Yunel Escobar Rumors

Matt Silverman On The Ben Zobrist Trade

The trade of Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to the Athletics for John Jaso, shortstop prospect Daniel Robertson and outfield prospect Boog Powell on Saturday was a franchise-changing one for the Rays, who parted with a longtime star. Zobrist joined the team in 2006 when it had never had a winning season and was still called the Devil Rays, and he was a key to the team’s turnaround, helping lead the organization to its first winning season in 2008.

USATSI_7995594_154513410_lowresRays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman told the media Saturday afternoon that the decision to trade Zobrist, who would have been eligible for free agency after the season, was a painful one.

This has been a difficult transaction for all of us to stomach,” Silverman said. “There are a lot of heavy hearts in the organization today. Ben has been a central figure in the transformation of the organization.”

Unsurprisingly, Silverman said that a team in the Rays’ position sometimes has to trade veterans for young talent.

These trades are difficult, but they’re a necessary part of how we operate. In an ideal world, we don’t make these kinds of trades, but we don’t have the luxury to do that,” he said.

While not all trades of older players for younger ones work out, such trades have often proven helpful to the Rays in the past.

We acquired Ben Zobrist in a trade kind of like this,” said Silverman, referring to the deal in which they sent former star Aubrey Huff to the Astros in 2006.

The Rays parted with another starting infielder in Escobar in today’s deal as well. They knew heading into trade discussions that the Athletics liked Escobar, because the A’s had claimed him from the Rays on revocable waivers last year.

When we talk to teams, oftentimes interest is expressed years before transactions actually come to a head,” said Silverman, adding that the A’s were one of a number of teams with interest in Escobar. “Oakland had interest in Yunel for awhile, and it helps set the tone for conversations.

Now, with Zobrist and Escobar gone, the Rays will need to reshape their middle infield. The key will be Asdrubal Cabrera, whose signing the Rays officially announced today. Silverman said that Cabrera would get regular playing time either at shortstop or second base.

Beyond that, he noted, “we have an open mind heading into the spring” regarding the middle infield. Silverman added that Nick Franklin, who the Rays acquired in the David Price deal last summer and who can also play both shortstop and second base, could now get more playing time as well.

There are a number of players in our organization who probably see a better opportunity for them,” Silverman said, though he also suggested that the Rays could continue to look for outside middle infield help.

Meanwhile, the Rays did get one big-leaguer as part of their return in the trade. Getting a good left-handed hitter in John Jaso was a key to the deal, Silverman said.

He’s the kind of offensive player that our lineup has been missing against right-handed pitching,” said Silverman.

The position Jaso has played the most is catcher, but Silverman suggested that Jaso’s hitting was more important to them than his ability to catch. Jaso missed the end of the 2014 season with concussion issues. Silverman said he expects Jaso to be healthy heading into the season, but added that it’s important that the Rays put Jaso “in the best position to succeed,” seemingly suggesting that the team could limit his catching if playing the position proved to be a health risk. The team could use Jaso at first base or outfield in addition to occasional catching if he proves he can perform at those positions.

We want to make sure we get as much out of that bat as possible,” said Silverman.

Nonetheless, it’s Robertson, the Athletics’ former No. 1 prospect, who most interests the Rays.

Robertson is the lead piece in this transaction,” Silverman said. “It takes a large trade like this for us to be able to acquire someone of his talents.”

Powell isn’t on Robertson’s level as a prospect, but he wasn’t a throw-in, either.

He’s a speedy outfielder with an interesting bat profile, and one that we hope can develop a little bit more power. It’s a profile that is uncommon, but one that can often find success at the Major League level,” said Silverman. “He’s not going to overwhelm you in the stat box, but his value shows up in many different ways.”

Neither Robertson nor Powell has even played at Double-A yet, so neither of them are likely to help the Rays next year. Silverman says, though, that he expects the Rays’ offense to improve upon its AL-worst 612 runs scored next season, despite the departures of Zobrist, Escobar, Wil Myers and Matt Joyce.

A lot of that is based on our expectation that the players who are returning will perform better offensively than they did last year,” he said.

“If our players play to our expectation, and we get the contributions we expect from the players we’ve added, this should be a better offensive team. … This team should be competitive. It should be compelling. The talent level is certainly there. It just looks different than it has in years past.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Athletics Acquire Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar

The Rays have announced that they’ve traded Ben Zobrist and shortstop Yunel Escobar to the Athletics for catcher/DH John Jaso, shortstop prospect Daniel Robertson, and outfield prospect Boog Powell. The Rays also announced that they would receive cash considerations, which Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets is $1.5MM.

USATSI_8035097_154513410_lowresIt’s an emotional and meaningful day as we bid farewell to Ben Zobrist and thank him for everything he’s meant to the Rays organization,” says Rays executive Matt Silverman. “Any description of his value, talent and character would understate how we feel about Ben, and we consider ourselves fortunate for all our great moments together.”

The Athletics entered the offseason with needs at both middle infield positions. They addressed one of those when they acquired Marcus Semien from the White Sox in the Jeff Samardzija trade, though Semien isn’t an established big-leaguer, and the versatile Zobrist can be moved around the field if Semien emerges. Or perhaps it’s Semien who will move around — he played third base in the big leagues and left field in the minors in 2014, and Slusser suggests that Semien could now be used “like a young Zobrist.” So acquiring Zobrist and Escobar certainly makes sense from a positional perspective.

The A’s pulling off a blockbuster trade for Zobrist and Escobar is surprising, however, given the trajectory of their offseason. They signed DH Billy Butler early in the winter but have spent much of the rest of it trading veterans, not acquiring them, sending Samardzija to Chicago, Josh Donaldson to Toronto, Brandon Moss to Cleveland, and Derek Norris to San Diego. The A’s also lost Jon Lester, Luke Gregerson and Jed Lowrie to free agency.

The Athletics aren’t interested in complete rebuilds, however, and acquiring Zobrist and Escobar (who the Athletics claimed on revocable waivers last August) should help, at least for 2015, in making up for the talent they lost previously in the offseason. The 33-year-old Zobrist has been one of baseball’s best players over the past several seasons, with four straight seasons of an fWAR of above 5.0. While his offense the past two years has been down from his 2008-2012 pace (slipping somewhat to .272/.354/.395 in 2014), his defensive talents and ability to play second base, shortstop and outfield make him tremendously valuable. He will be eligible for free agency after making $7.5MM in the last option season on the team-friendly extension he signed with Tampa in 2010. The Athletics can also extend Zobrist a qualifying offer after the season, potentially netting themselves a draft pick if he signs elsewhere.

Zobrist had also been connected to the Nationals and Giants this offseason. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams pointed out in December, however, Zobrist would have made sense for any number of teams.

Escobar, 32, hit .258/.324/.340 in 529 plate appearances with the Rays in 2014. In the past, much of his value has come from his above-average glove, although UZR liked his defense considerably less in 2014 than it did in the past. He signed a two-year deal last April that carries him through 2016 at a total of $12MM, and he also has a $1MM buyout on a $7MM option for 2017.

From the Rays’ perspective, a trade of Zobrist or Escobar seemed likely after the team reached agreement on a one-year deal with Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera will make $7.5MM in 2015, exactly the same as Zobrist, so trading him doesn’t seem to be primarily about shedding salary, but about getting something for a top player who’s eligible for free agency before the next time the Rays are likely to contend. The Rays could now use a combination of Cabrera, Nick Franklin and Logan Forsythe in the middle infield.

The Rays’ haul is considerable, as one would expect given Zobrist’s considerable talents. Jaso, 31, appeared in 54 games at catcher and 32 at DH last season, hitting .264/.337/.430. Given his solid hitting from the left side, Jaso is valuable at either position. He tells John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group (on Twitter) that the Rays have told him they want him to mostly DH while occasionally filling in at catcher. That would leave Rene Rivera as the Rays’ primary backstop.

Jaso was a semi-regular player for the Rays in 2010 and 2011 before they traded him to Seattle. He’s projected to make $3.3MM in 2015, his last season before he’s eligible for free agency. Jaso missed the end of the season last year with concussion issues but is expected to be healthy heading into the 2015 season.

The real jewel here, though, is Robertson, who MLB.com and Baseball America rank as the Athletics’ top prospect MLB.com also ranks him the No. 85 prospect in baseball overall. The 20-year-old also, obviously, would have qualified as Oakland’s top young shortstop after the A’s traded Addison Russell last year. Robertson, who the A’s drafted in the first round in 2012, hit .310/.402/.471 in 642 plate appearances with Class A+ Stockton in 2014, winning praise for his line-drive stroke on offense and his sure-handedness on defense. The loss of Robertson is another hit to the Athletics’ farm system that lost plenty of talent in the Samardzija deal with the Cubs last summer, although the addition of Franklin Barreto in the Donaldson trade should help with the middle infield depth they’re losing.

Fellow 2012 draftee Powell, meanwhile, ranks No. 11 on MLB.com’s list. Powell (who isn’t related to the fellow lefty-hitting outfielder and former Orioles great of the same name) hit a terrific .343/.451/.435 in 381 plate appearances with Class A Beloit and with Stockton in 2014. He was, however, suspended for 50 games in July for testing positive for an amphetamine. He doesn’t have an outstanding arm, but has good speed (though he hasn’t translated that speed into good basestealing ability yet) and could stick in center field.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle was the first to report that a deal sending Zobrist and Escobar to Oakland was imminent. Joel Sherman of the New York Post was the first to tweet that the Rays would get Jaso and two prospects in the deal. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted that Robertson was involved in the deal, while ESPN’s Keith Law tweeted that Powell was in the trade.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Rays Sign Asdrubal Cabrera

The Rays have announced that they’ve signed middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera to a one-year deal. The Octagon client will make $7.5MM.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia PhilliesThe Rays already had Yunel Escobar at shortstop and Ben Zobrist to play second, but after they reached agreement with Cabrera, they shipped both Escobar and Zobrist (who also will make $7.5MM next season) to Oakland. That should free the Rays’ middle infield for Cabrera, Nick Franklin and Logan Forsythe.

Cabrera, 29, hit .241/.307/.387 in 553 plate appearances with the Indians and Nationals last season. He rated as below average defensively at shortstop, and mostly played second base with the Nationals, who already had Ian Desmond at shortstop. Cabrera ranked 23rd on MLBTR’s list of this offseason’s top 50 free agents, just ahead of Jed Lowrie as the top middle infielder available (not including Hanley Ramirez). That such a player would only receive a one-year deal is somewhat surprising (Lowrie, for example, got three years and $23MM), but the contract will give Cabrera another shot at free agency next year, when he’ll still only be 30.

Cabrera is the first significant signing for the Rays this offseason. The Rays have added Ernesto Frieri and Michael Kohn on big-league deals, also trading Wil Myers, Ryan Hanigan, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Joyce, Joel Peralta and Sean Rodriguez in an attempt to remake a team that won 77 games with the franchise’s highest ever payroll.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the contract was done, and that it was a one-year, $7.5MM contract (Twitter links). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports originally tweeted that an agreement was in place. Heyman first tweeted that a deal was close.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Fallout From The Asdrubal Cabrera Deal

Here are a few notes on the Rays’ new one-year agreement with Asdrubal Cabrera:

  • Perhaps the key takeaway of the Cabrera signing is that the Rays now have a surplus in their middle infield, suggesting a trade of either Ben Zobrist or Yunel Escobar. Zobrist in particular would be a very attractive addition for any number of clubs, and Mark Zuckerman of NatsInsider.com looks at the possibility that Cabrera’s old team, the Nationals, could trade for Zobrist to play second base, their only obviously weak position.
  • Zobrist is a good fit for the Giants but an even better fit for the Nationals, Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles writes. The Giants might not be able to top the Nationals in a bidding war, since the Nats, for whom second base is their only significant need, could be highly motivated to acquire Zobrist. Brisbee also notes that it’s strange that Cabrera would head to Tampa Bay on a one-year deal with the intention of building his value, since Tropicana Field figures to limit his offensive output.
  • Cabrera’s signing leaves one less player for the Yankees to sign, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com writes. They could still pursue Cuban infielder Hector Olivera, to whom they’ve been connected, to play second base. Stephen Drew and Rickie Weeks are other possibilities. They could deal for Zobrist, although a trade between the Yankees and their divisional rivals in Tampa seems unlikely. They could also simply go with Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela.

Rays Notes: Revenue, Balfour, Myers, Escobar

The Rays are facing an uphill battle to keep their franchise relevant in a market that may not truly be a big-league market, writes former MLBTR scribe Howard Megdal in a piece for USA Today. While ownership bet big on 2014 with an $80MM payroll that was seen as a lot for the Rays, that figure ranked just 25th in the Majors this season. The increasing payrolls around the game create a shrinking pathway for the Rays, Megdal writes, and with a stadium that conjures up memories of what the fan experience was like in the 1980s (plus the rejection of a prototype for an innovative new stadium), there appears to be little sign of things improving. The team has an exciting crop of young pitching that features the likes of Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi, Jeremy Hellickson and a returning Matt Moore (in 2015), but Megdal wonders how long the team will be able to hold onto that group. Those who don’t sign extensions, after all, will see their price tags soar in arbitration at an ever-increasing rate, and offense is only getting more expensive. As such, the Rays’ lack of revenue — the team drew just 1.446MM fans this season — is a significant concern.

Here’s more on the Rays…

  • The Rays’ biggest needs heading into the offseason appear to be a power bat and a reliable reliever to deepen the back end of manager Joe Maddon’s bullpen, but Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wonders if the Rays already have those pieces in the form of Wil Myers and Grant Balfour. Myers had a self-described “nightmare” of a season, but he’s looking forward to an offseason to rebuild his health and a clean slate in 2015. Meanwhile, Balfour has altered his mechanics and feels he’s found a groove in the season’s final month (three runs and a 12-to-2 K/BB ratio over his past 11 frames). Given his $7MM salary next season, a return to form for Balfour is crucial for the Rays, whose payroll will reportedly decline significantly.
  • After a scary looking knee injury on an attempt to avoid a tag at home plate, Yunel Escobar received good news, writes MLB.com’s Bill Chastain. An MRI showed no structural damage in his knee, and while he won’t play for the remainder of the season, he should be fine going forward. Manager Joe Maddon notes to Chastain that Escobar’s play picked up once the rumors of him being traded to the Athletics in August dissipated. Maddon called “Oakland-gate” a “tough moment” for Escobar, noting that he didn’t fully understand the situation. It may just be a coincidence, but Escobar did hit .301/.378/.479 with three of his seven homers this season from Aug. 27 on.

AL East Notes: Rays, Escobar, Johnson, Red Sox

In his Sunday column, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes that “the key to [the Rays‘] offseason flexibility might be trades” before noting that Tampa would be eager to deal either Grant Balfour or Jose Molina if they opportunity presented itself. He also speculates that names such as Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez and Jeremy Hellickson are names to watch, and he wonders whether or not Desmond Jennings and even Wil Myers will be discussed in trades this winter as well.

Here’s more from Topkin’s piece and the rest of the AL East…

  • While trading Yunel Escobar to the A’s or letting him go on waivers might’ve been popular with Rays fans (and even some in the clubhouse, Topkin notes), the team held onto him for multiple reasons. Firstly, the Rays are confident that Escobar will rebound from a tough 2014 season next year. They also don’t trust Ben Zobrist at shortstop next year in his age-34 season and aren’t sold on Nick Franklin‘s defense at short. Nor are they certain whether or not Hak-Ju Lee and Tim Beckham will be ready in 2015. Beyond that, the Rays don’t feel they can replace Escobar for as cheap little as he stands to earn in 2015 ($5MM).
  • Kelly Johnson, who went to the Orioles as the key to a four-player deal Saturday night, is now headed to his fifth straight AL East team. He’s happy to be headed to a likely playoff team in Baltimore, he tells the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. “It’s crazy,” says Johnson. “Obviously I’ll be familiar with the surroundings. … I’m obviously excited to be in a situation where you’re on a first-place team.”
  • In a second piece, Britton also looked at the struggles of Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, and he spoke with Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen about whether or not the hardships experienced by that duo has led the Sox to reevaluate their evaluation process for young players. Hazen speaks at length about the league-wide decline of offense, the increase in defensive shifts and the progress made in scouting reports, noting that it’s tougher now for young players to break through.

Rays To Pull Yunel Escobar Back From Waivers

The Athletics were awarded a waiver claim on Yunel Escobar this weekend, but Rays manager Joe Maddon tells reporters, including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, that Escobar will not be traded via waivers this month (Twitter link).

The 31-year-old Escobar is controlled through the 2016 season at annual rates of $5MM (2015) and $7MM (2016) with a $7MM club option or $1MM buyout for the 2017 season. Those salaries are the result of an extension inked by Escobar earlier this season, but his production thus far likely hasn’t been what the Rays were expecting.

Escobar has batted just .253/.317/.318 this season — numbers that are far inferior to the .256/.332/.366 batting line he posted for Tampa in 2013. However, Escobar hasn’t been known for his bat for quite some time. Rather, his value has been in providing top-tier defense at shortstop, but metrics such as Ultimate Zone Rating (-13.9 runs) and Defensive Runs Saved (-18 runs) feel he’s been well below average in that regard as well in 2014. Single-season samples of defensive metrics rarely tell the entire story of a player’s defense, however, and this is the first year in which Escobar has posted anything but a positive total in either metric. He’s been bothered by shoulder problems this season, which could have had some impact on both his swing and his throws across the diamond (though his range appears to be the culprit on defense, based on his Fangraphs fielding page).

Oakland has been using Andy Parrino at short of late due to a fractured finger from regular shortstop Jed Lowrie. The fact that Lowrie is a free agent at season’s end could also have played a part in the Athletics’ decision to claim Escobar, as his affordable salaries for the coming seasons would fit well within Oakland’s typically tight payroll. However, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported earlier this morning, Lowrie could soon begin throwing, which would give him a chance to play by the end of the month.

It’s possible that the Rays could move Escobar this offseason if they feel they can find a suitable alternative on the free agent market, or if they feel that veteran Ben Zobrist or trade acquisition Nick Franklin can hold down the fort at shortstop. However, Zobrist hasn’t been a regular shortstop in years, and scouts have long questioned whether or not Franklin can handle short. Many feel that his ultimate position will be second base.


Athletics Claim Yunel Escobar On Revocable Waivers

MONDAY: Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle also hears that a deal for Escobar is unlikely, in part due to the progress that Lowrie has made on his injured finger. Lowrie could begin throwing within the next couple of days, which could allow him to return by the end of August.

SUNDAY, 6:51pm: The Athletics and Rays don’t appear likely to reach agreement on a trade involving Escobar, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. If they can’t, Escobar would stay with the Rays.

1:48pm: The Athletics have claimed shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Rays on revocable waivers, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. That means the two teams will have until Tuesday afternoon to agree upon a trade, if they’re going to make one.

Escobar is making $5MM this season and is already signed to a two-year, $13MM deal for 2015 and 2016 that also includes a club option for 2017. He had been a solid, underappreciated player for several years before this one, but this season he’s struggled, hitting .250/.315/.316 while getting uncharacteristically bad marks for his defense — UZR had rated him as an above-average shortstop for seven straight seasons before this one, but this year he’s 14 runs below average. That figure might be somewhat fluky, but he’s nearly 32 and has also struggled offensively, suggesting he might be declining.

Given Escobar’s contract status, then, it’s a little surprising that the Athletics claimed him, but perhaps they feel he has rebound potential, and they do have a need at shortstop. Jed Lowrie is currently on the disabled list and will be a free agent after the season, and journeyman Andy Parrino has recently taken his place. The A’s also recently shipped top prospect Addison Russell to Chicago in the Jeff Samardzija deal.


Quick Hits: Escobar, Rodon, Prado, Colon, Rosario

25 years ago today, Bart Giamatti banned Pete Rose from Major League Baseball for life for gambling on the game. As Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller points out, the next year could be a turning point for Rose, as Rob Manfred replaces Bud Selig as commissioner and MLB prepares to host the All-Star Game in Cincinnati next July. Miller suggests it’s time for baseball to give its all-time hits leader a second chance. Here’s more from around the game.

  • The Athletics recently claimed Yunel Escobar from the Rays on revocable waivers, but Escobar does not want to play for Oakland, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. “I am very concerned with Yunel having been selected on waivers by Oakland,” says Escobar’s agent, Alex Esteban. “While I believe Oakland is an excellent organization, I don’t feel that it is the best organization for him.” Esteban adds that Escobar has a good relationship with Rays manager Joe Maddon. Of course, Escobar does not have a no-trade clause and cannot block a trade to the A’s, but his disinterest in playing for them is one variable to keep in mind as the situation develops. Escobar has stayed out of trouble in Tampa, but he did not get along with Bobby Cox in Atlanta and received a suspension for a homophobic slur while playing for Toronto.
  • White Sox top prospect Carlos Rodon dominated Sunday in his second career start for Triple-A Charlotte. Rodon pitched four innings and struck out eight batters, including five of the last six he faced. Less than two months after signing as the third overall pick in the draft, Rodon is already pitching well at the highest level of the minor leagues.
  • Martin Prado and Brandon McCarthy have played well since the Yankees traded for them this summer, writes Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com. Prado played mostly third base with the Diamondbacks, but since being traded he’s played there sparingly, instead appearing more often in right field and at second base. That’s not surprising, given that the Yankees had acquired Chase Headley the previous week. “They talked to me about that the first day before I even stepped out on the field,” says Prado. “I had this experience in the past with the Braves. It’s not like I haven’t done it.”
  • The most likely destination for Bartolo Colon is either the Angels or Dodgers, one executive tells Adam Rubin of ESPN New York (via Twitter). The Tigers don’t have the money for him, Rubin writes. The Mets placed Colon on revocable waivers on Saturday. Rubin tweets that he does not think the Mets will get rid of Colon simply to avoid paying him his $11MM salary next year.
  • Wilin Rosario is dealing with a wrist injury just as he might be coming to a fork in the road with the Rockies, Nick Groke of the Denver Post writes. Rosario is eligible for arbitration after the season and he hasn’t made an overwhelming case to start next season, hitting .248/.289/.399 while concentrating on improving his defense. One element possibly in Rosario’s favor, though, is that there won’t be many good catchers available on the free agent market — Russell Martin is the only obvious starting-caliber catcher.

Stark’s Latest: Price, Phillies, O’s, Royals, Pirates

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com has a new Rumblings & Grumblings column posted in which he runs down a plethora of trade-related topics. You’ll need to read the full post to get all the information and analysis, but here are some of the highlights …

  • The Rays are waiting until next week to make any decisions on whether or not to trade ace David Price. However, as Stark points out, it could still be a difficult judgment call as to whether or not the Rays are close enough to go for it or far enough back to sell. Tampa is currently seven games back of the division lead and four and a half games back from a Wild Card berth.
  • One executive tells Stark that he’s convinced the team will move Price if they get a big enough offer. Said the exec, “They’ve really built their team by making these kinds of deals. But if the return they can get now is something they think they can get this winter, they’ll hold him.” Another exec tells Stark that waiting until the winter could reduce the return in a trade by 30 to 40 percent.
  • Stark runs down the possible landing spots for Price, calling the Dodgers the favorite, but noting that L.A. has said it will not part with both Joc Pederson and Corey Seager, even in a Price trade. The Mariners are the second choice, he notes, with the Cardinals listed third followed by the Giants and Blue Jays (both of whom are painted as long shots by Stark).
  • If the Rays do sell Price, they’ll be open for business and listen on a number of other players, including Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Yunel Escobar. Their preference is to deal Price and Zobrist in separate trades, if that comes to pass.
  • The Phillies are the next team that everyone is watching, with nine players that could be moved but contractual problems surrounding many of them. Most execs feel the Phillies will eat money to facilitate deals and aren’t looking to just dump players on other clubs. Specifically, the team is in need of position-player prospects, one exec who has spoken with Philadelphia tells Stark.
  • Marlon Byrd is the most likely to be dealt, with the Mariners, Royals and Reds scouting him. The Reds, however, may not be able to take on Byrd’s remaining $3MM in 2014, and the Mariners and Royals are on his no-trade list.
  • Jonathan Papelbon and Cliff Lee aren’t likely to be dealt, executives tell Stark. In Lee’s case, they feel he’s a lock to clear waivers. One exec tells Stark that he’d be more inclined to take a chance on Lee were he a free agent, but his contract is too risky at this point.
  • Cole Hamels isn’t likely to be dealt either. It’s not that the Phillies aren’t willing to move him, it’s just that the prices they’ve specified consist of packages “that no one would possibly give up.”
  • A.J. Burnett‘s preference is indeed to return to the Pirates, but Pittsburgh would need assurances that he’s not going to exercise his player option for 2015. The Orioles‘ interest is said to be lukewarm, while the Phillies asked the Yankees and were told, “No thanks.”
  • At least half a dozen teams are in on Antonio Bastardo, whom Stark concretely says will be traded in the next week.
  • The Orioles aren’t looking for a closer upgrade over Zach Britton, but they’re looking for a rotation upgrade and a lefty reliever that’s more than just a left-on-left specialist. They’ve shown no interest in dealing Hunter Harvey or Dylan Bundy.
  • The Royals have called on virtually every right-handed hitter on the market, but they’re look specifically at right fielders, including Byrd, Alex Rios, Chris Denorfia and Dayan Viciedo. The first two of those options still look most likely.
  • Stark would be surprised if the Pirates didn’t add at least one pitcher, if not two in the next week, but it’d have to be at least a No. 3 option in terms of starters. On the relief front, they’re looking at seventh-inning arms, as they’re content with Tony Watson in the eighth and Mark Melancon in the ninth.