- Talks between the Giants and Reds about Billy Hamilton failed to materialize since the Giants balked at moving Heliot Ramos, The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly reports. Ramos has been a hot commodity this winter, as reportedly just about every team the Giants have engaged with in trade talks has asked about the 2017 first-rounder. While the Reds would have to drop their asking price, Baggarly doesn’t think San Francisco has given up on pursuing Hamilton, as an improved outfield defense would go a long way towards helping the Giants again become competitive.
The Royals announced that they’ve acquired right-handers Brad Keller and Burch Smith in trades with the Reds and Mets following today’s Rule 5 Draft. Kansas City will send a player to be named later or cash to both Cincinnati and New York in each trade. Keller was selected with the No. 5 pick out of the D-backs organization, while Smith was selected out of the Rays’ system.
Keller spent the entire 22 season in Double-A despite pitching most of the season at the age of 21. He made 26 starts and totaled 130 2/3 frames with a 4.68 ERA, 7.7 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a 49.6 percent ground-ball rate. He had been considered the No. 12 prospect in the D-backs’ organization by Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com but was unprotected on at last month’s deadline to set 40-man rosters.
The Rule 5 selection could pave the way back to the Majors for Smith for the first time since 2013. Smith tossed 36 1/3 innings for the Padres as a 23-year-old that year, and though he logged an ugly 6.44 ERA, he also punched out 46 batters in that time.
Now 27 years of age, Smith has seen two seasons wiped out by Tommy John surgery and other arm troubles. But, he was healthy in 56 1/3 minor league innings as he worked his way back across three minor league levels this year — his first action on a mound since 2014. Smith posted a 2.40 ERA with 8.9 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9 before impressing with 29 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings in the Arizona Fall League.
Both pitchers will retain their Rule 5 status with the Royals, meaning neither can be optioned to the minors without first being exposed to waivers and then offered back to their original organizations for $50K. If either lasts the entire season on the Royals’ big league roster (with at least 90 days on the active roster and not on the DL), he’ll become their property without any restrictions in 2019.
- Still looking for rotation pieces, the Reds could have some interest in veteran free agent Yovani Gallardo, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. The soon-to-be 32-year-old Gallardo is coming off a miserable two-season stretch in which he posted a 5.57 ERA and log 6.48 K/9 against 4.38 BB/9 across 248 2/3 innings with Baltimore and Seattle.
Looking to improve an already enviable rotation, the Nationals have Rays right-handers Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi on their radar, Jon Heyman of FanRag reports (via Twitter). Either would cost far less in terms of salary than free agent Jake Arrieta will, and Heyman notes that the Nats are unsure if they’d be able to afford Arrieta. Heyman also points to Diamondbacks righty Zack Greinke as a possibility for the Nats; however, he’s not exactly cheap, with $138.5MM coming his way through 2021.
More on the trade front:
- The Tigers “will only entertain lopsided offers” for righty Michael Fulmer, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). A trade involving the highly coveted 24-year-old doesn’t look likely, then.
- The Blue Jays are interested in Reds outfielders Billy Hamilton and Adam Duvall, per reports from Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (via Twitter) and Jays Journal. The Braves also have interest in the 29-year-old Duvall, tweets Heyman. Duvall, a 30-home run hitter in each of the previous two seasons, is controllable for the next four years. He won’t be arbitration eligible until next winter.
- The Giants’ own interest in Hamilton continues, but Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets that the chatter with the Reds has “faded significantly” of late. Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer adds on Twitter that the Giants are the most serious suitors for Hamilton, but they’re “at a bit of a standoff” with the Reds. San Francisco still has interest in free agent Jay Bruce, per Rosenthal, and Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that Bruce is the top name on San Francisco’s “wish list.” Still, the club has not made him an offer to this point.
- It’s up in the air whether the Marlins will trade center fielder Christian Yelich. Either way, the Phillies will continue to monitor his availability, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia relays. Meanwhile, they’ve “been aggressive” in shopping shortstop Freddy Galvis, according to Salisbury, who adds (via Twitter) that the Angels “really liked” second baseman Cesar Hernandez before they acquired Ian Kinsler. The Halos didn’t want to meet the Phillies’ asking price for Hernandez, however.
- The Red Sox asked about Marcell Ozuna before the Cardinals acquired him, but they did not have the sort of pitching assets the Marlins were for, Dombrowski told reporters including the Globe’s Peter Abraham (Twitter link.) The Indians also inquired about Ozuna, Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com writes.
- In addition to Chase Headley, the Padres are dangling infielder Yangervis Solarte in chatter with rival organizations, Heyman reports on Twitter. Solarte, 30, is controllable for the next three years at affordable costs (a guaranteed $4MM in 2018 and then club options totaling $13.5MM for 2019-20).
- The Blue Jays were another team with interest in Kinsler before Wednesday’s trade, Nicholson-Smith tweets. Toronto was on Kinsler’s 10-team no-trade list, so it’s unclear how open he’d have been to going there.
With a pair of relief signings being wrapped up, the Phillies seem to feel good about that aspect of their roster. Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, via Twitter, the team will turn its gaze to improving the rotation. Both they and the Yankees checked in with the Diamondbacks regarding right-hander Zack Greinke, Robert Murray of FanRag writes. Greinke ending up with either club is unlikely, however, sources informed Murray. With the Rangers also having shown interest in Greinke, we now know at least three teams have inquired about the expensive 34-year-old this offseason.
Greinke is the latest hurler to land on the radar of the Yankees, who have also eyed Pirates righty Gerrit Cole. Consequently, the Bucs “are gathering names of young, controllable” Yankees they could acquire in a Cole deal, though there’s “nothing close,” Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (on Twitter). Notably, Brink adds that the Yankees are also “looking at” Rays righty Chris Archer. The 29-year-old has drawn significant interest this winter, but it’s unclear whether the Rays will move him.
Plenty more pitching rumors…
- The Royals are giving serious consideration to dealing southpaw Danny Duffy, who’s “extremely popular” on the trade market, Jon Heyman of FanRag tweets. Duffy suggested on Twitter that he doesn’t want to go anywhere, for what it’s worth. “Bury me a Royal,” he declared.
- As the Blue Jays look for pitching reinforcements, they are giving real consideration to veteran CC Sabathia, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes. Though manager John Gibbons suggested his own priority is to add bats, he also said he’d welcome the addition of the veteran Sabathia — who has a lengthy history with the Jays’ current front office leadership stemming from their time in Cleveland together.
- Teams have given up on trying to acquire Reds closer Raisel Iglesias, Heyman reports on Twitter. The Reds understandably want an enormous haul back for the 27-year-old star, who’s under affordable control for the foreseeable future.
- The Twins and Rays have chatted about veteran righty Jake Odorizzi, per Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press (via Twitter), who adds that Tampa Bay was not interested in Minnesota’s initial offer.
- Although they’re at the beginning of a full, cost-cutting rebuild, the Marlins aren’t feeling any urgency to deal righty Dan Straily, per Joe Frisaro of MLB.com (Twitter link). Miami’s de facto ace will play his first of three arbitration-eligible seasons in 2018. He’s projected to earn a $4.6MM salary, which even the Marlins can afford.
- The Mets are not likely to sign another free agent reliever, at least in the near term, according to GM Sandy Alderson and as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo tweets. Instead, after landing Anthony Swarzak, the organization expects to begin looking to fill its other needs.
- Brewers GM David Stearns discussed his organization’s situation with reporters including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy (Twitter links). He said the team was willing to go to two years to get Swarzak, but wasn’t willing to match the dollar amount he ultimately took. The club still has open payroll capacity, which Stearns says he’ll put to good use. “We have spending power this offseason,” he said. “I’m confident we are going to find places to use that effectively.”
- Before the Astros agreed to a deal with Joe Smith on Wednesday, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com hinted on Twitter that the team could have interest in free agent righty Hector Rondon. Whether that still stands remains to be seen, but the Astros are already chock-full of righty relievers as it is.
Though the Reds didn’t ultimately make Shohei Ohtani’s list of seven finalists for his services, the team put together a detailed presentation in hopes of luring the two-way star to Cincinnati. Mark Sheldon of MLB.com wrote an insightful article detailing the Reds’ pursuit of Ohtani; the team shared the contents of its presentation with MLB.com and the Cincinnati Enquirer. Despite the fact that they could only offer him a maximum $300K signing bonus, GM Dick Williams and the entire Reds organization believed they could come up with a pitch attractive enough to sway Ohtani in their direction. “I’d like us to think that we might have a chance. I’ve followed this kid,” Williams said at the the beginning of the process. “I think he’s wired differently. He’s clearly shown he thinks out of the box.” The baseball operations, business, creative services, and marketing departments all worked together to tailor a presentation that included a 120-page book and 12-minute video. One of Cincinnati’s selling points was having Ohtani pitch in a six-man rotation (something he was used to doing in Japan), while playing the outfield and getting at-bats as a pinch-hitter. The Reds pulled out all the stops, including the addition of testimonials from Hall of Famer Barry Larkin and former MVP Joey Votto. Though they ultimately came up short, the release of the presentation’s contents to the media is generous to say the least, and provides a rare and fascinating insight into the player recruiting process.
More items from the National League’s Central Division…
- Although he cautions that the club isn’t necessarily on the cusp of a big announcement, Cardinals GM Michael Girsch says that the club has “some sense of optimism” regarding their pursuit of a big bat (via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). The Redbirds seem to have a desired hitter in mind, and reportedly feel good about their chances of acquiring him. “We’re not at the goal line, but we’ve made progress,” says Girsch. While Girsch himself didn’t mention any specific names, Goold notes in the article that the Cardinals have been linked to Miami outfielder Marcell Ozuna, while the Marlins have shown interest in St. Louis pitchers Jack Flaherty and Sandy Alcantara.
- A hitter isn’t the only thing the Cardinals are pursuing. Recently, they’ve been linked to Rays closer Alex Colome as a potential means to fill a clear need at the back end of their bullpen. Somewhat intriguingly, Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Colome began following four Cardinals-related accounts on his Instagram on Tuesday night (hat tip to NBC Sports’ Drew Silva). It could be nothing at all; social media activity certainly doesn’t have a strong correlation with transactional news. But while there are no reports of a deal in place, the flurry of follows has piqued curiosity and stirred the rumor mill. At the very least, it gives us another reason to closely monitor an interesting hypothetical.
- Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Pirates are exploring the idea of adding a fourth outfielder through trade or free agency, in order to allow Jordan Luplow to begin the season at the Triple-A level. GM Neal Huntington notes that Luplow “didn’t have a ton of at-bats down there a year ago.” Indeed, Luplow only has 87 career plate appearances at Triple-A, and his .205/.276/.385 major league slash line indicates that his bat could benefit from more development at the minors’ highest level. The 24-year-old Luplow was drafted out of California State University Fresno with the Pittsburgh’s third-round pick; the right-handed outfielder is 24 years old, according to Fangraphs.
There’s significant enough interest in Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton that it’s possible a deal could come together during the Winter Meetings, according to a report from Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer. In particular, the Giants are holding “serious discussions” with Cincinnati.
The Giants have long been connected to Hamilton, with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweeting earlier today they are the strongest contender while noting the Reds are interested in clearing room for Jesse Winker in the outfield. But Buchanan stresses they are not the only team still involved in talks. Hamilton is said to be the Reds player generating the most trade interest, with numerous other teams — including the Rangers — also still showing real interest.
Hamilton, of course, is a burner on the bases and top-quality up-the-middle defender. He also has not yet established himself at the plate at the game’s highest level, though. MLBTR recently broke down Hamilton’s trade candidacy in full at this link.
- Eugenio Suarez would want an extension of at least six years and worth more than $45MM in guaranteed money, a source tells Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Suarez is just entering his first of three arbitration-eligible seasons (MLBTR projects him for a $4.4MM salary in 2018), so given the timing and his strong 2017 season, he stands out as a potential long-term piece for the Reds. A six-year deal wouldn’t necessarily be an issue for the club, Buchanan writes, though the source feels the Reds’ stance in contract talks will focus on Suarez gaining financial security for his family now rather than risk an injury or drop in performance. There’s also the possibility that Cincy could look to trade Suarez if an extension can’t be worked out, though Buchanan doubts a trade would happen this winter.
- The Reds are currently more focused on adding relievers than starters, president of baseball operations Dick Williams told MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon and other reporters. “I do think we’ll find some good pitching and spend some money just to supplement the pitching a little bit,” Williams said. “Ideally, we’d maintain some flexibility there as to how guys are used. We think we have more starting pitching, guys that have the ability to stick as starters.”
8:15pm: More on the A’s outfield from Slusser, who reports that they’re also interested in one of Piscotty’s teammates, Grichuk, as well as the Reds’ Adam Duvall and the Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. As 30-home run hitters in 2017, Duvall and Souza would provide right-handed punch to the A’s lineup if acquired. They’re also controllable for the next few seasons – Duvall’s under wraps through 2021, including one pre-arbitration year, while Souza’s set to play his first of three arb-eligible campaigns in 2018. He’s projected to earn a very affordable $3.6MM. Grichuk’s another powerful righty entering his first of three arb years, though he didn’t fare as well as Duvall or Souza in 2017.
Meanwhile, the A’s seem uninterested in moving one of their top offensive players, left fielder/designated hitter Khris Davis, per Slusser. They’ve spurned the Red Sox and other teams that have inquired about Davis this winter.
1:04am: The Athletics continue to have interest in the Cardinals’ Stephen Piscotty, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle recently reported and MLB.com’s Jane Lee discusses in a video link. Oakland has been on the hunt this winter for right-handed hitting outfield help.
A previous connection between Piscotty and the A’s surfaced in the aftermath of the trade deadline, as the Cardinals reportedly floated an offer of Piscotty and either Luke Weaver or Jack Flaherty to Oakland in exchange for Sonny Gray. Those talks never really got off the ground, however, and the A’s subsequently dealt Gray to the Yankees.
As Lee mentions in the video, “the A’s have interest in a ton of outfielders right now,” with the team particularly focused on right-handed bats who are controllable, so the A’s aren’t only looking at veteran options. The Athletics are clearly willing to shop near the top of the trade market, however, as such names as Avisail Garcia of the White Sox and Marlins outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich (a left-handed hitter) have already been reported as landing on Oakland’s radar in talks.
Piscotty wouldn’t cost as much in a deal as those aforementioned names, given how he struggled in 2017. After signing a six-year, $33.5MM extension with the Cardinals in April, Piscotty went from building block to potentially expendable piece by hitting just .235/.342/.367 with nine homers over 401 plate appearances. Groin and hamstring injuries didn’t help his cause, and Piscotty was even demoted to Triple-A in August for a brief spell.
Still, Piscotty posted strong numbers in his first two big league seasons, he doesn’t turn 27 until January, and the Cards are less than a year removed from locking him up on what could still be a team-friendly extension. Under normal circumstances, St. Louis wouldn’t be looking to deal a player like Piscotty (especially when his trade value has been lowered), though the club must create room within a crowded outfield picture. Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham locked into everyday outfield spots next year, leaving just one corner spot for Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, and prospects Magneuris Sierra, Tyler O’Neill, and Harrison Bader. The Cards may also add another everyday outfielder — they’ve also been linked to Ozuna and Yelich in trade speculation, and J.D. Martinez is a possibility for a Cardinals lineup looking for a big bat after missing out on Giancarlo Stanton.
This surplus makes St. Louis a logical trade partner for an Oakland team that is short on established outfielders. Boog Powell and top prospect Dustin Fowler are the top candidates for center field, while Matt Joyce, Jake Smolinski, Chad Pinder and Mark Canha will be in the mix for playing time in the corners. Piscotty would step into one of those corner spots for everyday duty right away, and the $30.5MM owed to him over the next five years (counting a $1MM buyout of his $15MM club option for 2023) is a palatable price tag even for a smaller-market team like the A’s.