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Will Middlebrooks Rumors
The Red Sox are planning on having Will Middlebrooks play winter ball this offseason in an attempt to get him back on track, and they’re telling teams that they won’t simply give the soon-to-be 26-year-old away, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. Middlebrooks may seem a good buy-low candidate, as the former top prospect has followed a strong rookie campaign with a .213/.264/.375 line over a pair of injury-plagued seasons in 2013-14, but it sounds as if the Red Sox aren’t ready to give up on him.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington spoke with reporters before tonight’s game, and Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com has some highlights from the session. Cherington says that “barring something unforeseen,” Rusney Castillo will join the Major League club this month. He also said that the club will continue to have Mookie Betts focus on center field, noting that having three plus center fielders isn’t a bad thing if Castillo, Betts and Jackie Bradley all pan out. “We believe we’re better off having more than one major league center fielder,” said Cherington. “In the long run, in terms of long-term control, hopefully we have three at the upper levels.”
- While there’s been an unthinkable amount of ink dedicated to the Phillies’ Ryan Howard problem, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the Yankees have a similar issue on their hands with Mark Teixeira. Sherman reports that while the Phillies have aggressively shopped Howard, the Yankees haven’t even tried to move Teixeira, knowing that he would be nearly impossible to jettison due to his injuries, his no-trade protection and the $45MM he’s owed in 2015-16. Teixeira, who turns 35 next April, has batted just .213/.316/.404 in 493 plate appearances over the past two seasons.
- Rays bench coach Dave Martinez is interested in the Astros’ managerial opening, writes MLB.com’s Adam Berry. Martinez, who was on a short list of candidates for the last Astros managerial search, called the opening a “great opportunity” but made it clear that his current focus is on helping the Rays. “I interviewed for them a couple years ago, and they had good baseball people, very creative minds over there, and I kind of like that whole situation over there,” said Martinez. “Right now, my concern is being the bench coach for the Tampa Bay Rays and hopefully we win as many games as possible this month.” As Berry points out, Martinez is a good fit with the Astros after watching the way in which longtime Rays manager has Joe Maddon has built a rapport with an analytically inclined front office. Martinez noted that he got along well with Astros owner Jim Crane and GM Jeff Luhnow in his previous interview, adding that he thinks Houston has a very bright future.
- Brandon Morrow wants to pitch in the rotation in 2015 and beyond, he tells MLB.com’s Gregor Chisolm. As Chisholm notes, Morrow may soon have the opportunity to dictate where that could happen, as his $10MM club option is likely to be declined by the Blue Jays after another injury-plagued season. Morrow doesn’t seem to fit into Toronto’s rotation moving forward, with R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris all at the Major League level.
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington chatted with reporters just minutes ago and it’s no surprise to hear his admission that the club was not expecting Xander Bogaerts to struggle to this extent in 2014 (via Tim Britton of The Providence Journal on Twitter). Still just 21, Bogaerts has slashed .226/.293/.339 in 472 plate appearances this season. Earlier this week, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote that the struggles of Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. have left many around the game wondering how good each player truly is. Here’s more out of Boston..
- Peter Gammons (Twitter links) cautions not to read much into waiver trade bites on Bogaerts, Clay Buchholz, Brock Holt, Joe Kelly, Yoenis Cespedes, Christian Vazquez, Burke Badenhop, Mike Napoli, Will Middlebrooks, Daniel Nava, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara.
- Cherington said that he won’t be resistant to trade prospects this off-season, “for the right guy,” tweets Jason Mastrodonato of The Springfield Republican. He added that the club has never been opposed to dealing prospects, but such decisions are “contextual,” tweets Alex Speier of WEEI.com.
- The GM wouldn’t give much on the team’s interest in Rusney Castillo. “We are one of many teams interested. That’s all I’ll say,” the GM said, according to Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston.com (on Twitter).
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at some of the recently suggestions put forth by Red Sox chairman Tom Werner to help make the game more marketable to young people.
“Too many people are leaving games in the sixth and seventh innings because they can’t watch 3½-hour games, so they’re leaving the game at the point where the game should be getting exciting,” Werner said. “You wouldn’t make a 3½-hour movie. The NFL makes changes almost on an annual basis. They’re considering making the extra point from 35 yards rather than from the 8-yard line… I respect tradition, but I don’t revere it.”
Among Werner’s ideas: instituting a pitch clock, limiting the number of times a batter can step out of the box, and putting a cap on the number of catcher and pitching coach visits to the mound. More from today’s column..
- Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson could be on the hot seat and there has been a lot of speculation about Joe McEwing, a third base coach with the White Sox, or Mike Aldrete, the bench coach for the Cardinals. If Gibson is canned it would mark Tony La Russa‘s first big decision but GM Kevin Towers would also likely to have a say.
- In a chat with Cafardo, David Ross spoke glowingly of the amenities or “little things” that the Red Sox do for their players and Cafardo wonders if that could keep Jon Lester in Boston beyond this season. Lester’s family was always taken care of the team’s traveling secretary and while other teams can offer similar services, the consensus among players who have been multiple places is that Red Sox and Yankees are the teams that offer more to their players.
- Ross tells Cafardo that even though there have been no contract talks with the Red Sox yet, he would like to return. Boston would certainly love for him to keep working with Christian Vazquez, but Ross’s recent bout with plantar fasciitis has slowed him. Ross is finishing up a two-year, 6.2MM deal.
- Daniel Nava drew interest from the Tigers and had interest from the Royals before they traded for Josh Willingham, but he has yet to be put on waivers. It’s not a certainty that he’ll clear and but the Red Sox will likely put him on revocable waivers later in the month to see what type of interest he’ll get. The Sox’ outfield looks crowded next season with Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley Jr., Shane Victorino, Yoenis Cespedes, Mookie Betts, and Brock Holt all in the mix so it makes sense to see what can be had for Nava.
- In a separate tweet, Cafardo reports Nava, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara, and Will Middlebrooks have been placed on revocable waivers.
The Red Sox have been receiving decent trade interest in recent days in third baseman Will Middlebrooks, but Red Sox people are said to seem quite reluctant to deal him, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Middlebrooks is on injury rehab following his slow start in Boston but the Sox seem intent on keeping him past July.
Still only 25, Middlebrooks has power, and it isn’t easy to come by power bats in baseball these days. On top of that, if Middlebrooks can show something in the second half, he could be a piece if the Sox try and make a run at Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton. It would obviously take much more than Middlebrooks to get a deal done, but Miami did have some interest in Middlebrooks last winter. Stanton would provide a huge boost for the Red Sox and Boston can build a package with some of the best prospects in baseball to entice Miami if they make Stanton available over the winter. In 21 games this season, Middlebrooks has hit just .197/.305/.324 with two homers.
The Astros‘ sudden improvement this season has been fueled in part by George Springer and Dallas Keuchel, and new first baseman Jon Singleton looks like a contributor as well. All three were acquired during Ed Wade’s tenure as the Astros’ GM, and Wade reflects on his Astros tenure with pride, the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich writes. Drellich argues that the success of players like Springer, Keuchel, Singleton and Jose Altuve (who was signed before Wade’s hiring) suggests that the team’s farm system was not as barren at the time of Wade’s departure as many analysts believed. Some of the Astros’ worst drafting was done before Wade was hired, and Wade’s trade of Hunter Pence for Singleton, Domingo Santana, Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid stands out as a major coup. “I have a sense of pride,” says Wade, “because there were a lot of good baseball people who were involved in the process at that point in time who I think have either been forgotten about or minimized as things have gone forward.” Here are more notes from the American League.
- Top Orioles pitching prospect Dylan Bundy, who’s recovering from Tommy John surgery, made a rehab start for Class A Aberdeen against Hudson Valley Sunday and pitched five innings and struck out six, walking none and allowing one run. The start was Bundy’s first since the 2012 season, and his strong performance surely comes as welcome news to the Orioles. Bundy was on the fast track to the Majors prior to his injury troubles, and if his rehab outings continue to go well, he could make an impact in the big leagues sooner rather than later.
- The Red Sox plan to have Will Middlebrooks work on playing the outfield, Maureen Mullen of Boston.com writes. Middlebrooks, who has been out since last month with a finger injury, recently began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket. With Stephen Drew, Xander Bogaerts and Brock Holt in the infield, there don’t figure to be many plate appearances there for Middlebrooks when he returns. Playing the outfield could allow Middlebrooks to find more playing time, and also to improve his trade value in time for next month’s deadline.
The retirements of Yankee icon Derek Jeter and Commissioner Bud Selig and the Red Sox's quest to repeat as World Series champions are baseball's top storylines this season, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Mike Trout/Miguel Cabrera debate also makes Cafardo's list along with five other topics to monitor in 2014. Stoking the discussion, the dynamic duo both agreed to lengthy and lucrative contract extensions just one day apart this past week: six years, $144.5MM for Trout and eight years, $248MM for Cabrera.
In other news and notes from the American League:
- Within the same article, Cafardo opines Jon Lester better be willing to accept less from the Red Sox than the six-year, $144MM proposal the Tigers made to Max Scherzer adding negotiations with the left-hander will be a true test of how much faith the club has in its top pitching prospects.
- Lester addressed the media today, including WEEI.com's Rob Bradford (who provides a transcript of the extension-related portion of the presser) and contrasted his situation to Scherzer's. "Every situation is different, every negotiation is different, every person is different, so until it's there in front of you with a pen to sign it, or not presented to you and you have to go the other way, then like I said, we'll deal with that when it comes."
- Contact lenses could be the key to the season for Red Sox's third baseman Will Middlebrooks, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. An eye test this spring revealed Middlebrooks' vision had deteriorated to 20-25 in his right eye and 20-30 in his left. "For everyday life, you’d never correct it," the 25-year-old said. "But for what I do, you need to be able to see the little things. Once I put them in, I could really see the spin on the ball. I was always just reading trajectory of the ball. I was never seeing the spin."
- Pitching and offense are reasons why the Red Sox can repeat while history (no team has sucessfully defended its World Series title since 2000) and questions up the middle are reasons why they won't, writes CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam.
- Tigers President/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski told MLB Network Radio (Twitter link) he had the financial wherewithal to extend both Cabrera and Scherzer. "We had both negotiations going simultaneously," said Dombrowski. "We were trying to sign both."
- The Royals have had mixed results with their philsophy of developing pitchers, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. The organization believes you need 10 pitching prospects to deliver one to the Majors and that has worked in developing relievers, but only four prospects have started a game for Kansas City during GM Dayton Moore's seven-year tenure, McCullough notes.
- The Astros have been active at the Trade Deadline the past two seasons, but that may not be the case this year, writes the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich. "No question. This year's different," GM Jeff Luhnow told Drellich. "This year, we have veteran players. If they play well, we're likely to keep them as opposed to move them. There’s always going to be that temptation…we’ll balance all the factors, including the fact that we do want to show significant progress."
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe shares a few hot stove items in his latest Sunday column…
- Bronson Arroyo has been looking for a three-year deal or at least a vesting option for a third year, which could be holding up his market. If Arroyo was willing to settle for a flat two-year contract, Cafardo opines, he could find a deal, possibly with the Diamondbacks; Cafardo reported earlier this week that Arizona was "beginning to kick the tires" on the veteran right-hander. Arroyo recently said that he has yet to receive a concrete offer from any team, despite a lot of interest from around the league.
- The Dodgers are another team who "are very interested" in Arroyo but don't want to give him a guaranteed third year.
- Nelson Cruz's market is beginning to heat up, and “there could be up to four or five teams who could take the plunge in the end," a Major League source tells Cafardo. This interest could manifest itself into a multiyear deal for Cruz, though Cafardo notes that the slugger could still have to settle for a one-year contract. We've recently seen the Mariners, Orioles, Rangers and Twins linked to Cruz in rumors, though Texas and Minnesota only seem interested at a greatly reduced price.
- Cafardo thinks the A.J. Burnett sweepstakes is down to the Pirates, Phillies and Orioles, though he wouldn't be surprised if the Yankees were also exploring a reunion with the veteran right-hander. The Rays and Blue Jays have also been connected to Burnett, though it seems more likely that Burnett will choose a team located closer to his home in Maryland.
- The Marlins have "asked a lot" about Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks but there doesn't seem to be a trade fit. Miami is one of several teams who have asked Boston about Middlebrooks' availability, but the Sox don't want to give up on Middlebrooks' power potential. Even if the Red Sox re-signed Stephen Drew to play shortstop and Xander Bogaerts took over at third, Middlebrooks would still receive playing time alternating between third and first base.
- While Jon Lester recently said he would take a hometown discount to remain with the Red Sox, Cafardo points out that it might not be a huge discount, as Lester also noted that "you never want to be the guy that takes the market backward."
- The Red Sox will experiment with Ryan Lavarnway as a first baseman during Spring Training, GM Ben Cherington confirmed. Since Boston is so deep at catcher at both the Triple-A and Major League levels, Lavarnway's only chance at continued playing time may be as a Triple-A first baseman.
- "There’s a feeling that a team like the Yankees may pluck Fernando Rodney, or someone of his ilk, to ensure they have another closer in case David Robertson breaks down or isn’t up to the task," Cafardo writes. Rodney was reportedly drawing interest from four teams, though the Yankees hadn't spoken with him since November and may not have enough remaining payroll space to add to the bullpen.
Here are some hot stove items from Peter Gammons in his latest piece for his namesake website, GammonsDaily.com…
- Gammons adds the Phillies to the list of teams who "have taken a run" at acquiring Brett Gardner from the Yankees. Philadelphia is one of "at least a half-dozen teams" who have checked in on Gardner — we've seen the Tigers, Reds, Indians, and Giants also linked to Gardner earlier in the offseason. Both Yankees president Randy Levine and GM Brian Cashman have said they admire Gardner's play and aren't willing to move him, though Gammons feels that Cashman "won’t move [Gardner] until and unless [Cashman] has to for starting pitching." This is just my speculation, but Gammons' phrasing could be a hint that the Yankees could shop Gardner if they fail to land Masahiro Tanaka.
- The Rangers, Red Sox and Rockies are three of "at least a half-dozen teams" who have asked the Padres about Chris Denorfia. Colorado's interest has presumably dried up due to their acquisition of Drew Stubbs. San Diego GM Josh Byrnes isn't willing to discuss trading Denorfia as long as he feels the Padres can be contenders, and Byrnes thinks his club's offseason moves could put them in the playoff mix. The Rangers also showed interest in Denorfia last July before the trade deadline.
- Mets assistant GM J.P. Ricciardi recently claimed that his team was happy with Ruben Tejada as a starting shortstop and that the free agent shortstop market wasn't to the Mets' liking, but Gammons hears otherwise from an NL general manager. The GM believes the Mets are concerned about their inexperience up the middle (Tejada at short, Juan Lagares in center and Travis d'Arnaud behind the plate) and are only seeming disinterested in Stephen Drew as part of negotiations with agent Scott Boras.
- If Drew re-signs with the Red Sox, Gammons doesn't expect Boston to deal Will Middlebrooks, as the team still values his power.
- The offseason's most interesting overlooked deal is the Athletics/Rangers swap that sent Craig Gentry to Oakland and Michael Choice to Texas, Gammons opines. Gentry is a right-handed bat who can spell Coco Crisp in center or replace him in case of injury, and "the A’s think Gentry’s comp is at least Peter Bourjos," Gammons writes. Choice, meanwhile, gives the Rangers a corner outfield bat who can spell Shin-Soo Choo against left-handed pitching.
The Winter Meetings featured the three-team trade that sent Mark Trumbo to the Diamondbacks, as well as a number of other moves, but Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe argues that this year's meetings featured plenty of press, but comparatively little meaningful activity. Cafardo wonders whether baseball should issue a moratorium on moves before the Winter Meetings, so that the meetings themselves feature more signal and less noise. Here's more from Cafardo:
- For the Diamondbacks, the Trumbo acquisition was about adding power, which is in short supply these days. "Just looking at the West, and looking at the National League and looking at the free agent market going forward, I just don’t know where you’re going to find power," says GM Kevin Towers.
- If the Red Sox re-sign Stephen Drew, that would bump Xander Bogaerts to third base and make Will Middlebrooks a trade candidate. The Marlins, who are looking for a third baseman, would likely be interested.
- Even after a report that the Orioles had interest in A.J. Burnett and had been in touch with his agent, the Pirates feel Burnett doesn't want to play for any other team. "There’s no reason for [Burnett] not to be back," says a Pirates official.
- Four teams have offered two-year deals to free agent Bronson Arroyo, but Arroyo is holding out for a three-year deal, or maybe a two-year deal with a vesting option.
- There doesn't appear to be a particularly robust market for Kendrys Morales, with the Mariners adding Corey Hart and Logan Morrison and the Angels likely to sign Raul Ibanez. The Orioles might be one possibility, but not at Morales' price.
To round out the evening, here are a few links …
- The Red Sox had an opportunity to acquire reliever Francisco Rodriguez from the Brewers, reports CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler, but were unwilling to give up young third baseman Will Middlebrooks to do so. Leaving Rodriguez go to the division-rival Orioles, GM Ben Cherington determined that Middlebrooks could still contribute to the team this season. Of course, he has done just that, posting an excellent .972 OPS since being recalled on August 10th.
- Mariners manager Eric Wedge says that his team has "a lot of guys that have a good chance to be good ballplayers," reports Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, but says he is not sure "we have any superstars." Wedge went on to praise the organization's "volume" of talent. Though intended as a compliment, says Baker, these comments make clear that the team needs to jettison its "risk-averse financial approach" and act boldly on the free agent market to produce a real contender.
- Nationals' starter Dan Haren had a second straight disastrous outing today, once more failing to hang in past the third inning. While Haren had a chance to end his rocky season on a consistent high note after a solid run through much of July and August, his free agent value seems unlikely to make a real recovery at this point. It will be interesting to see how the market values once-excellent starters like Haren, Josh Johnson, and Roy Halladay, each of whom have suffered through miserable seasons in their walk years.