MLB Trade Rumors: Analyzing All the Latest Whispers, News and Speculation
As the 2014 Major League Baseball season speeds toward the quarter pole, the process of evaluating players and teams is reaching a critical juncture for front-office minds around the sport. While the process is paramount to each team's success, results must be weighed differently as the calender moves through May.
Over the next few weeks, teams will be less likely to write off early-season slumps and more willing to make significant, season-altering decisions. From calling up a minor league star to sending down a former top prospect to jumping into the trade market before Memorial Day, nothing can be ruled out in a league of even teams.
Entering play on May 14, over 63 percent of teams—19 of 30 teams, to be exact—entered play within three games of the .500 mark. On a daily basis, almost every team is capable of competing and justified in dreaming about October baseball.
In order to withstand the grind of a 162-game season, reinforcements, changes and difficult decisions must commence. On a weekly basis, rumors arise with that edict in mind.
The following is what you need to know about the latest rumors and banter around the game right now.
Raul Ibanez Could Lose Roster Spot
Los Angeles Angels outfielder and designated hitter Raul Ibanez has had a wonderful career. After spending parts of five seasons as a part-time and rarely-used player in Seattle from 1996-2000, Ibanez reeled of a 13-year run of production from 2001-2013 by averaging 22 home runs, 30 doubles and 86 RBI.
Ibanez's durability and consistency may be nearing an end, though. While the Angels surely understand the streaky nature of Ibanez's game and variance in early-season stat lines, the ugly .139/.248/.267 slash line he posted prior to play on May 14 is cause for concern.
Now, with rookie outfielder C.J. Cron in tow, the Angels may have Ibanez's replacement ready to take his at bats. Before long, that could put the aging veteran in jeopardy of losing his roster spot, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.
While Angels manager Mike Scioscia wouldn't create a Cron versus Ibanez battle in the media, he made it clear that the more productive—not more accomplished—hitter would receive playing time moving forward, per Shaikin's column.
"I don't know that it's going to be C.J. versus Raul," Scioscia said. "We'll find at-bats for guys who are swinging the bat well."
Red Sox Committed to Bogaerts, Middlebrooks "For Now"
The 2014 Boston Red Sox entered the season in an enviable position—months removed from a world championship and in the good graces of sports fans across a passionate, win-now region of this country's baseball landscape.
That reality likely led to the team entering the season with two young, unproven players on the left side of the infield in third baseman Will Middlebrooks and shortstop Xander Bogaerts. Despite Middlebrooks' raw power and Bogaerts' standing as one of baseball's most promising rookies, starting two non-veterans together on the same side of the infield came with risk for the defending champions.
Heading into play on May 14, that risk was made evident by Bogaerts and Middlebrooks owning OPS marks of .705 and .664, respectively. Both figures were below the league average and part of the reason why Boston ranked 11th in runs scored in the American League.
While the future is bright for both players—especially the 21-year-old Bogaerts—Red Sox chairman Tom Werner wouldn't go so far as to anoint the tandem as the team's starters for the entire 2014 season, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
For now, the duo will continue to start and grow. If the team needs an upgrade, Werner's comment could prove prescient.
Veteran Relievers Looking to Make Comebacks
Despite being in an era of pitching dominance, teams can't find enough reliable arms to pitch out of the bullpen and in late-game situations. Heading into play on May 14, only 18 of 20 teams owned bullpen ERAs of under 4.00. Five teams—Detroit, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Toronto and Houston—sported bullpen ERAs of 4.50 or worse.
In some years, help couldn't possibly arrive until June or July, when the annual trading season began. This year, however, things are different. With names like Ryan Madson and Kevin Gregg still available on the free-agent market, former impact relievers are already ripe for the taking.
It's time to add two more names to the list: Todd Coffey and Juan Rincon, per a pair of separate tweets from Jon Heyman of CBS.
First, as Heyman reported, Todd Coffey is throwing between 92-94 mph in an attempt to showcase himself for teams. The 33-year-old righty last pitched at a reliable level for the 2011 Nationals, posting an ERA+ of 106 across 59.2 innings. In 2009, Coffey was one of the NL's best bullpen arms, pitching to a 2.90 ERA in over 80 innings.
Juan Rincon, last seen in the majors in 2010, per Heyman, is also looking to return. Unlike Coffey, this comeback story is a major long shot. While Rincon is only 35, his last above-average season came with the Twins in 2006. If a team is desperate enough to sign a pitcher who is nearly nine years removed from excellence, alarm bells should sound.
Rickie Weeks Could Be Dealt
Earlier this week, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal revealed a gigantic notebook of tidbits, stats and talking points. Among the interesting takeaways was second baseman Rickie Weeks' trade market and whether or not the Brewers might explore a deal involving the former starter.
As Rosenthal notes, it won't be easy. With an $11 million price tag and history of uneven play, Weeks isn't exactly a hot commodity on the trade market and likely won't be over the next few months. Yet, despite his inconsistent play, Weeks could provide a contender with right-handed power and perform admirably in what could amount to a contract drive.
If there's a team to keep an eye on when it comes to Weeks, look at the Baltimore Orioles. Heading into play on May 14, the AL East leaders owned a collective .663 OPS against left-handed pitchers. During Weeks' 11-year career, the former second-overall pick owns an .822 career OPS against southpaws.
After signing both Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez during spring training, Baltimore has the look of a team that is willing to do whatever it takes to compete for a World Series in 2014. If that means taking on Weeks' contract for the remainder of the season, a deal with Milwaukee could eventually commence.
Zach Britton a Candidate to Close in Baltimore
Even after four consecutive losses, the Baltimore Orioles reside atop the AL East. With a 20-18 record, Buck Showalter's team has shown the ability to navigate through early-season injuries to Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis.
While roster depth has kept Baltimore afloat in one of baseball's most competitive divisions, relief pitcher Tommy Hunter has done his best to hold the team back. Through 17 appearances, the 27-year-old owns a 6.60 ERA and 5.03 FIP (fielding independent pitching). Eventually, Showalter will have to consider alternatives to Hunter.
When broached about that impending decision, Showalter didn't rule out former starter and talented lefty Zach Britton, per Britt Ghrioli of MLB.com.
"I consider everything," Showalter said. "We'll see. I got to figure out some way. I think we lead baseball, and continue to do it, in save situations."
If Britton is in that consideration, the Orioles may be trusting early-season results over process. Despite a sterling ERA (0.84), Britton's 2014 numbers (6.2 SO/9, 3.0 BB/9, 3.42 FIP) suggest that regression is coming and runs will soon pour in against him.
Sidelining Hunter may be necessary, but Baltimore's long-term answer at closer likely isn't Britton.
Which early-season rumor are you most interested in?