Tampa Bay Rays Rumors

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

Latest On Yoan Moncada

The final stage of the Yoan Moncada sweepstakes may be at hand, according to the most recent reports:

  • Moncada’s recent workout with the Yankees “sounds like” the last he’ll put on in advance of negotiations, Ben Badler of Baseball America reports on Twitter. The “expectation” is that Moncada will sign with a team next week.
  • Some offers are already in hand but more are still expected to come in, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. A signing is expected “soon,” which would allow Moncada to make into camp on time (or, perhaps, with a short delay).
  • The Rays may put in an offer for Moncada, Topkin tweets, but the expectation is that their number will not be competitive.

AL East Notes: Moncada, Orioles, Jepsen, Sox

The Yankees hosted their second private workout for Cuban sensation Yoan Moncada last night, reports George A. King III of the the New York Post. The Yankees like Moncada quite a bit but are a bit leery of the financial commitment it will take to sign the 19-year-old, King adds. He also hears from an international scouting source that the Dodgers could be willing to spend up to $40MM on a bonus for Moncada (meaning an $80MM total commitment after tax), which one scout described to King as “a lot of money for someone to begin at [Single-A].”

Elsewhere in the American League East…

  • Orioles GM/executive vice president Dan Duquette spoke to the media on a number of roster-related issues today, and Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com provides a quick rundown of the items discussed. Duquette says the team is still looking to add a reliever, likely on a minor league deal, and he also said there’s little chance of the team avoiding arbitration with Alejandro De Aza, whose hearing is set for tomorrow. Additionally, Duquette revealed that minor league signee Paul Janish had surgery to remove bone spurs from his throwing elbow and will be out six to eight weeks. That news led the team to its now-official minor league deal with Jayson Nix.
  • Rays right-hander Kevin Jepsen spoke with Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times about the strange feeling of being traded from the only organization he’s ever known. Traded by the Angels to the Rays for Matt Joyce this offseason, Jepsen, an Arizona resident, describes the peculiar feeling of heading to Spring Training in Florida. Though the transition is jarring, he does have a familiar face in closer Jake McGee, who grew up with Jepsen in Nevada, Topkin writes. The brief look at Jepsen’s transition serves as a reminder of the human element to these transactions that we often take for granted.
  • While it’s easy to suggest that the Red Sox should simply trade Shane Victorino, it’s also important for them to maintain some outfield depth, writes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. Hanley Ramirez has averaged just 116 games over the past four seasons, and Rusney Castillo is still “more potential than certainty.” A healthy Victorino is typically a valuable asset and could be of use in any outfield spot if needed.
  • Abraham also spoke to Brandon Workman, who said he’s not the least bit bothered by being moved from the rotation to the bullpen by the Red Sox“I want to be in the majors,” Workman told Abraham. “You feel terrible when you get sent back to Triple A and this is where I want to be. I’m not worried about anything else.”

Quick Hits: Farrell, Victorino, Delabar, Dodgers, Young

The Red Sox have held preliminary discussions with manager John Farrell about a contract extension, Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com reports. Farrell’s deal is only guaranteed through 2015, though it comes with an additional club option as well. Boston hopes to “add length and security” in a new deal, per the report.

Here are some more items from around the game:

  • Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino sat down with WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford to discuss his recovery from back surgery, telling Bradford that he feels 100 percent and is as motivated as he’s ever been heading into Spring Training. Victorino disagrees with the notion that there’s a “competition” between himself and Mookie Betts, saying that, rather, he views it as two athletes pushing each other to be better. “I’ve been a big advocate of Mookie since Day 1,” said Victorino. “I learned from Day 1 that he’s a kid that wants to learn. My first day in my rehab assignment in Pawtucket, 15 minutes before the game he’s asking me questions in the most respectful way. From Day 1 I’ve been a big fan of that kid.”
  • Right-hander Steve Delabar was disappointed not to be called up in September by the Blue Jays last year, writes John Lott of the National Post. The team felt that Delabar, a 2013 All-Star who battled knee injuries throughout the 2014 season, needed to rest. Those knee issues, coupled with a 2013 shoulder injury that prevented Delabar from fully engaging in his offseason weighted-ball program, contributed to a rough year in 2014, Lott writes. Delabar will be competing for one of three bullpen spots, and the fact that he has minor league options remaining could work against him if he isn’t sharp this spring.
  • The Rays were excellent at unearthing quality relievers while under the leadership of now-Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney notes (Insider link). Friedman will face an immediate challenge in finding a replacement for outstanding closer Kenley Jansen, at least for the season’s early going. The market still contains some notable arms — free agents Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano, as well as trade candidate Jonathan Papelbon — but in some respects their availability only increases the stakes of getting the decision right. There are several possibilities for filling the closer role and the open pen slot, including a few recent acquisitions as well as younger arms (Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia) who got a taste of the bigs last year and have impressed the new front office.
  • MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently endeavored to identify potential landing spots for free agent righty Chris Young, and Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs contributes his own analysis on where Young’s notably flyball-prone propensities would best fit. Steve’s market analysis and Sullivan’s fit assessment concur in identifying the Rays as a match.


East Notes: Hamels, Bradley, Minor, DeJesus, Aceves

ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark polled league executives for their takes on the offseason, and some of the strongest opinions related to the game’s eastern divisions. Collectively, that group liked the Blue Jays’ signing of Russell Martin, but was skeptical of the contracts given to players like Max Scherzer (Nationals) and Hanley Ramirez (Red Sox). Check out the piece for the results on a number of other questions.

  • Regarding the oft-discussed possibility of the Red Sox dealing for Cole Hamels of the Phillies, Peter Gammons of Gammons Daily suggests that circumstances may need to change to force a deal. Any changes to Boston’s internal pitching dynamics could, of course, push it toward a deal. Or, with the Sox uninterested in taking on all of Hamels’s salary, a new willingness by the Phils to eat cash to increase the prospect return could move the needle.
  • One other factor in driving trade possibilities for the Red Sox is the club’s overflowing cup of outfielders. Before deciding how to proceed, the club will look to see where things stand, says Gammons, especially in terms of health.
  • Of note is that the Braves have made clear to Boston that they have “strong interest” in young outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. This is not necessarily an active matter, however: Gammons notes that any possible action on that front would occur in the late spring, at the earliest, and David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets his understanding that the expression of interest was made earlier in the offseason, before other moves occurred.
  • Lefty Mike Minor will face a hearing with the Braves tomorrow, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman notes on Twitter. $500K remains at stake between the sides ($5.6MM versus $5.1MM).
  • Rays outfielder David DeJesus tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that he has prepared for the possibility of being dealt but hopes to remain with Tampa. DeJesus says he is refreshed and ready after a “long, grueling” go of things last year, though as Topkin writes there appears to be a logjam in front of him in the outfield.
  • Alfredo Aceves, a seven-year veteran of the Red Sox and Yankees, will throw for teams this afternoon, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets. Among those expected to be in attendance are the Giants, Padres, Royals, Brewers, and Reds.

AL East Notes: Wieters, Romine, Maddon, Alvarez

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is one of ten high-profile free-agents-to-be to watch during the 2015 season, writes Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com. The backstop is working his way back from midseason Tommy John surgery, but he could be available for a designated hitter role by opening day. He was in the midst of a breakout at the plate before he was waylaid by injury. Ringolsby profiles nine other potential free agents including Wieters’ teammate Chris Davis. Here’s more from the AL East:

  • Yankees backup catcher Austin Romine has reported to camp 15 pounds lighter, reports Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News. The former prospect will compete with John Ryan Murphy. Last season, it appeared Murphy was above Romine on the team’s depth chart. However, Romine is out of options, which could give him the upper hand in laying claim to the backup job. If not, backup catchers are always in demand around the league.
  • Cubs manager Joe Maddon thinks the Rays are in a good position to compete, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Maddon says the biggest challenge for new manager Kevin Cash is to form relationships with the club’s veterans. Tampa Bay also has a new look entering 2015 – they made seven trades involving 30 players. Maddon identified the outfield as the biggest question for the franchise.
  • Dariel Alvarez could be the first Orioles prospect to reach the majors this season, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. The club believes he’s “one of the best-kept secrets in the minors.” Manager Buck Showalter wonders why Alvarez doesn’t appear on prospect lists. The 26-year-old hit .306/.330/.472 with 15 home runs in the upper minors last season.

Latest On Cuban Market

With the crop of six-year service time free agents thinning noticeably, attention has turned to the fascinating group of players readying to sign after leaving their native Cuba. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has been among the most active observers on this still-developing segment of the market, and delivers a host of interesting information in his latest post on the subject.

While I recommend a full read of his work, here are some highlights:

  • Hector Olivera is the lone name who figures to have immediate impact. (Fellow middle infielder Jose Fernandez reportedly remains in Cuba after having been thought to have left with intentions of seeking a MLB deal.) McDaniel agrees with Baseball America’s Ben Badler that Olivera has the potential for immediate impact, but says there are significant doubts about his long-term prospects. For one, Olivera’s medical history is not just limited to sports injuries, but includes a significant case of thrombosis. Then, there is the fact that Olivera’s age cannot be confirmed with certainty and even some indications that scouts are questioning why he is “fatigued earlier in workouts than an athlete of his size, strength and age should.”
  • Ultimately, McDaniel concurs with Badler that Olivera is seeking and could obtain a $10MM+ annual guarantee. But McDaniel cautions that he expects it to run over just two or three seasons (with an outside chance at a fourth guaranteed year) with options and incentives included.
  • The other name making noise at the recent international showcase was Cuban righty Yadier Alvarez, who McDaniel has in the mid-to-upper 90s with a plus slider and promising change. The rest of the package checks out for his age, with McDaniel saying that Alvarez’s raw talent and progress to date is on the same level as the very best high school arms entering the draft. Alvarez expects to have him ready to sign in the next month or two and does not seem inclined to wait for the market to turn over on July 2nd, which would mean the Cubs and Rangers would not be eligible to sign him. (Should he wait to sign, Alvarez would lose the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, D’backs, and Angels as potential suitors.) While this particular market is in the very earliest stages of development, McDaniel says that Alvarez is plainly superior to Yoan Lopez, who just got a $8.25MM bonus from Arizona.
  • McDaniel also provides an update on 21-year-old infielder Andy Ibanez, who is seemingly no longer showcasing. That could mean that he is in the process of (or will soon be) sorting through offers. While the demand side of the equation is hard to peg in his case, McDaniel says he expects one of the bonus-busting teams listed above to land him at a potential cost of between $5MM to $12MM.
  • The most exciting name out there remains Yoan Moncada. Though there is not much new to pass on in his case, Badler does present some video of Moncada’s past plate appearances against several notable young arms. One executive tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links) that the bidding on Moncada could reach nine figures in terms of total investment (given the near-100% tax for signing him). Rosenthal also says that the Moncada case may be a catalyst for debate on the issue of how amateur rights are secured.

International Notes: Balfour, Moncada, Olivera, Alvarez, Kang

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tells the emotional story of Rays reliever Grant Balfour and his father David, who is battling pancreatic cancer. Baseball Australia’s Hall of Fame will induct the younger Balfour even before his playing career is over so that his father — a notable figure in the Australian game — can be there to participate. The piece is well worth your time.

Here are the latest reports on the international scene:

  • The Diamondbacks are among the teams expected to watch touted young Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada later this week, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports. Arizona has already gone well over its international bonus pool and has been one of the most active teams on the international market. The Cubs, too, will take a look at him (as have many other, previously-reported teams), though they would be unable to offer him more than a $250K bonus unless he waits until after July 2 to sign.
  • Hector Olivera drew hundreds of scouts to his final public showcase, as Ben Badler of Baseball America reports on Twitter, and seemingly did not disappoint. Per Badler, the Dodgers, Giants, Athletics, and Padres were well-represented in attendance. You’ll want to read through Badler’s Twitter feed (some earlier portion of which was compiled here by Baseball America) for more information on Olivera’s impressive display as well as some other notes from the international showcase.
  • Right-hander Yadier Alvarez, just 18, is the latest Cuban citizen drawing buzz. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeted recently that he is pushing a high-90s fastball, and today Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs reports (Twitter links) that his buzz “checks out.” Not only does the young righty work in the mid-90s and touch even higher, he has a “more than usable” change to go with it. That will likely result in a big payday, per McDaniel, who also notes in a tweet that it may take a month or two for him to be cleared to sign.
  • Former KBO superstar and current Pirates infielder Jung-ho Kang might just be capable of putting up huge numbers in the big leagues, according to the analysis of Dan Farnsworth of Fangraphs. Farnsworth breaks down Kang’s “upper-echelon swing” and compares it to some notable MLB power bats, concluding that the Korean ballplayer could break out with a .280+ batting average and 25 or more home runs in his first MLB season.

Minor Moves: Jimenez, Fornataro, Davies, Elmore, Alderson

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…

  • The Phillies have outrighted lefty Cesar Jimenez to Triple-A, according to the International League transactions page. Despite inking a one-year deal to avoid arbitration back in October, Jimenez lost his roster spot to Chad Billingsley. He had strong results last year both in the bigs and upper minors, working to a 1.69 ERA in 16 MLB frames and a 1.45 mark over 49 2/3 innings at Triple-A.
  • Likewise, the Nationals passed righty Eric Fornataro through waivers and assigned him to Triple-A, the club announced. Washington claimed Fornataro off waivers from the Cardinals earlier in the offseason, then designated him to make room for Casey Janssen. The 27-year-old reached the bigs last year for the first time, but spent most of his season working to a 2.57 ERA in 56 Triple-A innings.
  • The Yankees have inked right-hander Kyle Davies to a minor league deal, Sweeny Murti of WFAN reports on Twitter. Davies, 31, has worked in the minors over the past two years with the Twins and Indians organization, tossing 154 1/3 innings of 3.91 ERA ball last year. He has seven years in the bigs on his resume, though he owns a career 5.59 ERA with 6.4 K/9 against 4.3 BB/9.
  • The Rays announced that they’ve signed utility man Jake Elmore to a minor league deal and invited him to Major League Spring Training. The 27-year-old Elmore elected free agency last week after being outrighted by the Pirates. He spent last season with the Triple-A affiliates for the Reds and the A’s (plus a brief MLB stint with Cincinnati), batting .281/.376/.345. Elmore’s most extensive MLB experience came with Houston in 2013, when he batted .242/.313/.325 in 136 plate appearances. Elmore played every position on the diamond with Houston that season, and he even pitched and caught in the same game.
  • Right-hander Tim Alderson signed a minor league deal with the Nationals, according to the team’s transactions page. San Francisco selected Alderson 22nd overall in 2007, and in the 2008-09 range, he was one of the organization’s top pitching prospects, alongside Madison Bumgarner. Alderson twice ranked in Baseball America’s Top 100, but his career stalled after he was flipped to the Pirates in the Freddy Sanchez trade of 2009. Now 26, Alderson has a lifetime 5.02 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 129 Triple-A innings, and a 4.24 ERA in his minor league career as a whole.

AL East Notes: Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays

Through the Joe Maddon era, the Rays were known for employing different lineups and looks every day. Expect more stability in the day-to-day lineup under new manager Kevin Cash, writes Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Maddon averaged 137 lineups per season over his five year tenure. Cash hopes to set a couple basic lineups based on opposing pitcher handedness. His key players should have an idea of where they’ll hit, which Cash believes is better for the players. Here’s more from the AL East.

  • The Orioles have 11 players who could be eligible for free agency next fall, reports Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore. Dubroff examines the likelihood of each player returning beyond 2015. Steve Pearce may be the best fit on a short-term extension. Others like Matt Wieters, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, and Chris Davis may play their way out of town. In the case of Davis, another rough season could open a buy low opportunity. He’s set to earn $12MM next season.
  • The Blue Jays upgraded the roster without addressing their deficiencies, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith for USA Today. Despite notable additions of Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin, the bullpen, second base, and center field remain as potential problems. The outfield is probably the best off, with prospect Dalton Pompey expected to fill the void. The bullpen could be addressed internally, but there are also several decent relievers on the free agent market. Second base looks dicey. Devon Travis may eventually fit, but Maicer Izturis and Ryan Goins will have to hold the fort in the meantime.

East Notes: Jaso, Yankees, Flores

This year will mark the first Spring Training of John Jaso‘s career where he won’t be working out as a catcher, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. “It’s definitely going to be different,” says Jaso. “I have no idea. The Big Papi program? I don’t know. … This will be kind of the first time for me.” Topkin notes that the Rays could use Jaso at catcher if there’s an emergency, but he’ll spend most of the season at DH after having concussion issues in each of the last two seasons. The Rays acquired Jaso and two prospects from the Athletics in the Ben Zobrist deal last month, and president of baseball operations Matt Silverman said at the time that he wanted to put Jaso “in the best position to succeed.” Potentially preventing injury by moving Jaso out from behind the plate would certainly help with that. The Rays could also use Jaso at first or in the outfield. Here’s more from the East divisions.

  • GM Brian Cashman said on WFAN Friday that the Yankees had finished their “heavy lifting” this offseason, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com notes. Previous reporting had indicated that the Yankees might pursue in James Shields, but Cashman’s comments indicate that isn’t the case. As Kuty suggests, the idea that the Yankees won’t be a top bidder for Shields is consistent with their approach to the offseason so far — they re-signed Chase Headley and added Andrew Miller, but they’ve otherwise steered clear of top free agents after adding Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran last offseason.
  • Wilmer Flores isn’t listening to criticism about the Mets’ shortstop situation, Matt Ehalt of the Record writes. The Mets didn’t add a shortstop this winter and are heading into the spring with Flores as their likely starter, leading to plenty of second-guessing from commentators and fans. “People doubt a lot of people,” says Flores. “I’m not worried about that. I’m just going to go out and play.” Flores hit .251/.286/.378 last season, but he’s hit well in the high minors, and the Mets like his offensive potential. His defense remains open to question, although UZR has liked his glove work in small sample sizes in his first two partial seasons in the Majors. As Mike Petriello wrote for Fangraphs last month, concerns about the Mets’ shortstop situation might be somewhat misplaced. The position is weak throughout the Majors, and Steamer projects Flores will be the 19th most valuable shortstop by WAR in the big leagues in 2015, ahead of some of the top options available this offseason, like Asdrubal Cabrera and Stephen Drew.