The Open Market’s Most Intriguing Remaining Names

As it always does, the free agent market contains some fairly noteworthy names entering the final month before Spring Training. A good portion of the value at the top of the leftover market lies in established names who have been reliable, healthy, and good in the recent past: James Shields, Francisco Rodriguez, and the like.

Some of those types of players may be a bit long in the tooth, perhaps, or might lack upside or be coming off of a somewhat down 2014 season. But there are teams with expectations of contending that are interested in signing them and plugging them into important roster slots. This segment of the market contains relative certainty.

But as much as the solid veteran group is useful, it is entirely less interesting than the array of wild cards that also remain to be signed. For another market niche, comparative youth, talent, and/or upside marry with various issues, inconsistency, and/or injury. Some such players will surely flame out, never to be heard from again, but it is likewise possible that one or more will re-establish themselves as quality regulars and deliver immense value to their new teams.

If you are a fan of a team that wants someone to dream on without breaking the bank (or even committing a big league roster spot, in some cases), consider one of these players from the scratch-and-dent market:

  • Mike Adams, right-handed pitcher, 36 – Remember when the 6’5 reliever was a really effective set-up man? Wait, he has always been a really effective set-up man — when healthy. He may not have been on the field enough to deliver value to the Phillies on his $12MM free agent contract, but even while battling through injury Adams worked to a 3.50 ERA over 43 2/3 innings. Last year, especially, he was quite good: a 2.89 ERA (supported entirely by sub-3.00 ERA estimator marks) and better than ten punchouts per nine with a 56.3% groundball rate. Sure, it was a small sample (18 2/3) and his shoulder problems were still present. But if you’re going to roll the dice, it may as well be for a nice potential return.
  • John Axford, right-handed pitcher, 31 – Axford still pumps gas and still logs double-digit strikeout rates. Sure, he walked nearly six batters per nine last year and ERA estimators have been increasingly dubious of his quality over the past three seasons. If he can figure out a way to reign back in the free passes and yield a few fewer long balls, Axford still looks like a late-inning arm. And now, teams can take a chance on a return to form without the high salaries that he carried more recently.
  • Brandon Beachy, right-handed pitcher, 28 – The former Brave owns a lifetime 3.23 ERA over 46 big league starts, with a 3.34 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, and 3.39 SIERA. He has averaged better than nine strikeouts and less than three walks per nine innings. He also is on his second replacement UCL, this one installed last spring. In each of the above-referenced statistics, Beachy is entirely not-unlike fellow former Atlanta hurler Kris Medlen. Yet Beachy — who is one year younger — remains unsigned while Medlen has already secured an $8.5MM guarantee. He also can be controlled for an additional year through arbitration, with a low salary base to work from.
  • Chad Billingsley, right-handed pitcher, 30 – As with Beachy, Billingsley was once an effective starter who has struggled for some time now to return from Tommy John surgery. What the latter lacks in dominating upside, he makes up for in the lengthy run of reliable innings he provided before succumbing to elbow troubles. From the time he became a full-time starter in 2008 through the 2011 season (the one before his elbow troubles began), Billingsley averaged 194 frames of 3.73 ERA pitching.
  • Everth Cabrera, shortstop, 28 – Were it not for his off-field issues, it seems likely the Padres would have tendered the former starting shortstop and given him a chance to regain his 2013 form. The year before last, Cabrera registered a 114 wRC+ while swiping 37 bags (down from 44 in the season prior) and playing the best-rated defense of his career. That was a 3.1 fWAR player, even in a season cut short due to suspension. The 2014 version of Cabrera was not, even when on the field instead of nursing an injury. There are issues aplenty here, but his abilities stand out in a market that hurt for middle infield talent from the start. And it does not hurt that he comes with a year of arb control remaining.
  • Alexi Ogando, right-handed pitcher, 31 – Flipping back and forth between starting and relief, Ogando and his mid-90s heater have long been a storyline. And until last year’s dud, he had never been anything but effective. Even after putting up 25 innings at double the allowed runs rate that he had generally permitted, Ogando sits with a lifetime 3.35 earned run mark. The track record of arm trouble remains a concern, but Ogando’s velocity was just fine last year and he could easily be on the rise with a normal spring.
  • Rickie Weeks, second base, 32 – Once one of the game’s better keystone options, Weeks has stumbled backward in all areas of the game since 2012. But last year was a bit different; while his defensive metrics continued to lag behind his earlier work, Weeks did put up a .274/.357/.452 slash in 286 plate appearances that brought to mind better days. True, Weeks inflicted much of his damage against lefties, with his solid line against right-handers propped up by a .420 BABIP. But given his track record, a revived spurt of production at least raises the possibility of a late-career renaissance.

Astros Among Teams With Interest In Kevin Correia

The Astros are among the clubs “looking at” righty Kevin Correia, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). Houston is still looking to add depth to the back of its rotation after missing on Ryan Vogelsong, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported yesterday.

Correia’s most recent work does not inspire much confidence. But he does have a track record of logging innings, a fairly clean medical sheet, and the ability to generate groundballs at a league-average or better clip.

The 34-year-old pitched to a 5.44 ERA over 154 frames last year with the Twins and Dodgers. He has put up triple-digit innings tallies annually since 2007, and registered an average of 178 with a 4.19 ERA over 2012-13.

For the Astros, the Evan Gattis deal took away one possible starting piece in Mike Foltynewicz, as did last year’s Jarred Cosart swap. Even with Dan Straily now in the mix, uncertainty over Brad Peacock‘s timetable certainly seems to leave room for another arm.

Of course, there are several other clubs that are in a similar position. While Correia is hardly the most exciting option available, his market is yet another reminder that plausible big league starting pitchers are rather a rare commodity.


Central Notes: Ramirez, Shields, Reds

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince takes a look at some folks around the league who are, in his view, facing make-or-break seasons. He includes some less obvious names, but two players stand out who could conceivably be All-Stars or become non-tender candidate: Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates and Mike Moustakas of the Royals.

Here are some notes from the game’s Central divisions…

  • The Indians had the team’s defense in mind when they traded Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals at the July 31 non-waiver deadline, manager Terry Francona explains to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link). However, Francona admits that there was some hesitation on Cleveland’s behalf because of how they thought the move would be perceived by fans and the rest of the roster. “…[GM Chris Antonetti] was justifiably concerned about the perception, that we were throwing up the white flag. So we had to kind of decide, ‘OK, look, we believe in what we’re doing and we’ll make sure the players understand that we think we can actually be a better team and get a prospect back.’ I think it took awhile, but once [Jose] Ramirez came up and everybody saw how he played shortstop, they saw why we wanted to make the move. We love Cabby — always will — but we felt we had a chance to get a little bit more athletic at shortstop and you saw the way Jose played.”
  • Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals are still monitoring James Shields‘ free agency, though he notes it’s likely just due diligence. Said general manager Dayton Moore said to McCullough: “I’m not sure there’s a fit.” As McCullough notes in a followup tweet, the Royals have six starting pitchers under contract (including Kris Medlen), and the team’s payroll is already set to top $110MM — a club record.
  • The Reds completed a four-year extension with catcher Devin Mesoraco earlier today that bought out all three of his arbitration seasons and one free agent year, but it doesn’t sound like agreements for the team’s remaining arb-eligible players are close. GM Walt Jocketty told MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that the Reds are “a ways apart” with both Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman (Twitter link). It sounds like Cincinnati may have spoken with Frazier’s agents at CAA about an extension as well, via the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay, but things don’t look promising based on his tweet. Jocketty tells Fay that the Reds talked to Frazier about a new deal, “but we’re not nearly as close as we were with Mesoraco.”


Latest On Yoan Moncada

The international market provides opportunities to make (mostly) open-market purchases of the rights to the types of players who rarely can be acquired in that manner. Recent years have brought early-prime starters (Masahiro Tanaka, Hyun-jin Ryu), still-youthful sluggers (Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes), and high-upside talents (Yasiel Puig, Jorge Soler). Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada certainly fits into that last category, rating as the type of player who would be chosen at or near the top of an amateur draft. In that regard, his ultimate payday (bonus plus ~100% penalty) will provide some fascinating insight into team valuations. But, of course, we are still waiting for the United States Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) to establish Moncada’s eligibility to sign. Here’s the latest:

  • The precise hold-up in Moncada’s seemingly overdue OFAC application is not clear, writes Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs. Moncada’s agent indicated that he has not heard from OFAC since President Obama announced changes in the US diplomatic stance toward Cuba, seemingly indicating that higher-level activity is playing a role in Moncada’s situation. As McDaniel explains, MLB is working with the government to determine how to apply new unblocking policies. For what it’s worth, as MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez notes on Twitter, a similar policy appears to have been in place several years back, when Cespedes was preparing to enter the market.
  • One entirely hypothetical reason for the delay with regard to Moncada, apart from the broader diplomatic considerations, is the fact that he was allowed to leave the island legally. Per McDaniel, concern that money could flow from Moncada back to the Cuban government is a possible, but by no means substantiated, factor distinguishing his situation.
  • Of note, fellow top young middle infielder Andy Ibanez is also rumored to have left the island with the blessing of the government. There are rumblings that he could be unblocked soon, however, McDaniel notes.
  • As for another largely-uncertain bit of information, McDaniel adds that the latest chatter has Moncada going for about a $80MM total investment (based on a $40MM bonus).
  • Moncada worked out for the Dodgers this morning, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports on Twitter. Los Angeles has given public indication of its interest, and if impressed with its private look will certainly have to be counted among the most capable suitors. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and manager Don Mattingly were both on hand, Sanchez reports on Twitter.
  • The other teams to have held private workouts are the BrewersRangers, GiantsYankeesRed Sox, and Padres, Sanchez tweets

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Monday

Here are the players who have avoided arbitration today:

  • The Rockies have agreed to terms with righty Adam Ottavino, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reports on Twitter. He receives $1.3MM, per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). MLBTR/Matt Swartz projected an even $1MM payday for the 29-year-old, first-time-eligible reliever. The club filed at the projected value, while Ottavino countered at $1.425MM, as MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker shows. Ottavino has both posted solid results and even better peripherals over the past three seasons, with good strikeout and groundball numbers seemingly making him a nice fit at Coors Field.

Mariners Re-Sign Endy Chavez

TODAY: The deal is official. Chavez will earn $750K if he makes the big league roster and also can achieve $450K in plate appearance bonuses, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter.

YESTERDAY: The Mariners have re-signed outfielder Endy Chavez to a minor-league deal with a Spring Training invitation, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. Previous reports had indicated that a reunion between Chavez and the Mariners was likely. Chavez is represented by the Legacy Agency.

Chavez, who turns 37 early next month, collected 258 plate appearances with the Mariners in 2014, hitting .276/.317/.371 while playing all three outfield positions. The 13-year veteran also appeared with Seattle in 2009 and 2013.


Minor Moves: Franklin Gutierrez

We’ll keep tabs on the day’s minor moves here:

  • The Mariners have brought back outfielder Franklin Gutierrez on a minor league pact, the club announced. He will receive an invite to major league camp. Gutierrez inked a big league deal with the Mariners last offseason but was placed on the restricted list when he informed the club that he would sit out the season due to gastrointestinal issues. In his most recent action, back in 2013, Gutierrez slashed .248/.273/.503 and hit ten home runs over just 141 plate appearances.

Blue Jays Announce One-Year Extension Of President/CEO Paul Beeston

The Blue Jays have officially announced that long-time president and CEO Paul Beeston has agreed to an extension that will keep him in his role for 2015.

Reports had suggested that the team was searching for a new top executive. Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette was at the center of attention in that process until talks with Baltimore reportedly came to a halt yesterday.

Beeston has a lengthy history with the Blue Jays, including two stints as president and CEO. His most recent term began in 2009, running to nearly the same starting point as GM Alex Anthopoulos.

The club’s press release (via Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, on Twitter) says that Beeston’s “successor will start when he retires.” It also notes that the organization will not comment on the “succession process or timing.”


Braves Sign John Buck To Minor League Deal

The Braves have inked veteran backstop John Buck to a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp this spring, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports on Twitter. Buck is expected to open the year at Triple-A, Bowman adds.

Atlanta now appears to be set with veteran options behind the dish to supplement youngster Christian Bethancourt. The club already brought in A.J. Pierzynski, and will now slot Buck in behind that major league duo.

Buck 34, has seen action in parts of eleven big league seasons. Over 4,009 total plate appearances, he owns a .234/.301/.398 slash with 134 home runs. He spent last year with the Mariners and Angels, receiving just 97 big league turns at bat and putting up a meager .570 OPS, though he did hit well in his time at Triple-A. Despite poor framing ratings, Buck has been valued as a good defensive catcher in the recent past. But Seattle reportedly let him go last year in part due to concerns with his abilities behind the dish.

Given Buck’s high standing as a good clubhouse presence, the Braves will surely hope for the best on the field and look to benefit from his presence with their top minor league affiliate.


Padres Sign Ramiro Pena To Minor League Deal

The Padres announced their list of non-roster invitees today, and among several previously reported names (e.g. Brett Wallace, Scott Elbert, Jose Valverde, Jason Lane and Marcos Mateo) was the news that the team had signed Ramiro Pena to a minor league deal and invited him to Spring Training.

Pena, 29, has spent the past two seasons with the Braves, batting a combined .258/.315/.385 over the course of 272 plate appearances, although his 2013 numbers were considerably better than his 2014 numbers. Pena, who has also spent parts of four seasons with the Yankees, is experienced at second base, third base and shortstop, having totaled at least 339 big league innings at each of the positions. Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating feel that his best positions are third base and shortstop, where he’s well above-average and average, respectively, though the sample size of his work at all three positions is too small to represent a truly accurate level of his defensive capabilities.

The Padres have a good deal of uncertainty around the infield, and Pena should provide them insurance. Will Middlebrooks and Yangervis Solarte will compete at third base, though Middlebrooks will need to prove that he is healthy an can cut down on his strikeouts to cement himself as a regular. Jedd Gyorko figures to man second base, but he’s coming off a dreadful season in which he slumped to a .210/.280/.333 batting line just one season after looking like a Rookie of the Year candidate. At shortstop, Alexi Amarista and Clint Barmes are the top in-house options, and neither brings much upside at the plate, though Barmes is an excellent defender.

The Padres also announced that catcher Griff Erickson and right-hander Jay Jackson have been signed to minor league deals and invited to camp. Jackson, a former top prospect with the Cubs, struggled to a 4.93 ERA in 111 innings with the Triple-A affiliates for the Pirates and Brewers in 2014. The 27-year-old struck out 115 batters against 52 walks last year. Erickson, meanwhile, has spent his whole career with the Dodgers and batted an impressive .297/.384/.510 in his first extended taste of Triple-A action last season (60 games), though the standard disclaimer about the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League should be applied to those statistics.


Orioles Avoid Arbitration With Bud Norris

Th Orioles have avoided arbitration with right-hander Bud Norris by agreeing to a one-year deal that is worth $8.8MM, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links). Norris, who is represented by Joel Wolfe of the Wasserman Media Group, settled slightly below the $8.875MM midpoint between his asking price of $10.25MM and the team’s counter of $7.5MM, as can be seen in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker. His final figure is just $100K off from the projection of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, who pegged Norris at $8.7MM.

Norris’ contract, according to Connolly, also calls for him to receive a $25K bonus for reaching 180 innings pitched and another $50K for reaching 200 innings. He can also receive a $50K bonus for making the All-Star team and a $50K bonus for winning a Gold Glove award. The innings incentives could be problematic for Norris to reach, as he’s topped 180 frames just once in his career (186 in 2011) and has never reached the 200 milestone.

This marks the final trip through the arbitration process for the 29-year-old Norris, who will be eligible for free agency next winter as he heads into his age-31 season (Norris turns 30 in March). The 2014 campaign marked Norris’ first full season with Baltimore and it proved to be the best of his career in terms of ERA, as he worked to a 3.65 mark with 7.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 42.2 percent ground-ball rate in 165 1/3 innings. The Orioles initially acquired Norris and an international bonus slot from the Astros at the 2013 trade deadline in exchange for left-hander Josh Hader, outfielder L.J. Hoes and a Competitive Balance (Round A) draft pick.


Orioles Sign Chris Parmelee, Dane De La Rosa

The Orioles announced today that they have signed first baseman/outfielder Chris Parmelee and righties Dane De La Rosa and Steve Johnson to minor league deals with invites to Spring Training.

Parmelee, who turns 27 next month, has the most service time of the three at two years, 58 days. The former first-round pick has built up an impressive track record at the Triple-A level, slashing .295/.395/.530 in 615 plate appearances, but he’s never hit much in the Majors outside of a September call-up with the Twins in 2011. Parmelee was a force that year, slashing .355/.443/.592 with four homers in 88 plate appearances in his big league debut. While that performance was clearly unsustainable, the Twins likely hoped for better than the .238/.304/.371 batting line that Parmelee compiled in 813 plate appearances over the three subsequent seasons. Presumably, he’ll compete for playing time in the outfield and at first base, although his outfield defense leaves quite a bit to be desired.

De La Rosa, who will be 32 next week, underwent knee surgery late in the season but was expected to be ready to go come Spring Training. Though he pitched just 2 1/3 big league innings in 2014, he was a vital cog in the 2013 Angels bullpen, appearing in a hefty 75 games and logging 72 1/3 total innings of 2.86 ERA ball with 8.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 51.3 percent ground-ball rate.


Reds Extend Devin Mesoraco

The Reds have locked up one of their core young pieces, agreeing to a four-year extension with catcher Devin Mesoraco the team has announced.  With three years and 28 days of Major League service, the 26-year-old backstop had been arbitration eligible for 2015 for the first time and had been under team control through 2017.  Mesoraco is a client of Jet Sports Management.

Devin Mesoraco

Mesoraco will receive a $28MM guarantee, MLBTR has learned. He receives a $500K signing bonus and will earn $2.4MM in 2015, $4.9MM in 2016, $7.2MM in 2017 and $13MM in 2018.  The contract also contains an additional $2MM worth of performance bonuses for a max of $30MM over the four-year term.

Mesoraco’s 2018 salary will jump by $400K each time he reaches 502 plate appearances from 2015-17, and he’ll earn $150K for each All-Star nomination, Gold Glove or Silver Slugger he picks up.  Mesoraco can also receive $200K for finishing in the top 5 of the MVP voting, $150K for finishing sixth through 10th, $100K for finishing 11th through 15th and $50K for finishing 16th through 20th.  While there are more than $2MM worth of incentives present in that breakdown, the contract places a $2MM cap on what he can earn.

A first-round pick by the Reds out of high school in ’07, Mesoraco broke out in a big way in 2014.  He hit .273/.359/.534 with 25 home runs in 440 plate appearances, making the All-Star team for the first time and earning a pair of down-ballot MVP votes.  Mesoraco led all catchers in home runs and slugging percentage, and ranked fifth in wins above replacement and on-base percentage.

The Reds cleared a path to more playing time for Mesoraco last offseason by flipping longtime backstop Ryan Hanigan to the Rays in a three-team deal that also netted them lefty David Holmberg from Arizona, and the move looks to have paid off handsomely for both team and player.  The four-year term on Mesoraco’s deal allows him to secure his first fortune by locking in a year of free agent money while still allowing him to hit the open market at the age of 30.

Mesoraco had exchanged arbitration figures with the Reds earlier this month.  The $3.025MM midpoint of those figures exceeded MLBTR’s projection of a $2.8MM salary for Mesoraco in 2015.

MLBTR was the first to report that the two sides were nearing a deal (via Twitter). C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer confirmed that there was an agreement (Twitter link), and Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith first reported the four-year term (on Twitter). MLBTR was the first to report the financial terms (on Twitter) and bonus structure of the contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


East Notes: Hoffman, Upton, Papelbon, De Aza, Yanks

The Orioles‘ reported asking price of right-hander Jeff Hoffman (and others) from the Blue Jays in exchange for executive vice president/GM Dan Duquette seemingly ended those negotiations, but Jeff Blair of Sportsnet reports that the Orioles weren’t the only club to try to acquire Hoffman from Toronto this winter. According to Blair, the Braves also asked the Blue Jays for Hoffman when the two sides discussed a trade involving Justin Upton. Toronto’s answer, Blair says, was an emphatic “no.” Coincidentally, the Braves wound up acquiring another high-upside, former first-round pitcher that’s recovering from Tommy John — Max Fried — as the centerpiece in their trade of Upton to San Diego. Meanwhile, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos tells Blair that Hoffman, who was selected ninth overall in 2014 despite his surgery, is expected to get stretched back out in April, with an eye on activating him with a minor league club in May.

A few more notes pertaining to the game’s Eastern divisions before the northeast portion of the country is buried in snow…

  • The Phillies never presented the Brewers with a firm financial offer in their trade talks regarding Jonathan Papelbon, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Those talks appear to be largely dead at this point, and the Phillies may end up hanging on to Papelbon to begin the season, based on Rosenthal’s writings. He adds that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. isn’t under pressure from ownership to move Papelbon and will only trade him if the move is to the team’s benefit.
  • The acquisition of Alejandro De Aza last summer could end up being a key factor in the Orioles‘ 2015 season, as the former White Sox outfielder now looks to be a big piece of the roster, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. With Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis gone and no external replacements brought in, De Aza figures to be the team’s primary left fielder and leadoff hitter. Though that may seem an underwhelming option to some, Kubatko points out that De Aza’s career OBP mark (.330) would be a nice boost over last season’s team OBP of .311.
  • Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel takes a look at the Yankees‘ new glut of international prospects in his ranking of the team’s minor leaguers, with colleague Dave Cameron noting in an introduction that the team’s philosophical shift could pay off in spades a few years down the line. While the Yankees have always been known for spending significantly on free agency, they instead opted to go on a spending spree and blow past their allotted international bonus pool this year while exercising what some consider to be surprising restraint in terms of big league free agents.

International Notes: Olivera, Fernandez

Last week, Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera had a showcase at the Giants’ facility in the Dominican Republic that reportedly had over 200 scouts in attendance. Ben Badler of Baseball America has some takeaways from that showcase in latest piece; some highlights from Badler’s post and a bit more news on the international front…

  • Olivera was clocked at 6.7 to 6.8 seconds in his 60-yard dash and looked to be a steady defender when fielding grounders at second base. He also took grounders at third, but didn’t show off as much arm strength as he had in previous years. Olivera collected three hits in “seven or eight at-bats” against live pitching. While the overall report has a positive undertone, Badler does note that there is still some uncertainty among scouts due to the fact that Olivera missed all of the 2012-13 season with a blood disorder and then spent most of his time at DH upon returning in the 2013-14 season.
  • Four teams — the Padres, Giants, A’s and Braves — had the largest contingents at Olivera’s showcase, and all are expected to be in the mix to sign the 29-year-old. Padres GM A.J. Preller was on hand, in fact, and his team has been the most aggressive on Olivera, Badler writes, adding that San Diego may ultimately be his most likely landing place. It’s not known at this time when Olivera will be cleared by Major League Baseball and the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, but Badler speculates that Olivera will be able to sign prior to Opening Day based on the fact that he left Cuba all the way back in September.
  • Kiley McDaniel joined Carson Cistulli on the Fangraphs’ podcast over the weekend, and the two spent the early portion of the episode discussing Cuban players. The biggest takeaway from the discussion was an update on highly touted Cuban second baseman Jose Fernandez, whom McDaniel hears is now being heavily guarded by police in Cuba. Fernandez was thought to have left the island late in 2014 but was apparently detained in his attempt to do so.