Wilmer Flores Rumors

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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What The Mariners Wanted For Cliff Lee

Annoyed your favorite team didn't strike a deal with the Mariners for Cliff Lee?  At least consider the details of Jack Zduriencik's high asking price, as reported by Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

According to Sherman, the Mariners general manager set out to acquire "an interested organization's best position prospect with less than one year of service."  He was offered none better than the Rangers' Justin Smoak.  The Yankees' Jesus Montero was apparently the next-best position prospect offered.  Zduriencik also targeted players such as Ike Davis of the Mets, Desmond Jennings of the Rays, Domonic Brown of the Phillies, Gordon Beckham of the White Sox, and Brett Lawrie (who would've had to have come from the Brewers in a three-way deal).  Sherman notes that the Mets never offered a player better than Fernando Martinez; Jenrry Mejia and Wilmer Flores "were never part of discussions."

Sherman also gets into the failed Yankees-Lee deal like only he can.  He gathered that the Yankees and Mariners had a deal in principle, at which point teams expect you to stop talking to other clubs.  Sherman expects the bad blood to linger, making the Yanks unwilling to deal with the Mariners in the future.  The Yankees were also apparently "rankled" by Seattle's confusingly high asking price for Jarrod Washburn last summer.  Another thought: an executive recently wondered aloud to me how Kevin Towers was involved in the Lee trade talks.  Towers has a close relationship with both Brian Cashman and Zduriencik.

From the Rangers' point of view, GM Jon Daniels indicated today to The Ticket's Norm Hitzges that he continually had an open dialogue with the Mariners.  Daniels felt that the Rangers were in second place Friday morning, until he adjusted his offer.


Reyes Open To Playing Other Positions

Jose Reyes told Constantino Viloria at the Spanish-language New York paper La Opinion that he is open-minded about his future with the Mets. As in past interviews, Reyes dismissed the possibility that he would play anywhere but with the Mets, the organization that scouted and signed him as a teenager in the Dominican Republic. The team holds an $11MM option on Reyes for 2011, which seems a no-brainer given the options on the free agent market.

However, Reyes added a new twist by telling Viloria that while he would prefer to stay at short, he "hasn't ruled out" changing positions. More specifically, Reyes mentions that "I played several games at second base for the Mets," referring to the 43 games he logged at the keystone in 2004.

Reyes' preferences aside, there is an argument to be made for bumping the 27-year-old one slot to the right. First of all, one of the team's top position prospects (along with Fernando Martinez and others) is 18-year-old shortstop Wilmer Flores, who has been showing promise at the lower levels of the Mets system—though some see his future outside of the infield. In any event, once the Mets are free of their commitment to Luis Castillo at the end of 2011 (or sooner by trade), there is no ready replacement within the upper levels of the system save Ruben Tejada, a natural shortstop like Reyes but without his speed or offensive ceiling.

In terms of offense, Reyes' .735 OPS this season compares little better to other second basemen than it would have back in 2004, when the likes of Jeff Kent and Alfonso Soriano were setting the power bar. For now, his production puts him firmly on the Orlando Hudson watershed line (.729 OPS), well below boppers like Cano/Pedroia/Kinsler/Utley but still above the slappy types like Schumaker/Theriot/Barmes.

However, after a few more months of an injured Castillo, Alex Cora and fliers like Tejada, Reyes' willingness to switch could resurface as a topic of discussion, especially as it may give the team the flexibility to either finally trade Castillo or package one of the shortstop prospects for pitching, as has been bandied recently.


Cliff Lee Rumors: Wednesday

9:25pm: An AL GM told ESPN.com's Buster Olney that he believes the Twins could acquire Lee with a package built around prospect Wilson Ramos. Rival GMs believe the Rangers may be better off holding onto their prospects than acquiring Lee.

4:15pm: The Mariners have not started making counter offers for Lee, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney. Rival executives remind Olney that the Mariners may want to deal soon, since an injury would deflate Lee's trade value (all Twitter links)

3:37pm: The Mets, Yankees, Rangers and Phillies appeared to be the only teams scouting Lee last night, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Twins and Dodgers were among the interested teams that did not attend, but it is early and Lee is a known commodity, so the lack of scouts hardly means there's a lack of interest.

10:11am: The Mariners will require a blue-chip prospect in a Cliff Lee trade, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post, even though the last two Lee trades may not have included one.  Sherman suggests the Mets want Lee badly, while the Yankees would just like the Ms to "keep them posted."

Sherman explains that the Mariners like, but don't love, Mets pitching prospect Jenrry Mejia.  He feels that a Mets trade would have to be built around Mejia or Wilmer Flores.  The Mets are willing to trade Flores in a Lee deal, reports Matthew Cerrone of MetsBlog.  They're reluctant to part with other top prospects.  The Mets would like to trade for a starting pitcher as soon as possible, but Cerrone says the Mariners prefer to wait until after the All-Star break to trade Lee.

From the Yankees side, Sherman recommends they make Jesus Montero available.  They've done so before when Lee and Roy Halladay were on the trade market.  Sherman also notes that the Mariners like Yankees Double A second baseman David Adams.  Baseball America ranked Adams 22nd among Yankees prospects heading into the season, and he sports a .309/.393/.507 line at Trenton.  Should the Yanks prefer to pursue Lee as a free agent, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News learned that old friend C.C. Sabathia would be happy to help recruit.

In a longer blog post, Sherman elaborates on what Lee would mean for the Mets, what the Mariners will require, and how prospects are overvalued these days.


A Look At Wilmer Flores

Mets shortstop prospect Wilmer Flores may figure prominently into the Cliff Lee trade rumors of the next few weeks.  Let's learn more about him.

Flores was ranked second among Mets prospects by Baseball America heading into the season, behind only Jenrry Mejia.  He placed 41st on Keith Law's top 100 list for ESPN - one spot above Twins catching prospect Wilson RamosBA, with more of an industry consensus approach, ranked him 88th.  Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus ranked him 84th.  All of these rankings were compiled before the season, and Flores' stock has only risen.

Flores started the season at Low A Savannah, and despite being in the midst of a cold streak was promoted to High A St. Lucie recently.  Though he's only 18 years old, and will be until August, Flores is raking in a tiny 28 plate appearance sample since the promotion.

Reading the opinions of the experts mentioned above, Flores is a special bat who will develop power. He is almost certainly going to move off shortstop, and Law doesn't see him at third base either.  He does have a good arm, leading Goldstein to view him as a future right fielder.  The prospect gurus seem most impressed that he's holding his own against much older competition. 

According to Goldstein, Flores is "at least three years and a position switch away" from the Majors.  Is he too far off to headline a deal for Cliff LeeJohn Hickey of AOL FanHouse sees the Mariners seeking players who can make an impact around 2012, particularly outfielders and left-handed starters.