MLB Rumors: Analyzing All the Latest Whispers, News and Speculation
With the baseball calender flipped to June, major introspection is soon to occur in every front office around the sport. At the conclusion of this year's draft, which is set to take place from June 5-7, all hands on deck will be re-focused on the day-to-day operations of the season.
For teams in contention, that means scouring the market for impact additions, upgrading the final spots on the roster and choosing which prospects to make available in trade talks. Over the next two months, pennants are won and lost.
For teams looking forward to 2015 and beyond, that means identifying which veterans to sell, how to break transaction news to fans and identifying which young prospects to target in potential franchise-changing deals. Over the next two months, future pennants are won and lost.
With more than a third of the season in the books, business is about to pick up. No longer are rumors simply fodder for beat writers or columnists. Instead, every nugget, rumor and inkling from an insider could be the prelude to a season-changing deal.
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.
Jason Hammel Could Be Fallback Option for Yankees
If the New York Yankees are going to avoid back-to-back seasons without October baseball for the first time since 1992-1993, help is needed—specifically to rescue a pitching staff that can't expect long-term survival from arms like Vidal Nuno (5.33 ERA), Chase Whitley (less than 5 IP per start) and David Phelps (3.91 BB/9).
Entering play on June 5, New York's staff had allowed 267 runs in 58 games. If baseball were still in the Steroid Era, perhaps allowing 4.6 runs per game would be sufficient. In 2014—with the average team posting 240 runs through 58 games, per ESPN—it's not good enough to back an inconsistent and aging offense.
Although Chicago Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija has the potential and stuff to be an AL East difference-maker, the Yankees may be able to land his teammate, Jason Hammel, as a fallback plan, per Brendan Kuty of NJ.com.
While Samardzjia would come with fanfare and a track record of strikeout ability, don't discount how well Hammel has pitched (2.78 ERA, 3.03 FIP) in his first season as a Cub. The former Rays, Rockies and Orioles starter owns AL East experience and has exceeded the more famous Samardzija in vital statistical categories—such as SO/9, SO/BB and WHIP—this season, per Baseball-Reference.
For now, the 31-year-old journeyman is handling the rumors with aplomb by focusing on his performance, per Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. “I know my own value, and my value is right here with the Cubs,” Hammel said. “That’s the way I see it. I’m not going to play into the whole trade talk. It can happen to anybody.”
James Shields Could Re-Shape Trade Market
When the Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays shook up the baseball world with a blockbuster trade prior to the 2013 season, starting pitcher James Shields arrived in the Midwest with the edict of helping to end a nearly three-decade-long playoff drought.
In exchange for two years of Shields' right arm and the relief work of Wade Davis, the Royals surrendered top prospect Wil Myers and starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi.
Now, as the trade deadline approaches, the Royals are at a crossroads. Entering play on June 5, Kansas City owned a losing record and sat in the cellar of the AL Central. If things don't turn around quickly, the missing piece from last offseason could turn into a gigantic trade chip this July.
According to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, trade talks around Shields could heat up quickly if the Royals don't play better over the next four weeks.
While Shields would only be a rental through the end of the season, his track record, durability and high-end stuff could launch him above every other starter on the trade market, including Philadelphia's Cliff Lee and Chicago's Jeff Samardzija.
Since becoming a full-time starter in 2005, Shields has made 30-plus starts and pitched 200-plus innings every year. During Tampa Bay's magical postseason run in 2008, Shields posted a 2.88 ERA across 25 postseason innings.
Furthermore, a trade likely won't catch the veteran off guard. When broached about potential rumors, the Royals ace had a prescient quip ready for Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. "I thought those started next month?," Shields asked.
NL West Could Be Determined by Chase Utley Trade
When Peter Gammons talks, the baseball community listens. After four-plus decades of watching, observing, reporting and writing about the game, few insiders have the type of intricate knowledge and sources tapped into front office thinking like Gammons.
In the case of his comments about the Phillies possibly moving Chase Utley during a July fire sale, focus on the details more than the idea of a possible trade involving one of the best second baseman in baseball history.
Gammons was speaking with Philly Sports Talk (via the show's official Twitter account), and the teams he suggested that could make a play for Utley—San Francisco and the Dodgers—could make a potential Utley sweepstakes must-watch television in July, and it could ultimately become the difference-making move in the National League.
At 38-21, the Giants are the class of the NL West through the first third of the season. Despite the gaudy results, however, manager Bruce Bochy has received just a .568 OPS from the second base combination of Brandon Hicks, Joaquin Arias, and Ehire Adrianza.
Although Dee Gordon has been a vital part of the Dodgers offense in 2014, no team with a $235 million payroll and win-now edict can be counted out if a possible future Hall of Famer hits the trade market, even if the pursuit is solely to keep Utley out of San Francisco.
The possibility of a summer-long Giants-Dodgers race in the NL West could only be topped by a seven-game series in October, potentially with Utley as a main attraction.
Gregory Polanco's Big League Debut Is Imminent
Despite a difficult start, the Pittsburgh Pirates are still very much alive in the National League postseason race. After winning six of 10 games, the 2013 playoff team sits at 28-31 through 59 games. In some years, that could bury a team in a deep hole, but in 2014 it leaves this team within a few games of playoff position.
Over the next few months, the Pirates could rebound and take a leap back into the upper echelon of the NL. If that's going to happen, however, better production will be needed from right field.
At some point in the very near future, expect to see the name Gregory Polanco called up from Triple-A to rescue a position that has produced one of the worst OPS marks in the game this year, per ESPN.
Polonco's arrival—while seemingly imminent—has become a source of confusion around the game. Beyond the basic need for a 22-year-old hitter that currently owns an OPS of .956 in Triple-A, Pittsburgh is dealing with the reality of Super-2 arbitration dates and future contract fears.
Perhaps that's why conflicting reports recently emerged about Polanco potentially joining the big league club on June 6 at PNC Park.
First, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports dropped the bombshell of Polanco's call up. By the end of the same day, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review refuted the report, citing two sources within the Pirates organization.
Clearly, a respected reporter will be wrong over the next few days. Yet with June fully in swing and arbitration concerns disappearing by the minute, expect Polanco to be in the majors very, very soon in order to help boost Pittsburgh's offense.
Red Sox Looking Hard for an Outfielder
What a difference a year makes. On the path to 97 wins, 853 runs scored and an AL East title in 2013, the Boston Red Sox owned one of the most productive outfield groupings in all of baseball.
From stars like Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino to unheralded contributors like Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes, the Red Sox outfield combined to lead the sport in fWAR (15.7) and ranked second in OPS (.801).
With Ellsbury gone to New York, Victorino mired in an injury-plagued campaign and Nava searching for last year's magic, Boston's outfield is a shell of its championship iteration from last season. Entering play on June 4, the defending champions owned the worst wOBA (weighted on-base average) among all outfield groupings in baseball.
According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the team has its scouts looking hard at potential outfielders who are available on the trade market in an effort to make a deal before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Despite a 10-game losing streak in May, Boston is one of 10 AL teams within four games of a wild-card spot in the crowded postseason picture. This may not be a special team in Boston, but a run back to October is feasible if better outfield production arrives.
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