly impactful futures in store. The cumulative haul, however, added a good bit of depth to the organization’s pitching ranks, together constituting the type of move that could pay dividends down the line by enhancing flexibility and limiting the need to pay market rates to fill out the roster.
Rollins, Byrd, and Bastardo were once key components on the active roster, of course, so replacement options had to be found. At short, Freddy Galvis figures to take the majority of the innings, but that just opened a utility role on the bench. The club brought in a variety of infielders on minor league deals to join the mix with the versatile Cesar Hernandez. Another possibility to see time in a utility capacity is Rule 5 pick Obudel Herrera, an infielder in Texas who is learning to apply his speed on the outfield grass.
As for the outfield, Grady Sizemore profiles as a more-or-less direct replacement for many of Byrd’s plate appearances from the corner. Otherwise, the team appears to be staging an open competition among numerous non-roster veterans to take on outfield bench roles. And three of the team’s offseason additions — Joely Rodriguez, Elvis Araujo, and Rule 5 pick-up Andy Oliver — were added to join Mario Hollands in filling the lefthanded relief void in Bastardo’s wake. Rodriguez and Araujo have already been optioned to Triple-A, and Hollands was just shut down with a tendon injury, leaving Oliver looking good to crack the MLB roster as the second lefty.
Likewise, departing starters Kyle Kendrick and A.J. Burnett — the latter of whom declined his $12.75MM club option to sign for nearly $5MM less with the Pirates — left rotation innings to be filled. Philadelphia opted to bring in the durable Aaron Harang and veteran swingman Jerome Williams while rolling the dice on a return to form for the injury-addled Chad Billingsley.
Taken as a whole, it is obviously hard to get excited about the new additions to the Philly roster. It was remarkable that Sizemore was able to return to a big league level of play last year after his long run of injuries, but entering his age-32 season after a more-or-less replacement level 2014, there is little reason to think he can make it all the way back to his former All-Star form. Likewise, Harang seemingly offers good value after a strong effort last year, and could conceivably bring a return at the trade deadline, but he does not offer much in the way of upside.
More might be hoped for from the talented Billingsley, who is still just 30 years old, but he has racked up all of 12 innings since the 2012 season and still needs to answer a lot of questions before he can even get back to the bump in a major league game. It’s a modest risk at $1.5MM, though Billingsley can bump his earnings up an additional $5MM through incentives. Philadelphia would gladly pay that if it can get innings from the veteran righty, who at least offers some possibility of bringing back real value if he can establish himself heading into the summer.
Once again, it is worth separating the club’s forward-looking situation from its immediate needs in 2015. With the focus on 2016 — or, perhaps, beyond — we’ll start with the former.
By kicking in a significant amount of cash to accompany Byrd (and, to a lesser extent, Rollins), the large-budget Phils evidenced a willingness to buy down contracts to improve the marketability of their costly veteran player assets. But the divestiture process slowed after early progress, and at present seems all but stalled.
Looking at the books as things stand, a half-dozen players stand out for their experience and cost on an admittedly rebuilding team: Cole Hamels ($96MM over four years + vesting option), Ryan Howard ($60MM over two years + club option), Cliff Lee ($37.5MM over one year + vesting option), Jonathan Papelbon ($13MM over one year + vesting option), Carlos Ruiz ($17.5MM over two years + club option), and Chase Utley ($15MM + three successive vesting options). The star power of that group is undeniable. In both 2008 and 2009, those six players combined to produce better than 25 fWAR (not all with Philadelphia, of course). But those days are long past: in each of the past two seasons, this group has been valued at about 15 fWAR. That’s still plenty useful, of course; then again, Philadelphia owes $105MM to the above-named players for 2015 alone.
Clearly, it was never realistic to expect this organization — fresh off a big new TV deal that should maintain the club’s spending advantages — to part with all of its veterans in one fell swoop. And practicalities such as the size of the deals and a variety of restrictive no-trade clauses also present barriers. Nevertheless, it is fair to question, as many have, whether more could have been accomplished over the offseason. Likewise, one of the two biggest questions currently facing the franchise is whether, when, and how it will cash in those player contracts. (The other? Its ability to acquire and develop a new wave of young talent.)
Hamels, of course, has drawn the most attention; winter rumors involving the Red Sox alone could fill a book. Amaro has repeatedly maintained that he has no intention of simply taking what he can get for the 31-year-old lefty, with reports suggesting that the club is looking for impact prospects and is disinclined to cover much (if any) of the remaining dollars left on the deal.
It is hard to judge this situation without knowing what has been offered, but it seems to me at least that there has been a rush to come down hard on Amaro. Hamels is clearly a valuable asset, in spite of his substantial contract, and the team would be doing little more than bowing to public pressure were it to part with him for young players that it did not believe in. Of course, he is not terribly young, and the risk of injury and/or performance decline cannot be ignored. But Philly can certainly afford Hamels, and it is at least plausible to think that holding him for the trade deadline (or, later this spring) is preferable to taking whatever might currently be on the table.
That has not stopped many from pointing to the recent experience with Lee as a sign that the Phillies are foolish for not auctioning Hamels immediately. The veteran ace seems all but certain to take home his last $37.5MM from the club without bringing any trade value in return — if he comes back to pitch again at all. But every arm is different, and it seems the real lesson from Lee is less about dodging the risk of injury than it is about realizing when the a team’s competition window is closed.
Regardless, losing the possibility of achieving any value from Lee is a big loss for the Phils. Howard and Papelbon could still bring back some cost savings and/or useful pieces. The former could still be a desirable player to roster, especially for an AL team, but is owed so much that the club will need to eat a huge amount of money to deal him even if he does perform. Papelbon, at least, comes with some flexibility at this point, particularly since he has remained quite productive despite a drop-off in his fastball velocity. A big first half could make the 34-year-old an attractive target at the deadline, when relief pitching has by far its greatest value and by which time an acquiring team may be more comfortable with his vesting option. (If he has performed well enough to that point, the idea of a $13MM salary may not be so terrible; if not, the Phillies can drop him from the closer’s role in favor of young fireballer Ken Giles to avoid being on the hook.)
It is at least somewhat interesting that we have heard very little on the possibilities of trades involving the team’s two other highly-paid veterans, Ruiz and Utley. That could be because the front office decided not to trade the pair of holdovers from the organization’s glory days — or, at least, not to market them. On the other hand, both were above-average regulars last year, and could well hold fairly significant appeal to contending clubs this summer.
The relatively younger, relatively less expensive portions of the roster are not without issues, either. Domonic Brown is entering a make-or-break season after following his strong 2013 with a terrible effort last year, though he could start out on the DL with tendinitis in his left Achilles tendon. And fellow outfielder Ben Revere needs to prove that he can hit for a high enough average and play good enough defense to make up for his lackluster on-base and power numbers. Depending upon how things play out, either could conceivably be viewed as a piece of the future, dealt, or non-tendered after the season.
Corner infield also figures to be an area to watch in 2015. Entering his age-25 season, Cody Asche still has a lot to prove at the hot corner but did at least demonstrate that he is not overmatched by MLB pitching. Coming up behind him, of course, is the highly-touted Maikel Franco. Still just 22, Franco seems ticketed for Triple-A to start the year but could push his way onto the roster at some point. He was not dominant in his first run at the highest level of the minors last year, struggled in a brief call-up, and could ultimately be shifted across the diamond to first. Of course, a combination of Howard and Darin Ruf currently occupies that role, so the team’s actions with regard to Howard and the progress of Asche, Ruf, and Franco this year could go a long way toward pointing the future at those positions.
Up the middle, the team is probably in something of a holding pattern. Until we hear otherwise, Utley and Ruiz remained entrenched at second and catcher, respectively. And Galvis will likely keep the seat warm for top prospect J.P. Crawford, who is still just 20 years of age and has not seen action above the High-A level.
On the other side of the equation, the rotation is a huge question mark heading into the season. The focus will remain on Hamels, no doubt, unless and until he is dealt. Behind him, Harang and Williams are at least known quantities, and can be counted on to sop up innings. Billingsley represents a wild card, with Lee a mere lottery ticket at this stage. 25-year-old David Buchanan seems fairly assured of a slot after a sturdy debut campaign last year, though he appears to be a back-of-the-rotation type. The aforementioned Rodriguez, a 23-year-old picked up in exchange for Bastardo, was said to be in the running to take the fifth slot out of camp but was recently sent down. Otherwise, some combination of Kevin Slowey, Miguel Gonzalez, Paul Clemens, and Sean O’Sullivan could be deployed. Top 2014 draft pick Aaron Nola looks like a quick mover, but was not invited to big league camp and probably will not figure into the club’s plans this year unless he advances even faster than expected. All told, there is immense uncertainty in this unit, which has the potential to be downright awful — particularly if Hamels is taken out of the equation.
If there is a clear bright spot at present, it may lie in a bullpen that now features not only the veteran Papelbon, but a rising closer-of-the-future in Ken Giles. It remains to be seen whether the Phils will look to move Giles into the 9th inning this year, but he was rather dominant as a rookie last season and certainly profiles into that role. Jake Diekman, a lefty, also possesses intimidating stuff and could combine with Giles to form a devastating combination for years to come. Justin De Fratus put up impressive numbers last year as well, and will look to establish himself as part of that group. There are several other options, many of them mentioned above, with the two most interesting being Gonzalez and fellow righty Phillippe Aumont. The former has shown little sign of delivering on the three-year, $12MM deal he signed out of Cuba last year, while the latter is the last man standing from the 2009 deal that sent Lee to the Mariners. Now out of options, Aumont will need to produce or will likely end up on the waiver wire.
Deal Of Note
Jimmy Rollins unquestionably belongs on the Phillies’ list of all-time greats after racking up over forty five wins above replacement and an MVP award in 14 seasons with the club. Over his tenure, he compiled a .267/.327/.424 slash with 216 home runs and 453 stolen bases, adding value with his glove all the while.
Indeed, there’s an argument to be made that Rollins will ultimately deserve a place in Cooperstown. He ranks among good company statistically: 20th lifetime in fWAR for a shortstop, nestled amongst several Hall of Famers. A few more quality seasons could put Rollins over the top. Barring a future reunion, however, he’ll make that run wearing another team’s uniform.
Trading a player of that magnitude is never easy, particularly when you have to eat some salary and do not receive a projected impact player in return. While it obviously made sense in theory for the Phillies to cash in a veteran asset, there is some potential for regret here. For one thing, the club still has some ways to go before handing the position over to the heir apparent (Crawford), who must still prove himself in the upper minors and the bigs. For another, any mid-season shortstop needs that arise around the league could look like missed opportunities to have extracted more value.
Ultimately, while Amaro has been panned for his supposed unwillingness to take a fair price for Hamels, his commitment to breaking up the team cannot really be questioned after the Rollins deal.
The Phillies got started on a future plan this winter, even if it came one year too late. It’s still fairly early in the process, and the near-term looks rather bleak, but it should be recalled that Philadelphia’s rebuilding project will benefit from the team’s substantial spending capacity. That will not only open opportunities to acquire high-level young talent, but should enable the team to ramp up quickly when it sees the light at the end of the tunnel.
Amaro’s decision to exercise patience in moving veteran assets has drawn a good bit of ire, as has become common for most any moves he makes. But the fact is that Philadelphia is not only well-suited to carry large financial obligations while it searches for fair value, but also is likely unwilling to completely gut its big league roster — and risk even greater attendance decline — just to be rid of its most recognizable players. While a spring deal or two remains possible, it could be that the team will wait until the trade deadline, if not beyond, to send out a few more big contracts.
Of course, trades are not the only way to add young talent, and neither is the annual amateur draft. It is at least somewhat notable, then, that the Phillies did not end up landing any of the top international players this offseason, despite the fact that the international market arguably represents the best chance for large-market clubs to gain an edge in the acquisition of young talent. The club was said to be the top pursuer of Yasmany Tomas, but ultimately backed off — perhaps because Gillick was not on board with that signing. Likewise, Philadelphia had at least some interest in Yoan Moncada, but never seemingly entered the bidding picture. Neither was the team one of those that busted its international bonus pool allocations by signing July 2 prospects or other recent Cuban defectors. Amaro has said that he intends to be “very aggressive” in the international arena, and it could still be that the club is set to do just that — while several other big-spending clubs serve out two-year periods of strictly limited international spending.
All in all, it is far too early to judge the organization’s still-fledgling efforts to chart a new course. There is little doubt, particularly in retrospect, that it waited too long to shift its gaze to the horizon — and paid for that by losing the chance of cashing in on Lee. But money talks in baseball, as elsewhere, and Philadelphia still has plenty in its war chest: having opened last year with nearly $180MM in payroll, the club has just $76MM committed for 2016, $34MM on the books for 2017, and only $23.5MM promised beyond that.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Braves will likely be without Mike Minor and Melvin Upton for all of April, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes in an update on the club’s injuries. Minor hasn’t thrown in almost three weeks due to inflammation in his left rotator cuff, while Upton is dealing with inflammation in his left foot and isn’t expected to be out of his protective walking boot for another couple of weeks. Here’s some more news from around the NL East…
- The Mets aren’t likely to pursue Joe Beimel, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin tweets. Though the Mets have a need for a left-handed reliever, they apparently don’t have much interest in the recently-released Beimel.
- The relationship between Mets GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins is one to watch, as there have been a few signs of miscommunication between the front office and the dugout this spring, Newsday’s John Harper writes. Alderson’s recent biography revealed that the GM came close to firing Collins last season, though Harper reports that the two men “had a clear-the-air meeting” to resolve their differences.
- Michael Cuddyer told CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman (Twitter link) that “most interest dried up” for his services in the free agent market after the Rockies made the surprise move of issuing him a qualifying offer. Cuddyer’s final choice came down to the one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offer or his eventual pick, the two-year/$21MM deal he got from the Mets.
- The Phillies don’t have much interest in Red Sox third baseman Garin Cecchini, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes as part of a reader mailbag. The Phils and Sox have been linked for much of the offseason in Cole Hamels rumors and the Phillies have reportedly scouted Cecchini already during their examinations of Boston’s farm system. The Phillies have concerns about Cecchini’s defense, both at third and for a possible conversion to the outfield. Cecchini was ranked as one of the 100 top prospects in the sport prior to the 2014 season and is still ranked by MLB.com as the eighth-best prospect in the Red Sox system, though his stock dipped a bit after only an okay season at Triple-A.
- The Rangers are cited as one of “a number of teams…would be eager to acquire Andrew McKirahan in a trade,” MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes in his look at the Marlins‘ situation. Texas and Miami have recently been connected in trade rumors, with Brad Hand and Mike Dunn cited as possible targets for the Rangers. As Frisaro notes, however, the Marlins might want to keep Hand since he can be a spot starter and could bring a bit of balance to their all-righty rotation. What complicates matters for the Fish is that Hand is out of options and McKirahan is a Rule 5 draft pick who would have to remain on Miami’s 25-man roster all season or else be returned to the Cubs.
Hall of Fame baseball writer Nick Peters, who covered the Giants for 47 years, has died, Marcos Breton of the Sacramento Bee writes. Peters was 75. He worked for the Bee, the Oakland Tribune, the Berkeley Gazette and the San Francisco Chronicle, covering a total of nearly 5,000 games. The BBWAA honored him with a Spink Award in 2009. Breton writes that Peters had an especially good relationship with Barry Bonds, who Peters had known from being around the Giants since Bonds was child following his father Bobby and godfather Willie Mays. “Nick was known not only for his writing talent and encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, but also for his mentorship of many young reporters who rose through the ranks of sports journalism,” write the Giants in a statement. “He will be deeply missed by the entire Giants organization and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Lise and the entire Peters family.” Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins‘ new interview with FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal offers an unusually candid look at what it’s like to change teams. Rollins spent 19 seasons in the Phillies organization before heading to Los Angeles. That involved quite a mental adjustment, as Rollins explains. “It was real tough in the beginning to give in to the LA thing, the Dodger thing, the wearing of blue, being the best organization in pro sports. That’s their belief,” he says. “Now I’m part of that product. But it was tough – 14 years on the other side, learning to . . . I can’t say hate, that’s a strong word . . . but learning to want to beat the brakes off anything with L.A. and Dodger blue in it.”
- Sam Deduno, who’s out of options, appears to have a good shot at making the Astros‘ roster because he can relieve, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes. Deduno is competing with Roberto Hernandez and Asher Wojciechowski for the fifth spot in the Astros’ rotation, but he has a better chance than either of the other two of making the roster because he can head to the bullpen if he doesn’t get the rotation job. The Astros have two bullpen openings. One will likely go to a lefty (perhaps Joe Thatcher), but Deduno could win the other spot.
Yankees prospect Jose Pirela has been diagnosed with a concussion following a nasty collision with the center field wall, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports, and Pirela could be sidelined for the rest of Spring Training. The injury could be particularly costly for Pirela as he (and fellow rookie Rob Refsnyder) were competing for not just a roster spot, but perhaps regular time at second base given Stephen Drew‘s struggles. In better news for Pirela, he was discharged from hospital last night and MRIs revealed no damage to his neck or spine.
Here’s the latest from both Big Apple teams…
- Yankees catcher Austin Romine has drawn trade interest from the Phillies and Padres, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Romine is out of options and John Ryan Murphy looks like the favorite to win the Yankees’ backup catcher job, so a trade could be possible. Philadelphia and San Diego are both known to be looking for catching depth. The Yankees already dealt one catcher (Francisco Cervelli) this offseason and if Romine is moved, that would leave top prospect Gary Sanchez and minor league veteran Eddy Rodriguez as their depth options behind Brian McCann and Murphy.
- The Mets are “unlikely” to add a left-handed reliever before Opening Day, a team official tells Mike Puma of the New York Post (Twitter links). The Mets haven’t been particularly interested in many of the available options, and rival teams are asking for a lot in return for their southpaws.
- Bobby Parnell may be back from his Tommy John recovery process sooner than previously thought, a Mets official tells ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin. Parnell underwent his surgery in early April 2014 so if he is indeed back “sooner than people expect,” then he might have only a brief stint on the DL to begin the season.
- From that same link, Rubin also projects the 25 players who will make the Mets‘ Opening Day roster.
The dark side of Venezuelan baseball players reaping the riches of their profession is their family members, who decline to move permanently to the United States and remain in Venezuela, become targets of kidnappers. Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News chronicles the kidnapping attempt made on the brother of Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus last year. Fortunately, Andrus provided his brother’s family with armed bodyguards and they thwarted the attempt after being fired upon and struck in their bulletproof vests. “This happens with everybody who has family there,” said Andrus. “It’s easy for them to kidnap people and ask for money. And everybody knows how much money the players make. They can Google it. It’s just not safe. You have to take steps. It was pretty shocking, for sure.”
In other news and notes from baseball’s West divisions:
- The Diamondbacks will not alleviate their outfield surplus by trading Mark Trumbo, reports CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. “We are not moving Trumbo,” GM Dave Stewart said. “Trumbo is a proven bat. Tough to move him for an unknown.” Stewart went even further with the New York Post’s Joel Sherman (Twitter link) telling the scribe he will not trade any of his outfielders because he values the depth.
- The Rockies are to be commended for releasing Jhoulys Chacin because a team must change direction if a player isn’t performing and the right-hander wasn’t, tweets Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.
- The Angels enter 2015 with the most financial flexibility they have had in four years, but will wait until mid-season to decide if or how to spend that payroll, according to MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. The Angels’ most likely area of need is second base with Gonzalez naming the Phillies‘ Chase Utley, the Reds‘ Brandon Phillips, the Diamondbacks‘ Aaron Hill, and the Mets‘ Daniel Murphy as possible targets.
- The Dodgers‘ pitching depth is sorely being tested in the wake of the team shutting down Hyun-jin Ryu with shoulder inflammation, notes MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick.
- Andre Ethier tells Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com he isn’t monitoring trade rumors online or with his agent and he isn’t counting the number of scouts in attendance at the Dodgers‘ Spring Training games. Ethier has said he is open to a trade and the club is reportedly willing to eat as much as half of the $56MM remaining on the outfielder’s contract to facilitate a swap, but have yet to find any takers.
- Carlos Quentin asked to see some reps at first base in an attempt to earn more at-bats with the Padres, which could also make him more attractive to other teams, writes MLB.com’s Corey Brock.
- Peter Gammons of DailyGammons.com opines some have been cynical of San Diego’s offseason overhaul, but a healthy and productive Matt Kemp can become the poster person of this new age for the Padres.
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Here’s the latest from the league’s eastern divisions.
- Blue Jays infielder Maicer Izturis may miss the start of the season, reports Jim Hawkins for MLB.com. Izturis, who was competing for the open second base job, is sidelined with a pulled groin. The Jays also lost veteran infielder Ramon Santiago to a broken collarbone last weekend. The injuries have improved the outlook for prospect Devon Travis. He was acquired from the Tigers in exchange for outfielder Anthony Gose. Per manager John Gibbons, if Travis earns the job, he won’t be platooned.
- The Orioles may offer to return Rule 5 pick Logan Verrett to the Mets, speculates Joel Sherman of the New York Post. If they do, Verrett could be included in a trade package for lefty reliever Brian Matusz. The Orioles are shopping their excess pitching per Sherman, with Matusz appearing in the most rumors. Several clubs, including the Mets, are hunting for left-handed relief.
- Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown could open the season on the disabled list, writes Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly. Brown has dealt with Achilles tendonitis for the last couple weeks, and he will be rested for one week. Salisbury also notes that Ben Revere and Odubel Herrera are the only outfielders who are a lock to make the major league roster. Grady Sizemore, owed $2MM this season, has not been impressive this spring. Other options include Darin Ruf, Jeff Francoeur, Brian Bogusevic, Jordan Danks, and Russ Canzler.
- The Mets have optioned left-handed pitcher Steven Matz to minor league camp, writes Marc Carig of Newsday. Matz, along with Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, is on the cusp of a major league assignment. Presently, the Mets are expected to use Dillon Gee in place of Zack Wheeler. Should Gee falter, Matz is a candidate to fill his spot in the rotation. I also heard him discussed as a potential relief ace over the offseason.
The Mets weren’t a particularly strong team even before losing Zack Wheeler to a torn UCL, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. Losing Wheeler hurt, but the Mets do at least have plenty of rotation depth with which to replace him. Their bullpen is a weakness, and only Juan Lagares stands out for them defensively. “I don’t subscribe to the notion that we’re going to have a lousy defense. I don’t believe that’s the case,” says GM Sandy Alderson. “But at the same time, I don’t assume, nor do I think, all of our success is predicated on being outstanding defensively.” Here’s more from the East divisions.
- The Blue Jays need a closer, but they aren’t a great match for Jonathan Papelbon and the Phillies, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes (Insider-only). Papelbon’s contract (including his 2016 option, which will vest at 48 games finished) is too expensive and complex for such a deal to make sense. Also, Papelbon has hidden value to the Phillies, in that using him at closer rather than Ken Giles will limit the amount of money Giles will make in arbitration once he becomes eligible.
- Phillies reliever Mario Hollands has elbow discomfort and will have an MRI today, Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Hollands says the pain feels about how it felt when he had a flexor strain late last season. When healthy, the lefty posted a 4.40 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in his rookie year in 2014. He might have joined fellow lefty Jake Diekman in the Phillies’ bullpen. An injury to Hollands might further encourage the Phillies to keep Rule 5 pick Andy Oliver, a lefty who has performed well in Spring Training.
The Rangers and Phillies are still talking about a deal that would send top lefty Cole Hamels to Texas, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. While the sides are talking about possible prospect packages, nothing is close at the moment.
Heyman notes that “there is no evidence the Red Sox and Phillies have talked seriously in recent weeks” on a deal involving Hamels, meaning that the Rangers could be the most promising landing spot at present. Philly is reportedly looking to add three legitimate prospects in a deal, with at least one potential impact player among them.
In addition to its impressive list of youngsters, the Rangers have some payroll flexibility, according to Heyman. After foregoing any significant spending this winter, the team appears likely to open the year with just under $140MM committed to its 25-man roster (and disabled list). Looking forward, Texas has over $100MM already on the books for 2016 and at least $50MM in each of the three years that follow. Hamels’s contract would tack on $22.5MM to those tallies over each of the next four years, and it also includes a $20MM option for 2019 that carries a $6MM buyout.
Yu Darvish‘s season-ending Tommy John surgery has left a void atop the Rangers’ rotation, and it is surely tempting to replace him with Hamels. Of course, such a deal probably would have made as much or more sense prior to that injury, given the team’s other rotation questions. Part of the motivation for continuing to talk with Philadelphia could well be that the club already had designs on adding another long-term arm at some point in the near future.
The Red Sox announced this morning that they’ve optioned catcher Blake Swihart and pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to Triple-A Pawtucket. Swihart, of course, has attracted attention as a key name in Cole Hamels trade rumors, although the Red Sox have so far been unwilling to part with him. It comes as no surprise that he’ll evidently start the season in Pawtucket — he’s only played 18 games at the Triple-A level, and Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan are set to begin the season as the Red Sox’ catchers. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- With the Phillies reportedly willing to pay $50MM of the $60MM remaining on Ryan Howard‘s contract, SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee examines which AL teams might have a use for Howard. He suggests the Indians and Blue Jays might be the best fits, and even then, it wouldn’t make sense for either team to pay $10MM.
- Free-agent closer Rafael Soriano has been working out in the Dominican, but he will soon stop by the Boras Sport Training Institute at St. Thomas University in Florida, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. (The institute hosted Boras clients Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales while those players when through protracted free-agent periods last year, Heyman notes.) Soriano could then host a workout for interested teams. Heyman suggests that the Blue Jays, who will probably have Aaron Sanchez head from the bullpen to the rotation to replace the injured Marcus Stroman, could be the best fit for Soriano, who remains a free agent deep into Spring Training.