Author Archives: Charlie Wilmoth

Cubs Promote Addison Russell

The Cubs have announced that top infield prospect Addison Russell has been promoted to the Majors.  To create roster space for the 21-year-old, Arismendy Alcantara has been optioned to Triple-A and Mike Olt has been transferred to the 60-day DL in corresponding moves.  Russell, usually a shortstop, will play second base, where the Cubs have struggled this season.

USATSI_8461249_154513410_lowresRussell was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Athletics. He hit a combined .295/.350/.508 at the Class A+ and Double-A levels in 2014, spending part of the year in the Athletics’ system before they shipped him to Chicago as the key to the Cubs’ side of the Jeff Samardzija trade. He had been hitting .297/.308/.432 for Triple-A Iowa in a 39 plate appearances this season. Baseball Prospectus ranked Russell the No. 2 prospect in the game heading into the 2015 season, while Baseball America ranked him No. 3. MLB.com placed him at No. 5, praising his offensive game and noting that he’s received comparisons to Barry Larkin and Miguel Tejada.

The Cubs, of course, also recently promoted another top prospect, Kris Bryant, to play third base. The timing of Bryant’s promotion caused controversy due to the perception that the Cubs delayed his arrival so that they could control him for another season. Russell’s promotion could conceivably attract similar criticism, although he has less experience at Triple-A than Bryant and has not been nearly as dominant at that level. If anything, the Cubs could easily have postponed Russell’s promotion until June, which would have prevented him from being a Super Two player. If he sticks in the big leagues now, he will likely receive that designation, becoming arbitration-eligible for the first of four times starting in 2018 before becoming eligible for free agency following the 2021 season.

Nonetheless, Russell gives the Cubs yet another top young talent to go along with Bryant, Jorge Soler, and young veterans Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. The Cubs’ future has looked very bright for quite some time, and now, with a team loaded with excellent young players and off to a strong 7-5 start, that future seems to be coming quickly.

Russell’s promotion was first reported by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Quick Hits: Wilson, Rodon, Detwiler

The Dodgers released closer Brian Wilson back in December, but he’s apparently kept himself busy, recently playing Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn in a live reading of Major League as the Los Angeles County Museum Of Art. Grantland’s Dave Schilling reports that the flamboyant Wilson dressed for the event in an ’80s Indians uniform and imitated Charlie Sheen’s delivery while reading for the part. Here are more quick notes from around baseball.

  • Agent Scott Boras was critical of the Cubs for their handling of the timing of Kris Bryant‘s promotion, but he has no such complaints about the White Sox promoting Carlos Rodon at a similar point in the season, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com writes. Of course, the two situations are different — Bryant had a full year in the minors after being drafted and had significant time in Triple-A before reaching the Majors, whereas Rodon, who the White Sox picked third overall last June, had neither. And Boras says that he likes that the White Sox plan to be conservative with Rodon’s innings. “The Bryant situation and Carlos’ situation are very different because of the innings issue,” says Boras. “Because of the idea that frankly, you really want this process to get a foundation to it for a pitcher rather than building — because there’s no repetition in amateur baseball that prepares you for what Major League pitchers have to go through.” The White Sox are having Rodon begin his big-league career in the bullpen, much as they did with Chris Sale.
  • Ross Detwiler has struggled to a 10.95 ERA through his first three starts with the Rangers, but manager Jeff Banister plans to stick with the slumping southpaw, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Detwiler feels he’s found a flaw in his delivery while watching video of Sunday’s start that will allow him to return to form. The Rangers picked up Detwiler in a trade that sent Chris Bostick and Abel De Los Santos to the Nationals this offseason, but his initial results are clearly not what the team expected.

Central Notes: Harris, Verlander, Lucroy

The Cardinals are set to promote righty reliever Mitch Harris on Tuesday, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets. When Harris makes his first pitch with the Cardinals, he’ll become the first graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy to pitch in the big leagues in nearly a century, as Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan wrote last month. The Cardinals drafted the 29-year-old Harris in the 13th round all the way back in 2008, but Harris spent several years honoring his commitment to the Navy, traveling the world as a weapons officer. The Navy didn’t allow him to join the Cardinals organization until the 2013 season. Once he did, though, the Cards moved him quickly through the minors, and after a handful of innings at Triple-A Memphis, he appears set to make his big-league debut. Perhaps that will come in Washington, where the Cardinals play tomorrow through Thursday. Here are two more quick notes from the Central divisions.

  • Justin Verlander‘s MRI last Thursday confirmed the Tigers‘ initial diagnosis that he has a strained right triceps, James Schmehl of MLive.com writes. He won’t throw anymore until his arm stops feeling sore. Schmehl notes that Verlander is currently on the disabled list for the first time in his ten-year career. He has not yet pitched this season.
  • In other injury news, Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy is headed to the disabled list with a broken left toe, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy tweets. The loss of one of their superstars is an awful blow to a Brewers team that’s already in a 2-10 hole this season. Lucroy was hitting .167/.250/.214 in 48 plate appearances in 2015. Martin Maldonado will, presumably, handle the bulk of the Brewers’ catching duties in his place.


How Common Are Early-Season Manager Firings?

Already, in late April, there are rumors surrounding Marlins manager Mike Redmond, whose job could be in jeopardy after the team’s 3-10 start. April sounds awfully early in the season to fire a manager, and in fact it is — in the past ten seasons, there have been no manager firings in the month of April. There have been plenty of firings in the first halves of seasons, however. Here’s a look at the nine firings in the past decade that took place before a team had finished 81 games in a season, and a brief glimpse at what happened in the next few years after each dismissal. As we’ll see, the outcomes of these firings run the gamut of possible outcomes, making it difficult to say whether replacing a manager early in a given season is a good idea.

  • The Reds fired Dave Miley on June 21, 2005, replacing him with Jerry Narron. Narron lasted barely two seasons and was replaced by Dusty Baker, who had two sub-.500 seasons before leading the Reds to three seasons of 90 or more wins in his next four.
  • The Mariners fired John McLaren on June 19, 2008 after a 25-47 start. After Jim Riggleman finished out the season, the Mariners turned to Don Wakamatsu and Eric Wedge, neither of whom had success, before finally turning to Lloyd McClendon, who had a good first season in 2014.
  • The Rockies fired Clint Hurdle on May 29, 2009 after they got off to an 18-28 start. Jim Tracy took over and the Rockies went 74-42 the rest of the way, making the playoffs.
  • The Diamondbacks fired Bob Melvin on June 8, 2009, replacing him with A.J. Hinch, who managed the team for less than a season and a half before being fired himself.
  • The Royals fired Trey Hillman on May 13, 2010 after a 12-23 start, replacing him with Ned Yost. Yost’s tactical managing gives fans fits, and his first two-plus seasons with the Royals were unsuccessful, but the team has played exceptionally well since then.
  • The Orioles fired Dave Trembley on June 4, 2010. The team struggled for about two months with interim manager Juan Samuel at the helm, but performed well for the last two months of the season under Buck Showalter, whose hiring has so far been a boon for the franchise.
  • The Marlins fired Fredi Gonzalez on June 23, 2010, replacing him with Edwin Rodriguez. Rodriguez posted a .500 record the rest of the season, but he resigned during the 2011 season as the team struggled.
  • The Diamondbacks fired Hinch on July 1, 2010, replacing him with Kirk Gibson. The D-backs had a 94-win season in 2011, but after two .500 seasons and a poor 2014, they fired Gibson, too.
  • The Athletics fired Bob Geren on June 9, 2011, replacing him with Melvin. The team continued to struggle down the stretch in 2011 but has made the playoffs in three straight seasons since.

The Rockies’ swap of Clint Hurdle for Jim Tracy in 2009 (along with the Marlins’ own Jeff Torborg/Jack McKeon switch in their World Series-winning 2003 campaign) is exactly what a team hopes for when it fires a manager early in the season. The Rockies turned their season around under Tracy and made the playoffs after an amazing stretch run.

But the Hurdle/Tracy swap could also be read as evidence of how difficult it can be to identify or predict a manager’s effect on a team. Tracy had previously managed the Pirates, but was fired after two ugly seasons. He lasted only three more years in Colorado. Meanwhile, Hurdle ultimately took over in Pittsburgh and led the team to its first two winning seasons in two decades, earning praise for his leadership and his integration of sabermetrics into the Pirates’ day-to-day strategy. Perhaps Tracy really was the right manager for the Rockies in 2009, and Hurdle the wrong one. A manager’s job is to lead, and his ability to lead the ever-changing cast of players around him is surely somewhat fluid. But a team’s performance is informed by any number of factors that have little to do with its manager.

With that in mind, it’s difficult to draw conclusions from the list above. Some teams’ manager swaps appear to have worked well, like that of the Rockies, or the Athletics’ switch of Geren and Melvin. Others didn’t, although that’s not surprising, given that teams who fire their managers tend not to be the best ones.

Perhaps there’s a distinction between firings in April and firings in June and July. In April, it’s hard to be completely out of the race, but in June, it isn’t, and maybe it makes sense for a team to make big changes rather than having a lame-duck manager limp through the rest of the season. There’s also the problem of how best to hire a permanent manager while a season is going on. Many teams on the list above turned to interim managers after firings, and surely that’s not what the Marlins would do if they fired Redmond. It probably isn’t easy to hire a permanent manager in-season. Of the teams on the list above, only two, the Royals (Yost) and the Athletics (Melvin), immediately replaced their outgoing managers with managers who turned out to be real long-term replacements.

Then there’s the lack of stability an early-season firing can betray. As FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal points out, the Marlins’ struggles are due in part to pitchers’ injuries and to Mat Latos‘ ineffectiveness. Those problems have little to do with Redmond, and replacing him would probably do nothing to solve them. Perhaps Redmond isn’t the right manager for the Marlins, but what might be most striking about the list above is the absence of many  successful franchises who seem to highly value organizational stability, like the Cardinals, Giants and Tigers. Of course, it’s surely true that those franchises are mostly stable in part because they’re successful, and not the way around. And there are other franchises who are generally stable, like the Rockies and Twins, who haven’t done well lately. But the Marlins have had five managers since 2010 (Gonzalez, Rodriguez, McKeon, Ozzie Guillen and Redmond). One wonders how difficult it must be for players to develop given that many changes of leadership.


East Notes: Marlins, Stammen, Francis

Marlins manager Mike Redmond is rumored to be on the hot seat, but MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes that the team doesn’t need a new manager, just better starting pitching. Marlins starters have a 5.23 ERA with 5.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9, and they’re reeling from the loss of Henderson Alvarez with a shoulder injury. Still, the Marlins have enough talent to rebound from their 3-10 start, Frisaro says. Here are more quick notes from the East divisions.

  • Nationals pitcher Craig Stammen had surgery Sunday to fix two torn flexor tendons in his forearm, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports. He is likely to miss the rest of the season and will be able to return for Spring Training next year. In the last three seasons, Stammen has been a workhorse in the Nats’ bullpen, pitching 242 2/3 innings in that span. He’ll make $2.25MM in 2015 and is arbitration eligible next winter for the last time before free agency.
  • Jeff Francis is back in the big leagues with the Blue Jays, and he’s hoping to stick around even though he knows it might be tough to do so, John Lott of the National Post writes. The former Rockies starter pitched 3 1/3 innings Sunday, but he’s 34 and throws in the upper 80s. He’s now pitching for his fourth team since the start of the 214 season, having appeared with the Reds, Athletics and Yankees last year. Francis, who is from Canada, calls playing for his favorite childhood team a “thrill” but says it’s one he’ll mostly enjoy after he’s done playing.

Dodgers Notes: Alvarez, Startups

Last week, Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs noted that he’s heard from multiple internaitonal scouts who believe the Dodgers have an agreement with Cuban righty Yadier Alvarez for a signing bonus of around $16MM. While he cautioned that no deal is completed and other teams still have interest, it’s a significant development in the market for Alvarez, who is waiting to hear whether or not he will be cleared to sign in the current signing period or in the 2015-16 period, which begins on July 2. The Dodgers likely wouldn’t sign Alvarez until the upcoming signing period, McDaniel noted. Here’s more out of Los Angeles.

  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports’ latest piece on Alvarez seems to line up with McDaniel’s findings, as Heyman lists the Dodgers as the favorite to sign and adds that he’s heard L.A. has already made an offer to Alvarez. Heyman lists the division-rival Diamondbacks as competition, along with the Rangers, Blue Jays and Nationals. Texas, of course, can’t sign Alvarez until July 2, as they’re restricted for signing a player for more than $250K in the current signing period. The Blue Jays seem unlikely to sign him in the current period even if he’s cleared, as they’re rumored to have a $4MM+ deal with Vlad Guerrero Jr., and going over their pool to sign Alvarez in the current period would prohibit them from finalizing that deal.
  • In an outside-the-box move, the Dodgers are planning to invest up to $1.2MM in ten startup companies, Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register writes. Specifically, the Dodgers will focus on startups with ideas that might help make them more money or improve their team. That might mean they’ll invest in companies working in fan engagement or customer relationship management, but they could also invest in sports analytics. “We’re in this to find products and companies and technologies that solve our problems but are ultimately scalable,” says Dodgers CFO Tucker Kain. “We’re not really going to cross over into the proprietary, competitive-advantage area. But, hey, listen, if somebody comes to us with something that is incredibly proprietary … we might pull it out of the program.”

Draft Notes: Rodgers, Fulmer, Buehler, Red Sox

We’re about six weeks away from the June draft. Here’s the latest on what’s emerging as a thin class at the top.

  • Shortstop and top draft prospect Brendan Rodgers‘ season ended Monday as Seminole beat Lake Mary in Florida’s 8A-2 playoffs, John Manuel of Baseball America notes (on Twitter). As BA’s J.J. Cooper tweets, that at least ensures that, unlike many potential early draft picks (Brady Aiken, California high school pitcher Kolby Allard, Duke pitcher Michael Matuella), Rodgers will have gotten through the season healthy. It’s been an ugly year for top-end draft talents, but Rodgers’ season ends with him at the top of MLB.com’s draft rankings, as well as Kiley McDaniel’s recent rankings for FanGraphs.
  • Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer had the best weekend of any top draft-eligible college pitcher, BA’s Hudson Belinsky writes. Another Vanderbilt pitcher and top draft prospect, Walker Buehler, had trouble with his command against South Carolina. His changeup has also been inconsistent. “I think that’s kind of been the theme for me this year,” Buehler says of his changeup. Fulmer and Buehler join infielder Dansby Swanson as Commodores likely to be selected in the top half of the first round.
  • In a chat at FanGraphs, McDaniel says that Fulmer to the Red Sox at No. 7 overall is a “rumor that won’t go away.” As noted this weekend, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington watched Fulmer and Swanson on Friday. McDaniel gives Fulmer a 65-70 percent chance of sticking as a starter in the Majors, though he notes in his draft rankings that he likes Fulmer more than most — at 5-foot-11, Fulmer is relatively small for a top-end starting pitcher, and he has a higher-effort delivery.

Mike Redmond Could Be On Hot Seat

APRIL 20: Redmond’s fate could be the first test of Loria’s patience with his new front office, notes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Loria has said that he’s much more comfortable with his restructured front office, and sources tell Rosenthal that neither GM Dan Jennings or president of baseball ops Michael Hill wants Redmond fired.

APRIL 19, 10:33pm: A Marlins official denies that the team is considering firing Redmond, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets.

9:26pm: Marlins manager Mike Redmond could be in danger of being fired, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald writes. According to Spencer’s sources, the Marlins have already considered firing Redmond, and have even considered potential replacements (with Mets Triple-A manager Wally Backman as one possibility).

Redmond is in his third season as Marlins manager. He is 142-194 as the Marlins’ manager, although the Marlins were rebuilding much of that time and performed somewhat unexpectedly well last season, finishing 77-85 despite the loss of ace Jose Fernandez, who had Tommy John surgery. Late last season, the Marlins extended Redmond’s contract through 2017.

After an offseason makeover that included the additions of Mat Latos, Martin Prado, Dee Gordon, Mike Morse, Dan Haren and Ichiro Suzuki as well as big new contracts for Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich, however, the Marlins are 3-10 and seven games out of first place in the NL East. Of course, the season is only 13 games old, but as Spencer notes, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has frequently been quick to make managerial changes and has also fired managers in-season (including Jeff Torborg in 2003 and Fredi Gonzalez in 2010). Stanton said Friday that the Marlins lacked “fire,” and Spencer suggests that, while Stanton’s comments weren’t intended as a criticism of Redmond, they could help convince Loria to view Redmond’s laid-back style as a problem.


Quick Hits: Astros, Young, Mesoraco

Five current members of the Astros bullpen (Luke Gregerson, Chad Qualls, Pat Neshek, Joe Thatcher and Sam Deduno) were on the 2011 Padres, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart notes. Astros manager A.J. Hinch was an executive with the Padres in 2011, but he says the Astros weren’t intentionally aiming to acquire former Padres players. “When we started this offseason, we wanted to have multiple guys that could finish games,” says Hinch. “Chad Qualls has a long history of closing, and Neshek and Gregerson were added for that reason. The way the game has evolved, those last nine outs are really hard to get, and to have guys that have done it before is nice to have.” Here are more quick notes from around the Majors.

  • Outfielder Chris Young has had much more success with the Yankees than he had with their crosstown rivals, writes MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. “We’ve always talked about [how] New York sometimes can be a tough place to get used to and adjust to. Sometimes it takes some players some time,” says Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “The way he’s played for us, I’m a little bit surprised that’s what happened [with the Mets], but he’s been really good for us.” Young now has 17 extra-base hits in 112 plate appearances with the Yankees going back to last season, after having just 20 in 287 plate appearances with the Mets. He’s also done a better job hitting for average and getting on base. His history suggests he might come back to earth, but at only 31, he could continue to help in a part-time role in the Bronx. Hoch notes that Young’s contract contains a series of bonuses for plate appearance thresholds, so if Young continues to play well, he could end up making significantly more than the $2.5MM he’s guaranteed.
  • The Reds say catcher Devin Mesoraco (hip impingement) was available to pinch-hit this weekend, but his absence in the ninth inning with the tying run aboard against the Cardinals says otherwise, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. Mesoraco wasn’t even in the team’s clubhouse after the game, Rosecrans reports. Mesoraco has been out for a week now, but the Reds continue to play with a short bench, even though they could place Mesoraco on the disabled list and backdate the move to April 13. In any case, being without a healthy Mesoraco hurts the 5-6 Reds — he earned a January extension after hitting .273/.359/.534 in a breakout 2014 season.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Tillman, Gomez, Beltre

Here’s the latest from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, via a video on FOX Sports:

  • When the Orioles discussed an extension with Chris Tillman this spring, Tillman favored a contract similar to Lance Lynn‘s three-year, $22MM deal with the Cardinals. That contract did not buy out any of Lynn’s free-agent years. The Orioles were interested in a longer deal for Tillman that would have delayed his free agency eligibility.
  • The Brewers‘ poor start suggests that they could be sellers at the trade deadline, and Rosenthal notes that they could deal Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Gerardo Parra or even Aramis Ramirez (despite Ramirez’s plans to retire at the end of the season). A player who could bring a much greater return, though, is Carlos Gomez, who is signed to a bargain contract the next two years.
  • The Rangers could trade anyone if they fall out of contention, but it might be somewhat tricky for them to deal Adrian Beltre, who has limited no-trade protection and who has about $34MM left on his contract. Beltre also recently turned 36 and is off to a slow .149/.167/.298 start offensively. One might think that would only impede a trade if it were to continue deep into the summer, however — Beltre has a long history of providing excellent value both offensively and defensively.