GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers don’t expect to be able to find improvements from outside the organization to improve their offense down the stretch, MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports. “[T]he reality, is I don’t know where you’re going to find a bat to help your lineup. Runs are tough right now. It’s hard to find hitters right now.” Trades in August are difficult to complete due to waiver rules, and it doesn’t sound like the Tigers will be making any. Dombrowski also confirmed that Andy Dirks‘ hamstring injury will keep him out the rest of the season. Here’s more from around baseball.
The Royals feel they need a pinch-runner, so outfielder Terrance Gore is likely to be promoted to the big leagues once rosters expand in September, even though he’s not on their 40-man roster, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. The 23-year-old is hitting just .225/.292/.262 in 305 plate appearances this year, most of them spent with Class A+ Wilmington. He does, however, have 44 stolen bases and has only been caught seven times.
Top Blue Jays prospect Daniel Norris is another potential callup, MLB.com’s Jamie Ross writes. “You could see him. No guarantees, but you might,” says Jays manager John Gibbons. The 21-year-old has zoomed through three levels this year, most recently striking out a ridiculous 32 batters in 16 2/3 innings with Triple-A Buffalo.
Both the Nationals and Indians are happy so far with their deadline swap of Zach Walters and Asdrubal Cabrera, Bill Ladson and Daniel Popper of MLB.com report. Cabrera has played strong defense at second base in Washington, while Walters is off to a strong start in 35 plate appearances with Cleveland, hitting .212 with a .257 OBP, but with a terrific .576 slugging percentage even before homering tonight.
One potential reason the Red Sox reached a deal with Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo is how the free agent market shapes up this winter, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. The Red Sox needed offensive help, but the class of free agent hitters isn’t strong, and the struggles of 2013-14 free agents like Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Shin-Soo Choo demonstrate that you can get less than what you pay for. The pitching market is stronger, so the Red Sox have made a variety of moves to improve their 2015 offense, freeing them to pursue pitching this offseason. Here’s more on Castillo and the Red Sox.
Castillo won’t join the Red Sox’ active roster immediately after the signing becomes official, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald tweets. Unsurprisingly, they feel he’ll need time to adjust after not playing competitively for more than a year.
Scouts like Castillo’s speed and body type, but aren’t unanimously thrilled about his hitting, ESPN’s Keith Law writes (Insider-only). Castillo could be a plus defensive outfielder, though, which means he won’t have to be a dominant offensive player to be worth $12MM per season.
The Yankees liked Castillo as a player, but didn’t bid on him because of their issues with the luxury tax, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes (Twitterlinks). At a luxury tax rate of 50%, Castillo would have effectively cost the Yankees $108MM rather than $72MM.
The Tigers were not “ever really close” to signing Castillo, GM Dave Dombrowski tells MLB Network Radio (via MLB.com’s Jason Beck). “We were basically told earlier in the week — I think first thing Monday — that we were no longer a participant,” says Dombrowski, who adds that the Tigers viewed Castillo as a good defensive center fielder with base stealing ability who might hit 15 homers per season.
The Red Sox have fewer wins than the Royals since the start of the 2012 season, but having losing years before and after a World Series victory has its advantages, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. They’re going to have a very valuable top draft pick next year (if the season ended today, they would pick in the top ten, just as they did in 2013) and a bigger international signing pool. Meanwhile, they retain the financial edge they have over other teams — they’re already reloading for 2015 with the acquisitions of Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig, along with the impending addition of Rusney Castillo, all of whom will have significant salaries going forward. Here are a couple more quick notes out of Boston.
The Red Sox placed Mookie Betts, Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa on revocable waivers today, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets. All are valuable young players, so it’s a strong possibility they’ll be claimed, at which point the Red Sox will pull them back. It probably isn’t likely any of them will be traded.
With Cespedes and Craig in the fold and Castillo soon to join, manager John Farrell says the Sox will hunt for pitching this offseason, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier tweets. Boston, of course, dealt Jon Lester and John Lackey at the trade deadline, although it remains possible that the Red Sox could re-sign Lester when he becomes a free agent this winter.
The Dodgers will change their Triple-A affiliation from Albuquerque to the Oklahoma City RedHawks next season, Michael Baldwin of the Oklahoman reports. Oklahoma City is currently affiliated with the Astros. Mandalay Baseball Properties will reportedly sell the RedHawks to a group tied to the Dodgers for a sum in the $22MM to $28MM range. Baldwin writes that the Dodgers are trying to get out of Albuquerque, a difficult environment in which to evaluate prospects because its park is so favorable to hitters. The move is part of what could be a big shakeup in the Pacific Coast League, with the Athletics also moving from Sacramento to Nashville (currently a Brewers affiliate) and the Giants moving from Fresno to Sacramento. It’s unclear where the Astros and Brewers will end up in such a scenario. Here’s more from the West divisions.
Brady Aiken may have selected a junior college after being selected first overall and then going unsigned in a dispute with the Astros, MLB.com’s Jim Callis tweets. Aiken could end up at Yavapai JC in Arizona, which has helped develop future big-leaguers like Curt Schilling, Kole Calhoun, Bob Milacki, Billy Hatcher and Kyle Blanks.
Carlos Quentin is likely “on his way out” with the Padres, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes in a recent chat. Quentin is under contract for $8MM in 2015, but the Padres likely won’t want to keep him, given his struggles to stay healthy. (What they might do with him is a different question — it’s hard to imagine Quentin having much trade value, given that he’s hit poorly in limited action this season.) Seth Smith and Rymer Liriano are the only near-locks for spots in the San Diego outfield next year, Lin writes.
With Andrew Susac emerging as a potential starting option at catcher and Buster Posey showing signs of wear, the Giants might consider moving Posey to a new position in the future, Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News writes. The Giants have no plans to move Posey at this time, however. If Posey does eventually move, he will probably move to first base.
With Garrett Richards out for the rest of the season, the Angels will presumably be looking for pitching, and Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com has a list of pitchers who might be available. Given the obstacles to making August trades, perhaps it’s no surprise that it isn’t an incredibly inspiring list, with some of the better options possibly being either unwilling to play for the Angels (A.J. Burnett, who can block trades to West Coast teams) or unlikely to make it all the way to them on waivers (Mat Latos).
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado is likely out for the rest of the season, Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports tweets. He will have knee surgery at some point within the next week. The Orioles announced last week that Machado had a right knee ligament sprain and had previously been hopeful that he would be able to return as soon as next Wednesday. He has been out since August 11, when he twisted his knee while swinging.
Machado’s absence will be tough for the Orioles, who currently are 73-53 and atop the AL East. Machado has hit .278/.324/.431 this season, and as usual has contributed plenty of value with his defense. He has, however, been limited to 82 games, having missed all of April with a separate knee injury. The Orioles could respond by moving Chris Davis to third base and having Steve Pearce play first, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com suggests (via Twitter).
There are pluses and minuses to today’s fast-paced media culture, Levine says. On one hand, he says, tweets often inspire real-life trade talks. On the other, it can be hard to keep news of a trade from breaking before informing the players involved. News of the Rangers’ trade of Ian Kinsler, for example, broke before the team could inform him.
Levine says he thinks the next CBA will focus on a worldwide draft, as well as raising the lowest team payrolls and limiting the highest ones.
One unusual clause one player requested in his contract was $250K for his wife’s “equestrian expenses.” Players from Asia will often include clauses in their contracts to pay for interpreters and massage therapists.
The Angels have had a run of terrible luck in the second half, losing both Tyler Skaggs (Tommy John surgery) and Garrett Richards (torn left patellar tendon) for the remainder of the 2014 season (Skaggs will miss most or all of 2015 as well). Following the news of Richards’ diagnosis yesterday, GM Jerry Dipoto told reporters he would be on the lookout for further pitching help. As quoted by MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitterlinks): “Between now and Sept. 1, we’ll try to be as open as we can be. And after Sept. 1, hopefully what we’re missing in Garrett Richards we’re able to somewhat make up for in volume and depth.”
Here’s the latest on Anaheim’s search for pitching and other Angels-related matters…
The Angels have been connected to Bartolo Colon in the wake of these injuries, but Peter Gammons reports (Twitterlinks) that he’s heard Astros right-hander Scott Feldman‘s name in connection with the Halos as well. However, neither right-hander had been put on waivers as of earlier this morning, and Gammons notes that it might be difficult for the Angels to land a pitcher on waivers because, as one baseball source explained to him, the Orioles and Yankees “are claiming everyone.”
Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times looks at the diverse background of educations in the Athletics‘ front office and how those varying personalities fuel the team’s analytical approaches. Baxter spoke with assistant GMs David Forst and Farhan Zaidi for the piece, with Zaidi noting: “It cultivates a lot of debate in our office, just having diverse educational backgrounds and having people that aren’t necessarily guys who have spent their whole careers in the industry … As a group we are less prone to just let assumptions stand and let opinions go unopposed.”
Robinson Cano is hitting .329/.397/.469 and has been worth five-plus wins above replacement this season, but Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes that his on-field work isn’t the only way he contributes to the Mariners. Divish spoke with skipper Lloyd McClendon and outfielder Dustin Ackley about Cano’s positive and relaxed personality and the impact that his demeanor has on the team.
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Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…
The Reds have re-signed outfielder Ryan LaMarre to a new minor league contract, according to the team’s transactions page. Cincinnati designated LaMarre, 25, for assignment and subsequently released him to clear a roster spot for Cuban right-hander Raisel Iglesias earlier this week. The team was reportedly interested in bringing him back on a new minor league contract and has succeeded in doing so. The former second-round pick has missed much of the season with injury but batted .246/.326/.373 at Double-A last year. While he doesn’t offer much pop, the center fielder did swipe 55 bags in 2011 and is 128-for-174 in stolen base attempts in his minor league career.
The Mets have long been on the lookout for a shortstop, but while many have speculated on the possibility of a trade with the Cubs or D’Backs, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that the team will take a look at an under-the-radar Cuban shortstop in the coming days. Roberto Carlos, a 28-year-old Cuban defector, is in the Dominican Republic and garnering attention from the Mets. Carlos left the Cuban National team in 2012 and defected to America, but he is believed to have “slipped through the cracks” because he did not initially seek representation after defecting. The switch-hitting Perez last batted .339 with four homers for the Cuban National team in 2012, Puma writes, and he did have a brief stint in independent ball last season. Carlos, who until recently played under his full name of Roberto Carlos Ramirez, batted .357/.394/.425 in 293 plate appearances between two indy league clubs. He didn’t homer, but he did go 19-for-24 in stolen base attempts.
Here are some more Mets-centric links as we head into the weekend…
Also from Puma’s piece, while the Mets weren’t involved in the Rusney Castillo sweepstakes, the money required to sign him wasn’t the reason, according to GM Sandy Alderson. “I think it’s a matter of there might be some scouting differences of opinion, and kind of where we are and what we’re going to do in the immediate future, so there are lots of issues involved,” said the Mets GM. “We scout [the Cuban market], so it’s not as if we’re not aware of what is going on. It’s not like we’re not aware of who is out there.”
Puma also tweets that the Mets will work out Pavel Quesada as well, a Cuban third baseman who is said to possess some power. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweeted last month that Quesada worked out for several teams at the Yankees’ facility in the Dominican Republic.
Zack Wheelerspoke with Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News and said that while he’s aware that the Mets have a perceived starting pitching surplus, he’s hoping to remain with the club rather than end up elsewhere via trade. “I’d like to be here,” said Wheeler. “I know they could use one of (the young pitchers) to get a bat or two, but I’ve been here for the rebuilding. I know it’s part of the game, but I want to be here after the rebuilding. I want to see the results.”
In an appearance with Chris Russo on the MLB Network (video link), Peter Gammons revealed that the Mets at one point last offseason offered Jon Niese to the Mariners in a trade that would have sent shortstop Brad Miller back to New York (it’s unclear what other pieces were in the deal). The Mets may be happy to have held onto Niese, who has posted a 3.50 ERA in 141 1/3 innings while Miller has struggled to a .199/.273/.326 batting line.
Gammons also opines that the Mets and Cubs don’t line up well for a trade because the Mets would likely have to part with at least two young pitchers to make a deal, and that would thin out their depth considerably.
11:50am: Castillo will take his physical tomorrow, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. He will earn $72MM from 2015-20, Nightengale adds. Presumably, Castillo is receiving $500K (or perhaps the pro-rated version of that sum) for the 2014 campaign.
11:12am: Castillo’s contract contains a limited no-trade clause, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (on Twitter).
11:00am: Rosenthal reports that the contract will be heavily backloaded, with very little money guaranteed to Castillo in 2014. By structuring the contract as a seven-year deal, however, the Red Sox will gain a break on luxury tax implications (Twitterlinks).
10:25am: Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston reports (via Twitter) that Castillo’s deal will be worth $72.5MM over what is technically seven years, as it begins this season. That contract would lock Castillo up in Boston through the 2020 campaign, which will be his age-32 season (he’ll turn 33 late in that season).
10:03am: Castillo will sign with the Red Sox, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
9:58am: Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo is “on track” for a record six-year deal with the Red Sox that is worth more than $72MM, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. William Perez Villalba of Glorias del Beisbol Cubano first noted on Facebook that the two sides were in agreement on a six-year, $72MM deal.
The 27-year-old Castillo’s name has generated increasing interest over the past several weeks, however Boston’s agreement with the Roc Nation Sports client is significantly larger than most had figured. Previous reports indicated that Castillo could land a five-year deal valued somewhere between $50MM and $60MM, but this contract will eclipse Jose Abreu‘s six-year, $68MM pact with the White Sox for the largest contract ever issued to a Cuban free agent.
Castillo, who also drew interest from the Tigers, Giants, Phillies, Yankees, Cubs and Mariners (the Tigers were reportedly the other front-runner), held a showcase for scouts earlier this month. Scouts from 28 of the 30 Major League teams were apparently on hand, and the general consensus was that Castillo was a highly impressive talent that was capable of helping a Major League club in 2014.
Ben Badler of Baseball America’s most recent scoutingreports cite Castillo’s 70-grade speed as his best tool, but scouts at his showcase noted that he had surprising power and an average throwing arm in the outfield, leading many to believe him capable of becoming a five-tool center fielder. Some have compared him to a more powerful version of Brett Gardner, though that is a best-case scenario outcome.
Many expected Castillo to sign with a contending team because of his proximity to the Major Leagues, but Castillo instead appears to be the second significant 2015 piece that Boston GM Ben Cherington has added during the 2014 season. Though the Red Sox are in last place, they’ve added Castillo and countryman Yoenis Cespedes to the fold — each of whom was acquired with the intention of helping Boston’s chances next year.
The signing of Castillo adds to a crowded outfield picture in Boston. Shane Victorino and Cespedes are both under contract through 2015, with Cespedes set to earn $10.5MM and Victorino earning $13MM. The team also acquired Allen Craig from the Cardinals in the John Lackey trade, and Craig is guaranteed $26.5MM through the 2017 season. While he can play first base or DH, of course, the Red Sox have Mike Napoli and David Ortiz entrenched at those respective positions next season.
Beyond the guaranteed contracts, Castillo’s presence further muddies the long-term roles of both Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts with the organization. Bradley has proven himself an elite defensive center fielder this season, but he’s failed to adapt to Major League pitching and has authored a meager .210/.286/.300 batting line in 494 career plate appearances. Betts, a second baseman by trade, is blocked at his natural position by Dustin Pedroia and therefore converted to center field in 2014. However, with Castillo in the fold, the Red Sox now have a full outfield of guaranteed contracts, which could make it difficult for him to find everyday at-bats next year. However, Betts’ .335/.417/.503 batting line at Triple-A this season is a strong indicator that he is a Major-League-ready talent.
It’s certainly possible that the addition of Castillo will lead to some further roster shuffling by the Red Sox this offseason. Cherington and his staff will have a number of different resources — both veterans on guaranteed contracts and controllable, high upside prospects — at their disposal should they wish to leverage the trade market to address some or all of their starting pitching needs.
As of late last night, the Red Sox and Tigers were said to be the favorites to sign Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, whose price tag reportedly could land between $50MM and $60MM over five years. The 27-year-old Castillo is expected to make a decision this weekend, with many reports having indicated that today would be the day he chooses a team. We’ll keep track of Friday’s Castillo rumors here…
Castillo is still talking with “multiple clubs,” including the Red Sox, tweets Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, and a decision could be reached today. Lauber also tweets that Castillo won’t be influenced by whether or not a team is contending in 2014, as he views his choice as a long-term decision.
WEEI.com’s Alex Speier reports that rival clubs view the Red Sox as the favorites to sign Castillo. One source indicated to Speier that Castillo is still actively weighing multiple offers, but sources from multiple clubs believe the Sox to be nearing a deal with Castillo and his agents at Roc Nation Sports, according to Speier.
Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com spoke with a league source late last night who indicated that the Red Sox are “optimistic” that they will sign Castillo (Twitter link).
THURSDAY: In an appearance on ESPN Radio 97.5 with Mike Missanelli, ESPN’s Jayson Stark said that he’s not so sure there won’t be changes to the Phillies’ front office following the season (via Philly.com’s Peter Mucha). “They are certainly going to make changes in the organization,” Stark said. “There’s a lot of rumors swirling about all sorts of stuff below Ruben.”
Stark also notes that ownership outside of Montgomery may not be as confident in Amaro. Additionally, Stark points to Montgomery’s firing of former GM Ed Wade back in 2005 — a move that was heavily influenced by the public opinion.
WEDNESDAY: 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.
Additionally, the Pacific Coast League’s transactions page reveals that the Padres have released right-hander Hector Ambriz. After spending 55 2/3 innings in the Astros’ bullpen from 2012-13, the 30-year-old Ambriz saw just two innings with the Friars this year. Much of his season was spent at Triple-A El Paso, where he posted a solid 3.93 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 55 frames. He had signed a minor league deal with the Padres back in Spring Training.
TUESDAY: The Padres announced that they have designated Brooks Conrad for assignment. In related moves, left-hander Frank Garces will be called up from Double-A San Antonio and right-hander Jesse Hahn is on his way back to San Antonio.
Conrad signed a minor league deal with the Padres in January after spending some time in Japan. The infielder has spent the bulk of the year in Triple-A, slashing .278/.349/.529 with 18 homers in 337 plate appearances. In a limited sample size of 34 major league appearances in 2014, he hasn’t been able to produce the same results. For his career, Conrad owns a .200/.271/.660 line across parts of six big league campaigns.
The Rockies placed first baseman/outfielder Michael Cuddyer on revocable waivers on Sunday, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, but Colorado revoked the waivers after he experienced hamstring discomfort this week (Twitter link).
The injury for Cuddyer, however minor, clearly came at a poor time. It’s unclear whether or not the Rockies would have traded the 2013 NL batting champion even if he had not been injured, but they now won’t have the opportunity to do so prior to the expiration of his three-year, $31.5MM contract at the end of the season.
A team in need of offense certainly could have benefited from the addition of Cuddyer, who is hitting .331/.386/.533 dating back to the beginning of the 2013 campaign. The 35-year-old, however, is no stranger to the injury bug. He’s had four separate DL stints over the course of his current three-year pact and has tallied just 141 plate appearances this season after missing much of the year with a fractured shoulder. (Cuddyer suffered the injury playing third base for the first time since 2010 while filling in for then-injured Nolan Arenado.)
It’s not clear at this time which club claimed Cuddyer, but it’s unlikely that he’d have escaped the National League on waivers. The Pirates, Braves, Cardinals and Giants are all contending clubs that could use an additional bat and find room for Cuddyer in their lineup. An acquiring club would’ve had to pay Cuddyer roughly $2.35MM through season’s end, had a trade been worked out.
The Rockies could technically place Cuddyer on waivers a second time, but the waivers would no longer be revocable at that point, and Colorado doesn’t seem likely to run him through waivers solely to shed his remaining salary.