- Mariners, Rays Swap Erasmo Ramirez For Mike Montgomery
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- Kris Bryant To Begin Season In Minors
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- Red Sox Acquire Sandy Leon; Christian Vazquez Placed On 60-Day DL
- Rangers Release Ryan Ludwick
- Brewers Release Chris Perez
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Arizona Diamondbacks Rumors
Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB:
- The Diamondbacks announced they have released outfielder Ben Francisco. Arizona signed the 33-year-old to a minor league deal last December after he spent 2014 with the independent Atlantic League’s Lancaster Barnstormers posting a line of .242/.303/.390 in 244 plate appearances (57 games). Francisco, who was 1-for-8 during his Spring Training run with the Diamondbacks, last played a MLB game in 2013 and has a career mark of .253/.323/.418 covering parts of seven seasons with the Indians, Phillies, Blue Jays, Astros, Rays, and Yankees.
- The Tigers have signed outfielder Jiwan James after he participated in the team’s tryout camp last week, tweets MLB.com’s Jason Beck. The 25-year-old had signed last month with the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League. Before being sidelined the past two seasons for surgery on his knee and for Crohn’s Disease, James was a top prospect for the Phillies being ranked on multiple occasions by Baseball America as the organization’s best athlete, fastest runner, and best defensive outfielder.
Right-handed power hitters carried the day in 2014, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. By the numbers, 12 of the top 16 power hitters batted right-handed. Several clubs including the Padres, Astros, Diamondbacks, and Blue Jays have committed to a mostly right-handed lineup in a search for more power. Unfortunately, right-handed power extends to the mound, where an influx of relievers are throwing over 95 mph with nasty secondary pitches.
Here’s more from around the game:
- Indians utility fielder Zach Walters has injured his oblique and will miss the next three to four weeks, reports Chuck Crow of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Walters was acquired last season in exchange for Asdrubal Cabrera. The switch-hitter is a career .193/.253/.452 batter in 146 plate appearances, most of which came last season. He played five positions for the Nationals and Indians last season. Oblique injuries can be tricky to rehab, so expect the club to proceed slowly.
- Pirates infielder Jung-ho Kang has the work ethic and bat speed to succeed in the majors, writes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The South Korean star will make his major league debut this season. No former KBO hitter has succeeded in the majors, so Kang will aim to pave the road for future generations. He uses the exaggerated leg kick first popularized by Sadaharu Oh, but he quiets it with two strikes. FanGraphs swing expert Dan Farnsworth analyzed Kang’s swing earlier this winter (FG+ required), concluding “he has all the makings of an absolute monster.”
- Former number one draft pick Brady Aiken is expected to make his season debut with IMG Post Grad on Thursday, tweets Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs. Aiken was selected by the Astros last June, but their agreement fell apart due to concerns about his pitching elbow. Aiken remains among the top prospects in the draft, although the Astros will presumably pass on selecting him with either of their top five picks.
Cubs prospect Addison Russell tells reporters, including MLB.com’s Jane Lee, that he “was a little shocked” and “confused” when he learned he had been traded by the Athletics last summer. “I was kind of flying through the farm system and playing well at each level and looked forward to playing with the A’s for several more years,” Russell said. “The trade just really surprised me. I wasn’t expecting it. It definitely would’ve been cool to play at the big league level with the team that drafted me.”
Here are a few more notes from the National League:
- Diamondbacks righty Daniel Hudson still does not know what his role will be going forward, as Zach Buchanan and Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic report. Hudson is coming off of two consecutive Tommy John surgeries and rehab stints, and the team is still evaluating whether he will be able to continue ramping up his workload to open the year as a starter.
- The Diamondbacks “have no urgency to go out and get anybody” at catcher, GM Dave Stewart says (quote via the above-cited piece). Arizona is still confident in its depth options and “encouraged by the improvement” shown by prospect Peter O’Brien.
- It appears that the Rockies will have some tough decisions to make in rounding out their bench. GM Jeff Bridich said today that the club intends to carry thirteen arms, “maybe more often than not,” as Matt Eddy of Baseball America tweets. Rolling with a baker’s dozen on the hill likely means that the club will need to part with an outfield option, as Charlie Culberson, Brandon Barnes, and Drew Stubbs will presumably be allocated only two bench spots (with the other two going to Daniel Descalso and whichever catcher is off that day). As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported earlier today, none of that trio is out of options, though Stubbs is a 5+ service time player so is not a candidate to be sent down. One player who does lack options, however, is backstop Michael McKenry, who would seemingly be on the outside looking in with just four position-player reserves — despite the fact that the team gave him just over $1MM to avoid arbitration.
- The Dodgers have requested a second MRI on Hector Olivera‘s elbow, and the infielder’s camp has reportedly initially declined to provide it, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. Heyman speculates that Los Angeles could prefer to have an MRI performed by its own team doctor rather than rely on the first exam, which was taken in the Dominican.
- The amount of 2B/3B depth on the Dodgers‘ roster makes them an odd suitor for Olivera, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron opines. Rather than sign Olivera to a big contract, the Dodgers could just stick with what Cameron believes is a pretty comparable player in Justin Turner — Olivera projects to have more power, though Turner brings fewer injury risks.
- In Olivera news from earlier today on MLBTR, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reported that the Marlins had pulled back a seven-year, $53MM offer to Olivera after being told that the Dodgers had offered a $77MM deal. According to a poll of MLBTR readers, the Padres and Braves are seen as co-favorites to land Olivera, with both clubs garnering just under 25% of the vote and separates by just a few votes at the time of this post.
- Right-hander Yadier Alvarez has filed paperwork with Major League Baseball and is officially petitioning to become a free agent, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (Twitter link). The 19-year-old has already established a residence in Haiti and is also pursuing a waiver that would allow him to ink a deal before the current international signing period ends.
- Yoan Lopez is hoping to make the majors “muy pronto,” and told Jack Magruder of Baseball America (via an interpreter) that one of the reasons he chose to sign with the Diamondbacks was because they offered a better opportunity at a quick rise through the minors.
Diamondbacks Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez has suffered a broken hamate bone in his left hand, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets. Hernandez had seemed on track to open the year as the club’s backup catcher behind presumptive starter Tuffy Gosewisch.
As a Rule 5 pick, Hernandez can still be kept under team control if he is added to the DL and kept on the 40-man roster. In some ways, this could actually make it easier for the team to hold on to him, as it reduces the amount of time that Arizona will be required to carry him on the big league roster. The club will also get a chance to see Hernandez in a rehab assignment, and have a chance to evaluate its big league club, before deciding whether to return him to the Rays.
The injury certainly opens a big league roster spot to start the season, though the D’Backs could simply elect to give the reserve job to one of the veterans it has in camp. Gerald Laird, Matt Pagnozzi, and Blake Lalli each have spent time in the big leagues, with Laird in particular having an extensive track record at the game’s highest level.
Here’s the latest out of the NL West:
- Though his early work at third for the Diamondbacks has done more to raise questions than to provide answers about his future as an infielder, Yasmany Tomas is drawing positive reviews for his attitude and bat, as ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports.
- Rockies owner Dick Monfort says he is pleased with the organization’s direction under new GM Jeff Bridich, as Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. “I don’t think Jeff set out to make a splash just to make a splash,” Monfort said. “I think when we first met, way back when, his job was to make this current team a winner. He’s not here just to start over and do what some people do. He did not come in to blow things up.”
- There is also some positivity coming from the Padres, where at least one rival scout says the new outfield trio of Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and Matt Kemp has looked good, as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. It remains to be seen what kind of defensive work that unit can produce over the long haul, of course, though Heyman notes that reserves Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin have looked good at the plate. It still seems that San Diego will need to do something to clear at least one outfielder, with Will Venable under contract in addition to that group.
While early word on Yasmany Tomas‘ work at third base was positive, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports now hears from scouts that Tomas isn’t cutting it at the hot corner (Twitter links). The result, then, could end up a significant outfield logjam featuring Tomas, A.J. Pollock, Mark Trumbo, David Peralta, Cody Ross and Ender Inciarte. Scouts feel that Tomas’ arm is accurate at third base, Passan adds, but are concerned with his lack of lateral quickness and athleticism. Manager Chip Hale told reporters, including MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert (Twitter links), that Tomas “needs to be better,” but he believes part of the problem is a lack of focus on Tomas’ behalf. It should be noted that the opinion of rival scouts doesn’t mean the D-Backs won’t use Tomas at third; most scouts think there’s no chance that powerful prospect Peter O’Brien can remain at catcher, but the D-Backs believe he can stick at the position so strongly that they forwent adding other catching options outside of Gerald Laird and Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez this offseason.
Here’s more from the NL West…
- The D-Backs announced today that Hernandez was removed from today’s Spring Training game due to soreness in his left wrist (Twitter link). While the team labeled the move precautionary, a significant injury to Hernandez would thin out the team’s paper-thin catching situation even more and could lead to Hernandez being returned to the Rays.
- Giants right-hander Jake Peavy received interest from at least six other teams before signing his deal to return to San Francisco, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Rangers, Brewers, Twins, Royals, Marlins and Braves all had interest in the 34-year-old veteran, per Heyman, but the bond formed over a World Series victory was too strong to sign elsewhere, Peavy said: “When you’re World Series teammates, it takes you to another level relationship-wise.” The Giants engaged Peavy after missing out on Jon Lester and being spurned by James Shields in December, at a time when Peavy was giving consideration to both Miami and Atlanta.
- Pablo Sandoval recently said that he felt the Giants disrespected him and agent Gustavo Vasquez when negotiating an extension last spring, but Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that the team offered a four-year extension with a vesting option worth just under $85MM in Spring Training 2014. Assuming the $85MM figure includes the vesting option, that’s $10MM and one year less than Sandoval was guaranteed on his five-year, $95MM deal with the Red Sox. It’s possible, however, that Sandoval was turned off by the Giants’ initial conversation-starter, which was said last April to be a three-year, $40MM offer. Evans adds that the Giants’ first offseason offer to Sandoval came the day after the World Series parade, though he didn’t disclose any details on that offer.
- Heyman also tweets that the Dodgers‘ new front office has been highly impressed by manager Don Mattingly thus far in Spring Training. Mattingly is under contract through the 2016 season, but it’s not uncharacteristic for new-look front offices to bring in a hand-picked manager, regardless of the contractual status of the incumbent.
- For those who didn’t see, earlier tonight it was reported that the Padres are considering making an offer worth “upwards of $50MM” to Cuban second baseman/third baseman Hector Olivera.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…
- White Sox outfielder Michael Taylor has retired at age 29, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com tweets. Once a well-regarded prospect in the Phillies and Athletics systems and a top-50 prospect leaguewide, Taylor took only 114 career plate appearances at the Major League level. He did put up a fairly productive .278/.369/.441 slash over six seasons and more than 2,500 turns at bat at Triple-A, but never forced his way into the big league mix.
- The D-Backs have inked right-hander Kevin Vance to a minor league deal, tweets agent Joe Rosen. The 24-year-old was a 19th-round pick by the White Sox out of Connecticut in 2011 and has worked to a 3.69 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 268 1/3 innings of work throughout his minor league career to date. Baseball America ranked him 19th among ChiSox farmhands prior to the 2013 season, noting that his fastball/curveball combination could eventually land him in a Major League bullpen.
Blue Jays backstop Dioner Navarro says that his understanding from his agent is that the Tigers and Diamondbacks are among the teams that have expressed interest in trading for him, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports. Navarro is currently slated to miss a few days after a minor knee injury, as MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm tweets, so certainly there is not yet any reason to believe that anything is imminent.
Last we heard, the Jays remain open to dealing Navarro — as is his preference — but have little intention of shedding him for a minimal return. The veteran was bumped down the depth chart when Toronto signed Russell Martin, but is a reasonably appealing asset since he is under contract for just one more season at $5MM. With a league-average batting line and sturdy defensive results, Navarro checked in with about two wins above replacement last year, although framing measures would suggest a downgrade is in order.
Arizona’s lack of quality and depth at the catching position is rather well-established. For Detroit, veteran Alex Avila comes with injury concerns (not to mention a bat that has dipped below average) while backup Bryan Holaday is a marginal hitter and youngster James McCann has only minimal time at the MLB level. The switch-hitting Navarro, who is historically much better against southpaws, would make for a natural platoon mate with the righty-mashing Avila.