Troy Tulowitzki Rumors

Quick Hits: A’s, Rockies, Morales, Albers

With the Winter Meetings just a week away, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince names the top ten Hot Stove storylines heading into December. How the top-tier starting pitcher market shakes out heads the list, according to Castrovince, who notes the trade market for the likes of Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann, and Jeff Samardzija will heat up once free agents Jon Lester and Max Scherzer sign. Among Castrovince’s other top headlines this month are whether the Braves trade Justin Upton and how the Red Sox and Dodgers deal with their surplus of outfielders.

Elsewhere in baseball on the final day of November:

  • After A’s GM Billy Beane signed Billy Butler to a $30MM deal and traded third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com isn’t sure what the plan is in Oakland.
  • The best way for the Rockies to become contenders is for Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki to be healthy and productive, but it would be daring for GM Jeff Bridich to trade the duo in search of salary relief to address areas of concern, opines MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby.
  • The market for Kendrys Morales has been quiet to date with only the Indians being linked to the free agent DH. CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman tweets, besides Cleveland, the Rangers and Royals are also taking a look at Morales while the Mariners and Blue Jays are possibilities, as well.
  • Left-handed starter Andrew Albers recently became a free agent and has drawn interest from a number of big league clubs, an industry source told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Albers became a free agent when South Korea’s Hanwha Eagles declined the 2015 option on his one-year deal. The Canadian pitched to a 5.84 ERA in 146 1/3 innings, though he did make 27 starts and led his team with 102 strikeouts. BN-S writes Albers appears to be seeking a split contract with incentives.

Shortstop Rumors: Rollins, Tulo, Dodgers, Miller

The Yankees called the Phillies to ask about the availability of Jimmy Rollins, reports ESPN’s Jayson Stark, but the asking price was deemed too high and the Bombers have since moved on (All Twitter links). GM Ruben Amaro Jr. wouldn’t comment to Stark on the Yankees’ interest, but he tells Stark that Rollins is still one of the best shortstops in baseball and would therefore want a lot in return. Amaro adds that Rollins would be “very hard to replace” and is someone the Phillies want on their team. According to Stark, Rollins was never even approached by the team to ask if he would waive his no-trade clause to accept a trade to New York. Throwing even more cold water on the idea of a match, Stark reports (Twitter links) that the Yankees were offering only a “utility player” and that Rollins was not interested in playing in New York.

Here are some more notes pertaining to shortstops from around the league…

  • Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports that while the thought of Troy Tulowitzki heading to the Yankees in a trade has long been considered a long shot, there are “recent, strong indications” that there’s absolutely no chance of such a trade. The Yankees are showing a real reluctance to take on another significant contract, and the six-year, $114 commitment Tulowitzki has remaining has no appeal.
  • Not only that, Martino hears from executives with interested teams that over the past two weeks, the Rockies have given the impression that Tulowitzki is simply unavailable.
  • The Dodgers are in the market for a stopgap to serve as a bridge to top prospect Corey Seager, reports MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. The team feels that while whoever mans shortstop for them in 2015 won’t have the offensive talent of Hanley Ramirez, he will provide a marked defensive difference that offsets some loss of offense. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and several Dodgers decision-makers watched Seager in the Arizona Fall League, and Friedman disagreed with scouts who feel that Seager will have to move to third base. Said Friedman: “I’m convinced that I would not move him off shortstop right now — his hands work really well, and we have a number of guys who think he has a real chance to stick there.”
  • In a video blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney notes that while three big-market teams — the Yankees, Mets and Dodgers — have a need at shortstop, the perception among executives is that there just isn’t much to be had. Executives feel that they could “absolutely” call the Mariners about Brad Miller, says Olney, but he’s been inconsistent at the plate. Stephen Drew hasn’t hit consistently over the past three seasons, either. Rollins has 10-and-5 rights and hasn’t given an inclination that he wants to approve a trade. And free agent Jed Lowrie is viewed by many teams as more of a second baseman than a shortstop.

NL Notes: D’backs, Murphy, Rockies, Cards, Nats

Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa says he has hired Ed Lewis to take charge of the team’s analytical department, Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal reports on Twitter. Lewis is an old friend of La Russa’s who does stock market analytical work, the head D’backs baseball man tells Costa. The question whether and how the Arizona ballclub would incorporate analytics into its operations has been a topic of interest since even before La Russa’s hiring, and it will be interesting to see what this latest front office addition means for the team’s intentions.

Here are a few more stray notes from the National League:

  • The Mets do not have any near-term intentions to approach second baseman Daniel Murphy about a contract extension, GM Sandy Alderson tells ESPNNewYork.com’s Adam Rubin. At the same time, the team is “reluctant” to deal him away at present, said Alderson. That could change, of course, if the club adds a new shortstop or otherwise adds offense, per the report.
  • Rockies GM Jeff Bridich says that deciding whether to deal stars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez is “not just a casual type of process” for the club, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports. Calling them “marquee” players, Bridich said it could be that other teams will not be willing to give up a haul that meets that lofty standard given both players’ injury issues. “We may or may not find out in the coming weeks,” he said. “Nothing of substance has taken place, so here we are.”
  • The Cardinals have “payroll muscle” at their disposal, GM John Mozeliak tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Though the team has no intentions of spending its money just to put it to use, Mozeliak says it will do so in the right circumstances: “You’re definitely right in the assessment that we do have resources. If adding a year or adding a higher [average salary] means a deal, yes, we’re capable of doing that as long as it stays within the parameters of being rational.”
  • Deciding to deal a high-performing veteran is a difficult decision in many circumstances, none more so than for a team that intends to contend. That is the strategic choice facing the Nationals, who have several top players entering their final year of team control. As I noted about ten days ago in my offseason outlook for the Nats, the concept of a trade (most likely involving Zimmermann) has to at least be entertained, particularly if a young middle infielder was part of the return, and GM Mike Rizzo sounds willing to consider anything. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post argues, quite validly, that this is not the time to be viewing the pitcher as an asset to be optimally leveraged, but rather an opportunity to push for the present (comfortable with the knowledge that a qualifying offer would still be available). Drew Fairservice of Fangraphs, meanwhile, proposes that the Nats should move the righty as a means not only of setting up for the future but also possibly addressing present needs (namely, second base).


Mets Inquired On Jimmy Rollins

A Mets trade for Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is “not happening,” a source tells Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.  Rubin says such a move is not on the Mets’ radar due to the $120MM owed to Tulo through 2020, as well as the prospect cost of “two or three blue-chippers.”  More from Rubin:

  • The Mets spoke with the Phillies about acquiring Jimmy Rollins, writes Rubin.  Rubin adds, “The pursuit since has been dismissed because Rollins does not want to leave Philadelphia.”
  • The Mets are unenthusiastic about the available free agent shortstops, and plan to go the trade route to fill the position.  The Diamondbacks, Mariners, White Sox, and Cubs are viewed as viable trade partners.  Andy Martino of the New York Daily News says “it has been difficult, if not impossible” for the Mets and Cubs to agree on the value of Starlin Castro.  Meanwhile, Martino says Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox only emerged as a possibility within the past week.  Martino’s early read has the White Sox seeking the Mets’ top young starters and the Mets pitching their veterans.
  • If the Mets are unable to acquire a shortstop, or go with a defense-first type like Didi Gregorius, they are likely to retain second baseman Daniel Murphy, writes Rubin.  If they get a shortstop who can hit, Murphy is more likely to be dealt if the Mets get a sufficient offer.  Rubin expects the Mets to wait on Murphy until after resolving their shortstop situation.
  • The Mets seek a veteran lefty reliever to complement Josh Edgin in their bullpen.  They are also seeking a backup infielder, unless Wilmer Flores is bumped to that role.
  • The Mets will also consider trading Dillon Gee, Jonathon Niese, or Bartolo Colon.

Mets, Rockies Discussing Troy Tulowitzki?

7:50pm: Rockies GM Jeff Bridich says that he’s had congratulatory and “what-are-you-looking-for” types of chats with the Mets, but no talks about Tulowitzki, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reports.  A source tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post that the two sides haven’t discussed the star shortstop, though the Mets could be discussing Tulowitzki internally.  (Both links are to Twitter.)

3:43pm: The Mets just announced a two-year deal for Michael Cuddyer, but Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that he isn’t the only significant right-handed bat that has the team’s eye. The Mets have had recent discussions with the Rockies about shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Passan tweets. While they fear that they cannot afford to add him, the two sides are talking. Newsday’s Marc Carig spoke to a source who characterized the talks as “due diligence” at this point (Twitter link).

A move for Tulowitzki would be expensive both financially and in terms of prospects, but the Mets do have a large stockpile of the type of young pitching which the Rockies covet. Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Rafael Montero all offer varying degrees of upside, and none have even reached arbitration to this point. (Syndergaard has yet to even reach the Majors.) Jon Niese is on an affordable contract, and Dillon Gee has yet to become overly expensive.

While it’s a lot to read into the situation at this time, a Tulowitzki acquisition would mean doubling down on a pair of injury-prone right-handed bats, as he and Cuddyer have both struggled to stay on the field in recent seasons. Tulowitzki is owed $20MM annually through 2019, plus a $14MM salary in 2020 and at least the $4MM buyout of his $15MM club option for the 2021 season. That adds up to a sum of $118MM over the next six years, so it’s not hard to see why the club isn’t certain it can afford to acquire him.

Still, the Mets are better positioned than most clubs to take on a long-term commitment, at least in terms of the other long-term pacts already on the books. David Wright‘s extension was front-loaded, and $20MM salary drops to $15MM in 2019 and $12MM in 2020. That contract is the only one on the books for the Mets beyond 2017, though Curtis Granderson will earn $16MM in each of the next two seasons and $15MM in 2017.


Rockies Willing To Listen On Tulowitzki, Gonzalez

The Rockies have told other teams that they are willing to consider trade scenarios involving their two best players, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, according to a report from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

While the likelihood of a deal remains rather slight, and neither player is being shopped around, the report does indicate that Colorado is much more open to moving one of its stars than it had been previously. Notably, Rosenthal says that the Rockies are telling clubs that they will not accept a return that does not provide fair value for the healthy production levels of both players.

Needless to say, there is a large gap between a theoretical willingness to trade a player and a realistic chance of a deal getting done. In this case, that divide may be wider than usual. While Tulowitzki is arguably the very best shortstop in baseball, he has missed long stretches of time in recent years with hip, groin, and wrist surgeries, along with various other maladies. And he is due $20MM per year from 2015-2019, plus $14MM in 2020 and a $4MM buyout in 2021.

Much the same story holds for Gonzalez, who has had five-win seasons but had both knee and finger surgery last year. Then there is the fact that he put up just a .238/.292/.431 batting line when he was in the lineup last year, a fall-off that can in large part be pinned on his health issues but which nevertheless must be considered. Gonzalez is owed $53MM over the next three seasons, a steal if he’s healthy but a big problem if he is not.


Rockies Notes: Payroll, Anderson, Cuddyer, Rotation

The Rockies’ payroll will likely remain near its Opening Day mark of $94MM, a team spokesperson tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. This is problematic for the Rockies, Saunders writes, given that Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Jorge De La Rosa will combine to earn $48.5MM of that figure next season. Season-ending injuries to Tulowitzki and Gonzalez will make it difficult to extract full prospect value for either star in a potentially cost-saving trade, meaning that the team is likely to have 51.8 percent of its payroll tied up in three players. That, in turn, would make it difficult to adequately address the rotation, bullpen and catching situation this offseason — all of which are areas of need in Denver. Geivett recently reiterated to Saunders that the team has had no discussions about trading either Tulowitzki or Gonzalez

Here’s more from Saunders and more on the Rockies…

  • Saunders spoke to senior VP of Major League operations Bill Geivett about the team’s $12MM option on Brett Anderson. Geivett said that the Rockies “really think he’s an impact starter when healthy,” but that the option would be discussed following the season. Given the team’s payroll constraints, it seems almost impossible to imagine Colorado paying Anderson $12MM after starting just 32 games over the past four seasons.
  • Saunders also notes that Michael Cuddyer is a favorite of owner Dick Monfort and manager Walt Weiss, both of whom want the veteran back. However, Saunders feels it’s difficult to imagine the Rockies paying even $4-6MM for Cuddyer next season, and I’d wager that he’s looking for more than that despite an injury plagued 2014. Cuddyer, 36 next March, has batted .328/.382/.530 in 170 games over the past two seasons.
  • Twenty-eight-year-old lefty Yohan Flande will get a couple of starts before season’s end in an audition for 2015, writes Saunders’ colleague, Nick Groke. Weiss said the organization feels Flande can transition to the bullpen if needed, but they’ve yet to give up on him as a starting pitcher. MLB.com’s Thomas Harding notes that top prospect Eddie Butler, too, will receive a look in the final two weeks. While it seems Colorado is evaluating its internal options,  I have to think they’ll at least attempt to lure in a veteran starter to complement De La Rosa alongside younger arms such as Butler, Jordan Lyles, Tyler Matzek and, eventually, Jon Gray. Jhoulys Chacin also figures to be in the mix, though he’s battled shoulder injuries this season.
  • A look at Cot’s Contracts reveals that the Rockies currently have about $61.4MM on the books in 2015. That doesn’t include arbitration raises for Chacin, Drew Stubbs, Juan Nicasio, Rex Brothers, Tyler Chatwood, Wilin Rosario and Adam Ottavino. Wilton Lopez and Nicasio seem like clear non-tender candidates, and it’s possible that a few others could meet that fate as well. Nonetheless, Colorado’s glut of forthcoming arbitration raises doesn’t seem to leave the team with much wiggle room, if payroll truly is to remain in the $94MM range.

West Notes: Angels, Burnett, Tulowitzki, Astros

The Angels had interest in A.J. Burnett of the Phillies, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes, confirming a report by Peter Gammons (all Twitter links). The Angels, though, wanted Burnett to waive his player option for next season, perhaps to get them under the luxury tax threshold. It wouldn’t be surprising if Burnett hadn’t wanted to do that, given that he prefers playing near the East Coast, and that his option guarantees him $10MM or more in 2015. The Angels, then, will continue to hunt for a starting pitcher to replace the injured Garrett Richards. Here’s more from the West divisions.

  • Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki would rather retire than change positions, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. No. It’s just who I am, it’s what I do, it’s what I have dreamed of as a kid,” Tulowitzki says. “So I guess when you have a dream and you accomplish it and someone tries to take it away from you … it wouldn’t be worth it for me to try and move somewhere else.” Tulowitzki is just 29 and is still a plus defensive shortstop when healthy, but he continues to have issues with injuries, and it’s not difficult to see how he might need to change positions before the end of his contract, which runs through 2020. Saunders notes that Tulowitzki is currently on crutches after surgery to fix a torn labrum in his hip.
  • The Astros‘ “extreme Moneyball” approach is still controversial throughout the game, Joshua Green of Bloomberg BusinessWeek writes in a profile of the Astros since Jeff Luhnow’s hiring in 2011. The Astros’ poor results the past few years, and their relentless questioning of conventional wisdom (leading to, for example, their aggressive approach to shifting and to their tandem minor league rotations), have predictably been divisive. Luhnow gives Green a look at the Astros’ “Ground Control” database (notes from which were leaked in June), which uses an algorithm to tell the team’s management when players ought to be promoted.

NL Notes: Thornburg, Henderson, Medlen, Phils, Tulo

The Brewers will go the rest of the way without righties Tyler Thornburg and Jim Henderson, according to a tweet from MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Thornburg will receive a platelet-rich plasma injection in a bid to avoid surgery on his elbow, while Henderson may need shoulder surgery. Thornburg, 25, tossed 29 2/3 innings before being shut down, while the 31-year-old Henderson (who saved 28 games last season) scuffled through just 11 1/3 frames.

Here’s more out of the National League …

  • Braves hurler Kris Medlen is just two and a half weeks away from beginning to throw again after his second Tommy John surgery, and feels confident that he’ll be back on the hill  “at some point next season,” David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. But it remains to be seen whether he’ll work his way back with Atlanta, as his current $5.8MM salary and status as a two-time TJ patient makes him a non-tender possibility. “I’m a little nervous about it, just because it’s not in my hands,” said Medlen. “… It’s exciting to be able to pick up a ball in a couple of weeks, but I’m not going to lie, the contract stuff and wanting to come back — I mean, that’s somewhat up in the air this time, so it’s a little nerve-racking, but all I can do is get healthy.” In spite of his uncertain future, the 28-year-old righty should draw plenty of interest around the league if the Braves allow him to hit the open market.
  • Were it not for Jonathan Papelbon‘s continued presence at the back of the Phillies‘ bullpen, young righty Ken Giles would likely have moved into the closer’s role, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News writes. Commenting on the story, Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider link) argues that the club should move Papelbon back into a setup role to give Giles an audition as a 9th-inning option and to prevent Papelbon from finishing enough games for his 2016 option to vest at $13MM. While this approach has some facial appeal, I would note that allowing Giles to begin racking up saves now will ultimately raise his price significantly when he ultimately reaches arbitration. (And, of course, there is the question of how to handle Papelbon’s insistence that he continues to close.)
  • Yesterday, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. again discussed his organization’s future, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Declining to give many specifics, Amaro said that the “biggest plan is to make sure we improve offensively and with our pitching overall,” saying he will look to address those (rather broadly-framed) needs “in a variety of ways.” Sitting 14 games back in the division and 11 out of the wild card, the Phillies are nonetheless not entirely ready to give up hope this year. “Right now, we’re trying to win as many games as possible,” said Amaro. “At the same time, at some point, we’re going to have to start looking to the future. … And at some point, we may be looking more at what we have to do for 2015 as far as what’s going on, on the field. … We’re not quite there yet.”
  • Though Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies continues to play shortstop at a very high level, it is time he considered moving to first base, argues Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post. Tulowitzki’s bat is obviously good enough to make the move — he led the league in all three triple-slash categories (.340/.432/.603) when he suffered his season-ending hip injury — but switching to first would obviously sap a good portion of his immense bottom-line value. On the other hand, of course, it is fair to wonder whether playing the least-demanding spot on the diamond might not only help keep Tulowitzki on the field but might also enable him to hit at a top-end level even further into the six years (and $118MM) left on his contract.

Tulowitzki To Undergo Season-Ending Hip Surgery

The Rockies received more bad news on the injury front today, as Thomas Harding of MLB.com tweets that MVP candidate Troy Tulowitzki will miss the remainder of the season to undergo surgery to repair the labrum in his left hip.

Tulowitzki, 29, has appeared in just 91 games this season but is hitting a hefty .340/.432/.603 with 21 homers in 375 plate appearances and elite shortstop defense. Both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference.com peg him for more than five wins above replacement despite the shortened season. This will mark the third consecutive season with a significant DL stint for Tulowitzki, who has not topped 126 games since the 2011 season and hasn’t topped 150 games since 2009.

Tulowitzki’s name has been at the center of quite a bit of trade buzz as of late, due in large part to repeated comments about his impatience with losing and a desire to see change in the Rockies organization. Rockies owner Dick Monfort has said multiple times that he has no plans entertain the thought of trading his superstar, although there’s been speculation that Tulowitzki could ask for a trade this winter. He has clarified, however, that he doesn’t want to be traded and prefers to win as a member of the Rockies organization.

The Rockies control Tulowitzki through at least the 2020 season, as he is guaranteed $20MM annually from 2015-19 and is guaranteed $14MM in the 2020 season. His contract contains a $15MM club option for 2021 with a $4MM buyout, making for a total of $118MM guaranteed following the completion of this season.