Coco Crisp Out Six To Eight Weeks Due To Elbow Surgery

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Athletics outfielder Coco Crisp‘s problematic right elbow is expected to require surgery to remove a bone spur — an operation that would sideline him for six to eight weeks.

The 35-year-old Crisp had been slated to move from center field to left field this season, as the A’s were set to deploy a platoon of Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry in center. With Crisp out for an extended period of time and right fielder Josh Reddick likely to open on the DL as well (though Reddick isn’t expected to need much time there), the Athletics’ outfield depth will be tested quickly.

Billy Burns was already expected to make the team as a reserve outfielder, and the Crisp injury will likely make it easier for Oakland to carry Rule 5 selection Mark Canha on the 25-man roster (though Canha’s strong spring had already created a compelling case).

Though the team has depth available within its ranks already, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine GM Billy Beane combing the waiver wire or touching base with the agents for outfield options who are released over the coming weeks. Dayan Viciedo, Ryan Ludwick and Nate Schierholtz are all corner outfield options that have been released/opted out of their Minor League contracts recently, and others figure to join their ranks in the coming days as the regular season fast approaches.

The loss of Crisp is a tough blow for the A’s; though Crisp’s offensive output waned somewhat in 2014, he’s been a generally above-average hitter with excellent baserunning contributions over the past three seasons. Dating back to 2012, Crisp is a .256/.332/.410 hitter, which, when accounting for Oakland’s cavernous home park, translates to an OPS+ of 108 — or about eight percent better than the league-average hitter. Crisp is earning $11MM in the first season of a two-year, $22.75MM contract this coming season.


Offseason In Review: Miami Marlins

Miami tied its fortunes to star slugger Giancarlo Stanton, kicking off an incredibly busy offseason in which the organization announced its intentions to compete in 2015 and beyond.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades And Claims

Extensions

Notable Losses

Needs Addressed

After a somewhat surprisingly promising 2014 campaign, many tabbed the Marlins as a team to watch heading in 2015. Expectations were that Miami would ramp up its competitive timeline somewhat and make a legitimate run at extending Giancarlo Stanton.

The Marlins did that and more by inking Stanton right off the bat, locking up outfield mate Christian Yelich in mid-March, and making a whole host of acquisitions in between. Fulfilling its assurances to Stanton, and using some — but not all — of the salary space that his back-loaded deal opened up, Miami methodically plugged holes all winter.

Michael Morse upgrades Garrett Jones at first for a reasonable price. Ichiro Suzuki provides a veteran fourth outfielder to go with the young trio of Stanton, Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna. Re-upping Jeff Mathis as the backup catcher is, perhaps, somewhat questionable given his anemic bat, but at least he’ll be cheap and offers the team rather a different skillset than does starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

The biggest move, surely, was the addition of speedy second baseman Dee Gordon. Miami is betting that 2014 was a breakout, not a brief uptick, for Gordon. It sacrificed a good bit of talent (and future flexibility) to do so: top pitching prospect Andrew Heaney, interesting utility man Enrique Hernandez, useful reliever Chris Hatcher, and solid catching/utility prospect Austin Barnes.

That deal also left the Fish with a free roll on veteran righty Dan Haren, who will be joined by fellow trade acquisition Mat Latos in an interesting but hard-to-predict rotation. Those two arms are more or less opposites at this point: Haren has been a workhorse of declining quality, while Latos has had injury questions but nothing but quality results when healthy. It took another young arm and catching prospect to add Latos to the mix. Miami was not even sure when it made the deal to add Haren whether he would pitch for the team — he was included, in large part, as a mechanism for the Dodgers to kick in $10MM cash — but his decision to do so provides useful stability at the back of the rotation.

The other major bit of roster orchestration performed by president of baseball ops Michael Hill and GM Dan Jennings was designed to upgrade the team at third. Miami bought low on Martin Prado from the Yankees (who had already bought low on him from the Diamondbacks), in turn selling low on talented-but-unpolished pitcher Nate Eovaldi (who had come to Miami as the crown jewel of the Hanley Ramirez trade). In turn, the team had to move incumbent Casey McGehee, who had an excellent but questionably sustainable comeback in 2014 and will now look to repeat with the Giants.

A host of the other moves listed above filled in smaller gaps and provided the team with some options.

Questions Remaining

In the immediate term, the Fish look like a pretty complete club. The outfield is a reasonable choice as one of the three best outfits in the game, while the infield seems in much better shape than last year. To be sure, the new trio of Gordon, Prado, and Morse has its fair share of questions. But there is good reason to prefer that group to what it replaced, by a fair margin.

The biggest question, perhaps, is at short. Adeiny Hechavarria has struggled at the plate and is not well-loved by defensive metrics. But the team obviously feels good about him, since it explored an extension. Indeed, last year was his best at the plate, he is only entering his age-26 season, and Hech seems to have all the tools to be quite a good defender.

That being said, if the Marlins are contending and Hechavarria is not performing, the possibility of a deal for another option cannot be ruled out. Likewise, the catching position does not presently look to be a strength and could ultimately require a temporary patch while the club awaits J.T. Realmuto‘s final developmental steps. The club has some reasonable options lined up elsewhere on the diamond — players like Donovan Solano, Jeff Baker, Don Kelly, and Jordany Valdespin come to mind — but looks thinner at short and catcher.

It is fair to wonder, too, whether an injury or two could expose some fault lines in the rotation. It is somewhat remarkable, really, that all of Eovaldi, Heaney, DeSclafani, Brian Flynn, and Jacob Turner are gone from the rotation mix, taking a lot of potential innings with them. While second overall pick Tyler Kolek is the new top dog in the system, he remains years away (even as third choice Carlos Rodon nears a big league job with the White Sox).

To be sure, things look solid as camp winds to a close. Henderson Alvarez, Jarred Cosart, and Tom Koehler will presumably join Latos and Haren while the team awaits the mid-season return of precocious ace Jose Fernandez. But the rest of the depth chart includes a somewhat questionable mix of swingmen (Brad Hand, David Phelps) and untested prospects (Jose Urena, Justin Nicolino, Adam Conley).

There is depth and quality in the pen, led by late-inning arms Steve Cishek, A.J. Ramos, and Mike Dunn. For a second lefty, the club will go with the out-of-options Hand (after waiving Rule 5 pick Andrew McKirahan). The club went out and added Aaron Crow in hopes that he would bounce back in Miami, giving up Flynn to do so. But with Crow out with a torn UCL, the right-handed pen contingent will be drawn from the returning Bryan Morris and Carter Capps, offseason additions Phelps and Preston Claiborne, and veteran minor league free agents Nick Masset, Vin Mazzaro, Pat Misch, Chris Narveson, and Ryan Reid. We already know that the Fish attempted to bolster this group by pursuing Francisco Rodriguez; with Crow now gone (and a likely non-tender after the year), could they have a look at the still-unsigned Rafael Soriano or other veterans that have recently been set adrift?

Deal of Note

MLB: Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins

The prevailing notion entering the winter was that the Marlins had to do something to “prove” to Stanton that the franchise was serious about winning, enticing him to commit for the long haul as he entered his second (and second-to-last) season of arbitration eligibility. It was expected, perhaps, that a series of additions earlier in the offseason might, in part, set up a spring extension.

Instead, Miami put the horse before the cart by making a record-setting contract with Stanton its first order of business. His youth and essentially unmatched power (in today’s game) made a huge guarantee an obvious requirement of any deal. But the final structure still managed to shock the industry, in large part due to its remarkable 13-year term, sixth-year opt-out, and backloaded payout.

It remains to be seen how things play out under this contract, of course, but it ensures Stanton will make an astronomical sum even if he is injured or experiences a severe production decline. Though Miami seems quite likely to achieve excellent value if Stanton opts out, there is some frightening downside. (And the deal makes all the more clear how well the Angels did to lock up the historically-excellent Mike Trout without having to dangle a seven-year player option on the deal’s back side.)

Overview

Stanton’s new contract kicked off an offseason of ever-cresting promise which culminated in the long-term signing of Yelich. Expectations are high, the Fish are a confident bunch, and the organization seems out to regain the trust of its fans. But expectations can be dangerous, as Miami knows all too well, and a postseason berth seems far from a certainty.

Then there’s the fact that Miami has sacrificed a good deal of its upper minor league talent in the last eight months. Indeed, five of the team’s six best prospects entering 2014 (per Baseball America) have since been traded. Many other, lesser-regarded young players have also seen their departure. Re-acquiring top-level prospect talent while rebuilding system depth — all while facing increasing arbitration costs and demands for spending at the big league level — will pose a significant challenge.

This is where the biggest long-term questions factor in: will the team’s on-field performance and popularity enable it to draw and earn, and will owner Jeffrey Loria continue to approve payroll increases? Needless to say, all of these questions are interconnected and remain impossible to predict at this stage.

As for the present season, the most interesting thing about the Fish may not be what they did, but what they might have done. The team was in on K-Rod, James Shields, and Hector Olivera, and will enter the year with the league’s lowest payroll. Miami was fairly aggressive at last year’s trade deadline; if it is in the hunt this year, there could be some fireworks yet to come.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


West Notes: Nix, Walker, Olson, Garcia, Bradley

Late last night, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle followed up on his report that the Astros‘ exact draft pool is unknown because two players after the 10th round received bonuses north of $100K. Per Drellich, 14th-round pick Nick Tanielu and 15th-round pick Connor Goedert each received bonuses of $200K — $100K above slot for each of them. As such, Drellich writes in a separate piece that the team’s final $616,165 offer to fifth-rounder Jacob Nix was virtually every dollar they had available to offer without losing future draft picks.

Here’s more from the game’s Western divisions…

  • Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon confirmed to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune that both right-hander Taijuan Walker and left-hander Tyler Olson have made the team’s Opening Day roster (Twitter link). Walker’s inclusion on the 25-man roster is significant, as with 142 days of service time under his belt, he’ll almost certainly be a Super Two player two offseasons from now. The 25-year-old Olson, on the other hand, was in camp as a non-roster invite and will need to be added to the 40-man roster.
  • Freddy Garcia‘s Minor League contract with the Dodgers does contain an opt-out clause, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, although the exact date of that opt-out remains unknown. Also pertaining to Garcia, Han Lee of Global Sports Integration has passed along Garcia’s Taiwanese stats to MLBTR. The veteran righty pitched to an 11-9 record with a 3.19 ERA, 6.0 K/9, 1.1 BB/9 and a 1.19 WHIP in 161 innings of work while pitching overseas in 2014.
  • Though the D-Backs have named their starting rotation, Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic writes that Archie Bradley has been so impressive that the Snakes may have to re-think at the last minute. Bradley fired six shutout innings Wednesday, including 5 2/3 no-hit innings, and after the game, manager Chip Hale told reporters: “We’ve named our five, but he’s pushed the envelope all the way down to the last possible chance he had. He’s looked great. We’ll have to sit down and evaluate everything.” Bradley could also begin his first full season in the Majors in a bullpen role, serving as a long man to get acclimated with the big leagues, Hale indicated.


Yankees Acquire Gregorio Petit

The Astros announced that they’ve traded infielder Gregorio Petit to the Yankees in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

The 30-year-old Petit returned to the Majors for the first time since 2009 last year, batting .278/.300/.423 with a pair of homers in 100 trips to the plate. Petit has never much in the Majors outside of that sample, or in Triple-A for that matter, though he does bring some defensive versatility to the table, as he is capable of handling second base, shortstop or third base. The addition of Petit could be tied to the fact that the Yankees learned earlier today that Brendan Ryan will likely open the season on the disabled list after suffering a calf strain.


Christian Vazquez To Undergo Tommy John Surgery

The Red Sox have announced that catcher Christian Vazquez will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow tomorrow. The surgery, which will be performed by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla., will sideline Vazquez for the entire season.

The loss of Vazquez is a significant blow to the Red Sox, who anticipated enjoying the 24-year-old’s presence as their regular catcher in 2015. Vazquez, praised by most as one of the best defensive catchers in all of baseball, made his big league debut in 2014 and batted .240/.308/.309 in 201 plate appearances. Despite that lack of offensive production, Vazquez provided quite a bit of value, throwing out an incredible 52 percent of opposing base-stealers and rating as one of the game’s best pitch-framers, per both Statcorner.com and Baseball Prospectus.

Boston was seemingly prepared for this outcome, as they acquired switch-hitting catcher Sandy Leon from the Nationals earlier this week. The out-of-options Leon is excellent at controlling the running game himself, though he lacks the overall upside of Vazquez. Leon will join Ryan Hanigan, whom the Sox had acquired to serve as a backup but will now see regular action, as half of the team’s catching tandem.

Of course, the eyes of all Boston fans will be carefully monitoring the progress of top catching prospect Blake Swihart as he finishes off his Minor League development at the Triple-A level this season. Swihart, one of the game’s top overall prospects, is widely considered to be Boston’s No. 2 prospect, behind Yoan Moncada. The Phillies have repeatedly asked for Swihart in Cole Hamels trade discussions, but the Sox have refused to include him in a deal. With Vazquez now out for the season, one would imagine that the Sox will be even more reluctant to part with Swihart.

Obviously this procedure is more common among pitchers, but there are still position players who have had to undergo the procedure in recent years. Orioles catcher Matt Wieters had Tommy John last June and will likely open the 2015 season on the disabled list, while Twins top prospect Miguel Sano underwent the procedure last March and missed the season but has been healthy all spring.


Rule 5 Update: J.R. Graham, Delino DeShields

Earlier today the Braves claimed Rule 5 left-hander Andrew McKirahan off waivers from the Marlins — the second Rule 5 player to be claimed off waivers in the past week (the Padres also claimed Rule 5 righty Jandel Gustave of waivers from the Royals). As teams are setting their 25-man rosters, here are the most recent updates on the players selected in this year’s Rule 5 Draft

  • Right-hander J.R. Graham, selected by the Twins out of the Braves organization, has made Minnesota’s 25-man roster, according to Twins director of baseball communications Dustin Morse (on Twitter). The 25-year-old Graham rated as one of the game’s Top 100 prospects two offseasons ago, per Baseball America (No. 93) and Baseball Prospectus (No. 63) but has been slowed by injuries in recent years. This spring with the Twins, he allowed just three runs in 12 2/3 innings, though he also recorded a rather unsightly 7-to-6 K/BB ratio.
  • Second baseman/outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. has beaten out Carlos Peguero for a spot on the Rangers‘ 25-man roster, tweets Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. DeShields is currently 1-for-3 in today’s game, having boosted his average to .268. DeShields, the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft, spent last season with the Astros’ Double-A affiliate, batting .236/.346/.360 with 54 steals. The speedster swiped an incredible 101 bases in 135 games across two Class-A levels in 2012. MLB.com rated DeShields as the game’s No. 66 prospect as recently as last offseason.

Extension Notes: Duda, Harvey, Cueto, Price

The Mets are reportedly set to lock into all of the arbitration-eligible seasons of center fielder Juan Lagares while adding control over another year via club option. But that is not the only possible extension scenario ongoing in New York and elsewhere.

Here’s the latest:

  • Mets GM Sandy Alderson acknowledged that the club has had conversations with both Lagares and first baseman Lucas Duda, as Mike Vorkunov of the Star-Ledger reports (Twitter links). He explained the team’s process as akin to that which led it to sign deals in the past with players like David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Jon Niese, calling Lagares and Duda “select individuals who we think have real upside.” A new pact for the power-hitting, arb-eligible Duda will likely cost the Mets a fair bit more than the $23MM the team reportedly committed to Lagares.
  • For his part, Duda indicated that he is hopeful of getting a deal done before the presumptive deadline of Opening Day, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets. His agents are still working with the New York front office.
  • Arguably the Mets‘ best player, starter Matt Harvey, tells Puma (Twitter links) that he and agent Scott Boras have not been approached to discuss a deal. Of course, that could be due in large part to the fact that Harvey appears to be in a particularly unlikely extension spot: a Boras-represented ace with nearly-unlimited upside who is preparing to enter his arbitration years after missing a season due to Tommy John surgery. When asked whether he would try to get something done with Harvey, Alderson said that the question was “too far afield for me.” Needless to say, it does not appear that there is anything in the works here.
  • The Reds have made “no progress” on a deal with ace Johnny Cueto, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. That is really not surprising, given that Cincinnati appears to have a lack of future payroll flexibility and Cueto a rather substantial earning potential as a free agent.
  • Morosi also tweets that he does not expect any pending free agents to reach long-term deals barring a surprise, massive offer from the Tigers to David Price, and it is hard to disagree with that assessment. That being said, Price made clear yesterday that he is not putting any timeline on talks about a new deal, as MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports. Price also gave some hints as to his mindset, seemingly indicating that Detroit knows his demands and will have to decide whether to meet them. “It wouldn’t be something that would linger on,€” he said. “These guys, they know what they want to do, and so do I. So if we get to that point, then I think once it gets going, it would go quickly. If it doesn’€™t happen, then it just wouldn’t happen. It’s not something that we’d revisit every two weeks. I’€™m sure the Tigers would rather it be either we can get it done or we can’t and leave it alone. We’€™ll see how everything starts shaking out.”€ Price added that he does not necessarily see recent deals for top starting pitchers as setting the salary range that should apply to his next deal: I guess you could say that, but that’s not my thought behind it.”

Mets Place Cesar Puello On Outright Waivers

The Mets have placed young outfielder Cesar Puello on outright waivers, ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin reports. Out of options and a roster spot, Puello has long seemed destined to be headed either to another organization or off of the Mets’ 40-man.

Puello hits the wire on his 24th birthday. He reached Triple-A last year, slashing .252/.355/.393 in 371 plate appearances with seven home runs and 13 stolen bases. Though primarily a corner outfielder, Puello has seen at least some time in center in the minors.

Presumably, the Mets would have worked out a deal if Puello was in high demand, but his low power output in the hitter-friendly environs of Las Vegas — combined with a .265 spring slugging percentage — may have eliminated any serious interest. Of course, Puello has shown some promise in the past and could at least be a credible fourth outfielder, so he figures to draw interest. The question is whether any team will be interested in adding him to their 40-man roster, which would require an Opening Day roster spot at this juncture.


Jarred Cosart Says He Did Not Bet On Baseball

Marlins starter Jarred Cosart briefly addressed the league’s inquiry into a still-obscure, gambling-related issue, telling Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald“I never have, never will bet on baseball.” 

That statement certainly indicates that Cosart does not believe he did anything that would trigger discipline, at least not pursuant to Rule 21(d), which prohibits gambling on baseball games. Cosart added that he hopes the league will wrap up its investigation by Opening Day, which of course is only days away.

Cosart declined comment otherwise. “That’s the only statement I can come out with right now,” he said. “I’m letting MLB security [handle the rest]. They’ve investigated my Twitter. I had to speak to some people from their offices last week, but I’m in a good position on it, I’m confident. Like I said, it’s kind of just in the commissioners hands now and we’ll see what he does with it.”


Michael Matuella To Undergo Tommy John Surgery

Top draft prospect Michael Matuella, a Duke University righty, has torn his ulnar collateral ligament and will undergo Tommy John surgery, Keith Law of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. He had been tabbed as a possible first overall pick.

Matuella joins last year’s number one choice, Brady Aiken, as premium amateur arms requiring UCL replacements this offseason. The news has put a significant damper on a draft class that was already receiving less-than-stellar reviews.

Of course, we have seen some added willingness on the part of teams to take risks on players coming off of a TJ procedure. As Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper notes, last year’s draft included two prominent first-round choices who received big bonuses despite the surgery: Jeff Hoffman, who went 9th overall to the Blue Jays, and Erick Fedde, who went at 18 to the Nationals. And we have seen significant guarantees given to still-rehabbing pitchers, with the Royals along inking Luke Hochevar and Kris Medlen.

But there is little doubt that the added risk will have an impact on the earning capacity of Matuella. Cooper does note on Twitter that at least some clubs actually have greater long-term concern with back issues for the right-hander. BA’s John Manuel and Hudson Belinsky further discussed Matuella’s draft status in an interesting piece.


Royals Re-Sign Rafael Furcal

The Royals have re-signed infielder Rafael Furcal, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports on Twitter. Furcal was released by Kansas City yesterday.

It appears that the move was designed to get Furcal in camp when he signed initially while preventing the Royals from being obligated to him for a $100K Article XX(B) retention bonus. Furcal does not appear on the list of Article XX(B) free agents I compiled recently, because he signed after that list was posted, but he did in fact qualify for free agency pursuant to that provision and therefore was entitled to its built-in protections.


Clayton Richard Declines To Opt Out From Pirates Deal

Lefty Clayton Richard decided to allow his opt-out clause to expire yesterday, despite the fact that he was not added to the Pirates’ 40-man roster, Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects reports. Richard’s opt-out was negotiated into his deal; he is not an Article XX(B) free agent and thus lacks the automatic protection provided by that status.

Richard said that he is not sure if and when he can opt out in the future, but noted that his representatives were set to discuss his contract with GM Neal Huntington. The 31-year-old has been effective in spring — he allowed 3 earned runs over 8 2/3 innings, striking out seven and walking two — and likely would have drawn interest elsewhere. Instead, he’ll provide a potentially useful depth option for Pittsburgh.

“€œI’m still here,€ Richard tells Williams. “We just thought it would be best to stay here and work some stuff out. I’ve had such a good experience with everyone here. We’re going in the right direction. It seems like the right move to stay here and keep on making that progress.”


$100K MLB Contest At DraftKings

Opening Day is less than a week away, so now is the time to enter the new season’s first fantasy baseball contest from Draft Kings! There is a $100K total pool to be distributed, with a $10K top prize and payouts going to the 7,850 highest point scorers. It costs just $3 to enter, but you can take a free shot at this contest if you are making your first deposit. Click here to enter!

The contest goes live on Opening Day: April 6th at 1:05pm EST. You’ll pick your team using a salary cap of $50K for ten players. Allocate your cash over these slots: 2 P, 1 C, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 SS, 3 OF.

I set this lineup earlier in the winter and am sticking with it now as camp breaks:

03.11.2015 DraftKings

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Latest On Jesse Crain

1:14pm: The MLB.com site is incorrect: Crain is still with the team and has only been reassigned, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com tweets.

1:01pm: The White Sox have released righty Jesse Crain, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Crain had been reassigned to minor league camp.

Crain, an Article XX(B) free agent, was in line for a $100K retention bonus, which the team had reportedly decided to pay. While it remains unclear precisely what transpired, it obviously would not make sense for the White Sox to have committed to the bonus before dropping him the very next day.

The 33-year-old has been trying to return to action from shoulder surgery. He was one of the game’s very best relievers in 2013, but has yet to return to full game action since his shoulder issues cropped up.


Braves Claim Rule 5 Pick Andrew McKirahan

12:56pm: The Braves have claimed McKirahan, Frisaro tweets.

12:43pm: Rule 5 lefty Andrew McKirahan has been claimed off waivers by an unknown team, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports on Twitter. The Marlins placed him on waivers two days ago.

While it remains to be seen which club will take a chance on McKirahan, the news likely spells the end of any chance he would end up with Miami. The new claiming team will step into the Marlins’ rights regarding the 25-year-old southpaw, meaning that they will need to keep him on the roster all year in order to gain future control over him.

In the event that the new team, too, decides to expose McKirahan to waivers, he would go through the same process again. If he is unclaimed at that point, then his prior club — the Cubs — would stand to reacquire his rights.