Wilmer Flores Rumors

East Notes: Jaso, Yankees, Flores

This year will mark the first Spring Training of John Jaso‘s career where he won’t be working out as a catcher, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. “It’s definitely going to be different,” says Jaso. “I have no idea. The Big Papi program? I don’t know. … This will be kind of the first time for me.” Topkin notes that the Rays could use Jaso at catcher if there’s an emergency, but he’ll spend most of the season at DH after having concussion issues in each of the last two seasons. The Rays acquired Jaso and two prospects from the Athletics in the Ben Zobrist deal last month, and president of baseball operations Matt Silverman said at the time that he wanted to put Jaso “in the best position to succeed.” Potentially preventing injury by moving Jaso out from behind the plate would certainly help with that. The Rays could also use Jaso at first or in the outfield. Here’s more from the East divisions.

  • GM Brian Cashman said on WFAN Friday that the Yankees had finished their “heavy lifting” this offseason, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com notes. Previous reporting had indicated that the Yankees might pursue in James Shields, but Cashman’s comments indicate that isn’t the case. As Kuty suggests, the idea that the Yankees won’t be a top bidder for Shields is consistent with their approach to the offseason so far — they re-signed Chase Headley and added Andrew Miller, but they’ve otherwise steered clear of top free agents after adding Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran last offseason.
  • Wilmer Flores isn’t listening to criticism about the Mets’ shortstop situation, Matt Ehalt of the Record writes. The Mets didn’t add a shortstop this winter and are heading into the spring with Flores as their likely starter, leading to plenty of second-guessing from commentators and fans. “People doubt a lot of people,” says Flores. “I’m not worried about that. I’m just going to go out and play.” Flores hit .251/.286/.378 last season, but he’s hit well in the high minors, and the Mets like his offensive potential. His defense remains open to question, although UZR has liked his glove work in small sample sizes in his first two partial seasons in the Majors. As Mike Petriello wrote for Fangraphs last month, concerns about the Mets’ shortstop situation might be somewhat misplaced. The position is weak throughout the Majors, and Steamer projects Flores will be the 19th most valuable shortstop by WAR in the big leagues in 2015, ahead of some of the top options available this offseason, like Asdrubal Cabrera and Stephen Drew.

East Notes: Rays, Yankees, Mets, Blue Jays

The Rays have made seven trades this offseason with an eye towards cutting payroll and retooling the franchise, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s a little bit of a threading of the needle,” said GM Matt Silverman. The trades were designed to give the 2015 product a chance to contend while improving the future of the franchise with players like Steven Souza and Daniel Robertson. The team cut payroll by about $10MM and escaped $12.5MM of future commitments. A possible trade of David DeJesus could trim costs by another $5MM. Here’s more from the eastern divisions.

  • With so many bad contracts on the books, it’s hard for the Yankees to swallow a big ticket purchase like Max Scherzer, writes Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. The Bombers have about $210MM committed to the 2015 product. More importantly, there are few roster spots for available for expensive free agents. Every big contract takes away from the roster’s flexibility. Based on the argument, my own conclusion is that the Yankees have to develop at least some young, cost-controlled stars.
  • Across town, the Mets have a payroll less than half that of the Yankees, yet they’ve done nothing to solve their supposed problem at shortstop. Wilmer Flores is the expected starter, although the club also has Ruben Tejada under contract. Of the major free agents, Hanley Ramirez signed to play outfield for the Red Sox while Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Stephen Drew don’t project to be much better than Flores. Flores will play on a league minimum contract and possesses growth potential. And as Davidoff notes, Flores is projected to be roughly league average by FanGraphs. For what it’s worth, I haven’t understood the fascination with bringing in a replacement for Flores and Tejada. The club appears to be better off at the position than half the league.
  • The Blue Jays are expected to feature three Canadian born players in the everyday lineup, writes Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. While that doesn’t really affect the 2015 product in any obvious way, it could have long reaching ripple effects. Russell Martin noted how fellow Canadian Larry Walker inspired him when he was younger. With players like Martin, Michael Saunders, and Dalton Pompey now in the fold, Canadian youngsters have more talented ballplayers to emulate.

Mets Notes: Payroll, Colon, Tejada

The latest on the Mets..

  • GM Sandy Alderson estimates the Mets’ payroll is right around $100MM, reports Adam Rubin of ESPN New York. Alderson expects payroll to remain at that level or decline. As Rubin points out, whatever is left to add will probably cost less than one of Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese, or Dillon Gee. The Mets are expected to trade at least one of the trio.
  • Colon is not the most likely to be dealt, according to Rubin. The Mets are willing to eat some of the $11MM owed to the veteran – perhaps as much as $1MM. However, trade partners are expected to prefer the younger options.
  • Mets skipper Terry Collins says Ruben Tejada will be a candidate for the starting shortstop job, along with Wilmer Flores, if the team doesn’t get a new one, tweets Mike Puma of the New York Post.
  • The Mets could turn to the international market for a shortstop. Korea’s Jung-Ho Kang is expected to be posted soon, and Japan’s Takashi Toritani is another option. However, Alderson admits that the club probably isn’t ready to make a big commitment to either shortstop.
  • Alderson notes that several clubs are willing to spend big money on international free agents. The Mets have not been one of those teams, but that could change.  “I expect we will be in that category soon,” Alderson said.
  • Injured closer Bobby Parnell is expected to open the season on the disabled list, writes Rubin in a separate post. If that should happen, the club would fill the void internally. Parnell missed the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery.


Alderson On Gregorius, Flores, Pitchers, Trades

Here’s the latest from Mets exec Sandy Alderson, via Adam Rubin of ESPN New York.

  • The Mets currently appear slated to head into 2015 with Wilmer Flores at shortstop, Alderson says. The team did not have significant discussions with the Diamondbacks about Didi Gregorius before Gregorius was traded to the Yankees. “We knew Arizona was looking for young pitching,” says Alderson. “There’s some young pitching we weren’t prepared to trade, but I can’t say we had a lot of extensive conversations with Arizona.” The Diamondbacks reportedly asked for Noah Syndergaard in exchange for Gregorius.
  • Rubin writes that the team has had talks with the Mariners about Brad Miller and Chris Taylor, but they could wait until January to acquire shortstop (if they do acquire one), whether that’s through a trade or through the signing of someone like Jed Lowrie.
  • The Mets are also looking for a left-handed reliever and a right-handed bench bat, but Alderson suggests they could wait until after the Winter Meetings to obtain them.
  • Likewise, the Mets could wait to trade one of their starting pitchers — likely Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese or Dillon Gee — until later this offseason. “[Y]ou look at the free-agent market — not a lot has happened on the pitching side,” says Alderson. “Some of that activity may have to take place before we’re able to really have serious discussions with anyone on a possible trade.”
  • Alderson says he is not overly worried about the possibility of trading Niese and being without a lefty in the Mets’ starting rotation.

Mets Inquired On Jimmy Rollins

A Mets trade for Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is “not happening,” a source tells Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.  Rubin says such a move is not on the Mets’ radar due to the $120MM owed to Tulo through 2020, as well as the prospect cost of “two or three blue-chippers.”  More from Rubin:

  • The Mets spoke with the Phillies about acquiring Jimmy Rollins, writes Rubin.  Rubin adds, “The pursuit since has been dismissed because Rollins does not want to leave Philadelphia.”
  • The Mets are unenthusiastic about the available free agent shortstops, and plan to go the trade route to fill the position.  The Diamondbacks, Mariners, White Sox, and Cubs are viewed as viable trade partners.  Andy Martino of the New York Daily News says “it has been difficult, if not impossible” for the Mets and Cubs to agree on the value of Starlin Castro.  Meanwhile, Martino says Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox only emerged as a possibility within the past week.  Martino’s early read has the White Sox seeking the Mets’ top young starters and the Mets pitching their veterans.
  • If the Mets are unable to acquire a shortstop, or go with a defense-first type like Didi Gregorius, they are likely to retain second baseman Daniel Murphy, writes Rubin.  If they get a shortstop who can hit, Murphy is more likely to be dealt if the Mets get a sufficient offer.  Rubin expects the Mets to wait on Murphy until after resolving their shortstop situation.
  • The Mets seek a veteran lefty reliever to complement Josh Edgin in their bullpen.  They are also seeking a backup infielder, unless Wilmer Flores is bumped to that role.
  • The Mets will also consider trading Dillon Gee, Jonathon Niese, or Bartolo Colon.

East Notes: Rasmus, Gee, Flores, Tomas

Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus discussed his disappointing season and pending free agency in a lengthy and excellent interview with Scott Macarthur of TSN.ca. Rasmus’s comments are too lengthy and complicated to encapsulate fully and fairly here, but are well worth a read (or a listen) to anyone interested in understanding one of the more interesting free agent situations in the game. Ultimately, Rasmus comes across as an extremely thoughtful player who, perhaps, needs the right environment to thrive. Though he did not say outright that he does not view that place as Toronto, Rasmus did say that his time with the Cardinals was at times “so unenjoyable that I had trouble wanting to come to the yard everyday and enjoy it,” and noted that he has “kind of run into some of that” this season as well. Said Rasmus: “This year has been a tough year and I’m just going to go home, enjoy it, go back to the drawing board and try to work my tail off this offseason to get in good shape and hopefully find a place to where I fit in well and I can help my team win.” It will be fascinating to see how his free agency turns out; though he has had good years and bad, Rasmus just turned 28, offers rare power for a center fielder, and has put up two approximately four-win seasons.

  • Mets starter Dillon Gee is under team control for next year, but as Newsday’s Marc Carig writes, he could find himself squeezed out of the rotation after a tough second half. “I’ll have a spot somewhere,” said Gee. “It might not be here but it will be somewhere.”
  • The Mets could be more and more inclined to hold off on adding a shortstop given the recent play of Wilmer Flores, as Mike Puma of the New York Post reports“We’re getting a lot more comfortable,” said GM Sandy Alderson. “One of the reasons for giving [Flores] as much playing time as we have is to build up his number of plate appearances to get him more comfortable to try to establish sort of a baseline.” Alderson said that Flores has done a solid job defensively at short, noting that Ruben Tejada and Matt Reynolds also remain internal options to take the position next year.
  • While Yasmani Tomas makes a good deal of sense for the Phillies, that does not mean that they are favorites to sign him, writes David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. Other clubs in better position to contend will likely place an increased value on adding a bat like Tomas given their spot on the win curve, Murphy suggests.

NL East Notes: Marlins, Alderson, Flores, Nats, Uggla

In his latest piece for FOX Sports, Rob Neyer examines the hot starts of both the Marlins and Rockies to see if either club can sustain its success and make a playoff run. While Miami’s trio of Jose Fernandez, Nate Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez is imposing, he also points out that the club’s hitters are playing over their heads. A year after finishing last in the Majors in scoring, Miami is second in the NL in runs after adding Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee but doing little else. As for Colorado, they’ve posted the NL’s lowest strikeout-to-walk ratio, and it’s tough to buy the starts of Charlie Blackmon and Brandon Barnes, Neyer believes.

More links pertaining to the Senior Circuit’s Eastern division…

  • Though the perception is that Omar Minaya left a mess in New York for Mets GM Sandy Alderson, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the remnants of that mess are keeping the Mets afloat. He states that one could argue the team’s best players this season were acquired during Minaya’s tenure. Sherman calls Matt Harvey Minaya’s “parting gift” to the team, adding that the trades of Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey were made possible because Minaya’s regime brought them in to begin with. He notes that “this is not a final report card” as Alderson hasn’t been in charge long enough for a total transformation, but also points out that none of Alderson’s draftees have made the Majors yet.
  • Baseball America’s Matt Eddy profiles Wilmer Flores for Mets fans as the team prepares to install him in its infield, noting that his bat is his ticket to the Major Leagues, but fans shouldn’t expect him to come close to replicating the .318/.357/.524 batting line he’s compiled in the PCL. He also has defensive flaws, as his slow first step and well-below-average speed make him an imperfect fit at any spot but first base,” says Eddy.
  • The Nationals have weathered injuries to Bryce Harper, Doug Fister and Wilson Ramos in large par due to a dominant bullpen, writes the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore. Kilgore notes that offseason acquisition Jerry Blevins has been dominant to this point, and indeed, Blevins has a sub-3.00 ERA with the best strikeout rate (11.15 K/9) of his career in this season’s small sample.
  • Despite his well-documented struggles, Dan Uggla isn’t likely to be released by the Braves, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. The Braves don’t appear comfortable biting the bullet on his remaining $24MM, but they also aren’t comfortable with him as their starting second baseman. Atlanta is likely to evaluate its other options — Ramiro Pena and Tyler Pastornicky — in the coming weeks before turning to prospect Tommy La Stella for assistance, adds Bowman.

NL Notes: Taveras, Stutes, Flores, Cervelli

One of the keys to success for last year's Pirates ballclub was its ability both to generate ground balls and convert them into outs. It all started with a pitching staff that had far and away the highest ground-ball rate (52.5%) in the big leagues. Featuring prominently in the repertoire of several Bucs hurlers, of course, was the sinker. As Tim Williams of PiratesProspects.com found when he investigated, those sinkers come in many different varieties. He provides a fascinating breakdown of the pitch from the perspective of Pirates players and coaches (including many staff members and catcher Russell Martin). Here's more from the National League:

  • With just two weeks left in camp and top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras still working his way back, there is now little chance that he'll come north with the Cardinals for Opening Day, writes Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Of course, that was the likely outcome from the get-go, as St. Louis has a keen interest in delaying his service clock to gain another season of control and minimize the likelihood of a Super Two qualification. 
  • The Phillies outrighted righty Michael Stutes off of the club's 40-man roster to begin making room for non-roster invites, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Struggling to regain velocity after a series of shoulder issues, Stutes had to clear waivers to be stashed in the minors.
  • Though it may yet be a longshot, the Mets have begun working out Wilmer Flores at short, reports Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. With continuing uncertainty as to whether Ruben Tejada can be relied on as an everyday option, DiComo says the team is "overturning every stone on their 40-man roster" to find a solution. Of course, that does not mean that Flores is a serious possibility to man the job for the coming season, but he could be a more attractive big league piece if he could spend some time at short.  
  • As I recently noted in the club's offseason review, the Diamondbacks have not conclusively addressed their backup catching situation. They are among the teams taking a hard look at Francisco Cervelli of the Yankees, reports George A. King III of the New York Post

Quick Hits: Flores, Rowland-Smith, Cherington, Cruz

Top Mets prospect Wilmer Flores will be promoted to the Majors on Tuesday, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports. Flores, an infielder, didn't rank in any major outlets' top 100 prospect lists at the beginning of the season, but he might if those lists were published now — he's hitting .322/.358/.532 in Triple-A (albeit in the excellent hitting environment of Las Vegas), and today is his 22nd birthday. Newsday's Marc Carig notes (on Twitter) that with David Wright on the disabled list, the Mets will likely use Flores at third base. Here are more notes from around the Majors.

  • Pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith had an August 5 out clause in his minor-league deal with the Red Sox, but he will not exercise it, and will instead stay with Triple-A Pawtucket, Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweets. Rowland-Smith has a 1.58 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 for Pawtucket this season. His opt-out date had been pushed back to August after he missed most of July following an appendectomy. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweets that, now that the August 5 date has passed, Rowland-Smith can opt out of his deal if any team offers him a spot on its active roster.
  • Red Sox GM Ben Cherington has emerged as one of baseball's best executives, WEEI.com's Mike Salk writes. After an awful 2012 season, the Sox have the third-best record in the Majors, behind only the Pirates and Braves. Salk chalks that up to the addition of more depth, character and chemistry to the roster, as well as to Cherington's hiring of John Farrell as the Red Sox's manager.
  • The Rangers are preparing to be without Nelson Cruz now that Cruz has been suspended for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, T.R. Sullivan and William Boor of MLB.com report. The Rangers have promoted outfielders Joey Butler and Engel Beltre, and on Monday they started Beltre along with Leonys Martin and David Murphy, giving the Rangers an all-left-handed outfield. That left three righties — Butler, Craig Gentry and Jeff Baker — on the Rangers' bench, suggesting the possibility of platooning all three outfield spots. "We're going to use the whole roster and continue to play Texas Rangers baseball," says Rangers manager Ron Washington. The Rangers are still trying to trade for an outfielder, but GM Jon Daniels suggests that the waiver rules governing August trades will make it difficult for Texas to pull off a deal.

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Berkman, Dunn, Dodgers

On this date two years ago, Ichiro Suzuki picked up his 3,000th career hit with a first inning single against the Rangers. The hit was his 1,722nd in the big leagues, which came after he racked up 1,278 hits with the Orix Blue Wave in Japan's Pacific League. Including the postseason, the 36-year-old Ichiro has 3,456 career base hits to his credit, a staggering number no matter how you look at it.

Here is the latest from around the baseball blogosphere, a day before the non-waiver trade deadline…

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