Rick Porcello Rumors

NL East Notes: Hamels, Marlins, Braves, Breslow

ESPN’s Jayson Stark took a look at the Cole Hamels trade market and spoke to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. about the possibility of trading the ace. Amaro took a familiar stance, stating that he’s not under any pressure to move Hamels, whom he rightly deemed one of baseball’s best starters. Rival execs tell Stark that Amaro is still asking for two premium prospects plus another piece or two in addition to the acquiring club taking on Hamels’ entire contract. As Stark notes, it’s unfortunate that a rebuilding club’s best chip is an ace in an offseason where free agency and the trade market are both pitching-rich. With next season shaping up to be a buyer’s market for pitching as well, Stark wonders if July will be the best time for Amaro to move Hamels, as few aces are ever available at the deadline. Multiple clubs have told Stark that Amaro is holding out for “the deal of the century,” as Stark terms it.

Two items of particular note from Stark are that the Blue Jays are said to have very strong interest in Hamels and that reports of Hamels’ no-trade clause are not entirely accurate. Hamels can indeed block trades to eight clubs, but previous reports listed the Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals, Nats, Braves, Padres, Yankees and Rangers as teams to which Hamels cannot veto a deal. Stark hears that list is outdated, and at least one club has been changed since season’s end.

Some other late-night NL East notes…

  • Reports have indicated that the Marlins are serious about adding pieces to contend in 2015 this offseason, and while the focus has been more on bats for the lineup, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Fish have reached out to the Tigers to inquire on David Price and Rick Porcello. Talks aren’t serious at this time, he adds, but the fact that the Marlins are even kicking the tires on a pair of high-priced arms (Price and Porcello project to earn $18.9MM and $12.2MM next year, respectively) suggests that they’re willing to take on some significant payroll.
  • The Braves are interested in a reunion with backstop David Ross, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien reported yesterday (Twitter link). Ross spent four seasons as Brian McCann‘s backup in Atlanta from 2009-12, enjoying some of the most productive seasons of his career as a Brave. He could serve as an excellent mentor to Christian Bethancourt, who figures to take the reins as Atlanta’s everyday catcher with Evan Gattis moving to the outfield full time.
  • MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports another potential catching target for the Braves, tweeting that they have interest in A.J. Pierzynski. The soon-to-be 38-year-old Pierzynski has never had Ross’ defensive chops, though he’d give the Braves a left-handed bat to insert in the lineup when they prefer to rest Bethancourt against tough right-handers.
  • The Mets are interested in lefty reliever Craig Breslow, tweets Morosi. The Mets are thin on left-handed relief, and Breslow should represent a low-cost option. The 34-year-old picked a poor time to have a career-worst season, pitching to a 5.96 ERA this past season in a contract year. However, he entered the 2014 campaign with a career 2.82 ERA in 402 innings. Breslow doesn’t dominate lefties the way many specialists do (.671 OPS), but he’s also more effective against right-handed hitters than a number of his southpaw brethren (.680 OPS).

Trade Notes: Porcello, Ramirez, Upton, Kendrick, Padres

It’s already been a fairly active winter on the trade front, as we’ve seen the Brewers acquire Adam Lind, the D’Backs acquire Jeremy Hellickson, the Tigers acquire Anthony Gose and of course the Cardinals/Braves Jason Heyward blockbuster. All of this has come before the Winter Meetings, so action on the trade front only figures to increase over the next month. Here are some of the latest rumblings from around the league…

  • ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that in addition to Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and the Reds’ quartet of starters that are rumored to be available (Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon), Rick Porcello is believed to be attainable in trades. Rival evaluators feel that many players that are set to be free agents a year from now could be had for the right offer. The Tigers, of course, are aiming to contend in 2015, but Porcello is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $12.2MM in arbitration and could fetch a nice piece while freeing up some cash for GM Dave Dombrowski to address other areas of need.
  • Olney also hears (Twitter link) that the White Sox‘ asking price on Alexei Ramirez is “steep to the degree that you’d want to be buying in for two to three years.” Ramirez is guaranteed $10MM next season and has a $10MM club option for the 2016 season with a $1MM buyout.
  • The Mariners will surely make a run at either Justin Upton or Evan Gattis, if they haven’t already, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter links). O’Brien gets the sense that top prospect Taijuan Walker is not completely off the table in trade talks with Seattle, but it would probably take more than one year of Upton to acquire him.
  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto tells Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times that he’s had trade discussions regarding Howie Kendrick, but he’s in no way eager to move his second baseman. The Halos entered the offseason thinking they might be able to move Kendrick for a controllable, young rotation option but somewhat surprisingly did so by acquiring Nick Tropeano in the Hank Conger trade. “The only way we would move him is if we become a better club,” Dipoto tells DiGiovanna. “And it would take a heck of a deal for us to feel like we’re a better club by moving Howie.”
  • Though much has been made of the possibility that the Padres could trade Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner to bolster the club’s offense, the team is now strongly considering hanging onto both pitchers, sources tell MLB.com’s Corey Brock. Interestingly, Brock’s report mentions reported trade interest in Ian Kennedy but does not state that the Friars are similarly likely to hold onto the 29-year-old. Kennedy will be a free agent next winter.

AL Central Notes: Harang, Porcello, Hanrahan

The Indians had Aaron Harang in spring training this year, but released him due to an out clause in his contract, the Plain Dealer’s Paul Hoynes explains. Since then, Harang has pitched very well for the Braves (despite a nine-run outing against the Marlins earlier this week), and Carlos Carrasco has struggled in the Indians’ rotation. Hoynes argues, however, that Harang is more of an NL pitcher, and that he has benefited from the Braves’ defense, which is much better than Cleveland’s. Here are more notes from the AL Central.

  • Rick Porcello‘s improvements this season are legitimate, and it may be time for the Tigers to sign him to a long-term contract if they can, MLB.com’s Jason Beck writes. Through five starts, Porcello has a 5.50 K/BB ratio, thanks largely to a reduction in walks, and he’s getting lots of swings and misses. He’s also due to hit the free-agent market after next season, just before he turns 27. That could make him a valuable commodity indeed.
  • The Tigers’ bullpen is “a mess,” which was why Detroit was wise to give Joel Hanrahan a guaranteed deal this week, MLive.com’s James Schmehl writes. The Tigers sent Hanrahan to the disabled list upon signing him, since he’s still recovering from Tommy John surgery, and it’s unclear exactly when he’ll return. If he does, though, and he’s anything like he was in the past, he could help transform the Tigers’ struggling bullpen into a “dangerous” one, Schmehl argues.


AL Notes: Santana, O’s, Porcello, Masterson, Rangers

Big-league ballplayers make plenty of money, but that doesn't mean free agency isn't stressful. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal takes a fascinating look at free agency as seen through the eyes of Red Sox players. Chris Capuano reports that, whenever he's a free agent, he sends his agent a list of teams in order of preference, but then has to wait to see if there's mutual interest. He also notes that, typically, playing for a winner becomes more and more important to a player the older he gets. David Ross says that, before the 2009 season, he signed to be a backup with the Braves rather than a starter with the Astros because the Braves offered a two-year deal.

Here are more notes from around the American League:

  • Conflicting reports yesterday regarding Ervin Santana has everyone confused. "I really don’t know what’s real and what’s not real in that case," Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette told reporters, including Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
  • The biggest culprit for Santana's situation is the right-hander's own camp, which dramatically overestimated his market and then was slow to change gears, ESPN's Buster Olney writes (Insider subscription required). Olney suggests that, if Santana's demands had been more realistic, he could have at least wound up with a contract similar to Matt Garza's or Ricky Nolasco's, rather than the one-year deal he now appears likely to receive.
  • Back to the Orioles, Duquette still has the financial flexibility to improve the roster, but is confident in the pitching they currently have in camp, according to MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli. "We have some more resources that we can invest in our team, and we'll take a look at each case as it comes up," Duquette said. "We do have a little more pitching depth with our starting pitching going into the season, and some of the young pitchers we have high hopes for are continuing to develop their skills."
  • GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers won't be trading any starting pitchers, including Rick Porcello, reports Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. Earlier today, the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo reported that the Tigers would field offers for Porcello.
  • Starting pitcher Justin Masterson, who is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season, has surprisingly suggested to the Indians that he might be willing to sign a shorter-term extension, perhaps three years, but the Indians have not yet responded with an offer, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets.
  • The Rangers are trying to develop a long-term answer at catcher, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Texas hasn't had stability at catcher since Ivan Rodriguez left over a decade ago. "It’s a topic of conversation, absolutely," says GM Jon Daniels. "We’ve had some guys come over here as big-time catching prospects, but we haven’t developed our own long-term championship-caliber starter." The Rangers have beefed up their coaching staff in an attempt to help their catchers develop. The Rangers' best hope of becoming a homegrown regular catcher is, of course, top prospect Jorge Alfaro, who played most of the 2013 season with Class A Hickory.

Edward Creech contributed to this post.


Cafardo On Stanton, De Aza, Porcello, Drew, Britton

In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wonders if Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton could wind up with the Red Sox.  Marlins GM Dan Jennings swears up and down that Stanton isn't going anywhere and even if he was for sale, Boston would be one of many clubs in pursuit.  If things suddenly changed and the Fish made Stanton available, Cafardo wonders if a package of Will Middlebrooks or Garin Cecchini plus Matt Barnes, Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts could get a deal done.  More from today's column:

  • The Twins have some interest in White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza, who is getting interest even though he's not everything a club would want in a center fielder, leadoff type.  Last season, De Aza slashed .264/.323/.405 with 17 homers in 675 plate appearances.
  • Major league sources say the Tigers are still willing to listen to offers on Rick Porcello. While he has shown promise, Detroit would like a hurler with more consistency.
  • The bidding for Ervin Santana has reportedly come down to the Orioles and Blue Jays.  Cafardo hears the Rockies were also in it for some of the day while the Phillies did their due diligence but did not appear to be in the hunt.
  • Bud Norris could be an alternative if Tommy Hunter can’t do the job as Orioles closer, but he also has trade interest and could have some appeal in the NL.  For budgetary reasons, the O's probably wouldn't go for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, but it's possible if the Angelos family believes that they have a chance to win it all.
  • One Red Sox player says that he's not crying for free agent Stephen Drew.  “Why not accept a $14.1 million qualifying offer for one year?” the player said. “Is that a bad deal? That’s a lot of money. Stephen would be here playing with us by now if he’d done that.
  • Scouts are watching Orioles pitcher Zach Britton closely as he is out of options. Still only 26, Britton is still a pitcher scouts think they can salvage.  The O's are aware of his value and the interest other clubs have, but could stash him in the bullpen if they can’t get good value for him.

Tigers Avoid Arbitration With Porcello, Jackson

The Tigers and Rick Porcello have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $8.5MM deal, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (on Twitter). They've also agreed to a $6MM deal for 2014 with Austin Jackson, Sherman tweets.

Porcello, 25, was arb-eligible for the third time this offseason as a Super Two player. The Excel Sports client is controllable through the 2015 campaign and was projected to earn $7.7MM, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. Porcello relies heavily on his high ground-ball rate and could see an uptick in performance with a new-look — and presumably, defensively superior — infield behind him in 2014.

Jackson, 26, is also controllable through the 2015 campaign, though he is not a Super Two player. A Scott Boras client, Jackson had been projected by Swartz to earn $5.3MM.


Quick Hits: Tigers, Napoli, Rangers, Rays

An interesting study by Conor Glassey for his website examines which states big leaguers in the past five years were drafted from. As expected, the warm-weather states of California, Florida and Texas dominate the rankings, together accounting for more than 40 percent of drafted players. However, Illinois high schools were found to be surprisingly productive in developing future big leaguers. Let's round up the latest from around baseball:

  • Buster Olney runs through Max Scherzer rumors in a video for ESPN, concluding that he will "almost certainly not be" traded this winter. The Tigers are in full win-now mode, and other teams are unlikely to surrender major talent for this year's AL Cy Young winner, as he's not expected to sign a long-term extension with Scott Boras as his agent. Scherzer, who's on track to hit free agency after next season, is projected to earn $13.6MM in his final season of arbitration by MLBTR's Matt Swartz.
  • Rick Porcello is "expected" to be traded, Olney says in the same video.
  • The avascular necrosis in Mike Napoli's hips has come up in discussions with some clubs, agent Brian Grieper said in an interview with WEEI, but other teams don't consider it an issue. WEEI's Alex Speier notes that Grieper opted not to disclose whether the first baseman had received a multi-year offer yet.
  • T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com becomes the latest writer to report that Masahiro Tanaka isn't a top target for the Rangers. Offense is more of a priority for Texas this winter, Sullivan writes.
  • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times previews the Rays' potential targets in trade and free agency this offseason. At first base, the Mets' Ike Davis might be an option, along with Logan Morrison of the Marlins, Mitch Moreland of the Rangers, and another Met, Lucas Duda. In free agency, the Rays could attempt to court Corey HartLyle Overbay or Justin Morneau. Topkin also examines possibilities at catcher and closer.

AL Central Rumors: Hughes, Royals, Pierzynski, Twins

The Royals are among the clubs with interest in free agent pitcher Phil Hughes, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  Kansas City pitching coach Dave Eiland knows Hughes well from his time spent with the Yankees and is a fan of his.  A return to New York isn't in the cards as both sides recognize that a change of scenery would be best.  The latest from the AL Central…

MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post


Tigers Open To Trading Max Scherzer Or Rick Porcello

The Tigers have told teams that they're open to trading either Max Scherzer or Rick Porcello, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).  Scherzer has been involved in trade whispers for the last few weeks as the Tigers are considering their options in the event that they can't hammer out a new deal before he hits the open market after the 2014 season.

The 29-year-old Scherzer pitched a career-high 214 1/3 innings, turning in a 2.90 ERA with 10.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 36.3 percent ground-ball rate in 2013.  While he earned just $6.725MM in 2013, MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects an increase to a whopping $13.6MM in 2014 following his dominant campaign.  Scherzer's 2.98 SIERA and 2.74 FIP are both among the seven best marks in baseball and among the six starters with better FIP marks, only Clayton Kershaw has a higher innings total.

Porcello, 25 in December, turned in a 4.32 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 across 177 innings of work.  Those numbers and some of the advanced statistics (3.19 xFIP) indicate that 2013 was Porcello's best season yet.


Tigers And Mariners Notes: Wells, Porcello, Loe

Former Tiger and current Mariner Casper Wells could be headed back to his old team, MLB.com's Jason Beck posits. "Maybe Casper Wells doesn’t make the Mariners roster," says Beck. "Maybe the Tigers can parlay their depth in another spot, maybe an extra reliever, into an extra outfielder." The Tigers currently have an open spot available for a righty-hitting outfielder. If they don't pursue one from outside the organization, that spot could go to Matt Tuiasosopo. Here are more notes from Detroit and Seattle.

  • The Tigers shouldn't trade pitcher Rick Porcello because doing so would weaken their depth, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman argues. The better move, Heyman suggests, would be to place Porcello in their starting rotation and use Drew Smyly as an insurance policy. That's a viewpoint Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski seems to appreciate: "Really, one of our big needs is starting pitching depth," says Dombrowski. "If we trade one of these guys [either Porcello or Smyly], then we hurt ourselves more in that area."
  • Heyman also notes that Dombrowski isn't nearly as eager as manager Jim Leyland to pursue a closer from outside the organization. "A manager and a general manager are in two different spots," Dombrowski says."I understand from a manager's perspective, he'd rather have one guy he can point to on a daily basis."
  • Jesus Montero's injury could complicate Kameron Loe's bid to be added to the Mariners' roster, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times writes. Montero was struck in the head on Saturday by Francisco Lindor's backswing, and it's not clear when Montero will be able to return to action. If Montero isn't ready to go to start the season, the Mariners will have to add another catcher to the 40-man roster, perhaps Jesus Sucre. That might make it difficult for the Mariners to find space on their 40-man for Loe, and Loe can trigger an out clause in his contract on Monday.
  • Mariners pitcher Joe Saunders is happy to have the offseason behind him, MLB.com's John Schlegel reports. Saunders signed a one-year deal with the M's as a free agent. "It was nerve-racking, not knowing where you're going," he says. "It was the first real free agency for me, and it was an experience, for sure. It's a good one to be over with. I feel bad for Kyle Lohse."