- When the Athletics put Rich Hill on the market, they can be expected to charge a high price for him, Rosenthal says. Hill’s stats — if only for this season — compare favorably to David Price’s last year, and he might be amenable to an extension with his new team.
- Prior to this season, there was no trade interest in Melvin Upton unless the Padres took on the rest of his contract. After a .268/.315/.464 performance this year, though, that’s changing, at least to a degree. San Diego still owes Upton a little under $40MM through 2017, but teams are now willing to give up talent, with the Padres’ return increasing depending upon how much salary they’re willing to take on. The Padres might be motivated to deal Upton and/or Matt Kemp to clear space for former first-round pick Hunter Renfroe, who’s batting .335/.362/.611 for Triple-A El Paso. Austin Hedges has also hit well for the Chihuahuas, which means the Padres could also look to move fellow catcher Derek Norris to clear space in the big leagues.
- Jay Bruce to the Blue Jays would make sense, Rosenthal opines. Acquiring Bruce from the Reds would allow the Jays to move Jose Bautista (who’s currently on the DL with a toe injury) to DH and reduce playing time for the underwhelming Justin Smoak. The Jays have a greater need for pitching, but might play to the strengths of the market by acquiring hitting instead.
- The Phillies could consider keeping Jeremy Hellickson, who’s in the midst of a solid season — he could eat innings for them down the stretch, with the Phillies perhaps gambling on him by extending a qualifying offer this coming winter and hoping to grab a draft pick as a result. But they would still “jump” at a good trade offer. Of their relievers, the Phils are more likely to deal David Hernandez or Andrew Bailey than Jeanmar Gomez, who they can control for 2017. Other Phillies candidates to be dealt include Andres Blanco and Peter Bourjos.
- Rosenthal begins the second video with a brief discussion of an article of his from earlier today about former Cardinals minor leaguer Cody Stanley, who has already received a 162-game suspension and expects to receive a lifetime ban for repeatedly testing positive for the steroid Turinabol. Stanley claims to not know why he keeps testing positive. “I will never apologize for something I didn’t do,” Stanley said in a statement. “We will not stop searching for why all of this has happened.” Chris Colabello of the Blue Jays, Alec Asher and Daniel Stumpf of the Phillies and Boog Powell of the Mariners have all tested positive for Turinabol and received suspensions, and all claim not to know what happened. “Who would be stupid enough to take the same steroid again?” Stanley asks Rosenthal.
- The Mets are likely to trade for pitching after a series of injuries to their hurlers, Rosenthal says. Recent injuries to Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard could have the team looking in different directions this month than previously anticipated, perhaps to starters, perhaps to relievers.
- The Dodgers will consider dealing Yasiel Puig before the August 1 deadline, Rosenthal suggests. Whether they actually do deal him could depend, however, on the timing of Andre Ethier’s return and whether they acquire another outfielder.
The Phillies have designated southpaw James Russell for assignment, as Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com first reported on Twitter. Philadelphia has also announced that it has selected the contract of righty Andrew Bailey to replace him.
Both Russell and Bailey were brought in on minor league deals over the winter. The former was earning at a $1.5MM rate. It’s not known how much Bailey stands to make at the major league level, but the move will render his May 1 opt-out opportunity moot.
Russell, 30, was off to a rough start to the year. In 4 1/3 innings over seven appearances, he had allowed nine earned runs on nine hits and five free passes (to go with four strikeouts). On the positive side, Russell’s swinging strike rate is up to a career-best 13.8% — though that comes in quite a limited sample and without the results to match.
As for the Bailey, the promotion gives him yet another shot at reinvigorating his career. The 31-year-old has been rather dominant at Triple-A in the early going, registering ten strikeouts against a pair of walks while permitting one earned run in his five innings. He struggled with control last year in a brief stint with the Yankees, though, and hasn’t been healthy and effective over a full major league season since way back in 2011.
We’ve already covered a number of roster decisions already this evening, but more keep rolling in. Here are some of the latest:
- The Orioles announced a number of moves, including the demotion of infielder Paul Janish. That could open the door to an Opening Day roster spot for Hyun Soo Kim, as Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com explains (Twitter links). Kim has continued to maintain that he will not accept a minor league assignment, as is his contractual right, despite a rough spring. Only Xavier Avery appears to remain an obstacle to a roster spot for Kim, as the team’s 29 remaining players in camp include three who are bound for the DL.
- The Phillies have announced that veteran relievers Andrew Bailey and Ernesto Frieri were reassigned to minor league camp along with catcher J.P. Arencibia and outfielder Will Venable. That lends clarity to the team’s Opening Day roster. Bailey reportedly has a May 1 opt-out date, while Frieri apparently allowed his own to pass yesterday without action. Venable had seemed lined up for a job after signing late in camp, but the Phils will apparently give roster spots to non-roster invitees Cedric Hunter and Emmanuel Burriss, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki notes on Twitter. Fellow minor league signee James Russell also appears to have earned an Opening Day nod. The club is also set to give a shot to its two Rule 5 picks — outfielder Tyler Goeddel and lefty Daniel Stumpf.
- CC Sabathia has beaten out Ivan Nova for the Yankees’ fifth starter role, manager Joe Girardi told reporters incluing Wallace Mathews of ESPNNewYork.com (Twitter link). That appears to put Nova in the pen for now, where he’ll also serve as a swingman option. The Yanks will give their final pen job to righty Kirby Yates, according to Jack Curry of the YES Network (via Twitter). Yates was acquired for cash over the winter, and impressed this spring, though he might not have had a slot had it not been for an unfortunate injury to Bryan Mitchell. Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees Blog had noted yesterday on Twitter that Yates was a prime candidate to take over for Mitchell, while adding that Luis Cessa and Johnny Barbato were also slated to join the active roster for the season’s start.
- Fortunately for the Yankees, it appears they won’t have to replace lefty Andrew Miller on Opening Day. Miller has been cleared to pitch despite suffering a fracture to his non-pitching hand, as Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News reports. Miller, who’ll hold down closing duties while Aroldis Chapman is out, is not expected to require surgery and will apparently be able to proceed as normal so long as he can tolerate the injury.
Over the years, we’ve heard much about the Cardinals Way – an organization-wide process credited with developing several untouted prospects into major league regulars. More recently, the Pirates Way of developing pitchers has been mentioned more and more frequently. The Nationals have developed their own Way, writes Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. Janes goes into the details of a system that depends on consistency from the minor league coaching staff. Catchers are a lynchpin in helping pitchers to develop. Coordinators rove between the affiliates as pseudo-quality control officials. The details provide an interesting glimpse under the hood of the Nationals minor league system.
Here’s more from the NL East:
- Nationals reliever Matt Belisle may decide to opt out of his contract tomorrow afternoon, writes Bill Ladson of MLB.com. Belisle inked a minor league contract with the Nationals earlier in the winter. His opt out day is tomorrow. To this point, he’s allowed three runs in five and one-third innings. Washington does appear to have a full bullpen in place without Belisle, making it hard to see a spot for him on the 40-man roster. Belisle himself is unsure if he’ll exercise the opt out. His best years came in Colorado from 2011 through 2013.
- The Phillies still have two or three unclaimed spots in their bullpen, writes Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Manager Pete Mackanin said the club may add an arm via trade or waivers. There’s also “a good possibility” the team will roll with three left-handed relievers. Dailer Hinojosa, Jeanmar Gomez, David Hernandez, and Brett Oberholtzer are the four guys with relative secure jobs. Salisbury believes veteran Edward Mujica is likely to make the team too, while Andrew Bailey has fallen off in recent outings. Rule 5 pick Daniel Stumpf may be at an advantage if the organization wants to keep him. He would be one of the lefties. Salisbury has a full account of the 12 relievers still in the mix.
- Injuries to the Phillies outfield could open an opportunity for minor league journeyman Cedric Hunter, writes Salisbury. The 28-year-old received five plate appearances from the Padres in 2011. The rest of his career has been spent in the minors. Hunter hit .283/.331/.420 in 515 Triple-A plate appearances with the Braves last season. He also hit 12 home runs with 11 stolen bases. Mackanin is impressed with Hunter’s work in camp, saying “he’s looked good all spring. He’s squared the ball up as well as anyone all spring and he’s shown a good arm. I like him a lot.” The lefty could make for a useful platoon option with Rule 5 pick Tyler Goeddel.
- Updating a report from yesterday, Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur is likely competing with Emilio Bonifacio and Michael Bourn for one of two spots, writes Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Bowman suggests the club is set to either trade or release Nick Swisher, but their plans for Bonifacio and Bourn are less certain. Last season, Francouer drew praise from Phillies players and coaches for his role as a mentor. The Braves are in a similar rebuild, adding value to mentor-type veterans.
Let’s take a look at a few spring roster battles out of the NL East to round out the evening …
- Like most organizations, the Phillies have several opt-out dates approaching — particularly in their relief corps. As MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes, the Phils face potential decisions on Edward Mujica (Saturday) and Ernesto Frieri (next Thursday) in short order, with Andrew Bailey (May 1) and James Russell (June 1) to follow. Mujica seems destined for a big league job, says Zolecki, while it’s not clear that Frieri will make it onto the active roster after rough results thus far.
- Members of Braves brass like Jeff Francoeur as a right-handed bench bat, which means the club could elect to give him its last outfield spot over Nick Swisher and Emilio Bonifacio, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Braves brought Swisher to camp with the hope that he’d show well enough to entice another team to trade for him. While Swisher has hit .294/.429/.382 in 34 at-bats, a deal hasn’t come along. Thus, the Braves could ultimately eat the 12-year veteran’s entire $15MM salary in order to get rid of him. Bonifacio, who’s due a much more palatable $1.25MM this year, is potentially movable. If not, the Braves will have an easier time eating his contract than Swisher’s.
- Elsewhere, Mike Foltynewicz is favored to beat out Williams Perez and Manny Banuelos for the Braves’ fifth starter spot, per O’Brien. Regardless, the Braves won’t need a fifth starter until April 12, so they might start the season with an eight-man bullpen. That would ostensibly bode well, at least temporarily, for the out-of-options Jose Ramirez and Rule 5 pick Dan Winkler.
- MLB.com’s Mark Bowman agrees that Foltynewicz is making a strong case for a rotation slot with the Braves. He has recovered quicker than expected from a scary bout with a blood clot. Meanwhile, John Gant has remained in the running longer than might have been expected. Per Bowman, the 23-year-old, who came over in last year’s Juan Uribe/Kelly Johnson swap with the division-rival Mets, may be in line behind Foltynewicz and Jhoulys Chacin.
- Meanwhile, the Braves will be looking around for southpaw relievers as players begin to shake loose from other organizations, Bowman suggests. Ian Krol has underwhelmed and doesn’t seem likely to take a roster spot, leaving Alex Torres as perhaps the only southpaw currently in camp who’ll be on the Opening Day roster. One internal option that could re-enter the picture, he adds, is Hunter Cervenka, who has already been shipped down to minor league camp.
Connor Byrne contributed to this post.
The Nationals have reassigned top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito to minor-league camp, but they’re expecting to see him in the big leagues soon after a strong performance in Spring Training, James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. “He’s close to being big-league ready,” says GM Mike Rizzo. “I think the bulk of his developmental curve is complete. But he needs to work on the smaller, little details of preparation, participation and performance in trying to get major-league hitters out.” Giolito whiffednine batters while walking three and allowing three runs in 6 1/3 innings this spring. In the short term, the Nats are planning to go with a rotation of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross, and it should be noted that Giolito’s experience is limited — he was dominant last season, but spent the bulk of the year at Class A+ and only made eight starts at the Double-A level. He’s also just 21 and has an injury history that includes Tommy John surgery. Still, the future seems very bright for one of the Nats’ best young talents. Here’s more from the NL East.
- The Braves were seriously interested in signing Justin Upton for a return engagement this past winter, Jon Heyman reports (Twitter links). The Braves were willing to sign Upton for six years, although they knew they couldn’t match the Tigers’ $22.125MM-a-year offer and never made a formal offer themselves. They were, however, believed to be willing to offer Upton a nine-figure contract. On the surface, the Braves signing Upton would not have made much sense, but they did have a protected draft pick, and Upton would have been a marketable player for them during their rebuilding phase, as well as being young enough (28) to still be productive once the team was ready to contend.
- Andrew Bailey seems to be the front-runner for the Phillies’ closer role, writes MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. That would be quite a promotion for a pitcher who’s missed much of the past two seasons due to shoulder trouble and has only thrown 8 2/3 big-league innings since 2013, although Bailey was, of course, once a closer for the A’s. “I want to see more velocity out of him,” says manager Pete Mackanin. “I know he can pitch. He’s a true competitor. He has that good curveball and cutter. But I want to see more velocity.” Dalier Hinojosa, who pitched well for the Phillies down the stretch last year, appears to be in the mix as well. David Hernandez might be another possibility, but he’s battled triceps tendinitis. Bailey, Hinjosa, Hernandez, Jeanmar Gomez, Edward Mujica and Brett Oberholtzer look likely to win bullpen jobs, with a seventh reliever yet to be determined.
GM Matt Klentak says the Phillies plan to do plenty of spending “under the hood” this winter, Matt Gelb of Philly.com writes. By “under the hood,” Klentak means spending that isn’t necessarily entirely public, like on analytics, scouting, player development and infrastructure. (The Phillies currently have about $77MM committed to ten big-league players and figure to come in significantly below their usual Opening Day payroll figure of $160MM or so.) Klentak also notes that the Phillies have the first pick in the June draft and have the largest bonus pool (about $5.6MM) with which to sign international amateur talent. They are not expected to incur penalties by significantly exceeding that bonus pool amount, Gelb writes; that likely makes sense, given that the Phillies figure to have a large pool next year as well and there is skepticism about the possibility of MLB establishing an international draft by then. Here’s more out of Philadelphia.
- Phillies president Andy MacPhail says the organization will learn plenty this season about how quickly it can return to being competitive, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com writes. “What we’re going to find out this year more than anything is what kind of track we’re on,” says MacPhail. “That’s going to be determined by the 25 we break with. It’s also going to be determined by how some of those next-level guys progress and how many of them demonstrated they’re ready to come to the big leagues.” MacPhail adds that the team will be careful with the promotions of top prospects (like J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, Jake Thompson, Mark Appel, Jorge Alfaro and Roman Quinn) — the Phillies don’t want to have to demote their top youngsters after they’ve been promoted for the first time, so they want to make sure they’re sure they ready before they call them up.
- After sending Ken Giles to the Astros, the Phillies have plenty of space in their bullpen, Zolecki notes. They added David Hernandez on a big-league deal this offseason and hope to use one or perhaps more of four minor league signees — Andrew Bailey, Ernesto Frieri, Edward Mujica or James Russell — as late-inning options. Of course, Bailey pitched sparingly in 2015 and the other three had rough seasons, but all except the lefty Russell have closing experience, and the Phillies aren’t counting on all four to be successful. “I can’t say they’re all going to be as impressive,” says manager Pete Mackanin. “I’d like to believe that more than a couple guys are going to make our job difficult.”
4:30pm: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Mujica’s contract comes with a Major League base salary of $2.5MM, though he of course needs to make the club to earn that sum (Twitter link).
11:02am: The Phillies announced that they have signed free agent right-handed pitchers Andrew Bailey and Edward Mujica to minor league contracts. The deals include invitations to attend major league camp as non-roster invitees.
Bailey, 31-year-old, tossed 8 2/3 innings for the Yankees this season but allowed eight runs in that time. He’s spent the past two years in the Yankees’ minor league system, battling back from shoulder injuries that have halted the former Rookie of the Year and American League All Star’s career. Bailey notched a tidy 2.57 ERA with 10.8 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 in 35 innings across four minor league levels this season as he worked his way back to the Majors.
Mujica, meanwhile, is coming off of a rough year in which he posted a 4.75 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 across 49 appearances. In May, the reliever was traded from the Red Sox with cash to the Athletics for a PTBNL/cash. Unfortunately for Oakland, they did not get the Mujica of old.
7:47pm: Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet reports that Martin signed a two-year, $1.7MM contract that contains $300K worth of performance bonuses (Twitter link).
5:51pm: The Yankees announced on Wednesday that they’ve released right-hander Chris Martin so that he can sign a contract with the Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. The Yankees will receive $750K from the Fighters as compensation, while Martin, a client of SSG Baseball, will sign a contract of yet-unknown length and for yet-unknown salary. Additionally, the Yankees announced that Andrew Bailey has elected free agency after rejecting an outright assignment.
Martin, 29, logged 20 2/3 innings with the Yankees this season but recorded a disappointing 5.66 ERA. In 36 1/3 career innings between the Rockies and Yankees, Martin has a 6.19 ERA but a more encouraging 32-to-10 K/BB ratio in that time. Earlier this year, Ronald Blum of the Associated Press wrote about Martin’s unlikely journey to the big leagues, noting that the righty was playing slow-pitch softball and working in an appliance warehouse after he believed that a shoulder injury had ended his career. When his colleague broke out a catcher’s mitt one day, Martin threw to him and discovered his shoulder to be healthy, with his colleague, Jordan Bostick, telling Blum that Martin’s pitches “nearly took my thumb off.” Martin’s fascinating journey will now take another step, as he experiences baseball in a foreign country.
As for Bailey, the 31-year-old tossed 8 2/3 innings for the Yankees this season but allowed eight runs in that time. He’s spent the past two years in the Yankees’ minor league system, battling back from shoulder injuries that have halted the former Rookie of the Year and American League All Star’s career. Bailey notched a tidy 2.57 ERA with 10.8 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 in 35 innings across four minor league levels this season as he worked his way back to the Majors. He’ll hope for a more immediate opportunity in the Majors next year, though I’d imagine that he’ll need to sign a minor league pact and hope to break camp with a club in Spring Training.
We’ll cover the day’s major option decisions in separate posts, but here are some of the relatively less impactful calls being made by teams around the league:
- The Astros have declined the option of right-hander Chad Qualls, the club announced. He’ll receive a $250K buyout rather than the $3.5MM option price. Qualls, 37, worked to a 4.38 ERA over 49 1/3 innings last year in Houston, with 8.4 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9 and a 59.9% groundball rate. That earned run mark was unlucky, if you believe metrics like FIP (3.52), xFIP (2.99), and SIERA (2.60). There ought to be no shortage of clubs interested in the veteran, who functioned as Houston’s closer at times in 2014. His peripherals give some cause for optimism, though he did lose a tick on his fastball and allowed a 17.1% HR/FB rate.
- Also announcing some option decisions were the Yankees, who say that infielder Brendan Ryan has exercised his $1MM player option. The 33-year-old has not been terribly productive since coming to New York, taking just 289 plate appearances and compiling a poor .201/.244/.271 batting line over his three years with the team. Ryan is valued most for his glove, of course. He could find himself lacking a roster spot at some point, depending upon how the team proceeds in filling its second base and reserve infield roles.
- Meanwhile, the Yankees declined their $2MM option on righty Andrew Bailey. He had returned to the club after it declined a 2015 option, and his new deal also apparently contained such a provision. While Bailey did make it back to the big leagues for the first time since 2013, he struggled with his command, though that was in a sample size of less than ten innings. The righty was able to put up rather dominant numbers in the minors during his rehab stint. As Chad Jennings of LoHud.com notes on Twitter, the club can still control Bailey through arbitration. MLBTR projects him to take home a $900K salary through that process, if he’s tendered.
- The Diamondbacks have officially exercised their option on righty Brad Ziegler. The 36-year-old was even better than usual last year. He spun 68 innings of 1.85 ERA ball, even as his strikeout rate dropped to just 4.8 K/9. Metrics like FIP and xFIP were less impressed, but that’s always been the case with Ziegler, whose sidearmed sinker/curve/change mix produced a ridiculous 72.8% groundball rate this year. Long a quality set-up man, Ziegler moved seamlessly into the closer’s role when Addison Reed faltered. He’ll earn $5.5MM next year in his final season of control, which is quite an attractive price given his track record.
- Likewise, the Diamondbacks picked up their option on Josh Collmenter. His drop in strikeouts is arguably more concerning, particularly as it came in a year in which he spent a lot of time working from the bullpen (in addition to making 12 starts). The 29-year-old threw 121 total innings, posting a solid 3.79 ERA. But with his K rate dipping below five-per-nine and a groundball rate that typically lands in the mid-thirty-percent range, there’s concern going forward. Collmenter will take home $1.825MM, which is affordable enough that the team can roll the dice on a rebound. He is also controllable for 2017 via mutual option.