Wilson Ramos Rumors
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.
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:
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.
"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 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:
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.
"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."
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.
Some links for Monday, before Mike Leake tries to restore order for the Reds...
- Mychael Urban of CSNBayArea.com explains why he believes the Giants should acquire bullpen help.
- Dave Cameron of U.S.S. Mariner wonders (via Twitter) if the Mariners and Blue Jays could swap two recently-designated players: Ian Snell and Edwin Encarnacion.
- D'Backs GM Josh Byrnes told Jack Curry of the YES Network that he will need "very significant players" in return for some of his stars (Twitter link). Sounds like Dan Haren will be hard to obtain this summer.
- Mariano Rivera told Joel Sherman of the New York Post that he doesn't want to think about his contract (it expires after the season) but would consider signing a one-year deal like Andy Pettitte.
- Wilson Ramos is thought of as the kind of prospect that could help the Twins pry Cliff Lee from the Mariners. But as Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune notes, the catcher will miss about a week with a strained oblique.
- Pat Andriola of FanGraphs names winners and losers from some 2008 deadline deals.
- Most expect the D'Backs to continue selling, but Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports notes (via Twitter) that no scouts made a special trip to see Edwin Jackson's most recent start.
- The Red Sox signed Jay Broughton from the independent league Calgary Vipers, according to Sean Myers of the Calgary Herald. The 23-year-old had enrolled in grad school, but he quit and Red Sox assistant GM Allard Baird took notice and signed him.
- Alex Speier of WEEI.com explains that the Dodgers, who lost to Clay Buchholz last night, nearly drafted the right-hander in the 2005 draft.
- R.J. Anderson of FanGraphs says the Braves could improve by adding an outfielder before the trade deadline. Few Braves fans would argue that GM Frank Wren shouldn't consider players like Luke Scott and David DeJesus if the price is right.
- MLB.com's Joe Frisaro says the Marlins need to solidify their bullpen if they're going to contend.
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...
- Rays Index tries to figure out which starting pitcher Tampa Bay will trade after the season.
- At Home Plate thinks John Lackey was off-base with his recent comments about the Angels.
- The Friarhood wonders if the Padres can already be declared the winner of the Jake Peavy trade.
- Nick's Twins Blog says that trading Wilson Ramos is a no-brainer.
- More Hardball looks at some players who are performing well in the big leagues after signing minor league deals this offseason.
- Yankeeist revisits the old Robinson Cano for Matt Kemp trade rumor.
- Mets Paradise wonders how long Frank Catalanotto and Fernando Tatis will keep their jobs.
If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.
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.
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."
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.
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.
Twins catching prospect Wilson Ramos, according to Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, became "one of the better trade chips in baseball" when Joe Mauer signed his eight-year extension. Goldstein ranked Ramos #65 overall among prospects. Baseball America put him at #58, while ESPN's Keith Law has him at #42.
In their 2010 Handbook, Baseball America wrote that Ramos is "almost big league-ready and has significant upside." All three outlets consider him an aggressive but above-average hitter with a cannon for an arm. Though Ramos missed almost three months with injuries in '09, he hit .317/.341/.454 at Double A and played well in winter ball.
Asked what the Twins should do with Ramos, Law recently said, "Trade him. And I don't mean for Heath Bell." Austin Jackson, Tim Alderson, Carlos Carrasco, and Jason Donald, Chris Perez, and Aaron Poreda are examples of prospects ranked in the #40-60 range on 2009 prospect lists who were recently traded for veterans. Each deal had its own nuances and additional parts, but the prospects named were typically headliners. They were used to acquire Curtis Granderson, Freddy Sanchez, Cliff Lee, Mark DeRosa, and Jake Peavy, veterans with varying contract situations.
Clearly Ramos can help bring in a major piece for the Twins. As Law indicates, it's not worth spending that chip on a reliever. A third baseman or an ace starting pitcher would make more sense, but at this point I can't find an appropriate name for the Twins to pursue. They may choose to let Ramos spend all of 2010 at Triple A and evaluate their needs in the offseason.