The GM's Office: Taijuan Walker

Pitchers and catchers to watch this spring 

February, 22, 2015
Feb 22
Cliff Lee and Cole HamelsGetty ImagesPhillies pitchers Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are two players worth tracking closely this spring.
Pitchers and catchers for nearly all MLB teams have reported by now, and the drama is ongoing. We are already monitoring injuries, trade rumors, comebacks and how players on new teams are fitting in. I'll be in Arizona and Florida at various times this spring, and here are 12 pitchers and catchers I'll be monitoring closely and talking to people about.

1. Cole Hamels, SP, Philadelphia Phillies (trade candidate)

The Hamels trade talks are not going away. It's pretty simple: The Phillies must rebuild, and teams needing the final piece to get them to October will stay engaged with the Phillies, as well as scout Hamels' every appearance. Every pitch, everything being said and any soreness, normal or otherwise, will be overanalyzed by scouts and front offices. If there's an injury to a key pitcher or a top prospect doesn't look quite as promising, that's what will make a Hamels deal happen.

Rookies I can't wait to scout this spring 

February, 12, 2014
Every year at spring training there is a lot of focus on the star players who switched teams, with Robinson Cano being a prime example this year. However, what I am most excited about for this spring is the chance to scout some of the game's top rookies.

It’s fun to watch young players develop in real time, and to see if they can do enough to convince their managers and GMs to take them up north. It’s a time when the game’s best evaluators get a taste of just how good some young players can be.

So here are 10 rookies I am looking forward to scouting during spring training. And trust me, just getting the list down to 10 was not easy.

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Prospects I would call up in September 

August, 28, 2013
George SpringerBrace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty ImagesGeorge Springer is three homers away from joining the 40/40 club.
Despite the minor league season being almost complete, the education and training of some young top prospects isn’t necessarily over. With major league rosters expanding in September, it's a great time for clubs to get a first glimpse of their top prospects to see whether they are ready to be a part of next year's 25-man roster.

Here's a list of the top prospects I would bring up in September.

George Springer | OF | Houston Astros

Springer’s power/speed combination is one of the best in all of minor league baseball, illustrated by his combined slash line of .303/.414/.611, 37 home runs and 43 stolen bases between Double- and Triple-A. It’s been a mere two years since the Astros selected Springer, now 23, as first-round pick from UConn. He really impressed me in the Futures Game in July, and think it’s time he became an every-day player for the Astros.

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Seven trades for Jacoby Ellsbury

November, 9, 2012
Jacoby EllsburyJ. Meric/Getty ImagesThe Red Sox have several options with Jacoby Ellsbury.

It wasn’t long ago that outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury looked like the face of the Boston Red Sox. His All-Star campaign in 2011 was highlighted by a .321 average, 32 home runs, 105 RBIs and 39 stolen bases. His five-tool prowess had finally developed, and he looked firmly entrenched as Boston's center fielder for years to come.

Only a season later, things have spun 180 degrees. Ellsbury slogged through an injury-marred 2012 season, still managing to hit .271 in just 303 at-bats, but that 2011 season now seems long ago. Further, Ellsbury is eligible for free agency in a year and is represented by agent Scott Boras, who owns a healthy track record of taking his clients to free agency to maximize their financial opportunities.

Considering that, it looks like the Red Sox have three options:
1.) Settle with Ellsbury on a one-year deal
2.) Take Ellsbury to arbitration, where he will make about $9.5 million on a one-year contract
3.) Trade Ellsbury

While Boston would love to sign Ellsbury to a long-term deal and keep him at Fenway Park, they most likely will have no choice but to test the trade waters to see what they can get for Ellsbury. With the Red Sox a couple seasons away from contention, this move makes sense.

But first, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington must identify the teams that need a center fielder, would be willing to trade for a “rental” player and could afford to add a $9.5 million player to its payroll.

Because Ellsbury will be a one-year rental, Cherington probably knows he won’t get equal return. However, he will start with a high asking price -- in some cases unreasonable -- and negotiate downward. And the Red Sox could have another shot at Ellsbury after the 2013 season since Boras will make certain he reaches the free agent market.

Here are seven conversations Cherington should have with teams:
1. Atlanta Braves | trade targets: SS Nick Ahmed, RHP Julio Teheran
The first place to look is the NL East, where the Braves, Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies are all looking for short- and long-term solutions for center field. The Braves are set at shortstop for years to come with Andrelton Simmons, which makes Ahmed expendable. Ahmed, 22, was the Braves’ second-round pick in the 2011 draft and had a solid year at high Class A Lynchburg both offensively and defensively. He stole 40 bases. Teheran remains the Braves’ top pitching prospect, and once his command and control arrive, he should be a solid No. 2 or No. 3 starter for years to come.

If the Red Sox could add Teheran to the young starters they acquired in the blockbuster deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer (Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa), it would be a huge step forward in their retooling. Ellsbury would take Bourn’s spot in center field and keep the Braves primed for another postseason berth in 2013.

2. Los Angeles Angels | trade target: 1B C.J. Cron, OF Peter Bourjos
How about an Angels outfield of Mike Trout, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mark Trumbo, with all three combined making less than Torii Hunter made in 2011? The Red Sox would get their long-term solution to first base in Cron and a middle-of-the-order bat that they can count on for years to come. Bourjos would give them Gold Glove defense in center field, and perhaps his bat would develop enough to eventually hit at the top of the lineup. Ellsbury for Cron straight up might even be fair value.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers | trade target: OF Andre Ethier
This deal would give the Red Sox cost certainty and their long-term right fielder, as Ethier just signed a six-year $95.5 million deal through 2017 with a vesting option for 2018. The Red Sox have top center field prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. waiting in the wings to eventually take over the position long term. The Dodgers would then have an outfield of Matt Kemp, Ellsbury and Carl Crawford. When healthy, it would be the best in the National League with an incredible combination of speed and power. More importantly, the Dodgers would have their leadoff hitter.

4. St. Louis Cardinals | trade targets: RHP Trevor Rosenthal, OF Jon Jay
Rosenthal has ability and potential to be a Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman-type closer right now, and Jay could take over in center field in Boston. The Red Sox should stop dreaming about Andrew Bailey, Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves taking care of the final three outs of the game. Rosenthal can do that now with his 100-mph fastball. Odds are this discussion goes no further than the phone call, as the Cardinals love Rosenthal (who they might also try as a starter) and seem happy with Jay.

5. San Francisco Giants | trade targets: OF Gary Brown, RHP Heath Hembree
The Giants have a chance to win three World Series in four seasons, and Ellsbury would help that cause immensely. He would give them a dynamite leadoff hitter and table-setter for Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence in the middle. He’ll be able to run down balls in center field and will give them the additional power they have lacked. Brown is supposed to be their leadoff hitter of the future, but if they were willing to trade top pitching prospect Zach Wheeler for Carlos Beltran, they should consider this deal, too. The Red Sox should also ask for Hembree because he throws in the high 90s, and if his command in the zone ever arrives, he could be a candidate to be Boston's closer down the line.

6. Seattle Mariners | trade target: RHP Taijuan Walker
The Mariners have had the worst offense in the American League for three straight seasons, and they have approximately $30 million dollars to spend. Do they trade one of their top pitching prospects for offense as they did last year when they shipped Michael Pineda to the New York Yankees for catcher Jesus Montero? The Red Sox should ask for Walker, but my gut says Cherington would get a polite “no, thank you” from Mariners GM Jack Zdurinecik, who will then counter with an offer of one of lefties James Paxton or Danny Hultzen. If that happens, the Red Sox certainly should consider it.

7. Washington Nationals | trade targets: OF Brian Goodwin and RHP Alex Meyer
Goodwin has been wowing scouts in the Arizona Fall League with his range, defense and bat. Meyer was very impressive in his pro debut last season in A-ball, where he went a combined 10-6 with a 2.86 ERA in 25 starts. Meyer was the Nationals’ first-round choice in 2011, and the Red Sox have been following him closely since they selected him the 20th round of the 2008 draft but weren’t able to sign him. Ellsbury would allow the Nationals to put Bryce Harper in one of the corners with Jayson Werth. A deal of this magnitude would put them among the NL’s early favorites to reach the World Series.

In the end, it’s doubtful any of these trade discussions will end up in a deal. The most likely scenario is Ellsbury ends up with a one-year deal at $9.5 million, and the Red Sox will revisit the trade market for him at next July’s trade deadline. That said, perhaps then we’ll revisit these trade discussions again when the probability of one of them happening will have increased significantly.

Mariners are the next Rays 

March, 8, 2012
Felix HernandezChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesFelix Hernandez is the cornerstone of Seattle's Rays-type rebuild.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The future is bright for teams such as the Toronto Blue Jays, Kansas City Royals and Washington Nationals. These up-and-coming teams have been constructed the right way and might soon establish themselves as contenders for years to come.

There is one rebuilding club that is a step behind them, but by 2014 this team should be able to compete with the game's highest payrolls and could easily be dubbed the next Tampa Bay Rays -- the poster boys for success without breaking the bank. That team? The Seattle Mariners.

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