- The Mets are still looking for help at second base, though they don’t appear to be close on some of the options on the trade market, Mike Puma of the New York Post writes. Team officials “indicated there was little momentum” in talks with the Phillies on Cesar Hernandez and the Pirates about Josh Harrison, while the Twins are giving the impression that Brian Dozier is unlikely to be dealt. The Brewers’ Jonathan Villar is available in the wake of his down year, though Villar isn’t seen “as a serious possibility” by the Mets for now. Looking at outside-the-box possibilities, signing shortstop Zack Cozart and switching him to second base seems like a “long shot” scenario, a source tells Newsday’s Marc Carig (Twitter link).
- The Phillies announced the hiring of Jose Flores the team’s first base coach and baserunning/infield instructor. This is Flores’ first job on a Major League coaching staff, after spending the last five years as the Cubs’ minor league infield coordinator, and several teams coaching and managing in Puerto Rico, including two years as the manager of Puerto Rico’s national team.
The Phillies announced a deal involving Rule 5 selection Nick Burdi. His rights were shipped to the Pirates in exchange for $500K of international bonus pool spending capacity, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets.
Burdi, a high-powered righty relief prospect, started the day with the Twins. He went third in today’s Rule 5 proceedings, but the Phillies decided to hand off his rights to Pittsburgh.
The 24-year-old Burdi landed in the Minnesota organization after being taken in the second round of the 2014 draft. It seemed he was nearing MLB readiness after 17 frames at Double-A in 2017, over which he allowed just one earned run on nine hits and four walks while racking up twenty strikeouts.
Unfortunately, that came to a halt with a UCL injury that ultimately required Tommy John surgery. Burdi will likely return at some point in the middle of the upcoming season, at which point the Bucs will need to keep him on the active roster in order to obtain his full rights. If Burdi is not on the MLB roster for ninety days in the 2017 season, he’d then need to open the ensuing campaign there in order for the rights to fully convey.
The Rangers have acquired outfielder Carlos Tocci from the White Sox in exchange for cash, tweets Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Chicago had selected him with the No. 4 pick in the Rule 5 draft (out of the Phillies’ system).
Tocci was a fairly high-profile sign out of Venezuela for the Phils back in 2011, taking home a reported bonus of $759K at the time. Though he’s never exactly dominated in the minors, he’s coming off a solid .294/.346/.381 slash line in 528 plate appearances between the Phillies’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates — his first stop at each of those levels on his rise through the Majors. Tocci doesn’t come with any power and isn’t a base-stealing threat, but he’s an excellent defensive center fielder with a strong hit tool, per Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, who had rated him 23rd among Phillies prospects.
Tocci will retain his Rule 5 status with the Rangers, meaning he cannot be optioned to the minors without first being exposed to waivers and then offered back to the Phillies for $50,000. If he lasts the entire season on the Rangers’ 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.
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.
WEDNESDAY: Neshek’s two-year, $16.25MM pact is official, Heyman tweets.
MONDAY, 4:40pm: Nightengale has the details on Neshek’s contract (via Twitter): It’s worth $16.25MM and includes a $4MM signing bonus. He’ll make $5.75MM in both 2018 and 2019, and he’ll collect either $7MM or a $700K buyout in 2020.
4:02pm: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets that the contract is expected to be worth $16.5MM, and he adds that it’ll include a $500K assignment bonus should the Phillies trade Neshek.
3:57pm: It’ll be a two-year, $16.25MM pact with a club option, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports (Twitter link).
3:20pm: Free agent reliever Pat Neshek has two multiyear offers in the $16MM range in hand and should have a deal in place within the next two days, Jon Heyman of FanRag reports (Twitter link). One of those offers seems to be from the Phillies, as Todd Zolecki of MLB.com tweets that they could announce the signing of Neshek this week. Indeed, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN adds (via Twitter) that the Phillies and Neshek are progressing toward an agreement. Neshek is a client of Meister Sports Management.
[RELATED: Updated Phillies Depth Chart]
The Phillies are a familiar club for Neshek, who spent the first three-plus months of last season in Philadelphia before the team traded him to Colorado in late July. The 37-year-old Neshek excelled with both teams in 2017 and earned the second All-Star nod of his career thanks to his output with the Phillies. In all, the right-hander tossed 62 1/3 innings of 1.59 ERA, with a similarly minuscule FIP (1.86), and struck out 69 batters while issuing just six walks. While Neshek only managed a 36.4 percent groundball rate, he somewhat offset that with an impressive infield fly percentage (15.5).
Last year was the latest in a long line of successful campaigns for the sidearming Neshek, who has typically been terrific since he debuted with the Twins in 2006. Even though he doesn’t throw particularly hard, Neshek has pitched to a 2.75 ERA/3.50 FIP combination across 445 2/3 innings in Minnesota, San Diego, Oakland, St. Louis, Houston and Philly, also posting 9.03 K/9 against 2.54 BB/9 and limiting home runs despite a low grounder rate (33.2 percent).
The grizzled Neshek will once again serve as the elder statesman in what’s currently a fairly young Phillies bullpen in 2018. Thanks largely to his tremendous half-season production in 2017, an otherwise less-than-stellar Phillies relief corps finished with respectable rankings in ERA (14th) and fWAR (13th).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- The Phillies are intrigued by the possibility of a Machado trade but would want a negotiation window to discuss an extension to be included in any trade, tweets FanRag’s Jon Heyman. However, Heyman hears that Machado isn’t likely to grant such a window when he’s just one year removed from reaching free agency at the age of 26. As things currently stand, Machado seems highly likely to have a case for a record-setting contract next winter, and there’s little incentive to discuss a long-term deal right now unless a team pays that rate in advance. Machado has already banked more than $23MM in his career between the draft and player salaries to date, and he’s projected by MLBTR to earn $17.3MM next year in his final season of arbitration eligibility.
- The Phillies’ Cesar Hernandez is the latest second baseman on the Mets’ list of targets, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link). Hernandez may come with the highest asking price, however, of any of the players — Ian Kinsler, Josh Harrison, Jason Kipnis — the Mets are considering, given Hernandez’s controllable salary. One infielder the Mets aren’t interested in is new Marlins second baseman Starlin Castro.
9:26pm: Hunter’s deal is expected to be worth roughly $18MM over the two years, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets.
7:46pm: The Phillies have agreed to a deal with free agent right-hander Tommy Hunter, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer (via Twitter) was the first to report that the Phillies were moving towards a deal with Hunter, rather than a previously-reported deal from ESPN.com’s Buster Olney between the Phils and righty Addison Reed that proved to be incorrect. Hunter, who is represented by Moye Sports Associates, will receive a two-year contract, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
Hunter joins Pat Neshek as the Phillies’ second big bullpen signing in three days, with Neshek also receiving a two-year guarantee. The two veterans will provide sturdy setup depth behind young closer Hector Neris, though there’s also a chance Philadelphia could look to trade Hunter or Neshek at the trade deadline.
After an injury-shortened 2016 season, Hunter had to settle for signing a minor league deal with the Rays last winter, though he revived his value with a strong performance. Hunter posted a 2.61 ERA, 4.57 K/BB rate and 9.82 K/9 over 58 2/3 frames out of the Tampa bullpen. That K/9 was a career-best for Hunter, who had never been much of a strikeout pitcher over his career despite a fastball that has averaged better than 96mph in four of the last five seasons.
7:37pm: The early reports about a three-year deal with the Phils “at present isn’t accurate,” FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Indeed, now it seems as if the Phillies are close to a contract with Tommy Hunter and may have moved on from Reed.