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Author Archives: Charlie Wilmoth
The teams involved have announced that the Athletics have claimed outfielder Alex Hassan from the Orioles. The Orioles had designated Hassan for assignment earlier this week. To clear space on their 40-man roster, the Athletics have placed pitcher A.J. Griffin on the 60-day disabled list.
The Athletics’ latest waiver claim continues what must be a disorienting offseason for Hassan. The Athletics initially claimed him from the Red Sox in November, but lost him three days later when the Orioles claimed him. Now the Athletics have him back. The 26-year-old Hassan isn’t a power hitter, but he’s posted good on-base percentages in the minors. He hit .287/.378/.426 in 474 plate appearances while playing both corner outfield positions and first base for Triple-A Pawtucket in 2014, also going 1-for-8 in his first cup of coffee in the big leagues.
Representatives for Cuban pitcher Yadier Alvarez are seeking a waiver that would allow him to sign before July 2, Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs reports. A previous report had indicated Alvarez and fellow Cuban hurler Vladimir Gutierrez would not be able to sign before July because international prospects born after September 1, 1995 must register with MLB before they could sign, and Alvarez and Gutierrez were not registered.
MLB can waive that requirement, though, for a player who has “a compelling justification for his failure to register.” Such a waiver has never been given to a Cuban player, McDaniel notes, but the league has granted waivers for players from the Dominican. One might think the fact that Cuban players are unable to register while living in Cuba could potentially provide a compelling justification.
A waiver would allow Alvarez to sign either in the current signing period or the one that begins next July. That could widen his field of suitors, because Alvarez will be subject to rules regarding international bonus pools. The Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Diamondbacks and Rays have all exceeded their 2014-15 bonus pools, so for the signing period beginning in July, they won’t be able to sign any player subject to the pool system for more than $300K. If Alvarez were allowed to sign before that, any of those teams could theoretically try to sign him. McDaniel writes, though, that the Dodgers appear to be most interested in Alvarez right now.
The speedy Pierre racked up 614 stolen bases in parts of 14 seasons in the Majors and rarely struck out, finding ways to annoy opposing pitchers despite his lack of home-run power. He led his league in stolen bases three times and is currently 18th in career steals. (He’s also sixth in caught stealings for his career, with 203.)
For much of his career, Pierre was also a serious on-base threat, with six seasons with on-base percentages above .350. Pierre was a key member of the World Champion 2003 Marlins, swiping 65 bases that season before hitting .333/.481/.429 in the World Series against the Yankees.
Pierre finishes his career with a .295/.343/.361 line with the Rockies, Marlins, Cubs, Dodgers, White Sox, and Phillies, earning at least $57MM in the process, via Baseball Reference. Much of that came from a $44MM deal with the Dodgers signed prior to the 2007 season.
Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez is likely to retire after the season is over, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. Last offseason, the Brewers and Ramirez exercised his $14MM mutual option, and Ramirez said at the time that he would decide whether he wanted to play beyond that. It appears he is, at least, close to making that decision.
2015 will be Ramirez’s 18th season in the big leagues, even though he’s only 36 — he made his debut as a 19-year-old with the Pirates in 1998. It took a few more years for him to establish himself as a regular, but he announced his presence boldly with a .300/.350/.536 season in 2001. He struggled in 2002, however, and the Pirates shipped him to the Cubs in a cost-cutting move in 2003.
In Chicago, Ramirez blossomed into a dependable slugger, posting three straight seasons of 31 or more home runs beginning in 2004 and joining Derrek Lee as a key offensive player on a series of good Cubs teams. Ramirez remained with the Cubs through the end of the decade, then signed with the Brewers as a free agent following the 2011 season. He had one of the best years of his career in his first season in Milwaukee, leading the NL in doubles with 50 and posting a .300/.360/.540 line as he finished ninth in MVP balloting.
In spite of that, there were signs that Ramirez might be reaching the end. He’s coming off a solid .285/.330/.427 2014 season, but he missed significant time due to injury in 2013, and his power has slipped since 2012. He is also reportedly highly dedicated to his family, which lives in his native Dominican Republic. “It’s more of a family thing,” Ramirez tells the Journal Sentinel’s Todd Rosiak. “I’ve got three kids, I’ve been playing for a long time, been away for a long time. Sometimes it’s just time to do something else.”
For his career, Ramirez has hit .285/.344/.496 with 369 home runs, and he’ll likely end his career in the top five in that category among third basemen. He has made three All-Star games and been in the top 20 in NL MVP voting five times.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Nationals haven’t managed to avoid the possibility of losing key members of their team due to free agency, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports. The Nats could be without Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond and Doug Fister after the season because they haven’t managed to sign those players to long-term deals that delay free agency. That might not be entirely their fault, Svrluga suggests — they tried to sign all three players. In the meantime, though, they have another wave of core players (Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon) to whom they could turn their attention. Strasburg, Harper and Rendon are all represented by Scott Boras, who does not generally like long-term deals for pre-free-agency players. Some of his clients, such as Jered Weaver and Carlos Gonzalez, have signed them, however. Here are more notes from the National League.
- Yunel Escobar wasn’t happy to have been traded away from the Rays to the Athletics and then from the Athletics to the Nationals, and he also wasn’t happy he’d have to move from shortstop to second base, the Post’s James Wagner writes. Escobar has changed his mind since then, however. “They’ve reached the playoffs two of the last three years,” says Escobar. “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 says certain aspects of playing second base, like turning double plays, are “confusing,” but says that he’ll improve that them with practice.
- Baseball is full of incredibly disappointing free-agent contracts, but Matt Holliday‘s current seven-year, $120MM deal with the Cardinals isn’t one of them, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I really wanted it to work out great for both sides,” says Holliday. “A lot of times with a long-term contract, you hear ‘They hope to get a couple of good years out of it.’ My goal from the day I signed was to get to the end of the contract and have everybody feel really good about it.” Holliday’s defense has slipped since signing, but he’s maintained a high standard offensively, and with just two years (plus an option) left on the deal, it looks like the Cardinals are going to get more than their money’s worth.
- When Cuban righty Yoan Lopez signed with the Diamondbacks, he joined the organization he rooted for as a child, Carlos Torres Bujanda writes for Baseball America. “Since I was a kid, I followed the D-backs when Randy Johnson was on the team,” says Lopez. “To see the games or check the stats I had friends who worked in hotels with Internet access. They download the games so I can watch later, or see the numbers.” Lopez adds that he’s happy the Diamondbacks also signed another Cuban player this offseason, Yasmany Tomas.
Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey is already helping new reliever Ernesto Frieri make adjustments, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune writes. “That’s why I’m here,” says Frieri. “He knows what he’s doing. He fixed a couple of guys before, and I hope I’m not the exception. I’m pretty sure he’s going to give me the right information and I’m going to take advantage.” The Rays have helped veteran relievers like Fernando Rodney, Kyle Farnsworth and Joaquin Benoit improve their stock, and Frieri hopes to be the next in line. The 29-year-old is coming off a terrible season with the Angels and Pirates in which he posted a 7.34 ERA and struggled mechanically. His 10.4 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and good velocity suggest he might have more gas in his tank, however, even if his fly-ball tendencies make him homer-prone, so he could be a bounce-back candidate if he can make the right adjustments. Here’s more from the American League.
- MLB plans to be compassionate in the case of Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton after his relapse, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi report. The league is expected to suspend Hamilton for 25 games or more, but for less than a full season, although an official decision is not close. Hamilton’s relapse violated the terms of the treatment program the league required of him when he was reinstated in 2006 following a lengthy suspension.
- The Royals will use Joe Blanton exclusively as a reliever, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports. “The only way he is really going to help us is in the bullpen,” says Ned Yost. “We’re not going to stretch him out.” Blanton, 34, recently signed a minor-league deal with Kansas City after sitting out the 2014 season. He has spent almost his entire ten-year big-league career as a starter.
The Pirates are studying the NBA’s Warriors to see if there’s anything they can learn from Golden State’s success, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark writes. “I read an interesting article a while ago on the Golden State Warriors, how they get maximum production with their players,” says manager Clint Hurdle. “They’re actually playing less, and they’re playing better collectively as a group.” A member of the Pirates’ front office recently did a study on the Warriors, with the Pirates trying to determine whether they can glean an advantage by somehow optimizing playing time for their roster. As Stark notes, though, it’s likely tricky to figure out how playing time in the NBA correlates to playing time in the Majors. Here are more notes.
- There were plenty of high-profile starting pitchers available on this year’s free-agent market, but the Yankees‘ main starting pitching acquisition was 25-year-old Nathan Eovaldi, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News notes. That’s not the sort of acquisition the Yankees are known for, but Eovaldi feels he fits in well with them. “The Yankees are rebuilding in a way,” he says. “A lot of guys are leaving, and we’re starting to get a lot more of the younger guys coming in here, too.” Eovaldi began working on a splitter near the end of last season, and he and the Yankees hope that pitch can help him boost his strikeout totals, which have been relatively low despite a terrific fastball.
- It’s well known that the Cubs have an outstanding core of hitting prospects, but it’s tough to project how far that core will actually take them. Baseball America’s Matt Eddy aims to figure that out by comparing the Cubs’ top young hitters to other exceptional groups of prospects from the past. Some of those groups (those of the 2006 Diamondbacks, 2011 Royals and 2004 Brewers) didn’t produce obviously exceptional results in wins and losses, although at least the Royals and Brewers would probably argue that they’re happy with how the intervening years unfolded. The other two great prospect groups (the 2007 Rays and 1992 Braves) helped produce great results by any standard, even if the Braves’ subsequent run was fueled largely by pitching that was already in the big leagues at the time.
Here’s the latest on Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada:
- Bids on Moncada are believed to have passed the $20MM mark, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes. The Yankees, Red Sox and Padres appear to be the front-runners for Moncada, with the Dodgers a less likely possibility. Heyman suggests earlier reports of a $50MM price tag might be a bit lofty, given that Moncada is only 19 and given the tax that the team signing him would have to pay.
- Cuban Red Sox pitcher Dalier Hinojosa sees plenty of upside in Moncada, who he saw in Serie Nacional in 2012, WEEI.com’s John Tomase and Rob Bradford report. “He’s what we call a five-tool player here, and he was that back then. He can run, throw, he’s physical, hit from both sides, hit for power, hit for average,” Hinojosa says. Hinojosa’s main suggestion for Moncada in adjusting to U.S. baseball is to allow his coaches to help him.
Mat Latos‘ fascinating interview with FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal offers an unusually honest look at transactions, and team machinations in general, from the perspective of a player. Latos says he received assurances from the Padres that they wouldn’t trade him, and then they traded him eight days later and didn’t tell him. “I woke up, had like 50 text messages,” Latos says. “I called my agent. He said, ‘(GM) Josh Byrnes couldn’t get ahold of you.’ I had zero missed calls from him. I had to call him. Maybe he had the wrong number.” He speaks of “great times” in the Reds organization and says he’s satisfied to be with the Marlins, but questions the Reds for pushing him too aggressively as he returned from injury last year, and expresses lingering bitterness at going through the arbitration process with Miami. “You see it as a business,” he says. “You kind of see how much of a pawn you really are.” Here are more notes on pitchers.
- Cuban pitchers Vladimir Gutierrez and Yadier Alvares won’t be able to sign until July 2, Ben Badler of Baseball America writes. Any international free agent born later than September 1, 1995 must register with Major League Baseball to be able to sign, and Gutierrez and Alvares aren’t registered. (The rule is designed to help MLB keep track of young international free agents and prevent identity fraud, although Badler notes that the rule is tough on Cuban players, who can’t register while they’re in Cuba. The rule does not apply to Yoan Moncada, who was born in May 1995.) The two pitchers must register by May 15 to sign beginning in July. Gutierrez won Serie Nacional’s 2013-14 Rookie of the Year award, and Alvares is an interesting young pitcher who can throw 97 MPH.
- Veteran reliever Chad Qualls is happy about the talent the Astros have added this winter, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com writes. “They’re going to contribute a lot to the back end of the bullpen,” says Qualls, referring to Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson. “The trades and the signings we made are spot on for our offense,” he adds. Qualls’ perspective on the Astros is different than most, since he spent the first four seasons of his career with the team. In two of those (2004 and 2005), they were an NL powerhouse, advancing to the World Series in ’05. Since then, Qualls has moved around the country, playing for the Diamondbacks, Rays, Padres, Phillies, Yankees, Pirates and Marlins while the Astros eventually became the worst team in the Majors. Now he’s back with them as they’re beginning to show signs of reemerging.
It’s not at all certain that the Red Sox will trade Jackie Bradley Jr., Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston writes. Bradley struggled in the big leagues last season and the Red Sox have plenty of outfielders, but Bradley has limited experience in the high minors and can be optioned, so the Red Sox could easily just send him to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he would benefit from everyday playing time. Bradley’s outstanding defense distinguishes him from the rest of the Red Sox’ collection of outfielders, and there could be space for him in Boston in 2016, given the potential departure of Shane Victorino and the possibility that Hanley Ramirez could move to first base or DH. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- Speaking of Pawtucket, the sale of the PawSox to a group led by Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino will be announced Monday, Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal writes. The deal does not include McCoy Stadium, the PawSox’ longtime home ballpark. The stadium requires extensive work each year, and the Red Sox have suggested that there’s more work to be done there. The sale, then, raises questions about where the team will play. “With the new ownership group expected to be named on Monday, I, along with [the other leaders], look forward to speaking with the group and learning how the City of Pawtucket will continue to be a partner with them in the future,” says Pawtucket mayor Donald Grebien.
- The Phillies‘ struggles to find the right return for Cole Hamels have delayed their rebuilding process, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. Hamels, who has said he wants to play for a contender, likely wouldn’t block a trade, but he’s valued his time in Philadelphia. “To make my home in Philly and see what sports really do mean to Philly fans, it’s been nice,” says Hamels. “And being able to go out and represent not only the organization but the city of Philadelphia has been an honor. And I think I’ll remain to do so until I’m told that I can’t.”
- The Mets outrighted reliever Scott Rice in October, but it was still an easy decision for Rice to re-sign a minor-league deal with the team, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York writes. “There was nowhere else I wanted to go,” says Rice, who first made the Majors as a 31-year-old Met in 2013. Rice’s 2014 season ended early as he had elbow surgery in late July, but he will compete to be the Mets’ second bullpen lefty this spring.