Wilson Ramos Rumors

Cliff Lee Rumors: Wednesday

The Cliff Lee trade talk started intensifying yesterday, as the Twins, Mets, Yankees, Rangers, Phillies and Tigers now have a new suitor to out-bid: the Rays. Not only are the Rays on the periphery of the Lee sweepstakes, they are ready to add payroll and appear willing to part with B.J. Upton. The Yankees are confident that they can jump in and pry Lee away from their divisional foes, but let's not rule out the Yanks' crosstown rivals. Here is the latest on Cliff Lee, with more rumors to come throughout the day:

  • MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan says that the Rangers are working hard to acquire Lee, but nothing is imminent. Texas has plenty of minor league talent to offer, but they don't appear to be willing to move Tanner Scheppers or Martin Perez according to Sullivan. Derek Holland, Blake Beavan, Chris Davis, Justin Smoak, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia could all be fair game.  Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram says the Mariners "inquired about the availability" of Davis and Saltalamacchia.  Righty Alexi Ogando is said to be on the Mariners radar, though "there is some resistance to include him in a deal" on the Rangers' side. 
  • Morosi expands on his earlier tweet, saying that the Reds and Mariners have exchanged names "in preliminary fashion," though the two sides have yet to exchange firm proposals. One GM called Cincinnati a "sleeper" in the Lee sweepstakes.
  • CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam checked on the status of Boston's interest in Lee earlier today, and heard that the asking price was too high (Twitter links). Seattle wants a "stud catcher" close to the bigs, which the Red Sox simply don't have.
  • Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune gets the impression that the Mariners aren't close to moving Lee, at least not to the Twins. He was also told that the two sides haven't exchanged official proposals, and that the Ramos-Hicks talk is "pure speculation."
  • The Mariners are seeking a “mammoth return” for Lee, according to Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. One executive interested in the left-hander said the Mariners made a “crazy ask,” demanding an even better package than Wilson Ramos and Aaron Hicks.
  • FOX reports that the Twins offered Ramos and Kevin Slowey for Lee. At the moment, the Twins, Mets, Yankees and Rangers are most actively engaged with the Mariners in trade talks.
  • The Mariners are calling teams back and telling them that it will take two blue-chip prospects plus a third young player to acquire Lee, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com.
  • Two scouts tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that third base prospect Juan Francisco would be the Reds' best trade chip, not Yonder Alonso (Twitter link).
  • ESPN.com’s Buster Olney hears that the Yankees are not engaged in trade talks for Lee now. They are confident they could acquire the left-hander, but do not intend to deal for him. Olney says the Twins are the favorites to acquire Lee, followed by the Reds, the Rays, the Mets, the Rangers and the field.
  • The Mets officials who have spoken to Joel Sherman of the New York Post don’t seem concerned that the Twins are the perceived frontrunners for Lee. The perception within the game is that the Mariners are leaning more toward scouting than number crunching, and the Mets believe that will work in their favor.

Cliff Lee Rumors: Tuesday

The Twins offered prospects Wilson Ramos and Aaron Hicks to the Mariners for Cliff Lee, according to a report by Jeff Fletcher of AOL FanHouse yesterday. Reports have since indicated that the two clubs are not close to a deal. If nothing works out between the Twins and Mariners, other teams, such as the Yankees, Mets, Rangers and Reds would likely be involved. We'll keep track of all the day's Cliff Lee rumors right here, so check back later in the day to see if we have moved this post back to the top of the page with updates.

  • ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Twitter link) hears that Lee trade talks are "heating up," since some teams want to add the southpaw as soon as possible.
  • An official from one team interested in Lee tells AOL FanHouse's Ed Price that his club has yet to hear back from Jack Zduriencik regarding what sort of return the Mariners are seeking.
  • B.J. Upton, now involved in the Lee rumors, tells Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times that he doesn't want the Rays to trade him (Twitter link). Joe Maddon also talks to Topkin about the Upton rumors, saying there's "nothing from our end regarding that being true."
  • The Yankees believe they could trade for Lee if they wanted to, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (via Twitter).
  • The Yankees are “kicking the tires” on Lee, a source tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The source estimates that the Yanks have less than a 50% chance of obtaining Lee and suggests the Yankees could flip Javier Vazquez to another team if they do acquire Lee.
  • The Rays are on the periphery of the Lee sweepstakes, according to Rosenthal’s sources, who confirm that B.J. UptonCliff Lee trade talk surfaced amoung scouts last night.
  • The Tigers like Lee, but aren't optimistic about acquiring him, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter).
  • Olney hears that the Mariners "really like" Brewers prospect Brett Lawrie (Twitter link). The 20-year-old second baseman recently made Baseball America's mid-season All-Star team. Lawrie "still strikes out too often and is a work in progress at second base," but is among the offensive leaders at AA. The Mariners have 2009 first rounder Dustin Ackley, also a second baseman, hitting well in AA, though Ackley's presence doesn't mean they can't pursue Lawrie.
  • Morosi hears that talks between the Mets and Mariners have not progressed much (Twitter link).
  • Jerry Crasnick's sources estimate that there's a 60-100% chance that the Mariners trade Lee this month. The Mets prefer Lee to innings eaters and the Yankees ‘covet’ him, but the Phillies would be more likely to pursue Dan Haren if they go after an ace, according to Crasnick’s report for ESPN.com. One AL executive suggested the Mariners might have to explore three-way trades to get as much as possible in return for the left-hander.
  • A rival executive told Ed Price of AOL FanHouse that the Twins will ‘go hard’ after Lee. Some believe the Rangers called Omar Beltre up to showcase him for the Mariners.
  • Peter Gammons hears rumblings of a Lee-B.J. Upton deal and wonders if a third team could be involved along with the Mariners and Rays (Twitter link).
  • Rosenthal hears that no deal between the Twins and Mariners is imminent. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik declined to characterize the talks he has had with the Twins, but Jon Paul Morosi hears that the Mariners have scouted the Twins extensively. Executives were divided on whether the Twins, who have traditionally held onto their prospects, would offer Hicks and Ramos in the same deal.

Cliff Lee Rumors: Monday

Yesterday Cliff Lee had another dominant outing and the Dodgers, Yankees, Cardinals and Phillies had scouts in Detroit to watch it. We'll keep track of all the day's Cliff Lee rumors right here, so check back later in the day to see if we have moved this post back to the top of the page with updates.

  • The Twins aren't close to a deal for Lee, a team source tells LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune (via Twitter).
  • The Twins have offered outfielder Aaron Hicks and catcher Wilson Ramos for Lee, a major league source told Jeff Fletcher of AOL Fanhouse (via Twitter).
  • There are "interesting discussions" and "possibilities" for a Lee-to-Minnesota deal, tweets Jon Heyman of SI.
  • The Reds have talked to the Mariners about Lee, according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer.  While tampering rules prevent GM Walt Jocketty from commenting on Lee in particular, Fay believes that his words infer that the 2008 AL Cy Young winner would be a player of interest.

    “I will say this: We’re looking at any way we can to improve the club,” said the GM. “To improve the club, it would have to be a pretty significant player to do that. We have a lot of good things going. We don’t want to disrupt that.”

    Fay writes that it will take more than Yonder Alonso, a trade candidate mentioned by ESPN's Buster Olney over the weekend, to land Lee.  Edinson Volquez's performance upon his return will also have an impact on the Reds' interest in making a deal.

  • The Rangers, Twins, Yankees and Mets are among the teams having the most active conversations with the Mariners about Lee, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. The Dodgers have also discussed the left-hander with the Mariners.
  • The Tigers, Phillies and Cardinals have been scouting Lee, but those teams are not pursuing him as aggressively.
  • Some of Morosi's sources believe the Mariners would rather obtain hitters than pitchers, while others don't believe position matters to GM Jack Zduriencik. There is consensus that the Mariners prefer prospects who are close to contributing in the major leagues.

Gardenhire On Twins’ Trade Philosophy

4:26pm: MLB.com's Kelly Thesier has more from Gardenhire, who says that he and GM Bill Smith are aware of who's out there and talk casually about trades up until the All-Star Break, when they typically sit down to discuss potential moves in a more serious manner.

1:57pm: Mired in a four-game losing streak, and having lost six of their last ten games, the Twins find themselves with just a half-game lead on the AL Central as they square off against their former ace Johan Santana in New York today.

Since Santana's trade following the 2007 season, the Twins have lacked a definitive ace atop their rotation. Francisco Liriano has shown flashes of brilliance and looks to have returned to form somewhat in 2010. However, it seems a long shot that he'll ever recapture the dominance he exhibited in his 2006 breakout, which was cut short by Tommy John surgery.

Currently relying on Liriano, Carl Pavano, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, and Nick Blackburn, the Twins' rotation has begun to falter over recent weeks. Slowey and Blackburn in particular have struggled of late, posting ERAs of 5.18 and 9.47 over the last month, respectively.

The combination of need and the presence of blocked catching prospect Wilson Ramos have led many to believe the Twins to be the front-runners to acquire Seattle's Cliff Lee.

Knowing that the Twins are a front-runner for Lee and that they've explored a trade for Houston's Roy Oswalt, Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune spoke with Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire today regarding the club's trade philosophy. If the Twins are pursuing Lee, who is rumored to be available immediately, Gardenhire isn't tipping their hand:

"This organization’s pretty set in its ways about not ever giving up your system for a rental, as they say. We haven’t done that in the past, and I wouldn’t think they would be leaning that way now."

Gardenhire's comments aren't necessarily entirely accurate. While the Twins haven't dealt elite prospects for talent in the past, they did trade for two rentals last season when they acquired Orlando Cabrera from the Athletics and traded the Indians for Pavano's services in August. Pavano remains a Twin after accepting arbitration this past offseason.

Gardenhire does concede that "things happen" and mentions increased revenue from the sellout crowds every game at the Twins' new home, Target Field. He's quick to cover that admission, however:

"But it still goes with the philosophy of the organization and that’s develop and bring these guys to the big leagues — and that’s never going to change here, I don’t believe."

The one hole in Gardenhire's statement? Ramos, ranked as the game's 58th-best prospect by Baseball America in late February, won't supplant AL MVP Joe Mauer, making it impossible to see him being brought to the big leagues as a regular — at least in a Twins uniform.

While those comments may leave the door more open for Oswalt, the Astros recently called up their own elite catching prospect, Jason Castro. There's also the issue of Oswalt's contract. At $16MM in 2011, it will be a considerable burden to any club looking to acquire the Houston ace, making Lee a far more logical target for Minnesota, despite its past philosophy.

Odds & Ends: Giants, D’Backs, Rivera, Ramos

Some links for Monday, before Mike Leake tries to restore order for the Reds…

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Rays, Lackey, Peavy, Cano

On this date 11 years ago, Hideki Irabu of the Yankees and Mac Suzuki of the Mariners faced off in the first match up of Japanese starting pitchers in Major League history. Irabu allowed one run over seven innings as the Yanks defeated Seattle by the score of 10-1.

Here are some links from around the baseball blogosphere…

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.

Cafardo On Suzuki, Cabrera, Griffey, Zambrano

In Nick Cafardo's latest piece for the Boston Globe, he takes an extended look at the Red Sox' early-season catching issues. He reiterates that if David Ortiz's struggles continue, the logical solution is to move Victor Martinez to DH and acquire a catcher. Cafardo names Kurt Suzuki as a player who would intrigue the Sox, since he can hit as well as play defense. Here are a few of Cafardo's other notes:

  • Other catchers to keep an eye on for the Sox include Chris Iannetta, Miguel Olivo, Chris Snyder, and even Twins prospect Wilson Ramos, though he'd be costly.
  • Cafardo praises the work Miguel Cabrera has put in to improve his image after last year's off-field problems. According to Cafardo, the Tigers "entertained trade proposals for him, but they wanted the farm in return."
  • Ken Griffey Jr. is off to a slow start this year, but the Mariners will give him time to work through it. Seattle may eventually have to limit his playing time if his bat doesn't get hot, but would never release him.
  • Cafardo is skeptical that the Cubs will be able to trade for a setup man and move Carlos Zambrano back into the rotation in the near future, suggesting the relief market is fairly thin.
  • One AL international scout's assessment of Cuban shortstops Jose Iglesias and Adeiny Hechavarria: "Iglesias is certainly the more polished player at this stage, but Hechavarria has more upside…. I’d say Iglesias could play defensively in the big leagues right now, where Hechavarria would need a year or two to refine his game a bit." While the Sox would like to give Iglesias more minor league experience, they could bring him up if something were to happen to Marco Scutaro or Dustin Pedroia.

Gammons On Snyder, Ramos, Martinez, Ortiz

Peter Gammons made his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Big Show today, and as always, dished about some possible Red Sox moves.  Ethan Landy has the full transcript available, but here are some of the more interesting tidbits…

  • In regards to the Chris Snyder trade rumors, Gammons said the Sox would be hesitant about paying the catcher the rest of the $4.75MM he’s owed for this season and the $5.75MM owed for 2011.  Gammons said the Red Sox would prefer to spend that money on “a big piece” at the trade deadline.
  • Gammons tabs Minnesota prospect Wilson Ramos as “probably the best [catcher] in the minor leagues that might be traded,” though he thinks a deal is a longshot since the Twins would ask for Daniel Bard or Clay Buchholz in return. A few weeks ago, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes looked at what the Twins might do with Ramos.
  • Should Boston pick up another catcher, of course, that would leave Victor Martinez out of a position what with Kevin Youkilis at first and Adrian Beltre at third.  Gammons points out that the Sox would face a tough decision about what to do with “three DH’s on the roster,” counting Martinez along with David Ortiz and Mike Lowell
  • Gammons reiterated a past point about how catching prospect Mark Wagner may have more value to Boston than Ortiz at this stage, given Wagner’s defensive skills and Ortiz’s struggles at the plate.  Though, as Gammons notes, they set this team up to get offense out of catcher and DH, so that is a tough change in direction without a real answer.”

Top Trade Chips: AL Central

Let's continue our look at each club's top trade chips today with the AL Central…

  • Indians: The Tribe have dealt their Opening Day starter in each of the last two seasons, and there's a good chance they'll do it again with Jake Westbrook in 2010. The 32-year-old righty will earn $11MM this season, the last one on his contract. After dumping Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez in cost-cutting moves last year, expect them to shop Westbrook around for prospects this summer.
  • Royals: All four of Kansas City's outfielders come off the books after this season (assuming some options are bought out for six figures), so Rick Ankiel, David DeJesus, Scott Podsednik, and even Jose Guillen could be moved in a deal for a young player. The team would obviously have to eat a lot of money to move Guillen. The contracts of relievers Juan Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth also expire after the season, so there might be some interest in them.
  • Tigers: Detroit isn't going to move any of their young power arms, but if they eat a large chunk of salary like they did with Nate Robertson, there might be interest in Jeremy Bonderman and/or Dontrelle Willis. Young backstop Alex Avila could make Gerald Laird expendable as well. The Tigers have four lefty relievers on their 40-man roster (Phil Coke, Fu-Te Ni, Daniel Schlereth, and Brad Thomas), and that demographic is always in demand.
  • Twins: Minnesota has one of the best trade chips in the league, blocked catching prospect Wilson Ramos. Lefty Glen Perkins is pitching in Triple-A and seems to have fallen out of favor with the club after filing a grievance, so he could be made available as well. He has four years of team control left.
  • White Sox: GM Kenny Williams isn't shy about emptying out the farm system in a trade for an established big leaguer, which has left him with little minor league ammo. Their best young prospects are catcher Tyler Flowers and starter Daniel Hudson, who would seem to have a future with the club, but I'm not going to put anything past Williams. Flowers could make A.J. Pierzynski or Ramon Castro expendable, ditto Hudson and Freddy Garcia. Gordon Beckham should be untouchable, obviously.

Stark On Bell, Nathan, Oswalt, Dunn

Let's check in on the Rumblings and Grumblings of ESPN's Jayson Stark

  • One exec Stark spoke to implied the Padres may not be motivated to trade closer Heath Bell because he's under team control through 2011 and signed at $4MM for 2010.  Bell's salary could double in '11, though, and I'm not convinced the Padres will want to pay it.
  • Stark talked to a GM who thinks Bell makes sense for the Twins as a backup plan in case Joe Nathan needs a 16-month Tommy John recovery period to get back to normal.  Stark learned that a significant part of Nathan's salary this year is insured, so that frees up some money this year.  But again, will the Twins want to pay nearly $20MM to two relievers in 2011?
  • Should Houston's troubles continue, Stark wonders if Roy Oswalt would consider waiving his no-trade clause.  He says a friend of Oswalt believes the pitcher's preferred destinations are Atlanta, St. Louis, and Texas.  It's hard to see those clubs making a play for Oswalt, especially with his large salaries for '10 and '11.
  • Stark guesses the Nationals are more likely to trade Adam Dunn before the deadline than sign him to an extension.  Last we heard, ESPN's Buster Olney said there were no ongoing extension talks.
  • Twins catching prospect Wilson Ramos has been labeled as one of the game's best trade chips, but assistant GM Rob Antony says that "right now, we'd lean toward keeping him."
  • If he can't find a big league job, Kevin Millar could sign with the St. Paul Saints, where his pro career began.  Millar was released by the Cubs on March 30th.