Sources told the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham that the Red Sox are considering trading Jacoby Ellsbury and re-signing Cody Ross to play right field, with the newly signed Shane Victorino taking over in center field.
Ellsbury, the runner-up for AL MVP honors in 2011, is a free agent after the season and is considered unlikely to sign a long-term extension before he gets to test the waters.
Ross would be a candidate to receive the sixth two- or three-year deal handed out by the Red Sox this winter. They’ve added Victorino ($39 million for 3 years), Mike Napoli ($39 million for 3 years), Jonny Gomes ($10 million for 2 years) and David Ross ($6.4 million for 2 years), plus they’ve retained David Ortiz ($26 million-$30 million for two years). Ross is believed to be seeking about $24 million for three years.
If the Red Sox actually go that route, their odds of returning to contention in the AL East in 2013 would seem to grow even longer. Ellsbury has been injured and ineffective two of the last three years, but he was flat-out awesome in 2011, hitting .321/.376/.552 with 32 homers and 105 RBI in 660 at-bats, and it’s not as though he has any chronic physical problems. Plus, he probably wouldn’t bring all that much in return since he has just the one year left on his deal.
A Red Sox lineup with Ross replacing Ellsbury would also seem to be very susceptible to right-handed pitching:
CF Shane Victorino – S
2B Dustin Pedroia – R
DH David Ortiz – L
1B Mike Napoli – R
RF Cody Ross – R
LF Jonny Gomes – R
3B Will Middlebrooks – R
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia – S
SS Jose Iglesias – N/A
Victorino has always been better against lefties, and he slipped all of the way to .230/.295/.332 against righties last season. Ross and Gomes are also far better against lefties, though Gomes could at least be platooned with Daniel Nava. Napoli, the other new addition, did hit righties better than lefties last year, and he has a solid .253/.347/.498 line against them in his career (.273/.381/.529 against lefties).
New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept pretty busy in his short time on the job and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that free agent outfielder Nori Aoki could be his next target. The club recently pursued a trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but the asking price has them looking at alternatives.
Aoki, who turns 34 in January, has hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage over four seasons since coming over from Japan. He was having a fine season with the Giants this year prior to being shut down in September with lingering concussion symptoms.
The Giants decided against picking up Aoki’s $5.5 million club option for 2016 earlier this month, but he should still do pretty well for himself this winter assuming he’s feeling good.
It was reported Sunday that free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto had turned down a six-year, $120 million contract from the Diamondbacks. He’s hoping to land a bigger deal this winter and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has heard some chatter about what he’s looking for.
Jordan Zimmermann finalized a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers today, which works out to $22 million per season. Arizona’s offer to Cueto checked in at $20 million per season. A six-year offer to Cueto at the same AAV (average annual value) as Zimmermann would put him at $132 million, which is still a little shy of the figure stated by Crasnick. Of course, Cueto owns a 2.71 ERA (145 ERA+) over the last five seasons compared to a 3.14 ERA (123 ERA+) by Zimmermann during that same timespan, so there’s a case to be made that he should get more. Still, he’s the clear No. 3 starter on the market behind David Price and Zack Greinke.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the other teams who have interest in Cueto. One variable in his favor is that he is not attached to draft pick compensation, as he was traded from the Reds to the Royals during the 2015 season.
The rebuilding Braves have already been active on the trade market and they might not be done, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that right-hander Shelby Miller has been a very popular name. In fact, around 20 teams have checked in.
Nothing is considered close and the Braves have set a very high asking price, mostly centered around offense. They asked for right-hander Luis Severino in talks with the Yankees and would expect outfielder Marcell Ozuna among other pieces from the Marlins. The Diamondbacks and Giants are among the other interested clubs.
Miller is under team control through 2018, so there’s not necessarily a sense of urgency to move him, but anything is possible with the way the Braves are doing things right now. The 25-year-old is coming off a year where he went 6-17, but that was about really rotten luck more than anything else, as he had a fine 3.02 ERA and 171/73 K/BB ratio over 205 1/3 innings. The Braves gave him the worst run support of any starter in the majors.
Jenrry Mejia appeared in just seven games this past season due to a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Mets are expected to tender him a contract for 2016.
While the Mets were vocal about their disappointment in Mejia’s actions, it makes sense to keep him around as an option. Had he played a full season in 2015, he would have earned $2.595 million. He’s arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and figures to receive a contract similar to his 2015 figure, but he’ll only be paid for the games he plays. He still has 100 games to serve on his second PED suspension, which means that he’ll only be paid for 62 games in 2016. This likely puts his salary closer to $1 million, which is a small price to pay for someone who could prove useful during the second half and beyond. He also won’t count toward the team’s 40-man roster until he’s active.
Mejia, who turned 26 in October, owns a 3.68 ERA in the majors and saved 28 games for the Mets in 2014. He’s currently pitching as a starter in the Dominican Winter League.