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Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has published the latest installment of his weekly Inside Baseball column, and he kicks it off by reporting that the Blue Jays have inquired on Cole Hamels. However, Heyman hears that Hamels was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause to allow a trade to Toronto, which is a blow for both clubs. The Jays desperately need help in both the rotation and the bullpen, and the Phillies, Heyman notes, would love to get their hands on young pitchers with the upside of Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris. The Blue Jays have a bit of financial leeway after going with inexpensive options at second base, center field and left field, and Heyman writes that the Blue Jays are expected to look at other potential front-line starters this summer as they become available. (He speculatively mentions Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir, though neither’s available just yet.) Additionally, Heyman notes that Blue Jays manager John Gibbons’ job is safe, as GM Alex Anthopoulos has a strong relationship with the skipper and recognizes that the team’s problems are roster-related and shouldn’t be pinned on Gibbons.
Some more highlights from the column, though it’s worth a read in its entirety…
- The Braves are said to be disappointed in the play of Christian Bethancourt, even from a defensive standpoint, and recently inquired with the Brewers on Jonathan Lucroy. However, Atlanta executives were told by the Brewers that Lucroy isn’t available at this time. That the Brewers wouldn’t trade Lucroy isn’t a shock; he’s owed a very affordable $4MM in 2016 with a $5.25MM option for the 2017 season, so even if the team can’t quickly right the ship, he’d still have enormous trade value at the 2016 trade deadline. More interesting, to me, is that the Braves would so quickly look for an upgrade over Bethancourt and that they’re acting somewhat as buyers. Lucroy, of course, could be called a long-term piece that would be around to help the team when its rebuild is closer to completion. However, acquiring him would surely require the sting of parting with some of the key components of that rebuild.
- Some rival execs feel that the Cubs are willing to part with Javier Baez and Dan Vogelbach in trades, in part because each was drafted under the previous administration and is not held in as high a regard by the new front office. Each player comes with issues, however, as Baez is trying to cut down on his swing and improve his contact skills, while a scout described first baseman Vogelbach as a “30 fielder” to Heyman (in reference to the 20-80 scouting scale).
- There are members of the Astros‘ field staff that want to see Carlos Correa with the team right now, but Houston will likely keep him in the minors for another month or so in order to lessen the risk of Correa achieving Super Two status. I’ll add that the Astros will have a more legitimate claim that Correa still needs minor league time than other teams in similar situations have had in the past. Correa is still just 20 years old and has only nine games of experience at the Triple-A level, though he’s continued his brilliant work at the plate there, hitting .326/.362/.558 with a pair of homers. Also of interest to Astros fans — or to fans of teams needing outfield help — the Astros are on the lookout for starting pitching upgrades, and outfield prospect Preston Tucker “seems to be available.” Tucker recently made his MLB debut and has a .963 OPS through 34 plate appearances to go along with a strong minor league track record.
- Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez has been pitching for years with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, according to Heyman. Some have described it as a “90 percent tear,” but he’s been able to pitch effectively in spite of the issue. Alvarez wouldn’t be the first to pitch through a UCL tear; Ervin Santana and Adam Wainwright are both recent examples of pitchers who pitched for many seasons with partially torn UCLs. Wainwright ultimately underwent Tommy John, though Santana’s is said to have healed and is no longer an issue. In another Marlins-related note, Heyman hears that pitching coach Chuck Hernandez is “under the microscope” with both Jarred Cosart and Steve Cishek struggling greatly in 2015.
- Brewers starters Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza have little trade value due to their 2015 struggles, but Lohse’s lesser financial commitment and superior clubhouse reputation give him more value. The team is reluctant to trade not only Lucroy, but shortstop Jean Segura as well. The Brewers are a bit more open to dealing Carlos Gomez than that pair, as Gomez is closer to free agency (he’s controlled through 2016).
- The Mets remain reluctant to trade any of their top arms, as they’ve seen on multiple occasions how quickly Tommy John surgery or other injuries can thin out a club’s depth. (Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz have all had TJ in their careers.) The Mets are also not rushing to find a shortstop, but they have indeed been “all over the map” in terms of trade possibilities with the Cubs.
- Coco Crisp‘s neck injury is apparently quite serious, and there’s a fear that the oft-injured Athletics outfielder will ultimately require surgery that could bring his season to an end.
- The Blue Jays would still like to extend both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but there have yet to be serious discussions with either slugger’s camp. Both players are controlled through the end of the 2016 season.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Aaron Sanchez | Atlanta Braves | Carlos Correa | Carlos Gomez | Chicago Cubs | Christian Bethancourt | Coco Crisp | Cole Hamels | Dan Vogelbach | Daniel Norris | Edwin Encarnacion | Henderson Alvarez | Houston Astros | Javier Baez | Jean Segura | John Gibbons | Johnny Cueto | Jonathan Lucroy | Jose Bautista | Kyle Lohse | Matt Garza | Miami Marlins | Milwaukee Brewers | New York Mets | Oakland Athletics | Philadelphia Phillies | Preston Tucker | Scott Kazmir | Steven Matz | Toronto Blue Jays | Zack Wheeler
Ben Revere‘s name has begun to surface in trade rumors, but the speedy outfielder tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that he isn’t fazed by seeing his name floated as a trade candidate. Revere says that the talk isn’t distracting, characterizing it as something that every player has to deal with at some point. (I’d imagine that having been traded once in the past has prepared him somewhat as well.) “This is a business,” Revere says. “When [Cody] Asche and [Domonic Brown] come back we’re going to have a lot of outfielders and someone might be out. I just have to prepare to help my team win whether it’s here or somewhere else. Just bust my tail and try to stay in the lineup.” Salisbury adds that he, like others, hears that the Angels have indeed discussed Revere with the Phillies.
Some more Phillies notes…
- Continuing to play Ryan Howard and Chase Utley could actually help the Phillies’ rebuild, opines MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. Zolecki points out that in mid-April, fans wanted Howard to be benched, if not released, but he’s hitting .292/.346/.615 with eight homers in 27 games dating back to April 21. By demonstrating that level of production, Zolecki notes, Howard can only have helped his trade value. The same could eventually be said of Utley, who is struggling badly this year. The Phils have little to lose by continuing to run Utley out there, however, he argues. The club will have plenty of time to see Cesar Hernandez play in the coming years, and Utley isn’t blocking a top-tier prospect. While some are worried about triggering Utley’s vesting option, Zolecki notes that if he’s still hitting well below .200 come July, the team can very easily alter that pace in the second half of the season.
- General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and president Pat Gillick were on hand for yesterday’s Double-A Reading game, writes Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News, and the two saw a masterful performance by 2014 first-round pick Aaron Nola. The Phillies’ top decision-makers saw Nola fire seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits and a walk against seven strikeouts in an effort that dropped his ERA to 1.54 through 52 2/3 innings. However, Amaro said that the team is not yet ready to give Nola a look at the Major League level, Lawrence writes. “There are some things he needs to work on still,” said Amaro. “There’s some areas he’s continuing to work on. We continue to discuss and put together a plan for him. We’re in the middle of formulating that plan.” Amaro wouldn’t say what specific areas Nola needed to improve, but the GM did say that it was certainly within the realm of possibility that Nola would pitch in the Major Leagues this season.
The Phillies have indeed been talking about a deal involving outfielder Ben Revere with the Angels, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. With Philadelphia moving Cody Asche to a corner role and presumably prepared to give Domonic Brown another shot at the big league level, Revere figures to find himself without a role. Revere is earning a relatively steep $4.1MM salary in 2014 and will be eligible to be tendered arbitration contracts each of the next two seasons.
A bit more from the NL East…
- Commissioner Rob Manfred left little doubt where he stands on the still-pending legal dispute between the Nationals and Orioles regarding television fees, as Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal reports (Twitter links). “Sooner or later MASN is going to be required to pay those rights fees,” said Manfred of the increased payouts awarded to the Nationals by the league’s Revenue Sharing Decisions Committee. Technically, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is the plaintiff in the lawsuit; it is jointly owned by both clubs but controlled by Baltimore, which holds a majority share. That validity of that panel’s decision is the immediate matter at issue in the suit.
- Danny Espinosa has been a pleasant surprise for the Nationals, but his turnaround is due more to a lack of trying too hard than to any intentional adjustments, as James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. While Espinosa spent the spring hitting exclusively from the right side of the plate, he returned to a switch-hitting approach during the season and has suddenly thrived from the left side. The 28-year-old middle infielder is playing on a $1.8MM contract this year, and can be controlled for two more years via arbitration. Washington gained an extra season of arb control when it demoted him early in 2013. Espinosa has long been talked about as a trade candidate, but with Anthony Rendon injured and Ian Desmond struggling in his final contract year, that increasingly seems unlikely — despite the fact that Espinosa’s value is higher now than it has been in some time.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Brewers announced yesterday (via Twitter) that they’ve traded right-hander Chris Leroux to the Phillies in exchange for cash considerations. Leroux, 31, is a veteran of parts of six big league seasons and owns a career 6.03 ERA in the Majors. While he’s allowed his fair share of runs in 71 2/3 Major League innings and averaged 4.4 walks per nine, Leroux has also averaged 8.3 K/9 with a 48.9 percent ground-ball rate.
- The Cubs announced today that veteran first baseman/outfielder Mike Baxter‘s contract has been selected from Triple-A Iowa. The team also recalled Junior Lake from Iowa and activated Tsuyoshi Wada from the disabled list in a series of moves that saw Welington Castillo traded to Seattle, Phil Coke designated for assignment and righty Brian Schlitter optioned to Triple-A. The 30-year-old Baxter is a career .225/.331/.342 hitter in 423 big league plate appearances — most of which came with the Mets. As far as Triple-A production, Baxter has slashed a strong .286/.367/.452 in more than 1800 PAs.
Opposing teams continue to scout Ben Revere for a possible trade, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Revere may be somewhat of an odd man out when both Cody Asche and Domonic Brown return to the club, Rosenthal notes, now that Asche is transitioning to the outfield. Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com hears that the Angels like Revere but are in “exploratory mode” and aren’t rushing in any direction for outfield help (Twitter link).
Revere, 27, was said to be available in a trade shortly before Opening Day, and it would appear that a position change for Asche has made that even more evident. Gonzalez’s mention of the Angels isn’t the first time they’ve been connected to the fleet-footed Revere in recent weeks; the Orange County Register’s Jeff Fletcher also has mentioned Revere as a possibility for the Halos of late.
Through 159 plate appearances this season, Revere’s batting average is down a bit from the .301 mark he’s posted over the past three seasons. However, he’s seen his walk rate jump from a dismal 2.1 percent in 2014 to 5.7 percent in 2015. That, of course, is still below the league average, but the net result of Revere’s efforts at the plate this season is a .268/.314/.356 batting line that could very well improve if his .299 BABIP moves closer to his .319 career mark. Revere isn’t stealing with quite as much frequency as he did in 2014 — he had 12 steals in 14 attempts through 39 games last year — but he’s still chipped in eight steals in 11 tries.
Philadelphia’s usage of Odubel Herrera in center field has shifted Revere to left field, where his limited arm but strong range play a bit better than in center. (The early returns on Revere’s first action in left field since 2012 are positive, per Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved.) Left field has been arguably the Angels’ greatest deficiency this season, as they’ve received a collective .150/.187/.218 batting line from their left fielders this season.
Revere wouldn’t provide virtually any power for an acquiring club, but he’s a career .290 hitter with a .323 on-base percentage despite his lack of pop and averaged 50 steals per 162 games from 2011-14. That skill-set of speed and contact is undervalued in arbitration, which has kept Revere’s price tag relatively modest. He’s earning $4.1MM this season, meaning that he is owed about $3.1MM through season’s end. As a Super Two player, Revere has two more trips through the arbitration process in his future before becoming eligible for free agency following the 2017 campaign.
Braves infielder Phil Gosselin will miss about eight weeks with a thumb fracture, the team announced. Gosselin will require surgery. Taking his place on the active roster is fellow infielder Adonis Garcia, a 30-year-old who had a rather quiet minor league career before posting strong results at Triple-A over the last two seasons. After logging 368 plate appearances with a .319/.353/.474 slash last year in the Yankees organization, the infielder/outfielder has slashed .351/.380/.455 thus far at Gwinnett. Garcia signed with New York out of Cuba back in 2012, ultimately settling for a minor league deal when early rumors of a $16MM to $18MM bonus never panned out.
Here’s more from the NL East:
- Righty Kyle Kendrick discussed his departure from the Phillies, telling Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News that the end did not come without some perceived irony. “Ruben [Amaro Jr.] called me about a week after the season and said we’re going to go in a different direction, we’re going to go younger,” Kendrick said, “and then he signs Aaron Harang and Jerome Williams. So I was like, [huh]. That’s the way it is. Honestly I think it’s just part of the game and [they] wanted some different faces. That’s the way it goes.”
- Meanwhile, the Phillies are struggling with pitching health, as the club announced that righty Chad Billingsley is headed to the 15-day DL with a right shoulder strain. The talented but oft-injured thirty year old had made his first starts since early in 2013. He has permitted 12 earned runs over 16 total frames, striking out seven and walking three, though the good news is that his fastball velocity is sitting right at career norms. While the setback is discouraging, Philly will certainly hope that Billingsley can return in relatively short order and provide innings — if not also a trade piece.
- ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick profiles the recently-extended Mets center fielder Juan Lagares, explaining that Lagares has undergone a rather interesting breakout on the defensive side of the ledger after receiving some middling scouting grades in center in the minors. It is now broadly recognized, of course, that his glove is what gives Lagares such unique value. You’ll want to give the piece a read to learn about the 26-year-old’s journey.
- Deposed Marlins manager Mike Redmond will still take home a fairly significant amount of guaranteed money from his former team, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. In addition to the remainder of this year’s $850K salary, says Heyman, the Fish owe Redmond just over $1MM annually over the next two seasons.
Here are a few highlights from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe’s latest rumors roundup:
- The Phillies have scouted the Red Sox‘ Double-A Portland team the past six days, Cafardo writes. The Red Sox have, of course, repeatedly been connected to Cole Hamels, although the Phillies have several other veterans who could also be trade candidates. Portland isn’t a particularly prospect-rich team right now, with many of the Red Sox’ best minor-leaguers at Triple-A Pawtucket or Class A Greenville. So it’s hard to say who the Phillies might be scouting, and it’s likely they aren’t scouting a potential centerpiece for a Hamels deal.
- The Brewers are already prepared to trade starters Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse. At least one scout tells Cafardo that Lohse (who has allowed ten homers in his first 47 2/3 innings this season, although his strikeout and walk numbers have been fine) is in need of a “change of scenery.”
- The Royals‘ bullpen this year has been terrific, but their rotation hasn’t. The Royals are looking for cheap starting pitching to help ease the burden on their bullpen caused by short outings from their starters (although any acquisition they might make right now would likely be minor, since they aren’t yet willing to trade for a starter).
- Teams could see Reds starter Mike Leake as a very viable trade candidate. Leake is having a strong season so far, and it would likely be easier to sign him long-term than to sign his rotation-mate Johnny Cueto, so Leake could attract plenty of interest. Like Cueto, he’s eligible for free agency after the season.
- If the Marlins‘ season doesn’t improve, they could easily trade Dan Haren to a team on his preferred coast, Cafardo writes. Haren’s desire to play in California is well known. He’s in the midst of a good season (3.70 ERA, 6.1 K/9, 1.7 BB/9), and any number of teams out west could have interest.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league, with the most recent at the top.
- the Yankees have released righty Jared Burton, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch tweets. Burton, formerly a regular in the Reds and Twins bullpens, has made a handful of appearances for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season. The Yankees originally signed Burton to a minor-league deal with a series of opt-out dates, and they already released and re-signed him in March, so perhaps it’s not out of the question that they could re-sign him yet again.
- The Royals have announced that they’ve selected the contract of veteran righty Joe Blanton. Blanton had an opt-out opportunity yesterday on his minor-league deal. He had been pitching for Triple-A Omaha, where he posted a 3.89 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 39 1/3 innings. The longtime Athletics and Phillies starter last appeared in the big leagues in 2013, when he posted a 6.04 ERA in 132 2/3 innings with the Angels. Blanton will work in long relief, as MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweets. The Royals also announced that they optioned righty Aaron Brooks to Omaha and placed lefty Brian Flynn on the 60-day disabled list.
- The Pirates have selected the contract of righty Wilfredo Boscan, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets. They also optioned utilityman Steve Lombardozzi to Triple-A Indianapolis and moved righty Brandon Cumpton to the 60-day disabled list. Boscan will, presumably, help the Pirates’ bullpen after yesterday’s 11-10 extra-inning loss, which required the Bucs to throw 261 pitches. The 25-year-old Boscan has a 2.87 ERA, 5.7 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 31 1/3 innings at Triple-A Indianapolis this season. He has never pitched in the Majors.
- The Angels have signed outfield Jared Mitchell and assigned him to the Double-A Arkansas Travelers, the Travelers have announced. The White Sox released Mitchell, a 2009 first-round pick, earlier this month. The 26-year-old has hit .226/.334/.381 in parts of six seasons in the minor leagues.
- The Phillies have acquired infielder Jayson Nix from the Orioles for cash considerations, the teams have announced. Nix will head to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The 32-year-old was hitting .167/.190/.198 in 100 plate appearances for Triple-A Norfolk, and he struggled in brief stints in the big leagues last year with the Phillies, Pirates and Royals. In parts of seven seasons in the Majors, he’s hit .212/.282/.345. The move gives the Phillies infield depth after the recent promotion of Maikel Franco and their decision to have Cody Asche transition to playing outfield.
- The Rays have signed former Pirates pitching prospect Kyle McPherson, Steve Kinsella of DRaysBay tweets. McPherson pitched 26 1/3 strong innings with the Bucs in 2012 after posting a 3.22 ERA, 8.5 K/9 and an extremely stingy 1.2 BB/9 in 67 innings in the high minors that year, but he had Tommy John surgery in 2013 and another elbow injury last season. He became a minor-league free agent last fall.
The Phillies announced this afternoon that they’ve outrighted Dustin McGowan to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The move will clear space on the 25-man roster for the promotion of Maikel Franco, and it also, of course, clears a spot on the 40-man roster, reducing the current total to 39.
The 33-year-old McGowan signed with the Phillies late in Spring Training after being cut loose by the Dodgers. He’s struggled to a 5.79 ERA in 14 innings with the Phils, however, with the most troubling part about his performance being an eye-popping 16 walks in those 14 frames. McGowan has battled slight control issues in the past, but never anything of this magnitude.
That McGowan was outrighted means that he’s already cleared waivers. The Phillies, then, opted to immediately place McGowan on waivers as opposed to designate the righty for assignment.
The Phillies announced this morning that they’ve recalled top prospect Maikel Franco from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, giving the power-hitting third baseman a second crack at the Majors after struggling in a late-season debut in 2014. Franco, 22, rated as Baseball America’s No. 56 prospect this offseason, also ranking 55th on MLB.com’s Top 100 and 96th on the Top 101 of Baseball Prospectus.
The Phillies seem intent on giving Franco a shot to become their everyday third baseman, as Cody Asche has already been sent down to Triple-A to work on transitioning to the outfield. That move, as well as Franco’s hefty .355/.384/.539 batting line in 33 Triple-A games helped pave the way for what seems to be a more serious look than the one he received in 2014. Last September, Franco split time Asche at third and with Ryan Howard at first, ultimately hitting just .179/.190/.214 in 16 contests.
Perhaps most interesting about Franco’s promotion, however, is the service time implication that comes along with it. The Cubs’ handling of Kris Bryant in Spring Training this season spurred a good deal of controversy, but the Phillies have effectively taken the same route with Franco. Last September, Franco accrued 27 days of Major League service time in his September cup of coffee. That service time means that he’d have needed just 145 days of service this season to reach the 172 days necessary to be credited with a full year of service time. The Phillies have, likely not in coincidental fashion, promoted Franco at a time when there are only 144 days of the regular season remaining. That means that he, like Bryant, will fall one day shy of a full year of service. Because of that, the earliest that Franco could be eligible for free agency would be following the 2021 season.
GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and the Phillies, of course, aren’t acknowledge that reasoning — no team would openly do so. In a similar manner to the way in which the Cubs’ front office sidestepped the service time factor, Amaro said of today’s promotion: “This was a baseball decision based on Maikel’s development and performance. We believe he is ready for the next step.”
That the Phillies waited to ensure they could delay Franco’s free agency is telling about their hopes for this promotion, however. Clearly, the Phillies believe that Franco is capable of holding down third base long-term; they’ve moved Asche to another position and, if they weren’t serious about this promotion being a long-term move, the service time considerations likely wouldn’t have factored so heavily into their thinking.
It’ll be interesting to see if Franco’s case generates anywhere near the level of drama that Bryant’s case did in late March/early April. That level of controversy admittedly seems unlikely, but Franco’s case nonetheless serves as another example that this type of service time manipulation is a relatively common practice when it comes to the game’s most highly regarded prospects. Looking at the view through the Phillies’ lens, one can hardly blame the team for being willing to give up 40 games of Franco in a rebuilding season in order to control him for an additional year (2021) when they hope to be in a better spot to contend.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.