Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

Report: Red Sox leading the pack in pursuit of Sandoval

The Red Sox may be the current front-runner in the Pablo Sandoval sweepstakes, according to The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo.

Cafardo, citing a Major League source, suggested the five-year, $95 million offer from Boston has the lead on offers from the Padres and his former club, the Giants. The report also indicated Sandoval, 28, is hoping to make a decision soon.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Padres made their offer to Sandoval on Friday. The club’s general manager A.J. Preller also met with the third baseman’s agent Gustavo Vazquez in Miami that day, according to MLB.com’s Corey Brock.

The Blue Jays are also thought to be in the mix for Sandoval, but at Thursday’s introductory press conference for Russell Martin, general manager Alex Anthopoulos downplayed the possibility of another imminent free agent acquisition.

- Chad Thornburg 

Report: Chances for Kemp trade could be rising

The Dodgers’ overcrowded outfielder could lead the club’s new-look front office to make a trade this offseason as it looks to shed salary and address other parts of the roster. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman called that “likely the best course of action” at the General Managers Meetings last week.

But which outfielder will be on the move? The most likely candidates are expensive veterans Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, each of whom has more than $50 million remaining on his contract.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported Friday that Kemp is drawing interest and could be a stronger bet to be traded than many have thought, with teams such as the Mariners and Orioles in the mix. Though the Dodgers still owe Kemp $107 million, his recent production and the lack of right-handed power on the market could allow Los Angeles to clear at least a substantial portion of his remaining salary, Heyman writes.

Kemp, who will be 31 this season, has fallen off since finishing second in the NL MVP race in 2011, and the Dodgers no longer see him as a center fielder. Still, he hit a solid .287/.346/.506 in ‘14, with 25 homers and 89 RBIs.

– Andrew Simon

Waiting on Jon Lester

The Cubs will have to wait a little longer for Jon Lester to make a decision regarding where he wants to pitch next year. According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, Lester will meet with at least two more teams next week. The free agent pitcher already has talked to the Cubs, Red Sox, and Braves. The Cubs made their push on Tuesday when Lester visited Chicago.

The Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo said he has not been contacted to help recruit any free agents, including Lester, who was the first baseman’s teammate briefly with the Red Sox.

“All these free agents have earned the right to be free agents and they deserve to visit all the teams that are interested and do what’s best for their families and themselves,” Rizzo said Friday in Chicago. “It really [comes down to] the best decision for them. The best sales pitch I can give is that we’re an exciting team and this is Chicago.”

Cubs execs Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer know all about sales pitches, especially at Thanksgiving time. In 2003, Epstein and Hoyer, then in the Red Sox front office, had Thanksgiving dinner with Curt Schilling, part of their effort to get the right-hander to drop the no-trade clause in his contract and accept being dealt to Boston.

“If we didn’t sign Curt, it probably would have been the worst Thanksgiving of my life,” Epstein said in 2003. “We tried to refuse [the invitation], and Curt said it was a deal breaker, they would be insulted if we didn’t go.”

Lester most likely will spend Thanksgiving at home.

– Carrie Muskat

Market looking robust for Miller

Andrew Miller has recorded one save in his career, but that’s not going to stop the free-agent left-hander from cashing in big this offseason.

Multiple clubs already have submitted offers of at least three years to Miller, according to FoxSports.com’s Jon Morosi, who added that it’s looking more and more like 29-year-old will score a four-year deal.

A former No. 6 overall draft pick back in 2006, Miller never established himself as a starter but has made a highly successful conversion to the bullpen. He posted a 2.02 ERA for the Red Sox and Orioles last year, striking out 103 batters in 62 1/3 innings while dominating both left-handed and right-handed hitters.

As Morosi points out, Miller should have no trouble smashing the record for the highest average annual value for a reliever with no closing experience, which currently sits at $6 million. As many as 22 clubs have shown interest in Miller, so there will be plenty of competition to drive up his price.

– Andrew Simon

Report: Rays put Joyce on the block

Add another outfielder to the trade market.

The Rays have made Matt Joyce available and have discussed the 30-year-old with other clubs, according to Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com. Joyce, who has been with Tampa Bay since 2009, is arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter after making $3.7 million in ‘14. He is set to become a free agent next offseason.

Joyce is a career .250/.342/.441 hitter, and the left-handed batter has mostly faced right-handed pitchers, slashing .261/.356/.463 against them. He has posted an above-average OPS+ of at least 108 for five straight seasons.

Defensively, Joyce has spent the bulk of his time in right field but played more in left last year.

– Andrew Simon

Pitching decisions loom for Tigers

With right-hander Max Scherzer a free agent and left-hander David Price entering his final year of club control, the Tigers have some big decisions to make regarding their starting rotation.

Detroit is considered to be a contender for Scherzer this offseason, but as probably the top pitcher available, he will have a lot of suitors. Speaking to MLB Network Radio on Friday, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said he feels his club still has a shot at retaining Scherzer, but that he isn’t counting on that happening.

Scherzer went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA to win American League Cy Young honors in 2013 and followed that up by going 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA last year. The 30-year-old is most likely to land with the Nationals, Yankees, Tigers, Cardinals or Dodgers, according to a recent report from Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com.

Price, whom the Tigers acquired from the Rays at the Trade Deadline, is 29 and arbitration eligible for the final time this offseason after making $14 million in ‘14. The ‘12 AL Cy Young winner is a four-time All-Star with a 3.21 career ERA, but Dombrowski said during his radio appearance that while Detroit remains “open-minded” to a long-term relationship between the two sides, it isn’t exploring an extension right now.

Though Dombrowski said he’s not looking to trade Price, such a deal wouldn’t be out of the question, considering the GM’s history. That’s a topic MLB.com Tigers beat writer Jason Beck recently explored on his blog.

With Rick Porcello also set to hit free agency next winter, Justin Verlander trying to bounce back from a rough ‘14 and Anibal Sanchez returning from injury, it’s certainly an interesting time for the club’s pitching staff.

– Andrew Simon

Braves expected to remain active

The Braves already executed one of the offseason’s biggest moves, dealing right fielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden to the Cardinals for young starter Shelby Miller and prospect Tyrell Jenkins. And it appears that new president of baseball operations John Hart is far from finished retooling the club after last year’s disappointing finish.

The next big name that could be on the move is outfielder Justin Upton, who also is entering the final year of his contract after collecting 29 homers and 102 RBIs in 2014. Teams that have talked with Atlanta about Upton feel there’s a better than 50-50 chance a trade will go down, according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, with the Padres, Mariners and Reds among those interested. In fact, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported Friday the Braves “are very much shopping” the 27-year-old, with the Mariners as a strong contender.

But Atlanta is working on other fronts as well. It would love to dump unproductive and expensive outfielder B.J. Upton, and catcher/outfielder Evan Gattis also could be available. Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez lists the club as one of two front-runners for free-agent Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, along with the Padres.

At the same time, the Braves will look to add more starting pitching. One possibility — albeit remote — is free-agent left-hander Jon Lester. The Georgia resident met with club officials on Thursday, according to Stark, though Hart called their pursuit of him a “long shot.”

– Andrew Simon

Cubs reportedly ask re: Montero

Could Miguel Montero be the upgrade at catcher the Cubs are looking for? According to the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro, the Cubs are one of three teams who have spoken to the Diamondbacks about the left-handed hitting catcher (joining the White Sox and Dodgers). The Cubs missed in their attempt to sign free agent Russell Martin, who agreed to a five-year deal with the Blue Jays this week. Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart has said he’s not shopping any of their players, including Montero, but did say he’s had inquiries about several players. Montero was rumored to be available because of his contract — he’s owed $40 million over the next three years. Montero, 31, batted .243 this season with 13 home runs and 72 RBIs. He’s led the Majors in innings caught since 2011. In his second full season as the Cubs regular catcher, Welington Castillo batted .237 this past season with 13 home runs and 46 RBIs.

– Carrie Muskat

White Sox interested in Montero?

The White Sox are one of three teams inquiring about D-backs catcher Miguel Montero, according to a report Thursday in The Arizona Republic.

Montero, 31, is a two-time All-Star who has drawn interest from the crosstown-rival Cubs and Dodgers, as well as the South Siders.

The White Sox have been looking for a fixture at catcher since letting A.J. Pierzynski leave as a free agent following the 2012 season.

Tyler Flowers was given first crack at the job in 2013, before Josh Phegley took over as the season closed.

Chicago again stuck with Flowers (127 games) and Rule-5 Draft pick Adrian Nieto (48) last season, but Sox catchers combined to hit just .239/.293/.395 with 20 home runs and 64 RBIs.

The Sox aren’t necessarily looking to replace Flowers, because they like how he handles pitchers and calls games — the No. 1 trait they value in catchers. But they have looked for alternatives or complements in the past, including left-handed-hitting Astros catcher Jason Castro last year.

Montero signed a five-year, $60-million contract with Arizona after the 2012 season, a deal thought to be a great investment for a then-28-year-old catcher. But Montero’s average plummeted from .286 to .230 in 2013 as he played in only 116 games because of injuries.

He rebounded last year to make his second National League All-Star team, but finished with a .243/.329/.370 slashline, and the new D-backs regime appears willing to trade him for the right price.

Montero, a .264/.342/.421 career hitter over nine seasons, is due to make $12 million in 2015 and $14 million the next two seasons.

Russell Martin, the jewel of the free-agent catching class, signed a five-year, $82-million deal with the Blue Jays earlier this week. The rest of the remaining free-agent catching options — Geovany Soto, David Ross, J.P. Arencibia, etc. — are viewed more as backups.

- Cash Kruth

A fork in the road for Cincinnati

The Reds are facing some difficult questions this winter after a disappointing 76-win season that followed a run of three playoff appearances in four years.

On one hand, 80 percent of the team’s starting rotation — Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon — is entering its final year before free agency. Right fielder Jay Bruce and closer Aroldis Chapman both could hit the market after two more seasons. On the other hand, the club also faces large financial commitments to second baseman Brandon Phillips ($39 million through 2017), right-hander Homer Bailey ($96 million through ‘19) and first baseman Joey Votto (a staggering $213 million through ‘23), all of whom struggled and/or underperformed last season.

So what course does Cincinnati chart as it tries to compete in a division that features St. Louis, Pittsburgh and an up-and-coming force in Chicago? According to FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal, the club could deal one or more of its starters with one year of control remaining, but also would consider shipping off Bruce. Doing so would be selling low, as the 27-year-old saw his numbers tumble during an injury-plagued 2014, but he still could fetch a nice return from a team such as San Diego.

It could make sense for the Reds to sell some pitching for immediate offensive help, or to try a mini-rebuild with an eye toward restocking for the future. However, in an appearance on MLB Network on Friday morning, Rosenthal also emphasized that Cincinnati could go in a different direction, gearing up for another run with its current core. In that case, it potentially could look to the free-agent market to add a bat such as Nori Aoki or Michael Morse.

– Andrew Simon

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