Austin Romine Rumors
MLBTR's Offseason In Review series continued earlier today with my look at the Orioles' winter moves, covering everything from the Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz signings to the lack of progress on extensions for Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters. Here's some more from around the AL East...
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters (including ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews) that he's "hearing from a lot of people about" catchers John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine. The Yankees have been shopping their catching depth for weeks, and now that Francisco Cervelli has won the backup job, Murphy and Romine could be more expendable. Cashman, however, doesn't feel pressure to move either players. "They’re assets. We’re not in any position where we have to do anything, but if something made sense, we’d consider it. But right now, we’re happy with what we’ve got," Cashman said.
- Rays manager Joe Maddon told reporters (including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times) that he has informed Wilson Betemit and Jayson Nix that they won't be making Tampa's Opening Day roster, in order to give the two players extra time to find another Major League opportunity. The two veterans signed minor league deals with the Rays earlier this winter and have the ability to opt out, though Betemit told Topkin that he would play for Tampa's Triple-A affiliate if he couldn't find a roster spot elsewhere (Topkin believes Nix feels the same way).
- Mark Lowe is also open to returning to the Rays, the veteran right-hander tells Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times. Lowe's family lives in the Tampa area and he praised the Rays organization, saying that he would be willing to pitch at Triple-A unless, like Betemit and Nix, he finds a job with another team. The Rays granted Lowe his release earlier today after he was also told he wouldn't make the 25-man roster.
- The Blue Jays' decision to make Dustin McGowan their fifth starter raises concerns about whether McGowan is up to the task both performance-wise and health-wise, Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi writes. Since McGowan made the rotation almost by default given how the Jays' other options struggled, Davidi wonders "if he and the Blue Jays are playing a game of Russian Roulette with his career" by returning McGowan to a starting role before he's even fully stretched out. The injury-plagued McGowan missed three of the previous four seasons with shoulder and knee surgeries but pitched effectively over 25 2/3 innings out of the bullpen in 2013.
- Corey Brown didn't invoke the opt-out clause in his minor league contract with the Red Sox and will report to the club's Triple-A club, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports.
The Yankees have questionable infield depth at best, with Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Eduardo Nunez all figuring to see significant playing time in 2014. As such, the team's scouts are placing a heavy emphasis on watching infielders when looking at other clubs in Spring Training, according to George A. King III of the New York Post. King writes that the Yankees could use their surplus of catching options to bolster the infield.
In addition to Brian McCann, who signed a five-year, $85MM contract with the Bombers this offseason, the Yankees have Francisco Cervelli (who is out of options), J.R. Murphy, Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez on their 40-man roster. With the exception of Sanchez, each could be considered Major League ready. Cervelli, of course, has racked up 623 plate appearances with the Yanks over the past several seasons, while Romine had 168 big league PAs in 2013, and Murphy made his Major League debut as well.
It's natural to speculate on the possibility simply adding Stephen Drew, but as Newsday's David Lennon tweeted earlier today, the Yankees will only add to their infield if the addition doesn't come with significant financial impact. GM Brian Cashman told Lennon: "If we need to do improvements, it’s got to be cheap. We’ve spent our money."
Likewise, it's easy to speculate that the reportedly available Nick Franklin would fit with the Yankees, but Seattle likely feels they have their catcher of the future in 2012 No. 3 overall draft selection Mike Zunino. They're said to be interested in acquiring pitching in exchange for Franklin, should they end up dealing him.
King writes that the White Sox, Giants, Tigers, Astros and Twins all had scouts in attendance to watch Cervelli, Murphy and Sanchez in yesterday's exhibition game against Florida State. While that could just be routine and doesn't necessarily carry much weight, King does add that an industry source indicated that the White Sox are seeking catching upgrades. He also adds that the Yankees will monitor Rickie Weeks during Spring Training, who figures to be plenty available due to his $11MM salary and $11.5MM vesting option. It stands to reason that Milwaukee would need to eat a significant amount of salary in any deal to move Weeks, who batted just .209/.306/.357 last season.
In this week's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the Orioles owe it to their fans to take a shot at a championship by bolstering the roster. The O's moved Jim Johnson to save on his expected $10MM salary for 2014 but the nixing of Grant Balfour's deal leaves them without a proven closer. The Orioles, with a few fixes, could be exciting and fun to watch, but they need more if they want to win it all. More from this week's column..
- Cafardo cautions not to sleep on the Red Sox in the Masahiro Tanaka hunt and one AL scout says it’s the perfect time for the Red Sox to strike. “They have veteran pitchers in the final year or two years remaining on their deals,” he said. “They’ll be clearing out a lot of payroll soon. I know they feel they have good young pitching on the horizon, but Tanaka should be a very good No. 2 or No. 3 starter on any staff. I would think with their emphasis on pitching, they would get into it.” The Yankees, Cubs, Rangers, and Dodgers figure to be the most aggressive and the Angels, Phillies, Royals, and Blue Jays are expected to get into it.
- Will the Red Sox's experience with Daisuke Matsuzaka scare them off of Tanaka? “I don’t think that can enter their thinking. I’m sure they would have gone after Yu Darvish in retrospect,” said one National League GM.
- Cafardo recently spoke with a few GMs who feel the Yankees may wind up with Ubaldo Jimenez, even if they land Tanaka. “He had an excellent second half, has great stuff, and he has the type of personality that would fit New York,” one GM said. “He doesn’t let things get to him. He’s good at shrugging off things and turning the page.” If the Yankees ink both pitchers, it's pretty difficult to see them staying under the $189MM mark.
- Nelson Cruz is the best available free agent among position players, but his demand of four years at $75MM has turned off teams. While other PED guys such as Jhonny Peralta have cashed in, teams are worried that Cruz, who more relies on his power is of greater concern for teams who worry that being off the stuff could hurt his power numbers.
- John Lackey’s name has come up consistently this winter, but the Red Sox aren’t motivated to deal him. That could change, but the club is enthused about his $500K option for 2015.
- It'll be interesting to see if the Yankees can move Ichiro Suzuki given their crowded outfield. The Giants remain a possibility, Cafardo writes.
- The Dodgers could still trade from their outfield surplus. When it comes to Matt Kemp, of course, teams want to see how he rebounds from shoulder and ankle surgeries.
- With Brian McCann aboard and Francisco Cervelli as backup, Yankees catcher Austin Romine is very much available.
- Johan Santana is getting closer to making a decision on a minor league deal with a team. There’s been some speculation about the Twins since Santana still resides in Fort Myers, Fla., where the Twins have spring training. A small-market team such as the Astros could also have some interest.