Relievers Rumors

Closer Notes: Nationals, Papelbon, Chapman

The Phillies and Nationals recently discussed a trade involving Jonathan Papelbon, but a deal between the two teams does not seem likely, Jake Kaplan of the Inquirer writes. Papelbon would need to approve a trade to Washington, but his preference is to remain a closer, and the Nats already have an excellent one in Drew Storen. Here are more quick notes on relievers.

  • Rival executives think that if the Nationals do make a move this week, it will be a big one, ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweets. Stark speculates that could mean a pursuit of the PadresCraig Kimbrel or the RedsAroldis Chapman. Neither of those pitchers have no-trade restrictions. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi wrote last month that the Nationals and Reds had discussed Chapman.
  • Trading for Chapman might be tricky, however. Stark also tweets that the Reds have asked other teams for three “higher-level” prospects in return for their closer. The significance of that information depends on how good those higher-level prospects are, but it appears they’re in no rush to part with him lightly. The Reds could certainly wait to deal Chapman, who isn’t eligible for free agency until after next season.

Heyman’s Latest: Howard, Tillman, Price, Cespedes, Astros

In his latest Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports kicks off by discussing Ryan Howard‘s increased trade value. Howard is hitting .256/.298/.519 with 10 homers this season, and while the OBP is lackluster, he’s performed particularly well of late, hitting .307/.340/.602 with six homers this month (a .389 BABIP on the month, though, is heavily influencing those numbers). The Phils were willing to pay down $35MM or so of Howard’s remaining contract this offseason, and doing so would make him a roughly $10MM player this season and next. While Heyman notes that might be seen as a fair price, he adds that some scouts and executives will want to see more sustained production before considering a move, which strikes me as more than reasonable; I doubt three weeks of hot hitting have transformed him from albatross into hot commodity. The Orioles, Royals and Rays all discussed Howard with the Phillies this offseason but went different directions, and Heyman looks at those three teams as well as five others in determining if there’s a fit to be made. Howard received 10-and-5 rights on May 2, however, allowing him to veto any deal. And while many reports have indicated it won’t get in the way of a trade, Heyman hears that Howard is happier in Philadelphia now than he was over the winter and wonders if he might require some kind of incentive to waive those rights.

Some more highlights from a lengthy column …

  • The Orioles never really came close to reaching an extension with starter Chris Tillman this spring, and talks are on hold at present. The 27-year-old has scuffled early this year with a 5.59 ERA over 48 1/3 innings.
  • David Robertson could have taken home even more than the $46MM promised to him by the White Sox, says Heyman, as an unnamed team offered him more this winter. That provides yet more reason to believe that plenty of teams are still willing to pay top dollar for premium relievers.
  • While the Tigers are very interested in attempting to retain Yoenis Cespedes beyond the current year, Heyman says that all signs point to him reaching free agency. Detroit can, of course, pursue him on the open market, but sources tell Heyman that Cespedes is unlikely to agree to an extension.
  • Likewise, the Tigers don’t appear to have much hope of an extension with ace David Price, and Heyman says they “aren’t overwhelmingly confident” that he’ll be back. Detroit’s front office believes that Price will look to top Max Scherzer‘s contract. 
  • The Astros are sorting through many pitching acquisition possibilities, and Aaron Harang of the Phillies has “at least been discussed” by the club. Fellow Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels may come with too much contract for Houston, but Heyman reports that the club does see Reds free agent-to-be Johnny Cueto as a possibility.
  • While Brewers GM Doug Melvin has given signals that he’s ready to sell early, owner Mark Attanasio may prefer the club hold off until at least the upcoming draft. While PR considerations seem to be a factor, that may be the best strategy anyway; the team could still get out ahead of the market, while allowing it to mature somewhat before acting.
  • Be sure to check out the piece for more interesting items around the league.

The Relief Market

Mark Hale of the New York Post mentions some available relievers in today’s column.  The Mets, like many teams, may be looking to acquire bullpen help.  Here are Hale’s trade candidates:

Chad Cordero
Jon Rauch
Eric Gagne
Akinori Otsuka
Salomon Torres

Hale’s source believes the Rangers would only trade one of Otsuka/Gagne, and not both.  Some other "name" relievers who may be available leading up to the July 31st deadline, in my estimation:

Al Reyes
Octavio Dotel
David Riske
Mike MacDougal
Mike Stanton
Dave Weathers
Eddie Guardado

The Royals, Devil Rays, Rangers, Nationals, and Reds are shaping up as the clear sellers in the market so far.  The White Sox may be approaching that point.  The NL Central is so shaky that a lot of lousy under-.500 clubs will not be packing it in.  Hence the lack of Brad Lidge on this list.


The Relief Market

The complaining in Philadelphia is going to reach a fever pitch if GM Pat Gillick doesn’t shore up the bullpen soon.  Charlie Manuel put it bluntly: "We’ve got to fix our ‘pen."

So which relievers might be available, aside from the aforementioned Brad Lidge?

  • There’s Byung-Hyun Kim, but he’d probably be a nightmare in Philadelphia. The Rockies can’t seem to pawn him off on anyone.
  • The Phils would love to get Scott Linebrink, but the Padres don’t have any reason to give him up and in fact might yet work out a contract extension.
  • Salomon Torres should be available, but the Pirates appear to fancy themselves contenders and already weakened their pen with the Mike Gonzalez trade.  Still, if they want to sell high, they should deal him before he blows a few more saves.
  • The White Sox, with a deep bullpen, seemingly have a surplus.  And Kenny Williams gets along with Pat Gillick.  But with Bobby Jenks‘s status still in question, I don’t see them moving anyone.
  • Chad Cordero, while not a dominant closer, is certainly better than anyone the Phillies have.  Top prospect Carlos Carrasco would get Jim Bowden’s ear, and Michael Bourn would fit nicely at the top of Washington’s lineup.  Those are the two I think Bowden would want for Cordero.  Jon Rauch or Luis Ayala would be nice additions as well.
  • Akinori Otsuka could become available, and I’m sure he’ll be a tad disgruntled from losing his job based on Eric Gagne‘s long-ago success.  But I don’t think Jon Daniels will use Gagne without a safety net.
  • If I’m Dan O’Dowd, I’m shopping Brian Fuentes while he’s at his peak and still affordable.  The lefty saved 61 games over the last two seasons but turns 32 this year.
  • Derrick Turnbow is off to a great start with four scoreless innings, six strikeouts, and most importantly, no walks.  He’ll make $5.5MM for 2007-08.  It would be an ideal time for Doug Melvin to trade him, but I’m not sure what the Phillies could offer that the Brewers need.  A smaller deal for Jose Capellan could make sense, if the Phils really think he’s a back of the bullpen guy even though he couldn’t crack Milwaukee’s pen at all.
  • The Cubs don’t seem to think too highly of Mike Wuertz, but the 28 year-old quietly had a very solid season last year.
  • Dustin Hermanson is out there, but he’s not going to solidify this bullpen.  And forget about Ugueth Urbina…he was sentenced to 14 years in prison for attempted murder.  I’m all out of ideas as far as guys who would make the ‘pen better in Philly.  Did I miss anyone?

2007 MLB Free Agent Market: Middle Relievers

Updated 1-9-07

Is there anyone useful left among the free agent relievers?  At this point, it’s a mixed bag.  Take a look at the available free agents.

Mike DeJean – He had shoulder surgery in June and barely pitched in 2006.  He was useful in 2005 so someone will bring him aboard.

Dustin Hermanson – The White Sox declined their $3.65MM option on him after his back limited him to less than seven innings with the big club this year.  The Yankees took a look at his medical records earlier this month.

Dan Kolb – Despite two full seasons of lousy pitching, the Cardinals, Marlins, and Rockies have been on his tail this winter.

Brian Meadows – Another guy who fell into some save opps when no one else was left.  He could be decent in the NL for a million bucks.

Arthur Rhodes – To his credit, Rhodes was used in high leverage situations this year.  He had a poor season in Philly, which ended with a strained elbow in September.  If he can come back healthy he might be worth a look.

Scott Schoeneweis – He’s left-handed, and he did good work in 15 inning stint with the Reds.  Maybe the Tigers will bring him aboard.

Rudy Seanez – Seanez had a rough year with the Red Sox and Padres, but his strikeout rate remained strong.  He’s approaching 40 but may have a little bit left.

Jorge Sosa – Under 30, won 13 games in 2005?  Why hasn’t Jim Hendry thrown $10 million at this man?  He doesn’t really have any skills to speak of.

Ron Villone – He didn’t accept the Yankees’ offer of arbitration.  The lefty’s stats look ugly but he was excellent in the first half.

A laundry list of projects.  I left Kent Mercker and Eddie Guardado off the list, as the Reds plan to invite them to spring training. 

Relievers On The Market

Sometimes trade deadlines come and go without any phenomenal blockbuster; such was the case last year when July’s biggest deal may have been the Randy Winn trade.  However, one type of player is sure to change hands – contenders will add relievers this month.  Let’s break down the best available.

The reliever who could make the biggest difference this year is probably Tom Gordon.  Trading him now could free the Phillies from the worrisome agreement to pay him $5-7 mil per season as he nears 40 years old.  Gordon has been excellent this year.  A return to the Yankees has been mentioned, and the Brewers or Dodgers could certainly use him.

Joe Borowski has been quite solid in Florida, and he makes less than $400,000.  JoBo’s actually been a lot better than his 3.71 ERA indicates.  He seems a lock to be dealt this month.

Adding a Salomon Torres or Roberto Hernandez from the Pirates doesn’t seem like it could possibly improve a team’s playoff chances significantly.  Still, there’s no reason for Dave Littlefield to keep these guys around given their salaries.

Bob Wickman, an impending free agent, has been connected to the Dodgers in rumors.  LaTroy Hawkins seems like a good candidate to move.  Other possibilities include Brian Meadows, Scott Williamson, Guillermo Mota, Arthur Rhodes, and Gary Majewski.