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Philadelphia Phillies Rumors
Cliff Lee has been heavily talked about in trade rumors, but now it might be a while before the Phillies can find a deal for him. Earlier today, the Phillies announced to the press that the veteran is once again dealing with a sore elbow.
The Phillies, as Jayson Stark of ESPN.com tweets, were probably more motivated to deal Lee than any other player this spring. Now, they’ll have to wait until Lee has a clean bill of health to find a taker.
“It will take a couple of days to get the fluid out of the area from the MRI and Cliff will likely begin to throw again on Monday. He will progress his throwing program as tolerated. He will not make his scheduled start on Tuesday and his next start is TBD,” GM Ruben Amaro said in the release. “In the meantime we will have the MRI read as a second opinion by Dr. James Andrews. He will likely see the images on Monday or Tuesday. We will determine Cliff’s continued progressions accordingly.”
Lee battled elbow soreness last year and made just 13 starts in 2014 as a result. Amaro told reporters, including Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com (on Twitter), that Lee’s MRI showed an issue with his flexor pronator – previously the culprit of his elbow soreness – and not his UCL. Amaro says that if Lee undergoes surgery for the issue, it will take him out of action for 6-8 months, according to Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News.
Late last month, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that the Rangers and Padres were among the teams to at least “kick the tires” on Lee earlier this winter. Since their inquiries, however, the Padres added James Shields and the Rangers also added to their pitching depth. Heyman speculated that Boston could be a logical landing spot for Lee, but there are no indications that the two sides discussed him.
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. Prior to his elbow acting up in 2014, Lee boasted a streak of six straight seasons with 200+ innings. Over that stretch, he carried a 2.89 ERA with 8.1 K/9 against just 1.3 BB/9. The 36-year-old (37 in August) has a no-trade clause that allows him to block deals to twenty teams per year.
Many teams have called on ace Cole Hamels, but so far one club has enticed the Phillies more than the others. Of the teams that have expressed interest in Hamels, the Yankees have come closer than anyone, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. The Bombers have offered a package of prospects for the 31-year-old that at least has given the Phillies a baseline for future talks.
Trading Hamels, who pitched two strong innings in his spring training debut Friday against the Yankees, would help the Phillies kickstart their rebuilding efforts in earnest. However, they continue to insist that another team should take on the entirety of Hamels’ salary as well as part with top level prospects. Last month, Cafardo wrote that the Phillies seemed willing to wait it out for the right deal, perhaps even taking things up until the trade deadline.
The Red Sox have been heavily connected to Hamels this winter but Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported recently that talks have actually been dormant for weeks. Meanwhile, Cafardo hears that Cliff Lee could actually wind up changing uniforms before Hamels does.
It may seem early, but there is less than a month before teams will need to set their final rosters for the start of the season. We often hear about players with opportunities to win jobs, and that is never more true than in the cases of Rule 5 picks, whose new teams have a unique incentive to keep them to start the year. Last year, for instance, three teams kept players on the roster all year and earned their rights going forward: the White Sox (Adrian Nieto), Rockies (Tommy Kahnle), and Brewers (Wei-Chung Wang). Click here for complete 2014 results.
With that in mind, let’s see how things are shaping up for some of this year’s selections:
- First overall choice Oscar Hernandez still appears to be on track to get a chance as the Diamondbacks‘ backup, as MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports. “There are some things to work out,” said manager Chip Hale. “We’re up for the challenge and I think he is, too.”
- Slugger Mark Canha started out ahead of Nate Freiman in the competition for a roster spot given his Rule 5 status, manager Bob Melvin told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle recently (Twitter link). An unfortunate back injury to Freiman only increases Canha’s edge, as MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports. (It probably does not hurt, either, that Canha is off to a four-for-six start at the plate.)
- Righty Jason Garcia has impressed the Orioles thus far with a smooth delivery and easy velocity, as MLB.com’s Adam Berry recently reported. Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons tweets that the preliminary word is that the O’s are looking for ways to fit him on the roster.
- Right-hander J.R. Graham is making an impression with the Twins, as Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reports. Graham worked consistently up to 96 mph in two scoreless innings in his first outing, though he did struggle with command in his first frame. “I’m sure he was a little amped up being a Rule 5 guy,” said skipper Paul Molitor. “But he’s got some velocity. It was good to see him get through two clean innings.”
- An early look at right-hander Jandel Gustave and his high-octane stuff had the Royals contemplating an eight-man pen to fit him on the roster, as MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reported a few weeks back. Gustave has a history of command issues, however, and was roughed up pretty badly in his first outing — though he allowed only one baserunner in his most recent chance.
- The Phillies have two Rule 5 picks in converted outfielder Odubel Herrera and lefty Andy Oliver, and Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com recently looked at both players. Herrera is already showing off his tools and would create some valuable flexibility for the team now and in the future, Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley explains.
- Marlins manager Mike Redmond was among those impressed with the first live action from lefty Andrew McKirahan, as Juan Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel writes. McKirahan’s odds increased when the Fish failed to land Phil Coke, though it still seems he’ll have to overcome out-of-options lefty Brad Hand to join Mike Dunn in the bullpen.
- Mets skipper Terry Collins has indicated that prospect Rafael Montero is a long-shot to be added to the pen if fellow starter Dillon Gee ends up there, as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo tweets. DiComo noted then that, should Gee in fact work in relief — which seems rather likely — Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin would appear to have an inside track to a pen slot.
- This is not an update, but more a reminder. Braves‘ selection Daniel Winkler is coming off of Tommy John surgery and therefore has quite a unique situation, as J.J. Cooper of Baseball America explains.
Ryan Vogelsong seemed to be on the verge of signing with the Astros before he eventually rejoined the Giants, and the righty hinted that there was something unusual about how negotiations broke down with Houston. According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the issue was that after agreeing to sign Vogelsong to a one-year, $4MM deal, the Astros wanted to pay Vogelsong less after viewing the results of his physical. Both Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and Vogelsong’s agent Dave Meier declined to comment to Heyman about the situation.
Here’s some more from around the baseball world…
- The Royals are focused on winning now, which could change their handling of prospects Brandon Finnegan and Christian Colon, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan writes. There is “a pretty healthy discussion going on within the Royals’ organization” about Finnegan, who could be a key left-handed bullpen weapon for K.C. this season, though such usage could also hurt his development as a future starter. A similar argument could be made about Colon and whether he’d be better served playing every day at Triple-A or coming off the Royals’ bench as a utilityman.
- Though he has a 2016 option that vests if he pitches 200 innings, Cliff Lee is entering his last guaranteed year under contract. The Phillies southpaw told reporters (including David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News) that he’s hasn’t thought about what lies beyond the coming season. “We’ll see what it brings,” Lee said. “I definitely do not want to go out the way things happened last year, I don’t want that to be the way I finish my career, but at the same time I’m not going to sit there and try to fight that to get it done. I want to go out there and have fun and feel good and make it be a positive thing instead of it be a battle physically.”
- Erasmo Ramirez is facing a roster crunch, as the out-of-options righty doesn’t appear to have a clear path to either a rotation or bullpen role with the Mariners, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. The M’s don’t want to lose Ramirez but Dutton hears from multiple rival officials that Seattle stands little chance of sneaking Ramirez through waivers and down to the minors. The Mariners also don’t stand to get much of a return in a possible trade, as one rival exec rhetorically asks, “How much are you going to give up for a guy who is likely to be on waivers in a few weeks?”
- The Giants will certainly monitor the market for right-handed hitting outfield bats in the wake of Hunter Pence‘s injury, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi writes, though the club won’t jump to make a move.
- Using 2014 attendance figures and Forbes’ evaluations of franchise values, Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards calculates each team’s “expected payroll” to see how clubs spend in relation to their markets. The Tigers outspend their market by the most while the Yankees rank last, though Edwards explains that ranking is slightly misleading since luxury tax payments aren’t factored into the equation.
- Besides division rivals or intra-market rivals, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron (writing for FOX Sports) looks at other pairs of teams that rarely seem to make trades with each other.
- Injuries to several relievers could result in one or two young arms getting a shot in the Diamondbacks‘ Opening Day bullpen, Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic writes.
Braves lefty Mike Minor will have his throwing shoulder examined by Dr. James Andrews sometime early next week, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (on Twitter). Minor’s shoulder tightness was noted by Bowman yesterday, with the MLB.com adding that he expected Minor to be unable to claim a rotation spot to open the year due to the issue. The Braves have a number of alternatives in camp, should Minor be unable to open the season with the team. Both Eric Stults and Wandy Rodriguez were added on minor league deals this winter, and the highly regarded Michael Foltynewicz was sent to the Braves from the Astros in the Evan Gattis trade.
Elsewhere in the NL East…
- Dan Haren tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that part of the reason for his initial uncertainty about pitching for the Marlins was that he wasn’t sure if the team truly wanted him. The Marlins took on Haren only after the Dodgers agreed to pay all $10MM of his salary, and the main focus of the trade did seem to be acquiring Dee Gordon. Additionally, the Marlins didn’t even require Haren to take a physical prior to the trade — something he’s never experienced in being traded before. In fact, Haren was once nearly traded to the Cubs before a physical caused the deal to fall through. However, he’s now on board with pitching for the Marlins and is ready to compete for “at least” one more year, suggesting that he may not retire after this season, as many believed. And as for whether or not the Marlins wanted Haren, GM Dan Jennings said there is no doubt: “Oh, we wanted the pitcher. He goes to the post every year.”
- Prior to today’s start, Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee told reporters, including Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer, that he’s on a normal spring schedule at this point and feels healthy. Lee has been on a normal throwing program after throwing 15 bullpen sessions at his Arkansas home, and while it’s too early to read anything into his spring results, he did fire two scoreless innings in today’s outing, allowing two hits without a walk (and no strikeouts).
- The Phillies also announced today that they’ve added right-handers Seth Rosin and Mike Nesseth as non-roster invitees to Major League camp. Each was already with the Phils, though to this point they’d been in minor league camp. If Rosin’s name looks a bit familiar, it’s because he was selected by the Mets in last year’s Rule 5 Draft and immediately traded to the Dodgers for cash. The Rangers then claimed him off waivers and held onto him briefly before returning him to Philadelphia.
We learned this morning that Suk-min Yoon and the Orioles appear to be in the process of severing their relationship, with Yoon apparently headed back to his native Korea. Yoon is still formally required to report to the Orioles on Friday, a club official tells Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun. His contract will not be voided if he does not show, says Encina. Instead, Yoon would be placed on the restricted list and he would not be paid while so designated. O’s skipper Buck Showalter commented briefly on the situation, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets, saying: “He’s going to be fine. We wish him well.”
Here are some more international notes:
- The Red Sox are still awaiting final results of drug testing on Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada before making his deal official, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com reports. That is expected to occur in short order, with Moncada set to report to minor league camp thereafter.
- J.J. Cooper of Baseball America explores the impact of the Moncada signing on the push for an international draft in a highly recommended piece. Unlike prior major Cuban signings, which included competition from a broad number of clubs, the relatively new rules applicable to Moncada — namely, a virtual 100% tax on international bonus pool overages — meant that only a few, deep-pocket teams could realistically compete. The general system is favorable for Cuban players seeking big bonuses, but its function has added impetus to the idea of a “single method of entry,” as new commissioner Rob Manfred recently phrased it. Logistical impediments clearly remain, but one lower-revenue club official tells Cooper that an international draft “has to happen” to correct the imbalance.
- Broader political matters can easily impact international efforts, of course, as seen recently with the Cuban market. That appears to be the case in Venezuela, where new visa rules will complicate scouting efforts, as Ben Badler of Baseball America writes. The need for a visa to enter the country will create logistical hurdles for operations, says Badler, who notes that some Venezuelan trainers had already begun moving players to the Dominican Republic to increase their visibility.
- Indeed, the general socio-political and economic climate in Venezuela will lead the Mariners to transfer their operations there to the Dominican, according to a report from Ignacio Serrano of El Emergente (Spanish language link; h/t Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, via Twitter). Seattle is declining comment on the matter, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune tweets. The overall situation is creating concern of a broader exodus, though Phillies assistant GM Benny Looper tells Morosi (Twitter link) that “it’s business as usual for the Phillies in Venezuela.”
Placido Polanco didn’t play in the Majors or Minors in 2014, and the 39-year-old infielder tells Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald that he considers himself to be “90 percent” retired at this stage. However, Polanco did say he’s leaving a door open in case the right situation arises. He listed the Tigers, Phillies and Marlins — the final three teams for which he played — as possibilities.
Polanco said he’s satisfied with the body of work he put together in his 16-year career, however he’s also disappointed to not have won a World Series despite coming close on multiple occasions. Polanco speculated that perhaps, in the future, he could achieve that goal as a coach or manager, noting that he’s accumulated a wealth of baseball knowledge. He feels he could help younger Latin American players learn how to handle both good and bad situations and teach discipline to a new generation of players.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Polanco moved to the United States and attended high school in Miami before being selected as a 19th-round pick by the 1994 Cardinals. He debuted with St. Louis in 1998 and soon emerged as a regular in their infield. Over the course of his 16-year career, Polanco appeared with the Cardinals, Tigers, Phillies and Marlins, compiling a very nice .297/.343/.397 batting line. He made two All-Star appearances, won a Gold Glove at both second base and third base, and took home a Silver Slugger with the 2007 Tigers. Polanco earned nearly $52MM in salary over the life of his days as a big leaguer, according to Baseball-Reference.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post runs down a list of the teams with obvious trade candidates this spring and notes that executives to whom he spoke most often mentioned the Red Sox as a team to watch. Sherman examines speculative landing spots for Allen Craig, Shane Victorino and Jackie Bradley. He feels that a healthy Victorino would be an idea fit in Seattle in front of Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano (though I don’t imagine Seattle having interest given their platoon acquisition of Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano). For Craig, he theorizes that the Angels make some sense, should Josh Hamilton face a lengthy suspension. And the Braves have long fancied Bradley, even before Melvin Upton went down with a foot injury, Sherman adds. Sherman also runs down situations in Los Angeles, San Diego, Toronto, Chicago and Philadelphia.
A bit more from his piece and a few other trade-related notes from around the league…
- As Sherman notes, many out-of-options players will become trade candidates at the end of Spring Training, and he feels that some such candidates could be outfielder David Lough, infielder Eduardo Nunez, lefties Felix Doubront and Brad Hand, and right-handers Jacob Turner, Randall Delgado, Stolmy Pimentel and Jesse Chavez. I’d be a bit surprised to see Chavez moved coming off such a strong season, though it’s certainly possible. Lough, in particular, strikes me as someone who could interest clubs, given his elite defense and his strong numbers against right-handed pitching.
- While each side will privately acknowledge that they’ve been in contact with the other, talks between the Red Sox and Phillies regarding Cole Hamels have been dormant for weeks, writes Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Nightengale spoke to Boston GM Ben Cherington and Red Sox pitchers Rick Porcello and Wade Miley about the confidence each has in their current staff.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson tells MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo that it’s “fair to say” there’s been little to no recent trade talk regarding right-hander Dillon Gee and any of the Mets’ other starting pitching options (Twitter link). Gee seems destined to open the season in the bullpen, barring an injury or a spring injury to a rotation member.
- Travis Sawchick of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review takes a look at the spring battle between Vance Worley and Jeff Locke for the Pirates‘ fifth spot in the rotation, noting that neither is a candidate for a bullpen spot, so the loser of the battle could ultimately end up as a trade candidate. Sawchik notes that it’s possible that both could end up breaking camp with the team, should Charlie Morton open the season on the DL (or should the Bucs incur another spring injury), but he predicts that Worley will win the rotation spot if everyone else is healthy.
The Marlins‘ best offer for Francisco Rodriguez was for two years and $10MM, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. While that was not enough to convince K-Rod to part from the Brewers, it does represent a relatively significant chunk of change that the team could presumably tap into at some point in the future.
Here’s more from the eastern divisions:
- Braves owner Liberty Media continues to provide some interesting insight into the club through its legally-required Securities and Exchange Commission filings, as Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains. In addition to ticking through the accounting for last year’s emergency pickup of Ervin Santana and release of Dan Uggla, the filing documents that the organization has already borrowed about $100MM from credit facilities arranged to help fund its portion of the funding of its new stadium.
- Atlanta’s biggest write-off may be yet to come, as struggling and now injured center fielder Melvin Upton could eventually go the way of Uggla. For now, the team is focused on finding a temporary replacement and getting him back up to speed as soon as possible, as David O’Brien of the AJC reports. One possible fill-in, prospect Todd Cunningham, says that the players in camp “can kind of smell blood in the water,” while Eric Young Jr. called it an “unfortunate situation” but acknowledged that “you’re kidding anybody if you don’t see it as an opportunity.” The most interesting possibility could be Eury Perez, who is just 24 and has a solid track record in the upper minors but never had a real chance with his prior clubs.
- The Phillies have had one of their top advisers, Charlie Kerfeld, watching Red Sox prospects as the clubs continue to eye one another over left-handed pitching, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. There is a sense now that Cliff Lee could be dealt before Cole Hamels, Cafardo adds, though that doesn’t necessarily mean Boston is the inevitable destination.
- As Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reports, there are no signs of progress on a Hamels deal. The Sox are more likely to be willing to part with players like Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero, and Jackie Bradley Jr. in any trade scenarios than they are some of their other top young players, Mastrodonato adds.
Hector Olivera and Yadier Alvarez are the two biggest names to watch on the international market at present, but let’s take a look at some other notes while we wait to learn more on their situations:
- Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has a wide-ranging round-up of the latest from the upcoming July 2nd signing period, which has clarified somewhat with Yoan Moncada now in agreement with the Red Sox. Noting that slot money has gone up by about five to seven percent, as Baseball America’s Ben Badler details, McDaniel says that about five clubs seem to be on track to exceed their bonus allotments and “many more” will attempt to spend to their max.
- Uncertainty in U.S.-Cuban politics is dampening some teams’ interest in going over their pools and incurring severe spending restrictions for two years, per McDaniel. Depending upon how things progress, that might mean missing out on a sudden influx of talent. Nevertheless, it appears that overall spending will see significant increases; indeed, as McDaniel tweets, one team that he does not mention in his post is already believed to have about $7.5MM set to go out to six players — none of whom will be among the highest-earning prospects.
- McDaniel provides a ton of detail on July 2nd prospects, including Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is said to be likely heading to the Blue Jays for a bonus that will top $4MM. Also expected to go over the $4MM mark are young slugger Jhailyn Ortiz, who is expected to land with the Phillies, and shortstop Wander Javier, whom the Twins are believed to be line to sign.
- While there is nothing new on Alvarez, Badler does explain that his situation — and that of fellow young righty Vladimir Gutierrez — could shape the future of Cuban amateur talent. Alvarez could test MLB’s historical unwillingness to grant exceptions to its timely registration rule, given the fact that he could not do so while in Cuba, and that would presumably set the precedent moving forward. A similar situation holds for Gutierrez, who could face an exceedingly long delay if he cannot establish residency in a third country in relatively short order.