Will Middlebrooks Rumors
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.
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.