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Here’s the latest from around the game …
- Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is not currently engaged in extension talks with Baltimore and could make sense to a lot of clubs on the free agent market, says Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (audio link). But he would still fit back with the O’s, with club executive vice president Dan Duquette telling Rosenthal that the team puts a high value on keeping Manny Machado‘s glove at third, seemingly indicating that it may not look to move him back to his natural short. Though Hardy has not repeated his home run tallied from recent seasons, he is still a just-below-average offensive contributor with outstanding defense, and both major methods of calculating wins above replacement see him as having already contributed 2.5 WAR this year.
- The Braves were close to pulling off a major deadline deal that would have sent center fielder B.J. Upton and a starter (which could have been either Mike Minor or Ervin Santana) to an unidentified club and for an unidentified return. The nature of the hypothetical return has not been revealed, but Rosenthal says that Atlanta ultimately felt it was not receiving sufficient value in return. Ultimately, the conception of the move was intended more to shake up the roster and clubhouse (in addition, no doubt, to shedding Upton’s future obligations), and Rosenthal says that a deal of that type could be revisited in the offseason.
- The Cardinals should find a way to upgrade the bench in the coming weeks, opines Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. While Peter Bourjos has been an asset even as he sees less action than Jon Jay, Miklasz looks at the numbers on the rest of the non-regulars and sees plenty of room for improvement.
- The Phillies have found themselves in a seemingly intractable situation in part due to GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s willingness to bend and then break the organization’s own rules on limiting pitching contracts, writes Mitch Goldich of Baseball Prospectus. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, and Cole Hamels were all viewed to some extent as exceptions to the team’s internal guidelines. And while all have had their moments of success, the aggregate commitment (and already-clear lack of back-end value from at least the first three) has played a significant (albeit not exclusive) role in the team’s current predicament.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Athletics have acquired righty Angel Castro from the Cardinals in exchange for cash considerations, St. Louis announced. Castro, a 31-year-old righty, has never seen MLB action. He owns a 4.01 ERA through 94 1/3 frames on the year at Triple-A, spending time both as a starter and reliever, and has posted 6.0 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9.
- Right-hander Bruce Billings, who was released by the Yankees last week, has inked a minor league pact with the Dodgers, reports MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo (on Twitter). Billings, 28, allowed four runs in four innings for the Yanks this season and has struggled in the minors as well, posting a 5.06 ERA with a 54-to-27 K/BB ratio in 80 innings (15 starts) for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Billings’ career marks of a 4.37 ERA and 7.8 K/9 rate at the Triple-A level are noticeably better.
Cole Hamels of the Phillies has been claimed on revocable waivers by an unknown team, and David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com notes that the Cubs might have interest. If in fact Chicago was the team that claimed him, trading for Hamels would be a huge splash for a Cubs team that’s spent the past few years mostly avoiding acquiring big-ticket players. The Cubs do, however, appear to be interested in an ace to complement their collection of young hitters — they were connected to Masahiro Tanaka last offseason. Hamels is signed through 2018 with a club/vesting option for 2019, with $96MM guaranteed after this season. His limited no-trade protection would allow him to block a deal to the Cubs, but Kaplan notes that Hamels reportedly had interest in pitching for the Cubs in the past. (UPDATE: ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweets that the Cubs are on the list of teams to which Hamels can be traded without his approval.) ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider-only) noted earlier this week that claiming Hamels would make sense for the Cubs. Here are more notes from the National League.
- Lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo was one of many Phillies veterans not traded at the deadline last week, but now he thinks a trade might help him, Ryan Lawrence of Philadelphia Daily News writes. “I think it could be good for me to stay here, but I think it could be better going somewhere else,” says Bastardo. “We have two young lefties here, and they can do a really good job. A third lefty in the bullpen . . . I think for my career – for my career – I should be somewhere else.” Lefties Jake Diekman and Mario Hollands have both pitched reasonably well out of the Phillies’ bullpen this year. The Phillies placed Bastardo and a number of other players on revocable waivers earlier this week. Here are more notes from the National League.
- GM Sandy Alderson likely isn’t planning on leaving the Mets anytime soon, David Lennon of Newsday writes. “The goal is to have a winning team, and a playoff-qualifying team,” says Alderson. Alderson’s four-year contract ends this year, but he has an option for 2015.
- Reliever Pat Neshek is a free agent this offseason, but he would prefer to stay with the Cardinals, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I like it here,” says Neshek. “I like how I’m being used. That’s a big part of it. … I feel like I pitch really well at Busch Stadium. I think that would be good for my career, right?” Neshek arrived in St. Louis last offseason on a minor league contract and has made a huge impression, backing up his tiny 0.78 ERA in 46 1/3 innings with 9.5 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9.
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.
Joe Kelly first found out that John Lackey was traded to the Cardinals on Twitter and, 15 minutes later, learned he was part of the package heading to the Red Sox in return, writes Rob Harms of the Boston Globe. “Hectic,” Kelly said of the deadline’s personal impact on him. “It’s something that happens in baseball, and, like I said, it could happen to anyone. When I got the news I was definitely shocked and surprised, but I found out it was Boston, and I figured it was one great baseball town to another. So definitely looking forward to it.” More out of the AL East..
- Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman says that if he waited until the winter to deal David Price, the return would have been somewhere between “a good bit less to dramatically less,” writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. While some see their haul for the ace pitcher as light, Topkin says that in reality, they were pleased to get as much as they did.
- There’s no reason for Red Sox GM Ben Cherington to stop wheeling and dealing now, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. The Red Sox already have shipped out 11 of the 25 players who were on their World Series roster only nine months ago, but Lauber is dreaming big and thinking of names like Giancarlo Stanton and Chris Sale.
- Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal breaks down the questions the Red Sox still need to answer in the aftermath of their recent roster maneuvers.
- The Yankees are helping Martin Prado through his “strange” transition to a new team and new position, writes Brendan Kuty of the Star-Ledger. Prado hadn’t taken a single practice fly ball in right field this season even though that’s his new spot. The veteran mostly played third base and left field while with the Braves and Diamondbacks.
- While he knows that he has “very big” shoes to fill, Drew Smyly is excited to be a member of the Rays, Topkin writes.
- Jim Johnson is now free to sign with any club after his release by the A’s Friday. Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes the Orioles maintain a high level of interest in signing their former closer to a minor league deal, but are not the only team pursuing the right-hander.
- Johnson will throw a side session for the Orioles tomorrow in Sarasota in front of rehab pitching coordinator Scott McGregor, tweets Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
- Acquired outfielder Gerardo Parra from Diamondbacks for outfielder Mitch Haniger and lefty Anthony Banda
- Acquired righty John Lackey, lefty Corey Littrell, and cash from Red Sox in exchange for righty Joe Kelly and outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig
- Acquired righty Justin Masterson from Indians in exchange for outfielder James Ramsey
- Acquired catcher Victor Caratini from Braves in exchange for lefty James Russell and infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio
- Acquired lefty Felix Doubront from Red Sox in exchange for PTBNL
- Acquired righty Jonathan Martinez from the Dodgers in exchange for second baseman Darwin Barney
- Acquired shortstop Addison Russell, outfielder Billy McKinney, and pitcher Dan Straily from Athletics in exchange for righties Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel
With four teams over .500 and only 5.5 games separating first place from fourth place after Friday’s games, it wasn’t hard to imagine that the NL Central would see a lot of action heading into the trade deadline. While a few major arms came and went from the division, however, the action was a bit muted overall thanks to inactivity from two of those contending teams.
The Pirates didn’t swing a single deal in July despite being connected to many of the major pitching names known to be available. David Price, Jon Lester, Lackey, Ian Kennedy, A.J. Burnett…all of these upper-tier starters were linked to the Bucs in trade rumors over the summer yet none ended up wearing the black-and-gold. Pittsburgh likewise came up short in finding a left-handed reliever to help reinforce the bullpen. While the Pirates had a pretty quiet July, however, it’s too early to say that they won’t still add to their roster — they didn’t make any major moves in July 2013 either yet picked up Marlon Byrd, John Buck and Justin Morneau before the August 31st deadline. The Pirates’ payroll limitations will keep from them going for any of the more expensive names that might pop up on the waiver wire this month, yet it wouldn’t be surprising to see them add another useful piece or two.
A minor deal involving Jair Jurrjens notwithstanding, the Reds also didn’t do anything in July, and they’re another team that could be more active in August simply because they might not know if they’re contenders yet. Cincinnati is 55-54 despite major injuries to several key players (i.e. Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips) and a brutal 2-10 slide following the All-Star break. It seemed like the Reds themselves were on the fence about being buyers or sellers given that they checked in on Bonifacio and Alex Rios yet were also listening to offers for Mat Latos and Ryan Ludwick. Like with Pittsburgh, a lack of available payroll space played a role in Cincinnati’s inaction, so moving Latos or Ludwick could’ve been ways of freeing up salary and (in Latos’ case) trading a big chip to help elsewhere on the Major League roster than than add prospects.
With a rotation that lacks a true ace but is otherwise quite solid from one to five, the Brewers’ rumored interest in the likes of Price and Lackey seemed more like due diligence rather than a genuine desire to make a big splash. The division leaders were known to be looking for relief help but overall, Milwaukee didn’t have many roster holes that were in drastic need of an upgrade. In Parra, the Brew Crew adds a very solid fourth outfielder who can play all three OF positions can provide above-average or better defense at any of them, and while he’s slumped at the plate this year, Parra has been a useful hitter in a platoon role. Khris Davis left Friday’s game with a calf injury, so it’s possible Parra could quickly take on a bigger role.
It’s hard to believe that pitching was the Cardinals’ deadline focus given their seemingly inexhaustible supply of talented minor league arms, yet St. Louis was involved in talks for Price, Lester and Jake Peavy before eventually making the division’s two biggest acquisitions in Lackey and Masterson. The Cardinal clubhouse might not be pleased about some of the players lost, yet the two veteran arms could provide needed help to a rotation that has been thinned by injuries and ineffectiveness.
In acquiring these pitchers, the Cards didn’t give up anyone who was providing any value to the 2014 squad. After contributing heavily to last year’s pennant winners, Kelly (0.2 fWAR) and Craig (-0.6 fWAR) became expendable this season, especially on a team with so many young replacements in the minors. Ramsey would be a top-three prospect on many clubs, yet since the Cardinals have a plethora of young outfield talent, they felt comfortable in sending him to Cleveland for Masterson.
Lackey should provide good value for this season and next, especially given that he’s under contract for only a league minimum salary in 2015. Masterson is a free agent this winter and has been bothered by a bad knee, a drop in fastball velocity and control issues this season, yet his peripheral numbers indicate that his 5.51 ERA should be around a run and a half lower. You could think that Masterson, an extreme ground ball pitcher, will improve in St. Louis simply because he’s going from the league’s worst defensive team to its best in terms of defensive runs saved.
The Cubs are the only NL Central team not still in the playoff hunt, and they continued their rebuilding effort in four deals that added even more young talent to an already-impressive farm system. One trade involved adding an established big leaguer in Doubront, as perhaps a reunion with Theo Epstein will help get his career back on track after a tough season in Boston.
The other three trades saw the Cubs move veterans who had little value to a non-contender. Russell drew a lot of attention from several teams and the Cubs packaged the southpaw and Bonifacio for switch-hitting catcher Caratini, the Braves’ second round pick in 2013. Defensive specialist Barney was moved in a lower-level deal (he had already been designated for assignment by the Cubs) for a lottery ticket in Martinez, a 20-year-old with a live arm in Class A.
After over a year of rumors, the Cubs finally pulled the trigger on trading Samardzija, sending both the Shark and Jason Hammel to Oakland for a major prospect package. Addison Russell gives the Cubs yet another young blue-chip middle infielder, and his acquisition has already generated rumors that the Cubs’ next step could be trading Starlin Castro for another established big league talent to upgrade the outfield or rotation in the offseason. While Russell was the headliner of that trade, McKinney is also ranked ninth amongst Cubs prospects according to MLB.com’s midseason rankings, and Straily was considered a top-85 prospect by Baseball Prospectus before the 2013 season.
There were some whispers that the Cubs could use their prospect depth to make a deal for Price, yet that would’ve been a puzzling move for a team that isn’t planning to win now. For where the Cubs are in their rebuilding process, it’s hard to see their July moves as anything less than a big win for the Cubs front office, turning four short-term veterans in Hammel, Bonifacio (both under contract only through 2014), Samardzija and Russell (through 2015) into four promising young players who combine for over two decades’ worth of controllable years. Some more moves could be coming in August, as outfielders Justin Ruggiano, Nate Schierholtz and Ryan Sweeney would all likely not have much trouble passing through waivers.
Here’s what’s happening around the NL Central…
- John Lackey told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jen Langosch) that he will honor his contract and pitch in 2015 despite the fact that he’ll only earn a minimum salary. The fact that Lackey was traded to the contending Cardinals played a factor in his decision: “Obviously, it was case by case. It would have been a harder decision other places, for sure, but this is definitely somewhere I wanted to be, and I’m excited about it.”
- The Brewers checked in on such names as the Padres‘ Joaquin Benoit, the Rockies‘ LaTroy Hawkins and the Diamondbacks‘ Addison Reed and Brad Ziegler yet came up short in their hunt for a right-handed reliever, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (Twitter link). Earlier today, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the Crew were one of the finalists to obtain a notable lefty reliever in Andrew Miller.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington discussed his team’s lack of trade activity, telling reporters (including MLB.com’s Tom Singer) that “we identified potential fits, wanted to add and worked hard to. At the end of the day, we weren’t able to push anything across the line….It was interesting, in that the majority of impact players went for Major League talent instead of teams trying to grab the best prospects they can, as has been the case in recent years.” Since Pittsburgh was connected to Jon Lester and David Price, Singer speculates that Huntington was perhaps willing to move young prospects for these aces but couldn’t outbid the A’s and Tigers’ respective offers, both of which included established players.
Here are some notes from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal as he looks back on an incredibly busy Deadline Day…
- Several Cardinals players were unhappy that Allen Craig and Joe Kelly were traded away, which didn’t necessarily surprise St. Louis GM John Mozeliak. “We’ve had a tight clubhouse for many years, a lot of homegrown players who have been together a long time….When you have a young team, sometimes you don’t see these types of trades happening while you’re competing,” Mozeliak told Rosenthal. “It caught some people off-guard. But time will heal all wounds.” Rosenthal wonders if this trade and the recent signing of “notorious irritant” A.J. Pierzynski could’ve been made in order to shake up a clubhouse that had “perhaps grown too comfortable.”
- The Brewers and Tigers were the other finalists for Andrew Miller‘s services before the Red Sox decided to trade the southpaw to the Orioles. Boston received inquiries from between 10-12 teams about Miller’s services. Jon Morosi, Rosenthal’s FOX Sports colleague, reported yesterday that Detroit was close to a deal for Miller about 2.5 hours before the trade with Baltimore was finalized.
- Some pundits have argued that the Rays should’ve gotten more from the Tigers and Mariners in the David Price trade, but Rosenthal is withholding judgement given how difficult the circumstances were for Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman. The return could’ve been even less had Friedman waited until the offseason to move his ace.
- In a tweet, Rosenthal notes that the Athletics decided against pursuing a Price trade in part because GM Billy Beane was worried that it would be tough to deal the southpaw this winter. Price could earn up to $20MM on his 2015 contract in his last year of arbitration eligibility, so as good as the left-hander is, the salary and only the one year of control would limit Price’s trade value.
In their second blockbuster trade of the day, the Red Sox sent veteran starting pitcher John Lackey to the Cardinals along with minor leaguer Corey Littrell and about $1.75MM in cash in exchange for young starter Joe Kelly and outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig. The deal is now official. The Red Sox continue to focus on players that can help them win in the near future, having traded Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes for Yoenis Cespedes earlier today. The Cardinals further bolster their rotation, having acquired Justin Masterson from the Indians yesterday.
Lackey, 35, has a 3.60 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 0.98 HR/9, and 46.9% groundball rate in 137 1/3 innings this year. His 2014 numbers closely resemble his work last year, a resurgent season after his 2011 campaign culminated in Tommy John surgery and he missed all of 2012. A second round draft pick in 1999, Lackey spent the early part of his career as a front of the rotation workhorse for the Angels.
Lackey joins Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn at the front of a St. Louis rotation that suffered several blows this year. Jaime Garcia is out for the season after rib surgery this month, while Michael Wacha will return in September in the best case scenario as he recovers from a stress reaction in his pitching shoulder. In addition, the Cards received unspectacular work from Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly. Masterson is due back soon from a DL stint for knee inflammation, and hopes to put this year’s struggles behind him before reaching free agency. The Cardinals are currently in third place and 2.5 games out in the NL Central, and one game out in the Wild Card.
The Cardinals also receive Littrell, a 22-year-old starter in High-A ball who was drafted in the fifth round last year out of the University of Kentucky. He owns a 3.60 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, and 0.72 HR/9 in 100 frames this year. Littrell did not rank among the Cardinals’ top 30 prospects prior to the season in the eyes of Baseball America, though BA ranked the team’s farm system seventh overall.
Kelly, 26, posted a 4.37 ERA, 6.4 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.77 HR/9, and 54.3% groundball rate in 35 innings for the Cardinals this year. He won the team’s fifth starter job out of spring training, but injured his hamstring in mid-April and missed nearly three months. Kelly will have two years and 116 days of Major League service after 2014, meaning he’ll likely miss Super Two status and won’t become arbitration eligible until after the 2015 season. He’s under team control through 2018. Kelly boasts an average fastball velocity near 95 miles per hour, a 3.25 career ERA, and 29 1/3 innings of postseason experience, but his peripheral stats don’t quite match up.
Craig, 30, has slumped to a .237/.291/.346 line in 398 plate appearances this year. He hit .306/.358/.492 in 1,420 plate appearances prior to 2014, suggesting he could bounce back for Boston. Craig signed a five-year, $31MM deal with the Cardinals in March 2013, of which about $26.4MM remains through 2017. The deal also includes a club option for 2018. Craig has appeared at first base and the outfield corners in his career, though he’s generally regarded as a below-average defensive outfielder. The Red Sox have designated hitter David Ortiz potentially through 2017, though first baseman Mike Napoli and outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Shane Victorino are signed only through 2015.
The 2011 Tommy John procedure plays a large role in Lackey’s trade value. When the Red Sox signed Lackey to a five-year free agent deal in December 2009, concerns over his elbow led to a clause creating a club option for the league-minimum salary for 2015, which was triggered with the Tommy John procedure. That means playing for little more than $500K next year after earning more than 30 times that much in each of the previous four seasons. Lackey has told the Cardinals he plans to honor the club option, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
This season, Lackey has a bit over $5MM in salary remaining, plus a $500K assignment bonus for being dealt. He had been scheduled to start tomorrow in Boston as the Red Sox kick off a three-game set against the Yankees.
Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com first reported the Red Sox were close to trading Lackey to the Cardinals or Dodgers. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first identified the Cardinals. Peter Gammons of MLB Network first named Joe Kelly and Allen Craig as part of the deal. WEEI’s Alex Speier first named Corey Littrell as part of the deal, while Yahoo’s Jeff Passan was first to report the cash involved. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
11:35am: The Cardinals are getting Lackey, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.