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St. Louis Cardinals Rumors
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.
Jon Lester has been scratched from his scheduled start tonight — a clear indicator that the Red Sox are looking to deal their ace. It briefly looked like the Orioles were close to a deal, but while those talks are serious, the deal isn’t close yet. Here’s the latest…
- The Cardinals and Pirates are making the strongest bids for Lester at the moment, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports report (Twitter link). The Dodgers also remain involved.
- In a full article, Heyman writes that the A’s are the mystery team that has stepped into the Lester bidding. Nothing is close between the two sides at the moment, however.
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that a mystery team is becoming more involved.
- Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio reports that the Athletics are in on Lester.
- Via WEEI’s Alex Speier (on Twitter), manager John Farrell expects Lester to be in uniform with the Red Sox today.
- The Cardinals‘ acquisition of Justin Masterson doesn’t necessarily take them out of the running for Lester, sources tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The Cards could still acquire Lester, though it may cost them Shelby Miller, Morosi adds in a second tweet.
- The Marlins aren’t entirely out of the Lester sweepstakes, an AL executive familiar with the negotiations tells Juan C. Rodriguez of the Miami Sun-Sentinel. However, the Marlins won’t part with top prospect Andrew Heaney in a Lester deal (or a deal for any rental player).
- The Cardinals and Dodgers are the two teams that are most aggressively competing for Lester’s services, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. They’re also the most aggressive clubs on David Price, though it’s far from a given that the Rays will move their own left-handed ace. Heyman hears similar things to yesterday’s reports regarding the Brewers and Orioles and says neither is in the mix at this point.
- An NL GM told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he thinks the Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers and Mariners are the primary suitors for Lester heading into Wednesday (Twitter link).
Let’s catch up on some recent news and rumors as the trade deadline nears …
- The Dodgers have not declined to consider dealing top prospects Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Julio Urias except in cases of pure rentals, tweets Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Things remain “very fluid,” says Shaikin.
- There has been no contact recently between the Red Sox and Phillies regarding either Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee, reports Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald (via Twitter). Philadelphia is said to have had at least some discussions in the past with Boston regarding starting pitching.
- The Yankees still have “more work to do” in shaping the roster before the trade deadline, GM Brian Cashman tells MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. Of course, New York seems to have a broad shopping list that could include additions to the rotation and several spots in the lineup card.
- Indians GM Chris Antonetti says that dealing away Justin Masterson does not mean that the club is giving up on 2014, as Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer tweets. “We’re looking to add big league players if we can do it,” said Antonetti. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes on Twitter, the acquisition of James Ramsey provides the club with minor league depth that could facilitate another deal if the club is indeed interested in reshuffling its roster rather than selling, per se.
- The Cardinals were never close to dealing away top prospect Oscar Taveras, GM John Mozeliak tells Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Indeed, Mozeliak says that speculation of a deal involving Taveras was actually amusing to him. St. Louis is still open to another deal after adding Masterson, says MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch (Twitter link), but Mozeliak left her with the impression that another move was not terribly likely.
Here’s the latest from ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark:
- The Rays are still holding onto David Price unless and until an offer forces a move. “I’d say they’re kind of where they were all winter,” said a competing executive. “Yeah, they’d trade him. But you’ve got to make it so they can’t say no.”
- Though both sides explored the possibility, the Cardinals and Phillies did not match up on a potential Cliff Lee deal. With Philly seeking a “major prospect” in return, the Cards ultimately turned elsewhere and added Justin Masterson. While St. Louis seemed the best fit for a pre-deadline deal with Lee, Philadelphia still is looking to see if the lefty can be moved before August.
- The Red Sox are encountering some skepticism from trade partners that John Lackey will play for the league minimum rate next year, as provided by his contract. Of course, that provision makes up a huge portion of Lackey’s trade value, as he would not only contribute down the stretch in 2014 but looks like a very solid rotation piece at a replacement-level price for 2015.
- The Orioles seem to be focusing more on adding a reliever at this point than a starter, says Stark. Baltimore has been liked to Neal Cotts of the Rangers and Oliver Perez of the Diamondbacks, neither of whom is a pure LOOGY.
- In search of bullpen help, the Yankees have inquired into Joaquin Benoit of the Padres, James Russell of the Cubs, and Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies. The club has also checked on outfielders Marlon Byrd of the Phillies and Dayan Viciedo of the White Sox.
- The Blue Jays, Braves, and Royals are telling teams they cannot add significant payroll in a trade, though Kansas City could take on a starter who would slot in place of James Shields next year.
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The Cardinals have bolstered their starting rotation depth by acquiring Justin Masterson from the Indians in exchange for top outfield prospect James Ramsey. Both teams have officially announced the deal. Right-hander Michael Wacha has been moved to the 60-day DL to make room on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster.
Masterson, 29, is currently on the disabled list (he’s set to be activated this weekend) and in the midst of a down season as he heads into free agency. He’s earning $9.7625MM this season, of which roughly $3.3MM remains.
Masterson looked the part of a top-of-the-rotation starter in 2013, posting a 3.45 ERA with 9.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 58.5 percent ground-ball rate in 193 innings. He’s battled a knee issue for most of this season, which could very likely have contributed to his 5.51 ERA and bloated walk rate (5.1 BB/9).
Masterson’s fastball velocity has declined significantly this season, falling from an average of 91.6 mph in 2013 to 89.1 in 2014. However, Masterson’s now former pitching coach Mickey Callaway said earlier in the month that he felt Masterson’s knee injury had altered his mechanics, which could explain the dip in velocity as well as the increase in walks.
The Cardinals have been on the lookout for rotation help for weeks now, having also been connected to Jake Peavy as well as aces David Price and Jon Lester. Masterson comes with upside, to be sure; FIP, xFIP and SIERA all feel his skill-set should have resulted in an ERA in the low 4.00s this season, and he’s had a good deal of past success. However, his injury and ineffective results will leave some Cardinals fans wondering if he’s truly an upgrade over internal options.
That remains to be seen, but the Cardinals felt that Masterson could bolster their starting pitching in light of Michael Wacha‘s injury and the struggles of Shelby Miller. While Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn are reliable arms atop the rotation, Joe Kelly has been injured for most of the season, and Carlos Martinez would shatter last season’s innings total were he to remain in the rotation over the final two months (to say nothing of the postseason).
As for the Indians, they’ll receive Ramsey, a 2012 first-round pick that ranked seventh among Cardinals prospects on Baseball America’s midseason list and ranked sixth according to Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. The 24-year-old is hitting .300/.389/.527 with 13 homers in 281 Double-A plate appearances this season. Callis and Mayo note that Ramsey has the speed to play center field (though he’s not a huge threat on the bases) and the arm to play right field if a change is needed. He draws a fair amount of walks and has shown more power than some anticipated coming out of college, the MLB.com duo adds.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
WEDNESDAY: The Phillies have requested multiple top prospects from the Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, but officials who have expressed interest get the impression that Philadelphia isn’t serious about trading its ace.
MONDAY, 3:50pm: In today’s Rumblings & Grumblings column, ESPN’s Jayson Stark touched on Hamels’ availability (highlights from the rest of the piece can be seen here, though it’s worth reading in its entirety).
Officials from other teams tell Stark that the Phillies are asking for each team’s top three or four prospects in any Hamels deal, but they’re only willing to eat about $10MM of the remaining $90MM+ on Hamels’ contract. Stark quotes one unnamed executive, who told him, “Ruben wants his doors blown off in order to trade him. And you don’t get your doors blown off if this kind of money is attached. It doesn’t work that way.”
Meanwhile, Morosi hears that the Dodgers and Cardinals are the two most likely clubs to acquire Hamels (Twitter link).
3:03pm: Though we’ve been hearing for weeks that the Phillies won’t move ace Cole Hamels, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports hears that the team has now made the lefty available, and the Dodgers are interested (Twitter link). However, the asking price on Hamels is still said to be very high, per Morosi.
Recently, it was reported that Hamels could block trades to 20 teams. The nine teams to which Hamels cannot block a trade are the Dodgers, Angels, Cardinals, Nationals, Braves, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Padres, so he wouldn’t have any say should the Dodgers put together a strong enough offer.
Hamels, 30, is enjoying yet another strong season atop Philadelphia’s rotation, having pitched to a 2.72 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 47.5 percent ground-ball rate in 122 1/3 innings. He’s earning $22.5MM in 2014 and is guaranteed $90MM from 2015-18, with a $20MM club option for the 2019 season that can vest at $24MM with 400 innings from 2017-18 or 200 innings in 2018. He has about $7.87MM remaining on this year’s salary, meaning that he’s guaranteed another $97.87MM and could earn as much as $121.87MM before hitting free agency.
The Dodgers appear to be looking to make a big splash on the pitching front, as they’ve been oft-linked to David Price and have recently been heavily connected to Red Sox ace Jon Lester. Los Angeles has reportedly been loath to part with both Corey Seager and Joc Pederson in trades, but it’s worth wondering if they’d part with both hitters in order to acquire someone with so much team control remaining. Left-hander Julio Urias has seen his stock skyrocket in 2014 as well, while other pitching prospects such as Zach Lee, Chris Anderson and Tom Windle have delivered relatively disappointing results this year.
The Dodgers’ interest in Hamels isn’t entirely surprising, as the team could lose Zack Greinke to an opt-out clause following the 2015 season. Hamels would give them a dominant arm to pair with Clayton Kershaw in the event that Greinke signs elsewhere.
The Cardinals have been strongly linked to starting pitching, and the club is making its final assessments in advance of the trade deadline, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It appears that St. Louis is aiming for a fairly impactful arm to slot into its rotation.
In addition to Cole Hamels, the club is at least doing background work on Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett of the Phillies. (As Strauss’s colleague Derrick Goold recently reported, Philadelphia is watching the Cards’ Triple-A club.) Likewise, the Cards are performing diligence on Jon Lester of the Red Sox, Ian Kennedy of the Padres, Justin Masterson of the Indians, and David Price of the Rays — among others — according to Strauss. That does not necessarily mean that the club intends to make offers on any or all of these pitchers, of course, but at least seems to indicate the direction of GM John Mozeliak’s thinking.
Though the team’s offense has lagged at times, it seems likely at this point that the Cardinals will count on its in-house options to increase their output to put runs on the board. But with Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia out of action, and varying degrees of uncertainty surrounding Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez, a rotation addition seems quite likely.