MLB Rumors: Analyzing All the Latest Whispers, News and Speculation
When the baseball slate begins on June 19, seven weeks will remain until the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31. Between now and then, expect to see a dizzying array of rumors, speculation and day-to-day gossip regarding potential impact moves.
In a season with great parity, each potential victory could be the difference between a trip to October or empty seats and apathetic fans down the stretch of the season. For each individual general manger, the season has reached a critical point, and each of them must decide whether to buy, sell or stand pat.
As speculation flies, Bleacher Report is here to unearth the best rumors, dissect the ramifications and bring perspective to the season thus far.
Here is what you need to know about the latest rumors and banter around the game right now.
Unless otherwise noted, statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs and accurate entering play on June 19. All contract figures courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts. Roster projections via MLB Depth Charts.
Jeff Samardzija Wants Homer Bailey Money
Chicago Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija is due for a big paycheck when when free agency arrives after the 2015 season. The soon-to-be NL All-Star has dominated in 2014, opening the door to lucrative contract talks with either his current team or any franchise that makes a move to trade for him before the end of next season.
Regardless of which team pays the 29-year-old strikeout artist, it won't be cheap. According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cubs have found Samardzija's asking price to be in the range of Homer Bailey's $17.5 million average annual payout.
For a pitcher that owns just a single season of 200 innings pitched and 30-plus starts, the idea of allocating more than $100 million to him in a long-term contract seems like a mistake waiting to happen. Samardzija can undoubtedly make a major difference for any team in the 2014 pennant chase, but re-signing him to a big deal could be a difficult proposition for any club, regardless of market size.
David Price Could Be Traded Twice Before Free Agency
The fall of the Tampa Bay Rays has created an unexpected wrinkle in the 2014 pennant chase: David Price's sudden availability on the open market. Although the Rays haven't publicly conceded anything, it's hard to imagine a smart, forward-thinking front office doing anything but auctioning off Price before July 31.
Entering play on June 19, the Rays sat 17 games under .500, as they have posted the worst run differential (minus-53) and winning percentage (.384) in the American League. Considering Price's track record and dominance this season (107.2 IP, 3.93 ERA, 122 SO, 10 BB, 3.04 FIP), his inclusion on the trade market would change the entire landscape of the season.
In theory, any team acquiring Price could have him for the rest of 2014 and all of 2015. After next season, Price will hit free agency, pricing him out of the budgets for most franchises in the game, including the low-spending Rays. However, as Dave Cameron of FanGraphs points out in a piece written for Fox Sports, Price's arbitration status will make him a very expensive pitcher in 2015.
Thus, the Price sweepstakes could be a temporary placement for one of baseball's best pitchers. If he lands with a mid-market or small-market team in the 2014 race, don't be shocked if another trade commences next winter.
Blue Jays Searching for Infield Help
Despite back-to-back losses in a series against the second-place New York Yankees, the Toronto Blue Jays remain atop the AL East and look to have enough talent to jockey for postseason position all summer.
Of course, if general manager Alex Anthopoulos attempts to ensure season-long excellence, moves will be made over the next several weeks. While adding a top-tier starting pitcher would generate buzz and headlines around a team that hasn't made the postseason since 1993, Anthopoulos recently spoke about adding infield depth on Baseball Central on Sportsnet 590 The Fan (h/t Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca).
“If there’s a way that we could eliminate that platoon scenario in the infield, and just have one everyday player, that would certainly free things up for the bench and so on,” Anthopoulos said. “That’s probably one area that in a perfect world you have that player.”
On Wednesday night, infielder Brett Lawrie was hit on the hand by a pitch, further complicating Toronto's situation. According to the team, X-rays were negative, but depth remains an issue for the upstart division leaders.
Sale-Price Would Give White Sox Dynamic Lefty Duo
If the Tampa Bay Rays do ship David Price, a slew of suitors could line up. As noted earlier, the unique nature of Price's contract and arbitration status for 2015 lends itself to any contender taking a chance on him for at least the remainder of this season.
According to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (subscription required), one potential trade partner for Tampa Bay is the Chicago White Sox. At 35-37, the fourth-place team in the AL Central certainly doesn't look or feel like a contender, but a Price trade would be fascinating because of the partnership he would form with fellow southpaw Chris Sale atop the rotation.
Over the last three years, Price and Sale have been two of baseball's most impressive left-handed starters, along with the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, Boston's Jon Lester and Philadelphia's duo of Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. If the White Sox did land Price, general manager Rich Hahn could pair together the most dominant lefty duo in over a century.
Since the start of the 2012 season, both Price and Sale have averaged at least a 3.09 FIP and 200 strikeouts. If they came together and accomplished that in the same rotation, it would be the first time two left-handed teammates pitched that well since Eddie Plank and Rube Waddell did it for the 1904-1905 Philadelphia Athletics, per Baseball-Reference (subscription required).
Although the White Sox didn't rank No. 1 on Bowden's list of destinations for Price, simply floating the idea of a Price-Sale combo is tantalizing for White Sox fans to think about.
Yankees Considering Rotation Change
When the New York Yankees lost three starting pitchers—CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda—the replacements were bound to underwhelm and disappoint fans. Yet, thanks to contributions from Chase Whitley (3-0, 2.56 ERA) and David Phelps (58.1 IP, 3.98 FIP), New York has stayed afloat.
Left-handed starter Vidal Nuno, however, has been a negative for a team fighting to climb up the AL standings. After an awful outing—3.0 IP, 8 H, 8 ER—in Oakland last weekend, the Yankees could make a change in the rotation.
Manager Joe Girardi wouldn't go as far as putting extra pressure on Nuno, but he was clear when asked about possibly building up the stamina of starter-turned-reliever Adam Warren, per Jamal Collier of MLB.com.
"There's conversations that we have all the time," Girardi said. "We'll continue to look at things."
If Nuno struggles in his next start, the Yankees could look to make a change quickly, perhaps with Warren coming out of the bullpen to reprise a role he had over the course of his minor league career.
Which rumor are you most interested in?