Author Archives: Brad Johnson

Quick Hits: Trout, Wilson, Tigers

Mike Trout is taking a more aggressive approach this season, writes Buster Olney for ESPN Insider. The result is a likely improvement to his 26.1% strikeout rate from last year. The new approach is designed to avoid pitchers’ counts. While we can’t draw any statistical conclusions from his 42 plate appearances, he has a 11.9% walk rate and 16.7% strikeout rate.

Olney also included a number of other interesting topics. Those include home runs allowed by Cole Hamels, Curtis Granderson‘s low swinging strike rate, and Mike Moustakas‘ all-field approach. Here’s more from around the league.

  • The Rangers own the baseball rights to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, and they want him to play, Wilson told HBO’s Bryant Gumble (via Mike Florio of NBC Sports). Wilson, 25, was a two sport athlete in college. He spent a couple seasons in the Rockies minor league system, hitting .229/.354/.356 in 379 plate appearances. A tepid Single-A performance mixed with three years away from the sport isn’t encouraging, but Seahawks GM John Schneider notes Wilson’s off the charts confidence and preparation. It strikes me as unlikely that anything will come of Wilson’s interest in playing two sports. If something were to happen, it’s seemingly too late for the 2015 season.
  • The Tigers have done an excellent job remaining consistent while overhauling their roster, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. The team won the AL Central in each of the last four seasons and currently sports the top record in baseball (9-2). Aside from Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Alex Avila, and Justin Verlander, most of the roster has turned over since Detroit won the AL pennant in 2012. Much of the credit goes to President and GM Dave Dombrowski who has overseen major trades involving Ian Kinsler, David Price, and Joakim Soria in recent seasons (among others).

Quick Hits: Cubs, Kimbrel, Bryant, Pirates

Teams have quickly accepted the importance of the mental side of the game, reports the Associated Press in the New York Times. For example, the Cubs view mental skills coach Josh Lifrak as an equal to their hitting and pitching coaches. The article describes part of the process used by the Cubs, Nationals, and Red Sox, although all teams have probably adopted some form of mental skills development.

Here’s more from around the league.

  • Padres senior advisor Trevor Hoffman was thrilled by the team’s recent trade for Craig Kimbrel, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. Kimbrel follows Hoffman (the all-time NL leader in saves) in a line of strong Padres closers. “We’ve been pretty fortunate to have a guy at the backend, even before I got here and continuing with Huston (Street) and Joaquin (Benoit),” says Hoffman. “The street cred [Kimbrel has] built in the game over the last four, five years really separates him from the rest of the group as one of the top-echelon closers in the game.”
  • The Cubs‘ decision to send Kris Bryant to the minors to start the season led to controversy, but now that he’s there, the team has him working on playing outfield, Gordon Wittenmyer writes for Baseball America (subscription-only). While many assume that Bryant will be activated as soon as next week, the Cubs may legitimately be concerned about finding him a defensive home.
  • If the Pirates have money to spend at the trade deadline this year, they could target an ace pitcher, writes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The payroll is cheap thanks to a number of young players and team friendly extensions. That could make Cole Hamels a potential fit. He, like Andrew McCutchen, has four years remaining on his contract. My thought: it’s at least conceivable that the Phillies would take on a large portion of his contract for the right prospects. To be clear, this is not to say that the Pirates have inquired about Hamels, only that a fit might exist.

Quick Hits: Rays, Valentin, Hamilton

The Rays tied a franchise record by using 21 players against the Marlins in a 10-inning, 10-9 loss on Friday, writes MLB.com’s Bill Chastain. That included two players making their big-league debut, outfielder Mikie Mahtook and righty Matt Andriese, as Chastain notes. Mahtook, a first-round pick in 2011, is perhaps the more likely of the two to make a long-term impact. He hit .292/.362/.458 for Triple-A Durham last season. “I think everything happened so fast yesterday, you don’t realize what was going on,” says Mahtook. “So in the moment, I wouldn’t even say I was super nervous. I was just kind of going with it.”

  • Phillies prospect Jesmuel Valentin has been arrested and suspended indefinitely for his role in a domestic violence incident, writes Jim Salisbury of of CSNPhilly. GM Ruben Amaro said the team was “getting the young man some help, but we take this very seriously as does the Commissioner’s office.” Valentin, the son of former major leaguer Jose Valentin, was acquired by the Phillies last August as part of the return for Roberto Hernandez.
  • Angels pitcher and union player rep C.J. Wilson commented on the ongoing Josh Hamilton saga, per Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times (two tweets). Wilson said, “it doesn’t seem like any bridges are being built. It’s a fairly contentious situation.” Wilson added, “Josh went through the whole process. It should be about him rehabbing and playing baseball again.” Per Pedro Moura of the Orange Country Register (also Twitter), Wilson also suggested that performance is driving owner Arte Moreno’s plans to take action against Hamilton. In case you missed the latest kerfuffle involving Hamilton, here’s a detailed summary from MLBTR’s Jeff Todd.


Minor Moves: Florimon, Peguero, Adrianza, Tracy

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league.

  • Reds pitcher Raisel Iglesias will make his major league debut tomorrow, writes Jason Haddix for MLB.com. He’ll be opposed by Cardinals hurler Carlos Martinez. The Reds committed to a seven-year, $27MM contract with Iglesias during the 2014 season.
  • The Orioles selected the contract of knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa, writes Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com. Wesley Wright was added to the disabled list in a corresponding move. Gamboa, 30, had yet to reach the majors although he figures to bounce back and forth this year. He’ll serve as depth in case Kevin Gausman is needed in long relief in the next couple games.
  • Pirates utility man Pedro Florimon has cleared waivers, tweets Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has been outrighted to Triple-A. Per Brink (also Twitter), since Florimon has been outrighted before, he can decline and become a free agent. Brink is told no decision has been made.
  • The Rangers have announced that they’ve selected the contract of corner outfielder Carlos Peguero and recalled pitcher Jon Edwards. They’ve also moved Derek Holland (shoulder) to the 60-day disabled list and Ryan Rua (ankle) to the 15-day disabled list. Peguero is in the Rangers’ lineup tonight. The 28-year-old Peguero has played briefly, and not particularly impressively, for the Mariners and Royals in parts of four big-league seasons, but he’s demonstrated serious power in the minors (with 30 homers for Triple-A Omaha last year) and in Spring Training.
  • The Giants have outrighted infielder Ehire Adrianza to Triple-A Sacramento, MLB.com’s Chris Haft tweets. The team designated Adrianza for assignment last week. Adrianza, 25, hit .237/.279/.299 in 106 plate appearances while playing mostly shortstop and second base for the Giants last season.
  • The Yankees have announced that they’ve promoted lefty Matt Tracy. To clear space for Tracy on the 25- and 40-man rosters, the Yankees optioned lefty Chasen Shreve to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and moved Ivan Nova to the 60-day disabled list. Tracy will need to be added to the Yankees’ 40-man roster. Tracy’s stay on the roster could turn out to be short, however — the Yankees can use some quick bullpen reinforcements after their 19-inning game against the Red Sox last night, and Tracy would presumably join the team for that purpose. The 26-year-old posted a 3.76 ERA with 5.3 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 150 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last year.
  • Two players remain in DFA limbo, via MLBTR’s DFA Tracker: lefty Sam Freeman (Rangers) and outfielder Carlos Quentin (Braves).

Jenrry Mejia Receives 80-Game Suspension

6:30pm: The suspension will save the Mets $1.2MM per Mike Puma of the New York Post (tweet).

Rubin tweets that Mejia will not be eligible for the postseason roster if the Mets qualify for the playoffs.

6:20pm: Mejia is the fourth pitcher in the last 15 days to test positive for Stanozolol, reports Adam Rubin of ESPN New York. In addition to Santana, Mariners pitcher David Rollins and Braves pitcher Arodys Vizcaino are serving suspensions after failing a drug test. Three of the four players are Dominican, which might provide a clue as to how or where the drug is being disseminated. Like Mejia, Santana also claimed that he had no knowledge of how the drug entered his system.

As a reminder, days on the disabled list count towards the suspension, so Mejia will simply be out longer than expected, tweets Matt Ehalt of The Record. Per Ehalt, Mejia will not appeal the suspension. He is eligible to return on July 7 against the Giants (Twitter).

Andy Martino of the New York Daily News adds (on Twitter) that the Mets won’t pursue an external option like Rafael Soriano. They’re satisfied with their current depth.

4:37pm: Mets closer Jenrry Mejia has received an 80-game suspension without pay after testing positive for Stanozolol, MLB has announced. Stanozolol is the same performance-enhancing drug Ervin Santana was suspended earlier this month for using.

We were disappointed when informed of Jenrry’s suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program,” say the Mets in a statement. “We fully support MLB’s policy toward eliminating performance enhancing substances from the sport. As per the Joint Drug Program, we will have no further comment on this suspension.”

I know the rules are the rules and I will accept my punishment,” says Mejia, seemingly suggesting he will not appeal the suspension. “[B]ut I can honestly say I have no idea how a banned substance ended up in my system. … I’m sorry to the Mets organization, my teammates and the fans, as well as my family.”

Mejia had not pitched in 2015 due to elbow inflammation. An MRI showed no structural damage, so he likely would have returned at some point fairly soon if not for the suspension. Mejia racked up 28 saves in 2014 while carrying a relatively heavy workload for a closer, pitching 93 2/3 innings with a 3.65 ERA, 9.4 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9. Jeurys Familia will likely get most save opportunities in his absence. Mejia was set to make $2.595MM in his first arbitration year in 2015, but now the Mets will only have to pay him about half that amount.


Hiroshima Carp Sign Outfielder Nate Schierholtz

The Hiroshima Carp of Japan’s NPB have signed outfielder Nate Schierholtz to a one-year, $1.16MM contract, reports the Japan Times. Schierholtz is expected to join the team as soon as April 21. He opted out of his minor league contract with the Rangers on March 28.

Schierholtz struggled to a .195/.243/.309 line in 383 plate appearances last season. However, he turned in a useful 2013 campaign with the Cubs that included 21 home runs and a .251/.301/.470 slash. The left-handed hitter is also a career .253/.302/.419 hitter against right-handed pitchers.


Astros Designate Alex White For Assignment

TUESDAY: White has been placed on outright waivers, Drellich reports.

SUNDAY: The Astros have designed right-hander Alex White for assignment, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports.  Between this move and designating Alex Presley for assignment earlier this week, Houston now has two 40-man roster spots for Roberto Hernandez and Joe Thatcher.

White was selected by the Indians as the 15th overall pick of the 2009 draft and was formerly a high-rated prospect, ranked as high as 47th in Baseball America’s preseason list of the top 100 prospects in the sport prior to the 2011 season.  He has struggled over 149 Major League innings with Cleveland and Colorado in 2011-12, posting a career 6.03 ERA with 6.09 K/9, and 4.58 BB/9 and he also missed all of the 2013 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

White and Presley are two of the four players currently in “DFA limbo” according to the MLB Trade Rumors DFA Tracker.  The two Astros join the Yankees’ Austin Romine and the Tigers’ Chad Smith in awaiting their next assignment.


Indians Extend Corey Kluber

The Indians have announced signing reigning CY Young Award winner Corey Kluber to a five-year contract, which runs through the 2019 season and contains club options for 2020 and 2021. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets Kluber’s guaranteed five-year portion is worth $38.5MM while Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets the contract, plus its unique escalators and trade language, is the largest guarantee ever for a pre-arbitration pitcher. Kluber is represented by B.B. Abbott of Jet Sports Management.

This is an exciting day for our organization, Corey and his family,” said Indians GM Chris Antonetti. “In his time with us, Corey has grown into a leader in our clubhouse and an exemplary teammate. His tireless work ethic, consistent preparation and fierce competitiveness set an example for our younger players, and his presence on our team is a key reason that we are prepared to compete for a championship in 2015 and beyond.

Kluber can earn $77MM across the life of the deal if all escalators, which are based on where he finishes in the Cy Young race, are met, according to Rosenthal (Twitter links). Starting in 2015, Kluber will earn salaries of $1MM, $4.5MM, $7.5MM, $10.5MM, and $13MM. His fifth year can go from $13MM to $17MM with escalators (link). The 2020 option will be worth $13.5MM and can go to $17.5MM with escalators. In 2021, the option will be worth $14MM and can be as large as $18MM with escalators. That second option can be instead bought out for $1MM.

If traded, Kluber’s new club will have to decide on the 2020 and 2021 options within three days after the 2019 World Series. If the new club declines that option, Kluber must be given a $1MM buyout (link). He’ll also receive a $1MM bonus if traded and his 2021 club option will convert to a vesting option if he is traded in 2020 (link). The vesting option would call for him to pitch 160 innings and not finish the year on the DL, according to Rosenthal.

Corey  Kluber (vertical)

Kluber is coming off a Cy Young season in which he posted 18 wins, a 2.44 ERA, 10.27 K/9, and 1.95 BB/9 in 235 innings. As a Super Two player, he would have been eligible for arbitration from 2016 through 2019 and, with a similar performance to last season, would have been in store for strong earnings via arbitration. As such, he was in a position to earn more than Yordano Ventura netted from his similar extension.

The advanced metrics were also quite fond of Kluber in 2014. The right-hander pitched to a 2.57 xFIP, a figure that’s more or less in line with his 2.44 ERA on the season. That figure put him only second to Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who pitched to an eye popping 2.08 xFIP last year.

Last week, Antonetti explained the team had “a clear preference” to conclude any contract talks before Opening Day in order to “minimize distractions” for the players. For a while, it seemed like an extension wouldn’t come together at all prior to the start of the 2015 season. Cleveland owner Paul Dolan, president Mark Shapiro, Antonetti and Abbott had a face-to-face meeting last month, but it seemed like the two sides were at an impasse due to the pitcher’s unique situation.

Kluber, who turns 29 on April 10th (the date of Cleveland’s home opener), was still under the Tribe’s control for four more seasons. While he ostensibly wanted some financial security ahead of free agency going into his age-33 season, the Indians weren’t necessarily under the gun to give him a long-term pact. Ultimately, the two sides appear to have found some middle ground: Kluber gets his security and the Indians gain cost certainty at a reasonable price.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the two sides were nearing agreement on a long-term deal and it could be finalized before Opening Day (Twitter links). Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports first tweeted the length of the deal while Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first tweeted a deal had been reached pending a physical. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


NL West Notes: Giants, Maybin, Quentin, Padres, Hill

After winning the World Series in three out of the last five years, the Giants have become a model front office, writes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. They’ve done a little bit of everything ranging from developing their own home grown pitching staff to acquiring and extending Hunter Pence. GM Brian Sabean has balanced sabermetric ideas with traditional scouts, and brought in one of the top managers in Bruce Bochy.

Here’s more from the NL West:

  • The Padres are willing to eat a “chunk of money” to move Cameron Maybin or Carlos Quentin, a talent evaluator tells Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Per the evaluator, experiments with Quentin at first base did not meet with success. Both players are being shopped aggressively, although rivals may think one or both will be released before long.
  • The Padres don’t consider themselves to be a small market club, writes Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. While it may look like the club “opened the coffers” over the offseason, it was all a part of a steady build up. The franchise now supports a $100MM payroll thanks to a lucrative TV contract, central revenue, local sponsorships, and non-baseball events at Petco Park.
  • The Diamondbacks have made Aaron Hill available, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. However, the club has not talked with the Angels about the second baseman. That Arizona would like to deal Hill is no surprise. He has two-years and $24MM remaining on his contract, but he’s been ousted by a combination of Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings. The club also has utility infielder Cliff Pennington available. The Angels do appear to be an obvious fit after naming Johnny Giavotella as their starting second baseman.
  • Arizona is searching for a new formula to develop ace pitching, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The club has a plethora of high upside pitching, but they still need to find that breakout talent. Piecoro examines a few of 2014’s newest studs. Corey Kluber is said to have an elite work ethic, which is obviously an important but difficult-to-measure skill. Others like Garrett Richards and Jake Arrieta always had excellent stuff but lacked consistency. Some of the pitchers that could take a step forward for the D’Backs include Archie Bradley, Robbie Ray, Rubby De La Rosa, and Allen Webster.

Roster Moves: Hernandez, Enright, Robinson, Uggla, Ciriaco, Stults, Petit

Here’s a roundup of some 40-man roster news as teams decide who will break camp for Opening Day….

  • The Diamondbacks have announced (via Twitter) that Archie Bradley, Gerald Laird, and Jordan Pacheco have made the roster. Bradley, a top prospect, will join the rotation. Laird will serve as the backup catcher while Pacheco will probably take on a super utility role that includes some catching.
  • The Astros have selected the contract of Roberto Hernandez, per the MLB transactions page. The right-handed sinker specialist has a 4.60 ERA in 1,264 innings. He split the 2014 season between the Phillies and Dodgers.
  • The Dodgers have released right-handed pitcher Barry Enright, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Enright is a veteran of four major league seasons, although he struggled at the top level. He owns a 5.57 ERA, 4.60 K/9, and 3.15 BB/9 in 148 innings.
  • The Nationals will select the contract of outfielder Clint Robinson, reports Chelsea Janes of the Washington Times. Robinson, 30, is a career minor leaguer with just 14 major league plate appearances. In 1,771 Triple-A plate appearances, he’s hit .303/.392/.494. Janes also notes that the club is almost certain to retain second baseman Dan Uggla. He’s one of just five healthy infielders with the club.
  • The Blue Jays have opted to roster eight relievers for the start of the season with Liam Hendriks making the cut, writes Sean Farrell of MLB.com. The righty appeared for the Jays and Royals last season. He has a career 5.92 ERA in 188 innings. Second baseman Ryan Goins was optioned in a corresponding move.
  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told Mark Bowman of MLB.com that utility man Pedro Ciriaco and pitcher Cody Martin will probably make the team. Ciriaco is a career .270/.299/.372 hitter over 498 plate appearances split over five seasons. The pair were added at the expense of outfielder Todd Cunningham and pitcher Michael Foltynewicz.
  • Also making the Atlanta roster is pitcher Eric Stults, writes Bowman. The soft-tossing lefty has a solid big league career with a 4.12 ERA, 5.69 K/9, and 2.53 BB/9. His best season came with the Padres in 2013 when he pitched 203 innings with a 3.93 ERA.
  • The Yankees have selected the contract of infielder Gregorio Petit, reports Chad Jennings of LoHud. Petit, 30, is a career .278/.301/.391 hitter in 156 plate appearances.
  • Rangers GM Jon Daniels says Anthony Bass will travel with the club to Oakland, reports Stefan Stevenson (via Twitter). He’ll make the team barring a last minute acquisition. The 27-year-old reliever struggled with the Astros last season. In 27 innings, he allowed a 6.33 ERA with 2.33 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9.
  • The Phillies have selected the contracts of right-handed reliever Jeanmar Gomez and left-handed reliever Cesar Jimenez, the team announced on Twitter. Gomez owns a career 4.41 ERA with 5.23 K/9 and 3.14 BB/9. He pitched well this spring in 12 and two-thirds innings, allowing a 0.71 ERA with nine strikeouts and one walk. Jimenez is familiar with the Phillies as he’s bounced between Philadelphia and Triple-A over the past two seasons. In 81 innings, he has a career 4.32 ERA with 6.09 K/9 and 3.09 BB/9.

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