In addition to speaking with Orioles manager Buck Showalter about his decision not to deploy ace reliever Zach Britton in the Wild Card game, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag covers a number of notable topics in his most recent column. Among the highlights with a transactional component:
- Unsurprisingly, the Royals will exercise a club option over shortstop Alcides Escobar. It’s just $6.5MM (with a $500K buyout otherwise), and the club doesn’t seem willing yet to trust the job to prospect Raul Mondesi. Still the 29-year-old owns an anemic .259/.293/.335 batting line over the last two seasons; even with his typically strong defense and baserunning included, he has been a below-average regular. Escobar will have plenty to play for with free agency looming.
- It’s even less surprising to hear that the Rangers intend to make a qualifying offer to Ian Desmond, the shortstop-turned-center fielder. Texas remains very high on Desmond despite his fall-off down the stretch, says Heyman, and it seems plausible to imagine a reunion. The $17.2MM QO also appears to be the right move from a market perspective, as Desmond ought to be able to command a strong multi-year deal even after turning it down.
- We’ve heard chatter in the past about prior talks between the Blue Jays and Reds regarding first baseman Joey Votto, and Heyman discusses it further in a separate piece. There’s nothing brewing at present, but Toronto has made clear they’d like to be involved if Cincinnati undertakes any chatter on a player who may be the best hitter in the National League. Reds GM Dick Williams tells Heyman that he’s not looking to shop the superstar and also hasn’t been told that Votto (who possesses full no-trade rights) wants to depart. Even if there is mutual interest, of course, there’s the matter of sorting out the cash and prospects — which will likely be a tall order.
- Williams also tells Heyman that he believes the Reds took positive steps at the major league level in 2016, suggesting that the organization is happy to hang onto a highly popular and productive player despite his massive salary. The situation may be somewhat different with regard to second baseman Brandon Phillips, though, with Heyman writing that the team intends to find a way to get Jose Peraza into the lineup quite a bit. They’ll “make this clear” to Phillips, he says, though it isn’t known whether the veteran will be amenable to waiving his own no-trade protection after demanding an extension to do so in the past. The 35-year-old is down to the final year of his deal, though, after turning in a solid-but-unspectacular .291/.320/.416 batting line. Though metrics soured a bit on his glove, Phillips has a long history of strong defensive work. A $14MM tab on a one-year commitment is hardly unworkable, though hypothetically interested organizations may ask Cinci to kick in some cash.
- Heyman also tackled the Diamondbacks’ front office search. Reported interest in Nationals president and GM Mike Rizzo seems likely to be a non-starter. “I don’t think there’s anything to it,” said Washington owner Mark Lerner, who called it “a totally fabricated story.” The floating of interest in Rizzo could hint that Arizona has its eyes on an exec with experience running a baseball operations department, Heyman suggests, with the team perhaps hoping to return immediately to competitiveness rather than undertaking a rebuild. A general manager with another team suggests that he thinks the D-Backs will need to guarantee a five-year term to draw a strong candidate, given the frequency of front-office turnover in Arizona.