Philadelphia Phillies Rumors
The Phillies received some more bad injury luck today when the team announced that Chase Utley was going to the 15-day DL with a Grade 1 oblique strain. While the injury isn't considered particularly serious, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro told media (including CSNPhilly.com) that the team was going to be cautious in order to keep Utley's oblique from bothering him throughout the season. Utley has battled a number of injuries over the last few seasons and going on the DL yet again is likely to hurt his free agent stock this winter -- at the very least, it will drop him a few spots in the next edition of Tim Dierkes' 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.
Here are some items from around the NL East...
- On Wednesday, before Utley's DL stint, Amaro said he saw his team as buyers leading up to the trade deadline since he felt his team was still in the race, MLB.com's Todd Zolecki reports. Amaro did warn that the decision to buy or sell at the deadline was coming soon. "The real question is: How long can you wait? Right now, we're willing to wait, because no one is crazy and running away with it. We're willing to wait, and how long we'll wait is a decision I'll have to make," Amaro said.
- Amaro also commented on manager Charlie Manuel, reiterating that the team wouldn't look at Manuel's status until after the season. This is the 69-year-old Manuel's last year under contract as the Phillies skipper.
- Philadelphia's numerous injury problems give the Phillies the look of a seller at the deadline, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal opines in his latest Hot Corner video. Rosenthal notes that the team would at least listen on offers for "virtually any Phillie" on the roster in order to clear money off the payroll and obtain young talent.
- The Nationals aren't living up to their status as World Series favorites, but GM Mike Rizzo said the team isn't planning any major roster shake-ups to get on track during the season, Amanda Comak of the Washington Times reports. "I think we put together a roster that we feel is going to contend....We feel we have the roster in place to win a lot of games," Rizzo said. "We felt that in Spring Training, we felt that in the winter, and I still have all the confidence in the world that this is the team that’s going to play deep into the season.”
- Eric O'Flaherty is the seventh Braves pitcher to undergo Tommy John surgery in the last five years, leading David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to wonder if the team needs to re-examine their methods of using and developing their pitchers.
- In other NL East news from earlier today on MLBTR, the Marlins designated Jon Rauch for assignment, the Nationals could be interested in hiring Don Mattingly as Davey Johnson's successor, and we shared a collection of notes about the Mets.
Through a quarter of the season, the Indians have emerged as last offseason's biggest winners, while the Blue Jays rank as the biggest losers, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Other teams (such as the Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, and Royals) received "thumbs up", but the Indians' additions of Mark Reynolds, Jason Giambi, Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, Rich Hill, Yan Gomes and Mike Aviles have been enough for the club to stay on top of both Cafardo's list and the AL Central. Here's more from today's column..
- The Red Sox are one of a few teams closely watching Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. The Rangers, Yankees, and A’s also appear to have some level of interest in the 24-year-old phenom, who pitches for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
- Cafardo speculates that Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion may become available at the trade deadline if the Blue Jays fall out of contention. The two sluggers would be very highly sought after in his opinion.
- The Red Sox will face a difficult decision on free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia this offseason. "He’ll get signed somewhere because of his power,” according to a scout. “He’s improved defensively, but by how much? At this point, is he what he is?”
- One National League GM believes a Jonathan Papelbon-Red Sox reunion is "not far-fetched." Cafardo notes that the Phillies may be unwilling to part with Papelbon, who is off to an impressive start.
- The Phillies meanwhile will have a tough call on second baseman Chase Utley, who may be dealt before he even reaches free agency. While the Phillies have stated their desire to compete, and not dismantle their roster, they could have some major trade chips in Utley, Cliff Lee, and Michael Young.
Jose Canseco will be joining the Fort Worth Cats of the independent United League, the team announced. Canseco will serve as a player-coach during the team's opening home stand against the Edinburg Roadrunners, managed by Jose's twin brother Ozzie. This isn't Canseco's first go-around in an independent league, as the 48-year-old has appeared for clubs in several circuits since completing a 17-year big league career. Here is tonight's look around the rest of the baseball world..
- Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune and other reporters discussed the state of the White Sox with GM Rick Hahn. "We're not going to change that path and will focus on this season until it's readily apparent that we have to change our focus," said Hahn, regarding the decision to buy or sell as the season progresses. The White Sox are currently 20-23, good for fourth in the AL Central.
- While the Reds have looked to add some balance to their lefty-heavy lineup, the market is not to their liking, reports Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. "There is really nobody out there that would make much of a difference. We’re just biding our time to see what happens," said General Manager Walt Jocketty.
- In his latest mailbag, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe was asked about potential trade targets for the Red Sox, including a possible closer upgrade. While the ninth inning is a concern, the club will fully want to test out Andrew Bailey before making a major trade for established reliever. Cafardo has heard baseball people speculate that the club could be interested in reacquiring Jonathan Papelbon, but they'll focus on what they already have first.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is still optimistic about the club's offense, but acknowledges some concerns in an interview with Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer. When asked about possible moves to remedy under-performance and injury, Amaro said the team has looked to improve but cited a lack of activity around the league, "I don’t think a lot of teams feel like they know what they have yet, so you’re not seeing anything more than waiver-wire claims."
Here's a look at the latest out of the National League East..
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that Cliff Lee's professional, unemotional view on trades has served him well. The 34-year-old left-hander could be a popular trade target if the Philles end up as sellers at the deadline, but that apparently doesn't bother Lee. "Normally, if you're traded you go from a team that's not in a good situation to a team that's winning,'' the veteran said.
- The Nationals will have some interesting roster decisions to make regarding their infield, suggests Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal argues that because of last winter's two-year deal for Adam LaRoche, the club will have difficulty in finding a spot for top prospect Anthony Rendon, with his natural position taken by Ryan Zimmerman. Rendon, who has played at second base of late, has a bat that "should make him an impact big leaguer" according to Baseball America.
- The Mets have discussed demoting Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada, and Jordany Valdespin, according to Andy Martino of NYDailyNews.com. Though there is nothing to suggest that the club would demote the struggling trio all in one fell swoop, Martino argues that the Mets need to make just such a move in order to best move forward.
Max Fogle contributed to this post.
Braves rookie Julio Teheran came within an inning of his first big league shutout tonight before a Josh Willingham homer halted that effort. The Braves hung on to win, preserving a three-game lead on the NL East. As it stands right now, only Atlanta has a positive run differential in that division. Here's more on the Braves and their NL East rivals...
- The Braves are already without Jonny Venters following Tommy John surgery. But with today's news that Eric O'Flaherty needs the same operation, the team will need to mix and match with some unproven options late in games, writes David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I imagine that the Braves could find themselves shopping for relief help as the trade deadline nears.
- The Marlins selected the contract of outfielder Jordan Brown from Triple-A New Orleans after placing Matt Diaz on the DL, tweets Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post. The Marlins already had an open 40-man roster spot, so there was no corresponding move necessary.
- In a similar situation, the Phillies announced that they've selected Humberto Quintero's contract from Triple-A Lehigh Valley and placed Mike Adams on the disabled list. Like the Marlins, the Phillies already had an open spot on their 40-man roster.
With one-fourth of the season in the books, let's have a look around some injury situations and how they might impact the developing trade market.
- The Cardinals and Yankees provide an interesting case study as we enter the second quarter of the season. Both have excellent records and lead their division. Both have sizeable payrolls as well as large portions of those payrolls sitting idle on the DL. Both have had to insert players onto their active roster that they did not anticipate. But, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch well explains, the source of those substitute bodies has been drastically different. While the Yankees spent well over $20MM to bring in players like Lyle Overbay, Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells -- all of whom are 34 or older -- the Cards reached into their minor league system. Remarkably, St. Louis has plugged all of its holes with players making league minimum, including young pitchers John Gast, Shelby Miller, and Seth Maness.
- The Goold piece also includes some valuable insight from GM John Mozeliak. According to Mozeliak, amongst the team's Double-A and Triple-A rosters, "there is almost at any one position, if we needed help at the big leagues, someone we could call on from there." He acknowledges that such cheap, youthful depth cannot always be achieved, and says the team is prepared to pursue other markets as necessary. "I don't want us to go down the path where we feel like we've created this functional model and don't utilize a really robust pro scouting model that makes sure we understand the trade market and understand the free agent market. We can't be scared of those." Yet, by looking internally first, the team has managed to retain salary flexibility to add outside impact down the line. "This organization's way now of staying healthy is not being tied to those outside markets to fill needs," says Mozeliak. "Having some young players step up like they are now gives us additional flexibility when we're going to need it."
- The Cards' internal depth will once again be put to use with starter Jaime Garcia now staring at a strong possibility of season-ending shoulder surgery, writes Goold. Even with fellow starter Jake Westbrook also stuck on the DL, the team has multiple options among its current relief corps and Triple-A rotation that make a look outside the organization unlikely. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Garcia's replacement(s) can match his strong start to the year. He had thrown 55 1/3 innings of 3.58 ERA baseball to open the season. Veteran starter Chris Carpenter is increasingly shaping up as a viable mid-season option for the club. But any setback in his surprising recovery, or hiccups among the team's young hurlers, could lead St. Louis to consider eventually utilizing some of its salary reserves and young minor league depth in a trade.
- The Braves are another National League contender dealing with injured arms. As Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com's Matt Snyder writes, Eric O'Flaherty appears likely to join fellow setup man Jonny Venters as a season-ending Tommy John patient. While the team seems likely to utilize internal options to fill in for the present, the loss of its two late-inning lefties leaves the team with just one southpaw in the pen, Luis Avilan. Ultimately, then, Atlanta could be forced to explore the trade market to re-establish its depth as the season wears on.
- Teams shopping for starters at the trade deadline appear likely to find a limited supply of attractive arms, says ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required). Two Cubs pitchers headline the developing market, with Scott Feldman shaping up as the surprise top option at the moment. (Matt Garza, of course, will begin his potential audition on Tuesday.) In addition to several other well-documented trade candidates in Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins and the Astros' Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell, Olney pegs the Padres' Jason Marquis and Edinson Volquez as likely available. Meanwhile, Bartolo Colon of the Athletics and Cliff Lee of the Phillies could also be dealt, writes Olney, with the A's having other internal options and the Phils still weighing how to proceed with their excellent (but expensive) 35-year-old co-ace.
Let's take a look around the National League ...
- Pitcher Tim Stauffer was called up by the Padres, meaning that the team will not risk losing him to a June 1 opt-out clause, notes Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Returning for the second time in his career from major arm surgery, Stauffer was thrown right into the fire and worked 1 2/3 effective innings last night against the Nationals.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. believes his club has the pieces in place to be much better offensively and is not looking for outside help at the moment, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. "I don't see us making any trades any time soon," Amaro said. "There's too many teams that are in it, not enough teams that are out of it." Amaro is preaching patience with struggling hitters like Delmon Young and Ryan Howard: "Right now we have to be patient to see if Delmon starts swinging it. And Ryan [Howard] is going to have to start swinging it. If those guys do then we'll be OK. If they don't we'll have to figure out what we're going to do." As Salisbury notes, the Phillies rank near the bottom of baseball in most major offensive categories, including on-base percentage (.304, 25th); OPS (.683, 26th); and runs scored (3.61, 27th).
- Prospective free agent Matt Garza will make his season debut for the Cubs this Tuesday, tweets Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald. Garza, who last checked in at eighth on Tim Dierkes's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, will be an interesting player to watch over the coming weeks. Depending upon his performance and the intentions of the Cubs, he could be an extension candidate, prime mid-season trade bait, and/or a major 2014 free agent target.
- To make room in the rotation for Garza, Miles further notes, the Cubs will bump Carlos Villanueva to the bullpen. The right-hander, who is in the first half of a two-year, $10MM deal with the Cubs, has struggled since a promising start to the 2013 campaign. After allowing just five earned runs and logging 29 1/3 innings in his first four starts, Villanueva has conceded eighteen earned runs and lasted only 23 1/3 innings over his next four outings. Pitching from the pen, Villanueva is much less likely to profile as a potential trade candidate for the Cubs.
- In spite of a nice 2012 season in which he slashed .263/.299/.504 and hit 20 home runs over 398 plate appearances for the Mets, outfielder Scott Hairston says that the team never formally offered him a contract this offseason. As Adam Rubin of ESPN.com reports, Hairston felt that New York "wanted to go in a different direction," leading him to look elsewhere for a multi-year deal and regular playing time. He ultimately landed a two-year deal with the Cubs that guarantees him $5MM. Now, both player and team seem to be regretting how things turned out: the Mets outfield has been terrible, and Hairston has struggled in limited action for Chicago with a .125/.154/.354 line over just 52 plate appearances.
The St. Louis Cardinals are the class of the National League right now, having won exactly two-thirds of their first 39 games. They're fourth in the league in OBP and ninth in slugging, and third in runs scored per game partially due fantastic work with runners in scoring position. Their rotation has easily been the league's best with a 2.33 ERA, even without Chris Carpenter. While the Jason Motte-less bullpen has an NL-worst 5.00 ERA, it's at 3.27 in May, with most of the damage coming in one Carlos Martinez outing. By measure of FanGraphs WAR, Adam Wainwright, Matt Carpenter, Shelby Miller, and Yadier Molina have been the team MVPs so far. Now let's look at some links from elsewhere around the NL...
- First baseman Anthony Rizzo has a new seven-year, $41MM deal with the Cubs, but pitcher Jeff Samardzija says he isn't ready to talk contract with the club, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. "Absolutely not," said the pitcher when asked if he's looking to hammer out an extension. "Nope. This is a great team, really coming around right now, playing great baseball. I'm just really looking to keep this going. It's fun to play with these guys." Samardzija, 28, will have four years of Major League service after the season. This is just a theory of mine, but having been lured away from football in '06 with a $10MM contract, Samardzija has more financial security at this point in his career than most players, and continuing to bet on his talent will enable him to maximize his next contract.
- Giants GM Brian Sabean told Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com that he hasn't been in touch with former closer Brian Wilson lately. Sabean says that he doesn't know how Wilson is throwing but has heard The Beard is "working out like a fiend" and is "going to try to showcase himself over the All-Star break or thereabouts."
- The Phillies issued a statement regarding Roy Halladay today: "Roy had successful shoulder surgery yesterday. He had an arthroscopic evaluation and underwent debridement of his labrum and rotator cuff as well as removal of an inflamed bursa. He'll begin a progressive rehabilitation program and if all goes well, he may possibly begin a throwing program in 6-8 weeks." The 36-year-old will be eligible for free agency after the season. Scrambling for depth in the wake of the injuries to Halladay and John Lannan, the Phillies signed Carlos Zambrano to a minor league deal yesterday with a July 1st opt-out date.
- In other NL East injury news, the Braves announced reliever Jonny Venters had the second Tommy John procedure of his career today. The 28-year-old will be arbitration eligible for the second time after the season, with an expected salary similar to this year's $1.625MM.
- A clerical error could have enabled Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt to pocket an extra $500K a few years back, but he wasn't willing to pocket the money, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle via Affeldt's book, "To Stir a Movement." Affeldt believes his subsequent contract with the Giants went smoothly partly because of that decision.
Even after signing Carlos Zambrano this week, the Phillies might not be done shopping for pitching, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. When asked if the club is still considering starters with opt-outs, team exec Scott Proefrock said "we're still scouting". Here's more from around baseball..
- It may not be fair, but Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly will be expected to turn things around once Zack Greinke is back in action, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The banged up Dodgers are 16-22 heading into tonight's game versus the Nationals.
- After announcing the departure of team president George Postolos this week, Astros owner Jim Crane reached out to one of the most beloved figures in club history in Larry Dierker, writes Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle. For his part, the 66-year-old is definitely open to returning to the organization.
- Meanwhile, Reid Ryan, son of Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan, is being strongly considered by the Astros to become the team's next president, according to Mark Berman of FOX 26.
11:28am: Zambrano's contract contains a July 1 opt-out date, per Danny Knobler of CBS Sports (on Twitter).
10:14am: The Phillies have officially announced the signing of Carlos Zambrano to a minor league deal. He will report to extended Spring Training in Clearwater, Fla. Zambrano is represented by Praver/Shapiro, as shown in MLBTR's Agency Database.
The 31-year-old Zambrano had previously agreed to a contract with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League but never signed the contract as he continued to look for employment with a Major League team.
After spending parts of 11 seasons with the Cubs from 2001-11, Zambrano was traded to the Marlins (along with quite a bit of cash) for Chris Volstad. Notoriously hot-headed, Zambrano drew negative press in Chicago for fighting with teammates Michael Barrett and Derrek Lee. In his final years with the Cubs, he was suspended once by the league and once by the team for his antics. As a member of the Marlins, he posted a 4.49 ERA, 6.5 K/9, 5.1 BB/9, 0.61 HR/9, and 49.1% groundball rate in 132 1/3 innings (20 starts and 15 relief appearances).
Zambrano's name comes with quite a bit of baggage, but he's also a very accomplished Major League pitcher. "Big Z" owns a career 3.66 ERA, 7.5 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 1,959 big league innings. He's made three All-Star teams, has three Top 5 Cy Young finishes and has a no-hitter under his belt as well. One of the best-hitting pitchers of the past decade, Zambrano also has three Silver Slugger Awards and a .238/.248/.388 batting line with 24 career homers.
Photo courtesty of USA Today Sports Images.