Ruben Amaro Jr. Rumors

NL Notes: Phillies, Cardinals, Cubs

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.

Quick Hits: Cubs, Zambrano, Amaro, McDonald

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.

NL Notes: Stauffer, Phillies, Cubs, Hairston

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.


Quick Hits: Phillies, Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs

Let's take a quick trip around four of baseball's five most valuable franchises, according to Forbes:

  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. discussed the team's offseason strategy and looked ahead to the new season in a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with Sam Donnellon of the Philadelphia Daily News. When asked about the decision to add yet more older players to his club, Amaro said that "age is a factor," but not the only factor. "I've said this before and [Yankees GM] Brian Cashman has said this before," said Amaro. "I don't worry so much about age as I do about production." Amaro did note that the team figures to get younger in the outfield with Ben Revere and Domonic Brown expected to occupy two starting spots.
  • Meanwhile, the club has announced its Opening Day roster, which includes outfielder Ender Inciarte, according to a team tweet. As MLBTR previously noted, the 22-year-old Rule 5 draftee has yet to appear above High-A ball. Inciarte will remain Phillies property so long as he sticks on the club's 25-man roster (or is placed on the DL) for the duration of the season. Click here for an explanation of the Rule 5 Draft. Todd Zolecki of MLB.com tweets that he expects Inciarte to be returned to the Diamondbacks when Delmon Young is ready to join the club.
  • Turning to Cashman's Yankees, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman pulled no punches when reviewing the club's offseason, writing that "no one had a worse spring training than baseball's most storied team, maybe ever." Heyman further reports that, in spite of their public proclamations and massive payroll, the Yanks' brass is very concerned internally about the club's prospects for 2013. Likewise, ESPN's Jim Bowden predicted that New York would finish last in the AL East, writing that the club could sport a losing record for the first time since 1992.
  • Meanwhile, first baseman Lyle Overbay has made the Yankees Opening Day roster, Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger reported on Twitter. The 36-year-old was inked shortly after being released by the Red Sox. MLB.com's Bryan Hoch previously reported that Overbay signed what Cashman described as "a three-day, NBA-style contract" to allow the club to get "a quick peek" at the veteran. As McCullough wrote, Cashman has described his recent scramble to add players by evoking the famous Emma Lazarus line featured on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to break [sic] free."
  • While nothing is yet official, Red Sox prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. is heading with the club to New York, where the team opens against the Yankees on Monday, tweets Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. The club will need to clear a 40-man roster spot before it can select the contract of the young outfielder, notes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal (on Twitter). 
  • The Cubs' front office is working hard to make final additions to the roster, writes Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune (must register to access article). After adding players like Luis Valbuena and Shawn Camp around this time last year, Rogers says, the club could be active on the waiver wire.

Phillies Notes: Outfield, Roster Moves, Betancourt

Tim Dierkes covered the Phillies' winter moves yesterday in the latest installment of MLBTR's Offseason In Review series.  If today's news is any indication, however, the Phils may yet make another tweak or two to their roster before Opening Day.  Here's the latest from the City of Brotherly Love…

  • The Phillies have been talking to other teams about adding depth in the outfield, bullpen and behind the plate, ESPN's Jayson Stark reports (Twitter link).
  • Also from Stark (Twitter links), Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said the outfield situation isn't quite settled.  "We could make a trade (or) sign somebody," Amaro said. "We'll see. If there are ways to improve our team, we'll try to do it." 
  • Alex Esteban, Yuniesky Betancourt's agent, tells Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer that his client will opt out of his minor league deal with the Phillies if he isn't added to their Major League roster by Sunday.  "Our preference would be to stay with the Phillies but it's out of our control," Esteban said. "We would definitely be opting out and seeing what's out there."  Gelb speculates that the Cardinals, Marlins and Astros could be possible fits for Betancourt if he becomes a free agent. 
  • If Betancourt makes the Phillies and reaches his contract incentives, his deal would pay him $1.4MM, Gelb reports.
  • From earlier today, the Phillies released Rodrigo Lopez.

NL Notes: Phillies, Reds, Rockies, Figgins

As players, coaches, and front office personnel begin to arrive in Florida and Arizona for Spring Training 2013, let's take a look at the news and notes from the National League:


Phillies Notes: Halladay, Kendrick, Hairston, Stanton

The Phillies saw their streak of five consecutive NL East titles ended by the Nationals in 2012. But, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com writes there is optimism since the Phillies won 60% of their games after July 31 despite the health issues of Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz, trading away Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, and not having a reliable setup man for Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies, however, enter the new year with several question marks which Zolecki says centers around the health of Halladay and Chase Utley, the continued recovery of Ryan Howard, and how much offense new acquistions Michael Young and Ben Revere will contribute. For more news and notes on the Phillies, Zolecki opened his inbox

  • Zolecki, when asked about the health of Halladay, quoted GM Ruben Amaro Jr. who recently said, "He's going to start throwing off the mound here very shortly. I guess he's working down there with Kyle Kendrick pretty extensively. He's doing well, but we don't know what kind of Doc we're going to get until Doc's down firing in Spring Training."
  • Speaking of Kendrick, Zolecki believes he's a lock for the starting rotation as long as he remains healthy.
  • Scott Hairston would be the best fit to fill one of the corner outfield vacancies. Zolecki notes the Phillies have tried to acquire Hairston in the past. Zolecki also mentioned Alfonso Soriano, who he thinks would slot in nicely hitting behind Utley and Howard.
  • If the Phillies acquire a right-handed outfield bat, look for Darin Ruf to open the season at Triple-A.
  • The Phillies don't have have enough top-tier talent to tempt the Marlins into trading Giancarlo Stanton to the City of Brotherly Love.

Amaro On Outfield Market

Even after trading for Ben Revere, the Phillies could add another established outfielder. But GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that the asking prices of the top free agent outfielders are a deterrent (Twitter link). 

"We feel like the demands are north of where we want to be,'' Amaro said. 

Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Cody Ross are the top free agent outfielders available, and presumably Amaro is alluding to some or all of these players. The Phillies, who have Domonic Brown, John Mayberry Jr. and Darin Ruf as internal outfield candidates, are also eyeing trades. They’ve been linked to right-handed hitting trade candidates such as Alfonso Soriano and Vernon Wells.


Phillies Notes: Young, Roster Needs, Zach Miner

Earlier today, MLB approved the Michael Young trade making the deal between the Phillies and Rangers official. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is pleased Young is a Phillie telling reporters, including MLB.com's Paul Hagen, "Clearly, this brings a wonderful package to what we're trying to do here in Philadelphia. He has a tremendous track record. He has all the elements we're looking for." Rangers manager Ron Washington seconded that notion, as quoted by Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News, "This is a very, very tough situation. Michael's been my go-to guy since I've been here. If there was crying in baseball, I guess I'd cry." There is definitely no crying in baseball, especially in Philadelphia, so put away the hankies and enjoy some more news and notes from the City of Brotherly Love. 

  • The Phillies believe Young will benefit from playing the field again and at just one position, tweets FOXSports.com Ken Rosenthal.
  • Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer disagrees with that assessment citing Young's advanced defensive metrics and that his wins above replacement in 2012 was among the worst in modern baseball history.
  • Also in that same piece, Gelb writes the Phillies are $20MM below last season's payroll, so the club has plenty of financial flexibility to add offense to their outfield. 
  • Amaro stills wants to add a veteran presence to the bullpen, do a "little bit more" to improve their outfield, and is open to acquiring a "low-risk, high-reward type of guy" for the back of the rotation, reports ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (Twitter links).  
  • The Phillies have signed right-hander Zach Miner to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com. Miner, who pitched for Detroit from 2006-09, spent last season in the Tigers' organization pitching to a 2.79 ERA, 4.9 K/9, and 4.7 BB/9 in 42 innings (including three starts) across three levels.

Amaro On Phillies, Upton, Bourn, Marlins

The Phillies haven’t made any major additions to their team to this point in the offseason, but they continue working to address their biggest needs, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. “We’ve had some good discussions, some fruitful discussions, with agents as well as other clubs,” Amaro said. “There are some situations where we’re waiting right now on someone to say ‘yes,’ and other situations where other teams are waiting for us to say ‘yes.’ It’s an interesting dynamic right now.” Here’s the latest on the Phillies, who are looking to contend again following an 81-81 season in 2012:

  • Amaro still wants to add at least one outfielder and a veteran reliever for the eighth inning. The club could also pursue help at third base, though that could depend on the team’s search for outfielders.
  • Reading between the lines, Salisbury suggests the Phillies have reached out to the Marlins to see if they’d trade Giancarlo Stanton in a follow up to Miami’s recent blockbuster trade with the Blue Jays. “We’ve made some inquiries about a lot of players that went in that trade, both to Toronto and to Miami,” the GM acknowledged. “But nothing imminent so far.”
  • Amaro said he has not received any indication that former Phillies closer Ryan Madson is opposed to pitching in a setup role. Madson underwent Tommy John surgery before the 2012 season and is now a free agent.
  • While B.J. Upton appears to be the Phillies’ top target, Amaro also mentioned free agents Angel Pagan, Michael Bourn and Shane Victorino as other potential center field options. “We can’t put all our resources in one area and not address others,” Amaro said. He added that the Phillies are more likely to add an outfielder or two in free agency than via trades.
  • Earlier this month I previewed the Phillies’ offseason.