Latest On Signing Eligibility Of Cuban Players

SATURDAY: MLB sent a memo to teams today instructing them not to sign Cuban players, Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan reports (all Twitter links). MLB said it hoped to receive advice from OFAC “early next week,” hoping to receive assurances that the league won’t be getting itself into trouble if Cuban players falsify their identities. If it does get those assurances, players like Moncada, Olivera and Ibanez might become eligible to sign right away.

FRIDAY: There has been quite a bit of confusion of late as to how and when a group of high-profile Cuban middle infielders will be freed to sign. The U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) — the agency tasked with administering the United States’ now-loosening embargo against Cuba — has now notified Yoan Moncada in writing that it will not consider specific licenses for Cuban players who are already unblocked via the general license, agent David Hastings tells Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs.

Ben Badler of Baseball America explains the distinction here. In essence, the general license requires only residence in a third country, while the specific license carries more stringent standards. This news effectively means that OFAC will not perform any particularized assessment of Cuban players seeking to sign with MLB clubs.

The result is that, in McDaniel’s words, “the onus is now 100% on MLB.” Badler has previously explained the league’s role in this regard, and the OFAC letter to Moncada’s representative appears to remove any room for interpretation.

Simply put, the league must decide whether simply to accept the general license as sufficient for signing eligibility or find some other procedure to replace the OFAC specific license. If MLB decides to allow the general license to suffice, then presumably all Cuban players who have established third-country residence would become eligible to sign — including, presumably, Moncada and fellow top players Hector Olivera and Andy Ibanez.

As McDaniel goes on to explain, the latest industry speculation holds that the veteran Olivera could land a guarantee of between $20MM to $40MM. The younger Ibanez, meanwhile, is expected to land at or slightly above the range of recent signees Roberto Baldoquin ($8MM) and Yoan Lopez ($8.25MM) while also requiring the signing team to pay a near-100% penalty on that amount.


Padres Have Considered Trade For Luis Sardinas

The Padres have considered trading for Brewers shortstop Luis Sardinas, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes (Twitter links). Rosenthal says the two teams have not talked lately, although the Padres’ interest in Sardinas suggests that their busy offseason might not yet be over.

The Brewers acquired Sardinas from the Rangers in the Yovani Gallardo trade, and Padres GM A.J. Preller worked for the Rangers before taking his current position. The Brewers appear relatively set at their middle infield with Scooter Gennett at second and Jean Segura at shortstop, while the Padres have a more unsettled shortstop picture (with their depth chart currently topped by Alexi Amarista and Clint Barmes), so a trade involving Sardinas would appear to make sense for both teams.

Sardinas, 21, hit .261/.303/.313 in 125 plate appearances with the Rangers in 2014. His youth might account for some of his offensive troubles, although he’s never hit well above Class A and has never shown much power potential. He has excellent speed and good defensive tools.

The Padres remain in touch with the Phillies regarding Cole Hamels, although Rosenthal notes that some sources feel the Padres don’t have the talent to complete the deal. In mid-January, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reported that the Padres were among the key teams pursuing Hamels.


Minor Moves: Hendrickson, Baxter, Perez

Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.

  • The Orioles have agreed to terms with Mark Hendrickson on a deal that includes a Spring Training invite, Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com tweets. The deal is presumably of the minor-league variety. The tall lefty last pitched in the big leagues with Baltimore in 2011, and he’s now 40 and has a 5.03 ERA with 5.1 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in parts of 10 big-league seasons. He is, however, coming off a good season with the independent York Revolution, posting a 1.54 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 52 2/3 innings of relief. The O’s also reportedly have interest in hiring Hendrickson as a coach when he’s done playing.
  • The Cubs have signed corner outfielder Mike Baxter, Matt Eddy of Baseball America writes. Baxter, best known for his stints with the Mets in 2012 and 2013, has a career .225/.331/.342 line in parts of five seasons. He spent most of 2014 with the Dodgers’ Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate, batting .289/.365/.439.
  • The Rangers have signed lefty Juan Perez, Eddy writes. The 36-year-old Perez did not pitch in 2014, but he was effective coming out of the Blue Jays’ bullpen the previous year, posting a 3.69 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 in 31 2/3 innings with a fastball that reached into the mid-90s. Before that, Perez had pitched in brief stints with the Pirates, Phillies and Brewers.


Orioles Notes: Duquette, Garcia, Norris

Here are a few notes from the Orioles’ FanFest convention on Saturday:

  • Executive Dan Duquette says he’s fully committed to helping the O’s win, MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli writes. Duquette had been connected to the Blue Jays’ CEO job (and he admits there was “substance” to those rumors, as Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com tweets). It now appears, however, that Paul Beeston will continue in that role with the Jays, since they’ve extended him through 2015.
  • Duquette reiterated that he’s still looking for relief help, although the O’s are open to having Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia help in the ‘pen, Ghiroli tweets. The 22-year-old Garcia posted a 3.70 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 at two levels in the Red Sox farm system in 2014, but has not yet pitched above Class A.
  • The O’s are also on the lookout for utility infield depth at the minor league level, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes (Twitter links).
  • Starter Bud Norris would like to continue as an Oriole beyond this season, but says he has not heard anything about extension talks, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets. Norris, who posted a 3.65 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 165 1/3 innings in 2014, will make $8.8MM in 2015 before becoming eligible for free agency next winter.

Quick Hits: Rockies, Aardsma, Moylan

Despite their recent additions of David Hale and Gus Schlosser, the Rockies are still hunting for established pitching, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports. GM Jeff Bridich says will try to add another pitcher who will be part of the 40-man roster. Bridich says he likes Hale and Schlosser’s abilities to get ground balls, and notes that the Rockies will have both head into Spring Training preparing to be starters. “[W]e will sit down in the early part of spring and figure it out,” says Bridich. “The fact that both of these guys have started in the past was an appealing part of who they are, and of their history.” Here are more notes from throughout the game.

  • Agent Jamie Murphy says client David Aardsma will throw for teams next Monday in Arizona, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes (Twitter links). Aardsma hopes to demonstrate increased velocity after making mechanical changes, Murphy adds. The 33-year-old Aardsma had a strong 2014 season for Triple-A Memphis in the Cardinals organization, posting a 1.29 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 in 35 innings. The former closer last appeared in the Majors with the Mets in 2013.
  • Free agent righty Peter Moylan is “feeling great” and is hoping to return to the Majors by midseason after having Tommy John surgery last March, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. “My goal is to be 100 percent by end of spring,” says Moylan. “Probably have to throw for some teams right around the start of spring to gauge interest, but there have already been some nibbles, which is encouraging.” The 36-year-old, a former Braves bullpen mainstay, has pitched fewer than 30 innings in the big leagues since 2010, last appearing in the bigs with the Dodgers in 2013.

Week In Review: 1/24/15 – 1/30/15

Here’s a look back at this week at MLBTR.

Key Moves

Signed / Agreed To Terms

Trades

Designated For Assignment

Outrighted

Released

Key Minor League Signings


Full Story | Comments | Categories: Week In Review

Minor Moves: Wall, Castillo, Volstad, Burgos, Flores

Let’s run down the day’s minor moves:

  • The Pirates announced the signing of righty Josh Wall and catcher Wilkin Castillo to minor league deals with spring invites. And the club also added righty Chris Volstad, per Matt Eddy of Baseball America (via Twitter). Wall, 28, logged just one unsightly inning last year with the Angels but threw 44 1/3 productive innings at Triple-A. Oddly enough, Castillo has spent most of his time in the minors as a backstop but played only left field and second base in brief big league time back in 2008-09. The true utility man has been playing in Mexico since 2012. Volstad, of course, was a fixture in the Marlins rotation from 2008-11, but has seen minimal action since an unsuccessful 2012 run with the Cubs.
  • Right-hander Hiram Burgos is heading back to the Brewers, Eddy tweets. Burgos was a 40-man casualty in September, but will remain in the only professional organization he has known. The 27-year-old made one brief, unsuccessful stint in the bigs. He missed significant time last year due to shoulder surgery.
  • One additional catcher is joining the Braves organization, Eddy tweets, with Jesus Flores signing a minor league deal. A five-year veteran of the division-rival Nationals, the 31-year-old has bounced around in the upper minors the last two years and will look to extend his career in Atlanta.

Bullpen Notes: Cotts, Mujica, Brewers, Papelbon, K-Rod

Recent Brewers signee Neal Cotts tells Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he came close to hanging up his spikes before the Rangers offered him a deal for the 2013 season. After two fairly productive seasons in Texas, Cotts chose Milwaukee in part due to proximity to his home in Chicago.

Here are some notes on still-active bullpen situations around the game:

  • The Red Sox have indicated a willingness over the last few days to deal righty Edward Mujica, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Mujica, 30, signed a two-year deal to head to Boston last year after a strong 2013 with the Cardinals, but struggled mightily out of the gate. He rebounded with a big second half, however, throwing 25 1/3 innings of 1.78 ERA ball over the second half. All said, Mujica ended the year having allowed 3.90 earned per nine and having compiled a 3.70 FIP that was nearly identical to his fielding-independent mark from the season prior.
  • After adding Cotts, the Brewers will keep looking for a veteran, late-inning arm, potentially one with closing experience, assistant GM Gord Ash tells Haudricourt. The club is “juggling a lot of balls right now,” says Ash, who added that talks with the Phillies on Jonathan Papelbon are not dead even if nothing is imminent. Ash also indicated that the team was considering former closer Francisco Rodriguez, but noted that the club is not in on Rafael Soriano or Joba Chamberlain. Milwaukee also seems to have its eye out for a bargain, with Ash noting that the club is open to doing a minor league deal at any time.
  • A few of the other names still on the market do have some interest even though they have yet to ink a contract, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter links). After a solid 2014, southpaw Joe Beimel has interest from three clubs, including the incumbent Mariners, while fellow lefty Joe Thatcher has drawn attention from a handful of teams.

Red Sox Designate Drake Britton For Assignment

The Red Sox have designated lefty Drake Britton for assignment, the club announced (via Tim Britton of the Providence Journal, on Twitter). His roster spot will go to the just-signed Alexi Ogando, whose signing was made official.

Britton, 25, has seen 27 2/3 innings of action at the MLB level over the last two years, working to a 2.93 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. But he spent most of 2014 at Triple-A, where he struggled to a 5.86 earned run mark in 58 1/3 frames.

With Robbie Ross added to the bullpen mix and Craig Breslow already on hand, Boston apparently felt it could stand to sacrifice some southpaw depth. It surely did not help that Britton is out of options. That fact will limit interest around the league, though he seems a likely candidate to be claimed or traded out of limbo.


Rockies Sign Rafael Betancourt, Omar Quintanilla

The Rockies have re-signed former closer Rafael Betancourt and also added shortstop Omar Quintanilla, Matt Eddy of Baseball America reports on Twitter. It appears that the pair will head to camp on minor league deals.

Betancourt is entering his age-40 season. He came back from Tommy John surgery in late 2013 to throw 19 1/3 Triple-A innings last year, and he will surely hope for another crack at the bigs this time around. Betancourt has been excellent since joining the Rockies back in 2009, contributing 236 1/3 innings of 3.08 ERA bullpen work with 10.5 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9. He racked up 57 saves in that span.

Quintanilla, 33, will return to the place where he first cracked the show (back in 2005). He has bounced around a bit since, most recently appearing with the Mets. Despite a lifetime .220/.287/.295 slash, Quintanilla has taken 1,162 trips to the plate at the MLB level over parts of nine seasons. As one might expect, Quintanilla has spent the bulk of his time playing at short and second, though he has also logged a few innings at third.


Yankees To Sign Scott Baker To Minor League Deal

4:15pm: Baker will earn at a $1.5MM rate if he makes the big league roster, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.

12:15pm: The Yankees have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with longtime Twins right-hander Scott Baker, reports Matt Eddy of Baseball America (on Twitter).

Baker was a mainstay in the Twins’ rotation during their run at the top of the division, but he underwent Tommy John surgery in Spring Training of 2012 and has yet to re-establish himself as a reliable rotation cog in the Major Leagues. Baker has spent the past two seasons in the Cubs and Rangers organizations, working to a combined 5.17 ERA in 95 2/3 innings of work.

Prior to those struggles and his surgery, however, Baker was a solid, if unspectacular mid-rotation arm for Minnesota. He averaged 181 innings of 4.11 ERA ball (103 ERA+) from 2008-10 with the Twins before seemingly taking a significant step forward in a 2011 season that was cut short by injury. Baker notched just 134 2/3 innings that year but had turned in a pristine 3.14 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 prior to being shut down. Metrics such as his 3.45 FIP and 3.43 SIERA reflected genuine improvement as well.

Now with the Yankees, the former second-round pick will hope to earn a rotation spot amid a sea of other injury question marks. Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova ultimately comprise New York’s ideal rotation, but Nova won’t be ready to start the season after having his own Tommy John last year. Meanwhile, Sabathia is coming off knee surgery, uncertainty surrounds Tanaka’s UCL and Pineda’s history of shoulder problems is a persistent concern. Chris Capuano was signed to a big league deal this winter, so he should open the year in the rotation, but given the injury troubles surrounding the entire group of rotation options, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Baker get a crack, should his own health issues permit.


Red Sox To Sign Alexi Ogando

4:04pm: Ogando passed his physical, tweets Cafardo. He’s likely to serve as a seventh-inning option for Boston.

3:11pm: Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that there are an additional $1.5MM worth of roster bonuses and performance incentives in the deal.

3:05pm: Ogando’s deal is worth a guaranteed $1.5MM, tweets Rosenthal. He adds that Ogando can earn more via incentives.

2:44pm: The Red Sox and right-hander Alexi Ogando are in agreement on a one-year, Major League contract, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe had just tweeted that the two sides were “moving along,” and colleague Alex Speier added that they were nearing a Major League deal. The deal is pending a physical, per Rosenthal. Ogando is a joint client of Reynolds Sports Management and Draft Pix Sports.

The Rangers non-tendered Ogando this Deceber rather than pay him a projected $2.6MM due largely to concerns over his health. For that reason, the physical on this deal would not seem to be a slam dunk; Ogando battled nerve damage and inflammation in his shoulder as well as a biceps issue in 2013. In 2014, he was limited to just 25 innings of work thanks to a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm.

Suffice it to say, the risk with Ogando is considerable, however the upside is tantalizing. In four seasons with the Rangers from 2010-13, Ogando pitched to a 3.12 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 381 innings as both a starter and a reliever. Ogando’s fastball averaged 96-97 mph when he was at his best with the Rangers in the first three seasons of his career, but his arm issues over the past two season dropped that heat to about 93.5 mph. If he’s healthy and his velocity returns, Ogando can provide the Red Sox with a weapon out of the ‘pen or perhaps another option for the rotation, though the picture is fairly crowded on that front. Boston has the added benefit of controlling Ogando through the 2016 season via arbitration, should he perform well enough to merit that scenario.


Rockies Designate Jayson Aquino For Assignment

The Rockies announced that they have designated left-hander Jayson Aquino for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for newly acquired right-hander David Hale.

Aquino, who turned 22 in November, split the 2014 campaign between Class-A Advanced and Double-A, working to a 5.13 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 107 innings (18 starts). Aquino has three times ranked among Colorado’s top 30 prospects, per Baseball America, topping out at No. 9 following the 2012 season. However, he slipped to 28th last offseason, with BA noting that while he possesses a plus changeup and an average slider, his fastball command is poor, and he doesn’t use the pitch enough. BA’s report also indicated that Aquino is too emotional on the mound, often showing that emotion when disagreeing with umpires’ calls.


Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

Here is today’s list of minor arbitration settlements, with all projections coming via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz

  • The Orioles and Steve Pearce have agreed to a one-year deal that will pay the first baseman/outfielder a sizable $3.7MM sum, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links). Pearce had an unexpected breakout season with the O’s in 2014, batting a whopping .293/.373/.556 with 21 homers after spending the first seven season of his career in relative obscurity. The 31-year-old entered the 2014 campaign with a pedestrian .238/.318/.377 batting line over the life of 847 big league appearances. The unique nature of Pearce’s breakout led him to vastly surpass the $2.2MM estimate of Swartz’s projection model. His $3.7MM settling point was the exact midpoint of the $5.4MM at which he filed and the $2MM figure submitted by the Orioles (which is one of the more notable gaps you’ll see in arb filing numbers). With his case settled, the Orioles have only Zach Britton, Alejandro De Aza and Miguel Gonzalez remaining.

Remember, all arbitration situations can be monitored using MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker.


Rockies Acquire David Hale, Gus Schlosser From Braves

The Rockies have acquired right-handers David Hale and Gus Schlosser from the Braves in exchange for minor league catchers Jose Briceno and Chris O’Dowd, the teams announced today.

Of the players involved in this trade, Hale easily has the most big league experience. The 27-year-old Hale has turned in 98 1/3 innings of 3.02 ERA ball over the past two seasons in a swingman role for the Braves, making eight starts and 39 relief appearances. He’s averaged just 5.3 K/9 and walked a slightly troubling 3.7 hitters per nine, but he’s also posted a stellar 56.7 percent ground-ball rate, which undoubtedly has appeal to the Rockies. It’s unclear at this time what role Hale will fill for the Rockies; Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Tyler Matzek and Jordan Lyles appear likely to hold down the first four rotation spots, and Hale could join Eddie Butler, Christian Bergman and Chris Rusin in competing for the fifth slot. He could also again serve as a swingman, providing long relief when needed and slotting into the rotation on occasion throughout the year.

As for Schlosser, the 26-year-old debuted in 2014 but struggled to a 7.64 ERA in 17 2/3 innings of work. Schlosser struck out just eight hitters against six walks in that stretch, though he fared better in the minors to some extent, notching a 4.18 ERA with 6.4 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9. As MLB.com’s Mark Bowman points out (on Twitter), Schlosser has been through a curious cycle with the Braves over the past two months. He was non-tendered on Dec. 2 to clear a space on the 40-man roster then re-signed to a minor league deal four days later, and he’s now been shipped to Colorado.

Briceno, the more highly regarded of the two prospects headed to the Braves, didn’t rank among the Rockies’ Top 10 prospects per ESPN’s Keith Law or Baseball America, but he did place 11th among Rockies farmhands on the list of Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel. Briceno, who turned 22 in September, spent this past season at Class-A where he batted .283/.336/.476 with 12 homers in 350 plate appearances. As McDaniel notes, Briceno is a work in progress defensively but has a plus arm and plenty of athleticism to go along with raw power and a feel for hitting. It’s a long shot, but he’s a potential everyday option behind the plate in McDaniel’s eyes, which is enough for him to praise Atlanta for making this move (Twitter link).

O’Dowd, the son of former Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd, was San Diego’s 23rd-round pick in the 2012 draft. He split the 2014 season, his age-23 campaign, between Class-A Advanced and Double-A, posting a combined batting line of .271/.335/.385 in 471 plate appearances.

From Atlanta’s perspective, this move will open a slot on their 40-man roster, allowing the team to make Jonny Gomes‘ one-year contract official.