Addison Russell Rumors
The Rangers didn't really expect to re-sign Nelson Cruz this winter, yet did their due diligence by keeping in touch with Cruz's agent Adam Katz, GM Jon Daniels told MLB.com's Lyle Spencer. "We've touched base every week or so," Daniels said. "Nellie's highly regarded here. We have a good relationship with Adam. We made our moves and kind of expected [Cruz] to sign elsewhere. But we'll see where it goes. It's a unique situation for him as a free agent. When we made our decision to sign [Shin-Soo] Choo, it was with the understanding that [Cruz's] best opportunity would be to sign elsewhere. I don't know what's going on with other teams and Nellie."
Here's some more from around the AL West...
- The Rangers' view on re-signing Cruz is "unchanged," FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets, in that the team would only bring him back at a lower price and if he can't find any other suitors.
- Nick Franklin was almost traded to the Diamondbacks last offseason and had been the subject of trade rumors this winter as well since the Mariners' acquisition of Robinson Cano. Despite all of the speculation, Franklin tells Larry Stone of the Seattle Times that he's just focusing on the upcoming season. “I mean, as far as I know, I’ve been traded 20 times, and I’m still here," Franklin said. “It doesn’t really bother me at all. All I can do is control what I can and go out and play the game.”
- A 10-year, $300MM contract for Mike Trout has often been cited as a possible extension for the young superstar, though MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez opines that Trout's representatives might take a lesser deal given that Trout still has four years until free agency and his stock could drop in the interim. Also, a shorter deal would set Trout up for another massive contract later in his career. Gonzalez suggests a seven-year, $200MM extension could work. In my opinion, while the $200MM mark is a major threshold for any player, I'd guess the Angels would happily lock Trout up at that price.
- Athletics manager Bob Melvin told reporters, including Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, that there is very little chance top prospect Addison Russell begins the season on the Major League roster. The A's are already set at shortstop wth Jed Lowrie (with Nick Punto and Eric Sogard as backup options), and as Slusser notes, there is little reason to start Russell's service time clock at this point in his young career.
Earlier today, Bartolo Colon told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he'd like to return to the A's next season and feels that he could pitch another three years in the Majors. At the time, it wasn't known if the A's were interested in a reunion, but in their postseason address to the media, both manager Bob Melvin and GM Billy Beane said they are interested in bringing Colon back for a third season (via Slusser and John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group on Twitter). Beane went so far as to say it'd be "foolish" for the team not to be interested. Here's more from on the A's...
- Closer Grant Balfour isn't satisfied with only making the playoffs, he told reporters, including MLB.com's Jane Lee. Balfour said he intends to keep playing until he can win a World Series (Twitter link).
- Balfour also acknowledged to CSNBayArea.com's Casey Pratt that he wanted to make sure the inning he pitched in Game 5 last night was a good one, because he knew it may have been his last frame with the team (also on Twitter).
- Melvin said today that the A's are well-equipped to handle the potential loss of Balfour, as internal options Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle could take over as closer (via CSN California's Joe Stiglich on Twitter). As Stiglich goes on to caution, that comment doesn't mean Doolittle or Cook will close in 2014. The A's would likely explore the free agent relief market in that scenario for an additional arm to plug into the mix.
- Beane said that the A's will exercise Coco Crisp's $7.5MM option following the season and implied that they will do the same with Brett Anderson's $8MM option (via Slusser).
- Crisp said that he'd like to think the A's would want to discuss retaining him beyond the 2014 season (via Hickey).
- Top prospect Addison Russell will open 2014 at Double-A "at the lowest," according to Beane, who then added that "anything can happen" once a player reaches Double-A (Stiglich reporting).
- Beane feels that if Chris Young, whose contract contains an $11MM club option, doesn't return to the team, Michael Choice can serve as a right-handed outfielder for the team (Lee reporting). It seems logical that the A's would decline the option after Young batted just .200/.280/.379 this season.
Is this the beginning of a new era for shortstops?
Four publications -- Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus (subscription required), Keith Law at ESPN (subscription required), and FanGraphs (compiled by yours truly) -- recently released their midseason Top 50 prospects lists. The rankings featured as many as eight elite shortstop prospects. That position is widely considered to be the most important (non-pitcher) spot on the baseball field and those potential star athletes are highly-sought-after commodities on the open market, through trades and via the draft.
Of those eight prospects featured on the four lists, five of the players are found in American League organizations, suggesting we may be soon entering another Era of the Shortstop, similar to what we experienced in the early 2000s with the likes of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, and Miguel Tejada in the AL.
Let's have a closer look at those eight shortstop prospects...
1. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox: Bogaerts was the highest ranked shortstop on all four lists. Boston is clearly planning for the day that the Aruba native is ready to contribute at the big league level as they recently had him playing games at the hot corner -- an area of weakness for the playoff hungry club. However, the recent trade of Jose Iglesias, as well as the pending free agency of veteran Stephen Drew, should provide a clear path to the Major League shortstop job for Bogaerts, who has more than held his own at the Triple-A level.
2. Francisco Lindor, Indians: Just 19, Cleveland's top shortstop prospect earned a mid-season promotion from High-A to Double-A after a strong showing both in the field and at the plate. Veteran incumbent Asdrubal Cabrera's uninspired 2013 season could help convince the front office that his time with the organization is coming to an end. Lindor, who is only in his third professional season, could be ready for the Majors by the middle of 2014. He could develop into a perennial Gold Glove winner at shortstop.
3. Carlos Correa, Astros: The first overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft, Correa has produced above-average offensive numbers in Low-A ball despite being just 18 years of age. The Puerto Rico native has shown a natural hitting ability, but he has yet to tap into his raw power. There are concerns that he'll eventually outgrow shortstop, but he should have the offensive chops to be an above-average player at just about any position on the field.
4. Javier Baez, Cubs: Baez has arguably the best raw power out of any player on this list, and he already has 27 home runs in 98 games this year. Like Lindor (a fellow 2011 first-round draft pick), he's already reached Double-A. Unlike the Indians prospect, though, his offensive game is raw. He has a very aggressive approach at the plate, which has resulted in just 29 walks with 111 strikeouts in 391 at-bats. As is the case with Correa, there has been some talk of moving Baez to third base. However, with fellow prospect Mike Olt (recently acquired from the Rangers) -- a plus defender at the hot corner -- that move doesn't make a ton of sense now. He could also move out to right field, but the Cubs organization features a lot of depth in that area. If and when everything clicks for Baez, though, Chicago will certainly find a spot for him.
5. Addison Russell, Athletics: Russell, a 2012 first-rounder, burst onto the prospect landscape in a big way last season. His strong play earned him an aggressive assignment to High-A ball to open the 2013 season despite being just 19 years old. He struggled in the first two months of the season but has posted an OPS near 1.000 during the past two months. Russell probably won't be ready until 2015, so current big league shortstop Jed Lowrie likely has one more season of job security before he finds himself at another position or on another club.
6. Alen Hanson, Pirates: The emergence of Jordy Mercer has added some middle infield stability at the big league level for the Pirates but he's not likely to be the long-term answer at shortstop. Hanson, 20, is the best in-house option to eventually take over the position -- although his name has popped up more than a few times in recent trade rumors. After a strong showing in High-A ball, the Dominican native was recently promoted to Double-A. The switch-hitter has shown the ability to steal 20-30 bases with solid line-drive pop.
7. Raul Mondesi, Royals: Previously known as Adalberto Mondesi, this shortstop prospect is one of the youngest players in full-season ball, having just recently turned 18. His inexperience has shown in 2013, and he walked just four times in May and June. His raw ability is undeniable, though, and he's made adjustments with a strong month of July -- including 13 walks and his highest monthly OPS of the year at .817.
8. Corey Seager, Dodgers: Seager -- whose brother Kyle Seager plays for the Mariners -- is perhaps the most underrated shortstop on this list. The teenager has enjoyed his time in the Midwest League, and he's been on fire over the summer months with an OPS approaching 1.000. He's also slugged eight of his 11 home runs in June and July. Like Correa, Seager is expected to outgrow shortstop but he's shown enough skill at the position to suggest he may be able to stick there for a few more years. He's likely at least two seasons away from reaching Los Angeles.
The Athletics held their A's Fan Fest today with manager Bob Melvin and GM Billy Beane hosting a Q&A session. Here are the highlights:
- Melvin says second base will be an open competition between Scott Sizemore and Jemile Weeks while Grant Green, the A's fourth-best prospect as ranked by MLB.com, will also receive a hard look, reports MLB.com's Jane Lee (Twitter links).
- Melvin plans to continue with the Brandon Moss/Chris Carter platoon at first base, tweets Lee.
- Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets the A's will not use any one set lineup because Melvin has multiple options depending on matchups and who's hot.
- Melvin views Coco Crisp as the starting center fielder with Chris Young moving around all three outfield spots, Lee tweets.
- Young says being reunited with Melvin is "like a breath of fresh air." (A's team Twitter feed).
- Melvin calls Yoenis Cespedes one of most talented players in the league and Beane adds he wouldn't be surprised if the 27-year-old Cuban takes it to another level, Slusser tweets.
- Beane is confident Hiroyuki Nakajima will make a successful transition to MLB, tweets Casey Pratt of CSNBayArea.com. In fact, Beane joked he will have a tougher transition in dealing with the effervescent Japanese shortstop.
- Beane expects their top prospect, outfielder Michael Choice, to open the season in Triple-A, unless something unforeseen happens, according to Pratt (via Twitter).
- The A's are convinced shortstop Addison Russell, last year's first round draft choice, is mature enough to be invited to Spring Training even though it wasn't part of his contract, writes Slusser on Twitter. Slusser adds this is an indication of how much the 19-year-old has wowed the front office.
The Tigers can tie the White Sox for the AL Central lead today, but it'll take a win over the Royals and some help from the Indians, who are visiting the south side of Chicago. Here are today's links...
- Athletics first-round selection Addison Russell tops Baseball America's list of the 20 best prospects from the rookie-level Arizona League. The A's selected the high school shortstop 11th overall, and he hit .415/.488/.717 in 26 games in the Arizona League before being promoted to Class A ball.
- Cody Ross has been a bargain acquisition in the past, but he’s likely headed for a raise as a free agent following a strong offensive showing with the Red Sox, Alex Speier of WEEI.com writes. As Speier explains, Ross has been traded for next to nothing in the past.
- Kerry Wood will work with the Cubs next year, likely as an on-field instructor, Toni Ginnetti of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Wood, who retired in May, said he hopes to have some kind of role in uniform with the Cubs, ideally alongside some of his former teammates.
- The Rockies will enter the 2013 season with questions related to Todd Helton, Drew Pomeranz, Jim Tracy and others, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. The Rockies want to bring Jeff Francis back when he hits free agency this offseason, according to Saunders.
THURSDAY: Russell will receive a $2.625MM bonus according to Baseball America's Jim Callis (on Twitter), the full slot value for the 11th overall pick.
MONDAY: First round selection Addison Russell told Jason Blakeney of the Pensacola News Journal that he has decided to sign with the Athletics. Russell, the 11th overall selection in last week's draft, will fly to California this week, and advisor Scott Boras will finalize his contract.
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," Russell said. "Being part of a big league club and being an affiliate of the Oakland A's is a dream come true."
Russell didn't reveal the specifics of his deal with the A's, saying only that they "offered [him] a good chunk of change.” MLB recommends a bonus of $2.625MM for the 11th overall selection, according to Baseball America.
Russell, a high school shortstop, became the first prep player selected by Oakland in the first round since 2001. While some teams wanted to move him to third base, the A's told him he can continue playing shortstop for the time being.
Mike Axisa contributed to this post.