Rumors

  • Jon Lester Rumors: Tuesday

    Yesterday, reports indicated that the Orioles and Mariners have both inquired on Red Sox ace Jon Lester, but the Sox are likely to take any decision down to the wire. Earlier this morning, we noted that Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com heard there was less than a 50 percent chance Lester is dealt based on current talks, but offers are expected to increase in the coming days.

    We’ll keep track of the rest of Tuesday’s Lester-related rumors in this post…

    • Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio reports (via Twitter) that the Blue Jays, Mariners, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Orioles and Marlins are all currently in on Lester. The Marlins are certainly a new addition to the mix, although that would line up with Buster Olney’s report from earlier today pegging them as a potential surprise candidate for some starting pitchers. Miami has a number of high-end prospects, and Lester’s remaining $4.48MM in salary might not be too overwhelming.
    • Andy Martino of the New York Daily News hears the same as Olney did earlier this morning (Twitter link): There’s “little doubt” in the industry that Boston will move its ace. Rival clubs are expecting a trade.

    Earlier Updates

    • Lester’s agent, Seth Levinson of ACES, denied a previous report that his client’s asking price in extension talks motivated the Red Sox to trade him, reports Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. Unsurprisingly, Levinson shed no further light on any extension talks with Lester: “The discussions we had with the Red Sox were confidential and will remain that way,” Levinson said to Edes in an email.
    • Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com adds some new teams to the Lester mix, as he reports that the Athletics, Blue Jays and Braves have all called to inquire on the BoSox ace. Of those teams, Toronto is being the most aggressive in its pursuit, a source tells McAdam. The Sox are willing to move him to the division-rival Jays or Orioles, according to McAdam’s source. Boston is still seeking multiple prospects in return, specifically one elite prospect — McAdam uses Oscar Taveras, Joc Pederson and Corey Seager as examples — and at least one more lesser prospect. Interestingly, McAdam notes that the Red Sox will not consider trading Lester to the Yankees.
    • The Brewers have spoken to the Sox about Lester, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Milwaukee was said to have asked the Rays about David Price as well, but Price might not be dealt now, and Lester would cost less to acquire. Heyman notes that Milwaukee has top pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson to offer as a centerpiece and has a deeper farm system than it has in prior years. Nelson ranked 38th on Baseball America’s midseason list of the game’s Top 50 prospects, and MLB.com ranked him 53rd on their midseason Top 100.
  • Astros Open To Trading Keuchel, McHugh, Cosart

    TUESDAY: The Astros are getting increased calls about their pitchers after yesterday’s comments from Luhnow, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart (on Twitter). The goal remains the same, says McTaggart: MLB-ready offense.

    MONDAY, 6:21pm: When asked about prospective deals Houston GM Jeff Luhnow said there’s “nothing that feels close” at this time, tweets Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The GM went on to say (link), “There’s conversations happening and there have been for the past week multiple conversations happening every day.”

    5:32pm: The Astros have previously said that they weren’t inclined to move left-hander Dallas Keuchel or right-hander Collin McHugh, both of whom are in the midst of breakout seasons, but Luhnow softened his stance when speaking to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (12:23 timestamp in the update window). The Houston GM tells Rosenthal that the lack of available starting pitching has prompted him to consider dealing Keuchel, McHugh, or right-hander Jarred Cosart:

    “We do seem to have an excess of pretty good young starters so we wouldn’t rule anything out. We’d have to get back a big-league piece, preferably a bat, in a package that makes sense for the future and present.”

    The 26-year-old Keuchel can be controlled through the 2018 season, while McHugh, 27, and Cosart, 24, are controllable through the 2019 campaign. Keuchel and McHugh, in particular, have had surprisingly strong seasons, with Keuchel posting a 3.11 ERA in 127 1/3 innings, and McHugh notching a 3.45 ERA with 102 strikeouts in 88 2/3 innings (10.4 K/9).

    Keuchel was Houston’s seventh-round selection in the 2009 draft, while McHugh was claimed off waivers (Houston had tried to trade for him in 2013), and Cosart was acquired in the Hunter Pence deal back in 2011. None of three are eligible for arbitration after the season. Keuchel will be arb-eligible following the 2015 season, while Cosart and McHugh are eligible following the 2016 season.

  • Latest On Rusney Castillo

    TUESDAY: Castillo, who worked out for the Phillies today, has set up a private workout with the Mariners on Sunday as well, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (on Twitter). His one-on-one workout with the Red Sox is still set for Friday.

    MONDAY, 8:29pm: Ben Badler of Baseball America writes that the Yankees indeed have a private workout scheduled with Castillo.

    7:33pm: General Manager Jeff Luhnow says the Astros may schedule a one-on-one workout with Castillo, writes Brian McTaggart of MLB.com.

    7:24pm: A source tells Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (on Twitter) that only the Phillies (on Tuesday) and the Red Sox (Friday) have private workouts set up with Castillo.  However, private workouts are in the works for the Yankees and other clubs.

    Unsurprisingly, the Twins are not among the teams looking to line up a workout with Castillo, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN.  Minnesota likes Castillo, but the expected asking price is too rich for their blood.

    3:11pm: Reports indicated that 28 of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams were represented at Rusney Castillo‘s showcase over the weekend, and Ben Badler of Baseball America has the latest on the 27-year-old Cuban free agent. Castillo will have private workouts with the Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies this coming week, and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that the Orioles are also arranging a private workout.

    Badler lists the White Sox, Mariners, Giants, Blue Jays, Cubs and Braves as other potential suitors. Because multiple teams have interest in getting a deal worked out quickly, however, there aren’t likely to be any further private workouts before a deal gets done, Badler writes. Additionally, Badler has posted some video footage from Castillo’s weekend showcase.

    Multiple sources indicated to Badler that the Red Sox had the largest contingent on-hand Saturday for Castillo’s showcase. He notes that Jackie Bradley has more upside at the plate, and Mookie Betts might factor in as a corner outfield option in the long-term due to the presence of Dustin Pedroia, but Boston could be intrigued by Castillo as a corner option as well. He did play right field in Cuba, Badler adds.

    The Yankees, meanwhile, could weigh the possibility of trying Castillo at second base, though they could have a corner spot open alongside Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner as well. Castillo played second base (and some third base) back in 2009-10, but scouts at the showcase weren’t overly impressed with his glovework as an infielder.

    Center field is Castillo’s best position, Badler writes, so it stands to reason that the Phillies could view him as an upgrade over the light-hitting Ben Revere. Playing Castillo in center field allows him to maximize his best tool — 70-grade speed.

    While the White Sox are very well-versed in the Cuban market — as evidenced by the presence of Jose Abreu, Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo on their roster — the presence of countrymen on their roster won’t influence Castillo, Badler hears. His decision will come down to financial terms.

    Badler adds that the Giants also had a very strong presence at Castillo’s showcase, and he makes sense for them as their system has thinned following a trade for Jake Peavy and their continued interest in Ben Zobrist. The Cubs also had “a team” of evaluators on-hand to witness Castillo, who would bolster an already enviable crop of hitting prospects.

  • Indians Ready To Move Cabrera, Masterson

    TUESDAY: Industry perception is that the Indians are ready to move Masterson and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney.

    Cabrera makes for an interesting target, because unlike Masterson, he’s enjoying a relatively productive season. Cabrera is hitting .249/.309/.392 as of this writing, and while that’s hardly elite, park- and league-adjusted metrics like OPS+ (99) and wRC+ (98) peg him as just slightly below league average. That, of course, is relative to all hitters around the league, but middle infielders come with a lower offensive standard, making the switch-hitting Cabrera’s production more valuable.

    Defensively speaking, Cabrera doesn’t offer much; he’s never posted a positive UZR in a sample of 100+ innings, and Defensive Runs Saved feels that he’s cost Cleveland 28 runs over the past three seasons at short. However, he’s graded out better in his career at second base, albeit in a much smaller sample size (1341 innings compared to 6282 innings at short). Cabrera has about $3.44MM of this season’s $10MM salary remaining, and he is a free agent at season’s end.

    MONDAY: Though he won’t be activated from the disabled list until this Friday, the Indians are “very willing” to trade Justin Masterson, sources tell Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Cleveland’s preference would be to obtain controllable starting pitching in return for their embattled right-hander.

    Masterson has struggled for much of the 2014 season, posting a 5.51 ERA with 8.5 K/9, 5.1 BB/9 and a 58.5 percent ground-ball rate. More concerning, perhaps, is the stark decline in his fastball velocity; after averaging 91.6 mph on his heater in 2013 (and 91.9 mph in 2012), Masterson averaged just 89.1 mph before being placed on the disabled list with a knee injury. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway said before the All-Star break that he felt Masterson’s knee injury forced him to alter the way he landed coming off his delivery, which got his mechanics out of sync and could have been partially to blame for the velocity issues.

    The 29-year-old is set to become a free agent at season’s end, and it seems unlikely that a team would surrender top talent to acquire a two-month rental that has struggled so greatly in 2014. As such (and this is my own speculation), Masterson might be more of an August trade candidate. If he can come back healthy and effective, scouts might be willing to overlook some of his early-season struggles (to an extent).

    Masterson is earning $9.7625MM this season after avoiding arbitration for the final time this offseason. Cleveland had interest in extending its now-former ace (Corey Kluber likely holds that distinction now), but even when Masterson himself suggested seemingly below-market two- and three-year deals at $17-18MM annually, the Indians didn’t bite. Of course, at this point, that looks like it could have been a shrewd move on Cleveland’s behalf.

  • AL East Rumors: Lackey, Blue Jays, Masterson

    The Red Sox are willing to move one or both of John Lackey and Jon Lester, depending on the returns, sources tell WEEI’s Alex Speier. However, while the club is willing to move Lester within the division because he is a free agent at season’s end, they’re less inclined to move Lackey within the division, as he is controlled through 2015.

    Here’s more on Lackey and the AL East…

    • In a second piece, Speier writes that it will be difficult for the Sox to move Lackey, though, as he’s expressed an understandable hesitance to pitch at the league minimum next year, and it would leave the Red Sox with little to no stability in their rotation. Speier suggests a one-year, $16.5MM extension (the AAV of Lackey’s current deal, prior to his league-minimum option kicking in), which could feel fair to both clubs. Essentially, it would amount to a two-year, $17MM deal, of course.
    • A trade of Lester could impact Lackey’s willingness to return to the Red Sox, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Lackey and Lester are close, and Rosenthal suggests that Lackey may not want to sign an extension or play for $500K next year if Lester is gone.
    • Yesterday’s acquisition of Danny Valencia may prove to be the biggest move that GM Alex Anthopoulos makes prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, writes Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star. The Blue Jays are getting contributions from two of their biggest trade chips — Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman — and the platoon of Steven Tolleson and Munenori Kawasaki has hit well to this point. Anthopoulos is still looking for a right-handed platoon partner for Adam Lind, but Nolan Reimold could fill that void. It seems to me that it’s a stretch to count on that many question marks, but Kennedy speculates that the team’s payroll limitations may be more significant than Anthopoulos has admitted to the public. Kennedy runs down the pros and cons of some speculative Jays targets.
    • While Justin Masterson is similar to Yankees acquisitions Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley — all are formerly productive players with sizable salaries and diminished production in 2014 — the Yanks aren’t interested in acquiring him, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Sherman points out that teams could be more open to acquiring Masterson in August if he clears waivers and begins pitching better following a DL stint, but the Indians, who are still in the Wild Card hunt, may just hang onto him then. Cleveland is “very willing” to move Masterson, who has reportedly drawn trade interest from other clubs.

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