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Stephen Drew Rumors
Though they were never that interested in Stephen Drew, finding a solution at shortstop remains a priority for the Mets, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. While the upcoming free agent class features prominent names such as Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie, Martino hears that the team isn’t looking at that market yet. Rather, the Mets are focused on adding a young, controllable shortstop on the trade market this summer.
Martino lists Brad Miller and Nick Franklin of the Mariners as possibilities, though one source tells him that the two sides haven’t been in contact recently. Arizona’s Didi Gregorius is hitting very well at Triple-A Reno, and Martino says the Mets are continually monitoring him, but the front office shakeup in Arizona makes trading with them a bit confusing at this time, he adds. Martino writes that other teams, at this point, aren’t even sure whether to contact GM Kevin Towers or new Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa regarding trades, though Mets GM Sandy Alderson has a good relationship with both.
He continues by stating that the Mets were only interested in Drew on a one-year deal, as they didn’t want to be responsible for 2015 and beyond if he struggled this season. The team currently wants to see if Wilmer Flores can handle the position, but his defensive question marks have been well-documented.
From this point on, I’m purely speculating, but I wonder if a name like Hak-Ju Lee could be available on the trade market now that the Rays have extended Yunel Escobar‘s contract through at least 2016. Lee is struggling thus far in his return from multiple ligament tears in his knee last season, but he’s a former Top 100 prospect that could be blocked on the big league roster.
The Rangers also have some middle infield depth with Luis Sardinas likely blocked from a starting role due to the presence of Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar. The pitching-hungry Twins also have a solid shortstop prospect in Danny Santana, though their own lack of a quality long-term option at short might make them hesitant to deal the 23-year-old.
The Mets possess enviable pitching depth with Matt Harvey on the mend from Tommy John surgery and a group of young starters including Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee, Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom and top prospect Noah Syndergaard. With such a wide range of arms under team control, the Mets could conceivably use that depth to entice a rival club to part with a controllable shortstop.
The Red Sox ended the long Stephen Drew saga today, agreeing to re-sign the shortstop at a pro-rated annual salary equivalent to the $14.1MM qualifying offer that he declined before the season. Certainly, the signing is interesting on many levels, not least of which because it came with the team staring at the very real possibility of losing the compensatory draft pick it probably hoped to pick up. Drew now joins Ervin Santana and Nelson Cruz in taking one-year deals at or below the QO rate. In Drew’s case, the timing also seemingly reveals something about the present and future market assessment of his agent, Scott Boras. It seems that either or both of the following is likely true to some degree: first, that Boras did not believe Drew would garner an attractive multi-year offer after the amatuer draft passed; and second, that Boras believes Drew can achieve such a deal on next year’s free agent market. Notably, while Drew will not be eligible to receive a qualifying offer, he will be joined in free agency by some or all of Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie, and Asdrubal Cabrera.
Here’s more on Drew’s signing:
- Part of the Red Sox’ calculus in making the move for Drew involved his alternate landing spots, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald reports on Twitter. Several American League competitors could have looked to add him after the draft, including the Tigers and division rivals like the Yankees (if not also the Orioles and Blue Jays).
- Exactly what kind of interest Drew would have received after shedding draft compensation may never be known, but at least two oft-cited suitors downplayed their interest in the aftermath of the signing. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said that the move “really hasn’t been discussed internally,” reports Tom Gage of the Detroit News (via Twitter). And Mets GM Sandy Alderson said that his club would not have paid Drew what he received from Boston, tweets Marc Carig of Newsday. Indeed, neither the Mets nor the Yankees were ever really serious pursuers of Drew, according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.
- From the Red Sox’ perspective, adding Drew raised questions about the team’s plans for younger players Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks. Drew is expected to play short, at least against right-handers, reports Tim Britton of the Providence Journal (Twitter links), who says the team will at least consider keeping Middlebrooks on the MLB roster in some form of an indirect platoon with Drew when he comes off the DL. Presumably, Bogaerts would take short against lefties in that scenario, but as Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com reports, statements from manager John Farrell indicate that Drew will handle most of the load at shortstop. Adding to the intrigue, Farrell also said that the team’s lineup would “depend upon who’s on this team” and “what the roster looks like,” Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports (Twitter links). As MacPherson suggests, that could suggest that the team views Middlebrooks as expendable. Certainly, it would not be surprising to hear his name arise in trade talks over the summer.
- The deal is a win for Boston, which needed an upgrade at the left side of the infield and did not pay a big price to do so, writes Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. But it is not a bad result for Drew either, Cameron says, because his loss of salary this year (as against taking the QO at the beginning of the year) could still be offset by gains from re-entering the market without compensation attached. Addressing the same point, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com agrees that things could still work out in the end for Drew, while noting that the vagaries of the market could decide that question.
- MacPherson writes that the Red Sox did well to shore up their defense and add another bat to play against righties. While the team may have expected, or even hoped, that Drew would sign elsewhere and return a draft pick, that ship had sailed and the team was able to follow through with an attractive back-up strategy when the need arose.
- The key to the deal for Boston is the short-term nature of the commitment, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Prospects Deven Marrero and Garin Cecchini join Bogaerts as near-future options on the left side of the infield, says Rosenthal, and the signing does nothing to change the club’s bright outlook in that respect.
The Red Sox are considering potential upgrades, including trades, at third base, WEEI’s Rob Bradford writes, citing a source within baseball. With Will Middlebrooks currently out with a fractured index finger, the Red Sox currently have Brock Holt at third. The Red Sox were struggling at third base this season even before Middlebrooks’ injury, with Middlebrooks hitting .197/.305/.324 in 82 plate appearances.
Bradford notes that the Red Sox have not recently had discussions with Scott Boras about free agent shortstop Stephen Drew. One potential reason for that, as the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber notes, is that they are uninterested in moving Xander Bogaerts to third — they want a full season to evaluate Bogaerts at shortstop before considering moving him elsewhere. “We don’t have any reason to believe he can’t play short,” says GM Ben Cherington. “You’ve got to keep going in the right direction, but he looks, to me anyway, a little more comfortable out there making the routine plays. And that’s all he needs to do.”
Let’s take a look at a few notes out of the American League to round out the evening:
- While recent developments have made free agent infielder Stephen Drew a more enticing fit for the Red Sox, the club has yet to re-engage agent Scott Boras, reports Alex Speier of WEEI.com. The fractured right finger of Will Middlebrooks — to say nothing of his sluggish play — has clouded Boston’s third base picture, and it now seems quite unlikely that the team will pick up a draft choice through another club inking the compensation-bound Drew. (With only weeks remaining until the amateur draft, interested clubs will presumably wait until the draft passes and signing Drew no longer requires the sacrifice of a pick.) While Speier notes that the Sox’ approach could still change before the draft, it bears noting that Drew himself is now free of the compensation as a practical matter and has little to lose by waiting for his market to open up.
- The Angels could stand not only to add to the back of the bullpen, but also the starting rotation, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (video link). Los Angeles looked to add Ian Kennedy last year, says Rosenthal, who opines that the club might be interested in dealing for a mid-level arm like Dillon Gee of the Mets. While payroll space is probably not much of an issue, the club does not have a deep set of prospects from which to deal.
- Veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki has turned his career trajectory on its head through his first 137 plate appearances of 2014, posting an excellent .322/.390/.424 line for the Twins. Needless to say, that is a nice return on the one-year, $2.75MM contract he signed over the offseason. Minnesota could be interested in discussing an extension with Suzuki before the summer is out, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, though the club has not yet engaged him. Suzuki has hit well enough that the ZiPS projection system now likes him to produce at a league-average rate for the rest of the year; combined with his well-regarded defensive skills, clubhouse presence, and relatively young age of 30, Suzuki could be setting himself up as a fairly attractive trade chip and future free agent target if the Twins don’t move to lock him up.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wonders why Red Sox fans have been heading for the exits early this season. Cafardo surveyed his Twitter followers for the answer and got a wide range of excuses, but winter weather was the No. 1 overall answer. More from today’s column..
- One major league source indicated the Yankees may change their thinking on whether to sign Stephen Drew if they find Derek Jeter can’t endure a full season at shortstop. The Yankees, according to the source, don’t want the Red Sox to get a draft pick, so they’d wait at least through the June draft so there would be no compensation. Ken Rosenthal theorized yesterday that it might make sense for the Red Sox to re-sign Drew if only to keep him away from the Yankees. If Boston wanted to, they could theoretically move Xander Bogaerts to third base in order to make room.
- This winter’s free agent class includes Max Scherzer, James Shields, and Justin Masterson, but one National League General Manager sees Jon Lester as the top available pitcher. “Lester is the most appealing,” said the GM. “He’s left-handed, a bulldog, big-game experience, and just 30. Will he get six or seven years? I’d say he will.”
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin acknowledged that Kendrys Morales’ name came up in the team’s first base discussions, but, “there are just a pool of players we can’t consider because of the National League-American League dynamic. That’s why I’m hoping we’re all playing by the same set of rules someday. It’s a reason we had to let Corey Hart go because we play 36 day games and it’s tough to come back after a night game.”
- The Dodgers would like Hanley Ramirez to prove he can stay healthy before signing him to an extension, Rosenthal reports. Ramirez has played in fewer than 100 games in two of the past three seasons. He can become a free agent this winter.
- The Giants want to keep Pablo Sandoval, but would prefer to sign him to a shorter deal due to his inconsistency and weight issues. Sandoval is also off to a poor start this season, hitting .171/.250/.276 thus far.
- It might still make sense for the Red Sox to re-sign Stephen Drew, particularly given that signing him would prevent him from signing with the Yankees. The Red Sox could move Xander Bogaerts to third base in order to clear space for Drew. The team would prefer not to do that, though, allowing him to develop at shortstop.
- Scott Boras is trying to pique the Brewers‘ interest in Kendrys Morales, Rosenthal suggests. Whether the Brewers would have interest might depend on their perception of Morales’ defense at first base, however. Milwaukee currently has Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay splitting time at first.
Teams won’t be able to sign Stephen Drew or Kendrys Morales before the draft without forfeiting a draft pick, but that doesn’t mean teams shouldn’t consider signing them before then, FOX Sports’ Rob Neyer writes. The problem isn’t just the draft pick, but rather the draft pick plus the cost of the signing, so the right teams should be willing to sign Drew or Morales if the price is low enough. Teams negotiating with those players now would have the advantage of a limited market, since the draft pick will scare other teams away. Finding the right team for Morales is difficult at this point, but Drew would make a good deal of sense for the Yankees, Neyer argues. The Yankees would only lose the No. 56 pick in the draft as a result of signing Drew. Here are more notes from the American League.
- Joe Saunders wants to make it back to the Rangers as a starter, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. Saunders has been out for a month with a stress fracture in his ankle, and the Rangers wanted to activate him in order to have him pitch as a long reliever. Saunders still believes he is a starter, however, and has asked the team to allow him to make two additional rehab starts in the minors. “Once you go to the bullpen, it’s hard to get back to starting,” says Saunders. “They paid me to start, and I think I can most help this club by starting.”
- Former Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who was honored at Comerica Park Saturday morning, has no regrets about stepping aside, George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press reports. “It was a great run,” says Leyland. “The missing piece was the World Series trophy, so we’ll be forever held against us, but it was such a wonderful run for everybody.” Leyland now serves as a special assistant to GM Dave Dombrowski. He’s done some scouting work and says he has watched almost every game the Tigers have played this year.
With Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales still unsigned with less than a month to go before the amateur draft, it is looking increasingly plausible that the pair will wait to shed their accompanying draft pick compensation before finding a new club. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter, teams will be able to ink either of the two free agents without giving up a pick as soon as the first day of the draft is completed on June 5. Of course, that is also the point at which their former clubs — the Red Sox and Mariners, respectively — would no longer stand to gain a compensatory choice should they sign elsewhere after declining qualifying offers.
Here’s more from around the league …
- Reds third baseman Chris Nelson will not exercise the opt-out clause in his contract that came due today, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 28-year-old will continue on with Triple-A Louisville for the time being, though his deal includes another opt-out date a month from now.
- A rival talent evaluator tells ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Insider link) that the Cardinals‘ decision on the promotion of star prospect Oscar Taveras is complicated by the team’s defensive issues. In that source’s estimation, Taveras is better suited to the corner outfield than center. The team’s best method of creating space, he opines, would be to deal first baseman Matt Adams and put Allen Craig back in the infield. As Olney notes, Adams would figure to draw plenty of trade interest given his solid bat (career .803 OPS) and lengthy team control (through 2018).
- 17-year-old high-school hurler Jacob Bukauskas, a potential first-round choice in the upcoming draft, has notified scouts that he plans to attend the University of North Carolina, according to John Manuel of Baseball America. The hard-throwing righty had pitched himself into consideration for selection in the late first or early second round, though some scouts believe he may not be able to stick as a starter. As Manuel notes, the Stone Bridge High School product will not be eligible for the draft again until 2017 if he matriculates at UNC.
Matt Cain has been placed on the 15-day DL in order to recover from a cut on his right index finger that already cost him one start earlier this week. While making a sandwich in the Giants’ clubhouse last Tuesday, Cain dropped a knife and tried to catch it in mid-air, cutting his finger in the process. While the injury isn’t serious and Cain could return to the rotation as early as Saturday, the Giants ace may have earned himself a mention in future lists of oddball MLB injuries.
Here are a few notes from around the baseball world…
- The Rangers have done the best job of signing international prospects since 2006, as ranked by Baseball America’s Ben Badler. Not only has Texas signed 14 international players (the second-most of any team in that span), but several of them are making waves in the minors and the likes of Martin Perez, Leonys Martin and Jurickson Profar have contributed to the Major League club. The Royals, Pirates, Twins and Red Sox round out the rest of the top five in Badler’s rankings.
- Former first overall draft pick Matt Bush is halfway through a 51-month prison sentence and he talks to FOX Sports’ Gabe Kapler about his regrets and his battles with alcoholism.
- Scott Boras’ inability to adapt to the new qualifying offer system in free agency is why clients Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew are still waiting for new contracts, Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel opines. While Boras has pulled impressive deals seeming out of nowhere for many clients in the past, McDaniel argues that teams have more information now and are less apt to give up a draft pick or commit major dollars to “second tier free agents.”
- Fangraphs’ David Laurila catches up with right-hander Mike Ekstrom about playing in Italy and his Baseball Round The World website, which chronicles the experiences of Ekstrom and other players who continue their careers in far-flung locales. Ekstrom pitched 61 Major League innings with the Padres, Rays and Rockies from 2008-12 and spent last season at the Triple-A level in the Athletics’ and Angels’ systems.
Kevin Towers of the Diamondbacks isn’t sure whether he’ll still have his job when his team turns its fortunes around, Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com writes. “When you spend $110 million and you’re 9-22 at the end of April, I wouldn’t be happy, either,” says Towers. “I’m also disappointed, but I still believe in the core group. I think they will get better. Will I be around to see it? I don’t know.” Towers also says the team’s poor start must have managing partner Ken Kendrick wondering if the Diamondbacks have the right GM and manager in place. Here’s more from around the big leagues.
- The Angels have promoted first baseman C.J. Cron, who is in their lineup tonight as their DH, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets. Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook 2014 rated Cron the Angels’ second-best prospect. The 2011 first-round pick got off to a great start this season for Triple-A Salt Lake, hitting .319/.369/.602 in his first 122 plate appearances there.
- The Braves feel like they’re getting a good deal in third baseman Chris Johnson‘s recent three-year extension, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes. “He was looking for stability and we were looking to have a solid player at a tough position to man,” says GM Frank Wren. “When this contract is over, he’s 32. We all feel like that is when they’re in their prime. So it was another example of tying up a player long term, but not extending beyond their prime.” Johnson will earn $4.75MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility this season, and the $23MM deal buys out Johnson’s last two years of arbitration eligibility, plus one year of free agency, with a reasonable option for a second.
- The Tigers aren’t yet sure what they’ll do to address their shortstop position, reports MLB.com’s Jason Beck. “We really haven’t approached those specific topics yet,” says GM Dave Dombrowski. Beck suggests that reinforces the perception that it’s unlikely the Tigers will sign free agent Stephen Drew before the draft in early June.