Tampa Bay Rays Rumors

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

AL East Notes: Orioles, Kemp, Blue Jays

Earlier today, we rounded up some items from the AL East.  Here’s the afternoon edition..

  • The Orioles have talked to the Dodgers about Matt Kemp, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The O’s are lining up alternatives in case they can’t re-sign Nick Markakis and/or Nelson Cruz, but they could also be trying to create leverage to pressure both into staying.  As Rosenthal has said before, a Markakis return once appeared to be a foregone conclusion, but that’s no longer the case.
  • In a chat with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette of SiriusXM, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos downplayed his interest in the market’s top free agent relievers.  “I don’t know that you’re going to see us involved in some of the large big money deals,” AA said, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (via Twitter).
  • The Rays‘ trio of managerial finalists – Kevin Cash, Raul Ibanez, and Don Wakamatsu – is about as intriguing and outside-the-box as you can get, writes David Laurila of Fangraphs.  The Rays are in a transition period and Laurila writes that it’ll be fascinating to see how they proceed from here.

AL East Notes: Sandoval, Ramirez, Rays

Red Sox owner John Henry made comments back in April that seemed to imply he was done with signing players over the age of 30 to monster contracts.  However, Boston’s signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez show that’s not quite the case.  “John Henry comes from a world where everything has a value,” General Manager Ben Cherington said, according to Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. “Sometimes it’s worth investing a lot if you think you’re getting really good talent back or performance. The age thing, of course, is part of the conversation because we all know players age and when they get into their 30s, historically speaking, there starts to be a decline. But when we get in a room and talk about offseason planning, it’s never pursue this guy or don’t pursue this guy just for these rules. It’s all about what makes sense, what fits on the team.”  More from the AL East..


Quick Hits: Strop, Samardzija, Rays

Cubs reliever Pedro Strop was in a car accident in the Dominican Republic Thursday, but he didn’t suffer any significant injuries, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports. Strop did require stitches in his left arm, but he is reportedly “doing fine,” according to a team spokesperson. Strop, 29, was a key part of the Cubs’ bullpen in 2014, posting a 2.21 ERA in with 10.5 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 61 innings. Here are more notes from around the big leagues. Here’s more from around the big leagues.

  • The White Sox aren’t the only team interested in Athletics starter Jeff Samardzija, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Four teams contacted the A’s about Samardzija just on Saturday morning. Still, teams might not want to give up top talent for a rental, which is what Samardzija, who is eligible for free agency after the 2015 season, probably would be. Billy Beane likely wouldn’t want to reach agreement on a Samardzija deal and then give his new team a negotiating window on an extension before completing the trade, and Samardzija would probably not be interested in an extension right now anyway. Another potential factor to keep in mind with a Samardzija deal is his team’s ability to extend a qualifying offer after 2015 — his new team would have that ability if a trade were to be completed now, but not if a trade were done during the season. One scenario would be for Beane to wait until Max Scherzer and Jon Lester are off the market to complete a deal.
  • The Rays have already traded three key pitchers from their 2014 staff (Jeremy Hellickson, Joel Peralta and Cesar Ramos), and they’re prepared to listen to more trade offers, although perhaps not always in earnest, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. “We listen on everyone, but in many cases it’s for the comedic value more than anything else,” says team president Matt Silverman. Part of their motivation for being so active early in the offseason (also dropping Jose Molina, utilityman Sean Rodriguez and infielder Cole Figueroa from their 40-man roster in the last ten days) was the need to protect prospects from being taken in the Rule 5 Draft, Silverman says. The Rays added pitchers Jose Dominguez, Matt Andriese, and Grayson Garvin, infielder Ryan Brett, outfielder Mikie Mahtook and catcher Justin O’Conner to their 40-man roster last week.


AL East Notes: Craig, Miller, Grilli, Jays

The Marlins are known to be looking for first base help and Allen Craig is the latest name to be added to their list of potential trade targets, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports (Twitter link).  Dealing Craig would help the Red Sox clear out some of their outfield surplus, while giving Miami a right-handed bat to platoon with Garrett Jones at first base.  The Marlins are dangling young pitchers in trades, though I’m not sure this would necessarily appeal to Boston — the Sox already have plenty of young arms and if they did move an outfielder, they’d likely prefer a proven starter who can immediately be slotted into their 2015 rotation.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Andrew Miller is in serious negotiations with between eight and 10 teams, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports.  The Orioles aren’t one of the suitors, as Miller’s four-year asking price is higher than they would like to give to a setup man.  Miller has already received multiple three-year offers and reportedly received interest from 22 of the league’s 30 teams.
  • The Yankees have discussed signing Jason Grilli, WFAN’s Sweeny Murti reports.  Grilli could be pursued by the team if David Robertson leaves in free agency.
  • The Blue Jays are in need of relief pitching but would GM Alex Anthopoulos break from his usual modest bullpen spending and pursue a big-ticket reliever like Miller or Robertson?  Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith looks at the pros and cons of signing relievers to big contracts.
  • In a reader mailbag piece, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm figures the Blue Jays have at least $20MM “and possibly even upward of $30MM” in remaining payroll space, provided that Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston were correct in saying that the club’s payroll would grow past its $137MM mark from 2014.  Some of the space could be created if J.A. Happ or Dioner Navarro are traded.
  • Also from Chisholm’s mailbag, he cites some reasons some players are reluctant to come to Toronto, such as the Rogers Centre’s artificial surface or a lack of desire to move to Canada.  Cole Hamels, Howie Kendrick, Justin Upton and Jay Bruce are just a few of the notable players who reportedly have the Jays on their no-trade lists, though Chisholm notes that several players with trade protection include AL East teams for financial leverage purposes.
  • Sean Rodriguez was “definitely surprised” to be designated for assignment by the Rays, the utilityman tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.  “This (stinks) right now, but I feel like it may be an opportunity,” Rodriguez said. “What I bring to the table (in terms of versatility) is something a lot of teams like and want to have more of.”

AL Notes: Moss, Mariners, Lester, Headley, Rays, Twins

Brandon Moss could not help but become aware that the Athletics have made some notable additions that have a bearing on his status with the club, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Moss, who avoided the need for micro-fracture surgery on his hip and expects to be ready to go on something close to a normal schedule this spring, says he realizes that the additions of Billy Butler and Ike Davis could set up some other changes. “You never know; the front office likes to mix up,” said Moss. “I’m trying not to let anything surprise me, because I don’t want to be blindsided. Obviously, I love playing in Oakland, but when this happened, I knew it could mean someone else gets moved.”

Here’s more from the American League:

  • In addition to the four players noted yesterday, the Mariners are interested in Evan Gattis of the Braves, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Seattle is determined to come away with one of Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Nelson Cruz, Yoenis Cespedes, and Gattis, per the report. The M’s made a competitive offer for Victor Martinez before he re-signed with the Tigers, Heyman adds.
  • Talks between the Red Sox and Jon Lester are not on any kind of timetable, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (Twitter links). Lester is still making the rounds and considering his alternatives, per Bradford.
  • The Yankees are willing to go to three years in a deal for third baseman Chase Headley, Heyman reports. But Headley, unsurprisingly, is out looking for longer, better offers. New York is unlikely to go further than three, Joel Sherman reported yesterday, and it seems that Headley is drawing sufficient interest to get a fourth year guaranteed.
  • The Rays have announced that bench coach Dave Martinez will pursue other opportunities with another organization. Martinez was not listed as a finalist to replace Joe Maddon in the big league dugout, making a separation seem all but inevitable.
  • After a wide search, the Twins have agreed bring on Neil Allen as the team’s pitching coach, along with Eddie Guardado as bullpen coach and Joe Vavra as the bench coach to new skipper Paul Molitor. Allen had been the Rays’ pitching coach at Triple-A Durham.

Minor Moves: Pena, Boyer, Gutierrez, Swarzak, Belisario, Kohn

Some minor moves from around the league…

  • Also outrighted today was Ramiro Pena of the Braves, per the MLB.com transactions page. The utility man was designated recently, presumably in large part due to his rising arbitration salary.
  • Righty Blaine Boyer (Padres), Anthony Swarzak (Twins), and Juan Gutierrez (Giants) have elected free agency rather than accepting outright assignments, also via the MLB transactions page.
  • The White Sox have outrighted righty Ronald Belisario, per the MLB.com transactions page. Belisario was designated recently to make room for the claim of reliever Onelki Garcia.
  • Likewise, the Rays have outrighted righty Michael Kohn. It has been an odd start to the offseason for Kohn, who was signed to a MLB deal before being designated within weeks by Tampa.
  • Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reported a number of new transactions in his weekly Minor League Transactions roundup on Monday. Of particular note is a crop of Phillies signings: catcher Koyie Hill, right-hander Paul Clemens, and infielders Chase d’Arnaud and Cord Phelps. Clemens gives them some pitching depth, as he’s totaled 98 innings with the Astros over the past two seasons, albeit with a 5.51 ERA.
  • Also from Eddy, the Reds have inked outfielder Brennan Boesch to a minor league contract. The 29-year-old Boesch hit .269/.330/.436 in 248 games with the Tigers from 2010-11, but since that time, he’s batted just .237/.277/.376 in 635 plate appearances with the Tigers, Yankees and Angels.
  • The Tigers have announced that outfielder Ezequiel Carrera has elected free agency rather than accepting an assignment to Triple-A after being outrighted (Twitter link). The 27-year-old hit .261/.301/.348 in 73 plate appearances with Detroit this season and is a lifetime .253/.305/.340 hitter in the Majors. Carrera hasn’t hit much in 478 big league PAs, but he brings some speed and solid baserunning to the table and is capable of handling all three outfield spots.

Rays Sign Ernesto Frieri, Designate Sean Rodriguez

The Rays announced that they have signed right-hander Ernesto Frieri to a one-year, Major League contract. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that Frieri, a client of agent Matt Colleran, will earn an $800K base salary and can take home a total of $3.15MM if he meets all of his contract’s performance incentives. To clear roster space, The Rays announced that they have designated infielder Sean Rodriguez for assignment.

Frieri, formerly the Angels’ closer, had a down year in 2014 after posting a 2.76 ERA from 2009-13 between the Padres and Halos. He’s always missed a large number of bats and did so again in 2014, averaging 10.4 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9 in 41 2/3 innings. However, Frieri’s ERA spiked to 7.31 due to a bloated 19.3 percent homer-to-flyball ratio that is likely to dip back down toward his career rate of roughly 10 percent next season. He also saw his typically excellent strand rate plummet to 60.9 percent. The Angels flipped him to the Pirates in a one-for-one swap that netted Jason Grilli and ultimately got the better end of the deal, as Frieri would be designated for assignment by Pittsburgh after struggling there as well.

Frieri seems to be a classic buy-low candidate for a Rays team that has successfully turned around the careers of many struggling veterans in the past. He averaged a solid 94 mph on his fastball in 2014, and metrics such as xFIP (3.67) and SIERA (2.96) feel that he is an excellent candidate to return to form this season. There’s upside beyond the 2015 campaign for the Rays as well, as Frieri can be controlled through 2016 if he rebounds.

Rodriguez, also 29, batted just .211 with a .258 on-base percentage but a career-best .443 slugging percentage. The utility infielder did hit a career-high 12 homers, but the Rays apparently weren’t comfortable paying him something in the $2MM range projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.


Details On Jay Bruce’s No-Trade Clause

We heard recently that the Reds will at least listen to offers on outfielder Jay Bruce. While that still seems to be a long shot, it is worth noting that Bruce has an eight-team no-trade clause that would come into play were he shopped.

According to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, Bruce can block deals to the Athletics, Blue Jays, D’backs, Marlins, Rays, Red Sox, Twins, and Yankees. That mix of small and large-market teams presumably shields Bruce from destinations he may prefer not to play in while affording him leverage if a big-spending AL East club were to come calling.

Bruce had an off year in 2014, but has been one of the game’s most consistent power threats and is just entering his age-28 season. He is guaranteed $25.5MM over the next two seasons, which includes a buyout for a $13MM club option in 2017.


Released: Jose Molina, Cole Figueroa, Ramon Cabrera

Here are the day’s minor moves …


Quick Hits: Upton, Montero, Rays, Hunter, Pirates

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince names the ten players most likely to be traded this offseason and the Braves’ Justin Upton tops the list. Castrovince feels the Braves could obtain a similar, if not better, return than they received for Jason Heyward because Upton’s powerful bat has tremendous value.

Here are the latest notes from around baseball:

  • Miguel Montero placed tenth on Castrovince’s list and Buster Olney of ESPN.com (on Twitter) wonders if the hiring of Henry Blanco will create traction for the Cubs‘ interest in the Diamondbacks’ catcher, who was a Blanco pupil in 2014. The D’Backs have reportedly spoken with the Cubs, Dodgers, and White Sox about Montero.
  • With Jose Molina gone, the Rays are working to add a backup to Ryan Hanigan, either via trade or signing. They’d like a catcher with more experience than Curt Casali and, preferably, options, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
  • More from Topkin who reports, in addition to an expected trade of Matt Joyce and/or David DeJesus, the Rays may be looking to deal from depth in reserve infielders and relievers. He identifies Logan Forsythe and Sean Rodriguez as infield trade possibilities and Brandon Gomes as a bullpen arm who could be moved.
  • It may not be “sexy,” but the Red Sox‘s pursuit of Pablo Sandoval makes perfect sense, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. The Red Sox appear to be one of the finalists for Sandoval, alongside the Padres and incumbent Giants.
  • Torii Hunter told Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press he favors the Twins among the teams with which he is considering signing. “(Twins General Manager) Terry Ryan and I have talked several times, and there’s definitely a common interest there, for sure,” the veteran said. Ten teams reportedly have interest in Hunter.
  • The Pirates could re-allocate the resources set aside for Russell Martin to pursue rotation and bullpen help, a first baseman, and/or sign some of their young core to extensions, according to Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.