- There’s little precedent for Tommy Pham’s enormous breakout season at the age of 29, writes SB Nation’s Craig Edwards. Pham posted a roughly six-win season for the Cardinals (5.9 fWAR, 6.4 rWAR) last year on the strength of a .306/.411/.520 batting line through 530 plate appearances. However, he’d provided minimal value to the Cards over his first 136 games in the bigs after progressing slowly through the minor leagues. Edwards looks for historical context for Pham’s breakout, noting that there’ve been 48 outfielders with a WAR between five and seven in their age-29 season over the past 70 years. Of that group, only three — Jose Bautista, Ryan Ludwick and former Tigers outfielder Charlie Maxwell — broke out with as limited a track record as Pham. It’s an interesting look at a unique breakout season that also attempts to gauge how Pham will perform in 2018 and beyond.
Here are Friday’s minor moves from around the game…
- The Rangers have inked a minor-league pact with right-hander Brandon Cumpton, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning news (Twitter link). Arm troubles have limited the 29-year-old of late, but he did return to professional action in 2017 after a two-year hiatus. Over 37 1/3 innings, Cumpton pitched to a 3.86 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9.
- As Cumpton leaves the Pirates organization, two other right-handers are on their way in, according to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects. Tyler Jones and Bo Schultz have each joined the Bucs on minor-league arrangements, per the report. The former will be looking to crack the majors for the first time. He has often produced quality strikeout rates in the upper minors but only managed a 4.38 ERA in 63 2/3 innings at Triple-A last year with the Yankees organization. As for Schultz, the former Blue Jays reliever will be looking to return from Tommy John surgery. Schultz turned in a useful 2015 season but faltered in the ensuing season — he worked to a 5.51 ERA in his 16 1/3 MLB innings — before going under the knife.
- Righty William Cuevas will join the Red Sox organization on a minor-league pact, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. The 27-year-old has spent the bulk of his career in the Boston organization but played elsewhere in 2017. He worked to a 4.85 ERA in 104 Triple-A frames in 2017, with 7.0 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9. Cuevas has twice cracked the majors, but only briefly.
- Yet another right-handed hurler, Preston Guilmet, is heading to the Cardinals on a minors deal, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets. He’ll get a spring invite and can earn at a $600K rate in the majors. The 30-year-old Guilmet has seen parts of three seasons in the majors but only has 23 career innings at the game’s highest level. He has put up some interesting results of late, though, posting a 2.77 ERA with 10.8 K/9 against 1.6 BB/9 in 68 1/3 Triple-A frames in 2016 before heading to Japan and running a 3.62 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in his 54 2/3 innings for the Yakult Swallows (over four starts and 28 relief appearances).
- The Tigers have agreed to a minor league deal with former Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma, reports SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (on Twitter). Kozma, 30 in April, split the 2017 season between the Rangers and Yankees organizations and logged 51 plate appearances in the Majors, though he batted just .111/.200/.178 in that small sample. Long considered an excellent defender with a light bat, Kozma is a career .215/.282/.285 hitter in parts of six MLB seasons but also comes with a career +11 Defensive Runs Saved mark and +9 Ultimate Zone Rating in 1450 innings at shortstop.
- The Braves announced yesterday that right-handed reliever Luke Jackson cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple-A Gwinnett. Once a well-regarded prospect in the Rangers system, the now-26-year-old Jackson posted an ERA north of 6.00 and walked 16 batters in 24 1/3 innings with Gwinnett last season. He actually performed better in the Majors, logging a 4.62 ERA in 50 1/3 frames, albeit with pedestrian averages of 5.9 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 with a 45.2 percent grounder rate. Jackson does have a history of missing bats in the upper minors and did average 94.7 mph on his heater last year while running up a 10.2 percent swinging-strike rate, so there’s some hope that he could yet figure things out.
- The Cardinals have added backstop Steven Baron on a minors pact, according to MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch (via Twitter). (As she also notes, and we covered previously, the club also added catcher Francisco Pena.) Baron, 27, was the 33rd overall pick in the 2009 draft, but he has never hit much at all in the minors and has only minimal MLB experience. Still, he’ll represent another upper-level depth option for the Cards, who’ll become his first organization other than the Mariners. Baron spent most of 2017 at Triple-A, where he slashed .256/.339/.329 in 187 plate appearances.
The latest on the North Siders comes from Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago…
- To this point, the Cubs and Cardinals have shown the most interest in free agent right-hander Jake Arrieta, according to Levine. The Cubs reportedly may be willing to offer a four-year, $110MM contract to the soon-to-be 32-year-old Arrieta, who mostly thrived with the team from 2013-17.
- Elsewhere on the pitching market, the Cubs remain in contact with Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb, per Levine, though he casts doubt on them being the favorites to sign the latter. They’re wary of Cobb’s asking price, which appears to be in the $17MM to $19MM range per annum, Levine relays.
- Along with the previously reported Chris Archer, the Cubs are interested in swinging a trade for Pirates righty Gerrit Cole, Levine writes. This is the first reported connection of the offseason between the Cubs and Cole, who has mostly been linked to the Yankees. Talks between the Yankees and Pirates simmered last month, though, which could pave the way for another team to swoop in and land the 27-year-old. Given that Chicago and Pittsburgh are in the same division, the Cubs are obviously quite familiar with Cole. The Scott Boras client is under control for the next two seasons, and he’ll earn a projected $7.5MM in 2018.
- Looking beyond starting pitching possibilities, Levine doesn’t rule out more additions to the Cubs’ bullpen or position player group. With Wade Davis having signed with the Rockies, the Cubs could be in the market for a closer if they don’t want to turn the ninth-inning reins to either of the just-signed Brandon Morrow–Steve Cishek tandem or another in-house option. But whether the team bids on a top free agent like Greg Holland or Addison Reed could depend on how much spending room it has left after it picks up another starter, per Levine. Further, it’s possible the Cubs could try to trade for Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich, who would likely cost them fellow center fielder Albert Almora Jr. in a deal, Levine contends. He also lists free agent center fielder Lorenzo Cain as a name to watch for the Cubs.
- The Cardinals still seemingly have a wide array of potential targets as they aim to continue adding bats to their lineup (among other possibilities for improvement). Per Jon Morosi of MLB.com, via Twitter, the Cards shouldn’t be counted out on Hosmer. According to the report, St. Louis “remain[s] involved” on the first bagger, with Morosi noting the club could conceivably then bump Matt Carpenter to third base. From an outside perspective, that still seems like a hefty investment for the potential reward, particularly since the organization decided just last year to shift Carpenter across the diamond — in part, at least, to improve the defensive situation at third. With Jedd Gyorko coming off of a strong two-way campaign at the hot corner, Kolten Wong still occupying second, and a pair of young options on hand at first (Jose Martinez and Luke Voit), there are some other components at play here for the Cards. Presumably, the addition of Hosmer would mean a trade involving one or more of those existing players.
- The Cardinals’ recent trade of outfielder Stephen Piscotty was designed, in part, to make way for the team’s addition of Marcell Ozuna. At the same time, as Derrick Goold writes for Baseball America, the deal brought in some much-needed middle-infield depth. Youngsters Yairo Munoz and Max Schrock now sit atop the org’s prospect chart at shortstop and second base, respectively. The complexities involved in these two deals (and a few other related negotiations that did and did not come to fruition) serve to illustrate how many moving pieces can be involved in trade talks.
- Meanwhile, the Cardinals perhaps have some cause to believe the Blue Jays are willing to consider moving star third baseman Josh Donaldson, per Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He suggests there’s some indication from the Jays side that the team isn’t dead-set against a move if it brought back MLB pieces as well as prospect value. To an extent, the Toronto organization has something of the opposite problem that the Cards do: the former needs multiple assets while the latter is loaded with solid players but would like a few premium pieces. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs had posited this sort of scenario a few weeks back.
Signing Mitch Moreland doesn’t take the Red Sox out of the market for hitting, president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski told reporters including Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. And adding another stick wouldn’t necessarily mean trading away from the current roster to create space, the club’s top baseball decisionmaker added. But it surely does not seem that Boston will sign another first baseman; rather, a DH/corner outfield bat seems the likeliest possibility.
- Boston’s decision seems to take it out of the market for Eric Hosmer, which has raised some eyebrows in Royals country. As Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star writes, there are still many barriers remaining to a return to Kansas City for Hosmer, including the possibility that agent Scott Boras will find a way to bring some new suitors into the picture. But keeping Hosmer in Royals blue for the future now seems more plausible than might have been expected when the organization began giving indication it would rebuild. Of course, even if that comes to pass, the general rebuilding plan will remain, the Star’s Rustin Dodd notes on Twitter.
- The Cardinals appear to be showing more interest in veteran Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson than in Manny Machado of the Orioles, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). Nightengale posits that the club may believe it’s better situated to pursue a long-term deal with Donaldson — who’s much older than Machado, though both will hit the open market at the same time — which would increase his appeal. Of course, it’s important to bear in mind there’s still no real indication that Toronto will move Donaldson and the St. Louis front office has suggested recently that it’s not all that keen on giving up significant assets for a rental.
- While there has been some chatter recently connecting the Mets to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post says that possibility is not as likely as it has come to seem. Especially with Carlos Santana moving on, says Davidoff, the Indians are not particularly inclined to part with Kipnis’s contract for a marginal return. New York is trying to thread the needle in finding an upgrade at the position, with the organization concerned with giving up too much in salary or prospect value to make a deal. As the Post’s Joel Sherman writes, the Mets’ lack of top-end, marketable pre-MLB talent has posed an under-appreciated barrier to its winter activity.
- The Mets, of course, are also eyeing the addition of another option at the first base position. New York had some interest in Moreland, per the above-cited Cafardo piece. And as James Wagner of the New York Times tweets, the Mets intend at least to take a look at the newest entrant onto the open market: Adrian Gonzalez. The veteran will be looking to bounce back after a rough, injury-plagued 2017 season, though he could conceivably bring some upside at a very appealing price.
Just days after the Giancarlo Stanton trade saga came to an end, the Orioles reportedly made Manny Machado available and began asking teams around the league for offers on the 25-year-old superstar. Here’s the latest chatter on Machado as the Orioles field interest in the best player in recent franchise history…
- Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic takes a lengthy look at the market for Machado (subscription required and strongly recommended), reporting that trade offers from interested parties improved over the weekend and that a deal could happen this week. Specific details on each club’s offers, of course, aren’t fully known, though Rosenthal reports that the D-backs included young infielder Brandon Drury as part of their package. Rosenthal provides an overview of how seven Machado suitors could make a deal work, though he notes that there’s still a general doubt among his sources that Orioles owner Peter Angelos would green-light a deal sending Machado to the Yankees.
- Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com paints a bit of a different picture regarding Angelos, writing that it’s possible Angelos could be swayed into approving a deal sending Machado the Bronx. Angelos, Connolly writes, solicits opinions from a wide array of trusted confidants and advisors — so many so that there are often conflicting opinions. A lack of consensus among that inner circle may have been what ultimately quashed this past July’s would-be Zach Britton trade to the Astros, per Connolly. However, Connolly hears that there’s a general sense within the organization that a deal will get done, and an organizational consensus could dissuade Angelos from interfering with any agreement, regardless of the trade partner in question. Within that same piece, Connolly also explores how the Machado situation could be slowing Baltimore’s other offseason endeavors.
- The Cardinals have been oft-linked to Machado, though president of baseball operations John Mozeliak implied in an appearance on KMOX Sports radio in St. Louis this morning that he’d have a hard time making a deal for Machado (Twitter link via KMOX’s Tom Ackerman). Said Mozeliak: “If you’re trading away two to three prospects that have a combined 18 years of control… for one [year]? That doesn’t sit well with me.” That, of course, doesn’t preclude a deal from coming together — Mozeliak did trade four pieces for two years of Marcell Ozuna — but it does seem to suggest that the Cards would have a hard time deciding to outbid the field to secure the rights to Machado’s 2018 season.
- The Cardinals typically prefer to acquire controllable players, notes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis-Post Dispatch, though “it remains possible” the win-now club will swing a deal for one year of Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson or the Orioles’ Manny Machado. The Redbirds and Blue Jays continue to discuss Donaldson, according to Goold, but he’s the latest to point out that the Jays don’t seem motivated to move him.