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Stephen Drew Rumors
Here’s the latest from around the AL East…
- The Diamondbacks still have interest in Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro, as Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair writes that the Snakes “have been trailing…Navarro for the better part of a week.” Navarro himself recently said that he believed Arizona and Detroit were interested in acquiring his services, and both teams have room to upgrade behind the plate.
- Matt Wieters will begin the season on the DL as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters (including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko) that the lack of precedent for catchers recovering from the surgery is why the O’s pursued several backups this offseason. “I think there’s a lot of unknown there. We’re hoping for the best,” Showalter said. “They’ll have something to base the future on when the start trying to analyze this, because he’s been a model blueprint for rehab as far as what he’s done. We followed it to the letter of the law. Matt, if anything, has been above and beyond.”
- Orioles southpaw Brian Matusz has been the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks, most notably in connection to the Mets. MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports that New York indeed still has interest in Matusz but would need the O’s to cover part of Matusz’s $3.2MM salary. Previous reports have suggested the Orioles would be add some cash to make a deal happen, so there could be a bit if the two sides can make the numbers line up.
- Scouts haven’t been impressed with either Carlos Beltran or Stephen Drew this spring, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. Neither of the two Yankees veterans are hitting well, and there is also question about Beltran’s ability to play right field. This is a particularly important Spring Training for Drew, as his loose hold on the second base job could be broken entirely given the presence of Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela.
Other teams asked Major League Baseball about the Rockies‘ decision to add John Axford to their roster so early in the spring, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. Axford signed a minor-league deal with the Rockies in early February, but the team added him to its roster March 1, effectively turning a minor-league deal into a big-league one. To clear space on their roster, they moved Tyler Chatwood to the 60-day DL, a move they were not allowed to make in the offseason. The idea is that the team might have effectively agreed to a big-league deal with Axford but signed him to a minor-league deal purely to manipulate its roster. The Rockies, of course, could plausibly claim that they were impressed by Axford early in the spring and wanted to roster him so that he couldn’t exercise his out clause later in the month, perhaps making the decision early as a vote of confidence in Axford and in their team. Here are more highlights from Rosenthal’s latest notes column.
- Scouts have doubts about Stephen Drew as the Yankees‘ second baseman, Rosenthal writes. The Yankees signed Drew for $5MM in the offseason with the idea that he would provide veteran stability in the middle infield, given that they’re going with youngster Didi Gregorius at shortstop and their backup plans at second, Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder, are also inexperienced.
- The Padres are reportedly among the teams most interested in Cuban infielder Hector Olivera, but Rosenthal reports that they are unlikely to pay more than the $70MM Olivera expects to get.
- Teams interested in starting pitching depth could turn to the Braves‘ collection of minor-league signees, including Eric Stults, Chien-Ming Wang and Wandy Rodriguez. Stults can opt out of his deal April 3, while Wang can opt out July 1. Whether Rodriguez has an out, and when, is unknown.
JAN. 7: Drew will receive $500K for reaching each of 450, 500 and 550 plate appearances, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney (Twitter link).
JAN. 6, 10:02pm: David Lennon of Newsday tweets that Drew’s base salary is exactly $5MM. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports adds (via Twitter) that Drew’s contract contains up to $1.5MM worth of incentives, meaning he can max out at a total of $6.5MM on his one-year deal. The deal is still pending a physical.
8:42pm: The Yankees and Stephen Drew are on the verge of completing a one-year agreement that will pay Drew roughly $5MM, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Drew, a client of Scott Boras, will be able to boost the value of the deal to about $6-7MM via performance incentives, according to Heyman.
The team has already acquired the slick-fielding Didi Gregorius to handle shortstop in the long-term, so Drew’s role will be to play second base, at least against right-handed pitchers, tweets the New York Post’s Joel Sherman. Drew can also provide the Yankees with some insurance in the event that Gregorius is not yet ready to handle shortstop for the long haul.
The addition of Drew likely means that prospects Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela will no longer be competing for the second base job in Spring Training, as many had assumed would be the case. However, since both are right-handed hitters, either could conceivably end up as part of a second base platoon with Drew. Refsnyder, in particular, crushed left-handed pitching last season, batting .385/.447/.587 in 161 plate appearances. Of course, Pirela’s .319/.382/.493 line versus southpaws from 2014 is also highly impressive.
Drew will fill the role that many expected Martin Prado to fill prior to his trade to the Marlins. That swap netted the Yankees hard-throwing righty Nathan Eovaldi. They’ll now be relying on the same starting outfield alignment that they sent out in 2014, but with Chase Headley, Gregorius and Drew joining Mark Teixeira in the infield and a returning Alex Rodriguez seeing quite a bit of time at DH.
Drew is coming off a dreadful season at the plate in which he batted just .162/.237/.299 with seven homers in 300 plate appearances between the Red Sox and Yankees. Of course, Drew also sat out for the first two months of the season and jumped into the fray with just a week or so worth of Triple-A at-bats under his belt. Drew and Boras struggled to find a multi-year deal to their liking last winter, a fact that they at least partially chalked up to a qualifying offer limiting Drew’s market (a lofty asking price likely didn’t help matters).
Rather than take a diminished deal or even a one-year pact that would allow him to report to camp and hit the open market again this offseason, Drew waited until the Red Sox offered him the pro-rated version of the qualifying offer (roughly $10MM at that point) in late May before agreeing to a deal. As Drew’s production and near-agreement reflects, that move did not pan out as Drew’s camp had hoped.
Nonetheless, Drew is a capable defensive infielder that is just one season removed from a .253/.333/.443 batting line in 501 plate appearances with the Red Sox. His left-handed stroke does seem to be a good match with the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium, although that wasn’t the case in 2014 when he batted just .149/.208/.253 in the Bronx. This move figures to be widely panned based on last season’s struggles, but Drew doesn’t need to do much to live up to a $5MM base, and his upside is far greater than the reported $7MM at which his contract can max out. If he does fail to regain his form, his salary isn’t a significant hit to the Yankees’ deep pockets.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
As the baseball world anxiously awaits news on the Hall of Fame voting, let’s take a look in at the latest out of the game’s eastern divisions:
- Free agent shortstop Stephen Drew is seeking “upwards of $7MM” in his next deal, tweets Mike Puma of the New York Post. The Mets are not interested at that rate, Puma adds, though a “significant” price drop could get New York back into the conversation.
- Though the Yankees are content going with some combination of Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder at second heading into the spring, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets that the club is still keeping an eye out for alternatives. That includes Drew, per Heyman.
- The Blue Jays are still looking to the trade market to bolster their bullpen and will not spend up to their full capacity just to add whatever new arms they can, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. While there is still a possibility of a low-cost free agent addition, Davidi explains that the Jays look increasingly likely to go with internal options while keeping an eye out this spring or even into the season for improvements.
- Toronto is still interested in Japanese infielder Takashi Toritani, adds Davidi, but at this point are only inclined to do a cheaper, one-year contract. Indeed, the club has not yet made an offer to him, per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter).
The Blue Jays only have about $9MM left to spend this offseason, Richard Griffin of TheStar.com writes. The team’s top priority is upgrading the bullpen, which means the Jays aren’t likely to spend most of that money on a second baseman or an additional bat. (Griffin notes on Twitter that the Blue Jays’ apparent lack of funds likely means they won’t get Stephen Drew, who has reportedly been asking for around $9MM.) Griffin suggests that GM Alex Anthopoulos might prefer to add a younger pitcher, which could limit the Jays’ interest in older free agent options like Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano or former team closer Casey Janssen. Instead, he could pursue trade options like Tyler Clippard, Tommy Hunter (although, as a reader points out, it does not seem likely that the Orioles would trade Hunter within the division), Tanner Scheppers, or one of any number of Athletics relievers. Here are more notes from the AL East.
- The Orioles have recently been connected to Colby Rasmus, and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com looks at the repercussions for other Orioles outfielders, and especially David Lough, if the O’s were to acquire another left-handed outfielder. The main reason for keeping Lough was his ability to play center field, but Rasmus has played center throughout his career. Separately, Kubatko notes that the Orioles will need to open a 40-man roster spot shortly to clear space for Delmon Young.
- After struggling in 2014, Craig Breslow took an unusual road back to the Red Sox this offseason, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com writes. “In terms of the process, it was exciting, it was unsettling,” says Breslow, who agreed to a one-year, $2MM deal to return to Boston after posting a 5.96 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 in 2014. “[E]veryone will go through a career with one season being their worst. Now, the fact that mine came on the cusp of free agency, that’s not how you draw it up.” Breslow attended the Winter Meetings and sat in on discussions between his agent, Bob Baratta, and various teams, explaining his tough year and making a case for himself. “Ultimately even teams we diverged from mentioned their appreciation for my involvement and that I had left an impression on them,” Breslow says.
Here’s the latest from Joel Sherman of the New York Post:
- The Blue Jays, Athletics, Cubs, White Sox and Angels are interested in Stephen Drew to play second base but don’t want to pay his $9MM-$10MM asking price, Sherman writes. There’s concern that Drew’s poor 2014 season marks the beginning of a serious decline. “Fine, you want to say June and July [last year] were spring training for him, well, how about August or September? There was never a time in which he looked like a major league hitter,” says one executive. The Yankees could have interest in him, but want to commit to Didi Gregorius at shortstop and could have concern Drew would provide an easy distraction from those plans, even if he’s signed as a second baseman. Earlier this month, we guessed Drew would get a one-year, $7MM deal.
- The Royals signed Alex Rios this offseason even though Rios rejected a trade to Kansas City last summer, Sherman says. The Rangers tried to trade Rios to the Royals, but Rios requested that Kansas City exercise his 2015 option as a condition of the deal. The Royals said no, so Rios used his no-trade clause to stop the trade. Rios thus spent the entire season with the Rangers, refusing a chance to join a team in the midst of a playoff race.
- There have already been rumors of the Padres trading Wil Myers to Philadelphia in a Cole Hamels deal, and Sherman writes that San Diego would, in fact, consider dealing Myers, who they might feel isn’t good enough defensively to handle center field.
As we inch toward the new year, the market for middle infielders has yet to truly take off. Jed Lowrie has returned to Houston on a three-year contract, and Korean slugger Jung-ho Kang may or may not be Pittsburgh-bound after the Pirates submitted the most aggressive posting fee ($5MM). Here’s the latest on what’s left of the middle infield market…
- The Yankees, Royals, Rays and Blue Jays have all kept in touch with Asdrubal Cabrera‘s camp, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Each of those clubs has an existing option at shortstop, meaning Cabrera would likely have to shift to second base to join any of those four teams. The Yankees and Blue Jays present the best hitting environments of those choices, if Cabrera is looking for a one-year deal, but he could simply go to whichever club is willing to offer the largest number of years, as well.
- The Cubs are among the clubs that are showing interest in Stephen Drew, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Chicago is somewhat of a surprising team to be linked to Drew, as they have Starlin Castro at shortstop and can use Javier Baez or Luis Valbuena at second base. Valbuena or Drew could also slot in at third base, but that spot figures to be assumed by top prospect Kris Bryant at some point in 2015.
- In an update to his weekend piece on the Padres‘ interest in Japanese shortstop Takashi Toritani, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Friars have yet to make a formal offer to the 33-year-old. Toritani is Japan’s most durable player, having played every inning of his club’s past 1,444 games, and he comes with an excellent defensive reputation as well. He’s a career .285/.372/.412 with Japan’s Hanshin Tigers, though some question whether or not his bat can transfer to Major League Baseball.
- Meanwhile, Heyman tweets that while the Padres and Blue Jays are still interested in Toritani, there’s a “decent” chance that he ends up returning to the Hanshin Tigers next season.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the Orioles are still the team to beat in the AL East, a largely stagnant offseason which included losing two top players. The Orioles are, in part, banking on Chris Davis having a bounce back season in his walk year and they believe healthy seasons out of Manny Machado and Matt Wieters will elevate them. More from Cafardo..
- Agent Scott Boras thinks the market for Stephen Drew will heat up in January after teams have exhausted trade possibilities for a middle infielder. Boras hinted to Cafardo that a personal issue may have contributed to his offensive decline last season, though he declined to elaborate.
- The Indians would like to trade Nick Swisher after acquiring Brandon Moss from Oakland and the Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles, Padres, Brewers, and Cubs could all be possible trade partners. Swisher is owed about $30MM on his deal, however, so Cleveland might have to foot some of the bill.
- One National League GM told Cafardo that he inquired about Rays third baseman Evan Longoria and was rebuffed. The Rays have Longoria under contract at $11MM this year and $11.5MM next year before his extension kicks in in 2017, running through 2023.
- Cafardo writes that Jonny Gomes could wind up with former Red Sox Jon Lester and David Ross on the Cubs to add some veteran presence to a young outfield. “He’s still an effective player. He works for a team that’s on the verge and on a team like the Cubs or Astros who need a veteran presence,” said one National League GM.
- At some point, the Phillies might have to release Ryan Howard and eat more than $60MM in salary. Still, it’s not surprising to hear that a GM told Cafardo that an American League team would scoop him up as a DH if he is free.
Nick Markakis underwent fusion surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck yesterday, but the Braves expect their new right fielder to be 100 percent by Opening Day, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. President of baseball operations John Hart spoke with surgeon Steve Wray, who performed the procedure, and came away with the impression that aside from some possible disruption of his pre-Spring Training routine, Markakis would be fine. He’s expected to be cleared for physical activity within a month’s time and to be fully agile in six weeks.
Some more notes from the Senior Circuit to kick off your Thursday morning…
- The Rockies are interested in right-hander Kyle Kendrick as a potential back-of-the-rotation option, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. The 30-year-old Kendrick pitched a career-high 199 innings last season, and Crasnick notes that his career 46.1 percent ground-ball rate is of interest to Colorado. That mark isn’t too far above the league average, but it’s an improvement over Franklin Morales and Christian Bergman, each of whom logged significant innings in Colorado’s rotation last year. Kendrick’s upside is limited, but he’d be a relatively low-cost option to soak up some innings in a shaky rotation.
- Wilmer Flores is still likely to open next season as the Mets‘ shortstop, writes Marc Carig of Newsday, but a source tells Carig that the team does have interest in Stephen Drew and Everth Cabrera on low-risk, one-year deals. Previous reports have indicated that the Mets weren’t interested in Cabrera. The team hasn’t ruled out bidding on Korean shortstop Jung-ho Kang, but they’re likely to pass due to concerns over his defense. Those same concerns have halted their interest in Asdrubal Cabrera from progressing beyond internal discussions.
- In a video blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney opines that the Padres are in perfect position to try to squeeze some extra money out of the Dodgers in their deal for Matt Kemp. While the deal is expected to be completed, Olney notes that Kemp’s medicals are “ugly,” and the Dodgers need the trade more than the Padres do. The Dodgers are reportedly set to send $32MM to the Padres as it is.
- The Padres aren’t done making moves even after striking deals to acquire Kemp and Wil Myers, writes Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. One possible minor addition, he reports, is veteran catcher David Ross, who is still “considering” the Padres.
Here’s the latest on the Astros from Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle…
- The Astros met with agent Scott Boras to discuss shortstop Stephen Drew and relief pitching, says a source familiar with the conversation. Boras confirmed the meeting took place without naming any particular names, saying “We’ve had meetings and talked and we have bullpen guys and the infield and outfield guys, so we’ve had some general conversations. They’re kind of in a fluid state on their position players, but…we have some guys that may be some fits there.” This is just my speculation, but it’s possible Houston could’ve been looking into Rafael Soriano or Francisco Rodriguez, Boras’ two most high-profile bullpen clients.
- Boras said that Takashi Toritani is drawing interest from MLB teams mostly as a second baseman rather than his natural shortstop position. As Drellich notes, this would seem to eliminate the Astros from contention since Jose Altuve is already entrenched at second.
- Unsurprisingly, Drellich’s source said that the Astros’ chat with Boras didn’t involve Max Scherzer.
- The Cubs showed some interest in Jason Castro earlier this offseason, prior to Chicago’s acquisition of Miguel Montero from the Diamondbacks.