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Per the latest iteration of Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, players with six years of service time who finished the 2014 season on a 40-man roster or on the 60-day DL but signed Minor League deals over the offseason are entitled to a $100K retention bonus if their new team wishes to assign them to the Minor Leagues. Otherwise, they must be added to the MLB roster or Major League disabled list. Players who do receive the retention bonus are also given June 1 opt-out dates in their Minor League pacts.
MLBTR’s Jeff Todd ran down a list of this year’s Article XX(B) free agents earlier in the month, and we’re now arriving at the juncture of Spring Training where decisions must be made on these players — the deadline will come at 11am CT tomorrow. Many such players have already been released or granted their release today (some will re-sign with the teams that released them, as Chris Perez did in Milwaukee), but here are updates on players who were paid this bonus or learned that they’ve made their respective teams…
- The D-Backs and catcher Gerald Laird and agreed to a five-day extension that will allow him to remain in big league camp, reports Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona (on Twitter). Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic adds some clarity, noting that Laird still received the $100K retention bonus but will have the opportunity to fight for a roster spot (Twitter link). The five days will give the Snakes a bit more time to determine whether or not they want to take the veteran Laird north with them to open the season.
- The Blue Jays have paid the $100K retention bonus to both Johan Santana and Munenori Kawasaki, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Both players were on Minor League deals, but Santana didn’t get into a game with the big league club as he continued to rehab from injury. Kawasaki hit .333/.481/.571 in 27 plate appearances but didn’t make the big league roster. He’ll head to Triple-A and wait for a call to the Majors in an organization with which he is quite familiar and where he is quite popular among the coaches and his teammates.
- Right-handers Brad Penny and Jesse Crain both received retention bonuses from the White Sox, Passan also reports (on Twitter). The duo will remain in the Minors in the hopes of a spot opening with the big league club. Penny struggled to a 6.89 ERA in 15 2/3 innings this spring, though little can be gleaned from such a small sample, and he did issue only four walks along the way. Crain, like his former Twins teammate Santana in Toronto, didn’t pitch in a big league game as he continued to rehab from injuries that cost him the entire 2014 season in Houston.
- Both Geovany Soto and Matt Albers, on the other hand, have made the White Sox‘ roster and will be added to the 40-man, Passan reports in the aforementioned tweet. Presumably, Soto will be in the mix for everyday at-bats behind the plate following a strong spring performance. Albers will slot into the bullpen and bring an experienced arm to serve as a right-handed setup option. Soto’s base salary is an unknown, wheres Albers stands to reportedly receive a $1.5MM base for making the club.
- The Braves have released catcher Yenier Bello. Bello, of course, signed out of Cuba for a $400K bonus last year, but the 30-year-old obviously did not show enough to stay in the system. He slashed .308/.315/.404 over just 55 plate appearances last season split between the Rookie and low-A levels.
- Brewers right-hander David Herndon will also be in search of a new organization after being released. The 29-year-old carries a 3.85 career ERA over 117 big league frames, but has not seen action at the game’s highest level since 2012.
- The Diamondbacks have released big league veterans Jeremy Accardo and Henry Rodriguez. Both righties, Accardo (eight years) and Rodriguez (six years) each have seen their share of time at the major league level, including action in a closing role. Accardo owns a 4.30 ERA with 6.5 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9 across 284 2/3 big league innings, but last saw action at that level in 2012. Rodriguez, still just 28, has worked to a 4.31 ERA over his 150 1/3 lifetime frames, striking out 9.0 and walking 6.4 per nine.
- The Rangers also released a couple of right-handers in Mark Rogers and Mitch Atkins. Rogers, once one of the game’s brightes pitchign prospects, has struggled with a variety of injury issues and was not able to gain traction in camp. Atkins, 29, had worked to a 3.76 ERA with 7.0 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9 in 141 1/3 innings last year in the upper minors. Both players have some big league experience to their credit, but none in recent campaigns.
- Reds right-hander Wilmer Font and oufielder Felix Perez have both been released. Font is just 24 and has reached the bigs briefly in each of the last two seasons with the Rangers. But he ended last season with an elbow injury and never played in major league camp this spring. The 30-year-old Perez, meanwhile, hit .280/.325.450 at the Triple-A level last year but struggled in camp this spring.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the game…
- Left-hander Scott Diamond has inked a Minor League contract with the Rays, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter). Diamond was a Rule 5 pick of the Twins from the Braves organization back in 2010, and he surfaced with the team to post a strong season in 2012. That year, Diamond worked to a 3.54 ERA with 4.7 K/9, a league-best 1.6 BB/9 and 53.4 percent ground-ball rate. However, as we often see with low-strikeout pitchers, Diamond struggled in 2013 when his control regressed. His K/9 dipped to 3.6 while his BB/9 jumped to 2.5, and his ground-ball rate dropped to 46.9 percent. The result was a 5.43 ERA in 131 innings. Diamond will serve as depth for the Rays staff and hope to get a big league opportunity at some point this season.
- The Braves have acquired righty Sean Furney from the D-Backs for cash considerations, according to the Braves’ transactions page. The 23-year-old joined the D-Backs organization as an undrafted free agent in 2013 and has pitched to a 3.74 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 182 2/3 innings. Furney worked mostly as a starter at Class-A in 2014, but he did reach Double-A briefly at season’s end, making one start at that level.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.
- The Royals have released 2B/3B Ryan Roberts, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. Roberts, 34, played sparingly for the Red Sox last season and has a career .243/.320/.388 line in parts of nine seasons, also playing for the Blue Jays, Rangers, Diamondbacks and Rays.
- The Royals have announced that they’ve traded righty Angel Baez to the Astros for cash considerations. Baez, 24, pitched 62 innings of relief for Double-A Northwest Arkansas last season, posting a 4.65 ERA with 10.3 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9, improving somewhat upon the control problems with which he had struggled in the low minors.
- The Diamondbacks have released a number of players, including righty relievers Jeremy Accardo and Henry Rodriguez, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert tweets. The 33-year-old Accardo spent 2014 in independent ball and last appeared in the Majors in 2012. He’s played parts of eight big-league seasons and appeared in the Blue Jays’ bullpen in every season from 2006 through 2010. The hard-throwing Rodriguez has appeared in the big leagues in all of the last six seasons (with the Athletics, Nationals, Cubs and Marlins), but has never really established himself, thanks in large part to control problems — he has 6.4 BB/9 for his career. Both pitchers signed minor-league deals with the D-Backs this offseason.
- Twins utilityman Tyler Grimes has retired, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune tweets. The 24-year-old Grimes played at Class A+ Fort Myers in 2014, hitting .232/.313/.355 in 307 plate appearances while, remarkably, playing catcher, second, third and all three outfield positions. He had been a non-roster invite to Twins big-league camp.
- The Tigers have released righty Luke Putkonen, MLB.com’s Jason Beck tweets. Putkonen, 28, pitched 29 2/3 innings out of the Tigers’ bullpen in 2013 and handled himself well, posting a 3.03 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. He missed most of the 2014 season due to elbow issues, however. The Tigers designated Putkonen for assignment and outrighted him in January.
Here are the highlights from an enormous notes post by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:
- There’s the potential for lots of trade activity between now and Opening Day, with an unusual number of teams with logjams at particular positions. But there aren’t many good pitching options, and many teams are already close to their payroll limits.
- The Rays are one of several teams looking for starting pitching, but they’re currently focusing their efforts on depth, figuring they only need to cover for injured starters Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly for a month or so.
- If the Phillies struggle early in the year, trade whispers involving Chase Utley could grow louder, with the Padres, Angels and possibly Giants looming as potentially interested teams. Utley would, of course, have to waive his no-trade clause, but he has West Coast roots.
- The Diamondbacks are currently unwilling to trade Mark Trumbo, but that could change if they become dissatisfied with their outfield defense.
- The Orioles discussed trading lefty Brian Matusz to the Rangers before Texas acquired Sam Freeman, and have listened to other clubs interested in Matusz as well. But the Nationals might be more willing than the Orioles to trade a lefty reliever — some within the Orioles see Matusz as a better option than either T.J. McFarland or Wesley Wright.
Here are some notes out of the game’s western divisions:
- Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields Jr. appears to have a place on the Rangers roster, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Taken from the Astros this winter, DeShields could be a force on the basepaths and would otherwise represent a backup center field and second base option.
- The Astros-Brady Aiken fallout remains too clouded in uncertainty for final judgment, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. While Aiken’s Tommy John procedure has led some to claim that Houston was justified in seeking to drop the price tag on the first overall pick last year, Drellich explains that it is more complicated than just looking at that result. There’s a lot of ground covered in the article, and it is worth a full read for those interested in understanding this complicated situation.
- New Diamondbacks righty Yoan Lopez has shown steady improvement in spite of an unsightly ERA in his first professional action, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. Rival scouts have raised some questions about his upside, but D’backs pitching coach Mike Harkey says that he fully expects the 22-year-old to become “a really good pitcher.” Lopez has not brought quite the level of velocity that led the team to sign him, but manager Chip Hale explains that velo isn’t everything: “I think the fastball hasn’t been quite the velocity that we thought, but 92 is nothing to sneeze at, especially when you can make it move and control it, spot it,” said Hale. “The electricity has been in the breaking ball, especially, and the change-up. But I think we do expect a little tick up in the velocity eventually.”
Here’s the latest from around the NL West…
- While Carlos Gonzalez specifically stated that he wanted to stay with the Rockies, Troy Tulowitzki somewhat tellingly only said “I want to win here” when asked by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale if he wanted to stay with the club. The Rockies discussed Tulowitzki with a few teams this winter (including the Mets), a process that GM Jeff Bridich said the star shortstop was kept fully informed about, even though there wasn’t much to discuss. “We had conversations this winter, and Tulo has an understanding what we’re thinking….We talked to teams, but there really is nothing that came close to being done,” Bridich said.
- Justin Maxwell can opt out of his minor league deal with the Giants if he isn’t on the club’s Major League roster by Tuesday, March 31, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The 31-year-old Maxwell is battling for a reserve outfield job and said he hasn’t decided what his next step will be if he’s told he isn’t making the roster.
- While the Padres have come up short in high-profile pursuits of Yasmany Tomas, Hector Olivera and Yoan Moncada, that doesn’t mean the club hasn’t been busy on the international signing front. In a profile of Padres international scouting director Chris Kemp, MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports that the team has signed 12 international players between the ages of 16-19 are close to deals with several others. Of particular note is right-hander Starlin Cordero, who is already throwing at 94 mph at age 16 and only two months after being converted to pitching from the outfield.
- Diamondbacks catching prospect Peter O’Brien has played back-to-back games in the outfield, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. O’Brien was having problems throwing the ball back to the mound in games earlier this month and he since hasn’t been back behind the plate. Dubbed as the D’Backs’ catcher of the future by GM Dave Stewart and others within the organization, many scouts have questions about O’Brien’s long-term future behind the plate (even aside from his throwing issue).
- In NL West news from earlier today, Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times discussed the Dodgers with Jeff Todd on the MLBTR Podcast…Jeff also asked MLBTR’s readers to rank the Dodgers‘ many notable offseason moves…I profiled Juan Uribe as a possible trade candidate…the Padres claimed righty Jandel Gustave off waivers from the Royals…the Mets are checking in on both the Rockies and Dodgers as part of their search for relief pitching help.
Padres GM A.J. Preller says that the team does not view outfielder Justin Upton as a mere rental player, as MLB.com’s Barry Bloom reports. “We made a big trade for him, and when you do something like that, you always hope you can work something out long term and do something together,” said Preller of Upton. “… That’s why we acquired him. You always want guys like that on your team.” While Preller has already made quite an impression in his first offseason at the helm in San Diego, an extension or free agent signing of Upton would be grander and more committing than any of his other moves. The 27-year-old sits atop the free agent power rankings of MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes, owing in large part to his youth and power output. For now, Preller says the team is focused on letting Upton get comfortable with the organization in the hopes that he will “see the long-term fit.” Upton, meanwhile, says it is too soon to discuss the possibility of a new deal with the Padres. “”I’ve only been here for a month,” he said. “I don’t even want to talk about that.”
Here’s more out of the western divisions:
- The Athletics have optioned righty Ryan Cook to Triple-A, as MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports. Cook has struggled this spring, but has a well-established track record at the big league level and owns a 2.77 ERA over nearly 200 frames over the last four seasons. It is worth noting that Cook has more at stake than his immediate roster spot: he entered the year with three years and 36 days of service, meaning that a lengthy minor league stint could delay his free agency by a year.
- Giants GM Brian Sabean addressed the team’s outfield situation today, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Angel Pagan‘s back troubles are not cause for the team to go searching for another outfielder, he said, noting also that Hunter Pence is only out for a small portion of the season.
- The Diamondbacks, in many respects, “appear to see things differently than the rest of the league,” Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. That applies to the team’s overall approach to blending statistics and scouting and its assessment of the defensive capabilities of several of its young players, among other things. Cameron cautions not to write off the team’s ultimate ability to compete based on a process that he believes is flawed, citing the Orioles’ somewhat surprising run of success, though he also makes clear that he does not see a promising method being applied in Arizona.
- The first trade of Preller’s stint with the Padres was not nearly as heralded as his later swaps, as MLB.com’s Corey Brock writes. Lefty Kyle Bartsch was, in fact, the first name added to San Diego’s slate of players under the Preller regime, representing the return on outfielder Reymond Fuentes. The 2013 seventh-round pick probably fit expectations for the new San Diego front office better than the later, splashier additions. “With Fuentes, he was someone who was coming off our roster, so you look for smaller deals and value-type pieces and in Kyle we found someone with three pitches, had success [in the pros], had success in college,” Preller said. “He’s a lefty and that’s always a good thing. That’s an area he fit for us.”
Here are today’s minor league transactions from around baseball, with the newest moves at the top of the post….
- The Diamondbacks released outfielder Aaron Cunningham, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Cunningham hit .255/.342/.346 over 281 plate appearances for Triple-A Reno last season. The 28-year-old outfielder last appeared in the majors in 2012 and received 501 PA with the Indians, Padres and A’s from 2008-12.
- The Marlins have released left-handed reliever Donnie Joseph from their Triple-A affiliate, according to the Pacific Coast League’s transactions page. Originally a Reds prospect, Joseph was dealt to the Royals as part of the Jonathan Broxton trade in July 2012 and then dealt to Miami last June. The southpaw has posted a 3.84 ERA, 11.9 K/9 and 2.44 K/BB rate over 316 career innings in the minors, plus Joseph has 6 1/3 Major League innings to his name from a couple of brief stints with the Royals in 2013-14.
Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart says his team doesn’t feel the need another lefty reliever to complement Oliver Perez, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports. Instead, they’ll go with Andrew Chafin, Matt Reynolds, Dan Runzler, or possibly Robbie Ray. The 24-year-old Chafin struggled as a starter at Triple-A Reno after nine good starts at Double-A Mobile in 2014. Reynolds was recovering from Tommy John surgery, although he had success in the Diamondbacks’ bullpen in 2013 before getting hurt. Runzler pitched in the bullpen at the Triple-A level in the Giants system and is in Diamondbacks camp as a non-roster invite. Ray is in competition for the Diamondbacks’ last rotation spot, although that could go to Rubby De La Rosa, freeing Ray to work out of the bullpen. Here are more notes from throughout baseball.
- The Mariners are likely to try to trade pitcher Erasmo Ramirez, MLB.com’s Greg Johns writes. Ramirez is out of options and doesn’t figure to make the team. The number of pitching injuries throughout the game could create a need for Ramirez somewhere. Since the Mariners will likely be forced to designate Ramirez for assignment if they don’t trade him, though, they don’t necessarily have much leverage.
- Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. isn’t likely to make the Red Sox coming out of camp, but he’s hit well in March while demonstrating a more level swing, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. That could make Bradley an attractive trade candidate again despite a tough 2014 season. The Red Sox can option Bradley, however, meaning the team doesn’t have to deal him even though it does have more outfielders than it needs right now.