February 2013

Quick Hits: Lohse, Young, Phillies, PED Supensions

In 2008, Kyle Lohse waited until March to sign and landed in the place he'd call home for five seasons — St. Louis. Spring Training is underway again, and Lohse again remains unsigned. However, unlike 2008 when he had a career 4.82 ERA, Lohse is coming off a 3.11 ERA over his past 399 1/3 innings. ESPN's Buster Olney talked to a longtime MLB evaluator who says in addition to draft pick compensation, AL teams are wary of Lohse's poor AL track record. The evaluator also added that teams shy away former Cardinals pitchers, as they often struggle to find success elsewhere (Twitter links).

More from around the Majors…

  • Phillies ace Cliff Lee told Jayson Stark of ESPN that he was "baffled" by the way the Rangers treated Michael Young in his final years with the team. Lee called Young the "perfect teammate" and the "heart and soul" of the Rangers team. "…in my opinion, you want guys like Michael Young around," said Lee, who was reunited with his former teammate after the Phillies traded for him this winter.
  • Both Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins have offered strong praise for Phillies prospect Domonic Brown this Spring, writes David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. Murphy opines that both players feel this is the time to finally give Brown a chance to be an everyday Major Leaguer.
  • Michael Weiner, the exeutive director of the MLB Players Union, spoke with reporters (including Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca) about drug testing and the possibility of more severe punishment for players who have been discovered to have multiple offenses in the past. Weiner discusses the fine line between representing players who are subject to discipline and attempting to enforce a clean game. Weiner also says that after Spring Training, there will be discussions about whether or not the new qualifying offer system is working as intended, given the damage to Lohse's market.
  • Former TwinsRangers and Astros minor leaguer Mark Hamburger has been suspended for 50 games after testing positive on two instances for recreational drug use, according to Baseball America's Matt Eddy. Hamburger, a free agent after being released by Houston earlier this month, would have to serve out his suspension upon signing with a new team.

Central Notes: Hunter, Carrera, Morneau, Taveras

On this day in 2007, the Twins signed Liam Hendriks as an amateur free agent out of Australia. Hendriks, 24, has struggled in the Majors to date but owns a solid minor league track record. He has twice cracked Baseball America's list of Top 10 Twins prospects and boasts a 2.95 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 155 2/3 Triple-A innings. He'll fight for a rotation spot with the Twins this Spring. Here are some links pertaining to baseball's two Central divisions…

  • New Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter told ESPN's Jayson Stark that his comments about the Angels and owner Arte Moreno following the Josh Hamilton signing were a "joke that went bad." At the time, Hunter tweeted that Moreno must have had "some money under a mattress," as he'd been told the team couldn't afford him. Hunter praised the Angels' organization and said he's enjoying his time with the Tigers so far.
  • The Indians could look to trade outfielder Ezequiel Carrera near the end of Spring Training, writes MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. Carrera is out of options, and the Tribe has no doubt that they would lose the 25-year-old if they placed him on waivers in an attempt to send him to Triple-A.
  • Former AL MVP Justin Morneau couldn't have picked a better time to get healthy, writes Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN. The 31-year-old Twins slugger is set to hit free agency following the season and could find himself a midseason trade candidate, extension candidate, or the recipient of a qualifying offer with a strong, healthy season.
  • Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports wonders if Cardinals top prospect Oscar Taveras could be the next 20-year-old to take the Majors by storm. Taveras, however, doesn't have a clear path to the Majors given the presence of Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran.

Loria On Offseason, Stanton, No-Trade Clauses

The Marlins are a team mired in controversy this offseason, as owner Jeffrey Loria adamantly denies that his trades over the past month constitute a fire sale, while many fans and media members think differently. Loria addressed reporters today, including the Palm Beach Post's Joe Capozzi. Here are some of the takeaways from Loria's address, per Capozzi…

  • Despite previous reports, Loria says that he never told Jose Reyes to buy a house in Miami. Loria said that he called Reyes' agent out of respect to inform him of the trade days prior to the move while Reyes was still looking for a house.
  • Loria stresses that the team is not for sale, and that from a baseball perspective his trade with the Blue Jays makes sense. "We had three or four prospects in our system. We didn’t have people in our system that we could call up last year… As I said to somebody last week. We didn’t break up the 1927 Yankees. We broke up a losing ballclub that was going nowhere for two straight years."
  • The Marlins will not extend a long-term offer to Giancarlo Stanton this season. Loria says that he wants Stanton to be the centerpiece of the Marlins long-term, and that he harbors no negative feelings toward Stanton for the slugger's harsh comments following the Blue Jays trade.
  • Juan C. Rodriguez of the Miami Sun-Sentinel adds that Loria doesn't feel his chances of signing Stanton long-term after this offseason have lessened or improved "even by one percent."
  • Loria and president David Samson both were non-committal when asked if they would change the team stance on no-trade clauses. However, neither party stated that the policy would remain, and they implied that they could reassess in the future (Rodriguez reporting).

Yankees Notes: Granderson, Soriano, Damon

The Yankees lost Curtis Granderson for 10 weeks over the weekend when he was hit on the forearm by a pitch in his first at-bat of Spring Training and suffered a fracture. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes examined ways in which the Yankees could replace Granderson in the short-term yesterday, and here's some more on the matter from the New York media…

  • Missing significant time due to an injury will hurt Granderson's upcoming free agent stock, but as Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes, Granderson's impending shift to left field likely would have done the same. Any lack of power stemming from his forearm injury could be very detrimental to his stock. Granderson recently just missed out on the Top 10 in Dierkes' Free Agent Power Rankings.
  • From that same piece, Sherman writes to keep an eye on Adonis Garcia, who signed with the Yanks for $400K last season. The 27-year-old Cuban import hit .263/.311/.424 in 57 games between Class-A Advanced and Double-A last season and has impressed the Yankees with his performance in the Venezuelan Winter League.
  • Sherman also writes that Cubs officials he spoke with don't get the sense that the Yankees will be interested in Alfonso Soriano given the relatively small amount of time Granderson will miss. He goes on to speculate that that line of thinking also eliminates Jason Kubel or one of the Athletics' surplus outfielders from the equation.
  • Johnny Damon appeared with Michael Kay on ESPN radio in New York and told Kay that he would welcome the chance to play with the Yankees in replacement of Granderson, even if the team sent him on his way upon Granderson's return (Andrew Marchand of ESPN with the write-up).
  • Meanwhile, Damon told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News that while he would definitely welcome the opportunity, he doesn't anticipate that the Yankees will have interest.

Mets Sign Rhyne Hughes

We'll keep track of tonight's minor moves right here…

  • The Mets have signed long-time Orioles farm-hand Rhyne Hughes to a minor league deal, the first baseman announced via his Twitter account (hat tip: Steve Melewski of MASNsports). Hughes has a career .267/.328/.457 batting line at Triple-A. He made his big league debut with the O's back in 2010, appearing in 14 games but posting just a .530 OPS in 51 trips to the plate.

Greinke Gave Rangers Chance To Beat Dodgers’ Offer

Zack Greinke signed a contract that made him — at the time — the highest-paid right-handed pitcher ever this offseason (Felix Hernandez has since topped him). The money, Greinke told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports quite candidly, was the biggest factor in his decision to sign with the Dodgers. However, multiple sources indicated to Heyman that Greinke gave the Rangers an opportunity to top the Dodgers' final offer before agreeing to his six-year, $147MM contract. Greinke made an offer to the Rangers, but Texas elected to counter-offer rather than accept it.

According to Heyman, the Rangers and Dodgers were in a "near-dead heat" on the main terms of the contract, but the Rangers wouldn't budge on giving Greinke an opt-out clause after three seasons. Beyond that, Greinke told Heyman that he vastly prefers National League baseball to the American League version:

"It's boring watching American League games to me,'' Greinke said. “With the Angels we had (Mike) Trout(Albert) Pujols, (Mark) Trumbo, (Kendrys) Morales and (Torii) Hunter, but it wasn't as much fun as watching Milwaukee's team. There's much more strategy."

Heyman also writes that Greinke met with Dodgers officials himself before completing his deal with the team. The former No. 6 overall pick in the draft has long been fascinated by free agency. He turned down a trade to the Nationals that would have come with a $100MM extension a little more than two years ago in part because he didn't think the Nationals were ready to win, but also because he was too fascinated by free agency:

“I wanted to see it. If it was going to be only one year for $1 million, I wanted to see for myself,'' he said.

Greinke went several months without an agent last year, though he ultimately hired Casey Close shortly after Opening Day.

As MLBTR's Transaction Tracker shows, Greinke's $147MM contract is the third-largest contract ever signed by a pitcher, with only Hernandez and CC Sabathia ranking ahead of him (he topped Cole Hamels by $3MM). Candidates to displace Greinke from the Top 3 in the next couple of years include Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander. However, with three dominant seasons, Greinke could enter free agency again as a 32-year-old and position himself for another hefty contract that would extend into his late 30s.

Wells Intends To Retire After 2014

Vernon Wells will be 35 years old when his $126MM contract expires following the 2014 season, at which point he expects to retire. The outfielder told Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com that his playing career will end after two more years.

Wells told Gonzalez that he intends to spend more time with his kids once he retires. Yet the three-time All-Star still expects to be involved in baseball. Wells hopes to own an MLB team at some point, and he plans to work with former teammate Torii Hunter. They plan on starting with a minor league team and progressing from there.

"It's definitely something we're interested in doing once we're both done playing," Wells told Gonzalez. "It's fun, man. Instead of playing fantasy GM, you're actually putting together your own team and learning what it takes to pretty much make money in an organization, especially in the minor leagues.”

Wells will earn $42MM between now and the end of the 2014 season, by which point he'll have earned more than $130MM during his playing career. Hunter will have earned $160MM at the MLB level by the time his two-year deal with the Tigers expires.

The Yankees aren’t expected to trade for Wells, even after losing Curtis Granderson for the beginning of the regular season. Wells posted a .230/.279/.403 batting line with 11 home runs in 262 plate appearances for the Angels in 2012.

Blue Jays Claim Lars Anderson

The Blue Jays claimed Lars Anderson off of waivers, Scott Merkin of MLB.com reports (on Twitter). The White Sox designated Anderson for assignment last week to create roster space for Conor Gillaspie.

Anderson appeared in six games for the Red Sox last year, but Boston traded the 25-year-old to the Indians for Steven Wright at the non-waiver trade deadline last July. The Indians traded Anderson to Arizona in the December trade that sent Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati. The White Sox then acquired Anderson by claiming him off of waivers from the Diamondbacks.

Anderson, a left-handed hitter, spent most of the 2012 season at Triple-A, where he posted a .250/.353/.396 batting line in 470 plate appearances.

Cubs Notes: Soriano, Yankees, Soler

Ever since Curtis Granderson broke his arm yesterday, there’s been speculation that the Cubs could send Alfonso Soriano back to New York. Here’s the latest on Soriano plus more Cubs-related news…

  • It’s doubtful the Yankees will view the Cubs as a particularly strong match for their outfield needs, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Even if the Yankees did want to trade for Soriano, they’d need his approval. The left fielder told Wittenmyer that he hasn’t given the Cubs an updated list of teams to which he’d accept trades. Though Soriano enjoyed playing for the Yankees earlier in his career, he didn’t approve them as a trade destination last summer.
  • Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger notes that the Yankees could get by without acquiring a player like Soriano. McCullough writes that it's still worth exploring potential deals in case the sides can work out a trade.
  • Darnell McDonald, Scott Hairston and Soriano agree that Jorge Soler has the potential to be an MLB star, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. Soler, an outfield prospect who turns 21 today, signed a $30MM deal with the Cubs last year. Team president Theo Epstein says Soler has the makings of a complete player. "What has been really impressive, all last year and so far in camp, is how into defense and baserunning he is," Epstein said.

Yankees Not Expected To Deal For Wells

Curtis Granderson’s broken arm could affect many teams around MLB, including the Angels. Now that the Yankees might be in the market for a right-handed hitting outfielder, it’s fair to wonder if Vernon Wells could be dealt to New York. However, Bill Shaikin of the LA Times reports that the Angels will “probably not” send Wells to the Bronx.  

Not only are the Angels unlikely to absorb enough of Wells’ contract to make a trade appealing for the Yankees, Wells provides the Angels with insurance against an injury of their own. The 34-year-old outfielder said he’s focused on the Angels, not the Yankees. 

"It just stinks for them. It has nothing to do with me," Wells said. "I'm wearing an Angels uniform. I want to win in this uniform.”

Wells said he monitors trade rumors without obsessing over them, Shaikin reports. Now entering his third season with the Angels, Wells is set to earn a total of $42MM during the 2013-14 seasons. He posted a .230/.279/.403 batting line with 11 home runs in 262 plate appearances with Los Angeles last year, playing all three outfield positions.

As Tim Dierkes of MLBTR outlined yesterday, the Yankees will start by considering internal outfield options like Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera. Out of options players and fringe outfielders could also capture the attention of Yankees GM Brian Cashman and other Yankees executives this spring.