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Twins outfielder Byron Buxton is the top prospect in baseball, per MLB.com’s top 100 prospects. The Cubs have two prospects in the top five – Kris Bryant (second) and Addison Russell (fifth). The Dodgers have three in the top 13 – Corey Seager (seventh), Julio Urias (eighth), and Joc Pederson (13th). The Cubs and Twins are the two teams with five prospects in the top 50. Here’s more news from around the league.
- The Red Sox will use Brandon Workman as a reliever this season, reports Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com. The move could be a big stabilizing influence for Workman, who dealt with fatigue the last couple seasons. Mastrodonato points to Wade Davis as a best case scenario. Davis was an indifferent starter in previous campaigns, but he dominated out of the pen last year. Some pitchers, like Davis, experience a notable velocity increase in relief work. It will be interesting to see how Workman reacts.
- Boston appears to have a full bullpen without the presence of Workman, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Recent additions Alexi Ogando and Robbie Ross join Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Edward Mujica, Craig Breslow, and Anthony Varvaro. Many clubs were concerned about Ogando’s injury history, but the Red Sox liked what they saw while scouting the righty. He passed his physical and should be prepared for a normal preseason workload.
- The Rockies decided to stand pat rather than rebuild due to the quality of talent on the roster, CEO Dick Monfort tells Thomas Harding of MLB.com. Healthy seasons from Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez plus continued breakouts from Nolan Arenado, Corey Dickerson, and Charlie Blackmon could produce a special offense. While pitching is always a problem, Monfort is pleased with the products of the farm.
- Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is more optimistic about the current club than the pricey 2012 version, he tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Loria is pleased with the overhauled infield, Giancarlo Stanton‘s long term extension, and the acquisition of Mat Latos. He doesn’t know what will happen with Dan Haren,
Full Story | 0 Comments | Categories: Addison Russell | Alexi Ogando | Boston Red Sox | Brandon Workman | Byron Buxton | C.J. Edwards | Chicago Cubs | Colorado Rockies | Corey Seager | Dan Haren | Joc Pederson | Jorge Soler | Julio Urias | Kris Bryant | Kyle Schwarber | Los Angeles Dodgers | Miami Marlins | Minnesota Twins | Wade Davis
4:04pm: Ogando passed his physical, tweets Cafardo. He’s likely to serve as a seventh-inning option for Boston.
3:11pm: Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that there are an additional $1.5MM worth of roster bonuses and performance incentives in the deal.
2:44pm: The Red Sox and right-hander Alexi Ogando are in agreement on a one-year, Major League contract, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe had just tweeted that the two sides were “moving along,” and colleague Alex Speier added that they were nearing a Major League deal. The deal is pending a physical, per Rosenthal. Ogando is a joint client of Reynolds Sports Management and Draft Pix Sports.
The Rangers non-tendered Ogando this Deceber rather than pay him a projected $2.6MM due largely to concerns over his health. For that reason, the physical on this deal would not seem to be a slam dunk; Ogando battled nerve damage and inflammation in his shoulder as well as a biceps issue in 2013. In 2014, he was limited to just 25 innings of work thanks to a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm.
Suffice it to say, the risk with Ogando is considerable, however the upside is tantalizing. In four seasons with the Rangers from 2010-13, Ogando pitched to a 3.12 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 381 innings as both a starter and a reliever. Ogando’s fastball averaged 96-97 mph when he was at his best with the Rangers in the first three seasons of his career, but his arm issues over the past two season dropped that heat to about 93.5 mph. If he’s healthy and his velocity returns, Ogando can provide the Red Sox with a weapon out of the ‘pen or perhaps another option for the rotation, though the picture is fairly crowded on that front. Boston has the added benefit of controlling Ogando through the 2016 season via arbitration, should he perform well enough to merit that scenario.
Most of the meat left on the free agent bone belongs to the pitching segment of the market. Indeed, five of the seven players who I listed this morning as intriguing free agents were right-handed pitchers.
Here’s the latest on some arms from around the league:
- There was more cloudy news out of Venezuela regarding Johan Santana‘s comeback attempt, as his agent tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports that he will not attempt to pitch again in the winter league. (Twitter links.) Santana may still aim to take a mound for scouts, but any such plans are “unclear” at this point.
- The Angels are still not interested in chasing James Shields, even if his price may have dropped somewhat, GM Jerry Dipoto tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter).
- For their part, the Twins have no intentions of going after free agent righties John Axford and Alexi Ogando, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune tweets. As he notes, the market has several attractive right-handed relief arms, though it is not clear whether Minnesota has any interest in adding to its pen. Both Axford and Ogando made my list of interesting players to watch. I consider the pair to be among the remaining free agents who could either break out or break down in 2015.
As it always does, the free agent market contains some fairly noteworthy names entering the final month before Spring Training. A good portion of the value at the top of the leftover market lies in established names who have been reliable, healthy, and good in the recent past: James Shields, Francisco Rodriguez, and the like.
Some of those types of players may be a bit long in the tooth, perhaps, or might lack upside or be coming off of a somewhat down 2014 season. But there are teams with expectations of contending that are interested in signing them and plugging them into important roster slots. This segment of the market contains relative certainty.
But as much as the solid veteran group is useful, it is entirely less interesting than the array of wild cards that also remain to be signed. For another market niche, comparative youth, talent, and/or upside marry with various issues, inconsistency, and/or injury. Some such players will surely flame out, never to be heard from again, but it is likewise possible that one or more will re-establish themselves as quality regulars and deliver immense value to their new teams.
If you are a fan of a team that wants someone to dream on without breaking the bank (or even committing a big league roster spot, in some cases), consider one of these players from the scratch-and-dent market:
- Mike Adams, right-handed pitcher, 36 – Remember when the 6’5 reliever was a really effective set-up man? Wait, he has always been a really effective set-up man — when healthy. He may not have been on the field enough to deliver value to the Phillies on his $12MM free agent contract, but even while battling through injury Adams worked to a 3.50 ERA over 43 2/3 innings. Last year, especially, he was quite good: a 2.89 ERA (supported entirely by sub-3.00 ERA estimator marks) and better than ten punchouts per nine with a 56.3% groundball rate. Sure, it was a small sample (18 2/3) and his shoulder problems were still present. But if you’re going to roll the dice, it may as well be for a nice potential return.
- John Axford, right-handed pitcher, 31 – Axford still pumps gas and still logs double-digit strikeout rates. Sure, he walked nearly six batters per nine last year and ERA estimators have been increasingly dubious of his quality over the past three seasons. If he can figure out a way to reign back in the free passes and yield a few fewer long balls, Axford still looks like a late-inning arm. And now, teams can take a chance on a return to form without the high salaries that he carried more recently.
- Brandon Beachy, right-handed pitcher, 28 – The former Brave owns a lifetime 3.23 ERA over 46 big league starts, with a 3.34 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, and 3.39 SIERA. He has averaged better than nine strikeouts and less than three walks per nine innings. He also is on his second replacement UCL, this one installed last spring. In each of the above-referenced statistics, Beachy is entirely not-unlike fellow former Atlanta hurler Kris Medlen. Yet Beachy — who is one year younger — remains unsigned while Medlen has already secured an $8.5MM guarantee. He also can be controlled for an additional year through arbitration, with a low salary base to work from.
- Chad Billingsley, right-handed pitcher, 30 – As with Beachy, Billingsley was once an effective starter who has struggled for some time now to return from Tommy John surgery. What the latter lacks in dominating upside, he makes up for in the lengthy run of reliable innings he provided before succumbing to elbow troubles. From the time he became a full-time starter in 2008 through the 2011 season (the one before his elbow troubles began), Billingsley averaged 194 frames of 3.73 ERA pitching.
- Everth Cabrera, shortstop, 28 – Were it not for his off-field issues, it seems likely the Padres would have tendered the former starting shortstop and given him a chance to regain his 2013 form. The year before last, Cabrera registered a 114 wRC+ while swiping 37 bags (down from 44 in the season prior) and playing the best-rated defense of his career. That was a 3.1 fWAR player, even in a season cut short due to suspension. The 2014 version of Cabrera was not, even when on the field instead of nursing an injury. There are issues aplenty here, but his abilities stand out in a market that hurt for middle infield talent from the start. And it does not hurt that he comes with a year of arb control remaining.
- Alexi Ogando, right-handed pitcher, 31 – Flipping back and forth between starting and relief, Ogando and his mid-90s heater have long been a storyline. And until last year’s dud, he had never been anything but effective. Even after putting up 25 innings at double the allowed runs rate that he had generally permitted, Ogando sits with a lifetime 3.35 earned run mark. The track record of arm trouble remains a concern, but Ogando’s velocity was just fine last year and he could easily be on the rise with a normal spring.
- Rickie Weeks, second base, 32 – Once one of the game’s better keystone options, Weeks has stumbled backward in all areas of the game since 2012. But last year was a bit different; while his defensive metrics continued to lag behind his earlier work, Weeks did put up a .274/.357/.452 slash in 286 plate appearances that brought to mind better days. True, Weeks inflicted much of his damage against lefties, with his solid line against right-handers propped up by a .420 BABIP. But given his track record, a revived spurt of production at least raises the possibility of a late-career renaissance.
As things stand, the Nationals have the game’s best rotation while the Royals have the top pen, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney opines (Insider links). Of course, the offseason is not yet over. Here are the latest notes on the pitching market:
- Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart confirmed that the team has active interest in starter James Shields, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Stewart adds that he likes the idea of Shields serving as a mentor while fronting the team’s rotation. Fellow free agent Max Scherzer, however, is too spendy for Arizona.
- When the Cardinals pursued lefty Jon Lester, the team indicated it was willing to spend only to the $120MM range, Olney tweets. That could give an idea of what kind of payroll space the club feels willing to occupy, says Olney. St. Louis was recently linked to a trio of top starting pitchers, each of whom would represent quite a different investment.
- Alexi Ogando apparently produced solid results in his recent workout, with Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com tweeting that scouts were impressed. The Red Sox and Dodgers are “aggressive” on Ogando, Gammons adds. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe had tweeted that Boston was in attendance.
- Righty Matt Albers is throwing in preparation for a showcase early next month, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). The shoulder issues that shut him down last year did not involve any structural damage, says Morosi.
- Agent Bobby Witt says that client Scott Baker, another free agent righty, prefers to join a team that will allow him to enter camp as a starter, Morosi reports (Twitter links). Baker has five minor league offers in hand but is hoping to receive a major league contract.
- Interest in lefty Phil Coke is “amping up,” Chris Iott of MLive.com tweets. Nevertheless, a signing does not appear to be imminent, per the report.
- The Twins are planning to watch lefty Johan Santana throw today after already seeing him on the mound last week, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets. Santana is not the only prominent hurler eyeing a comeback, it seems. Former closer Carlos Marmol threw in the Dominican earlier this winter and is now pitching in Venezuela, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. And one-time relief ace Daniel Bard, whose career derailed with a failed conversion back to the rotation, is also seeking a return, Cafardo reports. The 29-year-old says he is finally healthy and expects to sign a deal this week.
Full Story | 0 Comments | Categories: Alexi Ogando | Arizona Diamondbacks | Boston Red Sox | Carlos Marmol | Daniel Bard | James Shields | Johan Santana | Jon Lester | Kansas City Royals | Los Angeles Dodgers | Matt Albers | Max Scherzer | Minnesota Twins | Phil Coke | Scott Baker | St. Louis Cardinals | Washington Nationals
Earlier today, a report cited an anonymous AL executive who claimed that the medical records on free agent righty Alexi Ogando‘s shoulder “didn’t look great” and that Ogando’s market would heat up once he accepted that he wouldn’t be able to land a big-league deal. Ogando’s agent, Larry Reynolds, told MLBTR on Sunday that he objected to that executive’s description of his client’s health.
“Alexi Ogando was 92 to 93 and touched 94 at a bullpen session for numerous teams last week,” says Reynolds. “After an earlier examination by Dr. [James] Andrews, coupled with his promising progression, we believe Alexi should have no problem securing a job and will be pitching on Day 1 of 2015 Spring Training.”
Ogando missed much of the 2014 season with elbow inflammation, and he had shoulder trouble in 2013. The Rangers non-tendered him last month. Prior to 2014, when he pitched only 25 innings and had a 6.84 ERA, the 31-year-old had gotten good results as both a starter and a reliever when healthy.
It’s time to add Pete Rose’s name to Hall of Fame ballot, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Cafardo always agreed with the decision from commissioner Bart Giamatti to keep Rose out of baseball after he bet on games but after 25 years at the age of 73, he feels that the all-time great has paid for his crime. He’s not sure whether he’d vote for Charlie Hustle, but he should at least have the opportunity to be elected. More from today’s column..
- Cafardo hears that there have been no talks this month between the Phillies and Red Sox regarding Cole Hamels. Boston will not part with Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart but the Phillies want one of the two to make a deal. West Coast teams, meanwhile, are in pursuit of the left-hander.
- One National League GM speculated that James Shields hasn’t jumped on his rumored $110MM offer because he doesn’t want to play for that team. Of course, at 33, teams are wary of giving a five-year deal. “There isn’t a team who wouldn’t want Shields for three years. But five? That’s where it gets tough,” one GM said.
- Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette is still in the running for the Blue Jays president’s job, according to a major league source that spoke with Cafardo. In order that that to advance, of course, the two teams would have to agree on compensation, which is where deals such as this usually break down.
- The tampering charge the Rays filed against the Cubs over manager Joe Maddon is still alive. A major league source tells Cafardo that MLB investigators have been gathering information on the matter.
- Alexi Ogando‘s shoulder medicals don’t look great, according to an American League executive. Still, once his price lowers and he’s no longer holding out for a major league contract, teams will compete for his services.
- Mark Mulder says he’s in the final stage of rehab for his Achilles’/ankle injury and will soon make a decision on whether to resume his pitching career. “The ankle is great,” Mulder said.
The Orioles could be preparing for Delmon Young to play more next season, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. “Delmon Young is an accomplished major league hitter who had a nice year with a lot of clutch hits in part-time duty in 2014,” texts Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette. “We look forward to his return and contribution on our 2015 team. Depending on how the team is structured, he could have a more vital role this season.” Playing the right-handed Young more regularly could help make up for the loss of Nelson Cruz, although the Orioles continue to look at the left-handed Colby Rasmus as well, with an Orioles source telling Encina the odds that the team will sign him are “50-50.” Here are more notes from around baseball.
- About two dozen teams were expected to be on hand for Alexi Ogando‘s showcase yesterday in Tampa, tweets Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons. Ogando, 31, was non-tendered by the Rangers this offseason after he missed much of the 2014 campaign with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Although he had a rough time in 2014 with an ERA near 7.00, Ogando entered the season with a career 3.12 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 381 innings split between the Rangers’ rotation and bullpen. Given his track record of success as both a starter and reliever, it’s not surprising that more than two-thirds of the team in the league would want to get a look at him to gauge his health for themselves.
- Johan Santana is again plotting a comeback, and ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick updates his progress. The lefty is preparing to appear in a Venezuelan winter league game and hopes to sign before camp opens, agent Peter Greenberg says.
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty didn’t want to handicap the odds of his club signing ace Johnny Cueto to an extension prior to his specified Opening Day deadline when asked by MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Jocketty says the Cincinnati front office has a lot on its plate right now, with arbitration cases for Mike Leake, Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier, Aroldis Chapman and Zack Cozart on the horizon. The Reds are also still pursuing upgrades for the bench and bullpen — a process Jocketty referred to as “slow.” Sheldon feels that given the Reds’ full 40-man roster, the most likely scenario would be a few additions on minor league deals with invites to big league camp.
Free agent infielder Rafael Furcal could be a fit for the Royals on a minor league deal thanks to his connection with GM Dayton Moore, according to Tim Dierkes of MLBTR (via Twitter). Here are some of the latest free agency rumors out of San Diego..
- Jason Grilli has multiple offers from teams in major markets but the Tigers are not one of them, his agent tells Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (on Twitter).
- The Rangers have interest in Eric Young Jr., but they may have already been outbid, according to Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson says he is considering bidding in the posting of Jung-ho Kang, but he’s unresolved as to whether he will, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.
- The Orioles could be a landing spot for former Rangers pitcher Alexi Ogando, according to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com (via Twitter).
- After signing Jon Lester, the Cubs are now pursuing outfielder Jonny Gomes in an apparent effort to get the band back together, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter).
- Catcher David Ross tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (via Twitter) that he’s not close on a deal with any club even though he has interest from the Red Sox, Cubs, Braves, D’Backs, and Padres.
Full Story | 0 Comments | Categories: Alexi Ogando | Arizona Diamondbacks | Atlanta Braves | Baltimore Orioles | Boston Red Sox | Chicago Cubs | David Ross | Detroit Tigers | Eric Young, Jr. | Jason Grilli | Jonny Gomes | Jung-ho Kang | Kansas City Royals | Newsstand | Rafael Furcal | San Diego Padres | Texas Rangers
The Orioles, Padres and Mariners have shown interest in Matt Kemp, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. However, one source tells Heyman that Baltimore has gotten “nowhere” in trade talks with Los Angeles. The Padres have spoken to the Dodgers about Kemp, and while the Dodgers may have some interest in top catching prospect Austin Hedges, Heyman feels San Diego is more inclined to move Rene Rivera or Yasmani Grandal. The Mariners may not have the budget after signing Nelson Cruz and extending Kyle Seager. Generally speaking, Heyman hears from rival executives that the Dodgers still seem reluctant to pull the trigger on any Kemp deal.
More Dodgers notes…
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports looks at how much money the team would have to eat to move Kemp, Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford. Rosenthal estimates each player’s market value and notes that teams aren’t going to part with prospects for the right to pay an overpaid player at his true market rate. Rather, the Dodgers will need to pay down additional millions of dollars, meaning that a player like Ethier, in Rosenthal’s estimation, could need to be accompanied by as much as $30-36MM to facilitate the deal.
- The Dodgers will take a look at recently non-tendered right-hander Alexi Ogando, reports Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles (Twitter link). However, as Saxon notes, Ogando figures to draw interest from many clubs. The righty is rehabbing from an elbow injury but has previously proven himself to be a capable starter or reliever.
- In a more general sense, Saxon spoke with GM Farhan Zaidi (Twitter link), who noted that there are a lot of pitchers with high ceilings that were non-tendered as they rehab from injuries, and the Dodgers will look into those arms to see if there’s a match. Among the top names from the non-tender class include now-former Braves righties Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy (as well as Ogando).