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Arizona Diamondbacks Rumors
The number of unsettled arbitration cases is rapidly winding down, but there are still a handful to be resolved. We’ll keep track of today’s minor settlements here, with all projections coming via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz…
- The Diamondbacks and closer Addison Reed have avoided arbitration by settling on a $4.875MM salary for the 2015 season, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Reed, who can also earn up to $50K worth of incentives, did well to top his $3.8MM projection by a fairly wide margin. The 26-year-old saved 32 games in his first season with Arizona, but he also posted a 4.25 ERA in 59 1/3 innings of work. Reed’s strikeout rate (10.5 K/9) and walk rate (2.3 BB/9) are better than one would expect based on that ERA, but his extreme fly-ball tendencies did not play well at Chase Field. Reed’s 47.6 percent fly-ball rate was the 13th-highest in baseball among all relievers, and his 28.9 percent ground-ball rate was the third-lowest. His 13.9 percent homer-to-flyball ratio, while higher than average, wouldn’t necessarily be disastrous for all pitchers, but given the sheer volume of fly-balls surrendered by Reed, his ERA was significantly inflated. As MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker shows, Reed had filed at $5.6MM against the team’s $4.7MM, so his ultimate salary was significantly closer to the club’s number than that of his camp.
MLBTR sends our condolences to the family and colleagues of Alison Gordon, who passed away today at age 72. Gordon covered the Blue Jays for the Toronto Star from 1979 to 1983, becoming the first woman to work as a full-time beat writer covering an MLB club, as well as the first female member of the Baseball Writers Association Of America. The Star’s Brendan Kennedy has a fuller examination of Gordon’s career and her influence on countless female sportswriters.
Some news items from around the game…
- GM Jeff Luhnow said the Astros could add “perhaps another reliever but not another starter at this point,” Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports (via Twitter). The Astros added to their rotation depth earlier today by signing Roberto Hernandez, and the team could be closing in on a deal with left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher.
- The Rangers are another team with a “strong interest” in Thatcher, as well as another lefty bullpen arm in Phil Coke, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link). Coke recently threw for Texas.
- The arbitration hearing between Addison Reed and the Diamondbacks is scheduled for Friday unless the two sides can reach an agreement before then, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports.
- Rockies GM Jeff Bridich discusses the team’s offseason and his own hiring in an interview with Woody Paige and Les Shapiro of the Denver Post’s Sports Show (video link).
- Critics may claim the Phillies haven’t done enough to move their high-priced veterans this offseason, though Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News feels the Phils have a right to be cautious given the scope of their rebuild.
- “Patience,” is how a Phillies executive responded when asked by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal if the club was frustrated by the lack of quality offers for Cole Hamels. Both Rosenthal and the executive feel more trade opportunities could open up as teams’ needs change due to Spring Training injuries.
- The Blue Jays and Indians don’t appear to be in on any of Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano or Joba Chamberlain, ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden writes. The Tribe has less of a pressing need at the back of their bullpen given Cody Allen‘s emergence last season, while the Jays may also not specifically be looking for closing help, though they are looking at bullpen upgrades.
- The Dodgers‘ hiring of Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi to run the front office is the top transaction of the 2014-15 offseason, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron opines. Three other Dodgers moves appear in Cameron’s list of the winter’s top 10 moves, and he calls them “probably the scariest organization in baseball” now that their financial resources have been augmented by Friedman/Zaidi’s creative maneuvers.
Cuban right-hander Yadier Alvarez has quickly become one of the most talked-about prospects on the international market, and the buzz among scouts, per Yahoo’s Jeff Passan (on Twitter), is that the Phillies, Dodgers and Diamondbacks are expected to heavily pursue the 18-year-old. In a recent workout in the Dominican Republic, Alvarez showed 93-to-97 mph heat, and as Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has shown in posting video, he also features a promising slider. A previous report noted that the Twins had their VP of player personnel and other scouts watch Alvarez also, though their specific level of interest remains unclear.
Here’s more from the international front…
- The Angels are looking at Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports (Twitter link). It’s unclear how serious the Halos’ interest is at this juncture, Fletcher cautions, but certainly their long-term outlook at second base is hazy at best. Grant Green, Josh Rutledge and Johnny Giavotella will compete for reps at the keystone this season, but the Angels could benefit from adding an MLB-ready (or close to it) second baseman. Then again, the Angels have persistently refused to make moves that would put them over the luxury tax threshold, and Olivera is expected by teams to seek as much as $12MM annually.
- Yoan Moncada worked out for the Dodgers in Florida today, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. A number of the Dodgers’ top executives were present to get a first-hand look at the 19-year-old infielder. The Dodgers are said to be one of the most serious suitors for Moncada, along with the Yankees, Red Sox and possibly the Padres.
- The Dodgers are reportedly wary about limiting themselves for future international signings by making a big splash for Moncada, though Baseball America’s Ben Badler opined (via Twitter) that he wouldn’t be surprised if L.A. signed both Moncada and Olivera. I agree with Badler — if the Dodgers are willing to exceed the international pool limit anyway, they might as well load up on international talent now since they’ll be virtually unable to make any such signings until June 2017.
- If Moncada was eligible for the 2015 draft, he’d be a strong candidate to be the first overall pick, MLB.com’s Jim Callis notes in his comparison of Moncada to current top infield prospects. “His overall 65 grade would place him among the top dozen prospects in baseball right now, and it’s arguably a bit conservative, because teams haven’t had the chance to evaluate him against much quality competition,” Callis writes.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tells the emotional story of Rays reliever Grant Balfour and his father David, who is battling pancreatic cancer. Baseball Australia’s Hall of Fame will induct the younger Balfour even before his playing career is over so that his father — a notable figure in the Australian game — can be there to participate. The piece is well worth your time.
Here are the latest reports on the international scene:
- The Diamondbacks are among the teams expected to watch touted young Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada later this week, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports. Arizona has already gone well over its international bonus pool and has been one of the most active teams on the international market. The Cubs, too, will take a look at him (as have many other, previously-reported teams), though they would be unable to offer him more than a $250K bonus unless he waits until after July 2 to sign.
- Hector Olivera drew hundreds of scouts to his final public showcase, as Ben Badler of Baseball America reports on Twitter, and seemingly did not disappoint. Per Badler, the Dodgers, Giants, Athletics, and Padres were well-represented in attendance. You’ll want to read through Badler’s Twitter feed (some earlier portion of which was compiled here by Baseball America) for more information on Olivera’s impressive display as well as some other notes from the international showcase.
- Right-hander Yadier Alvarez, just 18, is the latest Cuban citizen drawing buzz. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeted recently that he is pushing a high-90s fastball, and today Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs reports (Twitter links) that his buzz “checks out.” Not only does the young righty work in the mid-90s and touch even higher, he has a “more than usable” change to go with it. That will likely result in a big payday, per McDaniel, who also notes in a tweet that it may take a month or two for him to be cleared to sign.
- Former KBO superstar and current Pirates infielder Jung-ho Kang might just be capable of putting up huge numbers in the big leagues, according to the analysis of Dan Farnsworth of Fangraphs. Farnsworth breaks down Kang’s “upper-echelon swing” and compares it to some notable MLB power bats, concluding that the Korean ballplayer could break out with a .280+ batting average and 25 or more home runs in his first MLB season.
In an excellent piece for Baseball Prospectus, Jeff Quinton examines how the Padres went from uninteresting to potential contenders without spending too heavily or parting with top prospects Hunter Renfroe, Austin Hedges, Matt Wisler or Rymer Liriano. As Quinton notes, the Padres took an indiscriminate approach to adding players this offseason, focusing on overall value delivered rather than team need. The Padres could have claimed their outfield was full after adding Matt Kemp, for example, but proceeded to add further value by acquiring both Justin Upton and Wil Myers. Similarly, one could have said the team was set at both catcher and starting pitcher and should have focused on the infield, but they added value in areas that weren’t seen as traditional areas of need. By doing so, the Padres didn’t put themselves in situations where they were forced to overpay because the other team knew San Diego desperately needed the player in question. Rather, the team sought general value and therefore found more buyer-friendly markets, Quinton speculates.
Here’s more on the National League West…
- Aaron Hill tells Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that he’s feeling good heading into Spring Training and thinks he has a few good years at second base left in him. Hill wouldn’t blame his 2014 struggles on injuries, even though he dealt with several, instead saying that he began to press after his initial struggles. As Piecoro notes, the D-Backs‘ ideal scenario would have Yasmany Tomas handling third base with Hill playing well at second base. While such an outcome would obviously improve Arizona’s on-field performance, it would perhaps more importantly make Hill, who is owed $12MM in each of the next two seasons, a considerably more tradeable asset.
- The Rockies‘ addition of Kyle Kendrick allows them to work top prospects Jon Gray and Eddie Butler into the rotation more slowly rather than rushing them to the Majors, writes the Denver Post’s Nick Groke. Gray, Butler and trade acquisition David Hale join several in-house candidates to give the Rox better depth than they had in 2014 when they used a club-record 15 pitchers, Groke notes. He points to the fact that Franklin Morales — the team’s “emergency starter” — ranked second on the team in innings as an example of how problematic depth was in 2014. Additionally, Groke notes that Morales, who is still a free agent, probably won’t return to the Rockies.
- In a notebook piece, Groke’s colleague Patrick Saunders touches briefly on a point of frustration for some Rockies fans — the fact that the team did not make a run at James Shields or any other top starters despite a clear rotation need. Saunders notes that the only way the Rockies will ever add a top flight starter under owner Dick Monfort is via trade, as they’d have to grossly overpay a free agent to come to Coors Field, and Monfort “is never going to hand out big money to a free agent pitcher.”
Single-franchise players like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Chipper Jones are increasingly rare in baseball, writes Matt Yallof of MLB.com. The current longest tenured player is Chase Utley with parts of 13 seasons in Philadelphia. Former teammate Jimmy Rollins was traded to the Dodgers this offseason after 15 years in Philly. Another newly acquired Dodger – Howie Kendrick – was with the Angels for nine seasons. L.A. also shipped out a nine-year veteran in Matt Kemp. Here’s more from the West.
- Padres starter Andrew Cashner would like to remain in San Diego, tweets Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Per Cashner, “I’ve let the front office know that. But I think that’s something that’s up to them.” Lin also tweets that Cashner and the Padres held brief extension talks last spring, but they didn’t progress.
- The Diamondbacks appear to have a 12 pitcher battle royale planned for spring training, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Josh Collmenter and Jeremy Hellickson will probably open the season in the rotation, but their jobs are not guaranteed. Meanwhile, 10 other pitchers will compete for the final three openings. Of those, Trevor Cahill and Vidal Nuno have the most major league experience. Chase Anderson, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, and Robbie Ray received looks last season. Top prospect Archie Bradley will probably open the year in the minors. Other candidates include Andrew Chafin, Randall Delgado, and Daniel Hudson.
An international draft is often pitched as the answer to big-market teams cornering the market on top international prospects, though Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron (writing for FOXSports.com) proposes that a firmer spending cap tied to Major League payroll would be a better solution. The proposal extends so far as to abolish the North American first-year player draft, giving smaller-revenue clubs a clearer path to acquiring young talent and giving prospects more freedom in choosing their future employers. Here’s some more from around baseball…
- During an interview (hat tip to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon) on MLB Network’s “Hot Stove” show, Reds GM Walt Jocketty said that his team is still trying to extend Johnny Cueto. “With Johnny, we’ll never say ‘never.’ We are going to do everything we can to try and come up with some sort of plan to keep him,” Jocketty said. “I’m not sure we’ll be able to, because the numbers are obviously starting to skyrocket and it’s very tough in our market to continue to retain guys at a high price like that. We’ll continue to work on that and see where it comes out.” As last we heard earlier this month, the two sides had reportedly made little progress on an extension that would keep Cueto from free agency next winter.
- Beyond Cueto, Mike Leake is also eligible for free agency after the 2015 season. Jocketty said the Reds kept Leake due to his consistency, and “We’ll see what we can do with him in the future as well” in terms of an extension.
- Ruben Amaro thinks Jonathan Papelbon “probably will” still be a Phillie when Spring Training camp opens, though the GM told Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News that the closer’s status “could change. We’re still having discussions on a couple different fronts with regard to the players we have.” Papelbon has drawn a lot of trade buzz in recent days, with the Brewers rumored to be the favorites to acquire the stopper while the Blue Jays are longer-shot candidates.
- The Diamondbacks haven’t made any progress in negotiations with Mark Trumbo and Addison Reed and it seems like both players’ cases will go to arbitration, GM Dave Stewart tells MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. A $1.6MM gap separates Trumbo and the Snakes ($6.9MM to $5.3MM) while Reed and the team are $900K apart ($5.6MM to $4.7MM).
- Baseball America has released its 2015 ranking of the top ten prospects in each team’s farm system. More scouting information is available to BA subscribers.
Diamondbacks right-hander Touki Toussaint, the No. 16 overall pick in the 2014 draft, has hired Rick Thurman and Nate Heisler of the Beverly Hills Sports Council as his new agents, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter). The 18-year-old struggled greatly in his pro debut last year but still ranked as the D-Backs’ No. 5 prospect, per Baseball America and Fangraphs, and No. 98 overall in the game, per MLB.com. Toussaint’s change has been reflected in the MLBTR Agency Database, which contains agent information for more than 2,000 Major League and Minor League players. Agents, if you see any errors or omissions, please let us know via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some more notes from around the Senior Circuit…
- David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com expects the Cubs to move Welington Castillo and possibly Travis Wood before the team heads to Arizona for Spring Training (Twitter link). The Phillies are one of multiple teams that have shown interest, according to Kaplan. Castillo has been displaced as a starter with the addition of Miguel Montero, and the team has also added David Ross as a backup option as well. Wood figures to battle for the team’s fifth starter spot, as Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks are the likely front four in the rotation. The Cubs also have Tsuyoshi Wada and Felix Doubront as options for the fifth spot.
- Mike Minor and the Braves have an arbitration hearing set for Feb. 19, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That’s just one day before pitchers and catchers are slated to report to Spring Training. Minor filed for a $5.6MM salary, while the team countered at $5.1MM, as can be seen in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker.
- Kyle Kendrick tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post that he had interest from multiple teams before signing with the Rockies. Though it’s clearly not a favorable environment for a pitcher, Kendrick praised the Rockies’ offense and defense as reasons to sign with the team.
By electing not to add a significant catcher to their ranks, the D-Backs are essentially giving prospect Peter O’Brien, acquired in last summer’s Martin Prado trade, a vote of confidence. J.J. Cooper of Baseball America isn’t so sure that’s a wise idea, and he explains his reasoning after speaking to several scouts from around the game. O’Brien’s large frame limits his agility behind the plate, causing him to struggle with receiving breaking balls to his right. He also has an inconsistent transfer motion when attempting to throw runners out, and while he’s caught 24 percent of base-stealers in his minor league career, he caught just three of 31 last year in Double-A. Cooper notes that few scouts believe he can catch long-term, and even fewer think he could do so in 2015. One pro scouting director to whom Cooper spoke said he’d yet to see a report from a single evaluator who thought O’Brien could be a big league regular behind the plate.
Here’s more on the D-Backs’ catching situation and the NL West…
- Fangraphs’ Mike Petriello also examined Arizona’s current supply of catchers (albeit, before the team signed Gerald Laird), noting that some teams wouldn’t be content with the current group competing for their backup job, let alone the starting job. However, the offensive loss may not be the biggest issue for the D-Backs, Petriello notes. Rather, the drop from Miguel Montero‘s excellent pitch framing could be significantly detrimental to pitchers such as Jeremy Hellickson, Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster. All are coming from organizations that have employed excellent framers (Christian Vazquez in Boston and Jose Molina in Tampa), and yet each has either struggled with command or struggled to match his peripherals. Petriello, like Cooper before him, wonders if the Snakes will truly take this group into camp or make an addition. Even after adding Laird to the mix, I find myself in the same boat.
- The Padres have “won the offseason,” MLB.com’s Richard Justice opines. While teams like the Cubs, Red Sox, Marlins, White Sox, Blue Jays and Mariners all got better, GM A.J. Preller’s nearly unprecedented roster overhaul has taken the Padres from baseball’s worst offense to legitimate NL West contenders, in Justice’s eyes. While the Red Sox may have made themselves a better all-around offense than San Diego, he notes, Boston already had the trio of David Ortiz, Mike Napoli and Dustin Pedroia in place and was therefore starting from a higher point. Preller’s moves have created expectations and excitement among a fan base that previously had been highly skeptical of the new regime.
- Yasmani Grandal feels that he can rebound with the Dodgers in 2015, he told reporters, including Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times, at this weekend’s fan festival. Grandal feels that a knee injury caused his overall production to plummet in 2014 and points to a strong winter ball showing — he hit .328/.469/.541 in 19 games — as evidence that his knee is “like it was before.” Grandal is open to any distribution of playing time with fellow backstop A.J. Ellis and said he’s already met with Ellis and manager Don Mattingly about the coming season. Ellis and Grandal both gave the same message to Mattingly, he tells Hernandez: “Whatever it takes to win.”
The Diamondbacks will sign veteran catcher Gerald Laird to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league Spring Training, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter links). Laird is represented by CSE.
The 35-year-old Laird struggled to a .532 OPS with the Braves in 167 plate appearances last season but has been an otherwise serviceable option behind the dish in a backup capacity in recent seasons. Laird batted .281/.350/.373 in 332 plate appearances between the Tigers and Braves from 2012-13 and should have an excellent chance to pick up some playing time in Arizona, given the team’s remarkable dearth of options behind the plate.
The Diamondbacks currently project to have journeyman Tuffy Gosewisch and 21-year-old Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez splitting the bulk of playing time behind the plate. However, Gosewisch is 31 years old and has just a .213/.225/.287 batting line in 179 career big league plate appearances. Hernandez is lauded for his defensive capabilities but has yet to even reach Class-A Advanced; he hasn’t played beyond the Class-A Midwest League.
Given the lack of anything resembling an everyday catcher behind the dish, it was somewhat stunning to hear GM Dave Stewart publicly state that his team wouldn’t further pursue any catchers, though perhaps he meant via the trade market or on Major League deals. Arizona thinks incredibly highly of prospect Peter O’Brien due to his impressive power, but few scouts outside of the D-Backs organization have expressed a belief that O’Brien can handle catcher from a defensive standpoint.