- Phillies Extend Jerome Williams For 2015
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Here’s a roundup of coaching-related items as several teams look to revamp their bench staffs for 2015…
- The Braves considered Jim Thome for their vacant hitting coach position, but the retired slugger wasn’t interested in the job, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Atlanta’s list of hitting coach candidates includes such names as Milt Thompson and Rick Eckstein, while ex-hitting coach Terry Pendleton will likely stay as first base coach rather than return to his former position.
- Yankees special assistant Trey Hillman has spoken to the Astros about becoming the team’s bench coach, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Hillman could also be a candidate to be the Yankees’ new first base coach or infield coach.
- The Yankees announced that hitting coach Kevin Long and first base/infield coach Mick Kelleher won’t return in 2015. Newsday’s Erik Boland speculates that former Rockies slugger Dante Bichette (one of Joe Girardi’s best friends) could be a contender to take over as hitting coach. Diamondbacks pitching coach Mike Harkey, a long-time former Yankee bullpen coach, has been rumored to be on his way back to New York to resume his old job, which could set off a shuffle of other moves — Boland says current bullpen coach Gary Tuck could become the bench coach, while Tony Pena would move from bench coach to the open first base job.
- Long will at least be discussed as a candidate for the Mets‘ hitting coach job, a source tells Mike Puma of the New York Post (Twitter link).
In a lengthy and interesting piece, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times looks at the potentially fractured relationship between the Mariners and Michael Saunders following some comments made by GM Jack Zduriencik at an end-of-season press conference. Asked at the time what he felt about Saunders’ future with the team, Zduriencik said, “…It’s up to Michael. … He was playing well, got hurt, came back, got sick, came back again and did some nice things. But I think what Michael has to do and has to answer this to himself, is ‘how do I prepare myself to play as many games through the course of 162 that I can possibly play without being setback by injury.’ … some of these things need to be handled from a maintenance standpoint where he put himself in a position where he’s able to compete through the course of the season.”
Divish spoke to Saunders himself, who declined to comment on the situation. Saunders’ agent, Michael McCann, said it was both “shocking” and “very disappointing.” Said McCann: “These comments don’t reflect Michael Saunders’ work habits. They imply that that he’s lackadaisical.” Part of the trouble, Divish writes, is that Saunders had never before had his work ethic or preparation questioned by the Mariners, and to have that done in a public forum was hurtful. Zduriencik clarified that the comments he made could be applied to any player, and he was adamant to Divish that the organization is not planning on moving on from Saunders. However, he has previously identified corner outfield as a potential area to add some offense. Divish speculates on an offseason trade, though he also notes that even if Saunders is pushed to the role of fourth outfielder, his low salary (he should earn less than $3MM via arbitration) would be an acceptable price for that role, especially given his upside. Over the past three seasons, the former top prospect has batted .248/.320/.423 with 39 homers and 38 steals. I should note that Divish’s entire piece is well worth the read, as this brief write-up doesn’t capture nearly all of the quotes and information he compiled.
Here’s more from baseball’s Western divisions…
- The Diamondbacks should give strong consideration to moving one of their young shortstops if it can bolster the rotation, writes the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro. The Snakes finished the season with Didi Gregorius, Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed all on the roster, but no room to play all three of them with Aaron Hill being owed $24MM through 2016 and prospects Jake Lamb and Brandon Drury both looking like third base options in the near future. (Lamb already received a taste of the Majors in 2014.) The team seems to view Owings as the best of the bunch, given his greater offensive ceiling, but both Gregorius and Ahmed have value to other clubs. Piecoro spoke to rival executives about each shortstop, with one stating that while Gregorius might not bring back “a Matt Harvey or a Jacob deGrom,” he could be worth someone such as Rafael Montero of the Mets. Another evaluator told Piecoro that his club actually prefers Ahmed to Gregorius, so both could seemingly have good trade value.
- Though he’s been a popular managerial candidate this year, Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo will not be interviewed by the D’Backs for their own managerial vacancy, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Lovullo interviewed with the Astros prior to their hiring of A.J. Hinch, he’s already interviewed with the Rangers and will reportedly interview with the Twins as well.
- Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler tells Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune that they have “definitely expanded our international focus under [new GM] A.J. [Preller].” Lin examines whether or not that could mean a legitimate run at Yasmany Tomas, though as he notes, that would be an unprecedented move for the Friars. In fact, last season’s signing of Joaquin Benoit to a two-year, $15.5MM contract was the largest free agent expenditure in franchise history, Lin points out. The largest contract in franchise history, he adds, is Jake Peavy‘s old three-year, $52MM deal. Tomas could cost double that amount, but the Padres have just $40.5MM committed to next year’s payroll, and the $90MM Opening Day figure from 2014 could rise, ownership has said.
- After losing hitting coach John Mallee to the Cubs, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow spoke highly about Mallee’s work to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Drellich points out that Mallee deserves some credit for the success of Jose Altuve and Chris Carter in 2014, although skeptics could also point to the strikeout problems some of the other team’s young hitters had. Luhnow said he hopes to have a finalized coaching staff in place by month’s end, and as Drellich notes, only pitching coach Brent Strom is a guarantee to return at this point.
As outrights pick up pace across the league, here are the latest minor moves:
- After outrighting him yesterday, the Phillies have released righty Sean O’Sullivan, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. O’Sullivan was set to become a minor league free agent anyway, so this just moves up his appearance on the open market.
- After seeing three players fail to clear waivers today, the Diamondbacks did manage to get another trio through. Per the PCL transactions page, outfielder Brett Jackson, lefty Joe Paterson, and catcher Bobby Wilson have all cleared and been outrighted to Triple-A. Jackson, a 26-year-old former top prospect, had another disappointing season at Triple-A, posting a .208/.299/.350 line in 271 plate appearances. Paterson, 28, again posted solid numbers in Triple-A (2.95 ERA over 42 2/3 frames) but failed to return to the regular MLB pen role that he had in 2011. And Wilson, 31, saw his first MLB action since 2012 with the Angels, but spent most of his time putting together a .267/.324/.341 slash over 299 trips to the plate at Triple-A.
- Also clearing waivers and being outrighted was Jeff Bianchi of the Brewers. Bianchi, who turned 28 on Sunday, struggled in limited MLB action this year. The utility infielder owns a lifetime .534 OPS through 402 plate appearances in the bigs. Over three seasons at Triple-A, he has posted a more attractive .299/.349/.428 line.
The Angels have claimed outfielders Alfredo Marte and Roger Kieschnick off waivers from the Diamondbacks, the club announced. In a corresponding move, the team has designated catcher John Buck and outfielder Brennan Boesch for assignment.
Marte and Kieschnick have each seen fairly minimal time at the MLB level over the last two years, and neither has been productive in those short samples. But the 25-year-old Marte is fresh off of a .319/.407/.519 campaign at the Triple-A level, his best line as a professional. And while Kieschnick, 27, was less impressive in his first season in the D’backs organization (.260/.317/.461), he put up two productive Triple-A campaigns in the Giants system in the years prior.
Meanwhile, Buck was slated to become a free agent after the season. He signed on with the Halos after losing his backup job with the Mariners, with whom he signed a one-year, $1MM deal before the season. On the year, Buck slashed a meager .225/.289/.281 in his 97 big league plate appearances. Boesch, who could have been controlled through arbitration, will also get a slight head start on free agency. After joining the Angels on a minor league deal, Boesch struggled in 79 plate appearances with the big club but did tune up the PCL with a .332/.381/.636 slash over 407 plate appearances.
The Blue Jays have claimed righty Bo Schultz off waivers from the Diamondbacks, Toronto announced via press release. With the move, te Jays have two open slots remaining on their 40-man roster.
Schultz, who just turned 29, saw his first MLB action last year with Arizona, allowing seven earned runs on 13 hits and one walk (with five strikeouts) over eight innings of relief. While that limited sample does not say much about his future, it did allow Pitch F/X to get a look at his offerings. Schultz averaged just over 95 mph with his fastball, and relied on a slider and change as his primary off-speed offerings.
Schultz spent most of his time at Triple-A last year as a starter, scuffling to a 6.18 ERA over 135 1/3 frames with 5.5 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9. He threw 19 2/3 innings at the highest minor league level in 2013, with results that were just as poor in the earned runs department. But Schultz had nearly twice the strikeout rate in that stretch, during which he worked exclusively from the bullpen.
The Rangers top priority is finding a manager. Their other top priority is building a rotation, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The Rangers aren’t expected to “play in the top end of free agency,” according to GM Jon Daniels, but they will need to locate some external rotation help. Even if staff ace Yu Darvish is pronounced healthy and ready to resume throwing in November, the club needs a mid-rotation pitcher to slot after Derek Holland. Grant assumes Colby Lewis will be re-signed (I agree) and the final spot will likely fall to Nick Tepesch or Nick Martinez. Martin Perez is a mid-season option as he works back from Tommy John surgery, and Matt Harrison could potentially slot into the rotation if he recovers from spinal fusion surgery. My own two cents: in order to avoid a repeat of 2014, the Rangers need at least one more viable major league starter than Grant suggests.
- The Pirates would like to re-sign catcher Russell Martin, says Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The issue – he’s arguably outperformed peers like Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero, and Brian McCann in the seasons leading up to a new contract. Molina signed for $75MM, Montero for $60MM and McCann for $85MM. Martin’s combination of defensive value and stealthy offensive prowess makes one wonder if Molina’s five-year, $75MM deal could be in play. If so, it would be hard for Pittsburgh to flex the muscles necessary to retain him.
- We haven’t heard much from newly minted Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart, but he seems to be a fan of Mark Trumbo, according to Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona. With Paul Goldschmidt set to return to first base in 2015, Trumbo will either slot in left or right field. Arizona brought in Trumbo to provide a double threat with Goldschmidt in the middle of the order. While some have looked to him as a trade candidate, it sounds like Stewart is inclined to see what he can do when healthy.
After being replaced as the general manager of the Diamondbacks, Kevin Towers has declined an opportunity to stay on in another capacity, the club announced today. The club has also decided not to renew the contract of assistant GM Billy Ryan.
Towers had been waiting to consider the new role after talking it over with new GM Dave Stewart. He took over the club’s baseball operations in 2010. After initially finding success, the D’backs have sputtered in each of the last two years. The seat increasingly heated up as a series of high-profile trades (and, to a lesser extent, free agent signings) backfired on the veteran executive.
Towers first hit his stride in a front office capacity with the Padres, starting out as their scouting director and ultimately taking over as the GM. A long tenure ended after the 2009 season, leading Towers to work as a special assignment scout with the Yankees for one year before heading to Arizona.
It remains to be seen what the future holds for Towers. Many have speculated that he could move back to San Diego in some kind of advisory capacity to newly-hired GM A.J. Preller, though there are no indications to date that anything is in the works.
As always, you can find information on player representation in MLBTR’s Agency Database. Here’s the latest on notable agency changes:
- Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock has changed representatives, moving to Brian Peters of the Legacy Sports Group, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Pollock had been represented by Icon Sports Management. The 26-year-old dealt with some injuries this year, but that did not detract much from the sparkling .302/.353/.498 line, with 7 home runs and 14 stolen bases, that he put up in 287 plate appearances. With sparkling defense in center factored in, Pollock was worth a rather remarkable 3.9 rWAR and 3.3 fWAR in that stretch. Though he is not arb-eligible until after the 2015 season, Pollock certainly looks like an extension candidate.
- Top Astros prospect Carlos Correa is shopping around for a new agent, leading to a major chase to add him as a client, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter links). Among the contenders are such familiar outfits as the Legacy Agency, the Boras Agency, Excel Sports Management, and Dan Lozano. The shortstop, who just turned 20, is currently represented by Kinzer Management Group. Correa had his season cut short by a broken leg, but nevertheless saw his star continue to rise with a .325/.416/.510 campaign at High-A. He also swiped 20 bags and contributed six long balls. The first overall pick in the 2012 draft, Correa currently rates as the second-best prospect in all of baseball in the eyes of MLB.com.
Former Rangers cornerstone Michael Young has joined the team’s front office, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link), although Heyman does not include specifics on Young’s role with the club. While he was once speculated as a candidate to fill the team’s managerial vacancy, he’s now helping with the search, Heyman adds.
More from the AL West…
- Rival executives don’t expect Athletics GM Billy Beane to stand pat following the team’s late collapse and elimination in last night’s one-game playoff, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. One executive speculated that Jeff Samardzija could be an offseason trade candidate, while a second threw out the possibility of trading Josh Donaldson. While I can personally envision the Samardzija scenario — he’s a free agent after 2015 and could $10MM+ via arbitration — the Donaldson suggestion is tough to picture. As Rosenthal notes, he’s arb-eligible for the first time this offseason and controlled through 2018, so there’s no reason to think Oakland would feel pressure to trade him.
- Among the players whom the A’s could potentially lose to free agency is Jed Lowrie, and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke with Lowrie about the situation (All Twitter links). Slusser notes that Lowrie is one of the few players who was honest about his free agency by admitting that money will be a driving factor behind his decision. Lowrie adds that he’s looking for a good fit for him and his family, and he says he’s be willing to play second base on a full-time basis. Asked about the possibility of receiving a qualifying offer, Lowrie said he’d have to give consideration to accepting. A qualifying offer to Lowrie seems unlikely, in my view.
- MLB.com’s Richard Justice calls the Astros‘ hiring of A.J. Hinch a bold move and revisits former Diamondbacks/Padres GM Josh Byrnes’ decision to give Hinch his first managerial gig back in 2009. The move was controversial, to say the least, as Byrnes had to dismiss the popular Bob Melvin to bring the 34-year-old Hinch into the picture. Hinch had never coached or managed, but as Byrnes explains to Justice, Hinch brings a number of desirable qualities to the table.
- Justice’s colleague, Brian McTaggart, writes that Astros players appear to be on board with the move. Chad Qualls spoke highly of Hinch, who was his manager with the D’Backs in 2010, and Gregorio Petit called him “a real honest guy” after getting to know him a bit while in the Padres organization. Dallas Keuchel is excited after meeting Hinch and hinted that there were communication problems not only between previous manager Bo Porter and the front office, but also between Porter and the players. “I think we need to have better communication than we’ve had in the past couple of years,” said Keuchel.
With the regular season in the books, it’s worth assessing how things ultimately shook out from last winter’s Rule 5 draft. Only nine players were taken in this year’s draft. Here’s where things stand:
Remember, players are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if they aren’t on the 40-man roster four or five years after signing, depending on the age at which they signed. If a team makes a selection, it pays the former team $50K and must keep that player on the Major League roster all season or offer him back to his original team for $25K. (Note that Rule 5 selections can change hands like any other player, with an acquiring team stepping into the shoes of the original selecting club. Click here for more details.)
- Patrick Schuster, LHP (taken first overall by the Astros from the Diamondbacks): Returned to Arizona. But not before a somewhat eventful tour. He was first dealt to the Padres, then placed on waivers and claimed by the Royals before finally being sent back. He never ended up throwing a big league inning, and ultimately struggled to 4.50 ERA in 18 frames at Triple-A once back with the D’backs.
- Adrian Nieto, C (taken third overall by the White Sox from the Nationals): Retained by Chicago. The switch-hitting, 24-year-old backstop hung on all year, posting a .236/.296/.340 line in his first 118 MLB plate appearances. He is now White Sox property.
- Kevin Munson, RHP (taken fourth overall by the Phillies from the Diamondbacks): Returned to Arizona. Munson never made it onto the active roster, and was sent back in mid-March. Though he never saw MLB action this year, he did post a rather dominant campaign at Triple-A: 2.60 ERA, 11.8 K/9, 3.2 BB/9.
- Tommy Kahnle, RHP (taken eighth overall by the Rockies from the Yankees): Retained by Colorado. The 25-year-old was an oft-used bullpen piece for the Rockies, posting a 4.19 ERA in 68 2/3 frames with 8.3 K/9 against 4.1 BB/9. Colorado owns his rights moving forward.
- Brian Moran, LHP (taken ninth overall by the Blue Jays from the Mariners): Still in limbo after season-ending surgery. Moran was dealt by Toronto to the Angels on the day of the draft, and opened the season DL’ed on the active roster. But his left elbow ultimately required Tommy John surgery, meaning that he ended up on the 60-day DL. The Halos do not yet own Moran’s rights permanently: to keep him, the club will need to carry him on the active roster without a DL stay for at least 90 days.
- Seth Rosin, RHP (taken tenth overall by the Mets from the Phillies): Returned to Philadelphia. Dealt immediately after the draft to the Dodgers, Rosin was claimed by the Rangers late in the spring and made three appearances before his roster spot was needed and he was returned. Back at Triple-A with the Phillies, he worked to a 3.86 ERA over 58 1/3 rames.
- Wei-Chung Wang, LHP (taken eleventh overall by the Brewers from the Pirates): Retained by Milwaukee. It took some doing, but a contending Brewers club was able to hold onto Wang for the entirety of the season. Though he did miss 45 games with a DL stint, Wang ultimately made only 14 appearances for the club. The 22-year-old will presumably be stretched out as a starter again as he returns to his development track in the lower minors.
- Marcos Mateo, RHP (taken fifteenth overall by the Diamondbacks from the Cubs): Returned to Chicago. Mateo was the first player to be returned, heading back in mid-March. The 30-year-old threw to a 3.86 ERA in 37 1/3 innings upon his return to Triple-A with his original team.
- Michael Almanzar, 3B (taken sixteenth overall by the Orioles from the Red Sox): Returned to Boston … but ultimately traded back to Baltimore. Shelved with injury for much of the year, Almanzar was returned to the Red Sox in the middle of the summer after a rehab stint. But the O’s obviously wanted him back, and added him as part of the Kelly Johnson deal. Over 233 minor league plate appearances on the year, Almanzar posted a .245/.322/.389 slash.
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