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Arizona Diamondbacks Rumors
Yunel Escobar of the Nationals, like many other Cuban ballplayers, followed a difficult path to the big leagues, as James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. It has not always been smooth sailing for the 32-year-old since he finally made it as a professional, of course, though he is settling in nicely in D.C., where he has played an important role on a team that is still missing Anthony Rendon. Escobar owns a .303/.358/.394 slash in 109 plate appearances thus far in 2015.
- Diamondbacks prospect Peter O’Brien — acquired in last summer’s Martin Prado deal — says he believes his shift out of a catching role has helped him to a strong start offensively, Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic reports. It remains to be seen whether Arizona will look to move him back behind the dish at some point — he did finally don the gear for the first time this year recently — but it sounds as if O’Brien may be ready to embrace a more permanent change. “Catching is a lot of fun, but I really enjoy the outfield and I definitely think that my bat is my biggest strength,” O’Brien said. “I think that plays a little bit better in the outfield.”
- This year’s amateur draft figures to feature a lot of moving parts, and it’s still months away. But that didn’t stop Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel and Baseball America’s John Manuel from taking a shot at early mock drafts. The analysts disagree somewhat on the direction the Diamondbacks will take with the first overall pick, with McDaniel tabbing Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson (a shift from another recent post, reflecting the uncertainty) and Manuel pointing to UCSB righty Dillon Tate. Neither of those highly-regarded players would represent a big surprise in that slot, of course, as both have consistently been listed as amongst the consensus three best players available along with high school shortstop Brendan Rogers.
- MLB.com’s Barry Bloom checks in with Padres hurler Cory Luebke, who is diligently working back from his second Tommy John surgery and is hoping to throw live BP within the next few weeks. “I’m making progress,” Luebke said. “It’s been a long haul, but it’s the best place I’ve been in for the last few years. It’s exciting, but if I’ve learned anything it’s not to ride the roller coaster. Take a week at a time. But I definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel a little bit.” Luebke is in the final guaranteed year of his four-year, $12MM extension, though San Diego holds successive club options ($7.5MM and $10MM, respectively, over his next two seasons).
We’re just over a month away from the 2015 amateur draft, and here’s the latest about some of the players and teams who will be in the news on June 8…
- Florida high school shortstop Brendan Rodgers tops Baseball America’s latest ranking of the top 100 draft prospects. Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson, UC Santa Barbara righty Dillon Tate, Louisville righty Kyle Funkhouser and LSU shortstop Alex Bregman round out the top five.
- The ranking aside, this year’s draft class has even more difficult than usual to evaluate, as Baseball America’s John Manuel writes. Several of the top prospects have thin or unconventional track records, while others have seen their draft stock drop due to injuries.
- “Expect the Braves [to] buck that [industry] consensus early and often,” Manuel writes. This will be a big draft for Atlanta, as the Braves have six of the first 89 picks and the fourth-highest draft bonus pool of any club.
- The Diamondbacks have had discussions with right-hander Garrett Whitley and catcher Tyler Stephenson about making either high schooler the first pick in the 2015 draft, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel reports. Whitley, Stephenson and outfielder Daz Cameron (another high schooler) are named by McDaniel as the co-favorites to be the #1 pick, with Tate and Swanson as longshot options. While Whitley, Stephenson and Cameron aren’t at the top of most draft boards, the D’Backs may be looking to take an unconventional choice ifrst overall and then sign the player to a “cut rate” contract at below slot value. This would free up more draft pool money for Arizona to spend on their later selections. McDaniel speculates that Whitley or Stephenson could accept a deal worth less than half the $8.616MM slot value for the first overall pick since they otherwise might not be taken in the top seven.
- Rodgers, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to be an option for the D’Backs, as McDaniel reports that the team haven’t scouted many of his games.
7:39pm: Saltalamacchia can opt out of his contract if he isn’t on Arizona’s Major League roster by June 1, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. The opt-out clause likely won’t be an issue, however, as the catcher is expected to join the D’Backs well before the end of the month.
2:22pm: The Diamondbacks took some strides to address their early catching woes on Thursday when they announced that they’ve signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a Minor League contract following the veteran catcher’s release from the Marlins (Twitter link). Saltalamacchia is a client of agent Jim Munsey, who took some time to sit down with MLBTR Podcast host Jeff Todd to discuss his client’s release from the Marlins (in addition to several other issues).
The 30-year-old Saltalamacchia inked a three-year, $21MM pact with the Marlins in the 2013-14 offseason, but the south Florida native’s homecoming didn’t go as planned. Saltalamacchia batted just .220/.320/.362 with the Marlins last season, and he found himself released this year after a 2-for-29 start to the season. The move came as somewhat of a surprise, given the fact that Saltalamacchia had roughly $14.16MM remaining on his contract at the time he was designated for assignment. The Marlins attempted to trade Saltalamacchia, according to several reports, and it was at least somewhat of another surprise that they weren’t able to find a team willing to pay $1-2MM of the remaining commitment to ensure that they were able to sign him.
As it stands, the D-Backs will reap the benefits, as Miami is on the hook for the entirety of Saltalamacchia’s salary, minus the pro-rated portion of the league minimum that the D-Backs will pay him for any time spent on the active roster.
Arizona’s catching situation has been dismal in 2015, with Tuffy Gosewisch and Jordan Pacheco combining to bat .219/.276/.250 — much of which has been fueled by an unsustainable .400 BABIP for Pacheco (as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd noted last night). The move from the spacious Marlins Park to Arizona’s Chase Field should prove to be quite advantageous for Saltalamacchia, who has 15-25 homer pop in the past and boasts an above-average .175 isolated power mark (slugging minus batting average). Saltalamacchia has long been a better hitter against right-handed pitching than left-handed pitching, as evidenced by a career .775 OPS versus righties and a .596 mark versus lefties. That could allow the D-Backs to effectively platoon Saltalamacchia and Gosewisch, and while Gosewisch doesn’t offer much offense against lefties, he’s considered a stronger defender, so a platoon would minimize some of Saltalamacchia’s defensive deficiencies, to an extent.
Saltalamacchia at one point, from 2011-12, graded as an excellent pitch-framer, but his marks in that regard of deteriorated, as he was below-average in 2013 and graded out as one of the worst in the league in 2014. He’s also thrown out just 22 percent of attempted base-stealers in his career, although in 2011 he was decisively above average in that regard as well, catching 31 percent of those who attempted to run against him.
In the end, the move is a no-risk endeavor for the D-Backs, who will hope that Saltalamacchia can help bridge the gap to prospect Peter O’Brien, whom the organization still hopes can handle catching in the Majors. O’Brien has been moved to the outfield in the early stages of the season after developing a concerning issue with throwing the ball back to the mound at the end of Spring Training, and scouts from other organizations have long questioned whether or not the powerful prospect will be an adequate defender behind the plate.
Saltalamacchia will head to Triple-A to get some at-bats before joining the big league club, tweets Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona. Between paternity leave and his DFA period, Saltalamacchia hasn’t appeared in a game since April 23.
The Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro was the first to report that the D-Backs were expected to sign Saltalmacchia. MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reported that the two sides had agreed to a Minor League deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Diamondbacks are expected to agree to terms with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports on Twitter. Saltalamacchia must first clear release waivers, which will occur today, before he can reach formal agreement.
Saltalamacchia, 30, was released by the Marlins in the early going this year despite still having two years and about $14MM left on his contract. Miami will be left with those obligations since the club was unable to find a taker for some of his salary.
Of course, that means that the veteran backstop offers an essentially free opportunity for other clubs to add a power left-handed bat behind the dish. (The switch-hitter has always fared better against righties.) Though he has had his struggles defensively, Saltalamacchia remains as intriguing a player as can be hoped for in early May.
All said, linking up with Arizona makes eminent sense for both sides. The D’Backs’ catching situation has been even worse than expected, with starter Tuffy Gosewisch scuffling badly offensively. The team has little to lose and plenty to gain by installing Saltalamacchia in some kind of timeshare.
6:11pm: The Orioles are not expected to land the backstop, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports on Twitter.
6:08pm: A deal could come together by tomorrow, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Mariners, Orioles, and Royals are the teams that have joined the D’Backs in pursuit, per Cafardo.
9:11am: The D’Backs are joined by three other teams in “looking at” the backstop, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. The Red Sox and Rays are not among them, he adds.
8:28am: Arizona has indeed already reached out to Saltalamacchia, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. Multiple clubs are involved early in the process, per the report.
8:19am: The Diamondbacks are considering a run at newly-minted free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. Arizona was said to be one of the teams discussing the veteran with the Marlins prior to his release.
“He’s a player that we’re going to talk a little bit more in-depth about,” said GM Dave Stewart. “I have to see what our scouts are saying and talk to our internal guys, and if it makes sense then we’ll make the next step.”
Now that Saltalamacchia’s large salary is destined to remain entirely on the Marlins’ tab, clubs can pursue him as a risk-free addition. It remains to be seen what kind of market will develop now that Salty is back on the open market, but competition to acquire his services will presumably focus on non-compensatory matters, such as playing time, fit, and location.
Arizona’s catching situation has been as unproductive as expected, though at least four other teams have compiled more negative fWAR at the position. Starter Tuffy Gosewisch has slashed just .176/.222/.176 through 72 plate appearances. And while the versatile Jordan Pacheco has provided some value offensively, his .280/.379/.400 slash is fueled by a .400 BABIP and seems highly likely to come back to earth.
Stewart acknowledged that situation, saying while he liked the job Gosewisch has done behind the plate, “we still expect a little more offense from him.” While the rookie GM did not give any indication that Gosewisch’s time was short, he did make clear that change was not out of the question: “He may make those adjustments,” said Stewart, “but with that being said, we have to at least go through the process internally and see if Saltalamacchia is an option to bring here.”
All said, the D’Backs look like precisely the kind of club that ought to take a shot on a return to form from Saltalamacchia, who just turned thirty a few days ago. He may never get back to the low-OBP but high-power option he was before going to Miami, but his ceiling is known and is obviously higher than that of most freely available talent. At the very least, the switch-hitting Saltalamacchia has always high right-handed pitching, making him a useful option to pair with a right-handed bat.
The D-Backs announced today that they’ve placed right-hander Archie Bradley on the 15-day DL with a sinus fracture that was sustained in a frightening scene during last night’s game. Bradley was struck in the face by a line drive off the bat of Carlos Gonzalez, though he was eventually able to leave the field under his own power. The situation could have been much worse, considering the reported 115 mph exit velocity on the Gonzalez line-drive; indeed, Steve Gilbert of MLB.com writes that the D-Backs’ promising young righty should be able to return right after his DL stint. To this point in the season, Bradley had been a bright spot for the Snakes, working to a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings.
A few more injury-related notes worth keeping an eye on…
- Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland underwent surgery today to remove bone chips from his elbow and will be out for at least two to three weeks, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. This is already the second time that the issue has plagued Moreland this season, though the first occurrence was treated with anti-inflammatory medication and rest. However, the problem flared back up after Moreland made a diving play in the field, and he’s undergoing to procedure to prevent the elbow from “locking up” again.
- Rockies closer Adam Ottavino told MLB.com’s Barry Bloom that he’s worried about the arm injury that landed him on the disabled list. Originally placed on the DL with triceps inflammation, further tests have revealed that the source of Ottavino’s discomfort is closer to his elbow. Ottavino will see team doctor Thomas Noonan when the team returns to Denver on Monday.
- Mets right-hander Rafael Montero will have an MRI performed after reporting right shoulder discomfort following his most recent start, writes MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo. Montero was optioned to Triple-A following the outing, but as DiComo notes, the option would be rescinded if it’s determined that Montero is injured and would require a DL stint. The Mets have already lost Zack Wheeler for the season, and though Montero isn’t currently being counted on to contribute to the Major League rotation, an injury would thin their pitching depth and perhaps reduce the chances of a potential Dillon Gee trade down the line.
10:50pm: Heyman adds, via Twitter, that the Orioles are not in the mix for Saltalamacchia.
10:05pm: The Diamondbacks, Rays and Royals are all discussing Saltalamacchia, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. It’s unclear if Kansas City’s interest has picked up at all between McCullough’s report and this latest update, though the Rays and certainly the D-Backs would seem to have a bigger need behind the dish. Like MacPherson yesterday, Heyman hears that the Red Sox aren’t in the mix.
4:14pm: The Royals have some interest in Saltalamacchia, but their interest is said to be very preliminary, according to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (on Twitter). As McCullough notes, GM Dayton Moore was the Braves’ director of player development when Atlanta drafted Saltalamacchia.
APRIL 27: The Marlins have already had contact with five teams regarding Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter. GM Dan Jennings says that he expects to find a deal for the just-designated backstop.
Among the potential landing spots are the Red Sox, Indians, Mariners, and Diamondbacks, one source tells ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link). According to other reports, however, Boston is “unlikely” to be interested in adding the 29-year-old, as Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal tweets, even if it were able to add him for just the league minimum.
Saltalamacchia thrived in Boston, slashing a combined .243/.307/.455 during his four seasons there. Since earning a large free agent payday to join the Marlins last year, Saltalamacchia owns a fairly disapointing .209/.310/.351 line at the plate. That output, while still not bad for a catcher, was not enough to outweigh his lightly-regarded defensive work.
Nevertheless, Salty remains an interesting option for teams looking for a backup or injury replacement (as the above list would indicate). The switch hitter has been much more productive historically against right-handed pitching (.775 career OPS) and makes for a natural platoon mate for any right-handed swinging backstop.
The Mets are one of several teams helping Major League Baseball understand more about pitchers’ epidemic of elbow injuries, Mike Vorkunov of NJ.com writes. The Mets, along with four other teams, are having the pitchers in their 2014 draft class participate in a study by agreement with MLB and the MLBPA, along with the American Sports Medicine Institute. Vorkunov reports that the study will examine pitchers’ biomechanics, anatomy and flexibility to try to identify players who might be at risk. All 30 teams will have access to the results. “We as an industry probably should have taken the initiative long ago before this became such an epidemic,” says Mets GM Sandy Alderson. “But I’m happy we’re pursuing it now. That, I think, will help us with the next generation of baseball pitchers.” The problem is surely one that all clubs are curious about, although the Mets, who have lost Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler to Tommy John surgery in recent years, likely are especially interested. Here’s more from around the Majors.
- Carlos Beltran is becoming disliked by fans of both the Mets and the Yankees, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. It’s questionable whether Mets fans have reasonable grounds to dislike Beltran — as Sherman notes, Beltran played well with the Mets and landed them Wheeler. But many do. And the first year-plus of Beltran’s three-year, $45MM contract with the Yankees has been awful so far, particularly given his defensive limitations. Beltran, who turned 38 yesterday, is hitting .173/.241/.288 so far this season.
- 30-year-old 1B/OF Danny Dorn finally made it to the big leagues after 939 minor-league games after the Diamondbacks promoted him Tuesday, and he’s thrilled to be there, writes MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom. “I can call myself a Major Leaguer,” says Dorn. “It’s been great. I just feel blessed and thankful for the opportunity.” Dorn has been climbing uphill his entire career — he was a 32nd-round draft pick all the way back in 2006, and although he hit well throughout the minors, he spent parts of seven seasons at Triple-A.
Prior to being hired as the Diamondbacks‘ general manager, Dave Stewart reached out to Dusty Baker to let him know that he may have interest in Baker as a manager if he were to get the GM role, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. However, Baker never heard back from Stewart before the D-Backs hired Chip Hale. Baker said he has no hard feelings about not getting an interview. Stewart told Heyman that he does indeed have a good deal of respect for both Baker and former Rangers manager Ron Washington, both of whom he initially considered for the managerial vacancy. Baker tells Heyman that he hopes to manage again, and Heyman notes that he has applied to three positions, including the Mariners, Tigers and Nationals since being let go from the Reds. “I didn’t fire myself,” said Baker. “I didn’t retire.”
Here’s more from out west …
- The Dodgers have now acquired and designated no fewer than four relievers, and have made a host of other minor roster moves in the season’s early going. That has all taken place as part of the club’s plan entering the season, manager Don Mattingly explains (video via the Tout feed of J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles Media Group).
- Padres righty Josh Johnson tossed a 40-pitch pen session today and is nearing a rehab stint, manager Bud Black tells MLB.com’s Corey Brock (Twitter link). The 31-year-old has not made a major league appearance since 2013, but represents some nice low-risk upside for an a San Diego club that is off to a nice start.
- The Mariners have struggled somewhat with keeping runs off the board, a subject that I discussed with Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune on today’s podcast. In addition to starting poorly, veteran Hisashi Iwakuma has hit the DL with shoulder fatigue (officially called a strained lat), as Dutton reports. He will undergo an MRI tonight, though the hope is that some rest will do the trick. Of course, Iwakuma is also a free agent after the season, and he’ll have some catching up to do to re-establish his value at age 34.
The Diamondbacks have signed infielder Kevin Frandsen to a Minor League contract and assigned him to Triple-A Reno, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (via Twitter). Frandsen is a client of All Bases Covered Sports Management.
Frandsen, 32, spent the 2014 season serving as a utility infield option for the Nationals. In 236 plate appearances with Washington, he batted .259/.299/.309 and appeared at second base, third base, first base and in left field. The Nats tendered a contract to Frandsen this offseason and agreed to a $1MM salary, but the team released him late in Spring Training.
Frandsen can serve as a depth option for the D-Backs, as he has experience at all four infield positions as well as both corner outfield spots. With Jake Lamb set to miss a few weeks due to a stress reaction in his foot, it’s possible that Frandsen could find his way onto the big league roster in the near future.