Inside the Clubhouse looks at the Brewers’ hunt for a Josh Hader deal, the Blue Jays looking for another rotation arm and more.
The Milwaukee Brewers continue to listen to trade inquiries for reliever Josh Hader.
Hader, 27, has posted a 2.54 ERA with 380 strikeouts in 223.2 innings pitched in four seasons in Milwaukee. He is coming off a career-worst season in which he finished with a 3.79 ERA, but without a four-run appearance against the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 12, he would have finished with a 2.00 ERA in 18 innings. And the Brewers are seeking an “overwhelming” haul for a player they believe is the best left-handed reliever in baseball.
The asking price for Hader, according to sources familiar with the situation, is a combination of both major-league players and prospects.
“We won’t be in on that,” one American League executive said.
“Don’t waste your time,” another executive said.
The Brewers do not need to trade Hader — or at least they shouldn’t need to, from a financial perspective this year. Their 2021 payroll is estimated to end up at $85 million, according to FanGraphs’ RosterResource.com, which would be $12 million less than their non-prorated 2020 payroll. Hader and his $6.675 million salary should not be prohibitive in 2021. But Hader, who is arbitration-eligible for two more seasons, may eventually command a salary that will be out of the Brewers’ comfort zone.
The odds remain heavily in favor that Hader returns for a fifth season in Milwaukee. But as long as the Brewers are listening, the door is open for another team to make an offer that they can’t refuse.
Angels looking for another catcher
Even after signing Kurt Suzuki to a one-year deal, the Los Angeles Angels have explored additional upgrades at catcher. Among the players of interest include the Chicago Cubs’ Willson Contreras and Boston Red Sox’s Christian Vasquez, according to league sources.
The Angels’ interest in Contreras, first reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, would reunite the 28-year-old with longtime manager Joe Maddon. The Cubs have held conversations with multiple teams about Contreras, including the Miami Marlins, but talks have not gained traction.
The asking price for Vasquez, 30, is said to be very high and there are doubts whether the Red Sox will entertain trading him. He is an above-average defender with an emerging offensive game, hitting 30 home runs in his last 185 games and slashing .283/.344/.457 last season.
Both would be strong fits for the Angels, with Rosenthal reporting on Jan. 6 that catcher Max Stassi may not be ready to start the season as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. But even when he is healthy, Stassi may not be the long-term answer for the Angels considering that he had a .611 career OPS before finishing with an .866 OPS in 105 plate appearances last season. The only other catcher currently on the 40-man roster, Anthony Bemboom, has a .543 OPS in 116 career big league plate appearances.
The Angels, however, are happy with Suzuki and Stassi and believe that adding Contreras or Vasquez would be a luxury and not a necessity. Their priorities, of course, should focus on addressing a pitching staff that has consistently underperformed for a half-decade. They have already added Jose Quintana and strongly pursued Brad Hand, though their current targets are unclear with Trevor Bauer reportedly no longer under consideration.
Blue Jays seeking more pitching
The Toronto Blue Jays are not done.
Even after adding George Springer, Marcus Semien, Kirby Yates, Tyler Chatwood and Steven Matz, the Blue Jays remain on the hunt for a high-leverage reliever or a starting pitcher to slot behind Hyun-Jin Ryu, according to league sources.
Among the players in the mix, sources said, include free-agent reliever Trevor Rosenthal. The 30-year-old had a strong bounce-back season with the Kansas City Royals and San Diego Padres, finishing with a 1.90 ERA in 23.2 innings pitched. His 98-mph average fastball is the best among available pitchers and with Liam Hendriks off the board, Rosenthal is arguably the best remaining reliever.
The Blue Jays aggressively pursued Masahiro Tanaka, as first reported by Jon Heyman of MLB Network, but he returned to Japan to play with the Rakuten Eagles. They are on the periphery in the Trevor Bauer sweepstakes and the remaining options on the free-agent market are scarce, so they have kicked the tires on starting pitchers via trade.
Before acquiring Matz, general manager Ross Atkins acknowledged to reporters that “if we were to acquire two major pieces, it would require likely subtracting from our roster.” Two players drawing interest from rival teams, sources said, are outfielder Randall Grichuk and outfielder/infielder Lourdes Gurriel, who became expendable after signing Springer.
Team president Mark Shapiro told reporters that the “bulk of our heavy lifting is done,” but said there is flexibility for additional spending. They will keep all options open, and have not ruled out additions at any position, but pitching is their primary focus.
Two pitchers throwing bullpens for teams on Friday
Free-agent pitchers Jake Arrieta and Spencer Patton are throwing bullpens for interested teams on Jan. 29 in Austin, Texas. There are expected to be a significant amount of scouts and high-ranking team executives in attendance.
Arrieta, 35, has posted an ERA of at least 4.65 in each of the last two seasons. He is five years removed from winning the Cy Young Award and is hoping to show he can still be an effective major-league starter. While his best days are clearly behind him, he should be able to find a deal that allows him a chance to compete for a spot in a rotation.
Patton, 32, threw a bullpen for scouts and executives on Jan. 26 and threw “very well,” one scout in attendance said. He featured an improved changeup as his third offering and could present an intriguing option for teams needing depth in the rotation and/or bullpen.
“It will be difficult for pitchers to go from a shortened 60-game schedule to a full 162-game slate (or close to full slate) this season,” one team executive said recently. “Arms will not be built up and strong enough to handle the strain of a longer season this year.”
Patton, in contrast, is coming off a 120-game season in Japan and led the NPB in appearances (57) by any pitcher. He is drawing interest from multiple teams, including the Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants, Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers. He will throw an additional bullpen on Feb. 2.
Around the Horn:
- Shortstops Andrelton Simmons and Marcus Semien inking one-year deals means they will join a loaded free-agent shortstop class in 2021 that features Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Javier Baez and Trevor Story. It is possible, perhaps even likely, that Lindor will sign an extension with the Mets before then. The Astros recently indicated that they have begun extension talks with Correa, though there is no word on the likelihood of a deal.
- Ex-New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen announced that he is joining Roc Nation as COO. The move is interesting on many levels, perhaps none more so than that he will have a hand in representing the two players who may have defined his Mets tenure the most: Robinson Cano and Yoenis Cespedes.
- Texas Rangers first baseman Ronald Guzman is now represented by Bryce Dixon of Primo Sports Group.