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Yoenis Cespedes Rumors
Derek Jeter left today’s game with a hamstring injury, but the Yankees outgoing icon will play tomorrow in his final professional game. As the Jeter era comes to a close, New York will have to re-adjust to a familiar dilemma – what to do with Alex Rodriguez. Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that Rodriguez is a symbol of “expense, uncertainty, and awkwardness” for the Yankees.
- Also per Sherman, Rodriguez is not interested in playing winter ball, which will make it hard for the Yankees to project his role in 2015. The former star is owed $61MM for his age 39 through 41 seasons. His presence, along with other expensive, injury prone players like Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira, will make GM Brian Cashman’s job difficult (assuming Cashman is extended, his contract is up on October 31). Retaining Chase Headley while also addressing rotation, bullpen, and outfield depth could be difficult due to Rodriguez’s contract.
- Joe Girardi believes Dellin Betances is ready to take over as the Yankees closer, reports George A. King III of the New York Post. David Robertson, the current ninth inning man, is a free agent at the end of the season. It’s thought the Yankees could extend a qualifying offer to Robertson and may pursue re-signing him to a multi-year deal. If those plans fall through the cracks, Betances represents an attractive alternative.
- Yoenis Cespedes is unsure if he wants to pursue a contract extension with the Red Sox, writes Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. Boston is dealing with a lot of fluidity with their future. Deciding the role of Cespedes will likely influence many of their offseason decisions.
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington chatted with reporters just minutes ago and it’s no surprise to hear his admission that the club was not expecting Xander Bogaerts to struggle to this extent in 2014 (via Tim Britton of The Providence Journal on Twitter). Still just 21, Bogaerts has slashed .226/.293/.339 in 472 plate appearances this season. Earlier this week, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote that the struggles of Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. have left many around the game wondering how good each player truly is. Here’s more out of Boston..
- Peter Gammons (Twitter links) cautions not to read much into waiver trade bites on Bogaerts, Clay Buchholz, Brock Holt, Joe Kelly, Yoenis Cespedes, Christian Vazquez, Burke Badenhop, Mike Napoli, Will Middlebrooks, Daniel Nava, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara.
- Cherington said that he won’t be resistant to trade prospects this off-season, “for the right guy,” tweets Jason Mastrodonato of The Springfield Republican. He added that the club has never been opposed to dealing prospects, but such decisions are “contextual,” tweets Alex Speier of WEEI.com.
- The GM wouldn’t give much on the team’s interest in Rusney Castillo. “We are one of many teams interested. That’s all I’ll say,” the GM said, according to Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston.com (on Twitter).
In his latest Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Buster Olney reports that he’s spoken to executives around the league who assume that the Red Sox will target James Shields in free agency this offseason. Shields would be a good fit for a Boston team that is suddenly light on veteran pitching after Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jake Peavy were all traded within the last week. I wonder how high the Sox would be willing to bid on Shields, however, since the team’s concerns about paying big money to a pitcher throughout his 30’s kept them from working out an extension with Lester. While Shields would come at a lower price and probably a shorter-term deal, Shields will also be 33 on Opening Day.
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- A clause in Yoenis Cespedes‘ contract will allow him to become a free agent after the 2015 season, and according to Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron (Twitter link), it means the Red Sox would have to non-tender their newly-acquired outfielder. This would make Cespedes ineligible to receive a qualifying offer, and thus Boston wouldn’t get any draft pick compensation if Cespedes signed elsewhere.
- The Athletics released Jim Johnson today, and there has been speculation that the Orioles will offer their former closer a minor league contract, Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun writes. Manager Buck Showalter spoke highly of Johnson to reporters today, though he was careful with his words due to uncertainty about whether Johnson was free of any ties to Oakland.
- The Rays plan to contend in 2015, which is why Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan (writing for FOXSports.com) feels the team felt comfortable trading David Price for a package highlighted by players — Drew Smyly and Nick Franklin — with Major League experience. It’s unclear if any of the blue-chip prospects often cited in trade rumors were actually available for Price and such prospects might not pan out anyway, whereas Smyly and Franklin have already shown they can contribute at the big-league level.
- Had the Rays waited until the offseason to trade Price, they might’ve had trouble finding a better return. As one executive noted to ESPN’s Jayson Stark (Twitter link), Tampa would’ve been shopping Price in a crowded marketplace for ace pitchers given that Lester, Shields and Max Scherzer are all slated to be available in free agency.
Here’s some background news and notes on the Athletics’ big trade deadline moves from Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle…
- It surprised many to see Yoenis Cespedes traded yesterday, but Slusser reports that the A’s were planning on dealing the outfielder this offseason anyway since the club didn’t think they would be able to extend him. Cespedes has a contract option that allows him to become a free agent following the 2015 season. In another piece, Slusser notes that “there never were very extensive talks” between Cespedes and the A’s about an extension.
- Sam Fuld was the only Major League player being offered by any of the teams interested in Tommy Milone, which is why the A’s swung the deal with the Twins to provide immediate outfield help given Coco Crisp and Craig Gentry‘s injury problems.
- Slusser notes that Oakland plans to keep Fuld for 2015, and he isn’t just a temporary solution while Gentry is on the DL with a broken hand.
- The Athletics are still looking to add a second baseman before the August 31st trade deadline.
2:12pm: The A’s are paying $650K of Cespedes’ salary but are getting back $1.8MM from the Red Sox for Lester’s salary, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
11:35am: The teams have announced the trade. Nightengale tweets the exact figure that will be heading to Oakland: $650K.
10:09am: Dave Cameron of Fangraphs reports another wrinkle in the trade: Cespedes’ contract calls for him to be non-tendered at the end of his deal (if he is not first extended) in order to assure him early free agency, and he therefore is ineligible to receive a qualifying offer following the 2015 season (Twitter links).
9:14am: The Red Sox are sending under $1MM to the A’s in the trade, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Meanwhile, J.J. Cooper of Baseball America tweets that the value of the Competitive Balance pick that Boston receives will be roughly $800K.
8:54am: Passan tweets that Oakland is also sending a competitive balance draft pick to the Red Sox in the trade, and Boston is sending cash to Oakland. The A’s landed the second pick in Comp Round B in last week’s lottery.
8:49am: The Athletics have acquired Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes from the Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, according to Alex Speier of WEEI.com (Twitter links). Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports first reported that Lester had been traded to an unknown club, while Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com first connected the A’s and Lester earlier this week.
The addition of Lester will give Oakland an incredibly formidable rotation for the balance of the regular season, but perhaps more importantly, in the playoffs. Lester, who has posted a 2.52 ERA with 9.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and a 43.2 percent ground-ball rate, will join fellow trade acquisition Jeff Samardzija, free agent signing Scott Kazmir and homegrown star Sonny Gray atop Oakland’s rotation.
It’s possible that the struggles of Jason Hammel, acquired from the Cubs along with Samardzija back on July 4, prompted A’s GM Billy Beane to aggressively pursue another sizable rotation upgrade. While the loss of Cespedes will hurt Oakland’s lineup, the team can afford to part with some offense; the A’s rank first in the Majors in runs scored, sixth in on-base percentage and eighth in slugging percentage. Gomes won’t replace Cespedes’ power or his .256/.303/.464 batting line, but he’s a formidable opponent against lefties, having slashed .302/.400/.431 against southpaws in 2014 and .279/.379/.495 in his career.
Cespedes will bring the Red Sox a much-needed outfield bat, though he’s only under team control through the 2015 season due to a clause in his contract that allows him to forgo arbitration and hit the free agent market after his initial four-year term. He’s slated to earn $10.5MM next season — the same sum that he is owed in 2014. John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets that Cespedes recently voiced a disinterest in playing center field with the A’s, but he did so through a teammate rather than by approaching manager Bob Melvin directly, which likely didn’t sit well with the team (Twitter links).
The pair of blockbuster trades by Beane signifies a clear “all-in” philosophy on the 2014 season. Oakland has traded its best prospect (Addison Russell), a 2013 first-round pick (Billy McKinney) and one of its most dangerous bats (Cespedes) in an attempt at the most dominant pitching staff it can muster for the playoffs. There will be no compensation if (or, perhaps more appropriately given his likely price tag — when) Lester departs as a free agent, as baseball’s collective bargaining agreement prohibits players who did not spend the entire regular season on one team from receiving qualifying offers.
For the Red Sox, who hope to re-sign Lester as a free agent this offseason, this trade at least gives them a chance, perhaps a slight one, to have Lester and Cespedes on the same team in 2015 when the club takes another shot at contending. Beyond that, the addition of a draft pick is an interesting wrinkle, as it allows Boston to enjoy the best of both worlds, in a way. GM Ben Cherington could have kept Lester and extended a qualifying offer in hopes of recouping a draft pick if Lester signed elsewhere in free agency. Now, the Sox will get a bonus pick regardless (albeit a slightly later one), and they also are guaranteed a middle-of-the-order bat for the 2015 season. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Boston engage Cespedes in extension talks either, though that is nothing more than my own speculation at this juncture.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Dodgers starter Zack Greinke is on the record with his assessment of rotation-mate Clayton Kershaw's seven-year, $215MM megadeal, telling Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that Kershaw will earn "maybe … a little more than I thought, maybe a million a year more." The always-frank Greinke says the deal is likely fair for both sides, though he adds that Kershaw's opt-out clause, which could allow him to enter the free-agent market at age 30, may tilt the pact in favor of the pitcher. "The opt-out is big … That's the main reason you might say it will be better [for Kershaw]," Greinke said. Greinke, of course, has an opt-out clause in his own contract that could see him hit the free agent market again after the 2015 season. Here's more from baseball's Western divisions:
- The Diamondbacks will likely send whoever loses the battle for their shortstop job to the minors, GM Kevin Towers told Steve Gilbert of MLB.com, with veteran Cliff Pennington expected to make the club as a backup. Towers is already indicating that Didi Gregorius may be the favorite over Chris Owings, however, noting his strong play in 2013 as a rookie.
- Athletics stars Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes both say they'd like to remain with the A's beyond their current years of team control, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Cespedes reportedly turned down longer-term deals with other clubs for his current four-year deal with Oakland, which will allow him to become a free agent again at age 30. However, he says his preference will be to remain with the A's if he receives equivalent offers from Oakland and another club at that time.
Current Cubs president of baseball operations and former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein covered a range of subjects in a fascinating interview on WEEI's Hot Stove Show on Thursday (audio link; transcript). In addition to discussing the two clubs he has headed from a baseball ops perspective, Epstein emphasized the impact of changes to the CBA. The new system has both reduced teams' abilities to reap draft picks from outgoing free agents, Epstein said, and made it difficult to pay for hard-to-sign talent in later draft rounds. Here's more from around the league, including other notable talking points from Epstein:
- Discussing his current club's reported pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka, Epstein noted that the pitcher likely cost the Yankees more in real terms than the team's $175MM contract and release fee commitment, once the collective bargaining tax is accounted for. The signing, said Epstein, "reflects the dynamic that there are many, many teams with lots and lots of dollars to spend and very few places to spend them, very few players who represent sound investments for the dollars."
- "There are lots of teams demanding talented, prime-age players, and supply is really a trickle," Epstein continued. "Fewer and fewer players of that ilk are reaching free agency. … You're going to see these prices that cause people to shake heads. … Because of the TV deals, the teams that have them have a lot of money and not a lot of attractive players to spend the money on." Indeed, as I explored earlier tonight, some teams' desires to use free cash to enhance the value of their player assets (i.e., control and contract rights) could result in increasingly robust contracts for some younger players that remain years away from free agency.
- One player that seems suitable for an attractive, long-term investment is Yoenis Cespedes of the Athletics. Fresh on the heels of today's extension of teammate Coco Crisp, Cespedes said that he, too, hopes to ink a new pact, tweets John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. The 28-year-old slugger, who still has two years remaining on the deal he signed out of Cuba, said that he hopes to play for the A's for his entire career. Of course, given his relative youth, upside, and high profile, Cespedes figures to command a much higher price than the $22.75MM over two years just given to Crisp. It remains to be seen whether the A's will be willing to dangle a sufficient guarantee to get a deal done.
- Turning back to the aforementioned Tanaka, Yankees GM Brian Cashman told ESPN Radio today (via ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand) that the club views its new acquisition as "a really solid, consistent number three starter." Cashman noted that, though the club scouted Tanaka extensively, uncertainty remains as to how he will transition to the big leagues. "If we get more than that," Cashman said, "all the better. He's got a great deal of ability."
- Two arbitration hearings took place today, after none occurred last year. Andrew Cashner of the Padres and Vinnie Pestano of the Indians both made their cases to their respective panels. Cashner and the Padres are quite close in filing numbers ($2.4MM against $2.275MM), while Pestano ($1.45MM) and the Indians ($975K) left a larger absolute and relative sum to chance.
- Glancing in at MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker, 16 cases remain unsettled as hearings begin to take place. By my count, just over $23MM remains at stake between the player filings ($79.325MM total) and team counters ($56.15MM). Only the Indians, with Justin Masterson, Michael Brantley, and Josh Tomlin (in addition to Pestano), have more than one outstanding arbitration case.
3:30pm: The Diamondbacks may also be looking to the trade market for power bats, according to a recent series of tweets from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal reports that the D-Backs and A's recently discussed a trade that would send Yoenis Cespedes to Arizona in exchange for Tyler Skaggs, A.J. Pollock and others. Both sides have cooled on the idea and backed off the trade at this time, however, and the A's would only trade Cespedes for a "monster" return, according to Rosenthal. Still, as he points out, it serves as an example that the Diamondbacks will be aggressive and creative in their search for a power bat in the outfield.
1:54pm: The Diamondbacks are motivated to swing a trade for an ace-caliber pitcher, reports ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. Crasnick spoke with Arizona GM Kevin Towers, president/CEO Derrick Hall and owner Ken Kendrick in an excellent, in-depth breakdown of the situation. While Towers was quick to say that no player is untouchable, he sounded loath to part with prized pitching prospect Archie Bradley, a consensus Top 10 MLB prospect. Asked about the possiblity of trading Bradley, he replied:
"I don't see that happening. Not that anybody is untouchable, but we're hoping he's our David Price, and we can control him [for several years]. He's gonna get every opportunity to crack our rotation this spring … He's not looking to make our rotation as the fifth guy — he's looking to make it as the ace."
Hall pointed to the Diamondbacks' success in 2011 when Ian Kennedy finished fourth in the Cy Young race, noting how impactful having a "No. 1 type starter" was to that year's team. Hall expects activity to pick up: "We're getting a lot of calls and making a lot of calls, and we can see the interest is there. We're probably a good fit for a lot of clubs."
In addition to enviable pitching depth, the Diamondbacks also have several intriguing shortstops in the form of Didi Gregorius, Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed. Martin Prado's presence means that Arizona could also be inclined to include Matt Davidson in potential trades, and the presence of both A.J. Pollock could mean that Adam Eaton is attainable as well, notes Crasnick.
Crasnick lists familiar trade targets Price and Jeff Samardzija for the Diamondbacks, though Price has had multiple ace-caliber seasons while Samardzija has more so flashed ace potential. Crasnick adds that Tyler Skaggs and Randall Delgado, each of whom is still younger than 24, may be more likely to be included in potential trades.
The Diamondbacks are also looking to add an impact bat to the outfield, though that addition may be more likely to come via free agency, reports Crasnick. Big-name items like Nelson Cruz and Curtis Granderson may not fit into Arizona's payroll, which could lead to pursuits of names like Corey Hart and Michael Morse, though there are many who don't consider either one to be capable of handling the outfield at this point.
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."
The Athletics held their A's Fan Fest today with manager Bob Melvin and GM Billy Beane hosting a Q&A session. Here are the highlights:
- Melvin says second base will be an open competition between Scott Sizemore and Jemile Weeks while Grant Green, the A's fourth-best prospect as ranked by MLB.com, will also receive a hard look, reports MLB.com's Jane Lee (Twitter links).
- Melvin plans to continue with the Brandon Moss/Chris Carter platoon at first base, tweets Lee.
- Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets the A's will not use any one set lineup because Melvin has multiple options depending on matchups and who's hot.
- Melvin views Coco Crisp as the starting center fielder with Chris Young moving around all three outfield spots, Lee tweets.
- Young says being reunited with Melvin is "like a breath of fresh air." (A's team Twitter feed).
- Melvin calls Yoenis Cespedes one of most talented players in the league and Beane adds he wouldn't be surprised if the 27-year-old Cuban takes it to another level, Slusser tweets.
- Beane is confident Hiroyuki Nakajima will make a successful transition to MLB, tweets Casey Pratt of CSNBayArea.com. In fact, Beane joked he will have a tougher transition in dealing with the effervescent Japanese shortstop.
- Beane expects their top prospect, outfielder Michael Choice, to open the season in Triple-A, unless something unforeseen happens, according to Pratt (via Twitter).
- The A's are convinced shortstop Addison Russell, last year's first round draft choice, is mature enough to be invited to Spring Training even though it wasn't part of his contract, writes Slusser on Twitter. Slusser adds this is an indication of how much the 19-year-old has wowed the front office.