Notes: Don’t expect Price to stay in Detroit if not dealt
Don’t expect the Tigers to try to sign left-hander David Price long term before deciding whether to trade him — or even after he reaches free agency.
The contract that Price will command is beyond the Tigers’ comfort level, and the two sides have not engaged in serious talks, major-league sources say.
The Tigers evidently fear that they will fare no better with Price than they did with right-hander Max Scherzer, who rejected the team’s $144 million offer in the spring of 2014, then signed a seven-year, $210 million free-agent contract with the Nationals.
Price, who turns 30 on Aug. 26, has little incentive to sign an extension when he is just over three months away from free agency. He struggled with being traded from the Rays to the Tigers last July, but is now comfortable with the team and city and open to a longer relationship, sources say. His initial difficulties stemmed more from the shock of getting traded than any uneasiness with his destination.
The Tigers have yet to decide whether to trade Price, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and their other potential free agents, sources say. They trail by three games in the race for the second wild card, and could move over .500 with Price facing the Mariners on Thursday afternoon.
If the Tigers trade Price, the Dodgers, Cubs, Blue Jays and Astros would be among the teams interested, sources say.
Price’s former GM, Andrew Friedman, is now the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations. The Cubs employ Price’s former manager, Joe Maddon, as manager, and his former pitching coach at Vanderbilt, Derek Johnson, as minor-league pitching coordinator.
Any team that acquired Price would gain exclusive negotiating rights with him before he became a free agent. Price could get to know the players and team executives, and they in turn could get to know him.
The best guess is that the Tigers will keep their club together and perhaps even add to it; they are not accustomed to selling, and still in contention for a postseason berth.
Either way, Price does not figure to be wearing the old English “D” in 2016.
PUIG: SHOULD HE STAY OR SHOULD HE GO?
I’ve previously outlined why it would be difficult for the Dodgers to trade right fielder Yasiel Puig and improve their club.
Puig is just 24. He is under club control through 2019, a bargain at $4.5 million this season and $5.5 million the next. The Dodgers will need his right-handed power long term — Joc Pederson, Adrian Gonzalez and top prospect Corey Seager are all left-handed hitters.
The only way for the Dodgers to justify such a move would be if they received equivalent value — say, a pitcher similar in age, ability and service time. I’ve yet to unearth any discussions to that end, but I’m guessing that Friedman and his creative front office are exploring every possible way to improve their pitching, including combinations involving Puig.
The question remains: How good can Puig be?
He has made an effort to be a better teammate since the All-Star break, sources say. But the far more relevant concern is his performance.
Puig’s OPS in July is only .623, and he remains vulnerable to high velocity. Scherzer struck him out three times Sunday, with fastballs registering 95 and 97 mph and a slider registering 87.
Puig, in 62 at-bats this season ending on fastballs between 89 and 94 mph, has batted .403 with a .613 slugging percentage — well above the league averages of .277 and .435, according to MLB Network research.
However, in 20 at-bats ending on fastballs between 95 and 99 mph, Puig has batted .200 with a .250 slugging mark — well below the league averages of .246 and .370.
Too small a sample? Perhaps. But last season, Puig fared even worse in a larger sample. In 50 at-bats that ended between 95 and 99 mph, he batted .120 with a .220 slugging mark, while the league averaged .239 and .344.
Puig has had individual success against certain hard throwers, but one measure of a good hitter is his ability to hit tough pitching, particularly in the postseason.
The overall numbers suggest that Puig is not quite there yet.
BRAVES’ TEHERAN: AVAILABLE OR NOT?
Two rival executives said Wednesday that the Braves are open to trading right-hander Julio Teheran — “quite open,” was how one put it.
However, a source with knowledge of the Braves’ thinking said that the team is not even considering such a move, explaining that Teheran is only 24, in the second year of a club-friendly six-year, $32.4 million contract and part of a deep crop of young pitchers the club worked hard to assemble.
All of that makes sense, but it’s not unusual for clubs to deny that a player is available until the moment he is traded. The Braves did just that during the offseason with Evan Gattis and Craig Kimbrel. Teheran’s age and contract make him attractive to other clubs as well as the Braves, despite his 4.53 ERA.
Team plans are subject to change – and sometimes vary according to a player’s performance. Teheran, in fact, is reversing his regression from earlier this season — he matched his career-high with 11 strikeouts against the Dodgers on Wednesday, and has pitched to a 2.81 ERA in his last four starts.
What if the Braves could trade Teheran for multiple pitching prospects and/or a young catcher?
Surely they would consider such a deal. Surely Teheran is not untouchable.
FREE CARLOS GONZALEZ
Check out Carlos Gonzalez’s month-by-month OPS.
Gonzalez, who turns 30 on Oct. 17, is batting only .169 with a .404 OPS against left-handers. Like most Rockies, he is better at home than on the road. But why wouldn’t a team such as the Angels or Mets make a run at this guy?
CarGo isn’t exactly cheap — he is owed the balance of his $16 million salary this season, plus $37 million in 2016-17. The Rockies’ position on him is the same as it is on all of their players — they’ll listen. But as with Troy Tulowitzki, it doesn’t seem that they’re terribly motivated to act, believing that Gonzalez has value to them, too.
Fair enough, but for the zillionth time, the Rockies haven’t won with Tulo and CarGo, so why not try another approach?
AROUND THE HORN
● The Astros, like the Blue Jays, are considering every available starter; hence, their interest in Cole Hamels. If the prices on the rentals do not drop, team officials might prefer to trade their better prospects for the longer control that Hamels offers — assuming, of course, that the pitcher would approve a trade to Houston.
More likely, the Astros will end up with one of the rentals, be it Johnny Cueto or Jeff Samardzija, Scott Kazmir or (gasp!) Price. They also could seek an additional year of control with the Padres’ Andrew Cashner, or an additional two years with the Pads’ Tyson Ross.
It will be fascinating to see how Astros GM Jeff Luhnow handles his first deadline as a buyer. He worked hard to build the team’s farm system, and he probably did not expect the major-league club to be this competitive this quickly.
To what extent is he willing to part with young assets?
● Tigers left fielder Cespedes is telling friends that he wants to re-sign with the club – and that he would maintain that desire even if the Tigers traded him and he became a free agent.
Either way, Cespedes would not be tied to a draft pick. His original contract with the A’s stipulated that his team must release him rather than offer him salary arbitration. A team cannot extend a qualifying offer to such a player.
● Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa would appear a reasonable trade candidate — he has proven tough enough to succeed at Coors Field, and already is signed for 2016 at his current salary of $12.5 million.
De La Rosa, however, gained the right to veto any trade last September as a player with 10 years of major-league service, five continuous with the same club. Tulowitzki will become a 10-and-5 player on Aug. 30, 2016.
● The Mets could promote outfielder Michael Conforto using the same rationale that the Cubs did when they first summoned Kyle Schwarber, saying the move only would be temporary.
Schwarber went fourth in the 2014 draft, Conforto 10th. The Mets need not treat Conforto as a savior; they could simply return him to the minors once they make a trade.