Exactly one week after the trade of Yovani Gallardo was first reported, Milwaukee hosted its annual winter fan festival Brewers On Deck. One year ago, Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio opened the event by announcing the signing of Matt Garza to the richest free agent contract in franchise history. Today, Attanasio told the crowd he will be very surprised if the Brewers do not make one more signing before Spring Training starts, tweets MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. GM Doug Melvin has said his focus is strengthening the bullpen and acknowledges, per a tweet from Andrew Gruman of FOX Sports Wisconsin, he’s having negotiations with a few people and there’s a chance of adding a reliever. Melvin downplayed the Jonathan Papelbon rumors while Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweeted he feels a reunion is in store with Francisco Rodriguez, who saved 44 games for the Brewers last year.
In other news and notes coming out of Brewers On Deck:
- Ryan Braun‘s right thumb, which has plagued him for the past two seasons, is feeling fine allowing him to perform his normal offseason regimen with no restrictions, reports Haudricourt. Braun underwent a cryotherapy procedure on the thumb last October and there are no current plans or need for a follow up session, tweets Haudricourt’s Journal Sentinel colleague Todd Rosiak.
- The Gallardo deal has left the Brewers without any proven MLB rotation depth which concerns manager Ron Roenicke, Rosiak tweets. Roenicke, however, maintains the team has some good prospects who could step up.
- “I don’t think we have room for a notable starting pitcher,” said Melvin, per Gruman (Twitter). “We’d like to add a pitcher that could be a spot starter.“
- Filling Gallardo’s void in the rotation will be Jimmy Nelson who told Haudricourt he knows why he struggled in 2014. “The problem was when I got to the big leagues I got away from my game plan. The things I was doing to be successful, I got away from that when I got up here.“
- Jim Henderson, who missed most of 2014 battling bone spurs in right shoulder, began throwing off a mound last week and will have his first true bullpen sessions this week, McCalvy tweets.
- Fellow right-hander Tyler Thornburg, who also missed most of 2014, says platelet-rich plasma therapy and lots of rest has helped heal his UCL injury and is throwing two bullpens per week and plans on being ahead of schedule when pitchers and catcher report next month, reports Gruman (Twitter links).
- The Brewers introduced a new addition to their mascot family: Barrelman. No word if he and Bernie Brewer will share custody of the slide.
Today is Rob Manfred’s first official day as Commissioner of Baseball. Manfred penned an open letter to the game’s fans explaining his mission: “To honor the game’s history while welcoming new people to our great sport — people who will one day pass their love of baseball down through the generations. That is what our parents and grandparents did for us, and it is what we are doing for our own children.” Manfred listed his priorities as making baseball “more accessible to those in underserved areas” and “to continue to modernize the game without interfering with its history and traditions.”
Here are the reactions from around baseball as the transition from Selig to Manfred is now complete:
- Manfred made news on his first day saying, in an interview with ESPN’s Karl Ravech, he would be open to the idea of eliminating defensive shifts as a means to injecting additional offense into the game.
- In an interview with ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, Manfred outlined five objectives of his tenure: youth outreach, embrace technology, quicken the pace of play, strengthen player relations, and creating a more unified business operation.
- Manfred also told Crasnick he recognizes the reinstatement of Pete Rose is an issue, but “I’m just not at a point in time where I can say anything intelligent about it.“
- In a separate article, Crasnick opines Manfred’s influence and achievements vastly outweigh his low profile and he is ready to make some baseball history of his own.
- Manfred understands the special relationship between our culture and the National Pastime, writes Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports.
- Brown’s colleague, Jeff Passan, notes how the now former Commisioner Bud Selig overcame early missteps and forged an enduring legacy.
- CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman calls Selig basball’s great reformer and has led the game to unprecedented heights.
- Paul White and Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today examines the accomplishments under Selig and the challenges which await Manfred.
- Selig told the Associated Press his dream for the game is to have an international flavor, including MLB franchises in other countries.
The Blue Jays have broken off negotiations over Dan Duquette after refusing the Orioles’ demand of Jeff Hoffman and two other top prospects as compensation, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. The Blue Jays’ interest in hiring Duquettte to replace Paul Beeston as team president first broke last December, but Davidi writes a deal between the two clubs was at no point close. MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko adds this is not the first time talks have stalled and the Orioles have no knowledge of the Blue Jays’ intentions.
The Blue Jays, according to Davidi, were willing to offer a package of minor league players similar to past precedents (the Red Sox receiving right-hander Chris Carpenter from the Cubs for Theo Epstein, for example) with the baseball departments of both clubs negotiating over names once a deal for Duquette was reached. MLB would mediate, if necessary, as it did between the Red Sox and Cubs. Davidi notes the Blue Jays never proposed any names, but the Orioles were believed to be seeking, in addition to Hoffman (the ninth overall pick in the 2014 draft), catcher Max Pentecost (the 11th overall selection in that 2014 draft) and infielder Mitch Nay (the 58th overall pick in the 2012 draft).
In the last 48 hours, reports emerged that MLB was tiring of the courtship, the Orioles were pushing for a substantial return for Duquette, and were considering tampering charges against the Blue Jays. Toronto also began receving criticism for its pursuit of Duquette.
This development leaves both franchises at a crossroads. For the Orioles, the question is can Duquette repair any hard feelings within the Baltimore organization which may have developed over his flirtation with a division rival, as the Orioles aim to defend their AL East title amidst a winter of distraction. For the Blue Jays, will they be able to overcome the black eye suffered with their messy negotiations over Duquette and the White Sox denying them permission to interview Kenny Williams and find a talented executive willing be their third choice to replace the outgoing Beeston.
Mets majority owner Fred Wilpon is the new chairman of MLB’s finance committee, a move that was met with raised eyebrows given that he was a victim of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. However, that’s not a concern to commissioner Rob Manfred, as Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. “I understand the whole Madoff thing,” Manfred said, “but before and since, Fred Wilpon was an extraordinarily successful businessman. The committee — the finance and compensation committee — really deals with two issues, principally: executive compensation, which he’s more than capable of dealing with, and a central office budget. Obviously, to be a successful businessman, you have to know how to budget.” More from the AL and NL East..
- The Rays are still likely to add a middle infielder and outfielder David DeJesus is still likely to be traded, but one or both pursuits could carry into spring training, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. DeJesus is owed $5MM this year with a $1MM buyout on a 2016 option, which makes him a reasonably priced target but also does not leave him with a ton of trade value.
- Alex Rodriguez offered to meet face-to-face with Yankees executives to apologize for his role in the Biogenesis scandal and clear the air before players report to Tampa next month, according to Teri Thompson, Bill Madden, and Michael O’Keeffe of the Daily News. However, the Yanks declined the invitation, which seems to indicate that the team is not ready to forgive and forget. Sources tell the Daily News trio that the next battle will be over the performance clauses in A-Rod’s deal which call for him to earn $6MM each time he ties a career home run milestone. Rodriguez needs just six more to tie Willie Mays’ 660 homers and earn a $6MM bonus.
- Some people have expressed concern about the Mets‘ shortstop position after the team was unable to find an upgrade this winter. However, Wilmer Flores insists that he’s ready and capable of filling the role. “I’m not going to say I don’t hear things,” Flores said, according to Marc Carig of Newsday. “But I try not to because I know what I can do, man. Honestly, I know what I can do.”
News out of the AL and NL West..
- The Astros have had an eventful offseason, but it sounds like most of the heavy lifting has been done already, as Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. “I don’t know if we’re going to sign anybody on a major league deal, but there’s possibilities we’d bring another pitcher on the NRI (non-roster invitee) basis,” General Manager Jeff Luhnow said.
- Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki isn’t stressing out about the constant trade talk surrounding him, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding writes. “In this game you never get relaxed,” Tulowitzki said. “Anything can happen. I’ve heard a few people say, ‘As soon as I thought that I was going to stay somewhere, that’s when I got traded.’ So I won’t go there. Whatever they do, they do. Whatever happens, happens.” At this stage of the offseason, it seems unlikely that the shortstop will be moved, but he says that he’s prepared for any possibility. Tulowitzki is currently rehabbing a surgically repaired left hip labrum.
- The Padres pulled the trigger on the Matt Kemp blockbuster thanks in large part to Logan White and his knowledge of the player, as Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego writes. “He had some good insight into Matt Kemp — the person, the makeup,” Padres VP of scouting operations Don Welke said of White. “One of the things he does that fits in with what A.J. [Preller] and I do is getting to know the person, background and family — going into all that. He’s very good at that.” White, whose current priorities include filling out his pro scouting staff, likely will have a significant role in the Padres’ international efforts going forward.
The Blue Jays didn’t meet expectations in 2014, but that hasn’t discouraged Jose Bautista, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes.
“Just because we didn’t win doesn’t mean it didn’t work out,” insisted Bautista. “It helped build a core for our team. And the last two years we’ve added to that core. I think the players really appreciate the commitment that [General Manager] Alex [Anthopoulos] has made to building our team.”
Here’s more from today’s column..
- One prominent baseball official feels that free agent pitcher James Shields has not been marketed properly by his camp. Few doubt Shields’ talent, but some have the notion that he isn’t a strong postseason pitcher. Meanwhile, a few executives suspect that the Blue Jays could become interested in his services if the club can convince Rogers Communications to shell out the money. At present, however, Toronto only has the budget to allow for a bullpen upgrade or two.
- Over the weekend, David Price reiterated that he would “absolutely” consider a long-term deal with the Tigers. Entering his walk year, Price doesn’t want to eliminate a big-market team from contending for his services, Cafardo writes. Still, it’s believed he’ll hit free agency and go elsewhere.
- With the Astros losing out on Ryan Vogelsong, they might turn their sights to comparable free agents such as Chris Young, Kevin Correia, and Kyle Kendrick.
- Recently, Cafardo asked Orioles manager Buck Showalter if he’d be interested in being a GM, which was a tough question for him to answer given that Dan Duquette is still with the O’s. Still, Showalter is already involved in personnel decisions and if Duquette leaves, Cafardo writes that he’d be at the helm along with talent evaluator Brady Anderson and a new GM. Recently it was reported that the O’s have a list of candidates for the job if it opens up and that includes names like Ned Colletti, Kevin Malone, Omar Minaya, and Kevin Towers.
On this date in 2012, Yankees catcher Jorge Posada announced his retirement at a New York press conference, as Leo Panetta of NationalPastime.com writes. At the time, the 40-year old five-time All-Star catcher left Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as the only remaining players on the team from the group that led the Bombers to four World Series titles in five years. Here’s this week’s look around the baseball blogosphere..
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With the 2014 free agent class thinning out behind James Shields, Francisco Rodriguez, and Rafael Soriano, the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff takes a look ahead at the 2015 free agent market. Davidoff predicts David Price will sign the richest contract of the class – if he doesn’t ink an extension first. He also predicts Matt Wieters will sneak his way into a big contract while Justin Upton could be seriously hurt by his move to San Diego.
- If Orioles Executive VP Dan Duquette does join the Blue Jays, Baltimore should receive one or two good prospects, opines John Lott of the National Post. However, Lott also figures first round pick Jeff Hoffman is too steep a price. Historically, executives have not cost much in player talent to acquire. Randy Winn represents the best such return, with most trades featuring minor leaguers who barely sniff the majors. Baseball should enforce stiffer costs to front office poaching in Lott’s opinion. Personally, I imagine a punitive but purely financial cost would be the fairest way to approach the problem.
- From the Orioles perspective, the club needs to definitively decide Duquette’s future before their upcoming FanFest, writes Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun. Both Duquette and owner Peter Angelos do “things at [their] own pace,” so the situation could linger. For what it’s worth, the White Sox diffused the rumors quickly when Ken Williams was in the spotlight. That tells me the Orioles are genuinely open to dealing Duquette.
- With the signing of Geovany Soto, White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers has competition, writes Scott Merkin of MLB.com. Flowers is still penciled in as the starter behind the dish, but the club has plenty of depth with Soto, George Kottaras, Rob Brantly, and Adrian Nieto. GM Rick Hahn mentioned Kottaras as a potential platoon partner for Flowers.
- Alex Meyer, the Twins fourth best prospect and 27th overall per MLB.com, figures to compete to become the club’s fifth starter, reports Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. Candidates for the back of the rotation include Mike Pelfrey, Tommy Milone, and Trevor May. Given that he still has options, he’ll have to seriously impress to beat out his veteran counterparts and May.
Jim Bowden of ESPN (Insider required) speculates the best fits for the current top 10 free agents. At the head of the list is James Shields who Bowden thinks fits with an AL team. Specifically mentioned are the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers, and Rangers. However, now that his price tag may have dropped below five years and $110MM, other teams could get involved too. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also explored nine potential suitors for Shields and turned up plenty of NL contenders like the Cardinals and Padres.
- The Yankees franchise has benefited from the longevity of players like Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Derek Jeter, writes Chad Jennings of LoHud.com. Now, the key for the franchise is the longevity of players like Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and CC Sabathia. I would also add Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann to the list as there is reason to worry about how both players will age.
- Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig is healthy and ready to contribute, but he’ll face a difficult path to playing time, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. The Sox have Napoli at first base and a jam packed outfield mix with Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Shane Victorino, and Jackie Bradley Jr. jockeying for playing time. Manager John Farrell suggested training at third base to Craig, but even then he’d be competing with Pablo Sandoval, Brock Holt, and Ramirez. Craig is likely to become trade bait during spring training, once he proves he’s healthy once again.
Here’s the latest from baseball’s two Texan clubs.
- The Astros have asked third baseman Matt Dominguez to prepare to play first base, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Last week’s trade for Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily has pushed Dominguez into a competition for the third base job, and the club is hoping to get more flexibility out of the former prospect. Dominguez, 25, will compete with Jon Singleton and Evan Gattis. To Dominguez’s favor, he could form a traditional platoon with the left-handed hitting Valbuena. Both Dominguez and Singleton have options, giving the Astros roster flexibility.
- Houston is still looking for a starting pitcher, tweets Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. The club will probably target a NRI. Per Drellich (also Twitter), it’s not the end of the world if the club doesn’t find somebody. The club does seem to have plenty of rotation depth, with Straily looking like the sixth starter.
- The Rangers are hunting for relief help, reports Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest. In particular, the club would like to add a left-handed reliever to supplement Robbie Ross, Michael Kirkman, and Alex Claudio. As GM Jon Daniels points out, there aren’t many lefties remaining in free agency – MLBTR lists only seven. We learned earlier today that the Rangers were uninterested in re-signing Neal Cotts.
Talks between the Phillies and Brewers concerning closer Jonathan Papelbon are “on life support,” reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Haudricourt reported earlier today that “there was no traction” between the two sides. GM Doug Melvin echoed that sentiment, saying there was no momentum. It is thought that Papelbon’s $13MM option for 2016 is holding up an agreement. Since Papelbon has a limited no trade clause that includes the Brewers, he may ask for the option to be guaranteed before accepting a trade. The ball may be in Philadelphia’s court to find a financial solution to the situation.
- Brandon Beachy has “zeroed in on a new team,” tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN. Beachy and the unknown team are currently working on contractual details. Wolfson adds that the team is not the Twins. Beachy was non-tendered by the Braves earlier in the offseason after undergoing his second Tommy John procedure. If he avoids setbacks, he’s may return to action mid-season. It’s easy to compare Beachy’s situation with fellow former Brave Kris Medlen, who signed a two-year, $8.5MM deal with an option. Like Beachy, Medlen is also recovering from his second Tommy John surgery.
- Cuban infielder Hector Olivera held a public workout in the Dominican Republic last week and over 200 scouts attended, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The Giants, Padres, Rangers, Braves, and Yankees are showing the strongest interest in Olivera.
Here are the latest players to avoid arbitration:
- The Tigers and reliever Al Alburquerque have agreed to a one-year, $1.725MM deal, reports Mike Perchick of WAPT Sports. Additionally, Alburquerque will earn $12.5K if he makes 75 appearances, per CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman (via Twitter). The Tigers filed at $1.375MM while Alburquerque asked for $2.05MM. The reported deal is just north of the $1.712MM midpoint. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected a $1.7MM payout. A Super Two player, this was Alburquerque’s second spin through arbitration. The 28-year-old is club controlled for two more seasons after posting a 2.51 ERA, 9.89 K/9, and 3.30 BB/9 in 57.1 innings in 2014.
- Lefty reliever Brian Duensing and the Twins have agreed to terms for one year and $2.7MM, Phil Ervin of FOX Sports North tweets. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected that Duensing would make $2.5MM in his last year of arbitration eligibility. Via MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker, Duensing’s camp proposed a $3.1MM salary and the Twins countered with $2.4MM, so $2.7MM is near the midpoint but a bit closer to the Twins’ side. Duensing is the last of the Twins’ six arbitration-eligible players to agree to terms. He posted a 3.31 ERA with 5.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 54 1/3 innings last season.
It’s still unclear where James Shields will wind up, and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tracks Shields’ hard-to-read market, guessing at nine potential destinations for the free agent righty. Topping the list is the Cardinals, who showed some interest in Jon Lester and Max Scherzer and likely have room for Shields in their budget. Still, much about the Shields market remains uncertain, without much reported action from traditionally heavy-spending teams, leaving teams like the Marlins, Astros and Padres near the top of Heyman’s list of possible destinations. Here’s more from around baseball.
- New Red Sox staring pitcher Rick Porcello is not yet ready to discuss an extension, Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com writes. “I just got here and met the guys last night so I think it’s premature for that,” says Porcello. “I’m just trying to settle in and fit in with everybody, get to know the staff and the guys.” Mastrodonato notes that the Red Sox would also probably like to get to know Porcello a bit better before signing him long-term. With a year remaining before free agency and youth on his side, the 26-year-old Porcello stands to cash in if he has a 2015 season similar to his 2014, when he had a 3.43 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and a stingy 1.8 BB/9 in 204 2/3 innings.
- GM Terry Ryan says that although the Twins aren’t planning to have top prospect Byron Buxton break camp with the team, Buxton could make his big-league debut at some point during the season, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets. Buxton only recently turned 21, has only a few plate appearances in the high minors, and missed most of the 2014 season with a wrist injury, so such an aggressive promotion schedule would be unusual for most players, particularly given the Twins’ typically cautious approach. Buxton has exceptional tools, however, and MLB.com currently rates him the top overall prospect in the game, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the Majors at some point this season.
Infielder Brandon Hicks has been assigned to Triple-A Sacramento, according to the Pacific Coast League transactions page, so it seems the Giants have re-signed him to a minor-league deal. Hicks is represented by Relativity Baseball.
Hicks, 29, collected a career-high 242 big-league plate appearances last season and hit .162/.280/.319 while playing mostly second base. The Giants ultimately replaced him with Joe Panik and outrighted Hicks to Triple-A in July. He became a free agent after the season. Hicks has logged significant Triple-A time in each of the past five seasons, and he hit .244/.350/.506 in his last stint with Sacramento in 2012, when it was an Athletics affiliate. He’ll likely provide infield depth for the Giants in 2015.
Here are today’s minor moves from around baseball:
- The Red Sox have signed catcher Humberto Quintero to a minor-league deal, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy writes. Quintero spent last season in the Mariners system, batting .290/.311/.425 for Triple-A Tacoma and picking up a few plate appearances at the big-league level to appear in the Majors for the 12th straight season. The 35-year-old has a long history as a big-league backup, although it might be tough for him to find playing time in Boston, with Christian Vazquez, Ryan Hanigan and Blake Swihart all on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster.
- The Giants have signed 1B/OF John Bowker, Eddy writes. The 31-year-old Bowker spent most of the past three seasons in Japan, hitting .248/.291/.411 in 230 plate appearances with Rakuten in 2014. Bowker was the Giants’ third-round pick in 2004, and he played parts of three seasons in San Francisco before being traded to the Pirates and then the Phillies.