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Rafael Soriano needs 32 more games finished to cause his $14MM club option to vest, but the Nationals closer says that vesting option or not, he wants to return to Washington in 2015, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports. Soriano would need to get up to the 62-finish mark (a career high) to make it, though with the Nats in a tight pennant race, they’ll undoubtedly need their closer as much as possible down the stretch.
Here’s some more news and notes from around baseball…
- Scouts for the Indians have been told to focus their attention on Rays minor leaguers, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo reports, and Cotillo wonders if this could suggest that Cleveland is revisiting talks for David Price. Cleveland and Tampa discussed a Price trade during the offseason, as Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported, that involved Carlos Santana and Danny Salazar going to the Rays. (Tampa Bay also had interest in Francisco Lindor but the Indians consider Lindor virtually untouchable in any trade.) A new trade package, Cotillo speculates, could be Santana/Salazar for Price and a couple of Rays prospects, hence the Tribe’s interest in scouting Tampa’s farm system.
- Also from Cotillo, the Angels made the same three-year, $15.75MM offer to both Joe Smith and Edward Mujica this past offseason and told both pitchers that the contract would go to whichever accepted first. Smith took the deal first and is enjoying a strong season, even moving into the Halos’ closing job. Mujica, meanwhile, signed a two-year, $9.5MM deal with the Red Sox and has struggled to a 5.45 ERA in 34 2/3 IP.
- The Giants are still without agreements for five of their top 10 draft picks, a situation Cotillo believes could be due to the club devoting their time and draft pool resources to signing first-rounder Tyler Beede, who couldn’t negotiate until after the College World Series.
- Despite the number of recent stars to come out of Cuba, teams are still relying on very little or no scouting information when signing these players, Danny Knobler writes for Bleacher Report. Knobler’s piece explores the future of the Cuban talent pipeline while also delving into the limited data the White Sox and Dodgers, respectively, had when signing Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig to major contracts.
- While the Royals‘ farm system is still considered strong, it is short on prospects ready to help at the Major League level, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes. Thanks to a few thin drafts, the prospect package sent to Tampa Bay in the James Shields trade and the fact that many of their top prospects of recent years are already in the bigs, “between Omaha and their [Double-A] club, there’s nobody that looks like they’re going to jump up soon as a significant piece,” an AL executive said.
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig has changed agents, hiring Adam Katz and Andy Mota of Wasserman Media Group, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). As shown in MLBTR's Agency Database, Puig had been represented by Jaime Torres.
As Rosenthal notes, Wasserman represents a host of high-profile players, including fellow Dodgers Hanley Ramirez and Kenley Jansen. The deal that Puig signed out of Cuba carries him through 2018 (his age-27 season), so there is little pressure to begin considering a new deal. Puig does have the ability to trade out his guaranteed salary for arbitration earnings once he's racked up enough service time to qualify. As Puig has only 119 days of service at present, that will likely not occur until the 2017 season.
Troy Renck of the Denver Post (Sulia link) says that Mike Napoli would be a strong fit for the Rockies. Renck believes that the Rockies could land Napoli by doling out big dollars on a medium-term deal and suggests last year’s ill-fated three-year, $39MM pact as a starting point. Meanwhile, Colorado also likes cheaper alternative Michael Morse. More from the NL West..
- Giants GM Brian Sabean told Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (on Twitter) that nothing is imminent pitching-wise. Right now he’s only discussing concepts of dollars and years with agents. Sabean added that he would go to three years for the right guy.
- Schulman (link) also spoke with Josh Johnson‘s agent who said that he only discussed a deal for his client with the Giants “in passing.”
- The Dodgers have made outfielders Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford available, but they’re also getting inquiries on Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig, writes Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. Of course, of the four, the Dodgers are most reluctant to trade Puig.
Theo Epstein admitted that the Cubs "got a little ahead of ourselves" in signing Edwin Jackson to a four-year, $52MM contract last winter. In response to a fan's question at a season ticket-holders event in Chicago, Epstein said the team “didn’t fully understand the scope of our situation, the overall situation with the timing of our business plan, the timing of our facilities and the timing of our baseball plan." (hat tip to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times). The Jackson signing was seen a surprise move for the rebuilding Cubs and it hasn't worked out thus far, as Jackson posted a 4.98 ERA over 175 1/3 IP in 2013.
Here are some more items as we head into the weekend…
- Epstein told reporters (including MLB.com's Carrie Muskat) that he expects Jackson to be a positive for the Cubs next season, though he noted that the team plans to add more "quality" starting pitching this winter. "Every starting pitcher we acquire is someone we hope is starting Game 1 of the World Series for us," Epstein said.
- The Indians' biggest needs this winter are bullpen pieces and a complementary bat, Tribe general manager Chris Antonetti tells Jim Bowden and Casey Stern on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link).
- Scott Boras scoffed at projections that Stephen Drew would only find a three-year contract this winter, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. "A three-year deal, for a 30-year-old free agent, really? Are these writers aware of what Elvis Andrus signed for?", Boras asked. The Andrus comparison isn't as entirely outlandish as it first appears, since Andrus' eight-year, $120MM extension with the Rangers is only guaranteed for four years and $62MM since Andrus has opt-out clauses. Still, even that price tag seems quite high — MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted Drew for a four-year, $48MM deal this winter and that was with reservations about the fourth year and the draft pick compensation attached to Drew's free agency.
- Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan could be a better catching option for 2014 than Jarrod Saltalamacchia even aside from the financial considerations, Fangraphs' Dave Cameron opines (Twitter links). Hanigan actually has a higher career WAR than Saltalamacchia (8.3 to 6.9) and could be available in a trade, while "Salty" could cost a team around $36MM in free agency.
- The Dodgers should at least consider trading Yasiel Puig, ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon argues. He would certainly net more in a deal than any club's higher-priced outfielders and the Dodgers could be selling high on Puig since it's unclear whether his style of play will age well.
- The Angels don't have much payroll room to make big changes for 2014 but MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby thinks the Halos might only need a few tweaks to contend.
- The Tigers aren't likely to re-sign Ramon Santiago, MLive.com's Chris Iott reports, as the team has younger and cheaper utility infield options available. Santiago, 34, has played for Detroit since 2006 and spent 10 seasons overall with the Tigers as a backup or part-time starter in the middle infield.
The Dodgers have made outfielders Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford available, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports. While the Dodgers may not yet be actively shopping any of the trio, the message they're putting out to other clubs is, “If you’re interested in one of them, make us an offer."
All three men are signed to expensive multiyear deals so L.A. would certainly have to cover some that money in any deal, a rival executive tells Rosenthal. The executive bluntly says that "none" of the players are particularly desirable since they carry question marks about their durability (Kemp and Crawford), production (Ethier) and age (Crawford is 32).
Rosenthal reported in September that the Dodgers were looking to clear space in the outfield by moving one of these four or even rookie phenom Yasiel Puig. While Puig would easily draw the biggest trade return, Rosenthal sees no chance that he'd be moved, plus L.A. has another young outfielder in Joc Pederson waiting in the minors.
Kemp posted MVP-type numbers in 2011 but has become almost an afterthought due to two injury-plagued years. Kemp hit only .270/.328/.395 in 290 PA for the Dodgers in 2013 and is owed $128MM through the 2019 season, but if L.A. agrees to eat a significant piece of that contract, Kemp's pedigree would surely draw attention on the trade market. Health, obviously, is the major concern about Kemp's future — I'd speculate that a Kemp deal could include a clause adjusting how much salary the Dodgers would cover in relation to how many games Kemp were to play in 2014 or beyond.
Ethier looked like he would be on the move earlier this season due to the lack of space in the Los Angeles outfield and a seeming issue with manager Don Mattingly. The Mets were seen as a logical fit for Ethier given their need for a big outfield bat, and if they don't choose to address that need with a major free agent signing, Ethier could be an option (as could Kemp and Crawford, for that matter). Ethier's inability to his left-handed pitching, however, could send the Mets and other teams looking elsewhere in search of a more reliable everyday option.
Crawford revived his career in 2013 following two disastrous seasons in Boston but still posted modest numbers (.283/.329/.407 in 469 PA, plus 15-for-19 in stolen base attempts) given his salary. The veteran's speed-based game may be on the decline given his age and hamstring problems and thus could have the lowest trade value of the three.
The most meaningful lesson to be learned from this postseason is to stop giving mega-contracts to first basemen, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Six first basemen are earning at least $22MM (Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, and Joey Votto). Sherman believes the jury is still out on the deals given to Gonzalez and Votto, but believes the other four are disasters which, given the opportunity to amnesty Fielder, Howard, Pujols, and Teixeira for nothing in return, each team would do so just to be free of the contractual albatross. But, Sherman posits the true test of whether the era of first basemen receiving mega-contracts is over will be two offseasons from now when Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis are scheduled to become free agents.
- Speaking of Pujols, CBSSports.com's Scott Miller details how the Cardinals were able to overcome his loss and the retirement of Tony LaRussa to return to the World Series in just two years.
- Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains the franchise's method as "The Cardinal Way," which he defines as an organizational model of success (scouting, drafting, and developing players and shaping their personalities to fit into a winning environment) and an attitude (trust, subjugating ego, working together, and always pulling in the same direction).
- The Dodgers should model their organizational plan after the Cardinals and have already begun to do so, according to ESPNLos Angeles.com's Mark Saxon. The difference between the two clubs in the NLCS was the Cardinals' power arms, Saxon asserts, and most of them were drafted out of college. He points out 21 of the Dodgers' 40 selections in the last draft were pitchers and 31 of the 40 picks came out of colleges.
- Yasiel Puig is too important to the Dodgers' future to have his mistakes excused because of his enormous talent and enthusiasm, opines Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times.
- The Phillies have a satisfying problem with Cody Asche and Maikel Franco, two young and homegrown talents, competing for the third base job, writes the Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Gelb.
FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal has a new video up outlining potential hot stove moves this offseason. Let's take a look:
- The Rockies' ownership doesn't have much interest in trading Carlos Gonzalez or Troy Tulowitzki, though Gonzalez would be more likely to be traded if the club does decide to make a move. The Rangers, with their stocks of young pitching and middle infielders, could be a partner. If on offer in such a deal, Jurickson Profar could handle second base for the Rockies, and could shift to shortstop if the team eventually moves Tulo off of the position. We heard last week that the Mets have interest in CarGo.
- The Dodgers are expected to trade one of their "big four" – Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier or Yasiel Puig – according to rival executives speaking with Rosenthal. Puig is, of course, the least likely to be moved.
- The Rays are expected to consider trading David Price over the winter, with Rosenthal again suggesting the Rangers as a team to keep an eye on, noting that Texas had two scouts on hand to watch a recent Price start in Minnesota. The Cubs could also be interested, though their farm system is stronger in position players than it is in pitchers.
- One major league exec suggests that the pressures of impending free agency and closing for a contender have affected the Cardinals' Edward Mujica. A longtime setup man, Mujica was suddenly positioned on the verge of a "major payday" after taking on the Cards' closer role, Rosenthal says.
Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig has hired Radegen Sports Management to handle his sponsorship and marketing contracts, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan reports (via Twitter). The move doesn't affect Puig's baseball representation, which is handled by agent Jamie Torres, though it ends speculation that Puig would hire Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports agency to represent him in both on- and off-the-field ventures.
Here are some more items from around the NL West…
- The Dodgers' inability (so far) to sign Clayton Kershaw to a contract extension is the biggest surprise of the first half, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. We heard about a month ago that the two sides were making progress on a seven-year deal that would pay Kershaw at least $180MM, and the prospect of a 12-year, $300MM contract had also been discussed.
- Joc Pederson doesn't seem to have a place in the Dodgers' crowded outfield and could become trade bait before the deadline, Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times writes. The 21-year-old center fielder entered 2013 ranked as the 83rd-best prospect in the sport by MLB.com and has improved his stock by hitting .296/.386/.516 with 14 homers and 26 steals in 353 Double-A plate appearances this season. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti praised Pederson's development but declined to say whether the outfielder's name had surfaced in trade talks.
- "I treat the trade deadline kind of like reading US Weekly or People magazine — entertainment value," Michael Cuddyer tells CBS Sports' Danny Knobler. "I do follow it, but I don't take everything to heart." Cuddyer could be a trade candidate if the Rockies decide they're out of the NL West race, though since they're only 4.5 games out of first, Cuddyer and Troy Tulowitzki both hope the team doesn't give up on the season.
- Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune examines Tom Garfinkel's resignation as Padres president and CEO as part of a reader mailbag. Center doesn't think Garfinkel's departure will lead to Josh Byrnes or Bud Black being fired, as interim president/CEO Ron Fowler told Byrnes that no changes were coming in the baseball operations department. Center also hears that Mike Dee, the CEO of both the Miami Dolphins and Miami's Sun Life Stadium, could be a contender to fill Garfinkel's old jobs.
- In NL West news from earlier today, Giants righty Tim Lincecum has drawn interest from the Tigers and other clubs as a relief pitcher, Hanley Ramirez said he wanted to stay with the Dodgers, and the Rockies acquired Armando Galarraga from the Reds.
SATURDAY: For his part, Cespedes says that he has no intentions of leaving his agent, Adam Katz of Wasserman Media Group. As the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser reports, Cespedes says he is "very happy with Adam and with the work he's done for me."
THURSDAY: "We're not inflicted with that disease," Jay-Z said in reference to other agents' belief in doing only one thing, speaking yesterday on The Breakfast Club Power 105.1 (hat tip to Forbes contributor Darren Heitner). "It's insane to even say that, 'What does he know about sports?' Uh, everything. More than you," he added. In regard to other agents, he said, "They've been sitting around for 20-30 years just not doing anything, so me coming, that's a problem for them. Now they have to go to work, now they have to wake up." The agency talk begins around the 10:20 mark in this video.
WEDNESDAY: Jay-Z made waves earlier this year when he entered the sports representation world with his Roc Nation Sports venture and lured Robinson Cano away from Scott Boras (whom he dissed in song). Now, the company is wooing Dodgers star Yasiel Puig and also has an eye on Athletics slugger Yoenis Cespedes, sources tell Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
When the Yankees hosted the Dodgers in mid-June, Puig was invited to a party at a club owned by Jay-Z after a Dodgers teammate passed along the rapper's contact information, one source said, and Puig left the meeting intrigued. Puig has also talked with at least one other marketing agency in New York, but the prospect of joining Roc Nation remains a possibility.
Jay-Z is also known to be interested in signing A's outfielder Cespedes, who will be in New York for the Home Run Derby. Puig could be in town as well if he wins the Final Vote for the last slot on the National League All-Star team.
As the MLBTR Agency Database shows, Puig is currently represented by Jamie Torres and Cespedes is with Adam Katz of Wasserman Media Group. Puig is in the early portion of the seven-year, $42MM deal he signed in June 2012. Meanwhile, Cespedes' four-year, $36MM deal will take him through the 2015 season.
Jay-Z burst onto the agent scene in April, taking Cano from Boras as the Yankees' second baseman heads toward a nine-figure contract. As Passan notes, Jay-Z rapped on the recently-released song "Crown," "Scott Boras, you over, baby. Robinson Cano, you coming with me." Talking to Yahoo's Tim Brown on July 3rd, Boras didn't respond directly to the shot, but hammered home, "All I can offer the player is, all my time will be spent only on baseball."
Yesterday we learned that the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw are making progress on a contract extension that will be worth at least $180MM. In fact, deals for up to 12 years and $300MM have been discussed, in addition to the seven-year deal already being worked on. Here's more on the Dodgers' star pitcher and other news out of L.A…
- The Dodgers have been waiting for the resolution of their TV contract situation wtih Major League Baseball before picking up talks with Kershaw in earnest, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com (on Twitter). It initially appeared that the Dodgers' massive TV deal was going to be largely immune to revenue sharing, but they'll now have to kick in an additional $1B over the course of 25 years.
- In speaking with reporters, including Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times (on Twitter), Kershaw sounded upset with what he believed to be a leak from the organization and called it a "distraction".
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post recounted the bizarre story of how the Dodgers wound up signing Yasiel Puig, despite having very little intel on him. Within the story, Sherman writes that the Mets were never involved with him and the Yankees didn't make an offer.
- Not much of a surprise here, but manager Don Mattingly says that Puig will probably remain in the majors even if/when Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford return to action, tweets Hernandez.