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Philadelphia Phillies Rumors
The remaining free agent market is dominated by arms, and pitchers probably also carry the most intrigue in trade as well. Here’s the latest on some important situations percolating around the game:
- The Brewers feel they have ample leverage against the Phillies in trade talks for Jonathan Papelbon, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Twitter links). Milwaukee believes that it is the primary team with interest, and yesterday’s addition of Chris Perez reduces the urgency to add another late-inning righty.
- Fellow Phillies veteran Cole Hamels should be traded now to maximize his value, according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Insider link). Rival executives tell Olney they believe the Phils should have moved Hamels at last year’s trade deadline, and suggest that the team will have to budge on either the amount of money the team will kick in or the quality of the prospects it will receive. Of course, the Philadelphia brass has understandably rejected the idea in the past that it should lower the ask on Hamels, but it is fair to wonder at what point that attempt to maximize value could harm its own objective.
- The Padres have often been mentioned as a possible destination for the best starters that remain available, and executive chairman Ron Fowler did nothing to dampen the rumors in comments today to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Fowler explained that the club’s payroll could climb above $100MM, saying that “with A.J. [Preller] in the GM seat, things could change quickly” as “he continues to look at options to strengthen the team.” Fowler continued: “The front-loading of the Dodgers’ payment for [Matt] Kemp allowed us to be more aggressive regarding [Justin] Upton and continue to look at other opportunities.”
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Brewers announced earlier this week that utility player Elian Herrera has been outrighted to Triple-A and will be in Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invite. Herrera was designated for assignment after the Brewers added Neal Cotts on a one-year deal. The 30-year-old batted .274/.288/.341 in 140 plate appearances with the Brew Crew in 2014.
- The Giants released the recently designated Chris Dominguez, according to the team’s transactions page. Designated to clear a roster spot for Ryan Vogelsong, the 28-year-old Dominguez made his big league debut in 2014, collecting one hit in 17 at-bats, although the one hit was memorable — a two-run homer. Dominguez hit .274/.307/.460 with 21 homers in Triple-A last season.
- The Phillies signed lefty Anthony Vasquez, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. Vasquez is still trying to work his way back to the big leagues after remarkably surviving a ruptured blood vessel in his brain that required emergency surgery. He spent last year in the upper minors with the Orioles, working to a 4.95 ERA over 123 2/3 frames (including 19 starts) with 6.7 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9.
- Southpaw reliever Pedro Feliciano is nearing a minor league deal with the Cubs that would include a spring invite and a $700K salary if he makes the big league team, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Heyman adds on Twitter that the deal is done, noting that it includes some incentives. The 38-year-old led the league in appearances for three straight years with the Mets (2008-10), but rotator cuff issues ensued and Feliciano has only tossed 11 1/3 big league frames since. He struggled with preventing runs last year at Triple-A with the Cardinals organization, though he still was able to generate better than eight strikeouts per nine innings.
An earlier version of this post incorrectly cited Heyman as reporting that Vasquez had received a big league camp invite.
FEB. 4: The holdup in talks with the Brewers currently stems from player compensation as opposed to financial compensation, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. As such, Heyman speculates that the two sides may at least be on the same page in terms of how much money the Phillies would need to eat to facilitate a deal. The Brewers are believed to be the favorites to land Papelbon, should he be moved.
The Blue Jays, at this point, are viewed as a “major long shot,” according to Heyman, who cites finances as a significant stumbling block in Toronto’s talks. Heyman adds that, when reached earlier today, Amaro would only say, “We’re still having discussions with clubs.”
FEB. 2: The Phillies are still holding active negotiations regarding closer Jonathan Papelbon, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. “Things are still alive,” said Amaro. “We’re still having discussion — and not just with one club.”
Though Amaro declined to name specific teams, the Phillies have recently been linked to the Brewers to varying degrees in various reports. Salisbury’s sources tell him that Milwaukee is “the most viable trade partner” for Philadelphia. (Indeed, the Brewers have given public indication that a deal is still a possibility.) The Blue Jays have also inquired, though Toronto’s interest is said to be “mild.”
As to whether a deal will get done, Salisbury says that the Phils are not interested in moving such a productive reliever — however pricey — without receiving a “quality prospect.” When asked whether he was optimistic of striking a deal, Amaro hedged: “I’m not sure. We’ll see. It’s complicated. There are a lot of different factors involved.”
2:08pm: Though Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has said he expects Cole Hamels to open the season with his team, Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports tweets that five or six clubs are still trying to get their hands on the Philadelphia ace. However, no team has yet come close to making an offer that would entice the Phillies to part with the 31-year-old lefty.
Last month, the Padres, Red Sox, Rangers and Cardinals were reported to be the most aggressive teams pursuing Hamels, but the Rangers may have bowed out of the picture following their acquisition of Yovani Gallardo. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently reported that the Padres have remained in touch on Hamels, though some feel they lack the talent needed to complete the deal.
The Phillies have been said to be asking for two “premium talents” in return for Hamels, likely in addition to other, lesser-regarded assets. Philadelphia has proven its willingness to deal away core veterans — Jimmy Rollins, in particular, was one of the club’s mainstays in its recent run of success — but has understandably set a high asking price for Hamels, who could always be held until the summer or even beyond.
The price tag on James Shields may be dropping to the point where it makes too much sense for the Yankees to ignore, opines Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. Shields has never made sense for the Yankees at or in the vicinity of $100MM, Castrovince writes, but if his price tag is trending closer to that of Ervin Santana (four years, $55MM) than that $100MM plateau, the uncertainty and lack of stability in New York’s rotation makes them a logical destination. As Castrovince notes, the Yanks dished out four years and $52MM to Chase Headley shows that the team is still willing to spend on veterans at a price level with which they are comfortable, and Shields’ work ethic, leadership and durability make him a desirable rotation candidate in the Bronx.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- The Yankees have a pair of very viable closer candidates in Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, but MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch envisions Betances eventually locking down the closer role, with Miller likely ticketed to be the team’s top setup man. Hoch spoke with manager Joe Girardi, who did say that he’d like to have a set closer by the end of Spring Training. “I think guys like to know their roles, so I think if we can iron it out, I think it would be a good thing to do,” said Girardi. Using Betances in the ninth inning would cause his arbitration price to soar, although arbitration awards holds, strikeouts and ERA as well, so Betances looks like he’ll eventually be an expensive reliever regardless of his role.
- As Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun details, Delmon Young said at the Orioles‘ Fan Festival over the weekend that he entertained the idea of signing elsewhere and had the opportunity to do so, but his desire was always to return to Baltimore. “…my first goal was to come back here just because I like just being in a place where you’re guaranteed to have an opportunity to defend a division title,” said Young. “It could have been cool going to a different place and trying to win another one, but it’s always a lot better to defend what you earned the year before.” Young continued, explaining that he’s excited to have a larger role this year following the departure of Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz, also adding that he’s much more comfortable in right field than left field.
- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons spoke with Jim Bowden and Casey Stern on MLB Network Radio yesterday and acknowledged that the team has indeed talked about Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano (Twitter link). Gibbons said GM Alex Anthopoulos has been in touch with Scott Boras regarding the two free agents, as well as Philadelphia counterpart Ruben Amaro Jr. regarding Papelbon. However, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet notes (Twitter link), the Jays aim to be thorough in their search, so it makes sense that they’d explore all avenues.
The Padres have considered trading for Brewers shortstop Luis Sardinas, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes (Twitter links). Rosenthal says the two teams have not talked lately, although the Padres’ interest in Sardinas suggests that their busy offseason might not yet be over.
The Brewers acquired Sardinas from the Rangers in the Yovani Gallardo trade, and Padres GM A.J. Preller worked for the Rangers before taking his current position. The Brewers appear relatively set at their middle infield with Scooter Gennett at second and Jean Segura at shortstop, while the Padres have a more unsettled shortstop picture (with their depth chart currently topped by Alexi Amarista and Clint Barmes), so a trade involving Sardinas would appear to make sense for both teams.
Sardinas, 21, hit .261/.303/.313 in 125 plate appearances with the Rangers in 2014. His youth might account for some of his offensive troubles, although he’s never hit well above Class A and has never shown much power potential. He has excellent speed and good defensive tools.
The Padres remain in touch with the Phillies regarding Cole Hamels, although Rosenthal notes that some sources feel the Padres don’t have the talent to complete the deal. In mid-January, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reported that the Padres were among the key teams pursuing Hamels.
Recent Brewers signee Neal Cotts tells Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he came close to hanging up his spikes before the Rangers offered him a deal for the 2013 season. After two fairly productive seasons in Texas, Cotts chose Milwaukee in part due to proximity to his home in Chicago.
Here are some notes on still-active bullpen situations around the game:
- The Red Sox have indicated a willingness over the last few days to deal righty Edward Mujica, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Mujica, 30, signed a two-year deal to head to Boston last year after a strong 2013 with the Cardinals, but struggled mightily out of the gate. He rebounded with a big second half, however, throwing 25 1/3 innings of 1.78 ERA ball over the second half. All said, Mujica ended the year having allowed 3.90 earned per nine and having compiled a 3.70 FIP that was nearly identical to his fielding-independent mark from the season prior.
- After adding Cotts, the Brewers will keep looking for a veteran, late-inning arm, potentially one with closing experience, assistant GM Gord Ash tells Haudricourt. The club is “juggling a lot of balls right now,” says Ash, who added that talks with the Phillies on Jonathan Papelbon are not dead even if nothing is imminent. Ash also indicated that the team was considering former closer Francisco Rodriguez, but noted that the club is not in on Rafael Soriano or Joba Chamberlain. Milwaukee also seems to have its eye out for a bargain, with Ash noting that the club is open to doing a minor league deal at any time.
- A few of the other names still on the market do have some interest even though they have yet to ink a contract, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter links). After a solid 2014, southpaw Joe Beimel has interest from three clubs, including the incumbent Mariners, while fellow lefty Joe Thatcher has drawn attention from a handful of teams.
While new Phillies president Pat Gillick only figures to occupy that role for a year or so — the 77-year-old has expressed no interest in filling the position long-term — his brief tenure could define the next generation for the team, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes.
As Salisbury notes, Gillick has already signed off on an organizational rebuild and the decision to replace longtime scouting director Marti Wolever. Now, Gillick will be tasked with overseeing any structural changes to the Phillies’ front office, including the decision as to who will replace him as the club’s president. Should the team make a change at GM, a new president would likely make that call.
Additionally, Gillick’s successor would oversee any changes made in the dugout. Ryne Sandberg didn’t distinguish himself with his leadership in 2014, Salisbury writes, and some within the organization question whether he’s the “right guy” to oversee the rebuild. Sandberg will be afforded more time to prove himself, but Gillick will be keeping a watchful eye on his skipper as he enters the second season of a three-year contract.
Also of note in the article, Salisbury hears that teams that have expressed interest in Chase Utley this winter have been informed that he is not interested in waiving his 10-and-5 rights, which grant him the ability to veto a potential trade to any club.
The Dodgers and Phillies reportedly had brief discussions regarding Utley and the Winter Meetings prior to the team’s acquisition of Howie Kendrick, but shortly thereafter, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. indicated to reporters that Utley’s desire was to remain in Philadelphia. Utley himself has said as much in the past, but some have speculated that he might eventually warm to the idea of a trade as the Phillies’ rebuild wore on. That apparently has not been the case even after trading Antonio Bastardo, Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd.
Utley, 36, batted .270/.339/.407 in 664 plate appearances last season — his highest total since the 2009 season. He’ll earn $15MM in 2015 — he triggered a $5MM salary increase by avoiding the disabled list — and has three vesting options at the same price on his contract, the first of which will trigger if he reaches 500 plate appearances this coming season.
6:18pm: If Billingsley reaches all of the performance bonuses in his contract, he can earn another $6.5MM in salary, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.
5:56pm: The Phillies signed right-hander Chad Billingsley to a one-year, $1.5MM contract, the team announced. The contract also contains performance bonuses. Billingsley is represented by the Octagon agency.
The two sides were rumored to have a mutual interest in a deal earlier this week, and the signing gives Philadelphia an intriguing buy-low candidate for the rotation. Billingsley hasn’t thrown a Major League pitch since April 15, 2013 due to both Tommy John surgery and another procedure to repair a torn flexor tendon, and he has only thrown seven total minor league innings over the last two seasons.
“As has been the case throughout this offseason, we have attempted to create as much starting pitching depth as possible at both the major and minor league levels,” GM Ruben Amaro said in the Phillies’ press release. “Given Chad’s track record, we feel he is an excellent candidate to bounce back as a productive starting pitcher.”
Chosen 24th overall in the 2003 draft, Billingsley developed into a durable and successful hurler with the Dodgers, posting a 3.65 ERA, 2.27 K/BB rate and 8.2 K/9 over 1073 1/3 IP from 2007-12. Billingsley is only 30 years old, so if he’s back to full health, the Phillies may have found a strong rotation piece at a bargain price (even counting his contract bonuses). Several teams reportedly made offers to Billingsley this winter, and the Diamondbacks were also known to have an interest in the righty’s services.
This is the second time the Phils have Jimenez has been designated for assignment in just under eight months, and he also was outrighted off their 40-man roster in June. The southpaw signed a one-year deal to avoid arbitration with the Phillies in October.
Jimenez, 30, posted a 1.69 ERA, 1.14 K/BB rate and 4.5 K/9 over 16 relief innings for Philadelphia last season, as well as an impressive 1.45 ERA, 3.07 K/BB rate and 8.3 K/9 in 49 2/3 IP at the Triple-A level. He joins five other players in “DFA Limbo” according to the MLB Trade Rumors DFA Tracker.