May 2014

Rosenthal On Marlins, Rays, White Sox, Reds

Here’s the latest on the developing trade market, courtesy of Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (video link):

  • The most likely scenario at this point is for the Marlins to be aggressive, early buyers, says Rosenthal. With the club still very much in the NL East mix and possessing confidence in the ability of its young arms to fill the void created by Jose Fernandez‘s UCL tear, Rosenthal says that Miami may not to wait for the trade deadline to make moves to bolster its roster.
  • Concurring with a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter), Rosenthal says that the Fish could look to add a strong reliever to slot in front of Steve Cishek. While the bullpen has not been a problem area on the whole, Cishek has easily paced the rest of the group in performance, and the potential loss of Carter Capps elevates the team’s need.
  • On the other hand, the Rays could consider moving a series of veterans if they become sellers, according to Rosenthal. Having dropped well off the pace (9.5 games back in the AL East), Tampa Bay could potentially deal away not only ace David Price but also players like Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce.
  • Another team worth watching closely, in Rosenthal’s estimation, is the White Sox. While Chicago will surely wait to see how the team performs with Chris Sale and Jose Abreu back in action, Rosenthal says that middle infielders Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham could be attractive to clubs like the Blue JaysGiants, and others who may be in the market for second basemen.
  • Meanwhile, Rosenthal says that the underperforming Reds “could listen” on starters Mat Latos, Mike Leake, or even Johnny Cueto. That trio is under control only through next season, and it may prove too expensive to retain more than one or two of them for the long haul. Rosenthal also suggests that there is at least some possibility that Cincinnati could field offers on closer Aroldis Chapman.

Poll: Where Will Kendrys Morales Sign?

MLBTR’s pages are increasingly loaded with draft news, which means that June 5 is fast approaching. Of course, that also means that we are just days away from Kendrys Morales becoming the first ever player to wait out the draft and thereby relieve himself of the compensation that attached upon declining a qualifying offer. (Technically, teams can sign him without sacrificing a pick after the completion of the draft’s first day.)

So, with Morales set to become a true free agent — one who can sign with any team on equal terms, without any strings attached — where is he most likely to go? I’ll list the seven teams that seem, in my view, to be the most compelling possibilities, along with the ever-popular wild card option. (Choiced presented in no particular order; poll choices randomized; feel free to register complaints with my selections in the comments.)

  • Yankees — We’ll start with the team most recently linked to Morales. The presence of Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira complicates this match-up, although Teixeira did suffer a potentially troubling set-back today. On the other hand, so did Michael Pineda, which emphasizes further that the rotation is likely a greater need (if not also the infield mix). Owner Hal Steinbrenner has indicated that the club could still unleash its vaunted spending capacity over the summer, but it remains an open question whether the cash would be better spent in other areas.
  • Orioles — Baltimore was long viewed as a potential Morales suitor, at least before signing Nelson Cruz. As good as Cruz has been at the plate, he’s been terrible in the field, making it questionable whether the club would be interested in moving him to the outfield on a regular basis (he’s been splitting time about evenly thus far). The elbow questions surrounding catcher Matt Wieters also presents a barrier, as he may need to spend some or all of his time in the DH role. Indeed, executive vice president Dan Duquette has strongly downplayed the likelihood of a Morales signing for those very reasons.
  • Rangers — The fit here is obvious: Morales represents a big left-handed bat who could pick up some of the slack for the injured Prince Fielder. But the club, which entered the year with a record $133.5MM payroll, has been treading water for much of the season after being crushed by injuries to Fielder, Jurickson Profar, and seemingly half of the pitching staff. Indeed, much of the latest discussion has centered upon whether, and if so how, Texas might turn into a trade-deadline seller, with GM Jon Daniels saying recently that the organization is not ready to give up but declining to rule out the possibility of making “adjustments” to the organization’s approach if the team falls further back.
  • Angels — Could a return to Morales’s original employer be in the offing? The Halos rejected the overtures of agent Scott Boras back in December, with GM Jerry Dipoto noting that the team was uninterested in sacrificing a first-round pick and ultimately signing the grizzled Raul Ibanez. But the draft pick is no longer an issue, Ibanez has been poor, and the Angels are finally in position to make a real run at the post-season. Then again, prospect C.J. Cron has mashed in his first taste of the bigs and the team has something of a glut of talented outfielders in the fold (including the rehabbing Josh Hamilton) who could presumably absorb some plate appearances at DH.
  • Athletics — Oakland always feels like a wild card. There may not be a need here, strictly speaking, but the A’s could see a chance to add value by plugging Morales in the DH slot. The hitter-only slot in the lineup has been given most often to Alberto Callaspo, who has been below average with the bat, with players like John Jaso and Yoenis Cespedes also getting significant time away from the field. But will the team have room to add that kind of payroll after entering the season well above its usual spending levels (or, if not, would it be able/inclined to create space via trade)? And would GM Billy Beane want to add a full-time DH to a roster that has thrived on matchups and flexibility?
  • Mariners — A return to Seattle seemed the logical choice from the get-go, as the club plainly values Morales. That likelihood dissipated with the acquisitions of Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, but injury issues for that pair — along with an underwhelming start for Justin Smoak — has led to renewed suggestions of a reunion. On the other hand, payroll issues could still pose a barrier for a club that is looking up at three AL West competitors in the standings, just as it is in this post. And if this was a fit from the M’s perspective, why did the club seemingly decline to pursue a pre-draft deal (as the Red Sox did with Stephen Drew)?
  • Brewers — The only National League club on my list, Milwaukee entered the year with big questions at first base. While Mark Reynolds has been adequate, Lyle Overbay (the left-handed side of that platoon) has struggled. Meanwhile, the front-running Brewers could (and probably should) be looking to upgrade their roster in any way possible to fend off a tough Cardinals squad. This fit would be close to perfect, were it not for the fact that Morales is considered a liability at first.
  • Other — Why limit ourselves? There are other teams that could potentially benefit from Morales, at least in a vacuum, though in each case there may be lesser motivation and greater barriers than in the situations of those teams named above. It would be rather surprising, but perhaps not outside the realm of possibility, for teams such as the Indians, Twins, Pirates, or Padres to enter the mix. Of course, none of the clubs just listed sat closer than seven games out of first (or 3.5 out of the Wild Card) entering today’s action. In some respects, their involvement — or that of unnamed others, if injuries were to intervene — could potentially to depend upon whether Morales looks to sign quickly or instead prefers to let things develop over the summer.

Quick Hits: Holt, Astros, Bell, Simmons

Infielder Brock Holt was surprised when the Pirates traded him to Boston before last season, but he’s doing his best to provide the Red Sox with value in the deal, writes WEEI.com’s Katie Morrison. “I was expecting to go to big league camp with them [the Pirates] with the chance to make the team,” says Holt. “€œThen a couple days after Christmas, Neal Huntington called me, and said, ‘Hey, we traded you to the Red Sox,’ so then I didn’t have a clue what to expect.” Morrison points out that the other player the Red Sox received was Joel Hanrahan, who got hurt almost immediately and then left via free agency, so Holt represents the Red Sox’ only chance of recouping value from the trade (a deal that netted the Pirates a very good reliever in Mark Melancon, along with another interesting arm in Stolmy Pimentel). Holt has hit well this year while filling in at third base, with a .299/.349/.390 line in 87 plate appearances this season. Here’s more from around the big leagues.

  • The Astros‘ strong month of May suggests they might not be a punch line anymore, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan writes for FOX Sports. The big differences between this year’s Astros team and the 100-loss teams of years past are, of course, rookie outfielder George Springer and breakouts from starters Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh. Keuchel and McHugh didn’t look like important parts of the Astros’ future before this season, and now it looks like they might be, so the next competitive Astros team might be coming more quickly than we think.
  • Heath Bell will opt out of his minor-league deal with the Orioles next Saturday if he isn’t promoted, David Hall of the Virginian-Pilot tweets. Since being released by the Rays, Bell has pitched 6 2/3 innings for Triple-A Norfolk, allowing five runs while striking out five and walking six.
  • Reliever Shae Simmons, whose contract the Braves purchased on Saturday, was so good in Double-A that the Braves didn’t feel he needed to go to Triple-A, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Simmons struck out 30 batters in 23 Double-A innings this season, throwing a fastball that reaches into the high ’90s to go along with a good slider. O’Brien notes that Simmons has been compared to Craig Kimbrel and Billy Wagner — like those pitchers, Simmons has great stuff and is a bit small, at 5-foot-11.


Angels Designate Wade LeBlanc For Assignment

The Angels have designated pitcher Wade LeBlanc for assignment, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times tweets. They have also purchased the contract of fellow pitcher Jarrett Grube from Triple-A Salt Lake.

LeBlanc agreed to a minor-league deal with the Angels in November. He began the season in Salt Lake’s rotation, posting a 3.69 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 53 2/3 innings there. The Angels purchased his contract earlier this week, and he pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings in relief after Garrett Richards failed to get out of the first inning in the Angels’ 9-5 loss to the Athletics yesterday. Since LeBlanc pitched so many innings, he likely would not have been usable for a few more days, which might have been a factor in the Angels’ decision to designate him.

LeBlanc has a career 4.53 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in parts of seven seasons with the Padres, Marlins, Astros and Angels.


Draft Notes: Hoffman, Angels, Indians

East Carolina pitcher Jeff Hoffman, who was universally projected to be a top-of-the-first-round pick before an elbow injury that resulted in Tommy John surgery, isn’t going to enjoy following the first round of the draft, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times reports. “The competitor in me makes it hard for me to see, maybe, a bunch of guys get picked ahead of me — guys that I know aren’t better than me, some guys out of high school that don’t really understand the game of baseball yet,” says Hoffman. Nonetheless, he remains confident in his ability, and he hasn’t changed his goal of helping a big-league team within two years. “[E]verything happens for a reason, and whatever team takes the so-called risk and drafts me is going to get the best player in the draft.” Hoffman remains a likely first-round pick. Here are more notes on the draft.

  • The best first-round draft pick in Angels history, unsurprisingly, is that of Mike Trout in 2009, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes. That’s the case even though the Angels have also drafted Jered Weaver, Troy Glaus and Darin Erstad in Round 1. Gonzalez also names the Angels’ best picks from every other round through Round 15. Those include John Lackey in the second round in 1999, and Tim Salmon in the third round in 1989.
  • Having four picks on the first day of the draft (Nos. 21, 31, 38 and 61) gives the Indians an edge this season, Indians amateur scouting director Brad Grant says on a video posted by Dan Labbe of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Grant says that this year’s draft class is heavy on depth, with many similar players falling between the end of the first round through the second round. After sacrificing picks for Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn in the 2012-2013 offseason, the Indians selected Clint Frazier at No. 5 overall last year and then didn’t pick again until No. 79 overall. Grant says there were many players the Indians only watched once, proceeding on the assumption that they wouldn’t get to draft them. With so many extra picks this year, the Indians are spending more resources scouting players who might go in the first few rounds.

Minor Moves: Ramirez, Ayala, Adams, Simmons

Here are today’s minor moves from around baseball.

  • The Orioles have agreed to terms with pitcher Ramon Ramirez, MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski tweets. Ramirez will report to Sarasota before heading to Triple-A Norfolk. Ramirez had previously made four appearances this year for the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate in Tacoma. He played sparingly for the Giants last season and spent most of the year at Triple-A Fresno, where he had a 3.46 ERA with 10.7 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9. In addition to that of the Giants, the righty has also pitched out of the Rockies, Royals, Red Sox and Mets bullpens.
  • Reliever Luis Ayala is opting out of his minor-league deal with the Orioles, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Ayala pitched 5 1/3 innings for Double-A Bowie, striking out five and walking two while allowing three runs. He pitched for the Braves and Orioles in 2013, posting a 2.90 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 31 innings.
  • Outfielder Brian Adams, the Padres‘ eighth-round pick in the 2012 draft, has retired, MLB.com’s Corey Brock tweets. In 410 career plate appearances at the Class A level, Adams hit .219/.262/.356. Brock notes that Adams will go back to the University of Kentucky to finish his degree.
  • The Braves have announced that they’ve purchased the contract of pitcher Shae Simmons from Double-A Mississippi and optioned pitcher Ian Thomas to Triple-A Gwinnett. Simmons, 23, shined at Double-A, posting an ERA of 0.78 to go with 11.7 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9.
  • The Marlins have signed 18-year-old Colombian pitcher Cristian Olmos, Joe Frisaro and Maria Torres of MLB.com write. Olmos is 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, and he throws as hard as 94 MPH and has the makings of a good curveball. He will start the season in the Dominican Summer League.

NL Notes: Mets, Pirates, Sandoval

For the Mets and for other teams throughout baseball, undergoing a rebuilding process provides no guarantee that process will actually work for a sustained period of time, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Sherman argues that the Pirates prove that point — they had been rebuilding for years before they finally reached the playoffs last season, but this season they’re struggling yet again. (Even the Pirates’ playoff year depended heavily on outside additions A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Russell Martin, Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon.) Highly-touted young players like Pedro Alvarez don’t always gradually improve as projected, just as Ike Davis (now a Pirate) did not gradually improve with the Mets. Still others, like Matt Harvey, undergo significant injuries. Sherman argues that building the core of a team through one’s farm system is not without risk. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • The Las Vegas 51s have announced that the Mets have optioned top prospect Rafael Montero back to them. Montero made four starts for the Mets, posting a 5.40 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 5.0 BB/9 in 20 innings. The move clears space for the Mets to promote fellow pitcher Buddy Carlyle. The Mets will replace Montero in their rotation with Daisuke Matsuzaka, as Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets.
  • Pablo Sandovalbelongs in San Francisco,” and the Giants ought to work out a new deal with him before he’s eligible for free agency this fall, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins writes. Not only is Sandoval a popular player, Jenkins argues, but his positive outlook helps in the Giants’ clubhouse. Also, the Giants’ relative lack of organizational concern about plate discipline makes the team a good fit for the free-swinging Sandoval. Jenkins thinks the Giants might be able to get a five-year deal with Sandoval done before the All-Star break.

Braves Designate Wirfin Obispo For Assignment

The Braves have designated pitcher Wirfin Obispo for assignment, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets. The move clears space on the Braves’ roster for the newly-promoted Shae Simmons.

Obispo, 29, has pitched 19 1/3 innings for Triple-A Gwinnett this season, posting a 4.66 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 5.6 BB/9. The hard-throwing Obispo was added to the Braves’ 40-man roster after a 2013 season for Gwinnett in which he posted a 3.53 ERA, 9.9 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 63 2/3 innings of relief. He pitched in the Reds organization in 2012, and previously spent parts of four seasons with the Yomiuri Giants and Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan.


Central Notes: Yost, Twins, Jay, Taveras

In the midst of a 26-28 season, Royals GM Dayton Moore expresses support for manager Ned Yost, Jeffrey Flanagan of FOX Sports Kansas City writes. “I have faith in Ned,” says Moore. “He is doing what he can.” Instead, Moore takes the blame for the team’s performance. “It’s my job to give the managers and the coaching staff the right players to succeed. I have to be able to give them the tools to win. So if we’re not succeeding, ultimately the responsibility comes back to me,” he says. The Royals fired hitting coach Pedro Grifol on Thursday, replacing him with Dale Sveum. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.

  • The Twins are interested in Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay, 1500ESPN.com’s Darren Wolfson tweets. The Cardinals have more outfielders than they need (so much so that their surplus may have delayed the promotion of top prospect Oscar Taveras), and could trade from their stockpile. Meanwhile, the Twins’ outfielders have struggled this season.
  • Taveras’ promotion is a big moment for the Cardinals organization, writes Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Cardinals ought to make sure they play Taveras regularly, since not doing so would merely waste service time. If Taveras hits well, the Cardinals could move Matt Adams into a “super-sub role” when he’s available to return from the disabled list.

Draft Notes: Astros, Nola, White Sox, Orioles

As we approach the draft next week, MLB.com’s draft database now features profiles of 200 prospects. Here are a few notes on the draft.

  • The Astros take high school pitcher Brady Aiken with the top pick in Jonathan Mayo’s latest mock draft for MLB.com. High school C/OF Alex Jackson heads to the Marlins at No. 2 and NC State lefty Carlos Rodon goes to the White Sox at No. 3 in what’s becoming a fairly standard (but by no means unanimous) projection for the top of the draft.
  • The White Sox take high school pitcher Tyler Kolek in John Manuel’s new mock for Baseball America, leaving Rodon to fall to the Cubs at No. 4.
  • LSU righty Aaron Nola heads to the Cubs in Kiley McDaniel’s mock for Scout.com, with Jackson dropping all the way to the Mariners at No. 6. McDaniel also writes that the Astros aren’t yet sure who they’ll take at No. 1, although he, like most other experts, projects they’ll take Aiken.
  • The White Sox will take the best player available at No. 3 no matter who his agent is or whether he’s a high school or college player, MLB.com’s Scott Merkin writes (all Twitter links). That player will likely be a pitcher, Merkin reports.
  • One team that won’t have any tough decisions in the first round is the Orioles, as MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski notes. The Orioles gave up their first three picks in the draft so that they could acquire Ubaldo Jimenez, Bud Norris and Nelson Cruz, and now their first overall pick doesn’t come until the third round. That means the Orioles have a bonus pool of just $2.2MM, so their flexibility will be limited.
  • The Nationals, who pick at No. 18,have been connected to UNLV pitcher Erick Fedde, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets. Fedde was once projected as a top-ten pick, but he recently had Tommy John surgery.