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Congratulations are in order for Giants righty Tim Lincecum, who earlier today completed his second no-hitter of the division-rival Padres in the past calendar year. “Big Time Timmy Jim” was masterful, yielding just one walk and fanning six Friars on a mere 113 pitches in his historic gem.
Here are some notes from around the National League West:
- Jonah Keri, writing for Grantland, details some of the missteps made by former Padres GM Josh Byrnes but also notes that he was able to buy low on significant pieces such as Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy and Seth Smith. Byrnes’ bigger failures were in evaluating Major League talent, he writes, but even that isn’t San Diego’s biggest problem. Rather, Keri opines, their problems are rooted in poor ownership decisions that have forced the hands of GMs Byrnes, Jed Hoyer and Kevin Towers in the draft, resulting in an abysmal track record in the first round. He adds that current leaders Ron Fowler and Mike Dee have been involved with ownership dating back into the 90s (Dee did leave for a decade but returned last summer) and wonders if relying on some of the same names they have been for decades could “turn out to be a bug, not a feature.”
- We took a look last night at the latest on the Padres‘ search for a new GM. It appears that the first interview will go to former Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest, per a tweet from MLB.com’s Corey Brock. Elsewhere, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provides a full piece expanding upon his report last night regarding possible candidates for the gig. Finally, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the Yankees plan on granting the Padres permission to interview assistant GM Billy Eppler, who is on San Diego’s list.
- The Giants had some interest in adding Jason Hammel when he was available as a free agent, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Morosi suggests that the club’s previous interest could make San Francisco a possible suitor for the Cubs starter at the trade deadline.
- Dodgers middle infielder Alex Guerrero has made significant progress in his recovery from a strange ear-biting incident earlier in the year, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. He is expected to begin baseball activities again soon. The Cuban signee, who was off to an impressive start at the plate in Triple-A, could presumably still figure in the club’s plans this year.
- Earlier today it was reported that Joaquin Benoit and Huston Street of the Padres were garnering serious trade interest, and reports also indicated that the D’Backs are preparing to sell, with Brandon McCarthy in particular drawing interest.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
Dodgers infield prospect Alex Guerrero could miss up to five weeks after having part of his ear bitten off in an altercation with Triple-A teammate Miguel Olivo, reports Danny Knobler of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Agent Scott Boras told Knobler that Guerrero was taken to a hospital and had plastic surgery on the ear. GM Ned Colletti wouldn’t comment on potentially disciplining either player, though he expressed disappointment in the situation. Colletti said Guerrero is close to Major League ready, though the team wants him to continue to improve defensively. Obviously, that development will be on hold for awhile. As we process one of the most bizarre storylines in recent memory, here’s more from the game’s Western divisions…
- The timing of the Guerrero/Olivo scuffle couldn’t be much worse for Guerrero or the Dodgers, as MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick writes that Juan Uribe could be headed to the DL. Gurnick looks at alternatives on the 40-man roster but also notes that with the Dodgers needing a roster spot for Hyun-jin Ryu, the team may not call up an infielder right away.
- MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince points out that the Athletics‘ only two homegrown (i.e. drafted and developed) players on the current active roster are Sonny Gray and Sean Doolittle. The team signed Yoenis Cespedes after he defected from Cuba, every other player was acquired via trade or signed as a free agent from another club. Castrovince looks at the team’s offense and their usage of platoons, which led rival skipper Terry Francona to sing the praises of manager Bob Melvin.
- Rangers catcher J.P. Arencibia has been optioned to Triple-A Round Rock, and the team has purchased the contract of veteran Chris Gimenez, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweeted last night. Arencibia signed a one-year deal with Texas after being non-tendered by Toronto last winter, but he batted just .133/.182/.233 in 66 PA. No team has gotten less offense from the catcher position than Texas this season, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them pursue upgrades on the trade market.
Dodgers’ reliever Brian Wilson, who is playing on a one-year, $10MM deal that includes a $9MM player option for next season, showed a dramatic velocity drop in his outing last night. The usually hard-throwing Wilson only topped 90 mph on one fastball, though he was throwing in a blowout. As Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports (via Sulia), both Wilson and trainer Stan Conte have informed manager Don Mattingly that Wilson has no physical issues. Mattingly did say he was concerned with Wilson’s inconsistent production and velocity numbers, though he chalked it up to the fact that Wilson thrives in high-leverage situations. Wilson sports an unsightly 10.22 ERA through 12 1/3 innings, with 10.9 K/9 against 8.8 BB/9.
- The long-discussed “problem” of having four viable outfielders has finally manifested itself in Los Angeles, with Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and Yasiel Puig all at full strength. (Indeed, the situation is only complicated further by fifth option Scott Van Slyke, who has outplayed all but Puig, and top prospect Joc Pederson, who has a 1.125 OPS at Triple-A.) Nevertheless, reports Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times, GM Ned Colletti still does not appear inclined to make a move. “It’s a situation we’re going to have to deal with,” he said. “But we’re always going to be one injury away from not having to deal with it. It gives everybody a chance to take a breath, get a day.”
- In another area that could probably be classified as a rich man’s problem, Dilbeck asks whether Dee Gordon‘s improbably outstanding start to the year makes for difficulties with top free agent signee Alex Guerrero. While Guerrero is swinging the bat well at Triple-A (.326/.386/.554 slash in 101 plate appearances), Colletti says his “defense is still something that needs to get better.” A position switch could be considered in the future, though nothing is impending. “We’ll decide at some point in time if we need to add more versatility to his defense to give him a better chance of getting here,” Colletti explained. Dilbeck notes that Guerrero, 27, will need to see MLB time in the near future if he is to return value on his $28MM deal, and wonders whether that contract would be attractive on the trade market.
- Starter Zack Greinke is well aware of the dangers of too much stress on his elbow, and has changed his entire approach in an effort to maintain his ability to throw into the future, writes Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. In particular, Greinke has pulled back the use of his slider, saving it for more important situations. “In what I would deem a very important at-bat or a very important pitch, yes, I would throw the slider,” said Greinke. “But with the pitcher up and no one on, you might be able to strike him out with three pitches. DO you really want to throw three sliders to a pitcher? Is it really smart of me to expend full energy on a slider in that situation?” Interestingly, while Brown cites several pitchers who say they work at max effort all of the time (including Nathan Eovaldi and Clayton Kershaw), Greinke said he did not. “I don’t do that,” he said. “I don’t think I physically could. I pick my times.”
MLBTR's own Charlie Wilmoth has just released a new book. Titled "Dry Land," the volume traces the Pirates and their fans through the club's historic losing streak and recent renaissance. Be sure to check out this post for more details and how you can order a copy. On to the links:
- In two expected moves out of the NL West, Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks underwent Tommy John surgery today, MLB.com's Steve Gilbert tweets, while the Dodgers optioned Alex Guerrero to Triple-A, as MLB.com's Ken Gurnick tweets.
- The Nationals have received trade interest from three or four clubs in starter Chris Young, who has an opt-out in his contract this coming Thursday, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. The 33-year-old has had an impressive spring, but seems unlikely to crack the Nats' rotation.
- The Pirates have no interest in signing Juan Francisco if he clears waivers, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. We learned earlier today that the team had chosen to go with Travis Ishikawa over Andrew Lambo as its left-handed bat at first.
- For the Mets, giving Daisuke Matsuzaka a $100K bonus is in large part a strategic effort to protect the club in the event that Jon Niese is unable to make his first start, explains ESPN.com's Adam Rubin. This way, the team can rely on both Matsuzaka and Jenrry Mejia if the need arises, or can simply pick between them for the fifth starter slot.
- The Rockies are better off without center fielder Dexter Fowler because he "isn't tough enough," opines Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post. (Fowler, of course was dealt to the Astros. As presented in my offseason review for the club, I have a different take on the subject of Fowler's departure from Colorado.) Though Kiszla initially credited Fowler with having "the determination to grind through pain" in mid-August of last year, he apparently adjusted his analysis after the 28-year-old missed twenty games late in the season with ongoing hand and wrist injuries. Manager Walt Weiss effectively pushed Fowler out of town, says Kiszla, because the latter "was not the kind of player Weiss needs on a team that must grind out victories in the National League West." Apparently referring obliquely to Fowler, Weiss emphasized the need for players "to compete and grind and play with grit," while assistant GM Bill Geivett explained that the manager "has got to feel comfortable in the weapons he has to attack the other team."
A number of notable clubs entered Spring Training looking for clear answers at second base, and other teams could face looming questions at the position. Here's a roundup of items about the keystone…
- Multiple talent evaluators tell ESPN's Jim Bowden that Alexander Guerrero needs a lot of time at Triple-A in order to both learn second base and simply to regain his form after not playing last season. In the Insider-only piece, Bowden looks at internal and external second base answers the Dodgers could explore to solidify themselves at the position.
- Early word on Guerrero hasn't been too positive, as one evaluator tells ESPN's Buster Olney (another Insider-only piece) that the Dodgers "could get him through outright waivers right now if they need a roster spot." Olney speculates that the Nationals could generate some interest in Danny Espinosa given the number of teams (including the Dodgers and Yankees) looking for second base help, though Washington wouldn't want to accept a sell-low offer for Espinosa given his poor 2013 season.
- The Royals are lacking in middle infield depth behind Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar, as Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star notes may not have the 25-man roster space for a backup infielder. Since Ned Yost plans to carry 12 pitchers, that leaves only four bench spots for Justin Maxwell, Jarrod Dyson, Danny Valencia and the backup catcher. Christian Colon, Pedro Ciriaco and Johnny Giavotella are currently fighting for a roster spot in camp and the team will have Valencia and Mike Moustakas work out at second in case they need to be emergency options. “It’s not ideal not to have a backup middle infielder on the team,” GM Dayton Moore said. “However, I do anticipate Infante and Escobar in the lineup most days.”
- Marco Scutaro is only beginning to take grounders and has yet to swing a bat, CSNBayArea.com's Andrew Baggarly reports. The veteran infielder is purposely taking a slow start to Spring Training in order to keep himself healthy and free of hip problems, and Giants GM Brian Sabean admits that the team probably should've shut Scutaro down last year when he was battling multiple nagging injuries. Despite Scutaro's issues, Sabean is confident he'll be ready for Opening Day though he only said "we'll see" when asked if he was comfortable with the team's second base depth.
MLB.com's Corey Brock brought readers into the dugout for some game action in an interesting read today. Receiving permission to camp out with the Padres during their game Thursday, Brock observed a number of inside snippets. For instance, infielder Stephen Carmon, who came over from minor league camp as depth and did not play, enjoyed a peaceful afternoon chatting with some veterans and sampling the wide variety of sunflower seed flavors made available.
Here are a few notes from around baseball:
- In another great story out of the NL West, Alex Pavloic of the San Jose Mercury News tells how 31-year-old Mark Minicozzi took an improbable path — around the world, through multiple injuries, and over multiple years — to rejoining the Giants. He left the organization after 2007, only to come back in 2012. Last year, he homered in his first Spring Training at-bat with the big club after coming over from the minor-league side for a road trip. This year, he earned his first non-roster invitation, and had his first ever start today. In his first trip to the plate, he swatted another long ball. Though Minicozzi still has many obstacles to overcome to reach a regular-season MLB game, his tale is testament to the power of perseverance and positive thinking.
- The second base position for the Dodgers is now a "full-blown tryout camp," reports MLB.com's Ken Gurnick. Major offseason acquisition Alex Guerrero continues to try to learn second while adapting to the pace of the big league game, and Gurnick says it seems as if he'll start off in Triple-A. Though Dee Gordon is the other player that the team would like to see emerge, he too has not separated himself from a pack that includes Brendan Harris, Chone Figgins, Justin Turner, and Miguel Rojas.
- Infielder Jack Hannahan has not yet appeared in full spring action for the Reds because he underwent offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum, reports MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. Hannahan struggled mightily last year, but was apparently playing through the injury the entire time. The 33-year-old is in the final guaranteed year of a two-year, $4MM deal that comes with a $4MM club option for next season.
With the trade that sent Andrew Cashner to the Padres and Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs now over two years distant, R.J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus takes a look at its background and how it has played out to date. While both players have proven that their talent plays at the big league level, each still comes with questions. Nevertheless, the trade appears to have been quite an equal swap at this point, he opines.
Here's more from the National League:
- The Mets hesitation with respect to shortstop Stephen Drew relates to the team's valuations of him and internal option Ruben Tejada, reports MLB.com's Anthony DiComo. "At the numbers he's looking for," a source told DiComo, "we don't think he's worth it compared to what we have." At this point, a trade of Ike Davis is a more likely outcome than the signing of Drew, says DiComo.
- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said today that a platoon was possible at second base, a prospect that Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times questions. Both Alexander Guerrero and Dee Gordon — the two likely platoon options — are converting from shortstop, and each brings lots of uncertainty to the table. Guerrero, the club's most expensive offseason acquisition, has reportedly had some struggles moving to the other side of the bag, but putting his right-handed bat in a platoon role would significantly limit his plate appearances.
- In spite of a resoundingly successful 2013 campaign, Pirates GM Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle will both go into the season without a contractual assurance that they'll be around for another. As Rob Biertempfel of the PIttsburgh Tribune-Review reports, Owner Bob Nutting said today that extensions for the two are not a major priority, though he indicated that he'd be amenable to talks at the right time. "What they've done for the organization in good and bad times really is tremendous," said Nutting, "and I hope they're with the organization for a long time. My expectation is they're going to be critically important pieces of this organization as we go forward."
- Nutting also indicated that the Pirates would still consider giving up a draft pick to sign a free agent, Biertempfel further reports. "Certainly nothing is off the table," he said. "But at the same time, we need to recognize that a first-round draft pick is a meaningful source of talent for a team like the Pirates. We want to be smart and cautious." The Bucs have spoken with first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales, Biertempfel notes, though the extent of the team's interest remains unknown.
For the latest on negotiations between MLB and Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball on the posting fee arrangement — which has major implications, in particular, for highly-regarded starter Masahiro Tanaka — check out this update from Ben Badler of Baseball America. We'll round out the evening with a variety of links from around the National League:
- Alexander Guerrero is dealing with a hamstring injury in his Dominican Winter League stint, tweets Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, and GM Ned Colletti indicated that the missed time could postpone the Dodgers' decision as to whether he'll play short or second next year. That decision — or, potentially, the inability to make it — could seemingly have an impact on Los Angeles' off-season shopping list.
- The Diamondbacks are down on the free agent market, reports MLB.com's Steve Gilbert. "I've spoken a little to our own free agents," said GM Kevin Towers. "But from the looks of where this free agent market is right now and where it's headed, it's not a place where I want to do a lot of business." Gilbert notes that the club has made an offer to infielder Eric Chavez, but that he is still mulling interest from other landing spots.
- The Rockies are implementing a new player development structure, reports Thomas Harding of MLB.com. In lieu of roving instructors, the standard in baseball, Colorado will employ "developmental directors" who will each be responsible for a given team and look to prioritize skill development rather than minor league game outcomes.
- Discussing the club's recent signing of Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak explained that a thin shortstop market left Peralta as the best fit for the club. While he said the club considered his PED suspension, he opined that "I don't think it's the Cardinals' responsibility necessarily to be the morality police on potentially future employment." As Peralta admitted his violation of the league's policy and paid his penance, said Mozeliak, "at this point in the game, there's nothing that says he can't go play or isn't free to go sign with another club."
- Mozeliak also said that the club looked around at possible trades, but found the cost prohibitive, tweets Stan McNeal of FOX Sports Midwest.
- In a well-argued set of responses to fan questions, Adam Kilgore and James Wagner of the Washington Post took stock of a wide range of issues facing the Nationals. Among the thoughts offered relate to the second base position. The Nats are well-situated to add Robinson Cano, says Kilgore, and the move makes some sense. But Kilgore explains that such a scenario remains largely unlikely. Meanwhile, fallen keystoner Danny Espinosa has relatively minimal trade value, Wagner offers. His value to the organization, in terms of upside and as a competitor/backup option to Anthony Rendon, probably outweighs what he'd return.
- The Marlins are mulling over a minor league offer to infielder Scott Sizemore, reports Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel. Certainly, Miami would figure to have the inside track on players looking for a legitimate chance to see big league time at second or third.
- Miami has not only lured "superscout" Jeff McAvoy away from the Rays, but sources tell Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports that the club will add Mike Berger from the Diamondbacks in a vice president role (Twitter links). This makes for a quiet but outstanding off-season, opines Passan, who notes that the organization could look quite different if owner Jeffrey Loria gives new GM Dan Jennings more authority than was afforded predecessor Larry Beinfest.
WEDNESDAY, 7:20pm: The Dodgers confirmed the signing via press release.
TUESDAY, 1:15pm: Guerrero will indeed be a free agent following the conclusion of his contract and won't be eligible for arbitration, according to Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times. Hernandez adds that the contract contains a clause that prevents the Dodgers from sending Guerrero to the minor leagues without his consent after the first year of the contract (Twitter links).
10:48am: The Dodgers have agreed to terms with Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero on a four-year, $28MM contract that could reach $32MM via incentives, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez (on Twitter).
Early reports that pegged the Dodgers and Guerrero agreeing to a seven-year, $32MM pact proved to be premature. More recently, it was reported that he was nearing a five-year, $32MM contract with the Dodgers after switching over to agent Scott Boras, but bidding was said to be "wide open" once again shortly thereafter.
By talking the Dodgers down to four years at a similar (and potentially identical) guarantee, Boras has managed to commit only his client's age-27 through age-30 seasons. Guerrero, who will turn 27 this December, will be able to hit the open market entering his age-31 season, which should allow him to sign another strong contract if he is able to live up to his potential.
Guerrero batted .290/.402/.576 with 21 home runs in 328 plate appearances in his final season in Cuba's Serie Nacional. That line, along with the .316/.406/.586 that he slashed from 2010-12 in his age 23-25 seasons (h/t: Obstructed View), was enough for Boras to compare Guerrero's power to that of Dan Uggla. While that comp should be taken with a grain of salt, the bar is set pretty low for Guerrero in the Majors, at least among his new peers; Major League second basemen slugged just .376 this year as a group. It should also be noted that Ben Badler of Baseball America did call right-handed power Guerrero's best tool in his late July scouting report (BA subscription required and recommended).
Guerrero also drew interest from the Giants, Rangers, Red Sox, Twins and Reds, but ultimately wound up signing with the first team to which he was connected. With this agreement, the Dodgers seem to have taken themselves out of the running for Robinson Cano, though they could conceivably move Hanley Ramirez to third base and play Guerrero at shortstop. That seems unlikely, as it has long been rumored that the team has no intentions of pursuing Cano on the free agent market, and partial owner Magic Johnson controversially confirmed that thinking to reporters earlier this month. Guerrero's signing also seems to point to the fact that Mark Ellis' $5.75MM club option will be declined in favor of a $1MM buyout.
Guerrero is the second major Cuban star to sign in the past week, as the White Sox recently signed first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu to a record-setting six-year, $68MM contract.
The Dodgers thought they had a deal with Cuban second baseman Alexander Guerrero several weeks ago, but the pact dissolved when it was discovered that Guerrero's first representatives were not certified agents. Since then, the Dodgers have said that their previous five-year, $32MM deal was off the table, but that may have just been posturing. The Dodgers are again one of a few teams in the thick of the Guerrero talks, people familiar with the discussions tell Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
Since the L.A. deal fell apart, Guerrero signed on with Scott Boras and the agent immediately opened the bidding back up to all major league clubs. Now, the 26-year-old is only seeking a four-year deal so that he can once again become a free agent at the age of 30. Many of the clubs in the mix for Guerrero are seeking a longer pact, but Heyman writes that the team willing to meet his asking price on a four-year deal will be the victor.
The Giants, Rangers, Red Sox, and Reds have also been connected to Guerrero in recent weeks. However, Reds GM Walt Jocketty said yesterday that he expects the Cuban to sign elsewhere and a Rangers source suggested to Heyman that they're not making an aggressive push for him. Heyman adds that it's possible the Cardinals will get involved with Guerrero this winter.