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Here are the day’s minor moves:
- Continuing their trend of adding veteran arms on minor league deals, the Braves have added right-hander Todd Coffey on such a pact and invited him to Spring Training, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Coffey missed the 2013 season after undergoing his second career Tommy John surgery and spent much of the 2014 campaign with the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate, where he posted an excellent 1.93 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 37 1/3 innings of work. From 2009-12 with the Brewers, Nationals and Dodgers, Coffey notched a 3.76 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 225 innings. The Braves have also added Jose Veras, Matt Capps, Chien-ming Wang, Wandy Rodriguez and Donnie Veal on minor league deals this winter.
- The Blue Jays announced that first baseman/outfielder Chris Colabello has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A (h/t: Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet). The 31-year-old Colabello found himself designated for assignment to make room for waiver claim Jayson Aquino. The longtime indy ball star has been a nice story since signing with the Twins as a 28-year-old and rising through their ranks to the MLB level.
- The Indians have signed former Phillies utility man Michael Martinez to a minor league deal and invited him to Spring Training, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (on Twitter). The 32-year-old switch-hitter brings plenty of defensive versatility to the table, though he’s just a .181/.231/.251 hitter in 440 big league plate appearances.
- The Marlins have inked infielder David Adams to a minor league deal that does not include an invitation to big league camp, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports (Twitter links). Now 27, Adams slashed a meager .193/.252/.286 in 152 trips to the plate with the Yankees in 2013. He has performed much better in the upper minors, slashing .255/.349/.397 in 333 plate appearances at Triple-A and putting up a .290/367/.443 line in 899 Double-A turns at bat.
- Another utility infielder, Chris Dominguez, has agreed to a minor league pact with the Reds, the club tweeted. Dominguez, who was recently designated and released by the Giants, will participate in MLB camp. The 28-year-old saw his first action in the bigs last year, a quick stop with San Francisco, but has spent most of his time over the last two seasons at Triple-A. In 1,203 total PCL plate appearances, Dominguez owns a solid .278/.312/.446 slash with 39 home runs.
- Lefty Cesar Jimenez has cleared waivers and accepted a Triple-A assignment, the Phillies announced. Despite a strong 2014 and deal to avoid arbitration, Jimenez was designated and then outrighted recently.
Cole Hamels remains available on the trade market, and as many eight teams have kicked the tires on the ace left-hander, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Asked by Salisbury how many clubs have made offers, Amaro replied, “Real offers? Four.”
Amaro wouldn’t comment on which clubs made those “real” offers, though earlier today it was reported that the Padres made an “aggressive” offer for Hamels prior to signing James Shields. Other teams that have been seriously linked to Hamels include the Cardinals, Rangers and Red Sox. Boston has reportedly balked at Amaro’s insistence on top catching prospect Blake Swihart‘s inclusion in a potential trade package.
Earlier this month, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that “five or six” teams were still trying to swing a trade for Hamels, though the Padres’ signing of Shields may remove them from that race. Padres ownership has said the payroll could land around $100MM, and they’re at roughly $96.5MM right now after adding Shields. However, some reports have indicated that $105MM might be the team’s max limit, so it strikes me as at least plausible — albeit unlikely — that they could attempt to squeeze Hamels into the mix if the Phillies eat some 2015 salary or take a different contract back.
The Phillies are more eager to trade Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon than Hamels, Salisbury writes, and they’re also very willing to trade Cliff Lee. Amaro wouldn’t rule out the possibility of making a trade prior to the onset of Spring Training, Salisbury adds, but moving someone like Lee would likely require him to demonstrate his health in Spring Training. A number of teams have told Amaro they’ll be monitoring the Phillies this spring.
Before agreeing to terms with James Shields, the Padres made an “aggressive offer” to the Phillies for lefty Cole Hamels, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. San Diego had long been said to be pursuing both arms.
Though the precise parameters of the offer are not known, Rosenthal indicates that Philadelphia may not feel that the San Diego system has a sufficiently promising single prospect asset to warrant Hamels. It is not clear whether the Padres have any continued interest in working out a deal, though it seems somewhat unlikely that sufficient payroll flexibility remains.
The Phillies prefer to deal with the Red Sox, per Rosenthal, hoping to land either Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart in return. But Boston has not made such an offer, he adds, making a deal seem unlikely unless the Red Sox “reverse course.”
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said that he could look to add a veteran shortstop and catcher to his club, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. While Amaro does not expect to make a move before camp opens, he indicated that the club will have its eyes out for additions over the course of the spring.
Philadelphia is obviously charting a different path this year than it has in recent campaigns. With several veterans already dealt away and others possibly to follow, the Phils will no doubt continue to fill a roster with low-priced, good-clubhouse veterans and players with some manner of upside.
At short, Freddy Galvis currently sits atop the depth chart with Jimmy Rollins now in Los Angeles. Additional competition and depth certainly makes some sense there. Behind the dish, veteran Carlos Ruiz seems likely to open the year with the club but could certainly become a trade candidate at some point during the season, if not sooner. With players like Cameron Rupp, Koyie Hill, and John Hester the top names behind him, another option makes some sense.
Let’s round up a few stray notes from the day:
- After avoiding arbitration with Matt Joyce today, the Angels appear set to enter the spring with a MLB payroll of a shade under $145MM, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes. That is about $10MM shy of last year’s starting point, leaving the team with additional luxury tax space (Gonzalez estimates a $174MM payroll for those purposes) that the club will be willing to put towards any needs that become apparent over the course of the season.
- Potentially joining the Halos with interesting summer plans are the Phillies, who are increasingly likely to hold onto ace Cole Hamels, as Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. reiterated previous statements that he expects Hamels to enter camp with the team, adding that he “expect[s] him to be our Opening Day starter.” The Padres, Rangers, Dodgers, and Cardinals are all said to have been in touch recently on Hamels, but while all are clear of Hamels’s no-trade protection, they also each have good reasons not to be aggressive.
- Hector Olivera‘s representatives have indicated that he will put on his final open showcase this coming Wednesday, Ben Badler of Baseball America tweets. That obviously could be a prelude to an intensification of his market, particularly with Spring Training fast approach. As Badler notes, Olivera is still not a free agent, but is expected to be so declared in short order.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman feels that the potential is there for a big year, but he’s not guaranteeing the AL East title or anything of that sort, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. “We have a lot of talent,” he said. “Like other teams, we have some ifs. If we get good comebacks and our rotation stays healthy, if our team stays healthy, we’re a good team.” Additions like Andrew Miller will be counted on for production, but the Bombers will really hope for some vintage performances from guys like Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and embattled third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Here’s more from today’s column..
- The Phillies continue to insist on Blake Swihart in any deal for Cole Hamels and there’s been no movement to ask instead for Christian Vazquez. The Red Sox, meanwhile, refuse to part with their top young catcher. Cafardo suggests the Phillies could have a better chance of working out a deal with the Padres as they are more open to moving catching prospect Austin Hedges.
- There are no substantive talks between the Mets and Everth Cabrera‘s camp at the moment as they seem committed to Wilmer Flores. It was reported earlier this winter that the Mets had interest in the former Padres shortstop. A major league source with knowledge of Cabrera’s situation indicated to Cafardo that he has made great strides personally.
- Cafardo writes that the Blue Jays remain interested in Phillies reliever Jonathan Papelbon. A report from earlier this month characterized the Blue Jays as a “major long shot” to land the closer due to financial reasons.
- General Managers around the league can’t stop raving about 19-year-old Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada. “He could be the next Robinson Cano/Chase Utley, but more Cano. That’s the kind of potential bat we’re talking about,” one National League talent evaluator said. An NL GM told Cafardo that Moncada “may be better than [Yasiel] Puig or [Jose] Abreu or [Yoenis] Cespedes or [Jorge] Soler.” Meanwhile, one GM tells Cafardo that the middle infielder would still require some minor league seasoning before breaking into the majors.
- There’s a good amount of interest in Brandon Beachy for when he’s finally ready to sign. The 28-year-old owns a lifetime 3.23 ERA over 46 big league starts, with a 3.34 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, and 3.39 SIERA.
Lost in the commotion somewhat in Philadelphia is veteran ace Cliff Lee, who made only 13 starts last year while dealing with elbow problems. But he, too, could be a trade candidate — possibly sooner than expected. The Phillies will consider trading Lee during camp if he can prove his health, the team told at least one rival executive, who relayed that information to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
It is not exactly surprising that the club is preparing to listen on Lee, of course. The Phils front office has candidly acknowledged that it is embarking upon a rebuilding effort, and has already moved several veterans.
But Lee’s health questions made the timetable uncertain. It now appears at least plausible that he could come available before the season, which is not only significant in its own right but may have some impact on the trade market for other arms (including, perhaps, his teammate Cole Hamels).
Of course, the major issue with Lee is the fact that his elbow problems coincide with the tail end of a significant contract. Lee is owed $25MM for the coming season and can be controlled for another year through a $27.5MM option that comes with a hefty $12.5MM buyout.
While it is conceivable that a healthy Lee would make that 2016 option look reasonable, it is difficult to imagine a competitor giving value and taking on $27.5MM in obligations at this point. It probably does not help that Lee has lost a tick off his average fastball in each of the last two seasons. There will no doubt be interest if Lee looks his old self this spring, but it figures to be hard for Philly to find an attractive offer unless it waits til the summer.
Apart from his recently-balky left elbow, Lee has been nothing short of outstanding even as he has aged. Lee’s 2014 campaign broke a streak of six straight seasons in which he had gone over 200 innings. Over that stretch, he carried a 2.89 ERA with 8.1 K/9 against just 1.3 BB/9.
It is worth noting that Lee does have a no-trade clause that allows him to block deals to twenty teams per year. Last year, Lee could only be traded without consent to the remaining four NL East clubs and the Indians, Astros, Twins, Padres, and Rays. That seemingly strategic list appears fairly likely to have undergone some changes this time around.
While Lee managed only a 3.65 earned run average last year, he otherwise posted strikeout-to-walk ratios that were completely in line with his past results. Once a .358 BABIP was accounted for, ERA estimators valued his work right around his typical three-earned-per-nine level.
An international draft is often pitched as the answer to big-market teams cornering the market on top international prospects, though Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron (writing for FOXSports.com) proposes that a firmer spending cap tied to Major League payroll would be a better solution. The proposal extends so far as to abolish the North American first-year player draft, giving smaller-revenue clubs a clearer path to acquiring young talent and giving prospects more freedom in choosing their future employers. Here’s some more from around baseball…
- During an interview (hat tip to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon) on MLB Network’s “Hot Stove” show, Reds GM Walt Jocketty said that his team is still trying to extend Johnny Cueto. “With Johnny, we’ll never say ‘never.’ We are going to do everything we can to try and come up with some sort of plan to keep him,” Jocketty said. “I’m not sure we’ll be able to, because the numbers are obviously starting to skyrocket and it’s very tough in our market to continue to retain guys at a high price like that. We’ll continue to work on that and see where it comes out.” As last we heard earlier this month, the two sides had reportedly made little progress on an extension that would keep Cueto from free agency next winter.
- Beyond Cueto, Mike Leake is also eligible for free agency after the 2015 season. Jocketty said the Reds kept Leake due to his consistency, and “We’ll see what we can do with him in the future as well” in terms of an extension.
- Ruben Amaro thinks Jonathan Papelbon “probably will” still be a Phillie when Spring Training camp opens, though the GM told Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News that the closer’s status “could change. We’re still having discussions on a couple different fronts with regard to the players we have.” Papelbon has drawn a lot of trade buzz in recent days, with the Brewers rumored to be the favorites to acquire the stopper while the Blue Jays are longer-shot candidates.
- The Diamondbacks haven’t made any progress in negotiations with Mark Trumbo and Addison Reed and it seems like both players’ cases will go to arbitration, GM Dave Stewart tells MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. A $1.6MM gap separates Trumbo and the Snakes ($6.9MM to $5.3MM) while Reed and the team are $900K apart ($5.6MM to $4.7MM).
- Baseball America has released its 2015 ranking of the top ten prospects in each team’s farm system. More scouting information is available to BA subscribers.
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro “covets” Padres righty Andrew Cashner, according to Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan (via Twitter). San Diego has been rumored to be one of the teams looking at a trade for Cole Hamels, so it’s fair to speculate that Cashner’s name has probably come up in discussions between the two teams. The Padres were reportedly open to offers for Cashner, Ian Kennedy and Tyson Ross earlier this winter if one of those starters would bring back a top hitter in return, though the Friars subsequently added several significant lineup pieces without giving up any of their rotation-heading trio. Passan notes that the Padres aren’t one of the teams on Hamels’ no-trade list.
Here’s some more from the City of Brotherly Love…
- Phillies chairman David Montgomery gave Amaro a vote of confidence in an interview on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (hat tip to MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki), calling Amaro “a pretty quality guy in that [GM] role.” Amaro is entering the last year of his contract with the team, and the Phillies’ ownership group as a whole is “looking at this closely as well” to determine if Amaro will continue in Philadelphia. “If Pat [Gillick] spends an entire year or two close with Ruben, I think he’ll have a very good idea to how effective Ruben is, and collectively a decision will be made,” Montgomery said.
- Aaron Nola won’t be invited to the Phillies’ Major League Spring Training camp, Amaro tells CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. “He’s not one of those kids that we need to see mature or develop mentally. We think that he’s got other things he needs to work on on the field, other parts of the game that he needs to continue to work on,” Amaro said. “He’ll get into minor-league camp and get into the program there and it will be good for him and when he’s ready to come to the big leagues, he’ll come to the big leagues.” Nola, the seventh overall pick of the 2014 draft, is projected to begin the season at Double-A and Amaro didn’t rule out that the righty could reach the bigs in 2015, calling Nola “a fast-track guy and there’s a reason why.”
- From that same piece, Amaro also expressed confidence in Jesse Biddle, whose stock as a top-100 prospect dropped after a rough 2014 season. Biddle received an invite to the big league Spring Training camp, though Amaro said that the southpaw will eventually be sent to the minors camp and “likely in Double-A” to start the season.
Diamondbacks right-hander Touki Toussaint, the No. 16 overall pick in the 2014 draft, has hired Rick Thurman and Nate Heisler of the Beverly Hills Sports Council as his new agents, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter). The 18-year-old struggled greatly in his pro debut last year but still ranked as the D-Backs’ No. 5 prospect, per Baseball America and Fangraphs, and No. 98 overall in the game, per MLB.com. Toussaint’s change has been reflected in the MLBTR Agency Database, which contains agent information for more than 2,000 Major League and Minor League players. Agents, if you see any errors or omissions, please let us know via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some more notes from around the Senior Circuit…
- David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com expects the Cubs to move Welington Castillo and possibly Travis Wood before the team heads to Arizona for Spring Training (Twitter link). The Phillies are one of multiple teams that have shown interest, according to Kaplan. Castillo has been displaced as a starter with the addition of Miguel Montero, and the team has also added David Ross as a backup option as well. Wood figures to battle for the team’s fifth starter spot, as Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks are the likely front four in the rotation. The Cubs also have Tsuyoshi Wada and Felix Doubront as options for the fifth spot.
- Mike Minor and the Braves have an arbitration hearing set for Feb. 19, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That’s just one day before pitchers and catchers are slated to report to Spring Training. Minor filed for a $5.6MM salary, while the team countered at $5.1MM, as can be seen in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker.
- Kyle Kendrick tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post that he had interest from multiple teams before signing with the Rockies. Though it’s clearly not a favorable environment for a pitcher, Kendrick praised the Rockies’ offense and defense as reasons to sign with the team.