Shane Victorino Rumors

East Notes: Phillies, Franco, Red Sox, Victorino

Phillies tickets sales are at their lowest since the opening of Citizen’s Bank Park, writes Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Brookover wonders if the fans will return when the team begins to turn the corner in a few years. Philadelphia has a history of punishing noncompetitive teams. Other franchises like the Nationals, Indians, and Braves have seen a much more tepid fan response to winning. For what it’s worth, I’m fairly confident that ticket sales will return to previous levels once the team reaches the postseason.

  • The Phillies will remain patient with top prospect Maikel Franco, writes Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer. With the major league club scuffling and Franco off to a quick start (.343/.389/.537 at Triple-A), there is some pressure to get a look at him in the majors. Service time considerations and the performance of Cody Asche will affect when Franco is activated. Unlike the Kris Bryant situation, Franco appeared to need further development during spring training. It doesn’t look like the Phillies will keep Franco in the minors purely for service time considerations.
  • The early returns from the Red Sox rotation have been bad, writes Joel Sherman of the NY Post. Boston starters have a collective 5.46 ERA entering today (and Justin Masterson is off to a poor start). The shaky performances have strained a “dubious” bullpen. Given the deep farm system, the team remains poised to acquire a top trade target like Cole Hamels.
  • Boston has placed outfielder Shane Victorino on the disabled list with a hamstring strain, writes Jeff Seidel for MLB.com. The club has recalled Matt Barnes in a corresponding move. For those wondering why Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo wasn’t called upon, he’s currently rehabbing a right shoulder injury. He’s expected to return to the Triple-A lineup next week.

East Notes: Papelbon, Warren, Victorino

Here’s the latest from the game’s eastern divisions to wrap up the day’s news:

  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos was notably on hand to watch Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon work early in his outing today against the Yankees, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. While Salisbury notes that it is impossible to know the reason for the visit, Toronto obviously has some questions at the back of its pen and has been mentioned as a plausible suitor for the veteran righty. Papelbon has looked strong this spring, as the report further notes, though his contract (and, in particular, its vesting clause for next year) remains the largest factor in his trade value.
  • Though the Yankees have yet to say so officially, Adam Warren appears ticketed for the team’s fifth starter role, as Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports. If he does indeed take that slot, the out-of-options Esmil Rogers will either need to lock up a pen slot or, perhaps, find another team.
  • Shane Victorino‘s recent comments about the possibility of the Red Sox dealing for Cole Hamels led to a bit of a dust-up in Boston, due in part to a seemingly strained interpretation suggesting that Victorino was advocating for the departure of phenom Mookie Betts. As Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports, Victorino vehemently denies that reading of his words. Regardless, of course, as Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal explains, Boston’s front office understandably has little interest in shipping away its most prized young talent for expensive veterans.

AL Notes: Victorino, McBryde, Twins

According to the current pre-season projected standings and playoff probabilities from Fangraphs, the National League may be expected to be rather top-heavy next season. But the American League appears wide open, with nine teams projected to have .500 records but none projected at more than 87 wins. (And that doesn’t include the Royals, Orioles, or White Sox, all of which rate as sub-.500 teams in the eyes of the model.)

Here are some notes from that tightly-bunched side of the game:

  • As today’s spring opener showed, Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino is in store for a busy run as he tries to convince the team — and the team tries to convince others — of his health and productivity, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. Victorino is back to hitting from both sides of the plate and is being presented as the club’s top option in right, but a trade certainly still appears to be a plausible option.
  • The increasing signing of career minor leaguers to major league deals in free agency is an interesting recent trend, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes explored last year. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register takes a look at one of this year’s examples, Jeremy McBryde of the Angels“For me, he was one of the most intriguing bullpen guys in the minor leagues,” said GM Jerry Dipoto said. “… All the boxes you’d have for a prospect, he seems to check off those boxes.” As Dipoto further explained, McBryde’s lack of big league service and 40-man time also means that he comes with three option years remaining.
  • Twins GM Terry Ryan says he is receptive to the idea of mentoring Torii Hunter in the ways of the front office, as MLB.com’s Spencer Fordin reports“He’s thought about his career after his playing days, like most players should,” said Ryan. “He’s got a good baseball mind and I’m happy to hear he wants to be a GM. That’s good.”


Latest On Cliff Lee

The Rangers and Padres were among teams to at least “kick the tires” on Phillies starter Cliff Lee earlier this winter, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  Of course, the Padres have since signed James Shields to a four-year, $75MM deal, which probably means that they won’t be making a play for Lee or teammate Cole Hamels.  The Rangers have also added to their pitching depth this offseason.

Meanwhile, Heyman believes that Lee would be a solid fit for the Red Sox as their own talks on Hamels seem to have stalled.  Boston won’t part with either catching prospect Blake Swihart or second baseman/outfielder Mookie Betts to pry Hamels away, but a Lee deal could get done with lesser assets.

A deal for Lee could even include former fan favorite Shane Victorino as Heyman hears the Phillies wouldn’t mind a reunion.  The Red Sox can certainly part with the Flyin’ Hawaiian given their crowded outfield, even though they’re pushing the idea that he’ll start Opening Day if he’s healthy.

While there haven’t been any known talks between the two teams regarding Lee, the BoSox do have an affinity for him and they’ve seemingly had interest since he joined Philly as a free agent.

He’s hard not to like,” one Red Sox person told Heyman.

However, another Boston official characterized the Lee possibility to Heyman as a “long shot” since he still has to prove his health.  On the other hand, it’s well known that Lee wants to play for a winner and his track record of pitching in the American League could appeal to the Red Sox.

Outside of the Red Sox, Heyman posits that the Cardinals are a team that would seem to fit since they weren’t all that aggressive in adding pitching and they’d be almost local for the Little Rock, Ark. resident.

Lee is owed $25MM for the coming season and can be controlled for another year through a $27.5MM option that comes with a hefty $12.5MM buyout.  Prior to his 2014 elbow trouble, Lee boasted a streak of six straight seasons with 200+ innings.  Over that stretch, he carried a 2.89 ERA with 8.1 K/9 against just 1.3 BB/9.  The 36-year-old (37 in August) has a no-trade clause that allows him to block deals to twenty teams per year.


AL East Notes: Victorino, Pedroia, Pentecost, Blue Jays, ARod

Red Sox manager John Farrell says the club will start veteran Shane Victorino in right field if he’s healthy, tweets Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. Farrell added that Victorino is “full go,” indicating that only a setback could change those plans. With Hanley Ramirez the obvious starter in left field, that could mean Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo will compete for the center field job. Others like Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley, Brock Holt, and Daniel Nava appear thoroughly blocked in the outfield. Here’s more from the AL East.

  • Dustin Pedroia is healthy and ready to go, reports Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston. My take: a healthy Pedroia means that Betts and Holt are also blocked in the infield. Should everybody remain healthy, some kind of trade looks all but inevitable. Several players like Betts, Castillo, and Holt still have options, so the club can stow some major league quality talent at Triple-A if necessary.
  • The Rays lost great talent this offseason, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Executive Andrew Friedman tops the list of 13 impactful losses. His departure is mitigated by the presence of Matt Silverman. Rounding out the top five poignant losses include Ben Zobrist, Joe Maddon, Joel Peralta, and bench coach Dave Martinez.
  • Blue Jays top draft pick Max Pentecost has undergone shoulder surgery, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.ca. Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure. Pentecost, a catcher, is expected to resume throwing in about three months.
  • The Blue Jays continue to be faced with three big questions, writes Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. They include the identity of their closer, second baseman, and fifth starter. Brett Cecil and Aaron Sanchez are expected to compete for ninth inning duties, although Sanchez could factor in the rotation battle too. Other candidates to start include Marco Estrada and prospect Daniel Norris. Second base will probably go to Maicer Izturis, Ryan Goins, or prospect Devon Travis.
  • The Yankees are right to allow beleaguered veteran Alex Rodriguez to attend camp, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. It’s surprising to see other writers suggest the club swallow the $61MM remaining on Rodriguez’s contract without at least giving him a chance to provide some value. If he fails to remain healthy, the club can also recoup part of the money via insurance.

Red Sox Notes: Outfield, Scherzer, Masterson, Buchholz

We recently look a look at the Boston outfield situation, noting that the logjam still seemed in need of clearance. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes in response to a fan that the Red Sox need to trade Allen Craig, Shane Victorino, or both. A healthy Victorino, he continues, would likely either be a regular in the outfield or be traded. Cafardo adds that he does not expect a bench role to suit the veteran, although Boston would likely have to eat some of Victorino’s $13MM salary to trade him.

Here are some more notes out of Boston, all via WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford:

  • The Red Sox had “numerous discussions” with Scott Boras about Max Scherzer over the offseason, Bradford reports. Boston valued Scherzer on the level of Jon Lester, and eventually came to realize that it was not going to get him at a price the team was willing to pay. Boras never gave any indication that a cut rate might be had for Scherzer, a source tells Bradford, and it seems clear in retrospect that he had good reason for that stance.
  • Boston did end up with another talented righty at a much lower cost in Justin Masterson. As Bradford writes, the former Indian bet on himself last year and lost. But he says he has no regrets about failing to reach an extension with Cleveland and settling for a one-year, make-good deal with the Sox. Of course, at a $9.5MM salary, Masterson is receiving quite a nice guarantee while he tries to work through his troubles.
  • Another right-handed starter entering a potential contract year for the Red Sox is Clay Buchholz, who Bradford spoke with recently. Suddenly the veteran of the staff, Buchholz’s guaranteed money runs out after this season. The club controls him for two more years through successive options ($13MM and $13.5MM, respectively), but it is far from certain that they will be picked up. Either way, Buchholz is certainly pitching for his next contract, and tells Bradford that he hopes a normal offseason will contribute to a strong 2015.
  • Bradford was also among the reporters to speak with Koji Uehara yesterday as Uehara detailed his thought process when it came to re-signing in Boston. “No doubt at all,” said Uehara. “It was the only team I talked to so I was pretty sure if I was going to sign it was going to be with the Red Sox. Since the Red Sox had offers of multiple years that really erased any doubts going into the offseason as a free agent. … Because of my age, it was very important.”

Cafardo On Scherzer, Shields, Kimbrel, Chapman

Teams are aware that Max Scherzer and James Shields are excellent pitchers, but many teams don’t have enough money remaining in their budgets to sign them, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. The Red Sox like both pitchers and don’t have an obvious ace, but they’ve already spent heavily this offseason and have plenty of good starters, one of whom could emerge to lead them. A number of teams, meanwhile, are waiting for Shields’ price to come down. Where Scherzer and Shields land could depend on owners who are willing to step up and sign them, regardless of their teams’ budgets. (The Nationals and another team are reportedly currently involved in the bidding for Scherzer.) In other nuggets from Cafardo’s Sunday Notes column:

  • The Red Sox are committed to Christian Vazquez being their starting catcher; but, with the development of Blake Swihart, it may not be for long. The Phillies covet Swihart in a potential Cole Hamels trade, but one NL executive wonders whether they would take Vazquez instead.
  • Baseball executives tell Cafardo the Braves may be willing to deal closer Craig Kimbrel at the trade deadline, if the club is struggling. The same goes for the Reds and Aroldis Chapman. Cafardo lists the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Tigers as the teams who would most benefit from adding either reliever.
  • The Orioles will not be able to obtain an MLB player as compensation if Dan Duquette joins the Blue Jays, but owner Peter Angelos will seek one or two very good prospects.
  • The Giants scored another quality signing when they came to terms with outfielder Nori Aoki. The Giants had inquired with the Red Sox about their surplus of outfielders, including Shane Victorino, Allen Craig, and Daniel Nava.

Cafardo’s Latest: Cobb, Hamels, Red Sox

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe shares some news and opinions in his latest reader mailbag piece

  • The Rays aren’t looking to trade Alex Cobb, as they see the right-hander as a building block piece.  Cobb is under team control through the 2017 season and is only arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter; as Cafardo notes, Tampa only tends to move its stars when they get too expensive.
  • Cafardo believes the Red Sox will acquire an ace-level pitcher before Opening Day.  Given all of Boston’s other winter moves, “it makes no sense to do all they’ve done…and not go after the ace” to top everything off, Cafardo writes, especially since the Sox have the prospect depth to make a trade happen and already might be over the luxury tax threshold.
  • One of those potentially available aces is Cole Hamels, who the Red Sox have been connected to in rumors but “there haven’t been substantiative talks lately.”  Cafardo speculates that Boston could be waiting for the Phillies‘ asking price to drop, and the Sox have already turned down one offer that would’ve cost them both Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart.
  • Besides getting an ace pitcher, Cafardo also predicts the Red Sox will add another reliever (possibly a hard-throwing lefty) and trade one of Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava or Allen Craig before the season begins.  In Craig’s case, Cafardo believes the Sox won’t deal him until they see if he’s productive in Spring Training, as Craig is a valuable bat if healthy.

East Notes: Melky, Heaney, Eovaldi, Murphy, Victorino

Though there’s been mutual interest between Melky Cabrera and the Blue Jays for months, ESPN’s Buster Olney hears that, all things being equal, Cabrera’s preference would be to sign somewhere other than Toronto so that half of his games aren’t played on artificial turf (Twitter links). However, the turf won’t prevent Cabrera from remaining in Toronto if the club’s offer is clearly the best that he receives.

Some more links pertaining to baseball’s Eastern divisions…

  • The Marlins are willing to listen to offers on top prospect Andrew Heaney, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. While parting with the player that entered last season as a Top 30 prospect according to Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com (and 34th per ESPN’s Keith Law) would of course be difficult, the club very much wants a left-handed bat to pair with Giancarlo Stanton in the middle of the order. One key reason for their willingness to part with Heaney, Frisaro notes, is the emergence of fellow lefty Justin Nicolino. Miami acquired Nicolino — who has ranked as a Top 100 prospect himself — from Toronto in the Jose Reyes blockbuster. He posted a 2.85 ERA in 170 1/3 innings at Double-A this season, walking just 1.1 hitters per nine. However, he also saw his strikeout rate dip to a somewhat troubling rate of just 4.3 per nine.
  • Frisaro also notes that right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and southpaw Brad Hand are also available for the right offer. Eovaldi, in particular, is intriguing given the blistering 96 mph he’s averaged as a starter over the past two seasons. Though he struggled a bit with a 4.34 ERA in 2014, FIP (3.37), xFIP (3.76) and SIERA (3.91) all feel he was better than that ERA would suggest. The 24-year-old Hand, meanwhile, has a 4.42 ERA in 195 1/3 big league innings and started 16 games for last year’s club.
  • Daniel Murphy‘s name can frequently be found on the pages of MLBTR, but Mets GM Sandy Alderson said earlier this week on SNY TV in New York (via Metsblog’s Matthew Cerrone) that the second baseman  “should be an important part of our team next year,” further suggesting that it’s a long shot that Murphy will be moved.
  • Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino will swing a bat for the first time since undergoing back surgery on Monday and tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford that he’s on pace to be 100 percent by Spring Training. While Boston has quite the outfield logjam, Victorino plainly explains to Bradford that he feels he should be the starting right fielder next season. “…[I]f I’m healthy if there’s a better outfielder in right field then show me and go out there and do it,” says Victorino. “I’m not saying that in a cocky or arrogant way. It’s just how confident I am to know I should be the starting right fielder.” The “Flyin’ Hawaiian” is set to earn $13MM in the final season of a three-year, $39MM pact. While injuries limited him to 30 games last year, the former Phillie was one of the best players on Boston’s 2013 World Series winner, hitting .294/.351/.451 with elite outfield defense leading to more than 5.5 WAR.

East Notes: Sandoval, Burnett, Shields, Mets

The AL East champion Orioles are looking for their first playoff sweep since they eliminated the A’s in the 1971 ALCS as they face the Tigers in Game Three of their ALDS. The NL East champion Nationals, meanwhile, will look to avoid being swept by the Giants tomorrow in their NLDS.

Here’s the latest from baseball’s East divisions:

  • Pablo Sandoval, with his personality and left-handed bat, would be a good fit for the Red Sox, opines the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Despite Sandoval’s weight issues and a declining OPS over the past four seasons, Cafardo hears the third baseman will command a five-year, $100MM pact with the Yankees and Dodgers joining Boston in the bidding.
  • A.J. Burnett‘s decision whether to exercise his $12.75MM player option will dictate how the Phillies‘ offseason unfolds, according to CSNPhilly.com’s Corey Seidman. If Burnett declines the option, the Phillies will have the financial flexibility required to make impactful free agent signings and begin the necessary roster overhaul, Seidman writes.
  • The James ShieldsWil Myers trade between the Rays and Royals is still under evaluation, notes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. At this point, who “won” the trade depends on whom you ask.
  • The Mets don’t need a spending spree to improve for 2015, posits Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Of course, it would be nice if they could spend the necessary money to sign free agent catcher Russell Martin, but there are cheaper ways they can upgrade their offense. One idea Sherman has is calling the Red Sox to inquire on a Bartolo Colon for Shane Victorino deal.