MLB Rumors: Analyzing All the Latest Whispers, News and Speculation
With Memorial Day in the books, baseball fans can look forward to the summer months, pennant races and the highly publicized trade market. Entering play on May 28, an astounding 90 percent of teams—27 of 30—sat within six games of a postseason berth.
Over the next few weeks, though, some of them may fall off the pace. By July, that number could drop to around 20. Yet even if two of every three teams are alive and in the midst of a race when the All-Star break arrives, words like parity and competition will permeate throughout baseball's annual mid-summer gathering.
Before that moment arrives, the pivotal month of June must commence. Every year, this is when trade rumors heat up and scouts divert time and energy away from the amateur draft and toward the respective farm systems around baseball.
As nine of every 10 teams in baseball look to keep pace in the respective postseason races, incremental upgrades and additions could separate a fourth-place club from the team that ultimately wins a pennant. When injuries or poor performance arise, the teams with depth—in the form of a call-up or potential trade bait—will stand the best chance of thriving throughout the long season.
The time for meaningful rumors has arrived. Here 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.
Orioles Interested in Acquiring Jeff Samardzija
Since the Buck Showalter-Dan Duquette duo came together in Baltimore, success has emanated from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. After back-to-back winning seasons, including a postseason berth in 2012, the Orioles entered 2014 with the pieces to contend in the AL East.
Through 50 games, the team has done just that. Entering play on May 28, Baltimore owned a 26-24 record and sat two games behind the surging Blue Jays in the AL East's all-important loss column. When factoring in injuries to lineup stalwarts like Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, and Manny Machado as well as ineffectiveness from closer Tommy Hunter, that record is impressive.
Of all the AL East contenders, the Orioles stand the best chance to improve internally over the next four months. When healthy, Buck Showalter's lineup could be the best in the league. If 23-year-old pitching prospect Kevin Gausman arrives and Johan Santana and Dylan Bundy complete respective injury recoveries, the team could have enough arms to win in the postseason.
Or the Orioles could go for broke in a wide-open division. According to Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago, the team is interested in acquiring Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija in a trade. While a potential deal could cost Baltimore one or both of the highly touted Gausman-Bundy combination, adding Samardzjia (75.0 IP, 1.68 ERA) to a rotation that already includes Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez could make Baltimore a World Series contender.
When asked about a potential deal—specifically about Samardzija—Duquette praised his young pitching and wouldn't add fuel to the fire, per Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.
“Our young pitching is maturing,” Duquette said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to use it to help out our own ballclub. It’s not appropriate to talk about players on other teams.”
Dodgers Looking to Be Rich and Smart
When the 2014 season began, the Los Angeles Dodgers paced the sport with a payroll in excess of $235 million. Thanks to a lucrative, long-term television contract, fans packing Chavez Ravine as well as a rich, willing ownership group, the Dodgers can spend big to win big.
Of course, as the years go on, the Dodgers would love to cut costs down while still fielding a championship-level team on a yearly basis. That sentiment was recently conveyed by team president Stan Kasten to Howard Bryant of ESPN The Magazine:
I always say that smart beats rich. But it's better to be smart and rich. We're trying to incorporate the right elements beyond money. Look at Boston. The Yankees for about the last 15 years or so have done it being smart and rich. Smart is good, like Oakland, Tampa Bay. But smart and rich? Well, that's a tough combination to beat.
Kasten is correct, especially when pointing out the forward-thinking front office minds that have helped the Yankees and Red Sox win consistently over the last decade.
If the Dodgers can develop young, cheap players, execute trades and unearth gems through the international market, the team can hand out some gigantic contracts, keep payroll figures from escalating to insane figures and still win.
Red Sox Looking at Outfield Trade Market
The 2014 Boston Red Sox look nothing like the 2013 team of destiny that rolled through the AL East, won 97 games and captured glory in October. Instead, Boston entered play on May 28 in the cellar of the division, as it was recently on a 10-game losing streak.
Among the many issues plaguing the defending champions: production from center field.
When Jacoby Ellsbury took his .350 career on-base percentage to the New York Yankees in the offseason, it was clear that the Red Sox would have to replace his on-base prowess, speed and defense in the outfield. Thus far in 2014, the combination of Jackie Bradley Jr. and Grady Sizemore has produced a paltry .574 OPS, tied for the worst mark in baseball, per ESPN.
It's likely that those numbers led a source to tell Rod Bradford of WEEI.com about the Red Sox having interest in the outfield trade market, specifically among available center fielders.
When asked about the possibility of a deal, however, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington downplayed the idea of making a move this early in the season.
“It’s a little bit early to think about trades because teams are not really of that mindset yet,” Cherington said. “This is usually the point in the season where teams know who they are, what their limitations are but aren’t necessarily jumping out to make trades either.”
May 29 may be early, but don't be surprised if this chatter continues if the Red Sox don't get better production from center field in June.
Suarez Could Be Answer at Shortstop for Tigers
When the Tigers lost shortstop Jose Iglesias prior to the season, their obvious need for a short-term solution at the position became a talking point around baseball. With Stephen Drew ready and available on the open market, the fit seemed perfect.
Months later, the Tigers have stayed the course, and Drew signed a deal to return to Boston. Now, as June approaches, Detroit is leading the AL Central and looking like one of the best teams in baseball despite a glaring issue at shortstop.
Heading into play on May 28, Tigers shortstops owned a combined .495 OPS. To put that in perspective, former long-time starting pitcher Livan Hernandez had a .526 career OPS across 17 big league seasons. While he was one of the better hitting pitchers in recent memory, it underscores the point: The combination of Andrew Romine, Danny Worth and Alex Gonzalez can't hit as well as a pitcher.
According to Art Regner of Fox Sports Detroit, the answer to what ails the Tigers isn't currently on the 25-man roster, leaving the team in need of adding a new shortstop to the fold soon.
In March, Tigers president Dave Dombrowski eschewed the notion of going outside the organization for an impact player. If he follows the same pattern over the next few months, keep an eye on Triple-A shortstop Eugenio Suarez.
After a recent promotion from Double-A Erie, the 22-year-old infielder has impressed. According to Jason Beck of MLB.com, both Dombrowski and former Tigers manager Jim Leyland took in one of Suarez's recent Triple-A games.
Prior to a three-hit night, Dombrowski showered praise upon the young infielder, per Beck.
“He’s done very well this year,” Dombrowski said. “Everybody has talked well of him. He’s done good since he’s been here, but he’s only been here a short while. He’s done a nice job.”
Andrelton Simmons Dealing with 'Nagging' Ankle Issue
The Atlanta Braves have had a confounding season. Despite losing nearly their entire starting rotation to injury before the season began, the team got off to an excellent start (17-8) in April.
Through 25 games in May, success (11-14) hasn't been as easy. With June approaching, the Braves are in first place in the NL East, but there is little guarantee that they will hold onto that spot for the duration of the season.
If the Braves do hold off teams like the Nationals and the surprising Marlins, contributions from young building blocks will be imperative. One of those building blocks is shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
After signing a seven-year, $58 million extension during the winter, Simmons' game—specifically his all-world defensive ability—has been a key component to success in Atlanta. Early on in 2014, the 24-year-old is looking to breakout out of an early season offensive malaise (91 OPS+) and rack up value on defense (four defensive runs saved).
For now, keep an eye on Simmons' health, specifically in regards to his "nagging" ankle issue that forced him to leave Atlanta's game on May 27, per Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“It started nagging me a little bit during the inning,” Simmons said. “Then it wouldn’t go away. I tried playing on but just didn’t feel like I was going to help my team. I was going to hurt them more if I stayed in there.”
If Simmons stays healthy, value will certainly follow. If not, the Braves could be in trouble.
Which early season rumor are you most interested in?