Will Middlebrooks Rumors
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.
Alex Rodriguez's public battle with the Yankees took another turn today when the slugger denied a report that the club intends to fine him a day's pay for conduct during his recent rehab assignment. According to ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand, a hand-delivered letter written by Yankees GM Brian Cashman informed A-Rod that the club plans to punish him for seeking a second opinion on his quadriceps injury and also for failing to appear at Yankee Stadium last month after meeting with MLB officials to discuss the Biogenesis investigation. In an article by Bryan Hoch and Josh Vitale of MLB.com, however, A-Rod denied receiving the letter. "Maybe they sent it to my lawyers," Rodriguez said. "But I'm not really going to talk about that." More Saturday night MLB links...
- Neither Ian Desmond nor Jordan Zimmermann appear close to contract extensions with the Nationals, Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports. Zimmermann, 27, said his camp and the Nationals broached the subject in the offseason but didn't come close to an agreement. "I'm not going to give a huge team discount," Zimmermann warned. "Just something fair is all I ask."Meanwhile, Desmond recognizes that he has two years of arbitration remaining and doesn't appear to be in a hurry to put together a deal, according to Ladson.
- Everth Cabrera's recent suspension has reinforced the fact that the Padres' farm system is thin on shortstop talent, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune says. “You’d like to have a shortstop at every level that you feel is a prospect – has a chance to be an everyday guy,” assistant GM Chad MacDonald said. However, as Sanders notes, the club's best prospects at the position remain in the lower minors. For now, former first-round pick Logan Forsythe figures to get an extended look at short for the Friars.
- Astros top prospect George Springer may finish the season at Triple-A, Brian McTaggart and Chris Abshire of MLB.com say. Springer, 23, is hitting .303/.410/.597 with 38 stolen bases across stops at Double-A and Triple-A this season. However, Astros manager Bo Porter didn't give any indication of when Springer might be called up to the major league club when discussing the outfielder today.
- Will Middlebrooks was called up to man third base for the Red Sox because he has more experience at the hot corner than Xander Bogaerts, Scott McLaughlin of WEEI.com reports. Many speculated that Bogaerts, who's hit .300/.392/.487 in 481 minor league plate appearances this season, would get the call, but manager John Farrell says the team prefers that he continue to take reps at third in the minors. The Sox want Bogaerts to be ready in case Middlebrooks struggles or hits the disabled list, according to McLaughlin.
While it has been said that the Orioles don't have enough financial flexibility to make a major splash before the deadline, last night's developments might indicate that they have the cash to make something happen. Not only have they inquired on the Twins' Justin Morneau, who makes about $6MM for the rest of 2013, they're also among the teams that are in on Jake Peavy. Here's more out of the AL East..
- The Rangers and Orioles would provide a definitive role for Michael Young, but the Red Sox might have the best package to offer the Phillies, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Boston and Baltimore may have one less suitor to compete with as T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com heard that the Rangers don't plan to deal for Young before Wednesday's deadline.
- As one might expect, the Rays aren't planning any major moves before the deadline, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. "We are always looking to improve, and between now and Wednesday, we're going to do everything we can to do that," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "But I can't overstate our confidence in the team that we have. This is a tremendous group of guys, and the worst thing we can do is to feel pressure to make a move just for its own sake."
- Will Middlebrooks, who's spent the last month in Triple-A, wants to remain with the Red Sox, telling Tim Britton of the Providence Journal that the bright lights of Boston appeal to him. "I mean, everybody wants to play in the Bostons, the New Yorks, the Phillys - with the big-market teams, to win on that stage," Middlebrooks said. However, the attention may have been a distraction earlier in the season, the third baseman admitted.
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.
With the Red Sox losing the division lead for the first time in two months, here's the latest from a hotly contested American League East ...
- The deal that brought Alfonso Soriano back to the Yankees was consummated over the objections of GM Brian Cashman, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. "I would say we are in a desperate time," said Cashman. "Ownership wants to go for it. I didn't want to give up a young arm." The club dealt young righty Corey Black (and took on salary) to add the 37-year-old Soriano. MLBTR's Steve Adams rounded up the reactions to the deal yesterday.
- Cashman's latest overruling continues a trend, Sherman further reports in the same piece. Most recently, Cashman reportedly preferred signing catcher Russell Martin and outfielder Nate Schierholtz this last offseason. Instead, ownership pushed a two-year, $13MM deal with Ichiro Suzuki. While the Yanks could have Martin and Schierholtz playing right now on one-year deals, says Sherman, the team instead has an aging Ichiro-Soriano combination set to earn $11.5MM next season.
- The Red Sox must add talent, writes Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald, or risk dropping back in a tight AL East race. Silverman opines that the club should call up top prospect Xander Bogaerts to provide much-needed pop from the left side of the infield. Meanwhile, with Clay Buchholz still not on a clear timetable and with Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez choosing the Phillies over the Sox, Silverman says that Boston should also make a deal for a starter.
- Should Boston make a move to bolster its rotation, one player who could be dealt is third baseman Will Middlebrooks. WEEI.com's Rob Bradford reports that Middlebrooks, who is trying to work his way back to the form he showed in his 2012 rookie campaign, has heard the rumors for the first time in his recollection. "I'm just trying to keep my nose out of it," Middlebrooks said. The 24-year-old indicated that he remains content in the Red Sox organization in spite of his struggles this year: "I have a good opportunity here. I don't need to get traded to have a good opportunity."
- Looking at Boston's recent history, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal suggests that the team could look to pick up a somewhat under-the-radar player that can contribute not just this season, but in the future. MacPherson notes that the Sox added catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2010), shortstop Mike Aviles (2011), and reliever Craig Breslow (2012) when the price proved right and the deal met the club's multi-year needs. This season, with Saltalamacchia nearing free agency and backup David Ross injured, the team could look to deal for a backstop with future control even as it gives playing time to prospect Ryan Lavarnway. MacPherson suggests the Padres' Nick Hundley as a possibility, while noting that San Diego could be hesitant to move him.
Yesterday we learned that the Cardinals and Red Sox may have emerged as two potential destinations for Jake Peavy, who could be the top name on the trade market now that the Rangers have acquired Matt Garza. Speaking to reporters this week, the righty speculated that the completed Garza deal may trigger more trades. “Just thinking about leverage and stuff, you think Garza is probably the biggest name out there so to speak,” Peavy said. “You would think other teams would wait until that to set the market and kind of happen before." On to today's Peavy rumors:
- An industry source tells Alex Speier of WEEI.com that Middlebrooks hasn't been discussed with the White Sox in "any context."
- Will Middlebrooks has been mentioned in trade talks with the Red Sox, sources tell Scott Merkin of MLB.com. The 24-year-old would fill a need moving for the White Sox as an impact type player to help fill out the infield.
- While many have opined that the White Sox should be eager to trade Peavy, teams tell ESPN's Buster Olney (Twitter link) that the Sox have yet to decide whether they want to keep him for 2014. The White Sox have exchanged trade proposals, but the price is high.
- The A's could be a dark horse candidate in Peavy discussions, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman reports. Though the A's have a stocked starting rotation, they had a scout at Peavy's first start back from the disabled list and were involved in talks for Garza "at the 11th hour" before he was shipped to Texas, Heyman adds. According to sources, Billy Beane says he'd prefer to try to boost his team with a very good starting pitcher rather than a mediocre hitter, regardless of what the team's needs are. If they do pull off a trade for the veteran, top prospect Sonny Gray or Brett Anderson, who is nearly ready to return from the DL, could shift to the bullpen.
In a piece for CBSSports.com, Danny Knobler notes that the Yankees are pinning their playoff hopes on strong returns from aging stars like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Knobler opines that a recent comment from GM Brian Cashman ("These guys are trying, but...") is an admission that the current Yankees' lineup may not be good enough to carry the team to the playoffs. Cashman also commented on A-Rod's eventual return, saying his production at third base should be "better than [what] we've gotten from third base, with all due respect." However, in a recent tweet, ESPN's Buster Olney suggests that Rodriguez is likely to spend more time at DH than at third when he rejoins the Yankees. On to tonight's AL East links...
- Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News says Cashman needs to acquire a bat to bolster the team's fizzling attack, but Cashman reports that it's tough to find offense in this year's trade market. "The phone calls are taking place, but nothing to show for it,” Cashman said. “I think if you’re looking for offense, Exhibit A is, name me the bat that’s moved already? It hasn’t. Exhibit B is, look at all the big rumors out there – they’re involving pitchers ... It’s just an offensive offense market." McCarron suggests that the addition of the second wild card slot may be causing more teams to consider themselves contenders later into the season.
- Sources in the Red Sox organization tell Knobler that the team's top priority is relief pitching despite continuing uncertainty about starter Clay Buchholz, who hasn't pitched since June 8 and has no target return date. The Sox began the season with a strong bullpen, but injuries to Andrew Bailey, Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Miller have thinned out the team's relief corps, leading GM Ben Cherington to acquire lefty Matt Thornton from the White Sox last week. The Sox appear to be content with Koji Uehara as their closer, Knobler observes.
- The Red Sox also continue to monitor the trade market for third basemen, and it's believed they have significant interest in the Phillies' Michael Young, according to Knobler. However, Philadelphia's recent run of success means they don't appear to be in sell mode. The Brewers' Aramis Ramirez is a potential fit, but he's currently on the disabled list with a knee issue and may not return until right at the deadline, Knobler writes. Meanwhile, third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who manned the hot corner for much of 2012 for the Sox, continues to post mediocre numbers at Triple-A Pawtucket. However, Knobler says some in the Boston organization continue to hope he'll put things together.
- The Orioles are "tapped out" financially in terms of adding another player via trade, a team-connected source tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. GM Dan Duquette added righty Scott Feldman in a trade with the Cubs earlier this month. The O's aren't in the market for an ace pitcher, and any deal for a DH or outfielder would have to fit the team's limited budget. The Twins' Justin Morneau, who's owed $6MM for the remainder of the year, would be "too expensive," an Orioles source tells Heyman. Instead, O's fans should look for any help to come from within, Heyman says, citing the recently promoted outfield prospect Henry Urrutia and pitcher Kevin Gausman.
The Red Sox announced today that they have demoted third baseman Will Middlebrooks to Triple-A Pawtucket and purchased the contract of infielder Brandon Snyder. To make room on the 40-man roster, David Ross was transferred to the 60-day DL.
Middlebrooks is batting just .192/.228/.389 through 216 plate appearances this season. He figures to be replaced by the sizzling Jose Iglesias, whose .426/.479/.565 batting line, while unsustainable, was too much for manager John Farrell and GM Ben Cherington to ignore.
The demotion comes exactly 366 days after the team traded franchise cornerstone Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox in order to pave a path to regular playing time for Middlebrooks. At the time, Middlebrooks was off to a hot start after ranking as the game's No. 51 prospect prior to the 2012 season according to Baseball America and No. 56 according to MLB.com. Moving Youkilis to first base wasn't an option, of course, because Adrian Gonzalez was in just the second year of a seven-year, $154MM extension.
Twelve months later, it's Iglesias manning third base and free agent addition Mike Napoli handling first base duties, following last summer's blockbuster trade of Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Dodgers.
When asked about the decision by Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal, Farrell offered the following:
"This became about Will getting regular at-bats. He's an important part of us today as much as he is going forward. For him to get back on track, to make an impact with us, he needs everyday at-bats. That's where he's headed right now."
Farrell went on to say that Middlebrooks' skills haven't gone backwards and it's not uncommon to see young players like Middlebrooks struggle after early success. Farrell didn't offer a timetable for Middlebrooks' return to the Majors.
Matt Harvey posted a game score of 97 while taking a perfect game into the seventh, striking out 12, and walking none over nine innings against the White Sox Tuesday night, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports notes (on Twitter). Only 40 outings of nine innings or fewer since 1916 have earned a higher game score. Here's a collection of notes from around the majors.
- The nine Asian-born pitchers who have pitched in the big leagues this year have combined to post numbers similar to a typical Justin Verlander season, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs says. Those nine pitchers have 241 1/3 innings pitched so far in 2013, with a 2.91 ERA, 9.6 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. Yu Darvish has been a big part of that, of course, but Hyun-Jin Ryu, Hisashi Iwakuma, Hiroki Kuroda, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara have also pitched well. The past struggles of pitchers like Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Irabu have allowed today's Asian-born pitchers to fly under the radar somewhat, Cameron argues, and he wonders whether pitchers from overseas leagues might be undervalued in the market. Specifically, he says, emphasis on fastball velocity and breaking balls may cause teams to undervalue pitchers with great splitters or changeups.
- Free agency has become "a used car lot cluttered with lemons," with only a few bargains to be found, Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated argues, citing the examples of Josh Hamilton (Angels), B.J. Upton (Braves) and Zack Greinke (Dodgers). Thus far, Hamilton and Upton have failed to produce with their new teams, and Greinke is hurt. In the past four seasons, Verducci notes, there have been 24 free-agent contracts worth $35MM or more. Most of those have turned out badly, and some (such as Jason Bay's deal with the Mets) have looked bad almost immediately. That means that "win[ning] the winter" by signing the biggest-name free agents isn't all it's cracked up to be, as the 2012 Marlins can attest. This year's Angels and Dodgers have struggled out of the gate, and so have the Blue Jays (who had a big offseason mostly driven by trades).
- The Astros' decisions to designate Rick Ankiel and Fernando Martinez for assignment made their outfield more athletic, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart says. Robbie Grossman, Brandon Barnes and Jimmy Paredes started in the outfield for the Astros Tuesday night. "We went out to get more athletic, get more guys who have the ability to mishit the ball and still have a possibility of getting on base because of their athletic ability," says manager Bo Porter.
- Will Middlebrooks and David Ross left the Red Sox's game against the Twins Tuesday night after they collided. There is no indication yes that Middlebrooks will miss significant time. But after Middlebrooks, the Red Sox have little depth at third base, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports. Utility infielder Pedro Ciriaco "isn't the answer," MacPherson says, and the choices at Triple-A Pawtucket aren't thrilling. Minor-league veteran Justin Henry, who was acquired in the offseason for Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus, may be the best option there. Brock Holt, who arrived from the Pirates with Joel Hanrahan in the offseason, is another possibility. Of course, Middlebrooks himself has struggled this year, hitting just .195/.232/.281.
- Jake Peavy does not have a no-trade clause in his new contract with the White Sox, and he doesn't need one, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. "I told (GM) Rick Hahn that if he didn’t trade me before spring training was over, that was good enough for me," says Peavy, pointing out that it's unlikely he will be traded if the White Sox are contending.
- Rosenthal also notes that Madison Bumgarner's contract with the Giants could be one of the most team-friendly in baseball. Bumgarner, 23, would have been eligible for free agency after the 2016 season, but his new deal contains cheap team options that can allow the Giants to carry him through 2019.
- The Brewers have assigned Francisco Rodriguez to Class A+ Brevard County, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes. Rodriguez will make three relief appearances there, then head to Triple-A Nashville. The Brewers must promote Rodriguez to the majors by May 17, or he can become a free agent. Rodriguez posted a 4.38 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 78 appearances with the Brewers in 2012.
- Diamond Mines' new database provides a fascinating look at old scouting reports, including many in the scouts' own handwriting.
On this date in 1998, Cal Ripken Jr. took himself out of the Orioles' starting lineup and ended his consecutive games played streak at 2,632. The Orioles haven’t made the playoffs since, but this could be their year; they’re currently in playoff position. Here are today’s AL East links...
- There are indications that the Red Sox won't pursue a long-term extension with Will Middlebrooks this offseason, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports. The team's front office executives aren't in a rush to make a long-term judgment about Middlebrooks. “Obviously it’s a possibility,” Middlebrooks said.
- Ichiro Suzuki and Brett Gardner are too similar to be the Yankees' corner outfielders in 2013, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post writes. The Yankees hope to have Gardner back at full health next year, so Ichiro might have to sign elsewhere as a free agent. Davidoff won't be surprised if Ichiro's still unsigned in January.
- Blue Jays president Paul Beeston characterized the last few months as the "half season from hell," Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun reports. Beeston said "there is a feeling of emptiness" at not being able to deliver for fans and added that he’s “actually pissed off” that the A’s and Orioles are headed for the playoffs while the Blue Jays are not.
In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe ranks the top ten managers in baseball. Don Mattingly of the Dodgers tops the list as he has the club off to a surprising 38-22 record, putting them four games above the Giants in the NL West. Robin Ventura (White Sox), Terry Collins (Mets), Bobby Valentine (Red Sox), and Buck Showalter (Orioles) round out the top five. Here's more from Cafardo..
- Only Kevin Towers knows for sure if the inconsistent Justin Upton could ever be available in a deal. However, a few baseball evaluators wouldn’t mind tempting the Diamondbacks with a package. Arizona doesn't need pitching, so the Red Sox can't use someone like Clay Buchholz to get him.
- The Phillies may be more interested in Will Middlebrooks than Kevin Youkilis, a major league source told Cafardo. However, it doesn't look like the Red Sox would have interest in dealing Middlebrooks.
- The Orioles' new six-year, $85MM deal with Adam Jones has led to speculation on how the Red Sox will approach Jacoby Ellsbury, who can be a free agent after the 2013 season. However, there's reason for both sides to wait. As an Oregon native who shuns the spotlight, Ellsbury may want a quieter market. The Sox, meanwhile, would want to see Ellsbury stay healthy for a while before committing 6-8 years to him.
- While the Mariners haven’t given indications that they will sell off veteran pieces, teams are targeting them as a seller. The M's have already received some inquiries for Brandon League.
- The Rays have to be looking for a middle infielder, which are extremely hard to come by. Tampa Bay is anxious to upgrade from the defensive play of Sean Rodriguez.
- The Red Sox really like Jorge Soler, but they don’t appear to be the front-runners for him.