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Hall of Famer and longtime Padres stalwart Tony Gwynn is taking a leave of absence from his position as head coach of San Diego State’s baseball program, the AP reports (via the New York Times). The 53-year-old, who has battled mouth cancer in recent years, is said to be recovering from undisclosed health issues. Needless to say, MLBTR extends its best wishes to the all-time great and his family.
Here’s more from the NL West:
- The Diamondbacks announced today that outfielder Mark Trumbo underwent an MRI that showed an apparent stress fracture in his left foot. He is set to seek a second opinion. As Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic notes on Twitter, Trumbo said a previous stress fracture in his other foot required 5 1/2 months to heal, though he noted that this one was not as bad. The 28-year-old, the team’s key offseason acquisition, is leading the league with seven home runs, though he has just a .264 OBP. There is currently no timetable for Trumbo to return.
- With yesterday’s news that the Padres are talking with multiple other teams about a trade of catcher Nick Hundley, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune names some theoretical landing spots. He mentions four clubs that have had significant injuries — the Rangers, Yankees, Dodgers, and Nationals — though it’s not clear that any of those organizations would look to add Hundley. Several other teams have received scant production from their backup options, including the division-rival Diamondbacks (Tuffy Gosewisch) and Giants (Hector Sanchez). (Of course, Sanchez just hit two resounding home runs today for San Francisco.) The Royals could conceivably be interested in upgrading Brett Hayes, though he has seen only one plate appearance with Salvador Perez playing just about every day. Likewise, the White Sox could make sense, though they have Josh Phegley in the minors and would have to part with Rule 5 pick Adrian Nieto if he lost his active roster spot. Of course, all of these clubs are merely hypothetical possibilities, as no reports have emerged about specific teams in discussions.
- The Dodgers‘ biggest offseason splash was the signing of infielder Alex Guerrero, who proved unable to crack the big league lineup out of the spring. But Guerrero, who signed for four years and $28MM out of Cuba, is off to a big start at Triple-A. Through 37 plate appearances, he has hit a robust .467/.568/.900 with two home runs and five walks against just one strikeout. Nevertheless, manager Don Mattingly says that the club wants him to spend time learning to play second, as MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reported yesterday. “This kind of stuff doesn’t happen overnight,” said Mattingly. “Eight games, you’re not going to see much difference in that amount of time.” Of course, Dee Gordon has been outstanding in the season’s early going — he is slashing .369/.408/.492 with a league-leading 12 steals — and figures to have earned a good deal of leash at the keystone.
- In other news today from the division, injured Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is now set to begin a rehab assignment, as Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Padres starter Josh Johnson is headed in the other direction, as he will be out for the season after it was decided that he will undergo Tommy John surgery. The question now becomes whether the team will pick up its $4MM option for 2015, though that may be a difficult cost to take on given that Johnson has already had one TJ procedure and would presumably not be ready until some time in the middle of next season. Meanwhile, we heard that the Diamondbacks could be getting closer to a shake-up involving GM Kevin Towers and/or manager Kirk Gibson. Arizona did show some life in a late comeback today against the Cubs.
Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports looks at the Diamondbacks’ remarkably poor 5-18 start to the season and wonders just how long the organization will go before making leadership changes — referring specifically to general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson. Morosi writes that changes could be on the horizon, opining that a change could come as soon as this weekend if the D’Backs can’t salvage a series split against the Cubs after being swept by the Mets.
Morosi spoke with several veteran Diamondbacks players, including Eric Chavez and Brandon McCarthy, the latter of whom said he had been on bad teams before but had never seen anything like Arizona’s current situation. “This is different,” McCarthy told Morosi. Said Chavez: “I’ve never seen anything like it, to be honest with you. I’ve been on teams that weren’t very good, but at least I felt like we were competitive. So, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.” Chavez went on to say that calling more team meetings won’t do any good, because they’ve had enough of them and “talk is cheap at this point.”
As Morosi’s colleague Ken Rosenthal writes, however, rival executives feel that midseason personnel changes will be more difficult for this Diamondbacks club than they typically would be for other clubs. The team has few internal replacement options, says Rosenthal, as bench coach Alan Trammell is “virtually indistinguishable” from Gibson, executives tell Rosenthal. Beyond that, the clubs’ Triple-A manager, Phil Nevin, joined the organization just this year (after three year’s managing Detroit’s Triple-A affiliate).
On the GM side of things, Rosenthal points back to a piece from the Arizona Republic’s Dan Bickley over the weekend in which managing partner Ken Kendrick said the team needed more balance in terms of traditional scouting versus the newer trend of advanced statistics and data analysis. Towers, nicknamed “the Gunslinger,” is as old school as GMs come, and a more data-oriented GM would have to come from outside the organization due to a lack of that skill set in the front office. However, teams are currently preparing for the June draft and will then shift their focus to the trade deadline, making external GM candidates hard to pry away.
For their parts, Towers and Gibson are fully aware of the questions surrounding their job security, writes the Republic’s Nick Piecoro. He was one of multiple reporters on hand when the duo discussed the issue prior to today’s game. Said Towers:
“You’ve got a payroll that exceeds $100 million and we’re off to one of the worst starts in franchise history. That’s tough to swallow when you’re an owner and you care and you’ve invested in a product and the product isn’t performing.”
Towers said he thinks ownership likes both him and Gibson as well, but that each realizes they’re paid to help the team win games, and that isn’t happening. He said that everyone from himself to the field staff to the players should be accountable, as no one has performed up to expectations.
Asked about his job security, Gibson replied by saying he doesn’t worry about that but instead focuses on making whatever improvements he can: “We try to analyze what we can do (better) and we just prepare and try to get the guys to prepare and have a positive day and a good game.”
Arizona has been bitten by some key injuries, namely the loss of nominal ace Patrick Corbin to Tommy John surgery, however, Towers was quick to say that the struggles can’t be blamed on the injuries to Corbin and David Hernandez. He adds that ultimately, the players have to be the ones to fix it, as they’re the ones taking the at-bats and throwing the pitches.
Both Towers and Gibson were given extensions this offseason, though the terms of both deals were kept private. Arizona simply announced that each extension lasted beyond the 2014 season.
The Diamondbacks announced yesterday that left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith has cleared waivers after being designated for assignment and elected free agency rather than accept an outright assignment to Triple-A.
The 31-year-old Australian made a return to the Major Leagues this season after a three-year absence, and though he posted a 4.91 ERA in a small 7 1/3 inning sample size, he also struck out nine batters in that time and limited left-handed batters to three singles in 12 plate appearances.
For his career, Rowland-Smith has a 4.57 ERA with 5.6 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a 37.5 percent ground-ball rate. He’s worked 47 games as a starter and posted a 4.87 ERA in that time, but in 100 1/3 innings of relief, he’s posted a much better 3.77 ERA with an even better 3.59 FIP, suggesting that he could be a useful arm out of the bullpen.
Ruben Tejada is penciled in as the Mets' Opening Day shortstop, yet rumors continue to persist that the Mets are looking to upgrade the position. The latest…
- The Mets are keeping an eye on the Diamondbacks' shortstop competition and a source tells John Harper of the New York Daily News that the Mets "could jump in" to obtain Didi Gregorius or Chris Owings before Opening Day. When last we heard of the Mets/D'Backs shortstop talks, New York catching prospect Kevin Plawecki wasn't considered enough for either Gregorius or Owings, and Harper believes the Mets would have to move Plawecki and a minor league pitcher to make a deal work.
- Also from Harper, the Mets are still scouting Nick Franklin, and trying to decide if he can handle the shortstop job on a regular basis. Ninety of Franklin's 92 starts for the Mariners last season came as a second baseman, and while Franklin played more short than second in the minors, Seattle considered Brad Miller to be a better option than Franklin at shortstop.
- Stephen Drew, of course, remains available as a free agent, though GM Sandy Alderson again told reporters (including ESPN New York's Adam Rubin) that Drew's continued availability and the Braves' signing of Ervin Santana hasn't changed his club's stance. “I’m not interpreting it in terms of ‘our situation,’” Alderson said. “I don’t know that we have a situation here.” Alderson doesn't think Drew will hold out until June to escape the draft pick compensation hanging over his head, though the Mets GM believes Drew could wait to sign after Opening Day to ensure he wouldn't receive another qualifying offer next winter.
- Though Tejada hasn't gotten off to a good start in Grapefruit League action, Alderson said “it won’t be a judgment based on one game or two games or three games. We’ve got a lot of spring training left. In the meantime, we’ll continue to look at our other options.”
One of the keys to success for last year's Pirates ballclub was its ability both to generate ground balls and convert them into outs. It all started with a pitching staff that had far and away the highest ground-ball rate (52.5%) in the big leagues. Featuring prominently in the repertoire of several Bucs hurlers, of course, was the sinker. As Tim Williams of PiratesProspects.com found when he investigated, those sinkers come in many different varieties. He provides a fascinating breakdown of the pitch from the perspective of Pirates players and coaches (including many staff members and catcher Russell Martin). Here's more from the National League:
- With just two weeks left in camp and top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras still working his way back, there is now little chance that he'll come north with the Cardinals for Opening Day, writes Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Of course, that was the likely outcome from the get-go, as St. Louis has a keen interest in delaying his service clock to gain another season of control and minimize the likelihood of a Super Two qualification.
- The Phillies outrighted righty Michael Stutes off of the club's 40-man roster to begin making room for non-roster invites, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Struggling to regain velocity after a series of shoulder issues, Stutes had to clear waivers to be stashed in the minors.
- Though it may yet be a longshot, the Mets have begun working out Wilmer Flores at short, reports Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. With continuing uncertainty as to whether Ruben Tejada can be relied on as an everyday option, DiComo says the team is "overturning every stone on their 40-man roster" to find a solution. Of course, that does not mean that Flores is a serious possibility to man the job for the coming season, but he could be a more attractive big league piece if he could spend some time at short.
- As I recently noted in the club's offseason review, the Diamondbacks have not conclusively addressed their backup catching situation. They are among the teams taking a hard look at Francisco Cervelli of the Yankees, reports George A. King III of the New York Post.
The Diamondbacks have outrighted left-handed reliever Santos Rodriguez to Triple-A Reno, the club announced via press release. The move opens roster space for Oliver Perez, whose signing was announced by the club earlier today.
Arizona had claimed Rodriguez back in January from the White Sox. He was a mainstay on Baseball America's list of Chicago's top 30 prospects from 2009-13. Last year, Rodriguez was stellar at the Double-A level, posting a 2.35 ERA (with 25 strikeouts against 14 walks) in 23 innings. He struggled at Triple-A, however, putting up a lackluster 7.30 mark with 36 strikeouts and 27 walks in 24 2/3 frames.
SUNDAY: Perez passed his physical and the deal is now official, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com.
FRIDAY: The Diamondbacks have reached an agreement with left-hander Oliver Perez on a two-year, $4.25MM deal, pending physical. Perez, a client of Scott Boras, will earn $1.75MM for the coming year and $2.5MM in 2015.
Perez, 32, has revitalized his career over the past two seasons as a reliever with the Mariners. He has tallied a 3.16 ERA with 10.7 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a 31.8 percent ground-ball rate in 82 2/3 innings in that time. Opposing left-handers have batted .254/.346/.316 against him in that time, while righties have had a tougher time getting on base but slugged at a higher clip with a .237/.309/.411 batting line.
Prior to the 2009 season, Perez famously signed an ill-fated three-year, $36MM contract to remain with the Mets coming off a pair of solid seasons in New York. He would go on to pitch just 112 1/3 innings over the life of that contract, yielding a 6.81 ERA with more walks (100) than strikeouts (99). He didn't pitch in the Major Leagues at all in 2011 before his resurgence with Seattle the following year.
Left-handed relief was an area of need for the D'Backs throughout much of the 2013 campaign and was one of the factors that led Arizona GM Kevin Towers to make an intra-division trade that sent Ian Kennedy to the Padres in exchange for lefty Joe Thatcher, relief prospect Matt Stites and a compensation round B draft choice. However, Thatcher struggled mightily in Arizona, pitching to a 6.75 ERA in 9 1/3 innings for the Snakes.
Towers has done quite a bit of wheeling and dealing in regards to his bullpen this season, as he dealt Heath Bell (and most of his salary) to the Rays in a three-team deal that also included the Reds and also flipped blocked third base prospect Matt Davidson to the White Sox for closer Addison Reed. Additionally, Arizona claimed lefty Santos Rodriguez off waivers from the White Sox and locked up right-handers Brad Ziegler and Josh Collmenter with a two-year contract extensions.
Perez was the final unsigned left-handed reliever to have seen significant big league action in 2013. Peers such as Boone Logan, Javier Lopez, Matt Thornton, Scott Downs, Manny Parra and J.P. Howell also signed multi-year deals on the open market.
The signing was first reported by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter), while Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports earlier reported that the two sides were closing in on a multi-year deal (Twitter links). Heyman was first to report that the deal was for two years. John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 had the final financial terms (via Twitter), while MLBDailyDish.com's Chris Cotillo (via Twitter) and Heyman (via Twitter) reported developments in the price tag.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes explained yesterday in looking at NL West out-of-options players, the Diamondbacks already have a seeming logjam in the bullpen. Nevertheless, the team agreed to a two-year deal today with southpaw Oliver Perez. That may be a reflection of the team's view of fellow lefty Joe Thatcher, tweets Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Indeed, manager Kirk Gibson had said earlier today that the club would not carry a left-handed reliever if none warranted a roster spot, Zach Buchanan of AZCentral.com reports. "You've got to have people that can command the zone," Gibson said, possibly an oblique reference to the control issues last year of Thatcher and Tony Sipp. Thatcher was the only MLB piece that came to Arizona in the Ian Kennedy trade, and recently agreed to a $2.375MM deal to avoid arbitration. The 32-year-old has a solid track record, but struggled in his 22 appearances upon joining the D'backs. Now, with Perez in line for a pen slot and Randall Delgado likely headed the same way, Thatcher or another established arm may be without a role.
- Yankees starter Michael Pineda took an important step tonight on the road back from shoulder surgery, writes Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. Throwing a slider that catcher Brian McCann called "pretty much unhittable," Pineda tossed two scoreless innings and struck out four Tigers — including Austin Jackson, Rajai Davis, and reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera. Needless to say, an effective Pineda would be a major boon to a New York club with questions at the back of the rotation (to say nothing of the future implications). The 25-year-old Pineda enters the year with 2.099 years of service, much of it accrued on the DL over the last two years.
- Meanwhile, the Mariners — the club that dealt Pineda to New York — are looking closely at several non-roster invitees for Opening Day slots, writes MLB.com's Greg Johns. Starter Randy Wolf has had poor results, but says he is progressing. And southpaw reliever Joe Beimel is making a surprising run at a pen role, despite not having appeared in the bigs since 2011. Manager Lloyd McClendon preached patience with Wolf but lavished praise on Beimel, saying that the 36-year-old has "looked great" and "has the ability to get guys out from both sides of the plate."
- Irrepressible former superstar Manny Ramirez says he still wants to play, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com. The 41-year-old has not been able to earn a call-up over the last two seasons, but says he is waiting for an MLB opportunity and has so far declined requests for a repeat of his successful stint in Taiwan. MLBTR's Zach Links recently reported that Ramirez had changed agents, seemingly an indication that Ramirez was serious about continuing his career.
- As the Athletics continue to work through their difficult stadium situation, co-owner Lew Wolff says the team is considering all methods for dealing with a stalemate in lease negotiations, reports Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com. "I am hopeful of expanding our lease at the Oakland Coliseum for an extended term," Wolff recently wrote. "If we cannot accomplish a lease extension, I hope to have an interim place to play in the Bay Area or in the area that reaches our television and radio fans — either an existing venue or in the erection of a temporary venue that we have asked our soccer stadium architect (360 Architecture) to explore." Needless to say, the notion of a temporary ballpark is intriguing, if somewhat frightening. Wolff took care to note that "looking outside the Bay Area and our media market is an undesirable option to ownership at this time."