- Hunter Pence To Miss 6-8 Weeks With Forearm Fracture
- Hector Olivera May Have UCL Damage
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- NL East Notes: Minor, Haren, Lee, Phillies
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Atlanta Braves Rumors
Braves lefty Mike Minor will have his throwing shoulder examined by Dr. James Andrews sometime early next week, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (on Twitter). Minor’s shoulder tightness was noted by Bowman yesterday, with the MLB.com adding that he expected Minor to be unable to claim a rotation spot to open the year due to the issue. The Braves have a number of alternatives in camp, should Minor be unable to open the season with the team. Both Eric Stults and Wandy Rodriguez were added on minor league deals this winter, and the highly regarded Michael Foltynewicz was sent to the Braves from the Astros in the Evan Gattis trade.
Elsewhere in the NL East…
- Dan Haren tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that part of the reason for his initial uncertainty about pitching for the Marlins was that he wasn’t sure if the team truly wanted him. The Marlins took on Haren only after the Dodgers agreed to pay all $10MM of his salary, and the main focus of the trade did seem to be acquiring Dee Gordon. Additionally, the Marlins didn’t even require Haren to take a physical prior to the trade — something he’s never experienced in being traded before. In fact, Haren was once nearly traded to the Cubs before a physical caused the deal to fall through. However, he’s now on board with pitching for the Marlins and is ready to compete for “at least” one more year, suggesting that he may not retire after this season, as many believed. And as for whether or not the Marlins wanted Haren, GM Dan Jennings said there is no doubt: “Oh, we wanted the pitcher. He goes to the post every year.”
- Prior to today’s start, Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee told reporters, including Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer, that he’s on a normal spring schedule at this point and feels healthy. Lee has been on a normal throwing program after throwing 15 bullpen sessions at his Arkansas home, and while it’s too early to read anything into his spring results, he did fire two scoreless innings in today’s outing, allowing two hits without a walk (and no strikeouts).
- The Phillies also announced today that they’ve added right-handers Seth Rosin and Mike Nesseth as non-roster invitees to Major League camp. Each was already with the Phils, though to this point they’d been in minor league camp. If Rosin’s name looks a bit familiar, it’s because he was selected by the Mets in last year’s Rule 5 Draft and immediately traded to the Dodgers for cash. The Rangers then claimed him off waivers and held onto him briefly before returning him to Philadelphia.
ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark recently took a look in at an interesting Braves camp. With so much roster turnover, stars Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman each split the cost of t-shirts with “Hi, my name is” labels to help the new teammates get acquainted. Both Kimbrel and Freeman also emphasized that they had no problems with the team’s offseason shuffling and still believed Atlanta would be competitive. Nevertheless, Kimbrel acknowledges the possibility that circumstances could change. “I made a commitment with the organization that I wanted to be here in Atlanta,” he said. “And them not trading me this offseason shows that they want me here as well. But you know, it is a business, so at any time, that can change. I think, as a player, anyone understands that aspect of the game. … So when moves are made, they may not always be what you like. But it may be what’s best for the team that you’re on at the time.”
Here’s more from the NL East:
- The Braves have scratched lefty Mike Minor from his first scheduled spring outing because he is experiencing tightness in his left shoulder, Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports (Twitter links). According to Bowman, this likely means that Minor will not be ready to take a rotation spot to open the year, as the club will look to avoid another season of ongoing shoulder troubles. The 27-year-old, a key component of the team’s turnaround efforts, is earning $5.6MM this year after defeating Atlanta in arbitration. He comes with two additional seasons of control through arbitration.
- Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez says that he hopes to “convince some people in the front office” to break camp with top prospect Jose Peraza on the roster, as Bowman reports. While his comment was made somewhat in jest, he did note that the coaching staff is split as to whether the speedy 21-year-old is ready for the bigs. Even if he is ready, that may not be enough to sway new president of baseball operations John Hart and top lieutenant John Coppolella. After all, Atlanta has brought in a good number of veteran options to fill out its infield and will surely be loath to sacrifice a year of control given the organization’s current priorities.
- The Marlins‘ best offer to James Shields was for three years and $50MM with a vesting option, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Miami “badly wanted Shields,” says Heyman, but the failure to land him (or fellow free agent target Francisco Rodriguez) has not dampened the enthusiasm of recently-extended superstar Giancarlo Stanton over the team’s busy offseason.
Big league spring matchups started today, which means that the sights and sounds of game action are officially back. It also provided a first look at Jung-ho Kang of the Pirates, who showed that his raw power is real in swatting a home run to center field. He still has a ways to go in earning playing time and proving his value, of course, but it was a nice start for the Korean ballplayer. Earlier today, MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth broke down the Bucs’ winter in the first installment of this year’s Offseason in Review series.
- Though the Brewers are still in the process of finalizing their deal with Francisco Rodriguez, the team found now a good opportunity to outright righty Brooks Hall, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports. “This was strategically calculated,” explained assistant GM Gord Ash, “because [Hall] has not pitched that much, he’s been injured on and off. We hoped we could sneak him through, and that’s exactly what was able to happen.”
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson indicated to reporters today that trade talks regarding the team’s starting pitching have been very quiet of late, as Anthony DiComo of MLB.com tweets. New York has an oft-discussed glut of rotation candidates, but seems content waiting for a good offer to come in or for an internal need to arise before deciding upon a course of action.
- The Braves seem to be angling towards using recently-acquired youngster Manny Banuelos as a reliever to start the year before shifting him to the rotation, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports (Twitter links). Whether or not that action comes at Triple-A or with the big league club remains to be seen, but Atlanta is hoping to mix and match his roles in order to build his innings in a manageable way while allowing him to compete all season. Once considered one of the game’s best prospects, Banuelos will look to turn things around in Atlanta, which gave up reliever David Carpenter to acquire him.
The Marlins‘ best offer for Francisco Rodriguez was for two years and $10MM, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. While that was not enough to convince K-Rod to part from the Brewers, it does represent a relatively significant chunk of change that the team could presumably tap into at some point in the future.
Here’s more from the eastern divisions:
- Braves owner Liberty Media continues to provide some interesting insight into the club through its legally-required Securities and Exchange Commission filings, as Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains. In addition to ticking through the accounting for last year’s emergency pickup of Ervin Santana and release of Dan Uggla, the filing documents that the organization has already borrowed about $100MM from credit facilities arranged to help fund its portion of the funding of its new stadium.
- Atlanta’s biggest write-off may be yet to come, as struggling and now injured center fielder Melvin Upton could eventually go the way of Uggla. For now, the team is focused on finding a temporary replacement and getting him back up to speed as soon as possible, as David O’Brien of the AJC reports. One possible fill-in, prospect Todd Cunningham, says that the players in camp “can kind of smell blood in the water,” while Eric Young Jr. called it an “unfortunate situation” but acknowledged that “you’re kidding anybody if you don’t see it as an opportunity.” The most interesting possibility could be Eury Perez, who is just 24 and has a solid track record in the upper minors but never had a real chance with his prior clubs.
- The Phillies have had one of their top advisers, Charlie Kerfeld, watching Red Sox prospects as the clubs continue to eye one another over left-handed pitching, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. There is a sense now that Cliff Lee could be dealt before Cole Hamels, Cafardo adds, though that doesn’t necessarily mean Boston is the inevitable destination.
- As Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reports, there are no signs of progress on a Hamels deal. The Sox are more likely to be willing to part with players like Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero, and Jackie Bradley Jr. in any trade scenarios than they are some of their other top young players, Mastrodonato adds.
John Hart had to be persuaded to take over the Braves GM job, but team president John Schuerholz is excited about the work Hart and likely successor John Coppolella have done so far, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. “The combination of John Hart and John Coppolella has been dynamic, absolutely dynamic,” says Schuerholz. “The work those two have done, in tandem, has been sensational.” This offseason, Hart and Coppolella have traded Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis in an attempt to add young talent. The timing was right for the Braves to re-tool, Hart says. “The Nationals are in their perfect window right now. The Marlins are getting better. If you’re going to take, if you will, sort of a regroup year, this would be a good one.”
- When J.J. Hardy traded power to remain in the everyday lineup last season, he may have hurt his earning potential. Hardy is unsure if he would have re-signed with the Orioles had he not dealt with a painful back injury last season, writes Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun. Baltimore inked Hardy to a three-year, $40MM extension during the playoffs last year. Hardy was aware of the trials suffered by Stephen Drew and former teammate Nelson Cruz in the previous offseason. Qualifying offers to both players left clubs wary about signing them. Hardy opted to forgo the experience entirely, although he also says he’s happy in Baltimore.
- Rays non-roster invitee Ronald Belisario injured himself climbing out of a pool earlier in the winter, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The reliever fractured his non-throwing shoulder prior to signing with the Rays a month ago. He didn’t have the injury checked out until he reported to camp. Belisario is on a split contract that would pay $1.5MM if he makes the team. Since he won’t be on the field for at least two weeks, his chances of breaking camp with the team look small. This injury probably explains why his deal with the Blue Jays fell through.
Braves center fielder Melvin Upton (long known as B.J.) will miss the start of the season with inflammation in his left foot, the club announced. He is not expected to resume baseball activities until early April, per the release. Needless to say, these circumstances likely wipe out any remaining possibility of a spring trade of Upton and the three years and $46.35MM left on his deal. The club is expected to allow in-house options such as Eury Perez, Eric Young Jr., Zoilo Almonte, and Todd Cunningham to compete for the job in camp, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.
More from the National League:
- With Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez expected to retire after the season, Milwaukee will need to implement their succession plan, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy writes. The need for a replacement is not a surprise to the club, but that doesn’t mean it has an immediately attractive option. While Nick Delmonico had been viewed as a strong possibility when he was acquired in 2013, his fallout with the team and subsequent release left a gap. A weak free agent class limits that avenue. And internally, the most plausible candidates appear to be waiver claimee Luis Jimenez and shortstop prospects Hector Gomez and Luis Sardinas.
- The remade Dodgers front office is acutely aware of the impact of injuries on team performance, writes Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register. While the club invested in several oft-injured arms over the offseason, they did so with an equal appreciation for the risk and the upside, in the words of president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. The Los Angeles brass is exploring means of blending data and biophysics to reduce the harm wrought by physical issues — both to inform personnel decisions and to protect players already under contract. “I would contend that any kind of advantage in injury prevention is significant,” said Friedman.
News broke earlier today that the Mets weren’t planning to discuss extending Daniel Murphy‘s contract, and Newsday’s Marc Carig has some more details on the team’s decision. Murphy rates as a below-average second baseman and the Mets are worried he’ll inevitably have to be moved to a corner infield position. While Murphy hits well for a second baseman, the Mets don’t believe he has the bat necessary for third base or first base, not to mention the fact that David Wright and Lucas Duda have those positions covered for at least the next few seasons in New York. The Mets also aren’t likely to make Murphy a qualifying offer, unless he enjoys a huge year.
Here’s some more from around the NL East…
- Also from Carig’s piece, he hears from two rival executives that Murphy will draw a lot of interest on the free agent market. “There will be a nice line of suitors for him. Some will want the bat and accept the below-average glove if necessary. He’s young enough, the bat is strong enough to warrant a multi-year [deal],” one official said.
- The Marlins made a multi-year offer to Francisco Rodriguez before he agreed to terms with the Brewers, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports (on Twitter). However, McCalvy spoke to one of K-Rod’s teammates and was told that Rodriguez “likes it a lot” in Milwaukee and was hoping to return to the club. The amount that was offered to Rodriguez isn’t known, though previous reports had indicated Miami was comfortable with something in the two-year, $10MM range.
- Yunel Escobar wasn’t happy to be traded away from the Rays, nor was he pleased about moving from shortstop to second base, James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. The veteran infielder changed his mind after discussions with Nationals management, however, and is looking forward to playing for a contender. “I want to help them win a World Series. If the missing piece is me playing second base, then I’m here for anything,” Escobar said.
- Non-roster invitees in camp on minor league deals could play a significant role in the Braves‘ plans this year, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Asked about the team’s collection of NRIs, manager Fredi Gonzalez listed Eric Stults, Jose Veras, Matt Capps, Brady Feigl, Kelly Johnson, Eric Young and John Buck as players with a legitimate chance, noting that he was probably leaving a few out. Gonzalez seemed particularly excited about Young. “I think the world of Eric Young,” Gonzalez said. “He can really bring a different dynamic that we haven’t had here since Michael Bourn, leading off against right-handed pitching or whatever you want to do. So that’s an exciting non-roster invitee, really.”
- In NL East news from earlier today on MLBTR, we shared some Phillies notes.
Shortstop Trea Turner is technically still a member of the Padres, but it’s one of baseball’s worst-kept “secrets” that he’ll be headed to the Nationals in June as a player to be named later in the three-team Wil Myers trade once he’s a year removed from being drafted. Turner tells Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune that while he does find the situation to be a bit weird, he’s happy to have had a normal camp thus far. “A little bit. It’s been awesome, though, because a lot of my teammates don’t really care too much about it. They know the business side, and things like this can happen all the time, so I haven’t been treated differently than I thought I would.” Turner’s agent, Jeff Berry of CAA Sports, called the situation “unconscionable” at the time of the trade but released the following statement yesterday, per Lin: “Trea has put this matter behind him and is focusing on his development and being a productive member of the Padres organization.”
Some more notes pertaining to the NL East…
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tells MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki that his team was in contact with Yoan Moncada‘s agent, David Hastings, right up until the end when Moncada agreed to sign with the Red Sox this week. However, Amaro declined to get into specifics or even give a “yes” or “no” answer when asked by Zolecki if the Phillies submitted a formal offer for the highly touted 19-year-old.
- Ichiro Suzuki is appreciative of how accommodating the Marlins were during negotiations, and the positive feelings he got from the organization are a large reason that he signed there, writes Christina De Nicola of FOX Sports Florida. (For example, the Marlins have added facilities for Ichiro’s Pilates machine in their Spring Training and regular season homes, said Ichiro through a translator.) He’s also very accepting of his role as a fourth outfielder, which manager Mike Redmond said was a key component in the deal.
- New Braves right fielder Nick Markakis has been cleared for running and extensive workouts, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Markakis won’t be in the lineup for the early games in Spring Training and isn’t sure if he’ll be ready to compete come Opening Day, but he tells O’Brien that’s absolutely his goal. Manager Fredi Gonzalez tells O’Brien that he is optimistic that Markakis, who signed a four-year, $44MM contract this winter, will be ready for the opener come April 6.
Let’s take a look at the latest from the National League East:
- Braves president of baseball operations John Hart says that the club never considered dealing closer Craig Kimbrel or other “core” pieces, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The purpose of the offseason was not to kick off a full-on rebuilding effort, said Hart. “Do a lot of things have to come together? Are we in a tough division? Yes, yes,” he said. “But I don’t think that anybody came in with the idea or even discussed that we were going to blow this thing up. We held onto our core guys all winter. We never discussed them. We’re not looking to run up the white flag and not compete.”
- Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond does not plan to discuss his contract situation this year, he tells MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. “I owe it to everybody here to give my 100 percent concentration and that’s what I’m going to do,” Desmond said. “All the other stuff is really not going to be talked about. It’s time to go.” The organization’s longest-tenured player says that the only thing he heard about a trade over the winter was a message from manager Matt Williams informing him that he was not going to be dealt.
- Righty Taylor Jordan is now largely a forgotten piece of the Nationals‘ rotation picture, but it wasn’t long ago he was looked upon as a valuable young arm. After a tough and injury-plagued 2014, Jordan tells Tom Schad of the Washington Times that he feels healthy and ready to get back on track. Though he is no longer a plausible candidate for a starting role, the 26-year-old could put himself in line on the depth chart and might even turn into an interesting trade chip if he can thrive again in the upper minors.
Much has been made of trade rumors surrounding Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon over the course of the winter, but Chase Utley‘s name has rarely come up due to the veteran’s 10-and-5 rights that allow him to block trades. However, Utley told reporters today, including Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News, that he’d consider any trade scenario brought to him by GM Ruben Amaro (Twitter link). However, Utley doesn’t sound like a man with an urge to get out of a Phillies uniform. “I want nothing more than to play for this organization as long as I can,” he told the media.
More on the Phillies and the NL East…
- Domonic Brown tells MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki that he’s not sure exactly what the Phillies have in store for him, but he consider’s last year’s struggles a learning experience and believes he can post better numbers. Brown wouldn’t comment on whether or not he was more comfortable playing right field now that Marlon Byrd has been traded to the Reds. As Zolecki notes, another poor showing from Brown could very well mean that the team will search elsewhere for corner outfielders in the future.
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia hasn’t looked at defensive numbers from 2014, he tells Juan C. Rodriguez of the Miami Sun-Sentinel, because he already knows he didn’t perform up to his expectations. Both Saltalamacchia and manager Marlins Mike Redmond spoke about how the catcher can improve in the second year of a three-year, $21MM pact with Miami. As Rodriguez points out, Saltalamacchia has graded out well in terms of pitch-framing before but ranked as the league’s worst framer in 2014, according to Baseball Prospectus.
- Though the Braves are hopeful that right-hander Michael Foltynewicz, who was acquired in the Evan Gattis trade, is a starter in the long-term, the team hasn’t ruled out opening the year with him in the bullpen, tweets MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. Foltynewicz instantly became one of the Braves’ best young arms in that trade, and using his 100mph fastball in the bullpen to get him acclimated to the Majors while going with a veteran such as Eric Stults in the fifth spot of the rotation may have some merit in the team’s eyes.
- Speaking more in depth on those trades, president of baseball operations John Hart tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien that he doesn’t consider the Braves‘ offseason moves to be a full-on rebuild. Rather, according to Hart, the team tried to walk a “parallel path” in which Major League pieces were subtracted to shore up the farm system while other MLB pieces were brought in to help the 2015 team. The Braves’ core players appear to be on board with the moves, Hart adds, saying he’s received “nothing but positive (feedback)” from them.