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4:30pm: The Astros have issued the following statement regarding the leaked notes:
“Last month, we were made aware that proprietary information held on Astros’ servers and in Astros’ applications had been illegally obtained. Upon learning of the security breach, we immediately notified MLB security who, in turn, notified the FBI. Since that time, we have been working closely with MLB security and the FBI to the determine the party, or parties, responsible. This information was illegally obtained and published, and we intend to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent.
“It is unfortunate and extremely disappointing that an outside source has illegally obtained confidential information. While it does appear that some of the content released was based on trade conversations, a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated.”
2:29pm: Extensive trade discussion notes, apparently logged by Astros executives about their talks with other teams, have been leaked onto the site AnonBin here and here, with Deadspin breaking the story and Yahoo’s Jeff Passan verifying the authenticity of the logs. The earliest notes are from June 2013, and the latest are from March of this year. The Astros have yet to comment on the leak, which provides unprecedented detail into how the team values players and approaches trade discussions. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Astros have been reaching out to people around baseball apologizing for the leaks, and plan to issue a statement soon.
A March feature by Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle outlines Ground Control, the Astros’ confidential internal database from which the trade discussion notes were likely taken. At this time, it’s unclear whether the information reached the Internet via a rogue employee of the team, or by some kind of security vulnerability in Ground Control. The trade discussion information, mostly from last summer and offseason, is somewhat dated in the fast-moving baseball hot stove world. The larger ramification is the breach of trust experienced by the many non-Astros executives cited in the notes. It’s unlikely any team would rule out the Astros as a trading partner based on this breach, but some teams could approach talks with added caution. Additionally, I imagine the many other teams with such highly sensitive material online are doubling down on security right now.
The Astros’ trade notes from last summer and offseason range from the blockbuster to the mundane; here are some highlights.
- On November 15th, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow expressed interest with Marlins GM Dan Jennings in slugger Giancarlo Stanton. From the notes: “[Jennings] said he doesn’t think he’ll trade Stanton and the only deal he could think of from us that would work would be [George] Springer and [Carlos] Correa. [Luhnow] said that would not work. [Luhnow] posited a deal around [Jarred] Cosart and [Delino] DeShields.” It’s not a big surprise that Luhnow rejected Jennings’ proposal out of hand, as Correa and Springer were ranked #4 and #19 on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list for ESPN, and are major building blocks for Houston. That Luhnow didn’t appear to offer either player suggests he was mostly gauging Stanton’s price after an off-year with three years of control remaining. UPDATE: Jennings has commented to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, saying it’s fabricated that they ever offered Stanton to the Astros or any other team, also using the word “laughable.”
- Interest in Astros catcher Jason Castro was strong last offseason, with a few surprising suitors. The Blue Jays and Rangers reached out in mid-October to gauge Castro’s price, the White Sox had “definite high interest,” and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told Luhnow in November that he was getting calls from other teams asking if he could get Castro from the Astros for those teams. Zduriencik offered Dustin Ackley and was turned down.
- Notes for the Astros’ summer trade discussions begin at June 17th, 2013. The team ultimately went on to acquire Ronald Torreyes from the Cubs in June, and also dealt veterans Jose Veras, Bud Norris, and Justin Maxwell near the July deadline. The Astros did not end up acquiring any top 100-type prospects, but they sure did ask for the moon. For Norris, the Astros sought Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn from the Giants, Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman from the Orioles, Marcus Stroman and more from the Blue Jays, Xander Bogaerts, Allen Webster, Jackie Bradley Jr., or Garin Cecchini from the Red Sox, and Tyler Glasnow plus Luis Heredia or Nick Kingham from the Pirates. The Red Sox offered Ryan Lavarnway or Deven Marrero for Norris and were turned down. In the end, the Astros traded Norris and an international draft slot to the Orioles for L.J. Hoes, Josh Hader, and a 2014 competitive balance pick.
- When Nationals GM Mike Rizzo called to express interest in middling Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell, who had a 5.17 ERA at the time and nearly as many walks as strikeouts, “[Luhnow] told him we would still need a headliner like [Lucas] Giolito because we still value Harrell highly. Rizzo did not respond immediately.”
Harrell was designated for assignment, outrighted, and traded for a pittance nine months later, so the Astros might have overplayed their hand.
- “Untouchable” players from other teams were revealed through conversations with their executives. White Sox GM Rick Hahn wouldn’t consider trading Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, or Avisail Garcia. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos considered Brett Lawrie off-limits. Pirates outfield prospect Gregory Polanco came up as well, in that GM Neal Huntington wouldn’t include him in any Norris deal. In December talks regarding Harrell, the Giants said they would not discuss Brandon Belt.
- More random notes: Mets executive Paul DePodesta asked Luhnow if the Astros would consider trading shortstop Jonathan Villar in a Daniel Murphy deal in December…the Marlins expressed interest in Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez, and others in December.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Baltimore Orioles | Boston Red Sox | Bud Norris | Carlos Correa | Chicago White Sox | Daniel Murphy | Delino DeShields Jr. | Deven Marrero | Dustin Ackley | Dylan Bundy | Garin Cecchini | George Springer | Giancarlo Stanton | Houston Astros | Jackie Bradley Jr. | Jarred Cosart | Jason Castro | Jonathan Villar | Jose Altuve | Kevin Gausman | Lucas Giolito | Lucas Harrell | Luis Heredia | Marcus Stroman | Matt Dominguez | Miami Marlins | New York Mets | Nick Kingham | Pittsburgh Pirates | Ryan Lavarnway | San Francisco Giants | Seattle Mariners | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays | Washington Nationals | Xander Bogaerts
Given their considerable depth behind the plate, the Red Sox have begun shopping Ryan Lavarnway, a source tells Sean McAdam of Comcast SportsNet New England. A.J. Pierzynski and David Ross will form the primary catching tandem at the Major League level, while Christian Vazquez and Daniel Butler will handle the catching duties at Triple-A Pawtucket.
Boston has experimented with using Lavarnway at first base during Spring Training, which would likely be where he would receive most of his at-bats were he to open the season at Pawtucket. However, while that bit of experience could make him slightly more appealing in a trade, he's more valuable to the Red Sox or another club when he's catching.
The 26-year-old Lavarnway was once considered Boston's catcher of the future and has ranked as a Top 100 prospect according to MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus as recently as 2012. He boasts a gaudy .284/.373/.471 batting line in 845 career plate appearances at Triple-A, although it's worth noting that he slipped to a .250/.346/.350 triple-slash in 2013. Lavarnway has also struggled at the Major League level, batting just .208/.258/.327 in 291 PAs.
Many teams figure to be looking for catching help at this time of the year, and Lavarnway is attractive in that he can be controlled through at least the 2018 season (he has one year, 40 days of Major League service time). The Pirates learned today that Chris Stewart will probably need knee surgery (hat tip: Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Twitter), though they likely feel that they have another capable backup to Russell Martin in-house in the form of Tony Sanchez.
The White Sox strike me as a possible fit, as they did little to address that need this offseason and are planning to give Tyler Flowers another opportunity at the job. Lavarnway would fit GM Rick Hahn's stated goal of adding controllable talent, and he's also younger than Flowers with a slightly better minor league track record. The Orioles are also said to be looking outside the organization for candidates to back-up Matt Wieters. Arizona has asked for catchers in trade proposals for their young shortstops as well; while Lavarnway wouldn't be enough for GM Kevin Towers to part with Chris Owings or Didi Gregorius, the mere fact that the D'Backs have prioritized catchers seems to suggest that they wouldn't mind adding some depth. Of course, all of these potential fits are just speculation on my behalf.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe shares a few hot stove items in his latest Sunday column…
- Bronson Arroyo has been looking for a three-year deal or at least a vesting option for a third year, which could be holding up his market. If Arroyo was willing to settle for a flat two-year contract, Cafardo opines, he could find a deal, possibly with the Diamondbacks; Cafardo reported earlier this week that Arizona was "beginning to kick the tires" on the veteran right-hander. Arroyo recently said that he has yet to receive a concrete offer from any team, despite a lot of interest from around the league.
- The Dodgers are another team who "are very interested" in Arroyo but don't want to give him a guaranteed third year.
- Nelson Cruz's market is beginning to heat up, and “there could be up to four or five teams who could take the plunge in the end," a Major League source tells Cafardo. This interest could manifest itself into a multiyear deal for Cruz, though Cafardo notes that the slugger could still have to settle for a one-year contract. We've recently seen the Mariners, Orioles, Rangers and Twins linked to Cruz in rumors, though Texas and Minnesota only seem interested at a greatly reduced price.
- Cafardo thinks the A.J. Burnett sweepstakes is down to the Pirates, Phillies and Orioles, though he wouldn't be surprised if the Yankees were also exploring a reunion with the veteran right-hander. The Rays and Blue Jays have also been connected to Burnett, though it seems more likely that Burnett will choose a team located closer to his home in Maryland.
- The Marlins have "asked a lot" about Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks but there doesn't seem to be a trade fit. Miami is one of several teams who have asked Boston about Middlebrooks' availability, but the Sox don't want to give up on Middlebrooks' power potential. Even if the Red Sox re-signed Stephen Drew to play shortstop and Xander Bogaerts took over at third, Middlebrooks would still receive playing time alternating between third and first base.
- While Jon Lester recently said he would take a hometown discount to remain with the Red Sox, Cafardo points out that it might not be a huge discount, as Lester also noted that "you never want to be the guy that takes the market backward."
- The Red Sox will experiment with Ryan Lavarnway as a first baseman during Spring Training, GM Ben Cherington confirmed. Since Boston is so deep at catcher at both the Triple-A and Major League levels, Lavarnway's only chance at continued playing time may be as a Triple-A first baseman.
- "There’s a feeling that a team like the Yankees may pluck Fernando Rodney, or someone of his ilk, to ensure they have another closer in case David Robertson breaks down or isn’t up to the task," Cafardo writes. Rodney was reportedly drawing interest from four teams, though the Yankees hadn't spoken with him since November and may not have enough remaining payroll space to add to the bullpen.
While the Yankees have spent big to bring Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran into the fold, the club continues to carry major holes in its infield and rotation, Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi writes. That the Yankees will need to acquire an impact free-agent starter to contend is a consequence of their failure to develop their own superstars, he says. Morosi ranks the Bombers' rotation as the AL East's third-best as things currently stand. Here's more out of the division:
- Alex Rodriguez says he's confident he'll be manning third base for the Yankees next season, ESPN reports. "I'm preparing as always, working hard," Rodriguez told reporters in Spanish. The Bombers would be off the hook for A-Rod's $25MM salary in 2014 if his suspension is upheld, but the 37-year-old still has impact potential. If he's allowed to play, Rodriguez will relieve GM Brian Cashman of the need to find a third baseman in a free agent market that just saw the Dodgers give two years and $15MM to Juan Uribe.
- The Yankees' interest in Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney could pick up following the Royals' four-year, $30.25MM deal with Omar Infante, Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com tweets. Levine says the two teams have previously discussed Barney, who's considered a strong defender but hit just .208/.266/.303 in 2013.
- Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway is aware of talks to eliminate home-plate collisions, but he'd prefer the rule to remain as it is, Tim Healey writes for MLB.com. "I've talked to a few of the other catchers, and I think that in general we all want to see [the rule] the way it is," Lavarnway said. "We think that [home-plate collisions are] a part of the game."
- The A.J. Pierzynski signing appears to call Lavarnway's role with the 2014 Red Sox into question, Healey says. Pierzynski and David Ross are expected to handle Boston's catching duties next season.
- The Orioles will struggle to keep Rule 5 draft selection Michael Almanzar on the 25-man roster for the entirety of 2014, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. Like fellow Oriole Danny Valencia, Almanzar is limited to the infield corners and hits right handed. Almanzar has a .250/.302/.373 line in six minor-league seasons.
The Red Sox "haven't ruled out" a pursuit of Curtis Granderson, according to Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com (Twitter link). In light of last night's sudden and surprising agreement between Jacoby Ellsbury and the Yankees, the Red Sox have a need in the outfield, though that could simply be handled by Jackie Bradley Jr. The Sox could use Grandy in either right field or center field, with Shane Victorino occupying the other slot. Here are some more Boston-related news items…
- Ken Davidoff of the New York Post tweets that Boston's talks with Ellsbury didn't go too far beyond the five-year, $80MM range. That jives with previous reports that the Red Sox didn't want to give Ellsbury $100MM or more and last night's report that their offer was "a ways off" from that of the Yankees.
- WEEI.com's Alex Speier reports that the Red Sox have been limiting their offers to free agent catchers to two years so as not to block the paths of top prospects Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart. As such, their best offer to Jarrod Saltalamacchia was a two-year deal that could top out at $18MM after incentives. Saltalamacchia instead agreed to a three-year deal with the Marlins yesterday.
- The signing of A.J. Pierzynski could spell the end of Ryan Lavarnway's time with the Red Sox, Speier writes in a separate piece. Lavarnway has made a lot of strides defensively over the past few years but still isn't a defensive asset, and his offense has seen a precipitous drop since a 32-homer minor league season in 2011. Since that time, he's hit just 14 homers in 829 plate appearances. The presence of Swihart, Vazquez and Dan Butler creates a logjam that could leave Lavarnway on the outside looking in.
On this day in 2000, the Reds acquired Ken Griffey Jr. from the Mariners in exchange for pitchers Brett Tomko and Jake Meyer, center fielder Mike Cameron and infielder Antonio Perez. Griffey would sign the largest contract in MLB history at the time to the tune of a nine-year, $116.5MM deal. Let's catch up on the latest news and stories making headlines from around the big leagues.
- The Mariners enter Spring Training with more than just a handful of outfielders competing for four or five spots on the roster, writes Ryan Divish of The News Tribune. Casper Wells, gifted defensively but lacking a consistent bat, may be lost on waivers if he is designated for assignment as he is out of options.
- Ryan Lavarnway's chances of making the Opening Day roster for the Red Sox may be beyond his control given the presence of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross as well as his option, says Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. “For me, I want to win the World Series,” Lavarnway said. "It doesn’t matter if I’m there for however long. We play this game to win and if you’re not playing this game to win then I don’t know why you’re playing. However I can help."
- The Red Sox made a series of offseason acquisitions which has to raise the question of how will all of the new players fit in to the culture of the clubhouse, wonders Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. Abraham says GM Ben Cherington wants to field a squad that looks new in 2013 and hopes the additions made in the offseason will foster a different vibe in the clubhouse.
As we gear up for an exciting week in Nashville, Tennessee, many are wondering if the Red Sox will make a major move as they look to turn the tide. What are the odds of them making a splash? “I can’t handicap it," General Manager Ben Cherington told reporters, including Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). "You can’t rule it out. I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. I think if there’s a deal that we feel really makes the organization stronger short and long term, we’ll pursue it. Some of those could fit into that category.” Here's more out of Boston..
- The Red Sox will try to steer clear of long-term commitments, but team President and CEO Larry Lucchino says that there is no hard line on how many years they might give to a free agent, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald.
- Manager John Farrell says that there has been no discussion about moving Ryan Lavarnway or Jarrod Saltalamacchia to first base, Abraham writes. There has been speculation that the Red Sox might trade one of the catchers after signing David Ross last month.
- Neither Cherington nor Farrell are willing to close the door on the possibility of a deal involving Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, or any other starting pitcher on the roster, writes Evan Drellich of MLB.com.
Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe interviewed Red Sox GM Ben Cherington on a number of Hot Stove topics earlier today, including the pace of the offseason, a pair of Rosses, and the team's bulk of quality catchers. Here are the highlights…
- The Red Sox remain in talks with Cody Ross but are also talking to other corner outfield options as well.
- Boston signed David Ross because Cherington and his colleagues "wanted to have someone as part of the catching group who has been through the wars and has a good feel for the game." Abraham notes that Ross will receive more playing time than a standard backup catcher.
- Cherington expects David Ross, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway all to contribute to the club in 2013, implying that he's not planning on dealing any of his catchers. The plan right now, not surprisingly, is for Saltalamacchia to start with Ross backing up and Lavarnway likely opening the year at Triple-A Pawtucket.
- Cherington doesn't feel that the team is moving at a slow pace thus far this offseason. He tells Abraham that the team is well ahead of where it was at this juncture in 2011: "We’ve spent a lot more time on player issues at this time as compared to last year. That doesn’t always turn into announcements."
- The Red Sox will have a "significant" payroll and will be adding free-agent talent to the team, according to Cherington. He also wouldn't rule out trading prospects for established talent, though he stressed that he'd need to acquire another long-term piece in return if he were to do so.