Scott Downs Rumors
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.
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.
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.
Ivan Rodriguez has been hired by the Rangers as a special assistant to the general manager, the team announced today. "Pudge" spent 13 of his 20 Major League seasons as a Ranger and will now serve the organization as a scout, organizational instructor and ambassador. Here are some more items from around the AL West...
- Scott Downs wants to remain with the Angels and the southpaw tells MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez that he would be willing to negotiate an extension during the season. Downs' representatives at CAA have told the Angels' front office about their client's wishes but have yet to get a response. Downs turns 37 in March and has pitched very well in Anaheim, posting a 2.17 ERA over 99 1/3 innings in his first two years of his three-year, $15MM contract. He turns 37 in March, however, and Gonzalez speculates that the Angels may let Downs go since Sean Burnett and Nick Maronde are in the fold as left-handed bullpen options.
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels spoke with Dallas Morning News readers about the team's offseason moves, international signings, the current Texas roster and more in a live chat today.
- The Athletics have received tentative guidelines from the Commissioner's Office regarding a possible move to San Jose, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. This isn't necessarily a sign that the A's will be allowed to move, Shaikin notes, though if the team can comply with these guidelines, it could prompt Bud Selig to put the matter of the proposed move to a vote of the other league owners. MLB has been studying the Athletics' proposed San Jose relocation for four years, and the Giants are known to oppose the move on the grounds that it infringes on their territorial rights.
- Rick Ankiel will make $750K if he makes the Astros' Opening Day roster, plus a few small bonuses based on plate appearances, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports. Houston signed the veteran outfielder to a minor league contract in January.
Links for Thursday night..
- The Giants likely can't get much for Barry Zito and therefore a deal involving him is unlikely, writes MLB.com's Chris Haft.
- Ryan Theriot enjoyed his brief stint with the Dodgers last season, writes Quinn Roberts for MLB.com. After playing 54 games for the club last season, he was shipped to the Cardinals for reliever Blake Hawksworth.
- Despite all of the uncertainty about their rotation heading into this season, it seems like the Rangers pitching is just fine, writes Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com.
- After bouncing around from the Pirates to the Nationals to the Brewers, Nyjer Morgan seems to be carving out a niche for himself in Milwaukee, writes George Von Benko for MLB.com. The Brewers acquired Morgan in exchange for Cutter Dykstra in late March.
- Major League Baseball announced the selection order for the draft (June 6-8) and the Padres own five of the first 58 overall selections, writes Corey Brock of MLB.com. In addition to their own first-rounder, the club has the ninth pick for failing to sign their 2010 first-round pick, pitcher Karsten Whitson. They also have three compensatory picks for Jon Garland (Dodgers), Yorvit Torrealba (Rangers) and Kevin Correia (Pirates).
- The Angels are grateful to have picked up left-handed relievers Hisanori Takahashi and Scott Downs this offseason, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
The AL East is a busy division these days. The Yankees have to finalize their rotation, the Rays have to reconstruct their 'pen and the Orioles are acquiring players in bunches. The Red Sox have added two star players to their lineup, but they're still contemplating more moves. Here's the latest:
- The Red Sox would only offer a three-year contract to an elite reliever, a source tells Alex Speier of WEEI.com. Rafael Soriano fits that description, but Speier says the Red Sox are an unlikely suitor, since they already have Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard.
- Boston had significant interest in Scott Downs after signing Carl Crawford, according to Speier. Downs was a Type A free agent who would ordinarily cost a top pick, but the Red Sox had already surrendered their top pick to sign Crawford, so adding Downs would only have cost Boston its second round selection. The Angels gave Downs a three-year deal, more than the Red Sox were comfortable offering.
- The Red Sox maintain interest in Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain. Guerrier is not looking for a Joaquin Benoit-like deal ($16.5MM over three years) and, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, remains one of the team's top targets.
- The Phillies have kicked the tires on Mike Cameron, according to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark (on Twitter).
The Angels have agreed to terms on a three-year, $15MM contract with Scott Downs. Peter Gammons was the first to report the numbers of the deal, while FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal adds that the deal is pending a physical and Downs can earn up to an extra $1MM based on games finished (both Twitter links). Downs is represented by CAA.
Downs has quietly been one of the AL's best relievers in recent years, posting a 2.36 ERA, a 7.8 K/9 rate and a 2.63 K/BB ratio over the last four seasons in Toronto.
Since Downs is a Type A free agent, the Blue Jays will receive two draft picks for the left-hander --- one a first-round compensation pick, and a second-round pick from Los Angeles since the Halos' first-rounder is protected. If the Angels were to sign a higher-ranked Type A free agent (such as Adrian Beltre or Rafael Soriano), then the pick they send to Toronto will be bumped down a round.
The Halos have now added two solid lefty arms to their bullpen in Downs and Hisanori Takahashi, who was signed last week. GM Tony Reagins tells Dan Woike of the Orange County Register that the Angels are now satisfied with their bullpen and rotation and they won't be adding any more relievers (Twitter links), which would seem to take the club out of the Soriano sweepstakes. If Soriano is too expensive, L.A. could be satisfied with Fernando Rodney as their closer, or perhaps they're looking at a Rodney/Downs righty-lefty closing platoon, which would explain Downs' incentive bonus for games finished.
While Boston's agreement with Carl Crawford is, of course, a huge move in its own right, the impact it could have on other free agents can't be overlooked. Here are a few players and teams who may be affected by the Crawford signing:
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post speculates (via Twitter) that the Angels and Rangers, who were in on Crawford, could make a stronger push for Cliff Lee now. Brian Cashman, however, says the move won't affect the Yankees' tactics with Lee (Twitter link). Regardless, Crawford's contract is widely viewed as great news for the southpaw. Newsday's Ken Davidoff writes that "it just gets better and better to be Cliff Lee this winter."
- As Lou Merloni writes at WEEI.com, the Red Sox could become more interested in Scott Downs now that the Type A free agent wouldn't cost a first round pick. Boston will send its first round pick to Tampa Bay as compensation for Crawford, so they'd only have to surrender a second rounder if they signed Downs.
- The Red Sox have almost certainly been eliminated as a suitor for Magglio Ordonez now, which is good news for the Tigers. According to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports, Detroit "badly wants to re-sign" Ordonez, and while the veteran has a handful of suitors, it appeared Boston's interest was serious.
- Having missed out on Crawford, the Angels are expected to turn their "full attention" to Adrian Beltre and perhaps Rafael Soriano, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
5:32pm: GM Theo Epstein told reporters, including Alex Speier of WEEI.com that the Red Sox have made "a number" of offers to free agent relievers, some left-handed, some right-handed.
4:36pm: Like the Reds and Phillies, the Red Sox have some interest in Arthur Rhodes, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The lefty does not appear to be close to deciding on his next team.
2:24am: Signing Type A relievers and surrendering a draft pick is a risky proposition, as the swings in any reliever's performance from year-to-year can be wild, and they simply don't impact a large amount of innings over the course of a season.
WEEI.com's Alex Speier tells us that may not stop the Red Sox from pursuing Scott Downs, however, despite the fact that he'd cost Boston a first-round pick. Speier's source also says that the club wouldn't give up a pick to sign Grant Balfour to the multi-year deal he's seeking, and he cites multiple industry sources saying the club is interested in Matt Guerrier after the Twins declined to offer him arbitration.
As Speier points out, Downs has some of the most dominant numbers in history for a reliever during his age 31-34 seasons, and the Red Sox have taken note of the division rival's excellence. Since 2007, Downs has compiled a 2.36 ERA with a 7.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 over 236 2/3 innings, while being a stickler for home runs (0.5 HR/9). He's been a menace to left-handed hitters, but it's worth noting that the highest OPS right-handers have managed off him in that timeframe is .643.
Guerrier, 32, has appeared in 70 or more innings every year since his first full season in 2005, with the exception of 2006 -- when he came one out short of the mark. While his career peripherals (5.9 K/9, 45.7% GB%, 4.44 FIP) don't dazzle, Guerrier has managed to out-perform them year-in and year-out. He's led the league in appearances twice (2008 and 2009) and has a career ERA of 3.38 to his name to go along with solid control (2.8 BB/9).
Epstein said Monday that the Red Sox will acquire multiple relievers via trade or free agency, but as he points out in this quote relayed from Speier, teams may be waiting for some distance from the Joaquin Benoit signing:
“Sometimes when there’s a contract that exceeds expectations early, it can embolden players and agents within that subset of players who have a similar resume,” said Epstein. “Time will tell whether they get attached to that contract or it’s an outlier contract.”
The Red Sox haven't surrendered a draft pick to sign a reliever since 2004 with Keith Foulke, but Downs could change that trend, especially if the Red Sox end up receiving additional first-round and supplemental picks for the departures of Victor Martinez, Adrian Beltre, and Felipe Lopez.
- Chris Tillman's name has been mentioned in connection with the Mark Reynolds trade rumors, tweets Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic thinks the D'Backs "seem to like" David Hernandez more, but Hernandez would be just one piece of what's likely to be a pitcher-centric package (Twitter links).
- The O's are one of three teams known to be exploring a Reynolds deal, but they're the ones with "the heaviest interest" in the third baseman according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com. The Blue Jays and Padres, in fact, "strongly deny" that they're even pursuing Reynolds.
- "Some progress has been made" between the Orioles and Koji Uehara, reports Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. The club has been keeping in touch with Uehara's agent and Zrebiec says team officials "feel pretty good" about their ability to re-sign the reliever.
- Zrebiec also notes that Baltimore has been in discussions about a number of free agent relievers and have contacted the representatives of Grant Balfour, Jesse Crain, Scott Downs, Brian Fuentes, Matt Guerrier and Kerry Wood. The O's "have at least one offer out" to one of these pitchers, Zrebiec says.
- Baltimore has contacted Bobby Jenks' agent, reports Zrebiec in another piece.
- From that same article, Zrebiec writes "the next person I speak to in the organization who feels the O’s have a shot at Konerko would be the first." The Orioles' interest in Konerko is "largely overblown" and most insiders feel Konerko will re-sign with the White Sox.