Aiken Situation Could Lead To Changes In Draft Medicals

The Brady Aiken saga culminated yesterday with the news that he had undergone Tommy John surgery. Now, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the league and players association are preparing to explore ways in which medical information procedures can be adjusted to foreclose such a scenario in the future.

Aiken, of course, was the first overall pick of the Astros. He reportedly had a deal in place until a physical revealed a thinner-than-normal ulnar collateral ligament, leading the team to reduce its offer. Aiken ultimately did not sign. He will be eligible for the coming year’s draft, but will enter it in the midst of a rehab protocol.

There is still plenty of uncertainty as to where things might be headed in terms of the draft. One possibility, per Passan, is that a panel of medical experts would certify some number of draft-eligible players as having clean bills of health. On the other end of the spectrum, a full-fledged combine could take place that, among other things, would result in much more significant medical information going to every team.

Even the less involved of those two poles of the range of possibilities would come with difficulties. Logistics such as draft timing (in relation to the NCAA season) must be addressed. Both sides will have plenty to work through, but it seems from the report as if there is at least broad agreement that some procedural improvements should be considered.


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Brandon League Likely Out Several Months

Dodgers righty Brandon League is expected to miss at least a couple of months with a right shoulder injury, manager Don Mattingly told reporters including MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick (via Twitter). An MRI revealed that there was sufficient injury to require League to be shut down, though it appears he will avoid surgery for the time being.

League, 32, figured to be a fairly important piece in the Dodgers pen. Though he is undoubtedly overpaid as he enters the final guaranteed year of his three-year, $22.5MM pact, League is nevertheless a plenty viable arm. Last year, he tossed 63 innings of 2.57 ERA ball, compiling a 3.40 FIP in spite of just 5.4 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 because he also managed to induce groundballs at a ridiculous 67.5% clip.

League’s deal includes a vesting option that will not almost certainly not vest. Of course, that was quite unlikely regardless since the clause was tied to games finished, requiring League to be the last Dodger to toe the rubber at least 55 times this year. Barring a run of unpredictable events, that was not going to happen anyway.

The news on League is perhaps most troubling for what it means for the Dodgers’ overall pitching depth. Already compensating for injuries to Kenley Jansen and starter Hyun-jin Ryu, the team is looking somewhat thin on established, healthy arms. Of course, with plenty of trade candidates amongst their positions players, the Dodgers could conceivably swing a deal or two to fill some innings.


Jordan Zimmermann Says Extension Unlikely

Nationals righty Jordan Zimmermann, one of the team’s proudest homegrown talents, indicated today that a new deal appears rather unlikely, as Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington reports. Zimmermann made clear again today that he will refuse to discuss a contract during the season, leaving scant time to revive momentum.

Zimmermann, a Relativity Baseball client, is set to become one of the most desirable free agents in next year’s class. “I’m just not going to talk during the season,” said Zimmermann. “If something gets done before then — which is probably pretty rare right now — then it gets done. But it’s not looking good.”

With Max Scherzer now under contract for the foreseeable future, the Nationals seemingly lost interest in trying to convince the 28-year-old Zimmermann to take a deal that was palatable to the club. The same, perhaps, is true of Doug Fister. It remains to be seen, of course, whether the team will ultimately make a run at inking Stephen Strasburg to a long-term deal, though he too may be too close to free agency for that to be a realistic possibility.

As for Zimmermann, even an average season by his standards should make him an easy $100MM+ free agent. If he can repeat or improve upon last year’s effort (2.66 ERA/2.68 FIP over 199 2/3 innings), then he’ll probably be looking to build on the Jon Lester deal.



Twins Have Inquired On Rafael Soriano

The Twins have inquired about watching free agent right-hander Rafael Soriano throw, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports (via Twitter). Minnesota is known to be looking for bullpen help, and Soriano is the most established relief arm left on the open market. It’s possible, Wolfson notes, that they’ve already seen him throw in Miami.

Soriano, 35, is a client of Scott Boras and the lone remaining player from MLBTR’s list of Top 50 free agents that is yet unsigned this winter. At first glance, his 2014 numbers might make the fact that he remains a free agent surprising. He did, after all, work to a 3.19 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 32 saves with the Nationals.

Soriano did also benefit from the second-lowest homer-to-flyball ratio of his career, however, and he lost the handle on the closer’s gig in September. Over Soriano’s final 18 appearances last year, he yielded 13 runs in 16 2/3 innings for a 7.02 ERA. Those struggles likely played a big role in the somewhat tepid market for Soriano this offseason, as scouts told ESPN’s Buster Olney last month that they felt the veteran closer’s stuff evaporated late in the year.

Still, it’s not entirely surprising to see Minnesota inquiring on Soriano. I noted in my Offseason Review of the Twins that it wouldn’t be surprising for Boras to try to sell GM Terry Ryan on Soriano, as closer Glen Perkins was shut down late last year with a forearm injury and has been battling an oblique issue this spring. Beyond Perkins, the Twins lack established bullpen arms. Casey Fien looks to be the top setup option, and lefty Brian Duensing is a lock for the ‘pen as well. Tim Stauffer will probably hold down a spot despite a poor spring, and his former Padres teammate Blaine Boyer looks increasingly likely to make the club as a non-roster invitee. Additionally, it’s possible that Mike Pelfrey, Trevor May or Tommy Milone, each of whom is fighting for the fifth starter’s role, could end up in the ‘pen as well. Other options such as Ryan Pressly and Michael Tonkin have already been optioned, though Rule 5 pick J.R. Graham is still in the mix for a spot and may yet make the club to open the season.


White Sox Claim Kyle Drabek

Right-hander Kyle Drabek has been claimed on waivers by the White Sox, the Blue Jays announced. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweeted minutes before the announcement that an unknown club had claimed Drabek, and Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi had originally tweeted that Drabek was packing up his locker and appeared to be on the move. Fellow righty Nate Jones has been placed on the 60-day DL to clear a roster spot, the White Sox announced.

The 27-year-old Drabek was once regarded as one of baseball’s top 30 prospects by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, and he was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Roy Halladay from Toronto to Philadelphia. Injuries, however, have limited much of his ability to stay on the mound since being acquired by Toronto (he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012), and he’s been ineffective when able to take the hill. In 172 1/3 big league innings, Drabek has a 5.27 ERA, an even more unsightly 5.41 FIP and an uninspiring 118-to-111 K/BB ratio.

Drabek has been effective over the past two Minor League seasons, however, and he’s had a strong Spring Training (7 IP, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K), though it’s tough to place too much emphasis on seven spring innings. Drabek is out of Minor League options, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently noted, meaning that he’d have to clear waivers before the Sox could send him outright to Triple-A.

The Sox may very well try to sneak Drabek through waivers, as the bullpen picture already contains David Robertson, Jake Petricka, Zach Duke, Daniel Webb, Zach Putnam, Javy Guerra and Dan Jennings, with Maikel Cleto and Eric Surkamp also serving as options.


Mariners Rule 5 Pick David Rollins Suspended 80 Games For Failed PED Test

Mariners Rule 5 Draft pick David Rollins has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for Stanozolol, the league announced. Rollins, a 25-year-old lefty selected out of the Astros organization, had pitched exceptionally well in Spring Training and was considered likely to make the team’s bullpen. In eight innings, Rollins had yielded one run with seven strikeouts and no walks.

The Mariners will be allowed to keep Rollins and place him on the restricted list until his suspension has been served. He can head into extended Spring Training and work out there, eventually moving to a rehab assignment before ultimately joining the team, if the club wishes to retain him. That appears to be the likely outcome, as Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes that GM Jack Zduriencik has indicated the team is leaning toward keeping Rollins. Via Dutton, Rollins says that the mistake came following an injury in winter ball when he was trying to speed up the recovery process. Zduriencik released the following statement via press release: “Having spoken at length with David, I know that he is truly remorseful for his error in judgement. We will continue to work with him to get past this situation.”

In a statement released via the Players Association, Rollins apologized to the organization and thanked the Mariners for their support: “My positive test was the result of a serious error in judgment. I know I have disappointed my many supporters; and my sincerest apologies go out to everyone associated with the game of baseball, especially the Seattle Mariners organization, my teammates and the fans. I am truly grateful for the opportunity the Mariners have given me and never again want to compromise this trust. From the bottom of my heart, I deeply regret this mistake and give you my word it will never happen again.”

It’s possible that Rollins could eventually pitch for the Mariners this season, and the southpaw’s Minor League track record and solid spring indicate that he could indeed stick with the club. In four seasons since being selected in the 24th round by the Blue Jays (Rollins was sent from the Jays to the Astros in the 10-player J.A. Happ/Francisco Cordero trade), Rollins has worked to a 3.39 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 358 2/3 Minor League innings. The Mariners have a potential need for a second lefty in the bullpen behind Charlie Furbush, as the team did not re-sign Joe Beimel or add a second lefty on a big league deal.


Blue Jays Outright Scott Barnes

The Blue Jays announced that they’ve outrighted left-handed pitcher Scott Barnes, clearing a spot on the 40-man roster. This marks the first time that Barnes has been snuck through waivers this offseason. He was originally acquired by the Orioles from the Indians, then claimed by Rangers and then the Blue Jays.

The 27-year-old Barnes has a 5.20 ERA in a small sample size of 27 2/3 big league innings, but he has a nice track record and Triple-A and pitched well there in 2014. Last season, he notched a 3.69 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 while holding opposing lefties to a .191/.296/.255 batting line.


Twins Outright Lester Oliveros

The Twins have outrighted right-hander Lester Oliveros off the 40-man roster, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link). The move drops the Twins’ 40-man roster to 39, Berardino adds.

The 26-year-old Oliveros was acquired from the Tigers in a trade that sent Delmon Young to Detroit back in 2011. Oliveros has thrown just 21 1/3 innings with the Twins since being acquired, as part of his tenure has been shortened by 2012 Tommy John surgery. The Twins are likely happy to see Oliveros clear waivers, as he does possess some upside; in 97 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level, Oliveros has a 3.69 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9. He’s also averaged 93.8 mph on his fastball at the Major League level.

Removing Oliveros from the mix adds a bit of clarity to the Twins’ bullpen mix. Glen Perkins, Casey Fien and Brian Duensing are all locks to make the bullpen, and whichever of Trevor May, Tommy Milone and Mike Pelfrey don’t make the rotation could join the bullpen also. Other candidates for the bullpen include lefties Aaron Thompson and Caleb Thielbar as well as righties J.R. Graham, Tim Stauffer and Blaine Boyer. The Twins are known to be looking for one, if not two relief pitchers, so this move could provide them with the flexibility to add someone down the line or could be used to add a non-roster invitee like Boyer to the 40-man roster.


NL Central Notes: Bryant, Kang, Reds, Cardinals

Cubs president Theo Epstein said yesterday that he’s never taken a Minor Leaguer and put him on an Opening Day roster with zero prior big league experience, but super-prospect Kris Bryant feels like he could be the exception to that rule, writes ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers“I look at it as ‘Why not me?” Bryant said on Friday. “I think I’m the type of guy that can go out there and do it. I’ve made it a point of mine to come out here and show them that I can.” Bryant, of course, is the talk of Spring Training with nine homers and a ludicrous .406/.472/1.313 batting line in 36 plate appearances. The Cubs, though, can delay his free agency by a full season if they keep him in the Minors for a bit less than two weeks to open the season. While Cubs management and ownership naturally insists that any decision would be baseball-related as opposed to business-related, it seems likely that Bryant would be recalled early in the season once the year of team control is gained.

More from the NL Central…

  • Jung-ho Kang has struggled to a .111 average in Spring Training thus far, but Pirates GM Neal Huntington is still planning on bringing the Korean infielder north with the club to open the season, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We’ve seen some really good things,” Huntington told Biertempfel in regard to Kang.
  • Chris Dominguez, Brennan Boesch, Ivan De Jesus and Irving Falu are all competing for the Reds‘ final bench spots, writes MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, and each has performed well in Spring Training. Manager Bryan Price also noted that the rotation isn’t yet settled. Anthony DeSclafani, Jason Marquis and Raisel Iglesias are all in the mix for the final two spots, and Price explained how his club is looking beyond statistics to determine who will fill those roles. In general, he spoke very highly of DeSclafani, so it seems likely that he’ll be in the rotation to open the year.
  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak spoke with Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (subscription required/recommended) about his tendency to hang onto young pitching and his deviation from that process by trading players such as Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins to land John Lackey and Jason Heyward“Believe it or not, even though in these deals it appears like we’re giving up the control factor, we felt they were fair deals for both sides,” said Mozeliak. “Put it this way: We understand the risk.” Mozeliak went on to discuss the increased importance teams now place on prospects as opposed to the 1990s and early 2000s, noting that cost control has become an increasingly large factor in trades. The Cardinals, Goold writes, have an in-house algorithm and scouting process to assign dollar values to players, which they use in free agency and in trades. Said Chairman Bill Dewitt, Jr.: “Our model is value-based, and what we want to do is get value back for value given. Because there is always opportunity to use resources to acquire talent.”

Finding A Landing Spot For Jhoulys Chacin

The Rockies’ release of Jhoulys Chacin caught many by surprise last week, myself included. The 27-year-old has spent the better parts of the past five seasons in Colorado’s rotation and had already agreed to a one-year, $5.5MM contract for the 2015 season.

In a way, the release has the potential to be a blessing in disguise for Chacin. It should come as no shock that Chacin’s ERA away from Coors Field is nearly a full run lower (4.21 vs. 3.24). He can now potentially latch on with a club that doesn’t play half of its games in one of baseball’s most notorious launching pads, and because he has just one year of team control remaining, he could hit the open market next season as a 28-year-old coming off a season in a more friendly pitching environment. Of course, Chacin will need to demonstrate that he is healthy in order to do so, and that’s anything but a given for the talented but oft-injured righty.

Chacin missed the majority of the 2014 season with shoulder inflammation — his second significant period of time missed with that malady — and has also battled back spasms in the past. He’s topped 190 innings in two different seasons but has also failed to reach 70 innings on two occasions and has averaged just 132 innings per season dating back to 2010.

Nevertheless, Chacin has a lifetime 3.78 ERA with 6.9 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a 48.2 percent ground-ball rate. Success at the Major League level has long been expected of the Venezuelan hurler, as he twice ranked among Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects before establishing himself in the Colorado rotation at the age of 22. Chacin should be able to latch on elsewhere — four teams are reportedly showing interest already — so let’s run down a few speculative spots that could give him a look late in Spring Training or early on in the regular season…

  • RangersYu Darvish already went down with a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery, thinning out the team’s starting options. The Rangers have been discussing starting pitching options and were recently in touch with the Marlins regarding lefty Brad Hand, so it stands to reason that they’d have some interest in picking up Chacin as a potential rotation option. As it is, Yovani Gallardo, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis and Ross Detwiler will pitch in their rotation, with the fifth spot still up for grabs.
  • DodgersHyun-jin Ryu is slated to open the season on the disabled list, and the Dodgers have a pair of injury prone hurlers behind him in their rotation in the form of Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. Bringing in Chacin, with whom many Dodgers scouts are likely very familiar, would give the team additional depth.
  • White Sox — The Sox are set to enjoy a dominant top three of Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzija and Jose Quintana, but John Danks and Hector Noesi aren’t an exciting four-five combination. Of course, top prospect Carlos Rodon looms large and could join the rotation early in the season, but Chacin would present them with an alternative, and his ability to limit homers, even when pitching at Coors Field, would likely be appealing to the Sox.
  • Blue JaysMarcus Stroman is out for the season, and the Blue Jays will rely on a combination of Daniel Norris, Aaron Sanchez and Marco Estrada to round out their rotation. Adding Chacin would allow one of those arms to pitch out of a precariously thin bullpen, though of course, jumping into the AL East/Rogers Centre may not be Chacin’s top choice when trying to re-establish himself as a credible rotation option.
  • Phillies — The Phillies are clearly in need of rotation help and likely were even before Cliff Lee went down indefinitely with a still-torn flexor tendon. Cole Hamels, Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams and David Buchanan seem likely to fill the first four slots in the rotation, and Chacin has more upside than any non-Hamels internal option.
  • Astros — Houston looked at adding an experienced arm with lesser upside when they engaged Ryan Vogelsong in discussions late in the offseason. Chacin could be a nice lottery ticket, and they lack a defined fifth starter to this point.
  • BravesMike Minor could begin the season on the disabled list, and the Braves’ fifth starter spot was already an open competition between Eric Stults, Wandy Rodriguez, Michael Foltynewicz and Cody Martin anyhow.
  • RaysMatt Moore won’t be ready until this summer and Drew Smyly has been dealing with shoulder tendinitis this spring. Chacin would serve as additional depth alongside internal options Nate Karns and Alex Colome.

Minor Moves: Lorick, Lopez, Rockies

Here are the day’s minor transactions from around the league…

  • The Cubs have released left-hander Jeff Lorick, per the team’ transactions page. The 27-year-old Lorick was a 20th-round selection back in the 2009 draft and spent the 2014 campaign (his age-26 season) at Double-A Tennessee, where he worked to a 4.52 ERA in 63 2/3 innings of work. Lorick struggled as a starter in the Class-A Advanced Florida State League in 2011, but he’s always missed a good number of bats when working as a reliever. However, he’s also walked more than four hitters per nine innings and has yet to reach the Triple-A level.
  • The Marlins have released second baseman Alfredo Lopez, also via the team transaction page at MLB.com. The 25-year-old batted .216/.298/.263 at Double-A in 2014 and had spent most of the 2015 spring working in Minor League camp. Lopez has hit well in the lower minors (.300 average, .384 OBP in Class-A Advanced) but stalled in Double-A and has very limited experience at the Triple-A level.
  • The Rockies released outfielders Jared Simon and Brian Humphries as well as infielder Matt Wessinger, per the MLB transaction page. Simon, a 2010 sixth-round pick, and Humphries, a 14th-rounder in 2011, each spent last season with Double-A Tulsa and OPSed south of .700. Wessinger is perhaps the most notable, as he was a fifth-rounder as recently as 2012, but he batted just .214/.278/.295 at Class-A Advanced in 2014.

Marlins Unlikely To Trade Brad Hand

The Marlins have reportedly discussed out-of-options lefty Brad Hand with multiple clubs, including the Rangers, but MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro now reports that the Fish are likely to hang onto the 25-year-old. Hand will start today against the Astros, but Frisaro cautions that it’s not a showcase for interested parties.

Miami values the depth that Hand provides, particularly with Jose Fernandez recovering from Tommy John surgery and Jarred Cosart being investigated by Major League Baseball for a potential gambling-related issue. The team also believes that Hand, who is equipped with a fastball in the mid-90s, is capable of pitching in both the rotation or bullpen. He’s also the lone left-handed rotation option left in Marlins camp (though the fifth slot, as Frisaro notes, is likely going to righty Tom Koehler).

Hand has allowed just two runs in 10 innings this spring, though he’s posted an unsightly 5-to-6 K/BB ratio along the way. Last season, Hand pitched 111 innings in 32 games (16 starts, 16 relief appearances), averaging 5.4 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 with a 50.3 percent ground-ball rate. The former second-round pick has one year, 92 days of service time, meaning that he’s under control for another five seasons.


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AL Central Notes: Rodon, Nathan, Indians, Robinson

While Kris Bryant‘s situation is grabbing all of the headlines in Chicago (and nationally, for that matter), Jon Morosi of FOX Sports believes that another Chicago phenom — White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon — is making a strong case for the Opening Day roster as well. Morosi argues that the ChiSox are running out of reasons not to bring last year’s No. 3 overall pick north with the team, as the lefty has whiffed 19 hitters in 12 1/3 innings thus far and recently struck out nine of 16 Royals hitters in a four-inning effort. The Sox will need a pitching boost early in the season, he adds, with Chris Sale unavailable for Opening Day and veterans such as John Danks and Brad Penny struggling. Starting Rodon’s service clock early isn’t as problematic as it would be in the case of Bryant (or any position player), Morosi writes, because the Sox could use the All-Star break as a means of limiting his innings and also regaining enough service time to delay his free agency by a year. Rodon could strategically be optioned to Triple-A in advance of his final first-half start, then have his second-half debut delayed as late as possible.

  • Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told reporters, including MLive.com’s James Schmehl, that there’s no competition for the closer job, which firmly belongs to Joe Nathan. The 40-year-old Nathan is coming off perhaps his worst season since becoming a closer and has struggled further this spring, while setup man Joakim Soria has been excellent, but no change is imminent. Soria spoke to Schmehl about pitching in a setup capacity and admitted that he’s “not excited” about not being a closer, though he added that pitching the eighth inning isn’t much different, and he’ll be happy pitching in any role. MLBTR will again be tracking all closer-related situations with our @Closernews Twitter account this season, for those who play fantasy baseball and want to stay current.
  • Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that while most believed Danny Salazar was capable of breaking camp in the Indians’ rotation, the right-hander has done nothing to deserve that spot and should be passed over for Zach McAllister, at least in the short term. McAllister is out of Minor League options and was believed to be ticketed for bullpen duty, but using him in the rotation early on would give Salazar some much-needed time to regroup at Triple-A. Manager Terry Francona voiced disappointment in Salazar’s spring thus far, Pluto writes, noting that his stuff is still electric, but the results and control haven’t been there.
  • Non-roster invitee Shane Robinson has made a good impression on the Twins in camp thus far, writes Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The 30-year-old Robinson is battling for an outfield job with the Twins and has batted .257/.333/.371 in 39 plate appearances. He’d likely only make the team in the event that both Aaron Hicks and Eddie Rosario were optioned to Triple-A, however, Berardino notes. Robinson tells Berardino that a number of teams called him once he became a Minor League free agent this winter, but a very candid 25-minute phone conversation with GM Terry Ryan and the Twins’ strong early interest led him to select Minnesota. The former Cardinal has an April 2 opt-out date and would earn $550K in the Majors, Berardino reports.

Quick Hits: Forbes, Yankees, Alvarez, Kluber

“Overall, baseball has never been as big or as profitable” as it is now, Forbes’ Mike Ozanian writes in the magazine’s annual valuation of MLB franchises.  The average value of a Major League team is $1.2 billion, a massive increase from Forbes’ last calculation (of $811MM) just a year ago.  Fifteen teams were valued at least a billion dollars, with the Yankees leading the way at $3.2 billion.  Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • Despite the Yankees‘ incredible value, Hal Steinbrenner said the team is not for sale in an ESPN radio interview with Michael Kay and Don LaGreca (hat tip to Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News).  Selling the club is “not enticing in any way shape or form,” Steinbrenner said.  “It’s a family business. Many of us are involved from the family and we know this is what our dad would want, to carry on the tradition.”
  • Cuban right-hander Yadier Alvarez is drawing “serious interest” from the Nationals, The Washington Post’s James Wagner writes.  “The Nationals like Alvarez’s frame and stuff,” Wagner notes about the 18-year-old Alvarez, who is listed at 6’3″ and 175 pounds.  The Nats and Diamondbacks were cited as the top contenders for Alvarez by MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez last month, and if Alvarez will indeed be ineligible to sign until July 2, that will eliminate the D’Backs from contention due to penalties for going over slot in this signing period to land Yoan Lopez.  Even if Arizona is out of the running, however, the Nats will still have to bid against several other interested teams for Alvarez’s services.
  • The MLBPA has been encouraging players to look for other means of achieving guaranteed financial security rather than accept below-market extensions, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports.  One of those means is taking out a “loss-of-value” insurance policy to protect against injury (Max Scherzer took out such a policy last season) and Rosenthal suggests that Corey Kluber could explore doing the same this year to gain some leverage in contract talks with the Indians.  Kluber could cash in by signing an extension now, but waiting even one season to get into his arbitration-eligible years would greatly increase the value of a multi-year deal, Rosenthal argues.  With the loss-of-value policy backing him up, Kluber would have fewer worries about getting hurt this season and missing out on a chance at a big contract.
  • Brady Aiken‘s Tommy John surgery will lower his draft stock and potentially make him a risk for teams picking near the top of the first round, though Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal thinks the Red Sox could take a chance on Aiken with the seventh overall pick.  The addition of a first-round caliber talent in Yoan Moncada and an overall deep minor league system gives Boston the luxury to take a risk on Aiken and hopes that, if he recovers, they’ll have fallen into a future ace.
  • Jake Fox is trying to land a regular minor league job with the Blue Jays, and the veteran talks to Sportsnet.com’s Arden Zwelling about some of the ups and downs of being a baseball journeyman.

AL Notes: Price, Ludwick, Lindstrom, Blue Jays

Academy Award-winning actor, Michigan native and huge Tigers fan J.K. Simmons will throw out the first pitch at the Tigers’ opener on April 6.  Simmons won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar last month for his role in Whiplash, and if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll agree that the Tigers should probably hold off on having Simmons give a pep talk to the rookies before the game.  Here’s the latest from around the American League…

  • The Tigers‘ chances of extending David Price aren’t good, Mlive.com’s Chris Iott opines, as there are simply too many reasons for Price to test the free agent market this winter.  Price could potentially find a $200MM+ contract next offseason, so it’s possible Detroit would have to top that level now in order to retain him.
  • The Rangers told outfielder Ryan Ludwick that he wouldn’t make the team, GM Jon Daniels told reporters (including MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan).  Daniels described Ludwick as an “all-world guy” who he believes could help another team’s roster, though in the Rangers’ case, “as we look at it today, we thought other options in camp fit the roster better.”  Ludwick signed a minor league contract with Texas in February and, as an Article XX(B) free agent, would’ve been obligated to receive a $100K bonus if the Rangers wanted to keep him in the organization but not on the 25-man roster.
  • Matt Lindstrom is also an Article XX(B) free agent, and the Angels right-hander’s status could hurt his chances of making the roster since the Halos like to be flexible in sending relievers back and forth to the minors, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes.
  • Right-hander Steve Delabar told reporters (including Sportsnet’s Mike Wilner) that “it’s a shock to me” that he won’t be making the Blue Jays‘ Opening Day roster.  Delabar pitched well this spring but apparently lost his spot due to the emergence of Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna, both of whom seem very likely to make the team.  Delabar was clearly upset by the demotion, and when asked if he would accept a change of scenery to a new team, he said “it could be considered, but I’m not saying that that’s what I’m asking for or anything like that. But if that was to happen… I feel like I’m a major-league player and I can help a bullpen.”
  • Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders won’t be ready for Opening Day, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes, though the reason isn’t due to a setback in his rehab from knee surgery.  The team and Saunders both want to make sure the outfielder is 100 percent when he takes the field, which could be as soon as Toronto’s home opener on April 13.  Saunders had surgery to remove 60 percent of his left meniscus after tearing the cartilage earlier this spring — a decision that accelerated his timeline to take the field from midseason to early April.  Manager John Gibbons has referred to the radically altered timeline as “kind of a miracle,” and Saunders has already been DHing in Minor League games, per Chisholm. However, he’s yet to play outfield defense or run the bases; he’s returned to the dugout rather than running after each at-bat in those games, as the focus is currently just on getting his timing down in a game setting.