May 2013

Twins Notes: Draft, International Free Agents

Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN has a tremendous amount of information on the upcoming MLB draft in the most recent edition of his weekly "Scoops" column. Here are some highlights from his highly informative piece (though there is much more to see in the full column)…

  • Twins VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff spoke with Wolfson at length Wednesday afternoon and said that the team's draft board for the No. 4 overall pick is down to four players: "We have enough guys we have no problem taking," Radcliff said. "Dollars, risk, creativity, we can go many ways."
  • Wolfson adds that at least one of the potential players would be someone the Twins could sign well below slot value, in order to spend more heavily on their second- and third-round picks. He adds that that player is likely high school catcher Reese McGuire, as has been rumored occasionally over the past few weeks. Asked about McGuire, Radcliff side-stepped the question a bit: "Well, we want a catcher every draft," he said. "Looking for a star catcher is the hardest thing to find."
  • The Twins have had a scout in attendance to see "every pitch" from Kohl Stewart over the past couple of years. Radcliff and scouting director Deron Johnson have seen him multiple times.
  • The Twins have a great relationship with Matt Sosnick and Adam Karon, who are advising McGuire and Nevada right-hander Braden Shipley. They're believed to be more interested in McGuire than Shipley. Sosnick, the agent for current Twins Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit, also advises high school arms Matt Krook and Andrew Church, plus San Francisco right-hander Alex Balog and Cal infielder Andrew Knapp. Each of those prospects ranks in the Top 100, per Baseball America.
  • Johnson has seen Arkansas righty Ryne Stanek numerous times, and the Twins have done more work on him than any team in this year's top 10.
  • High school lefty Hunter Green, who ranks as the draft's No. 31 prospect (per BA), is among the prospects who will attend a workout for the Twins on Monday. High school outfielder Austin Meadows did not attend a recent workout the team held for Georgia-area prospects.
  • The Twins aren't likely to pursue Minnesota high school outfielder Ryan Boldt with their second pick (No. 43). They will look at another hometown product in Gophers lefty Tom Windle at that spot, however. Boldt was considered a first-round talent before a meniscus tear ended his season. He hopes to be ready to play by August. 
  • The Twins have the fourth-largest pool to sign international prospects this year, and Radcliff says they will be "major players" in this year's market. Wolfson adds that the Twins very much like Dominican outfielder Lewin Diaz.
  • The team didn't have scouts in attendance to watch Japanese hurlers Shohei Otani and Masahiro Tanaka in Japan this past week.

Quick Hits: Wang, Padres, Bochy, Tigers, Peavy

Before Jake Peavy was traded to the White Sox in July 2009, he almost arrived in Chicago a few months earlier as a member of the Cubs.  Peavy was the centerpiece of a proposed trade between the Cubs and Padres (and possibly also the Orioles and Braves) during the 2008-09 offseason, and as Peavy tells CSN Chicago's Chuck Garfien, the deal seemed to be virtually finalized before either then-Cubs owner Sam Zell or then-Padres CEO Sandy Alderson pulled the plug on the blockbuster.

Here are some more items from around baseball…

  • Chien-Ming Wang can opt out of his minor league deal with the Yankees on Friday, and the Orioles are one of several teams scouting the right-hander, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports.  The Orioles' interest appears to be only of the due-diligence variety, as Connolly says the team doesn't "appear to be too interested," plus Wang won't exercise his opt-out clause unless he sees a clear opportunity at a Major League starting job with another team.
  • The Padres should extend their entire starting infield, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune opines.  I'm not sure if Yonder Alonso, Everth Cabrera or Jedd Gyorko had proven themselves as deserving as Chase Headley of a multiyear commitment, nor are the Padres in any real need to lock the three younger players up.  Cabrera is already controlled through 2016, Alonso through 2017 and Gyorko through at least 2018 and perhaps longer if he attains Super Two status.
  • Before the Giants' win over the Athletics today, Giants manager Bruce Bochy told reporters (including John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle) that the club wasn't planning any significant changes in light of its recent slump.  The Giants' victory today was just their sixth in their last 16 games, and the World Series champions are 29-25 on the season.
  • John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press discusses a number of Tigers topics during a live chat with readers, including whether the Tigers might yet make moves to upgrade their bullpen or catching or if the club will extend Jhonny Peralta's contract.
  • In another live chat, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News feels that the outfield is a long-term issue for the Rangers (David Murphy and Nelson Cruz are free agents after this season) and the team could address this problem by using Jurickson Profar to acquire Giancarlo Stanton.  Grant also thinks the Rangers could attempt to acquire Cliff Lee this summer, though it will depend on how Martin Perez and Colby Lewis perform after they return from the DL.

Zimmermann Will Wait Until Offseason To Negotiate

Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann recently shot down rumors that his representatives at SFX and the Nats were exploring a multiyear extension, and the pitcher expanded on that statement by telling Adam Kilgore and James Wagner of the Washington Post that he doesn't expect contract negotiations to get going until the offseason.

We talked a little bit in Spring Training,” Zimmermann said. “My agent and I said once the season starts, we’re going to wait until after the season. Hopefully, we’ll maybe spring something up at the end of the season or going into next season or something."

It was rumored last winter that the Nationals were interested in locking Zimmermann up in a long-term agreement but the two sides instead just settled on a one-year, $5.35MM contract for 2013.  Zimmermann, a Super Two player, still has two remaining years of arbitration eligibility and is eligible for free agency after the 2015 season when he is 29 years old. 

MLBTR's Steve Adams recently speculated that a Zimmermann extension could take the form of a five-year, $60MM-$65MM deal.  That said, Adams noted that "Zimmermann's case is unprecedented to some extent," and the right-hander could earn more given the new collective bargaining agreement and the fact that the Nationals (like every team) has more money to spend due to TV contract money.  These factors could bump the value of a five-year deal up to the $75MM-$80MM range, not to mention the fact that Zimmermann has raised his own value by pitching like a Cy Young candidate thus far in 2013.

If Zimmermann was confident enough to put off long-term contract talks for now, it seems as if he's also confident in his current and future performance to only accept an extension on his own terms.

I’d be interested, see what they have to say. At the end of the day, it’s got to be the right deal for me," Zimmermann said.  "I’m not just going to take a deal that’s team friendly. It’s got to be fair."



Minor Moves: Lambin, Andino, Putnam, Bowden

Today's minor moves…

  • The Royals signed third baseman Chase Lambin to a minor league deal and assigned him to Triple-A, Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reports (Twitter link).  Lambin, 33, had been playing for the independent Sugar Land Skeeters, the latest stop in a 12-year minor league career that has seen him play in the Mets', Marlins', Nationals' and Twins' farm systems, plus a year in Japan with the Chiba Lotte Marines.  Lambin is still looking for his first cup of coffee in the majors after posting a .270/.343/.437 line over 4475 minor league PA.
  • Mariners infielder Robert Andino has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports (via Twitter).  Andrino was designated for assignment (in rather complicated fashion) by the M's last week.  The Orioles considered making an offer for Andino, Connolly reports, but the club decided against bringing back their former utilityman.
  • The Cubs have selected the contract of right-hander Zach Putnam and added him to the 40-man roster, the team announced.  Kyuji Fujikawa was moved to the 60-day DL and Alex Burnett was sent to Triple-A in a pair of corresponding moves.  Putnam has a 3.26 ERA and a 10.2 K/9 in 19 1/3 relief innings in Triple-A this year and a 4.82 ERA in 9 1/3 career Major League innings with the Indians and Rockies.
  • Reliever Michael Bowden cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A by the Cubs, according to the Pacific Coast League transactions page.  He accepted the assignment, notes Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.  Having been outrighted before, Bowden had the right to elect free agency, but then his contract would have been terminated.  The 26-year-old posted a 3.78 ERA, 3.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, and 35.3% groundball rate with no home runs allowed in 16 2/3 relief innings for the Cubs before being designated for assignment on Tuesday of last week to open a roster spot for Matt Garza.  The Red Sox drafted Bowden 47th overall in 2005 as part of the compensation for the loss of free agent Derek Lowe.  He was chosen five picks after Clay Buchholz, who was part of the compensation for the team's loss of Pedro Martinez.
  • Eight players currently reside in DFA limbo: Ben Francisco and David Huff of the Yankees, Francisco Martinez of the Mariners, Edinson Rincon of the Padres, Ramon Ortiz and Clint Robinson of the Blue Jays, Nick Green of the Marlins, and Mark Lowe of the Angels.

MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post


Rosenthal On Fregosi, Upton, Indians, Rockies

The hiring of Royals legend George Brett as the team's new hitting coach could buy manager Ned Yost some extra time, a rival executive tells FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, as Royals executives will want to see how Yost adjusts to such a notable change to his coaching staff.  If the Royals do fire their manager, however, scouts have rumored that Jim Fregosi could be Yost's replacement.  Fregosi's son is a special assistant to Royals GM Dayton Moore.

Here's more from Rosenthal, via his latest Hot Corner video

  • In the wake of B.J. Upton's five-year, $75.25MM deal with the Braves last November, Rosenthal said a number of veteran players expressed surprise about the deal.  The general consensus was summed up as, "How can that guy get this much money?  He really hasn't proven all that much."  Upton's .146/.232/.247 line makes him Rosenthal's biggest disappointment thus far in the 2013 season.
  • Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, meanwhile, is the most improved player of the 2013 season.  Dan Duquette attributes Davis' success to his swinging at more strikes and being more selective at the plate.
  • The Indians and Rockies are somewhat surprising contenders and the big question for both clubs is if they'll have the pitching to stay in their respective pennant races.  Rosenthal figures Cleveland is the slightly more likely of the two to acquire another starter, as Colorado has Roy Oswalt and Double-A right-hander Chad Bettis as possible internal reinforcements. 
  • The Indians' and Rockies' ability to add players and payroll at the trade deadline will mostly be determined by how much revenue they can generate through attendance in the next two months.

Draft Notes: Moran, Gray, Astros, Appel, Twins

Third baseman Colin Moran is shooting up draft boards and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com hears that he could even go first overall to the Astros.  Could the UNC product jump past both Jonathan Gray and Mark Appel to be the top choice in the 2013 draft?  Here's today's draft links..

  • Senior scouting officials from the Astros met with Gray during the recent Big 12 Tournament, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports.
  • Appel made the right call in not taking the Pirates' offer in 2012 and re-entering the draft this year, suggest sources of ESPN's Jason Churchill.
  • The latest mock draft from Keith Law of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd) has Moran slated to go to the Astros.  Law doesn't think Houston will make a formal decision on the pick until Thursday, but the buzz within the industry has them leaning towards Moran.  The reasoning is that the third baseman's next-best alternative is to go No. 5 to Cleveland, where his slot value is less than $3.8MM.  Because of that, the Astros could offer him about $4MM or so and know he'd accept it.  The value of the No. 1 pick is $7.2MM, which would leave the Astros with enough to grab top talents who fall to picks 40 and 74.  They could take Gray but they wouldn't pocket much by doing that and they're not on Clint Frazier or Kris Bryant.  Appel doesn't seem to be one of their top two options either.  Also noteworthy – Law's scenario has Gray falling to the Indians at No. 5.
  • Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com's mock draft has Gray going No. 1 followed by Appel and Bryant.  At No. 4, Mayo now has right-hander Kohl Stewart going to the Twins.  Yesterday, Twins VP Mike Radcliff told Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN that he won't rule out Stewart due to his diabetes.

Twins Notes: Buxton, Minors, Morneau, Gibson

Kyle Lohse has appeared in 192 games since he last wore a Twins uniform in 2006, but the veteran righty is facing his old team for the very first time tonight when the Brewers visit Target Field.  Should Lohse earn the victory tonight, he will become just the 13th pitcher in history to record a win against all 30 current teams.  Here are some more news items out of the Twin Cities…

  • Led by top prospects Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Alex Meyer, the Twins' farm system drew high praise from an NL general manager and a rival scout, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports.  Buxton, in particular, drew raves and was compared to such stars as Matt Kemp and Mike Trout.  "[Buxton] is a better athlete than A-Rod. He's a crazy athlete," the scout said. "These guys come once every 10 years, every 20 years. If you see this guy run, it's unreal. Five steps and he's on the bag."
  • The Twins "hold the power" when it comes to Justin Morneau's future, 1500ESPN.com's Brandon Warne writes.  This is Morneau's last year under contract and given his performance (a .735 OPS through 213 PA), the Twins could look to internal options or sign a cheap free agent rather than bring Morneau back.
  • Right-hander Kyle Gibson was hit hard in a start for Triple-A Rochester today, putting an end to rumors that he would soon get called up to the Majors, 1500ESPN.com's Phil Mackey writes.  Twins GM Terry Ryan hinted earlier this week that Gibson could be in line for a quick promotion with another strong appearance though this setback will likely keep him in Rochester for another week or two.  Gibson has posted a 2.82 ERA, 3.12 K/BB ratio and a 7.9 K/9 rate at Triple-A this season and entered the year as a consensus top #50 prospect (ranked 41st by Keith Law, 45th by MLB.com, 49th by Baseball America) in the sport.

NL Central Notes: Pirates, Feldman, Mujica, Francisco

The Pirates' record sits at 33-20, and while Fangraphs' Dave Cameron doesn't think the Bucs will keep playing .623 ball for the rest of the season, the team's expected regression shouldn't be enough to keep them from playoff contention, or at the very least their first winning record since 1992.  Of course, last year's Pirates also looked good before completely falling apart after the All-Star break, so Pittsburgh fans shouldn't count their chickens until their club actually posts that 82nd victory. 

Here's the latest from the NL Central…

  • Cubs right-hander Scott Feldman could be a major trade chip this summer, ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine writes.  An AL scout tells Levine that Feldman is "one of those pitchers that you don't get that excited about unless you watch him over a period of starts.  He has really commanded his pitches this season and you see the confidence and consistent outings from him."  Feldman signed a one-year, $6MM contract with Chicago last winter and has rebuilt his value by posting a 2.82 ERA, 7.57 K/9, 2.68 K/BB and 50.6% ground ball rate through 10 starts.  (The advanced metrics indicate a bit of luck, as Feldman also has a 3.92 FIP, 3.78 xFIP and a .254 BABIP.)  The Cubs "may be reluctant" to move Feldman, Levine notes, though they would likely make a trade in exchange for a quality prospect.
  • The Cardinals' trade for Edward Mujica last July has turned into a steal, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes.  The Cards added Mujica as bullpen depth last year and he has surprisingly blossomed into an elite closer after the club's other end-game options all had injury or performance issues.  Zack Cox, a 2010 first-round draft pick, was sent to the Marlins for Mujica and is hitting .298/.398/.381 at Double-A Jacksonville.  MLBTR's Steve Adams recently looked at how Mujica's performance has greatly enhanced his free agent stock for the coming offseason.
  • John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link) doesn't see the Reds making a play for Juan Francisco now that the third baseman has been designated for assignment by the Braves.  Francisco was originally signed by the Reds and played three seasons in Cincinnati before being dealt to Atlanta for J.J. Hoover in April 2012.  The left-handed hitting Francisco makes sense on paper as a complement to Todd Frazier, though I'd suspect the Reds would prefer to keep Frazier playing every day.

Carl Pavano Out For The Season

Carl Pavano will not be physically able to play this season after January's snow shoveling accident required the removal of his spleen, agent Dave Pepe tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.  "His hope is that he can give it a try next year," Pepe texted to Heyman.

Pavano's accident was no laughing matter – one of his lungs collapsed and doctors removed 6.5 liters of blood from his chest cavity before his spleen could be removed.  "I was hours away from going into cardiac arrest and probably wouldn't even be here," Pavano told Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in February.

Pavano, 37, has a 4.39 career ERA in 1788 2/3 innings for the Expos, Marlins, Yankees, Indians, and Twins spanning 14 seasons.  His 108 career wins rank fifth among those born in Connecticut, with Charles Nagy the modern leader at 129.


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Braves Designate Juan Francisco For Assignment

The Braves announced they have designated third baseman Juan Francisco to open a roster spot for southpaw Alex Wood, tweets David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Francisco began the season in a third base platoon with Chris Johnson, and even started three of the last five games at the hot corner.

Francisco, 25, hit .237/.281/.420 in 320 plate appearances spanning 2012-13 for the Braves.  They had acquired him in an April 2012 trade with the Reds, for reliever J.J. Hoover.  Signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Reds in 2004, Francisco hit the prospect radar a few years later.  Baseball America praised his arm and big raw power, questioning his aggressive approach at the plate.  The Braves are talking multiple clubs about potential Francisco trades, notes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, which was later confirmed by manager Fredi Gonzalez.

Wood, 22, was the Braves' second round pick last year.  He'll be the fifth player from the 2012 draft to reach the Majors, along with pitchers Michael Wacha of the Cardinals (who debuts tonight), Kevin Gausman of the Orioles, Paco Rodriguez of the Dodgers, and Michael Roth of the Angels.  Wood, ranked seventh among Braves prospects by Baseball America prior to the season, made ten strong starts at Double-A but will work out of the big club's bullpen on what Danny Knobler of CBS Sports calls the "Chris Sale plan."  If Wood succeeds in the relief role, it may lessen the Braves' need for outside relief help in the wake of the loss of lefty relievers Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters to Tommy John surgery.  Before the season, BA wrote of Wood, "With a better breaking ball, he could become a solid No. 3 starter."