Sunday Baseball Notes

Significant deals still possible through waivers

Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon could get through waivers, in part because of the money he’s still owed.
Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images
Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon could get through waivers, in part because of the money he’s still owed.

The second trading period began on Friday, the one in which waivers have to be asked on players whom teams want to move.

A number of players will go on waivers this month. Some will get called back, some will be assigned to the team claiming them, others will be traded, and those who pass through waivers can be moved at any time.

There could be a big market for the Phillies. It had better be or they’ll be stuck with a bunch of high-priced veterans who will really handicap the team.


Lefthander Cliff Lee would likely have been a centerpiece acquisition during this time frame because he might have passed waivers given the high amount of money (more than $50 million) remaining on his contract, but he might be done for the year with elbow problems.

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Lee’s situation provides more fodder as to why pitchers over 30 years old are risky. Lee has what pitching coaches believe are near-perfect pitching mechanics, yet the wear and tear over time has taken its toll.

The Phillies have been a little too unrealistic — according to a few general managers who have dealt with them — concerning the value of Lee and their other aging stars.

Surely Jonathan Papelbon could help a contending team given the fine season he’s had, but his contract is problematic. He is owed the remainder of his $13 million salary this season, $13 million next season, and a vesting option for 2016, also at $13 million.

The Phillies are probably willing to eat some of that money if they can get a good return. Papelbon could pass through waivers, given the size of his contract.


Veteran righthander A.J. Burnett, outfielder Marlon Byrd, and second baseman Chase Utley are among the Phillies who should have been traded for prospects. But the Phillies never felt they were getting enough back in return. Burnett could definitely be a player who gets through waivers given his funky contract, which has a $15 million mutual option.

The Rangers were unable to move outfielder Alex Rios, a righthanded bat who has had a good season (four homers, a league-leading eight triples, 22 doubles, and 43 RBIs through Friday), but has lacked power. He’s only hit 20 or more homers three times in 11 seasons.

“I don’t think Alex is what you might call a tremendous home run hitter,’’ Texas manager Ron Washington told reporters last week. “He’ll hit you 12, 15, 18. Alex is a gap-to-gap guy. His power numbers have been down this year.’’

Said Rios: “If I focus more on home runs, a couple of things would change. That’s one thing I don’t want to mess with. I want to hit homers, but I want to be a good hitter at the same time. For me, consistency is the key.’’

The Twins held on to Josh Willingham, but they might try to get him through waivers and then make a deal. Really there weren’t many bats to be traded other than the two acquired by the Red Sox — Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig.


The Yankees were able to acquire former All-Star infielder Martin Prado, a fine player who has great positional flexibility and is a model citizen who brings great enthusiasm. And they got Stephen Drew, a pull hitter for Yankee Stadium, a destination that made sense for him all along.

The Pirates may have provided their fans the biggest disappointment of all. In hot contention in the NL Central Division, they watched St. Louis add Justin Masterson and John Lackey, but were unwilling to give up what Boston was seeking for Jon Lester — likely prospect Josh Bell.

The Pirates also struck out on adding a reliever and now will have to see if they can pick off help during the waiver period.

The Royals never did come up with a bat and then lost Eric Hosmer until September with a non-displaced fracture of the third metacarpal in his right hand. They have been in on relievers, an area they were already pretty strong in, but one of their problems has been offense and they have failed to address it.

The Blue Jays continue to, as one executive said, “kick the tires on just about everything but never seem to do anything.” There are financial constraints, apparently with ownership. The other problem is they don’t want to give up either Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez, two very good-looking young pitchers.

The Blue Jays could stand to pick up both a bullpen piece and a starter.

So who can clear waivers and who can’t? Think older players with big contracts. A player such as Shane Victorino, for example, but he’s heading back to the disabled list in a season of physical problems. Victorino and Utley could be two interesting trade possibilities.

White Sox lefthander John Danks wasn’t traded at the deadline, but could pass through because there’s $28.5 million remaining on his contract for 2015 and 2016. White Sox slugger Adam Dunn and the prorated remainder of his $15 million deal could also be in play.

The Cubs would love to move righthander Edwin Jackson, and who knows, with teams still looking for starting pitching they might find a taker. Jackson will make $11 million per year in 2015 and 2016.

Other players who could clear might be Mets righthander Bartolo Colon, Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau, Phillies lefthanded reliever Antonio Bastardo, and Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill.

The Red Sox, who have one of the worst records in the majors, could be in position to make claims on players — probably pitchers — they think could help them next year.

The Red Sox and Dodgers made one of the biggest waiver deals in 2012 when Boston sent Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Jerry Sands, Ivan DeJesus, and James Loney.


Athletics, Tigers boast five-star rotations

The A’s and Tigers have built super pitching staffs: Jon Lester vs. Max Scherzer; JeffSamardzija vs. David Price; Sonny Gray vs. Justin Verlander; Scott Kazmir vs. Anibal Sanchez; Jason Hammel vs. Rick Porcello.

Both lineups are pretty potent. But what it all might come down in a playoff series is the bullpen, and that’s where the A’s have a big advantage. While the Tigers addressed some of their bullpen concerns with Joakim Soria, his start with the Tigers hasn’t been all that good.

Combined with Joe Nathan, the Tigers need to land one more top reliever. The Tigers were one of about 14 teams calling on Red Sox lefthander Andrew Miller and for a while it appeared as if they were close to acquiring him. Miller was dealt to the Orioles for lefthanded pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez.

“Miller would have given them that late-inning shutdown, overpowering guy,” said one American League general manager. “They needed that, especially from the left side.

“Miller’s overpowering, so he can pitch to righties and lefties. I don’t know if the Tigers were unable to give up the equivalent of Eduardo Rodriguez, but if they held back on that type of prospect they might have missed the boat.’’

The A’s can finish a team off with Luke Gregerson, Ryan Cook, and Sean Doolittle. The Tigers have Soria, Al Alburquerque and Nathan. Both starting staffs will likely be able to go deep into games. The fifth starters might even be used out of the bullpen. So it comes down to the final three relievers and matchups, and it just appears the A’s have the most dominant bullpen.

The Tigers have had Oakland’s number, but A’s general manager BillyBeane went all out to improve his pitching — though he might have left himself open for criticism by doing away with his middle-of-the-order hitter in Yoenis Cespedes.

Apropos of nothing

1. According to a major league source, the Yankees tried to engage the Red Sox on Jon Lester/John Lackey but were told Sox ownership wouldn’t allow it. The Yankees were able to take on Stephen Drew, however, since he was not perceived as a major player. Drew, a free agent at season’s end, could be in line to replace Derek Jeter next season if his hitting comes around.

2. The A’s are primed to have significant playoff games at home. Will the toilets flush at their ballpark?

3. Nice under-the-radar trade by the Brewers, acquiring two-time Gold Glove outfielder Gerardo Parra from Arizona.

4. Since 2000, the Red Sox have made the most trade-deadline deals (43). San Diego has made 42, and the Cubs 40. The Twins have made the fewest at 17.

5. The Dodgers were runners-up for Andrew Miller.

6. Can’t remember the last time a contending team traded its cleanup hitter (Yoenis Cespedes) at the trade deadline.

7. The Nationals’ bullpen, which was one of the best in baseball, is starting to show some wear and tear. Two weeks ago, Nationals’ relievers had a 2.71 ERA, second best in the majors. But over their last 12 games (entering Friday), they have given up 21 runs (18 earned) and 40 hits in 32 innings, seeing their season ERA rise to 2.95, now fourth in the league. Overuse? Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard, and Drew Storen all needed days off last week to rest their arms.

8. Felix Hernandez has set the record for most consecutive starts of seven or more innings allowing two or fewer runs — 14. He overtook Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, who had 13.

9. The A’s were 63-35 with Cespedes in the lineup this year, and 228-131 with him in the lineup in his two-plus seasons in Oakland.

Updates on nine

1. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Dodgers — The Dodgers and Ramirez haven’t been able to work out a contract extension yet, and if he doesn’t re-sign in Los Angeles, then where? Clearly Ramirez will have to move to third base, unless the Yankees get involved and he stays at shortstop to replace Derek Jeter. Ramirez remains a very talented player who can go on tremendous hot streaks at the plate.

2. Melky Cabrera, OF, Blue Jays — While it appears the Jays will let outfielder Colby Rasmus go in free agency, will they go all out to retain Cabrera, who has had an excellent season? Cabrera, a free agent and two years removed from his PED suspension, is sitting pretty as one of the few impact outfielders on the free agent market. Cabrera, who turns 30 this month, could easily garner a four- or five-year deal. The Jays continue to have problems with Rogers Communications, which has an enormous amount of money. Rogers has poured a lot of money into its hockey team — the Maple Leafs — and has left the Jays as a secondary concern.

3. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins — It seems as if the Red Sox and other teams have finally come to the realization that Stanton isn’t going anywhere. The theme has been repeated constantly by GM Dan Jennings, who really believes that owner Jeffrey Loria will step up and get a deal done even if it’s a Robinson Cano/Albert Pujols type of contract. That could be a reason why the Red Sox obtained Cespedes, who obviously isn’t as good but has the power and athleticism to improve. This offseason will be telling on the Stanton front. He has a home in Miami and feels the organization is going in the right direction, so, for now, he seems to be all in on staying with the Marlins.

4. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies — You certainly understand Rockies ownership’s trepidation in dealing him. He’s a great player with star appeal, but the right baseball decision would be to move him for a package of younger players, especially pitchers. Tulowitzki said at the All-Star break that he’d likely speak to ownership after the season is over. He wants to see if there’s a commitment to winning because the losing appears to be getting to him.

5. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Red Sox — Acquired from the Orioles in the Andrew Miller deal, Rodriguez hasn’t had the best of years (3-7 with a 4.79 ERA) for Double A Bowie. Yet, as one major league pitching guru pointed out, “When he gets it all together, he can be a top-of-the-rotation starter. He sits at 93-94 m.p.h., tops out at 97. Good slider, changeup. He’s only 21.” Rodriguez has had a knee injury and has been a bit distracted off the field — he’s a newlywed with a new baby. Some teams had him second, ahead of Dylan Bundy on the Orioles’ depth chart and behind Kevin Gausman.

6. Matt Kemp, LF, Dodgers — The Red Sox may have been scouting Kemp, but their dialogue with the Dodgers was virtually nonexistent despite the constant rumors about Kemp to Boston. The Dodgers were never going to deal Kemp, who has been one of their best righthanded hitters. And the Dodgers were never really in on Jon Lester or John Lackey but really wanted Miller and came close to giving Boston one of their best pitching prospects for him.

7. Lester, LHP, A’s — Will the Cubs be all ears on him this offseason? That seems to be the buzz around baseball. Lester wasn’t drafted by Jason McLeod, who is now an assistant GM with the Cubs, but by current Detroit scouting director David Chadd. But Theo Epstein nurtured Lester through his tough times, including cancer. Jed Hoyer was also there, as was McLeod. At some point, the Cubs are going to rebuild their pitching staff. Who better than Lester to bring in?

8. Kennys Vargas, 1B, Twins — The Twins are thinking that the 6-5, 270-pounder reminds them of a young David Ortiz, whom the Twins released, allowing him to go to the Red Sox. Vargas, who is a switch-hitter, was called up from Double A New Britain, where he hit .281 with 17 homers and 63 RBIs. With Joe Mauer on the DL, Vargas will play first for a while, but he would appear to have DH in his future.

9. Henry Owens, LHP, Pawtucket — With the Red Sox’ top pitching prospect now in Triple A and primed to get two months’ worth of starts, if he pitches well Owens could be in competition for a starting role on the major league team next season. Said one major league scout who watched many of Owens’s starts, “There’s no reason to hold him back or not rush him. If he has success at Triple A, he’s going to make an impact at the major league level. Like any young pitcher, you have to be patient. But he has a great feel for pitching.”

Extra Innings

From the Bill Chuck files: “David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, and the now-departed A.J.Pierzynski lead Boston with nine inning-ending double plays this season.” Also, “Stanton leads the majors with 51 inning-ending whiffs this season.” . . . Happy birthday Kevin Morton (46).

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe. com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.