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Twins outfielder Byron Buxton is the top prospect in baseball, per MLB.com’s top 100 prospects. The Cubs have two prospects in the top five – Kris Bryant (second) and Addison Russell (fifth). The Dodgers have three in the top 13 – Corey Seager (seventh), Julio Urias (eighth), and Joc Pederson (13th). The Cubs and Twins are the two teams with five prospects in the top 50. Here’s more news from around the league.
- The Red Sox will use Brandon Workman as a reliever this season, reports Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com. The move could be a big stabilizing influence for Workman, who dealt with fatigue the last couple seasons. Mastrodonato points to Wade Davis as a best case scenario. Davis was an indifferent starter in previous campaigns, but he dominated out of the pen last year. Some pitchers, like Davis, experience a notable velocity increase in relief work. It will be interesting to see how Workman reacts.
- Boston appears to have a full bullpen without the presence of Workman, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Recent additions Alexi Ogando and Robbie Ross join Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Edward Mujica, Craig Breslow, and Anthony Varvaro. Many clubs were concerned about Ogando’s injury history, but the Red Sox liked what they saw while scouting the righty. He passed his physical and should be prepared for a normal preseason workload.
- The Rockies decided to stand pat rather than rebuild due to the quality of talent on the roster, CEO Dick Monfort tells Thomas Harding of MLB.com. Healthy seasons from Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez plus continued breakouts from Nolan Arenado, Corey Dickerson, and Charlie Blackmon could produce a special offense. While pitching is always a problem, Monfort is pleased with the products of the farm.
- Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is more optimistic about the current club than the pricey 2012 version, he tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Loria is pleased with the overhauled infield, Giancarlo Stanton‘s long term extension, and the acquisition of Mat Latos. He doesn’t know what will happen with Dan Haren,
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Addison Russell | Alexi Ogando | Boston Red Sox | Brandon Workman | Byron Buxton | C.J. Edwards | Chicago Cubs | Colorado Rockies | Corey Seager | Dan Haren | Joc Pederson | Jorge Soler | Julio Urias | Kris Bryant | Kyle Schwarber | Los Angeles Dodgers | Miami Marlins | Minnesota Twins | Wade Davis
TODAY: Kansas City is leaving other clubs with the impression that they are willing, albeit hesitant, to deal from amongst its trio of late-inning arms, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports (Twitter links). To do so, however, the Royals would need a controllable player at a position of need: either an impact bat in right or a starting pitcher.
Roughly one year ago today, the Royals signed Infante to a four-year deal for more than $30MM plus incentives with a $10MM team option for 2018. The soon-to-be 33-year-old batted .318/.345/.450 with 10 homers and solid second base defense for the Tigers in 2013. However, his production slid in 2014 as he hit just .252/.295/.337 with subpar work in the field (-3.0 UZR/150). His .632 OPS was his worst in nearly a decade, but with a lack of quality second base options out there, Infante could have value.
12:08pm: The Royals have been telling teams that relievers Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera are not available, according to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (via Twitter). McCullough cautions (link) that that things could conceivably change with David Robertson now off the market, however.
That news comes as something of a surprise given the amount of trade buzz we’ve heard about the trio this week. Just yesterday we heard that the Royals were listening to offers on all three relievers with an eye on turning their bullpen strength into an outfield bat. Trading a reliever could bring KC a much more affordable outfield solution than, say, free agent Melky Cabrera, but it would also chip away at what helped make the Royals such a strong team in 2014.
The Blue Jays were said to be in pursuit of Holland and the Royals reportedly considered him to be available, albeit with a high price tag. McCullough speculated that Holland’s delivery and build could have KC worried about his durability, but their concerns might not be enough for them to ship him out. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projects him to earn $9.3MM in 2015, but that doesn’t appear to be a prohibitive cost for KC.
11:01am: Kansas City is also receiving interest in Herrera, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports (Twitter links). The Royals are telling teams that they would prefer not to move any of their relievers, but feel they must listen because the free agent market is so light on bats.
2:22am: The Blue Jays are pursuing a trade for Royals closer Greg Holland, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports. Holland is “available, but they’re [the Royals] asking for a lot in return,” according to a source familiar with the negotiations.
Holland has been one of baseball’s top relief arms for the last four seasons, yet with a rising price tag through the arbitration process (MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projects him to earn $9.3MM in 2015), the right-hander may simply be getting too expensive for Kansas City to keep. The Royals will continue to hear offers for both Holland and Wade Davis during the Winter Meetings, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes, and could be moved to part with either bullpen ace for either an outfielder or a starting pitcher.
The Royals’ top relievers demonstrated their importance throughout the team’s run to the World Series last fall, but the team is currently projected to pay nearly $24MM next season to five bullpen arms — Holland, Davis, Kelvin Herrera (who’s also arb-eligible), Jason Frasor and Luke Hochevar. Between Holland and Davis, McCullough feels the Royals might prefer to trade Holland, whose delivery and build might lead to fears that he won’t hold up over time. Holland is also more expensive due to his two remaining arbitration years, whereas the Royals have cost-certainty on Davis due to the club options they hold on his contract.
Holland would obviously generate considerable interest if he was shopped, though McCullough notes that getting top value for him might be tricky. “The interested club must be close to contention, willing to spend on a niche resource and uninterested in the newfound prevailing logic on relief pitchers,” McCullough writes, namely the fact that teams are less willing than they once were to pay heavily for a “proven closer.”
The Jays check at least one of those boxes since they’re hoping to challenge for the AL East title in 2015, and they’re known to be looking for relief help during the Winter Meetings to address their vacancy at closer. While Holland would be expensive over his two remaining years of team control, the Blue Jays might prefer giving a big salary to a closer for two seasons rather than guaranteeing four seasons to David Robertson, who Toronto has also been linked to in rumors. One obstacle to a Holland trade could be that the Jays are themselves a little short on outfield and starting pitching depth, having already traded or non-tendered Anthony Gose, John Mayberry, Andy Dirks, J.A. Happ, Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman in several transactions this offseason.
The Nationals are “likely” to trade setup man Tyler Clippard, a source tells FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projects Clippard will earn $9.3MM in his final year of arbitration eligibility before hitting the free agent market following the 2015 season, and with closer Drew Storen projected to land a $5.8MM contract as well, moving Clippard would allow the Nats to save some money at the back of their bullpen.
Here’s some more from Rosenthal on the relief market…
- The Royals have received trade interest in Greg Holland and Wade Davis, and one of the two relief stars could conceivably be moved for a hitter. Swartz projects Holland to earn $9.3MM in arbitration this winter, while K.C. already picked up their $7MM option on Davis for 2015. Holland can be a free agent after 2016, the Royals hold two more option years on Davis and Kelvin Herrera is also now arb-eligible, so Kansas City may simply not be able to afford their dominant late-game trio for much longer.
- Sergio Romo and Luke Gregerson are receiving more interest now that Andrew Miller is off the board. Neither pitcher has generated much on the rumor mill to date this offseason, though Romo has been cited as one of the Astros’ backup options after Miller signed with the Yankees.
- The Dodgers are looking for bullpen upgrades but are wary about making any major commitments given how much money they’ve already invested in relief pitching.
- Speaking of high-priced Dodgers relievers, the team’s new front office “is not enamored with” Brian Wilson. The righty will earn $9.5MM in 2015 after exercising the player option given to him by previous L.A. general manager Ned Colletti. Wilson posted a 4.66 ERA, 1.86 K/BB and 5.4 BB/9 over 48 1/3 IP in 2014 while suffering a drop in velocity, though it was his first full season after returning from Tommy John surgery.
The Royals announced that they have exercised their $7MM club option on right-hander Wade Davis for next season. Davis is represented by Jet Sports Management.
While $7MM is a lot of money for a smaller-market team like Kansas City to pay to a setup man, Davis was such a key part of the Royals’ recent success that exercising his option was a virtual no-brainer. In fact, the move actually saved K.C. a bit of money — Davis would’ve still been eligible for arbitration had the option been declined, and MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected that Davis would’ve been line for a $7.6MM salary in 2015 via the arbitration process.
Davis posted one of the best relief seasons in history in 2014, posting a 1.00 ERA, 4.74 K/BB rate and a 13.6 K/9 over 72 innings. The late-game “Law Firm” of Kelvin Herrera, Davis and closer Greg Holland was a big reason the Royals made it to Game 7 of the World Series. Herrera and Holland are both arbitration-eligible this winter and will also command big salaries, so it’s an open question as to how long K.C. can afford to keep this trio at the back of its bullpen.
Davis originally signed his four-year, $12.6MM extension in February 2011 when he was a highly-touted starting pitching prospect in the Rays organization. His deal also contains an $8MM club option for 2016 and a $10MM club option for 2017, with the latter carrying a $2.5MM buyout. He came to the Royals along with James Shields in the 2012-13 offseason as part of the much-talked about trade that sent Wil Myers and other prospects to Tampa.
Sad news today out of Chicago, as longtime White Sox scout Paul Provas passed away from brain cancer at age 63. As Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports, Provas had been scouting for the South Siders since 1993 after doing the same for the cross-town rival Cubs dating back to 1983. MLBTR extends its condolences to his family and friends.
Here are the day’s news and rumors out of the American League:
- Left-hander Joe Beimel would love to return to the Mariners, and the team has expressed interest in re-signing him as a lefty specialist, reports Greg Johns of MLB.com in his latest Mariners Inbox. The veteran southpaw made the club after signing a minor league deal and posted a 2.20 ERA in 45 innings. Beimel’s 5.0 K/9 leaves something to be desired, but he was a legitimate weapon against lefties. Beimel held same-handed hitters to a .188/.217/.288 batting line. Sabermetric stats such as FIP (3.18) and xFIP (2.96) both approved of his work against left-handers, though he was well north of 5.00 in each stat when facing righties.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow tells Marius Payton of CSN Houston that top prospect Carlos Correa‘s rehab is considered complete at this point (h/t: Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle on Twitter). Baseball America’s No. 3 midseason prospect saw his season come to an end prematurely due to a broken leg, but he was impressive when on the field, hitting .326/.415/.510 with six homers and 20 steals in 62 games at Class-A Advanced.
- Even as the Royals are gunning for a World Series title in 2014, thoughts inevitably must drift at times to the future. Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders whether starter James Shields may present a double-edged sword with his history of huge innings totals: on the one hand, those innings show his durability; on the other, they act as an arm odometer. Then, of course, there is the matter of his increasingly poor postseason track record.
- Kansas City faces tough decisions as it ponders its amazing late-inning arms, Sherman adds. Wade Davis and Greg Holland might combine for a $15MM tab next year, with further increases for 2016. GM Dayton Moore said the team can fit those salaries, but also indicated that he already is thinking about how things will play out in the long run. “Yes, in the immediate, it works,” he said. “We can make that fit. But we do have to analyze our roster from an economic standpoint every year.”
- Meanwhile, former Royals GM — and current Red Sox VP of player personnel — Allard Baird tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he looks back fondly on his time in Kansas City and is pleased with the club’s run of success. As Cafardo notes, Baird’s time resonates in the current roster, as he drafted players like Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Zack Greinke (who was later flipped for several current key roster pieces) during his time at the helm.
Paul Konerko‘s 18-year career officially ended yesterday, as he left the field for a defensive replacement before the sixth inning and received a lengthy ovation from the fans at U.S. Cellular Field (video link). Konerko retires with a career .279/.354/.486 slash line, 439 homers, a 2005 World Series ring and an ALCS MVP Award from that same championship season. ESPN’s Jayson Stark notes that Konerko’s career path is unique in baseball history, as he spent his first two seasons in brief stints with the Dodgers and Reds before spending his final 16 years with the White Sox. We at MLBTR congratulate Konerko on his excellent career and wish him all the best in retirement.
Here’s some more from around the AL Central…
- Rick Hahn thinks the White Sox can contend in 2015, the general manager told reporters (including CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes). The central goal is to keep adding to the team’s core, Hahn said, though extra payroll space will make an expensive short-term contract possible if the team feels such a deal will help put them over the top. “I think we are pleased with a lot of the progress we’ve made in the last 15 months, but we’re by no means, first satisfied, nor operating under the belief that we’re by any means finished, in terms of assembling a core and a unit that can contend on annual basis,” Hahn said.
- Indians slugger Jason Giambi isn’t thinking about whether or not he’ll play in 2015, for now just focusing on spending time with his family in the offseason, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian writes. Giambi will turn 44 in January and has played an even 20 seasons in the majors. If he does hang up his cleats, it seems likely that a coaching job awaits Giambi, quite possibly with the Tribe; the slugger said in April 2013 that he’d already turned down several coaching offers in order to keep playing for as long as he could.
- The blockbuster trade that bought James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals in exchange for a prospect package headlined by Wil Myers is “everything that we hoped it would be,” Royals GM Dayton Moore told MLB.com’s Dick Kaegel. “When you make deals, you hope and expect them to work for both organizations. I think it’s turned out that way. It strengthened our pitching to a point where we were able to play competitive baseball from the first day to the last.” Shields is a free agent this winter and is unlikely to be re-signed by Kansas City, though Davis (who just completed one of the great relief seasons in baseball history) is controllable via team options through 2017.
It's been a tumultuous offseason for Alex Castellanos of the Padres, MLB.com's Corey Brock writes. In late October, the Dodgers traded Castellanos to the Red Sox. Two months later, the Rangers claimed him off waivers. Then, the Rangers designated him for assignment in order to make room for Joe Saunders, and the Padres claimed him. "Don't take any pictures with any jerseys on," Castellanos said when asked the offseason had taught him. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- A year after joining the Royals as part of the James Shields / Wil Myers trade, Wade Davis is now a reliever, writes Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. The move is a response to the Royals' loss of Luke Hochevar to Tommy John surgery. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Davis isn't thrilled about the move. "What are you going to do? Say no?" he says. Davis struggled as a starter last season, though, posting a 5.67 ERA in 24 starts, and he's gotten good results as a reliever in the past. The decision could impact Davis' future earnings — if the Royals don't pick up his $7MM option for 2015, he can become a free agent after the season.
- 2011 Astros third-round draft pick Jack Armstrong Jr. is switching from pitching to first base, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports. The Astros paid Armstrong a $750K bonus, but he has not pitched competitively since being drafted, dealing with elbow and shoulder injuries along the way. Now, at 24, he'll try to make the big leagues as a hitter. "The moment I got cleared in September, I started swinging immediately. It's been a good five or six months of hard work," says Armstrong. "It's good I was a two-way guy in college so I was always swinging." Armstrong is the son of former big-league starting pitcher Jack Armstrong.
1:15pm: While talks aren't dead, concerns over Marshall's health could ultimately kill the deal, tweets Renck. The Rockies were "aggressively" pursuing the lefty as recently as last night, he adds.
TUESDAY, 12:39pm: The Rockies and Reds discussed Sean Marshall at length last night, and a trade appeared close at one point, according to Renck. However, those talks have idled for the time being. It's not clear whether the Reds would have included any salary relief to help offset the remaining $12MM on Marshall's deal, Renck adds.
MONDAY: As they search for relief help, the Rockies appear to have shifted their focus from the free agent market to trade talks, reports Troy Renck of the Denver Post. According to Renck, Colorado is "pushing hard" to acquire a hard-throwing relief pitcher to add to the back end of its bullpen.
Renck noted earlier today that Joaquin Benoit and Grant Balfour were among the free agent power arms that interested the Rockies, but the price tags on those players and other top relievers will likely be too high for Colorado.
The Rockies' current plan is for LaTroy Hawkins to close games, so the club is looking for another arm to complement Rex Brothers in a setup role. Renck mentions Royals pitchers Wade Davis, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow and Luke Hochevar as possible fits, though Kansas City is far from the only team willing to move relievers.
The Rockies haven't made any moves yet in Orlando, but they're expected to be active this week, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Renck passed along a few tidbits of note in a Monday piece for the Denver Post, so let's round up the highlights and check in on a few more Rockies items from other reporters….
- The Rockies have talked to practically ever hard-throwing free agent reliever, with Joaquin Benoit and Grant Balfour among the pitchers they'd most like to land. However, the price tags on both players will likely preclude serious bids from Colorado, says Renck.
- Colorado will be open-minded about moving Drew Pomeranz, particularly in a deal for another starter, Renck hears, noting within a Sulia post that the team has some interest in Wade Davis.
- Brett Anderson is another trade candidate who interests the Rockies, but the club's talks with the Athletics are "slowly fading," tweets Renck. While Anderson isn't necessarily off the table for Colorado, there's no traction for now.
- MLB.com's Thomas Harding reports that the Rockies are kicking the tires on Jason Hammel, who spent three seasons with the team from 2009 to 2011. Harding also confirms that Colorado has interest in Michael Morse, which we had heard about previously.