Philadelphia Phillies Rumors
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.
Baseball is seeing the emergence of numerous quality young shortstops at the same time, writes ESPN's Keith Law (Insider subscription required). Jean Segura, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, Brandon Crawford, and Starlin Castro are among the young shortstops already making an impact in the big leagues. All play on National League clubs. One of these players (Castro) has already been locked up long-term, while another (Segura) is an early extension target for his club. It will be interesting to see whether and when the rest of this deep group of middle infielders are approached about extensions. Elsewhere in the National League ...
- The Cardinals, one of baseball's most storied franchises, are perhaps its best-run present organization, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Prioritizing continuity and foregoing excuses, the Cards are respected in the front office, field staff, and active roster. Sherman explains that the Cardinals' success in acquiring and developing players has been accompanied by a consistent philosophy of professionalism. This has allowed the team to weather significant injuries without missing a beat. As former manager Tony LaRussa describes it: "The Cardinals are winning because they have done things right for years to be in a position to be successful. Don't get me wrong, the Cardinals' talent level is really good, but their team chemistry is off the charts."
- Former Phillies' prospect Michael Bourn fully bloomed after leaving the club, but thought he might return as a free agent this past offseason. As MLB.com's Todd Zolecki writes, when Bourn's asking price looked too steep, the Phils went after another center fielder in Ben Revere. By the time Bourn's price had dropped, then, the position was filled, and Bourn signed with the Indians. From his perspective, Bourn says: "I think I might have been on their hit list. I don't know how high or what their target was, or if they were worried about what Scott [Boras] was going to do. There are a lot of teams that say they want you to be part of their organization, but you don't know if they really do. ... Yeah, I guess the Phillies were interested a little bit. But that's not how it went down."
- With long-term deals locking up cornerstone infielders Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs could turn their attention to spending on pitching, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Of course, the club intends to fill two rotation spots with Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson for the foreseeable future. While Wittenmyer says that extension talks have not been planned with starter Matt Garza, the soon-to-be free agent says he would be amenable. Garza, of course, has yet to appear this season. Likewise, rotation member Travis Wood says he would love to make his career in Chicago. Though he says "that's out of my hands," Wood has done everything he can this year to lock down a spot going forward. If nothing else, he is setting himself up nicely for his first season of arbitration eligibility. As manager Dale Sveum noted, and Wittenmyer documented, Wood has posted a 3.50 ERA and logged 192 2/3 innings over his last 31 starts (extending into last year).
- The Padres have several players in their minor league system whose contracts contain out clauses that are approaching, Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Pitcher Tim Stauffer can elect free agency on June 1, while fellow righty Sean O'Sullivan's date is June 15. It was previously believed that both pitchers had opt-out dates around June 1. Other players with June 15 opt-out dates are catcher Rene Rivera and outfielder Travis Buck. Each has made a reasonable case in Triple-A that they can contribute. Stauffer has pitched to a 3.16 ERA in 42 2/3 innings. O'Sullivan's ERA is 4.19 across 43 innings, but he has put up 8.2 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9. Meanwhile, Rivera has a .375/.430/.477 line in 101 plate appearances, and Buck has hit .275/.321/.480 in 112 appearances.
The July 2nd international signing period is less than two months away. Every team had a $2.9MM bonus pool for 2012-13, but as Baseball America's Ben Badler outlined here, the 2013-14 pools "will be tiered based on reverse order of 2012 major league winning percentage." The Astros, Cubs, and Rockies each have at least $4.2MM to spend, plus teams can trade for additional money. The Twins, Indians, Marlins, and Red Sox each have more than $3MM to spend, while the Royals and Blue Jays are close to that figure. Badler has the latest on ten prospects who are expected to sign for at least $1MM apiece.
- The highest bonus is likely to go to Dominican outfielder Eloy Jimenez, potentially $2.6-2.8MM with the Cubs as the "heavy favorite." The Cubs are also the frontrunners to sign one of the top Venezuelan players, shortstop Gleyber Torres.
- Dominican third baseman Rafael Devers "might be the best hitter on the international market," writes Badler. He's the primary target of the Red Sox. Another contender for the best bat is third baseman Luis Encarnacion, who is most likely to sign with the Phillies.
- The Yankees are the most likely suitor for Leonardo Molina, perhaps the best athlete in the class. He can sign when he turns 16 on August 1st. The Yankees' preliminary bonus pool is reportedly $1,877,900.
- The biggest raw power belongs to Dominican outfielder Micker Zapata, who has been connected to the White Sox and Padres.
- Badler's article has much more information, so be sure to give it a click and a read.
Kamara is considered one of Germany's best prospects. The right-handed swinger competed in last winter's International Power Showcase at Marlins Park in Miami, is a member of the German Junior National Team, and attended the MLB European Academy in Tirrenia, Italy.
Germany doesn't have a large contingent of players in Major League Baseball, but Müller lists six current players to sign out of Germany, including Donald Lutz (Reds), Max Kepler and Markus Solbach (Twins), Kai Gronauer (Mets) and Daniel Thieben (Mariners). Of that group, only Lutz has reached the Major Leagues, though Kepler currently ranks 10th among Twins' prospects, per Baseball America.
The international market is not one that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. delves into with much frequency, as can be seen in MLBTR's Transaction Tracker. The last international signing for the Phils on record at MLBTR is Venezuelan outfielder Carlos Tocci for a $759K bonus back in 2011.
We'll keep track of today's minor moves here.
- The Phillies have signed infielder Tommy Mendonca, Chris Cotillo of CLNS Radio notes (on Twitter). Mendonca, a former second-round pick by the Rangers, had been playing in the Atlantic League. The 25-year-old has a career line of .260/.322/.435.
- The Padres have signed pitcher Trevor Holder, according to MLB.com's transactions page. Holder, 26, was a third-round pick by the Nationals in 2009. He made seven appearances at Double-A Harrisburg this season, pitching 18 2/3 innings with a 2.89 ERA, 6.27 K/9 and 1.93 BB/9. The Nationals released him earlier in the week.
- The Braves have signed lefty reliever Juan Cedeno to a minor-league contract, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (on Twitter). Cedeno, 29, pitched for Triple-A Scranton in the Yankees organization in 2012, posting a 2.81 ERA with 8.02 K/9 and 2.95 BB/9. He made ten appearances with Scranton in 2013 before being released.
The Yankees and Dodgers are the two most expensive teams in baseball and similarly beset with injuries, but things couldn't be more opposite in terms of results, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Bombers have a big chunk of their payroll on the disabled list but the understudies are doing so well that one American League scout quipped, “Do they really want those injured guys [Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, and Mark Teixeira] back?” Meanwhile, the Dodgers have not been able to overcome injuries to pitchers Zack Greinke and Chad Billingsley and shortstop Hanley Ramirez. Here's more from today's column..
- There’s always a lot of talk about Cliff Lee being trade bait if the Phillies slip, but one team insider said, “Every time I hear a Lee rumor, I don’t believe it. Don’t think we’d be that dumb unless what we got back in return was so overwhelming that we’d be dumb to pass it up. Will that happen? My gut is it won’t.”
- Angels skipper Mike Scioscia was once considered invincible, but the club's struggles have many saying that his job is in jeopardy. One Angels exec doesn't see a shakeup coming anytime soon, saying, “I doubt it. It’s Mike Scioscia. Did he get dumb all of a sudden? Or do we have a few issues with our pitching and a couple of our big hitters?”
- Left-hander Neal Cotts had a streak of 14 and 1/3 scoreless innings for the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate and has retired 21 of the last 22 batters he’s faced. Cotts, who has completely shut down lefthanded batters, could be had, as the Rangers don't have room for him on the big league roster and have a team policy that they will let go of players in that position.
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said his team would scout Carlos Zambrano at some point but told CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury that reports out of Venezuela that the team had reached an agreement with the veteran hurler were "ridiculously premature." FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link) reported earlier today that the Phils weren't in the process of signing Zambrano and if they did check in on him, it could be something of a due diligence scouting move.
With Roy Halladay and John Lannan both on the disabled list, Amaro said earlier this week that he was in the market for starting pitching help. Zambrano would fit the bill as a low-cost veteran who could eat some innings for the Phillies, though Zambrano spent the last two months of the 2012 season pitching out of the Marlins' bullpen. Zambrano didn't draw any interest in the offseason and even explored signing in Taiwan before he signed a deal to pitch for the independent Long Island Ducks on Wednesday.
Zambrano has a 4.66 ERA over 278 innings with the Marlins and Cubs over the last two seasons. He has generated as many headlines about his temper and other off-the-field issues as he has about his pitching, but Zambrano is still just 31 years old and has three top-five finishes in NL Cy Young voting to his name.