April 2012

Quick Hits: Gonzalez, Pujols, Young, Royals

Vladimir Guerrero looked pretty good in his workout for the Diamondbacks, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (Twitter links). Arizona has some interest in signing the veteran DH, but he's still considered a long shot according to Heyman. Here links for Monday…

  • The Rays are a "possible fit" for Mike Gonzalez, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). Last week we heard that the left-handed reliever could sign within ten days.
  • Albert Pujols told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that he’s comfortable in Anaheim even though he hasn’t hit like a $240MM player since signing with the Angels.“Why not? This is my family,” he said. “These guys are my family. I feel pretty comfortable.”
  • Ken Davidoff of the New York Post suggests the Tigers could release Delmon Young to make a statement about the conduct they expect from their players without hurting their team in the standings.
  • Jim Callis of Baseball America will be very surprised if the Royals don't select a college pitcher with their top pick in the upcoming amateur draft. Callis suggests the Royals could take Louisiana State right-hander Kevin Gausman with the fifth overall selection.

Mike Axisa contributed to this post.

Rays Sign Hideki Matsui

9:29pm: Marc Topkin of The Tampa Bay Times hears the team has not given Matsui any guarantees or promises about a call-up to the big leagues (Twitter link). Godzilla will likely join their Triple-A affiliate in mid-May.

10:13am: The Rays announced that they signed Hideki Matsui to a minor league contract. Matsui, who turns 38 in June, will report to extended Spring Training on Wednesday.

“Over the past two decades, Hideki has been one of the most consistently productive hitters in the world,” Rays executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “We are happy to add his ability, approach and professionalism to our organization.”

Matsui spent last year with the Athletics and posted a .251/.321/.375 line with 12 home runs and 28 doubles in 585 plate appearances. However, he finished strong, posting a .295/.353/.425 line in the second half. Matsui, a Wasserman Media Group client, has been preparing for the 2012 season in the New York area, according to Jack Curry of the YES Network, who first reported that the sides were nearing a deal.

Mike Axisa contributed to this post.

MLB To Suspend Oviedo For Eight Weeks

APRIL 30TH: MLB has changed its plans and will suspend Oviedo for eight weeks, not six according to Barry Jackson and Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald. The suspension is not retroactive and will not begin until Oviedo secures a visa and returns to the United States.

APRIL 1ST: Major League Baseball will suspend Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly known as Leo Nunez) for six weeks following his removal from the restricted list, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

Oviedo is currently home in the Dominican Republic where he's performing community service required to acquire a visa that will allow him to come back to the United States. Jackson calls the acquistion of a visa "inevitable," but doesn't offer a timetable for when it will happen. Perhaps most importantly for the Marlins, they aren't required to pay any of Oviedo's $6MM salary while he's on the restricted list or suspended.

The Fish inked Heath Bell to a three-year pact this offseason, and Oviedo figured to be his primary setup man. He'll surrender that role to Edward Mujica, according to Jackson. In three seasons as the Marlins' closer, Oviedo totaled 198 innings and 92 saves to go along with a 3.86 ERA, 8.5 K/9, and 3.1 BB/9. He's been the center of plenty of offseason controversy after it was revealed that he was playing under a false identity.

Mike Axisa contributed to this post.

Tigers Place Delmon Young On Restricted List

MONDAY: MLB has suspended Young for seven days without pay, retroactive to Friday according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter) that he will not appeal the suspension. Young can return to the lineup this Friday, and the suspension will cost him approximately $260K in salary.

SATURDAY: The Tigers have placed Delmon Young on the restricted list, reports MLB.com's Jason Beck. Danny Worth has been recalled from Triple-A to take his roster spot. Players on the restricted list do not count toward a team's 25-man or 40-man roster. They do not accrue service time and they don't always get paid.

Young, 26, was arrested for aggravated harassment yesterday following an altercation at the team hotel in New York. The Tigers are in town to play the Yankees. Young was intoxicated at the time and the charge has been filed as a hate crime. He's hit .242/.311/.333 with one homer in 74 plate appearances this season.

Lynn Henning of The Detroit News points out (on Twitter) that Young's contract can be voided if a hate crime offense did take place. Young will earn $6.75MM in 2012 before becoming eligible for free agency after the season.

Mike Pelfrey To Undergo Tommy John Surgery

5:52pm: A team source told Rubin that the Mets are expected to non-tender Pelfrey after the season. Tommy John rehab usually takes 12 months, but the non-tender deadline is December 2nd this year.

MONDAY, 4:33pm: Assistant GM John Ricco confirmed to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com that Pelfrey will undergo Tommy John surgery tomorrow (Twitter link).

THURSDAY: Mets right-hander Mike Pelfrey is expected to miss the rest of the 2012 season to undergo and recover from Tommy John surgery. Manager Terry Collins told reporters that Pelfrey will likely have ligament replacement surgery, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports (Twitter links). Pelfrey himself says there's a 99% chance he'll have the operation, according to Martino.

This could represent the end of Pelfrey's Mets career. He'll earn $5.68MM in 2012 and the Mets would have to offer a similar salary to retain him for 2013. As Matt Swartz showed earlier today, injured players don't generally take pay cuts in arbitration, so the Mets might prefer to non-tender their 2005 first round selection instead. The 28-year-old had pitched well in three 2012 starts and owns a 4.36 ERA with 5.1 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in parts of seven MLB seasons. Scott Boras represents Pelfrey, who is under team control through 2013.

Mike Axisa contributed to this post.

Jorge Cantu Elects Free Agency

Infielder Jorge Cantu has opted out of his minor league deal with the Angels and elected free agency, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reports (Twitter link). The Wasserman Media Group client is now free to sign with any team.

The Angels, who signed Cantu to a minor league deal in January, assigned him to Triple-A, where he has a .291/.300/.488 line with four homers in 90 plate appearances. Cantu hit 28 homers in 2005 and 29 homers in 2008, but has struggled to produce at the plate since then. Cantu signed with the Padres last year, but they cut him after he posted a .194/.232/.285 line in 155 plate appearances. Cantu, a right-handed hitter, has hit lefties and righties at a nearly identical clip over the course of his eight-year career.

Athletics Designate Luke Hughes For Assignment

The Athletics announced that they have designated infielder Luke Hughes for assignment. The move creates roster space for Brandon Inge, whose deal with the A's is now official.

The Twins designated Hughes for assignment two weeks into the season and the A's claimed him off of waivers. The 27-year-old native of Australia has a .218/.277/.331 line in 348 career plate appearances, including this season's slow start. Hughes has just three hits in 24 plate appearances for the Twins and A's so far in 2012.

The A's designated fellow Australian Rich Thompson for assignment after claiming him from the Angels. A third Australian-born player, Grant Balfour, remains in place as Oakland's closer.

Rosenthal On Hammel, Pirates, Tigers, Gomez

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports points out that Jason Hammel has outperformed Jeremy Guthrie so far this season. The right-handers were traded for one another this offseason (with Matt Lindstrom also going to the Orioles) and Hammel has pitched well for Baltimore, while Guthrie is on Colorado’s disabled list. Here are more notes from Rosenthal:

  • Some considered Hammel a “passive competitor,” but Dan Duquette and the Orioles viewed him as a dependable innings eater. Hammel, 29, has a 1.73 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 through 26 innings for his new team.
  • Though Yankees GM Brian Cashman says his team did more background work than ever before acquiring Michael Pineda from Seattle, one rival executive says his club grew concerned. The right-hander showed diminished velocity in his final start of the 2011 season after struggling in the second half. Pineda will miss the 2012 season with a shoulder injury.
  • The Pirates aren’t scoring many runs, but rival executives like the trio of Alex Presley, Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen at the top of Pittsburgh's order, Rosenthal writes.
  • Tigers starters other than Justin Verlander and Drew Smyly have struggled so far this year, and rival executives expect Detroit to make a strong push for rotation help by the July trade deadline.
  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin told Rosenthal that Carlos Gomez would generate approximately as much interest as Yoenis Cespedes if you put him in a tryout camp. Gomez, who is two months younger than Cespedes, could be a late-bloomer, Melvin said.

Frasor Approves Of CBA Changes

Blue Jays reliever Jason Frasor won’t miss baseball’s free agent ranking system the next time he’s eligible for free agency. The sport’s new collective bargaining agreement eliminates Type A and Type B designations and assures non-elite free agents that they won’t be tied to draft pick compensation. 

“I think this is the right way,” Frasor told me yesterday. “You have middle relievers who are Type A? I mean who’s going to give up a first round pick for someone who’s going to pitch the seventh inning? So I think this is more fair.”

Under baseball’s previous collective bargaining agreement, teams had to surrender top draft picks for signing Type A free agents who had turned down offers of arbitration. Knowing that turning down an offer of arbitration would make them unappealing to potential suitors, middle relievers often accepted their teams’ offers. 

Frasor was eligible for free agency following the 2010 season, but he pitched well enough to obtain a Type A ranking. He ultimately accepted the Blue Jays’ offer of arbitration instead of testing free agency with limited market value. Though Frasor was happy to return to Toronto, Type A status led to free agency lite for similarly-positioned relievers. Potential buyers wanted to keep their draft picks, so their interest in ranked middle relievers was often tepid. Frasor took note when he heard that baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement includes some significant adjustments.

“My reaction was it was two years too late,” he said. “If that Type A and Type B stuff wasn’t there, I’m not sure how it would have played out [two winters ago], but it could have changed how I went about doing that.”

Frasor, 34, is on track to hit free agency this offseason. Unless the Blue Jays make him a qualifying offer of $12.5MM or so — an extremely remote possibility — his performance will determine his free agent value. And for relievers such as Frasor it’s a welcome change.

Tigers Notes: Scherzer, Jackson, Inge

The Orioles no-hit the Tigers on this date in 1967, but Detroit walked ten times and still managed a 2-1 win. Here are some Tigers-related notes to begin the week before tonight's game against the Royals…

  • Tigers manager Jim Leyland hinted that the Tigers could option Max Scherzer to the minor leagues for a time if his struggles continue. "There are always choices," the skipper said, according to Lynn Henning of the Detroit News. Scherzer has a 7.77 ERA with 10.0 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 five starts into the season.
  • Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press says the three-way trade that sent Curtis Granderson  to New York for Scherzer, Austin Jackson and Daniel Schlereth “remains in the best long-range interests of the Tigers” because they cashed in their best trade chip for players with star potential.
  • Leyland says the Tigers need to get Scherzer going, according to Sharp. "There's no question about that,” Leyland said. “I'm not mad at him. I love the guy. But it's just the facts. We need to get him going.”
  • Longtime Tiger Brandon Inge is expected to join the Athletics in Boston today, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Inge agreed to terms with the A's yesterday.