May 2013

Quick Hits: Ramirez, Brewers, Upton, Red Sox

Here's tonight's look around baseball..

  • Aramis Ramirez may be a popular name in trade rumors this deadline, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com. The Brewers may look to move the veteran third baseman, with the club struggling in last place in the NL Central. Ramirez understands the speculation, saying "It’s part of baseball. When teams don’t perform, you see changes." The 34-year-old is signed through 2014, and has played well despite injuries this season, slashing .305/.387/.512 in 93 plate appearances. 
  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told reporters that he has discussed sending major offseason acquisition B.J. Upton to Triple-A to work out if his current struggles, according to an Associated Press report. Gonzalez acknowledges that there may be some obstacles involved, "I think there's some logistics — contractual things and that sort of stuff — that they might not be able to do it that easy."
  • In his latest mailbag, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe answered questions about possible trade deadline targets for the Red Sox, as well as Jacoby Ellsbury. Cafardo doesn't feel the club needs to make a deal to improve its pitching, but he did state that Jonathan Papelbon continues to be a likely target.  Meanwhile, Cafardo thinks that it would still take a major contract to keep Ellsbury in Boston past this season.  
  • Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com looks back at the Nationals' decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg in light of the young starter’s latest injury scare.  Morosi feels that last season may have been the Nationals best shot at a World Series, and wonders what could have been done to best utilize Strasburg’s prized arm.

AL Central Notes: Twins, Wang, Iwakuma, Brett

While the Twins have struggled to be contenders on the field, the club once again figures to be players in the international market.  The team sits at 23-28, good for fourth place in the division.  Here is a look around the AL Central..

  • The Twins are not among the six teams interested in Chien-Ming Wang, tweets Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500.  Wang would be available if he chooses to opt out of his minor league contract with the Yankees today. The right-hander has reportedly intrigued several clubs after pitching to a 2.65 ERA, 4.1 K/9, and 1.6 BB/9 in 51 Triple-A innings this season.  
  • Wolfson also issued a reminder of the Twins’ failed pursuits of Hisashi Iwakuma , who will start against them tonight for the Mariners (Twitter Link).  The Twins were twice unable to land Iwakuma, bidding unsuccessfully for the right-hander during his posting process, as well as in free agency.  The 32-year-old has pitched to a 2.86 ERA, 7.7 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9 in 198 innings since coming to the big leagues in 2012.  
  • The Royal’s appointment of George Brett to hitting coach could signal a potential move into a managerial role, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  Heyman cites sources who say the Brett hiring could work as a “trial balloon”, or even “step one” for the Hall of Famer.  But while the club is clearly disappointed with their slow start, Royals GM Dayton Moore reportedly “isn't there yet” on firing manager Ned Yost.

West Notes: Beckett, Dodgers, Puig, A’s

With the Angels welcoming back a healthy Jered Weaver in their attempt to turn things around, the Dodgers continue to receive more disappointing injury news. Here’s a look around baseball’s west divisions..

  • Dodgers right-hander Josh Beckett could be considering retirement, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.  Beckett’s recent bout with finger numbness apparently has the 33-year-old considering his future, “Any time something like that happens to your arm or you start losing feeling and stuff … you think about it for sure.” 
  • Promoting top prospect Yasiel Puig is just what the Dodgers need, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  Puig could showcase his five-tool potential with Matt Kemp on the DL.  Since signing as a high-profile Cuban free agent last year, Puig has hit for a .333/.411/.622 line in 258 minor league plate appearances.
  • The Athletics sit in second place in the AL West, but one scout thinks the team can accomplish much more, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney (subscription required).  The club is currently 31-24, and Olney notes that this is a lineup where Yoenis Cespedes is the only player approaching star status.  The scout says the A’s are his pick “to win the league”, citing their roster flexibility and depth.


Draft Notes: Astros, Moran, Gray

Although it has been rumored that the Astros may draft North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran with the No. 1 overall pick, it's an unlikely scenario, according to Jim Callis of Baseball America.  While Moran could be signed to an under-slot deal as the Astros did last year with top selection Carlos Correa, Moran lacks the legitimate No.1 talent of Correa.  Callis argues that although skimping on their first round pick would allow the club to spend more in other parts of the draft, he does not think the talent in later rounds is worthy of large bonuses.  Here is a look at some more news from June’s amateur draft..

  • Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle tweets that Jonathan Gray tops the Astros draft board with fellow right-hander Mark Appel a close second.  Sluggers Kris Bryant and Moran round out their current top four according to Smith.
  • Front office personnel have to adapt to changes in the draft process, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.  General Manager Jack Zduriencik of the Mariners and Rays Executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman have adjusted to new rules concerning spending, the ability to trade picks, and may soon have to navigate an international draft as well.  Although an international draft will not place until at least 2015, Friedman is ready for that type of event, which in his opinion would alter “the game theory of the draft.”
  • Gonzaga left-hander Marco Gonzales is a likely first-rounder, reports Terry Frei of the Denver Post. The Colorado native was selected by the Rockies in the 29th round in 2010, but has significantly improved his draft stock since then, likely falling somewhere between the Rockies' first two picks at No. 3 and No. 42.

Max Fogle contributed to this post.


Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Kickham, Brown, Indians

On this date in 1965, an all-switch-hitting infield started a big league game for the first time ever.  In the nightcap of a twin bill, the Dodgers, with Wes Parker at first base, Jim Lefebvre at second, Maury Wills at shortstop and Jim Gilliam at third, lost to the visiting Reds, 6-1.  Here's this week's look around the baseball blogosphere..

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Zach can be reached at ZachBBWI@gmail.com.  


Manaea Won’t Come At Discounted Price

It wasn't long ago that Indiana State left-hander Sean Manaea was considered to be a potential No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. Manaea dominated the Cape Cod League last summer, and scouts were enamored by the big lefty's size, velocity, slider and command. This season, a hip flexor issue has led to less-than-stellar results, and it's caused his draft stock to slip. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo writes that Manaea could be the biggest wild card in the draft and makes the near-impossible task of creating an accurate mock draft that much more difficult.

Mayo also spoke with Manaea's advisor — the infamous Scott Boras. Boras told Mayo that teams will not get Manaea at a discount if he falls in the draft, because the hip issue isn't serious nor is it permanent:

"I’m going to put a value on these kids, because medically, I know they’re fine. It’s illustrated it’s temporary and will be resolved. There’s no shoulder or elbow problem. He had a hip flexor problem. He was instructed, you can go pitch, you’re not going to hurt yourself.”

Boras suggested that it would be "crazy" for teams to let this issue get in the way of drafting Manaea. As many have come to expect from the always quotable Boras, he even tried to spin it as a positive by pointing out that the injury limited the mileage on Manaea's arm by limiting his innings.

In Mayo's most recent mock draft, he had Manaea going to the Cardinals at No. 19 overall. The recommended bonus for that slot, he notes, is $2.0558MM, but if Boras' comments are any indication, Manaea will require a far greater bonus to sign.

If he falls far enough, Manaea strikes me as an ideal target for a team that drafts a player who can be signed significantly below slot-value with its first pick. Should Manaea fall out of the first round, a team could employ a strategy similar to that of the Astros last season, when they signed Carlos Correa well below slot value at No. 1 overall and then landed Lance McCullers Jr. in the supplemental round and Rio Ruiz in the fourth round. All of that, of course, is speculation. As Mayo noted, Manaea argubaly represents the draft's biggest wild card.


Minor Moves: Ortiz, Robinson, Pirates, Green, Wimberly

Here are your minor moves from around the league for Friday…

  • The Blue Jays have announced that Ramon Ortiz and Clint Robinson cleared waivers and were outrighted off the 40-man roster, per Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson Smith (on Twitter). Ortiz was outrighted to Triple-A Buffalo, while Robinson was outrighted to Double-A New Hampshire. Both were designated for assignment earlier this week.
  • Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal tweets that the Pirates have acquired Triple-A right-hander Graham Godfrey from the Red Sox in exchange for cash considerations. The 28-year-old Godfrey has amassed 46 Major League innings — all with the Athletics – and posted a 5.09 ERA with 4.5 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9.
  • The Pirates have acquired Triple-A lefty Atahualpa Severino from the Royals in exchange for cash considerations, tweets Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. Severino, 28, has a 3.40 ERA, 7.9 K/9 and 5.4 BB/9 in 156 1/3 career innings at Triple-A. He received a brief taste of the Major Leagues with the Nationals back in 2011, totaling 4 2/3 innings of relief.
  • The Marlins have outrighted infielder Nick Green to Triple-A New Orleans, according to the PCL's Transactions page, meaning that he cleared waivers after being designated for assignment Wednesday.
  • The Braves released minor league outfielder Corey Wimberly, according to the International League Transaction log. The 29-year-old hit .234/.268/.351 in 25 games (83 plate appearances) for Triple-A Gwinnett this season.
  • The Indians announced (via Twitter) that they have signed right-hander Chris Jakubauskas and assigned him to Triple-A Columbus. The 34-year-old has a 5.58 ERA in 166 big league innings and last saw the Majors with the Orioles in 2011. Jakubauskas spent 2012 in the D-backs and Blue Jays organizations, and he appeared in eight Triple-A games for the Brewers this season. He has a 3.75 ERA in 175 career innings at Triple-A.

Phillies Release Chad Durbin

The Phillies announced that they have released 35-year-old right-hander Chad Durbin. In his place, left-hander Joe Savery will be recalled and added to the Major League bullpen.

Durbin totaled 16 innings out of Philadelphia's bullpen this season but allowed 16 earned runs on 25 hits and nine walks. He did manage to strike out 16 batters in that time, continuing a trend of increased strikeouts over the past few years. Durbin signed a one-year deal worth $1.1MM that contained a club option for 2014 back in January.

In parts of 14 Major League seasons between the Royals, Indians, Phillies, Braves, Tigers and Diamondbacks, the Louisiana native has a 5.03 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9.

The 27-year-old Savery has a 4.03 ERA with a 29-to-8 K/BB ratio in 22 1/3 innings for Triple-A Lehigh Valley this season. He has appeared in parts of three Major League seasons with the Phillies after being selected 19th overall in the 2007 draft.


MLB Won’t Implement International Draft In 2014

1:09pm: Major League Baseball has officially announced that there will not be an international draft in 2014, per Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times (on Twitter).

12:35pm: Passan's sources tell him that MLB and the MLBPA are planning on tabling the discussion until after the current CBA expires in 2016. That raises the question as to whether or not baseball's next commissioner will be as adamant about implementing a worldwide draft as current commissioner Bud Selig is (Twitter links). Selig, of course, is expected to retire in January 2015 after turning down a five-year contract in lieu of a two-year deal.

11:25am: Major League Baseball is expected to announce today that it was not able to reach an agreement during negotiations with the MLBPA regarding an international draft for the 2014 season, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. The two sides were working with a June 1 deadline for an agreement.

Negotiations are set to continue, and an international draft is "considered something of a certainty" at some point, according to Passan. Detractors of the draft feel that it would dry up the pipeline of international talent, as has been the case with Puerto Rico since it became included within the annual Rule 4 draft. League officials in favor of an international draft argue that the current system is rampant with identity fraud and encourages PED use among teenagers.

Talks of negotiations and the June 1 deadline were reported back in mid-March. According to those reports, there was a possibility of incorporating international players into the existing draft but also of holding a separate draft for foreign prospects. ESPN's Buster Olney added that MLB was willing to make significant concessions to make the draft happen, such as increasing the minimum salary for players and moving up the arbitration threshhold.


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Six Teams Interested In Chien-Ming Wang

Six teams have shown in right-hander Chien-Ming Wang, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (on Twitter). However, at this point the right-hander is unlikely to opt out of his minor league deal with the Yankees because none of the six suitors are willing to offer him a Major League contract.

The Taiwanese right-hander has a clause in his contract that allows him to opt out today if he wishes, but it was reported earlier in the week that the only way he would do that would be for a Major League roster spot on another team. In 51 innings for the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate, Wang has posted a 2.65 ERA with 4.1 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9. The consensus from scouts, however, has been that his stuff doesn't look nearly as good as it did during his peak years with the Yankees.

Wang's contract has three more opt-out dates: June 30, Aug. 10 and Aug. 31. The Orioles are one team who has reportedly shown interest in the 33-year-old, but that was said to be more due diligence than genuine intrigue.