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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
With the nonwaiver trade deadline just around the corner, MLB trade rumors are swirling around at a furious pace. One such rumor that has gained a lot of momentum over the past few days is the potential dealing of Boston Red Sox ace Jon Lester.
With the Sox out of contention, it appears as though the team may be willing to move the impending free agent.
He also mentions the fact that the Sox would be willing to move their ace within the AL East (though not to the New York Yankees, who would have the financial muscle to re-sign the Washington native).
Acquiring Lester makes sense on multiple fronts for the Jays.
First, there's the fact that McAdam mentions that the Baltimore Orioles are interested in adding Lester to their starting rotation.
Those same Orioles are just 2.5 games ahead of Toronto in the AL East entering Tuesday. Allowing the team you're in direct competition with for a division title to bring in one of the best left-handed pitchers in the game would be a major blow to your aspirations of winning the East.
Adding him to the Jays rotation would give them the legitimate ace the team needs and would also provide them with an upgrade on J.A. Happ as the team's second starting southpaw.
Lester would also be a great insurance policy should the club fail to win the division and end up playing in the Wild Card Game.
Imagine the Blue Jays secured the second wild-card position and had to square off against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the right to play in the ALDS.
Right now, there isn't a Jays starter who would have the baseball world believing they could win that matchup.
R.A. Dickey, Drew Hutchison and Happ are far too inconsistent and Mark Buehrle's performance has fallen back to earth. Marcus Stroman has been sensational in his time as a starting pitcher, but he's a rookie with only 10 career starts under his belt.
Contrast them with the likes of Jered Weaver or Garrett Richards and an objective observer would have to give the Angels the edge on the mound—their lineup can also compete with Toronto's.
This is where Lester would make a huge difference for Toronto. In a do-or-die situation, having a bona fide ace who has pitched in the World Series could make all the difference in the world.
The other encouraging part of this potential deal for Lester is that it's a realistic acquisition for the Jays.
Not only is his contract for $13 million this season (over half of which has already elapsed), but he would be a rental-type player, meaning Toronto may only have to part with one top-tier prospect and one or two lesser ones.
If they can keep Aaron Sanchez, who has impressed in the bullpen, as well as Stroman, who's been lights out in the rotation, it should be a no-brainer for the Blue Jays' front office.
Any deal would likely have to include the organization's No. 1 prospect, Daniel Norris. That shouldn't be too much of a concern though, seeing as he's struggling since his promotion to Double-A New Hampshire and probably won't be ready to contribute until 2016—after Toronto's proverbial three-year window of contention.
If Toronto is serious about making a run in the playoffs, adding Lester to a rotation already comprised of a reliable Buehrle, the up-and-coming Stroman and one-time ace Dickey is a necessity.
Jon Reid is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @JonReidCSM.
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Entering play Monday, the Bronx Bombers were four games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East and battling with the Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals for wild-card positioning.
Perhaps a significant move or two at the trade deadline could push the Yankees over the top?
With that in mind, here is a look at some of the latest rumors coming out of New York.
Jayson Stark of ESPN.com filled fans in on the latest regarding New York’s potential pursuit of John Danks:
The White Sox had scouts watching the Yankees' system, particularly the minor league catching surplus, in the past few days. It is yet one more indication the Yankees are focused on John Danks in their search for another starting pitcher.
It is certainly interesting that the Yankees are connected with Danks because many teams would take umbrage with his $14.25 million salary the next two years, but probably not New York. Danks may have a 9-6 record, but his 4.40 ERA is certainly far from elite, as are the 17 home runs he has allowed.
Still, the Yankees pitching staff has taken some lumps in the injury department with CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka. Adding Danks would provide some depth and another solid arm to a rotation that ranks 17th in the league in ERA.
He may not be a game-changer, but Danks would certainly give the Yankees a more formidable pitching group heading into the stretch run.
Despite the pitching staff concerns, there are still some other needs. Stark had another update:
While the Yankees have looked into names like Josh Willingham, other clubs say they appear most focused this week on finding a right-handed hitting platoon partner in right field for Ichiro Suzuki, and one with no long-term salary commitments. So names like Chris Denorfia (Padres) and Justin Ruggiano (Cubs) are more likely than, say, Marlon Byrd or Alex Rios.
Ichiro hasn’t exactly dominated in New York, but he is batting .270 and is still a solid glove in the outfield. If he could platoon with someone consistently at age 40, his production would probably see an uptick.
None of the names on that list Stark provided is going to single-handedly win the Yankees an American League pennant, but more depth is critical as the wear and tear of the season takes its toll in September. Keeping fresh legs in the outfield, especially one that features older veterans like Ichiro, could be the difference in a future game or two.
Looking for Pitching
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports filled fans in on the Yankees’ search for some other more notable names:
While Cliff Lee could become an option later if he pitches some better games in his return after a two-month absence with an elbow issue, the Yankees aren't focused on him now since he's all but sure to clear waivers in August and remain a trade candidate.
Lee's teammate Cole Hamels seems barely available, and even if he is, the Yankees probably don't have the upper-level prospects to do such a deal.
That doesn’t exactly seem promising from New York’s perspective, but one American League scout had a more positive take, via Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe:
They have more in their farm system than people think. They have some arms, they have the Aaron Judge kid, [Luis] Severino, [Gary] Sanchez, [Peter] O’Brien, [Eric] Jagielo. If they wanted to make a deal, they have enough to give up.
The name that really jumps out from that list of pitchers is Jon Lester. If the Yankees do pursue him in the offseason, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch seeing them throw big-time money his way. In fact, New York tossing dollars at the best arm on the market is almost a rite of passage for any offseason.
It’s hard to see Boston trading a pitcher of Lester’s caliber, who just so happens to be among the best lefties in all of baseball, to its chief rival. That being said, stranger things have happened at the MLB trade deadline.
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Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in Major League Baseball, so if anyone can knock an apple off someone's head with a baseball, he's probably the best bet.
Jimmy Kimmel thought it'd be a good idea to give Kershaw a chance to try his luck.
It took the southpaw a few attempts to knock the apple off the talk-show host's head, but Kershaw eventually did it—just not the way Kimmel had hoped.
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