February 2013

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AL Central Notes: Tigers, Twins, Cabrera

Every American League Central team except the Royals has won the division at least once since 2007. Here are some AL Central notes, starting with Tigers, winners of the last two division titles...

  • Brennan Boesch doesn't have a clear role on the 2013 Tigers, and it's possible his recent oblique injury hurt his trade value, John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press writes. GM Dave Dombrowski has said Boesch won’t be sent to the minors, according to Lowe.
  • Jamie Samuelsen of the Detroit Free Press outlines four reasons the Tigers shouldn't sign Justin Verlander to a $200MM extension, before concluding that Verlander would be worth it, especially given the cost of starting pitching in MLB. Verlander has acknowledged that free agency intrigues him.
  • Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500 hears from a Twins official that the asking price for Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz remains “too high." The Twins are fans of the free agent shortstop, according to Wolfson (on Twitter).
  • Asdrubal Cabrera told MLB.com's Jordan Bastian that he was surprised to find himself mentioned in offseason trade rumors (Twitter link). The shortstop added that he wants to spend his entire career with the Indians. Cabrera's under contract through 2014, but he'll probably appear on these pages next offseason if the Indians' shortstop prospects continue to develop.



Outrighted: Bobby Cassevah

We'll keep track of the day's outright assignments here...

  • The Angels outrighted right-hander Bobby Cassevah off of their 40-man roster, Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times reports (Twitter links). Cassevah appeared in four games for the Angels in 2012, but spent most of the season at Triple-A, where he posted a 6.22 ERA with 5.4 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 46 1/3 innings. The 27-year-old has cleared waivers and now has 72 hours to decide whether to accept a Triple-A assignment. He has a 3.20 ERA in 64 2/3 MLB innings.



Yankees, Indians Not In On Lohse

The market for Kyle Lohse still seems quiet, even as Opening Day approaches. Agent Scott Boras called the Yankees about Lohse this week only to hear that they aren't interested, ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports (Twitter links). The Indians aren't in on Lohse either, having already expanded payroll to accommodate free agents Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn.

The Yankees' rotation looks vulnerable now that Phil Hughes is questionable for Opening Day. However, the Yankees avoided free agents linked to draft pick compensation this winter and seem intent on keeping their first round pick. Plus, signing Lohse to a multiyear deal could make it difficult to avoid baseball’s luxury tax by 2014.

The Indians would only have to surrender a third round selection to sign Lohse, so draft pick compensation isn't an issue for them, Olney writes. Instead, Lohse's asking price seems to be the primary obstacle. The Indians’ rotation includes considerable uncertainty from top to bottom, so interest in Lohse would make sense at the right price.

MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk recently examined the market for Lohse in detail. Other potential suitors include the Angels, Brewers and Cardinals.



NL East Notes: Wright, Marlins, Adams

The NL East includes a broad range of payrolls, from the Phillies at $150MM-plus to the Marlins below $40MM. Here's are some notes from the division...

  • Carlos Beltran told Mike Puma of the New York Post that David Wright should be able to handle the pressure that comes with a nine-figure contract. "He’s been with the organization a long time, so there is nothing he needs to change,” said Beltran, who signed a seven-year $119MM deal with the Mets as a free agent following the 2004 season.
  • Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said newcomer Adeiny Hechavarria has Hanley Ramirez’s endorsement, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. “When Hanley tells you ‘He is better than I am, you’ve got a great guy with great hands,’ it’s amusing to listen to,” Loria said. The Marlins, who traded Ramirez to Los Angeles last summer, acquired Hechavarria from Toronto in a blockbuster deal with the Blue Jays in November.
  • Reliever Mike Adams would likely be with a different team had the Phillies completed their deal with the Astros for Wilton Lopez, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. acknowledged that the Phillies "probably would not have" signed Adams had the club not pulled back from trading for Lopez (since dealt to the Rockies) for undisclosed reasons following his physical. 

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.



AL East Notes: Chamberlain, Damon, Rolen

MLBTR’s Offseason in Review series began today with a look at the Rays’ busy winter. Here are some notes from the rest of the AL East...

  • The Yankees are tired of the physical and verbal risks surrounding Joba Chamberlain in the view of Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The team expects to benefit from having Chamberlain in the bullpen this year, but won’t want to invest multiple years in him when he hits free agency next offseason.
  • Teams were once willing to overlook Johnny Damon’s below-average defense to obtain his bat, but Damon hit poorly in 2012. As Sherman notes, teams like the Yankees want offense, yet are passing on the 39-year-old because of doubts regarding his ability.
  • The Red Sox haven’t called on free agent third baseman Scott Rolen, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. However, there’s a belief that Rolen would be interested in talking to the Red Sox. It’s not something the Red Sox are expected to consider unless Will Middlebrooks’ wrist injury turns out to be more serious than initially anticipated.



Offseason In Review: Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays addressed long-term needs with a blockbuster trade and the most lucrative contract in franchise history. They addressed short term needs with modest forays into the free agent market.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades and Claims

Extensions

Notable Losses

Needs Addressed

When the offseason began, it was clear that the Rays could part with David Price or James Shields in the right trade, particularly if an elite prospect such as Wil Myers or Jurickson Profar were involved. Executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was able to obtain Myers, one of the game’s best hitting prospects, for Shields, who’s under team control through 2014. While Myers will almost certainly start the season in the minor leagues, he’s expected to make an impact at the MLB level starting in 2013. From a value standpoint, six-plus years of Myers trumps two years of Shields, so it’s clear why the Rays made this deal, which also included Wade Davis, Elliot Johnson, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard. However, it's likely they'll miss Shields in 2013, as Myers transitions to the MLB level. 

Evan Longoria - Rays (PW)

Evan Longoria was already under team control through 2016, so locking him up for additional seasons hardly seemed like a pressing need entering the winter. That didn’t stop the Rays from adding six years and $100MM in guaranteed money to the deal, which extends their control over Longoria through 2023. There’s risk with any nine-figure deal, especially when it's between a player who appeared in just 74 games in 2012 and a team that operates with one of the most modest budgets in MLB. That said, this extension pays Longoria less than $17MM per season -- Andre Ethier territory rather than Joey Votto territory. For the Rays this was a risk worth taking.

The Rays lost a first baseman, a starting infielder and a center fielder this offseason, which led to a long offseason shopping list for Friedman. The Rays will ask Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar to do what they couldn't do for the 2012 Blue Jays: match their career norms on offense while providing steady middle infield defense. However, off-field questions accompany Escobar and Johnson’s contact skills are in steady decline. 

The Rays addressed other short-term needs on the free agent market, signing James Loney, Luke Scott, Joel Peralta, Kyle Farnsworth, Roberto Hernandez and Jamey Wright. Loney and Scott don’t figure to drastically alter the offense of a team that ranked 11th in the American League in scoring last year. Friedman’s annual search for bullpen reinforcements turned up some familiar names and intriguing options. Hernandez figures prominently among the Rays' buy-low arms. The right-hander had an All-Star season as recently as 2010, back when he was known as Fausto Carmona.

Questions Remaining

The Rays won’t have an imposing offense in 2013. It’s a shortcoming, but one they’re accustomed to dealing with. Jose Molina's pitch-framing skills, the versatility of Ben Zobrist and the depth of their pitching staff enable the Rays to prevent runs as well as any team (they allowed the fewest runs in MLB in 2012). As long as newcomers such as Escobar, Johnson and Loney contribute something on offense, the Rays should continue to outscore their opponents often enough to remain a threat in the AL East.

There’s also the question of health. Longoria, the Rays’ franchise player, has missed considerable time with injuries in 2011-12. And now that Shields and Davis are gone, there seems to be less room for error on the pitching staff.

Deal of Note

The Rays made a number of major moves this offseason, including the Myers-Shields trade and the Longoria extension. But in one respect, Joel Peralta’s contract with Tampa Bay was the most noteworthy of all. 

Peralta’s new two-year deal includes three -- yes, three -- club options. He becomes the first player with at least six years of service to sign a deal with three or more club options in seven offseasons. Peralta joins Tim Wakefield (Red Sox, 2002-03) and Preston Wilson (Astros, 2005-06) as the only players with six or more years of service to sign deals with at least three club options since 2000. 

The Rays have pursued club options on deals with young players in the past. Yet Peralta turns 37 next month, so this contract is out of the ordinary -- even for the Rays.

Overview

Since their breakout 2008 season, the Rays have averaged 92 wins per season, reached the 90-win plateau in four of five seasons and made three postseason appearances. During that five-year period, we’ve learned not to bet against the Rays. This is far from a perfect team, though, and, as usual, the Rays enter the season with legitimate question marks on offense. Expect their run prevention to keep them in contention throughout the 2013 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Los Angeles Notes: Dodgers, Harang, Angels

Mike Hampton, a left-handed starter who accumulated 148 wins over 16 big league seasons, is returning to baseball as a pitching coach in the Angels minor league system.  MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez writes that Hampton will join the staff of the Double-A Arkansas Travelers.  Here's more on the Halos, as well as their NL counterparts in Los Angeles:

  • Manager Don Mattingly did not see Aaron Harang as an option for the Dodgers' bullpen even before the righty's rough outing today, and that could make Harang a trade candidate, Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times reports. “Harang doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that pitches out of the pen,” says Mattingly. “To me he’s more of a guy that paints. He keeps you in the game. He’s just not that guy that’s going in and overpower you.”  After the acquisitions of Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Dodgers have a surplus of starting pitching.  
  • Mattingly could see other starters (like Chris Capuano, who has also been pushed down the rotation depth chart), in bullpen roles, A.J. Cassavell of MLB.com explains.
  • With Harang and the rest of the Dodgers' rotation candidates (excluding Ryu) out of minor-league options, and with the bullpen seemingly an unlikely landing spot, the veteran seems aware that his time in Los Angeles could soon end, reports Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times "There's all sorts of scenarios out there right now, and if guys are traded, we're all starters," said Harang.  He went on to explain that he had to maintain the mental approach of a starter: "If we do get sent somewhere else and they want us to be a starter, we can't have the mind-set of, 'Oh I'm going to be a reliever now.' "
  • Former Nationals closer Chad Cordero, on the comeback trail with the Angels after nearly two years away from the game, aspires to return to closing, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. Cordero's infant daughter died in 2010, and the Blue Jays released him in May 2011. Cordero, who's still only 30, last pitched in the majors with the Mariners in 2010.
  • While there is some history for pre-arbitration players coming off of outstanding years to receive salaries substantially greater than league minimum, Mike Trout has little leverage, writes Jeff Fletcher of The Orange County Register.  Fletcher goes on to note that "there doesn't seem to be much incentive on either side" to explore a long-term extension at the moment, with the Angels having "enough money that they can afford to wait on Trout" to ensure that "he is as good as his first year showed."  For his part, Trout stated that he is "not even thinking about that now."

Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.



East Notes: Blue Jays, Marlins, Mets, Napoli

 Here are a few notes from the AL and NL East..

  • Justin Germano appeared to have a shot at a job in the Blue Jays rotation when the Jays signed him in November, but now he's nowhere near the rotation picture, MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm writes. After the acquisitions of Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey, the Jays don't have as much need for the journeyman, who struck out 52 batters and walked 21 while posting a 6.20 ERA in 69.2 innings with the Cubs and Red Sox last season. "Obviously nobody knew they were going to do what they did," Germano says. "It's not the most ideal situation for me but I'm happy to be here, and I hope I can be part of this team because they're going to do some good things this year."
  • Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, whose first big move upon taking the reigns in New York was to ship out star outfielder Carlos Beltran to San Francisco for pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, has been validated by the results, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times.  While Wheeler has yet to make his regular-season debut with the Mets, the young righty's continued development and increasing "notoriety" has already led Alderson to feel what he described as a "kind of a confirmation."
  • Tim Dahlberg of the Associated Press wonders whether the Marlins' Jeffrey Loria is the worst owner in sports history.  Dahlberg cites the trade of Johnson, Buehrle and Jose Reyes to the Jays, and points to Buehrle and Reyes' backloaded contracts to suggest that trading them was part of the plan all along.
  • Mike Napoli has previously explained how surprised he was to learn that he had a potentially serious hip condition known as avascular necrosis.  As reported by ESPN's Gordon Edes, Napoli was not and is not experiencing any symptoms: "I really didn't know what was going on.  I don't feel anything. ... I'm doing everything, and I feel great."  After his original three-year, $36MM deal with the Red Sox was undone when his physical revealed the condition, Napoli instead agreed to play for Boston on a one-year, $5MM deal with incentives that could bring the total value to $13MM.

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.



Scott Boras To Represent Jose Fernandez

Agent Scott Boras is now representing top Marlins prospect Jose Fernandez, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro reports. Fernandez was previously represented by Team One Management.

"We are very excited about having Jose," said Boras. "He has the potential to be a future ace." Fernandez, the Marlins' top pick in the 2011 draft, had 10.6 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 with a 1.75 ERA in 134 innings for Class-A Greensboro and Advanced-A Jupiter in 2012.

For agency info on over 1,700 players, take a look at MLBTR's Agency Database.  



Orioles Notes: Upton, Uehara, Urrutia

A few notes on the Orioles..

  • The Orioles considered trading pitching for a hitter last offseason, but decided not to deal their young hurlers, Jayson Stark of ESPN reports. Stark says the Orioles would not include Dylan Bundy in a deal with the Diamondbacks for Justin Upton, and also ultimately passed on Jason Kubel. “Some of the bats that we could get would have improved our team,” says executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette. “But it wasn't a huge improvement. And we wanted to hold onto the pitching depth and see if we could utilize the pitching depth to have a competitive team. And we could always take a look at that [later].”
  • Koji Uehara thought he might return to Baltimore this offseason, Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun reports. "I thought that there would be a possibility [of playing in Baltimore], but I didn't especially put a lot of weight on each team or one particular team," says Uehara. "I thought that every team had a chance." The Red Sox signed Uehara to a one-year, $4.25MM deal in December.
  • Outfielder Henry Urrutia has finally arrived in the United States, Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports writes. The 26-year-old Cuban defector received a $779K bonus from the Orioles in 2012, but had been in Haiti and has only now received a work visa. He will take a physical, then head to Orioles minor-league camp in Sarasota. The O's had intended to send Urrutia to Double-A Bowie last year, Kubatko notes.









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