Author Archives: Charlie Wilmoth

West Notes: Peters, Rollins, Deduno

Hall of Fame baseball writer Nick Peters, who covered the Giants for 47 years, has died, Marcos Breton of the Sacramento Bee writes. Peters was 75. He worked for the Bee, the Oakland Tribune, the Berkeley Gazette and the San Francisco Chronicle, covering a total of nearly 5,000 games. The BBWAA honored him with a Spink Award in 2009. Breton writes that Peters had an especially good relationship with Barry Bonds, who Peters had known from being around the Giants since Bonds was child following his father Bobby and godfather Willie Mays. “Nick was known not only for his writing talent and encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, but also for his mentorship of many young reporters who rose through the ranks of sports journalism,” write the Giants in a statement. “He will be deeply missed by the entire Giants organization and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Lise and the entire Peters family.” Here are more notes from the West divisions.

  • Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins‘ new interview with FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal offers an unusually candid look at what it’s like to change teams. Rollins spent 19 seasons in the Phillies organization before heading to Los Angeles. That involved quite a mental adjustment, as Rollins explains. “It was real tough in the beginning to give in to the LA thing, the Dodger thing, the wearing of blue, being the best organization in pro sports. That’s their belief,” he says. “Now I’m part of that product. But it was tough – 14 years on the other side, learning to . . . I can’t say hate, that’s a strong word . . . but learning to want to beat the brakes off anything with L.A. and Dodger blue in it.”
  • Sam Deduno, who’s out of options, appears to have a good shot at making the Astros‘ roster because he can relieve, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes. Deduno is competing with Roberto Hernandez and Asher Wojciechowski for the fifth spot in the Astros’ rotation, but he has a better chance than either of the other two of making the roster because he can head to the bullpen if he doesn’t get the rotation job. The Astros have two bullpen openings. One will likely go to a lefty (perhaps Joe Thatcher), but Deduno could win the other spot.

Notes On Dodgers’ Deal With Pablo Millan Fernandez

Last night, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reported that the Dodgers had agreed to terms with 25-year-old Cuban pitcher Pablo Millan Fernandez on a minor-league contract with an $8MM bonus. The Dodgers will convert Fernandez from relief to starting. The deal came as somewhat of a surprise, given that Fernandez wasn’t a big international name and his stuff reportedly isn’t overwhelming. As Badler notes (via Twitter), “If he can get $8MM, Vladimir Gutierrez must be doing back flips right now.” Here are more notes on Fernandez.

  • Dodgers infielder Alex Guerrero played with Fernandez in Cuba and remembers him well, J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group writes. “Good control, command, great kid, good attitude, that’s all I can say,” says Guerrero. “Slider, fastball — the best thing is that he locates them good.”
  • Fernandez defected from Cuba last October, Hoornstra writes. The Dodgers only recently became interested. The team recently underwent changes in their front office, of course, and Badler noted in his original report that Fernandez’s velocity increased recently, so those might be two potential reasons. There’s also the possibility, as Hoornstra notes, that the Dodgers previously hadn’t viewed Fernandez as a potential defector.
  • Not all teams were as impressed with Fernandez as the Dodgers apparently were. Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs tweets that one international scouting director says his team had little interest in Fernandez, believing his stuff was unimpressive and that his upside was that of a back-end starter.
  • Another scout told McDaniel (again via Twitter) that Fernandez had a good chance of becoming an Odrisamer Despaigne-type pitcher. That view perhaps isn’t entirely inconsistent with that of the international scouting director’s, but it’s framed much more positively — perhaps Fernandez won’t be an ace, but if he can be a reliable contributor in the Dodgers’ rotation, that would, surely, be a good use of $8MM.

Reactions To The Rockies’ Release Of Jhoulys Chacin

Here’s the latest on the Rockies’ sudden release of Jhoulys Chacin, a key part of their rotation for most of the last five seasons.

  • Four teams have shown interest in Chacin, who the Rockies released over the weekend, 1500ESPN’s Darren Wolfson tweets. (The Twins, who are in Wolfson’s market, are not among them.)
  • The release of Chacin helps clear the way for less experienced pitchers like Jon Gray, Eddie Butler, Christian Bergman and David Hale, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding writes. Of course, Chacin himself is just 27, but manager Walt Weiss says the Rockies can’t worry about whether they cut bait too early. “You can’t get caught up in that,” he says. “It’s happened probably thousands of times in the history of this game, and it’s going to happen thousands more. It comes down to, are you willing to make a baseball decision based on where you’re at, at that point in time?” Harding also notes that the Rockies have an insurance option in John Lannan, who agreed to a minor-league deal with the team in November.
  • Chacin’s release increases the burden on veteran Rockies starters Jorge De La Rosa and Kyle Kendrick, Nick Groke of the Denver Post writes. De La Rosa is currently dealing with a groin strain. We need him,” says Kendrick of De La Rosa. “He’s a big key to our rotation, to our team. The sooner we get him back, it’s going to be better for us.”


Rangers Release Joe Beimel

The Rangers have released lefty Joe Beimel, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets. They also reassigned top power-hitting prospect Joey Gallo to the minor leagues and optioned another top prospect, catcher Jorge Alfaro, to Double-A Frisco.

The Rangers signed Beimel to a non-guaranteed $1.5MM MLB deal earlier this month, but he allowed 14 runs in three innings this spring. The reliever had a fine 2014 season with the Mariners, posting a 2.20 ERA with 2.8 BB/9, albeit with an underwhelming 5.0 K/9, in 45 innings. That had been his first year in the big leagues since 2011. The 37-year-old veteran has appeared in 12 MLB seasons with the Pirates, Twins, Dodgers, Nationals and Rockies in addition to the Mariners.

As Grant points out, the move leaves Alex Claudio as the Rangers’ main left-handed option. The team has also been connected in trade rumors to the Marlins’ Mike Dunn, suggesting they might not be finished pursuing left-handed relief help.


Nationals Release Heath Bell

The Nationals have released reliever Heath Bell, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. The Nats signed Bell to a minor-league deal in December. He struck out six batters and walked five while allowing five runs, four earned, in 5 1/3 innings in Spring Training.

The 37-year-old Bell established a strong track record as the Padres’ closer from 2009-2011, but began struggling after signing a three-year deal with the Marlins prior to the 2012 season. Bell headed to the Diamondbacks and then the Rays, for whom he allowed 16 runs in 17 1/3 innings last season while struggling with his velocity. After the Rays released him, he briefly signed on with the Orioles and then the Yankees, but struggled in Triple-A and did not appear in the big leagues with either team.


Minor Moves: Reds Release Jose Mijares

Here are today’s minor moves from around the game:

  • The Reds have announced that they’ve released lefty reliever Jose Mijares. In addition, they optioned catcher Tucker Barnhart, infielder Eugenio Suarez and outfielder Donald Lutz to Triple Louisville and reassigned infielder Josh Satin and catcher Chad Wallach to minor-league camp. Mijares didn’t pitch last season after opting out of his minor-league deal with the Red Sox, but he’s been an effective specialist for much of his career, posting a 3.23 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 over 259 innings in six seasons with the Twins, Royals and Giants. The Reds signed him to a minor-league deal in December.

Latest On Hector Olivera

Here’s the latest on Cuban free agent infielder Hector Olivera, much of it from CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman:

  • Olivera’s new agent, Greg Genske, says he thinks he and his client will reach a deal with his new team “soon.” (Last Wednesday, Genske told Heyman that Olivera would likely sign by the end of what is now last week, so negotiations have already gone on longer than anticipated.)
  • It’s possible there could be a bidding war between the Dodgers and Padres. Those two teams appear to be leading the bidding, although other teams (including the Braves, Athletics and Giants) remain interested. (The Marlins are reportedly out of the bidding.)
  • Olivera is reportedly throwing well, perhaps easing concerns over a report that he could have UCL damage.
  • Olivera will likely agree to a deal by Wednesday, the New York Post’s Joel Sherman tweets.

Teams That Could Spend Heavily Next Winter

The Nationals, Red Sox, Cubs, and White Sox were the biggest spenders on this year’s free-agent market. While the Nationals’ decision to splurge on Max Scherzer was surprising, it would have been easy to guess, heading into the offseason, that the Red Sox, Cubs and White Sox would throw their weight around.

Next year’s free-agent class is an appealing one, with plenty of big-name starting pitchers (David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija, Doug Fister, Rick Porcello) available, along with position players like Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Ian Desmond. Predicting who will spend in any given offseason is tricky — no one really saw the Padres’ spending spree (which, of course, included plenty of high-profile trades as well as the free-agent signing of James Shields) coming before this winter. But here, presented in order by division, are some teams that could be bidders for some of the best players available in 2015-16.

Orioles. Baltimore has a huge number of contracts coming off the books (Chris Davis, Bud Norris, Matt Wieters, Alejandro De Aza, Wei-Yin Chen, Steve Pearce and several others) and less than $42MM in existing commitments. Their group of arbitration-eligibles will also be more manageable than it was last winter, when they committed to well over $50MM for players in their arb years. The O’s could have needs in the outfield and in their rotation, meaning that they could be a good match for next year’s free-agent class.

Red Sox. It’s rarely wise to count out the Red Sox on the free-agent market, particularly in a year in which they could be without commitments to Porcello, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Justin Masterson and perhaps Clay Buchholz. With the team currently weighing how best to use any number of young players (Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Christian Vazquez, Blake Swihart, Eduardo Rodriguez, etc.) in the future, the 2015 season will determine to a great degree what path they pursue in the winter.

Yankees. The Yankees weren’t up to their usual high-spending ways this offseason, and they’ll still have Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and other high-salaried players on the 2016 payroll. But with Hal Steinbrenner seemingly resigned to not being able to get under the luxury-tax threshold in the next couple seasons, they could be big spenders again.

Tigers. With Price, Yoenis Cespedes and other players coming off their payroll, the Tigers could have room to spend — they actually have only five players under contract for 2016, although all of those are for at least $14MM. Perhaps a good 2015 season could encourage owner Mike Ilitch to take another shot at a title before the team gets too old.

Astros. Houston currently only has about $34MM on the books for 2016, and they’ve increased free-agent spending in recent years as they’ve entered the latter stage of their rebuild. They could easily make a big splash next offseason, particularly if they have a winning season this year.

Mariners. The Mariners have been big players in the last two offseasons, adding Robinson Cano, Fernando Rodney and Nelson Cruz, and they could keep spending next year, with Rodney, Hisashi Iwakuma, Austin Jackson and J.A. Happ set to become free agents. The Mariners’ additional arbitration commitments next season will be minimal, and while the salaries of Cano, Cruz and Felix Hernandez are large, they won’t be meaningfully larger in 2016 than they are this year. If Iwakuma and Happ depart, it might make sense for the M’s to pursue one of the big-ticket free-agent starters.

Marlins. One can rarely rule out the possibility that Miami will have a splashy offseason, especially as the Marlins prepare for a season in which they’ll still have their good young core in place. They also have only about $37MM in existing commitments.

Nationals. The Nats stand to lose Zimmermann, Fister, Desmond and Denard Span next season. It’s unclear how they’ll react, but their signing of Scherzer suggests they aren’t going to head quietly into rebuilding mode, particularly given the deferred structure of that contract. The development of upper-level prospects like A.J. Cole and Michael Taylor this season could help determine who they pursue.

Mets. New York still plays in a big market and has less than $58MM on the books next season. They’re likely to have clear needs, particularly in their middle infield. Someone like Desmond, to whom they’ve already been connected, would be an obvious target. Perhaps they’ll bump up spending despite their relatively small recent payrolls.

Cardinals. St. Louis could lose Heyward and Jaime Garcia, and they ought to have payroll flexibility. Spending would make sense as the team tries to give older players like Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta a couple more shots at a championship.

Cubs. The Cubs already have $82MM in commitments for 2016, and the team reportedly held over money from 2014 to spend this past offseason, but perhaps a leap forward in their rebuilding project could encourage further spending.

Dodgers. Their vault seems almost bottomless, and they’ll have tens of millions coming off the payroll as Jimmy Rollins, Brett Anderson, Howie Kendrick and Juan Uribe become eligible for free agency. The Dodgers will also be free of tens more millions in commitments to players who are no longer with the team, including Matt Kemp, Dan Haren and Brian Wilson. It might make sense for them to pursue Desmond or a starter. Zack Greinke exercising his player opt-out would give the Dodgers even more reasons to pursue top-flight starting pitching.

Giants. San Francisco will be out from under significant commitments to Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson, Marco Scutaro and Jeremy Affeldt, and 2016 is an even year. They could be looking for a starting pitcher, and with the $30MM they won’t be spending on Lincecum and Hudson, they could aim fairly high. A third baseman could also be on the docket, although the infield market isn’t particularly strong.

Padres. Why not? Even after adding Kemp, Shields and a variety of other high-profile players, they still have only about $56MM in commitments for 2016, and their new ownership and management have obvious appetites for gutsy, high-profile moves. They’ll have Upton, Ian Kennedy and Carlos Quentin coming off the books.

Diamondbacks. Arizona has only $32MM in obligations for next season and a new TV deal. The Diamondbacks could be candidates to spend on pitching in particular.


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Quick Hits: Breslow, Kang, Marlins

Reliever Craig Breslow, the Red Sox‘ representative to the MLBPA, is opposed to an international draft and would like for it to remain possible for international free agents to receive bonuses as big as Yoan Moncada‘s, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes. A huge deal like Moncada’s would likely be impossible with an international draft in place. “I think while, intuitively, people may look at a guy who has never played here and gets a big signing bonus and there’s potentially some envy, I think the greater membership (of players) understands that anytime we can eliminate restrictions to signing, that’s a good thing,” says Breslow. On Sunday, Breslow visited with MLBPA head Tony Clark, who has voiced skepticism about the idea of an international draft. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Jung-ho Kang, who signed this offseason for four years and $11MM plus a posting fee of around $5MM, provides the Pirates with a low-cost insurance policy throughout their infield, Newsday’s David Lennon writes. Second baseman Neil Walker and first baseman Pedro Alvarez can become free agents after 2016, while third baseman Josh Harrison will become eligible after 2017 (and can be moved around the diamond if needed). That means the Pirates could turn to Kang at one of a number of positions, perhaps getting a starter at a cost of only a few million dollars a year. “If he turns out to be a regular player, it’s a great signing for us,” says Huntington. “If he turns out to be a role player, it’s still an OK signing for us. And if we’ve missed, well, it won’t cripple us. But it will hurt us.”
  • Marlins president David Samson says the team’s decisions to sign Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich arose out of their struggles in 2012, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes. That year, the Marlins prepared for the opening of their new ballpark by acquiring Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and Carlos Zambrano. Those big outside acquisitions didn’t work out, and the Marlins finished 69-93. “I truly felt that opening the ballpark and making splashes was the way to do it and it didn’t lead to sustainability,” says Samson. “That was a big moment for all of us in our history and I got it wrong, completely, almost in every way.” Instead of building their team around veterans, then, they’re focusing on keeping the right core players in Miami.

Dodgers Looking For Additional Pitching Depth

The Dodgers would consider acquiring a pitcher in his absence of starting pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu, but likely only a depth move, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. On Sunday, the team sent Ryu to Los Angeles to see a doctor after he reported discomfort in the shoulder that ailed him at times last season. He will begin the season on the disabled list. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman says the team could potentially have interest in “more depth starting pitching, but that is no different than we have tried to get all offseason.”

They don’t sound optimistic in finding even that type of pitcher, ESPN LA’s Mark Saxon writes. “This is just a hard time to go out there and acquire starting pitching depth,” says GM Farhan Zaidi. “We’re fielding calls from teams that are asking us about our starting pitching depth, so there aren’t a lot of starting pitching sellers right now.”

Joe Wieland is likely to replace Ryu in the Dodgers’ rotation. Another potential starting pitching candidate, minor-league signee Erik Bedard, is also now injured, having suffered a lat strain.