MLBTR Originals

A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR the last seven days:


Full Story | Comments | Categories: MLBTR Originals

AL Notes: Rios, Leyva, Tanaka

Alex Rios‘ career with the Rangers could be over. The outfielder has a bruised right thumb, and MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports that Rios has decided it would be better to simply not play, since the thumb has not gotten better and risks infection. The Rangers are expected to decline Rios’ $13.5MM option this offseason and pay his $1MM buyout, which means that his next big-league plate appearance could come with another team. In Rios’ absence, Sullivan writes, the Rangers will likely move Shin-Soo Choo from left field to right and spend their savings on pitchers. Here’s more from the American League.

  • The Orioles have officially announced the signing of Cuban pitcher Lazaro Leyva. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported the signing in September, although Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reported earlier this weekend that the two sides were still in the process of finalizing the signing. The deal is reportedly for $725K.
  • Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka made a successful first start on Sunday after missing two months with an elbow injury, allowing one run while striking out four and walking none in 5 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays. He says that his elbow feels good and that he does not think he needs Tommy John surgery, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com reports. “It’s pain-free,” Tanaka says, adding that he rarely thinks about the injury. A strong full season from Tanaka would, clearly, provide a huge boost for the Yankees in 2015 — he’s been one of the best pitchers in the American League this year when he’s been healthy.

NL Central Notes: Martin, Huntington, Brewers, Cubs

As a former player, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly can relate to what Cubs prospects Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara are going through, writes David Just of the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s just a time factor with the young guys,” Mattingly said. “They can look good right away, and the next year they come out and it doesn’t look good. Or they can look kind of shaky and figure a lot of it out. So time is going to tell.” As a youngster, Mattingly got off to a slow start with the Yankees, hitting .278 with a .326 on-base percentage in his first 98 games during the 1982 and ’83 seasons. He then led the American League in hits, doubles, and batting average in 1984.

Here’s the latest from the NL Central:

  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington says re-signing catcher Russell Martin is a priority for the franchise, tweets Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We are going to try to do everything we can to keep Russ,” said Huntington. “We’d love nothing more than to have (Martin) in a Pirates uniform.
  • Huntington, however, reiterated the Pirates will not veer from their financial philosophy. “We’re going to continue to have to pay guys for what we believe they’re going to do, and not what they’ve done,” said Huntington (as quoted by MLB.com’s Stephen Pianovich). “The bigger markets certainly have luxury to be able to extend much beyond comfort levels to pay an extra year or two, to pave over prior mistakes with more money.
  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin does not “think there’s a need to go out and try to get another starter” and will instead focus on offense this offseason, reports MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. The Brewers are all but certain to pick up the $13MM option on Yovani Gallardo, McCalvy opines.
  • The Brewers‘ biggest offseason decisions will be the infield corners and whether to exercise Gallardo’s option, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a recent chat. The Brewers will consider both internal and external options at first base, but Haudricourt notes finding productive first basemen is easier said than done.
  • In a separate piece, Haudricourt writes Rickie Weeks is nearing the end of his tenure with the Brewers (his $11.5MM option isn’t expected to be exercised), but the team’s senior member in terms of service time is not thinking about 2015. “I’ll worry about that when the time comes,” Weeks said. “I’m still with the Brewers right now. That’s the way I look at it.
  • What we’d really like is to have a bunch of really good baserunners,” is what Cubs manager Rick Renteria told reporters, including MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat, when asked about the club’s 2015 wish list.


AL Notes: Soria, Indians, Cruz, Bogar

Offense is at a premium this season and Rays manager Joe Maddon doesn’t think it will improve any time soon, writes MLB.com’s Bill Chastain. “The hitter’s at a total disadvantage right now,” Maddon said. “And there’s no advantages on the horizon. I don’t see it. That’s why it’s going to take a lot of creative thinking. It could be just going back maybe to something that had been done before. I’m not sure. But right now, offense is going south, and it’s going to continue going south based on pitching and defense. Everything, data, video, all the information benefits them over offense.” Maddon also pointed to improved bullpens throughout baseball as another factor in the depressed offensive numbers.

Here’s more from the American League:

  • July acquisition Joakim Soria deserves a shot at pitching in high-pressure situations for the Tigers, writes Chris Iott of MLive.com. Soria could be the best relief pitcher the Tigers have and they paid a price to get him, so they should utilize him in the best way possible, Iott argues.
  • The Indians led the majors in errors for much of the sesaon, but there likely won’t be sweeping changes in Cleveland’s infield, writes Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer.
  • Nelson Cruz reiterated he would like to stay with the Orioles, but extension talks will still wait until after the season, tweets Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
  • Tim Bogar is now the clear runaway favorite to be hired as the next Rangers manager, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (on Twitter).

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Kang, O’s, D’Backs

On this date in 2001, a crowd of 41,235 at Shea Stadium witnessed the return of baseball to New York City for the first time since the 9/11 attacks.  Uplifting ceremonies before and during the game, which included singers Diana Ross, Marc Anthony, Lisa Minnelli as well as bagpipers, paid tribute to victims of the tragedy.  Later, Mike Piazza‘s eighth inning home run gave the Mets a 3-2 dramatic victory over the Braves.  Here’s this week’s look around the baseball blogosphere..

Please send submissions to Zach at ZachBBWI@gmail.com.


Yankees Designate Chaz Roe For Assignment

The Yankees announced that they have designated pitcher Chaz Roe for assignment.  In a related move, Masahiro Tanaka has been reinstated from the 60-day disabled list to make his start today against the Blue Jays.

Roe, 27, was acquired by the Yankees from the Marlins on August 31st.  In his season at Triple-A New Orleans, Roe posted a 3.66 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 64 innings of relief.  Prior to joining the Yanks, his only big-league experience came in 2013, when he pitched 22 1/3 innings for the Diamondbacks, posting a 4.03 ERA with a respectable 9.7 K/9 and 5.2 BB/9.  Roe made three appearances for the Bombers this year.

As the DFA Tracker shows, Roe and Eury Perez are the only players currently in DFA limbo.


AL East Notes: Rays, Tanaka, Red Sox, Tomas

Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the Yankees were somewhat handcuffed this year by their obligation to the legendary Derek Jeter and with that in mind he looks at ten other similar issues that could be brewing elsewhere.  The list includes a look across town at the Mets where David Wright isn’t performing the way they had hoped when he inked his eight-year, $138MM extension.  Here’s today’s look at the AL East..

  • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times looked at the major decisions the Rays will have to make this winter.  Tampa Bay has a decision to make on Ben Zobrist but Topkin sees his $7.5MM option as a slam dunk and says it’s unlikely that they would trade him.
  • If Masahiro Tanaka resembles his pre-injury self today against the Blue Jays, it might influence the Yankees spend this offseason, opines John Harper of the New York Daily News.
  • One major league evaluator suggested to Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald that there are questions about whether Red Sox target Yasmany Tomas will make enough consistent contact to be successful against the higher-quality pitching he will face in the big leagues.  Tomas hit 15 homers in Cuba’s Serie Nacional in 2012-13 but went deep only six times this season, possibly because of a shoulder injury.  Boston was in attendance for Tomas’ weekend showcase in the Dominican Republic.
  • The Red Sox are likely to have one spot in their 2015 rotation reserved for a young starter and while there are several candidates, it’s not clear who will fit in that role, writes Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. Rubby De La Rosa, who looked like a keeper a few weeks ago, struggled again on Saturday night in a 7-2 loss against the Orioles.  Fellow prospects Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster, and Brandon Workman haven’t set the world on fire lately either.

Bud Black To Return As Padres Manager

Despite some speculation to the contrary, Bud Black will return as the Padres’ manager next season, GM A.J. Preller tells Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com.

Like I said from the beginning, I viewed it as Buddy is our manager,” Preller said. “I had a chance to really enjoy the last month, to get to know him more on a day-to-day basis, getting to be around him and getting his thoughts on the team and his thoughts on baseball in general.”

When asked specifically if he looked forward to working with Black for an entire season, Preller told Bloom: “Yes, I’m looking forward to that for sure.”

The Padres exercised an option on Black’s contract for the 2014-15 seasons in November of 2012, so his deal is already in place for next year.  Preller cited the team’s energy and work ethic as the main factor in the team’s decision to keep Black.

While the Padres’ 73-81 record isn’t what they had hoped for, they have reason for optimism going forward.  Preller went on to tell Bloom that management is on board to make the Padres competitive again in the NL West.


Cafardo On Hellickson, Gardenhire, Ramirez

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes looks at six teams that badly need some fixing this offseason.  The list starts with the Braves, who have been held back in part by B.J. Upton‘s five-year, $75MM deal.  The Rangers also need some serious help in the form of two starting pitchers, a right-handed power bat, and possibly a catcher.  The Phillies are in the toughest spot of all, Cafardo writes, as they are overloaded with older players on bad contracts.  Here are some of the highlights from today’s column..

  • As teams start putting together lists of pitchers who could be had in trade this offseason, Jeremy Hellickson’s name has been surfacing.  One AL team believes that the Rays could make another Wil Myers-Jake Odorizzi for James Shields-Wade Davis type of deal centering around Hellickson, who is still just 27 and inexpensive.
  • It looks more and more like Twins manager Ron Gardenhire will return next season.  A Twins executive said he would be “surprised” if Gardenhire didn’t come back based on his young team playing hard and having fun playing the spoiler role down the stretch.
  • Even with Alex Rodriguez coming back, Cafardo sees the Yankees as a possibility for Hanley Ramirez if the Dodgers don’t retain him.
  • The Red Sox haven’t committed to bringing David Ross back next season but it doesn’t appear he’ll have to worry about finding a job.  A few teams have privately discussed Ross as a backup/mentor.  If Boston moves on from Ross, there aren’t many clear-cut alternatives on the open market.
  • Red Sox vice president of player personnel Allard Baird had a very good interview for the Diamondbacks‘ vacant GM job, but Tony La Russa is still leaning towards Dave Stewart or Gary LaRocque, according to a source. Baird, of course, was the GM of the Royals from 2000-06.
  • Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield is beginning to receive more interest as a managerial candidate.  Don’t be surprised to see his name mentioned more often for openings, Cafardo writes.

The Most Improved Free Agents

Behind the scenes at MLBTR, we’re busy discussing and polishing our Top 50 Free Agents list for the 2015 offseason. While we’ll wait until the appropriate time to officially release the list, it’s not too soon to talk about a few of the players who have done the best to improve their free agent stock. In general, I’m looking at players who weren’t even on the radar when Steve Adams kicked off our 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings series on April 15. Today, we’ll take a look at a pure hitter, a starting pitcher, and an elite reliever.

1. Victor Martinez. I’m sure Martinez’s appearance on this list is of no surprise. When we compiled our initial power rankings post, 25 players were named. Martinez was not one of them. The 35-year-old designated hitter is limited in defensive versatility, but his bat is clearly elite. He is enjoying a fantastic offensive season with a .335/.404/.566 line and 31 home runs. All are career bests. He’s even stolen three bases (also a career best). The exceptional performance comes with a 10.5% walk rate and 6.6% strikeout rate, making him one of just two players with more walks than strikeouts (Jose Bautista is the other).

Martinez, who earned $12MM this season, will receive a qualifying offer, according to Buster Olney of ESPN. It’s difficult to handicap how the slugger will perform on the free agent market. The only recent comparable player is David Ortiz, although the short contracts he signed with the Red Sox do not appear to be directly applicable to Martinez’s situation.

The Tigers will have some leverage in retaining Martinez, where he can continue to hit with Miguel Cabrera. The White Sox are also said to be interested, per Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com. Chicago appears to be an ideal fit with its extremely hitter friendly stadium (Detroit’s Comerica Park is a neutral stadium), and he would make a good tandem with Jose Abreu. We seem to have the basic ingredients for a bidding war, and other teams will likely enter the fray.

2. Brandon McCarthy. What a fascinating season it’s been for McCarthy. His fastball gained two mph over previous seasons, and he’s posted the highest ground ball rate of his career at 52.7%. While his 3.93 ERA is merely decent, advanced ERA estimators like xFIP (2.90) and SIERA (3.03) expect better things to come. He’s also buffed his strikeout rate to 7.72 K/9 while maintaining an elite walk rate of 1.53 BB/9.

McCarthy was easy to overlook entering the season. His command and control profile made him a steady but uninspired rotation option. His first 18 starts came with the Diamondbacks, where he flashed excellent peripherals with an unseemly 5.01 ERA. He was dealt to the Yankees prior to the July trade deadline. In 13 starts, he’s pitched to a 2.54 ERA that is supported by his peripherals. Many pundits (including this one) worried about the influence of Yankee Stadium on the homer prone starter, but his HR/FB ratio has regressed to league average in New York.

Prior to this season, he never managed more than 170 and two-thirds major league innings in a single season. That came in 2011. He’s frequently dealt with injuries including recurring “stress reactions” in his pitching shoulder. His most recent shoulder injury occurred in 2012. This season, he’s managed a career high 194 and two-thirds innings with a chance to eclipse the 200 inning threshold.

A sabermetrically inclined front office – especially one with a large ballpark – could justifiably view McCarthy as the fourth best free agent starter, after the triumvirate of Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, and James Shields. McCarthy’s history of shoulder problems will likely temper enthusiasm for a large contract offer. That might serve to increase demand by making him an affordable, second-tier option. McCarthy, who is entering his age 31 season, could top the four-year, $49 million contract signed by Ricky Nolasco last offseason. However, a smart club would include language to mitigate risk from future shoulder flare-ups.

3. Andrew Miller. If Miller was on anybody’s radar entering the season, it was as a moderately interesting LOOGY. By halving his walk rate and proving he’s no platoon pitcher, Miller will enter the offseason as an untested but possibly elite closing option. Due to his inexperience recording saves, clubs may still look at him as a setup reliever.

Split between the Red Sox and Orioles, the 30-year-old southpaw has posted a 1.93 ERA in 60 and two-thirds innings. His 14.84 K/9 is impressive, especially in light of his 2.37 BB/9. He’s allowed just 32 hits on the season and is one of three relievers to cross the 100 strikeout threshold – four others appear poised to do so by the end of the season.

No recent left-handed reliever has entered free agency coming off of such a strong season, which puts Miller in uncharted waters. Jeremy Affeldt, who signed a three-year, $18MM contract with the Giants following the 2012 season is a distant comparable. Joaquin Benoit is probably the best example among recent right-handed pitchers. He signed a two-year, $15.5MM contract with an option after emerging as the Tigers closer. However, he was also entering his age 36 season, so he was considerably older than Miller. Per the MLBTR Transaction Tracker, no non-closing reliever has signed a contract with over a $20MM guarantee. Miller has a chance to be the first. Prior to the 2007 season, Justin Speier signed a four-year, $18MM contract that could serve as a barometer of sorts once inflation is included.


Poll: Who Will Sign Yasmany Tomas?

It’s an exceptionally quiet night on the transaction front, so let’s turn our attention to a poll. Tomorrow is Yasmani Tomas day with the Cuban slugger scheduled to workout at the Giants Dominican complex in front of about two dozen clubs. Even though tomorrow is a landmark date in Tomas’ move toward the majors, it is really just the beginning of the process. Like with fellow countryman Rusney Castillo, I assume Tomas will conduct private workouts with the most interested teams in the next few weeks. It’s also worth noting that Tomas has not yet been declared a free agent by major league baseball.

We heard last Sunday that Tomas could command as much as $100MM in a bidding war. While we can assume that every team with some modicum of interest will be represented at the showcase, we’ve seen eight teams directly tied to Tomas. The Yankees and Phillies are popular speculative destinations. Hall of Fame journalist and MLB Network contributor Peter Gammons mentioned five clubs as front runners, including the Phillies, Rangers, Tigers, Padres, and Giants. The Red Sox and Mets have also been tied to Tomas here at MLBTR. 

So my question is this: who do you think will sign Tomas? I’ve removed a few teams from the poll below based on payroll or other constraints (i.e. the Rays). If the team you think will sign him is not represented, you should vote for “other.”


Quick Hits: Wright, Pedroia, Duquette

39-year-old Jamey Wright will start against the Cubs tomorrow for the Dodgers, with Dan Haren taking the ball Monday as the Dodgers scramble to find starters in the wake of Hyun-Jin Ryu‘s injury. Wright will presumably pitch a few innings, then be followed by a succession of relievers. As ESPN Los Angeles’ Mark Saxon tweets, Sunday will be only the second start for Wright in the past seven seasons. Wright has had a long second act as a reliever, and with reasonable numbers and the ability to pitch multiple innings, he’ll probably get another shot to pitch out of some team’s bullpen next season. It’s not as likely that he’ll get another chance as a starter, however. The Dodgers will be the eighth team for which he’s started, with his first start coming all the way back in 1996 as a 21-year-old with the Rockies. Here’s more from around the game.

  • At the end of his career, Derek Jeter is a “diminished product,” and a number of other franchises could soon watch their icons throughout long periods of decline, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. For example, the Mets still owe David Wright $107MM, and he’s in his early thirties and in the midst of a mediocre season. Sherman notes that Dustin Pedroia could turn out the same way for the Red Sox. That’s might not be such an obvious case, however — Pedroia’s offense is down this season, at .278/.337/.376, but he’s still produced a healthy 4.3 fWAR thanks to his strong defense. He is, however, signed through 2021.
  • Dan Duquette was the right choice to lead the Orioles, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. Duquette wasn’t the Orioles’ top choice when they hired him in 2011 — other candidates were wary of working with owner Peter Angelos. Since then, though, they’ve been successful, easily winning the AL East title this season despite injuries to key players like Manny Machado and Matt Wieters. “What Duquette brought to the table was he was a magician … in terms of getting players who have been sent down from other organizations, fallen out of favor, maybe they’re not the prospects anymore, so they have that chip on their shoulder to succeed,” says outfielder Adam Jones.

Rosenthal On Scherzer, Braves, Melvin

Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a video on FOX Sports:

  • Gossip within baseball suggests that James Shields will likely go the Red Sox this offseason, with Jon Lester heading to the Cubs. That could leave a variety of teams competing for Max Scherzer, with agent Scott Boras “waiting it out,” as he often does to try to get teams to meet his price.
  • If the Braves decide to part ways with Frank Wren this offseason, they could promote assistant GM John Coppolella to the GM position and have senior advisor John Hart serve as Coppolella’s mentor. Rosenthal also suggests the possibility that the Braves could bring back Royals GM Dayton Moore. (We noted earlier today that the Braves could make front office changes this offseason.)
  • Fredi Gonzalez of the Braves and Ron Roenicke of the Brewers could be on the hot seat this offseason, but Bob Melvin of the Athletics likely will not be, Rosenthal says.

Red Sox Notes: Shields, Rodriguez, Ortiz

The Red Sox are scouting Royals ace James Shields today, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets, noting that in September, teams typically keep eyes on impending free agents in whom they have interest. The Red Sox have spent much of the season pursuing hitting, signing Rusney Castillo and acquiring Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig, and they’re expected to address their rotation this offseason. Shields is one possible top-tier option, with a return of Jon Lester being another. Previous rumors have connected the Red Sox to Shields. Here are more notes on the Red Sox.

  • Prospect Eduardo Rodriguez has been so dominant since being acquired for Andrew Miller in July that there might be a chance he could be the Red Sox’ next ace, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier writes. “He has stuff that can possibly dominate a lineup a few times through,” says Triple-A Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles. “Plus arm speed, feel for three pitches. His velocity and the life out of his hand with his fastball, it’s explosive. He’s got swing-and-miss capability. … He looks like he’s one of our best guys.” Speier notes that getting a prospect of Rodriguez’s quality for a rental of a reliever is very rare. After arriving from the Orioles, Rodriguez was terrific in six starts for Double-A Portland before moving up to pitch for Pawtucket in the playoffs.
  • One problem with projecting the Red Sox’ future is figuring out how long David Ortiz will continue to hit, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. At age 38, Ortiz has hit .264/.357/.517, with a number of high-impact home runs. As a big slugger in his late 30s who’s still relatively healthy and consistently productive, Ortiz is already a somewhat unusual player, and it’s unclear how long the Red Sox will be able to count on him.

Braves Could Make Baseball Operations Changes

It appears the Braves are considering an expanded role for senior advisor John Hart within their front office. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that the Braves could consider having Hart head their baseball operations department, while David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution clarifies that either Hart or John Schuerholz could have an expanded role in baseball operations, regardless of whether the Braves end up keeping or replacing current GM Frank Wren. Peter Gammons wrote earlier this week that the Braves could consider making Hart their president of baseball operations.

The Braves hired Hart in November for his current senior advisor role. Schuerholz is currently the team’s president. Both, of course, have distinguished track records as GMs. Hart presided over the Indians’ very successful run in the 1990s, and Schuerholz was his peer in Atlanta. (Hart also preceded Jon Daniels as the GM of the Rangers before serving as an advisor in Texas.)

The Braves have struggled down the stretch and are now 76-77, on the verge of missing a winning season for only the third time since 1990. They extended Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez in February, but there have since been indications of trouble within the organization. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reported earlier this week that former minor league pitching coordinator Dave Wallace took a position with the Orioles in part because of disagreements with the Braves’ front office. Bowman also notes that it was Schuerholz, not Wren, who stepped in to stop pitching coach Roger McDowell from taking a job with the Phillies.