January 2014

Padres Nearing Minor League Deal With Tony Sipp

The Padres are closing on a minor league deal with southpaw reliever Tony Sipp, according to MLB.com's Corey Brock (on Twitter). Yesterday, it was reported that Sipp, a Bledsoe Brothers client, was nearing a deal with an unknown club.

The 30-year-old Sipp has a career 3.84 ERA with 9.3 K/9, 4.6 BB/9 and a 29.9 percent ground-ball rate. After spending the first four seasons of his career with the Indians, Sipp was included in the three-team deal that sent Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds, Trevor Bauer and Drew Stubbs to the Indians and Didi Gregorius to the D-Backs.

In his lone season with the Snakes, he struggled to a career-worst 4.78 ERA in 37 2/3 innings. Sipp averaged more than five walks per nine innings last season and posted a minuscule 26 percent ground-ball rate, but he also whiffed 10 hitters per nine innings. Should Sipp make the team, his fly-ball tendencies would play significantly better in San Diego's Petco Park than they did in Arizona's Chase Field.

Padres GM Josh Byrnes said left-handed relief was a priority back at the GM Meetings in November, and he's since added Alex Torres in a trade with the Rays and Patrick Schuster via the Rule 5 Draft (acquiring him in a trade from the Astros). Sipp would further add to that depth.

NL West Notes: Burnett, Arroyo, Giants, Belt, Guerrero

Now that A.J. Burnett has decided to pitch in 2014, the Diamondbacks would be interested in adding him to their rotation, tweets Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. However, the D-Backs don't feel that Burnett is interested in pitching for a team on the West coast, according to Piecoro, so there may not be mutual interest. More on the D-Backs and the rest of the NL West below…

  • The Diamondbacks are beginning to kick the tires on Bronson Arroyo, according to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo (on Twitter). Arroyo told ESPN's Jayson Stark earlier this week that he's yet to receive a formal offer from a club.
  • Giants manager Bruce Bochy told Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle that his team is done pursuing free agent starting pitchers (Twitter link). The Giants seem likely to head into the season with Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and one of Ryan Vogelsong or Yusmeiro Petit in the rotation.
  • Schulman also spoke with Brandon Belt, who said he has no ill feelings toward the Giants for submitting a $1.55MM arbitration figure ($2.05MM lower than his own figure) and won't have any hard feelings if they go to a hearing and he listens to the team make a case against him (Sulia link). "I don't think they think little of me," said Belt. "I think that's what teams do. That's the business side of baseball. I think what both sides are trying to do is create a midpoint, maybe. … I know what I wasn't good at, so if I go in there it's not going to hurt my feelings any. If they have to tear me down a little bit, I'll be OK."
  • New Dodgers second baseman Alexander Guerrero tells Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com that shortstop and second base are "completely different" and admits to struggling to adapt to a new culture. However, he called Los Angeles "beautiful" and voiced confidence that he'll be ready to handle second base come Opening Day. Saxon reports that the Dodgers are still looking to add one more infielder to their bench, likely to serve as insurance.
  • Earlier in the week, Troy Renck of the Denver Post wrote that the Rockies have "mild" interest in Ervin Santana but aren't pursuing him at his current price and are also reluctant to surrender the 35th pick in this year's draft.

Randy Wells Eyeing Comeback

Less than 12 months ago, right-hander Randy Wells announced his retirement from the game of baseball. Now, however, the former Cub is looking to make a comeback, he told David Wilhelm of the Belleville News-Democrat.

The 31-year-old Wells recently threw for a Diamondbacks area scout in St. Louis and is hoping to prove his health to teams with the end goal of securing a minor league deal and an invitation to big league Spring Training. Wells admits that his comeback attempt may be "far-fetched," but renewed health has him looking for a chance regardless:

"I can't expect a whole lot. It's not like people are knocking down my door or anything like that. I quit because of injury. Not a lot of people are going to take a flier on a 31-year-old guy just to bring him into minor-league camp to see if he's healthy."

Wells last appeared in the Majors with the Cubs in 2012, posting a 5.34 ERA in 28 2/3 innings before undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow. The ACES client inked a minor league deal with the Rangers in the 2012-13 offseason and made five rocky starts for their Triple-A affiliate last season before deciding to hang it up due to his elbow issues.

Despite the rough couple of seasons, Wells has shown that he can succeed at the big league level. He finished sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2009 after pitching to a 3.05 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 165 1/3 innings for the Cubs. In 529 career big league innings, Wells has a 4.08 ERA with 5.9 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 45.8 percent ground-ball rate. He is interested in coaching if he cannot find an opportunity to pitch, he told Wilhelm.

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Minor Moves: Rox, Gonzalez, Rodriguez, Turpen, Clark

Here are the day's minor transactions:

  • Middle infielder Niuman Romero and backstop Jose Gonzalez have also signed on with the Rockies on minor league pacts, per the MLB.com transactions page. Since cups of coffee in 2009 and 2010, Romero has played in the upper minors. He maintained a .367 OBP in each of the last two years, playing at the Double-A and Triple-A level for the Tigers and Orioles. Romero has spent most of his time at short in recent years. Gonzalez has spent the past eight seasons in the Rockies organization but slashed just .190/.274/.281 in 250 PAs at Triple-A in 2013.
  • The MLB.com transactions page also notes that the Reds have agreed to a minor league deal with Edgar Gonzalez. The right-hander, who turns 31 in February, allowed 15 runs in 18 innings between Toronto and Houston last season but owns a 4.35 ERA in 854 1/3 Triple-A innings.
  • Free agent infielder Josh Rodriguez will join the Marlins on a minor league deal, according to the MLB.com transactions page. The 29-year-old spent the last two seasons with the Mets, putting up a .272/.371/.390 line last year at Double-A. Rodriguez has seen substantial time at short, second, and third.
  • The Twins have re-signed righty Daniel Turpen to a minor league deal, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Turpen, 27, has yet to see MLB action but has been throwing in the high minors since 2010. Splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A for the Twins last year, Turpen put up a 4.98 ERA in 65 innings.
  • The Mets announced that they've signed utilityman Matt Clark to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training (Twitter link). The former Padres farmhand spent the 2013 season with NPB's Chunichi Dragons, batting .238/.328/.457 with 25 homers. The 27-year-old is primarily a first baseman but also has corner outfield experience. In 1045 Triple-A at-bats, Clark is a .291/.365/.502 hitter. He also bats left-handed, which figures to put him behind Ike Davis and Lucas Duda on New York's depth chart.

Steve Adams also contributed to this post.

Rangers To Sign Daniel Bard

The Rangers have reached an agreement with right-hander Daniel Bard, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported earlier today that the two sides were nearing agreement on a minor league contract (also via Twitter). Bard is a client of Relativity Baseball.

The 28-year-old Bard was once a dominant setup man for the Red Sox, but following an outstanding run from 2009-11, Boston tried to move him back to the rotation, which triggered a series of problems for Bard. For one, he seemingly lost all semblance of control, as he's walked 45 batters over his past 60 1/3 Major League innings. He hasn't fared any better in the minors, as he's issued 56 walks in his past 47 1/3 minor league frames.

Bard has also been troubled by injuries. He underwent thoracic outlet syndrome surgery earlier this month, according to Wilson. He also missed time at Triple-A with a strained abdomen last season. Bard will look to fight his way into a bullpen that is headlined by Neftali Feliz, Tanner Scheppers, Joakim Soria, Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts.

Rockies To Sign Nick Masset

After agreeing with Manny Corpas on a minor league deal earlier today, the Rockies have also reached a mionr league agreement with right-hander Nick Masset, reports Thomas Harding of MLB.com. The New York Post's Joel Sherman adds (via Twitter) that Masset's base salary upon making the team would be $1.2MM, and the contract contains an additional $800K worth of incentives.

Masset, 32, hasn't pitched a Major League inning since 2011 due to surgery to repair the anterior capsule in his right shoulder and thoracic outlet syndrome in that same shoulder. Prior to his recent injury troubles, the Jet Sports Management client served as a setup man for the Reds and was a force in the Cincinnati bullpen. Acquired from the White Sox in the trade that sent Ken Griffey Jr. to Chicago, Masset posted a 3.07 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 240 1/3 innings with the Reds from 2008-11. He averaged better than 94 mph on his heater from 2009-11 and owns a strong career ground-ball rate of 49.8 percent.

The Rockies have been said to be on the lookout for bullpen help all offseason, and while there's no guarantee that Masset will be the same arm that he was with the Reds a few years ago, the deal provides Colorado with a great deal of upside. Colorado has also added LaTroy Hawkins and Boone Logan to its relief corps this offseason.

Tigers Avoid Arbitration With Alex Avila

The Tigers announced, via press release, that they have avoided arbitration with catcher Alex Avila by agreeing to a one-year contract for the 2014 season. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Avila receives a $4.15MM salary for 2014, and the Tigers have a $5.4MM club option with a $200K buyout for the 2015 campaign. The option can vest if Avila is named to the 2014 All-Star team, finishes Top 15 in the MVP voting or wins a Silver Slugger award (Twitter links). Avila is a client of Excel Sports Management.

Avila and the Tigers exchanged arb figures two weeks ago, with Avila submitting a $5.35MM salary and the club countering at $3.75MM. That places Avila's $4.35MM guarantee slightly below the $4.55MM midpoint. All figures are higher than the $3.7MM mark projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.

Avila, who turned 27 just two days ago, batted .227/.317/.376 with 11 homers in 102 games (379 plate appearances). It's been a rough couple of seasons for the former fifth-round pick, but in 2011 he met all three of his vesting option criteria when he made the All-Star team, won a Silver Slugger and finished 12th in the AL MVP voting. Avila also played a whopping 133 games at catcher that season, and since that time, he's had some issues with his knee and hamstring. He also missed time in 2013 with a concussion.

The Tigers have likely locked in Avila's final two years of arbitration with this deal, and they've also avoided an arbitration with any of their eligible players, as Avila was their last remaining unsigned case.

Red Sox, Rich Hill Agree To Minor League Deal

The Red Sox and lefty Rich Hill have agreed to a minor league deal that will pay Hill $840K should he make the Major League roster, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (on Twitter). The ACES client also has another $500K worth of appearance-based incentives built into his deal as well as a pair of opt-out clauses, which fall on May 15 and June 30. The soon-to-be 34-year-old can become a free agent on either of those dates if he is not on Boston's 25-man roster.

Hill spent the 2010-12 seasons in the Red Sox organization but saw just 31 2/3 innings of big league action in those three years. Much of his time with Boston was spent recovering from 2011 Tommy John surgery, but he did come back to fire 19 2/3 innings of 1.83 ERA ball for Boston in 2012.

Last offseason, Cleveland picked up Hill on a minor league deal, and Hill wound up throwing 38 2/3 innings out of the Indians' bullpen. The results weren't pretty, however, as he posted a 6.38 ERA with 11.9 K/9 but a bloated 6.8 BB/9 rate. Hill briefly looked like he could be a part of the Cubs rotation following a strong 2007 campaign, but shoulder surgery and Tommy John surgery have halted his career as a starter.

If Hill can keep his command under control, he could carve out a niche as a solid lefty specialist. Opposing left-handers have batted just .215 against him in his career, but he's also walked 14.5 percent of the left-handers he's faced in his Major League career.

Reds To Sign Roger Bernadina

2:10pm: Sheldon has the contract details: Bernadina will make $1MM if he makes the roster. If he does not, he has three opportunities to opt out: March 18, March 28, and July 1.

10:33am: The Reds have agreed to sign outfielder Roger Bernadina to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, reports Mark Sheldon of MLB.com (via Twitter). Cincinnati will be able to control the 29-year-old for one additional year if it wishes, as Bernadina has just under five years of service time.

Bernadina, who swings and throws from the left side, has always offered tantalizing athleticism. He seemed to put things together in 2012 with the Nationals. Over 261 plate appearances, Bernadina slashed .291/.372/.405 with 15 stolen bases. With his solid outfield play factored in, Bernadina was worth 1.7 fWAR to the Nats. Last year, however, he took a step back, ultimately losing his roster spot in D.C. and signing on with the Phillies. For 2013, Bernadina ended up with a .181/.250/.295 triple-slash in 250 disappointing plate appearances, and swiped just four bases after notching at least 15 for three successive seasons.

For the Reds, Bernadina may be more of a depth piece than a likely threat to earn a roster spot. Presumably, he takes the opportunity that would have been given Grady Sizemore. Like Sizemore, Bernadina brings the speed and experience to play center field. But top prospect Billy Hamilton is expected to take the starting spot there. And three other players — Chris Heisey, Skip Schumaker, and Jay Bruce – have at least some experience playing center, which seems to leave enough flexibility to avoid using an active roster spot on the new signee. Of course, an injury or a step back for Hamilton could open the door for the Curacoan native.

Angels Avoid Arbitration With David Freese

The Angels have avoided arbitration with third baseman David Freese on a one-year, $5.05MM deal, reports Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter). The two sides bridged one of the largest relative gaps among big-value arbitration cases: Freese filed at $6MM, while the team countered at $4.1MM.

MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had pegged Freese's arbitration value at $4.4MM, which he beat by a fairly substantial margin. The Halos picked up Freese in an offseason swap for Peter Bourjos, who avoided arbitration with the Cardinals for $1.2MM. The third bagger will reach free agency after the 2015 season.

With Freese and Kevin Jepsen settling today, the Angels have no more remaining arbitration cases.