Tampa Bay Rays Rumors

Tampa Bay Rays trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

AL East Notes: Davis, Yoon, Lobaton, Yankees

It's been a busy day for Orioles news, as so far we've heard that the O's are one of three finalists for Bronson Arroyo, Baltimore signed Jack Cust and Evan Meek to minor league contracts, Grantland's Jonah Keri explored the team's recent spending history and its MASN TV contract, and MLBTR's Steve Adams wrapped up even a few more O's items as part of an East Notes post.  Heck, why stop now?  Here are more Orioles tidbits plus more news from around the AL East…

  • Freddie Freeman's eight-year, $135MM extension with the Braves could very well change the parameters for the Orioles' possible extension with Chris Davis, observes MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko.  "If Davis comes close to duplicating his 2013 season, [agent Scott] Boras will view Freeman's salary as chump change," Kubatko writes.  The Braves' deal with Freeman, 24, covered his three remaining arbitration-eligible years and his first five free agent years, while the 28-year-old Davis has just one year of arbitration eligibility remaining before hitting free agency following the 2015 season.
  • Also from Kubatko, he questions if the Orioles would make a multiyear offer to Suk-min Yoon given his shoulder history and how the O's were recently burned by Tsuyoshi Wada's injury history.  With Yoon looking for a two-year commitment and the Rangers, Giants, Cubs and Twins all showing, a one-year offer might not be enough to get it done for the Orioles.
  • The Rays have been talking to the Nationals about a Jose Lobaton trade for at least a month, MLB.com's Bill Ladson reports, though the two sides can't settle on what the Rays would get back in return.  Though the Nats are one of several teams interested in Lobaton, Tampa Bay is in no hurry to deal the catcher and could wait until Spring Training begins to move him.
  • The Yankees' struggles to draft and develop quality minor league talent in recent years is chronicled by ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand.
  • Over at Roto Authority, MLBTR's fantasy baseball-focused sister site, I looked at which of the Orioles' Manny Machado or the Blue Jays' Brett Lawrie is the better bet for fantasy success in 2014.

Rangers Claim Pedro Figueroa, Designate Chaz Roe

WEDNESDAY, February 5th: Roe has rejected an outright assignment and elected free agency, the club announced.

FRIDAY: Roe has cleared waivers and has eight days to decide whether to elect free agency or head to camp with the Rangers as a non-roster invite, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweeted last night that Roe was likely to elect free agency if he cleared waivers.

WEDNESDAY, January 29th: The Rangers have claimed southpaw Pedro Figueroa off of waivers from the Rays, the club announced via press release. Righty Chaz Roe was designated for assignment to clear roster space.

Figueroa, 28, had been in DFA limbo since being designated by the Rays to make room for the Grant Balfour signing. Obviously, Tampa ultimately placed him on release waivers — the second time Figueroa has changed hands by this method in the last month. Spending most of his time at Triple-A last year with Oakland, Figueroa threw to a 4.10 ERA and 7.4 K/9 against 5.0 BB/9 in 59 1/3 innings.

Roe, a 27-year-old reliever, came to Texas via waiver claim in early November. Pitching last year for the Diamondbacks, Roe threw 22 1/3 innings of 4.03 ERA ball, with 9.7 K/9 and 5.2 BB/9. Roe was originally the 32nd overall choice in the 2005 draft.


Trade Talks For Jose Lobaton Heating Up

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports (via Twitter) that trade talks for Rays catcher Jose Lobaton have begun to heat up. Topkin notes that teams with interest or need at the position include the Diamondbacks, Indians, Rockies, White Sox, Mets and Nationals.

The 29-year-old Lobaton slashed a solid .249/.320/.394 with seven homers for the Rays in 2013 and also belted one of the most dramatic and improbable home runs of the postseason. A switch-hitter, Lobaton has historically been better from the right side of the dish than the left, but he bucked that trend and swung the bat better as a lefty (.736 OPS) than as a righty (.653) in 2013.

While Lobaton is a solid, controllable bat — he is a Super Two player that is not eligible for free agency until the 2017-18 offseason — at a thin position, he also comes with some defensive question marks. Lobaton has caught just 16 percent of attempted base stealers in his career and was below average at blocking pitches in the dirt in 2013 (per Fangraphs). While he's not a poor pitch-framer, he also doesn't add significant value in that department, either (per Matthew Carruth's work at StatCorner).

Lobaton has been connected to the White Sox and Nationals in trade talks so far this offseason, with the Nats being the most recently linked club. A trade would seem to be beneficial for both Lobaton and the Rays; the Rays acquired and extended Ryan Hanigan this offseason in addition to re-signing Jose Molina, leaving Lobaton without a clear path to playing time. Additionally, a trade would save the Rays a bit of cash, as Lobaton avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $900K salary for 2014.



Bowden’s Latest: Free Agency, Scherzer, Drew, Lobaton

Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio spoke with multiple agents and executives over the weekend and got contradictory takes on the reasons for so many top free agents remaining unsigned (ESPN Insider required and recommended). Agents told Bowden that they (and the MLBPA) feel that the heightened media coverage resulting from social networking has damaged players' market values. Reports from media members about how teams value players and whether or not they've made offers to players could be violations of the CBA, those parties told Bowden. Meanwhile, executives said to Bowden that the market is simply full of players with baggage (draft pick compensation, PED usage, inconsistent performance) and added that agents entered the offseason with unnatural expectations for their clients.

Here are just some of the highlights from a jam-packed column from the former Nationals and Reds GM…

  • Max Scherzer and Jon Lester are the two most likely candidates from next year's crop of free agent starting pitchers to sign an extension, Bowden writes. Despite the fact that Scherzer is a Scott Boras client (Boras prefers his clients to test the open market), Scherzer seems to want to remain loyal to the Tigers. However, Bowden notes that an extension would still need to be somewhere close to Scherzer's market value, which Bowden pegs at a whopping $196MM over seven years.
  • The Red Sox have made a two-year offer to Stephen Drew, one source told Bowden. The value of that reported offer is unclear, as is the date on which it was made.
  • The Nationals have discussed Jose Lobaton trades with the Rays as they look to add a backup catcher for Wilson Ramos. Lobaton figures to be expendable for the Rays, as they project to have a strong defensive tandem of Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina behind the dish. Shedding Lobaton's $950K salary would seem to be more beneficial to the tight-budgeted Rays than most teams, particularly if they don't have a roster spot for him.
  • The Dodgers are pushing for an infielder over another starting pitcher and hope to have a deal done within the next 48 hours. Los Angeles isn't likely to bid on any of the remaining free agent starters unless they're willing to take a short-term deal, as Dan Haren did to play near his hometown.
  • Kendrys Morales is the most likely free agent to be this year's version of Kyle Lohse, writes Bowden. He notes that the Orioles — who still have about $15MM to spend — and Mariners remain interested in the switch-hitting Scott Boras client. Both are still in on Nelson Cruz as well. MLBTR readers seem to agree with the Morales/Lohse comparison; in the poll I conducted earlier this morning asking which Top 50 free agent would be the next to sign, he drew the fewest votes.
  • The Royals and Indians are both highly unlikely to be able to lure back their respective free agent pitchers, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. The Blue Jays are a likely landing spot for both pitchers.

Hellickson Out Until Mid-To-Late May Following Elbow Surgery

Rays right-hander and 2011 American League Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow last week and is expected to be sidelined until mid-to-late May, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The 26-year-old Hellickson struggled through his worst season in 2013, posting a career-high 5.17 ERA and yielding a .274/.325/.450 batting line to opposing hitters. Hellickson, the Rays and agent Scott Boras all said that there were no physical ailments following the season, according to Topkin, but something flared up in his elbow when Hellickson began throwing in late January.

The Rays have the rotation depth to overcome an injury to Hellickson, as Jake Odorizzi now seems likely to step into the rotation alongside David Price, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Chris Archer. It already appeared likely that the Rays would hang onto Price for at least one more season (contrary to what many pundits believed earlier this winter), but the loss of Hellickson may further strengthen that standpoint. The Rays have added payroll this offseason by re-signing James Loney to a three-year deal, signing Grant Balfour and acquiring Heath Bell and Ryan Hanigan (and extending the latter), so it seems unlikely that they'd shift from those win-now moves by dealing Price — especially with depleted rotation depth. As Topkin notes, Enny Romero and Alex Colome represent additional rotation options, but Colome himself is recovering from an injury.

Of course, the team could also look to the free agent or trade market to add another starting option. However, they already project for a record payroll (roughly $76MM, including league minimum players), so adding significant dollars seems unlikely. Adding a veteran with starting experience on a minor league deal could make some sense.

Hellickson has seen his own name raised in speculative trade talks coming off a down season, but this surgery eliminates the already unlikely scenario that he would find himself dealt to a new team. He and the Rays sidestepped arbitration this offseason by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $3.625MM. He'll be arb-eligible twice more before becoming a free agent following the 2016 season, but this injury will prevent him from accumulating some valuable innings and counting stats in 2014. That will suppress his 2015 arbitration payday, which would subsequently keep his 2016 salary down as well.


Quick Hits: Parity, Jansen, Rays, Red Sox

As the NFL season comes to an end, ESPN's Jayson Stark writes that, contrary to popular belief, there's more parity in baseball than football. True, the Red Sox and Cardinals were this year's World Series teams, but five MLB teams made the playoffs in 2013 who didn't make it the year before, including the upstart Pirates and Indians. Meanwhile, every team except the Mets and Astros has had one or more winning seasons in the past five years, whereas six NFL teams haven't had any in that span. Here are more notes from around baseball.


Quick Hits: Free Agents, Braves, Ortiz, Lester, Rays

The MLBPA has spoken to Major League Baseball COO Rob Manfred about their concerns over team executives talking about whether or not they're negotiating with free agents, which is a violation of the collective bargaining agreement, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports.  Some players are also upset at the slow pace of the free agent pitching market, and while Rosenthal says the union could consider filing a grievance, such an action would be hard to prove given that teams have already spent close to $2 billion on free agents this offseason.

Here's some more from around baseball on Super Bowl Sunday…

  • The Braves will have to make some tough decisions about which of their young core players they want to extend while keeping their payroll in check, Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes (subscription required).  The experience of many of Atlanta's best young players is another issue, Baseball Prospectus' Ben Lindbergh tells Bradley, since "most of them have established themselves. (The Braves) possibly might have already missed the window of getting a good deal.” 
  • The Red Sox are wary about making too long a commitment to 38-year-old David Ortiz given how aging designated hitters can so quickly decline, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes.  Ortiz is under contract through 2014 and recently said he would like another year added to his contract.  While Ortiz's age is a concern, Lauber notes that if the Red Sox don't extend Ortiz and he has another big season, the Sox will then be forced to sign him through at least 2016 to keep him in Boston.
  • Jon Lester is another Red Sox player mentioned in extension rumors, and John Tomase of the Boston Herald looks at the somewhat shaky history of left-handed starters who sign expensive contracts into their 30's.  Since Lester has said he would give the Red Sox a hometown discount, Tomase thinks a five-year, $100MM extension could work for both sides.
  • The Rays are still having talks about trading catcher Jose Lobaton, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.  Lobaton looks like the odd man out behind Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina, though Topkin notes that the team could still bring Lobaton to Spring Training in case one of their regulars gets injured.  If another team develops a catching need later in the spring, as well, the Rays can explore moving Lobaton then.
  • Also from Topkin's piece, the Rays have focused on adding depth this offseason to give themselves plenty of roster flexibility and options heading into Spring Training.
  • The Indians believe that Joe Smith was their biggest bullpen loss this winter, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes, not former closer Chris Perez.  The Tribe rebuilt their bullpen and hope that John Axford can cinch the closing job, Vinnie Pestano returns to his old form and that young arms Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen continue to deliver quality relief innings.  Pluto notes that the Indians hope Shaw turns into a new Smith, and the club sees Allen as a future closer.
  • Baseball America's Matt Eddy recaps the week's minor league transactions.

Rays To Sign Wilson Betemit

The Rays have agreed to sign third baseman Wilson Betemit to a minor league deal, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). The 32-year-old Dominican missed most of last season with a knee injury.

In his last full MLB campaign, 2012, Betemit posted a .261/.322/.422 triple-slash in 376 plate appearances for the Orioles. The switch-hitter has done most of his damage from the left side of the plate, where he has a career .819 OPS that dwarfs his .636 mark when swinging right-handed. That split was even more pronounced in 2012 (.850 OPS as a lefty and .405 as a righty). Betemit's best season came in 2010 with the Royals, when he slashed .297/.378/.511 in 315 plate appearances for the Royals.

As has been the case for most of his career, Betemit saw most of his action at the hot corner. He has also seen time at first, DH, and even the outfield in recent seasons. Defensive metrics have not looked kindly upon Betemit's glovework in the infield.


Quick Hits: Santana, Jimenez, Dodgers, White Sox

Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio said on MLBN's Inside Pitch show today that the Blue Jays expect to land one of Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez (Twitter link from MLB Network Radio). While Toronto has yet to make a formal offer to either right-hander, the team has had discussions with each former AL Central hurler's camp. More from around the league…

  • Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes that the Dodgers' lack of infield depth could be troubling when the season gets underway. Of particular concern is Cuban signee Alexander Guerrero, who could struggle with the transition from shortstop to second base. The Dodgers have little in the way of alternatives, with Chone Figgins, Dee Gordon and light-hitting Miguel Rojas as the primary in-house candidates. Saxon also wonders how many games Hanley Ramirez can stay healthy for, and asks if the Dodgers are relying too heavily on Juan Uribe.
  • JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago looks at the savvy scouting of Joe Siers and Daraka Shaheed of the White Sox – the two scouts who pushed the team to pluck lefty Jose Quintana off the scrap heap following his release from the Yankees organization. General manager Rick Hahn wasn't shy about his praise for Quintana, who he feels has exceeded expectations and become a strong No. 2 starter behind Chris Sale"He doesn't have to improve in my book," Hahn said. "If he does, fantastic. He certainly has the aptitude and athleticism and now the knowledge of the league that it's not unrealistic to expect the improvement. …if he's this guy for the next several years we'll be very happy."
  • The Blue Jays will move waiver claim Brent Morel from third base to second base, Morel told Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com (Twitter link). Toronto claimed the former White Sox top prospect off waivers earlier this year. The move isn't all that surprising given Toronto's lack of depth at the keystone.
  • Bowden writes (Insider subscription required) that Athletics GM Billy Beane and Rays GM Andrew Friedman are the GM stars of the offseason. While Yankees GM Brian Cashman spent the most money, and Rangers GM Jon Daniels made the second-most noise with acquisitions of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, Bowden feels that the two small-market GMs shined above all others. In particular, he praises Beane's stockpiling of elite bullpen arms and Friedman's decision to resist the pressure to deal David Price.

Orioles “All In” On Burnett, Rays Also Interested

The Orioles are "all in" on free agent starter A.J. Burnett, reports Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com (via Twitter). Also in the mix are the Rays, according to Gammons.

Burnett's reported decision to enter the open market promises to have a major impact on how the remaining free agent starting pitching situation plays out. In certain respects, Burnett is the most attractive remaining starter. (In particular, he was outstanding last year and figures to be had on a short-term deal.) As the newly reported interest of the Rays demonstrates, he could appeal to a variety of clubs, including those that had not been rumored to be players on the rest of the market.

But, as Gammons says, Burnett has only just begun the process of chosing a club. With pitchers and catchers reporting within a matter of weeks, and the starting pitching market still de-thawing from its Tanaka freeze, Burnett could potentially create further hold-up on the rest of the market. Teams like the Orioles, for instance, might conceivably hold off on other top options like Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana until Burnett has made his decision. And, as I noted previously, if Burnett lands with a club that had intended to add a starter, there could be less demand left for the other best open-market arms.