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Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said on WEEI radio’s Dennis and Callahan show today that extension talks with ace Jon Lester have been tabled until the offseason. Lucchino reminded that Lester’s preference is to avoid negotiating during the season. Lester told reporters, including the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham, that he wasn’t surprised to hear Lucchino’s comments (Twitter link). However, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com does hear from a source that Lester would be open to signing a midseason deal if the Sox were to offer market value for his services right now. The other possibility for Lester could be a trade, if the Sox fall further back in the East — a concept which Lester admits he has considered (via the Globe’s Nick Cafardo). Lester said if it came to that, he wouldn’t harbor any ill feelings toward the organization.
Here’s more on the BoSox and the AL East…
- Lucchino also said on WEEI that he expects the Red Sox to be active at the trade deadline, though he noted that nearing the deadline with a sub-.500 record is new territory for the Sox. Asked about buying or selling, Lucchino referred to the trade deadline as a “binary process” and implied that the Sox could do some of both.
- Also of note from Lucchino is that the Red Sox plan to engage John Lackey in extension talks after the season. Lackey’s Tommy John surgery in 2012 triggered a $500K option for the 2015 season due to an injury clause in his contract. Lucchino is quoted: “I think that there will be some contract negotiations with him probably at the end of the year as well and we’ll see what his frame of mind is with respect to longer-term contracts.”
- The Blue Jays were in the mix for Joakim Soria before the Rangers traded him to the Tigers, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). Talks never became too serious or progressed to the stage where offers were exchanged, however.
- Morosi also notes that the Yankees are still looking to add a starter to their ranks (Twitter link). Earlier today, he noted that the Yanks scouted Ian Kennedy‘s last start, though reports from earlier today indicated that the Padres would need to be “overwhelmed” to move him.
- Rays president Matt Silverman tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that there are some “obvious flaws” with the Competitive Balance Lottery, in which the Rays were not awarded a pick yesterday. As Topkin notes, seemingly less-needing teams such as the Cardinals, Orioles and Rockies all received picks. Silverman went on to say, however, that even if the lottery were better constructed, it would “only scratch the surface of the competitive balance issues plaguing baseball.”
Last night, the Tigers landed right-hander Joakim Soria from the Rangers in exchange for two of their top prospects — right-handers Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel. Detroit has long been said to be in pursuit of relief help, and they’ve now added one of the top bullpen arms on the market. Here are some reactions to the deal as well as a few additional bits of info about the Tigers’ trade talks…
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that Soria was the Tigers’ primary bullpen target, and they didn’t pursue former Tiger Joaquin Benoit all that aggressively before landing Soria last night.
- Likewise, ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweets that the Tigers were never in on Philadelphia’s Jonathan Papelbon all that seriously.
- Soria himself is very excited to join the Tigers, agent Oscar Suarez old FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi (Twitter link), specifically mentioning excitement over a chance to win. That excitement isnt surprising for Soria, who didn’t have much of an opportunity at the postseason early in his career with the Royals (he wasn’t with the club for their recent improvements).
- The Tigers have the prospect depth to add another relief arm if they wish, but it will depend on the asking price, writes Jason Beck of MLB.com. Beck notes that Detroit probably wishes to avoid too much long-term depth to the farm system, but he mentions Chad Qualls as a possibly more affordable option to pursue. Beck also reports that the initial asking price on Soria was higher than the one the Tigers ultimately wound up paying.
- ESPN’s Keith Law understands the deal for both Detroit and Texas (Insider subscription required and recommended). While the Tigers paid a steep price, he notes that Soria will be worth about an extra win over the remainder of the season and will be featured in some very high-leverage postseason innings. From Texas’ standpoint, they get a raw but projectable 20-year-old in Thompson who needs to learn to get more plane on his fastball and develop a changeup to succeed as a starter, plus a controllable potential seventh- or eighth-inning reliever in Knebel.
- Jim Callis of MLB.com “loves” the Rangers’ end of the deal, calling Thompson a potential No. 2 or 3 starter and noting that Knebel has closer upside (Twitter link).
- Soria’s value in the postseason could be significant, writes Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron. Cameron examines the usage of teams’ best relievers in last year’s playoffs, noting that while a typical elite reliever throws about five percent of his team’s innings during the regular season, that number increases in the playoffs due to more off days and the increased importance of late innings. The Red Sox used Koji Uehara for 9.6 percent of their postseason innings, which translates to about 140 innings during the regular season (a value of 246 innings when accounting for the increased leverage index).
- R.J. Anderson and Jordan Gorosh break down the trade over at Baseball Prospectus (subscription required/recommended). Anderson notes the steep price Detroit paid as well and wonders if the Tigers are done adding relievers. If Dave Dombrowski is serious about truly upgrading the bullpen (which he clearly seems to be), the Tigers should look to add another arm, Anderson opines. Meanwhile, Gorosh feels that Thompson could make an appearance on the back end of B-Pro’s offseason Top 101 prospects list, writing that he has the potential to be a “very strong No. 4 starter” and could have been the best pitching prospect in Detroit’s system (thereby implying that he likes him better than Robbie Ray).
10:25pm: The Tigers have announced the deal, making it official.
9:23pm: The Tigers have agreed to acquire reliever Joakim Soria from the Rangers in exchange for right-handed pitching prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel, Kyle Bogenschutz of Scout.com was first to report on Twitter. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports confirmed that an agreement is in place (via Twitter).
With the acquisition of Soria, the Tigers now possess both of the Rangers’ most recent closers (having signed Joe Nathan as a free agent over the offseason). It appears that Nathan will retain the closer’s mantle for the time being, but regardless the team will now have an additional premium arm to throw into high-leverage situations. At the moment, the team owns the fifth-worst relief ERA in baseball.
Soria, a 30-year-old righty, owns a 2.70 ERA with a spectacular strikeout to walk ratio of 11.3 K/9 against only 1.1 BB/9. Indeed, his FIP stands at a miserly 1.07, which handily leads all pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings. Other ERA estimators (2.25 xFIP; 1.84 SIERA) concur in Soria’s excellence to date in 2014.
He is playing out the back end of the two-year, $8MM deal he signed to join the Rangers after Tommy John surgery led to the end of his tenure with the Royals. But Soria also comes with a seemingly reasonable $7MM club option. (That option would increase to $8MM if he finishes 55 games; he is sitting on 32 at present. The contract also includes performance bonuses.)
The return would appear to be substantial. Both Thompson and Knebel rated among Detroit’s ten best prospects coming into the year, per Baseball America, with the former landing at fourth and the latter at sixth on BA’s list. If anything, their stock has risen since that time.
Thompson, a 20-year-old starter, just earned a promotion to Double-A after posting a 3.14 ERA over 83 innings with 8.6 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 at the High-A level. Baseball America says he has mid-rotation upside. He has a low-to-mid 90s fastball and promising slider, but profiles as a mid-rotation arm if he can develop a consistent third pitch from amongst his other offerings (curve and circle change).
The 22-year-old Knebel, meanwhile, has already made his big league debut after being selected 39th overall in last year’s draft. Though he surrendered six earned runs in 8 2/3 MLB frames, he also notched 11 strikeouts against just three walks and has dominated minor league hitters. He profiles as a potential future closer, says BA, though Detroit had weighed the possibility of trying him as a starter.
With Soria and Huston Street now taken, the relief market now lacks somewhat for obviously available closers. Jonathan Papelbon is surely available, but of course comes with a still-sizable contract. The Padres will presumably listen on Joaquin Benoit, but may want a large return to part with him after dealing Street. And it remains to be seen whether names like Koji Uehara and Steve Cishek could be had.
Nick J. Faleris of Baseball Prospectus provides a thorough account of the Brady Aiken failed signing from both his perspective and that of the Astros. Anyone with interest will want to give it a full read; I’m still working through the lengthy (but entirely worthwhile) piece myself.
Here’s the latest from the game’s western divisions:
- The Astros are unlikely to deal away any of the club’s young starting pitching but are definitely listening on relievers Chad Qualls and Tony Sipp, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. In particular, the Tigers have asked about Qualls, who has served as the Houston closer of late, according to Heyman. Meanwhile, there has not been much discussion of other Astros veterans such as Scott Feldman, Dexter Fowler, and Jason Castro.
- Though some around the league believe the Dodgers are highly motivated to deal former star Matt Kemp, the Red Sox were not left with that impression after making an inquiry, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. At least three other American League teams have also asked about Kemp’s availability, including the Indians, Mariners, and Rangers, but Rosenthal says that none have made trade proposals. Cleveland and Texas both appear unlikely partners, while Seattle could have an outside chance of adding him. Though moving Kemp poses many difficult questions for the Dodgers, Rosenthal says that the veteran is “at odds” with manager Don Mattingly.
- Taking a look at a Padres club that has already dealt away several veterans, Rosenthal writes that the team should also move outfielder Chris Denorfia. But key pitchers Ian Kennedy and Joaquin Benoit are under control for 2015, and Rosenthal opines that the team’s new GM ought to make the call on them.
- A new GM is, of course, at or near the Padres‘ priority list, and the club is indeed nearing a conclusion of its search. Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that the club will finish up its second round of interviews on Thursday and hopes to have a new GM installed within two to three weeks.
- The Diamondbacks have exhibited a startling tendency, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic: former pitchers have succeeded elsewhere while newly-acquired arms have struggled. Piecoro lists Brandon McCarthy, Kennedy, Tyler Skaggs, and Trevor Bauer as examples of the former phenomenon, with Trevor Cahill, Randall Delgado, and Addison Reed representing the latter. For his part, GM Kevin Towers says it is not a result of anything the organization is doing differently: “It’s not anything that we’re doing in the minor leagues or development or up here that prevents guys from having success,” he said. “Especially young guys, they usually get better with time and experience in the big leagues. The reason why guys get better [elsewhere] isn’t because we don’t have good instructors here. I believe in our staff and in our farm system and the people we have down there.”
We just took a look at the Marlins; now here are some notes on the rest of the NL East and their geographical counterparts from the American League:
- The Nationals rank as perhaps the league’s quietest contender approaching the trade deadline, in large part because it is difficult to see where the club might reasonably look to upgrade. We’ve heard previously that the team might target a young shortstop to plug into its pipeline, but one possibility for the MLB roster is a bullpen addition, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports. While the Washington relief corps has been outstanding, and the club lacks apparent roster flexibility, Kilgore says that the Nats are interested in adding depth for the stretch run.
- This is my speculation, but if a new arm is added to the big league club, Washington could potentially stash rookie Aaron Barrett in the minors until rosters expand in September, though he has been quite solid (2.61 ERA with 10.7 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 31 innings). More intriguingly, a pen slot could theoretically be opened if the team was to deal away former starter Ross Detwiler, though that would obviously result in a corresponding loss of depth.
- There have been several reports on Mets starter Bartolo Colon, who is earning $9MM this year and is promised $11MM for 2015. The club is “trying hard” to deal him, according to Danny Knobler (via Twitter), while Newsday’s Marc Carig tweets that interest is picking up but the Mets are disinclined to hold onto any of Colon’s salary in a deal.
- Moving the 41-year-old won’t be easy, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post, because his future salary is both what New York wants to offload and what other clubs will want to avoid. Meanwhile, Sherman refutes reports suggesting that the Giants have engaged the Mets on Colon (Twitter link), writing that San Francisco would only have interest if it can avoid paying for a significant portion of Colon’s 2015 salary. Like Carig, Sherman hears that is not the Mets’ preference.
- The Blue Jays have shown interest in bringing back outfielder Alex Rios, currently with the Rangers, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Toronto shed Rios and his big contract by declining to revoke an August waiver claim back in 2009, but the veteran has turned things around and now comes with only a $14MM team option left for 2015. Of course, there remains some doubt as to whether the Jays would be able to take on the remainder of Rios’s $12.5MM salary for the current season.
- Red Sox starter-turned-reliever Felix Doubront is not enjoying his current role with the club and hopes to see more action — in Boston or elsewhere — reports Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. The 26-year-old lefty has been mentioned before as a trade candidate, though it is not clear whether Boston will be inclined to move him as the club tries to get back in the mix, especially with talk that Jake Peavy could be dealt. Doubront will be eligible for arbitration for the first time next year.
- The Yankees acquired third baseman Chase Headley with the expectation that he will be a two-month rental, GM Brian Cashman told reporters including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (Twitter link). The deal came together today after about three weeks of discussions, Cashman added.
- Headley will likely not be the last addition for New York, Cashman indicated in further comments, via Jorge Castillo of the Star-Ledger. “I have more work to do,” he said. The GM explained that larger moves could be in the offing: “We’ve got high-end stuff, without a doubt, players that other teams like. And those players would be available, or will be available, in the right circumstances. These are the deals that I can present to you that we were able to conclude, but we’re talking much larger type deals, [and] clearly much smaller, incremental upgrades.”
There was some action on the shortstop front for the Indians today, as starter Asdrubal Cabrera left the game with lower back spasms, per Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (via Twitter). That would appear to be a minor injury, but the news coincided with the club’s decision to promote top prospect (and fellow shortstop) Francisco Lindor to Triple-A, as Hoynes tweets. Cleveland has indicated, however, that the move was unrelated. Of course, Cabrera has often been mentioned as a trade candidate — at season’s end if not at this year’s deadline — due in large part to the continued rise of Lindor, his presumed successor.
Here’s more out of the AL and NL Central:
- With the Royals focusing on adding a corner bat, one possibility that the club has considered is Alex Rios of the Rangers, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Rios does have a six-team no-trade clause which, according to Cot’s on Contracts, includes Kansas City. His $13.5MM club option for next season is not cheap, but could potentially take the place of Billy Butler‘s own $12.5MM option if the latter is dealt or has his option declined.
- The Twins appear to be prepared to sell, according to a report from MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. “We’re in a tough spot right now and we’ve been in a tough spot for four years,” said GM Terry Ryan. “So you have to listen. And that’s what we do.”
- One prime trade candidate for the Twins is outfielder Josh Willingham, who is slashing .209/.357/.399 with eight home runs in 207 plate appearances as he prepares to hit the open market after the season. Two clubs to watch as possible suitors are the Reds and Pirates, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN.
- The Cardinals received some promising news on righty Michael Wacha, who could begin throwing again in two weeks after seeing improved MRI and CT scan results, reports Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. An early September return still appears the best case scenario, according to GM John Mozeliak. But Wacha’s health will not dictate the club’s trade deadline plans. “They’re independent of each other,” said Mozeliak. “That’s still something we can explore in the next eight to ten days.”
- One oft-discussed option for the Cardinals is veteran Red Sox starter Jake Peavy, who once seemed close to being moved but could now be held as Boston looks to make a late surge. St. Louis is still keeping Peavy on their “back burner,” a source tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (Twitter link), who notes that Peavy has put together three consecutive solid outings.
There were plenty of scouts on hand for the Phillies‘ matchup tonight, as ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (links to Twitter). Among the players presumably being eyed were starter Cliff Lee, fresh off a lengthy DL stint, and southpaw reliever Antonio Bastardo. Clubs with representatives on-hand included the Tigers, Blue Jays, Orioles, Brewers, Angels, Royals, Giants, Rangers, Diamondbacks, Pirates, and Mariners, though Crasnick adds that all were not necessarily looking at Lee in particular. The return start for Lee did not go well for the veteran lefty, as he surrendered 12 base hits (11 singles and one long ball) and six earned runs to go with three strikeouts and a walk over 5 2/3 innings.
Here’s more from the game’s eastern divisions:
- The Phillies are telling clubs that starter Cole Hamels is not available, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports on Twitter. Hamels looks to be the best trade piece on the club’s current MLB roster, but Philadelphia may well prefer to keep the 30-year-old as it attempts to avoid a total rebuild.
- The Yankees appear on Lee’s twenty-team no-trade list, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Lee also listed New York on last year’s version of his slate of clubs to which he can decline to be dealt.
- For the Braves, the trade deadline is likely to bring aid to the bullpen and bench, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. A left-handed reliever has long been on the club’s list, and Bowman says that the club might also look to add a bench bat that would improve the team’s anemic pinch-hitting results. As Bowman notes, Jordan Schafer and Ryan Doumit have both largely been ineffective in that role.
- The Rays now seem more likely than ever to take the decision whether to deal David Price right up until the trade deadline, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. “I think they take it down to the wire,” an executive told Sherman. “That allows them to make sure they know who they are while making a couple teams sweat to the end that one of their competitors are going to get him. … It wouldn’t surprise me if Price actually ends up a July 31 decision.”
- Meanwhile, the Orioles are looking at a broad array of options to bolster their club, reports MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli. In particular, the club is looking at both starting and relief arms, and has indicated to at least three clubs that righty Miguel Gonzalez could be moved. One of those teams is the Padres, who of course hold one of the better available starters in Ian Kennedy. A.J. Burnett of the Phillies is also on Baltimore’s radar, as is Jorge De La Rosa of the Rockies, though Ghiroli says that Colorado was asking for top prospect Kevin Gausman to be included. Manager Buck Showalter indicated that executive vice president Dan Duquette remains hesitant to part with the club’s best prospects, and could ultimately take things down to the wire to get the right deal. (That, of course, was the strategy that Baltimore employed in this year’s free agent market, though last year the club started buying somewhat early at the deadline.)
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As usual, the relief market promises to be active in the coming days. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports via Twitter, one executive with a reliever to shop cited the Tigers, Indians, Orioles, Blue Jays, Braves, Brewers, Giants, Dodgers, and Pirates as clubs that are in the market.
Here’s more on possible pen moves:
- While many teams have interest in shoring up their bullpens, many top relief targets might not ultimately be moved, Rosenthal also tweets. He names Koji Uehara (Red Sox), Joakim Soria (Rangers), and Joaquin Benoit (Padres) as quality late-inning hurlers who could stay put.
- The Red Sox have received plenty of interest in both Uehara and southpaw setup man Andrew Miller, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, but the pair is not going to be dealt at this point given the club’s recent winning streak, which reached five games tonight.
- Among the most active buyers are the Tigers, who have scouted virtually all the available arms, tweets ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick. Detroit is showing interest in Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets, though the team is indeed keeping its eye on a wide variety of possibilities. That includes fellow Philly Jonathan Papelbon, adds Morosi.
- After shipping out their top two targets, the Cubs are receiving the most hits on lefty James Russell, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Two other pen pieces — southpaw Wesley Wright and swingman Carlos Villanueva — are also “in play,” says Wittenmyer.
- Marlins closer Steve Cishek is a recent addition to the rumor mill, though MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro says that Miami has told opposing clubs that they do not intend to deal the righty. The 28-year-old comes with three more years of control through arbitration, though he’ll be well-paid after taking home $3.8MM as a Super Two. Meanwhile, with the Fish hoping to make a run at extending star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton after the season, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald cites a source who tells him that shipping out Cishek could have a negative impact on that effort.
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The Royals‘ recent slide has dropped them below the .500 mark and, with so many teams ahead of them in the playoff race, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron believes K.C. should cut its losses and trade James Shields. There seems to be little chance Shields will re-sign with Kansas City this winter, so the Royals could get more prospect value by dealing him now than they would by getting a single compensation pick if and when he left in the offseason, Cameron opines.
Here’s the latest from around the AL Central…
- Dayton Moore doesn’t seem to be in sell mode, nor does he necessarily seem to be close on any trades as per comments made to FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi. “I’m not going to give up on our team….We need the group of players we have to produce. We believe they will,” the Royals GM said (Twitter links).
- The Royals had a scout watching the Rangers/Blue Jays series over the weekend, and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News believes the right-handed hitting outfielder-needy Royals could’ve been there to watch Alex Rios. Of course, Rios suffered a sprained ankle during the first inning of Saturday’s game and hasn’t played since. The sprain isn’t believed to be too serious, yet even a minor injury can’t help Rios’ trade value.
- The Twins will attend Rusney Castillo‘s showcase for scouts on July 26, 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson reports (Twitter link). There is “no sense yet of real interest” from Minnesota, according to Wolfson, and the decision will ultimately come down to how high the bidding gets for the Cuban outfielder’s services.
- Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer doesn’t expect the Indians to be major players at the trade deadline, either as buyers or sellers. The Indians are still in the hunt for both the AL Central lead and a wild card spot so they won’t be selling any notable players, but “it would be a shock if they added any high-priced talent.”
The Tigers, Pirates and Indians are interested in Padres reliever Joaquin Benoit, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. The Padres have already shipped out one reliever with closing experience, trading Huston Street to the Angels, but Heyman writes that Benoit will likely fetch a less attractive return, since teams generally view him as a setup man, not a closer.
Heyman notes that the Tigers or Pirates could use Benoit in the eighth inning, allowing Joe Nathan or Mark Melancon, respectively, to continue to close. (Those two teams are also interested in Joakim Soria of the Rangers, Heyman notes.) It isn’t yet clear whether the Indians will be buyers.
Benoit is owed $8MM next year plus $8MM or a $1.5MM buyout in 2016. His 2016 option will vest if he finishes at least 55 games in 2015. Benoit has a 2.04 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 39 2/3 innings with San Diego this year.