Arizona Diamondbacks Rumors
- Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson are both vulnerable if the team doesn't improve, Rosenthal says. Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick says he wants the team to rely more on data, and that isn't Towers' forte. (Kendrick says, in fact, that one reason the Diamondbacks haven't employed as many defensive shifts as other teams is that they haven't studied them as much.) Still, Kendrick is backing both Towers and Gibson right now, despite the D-Backs' 5-14 start.
- When the Braves lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to Tommy John surgery, they acted decisively, Rosenthal says. They quickly signed Ervin Santana, and their scouting team identified Aaron Harang, who was released by the Indians, as another good target. Both pitchers have been terrific so far in the young season.
- Stephen Drew is still the most logical choice at shortstop for the Tigers, Rosenthal says. Drew, of course, remains in qualifying-offer limbo, and the Tigers will need to wait until June if they want to avoid giving up a draft pick to sign him.
Toolsy Pirates outfield prospect Gregory Polanco ought to be the next top prospect to win a promotion, MLB.com's Jim Callis writes. MLB.com ranked Polanco the No. 13 prospect in baseball heading into the season, and he's done nothing to diminish his reputation since then, hitting .439/.475/.667 in 61 plate appearances so far for Triple-A Indianapolis. "He's done a little bit of everything," says Pirates assistant GM Kyle Stark. "It's been fun to watch. The exciting thing about him is he's extremely driven and has very good feel for making adjustments, so it allows him to keep getting better." Here are more notes from around the National League.
- MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, meanwhile, argues for Archie Bradley of the Diamondbacks to be the next top prospect to reach the big leagues. Bradley, who raced through the Class A+ and Double-A levels last season, has a 3.31 ERA with 12 strikeouts and six walks in 16 1/3 innings for Triple-A Reno. Mayo suggests that it's not impossible that Bradley's impact on the Diamondbacks could be similar to Jose Fernandez's impact on the Marlins last year.
- With Ike Davis heading to the Pirates veteran Bobby Abreu could be making his way back to the big leagues with the Mets, Tim Rohan of the New York Times writes. In March, the Mets signed Abreu to a minor-league deal, suggesting to him that they might promote him to serve as a lefty pinch-hitter once they figured out what they would do with Davis and Lucas Duda. For now, Abreu is hitting .412/.487/.529 in his first 39 plate appearances for Triple-A Las Vegas.
Rowland-Smith, a 31-year-old Aussie, has tossed 370 MLB innings over parts of five seasons. He sports a 4.57 lifetime ERA, with a cumulative 5.6 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9. He has seen time as both a starter and reliever, and as expected has generally been more effective working from the pen. Rowland-Smith has logged a 3.77 ERA and allowed a .735 OPS while throwing in relief, while working to a total 4.87 ERA and yielding opposing hitters a .806 OPS from a starting role.
The Diamondbacks have outrighted Alex Sanabia off their 40-man roster, according to their MLB.com transactions page. The right-hander was outrighted to Triple-A Reno, where he has been pitching all season and has thus far compiled a 9.49 ERA in three starts (12 1/3 IP) for the Aces.
Sanabia, 25, made 10 starts for the Marlins in 2013 but spent most of the season on the DL with a groin injury. Arizona claimed the righty off waivers from Miami in October. Sanabia has a 4.15 ERA, a 5.6 K/9 and a 1.95 K/BB rate over 138 2/3 career innings with the Marlins from 2010-13, appearing as a starter in 24 of his 28 Major League appearances.
As Opening Day drew near, veteran Randy Wolf appeared to be the frontrunner for the No. 5 spot in the Mariners' rotation. That's why it came as a bit of a surprise when he requested his release from the club on March 25th. It turned out that Wolf, who missed all of 2013 as he recovered from his second Tommy John surgery, refused to sign a 45-day advance-consent form. The form, for the uninitiated, would have allowed the M's to terminate the deal during that window for any reason except injury.
While sources tell MLBTR that these requests are common throughout MLB, Wolf told Bob Dutton of The News Tribune that he was quite upset about it. The 37-year-old felt as though he was put in a position where he had to renegotiate his deal just months after hammering out a team-friendly pact ($1MM for making big league roster with $3MM+ in incentives) days before the start of the season. “The fact that I essentially made the team, in theory, I’m proud of that accomplishment.” the veteran told Dutton. “But I’m really disappointed in how it ended. The day should have started with a handshake and congratulations instead of a 24-hour feeling of licking a D-cell battery. So, it’s a really hard time.”
Of course, the Mariners and General Manager Jack Zduriencik acted completely within the rights granted to them by the Collective Bargaining Agreement: the advance consent form has been in place since the end of the 1994/1995 strike. And, as expected, Wolf wasn't out of work for very long, as he signed a similar minor league deal with the Diamondbacks late last week. However, Wolf's ire about the relatively unknown clause raised some interesting questions about how frequently it's used, the ways it could be misused, and how it is viewed by executives, agents, players, and the players union.
"As a general matter, players hate it," one union source said. "These are players, needless to say, who did not have a lot of leverage in their negotiations in the offseason...There's no question that it is a distasteful process for players and their agents."
The use of the form varies greatly from club to club. One high-ranking executive told MLBTR that his club has asked a player to sign an advance consent form just once over the last decade. On the flipside, a National League executive said that anytime his team has a player with five or more years of major league service (the form cannot be extended to those with less service time per the CBA) who does not figure to be an everyday player, they will use the clause in order to give themselves as much flexibility as possible. In line with that thinking, the club often will push for players to agree to optional assignment rather than outright assignment. If the player consents to outright assignment, the club does not have to subject the player to waivers before demoting him. Again, per the CBA, both types are permitted.
Because the request is traditionally made of players who don't have a ton of leverage, they often agree to sign. The NL exec has found that there are times when agents will protest, but with the leverage being in the club's corner, they'll ultimately relent.
Of course, as in Wolf's case, some players do object, and agents will often consult with the union ("We act as a sounding board," the source explained) to talk through their different options. The form can allow for both types of assignments and the length can also be negotiated since the 45-day mark is not a hard number, but rather a maximum limit.
The union source explained that at the beginning of the season, about a dozen players are usually asked to sign a consent form. Over the course of the season, that number tends to grow to "30-to-36" requests. The distinction between the number of players who are asked to sign off and the number of requests is an important one. Several players in any given year will be asked to sign multiple consent forms, which can essentially keep them in a state of limbo.
The aforementioned executive told MLBTR that agents often fret over the possibility of their clients being asked to sign multiple forms, though he was unsure of whether that was common practice or just a fear of player reps. "It's absolutely a reality," the MLBPA source said. "There are players who have signed three advance consents in a season, which obviously covers the better part of a full season." It should be noted that while there have been cases of a player being churned through consecutive advanced consent forms, the union indicated that there aren't specific clubs who are routine offenders.
Wolf felt blindsided by the Mariners' request at the end of March, but the reality is that he wasn't guaranteed at the time of signing that he wouldn't be asked to sign an advance consent form as a condition of making the major league roster, agent Joel Wolfe confirmed to MLBTR. In this case, Wolfe and Wolf had non-roster offers from ten clubs this offseason after he impressed in his winter showcase. Wolf and Wolfe ultimately settled on the M's because they felt that they gave him the best chance to make a big league rotation. However, they were rebuffed when they asked for assurance that they wouldn't be asked to sign off on advance consent.
"They told me, 'We don't do that' and, really, no team that I've dealt with does that. They don't even want to discuss that," Wolfe said. "The team made a decision as a policy, not singling out Randy, that a player in this position must sign an advance consent or he's not going to make the team."
One would be hard-pressed to find a team in MLB that explicitly warns players about a possible advance consent request. The union official indicated that while teams won't do it, agents usually give their low-leverage clients a heads up to brace for the possibility. The NL exec said he does not warn players of the possibility at the time of signing, but if an agent asks, he always answers truthfully.
In a lot of cases, being asked for advance consent is a blow to a player's ego and a very real source of frustration. However, there are certainly cases where it can work in a player's favor. Wolfe explained that he once had a client who seemed destined to either start the season in Double-A or get released. However, the player exceeded all expectations in Spring Training and wound up on course to make the big league roster. The club had Wolfe's client sign an advance consent form and soon after when he suffered an serious injury, he was protected from release since a player cannot be cut due to injury. While Wolf's situation put the notion of advance consent in a negative light, it can also be beneficial for players in a different position.
That doesn't mean that advance consent will be embraced by the majority of major leaguers. As Wolfe explained, an accomplished veteran like Wolf is accustomed to using Spring Training as an opportunity to shake off some offseason rust and get back in the swing of things. When that player is on a non-guaranteed deal, they now have to approach every at bat and every inning as though it were the regular season. After putting in that kind of effort, veteran players don't want to hear, "Hey, you made the team, but..." Whether they like it or not, players will be subjected to advance consent requests for at least a couple more years. Even then, it's far from guaranteed that the issue will be revisited or revised in the 2016 CBA discussions.
ESPN.com's Jim Bowden took a look back (Insider link) at his free agent predictions to see where he hit and missed. Most of his accurate guesses came on players who signed early, while the opposite holds true of those that he was off on. By far the biggest difference among actual and estimated deals came with Ervin Santana, who Bowden had tabbed for a five-year, $75MM deal but ultimately signed for a lower AAV and just one season.
As we join the rest of the game in celebrating the legacy of Dodgers great Jackie Robinson, here's more from the National League:
- Padres starter Josh Johnson, who is struggling to overcome a right forearm strain, will visit Dr. James Andrews for an assessment, reports MLB.com's Corey Brock. According to a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the team is increasingly concerned that Johnson may require his second Tommy John surgery. GM Josh Byrnes said that, at this point, he is "not sure" if Johnson will be able to throw for the club this year, but that the team hopes to "know more next week." Johnson's one-year, $8MM deal with San Diego includes a conditional $4MM club option for next year that is triggered if the righty makes less than seven starts.
- With a farm system full of top-end talent in the field, the Cubs are focused on adding to a group of arms that may be too lightly regarded, writes Gordon Wittenmyer for Baseball America. "Our arms are probably a little bit underrated," said president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. "That said, we need at least twice as many of them as we have now. But I think we’ve done a nice job through the last couple drafts and, especially, through some trades adding to that reserve." But that does not mean that Epstein is content with the talent he has brought together. "We need to keep pounding it," he said. "Every trade we make, we try to get an arm. Every time we have a draft pick, we look closely at the best available arm who we can add to the organization."
- Meanwhile, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said today that the team is focused on upgrading Wrigley Field rather than taking a shot at a suburban ballpark, even if that might be more financially advantageous, the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com). He also said that the club was focusing on the overall development of its international prospects, not just teaching basic English but working to address broader educational needs.
- Addressing the recent comments by the agent of top pitching prospect Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers made clear that he had no intentions of being influenced, as MLB.com's Steve Gilbert reports (Twitter links). "We're going to run our business and not let anybody else dictate how we do our business," said Towers. "I'm a straight shooter, too," he added. "If we felt at the start of the season that this guy was ready he would have been here."
Top prospect Archie Bradley should be promoted to the big league club, his agent Jay Franklin tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Arizona GM Kevin Towers denied that the 21-year-old was being held down over service-time considerations.
"I think it's very apparent what is going on in Arizona," said Franklin. "Every ballplayer that is playing minor league baseball works his tail off to get an opportunity to play in the big leagues. Archie Bradley has proven to the Diamondbacks organization that he has deserved that opportunity by keeping his mouth shut and letting his numbers speak for his chance to pitch in the major leagues."
Of course, it is well accepted by observers that teams do (and should) consider MLB service time in determining when to promote top prospects. Here at MLBTR, we just broke down the timing issues for some of the best prospects around the league who could be brought to the bigs this year.
For Bradley, who is for some the top-rated pitching prospect who has yet to see MLB action, an appearance on the big league roster before the end of the month would cost Arizona the opportunity to control him for an additional season. Likewise, avoiding Super Two status (and with it an additional year of arbitration eligiblity) would require the club to hold Bradley out until some time between mid-May and early June, depending upon how this year's league-wide promotions shake out. The benefits to the team of adding control and lowering cost, of course, can come with a countervailing effect on the player (assuming, at least, that there would be no harm to the player's development -- a highly subjective consideration).
For multiple reasons, clubs are loath to say that their determinations are based upon such considerations. For a Diamondbacks team that has had injury and performance issues in its rotation in the season's early going, there has been widespread speculation as to whether the team would call up Bradley.
But Towers said that he has legitimate baseball reasons not to go to the hyped young righty at this point. He cited two primary considerations in an interview with Rosenthal: the desire to avoid undue pressure in the middle of a tough start for the team, and the fact that Bradley struggled toward the end of the spring. "If it gets to the point where we straighten this thing out and it's a more positive environment here and he's throwing the ball well," said Towers, "we'll do it regardless of the clock."
On the whole, it seems quite unlikely that Franklin has an actionable complaint (or that he has any such intention). It is, after all, quite common for outstanding young players to experience just this situation. But for a player who many expect to turn into a top-line starter, this early relationship issue -- Rosenthal describes it as a "spar" between agent and GM -- will certainly be worth watching as time goes on.
FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal has a new, lengthy notes column in which he begins by examining the early scrutiny of MLB's new instant replay system. He points to a pair of blatantly missed calls on Saturday in which conclusive evidence was seen on TV broadcasts of the games but apparently not by the umpires at MLB's Replay Operations Center in New York. An MLB spokesperson confirmed to Rosenthal that one of those calls was blown and added that the system would continue to work on improvement. Rosenthal reminds that John Schuerholz, one of the architects of the system, said it would be a three-year roll out. However, he adds that MLB can't expect any patience from fans, players or managers when home viewers are able to make better judgments than the umpires at the Relay Operations Center.
Here are some more highlights from his article, which also contains notes on Jose Abreu, struggling offenses around the league and the Dodgers' interleague schedule...
- Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson is the early front-runner for "first manager to get fired" due to the team's 4-11 start, but Rosenthal wonders what more Gibson can do with the pitching talent (or lack thereof) he has been given. GM Kevin Towers thinned out the rotation depth by trading Tyler Skaggs and David Holmberg this offseason, and the loss of Patrick Corbin compounded those moves. Rosenthal wonders how long the Snakes can wait before recalling Archie Bradley.
- One executive said to Rosenthal that any American League team with a need in the infield will have added incentive to work out a deal with Stephen Drew in order to prevent the Tigers from signing him. The AL Central powerhouse is currently going with Alex Gonzalez at short, and the results have been less than stellar.
- Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda told Rosenthal (through his interpreter) that he's never considered retirement as heavily as he did this offseason. The most difficult factor for Kuroda wasn't the separation from his L.A.-based family -- they come live with him in the summer when his daughters are out of school -- but rather that he simply loves and misses Japan. Kuroda again left open the possibility of finishing his career back in Japan.
- Both the Angels and Twins have a need in the outfield with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham on the disabled list, and both teams were interested in the recently DFA'ed Sam Fuld this offseason before he signed with the Athletics. Rosenthal reports that the A's will gauge trade possibilities for Fuld and wonders if the Halos and Twins could have interest.
- After signing a minor league deal in the 2012-13 offseason, Blue Jays right-hander Neil Wagner earned the pro-rated portion that deal's $525K salary while in the Majors last season. However, Toronto's pre-arbitration pay scale called for just a $506,250 salary in 2014, as it is based on service time rather than performance. Agent Jim Munsey and Wagner refused the deal, giving Toronto the freedom to renew Wagner's contract at $500K if they wished, which the team did. Said Munsey of the ordeal: "It's, obviously, disappointing that they cut Neil's pay after such a good season last year. And when we didn't agree to the pay cut, they cut it further in renewing him. Hard to cheer for that. ... The rules allow the Jays to reduce his pay. They also allow us to talk about that at arbitration." MLBTR's Zach Links recently looked at teams' calculation of pre-arbitration salaries.
- Though the Rays' rotation has been ravaged by injuries to Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb, the team is planning on using internal options rather than pursuing outside help.
Rookies are usually the easiest targets for clubhouse pranks, yet veteran Jeff Francoeur was the victim of a month-long running gag from his teammates on the Padres' Triple-A affiliate. Padres farmhand Cody Decker created a short YouTube video chronicling the prank, and it's definitely good for a few chuckles. Here's some news from around the majors...
- The Diamondbacks' slow start has made them "candidates for early change" in the view of executives from around the league, ESPN's Buster Olney tweets. Manager Kirk Gibson and GM Kevin Towers both signed extensions in February that kept both men from being lame ducks in 2014, though there was speculation that this was a make-or-break year for the two men following consecutive .500 seasons for the Snakes.
- Pablo Sandoval is off to a slow start in his contract year, and given how much speculation has already swirled about Sandoval's contract talks with the Giants, manager Bruce Bochy hopes that his third baseman is keeping his focus. "He's the only one who can answer that I guess, if it's on his mind," Bochy tells MLB.com's Alex Espinoza. "The one thing you don't want Pablo to do is to get away from playing the game the way he normally plays it -- with a lot of passion and enthusiasm. Thinking about the contract, it can be a distraction. He assured me it's not."
- Padres catching prospect Austin Hedges continued to impress scouts during Spring Training, Tom Krasovic writes for Baseball America. While the catcher still has a bit of work to do with the bat, a scout tells Krasovic that “Hedges probably could have caught in the big leagues two years ago. He is so advanced from a receiving and throwing standpoint. He was a treat to watch. Barring injury, he is going to be a big leaguer for a long time." Hedges is one of the game's consensus top prospects (ranked 24th by MLB.com, 27th by Baseball America and 33rd by ESPN's Keith Law in their preseason lists) and he'll start the season at Double-A.
Here are today's minor moves from around baseball.
- The Diamondbacks have reinstated outfielder Trent Oeltjen from the disabled list and loaned him to Toros de Tijuana in the Mexican League, according to the Pacific Coast League transactions page. Oeltjen, 31, has a .220/.299/.384 career batting line, with his last appearance in the big leagues coming in 2011 with the Dodgers. He hit .255/.345/.483 for Triple-A Salt Lake in 2014.
- The Rangers released pitcher Doug Mathis, according to the same PCL transactions page. Mathis posted a 3.85 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in 114 2/3 innings for the Marlins' Triple-A affiliate in New Orleans in 2013.