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Aaron Harang Rumors
We’re still six weeks or so away from the non-waiver trade deadline, but trade discussions are beginning to pick up around the league. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Braves are already receiving interest in their starting pitchers. While the Braves certainly aren’t sellers, they can afford to move Gavin Floyd or Aaron Harang due to the presence of Alex Wood in the minor leagues, Morosi points out. Many clubs have been linked to pitching on the trade market, including the Blue Jays, Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Red Sox, Giants and A’s. Some have also speculated that the Pirates will make a move for a starter after Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano both hit the disabled list.
Here’s more on the NL East’s division leaders…
- Mark Bowman of MLB.com writes that the Braves have had internal discussions about moving Evan Gattis to left field and promoting Christian Bethancourt to serve as the everyday catcher. In that scenario, Justin Upton would shift to right field, Jason Heyward would slide over to center field and B.J. Upton would fall into a reserve role. As Bowman notes, Bethancourt has hit very well over the past month for Triple-A Gwinnett, and there’s never really been any concern over his defensive skills, which are very highly regarded.
- David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, however, hears a different story entirely. O’Brien writes that multiple sources within the organization have told him there hasn’t been any discussion of moving Gattis to the outfield, as he’s more valuable behind the plate. A move to the outfield, where he isn’t comfortable playing (according to O’Brien) would weaken the outfield defense and diminish Gattis’ value. O’Brien goes on to write that the Braves may consider making the switch if they feel they have no choice in a pennant race, but for the time being, a switch isn’t likely.
- There’s simply no sense in the Braves’ decision to keep Dan Uggla on the roster at this point, ESPN’s Buster Olney opined over the weekend (Twitter link). The current situation helps neither the team nor the player, and both sides would benefit from Uggla being waived, Olney continues.
The Indians had Aaron Harang in spring training this year, but released him due to an out clause in his contract, the Plain Dealer’s Paul Hoynes explains. Since then, Harang has pitched very well for the Braves (despite a nine-run outing against the Marlins earlier this week), and Carlos Carrasco has struggled in the Indians’ rotation. Hoynes argues, however, that Harang is more of an NL pitcher, and that he has benefited from the Braves’ defense, which is much better than Cleveland’s. Here are more notes from the AL Central.
- Rick Porcello‘s improvements this season are legitimate, and it may be time for the Tigers to sign him to a long-term contract if they can, MLB.com’s Jason Beck writes. Through five starts, Porcello has a 5.50 K/BB ratio, thanks largely to a reduction in walks, and he’s getting lots of swings and misses. He’s also due to hit the free-agent market after next season, just before he turns 27. That could make him a valuable commodity indeed.
- The Tigers’ bullpen is “a mess,” which was why Detroit was wise to give Joel Hanrahan a guaranteed deal this week, MLive.com’s James Schmehl writes. The Tigers sent Hanrahan to the disabled list upon signing him, since he’s still recovering from Tommy John surgery, and it’s unclear exactly when he’ll return. If he does, though, and he’s anything like he was in the past, he could help transform the Tigers’ struggling bullpen into a “dangerous” one, Schmehl argues.
In an outstanding profile of Red Sox principal owner John Henry, Joshua Green of Bloomberg Businessweek writes that Henry “captures baseball’s current era” with his financial savvy and mathematical orientation. The full piece comes highly recommended, but a few particularly salient points are worth mention here. According to Henry, Boston’s disastrous 2012 season taught the organization “a lesson in ever-growing, long-term contracts with free agents.” An important element of the team’s turnaround, says Green, was Henry’s “ability to ignore sentiment” in making personnel decisions. Though Henry says “it’s gotten harder to spend money intelligently,” Green paints a picture of a man determined to do just that, precisely because of the challenge. In the immediate term, of course, the question is at what price the Sox deem staff ace Jon Lester a worthwhile investment. (The team has reportedly offered four years and $70MM.)
- Of course, the major topic of conversation last night (and this morning) was the ejection of Yankees starter Michael Pineda for taking the hill with a generous application of pine tar on his neck. Pineda will almost certainly earn a suspension and miss at least one start; last year, Rays reliever Joel Peralta lost 8 games after he was caught with the substance. Of course, virtually every player, manager, front office official, and journalist to have commented on the incident has noted that it is widely accepted that pitchers utilize various kinds of grip-enhancing agents. As ESPN.com’s Buster Olney writes (Insider link), it is increasingly ridiculous to maintain a rule that is so rarely enforced and widely disregarded. His recommendation of a pre-approved substance (or, presumably, substances) that pitchers can utilize seems like a good starting point for considering a rule change; it makes little sense, in my view, to implicitly permit “cheating” so long as the pitcher is not “too obvious.”
- The Phillies bullpen — particularly, its grouping of right-handed set-up men — have been an unmitigated disaster thus far. Indeed, Philadelphia relievers currently sport a league-worst 5.64 ERA. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes, the club has already demoted three of its righties — B.J. Rosenberg, Brad Lincoln, and Justin De Fratus — and will now rely on a series of questionable arms (for different reasons) in Mike Adams, Jeff Manship, and Shawn Camp. Last August, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said that the pen would be an area of focus in the coming offseason, but the team did not spend there in free agency.
- Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons has already established himself as a nearly incomparable defensive shortstop, writes Howard Megdal of Sports On Earth. Club manager Fredi Gonzalez said that it was premature to put his young, newly-extended whiz alongside The Wizard: the legendary Ozzie Smith maintained his defensive prowess for 19 seasons. But, as Megdal explains, Simmons’ early success puts him on that kind of trajectory, and better. With a seemingly greater offensive (and, possibly, defensive) ceiling than the Hall-of-Famer Smith, Simmons has both legitimate upside and a high floor.
- While Atlanta obviously did well to identify starter Aaron Harang, who is off to an incredible start to the season for the Braves after being squeezed out of the Indians’ rotation mix, Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus explains that there are no analytical or scouting reasons to believe that Harang has re-invented himself at this late stage of his career. Ultimately, Harang has benefited from a low BABIP, high strand rate, and unsustainable level of success with runners in scoring position. Though his contributions to date should not be underestimated, says Lindbergh, there remains a good chance that the Braves will end up replacing Harang in the rotation before the season is out.
The Orioles are in Boston for a wraparound series with the Red Sox culminating tomorrow on Patriots' Day. Mike Seal, the agent for J.J. Hardy is in Boston this weekend, but the Orioles shortstop says it's not for extension talks. "He's here because his wife is running in the marathon, so he came out for this series to watch his wife run," Hardy told reporters, including MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko. "There's been nothing. My agent's here now and he hasn't said anything to me the last month or so. There's been no contact. Usually, he gives me the 'still nothing.' I think it's even past that now to where it's like, he doesn't even need to tell me."
Elsewhere around baseball this Easter Sunday:
- Tigers President/CEO/General Manager Dave Dombrowski couldn't wait any longer to see if Alex Gonzalez would turn things around, writes Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press.
- A reader asked John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (on Twitter) if there's any chance the Reds might go after Gonzalez in light of Zack Cozart's struggles. That's doubtful, in Fay's mind, because Gonzalez doesn't offer much range at the shortstop position. Fay, in a second tweet, also doesn't see the Reds signing Joel Hanrahan.
- In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe speculates, after impressing teams in his latest audition, Hanrahan could hold out for a Major League contract. The veteran worked out for 18 clubs and impressed with the depth of his secondary pitches.
- There's no guarantee Ike Davis will see another 32-home run season with the Pirates; but, if it happens, the Mets will be reminded about it frequently, writes David Lennon of Newsday. However, the Mets finally decided on a course of action rather than have uncertainty at first and they must be prepared to live with the fallout.
- Davis is eager to play more often as a member of the Pirates, writes Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It was pretty negative over there [with the Mets] for me for a little while," Davis said. "Hopefully, I can come here and hear some positive energy and start building forward and start playing better."
- Did the Indians make a mistake by not keeping Aaron Harang? The veteran pitched seven hitless innings for the Braves on Friday, but Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer defends the Tribe's decision. The 36-year-old, he notes, didn't set the world on fire last season and his release allowed the Indians to see what Carlos Carrasco can offer as a starter.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
7:17pm: The Braves have announced that Harang has agreed to a MLB deal with the club.
6:09pm: The Braves have agreed to sign pitcher Aaron Harang, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Atlanta had been rumored to be interested in adding another arm after parting with veteran Freddy Garcia earlier today (per MLB.com's Mark Bowman, on Twitter).
Of course, Harang himself was let go by the Indians just hours ago after requesting his release. The soon-to-be-36-year-old had strong results in the spring, though he threw just 9 innings for Cleveland. Last year, pitching for the Mariners and Mets, Harang posted a 5.40 ERA in 143 1/3 innings. Before that, however, he put up two consecutive seasons of 170+ innings and earned run averages just over 3.60. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, advanced metrics pegged his value somewhere in the middle, with FIP, xFIP, and SIERA marks all falling above 4.00 but below 5.00 over the last three campaigns.
Righty Aaron Harang asked for and was granted his release from the Indians, tweets MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. The move was expected after Harang was told yesterday he would not make the team's Opening Day roster. Even if Harang was willing to go to Triple-A, the Indians likely would have released him rather than paying the $100K retention bonus.
Harang, 36 in May, signed a minor league deal with Cleveland in February and allowed two runs in nine innings this spring. The veteran posted a 5.40 ERA, 7.1 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.63 HR/9, and 36% groundball rate in 143 1/3 innings for the Mariners and Mets last year.
New Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski is virtually the peer of special advisor Jason Varitek — the two are only four years apart in age. But Pierzynski has still sought out Varitek's advice this spring, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. "He’s one of those guys, he came before me, so you kind of always looked up to him," Pierzynski says. "To be able to be in the same organization and be able to talk to him and learn things from him, it's huge. You can always get better and he was one of the best, so anything he can bring to the table to help me I’m definitely going to take and use." Here are more notes from the American League.
- The Indians have told starting pitcher Aaron Harang, who had been competing for their fifth starter job, that he won't make the team's 25-man roster, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets. Harang has the ability to opt out of minor-league deal on Monday.
- The Yankees are willing to eat part of Ichiro Suzuki's $6.5MM 2014 salary in the right trade, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. No deal appears to be imminent, however. Ichiro, who hit .262/.297/.342 with the Yankees in 2013, does not have a starting role this season.
- Orioles manager Buck Showalter says "vultures" are interested in his team's out-of-options players, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes. "I know a lot of vultures are lurking around with our out-of-option guys. We've got quite an attendance here," Showalter says. "I get a list of the scouts every day, and if anything, it's gotten more. We had 17 here the other day." Two weeks ago, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes noted that the Orioles' out-of-options players included Edgmer Escalona, Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter, Troy Patton, Nolan Reimold, Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, David Lough, Brian Matusz, Steve Pearce, Francisco Peguero and Josh Stinson. Obviously, the Orioles are in no danger of losing someone like Davis, and Escalona and Peguero appear likely to start the season on the disabled list. But the Orioles will have to make decisions about players like Pearce and some of the pitchers. The team recently designated another out-of-options player, Kelvin De La Cruz, for assignment.
- "I thought way too short term with the Garza deal last year. That one's got a chance to haunt us and haunt me," Rangers GM Jon Daniels told Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic in reference to his trade with the Cubs. Daniels gave up C.J. Edwards, Mike Olt, Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez for Garza. Olt could soon make an impact in the big leagues, but it's Edwards and Ramirez who might turn out to be the keys to the deal — Edwards was terrific down the stretch last year for Class A+ Daytona, and Ramirez has pitched well in spring training after posting a terrific strikeout rate in Double-A last season.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
MONDAY: Harang will earn a $1MM base salary if he makes the team, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Harang, who will be 36 in May, pitched 143 1/3 innings for the Mariners and Mets in 2013, posting a 5.40 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. The fly ball pitcher allowed also allowed 26 homers. The Indians currently have Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar and Zach McAllister penciled into four spots in their rotation. Carlos Carrasco is out of options and could win the fifth starter job, although Harang could join Shaun Marcum, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin as potential contenders as well.
Starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija isn't optimistic that he'll be able to work out a contract extension with the Cubs, and is preparing for the possibility of a trade, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The two sides continue to disagree about Samardzija's worth, and it appears the sticking points are Samardzija's belief that his value will continue to increase, and his concerns about the organization's rebuilding plan. "Both sides are justified; it’s not like anyone is asking for some outlandish concept," he says. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- Despite a quiet offseason, Pirates GM Neal Huntington believes his team is well-positioned, MLB.com's Mike Bauman writes. The Pirates did not add any impact talent over the offseason, and replaced A.J. Burnett with Edinson Volquez. Nonetheless, Huntington cites owner Bob Nutting's willingness to spend on aspects of the franchise unrelated to Major-League payroll, such as drafting, Latin American bonuses, scouting and player development, as crucial to the Pirates' success. And at the big-league level, Huntington feels the Pirates' offense should improve in 2014.
- Despite ties to manager Terry Francona, new minor-league signee Aaron Harang doesn't have the inside track on the Indians' fifth-starter job, reports MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. "Nothing has changed from what we've said about Carlos [Carrasco] or Josh [Tomlin]. We're just trying to have depth," says Francona. "We were very honest with Aaron. He's going to get a chance to show what he can do."
Here are Sunday's minor moves from around MLB:
- The White Sox outrighted reliever Jhan Marinez to Triple-A Charlotte, according to MLB.com's transaction page. Marinez posted a 6.11 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 5.1 BB/9 for Charlotte in 2013. He had big-league cameos with the White Sox in 2012 and Marlins in 2010. The White Sox acquired him from Miami when they sent Ozzie Guillen to the Fish after the 2011 season.
- The Mets tweeted right-hander Aaron Harang will join the club tomorrow along with catcher Juan Centeno and outfielder Mike Baxter. Neither Harang nor Centeno are on the Mets' 40-man roster and, with no openings, corresponding moves will need to be made. Harang was signed to a minor league deal by the Mets a week ago today and appeared in just one game at Triple-A Las Vegas: four innings, two runs (both earned), seven hits (one home run), five strikeouts, and one walk. Harang made 22 starts for the Mariners this year. In 120 1/3 innings, the 35-year-old posted a 5.76 ERA, 6.5 K/9, and 2.1 BB/9.
Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.