Tampa Bay Rays Rumors
We will start the weekend off with a few notes from around baseball:
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets that the Pirates and Twins may have interest in infielder Reid Brignac. The Rockies recently designated Brignac for assignment to clear room for DJ LeMahieu. The 27-year-old Brignac had slashed .250/.294/.375 over 53 plate appearances in his first season in Colorado. He owns a career line of .228/.270/.321 in 719 plate appearances for the Rays and Rockies.
- ESPN's Jim Bowden (subscription required) suggests some key adjustments for the Mariners, who he believes can compete this season. Bowden argues that the Mariners could improve their disappointing offense by trading from their pitching depth, as well as by promoting top prospects Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino.
- Highly-rated prospect Jake Odorizzi could throw his first pitch for the Rays as soon as Monday, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, as he appears first in line to fill in for injured starter David Price. If he is called up, Odorizzi would become the first of the four prospects acquired in the James Shields trade to see action for the big club. Baseball America rated Odorizzi as the Rays' fifth-best prospect going into the season, and he has been solid at Triple-A so far, posting a 3.83 ERA over 44 2/3 innings to go with 9.5 K/9 and 3 BB/9.
The Rays have signed Cory Wade to a minor league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Durham, according to Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune (on Twitter). Wade is represented by Casey Close of Excel Sports Management.
Wade, who turns 30 at the end of the month, spent the 2011-12 seasons pitching out of the Yankees' bullpen. He posted a 4.23 ERA, 7.8 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in that time, but the two seasons were wildly different. In 39 2/3 innings for the Bombers in 2011, Wade posted a pristine 2.04 ERA. That number rose by more than four runs in 2012 as he finished with a 6.46 ERA in an even 39 innings.
Originally drafted by the Dodgers in 2004, Wade has a 3.65 ERA, 6.9 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 39.5 percent ground-ball rate in 177 2/3 innings between Los Angeles and New York.
As the season is now over one-fifth of the way through, the likely trade deadline buyers and sellers are becoming more clear. Likewise, analysis is beginning to increase of the development of the market. Let's take a quick look around some recent commentary:
- The starting pitching trade market promises to be deep, but will likely lack impact, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Heyman analalyzes the potentially available starters by likelihood of a trade. His top three are Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins, Bud Norris of the Astros, and Scott Feldman of the Cubs. Other notable arms include Josh Johnson of the Blue Jays (sixth on Heyman's list), Cliff Lee of the Phillies (twelfth), David Price of the Rays (thirteenth), Jake Peavy of the White Sox (fourteenth), R.A. Dickey of the Blue Jays (fifteenth), and Edwin Jackson of the Cubs (twentieth).
- Some possible trade targets may have the right to decline a trade, of course. Wendy Thurm of Fangraphs breaks down the no-trade clauses that may come into play as the trade market heats up. Cliff Lee and Chase Utley of the Phillies each could be moved despite their twenty-one-team list of teams to which they can decline a trade. Likewise, Jimmy Rollins (full no-trade) and Jonathan Papelbon (twelve-team no-trade) could be possible targets. Howie Kendrick could be the member of the Angels most likely to be dealt, in spite of a floating, limited no-trade clause that allows him to decline trades to twelve teams this year. Finally, Thurm notes that the Twins' Joe Mauer is perhaps the most attractive and most expensive potential trade target (however unlikely) who enjoys full no-trade protection.
- Of course, MLBTR has been providing its own original commentary on the upcoming trade market. For instance, have a look at the list of relief trade candidates and trade targets with team control.
Fausto Carmona was a revelation in 2007 with the Indians, his first season as a starter in the Majors. He tied for tenth in the AL with 215 regular season innings, tacking on another 15 in the postseason. He finished second in all of baseball with a 64.3% groundball rate, allowing only 16 home runs on the season en route to a 3.06 ERA. The campaign earned Carmona a fourth-place Cy Young finish, and the Indians locked up the supposed 24-year-old to a four-year deal with three club options in April the following year.
A hip strain cut Carmona's 2008 season short, and in June of the following year a 7.42 ERA across a dozen starts earned him a demotion to the rookie-level Arizona Summer League - a drastic move. Carmona had replaced Cliff Lee to earn a rotation spot in '07, and when Lee was traded in July of '09, a spot opened for him again. He was a little better to close out the year, and furthered his comeback in 2010 with 210 1/3 innings of 3.77 ball and his first All-Star nod. Carmona even became the Indians' Opening Day starter in 2011. His ERA was higher in '11, but Carmona was pretty much the same pitcher he had been in '10. It was enough to get his $7MM club option picked up for 2012.
Then came surprising news in January 2012: Carmona's real name was Roberto Hernandez Heredia, and he was arrested in the Dominican Republic for using a false identity. He was found to be three years older than originally believed. Charges were dropped, and Hernandez's name, age, and contract were changed. He rejoined the Indians to make three starts in August before an ankle sprain ended his season. Though Hernandez's option price had been reduced from $9MM to $6MM, the Indians still chose to move on last October.
Enter the Rays, always open to a project, whether in terms of a performance issue, an off-the-field issue, or both. They signed Hernandez to a one-year, $3.25MM deal with another $1.25MM in incentives. The Rays were not able to obtain a club option, a wise choice by agent Charisse Espinosa-Dash of Draft Pix Sports. As explained by Bradley Woodrum of FanGraphs, Hernandez has tweaked his repertoire with the Rays. We're only six starts in, but Hernandez has whiffed more than a batter per inning, a rate to which he's never come close in the Majors. He's still getting groundballs, too. A 9.0 K/9 and 50% groundball rate is a rare combination, as a qualified starter hasn't managed the feat since Jon Lester and Francisco Liriano in 2010. This year, Yu Darvish, A.J. Burnett, Jeff Samardzija, C.J. Wilson, Edwin Jackson, and Hernandez have done it in the early going.
Hernandez's ERA sits at an unimpressive 4.66, because 23.1% of his flyballs have left the yard - the worst rate in baseball. That home run per flyball rate figures to come down significantly moving forward, and the ERA estimator SIERA suggests Hernandez should be well below 4.00 from here on out if he maintains his skills. If Hernandez can post a sub-4.00 ERA and pitch close to 200 innings with 175 strikeouts or so, he should be quite popular in a free agent market light on above-average, healthy starting pitchers. The false identity issue may suppress interest, as well as the question of whether Hernandez can maintain success away from the Rays (assuming he does pitch well for the remainder of the season). A multiyear deal should still be in order, with two years and $16MM a possible floor. We'll be following Hernandez closely to see if his volatile stock continues to rise.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
You can't begin a month much better than Jake Odorizzi did during his start on May 5th against the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox. The young pitching prospect combined with three relievers to no-hit Boston's minor league affiliate. Odorizzi worked seven innings while walking four batters and striking out three. He was removed from the game early due to workload limitations. Relievers Frank De Los Santos, Kirby Yates and Jeff Beliveau preserved the no-no.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times spoke with Odorizzi, who said he had all his weapons working during the game. "Everything was going my way. The defense was good behind me. It seemed everything was hit right at someone. Just kind of one of those days where everything goes your way." He has now held opponents scoreless in each of his last two starts (12 innings).
Although it's easy to get excited about Odorizzi's quick start to the season, the hype comes with caveats. The young hurler has always been an extreme flyball pitcher and his groundball rate is well below average on the year at slightly more than 22%.
Odorizzi's pitching repertoire includes solid stuff but he lacks "plus stuff." He has average control and above-average command of his offerings: an 87-92 mph fastball, slider, curveball and change-up. In pre-season top prospects lists, Keith Law of ESPN (68th), Baseball America (92nd), and MLB.com (42nd) all ranked Odorizzi amongst the top 100 in the game. Baseball America's scouting report referred to the hurler's ceiling as that of a No. 3 or 4 starter.
Originally selected 32nd overall by the Milwaukee Brewers during that 2008 amateur draft, the Illinois native has been traded twice in his young career. He was sent to the Kansas City Royals in December 2010 during the Zack Greinke deal. Almost exactly two years later, Odorizzi was flipped to Tampa Bay in the James Shields/Wade Davis swap. If Tampa Bay -- specifically its pitching staff with the fifth worst ERA in baseball -- continues to struggle into the second half of 2013, the pitching prospect could become a big-league option later in the year.
Prospect Tidbits: Selected 46th overall in the 2012 amateur draft, Colorado Rockies pitching prospect Eddie Butler is off to a hot start to his career. Beginning the 2013 season in A ball, he's allowed just 18 hits in 41 innings of work. If the Radford University alum continues to pitch like this he could make quick work of the minor leagues.....The Miami Marlins brought in a lot of minor league talent during last November's shocking trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. Despite that, prospects originally drafted by the club continue to see their values soar. Outfielder Christian Yelich went 5-for-6 with two triples and a home run on May 8th. As MiLB.com's Ashley Marshall tells us, the performance also caught the attention of his manager. "It was one of the most impressive displays of a young hitter I have ever seen," Andy Barkett said. It raised Yelich's average to .343 on the year.....Baltimore's Dylan Bundy reached the big leagues in his first full pro season in 2012 but his development in '13 was halted by an injury. The bad news gives his Oklahoma high school opponent and friend Archie Bradley a chance to close the gap between the two a little bit. After five dominating starts in the potent California League (43 strikeouts, 1.26 ERA in 28 2/3 innings), the Arizona Diamondbacks promoted the pitching prospect to Double-A and he's struck out 11 batters with a 1.13 ERA in eight innings over two starts.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tells Andrew Kahn that his favorite scoop was his early reporting on the Angels' discussions with Albert Pujols. A tip of the cap to Metsblog for the link to the Rosenthal interview. Michael Baron discussed (and generally concurred with) Rosenthal's opinion that the Mets will not be contenders until at least 2015, in spite of the team's promising young arms. Here are a few more notes from around baseball:
- Reid Brignac says he is grateful to the Rays organization for sending him to the Rockies before spring training, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The infielder says that he "could see the signs right in front of me" that he was a longshot to make the Tampa Bay roster. With a full spring to prove himself, Brignac managed to make an infield-heavy Rockies opening day roster. While Brignac has only seen 42 plate appearances, and has slugged just .324 in his limited opportunities, he has been able to get on base at a .325 clip.
- Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart has been optioned to Triple-A, making his demotion official. Toni Ginnetti of the Chicago Sun-TImes quotes Cubs manager Dale Sveum as saying that Stewart is in the minors "as a triple A player now," with Cody Ransom and Luis Valbuena being the Cubbies' third base options. Stewart struggled mightily at the top level of the minors while rehabilitating a strained quad. Still just 28, Stewart has failed to return to the level he reached during his promising 2009-10 seasons, when he showed 20-home run power at a young age. Meanwhile, the Cubs still have little to show for their investment in the former first-round pick, who barely cleared the Mendoza line last year. In addition to paying Stewart over $4MM over the last two seasons (after non-tendering but re-signing him this offseason), the Cubs gave the Rockies Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu to acquire him.
- The notion that Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol can build up any trade value is preposterous, tweets David Kaplan of CSN Chicago. Marmol was yanked in the eighth inning today after allowing two walks and hitting a batter, which led to two runs to break open a tie ballgame. After today's implosion, Marmol has more walks than strikeouts after throwing 11 2/3 innings.
Tonight's outright assignments..
- The Rays announced that Shelley Duncan has accepted an outright assignment Triple-A Durham. Tampa Bay designated the DH/first baseman for assignment earlier this week to make room on the roster for Luke Scott. The 33-year-old hit just .182/.297/.309 in 64 plate appearances this season.
In his latest edition of Rumblings & Grumblings, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark looks at what we've learned around the 30-game mark of the season. The Red Sox have spent their money better than any team in baseball as Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, Koji Uehara, and Shane Victorino (before his back issues) have gotten off to excellent starts. Meanwhile, it looks like the Braves have made the best trade of anyone so far as they landed Justin Upton and Chris Johnson for Martin Prado and four players that aren't currently in the majors. Here's more from today's column..
- Teams that have checked in on Brian Wilson have been told that his target date to throw for interested clubs should be around the All-Star break. Wilson wants to ensure that he's fully recovered from Tommy John surgery before auditioning again.
- Giancarlo Stanton's hamstring injury should probably put any talk of a July trade to rest. "If they trade him in-season, they probably wouldn't get any major league talent," said one exec. "So given everything that's happened with their team and their attendance, are they really in a position to make a deal for him where they just get back prospects? Probably not." The exec concluded that the Marlins are better off waiting until the offseason and getting big league ready talent back for their star.
- The Rays may be the most closely-watched team in the league by contenders over the next few months. Teams know the Rays will keep David Price in July if they're alive in the AL East, and will listen hard if they're out of contention. If they're caught in between, one exec believes that the Rays still might move him if they feel like they're not good enough to win it all. The hurler's price tag is expected to by skyhigh if he hits the open market after the 2015 season.
- The buzzards are already starting to circle over the Phillies, Stark writes, but club officials have told teams that have checked in that they still expect their club to contend and won't even think about selling for another two months.
- If a Phillies sell-off happens, the biggest buzz would include impending free agent Chase Utley. One exec who has checked into things says his impression is that the Phillies would approach Utley first and get a feel for whether he wants to go elsewhere. Utley, who will be just short of 10-and-5 rights at the deadline - can block trades to 21 teams.
- Execs say they'd rather trade for Lucas Harrell than Bud Norris if they had a choice between the Astros pitchers. Harrell has two more years of control and one scout says that the big knock on Norris is that he's still basically a "two-pitch guy". Quite a few teams also think he profiles more as a bullpen weapon on a contender even though he's the Astros' ace.
- The Yankees want a right-handed bat, but one scout feels that they don't have enough pieces to land an impact deal. The Bombers added one right-handed hitter when they traded for Chris Nelson earlier this week.
Duncan, 33, struggled in 64 plate appearances for the Rays after signing a minor league deal in January and making the team out of Spring Training given Scott's injury. He's shown pop at times in the Majors, slugging .430 with 33 home runs in 770 plate appearances over 2010-12. A right-handed hitter, Duncan hasn't shown a significant platoon split in his career with the Yankees, Indians, and Rays.
Shelley is the brother of former Cardinals outfielder Chris Duncan, and the son of legendary Cards pitching coach Dave Duncan. Shelley's 43 career home runs rank 14th among those born in Arizona; he's a dozen behind his brother but 105 behind all-time leader Ian Kinsler.
The Twins have devoted only 22.5% of their 2013 payroll to pitching (MLB average is 49.8%) and haven't exceeded the league average since 2005. Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes perhaps no statistic better illustrates the Twins' dry spell in developing pitching prospects. "It’s not by design. It’s not like we said, 'Let’s spend less on pitching and go another way,'" said Twins assistant GM Rob Antony. "When we’ve spent a lot on a contract, more often than not, it’s on players we already have, that we know. We know how they fit in the clubhouse, and we know their health situation. It makes you a little more comfortable with the investment." Miller notes several pitching investments have been wasted because of injuries including this year's highest-paid pitcher Nick Blackburn ($5.5MM), who was removed from the 40-man roster as he recovers from wrist surgery. One investment that does seem to be paying dividends is Kevin Correia, who signed a two-year, $10MM free agent contract last December. The right-hander tossed eight shutout innings and lowered his ERA to 2.31 in the Twins' 5-0 win over the Rangers. In other news and notes from the American League:
- After a four-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees, the seat is becoming hotter for Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman calls this a big test for Gibbons while Keith Law of ESPN.com says it's too early to think about firing the skipper (Twitter links).
- Before the game, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos met with the media, including Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, and said he doesn't expect Jose Reyes back until the beginning of July "just to make sure that we do this correctly and we don’t have any setbacks." In the meantime, the plan is use Munenori Kawasaki and Maicer Izturis because Anthopoulos said the costs of going outside the organization for a Reyes replacement "don’t line up for us with what our alternatives are."
- Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg reiterated his team's ability to afford David Price in an interview with WFAN (partial transcript provided by the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin). "We can; I don't know if we'll have any team around him other than him and (Evan) Longoria."
- In the same interview, Sternberg said he expects the Rays' next TV contract to be "big relative to the size of our attendance" but "mid-sized market" compared to other teams.
- The Red Sox prefer to give Shane Victorino some time to work out his back issues rather than trying to bring Jackie Bradley back too soon, tweets the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo. Victorino underwent an MRI yesterday, which revealed inflammation in his lower back. Bradley, meanwhile, is 7-for-31 with 10 strikeouts and five walks since being optioned to Triple-A.