Author Archives: Charlie Wilmoth

Week In Review: 9/13/14 – 9/19/14

It wasn’t a particularly active week for transactions, but here’s a look back at this week at MLBTR.

Claimed

Designated For Assignment

Outrighted

Released

Elected Free Agency


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Free Agent Stock Watch: Melky Cabrera

A year ago, Melky Cabrera‘s value was at its nadir. After a PED suspension cut short his 2012 breakout season with the Giants, and after he left the team under bizarre circumstances, Cabrera became a free agent and landed a relatively meager two-year, $16MM deal with the Blue Jays. He then began that deal by hitting a disappointing .279/.322/.360 in his first year in Toronto, then had surgery in September to remove a benign tumor from his back.

USATSI_8028977_154513410_lowresSince then, though, a healthier Cabrera has improved his bargaining position, hitting a much better .301/.351/.458 in his walk year and emerging as one of the better hitters available in a very weak free agent class. Perhaps even more importantly, he’s another year removed from his PED troubles, and his good season, along with even better seasons from Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz, might suggest that teams this offseason will be less wary of suspended players than they have been in the recent past.

Cabrera now is out for the rest of the season with a fracture in his right pinky, an injury that could have some effect on his market as a free agent. He’s had surgery and should be ready for spring training, although the injury could theoretically have a lingering effect on his power.

Still, Cabrera is likely to get a sizable deal, given the weakness of the outfield market. Rusney Castillo has already signed with the Red Sox, and there’s another Cuban outfielder, the very promising Yasmany Tomas, who’s currently waiting to be declared a free agent. There’s also Cruz, who will be coming off a very good offensive season but is already in his mid-thirties and has significant defensive limitations.

After that, there’s Cabrera, and then a significant drop-off. The best remaining outfielders are the aging, injury-prone Michael Cuddyer; the defensively challenged Michael Morse and Josh Willingham; and light-hitting types like Nori Aoki and Emilio Bonifacio. There will also be Colby Rasmus, a 28-year-old who has hit well at times and can play center field, but who was recently benched by the Jays. And the market could also include players like Nick Markakis and Alex Rios, depending on the statuses of their options.

Leaving aside Tomas, there isn’t anyone on the outfield market who’s better rounded than Cabrera, even if one counts his PED past as a strike against him. Unlike Cruz, Morse or Willingham, he isn’t a terrible fielder (although he isn’t a great one, either). Unlike Aoki or Bonifacio, he has power. Unlike Cruz and Cuddyer, he’s still relatively young, at 30. And unlike Rasmus, he isn’t a complete question mark. The outfield market is full of dubious options. Teams considering punting on the left field position in order to upgrade their offense elsewhere won’t have much to work with, either.

Even better for Cabrera, there could be plenty of teams on the prowl for a corner outfielder this offseason. The Astros, Athletics, Mariners, Mets, Orioles, Phillies, Reds, Twins and White Sox could all make some degree of sense for Cabrera, depending on how the rest of the market shakes out. Cabrera has said that he wants to return to the Blue Jays, and a return to Toronto might be a good fit as well. The Jays have Jose Bautista in right, and assuming Rasmus departs, they’ll probably soon have top prospect Dalton Pompey as their regular starter in center. But they don’t have a stellar option in left field.

Given Cabrera’s performance, a potentially vigorous market and the Jays’ own need for an outfielder, extending Cabrera a qualifying offer seems like an obvious decision. Such an offer should help the Jays limit other teams’ interest (particularly from teams like the Mets and Reds, who currently look to have two of the first unprotected picks in next year’s draft), and could lead to some sort of multiyear agreement for him to remain in Toronto.

As long as teams aren’t worried about the lingering effects of his hand injury, Cabrera’s representatives at the Legacy Agency should be able to swing at least a three-year deal. Last month, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star polled various agents who suggested he could get anywhere from $36MM to $45MM over a three-year deal, meaning that the three-year, $39MM deal Shane Victorino received from the Red Sox before the 2013 season might be a precedent. A four-year deal might also be a possibility, with Cabrera’s camp possibly pointing to last offseason’s contracts for Curtis Granderson and Peralta.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Quick Hits: Hernandez, Castillo, Martin, M’s, Pirates

Left-hander Yasmany Hernandez has left Cuba for an undisclosed third country with the goal of signing a MLB contract, per Diario De Cuba (h/t Baseball America’s Ben Badler). Badler provides a scouting report on the 23-year-old, who led Serie Nacional with a 1.66 ERA this past season. Hernandez will be exempt from international bonus restrictions after pitching five seasons in Serie Nacional, but Badler doesn’t expect teams to show as much interest in Hernandez as fellow Cubans have drawn. Here are more notes from around the game.

  • Badler also recently appeared on the Providence Journal’s Super Two podcast with Tim Britton and Brian MacPherson, where he discussed new Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo. Badler says teams are becoming increasingly receptive to spending big money on Cuban players thanks to the successes of players like Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig, adding that the added power Castillo demonstrated since leaving Cuba increased his value on the market.
  • Free-agent-to-be Russell Martin would be a great fit for the Cubs, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Signing Martin would involve making a significant financial commitment and giving up on Welington Castillo as a starting catcher, but Martin could help mold the Cubs’ young pitching and provide a strong example for the rest of its young roster.
  • The Mariners will not retain national cross-checker Butch Baccala, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports. Baccala is the scout who sent Jesus Montero ice cream during a minor league game while Montero was rehabbing, seemingly as an insult regarding Montero’s weight. Montero threw the ice cream at Baccala and was suspended.
  • The Pirates had a quiet trade deadline, but they’ve had a strong second half anyway, MLB.com’s Tom Singer writes. In particular, they didn’t complete a trade for a starting pitcher and didn’t improve what appeared to be a weak bullpen. Since then, though, their bullpen has quietly become a strength, thanks in part to the emergence of John Holdzkom, and their offense has papered over any rotation issues. “You’ll get second-guessed no matter what you do,” says Bucs manager Clint Hurdle. “That’s just the nature of the world. So you gotta do what you feel in your gut is right.”
  • The Rays are ready to see what they’ve got in Nick Franklin, who they’re promoting Monday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. The Rays, of course, acquired Franklin from the Mariners in the three-team deal in which they sent David Price to Detroit. Since the trade, Franklin has hit .210/.288/.290 in 113 plate appearances for Triple-A Durham, although his track record indicates he’s capable of hitting better.
  • Padres assistant director of scouting operations Don Welke, who arrived recently from the Rangers organization along with new GM A.J. Preller, is enjoying his first month with San Diego, Corey Brock of MLB.com writes. Welke and other members of the Padres’ front office are currently in Arizona, where they’re watching Padres prospects play in the instructional league.


Quick Hits: Castillo, Ryu, Dunn, Orioles

The Red Sox are “expected” to promote Rusney Castillo on Tuesday, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal tweets. This wouldn’t be shocking news, given that Ben Cherington has already said that Castillo is on track to be promoted this month and Triple-A Pawtucket’s season is about to come to an end, with the final game of the International League championship series taking place tonight. Castillo has played three games so far for Pawtucket. Here are more notes from around baseball.

  • Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu is set to have his sore shoulder examined today, and Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times wonders what might happen if the results are unfavorable. Ryu missed several weeks with a shoulder inflammation earlier this season. Losing Ryu for the rest of the season would leave a Dodgers rotation (which has already lost Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley and Paul Maholm) thin, and they’re in a tight race with the Giants for the NL West pennant. Of course, the cross-town Angels faced a similarly tough-looking situation when they lost Garrett Richards for the season, and they’ve been fine since then.
  • If this is the last year for Athletics slugger Adam Dunn, it will be the end of an extremely unusual career, ESPN’s Jayson Stark writes, noting that more than half of Dunn’s career plate appearances have ended without him putting the ball in play. Players with similarly high strikeout, walk and homer totals usually have shorter careers, but Dunn has managed over 8,000 plate appearances (over 2,300 of which ended in strikeouts).
  • Despite Chris Davis‘ suspension, the Orioles aren’t inclined to promote first base prospect Christian Walker, CSNBaltimore.com’s Rich Dubroff writes. Walker has hit .288/.357/.489 in 599 plate appearances split between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk this year, but he isn’t on the Orioles’ 40-man roster. “[S]ome guys don’t have to be protected this off-season, so unless I’m going to play them every day or mostly every day, or if I know they’re going to be on our team next year, then you’re really doing something that’s not very smart,” says Buck Showalter.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Stewart, Orioles, Levine, Rockies

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

  • Some within baseball believe Dave Stewart might be a top candidate for the Diamondbacks‘ open GM position, but that he can’t confirm that he’s overly interested in the job until he knows it can be his. Otherwise, he risks losing clients as a player agent.
  • The Orioles are lucky to have avoided signing Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis, Rosenthal suggests. Machado and Wieters are dealing with injuries, while Davis has struggled through a disappointing season and is now serving a 25-game suspension for amphetamine use. The Orioles, meanwhile, have Nelson Cruz, J.J. Hardy and potentially Nick Markakis due for free agency this winter, and they’ll need to have money available if they want to keep them.
  • Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine could be a candidate for a top position with the Rockies if Colorado decides to make changes in its front office. Levine is also a potential candidate for the open GM job in Arizona. The Rockies could choose an internal candidate if they do replace or reassign Dan O’Dowd and/or Bill Geivett, however.

AL Notes: Rodriguez, Hughes, Young

Eduardo Rodriguez, the pitching prospect the Red Sox acquired from the Orioles for Andrew Miller in July, could end up being a key acquisition, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier writes. “Steal of the trade deadline…I know Miller is doing great in Baltimore, but this kid will make that trade look real bad,” says one evaluator. Rodriguez was dominant for Double-A Portland, posting an 0.96 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 37 1/3 innings there before being promoted to make his debut for Triple-A Pawtucket Friday in the International League Championship Series. Here’s more from around the American League.

  • The Twins‘ rainout on Friday could cost Phil Hughes $500K, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes. Hughes’ start was delayed until today, and now, in order to pitch the Twins’ last game of the season on September 28, he’ll need to pitch on short rest, since the Twins have a day off on September 18. With 187 2/3 innings so far this season, Hughes could, as a result, miss 210 innings, a total that would earn him a $500K bonus.
  • Chris Young‘s former Mets manager is happy the outfielder has found success so far with the Yankees, Mike Vorkunov of NJ.com writes. “He came and we were hoping the best and just had a rough go here, but as I told somebody here, he hit big homers here for us too, big ones,” says Terry Collins. “Just didn’t enough. Happy for him and I hope he makes a contribution over there.” The Mets designated Young for assignment and then released him last month after he hit a disappointing .205/.283/.346 in 287 plate appearances there, and he’s now hit three home runs on three straight days (including one in yesterday’s doubleheader) with the Yankees.

Phil Bickford To Pitch For Southern Nevada

Former Blue Jays top draft pick Phil Bickford will pitch for the College of Southern Nevada this season, MLB.com’s Jim Callis reports. The move to a two-year college will officially make Bickford eligible for next year’s draft. CSN is already known in baseball circles for being the school attended by 2010 top overall pick Bryce Harper.

The Jays took Bickford tenth overall out of high school in 2013, but the two sides couldn’t agree to a deal, and Bickford headed to Cal State Fullerton. His stock improved this summer after showing great stuff in the Cape Cod League, and he currently appears likely to go even higher than tenth overall next time he’s draft eligible — Callis notes that Bickford could be a candidate to go first overall. Had Bickford gone back to Cal State Fullerton, he would not have been eligible for the draft until 2016.

He had the best arm in the league,” says John Schiffner, an opposing Cape Cod manager. “He threw one of our guys a slider in a big situation, and three kids’ knees buckled in our dugout. And that’s not even his best pitch, because we saw 97 mph.”


Week In Review: 9/6/14 – 9/12/14

Here’s a look back at this week at MLBTR.

Trades

Designated For Assignment

Outrighted

Released

Elected Free Agency

Key Minor League Signings


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Manager Notes: Gibson, Collins, Gardenhire

Kirk Gibson’s good relationship with chief baseball officer Tony La Russa might help him keep his job with Diamondbacks, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. The Diamondbacks are struggling and are in the process of replacing Kevin Towers as their general manager, but Gibson has proactively sought the advice of La Russa, a Hall of Fame manager. “They communicate a lot, and (La Russa) probably feels Gibby can improve,” notes a source of Heyman’s close to the Diamondbacks. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, however, tweets that there is little support for Gibson within the Diamondbacks’ clubhouse. Here are more notes on managers.


Latest On Astros’ Manager Search

The list of potential candidates for the Astros’ open managerial job could include former Indians and Nationals manager Manny Acta, former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu, former Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch, Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, and Angels bench coach Dino Ebel, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. (Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times previously wrote that Ebel was a candidate for the position, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted that the Astros had interest in Wakamatsu, with Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle being the first to note some of the other names.) Other potential candidates include Joey Cora, Bob Geren, Jim Riggleman, Bengie Molina, Tony Pena, Chip Hale, Tim Bogar, Mike Maddux, Dave Martinez, Tom Lawless, Pat Listach and Tony DeFrancesco.

Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has suggested that he might prefer candidates with previous big-league experience as a manager or bench coach. Heyman also notes that Wakamatsu and Hinch could fit the Astros’ desire for a manager with sabermetric leanings. Acta was previously a minor league manager in the Astros system, and he declined a chance at the Astros’ managerial job in 2009 in order to become the Indians’ manager.