Ryan Hanigan Rumors

Cafardo On Rangers, Jackson, Brewers, Yankees

The Red Sox didn’t go by MLB’s minority hiring rules when they interviewed only Dave Dombrowski for the president of baseball ops role but they have been instructed to do so for the GM job, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes.  If the Red Sox take the step of hiring a minority GM candidate, Cafardo suggests that Ken Williams would be a strong choice if he chooses to leave Chicago.  Here’s more from today’s column..

  • The Rangers were very interested in acquiring Austin Jackson “a few days ago,” but nothing came of those talks, Cafardo writes.  Jackson, 28, cleared waivers last week and was said to be generating interest, though it appears that no one wanted to take the remaining ~$1.7MM salary off the Mariners‘ hands.
  • Former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is in play for the Brewers job, a major league source tells Cafardo.  “Despite his last-place finishes he’s seen as a team builder, especially when it comes to farm systems,” said the source.   The Angels, Mariners, and Phillies are also thought to be possibilities for Cherington.
  • The Yankees have been blocked in every attempt to add to their pitching, both out of the bullpen and in the starting rotation. Baseball sources tell Cafardo that GM Brian Cashman doesn’t seem optimistic about his odds of pulling anything off.  The Mets have been blocked from adding a reliever as well.
  • The Royals want a backup catcher for the playoffs just in case something happens to Salvador Perez.  KC turned down the opportunity to land A.J. Pierzynski from the Braves, Cafardo writes, but they’re still looking for an affordable left-handed hitting backstop. Some KC scouts like the Red Sox’s Ryan Hanigan, but he hits right-handed and has a $3.7MM salary next year with an option for 2017.
  • Unsurprisingly, Cafardo hears that the Rangers are looking for offense, the Twins are looking for relief help, and the Blue Jays want to add to their bullpen.  However, a deal for Toronto doesn’t seem likely at this time.
  • Cafardo writes that the Nationals, Padres, Red Sox, Mariners, Reds, Orioles, Indians, and Tigers are expected to be quite active this winter.

Red Sox Claim Luis Jimenez Off Waivers

The Red Sox have announced they have claimed infielder Luis Jimenez off waivers from the Brewers. Milwaukee had designated Jimenez for assignment yesterday. The Red Sox transferred catcher Ryan Hanigan to the 60-day disabled list to create room on the 40-man roster for Jimenez.

The Brewers cut ties with the 27-year-old after a 1-for-15 start to the season. Jimenez has a reputation as an outstanding defender, but has managed a meager .218/.255/.269 line in 167 plate appearances over three seasons with the Brewers and Angels. Jimenez, who made two starts at third base and has seen time at second base, as well, was claimed off waivers by Milwaukee from the Angels last October after he batted .286/.321/.505 with 21 home runs for Triple-A Salt Lake.

Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters, including CSNNE.com’s Sean McAdam (Twitter link), Jimenez was claimed to allow Brock Holt to stay in right field, have a third non-catcher position player on the bench, and Jackie Bradley Jr. isn’t eligible to return to Boston yet. Bradley was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket Wednesday and must spend 10 days there, unless recalled as an injury replacement.

Hanigan underwent surgery yesterday to fix a metacarpal fracture in his right hand. The injury was sustained Friday night.

 


Reactions To Blake Swihart’s Promotion

Injuries to Ryan Hanigan and Christian Vazquez led the Red Sox to promote top catching prospect Blake Swihart ahead of schedule, a move that became official today. Here are a few notes on Swihart’s call-up.

  • Swihart started catching full-time only after being drafted in 2011 and still has more to learn about calling pitches and working with pitchers, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe writes. “I think we’re starting to see him recognizing that a little bit more, reading swings, understanding where these hitters are at, and making the attack from them. You can obviously have a pitch plan on paper. That’s nice. But these hitters, they adjust,” says Kevin Boles, Swihart’s manager at Triple-A Pawtucket. “The window that we had last year, he’s very athletic but there still remained quite a bit to work on. There still is, but he’s showing a little more polish at this point.”
  • Scouts also think Swihart’s work behind the plate needs additional work, although they think he’s ready offensively, Speier writes. “He will have some defensive lapses just from a lack of total development time, but his athleticism, arm, and makeup will help him survive,” says one scout.
  • Swihart isn’t ready to start in the big leagues yet, but a source tells Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald that the Red Sox don’t seem interested in re-acquiring Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who the Marlins recently designated for assignment.
  • Swihart possesses considerable upside, with tools reminiscent of Buster Posey, Vince Lara-Cinosomo of Baseball America writes. While Swihart’s work behind the plate will make his transition to the big leagues a tough one, his athleticism should help him.
  • The loss of Hanigan, who will require surgery to treat a fracture in one of the knuckles of his right hand, will be a tough one, Sox starter Justin Masterson tells Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. “It’s a big loss,” says Masterson. “He’s a big part of helping things come together.” Hanigan, acquired last offseason after being traded from the Rays to the Padres and then to Boston, was already making solid progress in getting to know the Red Sox’ pitching staff, manager John Farrell says.


Ryan Hanigan Requires Surgery On Broken Finger

Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan has suffered a displaced fracture to his finger and is destined for surgery, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter. He is expected to miss a significant period of time after taking a deflected ball to his hand in tonight’s game.

That’s highly unwelcome news for a Boston team that is already without the other half of its expected backstop tandem in Christian Vazquez for the rest of the season. Sandy Leon was added to the mix just before the start of the season, and the team does have both top prospect Blake Swihart and veteran Humberto Quintero available at Triple-A.

But none of those options are really ideal, for various reasons. Leon has never been viewed with much promise offensively, while Quintero is a 35-year-old career backup. Swihart is, of course, the game’s best-regarded catching prospect. But he is still completing his development and would line up as a Super Two if promoted now.

Speculation will immediately turn to the possibility of an acquisition, and indeed there seems to be good reason to think that could occur. No player is more available than former Boston backstop Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who remains in DFA limbo with a Marlins club that is highly motivated to save some money on his contract. Players like Dioner Navarro of the Blue Jays and Welington Castillo of the Cubs also remain under-utilized with their current clubs.


AL East Notes: Kuroda, Hardy, Orioles, Ross, Red Sox

Hiroki Kuroda recently opted to return to the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, but the move doesn’t appear to be a shock to the Yankees, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com writes. The team already re-signed Chris Capuano and traded for Nathan Eovaldi, suggesting that the Yankees either knew Kuroda wasn’t coming back or didn’t want to wait for him. Here’s more from the AL East.

  • The Orioles have lost Andrew Miller, Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis and haven’t done much this offseason to make up for those departures, but their winter would have been much worse if they hadn’t re-signed J.J. Hardy, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes. Kubatko suggests that Hardy could have gotten more than the three years and $40MM he received from the Orioles if he’d hit the open market.
  • The Orioles are one of a number of teams that have had quiet offseasons, Andrew Simon of Sports On Earth writes. Despite the departures of Miller, Cruz and Markakis, the O’s might come out fine, as they could easily get more from Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters next season. But they probably still ought to add an outfielder, whether that’s a free agent like Nori Aoki or Colby Rasmus, or a trade acquisition like Marlon Byrd of the Phillies or one of a number of Padres outfielders.
  • Catcher David Ross recently agreed to a two-year deal with the Cubs, rebuffing the Red Sox and Padres, and Rob Bradford of WEEI.com provides an interesting chronicle of those negotiations. The Red Sox didn’t want to go to two years for Ross, and Jon Lester‘s decision to sign with Chicago rather than Boston might have had some effect on the Cubs’ willingness to commit to more years for Ross. Ross told the Red Sox he would sign with the Cubs, but then the Padres made a strong offer, which Ross told his agent they would discuss after he worked out. By the time that workout ended, the Padres had traded Ryan Hanigan to Boston, and there was also a report that Ross and the Padres had agreed to terms. “I couldn’€™t believe it,” says Ross, who ended up honoring his commitment to the Cubs. Ross adds that the level of interest in him took him by surprise after he hit just .184/.260/.368 in 50 games last season.

Cherington On Hanigan, Middlebrooks, Rotation

Here are the results of Red Sox GM Ben Cherington’s press conference this afternoon to discuss the Ryan Hanigan / Will Middlebrooks trade, via Tim Britton of the Providence Journal:

  • Cherington says the Sox have been interested in Hanigan for over a year, so they jumped at the chance to acquire him as a backup and insurance policy for youngster Christian Vazquez. “If you look at all the criteria we look for in a catcher, Ryan checks all the boxes: very good defender and game-caller, well-respected, a tough at-bat, capable of playing a lot — that’s a nice bonus,” Cherington says.
  • Cherington admits he sold low on Middlebrooks, who hit just .191/.256/.265 in 234 big-league plate appearances in 2014. “Obviously we’re not trading Will at a particularly high point right now,” says Cherington. “We still believe in him. The last few years haven’t gone well, but the talent is still in there.”
  • The Red Sox aren’t currently actively looking for rotation help, Cherington says. Britton notes, though, that given the pitching the Red Sox have already acquired this offseason (Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson), it wouldn’t make sense for the Red Sox to declare dissatisfaction with their current rotation, whether or not they were still hunting for starters.
  • Cherington says he’ll “keep an eye open” to potential bullpen upgrades.

Padres, Red Sox Swap Hanigan, Middlebrooks

9:47pm: The Red Sox have announced the one-for-one deal.

10:19am: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the agreement is in place, but WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford tweets that the trade is contingent on Middlebrooks passing a physical.

9:56am: The Padres and Red Sox are nearing a trade that would send catcher Ryan Hanigan from San Diego to Boston in exchange for third baseman Will Middlebrooks, reports Yahoo’s Jeff Passan (Twitter link).

The Padres have yet to so much as make their acquisition of Hanigan official, as the three-team deal that will net him and outfielder Wil Myers hasn’t been announced by the clubs. However, that hasn’t stopped them from shopping around one of their newest acquisitions and figuring out the framework for a deal that seemingly helps both parties involved.

Hanigan, 34, is an excellent defensive catcher coming off a season in which he batted just .218/.318/.324 in his first season with the Rays. He’s owed a total of $8MM over the next two seasons (including the $800K buyout on a $3.75MM club option for 2017) and could pair well behind the plate with Christian Vazquez in Boston.

The 26-year-old Middlebrooks was once one of the top prospects in the Red Sox organization, but he’s yet to replicate the .288/.325/.509 batting line he put together in his rookie season of 2012. Since that time, Middlebrooks has dealt with injuries and a rapidly rising strikeout rate, both of which have contributed to a paltry .213/.265/.364 batting line from 2013-14.

Despite those struggles, Middlebrooks still has upside, and he fills a need at third base for the Padres, who can now turn to Derek Norris and Tim Federowicz behind the plate in 2015. The Red Sox were unlikely to find significant playing time for Middlebrooks anyhow after signing both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez this offseason. While the return of a defensive-minded catcher is certainly less than Sox fans may have hoped for given past hype surrounding Middlebrooks, the swap does improve and deepen Boston’s roster for 2015.

San Diego can control Middlebrooks through the 2018 season, and he won’t be eligible for arbitration until next offseason.


Padres Acquire Wil Myers In Three-Team Trade With Rays, Nats

FRIDAY: The trade is official, with all three teams announcing its completion as reported.

THURSDAY: The deal will likely be officially announced on Friday morning, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Bay Tribune reports (via Twitter).

WEDNESDAY: The Padres, Rays, and Nationals have agreed to a much-anticipated three-team swap — pending physicals — that will deliver important pieces to and from each club, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. A rough structure of the deal seemed to have taken form in recent hours, and Bowden has reported its final contours in a series of tweets (links: 1, 2, 3, 4.) The deal is unlikely to be announced before Thursday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays

Outfielder Wil Myers will head to San Diego as the centerpiece of the trade, and indeed the entire pact will depend upon the health of his balky wrist, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports notes on Twitter. San Diego receives young hurlers Gerardo Reyes and Jose Castillo from Tampa as well, joined by veteran big league catcher Ryan Hanigan.

Heading to Tampa from San Diego are backstop Rene Rivera, righty Burch Smith, and first base prospect Jake Bauers. Much of Tampa’s haul, however, will come from another source, as the Nationals will send outfielder Steven Souza and young lefty Travis Ott to Tampa.

For the Nationals, their involvement in this complicated transaction nets them a pair of young players. Righty Joe Ross and shortstop Trea Turner (as a PTBNL) will each head from the Padres to D.C. by way of Tampa.

Unpacking this deal is not easy, but it certainly begins with Myers — not only the marquee piece of this trade, but also the key player in the deal that sent James Shields to the Royals two years ago. Since that time, Myers has had one year of immense promise and one injury-marred, unproductive season. There is risk, not least of which because Myers missed significant time with a wrist injury, but then again San Diego is adding a potentially premier hitter who only just turned 24 years of age and still has five years of control.

Myers will be expected to pair with Matt Kemp — if and when that deal is complete — to deliver a middle-of-the-order threat to what had been a punchless lineup. Both carry a broad spectrum of possible outcomes, which will if nothing else make San Diego a fascinating team to watch for the next several years. One wonders what the trade means for Seth Smith, who played well last year before signing an extension, but who took a step back in the season’s second half and no longer seems to have a place in the corner outfield.

San Diego will also roll some younger arms into a system that is now without a few of its more advanced pitching prospects in Smith and Ross. The right-handed Reyes, 21, spent last year working at the low-A level from the pen. He struck out 10.6 and walked 2.5 batters per nine, en route to a 4.09 ERA in 33 frames. Castillo, an 18-year-old lefty, signed to a $1.55MM bonus out of Venezuela and has spent each of the last two years with the Rays’ Rookie league affiliate, mostly as a reliever. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs recently gave an update on Castillo in his Rays prospect breakdown, noting that the projectable hurler has a big fastball and has returned to health after sitting out much of 2014 with a tender arm.

Then there is the swap of backstops. New Padres GM A.J. Preller has now moved both of last season’s primary catching options, and replaced them with a mix of the veteran Hanigan and, presumably, top prospect Austin Hedges. Hanigan, 34, came to Tampa last year in an even more confusing three-team swap, and the Rays promptly signed him to an extension. The Rays added him for his OBP skills and defensive chops, and he’ll bring the same out west. He’ll also carry $8MM in obligations over the next two years, including a buyout of a $3.75MM club option for 2017.

In Rivera, the Friars will lose and the Rays will add a 31-year-old journeyman who broke out last year in one of the most surprising, under-reported stories in the league. Rivera posted a .252/.319/.432 line — good for a 117 OPS+ at pitcher-friendly Petco Park — and swatted 11 home runs in 329 plate appearances. He also drew rave reviews for his overall defensive contribution, with Baseball Prospectus rating him among the game’s best behind the plate. Rivera will also be a good bit cheaper than Hanigan, as MLBTR/Matt Swartz project him to earn $1.3MM in his first run through arbitration.

In addition to making that switch behind the plate, Tampa will add a mix of younger players, among them two wild cards. Bauers is a 19-year-old, left-handed-hitting first baseman who has not yet tapped into his power in the low minors. The 19-year-old Ott was taken in the 25th round of the 2013 draft but has seemingly improved his stock since. A 6’4 lefty, Ott struggled upon being promoted to the Class A level, but apparently showed enough to draw Tampa’s interest.

The bulk of the return, however, comes with the effective swap of five years of Myers for 12 (or more) seasons of Smith and, in particular, Souza. The 24-year-old Smith struggled in a brief MLB debut in 2013, missing bats as well as spots (11.4 K/9 vs. 5.2 BB/9 in 36 1/3 frames). But he was excellent in 92 1/3 Triple-A frames that year, working to a 2.63 ERA with 9.9 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9. Unfortunately, after being hit hard upon opening 2014 back in the PCL, Smith was shut down with a forearm strain and has not thrown since. That, combined with pre-existing questions about whether he had the secondary pitches to stick in the rotation, reduce his value significantly.

The real prize for new president of baseball operations Matthew Silverman appears to be Souza, who will present a cheaper and more controllable, but somewhat older, replacement for Myers. Last year’s International League MVP put himself firmly back on the map with a huge .345/.427/.577 triple-slash with 18 home runs and 28 steals in 419 plate appearances, completing a quick ascent back up the prospect ladder after initially languishing in the Nats’ system. As Dave Cameron of Fangraphs notes, the athletic Souza actually projects to be Myers’ equal next year and in some ways probably has just as much upside. Of course, he has not shown that ceiling in the big leagues, as has Myers, but Souza is more controllable with just 72 days of MLB service to his name.

That brings us to the Nationals, who parted with Souza in large part because the team is locked in at the corner outfield for the next several years. In return, GM Mike Rizzo added a 21-year-old righty who was taken in the first round of the 2011 draft and has shown signs of reaching his potential. Ross (Tyson’s younger brother) currently sits at eighth on MLB.com’s list of the Padres’ top prospects, with the publication citing his strong mid-90s heater, good power slider, and still-developing change in his ranking. He’ll be expected to join a talented new wave of arms that may have some big shoes to fill if Jordan Zimmermann and/or Doug Fister are not retained for the long run.

But the true motivation for the Nationals’ involvement probably lies with the player to be named, which will reportedly become Turner once he is eligible to be traded. Taken 13th overall from N.C. State in last year’s draft, the 21-year-old has done nothing but improve his stock since. Over 321 plate appearances at the low-A and Class A levels last year, Turner slashed .323/.406/.448 with five home runs and 23 stolen bases. Of course, his college-polished bat will face bigger challenges as he moves up in the system, but he is said to be a good defender with outstanding speed. MLB.com has him at fifth amongst San Diego prospects, but he is especially important to the Nationals as they look to fill in younger options behind incumbent Ian Desmond, who is of course entering his final year of team control.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Quick Hits: Upton, Montero, Rays, Hunter, Pirates

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince names the ten players most likely to be traded this offseason and the Braves’ Justin Upton tops the list. Castrovince feels the Braves could obtain a similar, if not better, return than they received for Jason Heyward because Upton’s powerful bat has tremendous value.

Here are the latest notes from around baseball:

  • Miguel Montero placed tenth on Castrovince’s list and Buster Olney of ESPN.com (on Twitter) wonders if the hiring of Henry Blanco will create traction for the Cubs‘ interest in the Diamondbacks’ catcher, who was a Blanco pupil in 2014. The D’Backs have reportedly spoken with the Cubs, Dodgers, and White Sox about Montero.
  • With Jose Molina gone, the Rays are working to add a backup to Ryan Hanigan, either via trade or signing. They’d like a catcher with more experience than Curt Casali and, preferably, options, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
  • More from Topkin who reports, in addition to an expected trade of Matt Joyce and/or David DeJesus, the Rays may be looking to deal from depth in reserve infielders and relievers. He identifies Logan Forsythe and Sean Rodriguez as infield trade possibilities and Brandon Gomes as a bullpen arm who could be moved.
  • It may not be “sexy,” but the Red Sox‘s pursuit of Pablo Sandoval makes perfect sense, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. The Red Sox appear to be one of the finalists for Sandoval, alongside the Padres and incumbent Giants.
  • Torii Hunter told Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press he favors the Twins among the teams with which he is considering signing. “(Twins General Manager) Terry Ryan and I have talked several times, and there’s definitely a common interest there, for sure,” the veteran said. Ten teams reportedly have interest in Hunter.
  • The Pirates could re-allocate the resources set aside for Russell Martin to pursue rotation and bullpen help, a first baseman, and/or sign some of their young core to extensions, according to Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Rays Acquire Ryan Hanigan, Heath Bell In Three-Team Deal

The Rays, Reds and Diamondbacks successfully completed a three-team trade today, the teams have announced. Tampa Bay acquired catcher Ryan Hanigan (and promptly extended him) from the Reds and Heath Bell (pictured) from the Diamondbacks. The Reds will receive left-handed pitching prospect David Holmberg from the Diamondbacks. Arizona, meanwhile, was able to shed Bell's salary and will receive minor league righty Justin Choate as well as a player to be named later or cash from the Rays.

Bell-Heath

It was expected that Cincinnati would move Hanigan since they agreed to a two-year deal with Brayan Pena.  The 33-year-old had the worst season of his career in 2013, batting just .198/.306/.261 and tying a career-low with two home runs. 

Hanigan will give the Rays three catchers with Jose Lobaton and Jose Molina already in the fold if Lobaton is not one of the outgoing players.  Molina is staying in Tampa Bay after agreeing to come back on a two-year, $4.5MM deal last month.

Hanigan has long been known as a patient hitter that is tough to strike out, as evidenced by a career 12 percent walk rate and 10.1 percent strikeout rate.  He also has a reputation as a solid defensive backstop, having led the league in caught-stealing percentage in 2013 (45 percent) and 2012 (48 percent).  He is also regarded as one of the best in the game at pitch-framing, a skill that he has in common with new teammate Molina.

Bell, 36, is owed $9MM this year in the final season of an ill-fated three-year pact he inked with the Marlins prior to the 2012 campaign. However, Miami is on the hook for $3.5MM of that figure, so the Rays have him for $5.5MM in 2014 while Arizona has him off the books. Bell rebounded from a dreadful 2012 campaign, to an extent, this past season. The veteran closer posted a 4.11 ERA with 9.9 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. Bell saw improvements in his strikeout rate, walk rate and swinging-strike rate, giving the Rays hope that his so-so results were the product of unnatural BABIP and HR/FB marks.

Holmberg, 22, has spent most of the last two seasons at Double-A Mobile, where turned in a 2.75 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 26 starts this past season.  The lefty, who made his lone big league appearance on Aug. 27 vs. the Padres, was ranked as the No. 6 prospect in Arizona's system by Baseball America after the 2012 season.  Baseball America thinks highly of Holmberg's control and likes his chances of reaching his ceiling of becoming a No. 3 or 4 starter.

Choate, 22, posted a 2.88 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 40 2/3 in short-season Class-A this past year. It was the Stephen F. Austin State University product's first year of professional ball, as he signed with the Rays on a minor league deal out of independent baseball.

Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports first reported that Hanigan was going to the Reds in a three-team deal (Twitter link). John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer later tweeted that the Diamondbacks were the third team involved. The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro was the first to report the involvement of Bell and Holmberg (Twitter links). Rosenthal added that Holmberg would go to Cincinnati. Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona reported that the Rays were the ones acquiring Bell (Twitter link). MLB.com's Steve Gilbert reported that Choate and a PTBNL or cash were headed to Arizona (on Twitter). Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted the financial details. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweeted that the PTBNL is not on Tampa's 40-man roster. 

Steve Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.