Shane Victorino Rumors

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 Shields-Wil 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.

AL East Notes: Victorino, Price, Lester, Yanks, Johnson

The Red Sox announced tonight that outfielder Shane Victorino underwent a season-ending lumbar disectomy surgery. The 33-year-old appeared in just 30 games for the BoSox this season, slashing .268/.303/.382 with two homers and two steals. Clearly, the second year of his three-year, $39MM contract with the Red Sox didn’t pan out as well as the first — which was arguably the finest season of his entire career. Though his contract was widely panned at the time of the signing, Victorino silenced critics by batting .294/.351/.451 with 15 homers, 21 steals and elite outfield defense — all of which combined to total more than 5.5 wins above replacement.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • David Lennon of Newsday tweets that the Red Sox and Rays both received permission from their owners to trade their left-handed aces to any team in baseball, with one exception: the Yankees.
  • The injury to David Phelps should push the Yankees back into the starting pitching market, writes Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues. As he notes, the case can be made that the Yankees’ five best starting options — Phelps, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda — are all on the disabled list at this time.
  • Allowing Matt Thornton to be claimed by the Nationals saved the Yankees about $1MM in 2014 salary and $3.5MM in 2015 salary, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Yankees could redirect some of those savings to add some pieces this month. New York is working on some potential additions already, says Rosenthal. GM Brian Cashman is “open to anything that makes [the Yankees] better,” he tells MLB.com’s Jake Kring-Schreifels.
  • The Orioles had interest in adding former closer Jim Johnson on a minor league deal, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, but they felt they didn’t have room to add him to the big league squad until rosters expand in September. Manager Buck Showalter tells Kubatko that he expressed that point to Johnson in multiple phone conversations
  • Former Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski tells Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com that while he assumes that many people will expect him to be bitter toward Boston, he has no hard feelings toward the organization or his former teammates (even those who have spoken against him since his departure). Pierzynski said he didn’t ask for a reason when he was DFAed, although he wasn’t exactly expecting the move. He also offers high praise for his brief time with the Cardinals and briefly discusses the difficulty of a catcher transitioning pitching staffs midseason.

AL East Notes: Lester, Victorino, Rays, Robertson

The lack of a contract extension between the Red Sox and Jon Lester now presents the possibility that this could be Lester's last Opening Day with the team, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. Lauber adds that the season will now be rife with speculation regarding Lester's contract situation and opines that a strong performance out of the 30-year-old lefty could make the Red Sox regret not presenting Lester with a "Scherzer-like offer" (six years, $144MM) when all is said and done. Of course, that deal would hardly represent the discount to which Lester has previously referred.

Here are some more notes on Lester, the Red Sox, and the AL East…

  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports appeared on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning and discussed a number of topics, including Lester. Rosenthal pointed to a column he wrote last week in which he said he felt that Lester should end up around five years and $115MM. He adds that the Red Sox won't be able to get a Dustin Pedroia-like extension very often: "Pedroia’s deal is ridiculously club-friendly, and if the Red Sox think they’re getting that deal out of every player they’re out of their minds."
  • The Red Sox announced today that Shane Victorino will open the season on the disabled list with a right hamstring strain, and Jackie Bradley Jr. will begin the year with the big league club. On the Dennis & Callahan show, Rosenthal talked about Victorino's importance to the club, noting that if he misses a significant chunk of time this season, it could lead many to wonder what might've been if the team hadn't let Jacoby Ellsbury go. However, as Rosenthal plainly states, Boston was simply never going to approach the kind of money that Ellsbury got from the division-rival Yankees.
  • Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith spoke with Rays GM Andrew Friedman about the club's transformation from a perennial 90-loss team to a divisional powerhouse despite one of the game's most modest payrolls. "We have to act decisively but with a smaller margin for error than most clubs, and so we can’t box ourselves in," said Friedman. "We need to react more quickly when circumstances change or opportunities present themselves." Nicholson-Smith's piece is full of excellent quotes from the Rays' GM and reminds how far the team has come since the days of Gabe Gross, Akinori Iwamura and Andy Sonnanstine, who were all on the Opening Day roster as recently as 2008.
  • Some scouts have expressed concern over David Robertson's fastball, George A. King III of the New York Post reported last night. Robertson's heater was sitting between 88 and 90 mph late in Spring Training. King notes that Robertson's fastball typically improves as the season goes on, but a look at his velocity charts (per Fangraphs) shows that he's been inconsistent at best over the past two seasons, and his end-of-season velocity hasn't been much better than his Opening Day heat. As MLBTR's Mark Polishuk noted in his recent review of the Yankees' offseason, the team did little to address the bullpen this offseason and is relying on a group of largely unproven relievers.

AL Notes: Twins, Gibbons, Reyes, Price, Jackie Bradley

The Twins have devoted only 22.5% of their 2013 payroll to pitching (MLB average is 49.8%) and haven't exceeded the league average since 2005. Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes perhaps no statistic better illustrates the Twins' dry spell in developing pitching prospects. "It’s not by design. It’s not like we said, 'Let’s spend less on pitching and go another way,'" said Twins assistant GM Rob Antony. "When we’ve spent a lot on a contract, more often than not, it’s on players we already have, that we know. We know how they fit in the clubhouse, and we know their health situation. It makes you a little more comfortable with the investment." Miller notes several pitching investments have been wasted because of injuries including this year's highest-paid pitcher Nick Blackburn ($5.5MM), who was removed from the 40-man roster as he recovers from wrist surgery. One investment that does seem to be paying dividends is Kevin Correia, who signed a two-year, $10MM free agent contract last December. The right-hander tossed eight shutout innings and lowered his ERA to 2.31 in the Twins' 5-0 win over the Rangers. In other news and notes from the American League:

  • After a four-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees, the seat is becoming hotter for Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman calls this a big test for Gibbons while Keith Law of ESPN.com says it's too early to think about firing the skipper (Twitter links).
  • Before the game, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos met with the media, including Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, and said he doesn't expect Jose Reyes back until the beginning of July "just to make sure that we do this correctly and we don’t have any setbacks." In the meantime, the plan is use Munenori Kawasaki and Maicer Izturis because Anthopoulos said the costs of going outside the organization for a Reyes replacement "don’t line up for us with what our alternatives are."
  • Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg reiterated his team's ability to afford David Price in an interview with WFAN (partial transcript provided by the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin). "We can; I don't know if we'll have any team around him other than him and (Evan) Longoria."
  • In the same interview, Sternberg said he expects the Rays' next TV contract to be "big relative to the size of our attendance" but "mid-sized market" compared to other teams.  
  • The Red Sox prefer to give Shane Victorino some time to work out his back issues rather than trying to bring Jackie Bradley back too soon, tweets the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo. Victorino underwent an MRI yesterday, which revealed inflammation in his lower back. Bradley, meanwhile, is 7-for-31 with 10 strikeouts and five walks since being optioned to Triple-A.