As Baseball America’s Josh Leventhal writes, yesterday marked a two-week period where Major League clubs are free to negotiate with available minor league organizations. Major League clubs sign player development contracts with minor league organizations much like players will sign contracts with teams. As such, Leventhal notes that the “affiliation shuffle” is akin to free agency for minor league teams. Leventhal’s article provides more insight behind many of the moves and offers quite a bit of detail for those who are curious to read more about this process.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll see multiple teams sign deals with new affiliates, and MLBTR will keep track of them here for those that are interested …
- The Athletics have announced that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Sacramento to Nashville (previously occupied by the Brewers).
- The Dodgers have announced that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City (previously occupied by the Astros).
- The Rockies announced that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Colorado Springs to Albuquerque (previously occupied by the Dodgers).
- The Brewers have announced that their Triple-A affiliation with Nashville has been terminated by the Sounds.
- The Twins announced that they will be moving their Double-A affiliate from New Britain to Chattanooga (previously occupied by the Dodgers) after agreeing to a four-year term.
- The Dodgers announced that they will be moving their Double-A affiliate from Chattanooga to Tulsa (previously occupied by the Rockies).
- New Britain (formerly the Twins’ affiliate) has announced that that they have reached a PDC with the Rockies.
- The Cubs announced that they will be moving their High-A affiliate from Daytona to Myrtle Beach (previously occupied by the Rangers).
- The Indians announced that they will be moving their High-A affiliate from Carolina to Lynchburg (previously occupied by the Braves).
Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus discussed his disappointing season and pending free agency in a lengthy and excellent interview with Scott Macarthur of TSN.ca. Rasmus’s comments are too lengthy and complicated to encapsulate fully and fairly here, but are well worth a read (or a listen) to anyone interested in understanding one of the more interesting free agent situations in the game. Ultimately, Rasmus comes across as an extremely thoughtful player who, perhaps, needs the right environment to thrive. Though he did not say outright that he does not view that place as Toronto, Rasmus did say that his time with the Cardinals was at times “so unenjoyable that I had trouble wanting to come to the yard everyday and enjoy it,” and noted that he has “kind of run into some of that” this season as well. Said Rasmus: “This year has been a tough year and I’m just going to go home, enjoy it, go back to the drawing board and try to work my tail off this offseason to get in good shape and hopefully find a place to where I fit in well and I can help my team win.” It will be fascinating to see how his free agency turns out; though he has had good years and bad, Rasmus just turned 28, offers rare power for a center fielder, and has put up two approximately four-win seasons.
- Mets starter Dillon Gee is under contract for next year, but as Newsday’s Marc Carig writes, he could find himself squeezed out of the rotation after a tough second half. “I’ll have a spot somewhere,” said Gee. “It might not be here but it will be somewhere.”
- The Mets could be more and more inclined to hold off on adding a shortstop given the recent play of Wilmer Flores, as Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. “We’re getting a lot more comfortable,” said GM Sandy Alderson. “One of the reasons for giving [Flores] as much playing time as we have is to build up his number of plate appearances to get him more comfortable to try to establish sort of a baseline.” Alderson said that Flores has done a solid job defensively at short, noting that Ruben Tejada and Matt Reynolds also remain internal options to take the position next year.
- While Yasmani Tomas makes a good deal of sense for the Phillies, that does not mean that they are favorites to sign him, writes David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. Other clubs in better position to contend will likely place an increased value on adding a bat like Tomas given their spot on the win curve, Murphy suggests.
Here’s the latest out of the game’s central divisions:
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin denied a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that the team had decided to exercise its end of a $14MM mutual option over third baseman Aramis Ramirez for next season. The option, which comes with a $4MM buyout, has yet to be decided on according to Melvin. As MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports, Melvin expressed surprise at hearing the report and indicated that he had not discussed the option with either team owner Mark Attanasio or Ramirez’s agent, Paul Kinzer. Ramirez, 36, has had a solid overall campaign and remains an above-average option at the hot corner. Needless to say, Milwaukee’s decision on his option will have important ramifications for the third base market.
- Though the Indians boast an intriguing group of young starters, GM Chris Antonetti said that the team will look to add more arms in the offseason, as Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. “We’ve seen it first-hand this year,” Antonetti explained. “The five who started the season for us aren’t the same five who are pitching for us right now.” Also on the docket for the fall is an effort to improve the team’s infield defense, said Antonetti. According to Fangraphs’ measurement of defensive value, Cleveland ranks second to last in all of baseball. (Of course, one potentially positive sign is that newly installed shortstop Jose Ramirez has received stellar marks from advanced metrics, quite the opposite of Asdrubal Cabrera, who he replaced after the trade deadline.)
- Twins closer Glen Perkins is set to undergo a “complete look” at his throwing arm, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Fresh off of signing a four-year, extension with just over $14MM in new guarantees before the season, Perkins was strong for much of the year. But things have turned south in the last month, and he has now allowed seven earned runs in his last four outings. Perkins missed time due to neck and shoulder discomfort, and since returning has seen the issue extend to the rest of his arm. “We’re going to give him a test on the left arm, see what’s going on there,” said GM Terry Ryan. “He’s got a little soreness, so we’ll get it looked at. His neck is fine.” Ryan said that the team would wait for an assessment before determining a course of action for the rest of the year, though obviously the future is of greater concern: “[Doctors] are going to give him a complete look, whatever that means. I don’t want to be premature here. If it’s severe, we’ve got issues. If it’s not, then we’ll move forward.”
On the day that the Phillies were officially eliminated from the postseason race, let’s check in on things in Philadelphia:
- 37-year-old starter A.J. Burnett indicated that he is pitching through several physical maladies as he nears a tough decision on his future, reports Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. In addition to the need for offseason hernia surgery, Burnett said that his right arm was fatigued. “If I can lift my arm up at the end of the season then I might pitch,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes.” Burnett faces a decision whether to exercise his $12.75MM player option just one week after the World Series wraps up, but indicated to Gelb that he may have some reservations about his time in Philadelphia — while declining to get into specifics. “I expected a lot of things to be different,” he said. “A lot.”
- The Phillies have “legitimate interest” in Cuban free agent Yasmani Tomas, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. The 23-year-old power hitter appeals more to Philadelphia than did countrymate Rusney Castillo, says Salisbury. His youth and profile would appear to be a nice fit for a Philly club that is in need of an infusion of MLB-ready talent.
- Indeed, manager Ryne Sandberg said today that improved production from the middle of the order is high on his wish list for next year, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Of course, as Sandberg acknowledged, “everybody needs the same thing.” That also holds true of the other area that he stressed: “solidify[ing] the starting rotation.” With around $140MM already on the books for next year (assuming Burnett returns), and arbitration raises coming for Antonio Bastardo, Ben Revere, and Domonic Brown (if they are not traded), Philly will have some room to add salary before bumping up to the $189MM luxury tax. Of course, the team must decide whether it is wise to add substantial future obligations to veterans through free agency.
The Orioles announced today that they have selected the contract of first base prospect Christian Walker for the final few games of the season. Walker, 23, was Baltimore’s fourth-round pick in 2013 and batted a combined .288/.357/.489 between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk this season. As Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com explains, Baltimore will take a look at Walker while resting Steve Pearce over the remainder of the regular season. The team was hesitant to add Walker to the 40-man roster, as he did not need to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft this winter, but they decided to give him a mini-audition of sorts (Twitter links). No moves were needed to clear a spot in light of the suspension of Chris Davis, tweets Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
Here’s more from the American League East…
- The Red Sox have interest in Japanese hurler Kenta Maeda, tweets Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, but that interest is similar to their interest in many free agent starters, including Francisco Liriano. That is to say, according to Bradford, that Boston considers him a middle-of-the-rotation arm rather than an ace to slot atop the team’s starting five.
- The struggles of Koji Uehara have not changed the interest of the Red Sox in bringing him back, GM Ben Cherington tells Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). After showing excellent form for much of the season, Uehara’s age-39 campaign took a quick downturn from mid-August onward. He remains a tantalizing free agent, however, given his recent track record of dominance.
- For the time being, of course, all eyes will be on Rusney Castillo tonight as he makes his debut for the Red Sox. But with so little time left in the season, his real work will come over the winter, as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. Castillo is expected to play in both the Arizona Fall League and the Puerto Rican Winter League as he looks to dial in his play in anticipation of competing for a starting job next spring.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos expects Melky Cabrera to test the free agent market rather than sign an extension, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. While reports have indicated that Cabrera will receive a qualifying offer and Toronto hopes to retain him on a new multi-year deal, Anthopoulos said that it just makes sense for most players who get to this point to see what’s out there. Anthopoulos added that he’s open to bringing back any of the team’s pending free agents if it makes financial sense.
- The Rays‘ immediate future is not promising, in the opinion of Gary Shelton of the Tampa Bay Times. With the team expected to oversee a drop in payroll, it will take bounce-backs from several key players (such as Wil Myers and Evan Longoria) to improve the team moving forward. For his part, skipper Joe Maddon says that he foresees a return to form for Tampa, especially given the team’s talented pitching staff. “I just want to believe it’ll be more offensive,” Maddon said of next year’s club. “Whether it’s with the guys who are here or potential acquisitions.”
We’ll keep tabs on the day’s minor moves here …
- The Dodgers have outrighted right-handed pitcher Red Patterson, according to the PCL transactions page. Patterson, 27, was recently designated to open a 40-man spot. He had one solid start at the MLB level this season, but has struggled to a 5.79 ERA over 121 1/3 frames at Triple-A.
- As MLBTR’s DFA Tracker reflects, there are currently no players in limbo now that Patterson has cleared waivers.
Here’s the latest on the Diamondbacks’ search for a new GM following the recent removal of Kevin Towers from that role.
- Angels pro scouting director Hal Morris did not advance to the second round of interviews, reports Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times (on Twitter).
- Watson has made it through to the second round and is considered a finalist, Heyman reports. One or two other candidates are expected to join him for final consideration.
- Dave Stewart will have an interview for the job this week, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. Rosenthal had previously reported that Stewart might be a key candidate for the position, but that Stewart could not demonstrate overt interest in it unless he thought he could get it, since he might risk losing his clients as a player agent.
- Tony La Russa is nearing a decision on the finalists to replace Towers with the first round of talks possibly ending by the middle of this week, baseball sources tell MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. Discussions have involved ten candidates, who Gilbert lists as: Allard Baird, Larry Beinfest, Billy Eppler, Gary LaRocque, Thad Levine, Ray Montgomery, Hal Morris, Tim Purpura, Dave Stewart and De Jon Watson.
- The Diamondbacks requested and received permission from the Yankees to speak with Eppler, but Gilbert reports Eppler declined the opportunity for a formal interview because of his commitment to the Yankees telling La Russa he only interviewed for the Padres’ opening because he is a native of the San Diego area.
Hall of Fame journalist and MLB Network contributor Peter Gammons appeared on MLBN’s High Heat yesterday (video link) and published a full notes column today, both of which have plenty of excellent information. Here are some highlights from Gammons’ latest work…
- While Braves GM Frank Wren did well to patch their rotation with Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang this season, the team’s offense has been woeful, and Wren has the Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton contracts weighing on him. Former Indians GM John Hart, who was brought on as a senior advisor last offseason, could be moved into a more significant role, such as a president of baseball operations (like Theo Epstein in Chicago) or a chief baseball officer like Tony La Russa in Arizona. Hart served as an overseer to Jon Daniels in Texas, and the Braves do have a prime young GM candidate in the form of John Coppolella.
- Gammons thinks that Pablo Sandoval‘s days as a member of the Giants are numbered. Sandoval will be one of baseball’s most sought-after free agents this offseason, and the Marlins and Red Sox are both “very interested,” according to Gammons. “The Giants, I don’t think have any chance of re-signing him,” he adds.
- The Rockies had a July deal agreed to that would have sent Jorge De La Rosa to the Orioles in exchange for left-handed pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, but Rockies owner Dick Monfort nixed the trade. De La Rosa was eventually extended on a two-year, $25MM deal, while Rodriguez was traded to the Red Sox in exchange for Andrew Miller. Gammons uses this story as a means of illustrating Monfort’s fierce loyalty — a trait that makes him an enigma even to the Rockies’ own employees. No one in Colorado is quite sure what Monfort will do this offseason, Gammons writes, though trying to pluck former Rockies assistant Thad Levine from the Rangers, where he is currently an assistant GM, is one scenario on which he speculates.
- At least two dozen teams will be on hand to see Yasmani Tomas‘ showcase in the Dominican Republic this weekend, and Gammons hears that the early front-runners to sign him are the Giants, Phillies, Padres, Rangers and Tigers. All of that, of course, could change quickly following his showcase. The Padres might seem a curious fit there, given the team’s typically tight payroll, but I’d imagine that the international focus of new GM A.J. Preller might be a factor.
- While the common belief is that Padres manager Bud Black is safe even with the GM change, one person who interviewed for the position told Gammons that he was asked by CEO Mike Dee how he felt about the possibility of Jason Varitek coming on board as the team’s new skipper. Dee, as Gammons notes, is quite familiar with Varitek and his leadership from their days together in Boston. This isn’t the first time that Varitek’s name was connected to the Padres.
In his latest Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney runs down a list of pending free agents that are candidates to receive qualifying offers. Olney spoke with several executives from around the league and is of the mind that James Shields, Max Scherzer, Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, J.J. Hardy, Victor Martinez, Ervin Santana, David Robertson and Hanley Ramirez will receive qualifying offers, which should fall between $15MM and $15.5MM.
Here are a few more notes from Olney’s piece…
- The Giants intend to give Sandoval a QO with the assumption that he will reject the offer and test the open market. San Francisco appears willing to offer him just three years, says Olney, and even going to four years might be too much of a stretch. Such a commitment seems much too light to land Sandoval, who, at 28 years old, will be one of the youngest free agents on the market.
- It looks like the Dodgers and Ramirez could be moving in separate directions, as rival evaluators anticipate the team will extend a qualifying offer with the expectation that Ramirez signs elsewhere.
- The value of Martin on a one-year deal, even north of $15MM, makes a QO for the Pirates “an easy call,” one rival GM said to Olney. Some may wonder whether or not Francisco Liriano is a QO candidate, but executives polled by Olney feel that his injury history and lack of innings present too much risk for the Bucs to extend such an offer. I’m inclined to agree; while Martin is a lock to turn down the QO, Liriano would have more hesitancy, and a $15MM salary would represent nearly 21 percent of the Pirates’ Opening Day payroll from 2014.
- Some evaluators think that Cruz will again find himself with a more limited market than he expects due to his age, 2013 PED suspension and the fact that his OBP and defense are less impressive than his power totals.
- Many rival executives feel there’s simply no way that the Tigers will let Martinez get away. Olney’s right in noting that a QO is “an easy call” for V-Mart, who currently sports a hefty .333/.401/.567 with a career-high 31 homers.
- Olney also feels that a QO for Robertson is an easy call. While he notes that teams don’t pay $15MM for closers anymore, one evaluator said to him: “…with any other team, we wouldn’t be talking about this. But it’s the Yankees, and they can do it.” On a somewhat related note, Olney adds that Koji Uehara‘s late-season swoon may be a blessing of sorts for the Red Sox, who can now approach him with an offer much lower than a QO would have been. I noted in yesterday’s MLBTR chat that I’d be more hesitant to give Robertson a QO, but the Yankees could certainly afford to run the risk.
Rusney Castillo will make his highly anticipated debut with the Red Sox tonight, and WEEI.com’s Alex Speier breaks down which Red Sox players will be impacted by his arrival. As Speier points out, Castillo batted .293/.370/.463 in his 11 minor league games prior to his summoning to the Majors. He will split time with Jackie Bradley in center field, but if Brock Holt returns from a concussion, Will Middlebrooks could lose some playing time as well.
Here’s more on the Red Sox…
- The one-year, $16MM extension (which comes with a pair of club options) that the Red Sox issued to David Ortiz has proven to be a good move, writes WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. Big Papi himself said as much to Bradford, noting that critics and doubters have gone eerily silent following a strong season: “It’s all about having the chance by this time [of the season] to say, ‘See, I told you it was wrong to sign him.’ That’s what it’s all about, so that’s why I don’t pay any attention to that,” said Ortiz. Papi would’ve joined a thin list of free agent hitters, and multiple execs tell Bradford that at least two years and $40MM wouldn’t have been an outlandish ask on the free agent market. Ortiz doesn’t seem to have any regret that he signed the deal, though he did note that “it would have cost [the Red Sox] more” to sign him had they waited until free agency. Ortiz has batted .263/.357/.508 with 32 homers this season.
- David Ross would like to return to Boston, he tells Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, but he knows that might not be in the cards. “I feel like if they really want me, they might’ve already come to me,” says Ross. The Red Sox are impressed with Christian Vasquez‘s glove behind the plate but may well feel the need to get more offense from their backstops, Lauber writes. Ross is hitting just .185/.264/.356 in 165 plate appearances this season. Lauber adds that Ross would like to play at least one more season for a contending team.
United States authorities are interviewing Cuban ballplayers as part of an investigation into smuggling rings, reports ESPN The Magazine’s Scott Eden. Driven by dramatic stories as well as high-profile success on the field, attention has increasingly focused on the issue of human trafficking of players hoping to reach Major League Baseball.
Here are some more notes to round out the evening:
- The Orioles‘ run to take the AL East has a lot of plausible explanations, but one of them is as straightforward as it is surprising, writes Mike Petriello of Fangraphs. Steve Pearce has had perhaps the most unexpected four-plus win season in history, largely making up for the downturn of Chris Davis. Even better, he cost the team virtually nothing to acquire. It remains to be seen whether he’ll carry much value into next year, but Baltimore will surely pay him a much-deserved raise through arbitration to find out. Pearce entered the year with over four years of service time, meaning that he has just one year of team control remaining. His 17 home runs and .907 OPS will set him up nicely for an arb payday, though he has logged under 400 plate appearances (still easily a career high) and does not have a large base point to work from.
- Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo will undergo surgery on his troublesome left ankle, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports on Twitter. It will be up to two months before he can begin to run, but that should still give him plenty of time to prepare for the spring. Of course, Texas will hope that a healthy ankle will go some way to allowing Choo to return to form next year. He is owed $116MM on his contract through 2020.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos declined to tip his hand regarding the status of manager John Gibbons for 2015, but MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm senses a change of tone from the GM. Anthopoulos emphasized that Gibbons is under contract, saying that he would treat the skipper like any other team employee: “you support them until you don’t support them.” Though Anthopoulos said that nothing should be read into his comments, Chisolm notes that the GM’s comments last year at this time revealed less reserved support for Gibbons.
Here’s the latest out of the National League:
- A repeat of last year’s late-season extensions seems unlikely for the Giants, tweets Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. The club is not talking about new deals with any of its pending free agents, says Schulman. That would include, of course, third baseman Pablo Sandoval. In a recent poll, MLBTR readers indicated a collective expectation that Sandoval will find a new home next year.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson explained that his recent comments on the club’s younger players have been somewhat misinterpreted as forecasts of the team’s spending plans, as Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. Saying that his statements were intended to focus on the team’s younger players, particularly given his audience (related to one of the team’s affiliates), Alderson emphasized that it would be unfair to “assume that we’ve made decisions about what we’re going to or not going to do at those positions.” Though Martino notes that the organization still needs to prove it actually has the ability and willingness to bump up its spending, Alderson maintains that he has no complaints and believes in the club’s process. “It’s important to keep in mind a couple things,” he said. “One is, I actually believe we will have some payroll flexibility that goes beyond what some people are thinking. But at the same time, I don’t think we expect to go out and spend money just to get to a threshold. We have to see what’s there, both in terms of the free agent market and over time the trade market. We have to evaluate what we have.”
- Veteran Phillies righty A.J. Burnett has bumped the value of his 2015 player option to $12.75MM with tonight’s start, his 32nd, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki notes on Twitter. While it remains to be seen whether he decides to return, Burnett’s injury-free but less productive 2014 campaign makes it unlikely that he would deliver much in return via trade. (Of course, his 20-team no-trade clause also presents a significant barrier.)
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- After being outrighted by the Indians, outfielder Chris Dickerson has elected free agency, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Dickerson, 32, slashed .224/.309/.327 in 112 plate appearances this year for Cleveland. He has seen part-time duty with five different clubs in each of the last seven seasons, but has not managed to keep a sustained role at the game’s highest level.
The Braves announced at a groundbreaking ceremony today that their new home will be called SunTrust Park, reflecting a sponsorship agreement with the financial institution. Set to open in time for the 2017 season, the new ballpark is expected to deliver an important new revenue stream for the organization. Of course, the surprise deal to move the club to Cobb County has drawn its share of criticism for the financing agreement and political maneuvering that paved the way.
Here’s more from the National League:
- While the Braves entered the season with a whole new financial outlook — having completed the stadium deal, a restructuring of the club’s television contract, and several notable player extensions — things have not gone as hoped on the field. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman looked back at some of the developments that have led to what he calls the team’s most disappointing season in decades. Given the club’s difficulties, Bowman suggests that the job security of GM Frank Wren is increasingly in question looking forward.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson has indicated that the team has more young players that it would like to protect from the Rule 5 draft than it has 40-man roster spots to do so, as ESPNNewYork.com’s Adam Rubin reports. The club will, of course, need to be strategic regarding its eligible players, assessing the possibility that another team will take certain players and keep them active for the full season necessary to keep control. Rubin lists all the team’s possibilities for elevation to the MLB roster, along with the slightly more advanced players who could be set loose to accommodate new additions.
- The shortstop position continues to be a major question mark for the Mets heading into the offseason. As Rubin notes, Ruben Tejada could theoretically be a non-tender (or release) candidate, less due to concerns with cost than the roster crunch. Tejada has only a .225/.338/.284 slash, though defensive metrics like his work and he has yet to turn 25. Meanwhile, Wilmer Flores has not yet delivered on his well-regarded ability at the plate at the MLB level, but has had less trouble handling the position than many expected. As Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs writes, advanced metrics have viewed his work (in a limited sample) as roughly league-average, which could be enough to give him a shot next year given his offensive upside. As with last year, the upcoming free agency period could be an interesting one for Mets fans hoping for a long-term solution at the shortstop position. Though GM Sandy Alderson has expressed that payroll expansion is unlikely, the market includes a number of quality veterans.
Click here to read a transcript of this week’s live chat, hosted by MLBTR’s Steve Adams.