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The Red Sox, Giants and Tigers were said to be the front-runners for Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo as of yesterday evening. The outfielder’s rumored asking price continues to crawl upward as his decision reportedly inches closer. We’ll keep track of today’s Castillo rumors in this post…
- ESPN’s Jayson Stark hears that the bidding for Castillo could cost $50-60MM over five years. Stark lists five of the six usual suspects as finalists, noting that the Red Sox, Tigers, Giants, Phillies and Yankees remain in the mix for Castillo.
- The Phillies will take a shot at Castillo but aren’t likely to land him, multiple sources have told MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki.
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that at least four teams remain in the running for Castillo, with the Red Sox representing one of that group. The Tigers and Giants have a sense of urgency about their pursuit, as they plan to use Castillo to bolster their 2014 playoff hopes. In addition to those three clubs and previously mentioned teams such as the Phillies, Cubs and Yankees, Heyman lists the Mariners as a team with interest, though he cautions that it isn’t clear how involved they are at this stage of the talks.
- Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that the Red Sox are one of multiple teams that have made a “strong bid” for Castillo. Those wondering what sort of role the presence of countryman and former teammate Yoenis Cespedes would have on Castillo will be interested to hear Cespedes’ comments that he hasn’t spoken to his former teammate anytime recently. However, Cespedes did offer high praise for Castillo, telling Bradford, “If he’s not a five-tool player, he’s at least a four-tool player. He’s very comparable to [Yasiel] Puig. Obviously a different height and size, but very similar qualities.” BoSox GM Ben Cherington confirmed that they’ve spoken to Castillo but offered no further comment. Bradford, too, hears that Castillo is expected to make a decision by week’s end.
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is just 5’6″, but he doesn’t allow his height, or lack thereof, to be a disadvantage, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. “He’s an anomaly,” said David Stearns, the Astros’ assistant GM. “He’s tough to explain, other than the fact he works as hard or harder than anyone, he’s got freakish hand-eye skills, he loves baseball and he wants to be great.” More out of the AL West..
- Bob Dutton of The Tacoma News Tribune (on Twitter) believes that the Mariners have interest in keeping Kendrys Morales beyond this season but, of course, it’ll depend on the price. The M’s acquired Morales from the Twins in exchange for right-hander Stephen Pryor late last month. Morales batted just .234/.259/.325 for Minnesota and has slashed .207/.280/.329 for Seattle across 22 games.
- As commissioner Bud Selig makes his farewell tour, he readily admits that he wishes the A’s stadium situation would be resolved and over with, writes Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com. “One of the reasons for the resurgence of this sport are the new stadiums, there’s no question about it,” Selig said. “I know better than anybody (that the A’s need a new stadium). It was and is complicated. I know people don’t understand that, but it is. And if it was easy, just like if it was easy in Tampa, I’d have been 24 out of 24. But I have hopes in both places. Do I wish it’d been solved? Of course I do. I wish it had.”
- Who’s the best corner outfield prospect in baseball? Jim Callis of MLB.com says that distinction belongs to Alex Jackson, whom the Mariners selected with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 draft. Jackson was the consensus top position prospect in his class and received the third-highest draft bonus of anyone this year. He’s got company at the top, however. MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo says the Pirates’ Josh Bell is the game’s best corner outfield prospect.
There has been a lot of chatter regarding 27-year-old Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo. (Read here for some reactions to his well-attended recent workout, which seems to have increased his standing quite a bit around the league.) We’ll keep tabs on the latest right here:
- The Tigers, Red Sox, and Giants are still in the mix for Castillo, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Meanwhile, the Cubs, Yankees, and Phillies are not expected to place high bids for him.
- Bidding is strong, and could well reach or even exceed the $55MM level, according to a tweet from Sahadev Sharma of Baseball Prospectus. The Cubs appear not to be interested at that level, he adds.
- The Braves are “not in the bidding right now” for Castillo, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Atlanta has been noted as a possible suitor in the past.
- Six clubs are seen as viable landing spots for Castillo at this time, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (echoing, in some cases, earlier reports): the Red Sox, Tigers, Phillies, Cubs, Yankees, and Mariners. Castillo could sign a deal as soon as the end of the week, Heyman adds. We’ve heard conflicting reports on Philadelphia’s interest, in particular, and one executive tells Heyman that he believes the team could be attempting to downplay its interest while working to ink Castillo.
Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB, updates first:
- The Rangers have released veteran first baseman Carlos Pena from their Triple-A roster, per the PCL transactions page. Pena struggled at the major league level for Texas with a .136/.190/.237 line in 63 plate appearances. He performed better during his month at Triple-A with a .297/.350/.500 line in 80 plate appearances. No word on why the club cut ties with Pena.
- The Mariners have released right-handed pitcher Matt Palmer from the Triple-A Rainiers, according to the PCL transactions page. The 35-year-old pitched to a 5.42 ERA for the Rainiers over 73 innings. He last appeared in the majors with the Padres in 2012. Angels fans may remember him from his 2009 season, when he won 11 games and posted a 3.93 ERA over 121 innings.
- Resolving an earlier bit of news, the Tigers have outrighted the contract of right-handed pitcher Kevin Whelan to Triple-A. The 30-year-old appeared once for the big league club and allowed two runs over one and one-third innings. Prior to his call up, he served as the closer for the Mud Hens, where he posted a 2.45 ERA, 10.93 K/9, and 4.02 BB/9. Presumably, he will return to that role. The team announced the move on Twitter.
- Padres minor league outfielder Corey Adamson has retired to pursue a career in Australian rules football, reports Jeff Sanders of U-T San Diego. The 22-year-old, six-year pro was hitting .257/.340/.399 in 348 plate appearances at the High-A level.
- The Brewers have signed right-hander Billy Buckner to a minor league contract, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 30-year-old was released two weeks ago by the Padres. Buckner made one spot start for San Diego this season allowing three runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings and, in 15 appearances (14 starts) for Triple-A El Paso, has posted a 5.80 ERA, 6.2 K/9, and 4.7 BB/9 in 63 2/3 innings.
- Cotillo also tweets the Diamondbacks have released outfielder Aaron Cunningham from their Triple-A affiliate. The 27-year-old, who signed a minor league deal with Arizona in March, slashed .255/.342/.346 in 281 plate appearances for Reno. Cunningham hasn’t appeared in a MLB game since 2012 when he hit .175/.245/.247 for the Indians in 109 plate appearances.
- Per MLBTR’s DFA Tracker, there are four players in DFA limbo: Corey Brown (Red Sox), Charlie Leesman (White Sox), Matt Hague (Pirates), and Wirfin Obispo (Pirates).
Brad Johnson contributed to this post.
AUG. 9: The Yankees are ready to begin negotiating with Castillo, who worked out at their minor league complex Friday, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. The Yankees would want to use Castillo as a second baseman, with the outfield as a backup plan, King writes.
AUG. 6: While touring Wrigley Field on vacation, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith learned that the Cubs held a private workout for Castillo today (Twitter link).
AUG. 3: Castillo’s workout for the Mariners has been postponed and is expected to be rescheduled, tweets Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN.
JULY 29: Castillo, who worked out for the Phillies today, has set up a private workout with the Mariners on Sunday as well, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (on Twitter). His one-on-one workout with the Red Sox is still set for Friday.
JULY 28, 8:29pm: Ben Badler of Baseball America writes that the Yankees indeed have a private workout scheduled with Castillo.
7:33pm: General Manager Jeff Luhnow says the Astros may schedule a one-on-one workout with Castillo, writes Brian McTaggart of MLB.com.
7:24pm: A source tells Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (on Twitter) that only the Phillies (on Tuesday) and the Red Sox (Friday) have private workouts set up with Castillo. However, private workouts are in the works for the Yankees and other clubs.
Unsurprisingly, the Twins are not among the teams looking to line up a workout with Castillo, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Minnesota likes Castillo, but the expected asking price is too rich for their blood.
3:11pm: Reports indicated that 28 of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams were represented at Rusney Castillo‘s showcase over the weekend, and Ben Badler of Baseball America has the latest on the 27-year-old Cuban free agent. Castillo will have private workouts with the Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies this coming week, and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that the Orioles are also arranging a private workout.
Badler lists the White Sox, Mariners, Giants, Blue Jays, Cubs and Braves as other potential suitors. Because multiple teams have interest in getting a deal worked out quickly, however, there aren’t likely to be any further private workouts before a deal gets done, Badler writes. Additionally, Badler has posted some video footage from Castillo’s weekend showcase.
Multiple sources indicated to Badler that the Red Sox had the largest contingent on-hand Saturday for Castillo’s showcase. He notes that Jackie Bradley has more upside at the plate, and Mookie Betts might factor in as a corner outfield option in the long-term due to the presence of Dustin Pedroia, but Boston could be intrigued by Castillo as a corner option as well. He did play right field in Cuba, Badler adds.
The Yankees, meanwhile, could weigh the possibility of trying Castillo at second base, though they could have a corner spot open alongside Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner as well. Castillo played second base (and some third base) back in 2009-10, but scouts at the showcase weren’t overly impressed with his glovework as an infielder.
Center field is Castillo’s best position, Badler writes, so it stands to reason that the Phillies could view him as an upgrade over the light-hitting Ben Revere. Playing Castillo in center field allows him to maximize his best tool — 70-grade speed.
While the White Sox are very well-versed in the Cuban market — as evidenced by the presence of Jose Abreu, Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo on their roster — the presence of countrymen on their roster won’t influence Castillo, Badler hears. His decision will come down to financial terms.
Badler adds that the Giants also had a very strong presence at Castillo’s showcase, and he makes sense for them as their system has thinned following a trade for Jake Peavy and their continued interest in Ben Zobrist. The Cubs also had “a team” of evaluators on-hand to witness Castillo, who would bolster an already enviable crop of hitting prospects.
It’s been a quiet night for transactions and rumors, so let’s take a look at some audio looking back at the deadline:
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski joined ESPN.com’s Buster Olney on his podcast (audio link) to discuss the David Price trade. Dombrowski’s account is essential listening, but here are some highlights: Though Dombrowski was thinking initially about adding to the pen, internal recommendations led him to reach out to his Rays counterpart, Andrew Friedman, before the All-Star game. The sides chatted, but did not discuss a deal intensively until the evening before the deadline. Tampa had previously raised the name of young shortstop Willy Adames, was interested in some of the Mariners players, and liked Drew Smyly, but the precise package was only put together with the deadline closing in. In Dombrowski’s mind, the deal went from a “slight chance” overnight to happening quickly early in the afternoon. (Interestingly, the Detroit Free-Press tweeted that Dombrowski was notably absent from his usual seat just before the game; as it turns out, Dombrowski tells Olney that the key phone conversations were in fact taking place at that time.)
- Dombrowski had high praise for Friedman, who he described as direct and thorough. As for the idea that the haul was light for Price, Dombrowski explained that he had faced similar reactions after the Doug Fister deal, and feels that often such reactions come from a lack of information. In particular, he expressed that other clubs may not have a full read on Adames, who he calls a potential future All-Star.
- In his podcast today (audio link), Jonah Keri of Grantland spoke with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports about the trade deadline and what it means the rest of the way. Rosenthal wonders whether the Red Sox have created a sort of new model for sellers by pursuing big league pieces instead of unproven youngsters. Of course, Boston also created a much-discussed “model” for free-agent spending before the club’s 2013 World Series run, when it added a series of mid-tier veterans who seemed to gel together in Fenway. Keri also chats with Dan Okrent, discussing his excellent (and highly-recommended) book, Nine Innings, which delivers an incredible portrait of the workings of a ballclub from the front office to the field.
- Former MLB GM Jim Duquette shared his own thoughts on the deadline — in particular, regarding the Phillies – on The Jayson Stark Show of 97.5 The Fanatic (audio link). Duquette said he thought the club “missed an opportunity” by standing pat. He also said it was surprising to hear GM Ruben Amaro Jr. say that his peers were not sufficiently aggressive in pursuing Philadelphia’s players, with Stark adding that other general managers have indicated to him that they were less than pleased with the commentary.
The Yankees bullpen has emerged from Mariano Rivera‘s shadow to carve out their own place, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. “Those two guys, they are amazing,” catcher Francisco Cervelli said of Dellin Betances and David Robertson. “If they’re facing, in the seventh or eighth, a guy throwing 100, and then Robertson comes in at 91 with cutters and curveballs, it’s difficult timing.” More on the Bombers..
- Before acquiring Martin Prado from the Diamondbacks on Thursday, the Yankees inquired about the Mariners’ Dustin Ackley, according to George A. King III of the New York Post. However, those talks ended when the M’s asked for minor league right-hander Bryan Mitchell because the Yankees view the 23-year-old right-hander as a rotation candidate either this year or next.
- Robertson continues to lock up saves and Yankees GM Brian Cashman should lock up the closer, writes Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. The Yankees broke their long-standing rule of not extending players beyond their current contracts when they inked Brett Gardner to a four-year, $52MM deal during spring training and that’s looking like a smart move now. Now that Robertson has proven himself to be a strong closer, the Bombers should make sure he’s there for the long haul.
- The Yankees‘ acquisition of Prado means that they can be more patient in getting Carlos Beltran back from injury, writes Roger Rubin of the Daily News.
A former first-round pick of the Rangers, Beavan has never quite reached his potential at the big league level. He made just one start this year, and owns a career 4.61 ERA through 293 innings. Beavan will look to get himself back on track at Triple-A, and Seattle will have a few more months to decide whether to add him back to the 40-man at the end of the year.
We’ve got recaps in the books for the AL Central, NL Central, AL East and NL East, which means its time to turn our focus westward. We’ll start with the AL West, which had no shortage of interesting moves.
- Acquired righty Huston Street, righty Trevor Gott from Padres in exchange for infielder Taylor Lindsey, righty R.J. Alvarez, shortstop Jose Rondon, righty Elliot Morris
- Acquired lefty Joe Thatcher, outfielder Tony Campana from Diamondbacks in exchange for outfielder Zach Borenstein, righty Joey Krehbiel
- Acquired lefty Rich Hill from Red Sox for cash
- Acquired righty Jason Grilli from Pirates in exchange for righty Ernesto Frieri
- Acquired third baseman Colin Moran, outfielder Jake Marisnick, righty Francis Martes, and comp pick from Marlins in exchange for righty Jarred Cosart, infielder/outfielder Enrique Hernandez, and outfielderAustin Wates
- Acquired lefty Jon Lester, outfielder Jonny Gomes, and cash from Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and comp pick
- Acquired outfielder Sam Fuld from Twins in exchange for lefty Tommy Milone
- Acquired righty Deck McGuire from Blue Jays for cash
- Acquired righty Jeff Samardzija, righty Jason Hammel from Cubs in exchange for shortstop Addison Russell, outfielder Billy McKinney, righty Dan Straily
- Acquired righty Rodolfo Fernandez from Brewers for international bonus slot
- Acquired outfielder Austin Jackson from Tigers (in three-team deal that included Rays) in exchange for infielder Nick Franklin
- Acquired outfielder Chris Denorfia from Padres in exchange for outfielder Abraham Almonte, righty Stephen Kohlscheen
- Acquired first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales from Twins in exchange for righty Stephen Pryor
- Acquired righty Jake Thompson, righty Corey Knebel from Tigers in exchange for righty Joakim Soria
- Acquired righty Spencer Patton from Royals in exchange for righty Jason Frasor
The arms race was on in the AL West, with the three teams at the of the division shifting resources into present production and the two at the bottom looking to the future. Somewhat interestingly, the three buyers each had a key area that they addressed with multiple trades.
For a Halos club that is closing in on Oakland for the best record in baseball, the focus was clearly on the bullpen. GM Jerry Dipoto added four relievers (counting the since-released Hill), headlined by Street. It took a good portion of the club’s much-maligned young talent to make these deals. Street, in particular, required a fairly substantial return given his short, reasonably-priced contract. It bears noting that Grilli, added in a change-of-scenery swap for the former closer Frieri, has been lights out since coming to Anaheim (2 earned runs, 19 strikeouts, 3 walks in 14 1/3 innings). While the pen now looks to be in good shape, it will be interesting to see if (and if so, how) Dipoto adds depth to a rotation that now looks especially thin after an injury to Tyler Skaggs.
“Bold” seems too weak a descriptor to capture GM Billy Beane’s moves. He gave up the organization’s best-know player in Cespedes and its best prospect in Russell to get Lester (a tested, rented gun for the rest of the year), Samardzija (who has thrown like a top-line starter this year and comes with another season of control), and Hammel (an innings-eating, back-of-the-rotation arm who will soon be a free agent). The club sacrificed a lot of future value upside, though Cespedes’s is more limited than might be expected because he comes with just one more year of control and cannot be made a qualifying offer. But that is what it took to re-make the club’s rotation, which will obviously play a key role as Oakland looks to fend off the Angels in the division and ultimately make an extended postseason run.
Of course, Beane also had an eye on a crafty means of replacing the lost production of Cespedes. By adding Gomes in the Lester swap, the A’s will be able to utilize him in a promising platoon with Stephen Vogt. And Fuld will offer the team plenty of flexibility as well, with injuries clouding the outlook for regular center fielder Coco Crisp and reserve Craig Gentry, though the club surely would have preferred not to give up the useful Milone.
Seattle’s additions flew under the radar a bit, but nevertheless seemed very well-conceived. With a long-term second baseman at the MLB level and tons of bullpen arms, it did not hurt much at this point to move Franklin and Pryor. In return, the team added an above-average MLB center fielder (Jackson, controllable through arbitration next year) and a much-needed bat (Morales, whose path this season has been no less strange than that of Stephen Drew). Denorfia, too, looks to be a solid bench piece. Oft-doubted GM Jack Zduriencik deserves credit, especially for managing to insert Seattle into the David Price deal and coming away with Jackson as the prize for making the pieces fit for Tampa and Detroit.
Finally, we come to the sellers. Texas had more of the look of a traditional seller, with several veterans on expiring contracts that were of little use to a team that was obliterated by injuries. But the club elected not to make any of the really major moves that some imagined possible beforehand (Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, etc.), and even chose not to take a substandard return for outfielder Alex Rios (who remains an August trade candidate). The prospect haul for Soria looks solid, especially given the team’s need for arms in the mid-term, while Frasor brought back a player that looks like a younger, cheaper, longer-controlled version of himself. We don’t know what GM Jon Daniels could have achieved for the team’s more desirable players, but the lack of such moves seems to indicate that the club will seek to contend next year. It will certainly be fascinating to see how he goes about re-constructing a contender.
Houston, meanwhile, did not have many veteran pieces at all, let alone ones that figured to draw much interest. The team decided not to move closer Chad Qualls, a non-move which drew some jeers but might well have made sense if (as is likely) he was not going to bring much back anyway. The same holds true of resurgent southpaw Tony Sipp, who will be a cheap piece for the ‘Stros next year. Instead, GM Jeff Luhnow announced that he would consider moving some of the team’s young arms, and then sat back and waited to be overwhelmed. That apparently happened, as he pulled the trigger to move a talented-but-questioned arm in Cosart (along with the reasonably valuable Hernandez) in exchange for a few prospects who had no place (Marisnick) or had disappointed (Moran) in the Miami organization. Baseball Prospectus calls this a sell-low swap, and it looks that way from here as well. It’s certainly an interesting deal from the two teams that ended last year at the very bottom of baseball’s cellar. While the results will take years to tally, the deal could (but might not) have rather substantial effects on the trajectory of these two organizations.
Denorfia, 34, is hitting just .242/.293/.319 this season, but he’s a proven weapon against left-handed pitching — a clear point of weakness for Seattle. While he hasn’t hit lefties or righties in 2014, Denorfia is a lifetime .301/.367/.447 hitter against southpaws. He’s also a plus defender at either corner outfield spot and can handle center in a pinch, though defensive metrics don’t like his work there.
The Mariners have hit just .244/.298/.371 against left-handed pitching this season, and their outfielders have been even worse against southpaws, hitting a combined .246/.287/.346. Denorfia is a free agent at season’s end.
Almonte, 24, opened the season as Seattle’s leadoff hitter and everyday center fielder, but he struggled offensively, hitting just .198/.248/.292 in 113 plate appearances before being sent down. He’s been markedly better at Triple-A Tacoma, slashing .267/.333/.390 with six homers and seven stolen bases on the season. Baseball America ranked him as Seattle’s No. 17 prospect heading into the season.
As for the 25-year-old Kohlscheen, he was unranked by BA but is enjoying a strong season between Double-A and Triple-A. The Auburn University product, drafted in the 45th round in 2010, has a 2.70 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 56 2/3 innings of relief work this season.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported that Denorfia was going to Seattle (on Twitter), while Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted Abraham’s inclusion, and MLB.com’s Corey Brock tweeted Kohlscheen’s inclusion.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.