Tyler Flowers Rumors
It's been relatively quiet for the American League Central so far today, but here are some late-night rumblings surrounding the division...
- The Twins are closing in on adding someone to give Trevor Plouffe competition at third base, writes 1500 ESPN's Phil Mackey. Twins GM Terry Ryan said that piece could be in place before the end of the Winter Meetings. Mackey writes that it's probably a solid glove at a reasonable salary, given the Twins' desire to spend nearly all of their offseason budget on the rotation.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn says the team is still actively pursuing A.J. Pierzynski, but he's comfortable with Tyler Flowers opening the season as the everyday catcher (Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reporting). Hahn says he'd be confident with Flowers and Hector Gimenez as the team's backstop tandem in 2013.
- Flowers was quite frank when talking to reporters, including Chuck Garfien of CSNChicago.com. He said flatly that he hopes Pierzynski will not be retained, though he hopes the best for his former teammate. Said Flowers: “I have no intentions of being a backup catcher the rest of my career. My career is getting shorter and shorter everyday that goes by. So I feel like I’d like the chance to be a starter.”
- Earlier today it was reported that Joe Blanton, Kevin Correia and Brett Myers are on the Twins' radar.
The latest on the Mets...
- Mike Puma of The New York Post reports that Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are the team's only untouchables in trade talks. GM Sandy Alderson is expected to explore trades more than free agents this winter, and they have "some interest" in White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers.
- Lucas Duda had surgery yesterday after fracturing his wrist moving furniture, and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com says that could take Ike Davis completely off the trade market. Duda was the club's backup plan at first base, though he is expected to be ready for Spring Training.
- David Lennon of Newsday says (on Twitter) that it would be very tough for the Mets to trade R.A. Dickey from a public relations perspective even if the two sides can't work out a long-term deal.
- John Harper of The New York Daily News writes that Alderson has plenty to prove following his first two years on the job. Outside of the Wheeler trade, Harper says his moves haven't worked out too well.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe opens this week's Sunday Notes column by taking a look at how the Rays have succeeded this year depite losing many key players in the offseason. Cafardo points out that the AL East looks like a "very flawed division" so far, meaning the Rays could once again be bunched up with the Yankees and Red Sox in the standings. Here are some other notes from Cafardo:
- Jason Varitek praised the defensive abilites of Jeff Mathis, who may be a trade candidate: "He’s a very athletic catcher. He has a good arm. He creates a good situation for his pitching staff. You can tell the pitchers really enjoy throwing to him. He’s fun to watch back there because he does things so easily. He’s one of the best."
- Tyler Flowers, the catcher for the White Sox' Triple-A club in Charlotte, could be available and was scouted by the Red Sox and a handful of other teams in Spring Training.
- Red Sox minor leaguer Josh Reddick has "generated a lot of chatter among scouts," according to Cafardo, who speculates the outfielder would draw plenty of interest if Boston made him available. One scout on Reddick: "He’s a major league player and he’d be playing for a lot of teams in the big leagues right now."
- Former Red Sox and White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk would like a chance to instruct young players for either organization, but says he's never received a serious offer to do so.
Jason Castro's 2011 season came to a quick end when the news broke that Castro had suffered a torn ACL in his right knee. The injury leaves the Astros with Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles as their top internal options behind the plate, and it's possible that Houston is content to stick with this duo. Quintero is a solid defender, if nothing else, and Towles is just a couple of years removed from being considered a top prospect himself, so the Astros might be willing to give Towles one last chance to prove himself at the Major League level.
As with any notable injury, however, the hot stove is already heating up with speculation about who Houston could pursue if the team looked outside its organization. Brian McTaggart of MLB.com and David Golebiewski of Fangraphs have both already chimed in on the situation, so let's take a look at their possible candidates...
- Ryan Doumit. Pittsburgh is known to be shopping the veteran, and willing to eat some of his $5.1MM salary for the right talent in return. MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch, however, wonders if the Astros would really give up anything of value for just one year of Doumit.
- A.J. Ellis. He isn't exactly a proven veteran, but Ellis could be available. Ellis and Dioner Navarro are battling to be Rod Barajas' backup in Los Angeles.
- Jesus Flores. The Nationals could be the most fitting trade partner here, given the number of catchers on their roster. Flores has looked healthy in Spring Training and could probably be obtained at a low cost.
- Tyler Flowers. His future with the White Sox suddenly became blurry following a mediocre 2010 season in Triple-A and A.J. Pierzynski's new two-year contract with the club. Flowers is just 25, however, and was ranked by Baseball America as the 60th-best prospect in the game heading into last season. It's very unlikely that Chicago has already given up on Flowers.
- Bengie Molina. Unlike these other players, Molina is a free agent, and would cost Houston nothing but money. We heard last month that Molina was on the fence about returning next season since he couldn't find a team that would offer him regular playing time.
- Brian Schneider. McTaggart observes that Ed Wade and Ruben Amaro Jr. have collaborated before, most notably on the deal that sent Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia last summer. Schneider and Carlos Ruiz make a nice lefty-righty platoon, however, and it's unlikely the Philles would want to break that combination up.
- Kelly Shoppach. John Jaso is pencilled into the starting job in Tampa Bay, so the Rays could listen to offers for their veteran backup, who makes $3MM in 2011.
McTaggart also notes the Yankees' minor league depth at catcher, but says they're an unlikely trade partner since the Astros would be looking for a Major League-ready catcher. Besides, New York is dealing with their own injury problems behind the plate, as Francisco Cervelli will be sidelined with a broken foot.
Not long ago, it seemed unlikely that the White Sox would have room for A.J. Pierzynski after 2010. They had Tyler Flowers, a minor league catcher who ranked among baseball's best prospects. Flowers, 24, was coming off his second consecutive season with a .900 OPS and seemed ready to hit in the majors.
But Flowers has slumped in Triple A this year and Pierzynski has posted the lowest on base and slugging percentages of his career. The White Sox appeared to have two sure things just five months ago, but now a lot of that certainty has vanished. Despite his slump, Flowers is hitting .220/.334/.434 with 16 homers in Triple A, so the White Sox don't have to fret too much. Their catching prospect can still hit - he has just struggled to produce like he did earlier in his minor league career, when he posted an .800 OPS everywhere he went.
Flowers still hasn't made the transition from heir apparent to everyday player, so GM Kenny Williams will likely want a veteran catcher on the roster going into 2011. The Indians (Carlos Santana) and Giants (Buster Posey) both cautiously ushered young catchers into the majors this year and the White Sox could aim to do something similar. Santana and Posey hit so well in the minors that their teams created space in the majors and called them up by mid-season.
Pierzynski is still just 33 and he hit well in 2009, but this year he's hitting just .265/.297/.381. He was consistently productive in Chicago from 2005-09 and it's doubtful that the White Sox are going to weigh five so-so months over five full seasons when they decide whether they're interested in re-signing Pierzynski this offseason.
If the White Sox offer Pierzynski, a projected Type A free agent, arbitration, he could accept and return to Chicago on a one-year deal. If he turned it down and signed elsewhere, the White Sox would obtain two high picks in next year's draft.
The White Sox may let Pierzynski walk and rely on Flowers and a veteran catcher, as we would have predicted before the season. But if they don't want to hand the starting catcher's job to a rookie whose minor league numbers are fading, the White Sox can always offer Pierzynski arbitration and deal with the consequences if and when Flowers hits his way to the majors.
New teams inquired about Nationals slugger Adam Dunn within the past day, tweets Ed Price of AOL FanHouse. FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi tweets that the Nats are more likely to trade Dunn than Josh Willingham, while ESPN's Jayson Stark hears that Washington might trade one but not both.
Check back throughout the day for updates, as the Nationals discuss possible deals with other teams and consider keeping their first baseman in Washington long-term:
- Dunn wants a four-year deal, but would consider a three-year offer if the Nationals make him one, according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson. Dunn explained to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that he does his best to ignore trade rumors and understands the business side of the game.
- The Nationals want Daniel Hudson plus one of Jordan Danks, Tyler Flowers or Brent Morel for Dunn, a source told Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago. The Nationals offered Dunn for Gordon Beckham, but the White Sox turned the proposal down.
- Another source told Levine that six teams are bidding for Dunn: The White Sox, Angels, Tigers, Rangers and two NL clubs. As you can see below, the Rockies and Giants have been linked to Dunn, but it’s not certain that those two teams are pursuing him now.
- The Rays like Dunn, but don't want to push him into a DH role, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. As much as the Rays likes Dunn's bat, they don't want to risk conflict with the slugger. Danny Knobler of CBS Sports reports that the Nationals asked the Rays for Matt Garza last week. Despite those demands, the Rays will keep an eye on Dunn and Jayson Werth this week, according to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link).
- The Giants also expressed interest in Dunn, according to Knobler.
- Sherman says the Rockies talked about Dunn, but don't like his poor defense.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Nationals have yet to offer Dunn an extension in any form, so the trade market is likely to heat up. Rosenthal and colleague Jon Paul Morosi name the White Sox as the most serious suitor, and add that the Tigers, Rangers, and Yankees maintain interest.
According to MLB.com's Scott Merkin, notable Chicago minor leaguers such as Jordan Danks, Tyler Flowers, Dan Hudson or Dayan Viciedo could possibly be dealt if the right acquisition becomes available. White Sox GM Kenny Williams spoke to the media on Wednesday and hinted that now that the Sox have played themselves back into contention, he wouldn't hesitate to trade part of the team's future for further success this season.
"Well, if there's an opportunity to win a World Series, you got to do what you got to do sometimes -- within reason," Williams said. "But it's got to be, you have to have a real opportunity. I think we have an opportunity."
Chicago's apparent trading strategy, if they do indeed make a deal, would be to move largely unproven talents rather than players who have already had an impact in the majors. Merkin notes that the likes of Gordon Beckham, John Danks and Gavin Floyd are all but untouchable for the near future.
Of those prospects, a Flowers trade would probably have the most impact on Chicago's major league roster. It had been widely assumed that A.J. Pierzynski would be allowed to leave after his contract expires this winter, since Flowers would then step in behind the plate for the Sox in 2011. (Indeed, there were even rumors that Pierzynski would be traded before his ten-and-five rights kicked in on June 14.) If Flowers was dealt, however, the White Sox might well look to re-sign their veteran catcher over other soon-to-be free agents like John Buck or Bengie Molina.
In a separate piece, Merkin highlights how surprising it is that the Sox are now considered to be buyers at the trade deadline given that the club looked to be out of the race just a few weeks ago. Chicago has been linked to Adam Dunn and other left-handed bats, though Williams told Merkin that the team might also stand pat. Such a decision wouldn't sit well with the Chicago media and fanbase, but it's prudent of Williams to wait and see if his team really is as good as they've seemed of late before dealing a key prospect.
WEDNESDAY, 6:20pm: Cowley follows up on Pierzynski's comments by getting a few reaction quotes from Ozzie Guillen. The White Sox skipper attempted to quell speculation about a possible trade or Flowers promotion, saying of Pierzynski: "He's not going to lose his job. I'm very happy with what I've got and I have a lot of optimism with what I have and I think A.J. is my catcher.... As long as I'm here, I don't see why he's not going to be my catcher."
TUESDAY, 9:28pm: Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times caught up with A.J. Pierzynski about his future with the White Sox. As pointed out by Tim earlier today, the catcher would achieve 10-and-5 rights this June, meaning he could veto any trade.
Pierzynski, 33, wanted to work out an extension with the White Sox, but with that off the table for now, he's looking for a resolution about his future.
‘‘Everyone knows my situation, I’m a free agent at the end of the year," Pierzynski told Cowley. "But I also know this, if it gets to about June then they can’t trade me, so they’re going to have to make a decision here pretty quick.’’
He added that Chicago is his first choice. Pierzynski is hitting just .171/.227/.195 in his first 44 plate appearances this season, but says his status has nothing to do with the slow start.
For his part, White Sox GM Kenny Williams is preaching patience.
Let's continue our look at each club's top trade chips today with the AL Central...
- Indians: The Tribe have dealt their Opening Day starter in each of the last two seasons, and there's a good chance they'll do it again with Jake Westbrook in 2010. The 32-year-old righty will earn $11MM this season, the last one on his contract. After dumping Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez in cost-cutting moves last year, expect them to shop Westbrook around for prospects this summer.
- Royals: All four of Kansas City's outfielders come off the books after this season (assuming some options are bought out for six figures), so Rick Ankiel, David DeJesus, Scott Podsednik, and even Jose Guillen could be moved in a deal for a young player. The team would obviously have to eat a lot of money to move Guillen. The contracts of relievers Juan Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth also expire after the season, so there might be some interest in them.
- Tigers: Detroit isn't going to move any of their young power arms, but if they eat a large chunk of salary like they did with Nate Robertson, there might be interest in Jeremy Bonderman and/or Dontrelle Willis. Young backstop Alex Avila could make Gerald Laird expendable as well. The Tigers have four lefty relievers on their 40-man roster (Phil Coke, Fu-Te Ni, Daniel Schlereth, and Brad Thomas), and that demographic is always in demand.
- Twins: Minnesota has one of the best trade chips in the league, blocked catching prospect Wilson Ramos. Lefty Glen Perkins is pitching in Triple-A and seems to have fallen out of favor with the club after filing a grievance, so he could be made available as well. He has four years of team control left.
- White Sox: GM Kenny Williams isn't shy about emptying out the farm system in a trade for an established big leaguer, which has left him with little minor league ammo. Their best young prospects are catcher Tyler Flowers and starter Daniel Hudson, who would seem to have a future with the club, but I'm not going to put anything past Williams. Flowers could make A.J. Pierzynski or Ramon Castro expendable, ditto Hudson and Freddy Garcia. Gordon Beckham should be untouchable, obviously.
Links for Wednesday...
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says the White Sox and Blue Jays discussed Dan Hudson and Tyler Flowers in a potential Roy Halladay deal, but the Sox weren't on Doc's list.
- The Braves signed J.R. House to a minor league deal, reports Dave O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. House, 30, hit .251/.297/.352 for the Royals' Triple A club in '09 while catching 101 games.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports explores Felipe Lopez's reputation as a lazy player, something former teammate Mike Rivera denies.
- Baseball America's Ben Badler has four Dominican signings, by the Rockies, Cardinals, Angels, and Rangers.
- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and GM John Mozeliak are signed only through 2010, but neither seems concerned (Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporting).