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Ruben Amaro Jr. Rumors
The Rangers have joined the Padres, Cardinals, and Red Sox as the four primary teams pursuing Phillies lefty Cole Hamels, according to a report from Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Texas has previously been mentioned as having interest, but not much attention has focused on that possible destination.
It is worth noting that Philadelphia is not interested in simply finding the highest bidder. Rather, per the report, the club is holding firm in demanding two premium talents in return and will keep Hamels at least through the summer if it is not satisfied with an offer. Among the possible trade partners, Boston may be “most in the background” at present after its run of pitching acquisitions, Salisbury adds.
Nevertheless, the Phillies do appear to be serious about making a deal. Ruben Amaro Jr. has dedicated significant resources to scouting systems of the clubs he has been in contact with, says Salisbury, who notes that the embattled GM can ill afford a misstep with the organization’s best MLB asset.
Philly is especially interested in adding a young catcher, says Salisbury, who notes that several of the teams most heavily involved on Hamels possess top backstop prospects. The club would likely insist on adding Blake Swihart in a deal with Boston, or Austin Hedges in a deal with San Diego. And, as Salisbury notes, the Rangers also possess a top minor league receiver in Jorge Alfaro along with a nice collection of other heralded young players.
If the Mets wanted a creative way to free up payroll space for more lineup improvements, they could explore trading Curtis Granderson, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News opines. While Granderson only hit .227/.326/.388 in 654 PA last season, he still slugged 20 homers and Martino argues that the outfielder could draw interest in a market short on impact hitters. While it could well be that Granderson’s bat would perk up in a more hitter-friendly ballpark than Citi Field, I’d think that it’d be a tough sell to find significant trade interest in player who turns 34 in March, is owed $47MM through the 2017 season and has shown signs of decline over the last couple of years.
Here’s some news from around the NL East…
- Braves president of baseball operations John Hart spoke in broad terms about his team’s Winter Meetings plans with David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Braves are looking to make moves to help in both the short- and long-term, particularly aimed towards the opening of their new ballpark in 2017. “I wouldn’t be telling you the truth if I said we’re not taking a look at ’17,” Hart said. “But we haven’t made a move yet that would give anybody any reason to think that we’re even considering doing a strip-down…If you weren’t convinced before [Nick Markakis signed], we’re certainly paying attention to ’15 and ’16 as well as keeping an eye on ’17.”
- With so many rumors circling around the Braves, O’Brien (Twitter link) would be “surprised” if the team didn’t make at least one deal during the Winter Meetings.
- The only notable hole on the Nationals‘ roster is at second base and that spot is more likely to be filled via trade than free agency, Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider writes. This doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a quiet Winter Meetings for the Nats, however, as trade rumors have swirled around some of the top players, several of whom are entering their last season of team control.
- Though it’s been an uneventful offseason for the Phillies thus far, GM Ruben Amaro tells Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News that he has had several productive discussions about possible moves. “I’m actually probably optimistic about what’s been going on, dialogue-wise, some of the things we’ve discussed externally and internally,” Amaro said. “It’s been a very, very active communication market so far….It’s fortunate we’ve stayed out of the rumor mill, because I prefer to do things quietly. And it doesn’t do anybody any good when it’s out there. I like when it’s quiet. I like the dialogue we’ve had in the last several weeks.”
Who will catch for the Braves in 2015? It’s liable to be a question of interest all offseason long as several roster moves could depend on the outcome. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explores the conundrum. We’ve previously seen speculation that the Braves will deal Evan Gattis to an AL club so defense-first prospect Christian Bethancourt can start. Alternatively, the club could deal an outfielder and move Gattis to left field. While there are a lot moving parts to consider, it’s hard to ignore both Jason Heyward and Justin Upton are set to become free agents following the season and will be expensive to re-sign. Meanwhile, Gattis will earn around $600k next season and is club controlled through 2018.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. cited changes in Jerome Williams‘ approach and rotation depth as reasons for yesterday’s contract extension, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Depth is certainly an issue for the Phillies rotation. Cliff Lee ended the season on the disabled list, Kyle Kendrick is a free agent, and only Cole Hamels and David Buchanan finished the season healthy. Another possible factor, A.J. Burnett, is weighing a mutual option. When asked about Burnett, Amaro said, “my inclination is that he’s going to want to pitch. He’s a competitive guy.”
- Yasmany Tomas makes a lot of sense for a number of teams, but insiders are pointing to the Phillies as the current front runners, according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Martino spoke with a rival executive who noted the Phillies have the money to reach a deal with Tomas – which could possibly reach nine figures. More to the point, they have a thin farm system and a desire to turn around quickly. That could make the Cuban market more attractive for the club. Another source said to Martino, “don’t count out the Tigers.”
Newly-anointed interim Phillies president Pat Gillick spoke with reporters today, including CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. Gillick said there has been “no thought whatsoever” to firing GM Ruben Amaro Jr. or manager Ryne Sandberg, saying that his protege Amaro “didn’t get dumb overnight” after playing an important role in the construction of the team’s latest run of success. But Gillick will be focused on baseball operations, and says that he would have final say if there were any disagreements on personnel issues (while emphasizing that he and Amaro are generally on the same page). As a general matter, Gillick said that he would both function as an “interim caretaker” and an agent of change for the organization. The complete interview is well worth a full read.
Here’s more from the NL East:
- Phillies ace Cole Hamels is likely to be dealt in the offseason, opines Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Turning him into young talent is virtually the only realistic way that the club can convert present assets into future ones, Passan says.
- The Mets ought to deploy Daniel Murphy as a Ben Zobrist-like super-utility player rather than trade him, argues Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Utilizing youngsters Wilmer Flores and/or Dilson Herrera at second and moving Murphy around the diamond — among other moves, of course — could be the best way to maximize value and potentially create a contender, Sherman suggests.
- Braves righty Kris Medlen, nearly six months removed from his second Tommy John procedure, has begun throwing a baseball, Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Though his recovery is still just beginning, Medlen will be quite an interesting player to keep an eye on over the coming offseason. (He is still arb-eligible for a final time.)
Josh Beckett, who has undergone surgeries for thoracic outlet syndrome and a torn meniscus in his left knee within the past 10 months, tossed his first career no-hitter and MLB’s first of the season as he and the Dodgers shutout the Phillies 6-0. Beckett struck out Chase Utley looking on his career-high 128th pitch for the 24th no-hitter in Dodgers’ history and the first for the franchise since Hideo Nomo 18 years ago. This is also the first time the Phillies have been no-hit since the Cardinals’ Bob Forsch turned the trick in 1978 and the first time they have been held hitless in Philadelphia since the Montreal Expos’ Bill Stoneman did so at Connie Mack Stadium in 1969. MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki noted on Twitter the Phillies have now been shutout five times in their last ten home games and six times in their last 18 games overall.
In other news and notes involving the Phillies and baseball’s East divisions:
- Could offensive help be on the way for the Phillies in the form of top prospect third baseman Maikel Franco? GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told reporters, including Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, it is a possibility. “We’ll see whether it’s the right thing for us and the right thing for him,” said Amaro. “We’ll kick it around.” Franco, ranked as the game’s 17th best prospect by Baseball America and 23rd by MLB.com, is hitting .301 in May with an OPS of .871.
- In the wake of Prince Fielder‘s season-ending neck injury, the Rangers have inquired about Nationals first baseman Tyler Moore, a baseball source tells MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. The source indicated to Ladson nothing is serious and Moore is one of many first baseman in which the Rangers have an interest.
- Johan Santana has a June 1 opt-out in his minor league deal with the Orioles, but Executive Vice President Dan Duquette says that date is not a concern, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. “That’s open for discussion,” Duquette said. “It’s a fluid situation.” Santana remains in extended Spring Training and has not pitched more than four innings in an outing, but Duquette says the 35-year-old left-hander “is making good progress, he is throwing his pitches.“
MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark doesn't expect the Collective Bargaining Agreement to be reopened before its 2016 expiration to address issues with the qualifying offer system, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. "It’s very difficult to open up a CBA," said Clark. "Suffice it to say, if there are issues during the course of any agreement, we continue to have discussions that may not require the CBA be to opened up, making sure that whatever the concerns are, whatever the issues are, and if they can be discussed in some more formal fashion, so be it, but more often than not, come 2016 when we have an opportunity to sit down is when we’ll do so." Last night, Aaron Steen asked MLBTR readers about the qualifying offer and nearly 47% want to tweak the QO while 25% want to eliminate it entirely.
In National League news and notes on Oscar Sunday:
- With the ink barely dry on Homer Bailey's six-year, $105MM contract extension, the Reds will be in the same situation with starters Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Johnny Cueto next year. Owner Bob Castellini told the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay the team wants to retain all three. "We’re going to try to sign all these guys," Castellini said. "Whether we can or not, I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball."
- Castellini also told Fay he is not pleased with the media's coverage of the Reds' offseason because it has had an adverse affect on the team's revenues. "That season-ticket number is the most important number we can generate," said Castellini. "We knew we wanted to sign Homer. We knew we were going to make some other commitments. It’s not that we didn’t look. It gets written in such a way – 'Well, the Reds aren’t doing anything' – that really does affect people buying season tickets." Castellini provided Fay with details of the club's revenue generated through ticket sales, sponsorships, and the national TV contract adding neither he nor any of the other principal owners or investors have ever taken money out of the franchise.
- Last month, the Braves gave Jason Heyward a two-year, $13.3MM contract. In two years, the perfect storm of baseball's economics, Heyward's age, and actions taken by the Braves will set the 24-year-old up for a huge payday on a likely barren free agent market, according to Mike Petriello of ESPN.com in an Insider-only piece (subscription required).
- With mixed reviews to date, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez made his Spring Training debut yesterday. Phillies GM Ruban Amaro Jr. was upbeat about what he saw, reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. "He probably threw better with his stuff as far as his velocity and breaking ball since he's been in camp," Amaro said. "I was encouraged that his stuff was better than it had been in his sides. And hopefully it will continue to progress in a positive way." Pitching coach Bob McClure added (as quoted by Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Inquirer), "I saw a very competitive (guy), and that is what I was really hoping for. And he might be one of those guys that’s not the best practice player, but you put him in a game and he competes." Reports surfaced last week Gonzalez could open the season in the minors.
- Solid pitching will be key to any improvement the Rockies hope to make this season. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick focuses on young starters Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler while the Denver Post's Troy E. Renck examines the Rockies' adherence to pitch counts to protect their starting rotation and the corresponding reliance on their bullpen, which could be called upon to record 10 or 11 outs every game.
The Dodgers made the final August trade of the season late last night acquiring Michael Young and cash from the Phillies for minor-league left-hander Rob Rasmussen. Here's the reaction and analysis from around baseball:
- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly says Juan Uribe is still the team's starting third baseman and Young will see time at both corner infield positions, tweets Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.
- Dodgers GM Ned Colletti told reporters, including ESPNLosAngeles.com's Mark Saxon, Young is willing to accept a lesser role, and the resulting diminished number of at-bats, because he wants another crack at a World Series ring.
- The Phillies would have been better served accepting the Yankees' offer of Double-A right-hander Tommy Kahnle and paying the remainder of Young's salary that was made prior to the July 31st Trade Deadline, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. disagreed with Heyman's assessment telling reporters, including CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury, "We like this guy (Rasmussen) more. The guys that we talked about with other teams had other issues. At the Trade Deadline we were not out of it completely. We were still trying to win games. Different circumstances. Now we’re out of it, basically."
- The Dodgers paid too high of a price for a sub-replacement level player of no discernable value to a playoff team, opines Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated.
- Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times has the opposite opinion writing there is no drawback, no downside when you add to a club's bench a veteran like Young, who is universally perceived as a great teammate.
- MLB.com's Lyle Spencer agrees with Dilbeck tweeting Young is a great addition for the Dodgers on so many levels: clutch, tough, versatile, smart, and a winner.
Phillies president David Montgomery showed support for GM Ruben Amaro Jr. on Wednesday, Bob Brookover of the Inquirer reports. "Ruben is not making independent decisions," Montgomery says. "He's going with a pretty good group of eyes who are looking out there at players and making determinations. God knows we're all trying to bat 1.000 on decision making. The reality is I think we do better than the .300 standard in baseball." The Phillies are 35-38 after going 81-81 last season. Here are more notes from the National League.
- The Phillies are among the teams that must rebuild, says ESPN's Jim Bowden (Insider-only). (Bowden also names the White Sox and the Brewers.) Bowden says the Phillies should try to trade veterans in order to reduce the payroll and add youth, but they shouldn't blow up the team completely, since the Phillies have a workable core. Trading Cliff Lee or Jonathan Papelbon would be the Phillies' best bet, Bowden says.
- Chris Carpenter, who is trying to come back from a nerve injury, will not factor in the Cardinals' trade deadline plans, GM John Mozeliak tells Derrick Gould and Brendan Meyer of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. " He hasn’t pitched yet. It’s still something that he could end up contributing, I think that’s a bonus. But I don’t think, going in to (July 31), (we will be) factoring him involved right now," says Mozeliak. Carpenter felt back tightness after throwing a bullpen session on Sunday.
- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says manager Dale Sveum isn't to blame for the team's poor record, ESPNChicago.com's Doug Padilla writes, citing an interview on ESPN 1000. The Cubs just don't have the talent to provide Sveum with good options right now, Epstein says. "I think Dale is taking a lot of heat for the fact that we don't have currently a roster that is talented enough to regularly win baseball games," says Epstein. "We just don't."
- Epstein also says the Cubs will not release Ian Stewart, Padilla notes. The Cubs suspended Stewart after he sent a series of tweets complaining that the club was unlikely to promote him. "He hasn't lived up to our expectations but he is a human being and his career is at stake," Epstein says. Stewart has hit .168/.286/.372 for Triple-A Iowa this season.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum says his team has no intention of releasing struggling reliever Carlos Marmol and eating the rest of his $9.8MM salary, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports. "We've come to find out that he has trouble with the last three outs," says Sveum. "But somebody has to pitch the other innings, and he's done a pretty good job in that role." Marmol allowed four runs in the ninth as the Cubs lost to the Mets 4-3 on Sunday. Here are more notes from around the National League.
- The Cubs' bullpen has struggled this season, but in the aftermath of this summer's trading season, the team's rotation could end up being just as weak, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Last season, the Cubs performed poorly down the stretch after the departures of two productive starters in Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm. This year, Wittenmyer says, Matt Garza and Scott Feldman could be those pitchers' 2013 equivalents.
- Phillies starter Jonathan Pettibone struggled Saturday, but GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says that Carlos Zambrano won't be replacing Pettibone right away, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes. "Not based on what I saw his last outing, not in my mind," says Amaro. "I’d like to see him pitch again [in the minors]. We’ll keep a close eye on his starts and how effective he is. But he’s not ready yet in my mind." Zambrano has an out clause July 1. He allowed two runs in five innings in his first outing for Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Thursday, striking out five and walking four. His fastball did not exceed 88 MPH.
- Speaking of Amaro, Bob Brookover of the Inquirer argues that "the bad has outweighed the good" in Amaro's stint as GM, and that it's unclear whether Amaro is the right person for the job. Amaro's signing of Joe Blanton and trade for Hunter Pence rank among his worst moves, Brookover says.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington says James McDonald's future with the team could be in jeopardy, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Karen Price writes in a pair of tweets. "As the clock ticks we’ll have to make a determination as to where James best fits in this group, on this club, or does he fit," says Huntington. "That’s a question to be answered ultimately by James McDonald." McDonald, once viewed as a potential franchise building block after promising seasons in 2010 and 2011 and a great first half in 2012, has fallen out of favor after collapsing down the stretch last year and posting a 5.76 ERA with 20 walks in six 2013 starts. He has also struggled in his rehab starts since landing on the disabled list with shoulder discomfort.
- If the Blue Jays had already acquired Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio from the Marlins, they wouldn't have signed Maicer Izturis, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star argues. Izturis signed a three-year, $10MM deal in November, and the Jays acquired Reyes and Bonifacio days later. Izturis has hit .222/.258/.308 this season.
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.