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Inside Baseball AL Notes | Rays expected to sign top international FA

Jon Heyman



(AP Photo/David Goldman)

Inside Baseball news and notes from around the American League.


Baltimore Orioles

  • Once again, the Orioles are not a seller, and they do not intend to sell. But if they do sell, they’d look at extra pieces.
  • As for those speculating on a Manny Machado deal, well, umm, no. It’s not happening.
  • Pitching coach Roger McDowell was defended by his bosses. Which could wind up being the kiss of death. It’s probably not McDowell’s fault, but man, it’s been a rough year for Orioles pitchers.
  • Closer Zach Britton is due back July 4.

Boston Red Sox

  • There’s a “tryout” going on at Pawtucket, with Pablo Sandoval and Jhonny Peralta there, trying to show they could help the Red Sox’s rough third base situation.
  • Peralta looks like a flyer. But the Red Sox need options at third. Peralta, incidentally, is back to ISE (though technically, it was Relativity when he was there last time).
  • Rafael Devers, in Double-A, doesn’t look like an immediate candidate for call up. But he could become an option.
  • Doug Fister is a worthwhile sign. Still hard to understand why he found it so hard to find a job. He was hitting 93 mph in his Red Sox debut.
  • Rusney Castillo is performing well at the Triple-A level and perhaps deserving of a call up, but due to rules whereby a promotion would count against the payroll and push the Red Sox over the luxury-tax threshold, his chances to ascend may not be great, sources say.
  • Joe Kelly seems to have found a home in the bullpen.
  • Daniel Flores was a very good signing. He’s a switch-hitting catcher with a great arm and power potential. The deal was first reported by FanRag Sports.
  • Right-handed hitters are 2-for-63 vs. Craig Kimbrel, as Mark DeRosa pointed out on MLB Network.
  • John Farrell was suspended one game for umpire mistreatment, and an MLB person noted that Farrell was already complaining about the decision. From here, Farrell should have received a suspension from all those beanballs on Manny Machado. As Dustin Pedroia said to Machado across the field, “It wasn’t me. It was them.”
  • Chris Sale should start the All-Star Game. He is on pace to become the first pitcher since the Big Unit to strike out 300.

Chicago White Sox

  • Matt Davidson is making the most of what some saw as his last chance.
  • Tim Anderson looks pretty good but he could mix in a walk every once in awhile.

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Cleveland Indians

  • Recommend the poignant story of Cuban exile Yandy Diaz playing while his mother Elsa Maria Fernandez is still in Cuba, from Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. Fernandez said in the story, “I feel a lot of excitement and pain at the same time.” And Diaz said, “I need her. I need her by my side.”
  • Terry Francona missed a game with an illness, but the revered Cleveland Clinic cleared him of any serious medical ailment. They did issue a statement, quite possibly egged on by Francona, saying an allergy to bench coach Brad Mills had not been ruled out. We believe that was a joke.
  • Jose Ramirez had a .509 batting average and .982 slugging percentage over a 10-game stretch. I agree with him that he’s one of the top-10 3B in baseball, and understand his disappointment that a similarly vertically-challenged friend in the media (as he put it) didn’t have him in the top 10 on MLB Network last year.
  • Bradley Zimmer is the third fastest player in MLB at 29.8 mph according to MLB.com’s Statcast, behind only Billy Hamilton and Byron Buxton.

Detroit Tigers

  • If the team decides to move Justin Verlander, there will be teams interested. 
  • Tigers GM Al Avila is said to be telling teams they are pretty well open to anything, which means they are open to selling anything (though it would take a steep haul to move Michael Fulmer, for example).
  • The team is getting very strong interest in closer Justin Wilson. Some see him as a closer, others as an Andrew Miller type star middle reliever. In any case, there is big interest in him.

Houston Astros

  • The Astros are out there looking for starting pitching. That’s not a surprise since their rotation looks good but fragile. It’s also their lone real need.
  • Insiders give owner Jim Crane credit for letting the baseball people do their job, and the result is easily the best team in the AL this year.
  • George Springer is really an amazing talent.

Kansas City Royals

  • The Royals were seen as a likely seller all along, but word is ownership has wanted to wait, and now some rivals – seeing their comeback – aren’t sure whether they will sell at all.
  • If they do sell, rivals see Eric Hosmer as bringing the biggest haul, even more than Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain.
  • Jason Vargas was the first to 11 wins despite rarely cracking 92 mph. Good for him.

Los Angeles Angels

  • The Angels continue to play surprisingly well, even in the absence of Mike Trout (not to mention much of their rotation). Hats off to them for that.
  • In a game recently, four pitchers hit 100 mph, the Yankees’ Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman and the Angels’ less-heralded Keynan Middleton and Cam Bedrosian, YES Network’s Michael Kay noted.
  • No one ever seems to like the Angels’ system (it is getting better), but Middleton looks like a real talent.
  • A Mike Trout card went for $35,200, Darren Rovell noted on Twitter.

Minnesota Twins

  • Give the Twins credit. Just when it looked like they were about to fade, they battled back and swept the Indians to move back into first place.
  • The likelihood of an Ervin Santana trade seems slim now. They want him for leadership, anyway. And against expectations, they continue to contend.
  • Trevor May provided insight into Tommy John surgeries in a feature for mlbtraderumors.com.
  • Kevin Millar, now of the MLB Network, hit a home run playing for the independent St. Paul Saints. At 45, and having not played for seven years, that is remarkable. His whole career is really quite amazing; a friend of mine who covered his high school team in West Los Angeles (University High; Uni High to those in the know) says he was an unremarkable fourth or fifth best player on his own high school team.
  • No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis began his career with a bang – a home run.
  • Like to see Miguel Sano in the Home Run Derby.
New York Yankees' Greg Bird runs to first base after he hit a two-run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the second inning of a baseball game Sunday, April 16, 2017 at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

New York Yankees’ Greg Bird runs to first base after he hit a two-run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the second inning of a baseball game Sunday, April 16, 2017 at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

New York Yankees

  • The Yankees are looking for pen help right now. GM Brian Cashman conceded that “the bullpen is struggling right now.” They are strong on the back end, but with Tyler Clippard still not himself, they will look around.
  • Eventually, they could wind up looking for a first baseman, as was mentioned here last week, or perhaps a utility infielder. So it’s valid to think they could eventually take a look at Yonder Alonso, Eric Hosmer (in the off chance he becomes available), Lucas Duda, Jed Lowrie, Yangervis Solarte or Martin Prado. But GM Brian Cashman said their first look will be in-house, with Tyler Wade getting a shot at a utility spot and Greg Bird (or Tyler Austin) getting shots at the first base job. “We’re not looking for a first baseman right now,” Cashman says. (He said similar about the utility spot.) Their first base need may be slightly more acute now that Tyler Austin is out with a hamstring injury (though Bird is the starter if and when he returns) Bird is taking batting practice now, with the hope he could go out on a rehab assignment soon.
  • Bob Nightengale of USA Today mentioned Justin Bour as well as old friend Prado as Yankees target. But sources repeat that “there’s nothing imminent.”
  • The Yankees have talked to the Padres (and presumably many others) about relievers, but word is the Padres’ asking price is over the top high and those discussions appear to be tabled.
  • The Padres are said to be scouting the Yankees minor league, so perhaps something could work to send Solarte back to New York (though the early talk with the Pads is believed to have been about relievers). Solarte has actually outproduced Chase Headley since that straight-up swap was made, and he can play multiple positions, which would fit the Yankees.
  • Danny Knobler did a nice story for Bleacher Report on Starlin Castro who was on his way to an All-Star appearance before injuring his hamstring.
  • Aaron Judge had the highest RC-plus as a rookie (1997), just ahead of three players more than a century ago, including Joe Jackson who posted a 184 mark in 1911 (via Ryan Spaeder).
  • Judge has been asked to be in the Home Run Derby, and there’s optimism he will do it. Here’s hoping he does like Giancarlo Stanton does it. The people want to see it.
  • Masahiro Tanaka pitched well enough in his last start that his player opt-out is still a possibility (though it still looks like a major gamble from here with $67 million to go for three more years).
  • Matt Holliday’s been out with an illness and is on the DL, but they haven’t figured out what the issue is yet. He’s going for tests. Best of luck to a great guy.
  • Incredible similarities between Holliday and Moises Alou in terms of numbers, Joel Sherman of MLB Network and the New York Post noted. Alou is one of the most under-rated players of all-time.
  • Yankees people strongly denied a report that Clint Frazier at some point asked to wear No. 7 (of course Mickey Mantle’s number is retired) but there are continuing tales of maturity issues. That’s part of the reason the Indians felt Justus Sheffield was the greater loss in the Andrew Miler trade. ESPN did a story recently on Frazier and his interesting perspective.
  • While Tagg Romney continues to hope to land the big fish, the Marlins team, Spencer Zwick and his father Mitt Romney’s Solamere Capitol is in the process of buying a stake in the Yankees, FanRag has learned.

Oakland Athletics

  • The A’s are going to try to extend Yonder Alonso before potentially shopping him. The A’s last year made very reasonable offers to Rich Hill ($26 million, two years) and Josh Reddick ($36 million, three years) before trading them in a package deal at the deadline to the Dodgers. Both Hill and Reddick wound up getting bigger deals than the A’s offers, though that doesn’t mean their bids weren’t worthwhile tries. Alonso has expressed an interest in staying, but it also isn’t easy to sign a free agent with only months to go. One thing in this case: The first base market was rough last winter, and Alonso hasn’t been very productive until his walk year this year.
  • Franklin Barreto, top infield prospect, opened with a bang – yes, a home run right off the bat.

Seattle Mariners

  • Drew Smyly looked like he was on the verge of a breakthrough in the WBC, and now unfortunately he will need Tommy John surgery now. So two years look wasted. Best of luck to him.
  • Robinson Cano admitted he had some adjustment issues his first year in Seattle, but wrote on MLB.com, “I feel like I’m home now.”

Tampa Bay Rays

  • The Tampa Bay Rays are expected to sign top international free agent Dominican shortstop Wander Franco, according to sources. Word is, Franco will get close to $3.9 million, which could end up being the top bonus in this period. The international signing period begins July 2. Before teams were capped at $4.75 million to $5.75 million in the new CBA, word is he had been hoping to get $6 million.
  • Give the Rays credit for making a play to bolster their chances. Adeiny Hechavarria probably won’t hit much, but he will bring as good a defense as anyone this side of Andrelton Simmons.
  • Wilson Ramos is back, perhaps providing a lift to the Rays, who are already outdoing expectations.
  • Can’t see the Rays moving Chris Archer at this point. As of today, they are a contender.

Texas Rangers

  • Future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre hit his 450th home run, and is now just 31 hits shy of 3,000 as he plays through leg injuries.
  • Like to see Joey Gallo in the Home Run derby.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • The Jays, looking for a strong backup catcher forever, have interest in Miguel Montero.
  • Best wishes to Roberto Osuna, the Jays’ young closer who told reporters, including @ArdenZwelling, he feels “anxious” and “lost.” Before this came to light, naturally manager John Gibbons couldn’t say why he wasn’t using Osuna, and he got lambasted by some over-anxious critics.
  • Jason Grilli was DFA’ed and that’s bad news because Grilli is a terrific character and credit to the game. The good news is that might finally put Gary Sheffield out of the agent game.

Inside Baseball N.L. Notes

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Jon Heyman is an MLB Insider for FanRag Sports, featuring breaking news, information and his Inside Baseball column, which appears on FanRagSports.com every Thursday. Heyman also has been an insider at MLB Network since the channel launched in 2009 and is a regular contributor to WFAN in New York, where he appears weekly on the Joe and Evan Show and previously appeared on the Mike and the Mad Dog Show. He also appears on WSCR in Chicago, WBZ-FM in Boston and the Petros and Money Show on Fox in Los Angeles. Heyman comes to FanRag Sports from CBSSports.com, where he worked for five years and wrote the popular Inside Baseball notes column. Before going to CBS, Heyman worked for five years at Sports Illustrated and SI.com, where he was a senior writer and started an Inside Baseball Column. Heyman worked for 16 years at Newsday in New York, where he was the Yankees beat writer, a baseball columnist and finally a general sports columnist. Heyman started his career at the Moline (Ill.) Daily Dispatch, then moved to the Los Angeles Copley Newspapers (Torrance Daily Breeze and Santa Monica Outlook) before going to Newsday. Heyman at one time also served as a national baseball writer for The Sporting News. Heyman is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. The Santa Fe, N.M. native grew up in Cedarhurst, N.Y., on Long Island.