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Tampa Bay Rays Rumors
We’ll take a look at every division in baseball, but it’s hard not to start here. The division is always fun to watch, and it was full of intrigue in 2014. Here’s what took place over the last month or so, culminating in a whirlwind today:
- Acquired third baseman Danny Valencia from Twins in exchange for righty Liam Hendriks and catcher Erik Kratz
- Acquired first baseman Brett Wallace from Orioles in exchange for cash considerations
- Acquired lefty Andrew Miller from Red Sox in exchange for lefty Eduardo Rodriguez
- Acquired utilityman Jimmy Paredes from Royals in exchange for cash considerations
- Acquired cash considerations from Blue Jays in exchange for first baseman Brett Wallace
- Acquired lefty Drew Smyly, infielder Nick Franklin, and shortstop Willy Adames from Tigers and Mariners in exchange for lefty David Price
- Acquired infielder Kelly Johnson from Yankees in exchange for infielder Stephen Drew and cash
- Acquired lefty Eduardo Rodriguez from Orioles in exchange for lefty Andrew Miller
- Acquired outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and 2015 compensatory draft pick from Athletics in exchange for Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes, and cash
- Acquired righty Joe Kelly and first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig from Cardinals in exchange for righty John Lackey, lefty Corey Littrell, and cash
- Acquired player to be named later from Cubs in exchange for lefty Felix Doubront
- Acquired lefty Edwin Escobar and righty Heath Hembree from Giants in exchange for righty Jake Peavy
- Acquired infielder/outfielder Martin Prado from Diamondbacks in exchange for catcher Peter O’Brien
- Acquired infielder Stephen Drew from Red Sox in exchange for infielder Kelly Johnson and cash
- Acquired lefty Chris Capuano from Rockies in exchange for cash
- Acquired third baseman Chase Headley and cash from Padres in exchange for infielder Yangervis Solarte and righty Rafael De Paula
- Acquired lefty Jeff Francis and cash from Athletics in exchange for a player to be named later
- Acquired righty Brandon McCarthy from Diamondbacks in exchange for lefty Vidal Nuno
- Acquired lefty David Huff from Giants in exchange for cash
The Yankees were somewhat quiet buyers, the Red Sox were incredibly loud sellers, and there were multiple inter-division deals. It was decidedly not business as usual in the AL East, but plenty of business was done … except, that is, in Toronto.
Despite long being rumored to be looking for additions to the rotation, bullpen, and/or infield, the Blue Jays (as they did in free agency) largely stayed quiet. Several players actually expressed frustration with the inactivity, but GM Alex Anthopoulos said that clubs were asking for big league players in return and that nothing ended up making baseball sense. He indicated that the August market could hold some possibilities, but at this point, it seems likely that the Jays will sink or swim with their current alignment.
The Orioles, likewise, were known to have a rather similar list of possible needs, and were expected mostly to pursue new arms. Baltimore ultimately did just that, steering clear of a starting pitching market filled with big swaps but ultimately landing the most sought-after reliever who remained available. It cost the club one of its better prospects — Rodriguez, probably the best pre-MLB player to change hands today — but will give the team a high-leverage weapon as it tries to hold onto precious wins. But as with Toronto, if the team comes up just short in a year in which the division seems so tantalizingly open, it will be fair to ask whether one more piece would have made the difference.
The Yankees took something of a different approach, adding a bevy of potentially useful veterans who struggled in the season’s first half and were playing on fairly sizable contracts. Among them, only the most recent addition — Prado — comes with team control beyond the present season. Buried by by other, larger deals, the Prado swap not only completes an infield makeover for this year but also gives the team plenty of flexibility moving forward.
Reaching the bottom of the division, one finds some fairly atypical selling clubs. The Rays, of course, have been roaring back on the field, even if the playoff picture largely remains the same. Perhaps the failure to climb the ladder drove the club’s decision to move this year’s biggest trade chip in Price. While the return does not feature the kinds of prospects that one might have expected, it delivered plenty of long-term value back to Tampa. And it left the club, notably, with plenty of talent still in the fold for 2014. A nice run from Smyly, and perhaps even a late-season boost from Franklin, could play a role in continuing the Rays’ rise in the standings. None of the teams ahead of them appears poised to run away with things, but it will be interesting to see how the clubhouse responds to the trade.
In a series of moves that were every bit as bold as Tampa’s big stroke, the Red Sox parted with the club’s two best pitchers, two other members of the World Series-defending, Opening Day rotation, a dominant set-up man, and a just-signed veteran shortstop (and what a journey it’s been for Drew). But this was no traditional roster blow-up; instead, Boston returned mostly big league pieces that changed the team’s makeup dramatically but gave notice that it intends to contend next year. Adding power bats to the corner outfield and young arms to the current and near-future rotation — the team now has an impressive array of young arms and other prospects — the Red Sox look primed to add yet more more pieces in free agency and aim for another title run. GM Ben Cherington said that the team will be a player for veteran pitching in free agency, and reports even indicated that the team could have its sights set on a reunion with Lester. It remains to be seen whether Boston would have been better served by pushing its clock further back and perhaps bringing in more upside, but if Cespedes and Craig can return to their 2012 levels of production, Boston will be right back in the thick of things in 2015.
Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson will go to the Mariners, with Nick Franklin (from Seattle) and Drew Smyly (from Detroit) heading to Tampa in the blockbuster. Minor league shortstop Willy Adames is also going to Tampa from Detroit in the deal, per a tweet from Rosenthal.
The move brings and end to near-ceaseless speculation regarding the now-former Rays lefty, who has been one of the game’s best pitchers in recent seasons. Still only 28, Price is under control for one more season through arbitration, though he will certainly not come cheap.
Playing this year on a $14MM salary, Price will be in line for a big raise next year. Of course, one key element of his value lies in the fact that his new club will have an opportunity to explore an extension. The reason that Price figures to draw a big salary next year is obvious: he has continued to be outstanding. At present, he owns a 3.11 ERA with a remarkable 10.0 K/9 against just 1.2 BB/9 over 170 2/3 innings.
The return for the Rays is not particularly splashy, but delivers obvious value. Smyly, 25, was outstanding last year as a reliever and has since converted into a solid starting option. He carries a 3.77 ERA through 100 1/3 innings, with 7.8 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 and a 36.9% groundball rate. While his strikeout numbers are down since moving to the rotation, he can be controlled through 2018.
The 23-year-old Franklin, meanwhile, seemed without a future in Seattle after the club added Robinson Cano. Though he has spent time at both short and second, many observers believe he is better suited for the keystone going forward. He had a solid 2013 at the MLB level (.225/.303/.382 in 412 plate appearances), and though his numbers were off this year in limited action, Franklin has continued to swing a big stick against Triple-A pitchers.
Then, there is Adames, who could be something of a wild card in the deal. Just 18, he has a promising .269/.346/.428 slash line through 400 plate appearances at the low-A level this year. He entered the year as Baseball America’s 30th-ranked Tigers prospect, but appears to be raising eyebrows around the game.
That brings us to Seattle, which quietly managed to address its center field need without giving up an indispensable piece of the future. In fact, the 27-year-old Jackson will be at least a mid-term piece for Seattle. He is playing on a $6MM salary this year before hitting arbitration for the final time. He currently sports a .270/.330/.397 line that is approximately league average (as it was last year). With solid contributions in the field and on the bases, he is certainly an above-average big league regular.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported that Jackson and Smyly were part of the deal (via Twitter). Mike Salk of 710 ESPN tweeted that Jackson would head to Seattle. Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune first reported Franklin’s inclusion (via Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
2:42pm: A three-team deal involving Price could well be in the works, with Price being the only piece moving from Tampa, tweets Topkin.
2:31pm: A three-team mix could be in the offing, according to reports. Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that there were discussions of such a deal involving Price and the Tigers and Mariners. And Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that a three-team arrangement is under discussion now.
2:14pm: The Tigers appear to be the front-runner on Price at the moment, tweets Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.
2:13pm: The Yankees are unlikely to get Price, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
2:04pm: The Yankees are also involved in discussions, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter).
1:33pm: The Cardinals may also still be involved on Price, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). His source indicates that the Cards, along with the Tigers and Mariners, are the final possible suitors.
1:28pm: The Rays are nearing a deal involving Price, tweets ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark. Where, however, remains unclear.
1:11pm: The Dodgers are “not back in” on Price, tweets Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com.
12:47pm: The Dodgers and Mariners are the leading contenders to acquire Price, if he is dealt, tweets Jim Bowden of ESPN.com.
While Price has long been a subject of trade speculation, it seemed less and less likely he would be moved as Tampa reeled off an extensive winning streak. But in spite of the club’s solid play, it remains largely on the fringes of contention at this point.
David Price didn’t have his best start for the Rays yesterday, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits and a pair of walks with six strikeouts in seven innings, but that won’t curb any trade interest in the Cy Young candidate. Price may have thought that he dodged a bullet yesterday, as he admitted to reporters that he thought the trade deadline was Wednesday afternoon. As we well know around these parts, that’s not the case, and the Tampa Bay ace could find himself on the move before 3pm CT today. Indications have been that the Rays will hang onto Price, but we’ll keep track of the final developments right here…
- The Rays are actively seeking to make a deal on Price, though that does not mean that the team is lowering its asking price, reports Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. Conversations remain open with multiple teams, Stark adds.
- Talks on Price have picked up some steam since Jon Lester was dealt, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. A deal now appears more likely than it did last night.
- The Rays entered deadline day expecting to hold, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. But the team will continue listening on Price, waiting to see if a big offer comes through the door at the last minute.
- A source familiar with conversations says it is “doubtful” that the Dodgers will land Price, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Los Angeles has long been said to be one of the possible landing spots for the outstanding lefty, though GM Ned Colletti said last night that he has no interest in dealing away his team’s three blue chip prospects (to say nothing of more than one of them) in any trade.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
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).
Here’s the latest from the AL East:
- While Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com hears that the Yankees are still keeping communication open with the White Sox on starter John Danks, Joel Sherman of the New York Post says on Twitter that New York is not going after mid-level arms like Danks or Brett Anderson of the Rockies.
- The Orioles have discussed moving starter Miguel Gonzalez as part of multiple hypothetical trades, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. That includes conversations with the Padres and the Phillies, says Cotillo.
- Baltimore is considering Neal Cotts of the Rangers, among other lefties that can work against hitters of both sides, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports (Twitter links). This meshes with an earlier report via ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark. Other possibilities, per Connolly, are Tony Sipp of the Astros, Andrew Miller of the Red Sox, and Oliver Perez of the Diamondbacks. The Orioles do not view the Phillies‘ Antonio Bastardo as an option, says Connolly.
- Rising Orioles pitching prospect Hunter Harvey will be shut down for the rest of the season, executive VP Dan Duquette told reports including MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli (Twitter link). The prognosis looks good, however, as he does not have ligament damage but rather a flexor mass strain, according to Connolly (via Twitter). While the club seemed unlikely to use Harvey as a trade chip anyway, this likely removes him from contention for the time being.
- The Rays are still willing to discuss not only David Price but also Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce, according to a tweet from Jon Morosi of FOX Sports.
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 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.
It’s been a busy afternoon, but no deals have gone down; let’s round up some worthwhile recent news and rumors as the market heats up:
- The Cardinals are in need of a starter for Saturday, and manager Mike Matheny says that it could go to an arm that is not currently in the organization, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Philadelphia has sent a scout to watch the Cardinals’ top minor league affiliate, Goold adds. As he indicates, it is easy to see the Cards showing interest in the Phillies‘ Cole Hamels given his high-end talent and extended team control. On the other hand, a recent report suggests that the Phils have yet to go very far down the line in discussing Hamels, and the club is said to be looking for an overwhelming return to part with the lefty.
- For the Marlins, the desire to add a top-end starter does not mean that the team will part with any core MLB players, including outfielder Christian Yelich, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Additionally, Miami remains more interested in adding an arm that it can control past this season. The club therefore might be more inclined to pursue John Lackey than Jon Lester from the Red Sox, and would have “heavy interest” if David Price of the Rays were to be made available. Frisaro says the club is working hard to make one or two deals by the trade deadline.
- The Mariners are currently discussing outfielder Josh Willingham with the Twins, sources tell Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The sides were connected a few weeks back by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, and Seattle has long been said to be seeking a right-handed bat for the outfield. Also still in the mix on Willingham are the Yankees, among other teams including Seattle, reports Heyman.
- Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp interests the Red Sox whether or not he would be involved in a hypothetical deal for Lester, reports Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com (Twitter links). Boston has scouted him on and off over the last month, says Edes, and would consider adding him over the offseason if nothing comes to pass this summer.
- The Rangers are working to deal outfielder Alex Rios, a source with a team interested in a bat tells Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). Rios, who was off to a hot start, struggled mightily in June and but has improved to a .304/.317/.405 line for the month of July.
- White Sox reliever Matt Lindstrom is nearing a rehab stint, MLB.com’s Scott Merkin reports on Twitter. The 34-year-old owns a 3.32 ERA through 19 innings, and could be a possible August trade chip if he can return healthy. He is playing on a $4MM salary this year before hitting the open market.
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The Rays are “talking and willing” to trade ace David Price in spite of the club’s recent success, a team source tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. It remains to be seen whether “any teams have the desire” to make a deal, the source adds.
His peers believe that GM Andrew Friedman would be willing to make the bold move with his team playing itself onto the fringe of contention. It is worth noting also that Friedman now possesses ample leverage to demand a deal that he finds sufficient before pulling the trigger. Of course, the apparent availability of Jon Lester could have some impact on the possible return for Price, though some clubs may have a greater or lesser preference for a pure rental as opposed to a pitcher (such as Price) who comes with a year of control and window of opportunity for an extension.
As we recently covered, Bob Nightengale of USA Today suggests that Tampa would be in position to receive a package from the Cardinals including top prospect Oscar Taveras, struggling young starter Shelby Miller, and the team’s compensation choice at the end of the first round next year. While it remains unclear whether that offer is actually on the table, rival executives tell Heyman that the possibility “had some merit” and that it could well tempt Friedman.