Annoyingly, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi have been doing a blog that’s not a blog for FOXSports. Rosenthal is the best in the biz at putting legitimate rumors out there, but FOX has made it more and more difficult to access his latest tidbits, with too much content that doesn’t carry over to RSS and nothing being carried over to twitter. FOX just wants people checking the website at random intervals, apparently.
Also, in many cases, there’s no way to tell what is written by Rosenthal and what comes from Morosi, who simply doesn’t have Rosenthal’s track record in this game. That’s not a knock on Morosi, but it’s a ridiculous call from FOX and it’s incredible that Rosenthal puts up with it.
OK, enough complaining. Let’s check out the latest to see what Rosenthal, or perhaps Morosi, has for us:
*The Mariners have discussed Edwin Jackson with the Tigers and also like center fielder Curtis Granderson, though talks “are not all that serious,” according to FOXSports.com’s source.
The Tigers have way too much money tied up in horrible contracts and may choose to move Jackson, who is due $5 million-$6 million in arbitration and is two years away from free agency. Granderson is less likely to go, particularly to the Mariners, who already have an excellent center fielder in Franklin Gutierrez.
The report mentions right-handers Brandon Morrow and Shawn Kelley as possibilities for the Tigers in a Jackson trade. Detroit would insist on more than those two, though. Morrow still hasn’t made it as a closer or a starter, and Kelley is probably a setup man at best.
The Tigers are in need of a closer and could well target David Aardsma instead. Aardsma likely has more trade value than Morrow and Kelley combined, and the Mariners have the potential to cobble together a pretty good bullpen without him, particularly with top prospect Phillip Aumont on the way. Aumont is another pitcher the Tigers are surely asking about in return for Jackson, though he’d be hard to pry away.
Aardsma and a second-tier prospect for Jackson may well make sense for both teams. The Tigers would get a closer who is under control for three more years and save some money in the process. The Mariners would win from a talent standpoint.
*Agent Bean Stringfellow said the Red Sox, Braves, Nationals, Astros and Orioles are five of the eight clubs currently showing interest in free agent Billy Wagner.
That’s awfully straight-forward talk from Stringfellow, but of the five teams mentioned, only the Astros come as much of a surprise. It seems unlikely that they’ll come up with the cash to bring Wagner back to Houston. Atlanta, Washington and Baltimore all have to be rather appealing to Wagner from a location standpoint. The Virginia native likely would prefer to remain on the East Coast, and he’ll have the opportunity to do so.
There’s been talk of Wagner potentially accepting arbitration and staying with the Red Sox, but it’s highly unlikely that he’ll go that route. He’ll get a fair amount of cash and a guaranteed deal as a free agent. If he accepted arbitration, perhaps he could get a higher salary on a one-year deal, but it wouldn’t be in the form of a guaranteed contract. If he struggles or gets hurt during spring training, the Red Sox could cut him and owe him just one-sixth or one-quarter (depending on the timing) of his salary. The Red Sox are also perhaps the only interested team that wouldn’t use him as a closer.
*The Nationals are “drawing strong trade interest” in 30-year-old outfielder Josh Willingham.
The Nats buried Willingham at the beginning of last season, giving him just 35 at-bats in April, but as Lastings Milledge, Austin Kearns and Elijah Dukes all faltered, he stepped up and went on to hit .260/.367/.496 with 23 homers in 427 at-bats. That’s not out of line with his career 840 OPS. The problem is that he’s a big liability in the outfield, and he has a history of back problems.
Washington’s current plan is to go with an outfield of Willingham, Nyjer Morgan and Dukes next year, with Adam Dunn at first base. The team has been trying to upgrade its defense, though, and Willingham’s departure could help in that regard.
Willingham is due about $5 million next season and is under control for two more years, so he’s an attractive piece. The Nationals won’t give him away like the Marlins did last year, but they should consider moving him if it’d bring in a legitimate young starting pitcher.
In a special for USA TODAY Sports, Mike Vorkunov details how six teams — the Mets in particular — provide an education program that helps their Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas. It seems like an obvious win-win: smarter players make smarter decisions, making them more likely to achieve their potential as athletes. That, of course, requires spending money, which is why only six teams make the investment. For the players, if baseball doesn’t work out, they are better able to support themselves in other ways.
Vorkunov lists the Pirates, Tigers, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Mariners as the other teams who provide an education program for their Dominican prospects. We learned earlier this month that the Phillies were also investing in making sure their minor leaguers eat healthy. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “few teams” supply their minor league players with healthy food options.
Juan Henderson, the head of the Mets’ Dominican academy, said, “We see the benefit of it. I gotta tell you, we’re working with a new generation of baseball players. You see in the past that players just carry a bat and a glove and a helmet on the baseball field and in the academy. Those years, I think, are going to be pretty much over. Now they also do that, but they also carry books, they also carry an iPad, they also carry a laptop.”
Kudos to the six teams for making a great decision and here’s hoping the other 24 teams follow suit.
Angels first baseman Albert Pujols cranked out a two-run home run in the third inning against Rangers starter Derek Holland, breaking a scoreless tie. It’s the ninth homer of the season for Pujols and the 569th of his career, putting him into a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for 12th on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard.
Harmon Killebrew is Pujols’ next target at 573, followed by Mark McGwire at 583 and Frank Robinson at 586.
Pujols hadn’t homered since May 13. He entered Monday night hitting a mediocre .228/.309/.395 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 188 plate appearances.
Monday has unfortunately been a day of injury news. Royals outfielder Alex Gordon is the latest to hit the 15-day disabled list, as he has been diagnosed with a fractured scaphoid bone in his right wrist. The club has recalled infielder Cheslor Cuthbert from Triple-A Omaha.
Gordon suffered the injury colliding with third baseman Mike Moustakas attempting to catch a fly ball on Sunday afternoon. He is expected to miss three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports.
Gordon was having a tough 2016 campaign and the injury only makes it worse. He’s hitting .211/.319/.331 with four home runs and 10 RBI in 166 plate appearances on the year.
The Orioles announced on Monday night that the club has traded reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves in exchange for minor league pitchers Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek. The Braves are also receiving a Competitive Balance Round B pick (76th overall) in the 2016 draft.
Matusz, 29, made his season debut on April 23 after battling a back injury since early March. It’s been a struggle, as the lefty has yielded eight runs on 11 hits and seven walks with just one strikeout in six innings. He is earning $3.9 million and can become a free agent after the season.
MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that the Braves are expected to designate Matusz for assignment. Essentially, the Braves bought the draft pick for Matusz’s remaining salary of $3 million of $3.9 million total.
Barker, 23, has been pitching at Double-A Mississippi after getting a taste of Triple-A last year. So far this season, the right-hander has a 2.00 ERA with a 40/12 K/BB ratio in 45 innings spanning eight starts and a relief appearance.
Belicek, a 23-year-old left-hander, has spent most of the year with Single-A Rome, compiling a 2.49 ERA with a 29/1 K/BB ratio in 25 1/3 innings over 11 relief appearances.