Arizona Diamondbacks Rumors
Here are a few notes from around baseball:
- The Blue Jays are already looking at an uphill battle to achieve a postseason berth, so much so that Dave Cameron of Fangraphs says it is not too early to wonder whether they will be trade deadline sellers. In particular, Cameron notes that the team may be forced to consider dealing soon-to-be free agent starter Josh Johnson. He adds in an audio chat, however, that there is little likelihood that a hypothetical Johnson trade would happen before mid-June. Cameron expanded upon the article in the chat, including discussion of the way that baseball's current rule system will continue to impact teams' trade incentives (beginning at around the 8:57 mark).
- The Rangers have used thirteen pitchers this season, ten of whom have never appeared in another MLB uniform, notes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Team CEO Nolan Ryan explains: "What you're seeing is a philosophy of pitching in our system and we've stayed the course and we are committed to developing pitching within our system." The current and future flow of pitching talent has enabled the team to pursue top line free agents like Zack Greinke without feeling compelled to overpay.
- With their solid start coming in spite of bad health, the Yankees could continue to tinker with their roster, writes Mike Axisa of River Avenue Blues. In particular, Axisa says players like Casper Wells, Chris Nelson, and Humberto Quintero could all be easy ways to make small, but still-important upgrades.
- The Brewers are hoping to acquire a corner infielder/outfielder in the mold of Mark Kotsay, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. In 2011, Kotsay played in 104 games for the Brewers at all three outfield spots as well as first base.
- Neither the Braves nor Diamondbacks will end up as the loser of the deal that sent Justin Upton to Atlanta, Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com opined last week. Ringolsby says that Upton needed a change of scenery to an environment where he did not have to be "The Guy." With the Braves able to fully realize Upton's value, says Ringolsby, the Diamondbacks in turn were able to open playing time for other outfielders (specifically, Adam Eaton and Gerardo Parra) while impacting the team's clubhouse and building farm depth.
Let's start the last weekend in April with some notes from the National League:
- As expected, offseason acquisition Shaun Marcum has been activated to make his first start for the Mets today, the team announced via Twitter. In a corresponding move, the team optioned 26-year-old lefty Josh Edgin to the minors, where he will try to sort out his poor start to the year. The Mets hope that Marcum, who came to New York on a one-year, $4MM deal, can stabilize the back of the team's rotation. While Matt Harvey has been lights out and Jon Niese has been solid, the remaining Mets starters have combined to allow well over five earned runs per nine innings.
- Even with the mixed results from the team's starting staff, the Mets have gotten off to a fairly promising start. Meanwhile, the Nationals and Phillies have failed to live up to expectations in the early going. While acknowledging it is a long shot, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post looks at what it would take for the Mets to seize any opening should the Nats and Phils continue to underperform. Many variables would have to break right for the Mets, says Davidoff. The club must hold things together and hope that Travis d'Arnaud and Zack Wheeler arrive mid-summer, ready to contribute. (Of course, the d'Arnaud side of this already looks unlikely given his approximately two-month injury timetable.) If that happens, the Mets will face a test of their asserted willingness to take on salary -- and/or even deal young talent -- to make a run at a postseason appearance.
- In the midst of what MLBTR's Mark Polishuk calls a make or break year, Giants starter Tim Lincecum has put together two consecutive quality starts. As Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com writes, last night Lincecum struck out nine Padres over seven innings, allowing just two runs. Lincecum, who currently stands ninth in Tim Dierkes's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, had struggled mightily in his first three outings. While he still ranks among baseball's worst in BB/9 (5.16), Lincecum has raised his strikeout rate to 9.71 K/9.
- The Cardinals are not currently looking outside the organization to supplement their bullpen, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. While the club waits to learn the fate of injured closer Jason Motte, it has been rewarded for handing larger roles to Edward Mujica and Joe Kelly. GM John Mozeliak says that, while he is open to looking at the trade market, "that would not be in the near future."
- Morosi also addressed the subject of Braves outfielder Justin Upton, wondering why exactly the Diamondbacks decided to trade him. While Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick publicly called Upton "an enigma," and manager Kirk Gibson purportedly did not see eye-to-eye with the young slugger, Morosi says there was no single moment that apparently caused a rift. In case you missed it, Upton is off to something of a solid start for his new ballclub.
The Padres' 6-15 record is the second-worst in baseball and fans are starting to get impatient, judging by the tone of several questions (or just outright rants) posed to Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune during his latest online chat. Here are a few of the hot stove notes from Center...
- Some fans are calling for a fire sale but Center points out that such a move wouldn't be prudent given how many Padres are underachieving. "Even if the Padres started unloading players, what would they get for what they have? Unfortunately, they couldn't sell high in very many areas right now. Honestly, unloading might only make it worse," Center writes.
- Chase Headley is perhaps the only Padre that would fetch a premium return on the trade market, though Headley himself has struggled (.547 OPS) since returning from the DL. Center notes that Headley's struggles could actually help the Padres long-term since it would lower Headley's price on a possible extension.
- Since Headley is under team control through next season, Center doesn't think the Friars need to decide on the third baseman until mid-2014. That said, losing Headley "might be a major blow to the new owners' already weakening perception among fans." MLBTR's Tim Dierkes recently looked at a few of the teams who might be interested in acquiring Headley should San Diego put him on the market this summer.
- Center speculates that Carlos Quentin could be open to waiving his no-trade clause if he was dealt to an AL club where he could serve as a designated hitter.
- Josh Byrnes was given permission by team management to pursue a trade for Justin Upton this past winter. The Diamondbacks wanted a package from the Padres that would've included Headley "and more" Major League talent, not only prospects. Ultimately the D'Backs had concerns about dealing Upton to a division rival and the talks led nowhere. Any San Diego/Arizona trade, of course, contains some extra baggage given that Byrnes used to be the Diamondbacks' GM and Kevin Towers is a former Padres general manager.
- Firing Bud Black may not be the answer, as Center believes Black "has the same ingredients" as former Padres manager Bruce Bochy. Despite Bochy's four division titles in 12 years as Padres' manager, the club let him go to the Giants, where he has since won two World Series championships.
We'll keep track of today's minor moves right here:
- After being released by the Diamondbacks earlier today, right-handed pitcher Eddie Bonine has hooked on with the Padres, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Bonine was attempting a comeback from Tommy John surgery. The 31-year-old had not seen big league action since 2010, when he appeared in 47 games for the Tigers and put up a 4.63 ERA over 68 innings. After sitting out the 2012 season, he struggled to a 6.30 ERA in his ten Triple-A innings this year.
- The Orioles signed second baseman Paco Figueroa to a minor league deal, reports Matt Eddy of Baseball America. Now 30, the former O's fringe prospect fizzled out at Triple-A in 2010 before being shipped to the Phils for cash or future considerations. Most recently, Figueroa struggled to a .259/.376/.314 line for the Phillies' Double-A affiliate in 2011, and spent 2012 in the independent leagues. As Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun notes (via Twitter), the former University of Miami star had the chance to play alongside his brother for Spain in this year's World Baseball Classic.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Here are a few notes from the National League:
- The Diamondbacks raised eyebrows with several of their offseason moves, including the decision to part with young arm Trevor Bauer in the deal that brought shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius to Arizona. While it is still far too early to evaluate this deal, ESPN's Buster Olney writes (on Insider) that the most recent scouting returns on Gregorius are positive. Known as an excellent fielder, the glove-first Gregorius has been flashing improved strength and bat speed that could lead to more power than was previously expected. Off to a hot start to his big league career as he fills in for an injury-plagued Dbacks squad, the 23-year-old Gregorius certainly appears to be living up to Arizona GM Kevin Towers' hopes in the early going. Towers said the club not only felt that Gregorius "can really, really play short," but saw excellent bat speed and pitch recognition and believed he was "a tremendous kid" who has "got no fear."
- Soon-to-be free agent hurler Matt Garza of the Cubs ranks seventh on MLBTR's Tim Dierkes's latest 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings despite his prolonged absence from the majors. Garza appears to be set up for a mid-May return, reports Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. Much like Roy Halladay, Garza's expected free agent haul could swing wildly based on 2013 results. While that is, of course, the case for any prospective free agent, it is possible to conceive of a wider band of results for a player like Garza. The 29-year-old features a very solid track record and relative youth, but is coming off of a long lull due to multiple injuries. Of course, Garza's play upon his return will also play a big role in whether the last-place Cubs will look to deal the pitcher to a contender (or, in the alternative, look to extend or re-sign him).
- The Phillies' major offseason trade acquisition and now-former leadoff hitter Ben Revere has continued his inability to draw walks since joining the Phils. In comments on Thursday, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro bemoaned the team's inability to earn free passes, as reported by Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. In fact, the club has the third-worst walk rate in baseball (5.9%), well below the league average of 8.1%. The comments have led to some consternation among observers, such as Bill Baer of NBC Sports, who remember Amaro's statement in January: "I don't care about walks. I care about production."
Everyone knows Jackie Robinson's story but few remember the name of John Wright, the second African-American player to sign with the Dodgers just weeks after Robinson signed his contract. Baseball America's Ryan Whirty details the brief career of Wright, a right-hander who struggled in the minors in 1946 and was back pitching in the Negro Leagues by 1947.
Here's the latest from the NL West...
- Major League Baseball has announced the suspensions of Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin for eight games and Dodgers utilityman Jerry Hairston for one game for their parts in Thursday's brawl between the two teams. Both men are appealing their suspensions, so both could be able to play when the Padres and Dodgers begin a three-game series on Monday, though Yahoo's Jeff Passan (Twitter link) feels MLB and the MLBPA will arrange for Quentin to miss Monday's game.
- Zack Greinke, meanwhile, will be out of action for around eight weeks following surgery to fix his broken collarbone. MLBTR's Steve Adams looked at the implications of Greinke's injury earlier today.
- Rockies owner Dick Monfort talks to Mark Kiszla over the Denver Post about manager Walt Weiss' unusual one-year contract with the club. Monfort admits the short-term deal was an "oversight" since he values loyalty in employees and usually operates on handshake agreements, and also said that the Rockies management team hired Weiss without first establishing his salary.
- Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall told Arizona Sports 620 Radio's Doug & Wolf that he felt the Justin Upton trade has worked out for both the D'Backs and Braves. "I would agree that ‘would he have had the same success here that he's had [in Atlanta] to start off the season, maybe not' sometimes players need a change of scenery for it to happen," Hall said. "I mean this was just two different teams that had two different needs and it worked out well for both, not to mention we still have four prospects that we're going to be dealing with in the next few years."
- Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic doesn't agree with Hall's belief that Upton needed a fresh start. "But even if [Upton] did need a new environment, what happened to the environment here? What does that say about the environment you’re creating if a 25-year-old with his kind of ability can’t succeed in it anymore?" Piecoro asks.
- While breaking down Tim Lincecum's struggles, Grantland's Jonah Keri noted that the success of the Giants' starting rotation has obscured the team's lack of pitching depth. The Giants may need to explore a trade for a new starter later this season if Lincecum can't turn things around. I tabbed 2013 as a Make Or Break Season for Lincecum since he'll need to regain his old form in order to fetch a nice free agent contract this winter.
- In other NL West news from earlier today, I compiled a set of Padres notes while Steve Adams reviewed the Giants' offseason moves.
The Diamondbacks made a number of moves that raised eyebrows and invited skepticism this offseason, and they'll have to improve on last year's .500 record to silence those naysayers.
Major League Signings
- Cody Ross, OF: three years, $26MM. Club option for 2016.
- Brandon McCarthy, P: two years, $15.5MM.
- Wil Nieves, C: one year, $800K.
- Eric Chavez, UT: one year, $3MM.
- Eric Hinske, IF: one year, $1.075MM.
- J.J. Putz, RP: one year, $6.5MM. Club option exercised.
- Total Spend: $57.875.
Notable Minor League Signings
Trades and Claims
- Acquired SS Cliff Pennington and RP Heath Bell in a three-way deal for OF Chris Young.
- Acquired RP Matt Reynolds from Rockies for IF Ryan Wheeler.
- Acquired OF Tony Campana for RHP Erick Leal and RHP Jesus Castillo.
- Acquired UT Lars Anderson, RP Tony Sipp and SS Didi Gregorius in three-way deal for SP Trevor Bauer, P Matt Albers and P Bryan Shaw.
- Acquired UT Martin Prado, P Randall Delgado, SS Nick Ahmed and 1B Brandon Drury from Braves for OF Justin Upton and 3B Chris Johnson.
- Claimed IF Gustavo Nunez off waivers from Pirates.
- Claimed P Starlin Peralta from Cubs in Rule five draft.
- Paul Goldschmidt, 1B: five years, $32MM. $14.5MM Club option for 2019.
- Aaron Hill, 2B: three years, $35MM.
- Martin Prado, UT: four years, $40MM.
- J.J. Putz, RP: one year, $7MM.
- Cliff Pennington, SS: two years, $5MM.
The Diamondbacks made the first notable move of the "offseason" (it actually came prior to the World Series) when they traded Chris Young to the A's in a three-team deal with the Marlins that brought Cliff Pennington and Heath Bell to Arizona. Pennington provides the team with an immediate replacement for Stephen Drew, though his bat prevents him from being a long-term solution.
After publicly calling Drew out for durability issues and his desire to take the field last season, the Diamondbacks prioritized finding a long-term solution at shortstop. They believe that they did so in acquiring Didi Gregorius from the Reds in a three-team deal that also involved the Indians, but they paid a steep price in the form of prized pitching prospect Trevor Bauer. Bauer isn't without flaws; he has a 4.2 BB/9 in the minors and his personality reportedly clashed with teammates and ownership.
Scouts offer mixed reviews on Gregorius' bat, with many believing that he could end up hitting near the bottom of the order. The consensus is that the glove is legit, but presumably Gregorius will need to hit in order to justify parting with Bauer, who is the far more highly regarded prospect.
Even after dealing Young the team had a bulk of quality outfielders with Justin Upton, Gerardo Parra, Jason Kubel and Adam Eaton all in tow. That surplus made it all the more surprising when Cody Ross was signed to a three-year, $26MM deal.
The Ross signing made it even more apparent that Arizona was likely to part with one of Upton or Kubel. After nearly two years of speculation and an avalanche of trade rumors, they agreed to a trade with the Mariners only to have Upton enact his limited no-trade clause.
Weeks later, Upton was sent to the Braves in a trade that would put him in the same outfield as his older brother. GM Kevin Towers dealt Upton and Chris Johnson and received Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Nick Ahmed and Brandon Drury in return. While that's a nice package of players, most agreed that the Mariners' proposed package (Nick Franklin, Stephen Pryor and Taijuan Walker) was a stronger offer.
Prado was one of five D-backs players to receive extensions this offseason, as he was locked up to a four-year deal worth $40MM. There seems to be a perceived gap between Prado and Upton, but Prado was worth 5.6 fWAR last season, and the D-backs will now control him for four years while Upton had only three years of control left.
Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Hill, Cliff Pennington and J.J. Putz all received extensions as well, though one has to wonder if guaranteeing Pennington's 2014 salary was necessary given his questionable offensive track record.
Putz's $7MM extension is reasonable in price relative to the market, but I'd think David Hernandez could've taken over as closer in 2014 and excelled. Hill's free agent years were locked in more cheaply than peers such as Brandon Phillips and Ian Kinsler. He hasn't been as consistent as that pair, but 2012 showed that his ceiling is comparable. Goldschmidt is the only first baseman to sign an extension with one-plus year of service time, but the price is comparable to contracts signed by other position players with similar service time. Arizona could have played it safe and waited a year, but the price would have risen substantially if his power progresses as many expect it to.
Brandon McCarthy was added on a very reasonable two-year deal and offers considerably more upside than pitchers who signed for comparable amounts (e.g. Joe Blanton, Kevin Correia). McCarthy should be an upgrade over Joe Saunders, although he comes with questions surrounding his durability.
Towers and his staff once again spent on veteran bench bats and utility players. Last offseason it was Willie Bloomquist, John McDonald and Lyle Overbay. This offseason the team signed Eric Chavez ($3MM) and Eric Hinske ($1.075MM). There's something to be said for veteran leadership, and Chavez is coming off a strong 2012, but generally speaking the production provided by these types of players can be found cheaper.
Even after prioritizing shortstop, the Diamondbacks have opened the season with Pennington and his career .249/.313/.355 batting line as their starter. Gregorius could be ready to take over if Pennington struggles, but there's no guarantee that he will be a major upgrade with the bat.
Eaton and Ross opened the season on the DL, leaving the D-backs to deploy an outfield mix of Kubel, Parra, A.J. Pollock and Alfredo Marte. The collection of outfielders on Arizona's 40-man roster isn't a star-studded group, and any setbacks to Ross or Eaton could expose some depth issues. Both Kubel and Ross have significant platoon splits, so the group as a whole runs the risk of being overexposed.
Deal of Note
Not only was the timing of the Young trade odd, the approach the D-backs took was puzzling. Arizona received only Bell (and his contract) and Pennington in exchange for Young, who has averaged 3.6 fWAR over the past three seasons. Young isn't without flaws -- he strikes out in 22 percent of his plate appearances and has noticeably better numbers against left-handers than right-handers -- but I feel that he should've netted more in a trade. With so many teams looking to acquire outfielders later in the offseason, it seems they jumped too soon.
The strangest part is that those same strikeout and platoon caveats apply to Ross, but Young is a far more capable center fielder. Arizona essentially traded Young for a bad contract and then opted to sign an older version of a similar player with a weaker glove.
The Diamondbacks have been outspoken in recent years about their discontent with certain players, and they haven't been shy about cleaning house to remove those who they deem problematic (Drew, Upton, Bauer). While they drew plenty of skepticism for their trades, Prado stands out to me as an underrated commodity who should exceed the value of his extension. With a nice core of position players and a solid rotation locked up for the foreseeable future, Arizona should be no worse than a .500 club for the next couple of seasons. The top of the division looks tough with the Dodgers and Giants in the mix., but Arizona has the pieces in place to make a run.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Diamondbacks starter Daniel Hudson amassed 25 victories and a 3.19 ERA across 336 innings well before he reached even two years in big league service time. Last year he underwent Tommy John surgery, from which he's aiming to return around the All-Star break. Last month, I spoke to Hudson about his choice of agent, Andrew Lowenthal of Proformance.
On how he chose Lowenthal:
In '08 I think he had gotten my number from a previous player I had played with. He contacted me and we met a couple times, and before I went to the Cape Cod League in '07 I pretty much told him, "Hey I just wanted to let you know, I'm probably going to use you." Andrew and I kind of clicked, so it was a pretty easy decision for me to make at the time. I felt like he really wanted me, and I feel like he made a really concerted effort to come down and see me pitch. He would make an effort to call or text me after every single start, and basically just see how I was doing.
On how it went leading up to the draft in '08:
I don't really know much about his aspect of what he does. He does his best to explain everything to me, and I trust him enough to tell him, "I trust your expertise and what you know about this game, and I trust you to make a good decision on my behalf." He obviously kept me informed about all the negotiations and all the conversations he had with the White Sox, and I just let do his thing because I obviously didn't know what the heck was going on. It was fairly painless. A week and a half later I was on a plane to Great Falls, Montana to sign my contract.
On talking to Andrew about going year-to-year versus doing a long-term extension:
He laid it all out on the table. He's very good at giving me comparables as far as where I am in my career to where certain guys were at the same point in their careers and what contracts they signed and when they signed them. Before every season he gives me these thick notebooks and explains to me where I'm at in my market level with all the other guys. Obviously going year-to-year is a little bit more risky, but you can make a little bit more money in the long run. Or you can go for the security, if the team is willing to offer you an extension before you hit arbitration. He's very good and very open at giving me his opinion, but at the same time he wasn't for or against either one too strongly. So if the Diamondbacks offered me a contract last year and he didn't think it was a good deal but I wanted the security, he would not pressure me to not sign it.
Did the Diamondbacks throw anything out there before last season?
We talked. We had short conversations, but I don't really want to get into the number aspect of it.
On Andrew's involvement in Daniel's recovery from Tommy John surgery:
I feel like I couldn't have picked a better agent to feel like I still mattered even though I'm on the DL. I never felt like I wasn't getting attention because I was on the DL and going to miss 12 months.
On recommending Andrew to other players:
We have conversations about that from time to time, with different teammates and stuff. Sometimes you get to the point where some guys are like, "I'm really not liking my situation, I'm thinking about throwing my name back out there and seeing if any other agents bite." I know I've gotten Andrew meetings with a couple different guys I've played with, and once those guys saw what Andrew does for me and how helpful he is with me and my family, they want more of a personal relationship, which is what I have with Andrew at this point. I consider him more of a friend that handles my baseball stuff more than my agent. If guys like that, I flip them Andrew's number and let him take care of it from there.
Does a small agency offer an advantage over a big one?
I think so. It's human nature - the more clients a guy has, the less time he has to take care of you or talk to you. Especially with a smaller agency they don't have that many guys, I feel like at any point in time I can call any single one of them and I'll never get their voicemail. I feel like I'm just as important as the guys that are making $15MM for them.
Check out our other interviews in the Why I Chose My Agency series with Shaun Marcum, Mark DeRosa, Ted Lilly, Ryan Ludwick, Cody Ross, Aramis Ramirez, Adam Wainwright, Jeremy Affeldt, David Wright, Jay Bruce, Matt Holliday, Jamey Carroll and Jake Odorizzi.
As the year's first full weekend of baseball gets underway, take a look at the latest on the Cubs' efforts to rehabilitate Chicago's venerable Wrigley Field. Hal Dardick of the Chicago Tribune writes that, with the club and the city nearing a deal, the owners of the famous Wrigleyville rooftops are preparing to fight any moves that would obstruct their view. On to some roster shuffling notes:
- The Brewers have some difficult roster decisions coming up, writes Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. With Corey Hart already out, the club needs to address injuries to Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez. While the club is hopeful that Braun will miss little (if any) time due to his neck spasms, Ramirez's knee sprain is concerning and could result in a DL stint. With a full 40-man roster, however, Milwaukee is short on choices. Potential reserve infielders Taylor Green and Jeff Bianchi are on the roster but are also on the DL, leaving prospect Scooter Gennett as the only apparent infield option on the current 40-man.
- The Diamondbacks added shortstops Cliff Pennington, Didi Gregorius, and Nick Ahmed this offseason, and already had prospect Chris Owings in place at the position, writes Nick Piecoro of AZCentral Sports. With Gregorius returning soon from an elbow strain, the club faces a complicated choice in allocating playing time among the players at the big league and upper minor league levels.
- Another injury-related roster crunch is playing out in Miami, where the Marlins are struggling to replace multiple injured first basemen (most recently, Casey Kotchman). Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald explains that, without any healthy replacements on the 40-man roster, the club is essentially holding tryouts among its other position players. The results reportedly included Chris Coghlan asking whether he could use his outfielder's glove and Miguel Olivo trotting out with his catcher's mitt on.
Not long after breaking camp with the Phillies, outfielder and Rule 5 selection Ender Inciarte has been returned to the Diamondbacks, tweets MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. Inciarte was designated for assignment by Philadelphia on Tuesday when the club claimed Ezequiel Carrera off of waivers from Cleveland.
Having failed to get a chance to swing the bat for the Phils, Inciarte still has not seen a plate appearance above the High-A level. He hit .307/.376/.421 across Class-A and Advanced-A last year as a 21-year-old.