Scott Downs Rumors

Relief Notes: Axford, Downs, O’Flaherty

The market for relievers continues to take shape, as the Tigers yesterday announced a two-year, $20MM contract with Joe Nathan, and the Red Sox and Edward Mujica struck a two-year agreement. Here's the latest on the free agent market for relievers…

  • Agent Dan Horwits received calls from 14 teams regarding client John Axford in the first 36 hours following his non-tender by the Cardinals, he told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. As Nicholson-Smith writes, any team to sign Axford would control him through the 2016 season, making him a potentially more appealing target.
  • One team who figures to be heavily in the mix for Axford is the Orioles, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. The O's liked Mujica prior to his signing with the Red Sox, and the fact that he is off the board likely strengthens Baltimore's interest in Axford, Kubatko adds.
  • The Nationals are interested in Scott Downs and have inquired on him at least twice, according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson. It's not clear what kind of contract Downs is looking for at this time, writes Ladson, who also reports that the Nats are considering using Ross Detwiler out of the bullpen in 2014.
  • The Nationals are also interested in southpaw Eric O'Flaherty, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Though the Nationals have yet to make an offer, they've maintained a constant dialogue with his agent. Washington is one of six teams to have shown interest in O'Flaherty and is also eyeing J.P. Howell and Boone Logan, per Kilgore.

Trade Reactions: Jose Veras, Scott Downs

We've seen three relievers get shipped off to new teams already today, with the Tigers acquiring Jose Veras for Danry Vasquez and a PTBNL, the Braves landing Scott Downs for Cory Rasmus and the Rays making a play for the injured Jesse Crain. The Crain deal will remain an unknown as the two sides are still working out "future considerations" to be sent to the White Sox due to Crain's DL status, but the baseball world is already weighing in on the Veras and Downs deals. Let's take a look…

Jose Veras

  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs calls the trade a win-win move. He notes that over the past year, Veras has been statisically similar to Jonathan Papelbon but comes at a fraction of the price. The Astros, meanwhile, cashed in on an asset for which they had little need and received someone with notable upside in the process.
  • ESPN's Keith Law also likes the move for both sides (ESPN Insider required and recommended), noting that Vasquez's prospect status has slipped this season, but he's still a nice lottery ticket for the Astros, who have little need for a solid closer in a likely 100-loss season.
  • Houston GM Jeff Luhnow told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart that he's been following Vasquez since he was an international free agent and is excited to add him to the team's Class-A affiliate: "And he's at the A ball level, and you plug him into Quad Cities with [Rio] Ruiz, [Carlos] Correa and the pitchers there, it's a pretty formidable group there and pretty exciting. He's young and has a tremendous upside. He has the potential to be hit in the middle of the lineup."
  • The move was bittersweet for Veras, who told McTaggart that he considers Houston his home but is excited to be going to a team with a chance to make the playoffs. He also has friends such as Omar Infante, Brayan Pena and Ramon Santiago in Detroit.

Scott Downs

  • Cameron offers his take on the Downs trade as well, noting that Downs shouldn't face righties anymore but can still provide a boost in the playoffs against tough lefties like Joey Votto and Adrian Gonzalez. The Angels didn't get much back in return, in Cameron's mind, as most organizations have plenty of relief prospects who can throw 93 mph and miss bats with questionable command. However, getting "something just north of nothing" was better than simply letting Downs leave at season's end.
  • Downs "[has] a place in any modern day bullpen," given his dominance over lefties, writes Matt Eddy of Baseball America. Eddy provides a scouting report on Rasmus, whose biggest weakness is his control. Eddy points out that Rasmus is capable of retiring both lefties and righties if he can reign in the walks.
  • One scout told Danny Knobler of CBS Sports that Downs has lost the "turbo-sink" that prompted Anaheim to sign him to a three-year, $15MM contract but wondered if joining a playoff contender will revitalize the 37-year-old lefty.
  • The Braves got Downs "for virtually nothing" writes Law (ESPN Insider required). Rasmus profiles as a generic right-handed reliever whose main value is that he's cost-controlled. Rasmus' high fly-ball rates will play better in Angel Stadium and with Anaheim's defense though, Law adds.

Braves Acquire Scott Downs

The Braves found their left-handed reliever, acquiring veteran Scott Downs from the Angels for righty reliever Cory Rasmus, according to Halos communications director Eric Kay.

USATSI_7311613

Downs, 37, has a 1.84 ERA, 6.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 0.31 HR/9, and 63.1% groundball rate in 29 1/3 innings this year.  The 12-year veteran has split his time fairly evenly against righties and lefties, but has been quite good in facing left-handed hitters 55 times this year.  Prior to the 2011 season, Downs signed a three-year, $15MM free agent deal with the Angels.  The first-place Braves were known to be in the hunt for a lefty reliever after losing Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters for the season, with the Cubs' James Russell high on their wish list along with Downs.  Luis Avilan had been the team's lone southpaw reliever.  Downs has yet to pitch in the postseason in his career, notes Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register.

Cory Rasmus, younger brother to Colby, made his big league debut in May but has spent most of the season as a closer at Triple-A.  There, the 25-year-old posted a 1.72 ERA, 11.8 K/9, 5.4 BB/9, and 0.49 HR/9 in 36 2/3 innings.  Rasmus works around 93-94 miles per hour.  He was drafted 38th overall by the Braves in '06.  Rasmus can be a long-term piece for the Angels, who as MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez notes have lefty Sean Burnett signed for next year and Nick Maronde waiting.

Braves GM Frank Wren and Angels GM Jerry Dipoto last matched up on a trade in November, when Atlanta sent starter Tommy Hanson to Los Angeles for reliever Jordan Walden.

Another first-place team added a reliever earlier this morning, as the Tigers acquired Jose Veras from the Astros.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Bullpen Notes: Papelbon, Nathan, Tigers, Padres

Closer Jonathan Papelbon is dissatisfied with the Phillies' current direction, MLB.com's Todd Zalecki reports. In the midst of an eight-game losing streak, Philadelphia has fallen to seven games below .500, and that's not what Papelbon anticipated when he signed with the Phils. "I definitely didn't come here for this," he says. He also doesn't sound optimistic when asked about the Phillies' future. "Oh man," he says. "We could be here all day."

Papelbon is of the opinion that the Phillies need to undergo an overhaul, similar to that of his former team, the Red Sox (whose overhaul, ironically, included losing Papelbon to free agency). He says he does not want to be traded, but adds that he does not want to stay in Philadelphia if his team continues on the same path.


West Notes: Angels, Nathan, Diamondbacks, Wilson

The Angels are "open for business," Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan tweets. That means deals for Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick and others could be on the table. It remains to be seen what the Angels might be able to do with less than three days before the deadline, but Kendrick would be a particularly attractive trade candidate — his consistently high batting averages and solid defense make him a dependably productive player, and he's under contract through 2015 at a reasonable cost, making a bit over $9MM both in 2014 and 2015. Aybar isn't having as good a year as Kendrick, but he might make an interesting buy-low candidate. If the Angels are open to selling other players, reliever Scott Downs, who becomes a free agent after this season, would also be an obvious possibility, as CBS Sports' Jon Heyman suggested yesterday. Here are more notes from the West divisions.

  • With a 13-game deficit in the AL West and with Albert Pujols on the disabled list, however, the Angels have "nothing to sell," ESPN's Jim Bowden says (Insider-only). Several of their top players, like Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo, aren't candidates to be dealt, and much of the rest of their roster has been disappointing, which is why they're 13 games back to begin with. That leaves a handful of relievers as the Angels' only viable trade pieces.
  • If the Rangers want to trade Joe Nathan, the Dodgers are the only suitor that makes much sense, Bowden writes (Twitter links). Boston or Detroit could be possible destinations, but Bowden guesses that the Rangers won't relish the possibility of dealing Nathan to the Red Sox or Tigers and then having to face him in the playoffs. Instead, they could send him to L.A., possibly in a deal involving Andre Ethier.
  • The Diamondbacks are looking for a second bullpen lefty, FOXSportsArizona.com's Jack Magruder tweets.
  • Five teams, four of them from the National League, are interested in former Giants closer Brian Wilson, who's returning from Tommy John surgery, tweets Yahoo! Sports' Tim Brown.

Quick Hits: Hudson, Axford, DeJesus, Downs

It's time for MLB to push the trade deadline from July 31st to a later date, opines Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.  Cameron argues that with an expanded postseason, many teams are still holding out hope around this time of year that they are still in it and therefore they aren't selling.  A new deadline would certainly take some getting used to, but the date has shifted over time.  As you ponder Cameron's suggestion, here are some links from around the league…

  • Braves pitcher Tim Hudson fractured his ankle against the Mets tonight as he was covering first base and the club announced that he will need to undergo season-ending ankle surgery.  Before Hudson's injury, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com noted that Atlanta had some interest in acquiring another starter.
  • The Brewers have shipped off Francisco Rodriguez, but Danny Knobler of CBS Sports tweets that plenty of teams are still interested in their remaining bullpen arms such as John Axford and Mike Gonzalez. The Dodgers are among the interested parties, according to Knobler.
  • Cubs outfielder David DeJesus is returning just in time to be showcased for the deadline, but club president Theo Epstein doesn't think he's going anywhere, writes Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.  However, he won't make any guarantees.  "Does that make him untouchable?" Epstein said. "No, no one is untouchable, but we'll sit and weigh out the options as to what's best for the Cubs. Just because you may listen on somebody doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate everything he brings to the organization."
  • Peter Gammons of the MLB Network reports that the Angels are receiving calls on lefty Scott Downs, who is a free agent at season's end (Twitter link). A deal is unlikely to happen, however, Gammons adds.
  • One league executive told Jayson Stark of ESPN.com (via Twitter) that he has "no doubt" that the Phillies are buyers after talking to them.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


Stark’s Latest: Brewers, Ruggiano, Young, Storen

ESPN's Jayson Stark quotes a number of executives who feel the trade deadline has lost its luster since many teams have locked up their top young players, teams are reluctant to acquire rental players who carry no draft pick compensation as free agents, and the second wild card has narrowed the market of outright sellers to just a few teams.  That said, Stark still has lots of hot stove items for us in his latest Rumblings & Grumblings column

  • Ryan Braun's suspension could drastically change the Brewers' perspective on trading some veteran stars.  While Francisco Rodriguez was indeed traded just a day after Braun's suspension was announced, Stark hears that the Brewers are asking for a lot in deals.  "One of the problems with dealing with Milwaukee is that [their] trade for [Jean] Segura last year was so one-sided that they want another tilted deal. Not going to happen," an AL executive said.
  • The price for Kyle Lohse, for instance, involves the price of a first-round pick.  The Crew gave up as first-rounder as compensation for signing Lohse as a free agent in the spring.
  • Three scouts who have recently seen Yovani Gallardo say he's been pitching like a fourth or fifth starter.  Gallardo in his prime was "close to an ace. [But] lots of pitches on that arm from then to now. He can really pitch, but his stuff [has gone] way back," one scout said.  Gallardo has a 4.58 ERA and a career-worst 7.2 K/9 in 21 starts this season, plus he's lost two miles of velocity off his fastball.
  • We'd heard that the Yankees and Rangers had checked in on Marlins outfielder Justin Ruggiano, and Stark adds the Phillies and Giants to the list of a half-dozen interested teams.  The Marlins weren't too keen on dealing Ruggiano but he could be expendable now that Christian Yellich and Jake Marisnick have been called up.
  • The Phillies' next five games "will determine Michael Young's fate more than anyone else on their roster," said one executive who has talked to the club.  Young is seen as "pretty much a lock" to be dealt if the Phils struggle during their road trip through St. Louis and Detroit this week.  The Phillies dropped a 4-1 result to the Cardinals last night.
  • Jonathan Papelbon hasn't been made available by the Phillies but even if he was, one AL executive thinks Papelbon's contract makes him "practically untradable."
  • Stark thinks the Phillies and Marlins are good trade partners on paper since the Phils could use Ruggiano or any of Miami's good relievers.  The Marlins aren't willing to move anyone unless they get a great offer, however, and the Phillies aren't willing to move any of their top prospects to facilitate a deal.
  • The Nationals could listen on a good offer for Drew Storen, the former first-round pick who is struggling through a tough year.  The Nats are in a tough spot trade-wise, however, since the team is largely set at every position yet are still in need of hitting.
  • Alex Rios' long slump has lowered his trade value and the White Sox will be hard-pressed to find a team to meet their asking price for the right fielder.  The Rangers still have some interest in Rios, as they're looking for an outfielder that can be controlled beyond this season.
  • The Red Sox are seen as very likely to add pitching before the deadline.  Boston has been linked to Jake Peavy and were interested in Francisco Rodriguez before the Orioles got him. 
  • The Braves have targeted Oliver Perez and Charlie Furbush of the Mariners, Scott Downs of the Angels, Mike Dunn of the Marlins and James Russell of the Cubs in their search for left-handed relief pitching.  While Atlanta has been looking at these names and others, however, Stark says the team isn't close to a deal.
  • In regards to the Biogenesis scandal, Stark hears from an attorney who believes "virtually every case will be settled by a plea deal.  You're going to see a lot of pleas. You're going to see a lot of deals."

Relief Market Rumors: K-Rod, Wilson, Duensing, Coke

With just over a week to the trade deadline, there's still been only one significant move for a reliever — Boston's acquisition of Matt Thornton. Plenty of teams are on the lookout for bullpen help, however, including the Tigers, Red Sox, Braves, Diamondbacks and more. With a potential Jason Grilli injury last night, more bullpen rumors could begin to circulate. Here are the latest relief rumblings from around the baseball world…

  • The Red Sox, Dodgers and Tigers are all keeping close tabs on Francisco Rodriguez, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. The Sox and Dodgers, in particular, were said by Crasnick to have scouts "all over" Rodriguez this week. Detroit, meanwhile, isn't as interested as it once was due to the strong recent performance of Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly (Twitter links).
  • Former closer Brian Wilson threw for Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti and bullpen catcher Billy Hayes yesterday, according to Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com. The session was a personal favor to Wilson and not an indicator that a deal is coming, Baggarly writes. However, Wilson looked nearly Major League ready, and Baggarly feels that the willingness to afford Wilson this favor suggests that any ill will between the two sides following Wilson's offseason non-tender has subsided.
  • The Braves continue to search for left-handed relief help, tweets Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio, who lists Oliver Perez, Mike Dunn, Glen Perkins, Scott Downs and James Russell as potential targets. Bowden notes that Perkins is unlikely, likely because of the numerous reports that the Twins won't move their closer.
  • While the Twins aren't interested in moving Perkins, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Braves may have interest in another Minnesota lefty who may be available — Brian Duensing (Twitter link). Duensing has two years of team control remaining and will be arbitration-eligible for the second time this offseason.
  • One more note from Crasnick, who tweets that the Braves also checked in on Phil Coke in their quest for lefty relief help, but nothing came of the talks with the Tigers. Coke has had a brutal season because of overexposure against right-handed hitters, but he's held lefties to a .231/.271/.346 batting line.
  • For more on the relief trade market, check out my examinations of the market for left-handed relievers and the market for right-handed relievers. Also, for all fantasy players out there, be sure to follow @closernews on Twitter to keep up to speed with closer injuries, performance, usage and more.

Quick Hits: Soriano, Nationals, Angels, K-Rod

Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs is on the Yankees' radar as a possible trade target, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. If any deal were to take place, though, it might not happen in July, since the $25MM remaining on Soriano's contract means he's sure to pass through waivers in August. Soriano has a full no-trade clause, but says he will consider a trade to a contending team. Wittenmyer writes that the Yankees view another Cubs outfielder, Nate Schierholtz, as more of a platoon type.

  • The Nationals shouldn't be buyers at the trade deadline, the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell writes. The Nats are now 48-50, and are now seven games back of the Braves in the NL East, as well as seven games back of the Reds for the second Wild Card. Boswell points out that their chance of making the playoffs is less than 20 percent, and for a team in that position, the value of a rental player like Matt Garza or Ervin Santana is questionable. Boswell argues that even if the Nats acquire a player who is also under contract for 2014, like Jake Peavy or Yovani Gallardo, they need to do so mostly because those players can help next year, not because they can help down the stretch this season.
  • The Angels are now ten games back of the Athletics in the AL West, and it looks like they should sell at the trade deadline, FOX Sports' Jon Morosi tweets. (Note that Morosi isn't predicting the Angels will sell, only saying that they should.) If the Angels were to sell, Erick Aybar and Scott Downs are two players they could trade, Morosi writes. Aybar is in the first year of a four-year, $35MM deal, and he's hitting .287/.305/.388 as the Angels' starting shortstop. Downs, who is in the last year of a three-year, $15MM contract, has a 1.32 ERA, albeit with a more pedestrian 6.9 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9.
  • The Dodgers have heavily scouted Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez recently, Danny Knobler of CBS Sports reports. Milwaukee also has two other veteran relievers in Mike Gonzalez and John Axford, and Knobler notes that the Tigers and Red Sox have also been scouting the Brewers. Still, the Brewers might opt not to trade any of their relievers before the deadline.
  • The Yankees have signed left-handed pitcher Artur Strzalka, Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues notes (via Baseball America's Matt Eddy). Strzalka is the first born-and-raised Polish player ever to sign with a Major League team. As Axisa notes, one likely purpose of this signing is to help the Yankees establish themselves as bidders for talent in a new part of the world.

Quick Hits: Nolasco, Angels, Twins, Norris

Peter Gammons reported earlier today that there was buzz amongst the league's general managers that Ricky Nolasco would end up with the Giants before the trade deadline.  This sentiment is shared even by another general manager who is himself interested in Nolasco; this mystery GM tells USA Today's Bob Nightengale that he expects Brian Sabean to outbid the field in the race for the Marlins righty.

Here are some more items from around the majors…

  • The Angels might make pending free agents Jason Vargas or Scott Downs available at the trade deadline if they decide to sell, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez opines, though there won't be any major moves.  "I'm told nothing will cause them to blow up the roster and start all over again," Gonzalez writes, since the front office still believes the club can be contenders in 2014 and beyond and the Josh Hamilton/Albert Pujols contracts make it difficult to truly rebuild.
  • The Angels have nothing to show for their efforts in acquiring big-name pitchers (Scott Kazmir, Dan Haren and Zack Greinke) at the trade deadline in three of the last four seasons, MLB.com's Lyle Spencer writes.  Making matters worse for the Halos is that they dealt several top prospects in those trades, giving away such notable talents as Jean Segura, Patrick Corbin, Tyler Skaggs and Alex Torres.
  • The Twins have exceeded expectations this year but "it's hard to see a scenario in which they'll be buyers" at the trade deadline, MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger writes as part of a reader mailbag.  A hot streak over the next month could change plans, though with the Tigers unlikely to be caught atop the AL Central, Bollinger suspects the Twins will stick with their rebuilding plan.
  • Bud Norris noted that he hasn't discussed a long-term deal with the Astros and he wouldn't be surprised if he is traded, the right-hander tells MLB.com's Brian McTaggart.  "If the trade deadline is here and I'm still in an Astros uniform, I'll be happy with that," Norris said.  "I understand something could happen, but at the end of the day, my focus right now is still in Houston, and that's where it's going to stay."  The Pirates, Orioles and Giants have all reportedly considered acquiring Norris and more suitors are likely to follow.
  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro was non-committal about whether or not the Phils would call up Carlos Zambrano before his July 1 opt-out date.  Amaro told reporters (including Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer) that Zambrano has "been inconsistent" in the minors and that he doesn't see the righty as a relief pitcher.