Quick Hits: Joba, Beachy, Eovaldi, Clippard

Rather than throwing touchdowns for the Patriots, could Tom Brady have instead had a career throwing out baserunners for the Expos?  MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro looks back at how Montreal selected Brady (then a catcher at Serra High School) in the 18th round of the 1995 draft, even though it was widely known that Brady was going to play football at Michigan.  “I think he would have been a pro,” said scout John Hughes, who evaluated Brady for the Expos.  “He had all the intangibles. He could throw, left-handed power. There is no reason to think this guy couldn’t have been a big league catcher.”  While every New England sports fan breathes a sigh of relief that Brady stuck to the gridiron, here are some more notes from around baseball…

  • Joba Chamberlain has rejected multiple offers because he simply didn’t want to pitch for the teams that offered him those deals, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports.  He’s considering a one-year deal with a modest base salary and incentives, as his hopes for a two-year contract have likely gone by the wayside.  There is still some question about Chamberlain’s makeup amongst league executives, and one exec told Rosenthal that the Tigers‘ lack of interest in re-signing Chamberlain “alarmed him” given Detroit’s need for bullpen help.
  • Though Brandon Beachy was reportedly considering multiple offers and was thought to be close to signing a new contract earlier this month, his agent Rob Martin tells Ken Rosenthal (all Twitter links) that the right-hander will wait a bit longer.  “Brandon has decided not to sign a contract at this time. With each day his arm is getting stronger and he’s feeling even more confident about his progress,” Martin said.  “Thus, he is going to continue with his throwing program and make a decision closer to Spring Training.”
  • The Marlins were linked to Wade Miley earlier this winter, and now ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription required) reports that the Marlins thought they were in agreement with the Diamondbacks on a Miley-for-Nathan Eovaldi trade.  Arizona pulled out of the deal, however, and Miami instead dealt Eovaldi to the Yankees while the D’Backs sent Miley to the Red Sox.
  • Also from Olney, there is some speculation in rival front offices that the Nationals‘ trade of Tyler Clippard might’ve been motivated by more than just a desire to move salary, especially since Washington just signed Casey Janssen to a healthy contract.  It’s possible the Nats could see “red flags” about Clippard’s future production that aren’t obvious to most observers, especially given that Clippard had another strong season in 2014.

West Links: Luhnow, Reimold, Angels, Dodgers

In an interview with Casey Stern and Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link), Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said his club had looked at signing Kevin Correia and Kyle Kendrick.  Houston’s interest in Correia was reported earlier this week, while Kendrick has been linked to the ‘Stros as another potential fit to fill out the back of their rotation.  Luhnow also stated that the Astros had been looking at other similar starters with Major League experience.  Here’s some more from both the AL and NL West divisions…

  • The Athletics have checked in on free agent outfielder Nolan Reimold, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko tweets.  The Indians and Orioles are also known to be interested in Reimold, and Dan Duquette said earlier today that the O’s have extended an offer for Reimold to return to Baltimore.
  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto was non-committal about the idea of his team pursuing any of the top arms available in next year’s free agent market, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes.  Payroll space could be an issue given how (according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts) the Halos have over $128MM committed to only seven players for the 2016 season.
  • With Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson both set for free agency after 2016, Gonzalez wonders if the Angels could sign a major starter and then use Weaver or Wilson as trade bait, similar to how the Nationals signed Max Scherzer and now have the depth to explore trading Jordan Zimmermann or Doug Fister.  There were rumors earlier this winter that the Angels were already shopping Wilson, though Dipoto issued a denial.
  • Sergio Santos will earn $1MM if he makes the Dodgers‘ Major League roster, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports (via Twitter), plus another $3.05MM is available in incentives.  Santos signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers last month.
  • The Dodgers are committed to rebuilding their minor league system and thus are wary about exceeding their international bonus pool to sign Yoan Moncada, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick writes.  While L.A. is very interested in Moncada, any team that wants to sign the Cuban phenom would have to greatly exceed their bonus pool to do so, and thus be limited to international signings of $300K or less for the next two international signing periods, or until July 2017.  Of course, several teams have employed the strategy of exceeding the pool limit to load up on premium international talent during one signing period — the Red Sox, Angels, Rays, Yankees and Diamondbacks already face that $300K limit during the 2015-17 international signing market.
  • The Diamondbacks hired former slugger Joe Carter as a special assistant to GM Dave Stewart, the team announced.  Carter and Stewart were teammates in Toronto in 1993-94, both playing major roles in the Blue Jays’ 1993 World Series title.

AL East Notes: A-Rod, Red Sox, Hendrickson

It’s been a busy day around the AL East, as the Blue Jays made a pair of minor league signings, Dan Duquette spoke about his situation and other Orioles topics, and we collected some Rays notes.  Here’s some more from around the division…

  • The MLBPA would support Alex Rodriguez if the Yankees attempt to withhold his $6MM contract bonus for tying Willie Mays on the all-time homer list, Dan Martin of the New York Post reports.  “The union would challenge any breach of contract with the union,” a source close to the MLBPA tells Martin. “A player can’t be punished again for something he’s already been punished for.”  The MLBPA’s argument is that A-Rod is being further penalized for his involvement with the Biogenesis scandal, while the Yankees intend to argue that the homer bonuses are based around marketing and Rodriguez’s diminished reputation around baseball has negated any celebration of the milestone.
  • “In some ways, the importance of ‘No. 1 starters’ has been devalued by the sheer quality of arms, in general, in today’s run-squelching environment, and mid-inning matchup play has increased the prominence of the bullpens,” MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince writes in an examination of how the Red Sox may not need a proven ace atop their rotation.  Boston could model itself after the Orioles, whose recent success has been based around defense, relief pitching and big hitting rather than a superb rotation.  On the other hand, Castrovince notes that the Sox could make a move for an ace at midseason if necessary, or any of the Boston rotation could still emerge as a true frontline starter as the season develops.
  • The Orioles are “leaning toward” extending a Spring Training invitation to left-hander Mark Hendrickson, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports.  The 40-year-old Hendrickson pitched for the O’s from 2009-11 and hasn’t appeared in the majors since, spending 2013 with the Orioles’ Triple-A team and 2014 in independent ball.  Kubatko notes that the Orioles are interested in hiring Hendrickson as a pitching coach within the organization when he eventually retires.


Rays Notes: Moncada, Boxberger, Teaford

Here’s the latest from Tampa Bay…

  • Yoan Moncada took part in a private workout for Rays officials at Tropicana Field on Wednesday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.  Despite the Rays’ interest in Moncada, it is widely expected that they will be outbid given the widespread interest in the Cuban phenom.
  • Rays right-hander Brad Boxberger has switched agencies and is now represented by the Boras Corporation, Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets.  Boxberger was previously represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council.  The righty is coming off a huge season out of Tampa’s bullpen, having posted a 2.37 ERA, 5.2 K/BB rate and 14.5 K/9 over 64 2/3 IP in 2014.  Boxberger doesn’t become eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season.
  • The Rays‘ minor league signing of Everett Teaford is yet another example of how the organization focuses on pitchers who throw high fastballs, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan writes.  Tampa generally either pursues pitchers with rising fastballs or tries to add the pitch to a hurler’s arsenal after the club acquires him, as was the case with Drew Smyly last season.

Duquette On Blue Jays, Snider, Reimold

Before a dinner event at the Orioles’ A-ball affiliate in Aberdeen this evening, executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette spoke to reporters (including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko and Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun) about both his own tumultuous offseason and some other hot stove topics.  Here are some of the highlights…

  • Duquette doesn’t discuss ongoing negotiations for players, and that same logic led to his lack of comment about the rumors connecting him to the Blue Jays president’s job, and the discussions between the Jays and Orioles about a possible trade to free him from his Baltimore contract.  “You know, these things happen in baseball. This is rare, but sometimes trades are made for managers, sometimes trades are made for executives and that’s the way it goes,” Duquette said.  “It’s a part of the business. If there’s trade discussions that I have as an executive, I really don’t talk about those publicly, because you never know what’s going to come to fruition and what’s not.”
  • Despite the Toronto situation, Duquette described his Orioles offseason work as “business as usual” and said he didn’t feel it necessary to reiterate his commitment to O’s upper management.  “I’ve always done my job 24 hours a day and to the best of my ability,” Duquette said. “That’s a habit. We’re going to have another good ballclub this year. I’m confident of that.”
  • The O’s have offered Nolan Reimold a contract, Duquette said, though he noted that the outfielder is also receiving interest from other teams.  The Indians are known to be one of the clubs linked to Reimold this winter.
  • Duquette said he is still looking to add a right-handed bullpen arm.
  • The Orioles’ recent acquisition of Travis Snider gives the club added depth both offensively and defensively, Duquette said, and he thinks Snider’s bat is a good fit for Camden Yards.  Duquette and Pirates GM Neal Huntington had originally discussed a Snider deal during the Winter Meetings, though talks were only rekindled a few weeks ago.  “I had stayed in touch with Neal because we were still looking for a left-handed-hitting outfielder, so we continued our persistence and Neal made him available,” Duquette said.

Giants Designate Chris Dominguez For Assignment

The Giants have designated third baseman/outfielder Chris Dominguez for assignment, according to MLB.com’s transactions page.  The move clears a spot on the Giants’ 40-man roster for the re-signed Ryan Vogelsong.

Dominguez, 28, made his Major League debut last season, appearing in eight September games and delivering one hit (a homer) in 18 plate appearances.  He was picked by San Francisco in the third round of the 2009 draft and he posted a .269/.309/.436 slash line 2838 minor league plate appearances.

According to the MLB Trade Rumors DFA Tracker, Dominguez is one of six players in “DFA limbo,” along with Jose Constanza (Braves), Gonzalez Germen (Rangers), Cesar Jimenez (Phillies), Michael Ohlman (Orioles), and Dayan Viciedo (White Sox).


Pirates Outright Jake Elmore

JAN 29th: The Pirates have outrighted Elmore to Triple-A Indianapolis, according to MLB.com’s transactions page.

JAN 20th: The Pirates have designated infielder Jake Elmore for assignment, the club announced. The move creates 40-man roster space for the addition of Jung-ho Kang.

Most recently, Elmore was claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh from the Reds, but he has also bounced around with the Athletics and White Sox in recent memory. The 27-year-old obviously holds appeal as a utility option, though clubs are wary of holding a roster spot for him when the need arises. Over 221 career MLB plate appearances, Elmore owns a .221/.288/.291 slash.


Brewers To Sign Neal Cotts

6:53pm: Cotts’ one-year deal is worth $3MM, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports.

6:29pm: The Brewers have reached an agreement with left-hander Neal Cotts on a one-year contract, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (Twitter links).  The deal will be officially announced once the Brewers make a corresponding 40-man roster move.  Earlier today, Haudricourt reported that the two sides were in talks about a contract.  Cotts is represented by Pro Star Management.

Cotts reportedly passed his physical, according to Haudricourt, which was no small obstacle given the veteran southpaw’s lengthy injury history.  Between Tommy John surgery and four surgeries on his right hip, Cotts missed three full seasons from 2010-12 before re-emerging with the Rangers in 2013.  Finally healthy, Cotts delivered a 2.84 ERA, 3.12 K/BB rate and 9.3 K/9 over 123 2/3 innings and 131 appearances out of the Texas bullpen over the last two seasons.

The Brewers have been focused on bullpen additions in recent weeks, and they’ve been rumored to be exploring options like trading for Jonathan Papelbon, signing Rafael Soriano or re-signing former closer Francisco Rodriguez.  With only four career saves, of course, Cotts doesn’t project to be Milwaukee’s ninth-inning answer and looks to be in line for more of a setup role.  Cotts is also something of a reverse-splits pitcher (left-handed batters have a career .753 OPS against him, while righty batters have only a .703 OPS) so he doesn’t fit the usual mold of a lefty specialist.


Phillies Sign Chad Billingsley

6:18pm: If Billingsley reaches all of the performance bonuses in his contract, he can earn another $6.5MM in salary, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.

5:56pm: The Phillies signed right-hander Chad Billingsley to a one-year, $1.5MM contract, the team announced.  The contract also contains performance bonuses.  Billingsley is represented by the Octagon agency.

The two sides were rumored to have a mutual interest in a deal earlier this week, and the signing gives Philadelphia an intriguing buy-low candidate for the rotation.  Billingsley hasn’t thrown a Major League pitch since April 15, 2013 due to both Tommy John surgery and another procedure to repair a torn flexor tendon, and he has only thrown seven total minor league innings over the last two seasons.

As has been the case throughout this offseason, we have attempted to create as much starting pitching depth as possible at both the major and minor league levels,” GM Ruben Amaro said in the Phillies’ press release.  “Given Chad’s track record, we feel he is an excellent candidate to bounce back as a productive starting pitcher.”

Chosen 24th overall in the 2003 draft, Billingsley developed into a durable and successful hurler with the Dodgers, posting a 3.65 ERA, 2.27 K/BB rate and 8.2 K/9 over 1073 1/3 IP from 2007-12.  Billingsley is only 30 years old, so if he’s back to full health, the Phillies may have found a strong rotation piece at a bargain price (even counting his contract bonuses).  Several teams reportedly made offers to Billingsley this winter, and the Diamondbacks were also known to have an interest in the righty’s services.


Phillies Designate Cesar Jimenez For Assignment

The Phillies have designated left-hander Cesar Jimenez for assignment.  The move creates a spot on the 40-man roster for the newly-signed Chad Billingsley.

This is the second time the Phils have Jimenez has been designated for assignment in just under eight months, and he also was outrighted off their 40-man roster in June.  The southpaw signed a one-year deal to avoid arbitration with the Phillies in October.

Jimenez, 30, posted a 1.69 ERA, 1.14 K/BB rate and 4.5 K/9 over 16 relief innings for Philadelphia last season, as well as an impressive 1.45 ERA, 3.07 K/BB rate and 8.3 K/9 in 49 2/3 IP at the Triple-A level.  He joins five other players in “DFA Limbo” according to the MLB Trade Rumors DFA Tracker.


Minor Moves: Paulino, LaHair, Marjama

Here are today’s minor league transactions, with the latest moves at the top of the post…

  • The Red Sox announced the signings of righty Felipe Paulino and 1B/OF Bryan LaHair to minor league deals with Spring Training invites.  Paulino posted an 11.29 ERA over 18 1/3 IP with the White Sox last season, his first taste of MLB action since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012.  LaHair also last appeared in the majors in 2012, when he rode a big first half to an All-Star selection but came back to earth after his hot start.  LaHair played in Japan in 2013 and spent last season in the Indians’ minor league system.
  • The Rays acquired catcher Mike Marjama from the White Sox, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports (via Twitter).  Chicago will receive cash or a player to be named later in return.  Marjama was a 23rd-round pick for the Sox in the 2011 draft and the 25-year-old backstop has a .270/.307/.376 slash line over 888 minor league plate appearances.  Marjama has yet to play above the high-A level, and Topkin notes that the catcher isn’t expected to be in the Rays’ Major League Spring Training camp.

Marlins Sign Ichiro Suzuki

JAN. 29: Ichiro can earn up to $2.8MM in bonuses, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  The outfielder will earn $400K for reaching the 300-plate appearance plateau, and then another $400K for each additional 50 PA up to 600 plate appearances.

JAN. 28: Ichiro’s deal could reach up to $5MM if he receives enough plate appearances, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported earlier this week (on Twitter). That, of course, is only likely in the event of a significant injury to another outfielder, as Jackson notes.

JAN. 27: The Marlins have officially announced the signing of free agent outfielder Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year contract that is reportedly worth $2MM.  The 41-year-old Ichiro, a client of John Boggs & Associates, should serve as Miami’s fourth outfielder in 2015.

Ichiro Suzuki

Though his skills have clearly eroded somewhat with age, Ichiro posted a respectable .284/.324/.340 batting line in 385 plate appearances with the Yankees in 2014. He also swiped 15 bases in 18 tries, continuing a career-long trend of pronounced efficiency in that regard. Defensive metrics pegged him as an average right fielder, and he slid over to center field for a brief, 19-inning cameo as well, suggesting that he’s capable of doing so in a pinch should the Marlins require such a move on occasion in 2015.

The Marlins’ primary outfield will consist of Christian Yelich in left field, Marcell Ozuna in center and Giancarlo Stanton in right — an excellent young trio that will limit Ichiro’s playing time and make it highly unlikely that he reaches the 156 hits he needs to reach 3,000 in his Major League career (he also had 1,278 hits in his Japanese career prior to jumping to MLB). However, there’s been no indication from his camp that this will be the likely Hall of Famer’s final season, so he could yet reach the plateau if he remains reasonably productive and secures another big league deal next offseason.

The addition of Ichiro merely adds to what has been a highly active season for the Marlins. In addition to this move, executives Dan Jennings and Michael Hill have added Mat Latos, Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, Martin Prado and Aaron Crow via trade while also signing free agent slugger Mike Morse to upgrade the team’s offense at first base.

Craig Mish of MLB Network Radio first reported the agreement (Twitter link). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that there were no options on the deal (Twitter links). Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted the guarantee.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Blue Jays To Sign Ramon Santiago To Minor League Deal

5:00pm: Santiago will earn $1.1MM if he makes the big league roster, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link).

1:36pm: The Blue Jays and veteran infielder Ramon Santiago have agreed to a minor league contract with an invite to Major League Spring Training, tweets Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi.

Santiago, 35, spent the 2014 season with the Reds, hitting .246/.343/.324 with a pair of homers in 214 plate appearances. The Beverly Hills Sports Council client spent time at third base, second base and shortstop in Cincinnati, as he has done throughout his 13-year big league career. Santiago typically grades out as a plus defender at shortstop, per Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved, and he’s been roughly average at second and third as well. His upside with the bat, however, is fairly limited, as evidenced by his lifetime batting line of .243/.314/.330.


Braves To Sign Eric Stults

The Braves have agreed to sign left-hander Eric Stults to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training, reports MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (on Twitter). Stults is a client of Pro Star Management, Inc.

The 35-year-old Stults has spent the better part of the past three seasons in the Padres’ rotation, working to a 3.87 ERA with 5.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a ground-ball rate just north of 40 percent. The past two seasons were his first full years in a big league rotation, and he averaged 190 innings between the two campaigns.

While all of that appears solid on paper, Stults saw his numbers take a step back in 2014, and he’s never fared particularly well away from the pitcher-friendly Petco Park (4.77 road ERA in 2013, 4.50 in 2014). Last season, Stults worked to a 4.30 ERA that metrics such as xFIP and SIERA feel is commensurate with his talent level, and the pristine command he showed in 2013 (1.8 BB/9) regressed toward his career mark, as he allowed 2.3 walks per nine.

Stults figures to compete with Michael Foltynewicz to see which of the two will round out a starting rotation that currently includes Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Mike Minor and Shelby Miller.


Players Avoiding Arbitration: Thursday

Arbitration settlements will continue to trickle in over the coming months, and we’ll be tracking them in our Arbitration Tracker as well as on a daily basis in posts such as this. Here are the day’s minor arb settlements, with all projections coming courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz

  • The Red Sox announced that they have avoided arbitration with outfielder Daniel Nava, and Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that Nava will receive a $1.85MM salary. Nava had filed at $2.25MM, while the team countered with a $1.3MM offer. His salary is a bit north of the $1.775MM midpoint between the two figures and just $50K shy of his $1.9MM projection. The 31-year-old Nava enjoyed a solid season at the plate last year but saw a precipitous decline in power, hitting just four homers en route to a .270/.346/.361 batting line. That represents roughly league-average production (100 OPS+), but is also a far cry from his excellent .303/.385/.445 batting line and 12 homers in 2013.