Omar Minaya Joins MLBPA As Senior Adviser

The Major League Baseball Players Association has announced that Omar Minaya has left his post as senior vice president of baseball operations for the Padres to join the MLBPA as a senior adviser to executive director Tony Clark.

With the MLBPA, Minaya will focus on international affairs and game development in the United States, per the Associated Press. Clark stressed the importance of having the Dominican-born Minaya join the union’s ranks as the number of Latin American players in the game continues to increase. Minaya may also play a part in determining the structure of a potential international draft, which the league is eyeing upon the completion of the current collective bargaining agreement at the end of the 2016 season.

In a statement within the press release, Minaya said he feels that players “provide the sport with its heart and soul.” The former Mets GM continued: “I share the Players’ and Tony’s views on the state of the game, especially as they relate to what active and inactive Players are doing to help develop the game, widen its appeal and excite the next generation of players, while ensuring the integrity of the competition on the field is maintained.”


Blue Jays To Sign Ramon Santiago To Minor League Deal

The Blue Jays and veteran infielder Ramon Santiago have agreed to a minor league contract with an invite to Major League Spring Training, tweets Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi.

Santiago, 35, spent the 2014 season with the Reds, hitting .246/.343/.324 with a pair of homers in 214 plate appearances. The Beverly Hills Sports Council client spent time at third base, second base and shortstop in Cincinnati, as he has done throughout his 13-year big league career. Santiago typically grades out as a plus defender at shortstop, per Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved, and he’s been roughly average at second and third as well. His upside with the bat, however, is fairly limited, as evidenced by his lifetime batting line of .243/.314/.330.


Blue Jays, Ronald Belisario Agree To Minor League Deal

The Blue Jays added some depth to their bullpen mix today, agreeing to a minor league contract with right-hander Ronald Belisario. Toronto has long been said to be looking at bullpen upgrades, with reports last night suggesting that the team was looking hard at the free agent market. Though Belisario’s spot isn’t guaranteed, the McNamara Sports Group client will compete for a job in Spring Training and will reportedly earn $1.7MM if he makes the team.

Belisario, 32, was designated for assignment back in November by the White Sox to make way for the claim of Onelki Garcia. He was one of several players to slot in at closer last year in Chicago, but failed to grab hold of the job. Belisario was ultimately charged with an unsightly 5.56 ERA on the year.

Though the bottom-line results weren’t pretty, Belisario’s peripherals are decidedly better. With 6.4 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, and a stellar 59.3% groundball rate, Belisario drew marks from ERA estimators in the low-to-mid three range. His ballooned run tallies may well have been the result of a very low 57.7% strand rate and a somewhat bloated .339 BABIP.

Belisario had been projected by MLBTR/Matt Swartz to earn $3.9MM in arbitration before losing his roster spot in advance of the non-tender deadline. Toronto saw former closer Casey Janssen lured away with a total $5MM guarantee, though the club is said to have about that much in remaining payroll space.

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reported, on Twitter, that the Jays were making a strong push for Belisario. ESPN’s Jim Bowden reported the agreement and terms (Twitter links).



MLB Trade Rumors Podcast: Episode 15

In our 15th episode, Jeff runs down a slower news week in baseball before welcoming Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle on to talk Astros (0:51). Jeff then takes a look back at his prior research on options (see: overall trendsprimary option types) as a gateway to sizing up the coming extension season (21:22).

Click here to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and please leave a review! The podcast is also available via Stitcher at this link.

The MLB Trade Rumors Podcast runs weekly on Thursday afternoons.


Quick Hits: Prospects, Viciedo, Cuba, Coffey

It is prospect season yet again, with various evaluators releasing their latest breakdowns of the brightest young players in the game. Baseball AmericaBaseball Prospectus, and Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs are working through the systems on a team-by-team basis for the time being, while MLB.com is going position-by-position at present. ESPN.com’s Keith Law (subscription links) has now filed a new top-100 list as well as organization rankings. Kris Bryant and his club, the Cubs, rank atop Law’s respective boards.

  • The Phillies should take a flier on Dayan Viciedo, argues CSNPhilly.com’s Corey Seidman. While there are some barriers to such a move, and reasons against it, Seidman says that there is enough upside left in the 25-year-old that Philadelphia ought to roll the dice.
  • In another update on Yoan Moncada and the general situation of Cuban ballplayers, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports that the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) does still issue the “specific licenses” that MLB has required Cubans to obtain before they are cleared to sign. Since it appears that such players would already be able to sign pursuant to a “general license” (more on that here), Badler suggests that MLB-related requests may be receiving a lower priority that extends the delay.
  • Free agent reliever Todd Coffey has interest from five or six club and may be nearing a deal, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. The 34-year-old has not seen big league action since 2012, but put up intriguing numbers last year at Triple-A in the Mariners organization.

AL Central Notes: Garcia, Viciedo, Weeks, Ichiro

The White Sox rank at the very top of the list of offseason winners compiled by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. GM Rick Hahn ticked through many of the team’s questions this winter and should have a competitive team to show for it, says Heyman. Of course, despite plenty of praise, there are still some non-believers out there. They can point to this year’s PECOTA projections from Baseball Prospectus, which see Chicago as a 78-win team. Also of note from PECOTA, which is rather down on the division on the whole: the Tigers are tabbed as a .500 club, while the Royals project to win just 72 wins after appearing in the World Series last year.

More from the south side and the AL Central:

  • The White Sox are a much improved team heading into the 2015 season, but much of the optimism surrounding the club relies on the contributions of right fielder Avisail Garcia, writes Fangraphs’ Neil Weinberg. Perception appears to be that Garcia can handily outperform the just-designated Dayan Viciedo, but Weinberg cautions that we shouldn’t readily accept that as fact. Garcia’s stats to date tell a similar tale to that of Viciedo — modest on-base percentage with some power and below-average base-running and defensive skills. While Garcia’s track record is clearly smaller, the two are excellent statistical comps even when looking at their production through the age of 23. Weinberg notes that scouts have long questioned whether or not Garcia would be able to resist bad pitches and make enough contact to succeed, and the assumption that he will outperform Viciedo is based largely on perceived ceiling as opposed to likely outcomes.
  • Newly-designated White Sox slugger Dayan Viciedo should generate plenty of interest, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. The American League West offers the best matches, Morosi argues, with the Mariners, Athletics, and Rangers all potentially making sense as landing spots.
  • Despite some apparent suggestions, the Twins are not interested in free agent second baseman Rickie Weeks, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets. That is not terribly surprising, given that the right-handed-hitting Weeks does not play short and would presumably have needed to serve as a backup to two right-handed hitters in Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe.
  • Ichiro Suzuki‘s representatives (who he shares with Twins skipper Paul Molitor) tried to generate interest in the veteran from Minnesota, but the club never saw a fit, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. As Berardino explains, Ichiro and Molitor — both incredible pure hitters — share an interesting relationship.

NL East Notes: Gillick, Ichiro, Janssen

Today featured some important front office moves for a Phillies club that is facing some significant challenges — albeit with quite substantial resources — in the coming years. The team announced that longtime executive David Montgomery will return from a health-related hiatus to become the organization’s chairman, while current president Pat Gillick will retain that role.

Here’s the latest out of Philadelphia and the rest of the NL East:

  • Gillick leaves the impression that he is prepared to stay on board past the coming season, per Kevin Cooney of the Bucks County Courier Times (Twitter links). “I’ll do it as long as it is a challenge to me and [I am] capable of doing it,” said Gillick. “Age is just a number.” The 77-year-old Hall of Fame inductee reiterated that sentiment, and then some, in speaking with Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. “I’m going to probably stay in this position as long as ownership wants me to stay in it,” he said. Emphasizing that his prior expectation had been that Montgomery would return to the full-time president’s chair, Gillick said that he is “not really setting a timetable” on his time in office, though he does not expect to be “a long, long-term replacement.”
  • While Gillick has obviously earned quite a bit of respect over his years in the game, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News asks whether he really is the right man for to lead a rebuild at this juncture. While moving veteran assets for the best return possible is a straightforward-enough function, says Murphy, it will be much more tricky to make the right decisions in applying Philadelphia’s financial might to acquire the right new talent. Though Gillick oversaw many winning clubs, and adeptly constructed big league rosters, Murphy also points out that the organizations he guided tended not to be set up well for the long haul and that the baseline circumstances (rules, modes of analysis, and the like) were quite different in his heyday.
  • The Marlins obviously were interested in adding Ichiro Suzuki as a veteran presence to their young outfield and hopefully getting a late-career renaissance from an all-time great ballplayer, but the club also was interested in his nationality, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. President of baseball operations Michael Hill and president David Samson both emphasized the fact that Ichiro’s Japanese heritage was a factor in his signing. Indeed, the front office traveled to Tokyo to announced the deal. “It’s a bonus he’s a Hall of Famer and a Japanese player,” said Samson, who noted that Miami was one of only two teams (the Reds being the other) that had yet to employ a Japanese ballplayer. (For what it’s worth, Cincinnati has fielded a Korean player.)
  • Bringing in veteran reliever Casey Janssen fills the final hole for the Nationals, writes MLB.com’s Phil Rogers. The veteran should slot in nicely in a setup capacity while also providing some insurance in the closer position, says Rogers.

Latest On Blue Jays’ Search For Relief Pitching

The Blue Jays are “in contact” with the representatives of multiple top free agent relievers, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. Among them are righties Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Burke Badenhop.

With former Jays closer Casey Janssen now headed to the Nationals, Toronto officially must look elsewhere to build out its pen. The three names listed above are arguably the top three arms remaining, though several other options remain as well.

GM Alex Anthopoulos said earlier today that he is looking for many different ways to add talent to the relief corps, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. As things stand, Brett Cecil and Aaron Sanchez are perhaps the top two candidates to hold down the ninth inning, and Toronto is not sending signals that it feels an established closer is a necessity.

Payroll may be the driving factor at this point, writes Nicholson-Smith. With perhaps $5MM to $6MM in 2015 spending capacity remaining, that makes trade candidate Jonathan Papelbon a questionable fit. “When you see us linked to a player for days and days and back and forth, I’d say 9.9 times out of 10 there probably isn’t anything to it,” Anthopoulos said. “I can say we’re not going to be in the market for relievers making $10-plus million or more.”

Otherwise, Anthopoulos indicated that the team was in an opportunistic mode after getting a lot of work done earlier in the winter. “Most times the later you get in to the winter there’s potential for the prices to change on some of these guys,” he noted. One internal wild card, catcher Dioner Navarro, remains available in trade but seems destined to remain with the Jays unless a suitable offer comes in.


International Notes: Tejada, Ibanez, Kang

Longtime big leaguer Miguel Tejada, now 40, has agreed to a one-year deal with the Mexican League’s Pericas de Puebla, Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deports reports. Tejada does not appear to be looking to spark another return to the big leagues, but instead says he wants to play out the season and enjoy one more winter league run before hanging up his spikes.

Here are some more notes with an international flare:

  • While Yoan Moncada has drawn much of the attention, fellow young infielder Andy Ibanez is a legitimate prospect in his own right, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. Ibanez figures to command a pool-busting bonus, says Badler, who breaks down the full history and book on the 21-year-old. Though he lacks the flashy tools of Moncada, Ibanez is framed as a solid all-around player with a promising bat. All said, he is a better prospect than Roberto Baldoquin, who just landed $8MM from the Angels, in Badler’s estimation.
  • The transition from playing in one country to another can be difficult on many levels, as Ryan Sadowskinow the first-ever full-time international scout for the KBO’s Lotte Giants — explained to me on a recent episode of the MLBTR podcast. New Pirates addition Jung-ho Kang is in the midst of just such a move, as Bill Mitchell explores for Baseball America. Kang is currently training in the United States with his now-former KBO club, the Nexen Heroes, before heading to camp with the Bucs to begin his new journey.

Giants Release Marco Scutaro

JANUARY 28: Scutaro has been released, according to the MLB.com transactions page.

JANUARY 21: The Giants have designated infielder Marco Scutaro for assignment, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Twitter links). His roster spot will go to the recently-signed Nori Aoki.

San Francisco expects to retain Scutaro once he clears outright waivers, which seems a virtual certainty given his injury status and the $6MM left on his deal. Per Schulman, the team still hopes that the 39-year-old veteran will be able to return from his back issues (which included surgery in December).

When Scutaro went in for fusion surgery last month, it was reported that it would take four to six months before his future on the diamond can even be assessed. Needless to say, the odds of a return at this point appear to be low.

The 13-year big league veteran signed for three years and $20MM as a free agent after originally joining the team in the middle of 2012 and playing a major role in a World Series victory. He has only made 560 plate appearances under that contract due to injury, though he was as productive as hoped for when on the field in 2013.


Marlins Designate Arquimedes Caminero

The Marlins have designated righty Arquimedes Caminero for assignment, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Caminero, 27, has been in the Miami organization since the then-Florida Marlins signed him out of the Dominican Republic back in 2005.

Caminero has had some ups and downs in only two brief MLB stints. In 2013, he worked to a 2.77 ERA over 13 frames, but last year he was torched for eight earned runs in just 6 2/3 innings.

Caminero has had no trouble missing bats at all levels, averaging 11.0 K/9 over nine minor league campaigns and whiffing better than a batter an inning in the bigs. He has struggled somewhat with the free pass (4.5 BB/9 in the minors), but his mid-90s fastball will surely draw some interest from other organizations.


Players Avoiding Arbitration: Wednesday

Here are the day’s lower-cost arbitration settlements:

  • The Mets have avoided arbitration with righty Jenrry Mejia for $2.595MM, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. After opening as a starter last year, Mejia took over closing duties for New York and held onto the role for much of the year. The 25-year-old racked up 28 saves at an opportune time — entering his Super Two year — which led to a $3.1MM projection from MLBTR/Matt Swartz. While Mejia did not reach that mark, he did come in just above the midpoint between the sides’ filing figures and has set himself up nicely for future earnings.

Minor Moves: Jeremy Horst

We’ll keep tabs on minor moves around the league here:

  • The Dodgers have inked lefty Jeremy Horst to a minor league deal, his agency ONYX Sports Management tweeted yesterday (h/t to SB Nation’s Eric Stephen). Horst, 29, had an outstanding 2012 (1.15 ERA, 2.39 FIP in 31 1/3 innings) but struggled in 2013 for the Phillies. Last year, he tossed 63 1/3 innings of 3.98 ERA ball for the Phils’ top affiliate. Horst has held opposing lefties to a .241/.336/.352 line in the big leagues, but has been hit hard (.792 OPS) by righties.

Angels Avoid Arbitration With David Freese

The Angels have avoided arbitration with third baseman David Freese, Mike Perchick of WAPT tweets. Freese will earn $6.425MM in his final season of arbitration eligibility, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports on Twitter.

That settlement amount represents the exact mid-point between the player and team filing points. Freese, a client of CAA Sports, ultimately lands just $125K over the projection of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. His signing leaves the Halos with two players — Matt Joyce and Garrett Richards — with open arbitration cases.

The 31-year-old will enter his second season in Los Angeles coming off of a mixed 2014 campaign. On the one hand, he posted a career-worst .704 OPS (.260/.321/.383) and scored middling-to-poor defensive ratings. On the other hand, that roughly league-average offensive output landed a reasonable sight above replacement level for the hot corner, and Freese’s total worth came out to 1.3 rWAR and 2.1 fWAR.


Braves Designate Jose Constanza For Assignment

The Braves have designated outfielder Jose Constanza for assignment, the club announced. His roster spot will go to Cuban outfielder Dian Toscano, whose signing was also announced today after being reported last month.

Constanza, 31, has seen only 240 plate appearances at the big league level over the last four seasons, compiling a .273/.316/.323 slash. He has spent quite some time at the Triple-A level, logging 2,073 trips to the plate and a .303/.358/.352 batting line and 122 stolen bases over the last five years.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Constanza exceeded expectations with a nice .724 OPS run in 119 turns at bat back in 2011. But he was and remains more of a reserve or organizational depth piece, with his speed and ability to play center his two main calling cards.