Following a tough start on Tuesday night, A.J. Burnett sounded as if retirement was on his mind when asked by reporters if he planned to pitch in 2015. “I have no idea. Probably not, but we’ll see,” Burnett told the media, including Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer. As Narducci notes, Burnett’s comments could be stemming from frustration given how both he and the Phillies have struggled this season, so it’s too early to assume Burnett is hanging up his glove. Narducci also cites Burnett’s competitive nature and his increasingly pricey player option for 2015 as reasons why the veteran righty won’t want to end his career quite yet.
Here’s some more from the City of Brotherly Love…
Burnett retiring would only make the Phillies’ offseason need for starting pitching all the more dire, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News writes. The Phillies could have as many as three rotation spots to fill given Cliff Lee‘s injury issues, Burnett’s uncertain status and pending free agency for Kyle Kendrick and Jerome Williams. Lawrence predicts the Phils will target mid-tier starters this winter given how much payroll space is already tied up by Lee and Cole Hamels.
Speaking of Kendrick, the right-hander recently discussed his free agency in general terms with reporters, including MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. Kendrick isn’t sure if he’ll remain in Philadelphia, saying “I want to go where whoever wants me. That’s where I want to go. If it’s here, great. If they want me. You want to go somewhere where you’re wanted. We’ll see. I don’t know.”
Ken Giles looks like a closer of the future for the Phillies, and ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription required) suggests that that the team could take the bold step of installing Giles as the closer right now. The switch could also prevent Jonathan Papelbon from reaching his $13MM vesting option for 2016, which would help increase Papelbon’s trade value. Olney notes that Papelbon could easily file a grievance over the situation, though I’d argue that given Papelbon’s past comments about wanting to play for a contender, he might begrudgingly go along with the move if it helps get him out of Philadelphia.
The Mets have not yet tried sending Bartolo Colon through revocable waivers, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. One reason this is significant is because Colon would represent one possible upgrade for an Angels team that just lost Garrett Richards to what appears to be a significant knee injury. It’s unclear whether Colon would be claimed by another team before getting to the Angels. He’s pitched fairly well this year, despite his age, and he’s set to make a reasonable salary of $11MM in 2015. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
At least so far, the David Freese / Peter Bourjos trade has worked out fairly well for the Angels, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes. Freese got off to a slow start but has hit well since June, while Fernando Salas has been steady out of the Angels’ bullpen. Meanwhile, Bourjos hasn’t hit well in a part-time role with the Cardinals (although he continues to provide defensive value), and outfield prospect Randal Grichuk has spent most of the season at Triple-A.
Calls for the Marlins to trade Giancarlo Stanton may have been premature, writes Rosenthal. Next season, Stanton will still only be 25 and under control through 2016, and the Marlins will have a healthy Jose Fernandez. They might also get more help from young hitters Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, so they could contend in 2015. While they likely won’t be able to sign Stanton long term before he becomes eligible for free agency following the 2016 season, they might be able to simply wait to trade him, perhaps for established players rather than prospects.
Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner will make his first start since June 18 on Saturday in Arizona, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets. On his way back from a shoulder injury, Cashner pitched five innings in a rehab start for Triple-A El Paso Monday. Cashner has emerged as one of the top starters in the National League in the past two seasons, and he had a 2.76 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 76 1/3 innings this year before he got hurt.
The Angels’ farm system hasn’t won much praise recently, but it seems to have produced a hit in Kole Calhoun. The outfielder sped through the minors despite a relatively modest pedigree (he was an eighth-round pick as a college senior in 2010), skipping Double-A and making it to the big leagues in two years. Last season, in his first extended shot in the Majors, he hit .282/.347/.462 in 222 plate appearances, and this year he’s proven that was no fluke, hitting .294/.349/.485 so far. Offensively, Calhoun combines high batting averages with good power, and he also provides reasonable baserunning and corner outfield defense.
Since he’s already nearly 27, Calhoun’s opportunities to cash in on his early-career success might be somewhat limited. He can’t become a free agent until the 2019-2020 offseason, by which point he’ll be 32. With so much time remaining before free agency, and after receiving a very modest $36K signing bonus out of college, it would probably behoove Calhoun to consider the security of a long-term deal. A pre-free agency extension might represent the best chance for Calhoun and his agent, Page Odle, to land a big contract.
Given that the Angels already control what are likely to be Calhoun’s prime years, an extension need not be such a priority for them. And since he isn’t exceptionally athletic and already plays corner outfield, betting on him continuing to be productive well into his thirties seems excessive, from the Angels’ perspective. Signing Calhoun to an extension would, however, have the benefit of controlling his arbitration salaries while possibly also giving the Angels options to control a year or two more than they do now.
Since Marte is an outfielder, his six-year, $31MM deal (which also includes two options) is the most obvious precedent that might guide a long-term deal for Calhoun. Before that, the last extensions for outfielders with between one and two years of service time were those of Jose Tabata (2011) and Denard Span (2010). Both contracts are now too ancient to really matter, with contracts for players like Simmons and Freddie Freeman reshaping the extension landscape since then.
The problem with using Marte’s deal as a precedent, though, is that a Calhoun contract would have a slightly different purpose. Marte was a toolsy, high-upside 25-year-old at the time of his deal, so for the Pirates, his contract was about retaining him long term. Calhoun is older and may have already reached his upside. On the other hand, his offense-heavy profile is more likely than Marte’s was to get him paid in arbitration. Therefore, we might expect a Calhoun contract to be a bit shorter than Marte’s, and perhaps a bit less option-heavy. We might also expect Calhoun to make more than Marte in his seasons of arbitration eligibility.
The possibility of Calhoun becoming a Super Two player following the 2015 season is also a factor. Calhoun entered the 2014 season with 130 days of service. This year’s projected Super Two threshold is two years and 128 days of service time, which means Calhoun could end up on either side of the line. Quintana had one year and 133 days of service when he signed his extension before the season, and his contract with the White Sox contains a clause that pays him an extra $5.5MM if he becomes Super Two eligible. Perhaps a Calhoun extension could include a similar clause.
Of course, Super Two eligibility would not affect Calhoun’s free agency timeline. A five-year deal (beginning in 2015) with one team option might make sense for both Calhoun and the Angels — such a deal would buy out all of Calhoun’s pre-free-agency seasons while giving the Angels the rights to his first season of free agency eligibility. Calhoun would become eligible for free agency as a 33-year-old at the latest, potentially giving him another shot at a multi-year deal if he continued to hit.
Given that the Angels already control one or perhaps two of those five years at the league minimum, the total guaranteed figure for a Calhoun extension need not be huge. Marte will make $21MM over the course of his contract if one leaves aside the last guaranteed year (including his signing bonus and a $2MM buyout on his option in 2020). Calhoun might get a little more than that guaranteed over a five-year deal if he is not Super Two eligible (including a buyout on the Angels’ option for a sixth year), perhaps with a clause bumping his contract to $27MM-$30MM if it turns out he is.
Angels pitcher Garrett Richards suffered what appeared to be a significant knee injury while trying to make a play at first in the second inning of a game against the Red Sox Wednesday. He fell while still running to first and spent several minutes on the ground in obvious pain before being removed on a stretcher. There’s no word yet on the severity of the injury (which the Angels described as a “left knee/patellar injury“) but if it’s as serious as it appears to be, it would be a big blow to the Angels. Entering tonight’s game, Richards had posted a 2.53 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 167 innings this season, and the Angels are currently fighting the Athletics for first place in the AL West. Here are more notes from the division.
Diminutive Astros star Jose Altuve has made it big despite his size, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. “He’s an anomaly,” says Astros assistant GM David Stearns. “He’s tough to explain, other than the fact he works as hard or harder than anyone, he’s got freakish hand-eye skills, he loves baseball and he wants to be great.” History indicates that Altuve is, in fact, very unusual, Kepner writes — there isn’t anyone in the Hall of Fame listed at 5-foot-6 or shorter who debuted in the Majors since the early 1940s. Altuve signed for just $15K as an amateur out of Venezuela.
The Athletics have struggled since their surprising trade of Yoenis Cespedes and a draft pick for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, John Branch of the New York Times notes. It’s not clear that the trade is to blame, however. “We were struggling some before the trade as well, and we haven’t been as good offensively as we have been for the better part of a season,” says manager Bob Melvin. “But I expect us to get much better offensively because we still do have a very deep lineup.”
Andrew Miller‘s transition from the Red Sox to the Orioles has gone smoothly, Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com reports. “There’s a ton of differences. Things in general match up,” says Miller, for whom the Orioles traded at last month’s deadline. “The winning teams I’ve been on have a nice, loose clubhouse that expects to win.” Miller has pitched brilliantly in his first 7 1/3 innings with the Orioles, striking out 11 and walking three while allowing just two hits and one run. Here’s more from around the AL East.
Carlos Beltran will see a doctor after feeling something wrong with his elbow while swinging last night, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch tweets. The Yankees scratched Beltran from their lineup tonight. It’s been a rough season for Beltran, who’s hit .233/.291/.416 (weak numbers for a DH/OF with little defensive value) while battling injury in the first year of a $45MM deal.
Jon Lester is not likely to return to the Red Sox this offseason, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. Instead, the Yankees and Cubs could emerge as possible suitors. It is, perhaps, no surprise that the Red Sox aren’t considered the favorites to sign him — they just traded him, and reportedly weren’t close in extension negotiations before that. Lester should be able to get a six- or seven-year deal in free agency, Heyman writes, and the Red Sox are likely to consider that to be too risky. Heyman does note, however, that the Red Sox may have been prepared to offer Lester five years and $100MM last month.
The Blue Jays have promoted top outfield prospect Dalton Pompey to Triple-A Buffalo. Pompey, 21, hit .295/.378/.473 in 127 plate appearances at Double-A New Hampshire. MLB.com ranks Pompey the No. 3 prospect in the Jays’ system (behind Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez), praising his plate discipline and speed.
The Indians have announced that 1B/DH Nick Swisher will be out for the next eight to ten weeks after having surgery on both knees. That would suggest he’s out for the rest of the season. Swisher was in the midst of a disappointing season in the second year of his $56MM deal with Cleveland, hitting .208/.278/.331 in 401 plate appearances. Here’s more from the AL Central.
GM Rick Hahn says the White Sox haven’t yet decided whether they’ll promote 2014 third overall draft pick Carlos Rodon once rosters expand in September, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune tweets. If they do promote him, they could use him as a starter. The White Sox recently promoted Rodon to Triple-A Charlotte after pitching well in four appearances for Class A+ Winston-Salem.
We still can’t get a clear read on the 2013 James Shields / Wil Myers trade between the Royals and the Rays because some of the secondary players involved haven’t yet reached their potential, Rob Neyer of FOX Sports writes. For example, the Rays received minor league infielder Patrick Leonard in the deal, and he’s currently hitting .293/.372/.470 in 476 plate appearances for Class A+ Charlotte (the Charlotte team based in Florida, not the Triple-A team mentioned above) as a 21-year-old. Also, 25-year-old Mike Montgomery, another Rays acquisition, has gradually improved at Triple-A.
MLB has changed its rules governing the signings of international players, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports. MLB has determined that teams may not host players at their facilities until they are 16 years old or are within six months of being eligible to sign, whichever comes first. Therefore, most players who will become eligible to sign on July 2 of next year will not be allowed at MLB team facilities until January 2 to showcase players who will be eligible to sign in July.
The news is significant, Badler notes, because teams currently invite players to their facilities to evaluate them there, using their own drills. Also, leagues like the Dominican Prospect League and International Prospect League currently use MLB team facilities, with games open to all teams to watch. Now those leagues won’t be able to use MLB facilities until January 2.
The rule changes will also limit the number of nights young prospects are allowed to stay at MLB team facilities, and will prevent prospects from living with MLB team employees.
The Padres have designated lefty Bobby LaFromboise for assignment, the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets. They also reinstated Cameron Maybin from the restricted list and optioned infielder Jace Peterson to Triple-A El Paso. Maybin has finished a 25-game suspension for testing positive for amphetamines.
LaFromboise made ten appearances with the Mariners in 2013, but he’s only pitched for El Paso so far in 2014, posting a 4.75 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 53 innings of relief. The Padres claimed him from the Mariners in April.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.
The Braves have signed righty Joe Gardner to a minor league deal, according to MiLB.com. Gardner is best known as one of the four players the Rockies sent the Indians for Ubaldo Jimenez in 2011 (with Drew Pomeranz, Alex White and Matt McBride being the others). Now 26, Gardner has spent part of the 2014 season with Double-A Tennessee in the Cubs system and part of it with the independent Lancaster Barnstormers, for whom he posted a 2.51 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 43 innings.
AUG. 20: The White Sox have requested unconditional release waivers on Leesman, tweets Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune.
AUG. 16: The White Sox have designated lefty Charlie Leesman for assignment in a flurry of roster moves, Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago tweets. The White Sox also activated Avisail Garcia, moved Moises Sierra (oblique) to the disabled list, promoted Eric Surkamp and moved Javy Guerra to the bereavement list. Garcia, the key return in last year’s Jake Peavy trade, has not played in the big leagues since April due to a labrum injury. His surgery was previously believed to be season-ending, so he’s coming back ahead of schedule.
Leesman, 27, has only appeared in one game for the White Sox this season, an April start in which he only averaged 86.5 MPH on his fastball. He has, however, proven to be a good pitcher at the Triple-A level. He performed well at Triple-A Charlotte in 2012 and 2013 and has pitched 68 innings there this season, posting a 4.10 ERA, 8.7 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9.
The Red Sox, Giants and Tigers were said to be the front-runners for Cuban free agent Rusney Castilloas of yesterday evening. The outfielder’s rumored asking price continues to crawl upward as his decision reportedly inches closer. We’ll keep track of today’s Castillo rumors in this post…
ESPN’s Jayson Stark hears that the bidding for Castillo could cost $50-60MM over five years. Stark lists five of the six usual suspects as finalists, noting that the Red Sox, Tigers, Giants, Phillies and Yankees remain in the mix for Castillo.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that at least four teams remain in the running for Castillo, with the Red Sox representing one of that group. The Tigers and Giants have a sense of urgency about their pursuit, as they plan to use Castillo to bolster their 2014 playoff hopes. In addition to those three clubs and previously mentioned teams such as the Phillies, Cubs and Yankees, Heyman lists the Mariners as a team with interest, though he cautions that it isn’t clear how involved they are at this stage of the talks.
Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that the Red Sox are one of multiple teams that have made a “strong bid” for Castillo. Those wondering what sort of role the presence of countryman and former teammate Yoenis Cespedes would have on Castillo will be interested to hear Cespedes’ comments that he hasn’t spoken to his former teammate anytime recently. However, Cespedes did offer high praise for Castillo, telling Bradford, “If he’s not a five-tool player, he’s at least a four-tool player. He’s very comparable to [Yasiel] Puig. Obviously a different height and size, but very similar qualities.” BoSox GM Ben Cherington confirmed that they’ve spoken to Castillo but offered no further comment. Bradford, too, hears that Castillo is expected to make a decision by week’s end.
Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks suffered yet another setback in his return from back surgery i a rehab game on Sunday, according to James Schmel of MLive.com. Dirks sustained the second hamstring injury of his rehab assignment, and while the results of a Tuesday MRI have yet to be disclosed, it’s looking unlikely that he will play for the Tigers at all this season, writes Schmel. There are just 13 games remaining in the minor league regular season, and Dirks may not have enough time to rehab and prepare himself to suit up for the reigning AL Central champs this year.
Here’s more from baseball’s Central divisions…
Much has been made of the Cubs‘ plan to pursue top-of-the-rotation arms this offseason, but GM Jed Hoyer said to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times this weekend that a veteran position player is a priority as well. “…[T]here’s a lot of positions on the field that we want to dedicate to the guys that are here or to young players,” said Hoyer. “But I do think it’s important to have some veteran guys with good approaches that these guys can lean on… … It’s certainly something we want to find.”
Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton was originally placed on the disabled list for a hip issue, but he has now been diagnosed with a sports hernia, he told reporters, including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Twitter link). Morton will try to return in 2014, but that doesn’t appear to be a certainty, and even if he does, offseason surgery remains a possibility.
Twins top prospect Alex Meyer is right where he should be in regard to the team’s projected innings limit, GM Terry Ryan tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Ryan will watch Meyer’s final home start of the year next week but is not ready to concretely say that the flamethrower will receive a September call-up. The Twins would need to add Meyer to the 40-man roster to do so, but as Berardino notes, that would happen following the season in order to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft anyway. Meyer ranked on the midseason Top 50 prospect lists of ESPN’s Keith Law, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com, placing as high as 12th overall (on B-Pro’s list).
Following the Reds‘ recent four-game losing streak — each of which featured the bullpen blowing a lead — John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer opines that it’s time to shift the focus to 2015. Fay examines the club’s chances of contending and writes that they won’t be big players on the free agent market, as is typically the M.O. of owner Bob Castellini. Fay also notes that the Reds debated moving a starting pitcher at the non-waiver trade deadline, but Castellini wouldn’t sign off on a sale. Fay feels that a starter, such as Johnny Cueto or Mat Latos, could become trade bait in the offseason with the Reds in need of a bat.
Last month, the Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance against the Astros regarding their practices in this year’s draft, but while previous reports indicated that the grievance pertained to both No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken and fifth-round selection Jacob Nix, the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich hears from a pair of sources that the grievance is focused on Nix rather than Aiken.
This doesn’t preclude a grievance being filed for Aiken as well, but Aiken’s case is weaker than that of Nix. Aiken’s physical revealed an abnormality in his ulnar collateral ligament — it was, reportedly, smaller than that of a standard UCL — which led the Astros to attempt to reduce his signing bonus from $6.5MM to $5MM. The two sides were unable to reach an agreement, which therefore caused the Astros to lose the entirety of Aiken’s $7.9MM draft slot from their bonus pool.
As such, Houston could not afford to go significantly over slot to sign Nix, the team’s fifth-round selection. That wouldn’t have been a problem were it not for the fact that Nix had already taken a physical and reached a reported verbal agreement on a $1.5MM bonus. When Aiken’s deal fell through, the Astros allegedly backed out of their deal with Nix, creating a great deal of scrutiny from the public, Nix’s camp and the MLBPA.
According to Drellich’s sources, Nix’s grievance will not be addressed until the offseason. His grievance is one of many grievances — nearly all of which go unreported — on a backlog that need to be addressed. The two sides could reach a monetary settlement to avoid bringing the case before an arbiter, but should the case reach arbitration, it would be to determine whether or not the Astros are required to honor their $1.5MM agreement and give Nix a contract. That scenario could have significant ramifications for the Astros, as that bonus would catapult them well beyond their allotted bonus pool. Without Aiken’s $7,922,100 bonus slot, the Astros’ bonus pool shrinks to $5,440,100. As such, Nix’s $1.5MM bonus — which is $1,129,500 above his slot’s $370,500 value — would put the Astros 20.7 percent above their total bonus pool. Such a stark overage would result in not only a 100 percent tax on said overage, but also the loss of a first-round pick in each of the two upcoming drafts.
As for Aiken, a grievance can still be filed. As Drellich notes, the collective bargaining agreement stipulates that a grievance must be filed within 45 days of the offense, meaning that Aiken’s camp could push for a grievance anytime between now and Sept. 1. That’s not a firm deadline, however, as Drellich’s sources indicate that extensions can be granted.
Rangers left-hander Neal Cotts has been claimed on revocable waivers by an unnamed club, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). Cotts’ waiver period expired yesterday, according to the initial report which revealed that he was on waivers. Because teams have 48.5 hours to work out a trade from the point of a claim, it can be inferred that the Rangers will have until tomorrow afternoon to work out a trade to send Cotts to the claiming team.
The 34-year-old Cotts has been excellent once again this season, continuing a surprising resurgence after what was a three-year absence from the Major Leagues (from 2010-12). After posting a 1.11 ERA in 57 innings for Texas last season, Cotts has turned in a strong 3.48 mark with 9.6 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 this season. Already at 54 1/3 innings pitched, Cotts is on pace to top last season’s 57 innings handily. He’s set to hit free agency at season’s end, so it makes sense for the Rangers to explore a potential trade to receive some future value before he hits the open market.
A number of contending clubs have been on the lookout for bullpen help of late, including the Dodgers, Tigers, Royals and Pirates (it seems unlikely that Cotts would’ve made it to the NL, however). Cotts is earning $2.2MM in 2014, making him a highly affordable option for the final few weeks of the season. He’s owed roughly $493K through season’s end.
While many outside the Phillies organization have been quick to criticize general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., team president David Montgomery is still voicing public support for his GM. Via Todd Zolecki, Erin Bacharach and Greg Johns of MLB.com, Montgomery addressed a large group of fans in a Q&A session on Tuesday and plainly stated, “Ruben is not on the hot seat.”
The Phillies currently sit in last place with a 55-71 record and are on the verge of missing the playoffs for a third straight season. Since winning the NL East and posting a 102-win season in 2011, they’ve been on a sharp decline. Philadelphia finished 81-81 in 2012 (third place), 73-89 in 2013 (fourth place) and are now on pace for a last-place finish and just 70 wins this year.
Philadelphia’s decline, aging roster and thin farm system (at the upper levels) have all fueled criticism for Amaro. Moves such as Ryan Howard‘s extension (five years, $125MM); the re-signing of aging veterans Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz; the free-agent signing of Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year deal with a vesting option; and the decision not to trade veterans in order to start a rebuild have not sat well with many Phillies fans.
The Phillies do appear to have done well in recent drafts — Aaron Nola and J.P. Crawford are both highly regarded prospects — and some recent offseason additions, such as Marlon Byrd and Roberto Hernandez have paid dividends. Of course, while Byrd has been very productive, his contract and limited no-trade clause (along with a reportedly lofty asking price) prevented the Phils from being able to trade him.
That’s nothing new for the Phillies and Amaro, however, as vesting options and partial no-trade clauses have sapped their leverage in trading many players. A glance at their current roster shows that Byrd, Howard, Hamels, Papelbon, A.J. Burnett, Cliff Lee and Chase Utley are all associated with those trading road blocks (be the no-trade protection contractual or via 10-and-5 rights).
As the MLB.com trio points out, this is not the first time that Montgomery has backed Amaro, though it’s certainly his most straightforward defense of his general manager. Montgomery defended his front office to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb in June and to Zolecki back in February as well.