Jorge AlfaroBrace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty ImagesJorge Alfaro was one of the key prospects acquired by the Phillies in the Cole Hamels deal.

Jorge Alfaro is off to a torrid start at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but the Philadelphia Phillies are in no rush to promote the top catcher prospect, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com.

The 23-year-old Alfaro is hitting .354 with three homers, 10 RBI and a .942 OPS in 16 games for the IronPigs, fueling speculation that he could be moving closer to a promotion.

“It might be a while before Alfaro is promoted, even if he keeps hitting well,” writes Zolecki. “Alfaro is in his final option year, meaning beginning next season, the Phillies cannot send him to the minor leagues without risking losing him.”

Alfaro, one of the key players acquired in the deal for Cole Hamels, could be in line for a September call-up when rosters expand, but could very well stay in the minors barring an injury to Cameron Rupp or Andrew Knapp.

ESPN’s Keith Law lists Alfaro 45th on his updated list of top 100 prospects.

- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Giants, Brewers discussed Ryan Braun deal?

April, 27, 2017
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Ryan BraunBenny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsRyan Braun is off to another fast start with six homers and a .971 OPS this month.

The San Francisco Giants had “conversations” with the Milwaukee Brewers about Ryan Braun, but Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News is not at all optimistic about a deal for the star left fielder.

“Milwaukee wanted salary relief in addition to some pretty good players going the other way. The fact he is still there tells you they haven’t changed their demands,” Baggarly responded in a mailbag column.

The Brewers are off to a respectable 12-11 start, giving their front office added incentive to see how the season goes.

Left field has been a black hole for the Giants, who have a .105 batting average and a .171 slugging percentage at the position -- both major league lows.

The Brewers nearly traded Braun last summer and have a financial incentive to complete a deal. The six-time All-Star has at least four years and $76 million left on his contract, including this season, and any transaction would involve the acquiring club absorbing a large chunk of salary.

The 33-year-old Braun enjoyed a bounce-back season in 2016 with 30 homers and has kept up the pace with six homers and a .971 OPS this April.

Earlier this month, it was reported that the Brewers have kept in contact with the Los Angeles Dodgers about a possible blockbuster deal.

-- Doug Mittler

Jurickson ProfarJoe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsJurickson Profar, hitting just .135, lost his part of a left field platoon on Tuesday.

Once an elite prospect, Jurickson Profar now faces an uphill battle to be anything more than a bench player for the Texas Rangers.

Manager Jeff Banister said Tuesday that Ryan Rua now will get the majority of playing time in left field. The odd man out is Profar, who has a paltry .135/.289/.135 slash line in 37 at-bats. Rua entered Tuesday hitting just .115, but the Rangers are hoping he will benefit from extra playing time.

Recent history is not on the side of Profar, a career .229 hitter who has been tried at several positions.

“It isn't the first time Banister has moved a struggling regular out of his early-season lineup. In each of the previous two occasions, the original starter never really got his job back,” writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. “Leonys Martin in 2015 and Delino DeShields last year were rarely heard from after losing their starting jobs early in the season.”

The options could dwindle further when Adrian Beltre comes off the disabled list and the Rangers need to find a spot for Joey Gallo, who has filled in at third base and hit seven homers.

As the summer approaches, it remains to be seen if the Rangers would be willing to trade Profar, who is still just 24 years old and might benefit from a change of scenery.

- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Ryan Schimpf an outfield option in San Diego?

April, 26, 2017
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Ryan SchimpfAP Photo/Ryan KangRyan Schimpf is hitting just .102 this season with 25 strikeouts in 59 at-bats.

San Diego Padres infielder Ryan Schimpf could be part of a left field platoon as he tries to break out of a prolonged slump, reports Dennis Lin of the Union-Tribune.

The Padres on Tuesday promoted infielder Cory Spangenberg, who was hitting .348 with a .403 on-base percentage and a home run at Triple-A El Paso. Spangenberg, who missed nearly all of last season due to quad injuries, gives manager Andy Green another option at third base.

The Padres have tried to be patient with Opening Day third baseman Schimpf, who belted 20 homers in just 89 games last season but is hitting a mere .102 with 25 strikeouts in 59 at-bats.

Green wants to play Spangenberg on a “consistent basis." Lin says one option would be use Spangenberg or Schimpf in left field, where Jabari Blash started on Tuesday against Arizona. The primary left fielder has been Travis Jankowski, who is hitting .160 and landed on the disabled list this week.

Schimpf, who was benched Tuesday, started one game in left field last season. Spangenberg has seem limited outfield duty in his big league career.

- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Modified role for Edwin Diaz in Seattle?

April, 25, 2017
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Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesEdwin Diaz has pitched just 6 2/3 innings for the Mariners in the first three weeks of the season.

Edwin Diaz technically remains the closer for the Seattle Mariners, even though the 23-year-old right-hander may now have a different role.

Manager Scott Servais wants to get Diaz more work, and that includes using him in some high-leverage situations earlier in the game.

"He needs to pitch," Servais tells Bob Dutton of the News Tribune. "I don’t just want to stick him down there and wait because he’s the closer. He is so young. It may depend on where we are in the game. He hasn’t pitched much lately at all. He might go five outs. He might go six outs.”

Diaz has pitched just six times this season for a grand total of 6 2/3 innings and has labored to a 5.40 ERA. With the Mariners off to an 8-12 start, Diaz has had just three save opportunities.

The Mariners' plan could result in some ninth-inning opportunities for set-up reliever Nick Vincent, who had three saves last season.

Seattle would be the latest team to use a key reliever outside of the traditional ninth-inning role, a practice the Cleveland Indians used effectively last October with Andrew Miller.

-- Doug Mittler

Archie BradleyAP Photo/Chris SzagolaAfter struggling as a starter, Archie Bradley has a 0.79 ERA in 11 1/3 relief innings.

Archie Bradley has found a new lease on life pitching out of the bullpen, but the Arizona Diamondbacks might be returning the right-hander to the rotation.

The D-backs are bracing themselves for some potentially bad news regarding Shelby Miller, who was placed on the disabled list Monday with right shoulder inflammation. Off to a strong start after a disastrous 2016 season, Miller intends to get a second opinion on his elbow Tuesday.

“Judging by their evasiveness and the general mood of the day, the news is almost certain to be bad,” writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.

The D-backs will need to fill Miller’s spot in the rotation, possibly for an extended period, and Piecoro says "the most likely candidate" would be Bradley, a former starter who owns a 0.79 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP in 11 1/3 relief innings. The 2011 first-round pick made 34 starts over the past two seasons with a 5.18 ERA.

Manager Torey Lovullo, however, said there is some consideration to keeping Bradley in the bullpen, given his success there.

Reliever Silvino Bracho, who was promoted Monday to replace Miller on the roster, is another candidate. Kevin Zimmerman of ArizonaSports.com also suggests Zach Godley, who has a 2.55 ERA at Triple-A Reno.

-- Doug Mittler

Koda GloverJonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty ImagesKoda Glover recorded his first two big-league saves over the weekend.

Everything has fallen into place of late for the Washington Nationals, who completed a three-game sweep of the New York Mets this past weekend to extend their winning streak to seven games.

The most pleasant development is at the back end of the bullpen, where Koda Glover recorded his first two major-league saves on Saturday and Sunday. While the 24-year-old Glover may be the long term-answer, the Nats are hesitant to hand him the full-time job and will have him share the closing duties with Shawn Kelley.

Meanwhile, Washington continues its search for ninth-inning help after Mark Melancon departed via free agency.

ESPN’s Jim Bowden reports the Nats have “touched base” with the Chicago White Sox about David Robertson and the Tampa Bay Rays about Alex Colome, but “aren't even in the same ballpark” in talks regarding the two established closers.

Bowden suggests the Nationals might consider some less-expensive options that include Brandon Maurer of the Padres, Brandon Kintzler of the Twins or a trio of Oakland relievers.

- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Jose Reyes' roster spot not in danger?

April, 24, 2017
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Jose ReyesElsa/Getty ImagesJose Reyes is hitting just .104, the lowest batting average of any player with at least 50-at-bats.

Jose Reyes is in the midst of a brutal slump, but it appears his roster spot on the New York Mets is not in jeopardy, at least for the time being, reports Marc Carig of Newsday.

Reyes has seven hits in 67 at-bats and a meager slash line of .104/.189/.134. Manager Terry Collins benched Reyes this past Saturday against the Washington Nationals, but the 33-year-old entered the game as a pinch-hitter and was back in the lineup on Sunday, in part because the Mets have been beset by injuries.

“Even if Reyes’ struggles continue, Mets officials are far more likely to keep him on the roster as a utilityman rather than simply cut him loose,” writes Carig. “The Mets are paying Reyes the minimum salary this season. While that would make it easy for them to cut him loose, it also is motivation to keep him.”

Carig adds there are no immediate plans to promote shortstop Amed Rosario, their top prospect who also has played third base. Rosario is hitting .403 at Triple-A La Vegas.

If the Mets look outside the organization, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe suggested Sunday that one logical fit would be White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier, who will be a free agent after making $11 million the season. Frazier was linked to the Mets in spring training due to lingering injuries to regular third baseman David Wright.

- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Giants close to promoting Drew Stubbs?

April, 24, 2017
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Drew StubbsRob Leiter/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesDrew Stubbs hit .225/.330/.338 with the Braves, Rangers and Orioles last season.

Journeyman outfielder Drew Stubbs could be back in the major leagues with his seventh different team if Denard Span lands on the disabled list.

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy said the club is considering a DL stint for Span after the center fielder sprained his right shoulder while making a running catch and slamming into the outfield wall against the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night. The Giants have just one center fielder on their roster in Gorkys Hernandez, so they need to decide quickly.

Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports it is “inevitable” that the Giants will call up an outfielder, and the most likely candidate is Stubbs, who signed a minor league contract earlier this month.

The 32-year-old Stubbs is hitting .256 at Triple-A Sacramento but did homer in back-to-back games over the weekend.

Stubbs owns a career .244/.314/.394 slash line with six major league teams, including stints with the Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles last season.

- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Could Ian Desmond return as an outfielder?

April, 24, 2017
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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsIan Desmond was prepared to switch positions after signing with the Rockies.

The Colorado Rockies may scrap their original plans to use Ian Desmond at first base once the two-time All-Star is activated from the disabled list.

With Mark Reynolds off to a fast start at first base with a .318/.378/.621 slash line and five homers, manager Bud Black hinted Sunday that Desmond could be used in the outfield.

"Do we have to shuffle some things at times? Absolutely,” Black told reporters, including Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. "But, hey, I can’t wait to get Ian Desmond back. You know why? He’s a good player.”

Desmond, who has yet to play in the major league at first base, fractured his hand in a Cactus League game on March 12 after signing a five-year, $70 million deal over the winter.

The 31-year-old came up as a shortstop with the Washington Nationals before being moved to the outfield last season with the Texas Rangers. Black said there are no plans to use Desmond at shortstop, even though incumbent Trevor Story has started slow with a .169 BA and a .270 OBP.

Desmond could be a candidate to play left field, but Gerardo Parra (.333 BA) has played well there in the first three weeks of the season.

Desmond began swinging a bat over the weekend and could return in early May, suggests ESPN's Stephania Bell.

- Doug Mittler

Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesPirates GM Neal Huntington told reporters that the team is looking externally for outfield help following Starling Marte's 80-game suspension for PEDs.

To fill the void left by the suspended Starling Marte, the Pittsburgh Pirates are looking outside the organization for outfield help, GM Neal Huntington told reporters, including Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that Marte has been suspended 80 games for testing positive for the performance-enhancing drug nandrolone. He is eligible to return in mid-July but wouldn't be able to play in the postseason, should the Pirates qualify.

With Andrew McCutchen moving back to center field in Marte's absence, Jose Osuna, John Jaso and Adam Frazier have all played right. Osuna and Jaso both made costly misplays in this weekend's series against the New York Yankees. McCutchen was the worst fielding center fielder in the majors last season, according to some measures, with minus-28 defensive runs saved.

“If we felt there was something better internally at this point in time, we’d make that move,” Huntington said. “As we sit here today, this is the right 25 for us, in our minds.”

Huntingon said that the Pirates don't plan to promote top outfield prospect Austin Meadows, who is slashing .200/.269/.283 in 16 games with Triple-A Indianapolis.

Before his suspension, Marte was slashing .241/.288/.370 through 13 games this season. Last year, he became one of just four outfielders since 2010 -- and the first Pirate since Barry Bonds in 1990 -- to bat .300 and steal 40 bases in a season (.311, 47 steals). An All-Star and Gold Glove winner in 2016, Marte also led all left fielders in defensive runs saved (19).

-- Alex Tekip

Francisco LindorDavid Richard/USA TODAY SportsFrancisco Lindor was the 2016 American League winner of the Platinum Glove Award, given to each league's best defender.

Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor rejected a big payday, according to reports from the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Sports Illustrated.

Per Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci, the Indians tried to offer Lindor an extension before Opening Day, "but not even dangling what one source said was a package around $100 million did the trick." Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets that the Indians made a "substantial" offer to Lindor, but wasn't able to confirm if it was in the neighborhood of $100 million. Hoynes notes that there aren't any extension talks between the Indians and Lindor, or other players on the roster, at the moment.

Lindor, 23, is in his third major league season and is already considered one of the top shortstops in the game. In 15 games this year, he's slashing .328/.400/.639 with four home runs and 10 RBIs. In 2016, Lindor posted a slash line of .301/.358/.435 with 15 home runs, 78 RBIs and 19 stolen bases. He was named an All-Star for the first time in his career and was the American League winner of the Platinum Glove Award, given to the best overall defender in each league.

The reported $100 million extension would have broken the record for the highest-paid player in Lindor's service class. The previous record for an extension for a player in Lindor's class is the seven-year, $58 million deal Los Angeles Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons signed with the Atlanta Braves before the 2014 season.

About a month ago, Brody Chernoff, the son of Indians GM Mike Chernoff, might have accidentally leaked news of a possible extension for Lindor during a radio interview in a spring training game against the Chicago White Sox.

--Alex Tekip

Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY SportsThe retired Yankees star and former Florida governor have reportedly joined forces in their pursuit of the team.

Once bidding rivals to buy the Miami Marlins, Derek Jeter and Jeb Bush have now joined forces in their pursuit of the franchise. According to the Miami Herald, the retired New York Yankees star and former Florida governor are competing against New York financier Wayne Rothbaum, manager of Quogue Capital.

Jeter, who last played in 2014 and owns a house in Tampa, reportedly expressed interest in a Marlins bid earlier this month. But with a net worth of about $220 million after taxes, the five-time World Series champion doesn't have the capital to be the main investor in a franchise believed to be worth more than $1 billion.

Current Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has been fielding offers for the team, which moved into county-owned Marlins Park in 2012.

Bush lives in nearby Coral Gables. His brother, former President George W. Bush, was part-owner of the Texas Rangers from 1989 to 1998.

-- Nick Ostiller

Rumor Central: Mets concerned with slow start by Jose Reyes?

April, 18, 2017
Apr 18
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Jose ReyesJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesJose Reyes is off to a slow start for the Mets with four hits in 46 at-bats.

Are the New York Mets worried that the meager production from Jose Reyes is more than just an early-season slump?

Reyes has just four hits in his first 46 at-bats (.087 BA) and is the prime reason the leadoff spot has become a black hole for the team. Mets leadoff hitters own a .086 BA and a .172 OBP, easily the worst marks in the majors.

Reyes is 1-for-29 with a .034/.097/.034 slash line while batting first in the order.

“His struggles have some in the organization wondering if time is finally catching up with the 33-year-old four-time All-Star and former batting champion and he is declining quicker than expected,” writes Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News.

Ackert’s piece did not mention whether the Mets are pondering a benching of Reyes, who has received ample playing time at third base due to David Wright's persistent health issues. Mets manager Terry Collins has told reporters, "We've got to get him going."

Reyes was dropped to seventh in the order for most of last week. Curtis Granderson also has struggled as a leadoff hitter (.174 BA), and the Mets have also tried Michael Conforto, who had two hits and a walk in his one game batting first.

-- Doug Mittler

Tim Spyers/Icon Sportswire Doug Fister had a 4.64 ERA in 32 starts for the Astros last season.

Has free-agent right-hander Doug Fister overstated his value?

The veteran starter is still looking for work a few weeks into the season, presumably because he is holding out for a major-league deal. But Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe suggests there could be a Catch-22 here.

“One NL executive said the reason Fister remained unsigned through Thursday is because his stuff is considered marginal, and teams are unwilling to give him a major-league deal until he showed something in the minors,” wrote Cafardo over the weekend.

Fister’s market value could increase as teams invariably suffer injuries. The New York Mets reportedly kicked the tires on Fister earlier this month following injuries to Seth Lugo and Steven Matz, but any talks appear to have stalled.

The 33-year-old Fister had a 4.64 ERA in 32 starts for the Astros in 2016. Fister owns a 77-76 record with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in eight seasons with the Mariners, Tigers, Nationals and Astros.

- Doug Mittler

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