Padres, Rays, Nationals Agree To Deal Centered Around Wil Myers

THURSDAY: The deal will likely be officially announced on Friday morning, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Bay Tribune reports (via Twitter).

WEDNESDAY: The Padres, Rays, and Nationals have agreed to a much-anticipated three-team swap — pending physicals — that will deliver important pieces to and from each club, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. A rough structure of the deal seemed to have taken form in recent hours, and Bowden has reported its final contours in a series of tweets (links: 1, 2, 3, 4.) The deal is unlikely to be announced before Thursday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays

Outfielder Wil Myers will head to San Diego as the centerpiece of the trade, and indeed the entire pact will depend upon the health of his balky wrist, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports notes on Twitter. San Diego receives young hurlers Gerardo Reyes and Jose Castillo from Tampa as well, joined by veteran big league catcher Ryan Hanigan.

Heading to Tampa from San Diego are backstop Rene Rivera, righty Burch Smith, and first base prospect Jake Bauers. Much of Tampa’s haul, however, will come from another source, as the Nationals will send outfielder Steven Souza and young lefty Travis Ott to Tampa.

For the Nationals, their involvement in this complicated transaction nets them a pair of young players. Righty Joe Ross and shortstop Trea Turner (as a PTBNL) will each head from the Padres to D.C. by way of Tampa.

Unpacking this deal is not easy, but it certainly begins with Myers — not only the marquee piece of this trade, but also the key player in the deal that sent James Shields to the Royals two years ago. Since that time, Myers has had one year of immense promise and one injury-marred, unproductive season. There is risk, not least of which because Myers missed significant time with a wrist injury, but then again San Diego is adding a potentially premier hitter who only just turned 24 years of age and still has five years of control.

Myers will be expected to pair with Matt Kemp — if and when that deal is complete — to deliver a middle-of-the-order threat to what had been a punchless lineup. Both carry a broad spectrum of possible outcomes, which will if nothing else make San Diego a fascinating team to watch for the next several years. One wonders what the trade means for Seth Smith, who played well last year before signing an extension, but who took a step back in the season’s second half and no longer seems to have a place in the corner outfield.

San Diego will also roll some younger arms into a system that is now without a few of its more advanced pitching prospects in Smith and Ross. The right-handed Reyes, 21, spent last year working at the low-A level from the pen. He struck out 10.6 and walked 2.5 batters per nine, en route to a 4.09 ERA in 33 frames. Castillo, an 18-year-old lefty, signed to a $1.55MM bonus out of Venezuela and has spent each of the last two years with the Rays’ Rookie league affiliate, mostly as a reliever. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs recently gave an update on Castillo in his Rays prospect breakdown, noting that the projectable hurler has a big fastball and has returned to health after sitting out much of 2014 with a tender arm.

Then there is the swap of backstops. New Padres GM A.J. Preller has now moved both of last season’s primary catching options, and replaced them with a mix of the veteran Hanigan and, presumably, top prospect Austin Hedges. Hanigan, 34, came to Tampa last year in an even more confusing three-team swap, and the Rays promptly signed him to an extension. The Rays added him for his OBP skills and defensive chops, and he’ll bring the same out west. He’ll also carry $8MM in obligations over the next two years, including a buyout of a $3.75MM club option for 2017.

In Rivera, the Friars will lose and the Rays will add a 31-year-old journeyman who broke out last year in one of the most surprising, under-reported stories in the league. Rivera posted a .252/.319/.432 line — good for a 117 OPS+ at pitcher-friendly Petco Park — and swatted 11 home runs in 329 plate appearances. He also drew rave reviews for his overall defensive contribution, with Baseball Prospectus rating him among the game’s best behind the plate. Rivera will also be a good bit cheaper than Hanigan, as MLBTR/Matt Swartz project him to earn $1.3MM in his first run through arbitration.

In addition to making that switch behind the plate, Tampa will add a mix of younger players, among them two wild cards. Bauers is a 19-year-old, left-handed-hitting first baseman who has not yet tapped into his power in the low minors. The 19-year-old Ott was taken in the 25th round of the 2013 draft but has seemingly improved his stock since. A 6’4 lefty, Ott struggled upon being promoted to the Class A level, but apparently showed enough to draw Tampa’s interest.

The bulk of the return, however, comes with the effective swap of five years of Myers for 12 (or more) seasons of Smith and, in particular, Souza. The 24-year-old Smith struggled in a brief MLB debut in 2013, missing bats as well as spots (11.4 K/9 vs. 5.2 BB/9 in 36 1/3 frames). But he was excellent in 92 1/3 Triple-A frames that year, working to a 2.63 ERA with 9.9 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9. Unfortunately, after being hit hard upon opening 2014 back in the PCL, Smith was shut down with a forearm strain and has not thrown since. That, combined with pre-existing questions about whether he had the secondary pitches to stick in the rotation, reduce his value significantly.

The real prize for new president of baseball operations Matthew Silverman appears to be Souza, who will present a cheaper and more controllable, but somewhat older, replacement for Myers. Last year’s International League MVP put himself firmly back on the map with a huge .345/.427/.577 triple-slash with 18 home runs and 28 steals in 419 plate appearances, completing a quick ascent back up the prospect ladder after initially languishing in the Nats’ system. As Dave Cameron of Fangraphs notes, the athletic Souza actually projects to be Myers’ equal next year and in some ways probably has just as much upside. Of course, he has not shown that ceiling in the big leagues, as has Myers, but Souza is more controllable with just 72 days of MLB service to his name.

That brings us to the Nationals, who parted with Souza in large part because the team is locked in at the corner outfield for the next several years. In return, GM Mike Rizzo added a 21-year-old righty who was taken in the first round of the 2011 draft and has shown signs of reaching his potential. Ross (Tyson’s younger brother) currently sits at eighth on MLB.com’s list of the Padres’ top prospects, with the publication citing his strong mid-90s heater, good power slider, and still-developing change in his ranking. He’ll be expected to join a talented new wave of arms that may have some big shoes to fill if Jordan Zimmermann and/or Doug Fister are not retained for the long run.

But the true motivation for the Nationals’ involvement probably lies with the player to be named, which will reportedly become Turner once he is eligible to be traded. Taken 13th overall from N.C. State in last year’s draft, the 21-year-old has done nothing but improve his stock since. Over 321 plate appearances at the low-A and Class A levels last year, Turner slashed .323/.406/.448 with five home runs and 23 stolen bases. Of course, his college-polished bat will face bigger challenges as he moves up in the system, but he is said to be a good defender with outstanding speed. MLB.com has him at fifth amongst San Diego prospects, but he is especially important to the Nationals as they look to fill in younger options behind incumbent Ian Desmond, who is of course entering his final year of team control.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


AL East Notes: Lester, Holt, Grilli, Levine

After covering some Orioles Notes and Rays Notes earlier tonight, let’s look elsewhere around the American League East…

  • Cubs southpaw Jon Lester discussed a number of topics during a radio interview on WEEI’s Hot Stove Show, including the extension negotiations that took place between he and the Red Sox last spring.  When asked if he would’ve accepted an extension in the range of five years and $120MM, Lester said, “That is one of those deals where hindsight is 20/20. You go back in time and you look at it and you go probably yes.  I mean you don’t know. I mean it is one of those deals where when it is sitting in front of you that is a lot of money to turn down. That would have made it very difficult to turn it down.”  Boston instead opened talks with a below-market four-year/$70MM offer that seemed to be the first step towards Lester eventually leaving the club.  (Hat tip to WEEI.com’s Ryan Hannable for the partial transcript of Lester’s comments.)
  • The Red Sox highly value Brock Holt and have little interest in trading him, two sources tell MassLive.com’s Jason Mastrodonato.  Holt’s versatility makes him a very important bench piece for Boston, and the team isn’t likely to deal the utilityman unless they receive an offer too good to refuse.
  • The Yankees may not be done adding bullpen pieces, but they’re apparently not interested in righty Jason Grilli, George A. King III of the New York Post reports.  Gary Sheffield, Grilli’s agent, tells King that “We talked to Cash [Brian Cashman], and he said ‘not at the moment.’ We will sit back with the offers we have and wait.”
  • In another piece from George A. King III, Yankees president Randy Levine seemed to rule out the possibility that his team will sign Max Scherzer, without mentioning the free agent righty by name.  “We are out there looking [for pitching], but it has to be tempered by the reality of the organization. Looking at our pitching staff, for example, we have two guys with a lot of money and we have to build around that,” Levine said.  “The chances of us bringing in a guy for six [years] and $25 million [per year] or over in my opinion is virtually none. At the end of the day, you have to be realistic in any organization.”  While James Shields, another top-tier free agent ace, isn’t expected to receive a deal in the six-year/$25MM average annual value range, King thinks Shields could also be out of the Yankees’ price range.

Dodgers Close To Acquiring Jimmy Rollins

8:51pm: With the Kemp deal almost finalized, the Dodgers are similarly close to finalizing the Rollins trade, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury tweets.

DEC. 18, 3:27: The trade between the Dodgers and Phillies will go through even if the Dodgers’ Kemp trade with the Padres falls through, reports CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. Eflin, who the Dodgers are set to acquire from San Diego in that deal, is indeed part of the Rollins trade, Salisbury writes. The Kemp trade has reportedly hit a snag due to Kemp’s physical, but the Dodgers and Phillies have discussed other players that can be exchanged should Eflin not end up heading to L.A. in the Kemp deal.

DEC. 11, 12:33pm: Zach Eflin, acquired by Los Angeles in the Matt Kemp deal, could be one of the pieces going to the Phillies, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggested on Twitter. That is indeed the case, with the Phillies also likely to acquire lefty Tom Windle in the deal, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports on Twitter.

DEC. 10, 7:03pm: Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Twitter link) that some of the prospects the Dodgers acquired from the Marlins in the Dee Gordon trade could be involved in the Rollins deal.  A third team is also involved in the Rollins trade, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki tweets.

6:38pm: The deal requires approval from the Commissioner’s Office since the Phillies are sending some money to the Dodgers in the trade, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  The two clubs have otherwise agreed to the trade.

4:51pm: The trade is basically done and the teams are just working out some minor details, a source tells Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times (via Twitter).

4:37pm: The Phillies are believed to getting two young pitchers back as part of the Rollins trade, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets.

4:20pm: The trade is “close” but isn’t yet completely finalized, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets.  The teams haven’t worked out which players will be in the deal and a third team could possibly be involved.

4:07pm: The Dodgers have acquired shortstop Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies, CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports, hearing from an industry source that the transaction is a “done deal.”  As reported earlier today, Rollins was willing to waive his 10-and-5 rights to accept a trade to the Dodgers.

After losing Hanley Ramirez to the Red Sox in free agency, Los Angeles filled its vacancy at shortstop with another high-profile veteran.  Rollins actually generated more fWAR (3.6 to 3.4) than Ramirez in 2014, as while Ramirez delivered more at the plate, Rollins far outpaced Ramirez defensively.  Rollins is no longer the offensive force that he was in his prime, but he still posted an above-average 102 wRC+ in 2014, hitting .243/.323/.394 with 17 homers and 28 steals over 609 plate appearances.

Rollins reached a vesting option in his previous contract that earned him an extra year and an $11MM salary for the 2015 season.  Since the Dodgers’ commitments to both Rollins and third baseman Juan Uribe will be up after 2015, that allows the club some flexibility in deciding the future of Corey Seager.  The top prospect is a shortstop now but many project him to eventually require a move to third base.

Rollins, 36, spent his entire 15-year career in Philadelphia, with the highlights including the NL MVP Award in 2007 and a World Series title in 2008.  Rollins is the Phillies’ all-time franchise leader in hits and doubles, and only Mike Schmidt played more games in a Phillie uniform.



Padres Acquire Derek Norris

The Padres and Athletics have continued their busy offseasons with a multiplayer deal that will send catcher Derek Norris to San Diego, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports (Twitter links).  The full trade is Norris, right-hander Seth Streich and an international signing slot to the Padres with right-handers Jesse Hahn and R.J. Alvarez going to Oakland, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports.

Norris, 25, hit .270/.361/.403 with 10 homers in 442 plate appearances with the A’s last season, earning his first All-Star appearance in the process.  The right-handed hitting Norris did much of his damage against lefty pitching (.863 OPS vs. LHP, .699 OPS vs. RHP) and in the first half of the season, as he hit only .240/.324/.335 after the All-Star break.  Norris is still a year away from arbitration eligibility and he’s under team control through the 2018 season.

The trade finishes off San Diego’s complete overhaul of their catching situation over the last week.  Once the Matt Kemp and Wil Myers trades are official, the Padres will have moved out Yasmani Grandal and Rene Rivera while adding Norris, Ryan Hanigan and Tim Federowicz.  With top prospect Austin Hedges also waiting in the wings behind the plate, Norris and the two veterans could essentially serve as a bridge for a season or two until Hedges (who has yet to hit Triple-A) is ready.

In that case Norris could be moved to first base in 2016 or sooner, given that he has graded out as a below-average defensive catcher in his brief Major League career, including an infamously tough game against the Royals in last year’s AL Wild Card game.  The Padres were known to be looking for corner infield help, so Norris could see some part-time action at first this year in a platoon with left-handed hitting Yonder Alonso.

Hahn, 25, was rumored as a possible trade chip as the Padres looked for hitters.  The righty posted a 3.07 ERA, 8.6 K/9, 2.19 K/BB and a 50.3% ground ball rate over 73 1/3 innings in 2014, his first taste of Major League action.  He came to San Diego last January from Tampa Bay as part of the Logan Forsythe trade.

Alvarez also made his MLB debut last season, allowing one earned run over eight relief innings out of the Padres’ bullpen.  The 25-year-old has a fastball that has touched the high-90’s and boasts some impressive minor league numbers, including a 2.41 ERA, 13.4 K/9 and 3.49 K/BB rate over 119 1/3 IP (mostly out of the bullpen).  This is Alvarez’s second trade in less than six months, as he was part of the prospect package that San Diego received from the Angels for Huston Street in July.

Hahn and Alvarez are each controllable through the 2020 season, giving the A’s two more quality young arms to go along with other offseason pitching acquisitions like Chris Bassitt, Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman.  With the A’s so deep in starters, MLB.com’s Jane Lee opines (Twitter link) that the club is preparing to unload some of this pitching depth as part of a larger trade for a hitter.  Behind the plate, meanwhile, Stephen Vogt and the newly-acquired Josh Phegley look to be Oakland’s new catching platoon with Norris gone.

Streich, a sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft, has a 3.37 ERA, 3.04 K/BB rate and 8.5 K/9 over 262 minor league innings, none above the high-A level.  He entered the year ranked by Baseball America as the 25th-best player in Oakland’s farm system.


Rockies Notes: Harang, Johnson, Gee, Rosario

MLB.com’s Thomas Harding rounds up some of the names connected to Rockies’ offseason pitching search, including the new information that Colorado is interested in Josh Johnson and Aaron Harang.  Johnson may soon be off the board as he’s close to re-signing with San Diego, though Harang’s market has been pretty quiet this winter.  As Harding notes, the Rockies are looking for ground ball pitchers (such as Kevin Correia or Kyle Kendrick) who could handle the thin air of Coors Field, but Harang doesn’t fit that bill; the veteran righty only has a 38.2% grounder rate over his career.  The Rockies are still exploring trade possibilities and aren’t believed to have begun serious negotiations with any pitcher, Harding reports.

Here’s some more from the Mile High city…

  • One of those possible trades could involve the Mets’ Dillon Gee, though Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post (Twitter link) said talks are “on hold.”  Saunders thinks the two sides “were close” to a deal at one point.
  • Besides looking for pitching, the Wilin Rosario trade market has been the Rockies’ biggest offseason focus, ESPN’s Jerry Crsnick tweets.  American League teams are the “prime targets” for Rosario, as his long-term future may be at DH rather than catcher.
  • The Rockies want pitching back in any trade for Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez or Justin Morneau, though no deal involving any of the three stars is imminent, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi reports (via Twitter).  Colorado has discussed all three players in trade talks this offseason.

Padres To Acquire Matt Kemp

7:40pm: The trade is very close to being finalized and is “all but done,” Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown tweets.  The Padres asked the Dodgers to add more than $32MM in the deal but L.A. refused, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports.

5:52pm: The Padres “could conceivably take another day, or even several days” to decide on the trade, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes.  The aforementioned 72-hour deadline was for Kemp to have his physical completed.

3:35pm: Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com tweets that the window to complete the deal can be extended if the two sides are negotiating, meaning that the Kemp/Padres saga may continue beyond today.

11:05am: The holdup in the trade is that Kemp’s physical revealed arthritis in both hips, tweets USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. The Padres are consulting with medical experts before determining how to proceed.

DEC. 18, 10:36am: Kemp’s agent, Junior Spivey, tells Rosenthal that, “Everything is OK. We’re just waiting on the final details. Should be good to go.” However, Spivey does add that he hasn’t heard from the Padres since Kemp took his physical on Tuesday (Twitter links).

DEC. 17, 8:47pm: Both sides remain “very invested” in completing the deal even though it’s hit a snag, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets.

6:48pm: A Padres official, when asked whether the trade was in danger of falling through, replied, “Not yet,” according to Rosenthal (on Twitter). Rosenthal notes, however, that the Padres still have not made the Dodgers aware of any issues.

1:22pm: The Dodgers have heard nothing to indicate that the deal is in jeopardy, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets.

12:12pm: We are still awaiting word on whether the deal has been completed, but Bob Nightengale of USA Today hears (Twitter link) that the Padres believe his physical is fine and are awaiting final details.

DEC. 14: Kemp is set for a physical on Tuesday, Rosenthal tweets. The clubs must complete the deal by Thursday, he adds.

DEC. 11: The Dodgers’ wild day has continued into the morning, as they’ve agreed to trade star outfielder Matt Kemp to the Padres. The deal has not yet been finalized — players still need to take physicals, and the deal (which includes money going from the Dodgers to the Padres) requires the approval of the commissioner’s office, as USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets.

USATSI_8067745_154513410_lowresThe deal will send Kemp and catcher Tim Federowicz to San Diego, with the Dodgers receiving catcher Yasmani Grandal, righty Joe Wieland, and pitching prospect Zach Eflin. The Dodgers will also include $32MM to help cover the $107MM remaining on Kemp’s contract, which runs through 2019.

The deal gives the Padres a big bat and star power for their offense, which produced just 535 runs last year, a poor total even in the tough hitting environment in San Diego. The team lost out on Pablo Sandoval and Yasmany Tomas earlier this offseason, but Kemp, who hit .287/.346/.506 with the Dodgers in 2014, gives the Padres the dynamic offensive player they were hoping for. He’ll need to stay healthy, however — he missed significant time in 2012 and 2013 with a series of injuries, and he turned 30 in September. Kemp, who has struggled defensively in center field in recent years, could take one corner outfield spot for the Padres, with Seth Smith in the other. For the Dodgers, the deal clears salary and space in the outfield, where they also have Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke.

Federowicz, 27, should help the Padres compensate for the loss of Grandal. He has five seasons of team control remaining and is coming off a strong year in a good hitting environment at Triple-A Albuquerque, where he batted .328/.383/.555 in 329 plate appearances. He struggled, however, in a small sample of 78 plate appearances at the big-league level. He’ll likely share the Padres’ catching duties with Rene Rivera, whose unexpectedly strong season in 2014 gave the Padres a bit of flexibility at catcher.

Grandal, 26, will join A.J. Ellis in manning the catching position with the Dodgers. He hit .225/.327/.401 for San Diego last season and got good marks for his pitch framing. The latter characteristic is surely attractive to Dodgers executive Andrew Friedman, who employed framing specialist Jose Molina in Tampa Bay and tried to sign another excellent framer, Russell Martin, for the Dodgers earlier this offseason. Grandal also hit 15 home runs in 2014, a solid total for a young catcher, especially in PETCO Park. He can become eligible for arbitration next offseason and eligible for free agency after 2018.

Wieland, 24, had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and took a long time to recover, but he finally made it back to the Majors in September 2014. He posted good numbers coming through the minors (mostly in the Rangers system), but doesn’t have outstanding stuff and probably profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter.

The Padres drafted the 20-year-old Eflin (whose inclusion in the deal is not yet entirely certain) in the first round in 2012 out of high school. He posted a 3.80 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 128 innings with Class A+ Lake Elsinore in 2014.

The trade continues a frenzied Winter Meetings for the Dodgers. On Wednesday, the team sent Dee Gordon and Dan Haren to Miami in a seven-player deal and acquired second baseman Howie Kendrick from the Angels. They also reportedly made not-yet-official moves to acquire shortstop Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies and to agree to terms on a four-year deal with starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported that the deal was close. Dennis Lin and Kirk Kenney of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the deal was finalized. Heyman reported (Twitter links) the final terms of the deal. 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Rays Notes: Stadium, Longoria, Myers

The St. Petersburg City Council rejected an agreement that would’ve allowed the Rays to explore sites for a new stadium within the greater St. Petersburg area, Stephen Nohlgren, Charlie Frago and Kameel Stanley of the Tampa Bay Times write.  In a media release, Rays president Brian Auld said, “We are obviously disappointed.  Our goal was to begin a collaborative, exploratory process in our region to determine the best location for a next generation ballpark. The council has instead decided that the status quo is what is in the best interest of the citizens of St. Petersburg.”  Needless to say, this development will lead to renewed speculation about the Rays’ long-term future in the Tampa area, as owner Stuart Sternberg has threatened to sell the team rather than continue at Tropicana Field.

Here’s some more from the Rays…

  • There’s no evidence the Rays are considering trading Evan Longoria, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.  If Tampa was looking into a rebuild, it stands to reason that Longoria (by far the team’s highest-paid player) would be a trade chip.
  • From that same tweet, Heyman also notes that Wil Myers “rebuffed [an] overture” from the Rays about a long-term deal.  There were some whispers last spring that Tampa would look to extend Myers as the team has done with so many of its young stars.  Of course, Myers’ time as a Ray is almost up as the young outfielder is on the verge of being dealt to San Diego.
  • Even as far back as Myers’ Rookie of the Year season in 2013, the Rays had some doubts about whether the outfielder would become a consistent player, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes as part of his latest Insider-only column.  Given these doubts, the Myers trade makes a lot of sense for the Rays as a sell-high move, Olney notes.

Minor Moves: Carter, Lowe, Rivero

Here are today’s minor transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the post…

  • The Cubs have agreed to a minor league contract with right-hander Anthony Carter, MLBTR’s Steve Adams reports (Twitter link).  The deal contains an invitation to the team’s Spring Training camp.  Carter, 28, has a 4.59 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 2.61 K/BB rate over 680 1/3 career IP in the Padres, Red Sox and White Sox farm systems.  He spent most of the 2014 season in Japan, posting a 3.97 ERA over 45 1/3 relief innings for the Nippon Ham Fighters.
  • The Mariners announced the signings of right-hander Mark Lowe and infielder Carlos Rivero to minor league contracts.  Lowe originally pitched for Seattle from 2006-10 and the veteran spent 2014 in the Indians’ organization, a season that included an outright assignment to Triple-A and a 3.86 ERA over seven Major League innings.  Rivero was originally claimed by Seattle off waivers from the Red Sox in November, and he’s rejoining the M’s after being non-tendered by the club earlier this month.  Rivero made his Major League debut last season, appearing in eight games with Boston.

Orioles Notes: Young, Morse, Matusz, Suzuki

The Orioles are still hunting for outfield help, and Delmon Young is “absolutely” still in play, agent Joel Wolfe tells MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. Wolfe says that all discussions with the O’s have been “very positive,” though Kubatko writes that Young’s preference is a multiyear deal, whereas the Orioles are more comfortable signing Young to a one-year deal, perhaps with an option.

Here’s some more from Baltimore…

  • The Orioles were also wary about committing multiple years to Michael Morse, Kubatko notes.  The O’s had “strong interest” in Morse earlier in the offseason but the veteran found a multiyear deal elsewhere, signing a two-year/$16MM contract with the Marlins.
  • In another Kubatko piece, he writes that the acquisition of left-hander Wesley Wright doesn’t necessarily mean the O’s will look to move Brian Matusz since Matusz is more of a lefty specialist.  This said, Baltimore does seemingly have a surplus of bullpen arms that could be used as trade bait, and Kubatko speculates that the Padres (with their surplus of outfielders) could be a fit as a trade partner.
  • The Orioles have given some consideration to signing Ichiro Suzuki, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes.
  • Chris Davis has received permission from Major League Baseball to take Adderall next season, Buck Showalter told reporters (including Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun).  Davis was issued a 25-game suspension last year for his unauthorized use of Adderall, and he still has one game remaining on his punishment.
  • The Orioles will interview Scott Coolbaugh about their vacant hitting coach position, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports.  Coolbaugh was the Rangers’ hitting coach from 2011-12 and is currently their minor league hitting coordinator.

Josh Johnson, Padres Nearing One-Year Deal

5:44pm: The base value of Johnson’s deal is worth slightly under $2MM, but with incentives that could raise the total value to $8MM, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.

5:00pm: The Padres and Josh Johnson are on the verge of completing a one-year deal, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. The contract contains significant incentives for games started, but details are still being worked out, Passan adds.

Johnson signed a one-year, $8MM contract with the Padres last offseason that contained a conditional $4MM club option which would trigger if he failed to make seven starts for the Friars. While that did happen, the nature of his injury — Tommy John surgery — caused San Diego to decline the option anyway. Nonetheless, the Sosnick/Cobbe client has been widely expected to return to the Padres.

Johnson would mark the second high-risk, high-upside arm that GM A.J. Preller has landed this offseason, as the team recently agreed to terms with Brandon Morrow on an incentive-laden one-year deal with a $2.5MM guarantee. Johnson likely wouldn’t be ready until midseason anyhow, but he and Morrow could pair with some combination of Andrew CashnerTyson Ross, Ian Kennedy, Jesse Hahn Robbie Erlin and Odrisamer Despaigne, among others, in a deep rotation mix for the Padres.


Royals Designate Johnny Giavotella For Assignment

The Royals announced that they have designated second baseman Johnny Giavotella for assignment in order to clear room on the 40-man roster for the recently signed Kris Medlen.

Giavotella, 27, received a fairly lengthy look at second base for the Royals in both 2011 and 2012 but combined to bat just .242/.271/.340 in 376 plate appearances. He’s received shorter call-ups in each of the subsequent seasons but hasn’t fared much better at the plate; overall, Giavotella is a lifetime .238/.277/.344 hitter in the Majors.

A second-round pick out of the University of New Orleans in 2008, Giavotella does carry with him quite an impressive track record at the Triple-A level. In 1840 plate appearances there, he’s slashed .315/.384/.451. It should be noted, however, that those numbers have come in the very hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.


White Sox To Sign George Kottaras

The White Sox have reached an agreement with veteran catcher George Kottaras on a minor league contract, tweets SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first tweeted that the Sox were nearing a deal with the All Bases Covered Sports Mangement client.

From an offensive standpoint, Kottaras is known to have solid power and draw quite a few walks, but he’s also seen his strikeout rate climb in recent years. He’s a career .215/.326/.411 hitter in 858 plate appearances and should give the Sox some solid depth behind incumbent backstop Tyler Flowers and waiver claim Rob Brantly. Chicago also has an in-house option with Adrian Nieto, who served as their backup in 2014 after being selected out of the Rule 5 Draft. Nieto hit .236/.296/.340 and lasted the entire season with Chicago despite never having played above Class-A Advanced when he was selected.


Royals Sign Kris Medlen

The Royals announced that they have signed right-hander Kris Medlen to a two-year deal that contains a mutual option for the 2017 season. Medlen, who is represented by the Wasserman Media Group, reportedly receives an $8.5MM guarantee. He’ll earn $2MM in 2015 and $5.5MM in 2016. His mutual option is worth $10MM and contains a $1MM buyout that is guaranteed regardless of which side declines.

Kris Medlen

Medlen, 29, was one of the Braves’ best starters for much of 2012-13, but he fell victim to his second Tommy John surgery this past spring and wound up being non-tendered as a result. Medlen earned $5.8MM in 2014 and stood to earn something similar in 2015, although the Braves could technically have reduced his salary to about $4.65MM.

Tommy John surgery has been a significant detriment to the unquestionably talented Medlen’s career. He was enjoying a solid season in 2010 when his right UCL first gave way in August, causing him to miss nearly the entire 2011 season as well. When he returned in 2012, Medlen posted a brilliant 1.57 ERA down the stretch, and he followed that up with a 3.11 mark in 197 frames the following year.

Overall, Medlen owns a 2.95 ERA with 7.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 46.2 percent ground-ball rate in 512 2/3 career innings. Sabermetric ERA estimators such as FIP (3.23), xFIP (3.39) and SIERA (3.68) all feel that he’s a perfectly viable rotation option when healthy.

While it may at first be puzzling to see the Braves let Medlen go, it’s also important to note that he had just one season of arbitration control remaining. Medlen may not pitch again until midseason and would have cost the club between $4.6MM and $5.8MM, and the success rate for second Tommy John surgeries is lower than that of the success rate for first-time patients. Atlanta was said to have discussed a two-year deal with Medlen at one point, but the team may not have been comfortable matching Kansas City’s guarantee.

The Royals figure to start the 2015 season with a rotation of Yordano Ventura, Jason Vargas, Danny Duffy, Edinson Volquez and Jeremy Guthrie, but Medlen could eventually slot in should one of those five get injured. He could also return to the bullpen, where he’s worked extensively in the past, as he builds up arm strength and looks toward a rotation spot in 2016. Guthrie is a free agent following the 2015 season, so there should be at least one opening for him to pursue.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the terms of the contract (Twitter links).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Red Sox In Active Trade Talks Regarding Allen Craig

The Red Sox are in active trade talks with at least one club regarding first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Craig is said to be fully recovered from a painful Lisfranc fracture suffered in his left foot in August, Morosi adds.

Craig was acquired from the Cardinals along with right-hander Joe Kelly in the trade that sent John Lackey to St. Louis. The 30-year-old was having a down season at the time of the acquisition and was considered by many to be a buy-low option, but his fortunes worsened in Boston. With the Red Sox, Craig batted a woeful .128/.234/.191 in 107 plate appearances. While the foot likely played a role in those struggles, his overall season line of .215/.279/.315 was a far cry from the excellent production he showed from 2011-13. Over the course of those two seasons, Craig batted a hefty .312/.364/.500 — good for a 136 OPS+.

The Cardinals clearly looked at Craig as yet another late bloomer (he didn’t break out until he was nearly 27) and rewarded him with a five-year, $31MM contract that covered the 2013-18 seasons. The first year of the contract looked good, but Craig’s outlook has tanked after a rough 2014 that can’t be explained solely by injury. His strikeout rate jumped from about 17 percent to 22.4 percent this season, and his ground-ball rate soared to 54 percent. That mark ranked ninth-highest among qualified hitters this season and is a troubling trend for a player with little speed of which to speak.

Craig’s contract was heavily backloaded, meaning that an acquiring team will still be on the hook for the majority of the price tag. He’s owed $26.5MM over the next three seasons, including the $1MM buyout on his $13MM club option for the 2018 season. That sum doesn’t look appealing at this time, however if Craig returns to form and 2014 proves to be little more than a fluke, a team that bought low on his services could have a very nice value on its hands.

To this point in the offseason, both the Marlins and Brewers have been connected to Craig, although I’d imagine that Miami’s signing of Michael Morse takes them out of the picture. The Mariners are known to be seeking right-handed bats, and while they did just acquire Justin Ruggiano, he could be used in a reserve role with Craig seeing more regular playing time. Likewise, the Orioles have yet to replace any of the production they lost when Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz signed elsewhere. The Padres have been aggressively courting offensive upgrades and could feel that Craig represents a better long-term option than Yonder Alonso. Additionally, the Reds and Giants are known to be in the market for a left fielder.

All of those suggestions are, of course, speculative on my behalf. It should also be noted that Craig comes with some defensive question marks as a corner outfielder, so some teams without an opening at first base may be hesitant to acquire him (especially after his foot injury).


Angels, Dodgers Complete Drew Butera Trade

The Dodgers announced today that they have acquired infielder/outfielder Matt Long from the Angels to complete last week’s Drew Butera trade. However, the team also announced that it has has immediately flipped Long and left-hander Jarret Martin to the Brewers in exchange for catcher Shawn Zarraga, essentially making the entire sequence into a minor three-team trade.

A 2009 30th-round draft pick, Long has never appeared on an Angels Top 30 prospect list (per Baseball America), but he does have a solid minor league track record. The 27-year-old has yet to reach the Majors but owns a nice career slash line of .279/.358/.442 in 1102 plate appearances at the Triple-A level.

The 25-year-old Martin was previously designated for assignment and outrighted this past offseason. He spent the 2014 campaign with Double-A Chattanooga where he posted a strong 3.29 ERA in 54 2/3 innings of relief. While Martin’s 64 strikeouts in that time were impressive, he also walked a very troublesome 48 hitters. Control problems have long been an issue for Martin, who has averaged 6.1 walks per nine innings since being selected in the 18th round of the 2009 draft.

Zarraga is a 25-year-old catcher that was born in Aruba but attended high school in Florida and was selected in the 44th round by the Brewers in 2007. Zarraga was excellent at Double-A this past season, hitting .330/.440/.419 in 267 plate appearances, but he batted just .213/.304/.255 in 57 PA at Triple-A — his first crack at that level.