Friday, July 12, 2013
Cards, Indians lead latest buzz
By Buster Olney
Asdrubal Cabrera's bat and glove could play well in the St. Louis lineup.
After Rafael Furcal’s elbow fell apart in spring training and trade speculation began, St. Louis Cardinals players spoke highly of Pete Kozma. They could not have had the kind of run they did at the end of last season, the other Cardinals said, without Kozma playing solid defense in the last weeks of the season. Earlier this season, Kozma was hitting a high as .276, on May 28.
But Kozma hit .209 in June, with a .501 OPS, and he was recently given a three-day break. He’s hitting .232 with a .572 OPS overall.
Sources say there has been more discussion about a possible swap that was talked about in the offseason: the Indians’ Asdrubal Cabrera to St. Louis.
It’s unclear just how far advanced these talks are, whether it’s more conceptual or internal at the moment, and undoubtedly, it’s a deal that would be more easily done in the offseason, with more time.
But it’s a situation worth watching, because it could be an in-season match that could make sense for both teams. For St. Louis, Cabrera would represent an upgrade at shortstop: He’s 27 years old and a switch-hitting, two-time All-Star with power and experience. Cabrera has a .725 OPS and has demonstrated the ability to play multiple positions, which is why the Yankees have asked about him repeatedly. He could play shortstop, yes, but also third base or second or even first, so if the Yankees needed to fill in for Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez or Robinson Cano -- depending on developments ranging from injury (Jeter and A-Rod) to PED suspension (A-Rod) to free-agent departure (Cano, perhaps), Cabrera could step in. Cabrera makes $6.5 million this year, and will earn $10 million next season, before becoming eligible for free agency.
The Indians are positioned to consider trading him, because if Cabrera were swapped, they could cover his departure in the short term with Mike Aviles -- and, of course, star prospect Francisco Lindor is climbing through the minors as the long-term solution; he’s hitting .307 in high-A ball this year, at just 19 years old.
The Indians presumably would require at least one really good prospect in return, somebody close to the big leagues, and the Yankees don’t necessarily have a lot to choose from at the top of their system. But the Cardinals do, particularly with their pitching; they have what is regarded as the best farm system in the game, and they are loaded with great young arms -- Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal already have graduated to the big league level and presumably are not available, and Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha are top arms in the minors, among others. (Martinez, by the way, was just called up to work out of the St. Louis bullpen, as Derrick Goold writes.)
If the Cardinals traded for Cabrera, an already deep lineup would get even better: St. Louis ranks first in the National League in runs scored, in spite of relatively weak production at shortstop. They’re hitting .338 with runners in scoring position as a team, which helps.
If the Indians get a top-shelf young pitching prospect for Cabrera, he would join an already growing stable of starting pitching options for Cleveland that includes Danny Salazar, who wowed in his major league debut Thursday; over six innings, he showed a 95-plus mph fastball and a wicked changeup.
• The White Sox have had scouts watching the Diamondbacks at a time when Arizona is looking for a starting pitcher who will be under team control past 2013 -- a pitcher like Jake Peavy, who is working his way back from injury. Peavy has deep ties with the Arizona organization: General manager Kevin Towers was with the Padres when Peavy was drafted, developed and promoted, and Towers has always loved Peavy’s competitiveness. There is a perception within the Arizona organization that the rotation could use a veteran stabilizer -- someone who can work with younger pitchers such as Ian Kennedy and Trevor Cahill -- and this is what Peavy has done for Chris Sale in Chicago.
Peavy is on the disabled list recovering from a rib fracture, and he threw a simulated game earlier this week. Like teammate Jesse Crain, he’ll need to demonstrate before the trade deadline that he’s healthy, and Peavy is expected to throw in a minor league game Sunday, before being activated after the All-Star break. Peavy, 32, threw 219 innings last season and posted a 3.37 ERA for the White Sox. He is making $14.5 million this year, and will make $14.5 million next season.
Whether it’s coincidence or not, the White Sox scouts saw the Diamondbacks on a night earlier this week when Randall Delgadopitched. Arizona, like the Cardinals, has some pitching depth, with Tyler Skaggs, Archie Bradley and others, and Delgado could be a trade chip.
Arizona has talked internally about other pitchers, including Yovani Gallardo, who had an OK outing against the D-backs Thursday, allowing three runs in six innings.
• Alex Rios is among the outfielders the Rangers are considering. Rios, 32, is hitting .277 with 11 homers, is making $12.5 million this year and will make $12.5 million next year, with a club option at $13.5 million for 2015 and a $1 million buyout. Norichika Aoki is another on that list.
• There is some buzz in the industry that the Rangers and Cardinals are the teams most likely to land Matt Garza, but really, it will all come down to which team is willing to surrender a high-end package requested by the Cubs. After a rush of trade talk in late June, it has been quieter in a lot of corners lately. One talent evaluator suggested there are a handful of reasons for this.
“First, uncertainty,” he wrote. “There are so many teams still in the race with the expansion of the second wild card; teams don't want to give up hope and sell and seeing the way teams' fortunes can change so quickly -- look at where the Dodgers were even a week ago -- with more opportunity it is harder to raise the white flag and sell.
“Second, more uncertainty. MLB is expected to announce suspensions for Biogenesis stuff after the All-Star break but before the trading deadline.
“Third, money. The longer you wait on a player the less he will cost you because more days fall off the calendar and the pro-rated amount of any contract drops. That might not matter for teams like the Dodgers or Red Sox, but a lot of teams in races are constrained by dollars like the Braves, Orioles, Rays, and Pirates ...
“Sellers can shoot for the moon now and wait for teams to feel more strongly or players to get injured and for the market to grow stronger. If somebody takes their offer now, great; if not, they can adjust prices later and still move the players they want to move. Seems especially true of a club like the White Sox.”
The White Sox are looking for major league ready or near major league ready prospects in their talks, sources say. About a dozen clubs are looking for relief help, with varying degrees of urgency.
• The Astros are said to be willing to talk about pretty much anybody on their 25-man roster.
• Some talent evaluators say that the pitchers from the Giants and Diamondbacks began boring in on possible holes in Yasiel Puig at the plate. Pitchers have come to believe that Puig really struggles to get to pitches up and in -- but will keep swinging at the pitch. So he is getting pounded by fastballs up and in (Arizona did this, especially), to the point that evaluators noticed that in one game, he backed off the plate about eight inches, which opened up the outside part of the strike zone.
By the way: Mark Ellis says nobody in the Dodgers clubhouse has a beef with Yasiel Puig, which reminds me of these words last year from David Ortiz, when he indicated everything in the Red Sox clubhouse was fine. Ellis, like Ortiz, is a great pro and a great teammate.
Puig is a very young player, which means he has ample opportunity to change. And it’ll be good for him to change, because the way he carries himself rubs others the wrong way -- including some teammates.
• From Elias Sports Bureau:Miguel Cabrera is the first player in major league history with 30 home runs and 90 RBIs before the All-Star break. Last year, through 91 games he was at .327/20/74, this year he's at .366/30/94. Remarkable.