MLBTR Originals

What better way to keep warm during a week in which millions of people had to dig out from Winter Storms Juno and Linus than to look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR:

  • MLB Trade Rumors Podcast featured host Jeff Todd analyzing the upcoming extension season and reviewing the Astros’ busy winter with Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. A new edition of MLB Trade Rumors Podcast will be released every Thursday and can be accessed on iTunesSoundCloud, and Stitcher.
  • Tim Dierkes broke the news of the financial terms and bonus structure of Devin Mesoraco‘s extension with the Reds after being the first to report both sides were nearing a deal.
  • Jeff listed the seven most intriguing free agents still on the market, two of whom (Alexi Ogando and Chad Billingsley) signed within 72 hours of the post being published.
  • MLBTR was the first to learn right-hander Joe Blanton, who made only two starts last season for the A’s Triple-A affiliate before leaving the team and ultimately being released, will work out and throw a bullpen session for interested clubs this Wednesday in Nashville.
  • Steve Adams hosted this week’s live chat.
  • Zach Links assembled the best of the baseball blogosphere for you in Baseball Blogs Weigh In.

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Reds Sign Paul Maholm

The Reds have announced, via Twitter, they have signed left-hander Paul Maholm, which was first reported by CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. It is a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training, tweets C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Maholm is represented by Bo McKinnis. No financial terms have been announced.

Maholm, who pitched for the Dodgers last year after signing a one-year, $1.5MM contract, saw his season cut short when he tore the ACL in his right knee while covering first base during a game in August. The 32-year-old told FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi recently his right knee is doing “great” and he has been undergoing his normal offseason regimen since December (Twitter link).

Maholm did pitch in 30 games for the Dodgers (eight starts and 22 relief appearances) posting an overall line of 4.84 ERA, a career-worst 4.3 K/9, and 3.6 BB/9 over 70 2/3 innings. Reds GM Walt Jocketty says Maholm will compete for a spot in the starting rotation, according to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. If Maholm impresses, he could land in the bullpen and be utilized, as he was by the Dodgers, in a swingman role.


AL Notes: Shields, Samardzija, Moncada, Rangers

James Shields, the top free agent still available, has lost his leverage and is in the worst possible spot as most teams have exhausted their payroll space and are more willing to identify reasons to dismiss an available player, opines ESPN’s Buster Olney in an Insider piece (subscription required). The longer a premium free agent like Shields remains unsigned, Olney notes, the more his negotiating strategy and leverage position are picked apart. Along those lines, a National League GM tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, “It’s hard to project a team would go five years.

In today’s news and notes from the American League:

  • Agent Mark Rodgers told MLB Network Radio’s Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette (audio link) he will listen to any overtures from the White Sox to extend Jeff Samardzija, but his client will most likely find out what his “ultimate value is in the open market, which is what free agency is all about.
  • The Tigers hosted a private workout for Yoan Moncada, reports Lynn Henning of the Detroit News. MLB.com’s Jason Beck adds the workout was held last week at the team’s facility in Lakeland. Both Henning and Beck believe this was simply due diligence on the Tigers’ part because of the signing bonus Moncada will command.
  • In today’s mailbag, a reader asks Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer why the Indians allowed J.D. Martinez to slip through their fingers and join their divisional rivals last year. The Tigers, he explained, needed depth in the outfield late in Spring Training. The Tribe, on the other hand, had more than enough with David Murphy, Ryan Raburn, Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and Michael Brantley. At the time, they didn’t know Raburn would struggle and both Swisher and Bourn would be hindered by injuries.
  • Matt Harrison told reporters, including Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News, he expects the Rangers to place him on the 60-day disabled list to open the season. Harrison also acknowleged a minor setback in his rehab, but the issue had to do with his mechanics rather than his health.
  • Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar told reporters, including FOX Sports Southwest’s Anthony Andro, he is pleased with the results his throwing program has had on his right shoulder. Profar, who is slated to take some dry swings from the right side this week, said his goal is to play in all of Texas’ Spring Training games.
  • In a nod that today is Super Bowl Sunday, Rangers GM Jon Daniels confirmed Russell Wilson will participate in the club’s Spring Training camp, Andro tweets. To illustrate the quarterback’s love of baseball, Rodgers, who also represents Wilson, told MLB Network Radio (audio link), if Wilson could figure out a way to play both sports, he would.


NL West Notes: Greinke, Rockies, Padres

You could say that Clint Barmes is something of a hipster.  He signed his one-year, $1.6MM deal with the Padres on December 3rd – just before they became cool.  “Being one of the earlier guys to sign over there, you hear from the GM that they’re going to try to make these trades and sign these guys,” Barmes said, according to Thomas Harding of MLB.com. “It happens every year. You hear a lot of that. But to have a guy do what he’s done has been pretty impressive. My agent said they were focusing on making some changes and bringing guys in. It’s definitely going to be exciting.”  More from the NL West..

  • Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke says that he hasn’t decided whether to opt out of his contract after the season, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes.  The 31-year-old would forfeit three years and $71MM if he opts out, but the recent deals landed by Max Scherzer and Jon Lester indicate that he can likely make even more.  Still, the hurler was very complimentary of the organization.  “I do know I have really enjoyed L.A. I don’t think you could get a better organization. The owners are amazing. Our front office is, by reputation, the best – or at least in the top three in the game. Our coaching staff is great too. There’s not really any better options anywhere besides here,” Greinke said.
  • Change is coming for the Rockies, but it’s not necessarily coming right now.  Colorado could look quite different in 2016, as Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post writes.  GM Jeff Bridich didn’t make major moves despite saying that he was “keeping his eyes and ears open” for potential deals involving everybody this winter, but those trades could go down this summer.  Saunders writes that come August, it’s conceivable that the Rockies could be without Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Justin Morneau.
  • It’s been a crazy offseason for the Padres and Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego ranked the biggest moves made by GM A.J. Preller.  The acquisition of Matt Kemp takes the top spot, followed by the trades made for fellow outfielders Wil Myers and Justin Upton, respectively.

Andruw Jones Drawing Interest

After two seasons in Japan, Andruw Jones could be headed back to major league baseball.  Agent Scott Boras tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that there are at least two teams with interest in the veteran as a DH and/or right-handed platoon player.

The 37-year-old (38 in April) last appeared in the Majors with the Yankees in 2011-12. After a strong .247/.356/.495 batting line in his first season with the Bombers, Jones slipped to .197/.294/.408 in 2012, prompting him to sign in NPB the following offseason. In parts of 17 Major League seasons, Jones batted .254/.337/.486 with 434 home runs and won 10 consecutive Gold Glove awards from 1998-2007.

Over the last two seasons with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, Jones has slashed .232/.392/.441 with 50 homers combined.  This past season Jones managed to tamper down his strikeout rate a tad (27.2% to 24.1%) while improving his already solid walk rate (17.3% to 20.3%).


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AL East Notes: Rays, Britton, Red Sox

Orioles manager Buck Showalter was asked numerous times over the weekend about the club’s vacant leadoff spot, but he didn’t have much in the way of answers, as Jon Meoli of The Baltimore Sun writes.  “Somebody’s going to lead off Opening Day, I’ll bet you,’’ Showalter said. “Our guys don’t talk about it a lot. I’ve said many times, take your best hitter and hit him first and give him more at-bats.”  Here’s more from the AL East..

  • Most of the heavy lifting is done, but the Rays would still like to make some improvements as spring training approaches.  “Maybe now this is the time for ‘tweaking’ of the roster,” baseball ops president Matt Silverman said, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. “As we get closer to camp, we have a good sense of the depth that we have as well as a couple areas of potential need. Hopefully we can find ways to line up with other clubs to improve ourselves, but it’s not a necessity.”  The biggest priority seems to be adding another middle infielder, preferably a defensively-strong shortstop, though there aren’t many options on the open market.  Tampa Bay may also seek an experienced catcher to support Rene Rivera and another experienced reliever.
  • Reliever Zach Britton doesn’t seem to think that he and the Orioles are right on the verge of a pre-arbitration agreement, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes.  “I’m not sure,” said Britton. “Where we are right now, we’re still negotiating. There’s been a lot of dialogue the last couple of days, but right now there’s really nothing to update other than we’re just talking.”
  • The advanced metrics are bullish on the Red Sox‘s improved offense in 2015, as Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes.
  • Orioles center fielder Adam Jones spoke with reporters, including Kubatko, about a wide range of topics, including the loss of Nick Markakis and the Dan Duquette-to-Toronto rumors that dominated much of the offseason.
  • New Red Sox starter Rick Porcello has the skills to be the ace of Boston’s staff, writes Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe.

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Taylor, Snider, Achter

On this date in 1913, Jim Thorpe signed with the New York (baseball) Giants, as Leo Panetta of NationalPastime.com writes.  The legendary athlete went on to compile a lifetime .252 batting average during his six seasons in the major leagues.  Here’s this week’s look around the baseball blogosphere..

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


Quick Hits: Workman, Ogando, Rockies, Loria

Twins outfielder Byron Buxton is the top prospect in baseball, per MLB.com’s top 100 prospects. The Cubs have two prospects in the top five – Kris Bryant (second) and Addison Russell (fifth). The Dodgers have three in the top 13 – Corey Seager (seventh), Julio Urias (eighth), and Joc Pederson (13th). The Cubs and Twins are the two teams with five prospects in the top 50. Here’s more news from around the league.


NL East Notes: Freeman, Olivera, Shields

With the Braves in the throes of a rapid rebuilding effort, first baseman Freddie Freeman is now the longest tenured player on the roster, writes Mark Bowman of MLB.com. While Freeman is optimistic about the 2015 season, it’s worth noting that Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Evan Gattis represented 51 percent of the club’s home runs in 2014. Losing the three biggest bashers from an otherwise moribund offense could be seen as a major issue. Freeman hopes a greater emphasis on contact will help to counteract the loss of power.

  • The Braves held a private workout for Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America. In attendance to watch the 29-year-old were manager Fredi Gonzalez and assistant GM John Coppolella. Olivera is likely to sign as a second or third baseman – both positions the Braves could improve upon. Current candidates for both positions include Chris Johnson, Alberto Callaspo, Kelly Johnson, Jace Peterson, and Phil Gosselin. The Padres and Giants have also been tied to Olivera per Baseball America.
  • The Marlins should consider a “Hail Mary” offer for free agent pitcher James Shields, suggests Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. A two-year, $35MM proposal might represent the limit for what the club can afford. Since Shields rejected a qualifying offer, he’ll cost a draft pick to sign in addition to the financial considerations. Such an offer represents a long shot for both sides. The Marlins are thought to be up against their payroll limit, so an addition would require the approval of owner Jeffrey Loria. From Shields perspective, he’s thought to be seeking at least four years and $70MM.

 


NL West Notes: Padres, Greinke, Withrow

The Padres are baseball’s most improved team, opines Jim Duquette of MLB.com. The additions of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and Derek Norris should revive an offense that has slumbered for years. GM A.J. Preller managed to overhaul the offense without dipping into his starting pitching depth nor by trading the team’s best prospects. For what it’s worth, I’m more impressed by the efforts of the Cubs, who Duquette lists as the fifth most improved club.

  • Dodgers starter Zack Greinke has not decided if he will opt out of his contract following the 2015 season, writes Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. The 31-year-old signed a six-year, $147MM contract prior to the 2013 season, but he can opt out following next season. He’s averaged a 2.67 ERA over the last two seasons, which could set him up for another big, multi-year contract in free agency. In the past, we’ve seen CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez leverage opt outs with the Yankees to gain more guaranteed dollars and years. Greinke may take the same approach with the Dodgers. Per his comments, he seems comfortable in Los Angeles.
  • Greinke doesn’t believe the Dodgers improved via “addition by subtraction” this offseason. Outgoing players like Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon, and Brian Wilson weren’t distractions in the clubhouse per Greinke. President Andrew Friedman has admitted the club might lose a little on offense, but the goal is to replace the runs scored with better defense and depth.
  • Reliever Chris Withrow may be a long shot to help the Dodgers this season, reports Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles (via Twitter). The righty has pitched well in parts of two seasons with Los Angeles, with a 2.73 ERA, 11.41 K/9, and 4.98 BB/9 in 56 innings. He’s currently recovering from Tommy John and back surgeries. The back issue has slowed the timetable for his Tommy John rehab.

Rays Nearing Minor League Deal With Alexi Casilla

The Rays are likely to sign free agent infielder Alexi Casilla to a minor league deal, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). The 30-year-old will compete for a middle infield job. The club may yet acquire a starting shortstop, per Topkin.

The former Twin and Oriole has appeared in parts of nine seasons. He played just one game with Baltimore last season and spent most of his season at the Triple-A level. While neither a defensive wizard nor offensive threat, Casilla has occasionally approached a league average rate of performance. He’s a career .247/.302/.331 hitter in 1,893 plate appearances.

Casilla has experience at second base, shortstop, and third base with most of his time spent at the keystone. Under Joe Maddon, the Rays were known for valuing flexibility. It stands to reason that the club still prefers players with plenty of utility.


Rays Sign Ronald Belisario To Minor League Deal

The Rays have signed free agent reliever Ronald Belisario to a minor league deal, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). Belisario was recently tied to the Blue Jays, although their reported deal fell through yesterday. Per Topkin (also Twitter), the Rays have been in contact with Belisario for awhile. He will compete for one of two open spots in the bullpen.

The 32-year-old reliever was designated for assignment by the White Sox earlier in the offseason. He was one of several temporary closers for Chicago, although he struggled in the role. Before being cut loose by the White Sox, Belisario was in line to earn $3.9MM via arbitration, according to MLBTR’s Matt Swartz.

While he posted an unsightly 5.56 ERA last season, advanced stats painted a sunnier picture (3.54 FIP, 3.22 SIERA). The righty is a ground ball specialist with a career rate above 60 percent. Belisario dealt with a high .339 BABIP and low 57.5% strand rate last season, which contributed to his ugly ERA.

It’s possible that Tampa offered a better opportunity than Toronto for Belisario. As Topkin points out, the Rays have two open spots in the bullpen. Tropicana field is also substantially more pitcher friendly than the Rogers Centre.

 


Orioles Notes: Payroll, De Aza, Machado, Wieters

We’ve already heard from the Orioles today, but here’s more news as their FanFest continues:

  • Manager Buck Showalter told reporters, including CSNBaltimore’s Rich Dubroff, that the Orioles will have the flexibility to add players during the season. Payroll is currently right around $120MM. The club could also look for spring training additions. Earlier today, we learned the O’s are still searching for relief help.
  • Showalter also said the Orioles’ leadoff hitter is likely on the roster, reports Steve Melewski of MASNSports.comAlejandro De Aza is a possible candidate, although Showalter was noncommittal when asked outright about the lefty. He did seemingly imply that De Aza would bat first or ninth when in the lineup. Asked specifically about De Aza, Showalter said “if you asked what is a more important spot in our order, one or nine, I’d probably say nine.”
  • Third baseman Manny Machado is prepared to return to action by the start of spring training, writes Melewski in a separate article. The 22-year-old is recovering from a partial tear to a ligament in his right knee. He already suffered a similar injury to his left knee earlier in his career.
  • Another injured Oriole, catcher Matt Wieters, believes he’ll be ready by opening day, reports Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com. Wieters underwent Tommy John surgery last June. He’ll likely spend more time as a designated hitter this spring as he gets his arm back to full strength. In the final year of club control, Wieters is focused on the long haul. “The main thing is we have to get the arm healthy enough to play the rest of my career.”

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Garrett Richards

Here’s the rundown of players who avoided arbitration today:

  • Starting pitcher Garrett Richards has settled with the Angels for $3.2MM, Mike Perchick of WAPT tweets. Richards, who’s eligible for arbitration for the first time as a Super Two player, was in the midst of a breakout season (with a 2.61 ERA, 8.8 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 168 2/3 innings) when he suffered a season-ending knee injury from which he’s now recovering. He’s set to begin throwing off a mound in the next two weeks. Via MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker, Richards had asked for $3.8MM, and the Angels had countered with $2.4MM, so $3.2MM is a bit above the $3.1MM midpoint. With Richards’ signing, Matt Joyce is the only Angel remaining with a pending arbitration case.

Latest On Signing Eligibility Of Cuban Players

SATURDAY: MLB sent a memo to teams today instructing them not to sign Cuban players, Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan reports (all Twitter links). MLB said it hoped to receive advice from OFAC “early next week,” hoping to receive assurances that the league won’t be getting itself into trouble if Cuban players falsify their identities. If it does get those assurances, players like Moncada, Olivera and Ibanez might become eligible to sign right away.

FRIDAY: There has been quite a bit of confusion of late as to how and when a group of high-profile Cuban middle infielders will be freed to sign. The U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) — the agency tasked with administering the United States’ now-loosening embargo against Cuba — has now notified Yoan Moncada in writing that it will not consider specific licenses for Cuban players who are already unblocked via the general license, agent David Hastings tells Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs.

Ben Badler of Baseball America explains the distinction here. In essence, the general license requires only residence in a third country, while the specific license carries more stringent standards. This news effectively means that OFAC will not perform any particularized assessment of Cuban players seeking to sign with MLB clubs.

The result is that, in McDaniel’s words, “the onus is now 100% on MLB.” Badler has previously explained the league’s role in this regard, and the OFAC letter to Moncada’s representative appears to remove any room for interpretation.

Simply put, the league must decide whether simply to accept the general license as sufficient for signing eligibility or find some other procedure to replace the OFAC specific license. If MLB decides to allow the general license to suffice, then presumably all Cuban players who have established third-country residence would become eligible to sign — including, presumably, Moncada and fellow top players Hector Olivera and Andy Ibanez.

As McDaniel goes on to explain, the latest industry speculation holds that the veteran Olivera could land a guarantee of between $20MM to $40MM. The younger Ibanez, meanwhile, is expected to land at or slightly above the range of recent signees Roberto Baldoquin ($8MM) and Yoan Lopez ($8.25MM) while also requiring the signing team to pay a near-100% penalty on that amount.