MLB Hot Stove Rumblings: Swisher on the Move?

Could Nick Swisher be on the way out in Cleveland? Will Jon Lester join a former teammate in St. Louis? What does Zach Duke's contract mean for the free agent relief market? Will the Oakland A's sign Billy Butler?

Swisher on the Block?

Just two years into his four-year-plus-a-vesting-option contract, Nick Swisher could be heading out of Cleveland. Swisher is coming off of a disastrous season with the Indians that saw him hit only .208/.278/.331 in 97 games. According to’s Ken Rosenthal, the Indians are exploring the trade market for Swisher, and could be willing to take on another “bad contract” in order to move him.

The idea of trading Swisher may be simply wishful thinking on the Indians’ part. Cleveland owes Swisher $30 million over the next two seasons and potentially another $14 million in 2017 if Swisher’s option vests. Swisher is a defensive liability at first base and in the outfield, and he’s on the wrong side of 30. On the other hand, the 2014 season was Swisher’s first with fewer than 130 games played and he could be a candidate for a rebound season if healthy in 2015.

Rosenthal floated several “bad contracts” that the Indians could target in exchange for Swisher’s, including Ryan Howard (Philadelphia), B.J. Upton (Atlanta) and Ubaldo Jimenez (Baltimore). Rosenthal emphasized that those were his own speculative suggestions, however. Swisher will turn 34 on November 25.

Lester Market Starting to take Shape

The Hot Stove has been relatively quiet as it relates to the top free agent starters on the market thus far, but that could be changing soon. Former MLB GM and current radio host Jim Bowden tweeted on Tuesday that the St. Louis Cardinals are pursuing left-hander starter Jon Lester. Lester had previously been linked to the Chicago Cubs and to his original franchise, the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox are still thought to be the favorites for Lester’s services.

Lester split his 2014 season between the Red Sox and the Oakland A’s, moving to the A’s in a deadline deal. Lester had a 2.46 ERA in 219.2 innings, striking out more than a batter an inning and walking just 48. Lester is reportedly looking for a deal in the six- or seven-year range.

Lester is also reportedly set to meet with the Braves later this week. The southpaw lives in the Atlanta area, although it isn’t clear whether the Braves will be looking to add salary at the level Lester will command. Atlanta cleared roughly $9 million in salary room on Monday when they traded outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden for starter Shelby Miller and minor league prospect Tyrell Jenkins.

Last week, publisher Bill Shanks discussed the possibility of Lester joining the Atlanta rotation.

The Cardinals don’t have an obvious need for a starter with Adam Wainwright, John Lackey, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, Marco Gonzales and Carlos Martinez all set to return. However, both Wainwright and Wacha had injury issues in 2014 and Martinez was a weapon for the Cardinals out of their bullpen. Signing Lester would give the Cardinals the depth to trade one of their younger starters to fill other needs, as well.

There hasn’t been much news about the free agent markets for fellow top starters Max Scherzer and James Shields, although Rosenthal tweeted late Tuesday that the Marlins are interested in signing Shields. The Marlins will be announcing their $325 million Giancarlo Stanton deal on Wednesday. A Shields deal would likely cost them another $150-200 million. The Arizona Diamondbacks have also reportedly expressed some interest in Shields. It isn’t known whether the D-Backs have similar interest in Scherzer, who they drafted in 2006 and traded to Detroit in December 2009.

White Sox Sign Duke

The Chicago White Sox signed free agent left-hander Zach Duke on Tuesday to a three-year, $15 million deal. The signing should help the White Sox improve a bullpen that finished with the second-highest ERA in the American League behind the Houston Astros. For more on the deal, click here.

Duke’s signing is good news for free agent relievers everywhere, but especially Andrew Miller and Luke Gregerson. Duke’s contract is a strong indication that even set-up men are going to receive long-term deals worth millions per year. Both Miller and Gregerson have a longer history of success as set-up men than Duke. Miller, the top left-handed reliever on the market, might receive an opportunity to close, but even if he signs as a set-up man, he should be looking at a multi-year deal worth at least $8 million a season.

Gregerson, the top right-handed set-up man on the market, should also receive a contract offer worth more than what Duke received from Chicago. David Robertson, the New York Yankees’ closer this season, is the top reliever on the market, and he is likely to receive a multi-year deal worth more than $10 million per season.

Sandoval Meets with Boston; has Giants Offer?

The Panda is visiting the Boston Red Sox this week, but Pablo Sandoval may already have a lucrative offer from his current team in his back pocket. reports that according to a source, the Giants have offered their star third baseman a five-year, $90 million deal to stay with the club. Sandoval hit .279/.324/.415 for the Giants during the regular season and dominated in the post-season as the Giants won the World Series.

Sandoval is one of the younger free agents on the market, having turned 28 in August. Despite issues with his weight, Sandoval has been durable throughout most of his career, and he played in 157 games last season. He is an excellent defensive third baseman and, as a switch-hitter who has opposite-field power from the left-side, could thrive in the smaller dimensions of Fenway Park. Sandoval’s career-high in homeruns (25) came in his first full professional season in 2009.

The “loser” of the Giants-Red Sox race for Sandoval could turn their attentions to free agent Hanley Ramirez for the third base position. However, the Giants are less likely to open their pocketbooks for a free agent like Ramirez who has never played for them before. Ironically, should the Red Sox sign Sandoval, the Giants could try to pry away Will Middlebrooks from Boston to take Sandoval’s spot.

Anderson a Fit for Houston?

Injuries have robbed Brett Anderson of much of his last four seasons, but the left-hander is still generating interest on the free agent market. Houston Chronicle beat writer Evan Drellich tweeted that the Astros are interested in Anderson, who makes his off-season home in Houston.

Anderson was one of the top young lefties in the American League when he injured his elbow while pitching with the Oakland A’s in 2011. He had Tommy John surgery midway through that season and returned to Oakland for the final two months of the 2012 season. Anderson helped the A’s reach the post-season that year by posting a 2.57 ERA in six starts, although an oblique injury cost him the final three weeks of the season. Anderson returned in time to win Game Three of the ALDS that year.

In 2013, Anderson began the year in the A’s rotation, but a foot injury sustained in Houston early in the season knocked him onto the DL. He returned in a long relief role later in the year but never found his rhythm. He finished the year with a disappointing 6.04 ERA in 44.2 innings. The A’s traded Anderson to the Colorado Rockies last off-season in exchange for Drew Pomeranz and Chris Jensen.

This season, Anderson pitched well when healthy for Colorado. Unfortunately, he wasn’t healthy very often. A broken finger and then a back injury limited Anderson to just eight starts and 43.1 innings pitched. He had a 2.91 ERA over that span.

Several teams, including the Astros, are reportedly interested in Anderson’s services, looking at him as a potential “lightening-in-a-bottle” kind of signing. It isn’t clear whether Anderson would be used as a starter or a reliever next season. He hasn’t pitched more than 45 innings in any season since 2011 and could be on an innings-limit even if he remains healthy next year. A one-year deal with a more lucrative second-year mutual option may be the most logical contract structure for Anderson, who will turn 27 next February.

Report: A's Closing in on Signing Butler

Late Tuesday, Robert Murray tweeted that the Oakland A's had come to terms on a three-year deal with free agent Billy Butler worth $30 million. A's beat writer Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle had not yet confirmed the deal as final, but did confirm that the A's and Butler's camp were engaged in serious negotiations.

If the A's sign Butler to a multi-year deal, it will be a bit of surprise, especially because the 28-year-old has declined offensively each of the past three seasons. However, Butler does fill the A's need for a right-handed, middle-of-the-order hitter to replace Yoenis Cespedes. Butler hit .271/.323/.379 with nine homers in 151 games for the Royals this season. He had two hits and two RBI in the Royals Wild Card win over the A's and hit .262 overall in the post-season.

Butler is two years removed from his best season. In 2012, he won the Silver Slugger and was named to the All-Star team. He hit 29 homers and batted .313 with a .373 OBP that season. Butler has a career .359 OBP. He is mostly a DH these days, although he can play first base in a pinch. Throughout his career, Butler has been a much better hitter versus left-handed pitching (912 OPS), although he has hit decently versus right-handers (771 OPS). In 2014, Butler was significantly better versus southpaws (847 OPS vs. 653 OPS). The A's have successfully employed a platoon system since manager Bob Melvin took the helm midway through the 2011 season. It's hard to imagine the A's paying Butler seven figures to play only versus lefties, but he could sit against tough righties under Melvin's system.

Other News and Notes

-- The Detroit Tigers picked up the 2015 option on catcher Alex Avila. For more information on the move, click here.

-- The Oakland A’s claimed OF Alex Hassan off waivers from the Boston Red Sox.

-- The Los Angeles Dodgers officially announced the hirings of David Finley, Galen Carr, Jeff Pickler and Jack Cressend to their revamped front office. Finley joins the Dodgers from Boston and will be the VP of Amateur and International Scouting. Carr also comes from Boston and will be the new Director of Player Personnel. Pickler, who comes to LA from San Diego, is a special assistant of Pro Scouting and Player Development, and Cressend is the organization’s new pitching crosschecker. He joins the Dodgers from Tampa Bay.

-- On the coaching front, the Seattle Mariners announced that Pat Listach would manage their Triple-A Tacoma squad in 2015. The Los Angeles Angels named Dave Anderson their Triple-A manager for 2015.

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