AL Central Notes: Boyer, Hanrahan, Chamberlain

Twins righty Blaine Boyer hung up his spikes after 2012, in spite of good health and a live arm, in large part to spend more time with his family, as he tells Phil Miller of the Star Tribune. But his clan has made it work since, aided by busy travel arrangements, and Boyer is in camp with Minnesota after a strong campaign last year with the Padres. His minor league deal with the Twins includes a late March out clause, Miller also reports.

Here are a few more notes from the AL Central:

  • Tigers reliever Joel Hanrahan has seemingly stalled out in his comeback attempt, as Jason Beck of MLB.com reports. Since going in for a Tommy John procedure in the middle of the 2013 campaign, Hanrahan has been unable to get his elbow back into form. Soreness has kept him from moving onto the mound this spring, and he has already received at least one suggestion that he undergo a second TJ surgery. There appears to be at least some question at this point whether the 33-year-old will ever return to a big league pen, let alone contribute to the club in 2015.
  • While Hanrahan tries to figure out his situation, fellow Tigers righty Joba Chamberlain discussed his recent free agent process with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. His son’s connection with Detroit proved a strong inducement for the righty, who said he left money on the table to return. Among the teams with interest in him were the Rangers, Dodgers, Royals, and Brewers, some of which were willing to pay him in the range of his $2.5MM salary from 2014.

East Notes: Marlins, K-Rod, Braves, Lee, Hamels

The Marlins‘ best offer for Francisco Rodriguez was for two years and $10MM, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. While that was not enough to convince K-Rod to part from the Brewers, it does represent a relatively significant chunk of change that the team could presumably tap into at some point in the future.

Here’s more from the eastern divisions:

  • Braves owner Liberty Media continues to provide some interesting insight into the club through its legally-required Securities and Exchange Commission filings, as Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains. In addition to ticking through the accounting for last year’s emergency pickup of Ervin Santana and release of Dan Uggla, the filing documents that the organization has already borrowed about $100MM from credit facilities arranged to help fund its portion of the funding of its new stadium.
  • Atlanta’s biggest write-off may be yet to come, as struggling and now injured center fielder Melvin Upton could eventually go the way of Uggla. For now, the team is focused on finding a temporary replacement and getting him back up to speed as soon as possible, as David O’Brien of the AJC reports. One possible fill-in, prospect Todd Cunningham, says that the players in camp “can kind of smell blood in the water,” while Eric Young Jr. called it an “unfortunate situation” but acknowledged that “you’re kidding anybody if you don’t see it as an opportunity.” The most interesting possibility could be Eury Perez, who is just 24 and has a solid track record in the upper minors but never had a real chance with his prior clubs.
  • The Phillies have had one of their top advisers, Charlie Kerfeld, watching Red Sox prospects as the clubs continue to eye one another over left-handed pitching, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. There is a sense now that Cliff Lee could be dealt before Cole Hamels, Cafardo adds, though that doesn’t necessarily mean Boston is the inevitable destination.
  • As Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reports, there are no signs of progress on a Hamels deal. The Sox are more likely to be willing to part with players like Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero, and Jackie Bradley Jr. in any trade scenarios than they are some of their other top young players, Mastrodonato adds.

Nationals Sign Tony Gwynn Jr. To MiLB Deal

The Nationals have signed outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. to a minor league pact, the club announced. The deal includes a big league spring invite.

Gwynn is, of course, the son of one of the greatest players in recent memory. Though he has not matched his father’s near-untouchable stat line, he has obviously maintained the big league legacy with a career spanning eight seasons. Across 1,798 total career plate appearances in the bigs, Gwynn owns a .238/.309/.310 slash with 80 stolen bases.

Gwynn enjoyed a four-year run (2009-12) where he had over 250 trips to bat annually, but that streak ended when he failed to reach the game’s highest level in 2013. But he returned to the majors last year with the Phillies, putting up a meager .152/.264/.190 slash line in 127 plate appearances.



International Notes: July 2 Market, Cuba

Hector Olivera and Yadier Alvarez are the two biggest names to watch on the international market at present, but let’s take a look at some other notes while we wait to learn more on their situations:

  • Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has a wide-ranging round-up of the latest from the upcoming July 2nd signing period, which has clarified somewhat with Yoan Moncada now in agreement with the Red Sox. Noting that slot money has gone up by about five to seven percent, as Baseball America’s Ben Badler details, McDaniel says that about five clubs seem to be on track to exceed their bonus allotments and “many more” will attempt to spend to their max.
  • Uncertainty in U.S.-Cuban politics is dampening some teams’ interest in going over their pools and incurring severe spending restrictions for two years, per McDaniel. Depending upon how things progress, that might mean missing out on a sudden influx of talent. Nevertheless, it appears that overall spending will see significant increases; indeed, as McDaniel tweets, one team that he does not mention in his post is already believed to have about $7.5MM set to go out to six players — none of whom will be among the highest-earning prospects.
  • McDaniel provides a ton of detail on July 2nd prospects, including Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is said to be likely heading to the Blue Jays for a bonus that will top $4MM. Also expected to go over the $4MM mark are young slugger Jhailyn Ortiz, who is expected to land with the Phillies, and shortstop Wander Javier, whom the Twins are believed to be line to sign.
  • While there is nothing new on Alvarez, Badler does explain that his situation — and that of fellow young righty Vladimir Gutierrez — could shape the future of Cuban amateur talent. Alvarez could test MLB’s historical unwillingness to grant exceptions to its timely registration rule, given the fact that he could not do so while in Cuba, and that would presumably set the precedent moving forward. A similar situation holds for Gutierrez, who could face an exceedingly long delay if he cannot establish residency in a third country in relatively short order.

Understanding Pre-Arbitration Salaries

While the 2014-15 arbitration process is complete — final results can be found here — you may have noticed that agreements between non-free agent players and teams are still being reported and announced. These deals are being arrived at with players who own 40-man spots but remain shy of the service requirements to reach arbitration eligibility. (I.e., they have less than three years of service and did not qualify as Super Two players.)

Generally, MLBTR does not cover these deals. Not only are there are dozens per team, but they have minimal bearing on the broader market. The reason is simple: the collective bargaining agreement stipulates that teams may simply renew pre-arb players at the league minimum (or any other desired level) if agreement on a price cannot be reached, leaving no obligation for teams to pay more and affording scarcely any leverage to the player. In other words, there is not much to see or think about.

But, as with most things, there are exceptions. Last February, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported that the Rockies had drawn the ire of some agents for only spending a few thousand dollars above the minimum. MLBTR’s Zach Links proceeded to undertake a deep dive on the subject, explaining how different teams use varying types of formulas to arrive at pre-arb salaries — many of which are informed by some combination of service time, playing time, and performance.

Sometimes teams choose to go well above the required levels of pay. The two most notable examples — Ryan Howard‘s final pre-arb salary of $900K and Mike Trout‘s $1MM pact last year — were followed by extensions. It is difficult to know whether those shows of good faith helped pave the way to longer-term deals, but the teams involved (the Phillies and Angels, respectively) obviously were motivated to go above and beyond for players who were coming off of MVP or MVP-type seasons.

In some cases, players and teams are unable to agree upon a deal, leading the team to simply renew the player at its desired value. This is in large part a symbolic matter, though as Zach and fellow MLBTR writer Steve Adams learned last year, the Astros have taken a $5K deduction (as against the team’s offer) when renewing pre-arb players who declined to reach agreement at the team’s price.

Inability to agree upon a price is but one aspect of a team’s relationship with a player, of course, but tension in the pre-arb process is certainly one possible outcome. Interestingly, Trout had his contract renewed without agreement in the season before his huge pre-arb payday, with his agent blasting the team at the time. The sides were ultimately able to come together on a nine-figure deal, with the prior years’ salaries constituting an element of the jockeying in the lead-up to that contract.

It remains to be seen whether this year will feature any particularly interesting cases. But it is worth noting that several of 2014’s top performers — Corey Kluber of the Indians, Anthony Rendon of the Nationals, and Sonny Gray of the Athletics come to mind — remain shy of arbitration eligibility.


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AL Notes: Haber, Street, Ludwick, Orioles

The White Sox announced today that they have promoted Jeremy Haber, who was previously assistant to general manager Rick Hahn and will now bear the title of assistant GM. The 31-year-old Haber led negotiations on the team’s five-year, $21MM extension with Jose Quintana last offseason, says Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune (on Twitter), and he also leads salary arbitration negotiations. CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes profiled Haber last offseason, noting an impressive educational background but little experience in the baseball world. Haber has a B.A. in political science from Brown as well as an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Haber was initially hired as an intern with the Red Sox after a series of blind emails to teams in search of a front office opportunity, and he’s since helped in the White Sox’ hiring of hitting coach Todd Steverson in addition to making player acquisition recommendations for Hahn and the rest of the Chicago front office.

More from the American League:

  • Huston Street tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register that he and Angels GM Jerry Dipoto have begun swapping text messages to figure out a time when they can have more serious extension discussions in the near future. Street, who acts as his own agent, has said he wants to get a new contract worked out in Spring Training and made no attempt to hide the fact that he’s eyeing something between the four-year, $36MM deal inked by Andrew Miller and the four-year, $46MM contract signed by David Robertson. He did say he envisions a new contract overriding his current one-year deal, so he’s essentially looking for three new years.
  • Ryan Ludwick told Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com that multiple teams for which he had played in the past expressed interest in bringing him back this offseason, though he declined to specify which teams. The Rangers are clearly one, as the now-36-year-old signed a minor league pact to return to Texas, where he made his big league debut 13 years ago. “It’s cool knowing that teams are willing to take you on,” Ludwick said Sunday. “I guess that means I’m somewhat of a decent guy.” The Rangers will hope that in addition to being a “somewhat decent guy,” Ludwick will bring the offense he showed as recently as 2012, when he hit .275/.346/.531 with 26 homers in just 472 plate appearances for the Reds. He’s also played for the Cardinals, Indians, Padres and Pirates.
  • Replacing Nelson Cruz‘s production will not be straightforward but may yet be possible for the Orioles, as Jayson Stark of ESPN.com writes. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette explains that the current roster not only has power across the board but does so with generally well-rounded players. And, as he notes, the team will never “grab a lot of headlines in the offseason,” as would have been needed to bring Cruz back or replace him with a single player. “We pick up players year round,” said Duquette. “We don’t do it all in the offseason.”

The D-Backs’ Veteran Trade Candidates

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted this morning that the Diamondbacks have let other clubs know they’re willing to move Trevor Cahill, Cody Ross or Aaron Hill in trades, although that tweet prompted a denial from GM Dave Stewart that he’s had any actual conversations on that trio of veterans (Twitter link).

We can debate the semantics here, but conventional wisdom would seem to suggest that three expensive veterans that have underperformed for a last place team whose president/CEO has previously stated that his club may get “creative” to trim payroll are certainly candidates to be moved. The D-Backs showing a willingness to move them would hardly be a surprise, nor would it be surprising were Stewart’s comments genuine as well. However, the reason for the lack of conversations would likely be a lack of interest, and Stewart or the D-Backs may ultimately prefer to spin it in a different fashion.

What the D-Backs have on their hands are three formerly productive players that are compensated at levels which don’t reflect their recent performance. That’s not to say that none of the three has value, however, should Arizona show a willingness to absorb some salary to grease the wheels on a potential trade. Let’s look at each player and try to determine a few fits.

Trevor Cahill: Somewhat surprisingly, Cahill is still just 27 years old (he turned 27 yesterday, in fact). The right-hander is owed $12.3MM before he’s eligible for free agency next offseason, but his contract does contain a pair of club options at $13MM and $13.5MM. Cahill, until the 2014 season, was generally accepted as a ground-ball inducing machine and a perfectly serviceable mid-rotation arm. From 2010-13, he pitched to a 3.72 ERA (4.09 FIP) in 751 innings, and he’d settled in as a 200-inning horse before injuries struck in 2013. Cahill was struck in the hip by a line-drive that season and missed about six weeks, and a shoulder strain ended his season shortly after.

If he looks healthy and at all like his old self in Spring Training, a team with a need in the rotation could do worse than gambling on him, should the D-Backs kick in some of the remaining guarantee. There’s always the chance that he could regain his form in 2015 and give an acquiring club a rotation piece that can be controlled for another two seasons. Would a team with questionable pitching depth like the Phillies or Rockies be willing to take that kind of risk? The Phillies are rebuilding, but Cahill’s still young, and they have the financial wherewithal to make it happen. The Rangers’ back-of-the-rotation options are questionable (but also plentiful), and the Tigers lack depth beyond their currently projected five starters.

Cody Ross: The 34-year-old Ross is owed $9.5MM in 2015 and has a $1MM buyout on an option of the same value for the 2016 season. Hip surgery and a calf strain kept Ross off the field for much of last season, but he’s always handled left-handed pitching well, as evidenced by a career .294/.360/.557 batting line against them.

The Blue Jays just added Dayan Viciedo on a minor league deal, but if he struggles in Spring Training and Ross looks healthy, perhaps they’d prefer Ross in the event that the Snakes take on half of his remaining salary or so. The Indians were also interested in Viciedo on a minor league deal, so it stands to reason that a healthy Ross may have some appeal as well, if the price was right. The same could be said for the Reds. Again, the D-Backs may need to eat $5MM+ to make any of these scenarios realistic.

Aaron Hill: Hill will turn 33 later this month and is one season removed from an excellent .291/.356/.492 batting line in a half season’s work. Hill showed no ill effects of the broken hand he suffered early in 2013 upon returning from the disabled list, but that only makes his 2014 drop-off even more puzzling; Hill stayed healthy for most of the season but still mustered just a .244/.287/.367 line in 137 games. And, he dislocated a finger on his other hand at the end of the year.

Hill is the toughest to move because his remaining $24MM over two years is the largest commitment. I don’t know that Arizona would want to eat the type of salary that would be necessary to move him, so it might be in the team’s best interest to, rather than absorb $12MM to move him, just pay him for the first half and hope for a rebound. Multiple teams have been connected to second base upgrades this winter without pulling the trigger on a deal, and there figure to be additional teams in need this summer. The A’s, Orioles, Angels and White Sox could all conceivably find themselves with needs as the season progresses, and one injury to a currently healthy player could open the door for a summer trading partner, if Hill is able to demonstrate production closer to his previous heights than his 2014 decline.


2016-17 MLB Free Agents

With this year’s group of free agents mostly picked clean, and with MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings for next year’s crop already taken care of, we’ll do what we typically do at MLBTR and take an extremely preliminary look at the following free agent class, even if it’s a full 18 months away. At first glance, the group is definitely weaker than the class we stand to see next winter, though comparing any free agent class to that of next winter may be foolhardy, as the 2015-16 group is among the best in recent history.

A pair of notable names are likely to join this group once their 2016 options are officially exercised — Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Others with 2016 options that could join the list depending on the outcome of their 2016 options include Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, Justin Morneau, Marlon Byrd, Alexei Ramirez, Nori Aoki, R.A. Dickey and Joaquin Benoit. Of course, that group features a wide range of elder statesmen that don’t dramatically increase the appeal of the unit as a whole, but the addition of some veterans that are candidates for short-term deals would nonetheless strengthen the group to some extent.

Bear in mind that this group will also feature any player that is non-tendered after the 2016 season and any player that signs a one-year deal next winter. Additionally, we don’t yet know what, if any, major international names will be on the list. We also don’t know which of these players will sign extensions.

For the time being, however, the following is the list of players you can expect to see on the open market following the 2016 season.

If you see any errors or omissions, please contact us. To see who represents these players, check out MLBTR’s Agency Database.

Catchers

Drew Butera (34)
Jason Castro (30)
Francisco Cervelli (31)
A.J. Ellis (36)
Ryan Hanigan (36) — $3.75MM club option with an $800K buyout
Nick Hundley (33)
Jonathan Lucroy (31) — $5.25MM club option with a $25K buyout
Salvador Perez (27) — $3.75MM club option (no buyout)
Wilson Ramos (29)
David Ross (40)
Carlos Ruiz (38) — $4.5MM club option with a $500K buyout
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (32)
Chris Stewart (35)
Kurt Suzuki (33) — $6MM vesting option
Josh Thole (30)

First Basemen

Pedro Alvarez (30)
Michael Cuddyer (38)
Ike Davis (30)
Ryan Howard (37) — $23MM club option with a $10MM buyout
Travis Ishikawa (33)
Adam LaRoche (37)
James Loney (33)
Mitch Moreland (31)
Logan Morrison (29)
Mike Morse (35)
Brandon Moss (33)
Carlos Santana (31) — $12MM club option with a $1.2MM buyout
Justin Smoak (30)
Mark Teixeira (37)
Mark Trumbo (31)

Second Basemen

Darwin Barney (31)
Everth Cabrera (30)
Daniel Descalso (30)
Yunel Escobar (34) — $7MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Aaron Hill (35)
Martin Prado (33)
Justin Turner (32)
Luis Valbuena (31)
Neil Walker (31)

Third Basemen

Adrian Beltre (38)
Daniel Descalso (30)
Martin Prado (33)
Justin Turner (32)
Luis Valbuena (31)

Shortstops

Erick Aybar (33)
Everth Cabrera (30)
Daniel Descalso (30)
Yunel Escobar (34) — $7MM club  option with a $1MM buyout

Left Fielders

Gregor Blanco (33)
Chris Coghlan (32)
Sam Fuld (35)
Chris Heisey (32)
Matt Holliday (37) — $17MM club/vesting option with $1MM buyout
Travis Ishikawa (33)
John Mayberry, Jr. (33)
Michael Saunders (30)
Jordan Schafer (30)

Center Fielders

Gregor Blanco (33)
Peter Bourjos (30)
Michael Bourn (34) — $12MM vesting option
Coco Crisp (37) — $13MM vesting/club option with a $750K buyout
Sam Fuld (35)
Craig Gentry (33)
Carlos Gomez (31)
Chris Heisey (32)
Jon Jay (32)
John Mayberry, Jr. (33)
Cameron Maybin (30) — $9MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Angel Pagan (35)
Justin Ruggiano (35)

Right Fielders

Carlos Beltran (39)
Jay Bruce (30) — $13MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Michael Cuddyer (38)
Chris Heisey (32)
John Mayberry, Jr. (33)
Brandon Moss (33)
Josh Reddick (30)
Justin Ruggiano (35)
Michael Saunders (30)
Seth Smith (34) — $7MM club option with a $250K buyout
Travis Snider (29)
Nick Swisher (36) — $14MM vesting option

Designated Hitters

Carlos Beltran (39)
Michael Cuddyer (38)
Ryan Howard (37) — $23MM club option with a $10MM buyout
Adam LaRoche (37)
Kendrys Morales (34) — $11MM mutual option with a $1.5MM buyout
Mike Morse (35)
Brandon Moss (33)
Carlos Santana (31) — $12MM club option with a $1.2MM buyout
Nick Swisher (36) — $14MM vesting option
Mark Teixeira (37)

Starting Pitchers

Brandon Beachy (30)
Andrew Cashner (30)
Jesse Chavez (33)
Josh Collmenter (31) — $2.25MM club option with a $150K buyout
John Danks (32)
Jorge De La Rosa (36)
Scott Feldman (34)
Dillon Gee (30)
Gio Gonzalez (31) — $12MM club option with a $500K buyout
Jason Hammel (34) — $10MM club option with a $2MM buyout
Jeremy Hellickson (30)
Derek Holland (30) — $11MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Edwin Jackson (33)
Kris Medlen (31) — $10MM mutual option with a $1MM buyout
Matt Moore (28) — $7MM club option with a $2.5MM buyout
Charlie Morton (33) — $9.5MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Jon Niese (30) — $10MM club option with a $500K buyout
Ivan Nova (30)
Jake Peavy (36)
Yusmeiro Petit (32)
CC Sabathia (36) — $25MM vesting option with a $5MM buyout
Stephen Strasburg (28)
Josh Tomlin (32)
Edinson Volquez (33) — $10MM mutual option with a $3MM buyout
Jered Weaver (34)
C.J. Wilson (36)
Travis Wood (30)

Closers

Aroldis Chapman (29)
Neftali Feliz (29)
Greg Holland (31)
Kenley Jansen (29)
Mark Melancon (32)
Sergio Romo (34)
Drew Storen (29)
Koji Uehara (42)

Right-Handed Relievers

Aaron Crow (30)
Ernesto Frieri (31)
Jason Grilli (40) — $3MM club option with a $250K buyout
Luke Hochevar (33) — $7MM mutual option with a $500K buyout
Daniel Hudson (30)
Kevin Jepsen (32)
Sam LeCure (33)
Pat Neshek (36) — $6.5MM club option with a $500K buyout
Alexi Ogando (33)
Esmil Rogers (31)
Fernando Salas (32)
Joe Smith (33)
Craig Stammen (33)
Junichi Tazawa (31)
Jordan Walden (29) — $5.25MM club option with a $250K buyout

Left-Handed Relievers

Brett Cecil (30)
Mike Dunn (32)
Boone Logan (32)
Javier Lopez (39)
Brian Matusz (30)
Josh Outman (32)
Cesar Ramos (33)
Matt Reynolds (32)
Marc Rzepczynski (31)

Cot’s Baseball Contracts was used extensively in the creation of this post.


NL Central Notes: Wainwright, Holliday, Pirates, Leake

Adam Wainwright returned to the mound today and threw a 30- to 40-pitch bullpen session without issue, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Wainwright gave Cardinals fans a bit of a scare last week when he had to return to St. Louis to see a specialist for pain in his abdomen, but he was diagnosed with a strain and merely prescribed some rest. Manager Mike Matheny said his ace will first have to face hitters in a live batting practice session before getting into a game, but he didn’t give reporters a timeline on that next step.

More from the NL Central…

  • Matt Holliday said to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports today that he hopes the Cardinals will eventually pick up his 2017 option (Twitter link). Holliday says he’s not concerned with the financial component of the $17MM option, but rather that he likes playing in St. Louis and hopes to remain as long as he can. In reply, Goold tweeted to Heyman that team president Bill DeWitt Jr. has told the Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz that the current intention is indeed to exercise the option. Of course, plenty could change that line of thinking over the next two seasons, especially considering the fact that Holliday is already 35.
  • Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review opines that new addition Jung-ho Kang is more likely to eventually cut into the playing time of Jordy Mercer or Josh Harrison than Neil Walker in the short-term. He also tackles recent reports that the Pirates are open to an extension with Andrew McCutchen at a premium price, wondering if such a move would be wise for the Bucs four years in advance of the end of a contract that already runs through McCutchen’s age-31 season. As Sawchik notes, paying for a player’s decline phase rarely proves to be a sound decision for any team, and the team could have younger assets like Gerrit Cole or Gregory Polanco on which to use that hefty sum as they enter their arbitration years.
  • Mike Leake tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he’s happy to have survived the Reds‘ offseason with the team, as he and fellow right-handers Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon entered the offseason fully aware that they could be traded. (Latos and Simon, of course, were indeed traded.) Leake hasn’t been approached by the Reds about an extension yet and isn’t expecting them to do so, although he’d like to see them at least try to work out a long-term deal. The 27-year-old former No. 8 overall pick can become a free agent at season’s end and has enjoyed a pair of productive seasons in 2013-14, posting a 3.54 ERA in 406 2/3 innings.

AL Central Notes: Hunter, Twins, Hanrahan, Aviles

Torii Hunter spoke with Bob Nightengale of USA Today about his return to the Twins and an interesting aspiration that he has in his post-playing days. The 39-year-old Hunter would eventually like to not only work in the Twins’ front office, but take the reins as general manager of the team. “I really want to get into that front office, make some changes, and build a team that I want to build,” Hunter explained. “I’d love to learn everything from [Twins GM Terry Ryan]. He’ll be a mentor. One day, that’s my goal, to be GM of the Twins.”  Nightengale spoke with Ryan about the idea and writes that Hunter “will have a door waiting for him,” though Nightengale writes that Ryan also advised Hunter not to rush any decisions about retirement. Hunter said he’s considered hanging it up next winter, though he very much sounds like a good year at the plate would leave him open to a return in Minnesota. “…unless I hit .300, then I’m going nowhere,” said Hunter, who has batted .301 over the past three seasons. Hunter also has interest in working in TV, he said, and he spoke with Nightengale at length about his prayers for friend Josh Hamilton.

A bit more from Nightengale’s piece and the AL Central…

  • Nightengale reports that the Rangers made Hunter a one-year, $8MM offer to play near his Dallas home, and the division-rival Royals offered Hunter one year and $8.5MM with a player option. Hunter, however, ultimately decided he wanted to return to Minnesota, and Nightengale adds that Billy Butler‘s three-year, $30MM contract with Oakland “raised the stakes” for Hunter (presumably implying that Butler’s deal caused Hunter to aim for a higher annual value). Hunter said a 90-minute phone call with Ryan, in which the GM explained that he wants Hunter in Minnesota “forever,” impacted him a great deal as well.
  • Tigers right-hander Joel Hanrahan is traveling to Texas to see Dr. Keith Meister about persistent elbow problems that have slowed his comeback attempt, writes MLive.com’s Chris Iott. Hanrahan, who hasn’t thrown since Feb. 22, tells Iott that he’s past the point of frustration and wants to get answers as to why his elbow still is not working properly. Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press also spoke with Hanrahan, who told him that at times, it feels like bones in his arm are rubbing together, and at other times, like his biceps is being pinched (Twitter link). Hanrahan missed all of the 2014 season and most of the 2013 season recovering from Tommy John and flexor tendon surgery.
  • Mike Aviles‘ outgoing personality and vocal leadership abilities factored into the Indians‘ decision to exercise his $3.5MM option this offseason, writes Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com. Manager Terry Francona told Meisel: “We told him that in our one-on-one. That’s part of his responsibility. We love what he does as a player, because he plays all over the place and he can play every position professionally. But when he’s not playing, he needs to be in a leadership role. We need that out of him. He understands that.”

Quick Hits: International Draft, Viciedo, Rollins

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is not yet willing to endorse an international draft, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. “The idea of a worldwide anything or an international anything in a lot of ways sounds great in theory,” Clark says. He adds, though, that “to simply take a system that appears to work — and I say ‘appears’ purposely — appears to work in one place and plop it down in another is a dangerous proposition.” Clark suggests that the draft seems to work reasonably well in the U.S. and Canada, where players have high school degrees or even some college, and can therefore approach the draft from an educated perspective. Latin American players, though, often sign at much younger ages. Clark does add, though, that an international draft will be a “topic of discussion.” Here’s more from around the game.

  • The Blue Jays‘ minor-league deals for Dayan Viciedo and Johan Santana aren’t risky, but those two players could cost over $9MM with incentives if the Jays do roster them. With that in mind, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm wonders why the Jays signed Viciedo and Santana (who presumably have some chance of making the team, and therefore earning their big-league salaries) rather than pursuing bullpen help. The Blue Jays made some big moves early in the offseason when they acquired Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson, but have been quiet lately, even though their bullpen is a bit thin. A cheap deal for someone like Burke Badenhop or Joba Chamberlain might have made sense, Chisholm suggests.
  • On a related note, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons doesn’t seem overly enthused about the Viciedo addition, John Lott of the National Post writes. “He was available,” says Gibbons. “He’s got some big-league time in. Been successful, to a certain extent. Bring him to camp, see what he is.” Viciedo will play first base and third base in camp, as well as left field.
  • Rule 5 pick David Rollins is excited to compete for a job as the second lefty out of the Mariners‘ bullpen behind Charlie Furbush, AJ Cassavell of MLB.com writes. Manager Lloyd McClendon doesn’t want a lefty specialist, but rather someone who can work multiple innings. That role might work for Rollins, who started 12 games last year for Double-A Corpus Christi in the Astros’ system.

NL Notes: Gordon, Burgos, Stewart, Preller

Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon is a better bet than projection systems indicate, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports argues. Steamer and PECOTA foresee regression for Gordon next season, but Rosenthal points to examples of late-blooming speedy players like Michael Bourn, Shane Victorino and Tom Goodwin as evidence that Gordon (who didn’t start playing baseball until he was a junior in high school) ought to be able to retain some of the improvements he made in the first half of last season. Rosenthal also suggests being traded from Los Angeles to Miami might be good for Gordon, in that he’ll get to work with top infield instructor Perry Hill with the Marlins. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • Diamondbacks prospect Enrique Burgos‘ current GM, Dave Stewart, was also his agent before the Dbacks hired him last September. Burgos credits Stewart for helping him improve last season, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. Burgos walked 50 batters in 46 1/3 innings with Class A South Bend in 2013, but he took a new attitude with him to Class A+ Visalia last year and halved his walk rate while posting 13.7 K/9 in 54 2/3 innings of relief. “Before, a lot of people would tell me that I looked so nice on the mound,” says Burgos. “But with the stuff that I have, I can’t be nice. That was one of the things [Stewart] told me. You have to think you’re the man up there, instead of being so nice.”
  • Fellow GMs thought new Padres executive A.J. Preller would be aggressive, but his ultra-busy offseason took the rest of baseball by surprise, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. The fact that the Padres hired Preller in August gave him time to figure out how best to remake his team, his former boss and Rangers GM Jon Daniels says. “I think the fact that he got in early gave him the chance to truly evaluate what they had and make this decision that people didn’t anticipate,” says Daniels. “I think the assumption was they might trade some of their pitching and build the system, especially with his background in the amateur markets. That’s where I give him a lot of credit. He said, ‘No, we can win right now,’ and did it in a creative fashion.”

MLBTR Originals

A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR the last seven days:

  • MLB Trade Rumors Podcast featured host Jeff Todd discussing the Red Sox’s signing of Yoan Moncada and the rest of the Cuban market with MLB.com national reporter Jesse Sanchez. MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk then joined Jeff to review this past offseason’s free agent signings with a focus on the White Sox and Pirates. A new edition of MLB Trade Rumors Podcast will be released every Thursday and can be accessed on iTunesSoundCloud, and Stitcher.
  • Steve Adams spoke with Giants Assistant GM Bobby Evans, Braves Assistant GM John Coppolella, and Angels Assistant GM Matt Klentak about a club’s “responsibility” in the arbitration process.
  • Tim Dierkes listed the position of MLBTR’s top 2016 free agents on in-season extension talks.
  • Jeff named eight potential destinations for Rafael Soriano. More than a quarter of MLBTR readers see the Blue Jays signing the right-handed reliever.
  • Jeff was the first to report Wily Mo Pena agreed to a one-year contract with NPB’s Rakuten Eagles.
  • Steve hosted this week’s live chat.
  • Zach Links assembled the best of the baseball blogosphere for you in Baseball Blogs Weigh In.

Full Story | Comments | Categories: MLBTR Originals

Minor Moves: John Axford, Mark Rogers

Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB:

  • The Rockies have selected the contract of reliever John Axford and moved pitcher Tyler Chatwood to the 60-day disabled list, according to MLB.com’s transactions page. That the Rockies would add Axford isn’t surprising — when they signed Axford to a minor-league deal last month, MLBTR’s Steve Adams noted that it was likely Axford would make the team. Axford’s addition to the 40-man is significant, given that he’s set to make $2.6MM in the Majors, with the possibility of making up to $1.5MM more with incentives. Axford posted a 3.95 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 5.9 BB/9 in 54 2/3 innings with the Indians and Pirates last season, offering his usual blend of strikeout stuff and control troubles.
  • The Rangers have signed right-hander Mark Rogers to a minor league contract, tweets EPSN’s Jerry Crasnick. Rogers, the fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Brewers and a top 100 prospect by Baseball America in 2005 and 2006, has seen his career derailed by shoulder injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome. The 29-year-old made two appearances last year for the Mariners‘ Triple-A affiliate before being released. He then hooked on with the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League making 18 starts with a line of 4.17 ERA, 4.6 K/9, and 6.2 BB/9 in 86 1/3 innings. Rogers’ last MLB action came in 2012 with the Brewers.

NL Notes: Shields, Guerrero, Marlins

James Shields is already providing value to the Padres, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. “Having him in here is going to be super valuable for this pitching staff,” says Tyson Ross. Shields has impressed the Padres with his attitude and his preparation — he’s already showed many of his teammates his personal book of scouting charts on opposing players. Ross and Robbie Erlin add that they’re looking forward to watching Shields work to see how he stays so durable — Shields has pitched over 200 innings in eight straight seasons, and as Lin notes, Ian Kennedy is the only other Padres starter who’s reached the 200-inning threshold. Here’s more from the National League.

  • Infielder Alex Guerrero is facing a crucial year in Dodgers camp, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez writes. Guerrero, who’s now in the second year of a four-year deal, cannot be optioned to the minors this season without his permission, so if the Dodgers don’t find space for him on their active roster, they’ll have to to trade or release him. “I don’t want to go down. I’m not going down,” Guerrero says. “I feel like I can get better here at this level and play every day. I think that’s what every player wants.” Guerrero, 28, hit well at Triple-A last season even given the offense-heavy environment at Albuquerque, batting .329/.364/.613 in 258 plate appearances. The Dodgers have a crowded middle infield, however, with Justin Turner and Darwin Barney also available to back up Howie Kendrick at second base, and there are questions about Guerrero’s defense.
  • The Marlins still have plenty of prospect depth despite their offseason trades, president of baseball operations Michael Hill tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. The Marlins dealt Andrew Heaney, Austin Barnes, Anthony DeSclafani and others this offseason, but they still have top 2014 pick Tyler Kolek, along with Justin Nicolino, Trevor Williams, Avery Romero and other solid prospects. Catcher J.T. Realmuto and pitcher Jose Urena top their list of prospects further up the chain. “We have a lot of upper level prospect depth,” says Hill.