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In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wonders if the Red Sox will succumb to fan pressure and re-sign Jon Lester. Lester turned down a four-year, $70MM offer from the Red Sox in spring training and other clubs will almost certainly offer six- or seven-year deals if he reaches the open market. Boston, of course, doesn’t want to go that far. “If that’s your philosophy you can’t make exceptions or it will be viewed as a joke,” said one American League general manager. “If you vary from it, that sends a weak message to the baseball community, agents etc., when it comes with dealing with other players. I think the players themselves need to know where you stand as an organization, and if you keep deviating that sends the wrong message.” Here’s more from today’s column..
- The Mariners don’t mind dealing for Rays ace David Price without an agreement in place for a long-term deal, but that’s not the case for everyone. The Cardinals are interested in Price but would want a financial commitment, a major league source tells Cafardo. Cafardo cautions not to rule out the Giants, who also have had interest in Ben Zobrist.
- The Phillies have been discouraged by what they’re hearing from other teams on Cole Hamels. The Phillies consider him their biggest trade chip, but will hold on to him if they don’t get what they consider a fair deal. The Red Sox sent their top pitching scout to watch the hurler before the break and the Phillies have scouted Boston’s major and minor league teams all season. One major league source said if the Phillies get a taker on the full contract and they get three top prospects, he’s gone, and Hamels, according to another major league source, wouldn’t mind.
- Joaquin Benoit is one of the most sought after relievers on the market but a Padres official tells Cafardo that they won’t just give him away.
- Chad Qualls has resurrected his career with the Astros and teams are calling on him, according to a major league source. Houston left-hander Tony Sipp has also drawn interest.
- A.J. Pierzynski, who cleared waivers Friday, has told agent Steve Hilliard that he would like to continue playing.
The Cubs are receiving some trade interest in Starlin Castro but don’t expect to trade him this month, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports 1. That lines up with a tweet from Newsday’s David Lennon earlier this week, when Lennon noted that Castro isn’t expected to be dealt in 2015, and the Cubs may slide him over to third base in 2015. That would be a surprise, given the organization’s wealth of third base prospects, although such a move would clear a spot for Javier Baez.
Here’s more on the Cubs and the NL Central…
- For what it’s worth, Baez made his first professional appearance at second base in last night’s Triple-A contest, as first noted by Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register last night (on Twitter). Getting Baez some looks at second base could also clear a path for him, though the Cubs have been wowed by the early returns on fellow top prospect Arismendy Alcantara. Suffice it to say, the Cubs’ infield depth is flat out enviable.
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin spoke to reporters, including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, and discussed the trade deadline. Melvin noted that he will have his ears open, but he isn’t fixated on the idea that making an acquisition is necessary for his team to reach the postseason. He cited a lack of availability of quality first basemen and the eventual returns of Tyler Thornburg and Jim Henderson when asked about perceived needs in the ‘pen and at first. Said Melvin: “If you can add, you add. But I like our team.”
- Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was a guest on the Baseball Tonight podcast with Buster Olney today and discussed the Cardinals second-half needs. While he says the absence of Yadier Molina should be the team’s biggest issue, a quieter concern is how many innings they get from the rotation. Of the team’s current starters, only Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright have shown the ability to pitch deep into games. Cardinals starters other than Lynn and Wainwright have averaged just 5 1/3 innings per start.
- Goold also says the Cardinals know that at some point, they have to make some kind of move to address their outfield surplus. Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, James Ramsey and Oscar Taveras are all potential long-term pieces, and the team also has Peter Bourjos, Jon Jay and Allen Craig as center field/right field options. Dangling Grichuk, Piscotty, Ramsey and Taveras will get them in the conversation for a number of pitchers, he adds.
- Goold thinks the Cardinals would be willing to at least discuss the possibility of sending Taveras to Tampa in a Price trade (though he doesn’t mention specific confirmation of that fact), but such a deal might be contingent on St. Louis securing an extension with Price. Talks between the two sides would be interesting, Goold notes, because the sides value players and value team control so similarly. Olney speculates that Price would be open to an extension with the Cards, noting the proximity of St. Louis to Price’s native Nashville.
FRIDAY: Taijuan Walker‘s name is once again at the center of trade talks surrounding Price, reports Heyman. He adds that Tampa has also expressed interest in the likes of corner infield prospect D.J. Peterson and James Paxton, neither of which is particularly surprising; Peterson and Paxton are two of the top young players in Seattle’s system.
The two sides are discussing various iterations of deals for Price, Zobrist or both. Heyman adds that Seattle might be willing to include Brad Miller in a deal as well, given the emergence of Triple-A shortstop Chris Taylor. The M’s, however, have said they won’t deal Mike Zunino.
THURSDAY, 9:51pm: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Mariners’ talks with the Rays have been more focused on Zobrist than Price, and the two sides have been discussing Zobrist “for weeks.” Nick Franklin‘s name has frequently come up in talks, he adds.
Heyman also reports that the Mariners have spoken to the Twins about Josh Willingham and the White Sox about Dayan Viciedo, and he notes that he, too, has heard Byrd’s name in learning of the Mariners’ trade talks. One big league source tells Heyman, however, that a deal for Byrd is now “less than likely” due to his no-trade clause.
He also adds that the Mariners’ ownership group is very big on bringing in players who want to be in Seattle. Offseason comments by Price’s agent about his client not wanting to sign a long-term deal in Seattle seem to indicate that Price doesn’t fit that description. However, the team’s status as a legitimate postseason contender may have changed Price’s thinking on that front.
2:10pm: Though no deal is imminent, the Mariners have been engaged in ongoing discussions with the Rays regarding lefty David Price and utilityman Ben Zobrist, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Meanwhile, talks have stalled with the Phillies regarding Marlon Byrd.
Needless to say, Price and Zobrist both represent potential impact to contenders. Either player could presumably add value to just about every roster in baseball. That holds particularly true for Seattle, which could not only pair Price with current ace Felix Hernandez but would be able to play Zobrist at shortstop, outfield, or even first base.
Of course, the return for either — and, especially, both — would figure to be substantial. (It is not clear from Morosi’s report whether the two would be joined in any potential deal, or indeed whether the sides have progressed that far.) Tampa is said to be interested in beating the return that the Cubs received for Jeff Samardzija, if it deals Price at all. Certainly, a hypothetical pairing of Price and Zobrist (both under control for next season) would require a bigger return on paper than was commanded by Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
Meanwhile, the news on Byrd makes sense in light of last night’s report from ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden, which indicated that Byrd would ask the Mariners to guarantee his $8MM option for 2016 in order to waive his no-trade clause. Seattle is one of just four teams on Byrd’s no-trade list.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Insider subscription required and recommended) offers a bounty of information on the trade market as we draw to within two weeks of the deadline. While you’ll want to give the piece a full read, here are some of the many highlights:
- The Rays are in no hurry to deal ace David Price, and some possible trade partners increasingly believe that he will not change hands before the deadline. The club still wants to see if a post-season run remains possible; though the club sits 9.5 games back at the break, the division does still look somewhat vulnerable. If Tampa does look to move Price, arguably the best potential trade chip in baseball, it will demand more in return than the Cubs received for Jeff Samardzija — who, you may recall, was the key piece in a package that brought back one of the game’s elite prospects in Addison Russell. Needless to say, Price is a rare commodity, especially given his additional season of control, and his potential absence from the market (combined with the A’s early strike for two other top starters) could have interesting repercussions.
- One player whose trade attention would potentially rise if Price stays put is Cole Hamels of the Phillies, who of course has plenty of value regardless. Bowden says that GMs around the league get the sense that Philadelphia will be very hesitant to move their star lefty, however. (Fellow top southpaw Cliff Lee, meanwhile, looks more and more a potential August trade piece.)
- Ultimately, while the Phillies will not conduct a true fire sale, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has indicated through conversations with his peers that the club is prepared to sell. Outfielder Marlon Byrd is the most likely to go, says Bowden, though his contract presents some complications. While the Mariners are interested in him, Bowden says that the recent free agent signee will ask that the club guarantee his $8MM option for 2016, which Seattle is not currently willing to do. The Royals could also make sense as a partner, but also appear on Byrd’s four-team no-trade list and do not want to take on that level of mid-term commitment. It would appear that Byrd’s representatives at ACES advised their client well in selecting the relatively paltry number of teams to which he could refuse a trade.
- Angels owner Arte Moreno has enabled GM Jerry Dipoto to be aggressive in trade talks, says Bowden. In addition to Huston Street and Ian Kennedy (read more on them here), the Halos have asked the Padres about righty Tyson Ross, though the Super Two hurler is unlikely to be moved. Indeed, now in the midst of his second consecutive season of high-end production, the 27-year-old starter (and his three remaining years of control) would require a significant return.
- The Athletics remain aggressive on the second base market, with GM Billy Beane also said to be exploring more creative means of improving his club. Oakland is not inclined to deal away shortstop prospect Daniel Robertson after moving their top prospect, says Bowden, with the club’s internal evaluators believing that he could have as much future value as the more-hyped Russell.
- The Reds are still looking to add a hitter, with Ben Zobrist of the Rays making a perfect match on paper given his positional flexibility and the club’s current injury situation. (Of course, the same could be said of several other clubs.) With Josh Willingham of the Twins set to hit free agency, he has also been looked at by Cincinnati.
- Bowden provides several other interesting notes. Among them: the Braves have canvassed the market for a southpaw reliever and could be interested in James Russell of the Cubs and Oliver Perez of the Diamondbacks. The Dodgers will likely add a starter. The Cardinals are planning to scout Twins‘ catcher Kurt Suzuki as they assess things behind the plate. And the Giants remain interested in a second base addition in the event that Marco Scutaro cannot stay healthy and productive.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Arizona Diamondbacks | Atlanta Braves | Ben Zobrist | Chicago Cubs | Cincinnati Reds | David Price | James Russell | Josh Willingham | Kansas City Royals | Kurt Suzuki | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Marlon Byrd | Minnesota Twins | Newsstand | Oakland Athletics | Oliver Perez | Philadelphia Phillies | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Seattle Mariners | St. Louis Cardinals | Tampa Bay Rays | Tyson Ross
Earlier today, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provided an update on the Astros’ talks with Brady Aiken after speaking to GM Jeff Luhnow, Casey Close of Excel Sports Management (Aiken’s adviser), a league official and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark. Close feels that the the Astros are acting “with disregard” to the draft’s rules, while an MLB official noted that everything about the process has been within the CBA’s guidelines. Here are a few reactions to that story, and some other notes from around the AL West…
- Jim Callis of Baseball America feels that there’s more than just gamesmanship going on with the Aiken situation (Twitter link). Medical reports are highly subjective, he notes, adding that he can’t see the Astros concocting the concern as part of some plan.
- Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com tweets that the Astros are being demonized for doing something that is allowed within the rules laid out in the last CBA. He feels that Major League Baseball created this problem by leaving a loophole in the rules. McDaniel also notes that this is what more traditional organizations dislike about the Astos; while their moves can be perceived as smart or strategic, they come off as cold and calculating (All Twitter links). Interested parties should also note that McDaniel’s timeline is full of discussion with his followers regarding this very topic.
- Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle looks at last year’s extension for Jose Altuve and provides some detail regarding the negotiations. Luhnow and Altuve’s representatives at Octagon had laid most of the groundwork, but there were some loose ends, so Luhnow had a one-on-one breakfast meeting with Altuve (conducted entirely in Spanish) to address the remaining issues. Drellich spoke to Altuve’s former agent, Scott Boras, who unsurprisingly said that he would’ve advised against taking the four-year, $12.5MM guarantee (which can be worth as much as $25MM if two club options are exercised).
- The Astros’ No. 1 pick from 2013, Mark Appel, recently had a cortisone shot in his wrist, agent Scott Boras told Drellich at yesterday’s All-Star game festivities. While Boras characterized the wrist issue as minor (Twitter links), it’s hard not to wonder how much the wrist has bothered him in 2014. Appel has struggled tremendously, posting a 9.57 ERA in 36 2/3 innings.
- The Mariners are casting a wide net in their search for a bat and have even contacted the Royals about underperforming DH Billy Butler, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Those talks are not new, however, according to a tweet from Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Over the weekend we learned that the M’s have had serious talks on Marlon Byrd, who would be willing to waive his no-trade clause.
- Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, meanwhile hears that the Mariners have shown interest in Ben Zobrist of the Rays (Twitter link). Zobrist could fill a variety of roles for the Mariners (among many other teams), as Seattle could stand to improve its production at shortstop or in the outfield.
- Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN feels that it would be a mistake for the Mariners to pursue David Price, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggested they should do last week. Drayer feels that parting with a package including Nick Franklin, D.J. Peterson and Taijuan Walker too closely resembles the Erik Bedard trade that cost Seattle Adam Jones and Chris Tillman. While trading prospects isn’t necessarily something to shy away from, such a trade would too greatly diminish the team’s hope for sustained success, she opines.
Rafael Soriano needs 32 more games finished to cause his $14MM club option to vest, but the Nationals closer says that vesting option or not, he wants to return to Washington in 2015, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports. Soriano would need to get up to the 62-finish mark (a career high) to make it, though with the Nats in a tight pennant race, they’ll undoubtedly need their closer as much as possible down the stretch.
Here’s some more news and notes from around baseball…
- Scouts for the Indians have been told to focus their attention on Rays minor leaguers, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo reports, and Cotillo wonders if this could suggest that Cleveland is revisiting talks for David Price. Cleveland and Tampa discussed a Price trade during the offseason, as Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported, that involved Carlos Santana and Danny Salazar going to the Rays. (Tampa Bay also had interest in Francisco Lindor but the Indians consider Lindor virtually untouchable in any trade.) A new trade package, Cotillo speculates, could be Santana/Salazar for Price and a couple of Rays prospects, hence the Tribe’s interest in scouting Tampa’s farm system.
- Also from Cotillo, the Angels made the same three-year, $15.75MM offer to both Joe Smith and Edward Mujica this past offseason and told both pitchers that the contract would go to whichever accepted first. Smith took the deal first and is enjoying a strong season, even moving into the Halos’ closing job. Mujica, meanwhile, signed a two-year, $9.5MM deal with the Red Sox and has struggled to a 5.45 ERA in 34 2/3 IP.
- The Giants are still without agreements for five of their top 10 draft picks, a situation Cotillo believes could be due to the club devoting their time and draft pool resources to signing first-rounder Tyler Beede, who couldn’t negotiate until after the College World Series.
- Despite the number of recent stars to come out of Cuba, teams are still relying on very little or no scouting information when signing these players, Danny Knobler writes for Bleacher Report. Knobler’s piece explores the future of the Cuban talent pipeline while also delving into the limited data the White Sox and Dodgers, respectively, had when signing Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig to major contracts.
- While the Royals‘ farm system is still considered strong, it is short on prospects ready to help at the Major League level, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes. Thanks to a few thin drafts, the prospect package sent to Tampa Bay in the James Shields trade and the fact that many of their top prospects of recent years are already in the bigs, “between Omaha and their [Double-A] club, there’s nobody that looks like they’re going to jump up soon as a significant piece,” an AL executive said.
David Price is trying to just focus on pitching amidst the many trade rumors surrounding him, and the Rays ace admitted to being a bit nervous when he was recently summoned from a pre-start hot tub soak to Joe Maddon’s office. Price told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that he was wondering if the long-rumored deal had finally come, but upon arriving at Maddon’s office, the skipper merely wanted to congratulate Price on making the All-Star team. Topkin’s piece quotes Price and several other Rays on how everyone is handling all the trade buzz surrounding the star left-hander.
Here’s some more news from around the AL East…
- The Giants are considered to be the team most interested in Ben Zobrist, Marc Topkin reports, with the Reds and Mariners among other teams also intrigued by the 33-year-old. Zobrist would help the Giants and Reds at second base while the versatile 33-year-old would fit in Seattle as a shortstop or right fielder since Robinson Cano has the keystone locked up for the M’s.
- The Red Sox have over $72MM coming off the books this offseason and will have lots of payroll flexibility to get the team back in contention, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. While the Sox seem adverse to signing veteran free agents to major contracts, there’s still plenty of payroll space for moves like re-signing Jon Lester. The Sox are still committed to their young prospect base, though Cafardo notes that the club could trade from this minor depth to acquire a more expensive proven Major Leaguer.
- John Lackey worries that the negotiations between Lester and the Red Sox have resembled his own extension talks with the Angels, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes. Lackey and the Halos tabled talks during Spring Training of Lackey’s final contract year in 2009 and then the Angels were outbid on the open market by the Sox. Now, Boston could be the ones who lose their ace due to another aggressive bidder if Lester ends up testing free agency. “(The Red Sox) messed up in spring training for sure. The price of gas is going up every time (Lester) goes out there,” Lackey said.
- Lackey also didn’t say whether he will approach the Red Sox about an extension, given that he’s under contract for a league minimum salary in 2015. “I haven’t even thought that far ahead. I’m just worried about pitching right now, and we’ll see what happens at the end of the year,” the righty said.
- Derek Jeter‘s retirement marks the end of the “Core Four” era for the Yankees, and ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand notes just how unlikely and special it was for the franchise to reach the postseason from every year, save one, from 1995-2012.
The Rays are trying to maintain their focus despite the possibility of pitcher David Price being traded, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune reports. “It’s something I try not to think about, and I try not talk about it with my teammates,” says Price. “That’s the last thing I want them to be doing, is thinking about if we don’t win I could be gone.” More losing could encourage the Rays’ management to deal Price, Mooney suggests. The Rays had won nine of 11 games before losing their last two, but they’re in last place in the AL East, 10.5 games out of first. Here’s more from the American League.
- The Red Sox are in a similar situation, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. “It’s out of your control,” says veteran reliever Andrew Miller. “You can’t do any good worrying about things that are out of your control.” Miller joins Burke Badenhop and Craig Breslow as relievers who could be traded, along with starting pitcher Jake Peavy and outfielder Jonny Gomes.
- The Indians‘ recent acquisition of outfielder Chris Dickerson from the Pirates reflects Ryan Raburn‘s poor play this season, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes. Dickerson is a nice fit for the Indians given his ability to hit righties, Hoynes says, but if Raburn had been hitting as well as he did last season (when he hit an ultra-valuable .272/.357/.543 in a part-time role), the Indians might have addressed Michael Bourn‘s injury by moving Michael Brantley to center and playing Raburn in a corner.
Cuban catcher Lednier Ricardo recently held a workout in the Dominican Republic, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted recently. MLBTR has learned additional details on the 25-year-old, who has been cleared to sign as a free agent and will not be subject to international spending limits. About a dozen teams were represented at the showcase, including the Yankees, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Mariners, Astros, Royals, Rangers, Tigers, Athletics, and Reds. Public information is scarce on Ricardo, who has seen limited time with the Cuban national team and has maintained an OPS in the .730 range in recent years in Serie Nacional action. The backstop will look to impress scouts enough to earn a significant bonus to come stateside.
Here’s the latest out of the American League:
- Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe provides a few notes on the Red Sox, via Twitter, that could impact the team’s trade deadline plans. The club prefers to keep Koji Uehara for the 2015 campaign, he says, though of course the closer is slated to hit the open market. Meanwhile, the team would prefer to keep Xander Bogaerts at third for the present, but could nevertheless be open to dealing Stephen Drew if he can show some kind of turnaround at the plate.
- The Royals are “looking hard” at options to bolster their pen, Cafardo further reports (Twitter link). Though the Kansas City pen ranks third in the game in accumulated fWAR, much of that has come from top options Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera. And the relief corps rates just 19th in cumulative ERA (3.68). Among the Royals’ remaining active relievers, Aaron Crow and Francisley Bueno have outperformed their peripherals, Louis Coleman has struggled by any measure, and Scott Downs was knocked around yesterday after three quality outings to start his tenure with his second club of the season.
- The Rays will listen on catcher Jose Molina, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports on Twitter. Olney wonders whether the Cardinals would consider looking into the older brother of the injured Yadier Molina. It is worth bearing in mind, of course, the elder Molina is under contract for next season at $2.75MM.
- With few intriguing bats available, the Mariners should go all in by pursuing Rays ace David Price, argues Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Seattle should be able to fit Price’s salary this year and next, says Rosenthal, and the surely steep price in terms of prospects would be worth it to a club that could seize an opportunity to make a postseason run.
1:12pm: Byrd has revealed to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that he has a small, four-team no-trade clause which includes the Mariners, Royals, Blue Jays and Rays.
While that news doesn’t do any favors for Seattle’s chances of acquiring Byrd should their interest escalate, it doesn’t rule the possibility out entirely. Byrd explains to Salisbury that he signed a two-year deal with the Phillies for a reason — to retire in Philadelphia — but he would consider waiving his no-trade protection if the team asked him to do so for the future good of the club: “There would have to be a conversation with me, my agent and Ruben (Amaro Jr., the Phillies’ GM) if it gets to that point,” said Byrd.
Byrd adds that he included Toronto and Tampa on his list because of the artificial turf and the risk that poses to him as an aging player (especially one with a vesting option based on plate appearances). As for Seattle and Kansas City, he told Salisbury: “Those really are things that were just put on at the time being.”
The connection is logical for the Mariners in many ways. Firstly, their outfielders have hit a combined .246/.291/.354 this season — good for the second-worst wRC+ mark in all of baseball. Seattle outfielders have hit just 16 homers this season — a collective total that ranks lower than every team in baseball, aside from the Royals and Red Sox (who had 14 each). Beyond that, just four of the Mariners’ 13 hitters are right-handed, with struggling catcher Mike Zunino and struggling DH/outfielder Corey Hart representing the team’s only right-handed power threats. The other two, backup catcher Jesus Sucre and utilityman Willie Bloomquist, are light hitters that don’t see regular at-bats. As such, Seattle has been one of baseball’s worst clubs against left-handed pitching, hitting just .248/.295/.349 as a team.
Byrd is in the first season of a two-year, $16MM contract signed with the Phillies this past offseason. While the commitment raised some eyebrows, Byrd has followed up an unexpectedly excellent season with the Mets and Pirates with a solid campaign in his return to Philadelphia. He’s hitting .261/.313/.481 with 18 homers and passable defense in right field (Ultimate Zone Rating feels he’s slightly below average, while Defensive Runs Saved thinks he’s been slightly above). Perhaps more importantly to Seattle, he’s mashing lefties to the tune of a .313/.353/.613 batting line, which would give the team some much-needed thump against opposing southpaws.
The main deterrent for teams interested in Byrd may be his contract. He’s owed a perfectly reasonable $3.5MM through season’s end before being guaranteed $8MM in 2015. That may not scare off potential suitors, but his deal also contains an $8MM club option for 2016 — Byrd’s age-38 season — which will automatically vests with 600 PA in 2015 or a combined 1100 PA from 2014-15. That’s a very attainable number, and other teams may be skeptical that Byrd can maintain solid production into his late 30s.