Yoenis Cespedes

Kemp, Cespedes, Porcello on the Move In Wild Wild West Meetings

kemp-gordon

The Dee Gordon – Matt Kemp victory celebration is a thing of the past.

 

Ron Burgundy would be going crazy right now if he were in “Sahn De-ago”.  After a bunch of minor moves and a couple of big ones, there was a flurry of active Wednesday night and Thursday morning. The team that was the busiest was the Los Angeles Dodgers, which dealt star outfielder Matt Kemp, young second baseman Dee Gordon, and veteran Dan Haren (who may retire instead).

Kemp, the runner up to the 2011 NL MVP/Prize Winning Cheater Ryan Braun was sent to the San Diego Padres along with catcher Tim Federowicz for catcher Yasmani Grandal, pitcher Joe Weiland, and prospect Zach Eflin. The Dodgers will also include $32MM to cover part of the $107MM still owed to Kemp.

The 30-year old had an explosive season in 2011, when he led the league in home runs (39), RBI (126), total bases (353) and runs scored (115). He also won his second Gold Glove Award and second of three Silver Slugger Awards. Injuries derailed Kemp’s career in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, but he bounced back nicely last season. After  a slow start, Kemp put up pretty good numbers – 25 HR, 89 RBI, and a .506 Slugging Pct.

Grandal is a 26-year old former first round draft choice (12th overall picky by Cincinnati in 2010), who has 216 games of Major League experience. He topped 100 games played (128) for the first time this past season and produced 15 HR and 49 RBI to go along with a .728 OPS. The Padres acquired him in December, 2011 as part of a four player package from San Diego in return for pitcher Mat Latos.

Plain and simple, this was a salary dump by the Dodgers.

The Dodgers also acquired shortstop Jimmy Rollins from the Philadelphia Phillies for Eflin and Tom Windle. The Dodgers sent second baseman Dee Gordon, who stole 64 bases last year, pitcher Dan Haren, infielder Miguel Rojas and a player to be named later/cash to the Miami Marlins for prospect Andrew Heaney, 1st baseman Enrique Hernanedz, catcher/infielder Austin Barnes, and pitcher Chris Hatcher.

The Dodgers also did business with their SoCal rivals, the Los Angeles Angeles, acquiring Gordon’s replacement, Howie Kendrick, for Heaney. The nine-year veteran can be expected to hit in the .290s with some power and about 14 steals (he stole 14 bases in four of the last five seasons). Heaney was the 9th overall pick by the Marlins in the 2009 draft and made his Major League debut last season with five starts and two relief appearances. The results were not good, but the left-hander pitched very well in a minor league season split between Double- and Triple-A.

Yoenis Cespedes was used by Oakland at July’s trade deadline to land Boston ace Jon Lester. Now the Red Sox have used Cespedes as part of a package to acquire right-hander Rick Porcello from the Detroit Tigers. Pitchers Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier are headed to Detroit with Cespedes for the New Jersey native who had a breakout 2014 season.

The 27th overall pick in the 2007 draft, Porcello topped 200 innings for the first time, won 15 games, and had a career best 3.43 ERA. Cespedes drove in 22 runs in his first 24 games with Boston, but slumped over the last month of the season.

Detroit then went out and got Porcell’s replacement, sending shortstop Eugenio Suarez and pitcher Jonathan Crawford to the Reds for pitcher Alfredo Simon. Used as a reliever in five of his six previous seasons, Simon was a full-time starter for the Reds this past season and made his first All-Star team. The 33-year old neared 200 innings pitched, won 15 games, and put together a respectable 3.44 ERA and 1.207 WHIP. Suarez could have a shot at the starting shortstop job, with incumbent Zack Cozart coming off a sub.-600 OPS season.

Signed: Lester Goes To The Cubs

lesterbye

Jon Lester says good-bye to Boston.

 

All along the thought here was that Jon Lester would return to the Boston Red Sox, the team he played for eight-plus seasons until a 2014 deadline deal to the Oakland A’s. But the free agent lefty instead opted for a reported six-year, $155MM deal with the Chicago Cubs.

The deal, which was agreed upon late Tuesday night, includes a vesting option for a seventh season that would bring the total worth of the deal to $170MM. According to ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Estes, the Red Sox top offer was six years for $135MM with no vesting option included.

Lester, who doesn’t turn 31 until January, was 16-11, 2.46 in 32 starts (21 with Boston) between the Red Sox and A’s last season. The pending free agent was dealt with outfielder Jonny Gomes to the A’s on July 31 for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and a draft slot. Cespedes has been the subject of trade rumors, which now may pick up with the increased need for a front of the rotation starting pitcher.

The Red Sox reportedly made a one-year offer to bring back another former pitcher, Justin Masterson, but the righty struggled last year with Cleveland and St. Louis. You can expect renewed talks with the Philadelphia Phillies for Cole Hamels.

New Cubs manager Joe Maddon was more than happy to have an old AL East nemesis on his team.

“It’s not often you get to win the lottery,” he said. “We won the baseball lottery so far this year, but now it’s up to us to put it into effect. It’s all theory right now. We’ve got to make it real, but you need pieces like this to make it real.”

“He’s been [to the World Series] before. He understands what it feels like. I want to believe that he could foresee the same thing happening here,” Maddon said.

“Yeah. It definitely sends that message about how [Cubs president Theo Epstein] and the group feels about this particular group, but understand we have a lot of young players that have to grow up, and we have to do a good job of nurturing that and making it happen,” Maddon said. “It’s possible, but having Jon there definitely adds to the flavor and the believability.”1

Baseball free agency…expect the unexpected.

1 – espn.com

Lester, Kemp, Melky, Cespedes and Other Rumors and Factoids

kemp

With the winter meetings commencing in San Diego Monday, there should be a handful of big named players that are dealt, signed, or talked about in the coming days.

Jon Lester and Matt Kemp are the two biggest names that are constantly creating a buzz on the line. It’s clear that Lester will set the bar for free agent pitching with his signing almost certainly to come before that of fellow free agent pitchers Max Scherzer and James Shields.

UPDATE – ESPN’s Buster Olney has reported that a decision by Lester is expected between Monday night and some time on Tuesday.

The only reported contract that has been offered to the left-hander is a six-year, $138MM deal that the Chicago Cubs have served up. On Saturday, Red Sox owner John Henry flew to Atlanta to meet with his former star to see if a deal can be struck to bring Lester back to Boston. You can be sure Henry flat out asked what will it take, and will certainly be looking for a hometown discount. Especially after the boatload of money given to free agents Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.

The Red Sox rotation for 2015 is, at the moment, Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Rubby De La Rosa, Alan Webster, and either Anthony Ranaudo or Brandon Workman. Even if Lester returns to the Red Sox, whom he played parts of nine seasons for until his trade to Oakland at the July deadline, the Red Sox will be looking to acquire another proven starter before Spring Training.

In dealing John Lackey and Lester, the Red Sox received outfielder/1st baseman Allen Craig and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.  Boston appears to be willing to move one or both to strengthen their starting pitching. Rumors flew on Sunday that the Red Sox and San Diego Padres were discussing a Cespedes for Ian Kennedy deal.

Kennedy bounced back from a rough 2013 season with 201 innings pitched, a WHIP under 1.3 and a 3.63 ERA in 2014. He finished 13-13 to remain 13 games over .500 in his career. Cespedes started hitting like a house afire when he joined the Red Sox (22 RBI in 24 games), but ended up with a .719 OPS in 51 games after a weak September.

The Los Angeles Dodgers continue to look for a new home for outfielder Matt Kemp. Bob Dutton of the Tacoma New Tribune reported Saturday that Dodgers and Seattle Mariners were close to a deal, but the Dodgers insisted that one of Seattle’s top pitching prospects – Taijuan Walker or James Paxton – be included in the deal. Seattle responded with a big “NO” to that.

According to FoxSports’ Jon Morosi, the Texas Rangers have now joined Seattle, Baltimore, and San Diego in pursuit of Kemp. Bob Nightengale of USA Today believe the Padres are the likely landing spot for the veteran outfielder.

Kemp isn’t the only Dodger being shopped. LA spoke to the Arizona Diamondbacks about a swap that would sent first baseman Andre Ethier to the desert for catcher Miguel Montero.  A potential deal was negated by Arizona ownership, per FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal. Trading within the division is always a tricky thing and it’s understandable that front offices get nervous about a player coming back to haunt them 15-20 times a year.

The market for Melky Cabrera is beginning to heat up. The Mariners are reportedly very interested in a Melky – Robinson Cano reunion. The contract could be similar to the four-year deal the M’s gave Nelson Cruz. The San Francisco Giants, who the Melkman played for in 2012, are also showing interest. Cabrera missed the last 50 games of the regular season due to his Biogenesis suspension and the Giants decided against bringing him back for the playoffs.

Pitcher Jason Hammel appears headed back to the Chicago Cubs, per the NY Post’s Joel Sherman. Hammel was dealt by the Cubs to Oakland at the deadline last season and subsequently bombed.

ESPN’s Adam Rubin reported that the New York Mets, very much in need of a shortstop, have talked to the Mariners about Chris Taylor and Brad Miller. Wilmer Flores is the Mets shortstop in the meantime.

Rosenthal’s sources say the Milwaukee Brewers are open to dealing outfielder Gerardo Parra. The 27-year old was sent from Arizona to Milwaukee for a pair of minor leaguers at this past season’s trade deadline.

Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun has the Blue Jays talking to the KC Royals about closer Greg Holland. The Royals need to replenish their starting pitching with the likely departure of free agent James Shields. The Royals have a number of hard throwing relievers, with Kelvin Herrera as the favorite to replace Holland if he’s dealt. The price for Holland would be steep after the 29-year old saved 93 games and blew just five opportunities over the last two seasons.

Signed: Diamondbacks Import Tomas From Cuba

tomas

Yasmani Tomas adds another power bat to the Arizona lineup.

 

The Arizona Diamondbacks are the winners for the latest Cuban import, Yasmany Tomas. With the success of Chicago White Sox rookie Jose Abreu, many teams were in on Tomas, but the Diamondbacks came out on top with a reported six year, $68.5MM deal.

Arizona finished 11th out of 15 National League teams last year in runs scored (615), so the addition of the power hitting Tomas to a lineup that includes Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo, will be more than welcome.

There is reportedly an opt out clause included, which would enable Tomas to become a free agent after four years. The 24-year old corner outfielder played parts of seven seasons with Havana Industriales.

With international dollars now limited by Major League baseball, the deal basically matches the one Abreu signed with White Sox last offseason. Another Cuban expatriate, Rusney Castillo, signed with the Boston Red Sox this past August for seven years and $72.5MM,  He’s slated to be Boston’s starting centerfielder in 2015.

The player that has been focused on the most is, of course, the LA Dodgers Yasiel Puig. The Cuban-born outfielder finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2013 after having signed a seven year, $42MM deal.

All of the deals are longer and for more total money than the contract of Castillo’s teammate, Yoenis Cespedes, signed with Oakland in 2012. Cespedes, dealt at last season’s trade deadline for Boston’s Jon Lester, is in the final year of a four year, $36MM deal. There have been rumors that Cespedes may be dealt during the offseason or in mid-season if the team can’t get him to sign an extension.

Free Agent: Billy Butler Heads West to the A’s, Young Man

butler

The A’s are banking on Billy Butler getting his power stroke back.

 

Billy Butler has been a fixture in the Kansas City Royals lineup since his rookie season of 2007. He was one of the few consistent productive players for the Royals teams that won less than 70 games a year.

But after his best season (2012) – 29 HR 107 RBI .882 OPS 192 Hits – the lineup’s regular designated hitter saw his production drop off. It came at a time when the Royals had a resurgence and made it to the World Series for the first time since 1985. With young players like Alex Gordon ready to starting getting big money, it was an easy decision for Royals’ management to not bring Butler back. The 28-year old agreed to terms with the Oakland A’s Wednesday on a three-year, $30MM deal. It’s a slight bump in salary from the $8MM he earned the last three seasons in KC.

Oakland is looking to Butler to replace some of the offense lost when they dealt Yoenis Cespedis to the Boston Red Sox for Jon Lester during the 2014 trade deadline. But will Butler be able to supplement the A’s offensive production in 2015? After a drop off to 15 home runs and 82 RBI in 2013, Butler only powered out 9 HR this past season and had a career low .379 slugging percentage.

Butler is a station-to-station base runner and a prototypical designated hitter – he hasn’t played more than 37 games at first base since 2010 – so he needs to rely on his ability to drive the ball to be successful.

He’s making the move from a pretty good hitter’s park to one (Oakland Coliseum) that favors pitchers. Granted, it’s been against the A’s pitchers, but Butler has a career .252 batting average in Oakland and a pedestrian .759 OPS. By comparison, Butler had an .849 career OPS at Kauffman Stadium in KC (and a .766 mark on the road.)

Time will tell, but at $10MM per year, the contract could prove to be a a major bargain, especially for a player under 30.

MLB Preview: Oakland A’s Make Another Pitch For Playoffs

Dan-Straily[1]The A’s will again rely on up-and-coming pitchers like Dan Straily.

 

by Alli Baker

Key Departures: Chris Young, Kurt Suzuki, Jemile Weeks, Pat Neshek, Scott Sizemore, Seth Smith, Bartolo Colon, Brett Anderson, Grant Balfour, Jerry Blevins, Michael Choice

Key Arrivals: Nick Punto, Scott Kazmir, Fernando Abad, Craig Gentry, Drew Pomeranz, Eric O’Flaherty, Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson, Josh Lindblom

Last year, the Oakland A’s not only overcame the odds and won the AL West, but they had the second-best record (96-66) in the American League to boot. The A’s came out on top despite having the fourth-lowest payroll in the league, a lack of star power, and playing in a division that includes big-spending rivals like Texas and Los Angeles.

This year, Oakland is looking to go deeper into the post-season. This year’s team has a tough act to follow, but General Manager Billy Beane has been working hard this winter to piece together another contender.

The A’s win with pitching so that was Beane’s biggest priority of the off-season. The A’s acquired Fernando Abad, Jim Johnson, Scott Kazmir, Josh Lindblom, Eric O’Flaherty, and Drew Pomerantz. The new recruits may not have the star power the A’s needed, but Beane has usually managed to put together a serviceable staff.

Scott Kazmir will  replace Bartolo Colon in the starting rotation, and for now Jesse Chavez gets a shot with injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin. Park underwent Tommy John surgery in March and is out for the year. Griffin, a 14-game winner last year, is out until May with elbow tendinitis. Looking for some depth, the A’s signed former Oakland pitcher Joe Blanton to a minor league deal.

ROTATION
SP: Sonny Gray
SP: Scott Kazmir
SP: Jesse Chavez
SP: Dan Straily
SP: Tommy Milone

BULLPEN
Jim JohnsonLuke Gregerson
Sean Doolittle
Dan Otero
Drew Pomerantz
Fernando Abad
Evan Scribner

Johnson will serve as the team’s closer, but since he led the AL in blown saves last season with Baltimore, he could lose his job. Top setup man Ryan Cook is out indefinitely with shoulder inflammation, while O’Flaherty is making his way back from Tommy John surgery.

While the pitching staff was shaken up over the off-season, the A’s lineup stayed relatively unchanged thus from last year. Oakland acquired Nick Punto and Craig Gentry, neither of whom will provide a drastic change to the look of the A’s. Punto’s versatility gives manager Bob Melvin plenty of opportunity to flip-flop players in and out of the DH spot, while Gentry adds some speed to the outfield.

The team will rely on Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, Josh Reddick, and Brandon Moss for the bulk of their offense. While Beane filled the A’s pitching void,  it would be beneficial to improve rhe offense at some point this season.

LINEUP
C: Derek Norris1B: Daric Barton
2B: Eric Sogard
SS: Jed Lowrie
3B: Josh Donaldson
LF: Yoenis Cespedes
CF: Coco Crips
RF: Josh Reddick
DH: Brandon Moss

PROSPECTS

Oakland has a couple of options with prospects Addison Russell and Billy McKinney. Both players have big potential to boost the A’s lineup.

Russell would also fill the team’s need for a better shortstop than Jed Lowrie while providing some power behind the plate. Last year in the minors, Russell had 17 home runs and batted  .275 average at Advanced-A Stockton last year, before he was promoted for a brief stint at Triple-A. 1 He’s just 20-years old.

McKinney, an outfielder, is said to have a “tremendous feel for the game,”. The 24th overall pick in last season’s MLB amateur draft, McKinney’s impact to the A’s won’t come for some time.2

OUTLOOK

The Oakland A’s might not have an overly-impressive roster, or a giant payroll, but they definitely will compete for the division again. They’ll also be in the running for the wild card spots as well, especially if their pitching gets healthy.

 

1- milb.com

2- bleacherreport.com

Alli Baker is a hockey fanatic and contributor for Designated for Assignment.  She can be reached at allibaker23@aol.com or followed on Twitter at @allibaker23