Torii Hunter Rumors

Quick Hits: Upton, Montero, Rays, Hunter, Pirates

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince names the ten players most likely to be traded this offseason and the Braves’ Justin Upton tops the list. Castrovince feels the Braves could obtain a similar, if not better, return than they received for Jason Heyward because Upton’s powerful bat has tremendous value.

Here are the latest notes from around baseball:

  • Miguel Montero placed tenth on Castrovince’s list and Buster Olney of ESPN.com (on Twitter) wonders if the hiring of Henry Blanco will create traction for the Cubs‘ interest in the Diamondbacks’ catcher, who was a Blanco pupil in 2014. The D’Backs have reportedly spoken with the Cubs, Dodgers, and White Sox about Montero.
  • With Jose Molina gone, the Rays are working to add a backup to Ryan Hanigan, either via trade or signing. They’d like a catcher with more experience than Curt Casali and, preferably, options, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
  • More from Topkin who reports, in addition to an expected trade of Matt Joyce and/or David DeJesus, the Rays may be looking to deal from depth in reserve infielders and relievers. He identifies Logan Forsythe and Sean Rodriguez as infield trade possibilities and Brandon Gomes as a bullpen arm who could be moved.
  • It may not be “sexy,” but the Red Sox‘s pursuit of Pablo Sandoval makes perfect sense, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. The Red Sox appear to be one of the finalists for Sandoval, alongside the Padres and incumbent Giants.
  • Torii Hunter told Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press he favors the Twins among the teams with which he is considering signing. “(Twins General Manager) Terry Ryan and I have talked several times, and there’s definitely a common interest there, for sure,” the veteran said. Ten teams reportedly have interest in Hunter.
  • The Pirates could re-allocate the resources set aside for Russell Martin to pursue rotation and bullpen help, a first baseman, and/or sign some of their young core to extensions, according to Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Central Notes: Swisher, Hunter, Reds, Blanco

Nick Swisher‘s contract with the Indians now fits on a long list of contracts teams would love to unload, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. Swisher hasn’t been productive in his contract so far and he has two years and $30MM left, plus a vesting option for 2017. Pluto guesses that Swisher will end up back in Cleveland in 2015 despite recent trade rumors. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.

  • GM Walt Jocketty says the Reds aren’t really close” on any significant moves, the Enquirer’s John Fay reports. Jocketty also would not confirm whether the club has interest in free agent outfielder Torii Hunter, the way he did with Nori Aoki and Michael Morse. “I don’t want to got into that,” says Jocketty. “When I talked about Aoki, I got hounded by the media. Let’s put this way: We’re talking to a lot of agents, and (Hunter) is a pretty good player.” The Blue Jays, Royals, Twins and other teams have recently been connected to Hunter.
  • The Cubs have hired Henry Blanco away from the Diamondbacks, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets. Blanco will serve as the quality assurance coach under new manager Joe Maddon. Blanco, of course, was a catcher for the Cubs from 2005 through 2008. He joined with the Diamondbacks after retiring as a player prior to the 2014 season.

Blue Jays Pursuing Torii Hunter

The Blue Jays are pursuing veteran outfielder Torii Hunter, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Toronto is “not especially confident” that it will bring back Melky Cabrera, says Rosenthal, and apparently sees Hunter as an alternative solution.

Of course, there are a number of teams said to have interest in Hunter, who has drawn strong demand in the early going. As of ten days ago, Hunter was said to have interest from as many as ten clubs. His most recent club, the Tigers, is not one of those, though the AL Central rival Royals and Twins are reportedly being aggressive in their pursuit.



Royals Notes: Butler, Rotation, Hunter, Peguero

The Royals have now officially waved goodbye to long-time DH Billy Butler, who signed a three-year pact with the A’s that was announced this morning. Kansas City had its chance to keep him, of course, but declined a $12.5MM club option on the right-handed hitter, preferring instead to pay him a $1MM buyout.

Here’s the latest out of Kansas City:

  • In a piece discussing the anticipated loss of Butler, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star indicates that the team remains intent on making impact additions to its roster, particularly to the rotation. The club has had at least opening discussions with agents for Ervin Santana, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Jason Hammel, and Jon Lester, writes McCullough.
  • Francisco Liriano is also a consideration for the Royals, as are many other arms in the mid-tier of free agents, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. And trade possibilities are also being explored. The team is still dabbling in the markets for Lester and Shields, Heyman notes, but seemingly has eyes for Liriano and Santana
  • Torii Hunter is a definite target, says Heyman. The team believes that he is still a reliable bat and sees him as a quality fit.
  • Kansas City is considering utilizing Carlos Peguero in a time-share in right field and at DH, tweets Jeffrey Flanagan of FOX Sports Kansas City. That plan would be particularly interesting if the team could pair the left-handed-hitting Peguero with a veteran right-handed bat of Hunter’s ilk.

Free Agent Notes: Kaneko, Shields, Gomes, Willingham, Hunter

Though not available to MLB clubs at present, righty Chihiro Kaneko could become a virtual free agent (in the same manner as Masahiro Tanaka last year) if he is posted by the Orix Buffaloes. The 31-year-old has signed on with agent Arn Tellem of Wasserman, according to a tweet from Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal.

  • While we wait to see whether Kaneko shakes up the market, let’s look at the latest of one top arm who is already free to sign with any club. The Marlins still have ongoing interest in James Shields, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Meanwhile, Rosenthal writes that the Diamondbacks at least like Shields, though it remains from clear that the club will be able to clear the salary it needs to make a legitimate run at him. As these reports would indicate, and Rosenthal notes, the market is quiet right now for the veteran righty.
  • The Cubs are among five teams to have shown legitimate interest in outfielder Jonny Gomes, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (Twitter links). The right-handed-hitting Gomes, 33, will surely market himself as a bench or platoon bat in the corner outfield. Though he had a rather rough go of things in 2014, he still managed a .743 OPS against lefties.
  • Fellow lefty-masher Josh Willingham has yet to decide whether he’ll play, agent Matt Sosnick tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Willingham, 35, will surely be intrigued by the possibility of entering a market that just paid Michael Cuddyer $21MM over two years (along with the sacrifice of draft compensation).
  • As we continue ticking through the veteran outfielders, the Royals and Twins are the clubs most aggressively courting outfielder Torii Hunter, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. That comes as little surprise, as those AL Central rivals have long been said to be competitors for Hunter, whose market is now wide open with the Tigers saying they do not expect to bring him back.

AL Notes: Ryan, Hunter, Miller, Bonifacio, Front Office

Twins GM Terry Ryan is “doing well” after his bout with throat cancer, writes MLB.com’s Barry Bloom. The 61-year-old still is experiencing various forms of discomfort, but has completed radiation and is back at full force in the Minnesota front office.

Here’s more out of the American League:

  • The Tigers will not pursue Torii Hunter after inking Victor Martinez and trading for Anthony Gose, GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters today, including George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press. “I called and said it just didn’t look like it was going to fit the way the club was getting put together,” Dombrowski said. “Thanked him for everything. Absolutely love him. If something changes where we make some changes for one reason or another, that we’re not anticipating, we would still be open. It’s just probably not much of a fit right now.” Hunter indicated in an Instagram post that he still intends to play in 2015.
  • The Blue Jays recently met with free agent lefty Andrew Miller, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports on Twitter. Miller figures to be a highly sought-after relief weapon. Toronto has definite pen needs, as Nicholson-Smith’s colleague, Shi Davidi, told me on this week’s podcast, and as MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk wrote in previewing the club’s offseason.
  • Free agent utility man Emilio Bonifacio is receiving interest from his former teams, including the Blue Jays and Royals, Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com tweets. (Cotillo also lists the Cubs as a team with possible interest.) Bonifacio should have his pick of situations given his versatility and place on the market.
  • The Red Sox have promoted Mike Rikard to become the team’s scouting director, according to a tweet from Clint Longenecker, formerly of Baseball America. He replaces Amiel Sawdaye, who will be promoted to a vice president role, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal (via Twitter). Longenecker himself is moving on to join the Indians, Baseball America’s John Manuel tweets.

Ten Teams Showing Interest In Torii Hunter

At least ten teams have reached out to express interest in Torii Hunter, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today, and the free agent’s most aggressive suitors are in the very familiar AL Central. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals, Twins, Tigers, Cubs, Giants, Rangers and Mariners have all shown some early interest in Hunter (Twitter links). Hunter’s preference is to remain in Detroit, he adds, but his fate may be tied to that of Victor Martinez, as the Tigers likely can’t re-sign both.

Though Hunter turns 40 next July, he still enjoyed a productive season at the plate in a fairly pitcher-friendly home environment, hitting .286/.319/.446 with 17 homers in 586 plate appearances. His defensive game, however, appears to have slipped as Defensive Runs Saved pegged him at -18 runs and Ultimate Zone Rating agreed (-18.3).

Given his age, I’d think Hunter’s priority would be signing with a team he expects to contend in 2015 rather than maxing out his contract or perhaps making a sentimental return to his former Minneapolis stomping grounds.


Nori Aoki Seeking Three-Year Deal

Free agent outfielder Nori Aoki is looking for a three-year deal, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). He’s currently drawing interest from both the Reds and the Royals, although Kansas City at the moment is said to be more interested in Torii Hunter, Heyman adds.

Aoki batted .285/.349/.360 in his lone season with the Royals and played a key role from a defensive standpoint as the team made its way to the World Series. However, he’s seen a precipitous drop in his power since coming to the Majors. After hitting 10 homers as a rookie with the Brewers in 2012, he hit eight in 2013 and just one in 2014. His isolated power dropped from .144 in 2012 to .084 in 2013 and .075 in 2014, although a portion of the most recent dip could at least be attributed to moving to the spacious Kauffman Stadium.

The Reds are in need of a left fielder and are said to also be targeting Mike Morse, while Kansas City has been linked to a reunion with Aoki on more than one occasion. However, there wouldn’t be room for both Hunter and Aoki in K.C., so it seems that for the time being, Aoki is on the back burner as GM Dayton Moore looks to add some punch to his lineup in the form of the veteran Hunter.

MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth recently profiled the 32-year-old Aoki and suggested that he could land something in the range of two-year, $16MM contract.


Quick Hits: Cubs, Hunter, Ichiro, Lindor

The rumor train has a majority of free agents linked to the Cubs in some way, but the club may take a restrained approach, reports Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. GM Jed Hoyer hedged against the idea of a “supercharged offseason,” saying “that’s probably overstated.” Hoyer notes that it behooves agents to connect their clients with deep pocketed teams. However, Chicago won’t pass on an opportunity that makes sense, which means a deal with Russell Martin, a front line starting pitcher, or virtually any other free agent could still in the cards. My own perspective: in sales there is a saying – “undersell and over-deliver.” It’s possible Hoyer is preparing fans in case the bidding for Martin or their other top targets exceeds reason.

  • Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (via Twitter) that seven teams are interested in Torii Hunter including the Twins and Royals. Hunter has also been strongly linked to the Tigers in recent weeks. The 39-year-old outfielder has been remarkably consistent throughout his 17 year career. Teams presumably view Hunter as a corner outfielder or designated hitter. One team that isn’t in on Hunter is the Mets, tweets Marc Carig of Newsday.
  • In an interview airing Monday for MLB Network, Ichiro Suzuki will announce his intention to play in 2015, writes Chad Jennings of LoHud.com. Ichiro admits he’s unsure where he’ll suit up, since it depends on a team having a need for a 41-year-old outfielder. Given the relatively thin outfield market, there should be plenty of opportunities for a player who hit .284/.324/.340 in 385 plate appearances.
  • The Indians shouldn’t trade Francisco Lindor just because he might fail to reach his ceiling, writes Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group in his latest Hey, Hoynsie. The 21-year-old acquitted himself well in Triple-A, even if the performance wasn’t phenomenal. Lindor is generally viewed as a top 10 prospect by scouts, so his trade value is significant. My own take: while the Indians have Jose Ramirez at the major league level, there’s no reason to force a deal based on that modicum of depth. Either player could be moved to another position when the time comes. Moreover, as a budget conscious franchise, the Indians can’t simply deal Lindor for just any established star. They would need to identify another relatively inexpensive target like Josh Donaldson.

NL East Notes: Stanton, Mets, Nationals, Tomas, Hamels

As expected, the Marlins have begun extension talks with star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports on Twitter. President of baseball operations Michael Hill tells Spencer that the team has “reached out” to Stanton’s representatives and that “negotiations are ongoing.”

Here’s more from the NL East:

  • At present, the Mets are more inclined to fill their needs in the corner outfield via trade than through a free agent signing, reports Marc Carig of Newsday. New York is still hesitant to give up any of its best young talent in a swap. But veterans like Michael Morse, Alex Rios, and Torii Hunter all seem more like fallback options that the team would pursue if value can be had and nothing better has materialized. The Mets are said to prefer to add a right-handed bat.
  • One other hypothetical possibility, Nick Markakis, is not presently engaged with the team in any way, according to Matt Ehalt of The Record (Twitter link).
  • As they weigh their options at second, the Nationals are not unmindful of the Cuban market that has begun to materialize in recent weeks, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports. The primary possible targets, per Wagner, are 26-year-old Jose Fernandez and high-upside youngster Yoan Moncada. The 20-year-old Moncada will draw immense interest, with Ben Badler of Baseball America saying he is talented enough that he would be the odds-on favorite to go first overall in this year’s amateur draft (were he eligible).
  • The Phillies are still the favorite to land Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, with A.J. Burnett‘s decision to decline his option possibly burnishing Philly’s chances. That does not mean they are without competition, of course. Other clubs that have seen (or will soon see) Tomas since his showcase include the Rangers, D’backs, Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Red Sox, and Mariners.
  • Also per Heyman, the Phillies could clear yet more payroll space and add young talent through a deal for pitcher Cole Hamels, with the Cubs still showing interest in the lefty.