MLB Trade Rumors describes themselves as "a clearinghouse for relevant, legitimate baseball rumors." Each week at Phils Baseball, we grab their latest Phillies rumors and put them all together in one weekly post:
Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the past week:
The Phillies have optioned former All-Star Domonic Brown to Triple-A after his rehab stint came to a close. Brown broke out in 2013 but endured a rough season last year, and it now seems he’ll have to earn his way back onto the active roster. In spite of his troubles, writes David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News, the 27-year-old has upside that remains worth trying to tap into for the rebuilding club.
Here’s more from the game’s eastern divisions:
The Phillies are sending former skipper Charlie Manuel to watch Red Sox minor leaguer Manuel Margot, Murphy reports. Margot, a rising prospect, could in theory be an important piece in a deal involving Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels, though at present that is a largely speculative connection. As WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes, it is “intriguing” to consider whether the Phils would consider structuring a deal around Margot and, perhaps, one of Boston’s upper-level arms — a scenario that Peter Gammons suggested earlier in the winter (Twitter link).
As things stand, the Red Sox are not yet prepared to make a move for Hamels, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. But, says Lauber, the club should be prepared to do so — perhaps sooner than later. Indeed, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes, things could be shaping up for an earlier-than-usual market, particularly with a number of possible Hamels suitors dealing with significant rotation issues.
We’ve heard recently that the Phillies are in no rush to move up top prospect Maikel Franco. But the team just began working out incumbent third baseman Cody Asche in the outfield, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports, which could be an indication that preparations are being made for Franco to slot in at the hot corner. The 22-year-old had a rough introduction to the big leagues last year — which not only showed the need for further development, but means that a promotion before May 15 (per Salisbury’s calculation) would cost the club a season of control. Franco is off to a strong .333/.371/.512 start in his first 89 plate appearances at Triple-A this year.
An incalculable amount of ink has been dedicated to the Cole Hamels saga and whether or not Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is asking too much in trade talks, but the GM himself added another layer to the story Tuesday in telling USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that the Phillies would pay down some of Hamels’ contract in a trade.
“We are very open-minded,” Amaro told Nightengale. “We’re not afraid to subsidize contracts. We never told a club that we would not absolutely subsidize his contract. That is not a realistic way to do business. If there’s a deal to be made, and we have to subsidize part of it, we’ll do it.”
As recently as Spring Training, reports indicated that the Phillies were looking to add multiple top prospects and get an acquiring club to take on the entirety of Hamels’ four years and $96MM. (His contract also has a $20MM club option that can vest at $24MM based on innings pitched.)
Amaro again took a patient approach when discussing the Hamels situation, noting that it’s understandable if teams want to assess their internal options before making a more drastic move to acquire someone from another organization. “It’s no secret that one team lost an ace and two or three teams have lost very important starters,” said Amaro. “Some teams want to move quickly. Other teams want to ride things out. I think all of us would rather do deals only after exhausting their own internal possibilities and go from there.”
The Cardinals’ recent loss of Adam Wainwright has fueled quite a bit of Hamels-to-St. Louis speculation, and Nightengale also touched base with Cards GM John Mozeliak to discuss Hamels. Mozeliak noted that the team will certainly do its due diligence on trade candidates. Asked if the team could make a deal without including Carlos Martinez, a key member of the 2015 rotation, Mozeliak replied, “There’s probably always a deal worth making.”
Nightengale lists the Cardinals, Red Sox, Dodgers and Blue Jays as teams that could desperately use Hamels in their rotation. The Blue Jays wouldn’t seem to have the payroll capacity to add Hamels’ contract, but perhaps with enough money being paid down, something could be worked out. And for what it’s worth, Amaro did mention Toronto's GM when making a tongue-in-cheek comment about his stress levels regarding the Hamels negotiations, stating: “I guarantee I’ll get more grey hairs from my daughter [taking her driving test] than any trade talks with Mozeliak, Anthopoulos and Cherington.” Nightengale adds that Amaro had talks regarding Hamels with a team as recently as Tuesday morning, and “some desperation” began to creep into those talks.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports took a lengthy look at the market for Hamels earlier today, noting that the Phillies do indeed covet Martinez, though it’s unclear if they’ve formally asked for Martinez in trade negotiations with the Redbirds. Per Heyman, the Phillies are also taken with Jorge Alfaro and Nomar Mazara of the Rangers as well as Luis Severino and Aaron Judge of the Yankees. Despite a brutal month for the Red Sox’ rotation, there’s been no change to their refusal to part with Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart, and the Dodgers similarly won’t part with any of Joc Pederson, Corey Seager or Julio Urias, even with injuries ravaging their own rotation.
One rival exec noted to Heyman that, “A few things have lined up in the Phillies’ favor. There’s a little bit of a crescendo. And now is the time to act.” However, a GM explained to Heyman that he’d be more inclined to part with significant pieces to add someone controllable like Seattle’s Taijuan Walker than an aging star like Hamels. (That comment, for what it’s worth, was made prior to Amaro’s comments to Nightengale about absorbing some of the money on Hamels’ contract.)
It strikes me as unlikely that a deal would come together in the near future, but the early rash of pitching injuries, which grew with tonight’s news that Masahiro Tanaka is lost for at least a month, has likely increased the demand for Hamels. Though Amaro’s refusal to budge has drawn a great deal of criticism, it’s certainly easy to make the claim that he’s in a better spot to trade Hamels than he was late in the offseason.
The Phillies have been trying to sell the Red Sox on a reunion with Jonathan Papelbon in light of Koji Uehara‘s decline in velocity, reports the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Uehara’s average heater is down to 86.2 mph, according to Fangraphs, which is leading to an alarming reliance on his splitter — a pitch he’s thrown upwards of 85 percent of the time this season, per PITCHf/x. Cafardo looks up and down the Sox roster, noting that uncertainty abounds not only in the rotation, but in the lineup as well.
Earlier today, we learned the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright could miss the rest of the season after suffering an Achilles injury in last night’s game against the Brewers. GM John Mozeliak has said he will wait to determine Wainwright’s status until the right-hander has been examined by team doctors tomorrow. However, that hasn’t stopped the speculation from bubbling as to how the Cardinals will replace their ace.
Here’s the latest on those rumors and the rest of the news from the National League:
With the Cardinals set to host the Phillies for four games beginning tomorrow, Cole Hamels tops the list of external options to fill Wainwright’s void. Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets the Cardinals do not have the prospects to satisfy the Phillies, but the Dodgers and Red Sox are lurking.
Besides Hamels, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz opines the Cardinals could pursue a high-caliber starter entering their walk year like David Price, Jordan Zimmermann or Jeff Samardzija. Miklasz, who does examine the Cardinals’ internal candidates, also suggests signing Paul Maholm or acquiring an under-the-radar pitcher like the Phillies‘ Aaron Harang.
Hamels trade talks could accelerate in the wake of injuries to Wainwright, the Dodgers‘ Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-jin Ryu, and the struggles of the Red Sox‘s staff, writes Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe credits Phillies GM Ruben Amaro for his offseason signing of Aaron Harang. The veteran right-hander has been one of the best pitchers in baseball through the first month of the season after coming to Philly on an affordable one-year, $5MM deal (Harang spoke with MLBTR last month about joining the Phillies). While it’s been tough for Amaro to find the right deal for Cole Hamels, a few more good starts may net him a prospect for Harang. Here’s more from today’s column.
There have been no calls on Hamels regarding a trade since the last week of March, a Phillies source tells Cafardo. Recently, Buster Olney of ESPN.com wrote that rival evaluators believe the pitcher wants out of Philadelphia. Through four starts this season, Hamels has pitched to a 3.75 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9.
Phillies tickets sales are at their lowest since the opening of Citizen’s Bank Park, writes Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Brookover wonders if the fans will return when the team begins to turn the corner in a few years. Philadelphia has a history of punishing noncompetitive teams. Other franchises like the Nationals, Indians, and Braves have seen a much more tepid fan response to winning. For what it’s worth, I’m fairly confident that ticket sales will return to previous levels once the team reaches the postseason.
--The Phillies will remain patient with top prospect Maikel Franco, writes Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer. With the major league club scuffling and Franco off to a quick start (.343/.389/.537 at Triple-A), there is some pressure to get a look at him in the majors. Service time considerations and the performance of Cody Asche will affect when Franco is activated. Unlike the Kris Bryant situation, Franco appeared to need further development during spring training. It doesn’t look like the Phillies will keep Franco in the minors purely for service time considerations.
--The early returns from the Red Sox rotation have been bad, writes Joel Sherman of the NY Post. Boston starters have a collective 5.46 ERA entering today (and Justin Masterson is off to a poor start). The shaky performances have strained a “dubious” bullpen. Given the deep farm system, the team remains poised to acquire a top trade target like Cole Hamels.
--Top Phillies prospect Maikel Franco has been on a tear at Triple-A, but the team still does not have immediate plans for a call-up, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Service time remains a factor despite the fact that he saw action at the MLB level last year; as Zolecki explains, by waiting until approximately mid-May, Philadelphia can earn itself an extra year of control. With the big league club seemingly going nowhere and fellow youngster Cody Asche playing well at third, there is little reason for the team to move quickly on Franco.
--There have been some limited bright spots for the Phillies, of course, and veteran righty Aaron Harang may be chief among them. The 36-year-old righty has tossed 26 1/3 innings of 1.37 ERA baseball, allowing a meager .800 WHIP and striking out 21 batters. Despite an excellent 2014, Harang signed a one-year deal for just $5MM (which he discussed recently with MLBTR’s Zach Links). He is starting to look like a rather appealing summer trade candidate for clubs that need to fill in at the back of their rotation.
Asked by Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com if he’ll be disappointed if he isn’t traded to a contending team this year, Jonathan Papelbon replied, “Yeah, I will be, if we continue to lose.” Papelbon again voiced a preference to win with the Phillies, stating that “there’s no better reward than that,” though clearly that isn’t looking likely, as the Phils are off to a 5-11 start with a -33 run differential. More than anything, it seems that Papelbon wants to avoid a season full of trade rumors without a deal coming to fruition. “I will be disappointed if this continues to happen,” said Papelbon. “If we continue to do the same things as we’ve done the last couple years with me, where we try to do something and get something done with me and then nothing still happens.”
In more Papelbon/Phillies-related news…
--Salisbury’s colleague, Corey Seidman, feels that the league has undervalued Papelbon recently due to his abrasive personality, his contract and his diminished velocity. However, as Seidman notes, Papelbon has been working with diminished velocity dating back to Opening Day 2014, and he’s still pitching excellently, throwing an increased amount of sliders and effectively working the corners of the strike zone more than in previous years. Seidman speculatively lists the Blue Jays, Tigers and Nationals as fits for Papelbon. He also runs down the number of struggling, injured or already-replaced closers in the league just 16 days into the season, using that as evidence to suggest that further openings will surface this summer.
--The Phillies announced this morning that Chad Billingsley will continue a rehab assignment tomorrow night with Triple-A Lehigh Valley as he works toward his Phillies debut. To this point, Billingsley has allowed three runs on six hits and three walks with seven strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings at Triple-A as he builds his pitch count and gets re-acclimated with pitching in game situations.
--Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News spoke with Dustin McGowan following yesterday’s spot start, and McGowan says he’s not sure if he’ll be asked to start again following an outing with mixed results. As Lawrence notes, McGowan did well, given the circumstances. He fired three scoreless innings to open the game after being given less than 24 hours notice that he’d be starting, but fell apart in the fourth inning. That, perhaps, should not have been unexpected, as he hadn’t thrown more than 28 pitches in a game since last May. Manager Ryne Sandberg told Lawrence that the Phillies didn’t consider promoting one of their younger arms to fill the short-term spot in the starting rotation. Billingsley, he notes, may be ready to join the club by May 8-10, but he has another two weeks remaining on his rehab assignment.
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