Where might Colby Rasmus play next year?


If the rift between Tony La Russa and Colby Rasmus forces the Cardinals to part with their 24-year-old center fielder, there will surely a be a ton of interest. Rasmus is hitting .266/.352/.496 in his second big-league season, and he’s not close to reaching his ceiling. He’s also a Gold Glove-caliber defender. He should be a building block in St. Louis, but if the Cards decide to make a move, it’s not like they’ll have to settle for 10 cents on the dollar. Let’s look at some of the teams that could be interested:
Boston: The Red Sox are thinking of moving on from Jacoby Ellsbury anyway and there’s certainly no better long-term replacement available than Rasmus, though with Mike Cameron signed and Ryan Kalish showing some potential, the Red Sox wouldn’t necessarily need to bring in a center fielder to replace Ellsbury. Whether a Boston trade would work would likely come down to how the Cardinals feel about Ellsbury. They could certainly use the leadoff hitter, but Ellsbury’s stock has taken a hit as a result of his injury-ruined season. The Cardinals would probably want a top prospect to go along with him, perhaps right-hander Casey Kelly or shortstop Jose Iglesias. Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie for Rasmus could be more to Boston’s liking.
Tampa Bay: B.J. Upton has stepped it up offensively in recent weeks and hasn’t exhibited the signs of laziness that got him benched earlier this season, but if the Rays could use him and one of their young pitchers to upgrade to Rasmus, it’d be a brilliant move. Jeremy Hellickson would be off limits, but Wade Davis or Jeff Niemann could work. My guess is that the Cardinals would want top outfield prospect Desmond Jennings instead of Upton.
L.A. Dodgers: Matt Kemp for Rasmus? It’d seem to work great as a challenge trade. Kemp is one of the few players in the game with as much natural talent as Rasmus, and while he has taken a big step backwards this year, he was probably one of the NL’s top 10 players a year ago. He’s also just two years older than Rasmus. The big issue is that he’s also two years closer to free agency. Kemp will make $6.95 million next year and will be arbitration eligible in 2012 before becoming a free agent. That might be enough to scare the Cardinals off, unless maybe the Dodgers are willing to add in some young talent.
Atlanta: Just imagine Rasmus and Jason Heyward playing together for the next several years. Now move on, because it seems pretty unlikely to happen. The Braves have the pieces to tempt the Cardinals in left-hander Mike Minor, right-hander Julio Teheran and possible future closer Craig Kimbrel, but they’re going to need those guys soon with Derek Lowe looking like an iffy bet going forward and Billy Wagner set to retire.
San Diego: The Padres haven’t made big trades in recent years, but maybe they’ll be willing to roll the dice now that they seem so well set up for 2011. Rasmus would be a huge get as a long-term center fielder, and with Chase Headley and pitchers like Cory Luebke, Luke Gregerson, Wade LeBlanc and Tim Stauffer, they can part with pieces that could contribute in St. Louis immediately.
Washington: It’d be quite a coup if the Nationals could solve their center-field problems with Rasmus, but they don’t seem to match up very well with the Cardinals. They can afford to part with either Ian Desmond or Danny Espinosa, yet they need to hold on to most of their young pitching. Jordan Zimmermann and Drew Storen would be awfully attractive pieces if made available, but both should stay put. The Nationals can afford to be aggressive in free agency in an effort to beef up their offense.
L.A. Angels: Peter Bourjos is truly outstanding defensively and he’ll make the minimum these next three years, so the Angels might as well stick with him and look to upgrade elsewhere. Maybe they could build a trade package around Bourjos and their other young talent, but they just have too many weaknesses to tie up so many resources in a single upgrade at a position where they could be OK.
N.Y. Yankees: Simply because they can never be ruled out of these things. Still, if the Yankees go get themselves an outfielder this winter, I expect it will be Carl Crawford.
N.Y. Mets: The only way a deal would make much sense here is if the Cardinals fell in love with Angel Pagan and were willing to take him and some lesser talent for Rasmus. Upgrading in center won’t be a priority for the Mets this winter.

Erik Johnson likely to open 2016 in the White Sox rotation

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Starting pitcher Erik Johnson #45 of the Chicago White Sox delivers against the Colorado Rockies during Interleague play at Coors Field on April 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the White Sox 10-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from MLB.com’s Scott Merkin.

“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.

“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”

Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.

Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Major League Baseball will investigate Yasiel Puig for his role in Miami nightclub brawl

Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.

The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.

As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.

Dayan Viciedo close to signing with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons

Dayan Viciedo
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Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.

Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.

The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.


MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.