Author Archives: Brad Johnson

Blue Jays Sign Dayan Viciedo

SUNDAY, 3:45: If Viciedo fails to make the Blue Jays’ Opening Day roster and winds up at Triple-A Buffalo, he will receive $20K per month, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.

9:29am: There are no incentives in Viciedo’s deal, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).

9:18am: Viciedo will make $2.5MM if he reaches the big league roster, according to John Lott of the National Post (on Twitter).

8:02am: The Blue Jays confirmed the signing via press release.

SATURDAY, 7:16pm: The Blue Jays have signed outfielder Dayan Viciedo, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). It is a minor league deal per Rosenthal (also Twitter). Viciedo, a career .254/.298/.424 hitter, was released by the White Sox earlier this winter. Chicago is still on the hook for 30 days termination pay on the $4.4MM owed him via arbitration. Rosenthal confirms that payment is separate from the Blue Jays’ agreement.

With trade acquisition Michael Saunders expected to miss five to six weeks, Viciedo could help to provide outfield depth. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca tweets that the Jays will look to use Viciedo at left field, third base, and first base. He has limited major league experience at either infield position.

Viciedo is known for his power. He’s twice hit at least 20 home runs, and he’s reached that figure twice in the minors too. He’s best against southpaw pitchers with a career .291/.331/.507 line. Advanced metrics and scouting reports dislike his defensive skills, making him a better fit as a platoon designated hitter. If he makes the roster, Toronto can control Viciedo through the 2017 season.


Quick Hits: Cuba, Tomas, McCutchen

MLBPA president Tony Clark is open to seeing Cuba host spring training games, writes Tom Withers of the Denver Post. Details could not be arranged in time for this season. Cuba was once the home of the Reds‘ Triple-A affiliate, the Havana Sugar Kings. Clark says the players understand the role baseball could play in the healing process between the United States and Cuba.

  • The Diamondbacks will have Yasmany Tomas split time between third base and the outfield this spring, writes Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The club is still expressing optimism about his ability to handle third base, although manager Chip Hale acknowledged it’s a work in progress. Instead, the move is designed to maximize Tomas’ time against competitive pitching. Said Hale, “we’ve told Tomas that if there’s a day when he is not going to play third, we’re going to put him in the outfield just to get at-bats.
  • The Pirates should consider another contract extension for Andrew McCutchen, but it’s not a slam dunk, writes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. McCutchen is under contract for another four seasons through age 31. Sawchik compares McCutchen to Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. He was also four years from free agency when he signed a nine-figure extension to remain with the Rays through the 2022 season. A similar extension for McCutchen is liable to run about $22MM to $25MM per season. As a small market club, it’s reasonable to wonder if the Pirates should pay premium dollars for post-prime seasons.

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East Notes: Hart, Hardy, Belisario

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.


Glenn Flesig On Tommy John Incidence

Injury expert Glenn Flesig discussed the latest Tommy John surgery epidemic at the annual Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, writes Matthew Leach of MLB.com. Flesig, who holds a doctorate in biomedical engineering, is the partner of Dr. James Andrews at the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI). The institute aims to “improve the understanding, prevention and treatment of sports-related injuries through research and education.

Flesig presented data on both professional and youth pitchers. At the professional level, 16% of pitchers have had Tommy  John surgery. Flesig found that once pitchers have recovered from the procedure, “they have the typical flexibility and typical mechanics. So they’re back to normal.” Of course, lost time and the potential for complications means that it’s best to avoid the issue in the first place.

Of course, UCL replacement can often impact free agency and the trade market. The increased incidence of the injury last season had some teams reaching for outside help. The Braves were able to call upon Ervin Santana on a one-year deal when Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy both required a second procedure. Atlanta forfeited a draft pick when they signed Santana. We saw both Medlen and Beachy sign short-term, incentive-laden contracts this winter.

Since the recovery rate is so high, teams are willing to project a return to normality for prospects. Last June, the Blue Jays drafted Jeff Hoffman ninth overall. The Nationals took Erik Fedde with the 18th pick. Both pitchers had Tommy John surgery shortly before the draft.

A study of youth pitchers could reveal the way to decrease the incidence of elbow injury. Flesig offered a few convincing correlations. Youth pitchers who threw over 80 pitches in a game were four times more likely to require surgery. Those who pitched for more than eight months a year were five times more likely.

Pitching when fatigued was the biggest risk indicator. Youth who self-identified as having “often pitched” when fatigued were 36 times more likely to go under the knife. For the parents in the audience, don’t let your kid pitch too often or when fatigued.

 


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Phillies Notes: Rollins, Herrera, Oliver, Aumont

Former Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins viewed the Dodgers as his number one choice for a new club, writes Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. But if a deal hadn’t been reached, Rollins would have considered a trade to the division rival Mets. Rollins said, “I considered the Mets to be No. 2. They have some arms over there.” Rollins clarified that he’s unsure if he would have ultimately accepted a trade to New York. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York tweets that the Mets inquired about Rollins in November but were told he would not accept a trade.

  • The Phillies are working quickly to evaluate Rule 5 picks Odubel Herrera and Andy Oliver, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes. Herrera will start in the outfield and Oliver will pitch an inning of relief as the Phillies take on the University of Tampa in an exhibition Sunday. Neither Herrera, who posted good on-base percentages in the Rangers system, nor Oliver, a hard-throwing but wild lefty from the Pirates organization, expected to wind up with the Phillies. “This is a good opportunity for me,” says Oliver. “I feel like I’m in a better place than where I came from.”
  • In addition to Oliver, Phillippe Aumont and non-roster invitee Jeanmar Gomez could make the opening day bullpen due to transactional reasons, writes Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. The Phillies acquired Aumont in 2009 as part of the haul from the Mariners for Cliff Lee. He’s the lone remaining asset from that trade and is out of options. If he does not make the club, he’ll be subject to waivers. Gomez, 27, would have to earn a spot on the 40-man roster, but the club isn’t in a position to pass on viable major league pitchers. He has a 3.28 ERA in 78 appearances over the last two seasons, although his peripherals suggest we should expect something closer to a 4.00 ERA.

Scherzer On Signing With The Nationals

Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer bet on himself when he rejected the Tigers $144MM extension offer last spring, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The ace discussed the Tigers’ offer, the resultant insurance policy he took out, and his current contract with Rosenthal. Below are the specifics from that article, although it also contains a number of great quotes from Scherzer not included here.

Of interest, Scherzer’s insurance policy would have paid $40MM if an injury forced him to take an offer below the $144MM offered by Detroit. The policy cost $750K and covered every type of injury including elbow and shoulder ailments. Said Scherzer, “once you took the injury-risk factor out of it, and you can just go play baseball and not have to worry about anything . . . I was set.

Ultimately, Scherzer did not need to call upon the policy. He inked a seven-year, $210MM deal with the Nationals in January. Half of the total is deferred until 2022-2028 and will be paid in $15MM yearly installments. The players’ union values the contract at $191.4MM due to the deferrals.

The structure of the deal is actually beneficial to both Scherzer and the Nationals. The signing bonus and deferrals won’t be subject to state income taxes. Washington D.C. doesn’t have an income tax for non-residents. Scherzer has set up residency in Florida, which also does not have an income tax. The deferrals will be paid to him there.

As you might expect, Scherzer wasn’t hoodwinked when taking the deferred money. Nor was another club pushed out of the bidding by the Nationals. “I know finance. I know deferral money. I get all that. But this was the best offer. If another team wanted to make a better offer without a deferment, we never received it. This was the best offer.

In my view, Scherzer’s use of insurance could have implications for other players. Earlier today, we learned about the confidence Andrew McCutchen received from his team friendly contract extension. It’s intuitive, a player who doesn’t have to worry about his financial future can focus on playing his best. Insurance could offer an alternative to an early career contract extension for some athletes – especially those who want to test free agency at the earliest opportunity.


Nationals Notes: Desmond, Werth, Roark, Espinosa, Burriss

The Nationals and shortstop Ian Desmond have not discussed a contract extension, tweets William Ladson of MLB.com. Desmond is a free agent after this season. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes ranked Desmond the fourth best impending free agent. Dierkes believes he could exceed a $200MM guarantee with another strong season. Desmond declined a seven-year, $107MM extension offer prior to the 2014 season.

  • GM Mike Rizzo expects Jayson Werth to be ready in time for the season opener, writes Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. Werth’s availability could influence if the club pursues another outfielder. The club has a few internal options who can work as stop gaps including Nate McLouth, Kevin Frandsen, and prospect Michael Taylor.
  • Tanner Roark appears to be the odd man out in the rotation, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. He’ll continue to prepare as a starter until later in the spring. If the club opts to use him in the bullpen, they believe his stuff could play up. Some pitchers experience a burst of velocity while working in short relief.
  • Switch-hitter Danny Espinosa may have taken his last hacks from the left-hand batters box, reports Ladson. The utility infielder plans to become a purely right-handed hitter. He’ll spend much of spring training working to hit right-handed breaking balls. Espinosa has substantial career splits, including a weak .213/.284/.362 line batting left-handed. Against southpaws, he’s managed a stout .271/.343/.460 line. While he’s unlikely to match the better rates against same-handed pitchers, there is some hope he can improve.
  • Utility infielder Emmanuel Burriss is competing for a bench role, writes Ladson. The 30-year-old is coming off a possible breakout season at Triple-A where he hit .300/.377/.412 with more walks than strikeouts. The switch-hitter spent parts of five seasons with the Giants, hitting .243/.304/.269 in 801 plate appearances. He’s spent the last two seasons in the minors.

NL East Notes: Lee, Hamels, Harvey, K-Rod

While attention remains focused on Cole Hamels, clubs should consider trading for Cliff Lee instead, writes Dave Cameron of FanGraphs.com. Lee’s struggles in 2014 can be chalked up to injury and bad luck, so teams should be willing to take a bet on better performance. Cameron thinks the Phillies should bite the bullet and swallow the entire $25MM owed to Lee this season, leaving an acquiring club to cover the $12.5MM buyout or $27.5MM club option for next season. If the Phillies eat enough money, they should receive at least one notable prospect in exchange for the ace. Lee dealt with a recurring elbow injury last season, so rivals are probably playing wait-and-see.

  • The Phillies are easing Lee back into regular action, reports Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly. Most pitchers are throwing bullpens every other day, but Lee will work from the mound every third day. His health this spring will determine if he is a salable asset. One consideration to keep in mind – Lee’s partial no-trade list includes many of the clubs most likely to acquire him. Meanwhile, Hamels list appears to name places least likely to contend.
  • Hamels wants to play for a winner, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. He is comfortable in Philadelphia and hopes the club can be surprise contenders this season. However, he’s also pragmatic. He understands GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has to address the big picture, which could include dealing him to greener pastures.
  • Mets ace Matt Harvey will pitch within the first five games of the season, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPN. Manager Terry Collins says the club won’t skip any of his starts either. It was previously reported that Harvey will be on a strict innings limit, but they’ve backed off that position in the last day.
  • The Marlins continue to consider Francisco Rodriguez, reports Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. We recently learned K-Rod is seeking a one-year, $10MM guarantee. The Marlins appear to be interested in a much lower rate.

West Notes: Dodgers, Solis, Padres, Montero

The Dodgers acquisition of Brandon Beachy could lead to a trade, writes Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. Beachy will open the season on the disabled list, so his presence could be purely for depth purposes. However, if everybody is healthy when he’s ready to contribute, the team could consider dealing Zack Greinke or Hyun-jin Ryu. Greinke may opt out after the season which could make him expendable. A trade of Ryu seems unlikely since he can void his contract if dealt (via Twitter). Here’s more from out west.

  • The Dodgers and catcher Ali Solis have split ways over a contractual issue, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Details are unknown at this time. Solis was a non-roster invite to the big league camp. He’s appeared briefly with the Padres and Rays, accruing 11 plate appearances in the process. He’s a career .243/.291/.363 hitter over his nine season minor league career.
  • Padres pitchers Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow are familiar with rapid rebuilds, writes Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Both players were with the Blue Jays in 2013 when they were picked to win the division. The team fizzled and finished last in the AL East. Johnson also experienced the 2012 rebuild of the Marlins. Both players point to chemistry and cohesiveness as an important missing element. Only time will tell if the Padres can bond together.
  • Every team has a player in the best shape of his life. One such to watch may be Mariners slugger Jesus Montero, writes Tim Brown of Yahoo. The once-prospect dropped 45 pounds from the hefty 275 he weighed last spring. Per manager Lloyd McClendon, “I think he’s in a much better place as a human being…The baseball skills, we’ll see.”

AL East Notes: Victorino, Pedroia, Pentecost, Blue Jays, ARod

Red Sox manager John Farrell says the club will start veteran Shane Victorino in right field if he’s healthy, tweets Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. Farrell added that Victorino is “full go,” indicating that only a setback could change those plans. With Hanley Ramirez the obvious starter in left field, that could mean Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo will compete for the center field job. Others like Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley, Brock Holt, and Daniel Nava appear thoroughly blocked in the outfield. Here’s more from the AL East.

  • Dustin Pedroia is healthy and ready to go, reports Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston. My take: a healthy Pedroia means that Betts and Holt are also blocked in the infield. Should everybody remain healthy, some kind of trade looks all but inevitable. Several players like Betts, Castillo, and Holt still have options, so the club can stow some major league quality talent at Triple-A if necessary.
  • The Rays lost great talent this offseason, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Executive Andrew Friedman tops the list of 13 impactful losses. His departure is mitigated by the presence of Matt Silverman. Rounding out the top five poignant losses include Ben Zobrist, Joe Maddon, Joel Peralta, and bench coach Dave Martinez.
  • Blue Jays top draft pick Max Pentecost has undergone shoulder surgery, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.ca. Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure. Pentecost, a catcher, is expected to resume throwing in about three months.
  • The Blue Jays continue to be faced with three big questions, writes Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. They include the identity of their closer, second baseman, and fifth starter. Brett Cecil and Aaron Sanchez are expected to compete for ninth inning duties, although Sanchez could factor in the rotation battle too. Other candidates to start include Marco Estrada and prospect Daniel Norris. Second base will probably go to Maicer Izturis, Ryan Goins, or prospect Devon Travis.
  • The Yankees are right to allow beleaguered veteran Alex Rodriguez to attend camp, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. It’s surprising to see other writers suggest the club swallow the $61MM remaining on Rodriguez’s contract without at least giving him a chance to provide some value. If he fails to remain healthy, the club can also recoup part of the money via insurance.