Quick Hits: Semien, DeShields, Astros

Infielder Marcus Semien isn’t surprised the White Sox traded him last winter, and the Bay Area native is happy to be with the Athletics, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com writes. “We knew we had a lot of capable guys who could play at the big league level and that the White Sox needed some right-handed arms,” says Semien, who headed west in the Jeff Samardzija trade. “Those two, that went together and it just happened to be me and now I’m just excited to play and have an opportunity to play with anyone, especially being able to come home to Oakland.” Here’s more from around the league.

  • The Rangers are seriously considering keeping outfielder and Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. DeShields is fast (like his father was), but the Rangers are convinced he can do more than just run. “The speed is obvious,” says GM Jon Daniels. “But to me there is more to it. I think his arm has played ‘up.’ I think there is strength in his swing, it’s short and through the ball.” With Nate Schierholtz out of the picture, the Rangers now have DeShields, Ryan Rua, Jake Smolinski and Carlos Peguero competing for three open outfield jobs.
  • Roberto Hernandez hasn’t outperformed Asher Wojciechowski in the competition to be the Astros‘ fifth starter, but Hernandez should get the job anyway because that’s the easiest way to keep depth in the organization, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Wojciechowski can easily just be sent to Triple-A. Hernandez is an Article XX(B) free agent, so the Astros either have to add him to their roster, release him or pay him a $100K retention bonus to keep him in the minors. If the Astros were to send Hernandez to Triple-A, they would also have to give him a June 1 opt-out date. The Astros have plenty of depth at some positions, but not in their rotation, so the easiest path for now would be to place Hernandez in their rotation and make sure that both he and Wojciechowski stay in the organization.

Mariners Prospect Victor Sanchez Dies

Mariners prospect Victor Sanchez has passed away, Jose Grasso of Finanzasdigital.com tweets. Sanchez was 20. Last month, Sanchez was swimming off the coast of his native Venezuela when he was hit by a boat. He suffered a fractured skull and a hematoma that caused a stroke, and he went into a coma.

The Seattle Mariners are saddened to learn of the passing of Victor Sanchez,” says Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik. “Victor was a tremendous young man and a wonderful teammate. He was a very talented player who was close to fulfilling his promise as a Major Leaguer. He will be missed by his teammates, and the coaches and staff at the Mariners.”

Sanchez had been in the midst of a promising career as a starting pitcher. The Mariners signed him for a $2.5MM bonus in 2011 and promoted him aggressively through their system. He threw a no-hitter in 2013 in Class A, then he held his own last year at Double-A as a 19-year-old. MLB.com ranked Sanchez as the 11th-best prospect in the Mariners’ system, praising his strike-throwing ability.

We at MLBTR offer our condolences to Sanchez’s family and to the Mariners organization.


NL Notes: Ichiro, Melvin, Rollins

New Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki says being an older free agent is like being an older dog in a pet store, Brad Lefton of the Wall Street Journal writes. “Amongst all the cute little puppies jumping and tumbling for prospective owners, there’s one who’s a little older, a little more mature, who keeps getting passed over for the more adorable ones,” says Ichiro. “When someone finally comes along and points a finger at him, an undying loyalty is born.” The 41-year-old Ichiro’s offseason training routine helps him stay relevant, Lefton writes. Ichiro works out at the Orix Buffaloes’ home park in Japan, with a pitcher who throws batting practice for him and another player he plays catch with. Ichiro might take 150 swings against live pitching each day in the offseason. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • GM Doug Melvin has recently discussed an extension to his contract with the Brewers, although it’s unlikely he and the team will agree to one before the season starts, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. Melvin’s contract expires after the 2015 season. Counting his previous job with the Rangers, Melvin has now been a GM for about two decades, and it sounds like he remains at least somewhat enthusiastic about continuing. “I still think I’m good at what I do and I still enjoy it,” he says. “I like the draft-and-development part of the job and that’s something we’ll always have to do in our market.”
  • The fact that he’s with the Dodgers now doesn’t mean Jimmy Rollins can’t relate to fans who dislike them, Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “For a long time – you don’t hear ‘Beat the Dodgers,’ you don’t hear ‘Beat the Lakers,’ even the Clippers now – it’s ‘Beat L.A.,'” says Rollins. “It’s everything L.A. stands for. . . . I’ve heard [it] for the first time on this side, and I was cracking up. Because I know how the crowd feels, the fans feel, on the other side.” This isn’t the first interview Rollins has given about how strange it can feel for a player to spend years with one organization and then abruptly switch to another, but his perspective on a common but little-discussed situation is still refreshing to read.


AL Notes: Rangers, Diamond, Rays, Orioles

Despite their acquisition of lefty Sam Freeman today, the Rangers are still on the hunt for bullpen help, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. They are not currently in any discussions for position players or starting pitchers. Neftali Feliz, Tanner Scheppers and Freeman currently appear to be the only near-locks for the Rangers bullpen. They have, however, gotten some impressive Spring Training performances from inexperienced pitchers like Keone Kela, Roman Mendez and Jon Edwards. Here are more quick notes from the American League.

  • Former Twins starting pitcher and free agent Scott Diamond threw for the Rays yesterday, 1500ESPN’s Darren Wolfson tweets. The Rays have a number of injuries in their rotation and are known to be hunting for starting pitching depth to stash at Triple-A Durham. Diamond last appeared in the big leagues in 2013. He spent last season pitching at Triple-A Rochester and Louisville, where he posted a combined 6.57 ERA, 4.8 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 123 1/3 innings.
  • Orioles manager Buck Showalter says the team doesn’t seem likely to upgrade its backup catcher spot via the trade market, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets. “We haven’t had any name come up that we like better than the people we have,” says Showalter. With Matt Wieters recovering from elbow surgery, Caleb Joseph is likely to serve as the Orioles’ starting catcher. Joseph himself isn’t much of an offensive threat, although he balanced some of his poor hitting last year with strong defense. Ryan Lavarnway appears to lead the competition to be Joseph’s backup.

Minor Moves: Roberts, Baez, D-Backs, Putkonen

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

  • The Royals have released 2B/3B Ryan Roberts, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. Roberts, 34, played sparingly for the Red Sox last season and has a career .243/.320/.388 line in parts of nine seasons, also playing for the Blue Jays, Rangers, Diamondbacks and Rays.
  • The Royals have announced that they’ve traded righty Angel Baez to the Astros for cash considerations. Baez, 24, pitched 62 innings of relief for Double-A Northwest Arkansas last season, posting a 4.65 ERA with 10.3 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9, improving somewhat upon the control problems with which he had struggled in the low minors.
  • The Diamondbacks have released a number of players, including righty relievers Jeremy Accardo and Henry Rodriguez, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert tweets. The 33-year-old Accardo spent 2014 in independent ball and last appeared in the Majors in 2012. He’s played parts of eight big-league seasons and appeared in the Blue Jays’ bullpen in every season from 2006 through 2010. The hard-throwing Rodriguez has appeared in the big leagues in all of the last six seasons (with the Athletics, Nationals, Cubs and Marlins), but has never really established himself, thanks in large part to control problems — he has 6.4 BB/9 for his career. Both pitchers signed minor-league deals with the D-Backs this offseason.
  • Twins utilityman Tyler Grimes has retired, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune tweets. The 24-year-old Grimes played at Class A+ Fort Myers in 2014, hitting .232/.313/.355 in 307 plate appearances while, remarkably, playing catcher, second, third and all three outfield positions. He had been a non-roster invite to Twins big-league camp.
  • The Tigers have released righty Luke Putkonen, MLB.com’s Jason Beck tweets. Putkonen, 28, pitched 29 2/3 innings out of the Tigers’ bullpen in 2013 and handled himself well, posting a 3.03 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. He missed most of the 2014 season due to elbow issues, however. The Tigers designated Putkonen for assignment and outrighted him in January.

NL Notes: Bryant, Garcia, Villanueva, Nats, Mets

The Cubs‘ impending decision about whether to have Kris Bryant start the season in the minors has players around baseball talking about service-time rules, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune writes in a story that collects responses to Bryant’s situation from players from several teams. “Hey, we have a chance to make a lot of money in this game, but the rules are the rules,” says Yankees reliever Andrew Miller. “If that works in the Cubs favor, and the Cubs are a better team for that, they’re entitled to (use the rule to their favor). We negotiated that. It’s the reality of what our collective bargaining agreement says.” Here’s more from the National League.

  • Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia will miss his start due to a shoulder issue, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports. Garcia likely will not be in the team’s Opening Day rotation. Garcia had impressed the team in camp and might well have made the Cardinals’ rotation, particularly since having him start rather than Marco Gonzales or Carlos Martinez would have been the best way for the Cards to protect their assets — they could have easily just optioned Gonzales to the minors, put Martinez in the bullpen and kept all three pitchers. Instead, it’s yet another injury for Garcia, who’s dealt with plenty of them in the past few seasons. There is, however, reason to hope it won’t be serious — GM John Mozeliak (via Langosch on Twitter) characterizes the injury as fatigue and the missed start as “more of a pause than anything.”
  • Pitcher Carlos Villanueva, who’s on a minor-league deal with the Cardinals, can opt out of that deal Monday, Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch notes (via Twitter). Villanueva has gotten fairly good results in camp and has a track record of providing solid performances in a swingman role, so the Cardinals could try to find space for him on their roster.
  • Intentionally or not, the Nationals, who have lefty relievers available, gave the lefty-starved Mets a look at Jerry Blevins Saturday, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. (Blevins struck out Curtis Granderson but gave up a triple to Lucas Duda.) The Nationals have Blevins, along with Xavier Cedeno and Matt Thornton, and all are out of options, so they could end up trading one.

Rangers Release Juan Carlos Oviedo

Juan Carlos Oviedo has requested and been granted his release by the Rangers, the team has announced. The Rangers informed Oviedo earlier today that he would not make the team.

Oviedo, 33, pitched 31 2/3 innings for the Rays in 2014, posting a 3.69 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9. That was the former Marlins closer’s first season in the big leagues since 2011, after which he spent two years dealing with injuries. The Rangers signed him to a minor-league deal in January. The pitcher formerly known as Leo Nunez threw 3 2/3 innings this spring, allowing four runs, two earned, while striking out four and walking two.


Mets, Lucas Duda Discussing Extension

The Mets are discussing an extension with Lucas Duda, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Duda himself characterizes the talks as “preliminary stuff,” and agent Dan Horwits confirms that there have been talks but says those talks will be put on hold beginning on Opening Day.

Duda will make $4.2MM in 2015 and will be eligible for arbitration two more times before becoming a free agent following the 2017 season. By that point, he will be heading into his age-32 season, and Sherman points out that it might be tough for a 32-year-old first baseman not known for his athleticism to land a big contract. So perhaps one possibility for Duda might be to sign a four- or five-year deal that would give the Mets an extra year or two of control in exchange for a significant guarantee.

Of course, if Duda doesn’t sign an extension, much of his future earning power will depend on whether he can continue hitting for power the way he did last season. 2014 was a breakout year for Duda, who rewarded the Mets’ faith in him by hitting 30 home runs in a full-time role while batting .253/.349/.481.


Nate Schierholtz Opts Out Of Deal With Rangers

Outfielder Nate Schierholtz has taken his release from the Rangers, Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. The Rangers informed Schierholtz earlier today that he would not make the team. They signed him to a minor-league deal last month, with an opt-out date of today.

Schierholtz, 31, batted just .195/.243/.309 in 383 plate appearances with the Cubs and Nationals last season, then continued to struggle this spring. The left-handed Schierholtz has historically been a good weapon against right-handed pitching, but he didn’t separate himself from a variety of Rangers outfield options, also including Ryan Rua, Jake Smolinski, Carlos Peguero and Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields along with Shin-Soo Choo and Leonys Martin.


Rosenthal’s Latest: Rays, Utley, D-Backs, Matusz

Here are the highlights from an enormous notes post by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:

  • There’s the potential for lots of trade activity between now and Opening Day, with an unusual number of teams with logjams at particular positions. But there aren’t many good pitching options, and many teams are already close to their payroll limits.
  • The Rays are one of several teams looking for starting pitching, but they’re currently focusing their efforts on depth, figuring they only need to cover for injured starters Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly for a month or so.
  • If the Phillies struggle early in the year, trade whispers involving Chase Utley could grow louder, with the Padres, Angels and possibly Giants looming as potentially interested teams. Utley would, of course, have to waive his no-trade clause, but he has West Coast roots.
  • The Diamondbacks are currently unwilling to trade Mark Trumbo, but that could change if they become dissatisfied with their outfield defense.
  • The Orioles discussed trading lefty Brian Matusz to the Rangers before Texas acquired Sam Freeman, and have listened to other clubs interested in Matusz as well. But the Nationals might be more willing than the Orioles to trade a lefty reliever — some within the Orioles see Matusz as a better option than either T.J. McFarland or Wesley Wright.

Cubs Release Felix Doubront

The Cubs have released pitcher Felix Doubront, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat notes (Twitter links). Doubront was set to make $1.925MM in his first season of arbitration after settling with the Cubs in January. By releasing him, though, the Cubs will only be responsible for about $473K termination pay.

Doubront was one of a large number of Cubs who were out of options, and he was one of several pitchers competing for what was effectively a single bullpen spot. He also struggled this spring, allowing nine runs in seven innings (although he struck out four and walked none).

Doubront is only two years removed from two decent seasons as a starter with the Red Sox. He struggled in Boston last season, however, and earned criticism for his attitude and effort before heading to Chicago in a minor move. He also struggled with his velocity last season. Nonetheless, Doubront is still only 27, and one would think he would have little trouble finding a new team in need of pitching, particularly starting pitching.


Rangers Acquire Sam Freeman From Cardinals

The Rangers have announced that they’ve acquired lefty Sam Freeman from the Cardinals for a player to be named later or cash. Freeman, 27, posted a 2.61 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in 38 innings with the Cardinals last season while showcasing good velocity from the left side. He was, however, out of options, and the Cardinals had two other bullpen lefties in Kevin Siegrist and Randy Choate. Freeman also struggled with his control this spring, issuing five walks in five innings.

It’s not surprising the Rangers would pursue lefty relief help (although Freeman doesn’t look like an archetypal lefty specialist, having actually performed considerably better against righties than lefties in his career, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News points out). They had released Joe Beimel earlier this week, leaving them with the inexperienced Alex Claudio as their main left-handed relief option. They had also been connected to Marlins lefty Mike Dunn. Freeman has two seasons remaining before he can become eligible for arbitration, and then three more seasons after that before he can become a free agent, so there’s also the possibility (although it’s admittedly probably somewhat unlikely) that he could become a long-term asset for the Rangers if they can find a way to harness his stuff.


Central Notes: Hicks, Pirates, Madson

The Twins have optioned Aaron Hicks to Triple-A Rochester, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes. Heading into Spring Training, Hicks had seemed to be the likely choice for the Twins’ starting center field job. He has struggled this March, however, putting up a .206/.300/.324 line that’s very consistent with his career .201/.293/.313 performance. The demotion is another setback for the former first-round pick, who is still struggling to establish himself at age 25. It appears the team will go with Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson in center field. Here’s more from the Central divisions.

  • New MLB commissioner Rob Manfred praised the Pirates while visiting with the Bucs and Twins Friday, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. “I think the Pirates have tremendously benefited by (owner) Bob Nutting’s presence and leadership,” Manfred said. “For those of you who know the history, you’re not going to be surprised to hear me say I am a huge Frank Coonelly fan. I think he’s done a fantastic job as president of the Pirates, including his selection of (general manager) Neal (Huntington).” Coonelly worked in the commissioner’s office before becoming the Pirates’ president. Manfred added that his controversial comments about banning defensive shifts were only an idea, and that the league isn’t likely to make changes in that area, particularly given the feedback he’s gotten about it.
  • Ryan Madson‘s opt-out with the Royals is May 1, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. The 34-year-old Madson, who’s had a mess of injuries and hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2011, is attempting a comeback with Kansas City. He’s gotten decent results so far, striking out four batters and walking none in seven spring innings. The Royals have another month to evaluate him, however, which makes sense — one imagines he’ll still need time to prepare to pitch in meaningful games, given all the time off he’s had.

Mike Pelfrey Would Welcome Trade

After losing out on the Twins’ fifth starter spot, veteran Mike Pelfrey says he is open to a trade, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press writes. Pelfrey is not demanding a trade, Berardino reports, but he says would not mind one.

Obviously if some team realizes I’m healthy for the first time in years, and this is probably the best I’ve felt and thinks I can help them, let’s do it,” Pelfrey says. “I think I showed them that I could start. If it happens, great. Let’s go.”

Pelfrey says he believed, heading into Spring Training, that he would be in competition for a rotation job. He also thinks he did enough this month to earn one, allowing only four runs, two earned, while striking out seven and walking two in 13 2/3 innings. Berardino also notes that Pelfrey has regularly hit 94MPH this spring. Last year, his average fastball was below 91MPH as he made only five starts in an injury-shortened season. Tommy Milone, who won the last starting spot, posted somewhat worse numbers than Pelfrey this month.

I know what I was told in December. I don’t know what happened,” says Pelfrey. “I know one thing that didn’t happen is I didn’t get outpitched.”

The Twins have Pelfrey pitch in long relief, a role Pelfrey sounded more open to when he spoke with reporters, including MLBTR’s Zach Links, earlier this week. Pelfrey has one more year and $5.5MM remaining on the deal he signed with the Twins prior to the 2014 season.


Angels Release Matt Lindstrom

The Angels have announced that they’ve released righty reliever Matt Lindstrom. Lindstrom had an out clause, as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets, so the release frees him to pursue a job elsewhere. Mike DiGiovanna tweets, however, that Lindstrom was surprised by the Angels’ decision.

Lindstrom, 35, pitched 34 innings in the White Sox’ bullpen last season, posting a 5.03 ERA with 4.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 while losing two miles an hour on his fastball. The Angels signed him to a minor-league deal last month. The veteran has pitched in the big leagues in all of the last eight seasons, appearing with the Marlins, Astros, Rockies, Orioles and Diamondbacks in addition to the White Sox.