MLB Rumors: Analyzing All the Latest Whispers, News and Speculation

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2014

MLB Rumors: Analyzing All the Latest Whispers, News and Speculation

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    Jon Lester is now with the Oakland Athletics, but he's not likely to stay there long with free agency looming.
    Jon Lester is now with the Oakland Athletics, but he's not likely to stay there long with free agency looming.USA TODAY Sports

    Now that the MLB trade deadline has passed following a smorgasbord of activity, we can finally pack up the rumor mill and prepare for the stretch run.

    Or, you know, do the opposite of that.

    Because of this wacky Internet thing, the hot stove may cool down, but it never turns off. Everyone needs the page hits, and you need to devote your attention to something other than work-related tasks. Besides, not all transactions are player swaps during the dog days of August.

    Trades don’t have to halt just yet, as a general manager can still barter a player if he’s willing to place him on the waiver wire. The winning claim either earns the rights to negotiate a trade or gains him outright if the other club wants to let go altogether.

    And it’s not like the offseason is that far away. Before we know it, the trade window will reopen while free agents search for new homes. Are fans supposed to just wait patiently for that time to come before figuring out what will happen? 

    Let’s take a look at some of this week’s hottest rumors around the diamond.

Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp Among Dodgers Placed on Waivers

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    Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp were among five players the Los Angeles Dodgers placed on waivers.
    Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp were among five players the Los Angeles Dodgers placed on waivers.Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Dodgers have yet again recovered from a slow start, skyrocketing to first place in the National League West at 65-50 through Aug. 7. Most teams in that position are scouring the market for another veteran or two, but the Dodgers are trying to find takers for some bloated contracts.

    They have many underachieving veterans to thank for a massive team payroll flooding north of $200,000. According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, they placed five big-name players on the waiver wire, but only Hanley Ramirez was claimed.

    Matt Kemp plus Ethier, Crawford and Beckett cleared waivers but Hanley Ramirez was claimed/blocked. Blog coming @CBSSports

    — Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) August 5, 2014

    Heyman later examined the nature of the star shortstop's claim. He speculated that someone is simply trying to ensure nobody else lower on the priority list gets a deal done. Even so, Los Angeles is not likely to move such a crucial member of its lineup.

    "Ramirez most likely will just be blocked from being traded, though technically the claiming team has three days to work out a trade," Heyman said. "The Dodgers obviously need Ramirez, their star shortstop, for their pennant push."

    It's no surprise that the other players cleared. Crawford and Ethier will each get laughably overpaid for three more seasons while even a revived Kemp doesn't justify the $108.25 million due to him from 2015 to 2019.

    Even though Beckett holds a 2.88 ERA, his 4.34 FIP tells a different tale. His good fortune has expired, as seen by a 8.47 ERA amassed through his last five starts.

    Two years ago, the Dodgers acquired Crawford and Beckett in an August blockbuster, but they're unlikely to find someone else crazy enough to execute a similar maneuver. 

Giancarlo Stanton May Stay in Miami for Long Haul

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    Giancarlo Stanton could become the rare homegrown star the Miami Marlins pay.
    Giancarlo Stanton could become the rare homegrown star the Miami Marlins pay.Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    Due to Jeffrey Loria’s notorious frugality, Giancarlo Stanton’s tenure with the Miami Marlins has long figured to be temporary. Given the Marlins’ long history of hosting garage sales after finding success, it only made sense to speculate about the star slugger's future.

    Always a popular component of trade talks, Stanton’s name may soon get removed from such reports. According to The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, the outfielder’s stellar season may convince the stingy owner to finally open his wallet:

    It seems as if the Red Sox and other teams have finally come to the realization that Stanton isn’t going anywhere. The theme has been repeated constantly by GM Dan Jennings, who really believes that owner Jeffrey Loria will step up and get a deal done even if it’s a Robinson Cano/Albert Pujols type of contract.

    That could be a reason why the Red Sox obtained Cespedes, who obviously isn’t as good but has the power and athleticism to improve. This offseason will be telling on the Stanton front. He has a home in Miami and feels the organization is going in the right direction, so, for now, he seems to be all in on staying with the Marlins.

    Fueling Miami’s unlikely pursuit of a winning record, the 24-year-old is batting .290/.390/.542 with 26 home runs, 74 RBI and 71 runs. He’s even swiped a career-high 10 bases with a perfect success rate.

    More importantly, he’s stayed on the field all year long after battling injuries often throughout his young career. With no obvious choice to take home National League MVP honors, Stanton and his 4.5 fWAR belong in the discussion.

    Over the past four seasons, Stanton ranks second in homers (121), sixth in slugging percentage (.543) and eighth in weighted runs created (147). In a league enjoying its best pitching in years, the 6’6”, 240-pound masher has emerged as a rare elite power source.

    He’ll also enter free agency before his age-27 season, so Loria can’t make the excuse about not wanting to pay a declining star into his late 30s. Seven years after dealing Miguel Cabrera, the Marlins can make amends by keeping their transcendent hitter this time around.

Chicago Cubs "All Ears" on Jon Lester

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    Lester's stay in Oakland figures to expire after 2014.
    Lester's stay in Oakland figures to expire after 2014.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    The Jon Lester saga reached a temporary conclusion on July 31 when the Oakland Athletics surprisingly snagged him in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes. After months of speculating about the ace’s fate, an unexpected move duped us all.

    So the only logical thing to do is start all over and determine where the 30-year-old southpaw will sign this offseason.

    Perhaps he truly harnesses no hard feelings and returns to the Boston Red Sox, who failed to extend the pitcher who helped them capture two championships. If not, another interesting suitor awaits in the Chicago Cubs. Former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein will target his old employee this winter, according to Cafardo:

    Will the Cubs be all ears on him this offseason? That seems to be the buzz around baseball. Lester wasn’t drafted by Jason McLeod, who is now an assistant GM with the Cubs, but by current Detroit scouting director David Chadd. But Theo Epstein nurtured Lester through his tough times, including cancer. Jed Hoyer was also there, as was McLeod. At some point, the Cubs are going to rebuild their pitching staff. Who better than Lester to bring in?

    Although the Cubs haven’t won a playoff game since 2003, better days are on the horizon. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, the recently promoted Javier Baez and the newly acquired Addison Russell are poised to form baseball’s scariest young infield as soon as next season. All they need is the pitching to match.

    Signing Lester would set Chicago’s rebuilding phase ablaze and put it on a quest to realize Back to the Future’s prophecy of a 2015 championship. Adding Lester may not bring the Cubs there just yet, but it’d certainly place them on the path to postseason contention.

Why the Phillies Got Nothing Done

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    Marlon Byrd is a great power hitter, but not one that could have fetched the Philadelphia Phillies an elite prospect.
    Marlon Byrd is a great power hitter, but not one that could have fetched the Philadelphia Phillies an elite prospect.Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    The Philadelphia Phillies are old. The Philadelphia Phillies are terrible. Everything about their situation yelled "sell" with the volume amplified to the max. 

    Yet, they did nothing at the trade deadline.

    Why would a last-place team twiddle its thumbs and let time slip away when it had several assets to shop? From the looks of it, the Phillies stayed stagnant due to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.'s unrealistic expectations. The New York Daily News' Bill Madden revealed their laughable asking price when the New York Yankees inquired about Marlon Byrd:

    "Amaro said he was 'surprised teams weren’t more aggressive' for the 37-year-old Byrd," Madden wrote. "But when the Yankees approached him on Byrd, all he asked for in return was their top hitting prospect, Aaron Judge."

    Byrd is a great power bat, but not one who will yield an even more enticing slugger 15 years his junior. Tabbed by ESPN.com's Keith Law (subscription required) as the Yankees' best prospect, Judge is raking in the minors with a .318/.427/.506 slash line.

    Although they missed an opportunity to replenish their farm system in July, the Phillies luckily still have time to adjust their expectations to normal standards. Per Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Byrd was claimed by an unknown team on revocable waivers.

    The Phillies now find themselves in the same spots occupied by their division rivals last season. After waiting past the July 31 deadline, the New York Mets could not fully capitalize on Byrd's trade value. One major difference, however, is that he remains under contract for one more year at a reasonable $8 million.

    Considering how much Amaro values Byrd, expect him to remain in Philadelphia for another season.

Will the Phillies Get Something Done?

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    A team claimed Cole Hamels off waivers, but don't expect any deal to happen.
    A team claimed Cole Hamels off waivers, but don't expect any deal to happen.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Byrd is just one of many Phillies getting tested on the waiver wire. According to Rosenthal, they have placed Ryan Howard, A.J. Burnett, Antonio Bastardo, Jonathan Papelbon, Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez on revocable trade waivers.

    An unknown teams has also claimed Cole Hamels. Rosenthal detailed the lefty's no-trade clause, which gives him the right to veto a switch to all but nine clubs.

    Even if one of those squads claimed him or Hamels is willing to leave Philly, it's rare for such an important player to get swapped in August. Just ask The Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Gelb about the chances of a trade going down.

    If they want a star prospect for Byrd, imagine how much they'll expect for an actual superstar. Hamels holds a 2.42 ERA on the season with 139 strikeouts through 137.1 innings. Not testing the entire market with their ace makes little sense.

    Papelbon also has a limited no-trade clause, but he won't use it if someone constructs a deal for the 33-year-old closer. His decaying velocity and hefty salary scared teams off before the deadline.

    Those eager to see anything get done will have to settle for a smaller move at best. Burnett's pricey 2015 player option may scare teams off, but Bastardo is a high-strikeout reliever who can boost a contender's bullpen. 

    Then again, Amaro probably thinks a decent middle reliever is also worth another club's premier prospect.

     

    Note: All advanced statistics courtesy of FanGraphs. Contract information courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

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