February 2013

East Notes: Young, Phillies, Orioles, Yankees

Phillies offseason acquisition Michael Young won't come out and say it, but his frosty relationship with his former team's front office likely has to do with the Rangers' decision to put him on the trading block immediately following the 2010 World Series, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.  Statistically minded analysts don't love Young because of his relatively low walk totals and questions about his defense, but he's looking forward to having the chance to play third base in Philly.  Here's more out of the AL and NL East..

  • In a piece for Insider subscribers, ESPN.com's Jim Bowden has five crucial questions for the 2013 Phillies.  Ben Revere should have no problem manning center field, but Bowden is concerned about Delmon Young in right and the group of players vying for the job in left.  A last minute deal for Alfonso Soriano is still possible in his eyes but the veteran's below-average defense won't solve their issues.
  • The Orioles' bullpen was remarkably strong in 2012 and Matt Vensel of the Baltimore Sun asks if they can replicate their success this season.  The O's pen will look rather similar this season but the group's low strikeout totals coupled with the workload of Jim Johnson and Darren O'Day could raise issues for Baltimore.
  • After a relatively quiet offseason, the Yankees have a great deal of uncertainty surrounding them as they look ahead to April, writes Hal Bodley of MLB.com

Yankees Won’t Pursue Johnny Damon

Yesterday, free agent outfielder Johnny Damon told ESPN 98.7 FM's Michael Kay that he would like to hook on with the Yankees for the minimum salary as a replacement for the injured Curtis Granderson.  However, Yanks GM Brian Cashman put the kibosh on that idea when he spoke with Kay earlier today, writes ESPNNewYork.com's Wallace Matthews.

"He's just not going to fit our needs," Cashman said. "It's the same reason we didn't bring him in last year. We need somebody who can play the outfield every day."

Cashman added that at this stage, he's only looking at internal options and won't be looking outside for outfield help.  The Bombers could look to a veteran like Matt Diaz or Juan Rivera, or maybe some of their younger options like Melky Mesa, Zoilo Almonte, Ronnier Mustelier, or Adonis Garcia.

As for Damon, we haven't heard a great deal of chatter surrounding him in recent months.  Back in December, the 39-year-old acknowledged the possibility that he may have to retire if he cannot find a fit.

NL East Notes: Mets, Bourn, Marlins, DePodesta

Here's a look at the National League East..

  • Michael Bourn did not give serious consideration to the Mets' offer as it would have required him to wait for a verdict on the club's case for keeping their first-round draft choice, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  The Mets and Bourn were told that it might take a couple weeks to schedule a hearing on the matter and the outfielder says that he still might be sitting at home if he didn't take the deal from Cleveland instead.
  • The winner of the MLB Network's reality show, Josh Booty, is technically property of the Marlins despite being in camp with the Diamondbacks, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  The Marlins still own his rights after taking him with the fifth pick in the 1994 draft.  Miami agreed to release the knuckleballer off of their retired list, but only under the condition that they could reclaim him if Arizona planned to add him to their major league roster at the end of spring training.
  • If Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria isn't making personnel moves based on payroll, then Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter) wonders why he didn't go after top free agents like Bourn or Kyle Lohse.
  • Chris McShane of Amazin Avenue spoke with Mets vice president of player development and scouting Paul DePodesta.  Even though they opted to keep their first-round pick rather than sign Bourn, DePodesta says that the club doesn't have any extra pressure this year to make a strong selection.  "I don’t think we look at this one any differently — I don’t think there’s any year where we’re going to be excited about giving up our first-round pick, especially if it’s that part of the draft," said the Mets exec.

AL Central Notes: White Sox, Moscoso, Giambi

Links from the AL Central…

  • Though the White Sox looked for ways of obtaining an impact left-handed bat, they didn't end up finding one, Scott Merkin of MLB.com writes. Manager Robin Ventura enters the season with a righty-heavy lineup, but it beats forcing the issue in the view of GM Rick Hahn "If it doesn't fit with the rest of what you are trying to do from a position player standpoint, we would be regretting come the middle of the season," the GM said. Hahn added that he'll be prepared to move aggressively in case a need for left-handed hitting emerges during the season.
  • Hector Santiago doesn't see himself as a lock to make the White Sox, even though Ventura has strongly suggested the left-hander will break camp with the team, Merkin reports. Santiago said he doesn't consider himself to be on the team. "I've only got a year in and nothing guaranteed to me," he said. The 25-year-old posted a 3.33 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 5.1 BB/9 in 70 1/3 innings in 2012.
  • Royals right-hander Guillermo Moscoso said he won't miss pitching in the thin air of Coors Field, Dick Kaegel of MLB.com reports. The Royals claimed Moscoso from Colorado in November after he posted a 6.12 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 50 innings last year.
  • Jason Giambi, who interviewed for the Rockies' managerial opening this past offseason, drew interest from other teams, including the Phillies, as a potential coach, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. However, Giambi said he's enjoying Spring Training with the Indians and hopes to continue playing for a while. "I'm going to keep playing until they tear the uniform off or my body tells me it's time to go," he said.

Rays Notes: Myers, Johnson, Escobar

The Rays allowed the fewest runs of any MLB team in 2012, posting a team ERA of 3.19. Here’s the latest on the 2013 version of the club…

  • Wil Myers probably won't start the season at the MLB level, but he's still expected to make an impact with the Rays in 2013, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com writes. Rays executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said he's hesitant to create oversized expectations for young players. “The first impression has been very strong. So we’re anxious to spend the next four or five weeks around him and continue his development,” Friedman added. 
  • The Rays will have extended control over Myers if they delay his debut, as I showed last week. The Rays acquired the 22-year-old in the deal that sent James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City.
  • Bill Chastain of MLB.com notes that second baseman Kelly Johnson and shortstop Yunel Escobar will become the first middle infielders to start together for three different teams since Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino, who did it for the Mets, Indians, Giants and Astros. Johnson and Escobar also played together with the Braves and Blue Jays.

Loria On Payroll, Pierre, Front Office

After a number of relatively quiet months, Marlins owner Jeffery Loria now has plenty to say. Loria addressed reporters yesterday and again today, explaining his perspective on the Marlins’ recent moves and future prospects. The Miami Herald has a complete transcript of today’s media briefing, in which Loria defended the team’s abrupt change in direction. “We're going to field an excellent team in the next two or three years that you're going to be proud of,” Loria said. “I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe what I think." 

Here are more highlights via the Herald…

  • Loria described the 2012 season as a “disaster” and said it was time for the Marlins “to push the restart button.” He said it wouldn’t have worked to re-start with the same pieces in place and expect different results. 
  • Many would argue that Loria moved the players to clear payroll, but the owner says otherwise. “It's not about payroll,” he said. “It's about players. It's about people. I said the same thing in 2003. For me, it's never been about payroll.”
  • Loria insisted that players such as Giancarlo Stanton, Juan Pierre, Rob Brantly and Adeiny Hechavarria offer MLB caliber talent. "It's not a Triple-A ballclub,” he said. “I don't know whose words those are. They may be your words, but they're not mine. It's not a Triple-A ballclub. It's a ballclub with some pretty impressive players.”
  • Loria expressed confidence in the baseball operations department led by president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest and general manager Michael Hill. "I have faith in my baseball people,” he said.

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Nationals To Sign Chris Young

TUESDAY: Young's deal would pay him a base salary of $2MM if he makes the MLB roster, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports (Twitter links). The deal, which allows Young to opt out on March 24th, could pay Young as much as $3.8MM in incentives if he makes 30 starts and pitches 180 innings.

THURSDAY: The Nationals announced that they have agreed to terms with right-handed starter Chris Young on a minor league deal (Twitter link). Williams & Connolly represents Young.

Young, 33, pitched for the Mets last year. The 6'10" right-hander missed much of the 2010 and 2011 seasons, but returned from a shoulder capsule injury to put together a strong season in 2012. He started 20 games, posting a 4.15 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 115 innings.

The Nationals have a talented rotation led by Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren and Ross Detwiler. Young provides depth along with a number of other pitchers, including Ross Ohlendorf, also a former Princeton student.

NL Central Notes: Wainwright, Cubs, Contreras

Three NL Central teams had winning records in 2012, but the Reds, Cardinals and Brewers won't get the chance to play the Astros regularly anymore. The Pirates narrowly missed a .500 record in 2012, and the Cubs' pitching staff looks much deeper following a busy offseason for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, so it now looks like the division will be tougher in 2013. Here are some NL Central notes, starting with the Cardinals’ top starter…

  • The Cardinals will be able to afford an extension for Adam Wainwright if they truly want to retain the right-hander long-term, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. With TV revenue on its way to St. Louis and a strong player development system in place, the Cardinals could likely afford Wainwright. They must now determine whether they value him at $20MM-plus per season for four or five years.
  • The Cubs haven't shied away from veterans of Tommy John surgery, since pitchers like Arodys Vizcaino have considerable upside, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes.
  • The Pirates took a similar approach to their division rivals, signing Jose Contreras to a minor league deal even though he's still recovering from the Tommy John operation that he underwent last June. GM Neal Huntington said the Pirates' scouts have always been impressed with Contreras, Tom Singer of MLB.com reports. "We felt this was a low-risk acquisition that can help this team at some point this summer," Huntington said. Contreras threw off a mound in front of Pirates personnel before completing his deal.

Manny Ramirez To Sign With Taiwanese Team

Manny Ramirez has a verbal agreement to sign with the EDA Rhinos of the China Professional League, Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com reports (Spanish link). However, the agreement won't be completed until March 7th. Ramirez has until that date to reach a deal with an MLB team, but he expressed optimism about playing in Taiwan.

"It will be a new experience, experience another culture while I keep doing what I love and all I've done in my life, playing baseball," Ramirez said.

Ramirez, a client of agent Barry Praver, told Rojas that his representatives called almost every American League team that could use a powerful bat. However, "nobody was interested" in the words of Ramirez. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reported earlier this month that Ramirez was in talks to play for the Rhinos.

Ramirez recently played in the Dominican Winter League, but he last played at the MLB level with the 2011 Rays. He signed with the Athletics last winter, only to be released in June, before he played in a big league game. Ramirez has 555 home runs and a .312/.411/.585 batting line over the course of a 19-year playing career that includes 12 All-Star Game selections and multiple suspensions related to performance enhancing drugs.

Transaction Retrospection: The Bailey-Reddick Trade

MLBTR is launching a new series entitled "Transaction Retrospection" in which we'll take a look back on trades that have taken place to see how the players involved — including low-level minor leaguers — have fared in new settings and how the involved teams have been impacted. Remember that you can always look back at the players involved in transactions and check in on them yourself using MLBTR's Transaction Tracker.

Oftentimes, as spectators of the game, we focus on the immediate impact of trades rather than the long-term impact that some major transactions have on the teams involved. For example, while some undoubtedly remember all of the players involved in last year's Andrew BaileyJosh Reddick trade between the Red Sox and Athletics, the majority of fans likely can't name all five players. The immediate impact was apparent in Reddick's success and Bailey's injuries, but there's more to this trade than just those two names.JoshReddick

The Athletics traded Bailey and Ryan Sweeney to Boston in exchange for Reddick, Miles Head and Raul Alcantara. Reddick's breakout and Bailey's breakdown are well-known, but let's look at each player's individual progress to date:

The Major League Side

  • Andrew Bailey: Bailey was supposed to take over as Boston's closer, but he would end up requiring thumb surgery in Spring Training and spend more than four months on the disabled list. Upon returning, he pitched to a disastrous 7.04 ERA in just 15 1/3 innings, walking eight and striking out 14 along the way. Bailey remains under team control through the 2014 season, so he'll have plenty of time to redeem himself and make this trade look better for Boston. However, he's been replaced as the closer following the offseason acquisition of Joel Hanrahan.
  • Ryan Sweeney: Sweeney went homerless in 219 plate appearances, batting .260/.303/.373 along the way. He played his typically strong brand of defense in Boston, posting an 11.6 UZR/150 and saving five runs over his 467 1/3 innings, per The Fielding Bible. Sweeney was non-tendered by the Red Sox this offseason but re-signed with the team on a minor league contract late last month.
  • Josh Reddick: Reddick exploded over the season's first half, batting a whopping .268/.348/.532 with 20 homers. While he slumped horribly in the second half, Reddick still finished with a .242/.305/.463 batting line with 32 homers. He was worth +22 runs per The Fielding Bible and posted an equally stellar 20.4 UZR/150. FanGraphs pegged Reddick's value at 4.8 wins above replacement. Reddick won't be arbitration eligible until after this coming season and is under team control through 2016.

The Prospect Side

  • Miles Head: Head ranks as the A's No. 7 prospect according to Baseball America and No. 9 according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. The 21-year-old primarily played third base in the Oakland organization, but also has experience at first base. He hit a ludicrous .382/.433/.715 with 18 homers in 67 games for High-A Stockton before being promoted to Double-A Midland. He held his own as a 21-year-old at Double-A, batting .272/.338/.404 but whiffed in 32.1 percent of his plate appearances. BA praises his quick, compact swing and "outstanding" bat control, which create enough power to profile as a corner infielder. Head's lack of range and athleticism leave his future at third base in doubt, according to BA.
  • Raul Alcantara: Alcantara ranks as the team's No. 26 prospect according to BA and No. 11 prospect according to MLB.com. After a dominant 2011 in Boston's organization, Alcantara struggled with Oakland's Class-A affiliate in Burlington in 2012. He pitched to a 5.08 ERA, 5.0 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 102 2/3 innings of work. BA has his fastball at 90-95 mph, and they also praise his change-up's depth and armside run. Both Mayo and BA agree that Alcantara's breaking pitches need work but praise his delivery and command. Alcantara turned 20 in December, so it would seem there's plenty of time to hone his secondary pitches and develop a bit more movement on his fastball.

The trade also had an impact on other players already in the organizations. Bailey's injury forced Alfredo Aceves into the closer's role in Boston for the first time, which had unspectacular results. The acquisition of Bailey was supposed to give the Red Sox enough depth to shift Daniel Bard into the starting rotation. Bard struggled, however, and when he returned to the bullpen after a Triple-A stint, he allowed 14 runs in six innings of relief pitching.

Reddick's acquisition, meanwhile, replaced the power production of the departing Josh Willingham — who signed as a free agent with the Twins — and vastly improved Oakland's outfield defense in the process. Willingham's departure, the Bailey trade and the Gio Gonzalez trade allowed the A's to invest four years and $36MM in Cuban hotshot Yoenis Cespedes.

The trade looks bleak for the Red Sox right now, but one of the beauties of transactions like this is the seemingly endless web they spin. For example, a strong season from Bailey could lead to another trade, causing the cycle to start all over again.

Baseball America's 2013 Prospect Handbook was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.