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Tampa Bay Rays Rumors
Jim Munsey of Munsey Sports Management, the representative of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and other big leaguers, sat down with host Jeff Todd for today’s podcast. Munsey discusses his work for the just-released Saltalamacchia, including a busy last couple of days looking for a new home for his client.
Munsey also talks about the challenges and rewards of running a smaller agency, and gives some updates and insight into two of his other other clients: injured relievers Sean Burnett (a free agent) and Neil Wagner (Rays).
The MLB Trade Rumors Podcast runs weekly on Thursday afternoons.
Rays right-hander Alex Cobb‘s 2015 season is in jeopardy, as is much of his 2016 season, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that an MRI has revealed a partially torn ligament in his right elbow. For the time being, Cobb will rest and undergo treatment in an attempt to pitch through the injury, but he’ll be facing Tommy John surgery if that route proves unsuccessful.
Cobb, 27, has already received a platelet-rich plasma injection in the elbow as part of a visit with Dr. James Andrews. President of baseball operations Matt Silverman told Topkin earlier that the team was in “wait and see” mode and that speculation regarding surgery was premature, though that appears to have been before Topkin learned of the MRI results.
Over the past two seasons, Cobb has looked the part of a front-line starter when healthy enough to take the hill. He’s worked to a 2.82 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 56 percent ground-ball rate in 309 2/3 innings. He has also, however, missed time with a concussion and an oblique injury, and this season he opened the year on the disabled list due to what was originally termed right forearm tendinitis.
Losing Cobb would be a significant blow to a second-place Rays team that has been anxiously awaiting his return to the rotation. However, Tampa successfully weathered the storm after losing Matt Moore to Tommy John surgery last year and trading ace David Price, as their new-look rotation currently features Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly, Nate Karns and Alex Colome.
Moore is expected to rejoin the club sometime in June or July, and there are other depth options on the 40-man roster including Erasmo Ramirez and Matt Andriese. Another potential depth option, righty Burch Smith (acquired in the Wil Myers trade) is already lost for the year due to Tommy John surgery, however, and Ramirez’s struggles over the past year-plus have been extreme. Further injuries in the rotation, then, could lead to some trade consideration this summer, but adding Moore to the current crop of healthy starters would seem enough to carve out a competitive rotation, even if Cobb is unfortunately lost for the next year.
Yesterday, the Twins promoted outfielder Eddie Rosario from Triple-A Rochester, with Oswaldo Arcia headed to the disabled list due to a right hip flexor strain. (TwinsDaily.com’s Seth Stohs first tweeted word of Rosario’s promotion.) In Rosario, the Twins are recalling a former fourth-round pick that ranked in the organization’s Top 10 prospects per Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com and ESPN’s Keith Law. Rosario, in fact, was considered a Top 100 prospect by B-Pro heading into the 2014 season, but he served a suspension for a drug of abuse and didn’t hit much in his return to Double-A. After a promising stint in the Arizona Fall League this past season, Rosario is off to a slow start in Triple-A, but he still, interestingly, gets the call over Aaron Hicks. The 25-year-old Hicks has spent parts of the past two seasons with the Twins in an attempt to establish himself as their everyday center fielder, but the former first-round pick and top 30 prospect has looked overmatched in the Majors. However, he’s hitting quite well to open the year in Triple-A, making it somewhat surprising to seem him passed over. It may only be a short-term look, though I’d think that given Jordan Schafer‘s struggles, there’s at least a chance for Rosario to impress enough to stick on the roster once Arcia is healthy.
Here are some more notes from the American League…
- The Rays are increasingly concerned with righty Alex Cobb after he suffered a setback this weekend, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Cobb, 27, had started to throw again after suffering a forearm strain this spring. Now, per Topkin, Cobb will be shut down for several days and could eventually be a candidate for platelet-rich plasma treatment or even surgery. Cobb has contributed 309 2/3 innings of 2.82 ERA pitching over the last two seasons, making his fate critical to the team’s hopes this year.
- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos says he does not expect any significant trade activity until after the draft, as Ben Nicholson-Smith reports on Twitter. That is obviously the usual course of events, in spite of some discussion that this year could see earlier activity. Toronto is looking up in a tightly-packed AL East after a rough start to the year from its pitching staff. While an early move holds some facial appeal, however, a significant addition would likely require a premium return.
- It is indeed early, but not too early for the White Sox to begin planning for a summer sale, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs opines. Chicago rode into the year on a wave of optimism, even if projection systems never bought the team as an obvious playoff club, but is off to a dreadful start. With multiple holes on the big league roster, says Cameron, GM Rick Hahn should be ready to be nimble in cashing in assets. In particular, Cameron suggests that marketing free agent-to-be Jeff Samardzija before other appealing arms join the market could be the best way to maximize his value.
The Phillies are “waiting with open arms” to find the right trade for at least one of their big-name veteran players, a major league official tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. That list of big names, of course, includes ace Cole Hamels, though Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley could also be moved, Cafardo writes. Amaro recently told reporters that he’s willing to eat part of Hamels’ contract in a trade if necessary, and that could help bring about a deal for the Phillies. More from today’s column..
- Major league sources tell Cafardo that the tampering investigation brought by Rays owner Stuart Sternberg against the Cubs for their hiring of Joe Maddon was reopened when Sternberg objected to the original verdict. In the end, however, it was found that there was no tampering in the negotiations.
- Marlins GM Dan Jennings thought he had trade possibilities for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was designated for assignment last week. He’s currently in the 10-day limbo period in which he could be traded, claimed, or put on waivers.
- Scouts are still waiting for Red Sox outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig to bust out and it appears Boston is going to play him more to boost his trade value. Cafardo notes that Craig has historically hit well in the month of May.
- The Red Sox are trying to create roster versatility by using players at different positions. Shortstop Deven Marrero is the team’s latest experiment after seeing time at second base. One NL scout isn’t so wild about the concept. “He’s a terrific athlete so he’ll do well at the other positions, but this is the type of guy where you know he’s a terrific shortstop so why mess around with that?” said the scout. “He’s got high confidence as a shortstop and now you’re reducing that confidence level by making him play positions he’s not used to.”
5:47pm: Balfour confirms that he has indeed inked a new deal with the Rays, Topkin tweets.
5:41pm: The Rays may be in the process of re-signing struggling righty Grant Balfour to a minor league deal, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports on Twitter. Tampa Bay released Balfour on Tuesday and remains on the hook for his $7MM salary this year.
Balfour, 37, inked a two-year, $12MM deal to join the Rays before the 2014 season, and to say he has been a disappointment would be an understatement. Over 66 2/3 total innings in his second stint with the club, he has posted a 5.00 ERA with 7.7 K/9 against a troubling 6.1 BB/9.
Things got even worse this year, as Balfour failed to notch a strikeout while permitting four free passes in his first 4 1/3 innings of the season. His fastball was down about two full ticks as against last year, and he had already lost velocity from his prior years’ work.
Over a dozen years in the league, Balfour has worked to a 3.49 ERA while averaging 9.5 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9. Tampa’s plan to bring him back to (or, at least, near) that level of productivity would be to send him to Triple-A for a few weeks, says Topkin, in an effort to get him back on track.
Here are the latest minor league transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the post…
- Rays lefty Everett Teaford has accepted an assignment to Triple-A after clearing waivers, MLBTR’s Steve Adams tweets. Teaford could have elected free agency as he has previously been outrighted. The southpaw made only one appearance during his stint with the big league club this year, but will serve as a useful depth piece for the organization as it works to bring back a host of arms off of the DL.
- The Cardinals have selected the contract of left-hander Tim Cooney, the team announced. In corresponding moves, Adam Wainwright was moved to the 60-day disabled list and catcher Cody Stanley was optioned to Triple-A to create room for Cooney on the 40-man and 25-man rosters, respectively. Cooney, 24, was a third-round pick in the 2012 draft and he has a career 3.50 ERA, 3.95 K/BB rate and 7.6 K/9 over 385 1/3 minor league innings. The southpaw is ranked by MLB.com as the tenth-best prospect in the St. Louis farm system, and he’ll make his Major League debut today when he starts for the Cardinals against the Phillies.
- Infielder Tony Abreu and outfielder Greg Golson have signed with the Mexican League’s Veracruz Red Eagles, according to the team’s official Twitter feed. Abreu elected to become a free agent last fall after appearing in 56 games for the Giants in 2013-14. Abreu has a career .254/.283/.373 slash line over 615 plate appearances with the Giants, Royals, D’Backs and Dodgers since 2007. Golson, who has 42 MLB plate appearances to his name between 2008-11, has spent the last three seasons playing in the minors, the independent Atlantic League and the Mexican Pacific Winter League.
Major League Baseball has announced that it will not discipline the Cubs in relation to the team’s hiring of former Rays manager Joe Maddon. Tampa Bay had asked the league to look into whether Chicago had tampered with Maddon prior to his departure from the club.
Maddon was at the helm of the Rays for nine campaigns and had a year left on his contract heading into the offseason. But when GM Andrew Friedman left for the Dodgers, a provision in his deal was triggered which gave Maddon the opportunity to opt out of his own contract. Though only one big league team had an open managerial spot at that time (the Twins, who were already well on their way to hiring Paul Molitor), Maddon exercised the clause.
Speculation turned quickly to the Cubs as a landing spot, despite the fact that they had hired skipper Rick Renteria just the year prior. Chicago ultimately fired Renteria, who had two years left on his contract, and signed Maddon to a five-year, $25MM deal.
In short order, Tampa Bay asked the league to open an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Maddon’s departure — specifically, whether he might have had communication with Chicago before deciding to opt out. While a decision had been expected by Opening Day, the league took its time in making its determination. “The investigation produced no finding of a violation of Major League Rule 3(k),” the announcement ultimately concluded.
10:50pm: Heyman adds, via Twitter, that the Orioles are not in the mix for Saltalamacchia.
10:05pm: The Diamondbacks, Rays and Royals are all discussing Saltalamacchia, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. It’s unclear if Kansas City’s interest has picked up at all between McCullough’s report and this latest update, though the Rays and certainly the D-Backs would seem to have a bigger need behind the dish. Like MacPherson yesterday, Heyman hears that the Red Sox aren’t in the mix.
4:14pm: The Royals have some interest in Saltalamacchia, but their interest is said to be very preliminary, according to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (on Twitter). As McCullough notes, GM Dayton Moore was the Braves’ director of player development when Atlanta drafted Saltalamacchia.
APRIL 27: The Marlins have already had contact with five teams regarding Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter. GM Dan Jennings says that he expects to find a deal for the just-designated backstop.
Among the potential landing spots are the Red Sox, Indians, Mariners, and Diamondbacks, one source tells ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link). According to other reports, however, Boston is “unlikely” to be interested in adding the 29-year-old, as Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal tweets, even if it were able to add him for just the league minimum.
Saltalamacchia thrived in Boston, slashing a combined .243/.307/.455 during his four seasons there. Since earning a large free agent payday to join the Marlins last year, Saltalamacchia owns a fairly disapointing .209/.310/.351 line at the plate. That output, while still not bad for a catcher, was not enough to outweigh his lightly-regarded defensive work.
Nevertheless, Salty remains an interesting option for teams looking for a backup or injury replacement (as the above list would indicate). The switch hitter has been much more productive historically against right-handed pitching (.775 career OPS) and makes for a natural platoon mate for any right-handed swinging backstop.
Right-hander Grant Balfour, who was designated for assignment by the Rays last week, has cleared release waivers and is a free agent, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (Twitter link). Wolfson adds that he checked to see if a reunion with the Twins was a possibility, but he’s been told that Balfour will be signing elsewhere.
The 37-year-old Balfour looked to be on his way to the Orioles in the 2013-14 offseason, but his two-year deal fell through after the O’s weren’t comfortable with the results of his physical. Balfour ultimately ended up returning to Tampa Bay — the team with which he revived his career in 2008.
Balfour’s second stint in St. Petersburg, however, did not go as smoothly as his first. In 66 2/3 innings over the past two seasons, Balfour worked to a 5.00 ERA with 57 strikeouts against 45 walks. His ~93mph average fastball velocity dipped to 91.6 mph in 2014, and in this season’s small sample, he averaged just 89.4 mph. However, part of that could be due to the fact that Balfour missed much of Spring Training as he traveled back to his native Australia to be with his dying father for his final days.
From 2008-13, Balfour was a highly effective relief weapon, working to a 2.74 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 380 1/3 innings. Balfour averaged 64 appearances and 63 innings per season in that stretch, and he served as Oakland’s closer for the final two years of that stretch. With the A’s, the fiery Balfour saved 64 games and earned the first All-Star nod of his 12-year Major League career.
The Rays owe Balfour $7MM in 2015 (though $2MM of that figure is deferred). Should he latch on with another team, as Wolfson indicated, that club would be on the hook for only the pro-rated portion of the league minimum for any time Balfour spends on the big league roster.
Teaford, soon to be 31, gave up one earned run in one appearance this year with Tampa. He saw more extensive use out of the Royals’ pen back in 2011-12, but only owns 108 1/3 big league innings in his career. Over parts of five Triple-A seasons, often working as a starter, Teaford has worked to a 3.34 ERA with 8.5 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9.