MLB Rumors: Analyzing All the Latest Whispers, News and Speculation
With Memorial Day on the horizon, it's time for those immersed in the game of baseball to re-evaluate the trajectory of the 2014 season. For fans, media members and analysts, that means taking true inventory of the standings and forming an opinion with three-quarters of the season remaining.
For front office executives, scouts and general managers, it signals an important juncture: Starting now, teams must make critical decisions on players—from both inside and outside the organization—in order to blaze a path toward a pennant chase in 2014 or long-term rebuilding.
The time for patience and evaluation is over. Spring training is a distant memory, and the summer months are on the horizon. Now is when the best executives thrive. In a league full of parity, the right trade, well-timed call-up or under-the-radar signing could be the difference between glory or failure.
In order for each team to reach self-appointed goals, help is needed along the way. With the June and July trading season rapidly approaching, rumors will arise around every team.
The following is what you need to know about the latest rumors and banter around the game right now.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted. All contract figures courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts. Roster projections via MLB Depth Charts.
Matt Harvey Wants to Return in 2014
New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey is no stranger to controversy. From tabloid exploits to social media struggles, the 25-year-old starting pitcher can be described as a headache for Mets general manager Sandy Alderson.
He can also be described as a star pitcher and the key to a turnaround at Citi Field. Before going down with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, Harvey had pitched to an ERA+ of 152 across 237.2 big league innings.
The Mets need a healthy and happy Harvey to have any chance of competing in 2015 and beyond. However, Harvey doesn't want to wait for 2015. With rehab checkpoints approaching, Harvey wants to return before the end of this season, per Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated.
"I want to make five, six, seven starts this year," Harvey said. "I asked [the training staff], 'If I want to come back in August, when do I need to start throwing off a mound?' They said June 10. So that's what we have penciled in right now. That's the plan. I feel great. I don't feel any soreness now. The ball is coming out of my hand great."
While it would be prudent to exercise caution with a franchise cornerstone, parity across baseball could keep a below-average Mets team close to a postseason race all summer. By July, the avalanche of fan support could boost Harvey's cause and push the Mets into a corner.
Furthermore, Harvey's blueprint for a comeback in 2014 was executed by Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg. Although every arm is different and each rehab case unique, Strasburg has pitched to a 3.03 ERA across 73 starts since resuming his post-surgery career with a five-start cameo late in the 2011 season.
AL East Teams Front-Runners for Jeff Samardzija
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija has had an entire season of hard luck, but his personal fortune could be changing soon.
He shut out the New York Yankees for seven innings on May 21, and the 29-year-old flame-thrower owns a 1.46 ERA for the season. Despite that amazing number, Samardzija hasn't recorded a single victory on the year. Due to the dismal team around him in Chicago, an 0-4 record follows the soon-to-be NL All-Star.
Of course, Samardzija could be an AL All-Star. Specifically, an AL All-Star from an AL East club. With the Cubs mired in a long, arduous rebuilding plan, moving Samardzija prior to the July 31 trade deadline could net multiple high-end prospects to help turn around a moribund franchise.
According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, three AL East teams—New York, Toronto and Boston—headline a list of 10 teams that could make a serious play for the strikeout artist. With the top four teams in the division—Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles and Red Sox—separated by just four games heading into play on May 22, the division is up for grabs.
By adding Samardzija, an AL East favorite could emerge. In the process, baseball's best winless pitcher would have the opportunity to rack up personal victories all the way through October.
Tony La Russa Could Target Gary LaRocque for Diamondbacks GM Job
The hiring of Tony La Russa signaled the dawn of a new era of Diamondbacks baseball. After years of toiling in mediocrity, Diamondbacks ownership has put the fate of the organization into the hands of one of baseball's all-time best managers.
Of course, La Russa isn't in Arizona to manage. Nor is he there to make day-to-day decisions. Instead, the former White Sox, Athletics and Cardinals skipper has accepted a role that allows him to find the best people to put the Diamondbacks back on track to winning.
If current general manager Kevin Towers and current manager Kirk Gibson fit what La Russa is looking for in those positions, the incumbents will escape the proverbial hot seat. If they aren't, however, expect changes to occur in Arizona.
According to Peter Gammons, a general manager candidate could emerge from La Russa's old stomping grounds: St. Louis.
If the Diamondbacks look to hire a new general manager from outside the organization, Cardinals Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque is the name to watch. The former All-American shortstop and professional baseball player has been around the game, scouting and player development for years, including stops with the Dodgers and the Mets.
After overseeing the drafting of David Wright, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Oscar Tavares, the under-the-radar baseball executive has established a strong track record.
Mets Trying to Add Young Shortstop
When Stephen Drew officially re-signed with the Boston Red Sox this week, New York Mets fans let out a collective sigh. Despite the glaring need for a major league-caliber shortstop on the roster, it's clear that a veteran won't arrive from the open market this season.
According to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, a veteran may not arrive at all. While the possible impending free-agent class—Hanley Ramirez, Jed Lowrie, J.J. Hardy—looks promising, Martino reports that the Mets are focusing more on acquiring a young shortstop under team control.
If the Mets strike a summer deal for Seattle's Nick Franklin or Brad Miller or Arizona's Didi Gregorius, the new arrival will be an upgrade over the light-hitting Ruben Tejada (.519 OPS) or the miscast Wilmer Flores. But don't expect shortstops like that to appease Mets fans who are clamoring for a higher payroll and franchise-changing talent.
By 2015, the Mets could boast a stable of young, high-end starting pitchers. With David Wright and Curtis Granderson in tow and young, ascending everyday players such as center fielder Juan Lagares, first baseman Lucas Duda and catcher Travis d'Arnaud, a franchise shortstop could vault the Mets into NL East contention.
For general manager Sandy Alderson, the route to finding that shortstop may come through the summer's trade market.
Phillies Have Discussed Making Cody Asche an Outfielder
The 2014 Philadelphia Phillies are a team caught between the past and the present with seemingly no regard for the future. After all, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. invested contracts in veterans A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz last winter in an effort to make one more run at a postseason berth with an aging core.
Through 43 games, the returns haven't been pretty. While the 20-23 Phillies are far from buried in the NL East, a recent elbow injury to Cliff Lee could lead to a "win-now" team finally embracing the future and thinking about 2015 and beyond.
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Phillies have already had discussions about the future of young third baseman Cody Asche—specifically, where Asche fits into the long-term roster building and how to incorporate him into the lineup when third base prospect Maikel Franco arrives from Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
After a two-hit night against the Marlins on May 21, Asche is on pace for a 15 HR, 30 2B, 60 BB age-24 season, per ESPN.com. Although the young infielder has had his struggles—including a three-error game and a .491 OPS from April 2 through May 2—that combination of extra-base power and patience at the plate is rare for young hitters, especially third basemen.
Over the last 30 years (1984-2013), only 11 third basemen posted 15 HR, 30 2B, 60 BB stat lines during their respective age-24 seasons, per Baseball-Reference (subscription required). From David Wright to Chipper Jones to Miguel Cabrera to Evan Longoria, some of the best players of this generation achieved the feat Asche is on pace for.
However, the most interesting correlation to Rosenthal's report is Kansas City's Alex Gordon's inclusion on that list of young third basemen. If Asche does move to left field, Phillies fans can dream of having their own version of the excellent Gordon.
Which early-season rumor are you most interested in?