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It almost doesn’t seem fathomable, but the Rangers received even more bad news on the injury front today, as MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan writes that Alexi Ogando will be shut down for three weeks and could miss up to two months with inflammation and some minor ligament damage in his right elbow. An MRI showed “wear and tear” on the ligament, but not enough to require surgery, he adds. Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest tweets that the Rangers are officially terming the injury “acute inflammation.”
Here’s more from the American League West…
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports takes an excellent in-depth look at Athletics slugger Brandon Moss, who admits that he almost quit the game on multiple occasions before latching on with the A’s. Moss tells Rosenthal that he initially chose to sign with Oakland because he knew he’d be hitting in the Pacific Coast League at Triple-A after his minor league deal, and he thought that league’s notoriously hitter-friendly environments would boost his power numbers and draw some interest from Japanese teams. Moss adds that he was preparing to become a firefighter in his native Georgia, should his last attempt with the A’s not pan out.
- The Mariners could be a potential landing spot for Billy Butler if the Royals end up moving him, reports Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. The team has long coveted Butler but would need to be convinced that his season-long slump is just that — a slump — rather than the beginning of a decline. Some scouts have told Dutton they don’t see diminished bat speed for Butler, which is a good sign. He adds that Kansas City has shown interest in Nick Franklin, though clearly a Butler-for-Franklin 1-for-1 swap isn’t realistic.
- Dutton adds that Mariners officials dismissed previous reports that have connected the team to Cuban outfielder Daniel Carbonell. It’s been reported previously that Seattle is one of two finalists for Carbonell’s services. Dutton does note that the Seattle front office’s denial could merely be gamesmanship.
We'll keep track of today's smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post. Click here for background on the upcoming arbitration schedule and how MLBTR is covering it. You can also check in on our Arbitration Tracker and look at MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz's arbitration projections.
Today's noon CT deadline to exchange arb figures has passed, but negotiations to avoid an arbitration hearing can continue into February. The Braves are the only strict "file and trial" team that did not agree to terms with all of its arb-eligible players, meaning they could be headed for several hearings. The Nats and Indians have also shown a willingness to go to a trial and still have some players unsigned. On to today's contract agreements…
- After exchanging numbers, the Mets and pitcher Dillon Gee have agreed to settle at the midpoint of $3.625MM, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Swartz projected Gee to earn $3.4MM.
- The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, president Theo Epstein told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He will earn $1.325MM next year, according to a tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. It is not immediately apparent whether the deal was reached before the sides exchanged terms.
- The Angels have reached agreement on a $3.8MM deal with reliever Ernesto Frieri, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter).
- Mike Minor has agreed to terms on a $3.85MM deal with the Braves to avoid arbitration, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). The deal came before figures were exchanged, Bowman notes.
- Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the D-Backs and lefty Joe Thatcher have avoided arb with a one-year, $2.375MM deal (Twitter link).
- Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Angels and Fernando Salas reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. Salas is the first Halos player to avoid arb. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Salas will earn $870K, which beats out his $700K projection.
- MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (via Twitter) that the Tigers and righty Al Alburquerque have reached agreement on a deal to avoid arb. The hard-throwing righty will earn $837.5K in 2014, tweets Beck.
- Sherman tweets that the Yankees and Ivan Nova avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal.
- The Pirates and Vin Mazzaro inked a one-year, $950K deal in lieu of an arbitration hearing, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
- The Royals announced that they've avoided arbitration with infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Heyman tweets that Bonifacio will earn $3.5MM in 2014.
- Sherman reports that the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeremy Hellickson and Sean Rodriguez (Twitter link). Hellickson landed a $3.625MM payday with a $25K bonus if he hits 195 innings pitched. Rodriguez will get $1.475MM with a $25K bump for hitting 300 plate appearances.
- Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Brian Matusz avoided arb with the Orioles. Sherman adds that he'll earn $2.4MM in 2014.
- MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Jason Castro and the Astros have avoided arbitration. McTaggart adds in a second tweet that Jesus Guzman avoided arb as well. Heyman reports that Castro will be paid $2.45MM, while Sherman tweets that Guzman will make $1.3MM.
- The Indians tweeted that they've avoided arb with lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that he'll earn $1.375MM in 2014. Bastian adds that Scrabble will earn an additional $25K for appearing in 55 games and another $25K for 60 games.
- The Giants avoided arbitration with Yusmeiro Petit, according to MLBTR's Steve Adams (on Twitter). He'll earn $845K, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).
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The Rangers have a narrow half-game lead over the Athletics as they seek a third division championship in four seasons. Meanwhile, the news is positive on Mariners manager Eric Wedge, who tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that he will come back strong from the stroke he suffered about a month ago. Here's more out of the AL West …
- Alexi Ogando has hit the disabled list for a third time this season thanks to inflammation in his right shoulder, but Rangers GM Jon Daniels told reporters, including Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, that he's not considering signing a pitcher from outside the organization to replace him (Twitter link). In a follow-up tweet, Wilson adds that Daniels and the Rangers will continue to view Ogando as a starter in 2013, but his future role is a topic of conversation for next year.
- Following today's DFA of lefty Wade LeBlanc, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart notes that 14 of the 25 players on the Astros' active roster are rookies (on Twitter).
- The Athletics have extended their player development contract with their Class-A affiliate in Stockton through the 2016 season, according to Janie McCauly of the Associated Press (Twitter link).
The Rangers made a minor trade earlier today, sending Kelvin De La Cruz to the Indians in exchange for cash considerations. De La Cruz was a Ranger for less than a month, as he was originally acquired by Texas in another deal with Cleveland on February 21.
Some more news from the two-time defending AL champions…
- In an interview Ben & Skin of ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM radio, Jon Daniels said that the Rangers are better served by having Alexi Ogando in the bullpen, though the GM admitted that Ogando probably deserves a starting job after his solid performance in the rotation last year. No firm decision has yet been made, however, about Ogando's status. ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett collects some of the notable topics in Daniels' interview.
- Shortstop prospect Jurickson Profar may see some time playing second base, Rangers director of minor league operations Jake Krug tells Bryan Dolgin of the Rangers Magazine radio show. The 19-year-old Profar was ranked as the seventh-best prospect in the game by Baseball America's 2012 minor league rankings. Giving him time at second base would give Texas a possible option if Ian Kinsler can't be signed to an extension, though it seem a waste of Profar's defensive skills to move him away from short.
- The Rangers spent the most on any team on international bonuses last year, according to a report by Baseball America. The Rangers spent an estimated $12.83MM (not counting Japanese professionals or Cuban defectors) on international signings, more than $5MM ahead of the second-place team on the list, the Blue Jays.
- Texas accounts for the top two spots (Nomar Mazara and Ronald Guzman) on another Baseball America list, chronicling the top 30 international bonuses from last year.
- Brad Hawpe and Conor Jackson are both trying to keep their Major League careers going in the Rangers camp, reports MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan. Hawpe and Jackson are both signed to minor league deals and are fighting for jobs on the Rangers' bench. "It's hard to imagine either player going to Triple-A," Sullivan writes, so Hawpe and/or Jackson could find themselves waived by March 30.
With tonight's victory, the Rangers became the first AL West team to win consecutive pennants since the A's won three straight American League titles between 1988 and 1990. Here are a few news items from around the division….
- Despite recent rumors, the Rangers say there's "no way" they'll throw money at CC Sabathia this offseason, reports Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (Twitter links). If Texas does decide to go after a starter from outside the organization, it would probably be Yu Darvish.
- "[C.J. Wilson] wants $100MM, and he's not getting that from us," a Rangers source tells Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com. The source says that if Wilson leaves Texas for free agency, Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz would both be converted into starting pitchers next season.
- The Angels may be close to a new television contract with FOX Sports, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. A filing from Major League Baseball (in the ongoing legal case with Frank McCourt) stated that the Halos are "expected to close a new transaction" in regards to a new TV deal. Shaikin hears from sources that "no deal is imminent" but FOX and the Angels have been in negotiations. Shaikin speculates that the contract could exceed the Rangers' recent 20-year, $1.6BB TV contract with FOX.
- The Athletics were denied permission to interview Reds pitching coach Bryan Price, reports ESPN's Buster Olney (Twitter link). Price's contract in Cincinnati expires after next season.
- Athletics scouts were against the December 2005 trade of then-prospect Andre Ethier to the Dodgers for Milton Bradley, tweets Tom Krasovic of West Coast Bias.
It seems like MLB teams, even good ones, are always on the hunt for starting pitching. The Tigers, Indians, Red Sox, Cardinals and Diamondbacks acquired starting pitching at the trade deadline and other contenders inquired on starters before moving on to other targets.
Quality starting pitching is scarce and expensive so teams sometimes convert relievers to the rotation in case they can add value as starters. Here's a look at the four converted relievers have who started extensively in 2011. None of the pitchers below had more than two MLB starts to his name before the 2011 season and all of them were big league relievers last year:
- Alexi Ogando, Rangers - What a find for the Rangers. Ogando has a 2.88 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 125 innings as a starter. The converted outfielder has averaged 94.8 mph with his fastball, but it's hard not to wonder if he'll tire toward the end of the season. Ogando's previous professional high in innings is 70 2/3.
- Phil Coke, Tigers – Coke lost his rotation spot midway through the season after posting a 4.91 ERA with 4.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 77 innings. The left-hander was solid in April and May, but put together a string of ugly outings in June and is now pitching out of the 'pen again.
- Kyle McClellan, Cardinals – McClellan, who replaced the injured Adam Wainwright, lost his rotation spot when St. Louis acquired Edwin Jackson. McClellan returns to the bullpen after posting a respectable 4.21 ERA in 104 2/3 innings from the rotation.
- Phil Humber, White Sox – The 28-year-old former third overall pick has a 3.44 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 117 2/3 innings. Though his last three starts haven't been pretty, Humber's emergence allowed the White Sox to part with Jackson last week.
From the moment they're drafted to the day they retire, starting pitchers are generally more highly coveted than relievers. They're selected earlier on draft day, they earn more in arbitration and they sign more lucrative free agent contracts. There are exceptions of course: Drew Storen was a first rounder, Jonathan Papelbon earned nearly $30MM through arbitration and most starters would love to match Mariano Rivera's free agent earning power. But for the most part, teams invest more in starters.
So when a rotation opening emerges or a pitcher is particularly impressive out of the 'pen, baseball officials are often tempted to convert relievers into starters. This year has been no exception, so let's take another look at converted relievers. None of the pitchers below had more than two MLB starts to his name before the 2011 season and all of them were big league relievers last year:
- Alexi Ogando, Rangers – Ogando has been tremendous for the Rangers. The converted outfielder has a 2.86 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 97 2/3 innings. His ground ball rate has dropped to 36.3%, yet his average fastball velocity is impressively high at 94.7 mph. After successfully converting C.J. Wilson in 2010 and Ogando this year, will Texas move Neftali Feliz to the rotation in 2012?
- Phil Coke, Tigers – Coke lost his rotation spot last week after posting a 4.91 ERA with 4.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 77 innings. The left-hander was solid in April and May, but put together a string of ugly outings in June.
- Kyle McClellan, Cardinals – McClellan, who is replacing the injured Adam Wainwright, has a 4.27 ERA with 4.7 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 through 90 2/3 innings. McClellan's ERA has jumped two runs this year and he has already set a career-high in innings pitched. He has not surpassed 100 innings since he was a starter in the Midwest League seven years ago.
- Phil Humber, White Sox – It took a while, but Humber is finally putting it together in the Major Leagues. The former third overall pick has a 2.69 ERA with 5.5 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 46.1% ground ball rate in 103 2/3 innings. Even if Humber's ERA rises – his peripheral stats suggest it will – the White Sox have found themselves a valuable arm.