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Current Cubs president of baseball operations and former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein covered a range of subjects in a fascinating interview on WEEI's Hot Stove Show on Thursday (audio link; transcript). In addition to discussing the two clubs he has headed from a baseball ops perspective, Epstein emphasized the impact of changes to the CBA. The new system has both reduced teams' abilities to reap draft picks from outgoing free agents, Epstein said, and made it difficult to pay for hard-to-sign talent in later draft rounds. Here's more from around the league, including other notable talking points from Epstein:
- Discussing his current club's reported pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka, Epstein noted that the pitcher likely cost the Yankees more in real terms than the team's $175MM contract and release fee commitment, once the collective bargaining tax is accounted for. The signing, said Epstein, "reflects the dynamic that there are many, many teams with lots and lots of dollars to spend and very few places to spend them, very few players who represent sound investments for the dollars."
- "There are lots of teams demanding talented, prime-age players, and supply is really a trickle," Epstein continued. "Fewer and fewer players of that ilk are reaching free agency. … You're going to see these prices that cause people to shake heads. … Because of the TV deals, the teams that have them have a lot of money and not a lot of attractive players to spend the money on." Indeed, as I explored earlier tonight, some teams' desires to use free cash to enhance the value of their player assets (i.e., control and contract rights) could result in increasingly robust contracts for some younger players that remain years away from free agency.
- One player that seems suitable for an attractive, long-term investment is Yoenis Cespedes of the Athletics. Fresh on the heels of today's extension of teammate Coco Crisp, Cespedes said that he, too, hopes to ink a new pact, tweets John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. The 28-year-old slugger, who still has two years remaining on the deal he signed out of Cuba, said that he hopes to play for the A's for his entire career. Of course, given his relative youth, upside, and high profile, Cespedes figures to command a much higher price than the $22.75MM over two years just given to Crisp. It remains to be seen whether the A's will be willing to dangle a sufficient guarantee to get a deal done.
- Turning back to the aforementioned Tanaka, Yankees GM Brian Cashman told ESPN Radio today (via ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand) that the club views its new acquisition as "a really solid, consistent number three starter." Cashman noted that, though the club scouted Tanaka extensively, uncertainty remains as to how he will transition to the big leagues. "If we get more than that," Cashman said, "all the better. He's got a great deal of ability."
- Two arbitration hearings took place today, after none occurred last year. Andrew Cashner of the Padres and Vinnie Pestano of the Indians both made their cases to their respective panels. Cashner and the Padres are quite close in filing numbers ($2.4MM against $2.275MM), while Pestano ($1.45MM) and the Indians ($975K) left a larger absolute and relative sum to chance.
- Glancing in at MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker, 16 cases remain unsettled as hearings begin to take place. By my count, just over $23MM remains at stake between the player filings ($79.325MM total) and team counters ($56.15MM). Only the Indians, with Justin Masterson, Michael Brantley, and Josh Tomlin (in addition to Pestano), have more than one outstanding arbitration case.
Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune will continue his weekly reader chats and a few other ongoing projects for the paper, but otherwise, Center is retiring after a 47-year career. All the best wishes to a veteran baseball scribe whose name has regularly appeared on MLB Trade Rumors over the years. Here are a few Padres-related hot stove notes and more from Center's latest online chat with fans…
- Andrew Cashner and the Padres are just $125K apart on the price of Cashner's 2014 contract (the righty asked for $2.4MM, the team offered $2.275MM) and as of today, the two sides are set to go to an arbitration hearing. Center figurs the reason Cashner and the team couldn't come to an agreement over such a relatively small gap is because the two sides are working on a long-term contract. Cashner, 27, has two more years of arbitration eligibility left after this offseason and is scheduled for free agency following the 2016 season. Padres general manager Josh Byrnes told MLBTR's Steve Adams during the GM Meetings last November that a Cashner extension was "certainly a possibility" for the team this offseason.
- The Padres are set for starting pitching and aren't likely to make a play for Bronson Arroyo, even though Center "imagine[s] his price is dropping rapidly."
- The Padres signed Joaquin Benoit to a two-year, $15.5MM deal this offseason, the type of large expenditure on a reliever who isn't expected to close (if Huston Street remains healthy) that you wouldn't expect from a smaller-market team like San Diego. Center likes the move, however, feeling it was the type of move a contender makes. Center feels the bullpen "could push the Padres over the top" in 2014.
- The crowded Padres bullpen, however, will make it harder for left-hander Patrick Schuster to make the team. Schuster was the first pick of this year's Rule 5 draft, selected by the Astros off the Diamondbacks' roster, and Houston then dealt Schuster to the Padres to complete the Anthony Bass trade. As per the Rule 5 regulations, Schuster must remain on the Padres' Major League roster all season, or else San Diego must offer him back to Arizona for $25K (or work out a trade with the D'Backs).
"It's certainly a possibility," Padres general manager Josh Byrnes told MLBTR at the GM Meetings when asked whether or not the team would have interest in approaching Andrew Cashner about a long-term deal. "I think that, in a market like ours, or really in most markets, when a guy has proven that he has a chance to be a core guy, the early deal makes some sense. There's always risk with that, and we've felt that on certain deals that we've done."
Cashner enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2013, remaining healthy for a full season for the first time in his Major League career. The 27-year-old totaled 175 innings and posted a strong 3.09 ERA with 6.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a healthy 52.5 percent ground-ball rate. His fastball velocity — which averaged a strong 94.5 mph on the season — actually trended upward at season's end, and he finished particularly strong. In his final seven starts, the 2008 first-rounder posted a 1.22 ERA with an outstanding 45-to-7 K/BB ratio. Cashner lasted at least seven innings in each of those starts and added his first career shutout in the process. He projects to earn $2.4MM in arbitration this winter, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
Cashner won't be the only pitching-related issue that the Padres face this offseason, though, and they'll likely be looking outside the organization to address their need for left-handed pitching. "I think we have to keep all avenues open, including trading for a guy," said Byrnes. "We're feeling good. There's a lot of guys out there we like, whether it's through trades or free agency. It's just a matter of getting one or two."
Byrnes balked at the idea of issuing a multiyear deal to a free agent lefty, noting the rarity of multiyear deals for relievers in his tenure as a GM and stating, "It's probably something I would vote against." Indeed, as MLBTR's Transaction Tracker shows, Byrnes has guaranteed multiple years to just two relievers: Huston Street and Randy Choate. In the latter's case, he received a mere two-year, $1.3MM extension — certainly not a feasible free agent price on a multiyear deal in today's free agent market — shortly after Byrnes' initial hiring by the Diamondbacks in 2005. Byrnes and his staff will have a strong crop of free agent lefties to choose from, as this year's class is highlighted by Javier Lopez, J.P. Howell, Boone Logan, Scott Downs and Matt Thornton.
One area of the pitching staff in which Byrnes feels comfortable is its depth. He noted that Joe Wieland is throwing in the Arizona Fall League and Cory Luebke has begun throwing off a mound. On adding that tandem to the starting options he had in September, Byrnes said: "Put them back in the mix… we finished the year with a six-man rotation… and our rotation's best month was September with all six really throwing the ball well. I'd love to go in [to 2014] and say we actually have a surplus, which is possible."
Chase Headley's status with the team will undoubtedly be one of the biggest issues for the Padres this offseason, but Byrnes maintained that there's no real update at this time, and Headley could still be extended, traded or retained through the arbitration process. He was quick to note, however, that the Padres view Headley as more than a simple asset to cash in for future assets, as he's important to their 2014 outlook: "Putting him into a team context… we've worked hard to put a good offense together. Our pitching's caught up, and if our position players are all there, I think we do feel like in 2014, a healthier team that's going to take a real step forward."
That 2014 team will be one that doesn't include former bench coach Rick Renteria on the field staff or special assistant Brad Ausmus in the front office. Each has landed a managerial job in recent weeks, with Ausmus being hired by the Tigers and Renteria being hired by the Cubs. Asked if it was bittersweet to see them go, Byrnes offered high praise for each: "They were two guys who added a lot. It's kind of neat to see them both get opportunities, but it's a loss. And there's probably a chance we'll lose more staff that would go with them. I hate to say 'bittersweet.' We're going to miss them, so that's the bitter part, but for them to fill a career goal, both in great situations, we're very happy for them."
At one point, the Dodgers might have been two days away from firing manager Don Mattingly, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes. That was on June 21, when the Dodgers were 30-42 following their second straight loss to the Padres. Shaikin cites a source saying that if the Dodgers had lost the last two games of that four-game series, they would have dismissed Mattingly. Since then, the Dodgers have got 46-11, and Mattingly appears to be a contender for the NL Manager of the Year award. Here are more notes from out west.
- For the Angels, one of the few bright sides of an awful season is that they now have the opportunity to see which of their zero-to-three players can help in the near future, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez writes. Gonzalez notes that, with several big contracts (Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson) consuming much of their payroll, it's particularly important that the Angels get value out of cost-controlled players. The Angels will look to players like Grant Green, Chris Nelson and Cory Rasmus (all of whom were acquired this year) to see if they might be able to contribute.
- Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner and Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo have become friends since being traded for each other in early 2012, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Rizzo says he's rooting for a win-win deal. "I hope [Cashner] has a great career; I hope I have a great career as well," Rizzo says. "There’s no winning or losing this trade. … I hope we both have Hall of Fame careers and everyone’s a winner.”
Epifanio "Epi" Guerrero, one of the key figures in the history of Dominican baseball, passed today at age 71. Guerrero signed a number of notable international talents (including Cesar Cedeno, Carlos Delgado and Tony Fernandez) while working in the Astros, Yankees, Blue Jays and Brewers organizations as a scout and coach during a career that began in 1965. Guerrero was one of the first scouts to be involved in the development of the academy system that gave countless young Dominican prospects chances at a professional career. We here at MLBTR extend our condolences to Guerrero's friends and family on his passing.
Here are some news items from around the baseball world…
- While it has been assumed that the Cardinals will part ways with Carlos Beltran after this season, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks both Beltran and the Cardinals could benefit from Beltran re-signing a short-term contract, provided the veteran was willing to take a hometown discount. While Miklasz has a point that Beltran is a surer thing to produce for a contender than youngsters like Oscar Taveras or Matt Adams, I would be surprised if Beltran returned to St. Louis in 2014. If the Cards were confident enough in their young talent to let Albert Pujols and Kyle Lohse go, they'll do with the same with Beltran.
- The Diamondbacks may not need to make any major moves before the trade deadline, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. The Snakes have depth at several positions and further reinforcements are coming as some injured players return from the disabled list. The only possible area of need could be at closer given J.J. Putz's elbow problems but GM Kevin Towers is "100% confident" that Putz will recover.
- The Mariners talked with Jesus Montero about a long-term contract before he was linked to the Biogenesis scandal, but nothing came of those conversations, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets. Earlier today, the M's demoted the 23-year-old to Triple-A.
- If MLB announces that an international draft will take place in 2014, Baseball America's Ben Badler notes that teams like the Rangers, Yankees, Cardinals or Reds (who are likely to pick near the end of that draft's first round) could be wise to exceed the spending cap on international prospects this year. Such teams would lose their 2014 or '15 international draft first-rounder for going over the cap, but it could be worth it to get a jump on the non-American/Canadian talent market.
- MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo profiles some of the top corner infielders in the upcoming amateur draft, a list led by University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant.
- ESPN's Keith Law discusses draft prospects, minor leaguers and other moves from around the game in a live chat with fans.
- Andrew Cashner is making great strides as a starting pitcher for the Padres, MLB.com's Corey Brock writes. Cashner has a 2.80 ERA in six starts for the Friars in 2013 after being limited to mostly bullpen work over his first three seasons due to injuries and concerns about his arm strength. If Cashner develops into a solid starter, it will obviously give the Padres a much greater return on the Anthony Rizzo trade from January 2012.
- The Rays' pitching depth is the envy of baseball, MLB.com's Bill Chastain writes, and that depth at the Major League level gives all their minor league arms time to properly develop into the club's next generation of rotation stalwarts.
MLBTR's Zach Links contributed to this post
Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner feels that the January 2012 trade that sent him to San Diego (with Kyung-Min Na) for Anthony Rizzo and Zach Cates was good for him and for Rizzo, Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. "I think it was a trade that certainly worked out well for both players involved," Cashner says. "The pitcher got to move to a pitcher’s ballpark. The hitter got to move to a hitter’s ballpark."
Rizzo, meanwhile, feels there wasn't a place for him in San Diego. "As soon as they traded for Yonder Alonso, I don’t think I was in the Padres’ plans," he says. "I can understand it. Yonder was probably better suited to Petco Park than I was." Rizzo had a strong season with the Cubs in 2012, while Cashner has struck out 19 batters in his first 19 1/3 innings in 2013 while showing off mid-90s velocity. Here are more notes from around the National League.
- The Phillies face "major questions," Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci writes. Pitchers Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay will cost the team $64.5MM in 2013, but it's questionable whether the rest of the roster can support them, Verducci argues. Big expenditures on those three pitchers, plus star veterans Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, meant the Phillies had to build a cheap outfield, says Verducci. The biggest problem in the outfield so far this season, however, is that Domonic Brown and Ben Revere have struggled. Those players aren't highly-paid, but they also aren't on the roster merely because they're cheap. Revere posted 3.1 wins above replacement in 2012, and Brown was a highly-regarded prospect. "We have a lot of guys in the outfield who have never done it over a full season and are starting to get older, as far as being considered young players," a Phillies employee says.
- Jim Thome, who played for the Phillies and Orioles in 2012, is hoping to return to baseball later this season, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. "He still thinks he can play," says Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "He misses the game. Baseball is his identity. That’s all he’s done for 20-some years or so. He's kind of having a hard time adjusting."
- Before a strong start today against Reno, top Mets prospect Zack Wheeler was struggling to adjust at Triple-A Las Vegas, John Harper of the New York Daily News writes. Mets fans are waiting for Wheeler to join the big-league rotation. "Obviously I want to be up there, but you can’t think about it because it will distract you, take your mind off what you’re trying to do down here," Wheeler says. Wheeler currently has a 4.80 ERA. Las Vegas is one of the toughest places to pitch in the minor leagues, however, and the fact that he's allowed a few too many runs there might not mean Wheeler isn't ready for the Majors, especially with 10.8 K/9 so far this year.
- Although he hasn't talked to Brian Wilson's agents at the Winter Meetings, Giants vice president of baseball operations Bobby Evans told Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com there is an understanding to stay in touch. Wilson's agent Dan Lozano told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle seven teams have expressed interest in his client, either as a closer or setup man.
- Ichiro Suzuki is not a fit for the Giants in left field because he's too much like Gregor Blanco, tweets Shea.
- Shea has the financial breakdown on Marco Scutaro's new three-year, $20MM contract with the Giants.
- The Dodgers are in the market for a left-handed reliever now that Randy Choate has agreed to a three-year deal with the Cardinals, tweets Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register.
- The Dodgers would like to add one or maybe two backup-type catchers to compete with Tim Federowicz, tweets Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles.
- The Chavez signing gives the Diamondbacks an extra infielder, but GM Kevin Towers said he might wait until Spring Training to make a trade (Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reporting).
- The Padres' Andrew Cashner is not expected to be ready for Opening Day after suffering a lacerated tendon in his right thumb last week, an injury suffered at the hand of a hunting buddy as the two were dressing meat (MLB.com's Corey Brock reporting).
Today we celebrate Veterans Day, a day to recognize every person who serves our nation valiantly in the defense of our freedom and liberty whether it be in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, or National Guard. Thank you kindly to all who have served and are currently serving at home and overseas. John Schlegel of MLB.com explains how the national pastime is forever linked with the nation's armed forces and uses, as an example, the statue of Jerry Coleman erected by the Padres this past September. The pose wasn't inspired by Coleman's playing days or by his Hall of Fame broadcasting career, but of his tour of duty as a Marine pilot during World War II. Here's the latest news on the Padres and the other NL and AL West division teams:
- Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune believes it would take at least four years and $36-40MM to extend NL MVP finalist Chase Headley. Last month, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes examined the parameters of an extension for Headley.
- Also from Center's recent online chat with fans, the Padres could use their bullpen depth to acquire starting pitching with Luke Gregerson being a prime trade chip. If Gregerson is dealt, Andrew Cashner and Brad Brach would be internal candidates to take over as closer if Huston Street suffered an injury, according to Center.
- The Dodgers could place Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano on the trading block if they are able to sign Hyun-Jin Ryu and are satisfied Ted Lilly has recovered from shoulder surgery or Chad Billingsley has avoided Tommy John elbow surgery after suffering a partially torn ligament, reports MLB.com's Ken Gurnick.
- The best and only chance for new Rockies manager Walt Weiss to succeed is to change the defeatist mind-set about the altitude and make it their greatest home-field advantage, opines Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post.
- Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma will not participate in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, so as to better focus on his second season with the Mariners, writes Greg Johns of MLB.com referencing a report from Japan's Kyodo News Agency. Iwakuma, who recently signed an extension with the Mariners, joins countryman Yu Darvish in deciding not to pitch for Japan, the two-time WBC defending champion.
It was on this day in 1982 that the Padres made a trade with the Cardinals that brought shortstop Garry Templeton to town. Though Templeton spent the next 10 seasons in San Diego, it's still a trade that Padres fans shake their heads over. The centerpiece of the package that went to the Cards was another shortstop — future Hall-of-Famer Ozzie Smith.
Here are some notes from the modern-day Padres….
- The Padres will have about a 20% ownership stake in the new FOX regional TV network that will air their games, reports Tom Krasovic of Inside The Padres. The ownership stake is part of the pending 20-year broadcasting contract between the club and the new cable outlet. The Padres would get $30MM in the first year and that total would gradually increase to $65-70MM by the final year of the contract.
- Based on these ownership shares, Krasovic reports the Padres could receive around $1.5 billion from the contract, close to the $75MM annual payout that USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported on Thursday. Krasovic notes the $1.5 billion figure is "a best-case scenario" for the team, which may explain why club president Tom Garfinkel said yesterday that Nightengale's reported terms were too high.
- Andrew Cashner tells MLB.com's Corey Brock (via Twitter) that the Padres have promised him a chance to start again after this season. Cashner made his first Major League start in 2011 but pitched in just seven games due to a strained right rotator cuff.
- Josh Byrnes seems to have more room to operate than did former GM Jed Hoyer, writes Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune as part of his weekly fan chat. Byrnes has already convinced owner Jeff Moorad to spend an extra $7MM on payroll this winter and Center doesn't "think Hoyer would have had the freedom to pull the trigger on the Carlos Quentin trade."
Here's the latest from the NL Central…
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer wants to add more depth to his pitching staff, reports MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. "At this point, we're still very much in the process of gathering as many quality arms as we can, and we'll put those pieces in place as we get closer to Spring Training," Hoyer said. "We have worked hard, and we continue to work hard, and hopefully we'll have even more starting-pitching acquisitions….We want to go seven, eight, nine deep in the rotation and we hope to replenish the bullpen as well."
- ESPN's Keith Law gives the Cubs the "slight edge" in today's Anthony Rizzo-for-Andrew Cashner trade. Law says he would rather have Rizzo than Yonder Alonso, who the Padres acquired from the Reds last month as part of the package for Mat Latos.
- The Cardinals announced Derek Lilliquist will become the team's new pitching coach, with Dyer Miller taking Lilliquist's old job as bullpen coach. The moves may or may not be permanent as former pitching coach Dave Duncan is on an indefinite leave of absence to be with his wife, who underwent brain surgery last August.
- The Pirates have shown some interest in bringing back Derrek Lee but "the first baseman doesn’t seem to have reciprocated that interest," writes MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch. Of the five remaining Pirate free agents, Langosch thinks only Paul Maholm has a chance of returning, but the Bucs will likely be outbid by one of Maholm's several other suitors.
- Incumbent Reds left fielder Chris Heisey talks to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, who thinks Heisey has earned "a long trial" at the everyday job. The Reds have recently been connected to free agent outfielders Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick and Cody Ross.
- The Reds have announced the signings of catcher Corky Miller and left-hander Jeremy Horst to minor league contracts with invites to the Major League spring training camp. Miller, a 10-year veteran, was originally drafted by the Reds in 1998 and has spent the last three years in Cincinnati's system. Horst, 26, made his Major League debut last season with the Reds, posting a 2.93 ERA in 12 relief appearances. Previously-announced signings Brian Esposito, Sean Gallagher, Daryl Jones, Chad Reineke, Clayton Tanner and Kanekoa Texeira were also confirmed as non-roster invitees.