Author Archives: Charlie Wilmoth

Quick Hits: Braves, Ross, Cabrera, Kang, Aoki

The White Sox, Yankees and Astros have spent heavily on relief help this offseason, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick wonders if they’ll end up regretting their expensive contracts for veteran relievers. “In the last couple of years we’ve lost a lot of games late in the eighth and ninth inning,” says White Sox manager Ventura. “After a while you sit there and think, ‘We have to have somebody who can come in and do this.’ Everything has its risks — and this is one of them — but we’re pretty confident we got a guy [David Robertson] who we can put in the bullpen and be a leader.” The reason for all the spending on players like Robertson, Zach Duke, Andrew Miller, Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek isn’t so much that teams are trying to emulate the Royals‘ ferocious 2014 bullpen, Crasnick suggests. Rather, it’s more that teams are loaded with cash and pitchers like Robertson and Miller are very good. Here are more notes from around the Majors.

  • The Braves continue to explore potential trades involving Justin Upton and Evan Gattis, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports (Twitter links). The Braves have spoken about Upton and Gattis with five teams Wednesday, and continued to consider ways to include B.J. Upton or Chris Johnson in trades involving Justin Upton or Gattis. The Padres had previously looked like a potential destination for Justin Upton, but it would appear that their agreement to acquire Wil Myers today rules them out as a potential trade partner, at least for now.
  • Free agent catcher David Ross is deciding between the Red Sox, Cubs and Padres, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes. Meanwhile, lefty reliever Craig Breslow has spoken to the Red Sox and Cubs. Ross has played for the Red Sox, of course, and has a history with Jon Lester and Theo Epstein of the Cubs (although his signing with the Cubs would likely result in, or come as the result of, a trade of Welington Castillo). The Padres are in the process of trading both Yasmani Grandal and Rene Rivera, but are also in the process of acquiring Ryan Hanigan and Tim Federowicz, so it’s unclear where Ross would fit in.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera has drawn interest from the Giants, Athletics, Mets, Cardinals and Twins, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Heyman writes that Cabrera could play second base or third base as well as shortstop, although there have been rumblings that Cabrera prefers to play shortstop or second base only, and not third.
  • Those same five teams have asked about Korean middle infielder Jung-ho Kang, although the Athletics and Mets are downplaying their interest, Heyman tweets. Kang was posted earlier this week.
  • Heyman lists the Orioles, Reds and Mariners as possibilities for Nori Aoki, with the veteran outfielder potentially receiving two to three years at $7MM-$8MM per year. Aoki had previously been connected to the Orioles and Reds, with the Orioles mostly interested in him as a backup option. Heyman reported last week that Aoki was looking for a three-year deal. Earlier this offseason, we at MLBTR guessed he would receive two years and $16MM.

Reactions To US Move To Reestablish Relations With Cuba

The United States’ move to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba could eventually have significant impact on the market for Cuban-born players within Major League Baseball, a market that has in recent years produced important talents like Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo and Yasmany Tomas. “Major League Baseball is closely monitoring the White House’s announcement regarding Cuban-American relations,” says MLB in a statement. “While there are not sufficient details to make a realistic evaluation, we will continue to track this significant issue, and we will keep our Clubs informed if this different direction may impact the manner in which they conduct business on issues related to Cuba.” Here are a few links describing potential changes.

  • MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez notes that there could be changes to the laborious and often dangerous process through which Cuban-born players typically make themselves available to MLB teams. Players generally must defect from Cuba (often by traveling by boat to Mexico or Haiti), then establish residency in a country that is neither the US nor Cuba. The process is time-consuming and can be perilous. It’s not yet clear whether, or how, that process will change after today’s announcement (particularly since the United States’ economic embargo toward Cuba is still in effect and likely will remain so for the foreseeable future), but there’s hope that it might create a path toward something new.
  • The move to reestablish diplomatic relations paves the way for MLB teams to play exhibitions in Cuba, and for the Cuban government to let Cuban MLB players represent their home country at international events, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi writes. It’s less likely that teams would establish academies in Cuba in the way they have in the Dominican Republic. “I don’t think that will happen,” Cuban baseball expert Peter Bjarkman tells Morosi. “Normalizing relations means things like travel restrictions. I don’t see Cuba giving up its economic system or opening the door to exploitation by foreign corporations.” (Via the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore on Twitter, however, one team’s Latin American scouting director says his team has already considered the details of building a new Cuban academy.)
  • Baseball America’s Ben Badler suggests one future scenario (via Twitter): The Cuban government could sell their players to Major League teams, taking a share of those players’ salaries. The Cuban baseball league system’s relationship to MLB could therefore be like that of the Mexican League.

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Reactions To The Wil Myers Trade

Here’s a collection of early reactions to this afternoon’s massive Wil Myers trade between the Padres, Rays, and Nationals. The consensus so far seems to be that the Nationals have come out furthest ahead, thanks to the inclusion of shortstop Trea Turner as a player to be named from San Diego.

  • The trade is a risky one for A.J. Preller and the Padres, but the Padres need to take risks, Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan writes. The Padres don’t have a high payroll and have been stuck in a rut for the last four seasons, but Preller has decisively added talent to the team by engineering the Padres’ end of the Myers and Matt Kemp trades.
  • ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider-only) calls Myers a “tremendous buy-low opportunity” for San Diego but writes that the Nats “seemed to make out like bandits,” getting two strong prospects in Turner and Joe Ross in exchange for Steven Souza and Travis Ott. The deal is a puzzling one for the Rays, Law writes, wondering why they didn’t simply trade Myers for Turner and Ross.
  • Executives within the game also feel the Nationals came out ahead, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. “I think the Nats must have pics on TB and SD!!” says one executive. “They are the clear winner. Not even close.”
  • MLB.com’s Corey Brock quotes an NL scout on Turner, who says Turner clearly profiles as a big-league shortstop. “Turner for me was one of the easiest everyday SS grades I’ve ever written,” the scout says.
  • Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel profiles the prospects involved in the deal, though, and notes that the highest-profile ones — Souza, Turner and Ross — all generate varying reactions throughout the industry. McDaniel feels that Souza (a key to the deal for Tampa Bay) could turn out to be a bit like recently-traded outfielder Matt Joyce offensively.


Minor Moves: Tuiasosopo, Beal, Partch

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

  • The Orioles have announced the signings of outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo and righty Jesse Beal to minor league deals. (They also formally announced the signing of reliever Chaz Roe, which we already noted last week.) Tuiasosopo, 28, was a productive role player with Detroit in 2013, but he spent all of 2014 in the minors, batting .240/.357/.379 in 487 plate appearances for two International League teams. Beal, 24, is re-signing with the Orioles after posting a 3.48 ERA, 7.8 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 41 1/3 innings for Class A+ Frederick in 2014.
  • The Cubs and Athletics have completed the summer’s Jeff Samardzija / Jason Hammel / Addison Russell trade between the clubs with the Athletics sending cash instead of a player to be named later, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat tweets.
  • The Giants have signed reliever Curtis Partch to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. The Reds non-tendered the 27-year-old Partch earlier this month after he posted a 4.75 ERA, 10.3 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 in 47 1/3 innings for Triple-A Louisville last season. Partch’s fastball regularly sat in the mid-90s in parts of two seasons with the Reds, but he’s never had sustained success at the big-league level.

Padres To Acquire Matt Kemp

DECEMBER 17, 8:47pm: Both sides remain “very invested” in completing the deal even though it’s hit a snag, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets.

6:48pm: A Padres official, when asked whether the trade was in danger of falling through, replied, “Not yet,” according to Rosenthal (on Twitter). Rosenthal notes, however, that the Padres still have not made the Dodgers aware of any issues.

1:22pm: The Dodgers have heard nothing to indicate that the deal is in jeopardy, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets.

12:12pm: We are still awaiting word on whether the deal has been completed, but Bob Nightengale of USA Today hears (Twitter link) that the Padres believe his physical is fine and are awaiting final details.

DECEMBER 14: Kemp is set for a physical on Tuesday, Rosenthal tweets. The clubs must complete the deal by Thursday, he adds.

DECEMBER 11: The Dodgers’ wild day has continued into the morning, as they’ve agreed to trade star outfielder Matt Kemp to the Padres. The deal has not yet been finalized — players still need to take physicals, and the deal (which includes money going from the Dodgers to the Padres) requires the approval of the commissioner’s office, as USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets.

USATSI_8067745_154513410_lowresThe deal will send Kemp and catcher Tim Federowicz to San Diego, with the Dodgers receiving catcher Yasmani Grandal, righty Joe Wieland, and pitching prospect Zach Eflin. The Dodgers will also include $32MM to help cover the $107MM remaining on Kemp’s contract, which runs through 2019.

The deal gives the Padres a big bat and star power for their offense, which produced just 535 runs last year, a poor total even in the tough hitting environment in San Diego. The team lost out on Pablo Sandoval and Yasmany Tomas earlier this offseason, but Kemp, who hit .287/.346/.506 with the Dodgers in 2014, gives the Padres the dynamic offensive player they were hoping for. He’ll need to stay healthy, however — he missed significant time in 2012 and 2013 with a series of injuries, and he turned 30 in September. Kemp, who has struggled defensively in center field in recent years, could take one corner outfield spot for the Padres, with Seth Smith in the other. For the Dodgers, the deal clears salary and space in the outfield, where they also have Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke.

Federowicz, 27, should help the Padres compensate for the loss of Grandal. He has five seasons of team control remaining and is coming off a strong year in a good hitting environment at Triple-A Albuquerque, where he batted .328/.383/.555 in 329 plate appearances. He struggled, however, in a small sample of 78 plate appearances at the big-league level. He’ll likely share the Padres’ catching duties with Rene Rivera, whose unexpectedly strong season in 2014 gave the Padres a bit of flexibility at catcher.

Grandal, 26, will join A.J. Ellis in manning the catching position with the Dodgers. He hit .225/.327/.401 for San Diego last season and got good marks for his pitch framing. The latter characteristic is surely attractive to Dodgers executive Andrew Friedman, who employed framing specialist Jose Molina in Tampa Bay and tried to sign another excellent framer, Russell Martin, for the Dodgers earlier this offseason. Grandal also hit 15 home runs in 2014, a solid total for a young catcher, especially in PETCO Park. He can become eligible for arbitration next offseason and eligible for free agency after 2018.

Wieland, 24, had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and took a long time to recover, but he finally made it back to the Majors in September 2014. He posted good numbers coming through the minors (mostly in the Rangers system), but doesn’t have outstanding stuff and probably profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter.

The Padres drafted the 20-year-old Eflin (whose inclusion in the deal is not yet entirely certain) in the first round in 2012 out of high school. He posted a 3.80 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 128 innings with Class A+ Lake Elsinore in 2014.

The trade continues a frenzied Winter Meetings for the Dodgers. On Wednesday, the team sent Dee Gordon and Dan Haren to Miami in a seven-player deal and acquired second baseman Howie Kendrick from the Angels. They also reportedly made not-yet-official moves to acquire shortstop Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies and to agree to terms on a four-year deal with starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported that the deal was close. Dennis Lin and Kirk Kenney of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the deal was finalized. Heyman reported (Twitter links) the final terms of the deal. 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


AL Notes: Hamilton, Cabrera, Toritani

The Angels have discussed potential trades involving Josh Hamilton with the Rangers and Padres this offseason, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports. That might not mean much right now — MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets that the conversation between the Angels and Rangers lasted two minutes, and today’s Wil Myers deal would seem to rule out the possibility of a trade sending Hamilton to San Diego. Rosenthal himself describes recent Hamilton trade talks as merely “exploratory,” and quotes Angels GM Jerry Dipoto asserting his faith in Hamilton. “We do believe in Josh,” says Dipoto. “We’ve seen him hit balls that humans shouldn’t hit. What he does, 99 percent of the players can’t do.” There’s also, obviously, the problem of Hamilton’s trade value being down significantly right now after a mediocre 2014 season. But the possibility of the Angels trading Hamilton (who has a full no-trade clause and is owed $83MM over the next three years) could be worth keeping an eye on in the coming years. Here are more notes from the American League.

  • The White Sox are “comfortable” with Melky Cabrera‘s past troubles with PEDs, J.J. Stankevitz of CSNChicago.com writes. “Obviously we’re aware of what happened in the past and no one condones what he did,” says GM Rick Hahn. “But we are talking about an instance where there was a mistake he made and took ownership for and showed honest remorse.” Another PED suspension would cost the White Sox an entire year of Cabrera’s three-year deal, but the White Sox are confident that Cabrera’s PED issues are in the past.
  • GM Alex Anthopoulos confirms that the Blue Jays have interest in Japanese infielder Takashi Toritani, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes. “We’ve scouted him quite a bit,” Anthopoulos said to Jeff Blair on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. “We have some scouts that like him and he’s someone that we’ve certainly talked about internally. Beyond that I probably wouldn’t get into anything else, but certainly a guy like that would fit.” The 33-year-old Toritani, who hit .303/.406/.415 for Hanshin in 2014, could be an option at second base for the Jays.

Padres Likely To Keep Trading, Could Deal Seth Smith

After reaching agreement on their deal to acquire Wil Myers, the Padres are likely to keep trading, and Seth Smith is one player who might be moved, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. As Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan notes, the Padres have a huge number of outfielders, with Myers, Smith, Matt Kemp, Will Venable, Cameron Maybin, Abraham Almonte, Rymer Liriano and Carlos Quentin.

Assuming the Kemp trade goes through as planned (which doesn’t appear entirely certain at this point), Smith’s role with the Padres, in particular, would seem to be open to question. Smith and Myers are almost exclusively corner outfielders, and while Kemp is nominally a center fielder, he is very weak defensively there, so an outfield headlined by those three players would leave the Padres vulnerable. Smith, though, was one of the Padres’ few effective offensive players last season, hitting .266/.367/.440 in 521 plate appearances and earning a two-year extension in July. Following that extension, Smith faded in the second half, hitting .243/.340/.346 after batting .283/.387/.508 in the first.


Marlins, Braves, Giants Interested In Jake Peavy

The Marlins, Braves and Giants are interested in free agent starting pitcher Jake Peavy, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. Rosenthal notes, however, that the Marlins are only candidates to sign Peavy if newly acquired starter Dan Haren either retires or is dealt.

There haven’t been many reported rumors on Peavy this offseason, although he’s been connected in passing to the Dodgers and Twins as well as the Marlins and Giants. Peavy, 33, had an uneven 2014 season, struggling in 20 starts with Boston before heading to Giants in a July trade and getting great results down the stretch in San Francisco. He then pitched well in two postseason starts before struggling in two World Series outings. Still, he could be in line for a multi-year deal. As a scout told ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick earlier this month, “[I]f you have a deep team and you can give him a [Tim] Hudson type of deal and plug him into the 4 or 5 spot, I think he’s worth that.


David Hernandez, Diamondbacks Avoid Arbitration

Righty David Hernandez and the Diamondbacks have struck a one-year, $2MM deal to avoid arbitration, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Hernandez has 5.095 years of service time, and MLBTR projected he would receive $2.1MM in his last season of arbitration eligibility.

Hernandez also received $2MM in 2014, but he won’t get the typical arbitration raise after missing the entire 2014 season with an elbow injury. Before that, he was a mainstay in the Arizona bullpen for three years after arriving from Baltimore in the Mark Reynolds trade in late 2010. In 2013, Hernandez posted a 4.48 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 62 1/3 innings.


Royals To Sign Edinson Volquez

Starting pitcher Edinson Volquez and the Royals have agreed to a two year, $20MM deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (Twitter links). SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo initially tweeted that the two sides were close.

Edinson Volquez (vertical)A $20MM contract represents a win for Volquez and his representatives with the Wasserman Media Group — last week, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that Volquez was seeking precisely that figure. Volquez, 31, earned a two-year deal thanks to a strong season in Pittsburgh in which he posted a 3.04 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 192 2/3 innings, to go along with a 50.4% ground ball rate. His peripherals lagged behind his ERA, with figures of 4.20 for both his xFIP and SIERA, and the Pirates were a terrific fit for a pitcher like Volquez, thanks to their shift-heavy infield defense and their good framing tandem of Russell Martin and Chris Stewart, not to mention well regarded pitching coach Ray Searage. Volquez’s control, in particular, still is a weakness, with five straight seasons with BB/9 rates exceeding 4.0 before 2014.

That doesn’t mean the Royals overpaid, however, or that Volquez can’t successfully eat innings in Kansas City. His stuff is excellent, with a mid-90s fastball that at times ranged into the high 90s last year, to go along with a curveball that he used very effectively. Also, Volquez has managed to pitch at least 170 innings in each of the last three seasons despite his control issues. Heading into the offseason, MLBTR’s Zach Links projected Volquez would get two years and $18MM, only a bit less than he actually received.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.