Taijuan Walker Rumors
The Mariners announced today that Taijuan Walker will be shut down for the next week due to shoulder inflammation. It's a precautionary move, it would seem, based on manager Lloyd McClendon's comments. Said McClendon (via the Tacoma News Tribune's Bob Dutton on Twitter): "This guy, we’re not just talking about 2014. Hopefully, we’re talking about the next 15 years." The injury doesn't appear major for the Mariners right now, but it's another reason for some concern in the wake of a finger injury to Hisashi Iwakuma. The Mariners will learn the results of his tests on that injury tomorrow. Here's more on the Mariners and the AL West...
- Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio feels that the Mariners should sign both Ervin Santana and Kendrys Morales (ESPN Insider required). Bowden feels that the competitive nature of the AL East will make it too difficult for two Wild Card teams to come from that division. Assuming one Wild Card from the East, the Mariners could compete with the Rangers, Angels, Indians and Royals for the second spot, in Bowden's opinion. Adding that pair would also allow the club to hang onto Nick Franklin for the time being, allowing him to serve as a strong fallback option in the event of an infield injury.
- The Angels aren't committed to carrying a long reliever in their bullpen, and as such they could trade or release Joe Blanton prior to Opening Day, writes Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times. Blanton could slot into the rotation in the event of an injury or should Tyler Skaggs need further minor league time, but his contract doesn't make him a lock for the roster in Shaikin's mind.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports discusses Prince Fielder's impact on the Rangers' lineup as he analyzes the merit of lineup protection. Morosi also acknowledges the statistical evidence that it may be somewhat of a myth. Morosi spoke with several executives and players in his in-depth piece, with Rangers backstop J.P. Arencibia specifically stating: "Robinson Cano is a guy that, hey, we’re going to pitch around him, bottom line," when referring to the division-rival Mariners.
There has been much speculation about a David Price trade this winter but very little hard information about interested teams. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman explores the seemingly quiet Price trade market in his wrap-up of the latest news about the Rays southpaw...
- "Five or six" teams have made offers involving Price but the Rays haven't seen anything that piques their interest. The Rays "seem slightly shocked" that they haven't received better offers and people within the organization are now discussing keeping Price through at least the start of the season.
- Taijuan Walker seems to be an untouchable for the Mariners, with a Mariners source telling Heyman that "Taijuan Walker will be on our roster come Opening Day." Another M's source says Seattle would prefer to keep both Walker and James Paxton, and instead trade young position players for Price. A Rays official hinted that Seattle could offer an acceptable trade package without Walker, with Heyman noting that Paxton and Mike Zunino would seem to be logical candidates.
- "Tampa Bay's position is that they need one huge prospect or at least a trio of very good ones" for Price, so a Mariners offer based around the likes of Dustin Ackley, Nick Franklin and Justin Smoak wouldn't be enough to get it done.
- The Royals have "had mostly just internal talks on Price" and haven't exchanged any "meaningful dialogue" with the Rays about a possible trade. That said, Heyman notes that Kansas City has the prospect depth to make a trade possible, though Price's rising salary through arbitration over the next two seasons makes a deal a "tall order," according to one Royals source.
- Trading Price within the AL East is "not ideal," according to one Rays source, though the idea wasn't dismissed outright. I'd guess that Tampa Bay would want an even higher premium for Price from a division rival than they would from a non-AL East club.
Mariners officials are signaling to agents and others in the industry that they could be nearing their payroll limit, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal opines that, if true, this makes the decision to spent the majority of their available funds on Robinson Cano shows that there was no plan in place for the Mariners.
Rosenthal adds that the Mariners could make exceptions "for the right player" and are continuing to discuss David Price with the Rays. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports noted in yesterday's 10 Degrees column that the M's are softening on their stance that righty Taijuan Walker is off limits.
Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik appeared on MLB Network's Hot Stove this morning and addressed the issue directly when asked by Rosenthal:
"We're at a point where I think we are trying to do a few more things. I'm not sure that anything is going to be a huge splash. We have some options out there that we can either make a trade or could add another piece to it. I think that if we go for another large deal, that obviously is going to have to go above my head. And at this moment we are where we are, and we're trying to make things work with what we have."
In addition to Cano, the Mariners have also added Corey Hart on a one-year deal, re-signed Franklin Gutierrez and acquired Logan Morrison from the Marlins in exchange for Carter Capps. However, the addition of Cano and Hart certainly wouldn't seem to be enough to fix a team that finished 12th in the American League with 624 runs scored.
The Mariners have been linked to big-name free agents such as Nelson Cruz, Shin-Soo Choo and Kendrys Morales, but each of those players figure to command a sizable payday that now could be beyond Seattle's financial capabilities.
Though he may not be traded at this week's Winter Meetings (and may not be traded this offseason at all), Rays ace David Price figures to be one of the most popular topics of discussion over the coming days. Last week, it was reported that the Mariners could push for Price in the wake of their surprising Robinson Cano signing. We'll keep track of today's rumors surrounding Price's availability right here...
- The Mariners believe that they could land Price if they were willing to include Taijuan Walker in their offer, says Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter links). However, the M's have no interest in including either Walker or James Paxton, and believe they made a mistake by including Walker in their bid for Justin Upton nearly a year ago. Seattle would prefer to build an offer for Price around position players, according to Heyman.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post is hearing the same sort of rumblings as Stark (linked below). D-Backs GM Kevin Towers and another exec told Sherman that the Rays have yet to push Price onto the market, and that their plan may involve waiting for teams to miss out on their first or second options, then capitalizing.
- Teams that have inquired on Price get the impression that the Rays aren't in any rush to make a deal, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. One rival executive believes GM Andrew Friedman will move deliberately in an attempt to get the price as high as possible, then perhaps pull back and waiting for interested teams to get even more desperate.
- Rays manager Joe Maddon believes it's "probably less likely" that the team would wait until next season to move Price, as Stark writes in a separate ESPN.com piece.
- The Mariners, Rangers and Dodgers are the three most serious suitors for Price at this time, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
- The Dodgers and Rays may be matching up on a Price trade, tweets Bruce Levine of WSCR.
- The Dodgers have made their interest in Price known to the Rays, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. However, Hernandez feels that Price is a "long shot" to end up in Dodger Blue. For one, the Dodgers lack the type of impact, MLB-ready prospects the Rays will covet, as their top chips are teenagers Corey Seager and Julio Urias. Beyond that, dealing names like Seager and Urias would go against their desire to rebuild what has become a depleted farm system.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik responded to this weekend's Seattle Times report pointing to dysfunction in the Mariners front office. The full response can be seen here, courtesy of MLB.com's Greg Johns. While it's too lengthy to post here in its entirety, Zduriencik was quick to dismiss many of the allegations, specifically refuting that former manager Eric Wedge had no interest in a contract extension. According to Zduriencik, Wedge asked for an extension multiple times and even demanded an extension the day before he quit. Here's more on Robinson Cano's new team...
- Top prospect Taijuan Walker's name has come up recently in David Price trade rumors, but Jack Z told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that he expects Walker to be with the Mariners in 2014 (Twitter link).
- The Rangers are still open to dealing Elvis Andrus even after trading Ian Kinsler, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. However, Rosenthal categorizes the chances as being a huge long shot, noting that Texas would need a significant return (Twitter links).
- An executive that has shown interest in Athletics lefty Brett Anderson said that Brett Anderson is more of a "plan B" than "plan A" type of player (Twitter link). Sherman added in an appearance on the MLB Network that multiple teams are viewing Anderson in that light.
- The Angels are still trying to figure out if there's a fit with the Diamondbacks as a trading partner, tweets Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times. A report earlier today linked the D-Backs to Mark Trumbo.
- Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets that the Rangers are considering a $20MM bid for Masahiro Tanaka (assuming he gets posted) but are wary of other teams trying to drive up the price on the contract.
1:01pm: A source tells Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times that any trade for Price would have to include Walker (Twitter link).
11:47am: In the wake of Seattle's historic ten-year agreement with Robinson Cano, one Major League executive told Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times that he is "convinced" the Mariners' next move will be to make a push for David Price (Twitter link). Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets that the Mariners believe they have the prospects to land Price, and indeed, that would seem to be the case.
This is only my speculation, but Seattle could look to build a package around top prospect Taijuan Walker and the recently displaced Nick Franklin, who could be deemed expendable with Cano in the fold for the Mariners. The Rays, of course, will likely be open to moving Price this winter. He projects to earn $13.1MM in arbitration (per MLBTR's Matt Swartz) and is controlled through the 2015 campaign. It would make sense for the Mariners to aggressively pursue short-term upgrades in the early years of Cano's contract in order to maximize their chances while he is still in his prime.
Morosi also notes (on Twitter) that the Mariners are still in pursuit of Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, Nelson Cruz and other free agents. Morosi also reported earlier that the Mariners are one of the teams that is currently in on Mike Napoli, who reportedly has an offer in-hand from a club other than the Red Sox that Boston has yet to beat. It's not clear if that club is the Mariners, but their talks with Napoli are said to have been recent. An upgrade at first base, DH or in the outfield still seems likely for Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik, and the addition of Cano could signal to potential free agents that the Mariners are serious about winning.
Monday's game between the Astros and the Mariners will feature Jarred Cosart and Taijuan Walker, two top 100 prospects who made their debuts this year, MLB.com's Jason Mastrodonato reports. Before the season, Cosart was ranked the No. 73 prospect in baseball by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo and No. 86 by ESPN's Keith Law. Mayo ranked Walker baseball's No. 4 prospect, and Law had Walker at No. 9. The game will also be Walker's first at Safeco Field, and his last of 2013. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- The Mets could pursue a free agent shortstop in the coming offseason, Andy Martino of New York Daily News writes. Stephen Drew might be a possibility, and Yunel Escobar could be as well if the Rays decline his option, Martino reports. It seems doubtful that Escobar will be on the free agent market, but Drew, who is making $9.5MM this season, might make sense. (Other free agent options include Jhonny Peralta and Clint Barmes; you can find the full list of free agents here.) Martino quotes a team official calling Ruben Tejada a "very disappointing kid," but it's still possible that Tejada could be the Mets' starting shortstop next year as well.
- Padres manager Bud Black says had at least some interest in veteran pitcher Roy Oswalt before Oswalt signed with the Rockies, reports MLB.com's Corey Brock (on Twitter). Oswalt has struggled through four starts for Colorado this season.
- The difference between Xander Bogaerts and Derek Jeter mirrors the differences between the Red Sox and Yankees franchises in general, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Bogaerts, a dynamic young player, allowed the Sox to ship off Jose Iglesias (and three young players) in order to get Jake Peavy. Meanwhile, Jeter is declining and injury-prone. And more broadly, Sherman says, the Sox appear to have a well-stocked roster in place not only for 2013, but also for next year, whereas the Yankees' will feature a number of albatross contracts.
Where did the year go?
The 2013 minor league regular season is in the books, and the lucky few are currently competing in the playoffs. We've seen a lot of exciting moments during the year. We've also seen a lot of prospects significantly improve their values. To celebrate the best of the best, MLBTR is celebrating the 2013 All-Prospect All-Star Team, which features the top players in the minors at each position. Given the depth at some positions -- as well as the lack there of at others -- this was no easy task.
The players were chosen by considering a mixture of future potential and statistical results.
Catcher: Austin Hedges, Padres -- Because of his abilities on both defense and offense, San Diego's catcher of the future narrowly edged out the Yankees' Gary Sanchez. His abilities on both sides of the ball also impressed his employers, according to Padres Assistant General Manager of Player Personnel Chad MacDonald. "He has the tools and skill set to impact both sides of the ball... and we are excited about his future with the San Diego Padres," MacDonald said.
Hedges will probably never be the strongest offensive catcher in the league but he won't embarrass himself, either. Behind the plate, he's perhaps the best defensive catcher in the minors if you take everything into consideration: arm, receiving, blocking, game calling and leadership.
First Base: Dan Vogelbach, Cubs -- This position was the hardest one to find a deserving candidate. The Astros' Jonathan Singleton missed the beginning of the year due to a suspension and then struggled with his consistency. The Angels' C.J. Cron failed to consistently tap into his raw power. Vogelbach, just 20, performed well at two A-ball levels and showed the ability to hit for average and power while also getting on-base at a solid clip.
Brandon Hyde, the Cubs' director of player development, said Vogelbach's successes came from hard work. "It was an impressive season with raw power to all fields," he said. "He has an advanced approach for his age, and he controls the strike zone."
Second Base: Rougned Odor, Rangers -- Second base was another tough position to settle on the winner. The Angels' Taylor Lindsey, Cardinals' Kolten Wong, and Twins' Eddie Rosario also received serious consideration before the award went to Odor. The Rangers' prospect hit more than .300 between High-A and Double-A with a strong OPS and 32 stolen bases -- all at the age of 19. The left-handed hitter also popped 58 extra base hits, including 41 doubles. With all the middle infield depth in Texas, Odor could make things very interesting -- and crowded -- in short order.
Third Base: Miguel Sano, Twins -- Sano was the runaway winner at third base, although the Cubs' Kris Bryant could give him a run for his money in a year's time (assuming both prospects are still in the minors). The Dominican native launched 35 home runs and produced a .610 slugging percentage. However, he didn't hit for a great average after his promotion from High-A to Double-A, and he combined to strike out 142 times in 123 games, so there are some holes in his game that need to be addressed.
Shortstop: Javier Baez, Cubs -- There were five players that were considered in this slot, including Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox), Francisco Lindor (Indians), Addison Russell (Athletics) and Carlos Correa (Astros). Baez, though, came out ahead when considering his outstanding statistical results and the fact that he has a chance to be as good as any other player on the list. Just 20, he finished the year in Double-A and hit a combined 37 home runs with 20 stolen bases and a .920 OPS.
Hyde was impressed with Baez's ability to make adjustments after being promoted to Double-A. "He hit in the middle of the order on a prospect-laden team. He made huge strides defensively and with his plate discipline," Hyde said. "He has a unique combination of raw power, speed and off-the-charts instincts, especially for a 20 year old in Double-A."
Outfielder: George Springer, Astros -- Springer, 23, had an eye-popping season while playing at both Double-A and Triple-A. He narrowly missed becoming a 40-40 player (HR-SB) with 37 homers and 45 steals while playing at the highest levels of the minors. Springer's approach produces massive strikeout numbers, but he showed improvements in that area as the year progressed.
The prospect impressed the club's front office not only with his play but also his attitude, according to Quinton McCracken, the Astros director of player development. "George is an exceptional five-tool talent, and even better person. He has great makeup, work ethic, off-the-chart intangibles coupled with incredible athleticism... He's a very special player," he said.
Outfielder: Byron Buxton, Twins -- Buxton was the biggest no-brainer on this list. Just 19 and in his first full pro season, the five-tool outfielder played at two A-ball levels while hitting more than .330 and producing double digits in doubles, triples and homers. He also got on base at a .424 clip, stole 55 bases in 74 tries and played above-average defense in centerfield. The Twins have one of the best minor league systems in all of baseball and could be a massive threat in two to three seasons.
Outfielder: Gregory Polanco, Pirates -- Polanco edged out a few other players because, at a very young age, he showed a five-tool approach and had an impact in numerous areas. The 21-year-old outfielder showed that he may one day develop into a 20-20 or perhaps even a 30-30 player. After beginning the year in A-ball, he ended the season in Triple-A.
Pirates Director of Minor League Operations Larry Broadway said the most impressive thing about Polanco's growth has been his maturity. "He has fit into each clubhouse and added value to the culture of each club that he's been on," Broadway explained. "He continues to approach the game with a learner's mentality and is always looking to find a way to get better. He's not afraid to make a mistake in the process, which has allowed him to progress well in all areas of his game."
Starting Pitcher: Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks -- Bradley and Dylan Bundy grew up playing baseball together, but the former passed the latter on top prospect lists after the Orioles' prospect blew out his elbow. Just 20 years old, Bradley spent the majority of the year in Double-A and finished the season with a combined ERA of 1.84 and 162 strikeouts in 152 innings of work. He also allowed just 115 hits.
Starting Pitcher: Taijuan Walker, Mariners -- Utilizing a strong fastball and excellent breaking ball, Walker, who just turned 21 on Aug. 13, made older competition look foolish as he produced outstanding numbers in Double-A and Triple-A before earning his MLB promotion. The right-hander struck out 160 batters in 141 1/3 innings while allowing just 112 hits.
Chris Gwynn, the Mariners director of player development, said Walker is oozing talent but he's also an extremely hard worker. "Going into the offseason last year he realized there were some things he needed to work on to get better," Gwynn said, listing fastball command (down in the zone, to both sides of the plate) and improved secondary pitches as two of those things. "Coming into this season he was a man on a mission... and had a dominant season in Double-A and Triple-A didn't phase him. It shows he wants it really bad."
Starting Pitcher: Noah Syndergaard, Mets -- Jameson Taillon (Pirates), Kevin Gausman (Orioles) and Robert Stephenson (Reds) also received consideration as the one of the top pitchers in the minors but the final spot went to the Mets' prospect. Syndergaard showed a rare combination of power (his fastball can tickle triple digits) and control when he struck out 133 batters in 117 2/3 innings and issued 28 free passes. Just 20, the Texas native finished the year with 11 starts at the Double-A level.
Reliever: Steve Geltz, Rays -- It's hard to find a worthy reliever because many of the best MLB bullpen aces originally come from the starting ranks. Geltz, though, is still only 25 years old and he was the hardest pitcher to hit in Triple-A (minimum 50 innings) by allowing a batting-average-against of just .152. That mark was actually the seventh lowest in the entire minor leagues. His strikeout percentage (31.3 percent) was good for 12th in Triple-A ball. Not bad for a player that went undrafted and signed with the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent in 2008.
The Mariners announced that they will promote right-hander Taijuan Walker in time to make his major league debut on Friday against the Astros. Walker, 21, is the M's undisputed top pitching prospect.
This year, Walker was rated as the third-best prospect in the nation by Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, No. 9 by Keith Law of ESPN.com, and the 18th best prospect by Baseball America, BA's 2013 handbook, which put Walker as second only to Mike Zunino in the M's system, describes the youngster as a "premium athlete with an ideal pitcher's frame." Walker projects as a potential ace and his potential showed through 2012, even though his Double-A stats didn't quite support that.
In 25 starts at the Double-A and Triple-A level this season, Walker posted a 2.93 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9. His late August promotion means that the M's can keep him under club control through 2019 without triggering an additional trip through arbitration.
10:50pm: Taijuan Walker would have been the fourth player in the trade package to the D'Backs, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter). Walker, a 20-year-old right-hander, was ranked as the 20th-best prospect in the sport by Baseball America prior to the 2012 season, though he struggled pitching at the Double-A level last year.
7:40pm: The Mariners offered a four-player package to the D'Backs, according to Scott Miller of CBS Sports. Arizona would have received Nick Franklin, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor and one of Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen or James Paxton.
6:06 pm: Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton invoked his limited no-trade clause to reject an agreed-upon deal between the D'Backs and Mariners that would have sent Upton to Seattle, reports Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. The M's were prepared to give up "a package of young talent" in the trade, a return that Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic has heard was "substantial" (Twitter link).
Though several teams have been linked to Upton over the last two seasons, the Mariners seem to be the first to propose a deal that has gotten the D'Backs to agree to move the 25-year-old outfielder. As Rosenthal/Morosi note, the trade rejection could be gamesmanship by either Upton or the D'Backs --- Upton could be trying to control where he ends up, or the Snakes are sending the message that if Upton wants to leave Arizona, his only option is Seattle. The Mariners, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Cubs are the four teams on Upton's current no-trade list, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link).